It was Chris who had suggested it, on a long weekend at the end of the summer that they spent in Paris together. Chris had bought the trip to make up and thank Joni for giving up a chance to go to Paris to model that summer, choosing to spend time with him instead.
After a fabulous dinner at an expensive restaurant, and a walk along the streets of the beautiful city, they arrived back at their hotel room.
”Thank you for the dinner, Chris, and for all of this. This is… well, you surprised me,” Joni smiled at him, watching as he took a bottle of sparkling wine and opened it.
”So, you’re not regretting your choice?” He asked, raising his brow and pouring some wine into two glasses. Joni, who now stood before the window smiled softly and finally, shook his head.
”Other changes will arise, I’m sure.”
Nodding Chris approached him, giving the other glass to him.
”When I go to the army…” Joni started looking into Chris’ eyes with a hint of sadness. They had talked about it before and what it would mean; that most likely they wouldn’t be able to see each other for anything between six to twelve months and Joni thought it would be best to break up and stay friends. It would be crazy to ask the other to wait for that long.
Chris brought his finger to Joni’s lips before he could continue.
”That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” he smiled. ”Come, let’s sit on the couch,” taking Joni’s hand Chris led the teen to the nearby sofa, seating him down.
Joni looked up curiously, Chris had seemed… anxious the whole time, almost excited but refusing to tell him what he was planning.
”So yes, you have been right; there is a surprise I’ve been dying to tell you,” He started, sitting down next to him, ”what better place than here?”
”Okay, now you’re making me nervous,” Joni chuckled when Chris took his hand in his and smiled mysteriously, silently, just watching him.
”Just spit it out Chris, don’t tease me,” Joni laughed, ”just please don’t ask me to marry you,” he joked nervously.
At this Chris laughed.
”I’m not asking you to marry me, I’m asking you to move in with me.”
”O-oh,” It hadn’t been what he expected and for a moment it was difficult to know what to say. ” I… we’ve talked about this. I’m… as much as I like Canada; I’m not ready to move there, and….”
Smiling Chris shook his head and brought his hand on Joni’s cheek.
”No, love, I got offered a job in Helsinki, which I accepted and I’m moving in October. So, I want you to live with me. I love you and I don’t want to give you up, not for some stupid army.”
Again, Joni felt lost with what to say. All of it came as such a big surprise, it was more than he was ready for. Chris saying; ’I love you for the first time, and Chris says ’I’m moving to Helsinki’, Chris asks him to move in with him.
Different emotions moved through him at once; confusion, fear, happiness, excitement, nervousness, even slight nausea that might have been dizziness, then panic and again happiness. moving in, love. Chris’ words kept repeating themselves in his mind love … it was such a big word, such a big step.
Paris, the hotel, the dinner, gifts, all of it and love…Chris loved him. Chris was doing this all for him? Giving all up… for him?
”Well, aren’t you going to say anything?” Chris asked impatiently, making Joni realize that he had been quiet for quite long, his mouth felt dry.
”I-I’m surprised,” Joni sighed, ”w-why didn’t you say anything? I mean… when? How?” He frowned.
”Wanted to surprise you,” Chris answered, tilting his head, ”I thought you’d be happy.”
”Oh, I am… I am!” Joni assured quickly, ”I’m just, I didn’t expect this.”
”I talked with your uncle, he has connections and remembers that day when you had that modeling gig in Helsinki? Well, I had a job interview then.”
”Two weeks ago?”
”Yes, and they were able to arrange an apartment for us,” Chris smiled, ”it’s all arranged and ready, all you have to do, is say yes,” Chris whispered leaning closer to brush his lips against his, ”please say yes…” he murmured against his skin, putting both of their glasses down.
”But is it the right time? What will you do all those weeks when I’m away? I don’t want you to regret your decision, this is a big change.”
Chris frowned, ”Of course, I know that.” Chris sighed irritably, ”I can survive the weekdays, knowing I’ll see you on most weekends, knowing it’s temporary… Would you rather break up? For us to move forward we must take this step or simply give up. I want to be with you, and I thought you wanted the same.”
Sighing Joni reached to touch Chris.
”I’m sorry, of course, I do,” he whispered and leaned closer to kiss him. ”I was just… As I said, I didn’t expect this and I’m surprised, you know? But it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t want to move in with you.” He smiled then, ”so just wipe that frown off your face,” he teased, grinning, his finger caressing Chris’ brow.
Chris wrapped his arms around him and pushed him down on the couch.
”Good, for a while there you got me worried…” He smiled and leaned to kiss him. ”I just hated the idea of breaking up with you and … I like it in your country. I’m not close with my family, so I thought why not? You’re important to me.”
”I didn’t want to break up either,” Joni brought his hand to Chris’ cheek. ”But next time, I’d like if you’d told me first of your plans.” He added with a soft chuckle.
”If you insist,” Chris smirked before leaning closer for another eager kiss.
Leaving the home in which you grew up felt odd. Joni was packing his things together wondering what to leave and what to take with him, they had gotten new furniture with Chris and his father said he wanted to leave his room for him the way it was for when they would come to visit, at least it made things easier.
Sighing he looked at all the boxes around him, looking around the room; it was true, leaving home, really starting adulthood, moving in with Chris.
He had thought before that he would be doing this alone, imagined his life somewhat differently and part of him wondered what it did for his plans to travel, for his dreams of spending months in another country working.
He chewed on his lip, part of him panicky; was this what he truly wanted? Could he still stay and change his mind? Chris had a career while he wasn’t sure what he would end up doing after the army besides modeling.
Would Chris later want to travel with him? Could he? Why was he having these sudden doubts and fears? He should relax, not think too far ahead, things would work out and he liked Chris, he loved him… there shouldn’t be a problem, should there?
Chris would arrive in two weeks, he would have time to settle in first in their new home and… it would be wonderful, all of it!
And there he sat on the floor, in front of all his boxes trying to get rid of sudden cold feet.
”Do you need any help?” Joni almost jumped hearing Katja’s voice from the doorway. He looked up at her and smiled slightly.
”I don’t know,” he said honestly, ”I guess I can manage; I just have trouble deciding what to leave behind.”
Katja smiled softly, walked closer, and sat on his bed.
”Joni, you’re not moving that far away, you don’t have to know everything you want to take with you now,” she reminded him, watching him carefully.
”Heh, yeah, you’re right,” Joni rolled his eyes at himself and sighed.
”Are you excited?” Katja asked then.
”Hm, yeah,” Joni nodded looking up again smiling. ”It’s a nice apartment, big and yeah,” he nodded slowly, continuing to fold his clothes into the boxes.
”A little nervous too perhaps?” Katja guessed.
”A little,” Joni admitted, ”it’s normal I guess?”
”Yes,” Katja smiled tilting her head while looking at her stepson. ”You know…” She started carefully, hesitating, ”well…have you thought about what you’re going to do when you finish army?”
Joni again glanced at her, thinking that he detected some amount of worry in her tone.
”I’m not sure, ” he admitted, ”perhaps I could finish high school,” he shrugged, ”I have time to think about it.”
”It’s a good idea to finish school.” She nodded, ”And what about the traveling you talked about before?”
”I guess we can book some trip after I get out of the army, we’ve talked about it. ”
”Just remember, you should never give up on your dreams, not for anyone. You’re young, I don’t want you to regret that later.” She said softly.
Joni glanced at her, part of him tempted to tell her of his sudden panic, but chose not to, instead he smiled.
”I’m happy and I’m not giving up on my dreams, don’t worry, they should be reachable even while being in a relationship.” He said wanting to believe that.
”Good,” Katja got up, smiled, and ruffled his hair. ”Just remember that you’re always welcome here, you can always come back to us even if it’s the middle of the night; this will always be your home.”
”Thank you,” Joni said looking up, smiling; it felt somehow reassuring to hear.
Their first months were enough to settle Joni’s mind that it had been the right choice, they were happy, arranging their home trying to get Chris more familiar with the culture and surroundings of his new home before Joni would go to the army leaving Chris to get by on his own the weekdays and some weekends.
The good thing was that Chris got along well with Joni’s family and Joni could be certain that his father would assist him if needed and surely when Chris would get more familiar with his co-workers, he would make friends to keep him company.
Though Chris was often with him when he visited his friends it didn’t look like Chris would feel comfortable spending time with them without him. Dima and Linda often visited them, but it seemed like Chris and Dima didn’t click enough to be friends, they seemed to have little to say to each other and Joni wasn’t sure if it was for Chris’s reluctance or Dima’s. When he left the room and they were alone for a while, the conversation was awkward or even lacking completely.
The weeks went by, faster than either of them would have liked, Christmas passed, New year was celebrated and cold January overtook.
Joni had always known he’d rather choose to go to the army than attend the civil service. There had been a time in his childhood that he had dreamed of becoming a police officer like many little boys and army training gave better chance to get into the academy.
It wasn’t a profession he pictured for himself anymore, but he still chose the army, he wanted to prove himself and if needed he would stand to protect his country.
Yet, as the day drew closer, it made him nervous. He knew no one of the other rookies and no doubt, once both them and the superiors would find him as both gay and a male model, they would not let him go easy. He had never hidden the fact he was gay, not after admitting it to himself in his early teens, and wouldn’t start hiding it now.
Chris wouldn’t have wanted him to go. Nervous as the reality settled in, making him realize that indeed, for the next following nine months, he was living alone in the strange country and would see Joni only on the weekends and not even every weekend. But he couldn’t complain, not too much anyway, since it had been his idea to move there.
It wasn’t easy in the army as Joni had suspected. It hadn’t taken long until his background was common knowledge, which seemed to rub some people the wrong way more than others.
There were those whispers, sometimes loud; aiming to insult, aiming to make clear the speaker’s heterosexuality, which in truth was sometimes questionable. Secretive gazes in the shower room gazes that hurriedly turned when he noticed.
Especially one sergeant seemed to single him out, testing him with every task he could. Joni tolerated it, this wasn’t the place to start complaining, instead, it made him work twice as hard and it managed to impress some of those who had doubted him and he made friends.
One of them was Markus, who was the same age as him and gay but managed to keep silent about it longer than he. So Markus had been the one to come and talk to him first, deciding that he too needn’t hide what he was should someone question.
Markus was a funny, laid-back guy who made Joni’s army time a lot more tolerable. He had a boyfriend as well outside the army, so Joni thought their relationship was quite harmless and friendly as Chris was concerned. But when he told about Markus, Chris wasn’t at all pleased about his newly formed friendship.
The jealousy, that once had been cute, was beginning to feel quite exhausting to listen to. But Chris did his best to control those feelings and it was easier to brush it off as something caused by the time they had to spend apart.
The weekends that Joni got on leaves were usually filled with the joy of being reunited after a week or longer spent apart. Chris loved picking him up from the train station and seeing him in that uniform, which aroused him. Getting home always led to heated sex, where Chris’ eager hands either undressed him of that said uniform or made him wear it while having oral sex with him.
But the jealousy lingered and grew, every time Joni even mentioned Markus, every time Chris saw them chatting at the station. The jealousy was there and began to annoy Joni, he didn’t want to give up his friendship because of it. He was convinced it was something that could be dealt with and fixed. The two just needed to get to know each other better.