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You Drive Me Crazy (Robert‘s way of wooing)

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Aaron wipes his oily hands with the tiny rag that‘s already covered with black stains and unsurprisingly his fingernails stay mucky. He sighs - not because of his hands, he doesn‘t mind them being dirty, if he did, he‘d use those awful rubber gloves from the dispenser, hanging right between Cain’s office door and his uncle‘s cheap topless calendar. No, he sighs because of the bloody state the Renault Clio is in, whose owner clearly didn’t give a toss about the old girl and drove her until she basically fell apart on the driveway of the garage. 

An engine roars up and Aaron doesn‘t need to turn his head to know who‘s driving up the yard, gravel gnashing under spinning wheels when the driver slams on the brakes. He smiles and shakes his head, because he had this conversation with his best mate like a thousand times already, when he told him to be more gentle with his car since it‘s a goddamn Porsche , but mind you, it‘s not like he listens to what Aaron says anyway. At least not in that matter. Robert Sugden is a show off, always was, always will be. 

The door is being thrown shut and footsteps are approaching him and Aaron says, still staring at today‘s job: “How many times, you need to-”

“-be more gentle with your lady,“ Robert finished the sentence for him, tone mocking, “yes, mum, I know!“

His friend finally appears in his field of vision, styled as usual, hair in perfect streaks, floral shirt under that tan leather jacket he loves to wear no matter how warm or cold it is in the Dales… because it fits him perfectly and he knows it, talk about show off and all that. 

Robert leans against the small metal workbench, careful to catch a clean spot to spare his expensive wardrobe from stains, a smirk on his face.

His pristine presence makes Aaron feel even more oily and sweaty, fully aware that he must reek by now since it‘s the afternoon and Cain made him arrive early to open up the shop. 

“How‘s it going?“

Aaron frowns and shrugs. He‘s repairing a car, it‘s not like there‘s a big thrill when working as a mechanic in your uncle‘s garage in a tiny village. “Alright,“ he says, sensing Robert isn‘t too keen on talking about old cars - if they aren‘t classics. Or functioning. “What brings you here? Finished work already?“

It‘s not unusual for Robert to pop up in the garage although he and Cain are like cats and dogs, but normally he would come around noon, bring some lunch for Aaron and himself and rant about his job, his wanker of a boss, Lawrence White, or the stupidity of the villagers. Now though it‘s half past three and Aaron knows Robert is glued to his desk at this time, trying to prove himself to White or whatever. Aaron always tells him that he doesn’t need to, because Robert is brilliant in wrapping clients around his finger and negotiating new deals.

Robert‘s face lights up in a blinding smile. “The Tate deal‘s done!“ he smirks smugly.

You could easily mistake that face for arrogance, but Aaron knows how hard Robert worked in the past few weeks  to get that client especially. 

“You got Jamie Tate to sign? Thought he was a stubborn twat with no sense for business?“ Aaron grins, using Robert‘s words.

“Ha!“ Robert shouts triumphantly and points his finger at him, “He is! But mummy dearest interfered, knowing her son would blow my excellent offer and overruled him.”

“Kim Tate?“ Aaron raises his eyebrows. 

“Yup. Should have seen his face, it was…” Robert fakes a blissful shudder. “Delightful.“ 

Aaron laughs and shakes his head, taking a wrench to go back to working on the Renault. “Congrats, mate, that‘s mint.“

He bends over the engine, expecting Robert to keep on chatting, because that‘s their dynamic - Robert loves to talk and Aaron loves to listen, throwing in his two cents every now and then, not being a talkative person in general - but his friend stays silent. After a few minutes Aaron, where he tries to loosen a screw and utterly fails, he turns around, catching Robert‘s gaze quickly darting away. His friend's jaw seems tense and he’s kneading his hands, like he wants to say something but he’s mulling over the words.

“Alright?“ Aaron grunts. 

“Yeah, yeah, it‘s just…” Robert says curtly, but then pauses.

Aaron frowns. Running out of words is usually not Robert’s problem. “Rob? What d’you want?” He gives an encouraging smile over his shoulder, arms still shoulder deep in the car. 

“You.” His friend’s green eyes are locking on his own and god, Aaron’s heart is doing a backflip and his stomach is clenching so hard he fears he might throw up. “Well, you know. Your company,” he adds quickly. “To celebrate. I thought we could go to Bar West?”

Ah okay, Robert needs him as a wingman. Aaron turns around to the car again to hide his face getting hot from embarrassment. For one second he actually thought-

“Thought you didn’t do gay bars anymore,” he mutters to shut his stupid brain up, his voice sounding like gravel in his own ears.

They went there once, after Robert came out to him as bi and it’s not like the evening was a disaster, in fact, Robert even pulled. Nevertheless, he never wanted to go back there, saying it wasn’t his scene. Well, until now, apparently. Aaron wasn’t too sad about Robert avoiding Bar West deep down. He could somehow handle seeing his mate getting handsy with women. Bad admittedly, but he could handle it. That bloke though - a guy named Mike with black curly hair, Aaron will never forget his stupid face and name - approached Robert and it was like something inside of him broke. Watching them head out of the club together left him devastated. Knowing that this idiot Mike was the first man Robert slept with… It still hurts so much he wants to scream. 

“I mean, yeah, but I want it to be something special,” Robert says cheerfully. 

At those words, Aaron pulls aggressively with his wrench at that goddamn screw, cursing under his breath. Fuck. He hates it already. He doesn’t need a repeat of the Mike-experience. He doesn’t wanna play wingman for Robert in Bar West. 

It’s not fair. 

Of course Aaron is in love with Robert, has been for years now. It’s just his fucking luck that he’s the walking cliché of the gay boy who’s crushing on his best friend although he knows nothing will ever come of it.  

Robert doesn’t see him that way.

“Aaron?”

Oh yes. He is supposed to answer, so he swallows and bites his lip. “Sure. Fine,” he mumbles eventually. As if he could ever say no to Robert.

“Don’t sound too excited,” Robert teases him. Aaron hears him moving behind him and a moment later he’s being poked into the side. “C’mon, you party pooper, it’ll be good.”

He squirms and turns around, the happy grin on Robert’s face makes him smile despite his sour mood. His mate deserves happiness, he deserves to find someone, have a relationship. Aaron reminds himself that he needs to stop being selfish and jealous. With a sigh, he rubs his forehead. “Yeah, course. Can’t wait,” he lies, “It’s just… work, you know.” He gestures lamely to the Renault behind him. 

The blinding smirk slowly melts off Robert’s face, leaving a small and soft smile behind. He steps closer to Aaron and his heart speeds impossibly up when Robert raises his hand and lays his palm on his cheek, warm and perfect. A thumb is stroking softly over his forehead. 

Aaron blinks, dazed and stunned into silence, at the man in front of him and the fond expression on the freckled face. 

“Dirty, little greasemonkey,” Robert whispers.

He’s rubbing off oily stains from his skin, Aaron realises breathless and it’s such a tiny, but intimate gesture. His body downright burns where Robert is touching him. 

Suddenly Robert steps back and clears his throat, the hand slides off Aaron’s face, making him shiver. 

“I’ll pick you up at 8. Take a shower!” The smug smirk is back.

Robert winks at him and turns around to get back to his Porsche. Aaron scoffs, grabs the dirty cloth and throws it, aiming at Robert’s shoulder blades. His mate shrieks and jumps, the towel missing him and landing on the gravel. Robert points his finger warningly at Aaron, but he’s laughing, loud and carefree, infectious, and Aaron can’t help but smile along. 

He watches that giant giraffe of a man folding himself into his ridiculously awesome showy car, feeling a tug at his heart when he thinks of tonight. 

++

Robert closes the buttons of his pink shirt and tugs on his sleeves as he looks into the mirror to check his outfit, pleased with what he sees. But then he remembers Aaron making jokes about ‘pink panther’ and ‘peppa pig’ when he wore it in the Woolpack and besides, isn’t a pink shirt in a gay bar a bit too much cliché? Not that Robert is an expert when it comes to gay bars, but for sure he utterly hates clichés. 

With a frustrated huff, he unbuttons the shirt again, chucks it off and throws it on the other one’s that are piling up on his bed already. Staring at the remaining clothes on the hangers, he tears at his hair exasperatedly. 

Right at that moment Vic pokes her head in, eyes widening in surprise when she takes the mess in. “What‘re you doing?“ she wants to know, nosey as ever. 

“None of your business,“ he bites back and god, sometimes it‘s like they‘re still 15 and 7 and not 26 and 18.

“You‘re dressing up!“ she observes cleverly and slips into his room.

“I like to look smart, Columbo.“ He picks out the purple shirt with a tiny pattern he loves and it reminds him of Aaron’s purple hoodie which he loves even more, but the colour would require black shoes and jacket and then he can‘t wear his tan leather jacket and he wants to wear his tan leather jacket, because he knows for a fact that Aaron likes it! 

His sister jumps on his bed and ends up on her side, head resting on her hand, watching him closely and says gleefully: “I bet you want to impress someone!“ 

Robert tries not to freeze, feeling caught out, when he carefully puts the purple shirt back into his closet. 

“I regret the day I let you move into my house,“ he mutters and they both know it‘s a lie.

There wasn‘t one moment of second thoughts when he took her in after Jack Sugden‘s death, she is his favourite sister after all.

“And I bet I know who it is…” she sing-songs, ignoring his words as usual.

Or maybe she is not his favourite sister. 

“Vic…“ he warns her as he grabs the white shirt with the little blue flowers. 

He pushes his arms through the sleeves in quick, harsh motions, suddenly feeling his heart speeding up and body starting to sweat. 

It‘s one of his tighter shirts, fitting like a second skin and it has his beloved brown elbow patches. Why this wardrobe gem wasn‘t his first choice, Robert has no idea. He stares at his reflection, pulling and turning.

“He‘ll love it, you know.“ Vic‘s voice sounds gentle, nothing like the moody teen that refuses to revise for her exams. 

This time, Robert does freeze.

She can‘t know. Only Jimmy knows, because Robert got terribly wasted a few weeks ago, so wasted that he just blurted it out to bloody Jimmy King of all people. 

His feelings for Aaron. Which, actually, sounds like the understatement of the century. Aaron is his everything. 

He loved him the minute he laid eyes on him, back when he just finished school and was forced to work on the farm, that mouthy little chav moved into the village, acting like the big boss with his gold chain and his socks rolled up over his trackies. But there was something more to him than the chavvy facade which Robert somehow knew immediately. And indeed, Aaron is the most caring, genuine soul Robert ever met. A big teddy bear. 

He might have never had the courage to sell the farm after his father‘s death and aim for his own path, his own career, his own happiness, if it wasn‘t for Aaron‘s careful pushes. 

And Robert loves him, always has, although he fought it for a long time.

Vic cannot know about Aaron, it’s probably, most definitely, nothing but a blind shot. With him being bi there is at least a 50:50 chance that the ‘he’ might be correct.

He grits his teeth, ignores her and arranges his leather belt. 

“I‘m happy for you, seriously.“

At that he loses it. “Will you just shut up!“ he snaps at her much louder than he meant. 

The hurt is visible in her eyes. She gets up from the bed quickly and Robert deflates, letting all the air rush out of his lungs.

“Vic…“ he starts, quiet now. “I‘m sorry.“

His nerves are shot, his stomach twisting and turning. Tonight‘s the night, he decided. Tonight he‘s gonna tell Aaron that he loves him. The thought is only partly exciting and the excitement is outweighed by fear. Robert is terrified. Yes, Aaron is gay, but Robert isn‘t that bold to assume his mate is just waiting for the sign to jump on him. What if this is the biggest mistake of his life and he‘ll lose his best friend over it? 

It‘s overwhelming. And then his sister shows up and starts making these remarks he can‘t deal with right now. Robert genuinely feels sorry for snapping. He knows the shitty feeling of being shouted at all too well. 

Vic stops next to him on her way out, looking up at him with her big eyes. “Robert, it‘ll be fine,“ she says, emphasising the last word as if she could read his thoughts. “Aaron loves you.“

With that she‘s gone, leaving him there, jaw dropping, absolutely dumbfounded.  

She knows.

He wonders how obvious he is. He wonders if Aaron knows, too. And if so, why did he never confront Robert about it? Well, there is only one explanation for it, really. Vic is wrong and Aaron doesn’t reciprocate. 

Now would be a good moment to panic, Robert thinks, and so he does.

++ 

Aaron walks through the door of Bar West behind Robert, nodding at the bouncer and only getting a stern, unimpressed look back. Anyway, he inhales deeply to get another whiff of Robert’s aftershave which smells amazing. It’s a woody oriental scent with flowery notes of lavender, citrus and rosemary.

Not that Aaron looked up that perfume and its reviews online to order it secretly only to sniff it from time to time before he goes to bed. Or anything.

His friend looks stunning tonight, absolutely mouthwatering with his tight, dark jeans and his patterned shirt that should look ridiculous - and probably would on any other person Aaron knows, hands down - but somehow is perfect for Robert. Fuck, that lucky bloke who goes home with him tonight… Aaron hates him already. 

He plasters a fake smile on his face when Robert turns around as soon as he reaches the bar. “What’d you want to drink?” Robert has to lean in and shout the words in his ear because of the loud music and Aaron’s terrible hearing in a loud surrounding. Being close is a necessity and Aaron definitely doesn’t mind. 

“Pint!” he shouts back and Robert smiles before he turns around to the barman.

“A pint and a Whiskey, neat. None of your cheap stuff!”

Aaron looks around in the club, remembering how they went out in Hotten regularly years ago.  Especially after Jack Sugden had died and Robert was left dealing with the old fella’s heavy heritage: a run down farm and lots of suppressed feelings regarding his sexuality. His friend was at breaking point back then, tending to drown his sorrows in too much alcohol - not that it got to the point of an addiction, but there were times when Robert drank himself into a state where he barely could walk. It got better after Robert came out and started his new job, now he’s got it under control, which Aaron thinks is pretty impressive. Others might have not gotten their act together. 

His friend hands him the pint, they clink their glasses and take the first sip. Bar West isn’t too crowded yet. What once was a wooden bar with various pool tables, got transformed more and more into an actual club by the current owners. There isn’t much left from the former cosiness Aaron liked a lot. He isn’t exactly a clubbing person, not only because of the loud music and his poor hearing, it’s more like he feels so alien between all those fit blokes in their tight shirts, showing off their muscles. Although being quite fit himself, Aaron doesn’t like putting his body on display, doesn’t like being stared at and intrusively eyefucked. Hence the hoodies. He chose the purple one today, a bit too well-worn but still a favourite.

“You can dance, you know!” he shouts at Robert when a catchy pop tune starts that he doesn’t recognise. It’s definitely something right up his friend’s alley.

Robert looks sorrow-stricken for the briefest of moments, then he straightens his back and asks: “Would you dance with me?”

Aaron snorts. “I don’t dance.” Seriously, how long have they known each other? Dancing is… no. He’s coming here with Robert, he’s even willing to play wingman if he has to to make Robert happy, but he won’t dance. There are boundaries, alright. 

Robert gives him a strange look before he says: “Well, then I won’t dance either.”

After that it’s getting a bit awkward, mostly because Aaron feels bad now, like a spoilsport, like it’s his fault that his friend is forgoing some fun. They’re standing next to each other, watching the people around them having a laugh, having a good time and Aaron suddenly wishes he was alone with Robert on his couch, watching whatever show on Netflix his mate is currently obsessing about.

He forces his stiff muscles to relax, sadly they won’t cooperate and that bloke who has been ogling Robert like some weird creeper for the past few minutes doesn’t help at all. 

Leaning in, he gets distracted for a short moment by that mole right next to Robert’s ear and for the millionth of times he wonders where else his friend has beauty marks on his body, if the freckles continue onto his shoulders as well. “Looks like you might get what you wanted tonight!” he says into Robert’s ear when he remembers how to form actual words. 

He feels Robert freezing for a second. “Yeah?” He moves back and his green eyes wander over Aaron’s face as if they’re searching for something. They look hopeful, open and vulnerable.

Aaron thinks he never looked more beautiful and perfect than right now and his chest gets impossibly tight. “Yeah, fit bloke at 3 o’clock.” The words taste bitter. 

Robert blinks and frowns, looking adorably confused and turns his head into the direction Aaron mentioned. Sure enough that bloke is smiling brightly over and waving awkwardly, a tight tee straining over bulging biceps. Aaron wants to punch his pretty face. 

“Oh.” Robert nods back at the guy.

“Go over, then,” Aaron nudges him gently. If he lets his hand linger a bit longer than necessary on Robert's shoulder blade, he hopes his mate won’t notice. 

The freckled face shows a queue of emotions, eyebrows drawn together, jaw clenching. Robert doesn’t look happy. 

“What?” he shouts confused. 

Instead of answering, Robert suddenly pulls him into a corner of the club, furthest away from the speakers and the booming bass.

“Robert…”

“Just-” Robert cuts him off, holding up his hand, “just let me say something, okay.”

Now it’s Aaron’s turn to frown, wondering why Robert is so damn weird now. For a horrible, long second that feels like an eternity, he fears he somehow was too obvious with his crush and this is Robert trying to let him down gently, because he is just that amazing bloke that doesn’t want to break his best mate’s heart. His mind is racing, wondering if he did something that gave him away. Maybe it was that touch a moment ago. Maybe Robert thought it was inappropriate for friends, which, of course, it was! Aaron’s heart beats in his throat all of a sudden and he tries to swallow it down again desperately. It makes breathing difficult. 

“Okay, look. I’ve been thinking a lot lately…” Robert starts, but then trails off, like he’s lost for words and that’s definitely concerning, because one Robert Sugden never runs out of words. “The thing is, I know what I want now. In life. You know how my dad always… was my dad…” he chuckles and it sounds nervous. The frown on Aaron’s forehead only gets deeper, trying to make any sense from Robert’s weird behaviour or his even weirder rambling and he’d really prefer not to be reminded about the old Sugden who liked to fuck around with his son’s mind and feelings. “But you!” Robert emphasises and looks him straight in the eye. “You made me realise that I should go for the things I want and not what others expect from me…”

“Okay, mate, I feel flattered, but-” he tries to throw in, but he gets interrupted again.

“No wait. This isn’t what I’m trying to say!” Robert huffs out frustrated.

“No?” Aaron feels more confused than ever.

“No!” Robert is visibly struggling for words. “I never felt ready for a relationship…” He makes a pause and Aaron’s heart cracks.

“Just tell me, I can handle it,” he offers gruffly with false bravado and tries to prepare himself for the inevitable heartbreak. 

“I’m ready now, ‘s what I’m saying!” Robert blurts out. “I know who I am and what I want. I’m ready now for love and commitment. For falling asleep together and waking up next to each other, for romantic dinner dates and boring TV nights. I want someone to share my life with, someone who helps me carry my sorrows and doubles my joy. I want the real thing, Aaron.”

Aaron can only nod like a robot, staring into Robert’s beautiful face, enchanted by his words. Whoever will get Robert’s heart must be the luckiest person on Earth, he thinks. The thought makes him sick. 

“That’s… uh…” he clears his throat. “That’s good, Robert,” he says, feeling like it’s his turn to say something since Robert is looking at him expectantly. “And that’s exactly why you should put yourself out there more!” He forces a grin on his face, aiming for encouragement. 

Robert doesn’t look encouraged. If anything his soft expression slowly slips off his face.

“Look, that bloke from earlier is still ogling you,” Aaron says, nodding with his chin in the direction where Creepy McShitface is leaning at a wall a few metres away from them, staring at Robert with a lewd grin. He must have been following them. God, Aaron wants to smack that smirk off his face so badly. 

“Aaron…”

“You’re right. You deserve to be happy, mate. And I’ll help you, okay? What kinda wingman would I be if I didn’t.” He nudges Robert and fake-laughs. ”Who knows, maybe that guy could be The One for you, eh?” His hands are itching with the need to punch something. Someone. 

Robert looks back and forth between him and the stranger, hesitating and Aaron realises that he probably has to push his friend even more to get things going. 

“Seriously, you should go over to him, get to know him. He’s clearly interested. And what’s the worst that could happen?”

The green eyes are locking on Aaron’s and damn, he’s got no idea how he is supposed to handle life when Robert ever finds a partner. The thought alone is killing him. This isn’t about him though, he reminds himself, he needs to stop being a selfish arsehole for fuck’s sake. 

With a sigh, he basically shoves Robert into the direction where that guy is lurking. Waiting. Whatever. 

His friend is gonna thank him later, he thinks bitterly right when the bloke smiles and opens his mouth: “Hiya, I’m Stephen.”

Well, at least he isn’t using a stupid pick up line on Robert, so thanks for small mercies. Aaron gives Robert a thumbs up behind Stephen’s back, thinking they’d make a cute couple, feeling dead and hollow inside. 

++

“God fuck’n dammit!”

Jimmy sits up in his bed, disorientated, head spinning. The ringtone of his phone is blaring in the bedroom and he blinks at the watch on his bedside table. 

3:05am.

Incoming call: Robert Sugden the display of his Samsung says and with a sigh he takes it and accepts the call. 

“This better be important,” he grunts and rubs his face sleepily, yawns. 

“Hello, am I speaking to Jimmy King?” a male voice that he doesn’t recognise is saying and Jimmy is awake and alert in a heartbeat.

“Yes! Who are you? Where is Robert? Is he alright?”

“Alright is a very elastic term, Mr King,” the man replies, carefully choosing his words. “I’m a barman in Bar West, Hotten and your friend is refusing to leave although we want to close up.”

In the background, Jimmy hears a noise and then a slurring, loud voice that definitely belongs to Robert: “I sssaid lemme ‘lone!” Which means, Robert is drunk, fuck. Jimmy knows the Sugden offspring since he was a moody teenager, would even say they’re friends, sort of. Of course he knows about Robert’s drinking habit as well. That doesn’t bode well.

“He asked me to call you, Mr King and I say it as it is: if you don’t come to pick him up in the next 30 minutes, I’m calling the coppers.”

“I’m on my way,” he mutters and ends the call. “Emergency call, I’ll be back soon, Nico,” he says and turns to his wife - only to see Nicola sleeping like a baby and drooling on her pillow. Bless that woman and her selective perception. 

Half an hour later he strides into Bar West, still wearing his blue and white striped pyjamas under his parka. The lights are on and the interior looks run down in the brightness, the floor is sticky, plastic cups are lying around. Clubs these days are nasty places, he can't help but think and then he spots Robert at the bar, more lying on the counter than sitting on the stool. 

“Robert.” He grabs his shoulders and shakes him carefully. “Time to go home.”

The man slowly lifts his head and turns around, his hair is a mess and his eyes are bloodshot. Jimmy wonders if he was crying. 

“I wann’ed t’tell ‘im, Shimmy. I wann’ed.”

He has to strain his ears to focus on the words, squinting his eyes as he does so. “Tell who?” he asks, guiding Robert off the stool, holding him when he trips over his legs. 

“Aaron.”

Jimmy only takes a second to put two and two together, since they talked about Robert’s feelings for Chas’ son a few weeks ago. “Sorry that he doesn’t feel the same, mate,” he grits out, trying to keep Robert upright on their way out somehow. 

Sugden laughs at that, loud and dark and it ends in a broken hiccup. “Nah, didn’ get to it. He played match-m-maker. Se’me up wi’ Ste. The tosser.”

Jimmy frowns since he can’t make sense of Robert’s slurred words, but doesn’t say anything. There’s no use anyway as long as Robert’s in this poor state. Jimmy waves a silent goodbye to the remaining staff, silently cursing them for giving Robert so much to drink. They care more about their profit than the well-being of their guests.  

It’s quite a task getting Robert into his car, because the younger man is all long, uncoordinated limbs and heavy like a bloody elephant. 

“Don’t puke into my car!” 

“Can’ make’em promises,” Robert slurs and hell, even when he’s pissed he’s smug. Jimmy rolls his eyes.

On the drive back to Emmerdale, Robert falls asleep and it takes Jimmy almost an hour to wake him up and get him into his bed somehow. But at least he didn’t puke, so it could have been worse. 

++

The dart hits the bullseye. Pleased with himself, Robert swallows down his orange juice and rolls the sleeves of his blue shirt up to his elbows. It’s half past 8 and the Woolpack is filled with what seems like half the village and hot like a sauna. The door opens and Aaron rushes in. He’s wearing that dark green fine knitted jumper under his jacket that’s snug around his pecs almost in an obscene way and his hair is - oh good god, send help because Robert starts drooling at the sight - still damp from the shower he obviously just took. That he’s half an hour late is forgotten in a heartbeat.

“Hiya! Sorry!” Aaron says breathlessly and slumps into what became over the years “their” booth. “Cain made me finish that bloody job and then I had to shower. All yours now, though.” He gives him one of his small, shy Aaron smiles and Robert wishes so much that he’d actually meant the words. 

They play a few rounds of darts and Robert enjoys himself and the company - especially the company. It’s a good evening with laughs and banter, Aaron doesn’t stand a chance against him in the game and Robert has lots of time to appreciate his strong arms, broad shoulders and sweet, little arse while he’s throwing the darts. 

Of course Aaron has to ruin his good mood, when he opens his mouth and asks: “So, uh, how was your evening? In the club? The other night?”

Robert just took his stand at the line and raised his arm to finish the game with the next dart, now he slowly turns around to Aaron again. ‘The other night’ is what he’s calling the Ste-saster in his head. Everything between them was awfully stiff and Robert felt wooden, although the guy wasn’t too bad, actually quite nice in fact. But something was missing. A spark. And how could there be when Robert’s heart was already taken? All he could think about was that Ste wasn’t a sarcastic little shit like Aaron, his scruff wasn’t as perfect as Aaron’s, his eyes weren’t blue and his smile didn’t set butterflies free in Robert’s belly. 

“Yeah, good,” he lies anyway, not sure why exactly. 

Sometimes his mouth just says things without his brain’s consent. Maybe he just doesn’t want to admit how awkward the evening was. 

Aaron doesn’t look him in the eye and nods quietly. “And are you seeing that bloke again, or…?” His voice trails off.

“No,” he answers quickly, this time wholeheartedly. “He’s not the right one.”

His friend smiles at him then, bright and blinding, slapping his shoulder. “Nevermind, Robert. We’ll find someone for you!”

Robert has a hard time tearing his eyes away from the scruffy face with its adorable hamster cheeks to focus again on the dartboard. He needs the double 16 for his finish, but Robert’s dart misses the board and nearly hits Eric Pollard.

++

Robert’s acting weird. Aaron has no other word for it. Over the past few weeks he noticed a few changes in his friend’s behaviour and Aaron doesn’t know what to make of it, really. It started somewhat after the night out in Bar West.

He doesn’t even realise it at first, but then a movie night happens and suddenly the blinkers are removed from his eyes. They do movie nights regularly, so far so normal. What perplexes Aaron is Robert’s choice of film. 

“The Conjuring?” he asks, eyebrows flying up to his hairline when he sees the title on Robert's huge flatscreen, ready to press play.

Carrying a giant bowl of popcorn, Robert walks from the kitchen over to the couch. “Yeah.” He shrugs as if this isn’t novel at all.

“Robert,” Aaron says as if he’s talking to a three-year-old, “you hate horror movies.” It’s a fact, a well-known fact and lots of banter ensued from it in the past. Robert always accuses him of having poor taste because ‘too much violence and a flat plot doesn’t make a good movie, Aaron’, whereas Aaron defends the genre as ‘simply entertainment, you bloody snob.’ They’ve never watched a horror movie together. Not once. Normally Aaron gives in and they end up with an action movie or the occasional rom-com Robert loves. Aaron secretly doesn’t mind watching those romantic films even if they’re total tearjerkers - it’s a fact he will take into his grave before he’ll ever admit it to his best friend.

Honestly, the movie isn’t the main reason why he likes those evenings so much anyway. It’s sitting close to Robert, having a laugh, seeing him wearing his grey trackie and a soft tee instead of fancy suits. It’s easy to let his mind wander into that parallel universe he created in his head, where he gets to rest his head on Robert’s shoulder or, holy shit, his lap. Where he gets to hold his hand and stroke his thumb over Robert’s skin. Where he gets a soft kiss when the credits are rolling and a husky command to go upstairs. 

“But it is your favourite film, isn’t it?” Robert sits down next to him.

“Yeah, sure, it is… but…” Aaron frowns.

“Well, I'm interested in the things you like,” his friend flashes him a bright smile and presses play. “Here, I made popcorn.”

Still confused, Aaron slowly reaches over and grabs a handful. He pops it into his mouth and then he freezes mid-chewing. “Thif if falty!” Robert chuckles and Aaron swallows hastily, nearly choking on the still too big pieces of puffed corn in his throat. “I thought you hate salty popcorn!” His friend always had a sweet tooth.

“I made it because you like it.” Robert is still smiling and then he places his hand on Aaron’s jean clad thigh. The touch is so casual and yet so intimate, it’s burning through the fabric and his skin, downright to his core. 

And that is… all of this is… weird. Considerate? Yes. Endearing? Absolutely. Weird? Fucking hell, totally! Aaron is close to freaking out, wondering what the fuck is happening and if he’s missing something. He must be missing something. 

And that’s when he comes to think of the slight change in Robert’s behaviour, how he invited Aaron to dinner more often, how he always cooked stuff that Aaron loves, how he casually touched him more freely and laughed at his jokes, no matter how lame they were. Goddamn, once he even helped Aaron after work in the garage when Cain dropped another job on him that needed to be done by the next morning. 

He thinks about it a lot, mulling it over and over in his bed at night when he tosses and turns. All those incidents lead Aaron to one conclusion.

“Is Robert lonely?“

Vic blinks at him like an owl after he asks the question and Aaron bites his lip. He left work without telling his uncle for a quick visit at Keeper‘s Cottage, Vic opened the door and told him that Robert wasn‘t home. Duh, he didn‘t come to see his mate obviously, knowing his appointment book presumably better than Robert himself - no, he wanted to talk to the little sister instead. 

The thing is, he is genuinely worried about Robert by now. 

His words about being ready for a relationship are still echoing in Aaron’s mind and he can empathise with Robert what a huge step it is to open up his heart to someone. 

Some villagers used to wonder how Robert and Aaron became friends, not only because of the age gap, but also because they’re so different with Robert being the chatty, smug, clever guy and Aaron being the rough, chavvy grump. The thing is, the villagers don’t see beyond the attitude, because it turns out on the inside they are very similar, pretty much the same actually. They like to keep their hearts to themselves, like to protect it behind high walls, being burnt by people closest to them: Chas left Aaron behind when he was a kid and Jack never accepted his son like he was. They don’t trust easily. But they found some sort of substitute family in each other, Aaron’s home is where Robert is, not his rented flat in the Mill. 

So Aaron gets it to a certain point, the significance of when Robert Sugden says he’s ready for commitment. 

And if Aaron is certain of one thing it’s that Robert will make an amazing boyfriend. Because he cares - although he tries to hide it behind his snarky sarcastic one liner and his trademark smirk. But he’s the most caring, protective bloke Aaron ever met and the best exhibit is currently sitting in the armchair next to him. Robert would go to hell and back for Vic. After his father’s death he stepped up and took her in, raised her more or less and although it wasn’t easy during her teenage years, there was never one second where they weren’t thick as thieves. 

Robert is a man who’s got a lot of love to give. 

Unfortunately he hasn’t found The One yet. Hence, he’s projecting on the next best thing - his best friend. This is the only plausible explanation for Robert’s strange behaviour. It makes perfect sense and Aaron is damn proud that he figured it all by himself although it’s some deep psychological shit. Surely Freud came up with a term for Robert’s act. 

However, Vic seems surprised by his question and needs a moment to think about it before she squints her eyes at him.

“Lonely, how?”

“Well, you know…” Aaron makes a gesture with his hand, but she only raises her eyebrows and shakes her head obviously not knowing. He sighs and his shoulders sag a little. “Like, love-wise.” His cheeks are starting to burn, because he’s exceptionally bad at talking about stuff like that. Feelings. “I’m talking about his love life.”

Vic’s eyes widen and then she starts nodding, her head is bobbing eagerly up and down. “You know, now that you mention it… I think, yeah, he is lonely,” she says, giving him a meaningful look. “And I think you should definitely do something about it.”

Aaron grits his teeth and lets out a long breath. Damn, if it makes Robert happy then he’ll do whatever it takes.

Chapter Text

“Ten ways to get-”

Robert jumps on his stool, he almost slides off and slams his laptop shut, glaring accusingly over his shoulder. Feeling pretty smug and not sorry at all, Jimmy stirs his coffee and enjoys the clinking noise he makes. “Working on a Saturday?” He asks nonchalantly and takes a seat at Robert’s table, since all the other’s in Bob’s cafe are already taken. It’s almost noon and lots of villagers are enjoying a late breakfast. 

“None of your business,” Robert says and takes a sip from his herbal tea.

“Oi,” Jimmy stage whispers and leans in, “you’re not watching porn in the café, are you?”

Robert starts coughing and nearly spills his tea. “Jimmy, what the hell?! I’m not watching porn in the café!”

He raises his hands in defence and leans back again. “Just asking, just asking.”

While they’re both drinking, they start talking about this and that, mostly work, but Jimmy also tells Robert a few family stories, just to amuse him. He knows they're a pretty strange pairing, but Jimmy really does like the presence of Sugden junior. But only when he’s sober, he adds in his head after the last incident in Bar West. That reminds him of Robert’s feelings for Chas’ son.

“So, err. How’s it going on the Aaron front?” he wants to know.

A few months ago, Robert suddenly spilled his guts after a few Gin and Tonics - probably a few too many- and that was something Jimmy never had seen coming if he’s honest. Firstly the fact that Robert fell for Aaron Dingle, who always seems so dead grumpy and barely opens his mouth to talk… and even when he talks he barely opens it, Jimmy thinks the guy’s totally mumbling. Secondly the fact that Robert confided in him, Jimmy, felt extraordinary. He wonders if Robert sees something like a father figure in him. God knows Jack did a horrible job at it. If he’s honest he’d like that, because Jimmy really does like the presence of Sugden junior. 

Robert gives him a look, a mixture between irritation and smugness. “I’m working on it,” is all he says ominously. 

“Working on it?” he frowns and tilts his head slightly. “What happened to ‘I’m gonna tell him, Jimmy, I’m just gonna tell him’?”

“Yeah, because that worked out so well, didn’t it,” Robert says sarcastically. “Seriously, why didn’t you stop me? It was obviously a dumb idea.”

“Ah, I need to mark the day in my calendar, Robert Sugden admitting he had a dumb idea,” he grins.

Robert rolls his eyes at him. “Shut up, nobody’s perfect.”

“Except Aaron, eh?” Jimmy can’t help himself and cackles and oh look! Robert is actually looking flustered now and - Jimmy might need to pinch himself - he is even blushing a little. Oh dear, he’s got it so bad. Young love, he thinks ruefully, young love is something special. 

“Hiya you two!” a bright voice sing-songs and a second later Victoria climbs on the third stool at their table. “Did I just hear you talking about Aaron?” she asks them and steals Robert’s half eaten muffin. 

“Oi…!” Robert protests, but he shuts up when he sees how his little sister unceremoniously shoves the remaining mini-cake into her mouth in one go.

“We did talk about Aaron, yeah,” Jimmy confirms and Robert glares from his sister to him.

“We certainly did not.”

They stare each other down and Jimmy wants to high-five himself that he finally found Robert’s Achilles heel. Finally he has something to tease back! This is absolutely delightful!

“Well, I wanna ‘alk about A-Won,” Vic mumbles around the chocolate dough. 

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,“ Robert says out of reflex with an annoyed undertone, before he sits up straight. “Wait, what? Why? Did something happen?” He seems eager all of a sudden.

Jimmy leans back and crosses his arms, wondering what that was all about. Vic makes a show of chewing very thoroughly and Robert gets more and more impatient with every passing second until she finally swallows.

“So,“ Vic starts and drags the word, “I totally forgot to tell ya, Aaron came to me yesterday when you were at work…” She pauses to drink from Robert’s tea and her older brother looks like he’s ready to strangle her any second.

“And?” he asks impatiently.

“And, he asked me if you’re lonely. He got all shy about it, it was actually kinda cute,” Victoria is grinning now and even on Robert’s face is a smile spreading.

Jimmy narrows his eyes while he watches the siblings, definitely missing something.

“And,” she goes on, eyeing Jimmy croissant with too much interest, so he unsubtly pulls it back and shields it with his right arm from her longing gaze. “You can thank me later by making your best man, best sister or whatever, but I might have given him the push he needed to get his head out of his bum and finally do something!”

Robert snaps his fingers. “Excellent!” he cheers. “See? I told you it’d work!”

Jimmy takes this as his cue to finally pipe up. “What worked?” 

“Robert’s plan of wooing Aaron,” Vic explains easily like it’s the most obvious thing ever.

Oh so slowly, basically in slow motion, Jimmy raises his eyebrows and looks from Victoria back to Robert. “Your plan of wooing?”

The younger man shifts on his seat. “I can’t just spring it on him that I love him, alright? That disastrous night out in Bar West has proven that. It might ruin our friendship and I won’t take that risk. I had to do this slowly, subtly.”

“Subtly,” Jimmy echoes. 

“I did some research,” Robert says ominously. 

“Research.“

“It‘s what I do, alright? If there is a challenge, I do research, I make a plan, I follow that plan. It‘s called foresight.“

It‘s called bullshit, Jimmy thinks, but doesn‘t say it out loud, instead he just sighs. Deeply. 

“There is stuff online Robert read. Like ‘ten ways to get him to love me’ and that,” Vic explains, much more informative than her brother, and bites into a croissant.

Wait, where did she get that croissant?! Jimmy stares at his plate, which is empty now except for a few crumbs. He shoves the plate away and curses under his breath. Then another thought hits his mind when he thinks back to what he saw on Robert‘s screen earlier.

“Wait, wait, wait.“ He holds up both hands. “You have a ‘ten ways to get him to love me’-list for Aaron?” 

Jesus Christ, what is wrong with these young people today? 

“It’s psychology, what would you know about it,” Robert says defensively. 

“I know that I‘m happily married to my Nico!“ he points out. “Just tell him, for heaven‘s sake. Take it as some old man‘s wisdom.“

“First I need to know if he‘s feeling the same. It has to come from him,“ his friend insists stubbornly.

And here Jimmy always thought Sugden was supposed to be the clever one. 

“It‘s all going to plan, you‘ll see.“

++

The radio is playing a Kaiser Chief’s song and Aaron immediately turns up the volume. Yeah, nice, the rock band is one of his favourites since his teenage years and just what he needs now. He’s on a call-out and Cain only gave him a sketchy direction and the information that a woman’s car broke down. Aaron isn’t a fan of call-outs. They require small talk with the car owner and it isn’t exactly his virtue. That he is surrounded by vehicles instead of people is one his work’s biggest perks in Aaron’s books. 

A few minutes later when he drives around a long stretched bend, he sees the car at the side of the road and a woman walking up and down the ditch with a smartphone pressed to her ear. He slows down and sighs, steeling himself for the upcoming encounter and brings Cain’s truck to a halt. Grabbing the toolbox on the passenger seat, he gets out, his eyes immediately zoning in on the beauty in front of him. He whistles through his teeth and can’t wait to get his hands on her. 

It’s not every day that he sees an Aston Martin V 8 coupé from the 1970’s and it hurts his heart that the baby isn’t running. He’s got to be very careful with the lady. Aaron puts the toolbox down and strokes gently over the chassis. 

Only when someone coughs, is he reminded of the owner who obviously finished her phone call. Aaron ducks his head sheepishly and clears his throat before he looks up at her.

“Sorry,” he mutters. “I’m here to check what’s wrong with her.” He feels a bit too stiff, but she’s smiling at him warmly.

“Yeah, I figured. I don’t know what’s wrong, suddenly the motor sounded strange and when I hit the accelerator nothing happened.”

“Pop the bonnet then, I’ll have a look.”

She does and Aaron goes to work, not without admiring the engine first. 

“Ever worked on an Aston Martin before?” the woman asks him. 

He snorts quietly. The villagers mostly drive land rovers, SUV’s, those kinda cars. Practical cars. The only one with the inclination towards classic cars he knows is Robert. “Mh-mh,” he says truthfully and shakes his head. “My friend owns a Porsche 924 tho and he trusts me with it, so your car’s in good hands.”

It seems like this sentence is an invitation for her to start talking about classics which she loves, although she doesn’t know the technical stuff. She got the Aston Martin from her father for her 21st birthday, and that old man must be loaded, Aaron reckons. She also owns a Merc and a Jaguar and whoah, they must be damn loaded! He just hums along while he keeps checking the motor, glad that he doesn’t need to contribute to the conversation since it’s more or less a monologue. 

But then she starts asking questions about Robert’s Porsche, telling him that this would be a car on her wishlist.

Aaron can’t even imagine what it must be like living the life of a rich offspring, where you don’t need to worry about the bills every month but where you can get your next car. 

“I’d love to talk to your friend about his car, do you think that’d be possible?” she asks him.

He stills, bent over the engine, his oily hands wrapped around a wire and looks slowly up ather. She’s meeting his gaze with big blue eyes and her long brown hair is waving softly in the wind. Not that Aaron gives a toss about the royals, but even he thinks she’s basically a princess-Kate-lookalike. She’s objectively beautiful. A rich, beautiful woman with a love for fancy cars. 

Something inside of him is aching at the thought of introducing this woman to his friend. His Robert. 

His stupid mind immediately pictures them together, sitting at a table in a cosy restaurant, maybe something French or Japanese, both perfectly dressed, faces lit up by soft candle light, talking animatedly about cars.

Fuck, she would be perfect for him, wouldn’t she. 

“Sure,” he says and hates it.

“Oh great!” she sounds excited and opens her handbag. “I’ll give you my card. Hey, did I even introduce myself earlier?”

Aaron shakes his head, realising that he didn’t introduce himself either because he was too caught up with the car. Count on his social inability to make every encounter awkward. She beams at him anyway and reaches out with a business card with lilac letters and purple letters between her perfectly manicured nails. 

“I’m Chrissie. Chrissie White.”

++

Robert stares at his display for about ten seconds, reading the words over and over, his body flushing warm.

 

Azza

Dinner 2nite?

Woolie at 8?

 

Just a handful of innocent words and still they make him all giddy with excitement. Aaron Dingle is inviting him to dinner after all! And maybe they’d finally move in the direction Robert wants them to. Somehow or other, he’s gonna spend the evening with Aaron and that alone is a lovely prospect. 

 

To Azza

Sure, yeah! Look forward to it.


He types out eagerly and wonders if he doesn’t sound like it. Keeping it cool is easier said than done though, especially since he wants it so much! God, he wants Aaron. So much. 

The evening can’t come quick enough, but of course the remaining hours at work are stretching endlessly now the anticipation is killing him and Robert stares at his computer screen without actually looking at it. Being distracted by thinking about blue eyes and a dark scruff is too easy these days. 

Fully aware that he is procrastinating, he grabs his cup and walks to the little kitchenette at the end of the floor, whistling that Justin Bieber song that’s stuck in his head. Damnit, why does he have to make such bloody catchy tunes?

“Someone’s in a good mood!”

The boss’ daughter is in the office today. She’s working in another business, as far as Robert knows she owns a chain of beauty salons but she’s using the infrastructure of her dad’s company to do her bookkeeping, so she pops in every now and then. She smiles at him, pouring coffee into her own cup before she hands him the pot.

He takes it and hums happily. 

“Someone’s got a date later,” he says with a smirk.

“Oh, nice! Tonight of all nights!”

He hums again. Surely it has to mean something that Aaron is asking him out for dinner tonight. At least Robert hopes so. 

Eventually, finally, the clock strikes 5 and for once he leaves work on time. Usually he doesn’t mind working extra, but today he practically flees from the office, ignoring his phone when it starts ringing - sorry, mate, computer’s already switched off, he thinks - and grabbing his jacket. He doesn’t even take the time to put it on, he just carries it over his arm until he can throw it on his passenger seat. If he’s driving off the parking lot with screeching tires he doesn’t hear it as he sings along to Taylor Swift from the top of his lungs. 

A small eternity later he sits in the Woolpack, it’s 8pm on the dot and he’s staring at the door like a hawk. Aaron isn’t there yet, but Robert isn’t worried much because that's pretty normal. Aaron has other virtues than timeliness. 

On the little stage next to the entrance his grandmother Faith is bawling some folk song into the karaoke machine and Robert wishes he’d brought some earplugs.

“Anything you wanna drink?”

He slowly shifts his gaze up to where Charity is standing next to his booth and he can’t hold back the smirk if his life depended on it. She’s wearing an abominable Alice band with two attached elastic springs with red, sparkly hearts bobbing on the ends. It goes along her heart shaped earrings and the little pink hearts on her black satin corsage. She looks just as ridiculous as the whole pub and Robert sees that once again Chas Dingle went totally overboard with her idea of a Valentine’s party. 

“I saw the sign with your special cocktails tonight, can you list them off again, please?” he says smugly, well knowing that Charity hates this. 

She scowls at him. “We have Sex On The Beach, Bend Over Shirley, Blue Balls, Pop My Cherry, Raspberry Kiss and I Love You.”

Yeah, Chas Dingle went totally overboard. In other words, what’s new? 

“Aw, I love you, too,” Robert smirks at Charity and mock-touches his chest.

“Yeah, does that warm your ice cold heart?” she bites out sarcastically and rolls her eyes. 

“A pint, please, Charity,” he says sweetly just to piss her off even more.

A bystanding stranger might get the impression these two hate each other’s guts, but the opposite is true: Robert’s actually pretty fond of Charity and he knows she feels vice versa. It’s just how they talk to each other for their own little bit of fun. Sometimes she mocks him, today it’s the other way around. In the end neither of them take any of it personally and that’s probably why they enjoy the banter way too much. 

On the stage, Faith is finished and gets a round of applause before Tracy more or less rips the microphone out of her hands and pushes her aside. Karaoke nights always turn some villagers into hysterics who see themselves as the next winners of Britain’s Got Talent or whatever.

Charity mutters a curse under her breath and walks back to the bar. While Robert is still chuckling gleefully, he sees out of the corners of his eyes the door opening. His heart doubles in speed from one beat to another as he watches Aaron stumbling through the sparkling curtain into a bunch of helium filled heart balloons. His friend looks around in confusion, wearing his trademark frown, taking in the tons of plastic roses, the red shining disco ball, the pink confetti on the floor and last not least the big letters right above the bar:

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

The blue eyes widen in surprise and dart around, immediately seeking out Robert in the crowd of already tipsy villagers. Aaron hurries over to him and all the happy Valentine’s greetings are dying along Robert’s smile when he picks up his friend’s slight panic.

“Rob,” he says quickly and the rare use of the shortened name doesn’t bode well. “Rob, I swear I didn’t know it was Valentine’s Day, I’m so-”

At first Robert doesn’t understand until he sees someone stepping up behind Aaron, a familiar face.

“Aaron, are you sure-... Robert?!”

“Chrissie,” he says, stunned, trying to get his head around what she’s doing here in Emmerdale, in this pub where she is clearly, definitely, out of place with her fur coat and her petite Chanel clutch. 

Her eyes flick back and forth between him and Aaron and Robert knows that she’s putting two and two together since he mentioned his date night earlier to her. 

“You, uh… you know each other?” Aaron asks slowly. 

“That’s Chrissie, my boss’ daughter,” Robert explains stiffly, feeling a horribly awkward tension rising between the three of them. “How do you know each other?”

For a very, very long moment he’s irrationally jealous, seething with pure anger at the thought of Aaron and Chrissie… which is absolute nonsense because Aaron is as gay as they come, but still! 

“Remember I told you about the woman who’s interested in buying a Porsche?”

And yeah, nodding, Robert does remember that Aaron asked him if he could give some advice to that lady which salesmen to trust, what to look out for, what to avoid and all that. He agreed to do that - he just didn’t know this would happen today.

So said woman is Chrissie White then, he’s not surprised, her love for status symbols is legendary in the company. 

Looking into Aaron’s guilty face the penny finally drops. His friend arranged that meeting as another attempt to play cupid. He wants to set him up with Chrissie. 

Charity chooses this moment from hell to come back with his pint. “Your beer!”

“Booze,” he bites out through gritted teeth, feeling cold in the middle of the crowded pub all of a sudden. “Bring me some booze.”

This isn’t how he imagined this evening, this is awful. What makes it even more awful is the fact that he is still holding a single red rose under the table he bought earlier on a whim, imagining to surprise Aaron with it. It was a stupid idea to begin with, Aaron is not the type for red roses. Or the type for surprises at all. 

Aaron is a tremendous idiot and still, Robert loves him, loves him so much it fucking hurts. 

“Do you want anything?” he hears Charity asking Aaron and Chrissie.

“Why don’t we go over to the bar and you show me your card?” Chrissie suggests with a smile and gives Robert a meaningful sort-it-look that he barely registers.

The two women are walking away and Aaron slumps with a sigh into the booth. “This is terrible,” he mutters and wipes away red, heart shaped glitter confetti on the table.

“Understatement,” Robert agrees curtly and he doesn’t mean the hideous decoration. 

“Robert, I totally forgot about this Valentine’s circus,” Aaron says and he seems genuinely crestfallen.

While Nicola and Jimmy are giving their best Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker on stage, Robert drops the rose unnoticeably under the table, ignoring his aching chest. “Doesn’t matter.” It really doesn’t matter whether Aaron tries to set him up on Valentine’s Day or on any other fucking random date of the year. He downs his beer in one go, welcoming the bitter taste that fits his mood. “So, you wanted to play matchmaker again?” he says, voice gruff, just needing the confirmation although he knows the answer already.

“Don’t be mad. I mean, she’s into cars, she’s classy, she’s clever, good looking,” Aaron justifies quickly and leans over the table as he does so, his eyes bright and blue and pleading. “You’re basically a perfect match.”

The fact that Aaron implies considering Robert as classy, clever and good looking does something inside of him. The fact that those eyes are looking at him ever so softly does even more. He can’t - literally can’t - believe that this is just one sided between them. Robert swears he sees goddamn sparks flying in the air around them. 

“Has it ever occured to you that I don’t want ‘perfect’?”

Aaron looks utterly confused at him then, eyebrows drawn together in a frown, head slightly tilted. “Why though? You deserve it Robert. Why would you settle for anything less?”

Robert’s not quite sure but he thinks he sees him flushing pink behind his scruff. Aaron bites his lip, a tell-tale sign that he’s feeling nervous.

“You don’t get it, do you?” he asks, but it’s a realisation less than a question.

He gets it now though. It’s quite astonishing to him that Aaron seems to have such low self-esteem that he doesn’t even consider himself worthy. Robert knows about his mental health struggle, his trust issues and anxiety, but it’s still unexpected.

“Some hang on to used to be, live their lives looking behind, all we have is here and now, All our lives, out there to find…” Jimmy and Nicola are singing from ‘Up Where We Belong’, loud and off-tune, and Robert makes a decision right then and there. 

“Fuck that,” he mutters and gets up.

All we have is here and now. 

++

“Robert?” Aaron asks and his voice cracks, when his friend just walks off without as much as looking at him. 

Robert is mad because he messed up and Aaron can’t handle that. He can handle a lot of things but not that, Robert is too important. 

But all he can say in his own defence is that he meant well. He just wants Robert to be happy. After everything he went through with the early loss of his parents, the responsibility for his younger sister, he deserves this. Starting a family of his own, maybe becoming a parent himself. Aaron has no doubt that Robert will make a brilliant dad. 

It just hurts beyond words that he, Aaron, can’t be that person for him.  

But right now, his friend is pissed off and this is not the time to wallow in self-pity and misery, Aaron needs to make it up to him somehow! He stands to go after Robert to apologise only to watch him climbing up the small stage, accepting the microphone like a baton from Jimmy, who has just finished his duet with Nicola. 

“Ohhh, yes! Robert!” Faith shouts excitedly and whistles through her fingers, a few others cheering with her.

“What the…” Aaron mutters to himself and takes a few steps forward.

Robert bends down and mutters something to Marlon next to the stage, the chef apparently being the karaoke DJ for the night. He nods quickly, types something into the computer in front of him and a few seconds later a song starts with guitars and a catchy pop beat. 

A bit awkward and a bit offbeat, Robert starts swaying to the music, in typical Robert-style with his long limbs. And God, Aaron finds that absolutely endearing and a hot wave of affection is flooding his body, making him warm and fuzzy all over, the feeling only intensifying when his friend starts singing:

“You know, baby, when you're in my arms, I can feel your loving, magic charms…”

Oh. 

He realises, Robert is singing a love song and out of reflex, Aaron turns around to seek out Chrissie White in the audience to check if she’s listening - only to find her giggling about something Al Chapman just whispered into her ear. 

Oh. 

He turns around to the stage again.

“You drive me crazy. You drive me crazy…”

Oh. 

Robert is looking at him. He’s looking at Aaron. Right in his eyes, through his eyes, into his soul. While he sings. A love song.

“And when I'm looking in those big blue eyes, I start afloating round in paradise…”

Oh. 

His heart misses a beat and then relocates itself to Aaron’s throat. Robert’s singing is about him. For him. 

“You drive me crazy. You drive me crazy…”

But this is impossible. This doesn’t even make sense. Aaron doesn’t let himself dare to hope. He startles when someone touches his arm. Chrissie smiles at him.

“I’m glad you could solve this misunderstanding,” she says, “He was pretty excited about that date with you tonight.”

The thing is, Aaron’s hearing is really bad when there is loud music, but he is 99% sure that he got that right. Robert thought they were having a date and not only did he think that - he even was excited about it. Aaron blinks at the stage, kinda dazed, desperately wanting his stupid brain to catch up with all that new information.

“Heaven must have sent you down, down for you to give me a thrill…”

He only realises that he’s smiling when he sees Robert smiling back at him. Something inside Aaron’s chest is loosening, something he didn’t even know was suffocating him and suddenly he feels like he can breathe! Letting out a little sob, his vision swims away in a blurry mess.

“Every time you touch me, every time you hold me, my heart starts speeding like a train on a track…”

He thinks about all those movie nights and Netflix marathons they spent on Robert’s couch, his feet in Robert’s lap, or Robert’s head on his shoulder and all those feelings that swirled inside him like a bloody tornado. If he’d only known that Robert felt the same…!

“I love you, baby, and it's plain to see, I love you, honey, it was meant to be…” 

Robert looks at him when he sings the lyrics and Aaron wipes his eyes furiously with the sleeve of his jumper, because fuck, he wants to see his favourite face saying, no singing the words he dreamt of hearing a thousand times. And it is downright adorable how Robert is shifting from one leg to another, clutching the mic so hard his knuckles turned white. He misses quite a few tones, but it’s perfect, better than anything Aaron could have come up with in his wildest fantasies. 

This is his Robert, standing on a bloody stage, singing a love declaration in front of the whole village for him and is this even real?!

His feet are moving like they have a will of their own and suddenly Aaron is right in front of the stage and Robert is smiling down at him. He needs to kiss him, needs to kiss him right now! 

Hoping that no one notices the slight trembling of his fingers, he lifts his hand and reaches out to Robert. 

The man just chucks the microphone over to Marlon who catches it at the last moment before it crashes on the floor, then Robert jumps down and is suddenly right there, his face only inches away. Aaron stares at him in awe like he’s seeing him for the first time - which is true in a certain way. This isn’t the smug trademark smirk of his friend. This is the affectionate smile and the longing gaze of the man he loves.

He’s never seen Robert so soft, so cute.

“Say something,” Robert pleads.

“Shut up and let me have this moment,” he says and it comes out half as a laugh, half as a sob. 

“You can have this moment and all the other moments after that. How does that sound?” The smile on the freckled face gets even bigger and Aaron is torn between rolling his eyes and melting away right then and there.

It’s such a corny thing to say, but he loves it, he absolutely does. 

“I love you,” Aaron breathes out the words, finally setting free what he tried to keep locked in his heart for years. 

The relief he feels is nothing though in comparison to what he sees in Robert’s green-blue eyes. “Finally.” Robert pulls him close and rests his forehead against his, before he moves to Aaron’s ear and whispers: “I love you. So much.”

Aaron hears and he shudders, a tickling sensation running down his spine.

Their lips find each other, it’s just a sweet, chaste kiss, but it’s enough to make Aaron’s body tingle all over.

“They said I LOVE YOU!” Jimmy King exclaims and the crowd erupts. 

Aaron startles, shifts back, looking around with wide eyes. He was so focused on Robert that he totally forgot they’re in the middle of his mum’s pub, surrounded by villagers. On bloody Valentine’s Day.

Well.

Aaron can’t bring himself to care, instead he kisses Robert again. If they are going to be the top gossip in the Dales tomorrow anyway, they might as well give them a little show.  

“Oi!” Charity shouts above the noise in the Woolpack. “Did someone order a cocktail?!”

The joke is lost on Aaron, but people, including Robert, are laughing. Robert takes his hand and leads him outside. Aaron marvels at how easily their fingers intertwine, so natural, so easy, as if they never did something else than hold onto each other. 

“Come on, let’s go home.”

And that’s where they’re walking, joined hands swinging between them while they're stealing happy, little glances at each other. Home. 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Robert blinks his eyes open, disorientated for a moment, vision blurry until he can focus again on the face above him. And then he’s suddenly hyper focused, for example on that little bead of sweat that’s rolling down the nose, the dark lashes that are perfectly framing half lidded bright, ice blue eyes and that red bitten and kiss swollen mouth. 

Said mouth is twisting into a grin right now.

“You with me again?”

Robert snorts and licks his tingling lips. “Smug.” The word comes out more slurred than he intended, but his body feels off. Floating, buzzing, heavy. 

This is what you’d call ‘fuck someone’s brain out’ and Robert marvels at how Aaron’s dick is still buried in him, twitching and softening. Robert wants him to stay in him like that forever. It leaves him weirdly empty and sore in the best possible way, when Aaron pulls out eventually. After the quickest clean up, where they just use Aaron’s shirt to wipe off the mess of Robert’s belly and just throw it on the floor along with the used condom to deal with it later, Aaron curls up at his side and rests his head on Robert’s chest. 

His boyfriend’s hair tickles his chin and damn, Robert loves how that sounds in his head. Aaron is his boyfriend now. 

The thought makes him smile every time it hits him and Robert presses a gentle kiss on the curled head of hair, having never felt that content and satisfied and present in his whole life. It’s a perfect moment of pure bliss. A bubble of togetherness he wants to protect and cherish and enjoy as long as possible. 

Sooner or later they’ll have to face the real world again and Robert dreads the gossip after their little show in the Woolpack already. Fuck, he dreads dealing with Chas. Aaron’s mum never was his biggest fan although he doesn’t know why exactly, it’s not like he had interacted with her much besides the fact that she was his best friend’s mother. However, she always gave him those vibes as if she barely tolerates him and solely for her son’s sake. Surely she’s going to grill him. He sighs and tries to push that out of his mind, reminding himself that his gorgeous and gloriously naked boyfriend is currently snuggling with him, their skin still damp from the sweat of their love making. 

Aaron turns his head, chin resting on Robert’s chest, and looks at him.

“Hm? What’s up?”

His strong hands are surprisingly gentle as they stroke the side of Robert’s torso, just the faintest touch of fingertips, making him squirm and chuckle. 

“Nothing,” he says and Aaron gives him a look. “Just… I wish I could stay with you, here, like this.”

His boyfriend smiles again, hamster cheeks on full display. “Yeah, same. Could do without facing the fam for a bit longer.”

As if he could read Robert’s thoughts and that’s just one of the reasons why Robert loves him so much. Aaron just gets it, thinks alike. He’s his best friend for a reason. A spontaneous idea strikes his mind. 

“Fuck, let’s do it!” Robert sits up and pulls Aaron with him.

“Do what?”

Aaron looks like the most adorable puppy when he’s confused, head tilted with furrowed brows and slightly pursed lips. Robert can’t resist kissing him before he leans over to his nightstand and grabs his laptop. 

“We’re getting away for a few days,” he explains and opens the browser.

“We are?”

“We are.” Robert’s already searching for hotels in Scotland while Aaron is still trying to catch up with the conversation. 

Seems like Robert isn’t the only one who just jizzed his brain out, he thinks and snickers. 

It doesn’t take much persuasion to get Aaron on board with his idea and soon they are lying on their bellies, arms and shoulders touching as they are surfing different hotel websites. They find a provider that rents out little cottages at the seaside which is exactly what they both need. A little hideout. A sanctuary. 

“What about work?” Aaron throws in.

“I have so many extra hours, I can take a few days off. And you can call in sick.”

Aaron bites his lip, contemplating. “Cain’s gonna be pissed.” Then he looks at Robert and his blue eyes go impossibly soft and God, he’s almost drowning in the affection he sees shining through them. “Let’s do it then.”

Robert kisses him again and it’s still unreal that he can do this now just like that. Because Aaron is his boyfriend. This is the fucking best. He grins into the kiss and nips softly before he pulls back completely. 

“Hey, I’ll take a quick shower and you check if you can find something else, otherwise we’ll book that cottage, okay?” he suggests eagerly. 

He can’t wait to get away from the village. Aaron nods, presses a sweet and chaste peck on Robert’s shoulder, whispering “hurry” against the skin, before he goes back to checking the tripadvisor homepage. 

 

++

 

A few minutes later, he hears the water being switched on and Robert whistling one of his God awful pop tunes and Aaron takes a moment to soak up every bit of happiness he’s feeling right now. Robert is his now. He’s Robert’s. It’s a concept that’s still a bit unreal if he’s honest, nevertheless it’s amazing. Fuck, the sex with Robert was…

Earth shattering. 

Like, everything he thought he knew feels different now. As if Robert ripped him apart with his hands and mouth and put him together again, made him brand new. 

Aaron smiles at his own cheesy thoughts, except they aren’t that cheesy when it’s just the simple truth. He moves the finger over the touchpad, watching the little cursor flying across the screen and when he reaches the bottom, Robert’s dock pops up. It doesn’t only show the apps he put there for the quick start, but also his opened documents and when the mouse passes a google doc sheet, the tiny icon gets bigger and the name appears above it. Aaron stills. 

No, he freezes. 

Stares. 

The dock has disappeared again because the cursor is already somewhere else on the screen, but he moves it back down. Searches that document, manoeuvers the little black arrow back on the document. Reads the name again. 

Stares.

His body goes hot and cold and his heart speeds up. Aaron is not a snooper, definitely not, he isn’t nearly as nosey as Robert, live and let live, but damn. The document is saved under his name.

Aaron, it just says.

Robert created a google document with his name. 

He strains his ears and hears the water still running, Robert has switched in the meantime from whistling to singing.

Shining through the city with a little funk and soul

So I'ma light it up like dynamite, whoa oh oh

His boyfriend is such a dork, Aaron thinks fondly when he imagines Robert shaking his hips under the spray. His heart feels too big, too hot for his chest, feels like it wants to beat its way out of Aaron‘s ribcage. 

His eyes flick back to the document and with shaky fingers he taps on the touchpad. He‘s not a nosey person, but urgh. That‘s his name! In Robert‘s google docs folder! Just one quick look, he tells himself and then he‘ll close it again. 

The white sheet appears and the headline on top of it practically screams at Aaron.

 

Ten ways to get him to love me

 

He blinks and shakes his head as if to clear his head and get those letters in a different order because, I‘m sorry, what the fucking fuck?

Of course, the text stays the same. Underneath the headline is a list of the mentioned ten ways. Aaron starts reading, his original plan to close the document again went out of the window as soon as he read the first words. He needs to know what this is about. 

Apparently Robert copied stuff from the internet and added some personal notes.

 

Be Aware of Your Appearance

Your appearance can make you win or lose when it comes to dating. To please a man and make him get interested in you, you should be presentable. Be aware of what you are wearing, whether or not your hair is clean, and if you are dressed appropriately.

I know that Aaron loves my brown leather jacket and I love that he loves it! It’s a great jacket and I’m definitely gonna wear it a lot! 

    Update: I noticed him checking me out :-) Leather jacket is doing it’s magic.

Get to Know and Understand What He Does

Take opportunities to get involved in things he does. Ask him whether he needs any help to accomplish a task. If he discovers that you are keenly interested in his plans, he will see that you care for him and that you could be a good partner.

Went to the garage today and helped him finish a job on a Volkswagen. Filthy! And not in a good way! Got dirt and oil on my skin and clothes, but it was quite fun spending time with Aaron (it always is). I especially loved watching him work, watching his hands and his arse when he was bent over over the engine… Might do that again soon!!

Make eye contact

It may sound trivial but the impact of eye contact is still underrated. It’s simply a great way to provoke (sexual) tension in a man. You can literally seduce him through eye contact alone without saying a word to him.

This is heaven and hell at the same time! Heaven because I love Aaron’s eyes, he’s got the most wonderful eyes I’ve ever seen. I love looking into his eyes and getting lost in those blue oceans. But I’m afraid of looking too long. What if I give too much away? Also I wish I could lean over and kiss him. I really wonder what kissing him would feel like. 

Get physical with him

Put your hand on his shoulder when he’s joking, or give him a playful punch when he makes a silly remark. He’ll feel more comfortable with you when you occasionally touch him.

I‘m trying to do this more often now than I used to, but I‘m not sure if Aaron is a touchy-feely guy. He‘s giving me weird looks and I‘m scared to cross a line that‘ll make him uncomfortable!

Laugh at his jokes 

Studies have shown that men want a partner with a sense of humour. Also your crush might enjoy the fact that he can make you smile. A smile or a laugh can also be very attractive. Lots of reasons to spend happy times together!

That’s easy! I do laugh a lot when I‘m with Aaron. He has this dry humour and sarcasm I love so much! Although he only shows it on occasion, he‘s hilarious. 

Take a genuine interest in him

By taking a genuine interest in him, he’ll automatically become more interested in you. So when you meet up with him, make sure you actively listen and ask questions. This will make him like you much more than when you try to convince him of how much fun you are.

Today we watched one of his favourite movies, The Conjuring. It bloody sucked! Definitely need to talk to him about his taste in movies. Also made some salty popcorn because he prefers it… Why?! How?! It tastes awful.

Gonna have to find some of his other interests.

Kaiser Chiefs (tour next year, get tickets! Sale starts in June!)

Cars (take him to a race in summer)

Football (invite him over for the next Cup game of LFC, make sure to read a football magazine before to not embarrass yourself!)

Take care of him

By making sure that you do something caring for him every now and then, he’ll quickly see you as ‘relationship material’.

That’s easy! Aaron always looks out for others, but he doesn‘t care much about his own well-being. I know if he doesn‘t go for tea to the pub, he basically lives off toast! I love cooking though and I love cooking for Aaron! He always likes what I make and I try to put in vegetables he normally wouldn‘t eat. :-)

Aaron likes:

Meat (especially steak), all sorts of Pasta, Red Thai Curry, beans, dates, potatoes

He doesn‘t like:

Salmon, spinach, sprouts, broccoli, fish and chips

Show Confidence

Sounds easy? It’s not at all.  If you want to show your crush you’re a great catch, you have to radiate a certain confidence that must not come across as arrogance - that’s most likely to turn him off rather quickly. The key is: Liking yourself makes it easy for him to like you too. You're a good person with very special qualities. Be confident that you are worthy of being loved!   

Struggling with this task. Jimmy calls me an arrogant prat sometimes and even Aaron teases me with being a show off. And yeah, I like to show off what I’ve achieved, but do I love myself? I haven’t really given that a thought. If I think about it, I’d say I’m quite alright with myself. I’m not that broken teenager anymore, I know who I am and what I am. What are my special qualities though? What if I have none? I love to cook, but is that enough to count as a special quality? I don’t know if I’m worthy of being loved either, sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve Aaron anyway.

Make him think the relationship is his idea

So you’ve been dating for a while, and you think it’s time for the next step? Although it may be tempting to tell him this directly… Don’t do it. You can give him a few subtle hints, but above all, give him time.

HOW MANY SUBTLE HINTS DOES ONE GUY NEED? I‘m not even subtle anymore! He‘s doing my head in! 

Be Patient

If you feel like you’ll explode if you don’t profess your love for him, heed this advice.  Tell a friend how you feel. They’ll support you but also help you analyse whether your crush will be reciprocated or not. That can save yourself from the embarrassment of a one-sided love profession (the worst!).

This patience thing sucks! It just sucks. Jimmy and Vic aren’t helpful at all. Note to self: rethink social contacts. 

 

Aaron doesn‘t know how long he stares at the document, rereads, tries to understand. Tries to get his head around the fact that Robert created this document. He laughs. Then he stares again.

And damn yes, the touches, the movie, all the dinner invites - Aaron knew that something was off, but he never in a million years thought it was all part of a plan to… what? Woo him? Woo him? 

He wonders how long Robert felt like that about him. If he‘d only known they could have been together for ages! Years maybe!

Aaron wants to rip his hair out, his boyfriend is such an idiot. He starts typing in the document, uses a different text colour to mark his comments. Right when he‘s finished, the door opens and Robert comes in, only covered with a towel around his hips. Before Aaron can get too distracted by all that smooth, bare skin and slight hint of muscles, he quickly closes google docs and smiles at Robert.

“Hiya.“

Robert smiles back, tiny laughter lines showing around his soft green eyes and then he‘s bending down and kissing Aaron. He tastes like peppermint and smells of lemon, it‘s addictive and Aaron is glad he‘s lying on the bed, because his whole body turns into a puddle of goo. 

“Hi,“ Robert whispers against his lips, “could get used to you waiting for me in my bed…“ He grins smugly like the Cheshire Cat. 

“Is that so?“ Aaron breathes.

“Hm-hmmm.“ The hum gets swallowed up by another kiss.

“So do I have to wait any longer or do you gonna do something about-”

Aaron shrieks and laughs when Robert just grabs him and manhandles him until he‘s on his back in the middle of the bed and Robert is on top of him. 

“What was that?“ Robert asks cockily, nosing, kissing and licking down Aaron‘s throat.

“Just-” Aaron bites back a moan when Robert sucks on the sensitive area below his earlobe. “-get it on with.“

“Yes, boss.“

 

++

 

“My turn to shower.“

Aaron gets up with a sigh and Robert feels cold where he was just lying half across his torso and legs.

“Alright. I‘m just gonna book that cottage and then I‘ll join you, I feel I could use another shower.“ He smirks. “And we can share water.“

“Share water, huh.” Aaron snorts and shakes his head, but his expression is fond.

Robert melts into his mattress. “Yeah, you know me. Old tree hugger, me.“

That earns him another laugh, before Aaron leaves to the bathroom. Robert just stays like that on the bed a bit longer, starfishing with heavy limbs, deeply sated. Happy. Then he takes his laptop, excitement rising when he thinks about their spontaneous trip to Scotland. It‘s going to be glorious. 

When he swipes the cursor over his dock, he notices his google document is missing. For an awfully long moment, he‘s not sure if he closed it or just minimised it, like he usually does! A hot wave of panic flushes his body and with a jackrabbiting heart he opens the site. It says his Aaron file had been opened 52 minutes ago. 

Fuck.

Oh fuck!

That can only mean Aaron saw it! 

He clicks on it, his fingers are clammy on the touchpad.

Robert frowns in disbelief when he sees that Aaron added notes to his own. 

 

Be Aware of Your Appearance

I know that Aaron loves my brown leather jacket and I love that he loves it! It’s a great jacket and I’m definitely gonna wear it a lot! 

Update: I noticed him checking me out :-) Leather jacket is doing it’s magic.

  • I bloody love your leather jacket! And I love your stupid granddad look with those elbow patches!

Get to Know and Understand What He Does

Went to the garage today and helped him finish a job on a Volkswagen. Filthy! And not in a good way! Got dirt and oil on my skin and clothes, but it was quite fun spending time with Aaron (it always is). I especially loved watching him work, watching his hands and his arse when he was bent over over the engine… Might do that again soon!!

  • I loved having you at the garage, asking me about my job and helping me!

Make eye contact

This is heaven and hell at the same time! Heaven because I love Aaron’s eyes, he’s got the most wonderful eyes I’ve ever seen. I love looking into his eyes and getting lost in those blue oceans. But I’m afraid of looking too long. What if I give too much away? Also I wish I could lean over and kiss him. I really wonder what kissing him would feel like. 

  • Same! :-)

Get physical with him

I‘m trying to do this more often now than I used to, but I‘m not sure if Aaron is a touchy-feely guy. He‘s giving me weird looks and I‘m scared to cross a line that‘ll make him uncomfortable!

  • I love having you close. I love touching you. You never make me uncomfortable.

Laugh at his jokes 

That’s easy! I do laugh a lot when I‘m with Aaron. He has this dry humour and sarcasm I love so much! Although he only shows it on occasion, he‘s hilarious. 

  • Fucking right, I am. I love your laugh.

Take a genuine interest in him

Today we watched one of his favourite movies, The Conjuring. It bloody sucked! Definitely need to talk to him about his taste in movies. Also made some salty popcorn because he prefers it… Why?! How?! It tastes awful.

Gonna have to find other interests of him.

Kaiser Chiefs (tour next year, get tickets! Sale starts in June!)

Cars (take him to a race in summer)

Football (invite him over for the next Cup game of LFC, make sure to read a football magazine before to not embarrass yourself!)

  • The Conjuring is amazing, you damn snob. I‘d love to go to concerts and sports events with you. I‘d also love to just spend time on the couch with you, even if we’d be watching your boring mainstream rom-coms. 

Take care of him

That’s easy! Aaron always looks out for others, but he doesn‘t care much about his own well-being. I know if he doesn‘t go for tea to the pub, he basically lives off toast! I love cooking though and I love cooking for Aaron! He always likes what I make and I try to put in vegetables he normally wouldn‘t eat. :-)

Aaron likes:

Meat (especially steak), all sorts of Pasta, Red Thai Curry, beans, dates, potatoes

He doesn‘t like:

Salmon, spinach, sprouts, broccoli, fish and chips

  • I love when you‘re cooking, you‘re amazing. And I also hate coriander, stuff makes me puke.

Show Confidence

Struggling with this task. Jimmy calls me an arrogant prat sometimes and even Aaron teases me with being a show off. And yeah, I like to show off what I’ve achieved, but do I love myself? I haven’t really given that a thought. If I think about it, I’d say I’m quite alright with myself. I’m not that broken teenager anymore, I know who I am and what I am. What are my special qualities though? What if I have none? I love to cook, but is that enough to count as a special quality? I don’t know if I’m worthy of being loved either, sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve Aaron anyway.

  • You are the most cocky, arrogant, smug bastard I know and the biggest idiot I ever met. Because how can you not see how amazing you are? You have loads of special qualities: you care about people, you do everything for the people you love, you can cook, you are determined and organised, you are charming and funny, you’re smart, you can carry a conversation when I lack words, you know me better than anyone else. You‘re wonderful and I don‘t deserve YOU!

 

 

Robert has to close his eyes and take a deep breath, feeling overwhelmed by Aaron‘s little notes. He can‘t even bring himself to be humiliated that Aaron read this list and his embarrassing thoughts, because damn, it‘s quite remarkable that Aaron, his grumpy Aaron, left his own comments for Robert to discover eventually. It makes him warm and fuzzy inside and for a long moment he doesn‘t know what to do with himself. Doesn‘t know how to handle this intensity. He hears the water splashing in the bathroom, knowing it’s Aaron taking a shower, waiting for him to join. It’s highly domestic and Robert wants mornings to be like this from now on, he wants Aaron to stay and never leave. After a few seconds he blinks his eyes open, because there are only a few comments left and Robert is dying to read them. 

 

Be Patient

This patience thing sucks! It just sucks. Jimmy and Vic aren’t helpful at all. Note to self: rethink social contacts. 

  • I can’t believe you confided in Jimmy King and your sister! Tell me all about it so I can take the mick!!! lol 

Make him think the relationship is his idea

HOW MANY SUBTLE HINTS DOES ONE GUY NEED? I‘m not even subtle anymore! He‘s doing my head in!  

  • Yeah that didn‘t work out, did it…

 

 

Robert laughs, a bit shaken. Underneath that point are a few blank lines and then only one sentence in bold, capital letters and Robert fights those stupid tears in his eyes as best as he can, because the words are blurry and he has to read what Aaron wants him to know.

 

THE WHOLE LIST IS RUBBISH. YOU NEVER NEEDED WAYS TO GET ME TO LOVE YOU, BECAUSE I‘VE BEEN IN LOVE WITH YOU FOR YEARS ALREADY, DORK.

 

Of course the love declaration comes along with an insult, otherwise it wouldn‘t be typical Aaron. Robert grins so wide, his cheeks are hurting. He slams the laptop shut, jumps up from the bed and rushes to the bathroom.

“Oi! Who are you calling a dork, you idiot!”