The confusion Robert felt seemed to triple over the next few days as Aaron began to show even more subtle signs of affection that made Robert question himself entirely. He couldn't deny the butterflies that filled inside him every time Aaron gave him a longing look. He couldn't help it. The sweet tingling sensation that fizzed inside him whenever Aaron showed him even an ounce of attention had managed to overwhelm almost all his thoughts. Soon Robert found himself questioning everything Aaron did, he knew him well enough to know if his feelings were genuine. Even when Aaron was truly happy, an honest smile on his face was always rare and special.
Yet Robert had received one. Robert of all people. More questions flooded his mind and soon the younger man had managed to overwhelm his thoughts.
Only Aaron was on his mind and he couldn't help but love it.
Robert decided the best way to sort out his confused mind was to focus on something else, something constructive which involved definite answers. Who exactly stabbed Diane. The question was still a major topic in the village and although no arrests had been made, people still managed to get their suspicions heard. It was mostly mindless gossip, yet the more Robert heard of possible scenarios the more curious he became. It was a mystery really. Why exactly would someone break into a small quite Yorkshire village, smash a few windows and then stab the land lady without take even a bit of the petty cash lying around? It didn't make sense.
As Robert sat in the pub, his eyes meet Chas' who was now appearing from the back in her dressing grown and pouring herself a small glass of something from the handles. He couldn't help but notice her dark circles and startled expression that alarmed him. Instantly his thoughts turned back to Aaron and how he must be dealing with it all, it was clear to see how damaged and effected his mum had become because of the stabbing. Robert bit his lip as he remembered Chas' stalking that had mysteriously stopped after the fatal night, the sharp knife could have easily been for her instead of his step mother. It would explain why Aaron had been so upset and emotional the other day when he was drinking away his problems.
Robert sighed loudly as he watched her sip away quietly almost in some sort of trance. He needed to know exactly what had happen that night and maybe Chas was the answer, she was the only person who Robert hadn't had the chance to question. It would be difficult though - considering how much Chas hated him, he'd have to try his best before it was too late. Now was time.
Robert edged over to the bar quietly and leaned his head over, "Er pint please Chas." He said softly looking at Chas who had now finished the small glass and was staring blankly in his direction. "When you're ready."
Chas walked towards him and quickly poured his pint. Her heart was racing as she tried her hardest to eliminate any small talk but racing over to the till and slotting in the coins Robert gave her.
"So ... how have you been?" Robert said bluntly.
Chas stared at the man who she hated really. Of course the guilt she felt was beginning to override these feelings and soon a smile began to form on her face, "Getting there. How's Diane?"
"Yeah she's on the mend they reckon." Robert smiled wildly.
"That's great." Chas said softly trying her hardest not to seem top guilty or shifty.
"The thing is ..." Robert said leaning over even more, "That's all great and ... I'm happy but I can't help but wonder who did it."
Chas felt her eye twitch uncontrollably as she imagined Robert beginning to piece together the puzzle and find her guilty of the crime.
"Do you know anything that could help?" Robert said softly staring at Chas innocently.
Chas began to question her thoughts, now could be the time to confess. To own up and make things slightly better for everyone right?
"Robert ... I—"
Aaron walked out of the living room and stopped dead in his tracks when he heard his mum and Robert talking. His heart began to race as he realised that still his mother wasn't ready to talk to anyone and not give the entire game away. As much as Aaron hated all the lying, it would be worth it in the end - he couldn't risk his mum going to prison.
Robert sat wide eyed, intrigued by Chas' pause, "Go on ... if you know something that might help than please —"
Aaron had heard enough, fearing for his mum Aaron jumped through to the pub and met Robert's eyes instantly.
The atmosphere in the room changed as Robert gazed at Aaron, there was some sort of twinkle in Aaron's eye that managed to control Robert's thoughts all too easily. Within an instant Robert had completely lost interest in his conversation with Chas.
Everything else seemed pointless as he watched Aaron shuffle on his feet slightly and look in his direction.
"You alright?" Aaron said softly staring at Chas.
"Yeah course ..." Chas said sharply turning round and looking at her son, "Yeah I'm ... I'm fine."
"Why don't you go back through I'll keep an eye on the bar for you." Aaron said weakly as he watched his mum become more and more fragile.
Chas nodded slowly and walked away into the back room, leaving Robert feeling slightly frustrated as he began to realise he had lost his chance. The feeling didn't stay for long though. Aaron was on the case, and ready to distract him from his thoughts.
Aaron edged towards his ex lover and began wiping down the bar taps, "You good?"
Robert ripped his eyes away from his pint and stared at Aaron wildly, "Err yeah I'm ... fine."
Aaron bit his lip as he turned away from Robert momentarily, realising that although Robert seemed interested - his mind was still elsewhere.
"What's up?" Aaron whispered.
Robert opened his mouth slightly, trying to voice his worries and concerns to Aaron was something he never was ever really good at. Even when things were better between them and Aaron and him were alone together, Robert found it hard to open up. So you can imagine Robert's hesitation now. You can imagine why exactly he'd question why Aaron seemed to care at all about him.
"Nothing." Robert mumbled staring away from his ex lover and trying not to fall for his gaze.
Aaron rolled his eyes, he hated having to pretend like he was clueless when in reality he knew exactly why Robert seemed so troubled - he had nearly discovered the truth from Chas. A few seconds longer and Chas would have told him the truth or at least something worth while and now he was alone once more.
Aaron sighed softly, watching Robert distance himself from Aaron was almost unbearable to watch. Sooner or later Robert would discover the truth and Chas would be locked up. The last few days hadn't had much effect on him at all, subtle moments seemed to go by yet Aaron's attention was placed elsewhere. Chas had deteriorated suddenly and her guilt had rose dramatically, causing Aaron to almost abandon his mission entirely.
Aaron ripped his eyes away from Robert, suddenly irritated by Robert's bluntness after reminding himself of how much his mum needed him at the moment. Robert noticed the shift in atmosphere as Aaron busied himself and ignored him completely. Once again Aaron had overwhelmed his mind and the thought of him annoyed made him re think his blunt response before. His mind was filled with confusion yet the more Robert thought about how Aaron had been treating him over the last week, the more he felt thankful for it.
He knew full well that he didn't deserve any sort of affection or even attention from Aaron Livesy. Not after everything. Yet right now, Robert realised that without the attention and the care he was receiving from Aaron, things would feel much worse. The truth was that Aaron was seemingly holding Robert together and although the guilt Robert felt about needing Aaron so badly would only grow he couldn't deny it anymore.
How could he fight it, when Aaron was offering his care so easily?
Aaron turned back round to see Robert who now had a small smile on his face, excitement grew inside Aaron as he saw that Robert has somehow managed to become more happy. Well not excitement, he honestly didn't care about Robert more relief - right? Aaron grabbed the chance that was being presented eagerly, "Fancy another?" he said sweetly as he watched Robert give him an almost apologetic stare.
"Nah I'm alright thanks." Robert said smiling back at Aaron.
Aaron scoffed loudly, ready to trap Robert in his lies even more.
"You could never really hold your drink could ya!"
Robert relieved the stress in his shoulders as he became to sit more comfortably on his chair, "Oh whatever!"
"You know I'm right. Remember that time you ordered a bottle of the finest bubbles at that hotel and then was throwing up after your third glass!"
Robert beamed at Aaron and instantly Aaron knew his little plan had worked, he had made Robert remember the good times, relive the small pleasures they shared and recall the simpler times. Robert's mind quickly became overrun with memories that made him feel slightly melancholy and almost sad as he sat across the bar from his ex lover. Aaron's eyes began to twinkle as he realised that his words did indeed have the desired effect. Robert had forgotten about Diane and the stabbing momentarily and his mind was fully focused on thinking about the times he shared with Aaron.
Knowing full well that Aaron had succeeded in his ploy to make Robert felt more comfortable and relaxed, he began to question Robert about the stabbing, "So, how's Diane and the whole you know looking for the guy." Aaron said shyly.
Robert stared back at Aaron, "She's doing okay, still haven't found a lot out about the actual stabbing though. Your mum seems pretty shaken up."
Aaron fidgeted slightly, wondering if Robert was suspicious of her behaviour, "Well you know...it could have been her."
"Yeah." Robert gazed down and then looked back up again quickly, "I'm sorry about you know given up a hard time ... the other day." Robert said softly, reasoning that Aaron was probably under a lot of pressure and yet still managed to turn his attention towards his terrible ex.
Aaron nodded slowly, "I said before ... it's fine."
Robert slid down on his chair slightly, "Don't worry though, I've got someone on the case for me."
Aaron nearly dropped the towel in his hand, shocked at what Robert had just said, "You what?" Aaron shouted.
Robert stared at him confused by his sudden outburst, "Joel. Some guy he ... his on the case finding out some sort for me about the night." Robert said, still bewildered by Aaron's sudden concern and attention to his words.
"Doesn't that sound a bit ... dodgy." Aaron stumbled instantly easing Robert's confusion as he imagined Aaron scared for his safety over this 'dodgy' Joel. Once again Aaron had been able to tug at his heart strings and he couldn't help but feel touched by it.
"Don't worry about it honestly it's all under control." Robert whispered leaning over the bar lazily.
Of course this wasn't what Aaron meant at all, Robert's safety was the least of his worries at the moment. He needed to know exactly who this bloke was and find out how much he knew.
"Does ... is he some bent police officer or something?" Aaron asked trying his best to use the concerned tone Robert thought he had.
"Nah, but his got connections." Robert said slyly.
Aaron nodded his head slowly, "And how does it work?"
Robert raised his head, thinking that the more he was telling Aaron the more concerned and worried Aaron would become.
"Don't worry. You don't need to know." Robert whispered.
Aaron felt like kicking himself as he saw Robert dart his eyes away from him as he tried to change the conversation to another topic. Robert was staring at Aaron and couldn't help but beam with happiness. How couldn't believe how lucky he was, after everything Aaron still seemed to care about Robert and he had to take matters into his own hands.
"Er, Aaron." Robert said slowly.
Aaron stared back shyly, "Yeah?"
Robert's heart was racing. Could he? Could he really ask him out...well just for some drinks later on? Suddenly he remembered how on and off Aaron could be and he realised he couldn't risk the embarrassment, but then again Aaron had every right to be confused about how he was treating Robert after everything. Right?
"I was just ... just wondering if ... if your around later ... maybe I could buy you a drink or something."
Aaron gulped hard. This was perfect, it would be the perfect chance to make Robert own up to exactly what he was doing with this Joel who seemed to be his own little private investigator. The alcohol flowing would soon loosen Robert up, after all he really couldn't handle his drink.
Then Aaron paused.
He soon realised that he was becoming a little too excited about the prospect of going on a 'date' with Robert and quickly had to recall some of the horrible things he had done in the past. It was the only way to keep him sane, to keep Robert away from his thoughts. It was working though, every terrible thing Robert had ever done was beginning to surface and soon Aaron found himself hating the man with the same passion he had before the conversation started. It didn't stop him though, the hate he felt, it somehow managed to fuel him.
"Err." Aaron stumbled.
"It's okay you ... you don't have to."
"No it's eleven." Aaron said. Suddenly pausing as he looked to Robert's left and saw Paddy staring at him with a shocked expression painting his face.
"Paddy." Aaron whispered, nervous about how long he had been standing there. The last thing he needed was for Paddy to think Aaron was still interested in Robert after everything, he knew that Paddy would soon tell Chas and then all hell would break loose. Yet he couldn't tell him about his plan, he knew that Paddy would talk him out of it, telling him that Robert would find out and go crazy again. He didn't need to hear about how much Robert is a 'dangerous man' truth is he knew now exactly what type of man Robert was and he didn't need reminding every day.
"I'm sorry did I just hear that right?" Paddy shouted, staring at Robert with disgust.
Robert blinked hard, realising that Paddy had heard every word and was now more angry than ever. He didn't need this.
"Paddy wait —" Aaron said softly.
"No Aaron! I will not just wait." Paddy said angrily pointing his finger at Aaron.
"I should be going." Robert said slowly getting up from his chair and whispering to Aaron some sort of apology.
Aaron suddenly felt his heart beat a little faster. Why? He want guilty at all, Robert deserved that - right?
"Oh no Sugden you don't get away that easily!" Paddy said continuing to shout as Robert tried to leave the pub.
Robert turned round slowly.
"Who do you think you are eh?" Paddy said staring at Robert. "After everything that's happened, you honestly think he'd ever go near you again?" He continued staring at Aaron now.
"Keep your voice down, mum's through the back!" Aaron snapped loudly, dreading his mum coming out and asking what the hell was going on.
"Maybe she should hear this!" Paddy whispered to Aaron before turning back to Robert, "He's been going through hell with his mum and what you think you'd just swoop in and make him forget what a sick pathetic man you are!"
Robert gulped loudly and turned to face Aaron who was now staring at the ground, "Diane's been stabbed okay! I ... I was just trying to-"
"To what? Make things right, try and find some common ground. You're pathetic."
"I want to make things right!" Robert snapped.
Paddy scoffed loudly, "Well listen here mate." Paddy turned and pointed to Aaron who was now staring back up at the scene, "He doesn't want anything to do with you at all. Isn't that right Aaron?"
Aaron felt his heart race wildly. What could he say? He needed to reassure Paddy but he couldn't destroy all the heard work and progress he had made over the last week. Earning Robert's trust to the point where he was offering to buy him a drink.
Aaron saw the look in Paddy's eyes and quickly realised that he couldn't disappoint him anymore. He owed it to him after all the pain Robert had caused him over the last year, threatening Leo and shooting him. How could he betray him so badly by not agreeing?
"Yeah." Aaron whispered, avoiding Robert's gaze, "Of course it is."
Robert stared back at Aaron as he felt a wave of heartache rush through him, he looked completely deflated by the whole situation. Fed up and beaten by Paddy's cruel words and Aaron's agreement.
Aaron couldn't hear anymore, he couldn't help but feel a sense of guilt rushing through him. It scared him slightly, the amount of emotion that was pouring out of him. There was something about his innocent expression or the way he hasn't fought back at all that Aaron found endearing slightly.
Robert nodded his head slowly and turned towards the door before rushing out and racing towards his car. Instantly he felt sick with embarrassment and guilt.
Paddy has made it crystal clear, he was right. Everything he said was completely spot on, yet Robert still hated all of it. How could he have been so stupid? Deep down Robert knew that Aaron was only probably acting like he was because of how overwhelmed things were for him at home. He knew that Aaron probably saw him as an escape from the pressure of home, but he couldn't hide his disappointment.
The home truths spat by Paddy had managed to completely destroy any sort of (albeit naïve) warm feelings he felt towards Aaron. Robert couldn't help but recall the way Aaron had replied to Paddy's words, at first he was trying to stop him but then he soon feel silent. As if Paddy's words were finally make him see the truth. And then his agreement. The thing that managed to hurt him to most. He knew in that moment that he couldn't feel like this anymore, not when Aaron clearly was confused about how he felt. He couldn't need him the way he did, or rely on his smile from across the room to make him feel better anymore.
An hour passed and Aaron found himself still mopping about in the pub, overwhelmed with shame and frustration. How on earth could he go back from this? Just then Aaron felt a familiar grip squeeze his right shoulder.
"Guess who I just saw." Cain said sitting opposite Aaron.
"Not now Cain I'm not in the mood."
"Well I can tell you two other people who aren't either!" Cain said staring at Aaron angrily.
Aaron rolled his eyes, "I take it you've seen Robert and Paddy then."
Cain nodded his head quickly, "Well I saw lover boy heading up to the old cricket bat place, mopping around just like you and then Paddy filled me in. Asking you out on a date was he? Bless him."
Aaron lifted up from his chair suddenly, "This isn't funny Cain! I had to tell him I wasn't interested, Paddy made me!"
Cain sighed loudly, "Don't tell me you actually feel sorry for him."
"Of course not!" Aaron said loudly.
"I swear to god Aaron if you do you need your head testing out!"
"Whatever..." Aaron said trying to steer the conversation in a different direction, "Oh and the best part was, before he came marching in Robert nearly told me about this bloke Joel who his for working for him."
"Joel? What's he doing for him?" Cain asked eagerly.
"Well I don't know do I!" Aaron snapped back.
"Listen, give it some time and then just win him back round." Cain said slowly.
Aaron rolled his eyes, "We don't have time alright, for all we knew this Joel guy has already got some stuff on mum."
"Well then try harder!" Cain said frustrated. "Why do I feel like you give a toss about how he's feeling?
Aaron lifted his head up slowly, "I ... I've told you alright of course I don't care. But if he hates me it's a bit hard to get him interested again."
"Why? You hated him but you still crawled back!" Cain said angrily.
"That's...that's —" Aaron said stumbling on his words badly.
"Listen here Aaron, he messed you about all the time, he didn't give a toss about how you felt just as long as he was happy with his posh wife and ... poxy business."
Aaron nodded slowly, thankful that Cain was able to wash away the guilt he had about the situation.
"You either convince him you were lying to Paddy or your mum goes to prison. Your choice mate." Cain said before getting up and marching towards the door.
A few more hours passed and night feel quickly as Aaron retired to his room, feeling much better about himself. Aaron soon realised how quickly he was able to switch his feelings on and off, almost instantly as soon as Robert wasn't around, the seductive smile or longing gaze could disappear so easily - right? The overwhelming presence of Cain had for once served great purpose, the hate he could spit about Aaron's ex lover was toxic and vile.
And it was exactly what Aaron needed to stop him from feeling remotely interested in the trouble making older man. Aaron was completely in control - right?
Yet at night, alone in a cold bed he once shared with Robert, his feelings were different. 'What if?' circled round his head as he began to focus his attention on a life with Robert without the lies and stress. It was in these moments where Aaron wasn't in control at all, where he was weak and naive.
The day's events seemed to swirl round and round in his head as he tried to fall asleep somewhat peacefully. The thought of Robert hating him now made him sick with fear, he needed to make him see that he did care about him. Aaron raised from his bed, pulled a hoddie over himself and took a chance. It wasn't too late and maybe Robert was still at the old cricket pavilion, it was quiet there - the perfect place for them to talk things through. The perfect place for Aaron to convince Robert that he was lying to Paddy without anyone else around.
Aaron raced down the stairs and out the back door, disappearing into the night.
Only Robert was on his mind and he couldn't help but hate it.