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don't you keep it all to yourself

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Wednesday, October 12th, 8:19

“You do know the coffee in the cafeteria's cheaper, right?” Jonas asked when Isak met him in front of the school building, eyeing the paper cup in Isak's hands. Isak didn't really have the money to spare, as Jonas well knew. He had considered emptying and then chucking the cup before he got to school, because sooner or later Jonas was bound to notice he'd started buying daily coffees, but the walk from the coffeeshop to school just wasn't long enough for that. It'd just make Isak feel silly. It wasn't like he was doing anything illegal, or all that suspicious. It was just coffee, for crying out loud!

Isak shrugged as nonchalantly as he could.

“It's on the way,” he said. When one of Jonas' eyebrows crept steadily upwards toward the hair curling out from under his beanie, Isak added, “It keeps my hands warm.”

“Uh-huh,” Jonas said, like he wasn't the least bit convinced.

Isak swallowed any other attempt at defending himself. It'd only raise suspicion, he knew. Jonas could sniff out whatever Isak was trying to hide like a bloodhound on a mission. Well, usually. There were maybe one or two things Isak had successfully kept to himself. That ill-advised, possessive, half-jealous crush he'd had on him a year ago for one. The fact that he had crushes on boys at all for another.

He bumped his shoulder against Jonas' instead of heaving the sigh he wanted to, and jutted his head in the direction of the school building.

“We probably shouldn't be late again,” he pointed out.

Jonas groaned. “How are we already on eight percent?”

“I blame Magnus and Mahdi,” Isak grinned. “And I don't hear them protesting.”

Jonas laughed and nodded, falling into step beside Isak. “You're a little shit, you know.”

Isak shrugged, unrepentant. “You decided to be my best friend.”

“A decision I regret every day,” Jonas said, clapping Isak on the back to take the sting out of his words.

“Sure, asshole,” Isak drawled.

In the classroom, Mahdi and Magnus were sat leaning over either one of their phones, laughing at something, but they looked up at the “hey!” Jonas called out to them. Isak reached out a hand to return the greeting they each offered in turn, slapping his palm against theirs in a lazy imitation of a handshake.

Did you get the essay finished?” Jonas asked, setting his bag down and starting the process of peeling all outer layers off.

Isak slipped out of his jacket and sprawled in his chair next to him, pulling the hood of his sweatshirt down from over his own beanie before rifling through his bag in search of said essay.

“Yeah,” he said. “It was fucking hard though.”

It was a little crinkled when he pulled it out of his bag, but mostly fine.

“Wait, that was due today?” Magnus asked, slightly panicked.

“Yes, you idiot. Why do you think I texted you about it yesterday?” Mahdi asked, looking about one second away from slapping either Magnus or himself in his frustration.

“Oh, shit,” Magnus groaned. “I already forgot the last one, this is definitely not going to go over well.”

“You're an idiot,” Jonas said and sat down in his own chair, running a hand through his hair as though to straighten it out after pulling his beanie off. It didn't ever look any different to Isak's eyes, but what did he know. His own was usually an irreparable mess anyway as soon as he put any kind of headgear on, so he just left it covered. It was warmer that way as well.

Wrapping one hand back around the paper cup he took a small sip, glad the coffee was still warm.

It really did keep his hands nice and toasty on the walk from the tram station to school, and it really did taste a lot better than the one from the cafeteria, but it was also, sadly, as Jonas had pointed out, more expensive. Isak supposed he could always just switch to tea, because there was one other distinct advantage the Kaffebrenneriet on the corner by the tram station had over the school cafeteria – the heart-stoppingly cute barista.

He was a good bit taller than Isak, though at least five centimetres of that were hair, and Isak might still grow a bit. He was presumably older than Isak, if he was stood behind a bar serving coffee while Isak went to school, but he didn't seem that old. His smile had literally made Isak forget everything else for a good few seconds the first time he'd walked into the coffee shop – on a whim one freezing morning. He'd seen Barista Boy with what looked like felt tip pen stains on his fingers, so maybe he liked to draw. He was always friendly, and remembered Isak's order only a few days after he first came in.

And that… that was pretty much all Isak knew about him, aside from how he made Isak's cheeks heat, and his mouth dry, and his heart stutter, and an entire butterfly colony erupt in his stomach every time he smiled or did that stupid eyebrow raise of his that accompanied almost every “good morning” he'd ever given Isak, like there was something to those words other than just customer service.

So, expensive though it was, it was definitely worth having one less beer or kebab every now and then if it meant Isak got to see that smile every morning. Sure, there's been maybe a handful of boys Isak had enjoyed looking at and listening to, and he'd kissed his fair share of girls, and that had been nice, all of that. (Though even just looking at those boys had generally been a little bit nicer than kissing any of the girls, which… was something Isak should probably address, at some point.)

Nothing though had ever exploded in his chest the way that barista's smile had. Nothing had ever filled him up with gasoline and set him on fire like that. Nothing had ever made him feel like he would vibrate out of his skin if he got lucky enough to have one smile, one word, one touch from someone.

So, there was that.

The bell rang, their teacher walked in, and Isak set the cup down.

Thursday, October 13th, 8:18

Isak tried his best to fight down the blush when Barista Boy smiled at him as he handed over his cup of coffee and said, “I'm Even, by the way.”

“Even,” Isak repeated, dumbstruck.

Even smiled brightly. “Yeah, I thought it was time to introduce myself, since we see each other every morning.”

Isak didn't note that he hadn't ever heard him address any other customer by name, though he knew some of them were regulars as well.

“I'm Isak,” Isak managed to say, and finally remembered to grab his coffee.

“Nice to meet you, Isak,” Even said, smiling just a tad more brightly.

Isak felt rooted to the spot by that smile, and he'd gladly stayed there to stare at it some more, if he hadn't caught sight of the clock behind the counter that showed him he'd better get his ass to school.

“Well,” he said, with a shaky smile of his own, taking half a step backwards.

“Have a good day, Isak,” Even said.

Isak smiled back and found himself nodding. “You too, Even,” he said, the name feeling foreign and sweet on his tongue.

The door to the coffee shop fell shut behind him with a final clatter, and the cold bit at his heated cheeks immediately, but Isak hardly noticed as he made his way towards school.

His name was Even. Even. Even.

Friday, October 14 th , 8:27

“You're coming out with us tonight, right?” Jonas asked. “Eva's mother is out of town, so she's having a party.”

“Oh, right,” Isak said, “Yeah. Yeah, sure.”

“What's up? Not in the mood?”

“Eh. Just… nah, I guess not really.”

“Mahdi's bringing some stuff, he said.”

“Stuff?” Isak asked, lips curled in amusement even as he frowned.

Jonas rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you know.”

He widened his eyes at Isak significantly and then waited for the penny to drop. Oh, right. Mahdi had been so excited to tell them that he'd found his own dealer, and didn't need to keep begging Jonas to hit up Ingrid's brother for some greens.

“Oh, alright. That'll be pretty chill,” Isak said.

“Yeah, and who knows? Maybe you're gonna find a girl again. I haven't seen you with anyone in ages; it's weird.

“Weird?” Isak asked, and resisted the temptation of clearing his throat when his voice came out a little squeaky, as the back of his neck ran hot immediately.

“Yeah, cause you're usually always the one pulling.”

Isak had probably never been happier to hear the bell that signified the beginning of their morning maths class. Instead of making himself answer, he turned forward and opened his notebook just as their teacher walked in, his tie as always streaked in dry erase marker where it lay over his pot belly. While he got out his materials, Isak reached out to twist the cup of coffee on his desk, thinking of the curve of Even's lips when he smiled. It had been a while since Isak had hooked up with a girl at a party. If he wanted to, he could probably count down the days.

Sunday, October 16th, 14:43

Isak rolled over from where he'd been staring at his ceiling, his gaze landing on the mug of by-now cold coffee from earlier this morning. His mother had given him the mug for his last birthday. Some days Isak wished he were less attached to it. Other days he wished he could pick up the phone to text his mother, and hope to receive something other than a Bible verse.

He really wasn't much of a coffee person, actually. It was fine, sure, but Isak neither wanted nor needed to drink it every day, as evidenced by the mug he had let go cold, that he knew to be half full at least.

Tea. On Monday, he'd switch to tea.

Monday, October 17th, 8:09

“Good morning, Isak,” Even smiled when Isak stepped up to the counter.

Isak tried to bite his answering smile down to something that wouldn't give the butterflies in his stomach away immediately.

“Good morning. I'll have an Earl Grey, please,” he said.

Even's face fell for a moment before he rearranged his features into something cheery again.

“I guess I won't be needing this then,” Even joked, pulling out a cup of what Isak assumed was his usual coffee order, complete with Isak's name on the side of the cup, as though he'd made sure not to accidentally hand it to anyone else.

“No!” Isak said, when Even turned to pour it out.

Even froze, arching one eyebrow in question.

“I'll, um. I'll have it,” he said, mind full to the brim with the thought that Even had made Isak's coffee in anticipation of Isak showing up. He'd been thinking of Isak. Of Isak.

“You don't have to do that,” Even said with a little laugh. “You wanted tea.”

“I'll have the tea tomorrow,” Isak said, balling his hands to fists beneath the counter so he wouldn't reach out to grab the cup.

“Well, if you're sure,” Even said with a shrug, and slid the cup over the counter towards Isak.

Isak pulled it a little closer still, just in case Even changed his mind, and then went to dig his wallet out of his backpack.

“No, it's on me,” Even said.

Isak looked up from his backpack, frozen in his movement.

“For being so presumptuous.”

“No,” Isak said, letting his backpack swing back around onto his back. “It was really nice of you. Thank you.”

Even blinked at him, features a little slacker than his usual smile, and Isak found himself stuck in his gaze. He wasn't sure how long their eye contact lasted, but he could feel his cheeks heat slightly as it went on, and his heart thunder a harsh beat as soon as Even smiled and briefly looked to the side, running a hand through his hair before he looked back at Isak.

“Well. You're welcome,” he said.

Isak managed to dig a smile up from somewhere and grabbed the coffee.

“See you tomorrow, Even.”

Even grinned.

“Yeah. See you tomorrow.”

Tuesday, October 18th, 8:12

“Earl Grey,” Even said as Isak walked up to the counter and set down a cup. The tag of the teabag was hanging out between the cup and the plastic lid.

Isak smiled.

“What if I wanted, um, rooibos today?” he asked, teasing a little and in slight disbelief that he dared tease.

Even laughed.

“Must you insist on making my life difficult?”

“Earl Grey is fine,” Isak said, pulling out his debit card.

“Thank you for you patronage. Do come back,” Even simpered.

Isak couldn't help his laugh, even when it came out sort of half-breathless. God damnit, Isak was good at this with girls; at saying the right things and laughing the right laugh in the right moment. With Even he felt like an awkward baby deer, stumbling his way through every interaction.

“Well, the service leaves a bit to be desired,” he teased.

Even took a step back in exaggerated mock offence.

“So you're saying I'm not all that you desire?” he asked, voice heavy with sarcasm.

Isak's heart threatened to beat out of his chest, and his nervous laugh sounded even weaker to his own ears than the last.

Even held his gaze for another beat or two, just a touch too long for it to be easily dismissed, and grinned.

“You'd better get to school,” he said.

Isak's eyes flitted over to the clock, and he could almost feel himself pull back together from where that one joking – joking, he knew that – comment had pulled him apart completely.

“Right. Have a good day, Even,” he said.

“See you tomorrow!”

Wednesday, October 19th, 8:25

“So… are they out of coffee?” Jonas asked, eyebrows and lips quirked in amusement.

“What?” Isak asked, letting go of the paper cup where he'd been twisting it around. It had become somewhat of a habit.

“You're having tea for the second time today. Since you're going in because their coffee is better than the cafeteria's…”

Isak swallowed and plastered on a mocking grin. “And to keep my hands warm.”

Jonas rolled his eyes at him.

“So, if it's not the coffee…” he said, trailing off, clearly waiting for Isak to fill in the gap.

Mahdi and Magnus were talking rather loudly about the maths homework Mahdi forgot to pack and was trying to copy off Magnus, but Isak glanced back at them over his shoulder anyway.

“The barista's really cute,” he said to Jonas, quietly.

Jonas' face broke into a grin, but at the imploring look on Isak's face, he reigned it in and only nudged Isak's knee with his own.

“What, you like her?” he asked.

Isak hesitated for a moment, cheeks hot, tips of his fingers icy cold. It'd be so easy. So easy to just say a few words, he could get away with one word even, correct the assumption, tell Jonas, but. But.

Isak shrugged and nodded.

“What, and you don't want Mahdi and Magnus to know?” Jonas asked, the look on his face almost insulted on their behalf.

“Not yet. I just. I don't want you all to march in there with me and. I just.”

Isak shrugged again, hoping Jonas would just accept it for what it was.

Jonas looked at him like he wasn't quite sure what to make of the situation.

“You really like her?” he asked.

“I-- yeah.”

“Does she like you back?”

“Don't know.”

“Come on---”

Once again, Isak found himself saved from further conversation by the bell. Jonas tried to pass him a note, but Isak ignored it and stuffed it into his pencil case unread, and eventually Jonas gave up, though not before shooting Isak another disbelieving look.

Thursday, October 20th, 12:35

Isak knew it was silly.

Upon waking up this morning, he'd realised he'd forgotten to do a biology assignment, so he'd wolfed down a bowl of cornflakes, and then sat down with his laptop to finish the assignment. It had made him miss his usual tram, and had left absolutely no time at all to stop by Kaffebrenneriet.

It was, honestly but ridiculously, bumming him out. He was sulking over it. There was really no better term to describe his dejected attitude that morning. So when Magnus and Jonas left for lunch, and Mahdi left for French, Isak announced he was going to go for a walk, clear his head.

“Oh, come on, dude. The waffles'll cheer you up,” Magnus protested.

Isak wavered on the spot, unsure of what excuse to give, but then Jonas said, “Go on, let him. Maybe the fresh air'll sort him out.”

“Alright, but you better come back. I'm pretty sure Vilde and them are planning something for the weekend, and I need you to see if you can get anything out of Sana in bio,” Magnus said, pointing a stern finger at Isak.

Isak grinned.

“You won't even notice I'm gone,” he promised.

Less than ten minutes later he walked into the coffeeshop, the sound of the door making Even look up from where he was hunched over scribbling something. Even smiled brightly when he recognised Isak.

“I missed you this morning!” Even said with a charming lopsided smile when Isak was stood in front of the counter.

Isak felt himself flush as he smiled back.

“I missed your tea,” he said back.

Even sighed and dramatically pressed a hand over his heart, staggering a little as if he'd been hurt, before he grabbed a cup of Isak's usual size.

“Earl Grey?” he asked.

Isak grinned and nodded. “Yes, please.”

Even turned away to grab a bag of tea from the back and fill Isak's cup with hot water, and Isak's gaze fell down onto the sheet of paper Even seemed to have been doodling on. It was mostly covered in nonsensical symbols and swirls, but in the middle sat a cartoon drawing of an old lady, a cup of what a caption proclaimed to be “enough caffeine to fuel three fully grown men; robot?” in her hand. Without thinking about it, Isak reached out and swiped it from the counter, stuffing it into the pocket of his jacket before Even turned back.

“Here you go,” Even smiled, setting down Isak's cup of tea.

“Thanks,” Isak croaked, then cleared his throat with a grin when Even laughed at him, and quickly dug out his wallet.

“See you tomorrow,” Even said when Isak grabbed his cup and took a step back.

Isak looked up, surprised, and met Even's gaze, staring perhaps a bit too openly and for a bit too long.

“See you tomorrow,” he replied.

He was almost sure that was a small, genuinely pleased smile on Even's face.

Friday, October 21st, 8:01

You're early today,” Even said when Isak stepped into Kaffebrenneriet the next morning. Isak shrugged as though he hadn't made doubly sure all his homework was done, and his alarm set an extra ten minutes early last night, all the while feeling supremely silly for it.

Good morning to you too, Even,” he said, instead of trying to explain himself. The best way to hide something, he had found, was to never address it at all. “One cup of Earl Grey to go, please.”

One of these days you won't love me and leave me,” Even proclaimed dramatically, as he reached for the cup.

When Isak leant against the counter, waiting for the tea and pulling out his wallet, he caught sight of another piece of paper that seemed to have been doodled on, tucked away under the register. There was another figure on it, but Isak couldn't make it out clearly, and it was too far away to stealthily grab.

You draw?” he asked instead when Even turned back.

Even's eyes widened a little bit and flicked to the sheet of paper for a brief second, before he smiled at Isak.

Badly,” he said with that easy grin of his.

I'm sure that's not true,” Isak said, taking his cup of tea from Even.

That’s very kind of you,” Even said, motioning for Isak to swipe his card . He hesitated for a moment, then grabbed the drawing.

Do you want to have it?” he asked, holding the drawing close to his chest , as though he wasn't quite sure if he really wanted to give it to Isak.

Isak carefully didn't curl his fingers around the paper cup too tightly, and nodded, putting what he hoped was a normal, appreciative smile on his face.

Yeah, sure, if you don't want to keep it?” he said.

Even smiled, and seem e d to have made a decision, handing Isak the drawing.

No, I don't need it,” he said.

Isak took the sheet of paper carefully and looked down at it with a slight twinge of guilt for having stolen that other one. This one wasn't covered in doodles, only one half-done, cartoon figure in the centre of it. It showed the back of a person, backpack over a jacket, a hood up and covering the head.

Heart thundering, Isak stared for a second, trying to convince himself it didn't look like him, or at least not just him, that Even saw hundreds of kids in backpacks and hoodies under jackets leave the coffeeshop every day, and just because he'd drawn something familiar didn't mean he'd drawn Isak.

This is really good,” he said, looking up at Even. It felt a bit like he'd looked at the drawing for too long, but Even's face wore the same smooth smile as always, giving away no hint of what he might have been thinking or feeling.

Thank you,” Even said. “I'm glad you like it.”

I do,” Isak said, cheeks and stomach hot under Even's gaze. “I'll put it up o n the wall by my bed, so I can look at it always.”

Even grinned brightly.

Just as it deserves,” he said.

Isak grinned back, a little helpless and still unsure of what he was supposed to make of the drawing. Had Even hesitated because he had drawn him? Or was Isak just so infatuated he read too much into everything?

I'll be very careful with it,” Isak promised, only teasing a little as he swung his backpack around to slide the drawing in between the pages of a textbook.

Even nodded gravely, eyes twinkling with amusement.

See that you are, it might be worth something some day,” he said.

I'll sell it when you're famous and tell everyone about how you used to be a lowly barista. I'll get rich.”

Glad to be of service,” Even said, and then looked up at the door as it swung open. The noise that followed the chattering group of girls inside tore Isak out of his Even-induced haze, and reminded him they were stood in a coffeeshop. Where Even worked. And where Isak needed to leave to get to school.

Have a nice weekend,” he said, stepping aside to let the girls step up to the counter.

You too,” Even said with a smile just for Isak, before turning to the girls to smile at them as well.

Hello, ladies, what can I get you?”

Monday, October 24th, 8: 08

So am I going to meet your barista today?” Jonas grinned when they were only one stop from where they would have to get off, forcing a decision Isak had been trying to make since Jonas had asked to stay over the night before. They'd gotten caught up playing video games, and sleeping over was just easier than trekking home late at night.

I guess,” Isak said, heart hammering in his chest. Not taking Jonas would just raise too much suspicion about what Isak was trying to hide, and anyway, Isak sort of wanted Jonas to know. He wanted to be able to ask him about the drawing Even had given him, and how he volunteered his name .

Be cool,” Isak said, tongue feeling too big for his mouth as they got off the tram. Wanting it to happen didn't really make it any less terrifying. If anything, it made it more so. Isak really, really wanted this to go well. He didn't just want Jonas to be okay with Isak liking Even, he wanted Jonas to like Even. It was ridiculous, Isak knew that. They weren't even dating. They most probably never would be dating.

Cool, but not too cool. Wouldn't want to steal her from you,” Jonas grinned, elbowing Isak in the side.

Isak could already see the shop window, imagining the movement he could see behind it was Even, and kept his gaze stubbornly trained ahead of himself.

If he doesn't like me, it hardly matters why,” he said, voice a little thin.

If Jonas had caught the pronoun and was surprised by it, he didn't show it, just followed Isak inside when he pulled open the glass door.

Even was serving a lady in a pant suit her drink, but his eyes glanced over at Isak and he flicked his eyebrows up with a small grin when he saw him. The woman took a bit of a while to stuff her wallet back into her purse and juggle all of her belongings so she could grab her cup, but when she did, she smiled a tired smile at Jonas for holding the door open for her.

“Good morning, Isak,” Even said, leaning against his side of the counter.

“Morning,” Isak grinned.

“Earl Grey as always?” Even asked, and then, when Jonas stepped up behind Isak, added, “I'll be with you in a second.”

“Oh, er, no, I'm with him,” Jonas said, pointing at Isak.

Even almost seemed to falter for a moment as he reached for Isak's cup, and then smiled at Jonas.

“Oh, sorry! What can I get you then?”

“Nothing for me, thanks. I'm just tagging along,” Jonas said with a smile.

Even smiled back and then busied himself with the tea, turning his back on them. Some days he poured the water facing Isak, and when he didn't Isak had never thought anything of it, but today Isak couldn't help the rush of disappointed worry. Having Jonas here made everything feel more important, and he couldn't help wondering if he'd done something wrong.

“Not doodling today?” Isak asked when Even slid the cup of tea over the counter.

“The morning rush is generally a bit too busy for that, but hang on,” Even said, grabbing Isak's cup back and a pen he'd stashed underneath the till, and carefully drew something onto the cup while Isak paid. “Here you go.”

Isak beamed possibly a little too widely, incredibly over-aware of his expression with Jonas stood beside him, even if he was busy staring down at his phone, and turned the cup to look at the drawing.

“One can never have enough sunshine, right?” Even asked.

“Definitely,” Isak said, looking up from the quick doodle of a sun, a child-like circle and rays of varying lengths with the obligatory sunglasses perched on the sun's non-existent nose. It had a smiley-face-grin as well.

“Have a good day, Isak,” Even said with a smile, and then turned to the person stood in line behind Isak, dismissing him.

“Um, yeah, you too,” Isak said quickly, and shuffled aside. He hadn't even noticed anyone else come in, too caught up in the hammering of his heart over Even's smile, and Jonas seeing his reaction to Even's smile.

Outside, Jonas put his phone in his pocket and waggled his eyebrows at Isak.

“Well, he's handsome,” he said.

Isak broke out into a relieved laugh, and then shrugged a little.

“Yeah, I guess,” he said.

“You guess. Right,” Jonas mocked, jostling Isak a little with his shoulder.

“Fine, he's really fucking hot,” Isak said, feeling like his cheeks must've been as red as a traffic light by now.

“What's his name?” Jonas asked.

“Even,” Isak said, smiling when he did, the way he always seemed to where Even was concerned.

“Well, he's totally into you too, if you're still unsure,” Jonas said.

“You think?” Isak asked, thinking back to the easy dismissal earlier. Sure, he'd drawn that sun for Isak, but that was only after Isak had basically prompted him to. Sort of.

“Dude. Like. He was so thrown when I said I was there with you,” Jonas said.

Isak felt as if his entire brain stopped in its tracks.

“You think he thought…?”

“I bet you one thousand crowns that's what he's trying to work out right now,” Jonas said. “He's definitely interested.”

“...yeah?” Isak asked, staring at the sun on his cup. It was fitting, he supposed, for Even to have inadvertently chosen to doodle a sun for Isak, since his smile lit up Isak's mornings like it did.

“Absolutely,” Jonas said, throwing an arm over Isak's shoulders.

Wednesday, October 26th, 09:15

“I see you brought tea again,” Jonas grinned. “How's Even?”

Isak stared at the paper cup on his desk for a moment before answering.

“His girlfriend is hosting a Halloween party. He said to bring friends,” he finally said.

“His what?” Jonas asked, turning to stare at Isak.

Isak stared back and shrugged helplessly.

“His girlfriend,” he repeated.

Jonas stared at him as though he wasn't quite sure he'd understood Isak correctly, then deflated in his seat.

“Fuck, really?”

Isak shrugged again. He didn't really know how to feel about this new information. Devastated, yeah, but then again nothing was ever going to happen, was it? Even had always been a daydream. A crush. A pretty boy to look at and an infatuation to indulge in. Despite Jonas' claim that he was interested in Isak as well, he'd probably only been polite. Aware, maybe, of Isak's school boy crush and too kind to reject him outright.

“Are you gonna go?” Jonas asked.

Isak grabbed his snapback from his head to run his hand through his hair before setting it back down again.

“I don't know. He… he invited me to pre-drinks at his place? Just us two? To hang out?” he said.

“What the fuck?” Jonas asked, wrinkling his brow. “So he flirts with you, and he invites you over to pregame just the two of you, and then he's taking you to his girlfriend's party?”

“You don't know that he was flirting,” Isak objected.

Jonas looked like he wanted to press his point, but then he sighed instead and shrugged a little as well.

“I guess you're right,” he said. “I really thought he was though. Like, from what you told me, and what I saw.”

Isak shrugged again.

“But, like, are you gonna go? To his, I mean?”

“Wouldn't that be really silly? He has a girlfriend,” he said.

“Maybe you guys can be friends though, if that's something you want,” Jonas suggested.

“I want to kiss him,” Isak mumbled.

Jonas pulled a sympathetic grimace.

“I know it's not, like, the same thing, but when Eva and I broke up… it was really hard being friends with her, at first. But I'm really glad we actually made an effort to be friends, you know? She's great. I don't want to miss out on that,” he said.

“Yeah, no, I get what you mean,” Isak said with a sigh. “I guess I'll go? Maybe he'll turn out to be really boring and I'll get over it.”

“That's the spirit,” Jonas grinned. “If you need an out, just text me and I'll call with a family emergency or something.”

Isak snorted indelicately and then sighed deeply, twisting the paper cup around in its place on his desk.

“Yeah, thanks,” he said.

Friday, October 28th, 21:21

Isak was nervous about going over to Even's, there was no use pretending he wasn't. The worst part was that every time he caught his nerves flipping over into excitement, he had to squash the impulse. Yes, it was a little bit exciting that he would get to see where Even lived, what his room looked like, whether he had posters on his walls, and if he did whether Isak would recognise any of them. But he couldn't let himself get too excited, couldn't let himself look forward to it too much. He was invited to a pregame to Even's girlfriend's Halloween party.

Getting dressed had been a nightmare. He wanted to look good, because whether or not Even was into him like that, he didn't want to look a mess in front of him. But then he also didn't want to look like he was trying too hard. Yet he was supposed to go to a party, so trying a little was expected, wasn't it? In the end he went with a grey pair of skinny jeans and an equally grey henley under a red hoodie. The colours looked good on him, he knew, yet it was still relaxed enough to look casual. He hoped. That's what he'd heard Noora tell Eskild when she was helping him get dressed for a maybe-a-date-maybe-not-a-date the other day at least.

When Even swung open the door to let him in, he was wearing a long white tunic, and what appeared to be white leggings underneath. There was a long, white wig in his hand.

Isak blinked at him.

Even blinked back.

“What are you supposed to be?” he asked.

“Um,” Isak said, not sure what Even was getting at. “On time?”

Even snorted a laugh that made the skin by his eyes crinkle a little. Isak smiled back automatically.

“No, I mean, your costume,” Even said.

“Costume?” Isak echoed, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“Yeah, did I not tell you it was a costume party?” Even asked, eyes a little wide.

Isak shook his head. Maybe he should've asked, it was a Halloween party after all, but amidst all the fretting about what to do, and what to wear, and how to feel, it hadn't even occurred to him.

“That's okay. We'll find you something,” Even said, and then stepped aside to allow Isak into the flat.

The flat was smaller than the flatshare Isak himself lived in, but it looked… nice. There were shoes and coats and all the usual miscellany by the door, photos clipped to strings strung along the wall in the entryway, most of them of people. Groups of people Isak assumed were Even's friends, given they looked around his age. There was one that showed Even with his arm around a pretty girl with short hair, both of them laughing at something off camera.

“That's Sonja,” Even said.

When Isak looked up at him, feeling like he'd been caught doing something he shouldn't, Even was looking at him with a small furrow in his brow. Isak swallowed and smiled.

“She's very pretty. You make a good couple,” he said and turned away from the photos, slipping out of his shoes, intent on letting Even lead him further into the flat.

Instead, Even grinned, mischief dancing in his eyes.

“Are you saying I'm very pretty? Why thank you, Isak,” he teased.

Isak rolled his eyes and hoped to god the heat in his cheeks wasn't visible.

“Oh, you know what I meant,” he tried to play it off.

“Yes. That I'm exquisitely beautiful,” Even grinned.

“The fairest of them all,” Isak agreed, as sarcastically as he could, because if you can't beat them, join them. “You look ridiculous, actually.”

Even glanced down at himself as if he'd forgotten he was currently dressed like… Isak didn't know, actually. A hermit?

“Right! We've still got to find you a costume!” Even said. “Come on, I'm sure I've got something lying around.”

Even turned on his heel and strode further into the flat, so Isak followed him, letting his glance flit around the flat quickly.

“Are we alone?” Isak asked, hoping he didn't sound too happy about it.

“Yeah, my flatmate's, um… helping Sonja set up,” Even said. “We all know each other from back in school.”

“Oh,” Isak said. Then why wasn't Even…?

“I was supposed to help out as well, but she only told me about the party earlier this week. Not my fault I'd already made plans,” Even said, swinging open the doors to the floor to ceiling closet in his room.

Already made plans? He'd only invited Isak for drinks when he'd invited him to the party. So had his other plans fallen through and he'd invited Isak to get out of setting up for the party? Or… or had he already planned on asking Isak over before Sonja had told him about it?

Even looked over at Isak as though he waited for him to say something to that, so Isak smiled at him. It made Even smile back at least, before he went back to rummaging through his closet, so Isak supposed it must have sufficed, whatever reaction Even had been looking for.

“Aha!” Even exclaimed triumphantly, pulling a golden something out of his closet and tossing it at Isak.

“Um,” Isak said, fumbling the catch a little.

“We're gonna dress you up as Julius Caesar,” Even announced.

Isak lifted the wreath of golden ivy and studied it.

“Pretty sure the ancient Romans wore laurels,” he said.

“Beggars can't be choosers, Isak,” Even chastised, wagging a mocking finger at him.

Isak rolled his eyes again, but grinned. He settled the wreath on his hair, brushing a few strands out of his face and sort of tucking them underneath so the wreath wouldn't push them down into his face. Even smiled at him.

“Come here,” he said, and Isak went.

“Give me your hoodie and hold your arms out,” Even instructed, so Isak handed it over and stuck his arms out to the side, frowning only a little bit. Even widened his eyes significantly at him in response and then tied the hoodie diagonally across his body. He even managed to do a knot on top of Isak's shoulder that didn't look entirely obnoxious. For a costume thrown together in less than five minutes, it was probably as good as it was going to get.

“There,” Even said, stepping away from Isak to take in his work, and giving a decisive nod.

“Very statuesque,” he pronounced.

Isak couldn't help the amused snort.


“Yeah,” Even said, grin bright, and eyes focused on Isak in such a way that made it feel like Even thought him the only thing worth looking at.

Isak could feel himself blush, and tried to remind himself of pretty Sonja and the comfortable way Even's arm was wrapped around her in the photo. It was hard to do with Even looking at him like that, and even harder when Even's smile softened, and he pulled a pre-rolled blunt from somewhere within the closet.

“Up for it?” he asked.

Isak grinned.


Even moved over to the window and opened one side of it, before he sat down on the bench covered in cushions that stood beneath it, and lit the joint. When Isak hesitated for a bit, he gestured for him to join him, so Isak sat down and made himself cross one leg onto the bench, the other one dangling off of it. There was no point in tiptoeing around. Whatever his reasons, Even had invited him to hang out. He wanted him here. Isak might as well get comfortable with that.

Even copied his pose opposite him, their knees touching just the slightest bit. He took a long drag, clearly practised, before he handed the joint over to Isak.

“So, young Isak, tell me about yourself,” Even invited, smoke spilling from his lips as he spoke.

Isak took his own drag, held the smoke for a couple moments, and then blew it out in a controlled breath, before he answered.

“What do you want to know?”

“Anything. You go to Nissen?” Even asked.

Isak nodded, and handed the joint back over.

“Yeah, second year,” he said.

“A 99er?” Even asked, lips curled in a smile even as he wrapped them back around the joint and sucked. Isak tried not to stare.

“Yeah. You?” he asked.

Even breathed out a ring of smoke and sent the rest of it straight through it. When Isak rolled his eyes, begrudgingly impressed but hardly about to show it, Even waggled his eyebrows at him.

“97,” he said. “I graduated last summer.”

“Where did you go?”


Isak snorted with amusement. For some reason, Elvebakken wouldn't have been his guess.

“Surprised to see you at Kaffebrenneriet then. Do they roast their coffee beans harmonically enough?” he teased.

Even grinned.

“Oh, yes. Three virgins hand-pick and cry over every bean, didn't you know?”

Isak laughed, taking the joint from Even when he held it out.

“So which media nerd type are you then?” he asked.

“The director kind. Or writing,” Even said with a grin, unbothered by Isak's comment.

There was something about the open way he spoke about it, the way his eyes twinkled as he tilted his head to the side and looked out into the darkness, that made Isak soften.


“Yeah. I think all of life is like a film, maybe, and you get to direct it. A little bit, at least. But with a film you can direct every part of it, and make it exactly the story you want to see, you know?” he explained.

Isak nodded and turned to the side to exhale the smoke out of the open window.

Even nudged his knee.

“You made me talk about me, and I wanted to hear about you!” he accused.

Isak laughed and handed the joint back over, already feeling heavier, warmer, lighter.

“Alright, alright. I… think what's fascinating about life isn't the control we have over it, it's the infinity of it,” he said.

“How do you mean?” Even asked, eyes focussed on him now instead of whatever it was he'd seen outside before.

“I mean… there's a whole universe out there. And not just this one, probably, but a whole infinity of universes for everything possible. Anything that can happen, will happen. Is happening, actually. For example, there's a universe out there with an Isak and an Even sitting by the window smoking, only, like… you dressed me as something else,” Isak said, pressing his lips together to halt the rush of words tumbling from his mouth.

Even didn't seem put off though, he just looked Isak over, a small smile tugging at his lips.

“Like what?” he asked.

Isak shrugged. “I don't know, it's your alternate self.”

Even grinned and nodded, as though Isak made perfect sense. He took another drag before handing the joint back to Isak.

“Maybe I'd have given you a crown of flowers instead,” he said, eyes bright and heavy on Isak at the same time.

Isak swallowed and barely resisted the urge to lick his lips, breaking eye contact to take another hit.

“And, like, there are infinitely many of these universes, yeah? There's one for every tiny change. One where this wreath has one less leaf, one where you're sitting here, and I'm over there, one where your… fuck, I don't know. Your curtains are blue. It's not all grand changes, just. A universe for every possible version of reality,” Isak barrelled on once he'd exhaled the smoke again.

Even hummed contemplatively.

“I don't like it,” he decided.

“What? Why?” Isak asked, handing the blunt back over when Even held his hand out for it. “It's fascinating, don't you think? The vastness of it and how insignificant and self-centered we are.”

“Maybe,” Even conceded, taking another drag. “It freaks me out a little though. I like being significant and self-centered.”

There was a teasing grin on his face as his eyes flicked over to Isak briefly, but also something that looked a lot like… exhaustion. Isak swallowed heavily, heartbeat picking up, wracking his brain for a way to turn the conversation back around.

“I don't know, it's like a hardcore version of that 'the brain is alone' feeling, right?”

“'The brain is alone'?” Isak asked, frowning.

“Yeah, like. It's only you and your thoughts, in the end. The only thing that's for sure, and that you can't get away from. Your thoughts are always going to be there. Except in death, that is,” Even said.

Isak frowned.

“That's a bit dark,” he said.

Even laughed. “I suppose. It's true though.”

“I mean, yeah,” Isak said. He fidgeted a bit, trying to find something to say to that. “But, like, does it matter?”

“How do you mean?” Even asked. “You're essentially alone in the universe – in an infinity of universes, according to you. Doesn't that matter?”

“Only you can think what you think, or feel what you feel, for that matter, true, but,” Isak said, then halted, licked his lips. Even was watching him attentively. Isak's heart was still beating a bit too heavily for the stoned rambling he was used to doing.

“Only you can see what you see as well, right? Like, we'd both call this red,” he said, pointing at the hoodie wrapped around him in an approximation of a toga. “But there's no way of knowing if what you see and what I see are actually the same colour. We just learned that this shade, whichever one we're actually seeing, is called red.”

Even laughed a little. “How does that make that better?”

“Well, because we both call it red. What you see and what I see doesn't really matter, does it? Because it's red. And we know what we're talking about. We're not alone,” Isak said.

Even hummed thoughtfully, passing the blunt back over to Isak.

“Maybe,” he said.

Isak took another hit and smiled.

“Make a movie out of it,” he suggested.

“A movie?” Even asked.

“Yeah. Tell the same story in like, five different versions. Five different universes. And then it turns out this guy's just been going through possibilities in his head or something.”

“That's been done, I think,” Even laughed. “But why not do it again.”

“Great. You'll make movies and win Oscars, and I'll, I don't know. Find a new particle,” Isak grinned.

“A new particle?” Even asked, laughing.

“Yeah, like, at CERN. Particle physics?”

“Is that what you're into?” Even asked, dropping the bud of the blunt into a glass he'd taken from Isak-didn't-see-where and looking over at Isak with a focus Isak thought he shouldn't be able to pull off through the haze of the smoke clouding his own mind.

“I don't know, really. Maybe. I like science,” Isak said.

“So, how does that work out with your parallel universes?” Even wondered.

Isak shrugged, relaxed smile playing about his lips.

“Well, the multiverse is part of physical cosmology, sort of. I mean, it's debatable, and a lot of people say it's not really science cause it doesn't allow the application of the scientific method, but-”

“The what is part of what now?” Even interrupted with a laugh. “Wow, I had no idea you were such a nerd.”

“Shut up,” Isak said, blushing a little. “It's physics that deals with what the universe actually is and how it works. Big bang and that.”

“Ah, okay,” Even said, nodding a little. “I think I prefer movies.”

Now it was Isak's time to laugh.

“I bet you hate anything with an explosion.”

Even exaggerated an offended huff, but he was still grinning.

“Well, we can't all be into big bangs,” he said, prompting Isak into even more giggles.

The heavier mood from earlier had dissipated like the smoke between them, and when Even asked him about what kind of music he liked listening to, Isak didn't even mind the subsequent teasing when he tried – and failed – to pretend to know who Nas was too much. As long as they were having fun, it was all good.

The munchies drove them into the kitchen sooner rather than later, and Even made Isak sit on the counter and watch, because “You're a guest and it's rude not to provide food and drink for your guests. Beer?” So Isak found himself sipping from a bottle of beer, watching Even slice cheese rather lopsidedly and slop it onto toast.

“Did you forget to put that cheese back into the fridge?” Isak asked, watching the way Even struggled to keep the cheese solid enough to cut.

Even huffed and rolled his eyes.

“Yes, I did,” he said.

Isak chuckled.

“That always happens to me too,” he said.

Even grinned when he looked up at him from his work, eyes sparkling brightly.

“Yeah?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Isak confirmed, toes curling around the squirming feeling in his belly. “Noora always yells at me for it.”

“Noora?” Even asked, turning back to the cheese.

“One of my flatmates. I took her room when she left for London with her boyfriend, but she, uh, recently came back,” Isak said.

“Oh,” Even said, a small frown on his brow. “Is she okay?”

Isak shrugged. “I think so. It's a bit crowded in the flat now, but she's mostly at Eva's anyway.”

Even hummed his acknowledgement and then turned to put the cheese into the fridge with a waggle of his eyebrows at Isak.

“Don't forget the cardamom,” Isak said when he turned back.

“Cardamom?” Even asked.

“Yep. It's essential for a good cheese toast.”

Even studied him for a moment, a wary frown on his face.

“I can't tell if you're joking or not,” he finally said.

Isak laughed, and then shook his head.

“I'm not! It's really good, trust me!” he insisted. “What do you usually put on?”

“Nothing? It has cheese. That's the point of cheese toast,” Even said.

“Amateur,” Isak scoffed, rolling his eyes playfully, and hopped down from his perch on the counter.

“No, no, no,” Even protested immediately, setting his hands on Isak's hips and pushing him back with an exaggerated frown when he tried to step up to the toast.

Isak felt the edge of the counter bump into his back, gently, because Even was moving him so gently, but it hardly registered against the firm warmth on his hips. His breath caught in his throat and it took a moment for him to remember to close his mouth and blink his eyes back to a normal size. Even's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed, and Isak had to very deliberately move his eyes further up to Even's face, and then even more deliberately past his plush, pink lips up to his eyes. Not that Even's eyes were any easier to look at than his lips, dark and glittering in a way that tripped Isak's heartbeat up. For a second, Isak swore they flicked down to Isak's own lips.

“You are my guest,” Even said, voice lower and rougher than just a moment ago. The sound of it made heat shiver along Isak's spine, heating his cheeks and making his stomach glow warmly.

Isak could only stare, but Even didn't say anything else. He shifted his weight a little and it couldn't have moved him closer by more than a centimetre or two, but he might as well have been pressed all along Isak's body with the way his presence loomed over him.

“Okay,” Isak found himself saying, not even sure to what he was agreeing. With Even this close, holding him like that, and looking at him with those eyes, Isak would have probably agreed to anything.

Even ducked his head just a bit, and Isak wasn't even sure he'd done it on purpose, or with any specific purpose in mind, but he tilted his own up just a little in response anyway. For a moment they were frozen like that. Then, Even stepped away.

Isak's knees locked against the rush of weakness that gripped him, as though Even had taken Isak's center of gravity with him when he moved back.

Even pulled open a cupboard door, his face vanishing behind it for a moment.

“So, cardamom?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Isak said, and turned away to compose himself, grabbing the bottle of beer to take a large gulp. The bitterness settled on his tongue more heavily than before.

When he turned back around, leaning against the counter in an imitation of casualness, Even had come back out of the cupboard, looking, for all intents and purposes, as though nothing had happened.

“How about some rosemary?” he asked, holding the glass bottle up.

Isak found himself smiling despite the tight coil of nerves in his stomach.

“Sure,” he said.

“I don't really have anything else to offer, other than chili salsa,” Even said with a grin.

“Well, we can always put that on when they're done in the oven,” Isak suggested.

Even grinned.

“I like the way you think. We should go all in,” he said.

Isak nodded, watching Even sprinkle rosemary and cardamom onto the cheese toasts, both a little too liberally.

“Yeah. No, turning back now,” he said.

“Only forward,” Even agreed, with a quick glance and smile at Isak, and slid the tray of toast into the oven.

Despite the liberal spice application courtesy of Even, and the liberal chili salsa application courtesy of Isak, the toast turned out edible enough that they both finished their share.

“There was something wrong with that,” Even said, nose wrinkled adorably, even as he licked the residual fat off his fingers. “I'm blaming your cardamom.”

Isak scoffed. “Just because you don't know how to do it properly.”

“Whatever you say, Isak,” Even laughed, and leaned back onto his hands.

“Hey, what time is it?” he asked then.

Isak twisted his hips to get his phone from his pocket, and illuminated the screen to check.

“Um, quarter to nine,” he said.

“Shit, really? We better get going,” Even said, getting up from where they'd been sitting on the floor of his room.

“Oh, okay,” Isak said, scrambling to follow Even into the kitchen with his own plate, trying to ignore the sinking disappointment. Even took the plate with a smile and put it in the dishwasher next to his own. Isak felt a shot of something despairingly sad at the thought of all the evidence of him being here being washed away so easily. Of course he knew it was absolutely ridiculous, but he had… god, he had such a crush on Even, and he couldn't figure out what Even wanted from him. He just wanted to leave a mark somewhere.

Even breezed through the flat like a whirlwind on two legs, laughing at the slightly shocked expression on Isak's face as he watched him flit from room to room, collecting his wig, his wallet, his phone, his keys.

“Come on, we'll take my bike,” Even said, slipping into his shoes. “You can sit on the rack.”

“Oh, um. Sure,” Isak agreed, tying his own shoes and then almost tripping over the threshold as Even waved him out enthusiastically.

Isak tried to hold on to the front of the rack to keep his balance, but it was already hard enough keeping his legs off the ground, so eventually he just took a deep breath, grabbed one of Even's hips and one of his shoulders, and held on. Even took one hand off the handle bars and patted Isak's hand on his hip.

“You okay back there?” he called.

“Just trying not to fall off,” Isak called back, making Even laugh and attempt to look back over his shoulder. He only ended up spluttering when the wind blew the white wig into his mouth.

“Look ahead, idiot!” Isak laughed.

“Live on the edge, Isak!” Even yelled through his own laughter.

“I'm too young to die!”

“And far too pretty!”

“Exactly!” Isak yelled back without missing a beat, while his heart probably missed several of them. Too pretty? Too pretty? Even thought he was pretty? What did this mean? Did this even mean anything? Isak had thought he might have been flirting before, Jonas had been convinced of it, and then… Sonja.

Isak took a deep breath, glad the general noise would hide how it shuddered, and that Even wouldn't be able to see his blush.

Could Even feel the trembling of his hands?

Then they stopped, rather abruptly, and Isak could barely keep himself from falling forwards into Even's back.

“Whoah,” he mumbled, squeezing Even maybe a little too tightly in his attempt to avoid a collision, and put his feet back on the ground.

“We're here,” Even announced.

Isak grabbed the rack in front of him to steady himself while getting off, rather than Even, and looked up at the unassuming building. He wasn't sure what exactly he'd been expecting, but now that he was faced with the utter banality of just another apartment building, it seemed silly to feel… disappointed. Like the universe should have provided something more sinister looking for the moment that would send all of Isak's buried hopes and dreams off into the afterlife.

“I'm guessing it's the one with the flashing lights?” Isak asked, plastering on a grin.

Even tilted his head to the side, glancing up at the building.

“And the thumping bass? How did you guess?” he teased.

“I'm incredibly smart, didn't you know?” Isak mock-bragged.

“I'm starting to realise, yeah,” Even said, voice and smile a little too soft not to throw Isak off again.

“Better late than never,” Isak said, nerves coiled too tightly for silence.

“Hey, what time is it?”

“Um, hang on,” Isak said, fishing his phone out of his pocket to check. “21:21.”

“Seriously?” Even asked, with a slight grin.

“Yeah,” Isak said, holding up his phone for Even to see.

“Do you want to go to a party right now?” Even asked, face too blank for Isak's searching eyes to find a clue to what the right answer would be.

Isak swallowed, stretching out his fingers when he realised he'd curled them into fists.

He shrugged, helplessly aware of the precipice he was standing on, metaphorically speaking. Though to be fair he probably stepped onto that precipice the moment he crossed Even's threshold for the first time. So he might as well take the plunge.

“I want to spend time with you,” he said.

For the longest moment of Isak's life, Even only looked at him. With every passing second Isak became more and more aware of his entire body. The way his feet were turned inwards a little. The way his shoulders were a little hunched. The way the ivy wreath was slipping down a little on one side. The way his hands had gone icy cold, and not just because of the late October air. The way blood was rushing in his ears, and the way his belly tingled as though in free fall.

Then Even let go of his bike, taking a step towards him, and Isak flinched at the crash as it fell, then flinched again when Even touched the side of his face with one hand and leaned down to press their lips together in a firm kiss. Isak stood stock still as the first touch raced through him like an electric spark. Then, with a breath more like a sigh, he melted against the heat of Even's mouth, hands finding a position on his neck, in his hair, without even having to think about it. Even's second arm came up to wrap around Isak's waist and pull him closer, the fan of his warm fingers feeling huge against Isak's back. When the thumb resting against Isak's face swiped over his cheekbone just before Even opened his mouth to lick into Isak's, Isak was quite sure he was swooning a little.

He never wanted to stop kissing Even.

So, naturally, Even pulled back, though Isak only had a second to panic, his eyes not even all the way open again yet, before Even leaned back in again to press another lingering kiss against his lips.

“Let's get out of here,” he said, hot breath washing over Isak's lips with how close they still were. Isak leaned up for another kiss.

“My roommates should be out,” he offered.

“Good,” Even said, voice back down in that register that set Isak's blood boiling, and kissed Isak again. “Let's go.”