A/N: Editer March 26th 2022
Chris felt anxious after Aki had left. He was struggling to move forward. The days seemed endlessly long and dreary. He knew that he had reached a new low. At times, his reflection, the man that he had become, felt like a stranger. A small part of him, a part that still hesitated to take the path that he was about to venture on, was getting wearier and wearier to fight. The reality started to blur.
Christmas was all around, there was no escape. On the streets, inside the stores, on the tv and radio; Christmas. At work, on lunch breaks, he heard others speak of their plans for Christmas and all of this made him feel even more lonesome
His loneliness almost made him miss Aki. On the other hand, certain things revolted the side of him that was slowly disappearing, the part of him that was still good.
They had drunk together, planning the “perfect crime.” Ryan had spent a couple of nights with them and they had done drugs and had sex. This didn’t know where Aki had gotten the drugs, but at the time he had felt indifferent about it. Now afterward, he felt haunted and disturbed by the whole thing.
His respect for Ryan had dropped; just another sex-hungry slut. But still, he had been a part of it, willingly receiving what was given. Perhaps he targeted the repulse he felt for himself to Ryan. He knew that there was no return from the path he was about to take with Aki and in some ways, the idea horrified him.
It was difficult, however, to see a path that would lead to something better. He was stuck in his loneliness and depression and this predicament was brought on by Joni.
A couple of days before Christmas, Chris drove to his childhood home. He sat in his car, across the street from the house, and looked at it silently. The house could have used repainting. Snow had fallen the day before, but it was now slowly melting as the temperature had raised above zero. The sky was inconsolably gray. Droplets of water fell from the eaves.
On the kitchen window, there was an old Christmas star that Chris remembered from his childhood. There was also a red carbon Christmas elf that his brother had crafted as a child. There was a time when his elf had also been placed on the window at this time of the year. Now the lack of it gave the silent message to him; he was not welcomed.
Chris sighed, not knowing what it was that he had hoped to find by coming here. A family that cared perhaps. A mother that would tell him that he was welcomed and that he was loved even through his mistakes. But that family or that mother didn’t exist, not for him. There was only a fantasy of it, the fantasy of a little boy he once had been.
Chris remembered one Christmas morning that he had woken up hopefully; this Christmas would be good, even mom seemed to think so. Together with his mother and brother they had baked in the kitchen, listened to Christmas carols, and shared a few giggles. But then his father had woken, and Christmas turned black.
Men’s place was not in the kitchen! Dad had raged, dishes had been mashed and left broken on the floor, mom had started to cry and his dad eased his hangover by starting to drink again. As the day progressed it had only turned worse. Santa didn’t bring presents for such naughty children. Chris remembered sitting in the corner of his room, hands-on his ears trying desperately to silence the noise from the kitchen, the sound of arguing. Eventually, everything had turned into dreadful silence. The next morning his mother had a black eye and she had prepared breakfast without saying a word.
He had been able to flee to Adam’s house for the next few days and some Christmases after. Adam’s parents had been at least partly aware of his difficult family situation. They had tried their best to give him some sense of what Christmas should be like for a child.
The day before, Chris had happened to run into Adam’s mother in the store. Although the woman had greeted him, offering a smile, it had also been painfully clear how uncomfortable she felt in his presence. Their chat had been a forced exchange of hearings, concluded by equally forced holiday wishes.
After staring at the front entrance of his childhood home for some time, Chris sighed heavily and started the engine. No one or nothing waited for him here.
The next days he reminisced, especially the three Christmases he had gotten to spend with Joni. The last had been already plagued by his jealousy and doubts, but… The first Christmas in Finland, what Joni had given him and the days after…. Chris longed to feel that happiness once more, the happiness he had felt when their relationship had been fresh. He ached for what had been, for that sense of near to normal life, as normal as he good reach, in his mind, as a homosexual man. He had held on to it resolutely, held on to Joni. Even now he was still determined that everything good that life could offer him anymore, solely depended on Joni.
On Christmas eve he was alone. In some ways, the loneliness was more consuming now in freedom than in prison, as funny as it may have sounded. There was a whole world outside and no one held him back if he wanted to reach it. Still, it felt like there was no place to go, no direction to take, none that felt right at least.
Adam called in the morning, wishing him a merry Christmas and they talked briefly. Ryan sent him a text and Chris read the message feeling sour; sex, everything was just sex for Ryan.
He drank, opened the first bottle before noon, and listened to music wanting to shut Christmas outside.
”Five finger death punch; the bleeding” Chris scanned through pictures of Joni, conflicting emotions running through him. He wanted to be able to believe in the song lyrics; ’I’m better off without you…’ but he couldn’t.
At some time in the afternoon, he felt drunk enough to send Joni a Facebook message. “Happy Christmas, Joni.” There was a part of him that hoped that Joni would reply. As the evening progressed the sense of time faded. Bitterness took over and made him the victim of the story. Chris send another message on Joni’s account. Youtube video that had the song lyrics he had previously listened to, adding a short message that he dedicated the song to Joni.
As he got even drunker, he found more songs that described in some ways how he felt and what he felt to Joni, and he no longer had any control over what was proper. Finally, he passed out on his bed, surrounded by empty bottles.
The next morning when Misha was taking a shower, Joni checked his Facebook page. He was shocked to find the flood of messages that Chris had sent. He clicked open the videos and the tone felt quite worrying. “The lyrics are dedicated to you.” Chris had written and Joni listened to the videos, feeling the color draining from his face. ‘Five finger death punch’ seemed to be Chris’ favorite. The most worrying message was perhaps: ’watch you bleed’ that had been sent a couple of hours after the first. Joni swallowed heavily, he found himself trembling, this wasn’t over.
That same evening they were traveling to New York. Joni knew that if he now showed these messages to Misha, he’d probably get nervous and demand that they’d stay home. But what would it help?
The last song was calmer; ’Saliva, always.’ The lyrics however revealed perfectly the fact that Chris hadn’t been able to move on. Joni wasn’t sure what to do. Misha returned from the shower as the last song still played.
”What are you listening to?” He asked while drying out his hair. Joni gave an absent smile in return.
”Just browsing.” He replied, closing his tablet. He didn’t want to discuss this now. He wasn’t sure what to think about it and speaking about it out loud made the threat more real. He wanted to forget he even saw those messages, he hoped it could disappear if didn’t give it another thought. Deep down he knew it wasn’t that simple. Eventually, he would have to tell Misha, probably soon, but not now. Not until he had been able to calm himself down and progress this.
Of course, Misha could tell that something was wrong. Joni was quieter than usual, lost in his thoughts, and the excitement he had witnessed a couple of days prior, seemed to have vanished. “I slept quite poorly,” Joni gave as an excuse. ”Probably just nerves about the flight or something.” The excuse was poor, Joni had flown many times before and never suffered from flight fear. Misha decided not to pressure, he guessed that Joni’s sudden change in mood might be because of the earlier worry concerning Aki.
When they were crossing the Atlantic and Misha had fallen asleep, Joni opened his tablet. There was another message from Chris. ”I’m sorry about the messages last night, I’m lonely and… I miss you.” Joni gritted his teeth and drew a deep breath.
”Chris, you can’t contact me. As the song said; you are better off without me. I wish you no ill, I wish you to move on.” Joni thought for a second before he pressed; sent. In this situation, it felt that it was better to reply to something than to hold on to the silence. And now, all he could hope for, was that Chris would understand to stop. There was an uneasy feeling in the bottom of his stomach, something was coming and he wasn’t sure how he could prevent it.
Suvi and Adam were at the airport to greet them with their son. It was 6 pm local time when their plane landed. Misha had gotten some sleep during the flight but Joni had been far too restless for such luxury. Now he felt it, the lack of sleep made his body ache and his muscles felt heavy. It would be very early hours of the morning back at home.
“Wonderful to see you!” Suvi cheered and rushed over to give her cousin a big hug. ”How was the flight?”
”It was alright, there were hardly any air pockets.” Joni replied with a smile.
”They were checking my passport for quite long.” Misha complained. ”Luckily it was Finnish passport, I’m sure they would have taken me somewhere back had it been Russian.”
“He exaggerates,” Joni smiled and gave his fiancé an amused glance. ”They did look at my passport equally long, I assure you.”
“No they didn’t.” Misha insisted. ”When one has a Russian name you are immediately a potential criminal here.” He nodded, but smiled after. ”Fine, perhaps I am exaggerating. But I am certain that the security inspector was much friendlier to Joni. He smiled more and wished him a happy holiday. I just got handed my passport back.” Joni sighed and rolled his eyes while tapping Misha’s shoulder.
”There, there…” Then he brought his attention to Aron who was in his fathers arms and reached out to him.
“Joni, Joni!” The boy called and Adam handed the child in Joni’s arms.
“My, my, you are getting big! A big boy already!”
”Big boy.” Aaron confirmed with a firm nod.
Adam and Suvi lived in a peaceful neighborhood, outside the central area. The apartment had been arranged by Adam’s employer and the rent was included in Adam’s work contract. Joni was quite sure that otherwise rent would be sky high, but he didn’t want to pry further. The area seemed quite pleasing to live in.
”Is pizza okay? We can cook something fancier tomorrow.” Suvi suggested after they had entered their apartment.
”Sounds good.” Others agreed. Aron, who was a year and a half, was already quite quick with his foot. Excitedly, the boy showed them his new toys, while Suvi made the pizza order.
“The apartment looks great.” Joni complimented when Suvi joined them.
”Thank you, I can’t complain.” She smiled.
“How have you liked it here?” Joni asked and Suvi gave a little unsure glance to her husband.
“I think Suvi misses Canada.” Adam said, giving a small, comforting smile to his five. “Or Finland.”
”There are positive sides…” Suvi answered. “Everyone we’ve met is really friendly, but it feels… I don’t know… It doesn’t feel genuine. If someone asks how are you? Then the only reply that is expected: is good. And then they might ask where we are from, but I don’t get the feeling that they are truly interested. It might be that the problem is only in my own mind. I had friends in Canada and I feel lonely here when Adam is at work.” Suvi gazed at her son who was playing on the floor. “Aron can’t really offer deep conversations yet.” She smiled lovingly at the little boy.
Adam stroked her knee softly. ”If it starts feeling too difficult, we can always return.
”The good thing is that Chris is far!” Suvi couldn’t help herself from commenting and Joni noticed Adam looking uncomfortable after her statement. “And I guess I should try to meet other moms in this area, but taking the first approaching step is not easy for slightly introvert Finn as myself!” She then brought her gaze to Joni and Misha, looking at them thoughtfully. “I hope Chis has left you alone?” She asked and it was Joni’s turn to feel uncomfortable. He wouldn’t have wanted to have this conversation now.
“He has.” He lied, watching his godson before moving on to the floor to play with him. Misha looked at him with a slightly worrying expression, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that something wasn’t right, but it could be just jet lag that Joni was suffering from.
”Have you talked with Chris?” Misha asked Adam.
”I called him yesterday.”
”And how did he seem to you?” Misha asked and Joni remained silent, wanting to hear the answer.
”He seems to be doing ok, considering… “Adam floundered. “Christmas isn’t his favorite time of the year… Perhaps he seemed a little low on spirits, but he didn’t mention Joni.”
Misha had to bite his tongue not to say anything mean and instead he nodded. “Good that he didn’t.” Ha said instead and took a small pause before continuing. ”Has Chris ever mentioned a man called Aki Kuusisto?”He decided to ask and now Joni looked back at Adam as well. The man seemed confused.
”Aki Kuusisto?” He repeated the name as if tasting it to feel if it sounded at all familiar. “No, I think I’d remember if he had. How so?”
“He served time in prison the same time as Chris and we fear that they may have gotten to know each other there. This is only speculation, but this man is familiar to Joni’s cousin Jyri from when they were young. Some drug addict or sold drugs, or whatever. Strange guy nonetheless. Anyway, recently there’s been a couple of times when Joni has run into this guy.”
“Drug addict? Has he harassed you, Joni?” Suvi asked worriedly.
”Nothing like that.” Joni denied quickly. “Just my own paranoia I’m sure.”
“So you fear that Chris might be plotting something with this guy?” Adam asked doubtfully and Misha shrugged.
“I’m having a hard time to trust that Chris would be smart enough to leave Joni alone. We haven’t heard from him but on the other hand he hasn’t been out of prison for that long yet. When Joni went over to see him there…” Misha took a pause and glanced at his boyfriend. “Didn’t you say he threatened you?”
“Yes, but… It’s been awhile…” Joni replied meekly. It might have been a good moment to tell about the messages he had received from Chris. But it felt awkward and on the hand, what if it ruined all the possibilities for them to have a nice holiday. If he told me now, then all their time might be wasted in dealing with it.
“I can of course try to ask if Chris knows him?” Adam suggested. “But… I have gotten the impression that Chris really tries his best to move on. When he was arrested, I admit that he was quite bitter and that the way he talked about Joni made me worried. Lately he has seemed to do a lot better emotionally, apart from the dejection I hear from him at times. Chris has lost many friends…”
“So it can be just silly speculation.” Joni interrupted with a smile and felt thankful when the doorbell interrupted the conversation from continuing further.
”Pizza is here, I’ll go and get it.” Adam said and got up.
The next day they spent mostly resting, but they also took a walk to see the neighborhood better. The snow had fallen a few days earlier and since it was a couple degrees below zero the grounds were still white. It was beautiful, different from what Joni had pictured to find in the New York area.
“Tomorrow we go shopping!” He proclaimed during their walk.
”Aa, now I understand why you managed with just one luggage!” Suvi laughed. ”It was so unlike you.”
”I fear it’s a full day in the city.” Misha sighed.
”Now, don’t worry, I promise we’ll do more than just shopping.” Joni assured.
”I believe it when I see it.” Misha smiled back.
In the evening they were preparing dinner when Joni’s dad called. Joni went into the guest room to talk while Misha stayed in the kitchen with Suvi and Adam.
Joni praised New York to his father and the apartment Suvi and Adam lived in. He said that they were going shopping the next day. And his father couldn’t help but to give his usual warning to be careful; New York must have been filled with thief’s, and dubious people, terrorists and what not. They should also stay clear from dubious neighborhoods. His dad had already given similar warning before they left, but obviously he just couldn’t help not to repeat them. Joni decided not to mention that he was planning to take Misha to some club as well, a gay club! It probably would have caused unnecessary worry for his dad.
Joni ended the call and placed his phone on the nightstand before heading out. But the phone started to ring again before he had left the room, sighing he turned back to see who it was. There was only a number and the area code was not from Finland. It took him a moment to realize it was from Canada. His heart rate increased immediately and he stared at his phone feeling momentarily paralysed. The call ended before he had made the decision on whether he should reply or not. He found himself trembling and realized he should try and calm down before joining the others. He sat down on the bed.
It took only a moment until the phone started ringing again. Joni swallowed before reaching for it. If he didn’t reply now, he would spend the whole evening worrying if he should have. And if it was Chris, then he might call persistently until he’d reply. “Hello…” His voice quivered slightly, sounded uncertain. Normally he would have replied with his whole name to a number unfamiliar to him.
“Joni…” The voice on the other end said and made cold shivers run through his spine.
“You shouldn’t be calling me.” Joni whispered.
“And still you replied.” Chris took note and for a moment they were both silent.
“Where did you even get my number?” Joni wondered, he had changed the number and listed it secret after Chris’ arrest.
“I looked at it from Adam’s phone when he was here, he didn’t know I took it.” Chris lied after a moment of silence.. “I miss you…” He added and Joni felt quite certain that the man was drunk.
”Don’t say that…” Joni sighed and looked out from the window to the street that was lit by warm street lights. “You have a restraining order, it means no phone calls and messages too…” He managed to add.
“It feels so good to hear your voice.” Chris said and Joni gritted his teeth, still trembling.
“Did you not hear what I said?” He asked and for a moment Chris was silent.
“You replied, you must have known it was me.”
“You have to understand…” Joni started.
”I’m so fucking lonely.” Chris interrupted. ”I can’t get you out of my head.” For a moment Joni couldn’t bring himself to reply. His fears were coming true. And if it now would also be proven true that Chris knew Aki… Joni tried to find courage to ask, but finally he couldn’t because he didn’t know how to ask it.
“You can’t contact me anymore, okay? Otherwise I’ll have to report you to the police.” He said instead. “I wish you no ill. I hope that you get your life in order.”
”You’ve taken everything from me, Joni…”
”Chris, stop…. You need to move forward. You and I will never exist again. You must understand that! I’ll hang up now.” Joni took the phone down from his ear and ended the call. He still felt shaken and upset. It was useless trying to talk with Chris further. The conversation would lead nowhere.
Joni silenced his phone and placed it back on the nightstand. He had to breathe deep for a while, and had to collect himself. Only a moment passed when he heard a small knock from the door before it opened. Misha looked at him.
“Dinner is ready.” He informed, gazing at his fiancé, sensing that something was off with him. ”Is everything alright?”
“Yes.” Joni nodded and got up. He managed a smile and hid the worry from his face. ”Dad just had a lot to say. Sini also wanted to remind me to bring her a new doll.” It felt bad to lie, but Joni didn’t want to tell Misha yet that he had spoken with Chris. He knew how Misha would react. On the other hand he also knew that he couldn’t keep it a secret for long. Misha would react even worse if he heard it from somewhere else.
The next day they went shopping like planned. Joni was able to distract himself from thinking about last night’s phone call. He had wanted to visit New York for years and now he was finally there with the man he loved.
Busy streets, tall buildings, so different from Helsinki. And the stores! He loved the stores! He had made plans on which of them he wanted to visit and Misha followed quite obediently. Misha browsed through the clothes as well for himself but too often he was shocked by the price tags. He had thought that it was expensive in Finland, but… On the other hand, Joni seemed to choose stores that sold brand clothes, so it explained the prices. And Joni clearly loved the attention and the help that he was given by the staff.
Finally Misha sat down to wait when Joni tried on the clothes that pleased his eye. He felt amused by the excitement, the someway vain part that before he had thought he loathed. Spoiled brat, who had an expensive taste and who thought it important to look good. It didn’t annoy him now, somehow seeing it calmed him and brought him joy. Joni had been so stressed out lately and now he had obviously been able to forget his worries for this moment. He was able to enjoy the fashion and how the staff waited on him, being very polite and friendly to them as well.
Joni was able to keep some sense in his shopping and didn’t spend as big a fortune as Misha had feared. “I had to save some money for the surprise I arranged for you.” Joni explained when Misha had decided to joke about it.
”Surprise?” Misha questioned.
” Yes. We’re not going to Suvi’s and Adam’s tonight. I booked a room for us, where we are going to have mind blowing sex after we first go to dinner and then to a club, or two, depending on our mood.”
“Mmh… Could we just… Go there, have mind blowing sex, order dinner in and do it again?” Misha grinned and his hand lowered on Joni’s bottom as they walked, causing the younger man to snigger and move his hand discreetly away, allowing their hands momentarily to hold each other.
Misha had seen other gay couples. One male couple who had been slightly older than them, had walked past holding hands and no one had really paid attention to them, part from him that was. On the other hand, there were so many more peculiar by passers on the streets of New York that perhaps it was no wonder that the people didn’t pay much attention to two men who were more than friends.
They wouldn’t have walked hand in hand at home. No one might not have said anything there, but there would at least be staring and glaring, snickering maybe? That or the people noticing but trying their best to look elsewhere. People were more and more accepting, but total equality was still something that needed work.
“You have to be patient, Misha. I want to enjoy a full New York experience.” Joni told him.
“Of course. And I want you to have the full experience.” Misha grinned.
The evening was enjoyable. Refreshing first at the hotel. Joni changes into his new clothes. Dinner at a nice restaurant and then to the club that Joni had picked out before after reading recommendations.
The place was big and full. Loud music and flashing lights, men of different ages and appearances. “I think Cosme would find himself quite at home here.” Joni took note after they entered. Most were normal looking, clothing wise at least. But here and there there could be seen men who clearly looked for attention with their odd appearances. Misha took Joni’s hand in fear that he’d otherwise lose him in the crowd. They headed towards the bar, receiving curious looks and smiles on their way.
“Is there anywhere we can sit?” Misha wondered looking around, a drink in his hands. In reality he wasn’t really in the mood for clubbing. He would have been happy going back to the hotel and simply enjoying Joni’s company. And of course the mind blowing sex he had promised.
“Hm, it doesn’t look good.” Joni admitted, looking around. Misha stood right behind him, trying to shield his boyfriend from too curious hands perhaps. Soon Joni noticed Misha startling behind him and turned. “What is it?”
“Someone pinched my ass!” Misha huffed and looked around looking offended. Joni grinned.
“Oh my… It seems it should be I who should protect you perhaps? I do have to agree that your ass is, after all, quite irresistible.” Joni said while turning around to kiss him. “But it belongs to me, doesn’t it?” He added and brought his hand to pinch him.
“It does, no one else is allowed to touch it.” Misha agreed with a grin and took a sip of his drink, again he scanned the place for a free table and found one. He took Joni’s hand and let him to it.
They finished their drinks, snuggling side by side, kissing each other, foreplay towards what was promised later. They headed towards the dance floor. Misha didn’t really pay any attention to others in the club. His focus was solely on Joni.
“I want you…” He breathed in the brunet’s ear while they danced.
“I want you too…” Joni admitted.
“Then can’t we just go…”
“You are torturing me…”
“It’s fun…” Joni admitted looking back at him.
“Evil…” Misha leaned down to kiss him.
Two men approached them, said that they were a couple as well. Two young Americans, around their age, one was a student and the other worked real estate. They were friendly and offered them drinks. For a while they both enjoyed the company, but then …
The initiative to group sex was given so bluntly, so outspokenly as if they were asking them for a cup of coffee. It was normal, they said, exciting! And the other man’s hand found its way on Joni’s thigh, rubbing it suggestively.
Joni was startled. He hadn’t expected it and wanted to leave. The two apologized, saying they had meant no harm, they had just gotten the wrong vibe. The apology was sincere, Joni realized it and they made no more fuss about it.
Joni however lost his mood for clubbing and Misha certainly had no objections in returning to the hotel. Joni felt uncomfortable. The two may not have meant no harm, but the suggestion and the idea of the suggestion… It brought the unwanted and troubling thoughts about Chris to his mind.
Misha sensed the shift of mood in Joni. He was quiet during the taxi ride back and when they got to the hotel room. Joni tried to act like it was nothing. They kissed, but it still felt that something was wrong.
Joni tried to undress Misha’s shirt, kiss him again, but his mind… His mind wasn’t in it. It felt like he was simply trying to carry out the earlier promise of a hot night.
Misha took hold of Joni’s wrists and stopped him. “Your mind is somewhere far… And as much as I want you, I only want you when you’re fully here with me.”
Joni looked up at him. “I am here… I am…” He insisted. But Misha saw the struggle, the light glow in his eyes that told he was close to tears and trying so hard to fight them.
Joni’s mind played out the tunes that Chris had sent him. The words he had spoken on the phone and earlier… The threats from the past. And what if Chris really was involved with Aki.
“No, you are not. Please tell me what’s going on? I can tell that something is going on. I know you too well by now.”
“I didn’t want it to ruin our holiday… I didn’t want him to ruin this!” Joni burst into tears. “I’m sorry…”
Misha, feeling confused, pulled Joni close to him. “It’s okay… Tell me.” He asked and for a moment he simply held Joni in his arms feeling him tremble.
”I hate him!” Joni cried. ”Why does he have to ruin this! I just wanted to enjoy this and you! And it was supposed to be a new start!… I’m sorry…”
“Stop apologizing. Just tell me what’s happened.” Joni gave him a miserable look
“Chris contacted me.” He finally confessed.
”When?” Misha asked worriedly.
”On Christmas eve… I got facebook messages from him and then last night, after I talked with dad, he called.”
”Fuck…” Misha cursed. He was so fed up with that asshole. “What did he want?”
Joni explained the main points of the messages and of the call, after Misha had walked him over to the bed to take a seat.
” He’s stepped out of line. I’ll call him!” Misha decided and took out his phone. “Give me his number?”
“Don’t.” Joni asked and placed his hand on Misha’s “It’s late, you’re agitated and… we should both calm down before doing anything rash.”
Misha was still feeling agitated and angry, but he did his best to calm down, knowing his anger was not what Joni needed now.
”Please, from now on, don’t keep me in the dark. Tell me immediately if he contacts you again. We should also inform the cops” He breathed tensely. ”I won’t let anything bad happen to you, I swear it.
Joni took his hand and pulled him to sit down with him. “I know that you’d do anything for me.” Joni said. “He will let this go, he must.” He added and placed a soft kiss on Misha’s cheek. He felt better now that he had told Misha. He should have told him straight away, but it was easier said than done.
That night they fell asleep in each other’s arms. And when the morning woke them, they made love, soft and sweet. Somehow everything would turn out good, they had no choice but to believe in it.
Please review *_*
Links to the song that were mentioned