"We write the songs," you explain, "we write together," and you glance at me with a tiny private smile, meant only for me, that I can't help answering with one of my own. We do write together - locked away together for days on end, getting far less writing done than everyone thinks, eventually realising we'd better come up with a song or two to show for all this time away. Feels like we do everything together, though nobody knows just how much we share. Everyone's got their suspicions, how could they not have when they look at us on stage - but I think they put it down to your stage persona, so different from your real self. You're widely known to be shy and self-effacing offstage, happy to let others take the spotlight if you can. I don't let you get away with it, though. I make you do more than your fair share of talking in interviews, though my English is better than yours, just because I love to listen to you speaking English. You're so careful with your words, almost hesitant, wanting to get everything right, get your point across properly. Of course I love to hear you speak our mother tongue too, but there's just something about you when you're speaking English, something I can't resist.
They all try to work you out, analyse you, but they don't know you, not like I do. I know you inside out, almost better than I know myself. There's a side of you that only I see, a part of you that belongs to me alone. You give off this adorably, charmingly vulnerable air, I'm sure most of the fans can't decide whether they want to fuck you or mother you - but they don't see what I see, and I'm not telling. I look out for you, look after you, I'd do anything for you - but what nobody would expect is that you do the same for me. You're my protector, my defender, just as much as I am yours, and you're stronger than you look, stronger than you think you are, deep inside yourself. You might be mine, but it goes both ways, I'm yours, body heart and soul, always. We've never hidden it, but we've never admitted to it either - somehow hidden it stays, hidden in plain sight. You cling to me on stage and in photos, you kiss me deliciously hard when everyone is watching, we flaunt our relationship for all the world to see and suspect and disbelieve. They all speculate, they all suspect, and in the end they think we're just playing around. But the truth is ours alone, yours and mine together, an unbreakable secret just for us. Nobody knows just how much we share.
******* (one - confusion)
I don't know what to make of you. I thought I'd worked you out fairly early on, but the longer I've known you, the more confused I've become.
You act like my friend, we're all but inseparable, we write songs together and rehearse and record and all the other things that go with being in a band. But I've never been in a band with anyone quite like you before. You hang all over me on stage and off, particularly when there are cameras around, you kiss me, for fuck's sake, and that bit I really don't understand. I overheard you in an interview once, claiming that you kiss the guys in the band, sure, but you kiss them like brothers. I'm pretty certain you don't kiss your brothers the way you kiss me - hard and sensual and unforgettably, breathtakingly good. I can't stop thinking about the way you kiss me.
And that's another thing. I'm supposed to be straight, aren't I? Always thought I was. And here I am, thinking of you, can't get you out of my head and I don't know what it means. I mean, you might look feminine, but you're very definitely not a girl, and I'm not sure what that makes me. Does it make me gay? Bi? I just don't know.
Besides, you're supposed to have a girlfriend. I see you with her and you look like the perfect couple, but then you look over at me and I'm not sure what it is that I see in your eyes, but I know it's more than just a casual friendly glance. I don't know what you want from me, and I'm not sure why it bothers me so much.
I can't quite work out how I feel about you, either. You're probably my best friend these days, but it's more than that. I feel oddly protective towards you, for a start. I know you didn't have the easiest time of it growing up, and I know you have a tendency to be quiet and introspective. You seem so shy and vulnerable most of the time, and I'm not sure how much of that is real and how much you're just putting on to hide behind. I want to know you, really know you, I'm fascinated by you. I've never felt this way about anyone before, and I'm scared stupid. All the things I can't just brush aside - what does this all mean for me? For us? Do you even think of me in that way, or are you just playing? I can't work out if I'd be more relieved or disappointed if you weren't serious.
I can't stop looking at you, watching you, either. You're...well, I never thought I'd use the word "beautiful" to describe a man, but there it is, that's what you are. You're beautiful, and alluring, and I can't help but find you insanely attractive. There, I've said it. I'm intensely attracted to you, and yes, I know you're a guy and I'm supposed to be straight, but I swear I'm not getting confused by your slightly feminine appearance, I'm not subconsciously mistaking you for a girl. I know you're a guy, and that's part of what I'm finding attractive...and that's most of what's scaring me. I find you attractive because you're you, and the fact that you're not a girl seems to be part of the fascination. I don't know. I'm more confused than I've ever been. I think I want you, but what does that mean? Do you even want me too, or are you only playing with me like I assume you're playing with the other guys in the band? Are you really only playing with them, for that matter? All I really know is that I look forward to seeing you, and I miss you when you're not here - but when you're around I don't know what to make of you at all.
I wish you'd help me understand, but you always seem to be just out of reach, flirting and clinging but never explaining, never talking to me about it all. I wonder if you've even realised what you're doing to me. Maybe you think I'm just playing along with you, maybe to you it's all a game. And the way that thought makes me feel...all right, I was lying. I'd be more than disappointed if it turned out you really were just playing with me. So I guess that answers at least some of my questions, but how am I ever going to know the rest when you won't talk to me about it? I can't bring it up. I don't want to ruin our friendship, and I definitely don't want to screw up our relationship within the band, but...I need to know, one way or the other. I wish you'd stop playing and put me out of my misery.
Of course, I don't know what I'd do if you actually did, but I guess I'll just have to hope I find out someday. I'll cross all the other bridges if and when I come to them.
******* (two - writing songs)
"How about this?" You break off the chord progression you've been picking out on my spare guitar and scribble furiously on the notepad in front of you for a few moments, then you quickly read through what you've written and play the chords again, singing your new words over the top.
"Sounds great," I smile, "but how about doing this at the end of the line?" I play a slight modification, humming your tune as best as I can, and you nod.
"That's better. And if we do this...and then this," you repeat my modification and sing the last line of the verse a second time, "you can slide straight into one of your guitar-hero solos." You flash me a grin, and I can't help grinning back; it's a standing joke between us that I like my solos - well, I'm a rock guitarist, there'd be something wrong with me if I didn't, wouldn't there?
You run through the verse again, singing softly, and then you smile happily. "Well, I think that's that nailed down," you say, setting the guitar aside, "I think it's about time we had a break." And before I can even put my guitar down, let alone light a cigarette or suggest I fetch another couple of beers from the fridge, you're leaning over and kissing me, completely unprompted and without any warning. I almost forget to breathe for a moment, and then the next thing I know is I'm responding, kissing you back as you slip your hand round to the back of my neck and pull me closer, kissing harder. This isn't like any of the times before - we're alone, for a start, you usually do this on stage or around the fans and photographers, but it's not just that. It feels - you feel - more intense, almost hungry, and I can't help the way my heart nearly skips a beat. Does this mean...?
You pull back and slip my guitar out of my hands, leaning it against the sofa. I'd almost forgotten I was still holding it. Giving me a look that's part amusement and part - what? desire? hunger? - you smile darkly and lean forward to kiss me again. This time I slide my arms around you, tentatively, carefully, resting my hands flat against your back and holding you against me. This feels...it feels strangely right, somehow - and still different from all those other times.
"I want you," you whisper against my mouth, "so badly," and I can't quite think of a response to that. Does this mean you're not playing with me after all? Is this what I was hoping for? Is it what I want? I'm no less confused than I've been all along, even though I've thought it all through, mulled it all over a thousand times or more. I still don't know quite what I want.
You pull away with a low, breathy laugh. "Stop thinking, Lauri. You always think too much." I blink at you, you've read my mind again, haven't you? You begin to move your fingers, still cupped at the back of my neck, gently stroking my skin, and I close my eyes. "It's a simple question," you murmur as your other hand trails from my face down my neck to my chest, leaving shivers in its path, that feels so good. "Do you want this? Do you want me? I think you do."
I don't open my eyes, but I feel myself nodding, hear my voice whispering "Yes," very very quietly; of course, you're not being fair, how could I not say yes when you're doing what you're doing with your hands and it feels as good as it does? But as soon as I've said it and you press your mouth to mine in another long, slow kiss, I realise that actually it was the right answer anyway. I do want this. I do want you, more than anything else in the world. I don't need to think about it any more.
******* (three - things change)
Things have changed subtly between us since that one rather heated afternoon. Not enough that anyone would notice, we aren't a couple and whatever we now have, it certainly isn't a relationship. But still, things have changed. You hang all over me as much as you ever did, but you seem to be more affectionate now, almost possessive, and you no longer save it for the fans and the photographers. You come and find me on the tour bus and curl up in my lap, you snuggle against me in interviews and photoshoots and during all the interminable waiting around between soundchecks and shows and parties and travelling. You turn up outside my hotel room in the middle of the night, crawl into my bed and fall asleep beside me; well, you don't always fall asleep straight away, and we don't always get all that much actual sleep, but more often than not it's the sound of your breathing I fall asleep to, your warm presence next to me in whichever cold, impersonal hotel room we happen to be in that night. I feel closer to you now than I did before, and the thought of losing you, uncalled-for as it might be given that there's really nothing going on, is beginning to do strange things to my insides. We never talk about it and I've no idea how you really feel about me, but I don't want to ask, almost don't want to know. It works between us as it is, I think, and I don't want to risk that.
I watch you while you sleep, though, quite often; you look peaceful most of the time, sometimes you're even smiling, but sometimes you're restless and I wonder what you dream. I wonder what you're thinking, too, when you're all wrapped up in yourself as you so often are. Are you remembering things, remembering your childhood maybe? I don't like to ask but I can't help wondering. I know enough about you to know that your memories can't all be pleasant, and if they're making you sad I just want to take them away. I can't bear to think of you being unhappy. I'd gladly listen if you ever wanted to talk, but I'm not sure how to tell you so. I don't want to seem as though I'm prying. I want you to trust me, I want you to feel you can open up to me, if you want to.
I've realised I'd do pretty much anything for you, if you'd let me, though I'm trying not to think about why. Too many implications, and what if it all goes wrong, anyway, what if I've totally misread you all along? I guess I'm scared of getting my heart broken, though admitting to that means admitting to a whole lot of other things that I'm not ready to deal with yet. Still, it was a bit of a shock, when it dawned on me. I'm obviously in deeper than I'd thought.
I've never felt like this about anyone before, to be honest. I mean, I've had girlfriends (of course I have, I'm straight, remember?) but none of them made me feel the way you do. I find I want to look after you, which is stupid because I know full well that you're perfectly capable of looking after yourself. I just can't help feeling protective towards you, knowing you as I do, knowing there's so much more going on beneath the surface than you'd like people to know. There's something about you, something fragile and vulnerable, and I just want to keep you safe from harm. I guess I want to be your prince charming, not that you really need one, and how fucked-up is that anyway? I've never done this before, never gone in for all that romantic bullshit, not even over a girl, let alone a guy...much less a guy who happens to be my best friend and probably doesn't see me as any more than a friend-with-benefits anyway. What have you done to me?
Mostly I'm thinking myself round in circles (can you tell? does it show?) - you're right, I do think too much. I'm probably more confused now than I was before you jumped me, but I like what you're doing, I don't want you to stop. Far from it. I just...I don't know, I just wish I was a little clearer about where we stand, what's going on. If anything really is, of course.
******* (four - small revelations)
So that's how we go on, writing and recording and touring...and all the rest in between. The band's really beginning to take off now, so we're all spending more and more time with each other. So you and I have more and more opportunities to sneak off when nobody's looking. You've still got your girlfriend, and yeah, I've had a succession of girlfriends too, but nothing's ever quite worked out. There are groupies too, they're usually fun, but none of it means anything.
I try not to think about it most of the time, it's just sometimes that it springs out at me with no warning. Like the time on the tour bus, I'm tugging this girl by the hand towards my bunk (I can't even remember her name, did I ever know it?) and as I pass your bunk I catch a glimpse of you between the curtains, fast asleep with your headphones on and a stuffed rabbit clutched in your arms. And I feel blindsided all of a sudden, and I've lost interest in the girl. We keep going till we get to my bunk and I go through the motions but it's nothing at all, really, I feel absolutely nothing.
Or the girl who cries when I dump her and tells me maybe I ought to think about other people for a change and calls me a heartless bastard. I can't help thinking that's a bit harsh, I do think about other people, and I do care about some of them, very deeply, she just isn't one of them. I'm not so stupid that I can't see when someone's only interested in me because I'm in a band. Or when someone's only interested in me because she thinks it's a way of getting to you.
She's not the only one, either. I'm getting increasingly tired of all of them, more inclined to stick with the band and ignore the hangers-on. And I spend more and more time with you. I know where I stand with you (usually backed against a wall somewhere with your hands tangled in my hair and your tongue making its slow and distracting way down my neck). I can talk to you about anything, and gradually you've begun to talk to me too, slowly slowly opening up about everything you're thinking, your past and your grandparents and the band and your brothers and our career and how insane it is to be so successful all of a sudden. There's only one thing that we don't talk about, and I'm not sure why. I suppose the time never quite seems right, the subject never quite comes up. Not beyond the occasional gasped 'oh my god I want you', at least, and by that point we're pretty much beyond conversation anyway.
Well. There was a moment on the tour bus once, late at night when we'd both had rather too much to drink. The others had all gone to bed but we were watching some movie or other, I can't remember which one, and you'd snuggled into my side. You'd been on the phone to your girlfriend earlier and you'd been a bit quiet ever since; missing her, I supposed.
I refilled our vodka glasses and settled back against the sofa cushions again; you don't usually drink on tour but you seemed to be making an exception that night. You took a gulp of your drink and then spoke, very quietly and a little slurred, so that I had to concentrate through my own drunken haze to catch what you were saying.
"I don't think I love her, Lauri. Not like I ought to."
"Oh." I didn't really know what to say to that. I knew I didn't love any of my girlfriends, hadn't really had to come to terms with it at all, that was just how it was. Still, it couldn't have been an easy realisation for you, you'd been with her for ages.
"I don't know. I just...I ought to miss her, but I don't. I'd miss you more if you weren't here."
I wasn't sure what to say to that either. Wasn't quite sure how you meant it. I settled for slipping an arm around your shoulders and squeezing a bit, hoping to come across as comforting and trying not to give away how much I was suddenly shaking inside. Trying not to think about why. I mean, how long has it been now? Two years, three? I still haven't come to any conclusions, mostly been trying to avoid thinking about it.
Still. It made me hope a bit. Maybe this was something that could work out in the end after all.
We haven't come anywhere near talking about it again, but we're closer than ever. Sometimes I wonder what the future might hold, but mostly I just make the most of the time I spend with you. You're my best friend, after all, and I guess I don't know what I'd do without you.
****** (five - the other side of the coin)
I see you watching me, when you think I'm not looking. It's so clear what you're thinking, I can read your face so easily. Affection, protectiveness of course, you've always been adorably protective of me. And confusion, as always. Do I confuse you, Lauri? You always did think too much. Can't you see how much I've come to depend on you, how much you've come to mean to me? I'm never sure whether to come out and say it, never sure if I'll scare you off by putting it into words, but I do love you, and you probably need to know it. I try to show you but I don't know if I'm getting through.
It does amuse me, how seriously you take everything. You take everything to heart, worry yourself to death over the smallest things. Like me, like what I'm doing with you, what I mean by it all. Not such a little thing to you, I suppose, but to me...well, I wish you'd realise that you don't need to worry about it at all. I've watched you try and work out what's going on, ever since you first joined the band and realised that with me perhaps things weren't going to be straightforward, maybe this wasn't going to be your ordinary bunch of musicians. I remember the look on your face the first time I kissed you - we were onstage, of course - surprise and shock and despite yourself a tiny, delighted smile. It was that smile, I think, that stole my heart and told me maybe I wasn't onto a loser with you.
Took me a while to work up the courage to jump you properly, but oh, it was worth it when I did. For a straight boy you were surprisingly easy to persuade, and so very very good. Of course, you've had plenty of practice since then, but even that first time...well, nobody's ever made me feel like you do, put it that way, nobody's ever put quite such a smile on my face.
I suppose I'm cruel to tease you as I do, but I do mean it, all of it. I'd stop teasing and be serious with you in a heartbeat, tell you exactly how I feel, if I knew you wouldn't run away from me - because I absolutely can't bear the thought of losing you, but at the same time I want you to know it all. You probably haven't realised it, but everything I write, all the words I sing, they're all for you. Even the stuff I wrote before I knew you, it was all meant for the person I hoped I'd meet someday, the one who'd mean everything to me. Took me a little while to realise it, but of course that person's you. How could it be anyone else? You're my rock, you know. I can always rely on you to be there when I need you, even if I don't always realise what I need myself. It's always you, my Lauri. You always know what to say, even if it's nothing at all, and I love how you know when I need to be quiet and you just wrap me up in your arms and hold me without saying a word.
If I told you I'd talked to Mummu about it, would that convince you that I'm serious? I've always confided in her about everything, and I really needed to talk to someone, but it took me a while to work up to it; this is a bit different from all the little things she's helped me work out before. It's bad enough coming out to your grandmother, but when she's the one who raised you...she was the only one I felt comfortable talking to about it though, couldn't talk to my brothers or the guys in the band. I just wasn't sure how to tell her I probably wouldn't be giving her any great-grandchildren, if everything went according to plan.
It wasn't difficult getting away to see her, everyone knows how close we are. I had to make my excuses to Ville and Tommi, didn't really want them coming along too, but they were cool about it, let me go without a fuss, though I know they love to visit her too.
She sat me down with a cup of tea, just like she always does, and we made small talk for a while before I decided to bite the bullet.
"Mummu," I said, "do you remember how you felt when you met my grandfather? Like you'd found someone you wanted to be with always?"
"Of course I do," she smiled. "Found someone for yourself, have you?"
I nodded. How to tell her? "It's not Tiina, though," I muttered, not quite looking at her. "In fact, it's not even a girl...it's Lauri."
"Ah," she said. "Lauri. That guitarist boy of yours, the handsome one with all the curls." She gave a little laugh. "I thought so."
I just stared at her, and she laughed again. "I might be old and behind the times but I'm not blind, you know. I've seen the pair of you looking at each other when you think nobody's watching. As long as he makes you happy, darling, I don't mind what you do. You deserve a little happiness, don't you think?"
All I could do was nod at her, and drink my tea, couldn't quite believe she'd accepted it so easily. She's always been so amazing to me, so understanding, so kind and loving. She didn't have to take us in, she'd already raised her kids and should have been looking forward to some peace and quiet - but she took us in, three abandoned boys, and raised us probably better than our parents ever could have done. She's always been there for us, and I was so afraid of what might happen if she didn't understand or approve of what I was trying to tell her. I don't know how I'd cope without her.
But then, I don't know how I'd cope without you, either. When I left her house to come back into town, she gave me a big hug and told me to go and talk to you. "Don't let him get away," she told me. "He's a good boy, and you deserve him."
Easy for her to say. I know she's right, but I'm still not quite sure how to go about it all. I think I need to speak to you - and then I need to make you stop thinking again. It's worked before, maybe it'll work this time - only a little differently. I'm not trying to get you into bed this time - well, I am, but not before I've made you see, made you understand everything I've been trying to tell you for so long. I don't think you'll run away. I hope you won't, I hope I really have read you right, that you think as much of me as I do of you. I've found the person I was looking for, it's as simple as that, and I can't just let you slip through my fingers as if it didn't matter at all.
******* (six - photographs)
It's just a lazy afternoon, I'm chilling out and doing nothing, relaxing on my own for a change. I'm kicked back with a beer, sat on my sofa with my feet on the coffee table, thinking about nothing much at all.
A packet of photos on the table catches my eye and I lean forward to pick it up, wondering what's inside. It's been a while since I've spent much time here, let alone had the chance to tidy up or sit and look at pictures. Tipping the photos out I leaf through them; I remember now, they're from that party, months ago now, after one of the shows in Tokyo, lots of Japanese record company and press people all wanting to talk to us. Two photos in particular make me smile, and no surprises, they're both pictures of you. It was a good night, a great party, the only thing was I couldn't find you anywhere. You'd disappeared some time after the party began and I didn't look for you straight away, but after a while of drinking and socialising and taking photos, I managed to sneak away from everyone who wanted to talk and go to see if I could run you to earth.
I eventually found you some way away from the party, staring out of a huge window into the darkness outside. You'd acquired a pair of black and white bunny ears from somewhere and had them perched on your head among all that glorious hair of yours. I almost laughed, you looked so funny and so sweet, but the expression on your face stopped me, sad and thoughtful and completely wrapped up in yourself.
"Hey," I said softly, and you turned around warily, though you smiled a little bit when you saw it was me. "Everything OK?" I asked, and you shrugged.
I let it go at that; I've always known when not to push you to talk. Instead I lifted the camera with a smile. "Mind if I...?"
"Sure, go ahead," you said, and I snapped the shutter, capturing you for ever inside the camera, your wariness still not quite vanished though you were giving me the ghost of a smile.
"What's with the bunny ears?" I asked, slipping the camera back into my pocket, and you shrugged again.
"Someone gave them to me. I don't know."
You weren't in the mood to talk, I could tell that much, so I hugged you instead and you wrapped your arms around me, moulding yourself to me, resting your head on my shoulder. We stood like that for a while, and I watched our reflection in the window, watched my hand gently stroking your hair.
After a while you raised your head again and looked at me, your eyes unfathomable, and then you kissed me, harder than I expected, and I stopped thinking for a moment or two.
"I'm not in the mood for a party," you murmured. "Can we go somewhere else for a while?" You were trying to look innocent, but that's never worked with me; I can see right through you. The look in your eyes now I knew all too well, and what you wanted was anything but innocent. Lucky for you I've never been able to resist that look.
"I guess we could find somewhere quiet," I smiled and you gave me a delighted, mischievous grin in reply. You kissed me again for good measure, and then you grabbed my hand and tugged me away to find somewhere a little more private.
You weren't wearing the bunny ears when we emerged, much later. I still don't know what happened to them; I probably pulled them off your head and threw them aside when they got in the way of my hands, knotted in your hair as you did things with your mouth that are getting me all distracted even now, just thinking about them. You've always been deliciously wicked underneath that little-boy-lost exterior, and you know I absolutely can't resist you.
I close my eyes for a second, lost in memories...the way your voice goes all husky, your hands everywhere, you whispering my name, my real name...I love how you call me by my real name when we're alone, not my stage name - that's for all the world, but my real name is just for you, you and the few others I really care about.
I blink, forcing myself back to reality. This is no time to be getting distracted by you, you're not even here. Where was I? Oh yeah. That party. The second picture. The datestamp on the side of the photo shows it was taken the following day, and I know it was the early hours of the morning, the night of the party. You'd lost the bunny ears by the time we rejoined everyone else, and your scarf wasn't quite as straight as it had been before you'd had to retie it. Still, at least your hair didn't look much more messed-up than it had all night, that's one of the good things about the way you wear it. I was a bit alarmed when I noticed that your very pretty purple seethrough shirt did absolutely nothing to disguise the marks on your pale skin that hadn't been there before; I just hoped nobody was going to get close enough to you to notice that they looked suspiciously like bitemarks.
You seemed a bit more cheerful now, at least up to socialising a bit, and I didn't see you for a while as you did the rounds and chatted to everyone. It was towards the end of the night when I went in search of you again, and most people had gone off to their hotel rooms or gone home. I couldn't find you at first, and I was beginning to wonder if you'd left without saying goodnight, but as I made my way through the hotel lounge I spotted a splash of pink over the other side of the room - had to be you. I headed over and as I drew nearer I saw that you were lying on one of the big leather sofas, your pink jacket wrapped around you, your knees drawn up and your head pillowed on your hands, fast asleep. I can't help smiling just thinking of the sight you made, so peaceful. I couldn't resist the temptation to snap a picture of you and hope the flash didn't wake you up; it didn't, and I'm not sure you know I've got this picture.
I stood and watched you for a minute or two, then left you to it while I went back to what was left of the party. Once everyone else had gone I went and woke you up, very carefully, and persuaded you that bed would be more comfortable than the sofa. You yawned and grumbled but you let me help you up and walk you upstairs to the suite of rooms reserved for the band. You didn't seem to want to let go of me when we got to your door, so I carried on to my room instead, ushering you gently inside and sitting you down on the bed. I turned away for a second to take my shirt off and tie my hair back, and when I turned back you had curled up under the covers, your clothes in an untidy little heap on the floor beside the bed. You blinked up at me, all huge, sleepy blue eyes and a wistful little smile that said 'come to bed, baby' without any words at all. I smiled back, couldn't do anything else, and slid out of the rest of my clothes, folding them onto the chair. I slipped into bed behind you, slinging my arm over you, and you snuggled back against me, tucking your head under my chin.
"Mmmm. Think I quite like Japan," you murmured, and I smiled again, pressing a kiss into your hair.
"Think I do, too," I whispered, and we drifted off to sleep wrapped up in the sound of each other's breathing, quiet and peaceful just for a little while.
I blink again, coming back to the present, the photo still held between my fingers. The band's supposed to be on a break and I haven't seen you in a couple of weeks, but I think I'll call you in a bit, see if you fancy coming over, writing a song or two, maybe more. You're a part of me now, I think, and I miss you when you're not around.
I flick through the rest of the photos, but none of them makes me smile as much as those two of you. I'm just sliding the pictures back into the packet when there's a knock on the door of my flat and I get to my feet with a sigh. Who's visiting me at this time? It's still only mid-afternoon. I put my beer down carefully on the table and go to see who it is.
There's another knock just as I get there, and I'm all ready to grumble at whoever it is for being impatient, but when the door swings open to reveal you standing outside, my irritation vanishes. You're wearing that furry-trimmed coat of yours and something woollen that looks like a cross between a hat, a hood and a scarf - looks like you finally learned how to dress warmly, that or you've been visiting your grandmother and she's made you wrap up.
My first instinct is to ask you what you're doing here, but thankfully you get in first, before I can put my foot in it; I don't want to seem unwelcoming, don't want to sound as though I don't want you here when really it's quite the opposite.
"Hey," you smile. "How's it going?"
I shrug. "Not too bad. Everything okay? Want to come in?"
You nod, still smiling. Your face lights up when you smile, did you know that? You could light up a whole room just by smiling, and you probably don't even realise it.
"Yeah, I'm all right. Was just out walking, found myself here. Thought I'd come up and say hi. Not disturbing you, am I?"
"'Course not. Hey, come on in, it's bloody freezing out there." I usher you inside, shutting the door against the cold. "Want a coffee? Or a beer?"
You've wandered into the living room, caught sight of my beer on the table, and you glance over with a look that makes my insides threaten to turn over. "Whatever you're having," you say almost offhandedly, shrugging out of your coat and hood-thing and abandoning them on the floor, dropping onto the sofa and putting your feet on the table. I roll my eyes, just a little, just to myself, and grab you a beer from the fridge, taking it back through to you and picking up your coat and hood, folding them and putting them back down beside the sofa. You grab my hand and pull me down beside you, and I sling an arm around your narrow shoulders.
"Thought you might feel like writing a song or two," you murmur, snuggling into my side, and I smile. You always do that, read my mind like that; I've almost stopped being surprised by it.
"Maybe. Want me to get my guitar?"
"Mmmm. Not yet." You snuggle even closer, resting your head on my shoulder. "This is nice. I missed you."
I can't help smiling. "I missed you too. It's been very quiet round here without you."
You jab me in the ribs. "Charmer. Keep that up and I won't write with you any more."
I laugh. "Yeah, whatever. You know you can't write without me. Besides, you never have a guitar, you're always borrowing mine. What would you do if you couldn't?"
"Oh, I'm sure *someone* would lend me one," you smile sweetly, and you're right, somebody would. There isn't a single person I know who wouldn't do absolutely anything for you, and I'm positive you know it.
"Yeah, but they wouldn't be me, would they?" I tease, and you look up at me, all blue eyes and smudged eyeliner behind all that unruly hair.
"No, they wouldn't." You've gone all intense on me all of a sudden. "It wouldn't be the same without you."
I'm caught by your eyes now, can't look away. I can't quite speak, this is the closest you've come to admitting how you feel about me and I'm not sure what to say. How am I supposed to find the right words to tell you that you pretty much mean the world to me? I stare at you for a moment, rabbit-in-the-headlights, and then settle for kissing you, soft and slow and lingering, hoping that maybe I can get my point across without having to say a word.
You draw away from me slowly, eventually, reaching up to brush my hair out of my face, your eyes unfathomable again. You let your hand linger a moment, fingers skating over my temple, my cheekbone, outlining my mouth and making me shiver as only you can. Suddenly you smile brightly and kiss me again, and I wonder to myself whether you really have read my mind this time, whether you've seen in my eyes that all I really ever wanted was you. I hold you a little tighter and pull you up into my lap and you mould yourself against me, wriggling a little as you get comfortable, and I can't help the tiny gasp that escapes me at that. You flash me a wicked little smile and kiss me once more, and that's when I stop thinking, stop agonising, just concentrate on you and your presence and your every move as you proceed to steal my breath and my mind and all my composure. And I think I have my answer, I think I understand that maybe we don't need words after all, maybe words would just get in the way. Maybe all we really need is each other. I guess I could live with that.
And then you sit up suddenly, pulling away a little, that oddly intense expression still on your face. "I just broke up with Tiina," you say, rather abruptly, and I just look at you. I hadn't expected that. Well, I hadn't expected you to stop kissing me and drop a bombshell like that, for one thing, but I also hadn't expected you to break up with her. I knew you weren't entirely happy, but I thought you were trying to make a go of things.
Okay. Best play it cool. This might not mean what I hope it does. "Oh? Why?" I keep my tone as neutral as I can.
You laugh at me and speak slowly, as if you're not sure I'll understand your explanation. "Because it's not her I'm in love with, Lauri." You pause, and I find my heart's in my mouth all of a sudden. "It's you."
"Me?" I manage, when I've got my voice back. Do you really mean it?
"You. Of course you, idiot. Who else?"
I don't quite know what to say to that, but it's all right, you rescue me from having to think of something by leaning forward and kissing me, soft and sweet and deep, and different all over again. You've never kissed me like this before - but then you've never sat me down and told me you've just broken up with your girlfriend because you're in love with me, either. You're just full of surprises today. I can't quite believe my luck.
Eventually we break apart, slowly, reluctantly, and for once I say the first thing that comes into my head. "Looks like I'm going to have to stop pretending to be straight, doesn't it?"
You give me a mischievous little smile. "Well, that's up to you, isn't it? As long as you know you're only pretending."
I laugh. "I think I've finally worked it out, yes."
"Took you long enough." You sound just the tiniest bit reproachful, though I can tell you're trying not to.
My smile drops a bit. "I know. I'm sorry." I pause, take a deep breath. "I do...I do love you, you know."
"There. Wasn't so hard to say, was it?" You're still wearing that mischievous little smile, and I decide not to honour your teasing with an answer. Instead I kiss you very thoroughly and suggest that we take this elsewhere - like the bedroom. I think we could do with being somewhere a little more comfortable. You just smile angelically and wriggle off my lap, standing up and grabbing my hands to pull me to my feet. "Thought you'd never ask," you grin, and we kiss and gasp and stumble our way into the bedroom, and even this is different too, now it's all been put into words - slower and sweeter and so much more than all those times before. You gasp and cry out in my arms and I can't help wishing it hadn't taken me so long to gather my courage - but now it's done, and I get the feeling you're here to stay. Well, I'm certainly not going anywhere. I've waited all my life for this, I see it now, and I'm never letting you go.