Tuesday 9th February
Just go Robert.
Aarons words resounded through his head making sleep impossible. He replayed their conversation over and over again picking up his phone and sighing as he put it back down again, he was trying to give Aaron the space he wanted but at the same time he was desperate to know how the man he loved was coping, if what he'd witnessed yesterday was anything to go by he wasn't.
Wednesday 10th February
As the morning light filtered through his bedroom window he heaved himself up to a sitting position his hands raking through his hair as he contemplated facing the start of a new day. His first thought was of Aaron and the way he’d left things with him the day before. He reached for his phone to see it was only 7.23am he’d managed to grab about an hours sleep and without thinking about it he pressed his fingers to Aarons name on his screen and listened as it rang once then clicked straight to voicemail and he couldn’t help but smile as he heard Aarons gruff voice grumble,
‘Leave a message.’ before the worry started to kick in.
It was Wednesday and he’d already heard Adam stumbling about the house a little earlier so if Aaron was planning on going into work he too should be up. He tried to ring him again with the same result; voicemail. He tried to reign in the panic that was beginning to rise in his chest as he dragged his sleep deprived body from the bed. He dressed quickly and headed downstairs grabbing his keys before heading across the road not caring what time it was. He let himself in the back door of the pub much like he had done the day before. He popped his head around the door to the back room but no one was around so he made his way slowly up the stairs stopping outside Aarons room and taking a deep breath. He knocked on the door softly before opening it whispering Aarons name as not to startle him like he did yesterday because he’d seen how he jumped up from the sofa from the unexpected interruption.
As he stepped inside the dark room the only light coming from the gap in the still drawn curtains his heart sank in disappointment when he realised Aaron wasn’t there. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and tried him again but to no avail so he fired off a quick text.
R: Where are you?
He knew he shouldn’t be there but he couldn’t help take a minute to look around his room and as he turned he noticed that the pile of hoodies that normally hung on the back of the door was substantially smaller. No, he wouldn’t he thought to himself but his earlier panic rose to the surface once again as he scanned the rest of the room, flicking the light on as he did. The wardrobe door had been left open slightly and as he opened it wider he found too many empty hangers the sudden realisation of what that meant crashed over him as he worse fear became a reality. Aaron had left. He thought back to the words he whispered to Aaron when he’d first told him what was going on,
“You wouldn’t really leave would you?”
And now as he sank down onto Aarons bed and the first sob escaped his chest his hand flying to his mouth trying to hold it back he realised that he really had meant it, he was gone. He began desperately hitting re-dial over and over frantic with worry but all he got was Aarons gruff voicemail asking him to ‘leave a message’ and right then he was in too much of a state to leave a message so just hung up. He stared blankly at Aarons name on his call list, the little figure in brackets letting him know he’d tried to call Aarons number 10 times with no luck. As another sob took over his body he laid his head down on the soft sheets that still smelled like Aaron and he rocked himself as the tears began to flow. He stayed there for a while just praying that when he open his eyes Aarons stuff would be back and he’d be on the sofa downstairs like he was yesterday but the sounds of the pub being opened up broke through his trance and his need to know where Aaron actually was overwhelmed him. With one last look around the room in hopes that he’d been mistaken he headed down the stairs to find Chas, she would know where Aaron was.
“Where is he?” Robert asked Chas arms outstretched as he came in to the bar from the back room.
“That would be Aaron,” Chas assumed folding her arms across her chest and looking down her nose at Robert who she still couldn’t stand the sight off even after what he’d done for Aaron in the past few weeks.
“Yeah well his stuffs gone and he’s not answering his phone,” Robert mumbled he knew Chas hated him but his need to know where Aaron was surpassed any hate he felt towards her.
“I don’t remember letting you in the back room.”
“Chas where is he?” Robert insisted he tell her as the panic he’d been feeling since the first unanswered call reached its peak. He knew in his heart what the answer would be but he still had to ask.
“Not here and he won’t be for a while,” Chas said matter of factly not looking him in the eye.
“For how long?” Robert asked trying to choke down his panic.
“For as long as it takes.”
“To do what?” Robert spat.
“Whatever he wants,” Chas sniped back.
“Look,” her eyes shifting from Robert to the bar floor and back again,
“You might and been a good mate to him in the past and I’ll always be grateful for that but he owes you nothing,” she added with a shrug of her shoulders as she looked away from him.
“Yeh,” Robert lets out with a shake of his head of course Aaron owes him nothing
“I’m sorry Chas but I just don’t get it,” his words causing Chas to face him.
“I’m there for him I help he through one of the toughest times in his life and you just treat me like dirt.”
“Ha,” Chas scoffed,
“That’s because that’s what you are,” she continued as Robert stared at her in shock.
“You can roll a turd in as much glitter as you want but it’ll always be the same underneath.”
Robert shook his head in disbelief, why was it so hard for her to see he cared about Aaron, more than cared.
“You know you’re so wrong about me.” Robert disagreed with a shake of his head.
“I’m so not,” Chas turned her head dismissively.
“You know nothing, you don’t have a clue what he means to me,” Robert opened up as he felt the tears he’d cried earlier fighting their way back making his eyes sting turning a light shade of red around the edges.
Chas blinked as her heart sank but she didn’t let what she was feeling so on her face as she stared blankly up at Robert whose intense gaze never left hers willing her to believe what he’d said. It had taken him a long time to come to terms with it himself but Aaron was everything to him now, and not knowing where he was killing him.
He backed away then before his tears could fall. He rushed through the back only pausing as he reached the foot of the stairs.
“You are wasting your time and your money,” Chas as she handed Robert his change from his third pint of the day, shed kept an eye on him since their earlier conversation.
He didn’t even look up from the bar as she carried on having a go at him.
“You can stand there until you’ve drunk ya self senseless but he won’t be back,” Chas informed him lifting her chin up in the air like she finally got one up on the tall blonde.
“Well then tell me where he is,” Robert pleaded softly finally lifting his red eyes to meet Chas.
“What part of over my dead body did ya not get the first time?” Chas bellowed as he stared at him.
“I’m serious about him Chas.”
“So am I which is why I’ve let him go somewhere safe.”
He’s safe, Roberts heart soared at least she was giving him something.
“So he can get his head together,” she added softer than she had before.
“But he’s coming back.” Robert stated with a nod of his head it couldn’t even think about that as a question, he had to come back.
“Up to him,” Chas shook her head on this front she felt exactly the same as Robert, the thought of Aaron not coming back; well she wasn’t entertaining the idea in the slightest.
Robert breathed a small sigh of relief, perhaps getting away was what Aaron needed, he knew he wasn’t in the best of minds when they had spoken the day before so maybe being away from it all would be good for him.
‘Right Sugden’ he said to himself, ‘time to put your money, or more your body where your mouth is, you need to make sure things are as normal as possible for him if nope when he comes back’ and with a nod he made a promise,
“Well then I’ll prove it to him, and to you,” his eyes looking up to the ceiling as if trying to picture the scrapyard in his head.
“I’m gonna be up at that yard every day running his business for him until he gets back.”
“Make sure that’s all ya do,” Chas quipped and any mutual understanding between them vanished as Robert clenched his jaw as he picked up his fresh pint and gulping the amber liquid trying to ignore the emptiness he felt at knowing Aaron wouldn’t be walking through the door.
Finishing his pint deciding he’d probably had enough for one night he pulled his phone out of the inside of his jacket pocket and pressed his finger to Aarons name for the eleventh time that day, this time he let it ring to voice mail and couldn’t stop the words as they stumbled out of his mouth.
“I know you won’t pick up or return my calls but listen please, I know you’ve gone to sort your head out and I get that I do, you need it, it’s not safe for you here at the minute,” his eyes watering as an image of Aarons chest from the hospital flashed through his mind.
“And I need you to be safe Aaron, are you safe? Anyway your Mums told me she doesn’t know when or if you’ll be back, please come back Aaron, you need to fight him, and I’ll be here for you just like I promised and I’m gonna prove it to ya, if you need me I’ll be up at the yard working to keep it going until you come back because you’ve got to come back Aaron, I-I,” he stopped himself before he said it Aaron didn’t need to hear that from him right now.
“And I’ll text ya everyday with updates just come back please just, I promised and I meant it you’re not alone Aaron, not anymore, and I’ll be here for whatever you need when you get back because I can’t live….” Robert choked back a sob, this wasn’t about him, it was about Aaron so he took a deep breath and continued,
“I’ll be here okay, remember Aaron you are the strongest person I know okay, and I’m gonna prove you can trust me,” and because he couldn’t help it he ended the call with a whispered
“I love you,” before pressing his finger to the end button, heading back to Vics to get his head down for a few hours, he’d need all the sleep he could get if he was going to prove himself to Aaron and Chas and anyone else that doubted how he felt for Aaron, he’d prove them all wrong.
When he woke he spent the rest of the day at the yard working off his mid-day hangover helping out a very dubious Adam. But when Adam asked why he simply replied,
“Aaron.” Adam accepting that as they got back to work.
After the voice mail he left for Aaron earlier that day he felt a little unsure of what to put in his first nightly text so he just went with a casual comment about the day hoping to at least make Aaron smile when he read it, if he read it at all.
R: Okay I never believed you before but shifting scrap is hard work!
And left it at that as he looked through the books later that night but he fell asleep quickly, mentally and physically drained from the last few days.
Thursday 11th February
R: Adam seems to have disappeared! He do that often? Left me alone all day with Nicola! Don't ask!
Keeping everything crossed that he would if fact ask but knew by now that he wouldn't. He added
R: Hope you are okay.
Before hitting the send button and rolling his eyes once again as Nicola chastised him for being on his phone when he should be working.
Friday 12th February
After hearing about the hit and run and knowing Aaron had some connection to it through Paddy he decided he had a right to know what was going on.
R: I don't know if your mum has told you or even if you've talked to your mum but I thought you should know that there had been a hit and run, everyone's fine well no that's not true a women named Tess Harris died the only reason I'm telling you is because she was Leo's school teacher so you might want to talk to Paddy. Anyway, everything's good at the yard. Hope you are okay. R x
Saturday 13th February
When there had still been no reply Robert vowed to himself that if the opportunity ever arose he would buy Aaron an iPhone, one that matched his, because than he could at least see if one his messages had been delivered and two if Aaron had read the message, now he was just stuck with the green bubble not knowing if he'd even received any of his messages let alone read them.
R: Morning! Saturday at the yard for me, trying to win us a new contract.
It wasn't much but it was enough to let Aaron know he meant what he said and was working hard while he was away.
Sunday 14th February
Robert left before dawn he didn't want to have to face Adam and his sister, not today, not without......him.
He took a slow drive to the scrapyard enjoying to peace that that time in the morning brought over the small village. As he used the spare set of keys he now carried with him to unlock the cabin door he faulted slightly as he looked over at the calendar that hung just above the desk he'd taken as his in Aarons absence. With a heavy sigh he flicked the kettle on and turned on the radio quickly turning it off again as the voice announced the date and a sappy love song started. He'd come to the yard to immerse himself in work to forget about the day because he couldn't spend it with the one person he wanted. He didn't even know where Aaron was let alone who he was with. Without thinking too much about it he fired off a quick text.
R: Morning I hope you are okay
Hesitating before he added,
R: I miss you x
He shoved his phone back in his pocket knowing he wouldn't get a reply if the previous week was anything to go by and grabbed the hi vis vest and the gloves he'd left on the desk the day before he headed into the cold morning and set to work. He slaved all day, the manual work keeping his mind wondering off but now as the sun began to set all he could think about was him again. He returned to the cabin and hung the vest back on its hook and as he did he noticed for the first time since he'd began his mission, to keep the yard ticking over, the black hoodie that had obviously had been hanging there for a while. Without a second thought he took the hoodie down smiling as he saw the white drawstrings and wrapped it around himself burying his noise in the fabric and inhaling deeply. The main scent was that of the scrap, metallic, rusty but he sniffed again and underneath all of that there were hints of motor oil and Lynx, smells he associated with Aaron. He slipped his own jacket on over the top and headed back to the village. He walked up the path to Keepers Cottage he could hear the sounds of laughter wafting through the door he stomach sinking as he realised stepping through meant that he'd have to endure the loved up couple inside and his heart wasn't quite ready to take that. He drew both jackets tightly around him so he turned on the balls of his feet and headed to the pub instead; deciding he'd earned himself a pint. As he walked through the double doors he almost turned right back around as he was faced with couples everywhere, Cain and Moria sat at the bar talking to Chas. Dan and Kerry were laughing and joking in the corner, even James and Emma were huddled together in a booth. Chas was her first to see him bowing her head in a solitary nod before placing a pint in front of him without him uttering a word.
“Cheers,” he offered quietly in thanks as he brought the glass to his lips his eyes automatically finding the corridor to back as they always did hoping to catch a glimpse of Aaron.
Chas followed his gaze and sighed,
“Nothing,” Robert said sadly.
“Just....Is he alright?” Robert practically begged for any information of his former lover.
“As far as I know and ta.”
“Ta?” Robert eyed her sceptically.
“Yeah ta,” Chas reiterated a slight in of her sons sarcasm in her voice as her arms folded across her chest.
“You know for helping at the yard.”
“I told you...” Robert started to reiterate his words.
“I know I know,” Chas waved a hand in front of her as if dismissing his words and that was the end of the conversation.
He sipped the rest of his pint in relative peace his mood growing more sombre with each passing minute. As he drained the last of his drink he offered a nod to Cain in farewell and for the first time Cain nodded in return somehow the gesture from his nemesis made the situation with Aaron seem somehow more real than it had before. He sloped off home and eased himself in the house as so not to disturb whatever his sister and her husband were up to. He made his way to his room and took off his shoes and socks, then his pants and his jacket leaving him in just boxers and a t shirt and of course Aarons black hooded sweater that still hugged his torso. Reluctantly he peeled the black material off himself and laid it out on the bed. He knew it wasn't right to have something of Aarons in his room and he promised himself he'd return to its rightful place tomorrow but tonight he needed something anything to bring him closer to him. He showered and readied himself for bed quickly and before he slipped beneath the covers he once again wrapped himself up in Aarons hoodie hoping he hadn't dispelled the faint trace of him with his own scent. He checked his phone for the time, it was still early but the hard day’s work and his current mood meant he'd sleep anyway. As he stared up at the ceiling waiting for the darkness of unconsciousness to take him he thought of the promise to Aaron he'd made a few days ago and as he'd already contacted him once that day already he knew he shouldn't try to again but he couldn't help himself. He wanted Aaron to know he was thinking of him today of all days so decided against his better judgment to send another text. Keeping it short and simple he typed out,
R: Goodnight Aaron x
And pressed send before he could change his mind.
Monday 15th February
Embarrassed he'd broken his own rule yesterday he sent Aaron a short text, nothing like he'd sent the day before.
R: It's snowing ;) Another run up to Scarborough way today, more radiators apparently.
The day was long and filled with constant bickering with Adam but they arrived back in one piece a few hours behind schedule thanks to Adam appalling sense of direction, of course he blamed Aaron as he'd been the one to drive last time but stopped abruptly at the look on Roberts face at the mention of his name.
R: Managed to get there and back without killing Adam, he's grown on me a little, don't tell him that lol would have had a better time with you though x
Tuesday 16th February
R: Still making myself useful like I promised x
Wednesday 17th February
After a full week of nothing, not phone calls, no texts, nothing, Robert needed to hear his voice. He pressed the phone to his ear and smiled as he heard the three little words.
‘Leave a message.’
“Aaron,” Robert breathed,
“Hi, erm bit of a slow one today but just wanted to check in. Think it's Lisa's birthday today, can hear the celebrations drifting out the pub on my way home. That's all I do now, work then home not that you need to know that,” Robert chastised himself pinching the bridge of his noise at his own stupidity but he didn't want to end the one sided conversation there.
“It was er that women's funeral today or so the paper said, not that I've seen Paddy or he'd even talk to me if I did, have you spoke to him? Sorry for telling you I just thought.....well I know how much he means to you. I'll go,” Robert sighed defeatedly down the phone.
“It's hard not knowing where you are or..or who you're with but I hope you’re okay Aaron, please tell me you're okay. I miss you,” Robert confessed to Aarons voice mail before hanging the phone up and pressing it to his forehead in desperation, what had he just done?
He pushed through the door to Keepers Cottage and ignored the calls from his sister as he headed straight to his room. He flopped down on the bed and wrapped himself up in Aarons hoodie that he'd failed to take back to the yard a few days ago but somehow even that had stopped comforting him as Aarons scent was slowly being replaced by his own.
Thursday 18th February
Robert had resigned himself to a day of paperwork so dressed accordingly. He spent most of it in the café, avoiding the cabin knowing Nicola would be there, on the phone but popped over to the pub as to check on Diane or so he was telling himself. He also wanted to see if Chas had any news on Aaron. She didn't. Or she wasn't willing to tell him anyway but he did tell her not to give up as she complained about the lack of progression of the police investigation. They couldn't afford to for Aarons sake.
R: Saw your Mum today, she's fighting for you Aaron. Just like I am. Always. Stay strong like I know you are x
It was only when he was stood in front of the mirror that he realised what outfit he'd chosen to wear. Blue jumper, black leather jacket, all he needed now was he whites Audi and his grease monkey and everything would be alright. He sank to his bed and pulled out his phone his finger hovering over Aarons name. He just needed to know he was alright. Why wouldn't anyone tell him anything? He knew Aaron wouldn't go this long without talking to his mum at least. He thought about rushing down the stairs and shaking Adam demanding to know if he'd spoken to Aaron but he knew that his behaviour was probably been reported back to the younger man so he bit back his rage and sent Aaron another text instead.
R: Drove passed a white Audi earlier
A little lie but he wouldn't know as he continued
R: Reminded me of our first...I miss you Aaron, wherever you are I hope you are safe and looking after yourself x
Friday 19th February
After his very brief chat with Chas yesterday Robert had spent the most of the night awake wondering where Aaron was and if he was okay much like he had done most nights over the last week or so but for some reason last night brought no relief and it was with a heavy heart he heaved himself out of bed. Having placed the hoodie back in its rightful place at the scrapyard he needed something else to feel close to Aaron and as he looked through his wardrobe his eyes automatically fell on the maroon jumper, the jumper he had taken to the hospital knowing Aaron would need a change of clothes. The pulled the sweater from its hanger and even though it had been through the wash he lifted the material to his nose and inhaled hoping to catch any lingering hint of Aaron but all he got was the fresh clean scent of the wash powder Vic used. Still he pulled the woollen material over his head and it was like Aaron was there with him for a moment if only in spirit but it was enough for him to carry on with the rest of the day. He hadn't heard Vic or Adam leave that morning so was surprised to see them in the cafe. Adam was on the phone when he walked in and for a brief second his heart soared that the person he was talking to was Aaron. As casually as he could he walked over but when he heard Adams raised voice he knew it couldn't be Aaron but a client. In the end he snatched the phone off Adam and dealt with the client himself, God only knows how the two of them had stayed in business talking to customers like that. In the end he'd had to beg the client and cut them a deal just to keep their business. He spent the rest of the day in the cafe on the phone, going over the yards books and sweet talking new clients even managed to wangle a deal that saved Aaron, he couldn't care less about Adam, five grand. He was just about to go back home when his phone rang and he scrambled to answer it when he saw who it was.
He rushed over to the pub telling himself not to get his hopes up but failing. His eyes scanned the room when he pushed through into the back room of the pub and his heart sank when he realised Aaron hadn’t returned.
He left the pub even more confused than ever. Had Chas really just asked him to do that? Would he? If it meant helping Aaron he would do anything but what would Aaron say about it all? He decided not to tell Aaron about his conversation with his mum in his nightly text.
R: Managed to get us some more work today seriously don't know how you put up with Adam I could have killed him today, don't worry I haven't ;) still missing you, good night Aaron x
Saturday 20th February
Another day holed up on the phone trying to build up the business but Robert didn't mind, in fact he rather enjoyed the heated discussions squeezing every last penny out of a contract. He was sat at Aarons desk once again as Adams frame cast a shadow over him.
“What you did with that client yesterday, thanks,” Adam offered out some what reluctantly.
“I didn't do it for you,” Robert grimaced barely looking up from Aarons desk as Adam stood in front of him.
“I know that but thanks anyway.”
The fact that Adam knew why he was working so hard made him look up as he walked away and ask,
“Have you……” before his voice trailed off because if Adam answered and Aaron had contacted his best mate what did that mean for him?
“Oh forget it,” desperately wanting to hear just a snippet of information about Aaron but at the same time hating the fact that Aaron could be talking to everyone else but him.
“He's……” Adam started as the turmoil not to betray Aaron crossed his face.
“What?” Robert turned hopefully the need to know about Aaron outweighing his pride.
“Adam?” Robert pleaded when Adam didn’t continue.
“I didn't tell ya alright but he's okay.”
“Where is he?” Robert asked before he could help himself.
“I don't know,” Adam replied honestly much to Roberts dismay.
“He's fine well as fine as he can be I s'pose,” Adam said with a sad shrug of his shoulders.
“Thank you,” Robert breathed out as he cast his eyes back down a hint of smile on his face at the fact that wherever Aaron was he was alright.
With what Adam had told him earlier he was excited when he text Aaron that night joking with him as much as he could until once again his emotions got the best of him but that didn’t stop him pressing send.
R: Business is booming by the way so your welcome for that ;) could do with you back though even with your sulking you are miles better with the customers than Adam. Can’t wait to show you what we’ve done. Please just let me know you’re okay Aaron, just one text please, I miss you x
Sunday 21st February
R: Went for a walk to day after work yep I know it’s Sunday but it there’s always something to do. I found myself at the barn, you know the one ;) I never told you but that day when we were first together, I’d never with another man before not like that anyway and it meant something Aaron, I think that was when I started and I’ve never stopped. I love you Aaron please come back home, not for me or your mum but for you, you need to fight this and I promise I’ll be by your side every step of the way x
Monday 22nd February
Robert headed out to a meeting early and didn’t arrive back till late the need to ring Aaron and boast growing exponentially as he drove back into the village but he managed to control himself and settled for a quick text before heading to the pub for a celebratory drunk.
R: Another contract secured how did you ever manage without me? x
“Oh you are still alive then,” Chas chimed as he walked through the door.
“Just working hard Chas,” Robert retorted giving her a knowing look.
“Glad to hear it,” she gave him a small nod as he placed a pint in front of him waving his hand away when he tried to pay for it.
“What my money’s not good enough for ya now?” Robert sniped.
“No it’s on the house,” Chas said as she folded her arms across her chest.
“I’ve heard how much effort you’re putting in at the yard,” Chas inclined her head towards the booth in the corner where Vic and Adam sat.
“I told you…”
“I know you did but didn’t actually think you’d come through did I?”
“Well…” Robert quipped as he took a sip of his free pint brushing away the residual foam with the back of his hand before he added,
“I’m not doing it for you.”
“Oh believe me I know that,” Chas recounted their conversation and knew he was in fact doing it to prove himself to her as well as Aaron but she wasn’t going to correct him.
They stood staring at each other for a moment before Chas’ face finally soften and she looked at him from Aarons point of view, there he was a man he knew her son still harboured feelings for openingly admitting how much he cared about him and not only that fighting to prove it
“I’m sure he’ll appreciate it,” Chas said with a nod before turning to serve her next customer.
Roberts mouth dropped open in shock but he recovered quickly as he downed the rest of his pint in a few gulps eager to get out of there, Chas sudden kindness making him feel uncomfortable.
His texts to Aaron had grown longer over the past few nights and tonight’s was no different.
R: I think the world might be coming to an end, your mum gave me a free pint tonight, can you believe it? I hope you are okay wherever you are and you know that I’m fighting for you every day just like I hope you are fighting every day to come back to us. Whatever it is you need to do you can do it Aaron, I believe in you and I know you are strong enough even if you don’t. Trust me. Goodnight Aaron, I miss you always R x
Tuesday 23rd February
It had been another long day of driving for Robert first he had a meeting with a new contractor early that morning and then a run out to Leeds in the afternoon, by the time he'd arrived back and unloaded the truck dusk was beginning to settle. He'd just hooked up the tailgate and paused briefly as the hairs on the back of his neck stood to attention, he was being watched. He turned slowly towards the entrance to the yard and for a moment his heart stopped as he saw a dark figure stood looking in. He blinked and when he opened his eyes the figure was gone. Had he imagined it? Probably, it was one of the reasons he avoided the pub as of late, he saw Aaron wherever he went. He sighed heavily and as his feet crunched over the gravel towards the cabin he failed to notice the dark figure reappear and watch him enter before turning to leave. Now inside the cabin Robert shook his head in an attempt to dislodge the image of Aaron and dropping into his (Aarons) chair he started to sign off the scrap he'd just brought back.
“Another run tomorrow if ya fancy it,” Adam called over from his seat his desk adjacent to Robert.
“Sure,” Robert groaned rubbing the back of his neck trying to ease the tension that had been building there of the last few minutes.
His phone buzzed in his pocket and knowing it wasn't his sister he'd just spent the best part of an hour on the phone with her passing the time of his drive back, hands free of course, he fumbled to retrieve it quickly not letting his hopes get too high as he read the screen his eyes widening at the name.
A: Orange suits you.
Three words, just three words was all it took for his heart to skip a beat. He almost dropped his phone in excitement as he swiped the message to view it full screen. The tension he'd felt a moment before suddenly eased as he re-read the message. He felt his smile beginning to grow wider as he read it a third time the words finally sinking in.
“It was him,” he muttered under his breath as he looked down to his chest at the all too familiar orange vest he'd been wearing, and still wore now, almost on a daily basis for the last two weeks.
“You say sommat?” Adam asked.
“He's back,” Robert said a little louder as the reality of what that meant began to sink in.
He heart started to race his palms sweating and as Adam looked at him like he'd lost his mind he jumped up from the chair grabbed his jacket and ran. Ignoring the tightness across his chest, the excessive exercise taking its toll on is still healing body, he ran out of the yard all the way to the village. By the time he burst through the back door of the pub his breath was coming is raspy gasps but that didn't stop him taking the stair two at a time. Now stood in front of Aarons bedroom door he steadied himself on the door frame inhaling deeply trying to catch his breath. Faced with the possibility of seeing Aaron again he couldn't seem to get his heart rate under control as he lifted his hand and tapped on the door. As the door swung open he inhaled sharply at the sight before him,
“Your back,” he whispered before he realised what he'd said and ran his hand through his hair.
“Hi,” Aaron said in return.
“When....How....are-are you alright?” Robert stammered not knowing what to ask first.
“S'pose,” Aaron offered with a soft shrug.
“Can I?” Robert inclined his head hoping for an invitation.
Aaron stepped back from the door and opened it fully allowing Robert to enter his room. Robert noted the black duffel bag on the bed and felt his heart swell at the sight, did this mean Aaron was back for good? He turned and startled slightly when he saw Aaron was still there his eyes roaming over him in his entirety taking in the freshly trimmed facial hair, the same green jumper he'd been wearing the last time he'd seen him now thread bear at the sleeves knowing Aarons constant pulling of the fabric over his hands to be the cause, his skin looked a little pinker than it had the last time he saw him in fact he seemed a lot more relaxed for the lack of a better word. With his assessment over Robert started and then stalled,
“So.....,” he'd imagined coming face to face with Aaron again a hundred times but now it was actually happening the words he'd practiced seem to fail him, thankfully Aaron interrupted the silence.
“Looks good on ya the orange,” Aaron said reiterating what he'd said in his text staring at Roberts chest.
Robert followed Aarons gaze down to the hi vis vest he was still wearing a knowing smile creeping across his face.
“So it was you?”
Aaron nodded feeling his face flush at being caught he hasn't gone there for Robert or that's what he'd told himself at the time, he'd needed to see the place where he last felt helpless to remind himself that with the support of the people around him he would never allow himself to feel like that again.
“The colour has certainly grown on me,” Robert admitted with a small smile aimed at Aaron.
“My mum told me what you've been doing.”
“Really?” Robert questioned in surprise Chas had hardly said two words to him since Valentine's Day well apart from their brief conversation the other day but Aaron didn’t need to know about that.
“Yes so erm thanks for that,” Aaron said averting his eyes from Roberts ice blue ones that seemed to bore into him as he sat down on the bed.
“I kinda like it actually, the work I mean, even Adam isn’t that bad after a while but Nicola is something else,” Robert snorted.
“Nicola?” Aaron questioned with a tilt of his head.
“It's a long story,” Robert chuckled.
“I've got time,” Aaron shrugged and looking up at Robert he hesitantly patted the bed next to him inviting Robert to sit down.
Robert rambled on for the next twenty minutes while Aaron listened patiently. It was good to be back in Emmerdale not only that it was good to know that despite everything Robert had kept his word and worked tirelessly to keep the yard going in his absence he knew he only did it to prove his loyalty to Aaron but it still showed he cared.
“But you know all this,” Robert muttered in closing.
Aaron looked at him like he didn't know what he was talking about. Robert looked away in disappointment.
“You didn't get my messages,” he asked a hint of sadness in his voice.
“It doesn't matter,” Robert offered sadly and not wanting the conversation to end he asked,
“How was your.....trip?”
“It was good, quiet, exactly what I needed.”
Robert recovered enough to scoff out a reply,
“That's it? That's all I get? I just rabbited on for what 20 minutes and all I get is good.”
“What do you want me to say Robert?” Aaron asked suddenly tired.
“Nothing....” Robert said honestly,
“Just tell me you’re okay,” Robert dragged out the last word like he didn't know what else to say.
“You know what I mean.”
“I'm fine I-I promise.”
“Promise is a big word Aaron,” Robert muttered quietly.
“I know and I really am fine okay?” Aaron insisted.
Robert knew Aaron well enough to know that he wasn't being entirely honesty.
“I believe you,” Robert said with a sad smile the next words falling out of his mouth before he realised what he was asking,
Aaron shook his head knowing exactly what Robert was asking.
“You haven't…….”Robert hesitated.
“No.” Aaron reassured him.
“Good that's good,” Robert nodded to himself as Aaron gave him a shy smile.
Silence followed but Robert didn't care he was just happy to be in the same room as Aaron again.
“Can I ask you a question?” Aaron blurted out as the scene with his father in the scrapyard replayed in his mind.
“You say you love me.”
“I do,” Robert cried in almost the exact way he'd done the first time Aaron had questioned his love for him.
“Is it hard?” Aaron continued as he heard his dad's parting words in his head.
Robert looked at Aaron the confusion at his question clear on his face.
“Am I hard to love?”
“Aaron,” Robert breathed out his name with such adoration Aaron couldn't stop the rush of blood to his cheeks.
Robert looked down from Aarons eyes to his hand that was on the bed between them and back up as if asking permission which somehow Aaron understood and gave a slight nod. Robert took Aarons hand in both of his and with as much sincerity as he could muster he told Aaron the truth.
“Once I allowed myself to,” which they both let out a soft chuckle at,
“Loving you is the easiest thing I've ever done.”
Aaron had to look away from Roberts intense gaze as he felt the first tear roll down his cheek he knew how Robert felt about him but hearing the words now meant more than ever before because he'd proved himself or so his mum and Adam had told him.
“Thank you,” Aaron said quietly after a while finally removing hand from Roberts a sign coming from them both at the disconnection.
Robert took that as a sign of dismissal and he couldn't be annoyed at that at least Aaron hadn’t told him to leave again.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” Robert asked nervously as he stood up from his place on Aarons bed his hands on his tights for leverage.
Aaron indicated towards Roberts chest.
“At yard if you still think you're up for it,” the tension between them easier somewhat since he'd pulled his hand away.
“Tomorrow then?” Aaron questioned as Robert headed for the door remembering a different time a different room but the same question.
Robert smiled softly at Aaron the man he loved who was in fact back liked he'd wished for night after night and stood in the soft light cast from lamp he looked like an angel in a rough sort of way and he was, he was Roberts angel.
“Tomorrow,” Robert promised and with one last look over his shoulder he headed out the door.
As soon as he was out of sight of Aaron he held his hand to his mouth as a cry of relief escaped his chest. Reluctant to leave the pub and Aaron he slowly ambled down the stairs. As his hand found the lock on the back door he looked back up the stairs knowing that as he slept that night Aaron would just be across the village gave him hope that things would get better for that both of them.
And that night as he laid his head on his pillow he typed out his nightly message to Aaron
R: Goodnight Aaron x
He was, for the first time in two weeks, rewarded with a reply.
A: Goodnight Robert.