-The stupid tabloids.-
”Have you ever tasted sushi before?” Misha asked as he set the takeout bag on the kitchen counter. The younger man approached and shook his head before taking a seat in front of the table.
”But I have the feeling that I’m about to experience my first time.” The brunet grinned. Misha glanced at him, smiling with amusement as he took two plates from the cabinet.
”Always happy to serve you with your first time experiences,” he said, having a brief flashback of the very special first time that they had shared years before. Their eyes met and the way Joni smiled at him made him feel the warmth in his chest that he had felt often lately around him. So far they had been successful with taking things slow, two weeks had passed and they had seen each other almost daily. Joni would come over and they would watch a film or take a short walk, sit outside on the backyard having a small picnic, enjoying a beer or two, sometimes talking, at other times just being silent. Even those silent moments between them felt comfortable and easy.
On the outside Joni looked and seemed fine, without knowing it was impossible to guess what he had gone through less than two months ago. It was the one thing that they hadn’t really talked about during those two weeks. Misha wasn’t sure how to approach the subject, but he also knew that he’d be fooling himself if he thought that things could continue on this seemingly peaceful path. Joni didn’t want to talk about Chris, or the trial, that was one thing that was clear, yet as the days passed Misha could recognize the growing worry and fear behind the brown eyes that he had grown so attached to.
Misha set the plates on the table serving the sushi. ”You seriously have never eaten sushi before?” He asked pouring some mineral water for them both. Joni again shook his head.
”Nope, I tried to suggest once to my parents that we could go eat in a sushi restaurant but Dad was quite reluctant. And then one time with…” Joni kept a small pause as he had been about to mention his ex.
”Chris?” Misha guessed from the look on Joni’s face and the younger man nodded. ”He didn’t want to either?” Misha asked as calmly as he could since Chris wasn’t an easy subject for himself to talk about, either.
”Yeah… He said he didn’t do raw fish, said that it’s crazy and he refused to try…” Joni shrugged and took the chopsticks frowning and wondering how one was supposed to use them.
”Well he’s a stupid man,” Misha concluded. The blonde took his own chopsticks and observed the youth who obviously had no clue how to use them. Misha couldn’t help but chuckle. ”Need some help?” Joni sighed.
”Can’t I just use a fork? Or… my fingers?”
”Now what if I want to take you to Japan someday? Would you then request a fork there?” Misha teased.
”Yes, and they better get me one,” Joni nodded. ”So you plan to take me to Japan? Is that why we’re having this sushi meal?”
”It might be fun to travel there one day, my friend just got back from there and she said she loved the place.” Misha picked one sushi piece and ate it while watching Joni who had given up on trying using the chopsticks and ate with his fingers. ”Like it?” He asked.
Joni chewed the piece carefully and then took a sip of water. ”It was okay.”
”Just okay? Try dipping it in soy-sauce.”
”So you really love your sushi, huh?” Joni asked taking another nigiri piece and dipping it in the dark brown sauce.
”Yes I like it; it’s one of my favorite dishes.”
”Funny. Never thought you were a sushi loving guy,” Joni grinned.
”Oh, and why is that?” Misha asked, tilting his head.
”You just don’t look like it.” Joni answered and Misha chuckled.
”How is one supposed to look?”
”Hmmm…. Asian?” Joni grinned and then his gaze landed on the small green ball on his plate. ”What’s this?” He asked and already took a small piece of it.
”Joni, I-” But before Misha had time to stop him Joni had already tasted it and the look on the brunet’s face was priceless.
”The hell!” Joni shrieked and quickly emptied his water glass, his eyes had started to water and he reached for the water bottle. Misha knew he shouldn’t laugh but he couldn’t help it. Joni’s cursing and his gestures were just too amusing to watch.
”It was wasabi,” Misha was finally able to say after calming down a bit, he wiped the corners of his eyes and offered the brunet some bread. ”This might help.”
Joni glared at the blond. ”Evil…” He muttered, still feeling the slight burn on his tongue. ”You should have warned me!” He said and took a small piece of bread, pouting at the taller man.
”I tried, you were too fast!” Misha grinned.
”And stop laughing!” Joni kicked his feet under the table.
”Ouch,” Misha said, though Joni hadn’t kicked him hard, it didn’t really even hurt. He found the younger man disturbingly cute now that he was pouting like this, chewing small pieces of the bread and glaring at him like some sort of criminal.
”Evil Japanese… evil wasabi… who in their right minds would want to eat that?”
”Well, I’m pretty sure one is not supposed to eat it like you did,” Misha grinned. ”Rather with the sushi, to give a nice kick to it,” he added and winked at the upset Finn.
”A nice kick? My mouth is on fire!” Joni snapped and took another bite of the bread, finding that the burning started to ease.
”Awww… My poor little Finn is not used to spices; want me to kiss it better?”
”No, it’s your fault. And I am used to spices, but that one was just…. EVIL!” Joni said and gave a firm nod. ”And I’m not going to Japan with you, because you are evil too!”
”Won’t you?” Misha asked. ”Aww… Come on… It was only some wasabi… ” He said and got up, approaching the brunet who observed him warily. Misha stopped behind him and started to rub his shoulders slowly. ”I can hardly be blamed for the wasabi, I didn’t make it, I didn’t invent it…” Misha whispered to Joni’s ear, gently kissing the side. ”Am I still evil?”
”No…” Joni muttered, starting to relax under Misha’s gentle hands.
”Are the Japanese still evil?” Misha couldn’t help but to ask with amusement in his voice.
”Maybe?” Joni wondered, smiling slightly. ”Wasabi is at least.”
”Okay, wasabi is evil and I promise I will never let it anywhere near you again. I can protect you!”
”Good,” Joni turned his head and looked up at the blond, who smiled softly at him before leaning closer to give him a gentle kiss. ”And maybe we can go to Japan too… Someday,” Joni whispered after the kiss. ”But no wasabi!”
”Deal,” Misha grinned and stole another small kiss before returning to his seat. ”I assure you that the rest of it is safe to eat.” He said and reached to take the wasabi from Joni’s plate and his own. ”See, I will even destroy evil for you!” He said got up and threw the spice to the trash bin.
”My hero,” Joni grinned and Misha winked at him.
”Always at your service!”
Later that evening after Joni had gone home; Misha logged into his messenger and saw that his brat was online as well.
”Have you survived your wasabi trauma?” Misha wrote and smiled at the screen.
”Yes 😛 But I have to tell you something, Mr. know-it-all: one is allowed to eat sushi with their fingers! My Asian online friend confirmed it, so take that!” Misha chuckled at this.
”I never said you weren’t allowed to eat with your fingers 😉 It was the fork I wondered about.”
”You just can’t admit you were wrong, huh?”
”I can when I am wrong, but now I have done nothing to be wrong about.”
”*siiiiiiigh* Yeah, whatever…” Joni wrote back and Misha hesitated for a moment, tracing his fingers over the keyboard, before taking a deep breath and writing:
”I miss you…” He rolled his eyes at himself, feeling a little bit silly as he waited for the response. These feelings he had for Joni were so new, odd and made him feel… vulnerable somehow. Was this what love was like? Misha had never said those words to anyone before but with Joni he had been thinking about it.
”You’ll see me tomorrow, Misha… Joni wrote and kept a small pause before adding. ”But… I miss you too.” Misha’s smile grew, he was definitely head over heels for Joni, he felt goofy inside and not like his normal self. Perhaps he really did love Joni? Still, it felt like such a big and frightening word to say out loud, the youth might not be ready to hear it yet.
Joni sat on his bed, staring at the article in a tabloid magazine that covered one page.
”Young, promising male model abused, boyfriend arrested…” Joni felt his stomach tighten as he read it, his feelings shifted between feeling silly, disgusted and embarrassed. There was one of his model pictures and the article described that he had high potential for great success in the modeling business and wondered what would happen to his future career now. Joni scanned the rest of the information given: 28 year old Canadian partner suspected of assault and deprivation of freedom. The couple lived together in Helsinki, trial will be held in early September. They also wrote that he was now on a sick leave from modeling, but hadn’t suffered permanent injuries and had already been seen out with an unidentified blond man and that they seemed to be close. ”Does Lehto already have a new lover?” The article wondered and made Joni groan. Well, wasn’t this just great?
Finland was simply too small a country if his life made it to the tabloid magazine, it felt so absurd! Maybe he should move? Well, at least there wasn’t any mention of the sexual assault…
Joni threw the magazine towards the trash bin, but it didn’t quite make it there and dropped onto the floor which made him curse, stand up, walk towards it and tear it to pieces in a fit of annoyance. He suddenly felt restless and worried; just a silly tabloid, he repeated in his mind once more, who read them anyway? He wondered and then snorted. Almost everyone! Though most tried to deny it. He remembered the two girls in the library, the one who wanted his autograph; it had felt so silly… And then those times at a club, when some idiots recognized him and wanted to chat or… Joni shook his head pacing in his room restlessly. When he had been discovered at 15, asked if he would like to become a model, his head had been filled with dreams of becoming famous and disgustingly rich and all silly stuff like that. His dad had been right though, male models were hardly getting noticed, and who really remembered their names? Still, years back he had dreamed of fame like many other teenagers… The TV ads, the underwear photo shoots… Dreams of getting to New York, Paris, big places… Dreams he had given up for Chris…
At that moment though, Joni didn’t want to be recognized, he didn’t want to be the model whose name was remembered and talked of, not like this anyway. If he were no model, the naked pictures wouldn’t interest the public, but now, if they were spread around somehow, then… Most likely there would be another stupid article in the tabloids about it, possibly bigger than the one he saw now. Joni felt a little sick at the thought, he could only pray that Chris had either destroyed them (which was unlikely) or the cops would have done something to receive them and later would give him all the copies. And he also worried for Misha, what would his Russian think of the attention? Could they go out together after this without raising curiosity among those who had read the stupid article? Joni only hoped that the article would be the first and the last written about him in this sense.
Misha had seen the article, Cecilia had called him about it and he worried when he tried to call Joni, getting no answer, finally his calls were directed straight to voicemail. It was 1pm when the doorbell rang and the blond couldn’t help but to sigh in relief when seeing Joni, though the youth looked completely miserable.
”Shitty day…” Joni muttered and walked further in as Misha held the door open for him. The younger man dropped his back bag onto the floor and kicked his shoes off. Misha walked behind him, lowering his hand softly on Joni’s shoulder. ”Are we alone?” Joni asked with his voice shattering slightly.
”Yes, Ivo is with Jami…” Misha replied and saw as Joni’s lower lip trembled, he seemed like about to cry. ”Hey now…” Gently he turned the brunet to face himself before wrapping his arms around him protectively. Joni pressed his face against his shoulder hugging him back and Misha slowly started to stroke his back. ”Is it about that article?” Misha asked carefully.
”Yeah…” Joni admitted. ”Couldn’t stand being alone… Parents are at work and the twins and Sini at Katja’s parents… Just… Need you.”
”Well, I’m here… I’m glad you came,” Misha smiled and kissed the crown of his head.
”Can we go to your room?” Joni asked and looked up at him. ”Just want you to hold me.”
”Sure… Let’s go…” Misha guided Joni to his room where they snuggled on his bed. It felt good to hold the brunet close like that and know that Joni felt safe next to him, that he was the one to offer him comfort. They lay there silently side by side, Misha running his fingers softly through the dark hair, watching Joni’s thoughtful face with worry. ”Want to talk about it?” He finally asked and the younger man sighed, rolling over to his back and bringing his hand over his forehead as he stared at the ceiling.
”Did you see it?” Joni asked carefully, turning his face to him.
”Yeah, Cecilia called me about it and sent a copy of it to my email.”
”I’m sorry…” Joni whispered.
”About what?” Misha wondered.
”Unidentified blond man? I can understand if you’re uncomfortable…”
”Yeah, bastards didn’t even bother to research my name,” Misha joked and grinned at Joni. He wasn’t comfortable with the idea of getting public attention, but… for Joni he was willing to try and tolerate it if needed. Joni glanced at him smiling at his joke. ”It’s just a silly tabloid, just one article…” Misha tried to comfort him.
”Yeah… and it did take them a long time to write about it at least… I admit I already lived in the false hope that it wouldn’t be written about… I should really go through my friend list, one of them probably ratted it out… some friends, huh? And now people have been calling, some magazine wanted to have an interview, stupid shit…” A sarcastic smile rose to Joni’s lips. ”What’s it like for a man being in an abusive relationship?” He turned his face towards Misha. ”Imagine the headlines, what a great sob story it would make. I bet they’d be thrilled if I told them about… well, you know… The r-word.” Joni closed his eyes for a moment and gritted his teeth. ”I won’t lie; there was a time I dreamt of fame, but not like this…”
Misha kissed Joni’s cheek gently and the brunet opened his eyes and smiled softly. ”Let’s move somewhere, escape…” He whispered, partly joking, partly being serious.
”Where?” Misha smiled back, lying on his side, supporting his head up with his arm, as his free hand traveled softly along Joni’s arm.
”To Sweden?… Nah, too close maybe and I don’t speak Swedish very well…” Joni frowned. ”Somewhere warm… Jamaica?” He snickered, imagining them sitting at a beach somewhere with rainbow hats on, smoking weed, drinking rum and speaking in funny accents and listening to reggae music, quite stereotypical… ”Oh, how about Ireland?”
Joni thought then and turned on his side to face Misha, who was happy to see the amusement and the smile over the youth’s features.
”Ireland is not warm by any means,” Misha reminded him and grinned.
”Yeah… But I find their accent strangely sexy… And the leprechauns amuse me! We could buy a small cottage and grow potatoes and you could go fishing and… Oh! We could start a pub! I dare say the Irish love their drink almost as much if not more as we Finnish and Russians do. It could be quite a hit, Russian vodka, Irish beer and cider and Finnish long drinks and stuff… And you could dance national Russian dances and… Ivo and Jami could come with us and Dima and Linda of course as well! We could serve terrible Finnish national food, which they would love because their national food is just as terrible as ours and… Imagine how much fun that would be!” Joni laughed. Misha imagined some quiet Irish village with mostly grumpy, old and most importantly catholic people living there…
”Hm a pub run by gay foreigners in Catholic Ireland?” Misha grinned, raising his brow. ”Are you sure they wouldn’t just come and beat us with sticks?” Joni was quiet and then shook his head.
”Nah, not if we serve them good beer. Besides, they’d be too afraid of you and Ivo… Jami is so small though that we might have to be careful not to let him wander on his own, though maybe we could dress him as a leprechaun?”
Again Misha laughed at the idea. ”Jami is not that small,” he reminded him then, grinning at his brat.
”Yeah… But he is still quite short…” Joni said. ”For a man,” he decided to add and smiled back at Misha before snuggling closer. ”I knew that seeing you would make me feel much better…” He whispered. Misha held him close and kissed his forehead.
”That makes me glad to hear…” The blond smiled, looking at the younger male with affection. Silently he felt amused about how Joni seemed to enjoy the fact that Jami was shorter than him, it was cute in a way.
”Can I stay for the night?” Joni asked then. ”I brought my toothbrush,” he added, grinning and looking up at him.
”Of course you can,” Misha agreed. ”You know you can, anytime.”
”Can I use your cell phone to call my dad to let him know? I don’t want to turn my own on yet in case some idiots try to reach me.”
”Sure,” Misha slowly got up from the bed to get his cell from the table which he then gave to Joni.
”I have to meet my lawyer tomorrow, at ten… Did I mention?” Joni asked as he dialed his father’s cell phone number.
”I can come with you if you like?” Misha suggested and sat in front of his desk, opening his computer.
”I’m not sure how long it will take…” Joni hesitated, looking at the blond, who smiled at him.
”I don’t mind waiting, after that we could go and have lunch out somewhere?”
Joni made a face. ”Or you could pick up take out food and we could eat it here,” he answered, bringing the cell phone to his ear. ”I don’t want to see another stupid tabloid article speculating my love life… Not now.” He sighed and paused as he waited for his dad to answer which didn’t take long. His father was clearly relieved to hear from him, he had seen the article as well and had tried to reach him since. Asko however approved the fact that he was with Misha; the blond seemed to make his son happier in this difficult time and he was after all responsible for saving Joni’s life from Chris’ hands.
The brunet finished the call with a heavy sigh. ”Apparently this tabloid is like people’s favorite magazine to read on their lunch break,” he said, giving Misha a tired look. ”This all feels so fucked up, I mean, I know this is a small country but still… Don’t they have some real celebrities to write about?”
”If they write about some woman who got texted by some minister a few years ago… ” Misha started, glancing at Joni’s face. ”You have been on TV ads, you seem to be quite a popular model…” Again Misha kept a small pause and hesitated with what he was about to reveal next. ”Okay, since we are now together I can tell you a secret.”
Joni instantly perked up at the word ”secret”, giving the blonde a curious look. ”Oh? A good kind of secret?” He asked and Misha sighed with a smile before getting up and walking towards his bookshelf.
”A kind of secret that would have embarrassed me like hell, had you or Ivo found out about it a year or two ago,” he answered and picked up a Russian copy of a book that was about gardening; something he was quite sure that Ivo or Dima wouldn’t decide to borrow, because even he himself wasn’t interested in reading it, he wasn’t even quite sure how he had ended up with such a book, possibly it had belonged to his mother?
The blond walked over to Joni and gave the book to him. Joni looked at him and then at the book and then back at him with puzzled yet amused expression. ”Your dark secret is that you enjoy gardening?” The youth asked and grinned. Misha took his previous seat in front of his desk, shook his head and smiled.
”Open the cover,” he said and felt a tug of embarrassment in his chest that his old self would also have felt in this situation. Joni slowly opened the cover and Misha observed the brunet’s surprise when he found the old ad pages that Misha had cut from a magazine a few years ago: Joni’s underwear ads.
”Oh…” Joni observed the pictures before looking back at Misha grinning slightly. ”How long have you had these?” He asked and the blond cleared his throat.
”For a few years…” Misha sighed. ”Okay… One of my friends had the magazine, I happened to see it and… yeah… I stole it.” He rolled his eyes. ”Believe me, I was quite confused about my own actions, I was sort of upset that he had it and… I guess I didn’t want him to… Well, I was in denial back then, even to this day he still doesn’t know that I was the one who took it… My point is; you are young, hot, gay and with pictures like that no wonder people are interested.”
Joni looked at the pictures, feeling a little bit weird about them now. He wished he had the same confidence that he had had when these pictures were taken, he wished he could feel as comfortable as back then. He would get there though, he promised himself he would, with Misha’s help he would train and heal, and he wouldn’t give up modeling. It would be too big of a victory to give to Chris if he gave up.
”That’s cute that you kept these…” Joni finally said. ”You like me, you wanted me…” He teased, got up and approached the blond taking a seat on his lap and wrapping his arm around his shoulders.
”Of course I like you…” Misha said and slowly moved his hand to rest on Joni’s hip.
”I thought you were just annoyed by me back then…” The brunet smiled.
”I was and even more so when I couldn’t get past the fact that the sex with you was the best I’ve ever had…” As soon as he had said it, Misha gave Joni a worried look, hoping he hadn’t said anything wrong. Joni recognized the worry and sighed.
”I can still talk about sex, you don’t have to tiptoe around it. In fact I ask you not to. I hate how careful everyone is around me now, like… There’s a giant elephant in the room and everyone is too afraid to point it out so they pretend it’s not there by avoiding to speak about it.”
”Hm… Would you like to talk about it?” Misha asked carefully after a moment of silence.
”About what Chris did? Not really… I would like to forget it, pretend like everyone else, but I can’t… It’s difficult…” Joni lowered his head on Misha’s shoulder avoiding eye contact. ”I’m just… worried…”
”About what?” Misha asked, kissing the side of his ear.
”I want to be like I was before, not feeling guilty… Like… When I think about sex…” Joni tried his best to talk about it to Misha, he needed to if he wanted their relationship to have a future and he did. ”Well, I feel guilty when I feel desire for you… like it’s wrong, too early and people would judge me for it… It’s silly and confusing and I just don’t know how I should act, what’s right… I’m too self-conscious about every sexual thought I have, I can’t relax… When I want you… I hear his voice and he tells me that I’m… ” Joni sighed. ”Just constant name calling, I listened to it for so long that it’s difficult to shut his voice out from my thoughts now… I’m afraid that you change your mind again and that this… that I’m too complicated for you…”
Misha felt glad that Joni was speaking this openly to him. He also felt sad for Joni and this inner battle he was dealing with. ”I’m here with you, I’m…” Misha took a pause, if this wasn’t a good time to confess it then what was? ”It’s more than just liking you now… I… I love you and I’ve never said that to anyone before…” He squeezed Joni’s hand gently. ”We can just take it slow, learn how to make you feel comfortable again… You don’t have to worry that I will leave; I would only go if you told me to, which I hope won’t happen.” Misha pressed another gentle kiss on the younger man’s cheek, who was still too stunned to speak after hearing the ’I love you’ from him. Slowly Joni turned his face to the blond, looking at him carefully before leaning over to kiss him on his lips.
”I love you too…” The brunet whispered and for that moment Joni felt happy, for that moment all his worries seemed to disappear and he knew he would survive whatever the future would decide to throw at him. Misha loved him, what could be better than that?
Web published: February 25th, 2011.
My Secret Shore