22.So Just

A/N: sorry this took me longer than I intended. There’s been a lot going on in personal life, but I try to be faster with the next one.

And still, no beta, so bear with me…

Chapter 22

”Let me read the messages.” Misha asked the next morning when they had sat down to have breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Joni hesitated since he knew how reading them would only vex Misha further. And for a moment he sat there, silently sipping his coffee. He just wouldn’t have wanted to deal with this.

” Joni…” Misha said looking at him intensively while reaching out across the table to get his phone. ”I need to see them!” He demanded, which annoyed Joni.

” You could ask more nicely.” He took note. ”It’s not like I demand to read the messages that you receive.”

”Well, I don’t have a psychotic ex-boyfriend. If I did, I swear you’d get to read his messages.” Misha pointed out and for a moment they stared at one another, until Joni sighed and reluctantly took his phone from his pocket.

”Easy to say when you don’t have one…” He muttered and searched the messages that Chris had sent. He hesitated for a moment still, looking at his fiancé who looked impatient.

” Well?” Misha said and with an exhausted sigh Joni gave his phone to him. Misha frowned; his expression darkened further while he read the messages. Joni sifted his gaze to his breakfast pancakes which he now stabbed with his fork. ’Blueberry pancakes.’ He had wanted to try them since… Well since he had dreamt of a trip to the United States. His idea of an American breakfast, no worries about calories or health factors, such things shouldn’t be worried about on holiday.

He had hoped that this unhealthy breakfast would cheer him up. But now he just felt disappointed, the pancakes merely reminded him of how different he had wanted this trip to be. He had no appetite.

Misha partly listened the songs that Chris had linked, and Joni glanced at him. Misha looked furious; you could almost imagine smoke coming out from his ears. The image however, didn’t amuse Joni like it might have in different scenario.

Joni sifted his gaze to the window, looking at the street. It was raining wet snow, people who walked by looked agitated, stressed, and busy. Most tried vainly to shield themselves with umbrellas, that were useless against the wind.

The weather wouldn’t have been a problem, had they been in a more cheerful mood. They could have searched for a better café house with Misha, perhaps do more shopping and later stop by somewhere nice for lunch. Perhaps they could have even visited some museums.

Instead, there they now sat, Misha cursed Chris to hell and beyond, fumed how the man should have been kept behind bars for the rest of his life! The sentence he had received had been ridiculously short; a tune that Joni had already heard often.

” We have to inform the cops!” Misha finally decided and Joni brought his gaze back to him. ”Fuck it! I’ll call him! This needs to stop!” He said in anger and Joni managed to snitch his phone back from Misha’s hand.

”You won’t call him.” Joni forbade him. ”I’m doubtful that it helps anything to inform the police either. We’ll see, perhaps he stopped.”

”Hah! He should have stopped the minute he received that restraining order!” Misha pointed out sharply. ”I wouldn’t trust that guy for one minute.”

Joni sighed, feeling bored and brought the coffee cup to his lips. ”Something must be done.” Misha continued.” If that Aki character…”

” Gods, I don’t want to keep talking about this!” Joni snapped and rubbed his temple feeling headache approaching.

”Unfortunately, we have to.” Misha pointed out. Joni gritted his teeth and gazed back outside. ”The problem won’t go away if we don’t face it and deal with it.” He continued looking at Joni who in return continued avoiding his gaze. ”I don’t want that Chis manages to surprise us.”

Joni was still silent, he sifted his gaze to other people at the restaurant; businessmen, couples, families with children, young people with their friends; who talked cheerfully with one another and laughed. Further three tables away from them, he saw a couple who were having a serious conversation, without any trace of happiness on their features and somehow, he felt comfort from looking at them; there were others dealing with a misery of their own. ” Joni,” he heard frustration in Misha’s voice.

”What?” The question came out more angrily than what he had indented. He wasn’t agitated with Misha; he was frustrated and bitter that they were dealing with this same thing over and over. How many times had he hoped that he would never have met Chis? If everything had gone differently? He wouldn’t have played that stupid game with Ivo… His dad wouldn’t have lost his temper and the ability to parent him. He wouldn’t have been sent at his grandparents, they might have spent Christmas there as a family and it would have been too short time to… He might have tolerated it, perhaps taken notice of Chris, but never…

His thoughts were a mess, jumping from one memory to the next. Would they have ended up together with Misha if the path had been different? Had the experience with Chris softened his own personality to suit Misha better? How would it had been like? Their sex life could be more… venturous perhaps, without the bad memories and voices in his head. Joni looked at Misha and found himself hoping that he could have a time machine, to go back and assure his younger self that there was a better road to choose to get here. And in this moment, instead of this memory, the two of them could tease each other and laugh and love and hate and love again and have heated sex, free of the strings that held him back.

”You have to understand that we can’t just hide our heads in the bushes and hope that everything bad disappears.” Misha said and Joni gritted his teeth gazing at his coffee cup with frustration before bringing it up to his lips. The coffee had already turned cold, and he hoped that there would have been one of those waiters circling the tables offering refills, like he had seen in some movies.

”Yes, yes…” He finally sighed. ”I need more coffee.” He announced and looked at Misha. ”This is cold, and I want a refill.

”And I’m supposed to get it for you?” Misha asked and the look that Joni gave him was enough to give him the answer. ”Same I assume?”

”Cappuccino.” Joni replied and followed his fiancé with his eyes as he obediently went to get him what he had asked. This made him smile, just a little. Joni turned to look back outside; would their relationship have worked before? He would have given more orders to Misha, and he might not have tolerated it as well as he did now, Joni was sure he wouldn’t have.

At first Chris had tolerated hid mood swings, at first, he had thought that he had Chris wrapped around his finger…. His thoughts were interrupted when Misha returned placing the cup in front of him.

” Thank you…” Joni muttered.

” You’re very quiet,” Misha took note interrupting the silence that had settled between them for a moment. Joni shrugged.

”My thoughts are jumping…” He sighed and Misha nodded with a serious expression.

” When we get home, we’ll report Chris’ messages.” Misha said and Joni gave him a tired look.

”If it eases you.” He finally replied.

” We can’t let him believe that it Is perfectly okay to contact you like this. The message behind those lyrics concerns me.”

”They are just songs.” Joni said. ”Chris was drunk.”

”What does it matter that he was drunk? Isn’t he often so? He seems to have an obsession to hurt you and that needs to be stopped.”

Joni didn’t reply, instead he drank his coffee silently. Perhaps he could report that Chris had contacted him, but he had little faith that the report would lead to consequences of great value. Perhaps someone would shake their finger at Chis and say he did bad, perhaps they’d write him a sanction or simply give him a warning. But anything further than that, Joni was doubtful.

The sad truth was that there was little that they could do when they didn’t know if Chis indented to bring it further than messages. In any case, talking about it on and on was simply tiring.

”You don’t seem to take this seriously.” Misha said and Joni gave him an angry glare.

”Fuck it!” he cursed. ”Trust me, I am taking this seriously! I am just so fucking tired going on and on about this! For months now! Just as I think I am rid of this shit; it comes crawling back for more!” Joni took a deep breath and continued. ”Let’s just stay here and surprise everyone.” He suggested. ”Let’s tour the United States, rent a car and drive Route 66, or go to Mexico and stay there for a few months. Or perhaps travel though Europe and hide our travel plan from everyone. There is my suggestion.”

”I’m serious Joni,” Misha sighed.

” So am I!” Joni said tightly.” Even if Chris plans something, planning isn’t a crime yet… If we wanted to stop his plan from working, we’d have to know what it was or… Simpler way, it this case, be somewhere where no one would know exactly where.”

”We can’t let Chris drive us into hiding.”

” I’m not talking about hiding.” Joni said. ”I’m talking about travelling, taking a long holiday. We should travel the world now while we’re young. Let’s leave all this Chris shit behind us, just long enough for him to find a new obsession, or better yet; a healthy relationship!” Joni smiled hopefully to him.

”We have an apartment to pay and jobs, things that won’t just magically sort themselves and wait while we disappear somewhere!”

”We wouldn’t just disappear without a word.” Joni smirked. ”We’ll rent our apartment and if our current employers won’t welcome us back when we return, then we’ll find new ones or stay abroad somewhere.”

Misha gazed at Joni, smiling at how enthusiastic he suddenly sounded. ”If it were that easy.” He replied softly.

”Trust me Misha, it is just that easy!” Joni nodded but Misha wasn’t that convinced. He liked his current job, he liked their apartment and his rational mind didn’t believe that things would be as easily arranged as Joni painted it out to be. It would take time to find suitable tenants and the planning of the trip? Where would they go and what would they do? He wanted a plan first, plans made him feel easy when it came down to normal life. They couldn’t just up and leave and expect everything to work out upon their arrival. And besides, if the distance between Joni and Chris wasn’t helping now, they couldn’t assume that it would help if they travelled either.

” Good job opportunities don’t just appear out of nowhere.” Misha pointed out. ”We can’t just leave without planning it first.”

”I wish you weren’t that rational.” Joni sighed. ”Why couldn’t we just take a chance? People take chances you know and sometimes they pay off. I am sure we’d find tenants and we wouldn’t need to find them straight away; I’m sure dad could help us with it…”

”Oh, your dad who is even more rational than I, would agree that this is a good plan for us, just up and leave and he’d take care of renting out apartment?” Misha cocked his eyebrow and Joni felt annoyed that Misha was right. His dad would be the first to try and talk them out of it.

”Then we’ll ask Ivo.” Joni said. ”I have savings Misha; we’ll get started with them. Why can’t we just leave and live our lives without this constant worry!”

”Just calm down, we don’t have to make any rushed plans and leave.” Misha reasoned.” I am not saying that we can’t travel, I am saying we should first deal with this issue.”

Joni gazed at Misha silently. He wanted to ask how exactly he planned to deal with Chris and how much of their lives would they sacrifice to it? If Chris still hadn’t given up on the idea of them together, then Joni doubted he could give up on the following months either. Chris would need more therapy, but who could convince him enough to receive it? Joni felt afraid that this situation would drag, that a year from now they’d still battle with this and perhaps that was only the lucky scenario? Perhaps something would happen before that? Perhaps Chris would decide that the only way to for him to have some measurement of peace, was to kill him? A small voice in his mind seemed to scream and urge that the best thing was to remain abroad, out of reach, out of contact with anyone who could alert Chris his whereabouts.

When they returned to Adam’s and Suvi’s home, Misha didn’t waste time with telling them about Chris’ messages to Joni. Then they all wondered when Chris had had the opportunity to steal Joni’s number from Adam. Misha was annoyed that Adam hadn’t kept a better care of his phone and Adam was both confused and sorry. Suvi gave them her firm opinion that Chris had lost his final chance and Adam should now break all contact with him.

Later, when Aron had gone to bed, the whole situation again rose as main topic of their conversation. Joni mainly listened with frustration as the three others argued about Chris. Misha demanded that Adam would solve if Chris knew Aki. Joni snorted at this as if Chris would openly admit to Adam if he did.

How would that conversation even go? Chris would say, ’Yes, of course I know Aki. We planned that we’d come and slaughter Joni on the 15th of next month, would that be convenient for you?’ – The thought amused him only for a second before he felt anxious and stressed. Joni now stood in front of the window, looking down to the street where cars drove by, small, foggy looking people walking at the park below. It felt tempting to leave the whole situation and join the foggy people.

Finally, Adam left the room to call Chris. Joni didn’t find it surprising that he wanted to talk privately with Chris without Misha breathing on his neck. Joni sat down on the couch looking tiredly at his cousin and Misha who eagerly talked how rotten, obsessed, and bad Chris was. For a moment Joni close his eyes and allowed his mind to drift him out of the conversation, to other images on how fun it could be to travel the world with Misha and Chris wouldn’t bother them in thought or otherwise. Joni snapped from his thoughts when Adam returned to the room. The man sighed, phone still in his hands and he shrugged.

” He’s never heard of a man called Aki Kuusisto.” Adam said. ”He didn’t really get to know any of the other inmates, just kept to himself.” Adam looked at Joni looking apologetic.

” Of course he would say that he doesn’t know him, even if he does!” Misha grumbled.

”You demanded that Adam would ask him!” Joni sighed. ”Why, when you don’t even believe that he would tell the truth?”

” Why are you whining at me for?”

”I am not!” Joni growled and Adam looked at them insecurely before speaking.

”And as for the messages, he said he was sorry… Christmas is difficult time for him, and he drank too much. He swore that it won’t happen again and that you don’t have to worry.”

”Oh, difficult time, and now we’re supposed to feel sorry for him and forgive everything?”

” This is going nowhere! I’m going to bed.” Joni informed and got up.

”It’s only 8pm,” Suvi wondered.

”I don’t care, good night!”

”Let’s give him time to calm.” Misha said with calmer tone than earlier. He finally came to the realisation on how difficult this had to be for Joni. ”Can I have Chris’ number?” He asked then from Adam who looked little dumbfounded.

”Are you going to call him?”

” I’m considering it.” Misha admitted.

” I’m not sure if its wise,” Adam hesitated. But the way Misha looked at him made him search Chris’ number from his phone

” If he intents on harassing Joni again, then I’ll call him.” Misha said and saved the number on his phone when Adam gave it to him after accepting his answer.

”Thank you.” Misha said.

”Perhaps I should visit Chris, see how he really is.” Adam pondered.

” I think you should finally kick him out of our lives.” Suvi snorted. ”He is sick and won’t get any better.”

Misha looked at her thoughtfully, thinking about the situation and what Joni had felt about it. ”Perhaps it is a bad idea, after all. I think Joni may be right about it. And perhaps you should visit him and see how he really is. If you now end your friendship, he’ll blame Joni for it, and it will bitter him further. ” As difficult as it might have been to admit, it most likely was the truth. Adam nodded, believing it was just as Misha said.

” You understand this, right?” Adam asked from his wife and the woman gave a heavy sigh.

” I guess I do, but I don’t want him near my son. And I can’t see a day that I could ever tolerate him.”

Adam nodded, he understood Suvi’s opinion and at the same time the situation frustrated him. He felt frustrated and angry that Chris had messed everything so perfectly. They had been best friends and Adam had hoped that it could someday continue as problem free as before. But the reality was that they could never return to what once had been, there would never come a time when they could celebrate Christmases or Thank giving’s together, regardless of Chris getting his act together.

When Misha later walked into the guest room Joni sighed and turned over on his side to look to the door. ”Can’t sleep?” Misha asked quietly.

” No.” Joni replied.” You can turn on the light if you want.” Misha searched for the flashlight on his phone.

”I’m good with this.” He said and placed his phone on the table, starting to undress. Joni moved closer to the wall to make room for him on the bed.

”Would you like a massage? Perhaps it would help you to relax and fall asleep.”

” Never been the one to turn down an offer of a massage.” Joni gave a small smile.

”So, turn over on your stomach and I’ll get the lotion from my bag.”

”I still have the feeling that we should continue traveling.” Joni sighed and turned.

”When we go to my grandmother, I could take some balance free and perhaps we could stay for two weeks? There we can be at peace.” Misha suggested while warming the lotion between his hands, before bringing them on Joni’s shoulders.

” Hmh…” Joni sighed. Although he liked Misha’s grandmother, the thought of spending two weeks there didn’t exactly excite him, what was there to do? ”Two weeks at your grandmother? I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’m comfortable staying that long, I wouldn’t know how to spend my time there.”

”We could just take it easy and relax.” Misha said.

” Perhaps,” Joni agreed. ” But two weeks is too much, perhaps a week, a week is my limit.”

”Alright.” Misha smiled and planted a kiss on his neck. ”This will all work out.”

Joni wanted to be able to believe it, but doubt was gnawing his mind. Something was coming, it crawled slowly further, but it was difficult to see and without the ability to see it, it was difficult to know which way to run.

Chris stared at Adam’s name on the screen, listening at the persistent ringtone. He sighed, having an idea on what Adam wanted to talk about and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to listen.

Joni had snitched on him, without a doubt. Aki had told him that Joni and Misha had travelled to New York, although Adam hadn’t mentioned it to him the last time they had spoken. The call ended before he had made his mind whether he wanted to answer. Chris pondered about it a moment further, it was probably better that he’d talked with Adam, at least to hear what he had to say.

He took his phone and drew a deep breath before calling back to his friend. ”I was having a shower, just missed your call.” He said when Adam answered.

” Okay…” Adam started, sounding anxious.

”So how was Christmas?” Chris asked casually.

”Good. Christmas was good,” Adam replied and the anxiety from his voice hadn’t disappeared. ”Look, I talked with Joni…” He started then. Chris rolled his eyes and got up from the couch, wondering how to reply.

”So… I assume he told you.” Chris started carefully.

”You can’t contact him, Chris! You need to understand that! Besides… The fact that you’ve taken his number from my cell, without my permission…” Adam sounded angry. Chris heard him drawing deep breath while trying to calm down. ”You swore you’ve gotten over him and moved on. I’m angry that I must constantly defend you, and I don’t know how long I can keep doing that to hold on to our friendship. Do you understand how difficult place you put me in?”

Chris gritted his teeth, he felt annoyed as well, annoyed of the situation and that Joni had immediately snitched him out. ”I understand.” He said as calmly as he could manage. ”I was stupid… Stupid and drunk. This is just so fucking difficult season for me, you know. And the fact that I took Joni’s number from you… A stupid drunken idea as well, I took it after you had fallen asleep. At Christmas I drank again, and it felt like a good idea to contact him.”

Adam was quiet for a moment and Chris listened his breathing that still revealed how agitated he was. ”Okay.” Adam finally said.” One more chance Chris. Swear to me that you’ll leave Joni alone?”

”I’ll leave him alone.” Chris lied. ”Don’t worry.” He added. ”You can tell Joni that he shouldn’t worry, I apologise for my behaviour. ”

”I have to ask you one more thing, do you know a man called Aki Kuusisto?” Adam asked after a moment of silence.

”Aki?” Chris repeated trying to sound confused, which he partly was. Why would Adam ask that? ” Should I?”

” You were in prison at the same time.” Adam cleared. ”Did you meet him there?”

Chris chuckled. ” I met a lot of people there, brief encounters. I don’t recall any of their names, I didn’t care to memorise them. If you remember, I wasn’t that popular with the other inmates.” And in his mind Chris cursed. Joni suspected something, how? He needed to talk with Aki. ”Why do you ask?”

” I suppose it doesn’t matter, since you don’t know him?”

”Well, I really don’t.”

”Good. Well… The important thing is that you don’t contact Joni anymore.”

” I get that.” Chris assured. ”I was foolish and drunk. I’ll delete his phone number so that I can’t contact him anymore.” He promised.

”Good.” Adam sounded somewhat relieved and willing to believe him. When Chris ended the call, he took a moment and sat down. Apparently, Aki hadn’t acted as discreetly as he had allowed him to think. How had Joni found out that they had been locked up at the same time?

Chris looked at the time and calculated the time difference, it would be very early hours of the morning in Finland and there was no point in calling Aki just yet. He felt anxious now when he thought about the situation, it was running out of hands. He really needed to talk to Aki!

The following days didn’t really bring much comfort. Their holiday was officially ruined. Joni didn’t get much sleep and neither did Misha. The worry that Chris had woken hung heavy above them and affected them each in different ways. Only Aron managed to distract and ease their troubled thoughts at times.

Joni wouldn’t have wanted to talk about it. He didn’t want anyone to mention Chris’ name, but it didn’t really help the situation. Misha felt annoyed, he would have liked to target his frustration on that lowlife of an ex in Joni’s life. And when, on their last night in New York, Joni got another facebook message from Chris, apologising his earlier messages, expressing his hope that Joni could simply forget them, Misha reached his limit.

Joni had looked hopeful when showing him the message, such naïve hope. ”Perhaps he really means it?” Joni said and looked at him in a way that hoped reassurance from him. Misha knew that the answer Joni wanted from him was something along the line; ’Yes, it seems he really means it! And I’m sure we never hear from him again!’ He would have wanted to say it, but he couldn’t since he didn’t believe it one bit. His insides were boiling with rage. Chris’ message was apologetic to be sure, but what the man really wanted was Joni’s reply, he was hungry for it, waiting that Joni would write that it was okay, and he’d forgive something that could never be made right.

”Perhaps.” Was all that Misha could reply with a gentle smile to his fiancé.

”I’m exhausted.” Joni sighed.” And it’s only half past seven.”

”You’ve slept so poorly lately that it’s no wonder you’re tired. Go to bed my love.”

”Our holiday was a shite… Damn Chris!” Joni cursed.

”We’ll come back another time.” Misha promised. ”Perhaps early fall, when the weather is still nice but not too hot?” Joni smiled and nodded, brushed his hand softly on Misha’s cheek.

”I’d like that… And so… I guess I give in and go to bed.”

”Good, I’ll go and spend some time with Adam and Suvi. Good night.” A kiss on his temple. Misha got up and watched Joni for a while as he started to undress.

”Good night.” Joni grinned and Misha was glad that he at least seemed more relaxed.

” I’ll just pop outside for a bit.” Misha said as he walked to the living room where Suvi sat. Adam was in the nursery trying to get Aron to sleep, but the boy didn’t sound agreeable to bed time. ”Do you need something from the store?”

”Hm, I don’t think so. Did Joni go to bed already?” Suvi asked and Misha nodded.

”Yes. He’s quite exhausted.”

” Well, I hope that he’ll be able to fall asleep now.” Suvi smiled. ”Wait and I’ll give you the key with you.”

Misha walked to the lobby, took his phone out and searched Chris’ number. He drew a deep breath before he made the call. Now the bastard would hear what’s what. The phone rang quite long and just when Misha was about to give up, the hesitant sounding voice answered. ”Hello?” Misha felt how the rage made his body tremble. Chris’ voice was just as repulsing as he remembered.

”Listen you asshole, you will stop Joni’s harassment once and for all, got it? No more messages or phone calls, ever!” Misha hissed. Chris let out a disbelieving laughter, which annoyed Misha further.

” Oh, the big white knight, defending his blushing bride, how very sweet.” Chris mocked and the reaction wasn’t quite what Misha had expected and it accelerated him even further.

”You have a restraining order and you’ve violated it grossly!” Misha said and Chris was quiet, his breathing changed and revealed his anger. ”Do not think that you’ll get away with it.” Misha added.

”So you going to tell on me, to the big bad police officer?” Chris asked with an annoying tone, like he was talking to a small kid, which provoked Misha.

”Listen, that is your smallest fear!” Misha grumbled and Chris chuckled again.

”Oh, so what are you going to do? Come and beat me up? Uh, I’m shaking in my pants!” Chris continued mocking him, clearly enjoying it. Misha hadn’t been prepared for it and it baffled him.

” If you don’t leave Joni alone, I’ll make sure you regret it!” Misha said more forcefully. Chris snorted and was quiet for a moment.

”Okay, I got it. Now, why don’t you go to bed Misha? I’m sure you’re exhausted with this brave act as a knight in shining armour.” Chris said with such calmness that vexed Misha. ”Good night.” Chris ended the call and left Misha staring at his phone perplexedly. He felt stupid, which had to be what Chris had wanted.

In truth he had managed to annoy Chris. He cursed after the putting his phone away. Who the hell did that Russian idiot think he was?! Misha had stollen Joni from HIM and thus had no right to try and threaten him. Chris got himself a beer from the fridge and drank hungrily from it, while the anger boiled in his veins, lighting up more and more as he thought of Misha’s words and arrogance.

Misha had no right to say what he should do. He however felt success on the fact that he had managed to mock Misha in a way that had left him wordless, and Chris felt adrenalin in his veins. He would show them! Misha would be the one to regret and crawl in remorse, Chris would make sure of that.

He locked into his email account and read through the files that Aki had send him; pictures of the place where they could take Joni. It was a remote hunting cabin, in a middle of nowhere… well, almost nowhere, the closest neighbour was around 5km away, 100 kilometres from where Misha’s grandmother lived. The cabin wasn’t big, it had living room/kitchen, one-bedroom, small bathroom, and a shower space. The cabin was small, but it had everything they needed.

Chris had felt doubt before, they didn’t really have an exact plan on how they would manage to take Joni there and still the question of what Aki was after with his willingness to help, gnawed on his mind. But now anger had pushed those doubts away, he would show Misha who was it that laid down the rules.

He drank, more than he had planned and it only increased his determination on the matter. He would show them who was the boss!

Finally, Chris wanted something else to think. He felt horny and so he headed to the same club where he had first met Ryan. They had not seen each other since Aki had left. Chris hadn’t replied any of Ryan’s messages. Now, when he entered the club, he automatically looked around in search of him.

Chris ordered a beer, looking around, getting curious glances, suggestive smiles, but none of them was what he wanted. Ryan knew his needs; he gave him exactly what he wanted.

Chris felt relief when he saw the younger man, near the dance floor talking to some guy. But the nameless man didn’t stop him from approaching. He grinned when Ryan turned to look at him. The younger man first looked surprised, but his features soon darkened. ”So now my company would suit you?” He snorted.

” Don’t pout… I came here to look for you, just you.” Chris said. Ryan snorted again and the man in his company glared at Chris with sour expression.

”Hey, we were in the middle of something.” The guy said, but his words were pointless to Chris. And though perhaps the man had attempted to sound threatening, he had failed in Chris’ ear.

”You’re not anymore, leave.” Chris said and stepped between them, lowering his beer on the table. ”I’ll continue from here.”

” You can’t…” Ryan started, but was interrupted by the strong hand that grasped his buttock and pulled him close. Chris’ lips planted on his neck. ” Chris…”

”Let’s go to my place.” Chris whispered and rubbed himself on Ryan so that the younger man could feel his erection.

” Dammit Chris…” Ryan moaned, annoyed at himself for being so weak. Why did he always fell for jerks? For cold hearted bastards? When time and time again he swore to himself that he would keep his feelings apart. It was just sex; it was supposed to be just sex… Still, he had been hurt when Chris had stopped answering his messages after that night with his weird friend.

Chris continued fondling him and slowly Ryan gave in, just this once. But this chance was the last if Chris wouldn’t start showing him more respect.

They got to Chris’ apartment, hungry kisses in the hallway, they pulled at each other’s clothing. Sex was just as intense and rough as before. The kind both enjoyed. Afterwards they lay drowsily on the bed side by side, Ryan drew circles lazily on Chris’ bare arm and planted a kiss on his shoulder, tenderest kiss he had given the man thus far.

The sudden affection felt odd to Chris, it wasn’t that he didn’t like it, it was just strange and left him feeling slightly uncomfortable. Chris rose and started looking for his clothes.

” Do you want something to drink?” He asked without looking at Ryan.

”Okay,” Ryan replied and sat up on the bed, observing him. ”Beer maybe?”

Chris didn’t reply when heading to the kitchen. Ryan got dressed by the bedside and glanced at the computer hearing a faint sound of an arriving message. The screen however was dark. Chris got back and wordlessly handed him the beer before walking over to the couch where he sat down.

”You’re bothered by happened between your friend and us.” Ryan took note. ” That’s why you didn’t respond any of the messages I sent you.” Chris glanced at him, snorted, and looked away.

” It was just sex; this is just sex.” Chris replied with cold tone. Ryan gritted his teeth before he took a sip of his beer.

”I think we have something more developing between us, friendship maybe. And now… I think you look down on me after what happened, even though you were just as involved in it.” Ryan said walking closer to the couch. Chris brought his beer to his lips, but didn’t reply, looking somewhere far off from him. ”I think it was a mistake though.” Chris brought his gaze to him, observing him quietly, estimating, but remained silent. Ryan sighed. ”You’re oozing anger and bitterness.” He said. Chris looked away from him and emptied his beer.

”I have the right to be angry.” He finally said, going over the earlier conversation with Misha in his mind. Going over the memory of Misha arriving at the cabin, he could have fixed the situation with Joni if the asshole hadn’t shown up.

”Tell me about it.” Ryan encouraged carefully. ”Perhaps then it’s easier to let go.” Chris’ breathing got heavier, and he got up to get himself another beer.

” I changed my whole life for him, I quit my job and everything…” Chris snorted. ”And did that fucking slut even appreciated it? No, He cheated on me. Slept around with God knows how many. He ruined my life. What do I have left? I have this hell hole for an apartment, I have shitty job, my friends have all deserted me and he… The whore doesn’t give a fuck. He got engaged with the man he cheated on me with.” He puked it all out and the bitterness that tightened his chest eased for small moment with those ugly words he used. ”I would like to show them both…” Chris muttered.

Ryan was quiet, Chris’ outburst sounded somewhat frightening. The words he used and the anger that was visible on his features, anger that seemed hungry for satisfaction. Ryan lowered his beer down on the table, he decided to take a risk and approached Chris, touching his shoulder gently which made the man startle. Chris took a hold of his wrist, breathing heavily and for a moment they just stared at one another. Ryan swallowed, Chris eased his grip and Ryan dared to sit on his lap straddling him. He lowered Chris’ beer down as well.

” Forget it,” he asked. ” It will get easier if you just … forget and forgive… Move on.” Ryan leaned closer to kiss Chris’ cheek tenderly. Chris was still breathing tensely, perhaps all that anger and tensity could be melted with tenderness?

”I’m here Chris, focus on me… Forget that past… Forget him. ”He asked and continued the tender caress, the man seemed like he needed that more now?

Chris felt overwhelmed, he felt tightness in his throat, the lump felt heavy on his chest, something he couldn’t control, something painful. The touch was so tender that he couldn’t recall the last time he had felt such touch. With Joni, when their love had been fresh and pure…

Chris leaned to Ryan and pressed his face against his neck while he brought his hands to his back. ’Joni’ the name echoed in his mind, good moments, past and gone, when he had felt happiness, when there had been laughter and joy… And all of that, those memories, those good and happy, those that he desperately wanted back. He felt tears in his eyes, it felt unfair.

Ryan was surprised when Chris held onto him when he felt Chris’ tears on his skin. It was a good sign, perhaps all that bottled up anger was beginning to crack… Perhaps acceptance and sorrow would follow… Perhaps he would be able to let go. This calmness lasted for a moment, Chris quailed when realising the moment of his weakness and the roughness returned, the kisses became hungrier and the hold more violent. They ended up having sex again, on that couch.

After Chris fell asleep, Ryan took a shower. He was thoughtful, perhaps little worried for that anger that the other seemed to keep, was there something more behind it?

Chris had said once when he had been drunk, that Ryan wouldn’t want anything to do with him, if he knew everything about him.

What had happened then? And did that odd friend of Chris have anything to do with it? Ryan had a strange feeling about Aki. Feeling curiosity taking a better of him, Ryan walked in the apartment looking around. Chris enthralled him and he wanted to know the truth of his past that Chris hid from him.

Chris still slept on the couch and Ryan took advantage of the situation. He walked over to the nightstand beside his bed and opened the drawer as quietly as he could. Condoms, lubricant, English-Finnish dictionary; which woke his curiosity further and made him take the book from the drawer. He opened the book and saw the pictures placed between its pages.

The first picture; a young man sat on Chris’ lap, he was under twenty perhaps, dark haired, handsome, even beautiful and Ryan knew who he had to be. The mysterious Joni, whose name Chris had called him by a couple of times. Joni, who Chris now called with such ugly words.

In the picture they both looked happy. Chris had long, dark hair tied in a ponytail. Dark hair suited him better, it might have also seemed so when the man in the picture looked so much more open, relaxed, and happy: like a different person.

Ryan glanced at the couch to make sure that Chris was still asleep before he took the next picture. It startled him slightly, he looked at the same young man completely naked lying on a bed, his eyes weren’t focused. Ryan felt embarrassed looking at the picture, getting the feeling that he was looking at something forbidden. Joni had an amassing body, annoyingly perfect even, which made him feel peculiar envy. Though he himself was more turned on by someone like Chris; rough and bigger build than himself, still his gaze lingered on the body spread so alluringly on the picture. There were more, in different angles, revealing almost every inch from their target. But the young man’s level of consciousness was also very questionable which brought the feeling of watching something forbidden. The last picture was where the young man gave a blowjob to the photographer who Ryan assumed to be Chris.

Ryan placed the pictures back between the book, the book in the drawer and the drawer close. His heart was beating rabidly, he wondered if Joni knew these pictures existed, did he even remember anything from when they had been taken?

Ryan sat on the bed collecting his thoughts, he glanced at Chris. The man had an obsession of his ex-boyfriend, it was worrying, those pictures and the way he called his ex a slut and whore… Chris had been looking for young, sporty, dark haired company when they had met, searched someone who would even remotely remind him of Joni.

He heard another message sound from the computer screen and glanced at Chris who slept. He was curious, too curious perhaps, it could be dangerous, stupid in any case, violating privacy… But… If he would get even a small clue. He had expected that his curiosity would be killed by the computer asking password, but he was surprised that it didn’t. Chris hadn’t expected anyone to arrive at his place without supervision. Perhaps he had forgotten that the computer was on when he had left?

There was a conversation window at the submenu, Aki. Ryan took a deep breath, if Chris would wake and see what he was doing… Ryan wasn’t sure if he wanted to know what would happen and still… He opened the window.

”I got some supplies. We should think on how to proceed.”

”What if they are not traveling to Russia?” Chris had asked before.

”Then I’ll make a trip to Helsinki, and you’ll wait.”

”How will that work?”

”It has its risks, but I know people and it’s just a backup plan.”

Ryan frowned, wondering what this conversation was about. Whatever it was, it disturbed him, it sounded worrying.

”Just take it easy Chris, everything will work out. He’ll soon be one very submissive boy, trust me.”

Ryan felt his heart leap when he heard movement from the couch. Chris groaned and Ryan glanced at his direction, Chris was about to wake but hadn’t yet seen what he was doing. Ryan closed the message window and the screen, his heart still beat restlessly when he walked towards Chris who had just rosed to sit and reached for his beer from the table.

”I must have dosed off…” He sighed, rubbing his face and took a sip. Ryan smiled and sat next to him.

”I took the opportunity and used the shower, I found a clean towel from the bathroom, at least it seemed clean.” He grinned and touched Chris’ arm. The man looked at him warily.

”Was I asleep for long?” He asked and Ryan noticed him glancing at the computer. Ryan did is best to hide how nervous he was.

”No, just long enough for me to take a shower.” He replied and Chris nodded, emptied his beer before getting up.

” It’s late, you should probably go home.” He said and Ryan though he detected well-hidden restlessness. He himself had a bad feeling, feeling that he should try to find out was Chris and Aki were up to. On the other had he was tempted to play detective, and the other was afraid, knowing he had done something illegal by reading Chris’ messages without permission. And it might be nothing, it might be something innocent that he only misinterpreted.

”I think you’re right.” Ryan replied. ”Will we see each other next week?” He asked and Chris shrugged.

”Maybe. But I’m soon traveling, taking some time off from work.” Chris said and walked to the kitchen.

”Oh, where to?” Ryan asked casually. Chris shrugged again.

”We’ll see, I don’t have an exact plan.”

”Will you be gone for long?”

”I don’t know, a week, maybe two.”

”Okay, well, call me. I’d like to see you before you leave?” Ryan asked and got up.

”Alright.” Chris sounded indifferent but followed him with his gaze when Ryan walked to the hall to get dressed in his outdoor clothes.

”See you?” Ryan said at the door and Chris nodded waving his hand. Ryan closed the door behind him and the uneasy feeling increased. What were the two up to? And could Chris’ ex be in trouble? Ryan felt torn. He wished he hadn’t read the messages because now they hunted him, and he wasn’t’ sure if he should act based on a bad hunch that could be nothing. It really, most likely was nothing; he tried to reassure himself.


chapter 23