"He’s getting married.”
Adam barely glances up from the stack of photos his management asked him to autograph for the new Trevor Project charity drive.
He drops the marker and flexes his fingers trying to relieve the cramp signing two hundred pictures causes. He knows lots of artists have their assistants autograph these things but he's not one of them. People are donating money to charity for his signature. They'll get his signature.
One name that still has the ability to freeze Adam in his tracks. He stares at his fingers and watches his hand open and close, not really feeling the movement anymore, instead everything focused on the name from the past that still haunts him.
“Really?” He tries for polite inquiry but he's never been able to put anything over on Neil.
“In three months.”
Well, that didn't take him long. Adam fights every internal muscle screaming at him to leave the room before he hears anymore. He puts on a smile he doesn't feel and as calmly as possible replies, "I didn’t know you were still in touch with him. Next time you talk to him, tell him I said congratulations.”
“Bullshit!” Neil rakes his hands through his hair, yanking on the ends. “Jesus, Adam. It’s your last chance.”
"Last chance for what?" Adam snaps back, the reaction he wanted to keep bottled down coming to the surface. "To go begging after a man who doesn't want me? I already did that, remember? And where did that get me?"
Adam blows out a breath, trying to calm his rioting emotions. “He’s the one that left, not me,” he answers, all the anger gone as quickly as it appeared. All that's left now is the same sense of loss he felt when Sauli walked out the door so long ago.
“Do you blame him?”
“Yeah, actually, I do.” He methodically puts the photos in a neat pile before standing up to leave.
“Adam, he still loves you,” Neil’s quiet voice stops him once more.
Hearing that doesn’t make him feel better, in fact it makes him feel worse. The selfish part of him wishes it were true, if only so he wouldn't be the only one wallowing in misery.
He fights back the moisture beginning to fill his eyes. He's cried enough tears over that failed relationship. He refuses to let anymore fall.
“Then why is he marrying someone else?” Adam asks the question that has no answer.
"Mr. Lambert, I'm sorry to wake you but you need to buckle up. We're getting ready to land."
Adam scrubs a hand over his face, stifles a yawn and looks out the window. He hasn't had a good night sleep in almost six months - ever since Neil told him about Sauli getting married. He's haunted by the same dream over and over again.
Sauli got married.
To someone else.
Deep down he's not all that surprised. He knew Sauli wanted the whole happily-ever-after fairytale. He just always thought it would be with him.
Adam tries to picture what the man looks like. Probably dark hair like Adam's. Sauli always did have a thing for the tall, dark look. Maybe blue eyes. When the mental image he forms is of himself, he scoffs and changes it to a short, balding guy with beady, green eyes - an unattractive man with a high pitched screech to his voice.
He shakes his head in disgust. He's stooped to being jealous of a stranger. As angry as he is that Sauli walked out, they were very happy at one time. Does he really want Sauli to settle for a man less than worthy?
He sighs and closes his eyes because as much as it pains him to think of Sauli with another man, Adam would rather he find love again. He wants Sauli to be happy, even if the image causes him sleepless nights. It's not Sauli's fault Adam is the one who hasn't been able to move on.
He looks down at the familiar airport, one he hasn't seen since that awful day almost three years ago, when everything started to unravel.
* * *
"Sauli, I'm sorry but I have to go. Bruno had to back out at the last minute and they asked me to fill in. It's too big an opportunity to pass up."
"You don't even like sports."
Adam races to finish packing. He only has twenty minutes before the car picks him up.
"I don't, but it's a huge event, watched by millions. And since I'm so close to London, they called me."
"Adam, it's my parents party. We've missed Christmas with them this year because we were coming for this. You promised me you'd keep your schedule clear."
Adam stops for a minute to walk over to where Sauli is standing. He rubs his hands up and down Sauli's arms and gives him a kiss.
"I'm sorry but I couldn't refuse. I'm sure they'll understand."
In the four years they've been together, this isn't the first time Adam's plans changed at the last minute. Sauli''s family have always been extremely understanding. He's sure they will be this time too.
Sauli turns around quickly and walks to the closet. "How much time do we have?" He asks as he pulls out his suitcase. "I suppose they can ship anything we forget to pack."
"Um, actually it's just me leaving."
Adam throws a few things in his bag and gives up on the rest. Sauli can bring them when he flies home in a couple of weeks.
"Don't you want me with you if it's such a big event?"
"I didn’t think you'd want to miss the party. You're always saying family is the most important thing." He zips up his bag and checks the time.
"He hears but he doesn't listen," Sauli mumbles under his breath, so low Adam barely hears it.
"It'll be okay. Have fun. I'll see you in a few days." He gives Sauli a kiss, murmurs his usual good-bye and leaves the room to say his apologies to Sauli's family.
It isn't until he's on the plane that he digests Sauli's last comment. He worries over it for a bit before deciding Sauli will get over it. He always gets over it.
* * *
As Adam checks into his hotel, he wonders what's going through the minds of the desk clerks. They aren't as friendly as they normally are when he stayed here in the past. Maybe it's because they're new, but as he casually looks around, he notices lots of people looking at him but nobody approaching. In fact, he would say their stares are bordering on hostile more than anything else.
No doubt they're all blaming him for the break-up with Sauli. His sales have suffered here, enough that both he and the label have noticed.
Apparently, the Finnish reporters weren't lying when they said how much the people here loved Sauli. Then again, loving Sauli isn't very difficult. If it were, he wouldn't still be broken-hearted about their split.
He's still not sure exactly what went wrong. He knew things were a little strained between them but Sauli's whole "I want to settle down, have a family," speech took him off guard. He figured they'd do things in stages - dog first, then marriage, and finally kids.
But at some point when Adam wasn't paying attention, Sauli became unhappy, or maybe unfulfilled is a better word. Every time Sauli started making noises about taking their relationship to a more permanent state, Adam put it off until Sauli stopped hinting altogether.
Adam thought he bought himself the time he needed to get used to the idea. He didn't know that Sauli had given up.
It's not that he didn't love Sauli with all his heart and soul, but getting married is a huge step, one he didn't see himself taking for a few years. He wasn't even thirty-five. There was still time. He had no doubt Sauli was "the one", but he wasn't ready to give up his career to play family man just yet. When Adam became a father, he wanted to be hands-on. He didn't want to be someone who got a phone call or a video clip when his son took his first step, or when his daughter said her first word. He wanted to witness those moments first hand.
He thought Sauli understood they'd get there eventually, but he thought wrong. Instead Sauli had given him the "we're in different places" and the "I'll always treasure what we had" speech and left.
It's strange that he still remembers little details of that day. Sauli was wearing the necklace Adam gave him for their third anniversary. He kept sliding the diamond arrowhead along the chain, something he did when he was nervous. His shoulder length hair was tucked behind his ears, the golden, curly locks looked wild and untamed. Adam was tempted to carry him back to bed. If he did that, he may have avoided getting his heart crushed.
Adam's convinced the image he will remember when he takes his last breath is Sauli standing in the kitchen, avoiding his eyes, telling him they were over. He'll never forget the anguish on Sauli's face or in the tone of his voice.
Adam throws his phone on the bed in an angry huff. He does not want to spend his time here replaying old memories best left buried. He thinks about going to a club tonight, maybe getting drunk or laid - maybe both - but decides against it when he sees the marble bath tub. A long, relaxing soak is what he needs.
He unpacks his things and fills the tub with the hottest water he can stand. His body is still tense from the long flight, and the feeling that maybe he shouldn't have come here at all. When he and Sauli were a couple, he loved visiting, and not only because it gave him a chance to visit family. It was because the reporters and fans he met here adored Sauli. They genuinely cared about his happiness. Adam always loved that the focus was as much on Sauli as it was himself.
His heart pounded a little faster when he saw Helsinki on the list of stops for his promotional tour. He knows the chances of running into Sauli are slim to none, but questions will be asked. Personal questions he doesn't have the answer for.
"Sometimes things don't work out". "We grew apart." "We wanted different things."
Standard pat answers that aren't anywhere near the truth of what happened. The correct things to say were more like "I don't know what happened" or "He stopped loving me", or more accurately, "I took him for granted".
That last one still eats at his gut late at night when he's in his quiet house with nothing but his thoughts for company.
He exercised a lot of energy and time looking for love. So many years. He should have held on tight with both hands when he found it, instead he became comfortable as the years went by. He assumed Sauli would always be there.
He assumed wrong and he lost everything.
He wonders if Sauli and his husband live in the city or some place quieter. Hell, who's to say Sauli even lives in Finland anymore. He always did love to travel and explore new places. He could be living anywhere in the world for all Adam knows. It's killed him but he hasn't asked Neil one question since he found out his brother and ex-lover still chatted. Mostly, he's terrified of the answers.
The heat from the water releases the tension in his muscles and a relaxed sigh escapes his mouth. A line of sweat makes its way down the side of his face. He reaches down to pick up his wine but the glass slips and shatters against the floor.
"Shit," he swears and stands up, only then noticing the thin line of blood on his hand from a flying piece of glass.
Guilt overcomes him when he remembers a time he wasn’t there when Sauli needed him.
* * *
Adam pulls in the drive, dying for a bed. He's exhausted from the long night at the studio. He was due back a few hours ago, and although he called Sauli earlier that evening to tell him he'd be late, he still feels a little apprehensive about facing him. He could sense the disappointment in his partner's voice.
When he turned his phone back on after his session, he had a few missed messages from him, which was a little strange. Sauli never called him when he was at the studio. He tried to call him back when he was on his way home but it went straight to voicemail. Whatever it was, Sauli obviously figured it out on his own.
He blinks when he sees Neil's car in the driveway. Knowing the two of them, they got to drinking and Neil crashed here instead of driving home.
He smiles as he takes the steps, thankful Sauli had company tonight.
He finds Neil asleep on the couch. "Hey bro. Why don't you go to bed?"
"Huh?" Neil asks sleepily, his arms going over his head to stretch. "What time is it?"
"A little after four."
Neil sits up and rubs his eyes. "Is Sauli still sleeping?"
Adam shrugs. "I assume so. I haven't been upstairs yet. I just got home."
Neil yawns loudly before he stands. "Oh, well I'm going to bed." He starts to stagger out of the room, Adam following behind, chuckling at Neil's inability to walk a straight line. They must have had some fun.
"Make sure you wake him in a couple hours for his next dosage."
"Dosage?" Adam asks as he strips off his jacket. Neil must still be half sleeping.
"Pain pills. For his hand."
Pain pills? Neil must be in the middle of a dream, but just in case…. "What's wrong with his hand?"
Neil stops at the doorway to the bedroom he always stays in and stares at Adam with eyes that are not even remotely sleepy.
"He said he called you."
"He did but you know I don't keep it on when I'm recording. What happened?"
Neil shakes his head. "He cut his hand making dinner. He tried calling you before he called me."
"Jesus, is he okay?" He glances up the stairs, wanting to go to Sauli now, but needing to hear the whole story first. Knowing his boyfriend, he'll gloss over it and say everything is fine.
"Yes. He only needed a few stitches. Doc said he'd be fine."
"Stitches? What the hell! Why didn't he call the studio?" Adam takes the stairs two at time, racing to get to the room and make sure Sauli's okay.
"You didn't tell him which one you were at. Did you know your boyfriend doesn't like the sight of blood? I had to hold him up. He almost passed out," Neil calls from below but Adam doesn't respond. He has bigger things to worry about.
The bandage is stark white in the semi-darkened room. He walks over to the bed as Sauli tosses and turns, pain evident in his movements. Adam sits down next to him and kisses his hair.
He listens to his ragged breathing for a few minutes before standing up. He quickly strips and snuggles in behind him, wrapping his arm around his waist, careful to avoid his injured hand.
Why did he turn his damn phone off? It should've been him with Sauli, not Neil.
He sighs when Sauli seems to calm down in his arms.
"I'm sorry baby," Adam whispers in his ear. "I should've been here for you."
Sauli rubs his head against the pillow and sighs in his sleep.
"I'm so sorry….."
* * *
Around four in the morning, Adam gives up on sleep and flips on the television, settling on a music station. Just his luck, one of his own music videos comes on. It's his favorite. It's also the very first one he ever did with a male love interest.
The fights with the label were legendary. They didn't think America was ready. They were afraid of the backlash.
Adam didn't care about the backlash. He didn't care if people weren't ready. He was ready. After three successful albums, and his love life plastered on every magazine and entertainment show, he had a hunch it was time.
Turns out he was right. The sultry song became his biggest hit. The music video was approaching a hundred million views.
He always thought it helped that the love interest in the video was his love interest in real life. People were used to seeing them together so it only made sense that Sauli star in the video with him. Getting Sauli to agree was a different story.
The fights with the label were nothing compared to the fights with Sauli. His lips lift in amusement as he recalls their heated discussions, and their even more heated make-up sex.
God, they were so in love back then. The chemistry and closeness they had on screen was nothing compared to what they had in real life.
Fuck, he still misses him. He misses being sworn at in a different language. It drove him crazy before, but he'd do anything to hear it again.
As he watches them kiss on screen, he knows it's past time to move forward. There's someone out there for him to love. They'll just have to settle for being second best.
* * *
"Why don't we kiss anymore?" Sauli whispers against Adam's chest.
"We kiss all the time."
Adam's heart skips a beat because it's the first time Sauli's acknowledged the change in their physical relationship. It happened so slowly, it was weeks before Adam realized it, and only because Sauli rolled over and fell asleep one night, instead of draping himself over Adam like he usually did. The way Adam liked. Like he is right now.
"No, we don't," Sauli sighs with enough emotion to put him on edge.
Adam's nerves have him chuckling awkwardly. He pulls Sauli's head up towards his but when he goes to kiss him, Sauli turns his cheek. Instead of showing the hurt he feels, Adam kisses his jaw and his neck, pretending everything is okay.
"Do not kiss me to humor me," Sauli says angrily and tries to break away from him but Adam keeps his grip firm.
"Hey, hey," he says when Sauli stops fighting. He cups Sauli's face in his hands. "I always want to kiss you, baby. Always," he stresses.
"Then why don't you? Sometimes I feel like an, how do you say, after-thought?"
Adam pulls his lover back down to his chest. His hand caresses Sauli's back lazily while he thinks of something to say.
Their sex life hasn't been on fire like it was in the beginning. But that's normal, right? Tonight's lastest attempt is just another example of how things have changed. It was one of those times where they couldn't seem to get in synch. It's happening more often lately. Must be one of those "ruts" he hears his married friends talk about.
At least he hopes so because the alternative scares the shit out of him.
"I know things have been different between us," he whispers.
When Adam kisses the top of Sauli's head, Sauli squeezes him tight. It seems Adam's not the only one nervous about the changes in their relationship.
"But don't ever doubt how much I love you. Okay?"
Sauli nods but doesn't say anything more. Neither does Adam.