If This Wall Could Talk, I.
Linka took a breath. What she was about to say, she wanted to say right. He deserved that. Six years later, since the day they'd first met, and they were finally saying all they ever meant to say …
Hello all! I'm new to this fandom. This story focuses on Wheeler and Linka, and is set in Finland. Why? Because I feel like it :) There's also background stuff involving an eco emergency, some villains, and a pair of Finnish lesbians. You know, the usual! But as I said before, the main focus is Wheeler and Linka. Enjoy!
The Geo-Cruiser soared through the clear blue sky, minutes from its destination: the north of Finland.
All the Planeteers were on board: Kwame, Wheeler, Linka, Gi and Ma-Ti. Gi was in the driver's seat. Wheeler and Linka sat in the back, putting on their winter coats. They were the only ones going to Finland. Kwame and the rest were due in Berlin, Germany, to attend a convention about advances in solar power.
"Ready you two?" Gi called out to Wheeler and Linka. "I'm just about to land."
"Nice!" said Wheeler, sounding enthusiastic. "I can't wait to hit the slopes. How about you, babe?"
"Wheeler!" said Linka angrily. "We did not come all the way to Finland so that you could snowboard! We are here in support of my cousin Sohvi, and the animal shelter she runs for wolves."
Wheeler threw his head back, annoyed. "I know that Linka. Man, I was just making a joke! Has anyone ever told you you're wound up like a clock?"
"Has anyone ever told you you're stupid like something stupid!"
Wheeler and Linka proceeded to bicker. Meanwhile, Ma-Ti leaned over to Kwame and whispered, "Linka and Wheeler have been arguing a lot these last few weeks. Did something happen between them?"
"Nothing more then the usual," said Kwame. "You know how they like to push eachother's buttons, Ma-Ti. I wouldn't worry."
"I know. But you have to admit, the arguments are more frequent."
"Yes. I think the tension between them is at breaking point. If I were them, I would go and get a room already."
"Kwame!" said Ma-Ti in surprise, blushing a little. Kwame chuckled.
"I'm sorry, my friend. But I'm certain it'd solve everything! Not to mention it would give us all some peace of mind."
Moments later, Gi landed the Geo-Cruiser.
"We're here!" she announced.
"I'm ready to roll!" said Wheeler, looking snug in his jacket, scarf and beanie. He hoisted his backpack over his shoulder. "We'll see you all in a couple of days."
"Have fun in Berlin!" said Linka, wearing her pink ear-muffs. "I would love to go with you, but I cannot pass this opportunity to visit my cousin."
Wheeler happily agreed with her.
"Yeah, I would've loved to have gone to Berlin too," he said breezily. "Except, you know," he cocked his head towards Linka, "she can't possibly survive a day without me!"
Linka swung her backpack over her shoulder – purposely hitting Wheeler's arm in the process.
"Watch it, babe!"
"You watch it!"
Wheeler rubbed his arm. "That's gonna leave a mark … "
Waving goodbye, Linka then Wheeler leapt down from the Geo-Cruiser; the soles of their boots landing in snow. They continued waving as the Geo-cruiser lifted back up into the air, rising higher and higher, until it flew away and disappeared into the early morning sun. From the driver's seat, Gi breathed a long awaited sigh of relief.
"Thank goodness. They're gone! Only those two could argue all the way from Hope Island to Finland."
"I was thinking the same thing," commented Ma-Ti solemnly.
"I think Ma-Ti is concerned Wheeler and Linka are arguing too much lately, and they might not remain friends," said Kwame to Gi. Gi smiled over at Ma-Ti.
"It's okay, Ma-Ti," she said reassuringly. "They're just frustrated, that's all. They're in love with eachother and neither party has the guts to say it."
"Why can't they say it? Isn't it about time?" questioned Ma-Ti, frustrated in his own right.
"I think it was 'about time' a year or two ago," Kwame intervened wisely.
"He knows it, she knows it. We all know it!" Ma-Ti went on. "Why can't they take a break from flirting and arguing for five minutes and talk? Really talk … be honest with one another for once."
Kwame and Gi smiled.
"Amen to that, Ma-Ti!" said Gi with a laugh. "If we're lucky, one of them will finally crack while we're away."
"So? Where to from here?" Wheeler asked Linka, surveying the area around them.
They were deserted; standing in the centre of a wide snowy field with lush green forest located behind them, and a strip of black highway in the distance ahead. Linka looked to the highway, expectant.
A red four-wheel drive was suddenly turning off the road and coming towards them, ploughing through the snow. On reaching them, it stopped and parked. The door opened and a woman stepped out.
"Sohvi!" Linka cried cheerfully, making a dash for the car.
Sohvi, who was seven years older then Linka, bore a striking resemblance to her Russian cousin; though she had brown eyes and her blonde hair was cut short. She wore sunglasses and a woolly hat with ear flaps.
"Cousin Linka!" said Sohvi, embracing Linka in a hug. "It's been ages. It's so good to see you, you look gorgeous!"
"She tends to do that," quipped Wheeler from the background, giving Linka a wink.
"And who is this?" said Sohvi, pleasantly intrigued. She looked from Linka to Wheeler and back again.
"Sohvi, may I introduce Wheeler. He is a Planeteer as well."
Wheeler and Sohvi shook hands.
"Nice to meet you," said Wheeler. "Your English is excellent!"
"Thank you. I studied in the USA for two years, as part of my degree in veterinary medicine."
"No kidding? I'm from the USA!"
"Yes Wheeler, that is obvious," droned Linka, with a quick roll of her eyes.
The three of them talked non-stop on the ride over to Sohvi's house, located on the outskirts of the popular ski resort called Ruka. Linka asked a lot of questions about her cousin's shelter.
"It hasn't been good, Linka. There is something going on with the wolves around these parts. Something strange."
"Strange how?" Linka enquired, furrowing her brow.
"There have been increased reports about wolves attacking people these last few weeks. As you know, wolves already have a bad reputation in Finland. They've been wrongly persecuted in the past, and were almost completely wiped out at one point. They're still practically an endangered species here. All these reports have caused serious damage, and are giving people reason hunt wolves again."
"This is terrible!" said Linka. "Are the reports true?"
"I'm afraid they are. What's strange is last week my colleague brought in an injured she-wolf to the shelter – who unfortunately died two days later, but I was able to run some tests and I found traces of some kind of chemical in her blood. A kind of steroid, known to heighten aggression."
"So someone's drugging the wolves!" Wheeler concluded, cutting to the chase.
"It is a possibility," said Linka slowly, still in analysis mode. "But a plausible one?"
"Like I said, wolves have a bad rep in this country," Sohvi continued. "There are still some people who wish they could hunt them freely. I wouldn't be surprised if someone was drugging the wolves. Spreading some kind of virus ..."
"Hear that?" said Wheeler, smirking at Linka. "Sohvi agrees with me!"
"Oh, shut up Wheeler!" said Linka, crossing her arms.
Twenty minutes later they arrived at Sohvi's chalet. It was very picturesque; like a life-sized gingerbread house complete with smoking chimney and bright red window shutters. Two huskies charged them when they pulled up in the driveway and hopped out of the car.
"Hey, cool dogs!" said Wheeler, bending down with Linka to pat them.
"The grey one is Torr, and the red one is Aki," said Sohvi, slamming her door shut. "Come on in the house, we'll have some coffee and something to eat."
Everyone took off their boots at the porch, before entering inside. As soon as Sohvi opened the front door, Wheeler and Linka felt a welcome rush of warm, roasting air.
"Go relax in the lounge room, by the fire. I'll take your things upstairs," Sohvi instructed them, already grabbing both Wheeler and Linka's bags and swinging them over her shoulders. "Anneli's in the kitchen, I think."
Sohvi charged effortlessly up the staircase. Wheeler watched her go, looking impressed.
"Wow. Sohvi's strong!"
Linka nodded. "She's a mountain climber in her spare time."
Wheeler and Linka both took off their coats and other winter garments, hanging them on hooks by the door. They then headed to the room directly to their left, drawn irresistibly to the open fire like two moths to a flame. A tall, willowy girl with a pretty face and white blonde hair suddenly emerged from the kitchen, coming to greet them.
"Hello, I am Anneli," she said awkwardly, her English not as polished as Sohvi's. "You must be Sohvi's cousin Linka. And … " she looked to Wheeler, politely confused.
"I'm Wheeler!" he said, grinning stupidly and jumping forward to shake Anneli's hand. "I'm with Linka."
"Oh!" said Anneli. "I understand. You are together, how nice!"
"Together as friends," Linka clarified, crankily. She pulled the back of Wheeler's shirt on impulse, putting some distance between him and Anneli. After saying hello, Anneli returned to the kitchen to prepare food and hot drinks. Wheeler and Linka in the mean time sat together on the couch.
"Who is that Anneli chick? Does she live here?" Wheeler was eager to know.
"Why are you so interested?" said Linka sourly, arms crossed and looking away from him. "And yes, she does live here. She is Sohvi's partner."
"You mean she's like a vet too?"
"No, Wheeler. Anneli is Sohvi's partner. Get it?"
Wheeler got it. He smiled. "There go my chances, huh?"
For the rest of the morning and afternoon, Wheeler and Linka helped Sohvi and Anneli with the small animal shelter situated at the back of Sohvi's property.
"This is the cub we rescued. We call her Nell," Sohvi informed Wheeler and Linka, as she leant down and picked up a tiny wolf cub from a pen, wrapped in a blanket. "She's still very young."
Both Wheeler and Linka went all gooey.
"She is so cute! Can I hold her?" asked Linka, already holding out her hands.
Sohvi carefully passed Nell over. Linka held the cub in her arms like a newborn, Wheeler standing over them with his arm around Linka's shoulder. Linka was too distracted to 'shoo' him away, as she commonly did whenever she was upset with him. Sohvi and Anneli observed them together, conversing with eachother in Finnish and smiling.
"You two look like a pair of proud parents!" said Sohvi, snapping them out of their reverie. They were both a little embarrassed, though Wheeler was fast to recover.
"Nell does take after yours truly. Before I shave, that is ... "
Towards the late afternoon, Wheeler hung around the shelter with Anneli while Linka and Sohvi took a break and went inside the house; sitting by the fire with two oversized mugs of fresh hot chocolate.
"Wheeler is very helpful," said Sohvi conversationally. "And he's very good with animals!"
"Da," agreed Linka, a tad coldly. "Wheeler has his moments."
"I ah, I wasn't sure if he was your boyfriend or not, so I made sure to put your bags in separate rooms. Was that okay?"
"Of course!" said Linka, laughing tensely. "Separate rooms are fine. Wheeler and I … we do not sleep together."
Linka buried her face in hot chocolate on saying this. It was the truth, but saying the sentence the way she had made her feel … awkward.
"You have chocolate on your top lip," observed Sohvi, after Linka resurfaced. Linka wiped it away with her hand.
"You're welcome. So you're telling me that nothing has ever happened between the two of you?"
"Well, that is to say … " Linka trailed off a moment, thinking. "It is complicated, but technically no. Nothing serious has happened between us."
"That's too bad," said Sohvi, rather desolately. "Because he is clearly in love with you."
Linka suddenly coughed on her hot chocolate. No one had ever proposed this fact quite so frankly to her before!
"Nyet!" Linka spluttered. "Wheeler is not in love with me! Wheeler just likes to flirt and play games with me. He is … how you say? Fickle?"
"But he flirts with you constantly."
"And for how long has he been doing this?"
Sohvi chuckled. "Then he's not fickle Linka, he's in love with you!"
"Then why doesn't he – "
Linka broke off.
"Why doesn't he … what?" Sohvi prompted her.
"I don't know. I don't know what I want to say!" said Linka, frustrated. "It's been so long, Sohvi. I think it is too late now. When Wheeler asked if he could come with me to Finland, I said yes. Hoping deep down something might happen … I'm not certain what, but something. Anything."
"Maybe Wheeler is afraid?" Sohvi wondered out loud.
"Afraid? Wheeler? No," said Linka, shaking her head. "No, Wheeler is very brash – particularly when he talks! I'm sure he would've told me how he truly felt by now."
"Well, he hasn't told you. Has he?" said Sohvi, matter-of-fact. "So that must mean he's afraid."
To be continued ...