A/N: Thank you Charity for betaing!
Please review or vote ❤
Asko rushed to the hospital lobby with Misha on his heels. His mind cruised restlessly between worry and relief. Relief from the knowledge that his son was alive and at the same time worried about not knowing more details about his condition.
Adam had called. He said he had talked to Chris, and said he had revealed their whereabouts to him. And although Asko had tried to demand the information from the man, he had not agreed to give it.
“The police are already on their way there. They’ll take care of the situation, it’s better. I am sure you will be notified as soon as the situation is resolved. I just wanted to tell you now, so that you know Joni is alive. ” The man explained as calmly as he could. Asko had been out of his mind with fear. He was afraid something would go wrong. He would have liked to be there himself so that he could receive his child directly from the nightmare he had experienced. However, his demands to get more detailed information from Adam were futile.
”Will you call me when the situation is over, okay?” Adam had asked. ”I have to go now.” The man had added before ending the call. His mind understood, but his emotions did not.
It took more than an hour after Adam’s call before he was contacted from the hospital. During that hour, his mind had had time to go through the many different options of how the situation would resolve. He tried to prepare himself for the worst even though he knew there was no way he could ever be ready for it. An hour had never felt so long.
When he was told that Joni was alive and safe in the hospital, he felt a wave of relief go through his whole existence. Joni was alive, nothing else mattered, everything else could be fixed. They didn’t waste time with Misha, took a clean change of clothes for Joni and set off.
”I was informed that my son, Joni Lehto, has been brought here.” Asko spoke English to the woman behind the emergency desk. His voice was breathless, his heart pounding in agitation. At first, the woman didn’t seem to quite understand until Misha explained the same in Russian. The woman asked them to wait until she sought a doctor with more information.
The men looked at each other briefly. Anxiety was present, fear of what state Joni would be in.
Misha felt the tightness in his throat, he clenched his teeth. The nightmare he had seen the previous night haunted his thoughts. In the dream they had also been invited to the hospital and they had waited on wooden benches in the hallway when a door to one of the rooms had finally opened and a worried and serious looking male doctor had entered the hallway. The footsteps echoed as the man approached and the look in the man’s eyes… Misha had known. He had wanted to get up and walk out, but his feet refused to stand. He had thought that as long as he wouldn’t hear the words it wouldn’t have happened. The doctor had kept coming closer and still his legs refused to work. Asko and Katja had started crying inconsolably and the words from the man’s mouth were foreign, slow and still completely incomprehensible in Misha’s ears. He had awakened with a cry, gasped for breath, and thanked for any higher power that might have existed; it had only been just a dream.
** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^ **
Joni sat on the bed in the examination room, the room the doctor had just left. He felt numb, the tears had dried on his face. He sat there and tried to shut off the flow of his thoughts, not wanting to go through everything that had happened. He wanted to forget.
Joni looked towards the window, the blinds were open and revealed a purple darkness. Slowly he shifted his gaze to the wall clock, it was 2:35 in the morning. The gunshots still echoed in his ears. Chris had been lying in the snow. He didn’t want to think about it but the image refused to leave his brain. Only small moments of distraction until the images pushed back forcibly, all of it, from the moment they had abducted him. Yegor, the gun shot, the man was dead. Chris raping him… Aki, those disgusting whispers and threats and it had been so very close that he would have…but… Chris had shot him and… He didn’t want to think, didn’t want to hear those voices haunting his mind. He tried to distract himself with something, anything, those silly children’s songs that his sister had listened to when she was smaller. Joni repeated them in his mind, repeating the words until he managed to silence the loud voices in his head for a moment.
The doctor had previously asked him to describe where it hurt. Joni, still shocked and confused, finally mentioned his knee first. He had explained his concern that his knee would be damaged so that he could no longer run. The doctor had looked at him, nodded slowly, and smiled reassuringly. “Let’s examine,” the man replied.
It might have been crazy, but it seemed safer to worry about whether he could run anymore than worry about all the rest. The kneecap had become dislocated, causing pain and swelling. According to the doctor, it usually healed easily. The liquid was removed. He received a temporary support bandage.
Abrasions, contusions and bruises. Second-degree burn in his finger which was cleaned in addition to other wounds. Joni hadn’t even noticed the pleat on his forehead, it had probably been caused when they struggled with the gun. There had been a female nurse in the room in addition to the doctor. The doctor inquired about the quality of the assault. Everything was good to record and examine. The police would hear him later.
Joni wouldn’t have wanted to talk. Chris and Aki were dead, did those details matter anymore? Those details of what had been done to him, what Chris had done. He wanted to forget. He wanted to go home and forget about everything. He wanted to be able to return home and everything would be like before they left. He could focus on the entrance exams and they would move to London with Misha and… he knew it wouldn’t be that simple. But at that moment, he didn’t want to think, he didn’t want to admit that everything had changed.
The nurse had come to take the blood tests, Joni didn’t fully understand the reason. The passage of time was blurred and Joni wasn’t sure how long it had been since he was brought to the hospital.
When the door finally opened and he saw his father step in first, Joni sobbed in relief. Dad hurriedly closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around him in a tight embrace. ”Thank God.” Dad breathed and repeated it a few times. ”You’re safe now.”
Joni held on to his father and burst into tears, the fear and stress caused by the experience broke loose. ”You’re safe now, we’ll get you home.” Dad whispered.
Home… Joni wanted to feel the warmth, the one that only home could offer, the one that wrapped around like a warm blanket, the feeling of being safe. His father held him in his arms for a long time and Joni was in no hurry to let go. He felt like a small child, just wanting to be there, held tightly against his father’s chest, the man who had always taken such good care of him. ”You’re safe.” His father reassured again and Joni swallowed, finally relaxing his grip and looking at Misha.
Misha looked tired, nervous. And the man seemed hesitant until Joni held out his hand and the man approached with relief ”I was so worried I was losing my mind.” Misha whispered as he hugged him. ”I was so fucking worried….” He repeated and brought his hand into Joni’s hair. Joni’s throat tightened, a lump that refused to go down. He was trembling as he squeezed Misha’s shirt into his palms. He had gotten away, he had survived. Misha was there, his father was close and he realised how afraid he had been that he’d never see either of them again.
”Are you okay?” Misha brought his hand to his face and watched him anxiously. Joni hadn’t looked at himself in the mirror, but he knew well enough that his face was bruised. Was he okay? – He asked himself. And even though he couldn’t voice his answer, he nodded softly to Misha, knowing that he needed that, needed to believe that he was okay.
”I want to go home.” Joni said as Misha softly caressed his cheek. The man’s eyes gleamed, shining bright blue when they were usually more harmonious bluish gray. Joni knew his fiancé was holding back tears. Misha gritted his teeth together, he wanted to stay strong and Joni knew it.
”When will I get home?” He asked and found himself thinking about his family’s home, where he had lived most of his life. He didn’t want to go back to the apartment building, he didn’t want to see people. He wanted to go home, to his own room, and stay there until he had somehow gotten himself together.
”The doctor wants to keep you here overnight, just in case something comes up.” His father answered. “The cops will arrive in the morning to ask you questions about what happened. Then you’ll get home. We are waiting here, you have a good time to rest. ” Dad smiled briefly, gently. Touched his shoulder.
“Can we go straight home then? Do you have my stuff? ” Dad and Misha exchanged glances. Misha turned his worried gaze to him.
”They’re still with Grandma, we just brought clean clothes for you and outerwear.” Misha took a break. ”I should get them and… Explain the situation.”
Joni nodded, he felt ashamed. He was not ready to face others and at the same time he was ashamed that he was not. He felt he owed Anna an apology. Without him, Yegor would still be alive and that guilt weighed on him. He didn’t want to go back there anymore. He didn’t want to see where it happened. He wanted to forget.
”Can you go there before we leave?” Joni asked, avoiding Misha’s gaze. It was quiet for a moment.
“I can wait with Joni here and if you can bring my bag? I didn’t even have time to unpack. ” Asko said Misha watched Joni, who was still avoiding his gaze and finally nodded stiffly.
That feeling crept, that understanding to destabilize the happiness brought by relief; the road ahead would be difficult. The experience was behind them, but the memories of it would still haunt them for a long time. The nightmares of the horrible experience would remain as a third wheel in their relationship, so much stronger than what it had been before, the weight of both would join together and make that wheel heavier to push aside.
Had to be strong. Misha wanted to be strong, he wanted to believe that he could be. At the same time, he knew that the future he had wanted to see with Joni had inevitably changed. But it was too early to think about it. Joni was alive, that was the most important thing! He still wanted to bathe in that feeling of relief and push the rest of it away, farther away. They could deal with the rest later.
Misha left the hospital, walked to the parking lot and sat in the car. The snow had started to fall and it looked wetter than before. He looked at the landscape in front of him and squeezed the steering wheel. The anxiety grew in his chest, forming a lump that climbed up his throat and he tried to swallow it down. Damn it just wouldn’t go down.
Joni didn’t have his ring, instead his finger had been marked
by a tobacco-burned sign. Irritated skin around his wrists, almost cutting the skin which told the silent truth of how much Joni had struggled. That image came back to his mind as he remembered that brief phone conversation with Chris the night before.
”I won, Misha, took mine back and gave it to him good. I fucked your prince properly and hard. Clearly Joni hasn’t gotten a proper fuck since our breakup.”
Breathing accelerated, Misha squeezed the wheel harder and harder and finally let out a desperate, loud roar that released some of the pain he felt, but not enough.
How many times had it happened? And had they both raped Joni? Misha didn’t want to think about it, he wasn’t allowed to think about it. He had to push these thoughts aside and remain strong. He had to focus. He would pick up their belongings, say goodbye to Grandma till they’d see each other again. Somehow everything would work out, somehow they would have to.
Still desperately trying to swallow down the lump he felt in his throat, which seemed indestructible though, Misha closed his eyes and breathed in deeply for a couple of times before opening his eyes. He stared at the snowy parking lot in front of him for a moment longer before turning the key in the ignition switch.
** ^^ ** ^^ **
It was a very early morning when Misha arrived back at the house. Grandma was awake and Misha wondered if she had slept at all. Had any of them? Ivo and Jami came downstairs pretty soon after he stepped inside.
Grandmother made coffee and offered breakfast, which Misha agreed to eat even though he had no appetite. He explained the situation, explained that Joni was in pretty good physical condition considering the circumstances, but that he wanted to return home as soon as he was allowed.
The situation felt difficult. Misha knew that for Grandma, Yegory’s death was harder than the woman would ever admit out loud. And he hadn’t been able to comfort the woman in the midst of his own worries and now… it felt bad to leave like this and at the same time he wanted to be supportive for Joni. It was natural that Joni wanted a home after all that had happened.
Packing was done quickly.
”If anything is left behind, we’ll bring them with us.” Ivo assured. ”We’ll stay here for another couple of nights.” He had added when Anna was not listening. ”I’m trying to entice Grandma to come with us, she shouldn’t be alone now, but we’ll see…”
Misha nodded. They had invited their grandmother to visit often before, but she rarely did, the last time was a couple of years ago.
Misha hugged his grandmother in the hallway long before he left. “Are you going to be alright? I’ll visit as soon as I get the chance. ” He whispered.
“Oh, my dear boy, I’ll be fine, I promise. Don’t worry about me. Joni needs you more now. ” Anna touched his cheek tenderly and tilted her head to face his gaze. The smile was soft and gentle. “True love defies all storms, remember that. And time will heal the wounds, at least enough for one to be able to live with them. There will come an easier time for you both. ” Misha gritted his teeth together and nodded. Easier time? He had hoped that they had already reached an easier time, before all this and now they had to start the healing all over. Misha planted a kiss on the woman’s forehead.
“I remember,” he promised.
Misha had already come to the car when Ivo followed him out.
”Wait, have you seen the news yet?” His brother asked in a serious voice.
”No?” He said questioningly. Ivo got closer with his cell phone in his hand and lifted the screen in front of Misha’s eyes. It was on the front page of one of the tabloids. Pictures of Chris and Aki, the same ones that were used to search for them. Misha glanced through the news topics, feeling an uncomfortable tightness in his chest; “The kidnapping drama of a young Finnish man has been solved…. The victim of the abduction was delivered to hospital…One of the culprits was shot to death by the police, the other found dead.”
Misha looked up at Ivo. He knew how Joni would react to this if he found out. Not everyone might be able to make the connection of Chris’s image with Joni, but it would just take a few who could and it would be enough to make the gossip spread. ”Fuck.” Misha cursed. Ivo dropped his phone.
“I thought you should know. I don’t know, I guess Joni needs to know about this, but… ”
”Not yet.” Misha agreed. “Thank you Ivo. We’ll know to keep the radio mute. ”
Ivo touched his brother’s shoulder. ”It will work out. Joni is… He’s a survivor. ” Ivo tried to comfort him.
Misha gritted his teeth and nodded. He wanted to turn back time to prevent this whole nightmare from happening. “At least those bastards are dead. That’s the only thing that satisfies me in all this shit. ” And at the same time, Misha knew that even though Chris was dead, he would still be a ghost that would haunt Joni’s dreams. It could hardly be prevented.
After returning to the hospital, Misha talked to Joni’s father about the news. The man had encountered the same while browsing the net. They knew they couldn’t protect Joni from the news indefinitely but didn’t think now was the right time. On the way home, the radio would stay silenced.
** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^
Joni was quiet and exhausted. The police had spoken to him but Asko or Misha did not know what he had told him about the events. It was still too early to try to ask more. Crisis therapy would be available as soon as they’d return home. The doctor had strongly recommended that Joni in particular should receive therapy as soon as possible, it was also recomented that all of them would talk to the professionals. The experience was painful but dealing with the events and talking about them was important for recovery.
They were seated in the backseat as Asko drove. Misha had taken a pillow for Joni so he could rest better in the car. Even now, Joni leaned his head against the pillow while looking out of the window. It was gray, the frost had dropped to near zero and the snow along the road was dirty and shabby looking. It was impossible to say what was going through in Joni’s mind and Misha didn’t dare to ask. He too felt exhausted, he hadn’t really slept properly during these last couple of days. But even now his mind was too restless to sleep. Joni was there and he was alive, the fear of loss had been replaced by a different kind of concern. Everything normal and former was a long way ahead for them to reach, as troubling as that thought seemed.
Asko had chosen some relaxing cd’s that now played quietly in the background, the traffic was calm, a steady hum. No one was talking. Eventually, Misha reached to take Joni’s hand in his own, which caused the younger man to startle and look at him a little bewildered at first. However, Joni didn’t pull his hand away but Misha sensed the nervousness he hoped he could ease. He stroked Joni’s right palm softly with his thumb without saying anything because the right words didn’t come to him.
Joni’s gaze drifted back outside and at the same time Misha felt Joni gently squeeze his hand, as if wanting to convince him that everything would be fine even though he couldn’t say it out loud yet.
Joni stared at the gray landscape. He felt the concern of Misha and his father and how fervently they hoped he would speak. But what would he say? What could he say? The situation was tense and abnormal and none of them could make it normal. There were no words to ease the situation without it feeling forced. Joni was content to stay still and simply wonder about the whole situation. That he was sitting there, in his father’s car on his way home next to Misha. And he wasn’t sure if he had already said out loud his wish to go to his childhood home, his own room. He knew he probably hadn’t and he should express his wishes soon but the formation of the words seemed surprisingly labourious.
The previous morning the sun had been bright, the snowy landscape had been like a fairy tale and at the same time… the whole situation… Glimpses… That pressuring atmosphere in the cottage alone with Chris. He had survived. If one thought about it, if one thought about the time at that cottage it was actually confusing to be alive and on his way home. He felt his every breath, the warmth of Misha’s hand, he would have wanted to let go and at the same time squeeze harder. Chris was dead.
Chris… Joni frowned, staring persistently at the same spot in the window behind which the gray, gloomy landscapes changed. He wished he could have felt anger, pure anger, it would have been simpler. But there was so much more mixed with that anger and the relief of being alive and safe. He should be glad Chris was dead! He should rejoice about it! But his mind did not rejoice. He felt a confusing emptiness and something that felt wrong, something no one would understand; grief.
Some part of him mourned Chris in spite of everything wrong, in spite of all the pain. But that pain and that injustice… Joni felt anger squeezing in his chest, Chris hurt him even after his death. It would have been easier to hate an asshole, easier to hate a man who was bad to the core. But in his last moments, Chris had shown the side that Joni had imagined to have disappeared, the existence of which he had reasoned to have invented, a side which had never been true in the beginning. But that Chris had been as true as anything else, all bad and cruel. Understanding caused a confusing mixture of different emotions.
Chris had killed Aki, saved him from the man’s hands… No, his sense reminded him: Aki would never have been involved if Chris hadn’t invited him. But Chris could have allowed Aki to continue, could have chosen not intervene…. Maybe, but that didn’t change the fact that he would never have gotten into a situation, that Chris should have understood the probability of Aki’s actions. And without Aki, without that incident, maybe Chris wouldn’t have woken up. Maybe Chris would have ended up killing him?
No sympathy, don’t pity that asshole, don’t grieve! Chris doesn’t deserve your grief!
And yet… The voice of reason faded into a whisper.
Chris had decided to die. Chris had wanted to die. Those last moments and conversations kept spinning though in Joni’s mind. Something brought out old memories, moments, and those good glimpses of the man who at best Chris could have been completely if something or some things had been different. If… And he was angry and bitter, but that sorrow, that contradictory and raging sorrow. A child from whom a better man could have grown, a child who had lacked a good enough adult, a child who did not have what he had.
And he couldn’t say it out loud, the sadness he felt for Chris. Because it was absurd! It could not be understood. Misha wouldn’t understand that. No one would understand. They would consider him crazy. It was a grief that he had to deal with alone.
** ^^ ** ^^ **
Home, he was at home, in his own room. The bed was made ready. He felt so confused. Joni did not remember the conversation that had brought him home where he wanted. Misha was in the room with him.
”Would you like something?” The man asked. Joni stood in front of the window. It had stopped snowing hours ago. It was dim outside, foggy. The gray of the day had turned into the darkness of the evening. How long had he been home? The question arose in his mind and confused him more.
”I don’t think so.” He found himself answering. “Thank you, everything is fine. I think I would like to sleep. ” Sleep all that confusion away. It was like being caught in a dream difficult to understand, was he dreaming?
”It’s a good idea.” Misha admitted. It was a troubled situation. Joni turned to look at the man he loved. He saw Misha’s insecurity and pain, how the man needed something from him to ease that insecurity. And Joni knew Misha had suffered, he knew the torture he had experienced from that uncertainty, and helplessness. He would have liked to take that pain away, but how? He himself felt lost somewhere where everything was dim and finding the right direction felt difficult.
”We’re here, you’re safe.” Misha added. Joni nodded. He saw Misha’s wonder if he could get closer, he wanted to get closer. Joni broke their distance, placed his hand on Misha’s cheek.
“I need time. But I will get through this, okay? ”
His words and his touch made Misha breathe a sigh of relief, the man nodded, smiled, and closed his eyes for a moment as he pulled Joni close to his chest. Joni didn’t object, he wrapped his arms around Misha in the hug he clearly needed. He felt a kiss on his head.
For a moment they stayed like that, Joni felt the urge to break away and retire to rest. The nightmare of what had happened was attempting to force its way to his thoughts. Things that had to be dealt with in silence, or so he imagined.
Eventually, Misha let go. “I’ll let you rest, I’m downstairs with your dad. Or do you want me to stay in this room? ”
“No, just go, I’ll sleep. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. ” Joni thought for a moment and then gave a light kiss to Misha’s cheek, consciously trying to show that he wasn’t terribly uncomfortable with such intimacy, trying to prove it to himself as well.
** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^ **
Adam wandered nervously in the apartment, it was already late in the evening, and several hours had passed since Chris’ call. “Joni is fine! We are now in the hospital with him. ” Joni’s father had communicated earlier in the day.
It was a relief. However, Asko hadn’t said anything about Chris and Adam hadn’t dared to call or ask. He knew Asko wouldn’t want to think about Chris at that moment.
“You should sit down,” Suvi said after watching him for a moment. The woman was sitting on the couch with a book in her hands. Aaron had gone to bed half an hour earlier. ”Joni is safe and that’s the main thing.”
Adam glanced at his wife, whose gaze was directed back to her book. There was tension between them. They had quarreled. Suvi had been worried sick after hearing about what had happened. And that worry erupted in anger and harshly spoken words. Suvi had apologized for her behavior but Adam was unsure of her sincerity. His heart was aching, Chris was something they would never get to the same page on. Chris was pure evil in the eyes of Suvi, a man who did not deserve understanding, empathy, and especially Adam’s friendship.
It was a heavy pain he carried in his chest, an anxiety he felt for his friend. He remembered the boy, the child, with whom he had grown up. They had shared a lot and he knew Chris had given him a lot more of himself than to the others. And even though he had already lost a lot from his friend, watching him slowly drift off farther away into that own private and dark state of mind, that bond between them had not been completely severed. Adam was not ready to give up, he was not ready to accept his wife’s one-sided picture. Under all that evil, there was still that vulnerable boy Adam knew. He refused to believe that the boy could not be saved if he only got the right help.
Adam felt guilty that he hadn’t tried more. Chris had certainly felt abandoned and let the darkness swallow him up almost completely. In his mind he prayed for a new opportunity and that prayer he could not voice out loud to Suvi. His wife would not understand. Adam was alone with his grief.
Finally his phone rang. The sound made him startle. ”Who is it?” Suvi asked. Adam looked at the number on his screen and felt his chest squeeze. A confusing awareness of what he would soon hear. He knew and his throat was choking, his chest aching. He did not answer his wife and instead walked into his study, closing the door behind him.
”Adam Wright.” He answered a little hoarsely.
”Evening, Mr. Wright.” A gentle female voice said. “I’m calling from the Canadian Embassy, in Russia. I think it would be better if you sit down. ”
Adam did not immediately find his voice, he nodded foolishly, even though he knew the woman could not see it. He came next to his chair and sat down stiffly.
“Yes,” his voice almost whispered.
”I’m calling because you’re listed as Christopher Hanratty’s emergency contact.” The woman said and Adam swallowed, he felt the moisture under his eyes for knowing what the woman would say next. The fact that Chris had named him in his records and not removed him even after everything, moved him. Awareness of how alone Chris had been.
“We got the information from the authorities…” The woman spoke and there was strange humming in Adam’s ears, he heard the woman speak but the words didn’t register, the memories of his friend swarmed in his mind, thousands and distant, simple things. ”… my condolences…“ Adam heard the woman finish at the end and after a small pause she continued. ”How would you like to deal with the burial?”
”Sorry?” Adam asked in embarrassment.
“Mr. Hanraty apparently had no insurance, do you know his other relatives? The body can be cremated and sent to Canada if you wish? ”
Adam stared at the law book on his shelf and recalled the last, brief conversation with his friend during which Chris had apologized. He was trembling, squeezed the phone in his hand, unable to record everything the woman was talking about.
”Mr. Wright?” The woman asked. “I understand this is coming suddenly. Burial of the ashes can also be done here. According to the papers, Mr. Hanratty was not a member of any religion? ”
“I-I want the urn…” Adam finally replied hoarsely. ”I’ll take care of the costs.” He added and already knew that Suvi would not appreciate his decision. After all, Chris deserved a decent burial. He could not stand the idea of his friend in some unmarked unadorned burial ground in a foreign land. He knew Chris had done evil, but at the same time, he knew that just before his death he had repented and apologized. Chris may not have believed in God, but Adam believed to some extent and at that moment he had to hold on to the belief that he would still see his friend, that after death there was something and God would be forgiving. Whether his wife would understand was irrelevant at the time.
At the end of the call, Adam felt himself collapsing from the intense grief. It was hard to breathe, the pain seemed to tear his insides. That last call, the last words, repeated in his mind over and over again. Nothing could be done anymore, Chris was gone. It was difficult to understand. He cried for a lost friend, he cried for remorse. It was over.
He had not heard his wife come to the doorway. Suvi stood there and looked at him, knowing before he heard Adam say it.
The man turned his crying face toward the woman. ”Chris is dead.” Adam said, in a voice that sounded foreign. ”Chris is dead.” He repeated and saying it out loud made it real.
Suvi didn’t say anything, she knew she couldn’t say anything to comfort him. She was grateful that Chris was dead, but she wouldn’t say it out loud. Suvi walked over to her husband and wrapped her arms around him in a quiet, comforting hug, which the man gratefully accepted.