Aaron has two bottles, outside, leaning against Robert's shoulder. Robert cards his fingers through Aaron's hair and Aaron cries, and cries, and then he stops crying. Then he wipes his face on Robert's shoulder, and Robert doesn't even complain about the snot on his jacket, just strokes his fingers gently along the back of Aaron's neck.
Aaron takes a breath, shaky.
Aaron, you deserve to be really happy.
He doesn’t know if he quite believes it, but he’s getting there.
"Come back with me," he says. "I want - will you come back with me?"
Robert looks at him. "Yeah?"
Aaron nods. He tangles his hand in Robert’s, lacing their fingers together. He thinks he can feel Robert’s heart beat against his fingertips.
Aaron's got to be in the pub, at least a little longer. Robert keeps his hand on the small of Aaron's back for the first little while and that helps. They get a couple of glances but nobody says anything. Aaron reckons, probably the best time, if he was gonna do it. You can't really kick up a fuss considering the circumstances.
He has a pint and forces a smile for Marlon and Carly, and then he lifts his head, searching. Robert meets his eyes immediately; he was looking. He’s always looking, lately. Whenever Aaron looks, Robert’s eyes are right there.
It ought to make Aaron’s skin itch but it doesn’t. It makes him feel safe.
His mum tilts her head to the side, watching them go. He doesn't say anything, and neither does she.
They climb the stairs to the landing; Aaron first, Robert after. It's strange. It doesn’t feel urgent. It feels inevitable, because they always feel inevitable, don’t they? That used to feel terrifying but now it doesn’t.
Now it’s nice. Like: no matter how far Aaron falls, Robert will be there.
Even if there is Aaron’s bedroom, with Aaron’s posters on the walls and Aaron’s curtains on the windows. Even if there is Robert, with his back against the door, and Aaron right up against him, his fingers tangled in Robert’s jacket, holding on.
Robert pauses. His body stills.
Robert looks down and back up, and then, cautiously, he speaks. "I said I would wait until you were ready-" His mouth is soft around the edges, and just as soft when Aaron kisses it.
"I am," Aaron says, pulling off and letting his fingers press against Robert’s jaw. He shrugs, feels himself cautious and careful; feels Robert, warm, just a fingertip away from his own body. "It's not - this isn't complicated, Robert. I’m not scared of this."
"It’s -" Robert cuts himself off mid-question. His fingers reach out, catch in Aaron's sleeve, and hold. He holds on lightly, these days, so Aaron can get away if he wants.
"You and me, and that - they're not the same thing. I figured that one out a long time ago.” Figured that one out around the time he figured what his dad did didn’t make him gay, but it was a rough ride. Sometimes he forgets that he knows it.
Not today, though. Today he’s pretty clear.
Trust is a different thing. Robert lost that; he's been clawing it back, but it's not the same. That's a slow thing. Being Robert’s boyfriend, trusting that Robert can hold Aaron’s heart and not hurt him - trusting, for that matter, that Aaron can let him - all of that, that’s time.
But not sex. Aaron can do sex.
More than that, he wants to.
Robert smiles at him, this tiny, sweet thing. He is so sweet, now.
That’s complicated. That complicates things. Not in a bad way, but - it complicates things. Aaron’s head is all tangled up: Gordon, Robert, Liv, this.
“I want this,” Aaron says, instead of any of that, which Robert knows and for which there is time for Aaron to tell him. “If you want it.” He drops his eyes to Robert’s mouth and sneaks one hand into Robert’s jacket. His face is still a little tight from crying but he doesn’t feel like that anymore.
He feels like: he’s alone, with Robert, in his bedroom. And he’s been waiting for this for so, so long.
“Yeah,” Robert says. His breath stutters. His eyes are very, very bright.
Aaron leans in, and kisses him.
This is easy. This is Robert's body, under Aaron's. Regardless of scars and tears and blood and hate, this is easy. When nothing else makes sense, Aaron understands this. He has always understood this. How to make Robert's mouth look like that; how to make Robert shiver, and shake, and say his name. He knows where to put his fingers to make Robert make that sound, how to twist, how to touch; how to be touched. This is Robert, with his eyes wide and his hands shaking and all of him open, all of him Aaron's.
Aaron shudders, and says, Robert, Robert, Robert.
Easiest thing in the entire world.
"He didn't take this from me," Aaron says, softly. He doesn’t mean to say it. It just slips out.
Robert is trembling, coming down. Aaron has done this to him: wrecked him into fingers in sheets, sweaty, matted hair. All of that, and he looks at Aaron like: Aaron is the sun, the moon. Like if Aaron asked he’d stop breathing, like he’d walk through fire, like -
Take it slow, Aaron said, and it's this, after all of it, that scares him. Aaron fucked Robert twenty times before he even cared if Robert was a person or not, but now - now it's Robert's eyes that leave him feeling like he might drown. Robert’s eyes look like forever and Aaron - Aaron’s not real good at that.
He thinks of sharp things and digs his nails into his palm.
“Aaron,” Robert says, breathless, reaching for Aaron’s wrist, fingers circling round the bones. “Aaron-” He’s careful. They’re only new.
If Aaron wanted to he could shake him off, but he doesn’t want to.
Aaron breathes out. He didn’t think he was worried, but maybe he was. “He didn’t take this from me,” he says again, lowly, for himself; and feels the tightness in his muscles ease.
He shakes his head. “I’m happy you’re here,” he says.
“Cheers,” Robert says, mouth tugged up at the corner, smiling. His hair is sticking up in little tufts. “I had a nice time, too.” He pulls at Aaron’s wrist and Aaron lets himself be moved, fits himself into the curve of Robert’s arm and breathes in, breathes out.
Robert always sleeps late. It's - really nice to be able to see it. For a while there, Aaron thought he never would again.
Robert’s eyes are closed, firmly, and he’s snoring softly. He’s got a hand on Aaron's stomach and his face tucked into Aaron's shoulder. He’s holding on, tight, like even asleep he knows it’s Aaron, even asleep he wants Aaron.
Aaron traces a finger over his wrist. Robert makes a soft sleep-sound, snuggling in closer.
Aaron presses a kiss to his forehead and slides out from under him.
come down when you wake up, he writes, on a receipt he finds on the nightstand. He thinks about leaving x afterwards, but that’s more of a Robert thing to do. He signs it A, instead.
"Morning, love." Aaron's mum is in the kitchen, putting the kettle on.
"Morning," he says, wrapping his arms around himself. He wonders if it's obvious, the look on him; Robert's hands, Robert's mouth. If she can smell it: Robert's hair, Robert's skin. "Robert's upstairs."
She raises an eyebrow. “Had a good night, then?”
"Yeah," he says. He thinks he's smiling. He must be, because she grins at him, wide and embarrassing, and comes round to press a sloppy kiss to his forehead. He ducks away. "Mum!"
“I’m just glad,” she says.
He lets himself lean into her, just for a moment. “Me too,” he says.