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Aaron-October 23rd 2014.

I've been back for almost three months, the support from mum, Vic, and Debbie has been great. Cain, not so much. He's angry about how I'm always late to the garage. Debbie understands, but Cain missed out on the earlier years of her childhood, so he doesn't. My little girl is six months, Alijah Dingle. Ever since her mother gave birth to her, my favourite part of the day is when I see her. Since moving back to Emmerdale, it's coming home from working at the garage and playing with her in the back room. That's what my daily routine is, going to work in the morning, coming home, having a pint and playing with Ali until it's time to sleep. Only today was different, I enter the pub and Katie isn't sitting with mum and playing with Alijah. Today her and Andy are sitting alone at a table, and both look so angry almost broken.
I walk up to the bar and ask mum,
"What going with them?" Pointing to Andy and Katie.
"Andy and Vic's brother is back." She answered pulling me a pint.
It took me a moment to think, but then I realized who she was talking about. I had heard from villagers that Andy's younger brother, Robert, was toxic to his relationship with Katie. That they had an affair, and he ruined their marriage. I knew mum and Cain didn't like him because word has it he also messed Debbie around. Before I could say anything, Vic comes out from the back room with Ali. I have no idea how she does it, but that little girl can sleep through almost anything. Victoria carefully hands her to me and smiles,

"I have lunch with my brother tomorrow, is it okay if he's around her?" She asks, pointing to Ali.
"Andy?"
"No, my brother Robert. He's back in the village." Vic said, her smile widening.
"My mum can watch her, you can go out for lunch with him." I told her, ever since I came back Vic always wanted to be with Ali. I was extremely grateful, but if someone deserved a break, she sure did.
"Don't be silly, I wanna be with her tomorrow. You know how much I adore Alijah."
"Of course. And Vic, thank you again for all your help." I smiled, before getting up to bring Alijah up to her crib.
--
I placed her down lightly, and then went downstairs to make a bottle in case she woke up at all during the night.

I get downstairs to see Katie and my mum sitting at the kitchen table crying.
"Sorry."
"No, no it;s fine," Katie said wiping away her tears. She did always hate crying in front of people.
"I'll be outta your way in a minute." I said.
"Aaron it's your house, you don't need to leave." Katie said, this time with a stern voice trying to make me listen to her.
They didn't talk at all as I made the bottle but as soon as I closed the door behind me, I heard Katie begin to speak. I couldn't make out the words, but by the tone of her voice she didn't sound happy. And my guess was it was because of Robert.
Upstairs I place the bottle down of the nightstand between my bed and the crib. I lay down and before I know it, I'm falling asleep.
I wake up at 3:00 am, from Ali crying. I don't think she understands that just because she can sleep through noise, means everyone else can. I actually feel like her crying is so loud sometimes, that the entire village can hear it. But on the nights when I already have a bottle made, it doesn't take long for her to quiet down. I hold her in my arms, and smile at how beautiful she is. I treasure the moments that I can watch her, so quiet and peaceful. After I know she's fallen back asleep for good, I place her carefully into the crib, and return to my bed.
---

It was 7:00 am, when I woke up. Just like my normal everyday routine, I go downstairs to get myself a brew before Alijah wakes up and I have to go to work. When I get downstairs Vic is already here, which isn't much of a surprise. She likes being around family in the morning, I guess living alone can do that to ya. She's eating her normal eggs and sausage, but there's something different. She's not dressed up in her normal-day wear, today she's dressed up all nice. She also seems much happier than usual,
"What's got you all giddy?" I ask.
"I'm just happy Robert's back." She answers, her smile widening when she says his name.
Robert was something no one liked to talk about around Andy and Katie or much at all for that matter, but on the rare occasion when he'd be brought up it was clear how much Vic and Diane missed him. In the three months I've been back, he's only been mentioned once. When he was, I could see it on her face how much she loved him. And if someone were to ask me, I'd say she loved him more than Diane did.
I heard he left when she was young, she must not remember all the things people say he did. I'm nearly done making my brew when Vic gets up and hugs me. I shove her off lightly, because she knows very well that I am not touchy feely. The last time she hugged me, was the day I had returned to the village and she found out I was a single father. Victoria only hugs me, when she's either really happy or really upset. And my guess is today, she's really happy.
"You missed him, eh?"
"Yeah, I mean I was young and loved him so much. Then he was just gone."
I couldn't respond, because Alijah had started crying and before I was even given a chance Vic ran up to her. I smiled to myself and shook my head, before leaving the brew and make Ali's morning bottle.
I go upstairs to give it to Ali. I smile at her. I still can't get over how beautiful she is. Vic tells me to go have my shower and get ready for work, that she can handle Alijah.
~
The shower is another thing I love about the day. The feel of the water running over my skin, in the shower my body relaxes and it's almost like I escape my thoughts and forget about everything.
-
When I go into my room, Victoria is already downstairs with Ali. I grab my jeans and a black t-shirt from the dresser, and throw my overalls on top of my clothes. It's not 8:30 and I know I have to get to work.
I grab my phone, and quickly run down the stairs. Kissing Ali goodbye, and again thanking Vic.
---

I had actually managed to get to the garage on time today, but due to the lack of business and the fact that I finished up what I happened yesterday I got off early. Instead of going home at 6:00 pm, Debbie sent me off before lunch. This was my first time getting off early, and I was really looking forward to spending it with Alijah. It's crazy, she's at that age where she can sleep for what seems like forever, but also has so much energy. I never know what I'm gonna have to deal with.
To avoid temptations of having a pint, I go in through the back door. I walk in and Vic is no where to be seen, but there is a tall blonde on the couch beside Alijah. Who I assume is Robert, but I ask to make sure,
"You must be Vic and Andy's brother." I say closing the door behind me.
"Robert." He answers, I actually can't see the resemblance between them at all. Andy and Victoria are such down to earth people, but Robert has this smug, cocky thing about how he seems to present himself. "And you are?" He asks.
This question takes me by surprise, I figured Vic would have told him who I was. Them being with my baby and all.
"Da-da." I hear Ali say.
I go to the couch and pick her up, turning back to Robert and say, "Aaron."

His reaction shows that Vic did tell me about him, just didn't see a picture. Which I'm glad because the only pictures Vic has of me are ones no one should ever see.
He smiles and says, "Chas Dingle's son. Must suck."
"Actually no, that's kind of why I came back to my family." I argue.
"Ouch. That a stab at me?" He asked, sounding even cockier than he looks.
"Take however you'd like. Uh where's Vic?" I ask, realizing she's not back yet.
"Something about Marlon being tied up with Leo, so she had to work in the kitchen. You would've guessed, my sister a chef." Despite being cocky, he sounds proud of Victoria. Which is probably why she loves him so much. His relationship with Andy may suck, but given the fact that Vic was young when he left they were probably on fine terms.

"Yeah, you got a talented sis there. You should realize how lucky you are."
"Trust me, I do."

I just nod my head, and walk into the kitchen towards the table. I place Ali in her high chair, then go grab some of her baby food from the cupboard and grab myself a water from the fridge. I take a seat on the chair in front of the high chair, and take off the lid to the food. Robert is just standing there awkwardly staring at me,
"Can I help you?" The words come out of my mouth before I can stop them.
"No. Sorry, just bored."
"You can feed her, all you gotta do is ask." I joke.
"I think I'll pass."
Figured, he doesn't really seem like the 'baby-feeding' type.

He then grabs himself a water, and pulls a chair up beside me.
"I heard you're gay." He comments.
"Mm-hmm." I mumble.
"So how'd this happen then?" He asks, nodding at Alijah.
"You know, that's a long story I don't wanna go through right now." I answer, as I continue to feed her.
--
About five minutes later, neither of us had spoken and Vic comes in.
"So you two have met." She smiles.
"Yep." I grumble, now playing around with Ali.
Robert gets up from his seat and walks over to Vic, he hugs her and says, "I still have a lot of un-packing to do. But I'll be around later."
She hugs him again, and says 'I love you,' before he heads out the back door.

"So what do you think?" She asks me.
"Bout' what?" I respond.
"Robert."
"I don't know, he seems fine."
She just shakes her head, before kissing Ali on the head and heading back out to the pub kitchen.

Chapter Text

Robert-October 24th 2014.

If someone had told me ten years, that I'd return to Emmerdale and be living in Home Farm I'd never have believed them. But now I am, I'm no longer the little boy living on a farm, but a grown man who accomplished more than anyone thought I ever could. I have to admit it's a little weird being back, after being gone for so long things have changed. I have changed. But I highly doubt Katie and Andy's feelings towards me have, which is what is going to be the hardest part about being back. I have no doubt that Victoria and Diane will be happy to see me, but many people were happy I left and some hoped I'd never return.

I've been back three days now. The first day i tried to stay quiet, not let anyone know I was around, just until I got myself settled in. But in this village that's almost impossible. I was being rang by Vic who asked to see as soon as I could, which I was happy to agree to. Although I had wanted to spend more time with her she got stuck with work, and then Aaron returned to the pub. He wasn't what I was expecting, when Vic told me he was gay I had this image in my head of the gays you see on TV. Shirtless, squeaky, weird clothes and over-dramatic attitudes. But no, Aaron was, well he was different. Not too bad looking either, beautiful blue eyes and his personality, well what I had seen of it, went well with his physical features, the scruffy beard, and all black clothes. I liked what I saw. But that's not what I'm in the village for, so I shake him outta my head and continue to unpack my things.
Having more money than I need comes with many perks, but my favorite is to want to re-arrange a building and be able to afford to do so. I loved Home Farm growing up, but I've seen better places since leaving Emmerdale, and have decided to make a few changes to my new home. The office will be turned into a game room, and two of the bedrooms will be renovated. One as a work out room, and the other I haven quite decided yet.

As I'm about to call one of the contractors I get a message from Vic,
[Can you come to The Woolpack? Need help.]
I debate on whether or not I should go over. Who knows when Katie and Andy will show up. Not to mention all the others like Cain Dingle and his sister Chas. Besides all that I need to keep it low key for the sake of my job and privacy. But I also know Vic wouldn't message me unless there was something she really needed help with.
[I'll be there as soon as possible.]

--

When I get to the pub, it's pretty dead inside. Diane behind the bar, and Aaron with his baby girl Alijah at a booth in the far end of the building.
I walk up to Diane, and she comes out from the bar and hugs me. Holding me so tight I'm almost not breathing. But it doesn't bother me, I've always loved Diane. She'll never be Sarah, but she was pretty damn close and I've really missed her. I didn't realize how much until I saw her again, just like with Victoria.

Diane finally let's go of me, and gives me a kiss on the cheek before going back behind the bar because of a customer arriving.
"You know where Vic is?" I ask Aaron.
"The kitchen." I don't know why, but he always seems grumpy. I imagine it's because he's a parent, god knows how I'd be at parenting a child. Especially single.
-
I go into the kitchen where I see Vic yelling at herself while cooking, she doesn't seem her same happy self she was yesterday.
"Everything alright?"
"Oh thank god you're here. Can you help Aaron out with Ali?" She asks me.
I look at her as if she's gone mad, this was the big important thing she needed help with. Seriously.
"He looks like he's doing okay." I tell her, trying to get out of it.
"I know. He's a great dad, but he needs help and I'm stressing because I wish I could. But it's not like you can take over the cooking."
I scoff at this comment, "Really, you don't think I can cook?"
"Robert please. I'm begging you here." I've always found it hard to say no to her.
"Fine. But not for long, I got a lot going on at Home Farm."
-
I then return to the front room, and take a seat across from Ali and Aaron.
"What?" He growls.
"Vic wants me to help you." I answer honestly.
"I love your sister, but you can inform that I don't need help." He quickly defends himself.
I stay quiet for a moment, before getting back into my mode and respond, "Yeah sure seems like it. Look I ain't looking for a fight."
"That's surprising considering what I've heard about you." He snarls, before I can even finish my sentence.
"Well people can change. And I am really only here because Vic asked me to help. Also your baby's cute."
I can't believe I just said that. I never compliment anybody, but when i decide to it's a six month old baby. God he must really think I'm a geek now. But instead of his angry remark, he simply says thank you and doesn't fight with me anymore about me helping. I don't know why I agreed to this, but I do know it'll be interesting.

We had been talking more almost twenty minutes when Katie and Andy walk in. They must not have seen me at first, because they go to the bar for a drink and then take a seat at one of the tables. I excuse myself from the booth, and go order an orange juice. Seeing as I'm gonna be here for a while, I've caved no way will Vic let me leave, and I don't really want to. Just when I thought that I could slip away being unnoticed from Andy and Katie, I hear, "back to ruin more lives are ya?" And I know that voice from anywhere, it was Katie and one of her stupid comments.
I turn to them with a wide grin on my face, "As I recall it wasn't just me who made mistakes. And no, I'm here because I want to be. Nothing to do with you, so mind your business."
"Oh stop with the games Robert, you'll never change." Katie snarls.
"If I can't change that means neither can you, and considering the ring of the your left hand. I see Andy's given you a second chance. But how does he know you won't go against him again?" I retaliate.
She always liked winding me up, but hated it when I threw it right back at her.
"Just do one Rob." Andy intervenes.

I take a seat back down across from Aaron and hear him say,
"I always wanted a brother, after seeing you two. Not so much." This makes us both chuckle a bit.
I realize it but we were both staring at each other, and our eyes only unlocked when Alijah started tapping Aaron's arm. She's such a cute baby, and you can tell she looks a lot like Aaron. Both so beautiful when they smile as well.
I can't believe I'm doing this again, ugh whatever it is about Aaron he is driving me insane.
"You know, considering I helped you here. I think it's only fair you help me up at Home Farm, unpack and all." I suggest.
"You're rich, why don't you pay someone to do it?" He asks me.
"I prefer to put my money to good use." I lie, the truth is I just want to spend more time with him. I've known the lad a total of a day, and can't stop thinking about him.

 

Aaron-October 24th 2014

Robert Sugden is driving me crazy. At my first glance yesterday I had assumed he was some cocky, rich guy with no personality and although that's how he comes off after talking to him today I'm thinking differently. He seems to be really warming to Alijah, which I find weird because he really doesn't seem like the parenting type at all. Though neither did I, and here I am. There's something about him when he's around me I can't control, it takes all my will power to keep my eyes of him.
God I don't even know why I feel like this, I just met the man. Not to mention the fact that he's straight.
But god he is gorgeous. Almost like one of the males on a stupid romance movie. His blonde hair matches his blue-green eyes perfectly, he's got a nice body, and I couldn't help but notice his arse as he walked to the bar just a few moments earlier. I snap myself out of those thoughts and then respond to his comment,
"Depends on when I can get someone to watch her."
"You do realize you can bring her with us. I have room in my house for more than two people." He seems to be really determined to get me to his house.
I don't know what it is he wants, but I can't find myself saying 'no.'
"Give me the keys to your car, I'll even put her car seat in mine." Okay that I could not argue with, it was my day off and the last place I really wanted to spend it was at the pub. As long as I had Alijah with me, I'd be happy. And although Home Farm is not my scene, it'd be nice to see inside. I always wondered what it would look like
Also despite what I had heard from most of the village, Victoria and Diane seem to both think highly of Robert. As far as I've been able to see so far, he doesn't seem like a bad lad.

I throw him my keys, and let him pick up Ali. It's hard for me to let people I don't know very well hold her, but I just seem to trust him without a second thought. I go into the kitchen and tell Vic what's happening. She's surprised, and a little worried that we won't be able to manage on our own but I tell her to relax which she does. I give her a kiss on the cheek, and joke that we have emergency contacts on speed dial. She doesn't laugh, but I get a little smile.

--

We got up to Home Farm, and I'd actually forgotten how big this place was. I'd only been up here a few times in the past, never bothered with it much. Would've been easy to forget about, if it wasn't for everyone talking about it. Home Farm is adored by many villagers, who continuously wish that one day they can afford to live here. Me? I'd never been fond of it, the outside looked too moviey-ish for me, and I was actually happy with where my life was now. I tried the rich life style with Ed in France but that didn't work, although some people would argue it's because we weren't meant to be. I don't believe in that soul mate crap, I just believed it didn't work because it wasn't me.
I take Ali out of her car seat, and bring her up to the house following behind Robert. He was having trouble unlocking the door,
"Need help?" I asked.
He shook his head no but after two minutes, I handed him Ali, "here, here take her. I got this."
After a couple seconds I had the door unlocked, "Good with your hands, eh?"
I could have sworn he was flirting when he said that, but I didn't want the wrong idea in my head so I shook it off as a stupid joke.

We have been unpacking, and rearranging things for about an hour. If Robert hadn't invited me and Ali here today, I'd still be thinking he was a stuck up bastard. But in the past hour, he's acted different from how he appears in public and from what I've heard about him. He's actually quite funny, and Ali seems to like him.
Just something I still can't figure out, he's talked very vaguely about his life away from Emmerdale, and doesn't seem all that thrilled about being back.
We're unpacking the last kitchen box when I ask, "So why'd you come back?" After this everything goes silent, and I can feel the way his attitude changed, so I add, "Never mind. You don't need to tell me."

He puts down the stack of plates he had just taken out of a box and answers, "I guess my life just got boring."
I couldn't make out if he was lying or telling the truth, one things for sure, he's really good at keeping defenses around him. I don't push anymore after this, and just pick Ali up from the ground and ask if we can get a lift back to the pub. He says yes, and after putting the plates into a cupboard he grabs the keys and we head out.

Chapter Text

Robert-October 31st 2014.

Morning.

I haven't talked to Aaron much since he helped me with unpacking a week ago. We exchanged numbers that night, but other than that I've kept my distance. I don't want him or anyone else knowing what my job is, what my job was. It's nothing I feel ashamed of, but I didn't exactly make a lot of friends, quite the opposite actually.

Today is Halloween, during my time away from the village I was forced to celebrate it, but never really wanted to. I just don't understand the point of it, people putting on costumes and masks. It's not like people don't do that already. But I guess today is the one day it's noticeable, you can be someone or something completely different and nobody bats an eye. However any other day, if someone were to know you were wearing a mask to hide who you really were all hell would break lose. I was planning on staying up at Home Farm, just me, the telly, and my bed. But those plans changed when Aaron messaged me.
[Party at the pub tonight. Coming?]
Aaron and I got on pretty well, from my side it's because I don't mind him much. He's a good looking lad, and fun to wind up. But I don't know why he even bothers with me. At first I thought he was interested, but considering this is the first time he's contacted me I kinda began to think other wise. Although that could be on me, I was doing a pretty good job at staying away. I was iffy at first, I wasn't sure if a party was such a good idea. I mean the last thing I need is Katie and Andy on me tonight. And despite what they and others think, I didn't come back to ruin lives. I don't wanna ruin their fun time, just to make being back even harder than it already is. But on the other hand, I enjoy hanging out with Aaron. I'd love to spend some more time with Vic and Diane. And though it is a long shot to say the least, I wanna at least try to make amends with Katie and Andy. I don't want anymore enemies.
[What time?]
There's no response at first, bout' five minutes later my phone lights up,
[Starts at 7]

Before I can respond there's another message, [But you can come earlier if you want. Chill in the back room.]
If I didn't know any better, I'd think this was some kind of date, set-up. Not that I'm complaining, I message back, [Be there at 6:30]
I don't want it to seem like I'm desperate for some time with him, although I wouldn't mind it. A part of me wants to believe that there are multiple reasons for me going to this party, like I know Vic'll have my head in if I don't, or free alcohol but the truth is, I really just wanna see Aaron again. I don't know why, but since the day we met he's been in my mind. My thoughts and my dreams. I'm fooling myself to think we're more than just friends, yeah he's gay, but that doesn't mean he's into every guy he meets. And no one knows what my sexuality is. So even if we did fancy each other, we could never be together. Not properly anyway.
I put those thought of Aaron out of my head, and go up for a shower. Been doing so much work to fix this place, I smell worse than I did living on a farm.

Aaron-October 31st 2014.

Morning-Afternoon-Evening.

I'm sitting with Alijah, when Vic comes in and starts doing my head in about this stupid party tonight. Telling me I need to dress Alijah and myself up, that it's gonna be fun and I better smile. I have no doubt I will once I see Ali in a cute little costume, but me, god I hate Halloween. I'll dress up so everyone leaves me alone about it, but I don't understand why it's such a big deal. It's a stupid holiday, that costs more than any other one because of costumes that are gonna be used once and candy that'll be gone in less than a month. The only good thing about this party is that the drinks are free. Oh, and Vic and Marlon baking treats, so I have a feeling those are gonna be good. However I know I'm gonna go out of my mind if I'm sat bored all night, so I decide to ask Robert if he's coming. I don't know why, I mean we haven't spoken at all since that day we helped each other out. But I kind think he'll keep me sane tonight. He knows how to lighten a mood, I also don't have a doubt that he'll be pretty entertaining if Katie and Andy are there. I probably shouldn't laugh at their fighting, I mean from their history it should be a sad story, but I find some of it down right comical.

After telling him the party's at 7, I debate on whether I should suggest him coming earlier. I give in and do so. I'm sitting here, trying to play with Ali but focusing on my phone waiting for a reply, I can't help but smile when he says he'll be at 6:30.
I then put my phone down, and bring Ali upstairs to change her. This is the one thing I hate about being a parent, it's the one thing I'm glad to let my mum or Vic do. For a little girl, she sure knows how to make a stink. You'd think after everything I've dealt with a dirty diaper would be nothing, but god it is disgusting. After I change her diaper and put some new clothes on her, she looks at me with a smile that takes over her face. I swear she knows I hate doing this.

I bring her downstairs and say, "We gotta get you a costume don't we? Yes we do!"
"Mommy why is uncle Aaron talking all weird?" I hear Sarah, I look over to see Sarah with Jack and Debbie.
Debbie responds, "That's just how you talk to babies sweetheart. Though I never thought uncle Aaron would."
We smile at each other before she asks, "We're going into town for costume shopping. Care to join? I can go move the car seat."
"Uh yeah. That sounds like a plan. Just let me go tell mum." She smiles at me, I know she has an extra set of keys to my car, so when she heads out the back door, I'm assuming she is going to my car.
I go into the front of the pub and say, "Mum, Ali and I are going with Debs and the kids. Be back in a few hours."
She kisses me on the cheek and says "Okay, see you later."

I make sure I have everything, my phone, the diaper bag, and some toys. Now knowing I have everything I need, we go outside and I spot Debbie's car. I put Alijah in the car seat which is beside Jack's booster, and hop into the passenger side.

--

We went into Hotten and find a nice party store that Sarah begged Debbie to take her into. I love Sarah, but I pray that Ali will never neg like that. Although I think the only reason she still does it, is because it seems to work. Sarah got a Cinderella costume, Jack chose to be a ninja and Debbie talked me into buying Alijah a Super Girl costume. We arrived back in Emmerdale around 5:50. Debbie hurried home, as she had to dress the kids up for trick-or-treating and also had to get herself ready for the party.

-

I go inside and it's the usual crowd in the pub, mum, Diane, Andy, Katie, Finn and Victoria. They all try to grill me bout' what Ali's wearing, but I tease em' and say they gotta wait. I ask Vic to take Alijah while I go have my shower. When I get out and changed it's about quarter after six, I run downstairs and tell Vic she can go back to the bar. It looks like Vic changed Ali not too long ago, which I'm thankful for. I lay her on the couch and grab her costume from the beg beside it. Before I can get to putting it on, I'm distracted by Robert coming through the door. He smiles at me and I say, "I thought you said you'd be here at 6:30."
"Don't want me here?" He teases.
"No, no it's not that it's just-ugh never mind." I say irritated with trying to get the tag off the costume, while making sure Ali doesn't fall off the couch.
Robert walks over and holds onto her, I smile at him before finally getting the tag off.
When he notices what outfit I bought he says, "Super Girl? That's adorable."
"Oh please tell me you're not into that stuff too." I growl jokingly.
"What? You're against comic books and super heroes?" He asks.
"Yes. This guy Finn is obsessed with them, they're annoying."
"Finn? Victoria told me about him. He's gay too right?"
"Uh bi, and don't tell me you're gonna be like your sister and my mum." I say, now irritated that he brings this up.
"Why? What are they like?" He asks.
"Finn's bi, I'm gay. Want to set us up all the time." I complain.
"Well I'm not like that. You like someone, you do, you don't like someone, then you don't." He smiles at me when he says this.

If I didn't know he was straight, I'd swear this is like the third time he's flirted with me. But instead of saying anything, I just smile back at him.

Robert-October 31st 2014. Evening-Night

I arrive at the pub a bit earlier than I had told Aaron I would, I was hoping he wouldn't notice but it was the first thing he said.
Is he catching on? Oh my god, I can't live with the fact that I keep thinking about him. No one has ever done this to me. Why do I even care what he thinks?

I noticed that he was struggling with Ali and the cute lil' outfit he picked her, so I went over to help him. I realized it was a Super Girl costume, and I couldn't help myself, I had to say something. I love Super Man, well Batman will forever be better, but still it's so cute and I guarantee will look even cuter on Ali.
We get to talking and I think I hit a nerve mentioning the fact that Finn is gay. Aaron seemed to get irritated straight away, when he told me why I wasn't shocked much. Vic and Chas trying to set them because they both like men, it sounds exactly like something they'd do. He smiles at me when I tell him I understand that he doesn't wanna be with Finn. More of my comment was the fact that I'm okay if he doesn't like Finn, because there's a part of me that hopes he thinks about me as much as I think about him. I'm sitting at the couch holding onto Alijah, when he finishes putting her pants. I don't know if he realized that I was looking at him, even with this adorable baby in between us. I couldn't keep my eyes off him. If he did realize thank god Victoria and Diane came in when they did.

Vic dragged me away from Ali and Aaron, saying she needed help setting stuff up and I agreed. Aaron smiled goodbye, and seemed to quickly shift all his attention to Diane.
--
When we're done setting up it's already five to seven, and people have began arriving. I'm about to go into the backroom to get Aaron, but he comes out with Ali in his arms. God knows how she's still awake, if I was a baby like that my first choice would be to sleep. No problems to deal with, that'd be a life to live.
As the party begins, and things are going good I know I'm in for something bad when Andy and Katie enter the pub.
Andy gives me a wary smile, while Katie just gives me a stone cold look. At least I know Andy's trying to keep things decent, and that Katie isn't going to start something every chance she gets.
I take a seat beside Aaron who sat at the bar, with women surrounding him. Kerry, Pearl, Rhona and his cousin Belle, of course they're there for Ali and not Aaron. However I'm there for both. Aaron had gotten my attention the first day I my eyes met him, and I've grown fond of Ali. I could never see myself being a parent, but I've always liked some other people's kids. Well before Ali, only really Sarah jr, Andy and Debbie Dingle's girl, but since meeting Ali that's another child I wouldn't mind spending time with.
We had been at the booth for nearly half an hour, when the women decide to leave. Pearl of course stays for an extra few minutes and gets loads of kisses in, much to my surprise not just from Ali. It's interesting to see how well Aaron get's on with the people in the village, I could never do that. No matter how hard I tried.
As much as I thought this was going to be some boring little get together, it's clear Emmerdale has changed since I left. The same people are much more entertaining, and I've found myself some good company. Before I know it, it's after 8:00 and Ali has nearly fallen asleep.
Much to the dislike of all the women, and even some of the men Aaron decides to leave the party and bring her up to bed.
I go up with him, and after he's placed her in the crib he goes downstairs to make her a bottle. I find it a little weird if I were to stay in her room alone, without Aaron so I go down to the kitchen with him.
He turns around from the counter, and we're so close. Closer than I've been with anybody in a long time, our faces nearly touching. I hadn't planned on this happening, but after a still second, we both lean closer. But before anything happens, Cain and Moira come in the door and we pull apart.
He just nods at me, and heads upstairs to give Ali the bottle. Cain and Moira look at me confused, but I don't think they caught on to what happened. Even if they had, both seem too drunk to remember anything. I just smile, and walk past them heading back into the party.

Chapter Text

Robert-October 31st-November 1st.

Late Night/Early Morning.

Aaron didn't come back down at all, I figure he must have just stayed upstairs with Alijah.

I leave the Woolpack around 12 am after saying goodbye to Vic and Diane. When I'm outside I debate on taking my car back to Home Farm, but knowing I'll be here again tomorrow and that I had my fair share to drink I decide to leave it in the pub parking lot.
I also know the fresh air'll do me some good.
It's a beautiful night, the moon is full and the light reflects a beautiful blue shine. Just enough to see the stars surrounded all over the sky, living in a big city I forgot how much I loved the nice country sky at night. It's chilly, but the wind gives me a sense of relief as I walk.

I had never truly appreciated the beautiful sight and feeling of this village until tonight. The stars so beautiful you can get lost in them, and I do. As I continue to walk my eyes do not leave them, the way they shine down on the village beat street lights any day.
I think about my surroundings trying not to think about what had happened earlier. If I had driven it wouldn't be so easy, I'd be sitting in the house looking at what some would call gorgeous, but I find it to be nothing more than a space. Even if I do have everything, well not everything. Growing up my dream was to have more money than I knew what to do with, now I do and I've never felt so empty.
I can't believe it took me coming back to the one place that I never wanted to call home to show me that, being here again changes everything. How I look at the night sky, my life and my heart. I'd never felt the beauty in just walking down a sidewalk. I've never felt the importance of family, at least not until coming back. One thing I still haven't felt is like I was home, yes I have a family around me, a beautiful house and more than I could have ever dreamed of having. But the only time I feel anything even close to being home, is when I'm with or just around Aaron. Whenever he is around something inside me changes, I want to be different from who everyone knows me as. Tonight I nearly gave into the temptation of what I had been feeling since we met. His eyes are easier to get lost in, than the stars in the sky.
I have no idea how he does this to me, but he does. And I feel so hopeless about it, because I have no idea if he feels the same. I'd like to believe he does, I mean the way it felt to be so close to him earlier, there is no way that tension over us was coming from just me. But there's not much I can do. I can't get close to anyone, let anyone in, love anyone. I can't. And I won't.

I continue to enjoy the beautiful and peaceful night, as I come close to Home Farm.
Locking the door behind me, I kick off my shoes and put my jacket on the hook. I then walk into the kitchen knowing exactly what I don't need, but want.
I pour myself a generous amount of whiskey, and take it up to my bedroom with me. After changing into something more comfortable, I relax on the bad with my whiskey and once again get drawn into my thoughts of Aaron. I know now, he's going to be keeping me up late tonight.

Aaron-October 31st-November 1st.

Late Night/Early Morning.

I came upstairs after Cain and Moira interrupted me and Robert. Just like every other night, I place the bottle on my night stand. But unlike usually, I stay awake and no matter how hard I try, couldn't seem to fall asleep.
I'm stuck thinking about Robert, about what happened. I've been up here for nearly five hours now and he's still all that's on my mind. I don't even bother going to the party to get him out of my head, because I have a feeling he's still down there. All I can do, is wait until I'm tired enough that sleep takes over. But as I'm laying here, I truly don't think that's going to happen. God, what has he done to me? I've never been in this place before, my mind completely focused on one person and one person only. Even with Ed I had never been like this, Robert has all of me right now. And I'm scared that he's going to have all of me for longer than just tonight. How he does it, I do not know. What I do know is something has to be done about it. I've had a feeling since we met, that something was happening. I just couldn't put my finger on it, but as I lay in my dead silent, dark room staring at the ceiling I figure it out.
I can't believe this is happening, because it's the one thing I've tried to stay away from. I made a promise to myself when I was younger than I would never fall in love, I had seen more than enough of what love does to people. And I could never live through that, especially not now that I'm a father.
I pull out my phone and stare at Robert's contact, before turning it off and dropping it on the floor.

Robert-November 1st

Late Morning.

When I wake up it's half past ten, and I have a raging headache. I can't stand up straight, and know I drank much more than I should have last night.

I stumble down the hallway to the bathroom, god I need some aspirin. After getting myself some water and taking down the pill, I remember that my car is at The Woolpack and I have to get it. I have a meeting in Hotten tonight, and can't miss this one. I pick up my phone and fight with myself about whether or not I should message Aaron. I just wanna know if he's gonna be there when I show up. I'm really not in the right state to see him, I don't think I can after last night. Not yet anyway. But I need my car. Being a Friday I'm sure he's at the garage right now, but not certain. I take the risk, and ring a cab to bring me to the pub.
- When I arrive my plan is to simply get my car and head out, but of course that's changed when I hear Cain behind me.
"Sugden!" He yells.
I turn around and ask him, "What do you want Cain?"
"What were you doing with our Aaron last night?" He questions me.
I was hoping he and Moira had drank enough to forget, but knowing my luck and Cain Dingle that was just wishful thinking. Though it doesn't stop me from lying, "Don't know what you mean."
"Don't play stupid with me Sugden. I saw you guys, you were close to a kiss. I don't want you messing with his head." His voice has now raised again, but this time he's actually scaring me.
"I don't know what you think was happening, but I wasn't messing with his head." And that isn't a lie, if anything since I met Aaron it's him who has been messing me about.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Look Cain if you'll excuse me, I have somewhere I need to be." I then turn back around, and enter my car. Quickly driving off.

Aaron-November 1st.

Late Morning.

I got enough sleep to wake up for work, well thanks to Ali's crying. I was still late for work, but if it wasn't for her I'm sure I would've been much later. I was up until nearly four am thinking about Robert. I feel pathetic for it, because I highly doubt he was as well. More than anything I'm pissed with myself, because I had Debbie doing my head in when I arrived for work. She said considering I left the party early that I should've gotten enough sleep, also mentioning that she didn't get come til' later and was still able to wake up for work to open. I hate when she's right, but she is.
I don't know how she does it, Debbie can be up until the morning hours with the kids and clean herself up and be okay for an entire day of work.
I meet a stupid guy who I still barely know, and can't seem to get enough sleep, even if my child is out like a light.

Today has been a busy day at the garage, I've already had to do work on two cars and Eric's been in again also doing my head in about fixing his breaks. On top of that I was told Debbie got a call about another car coming in. This means if Dan doesn't show up, I'm here by myself and gonna be staying into the late hours. I know Debbie would let me go home for dinner with Ali, but I also know if I were to go home, I'd pass out before being able to return to the garage.

"What you got going on today?" I here Cain ask from a short distance from the garage and myself.
"Work. If you can't see that." I sass, not in the mood for conversation.
"Put it off." He says.
"I'd rather not do something that'll have your daughter knocking my teeth in, thanks."
He smirks and responds, "It wasn't a question. I'll deal with Debs, but you're coming with me."
"Why?" I ask, confused on what is going on here.
"Just do it." He orders, now sounding as irritated as I feel.

--

We had been sitting quietly in a pub outside of the village for a few minutes now, the entire ride here was silent apart from me asking where we were going. After placing his phone down, Cain takes a large gulp of his pint and asks me,
"What's going on with you and Robert Sugden?"
I can't say I'm shocked at this question, I mean I wasn't expecting it. But him and Moira didn't exactly walk in on a friendly conversation last night. I don't have an answer which is exactly what I say, "Don't know."
"Don't give me that as well Aaron-"
Before he says anything else, I look at him confused "As well? Cain what did you do?"
"I saw Robert this morning, told him not to mess with your head. He said he wasn't." Cain answers.
Of all the people I thought would get involved in my 'love' life, I would have never guessed it would be Cain. Everything is just so confusing and nothing makes any sense. I don't know what to make of the situation, I mean two weeks ago I didn't even know Robert Sugden and now he takes up nearly all my time. I don't know how to respond to what Cain said, if Robert's not messing with my head, what does that mean? Does he feel something for me as well? I can't deal with this right now, putting my water glass down I walk out of the pub and don't listen to Cain when he tries to call me back.

Chapter Text

Robert-November 3rd 2014.

Morning.

I haven't been to The Woolpack, since going to get my car two days ago. I'm scared that Cain'll have another go at me, and this time we won't be alone. Scared that I'll have to face Aaron, but have no idea what to say. I'm scared that I'll break, go against all my own laws and rules to never let another soul touch mine. More than that I'm scared he won't feel the same, and I'll be left rejected.
After getting my car back, and having a shower my meeting with an old co-worker was a good distraction. However I didn't think that it'd affect the life I'm building in Emmerdale again. That was until I got a call from him earlier this morning. I had just woken up and made myself a coffee, when my work phone that only a hand full of people have the number to, was ringing. When I answer, on the other end of the line it' was Claudia Smith. She was my partner with a lot of projects through my years away from the village, and someone I had become close to. She was going on about how a deal I had been a part of fell through when I left, she tried her hardest to convince me to come back to the job. But I refused, there was no way I'd return, no way I could after how things ended when I decided to leave. I just finished my lunch, when I hear a knock at the door. Instantly I think it could be Vic or Diane, they've both been trying to get me to come over to The Woolpack. But nothing could have prepared me for who was at the door. I open it and there she is Claudia, I have no idea how she found out where I was living. Actually that's not true, I may not have told her but she was always good at figuring things out and she had more contacts than anyone in the business. "Hiya." She says, as if this is normal.

"Get inside now." I demand, pulling her in the door. "What are you doing here?"

She doesn't respond with words at first, just a small chuckle. Before turning away from me, and starts to walk around the living room. Eyeing the house, probably making an opinion about in her mind. She then stops moving, and turns back to me, "I told you Robert, we need you on this."

"And I told you, there is no way I'm ever going back."

She comes up to me and slides her finger down my torso, "You seem to forget that when I want something, I get it."

I push her hand away and retaliate, "And you seem to forget that when I say no, I mean it."

After this she steps back and smiles again, she was always good winding me up. It was a game we played through out the years, it wasn't just all business and no pleasure. Though I can't say being with her brought me pleasure, there was just never a dull moment when she was around.

She gives me a look, one full of determination and I know exactly what is about to happen, "Robert, you walked away without real reason. You're lucky they let you go, unless you want your secret out I suggest you do was the boss wants you to."
I am now irritated and angry, and I can't hold back anymore. I push Claudia up against the wall and yell, "I left with plenty of reason, more than enough. And the boss is no longer mine, so I don't need to do anything. As for my secret being revealed, it would mess with the entire deal no way would you or anyone else up at the offices risk that."
I can tell now that she' as no argument left, during our time together I learned exactly what buttons to press and when. As she did with me, but this time she isn't going to win. I have a chance at a fresh start and she's not going to get in the way of that. I let go of her arms, back away and say, "Now if you don't mind, I'd like to be alone."
"You're making a huge mistake, you know that. And the day will come when you come crawling back, like you've done all those times before." She snarls at me, now just as angry as myself.
Before she exits the house I respond, "I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you."

Afternoon.

I'm still debating on contacting Aaron, I didn't want to, but after this morning all I want is to see him. It's like when he's around, all my problems go away and all that's on my mind is him. That is exactly what I need right now, but the consequences to being around him may lead to more trouble. I don't know what to do, and it's driving me insane. I haven't been this lost and confused since I left the village and it scares me when I'm not in control. Although I didn't have full control in my time away, I was still able to make decisions, but when it comes to Aaron I'm never thinking straight and rational. I want to see him, and be near him but I couldn't deal with it if something were to go wrong. If I were to act on what I've felt, and things take a turn. And now that I've been contacted by Claudia it's my life away I need to work harder than ever to keep secret, I couldn't live with myself if anyone in the village were to find out. I can't focus on Aaron right now.

The one and only thing I can focus on is making sure Claudia keeps her mouth shut, because even if almost all of me believes she wouldn't risk it, she and everyone else I worked with are extremely unpredictable and very smart.

I have nothing to do, the job I had I can't contact them, they have to contact me so until they do I have to go about my normal everyday life. At least the one I've had since moving back to Emmerdale.

After I finally settle down and stop stressing, I get a message from Vic.
[Tea at the pub with Diane, Andy and I?]
I couldn't help but be shocked at this, I have no problem with it. But a part of me doesn't think Andy'll feel the same.
[Does Andy know I'll be there?]
Before I even put my phone down, she's already replied,
[Yes Rob. He does wanna try. It's just been hard. And Chas is going to be working so we have the entire back room to ourselves. Well plus Ali.]
It'll be nice to spend some time with them, and working on making amends with Andy is exactly what I wanna do. If Vic's watching Ali that means Aaron's most likely not there, so that also benefits me. Not to mention, who'd wanna pass a free meal?
[Sure. Time?]
[Be here in an hour.]
Vic was always good at being bossy.

Not being in the mood to shower because it's just some family dinner, I go upstairs and find a change of clothes. My signature blue jeans, with a white t-shirt, and black leather jacket. I go into the bathroom to make sure my hair looks half decent, by the time I'm done the hour is just about up so I head out and drive over to the pub.

I arrive at the pub, and Katie and Chas give me the side eye look as I walk past them into the back room. I should've figured Katie would be here, she's the one who cheated but doesn't know how to leave the man she's with alone. It's pathetic really. But I refuse to say anything, I've done good at keeping my mouth shut and I intend for it to stay that way.

I enter the back room and Vic looks pleased to see me, as well as Diane but Andy is sitting at the kitchen table holding Ali with a half smile that seems forced.
It's sad to see what has happened to us, we were close before my dad adopted him and ever since then we fell apart. Fighting with each other, not focused on the outcome of the situation. Just then and there, and how much we hated each other. But I wanna change that now. I really do, and with my stupid little hope tonight I'l try.
I give Vic a hug, and smile at Diane. Taking a seat across from Andy, I smile at Ali who is wide awake and playing with his hair.

Diane offers me a beer, but because I'm driving I accept a water. It seems Katie will be the one driving tonight, because Andy looks to be half done a beer already. Vic can't drink because she's only twenty, although her big birthday celebration will be in a couple months. I'm glad I came back before she was drinking, I'm not looking forward to when she starts. She just seems more like my little sister without alcohol involved. Diane as always prefers not to drink in front of us, her words 'you'll always be my children.' Something about morals, and how she likes to set a good example. But she knows damn well, Andy and I enjoy our fair share of liquor.

The dinner was going well until Chas came into the back room and asked for me,
"Can this not wait?" Diane asked.
"It's not for me, someone well two people are here to see Robert." She answers.
I start to panic, my heart is racing faster than it has in months. I know who it is, I don't let my fear show but it's hard to hide it. I smile to everyone sitting at the table, and assure them I will be back in a few moments. Vic, Diane and Andy all look puzzled and confused, but don't bother asking. I'm guessing it's because they know I won't answer, and if I do I'm sure they all know it'll be a lie.
When I enter the front room of the pub, there are a few people. Just the regulars, and Katie's still here. Which bothers me more than anything, I don't want her to have yet another thing to question me about.
"Let's take this out side shall we." I suggest.
But before we can make a move, Aaron comes in from the front door and just stands in silence. We share an awkward glance, that I think Claudia caught onto because she makes an unneeded comment,
"You two know each other, I take it."
"Uh yeah. We're mates." Aaron answers. A
fter this I feel a sharp pain in my stomach. Hearing him say we're 'mates,' bothers me more than I ever thought imaginable. I don't wanna be just mates, but I guess his answer to Claudia also answers my question. Of course Katie couldn't keep her mouth shut either,
"I never saw you as the brightest bloke, but if you're mates with him them you must be stupider than I thought. Sorry Chas."
"Can we just take this outside!" I growl, my voice raising and it becoming very clear how angry I'm getting.

Aaron looks at me also confused, but quickly looks away and heads over to the bar. Both Claudia and Katie smile knowing they've hit a nerve, but neither knowing what the other's real intentions are. The man standing with Claudia, usually only comes around if it's important. With my old job, he was second best to the boss. Preferred to stay low key, and private. While having everyone do his dirty work for him. With him being here, I'm now fully aware that they are going to stop at nothing to try and get me back on the job. I had never guessed that they would publicly contact me, but again they can all be so unpredictable. Claudia nods her head, and follows close behind the man as I follow her outside the front door.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at?" I snarl.
"Oh we're not playing Mr. Sugden." The man says.
I look back and forth between him and Claudia before saying, "I already told you, I am not going back."
"I think you'll learn you don't really have a choice." The mans voice is now sounding more irritated.
"And what is that supposed to mean?" I scoff, I used to play their games with them, I know how to retaliate.
Claudia is the one to respond this time, "If you don't come back for this deal, you will regret it."

And before giving me the chance to say anything else, they walk away. I don't bother calling them back, or chasing after them. Because even if I know how to play their games, they are still the ones who call the shots.

Chapter Text

Aaron-November 4th 2014.

Morning.

Business at the garage has been slow, and Dan's been need some extra money so Debbie has given me another day off. It was actually a nice way to wake up, Ali still sleeping and me receiving a message about not having to go to work. It really is exactly what I need after last night.
It was weird enough to see Robert after the almost kiss, and being questioned by Cain. But to see him looking genuinely scared, and with two people who I had never seen in the village before, it was just weird. Again he had me up all night thinking about him, it's driving me insane because all I want is one night that he isn't on my mind. But at this point, that seems like an impossible goal to reach.

Today is Marlon's day in the pub kitchen, so when I go downstairs Vic isn't sitting at the table. I'm actually really happy about that, Vic not being here means less chance of Robert showing up. For the first time in a very long time, I appreciate the quiet of the morning, and as I look out the window the sun is shining bright. I'm not usually one to appreciate something as simple as the weather, but it's a beautiful day outside. And I guess seeing something so light after a night of being awake with nothing but darkness, it just grabs my attention.

I take advantage of the peaceful alone time to watch some telly. I don't remember the last time I actually sat down, and watched television without it being a kid's show, or some stupid cooking show for mum, Marlon and Vic. It's nice to have a choice in what I'm going to watch. So nice that I actually feel like an idiot for picking the news, but it is 6:00 in the morning, as I scan through the channels I find nothing and give into it. At first it's some stupid thing about a robbery down in Hotten, I laugh at the thought of that being something I would've done back in the day or even Ross Barton doing it now. When I'm about to change it and see if I find anything I missed scanning the first time a face appears on the screen that I recognize. At first I can't make out where from, and then it hits me. The woman on the screen, is the same woman who was here last night talking to Robert.

The reporter is talking about how she was part of an illegal deal that lead to, two major companies lose millions of dollars. That there were multiple deaths in the process, and she is on the FBI's most wanted list. I'm shocked at this, because you have to be into some pretty fucked up shit to get on that list.
There is a huge part of me that wants to contact Vic and Andy, go upstairs and tell Diane. But then there is a part of me that actually wants to talk to Robert, and Robert only about this. After a few minutes of thinking that part wins, I decide to go upstairs and get my still sleeping Alijah, and carefully bring her out to the car. I realize this is far from rational, due to the fact that it is only a bit after 6:00 in the morning, and I don't even know if Robert knew about this.
But that's why I'm doing this, to figure out if Robert knew what this woman was involved with. I guess there's also a part of me, that's hoping he didn't because I couldn't bare the thought of that.

-

When I reach Home Farm, I start banging on the door now stupidly not caring if I wake Ali. At first there's nothing, so I continue banging my fist against the door until I hear,
"Alright I'm coming, I'm coming." Robert sounds tired, and irritated but at this point I just don't care.
He opens the door and looks shocked to see me, which I was expecting anyway.
Before I can say anything he asks with a croaky tone, "Aaron? What are you doing here?"
I barge through the door, and say "The woman you were with yesterday. Who is she?"
"A little jealous are we?" He jokes, when we met his cockiness was kind of appealing but right now I can't stand it.
"No. She's all over the news." I answer.
After this I see panic in Robert's eyes. This makes me realize he knew exactly who she was, and what she was up to. As much as I wish it wasn't true, you can't fake the fear in his eyes.
"Aaron, you don't need to worry about this." He says, his voice has now changed all that's there is a weak tone like a whisper.
"Yeah I do, because she's on the FBI's most wanted list, everyone's looking for her. And I fucking saw her last night." I can't help but raise my voice again, and this time the anger comes pouring out without any holding back.
"Aaron you don't want to get involved with this, trust me." Robert is trying really hard to make me stop asking questions, but it's not going to work.
"No! You're going to tell me what the hell is going on."
He reaches his hand and says quietly, "Okay, okay. But first you need to put her down, wouldn't want you throwing her because you're angry at me."
We both chuckle at this comment, god I hate that he has that power. I'm here at six o'clock in the damn morning, learning that he was part of an illegal situation, and he still manages to make laugh.
Robert places pillows and blankets in a circle on the floor, and a small one in the middle that he puts Alijah on. Then steps away and brings me into the kitchen, far enough away that if I decide to raise my voice again it won't wake her, but close enough that I can still see her.

"So are you going to explain now?" I snap, becoming more impatient with each second that slides by.
"Okay. Yes I know her, her name is Claudia. But it's not what you think, I'm not involved with that stuff, not anymore anyway." He begins to explain, but I cut him off,
"What do you mean, 'not anymore'?"
"Aaron, please this is hard to explain. I mean I was involved with some stuff not as bad as Claudia, but still stuff that could get me into a lot of trouble. i left because I knew it was wrong, but in the beginning I liked...no I loved the money. I made a lot if you can't tell." He smirks.
"Oh so this is funny to you." I snarl.
"No of course not, I just like having money. I mean I did, when I thought I needed it. But as time went on I got in really deep, the jobs got harder and I needed out. I couldn't do it anymore, but the first time I tried to leave I was still scared. The boss was a well I'd say 'hard ass,' but that's a fucking understatement. It's a dangerous game they play, Aaron."

"The boss? They? You do realize how screwed up this all sounds right?"

"Trust me, I'm fully aware. Look you can't tell anyone about my involvement in this."

"But the police, FBI, are all gonna find out anyway."

"No. Claudia may be on their list, but she and everyone else that plays a part in this are smart. Always one step ahead, she won't get caught. Aaron promise me you won't tell anyone." He's practically begging me at this point, but I still don't know what the right thing to do is.

"Robert you can't make me keep this a secret."

"I won't force you into anything, but you need to understand I'm completely done with all of it now. They were here trying to get me back in the game, I said no. Aaron I am completely done." I don't know if Robert can be trusted, but I believe him. He seems genuine about this, and there's not much proof I have anyway.

"Okay. But if I find out you are still involved I'm going to the cops." I warn him.

"Aaron I swear to you, I'm not going back to that part of my life."

I give him a weary smile, and ponder why I actually believe him. But something about it just seems so real, he can lie all he'd like. But you can't fake the look in his eyes, it wasn't just panic or fear. Not because of me knowing anyway. I think he's actually scared of the people he used to work with, or for.
As I'm taking in everything I've just heard, I begin to feel sorry for him. I guess it's because I understand.
A young lad who feels alone, so they do something stupid. I mean I never did anything that stupid, and never would. But I've been there, and it's a terrible place to be.

Robert-November 4th 2014.

Morning.

I've just bared everything to Aaron. I can't quite comprehend what it means, but I know I can't go back now.

I figured Aaron would have taken Alijah, and ran a mile after what I told him. But he takes me completely by surprise and asks if they can stay at mine for a bit. Given the time, I take it that it's the sleep talking. But a part of me wants to believe it's Aaron wanting to be here.
After our conversation he went to check on Ali, and sat by her side on the floor while she slept. I had never admired what it took to be a parent until now, in the couple weeks I've known Aaron he's always had Ali at the forefront of his mind. Despite being careless in some moments, he makes sure that she will okay before agreeing or committing to anything.
I can't help myself as I smile watching him sit with her. I notice he's getting tired and say, "You can take her up to one of the rooms. Sleep on a bed."
"Are you sure?" He asks.
"Yeah, there's more than one room in the house, ya know."
He smiles at me and nods in head in thanks, before picking Alijah up off the ground and bringing her upstairs.
I had been planning on making myself a coffee, but change my mind when I realize just how tired I am. Barely being able to keep my eyes, I also head upstairs.
When I enter my room, I'm surprised yet a little pleased to see this is the room Aaron went into.
"Oh sorry." He mumbles, biting his lower lip in embarrassment.
Before he can get off the bed I stop him, "No, no you can stay in here."
"But it's your bed." Although I enjoy talking to him, I don't understand why he likes to argue about everything that involves him. Like he doesn't believe he should get a good thing in his life ever.
"It's fine." I say, turning away and about to leave the room, but am stopped by the sound of his voice in a whispered tone,
"You can stay in here...too."
I turn back to him, and push out all the voices in my mind and body telling me this is a bad idea.
Getting into the bed, we have Alijah in between us but our eyes are locked until his close mine following soon after.

Chapter Text

Robert-November 4th 2014.

Afternoon.

I am woken up by the sound of screaming from downstairs. At first all I hear is the noise of it, until I realize it's Vic. As I go down the hallway I still can't make out what she's saying, but I don't want her to wake Ali and Aaron so I hurry downstairs.
"Why is Aaron's car here?" She asks, her voice still loud.
"Vic keep it down." I demand.
"I asked you a question." When she's determined for answers, she gets them even if it is over something so small like this. It's one thing we have in common, but I hate it.
"And I'll answer when you keep your voice down. They're sleeping." The words slip of my tongue before I even realize I'm saying them.
Any questions she had before have all gone away, as I've now told her Aaron and Alijah are here. Though it was probably going to come out, considering she wouldn't leave it alone. I'd figured I would be much more prepared with a story. But now as the truth is out, I have no way to explain. At least not a smart way to. I could always go the obvious way, and let her believe Aaron and I have a thing. But the last thing I need is him mad at me about something else.
So instead, I take a deep breath and look her in the eyes. You can see she is still shocked, just as I'm about to explain, she speaks.
"Are you two together?"
"No, he and I were talking this morning. Said something about how he hates keeping everyone up at the Woolie, cause of Ali's crying. I told him he could crash in one of the extra bedrooms." After saying this, I don't remember why I was so scared in the first place. I was always good at coming up with a lie on the spot. That's another thing I got from my job.

"Uh, okay. Are they still sleeping? It's half past noon." She informs me.
I didn't realize what time it was and start to panic. Having not told Aaron everything about my old job, I have to get him, Ali and Vic outta here.
"Yeah. He was up all night with her. Vic are you able to come back later? I just got up myself, and need to relax." I lie.
"I actually just came here to tell you that Andy said he was trying to get a hold of you and couldn't. Something important he said." I couldn't really understand what would be so important, but I tell her I'll give him a call in a bit. She then leaves.
Now I have Aaron and Ali, but I learn it's too late when I hear knocking at the back door.
..
"You're sister was at the front, figured it would be smarter to come around." Claudia says, as I open the door.
I step in front of her, so she can't get in. Putting my hand up to hold her body back,
"You can't be here."
"You're the one who phoned me."
"Yeah well that was before I knew you were wanted by the FBI. Even so, I have someone here."
She seems intrigued by this, and pushes hand away, walking into the house. She looks around, and must have spot Aaron's jacket because she asks,
"That man from the little pub?"
I look at her and answer, "It's none of your business Claudia, just get out."
"Come on Rob, I know you liked it rough here and there. But men? That seems like too much even for you." Now she's teasing me.
Claudia caught on a long time ago, that I would have one night stands with both men and women. But she knew how much I hated talking about it, it was her sick way of winding me up when she was bored.
"We didn't sleep together."
"You're lying."
"Well." I chuckle, "We shared my bed, and fell asleep so I guess you caught me there. But uh, it's not what he originally came here for."
I didn't plan on playing one of her pathetic games today, but now it's started and she won't leave until one of us finish's it.
"Really? So what would that be then, eh?" Claudia thinks this is a joke, but god knows she's in for a shock.
"Funny you ask. He saw you on the news, came over to tell me. Guess he recognized you from the other night." I'm still playing nice, but that's only going to make the look on her face so much better when I'm honest.
"And what lie did you feed him?" She asks.
"Truth be told, I didn't. I told him everything." It's now me with the sick smile on my face.
Claudia just looks shocked, but she doesn't show fear. Although I know if she thought anyone was a threat to her, she'd be scared. But she's always been good at making you believe one thing, especially with her feelings. I know if I were to push it a little further she may break, but instead I let her speak,
"You wouldn't risk prison, you're selfish. No way would you let anyone know what you've done."
"That's the beauty in it though, I didn't need to tell him what I did, because there is so much more you did." I did tell Aaron about my part, but she doesn't need to know that.

"Robert Sugden, I swear to god if you told him anything I will kill you."
"Careful there, starting to sound a little worried."
"Oh no, trust me. It's you who should be worried. I have an entire army behind me, you have one man without any proof."
She may be right about her having an army, and that I am fighting this battle with only one person on my side. If he's even on my side.
However she is wrong about something else.
"Aw Claudia love. Have you forgotten about the paper work? I left the job, doesn't mean I left the evidence."
With this Claudia leaves, slamming the door behind her. I smile to myself as I watch her through the window, and she leaves.

--
I walk back into the kitchen to make myself a coffee, and Aaron one for when he wakes up. Which I think will be soon, now that I hear Ali crying. I grab his mug off the counter, and go upstairs in my bedroom. Aaron's beginning to sit up, while wiping his eyes. And Ali's just lying there. I've never understood babies, how they can sleep through so much noise but also project so so much that keeps others awake. How they can be crawling, and climbing one second, then completely still the next.

More than that, how they can be so cute, yet such pain in the asses as well.
Aaron is a great father from what I've seen, but I don't think he's gotten the hang of stopping her from crying without a bottle.
I walk over and pick her up, so Aaron can get himself off the bed. When I look in her blue eyes, I see now more than ever just how much she looks like her father. Such a beautiful baby, I can't help but also notice her hair growing in and how her cheeks are so rosey. I never thought the day would come, but here I am thinking about how cute a baby is.
I don't even realize she stopped crying until Aaron smiles, and says, "How you did that, you need to teach me."
"You keep coming round' maybe I will." And now I'm shamelessly flirting with Aaron. I have no idea what is happening to me today.

"Oh I almost forgot, there's a coffee for you on the night stand, I placed it down before picking up Ali."
He smiles at me, but I can tell something isn't right. "What?"
"I'm just more of a tea guy." He answers.
"Boring." I tease.
He just chuckles softly, picks up the mug and follows me downstairs.

..

"I should probably get going. I'm sure you want us outta your hair." Aaron says.
"No, no it's fine. You can stay as long as you need."
"You sure?"
"Yeah. Well unless she starts to stink, then you're out the door."
"Deal."
He looks down at his phone, and I see a smile on his face before he looks up and catches me staring. After he notices me, his face goes a little red and he does that hot thing where he bites his lip. God, I love when he does that.
"Your sister likes to complain. She wants to see Ali."
I think it's cute how much Vic adores this baby, I mean out of all of us kids I always thought she'd be the first to settle down and have a family.
"Tell her tough luck, I get you guys today."
He bites his lip again, and now it's me who's face is getting red. I probably shouldn't be getting so turned on with a baby in the room, but I can't help myself. Aaron has this effect on me, no other person ever has.

"I think it's cute how close she is with Ali." I add.
"Yeah well, I think it's because there was a time when we both thought she'd be having my children." I am completely shocked at these words. Of all the things Aaron could have said after that, this was not one of them. But now I am more than intrigued to know what he means.
"What do you mean?" I ask, fearing what his answers gonna be.
"Uh, she's your sister. This is weird." He says, trying to avoid answering the question.
"What it's not like she took your virginity." I joke, but when I see the look on his face it's no longer funny. "What? No. But you're gay."
"Yeah, but it didn't stop me from having a kid now did it? It was a long time ago, I was still closeted. Looks let's just forget this ever happened." I can tell he's embarrassed.
It is weird that he and my sister, oh my god. Now I'm thinking about him like that, it's just really weird. So I try and lighten the mood.
"Well I think I beat you. I guarantee you that who took mine is much more embarrassing."
He doesn't say anything, but the look he gives me tells me he wants to know. Looking me in the eyes, I know he's waiting for a response. Now I feel stupid for putting myself in this position, because it is something I've tried hard to forget.
"Go on then. Who was the lucky lady?"
"Nicola King."

Aaron practically spits out his coffee, and starts laughing. It's rare to see him laugh, and even if it is at me, I like it.
"Nicola King? As in Jimmy King's, Nicola? And I thought the you and Katie thing was ridiculous."
"Well she wasn't with Jimmy at the time. As for Katie, I will admit that is on the top of my list for most ridiculous decisions."
After a moment of silence passes, I say, "But seriously mate, my sister? I am never going to get that image out of my head. Never going to be able to sleep again."
"Well, I'm sure I can think of a few ways to keep you up."
There it is again, he's flirting with me. I am not delusional, earlier wasn't as clear but yes he was. He was then and he is now, Aaron is flirting with me.
"Uh can you watch her for a quick second? Just gonna grab her seat from the car to place her in, in case she falls asleep again."
"Yeah, yeah sure." I say, taking her from his arms.
~

Aaron comes back in, and he made a good choice going to get the seat. Alijah is practically asleep again.
I place her into the seat, and place a blanket over her body just in case.

When I turn around, I'm met by Aaron's lips. They taste better than I imagined. We both deepen the kiss, moving our bodies close together and break away for air.
"That was-" I begin, but am cut off,
"What I've wanted to do for weeks."
"Yeah."

Chapter Text

Robert-November 5th 2014.

After our kiss Aaron and I didn't let it change things, we just went on talking about things as we were before. Of course we left our sex lives out of it, I think he understood I was greatly disturbed learning about him and Victoria. And I don't think he's gonna enjoy living with the image of Nicola and I, in his head. It became light hearted banter, teasing each other. He made a few remarks on how I make coffee worse than it already is, he also managed to put me to shame because he makes a mean egg omelet. It was a nice day, peaceful, private and ours to enjoy. Eventually Alijah woke up, and she was fun to play with. After that girl sleeps she has more energy than Aaron and I put together.
We enjoyed yesterday to the best of our ability being fully aware of our real lives, Aaron was now carrying a secret that is dangerous. I've now opened up about my darkest secret, and we have to face those who are in our everyday lives. Being fully aware that the other could say or do something to jeopardize everything. I trust Aaron, I truly believe he will not tell anyone.

However the trust I have for myself is much less, before returning to Emmerdale, and meeting Aaron it would have been no problem. But there is something about this village, and something about him. Just the thought of both make me weak at the knees.
--
It's now half past nine, I should be heading out in a few minutes so that when the contractors come back they have room to work without me in their way. I got a hold of Andy after Aaron left last night, we made a time to meet up today. So that's what I'm doing, he said it was serious and he wanted to talk in person. Of course Katie's gonna be there, and it will be at the Woolpack.

I stay to let the contractors in, but I've worked with them in the past so I trust them alone.

I head off to the Woolpack, and actually foolishly smile hoping that Aaron may be there. He said something yesterday about work being slow at the garage, so he now has a lot of time off.

--
When I arrive Andy's sitting at the bar with Katie, and chatting away to Chas.
The way they're smiling like they have no problems, I envy that.
I always have, Andy's always been the most loved. When it came down to it, Katie loved him more than she ever loved me, even if she strayed.
I'd never admit it, but one day I want a love like that. Someone to stick by me through all the ups and downs, someone who understood, someone who was it for me. I'm even naive enough to say, 'The One.'

I feel guilty for interrupting their conversation knowing that something will be said by Katie or Chas and I'll retaliate. I don't usually mean, but it's like a natural instinct I have. I don't trust or love, I fight back.
"Hey Rob. Thanks for coming." Andy says, with a smile plastered across his face. I'm not used to this, he's not like this with me. At least hasn't been in a long time. He said that this something serious, yet he looks so happy.
"What's going on?" I ask.
"I have a suggestion for ya." He answers, still smiling, but it's faded a bit.
I look between him and Katie, he looks happy, however she is everything but that. If looks could kill..
I look back to Andy and nod my head,
"What if you were my best man?" "I'd love to. But how'd you talk little wifey to be over here around that one?"
"Just be happy and keep your mouth shut for once." Katie snarls at me, downing her read wine and leaving.
"I'm sorry."
"No, no it's okay. I'll be back in a minute."

When Andy goes running after Katie, I'm left alone in the awkward silence that lingers over Chas and I. She scoffs at me and turns away,
"Aaron here?"
Still not looking at me she answers, "Through the back."

--
I go into the back where Aaron's sitting on the sofa, Ali's not with him so I assume she's sleeping.
I don't think he realizes I'm there at first, because when I come around the couch he jumps.

"What are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you too." I tease, walking closer to him and putting my arms around his waist.
He seems hesitant, but doesn't pull away, "What if someone walks in?"
"Everyone's pretty occupied." I say, moving in a little more until our lips are touching.
This kiss is nothing like yesterdays, today it's gentle, soft almost healing.

When we break apart he whispers, "If this is your way of getting me to keep your little secret, a secret. I think it's working."
He then leans in and we kiss again, and this time we kiss deeper. His arms are now also wrapped around my waist and our bodies are touching completely.
We break apart again, at the sound of Alijah's crying.
"I better go get her."
"Yeah, Andy's probably waiting on me."
We share a quick peck, before Aaron heads upstairs, and I go through to the bar.

~
After talking with Andy a bit more about the best thing, I head off. I had been in the Woolpack for only an hour, so the contractors would still be at my place. I have no idea where I'm gonna end up at this point, but right now if I can't be with Aaron, I'm not putting much thought into where else I'm going.
Just as I'm about to open the door to my car, I hear Katie's voice in a close distance and turn around to see her right behind me.
"Little secret, eh?" She says.
"Don't know what you're on about." I respond, trying my best not to say the wrong thing to her.
"Don't treat me like I'm stupid Robert. I heard you and Aaron talking, well there was a bit more than just talking as well. But that's not so important." The look on her face is cold, eyes staring at me as if I'm gonna die within seconds. Like she's making me her victim, only I don't wanna let her win.
"Shouldn't be eaves dropping there Katie." I say, staying as calm as I can.
"What's the secret Rob?" I've never seen her so desperate.
"There is no secret, just a little banter between friends."
"That's bullshit and we both know it."
"if you think for one second I'm going to tell you a damn thing about my life you're wrong." I don't realize until after I've said the words, that my voice was raised.
"So there is a secret? I just don't want Andy getting hurt."
"Oh yes, because you've always put Andy's feelings first."
"When I over heard you guys, it was because he was sending me back to apologize. I love him Robert."
"You have a funny way of showing it. Threatening his brother and all."
She back hands me across the face, and I can feel that there's going to be a bruise by tomorrow.
I didn't think she'd give up so easily, but after slapping me she just walks away.
--

I've been driving ever since I left the pub, which now would be over four hours ago. I just don't wanna stop and be in one place. I wanna talk to Aaron, but I know something will happen if I do.
I'm freaking out over nothing, Katie doesn't know the secret. But then again she's capable of a lot, who knows what lengths she'll go to, to figure it out. All I know is if she does say something I need a good lie. I've spent the last four hours trying to figure one out, but nothing will make sense. Sure my brother's not the brightest bloke, but he ain't stupid. And when it comes to Kaitie he'd believe almost anything she says, not to mention how Chas and Cain would react to Aaron and I. I don't think she's going to say anything about that, however Chas is her best mate so I'm not completely sure.
As I'm driving, I become blinded by the beauty in the evening sky. It's cloudy and the stars are invisible, but again I get lost in the sky, and suddenly everything is lifted off my shoulders.
But that only lasts a minute or two, when my phone starts to ring. The number is blocked, by I pick up anyway. "Meet me at Wylie's in an hour." Is all I hear, before the person on the other end hangs up.

I get to Wylie's farm and see the shadow of a figure, but can't make out who it is until I move closer. When I realize it's Katie, I wanna just turn around and not do this again. However I did always enjoy getting under her skin, and considering she knows absolutely nothing this could be fun.
I decide to make this interesting and tease her a little bit, "Never could stay away for long."
"Oh get over yourself. This isn't about that." She seems angry, but the look on her face says other wise. She doesn't seem desperate like earlier, but she seems confident.
"Then what is this about?" I ask, intrigued to know what exactly she wants from me this time.
"I came across something very interesting, I was just reading a news article online and I saw a familiar face. She looked very identical to the woman who wanted you just a couple nights ago." I can't help, but feel a pain inside me at these words.
Aaron may keep a secret for me, but Katie will only do so if it benefits her, or until she's not satisfied with the game any longer.
"Your point?"
"It says she's some, not-so-legal things. But you'd know that, being in on them and all."
"How exactly did you come up with that conclusion?"
"Because it's you we're talking about. Some people are capable of changing their ways, you are not one of them."
"See here's the problem with these allegations Katie, you have no proof against me." Despite being scared, I know how to fight back. I know exactly what Katie hates the most. She hates losing to me, anyone else and it's a fun old game. But me, she'd go to the end of the earth to destroy. So I just have to play with her a little while longer, until I have my own lie. Then she can threaten me however she'd like.
"Oh but Robert, I'll find something."
"Not if I didn't do anything."
"Look I don't want to go to the cops, it'll be too much trouble. However if you want me to keep this a secret, you will tell Andy you can't be his best man and leave the village."
"Are you blackmailing me?"
"Call it whatever you'd like. But I want you gone." Katie raises her voice, and takes a step closer to me.
"You want me gone? You're not getting what you want, because I'm not going anywhere."
"I swear to you, I will go to the cops if you don't leave."
"You don't have the guts." I'm screaming at her on the inside, but on the outside I continue to remain calm and let her be the one to break.
"Really?"
"If you want to call the cops might as well do it now, because I'm not leaving the village again." A smirk spreads across my face when after five minutes of silence and death glares she still hasn't reached for her phone. "That's what I thought."

As I walk away, I hear her say something but this time she isn't angry, she's crying. "I finally got him back, and now you're here again. Why can't you let us be happy?"
"Katie, I'm not here to ruin your life. Don't get me wrong, watching you squirm can be fun. But I love Andy and want him to be happy, unfortunately that's only possible when he's with you."
"If he gets hurt because of whatever shit you got yourself into, I promise you, I will make you regret it."
"Nothing is going to happen. If you stop worrying so much about me and focus on your wedding and Andy, everything will be fine."
"I mean it Robert, I'll leave you alone but if he gets hurt, I won't back down."

Chapter Text

Aaron-December 15th 2014.

Robert and I have been spending a lot of time together since our first kiss. No one knows about us, we both agreed it'd just be much simpler if we were together in secret until we knew where we were going. Although I'm the one who came up with the idea, but I also know that everyone still see's him as a womanizer and he should be the one to tell people about his sexuality before being in a serious relationship. There are some days when it's really easy, I'll just tell mum I have a mate that wants to meet up and she'll watch her. Then I have those days that I really want to be with Ali, but Robert as well. I've just avoided having her over because if we're not gonna go anywhere with this relationship, I don't want her in the middle of it. She may be a baby, but she gets attached to people so quickly.

It's been complicated, but we've made it work. And are going to continue to, because it seems as though we're both happy. I mean I know I am.
My best mate Adam Barton gets out of prison tomorrow, so I've decided to spend the day with Robert today. Actually it's more of just the afternoon, because I had work and gotta get home to Ali before it's really late. Vic would watch her, but she and Adam had a messy break-up, and she's not taking him getting out of prison so well. I don't wanna give her more stress.
-

Robert and I are lying on the bed watching tell when he asks, "So this Adam guy, when do I get to meet him?"
"Didn't think you'd care."
He moves his head off my chest and looks up at me, "Of course I care. I mean he's important to you."
I can't help but be surprised at these words. Of course Robert and I are happy together, but I there wasn't a part of me before today that believed he'd care to meet those who are important to me. I intertwine our fingers and look him in the eyes, "Tell me when you want to. You can meet him."
Robert nods his head, and kisses me gently before we both turn back to the TV.
--
When the movie finishes, I realize the time and have to get back to the pub.
"I hate that you have to leave so soon." It's cute when he whines like this.
"Me too, but I have to go." I kiss him on the forehead, and begin to walk away from the bed when his hands pulls me back.
"What if you didn't have to leave just for Ali?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what if we spent some time with her as well."
"I thought we agreed to take things slow with her."
"Yeah if we're together privately, but what if we're you know together properly." I'm having a hard time believing what is being said.
I'm happy about all of this, but it just' doesn't seem right. We have fun together, and I like him. I really like him, but this is the last thing I thought I was going to hear.
"Do you really wanna do that?" I ask.
"You don't want to." I can see disappointment in his eyes, and quickly respond,
"No, of course I do. I just didn't think you'd be ready to, so soon."
"I am."
I lean over and give him another kiss, "Okay."
"Okay."

Aaron-December 16th 2014.

"Vic, are you sure about this?"
"I love Ali, you know that."
"Yes. But watching her today is more of a favor for Adam than Ali."
"I'm not doing him any favors. This is so she doesn't need to be stuck in a car with you two muppets."
I give her a wary smile, still not so sure if she's okay and hand her Ali. Before heading out the door with Moira, I give both Vic and Ali a kiss on cheeks. With a quick "I love you."

--
Adam and Cain don't get on, well they didn't so Moira asked me to tag along with her to pick up Adam. Of course I was all for it, Cain however was not. He wanted to come, although he isn't exactly Adam's biggest fan, he loves Moira and wants to be there for her. But I'm not complaining, I don't think I've ever just sat down with her and had a conversation. At least not in a long time, and it's fun to be able to do that. We're joking around bout' how Vic and Cain are probably talking to each other and complaining about Adam. Also trying to make guesses about how Adam even survived a couple months in prison. He's a great bloke, but he ain't the toughest.

I never really noticed before how Cain fell in love with Moira. I mean she's always been a nice woman, but I didn't really understand before being alone with her for a while how it happened. Cain's a hard man to impress, but I now see how she did it.
They're a lot alike in ways. Of course Moira will always be a better person. But both love their children with all their hearts, when you talk to them, you really talk. And sometimes through this crazy thing we call life, they both know when exactly the right time to have fun is.

"So how have things been with you lately?" Moira asks me, breaking the silence that fell over us a few minutes ago.
"They've been good." I respond, trying to hide my smile at the immediate thought of Robert.
"Your mum says you've been spending a lot of time away from home." I know exactly where she's going with this. Moira can be blunt, but sometimes she's subtle and just drops things into a conversation before you break.
"Uh yeah. Some work, spending some time with mates. Stuff like that."
"You know, everyone round' the village has been waiting for you to meet a new bloke since coming back."
"Yeah. I've heard."
"Have you?"
"Yes. I just I've heard about the things they've been saying."
"No. I mean have you met a bloke?"
There's not much I can say. I mean Robert and I agreed to go public, but we also agreed to give it a few days. Some time to come up with a story, or something. But I feel like if anyone can be told and they'll keep it a secret for as long as possible. It's Moira.
I"m very hesitant for a minute or two, I don't know if I really want to. Well that's not true, of course I do. All I want is for everyone to know about me and Robert. But today is supposed to be about Adam. After she looks over and smiles at me, I figure she already has a pretty good guess that I've met someone.
"I uh-yeah."
"Anyone I know?"
"Actually we've agreed to keep it private, so I can't exactly say."
"Why would you wanna do that?" She asks me.
I knew I shouldn't have said yes, because this is going to turn into a full blown conversation, that I'm probably going to regret having.
"I've got Ali, don't want him getting attached. We wanna erm-see where things are going first."
"That makes sense." This time she doesn't push, and just smiles. I guess Moira's catching on to the fact that this is a conversation I don't wanna have. That or she doesn't wanna keep anything from Cain. Their start was dramatic and some would call them toxic, but they are the most honest and loving couple I know.

-
About ten minutes after silence once again lingered over us, we are pulling into the prison park lot. Adam is standing at the door, with two guards on either side of him. For someone getting out of prison, he looks more than excited. I mean I've had my trouble with the law myself and loved getting free, but I still had that look on my face that showed I hated being in a jail cell. However Adam just looks incredibly happy.
Although that is why he's my best mate. He's been through more hard times than most, and he still manages to put a smile on my face whenever he's around.
"Mate!" He yells, coming closer to me with his arms wide open.
"I'm only your mum." Moira snarls, being completely ignored by Adam.
I rip him off me, and tug him towards his mother.
"Okay. Can we get outta here? I think I've spent enough time in this area." Adam complains.
"When we leave here, it better damn well be the last time we're ever up here."
When Moira gets like this-all mothery- it's a scary thing. I try my best not to react, where Adam enjoys winding her up. I tell him stop, but he thinks it's funny. However Moira and me mum are a lot alike when it comes to parenting. Just like with Cain, when they get their parenting side out, it's something you don't mess with. I'd bet money if Adam ended up doing some more dodgy shit Moira'd flip the switch and go into full crazy mode.
I never understood how me mum and Cain were like this before. But after having Ali, I get it. I'm protective of her, and wouldn't leave her alone with a person that I had the slightest doubt about. Even if I did know them. When you have a child, everything inside you changes and it's scary.

--

We arrive up at the pub and as jokingly suspected Cain is sitting at the bar, with Victoria behind it. Moira and I give each other a half smile when coming in to witness this.
"Is this little Alijah?" Adam asks, as he looks over to Victoria and Ali in her arms.
She's looks to be in a playful jumpy mood, and either Adam finds it adorable or he's making it obvious he still has feelings for Victoria. Cause as we go up to order pints from my mum, he can't keep his eyes away from them.
"Can I hold her?" He asks Victoria.
She looks at me and I respond, "You are not allowed to hold my baby. Victoria don't let him."
Adam knows I'm not joking.
The last time he held her was before he landed in prison. We were sitting watching some old re-run on the telly, and I asked him to hold her for me while I went to make her bottle. I keep a close eye on them, because at that point she was still so little. Only about three and a half months. When I looked away for not even a minute, I turn back around to see her lying beside him half way off the couch.
"Come on mate you can trust me."
"Adam." I growl.
He smirks to himself, before looking back down to his pint then over to the dart board. He looks back over to me, and shakes his head pointing towards it. I nod my head in agreement, and he goes over to get the darts.
"I'm right there if you need me okay Vic?"
"I think I can handle your child by now Aaron."
I smile to her and mouth thank you, before joining Adam.

--

We have been playing darts for an hour when I notice Robert's walked in. We smile to each other, before he starts a conversation with Victoria and I resume to playing darts with Adam.
I can't make out what either of them are saying, but from the corner of my eye I can see him playing with Ali.

Robert-December 16th 2014.

I just entered the bar when I see Aaron with a shorter bloke who I assume is Adam. When I came him we smiled to each other, and then I began talking to Vic and he went to playing darts.
This was about five minutes ago, I've been playing with Alijah a bit, and also holding a conversation with Vic about how she's catering Andy and Katie's wedding. But whenever I can, I sneak a look over to Aaron who I've never seen so happy. I'd heard stories about him and Adam, but never knew they were as close as they seem.
"Rob are you even listening?" Victoria shakes on my arm.
"What yeah-yeah."
I can feel Moira and Cain looking at Vic and I, so I ask "Can I help you?"
Cain seems oblivious to why I'm asking, however Moira just looks back to Chas and asks for another glass of wine.
"I've gotta change Ali, come with?" Vic suggests.
'Yeah cause I wanna spend my time with you changing a baby?" I snarl.
I can't believe I actually jealous. What the hell is wrong with me? I mean Adam's straight, he's completely straight. Why should I be jealous over Aaron and him getting along? Aaron and I are together, we're happy. So why am I stupidly letting his friendship with Adam bother me?
"Robert!" Vic snaps me out of my thoughts.
"Fine."
I follow her into the back room, but before being out of sight Aaron and I share another smile to each other.

~
"Vic usually when Aaron's back at the pub, even if you are with Ali. You're also talking to him, why aren't you tonight?" I ask out of curiosity due to Vic's change in attitude tonight. Even if she's happy about catering the wedding, she's not her normal bubbly self.
"Just Adam."
"What about Adam?"
"We kind of dated for a bit, I mean it was complicated. Messy."
I can't help but surprised at this. Of all the times Aaron and I talked, and there were mentions of Adam. He never thought to say that he had a relationship with my sister.
"Did you love him?" I don't realize until after that I've asked the question, "Sorry. Sorry."
"No it's fine. Ya know, I think I did. But it's over."
After Vic's finished changing Ali, I give her a warm hug.
I could tell when we were talking that a part of her still loves Adam, that is clear.
But I also know how strong she is. Her pride sometimes lays stronger than her feelings. Depending on how badly things ended, or whatever happened. He'd have to work really hard to get her back, and she'd never really show it to anyone that him being around bothers her.

-
We got back into the front and Aaron and Adam are now sitting at the bar. I nod my head to Aaron, pointing towards the back room. Giving Vic a kiss on the cheek, I tell her I'll be back out in a few minutes.
I'm waiting in the back room for no longer than a couple seconds when Aaron comes in.
"You and Adam are pretty close, eh?"
"Not jealous are ya?"
"No. Cause I've got you, right?"
"Mhmm." He mumbles.
We walk closer to each other, until our bodies are once again together. His arm wrapped around my waist, and I'm cupping his face. I pull him in for a kiss, and he reacts exactly how I wanted him to. Kissing me back. Deep, strong and needy. We're both moaning as our lips collide, and pull away when we hear the door open.
"She's crying. I don't know what to do. Usually I can make her stop." Vic is almost in tears.
I've seen Aaron with Alijah, he's a great father but can rarely get her to stop crying. I go past him and take her from Vic. As she rests in my arms after a couple seconds she begins to quiet down.
Both Victoria and Aaron are looking at me in surprise.
As her eyes close someone else comes in through the door. Adam.
"You made her stop crying, magic touch I guess." He jokes. "Adam. I take it you're Robert Sugden." He says, reaching his hand out.
I carefully take one of my hands out from under Ali, and shake his. "In the flesh."

Chapter Text

Robert-December 25th 2014.

Aaron and I still haven't told anyone about us being together. We've decided to wait until after Katie and Andy's wedding, give them the spotlight. Which thankfully thankfully is today.

Although it was partly my idea in the first place, I hate seeing Aaron secretly. It just makes things much harder than they need to be. Not to mention that I wanna be able to kiss him every time I see him. He promised we'd get a bit of alone time together before I had to step us as the best man. We agreed to meet at the garage, which is where I'm heading right now.
When I arrive I'm disappointed to see Moira there.
"Rob, I think we should talk later." Aaron says, as he and Moira notice my presence.
"No, no I wanna talk to both of you." Moira says, grabbing my arm to stop me from leaving.
I look around to see no other vehicles but old cars that need fixing, and it doesn't look like Moira has Cain or Adam with her.
I don't know what's going on, I imagine it has to do with the look that Moira was giving me a few days ago. Did she see Claudia on the news as well? I'm about to panic, before I think about the fact that she wants to talk to both Aaron and myself. I wonder if she knows that we're seeing each other. Although I don't quite understand how she could. We've done good at covering up, we've been careful. And it's not like we're being selfish keeping it private. So why would she be so serious about this? But then again I could just be paranoid, and she might want help on the farm or something. Oh who am I kidding, the look on her face says it all.
"I won't tell anyone, but I need to know. Is he the bloke you've been seeing?" Moira asks Aaron, pointing to me. How did she know he was seeing anyone? My bets are placed on when they went to get Adam.
"Yes." I answer, seeing the hesitation on Aaron's face. Moira looks a little surprised, but hasn't flipped her shit yet. Taking it better than either of us imagined she would.
"Moira we were going to tell everyone just waiting until after the wedding." Aaron tries to explain.
She looks back and forth at the two of us for a couple minutes before letting a smile creep on her face and say, "It's hard to keep a secret in this village. You two are miracle workers for doing so." She begins to walk away, and turns around adding, "Come on, don't wanna be late for the wedding."

---

At the wedding I'm at the front standing along side Andy, waiting for the brides maids to start coming down the aisle. Aaron and I steal a few small glances, with Moira giving us a smile from the other side of the church. Aaron's in the front row, so when I get bored at anytime I can just look to him and I'll manage to keep a smile on my face.

Katie has just walked down the aisle. Her and I may never be on good terms again, but I will say she looks absolutely beautiful.
I have never seen her or Andy so happy. Both much happier than they were the first time they got married. I cause it's because they were young. But now have both been with other people, and found their way back to each other.
Everything is going smoothly which is a surprise for an Emmerdale wedding.
I'd have bet money before that something was gonna go wrong. In this village it's almost impossible to have a moment of happiness, let a lone at a wedding.
Not that I'm complaining, despite my best efforts in the past to ruin Andy, I'm genuinely happy he's finally happy and that there isn't anything standing in the way.
Just as Andy is about to say his vows, someone comes crashing through the door.
I knew it was too good to be true, a good day in this village-I was fooling myself to believe it'd last.
At first I don't have much of a reaction, until I realize who just came in and one man says,
"Robert Sudden?"
"You've got to be kidding me, he's seriously gonna ruin this day for us." Katie snarls to Andy who looks confused.
I look down to Aaron who has Ali in his arms, and doesn't bother to make eye contact with me.
"Mr.Sugden you have to come with us." Another man says.
Avoiding any further embarrassment, or harassment from Katie I listen to the man. Following him and the other man with him outside.
--

Before I am even given the chance to ask what is happening, Andy does it for me. He comes storming out of the church and looks to one of the men,
"What is going on? What's he supposedly done?"
"I'm sorry, we can not answer that to anyone but Mr.Sugden and his solicitor. This is confidential."
"Confidential? You've just arrested him in front of an entire wedding party." Andy snaps, raising his hand in direction of the church.
"And we apologize for interrupting, we need to go now."
They push my head down to get me into the backseat of a car. Leaving Andy and myself with no answers.
---
We drove for what felt like about two hours, when coming to a park I notice we're at a very familiar building. I've only ever been here once before, but in the business I left behind we talked about it many times. It felt like I lived here sometimes. This was the center of everything. The one place we needed to examine constantly, but also the one place we needed to avoid at any and all costs.
I exit the car to see my old partner, not Claudia-but the one she threw under the bus to save her own skin. He was 'caught' by the FBI, which lead to some of the leaders bringing him here.
It's like a prison. When you're part of the job I was !)and you get caught, if you're lucky the FBI get to you first. This is somewhere that no one ever wants to be. A hell where every guard learns all your fears, and uses them against you. I'd like to say there's an end where you can be released, but from what studies show no one has ever lived to get out.
I don't know why I'm here, the FBI are looking for Claudia-not me.
"What am I doing here?"
"See Mr.Sugden, we have from good authority that you have threatened one of our employees."
"Good authority? You mean Claudia, god she's a bitch." I snap.
After these words, one of the men hit me in the gut.
"Better watch how you talk about the people here who have our respect."
"Respect?" I scoff.
"Yes. Claudia has been an employee here for many years, given up her entire life. Loyal, and grounded. The best we have besides boss."
I want to argue. But I know they're right. I don't like Claudia, however it doesn't mean she didn't know how to get the job done. She was dedicated, some even thought this job was in her blood. I guess despite being a raging bitch, she deserved the respect she has on this job.
"I didn't mean it." I'm scared. These people they can destroy you and those you love.
"But you still said it." I hear from a female voice that is in a close range but behind me. It clicks-Scar, Claudia's mother. I thought Claudia was someone to fear, she still is, but the day I met her mum was the day I learned Claudia had competition.
"What are you gonna do? Lock me up forever? You seem to forget, you just grabbed me in front of an entire church."
"See most people would be put away. But everyone knows how much you hate the job." Scar smiles.
"You can't make me work for you again."
"But we can, so you're going to go back to your home. Tell that boyfriend of yours that you can't see him anymore, and then come back here." Its like Scar is getting off on this, and all I wanna do is knock her one.
"And if I don't?" I ask.
"Then that precious baby-Alijah is it? Will be the one to suffer."
I knew long ago these people were sadistic, but to threaten a child. I feel disgusted.
"And don't go telling the boyfriend about this. End things and leave. Or you'll regret it."

**
The last thing I wanna do is leave Aaron. But I know not to mess with these people. I had been delusional to think I'd be able to move, and move on.
I know what I have to do, even if it breaks my heart.

Chapter Text

Aaron-May 12th 2015.

Today is Alijah's 1st birthday, and Victoria has been waiting for this day. Almost if not for excited than mum. I guess ever since Robert up and left again she's needed a distraction. She's been planning this for months. Vic lies and says it's because the first birthday is always the most important. And although that is kind of true, I can tell there's more behind it. Victoria took it harder than anyone when he left. But enough of me thinking about Robert.
*
Ali's birthday-mum has been waiting for this day. The last week she's been on the tip of her toes about how she can't wait to give Alijah her present. Debbie has also done a bitch of bragging about her gift. And although Cain will never say it, Moira teased me the either day about the sweet gift Cain picked out.
I know Alijah deserves presents, but at the end of the day I'm genuinely happy to just have my family here with me. It sounds cheesy, but I don't think I'd be here if it wasn't for them. All the help from Vic and me mum with Ali. And Moira has been around to check on me a couple times.

The party is in about an hour, and I still need to shower lousy get Alijah dressed up. It's still hard, even as she grows and with the help of loved ones. Parenting is hard, it's been a real struggle and I' try my best. Which isn't always great. I know Vic is setting up the party, and has roped mum and Katie into helping with that. So I'm on my own today, I don't really need the shower. And i just want some more time alone with Ali. She's been my sanity for a while now, and even more than before time alone with her is important to me.
I go up to the bedroom, and see she's standing in the crib. A smile that covers her entire face, and she's in her cute pj's mum got her for Christmas.
"Is today your birthday princess?" I smile, and pick her up. She grabs onto my hair and starts playing around with it, doing something that resembles a giggle.
She started taking a couple months back, not full words but little things. The usual 'da-da', and stuff like that. So when I ask her questions, she can respond vaguely.
"Ya." Some how her smile manages to get bigger when she says it.

**
After I finish changing Ali, we have about 40 minutes to get to the party. When Robert left, he still owned Home Farm and told me I could have it with his payment. I never told anyone why, I just chose to lie and say I bought it off him. Everybody asked where I got the money from, and I said I'd saved it up in France. I still live with mum at the pub, I cant imagine staying in the house with the memories. But it does make for a good party place. One Vic was more than happy to host at.
I put Alijah into her play pen, and search for some half decent clothes. Which end up being my usually black jeans, black t-shirt and black hoodie.
Ali may only one, but she gives me that look whenever I wear the usual clothes. Like baby-sass, and every time someone witnesses it they feel the need to comment on how clear it is that she's mine.
---
We arrive at the party and everyone's dressed up. Although I chose the usual, I mad sure Alijah had a cute little dress. Mum and Vic would have my head in if I didn't dress her up.
"Love!" Mum yells.
"Hi mum."
"Oh sweetheart I was talking about Ali." She laughs, taking Ali from my arms. Both of them have wide smiles.
"Well come on then." She tells me, as I just stand watching her go inside.
Before I go in, Cain passes me and Moira stops me.
"You okay?"
"Moira for the thousandth time, yes."
Its clear on her face that she doesn't believe me, but I am. Well-no I really am.
Moira nods her head and goes off inside. I've only been here twice since Robert left. Well only been here with others, but there's the odd time when I come alone and just enjoy the peace. Because nobody else knows about us besides Moira, it's hard to keep up an appearance around anything that reminds me of Robert. However I've gotten really good at it.

I go inside and see everyone. Katie, Andy, mum, Cain, Jack, Sarah, Debbie, Pete, Victoria, Zack, Lisa, Belle, Marlon, April, Finn, Moira, Adam, Paddy, Rhona and little Leo. Say what you want about the Dingle's but they care about family and friends. When it comes down to it, something as small as a birthday party can be meaningful.
I'm happy with this, I thought I'd hate it. That it'd be too much, but here right now, I'm happy with how it's turned out.
Adam and Vic got back together after she was having difficulties with Robert leaving, which means he ends up getting roped into helping all the time. It's actually quite funny, and he also ended up having to help today. But much to his delight I was able to say him a couple times. Him and I at parties always was a sight to see. After about two hours, we're all about to sit and open gifts when I hear the door. At first I thought it was Diane, but then I remember her and Doug aren't set to be back for a week. I open the door and see a face I haven't for months-it's Claudia.
"Who is it love?" I hear mum scream from the living room.
"No one, I'll be back in a few minutes." I answer, shoving Claudia backwards and closing the door from behind me.

-
"What the hell do you want?" I snarl.
"It's about your boyfriend."
"Don't have one." I snaps, knowing full well who she is referring to but not wanting to talk about him.
"Well you know who I'm talking about."
"And you probably know I don't give a shit. And have a party to get back to."
I don't let her respond, and just go back inside.
**
I sit beside Alijah who's gonna need help opening her presents. Mum looks at me, but I nod my head to tell her all is okay.
I can feel Moira eyeing me, and I guess she doesn't believe I'm fine. Not that I'm doing a good job at lying right now, the last thing I wanna focus on today is Robert flaming Sugden, but of course something or in this case someone, had to make it impossible for me to catch a break.

About an hour after opening gifts I'm playing with Leo and Alijah when I hear my phone ring. The number is private, but out of a stupid curiosity I answer it.
"Hello?"
"Meet me out back."
I may not know the number, but I can tell from the voice exactly who it is.
"How did you get this number?"
"I said meet me out back!"
I hang up the phone and debate for a couple seconds, but end up deciding to go out back.
"Adam can you watch these two for a minute?"
He nods his head and comes over, which is all the answer I need.
-
"I already told you I don't care." I say, as I push Claudia away from the house.
"You wouldn't be out here if you didn't."
"I'm out here to tell you to go away."
"Cut the act, you're not fooling me. Usually I don't do this, but it's important."
"What could be so important. He has been gone for five months."
"He? You guys are so much alike. Can't even say each other's names." I know why I can't say his name a loud, but there is no way he feels the same way.
I think Claudia can tell I'm confused, because she adds, "We mention you once in awhile, but he can't say your name."
"So he's working for you again? I thought that was supposed to be confidential information."
"Like I said, I don't usually do this."
"Just tell me what's going on!" I say a little louder than I should, with a house full of people up the drive way from us.
"I can't tell you exactly what is. But I need your help."
"Seriously?" I scoff. "You won't tell me why, but you need my help."
"Like you said, things are confidential. But this-this I need help on and I can only get yours."
"You may not know this, but I have a daughter. There is no way in hell I am going to be a part of your so called business, and help you. I have her to think about." I growl, once again storming off and heading back into the house.
--
"Everything alright?" Moira asks me, as I'm barely getting in the door.
"Yeah." I lie, walking past her over to Adam and the kids.

--
The party went on until half past six, and then people started to clear out. By the end it was just Vic and Adam, Victoria had offered to stay and clean but I told her to take off. She said if I was cleaning I'd need to be able to relax, so she insisted on taking Alijah with her and Adam back to Keeper's Cottage. That I was okay with.
When they leave I put off cleaning and go upstairs. I don't do this often, only when a memory of Robert and I comes flooding back. Claudia mentioning him did just the thing.
I am upstairs, and walk into the bedroom. The bedroom we spent most of our day in. I take a seat on the bed and I remember asking him about what he did while he was a part of the 'job.' He was always very vague, but seemed honest.
Letting myself show the rare hurt of Robert leaving, I lay back on the bed and stare at the ceiling. I feel like I'm holding onto these memories, hoping and praying that one day we could be happy as we planned we would be.
These memories are a false sense of security, but I can't let them go.

Chapter Text

Robert-May 10th 2015

I left the village with no choice five months ago. Since then I've fallen back into the routine of my life I had before returning to Emmerdale. As much as I hate to admit it, going back into that rhythm was not hard. It's something I'm very familiar with, although I would much rather been with my family and Aaron this is my life. There have been obstacles and situations that I sat out of in case I was ever able to leave again. But in general, I've been put onto most cases. Scar and Claudia have kept me on a tight leash, and I was also put under even more security than before.

The most recent case I've been assigned to we are taking action on today. I have to go undercover with another worker to a big agency. Our job is to get a place in the training, with fake I.D. and fake resumes. We need to get onto the computers so we can transfer money from their accounts over to the ones our business has created. This is something we've done a million times before, however this agency is one of the biggest we've ever dealt with. It could make or break a life, with agencies as big as this one it's important to stay calm under any circumstances. With Claudia on the FBI's most wanted list, assignments she'd usually take on have been handed over to me. I don't know if it's because they think I'm qualified, or know I hate the bigger jobs. I tried to get out of this one due to the risk that comes with it, but the boss has made it clear what I need to do.
--

"You heard what the boss said Robert, this needs to be done." Claudia tells me for what feels like the thousandth time.
"I know, but this could cost me my life."
"That's the risk with this job, however the money you get if this turns out well is worth it. Maybe one day you can go back to that boyfriend of yours." She teases, Claudia knows more than anyone how much I hate talking about Aaron. The fact that she'd even bring him up pisses me off.
"You know I can never go back to him. Just give me the password, so I can get this over with." I demand, pulling the sheet with codes on it from her hand. I'd argue with her more about not wanting to do this, but I know I have to.
--
I meet up with Angus outside of Kinney Enterprises to go over final details of the assignment.

"Sugden, you can't mess this one up."
"As I've heard, it's you who has fallen through in the past. I'd mark myself as the more reliable one." I snap back at Angus for his unneeded comment.
"Whatever, just make sure you get this right."

On paper Kinney Enterprises sounds like a world topping company, one that can't be beat and is bigger and better than most. Which is true, this agency is successful in almost every way possible. However when you take a look at the building, outside and inside-it's like any other agency. I understand what getting this money means for our business, but I don't understand why we need so much after already taking more than any person could ever need. I'm also genuinely surprised only a few people have been caught. No matter how careful and planned out everyone is, you'd think the amount of money that's been stolen and played with would have caused a stir.
Inside I go up to the 6th floor where the interview for training is, and make sure I have the codes I need to transfer the money.
"Mr.Rodney?" I hear an older female ask.
We did our research and she is one of the most respected secretaries in this company. Rodney is the fake last name I used-I raise my hand to show my presence and she asks me to follow her into the big office.

In the big office room there is a man sitting behind the desk, his back facing the door. When he turns out I see that it is the CEO.
"Mr.Rodney." He states, throwing a file onto his desk. "Alicia, I have it from here. Thank you."
He points at a chair and nods his head for me to sit. I take the seat and wait for him to begin speaking. "You're resume says you have experience with this kinda thing."
"Yes, I-uh grew up in a family that was full of agents and publicists. You could say it's in the blood." I lie.
"Well we'll see how you do in training. If everything goes well, you may find yourself with a very good job."
I smile when Alicia comes back in.
I was never a 'people person' growing up, but with this job a lot of lying and faking comes into place. Pretending to be comfortable and secure around people is one of the things I have to do all the time. It hasn't been easy, but if I mess up it's more than a job I'm out of. The good thing about only being a part of training, is once I get on the computer and transfer money I can easily pretend to be terrible at managing accounts and not have to explain why I can't take the job.

The problem about training is I'm surrounded by people, so transferring money like this is a longer process if I don't want to get caught. It's all very complicated and time-consuming, but to some, and myself at one point, the money is worth it. Claudia and Scar said the boss wanted me to get as much money as I possibly can, when I sign in there is a balance of $695,000. I transfer $347,500, which is half. Obviously they're going to be able to tell money has been taken, but this way they're not completely bankrupt. God knows how much Angus is managing to transfer. The hardest part about all of this is not leaving a paper trail. Though if detectives were to do their re-search they couldn't find the account we're moving the money to, it's still possible something could be found during the process. I've gotten good at this over the years, and I'm extremely careful, but there's always a 'what-if?'

When times up I simply smile to Alicia and a few other girls who are working, before heading off. Outside I meet up with Angus, and tell him everything went as planned. He informs me the same on his end, and we take our separate rides back to the office that Claudia and Scar are waiting at.
Today it will not just be them there, due to the amount of money they've brought in some workers that usually stay secret. We are supposed to be going over who gets how much of the cut, but all I can think about while driving back is how I can get out of this.
It's the same thing I think about at nearly every moment of the day and night. Whether I'm in a meeting with Claudia and other partners, or out for a drink. Sitting at home watching TV, or with a group of 'friends,' for lunch. It's all that goes through my mind.

Of course Aaron does as well. He's actually the main reason I wanna get out. Yes, I wanted out before we met, but since I first lied eyes on him something changed. I was no longer trying to get out of this job, this life for myself. I was no longer trying to make amends with Katie and Andy and whoever else in the village for myself. When I met Aaron, nearly everything I did was because I wanted him to look at me and see someone that was worth being with. Aaron became my only thought, my only reason to do anything. It was him who kept me going. Of course I wasn't in the worst place ever, but after leaving this job I knew my life would not be easy to re-start. But I gave it a chance, I began to start my life over for Aaron. Until I went and screwed it up. That will be something I will regret forever, and there are many questionable things I've done, but letting go of Aaron so easily has to be the one even I don't have the answers to.
I could always say it was because they threatened Alijah, but in the all of it. There was more to it, more that I can't explain.

I arrive at the building and Claudia is waiting outside. "You did good Sugden." She tells me, handing me a file.
"What's this?"
"Your next case. A solo one."
I look at her puzzled and disappointed. We made an agreement a few months back that no matter what I would never work a case alone.
"Have you forgotten-" I begin before being cut off.
"No, but this is something only you can do." She admits, before adding "Now get prepared to talk numbers, cause you're getting a high cut for today's job."

Inside we talk for a good twenty minutes before Angus is called off on something else.
The two older men that Claudia and Scar brought along with them stay longer to discuss my next case. I try to talk my way out of doing it, but one of them mentions it can only be me-exact words Claudia used. I'm tempted to ask why, but I know the answer will be something I don't want to hear. We discuss some of the important details, time, people to interact with-the usual. But something is different, they don't mention where or the costs.
"So where do I have to go? Another big company in the city?"
I see the look in Claudia's eyes and can tell something is wrong. I look over to Scar who is supporting her poker face, and because I don't know the two men very well it's not easy to tell what they're thinking. My eyes' go back to Claudia, and I repeat, "Where do I have to go?"
The two men and Scar get up from their seats and leave out the back door. Claudia sits with her head facing down, and only looks up when I slam my hand on the table. "Claudia?"
"Robert this case has nothing to do with money." Claudia speaks.
I'm surprised at what she has to say. Everything this business is about, revolves around money. So I don't understand what exactly it is, that only I could work on that has nothing to do with money. I let the silence linger over us for a few moments longer, trying to figure out what it is they want. But I continue to draw blanks, for the first time since beginning to work here, I genuinely have no idea what to do.
I break the silence and ask another question, "Then tell me what it is."
Claudia looks down at her hands that are held together, and then looks up at me and confesses, "You have to go back to Emmerdale."

Chapter Text

Aaron-May 13th 2015.

I see them standing alone in the corner of the pub, mum and Katie. They're talking about something that seems intense, I can't make out what's being said but they're facial expressions say it all. Katie looks angry, as does mum. However mum looks much more calm about it, she seems to be the one holding it together while Katie looks as though she's about to freak out.
They've been having these kind of conversations frequently since Robert left. Despite marrying Andy anyway, she's still pissed about him being the reason their wedding day was ruined. My mum has her side no matter what, and it's no secret the Dingle's aren't huge fans of Robert already.
Just as I'm about to turn away and go into the back room, someone comes through the front door. It's Claudia. The expression of Katie's face changes, almost like she knows her or something. Mum is clearly drawing a blank, and they quickly go back to their conversation. Claudia's eyes meet mine, and she mouths, 'come outside,' nodding her head towards the door.
Outside she is alone, and looks afraid. Something I've never seen on her before, and something I never imagined I would.
"You're getting sloppy, just showing up in public."
"Have you thought about it?" She asks, not making the slightest reaction to what I said.
"There was nothing to think about."
"Listen to me, I'm sorry I can't give you more information. But Robert needs your help."
"He needs my help? No! He left, I don't owe him anything." I snap.
Claudia flinches, before returning to her strong and solid posture, she looks at me and says, "He needs you."
I scoff at this, it's like a pathetic line from a movie. This entire thing is like a movie, and it's a pointless waste of time. Robert left my life five months ago, and I'd be tapped to let him back in it. I don't want him in my life, all I want is for everything to go back to the way it was before we met. Before he became a part of my life, that I knew I'd regret. I want to have a life with my daughter, and friends and family. Absolutely nothing involving Robert flaming Sugden.
"Aaron this is important."
"Considering you can't even tell me what this is, I don't think it's that important." I growl, once again walking away from her, and her bullshit.

--

Mum had made plans to take Alijah out with Debbie and the kids today, as far as they all know I'm in Hotten job searching.
What no one knows is after mum left with Alijah, I decided on going back to Home Farm.
I drove slower than usual, I guess because I'm scared of being there alone again.
When I arrive everything seems to be exactly how it normally is. At first glance you wouldn't notice that it's any different from last night. Only something is. I get upstairs, and in the master bedroom there he is is-Robert.
At first the only feeling I have is complete shock. But as I stand here looking at him, I begin to feel confused. This is the first time I've seen his face since he left, I couldn't even look at pictures. It was just too much, but now here he is, and I can't escape it. Because this is actually happening.
When Robert notices I'm there, he gets off the bed and looks at me deeply. Our eyes meets for a quick second, before I pull away. Just seeing him is too much, no way can I look at him.
Silence lingures over us until Robert breaks it, "I'm sorry. I didn't know anyone was gonna come here."
"What are you doing here?" I ask him.
He takes a deep breath, and walks one step closer to me, "I come up here once and a while."
"You're kidding? You come to the village then?"
"Look I needed to get away."
"Yeah you told me when you left." I snarl at him, finding it hard to hide the pain in my voice.
"What is it?" I ask, breaking the silence that fell upon us after my last comment.
"Hmm?"
"Claudia came to me saying you needed help that only I could give."
It's not hard to tell Robert has no idea what I'm talking about.
I can't deal with being around him any longer, so without another word I walk away. He tries to stop me, asking me to please stay-but I can't. I continue walking until I'm at my car, I get inside and drive off. At this point, only god knows where I'm gonna end up.

--
I drive into the night thinking about nothing but Robert. How even after these past five months, despite how much I want to hate him-I can't. All it took was one look at him and I end up back in that place. My heart skipping a beat, not being able to think straight, wanting nothing more than to just be with him. Some if not most would believe that him walking away and leaving without any real explanation would be reason enough to never let myself back there. But I can't help it. I've tried to fight it, so hard over and over again. But those feelings, they're there and won't go away. Another thing I want to hate him for is the fact that he said he comes to Home Farm every once in a while. I don't get how that's fair to anyone. I try to imagine what would have happened if Victoria had showed up, but my mind keeps going back to how much it for me to see him. As selfish as it is, part of me wishes it was Vic who caught him. I want to hate him for coming around and never making contact, but I can't. Just something about it seems meaningful-yes that's cheesy but it says something about who he is. I continue driving until I'm on a street with no traffic, and pull onto a lay by. I pull out my phone and go into call history looking for the number Claudia used to contact me yesterday. When I find it, I sit and stare at it for a few moments debating on whether or not this is the right thing to do. But before I've even realized it, I'm clicked call and the phone is dialing.

"Hello?" I hear from the other end of the line.
"Claudia?"
"Aaron. Changed your mind have you?"
"I will help under one condition, you tell me what's going on." After seeing Robert I know I need to help, but I refuse to do so if it means I could get in trouble or lose Alijah.
"He told me he saw you. You're in that place again aren't you?"
"What place would that be?"
"Aaron it's not hard to tell that he loves you. I mean he won't say it, and you probably won't admit it, but you love him too."
As much as I wanna deny everything she is saying, I don't know if I can and make it the absolute truth. The time Robert and I spent together, I began to feel something I had never felt before. But I know for a fact that I can't let him or anyone else know that I'm in that place. And how Claudia was able to figure it out is beyond me. But I will do whatever it takes to keep my walls up.
"Now, what's going on?" I ask, tearing away from the conversation about my feelings for Robert.

Aaron-May 14th 2015.

After finishing my conversation with Claudia last night, I returned back to the pub. Mum had just put Alijah down to bed, and was closing The Woolpack early.
I had given my mum a hug and kiss, and headed up to bed. I didn't want to be up any more, and after what Claudia told me I just needed to relax.

--

Alijah didn't end up waking me at all, for the first time in a while it is my alarm. When I wake she is still sleeping peacefully. I take advantage of this time, and go have a shower.
Of course my free time can't last long, because as soon as I enter my room Ali's standing up in her crib jumping around. I quickly get changed and pick her up outta bed. We head downstairs where mum, Katie and Andy are all seated at the kitchen table. Once again looking serious and stressed out. Today I actually take the next step and ask what's going on.
"Nothing love." Mum answers, but the look on all their faces says other wise.
"I'm not stupid mum."
"Robert. Apparently someone saw him near the village yesterday." Katie says, anger clear in her voice.
"Oh." Is all I can manage to get out. From what Claudia said last night, I know he has to return to the village. However I thought it'd be much more low-key.
I can see that Katie is fuming and the last thing she wants is for Robert to return, but Andy is much more closed off. He's always been able to bare his heart and soul out, but today he is like a stone wall.
I can't even begin to imagine what's going on in his head right now.

"Alijah and I are going out with Vic and Adam today." I say, breaking the awkward silence.
"Don't say anything to Vic yet, not until we're sure." Andy finally speaks.
I nod my head and give a half smile, before heading out to the car.

--

"What's going on with Vic today?" I ask Adam, seeing as she isn't her normal self.
"She'll never admit it, but I think being with so much family the other day made her miss Robert more."

This all hurts so much, I'm lying to my mum, my friends and other people who are affected my Robert and his very stupid decisions. I know more than any of them could ever imagine, but I have to keep it all to myself. It kills me seeing Victoria so upset with Robert leaving, even after five months she's still hurt by it. Katie and Andy are just angry, and I wish I could tell them what I know. Tell them why he left, though I am still not in a place where I can forgive him, his reasons aren't irrational. As we continue shopping and just spending the day together, I can't help but have my mind somewhere else entirely and worry that when the truth comes out everything will change.

Chapter Text

Aaron-May 15th 2015

It's 3:00 am and I can't sleep, my mind keeps going back to the conversation I had with Claudia two days previous. I think more than anything it's the nerves of having to see her again in seven hours. I need to get some sleep, but my mind also trails of to yesterday's events.
It was good to have a day out with Victoria, Adam and Alijah, but I couldn't help myself from feeling guilty. I knew things about Robert he'd do whatever it took to keep from his sister, and I spent the entire day with her-seeing how much she was hurting. It nearly killed me not to tell her everything, but I knew the consequences.

--
When Alijah wakes up I look at the time, and realize I didn't end up getting any sleep. It's half past eight, and I need to meet with Claudia in an hour and a half.
I can feel myself shaking like crazy, the nerves running through my veins. I have no idea what is going to happen today, but I know it won't be good.

I had to drive a fair bit away from the village to meet Claudia. Some abandoned ware house in Leeds. I made sure to ask the right questions, but not ones that could get me trouble. I simply went to where I needed to be, and talked things through with Claudia. We made an agreement, one that would keep me in the loop but also make sure my family stayed safe. I never realized just how serious all of this was, until Claudia had me involved. Robert had talked about his time away a bit, although very vague, he never once showed fear that it was this life-threatening.
At this point the choice is mine. Either I continue to meet with Claudia, and help Robert. Which is just about the last thing I wanna do. However I know he may need it.

The 'meeting' with Claudia ran for nearly two hours, and before I left she told me it'd be in my best interest to see Robert myself. I tried hard to protest, telling her it wasn't needed. But she seems to know Robert much more than anyone.
She said I'd need to talk to him, seeing as I'm helping in saving his life. Also letting out a few comments about how I can't avoid him forever. That it may not be easy, but I'm going to have to face him no matter what. I realized during that conversation, that for a woman who got herself into pretty stupid shit; she can be smart.

 

As I am now sitting alone at Home Farm once again, I think back to the other night when I ran into Robert. It was something I hadn't expected to happen. Something I continue to tell myself, I didn't want to happen. But being here alone, just brings it all back. Of course I've been here in the past five months remembering how happy we used to be. It's just different this time. Because this time, I've seen Robert again. This time I've let someone else know I care enough to risk my life to help him. This time, I truly feel alone.

All I want is for everything to be easy. I think that's the only thing I miss about France; everything was easy. There were obviously hard times, I mean being without your family that's just normal. But it wasn't my own personal hell. Since returning to the village things had been good, only for everything to take a bad turn when I met Robert. I mean I was happy with him, but if I hadn't fallen for him, him being gone wouldn't hurt like this. Him being back again wouldn't effect me, and I'd be in a some-what stable mind set. As much as I could be I guess.

The thing I've been struggling with most of all is hiding it. I was always very good at pretending-I mean I knew how to keep a secret once upon a time. Though now things have changed. Robert has changed things. Now he ties in with everything, how I act with Vic, Andy, Katie and Diane. How I do at work, and how I focus on my own life. The last five months have been me wondering why he left, and now that I know-it's me wondering if he's gonna be okay. It's clear that he's in deep, but I feel like I could help him. Maybe if he feels half as much as I feel for him then we can work together, and get him out of this. However that means I need to talk to him. Which is what I'm working on now.
This is without a doubt the hardest part of all of it. This is what needs to be done carefully, and right.

Driving along the country roads I wonder where Robert could be right now. Given the fact that Claudia gave me his number, I could phone him and find out. But for some reason it's not what I want to do. It's weird because what I know I want is to see him, but not tonight. He's clouding my mind, and it's driving me wild. In hopes of escaping those thoughts, I turn on the radio.
At first it's just commercials, but as I continue listening a song begins to play.
'We are strong, both of us knowing; Love is a battlefield.'
I scoff at the lyrics, and shut off the radio only to hear another noise. My phone ringing.
The number appears to be private, and I don't know what to do. But without much thought, which is how most of my decisions are made, I answer.
Before I can get any words out, the person on the other end speaks.
"Aaron, can you meet me at Home Farm?"
Knowing it's Robert from the sweet sound of his voice, I take a deep breath and ask, "Uh."
"Aaron please. I need to talk."
I don't know what it is about Robert, but he always could make me give in. "Yeah."

At Home Farm this time there is a vehicle in the car park. I pull up on the side, so I'm not in the way in case he wants to leave before I do. Turning off the engine, I get out of the car and head up to the door. Less than an hour ago I didn't want to see Robert tonight, and that is still partially true. As my hand is on the door knob, they're trembling and I can't seem to open the door. But within seconds I don't have to, Robert must have heard the car because he comes up to the door.

I'm glad to know it's not only me who's shaking, because when I look down to his arms he seems to be in a worse state than I do. At the same time it worries me.
"Robert?" I ask in a whisper.
He pulls me inside, slams the door and locks it. Still shaking as we move into the living room.
"Robert why am I here?"
"Aaron I am so sorry." I can see tears beginning to build up in his eyes, but I won't give him the right to see me hurting.
"Didn't answer my question."
With this he lets a small smile creep on his face, lips trembling a little bit, Robert says in a quieter tone, "Still got an attitude. Some things don't change."
I give him a half smile, before responding angrier than I had intended, "Yeah, well some things do."
Robert's smile fades, and he walks towards me. Gesturing for me to move to the couch, I sit down-Robert sitting across from me on the coffee table.
"Don't help Claudia."
Against my better judgement I admit, "I'm not helping her. I'm helping you."
Now tears are beginning to swell in both our eyes, and it feels as though it's getting hotter by the second. Which I imagine is just the tension between us.
"I'm helping me, is helping her. Because what I'm doing is for them. Aaron I don't want you to get hurt."
"Robert, she said nothing would happen to me."
"God, how can a Dingle be so trusting?"
We both let out a little chuckle after his comment, before returning to our conversation and I confess, "I know what's going on. I know the risks. But you're-" I hesitate finishing this sentence, this being our first real conversation in months, "You're worth it."
"Really?" He asks, tears still in his eyes, and lips still trembling.
"Yes. I mean it's going to take me a while to forgive you for leaving. But now I know why and-and, I had to make a choice."
"A choice?"
"Mhmm. A choice between letting you go to do whatever stupid shit you're involved in. Or helping you and admitting how I feel about you."
"And how would that be?"
I reach for his hands, and Robert quickly intertwines his fingers in mine.
"I-I love you."
"I love you too."
I didn't realize how much I needed to get it out of me, until I had set it. Although this may not be the time, and there is still so much to work through it felt right. One of the most honest, real moments of my entire life. I had told Ed in the past that I loved him, but it was never like this. I had never felt like this before. Like Robert had the strength to turn my world upside down, as if he's the only person who could make it better. Which he had done. When he left my entire world changed, but with his return, for the first time in a very long time-I think everything is gonna be okay.
Still hand in hand, Robert looks into my eyes and asks, "What now?"
"Now-now we snap back into reality. Of course I wanna be with you, but I have a daughter to get home to. And I doubt you're making a return to the village. Although some spotted you, according to local gossipers."
"I can't go back yet. Soon-but not yet."
Without so much of a kiss, I get up and walk to the door. As much as I want to be with Robert, to feel his skin against mine, his lips-tonight is not the night.
As I'm about to exit he is practically begging, "Aaron please be careful."
I nod my head with a light smile, before closing the door behind me and waking my way to my car.
Before driving off, I sit in the car and stare up to the house. I think to myself about how tonight I finally did what I needed so badly to do. I let him in. I don't want to admit it, but I owe some thanks to Claudia on that front.

Arriving back at The Woolpack, I stop the car and let myself think for a moment. The reality really hits me. I not only chose to lay my heart out on the line, but I also made the choice to let Robert back in. No doubt in my mind or heart is that the right decision for me. But I can't help but think what will happen when everyone finds out. Not wanting to ruin the happiness I have from seeing Robert, I get out of the car and go inside to see my little girl who will most likely steer me away from my thoughts.
As I'm walking up to the door, I stop when my phone buzzes in my pocket.
[It means the world to me that you came tonight! xx R]
I smile to myself like a foolish child, and reply,
[Thanks for asking me to come over. xx A]

Chapter Text

Robert-May 16th 2015

Last night was everything I had been waiting for. I still hate myself for leaving the way I did, but now that Aaron has forgiven me, things are looking up. Of course there's still a lot to work out about me moving back, but right now everything is good.
Home Farm is still in Aaron's name, and we plan on keeping it that way. Safety repercussions and all. Well that's what he said. However for me, it's because I don't want to come back and take his life away. I do want to be a better person and I need to work on that, especially with Aaron. That is hands down my main focus.
But there isn't just Aaron, there's still so many people I need to work things out with.
Katie and Andy, so I can apologize for what happened at their wedding.
Victoria and Diane because I left without a goodbye.
I'm not naive, and I know that it may all take a lot of time. I need to stay in the down-low, make sure no one knows I'm back unless I want them to. It's going to be incredibly hard, but with the help from Aaron, I feel like it's all gonna be alright.
I'm still in contact with Claudia and Scar, but everyone else from work is completely cut off.
Today I'm supposed to get some work done, this 'case' in the words of Claudia is 'much more personal, and not about the money.' Which is the first since I began working this job. It's always been about the money. That's why I've been so intrigued and thought more about this case than any other one. The more I think about it, the more I realize it's not much of a case at all. The only instructions I've been given are to move back to Emmerdale, and stay close with my family. But do so privately.
I was immediately shocked hearing I had to come back. Not because I didn't want to, but because of how vague the reasons are. It doesn't make much sense, but I know their reasons must be good ones.
What they are-I have no idea.

Nine months ago I would have done nothing but look for answers to why I had to come back. But since moving back, I've realized how much I miss my family. Being taken away five months ago, it really hurt. No matter what anyone believes I genuinely happy I get another chance.
Aaron-well Aaron just makes everything so much better.
I messaged him last night, but since then we haven't talked. I'm hoping to see him today, but I have no idea if he'll be able to get away. Juggling an interfering family, job and child.
Alijah, I can't wait to see her. She's such a beautiful baby, who just like my family I didn't realize how much I'd miss until I was gone.
Before my mind gets filled with more thoughts of what I've been missing, my phone rings.
I reach over the counter to grab it. When I look at the number I don't recognize it. Instead of answering I decline the call, and put my phone to better use.
[Morning]
I send Aaron.
Waiting for a reply, I take a seat on the sofa and turn on the telly. It's a good ten minutes before my phone lights up with a message from Aaron,
[Morning]
As I'm about to send a reply, another message comes through,
[Hang out and talk today?]
Is that what he thinks we're doing-hanging out? Maybe last night was just to get it out there, but not where we really stand.
I wait a minute to reply and send,
[Yeah. HF?]
Within seconds my phone lights up again,
[Give me 20 mins]

I sit waiting for Aaron, constantly checking my phone for the time.
Just like he said, Aaron comes through the door twenty minutes after sending me the message.
"Hey" I say softly, getting up and turning to Aaron.
He takes off his jacket, and comes towards me.
"We need to talk."
I begin to panic, not knowing exactly what to expect.
"Okay."
Aaron takes a deep breath. I can sense his dis-comfort, and worry about what's going to happen.
"I meant what I said last night. I really did, but I...we can't do this." I look at him confused, and he continues, "It's too much right now. You and me-us, we need to wait until it's safe."
Aaron takes another deep breath, but this time stays silent. I feel like he's waiting for me to say something.
"I thought you understood why I left."
"I did..I do. But it doesn't change the facts. You had an entire life before me, a dangerous one. Yet you still risked being with me while I have a child."
If before I wasn't completely confused, I most certainly am now. I don't understand any of this.
"Aaron, you knew exactly what you were getting yourself into." I fight back, trying to hold back the tears I feel burning in my eyes.
"Not that kind of dangerous." Aaron says, with fear so clearly written all over his face.
"What other kind of dangerous is there?" I ask, desperate to know exactly what's going on in Aaron's head.
"I-I can't tell you." Aaron whispers, looking down to the ground.
I scoff, "Seriously?"
"Claudia made me promise. Robert, I'm sorry."
"Claudia? You have got to be kidding me. I told you not to trust her!" I yell, defending myself and trying to warn Aaron.
"I know, but this...I have to trust her."
Who am I kidding? I know Aaron, and I know he's very trusting when it comes to certain situations. There's not much I can do to change that.
"Robert please, I'm doing this to keep Alijah safe."
Of everything I've heard today, this hits me the most. What does Ali have to do with this? Why does she need protecting?
"Alijah? You think I'm gonna hurt Ali?"
Aaron closes his eyes, and stays silent for longer than I feel comfortable.
He opens his eyes and looks in mine,
"No. But someone will."
"What are you on about?"
"I have to go." Aaron says no more, and makes his way to the door.
I don't go to stop him, but try and take in everything that just happened.
When I hear Aaron's car drive off, I grab my phone and keys. I run to the car, start the engine and leave.

I arrive at a mansion in Liverpool, taking a few deep and heavy breaths before exiting the car.
I knock on the door, and wait only a minute before someone answers. Thankfully the exact person I'm looking for.
I push past her into the house and ask,
"Anyone else here?"
She nods her head 'no', which leads to me yelling,
"What did you tell him?"
"Don't know what you mean."
I slam my hand against her cabinet, and scream
"Don't play stupid with me you little bitch, what did you tell Aaron?!"
Claudia took a step back, and shook in reaction to my outburst and her smirk falls from her face.
"Rob, I...I can't tell you." She stutters.
"That's bullshit! You don't want to tell me!" I snap again.
I calm down and smile, adding, "But you're going to."

I sit on the couch with Claudia hovering over me. I haven't said anything since she began to explain. Mostly because I don't know what to say. After she finished my head began to pound, and I'm having a hard time even thinking. Let alone trying to get words out. Everything is just swirling around, and too much to take in. Not to mention, how hard it is to grasp onto this reality.
I rise to my feet, and pace the room. Which Claudia doesn't bother to stop me from doing.
My entire body is shaking, and my heart is racing at a faster-than-normal speed.
The anger I was feeling before has been joined by fear and in a way...pain.
The silence that has been lingering over us for a while now, goes away with the ring of my phone. I pull it out of my pocket to see Aaron's number. My finger trembles over the 'accept' button, before I decide to press 'decline,' and put it back in my pocket.
"Are you going to talk to him?" Claudia asks. Speaking for the first time since I had her stop explaining.
"Don't act like you care." I snarl, irritated more than usual with her.
"I'm not acting. I do...it's why you needed to go back to the village."
I roll my eyes and walk to the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Out!" I yell, slamming the door behind me.

When I left Claudia's house, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Go back to Home Farm, and just be alone. But somehow I find myself outside The Woolpack.
This is the last place I should be. If what Claudia said is true, I should run for the hills and never get close to anyone. But for some reason I'm supposed to regain trust, and love with my family. I'm supposed to be a normal person, have a normal life.
When I walk in the door, I realize it's not my family I'm here for. Diane is standing behind the bar, with her mouth open in shock. Victoria is sitting at the booth in the far end of the bar, with what looks like pain in her eyes. But it's truly not them I'm here for. It's the man sitting opposite of my little sister. I'm here for Aaron.
Before anything is said I look around the pub. Jimmy and Nicola King are sitting at a table, not hiding the fact that they're completely focused on me. Chas and Paddy are having a conversation, and for once seem completely oblivious to what's going on around em'. When I turn back to the direction that Aaron's in, I feel a hard slap across my face. I open my eyes, and realize it's Victoria. I don't say anything, and wait for her to get it out.
"You son of a bitch. How could you?" I remain silent, and in my tears. Just then someone enters the pub-Adam. He grabs Vic and comforts her in his arms, pulling her into the back room.
I guess the slap got everyone's attention, because when I look around again Chas and Paddy are both fully focused on me and what just happened. Both modelling an expression of disgust on their faces.
I turn back to Aaron again, and gesture for him to come outside.

I'm not waiting long when he comes outside with Alijah in his arms.
"I've been trying to get a hold of ya." He says, before even being fully out the door.
"So much for loving me, eh?" I growl.
"The hell's that supposed to mean?"
"I know everything." I admit.
"Really? Well if you knew everything, you'd know how what I'm risking to help ya."
In a way Aaron's right, but it doesn't change how I feel right now.
"You didn't tell me. You have no idea how much it hurt finding out from someone else."
"What's this about?" Moira asks, looking to both me and Aaron.

Chapter Text

Aaron-May 16th 2015

I'm standing in the warm weather having a private conversation with Robert alone. Or so we thought we were alone.
"What's this about?" Moira interrupts, after both of us nearly said too much.
Neither of us are aware of how long she's been standing there, but no matter she's heard something she shouldn't have.
Moira is stubborn and she's going to get answer whether we like it or not. However what I don't plan on giving her is the truth.
"Nothing!" Robert angrily says.
Moira looks at him, "I'm not stupid."
"It's my fault!" I lie, before one of them gets out of hand.
"Go on." Moira demands.
Before saying anything else I look at Robert who is clearly confused. I gesture for him and Moira to take a seat at the table, and I follow behind.
"I've been seeing this bloke...I imagine me mum complains about all the time I'm gone." I smile picturing it, then continue, "But then I saw Robert the other day. I guess we gave into lust that hadn't went away since he left. We uh...we slept together. The bloke I've been seeing, we usually meet up at Home Farm. Yesterday-when I was with Robert, he walked into the house and Robert was downstairs getting coffee-half naked."
I can't tell if she believes me, so I stay quiet and try to study her. Robert is the first to respond,
"I'm angry because he's seeing someone."
"You up and left, but mad cause' he moved on?"
My relief became hard to hide with the confirmation that Moira believed my lie. Not going to lie, her sassy remark to Robert wasn't too bad of a touch either.
"Just work your shit out. Oh and welcome back Sugden." Moira adds, before walking off.

I wait until she's out of sight, and then lean in close to Robert and say, "I'm not going to apologize."
He looks at me with a sad smile, "not asking you to."
"Why are you so angry about this?"
Robert takes a deep breath, when he looks at me I can much more pain written on his face than before.
"If Claudia hadn't come to you, would you have even forgiven me?" The desperation for an answer is so clear in his voice.
I hadn't thought much about it in this way. But the truth is 'no I wouldn't have forgiven you.' However I know I can't tell him that, and that at this point the truth won't do much good at all. So instead I tell him what he needs to hear,
"It would've taken me much longer, but yes I would have forgiven you eventually."
Robert gives me a small smile, before our conversation is cut short by the ringing of my phone.
"It's Cain. Wants me at the garage." I tell Robert, before heading inside.
I give Alijah to mum, and get changed into my overalls.

At the garage I was being ordered around by Cain to change oil in two trucks. I got to work, but can't help being completely distracted. I mean the first truck took me longer than it should. I'm dropping tools, tripping over shit, but thankfully Cain was gone for the most part. With everything that has happened, I've done a good job at staying in line with my work and parenting. But today, everything is crashing down.

The last few conversations with Robert have been clouding my mind. Not to mention Claudia peckng me head in, since she talked to Robert yesterday.
Not at all focused on work and stuck in my thoughts, I don't even realize I dropped the oil can until I hear Cain scream from the office,
"What is up with you?"
I know I'm not in the proper state to be working, I push the bonnet down, and go into the office.
"I need the rest of the day off."
"You're joking me right?" Cain scoffs.
"No. I'm serious." I snap back.
Without an answer, I choose to walk away. Heading out of the garage, I ignore the calls coming from Cain telling me to come back.

My mind wasn't in work at all, and I needed out. Though I made it clear to Robert earlier how I feel, I'm still a little bothered with the whole situation. He's strong-I've learned that, but I can't help but want to help him. God it's driving me crazy. It scares me as well, because the only person I've ever wanted to protect so much is Alijah.
I'm almost at Home Farm when I look at the clock, and realize it's half past four. Tea time is soon, and no doubt Cain's telling me mum about my walking out of work.
I pull over to a lay-by and message Robert,
[You home?]
The response comes quickly,
[Yeah. Why?]
I take it he's still angry at me, but I won't let it ruin what I've got planned.
[Get ready. We're goin' out]
I walk into the house o see Robert sitting on the couch.
"Let's go." I demand, pulling Robert from the sofa and out the door to the car.

"What are we doing here? Aaron not tonight." Robert complains.
I choose not to listen, and remove from the car myself.
We walk through the door, to see mum, Diane, Vic, Adam, Ali, Cain and Moira all seated at the kitchen table. I couldn't be more pleased, as the two people Robert needs to see are here and that there are a few people on the side for support.
Diane jumps from her chair, and wraps her arms around Robert tightly-almost like she never wants to let go. Vic doesn't move an inch from her seat beside Adam, while I stay standing beside Robert.
I look up to see Cain gesturing for me to follow him into the other room. I look back at Robert to make sure he's okay, and he nods his head 'yes.'

In the hallway upstairs before any words are spoke, mum and Moira come through the door.
"Okay, explain." Mum demands.
At this point I don't know what to say because mum can always sense when I'm lying, but the truth isn't an option. I go for the safer bet, and work up the best lie possible.
"Adam sent me a message, saying Vic was really upset. With how much she's been helping me, I just wanted to be there." I stop to see if they believe me, and all I get is Cain snarlig, 'Go on.'
"I decided to find Robert. Convince him to come talk to Vic and Diane. Thought if they had an explanation, Vic would be okay."
I look at mum and Cain, because unlike Moira they don't know about how I was...am seeing Robert. So her believing me is the last thing I care about. But mum and Cain-they have to.
"What about Andy and Katie?"
"They left the village yesterday. I didn't think it'd matter until they got back."
"Oh so just let everyone get on with the man who ruined their wedding."
"No...mum." I say, reaching my arm out to grab her from leaving.
"It's nice what you did for Vic but more people are affected by him." She bats my hand away, and continues to walk.
She's not wrong, and I know a part of me is being selfish about this because it wasn't for Vic-it was for me. I figure the more he gets on with his family, the easier it will be for us to be together or be just mates. Whatever we are-I thought everyone was on good terms it'd all gone down well.
Cain follows mum, leaving Moira and I alone in the hallway.
It's dead silent for no more than second before Moira says,
"You're lying."
I can't help but smile at how blunt she is about it, and nod my head. Moira pats me on the back, and whispers 'good luck', then goes through the door to the front room where mum and Cain are.

I stand alone for a moment, debating on whether I should go see how the Sugden's are doing or go to mum. I feel like it's the better thing to let Diane and Vic work their issues out with Robert, and god knows I need to work mine out with mum. I go towards the front room, but stop at the sound of Cain's voice. At first I can't make out what's he saying, but walk closer to the door and lean in.
"Sis, something about him is different."
There was a time when my family worrying about me was something I actually appreciated. The fact that they could tell when I was acting different, or if something was wrong-i loved that. But now all I want is for them to stay out of it.
"How's he doing at work, well besides today?" I hear mum ask.
Even through doors, I can sense the hesitation in Cain. "He's not around much. Says he's job hunting."
"That's what he's been telling me too, but-"
"It's not true." Cain cuts mum off.
When silence takes over, I barge through the doors.
"Love we need to talk." Mum says almost innocently, before I'm even fully through the doors.
I take a seat on one of the bar stools between Cain and Moira, and wait for someone to start speaking.
"How's job hunting?" Cain asks sarcastically.
"Oi!" Mum says, smacking Cain. "Tell us what's goin' on love."
I feel like I've yelled, fought and lied more than enough for one day, but know the truth just can't be told.
"Mum, nothing is goin' on. I'm okay."
"No you're no love. Something isn't right." Mum says in a soft tone of voice. I see the desperation in her eyes, and don't know if I can do this. All I want is for them to lay off.
"It's just hard being a single parent, looking for a job."
Mum looks at Cain and Moira, then back to me and says,
"Of course it is. But you've been a single parent, only been acting different for a couple days."
"I look down and take a deep breath before asking,
"What is it about me that's different?"
"Aaron, you're not you." Cain speaks.
I look at and I know he's right. Since Ali's birthday, I've been different. I can't lie or pretend with mum and Cain, because they're right. As much as I wish I was better at hiding it, I'm not. Not when Robert's actually around. I'm trying my best to keep this secret, but I'm running out of lies to feed people.
My eyes cross to Moira, and then it hits me.
"I've been seeing this bloke." I notice a smile spread across me mum's face, and continue, "Nothing serious, but it still hurt when we broke things off."
"Why'd ya break things off?" Mum asks.
With this question, I feel confident that she believes me.
"We...he couldn't deal with the fact that I'm a father."
"Oh love." Mum whispers. She comes around the bar, and wraps her arm around me in a tight, loving hug.
"You've been acting this way over some bloke? God Aaron, you're exactly like your mother." Cain snarls.
"Oi!" Mum smacks Cain again.
"I don't know about you guys, but I'm hungry." Moira says smiling, breaking the awkward atmosphere.
Mum and Cain take the lead, and when they're through the door Moira pulls me back,
"Don't get used to lying. Truth always comes out in this village."
"I know. I just-I need time."

In the back room it looks like no one has moved since we left. I stand at the door with mum, Cain, and Moira, who are hesitant about fully entering the room.
Looking at Robert I can see the pain in his eyes. He does really care about his sister, and I know this is hard for him.
"Come on pet, please stay fro tea." Diane says, directing Robert to a chair at the already-over-full-table.
Mum, Cain, and Moira all take their seats back, but Vic gets up and runs past me.
I hold my hand up, telling everyone to stay at the table, and let me go get her. I assure them I'll be back soon, and go after Victoria.
"Vic...Vic please wait." I beg, catching up to her.
"Why is he doing this? So he can just leave again?" Vic cries.
I pull her into my arms, and try to tell her it will be okay. She pulls away, and continues to cry.
"I lost mum and dad. At least I only needed to say goodbye to them once."
"Hey...hey, you're not gonna have to say goodbye again. He's here for good, or he's got to answer to me."
Victoria chuckles, and whispers,
"Thank you."
We walk back into the pub, and through to the backroom. I nod at Robert, who gets up and hugs Victoria tightly. Robert's head is over Vic's shoulder, he smiles and mouths, 'Thank you.'
I smile back and nod. Then walk over to the table beside Ali, and enjoy the comfort in such a good moment. Robert and Vic join the table, and everything seems to be good.
Things have been tough, but right now everyone's safe and happy, that's what matters.

Chapter Text

Robert-May 18th 2015.

Aaron and I spent last night together, he's upstairs sleeping in the bed right now. And it reminds me a lot of how things once were, I would be the early riser and bring him up tea or coffee. I missed those simple things so much while I was away, and after our conversation two days ago I didn't think we'd get them back. But something happened last night, we were just sitting at the pub with Alijah talking, and decided we wanted to be with each other that night. There was no sex-no one knows where I'm staying, so Aaron was honest and said he just wanted to spend the night at Home Farm. He brought Alijah with him, and we just spent the night together watching telly, then headed up to bed. It was simple, comfortable and something I never knew I wanted. Aaron really is changing me, and the best part is-it's for the better. Lying in bed with someone I love and a child is one of the things I crossed off my list a very long time ago. With my job I didn't think I'd ever get to that place, where I could be so close to someone. But with Aaron, he knows everything and still wants to be here. I couldn't ask for a better person to be with, although we're taking things slowly and only one person knows about us, the romantic in me wants this to go somewhere.

I'm not done making the coffee when my phone goes off. I pick it up, and see the number is blocked. Despite knowing better, I get help but feel intrigued answer.
"Hello?"
"Robert Sugden?" The male voice on the other end of the line asks.
"Depends on who's asking?"
"I'll take that as a yes. We need to discuss a woman I believe you know...Scar."
My gut tells me to hang up the phone and never look back.
"Look, I can't talk right now." I say, in fear of Aaron coming downstairs, and whoever this man is ruining what we've got going.
"Later then. I'll contact you." He says. Before I have time to protest, he hangs up quickly.

I go upstairs and walk into the bed room, Aaron's awake sitting up with Alijah in his arms. I walk over to the bed and hand him his cuppa.
"Everything okay?" Aaron asks, as I take a seat beside them on the bed.
"Yeah. You don't need to be worried about me." I assure him.
Alijah starts giggling, which causes both Aaron and I to smile. I forgot how cute she was, and she' seems so grown up now...it's weird. But with the way Aaron treats her, it's clear she's always going to be his little girl. I admire him so much for the way he is with her, and after what Claudia told me-I understand why he is being careful and protecting her. He's an amazing father. Selfless and loving.
"I've got work today, Cain's been doing me head in about actually working a full day. Gotta get Ali to your sister or me mum." Aaron says.
I put my hand on his arm, and respond, "No...no let me watch her."
Aaron looks at me almost as if I'm mad. His eyes are filled with surprise, and I can tell with the way his lips are moving that he's struggling to say something. He leans over to put his mug on the bedside table, and looks back at me.
"Rob, are ya sure? I mean-"
Before Aaron can finish whatever it is he' was intending on saying I cut him off, "Yes. You and I are gonna try this, why not?"
"You do know about everything goin' on right?" Aaron asks, reminding me of the very last thing I wanna think about right now or ever again for that matter.
"Yes. But I can keep her safe, and I wanna spend the day with Ali." I smile, reaching out and picking her up and away from Aaron.
Before Aaron can protest anymore, I get up from the bed and head towards the door. I turn around and smile, "Don't you gotta get back to work?"

Downstairs in the kitchen I'm walking around, struggling to hold Alijah up while also getting something for breakfast. I place her down beside me and ask, "What do you want?"
She smiles at me, and points to the pancake mix on the bottom shelf. I don't know where she's gotten the impression that I can cook, but I know this isn't gonna go down well. I don't wanna say no to such a cute face, but it's better than poisoning her with my cooking. I chuckle softly, and grab vanilla yogurt. "What about this?"
Ali nods her head 'no,' and Aaron comes into the room laughing.
"She wants something, by the looks of it, not what you're offering. That makes two of us."
"Oi!"
Both Aaron and Ali chuckle, and I'm a little offended that even a one year old little girl could laugh at that.
Aaron kisses Ali on the cheek, before going to the door. He looks back at me and says, "Be careful with her."
"Promise." I respond lightly.

-
After a bit of arguing I got Ali to settle for yogurt, but since then she's been a monster. I've put on the telly, took her for a walk, played games, hell she's even had a diaper change, but for some reason is deciding to give me a hard time. This has been going on for three hours. We got home from the park about ten minutes ago, and I decided to put her down for a nap. After she finally fell asleep, I came downstairs. I'm sitting on the couch watching telly, but very cautious of the volume, because the last thing I need right now is for her to wake up.
Just as I'm about to call Aaron, I hear a knock at the door. I didn't hear a car come up the drive way, so they're either coming through from the fields or back way. I open the door to see a man I do not recognize. He's tall-very tall, darker skinned, with green eyes that could kill. He's wearing a black suit, one that looks like it costs as much as this house.
"You gonna let me in or just stand there and stare?" He speaks, his voice is deep and I know it from somewhere.
Before I have time to respond, he smiles and walks into the house. I don't bother trying to stop him, because all I want is to know where his voice is from.
"So...Scar."
Then it hits me, he's the man who was on the phone. Just like on the call when he said her name there was twitch in his voice. Actually more of a crack, almost like his emotions get the better of him when he says her name. I know we talked about talking again, but I promised Aaron I'd keep Alijah safe, and something about this man tells me he's not to be trusted. He also doesn't strike me as the kind of man that likes taking orders or directions, no way can I get him outta here unless it's on his own terms.
"Uh yes. Why did you wanna talk about her? With me I mean." I ask, trying not to show the fear that has weirdly began to creep inside me.
The man let's out a little chuckle, and looks around the house avoiding eye contact with me. When he finally looks in my direction, I can see a look in his eyes I've never been fond of from certain people. He's hiding something. I don't know this man, but I know he wants something. Just by looking at him, I can see he has a secret, a secret that I imagine has something to do with me and well quite obviously Scar.
"You know someone she's close with." He speaks.
I look at him confused and ask, "Her daughter."
A smile appears on his face, and he takes a step closer to me, "Yes."
I take a step back, wanting to be as far away from him as possible. "Claudia? Why don't you-"
Before I can finish what I was going to say, I'm cut off by the man shaking his head and saying, "No."
The man looks down at the ground, and doesn't say a word. I make no movements, don't speak, and let the silence take over. I've reached a point of confusion where whatever I say, I have a feeling will be wrong. I don't know what it is about this man, but the way he comes across sends a message in my mind. He's very vague about the things he does and says, but makes sure it's clear he's trying to get something important across.
"Mr Sugden, I've been told you know about why you had to return to your home."
The fear that had slightly disappeared quickly coming back, and this time I don't know if I can hide it. How does he know about this? What does this have to do with Scar?
"I'm sorry what does this have to do with Scar?"
"Everything." He growls, before hesitating to continue, "You must not know all the details then."
I hear Alijah crying, and jump from panic. "I-uh better go get her."
"Oh Alijah, yes. Such a cute baby."
"You know, I think it's time you go."
"Well, I'll be back." He chuckles, before exiting the house.
My body is filled with fear and confusion, whoever this man is, he can't be trusted. Whatever it is he knows, it's dangerous. Whatever he wants, he will most likely get.

To think that everything was gonna settle down a bit now that I am back in Emmerdale, I don't think I've ever been so stupid. As I realize Alijah has stopped crying, I begin to take deep breaths and calm down. I let the nerves slowly fade, before taking in what he said. At first it didn't mean anything, but now that I'm thinking about it I need to know. What exactly dd he mean when he said I didn't know all the details? How can there be more that no one told me? I mean what I learned from Claudia was more than imaginable, how is it possible there's more to it?
As I re-think the entire conversation with this man, I come up with more questions than answers. Something that sticks out to me more so than anything else, is when he said responded with 'no,' at me mentioning Claudia after talking about Scar's daughter. I mean, it's the only daughter she has. so how can she not be who he was talking about?
My mind trails back to a conversation I had with Claudia years ago.
We had just finished a huge transfer and she wanted to celebrate. Mostly because she got the bigger share, but also because she was 'proud' of me. Come to think of it, this was about a year ago. It was the later days of me working with her, I knew everyone but her and I...we were incredibly close. We were sitting on the edge of a bridge, in the cold winter, dark and quiet. Claudia had drank more than her fair share of the bourbon whiskey she stole from her mum's cabinet. I had known Claudia to like her liquor, but I never seen her drink like this before. She didn't seem to be celebrating, but almost broken. Scar hadn't been around for ten months, and showed up again outta the blue. When she returned, Claudia completely changed. She wasn't the same cocky, self righteous, smart, devious woman I had known so well. Something about her was weak and afraid. I never really thought about it again until now, but when she continued to drink long after I told her stop, Claudia let something slip. I remember it so clearly.

"You know where my mother's been?" She asks me, slurring over her words.
I shake my head, and Claudia chuckles, "Ha. France, living with the French."
"Well sometimes this job takes us places far away from here."
Claudia scoffs, and looks me in the eyes. She looks like a mess, someone so fragile and weak. "Yeah. But she stayed for someone. Someone she could love more than me."
"Come on C, we all know your mum couldn't love anyone more than you."
Claudia pulls herself off the ground and stands up, almost crying, "Except she does. Her new daughter. That's why she's protecting her from this life."
I look at her confused, and can't help but ask,"What are you talking about? Who is she protecting?"
"A gorgeous baby girl, Ali-Alijah Di.." Claudia begins before falling into my arms, from the affects of how much alcohol she consumed.

Then it hits me. Claudia was talking about Alijah Dingle.

Chapter Text

Robert-May 18th 2015.

I'm trying not to jump to conclusions about the whole thing, because I don't know for sure. But I can't help but think it's true. What if Scar and Aaron were actually together at one point? But that doesn't make any sense, he's gay. Not bi-completely gay. Why is that a big deal? I mean I already knew he was a father. I can't believe it's actually taken me this long to question how he's even a father. All I know for sure is that Aaron will be back here in two hours, then we can talk. Until then just live the day like it's a normal one.

I go upstairs and check on Ali, she's sleeping peacefully under the duvet, and looks so small on the big bed. She'll always be a beautiful child, but I look at her differently now. Even if I don't know the entire story, if she is Scar's child it isn't going to be the same anymore.

As I'm about to head back downstairs I hear my phone go off. I walk carefully down the stairs. I don't wanna be loud and wake her.
When I get downstairs the number on the phone is Aaron's.
"Hey." He says, his voice deep like it is when he's tired.
"Hey." I respond lightly, trying not to show my confusion and pain in what I think I now know.
"How's Ali?" He asks.
"She's good. Just up in a nap. You know you can trust me with her. You don't need to phone and check up on her."
"I was actually phoning for you. Wanted to talk."
"About?"
"Well I kinda miss ya. Business is slow so I get to come home early, and I was wondering if you wanted to spend the day together. Shove Ali off onto your sister or me mum. What do ya say?" Aaron suggests. I'm not gonna lie this is a good idea, and it'll also give me the time and opportunity to ask him about Scar.
"Sounds like a good idea." I respond.
"Okay. I'll be at Home Farm soon." Aaron says, before hanging up.

Aaron walks through the door, and smiles. "She upstairs?"
"Yeah, still sleeping. We can have her here ya know." I reply. Though things would be easier if we were alone, this whole thing is about Alijah. She's sleeping, and not going to be in the way. So in all, I'm okay with her being here.
"Yeah, okay." Aaron says.
He smiles softly again, and throws off his hoodie. Walking past me into the kitchen, and straight to the fridge. He pulls out the six-pack of beer, and asks me if I want one. With what I'm about to ask him, alcohol would help with the pain. However I need to be sober, to be able to handle whatever happens next properly.
I nod my head no at Aaron, and take a seat of the sofa. He's saying something, I can hear him, but I can't make out the words. My mind isn't in it right now. I can feel my hands shaking, and when I look down they're out of control. I'm feeling anxious, and scared-well terrified is more like it. I don't want Alijah to be Scar's child, god how does that even make any sense? How could they have been together? Both are catches, for some people anyway. But no way is it possible that they fancied each other. It's just not-it can't be. I'm stuck in my thoughts and worries of what I'm going to find out. Whether it's that I'm crazy, or that it's true-either way I don't like what's to come. I don't even realize how deep in me own head I am, until I feel Aaron's hand running up and down my arm.
"You okay?" He asks. I snap out of my thoughts and look up at him. His beautiful eyes how they're staring right into mine, the touch of Aaron's hand on me, and his half smile that just makes everything better.
No-I can't think like this about him right now. It's too much, I need to focus on what I have to ask. I can't let my feelings get involved right now.
"No. We uh...we need to talk."
Aaron's face changes, he looks confused. He removes his hand from my arm, and sits up straight. "Okay?"
"You know what, never mind." I say. I look away, trying everything in my power not to break down right then and there.
"No. Rob if something's going on you need to tell me." Aaron says, pulling my attention back to him.
"It's just me being stupid. Wanna watch a movie?"
I can feel Aaron hesitate, before turning to face the telly. I feel his eyes on me as we watch tv, and I can't help but feel selfish and guilty. I wanna know so bad, but a part of me doesn't. If I had never chased after Aaron and let myself get close to him, he wouldn't be put in a position where he needs to protect Ali. He wouldn't have to worry about me, wouldn't need to be selfless and care about everyone else first. Although I don't think that all comes down to me. I mean in this exact situation it does, me needing protection and safety. But I think whether I was here or not, he would still be a selfless, loving, caring, loyal, and compassionate man. I don't want to ruin this. I want us to be happy, and despite the hell in our lives we are. Well as much as we can be. Me dragging up the past won't do any good, knowing my luck it'll do nothing other than cause more damage. So I sit there with Aaron, quietly on the sofa and put every ounce of attention I have into watching telly-on the outside anyway. Aaron doesn't need to know what's going on in my head, all he needs to know is what he's seeing-a happy man watching the television.

We've been watching a re-run of an old movie for about an hour. Both of us have went upstairs to check on Ali, who I just checked on is still asleep. Aaron hasn't shied away from giving me a few worrying looks over the past hour either, I try my best to ignore them. Pretend I don't know he's staring and just keep my eyes completely glued to the tv.
I come downstairs and Aaron's seating on one of the stools in the kitchen facing towards me. Unlike earlier when we looked at each other, he doesn't have a smile on his face and he seems different. It took me two seconds to sense something wasn't right. For a complete stranger they could look at him and think everything was okay, but I know him. One glance at him, and it's just so clear to me something's going on. I see his arm twitch and look down, he's holding my phone.
Aaron raises his hand he's holding my phone with and says, "It was ringing, didn't know you were still talking to Claudia after-"
"We're...we're not really. I mean a few texts but that's it." Aaron may not believe me, but it's the dead honest truth. Claudia and I have spoken once since I went to see her and found out what she and Aaron knew. That one time being over text message. But I see it in Aaron's eyes, he doesn't believe me. And if he does, he's sure as hell doing a good job at acting like he doesn't.
"Robert don't shove me off please. What did you want to talk about earlier?"
There it is. The one question I've been quietly praying he wouldn't ask. However this is Aaron, I knew he wouldn't just leave it. God I'm surprised he left it for as long as he did. I didn't think he actually had that much self control.
"Aaron can we not ruin a good day, please?"
"I'm not ruining anything. I just wanna know." I take a step back at the sudden raise in his voice.
I take a moment to catch my breath, and let go of the shock from his outburst. When I finally get back to whatever normal is for me, I move forward and sit beside Aaron on another stool. He gives me another look of worry, and I can't bare to look him in the eyes. I tilt my head down, and hold back the unexpected and unwanted tears building in my eyes.
"You never did tell me your story." I say simply. Not wanting to-not having the guts to actually jump right into the conversation.
"My story?" Aaron raises his eye brows in confusion.
I let out a a long, hard, heavy, breath I didn't realize I was holding in until now. I tilt my head back up, and look at Aaron, "Like how are you a father? I mean you were out when you left for France, so how'd this happen?" I ask, pointing to the picture of Alijah and Aaron on the fridge.
"I...you know Robert you were right. We really don't need to talk about this." Aaron gets up from the stool, and storms off into the living room.
I'm not even comprehending what I'm doing, until I speak again, "No. We have to talk about this!"
Aaron turns around, and tears are streaming down his cheeks. "Have to? Why do we have to?"
"Because I...I need to know if...if-" I can't finish my sentence because I'm stuttering over my words. Having trouble trying to even deal with the fact that once I say it, I can't take it back. That whatever happens or is said next will change everything. Not just for Aaron and I, but how I am with Claudia, Scar and Ali. Everyone will be affected by a few words being told, and I don't know if I'm strong enough to handle that.
"Come on then. If what?"
I look behind me and grab my phone. Scrolling through stupid fake pictures I have to keep up appearances, I find the one of Scar and Claudia the day Scar came back last year. Although I have a couple more of them, I figure this one best fits Aaron's memory to Scar. That is if what I believe is true. I pop up the picture on my phone and walk over to Aaron. Holding my phone up, I ask, "Is it her?"
Aaron stares deeply into the picture for longer than I thought he would-maybe he doesn't know her? But that thought washes away when he looks up, and I see the tears building in his eyes again.
"I think it's time I get Ali and myself back to the pub." Aaron says, almost as if everything that just happened-didn't. He completely ignores the question, doesn't even bother denying it. Just pretends it wasn't asked, and walks past me to the staircase. I don't follow him up, because I know that's the last thing he needs. When Aaron comes down with Alijah, I look at him and ask, "Can we talk about this after?"
"Robert there's nothing to talk about. Okay nothing!" Aaron yells at me, walking by with Alijah straight out the door.

When the door slams, my entire body shivers. I drop to my knees, and let go of the tears I've been holding in. This is it. I've reached the edge, whatever happens next really will be the end of something.

Chapter Text

Aaron-May 19th 2015.

Alijah and I came back to The Woolpack just before tea yesterday, it was a normal evening. Diane, Doug, Ali, me mum, and I all sat down for tea and then went our separate ways. Little did they know what was going on in my head, and what had happened just minutes before I arrived back home. God if Diane and mum knew the half of it, they'd be freaking out and wouldn't keep their noses out of it. I guess sometimes it's a good thing that I know how to lie, and guard myself so no one knows exactly what's goin' on with me. Although it's without a doubt not one of my finer traits, it comes in handy when it needs to.
Downstairs while I'm sitting at the kitchen table Adam comes in, "Can I watch her today mate?" He asks pointing to Alijah.
I look at him confused, "Why?"
"Does it matter why. I'm gonna take your kid off ya for a couple hours." Adam argues. I can't say he doesn't make a good point, and despite our joking around I trust him with her. He's always been amazing with kids, and now he even has Vic around to tell him exactly how to do certain things and how to act.
"Yeah."
Vic comes running through the door, "Aaron I was upstairs when I heard your phone go off, it wouldn't stop." She complains, throwing me my phone.
I look at it and realize it's Robert. "What's my brother doing phoning you anyway?"
"Probably stuff to do with Home Farm. Ran into him yesterday, wants to buy it back." I lie. Before leaving Victoria and Adam with Ali, and go out the back door.

"What are you doing phoning me?" I ask angrier and more irritated than anything else at this point.
"I tried to bite my lip on this, but we really need to talk. Please come to Home Farm today." He's practically begging me, and something I don't need on top of everything else is another argument with Robert flaming Sugden.
"Yeah. I'll be over soon."

I walk into Home Farm but no one is down stairs. God the place is a mess, half empty bottle of whiskey on the table, the glass with a bit left over in it.
"Rob?" I scream looking up the staircase.
I hear the back door slam, and jump at the loud noise. I turn around and Robert's walking in.
"Aaron I am so sorry." Robert says, I can tell he's been crying. Around his eyes is puffy and red, he looks like he hasn't slept in hours.
"What are you sorry for?"
"I shouldn't have pushed last night. If you didn't tell me, you obviously had your reasons." Robert may be saying these things, but he doesn't mean them. Okay he could actually be sorry, but I can see it in his eyes. All he really wants is to know who Alijah's mother is.
"You deserve to know." Robert looks at me in complete shock after I say this, and if I'm being completely honest I shocked myself too. I've never told anyone, no one, about how I ended up with a daughter. Of course there were questions when I came back to the village. 'Aaron Livesy was gay when he left and now he's a father.' It was the talk of Emmerdale for months. I always managed to change the subject, distract someone and avoid the truth. But I can't with Robert.
"Aaron you don't need to-"
I cut him off and say, "No. But I want to. Might wanna take a seat though."
Robert follows me to the couch, and we both sit down. "God Robert I remember it like it was yesterday."

September 10th 2013
It was only a week or so after Ed and I had broken up, I was staying at a motel and one night was really bored. Being with Ed all we ever did was the bar, and then watch sports on TV. So I decided to explore France a little bit. I was walking about minding my own business when I saw a man that I recognized-one I wanted nothing more than to forget. When I was still with Ed we were at a bar one night, and the man was saying shit. Talking about how it's wrong to be gay. Threatening to beat some sense into us. It didn't go any further than threats, but I still wanted nothing to do with him, ever again. But I was stuck when he noticed me, and I recognized me as well.
"Well if it isn't the little fairy. What no boyfriend tonight?" He teased, as I try to walk away and ignore him. "Well come on."
"No. No boyfriend, now if you'll excuse me."
"See I don't think I can do that. I let you away once, never thought I'd get this opportunity back."
I turned around to see his smug smile, and it takes all my will power not to knock it off his face, "What opportunity would that be?"
"Before I do anything. You still a little queer or have you come to your senses?"
"Still gay." I responded, trying to push by him and get away.
"Well I'm just gonna have to do something about that won't I?"
That's when he moves away a bit, and pulls a woman over. He was gripping onto her tight, and she tried to push him off but he wouldn't budge. Another man joined, he was tall, extremely buff, couldn't be older than 30 but looked like he had experience with this. He grabbed a hold me, just like the woman I tried to get away. It didn't work. The man that had a hold of me, put his hands on my neck and whispered into my ear,
"You're going to do everything we say. Got it?"
I turned around as much as possible and spat, "Fuck you!"
"No, no. You're going to be fucking her." The other man speaks, nodding his head to the woman he's holding onto.
The woman speaks for the first time, "What? No!" She begins struggling to get away again, but the man just grips onto her tighter.
"Now we're gonna go over here and y'all are both gonna listen."

They dragged us into an old house, it was disgusting. Cob webs, dusty pictures and shelves, blankets rolled up on the floor, a smell that I can't place. It looked like a serial killer's crib. Somewhere that is satisfying to those who only care about what they do to people, not about how they come across.
The man let's go of me and pushes me onto the bed, before I have time to fight back or get away he's tying me to the polls.
He tied them so tight, it got to the point where I could no longer feel my hands and arms. He then ripped off my trousers, and told me to get comfortable. Despite being in a situation where I had absolutely no control, I couldn't help but scoff at how pathetic these men are being.
The woman they took off the streets, looked strong and she was capable of putting up a fight. But when one of the men forced her to drink down a pill, she began to go weak. They ripped off her clothes, and threw her on top of me. Told her she needed to participate or things would get worse. When she incapable of controlling her own actions, one of the men placed her properly on me.
They chuckled, and one said, "Now sweetheart, you're going to fuck the fag outta him."
She was in no state at all to even comprehend what was going on. I tried to make her stop, but they held us both down.
Both of them seemed to be getting irritated, and one yelled, "Do something. Help her out!"
"No!" I spat back, and instantly regretted it when he punched me.
He pulled out a knife and smiled, "You're going to let her fuck the faggot outta ya, or I'll take care of you."
I was scared, I didn't want to die. In my mind I knew it was wrong, god wrong doesn't even begin to describe it. But I thought it was the only choice I had. In that moment it was the only choice I had.
I pulled my legs around her, and pushed myself into her more. Using all the power I had, to do what they said. Do what the sick, pathetic men wanted me to do.

I fucked her until I couldn't anymore. The men just sat there and watched, they got off on watching it. Both the woman and I had fallen asleep, and when I woke up she wasn't on the bed anymore. I looked around the room, and saw that the men were no longer in the room. I noticed that in the corner of the room behind the bed, the woman was sitting curled up. Covering herself, when her clothes were ripped off she was left with nothing. She looks so cold and broke. Which is very understandable after everything. I look away, not being able to live with what I did. I was scared, hurt and more than anything else ashamed. I didn't know who she was, and did something so horrific. Something that could traumatize someone for life, all because I didn't want to die.
I quickly realized my arms were no longer tied. I had gotten off the bed and passed her the sheet to cover herself. It was dirty and thin, but so much better than nothing. She jumped when I got closer to her. I chose to back up, and just reach my arm out with the sheet in my hand. I understand that she was scared, I may not have shown it has much but I was terrified. I didn't know what to do, how to act. God I didn't know anything.
The men came back in and were laughing. Both didn't seem affected by anything that had happened that night. Just laughing, and talking like mates on a normal evening. It was disgusting. Both stopped talking as soon as they entered the building, they threw clothes at us and gestured their heads to one of the rooms to change. I was out first and was was given another not-so-pleasant surprise when one man had a gun.
"See Charlie this is how the game is played." He teased.
Charlie? I guess that's one of their names, but the one with the gun doesn't seem stupid enough to let both their names be revealed.
"What-what game?" I asked, beginning to be filled with fear once again.
"So did our little project work?"
At this point I don't know what to expect. Neither of them will let me outta here alive knowing what they look like, so does it really matter if I'm gay or not? I look down to the ground and try to steady my heavy breathing, before looking back up. "Yes."
"Good now here's how this is going to work. If you ever so much as speak a word of this to anyone, we kill you. Got it?" Charlie said sadistically.
"Wait, so you're not going to kill me here and now?" I asked confused. Although I was happy to know I wouldn't die, there was so much shock with what was happening. I didn't know how to react to any of it.
"The thought did cross my mind, I'll admit. But seeing as you've come to your sense, I think we'll let this slide." The unknown named man spoke seriously.
I look behind me to the room where the woman was still in and he spoke again, "Don't worry about her. She's free to go. So messed up she won't remember our faces."
All I wanted was to tell them they were sick, disgusting, pathetic, and scum, but I didn't want to die. I took advantage of the freedom I was being given, and just nodded.
The woman came out of the room, she just looked at all three of us and asked me, "Can...can I come with you?"
She was shaking, and stuttering on her words, I had never felt so guilty in my entire life. "Yes."
She walked up to me, and I made sure not to stand so close. It wasn't just her afraid, I just didn't show it as much. I couldn't walk close to her, I couldn't comfort her because I wasn't capable of comforting myself.
We walked out the doors and didn't look back. At that point, we had no idea what was going to happen next.

Chapter Text

Robert-May 19th 2015

I haven't said anything, because I don't know what to say. I feel selfish for ever bringing it up, the tears rolling down Aaron's cheeks are enough to kill me. I knew he didn't want to talk about it, but I pushed-I pushed too far. I go to put my arms around Aaron and comfort him, but he pushes me off and backs away. He gets up off the couch and wipes away his tears.
"I told you. Now you know, yes that woman in the picture is Alijah's mother."
Aaron makes his way for the door, but I get quicker than I thought and jump in front of him. "Aaron please don't go."
"I can't be here. I can't stand to see you of all people looking at me differently." He starts crying again, and I don't know how to make it stop. All I want to do is make him feel better, comfort him, and tell him it's gonna be okay. But will it? How can I tell him everything's gonna be okay if I don't know?
"Aaron, I don't see you any differently. Okay you stayed when you found out my secret. I'm not going anywhere."
He falls into my arms and I hold him as tight as I can, I don't wanna let go.
I direct him to the bedroom and we lay in the bed. I still have my arms over him, and make sure before anything he's comfortable. I had never realized before today just how strong Aaron really is. I have no idea how to do this, I don't wanna leave him-I won't. But I know I can't be the person he needs, I can't be supportive like he is, I can't be his rock when he's weak, and I can't let myself get completely close to him. I'll be here for now, because that's what he needs, but he deserves so much better. I've never been in the position where I have to be the one comforting, I don't want to let him down. The only way to really do that is let him find someone better. Of course I love him, and of course I want to be with him. It's just not right anymore. I meant what I said, I don't see him differently. I see myself differently, before I thought I could be there for him that no matter what it was with Scar, I'd be okay. But I'm not-I'm not okay, and I know that's selfish, but it's the truth. I just don't understand, I really don't. How could Aaron not fight back? I mean he's a Dingle, and I've seen first hand just what kind of damage he can do to someone. Scar-she's one of the strongest people I know, without question the strongest woman I know. I've seen her fight her way out of more problems than I can count, it doesn't make sense. I don't want to push Aaron with my questions, because it's the last thing he needs right now. However I still need to know. Not only how Aaron and Scar couldn't fight back, but who these disgusting pricks are so I can make them pay, and why the hell Claudia wouldn't tell me I was with the father of her sister. From what I learned the other day about myself, and now this about Aaron, Scar and Alijah, it's all going over and over again in my head and driving me insane.
When I realize Aaron has fallen asleep I slowly pull myself away from him, and leave the room. I tiptoe down the stairs trying not to wake him, and search for my phone. I scroll the contacts until I come to Scar's name. My finger trembles over it before I set the phone down and back away. I can't phone her, I don't know where I would start, what I would say at all really.

"Rob?" I hear Aaron's name call from behind me.
I turn around to see him still puffy eyed and clearly so tired. Reminds me of myself this morning, come to think of it he looked just as tired when he arrived. I don't know how I missed it. Maybe the alcohol running through my veins, whatever it was isn't there anymore. I see his pain so clearly, and it's killing me.
"Yeah?" I respond leaving my thoughts for a second, and walking closer to Aaron.
"How did you know who the woman was?" There it is, the question I didn't want to have to answer. I knew this was coming, I was so stupid and foolish to show him that I had a picture on my phone. I don't even know how to explain this. I don't even understand it myself. How am I gonna be able to get the words out for Aaron?
"I met her ten years ago. Round' the same time I met Claudia." I couldn't come right out and say it. I couldn't say straight up that she was Claudia's mother.
"Wait, Claudia was in that picture. Robert why was Claudia in the picture with her?" Aaron asks, becoming emotional again. I don't know how to stop it, I wanna help him but I can't.
Before I can respond we both hear the doorbell. Aaron looks at me like he doesn't want me to answer it, and I understand that given the conversation we're having, but then we hear, "Rob it's me open up!!"
I race to the door, and open to see Claudia standing there-not alone. She's accompanied by Scar, and I start to feel sick to my stomach.

Claudia pushes her way into the house, seemingly unaware that I'm not alone. When Scar follows her inside they both stop at the sight of Aaron. Who is more shocked than I have ever seen him. It's not hard to tell that he looks like he's going to break again, but before he's given the chance to do or say anything Scar speaks,
"Aaron."
He is still quiet and doesn't move, I can see it in his eyes, he's trying to figure out what to do next. My heart is racing fast, and I'm almost positive that I'm the most scared of what's going to happen. Every one in this room is unpredictable, and given the circumstances I don't think what's to come is something to look forward to.
"Mum maybe we should come back later." Claudia suggests, backing away from Aaron and trying to push Scar away.
"Mum? You have got to be kidding me!" Aaron screams. The pain he had a minute ago has turned into anger.

"Claudia I think you and I need to go." I say, trying to pull her back, and give Scar and Aaron the chance to talk.
"No! I think I'm the one who needs to go." Aaron says, walking past Scar and Claudia. When he reaches where I am, I stand in front of the door. Aaron tries to push past me, but I put up a fight. He's beginning to get angrier which each passing second, but I don't want to let him leave, I can't.
"Rob let me by!" Aaron yells.
"No Aaron, you're not the one who needs to leave. Okay no one does."
"What?" Scar asks confused.
I hesitate before saying something else, "We're all gonna talk about this."
"Of all your stupid ideas over the years Rob, this has got to be one of the worst." Claudia says, but she's not angry. A part of her seems scared.
"What's wrong C, worried somebody's gonna realize you have secrets?"

We've all been standing in dead silence for what feels like forever. Looking back and forth between each other, but no words.
"Fine. You want to talk, let's talk." Scar yells. Quietly adding, "I think I have some explaining to do."
We all move over into the living room. Scar and Claudia take a seat on the sofa, while Aaron and I take different chairs. We're waiting for not even a full second before Scar stays to her word and begins explaining. "Well at this point I take it you all know Aaron and I have a child together, Claudia knows how, do you?"
I nod my head yes, and ask, "How did you not fight the men back. I mean Scar you're strong."
"So Aaron didn't tell you that part? In France I was diagnosed with a heart disease. That night I had been to the hospital, I used to be strong. But now, since then, I've been weak."
"That doesn't make any sense, you've been on the job-" I begin, before being cut off.
"But have I been like I used to?"
"Okay. I want to be supportive and caring here, but five months ago you threatened Alijah."
"Wait what?" Aaron speaks for the first time.
"Aaron listen to me I would never actually hurt her. But no one at work knows about you and I. I had to do something to get Robert back on the job, threatening you and her were the only way to do so." Scar's defending herself. And a part of me feels for her, I can't imagine being diagnosed and then sexually assaulted all in one night, but it doesn't change the fact that she threatened Alijah. Nothing is ever going to change that, and she can't take it back either.
"God why am I even surprised. Selfish like always!" Aaron screams angrily, before getting up from his chair and storming off upstairs.
I have to admit, I'm surprised he didn't just leave the house. But I also know there's a reason for it, if he's still here something has been left unsaid. I ignore the calls from both Scar and Claudia when I run upstairs after Aaron.

I walk into the room and he's sitting on the edge of the bed. Head in his hands, and both legs shaking at quick speed. I don't think he even knows I'm in the room, because he doesn't acknowledge that I'm there. Doesn't move from that position until I walk in more, and sit beside him on the bed. I place my hand on his thigh to stop his leg from shaking so much. It slows down, and he looks up at me. The tears are still there, the anger is showing, but there's something more than that written on his face, and I just can't place it.
"That...that night after we left the building she got sick. Throw...throwing up everywhere. I had to take her to the hospital." Aaron begins. I know what night he's talking about, and I know who he's talking about, I try to tell him it's okay that I'm here and he doesn't need to worry but he continues. "That's when I found out she was sick, the drugs they gave her, those men, they made her condition worse. The doctors asked why she had taken drugs and she was quick to lie. Saying it was some stupid experiment. Not too long after another doctor went in and told her she was pregnant. I didn't want to believe it was possible, but she said she hadn't slept with anyone else in years."
"Hey...hey." I whisper trying to calm him down, as his breathing starts to get out of control.
He pushes away from me and curls up into a ball in the corner of the bed. "Her entire life was turned upside down and it's because of me. I was too cowardly to fight back, I didn't want to die and I didn't stop them."
"Aaron this, what happened-it wasn't your fault." I say being cautious of getting too close to him.
"But in a way it was. All of it. Scar getting pregnant, Alijah having to grow up without a mother. I know what that's like, I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
"Aaron, Scar not being around for Alijah growing up is on her. Not you. Okay listen to me none of this is your fault. You are an amazing father, who would do anything for his daughter. Do not blame yourself"
"Come here." Aaron says, pulling me into a hug.
I hold onto even tighter than earlier, resting my head on his chest I whisper, "we should probably go kick out C and Scar."
Aaron chuckles and responds, "They'll get the hint that we want them gone. Don't need to get off our asses."
"We get it. And we're going now. I-I just wanted to say I'm sorry for not telling you Rob." Claudia says. When I hear her voice I look up, her and Scar are standing at the bedroom door.
"Aaron, listen to him because it really wasn't your fault." Scar speaks.
Aaron and I both smile to her and Claudia, before they head out the door and we go back to laying together. Peacefully comfortable in each other's arms, I notice he's drifted off to sleep and I soon do the same.

Chapter Text

Robert-May 20th 2015.

I didn't feel right letting Aaron go home last night. Not after everything he told me. He woke up after our nap and I told he needed to call Chas to tell her he wouldn't be coming home. We stayed in bed the rest of the day, not much talking was done. We tried our best to enjoy the company of each other, and watched some telly. We talked a bit before actually crashing for the night. Saying that today would be different. We would go to the pub, eat with friends, well Aaron's friends seeing as I have none. We would live our lives, and not let the day's revelations get in the way of a slight chance of happiness. Aaron's gotta work in an hour, and Vic has been begging me to have lunch with her and Adam. I agreed, and we set the date for today while I was free. It'll be nice to spend some time with her, and although I think Adam can be a right muppett, it's more than clear he loves my sister which is more than I could ever ask for. She's happy and he's Aaron's best mate which means I have to give him a shot. Also seems like it'll be a good distraction, get my mind off everything.

I'm up before Aaron again, instead of getting up to make coffee and tea I lay in bed and watch him sleep. I know I can't be who he needs me to be, and that in the end all I'm going to do is disappoint him but I'm selfish and want nothing more than this time with him.

"Hey." Aaron says in a husky voice, as he wakes up slightly.
"Hey." I whisper back.
He smiles a little, then looks at the clock and jumps out of bed. "Ugh I gotta have a shower."
I smile and point to the bathroom. I don't know if it's clued in yet, but he doesn't have any clothes here so I leave something of mine I'm sure he'll be fine with on the bed.
I go downstairs and make myself a coffee, before my phone goes off. I look down and it's the same number that has called me the past few days. I feel sick at the thought of discussing Scar with the complete and total stranger, especially after our last encounter. Though he did say he would be back. I should have taken him much more seriously after that. Somehow he knew Scar and Aaron had a child together, and also knows the details to why I had to return home. Whoever this man is may come in handy at some points. I don't want to get myself in a situation I can't get out of, but I could use all the help I can get. Against my better judgement, I know this man could be a lot of help.

"Everything okay?" I hear, as I let my finger float over the accept button.
I turn around and it's Aaron, which causes me to quickly decline the call and throw my phone back onto the counter. I look at him and reply, "Yea. Vic doin' my head in about this lunch today."
"Well that's Vic for ya. Just be thankful you're in her good book, I'd fear for ya if you weren't."
"Thank you for that by the way. You know making me go the other night to talk things through."
"It was more of a selfish move actually. So don't sweat it, eh?"
"Really? Why would that be?" I ask, confused to why he would think helping someone else makes him selfish.
"I thought that if your family and you could get on, I'd feel less guilty for ya know....us."
"So we're gonna do this? You want to do this?" I can't help but be surprised. I mean I know how he feels, and I know how I feel but I didn't think we'd get to a place where we could try and give it a go. It scares me a little bit. I want to be with him, it's all I've wanted since we met eight months ago, but I also know this may not work. A few days ago I wouldn't have cared, I'd have given this a go without a second though. But now I know things about him. He's let me in, which no one else ever has and I know I can't be who he needs.
"Well yeah." Aaron answers, pulling me from my train of thought.
"I'll drive you to the garage, gotta go into the village anyway."
"Okay. And how bout' we stop at the cafe?" Aaron suggests.
"What's wrong with this coffee?"
"Nothing it's just...okay Rob it's terrible."
"Whatever, let's go." I respond, pulling him to the door with me. It was nice to see him genuinely smile, even if it was because he was dissing how I make coffee.

At the garage I get the death stare from Cain, but try to ignore it as I smile goodbye to Aaron and drive away. I have a bit of time before I have to meet with Vic and Adam, so I decide to go after what's been peaking my interest and call the number that's been showing up on my phone lately.
"Thought I said, I'd contact you." I hear in an angry voice, from the other end of the line.
"Yeah save the theatrics for someone who's scared. Tell me what you know." I don't even realize what I'm saying until I'm done. The last thing I wanted to do was make another person angry, and due to how this man comes off he's not exactly an easy one to please.
"Mr. Sugden you may not know this but I'm the one who calls the shots. And no way are we having this conversation over the phone. Now listen carefully. I will contact you when I see best fit."
"Okay. But when should I be expecting your call?"
"I never said I'd call you." The man hangs up after these words.
What does that mean, he didn't say he'd call me? I don't need him showing up outta the blue and raising suspicion among the villagers. Especially Aaron, things are finally going good there. I don't need this man, whoever he is, getting in the way of that. This isn't the best way to build a relationship with Aaron, starting off with leis and secrets. But I can't tell him about this. He doesn't need the stress, not after what he told me yesterday. Not ever really. This isn't his battle to fight, and he deserves a break. God knows he's been through hell. Not even just with what happened that fatal night with Scar, and those men. But through out the years, he's survived hell, he deserves to know what happiness is. And even if he can't have it completely, not knowing about this man will stop him from having more to stress about.

A The Woolpack I sit waiting for Vic, alone with Adam. It's quiet until Chas comes out from the back room with Alijah. She runs over to the table where I'm seated with Adam, and jumps on my lap. Everyone in the room looks confused to why she came to me.
"Daddy." she squeals.
If looks could kill I'd be dead, because the thunder in Chas' eyes shows she doesn't like what she's seeing.
Chas comes over to the table and tries to pull Ali away, but she puts up a fight. I look up and ask, "Can you just let her sit here?"
"I don't even understand why she wants to sit with you. And what's with this whole 'daddy' thing?" Chas snarls in question.
I look behind Chas to see Moira holding in a laugh, with Cain beside her looking confused. My heart skips a beat when I see the expression on Cain's face goes from confusion, to his very well known hard anger. I think Moira sensed it, because she puts her hand on his arm and whispers something I can't quite make out.
"I-I, you should ask Aaron about that."
"Whatever. You do anything stupid with her around, and you'll regret it. Got it Sugden?"
Chas still scares the shit out of me, no way will I ever go against her. Or do something that could remotely piss her off. Of all the things and people I've known and worked with, she's a force to be reckoned with.
I nod my head yes, and get a little laugh from Adam, and Vic who just walked through the door. Much to my fear and surprise, she's followed by the man from the phone call.
"Hey Alijah I gotta do something. Vic I'll be back in a minute." I say picking Alijah off my lap, and walking towards the door pushing the man outside with me.

"Way to make a scene. And here I was thinking you knew how to be discreet." The man teased.
"Oh shut up! Just tell me who you are." I growl, annoyed with everything that has been going on. And this man just popping up outta no where.
"I'm the reason you're back in Emmerdale. You must have known." He chuckles when his words are finished.
His words make my blood boil, whatever I thought he wanted has been completely changed. "What the hell does that mean?"
He takes a step closer to me, and looks me in the eyes, "I want something, and I'll go to extreme lengths to get it."
"What does that have to do with me?" I snarl in disgust at the man's obvious enjoyment of the situation.
"Well you see, I met a man and a woman almost two years ago. Turned their lives upside down from what I hear, and when I got word that there was someone connected to both of them I had to find out who."
It takes me longer than it should to figure out what he seems. The look of enjoyment on his face, turning into a pure evil smirk. I think about what he said, and it hits me. It was nearly two years ago that Scar got pregnant. There's someone connected to both of them. Me. Almost everything fits, and is in a sick, twisted way beginning to make sense. But there's still something I need to know. "Who are you?"
"The name's Charlie." He says smugly, holding out his hand for a shake.
When it registers where I know the name from, I throw a punch. He feels his face, looks back up to me and smiles, "I take it you know then."

"You don't start talking and I won't be so nice with that next punch." I snarl.
"Look at you sticking up for your man. It's cute." He teases, looking me dead in the eyes with an even more smug smirk than before.
"Last I heard you had problems with gays."
"No. That was my partner. I mean I'll never swing that way, but as long as you keep your paws off me, I don't give a shit who you fuck."
"Wouldn't dream of going near you. Now explain."
"When Claudia that little bitch of yours found out she had a sister, she did some searching. Took her long enough, but she found me. Before you ask when, it was only a few weeks ago. Bout' the time she sent you back to the village."
I interrupt him and ask, "Why did she send me back to Emmerdale?"
"Let me finish, and you'll know. Now, she thinks I'm after her mother and your little boy toy. I did some of my own researching, she figured if you were back in the village, you could protect him. She'd be able to focus more on her mother, instead of babysitting you."
"So all of this is because she knows you're after Scar and Aaron?" I ask confused.
"Think I am. I'm not actually after them, just keeping tabs to make sure no one goes to the police. Protecting my skin, from a stupid decision I made with a mate."
"And how the hell am I supposed to believe you?"
"You don't have to. But it's the truth. Those are my reasons for all of this." He says before turning away from me, and heading to a car, that I assume is his.
I don't know whether to believe him or not, but whatever the truth is. I don't care what he says, his reasons are not good enough.

Chapter Text

Robert-May 20th 2015.

If what I was just told by Charlie is true, and that's a big ass 'if' then Claudia's in for a world of pain. I know what kind of woman she is, selfish, sadistic and quite pathetic at times, but never has she kept so many secrets revolving my personal life.

I go inside the pub and walk over to the table Vic and Adam are seated at, "Look, sis I gotta take care of something. Can we take a rain check on lunch?"
"Seriously Rob? I've just convinced you to actually come." She snaps back at me.
"I know okay. How about dinner tonight?" I suggest with a bit of hope. This is Vic we're talking about, she can't stay mad at me for long.
"Yeah whatever."
I lean down to kiss her on the cheek with a goodbye. Before I can leave out the door, I'm stopped in my tracks by Alijah. I smile at how cute she is, and lean down, "I'l see you later okay?" She nods her head yes, and pulls her arm out for a hug. I hug her tightly, and then make my way out the door.

This drive to Claudia's seems longer than the last one. It could feel the traffic jam, or how much I just want to talk to her. Whatever it is, is pissing me off. I need to get to her place so we can discuss everything. I need to know why she would lie about why I had to return, why she wouldn't tell me about her mum and Alijah when I met Aaron. God there are so many unanswered questions, and it's driving me insane. Because no matter how much I try to fight it, it's Claudia who holds my future in the palm of her hands. Whatever she says, or doesn't tell me today will change everything in my life forever. If what Charlie said was the truth, then I'll have to re-think the last ten years I've spent trusting Claudia. If what Charlie said wasn't true, then it's back to square one with absolutely no answers.
I've been stuck in this same of traffic for almost an hour, and I'm getting irritated. I just want these fucking cars to move. Before I have time to complain more about the damn cars, I hear the passenger door of mine slam shut. I turn over to see Aaron, with a look of anger in his eyes.
"Aaron what the hell?"
"It's not that hard to jump in a car during a traffic jam."
"No. I mean how the hell did you even know I was here?" I ask.
"I went to the pub for a drink, Adam spilled the beans. Said you were tied up and had to go somewhere. Now where else is there for you to go? I know the way to Claudia's, figured I'd take my chances and run out here." He explains. I've always loved that he has dedication, but to run this far out from the village something I never thought would happen.
"What if there was no traffic jam?"
"Then I'd be screwed. But I've always believed everything happens for a reason."
"You do eh? Okay, what's the reason for this happening?" I ask, gesturing between Aaron and I.
He smirks lightly, answering "To stop you from doing whatever stupid thing you're about to do."
"Whatever." I growl. Knowing full well there is no way I'm getting Aaron out of this car. That there is no point in even trying, and I should enjoy the company of someone I care so much about. Although I would have preferred to do this on my own, Aaron being here may just be the support I need. He knows how to keep me in line, and with the thoughts I have of Claudia running through my mind it's probably better for every party involved. Though there is a part of me that thinks when Aaron hears what Claudia has to say, he won't be so quick to stop me and save her.
The rest of the ride is just as quiet and long as the beginning of it when I was alone. We didn't get out of the traffic jam for almost an hour after Aaron joined me. When we got to the end of the line, there were paramedics and officers on duty. Figure there must have been an accident. Selfishly neither Aaron or I showed any sign of remorse or emotion at all to it.

I could sense it, Aaron began feeling nervous the closer we got to Claudia's house. He tried to hide it, pretend he was okay. But when I looked over I could see it, he was fearful of what was to come. It makes complete sense, after everything he's been through especially these last few days, I'd be scared too. But he's the strongest bloke I know, for him to come out of everything and still be an amazing father-much better than either of ours at that. Most people would resent a child that came from such terrible circumstances, but the way he is with Alijah, it's pure love. He acts different with her around, like he has to put a guard on almost all his emotions so she doesn't see that he's hurting. He's completely selfless with Ali, and that's how he is right now. Guarding himself, pretending that he's not afraid of what's to come because he doesn't want to make this whole thing about him. But it is, it's about him and Scar, and Charlie. All of this began because of them, not because Scar and Aaron are to be blamed, but this entire situation revolves around them. I wouldn't be the way I am with Claudia today, if it wasn't for what I know about Aaron and Scar.
Pulling around a corner to the street Claudia lives on, I feel it more than before. Aaron is beginning to tense up, and when I look over to him there are tears building in his eyes. I understand being afraid to see a woman he just learned he had a complicated connection to, but to be so emotional about it. Almost like there's more to it. Whatever it is, I need Aaron to know he's not alone and that if he needs anything I'm here.
I take my hand off the steering wheel and place it on his, with a tight squeeze. He looks down to our joined hands, then up to me. Our eyes meet and I smile a little. A movement that's reciprocated. "It's gonna be okay." I whisper.
It's while we're walking up to the house that I realize he hasn't even asked why I'm doing this. God if the positions were switched I'd be asking questions non-stop. I'm not complaining thought, because I don't think I can answer him without breaking. But with Claudia it's pure anger and almost something that resembles hate. I want Aaron to see the better side of me, and I know after I show my true colors he may not like what he sees, but I can't break. Not now-not ever.

Aaron and I enter the house to see Claudia isn't alone.
"Rob, Aaron we-we were just-" Claudia begins before I cut her off.
"Oh save it before ya lie again!"
"Mr Sugden we're in the middle of something." A man says. When I look beside Claudia I know exactly who it is. A man who I used to cross paths with during work, Adan Knight. To say he an I weren't mates would be understatement. He resented me when I became close with Claudia, hated me and did everything he could to sabotage me without screwing himself over. The fact that he hated me so much over a girl, one who wasn't even worth much reminded me of how Andy acted after he found about me and Katie. Like his entire life was set to destroy me, because if he couldn't have the girl no way in hell could I. With Katie I loved her, but only truly wanted her because Andy had her first. Where with Claudia, I was intrigued, thought of it as a nice challenge. God how happy I am to be away from that place. Now she is nothing more than a woman who owes me answers to say the least.
"Well Mr Knight if you can't see I don't exactly care. Besides Claudia and I need to discuss something ourselves."
"Okay well whatever you have to say, say it in front of them." She responds, pointing to the two men and one woman that are around her.
"Actually this is between you and me. So I can't." I growl, trying to watch what I do and say in front of Aaron. I look over to him and he seems so confused. If my anger wasn't shining right now, I'm sure my confusion would too be so noticeable.
"You should go." Claudia says in a light voice to the people that were there with her before Aaron and myself.
Adam looks at me with anger, and I give him the same smug smile I always have. He hates it, I know he does which is exactly why I do it. It's always been a funny game with him, one he found serious but one I enjoyed. It was nice knowing I could get under his skin, even now after so much time away from him. I've changed a lot since last time we spoke, but messing with him was and still is one of my favorite parts of the game. Especially when I win in a situation like this one.
"Wipe that smug smile off your face before I smack it off!" Claudia threatens, when everyone walks out the door.
I look at her with my anger consuming more of me with each passing second. "I wouldn't be making threats if I were you."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" She asks now with as much confusion as Aaron is showing.
I hesitate before saying it, because I don't know how Aaron's going to react. But when he nudges my shoulder I know he's as desperate for an answer as Claudia is. "I got a visit from Charlie."
I ignore Claudia's reaction completely and immediately turn to Aaron, "What? How the hell are you two even in contact?" He asks, and his emotions now getting the better of him.
"That's why I'm here, he only knows about me because of you, Claudia." I respond, pulling my gaze away from Aaron, not wanting to see the tears in his eyes.
Before she can respond both of us are distracted by Aaron making an exit from the house, "Aaron!" I call after him.
"Rob just leave me be. I'll be waiting in the car, but I can't be in here."
I want him to stay. God knows what will happen if he's left on his own, but I know what he needs right now. It's not me, but to be left alone with his thoughts and to try and deal with everyone at his own speed and in his own way.

"I'm guessing you have a few questions then." Claudia whispers, avoiding any eye contact with me.
"Plenty. But I'm going to start with the one that's been racking my brain the most. Why the fuck would you lie about why I had to return to the village?"
Her eyes are still avoiding mine, and that's exactly how I know she's planning on lying. Claudia is amazing at pretending, but with certain people she can't look them in the eyes when she lies. "Look at me!" I yell, fuming with anger more than before.
"Y-you hadn't said anything about me mum. I figured you didn't know about her and Aaron, so there was no way I could tell you the truth." She explains, stuttering over her words with brokenness clear in her voice.
"I spent days thinking someone wanted me dead, and that Aaron had to protect me. What if things were different? What if I still didn't know about Scar and Aaron, and he got hurt because I couldn't pretend him from something I didn't know? I would've never forgiven myself, and it would've been your fault!"
"That's not fair Rob. You can't blame me for this."
"I can't!?"
"No. Because I was looking out for my mum. You can't put your anger and hurt onto me for something someone else did." The brokenness in her voice turning into the anger I also posses. It's clear now, I've pushed nearly too far.

I don't have time to respond, before Scar comes pushing through the door, "Will the pair of ya just stop for Christ sake!"
"Mum, wh-what are you doing here?"
"Doctors didn't take as long as expected. Came a bit early, and got a surprise of Aaron sitting in a car out front in tears."
"That might be my fault." We all hear a man say from the door.
I turn to see Charlie, and Scar jumping back in fear is a movement that didn't go unnoticed by me. "What the hell are you doing here?" I growl. Claudia may be the one I have a problem with because of her lies and secrets. But I will never look at Charlie like a normal human being. Whether or not he had more or less to do with the incident than his mate, he was still a part of something that hurt two people I care deeply about.
"I couldn't just let you go off anywhere. God knows you could've went to the cops." He smiles slightly, before entering the house completely.

Chapter Text

Robert-May 20th 2015

Charlie came through the door five minutes ago, and since his entrance the entire room as been silent. No one has spoke, nor as anyone moved. I can sense the discomfort that everyone but Charlie seems to posses. It's he not feeling awkward then there must have been situations he was in before much more complicated than this. That or he's incredible at hiding how he truly feels.
When I look over to Scar she's on the verge of tears, something I've never seen before. I understand why, but I can't even imagine what it's truly like for her. I had been so focused on how much I hated Claudia, I never really thought about how it must be for her or Aaron. Of course I tried to understand, but I wasn't able to put myself in that place. It was the night Aaron told me about everything, I stayed up late trying to figure exactly what he was thinking and feeling. I just couldn't. Standing here now looking at Scar, I still can't. All I know is what I see pain, brokenness, and fear. God I don't even know if all those feelings are real. I see Claudia there physically, but she's not there mentally. I can see her, but not feel her. It's like she's trying so hard to get away from here, but she can't find the strength or energy to move.
It wasn't long after I really started to acknowledge the silence that it was taken away. My phone ringing loud made everyone in the room apart from Charlie and myself jump. I pull it out of my pocket and see that it's Aaron's number.

[Are you coming out?]

[I can't. Aaron, Charlie's here] I don't know if sending that was the best decision, but he deserves to know. This isn't something I can keep from him, and maybe-just maybe talking to Charlie might change things. It might be exactly what he needs to let himself fully deal with what has happened. Of course he's been unbelievably strong through it all, but the fact that he wasn't able to say it aloud for over a year shows he isn't fully over it. I mean who would be? I'm pulled out of my thoughts when my phone goes off again but this time it isn't Aaron.

[Where the hell are ya?] I look up at the contact and it's Victoria.

[Tomorrow? I'm sorry Vic]

As soon as I send the message, my eyes are pulled away from my phone at the sound of the door slamming shut. Before anyone can protest Aaron comes storming inside, and immediately connects his clenched fist to Charlie's jaw. Much like I did earlier. Only this time the punch filled with so much more reason and pain.
Before Aaron can doing anything else, most likely something he may regret I walk over and hold him back. Aaron tries to fight me off, but I don't let him. I hold on for dear life, and whisper into his ear, "Hey, hey I'm here Aaron listen to me."

"What the fuck are you even doing here?" He yells at Charlie, who's trying to get himself to steady after being hit.
"I need to explain myself." Charlie answers.
"Explain yourself? You think you can explain yourself?" Scar speaks for the first time since Charlie walked through the door. Before anyone can stop her she continues, "You're pathetic, there is no way you can explain yourself to us for the things you did."
"Look I know what I did, it was wrong-"
"Ha, that's an understatement." I scoff, wanting to just let Aaron punch him and Scar lose her shit.
"BUT. But I know there are some things you guys don't know, some things you need to hear."
Scar goes to leave through the back door but is stopped by Claudia standing in her way, "Mum, maybe you need to hear this to move on properly."
I see her hesitate before she turns around and takes a seat on the sofa. Claudia follows behind her, and I ask Aaron if he wants to stay. Aaron nods his head yes, but as we move to sit comfortably I hold onto him so he doesn't do something he shouldn't. I can feel the anger in his body language and it's clear to me he's also holding in some tears.
Aaron grips onto my hand tight and I can see that he's filled with hatred for the man standing in front of him. I lean into him close enough that only he can hear me, "It's okay."
I get no reaction in return, and it's not long before Charlie starts to speak again.
"I was under the influence of a friend I respected, well one my family did. He was never my friend, I was just forced into being around him because our family's grew up together. It was the cool thing to do, something both our family's believed. Gay is wrong, I never really cared much but went for it. I honestly didn't know where he was going with things, just went along with it." He stops and looks at all of us. Focusing more on Scar and Aaron, some type of sympathy or genuine emotion in his eyes. Whether it's truthful or not, I don't know. If it isn't he's a very good liar. Not that, that should come as a surprise to me.
"I-I was scared that he would tell my father. My father has threatened to throw me out more than once, saying I need to live by the family." He stops again and seems to be letting his emotion show more. Still don't if he's just lying, but I know what it's like to be thrown out by your family and wouldn't wish that on anyone. It changes who you are in so many ways. Sometimes it can be good for a person, other times it can kill you.
"Before any of you say anything, I know it doesn't make up for what I was a part of. I just, if I wasn't scared of losing my family I'd have never let it happen."
"As a father I can't ever imagine making my child do things like that. Raising you like that, they're blood not family." Aaron says. I know he is a selfless man, but I didn't think he'd be able to some what understand what Charlie's reasons were. To be able to say something so real and honest, but have such care in his voice. Despite knowing what it's like to lose my family, I could never be so calm and collected like Aaron is now. He's let go of the tight grip he had on my hand, and I can feel his body starting to relax. As we guessed hearing what Charlie had to say has clearly already helped.

"Okay enough about your terrible life, why the hell are you even around them anymore?" Claudia asks pointing to Aaron and Scar, and breaking the silence that spread across the room after Aaron's comment.
"I know what you think about me. But I'm not here to hurt you guys or make your lives hell." He stops himself, taking a deep breath and continues, "More than I already have. I told Robert this already, I just wanted to make sure no one went to the cops."
"How are we supposed to believe you?" Scar asks.
Charlie looks down to the ground taking another deep breath before looking Scar in the eye, "You don't have to. I don't expect you to, but I couldn't walk around saving my own skin without telling you the truth." He breaks his gaze with Scar and looks at Aaron, "What you said about never making your child do that, it's because you're a good father."
I stare at Aaron and see a sad smile creep on his face. Nothing else is said until Charlie returns looking to Scar and says, "You, you're a good mother. God if I had known you were a parent I would've-"
"You would've never done it. I know, it's what they all say. What are you gonna feed me this time? Huh-the 'I wish I could take it back' bullshit? Well you can't so don't say you wish ya could." Scar snaps, before getting herself up off the sofa and storming off despite Claudia's protests.
Claudia gets up to go get her, but Aaron quickly stands up telling her to stay and he goes after her.

-
Aaron-May 20th 2015.

"Scarlet! Scarlet wait!" I scream after her, as she gets further away from Claudia's house.
"Why so we can listen to explain? He ruined my life Aaron, and a year ago you were saying he ruined yours too." She snaps at me.
I can't protest her about that, because before I fell in love with Alijah I hated Charlie and the other man with him. I wanted nothing more than to ruin their lives, the way they ruined mine. Not exactly the same, but I wanted them to suffer. It was hell getting through everything, god everyday is still a struggle. Unlike Claudia and Robert, Scar and I understand each other. We both get it, we both know what it was like to be in that situation. No one else does. It's part of the reason why we couldn't raise Alijah together. Of course Scar didn't want to be a mother again, she couldn't raise a child again with her job. The risks were too high. But the big reason that over powers all the others, we are reminders of what happened. Scar and I talked about it multiple times, we didn't have the strength a year ago to be in each other's lives when, when we looked at one and another all we saw was what those men did to us.
"He did. I still think about what they did everyday, it's something we're never gonna forget. But my life has changed for the better since you had Ali. I will never forgive him for what he did, no matter how much he explains himself. Okay, but that doesn't mean I need to let the hatred I feel control me anymore." I stop, feeling myself beginning to cry. When I look at Scar her eyes are also filling with tears, this isn't what I planned on happening when I ran after her. I've tried hard to keep the tears in, but they're falling and won't stop. I try wiping them away, but it's no use, "Scarlet, we need to move on. With or without forgiveness that's up to you. Maybe what he's feeding us is complete bullshit, but to hear something any explanation it'll be good for us."
I walk closer and pull her into a hug. We were never friends, but the nine months she was pregnant we were close here and there. Always good at the things that happen in a second. Able to hug or laugh, trying so hard to forget about what happened. I feel her warm into the hug and some tears begin to fall. I've only ever seen her cry once besides that fatal night, the forty eight hours we spent in the hospital when she went into labor. It was the first in nine months that I had seen a bit of human in her besides what she showed everyone else. An emotion that was built off of genuine feelings, instead of fake ones that hid the real ones behind her walls.
"What do ya say we go inside? You can kick him out or let him finish, either way we need to get back in the house."
"Yeah." She whispers pulling away from the hug, before wiping away her tears.

As we enter the house and make our way into the living room, the first thing I see is Robert mouthing, 'You okay?' I nod my head yes, with a small smile and walk over to him. We stay standing as Scar looks over to be and I give her a reassuring nod. She then looks at Charlie and says, "I think it's time you go."
He seems to respect her wishes, as he heads to the door before turning back to say, "It may not mean much, but I really am sorry." Then goes straight out the door without a response from anyone.
I look at Robert and say, "We should head out." He agrees with me quickly.
Before we leave I say, "We'll talk soon okay?"
Scar looks at me and smiles with an agreeing nod. After that me and Robert are out the door, heading for his car.

Chapter Text

Aaron-May 21st 2015

We had driven to a hotel in Hotten, the car was filled with nearly complete silence. There were times when the quiet was too much to bare, and I chose to put the radio on. But all music was just crap, that or some stupid love song which was the last thing Robert and I needed to hear. I don't think either of our lives have ever been easy, but these last few days so much has happened. Things both of us still don't know how to do deal with. I've been carrying the truth of what happened that night in France a long time, but Robert just found out and still has to deal with it. He's a strong man, but it's clear he's having a hard time dealing with all of this. I feel bad for ever telling him, this isn't his burden and it's killing me to see him in pain.
I find myself thinking back to all the things I heard over the years. Andy and almost the entire village talking about how bad of a person Robert was. How the only people to ever defend him are his kid sister and step mum. I think about how much mum hates him, and how Katie and Andy will never be happy with him around. I just don't get it. Of course I've only known him for eight months, but the person everyone labels him as I just don't see it. I've seen him smug, cocky and a little too full of himself at times but nothing like what I've heard. The Robert Sugden I heard about growing up, is not the Robert Sugden lying beside me today. Not the same man that has been there through so much even in only a number of days. That is why I don't wanna hide what we have anymore.
"I wanna tell them." I whisper, placing my hand on Robert's as he's just waken up.
"About-"
I cut him off, "No, not that. This-us." I answer, with a small smile spreading on my face.
Robert props himself up, now sitting our hands still together, and asks, "Are you sure?"
"Well if you don't then-"
Before I can finish he cuts me off and explains, "No, it's not that. Of course I want to be with you, and I want people to know about us. But I just-I feel like I'm not good enough for you. Now that I know about what happened, I feel like I can't be who you need me to be."
"Rob, you have been better than imaginable. I don't need you to be anybody than who you are." I respond, leaning in for a soft kiss, before he pulls back.
"Have you heard what they say about me?"
I grin widely and answer, "Yes. But I make up my own mind."
Robert pulls me in for another kiss, when we pull away at the same time our foreheads are touching. We stay like that, and Robert asks, "So how are we gonna do this?"
"I have to go back for Alijah, but we don't have to do it today." I answer, secretly hoping he wants to so everyone can know how I feel about him.
"Well we're going to, because I want to." Robert smiles, leaning in for another soft kiss before hitting me lightly and whispering, "We need to get ready."

We are turning into the village, I feel myself and Robert tense up as we come closer to The Woolpack. I move my hand over Robert's and squeeze tightly. He turns to smile at me. He moves his hand off the steering wheel and holds on tight to mine as well. I'm not going to lie and say I'm not scared. I'm terrified, but the feel of Robert with me brings a comfort I can't describe. I love him and I know there is no way I could do any of this without him. He's been a constant rock, and today I am happy we can finally tell everyone.
Sitting outside The Woolpack, we both hesitate about getting out of the car. He looks at me again and says, "Are you sure? Cause once everyone knows about us, especially Vic there's no going back."
"Oh god Vic. She's gonna be over the moon about this." I laugh. "Aren't you worried about my family?"
"Your family? No. Your mum? God yes." He chuckles. "Come on before we both change our minds." He adds, pushing me out the door, and getting himself out.

We walk into the pub-hand in hand, and are met by the surprise of a busy lunch hour. Nearly everyone from the village is here.
As we make our way to the bar where mum is standing, Robert stops in his tracks at the sight of his brother and sister-in-law. I squeeze his hand to tell him it's okay, and continue walking. It seems like they were wrapped up in a conversation before we came in because across from mum is Cain and Moira. "Daddy!" Alijah squeals in happiness. She reaches her arms out to be picked up. I go to grab her, but she turns her body for Robert to pick her up. Katie is holding her and backs away not wanting to show Robert any respect. I understand why she is angry, but at the end of the day Alijah is my daughter and one day could be both Robert and I's.
"Give her to daddy." I say with a large smile, and pointing to Robert.
I look over to Robert with a smile still in my face, and he asks, "Does this mean-?"
I pull him in by his tie and whisper into his ear, "Yes." Before giving him a kiss on the cheek, and looking back to a very disproving mother of mine. She gestures for me to follow her into the back room, as I walk by Moira whispers "About time." I look back at her and she has a grin on her face, with I reciprocate.

In the back room mum is with Katie and Andy, who I assume followed her as well when I wasn't paying attention. "What the hell was that?" My mum yells as I shut the door.
"I'm with Robert."
"Yeah, smart ass we can see that. Why?" She asks, now seeming to be filled with more anger than before.
I look down at the ground, and think about the question. It's not that I have any doubts, but because I can't think of one reason why I'm with him. It's not that there aren't any, but because there are so many. We've been through so much in just a matter of months, and he's changed me in more ways than one. I can't give my mum one reason or simple explanation to why I'm with Robert. I certainly can't relive every moment we've shared with her. An 'I love him' wouldn't be enough for her, it wouldn't enough for anyone. Not with the track record he has in this village. I take my gaze from the floor up to my mother's eyes and say, "I'm in love with him."
Mum, Andy and Katie all look stunned. "How-how can you be in love with him?" Katie snarls. "He ruins lives Aaron. That's all he's gonna do to you. Hurt you. Make you believe he loves you, then throw you off like you're nothing. You saw how he left months ago and just showed back up here."
"Katie he's changed. I know that's cliche, but it's true. God it's true. And he had to leave!" I snap back.
"Wait-wait, were you two together before he left?" Andy asks, speaking for the first time.
I don't respond, and realize I don't have to when mum says shocked, "That bloke you were seeing, he didn't exist? It was Robert all along, you were on edge because he was back."
"Wow you catch on quick." I snarl sarcastically, angry that she's blaming my attitude on Robert and not understanding what he means to me.
"Don't talk to me like that Aaron. Love you're making a mistake."
"i honestly don't think you're one to judge mum. Look I love you, but your track record with relationships isn't the best. I know you don't want to hear it, but Robert is actually good for me. Really good for me." I admit honestly, trying to avoid the emotions running through me.
"Katie? Andy?" My mum asks.
"Give him a shot, but don't let him screw you over Aaron. You're a good bloke." Andy answers, with a small smile. When Katie doesn't say anything he nudges on her shoulder, she looks at me and says, "Don't make me say 'I told you so,' cause we all love ya."
I smile at the acceptance from the people who's opinions are important, especially in this situation and head back out to the front room.

It's the same people when we get back out there, and Robert is still holding Alijah. They're sitting at a table, and she's playing around with his hair. It scares me how much we're alike, because I do the exact same thing. Robert has a smile on his face; it's so clear he's happy. I begin walking to the table, but stop at Moira and Cain. "Thank you." I say. She looks up at me and responds, "I could see it from the beginning Aaron. I knew you two were for real even without you telling me. I knew the truth would come out, because that kind of love you just can't hide forever."
"You knew about this?" Cain asks angrily.
"Oh come off it will ya. Like you've never kept a secret." She teases, hitting Cain's arm. Moira smiles at me and says, "Go over there now."
I listen to what she says, and go join Alijah and Robert at their table.
"Hey." He says, as I take a seat beside him.
I look up at him and smile, "Hey."
"So what happened in there?" Robert asks me, as Alijah's calmed down a bit form jumping all over him.
"He said he was in love with ya." We hear Andy say, as he and Katie take their seats opposite of us at the table.
Robert looks at me surprised and asks, "You did?"
I smile lightly and answer, "Yeah."
"Well that's good, because I'm in love with you."
We both smile and kiss before being stopped by an over dramatic, grossed out Katie saying, "Okay we get it. Now stop."
"What you and your man can kiss in front of everyone but we can't?" Robert asks, letting out a bit of his cocky side with the tone of his voice.
"Not until you walk down the aisle." She snarls jokingly back at him.
Before Robert even looks at me to ask the question, I say, "Don't get any ideas Sugden, you're not getting me in a suit." He smiles at me, and lets out a little laugh before yelling over to the bar and asking, "Chas can we get some pints over here? A white wine for Katie?"
"They'll be a minute." My mum says, unpleasantly.
I look at Robert who seems worried, "Don't stress about it, she'll come around when she sees I'm happy." I try to assure him. A part of me believes it's true, nearly all of me does. And with how okay Katie, Andy, and everyone else seems to be I hope she does come around. It's gonna be hard. I know it's going to be hard for her, because the first time I was happy it was with Ed. But that was different. Robert's not going to take me far away from here like Ed did with France. Because with Robert we want the same things. A normal, happy life with our family's. We both come from here, this is where our family's are. We're not gonna go anywhere, because this is our home.

Chapter Text

Aaron-October 23rd 2015. Early Morning.

It's weird to see where I am now in life. A year ago if someone were to say I'd be living with Robert Sugden, happy and in love I'd tell em' they were daft. That there was no way I could ever fall in love after everything, especially with Robert Sugden. But here I am.
We officially moved into together a couple weeks after we told everyone about our relationship back in May.
Despite a few side comments from Katie and mum, everyone has been unbelievably supportive. Especially Vic, she's been trying to find me someone for ages and knowing I not only found love but with her brother just made her so happy. Ali has warmed up to him so much more over the past six months. Not only is she always happy when he's around, but has started talking in almost full sentences and calls up both 'daddy.' Robert was worried about my reaction at first, thought that I wouldn't be happy if Alijah's love was split between us, but I couldn't be happier with it. Scar doesn't want to be a part of her life, and although we're both men, two parents in this case are better than one.

We're lying in bed, debating on getting up after a late night. My head is resting on Robert's chest, as our legs are entangled and he asks,
"Can't we just ring Vic to come get Alijah and stay in bed all day?"
I chuckle lightly, "God I wish. But we both have jobs."

Robert got a job working with Moira at the farm, at first Cain wasn't all too happy about it but he came around. Robert hated being a farmer's son growing up, but knew this was much better than illegal money transferring. He didn't make millions like on his previous job, but he had a lot saved up and the amount he gets on the farm is better than he had expected. Robert enjoys it, he won't admit it to anyone but me, but he enjoys the hard labor. There are days I get off at the garage, and go up and help him. Adam has been coming up with these crazy ideas that we should make our business. Him and Robert don't exactly get on greatly, but he suggested Robert be a part of it. Like a family business, as Vic would call it. We've actually given it consideration, well by 'we' I mean Adam and Robert. I'm still not all that supportive of us risking a lot of money, and our friendships for a business that would most likely crumble into nothing within months. But the two of them and their great defender Victoria, like to try and get me to come around to the idea. Robert has been working closely with an old accountant that was aware of his previous job to see if he had the money to make his own business. We haven't heard much, but everybody except for me seems so hopeful. It's quite funny how optimistic everyone is.
"Yeah, I know." Robert moaned in complaint.
"Daddy!" We hear Alijah yell from her bed. Robert and I both look over, and she's standing up with a smile spread across her face.
We both laugh lightly, and moan as we get out of our bed.

As Robert's about to pick up Alijah and change her the phone starts ringing catching all of us by surprise. I look down to the phone, and don't recognize the number. Robert asks if I want him to answer it, but I just tell him to change Ali.
I grab the phone and walk out of the room. Answering the call I hear a worried voice on the other end of the line,
"Aaron? Robert?"
"Claudia?" I ask trying to make our the familiar voice filled with worry and fear.
"Yes. Aaron I need to tell you something."
"I figure that's why you called."
"Okay smart ass, this is serious. Are you and Robert busy today?"
"We have work. Why? Claudia you sound worried what's going on?"
"It's my mum, she's-she's gotten worse. Her heart it stopped last night. We got her to the hospital in time, but sh-she's dying Aaron." I can hear it in her voice, Claudia has started to cry. I don't know what to say, I mean there's nothing you can really say in a situation like this that'll make it better.
Before I can respond she continues through the cracks in her voice and says, "I know this is a lot to ask, but she-she wants to see Alijah before she dies. Just once, can you bring her to the hospital?"
"I can talk to Robert, which hospital is it?"
"It's St James' University Hospital. Aaron please, please bring Alijah."
"I'll try."
And with that Claudia hangs up. I push back the tears I didn't realize I had, and walk back into our bedroom.

"Babe, can we uh-can we talk?"
Robert looks up from the changing table, and I guess he knows somethings wrong. The expression on his face is pure concern. I walk more into the room, and wrap my arms around his waist.
"What's goin' on? Who was on the phone?"
"It was Claudia-" Before I can finish, Robert spins around now facing me and pushes away towards the dresser.
"Aaron we've talked about this. We don't talk to or about them." Robert reminds me, as he rummages through the drawers.
"I know. It's just-it's Scar, she's sick." I tell him, walking closer trying to get him to calm down.
"Well yeah, she did tell us she has a heart disease or whatever. Wouldn't that make her sick." Robert responds harshly, avoiding all contact with me.
"Robert will you stop and look at me!" I yell, getting irritated with how he is acting.

Robert turns around and looks at me shocked. Over the past year we've had our fair share of arguments, but despite the few times I've been upset with him in the past it's usually him that gets heated. It's not normal for me to be the angry one, and it's even more unusual for me to freak out when Alijah's in the room. I know Robert doesn't get it. He's been understanding and caring constantly since I told him about what happened that night in France, but he doesn't truly get what happened. Scar and I both strong people who have been through a lot in our lives, however things that don't compare to what happened. We became close after it all went down, but that's what Robert doesn't get. That despite her not wanting to be a part of Ali's life, and our lack of communication we still have this one thing that ties us together. She is sick, sick to an extent where her life could end at any given moment and if she wants to see Alijah one last time before that happens, then I am completely okay with it. Although Ali is my child and Robert doesn't have a say in it, we raise her together so I need him to be okay with as well.

"Scar is getting worse, and she wants to see Alijah before...well you know."
"Scar is not gonna die Aaron, she's Scar. That woman has survived hell." Although I'm happy Robert's calmed down, and has finally looked at me, I can't help but scoff at his comment.
"Survivor or not, everyone dies. As much as I wish it wasn't true, she is sick. Really sick." I stare deeply at Robert and can sense how much this is beginning to get to him. Between the memories of what happened with Scar and I, and us trying to get on with our lives I sometimes forget Robert knew her well. Of course not as well as he thought. But he and Claudia were close-once upon a time-and this has to affecting him in some way as well. The emotion of his I'm used to seeing is anger, it's incredibly rare to see him show any type of fear or pain. But there are some moments much like this one, when we're talking about something that is personal and rough when even though he tries to hide it inside, it's clear he's close to the edge of breaking.
"Please Robert, let Scar get her goodbye. Let Alijah get her goodbye." I plead, letting my emotions come closer to the surface.
"Fine, but we're not staying long." Robert states, leaving it at that, before returning to Alijah's bed.

Robert-October 23rd 2015. Late Morning.

We're on our way to the hospital in Leeds. It was a bit of an argument between Aaron and I before I gave him to his pleading. I know he hates it when I make a big deal about everything with Scar and Claudia. We haven't talked to them much at all over these past few months, but that hasn't stopped us from letting them get to us. There have been a couple disagreements here and there about everything that happened. We'd be asked by villagers about how it is raising a child together, then the inevitable question of Alijah's mother would pop up. Aaron would always handle it the best he could, be extremely subtle. But when we get alone, I seem to always be the one who brings it up again. Aaron responding with something stupid about how he understand why Scar doesn't want to be around, and how Claudia is just respecting her mother's wishes. Then there's me, who seems to find a way to argue that point, saying Scar should be there to raise her daughter. Although I'm happy with the way things are and want nothing more than Claudia and Scar out of our lives, I find it unfair that Alijah has to grow up without a mother. Which is truly the big reason I was so against coming to the hospital.
Why should we give Scar the right to see her 'daughter' before she dies, when it will only cause Alijah an unexplainable pain? She's smart for her age, but not exactly smart enough to understand any of this. Alijah will be meeting this woman for the first time since the day Scar give birth to her, only to see her possibly die. It's not fair on such a young child. Aaron agrees with me on that. We talked about that before leaving for the hospital, after one more check of making sure this was the right thing to do. But he also strongly believes Scar and Alijah deserve their goodbyes. After all they are still mother and daughter.

As we get closer to the hospital I begin to tense up, I'm truly worried about Alijah having to go through this. But also selfishly don't want to have to see Claudia or Scar again. I believed that a few months ago after we all talked about the truth regarding Alijah, Scar and Aaron that was it. I don't want to be in Claudia's presence, and certainly not Scar's. Scar knew I was with Aaron, she knew I was close with Alijah and used that against me. She can say it was her way of 'keeping up an act,' but it was still wrong. And I personally don't think I'm ever gonna forgive her for that. Aaron has his own issues with being around them, and I can sense him beginning to also tense up.
Everything has been so great between us that I tend to forget he endured such horrible trauma only two years ago. He's so strong and always has everyone else at the forefront of his mind, it's easy to forget.

"Robert relax will ya." I hear Aaron whisper. I look over to him and force a half smile with a nod, trying to keep myself collected.

We arrive at the hospital, and as Aaron pulls the car to a stop Alijah starts to giggle. She loves her car rides, but more than that she loves when we get to our destination. If only she had any idea what was about to happen. If I could take the confusion and possible pain she's about to feel away from her, I would. I would do anything to avoid her ever meeting Scar just to lose her. It's simply not fair.
I don't realize Aaron has already exited the car, and gotten Ali out of her car seat until he's knocking the window to get my attention. I look away from them for a moment, take a breath, and regain my posture before also exiting the car.

We're outside the hospital doors, when Aaron grabs my hand tightly. This is how I can tell he is truly nervous. Gripping tightly onto me, having someone there to hold him in case he falls. But this is Aaron, he won't fall. If he can survive was him and Scar went through in France, I'm more than completely positive he can survive anything. I squeeze back, and that's when he continues walking into the doors.
Claudia must have given Aaron the room number and floor, because he heads straight to the elevators like he knows exactly where he's going. The elevator ride goes quickly, and when we exit. Aaron turns to the left, that's when I see the large sign that reads "ICU". When reading the sign, it hits me just exactly how sick Scar must be. I begin to tense up more than before, worry about what we could walking into when we enter her room. Knowing Claudia she without a doubt got a private room, so at least we won't need to see any other incredibly sick patients.

Aaron stops in front of room 455, there's a small sign on the handle that reads "please knock." I would have never guessed a hospital giving out signs like this, I guess that means Scar must be stable and doing at least a little okay. Aaron lets go of my hand to knock, it's quick and quiet but loud enough that Claudia heard it because she's at the door within seconds.

"Aaron, Robert, come in." Claudia says, opening the door wider for us.
I look over to the bed, and Scar looks so weak. I'd thought she would look a bit better, being able to have so much privacy, but that's not the case. She has bags under her eyes, and her body just looks completely weak. Almost as if she's ready to give up at any moment. I turn my head over to Claudia, I can't imagine how hard this must be for her. Although I'll never forgive either of them for things that happened over the years, things that have happened since I met Aaron-they were still my family when I had no one. That is something I'll never forget.
I'm pulled from my thoughts of the past when I hear Scar ask, "Can I have a moment with Aaron and Alijah?"
I look at Aaron to make sure this is what he wants, that he's okay being alone with her. There are no words or actions needed, the look in his eye tells me everything I need to know. I give him a kiss on the cheek, before leaving the room along side Claudia.

"Must be hard for you." I say, looking over to Claudia as she stands close by the door.
"Are we gonna do this?" She snaps back at me. If there's one thing Claudia and I hated doing when we were around each other it was talking about our feelings. We'd say something personal, but that mostly led up to sex or drinking. We've only ever had one real sober conversation in all the years we've known each other.
"When my dad-" I hesitate before continuing, "You were there for me."
"Well she's not dead." I can see the tears building up in her eyes, because no matter how strong Scar is, she's ill and like Aaron told me earlier everyone dies.
I walk closer to Claudia leaving nothing but a small amount of space between us and whisper, "Let's just go down to the cafeteria, talk for a few minutes."

Aaron-October 23rd 2015. Late Morning.

Scar is much sicker than I thought, the way Claudia described it on the phone doesn't even scratch the surface. I feel a little weird in the room with only Scar and Alijah in a hospital again, the last time it happened was when Scar gave birth.
"Well come on bring her over here." Scar smiles, breaking the awkward silence that was lingering over us.
I bring Alijah over to Scar, who is able to prop herself up more and take hold of Ali. I pull a chair over, and sit close to the bed in case she becomes too weak to hold on. Scar places her thumb over Ali's cheek right under her eye, I don't know she knew to do that but it's one of Alijah's favourite things and a smile comes quickly to her face. I sit silently watching the two of them smile back and forth at each other until once again Scar breaks the quiet.
"Aaron, I'm sorry for not-" I know where this is going, and don't think I can handle it. Without a second thought I cut her off,
"No, okay you don't have to explain yourself. I get it."
"You don't though. But I want you to, I want to explain myself." She stops, by the look on her face it seems as though she almost expects me to fight back or argue, but I don't. I lean back into the chair, and let her speak. "Claudia's father, he was a terrible man. Back when I met him I was nothing more than a dead beat teenager living on the streets after being kicked out of my house. I met him after living on my own for only a few weeks, struggling for money, food and shelter. At first it was just sex, I'd screw him and he'd give me some cash. Enough to pay for motel rooms and half decent food during the day. Well better than what I'd been eating before. Then as time went on, I got pregnant. That's when he first introduced me to the 'business' of smuggling and stealing money. He knew it'd take more than what he was giving me and what he was making to raise a child. Weirdly enough he actually seemed to wanna be a part of her life. He was, until he died or ran away. We don't know exactly which one it is." Scar stops to catch the breath she loses every time she speaks even one word. Still holding onto a smiling Alijah, Scar wipes her tears away and continues to speak, "Having to raise Claudia alone, it was hard. I mean you get what that's like, I-I just promised myself after her that I would never get pregnant again. I was beyond words can say afraid that I'd turn out to be like my parents and leave her alone fending for herself. I figured never being around would hurt less than me deciding to leave ten years down the road, and I-I-"
I hear the monitor starting to change, looking over I see she's gone into flat line. I pick up Alijah and run to the door, screaming for help from nurses and doctors passing.

"What happened sir?" They ask me.
"I-I don't know. She was just talking, and then-then this happened."
"Okay, can you tell us why she's in the hospital."
I begin to panic more and have no idea what to say. Claudia said she was sick, but I don't remember what it was. I look up and respond, "I-I can't, but her daughter she's in the hospital somewhere and she can."

The doctors and nurses are speaking, but they quickly begin to fade out until all I hear is buzzing. Nothing is clear through my eyes or ears, and it's not until I feel a rough grab on my arm and light whisper of my name when I fall out of my zone. It's Robert, he's standing beside Claudia who looks nothing short of broken. Her eyes full of tears and hands shaking rapidly. I see her grip onto Robert, much tighter than the hold he had on me only seconds before to grab my attention.
After hearing a doctor call time of death, the room soon clears out. Leaving Scar on her bed, and Claudia, Alijah, Robert and I by the door all looking down. For me at least, afraid to look up and fully acknowledge the fact that she's gone. Alijah, just copying what she see's, as for Robert and Claudia I can't take a guess.
Claudia is the first to look up and she begins walking over to her mother's bedside.
"Claudia." Robert whispers, pulling her back understanding how hard it must be for her. She pushes his hand away, and continues walking. When Claudia takes a seat on the chair I was previously sitting on and takes hold of her mother's hand, she looks up to and says, "You guys-you're survivors. But she-" Her voice begins to break as she tries to finish her words, "She's not. And I-I just need to be alone with her to say goodbye."
Robert, Alijah and I respectably leave the room, and walk to the elevators leaving Claudia to finally say goodbye.