Disclaimer - I do not own any of these characters, they belong to ITV and Emmerdale.
Aaron was lost in his thoughts. He was supposed to be changing some brake pads but he couldn't concentrate. It had been six weeks since Jackson's death and the pain was as strong as if it had happened yesterday. It was there when he woke up and it stayed with him until he tried to go to sleep. He kept expecting to see him, hear his voice and it was never going to happen. He'd thought going back to work might help, give him something else to think about but it wasn't that easy, especially considering where the garage was. His thoughts were interrupted by his mobile beeping. He ignored it, whoever it was who had sent him the message could wait, he'd read it later, maybe. He glanced over towards Jackson's house and had to look away again quickly. So many of his memories were concerned with what had happened in that house, not all of them good. His mobile beeped again. He sighed and reached into his pocket taking his phone out to see who was disturbing his thoughts. He looked at the name on the screen and his heart suddenly beat a little bit faster. He wasn't sure he wanted to read the message, he was tempted to just get rid of it without looking at it but curiosity got the better of him and he read it. He shook his head not quite believing what he was seeing and read the message for a second time just to be sure.
The message said: Hi Aaron, just heard the news about Jackson. I'm so, so sorry. Flynn.
Of all the people to hear from, Flynn was the last person he would have expected to get in touch with him. He'd forgotten that his number was still in his phone and couldn't believe that Flynn had held onto his. What was he playing at, why get in touch after all this time, after everything that had happened between them? He hadn't seen or heard from Flynn since that night he'd left him to come back to Jackson for good. He hadn't even thought about him, not once, until now and he didn't like how it made him feel. He snapped his phone shut and put it back in his pocket, annoyed with himself for reading the message, annoyed that Flynn was back in his head again. Thirteen words, that was all it was. Thirteen words he wished he hadn't read but at the same time was glad he did. He went back to changing the brake pads, suddenly having no trouble concentrating on the job in hand. Thinking about brake pads was a lot easier than allowing himself to think about Flynn again.
After finishing changing the pads, he checked his watch and was glad to see it was lunchtime. It meant he could hide away for a while. He went home, he couldn't face the pub, full of people being nice to him, caring about him, asking how he was doing. He couldn't handle it. He almost wished he was back to being Public Enemy Number One again. He was far more comfortable with how people treated him back then and he knew how to react in return. He glanced down at his half eaten sandwich and wondered how he'd even managed to eat what he had. Paddy was always fussing, trying to make sure he ate properly but it was hard to swallow anything when you had a permanent lump in your throat and a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. He looked around him, around the kitchen where he and Jackson had come so close to kissing that day before they were interrupted. It was the house in which they'd spent their first night together, where Aaron had taken the biggest step of his life because he'd known that once he'd slept with Jackson, there was no denying who he was anymore. It was also where they'd lived together for a while. He felt the all too familiar stinging in his eyes as the tears began to well up. He really thought he had no more tears left to cry but, sometimes like now, they just kept coming. He put his head in his hands and sobbed, tears streaming from his blue eyes and running down his cheeks. When the tears finally stopped, he wiped his face, threw what was left of his lunch in the bin and headed back to work. He was trying to keep to this normal routine but he was struggling. Everyone kept telling him that it would get better with time and he would be able to cope with life again but he just couldn't see it. How could he live his life without the one person who was his life? As he walked back to the garage, his phone beeped again with another message. He jumped and grabbed it straight away this time only to see it was a message from Adam. Just for a split second, he was disappointed but he pushed that thought right out of his head. After all, who did he expect the message to be from, what did he have to be disappointed about?
A few hours later and it was nearly time to go home for the night. " Right you, me and you are going for a pint tonight, even if I have to drag you in there, hold your nose and pour it down your throat myself" said Cain.
"Nah, you're alright, I don't really fancy it" Aaron replied.
"Since when have I cared what you fancy? Come on, if I have to look at your miserable face, it may as well be somewhere that serves alcohol, it'll make it a bit more bearable." Aaron pulled a face but he didn't have the strength to argue. They locked up the garage.
"After you, smiler" Cain said as he shoved Aaron in the direction of the pub. They stood at the bar while Cain ordered a couple of pints. Aaron's eyes never left the floor, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. He didn't want to give people an excuse to start talking to him. He felt as if everyone was looking at him and wished he was anywhere else except there.
"Come on, we'll sit over there, that way you won't put people off their drinks." Cain flashed a sarcastic smile in Aaron's direction as he walked past him and led the way to a table. Aaron followed and sat down opposite him. They sat in silence for a while before Cain's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Are you actually going to drink that pint now I've bought it or just stare at it?" Aaron sighed, picked it up and took a sip. "There, happy now" he snapped. "Flaming ecstatic" Cain snapped back. Aaron immediately felt guilty, he knew what his uncle was trying to do but he wasn't in the mood. "Look, I'm sorry, right. I know you're only trying to help but I just don't feel very sociable ok?" he said, his voice so quiet Cain could barely hear it. Cain looked at him and for once in his life didn't know what to do or say. He usually had an answer for everything but not this time. How could anyone or anything help Aaron with what he was going through?
He let out a sigh. "Right, I'm gonna tell you something now but if you repeat a word of it to anyone, I'll deny ever saying it and then, I'll batter you." Aaron looked up and frowned, wondering what he was about to be told.
Cain sighed again and his voice softened as he continued. " I liked Jackson, he was alright. I wasn't sure about the whole, you know, you and him together thing but I got used to it. At the end of the day, he was just a bloke who happened to fancy other blokes. Only thing wrong with him was his taste in men, I mean, he fancied you." Aaron smiled, he couldn't help himself.
"Me and him, we may have pretended not to get on but he enjoyed the banter as much as I did. I miss his cheeky little face giving me grief."
Aaron never took his eyes off Cain's face as he was speaking. He had a lump in his throat the size of a golf ball. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Cain cleared his throat.
"Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that you're not on your own, you're not the only one who misses him. We might not show it and it might seem like you're the only one who's still going through it but you're not. The whole village misses him. It won't be the same without him."
Aaron just nodded, he didn't trust himself to speak right now. He knew everyone missed Jackson, they told him often enough but it didn't help him right now did it? He stood up quickly, he had to get out. "I, er, I'm gonna head off. I'll see you tomorrow" he mumbled. He left the pub glad to be out in the fresh air. Cain's words were still ringing in his ears. He'd never heard Cain speak like that about anyone before. Mind you, Jackson had that effect on everyone he met. Everyone liked Jackson, there was just something about him that people warmed to. He knew, in the beginning, people thought that he wasn't good enough for Jackson, he'd thought it too but Jackson had convinced him that they were wrong, that he was wrong. After the accident, he had grown up a lot and people's opinions of him had changed but it made no difference to him. Apart from Paddy, there was only one person whose opinion he ever really cared about and he wasn't here anymore. He put his hands in his pockets and walked up the hill towards home. He knew he had to get out of the village tonight, even if it was only for a few hours. It was too claustrophobic, he couldn't breathe. He had to escape.
When he got indoors, he undressed and jumped straight in the shower. He stood there letting the water wash over him, wishing his sadness could be washed away as easily as the oil and grease was. He got out of the shower, put a towel around his waist and headed into his room to get dressed. Without thinking, he put his hand up to the silver chain he was wearing, the one with the cross and the medal on it, the one that Jackson used to wear and Hazel had given to him. He began rubbing it. He didn't do jewellery but it was all he had left of Jackson and now he never took it off. Rubbing it sometimes relaxed him, he didn't know why but it did. He sat down on his bed. He wasn't the tough guy everyone thought he was, the image he used to show to the world. Underneath, he was sensitive, caring and desperate for someone to love him and make him feel like he was worth something. Jackson had been that person. It had taken him ages to believe the things that Jackson told him, to let him hold him, touch him, show him the affection he longed for and for him to give the same back. He'd finally found someone who loved him as much as he loved them and now he was gone. What had he done to deserve this? Was he really that bad a person that his only source of happiness had to be so cruelly taken away from him? He didn't know how long he'd sat there but it must have been a while because he suddenly realised he was freezing and beginning to shiver. He put on some clothes, grabbed his keys, wallet and phone and set off for the bus stop.
Bar West was packed, full of people laughing, enjoying themselves without a care in the world and yet, even among all these people, Aaron felt completely alone. He was glad when he'd ordered his drink that their barman hadn't been working. That's what Jackson had called him ever since that first night they'd come in together after the accident and he'd given them their first round on the house. It was something that he'd done every time since and they had always appreciated the gesture. He knew if he had have been working, he'd have asked where Jackson was and he wasn't ready to have that conversation. He picked up his bottle of lager and pushed his way through the crowd until he found a table as far away from the bar as possible, where it was a bit quieter. He sat down and looked around him. He'd known he would end up here, he felt comfortable in a strange sort of way and, even though being here had lots of memories for him, most of them were good unlike back in the village. He was only approached once but one look from him told the guy he was wasting his time and Aaron was left alone. He sipped at his lager and lost himself in his thoughts again. "Hi Aaron" said a voice. Aaron recognised it without having to look up. He didn't want to hear that voice, didn't want to see the face that the voice belonged to but he looked up anyway. Flynn was looking down at him, a shy smile on his face. "Alright" Aaron mumbled.
"Look, I er, I know I'm probably the last person you want to see right now but I, er, well I just wanted to say in person how sorry I am ...about Jackson." Aaron just nodded. "Well, I, er, I'll leave you to it." He smiled and began walking away.
"No, wait." Aaron heard his own voice call out but he didn't seem to be in control of what he was saying. It was like the words had come out without his brain telling him he was going to speak. Flynn turned back round, a surprised look on his face. "Why don't you have a beer with me, if you want to that is. I'm bored of my own company." Nodding his head, Flynn replied "Now that I can believe."
"Right, just for that, you can get them in" Aaron said. Flynn shrugged his shoulders. "Walked right into that one, didn't I?" He headed off to the bar. Aaron smiled, he couldn't help it. Flynn still looked good, still made him feel funny inside when he smiled at him, just like Jackson used to do. Aaron put his head down and shut his eyes. He'd worry about the guilt tomorrow. Right now, he just wanted some company.
Flynn stood at the bar waiting for their drinks. He hadn't expected to see Aaron tonight, in fact, he hadn't planned on being here himself. He'd been due to meet a mate in town but on the way had got a text to say his mate couldn't make it. Rather than go home again, he thought he'd come here for a couple of beers and now, here he was buying Aaron a drink again. He'd only just found out about Jackson and had sent Aaron the text as soon as he'd heard. He didn't know if it was a good idea or a terrible idea but he sent it anyway. He wasn't expecting a reply and wasn't surprised when he didn't get one. When he saw Aaron sitting on his own tonight, his heart just broke. He stood for twenty minutes watching him, looking to see if he was with anyone but it soon became obvious that he wasn't. He looked so sad, so lonely, he knew he had to go over and say something. He didn't know how Aaron would react but he didn't care either. Whatever Aaron did or said couldn't hurt him any more than Aaron had hurt him already. He'd been surprised when Aaron asked him to have a beer with him, whatever he was expecting, it wasn't that but that was Aaron all over. You thought you knew what he was going to do or say and then he would do something completely different.
"Here you go" he said placing a bottle in front of Aaron and putting his coat on the back of the chair. He sat opposite him, not wanting to get too close. "Cheers" Aaron said smiling at him but the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. Aaron had the most gorgeous blue eyes Flynn had ever seen but tonight, they were different. The sparkle had gone, it was like a light had been turned off and Flynn knew why. Jackson had been the light in Aaron's life and now he was gone forever.
"So, how are you?" Flynn asked. Aaron just looked at him. "Sorry, stupid question, I just couldn't think of anything else to say." Flynn shook his head and took a swig of his lager. He looked sheepishly at Aaron. "Sorry" he said again.
"Don't tell me I'm going to have to tell you again to stop apologising all the time" Aaron said "I thought we'd been through this once already."
"Yeah, we have sor..." Flynn stopped himself just in time.
"So, talk to me. What you been up to then?" Aaron asked.
"Not a lot really, still going to college. I've been away for a while, that's why I only just found out about Jackson." Flynn went quiet, not sure what the sound of his name would do to Aaron.
"I got your text. I'm sorry I didn't reply." Aaron put his eyes back down to look at the table.
"Hey, don't worry about it. You've got enough on your plate. I just wanted you to know that…."
"Yeah, well" Aaron interrupted, "Thanks anyway."
They both sat in silence for a while, neither one knowing what to say next. Flynn took a deep breath, it was now or never and he chose now, before he lost his nerve. "Look Aaron, I just want to say that if you need me, you've got my number. If you need someone to talk to, shout at, a shoulder to cry on, someone who's not from the village well, you know I'll be there."
Aaron looked at Flynn, a confused look on his face. "You what?" he said.
"You're not really going to make me say it again are you cos it was hard enough first time round."
"No, I heard you but why would you offer to do that after the way I treated you. I was horrible to you."
Flynn smiled a shy little smile. "Well, you were in a difficult situation weren't you? Trying to cope with what had happened to Jackson, trying to move on, it can't have been easy."
Aaron's look darkened. He looked away, shook his head and looked back again. "And what would you know? You weren't there. So what, now he's gone, you thought you'd try your luck again did you? Try to worm your way back into my life by being nice to me and take his place, well it's not gonna happen."
"No!" Flynn shouted. "Do you really think I'd stoop that low? D'you know, I knew this was a bad idea, I should have kept me mouth shut."
" Yeah, well why didn't ya?"Aaron yelled.
"Because you looked like you needed a friend, alright, that's why."
Aaron couldn't look at him, frightened of what he might do if he did. Flynn looked at Aaron, seeing the pain and the anguish written all over his face. He shook his head. I must be mad he thought to himself. "Aaron, please, look at me" Flynn said quietly. "Please!"
Reluctantly, Aaron turned his head to find Flynn's eyes fixed on him. He bit his bottom lip and hoped the tears that were close to the surface again wouldn't materialise. "I'm not trying to take Jackson's place. No one can and I would never try. You two had something very special, you loved each other very much. I found that out the hard way. And I won't patronise you by saying I know what you're going through because I don't. I mean, I can imagine but I don't know. To be honest, I don't know how you even get out of bed in the morning."
Aaron took a deep breath. He had calmed down a bit listening to Flynn speak. "Yeah well if I'm honest, neither do I" he said. "Look, I'm sorry for saying what I said before. I know you wouldn't do that, try to take Jackson's place I mean. I know you're trying to help. See, you were trying to be nice to me and I was horrible back. Why are you even bothering?"
Flynn's heart was pounding now, he was surprised Aaron couldn't hear it even with all the noise that was around them. He leant forward and put his hands on the table. His fingers were inches away from Aaron's but he didn't dare try to touch him although he wanted to, just to offer some comfort. He took a deep breath before speaking. "Why am I bothering? For two reasons. One, because I like you but you already know that."
Aaron looked into Flynn's eyes and saw something he didn't want to see. He saw how Flynn was looking at him, he'd seen that look before. He couldn't cope with it then and he certainly couldn't cope with it now. It was a look that made him feel things, things he didn't want to feel. He looked away, choosing to look down at his bottle of lager instead.
"and the second reason is because, like Jackson, I can see that under that hard man exterior and that I don't give a shit about anyone or anything attitude is a really nice guy who in the right circumstances with the right people cares an awful lot. I know what you're like, you won't talk, you'll just bottle everything up and you won't ask for help. So, I'm offering. If you need anything, just phone me only try not to make it too late at night, some of us need more beauty sleep than others."
Aaron smiled at him. "Just which one of us needs the most beauty sleep then?" he asked.
"Oh no, I'll leave that up to you to figure out" Flynn replied. "Seriously though, just think about what I've said ok?" He grabbed his coat and put it on. "Well, maybe see you around Aaron. Take care, yeah." He smiled and began to walk away.
"Flynn" Aaron called after him.
Flynn turned round. "Thank you, for the offer." Flynn just smiled and Aaron smiled back. As Flynn walked away, Aaron took a swig of his lager. He made his mind up there and then. He'd like to see him again soon. Flynn wasn't Jackson, he'd never feel the same way about him as he felt about Jackson but it would be nice to have a beer with him, play a few games of pool maybe. Nothing too heavy, he wouldn't be ready for anything like that ever again but it had been nice to see him though.
Flynn walked towards the door. He was so pleased he'd decided to come in here tonight and not go back home. It had been good seeing Aaron again, very good in fact. He hoped that he would see him again soon. The circumstances that had brought them back together again for this chance meeting were terrible, tragic beyond comprehension. He knew that Aaron would probably never get over it, never get over Jackson but, if all he got from it at the end of the day was a friendship, then he would settle for that. Ideally, friendship wasn't what he wanted, he wanted more but what he wanted wasn't important right now. What was important to him was Aaron and helping him in whatever way he could, whatever way Aaron would let him. After that, who knows?
This is my first attempt at writing a story. Please let me know what you think, if it should stay a one off or if I should continue.