He's sitting in the park with his headphones on, but no music playing. Somehow he's gotten into this habit when he writes lyrics, like if he closes his eyes and listens hard enough, he can hear it coming through the still wires, the music he hasn't written yet. He tried to explain it to Sauli once, but Sauli had just laughed and pressed a loud, smacking kiss to the corner of his lips and left him to it. Adam had watched him go, listened to the sound of him skipping down the stairs, and scribbled down a line, something about early mornings and sunbeams and bedsheets with a fading trace of body heat left.
Today, he's lost in a half-trance, nothing really coming to him but pleasant enough anyway, his focus drifting between the soft, fragrant grass under him and the bumpy solidness of the tree trunk supporting him and the light late-summer breeze rustling through his hair. He could almost fall asleep here, listening to the even footfalls of joggers, the high, giddy laughter of kids on the swings, the ever-present rumble of traffic in the distance. It's calm in a way he'd almost never thought his life would be again, after the magazine covers and the awards shows and the constant blinding flash of clicking cameras, and bittersweet, a little, because he knows it's almost over.
Suddenly, something warm and wet and ticklish brushes against his hand, and his breath catches as his eyes fly open, startled out of a deep reverie by...a very, very small puppy. In the next moment, he's grinning so wide it almost hurts and relaxing muscles sprung tense with surprise, offering his fingers for the puppy to lick at again. He has no idea what kind of dog it is, only that it has a rich chocolate-brown coat and floppy ears and a wildly wagging tail, and it's so tiny – he thinks it would probably fit just perfectly into his hands.
“Hi there,” he says, reaching out with the hand that's not busy being licked to give a gentle stroke to the puppy's soft fur. “Where did you come from, huh?”
The puppy stills for a second at his voice, looking up at him with wide dark eyes, and Adam laughs and looks back and wonders what the Finnish word for “dog” is. And then the puppy is leaping over his ankles and nosing up to him and trying to climb right up his front, leaving little muddy paw prints all over his shirt, and he reaches out without a second thought, grabby the squirmy little thing up in his hands and cuddling it close to his chest. There are a few awkward moments, and he maybe gets scratched a little bit on his arm, but then the puppy settles, resting comfortably in his hands and leaning its head back to get a few licks in on his chin.
Adam leans back and rests his head against the tree again, but he keeps his eyes open, watching for the owner that's sure to come along eventually. He thinks about what it would be like to have a dog, to take a puppy like this home. Something about the idea is deeply appealing, something Adam can't quite explain even to himself. He thinks that maybe having a dog would make his house seem a little warmer, a little less...temporary. A place where there are dog treats on the counter and brightly colored toys in a basket on the floor, and you have extended negotiations with your boyfriend about whose turn it is to let the dog outside. The kind of place you stay.
He's mostly lost in his thoughts again when the girl comes running up to him, red-faced and breathless. She can't be much more than ten.
“Pepper!” she exclaims, reaching out for the puppy with both hands before stopping herself, apparently just now noticing that there's a strange guy in eyeliner holding her dog.
Adam smiles at her. “This little guy must be yours, I guess,” he says, giving the puppy – Pepper – a scratch behind the ears.
The girl nods. “It's my first time bringing him to the park...I tried to keep hold of him, but...” She sounds upset, and Adam's heart twists a little in his chest.
“It's ok, see? He probably just got a little too excited. It happens to the best of us, you know?” Pepper squirms out of Adam's grip and clambers up to lick at his face again, and he grins and turns his head to keep his mouth, at least, out of range.
“Pepper, stop that!” The girl's trying for a commanding voice, but a giggle sneaks through at the end. “I think he likes you.”
“I guess he does! But I think it's time for him to go back now. What do you think?”
“Yeah. Come on, Pepper, let's go back to Dad!” She reaches out, and Adam places the puppy in her hands, watching in amusement as she does her best to wrangle it in her tiny arms. Then she's off again without another word, scurrying back over the hill.
Adam wipes his hands off on his thighs and pulls the headphones out of his ears, thinking. He could stop on his way home, if he wanted, give Sauli a surprise, and they could spend the rest of the night picking out the perfect name. And then he thinks about how often his house is empty during all those long weeks of promo work, and the whole idea of long-term kennels, and what it would be like trying to take a dog on a tour bus, and sighs. No. Not right. Not yet.
When he gets home, he pulls Sauli into his arms and doesn't let go for a long time, and Sauli doesn't fidget, doesn't say a word, just lets himself be held.