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I have loved the stars too fondly

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Aaron wakes with his head resting on Robert’s shoulder, one leg flung lazily over his fiance’s own, and his arm trapped somewhat awkwardly between the two of them. He smiles, stifling a yawn and letting his eyes slip closed again, content to remain here for a little longer.

The house is quiet, though Aaron can hear the sounds of people downstairs; the tv on low, cutlery and crockery clinking together, the muffled sound of the kettle boiling in the kitchen. Robert twitches in his sleep, leg jerking, and rolls onto his side, tucking Aaron into the crook of his neck where it’s warm. Their alarm will go off soon, Aaron thinks, pressing a kiss to the soft skin there, and nudging Robert with his knee.

“Mmmh,” Robert mumbles.

Aaron fights the urge to roll his eyes, “Rob,” he says, “We gotta get up,”

“Ugh. What time s’it?”

“Time to get out of bed,” Aaron says, giving his fiance’s shoulder a gentle shake. Robert groans in response, but rolls onto his back again, and squints at the digital clock on the bedside table.

“Five more minutes,” he decides, closing his eyes again.

Aaron huffs a laugh as he sits up, pulling the covers back as he stands, the carpet soft underneath his feet and the air in the bedroom having cooled considerably overnight. “Suit yourself,” he says, grabbing his dressing gown from where he’d left it, “Guess you’ll just have to shower on your own,”

Predictably, Robert’s eyes snap open, “Wait,” he says, around a yawn, “That’s not fair,”

“What’s not fair is me being late to work again because of ya,” Aaron teases, heading for the door. He smiles to himself as he hears Rob getting up, the duvet rustling and then the familiar sound of feet padding across the carpet to meet him. A warm pair of arms encircle his waist, and Robert presses a kiss to Aaron’s skin, just above the neckline of the dressing gown.

“We’ll just have to be quick then, won’t we,” he says, nosing behind Aaron’s ear.

“What happened to five more minutes?” Aaron says, turning his head slightly and quirking a brow. Robert smirks at him, still sleepy and soft, and presses ever so slightly closer.

“Rather spend those five minutes with you,” he says.

***

“Good morning,” Chas says brightly when they get downstairs, still a little damp from the shower but in their work clothes nevertheless, Robert’s eye chasing a bead of water as it paves its way down Aaron’s neck and disappears beneath the collar of his jumper.

“Mornin’,” Aaron says, edging past her to reach the kettle. He switches it on and reaches up into one of the cupboards to retrieve some mugs. Robert heads for the cereal as Chas puts her empty coffee cup by the sink for washing. She has a smug look on her face, and Robert frowns at her.

“Any plans for today, then?” she asks, looking innocent enough.

Aaron glances up from the box of teabags, throwing one into each empty mug in front of him, “Work?” he says, “It’s a Tuesday,”

Chas hums. “The 14th,” she says, like it means something. Aaron and Robert share a look, to which she throws her hands up and waves one of them at the calendar, “Of February! Valentine’s Day?”

Aaron shrugs and goes back to making tea.

“You’re kidding me,” Chas says, hands finding their way to her hips as she looks between the two of them, Aaron casually pouring the hot water into the mugs, Robert rooting around in the fridge for some milk, “You’re hopeless, both of ya!”

Robert closes the fridge with his hip and frowns at her, sliding the milk over the counter for Aaron, and leaning back with his arms folded. “Bit tacky, innit?” he says, with a slight grimace.

“Just an excuse for all the shops to flog their cheap tat,” Aaron agrees, taking the mugs over to the table, Robert following with the bowls of cereal and the milk.

Chas is still watching them, an indecipherable look on her face. If Robert were to guess, he’d say she was exasperated, but when wasn’t she, when it came to the two of them? “Not even a bunch of flowers? Box of chocolates?” she presses. Aaron and Robert share a look.

“There’s a potted plant in the bedroom, mum,” Aaron says, like it’s significant, “And anyway, flowers and chocolate aren’t really our style,” he frowns, shovelling a spoonful of cornflakes into his mouth.

“I cannot believe this,” she says, shaking her head, “You’re about to get married and you’re gonna spend Valentine’s day watching sports and drinking beer, I just know it,” she crosses the room, heading for the door, still muttering to herself in disdain. When the door shuts, Aaron and Robert burst into laughter.

“A potted plant,” Robert mocks, over his cuppa.

Aaron shoots him a glare. “What? ‘S more environmental, innit? No waste. Flowers all year round,”

“Like you care,” Robert kicks his ankle under the table.

“I do when it saves me money,” he nods, “You seen the price of a bunch of roses? Twenty quid. They’re gonna die in a week,”

Robert shrugs. “Point taken,” he puts his spoon down in the now empty bowl and stretches, popping a few joints in his back as he does so. “We could go out somewhere for tea, if you wanted,”

“I’m not bothered if you’re not,” Aaron says, pausing to slurp the milk from his bowl purely because he knows Rob hates it, “We’ve got the place to ourselves tonight for once. I wanna enjoy it – just us,”

Robert’s answering smile is soft. He leans over to press a chaste kiss to Aaron’s cheek. “Alright then,” he says, “Sorted. I look forward to it,”

***

“This has been amazing,” Aaron says, tilting his head back to look at Robert. They’re on the sofa, Aaron pillowed comfortably against Robert’s chest; the credits of a movie rolling on the screen and empty carry out trays littering the table. The candles Chas insisted they light before she left have mostly flickered out, but in the dim light coming from the TV Aaron can make out Rob’s face well enough, can see the soft smile playing across his lips.

He glances down at his fiancé, “Better than a fancy meal out?” he asks, knowing the answer already.

“Loads better,” Aaron says, burrowing further into the warmth of Robert’s arms, “Don’t need any of that flash stuff. I’ve got you,”

A snort comes from above him, and Aaron squints up again. “Not sure if that was supposed to sound insulting,” he says, but he doesn’t look annoyed, and Aaron laughs.

“You’re the one that took it that way,” he teases, “But I do mean it,”

Robert kisses the top of his head and lingers there, pressing his nose against Aaron’s hair. “I know,” he says, voice muffled. They let the moment settle, Aaron nearly drifting off into a comfortable doze, before Robert is herding him up to clear the mess away.

Rubbing his eyes, Aaron follows his fiancé to the kitchen. “Can’t we do that tomorrow?” he complains, tossing the foil cartons into the bin.

“Nope,” Robert says, “Besides, I do have one tiny surprise for you,”

Aaron looks at him suspiciously, “What’ve ya done?”

Robert kisses him, a gentle, lingering press of their lips, and when he pulls away Aaron chases.

“You’ll see,” Rob says instead, running his hands down Aaron’s arms, “Get your coat,”

When Aaron arrives at the back door, bundled up in scarf and coat, complete with a suspicious expression, he finds Robert waiting in his own outdoor clothes, carrying something under his arm.

“Alright, now I’m really suspicious,” Aaron says, pulling a pair of gloves on, “We’re not going hiking are we?”

Rob’s lip quirks, amused. “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t do that to you,” he says, holding out a free hand, “C’mon, it won’t take too long, then you’ll see,”

“Will I like this?” Aaron asks, sceptical even as he takes his fiancé’s hand, their fingers slotting together like pieces of a puzzle, and lets himself be led outside into the cold February air.

“I hope so,”

Wherever it is they’re going, it’s a short walk down the road and a little way into one of the unused fields. They jump the fence, Aaron’s suspicion and curiosity only growing the further they go. Robert refuses to say anything, resorting only to idle conversation, and Aaron quickly resorts to silence, realising his probing is getting him nowhere. He doesn’t like surprises, but he hates ruining other people’s even less, especially when it comes to Robert.

They reach a flat, grassy spot and stop, Robert reaching under his arm to produce a picnic blanket, which he spreads on the ground with a flourish.

Aaron purses his lips. “Rob,” he says, slowly, looking at the blanket dubiously, “What’s this.”

Robert says nothing, just sits down on it, cross legged, and pats the empty space next to him expectantly. Aaron sinks down to the ground, huffing, and then shivering when he sees his breath fogging the air in front of him. It must be in the minus degrees tonight, the grass stiff with frost beneath them.

“If you think we’re having some sort of weird outdoors sex here you’ve got another think coming,” Aaron continues, “I think my dick would get frostbite if I took my kit off here. Rob –”

“Shh,” Robert interrupts, amused, as he presses one finger to Aaron’s lips in order to shut him up. He points his other index finger to the sky, “Look,”

Aaron follows the direction.

“Oh,” he says, looking at the sky.

There are no clouds at all, and Aaron’s surprised that he hadn’t looked up and seen it sooner. The sky is dark, yet not quite black, more like an inky blue spreading from the horizon and up above, dotted with stars. The moon is out, almost full, its bright surface illuminating the land around them with a silver wash.

He turns back to Robert, who’s watching him with a gentle expression, waiting for the verdict.

“This is incredible,” he says, because he can’t think of any other words to describe it. Rob smiles, wraps an arm around Aaron’s shoulders and pulls him close. “How’d ya think of it? Never took you for the stargazing type,”

He feels Robert shrug against him. “Saw something on the forecast about clear skies,” he says, “I used to like watching the stars after mum died. Naive part of me wanted to believe she was up there looking over us all,” he pauses, and Aaron waits, his hand a comforting weight on Robert’s knee, “I stopped believing that a long time ago. But it’s comforting, and I wanted to share it with you. Start being more open. Honest.”

Aaron turns, catches Robert in a kiss. Their lips and noses are icy from the cold, Aaron’s fingers too, even through the soft wool of his gloves as he brings one hand up to the base of Robert’s head, cradling him there like something precious he never wants to let go.

“Thank you,” Aaron says against his lips, their foreheads pressed together. He can feel Robert’s pulse thrumming beneath his skin, quick but still steady.

“I love you.” Robert says in reply. “Aaron. If you get sent down –”

“It’ll be alright.” Aaron cuts in, firm and sure.

Robert watches him, unsure.

I’ll be alright.” He adds, “Whatever happens.”

Robert kisses his forehead, lingering as though he wants to savour the moment, “Okay,” he says, “We’ll get through this together. You and me, Liv too,”

They turn back to the sky.

“Will we go back in?” Robert asks eventually, rubbing a hand up and down Aaron’s back in an attempt to warm him up, though it doesn’t do much to chase away the chill that’s seeping into his bones the longer they stay out. It’s freezing, but he’s comfortable.

“Suppose we should,” he says, tearing his eyes away from the stars.

They stand, bodies stiff with the cold. Robert visibly shivers as he’s folding the blanket back up, “This was a good idea in theory,” he says, huffing, “But in hindsight not so much. I’m bloody freezing.”

Aaron grins at him, bumps their elbows together. “Guess we’d better get home and warm ourselves up in bed,” he says, thoughtfully, feigning innocence. Robert catches him by the bicep, spins him around so they’re facing.

“Hey,” he says, stepping close, “I know it’s not our thing, but – Happy Valentine’s day, anyway,”

Aaron’s heart threatens to burst. He cups Robert’s face in his gloved hands and presses a quick kiss to the corner of his mouth, “Beer, movies, and a bit of stargazing,” he says, “I can’t think of a better way to spend a day with ya,”

“Careful,” Robert says, nudging Aaron’s hands away and tangling their fingers together, “You almost sounded romantic there,”

“Well,” Aaron says, as they clamber back over the fence and start the walk back home, “I’m full of surprises, aren’t I?”

When Robert smiles at him, Aaron adds, “Maybe I meant it.” And does.