That evening, Tero was on another of his caffeine highs. Niko and Tuomo were trying desperately to loosen the effect of two Mountain Dews and three candy bars.
"Antero Kimmo Markkinen!" Niko shouted in Tero's ear.
"Ja, Niklas Teppo Markkinen?"
Niko grumbled. "If I wanted to be called Niklas, I wouldn't have come up with the name Niko."
"You didn't, Ville did, so ha!"
"Sorry, little bro, but Tero's right," Tuomo said. "Ville couldn't pronounce it all, remember?"
"Shut up, Tuomas!" Niko narrowed his eyes and scowled.
"Doesn't bother me!" Tuomo retorted.
"Espen's not going to like me like this," Tero said soberly. "I can't be high. I want to be in perfect mind for him so I know exactly what's going on."
"And perfect body." Niko winked.
Tero smiled. "Ready, Espen?"
Espen ran his fingers through his shock of red hair. He hesitated a moment, pausing to take in Tero's appearance on this night. Tero had on black jeans and a bright blue T-shirt, which was cut just right to show the little bit of muscle beneath the fabric, yet wasn't tight by any standards. He had added gel to his thick hair, making it stand straight up like a blond savanna. A pair of ice-blue eyes stared back at Espen, absorbing everything about him: his black T-shirt, jeans, waves of red hair covering his ears, muscular arms waiting to hold someone, and his own steely eyes looking deep into Tero's. "Ja, I'm ready. You?" Tero nodded. "Good, then let's go. No offense, but that guy is really starting to freak me out a little."
He was referring to Riku, who kept eyeing them and looking at Tero in a funny way.
"All right, get out of here, you guys," Hannu said, before adding, "You too, Riku."
Riku started to argue, but thought better of it. He mumbled a quick farewell, then left, walking slowly back to his own house.
Niko came into the room with Ville trailing behind. The twins sat next to each other on one of the beds.
"Where've you guys been?" Tuomo asked suspiciously.
"Special twin stuff," Ville replied with a half-smile.
"Hei Espen, let's head out now that Riku's gone," Tero said. "Besides, my family is starting to scare me." He grinned at the twins.
Espen laughed, mesmerizing Tero for a moment. "Okay," he said, waiting until they left the house to take Tero's hand.
"We won't wait up!" Niko whispered as Tero passed him. Once Tero and Espen had gone, Niko looked at his boyfriend. "You ready to go now?" Hannu nodded and stood up.
"Where are you two off to?" Tuomo asked, again suspicious.
"Don't you remember me telling Dad that I'm staying at Hannu's tonight?" Niko said with false innocence, winking at his older brother.
"Ah, another reason you haven't told Dad you're gay," Tuomo realized. "You can say you're staying at a friend's house for the night, and what you're really doing at his house is-"
"So, Ville," Niko said loudly, cutting Tuomo off, "what're you doing tonight?"
"I'm staying over at Ossi's," Ville replied. When he saw three suggestive looks he added, "No, really!"
"So, where do you want to eat?" Espen asked Tero. They were both more relaxed now that they weren't surrounded by ogling friends (and Riku, who, of course, had been too busy ogling to be much of a friend).
"Anywhere, as long as." he trailed off before saying "you're there."
"How about here?" Espen stopped in front of a small café.
"Sure, if you like it."
"I know I will;" he didn't have the nerve to say "you're with me," so he lamely finished with, "I've tried it once."
They walked in and sat at a small table in the back. A few people gave them odd looks, unable to decide why two teenage boys were enjoying each other's company in a nice place such as they were.
"You know," said Tero, swallowing a bite of his sandwich a few minutes later, "this is a pretty good place."
"Ja, I like it," Espen replied, too caught up in Tero to say anything more creative.
Tero, on the other hand, took Espen's silence as an excuse to say what he had been so scared to say earlier. "Me too, but I think I only like it because you're here." There was a brief pause.
"Listen, Tero." Espen began, hesitating to wipe his mouth with his napkin.
Here it comes, thought Tero. The reprimand starts for getting too serious, too quick.
"You have no idea how much I enjoy just being around you," Espen continued, "and how much happier you just made me." He smiled at Tero, who was delightfully amazed that Espen's thoughts were similar to his own.
"Wow." Tero said, daydreaming and oblivious to the cream cheese on his chin. He grinned foolishly; Espen laughed, reached across the table, and wiped the cream cheese off with his thumb. Tero laughed as well.
They enjoyed the rest of the meal in silence, just wanting to be together, but neither wanting the other to know just how much.
"I just don't get it," Ville complained to Tuomo. The two were sitting in the twins' room while their father (who had arrived home only moments after the crowd had dispersed).
"The world isn't understandable to anyone, Vil," Tuomo replied.
"I don't care about the world. I just wish I understood my own twin brother."
"I did always think twins had a special little. thing."
"We do. Well, we did, anyway." Ville sighed and leaned against the wall. "I don't know. We're just growing apart, I guess. I can't even talk to him any more. He's just changed. Or maybe I have. Like I said, I don't know."
Tuomo got up to sit next to his brother on the bed. "Vil, you guys'll be okay. I mean, you have a unique bond. You're twins. Nothing can change that. Not you, not Niko, not Hannu, not even time can change it. Twins are always twins."
Ville smiled. "You know, Tuomo, sometimes you're an okay guy," he joked, making Tuomo laugh.
"Ja, I know. It's one of my character flaws. Let's go help Dad with dinner."
The brothers walked to the kitchen, at peace with the world - for the moment, anyway.
"Hei, Niko, want some more Coke?" Hannu asked, looking across the table at the sixteen-year-old, who nodded and said, "Ja, please." Niko passed his cup over; Hannu filled it.
The two were having a time trying to act like regular friends around Hannu's parents and younger brother, Teemu. Hannu was under a lot of pressure to perform, being the son of two prestigious doctors. He had told his parents that he had originally met Niko at the local ice rink, and they played hockey together when Hannu was in town. He had been hard-pressed at the time to come up with a story to explain why he, an eighteen-year-old hockey phenom in Tampere, would want to hang out with a sixteen-year-old kid in Niemi who he otherwise would have never met.
After dinner, the boys adjourned to the living room for a movie. Hannu's parents were upstairs, enjoying some reading time before bed; Teemu was already fast asleep. Niko settled down on the couch. Hannu sat next to him, putting his arm around the shorter boy; Niko rested his head on Hannu's shoulder, and they started the video. By the end of the previews, however, they were already engaged in another activity.
Both boys jumped apart at the sound of footsteps, breaking off their kiss.
Now on opposite sides of the couch, Niko and Hannu stared blankly at the television as Hannu's father came into the kitchen for a glass of water.
"Night, boys," he called as he climbed the stairs again.
"Night, Doctor Kekkonen."
Soon after he left, Hannu scooted over closer to Niko and kissed him softly. "Nik, I think we should move. I'm too paranoid in here with my family walking all around."
Niko nodded. "No problem. We'll just 'go to bed,' then?" He winked.
Hannu grinned. "Sounds like a plan to me."
Once in their nightclothes and in Hannu's room, Hannu sat down on the bed. "Now, he said in a tone of mock professionalism, "We can get down to business." He wrapped his arms around his younger boyfriend, pulling Niko onto his lap. Niko leaned into a kiss, which caused the two to fall back on the bed. They certainly did get down to business.
"Hmm?" The two were walking down a path through one of the many nearby forests, hand-in-hand. In this particular location, they were safe from prying eyes.
Although in Tero's lifetime, he had learned that asking certain questions in a relationship was a sure-fire way to get yourself dumped, he had to ask. "Why are you going out with me?"
To Tero's surprise, Espen didn't hesitate. "Because I think you're the most perfect person I've ever met, and I liked you from the minute I saw you. To be honest, I didn't know if I was gay or not either; I've never seriously been with anyone, male or female. You helped me make that decision pretty quickly. I knew I could trust you, and that's all I really needed to know." He smiled.
"Good," Tero said. "You feel the same way I do." He took a deep breath, stopped walking, and stood up a little on his toes to kiss Espen on the lips. He pulled away quickly and continued on the path.
"There's one of the things I like about you," Espen said after a moment of walking. "You want something, so you go for it. Not that you don't have numerous other qualities that I adore," he added proudly.
"Well, you know what I like about you?" Tero countered.
"Everything." They were silent for a while longer, before coming to a bench that was set a little off the path. They sat there for a while, wasting away the hours talking until midnight, talking not being the only thing they did.
Niko closed his eyes and sighed, pulling the bedsheet up over his bare chest. Hannu's arm snaked along the edge of the sheet, pulling Niko into a tight embrace.
"Hannu.." Niko breathed gently.
Niko bit his lip. "I love you."
There was an awkward pause as Hannu sorted out his thoughts; neither of them had ventured aloud to the subject of such a deep feeling before, although both had been over it many times in their heads. Then, Hannu felt a mental brick hitting his brain as the truth occurred to him. "I love you too, Nik."
Now, don't get the wrong idea about this scene of a couple together in bed with their shirts off. Niko and Hannu did not have sex on this evening, or any other time for that matter. True, they were half naked and lying in bed together, but their relationship never progressed past kissing and a bit of exploring with their hands. They were both perfectly satisfied with that, being truly in love for all the right reasons.
Niko turned his head to kiss Hannu on the cheek, but Hannu had already chosen that moment to stretch; Niko missed, kissing his boyfriend's neck instead. They both laughed, then Niko turned over and, sliding his arm across Hannu's chest, moved in closer for some more action before the two fell asleep in each other's arms much, much later.
And, there it is. Time to go type the Eighth Chapter, which I just remembered about! Geez I'm such a slacker.