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A mid (summer) life crisis

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Robert was scowling at the lupines, baby breaths and daisies as he walked past the long table they were setting up for brunch; the ruined floral arrangements - amongst other things - were still bugging him regardless of the previous evening having turned out moderately acceptable. Not according to his standards, but he had bit back a big ole’ pile of lamentation to not make it seem like it was his shindig.

He wasn’t stupid, he knew weddings never went to plan - just because he was a man of great organizational skill and endless wit, that didn’t stop others being their idiotic selves and the rest of the evening had proven just that.

There had been the cliché party games, garter toss, making a big deal of the disappointment of a cake, stupid marital advice for the couple of the hour, and karaoke - yes, the most grating past time activity in history.

At least Robert's own speech had been perfect. 

However, fact remained that Robert hadn't managed to stop the ceremony, no matter how many questionable, possibly illegal spells and curses he recited in his head - Terryble was still around, being his underachieving self.

What was worse - Vic was happy.

Contrary to every possible ounce of sanity, that is what she was.

Happy being Mrs Terryble.

“Rob!”

There she was, the bride herself - wrapping her tiny frame around him, bringing about a whiff of champagne, brisk morning wind and something like powdered sugar – and something coming out of her mouth that definitely wasn’t baby breath or flowery in general.

Vic’s face was flustered, the lazy spark in her big fawn eyes correlating the tad too noisy a greeting and the manic thump of her heart; it was 9 am, and Robert’s little sister was drunk – and not just a tad.

No, Mrs Terryble was absolutely wankered.

And who could blame her, after the life choices she had recently made.

She swayed there with her hair up in a crooked ponytail, wearing a white velour tracksuit with dubious words embroidered onto it in pink letters.

Robert ignored the terrible bridal realityshow trackies and the booze breath, squeezing his sister into his arms; circumstances aside, it was never a bad time to hug her, and it gave Robert the much-needed illusion that he could keep her safe at all times simply by giving her a squeeze on a regular basis.

Vic pulled back a bit, Robert tutting at her inebriated grin.

“Jesus, Vic, did you start as soon as you woke up?”

Vic snorted, pressing a finger against the false eyelash that was threatening to drop.

“Woke up? I haven’t been to bed yet,” she said, examining her index finger like it was about to tell her why.

Robert chuckled, averting his eyes from the ring glinting on her other finger.

Vic burped, followed by a giggle.

“Charming.”

She gave him her best innocent face, which wasn’t great right now.

“Terry fell asleep early, so me and Aaron got to talking and the fizz, I kinda lost track of time there.”

Yeah, that can happen with Aaron.

“Sorry to say sis, but those trackies are ghastly,” Robert said, shaking himself out of the Aaron stupor he’d been stuck in, “I’m a bit shocked that you’re willing to wear such. It’s so…not you.”

“I know,” Vic replied, patting his arm, “but the bridesmaids love them, so I agreed to it.”

“Seriously?”

Vic shrugged like it was obvious.

“Same reason I agreed to the liquorice appetizers; because Chrissie loves them. The church wasn’t all that, but it made our mates happy. And Terry’s mom likes that Canadian lounge singer, the one that sounded like a kitchen appliance gone rogue - that’s why we had him crooning at the reception.”

“Why on earth would you agree to all of that?”

Vic gave him a pointed look.

“You’ve been married, Rob. You know perfectly well that a wedding is always about the guests in the end, not the people actually getting married. Giving them guests what they want right from the start is the only way to make it less daunting.”

Robert did know that; his and Chrissie’s wedding with the out of sync dance- performing relatives, lace cake with actual lace and the geese - yeah, geese, not doves - it had been a day to remember, no matter how much he’ d tried to forget it.

Vic attempted to fix her ponytail, but it looked like she barely knew where it was and her hands seemed to just make aimless motions above her head, like she was watching Flashdance and doing just as bad a job at mimicking the ballet dancers as Jennifer Beals did on screen.

“It was a great party,” Vic stated easily with a confident smile, her arms dropping and settling into a child-like swing, volume going from too loud to too quiet on her very own champagne frequency, “no-one complained or cried to my knowledge, me and Terry included.”

She paused and looked up at her brother.

“And you didn’t sleep with any of the bridesmaids, which was very nice of you.”

“You’re welcome,” Robert said with a grin, leaving out the admission that making Terry cry would’ve been a perk of monumental proportions if it didn’t mean making Vic sad too.

“Also, you kept the stupidest ideas from happening, being your micromanaging, merciless despot of a weirdo self and I'm thoroughly grateful for that.  I loved seeing you so fired up - that was my concession to you, but it didn’t feel like one.”

Robert felt the biggest splash of happiness at that.

Vic picked up the glass of Ruinart the waiter had brought her – yeah, there was better champers now, thanks to Robert.

“Besides, this day is all mine since guests are no longer whingeing on about their great ideas,” she said matter-of-factly, taking a sip.

“So that’s why you’re drunk and blasting One Direction first thing.”

Vic narrowed her eyes.

“You love One Direction more than I do, Rob, let’s not pretend otherwise.”

She wasn’t wrong, but Robert still scowled at her just for the vast hell of it.

“I still can’t believe you’re so calm about it,” he said, even if the giggling, restlessly inebriated person bouncing about in front of him wasn’t living up to the compliment right now.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Vic replied happily, “everyone knows that the hangover brunch after the shindig is the best part. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to the kitchen because I want the perfect brunch menu, and that can only happen if I make it myself.”

Robert laughed.

God, he was so proud of his smug little rascal of a sister.

“How’s about I give you a hand? I promise to follow instructions and take any criticism with the obedience of a Victorian footman – obviously, being the footman of Victoria.”

Vic gasped.

“A chance to order my brother about? Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any better.”

“Oi.”

Robert meant to berate her, but he just gave her another hug instead because it was so much better.

Once Vic had kicked out the kitchen staff and Robert had begun cutting ingredients, decisively keeping sharp objects from Vic’s reach - he decided to throw his very casual question into the conversation.

“So what’s the deal with Aaron?” he asked, piling up the zucchini slices on the grill after splashing them with olive oil and French herbs, “how come I’ve never met him before?”

It was a very unfortunate thought indeed; if he had, there would've been plenty of hotel encounters already.

Vic poured the potato chunks onto the large pan, reaching for the spices.

“He just came back to the country a few weeks ago, he was in Canada for two years.”

Robert raised an eyebrow.

“Scouting lounge singers for Terry’s mum?”

Vic laughed; it was heartfelt.

A joy to witness.

She looked so much like their mum it made Robert’s heart constrict with the familiar blend of happiness and sorrow; luckily Vic started talking again as his eyes had begun to glisten.

“He worked in a garage and did some extra credentials for his degree.”

“Credentials in a garage? For what, to get a PhD in grease monkey?”

Vic swatted his arm away as he tried to steal a piece of prosciutto.

“Don’t be a prat, Rob. He worked as a mechanic for the dosh and took classes at Alberta uni for his teaching degree.”

“A mechanic, eh?”

So that explains the skilful hands.

Robert shook away the highly inappropriate thought as soon as it arrived, not getting into Vic’s dig either.

“Yeah, a mechanic. But unlike you, he’s actually a great one,” Vic quipped.

Robert scoffed.

“Like you know anything about that job.”

“I know enough,” his annoyingly grinning sister said, “enough to know the difference. Anyways, he just got back and we didn’t get a chance to get together before this weekend.”

Robert considered that, digesting the information.

“Things got tough for him at the end, so it’s a good thing he’s home now.”

“Tough how?”

Vic tutted, sipping her coffee.

She seemed completely sober suddenly, but then again, cooking did that to her. It was something they had in common; Robert could effortlessly make a stellar meal after downing a bottle of Côtes du Rhône.

“It’s none of your business, Rob. Why are you so interested in his life anyway?”

“Well he’s your best mate, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, but I don’t gossip. Not like that.”

Vic paused; her eyes were staring through the pan it seemed, like she was looking into the hidden details of Aaron’s life.

She looked a little sad.

“Anyway,” she said, flinching out of whatever she’d dipped into in her mind, “he’s back now, and that’s what matters. He’s coming to visit for a long weekend after the honeymoon so we can spend some actual time together.”

She looked up at Robert with a face he knew well; she was about to suggest something weird, not that it was a rare occurrence where Vic was concerned.

“I’d like to have Seb over then,” she said cautiously, pouring the whisked eggs on top of the potatoes.

Robert’s stomach was rumbling, but he couldn’t pay attention to it after hearing Vic’s words; he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d thought she would say, but that was not anywhere near the things he might have guessed.

“Why’d ya wanna have Seb over?”

Vic was batting her crooked false eyelashes at him.

“I love my nephew, isn’t that enough?”

“No it isn’t. Why would Aaron want my kid tagging along?”

Robert crossed his arms, cocking his head towards the veggies that were ready now.

“I reckon Turner would like it,” Vic said as she picked up the greens from the grill – Robert let her do it, because no-one was allowed to do the plating and the display, he had bickered over it with her enough times to know it was a losing battle, and a gruesome one at that.

“Who’s Turner?” he asked, stealing some prosciutto just to wind her up.

Vic stuck out her tongue because she was equally mature.

“Turner is Aaron’s kid, he's a single dad. The boy's six, like Seb.”

“And his name is Turner?”

Vic grinned.

“Yeah, it’s weird innit? Everyone in Aaron’s family has biblical names, maybe he fancied a change to that. Although his middle name is Abraham, so not really.”

Robert was getting more puzzled by the minute, and he was beginning to think he couldn’t digest this information without getting a tad lushed.

Not just a tad, he needed to get Vic- level hammered, with the Turners and the biblical relatives, garages, credentials and Canadian secrets confusing him.

“Aaron’s smitten with Seb,” Vic continued, “and I bet his kid will be too.”

Robert scoffed, sprinkling rosemary on the potatoes.

“Everyone is smitten with Seb,” he said arrogantly, knowing Vic couldn’t deny it; everyone loved Seb, and it was something Robert felt incredibly smug about every single day - and rightfully so.

Vic picked up the platter of veggies as Robert took a pile of plates along with the cutlery and insulated bowls, setting them on the serving trolley. “Well, Seb is the best kid ever,” she said proudly, “now let’s go and show those pillocks what real food is, and why we’re the greatest team in the history of teams.”

It was the best way to start the day; sharing a smug smile with his favourite person.

Robert kissed her cheek, his heart so full of affection at the sight of her self-satisfied face.

“Lead the way, queen Victoria."

 

 

 “Cheers, Mr S!”

Terry raised his glass as he slumped – yes, slumped onto his chair like Seb did when he was being difficult and very six years old; at the moment Seb was sat outside with his mum, watching the birds flying and chirping about, asking a million questions about them.

Terryble was likewise asking a million questions, mostly about what the other people’s thoughts were on whether the chair he sat on was wobbly or not.

Unlike Seb, Terry wasn’t adorable during his chair-slumping question hour – he was just being the unpleasant looking, adolescent mood killer he had always been, casually expressing his general wankerism. 

“Well haven’t I got a face like a wet weekend,” Terryble cackled – sadly it didn’t mean that he was unhappy, it just meant he had been splashed with a bit of rain outside and he now called himself a wet weekend.

Because it was the weekend, and he got wet, get it?

No, Robert wasn’t laughing either, his nerves were dripping onto the floor along with the drops that Terryble was shedding from his atrociously cut mop of hair.

 However, Robert good-heartedly swallowed his potential remarks and settled for chewing his last mouthful as he had cleared his plate now – thankfully at least the food was properly prepared since they’d made sure of it, and it was indeed delicious, even if the sight of Terry stuffing mushroom sloppily towards his laughing gear proved that there was nothing appetizing about the view in that room.

That was, until a certain someone sat down next to the bloke ruining the moods and mushrooms.

Much like in the garden, butterflies were fluttering about Robert’s stomach too.

How was it possible that Aaron had been out of his periphery for just a few hours, yet somehow become even more gorgeous?

It was a tad baffling, just how much the bloke made his insides stir.

“Morning,” Robert said casually, flashing him a smile.

Aaron gave him a nod and then immediately turned towards Terryble, because he clearly was planning on giving Robert  little stabs of rejection all morning, making sure he'd be extremely horny and miserable by lunchtime.

“Sorry for keeping Vic up,” he said, a warmth to his tone that had Robert feeling pure, organic, first-rate envy towards Terry for the first time in his entire life, “I guess we got a bit carried away.”

“No worries Aaron,” Terryble said happily, “I got so sleepy, she needed the company.”

He slept a lot, often napping throughout the day like babies.

It wasn’t something Robert complained about, since it kept the atrocity of a man out of sight.

Terry picked up his fork, glanced at his plate and then looked around with a frown; Robert deduced he was probably looking for instructions.

“Where’s the lovely Chrissie?” Terryble asked because he was the most jovial wanker ever, “I didn’t see her this morning.”

“She’s outside with our son,” Robert said firmly, making sure the words our son had the most emphasis one could possibly apply, “Seb likes to watch the birds.”

“I’m aware, Mr S,” Terry said, “it’s great.”

The I’m aware had a very bold amount of emphasis too, as it happens.

"Congrats," Robert replied, just to give him sarcastic credit for being aware of something.

He could get away with saying congrats, given the circumstances.

"Thanks," Terry said happily, like Robert had just offered the greatest compliment.

Robert ignored him to the best of his ability and it wasn't hard as he fixed his eyes on Aaron; how could he not, him sitting there looking ridiculously fuckable in his white shirt, sinful jeans and his fluffy morning hair all over the place.

Robert swallowed, his blood stirring.

He had enjoyed looking at that hair in the hotel room too, running his fingers through it, grabbing a fistful and giving it a firm tug when Aaron was sprawled under him, noisy and sweaty.

God, he looks amazing naked.

The images were taking over his mind again, plunging it into the filthiest of gutters; Aaron under him, Aaron on him, Aaron sideways, Aaron upside down.

Aaron all over.

“Robert.”

That’s it, say my name.

“Robert.”

Yeah, just like that.

“Robert.”

Say it again and beg me to fu-

“Robert!”

Unfortunately he hadn’t teleported into a repeat of that hotel room workout; he was still at the wedding venue, Aaron was just waving a hand in his face and Terryble was still very much an existing sad disaster of a fact.

Aaron cleared his throat and pointed towards the garden.

“Your son was asking for ya.”

Robert stumbled to his feet and strode towards the garden, heart pounding so fast he just might pass out.

This was getting pathetic, but the more pathetic it became, the more stubborn he grew.

Not a new thing for him, was it.

Luckily he was able to take a break from it all as soon as he opened the door and saw his son sitting there, breaking into a wide smile as he saw his dad’s face.

“Dad!” Seb squealed impatiently, motioning towards himself.

Robert walked over and ruffled his strawberry hair.

“Hiya,” he said gently and sat down next to Seb; they drank lemonade, laughing and chatting about swallows, starlings and robins, Chrissie showed pictures of the rare hawfinch sighting and Robert told stories about the birds he’d seen often growing up.

Seb had absorbed an impressive amount of information like children his age could, many times outshining his parents but they didn’t mind.

They just shared an amused, polite smile.

There may have not been any love lost between Robert and his ex-wife - well, it was more in the lines of throwing passive aggressive verbal missiles and icy stares, but when Seb was around the animosity knew it was time to do one.

If only that had been the case with Terryble.

Robert glanced up from the bird photos and saw a figure by the door.

Aaron was stood there, watching.

Not scowling.

Not smiling.

Just... looking.

As soon as he realised he'd been seen, he looked away and turned around, like he was ashamed.

Robert frowned, turning his attention back to Seb.

 

After Chrissie and Seb had gone for a walk, Robert returned to the table and was just about to strike up a conversation with Aaron when a horrible thing occurred.

Robert heard the opening chords of Blank space and almost squealed; having his stomach full, the most beautiful man sitting across from him, and Taylor singing through the speakers – he could easily turn it all around, he could block out Terryble and simply change Aaron’s mind if he just-

“I love her,” Terry said dreamily, humming along with the song, completely out of key of course.

Robert felt that wave of rage crashing into his system like the crazy monkey that it was; this was unacceptable.

His hands were balling into fists, and he just might bend the cutlery and snap it, giving Uri Geller a run for his money.

“Isn’t she great, Mr S?”

Robert stared at his empty plate, feeling like he was the one lacking instructions now.

“You like her, don’t ya?” Terryble pressed on because why stop now when Robert was almost dead on the inside.

“I’ll be right back,” Robert muttered and headed towards the coffee machine.

Watching the liquid drip into his cup, he was about to cry, frustration doing its manic Riverdance in his head.

That pillock had married his sister, was bogarting the seat next to the person who was Robert’s new number one wankbank image as his morning shower had proven – and now he had stepped into another important territory in his life.

Bloke just had to go and try to ruin Tay-Tay for him too, didn’t he?

Robert had decided he would never tell the pillock about his own, much bigger and dignified love for Taylor because that just wasn’t a possibility. Of course he hadn’t denied it either because a real Swifty doesn’t do that, but the result was the same; he had to bite back the words, grit his teeth and let Terryble victory dance about the chess board whilst Robert’s queen was knocked over, laying there black and immobile.

He glanced at the table, sorrow washing over him at the sight of Aaron smiling at that pillock, happily like Vic did.

No-one had told Robert life could be this unfair.

He noticed the song had ended and he could breathe again, if only for not having to listen to Terryble’s humming.

He took a sip of coffee.

It was still as disappointing as the groom. 

Vic was dancing to Night changes - again - when Robert spotted her; she had changed into her own clothes, grateful at Robert’s offer to burn that tracksuit in the bonfire barrels outside.

And Robert had, because he was a brother who kept his word.

Vic squealed a bit, going for a tilted pirouette.

Her moves didn’t do the concept of music much justice; Robert cackled at her weird choreography, feeling relieved that he himself was a much better dancer.

A great one.

“Pet, come sit with us!”

Robert shook his head at Diane, not really feeling up to chattering with his stepmum.

He was reaching his limit of chitchat.

And missing his real mum.

Wishing she were still around.

It made him feel oddly guilty, but the guilt always locked horns with his anger, that anger directed at nothing and everything.

The anger splashed in his mind again.

It was like a crappy flatmate, the anger; he had grown so accustomed to it that living without it seemed frightening, but the thought of still putting up with its draining presence in twenty years’ time wasn’t an option he was fond of.

Robert felt that wave of it as his eyes roamed the room, staring at the carved marble and the white wood, the floor-to-ceiling windows, the stupid flowers, too tall candlesticks and napkins on plates with half-finished meals, people with bandaids on their grazed knees and too many smiles on their faces, staining glasses with lipstick traces and sun lotion fingers. 

The waves always came unexpectedly.

Suddenly the air seemed to disappear.

He put down his coffee cup and picked up a glass of fizz, nodded to Diane before striding towards the kitchen again, not knowing what he was doing and why but it needed to be something other than this.

Robert entered the empty kitchen , had a little chat with his bubbling rage, silencing it, sealing it back into the barrel of toxic emotional waste and tossing it into the ever-growing pile, and proceeding to do the washing up; the machine was broken, but having something to do by himself was a godsend right now, just doing without thinking, mind a blank space indeed.

It made the waves smaller, and he was okay again, despite the frantic thump of his heart.

He knew how to make himself okay.

It was all going to be okay.

 

As he left the now spotless kitchen sans anger and got to the corridor leading towards the side exit, Aaron appeared from behind the corner.

They stopped in front of one another, eyes locking.

Aaron didn’t scowl.

Instead he gave him that impatient, smug smile.

The zipping fire immediately licked its way through Robert’s system; he felt sliced open, like Aaron could see it, see the devouring flames thrumming about, his want blatant.

“Hiya.”

Robert’s voice sounded foreign to himself, it was all hoarse and needy.

Aaron was looking anything but as he tilted his head, as if to assess just how many insults he could fit into ten words or less.

“What’cha want?” he grumbled.

Like you don’t know.

Aaron’s eyes were flickering across Robert’s face, taking in the sight with an expression that was still unreadable, unashamed in its hostility.

Robert felt like he was melting into the deadly blue gaze, and it didn’t seem like a bad thing.

Somehow it seemed like the only thing that made sense.

That was of course because he needed to get Aaron alone and naked five minutes ago.

“Why don’t I take you to that nice gazebo across the field?”, he suggested on an impulse, “it’s a nice place.”

“Yeah, I’m not going,” Aaron replied tightly.

“I was thinking more in the lines of coming, not going,” Robert said with a wink.

Aaron huffed, looking up at the ceiling.

“Mate, I’m neither coming or going with you.”

He really knew how to make the word mate sound like a proper insult, didn’t he?

“We could just have a chat,” Robert said, getting increasingly flustered by the feel of Aaron’s proximity.

He could settle for a chat, even though he was already half hard again from just looking at that man.

Aaron looked amazing.

That arse. It's perfect.

Robert felt dizzy with want.

Fuckin' hell.

That's where he was, a hell of fucking, or rather lack thereof.

“Why would I agree to a chat? So you can bang on about how you’re actually all nice and profound underneath whilst pulling down your pants? No ta.”

Even the digs Aaron was throwing his way sounded gorgeous, because why would they not when they were spoken with that deep, scratchy voice, a voice that could make millions working on a chatline of the adult kind - a voice that had a pulse, a vibration going on, a heated energy that floated around Aaron’s entire demeanour. 

That vibration had also come as an extremely nice blessing when his mouth had been wrapped around Robert’s co-

“Oi.”

Aaron was snapping his fingers impatiently in front of Robert’s face.

“What?”

“I said can you move out of the way, we’re done here.”

Robert didn’t want to move out of the way, he wanted to get in Aaron’s ways in every aspect that comes with such concept.

“Go on then, what’s the brainiac been saying about me?” he asked, mostly just gasping to skip this conversation and get to the undressing part, even though a part of him was vaguely intrigued by what the sad sloth had been cooking in his empty warehouse of a brain.

Aaron huffed, his smirk contemptuous.

“S’all a big joke to ya, innit?”

He was right - everything about Terryble was a big joke but Robert chose not to state the obvious and said instead:

“I don’t know why he’s badmouthing me, and I reckon I’m entitled to find out why.”

“Blimey, you really don’t give others much thought,” Aaron said with a tone that sounded almost sad, turning away from him in a manner that looked like he was trying to block Robert’s existence altogether.

“That’s not true in the slightest,” Robert said firmly, “and frankly I don’t care what that little weasel’s been chinwagging, but I bet it’s all lies.”

“Right,” Aaron sighed, “as thrilling as this vague excuse of a conversation is, I’m gonna ask you to leave me alone now.”

"Why?" Robert asked, "we had a great time before the little plank meddled."

And that was the truth. They did have a great time.

Very sweaty time, but they'd had a really good chat before the sweaty part.

Aaron made a frustrated sound, like a growl.

"Just do one, Robert."

The thunder was back in his eyes; the aggressive burn scorching through Robert’s skin, making him stir.

“Why?” he repeated.

“I don’t trust you,” Aaron said matter-of-factly.

“You don’t know me well enough not to,” Robert replied, knowing Aaron didn’t know him well enough to trust him either.

“I know enough, and I don’t like being messed around,” Aaron replied adamantly, words clear and firm.

“I’m not,” Robert said.

He stood firmly in place, gaze sweeping over Aaron’s body, his mouth going dry from the images of the night at the hotel that kept flashing through his mind.

Aaron was narrowing those eyes of his again.

“Robert, I won’t say this again, get lost.”

Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much. 

Robert didn’t say it out loud, something told him that he just might get punched, not fucked – at least not in a good way.

Aaron’s breath was a little shallow, accelerated, that along with the heat radiating from that sinfully beautiful body was turning Robert’s brain into a pile of goo, but seriously, who the fuck cared?

Robert stared at his mouth, very much aware he himself was probably salivating visibly.

He leaned just a little closer, letting his breath take a sweep at Aaron’s neck as he spoke.

“I think you don’t want me to leave,” he said quietly, examining Aaron’s face, knowing his gaze to be hungry.

Aaron’s breath hitched just a bit, or perhaps he was imagining it.

“Oh really?” Aaron scowled, eyes beady, “and how’s that?”

Robert felt a tiny wave of hesitation, but he didn’t give into it.

“We’re both still here,” he said, "and I think you know why."

The way he said it was like a question,  almost desperate; Robert hated that.

Aaron was quiet.

Robert leaned in, lips just brushing at Aaron’s jaw; a touch that wasn’t really there, but touching all the same, in so many ways.

And he heard it.

He heard the tiny moan; it was barely there too, but it was there.

It made his blood boil and his dick twitch painfully.

He inhaled that intoxicating scent of the beautiful man and pulled back, looking for confirmation.

Aaron just stood there, his body seeming to pulsate on the edge of surrender, eyes wide and crushing blue.

Robert's index finger climbed up Aaron's shoulder, dancing across his neck, down his jawline, stopping under the chin, pressing a bit, tilting Aaron's face upwards.

Then he leaned closer again, his mouth stopping right above Aaron’s; it was a shared breath of air, but it felt too vivid and wild in his lungs, like the air in high altitude.

Aaron swallowed, eyes closing and opening again, their colour turning a deeper shade.

Like it had a day and a half ago.

The crackle pinning the room's energy was drowning him.

Robert hummed, lips quivering and parting.

Then Aaron pulled away, blowing out a breath, the mirror-calm surface of the moment gone as the ripples began to multiply.

The corridor seemed to tilt and crumble, closing in on them.

“I have to go,” Aaron said, voice rising from faded and rough to clear and decisive through his words,

Robert waited for a tiny moment, waited for him to change his mind, to come closer again.

Aaron didn’t, and it made him ache.

“Robert.”

It wasn’t a question.

Robert relented; rather begrudgingly, he turned sideways and gestured towards the shrinking corridor, clinging onto his state of denial where him blushing wasn’t happening.

“After you,” he croaked out, voice shaky.

Aaron said nothing - nor did he look at him again, going about his way.

Robert was left standing there, his knees unsteady, trying and failing not to lose his breath, his pulse galloping ahead, like it was attempting to leave his body, charge after the figure disappearing into the corridor.

Fuck.