"President Lassila, we're almost at your destination."
"That's excellent news. I'm anxious to see him again."
Vesa took one last sip of his soda and tossed the can to the side of the vehicle while he then asked the driver to turn up the radio. He looked out the window and watched the scenery as the car drove past by numerous buildings in downtown Stockholm. Despite many of the shops already closed for the night, many people could still be seen walking the streets, the only light present coming from the streetlights, lampposts and the light given off by a full moon. As Vesa got closer to his destination, he could feel the anxiety building in his stomach.
It had been a while since Vesa last saw him in person and his mind trailed off when thought back to the video call he had gotten from him. Being leaders of their respective countries, he being from Finland and Edvard from Sweden, their communication was often restricted to webcams, video phones, and old-fashion texts and hand-written letters. Their jobs left little time for romance and what time they did have for each other had to be done carefully. Sometimes however communication was not enough and Vesa was often frustrated by the lack of physical contact. But that came with the life he led. Long-distance relationships were never easy but he and Edvard so far managed to handle it well in the last few years.
It was Edvard's idea to get together in secret. But it isn't like they had much of a choice in doing so. It was bad enough that rumours of them being in a romantic long-distance relationship were rampant everywhere. It all started when someone posted an article on one of the world's most respected news sources, outing their relationship. It was later discovered that the site's servers were hacked and the story was eventually removed but of course in today's world, news like that spreads like wild fire. One minute they were unknown leaders to the average person in most countries, the next minute the whole world knew about them. When asked about it in public, they always denied it but it was difficult for them to be furious when all of it was true. They loved and cared for each other deeply but all they wanted was privacy and for it to be respected.
The two men went back a long way; this city being the place it all began for them. Vesa was a tourist visiting with a group of his closest friends during the final weeks of summer break. He was just seventeen at the time; less than four weeks away from his 18th birthday. They were inside a book shop and he found himself in the art section, browsing around the various picture books containing the works of Swedish artists like Mikael Dahl and Georg von Rosen. In the corner of his eye, he saw a book with paintings of Norse and Scandinavian mythology and he just had to have it. But as Vesa was looking to grab it, another hand was looking to do the same thing.
That's when their eyes had met. Vesa recalled his first impressions of his now long-distance lover. Tall, blond, blue-eyed and attractive; Edvard looked like he walked out of a poster for Swedish stereotypes but he remembered clearly that he never wanted to look away from his face. He didn't understand the feeling he had towards the man but Vesa knew for sure that this was someone special. Vesa quietly chuckled as his mind continued to relive moments past. To think he wanted to go and vacation in Tallinn instead.
Vesa soon abandoned his friends and spent the rest of his vacation with Edvard where he showed him around the city, teaching him the history and the secrets behind the large Scandinavian metropolitan. But they had also spent a lot of time eating out at cafes and restaurants, discovering little timbits about each other and their lives. The more they spent time together, the more they fell in love. He remembered the night before he had to leave for Helsinki; they shared their first kiss in front of Stockholm Palace in Gamla Stan. It was a memory that was as clear as night and day and one he held close to his heart. It still left his senses tingling, even after all these years.
Although they had promised to stay in touch, it wasn't meant to be and they lost contact with one another shortly after they parted ways. But it seemed life had other plans for them. They wouldn't meet again for another thirteen years. By then, Edvard had just become the newly elected Prime Minister of Sweden while he was the opposition leader in the Finnish parliament. Vesa had heard about the new Prime Minister but he didn't think too much into it and brushed it off. The name rang bells in his head but he didn't think it could have been "that Edvard". When he arrived to parliament for a private meeting with the President, he had spotted Vesa in the crowd of numerous other politicians and called out to him. It was then Vesa realized it was really was the man he had met and fell in love with all those years ago. His voice still struck the same chords in his heart. There was no mistake about it. And soon later, they had become inseparable ever since, not wanting to repeat the same mistakes twice.
Snapping out of his thoughts, Vesa removed his seat belt after his driver announced they had arrived at their destination, his bodyguards all huddled together in front of the door. One of the guards opened the door and he stepped out of the car while he fixed his jacket. He then reached back into the vehicle for his matching hat, placed it on his head and shut the car door. He began walking towards his destination but quickly stopped after he began hearing footsteps behind him.
"I'm sorry but I order you stay here. I need to be alone."
They gasped, "Sir, we can't let you do that! We have to stay by your side at all times!" One of the male guards replied.
"He's right. We have to be by your side at all times to make sure you're safe. What happens if someone tries to assassinate you and we're not there to protect you? We don't even know who you're seeing," One of the female guards remarked. Vesa however merely laughed at their comments.
"You do realize that I'm in Stockholm right? I think I'll be okay. Besides if that does happen, the person I'm seeing will protect me. I can guarantee that. Now if you want to keep your jobs, you'll let me be alone," he replied as he began walking away from the stunned group of bodyguards. He grabbed a pair of dark shades from his coat pocket and put them on as he got to the steel door. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door, quickly glanced around his surroundings, and in he went.
Vesa walked down the barely-lit narrow stairway as he headed for the first floor of a free underground parking garage. When he got to the first floor, he had gone through 3 flights of stairs. He once again glared around his surroundings to make sure he wasn't being followed before he opened the door and went through. He began walking around, looking around for Edvard as he listened to the echoes of his own footsteps.
"That's odd, I can't find him. I hope he didn't forget."
Suddenly, he heard the sounds of a soft instrumental piece playing up in the distance. He couldn't help but smile as he immediately recognized the short tune. He began walking slowly to a concrete post located at the end of the room and placed his shades in his pocket and removed his hat. He popped his head from behind the post, catching Edvard's attention as he put his phone back in his pocket.
"Did you miss me?" Vesa smiled. His feelings were quickly reciprocated as Edvard pulled him in for a tight embrace, his arms resting around Vesa's waist while he had his arms around Edvard's neck, the scent of cologne overwhelming Vesa's senses. "I missed you lots," he whispered softly as he placed a gentle kiss on Vesa's forehead. He returned the act by being a little bolder and placed a kiss that was neither rough nor soft on Edvard's lips. Edvard took the opportunity to deepen the kiss; his hands slowly moved up Vesa's body and found themselves cupped against his warm cheeks. The two of them desperately missed this feeling, Vesa especially. His kisses were electrifying and left him with goosebumps on his skin. The heat between them was becoming too much for them and the need for air was becoming more apparent. When they parted, they smiled at one another, their breath still heavy as they gasped for air.
"Vesa, please come with me to the Sager House. I want us to have some privacy. I don't want us getting caught here."
"I'd like that. We can take my car. My bodyguards are waiting outside."
Edvard took out his phone and went through his contact book. He selected someone who's photograph looked like the many bodyguards he had working for him. He pressed the call button and the phone began to ring. After three rings, the video chat was launched.
"Adolvsson? I need you to do something for me," Edvard said. You could see a bit of a sparkle in the other man's eyes as they lit up.
"Of course! Anything for you Bergström!"
"I want you take the vehicle and drive it back to the Sager House. I'm hitching a ride with someone else."
The guard began to panic, "Bu-but sir! We can't let you do that! Who are you going with?!"
"That's none of your business," Edvard replied as he shut off the phone and placed it back in his pocket. The two men began walking towards a near-by exit so we could head to the surface, arm and arm. Walking up the 3 flights of stairs, they got to the top floor. Just before they exited, they made sure to put on their shades and hats. When the two were ready, Vesa opened up the door and the two of them walked out of the underground parking garage. Edvard looked around the area and gently nudged Vesa's arm with his elbow as a signal that it was okay to remove their gear.
"So where's your vehicle? I only see your guards," he asked.
"It's that car over there," Vesa said as he pointed out to a small black car, "Heikkinen is leaning against it."
Edvard appeared to be appalled by his response, "In that thing? A 2023 Volvo? Oh Vesa, you should have said something. I wouldn't have told Adolvsson to bring the vehicle back to the house."
"Well, you never asked," Vesa laughed, "I might as well use a rental car. It wouldn't be much of a secret if I came in a limousine. Though it appears one is missing."
"There's two of them?"
"Yeah, most of my guards were in the other vehicle and were closely following me since we drove from the airport."
Vesa whistled to get the guards' attention. They quickly responded by getting in a straight line, each of them standing tall and stiff. The two leaders walked towards them and they were quick to greet them.
"President Lassila! Prime Minister Bergström! It's good to see you again!" One of the male guards said.
"Likewise. Though it appears you're short one person," Edvard replied. Things became quiet as the guards quickly glanced at each other nervously.
"Alright guys. What's the deal? We're on a tight schedule. I don't have time to be dealing with this kind of crap."
"Err well-" one of the female guards mumbled as a vehicle pulled up near them. The individual turned off the car and came out of the vehicle carrying cups of coffee.
"Hey guys! I'm back with co-" the man said as he soon caught the Finnish man's glare. He began to shake nervously.
"President Lassila! It's good to see you again!" he said. Vesa however wasn't buying his cheerful tone.
"Left your post again Mäkelä?"
"Yes," he sighed as he placed his head down in shame.
"I'll deal with you later when we head back to Helsinki in the morning. All of you get in the car! We're off to the Sager House," he ordered.
"Yes sir!" they all replied as they all took their respective spots. One of the guards opened the door for the two leaders to get in. Vesa was the first to enter while Edvard then followed. The driver started up the car and drove off while the guards followed closely behind. He turned on the radio and the track playing was one of their favourite songs. Vesa knew they couldn't show any public displays of affection so he kept his distance from the Swede. However, Edvard placed his hat on a slant against Vesa's hat, effectively creating a block to prevent the driver from seeing their hand-holding. In response, he gave off a warm smile as Edvard's eyes glanced at him; his fingers gently brushing against the top of Vesa's hand. Vesa decided not to hold back as he got a little closer to his partner and intertwined their fingers together as they sat in silence for the rest of the ride.
Arriving no later than 20 minutes since the group departed, the driver stopped the car in front of the Sager House. Vesa's guards parked closely behind, each of them slowly getting out of the car to assist us. One opened the door on his side of the car while another one of his guards opened the door on Edvard's side of the vehicle. Two of his guards also assisted with the suitcases located in the trunk.
"President Lassila, would you like us to bring your bags inside?" one of the male guards asked.
"That won't be necessary. I'll take them," Vesa smiled as he took his suitcases from Mäkelä.
"What would you like us to do now?" One of the female guards asked.
"I want all of you to guard the area with Bergström's guards. Heikkinen and Mäkelä will park the vehicles out back and they will join you afterwards. Do I make myself clear?"
Vesa smiled at each of them and wished them the best before walking off to the house with Edvard. They were greeted by two of his guards who gently nodded their heads with a smile. Vesa returned the favour by repeating the action to the both of them. They entered the house and they were quickly greeted by one of the maids.
"Welcome back Mr. Bergström. Good evening President Lassila," the woman greeted.
"Please Maria, we've been over this numerous times! You don't need to call me that. Just Mr. Lassila is fine!" Vesa laughed as he removed his coat and hat. She laughed along with him as she apologized for her mistake and offered to take his coat and baggage. He kindly thanked her as he handed her his belongings. Before she headed up the stairs, Edvard called her over to give some specific orders.
"Bring his stuff to my room Maria. And please, no questions. Just do it," Edvard ordered as he directed me to the living room. In the living room, Vesa sat on a white cotton loveseat while he sat in his favourite black leather recliner chair across from him. The only thing separating them was a dark brown coffee table, complete with a glass vase filled with lilies and carnations.
Hearing footsteps in the hallway, Maria was quick to complete her task and entered the living room with another maid.
"Is there anything you would like to drink?" she kindly asked. Edvard turned to him with a smile on his face.
"Did you want some vodka or rum? I just bought some that was recently imported from Finland."
"I'll pass. I'm actually trying to cut down on my alcohol intake. Just some tea is fine."
"You sure? It doesn't have to be hard liquor. We can have wine or beer instead."
'Damn it, he had to say that didn't he?' he cursed internally. As much as he really wanted to stick to his tea, beer definitely sounded good right about now. And knowing him, he bought Finnish beer especially for him and beer he didn't have to pay for was next to impossible to turn down.
"Alright you win. I'll take a beer,"
"Excellent! Maria, bring us a bottle of Lapin Kulta and a glass of white wine," he ordered and she left to prepare the drinks.
"Ignoring offers for alcohol? That doesn't sound like you."
"Well technically I took your offer so you can't say that," Vesa laughed, "But really, I'm not in any mood for liquor. I have a lot of problems to resolve and I'm not interested in working with a massive headache. Not like I don't already have one," he muttered under his breath. The two of them sat in a silence for a moment until Maria returned with the drinks in hand. She gave Edvard his glass of white wine first before walking over to Vesa and handing over his bottle of beer. Before she was about to leave, Edvard called her back over to him, "You and Anna should take the rest of the night off. You've been working really hard lately. You two deserve the break," he said. Her bright blue eyes lit up in joy upon hearing the news.
"Oh thank you! I'll let her know," she smiled as she scurried off into the hallway. Edvard took a sip of his wine and sparked up another conversation.
"Are you doing alright? I mean we haven't had a chance to talk much since we were outed. "
Vesa took a sip of his drink before taking a moment to answer, "Of course I am. There are some people who are making a ruckus about it but that's to be expected. I couldn't care less about what they think. It's nobody's business to know what we're doing except us. There are people who are coming up with all these stupid conspiracy theories like we're sharing top secret documents behind closed doors or we're signing important business deals without taxpayers' knowledge. And that's not the worst part. It's the fact some people actually believe in this shit, namely some people in parliament," he groaned. Edvard shook his head in disbelief.
"Where do people get these damn ideas? The last thing we want to do when we get together is work," he groaned, "Things have been relatively quiet about it here, but that's only because attention has been shifted to one of my cabinet ministers over a drunken fight he participated in that was released online. I'm supposed to go to a meeting that will decide what action we're going to take against him but to be honest I think he's going to be gone before the week is over. After that though, the attention is going to shift back to us and I'm not looking forward to it."
"What blows my mind is how someone found out about this. We were so careful. We took all the right steps to hide it and still someone found out."
"Unless someone was only looking to start up some rumours and unknown to them they actually hit it right on the money."
"It's plausible I guess..." he trailed off. As much as it was a possibility, a slip up on their part seemed more likely. Edvard began to notice that the conversation was upsetting and merely stressing out his partner so decided to quickly change the topic, "How about we head upstairs for the night? You must be exhausted since you came out so late tonight."
Vesa smiled, "Sure. I am feeling a little beat up actually."
As they were leaving the living room and heading to the stairs, the two maids were just about to leave for the night. Maria announced that they were ready to leave and they would be back in the morning. The group said their good-byes and the two leaders walked up the stairs and into the master bedroom. Once they got in, both placed their drinks on the small table and tossed their jackets on top of the chair. Vesa went to grab his suitcase off the bed but Edvard gently pulled his hand away.
"Go out on the balcony. I'll meet you there in a bit."
Unsure what to make of his request, Vesa did what he was told and walked out onto the balcony. He leaned against the railing as he looked up at the sky; the moon shining brightly down on the city, not a cloud could be seen. It was truly a beautiful sight to take in.
"It's such a beautiful night," he said as Edvard came out and joined him on the balcony. He stood closely next to Vesa as he leaned against the railing.
"It sure is. I love the view here. I often come out here before turning in for the night," he said. The two men stood in silence for a few minutes as they watched the city. To ease the tension, Vesa decided to speak up again.
"Why did you bring me out here?"
"I wanted to ask you something," he replied. Vesa's curiosity was peaked.
"What is it?" he asked. When he didn't get a response, Vesa looked over to him to see his face completely flushed red in embarrassment. He appeared to be anxious as he clutched his hands together.
"Have you ever thought about us as a married couple?"
Edvard's words were quick and straight to the point. The question would have been obvious to many but the bells weren't ringing just yet in Vesa's head. The answer was straightforward to him. He'd be lying if he said he didn't. He answered honestly and curiously stared at his Swedish partner. He noticed Edvard appeared to be nervous and mentally choosing his words carefully, his forehead visibly covered in sweat. When it appeared he didn't know what to say, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small black box and placed it in his partner's hand. It was then the bells began ringing in Vesa's head. It seemed that both men were at a loss for words as he stared in shock at Edvard. Vesa had no clue as to what to do, his heart racing and his mind drawing blanks. Edvard's smile however told him to go ahead and open it. He flicked opened the little box and inside was a silver ring. Vesa bit his lip as he struggled to keep the tears from falling.
"I know the timing of this isn't the best so I won't be angry if you say no. But Vesa, when we first met I knew you were someone special. The more we spent time together, the more I fell in love and the more I didn't want you to leave. Those thirteen years without seeing or hearing from you was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through and being unable to find you through social media made things so much harder. I know I can't turn the clock back but the least I can do is make up for those lost years by making the rest of them the best ones we've ever had."
Edvard took the ring and placed it on Vesa's finger. He couldn't hold back the tears any longer and sobbed. Before Edvard could pull him in for a comforting embrace, Vesa pulled him in for a kiss, his hands resting briefly rested on Edvard's cheeks before being wrapped around his neck. His kisses were wet and sloppy as he continued to cry in between them but Edvard didn't mind it one bit. It was all he needed as an answer to his question. When the two broke apart, they rested their heads against each other's foreheads, both of them smiling in bliss, laughter occasionally slipping from their mouths.
"You're such a sappy lover Ed. But that's why I love you."