He hadn’t seen it in such a long time.
It’d been packed away in the corner of the walk-in closet where they kept a miscellanea of items; shoes, seasonal ornaments, old metallic biscuit tins and cardboard boxes full of photographs and drawings – little pieces of their history in neatly arranged piles, bringing back thoughts that were always there - but offering a deeper dive into certain times, times laced with a blur that the passing years applied there.
They couldn’t’ve possibly named every item from memory, but they would notice if even one of them went missing.
This was the case on that Saturday morning too.
Aaron had been sat in that closet, rummaging through things. He was surrounded by boxes and folders he’d pulled onto the centre of the floor an hour ago, not really knowing what he’d been looking for; he had just known he’d pick out the right item when he’d see it.
He was no longer paying attention to the fortress of belongings formed around him; all he saw was the thing that wasn’t there.
He stood up and flipped through the clothes rack again, now certain it was gone but still looking with focused eyes, the hangers moving swiftly with a swish and a clink.
As his eyes became a bit watery, Aaron felt ridiculous for getting so emotional.
It was just a jacket, wasn’t it?
It was, but then again it wasn’t.
He wiped at his cheeks, giving himself an inner eyeroll, trying to brush aside the ache, an ache that was so familiar and so out of place.
He left the boxes as they were, switched off the light and went into the kitchen to make a brew.
As he clicked on the kettle and took two mugs from the metal rack next to the sink, he heard a burst of laughter and glanced outside through the window.
Just as he’d began to submerge into a state of something akin to grief over a lost item, he saw it, right there in front of him now.
Robert and Seb were stood in the yard beside the rose bushes, chatting and cackling – laughing at something incredibly stupid, without a doubt.
Aaron felt his eyes widen as he clocked the missing piece of clothing he’d ended up looking for rather frantically.
He hadn’t seen Robert wear that tan leather jacket for years, he’d only seen it in photographs - those pictures of a young, reckless bloke with a confusion-laced mania and abrupt emotion, plunging into an inner ravine with a loud black crash, only to arise later on with the sweetest light, a light that made everything it touched become a tad less burdened.
The light that had always been there, in hiding, underneath a façade yet still close to the surface, in his guarded heart thumping against the layers, through the cottoned shirt, the leather of a jacket.
Aaron put down the mugs, staring at his husband, feeling light-headed suddenly.
He had fallen in love with Robert so many times; much like those items in that closet, he couldn’t possibly name every single one, but he would immediately notice if one of them was to go missing.
Seb and Robert stood there, daylight arriving and flickering on them as they laughed with their heads thrown back, their blond hair wind-swept and fluffy, the strands sweeping across their faces, long limbs in perpetual motion, mirroring each other with the same shrugs, grins – and the laughter, the one that was always bright and sincere with a bit of arrogance thrown in.
Their daughter walked past the cackling father and brother, looking between them with a sarcastic glance as she tied up her dark curls and took her bicycle, adjusting the saddle.
Robert handed her a helmet, his gestures firm and dad-like.
Seb leaned to whisper something into her ear, another burst of laughter breaking into the air, conspiratorial and mocking.
As was their right, because that’s what they were; children.
Always children, meant to be child-like and childish with their parents about.
Robert gave their laughter a half-fake pout; it made the cackling increase, which had been their dad’s goal all along.
As he always said: “They’re our kids, Aaron, they’re supposed to laugh at us, not with us.”
Aaron’s eyes kept sweeping at Robert, feeling another occasion join the long line of moments when he’d fallen in love with his husband as he was stood there now with their badly behaving, beautiful kids.
Laughing, goofing, chastening.
Always a hundred percent present, heart thrown open wide.
Seb hugged his little sister, whispering yet another secret.
She was laughing as she squirmed – she was annoyed and so pleased, like only a sibling would.
Robert and Seb waved at her as she got on her silver-coloured bike, shouting silly things like watch out for the bears as she rode off, undoubtedly rolling her blue eyes as she went.
Aaron waved too, even if she couldn’t see it this time.
It was what a dad did; always waving, always affectionate, always a little wistful.
He looked at the day planner on the windowsill; he knew what it said, but he liked seeing the date there.
A beautiful day, one that still annually involved a car, a layby and warm beer - beer that could’ve been cold, but that wasn’t the tradition, was it?
He heard the snap of the kettle but didn't take it just yet, looking around the kitchen made of beautiful wood with a tint similar to that jacket, with colourful cabinet doors and meticulously carved handles, all rustic and alive.
Their home was a big, old fashioned log house, renovated with materials suitable for its surfaces and tools that accommodated the work, respected the age and the memories made in that building.
The wood breathed; it sang.
Aaron sometimes heard the clacking of it; it was the rhythm of trees, it was a continuation.
It was the sound of home.
He heard the whirr of the washing machine, the swoosh of the wind at the window.
He heard the distant music, echoing from the other end of the house. It was some annoyingly sunny and upbeat pop song, one that Robert had been attempting to brainwash their very much metalhead of a son with.
Aaron huffed at the sound of it as he watched Robert gesture and prattle about something to Seb outside, possibly still making his case on behalf of the unapologetically daft sonic candy floss still streaming into the air.
Idiot, he thought fondly.
The pop music loving idiot was cut off from his babble as Seb dug out his phone, waving a hand and pressing the phone to his ear, taking a few steps away from his curious dad, always ready to eavesdrop and participate, especially when it wasn’t requested.
Seb disappeared from Aaron’s periphery and Robert was stood there by himself now, looking around.
His eyes stopped at the window, face breaking into a smile as he spotted Aaron, still gazing.
Aaron returned his smile and ducked his head, a silly feeling of shyness taking over as if he was their daughter’s age, blushing at the sight of his crush.
But Robert was his crush; he always had been.
As he looked up, Robert too had disappeared from view; soon Aaron heard the door creak open and then close with a little thud, shoes being toed off, footsteps approaching.
His husband-crush was stood in the doorway, smile dazzling as ever.
“What are you wearing?” Aaron asked, willing the heat radiating on his cheeks to disappear, yet knowing it to be an impossible task.
And because his crush knew him so well, he just had to walk over and give him a teasing look as he gestured with his hands in the jacket pockets, spreading out the hem as he made a little twirl.
“Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten this,” Robert said, his soft voice a little breathless, the lines around his mischievous eyes deepening with his grin, “that would be a right shame.”
Aaron looked down at their tea mugs, blushing furiously now; feeling the charging waves of such adolescent-like infatuation invading his very bones - it was completely unfair.
“I haven’t forgotten,” he mumbled, “you know I couldn’t.”
Robert stepped behind him, arms wrapping around his waist, chuckling in a very pleased way against his ear as he hooked his chin on Aaron’s shoulder.
“Good timing with the brew,” he purred, “I was gasping.”
Aaron turned his head a little, just to press his forehead against Robert’s cheek for a moment.
His skin was cool, it had been a surprisingly chilly morning.
The scent of leather was still intoxicating, awakening a wildness within.
“Seb was grumpy when he woke up,” Robert said, fingers drumming against Aaron’s sides, “it’s no wonder though, he came home so late yesterday.”
“He’s always a bit grumpy,” Aaron replied as he dug out the tea leaves from the brown jar with little flowers painted on it.
He looked up at Robert.
“Before you say anything sarcastic and stupid about wondering where he gets it from, let’s just skip that.”
Robert chuckled against his neck, lips sweeping, effectively stopping Aaron from showing himself where that trait came from.
“Where did Holly go?” Aaron asked as he poured the water into the pot on top of the tea leaves, closing the lid.
“She just went for a bike ride with that lad from school,” Robert said, “they’re just mates, I checked.”
Aaron sniggered at the ridiculous certainty of his tone, grinning.
“She’s fifteen, Robert, there’s no way of checking.”
“Don’t remind me,” Robert grumbled.
He paused, sighing.
"But I did warn ya, years ago already. This one has your eyes, so obviously everyone's in trouble."
Aaron offered him a kiss, perhaps proving that point.
Robert pointed at the tea jar.
“I love that,” he said with a melancholic sigh, “remember when she made it for Father’s Day?”
They fell silent, both failing not to think about how their daughter was probably making pottery items to others now, most likely to a lad that she was just mates with.
Robert picked up the jar, turning it in his hand like he could turn back time and shoo away the lads, the makeup and the secrets.
“She still has a curfew,” he said with adamant parental denial, “and she hasn’t broken it so far.”
“She hasn’t,” Aaron agreed, stood in denial land right with him.
Robert took his hand, pressing it against his lips.
“D’ya know what day it is?” he asked, smiling, eyes softly flickering.
Aaron smiled, gesturing towards the canvas bag on the table.
“I put the beers there,” he said, “they were ice cold but don’t worry, they’ll be nice and warm by the time we get there.”
Robert leaned in for another kiss, a bit less gentle now.
“Let’s have a little lie-down first,” he said with a shameless wink, pulling at Aaron’s hand.
“I thought you wanted a brew.”
Robert bit his lip, eyes aflame.
“Don’t worry, they’ll be nice and cold by the time we get here.”
Aaron rolled his eyes, making Robert smirk - which had been his intention all along.
“So what’s with the jacket?” he asked, smoothing down the leather with his hands, the feel of it adding to the thrill Robert’s proximity brought about.
It was the material of a youth made of cacophony and steep chaos, but now it was different.
Now the leather was husband material, just like its owner.
“I just wanted to put it on,” the leather-wearing husband stated with a shrug.
Aaron narrowed his eyes, grabbing him by the hips.
“You wanted to get me into bed, more like.”
Robert gave him a cocky once-over.
“Is it working?” he asked, being the beautiful bastard that he was.
“You know it is,” he said, leaning in for a snog, definitely enjoying the sight of his husband in that jacket - but wanting to peel it off him even more.
They laid on their bed, arms around one another, catnapping in the afterglow, trading kisses and unabashed smiles, the wood of the house clacking, wind swooshing, the irritating pop music still sounding.
Aaron hated that he sort of, kinda, maybe liked S club 7 now.
He’d never divulge that bit of information; not that Robert didn’t know already, because he always did.
It was annoying and great, just like Robert himself.
“D’ya know what day it is?” Robert asked again, fingers climbing about his husband’s back, drawing random patterns there.
Aaron knew he was about to say something sappy and wonderful, so he just smiled, raising his eyebrows.
“It’s a good day to fall in love with you,” Robert said, eyes affectionate, voice soft.
“Yeah,” Aaron replied, “right back at ya. It’s a good day to be lucky ‘cause you’re my husband.”
It was nice to be sappy together.
After a sweet, lingering kiss, Robert nudged Aaron onto his back, wrapping himself around him.
Aaron felt himself fall, falling again.
He kept on falling, with a dizzying velocity that always landed him in safety, falling further, falling deeper, always falling in love.
He thought about the bonnet of a car, about a layby.
He thought about a happy jinx.
He thought about warm beer.
He thought about the limbs wrapped around him.
Stroking at Robert’s freckly arm, he glanced to the side of the bed, feeling himself smile as he saw the tan leather jacket draped next to his purple hoodie on the back of the chair.
He knew that much like the leather was to him, Robert liked having the hoodie there.
Liked being able to look at it, run his fingers against it, enjoy the feel of husband material.
Aaron liked seeing them together there.
The garments laid together, just as they themselves were - years to see and years to be had, safe in a timeless embrace.