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take me to the stars

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The first thing Isak feels is the pounding of his head.

Then the second is definitely the dryness of his mouth. His tongue feels like sandpaper against his teeth, and he tries but fails to find enough saliva to rectify the situation taking place in there. Isak shifts slightly, enough to hug his duvet closer to himself, eyes shut tight in an attempt to ease the throbbing pain in his head.

He’s going to kill the boys. Like, for real this time. Even after they’d promised not to get him as drunk as he obviously got last night for the purpose of avoiding this exact situation, they still managed to fuck him over. To be fair, Isak was probably dumb enough to let them, because he can’t be trusted after maybe one more beer past what Isak considers his “ideal buzz”. Drunk him has no sense of self-awareness, nor does he seem to care about sober him’s responsibilities for the rest of the week, and he really hates that guy, honestly—

Isak scowls, train of thought cut short by the realization that there is too much light shining through, even with his eyelids screwed shut, which makes no sense, considering Isak very much enjoys shutting his blinds and his very dark curtains before he goes to bed on weekends so this exact scenario doesn’t happen. So not only is drunk him an asshole, but he’s also an inconsiderate asshole.

He has no choice but to let his eyes flutter open and let the sun blind them – Isak squints against the brightness of the light, holding up a hand to try and lessen the impact, but ultimately the attempt is moot – the damage is done, now his head hurts even more and the sun’s had the last laugh.

It’s only after a couple of more seconds that he realizes that’s not his window – the curtains are a moss-green color, opened gleefully to allow the sunlight to shine through, and there are no blinds, either, which only a monster would think of completely foregoing, and it’s much bigger than Isak’s window at home; there’s that, the fact that it’s in the wrong place, the fact the room is white and not blue—

Isak realizes he’s in someone else’s room, someone he’s probably never met before sober, considering he doesn’t recognize this room, and his eyes screw shut again, trying not to groan at his stupidity.

So this might not have been the boys’ fault. Isak kind of knows this because they’ve never really let him go home with anyone while drunk – they’d always told each other if they wanted to hook up with someone, they were free to do it while at the party, but going home with someone was serious business, and risky as fuck, so if they were the ones getting him drunk last night, they’d either completely forgotten their vow to protect each other from going home with a stranger or Isak hadn’t listened to them at all.

He’s thinking it’s neither, though. Isak’s thinking his memory’s blanking because this might have been his own fault, so, hey, his memory’s definitely got some explaining to do. Preferably soon, if it doesn’t mind.

Isak takes a deep breath and can only hope the person next to him isn’t a psycho – or, worse, a guy in a man-bun, which Isak’s been proven to be attracted to while drunk, even though he absolutely realizes he’s completely out of his wits when he does and would never look at them twice sober. Otherwise, Isak thinks, it cannot be as bad as he thinks. It could always be worse, it could always be worse.

He carefully turns around and peers through one eye at the lying figure beside him, and then he has to open both of his eyes, because it’s kind of hard to make him out with just one of his eyes, and also, the figure is covered mostly by the duvet, so it’s also kind of hard to make him out altogether. Frustrated, Isak leans over as quietly and as tactfully as he can without waking the stranger up from his sleep, just in case Isak’s going to have to sneak out of here—

Isak’s eyes catch sight of a hint of blonde hair, tousled and sweaty, which means he didn’t sleep with someone with a man-bun, at least, but then he leans forward just a tad more in order to get a better look at the man sleeping next to him, but he’s too ambitious; he leans a little too much and is suddenly tumbling over the man, which makes the other figure flail comically and push Isak off of him unceremoniously.

Isak lands with his back on the mattress and the hair he’d caught a glimpse of a second ago is suddenly attached to a very familiar face, currently sitting up and glaring at him intensely.

And oh, God. Oh, no.

This is so much worse than a man-bun.

“What the hell, Isak?” Even Bech Næsheim is glaring back at him, presumably just as naked as Isak is under the rest of that duvet, and seriously, seriously, drunk him has been an asshole before, inconsiderate, sometimes impulsive, but he’s never, ever been a fucking traitor. Drunk him can apparently only think with his dick, and not his common sense, and fuck, fuck, now Even probably thinks he merits feeling like he’s better than everyone else; or, at the very least, better than Isak. Nice going, drunk Isak. You’ve officially lost all of sober Isak’s trust in you.

He sits up as quickly as he can, which turns out to be a mistake – his hips are ridiculously sore, as are his legs and his back, and he hisses at the discomfort that runs up his spine at the sensation. Isak’s head is spinning, both because he’s still very much hungover and because he’s realizing very quickly that he consorted with the enemy last night, which, if any of the war movies Isak’s ever watched have taught him anything, is catastrophic. Like, sex with Even will probably lead to the downfall of the nation now.

Anyone but you,” he groans, rubbing at his face miserably. “Literally. Anyone but you.”

He hears Even snort beside him, but he sounds more amused than surprised. This causes Isak to turn over to look at him again, glaring. Even’s considering Isak almost like he’s waiting for him to blow up, but when Isak doesn’t give him the satisfaction, his shoulders seem to relax by a fraction.

“Can you keep it down a little?” Even’s eyebrows rise, and his voice is far too soft and calm for someone who just slept with the guy he avoids at every fucking turn. “My head hurts, and my ass is sore, and I’d really like to go back to bed now. If you’d like to freak out, be my guest,” he gestures towards the door across the room. “There’s the bathroom. Yell at yourself in the mirror. Anything that will make you feel better. Make yourself some eggs downstairs. Hell, if you’d like to tell me off, feel free to shoot me a text. But please – please keep your voice down,” Even stares at him. “For both our benefits.” Even finishes with this, settles his back on the mattress once again, then turns over to give his back to Isak and wraps the duvet tightly around himself again.

Isak is staring at him, gaping, like the asshole he is, and suddenly he’s extremely irritated at the fact that Even’s not as affected by this as Isak is, so he does the only thing he can do in the state he’s currently in – he reaches over to yank the duvet completely off of Even, exposing his naked ass and, oh, okay, that was probably not the best idea.

Even squawks indignantly and scrambles to sit up again. “It’s cold,” he protests, and Isak gives him a disbelieving look.

“Well I wasn’t doing it to make you comfortable,” Isak snaps. Even rubs at the bridge of his nose, obviously feeling the same headache pounding away at Isak right now, which, good, he deserves it. He rolls his eyes as far back as they can go and throws the duvet off of himself, too, scurries out of the bed to hunt for his clothes. They don’t seem to be in any particular spot, which makes no sense to Isak, because he really doesn’t think they could have been doing this all over the room, right?

He’s picking up his jeans when Even pipes up. “If you remember as much about last night than I do,” he says, and Isak finds his boxers near his jeans, too. “Then I think we should try it again, just to see if it was good or not.”

Isak stops abruptly with both his jeans and his boxers in his hands and gapes uselessly at Even. He hates the fact that he has to fight a blush at all, because Even should not be having this effect on Isak, not when he’s sober, at least, but he’s suddenly very aware of his nakedness and of Even’s nakedness and the fact that they’re trying to have a conversation within their nakedness, together.

“Absolutely fucking not,” he snaps in reply, stepping one foot into his boxers and then another, pulling them up. “This?” He gestures between himself and Even. “This is never happening again. We were drunk out of our right minds and it was a mistake, alright?” Isak starts stepping into his jeans. “In fact, I’m already forgetting this. I’m erasing you from my mind. Your dick?” Isak zips up his jeans and buttons them. “It’s like one of those erasers. The ones that read ‘for big mistakes’. That’s how quickly I’m erasing this from my memory.”

Even seems to bypass the entirety of Isak’s point, though, choosing instead to smirk. “You think my dick is big, Isak?”

Isak grunts in frustration and doesn’t humor him with an answer, instead storms across the room where he’s spotted his shirt and picks it up to throw it back on, then finds his hoodie a couple of steps beside it, throwing that on, too.

He’s trying to figure out what else he’s forgetting, because he feels he’s forgetting something – he pats at the zipped pocket of his hoodie and feels his phone, so it’s not that, and it’s only when he realizes he’s straining his eyes looking around the room that he realizes he’s missing his glasses, which only serves to fill his stomach with even more dread, because he doesn’t think those will be as easy to find as the rest of his clothes.

Isak’s about to call it a day and just throw on his shoes – he can pay for another pair of glasses, it’s fine, he’ll just have to make some financial adjustments, cut down on the fast food this month, negotiate with Ram about making biweekly payments instead, it won’t kill him – when Even clears his throat. Isak turns to look at him in irritation, but then realizes Even’s hand is extended towards Isak, holding his glasses in it.

Isak’s jaw twitches as he makes way towards the bed again and he quickly swipes his glasses out of Even’s hand, then points them at Even threateningly. “Not a word of this to anyone else, okay?” He warns. “Mistake. Probably sloppy and quick, if I know anything about the kind of person you are.”

Even’s brows furrow and his expression sobers. “Right,” his voice is a little tight, and it’s so annoying that it makes Isak feel bad, as if he has anything to feel bad about. “I forgot how well you know me.”

Isak stares at him for a beat longer, then throws his hands up in defeat. “What do you want from me, Even? You want me to hold your hand and start singing Kumbaya with you? It was sex. Drunk sex. It was – I don’t – you know as well as I do that it shouldn’t have happened.” Isak pauses. “You know that, right?”

Even gives Isak a look. “Does that really matter?” He asks. “It already did. Why are you stuck on whether or not it should have?”

Grunting, Isak puts his glasses back on, in order to really see just how much of an idiot Even’s being. “Because it shouldn’t have,” he counters. “You wanting to do it again? That’s your head talking. And not—” Isak holds up a finger towards Even, who looks like he’s about to interrupt with a snarky remark. “Not the head between your legs, Even, the right one. It’s just the remnants of oxytocin and dopamine your body released last night. A biochemical high, if you will. It goes away, alright? By tonight you won’t ever want to look at me again, and we’ll go back to avoiding each other whenever possible. I promise.”

Even raises an eyebrow. “Oh, you promise?”

“I know my shit,” Isak huffs indignantly.

Even’s smile is amused, and damn it all to hell, Isak really, really hates when he looks like that, because then he remembers just how fucking attractive he really is—

This sparks a momentary flash of consciousness regarding last night, where Even smiled at him just about the same way he’s smiling at Isak right now and Isak’s train of thought was pretty much the same one it is now.

So, well, maybe sober him and drunk him have some things in common. Big whoop. At least sober him can keep it in his fucking pants.

“And what should I do if I still want to do it again by tonight?” Even asks him, eyes gleaming with what is obviously mischief. Ugh, Even’s trying to tease him, rile him up, and that’s so annoying, because Isak just wants to go home and throw up in the comfort of his own bathroom, not witness Even act like a fucking human so Isak can feel bad the next time he snaps at him. “Should I give you a call?”

Isak makes a noise. “Then that’s your problem,” he walks towards the door, where his shoes are lying beside it. “I’m going to be busy forgetting about this.” He quickly digs his feet inside his shoes, left one first, then the right one, before he turns back to Even, who’s running a hand through his hair and Isak’s stomach swirls when he suddenly remembers how soft Even’s hair felt under his fingers.

He balls his hands into fists, because, no.

Even laughs, and the sounds is far too soft to irritate Isak the way he wants it to, which, really, serves to irritate him even more. “I’ll text you if I remember anything.”

Isak scrunches his nose. “Ugh, please don’t.” He turns around and aggressively opens the door of Even’s room the marches right on out of there, slamming it shut for good measure. He does it so it can hurt Even’s head, but then it backfires, as it presumably hurts Isak’s head a little more, considering he’s closer to the damage, so he hisses and stays where he is for a moment before collecting himself enough to walk down the stairs.

He makes it to the last step and he’s about to walk past the kitchen free when he hears a familiar voice calling to him from inside it. Isak’s eyes close in disdain.

“Isak?” Yousef’s voice gets closer as he repeats Isak’s name, and Isak forces his eyes open, smiling lazily at his friend.

“Heeeeey,” Isak prolongs, grabbing on to the railing as tightly as he can. “Hi, Yousef, good morning.”

“Good morning,” Yousef offers him a smile, nice guy that he is, but his expression still looks a little perplexed at the sight of Isak. “Did you spend the night?”

Isak’s quick thinking is usually on point, but at the moment, the process is kind of stunted by the soreness of his lower body and also his back and also the pounding of his head and also the bile threatening to rise from his stomach to his throat. So he pulls this one out of his ass, and replies, “Yeah, totally. I – uhm, I got really drunk and I think I fell asleep in the guest bathroom’s tub.”

Yousef’s brows furrow. “Really?” He asks, and Isak nods lamely. “I swear I didn’t see you there when everyone left.”

Yeah, Isak’s sure he didn’t. “Hah,” he laughs weakly. “Maybe I migrated there after I’d already passed out?”

Yousef still looks a little confused, but because Yousef obviously loves Isak, he doesn’t push it. “Yeah, maybe,” he concedes, shrugging his shoulders for good measure. Isak’s breath leaves him slowly in relief, which Yousef seems to purposely ignore. “Hey, you wanna stay for breakfast?” He asks. “Even makes a mean hangover breakfast.”

Isak tries his best not to look scandalized. “Th—thanks, but I think I’m gonna pass on that.”

Yousef’s expression turns understanding. “Oh, yeah,” he replies, sounding defeated. “That was probably a stupid offer, huh?”

“No!” Isak assures him loudly, and wow, that was a stupid idea. “No,” he lowers his voice for his own sake. “No, I just – I really have to go, you know, Eva needs me at home, and you know how she can be when she needs something.”

Yousef considers him for a moment, then finally offers Isak a sympathetic smile. “I hope she’s feeling okay,” he tells him. “I’m sure she’s recovering from last night same as you are.”

Isak frowns. “Do I – do I look like I was drunk last night?”

Yousef’s eyebrows rise, and his smile turns into a smirk. “Among other things.”

Oh, Isak’s gotta get out of here before Yousef puts two and two together, like, immediately. “Well,” he clears his throat loudly. “I’m gonna go now. Thanks for the breakfast offer. Next time?”

Yousef tilts his head. “Next time you spend the night, you mean?”

And, no, that’s not happening, so Isak laughs as if Yousef’s just told him the funniest joke he’s ever heard in his entire life. “What? No, dude, like, next time as in, I’ll take you up on your next offer, obviously,” he corrects him lamely, running a nervous hand through his extremely dry hair.

Yousef laughs and pats Isak on the shoulder reassuringly. “I’m messing with you, Isak,” he promises, and Isak’s shoulders relax a bit at the words. “Seriously. You should come over more often. I know it’s not your favorite place to be, but Elias and I like your company, you know.”

Isak seriously needs to get out of here before he gives away the fact that he just had sex with their roommate last night – the one Isak has sworn up and down he does not like multiple times within the past year, the one he has promised he cannot stand being around, the one he’s avoided this house altogether because – and breaks down the dangerous walls that have kept him upright for such a long time.

So he just smiles tightly. “Yeah, sure,” he says, though the words sound lame, even to his own ears. Yousef’s answering smile is a little rueful. “I’ll try, okay?”

Yousef nods. “That’s all I can ask for, really.” He smiles again, and Isak feels so bad. “See you later?”

Isak nods, unable to summon any more words without the danger of throwing up all over Yousef’s shoes. When Yousef finally moves out of his way, Isak makes a desperate beeline for the door, hoping the nausea will disappear before the gets to the tram, lest he finds himself throwing up in there and getting kicked the fuck out.

The brightness of the sun still hurts his eyes, so it takes a moment for his vision to adjust before he allows himself a couple of more steps, making his way past the littered lawn and onto the sidewalk. His phone vibrates in his hoodie’s pocket as he walks towards the end of the street, and he unzips it and fishes the phone out, holding it up close to his face, realizing the brightness has been dimmed almost completely.

The incoming text is from Even. The nausea in Isak’s stomach takes a couple of more laps.

EVEN
so just to be clear

EVEN
round two’s completely out of the question??

Isak scowls. He wants to reply so many things, a lot of them with expletives, as it were, but all he manages to do is stop in his tracks long enough to find the appropriate emoji to reply with.

ISAK
[middle finger emoji]

He’s about to lock his phone again, when Even’s reply immediately appears in the chat. 

EVEN
[eggplant emoji]

Isak turns back to look at Even’s house and glares pointedly at the top right window, even though he’s pretty sure that’s not Even’s. He hopes he can convey just how fucking angry Even makes him, thinking he can just have fun with what was obviously a monumental mistake on both of their parts, but more than that, Isak is angry that Even’s able to have this effect on him when this entire year has been about him working towards being unaffected by Even at all, and drunk him has literally managed to take ten steps back on this endeavor, leaving him instead with scattered memories of what might have or might not have been good sex, Isak doesn’t know, but the worst part about it is the he knows eventually he’s going to find out, because if his memory’s working towards remembrance already, then logically he knows the rest of last night isn’t too far behind, and suddenly he’s so anxious he feels like – he feels like—

He bends over, and promptly pukes all over the sidewalk.

--

The tram ride back to his apartment is a little uncomfortable. Mostly because he’s aware that he smells of alcohol and bile, and people are giving him so many judgmental looks, it’s not even funny. And Isak accepts them all in kind, because yes. Yes, he deserves them. He’s a mess of epic proportions, and he deserves to be shamed by the strangers on the tram right now. Not necessarily for the reasons they are shaming him for – what, they’ve never gotten a little too drunk on a Friday night? – but for the reason Isak feels most shameful of: fucking Even Bech Næsheim, the last person on earth who probably deserves his dick.

Isak presses his forehead against the cold window and shuts his eyes. He’s really, really trying to hold back two very prominent things: one, the bile threatening to rise up his throat once again, and two, the memories that are trying to make their way to the forefront, reminding him just how, exactly, he ended up in bed with Even, and to let him know that it might not have been as bad as he’d hoped it was. That it was, in fact, maybe even phenomenal, which is just really, really unfair, because it shouldn’t have been that good with Even, of all people, it should have been immediately terrible and instantly foregone.

Isak is trying to convince himself it was probably only good because he hadn’t gotten laid in a while – really, it’d been a long, long time since last night, which is also probably why he’s so sore, since he hasn’t really worked out much since then, either, so he’s kind of—

He screws his eyes shut. No, he’s going to stop thinking about it. The more he thinks about it, the more it might start making sense, and that’s not a route he wants to go down. Isak’s just going to pretend he’s sore because he ran a couple of laps around the park or something, and that he’s sick to his stomach because he ate some bad shrimp or something instead of because he got so wasted last night he had sex with the one person he genuinely thought he’d never even touch, the one person he thought he’d be able to spend the rest of his life without thinking about, without remembering, at that.

Now a voice inside Isak’s head is taunting him about how it’s gonna be pretty hard to forget the spectacular sex he had with this person for a while, at the very least, and Isak’s very angry at it.

The tram pulls over at his stop and he dejectedly makes his way across the aisle, ignoring the scrunched noses and affronted scowls that follow him. He steps off the tram, being the only one stopping here, he figures, and the doors close behind him in haste and then the tram is off, leaving him helpless and nauseous at the stop.

Oh, God. Isak can’t even tell what’s the hangover and what’s the regret anymore.

(If he’s being honest, he’s pretty sure all of this is the hangover. Once he feels better, Isak thinks he’ll feel more angry at himself than regretful, which is maybe why Even was so eager for a repeat earlier.)

The walk to his apartment feels like one of shame, probably because it is, and Isak avoids eye contact with any passerby awkwardly, willing himself invisible for the time being, just until he gets to his apartment. With any luck, Eva’ll still be sleeping her own hangover off, and they’ll be able to skip the questions – since it’s been a very, very long time Isak’s gotten so drunk he hasn’t come back home to sleep it off, and Eva will most likely certainly notice. Maybe when she’s not hungover anymore. Hopefully, Isak thinks, she’ll have been far too drunk to realize that Isak hadn’t come home with her, not earlier or later.

He walks up the stairs to his apartment when he finally reaches the building and fishes for his keys in his other pocket, forgetting for a moment about the standing rivalry between him and the door knob. Isak glares at it, tries to will it with his mind to not be a fucking dick this time, since he’s so, so tired and sore and he just wants to shower and sleep this entire fucking day off. Isak’s never been happier to have the weekend off – even if he highly doubts he’ll be working on the paper he promised Eskild he’d be working on all weekend.

Cautiously, he approaches the door and inserts the key into the knob, and for a second Isak thinks it’s going to be easy – and then it’s not, because of course it’s not, and he’s struggling with the door until it finally opens, and then he spends what feels like hours (but is most certainly a minute) fighting with the knob for his key.

Eventually, he manages to pull it out, and this time, when his back hits the wall, it’s even worse than before – it’s already sore, and the impact doesn’t help the situation any, so he hisses at the pain running up his spine and shattering his spirits a little more, because why not, right? It’s not like Isak needs anything positive to happen to him today. He can live with a shitty day. He’s had worse, he tells himself as he closes the door behind him. Oh, he’s had worse.

The thing about accepting a shitty day, however, is that you don’t really fully accept it – this is best emphasized by the loud, unforgiving noise that settles in Isak’s ears when he takes one more step into his apartment, and his head is suddenly ready to explode all over again; he realizes it’s a voice, and it’s coming from the kitchen, and it only takes him another second to realize the voice belongs to fucking Vilde, who’s probably supposed to be just as hungover as Isak, unless she has some kind of fucking superpower she’s forgotten to mention to everyone in their close group of friends; Isak considers for a second simply turning around and walking out the door again, not ready to deal with this bullshit, but then he remembers it’s his apartment, and he can be angry if he wants to, because it’s been a shitty morning and he deserves to be.

So instead of running away, he stomps over to the kitchen and stands at the door frame, glaring daggers at an unsuspecting Vilde, who’s simply babbling on loudly at Eva, who’s sitting on the small two-seat table situated inside for when they’re far too lazy to use the bigger table out near the living room, her elbow on top of it and her chin resting in her hand. She looks as miserable as Isak feels right now, her hair a mess and her eyes half-open, and she also looks like she wishes Vilde would stop talking, except Isak thinks Eva likes her a lot more than Isak does, so she won’t say anything to her, especially not if Vilde was kind enough to bring her home last night.

Isak, on the other hand, has no debts to pay, so he interrupts Vilde with a sharp whistle. Vilde turns from where she’s brewing a pot of coffee, looking at Isak in surprise.

“Oh, hi, Isak,” she greets him. “Did you want some coffee? I’m making some for Eva, she had a rough night.”

Isak holds his hand to his forehead. “No, Vilde,” he replies slowly. “I don’t want some coffee. What I want is for you to stop yapping like you’re carrying around a microphone wherever you go, because my head hurts like a bitch, and I’m trying not to let it explode before I shower this stench off.”

Vilde’s expression turns from surprise to offended in two point five seconds. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she sniffs. “I wasn’t aware that you were the only one who lived here.”

Isak gapes, then turns to look at a sullen Eva. Isak gestures towards her wildly. “She’s not even paying attention to you, Vilde!” he snaps, and Eva blinks out of her stupor long enough to glare at Isak, obviously peeved at the fact that he’s called her out. “She’s just as hungover as I am!”

“Shh,” Eva shushes him, most likely because he’s being too loud and also because he’s exposing her ass.

Vilde, however, pays no mind to the truth, because she’s delusional and also hates Isak, apparently. “Of course she’s paying attention to me, Isak,” she says. “She’s my best friend, she’ll listen in whatever state she’s in, right, Eva?”

She turns to look at Eva, who looks like she’s been run over by two buses, buried alive, escaped, then shit on, but she nods anyway and offers Vilde a smile. God, Isak thinks, that girl is definitely something else. Isak loves and appreciates Eva, he does, but sometimes Isak has to question her choice of friends. Vilde’s more of an acquaintance to Isak, and that’s because he likes to keep it that way – the closer you get to Vilde, he’s realized, the longer she’s prone to talking to you, and Isak knows he’s an asshole, he’s aware, but he just doesn’t have the patience for her rants or shenanigans. She tends to go on and on and on about subjects that are only important to her, which is probably what makes her such a good wedding planner’s assistant, he guesses, but it definitely doesn’t mean it makes her good company outside of that.

Isak sighs loudly, throws his hands up in defeat, because today is not the day for winning. “Fine, you believe what you’d like,” he concedes, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “I’m going to – I’m gonna go shower, and then I implore you to try and keep it down so I can sleep the stench of alcohol, sweat and vomit off of me.”

Vilde looks like she’s about to reply with something snarky, but then Eva perks up a little from her zombie state and tilts her head, considering Isak for the first time since he walked in. “Did you just get home?” she asks, and Isak stiffens a little. “Did you spend the night at Jonas’s?”

Isak nods dumbly.

“Wow,” Eva’s eyes widen by a fraction. “Were you really that drunk? You haven’t been that drunk in a while,” she tells him thoughtfully, as if Isak isn’t fully aware of the fact. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Eva,” Isak snaps, then immediately regrets it. “Just, uhm, obviously very hungover, and tired, and there are so many questions, I can’t answer them all at once.”

Vilde narrows her eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay, Isak? You look a little—”

“I’m fine, God,” Isak swivels, then walks off to the bathroom, where no one can try and pry about the night he had. “I’m just tired!” He calls out, and then he reaches the bathroom and scrambles inside it quickly, shutting the door behind him in a rush and pressing his back against it, breathing a sigh of relief. The back of his head hits the door and he closes his eyes, trying to calm his racing heart, trying to convince himself he hadn’t been acting suspicious at all, but even the part of him that is often happy to lie to him doesn’t do him any favors this time – he’s acting ridiculous, like a child, which irks at Isak more than it should.

He strips carefully, as to avoid invoking the soreness more, and when he makes it inside the shower, it’s really, really hard not to remember then—

Listen. He’s pretty sure his Sober Dick doesn’t mean to betray him like this. Isak can probably blame it on his sensory memory – he’s not sure how water would trigger this, mind you, but he’s convincing himself that’s what this is, and he refuses to close his eyes because oh, Isak knows what’s coming if he does – he knows. He’s not going down that road. He’s not even going to look down at his dick, nope. He’s ignoring the existence of the genitalia between his legs. A penis? He doesn’t know her.

Isak’s aware things don’t work that way. But it’s nice to pretend for a while, until it becomes far too irritating to ignore, so he finally looks down at his dick and glares at it. He has half a mind to scold it, and were he a more ridiculous person, that’s probably exactly what he’d be doing now – as it were, Isak likes to think he reserves some dignity, so instead he does what any normal, twenty-one-year-old man would do in the shower.

That in mind, when he steps out of the shower he feels both a little relieved and a little ashamed; one, because he always hates to think he’s jerked off in the same shower Eva uses, and two, because he couldn’t keep his mind off of Even the entire time, and the night before, and the memories that he couldn’t escape every time he closed his eyes and the fact that it felt even better that way. Isak keeps wanting to chalk it up to the fact he thought about before – that it only felt that way because he hadn’t been laid in a while, but the more he thinks about it, the more he wants to blame the fact that they both reserved so much aggression and tension towards each other that it simply made the sex that much better.

Which is annoying, as he keeps remembering that sex doesn’t necessarily always have to be better or worse, not if you find the right ways to pleasure yourself and you’re able to communicate that to your partner, but somehow he still manages to label his sex with Even as one of his better lays, most likely because he seems to really be focusing on both the climax last night and today in the shower.

He’s cleaning his glasses in the sink, towel around his waist, when a sharp knock raps the door. Isak flinches, headache not entirely disappeared, but he doesn’t have the energy to glare through it – so instead he sighs, and calls out, “Yeah?”

“Are you done?” Eva asks, and Isak turns to glance at the shower, which is switched off, then turns back to the door incredulously.

“Yes,” he replies slowly. “I’m just ridding my glasses of reincarnated booze.”

“Okay,” Eva sounds as tired as Isak feels. “Vilde’s gone, so I just really want to get in there and go back to sleep.”

Isak snorts, knowing the feeling. He dries his glasses off with his towel, puts them back on, then makes sure to throw all of the clothes he was too lazy to throw in the hamper when he stripped earlier there now. He turns to the door and pulls it open to find a wrecked Eva, who’s looking like she’s about to fall over. Isak frowns, reaches over to squeeze her shoulder. “You okay?” he asks cautiously. “You sure you won’t fall over in the shower?”

Eva snorts quietly. “I’ve been through worse, Isak,” she pats his arm reassuringly. “I think I can stand upright for a couple of minutes in the shower this time around.”

Isak eyes her suspiciously for a moment, before sighing in defeat. “Alright,” he concedes, and Eva steps aside to let him walk out of the bathroom. “Listen, I may be passed out, but just yell as loud as you can until I wake up if you need anything.”

“I won’t need anything, but okay,” Eva rolls her eyes. “Go to sleep, Isak. We can reconvene in the kitchen when we wake up and I’ll make some greasy food for us.”

Isak sighs loudly. “You’re a hero,” he confesses, and Eva smiles at him.

“Oh, trust me, I know,” she teases, before she turns to walk inside the bathroom and then closes the door behind her quietly. Isak adjusts his glasses and stands there for a moment, gathering his thoughts, before he turns and walks towards his bedroom. When he walks in, he closes the door behind him, and his eyes find Galileo’s fish tank immediately. He groans and walks over to grab the food that rests on top of Isak’s dresser then walks over to the tank, sliding open the top and sprinkling some food into the water.

As Galileo chomps happily at it, Isak says, “I’m so sorry I betrayed you like this.” He finishes sprinkling the appropriate amount of food, then sprinkles some more, just because he feels bad. “I didn’t mean to abandon you last night, but when I’m drunk I apparently have no sense of self-respect, so if you’re going to blame anyone, blame him.”

Galileo, as per usual, does not reply, and does not care, so Isak slides the top of the tank closed and returns the food to its usual spot. After quickly changing himself into some clean boxers and a clean shirt, he immediately faceplants into his pillow, eyes shut and body sore. He exhales sharply, annoyed at everything and everyone but mostly at the situation last night and at himself, and he wills himself to sleep, forget for a moment, let his dreams take the reins for a little while.

It takes him about half an hour of struggling with his conscience and his memories, but sleep finally takes him under, and he dreams of fishes and breathing underwater.

--

When he wakes up, the first thing Isak hears is the soft music traveling from what he assumes is the kitchen to his bedroom, not loud enough to be annoying – just enough so he can catch the rhythm, but none of the lyrics.

He sits up and rubs at his eyes, reaching for his phone on the end table – it’s about two o’clock in the afternoon, and he still feels a little sore, but at least his nausea’s left the building for a little while. Isak has no doubt it’ll return some time tomorrow, and his exhaustion will not go away for another couple of days, but that’s the price he has to pay for his stupidity and he’s going to pay, he will, but there’s nothing in his handbook that says he can’t pay it while complaining about it.

Isak allows himself to yawn deeply before walking slowly out of his bedroom, phone still in hand, and dragging his feet into the kitchen. Eva’s standing in front of the stove, looking far better than she did before and definitely far better than Isak even now, and she’s flipping hamburger patties on a pan while singing softly along to a song Isak doesn’t recognize.

“Hey,” he greets her, and Eva looks up to meet his gaze.

She smiles. “Hi,” she greets right back, then gestures to the stove with her free hand. “I’m making burgers,” she points out, and Isak nods his head in agreeance, because he can tell, but he’s also been enough of a dick to her for the day, so he’s not going to snark about it. Instead, he makes his way to the small table, sits on one of the uncomfortable chairs, and rubs at his temples tiredly. “You still feeling like crap?”

Isak grunts. “In a way,” he mutters. “I think the fact that I didn’t suffer from fucking alcohol poisoning is a win, though.”

Eva hums. “I’m sure,” she replies, then her phone goes off with a text notification, and she sets down the spatula she’s been working with to reach for it on the counter. She reads the text and Isak catches a glimpse of her dopy smile, which immediately sets off Isak’s curiosity.

“Who’s that?” he asks, raising an eyebrow. When Eva finishes sending her message, she turns to look innocently at Isak, shrugging her shoulders.

“Just someone,” she replies, turning her attention back to the stove. Isak narrows his eyes at her vagueness – usually, Eva’s more than happy to share information about her conquests with Isak, which makes the fact that she’s being vague even more suspicious.

So he pushes. “Someone like…?”

Eva sighs, turning to meet Isak’s gaze again. “Noora, okay?” she tells him, and Isak’s brows rise in surprise. “I got her number a couple of days ago and we’ve been texting ever since.”

Isak blinks at her. “Noora.” He repeats. “The girl you met at the supermarket. The girl you stalked on Facebook with the serious boyfriend?”

Eva rolls her eyes. “I’m not expecting anything from her, Isak,” she says. “We just got to talking the next time she showed up at my register and it turns out she just moved back from London with her boyfriend and she’s just kind of lonely,” she waves it off. “In need of some friends. So I offered my services, of course, because what kind of bitch would I be if someone said that to me and I didn’t say, well hey, give me your phone number, we can hang out sometime?”

Isak stares at her. “The kind of bitch who’s a normal employee?” He offers. Eva glares at him.

“It’s fine,” she insists. “I’m seriously only being her friend.”

Isak watches as she starts serving the patties onto the hamburger buns. “Eva,” he starts warningly. “You realize that there’s a ninety-percent chance that she’s straight if she’s been with her boyfriend for this long?”

“Straight is not the default.”

“I know it shouldn’t be,” Isak agrees. “But unfortunately sometimes we have to accept that it is. You need to be careful.”

Eva is silent for a moment while she walks to the fridge and pulls out veggies and condiments, obviously annoyed at Isak, and he sighs, about to pull her out of it, when his text notification goes off.

Isak looks down at his phone and frowns when he sees his dad’s name on the screen – he has half a mind to immediately delete the message and never read it, but he hates, hates that small part of him that will always want to know what his father has to say, that is twelve years old and begging for his father’s attention.

He clenches his fists and then releases them, reaches for the phone to unlock the message. It takes him immediately to the conversation between him and his father, which is stilted and mostly one-sided, Isak never prone to replying.

DAD
Hi Isak. It’s dad again. I was wondering if we could meet up for dinner sometime next week. I have many things to tell you. Please reply as soon as you can. Love, dad.

Isak’s jaw clenches for a moment, and he’s about to reply with nothing but the middle finger emoji because, yes, sometimes he is a child in the face of the man who made him believe he was nothing but; but instead, he locks his phone and refuses to acknowledge its existence at all.

Eva speaks up again while all of this is happening. “You know I know what I’m doing, right?” Isak looks up to find her on the counter besides the stove again, cutting at some tomatoes. “I’m not completely helpless. I know how to keep my hands to myself and refuse to blur the lines.”

Yeah, Isak’s sure. But he also remembers just how much of polar opposites he and Eva are sometimes – Eva craves love, she believes in it more than anyone Isak knows, was heartbroken for months after she realized she and Jonas weren’t in love anymore, that she hadn’t found her soulmate from the get-go. Isak doesn’t believe in soulmates, of course, because they’re bullshit, but he understands the concept they’re built from, at least, so he also doesn’t think that’s someone you find in high school, of all places. Isak doesn’t know what he’d have done if he met someone in high school and then decided to spend the rest of his life with them.

He was naïve in high school, still thought there was a chance to find something that didn’t resemble his home life, but at least now he realizes that’s a stupid and unrealistic idea; if you avoid getting close to someone altogether, letting them know every single inch of you, then you avoid the pain that comes when you realize they’re not perfect, and they’re going to inevitably hurt you, and they might not always feel the same way about you every day.

So Isak thinks Eva’s playing with fire, allowing herself to get close to Noora. There’s about a ninety percent chance she’s going to be heartbroken by the end of the endeavor, realizing there’s never going to be more between the two of them, and then Isak’s going to have to find some way to reassure her life’s not always going to be heartbreak, even though it’s evident to everyone who knows him that’s all he believes.

He’s about to reply with what he thinks might be bullshit, maybe, when his text notification goes off again. He grunts, expecting it to be his father once more, when his eyes widen marginally as Even’s contact name appears on his lock screen.

He almost scurries to lock it in case Eva looks back and for some reason peeks at his phone, but she’s moved on to quietly chopping at some lettuce, so Isak unlocks the phone quickly and scowls at the conversation. 

EVEN
So I think I remember your jeans getting wet??

EVEN
Can’t pinpoint if it was because of me or because I dropped something on you

Isak’s jaw twitches. He’s such an asshole, oh my God. The bubble appears underneath the message again, then another text appears. 

EVEN
Your tongue was definitely attacking my mouth though. Was your mouth dry this morning? It’s probably because you left all of your saliva in mine

Isak’s face heats miserably as he reads the words, and he’s about to reply with some choice words of his own, when Eva turns around to look at him again. Isak scrambles to lock his phone and silence it, then stares up at her innocently, but Eva seems oblivious to his panic.

“Are you not answering just to spare me?” She asks, raising an eyebrow. She turns back to the cutting board, starting to place the tomatoes and lettuce on top of the hamburger patties. “I know there’s a whole speech about how I’m being stupid for trusting that nothing’s going to happen, or I’m going to fall for her and then never have her, but for once I’m very aware of my situation, Isak.”

Isak makes a noise with the back of his throat, glaring at the phone lighting up again with a text notification. He surreptitiously unlocks it, reads the messages Even’s sent him next.

EVEN
Also your dick was definitely in my ass

EVEN
And you left your dirty condom on my bed. That’s just bad manners, Isak

Isak wishes there was some way to reach through the phone and strangle him.

Eva starts playing around with the condiments, already knowing by now what Isak likes in his burger. “Yeah, alright, okay, I know, I understand I’ve said that before and then never gone through with it, but I’m being positive this time. You’re always so cynical, always so ready to believe people don’t deserve your trust when all they’re going to do with it is break it, but if you don’t trust someone then what’s the point in living, you know? Like, you’re going to be so lonely for the rest of your life, if you don’t take risks. Isn’t that kind of what science is all about, too?”

Isak’s barely paying attention anymore, what with the conversation bubble appearing underneath Even’s messages again. Still, he manages to catch the last of that, and says, “Science doesn’t break your heart.” His gaze doesn’t waver from his phone screen. “Science is about discovery, and when it doesn’t work out, it lets you try again.”

A new message comes in. 

EVEN
Though it must have fallen off in your sleep because I don’t really remember you taking it off???

Isak’s face flushes once again. Eva continues to speak, ignorant to all of this. “Yeah, but so do people, sometimes,” she tells him. Isak grunts in acknowledgment, then begins to type furiously and quickly a response onto his phone.

ISAK
FUCK OFF EVEN

Eloquent. Short and to the point. Effective, he hopes.

“A little pain is worth a whole lot of happiness, don’t you think?” Eva finally turns around, plates in her hand, then drops one of them in front of Isak. She drops the other one across from him, where her place is going to be, then she walks to the fridge. She pulls out two waters when the next message comes in.

EVEN
Roger that

Isak exhales quietly in relief, then locks his phone. Eva continues, walking back with the bottles of water and dropping one in front of Isak before taking her seat across from him. “All I’m saying is I’m aware people aren’t perfect. I get it. But somewhere out there is the one person who’s willing to try to be the closest to that as possible for you. And don’t you think trying to find them is worth a shot?”

Isak furrows his brows, losing track of the conversation. “I’m sorry, what does this have to do with Noora?” Eva avoids his gaze, and Isak gapes. “Did you seriously find a way to segue into my issues?” Eva rolls her eyes and takes a bite out of her burger, but doesn’t reply. Isak throws up his hands, wishing he’d intervened before, but thanks to Even he was now too late to escape this conversation without getting a bit snippy.

“First of all, I know you think they’re issues, but they’re actually very valid concerns on my part,” he tells her. Eva hums and continues to eat. “And second of all, they happen to be my very valid concerns, which leads me to ask, as always, why you’re so adamant on trying to address them and fix them, somehow?”

Eva gives him a look. “It’s really hard to live with you when you lock yourself in your bedroom all the time and refuse to talk about your problems, Isak,” she glares at him. “I ask you how class was, or how work was, or what’s bothering you, and I never get an answer. I seriously feel like I’m the only one who can start a conversation here, and that’s really annoying sometimes. You’re supposed to be one of my closest friends, but you’re so sure I’m somehow going to leave you or something you refuse to just let me in – even just a tiny bit! Even just to tell me about why you had a shitty day!”

Isak squirms uncomfortably in his seat. This is definitely not where the conversation was meant to go. He can see where Eva’s coming from, but he doesn’t know how to assure her that with her, it’s not about her betraying his trust. He loves her, Isak’s aware, that’s just a fact, but she doesn’t deserve to realize what a mess he truly is, the same way Jonas is aware, the same way he’s sure his parents are. Isak’s problems should not lie as a burden on someone else’s shoulders, not even if they ask for it, because he’s seen the toll it takes to take on other people’s problems, even if it’s just by listening to them. He’s been that person, and it’s broken him so entirely he’s this now.

(And, yes, maybe that circles back to broken trust, eventually, to seeing someone turn away from him because they know just how much baggage he carries and eventually decide not to deal with it at all, but that’s not how it starts, and he always tries to convey this to Eva in the simplest terms possible without being called out for it.)

Isak stares at his burger for a while, then finally meets Eva’s gaze again. “It’s not that deep, Eva,” he sighs. “I just don’t know how to talk about shitty days. I get home, and I kind of want to forget about them, you know? Talking about them just prolongs them for me, and it’s nice here. It’s nice with you, it’s nice to be able to focus on what happens to you instead of turning everything that happened to me over and over in my head until I pick it apart so much I realize everything what actually went wrong, and every single thing I could have done to avoid it.”

Eva looks at him for a moment, then licks her lips. She shakes her head and takes another bite of her burger, then washes it down with a drink of water, until her mouth is free of it all. She sighs loudly and shrugs her shoulders weakly. “You know I’ll always be here even when shit gets rough, though, right?” She searches his expression, which Isak keeps carefully blank. “I’m not just gonna feed you to the wolves.”

“I should hope not,” Isak jokes, trying to get rid of the tension and change the subject. “You’d have to go a long way to even find some.”

“Some live here, don’t they? In Norway?”

“Hardly any anymore,” Isak nods. “You would know that if you paid attention to class or, like, the news.”

Eva rolls her eyes. “Asshole,” she mutters, but there’s a small smile lining her lips.

The tension dissipates.

Isak’s phone lights up again with a message on the lock screen, and he stiffens, ready to fight Even once again, but then relaxes immediately when it’s Jonas’s contact that pops up instead. Isak unlocks the phone. 

JONAS
Dude, where the fuck did you run off to last night. Couldn’t find you for the rest of the night. You alive?

Isak rolls his eyes and types his reply.

ISAK
Fine, I got way too drunk, don’t remember how. Found my way home though, no worries

JONAS
Nice, I’m glad. Mutta and Mahdi are coming over later tonight, if you wanna come over too. We’re just gonna chill, smoke, I think we’re all too hungover to drink again

Isak smiles, huffs out a laugh.

ISAK
Sounds good I’ll be there

JONAS
Sweet

Isak locks his phone, then meets Eva’s curious gaze. Isak furrows his eyebrows.

“What?” he asks, looking at her suspiciously. Eva’s expression looks just as suspicious.

“Okay,” Eva holds up a hand. “Serious question – did you get laid last night?”

Isak’s stomach drops in panic, and he’s pretty sure he blinks one too many times, trying to feign surprise. “What?” He hisses. “No! No, what?” Is he replying too quickly? His heart’s not doing him any favors. “No, why would you say that?”

Eva frowns. “I don’t know, you just look different.”

Isak scoffs. “Different how?”

“Like…” Eva tilts her head. “Well-fucked.”

Isak chokes on his burger. “How do you—” He swallows some water, trying to get rid of the sensation in his throat. “How do you even know what I’d look like after I got laid?”

“I’ll admit, it’s been a while,” Eva smirks. “But you’ve got that post-sex glow. I would know, I have it a lot.”

“You’re delusional,” Isak rolls his eyes exaggeratedly for good measure. “Don’t you think if I’d gotten laid I’d be bragging about it already?”

Eva snorts. “I don’t know, Isak, would you be?” She raises both her eyebrows. “I don’t necessarily understand how your head works, remember? We literally just had a conversation about this.”

“Well,” Isak clears his throat. “I would tell you if I got laid, at least. That’s – something we could, like, you know.” He clears his throat again. “Compare notes on.”

Eva laughs out loud. “Fine,” she allows him. “I believe you. But then I don’t know what kind of nap you took right now, buddy, because it sure did wonders for your skin.”

Isak flushes, but really tries his best not to. He takes a large bite out of his burger in order to avoid saying another word, and when he swallows, he’s managed to find a way out of the conversation.

“So what have you and Noora been talking about, exactly?”

Eva’s expression lights up, and she begins to talk about it; Noora’s life in London, how she’s lived in Madrid, her hobbies, her favorite literature and movies and her interests, how she’s majoring in Women’s Studies, blah, blah, blah. For someone swearing up and down she won’t get obsessed with Noora, Eva sure sounds obsessed with Noora.

Still, Isak listens to her, lets her say what she needs to say, so long as he doesn’t have to talk. And if his mind keeps wandering to the text messages Even sent him earlier, talking about their night together, triggering memories he’s been trying so hard to suppress – Even’s teeth scraping down his chest, the way he moved on top of him, feeling his bottom lip between Isak’s teeth – well, no one needs to know.

--

Isak really shouldn’t be smoking right now, but it’s managed to make him feel less stressed, so he allows himself this. The boys are chatting amongst themselves, talking about nothing interesting, Isak doesn’t think, so he lets his mind settle quietly, lets his body relax and forget, the soreness in his legs and his back and his hips momentarily disappearing.

He likes being high. Being high makes him feel like he’s got no problems, like no one can see him, like he can spew nonsense into the world and the world won’t give a shit. He likes to forget. It allows Isak a couple of hours of peace, of relaxation. He forgets that he’s so fucked up even his friends bring it up every other fucking week, that he’s so hard-headed hardly anyone can break past his walls. Isak likes his walls. He especially likes them when the smoke gets trapped inside him, making them settle, making them weaker. It lifts something from his chest – something so tight and so resilient he can never let it go, never make it stop. Not completely.

Isak tunes back into the conversation after a little while, and it seems like Magnus is insisting Thomas isn’t calling him because he’s no longer interested.

“But it just doesn’t make sense,” he whines, and Isak meets Mahdi’s gaze, who shares an amused glance with Isak. “We were hitting it off so well, and then – radio silence. Won’t answer my texts, won’t answer my calls—”

“Maybe if you stop looking so fucking desperate,” Mahdi suggests, and Magnus glares at him.

“It’s not desperate when we’d been texting nonstop since the date. It doesn’t make sense to me. And, like, I went over every text I sent him, and nothing was like, offensive or anything, I don’t think?”

Mutta leans over, extending his hand. “Alright, let me see.”

Magnus doesn’t object as he pulls out his phone from his pocket, unlocking it before handing it to Mutta. Mutta sits back on the couch and opens the text conversation, scrolling through it, expression intense.

Jonas continues the conversation while Mutta investigates. “Magnus, if the guy’s ghosting you, then maybe it’s time you gave it up. Like, why would you want to keep pursuing some asshole who’s just playing you like that?”

“But he’s not,” Magnus insists. “He wasn’t. He can’t be.”

“What were you reminding him of when you said, ‘Remember the pasta?’” Mutta asks, lifting his gaze from the phone screen for a moment before looking at Magnus.

Magnus smiles dopily. Isak makes a face. “We were watching this documentary together – like, not together, together, we were watching it on this video-sharing website, and he was eating pasta and then he stopped answering for a while in the chat so then he texted me and—”

“Stop,” Mutta interrupts, going back to scrolling through the phone. “Just wanted to make sure it wasn’t something stupid.”

“That’s not stupid?” Mahdi asks, obviously perplexed, pointing at Magnus. Magnus scowls at him.

“It was cute,” he snaps, and Mahdi rolls his eyes.

Jonas reaches out to squeeze Magnus’s shoulder. “Listen, we’re all saying this because we care about you, dude, not because we’re trying to kill your trip. The guy’s not worth your time if he’s got you on edge like this. Man, just ask Isak,” Jonas gestures towards Isak, who blinks uselessly at him.

“What?”

“You know better than anyone people like that aren’t worth your time, right?”

Isak should feel offended that his friends always looked to him for the cynical point of view, but he’s too high to care, and also, they’re probably right, even though it’s not cynical, it’s objective, thank you very much.

“Yeah, Magnus, if he’s doing this now, what’s to say he won’t be doing it again later?” he asks. Magnus frowns crookedly. “Guys like that love you and leave you. I mean, most people do,” he adds, which makes Jonas roll his eyes. “But these actually fucking enjoy it. It’s like a game to them.”

Magnus looks at his hands. “Am I seriously that fucking undesirable that I can only attract assholes who want to play me?”

There’s silence for a moment, everyone in the room obviously trying to come up with something comforting to say. It’s Mahdi, surprisingly, who speaks up first.

“Dude, fuck him,” he scoffs. “He’s got no idea what he wants. You’re dope, and if he can’t see that, then he can suck all of our asses, honestly. Except Isak’s, because he’d enjoy it, and that’s not the point.”

Isak glares at him, but it rattles a laugh out of Magnus, which he guesses was the point, so he doesn’t snark back.

“Nothing,” Mutta finally hands the phone back to Magnus. “Everything really was chill. I agree with the boys, pretty sure he’s just a fucking asshole.”

Magnus sighs as he takes the phone back. “This is like Vilde all over again.”

Jonas shakes his head. “Vilde actually thought she liked you, dude. You can’t account for internalized homophobia and compulsory heterosexuality. That had nothing to do with you.”

Isak agrees, but it’s not like he says so.

Mutta bumps his shoulder against Isak’s, who looks up at him.

“Why so quiet today?” he asks, and Isak’s lips thin. “You’re always so chatty when you’re high. You talk to us about all your science nerdy stuff.”

“True,” Mahdi agrees. “Is this Magnus thing bumming you out? ‘Cause he can stop.”

Magnus squawks indignantly. “One hour of me and you’re all worn out already.”

They all ignore this, and Isak shakes his head, obviously not planning to tell them why, exactly, he’s so quiet. It’s the Eva thing, and then it’s the Even thing, and then it’s just everything that came before and afterwards, and he really, really just wants to revel in this high, where it doesn’t seem all too bad. Still, they’re all waiting for an answer, and a convincing one, at that, so he says, “Nah, I’m just thinking about my stupid paper.”

Jonas’s eyebrows rise. “The one due at the end of the year?” he asks, and Isak nods. “The semester just started. What the fuck are you stressing for?”

“I can’t think of a single thing to write,” he admits. “It’s supposed to be easy, because I like the subject, but it’s stressing me the fuck out, and I’ve got to do all of these observations, and it’s gotta be long as fuck, which is why they assign this to us at the beginning of the year, and the longer I wait to start on it, the harder it’s gonna get.” Isak grunts. “It’s just bumming me out.”

“Astronomy sounds like a shitty subject, dude,” Mahdi admits to him. “For real, in high school, I was positive you were gonna go for something in Biology or like, even Chemistry.”

Isak shrugs. “It would have been too easy.”

All of them groan.

“Show off.”

“You have nothing to prove,” Jonas pipes up after Mahdi. “Literally. To no one. No one would have looked at you, majoring in Biology, and said, man, Isak sure took the easy way out, didn’t he?”

Isak rolls his eyes. “I’d be fooling myself,” he tells them, even though he’s got his own reasons. Still, that’s the one thing he keeps to himself, the one thing no one’s been able to pry out of him, the one thing no one can use against him. And maybe that’s what he’s proudest of – being able to keep one thing to himself, one thing no one can use to break him. “Besides, I wanna be the type of astronomer that discovers shit, you know? So people remember Norway in the future and don’t keep forgetting we exist. Something life changing, like – like Isaac Newton.”

“Isaac Newton was Norwegian?” Magnus asks, confused.

Isak rolls his eyes. “No, Magnus, I mean I want to discover something astronomical the way he did.”

Mutta furrows his brows. “I thought he was a mathematician?”

“No, wasn’t he a physicist?” Mahdi asks.

“Yeah,” Magnus jumps in. “Didn’t he, like, invent gravity or some shit?”

“Jesus, Magnus, nobody invented gravity,” Isak gives him a disbelieving look. “Gravity’s always been there. He discovered gravity.”

Magnus shakes his head. “What’s the difference? Like, it’s like that question – if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to—”

“Yes.”

“But—”

Isak glares at him. “Gravity was always there whether or not Newton discovered it, Magnus, what the fuck.”

“Damn,” Magnus holds up both his hands in defense. “What’s with your mouth today, dude?”

“Is it in an odd place?” Isak frowns, momentarily worried.

“I mean, why do you keep spewing insults at me? I’m trying to learn and grow and shit. Plus, I’m pretty heartbroken, you all should be nice to me.”

Isak sighs loudly, leans back on the couch and closes his eyes. He’s just trying to ride this high quietly, and Magnus is right – he’s getting riled up again, for no reason at all. Magnus has always been a curious idiot, there’s no reason for Isak to get so frustrated with him. “Sorry,” he apologizes. “It’s probably still the hangover. Last night was brutal.”

All of the boys grunt in understanding and empathy, and then Mutta suddenly bursts into a gleeful laugh.

“Dude, speaking of!” Isak opens his eyes when he feels Mutta shift beside him on the couch, sitting up excitedly. “I went over to their place earlier, because I felt they owed me breakfast for getting me so wasted, and Even was so out of it.”

Jonas furrows his brows. “How do you mean?”

Mutta grins mischievously. “We’re pretty sure he hooked up with someone last night.”

Isak freezes while the rest of the guys rejoice with whoops and cheers.

Yes,” Mahdi celebrates. “Seriously, when I’m on the rebound, it literally only takes me like a day to find someone else to hook up with. I was worried he’d be down for ages before he found someone to hook up with.”

“So did we,” Mutta agrees, and Isak can’t feel his legs. His heart is pounding in his ears and he hopes the boys can’t see how tense he is all of a sudden, but they all seem to be paying eager attention to Mutta, so Isak has time to try and compose himself. Mutta seems to have no idea about who Even’s slept with, though, since he’s not looking over at Isak suspiciously or with a smirk or anything, so Isak tries to convince himself to calm the fuck down.

“Who with?” Magnus asks, and Mutta shrugs his shoulders.

“Dunno. He wouldn’t tell us. Actually, he tried to deny he got laid at all,” Mutta admits. “But we could tell. When he was showering, we all peeked into his room and saw a dirty condom in his trash can.” All the boys holler at this. “And we’re pretty sure whoever it was snuck out through the window, because it was wide open.”

Isak’s throws his head on the back of the couch in relief. Oh, thank God. They have no idea. Even kept his word, after all, didn’t tell them a thing, even if he had been bugging Isak earlier this morning to try it again, like an idiot. Then again, Isak really shouldn’t be surprised Even kept his word – ever since Isak told him to fuck off, Even’s been compliant, not texting him again once. It bothers him – not because Even hasn’t texted him again, because fuck him – but because it just means that some of what his friends have told him about Even has some merit; that maybe he’s a good person, after all, somewhere underneath all of that pretentiousness and assholery, and that’s not something Isak wants to think about now, after he’s had his dick in Even’s ass.

Isak’s glasses start fogging with the smoke gathering around him, and he closes his eyes, willing himself back into the relaxed place he found himself in earlier. Where there are no thoughts about Even, or Eva, or papers, or parents or anything of the sort – where Isak doesn’t have to be anything, doesn’t need to be open, doesn’t need to be better, doesn’t need to be whole – he can just be.

--

Monday is brutal.

Not only because his class is so early and he realizes he’d probably have been better off not going at all, because he didn’t pay attention to a word his professor was saying, couldn’t, really, with the pounding of his head and the soreness of his body and the energy completely drained out of him, but because now he’s walking towards the museum, ready to work for the rest of the day, as it’s his turn to close.

And he’s working the main floor again today. So he’s really, super excited to deal with angry parents and disrespectful children pissing in the stream or something.

Days aren’t always like that, Isak’s well aware. Sometimes they’re good, and calm, especially on Mondays, when parents don’t have the time to bring their children, but Isak feels so tired and dejected and drained that his thoughts can’t be anything but negative at the moment, and it’s so exhausting – he wonders if this is what his friends feel like every day when they hear him talk, then he shakes the thought out of his head, lest he dives further into very dangerous, far more cynical territory.

He focuses instead on his own misery as he pulls open the doors to the museum, walking inside. The air is warm to battle the cold outside, and he walks over to the front desk, where Sara sits, scrolling aimlessly on the computer.

“Hey, Sara,” Isak greets morosely, and Sara looks up from her computer with a smile that immediately disappears when she sees Isak’s face.

“Oh, God,” she blinks. “Did you get hit by a bus?”

Isak grunts. “Basically,” he admits, then walks behind the front desk to clock himself in. Sara allows him, still looking at him in complete surprise, and Isak finally sighs and looks at her again.

“I’m hungover, Sara, it’s not that exciting.”

Sara frowns. “I’ve never seen you hungover.”

“You and many other people.”

Sara frowns. “You partied on a Sunday?”

Isak grimaces. “Friday,” he admits, and so then Sara looks even more perplexed, which Isak thinks he deserves.

“You’re hungover from Friday?” Sara shakes her head. “How drunk did you get?”

Isak takes a deep breath to avoid snapping at her useless inquiries. “I’m going to let your imagination answer that,” he replies, voice leveled. He’s proud of himself, actually. First person he’s interacted with and he’s avoided snapping. Maybe things’ll be fine from here on out. “Who’s manager on duty right now?”

“Eskild,” Sara replied, still looking Isak over. “You could probably get away with telling him you’re sick. You look it.”

Isak shakes his head. “I already asked for the weekend off,” he tells her. “I’m not gonna be a dick and also ask to go home today.”

Sara shrugs her shoulders. “Good luck in there, then,” she offers him, and Isak walks towards the other entrance, and he waves at her in goodbye, not offering any more words because he’s trying to save the rest of his voice for trying to talk angry parents down.

As Isak walks inside, he looks around, finds that there are very few people – thankfully. He sighs a little in relief, adjusts his name tag and walks towards his section, which is empty, for now, but before he can get there, he hears Eskild call his name from behind. He turns around to find him striding over to him in glee, then see his expression turn scandalized when he stops in front of Isak.

“Were you trapped in a tornado?” He asks, and Isak rolls his eyes.

“No, I’m just a little, uh – under the weather,” he coughs, trying to avoid the truth in front of his boss, but Eskild looks like he understands, anyway.

“Well, maybe next time try a little more medicine, yeah?” Eskild reaches over to pat his shoulder reassuringly. “Anyway, what I came to say – I need you to go into the employee break room.”

Isak’s brows furrow. “What?” he asks. “Why?”

“It’s important.”

Isak feels like questioning it a little more, but even if he does get along well with Eskild, he’s still Isak’s boss, so he forgoes the rest of the questions and follows him towards the back and into the employee break room. Eskild stops in the middle of the room and dramatically extends his arms towards the couches, shaking his fingers wildly as he does. “Ta-da!” he exclaims.

It takes Isak a moment, but then he realizes Eskild’s referring to the throw pillows on the couches – they’re no longer the flattened, tired-looking old things they had before, but they’re instead fluffy, clean-looking orange ones, resting happily on the seats as if they’d always belonged there. It makes Isak smile, if only slightly, but it’s says something about his day when this is really the very first time he’s smiled in all of it.

“The throw pillows,” he nods, looking over at Eskild. “You finally got them.”

“Did I not promise?” Eskild raises an eyebrow.

“You did,” Isak nods. “Though you do realize I never actually doubted you, right?”

Eskild preens. “I appreciate that. But it still feels good to come through. Don’t you feel good when you come through?”

“I mean, sure,” he nods. “It’s satisfactory, if a little selfish.”

Eskild scoffs and waves him off. “Off to the floor with your logic, little one,” he says, and Isak rolls his eyes. “That’s where it belongs.”

Isak’s smile is crooked. “Hey,” he says. “I’m going, but just – thanks,” he nods towards the pillows. “It was a really cool gesture, Eskild.”

Something in Eskild’s expression softens, and Isak tries to figure out what in the world it could mean, but in an instant it’s gone, replaced instead by his usual cheerful expression, large smile in place and ears perked up on his sides. “You’re welcome,” he tells Isak, then waves him over towards the door again. “Now shoo. You’re on the clock now, I can’t pay you to just stand here and admire my work.”

Isak laughs and turns around, leading Eskild out of the break room. Once out, they part ways, Eskild walking back towards the main entrance and Isak finding his place on the main floor, running a hand through his hair uselessly and trying his best not to appear like he’d been hit by a bus or caught in a tornado. Isak thinks it’s useless, though, because some of the people walking by him give him worried looks, which he guesses are better than judgmental ones – maybe he really does just look sick, which’ll maybe get him out of a lot of parents’ yelling, since they’ll most likely not want their kids anywhere near the sick man.

Still, standing around and aimlessly cleaning his section over and over is boring and repetitive and still tiring – he sees some of his coworkers doing the same around their sections, once in a while talking a kid and helping them with the exhibits around them, but Isak remains alone, which is a good thing, he tells himself, but that doesn’t make it any less irritating.

It’s probably been about half an hour of this, maybe, even though it feels like eternity from where he’s standing, when he sees Julian making his way out of the space exhibit, the lucky bastard, smile on his face when he spots Isak and makes his way towards him. Once he gets near enough to get a closer look, however, his expression falls, turns a little worried.

“Jesus, Isak, are you okay?” he asks, and Isak nods at him dismissively.

“Yeah, yeah, just—” he shrugs as nonchalantly as he can muster. “You know, just one of those days.”

Julian stares at him, a little incredulously. “Uhm,” he clears his throat. “No offense, but this kind of looks like more than just one of those days. Maybe five of them rolled into one?”

Isak huffs, gives Julian an affronted look. “Et tu, Julian?”

Julian laughs. “Sorry,” he holds up his hands. “You just really do look like you need a nap. Or ten. Has Eskild seen you?”

“Yep,” Isak assures him. “He showed me the throw pillows and everything.”

“He’s very excited about those.”

“Oh, yes,” Isak smiles. “I wish I could get as excited as him by the little things.”

Julian tilts his head. “You do look miserable, though.”

“Ugh,” Isak’s shoulders slump. “I just hate working the main floor, you know? It’s fine, though, there’s hardly anyone here, so it’s not a big deal. It’s the tiredness talking.”

Julian shifts his weight. “I can switch with you, if you want.”

Isak blinks at him. “What.”

“Sections?” he gestures towards the door of the space exhibit. “There aren’t too many people in there, either, but I know you like it better than you like the floor, and I don’t mind it.”

Isak shakes his head. “Why would you do that for me?”

Julian’s face blushes red, and Isak thinks he’s finally realized what he’s offering Isak, and is maybe regretting it. Isak is about to tell him not to worry about it, but Julian beats him to a reply—“You need that exhibit more than I do,” he tells Isak. “And we’re friends, right? Friends do things for friends.” He looks at Isak expectantly.

To be honest, Isak thinks of them more as work acquaintances, since they’ve never really done anything outside of the museum and Isak’s never really been himself around Julian, at least, not the “himself” he pretends to be around everyone else, so that says something – still, Julian’s being so nice to him, so it’s not like he’s gonna be an asshole and say, no, absolutely not, are you kidding? Get back to work.

So Isak smiles at him, and nods. “Yeah, we’re friends.”

Julian visibly lets out a sigh of relief, nodding. “Also, I don’t like the space exhibit,” he admits. “I don’t get it. Space and stuff – not my speed. So we can just ask Eskild if we can switch, since I’m pretty sure we’re working the same amount of hours,” he tells Isak. “And closing together.”

Isak seriously doesn’t know how to handle someone who barely knows him be this nice to him. Like, Isak really thinks he doesn’t deserve this, considering he just kind of walks around this place and complains a lot, save for when he’s in the space exhibit, which, come to think of it, might be why Julian’s offering this to him at all – so maybe Isak can complain a little less, and maybe actually talk to him about other things while they close together. Isak can appreciate that much, actually – Julian knows how to look after himself. It’s admirable.

He can’t help his relieved sigh and his grin. “Man,” he shakes his head. “You’re a lifesaver, honestly. And way too nice for your own good, I think.”

Julian smiles lightly, shakes his head. “It’s nothing. Benefits the both of us, right?”

Isak’s grin widens. “A symbiotic mutualistic relationship.”

Julian laughs. “Sure,” he agrees. “Let’s go find Eskild.”

Eskild agrees, of course, because Eskild is awesome, and Isak can’t help but turn around afterwards and grin as brightly as he can at Julian, hoping he doesn’t scare him off because that’s probably a huge contrast with the rest of his self. Julian, however, just blinks at him uselessly, probably because he’s never seen Isak smile so big, which, okay, fair.

“I owe you one,” Isak tells him, and Julian shakes his head.

“Honestly, don’t mention it.”

“Hm, but I probably will,” Isak smiles and gestures towards the exhibit. “Okay, I better get to it. I’m glad it’s dark in there, less people will see what a mess I look.”

Julian nods. “You’ll benefit from that.”

Isak laughs at his quip. “Julian’s got some snark in him, alright,” he shakes his head. “I’ll see you for closing?”

Julian nods his head enthusiastically. “Yeah. I can, uhm – I can walk you to your tram stop afterwards, if you want?” He offers. “I live just a couple of blocks after that, so.”

Isak huffs, amused. “Yeah, sure,” he accepts. “We can walk together, no big deal.”

Julian visibly swallows. “Yeah, none,” he clears his throat. “Okay, I’ll see you.”

Isak walks past him, but waves to him over his shoulder. “I’ll see you in a couple of hours!”

He turns back and walks a little too quickly towards the exhibit’s door, and Isak literally has to take a moment before he opens it – he breathes in deeply, wipes his hands on his pants in anticipation, before pushing it open.

Julian was right – there aren’t many people in here, either, but the darkness welcomes him, the shifting stars and the traveling moon and the different drones all illuminating the room, not enough to uncover the cloak of darkness, but just enough so that different faces, filled with wonder and delight, are illuminated.

There’s a little boy who keeps pointing at different constellations as they move, his hand in his father’s, and his father keeps smiling down at him as he talks and talks and talks – Isak can’t really hear what he’s saying, but for a moment his heart squeezes so desperately; he remembers being that young. Remembers being that enamored with the stars, wanting to learn everything about them and tell everyone about them and he wished, for a very long time, that his father would spare him an hour, even half, to listen to him speak, to listen to what he had to say, instead of spending every day all day working; which Isak learned far later in his life was simply an excuse to escape that house as much as he could, his mother and him unable to stand the sight of each other – his mother because of her deteriorating mental health, and his father – well, Isak supposes it’s for the same reason.

Isak can’t remember why he fell in love with the stars in the first place; it almost feels like they’ve simply been a part of him all his life. Which is why it’s frustrating, to think he can’t sit down and write a paper about his passion, can’t remember what it feels like to freely talk about what he loves, to remember why they’re his passion in the first place. He wonders if this is how others feel – like school has jaded their passions, worn them down to nothing but an obligation, and maybe this is supposed to be Isak’s life after all; never allowing himself to love, and never being able to love what he does want to.

He walks around the exhibit, smiles softly at the constellations, and knows that every single one he can name – they’re tattooed to his memory, whether or not he feels jaded, whether or not he remembers what’s led him here, and Isak thinks that’s maybe what it is; knowing they’re a constant. Stars can’t let him down. So maybe he can’t remember the reason why he loves them so much, why he wants to know so much about them, but he knows they’re a part of him now, and he knows, he’s aware, that there’s still so much more to discover about them. They’re so much, and they’re infinitely bigger than all of them, and he thinks maybe he likes feeling this insignificant in the face of everything else. Maybe it proves his point – that he doesn’t necessarily need a place in the world, doesn’t need to be the most important thing to someone, because they’re all nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to what’s out there.

--

The shift goes by quickly. He helps some kids with the interactive screen, talks to them about where the stars are shifting and what they’re made of, simple things that won’t confuse them too much, and he always enjoys seeing their eyes widen and he’s always thrilled when they look eager to learn more – it’s like he’s shaping inquiring minds, which is thrilling in and of itself.

It’s easy to close the space exhibit – mostly turning off the projections and turning on the lights to be able to sweep and mop comfortably. Then it’s just shutting everything down again and leaving the room, locking the door behind him. It’s why sometimes whoever works the space exhibit stays behind to help close the main floor, and today is no exception for Isak when Eskild finds him.

“Hello, little one,” he greets him with a smile. “Had a good shift after that rocky start?”

Isak smiles. “You know I did,” he replies. “Thanks for letting me switch.”

Eskild considers him for a moment. “You know,” he says. “If you’d just ask me, I’d schedule you in there more often,” he tells Isak softly, and Isak can’t stand the way his heart squeezes at the words. “I know I seem all-knowing, but I can’t actually read minds, Isak. I’m not here to make my employees miserable,” he rolls his eyes. “Except for Chris. But that’s only because I want him to quit.”

Isak laughs, then shifts his weight, feeling like a ten-year-old again, wanting to ask something of his father and bracing himself for the rejection, even when Eskild is already assuring him he’ll get a yes. “So, Eskild,” he clears his throat. “Think you could, uh, maybe keep me in mind for the space exhibit more often? I promise I’m a much more productive employee in there.”

Eskild hums, taps his chin with his index finger for an excruciatingly and unnecessarily long time. Isak huffs and gives him a look, which only serves for Eskild to grin at him.

“Okay,” he clasps his hands together. “I promise from here on out you’ll see a lot more shifts in there. But,” he holds up a finger. “I can’t promise every shift, alright? I don’t want the rest of the managers thinking it’s favoritism, or something.”

Isak raises his eyebrows. “Is it?”

Eskild smirks. “Wouldn’t you like to know,” he teases, then flicks at Isak’s vest. “Anyway, I’d say you should help Julian with his section, but he’s actually a speedy closer,” he says. “Also, I’m pretty sure he sped up times a thousand just to be able to leave with you.”

Isak laughs. “He’s walking me to the tram station,” he explains. “He’s a good pal.”

Eskild stares at him, before shaking his head in disbelief. “Oh, Isak,” he sighs dramatically. “It is a very good thing you’re pretty.”

He furrows his brows. “What?”

Eskild smiles at someone over Isak’s shoulder. “Hi, Julian!” he greets, and Julian appears beside Isak, vest thrown casually over his shoulder. “Are you all set?”

“Yep,” Julian smiles at Eskild, then glances at Isak for a moment. “Er, is Isak—”

Eskild waves them off. “I don’t need him for the rest of the night,” he promises, and Julian grins. “Go on, you two, have a nice night. And walk safely!” He adds quickly. “There are ugly people out there.”

Isak laughs. “It’s alright, Eskild, it’s always been.”

Eskild shoos them away, and Isak unbuttons his vest, but doesn’t entirely remove it like Julian – they find their way to the front, where they both retrieve their hoodies and coats, and once they’re set, they walk together out the door and into the darkness of the cold night, illuminated by the street lamps, not quiet at all – the streets are busy with people coming to and from, night shifters and people going home, which is probably one of the things that Isak likes most about Oslo; never a quiet moment, not unless you live like Yousef and the guys.

“It’s a nice night,” Julian says, and Isak nods his assent.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “Kind of the only reason I like the closing shift, to be honest. Though you can’t really see the stars here,” he points up to the sky, where Julian follows his line of sight. Isak wrinkles his nose. “A couple. You can see them pretty clearly from my place, weirdly enough.” And Yousef’s, but he doesn’t add that, because Julian doesn’t really know him all that well. He knows Jonas and the others pretty well, and Isak’s still not sure why – probably because they like to sneak into every single part of Isak’s life whenever they can, but it’s not like he can tell them not to befriend Julian. That’d just be weird.

“So you really wanna be an astronomer then?” Julian asks him, and Isak nods.

“Pretty much,” he says. “Always wanted to work in an observatory and shit.”

Julian hums. “Sounds fun, I guess.”

“Hah,” Isak glances at him. “It’s not for everyone, Julian.”

Isak can tell Julian’s blushing in embarrassment, only because the street lamps allow him to. “Yeah, and definitely not for me,” he agrees. “I’m actually a public relations major.”

Isak backtracks. “What?” He literally can’t believe he’s worked with Julian for over a year and has never once known this. “What the hell are you doing working at the science museum, then?”

Julian raises his eyebrows. “Well, for one, the money,” he says, and, well, fair enough. “And I don’t hate it. It was one of my better subjects in school, I’m just not as passionate about it as, well, you, for example.”

Sometimes Isak forgets how lucky he is to be working somewhere he actually likes, until he gets to work in something he actually loves. “Better than a restaurant, I guess,” Isak mutters, and Julian laughs, perhaps a little too loudly.

The phone in Isak’s coat pocket buzzes, and he reaches inside to fish it out and stare at the screen. His gaze immediately dims at the sight of his dad’s contact name, and he doesn’t know why he can never resist unlocking the phone and reading his message, why there’s still this undeniable desire to connect with the man that never loved him, never really wanted him.  

DAD
Hi Isak. It’s dad again. I know you don’t want to answer me, but I think it’s very important that we talk. I understand that you’re angry, but I want you to meet Kim. She’s a very nice woman and she and I have been seeing each other. She’s heard a lot about you and so has her son, and they’re very eager to meet you. I think it’d be good for you to connect with them. So please, reply to me. Or call me. I will keep reaching out until then. Love, Dad.

Isak doesn’t notice how tight the grip on his phone has become until his palm starts to burn, and then he angrily locks it and shoves it back in his pocket. There are tears stinging at his eyes – they’re angry tears, Isak recognizes the from years of experiencing them, and he feels so – so—

He absolutely detests his father in this moment. Even when he still desperately seeks his approval, even when he wishes his father would tell him that he wants him, that he’s sorry, that he isn’t only reaching out because he’s now under no obligation to look after him or provide for him; there’s fury in his stomach at the words he’s just read, talking about a new girlfriend, and her son, like he’s marched straight out of his and his mother’s life and into someone else’s, ready to play family, ready to take over as if he hadn’t fucked the first one up.

Isak swallows the knot in his throat back, unwilling to show this kind of emotion in front of Julian, and Julian seems to be none the wiser about it when they reach the tram station. “Okay,” Julian says, and thankfully, the tram station pulls up just as they reach it. “I’ll see you next time?” He asks.

Isak offers him a tight nod and smile. “Thanks,” he replies shortly, in case his voice cracks more. Julian preens at him.

“No problem,” he replies, then waves at Isak as he makes his way past the tram. “See ya.”

The doors to the tram open up and Isak practically sprints up them, then makes his way to the very back, where he makes sure no one can see his pathetic attempt at hiding his emotions. He sits down quickly and looks out the window, where he sees his reflection, looking back at him pathetically, nose red and eyes red and face red and he cannot believe there’s nothing, nothing he can do to calm himself, nothing in the world he can think of doing to forget this, forget it, if at least for a moment—

His brain freezes for a second. It suggests something Isak almost doesn’t want to take it up on, but then, he knows it’d help. He knows. There’s no doubt in his mind that he’ll forget about this during, and then maybe in the aftermath, and then maybe during an awkward conversation and he could, he’d been willing

Isak pulls out his phone hastily and opens up his messages app, clicking on Even’s conversation. He types furiously.

ISAK
Are you home??

His leg bounces impatiently and nervously, hoping Even’s reply won’t take too long. Surprisingly, it doesn’t, but then again, it might not be too surprising – what does Isak know about Even, anyway?

EVEN
Yes

ISAK
Are you alone

EVEN
Yes

Isak considers it one last time. He knows he’s probably doing this for the wrong reasons. He knows there’s a chance he’s going to regret this immediately afterwards. But at the moment, he also knows he doesn’t exactly care.

ISAK
I’m on my way

--

Even’s neighborhood is by far quieter than the way to Isak’s apartment, which is a little eerie, Isak won’t lie, but he’s walking with so much purpose he doesn’t really have time to think about it too hard.

He walks up the house’s lawn and raps at the door quickly and harshly, pocketing his hands in his coat and bouncing on the balls of his feet, trying to warm himself up as he waits for Even to answer the door. After a minute, Isak huffs impatiently, knocks on the door again, this time louder.

He’s in the middle of a knock when Even finally opens the door, eyebrows rising in surprise, and then he leans against the doorframe like an asshole, and looks around, as if expecting there’s someone here with Isak.

“No camera crew,” Even hums. “Thought for sure you were playing a joke on me.”

Isak glares at him. “Can I just come in?”

Even looks at him, and his smile is crooked and a little smug. Isak irrationally wants to kiss it away. “I think you should tell me what you need from me, first?” Only one eyebrow lifts this time. “It’s pretty late to be showing up randomly like this.”

“It wasn’t random, I texted you,” Isak snaps. “And you know. You know why I’m here.”

Even shakes his head once, purses his lips exaggeratedly. “Nope,” he says. “I really don’t.”

Isak’s hands are trying not to freeze, but the flushing of his face is doing good things to warm him up. “Don’t make me say it. Please.”

Even suddenly leans forward, very closely, looks down at Isak and licks his lips – and Isak hates the way the movement finds its way down his fucking spine. “I want to hear you say it, though.”

Isak swallows, staring at Even’s lips. “Stop being a fucking dick,” he replies, but his voice is quieter this time.

“Just tell me what you want here, Isak,” Even tells him, and this time, his voice is just as quiet as Isak’s.

And Isak – Isak wants to give in, he does, but he’s also irritated, and he’s cold, and Even doesn’t deserve a reply, he doesn’t, and he was definitely out of his mind for even considering this in the first place, so he decides to shake his head furiously and take a step back from Even.

“You know what? Never fucking mind,” he snaps, then turns around, fully intending to walk down the lawn and never turn back, the fucking dick

But then a hand is wrapping around his wrist and turning him around swiftly, and then Even’s lips are on his, and suddenly Isak’s warm all over, and his brain short circuits and fuck, fuck, this is so much better sober, like, unfairly so, and Isak’s kissing Even just as aggressively as Even’s kissing him and after a moment, Isak pushes Even inside forcefully, where Even lifts a leg beside Isak to kick the door closed before he stands upright again, arms desperately grasping at either side of Isak’s face.

Isak doesn’t stop kissing him, instead lifts his hands to grip Even’s hair and bites down on Even’s bottom lip, their bodies already pressed far too tightly together, Isak’s pants already feeling too tight to be comfortable.

He remembers this. This exact feeling, except now it’s multiplied tenfold, where Isak’s mind is clear and not foggy and he can feel every single one of the hair on his arms stand on end, the sensation of Even’s tongue tracing his bottom lip, can feel exactly how close they are and the shivers running down his spine and he’s hyperaware of just about every single part of Even pressing against him.

Somehow they find their way to the stairs, where Even manages to trip backwards, and Isak falls with him. Even huffs in annoyance, but brings Isak forward to keep kissing him, and Isak is very seriously considering just grinding up against him on the staircase until they finish.

It’s a different story when Even suggests it, though. “This really isn’t a terrible place to have sex,” he mutters against Isak, and Isak snorts at the ridiculousness of the suggestion, even though he’d been suggesting it to himself just a second ago.

“I’m not defiling Yousef and Elias’s house,” he mutters, tracing kisses down Even’s jaw, nipping at it. Even’s huff this time is a pleasured one, his hand falling to Isak’s back where he pulls him closer. “We’re doing this in your room or not at all.”

Even laughs, but it’s not cruel – it’s more resigned, and he pushes Isak back only to pull him up with him and lead him to the bedroom.

They close the door behind them, and this time Isak whispers into Even’s ear about how he needs this, needs Even to do the work this time, he needs it more than he can know.

Even pauses at this, pulls away, still out of breath but looking at Isak suspiciously. “Isak,” he starts. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Isak snaps. “Can you just—”

“I don’t want to do this if you—”

Isak shuts him up with another kiss. Even whimpers against his lips, obviously wanting to object, but Isak doesn’t give him a chance to, tugs at Even’s shirt instead and removes it for him.

“I want this,” he mutters at Even firmly. “I want you to fuck me,” he whispers, kissing down Even’s neck. He feels Even shiver against him, a sharp exhale leave his lips. “Even, please,” he whimpers quietly, turning to kiss Even’s lips again. “Please.”

Even looks at him one last time before nodding, furiously removing Isak’s coat, then his hoodie, and then they’re both rushing to rid themselves of the rest of their clothes and when they do, Even walks away from him to dig through his end table, Isak standing where he is naked, and then Even walks back and turns Isak over to press him against the wall. Isak closes his eyes, quietly moans in pleasure and anticipation, wanting nothing more than this right now. Knowing nothing else but Even as he feels him behind him, readying himself.

And wanting to know nothing else but him.

--

When they’re done, Isak is sweaty and perfectly fucked, and they’re lying on the bed now, catching their breaths.

They kissed for a long time afterwards, aggressive and hungry, which is how they found their way here – and now Isak’s riding on the high of his climax, so much so that he doesn’t find it strange to be lying next to Even, who’s sitting up against his bed’s headboard and smoking a joint.

Isak’s eyes are closed when he feels Even tap at his forehead. He opens his eyes to glare at him, only to be greeted by the sight of Even offering him a joint of his own. Isak sits up and only eyes it suspiciously for a moment before he takes it, and lets Even light it for him. He brings it in between his lips and takes a happy drag, closing his eyes at the sensation of the smoke filling his mouth, filling his lungs.

He’s exhaling when Even speaks for the first time after they finished. “What happened?” he asks, glancing at Isak. Isak doesn’t look at him. “Seriously. Why’d you come over?”

Isak inhales and exhales once again in one easy movement. “I’m not talking to you about my shit, okay?” he looks over at Even. “This doesn’t mean we’re friends all of a sudden.”

Even searches Isak’s expression for a moment before nodding his consent, sharp and quick. “Fair enough.”

Isak looks forward again, and the conversation hits a lull. It’s not exactly awkward, but it’s not exactly comfortable, either, it’s just kind of – there. Isak doesn’t know what else to say, he doesn’t even know exactly how to make his exit; they’re both still very naked right now, obviously not bothered by it, considering they’ve seen all they’ve needed to see of each other, and Isak’s mind is so – it’s so at ease, like it was never angry in the first place, like it’d never escaped his control.

He turns to look at Even again. “How often do you do this?” he asks, and Even furrows his brows at him in confusion. “You know. Sleep with people.”

Even blinks. “Seriously?” he tilts his head. “I just got out of a serious relationship, Isak,” he replies. “You’re literally my first rebound.”

Isak had forgotten, actually, but he hums in acknowledgment, brings the joint back up between his lips. He inhales deeply, eyes fluttering shut for a moment as he lets the smoke settle inside him, then exhales as slowly as he can.

He can feel Even looking at him, so he turns over to meet his gaze. They look at each other for a beat, before Isak sighs. “I was angry,” he admits, and Even’s eyebrows rise in surprise, like he hadn’t been expecting Isak to admit it. “And this was – this was the only way I could think to get my mind off of it, I guess.” He shifts his weight on the bed, grimacing because of the soreness of his ass, but also because of the confession he’s just made. “It wasn’t – it was a little impulsive, yeah, but it wasn’t like I wasn’t completely aware that I wanted it.”

Even smirks. “Yeah, you said that a couple of times,” he turns to look forward, smirking through the joint in his lips, and Isak glares daggers at the side of his face.

“You’re the one who wanted this first,” he snaps, and Even looks at him, nodding.

“I’m not saying I wasn’t.”

Isak furrows his brows, looks down at his legs. “How did—” he clears his throat. “Why did you want it again?”

Even hums. “Well, to be honest, at first I was just teasing you,” he glances at Isak with a small smile. Isak scoffs. “But the more I kept remembering about that night, the more it just – wouldn’t go away,” he admits. “Jesus, I’ve – thought about it everywhere I was free to, but you didn’t want a repeat, so I backed off.” He considers Isak for a moment. “And then I guess you started remembering, too?”

Isak huffs. “Yeah,” he mutters. “Yeah, just – it was – I think it’s just this good because we—”

“Aren’t each other’s biggest fans, yeah,” Even smiles. And God damn it, Isak fucking hates it when he smiles, and doesn’t smirk, because his face lights up all – all handsome-like, and then Isak’s thinking about kissing him again and gripping at his hair and it’s a good thing Isak doesn’t think he can get hard again, because if Even keeps smiling like that, it’d be a very real possibility. “You still enjoyed it this time, yeah?”

Isak gives him a look. “The pleading and moaning wasn’t enough to clue you in?”

Even huffs a laugh. “Just checking,” he says. “And you think you’d enjoy it again?”

Isak shakes his head furiously. “No,” he replies firmly. “Twice. Twice is good. I just needed it tonight, but we’re not – I’m not doing it again.”

Even looks at him for a moment. “You don’t think you’ll be this angry again?”

Well, no, that’s not it. So long as his fucking father exists, Isak thinks he’ll find himself this angry for a very long time. But he’s not about to admit that to Even – even though it looks like he’s already found his answer, and that irks Isak to no end, because Even doesn’t know him, can he stop pretending like he has Isak all figured out?

“I don’t—”

Even holds up his hands. “I’m only saying that it worked for me, too,” he tells him. “I was having – there were some things that weren’t exactly making my day too swell,” he admits, and Isak narrows his eyes at the confession, but also at the word swell, because who the fuck is Even, anyway? “And then you showed up, and – suddenly I feel like they’re not too bad, after all. Or,” Even reconsiders. “I’m less tense, anyway.”

Isak crosses his legs on the bed, trying not to give it too much thought. “Okay,” he deadpans. “So what are you trying to say to me?”

Even raises an eyebrow at him. “You’re a smart guy, Isak,” he tells him. “I think you know.”

Isak licks his lips and looks away from him, taking another drag from his joint. He does know. He’s very aware of where Even’s taking this conversation. And Isak can think of a thousand reasons why this would be a very, very bad idea – all of them derived from the theory of probability, and really, none of the possibilities are looking too desirable to Isak at this very moment. But – but then he can think of one reason that it could be a good one, and it’s a very superficial reason, he’s aware of that, but—

It really was very, very fucking good. Like, exceptionally good. Like he can still feel Even inside him at this very moment, as uncomfortable as it sounds, and he’s pretty sure his toes are still quivering from his climax. And it worked to keep his mind off of things, and it’s even working now; he’s not really angry anymore, can’t really think about anything other than the fact he’s just had spectacular sex, and Isak’s aware that it’s not a permanent solution, not by a margin, and eventually he’ll go back to turning every problem he’s ever had over and over in his head, but even if it’s for an hour or two, even if Isak can just escape this fresh hell he’s trapped himself in, just for a little while, just to the point where it doesn’t matter, nothing matters but the skin against his skin and the way to his orgasm—

Well, then it doesn’t sound like a terrible idea.

Isak licks his lips. “Okay,” he agrees, and Even snaps his head over to him in surprise.

“What?”

“I said okay, Even,” Isak rolls his eyes. “Are you deaf now, too?”

“Really?” Even still looks baffled. “Okay, I seriously thought you were going to turn this down and walk out the door, to be honest,” he tells him. “So I was just kind of – not really thinking it through.”

“Well, now you’ve put it out on the table, and I’m calling your bluff,” he tells Even. “But this isn’t – this doesn’t mean I like you, or that I’ll ever like you, for that matter, it just means I’d really like an outlet for a while. I forgot how great sex was to find that.”

Even’s still staring at him incredulously. “Are you sure you don’t want to—”

“Are you seriously taking this back right now?”

Even pauses. “Well, no. I guess I’m not. Not if you really want this, and you’re not just saying that because your ass is still sore.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “Fine,” he nods. “But – but there’s gonna have to be rules,” he demands, and Even shrugs.

“Okay.”

Isak puts his blunt out inside the mug Even’s rested between them on the mattress, then stands to find his boxers. When he does, he swiftly puts them on, then looks around Even’s room. “Do you have a pen?” he asks. “And some paper?”

Even blinks at him. “For what?”

“For the rules, dumbass.”

Even seems to be biting the inside of his cheek. “You want to write them down?”

Isak glares at him. “Obviously,” he extends his hands in an impatient gesture. “How else are we going to stick to them?”

Even purses his lips, snorts a little quietly, but loud enough so that Isak catches the sound. “Maybe by remembering them?”

“I don’t trust you,” he crosses his arms over his bare chest. Even huffs a laugh, and seems to finally let himself look amused. Isak hates it – it’s such a natural, normal expression that reminds him that Even is a whole other person outside of the person he is with Isak, and that will always make him uncomfortable.

“You’re such a nerd,” Even shakes his head. “But, fine, fair enough.” He gestures towards the desk parallel to Isak. “In the drawer.”

Isak marches over to the desk and pulls open the drawer, a man on a mission. He pulls out a notebook, then dives back in for the first pen he sees. Once he’s done, he closes the drawer sharply, then walks back towards the bed.

He climbs onto it knees first, tucking them under his thighs, then opens the notebook to the very last page, just so he doesn’t catch a glimpse at anything relating to Even’s life outside of this. He flips the cover over and lays the notebook on his lap.

Isak starts off by writing RULES in capital letters, and he underlines the word twice. He hears Even snort across from him, and Isak looks up to glare at him. Even still looks amused, but he holds his hands up in defeat, as if promising he won’t say anything condescending from here on out. Which, yeah fucking right.

“Number one,” Isak proclaims. “And this starts right now, by the way.” He looks at Even until Even realizes Isak’s expecting for some sort of acknowledgment, so he nods. “No spending the night. Ever.”

Even shrugs. “Alright.”

Isak writes it down. “And we don’t linger after sex, like we’re doing right now. This is the last time.”

“Sounds fair,” Even concedes as Isak writes this down, too.

“No conversations outside of this,” he warns Even. “Texts are strictly to ask for what we need.”

Even huffs, but agrees.

In the end, it’s mostly Isak making up the rules, but Even doesn’t technically object to any of them, so Isak counts that as a win. The list, when Isak can’t think of anything more, looks a little like this:

  • No spending the night
  • No lingering after sex
  • No cuddling
  • No texts beyond booty calls
  • No jealousy
  • No gifts
  • No dates
  • Can date someone outside of this (this was mostly for Even, really, considering Isak isn’t really interested in “dating” anyone)
  • Can sleep with someone outside of this
  • Can end this at any given time without owing each other an explanation
  • No talking about personal things
  • No telling ANY of our friends, no exceptions
  • Absolutely NO FEELINGS ever

Even sighs deeply when Isak rips the page out of the notebook, looking at it proudly.

“Are you done?” Even asks, and Isak looks at him.

“Do you even care about these rules?”

Even shrugs. “They’re important to you and they make you feel better about this,” he says. “So if it’s what you need, then yes. I care.”

Isak’s stomach flips uncomfortably at the admission, so he clears his throat and tries to ignore it altogether. “So you’re not going to break them?”

“Why would I?” Even’s brows furrow.

Isak eyes him suspiciously. “So you won’t?” he presses.

“No, Isak, I won’t.”

“Okay,” Isak nods, satisfied. “Then I’m leaving,” he says, dropping the paper on the bed and standing to find his clothes. When he finishes dressing, he swipes the paper from the bed again and folds it in four, stuffing it in his coat pocket. “I’ll email these to you.”

Even barks a laugh. “What?”

“I’ll email them to you.”

“Isak, you might as well just make a copy and fax it to me.”

Isak furrows his brows. “You have a fax machine?”

Even blinks at him. “Oh, my God,” he shakes his head. “I thought you were smart?”

“Oh,” Isak rolls his eyes. “You’re making fun of me. Yeah, okay, what a big surprise.”

“You don’t even have my email,” Even points out, not denying the accusation. “And I don’t check it. Ever. It’s mostly spam, anyway, and that’s probably where your rules would end up, too. I only ever check my work email, and that’s definitely not where I want your – our – rules to end up.”

Isak makes a noise. “Fine, then I’ll write them down again and bring them to you next time,” he throws his hands up in defeat. “But you need a copy, too, because – like I said before, I don’t trust you.”

“That’s fine,” Even huffs, amused. And fuck him, fuck him, fuck him. “I’ll see you next time with the rules and hopefully with some condoms, because I can’t be the only one providing them.”

“You have more than enough.”

“Lube, then.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “Fine, whatever,” he finishes zipping up his coat. “This was—” Isak gestures awkwardly. “Well, this was.”

Even smirks. “Yes, it was.”

Isak grunts and then opens the door, not bothering with another goodbye. He makes it down the stairs and out the front door, and suddenly his stomach is bursting with what might be excitement or regret, he can’t really tell right now, but he hopes he figures it out by the time he gets home.

--

Isak’s decided it’s anxiousness.

He keeps thinking of the theory of probability, and keeps thinking of all the ways this could end, and none of them are really in Isak’s favor – it’s midnight now, so Eva’s asleep, and Isak’s doing nothing but pacing back and forth in his room, while Galileo hides inside a makeshift rock cave.

It’s bugging Isak, really making him feel like he didn’t really know what he was agreeing to, and it doesn’t feel too late to back out – Even looked far more confident this could work out than Isak, though, and if he’s sure this won’t backfire, then Isak should be sure, too, right?

He can’t give himself an answer without it being totally biased, so he picks up his phone quickly and presses down on Jonas’s contact through his favorites, then listens to the line ring about four times before Jonas picks up.

“Yo,” Jonas answers, not sounding like he’d been sleeping at all. There’s noise in the background, what sounds like the television, and it’s times like these that Isak is grateful his best friend’s such a night owl. “What’s up?”

“Have you ever—” he clears his throat. “Have you ever had, like, like – a fuck buddy, of sorts?”

Jonas pauses. “You mean like a friend with benefits?”

“Sure.”

“Yeah,” Jonas tells him.

“How’d that go?”

Jonas makes a noise on the other line. “Fine, I guess. It lasted about two or three months I think, and then we went our separate ways when she found someone she liked.”

Isak exhales, a little relieved. “So it was fine, then. Nothing complicated?”

“Nah,” Jonas replies. “Nothing complicated. I think if you do it right, it never is, you know?”

“Huh,” Isak feels himself start to relax. “Okay.”

There’s a silent beat, and then, “Waiiiit,” Jonas prolongs. “Are you getting laid?”

Isak scoffs, a little too quickly, really. “No, no – don’t be stupid, of course I’m not, I don’t have time for casual sex, I was just – just curious because, uhm, Julian – he hinted at maybe having one – a friend with benefits, I mean, or whatever – and I wanted to know – I wanted to know whether or not I should be supportive.”

Isak can practically see Jonas’s eyebrow rising. “At midnight?”

“Yeah, we were texting.”

He can hear the smirk on Jonas’s lips when he replies, “Isak, I don’t think Julian’s gunning for casual sex, you know?”

Isak shakes his head, not understanding where Jonas is coming from. “I don’t know,” he replies. “I don’t know what you’re getting at, either.”

Jonas sighs loudly. “Never mind,” he says, and Isak hears a knock on the door in the background. “Oh, hey, I’ve gotta go, Mahdi’s over.”

Isak backtracks. “At midnight?”

Jonas makes a noise of assent. “Yeah, he couldn’t sleep, so I invited him over to watch some movies.”

Isak doesn’t understand why they’d do this at midnight on a school night for the both of them, but, okay. Who’s Isak to judge? He just had sex with his mortal enemy, and shit. Everyone’s got their quirks.

“Yeah, alright,” he concedes. “I’ll leave you both to it. Bye.”

“See you later, man,” Jonas replies, and then the line goes dead.

Isak exhales deeply and slowly, puts his phone down back on the end table. Okay. Okay, if Jonas, of all people, could make this work, could make it through three months of casual sex without anything getting complicated, then surely he and Even could do the same? Because he’s sure Jonas actually liked this girl, and Isak and Even, well, they don’t like each other at all – find each other attractive, sure, that much is obvious, but they don’t like each other, so—

They’ll be fine, Isak reassures himself. The odds are in his favor, not against it. He can be brave enough to do this. He is brave enough to do this. He’s been through so many riskier endeavors in his life, so sleeping with someone he doesn’t like to release a little bit of frustration, a little bit of anger, and, granted, to have some fun – he can do that. He can.

Just watch him.