“Dad still thinks I was with Ivo back then…” Joni whispered. It was almost midnight, the sky outside was dark because of the thunderstorm that had sneaked up upon them. Misha had spent most of his day with Joni, who now seemed to have difficulties falling asleep. Misha had lit a few candles and a lamp that worked with batteries. He noticed how Joni trembled slightly every time the sky lit up and heavy thunder followed.
“He does?” Misha asked, watching him and smiling slightly, “perhaps he should learn the truth? You know, to clean Ivo’s name and all, unless…”
“Unless what?” Joni asked attempting to snuggle deeper under the covers when again the whole room was lit momentarily by the bright light from outside.
“Does it scare you? The storm?” Misha asked instead.
“No, don’t be ridiculous.”
There was another loud, heavy rumble that seemed to shake the roof. Misha glanced outside and then at Joni; his eyes were closed, his hand squeezed the cover in his fist.
“Ah, perhaps I’m being a little ridiculous then, you know, because I’m a little scared…”
Joni opened his eyes, both the one he could open completely and the swollen one that only opened halfway.
“I didn’t know it was possible for you to get scared,” Joni wanted to grin but it came out weak.
Misha shrugged, brought his hand upon his chin, two fingers covering his lips in an attempt to cover a small grin.
“Perhaps it’s because nature is something I just can’t control.” He finally replied and clearly saw the reflection of Joni’s eyes that indicated that the younger male found his reply amusing, which was good. “It’s a shame really.” He sighed. “I feel quite uneasy here.”
“Want me to hold your hand?” Joni whispered.
Misha hesitated, watching him. Joni moved carefully on the bed, his hand reaching out to tap the spot next to him.
“Perhaps it would help?” Misha said as he stood up and approached the bed. Perhaps it could calm Joni? He wondered somehow hoping that his proximity could do that, it would mean a big deal to Misha if he was honest. The worst scenario was that his presence would just make Joni uneasy and scared. Dima’s bed wasn’t as big as his own, but still wide enough to lie beside another person and still have a bit of space in between.
He smiled as he leaned forward to arrange the cover better on Joni before lying down next to him on his side making sure that there was some space between them. He observed Joni’s reaction carefully, ready to get up if there were any signs of discomfort.
“I’m not scared of you.” Joni whispered, sensing what the other was wondering and reached out with his hand to take Misha’s before closing his eyes.
“I’m glad that you aren’t.” Misha whispered still looking at Joni’s face carefully while his thumb gently caressed the youth’s palm. “How are you feeling? I mean, are you hurting much? Should I bring you something?”
“It hurts, but… there’s nothing more that you can do, your presence is enough.”
The touch of their hands was so innocent and tender, Misha thought, watching the slender hand that held his softly. He took note of the bruise around Joni’s wrist and the hand-shaped bruise on his arm. Joni’s eyes were closed again, only their joined hands touched and nothing more.
“You’re really feeling ok, with me here?” Misha asked observing him and Joni cracked his eyes open.
“Yeah,” He tried to smile, “I told you I’m not scared of you… and I don’t want you to be scared of the storm.” Joni’s eyes closed again, a small smile tugged on the corners of his lips.
Misha smiled watching him, wondering if Joni saw through his little white lie. The storm didn’t scare him, what had happened to Joni and what had almost happened; his possible death scared him, Chris had scared him….
He felt better lying there next to Joni now, it felt weird too, weird because of the emotions that had awoken in him, emotions so new that he didn’t quite know how to handle them; his little bruised brat – he thought, feeling the urge to bring his hand to stroke Joni’s hair, to hold him a little bit closer to feel his heart beat and… it was strange… so strange… All he knew for certain was how much he wanted to keep the other safe, staying close to him felt like the best way to ensure it. He stayed like that, holding Joni’s hand and watching him in the darkness that was broken by the soft candle light. He just couldn’t help but wonder how Chris could have hurt Joni so badly. He had never really realised how fragile Joni could be; sleeping there next to him, as hurt as he was… It was somehow endearing how his hand still held his as if it was the most natural thing there was; how odd.
After some time Misha got up, reluctantly letting go of Joni, who had already fallen asleep. He blew the candles out, turned the lamp off and then returned to the bed as quietly as he could.
It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep as well.
But like the previous night, Misha woke to the frightened whimpering, it was 3 am, Joni’s hand was squeezing the sheet as he tossed restlessly, cold sweat on his forehead. Misha reached to touch him gently.
“Joni, wake up,” he said nudging him softly again. “Just a nightmare, it’s alright.” Misha explained as soon as Joni’s eyes had opened. He reached his hand to stroke his damp hair back, Joni’s breathing was still fast and his gaze confused.
The storm had faded, but it was still raining slowly. Joni looked around the room and then back at Misha, at first slightly confused about why Misha was in the bed with him, but while he lied under the covers the other man lied beside him fully clothed.
“He came here and I was alone, I couldn’t get up, I tried but I couldn’t move.” Joni whispered and felt Misha’s hand move softly along his arm now.
“He’s arrested, Joni, he wouldn’t be able to come near you now, besides, we wouldn’t even leave you alone here. If I’m not home then Ivo will be. If neither of us can be for some reason then Dima will come here.”
Joni sighed, “I don’t want to make your lives complicated like this, I can manage alone too. It’s my imagination, he won’t get out…right?” He asked and Misha could read the true worry in him.
“He won’t get out Joni, he won’t hurt you again.” Misha assured, watching him closely. “And it’s alright to be frightened after what you’ve been through. The truth is that you are hurt, you need a little help and with these nightmares you’re having I think it would be unnecessary stress for you to stay alone.”
Joni was silent, looking away from him and Misha again moved his hand to his hair.
“What are you thinking?” Misha asked carefully.
“About Chris…” Joni whispered, “I don’t want to think about him, but I can’t help it… What will happen to him now?”
Misha frowned, “Well, hopefully he gets deported and serves a long sentence in Canada. That would be somewhat fair.”
“Will they deport him?” Joni stared at the ceiling, “He’s mad at me, he’ll blame me… for everything and…”
“I’ll be surprised if they don’t give him a restraining order.” Misha told him.
“I hate being weak like this.” Joni sighed then.
“I know and you’re not weak, just your body needs to recover now, I know you’ll come through this and show that asshole.” Joni turned to look at Misha. He was still worried and confused over everything that had happened, over Chris, it was difficult to understand that it was really over, that he wouldn’t have to be near Chris anymore.
Looking at Misha he wondered what the man really thought of him now, what he would think after learning more details? After knowing about the pictures? His lips parted, almost whispering the words out to him, the truth that frightened him, but the words got stuck to his throat. Would Misha blame him? Be disgusted? Could Misha ever truly look at him again like he had that night? Could anyone? There were too many questions that made him insecure.
“What is it?” Misha asked with concern over his voice noticing his hesitation.
Joni swallowed, “Nothing,” he whispered and closed his eyes. “It hurts… I want this pain to stop.”
Misha caressed his hair softly, “Do you need anything?”
“No… I’ll just… try to get more sleep.” He whispered softly.
Misha lied still next to him, listening to the rain outside and watching Joni wondering what he was still hiding, hoping that he would start opening up more about his past relationship.
In the morning the clouds had slowly started to break up, revealing rays of sun. Misha stirred awake next to Joni who was still sleeping. Lying still for a moment, Misha watched the dark haired male next to him, listening to his breathing which was calmer now, if he was dreaming perhaps his dreams were more peaceful. Finally he pulled himself up as quietly as he could and stretched his sore muscles, a hot shower, perhaps some breakfast and then he could return to check on Joni who would hopefully remain sleeping a little longer.
It was 10am when he got into the kitchen after a rather long shower and a fresh change of clothes. The first thing he noticed was the lovely smell of fresh coffee that instantly filled his nostrils and made him head straight towards the coffee pot.
“How’s our patient doing?” Ivo, who was reading a newspaper in front of the table, asked, turning his eyes to him.
“Sleeping, had a bit of a restless night, the storm and he had nightmares too, woke me up a few times.” Misha answered covering a yawn with his hand.
“You spent the whole night with him again?”
“Yes, because I know he has nightmares of that asshole, I don’t want him waking up scared and alone.” Misha almost snapped, opened the fridge and took out the milk, pouring some in his coffee cup.
“Misha… don’t get so defensive, I didn’t mean anything bad by it.”
Misha glanced at him from over his shoulder and sighed. “I’ve just learned to get defensive with you… You and your insinuations.”
Ivo sighed looking at him.
“Okay… I’ll try to tone it down.” He promised and took a short pause. “The cops will come over today, to talk with Joni, around noon.”
Misha checked the time again before sitting down and nodded, “I should make him some breakfast.” He rested his chin against his arms. “I really don’t feel like going to work tomorrow…”
“Well, your holiday won’t be that far away.” Ivo smiled gently. “Want me to prepare you some sandwiches?” He asked then observing him.
“Hm… this is a first.” Misha gave a tired grin, “I’m trying to remember when you last offered to make me breakfast.”
“It wasn’t that long ago… I made you plenty of breakfasts when you were a teen, a hung over teen.” Ivo grinned and got up. “Joni’s throat must still be sore?” He asked going to the fridge.
“I think so, his voice is still a little odd… and hey, don’t make it sound like I was hung over all the time.”
“Well, often enough at least,” Ivo teased glancing at him. “Okay, so something not so solid for Joni…”
“He seemed to like the smoothies I made for him yesterday… I can make one for him.”
“So I should just make the sandwiches for you?” Ivo asked with small amusement, “Yes, I think yours would taste to him better.”
Misha glared at Ivo, “Just to let you know, you’re doing it again.” He sighed. “And honestly I’m a little scared of leaving you with him tomorrow, your sense of humour, your perverted sense of humour is not what he needs right now.” Misha reminded him and took a sip of his coffee.
Ivo smiled and set a small plate with two ham and cheese sandwiches in front of Misha.
“I am very aware of what he’s been through.” He said in a more serious tone, filling his coffee cup. “And despite what you may think I’m not stupid enough to upset him with my jokes.”
Misha picked one of the sandwiches watching his older brother and finally he nodded.
Ivo sat down on his previous seat. Misha stared at the table while eating lost in his thoughts.
“What are you thinking?” Ivo asked carefully, holding the warm cup between both of his hands.
Misha shrugged at first, “Well…” He started, “I just wish I knew why… why was he with him? And to be honest I fear the details he’s still hiding.”
“You can’t expect him to trust you enough to pour his heart out to you yet.” Ivo said quietly, “Thinking of what his relationship was like is enough reason for him to have some mistrust. And considering the past between you two, well give him time, I’m sure he’ll talk eventually.”
The sun was shining again; a soft summer breeze from the open window caressed his face softly. Joni lay awake, staring at the wall; Misha had brought him breakfast earlier and had also let him know that the cops were soon going to visit. It unnerved him, even though he knew that they would try and help him, but he was still nervous about what would be expected of him.
He went through all the details in his mind, everything from the beginning, couldn’t stop thinking about it, about Chris, about the change. He felt tears slowly gathering in his eyes, remembering the way Chris had once been, remembering the beginning hurt as well, he wanted to understand but couldn’t, wished that he could somehow ask and get the answers from the man that Chris had once been.
It was too confusing, he wanted to let go but couldn’t, why the sudden longing? It made no sense and it disgusted him. He had to let go, the memory of Chris was fake, maybe he had been just too blind in the beginning? He wanted to talk with Adam, suddenly the need became intense; he needed to talk with Adam to understand Chris.
A knock on the door.
First he saw Misha who opened the door to let in a man and a woman,
“Good afternoon Mr. Lehto.”
Cops, wearing civilian clothes, Joni’s heart started to beat nervously and he looked towards Misha hoping he would stay.
“We came to ask you some questions about what happened to you, about your relationship with Mr. Hanratty.”
Joni moved to sit up slightly and nodded.
“Yes, I understand.” He whispered, glancing at Misha again, perhaps after all it was better if he left? He wasn’t sure just how much he needed to tell these people.
The two people walked further in, middle aged, normal looking people, Misha offered them a seat.
“We would like to talk with Mr. Lehto alone.” The woman said, a small smile on her lips; comforting, her partner was more serious looking, tired, perhaps.
“Of course.” Misha nodded, glanced at Joni, and left the room. The door closed, Joni felt uncomfortable on the bed, it didn’t seem proper to talk with cops like this, he wished he could have bathed first, hoped that he could…
“We have talked with your family and your neighbours and with Mr. Hanratty, we just need more details that only you can give. Just relax, this shouldn’t take too long.”
Joni nodded, he didn’t feel self confident, he wondered what Chris had told them, had he blamed it all on him? Told them that he was a slut? Told them he cheated and acted coldly? Tried to justify his actions? Or perhaps he had denied everything? Had he told them that he was willing when…?
“Were you in agreement with Mr. Hanratty when you left to the cabin on June 17th?”
“No, I didn’t want to go. I- I tried to break up our relationship… before.”
“Mr Hanratty claims that you left in agreement, that you did have a quarrel that involved Mr. Volochov and your intention was to try and solve it?”
“We did quarrel about Misha…” Joni paused, “Mr. Volochov…” It felt weird calling him by his surname. “I didn’t want to go because Chris… I knew what would happen and I was right.”
“Did Mr. Volochov harm you physically?”
Joni frowned at this, “No, Chris did.”
“Mr. Hanratty claims you had willing sexual intercourse, is this true?”
“No,” he replied tensely, “he abused and me then he… “ Joni paused, he felt nauseous, “I didn’t want it, I was too weak to push him off.”
“Did Mr. Hanratty harm you physically before June 17th?”
“Yes.” Joni whispered, feeling more and more uncomfortable.
“Now, can you tell us in your own words what happened on June 17th?” The voice was gentle, calming, Joni took a deep breath before starting to go over that day, trying to be as honest as he could.
Half an hour later they had left, Joni felt nauseous and restless; there would be a trial – he thought. There was no way Chris would admit to everything. He would have to face Chris in court and Chris would be so mad at him and…
A soft knock on the door, Joni couldn’t find his voice, but he didn’t need to, the door opened slowly and Misha peeked in before stepping further inside.
“Hey, everything alright?” He asked.
Joni shook his head, didn’t look at him, he placed his hands over his stomach; it felt difficult to breathe.
“I need a bath…” He whispered.
“What?” Misha came closer, he hadn’t really heard him.
“I need a bath.” Joni repeated and tried to get up.
“Hey, hold on there…” Misha reached to help him, “are you sure you want one now?”
“Okay, okay…just let me help you.”
“I want to go alone…” Joni who had gotten up to his feet tried to push him off weakly.
“No Joni, you can’t.” Misha told him calmly, holding the younger male close whose body was trembling all over, his breathing was fast, Misha could feel his heart racing.
“Let go… I need a bath, alone!” Then it was tears that followed.
Misha wrapped his arms around him, holding him against his chest, his hand going to his hair.
“Just calm down now, shhh… it’s alright, calm down Joni.” He spoke in a smooth, calming voice, holding him like that until Joni finally relaxed slightly.
“You’re okay now?” He asked and the other one nodded slowly.
“I still want that bath though…”
“Alright, I’ll take you downstairs if you promise to let me help you?”
Small moment of silent hesitation, “If it’s necessary,” came the quiet answer.
“It is. I don’t want you to slip there and hurt yourself further.”
“You just want an excuse to see me naked,” Joni joked a bit tiredly making Misha grin; joking was a good sign.
“Well it’s the plus side in it.” Misha smiled looking down at Joni, “but don’t be scared, I won’t try anything.”
Joni sniffed wiping the tears away, before he nodded his head with a weak smile, “I’m not that attractive now, anyway…”
“The bruises will heal, Joni, just let us help you. And now….” Misha leaned down and picked him up. “Downstairs, the bathtub is there…. and just relax now, no arguing.”
Joni sighed. “No arguing.” He promised.
Misha slowly started carrying Joni down. “Ivo, fill up the bath!” He called before slowly starting to climb down the stairs. “Damn, this is difficult…” He muttered to himself, trying to be as careful as he could in order to not fall down.
Joni still felt slightly silly being carried in this manner, but he didn’t try and argue, he felt too exhausted, he wanted a bath, and he wanted the pain to end and the memories to disappear.
Once Misha made it to downstairs, he carried Joni to the living room couch.
“Okay just wait here, I’ll check the bath.”
Ivo walked out of the bathroom, “The water is running,” he told Misha and glanced towards the living room. “How is he?”
“He’s little shaken up after the cops.” Misha sighed.
Ivo nodded, “Poor kid… Okay, I’ll go prepare some soup for him.”
Once the bath was ready Misha walked back to get Joni. He lowered him to the floor carefully. “Okay, I’m going to help you undress now, you’re okay with that?” He asked.
“No,” Joni sighed, “but I’ll try to deal…”
“Good, you’re safe with me, no worries okay?”
Joni only nodded a bit stiffly and looked away when Misha helped him to undress his t-shirt.
Misha gritted his teeth slightly when seeing the bruises on Joni’s chest and sides that were now a darker shade and looked rather painful, making him slightly amazed that Joni wasn’t complaining about the pain more.
“Can you turn? I don’t want you to look.” Joni asked.
“Okay, of course,” Misha replied, turning around, his back against Joni who then stripped his pants, letting them fall on the floor around his ankles before carefully stepping out and approaching the tub. The only problem was climbing in; his body protested every big movement and so far his only movement during his stay had been between the bedroom and the toilet that was next to Dima’s room.
“I’m going to turn around now Joni and help you in, alright; I won’t look down, okay?”
Joni sighed, again feeling silly, uncomfortable, his heart was racing. “Okay,” he finally whispered and heard the other moving closer.
“Relax, ok, carefully now,” Misha spoke gently helping him into the tub and then sit down in the warm water with bubbles that he had added to make Joni more comfortable.
Misha then took the sponge carefully starting to wash him, “Your heart is racing,” he took note, touching Joni’s chest carefully, “try to relax, everything is fine.”
“I feel stupid,” Joni whispered, “and…naked…”
Misha smiled, continuing to run the sponge down on his skin. “You’re not stupid, but you are naked.”
“I don’t like you seeing me like this, you shouldn’t.”
“See you naked? Taking a bath?” Misha pretended to be clueless, just wanting to lighten up the mood.
“Bruised… weak… I feel like… an old guy.”
“Just relax now, I know you feel strange, but you know it makes me feel better to be able to help you now…” He looked at Joni’s face, “What did the cops ask?”
“Just… what happened…” Joni swallowed, “Chris… he’s blaming you.”
Misha shrugged, “He’s desperate… But it won’t safe him.” He said, carefully wetting Joni’s hair before taking some shampoo to wash it.
“I want to believe it’s over, but it’s not… not yet…it’s not that easy…”
Misha paused, “What did he do, Joni?” He asked then, “What did he do to make you stay that long?”
Joni shook his head, “Not now,” he said, “Not here,” his voice pleaded softly. Misha could see he was starting to panic again.
“Okay, not here, calm down now. I’ll rinse the shampoo off.”
Joni nodded keeping his eyes closed and trying to calm down, focusing on the gentle touch, the sound of water running down on his skin.
“I would hate for you to get in trouble for me.” Joni whispered after a while.
“Trust me Joni, it won’t happen, I was defending you and myself from him and he’s the one who was crazy. They will see that.”
“I just want to forget… to erase everything… “He hid his face from Misha, “I wish I could understand…why…”
Misha felt unsure what to say, he wanted to comfort him but wasn’t sure what the right words were.
“Some people are just good at hiding their true nature…” He finally whispered, “I know its difficult now, I know you’re hurting, but trust me, it will get better, once he gets his punishment you’ll get to start over. And I have every faith that you’ll succeed. ”
Joni sighed and brought his head up before nodding. He felt weird like this, with Misha washing him, with Misha being so gentle and caring towards him, he couldn’t help but wonder how all this would affect the image that Misha had of him. If he thought with reason; all this meant that Misha really had started to care for him, but still his emotions were such a mess that it was difficult to truly believe that. Perhaps Misha was just trying to make up the past? He wasn’t sure, he didn’t want to think, just wanted to go to sleep and wake up to find the whole episode with Chris just a bad nightmare.
“I’m tired…” Joni whispered after some time.
“Alright, you’re clean now anyway, I’ll help you up.” Misha smiled and reached to take the fresh towel.
“Misha?” Joni asked, slowly standing up taking support from Misha who held out the towel for him.
“Do you think we could watch some comedy now?” He asked, “I don’t feel like going to bed, it’s boring.”
“Sure we can.” Misha smiled, and wrapped the towel around Joni and then reached to lift him out from the tub. “I know a few good ones, you can pick one of them.”
“Thanks.” Joni smiled and sighed once he was lowered onto the floor. “I guess I need some help with my clothes.” He admitted holding on to the towel and shivering slightly from cold.
Misha smiled, kneeled on the floor and helped Joni put his sweatpants back on, once he was done he urged him to lift his arms to be able to slip the t-shirt on him. Joni’s hair was still dripping wet so he gently used the towel to dry it a little bit more.
“Alright, let’s go to the living room then, get you some rest and some light entertainment.” Misha said before picking him up again.
“You know, you don’t have to carry me everywhere,” Joni reminded him.
“I know,” Misha grinned, “but I want to.” He said and continued his way into the living room, Joni couldn’t help but to smile, he wasn’t ready to admit it out loud, but being this close to Misha did make him feel safe.
Web published: August 19th, 2009.
My Secret Shore