betad by. Charity ❤
The wait was the most grueling. The atmosphere was gloomy and nervous. Jami sat on the bed and browsed the internet with his cell phone restlessly. Joni could die. It could really happen, right? – He found himself pondering. He would not have wanted to think about that option and at the same time he felt that he had to take it into consideration, so that if it would happen, the shock would be just a tiny bit softer? But how could such news ever be softly received?
It would change everything… It would hang on their shoulders for months, even years. It would feel like a heavy weight over their chest that would not be easily lifted. No one would smile anymore. Not for a long time at least. And he himself felt an inexplicable and absurd guilt for every evil thought or jealousy he had at times felt for Joni or for the relationship between Joni and Misha.
It was unfair and cruel, too horrible to feel real. Something like this should never happen to anyone.
It was somewhat painful to observe Misha from the side without being able to bring any comfort to him. The man’s moods were switching between anger, frustration and fear. Misha tried to stay active and at times as a result of its activity, something broke and the man collapsed, going outside alone to calm. He also resisted his brother’s attempts to get close and comfort. On the other hand, what could anyone even say in this situation, surely there was nothing that would make this easier.
Jami was disgusted by the thought that he had slept with Aki, that he had found the man pleasant at first, and… it was simply nauseating. Now the picture of the man was everywhere in the afternoon newspapers, in the news. One would think that they’d soon be found because of it.
Jami knew he should have avoided the conversation forums, yet he found himself reading comments that were already speculating on the case. Joni’s name was mentioned, some knew for sure who the victim was… It hadn’t required much reasoning since the publication of Chris’ picture and name.
Some people had no heart, no sympathy, it was easy to be cruel and inappropriate under the protection of a nickname. Jami hoped Misha would not find these online conversations. Jami decided to report them to the admins, so the speculation would stop, but some would have still seen them and… If Joni got home, how would he feel about this? How could one react to the fact that some people knew what had happened and those people would speculate on all the cruel details of a case that would remain a sore wound for years to come.
Whatever the outcome, there was no going back. That thought felt crushing, hard to digest. Jami looked up as he heard the footsteps. Ivo stood in the doorway with his hands in his pockets.
”Joni’s dad is coming here,” Ivo said.
”Any news?” Jami asked cautiously.
“Police have found an abandoned car about fifty kilometers away from here. Joni’s wallet was there… They must have changed cars.” Ivo shrugged, looked exhausted. “However, it has been possible to limit searches to a specific radius… based on the time of those calls. It’s at least something.” Ivo came closer and sat down next to him.
Jami nodded and dropped the phone from his hand on the table. “I read a few forums…” Jami admitted. “Joni’s name has already come up. It probably won’t be easy if…” Jami interrupted his sentence.
“Damn this mess,” Ivo sighed in frustration. ”Don’t read them anymore and don’t talk to Misha about it under any circumstances.”
”I won’t, of course I won’t.” Jami replied quietly.
“The most important thing now is to get Joni back. I think they will be found soon. It’ll be fine.” Ivo nodded, perhaps to convince himself more. The man got up and Jami looked at him.
”Where are you going?” He asked.
“I don’t know, it just feels like I should do something, anything. This helpless waiting is the worst… ”
Ivo was right. This inaction seemed distressing. Jami got up, dropped his phone on the table, and followed his boyfriend downstairs. Maybe he could clean up something?
** ^^ ** ^^ **
The man had not contacted him again. That silence was the worst and filled the space with despair. The pictures had been made public and the man must have known that he had already done what he should not have done. Asko’s throat choked. ”Pay, or you’ll never see your son again.” The words echoed in his mind. Various grim alternatives to what had happened or would have happened to his son played in his mind. What did the man who blackmailed him want and what did Chris want?
He hoped he could go back in time. When Joni had asked to return home from Oulu with the rest of the family, he should have agreed. Or not to send Joni there at all.
Guilt seemed to eat him inside. It squeezed his chest. He should have intervened when Chris had moved to Finland. Recommended to live separately at first. He should have noticed from his son when the relationship had turned violent, how in the world had he been so blind? – a question that had been repeated in his mind often. But even then, it would have been too late to stop the man’s obsession.
The error had already occurred. Joni should never have met Chris the first place!
”You can’t blame yourself.” His wife had said. “It’s useless. This evil could have happened despite what you did or didn’t do. Do you understand? Dear, you can’t blame yourself! It doesn’t benefit anyone!
Katja was right. It was not helpful, but still those thoughts refused to give up. The worst thing was to tell the younger children what had happened and fortunately they had done it before they had time to see the news. Although Joni’s identity had not yet been revealed, they noticed that the information began to spread through other means. It was enough that Chris’ face and identity had been revealed, there were people who could easily connect Joni to him.
The children were anxious. The twins were quiet and didn’t want to go to school the next day which was understandable. Otherwise, they got nothing out of them, even though Katja tried her best to get them to talk because she thought it would make it easier. Sini revealed her feelings and fears more openly and had stayed all night in her mother’s arms.
Asko had to ask relatives not to call him, as he waited nervously for contact from Aki. When he finally got a call from an unknown number the following afternoon, he totally lost his nerve when he realized it was some inappropriate journalist who tried to sound empathetic, but it was easy to read through the greed to get a good and selling article that would fascinate information-hungry readers.
He vented all his rage to the unfortunate reporter before ending the call. He didn’t even know how the woman in question had gotten his number, which was unlisted. Asko then realized that it was likely that he’d receive more such calls as the situation progressed. His anxiety piled up and made it impossible to stay sensible and calm. He was unable to provide support to the rest of his family in a state of mind in which he was barely able to stay sensible himself.
When Aki’s call did not come, Asko decided that he had to travel to Russia. He wanted to be close when Joni was found.
Asko had felt close to collapse and yet he could not afford it. Not yet, not now. Had to act and do something. If he gave in to the fear, he would become completely incapacitated. So, he had packed his bags and set off to drive.
”What will it help to go there now? Please stay home with us.” Katja had begged. “The authorities will find them. For sure they will!”
But he felt the strong need to leave, he wanted to be there when Joni was found. He wanted to support his son. He had to believe Joni would be found.
** ^^ ** ^^ **
Joni looked at Chris in a state of excitement, his whole body trembled and for a moment he thought he was ready to pull the trigger just to end this. Chris stood there, naked in front of him, unprotected and all the violence the man had inflicted on him… He felt nausea spreading in his abdomen, bitterness of what Chris had destroyed. Chris had broken him, and those shattered pieces of his existence would be even harder to put together so he could continue as before.
Joni gritted his teeth, the proximity of Chris’ naked body made him nervous, and he kept his eyes on the man’s face. Chris’s eyes widened.
“Well, just pull the trigger already! End this!” Chris gasped as tears flowed from his eyes. Joni felt tightness in his throat, he sobbed, squeezing the gun in his still trembling hands. The conflict he felt swept through his mind. Just one move of his finger and it would be final. Chris would be gone forever, physically at least, but at the same time he would have to carry this decision and this moment with his heart. It would not repair what was already broken but would break even further. And it could be such a huge crack in his being that it could no longer be fixed at all.
It was hard to breathe. His hands felt weak, a desperate breath escaping his lips, some mixture of grief and despair.
”I don’t want to kill you, please don’t force me into it.” Joni whispered, ”I just want to go home, let me go home, Chris… If you really care about me, let me go.”
Chris held his gaze, frowned, and tears slowly began to run from his eyes. Joni heard his own fierce breath.
”I have nothing, you understand ?!” Chris finally gasped. And Joni didn’t have time to react when Chris suddenly raised his hand to his own and tried to take the gun away from him. Joni panicked, Chris pressed closer, and Joni tried to twist himself free while holding the gun in his grip. ”Without you, I have nothing!” The gun fired once, a bullet shooting somewhere past them.
It was dim and difficult to see properly, Joni’s heart rate was high, adrenaline was flowing in his veins. They struggled with the gun. It was difficult to see the situation clearly. A strong thud, Joni felt his head hit the wall, a cry escaped his lips and his grip slipped. ”Why would I want to live?” He heard Chris mutter and at the same time realized the gun was now in Chris’s hands.
Tears stung his eyes. Despair choked his throat. He had not been able to act at the crucial moment and that weakness could now cost his life. They were still staring at each other, Chris took a step closer and pressed the barrel of his gun to his temple Joni felt his body stiffen; his eyes closed. He would die, this was it. Maybe it would be so fast you wouldn’t even have time to understand it when everything was already over? – He didn’t want to die. His breath quivered in fear.
”Why would I want to live?” Chris asked in a quieter voice and Joni felt the gun move from his temple. The weight of the deadly weapon was replaced by a warm touch that made him open his eyes. Chris looked into his eyes and Joni barely dared to breathe. Chris lowered his hand slowly, looking around before stepping towards the table.
Joni released his breath and slid slowly to the floor on his knees. His head ached and frustrated despair drove him to a repressed sob.
Chris’s steps were heavy, he felt numb. He glanced at Joni, who had sunk to the floor on his knees crying. Chris had been ready to die, he had been ready to receive the bullet that would end his life. And that monster in him had raised its head for a moment after Joni had asked for freedom without giving him the death he had been thirsting for at the time. He dropped his gun on the table and slowly got dressed before sitting down and pouring himself a glass of whiskey.
His felt utterly beaten, devoid of strength to continue. Bottomless emptiness without the promise of better. He was a monster, who had destroyed with his own hands what could have been beautiful and good. It was the truth, the abominable truth.
Chris turned his gaze to the window, the pale light of the moon between the open curtains shining into the room and creating a dreamlike atmosphere. It was too late to wake up to the devastation he had wrought.
”I wish I could have been better, done differently.” Chris said and lifted the glass to his lips. He laughed wearily, in a bitter ironic voice from which one could hear the pain he felt inside. ”I imagined I’d find relief from this, what a fool!”
Joni raised his head slowly and looked at the man. He was silent, too surprised by Chris’s words to find a suitable answer.
Chris lit a cigarette, his hands trembled,
and he cursed quietly. The game was played, he knew it. And this was the last stop. There was no other solution and in the face of this solution he had to admit his own fear. He swallowed down that sore lump in his chest which, however, refused to go down. He went through his life in his mind. A Thought for his friend, Adam. A brief thought for Ryan and the missed opportunities. He closed his eyes for a moment, his fingers fumbling over the metal surface of the gun, which was still warm. And his mind always returned to those happy days of the beginning, to which he had imagined himself happiest.
Chris opened his eyes and looked at Joni, who was still sitting on the floor. Chris took the gun in his hand and swallowed, lowering his gaze to it for a moment before raising his gaze back. The younger man looked at him, nervously in fear, silent tears running down his face.
“I don’t want to die Chris…” Joni whispered in a quivering voice. ”Please…”
He had withered the joy of life that had bubbled up from Joni, dried out his innocence and confidence. And now, waking up amid the pieces that he had broken, he felt nausea in the bottom of his stomach.
“I was unhappy for a long time before you. The truth is that those sacrifices that I made to move with you were not great. Those friendships were superficial from the beginning, except for Adam. I wanted to keep you. I thought my happiness would be maintained if I could just keep you and I wanted it so much I didn’t shy away from it and let it poison me.”
Joni felt tears still flowing quietly down his face as he looked at Chris. He was confused by Chris’s confession.
Chris felt a painful, throbbing lump growing in his chest, making his breathing heavy. ”If you really care about me, let me go.” Joni’s request echoed in his mind, and he lifted the glass to his lips.
If he didn’t act now, he was afraid of falling back into the fog he had lived in for too long. To one who did not accept his own guilt. To the one who dragged Joni with him to the inevitable destruction.
Chris smoked the tobacco and got up slowly, he picked up the phone. He felt strangely sober considering how much he had drunk before. Chris knew his determination could be crushed at any moment. He sat back down before choosing the number. It didn’t take long for the familiar voice to respond. Chris felt a new painful stab in his chest and closed his eyes for a moment.
”Hey Adam, it’s me.” He spoke with hoarse voice.
“Chris…” His friend breathed in surprise. ”Where are you? Is…” Adam seemed to hesitate. ”Is Joni with you?”
”You must have seen the news.” Chris tried to smile. His head ached, his eyes stinging. “Joni is here…” Chris turned his gaze to his ex-boyfriend, who was still sitting on the floor and looking at him nervously. “I know they’re looking for us.” Chris drew a shaky breath.
“It’s good that you called, Chris. Everything can be arranged… Are you both okay?” Adam sounded nervous. He was clearly trying to consider what he could say and was afraid to say something wrong. It made Chris feel sad. He didn’t think Adam was really interested in knowing if he was okay, the question was a formality.
Chris was silent for a moment and cleared his throat. “I’ll give you an address where we are. I assume you’ll pass it on to the police.”
”Okay.” Adam replied in confusion. “I… I could travel there. I’ll take the first flight possible, okay?
Adam still sounded nervous; it wasn’t surprising. Suvi would hardly rejoice if Adam decided to defend him in court. And Chris knew that even the most qualified defense would fail to acquit him. ”Thank you. You don’t have to. I hope one day you can forgive me. You have been a good friend. I’ll text you at the address soon” Chris swallowed again. “Sorry I messed up. Take care of yourself… and your family.” Chris ended the call and quickly sent the message and closed the phone.
”It’s done.” Chris said and fumbled closer to the whiskey bottle to refill his glass. ”The police will be here soon.” He continued and lifted the glass to his lips. He looked around the room, listening to the clock ticking steadily. He looked at the gun he had dropped on the table again. He wouldn’t go to jail, not anymore. And even though he believed his decision was made and permanent, bringing it to completion made him nervous. Chris had hoped Joni would do it, he wasn’t sure if he could bring his own life to an end. He wiped his face with his hand, clenched his teeth. Memories rushed in his consciousness. Glimpses of a life lived. Only a fraction of it was something that had been satisfactory or good.
Chris turned his gaze again to Joni, who was sitting on the floor looking broken. Face buried in his hands, knees against his chest. As he sensed his gaze, Joni lowered his hands and looked at him. Teary eyes full of pain and sorrow. Chris felt another spasm in his chest.
“As a child, my brother and I really wanted a puppy. At that time, we still dared to want, express our hopes out loud. Dad didn’t drink that much yet; he could be nice when he was sober. But there were fewer and fewer days as we grew older… I was maybe five or six when we got that puppy. Dad brought it home. It was a Mixed Breed, his fur had white and black, I don’t remember what breeds he had, but I suppose it doesn’t matter really. My brother and I were so excited and happy. The happiest moment of my whole childhood.” Chris lifted the glass to his lips again and smiled. “It pains me the most. Remembering that moment, that happiness and how quickly reality crumbled it. We didn’t know how to train it… and Dad started drinking more. He lost his job… That dog peed in the corners and chewed on his shoes… Yes, we tried… We kept it in our room at night… but once the door was left open and of course the puppy had gone to explore. It was then pissing on Dad’s shoe or something… Dad came home smashed…. That cry woke us up. The dog whimpered… We ran downstairs with my brother as Dad wrangled that puppy and raged. Mom tried to ask Dad to stop. My brother and I prayed… It didn’t help. Dad hit that puppy against the wall, it whimpered once and dropped to the floor, I remember how its paw vibrated and then it just… never been as quiet as the moment that puppy died.” Chris lit a new cigarette.
Joni looked at the man silently… The moment seemed to stand still. He wasn’t sure what Chris would do when the cops came. He felt silent tears still flowing down his face. He felt sad for Chris, how different could things have gone if Chris had been able to talk in the past without concealing anything?
“Memories of when everything was pretty okay,” Chris’s voice trailed off. “It’s the hardest… remembering good after it’s gone bad, makes it more painful… The happiness of getting that puppy and how it ended. After that… It feels like those good moments weren’t there, at least not with Dad. The atmosphere was always different when Dad was there, tense and distressing. ”
“I’m sorry…” Joni whispered in a hoarse voice. ”… That your childhood was like that.”
Chris smiled quietly without looking at him and nodded. He brought a cigarette to his lips. ”I shouldn’t have become like that.” He said as he blew smoke from his mouth. “I don’t know what I was supposed to become, but not like that. Not like my father. One that enters a room and makes the atmosphere distressing.”
Joni didn’t know what to say. He looked at the man, his gaze blurred by tears, and that grief and remorse seemed to squeeze him everywhere. Regret they hadn’t been able to talk before. Maybe if they had talked, he could have helped Chris to… get help, talk to someone and maybe they wouldn’t have ended up here? But Chris hadn’t talked, and he hadn’t known to ask the right questions to make him open up.
“I remember the good too,” Joni whispered, looking at Chris, who turned his head in his direction. “I admit, I thought that side of you was lost or that good wasn’t real, but it wasn’t lost, Chris… I remember it and… “Tears slowly fell down his face. ”And I’m sorry… that… we’re here… I want you to get help Chris, you need it.”
Chris looked at him and smiled softly. “I wish I could have loved you better, Joni. No matter how much I swear, this moment will pass, and I will hurt you again because a big part of me is not ready to let you go.”
Joni felt the fear creep back into his chest and it made him weak. He cried with no words to say. The fear was different than before. “I think if you get just the right help…” Joni breathed.
Chris smoked a cigarette and got up, he approached Joni. Joni felt his chest flutter. He almost couldn’t breathe. Chris knelt in front of him, the man holding the gun in his hand and the other rising gently to his face. Chris frowned as he watched him, his eyes widening as he tried to fight the tears. ”I can’t go back in time.” Chris whispered. ”And nothing I say now can change what I’ve done.” Chris raised his hand to his hair and Joni felt the touch heavy, demanding. His heart pounded restless, fearful. At the same time, he recognized the fear in Chris’ eyes, one he had never seen in them before. Joni held his breath as Chris leaned closer, the man lowering his forehead to his own for a moment as his hand moved down his hair towards his shoulders, resting there for a moment.
Joni was trembling. Unsure of what would happen. “I love you…” Chris whispered and fumbled his lips into a desperate kiss, Joni felt his body tense, without daring to resist despite the discomfort. “I know you don’t believe me… I can’t be better; I wish I could have…” Chris broke the kiss and moved his head back. From a distance, they heard the approaching sounds of sirens that made Chris startle for a moment and look out the window.
However, the man brought his attention to him. ”That Russian doesn’t deserve you any more than I do.” Chris said, holding his gaze firmly. ”Find someone who will bring you back… as you were, the part I broke… You should travel, that’s what you dreamed of… Make those dreams come true, Joni.”
The sound of sirens approached; bluish lights flickered into the room. ”Promise?” Chris insisted in a stern voice. Joni finally nodded nervously.
“I promise…” He reassured hoarsely, anxiously. Chris nodded, swallowed, and looked out the window as he heard the cars pulling up. Chris got up, squeezing the gun in his hand when he heard the bump that occurred when the car doors were opened and closed. A bluish light illuminated the room.
“This is the police! Release your prisoner and come out with your hands up!” A voice in the loudspeaker echoed in Chris’s ears. He was trembling even though he had hoped to be stronger. The male voice spoke again, the Russian accent was strong in his voice. And while the words were clear, they blurred in Chris’ ears.
”Get up.” Chris said firmly and jerked Joni’s arm. Joni obeyed, his legs feeling weak. He felt Chris’s hot, nervous breath on his skin as the man pulled him against his chest. Chris pushed him toward the door, they stopped in front of it.
The officer repeated their previous demand to the loudspeaker. “You have been surrounded! Step out with your hands up and surrender so we can end this peacefully!”
”I hope one day you can forgive me, Joni.” Chris whispered in his ear just before pushing open the front door. A cold wave struck against him, Chris holding the gun to his temple. They had no shoes, no outerwear. Flashing lights, there were at least three police cars and Joni saw the ambulance behind them. Tough-faced men with guns in their hands. They shouted something that Joni couldn’t hear right. Blood rumbled in his head. It was difficult to comprehend the situation. He thought he was going to die.
“Lower your weapon! Release your hostage!” The hard-faced man shouted, the guns were aimed at them, at him. They couldn’t shoot him if he held Joni. Chris felt the fierce beats of his heart. He breathed fiercely, nervous. He would not go to jail, to a slow death where memories would torment him and all that would have been lost for good.
He had sometimes imagined the end, at some gloomy moment in his teens, believed he would die before he turned thirty. And here he was now, at the age of 29, in a frosty night where the cold was pinching his skin, but that cold was not as real or as uncomfortable as it would normally be. He realized it but not properly.
Bluish light. There were several armed officers, and they were all ready to shoot. A situation he had not been able to imagine. Back then, as a teenager, he had thought that death would be quieter, lonelier, a soft fall into emptiness, a handful of pills that he would have swallowed, or something similar.
That melancholy had followed him for a long time, a depression he couldn’t speak of. He had lived his life next to it, surviving alongside it from day to day. He had not yet known at a young age how to live with his homosexuality, how to admit it to others.
Adam had helped more than he knew by approaching the matter so lightly and there had been a moment when he had seen alternatives. But the moments passed so quickly. When Adam had met Suvi and they had started spending more and more time together, Chris had felt the familiar melancholy return. It wasn’t talked about, but maybe Adam had sensed it.
Chris had thought that his friend was dragging him to Oulu out of sense of duty. But he had come because there was nothing else. And Joni…. That mischievous boy whose smile… and laughter… the liveliness that radiated from Joni and made him wake up too. It had felt possible… Everything had felt possible for a while if you just held on. If he only did his best. But he had squeezed too much and now that lively spirit in Joni had faded in his hands. He was the image of his father, a man he would never have wanted to be.
And now he had to let go… Chris felt a lump in his throat, his breathing quickening faster and evaporating in the frosty night. This was it. The moment was here. Waiting didn’t make it any easier and eventually he forced himself to act.
”Go!” A voice said behind Joni. ”Run!” Chris pushed him forward. The character further ahead urged Joni forwards to them as the police made room. His socks got wet in the snow, but at that moment Joni couldn’t even think about the coldness of the frost. His body worked, taking him forward to where salvation awaited and where it was offered. His knee ached steadily with each step, but he endured it. Shouts and lights in the dark night.
“Put down your weapon! Put down your gun or we’ll shoot!”
A man welcomed Joni, placed a blanket on his shoulders. He said something, maybe it was a question? Joni didn’t understand the situation. He looked behind him. Chris stood in front of the cottage and raised his gun towards the cops. The man stood there, and it was a moment, seconds at most. Sharp shots followed by several. The sound ached his ears. Chris fell backwards. It felt slowed. A voice echoed in the air that was foreign but came from his own mouth. A cry that made his body bend and he continued to cry pitifully.
Joni trembled all over. There were now two people next to him and they helped him get up in the ambulance. Questions that were asked in English but still his confused mind could not process them. The shots still rang in his ears, the moment Chris fell into the snow. Chris was dead, it was over. And Joni felt an emotional outburst that was hard to deal with or understand.
”Are you okay? … Are you in pain?”
Joni looked a little startled at the woman, the paramedic, who asked questions in English. He could not answer. Joni raised his hand to his face, his head ached, he felt the moisture on his face, there was no end to the tears. That emotional state was partly relief that he had survived, partly horror of everything he had experienced. He realized he should have been relieved that Chris was dead but the feeling he felt at that moment was something else entirely that was difficult to understand or accept.
Joni couldn’t determine the source of his pain, it felt squeezing throughout. He wanted to leave, forget everything that had happened during that past day and before that. He hoped to drown into absence.
He heard paramedics speak something in Russian to each other. Sounds from the outside. Flashing lights. Someone went to the ambulance door.
Joni felt anxiety increase. It was hard to breathe, palms sweating. He recognized a state of being that was not entirely foreign but as frightening as it had been the first time. Panic attack. It felt like he was dying, and even though reason tried to say it wouldn’t happen, it was hard to believe. It took over, it seemed impossible to control.
”Calm down. You are safe now. Breathe.” The woman put an oxygen mask on his face. “We will soon take you to a hospital where you can be examined better. We’ll let your family know. ”
Joni barely nodded. One of the paramedics stepped out of the car. Joni shifted his gaze to the cottage where he had last seen Chris stand. Now he saw the armed cops circling there, he separated Chris’ feet from between the blurry shapes of men, laying still on the snowy ground. One police officer shouted something at the paramedic who responded. The doors of the ambulance were closed. Joni heard a knock on the side of the car and the engine started.
Chris was dead. The man was gone. It was final. Joni couldn’t help but to go through those last moments in his mind. He had survived, but it would take time before he could fully rejoice in it. It would take time before he could even begin to recover; it would take time before the whole situation could be understood. He wanted to go home, just wanted to get home and forget about everything.
A/N: yes, I still keep urging you to comment, please? ❤ 🙂