finger on the pulse
aaron develops a strange new habit, and robert doesn’t quite understand.
Robert was half asleep when Aaron got in from the scrap run he and Adam had been on all day, the two of them picking up a few new clients up Birmingham direction. He felt the bed dip beside him, and he was about to mumble out a hello when he felt Aaron do something strange.
It wasn’t unusual for Aaron to come in to their bed and wrap himself completely around Robert if he’d gone to bed first, but as Aaron settled himself around Robert, his chin digging into the space between Robert’s neck and shoulder, he pressed a finger to the inside of Robert’s wrist.
Robert kept his eyes closed and his breathing even as he tried to figure out what Aaron was doing, curious now. Aaron’s index finger was pressed to the inside of his wrist, right over the vein there.
Was Aaron checking his pulse?
Robert laid still, and waited, listened to the soft muttering Aaron was doing under his breath, too low for Robert to understand what he was saying.
After a few more seconds, Aaron moved his hand, shifting it to Robert’s stomach, bunching up the material of Robert’s pyjama top so he could press his palm to the warm skin of Robert’s abdomen, the usual way they’d fall asleep like this, with Aaron’s much stronger body tightly wrapped around Robert’s torso.
Taking a mental note to ask Aaron about it later, Robert buried his head further into his pillow, letting sleep take over now his husband was home, and in bed, wrapped up around Robert, exactly where he should be.
Robert had forgotten about it until it happened again, the two of them sitting in the Woolpack, having a quiet, post work pint. They were huddled together in a corner booth, not in the mood to socialise with anyone else.
They were sitting close enough for their knees to be knocking together, Aaron pressed against Robert’s side, comfortable in their relationship in a way Robert sometimes still wasn’t used to.
Marriage had changed them, made them better, made them more comfortable with each other and the love they shared. Robert wasn’t sure how, or why marriage had made such an impact on their relationship, but he was glad of it, glad of how willing Aaron was with things like holding his hand as they’d wander home to the Mill at night, or sitting, pressed close to him like he was now.
Robert was mid-sentence, telling Aaron about a meeting he’d had earlier that day when it happened again, Aaron pressing a finger to the inside of Robert’s wrist, not once taking his eyes off Robert as he mumbled something under his breath.
Maybe the pub hadn’t been the best place to ask, judging by the wide eyed expression on Aaron’s face, but the words were out before Robert could really think about it all that much.
“Why do you do that?” Robert inquired, gesturing to the finger on the inside of his wrist.
Aaron looked flustered, yanking his hand away. “I’ll get us another round in, shall I?” he said, making as though to move out of their booth.
“Aaron,” Robert said quietly, putting a hand on his husbands knee. “Talk to me. Whats wrong?”
Aaron shifted uncomfortably in his seat, a blush rising in his cheeks as he spoke. “I just…… When I was inside, I used to dream about you, you know - just doing normal stuff with you, getting to go to bed with you every night. Sometimes I just need to remind myself you’re actually here, that I’m not dreaming.”
Robert’s heart ached as he listened to Aaron, understood why Aaron had taken up his odd new habit. “I’m sorry,” he blurted automatically, not wanting Aaron to feel as though it had annoyed him. “I was just curious.”
“I woke up a few times thinking I was at home, with you, and I’d be all alone in my bunk,” Aaron admitted softly, lacing his fingers with Robert’s, his grip tight. “I need to remind myself this is all real sometimes, y’know? That you’re here, that I get to be with you every day.”
Robert was torn between wanting to kiss Aaron for all he was worth, or wanting to hug him and never let him go. Aaron, his gorgeous, brilliant Aaron had been through too much in his life, enough to need to do something like check Robert’s pulse to make sure it was all real, that Robert was really there.
Robert settled for squeezing Aaron’s hand tightly, pressing a soft kiss to the corner of his husbands mouth. “If you need to do it, never stop, okay?” he said, wanting, needing Aaron to have every coping mechanism he wanted, any coping mechanism that would help.
Aaron gave him a grateful smile. “Okay.”
It was weeks later when it happened again, Robert sitting at his desk in the portacabin, trying his best to ignore whatever contract Nicola and Jimmy were fighting over, the two of them doing his head in.
Aaron arrived in the door silently, heading straight for Robert’s desk, putting a coffee down in front of him. His nightmares had been worse that week, and Aaron looked exhausted, drained completely by four straight nights of interrupted sleep.
“Thought you might need it,” Aaron said quietly, not wanting to be dragged into Nicola and Jimmy’s argument. He had another cup of coffee in his own hand, and before Robert could reach for his, Aaron pressed his finger to the inside of Robert’s wrist.
Just for a second, just for long enough for Aaron to breath a soft sigh of relief, pulling Adam’s desk chair over so he could sit next to Robert, the two of them pressed together knee to elbow.
“I’m here,” Robert murmured, under the pretence of mumbling a thank you for the coffee into Aaron’s ear. “You’re home, with me. I promise.”