Free to be You and Me
The quiet of the morning is always Aaron’s favorite time of the day. He gets to revel in Robert’s arms twisted around his belly. The birds would be singing, and he’d hear his three year old pitter patter towards their bedroom.
They’d sometimes leave the door open, and Seb’s too. In case he got nightmares.
It all started after Rebecca and Ross’s accident. Only just got him to start sleeping in his own bed. Aaron could hardly blame the kid, he’s had a roller coaster few weeks, and Seb’s been handling it better than he ever could.
He supposes that’s all Robert. That pick yourself up and dust yourself off kind of attitude Aaron sometimes wished he’d had.
These past few months have been hard on him as well if he’s honest. What with Paul, Vinny and Liv, Robert’s case and the courts giving them the runaround on if he’s guilty or if the real culprit is Luke. Which it was. Is. Luckily they had Ethan, Aaron owes him about a lifetimes worth of free beer.
Through all of this though, Robert’s been fantastic. Patient, calm, level headed.
After Liv’s run in with Vinny. Well more of a, “Oh I accidentally punched my ex boyfriend in a drunken state”, which, in Robert’s words, how does someone accidentally punch someone else? Drunk or not.
It was a battle and a half but they managed to get a hold of Sandra’s sister in Dublin, get her some proper help, rehab and that. Wasn’t easy, her lashing out at everyone, and what with Seb already being through so much, he wasn’t safe around her.
So Dublin it was.
He lays here now, feeling as though he can finally breathe after so long. Robert’s eyes flutter, the sun kissing his bare skin, Aaron’s insides flutter because they’ve been through so much this year. They’ve been holding their breaths, and now they’re here. Entangled in each other smiling lazily as their three year old patters to their room.
“Da...” He rubs his eye, holding onto his little giraffe to his chest for dear life.
Aaron stirs, and his heart grows about ten sizes at the sight of his little boy. In his red and blue pajamas, with yellow cars patterning around the fabric. He is every bit Robert.
Robert kisses Aaron’s shoulder, digging his face into the younger mans shoulder again. “Come here buddy, did you sleep well? Hmm.” Seb nods as Aaron puts him on his stomach.
It’s almost half past nine, and both Robert and Seb’s stomach’s sound like a tractor rumbling in the haziness of the room. “What do you say we go and make some pancakes eh? For all of us, and let daddy get his beauty sleep.” Aaron laughs as he dodges Robert’s swinging, idle hand.
- - -
Robert and Seb are scarfing down their breakfast like a pair of swords men that are about to go to war. He languorously stabs his chocolate chip pancake, “So we’re meeting Vic in the pub at around twelve right?”
It was an idea they have been talking about since they learned that the village was holding a pride parade, what with everything that’s went on. It made sense, and besides, it would be their first ever pride with Seb.
Robert nods, “Oh and we have to get the cake, it’s right in Hotten.” Aaron gives him a look like Robert’s gone absolutely mad. “Um... isn’t Vic makin the cake?”
Robert slowly puts his fork down, “After everything with Luke, I dunno. She hasn’t been much up to cookin’ or anythin’, and what with Harry being colicky, her minds just been everywhere at once. So I’ve told her not to worry about anythin’, I mean that is alright?”
Aaron manically bobs his head, “No of course, I just. I tried to talk to her but, you know how she is. True Sugden style, she always says she’s fine.” Robert blushes slightly but god if that doesn’t worry him. He knows how much Vic has been through, and he feels as though he’s not even been there for her properly. Not like a big brother is meant to.
Aaron see’s that worry in his eyes, and gently places his hand over Robert’s. “Oi, you’ve been there. You always are.”
Robert blinks at the sincerity in Aaron’s voice and feels it wash over him.
Seb snaps them out of their trance, “Daddy... can I bring Mr. Giraffe wiff me to pide?”
They both chuckle, “Pride bud, and of course you can, I’m sure he’d have so much fun.” Aaron lets out, which gets a giant whole world sized smile on the kid’s face. Seb jumps off his chair and dashes up the deathly staircase, “Careful sweetheart”, Robert stresses smiling back at Aaron. “You really think she’ll be okay?”
“Hey, she’s got us, and Diane. Yeah?”
“Yeah. Yeah you’re right.”
They make their way to their room and get ready for the day.
- - -
The entire village is embellished in colors, and pink and white striped flags, shirts, and people from the other villages already shown up in masses when they come back from Hotten. With the white iced cake with rainbow sprinkles Vic had ordered from the bakery. They head straight to the pub, and see Vic with Harry on her hip. Aaron sometimes can’t believe that the Vic he grew up with is a proper mother now. It makes him sort of dizzy, they’re all so grown up now.
Vic smiles, tired, “Hi, you guys find the bakery okay?”
Robert takes Harry out of her hands, “Yeah, the woman was proper chipper. She said she’d not had proper customers in months because of Covid, so this was a pleasant surprise.” He says as he adjusts Harry’s little yellow jumpsuit.
Vic pauses, “What’s up?” Aaron’s voice is laced in concern.
She places the cake on the counter, and sits down. Kissing Seb on the forehead, as Aaron tries to wrangle him to stand still.
“I... I dunno, after everythin. I don’t think I’m up for goin into the village. It’s just all too much, and Harry’s still so small.” There’s that regret in her voice again that stings at Aaron’s neck like a bad rash. He could kill the Posners for everything they’ve done to her.
Only Robert always has to be the voice of reason doesn’t he?
“Hey, look. Then you don’t have to, but... maybe you can just I dunno. Stand outside, trust me when I say you’ll feel better. Way better than if you shut yourself off from everythin. Especially today.”
She smiles and they hug and it’s all sappy and they all feel like little kids in adult bodies, but it’s fine because they’ve got each other.
“Bye Aunty Viccy!” Seb gives her a Seb sized squeeze and they head out.
Aaron’s never been to a proper pride event. Yeah he’s been to gay bars, he’s seen the pub garnished in pride colors, but not something as huge as this. Not with Robert.
It’s quite overwhelming if he’s being honest, but with Seb sandwiched between them, enamored in the festivity of it all, wide eyed and curious, it brings him back to earth a little.
They spot Moira and Cain with Isaac and Kyle, Matty close behind them.
Isaac immediately grabs Seb by the hand and starts moving his mouth about a mile a minute. Aaron swears the kid’s vocal cords are going to shut down very soon if he’s not careful.
Moira smiles, eyes tired, though she seems calmer. “So the two of yous are gettin on?”
Obviously news travels fast around here, so everyone who knows everyone knows everyone’s business. It’s hard not to in such a tiny village. Aaron’s never liked that, but Moira’s practically family, so he doesn’t fault her. Not after what she’s been through.
Robert shakes his head, “Yeah.. we’ve been. It’s been alright. I mean you know after everythin’.”
Cain sighs, “How’s that goin then? I know that Luke’s been charged but, it’s all done, yeah?”
Only Aaron wishes he could tell Cain everything. Except he’s doing this thing where he is trying to solve things on his own without any help from his family. That’s why when his mum found out that Liv’s been sent to Dublin to stay with her aunt, she blew up a storm and a half accusing him of, not coming to her first. As if he’s not an adult that isn’t allowed to make his own decisions of how to get his sister proper help.
So he just smiles tightly, “Yeah, everythin’s sound Cain. I promise!”
Soon the levee begins with amplified pop music, confetti, people dressed in every single color and then some.
The float starts to make it’s way down the village, with drag queens, dancers, and people in the front with, “Gay and Proud” and “Trans and Proud” signs making their way down the street.
He catches a glimpse of two teenage girls holding each other, foreheads pressed together, what seems like the rest of the world is dead, and it’s just them.
There are people from all walks of life, in this little village that is his home. A home that he is proud of. That he can be proud of. In spite of everything, he’s allowed to do that.
“Oi! Look, they’re doin some paint face.” Robert shouts under the blaring music.
Aaron gestures his head, “Yeah, I think Seb would be well up for it, what you think Seb, you wanna?”
Seb’’s exuberant smile that could light up the entire world really, “Only if Isaac goes too.”
They make their way through the crowd and finally get a hold of Moira, “His royal highness wanted a paint face, he said he’d only do it if Isaac did one too.”
Seb cheekily grins, and Isaac willingly goes with Aaron and Robert right behind the pair of little monsters.
There are different booths, with t-shirts being sold, with pamphlets, and little pins as well.
As his son sits on the chair, Aaron’s hand intertwined in Robert’s. He gets a peek of his husband.
Robert is completely and fully submerged in the ebullience around him, Robert’s been through hell and back these last few months, and somehow has been able to come out so strong. It almost makes Aaron want to wrap him up and hide him from the world.
He was so close to losing him, so close. Yet somehow, somehow he was standing there. Real. Beside him.
One of the drag queens has put on this fashion show on the float somehow and Robert’s laughing. He is laughing and happy and smiling and it’s blinding Aaron swoops up and crashes his lips onto Robert’s.
Stunned, Robert hesitates then digs his fingers into Aaron’s waist and lets the younger man bite at his lips, a moan escaping both their mouths. It’s so intoxicating, Aaron’s knees almost give out.
They’re interrupted when Seb is yelling he wants to see the people on the float too, so Robert hoists him on his shoulders, and they make their way to the sidewalk, Aaron’s hand in Robert’s the entire time.
Aaron’s chest bursts with all this love, seeing his loved ones around him, his son on his husband’s shoulders, pointing at the colors and the people surrounding him. He see’s Vic with Harry at keepers waving at them.
He sometimes wishes circumstances were different, he wishes that there wasn’t this pang in his chest hoping he could just easily fix everything.
Except here and now, with his husband, with his son. He’s more than lucky, and he’s more than happy.
He’s free. They’re free.