5. You’re still you

Betad by: Charity ❤️

Chapter 5

The meeting with Michael had given Eelis a lot to think about. They had scheduled another meeting in ten days because Michael would spend the following week at the country home with his family.

Eelis wondered if he would then have the courage to ask about Michael’s relationship with his husband, ask about the sexual part of it. But he wasn’t sure how to ask without getting embarrassed, which was frustrating. He wished he could have his former confidence, wished he could have that comfort in addressing the matter.

He had been very sexual before. Now it bothered him to remember how much he had wanted before Chris had forced him… Every thought of Chris was conflicting in different ways, that desire he had once felt toward the man felt wrong now.

The fact that between those rapes, Chris had managed to bring him to orgasm, bothered him. Even when he knew it was because his mind had played tricks on him… The disturbing fact that Chris had altered his appearance to resemble Misha… This was one thing he hadn’t said a word about to anyone and now he supposed that it might be helpful to try and speak of it to Michael.

He was only twenty-two years old, and he didn’t really want to live the rest of his life without being able to enjoy sex in any form. Shouldn’t he at least be able to pleasure himself without all these disturbing mental pictures and whispers that stopped him? He had managed to reach that before, it had been already fixed once, but now… It was so much harder.

And then his mind went back to what Michael had said in passing; ”There were other men there too.” And he started to feel sick at the mere thought. He didn’t think he would be able to survive with his sanity from something like that as Michael had. How? That’s what he wanted to know. Just by talking? But how could he speak of it out loud when he hadn’t been able to process to himself that moment with Aki in that room and Aki hadn’t even had the time to… complete what he had intended.

He thought about the moments with Misha, closed his eyes, and pictured the shape of his naked body in front of him. He reminded himself how his touch had made him feel, how it had felt to touch him in return and those mental images always managed to turn him on until those horrific memories of the abduction flooded his mind and spoiled it.

And when he wondered how someday, perhaps soon, he would hear that Misha had started seeing someone else… It felt painful. It didn’t feel right and still… He just felt so confused and lost with everything. 

**^^**^^**

He had a rare day off that Saturday and Sarah had suggested that they’d make use of it by going shopping together. It was November and the shops were full of Christmas decorations, it had already started in October. An endless stream of jolly Christmas jingles was playing from the store’s loudspeakers, but Eelis still felt it difficult to get in the right Christmas spirit.

They stood in the toy section of Harrods, and he eyed the row of Barbie dolls feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the number of different options. Sini was already seven and had started her first year in school that fall. An important milestone in her life that he had missed witnessing and now felt somewhat regretful about it.

When she had been smaller, she loved the Barbie princesses and last year she still eagerly played with them, but what about now? He frowned, feeling bad that he wasn’t certain, becoming aware of how rarely he had talked with her since his move.

His eyes then caught a United Kingdom Barbie doll, dressed in a trench coat, and she had a British flag scarf. He took the box for a closer look, it was probably one that wouldn’t be sold in Finland, and thus a smaller risk of someone getting a similar one. He eyed the doll and then the different princesses before turning to Sarah.

”Did you play with these as a little girl?” He asked and the woman smiled walking close to him. ”Do you think a seven-year-old girl might like this or better some princess or something?”

”In truth, I liked ponies better, but…” She eyed the doll in his hands. ”If I’d choose from Barbies…” She kept a small pause, looking at the other options quickly before returning her eyes to the doll in his hands. ”Hm, yes, I think I’d go with that one.”

”Maybe I could pair it with a horse or a pony?” Eelis wondered with a small smile when looking at her. ”I kinda feel bad, for being absent and…”

”The best gift would be you coming home to her then,” Sarah smiled softly at him

Eelis was quiet for a moment and gazed at the doll, he knew she was right. But he still wanted to buy Sini something she would adore, something that would tell her that she was important to him even though he had been away. Even when he wasn’t his normal self. ”I don’t even know what her favorite movie is now, it used to be Nemo.”

”Omg, I love Nemo!” Sarah exclaimed. ”Your sister has good taste,” she grinned when their eyes met. ”Get her that doll, then get her some British candy and tell her you want to watch Nemo with her or another movie of her choice.”

”Okay, thanks, I think I’ll do that,” he agreed, guilt kicking in once more. Sini kept asking when he would get back every time they spoke and even those calls had been too rare on his part. He couldn’t keep disappointing her, which meant that he needed to conquer his fear of facing people who knew and go home for Christmas. 

 ”Okay, I need to find a stuffed toy for my godson or perhaps a toy car and then Legos for my brothers, that should be easier,” he sighed as they moved from the aisle towards the soft toys.

”How old are they?” Sarah asked.

”My godson is almost two and a half and my brothers are eleven, luckily they still like to build and not just stare at their phones or play with their consoles… They did wish for new video games, but I’d rather get some cool Legos and would get points from my dad for that, I’m sure,” he chuckled.

”Could you help me pick something for my nephew who is nine?” Sarah asked. ”You see, I never did play with Legos much as a child myself, so I am not sure which are cool for a boy that age.” 

”Sure thing.”

After picking the gift for Aaron, they moved toward the Lego section. It was then that he heard an incoming message on his phone. He took the phone from his pocket for a closer look, and his heart skipped a beat at Misha’s name on the message screen. Feeling surprised, and oddly nervous he opened the message.

”Are you coming home for Christmas?” It read in all its simplicity and Eelis felt a tug of warmth in his chest. He hadn’t heard a word from Misha since the end of the summer, not except what Dima and Ivo had mentioned, when they tried to subtly, or in Ivo’s case less subtly, hint that… And now, he had been constantly in his mind. 

”Who was it to make you smile so?” Sarah grinned looking at him curiously. And indeed, there was that strange feeling on his cheeks, he hadn’t even realized he was smiling before Sarah pointed it out. Confused, he put the phone back in his pocket.

”Mm… from a friend,” he finally answered, and Sarah looked at him with an amused expression.

”Just from a friend?” She inquired with a sly smirk on her face, cocking her eyebrow. Eelis felt the heat rise to his cheeks.

”Yes”, he answered and looked at the woman with a smile that confirmed her suspicion that whoever sent the message to him was something more than what he claimed.

”Well, what did he write to make you smile like that?”

”Just asked if I’m coming home for Christmas,” Eelis shrugged.

”Well, you’re going, right?”

”I don’t think my father would let me hear the end of it if I didn’t,” he sighed with a small smile. ”And… I would like to watch that movie with my sister.”

”Good. You should. And my family is the same, they expect me so it’s just easier to go,” she smiled at him. ”How long are you going to stay?”

”I’ll probably come back for the New Year.”

”Great, then I’ll have you as my company to celebrate?” Sarah grinned. ”I want to experience the celebrations in a big city!”

”That would be nice,” Eelis agreed. Here he might even be able to attend some parties, at home he would probably just languish in his room not wanting to see people who might ask questions he wasn’t prepared to answer.

They continued shopping and Eelis could sense how curious Sarah was to hear more about Misha, but she didn’t bother him with further questions when sensing he wasn’t ready to give them. Sarah’s friendship was exactly the kind he needed then. Respectful and supportive and little by little he had begun to feel more like himself around her.

But she was curious because he was clearly more absent-minded after receiving the text. He had to admit to himself that he did miss Misha terribly, and yet he struggled with it. And then the sudden thought crossed his mind that Misha wanted to see him to tell him that he was now ready for friendship because he had met someone else and… it felt terrifying, but he was still so confused. 

And what if Misha hoped that they could…? -Could they?  If Michael and his husband had? -He pondered. 

And would he really want to be alone forever? Or if he would need to start over with someone new who didn’t know anything… And he would have to open up about all that crap he had experienced, explain all of it from the start because his scars weren’t visible. And the new man… 

Eelis didn’t want a new man. He didn’t want to be alone for the rest of his life, but …He didn’t want a new man, someone like James, whom he would go on a date with, and then, when the situation would progress, he would struggle to explain why it felt so distressing to even undress. At worst, he’d have a panic attack, and then that guy James or whoever, would tell the stories about a crazy Finnish guy he had almost ended up in bed with, but then he had some weird seizure…

But Misha wouldn’t laugh, because he knew he would be patient like before. He would hold him if he would start to cry or if he would panic and ask to stop… He would do all that and Eelis knew he would. But what if it wasn’t enough and he just wouldn’t be able to continue? And what if Misha had already met someone else?

If Misha was still available, would he be ready to give him hope? Would he be ready to try? Would it be fair to Misha if he couldn’t? What about the distance between them? 

Eelis’s mind was in turmoil and Sarah had noticed it too, but she didn’t pressure him to talk. They agreed to meet up again later in the evening and have dinner together. He was supposed to get some schoolwork done, but nothing came of it. A few times he picked up his phone and was about to answer but deleted the message and kept going through different options on what to write. Should he suggest they’d meet up? Would it feel different to see him now after all these months? 

Eelis checked the possible flights and thought about it. He tried to get back to the school project, but still with very little success. It was hard to focus on anything. The day crept to evening, and he had to leave and meet Sarah at the restaurant they had previously agreed on.

Sarah did most of the talking, his mind still occupied with the thoughts of Misha. He should answer him, Misha must have been confused or upset by now about his silence.

”Okay, Elis, can you please tell me where your thoughts are?” Sarah finally sighed, they were still sitting in the restaurant, and she was understandably frustrated with trying to keep the conversation going. It was getting close to seven in the evening, and in Finland, it would be close to nine already.

”Mm… Okay, that message earlier today was from my ex-fiancé, and now… I can’t seem to stop thinking about him,” he finally confessed.

”Ah”, Sarah looked at his finger and the tattoo questioningly.

”As I told you before, I had a bad relationship, the one before I got engaged,” Eelis spoke quietly, his fingers tracing the moistness on the surface of his glass, following the movement thoughtfully before glancing at her quickly, unable to hold her gaze for long. He took a sip from his pint. He still wasn’t ready to tell the whole story to her, at least not in this kind of environment. ”My ex didn’t like that I got engaged, so…” He shrugged, staring down at the tattoo on his finger.  ”He hurt me… and it’s been difficult… so I… I felt like I needed to start over and came here.”

Sarah was silent for a moment, of course, she would have liked to ask more, but she didn’t want to stress Eelis further and she could clearly see his reluctance to talk more about what had happened. ”And your fiancé would want you back?” She guessed and Eelis shrugged.

”I’m not sure,” he admitted.

”Would you like him back?” Sarah smiled and Eelis shrugged again and chuckled softly.

”Maybe, I don’t know, it’s complicated,” he nervously raised the pint to his lips again.

”Complicated,” Sarah raised an eyebrow. ”Well, I guess you already told him that you are coming?”

”Not yet.”

”Elis!” Sarah exclaimed, ”don’t keep the poor guy waiting, do it now,” she encouraged with a chuckle. ”I think it’s not so complicated anymore if you see him and talk face to face. He wouldn’t have sent the message if he didn’t miss you and Christmas is the time of love!”

”I’ve always thought Christmas is the time for families, and children most of all,” he grinned.

”Well, families too, adults and children alike,” Sarah agreed. ”And if you were engaged, then… he’s been your family,” Sarah pointed out. ”Answer him, now. I’ll visit the ladies’ room while you do,” she grinned, got up, and left towards the restrooms.

Eelis sighed, took his phone, and opened the message window. The message had come at ten in the morning, noon in Finland and he felt bad for taking so long to reply to him.

”I’m sorry it took me this long to answer… ” He started and paused to think. ”I haven’t booked the flights yet, but I will probably arrive on the 22nd and return to London for the New Year.” Another small pause before he decided to write; Would you like to meet? He felt a strange nervousness swirling in his abdomen, a strange fear that Misha would answer and decline him, even though it didn’t make any sense. Why would Misha have sent him a message if he didn’t want to meet with him?

Sarah returned with new drinks. ”Did you send the message?” she asked.

”I did,” Eelis smiled back at her.

”Good,” she studied him silently for a while. ”I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile like that before; it’s a good look on you,” she smiled softly at him and Eelis could almost feel himself blushing at the compliment. He didn’t like feeling this insecure, he wanted to be the confident man he had been before, and it frustrated him not to be able to.

It was past eight when he got home. He had hoped that Misha would respond quickly, but he hadn’t and it made him feel restless. Maybe Misha really was upset that he hadn’t answered straight away. Maybe… it was Saturday and he had met someone, and then… What if Misha really was ready to move on? Hadn’t he wanted it, encouraged him even? Then why did the idea of it stress him so much?

Surely that would be better? As far as Misha was concerned… That he would build a happy life with someone normal, someone free of the issues he had. He wanted Misha to be happy, but the idea of losing him forever to someone else… He had to be honest; it pained him.

Too many thoughts twirled in his mind and kept him awake. It was already past ten o’clock and Misha still hadn’t answered. He’s out having fun as he should be. -He reminded himself and also… He had taken nine hours to reply! So, he had no right to assume Misha would keep waiting by his phone to hear from him.

Feeling anxious, Eelis finally took out his laptop and restlessly scrolled through the news, without the ability to concentrate on anything. 

He checked his mailbox; Suvi had sent him pictures and video clips of Aaron and he looked them through. He was a cute child, grown so much from when he had last seen him almost a year ago and he felt bad for it, bad for missing out so much. Suvi had temporarily moved to live with her parents in Oulu with Aaron after she had started the divorce process with Adam.

Eelis felt bad about that as well. He felt bad for Adam who had been more willing to try and now had to deal with being separated from his child like that. It was a huge distance. It didn’t seem fair.

Eelis couldn’t help but feel partly guilty about it, even though he knew he shouldn’t, and no one would expect that of him. Suvi would say it was all Chris’s fault, but it didn’t seem fair either. Didn’t seem fair to keep building blame on a dead man’s shoulders. He hoped Suvi would be able to rebuild her relationship with Adam, for Aaron’s sake as well as theirs, because he felt certain that they both still had feelings for each other.

The thought of everything that had been destroyed and lost… The thought of Chris made him feel conflicted once more, he felt the familiar sadness settle inside, sadness that was disturbing and difficult to explain.

He felt the anxiety build up even more when thoughts of Chris forced their way into his mind again. A death that made no sense for him to mourn and yet… ”Damn it,” he cursed to himself, his eyes starting to water. Too many voices in his mind and the sleepiness seemed to be slipping away even further. He was thankful that tomorrow was Sunday, and he could go running the first thing he woke to clear his mind, that was if he managed to get any sleep at all.

Finally, he prepared some tea and did some breathing exercises to calm down, trying to relax and sleep without taking sleeping pills. It was too easy to become addicted to them when they granted blissful, dreamless sleep, but he didn’t want to go down that road, it would just lead to further problems.

He woke at seven am, after another night of restless sleep like predicted, with his all too usual nightmares. He laid still for a moment, staring at the ceiling and collecting his energy to get up from the bed and start the day by going for a run.  He then glanced at the nightstand where he had left his phone after silencing it and reached to take it.

 Relief washed over him and a smile crept on his lips seeing that Misha had answered, only a little after he had stopped checking. He chewed his lip and clicked the message open.

”Of course, I want to see you. Can I call you tomorrow?” The smile on his face grew.

”I’m awake, call me when you can.” Eelis wrote, hesitated for a moment, and pressed send.

ⓒKolgrim

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