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Us Against the World

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The Bech Næshiem family moved into their new house on Holland Road several months after Even's 6th birthday.

At first Even was upset, "How am I supposed to see Mikael and Elias and the other boys? Who am I going to play with? What if there aren't any cool kids on our new street?"

He was placated after his mother informed him that they would all still be attending school together, "And there's actually a boy around you're age in the house right next to ours honey."

That peaked Even's interest as he leaned forward in his seat and tried to squeeze out every detail about said boy that his mother was with-holding, because how is he supposed to make a good impression if he's 5 minutes away from his new home? He's been given no time to prepare which seems really unfair if you ask him. His worry is cut short after his father pulls behind the moving truck in front of the new Bech Næshiem family home.

Even's attention is immediately shifted to running around his new house and claiming his new room. After hours of barley making a dent in the unpacking process, Even decided to take a break. He ran out the door with a fleeting, "I'll be back," to his parents as he sprinted through the front door.The front yard was only slightly more interesting as he kicked around his ball.

"He shoots, aaaand," the ball rolled into the yard of the house next-door, "well... could've been worse," as Even reflects on the time he kicked in his old neighbors window.
"Wasn't even my fault, he should've had stronger windows," Even muttered walking over to get his ball.

Bending down to pick up the ball Even remembered what his mother had said about there being a family with a boy his age. Given that the ancient couple from the house to the right had already introduced themselves it would leave this home to house the...Even whipped his head up to find green eyes staring directly into him from the window above.

From the second Even Bech Næshiem laid his eyes on Isak Valtersen, he claims he knew that boy would be very important. "Halla," Even waved to the small mop of curly blonde hair. There was a small thin hand lifted in response and wide eyes that looked back. "I'm," Even started but was interrupted by a strong hand coming behind the curtain, gripping the tiny boys arm and yanking him away.

Even shrugged his shoulders, grabbed his ball, and ran back inside to tell his parents that there was in fact a boy next door but he was incredibly tiny so, "Are you sure he's my age?"

"Yes he is, and you'll meet him tomorrow at our barbecue. Now hop up to your room and finish unpacking," his father said picking throwing him over his shoulder as Even laughed trying to get down. He forgot about the boy with the golden locks, but when he looks back now, Even has no idea how he could've ever forgotten sweet baby Isak, even for a second.

Chapter Text

The thing with ties, or at least in Even's mind, is there's no point. It feels like he's choking and everyone knows it's just going to be thrown across the room and forgotten about in the end.

He's currently standing in his backyard surrounded by adults and a few teenagers. The small talk is enough to bring him to tears, but Even keeps strong and holds out for the small boy from the house next door. The barbecue is about an hour in when he starts feeling hopeless until there's a new group of people filing through the back gate.

''This is it'' Even thinks, "my time to shine." He straightens out his tie forgetting his previous grievances and prepares for the big moment. But when his new neighbors introduce themselves he notices the distinct lack of small blonde boys in the vicinity.

"Halla," whispers a squeaky voice from behind a pant leg. Even almost thinks he imagined it but craning his neck, he can make out a single aurelian swirl. "Isak speak up son," the boy's father commands.

"No, that's okay Mr. Valtersen," Even's mother spoke. "What's up champ, you can go hangout with Even over here while us grown-ups chat," Mr. Bech Næshiem says bending down to Isak's height. After a quick glance up to his father who nods in permission, Isak toddles his way over to Even. Once again Even is going to have to talk to his dad about being given a heads-up before being thrown into these situations.

"My name is Even," the older boy says shooting his arm out in greeting. As Isak quickly shuffles back, away from the hand, Even decides against it. "Have you never seen a handshake? Are you a baby?" Even asks genuinely curious, the boy is significantly smaller than Even. "I'm not a baby. My name's Isak and I just turned four, so 'm not a baby," the smaller whispers.

"Well I'm six, so you are techinic-technicly a baby next to me," Even begins, "but that's okay, because that way we can hug instead of a handshake."

"That's okay then I guess," Isak says stepping forward. The boys first hug is a very sweet thing to behold as the top of Isak's head barley reaches the bottom of Even's chin, but neither seems too bothered.

"Well baby Isak," Even says stepping out of the hug, "what would you like to do?" The younger blushes at his new nickname, and shrugs his shoulders. "You're very quiet baby Isak, but that's okay because I'm fun to talk to, so you'll talk to me eventually I just know it," Even says confidently.

The young boys spend a majority of the time on Even's new swings stopping sometimes to speak to adults who ask if they're brothers or who their parents are. As the night draws to a close Even finds himself promising Isak he'll spend tons of time with him over the rest of the summer.

"We can make a fort and I can introduce you to the boys!" Even exclaimed. "They'll love you baby Isak, it'll be so fun!" Nodding his head enthusiastically Isak grins up at his new friend, "Okay Even, you promise?" the boy asks bravely. "I promise," Even says holding out his pinky which Isak interlocks with his.

"Isak, time to leave," Mr. Valtersen calls from across the yard. Isak squeezes Even once more before running as well as he can up to his father who places his hand behind Isak's neck guiding him out.

That night as Even tells his parents about 'his new baby Isak' they share a knowing look, but in a house to the right the recounting of certain Bible verses can be heard coming from inside the nursery and Isak decides that it's probably better not to bring up 'his Even' in front of his mamma anymore because he's not sure he likes hearing this speech.

Chapter Text

Even kept the promises he made to Isak that afternoon at the barbecue, starting with Isak meeting the rest of Even's friends at his sleepover to show them his new house. It took some convincing on Mr. and Mrs. Bech Næsheim's part for the Valtersens to be on board, but one sunny afternoon in July Isak found himself alone at the Bech Næsheim's front door with a drawstring bag at his feet.

As the door swung open there was a loud, "ISAAAKK," drawn out from Even. He took the younger by the hand and told his parents that Isak had arrived while running up the stairs excited for his new friend to meet his older ones. They stopped in front of Even's door before going in. "Are you ready baby Isak?" Even questioned.

"Are you sure they'll like me Even?" the younger boy worried. "Of course they will! And when have I ever been wrong?" he said.
"When you said Ms. Brooke's name was Ms. Books," Isak began, "or that time you told me 12 plus 12 was 1,212."

"Well that was," Even started but was cut off by Isak bringing up the time Even said there was treasure at the bottom of the sandbox so they dumped out all the sand. "That lady yelled real loud at us then," Isak said with his head down.

Even stared at the boy in front of him, brought him into a tight hug and said, "Maybe I'll be wrong about them liking you, but I promise promise promise that if they don't you'll still be my favorite...Always," Even tacked on for good measure. That seemed to be enough for the small boy because he nodded his head and opened the door.

The five young boys on the inside then bombarded the two blondes. "EVVVV," Mikael shouted before tackling his friend. Adam and Mutta both gave him high fives while Elias and Yousef went in for a three-way hug.

"Gentlemen," Even started, "I'd like to introduce you to Isak." Isak waved shyly at the boys whispering quietly, "Halla."

"AAWW," Mikael began. Each boy introduced themselves, Elias being last asking, "You're not six right? Because I have a sister and she's not six, but she's bigger than you."

Shaking his head Isak responded, "I'm four. But I can still play with you because Even says that I'm quick for a four-year old."

"Sana's bigger than him Even, and she's four, and we don't let her play with us," Elias started.

"Well I've been playing with Isak all summer, and I like playing with him, and if you don't, than too bad," Even finished nodding to himself feeling accomplished.

The other boys just shrugged and Elias, still looking wary decided it was better to play with Even and the baby than no Even at all. The boys spent the afternoon running around inside and outside making up games. Isak was always on Even's team, and towards the end of the night all the boys accepted Isak as one of their own.

"Okay boys, time for bed," Mr. Bech Næsheim said turning off the TV. The boys made pallets on the floor, Isak's being the closest to Even's twin bed. They all hollered goodnights to each other before dropping off to sleep one by one.

Even woke up at around 12 am when he felt a small hand shaking his shoulder. "Even?" the perpetrator whispered. "Hmm," Even hummed. "Can't sleep," said who Even now knew was Isak. Even threw back his covers and patted the spot next to him thinking the young boy was probably scared as he climbed in.

A couple minutes passed by before Isak spoke again. "Even can you sing please?" At this point in their friendship, Isak had noticed that Even liked to sing and hum almost non-stop while doing anything, and Isak loved his voice. Even was a sucker for doing whatever Isak wanted because he was just so fond of the quiet boy.

It wasn't the first time Even had sang to Isak as a form of comfort. He'd sung to him when Isak fell off the swings, and after that time the lady had yelled and Even didn't know how to make Isak stop shaking. Or the time Even hugged him too hard and Isak told him he hurt a bruise Even didn't remember him having the day before. So when Isak asked him to sing he responded with "Your song?" Isak nodded his head and Even began to hum.

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray," he hummed the parts he wasn't to sure about but when he reached the end Even always sang with full certainty "Please don't take my sunshine away."

When Even looked down and saw Isak asleep he knew he could never deny the boy his singing if it meant he could make Isak happy, so he never would. And in the morning when everyone woke up and Even said they had to be quiet because Isak needed to sleep, they just nodded in understanding. The boys realized much like Even's parents had, that Isak meant a lot to Even, and though they each cared for the small boy, no one came close to Even.

Chapter Text

Isak and Even's childhoods were spent with the two boys joined at the hip. Every pivotal, personality shaping experience for one boy was shared with the other. Each boy became the person they are today through what they went through, and there wasn't one memory one boy had without the other in it.

...6 and 4...

Even looks back on Isak's first day of school with mixed emotions. He had walked up to his school to find Isak sitting alone on one of the front benches.

"Isak?" Even had called walking over to the small boy. "Where are your parents?"

"Dunno, Mamma said to wait for you at the door." Even had not been informed that he was supposed to help the young boy, but he played along and after Isak told him his teachers name he took his hand and they walked to class.

"You're not coming in Even?" the younger asked worried. "No, I'm 2 years above you, but I'll see you on the playground after lunch," Even watched as his baby Isak put on a brave face, quickly hugged him, and strode up to his teacher. All was well as Isak sat next to a curly haired boy and gave a thumbs up.

Even met up with the boys in his class after waving bye, and waited restlessly for recess. The bell rang after an eternity and Even ran as fast as he could to see Isak. He waited for the younger boy until he saw a familiar blonde tornado barreling towards him. The force of the boys' hug almost knocked them to the ground, but all was well until an upper level boy came over.

"What are you fairies or something," a boy with spiked hair spoke harshly

"No? I'm Isak, and I'm a boy." Even pushed the tiny boy behind him when two more boys came over. "Just leave us alone," Even said trying to stay brave.

"You can't be jumping on each other and hugging and shit" Even noticed Isak cringe "It's gross and unnatural" one of the boys from the back spoke.

It was then that Elias and the boys sprinted over and the older boys, noticing they were outnumbered spoke one last "Stupid poofs" before running off.

"What's a-a poof Even? Why'd he call us fairies, should we tell him they're not real?" Isak seemed to genuinely wonder.

Even said something about how it was "on account of you being soooo pretty Isak, don't worry" and the smaller boy just giggled making the tension in Even's shoulders disappear and they let it go.

That day Even came to the realization that the world wasn't always happy, and there were going to be a lot of people that didn't understand him, but that it didn't matter because Isak never failed to brighten his day more than any snide comment could ever dim it.

Chapter Text

2. 6 and 8

Isak was born with a knack for words, the thing was, he never really had a lot of practice. Pappa yelled a lot so Isak could never get a word in, and he had tried pretty hard a couple times. His Mamma really only liked to talk about God, and religion was not Isak's area of expertise.

So in the end, he kept to himself mostly. Sure he talked to Even and his friend Jonas from school, and the boys sometimes, but what Isak had wanted `to talk about never seemed to find its way into a conversation.

The day Isak's teacher walked in and announced poetry week, he was ecstatic. This was his chance to really talk about what he wanted to. They were each given free reign, and while most of the boys wrote about being super heroes, Isak decided to write about something a bit more real.

It wasn't that Isak didn't like super heroes but he could talk about that with Jonas at lunch. He took the whole week to write his poem, and was really excited to see what his teacher thought of it.

The next Monday the papers were handed out and Isak turned his over with anxiety pooling in his stomach. The small boy nearly bursted into tears. Sitting on the very top right corner of his paper was a bold 3- and in bright red 'you were to do this alone'.

Not only had he pretty much failed, but his teacher thought he hadn't written his poem, the poem he told Even he had to finish instead of playing, that he told his Mamma he was excited for her to see. I

sak thought about going up to his teacher but decided against it because how was he going to prove he did it on his own? He just hoped she wouldn't call his parents.

When it was time for dismissal Isak sprinted to the bench Even met him at so they could walk home together.

"Soo" Even said cheerfully, "how'd the paper go?" The older boy was sure it was going to be just great, and Isak knew he was just going to let him down.

The younger boy shrugged in response, but Even wasn't having it. Once they reached Even's house, Isak was dragged inside to Even's room and at full speed Isak's bag was off his shoulder and Even reached in and stole his poem. Isak fought trying to get it back, but Even was still fairly taller than him and won.

"Isak this is" Even respondeed after a minute. "Yeah it's pretty bad I know" the grumpy one began.

"Nei nei nei, this is amazing," Isak stood shocked at Even's opinnion. Had his best friend missed the grade and the comment on top of the paper?

"Seriously this is a million times better than anything I bet anyone in the whole school could write," Even said gesturing wildly.

"What about what the teacher said? She told me it wasn't mine and gave me a 3-" Isak mumbled.

"Of course this is yours Isak, you blew me off for this poem, you NEVER blow me off unless it's really important and I'm happy, because you got the best poem ever written out of it" now Even was jumping up and down.

"You know what," Even said walking over to his craft/homework desk and pulling out supplies. He then took Isak's paper and cut the the top right corner off where the grade was. After, he promptly cut off the other three corners.

He was looking for white out when he had a better idea snatching his red sharpie. When he was done Isak saw that there was no writing from his teacher, only hearts. Even had drawn hearts over the hurtful comment. Isak's eyes filled with tears as he saw his best friend get up on his chair and use sticky tack to put it in what the boys dubbed his 'art wall'.

"Perfect," Even said.

Isak walked over and squeezed the older boy so hard that he probably could've popped. "Thank you Evy," Isak whispered. Even knew he did the right thing because the nickname was reserved for special instances.

And when the boys laid down on the ground looking up at the poem until Isak went home the younger boy knew. Isak knew that no one else's opinion mattered but his own, and more importantly Even's, because the older boy knew him best, and if he promised Isak that it was the best poem he'd ever written despite what his teacher wrote, then Isak believed him.

Above all the other work for the remainder of time would be the poem Isak wrote,

"For Even"
A great big bang and dinosaurs
Fiery raining meteors
It all ends unfortunately
But you're gonna live forever in me
I'll guarantee, just wait and see
Parts of me were made by you
And planets keep their distance too
The moon's got a grip on the sea
And you're gonna live forever in me
I guarantee, it's your destiny

Chapter Text

10 and 8

Even Bech Næsheim was born to perform. He sang live for the first time at age four. Granted it was at a family reunion and all he did was pretty much lip-sync to the song “Colors of the Wind”.

From the time he could walk, Even was running. The boy kept going and his parents didn’t think he’d ever stop, until the day they sat him in front of a piano

Even was transported into a whole different world. And his joy of singing and dancing increased when it was to the little tunes he made up in his head.

His favorite thing to do was play his ukulele named Fred and jump around until he couldn’t feel his legs. Every time he obtained a new instrument he gave them a name.

When he got a new guitar for his tenth birthday he had attempted to name it Isak until the smaller boy shut him down. Even ended up naming it Isaac and more than once he caught Isak smiling when he called it by name.

In the corners of Even’s room there are stacks on stacks of binders containing partial and complete symphonies Even started writing as soon as he learned how to jot down the stream of music in his head.

The boy’s most prized possession would have to be the CD collection he’s been growing since age 2 when he got the soundtrack to “Lady and the Tramp”. There was an entire two rows on his book shelf dedicated to the obsession.

When Even first became friends with Isak, he knew of course that he was special. But it wasn’t until the smaller boy conveyed his similar interest in Even’s passion that Even knew he’d never let the boy out of his sight.

While it could be argued that the boys shared their love for music due to different factors, (Even obsessing over the musical composition and Isak being a true lyricist man at heart) the pair would argue that it’s what made them such a great match.

More than once each boy tried to get the other to experience music from their point of view.

Isak would sit Even down and they would throw words back and forth in an attempt to create their own songs. This lead to masterpieces such as “Can You Tie My Shoes” and “It’s Really Cold but We Have No Shoes On”.
Even would in turn teach Isak how to play instruments. The younger boy proved to be a quick learner in the art of string instruments. There was one very long afternoon Even recalls where his younger friend’s fingers just couldn’t play the keys on the piano in the correct order.

“They won’t reach Even!” Isak exclaimed. “That’s okay baby Isak, your fingers are just not long enough yet! We can try again when they grow a little more!’’ Even said trying to cheer him up.

Even had to teach Isak a whole new song on the guitar until the younger boy was calmed down.

The first big musical experience Even ever obtained was when he was still in primary school. It had started out like any other day.

Even met Isak at his front door and the two parted ways only once reaching Isak’s classroom door.

They shared a quick hug and Even shouted a, “Have a fantastic day baby Einstein,” to Isak and waved to Jonas.

The rest of Even’s day followed in the same timely order, that is until his favorite class of all time. Music class was really the only time a teacher ever had Even Bech Næsheim’s undivided attention.

He was playing the guitar, just messing around and strumming made up tunes when his teacher approached him.

“You know you’re very talented Even,” she had stated.

“Thank you ma’am,” Even glanced up slightly confused because why was she over here, and what was the paper she was carrying?

“Oh this,” the teacher had caught him eyeing her hand, “is a flyer for the school talent show. Now I know this is kind of last minute, but there’s still a few places that need to be filled.”

Even grimaced, he’d never had the chance to play live in front of an actual audience before. Usually it was just Isak and his parents, and their feedback could never be anything but positive. The teacher picked up on his hesitation as she addressed him once more.

“You’d only be performing for 2-3 minutes, and there’s even a 200 kroner prize!” she had tried to seem convincing.

Even nodded his head accepting the flyer and said he’d think about it, and she eventually retreated.

After school Isak noticed his friend being quieter than usual. “What’s got you thinking so hard?” he asked his usually bubbly best mate.

“Well, Ms. Rodriguez, you know the music teacher right?” he asked to make sure and continued once Isak nodded.

“Well, she told me that I played the guitar pretty well and that I should think about playing in the talent show, but I’m not so sure,” he confessed to his best friend.

Isak nodded along and seemed deep in thought for a few minutes before he spoke up.

“You know I think you’re the best musician I’ve ever heard, so talent is no question, it’s just up to whether you feel prepared enough. If you want to go for it, if not then you can try again next year, no worries,” Isak stated self-assured.

“Well you have to think that,” Even began, “you’re my best mate.”

“No, because we promised each other a while ago that we wouldn’t lie, and I told you when you were playing poorly once,” Isak said.

Even thought back to the day they were laying on their backs in the yard and he couldn’t find the placement for his fingers at such an awkward angle.

Isak had told him to sit up because, “My ears hurt Even, you can play much better than that.”

“You know what, I’m going to do it. You’re right I’ve got nothing to loose,” Even was hyping himself up now.

“You know you’re so helpful Issy,” Even said using his new favorite nickname for the boy, “You’re literally the best, best friend I could ever ask for.

That’s how Even found himself the next day signing up as an act in his school talent show. When he told his parents they had been thrilled, always ready for a chance to support their only child.

The only thing was that there was a week and a half until the show, and Even didn’t even have a song list. Isak came over to his house the weekend before to find papers strewn across the room and about three different songs playing at once.

In the middle of the chaos stood a panicked Even. The tall blonde looked very lost and upset. He didn’t even notice when Isak turned off each song and neatly piled the papers.

“Even? What’s wrong? What do you need help with?” Isak asked attempting to get his friends attention.

“Nothing’s working,” the older boy said with his voice cracking, “none of these songs work.”

Isak had dealt with cryptic Even before and found the best approach was to just straight up ask him what was going on inside his head. This time it lead to a full rant from Even about how none of the songs he’d been playing had the right tempo.

The boy was looking for a happy song, but one with a slower tempo because that’s what he felt needed to be played. So Isak spent the next 2 hours brainstorming with his best friend until it hit him.

“The song you sang the other day with the flowers Even!” Isak exclaimed. “The one about the little darling!”

“ ‘‘Here Comes the Sun’’ you mean?” Even asked grinning at his friends interoperation of the title. “Actually, that could work,” Even brought out his guitar and began strumming.

…….

The night of the show had arrived and Even was currently backstage about to go on. He was wearing a white button up and jeans with a bright yellow tie and his guitar hung around his shoulder on the strap Isak had gotten him for his 10th birthday.

The small boy was currently sitting in the audience with Even’s mother and father, something they’d arranged with the Valtersens.

Surprisingly, Even wasn’t even that nervous. He had been playing the song non-stop for more than a week, and humming it when he was without a guitar.
And Isak encouraged him the whole time, even helping him pick out his outfit.

“You’re on now Even,” a man said pushing him onto the stage.

There was a chair and the mic stand in the middle of the stage, so Even sat down and readjusted his guitar in his lap.

“My name is Even Bech Næsheim, and I’m going to be singing “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles,” he said looking out into the crowd and spotting Isak giving him a thumbs up. He smiled in return and began the song.

“Here comes the sun, here comes the sun and I say, it’s alright,” Even was a little nervous in the beginning, but finished strong, “it’s alright.”

The crowd erupted in applause and Even grinned so widely his face hurt when he saw Isak on Even’s father’s shoulders clapping wildly.

When he came off the stage he ran to give his best friend a hug. “Thanks for telling me to go for it, and for saving my butt by giving me the song to perform, you’re the best person ever, elsker deg,” Even said squeezing his friend.

“Elsker deg,” Isak had said squeezing back just as hard.

Twenty minutes later Even was back on stage with the 19 other contestants. He was already smiling so hard because of his earlier exchange with Isak.

The small boy rarely responded to Even constant stream of compliments and ‘I love yous’. Normally he just blushed, so when he said it back Even could’ve cried from happiness.

He was so distracted that he almost missed his name being called out as the winner. He accepted the trophy and cash and made a little thank you speech. He made sure to thank Isak twice.

 

Even had been happy he had won, but nothing compared to the feeling he got when Isak had told him he loved him back, because that was truly the greatest prize he could’ve received.

It didn’t matter to Even what awards he won, as long as he had Isak by his side, because in the end that was all that really mattered.

Chapter Text

10 and 12

 

Isak had known his family was different from the moment he could comprehend the people he had give the titles ‘Mamma and Pappa.”

As a baby, no one could see anything wrong with the Valtersens and their treatment of their only son. Sure Marianne Valtersen seemed a bit eccentric and paranoid at times. And maybe Terje’s stoic, cold demeanor took a while to get used to, but Isak was just such a sweet baby, that no one ever gave the pair of parents a second glance.

If someone had looked even just a second longer though, they’d see that it was almost eerie how quiet Isak was as a baby, and that it wasn’t normal or healthy even, for a 1 year-old not to cry.

While most children were immediately cradled and given attention as a result of their cries, Isak was given the exact opposite. So eventually, he stopped crying as much. He still cried at loud noises and when he fell down, it was just that no one went to calm him down.

Well into his toddling years Isak remained significantly quieter than other children. Once, just before his 3rd birthday, Isak attempted to have a voice.

Isak knew his Mamma spoke a lot about a big man and a big rainstorm that would make everything clean. He figured that his father’s silence in reference to these rants meant it was acceptable to bring them up.

The family had been eating dinner and while his Mamma was quiet he took his chance and asked when the big rainstorm was supposed to come. His Mamma very loudly began to recant what Isak now knows was a bible verse. When his father’s face grew red Isak knew that he really should have just stayed quiet.

Isak doesn’t remember much about the rest of the night, only the shattering of the beer bottle his father had been holding, and from time to time he’ll trace the tiny jagged scar hidden behind his ear.

It was okay for a little while after that. Isak didn’t speak and his father had no reason to be upset at his son. Most of the time Terje just ignored his only child altogether. There were times though, when it was Marianne who focused too much on her only son.

Isak’s mother was special. His father once said that if she were just like any other mom, then Isak wouldn’t have such a deep appreciation of Theology, something that isn’t so important to him presently.

Marianne loved her son, it was just that she seemed to love her god more. She knew deep down that her medication was good for her, but she had gotten off of it while being pregnant with Isak, and felt fine for 6 months after, so she stopped taking it all together. This lead to some pretty life shaping event sin Isak’s childhood.

There was the time that his mother was convinced that she was being watched and broke every electronic device in the house, Isak had been 1. Then the instance where she thought someone was trying to take Isak, this being ironically directly after the beer bottle incident, and Marianne lock her son in a closet for almost a day until Terje let the boy out shaking his head saying,

“Try to stay out of the way next time Isak.”

But the most prevalent memory in his mind would forever be the time just before Even Bech Næsheim moved in. The Valtersen’s previous neighbors had been a lovely couple. They were well respected, gave out pretty quality Halloween candy, and above all, had a really cute German Shepherd puppy. Their names were Thomas and James, and they had only spoken to the Valtersens a handful of times.

One day, while the young couple had been washing their car mainly just spraying each other with the hose, Isak had sat outside on his front lawn. The small boy was uncertain where either of his parents currently were, but had a fairly large amount of freedom and spent a majority of his time outside. James and Thomas noticed Isak and usually left a sandwich and a gatorade in the middle of the shared land between the houses because once the boy had stayed out there until nightfall and not once had either of his parents brought him anything to eat or drink.

That day Isak had been quietly sipping from a small water bottle watching ‘Jay and Tommy’ (the names they used to introduce themselves after noticing the small boy having a hard time pronouncing his s’). He watched as Jay scooped up their puppy named Rolf and made his way over to where Isak sat watching them.

“Tommy’s just inside drying off,” he had said. “But we wanted to introduce you to Rolf, we’ve had him for about two months now, figured it was time.”

Isak reluctantly stroked the pup, but warmed up to him pretty soon. Tommy came out not long after and both men plopped themselves down on either side of the small boy. The trio spent the remaining few hours of the day cloud gazing. The couple tried desperately to get the small boy to open up, or to even just smile. Rolf seemed pretty content to lay in the small boys lap. They had asked Isak at one point what his parents were like, and he told them that he got the feeling that his parents didn’t like him all that much but the couple never had a chance to respond.

The first thing Isak registered was his front door opening which typically lead to his mother telling him it was time to go inside. This time was different. Marianne Valtersen saw the two men laying on either side of her son and was overcome with something akin to anger. She shouted at the pair and while they stood up the pushed Isak and Rolf behind them. Marianne was shouting about how they were disgusting and Rolf was barking and Isak started crying. Then Terje came out and physically shoved James to the ground which made Isak cry even harder. His father grabbed his sons arm and dragged him into the house, but he remembers reaching out for Thomas’ hand and the man looking heartbroken and shaking his head. Isak got a long lecture that night about how homosexuality was a sin and that he shouldn't interact with people like Thomas and James because they were gross and wrong. And Isak remembers thinking that not even they wanted him. By the next weekend there was a for sale sign and within 3 months it had been sold.

The Bech Næsheim family were Isak’s saving grace. His true angle took the goofy human form he came to know as Even, and he was perfect. He wanted to play with Isak even though he was a whole two years older. He wanted to teach Isak how to play the piano even though his fingers couldn’t reach, but most of all, he didn’t ask questions.

From time to time Isak’s father drank too much or had a bad day. Sometimes Isak’s mother got confused and didn’t recognize him. This typically lead to a couple bruises on his body at any given time. Most people just assumed the boy was clumsy and energetic, but they didn’t spend as much time around him as Even did.

But most of the time Even didn’t ask because when people asked Isak where his bruises came from he would make up a story Even knew wasn’t true and the one time Even confronted the small boy about it, he looked like he was seconds away from shattering, so Even learned not to ask. And it was fine really. The older boy got more worried as the pair got older but he knew he couldn’t scare his best friend away.

He had kept his mouth shut when there was a handprint on Isak’s back, he had kept his mouth shut when there was a gash on the top of Isak’s left foot, and he had even helped clean it. Even kept his mouth shut every time his best friend wandered into his room at night through Even’s balcony door. (The distance from Isak’s balcony to Even’s being a bit of a jump, but nothing either boy couldn’t handle). But even Even had his limits and he reached his on January 21st, 2010.

It had been pouring that night, and Isak’s father got home late. The thing about Terje Valtersesn was that he could slap his son around guilt free, and noticed that no one had ever given any indication that they knew what he was doing, so when he came home one day after being three seconds away from losing his job to find his wife smashing plates and his ten year old son trying to pick up the pieces, he decided to up his game.

Isak watched as his father slammed the door and his mother ran to him. He left with her while Isak cleaned up the glass gaining a fairly deep graze that ran from his left thumb up to his left pinky. It was when his father reemerged from his bedroom that he noticed he was really in for it, because there in his father’s hands were three objects.

Isak thought his hair was going to be torn off from the amount of force his father used to drag him to the kitchen table. Then his father laid the objects out in front of him.

“Choose,” Terje had said rather impatiently. There was no context, no way out, only a punishment Isak was being given that he had control over.

Isak was a quiet boy, he didn’t know quite how to express himself, and he had an especially hard time explaining that he didn’t know exactly what he felt. But in this moment Isak knew what he felt. He felt years worth of hatred building up in him, and he felt so much grief that he decided it was time to show his father just how he felt.

In front of Isak was a stick, a belt, and a wrench.

“Choose,” his father demanded. And into his open palm Isak laid the wrench. His father laughed and shook his head dragging his son into the backyard.

Within those 5 minutes Isak really though he might die. The first blow knocked the air out of him, and the second he’s pretty sure broke his nose. About halfway through his father just resorted to his fists as his way to punish his son for nothing. When he was finished he walked back inside and left Isak there on the ground in the pouring rain.
Isak stared up a the stars quietly identifying three constellations before sitting up and holding back how badly he wanted to scream. With every aching step up to his room, there was one thing that kept him going, Even.

Isak debating going to sleep but read once that he could slip into a coma because he had hit his head pretty hard. So he braved the jump from his balcony to his best friend’s and unceremoniously threw himself banging his entire body against Even’s glass. It was a couple minutes until Even emerged unlocking the sliding doors and gasped as the lightning provided enough light for him to recognize his small friend.

“Issy, Issy can you here me?” Even said gathering Isak into his arms and lifting him up. “Isak this isn’t a joke can you here me do I need to get my parents?”

“NO,” Isak finally answered. “Don’t need parents Ev just need you.”

“Hey, hey don’t fall asleep, we’re going to clean up first okay, don’t fall asleep,” Even said locking his door and picking Isak up then setting him on his bathroom counter and flipping on the light.

“Shit Issy what happened,” Even moved some of his hair out of his face and started to take Isak’s shoes off.

“Terje came home pretty pissed I don’t know what about, but I guess he figures he can take it out on me because I wouldn’t ever let him touch Mamma,” Isak slurs the last few words.

Even’s urging him to lift his arms to pull off his shirt careful of his nose leaving him in his Scooby Doo boxers and Even almost cries before he remembers he has to be brave for his tiny friend.

“He just hit you? These cuts are too deep to be from fists. Are you sure it was just that baby Isak you can tell me, promise I won’t get mad,” Even added because he noticed his younger find had a nasty habit of blaming himself for the most ridiculous things.

“The one on my hand is because Mamma was breaking the plates again, but no, it wasn’t just his hands, he gave me options,” Isak said wearily.

“Okay what options,” Even urged him while cleaning each cut with what he could find and wiping the friend blood from Isak’s body.

“Well he put down a stick, a belt, and a wrench on the kitchen table,” Isak said looking down.

“Oh, Issy you didn’t,” Even already knew where this was going.

“And he looked so smug and I was just so angry,” Isak’s breath was picking up so Even titled his chin up and looked him in the eyes having done this a hundred times before.

“Only you feel what you feel Isak. Now why did you choose the wrench,” Even said giving him room to put how he felt into words.

“Because fuck him, that’s why,” a silent tear rolling down Isak’s face.

“You know, I didn’t even cry Evi? I couldn’t even scream, it was so weird, a-a-and after, I was just looking at the stars, and all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but then I remembered that you said if I ever got hurt you wanted to sing away the pain, so I thought I should go to you,” Isak said. Even had moved him into the bath now and washed the dirt from Isak’s hair, nodding to his recap of tonights events.

“I’m so glad you came to get me Issy, I always want you to come get me no matter what and call me if you don’t think you can make it, I’ll give you my number when I get a phone and you can choose the ringtone okay?” Even said scooping Isak into a towel.

“Okay Evi, I’ll get you,” Isak said

“Promise?” Even said holding out his pinky.

“Promise,” Isak said interlocking them.

The boys stayed holed up in Even’s room the rest of winter break. Isak’s parents didn’t come looking for him and the bruises on his face faded quickly enough that Even didn’t tell his parents, but Isak’s nose was now crooked if you looked closely and he had a faint scar just below his belly button, but every night Isak went to bed he knew it would be okay, because Even promised he’d be there, and they never broke a promise.

Chapter Text

Life went on after that dark night. The two boys grew closer and lived on in each other’s presence.

Even’s 13th birthday arrived soon after, and it was quite the event. The Bech Næsheim house turned into an all out war zone as it contained 5 teenage boys and 1 almost 11 year-old. There were pillows flying every where and wrestling matches and everything in between.

Throughout it all Even was careful of his younger best friend. He threw himself in front of Mutta’s pillow and was the ref of any match Isak participated in. At the end of the night they all made one big pallet and Even brought out his guitar.

“Alrighty men, and Isak,” Even giggled as Isak shoved him. “Any suggestions?”

There were a few non-committal grunts and Yousef made a joke about the boys’ broad vocabulary. Isak, who was still working on vocalizing his opinion, quietly made eye contact with Even.

“Coldplay,” Even suggested, mostly to Isak, because he was pretty sure they were Isak’s favorite, even if he denied it.

“Sure, it’s your birthday,” Isak said and the other boys nodded in agreement.

So Even started to strum the opening chords to Paradise. The boys all sang at the top of their lungs and towards the end Isak stopped to just watch his best friend sing.

“This could be Para-para-paradise oh oh oh,” Even sang with his eyes closed playing the last few chords.

They all cheered and fell back onto the pallet. The rest of the night was spent exchanging secrets and Isak unfortunately fell asleep before the boys got into anything juicy. Even picked him up bridal-style and tucked him into bed before re-joining the group who knew after their many sleepovers that they would have to whisper because Even would be very upset if they woke up Isak.

Elias had been on the receiving end of Even’s wrath a few months ago when he’d shouted a little too loud making the youngest member of the gang jump up from his slumber and fall of the bed. Even had sprinted over their faster than Isak managed to whine,

“Evy?” “It’s okay Issy, you’re at my house remember, you just woke up it’s okay,” Even had quickly explained to the younger boy.

He’d tucked him back into bed and stroked Isak’s hair until he fell asleep, and then tore into Elias about how little sleep the boy gets, and about how easily panicked he gets when he wakes up and doesn’t know where he is. They had seen panicked Isak once or twice before and it was never a fun occasion. So Elias had apologized profusely and by the end of the night Even forgave him, and the boys were very sure not to wake the small thing up again.

———

After Even’s birthday came several uneventful months of school and hanging out until summer. It had been the first year Isak and Even attended different schools, and while they still walked to and home from school together then hangout, nothing beat summer when all they had to do was lay around with each other.

With Isak’s birthday coming up Even wanted to do something big. The previous years they had made cupcakes and ate them while watching whatever Isak’s favorite movie was at the time. This tradition was started after 5 year-old Isak asked the Bech Næsheim family why they were celebrating Mr. Bech Næsheim’s birthday. Worried, the parents asked what Isak did for his birthday.

“Mamma wakes me up, then we take a family picture and put it in the number I’m turning. Then Pappa pats me and says ‘Congratulations Isak, you are 5, we’re proud of you’ then he works until late,” the boy explains throwing in his best impression of his father’s voice.

And, okay, not what they had been expecting, but maybe the Valtersen’s didn’t have the money, or maybe they didn’t want their son to be entitled?

“That’s okay baby Isak,” Even jumped in after his parents didn’t speak up. “We do birthdays because it’s tradition, and you have your own tradition, but that means you can celebrate with us too!” this seemed acceptable as Isak nodded his head and the family went along with their day.

 

So this year had to be special because now that summers were the most time the boys got to spend with one another, they had to celebrate this designated day especially hard. Even tossed around a few ideas until he settled on a good old fashioned surprise party. His parents were supportive of the idea, knowing that Isak wouldn’t be celebrating in the typical fashion at home.

So on Isak’s birthday Even took him on a walk while the typical group and Isak’s friend Jonas arrived at Even’s house. The two boys skipped and pushed each other as they went. After cloud gazing and climbing a tree because,

“Where’s your sense of adventure baby Isak?”

The boys began their journey home. Isak had stopped suddenly and Even turned his head jogging over to his friend.

“What’s wrong, you good?” Even said placing a hand on Isak’s shoulder.

“Nei, it’s just my chest, father got a lucky punch the other day, it’s just sore,” Isak explained spitting out the word father, something the man had beat into his son after catching him addressing him by his first name.

“Why didn’t you come get me, I still have some bruise cream left,” Even asked.

“I kinda passed out after climbing up the stairs and then slept it off the next day, it’s not that bad I promise,” Isak admitted sheepishly.

“Isak you know I don’t think any less of you when you have to take a day to recover right? Because I would give you an infinite amount of time to recover if you needed. Now,” Even began before the younger could interject, “climb up on my back.”

The small boy didn’t even protest and the two made their way back. Even set Isak down a couple feet before they went in and decided that maybe a surprise wasn’t what the small boy needed right now.

“Before we go in, I may have told my parents I wanted to do something special for your birthday so all the boys and Jonas may be on the other side of the door waiting to surprise you,” he bit the inside of his cheek nervously.

“You did what?” Isak said taken aback.

“I planned a surprise party,” Even responded sheepishly.

Shortly after that Isak tackled the other boy into a bear hug. They were laughing and hugging and Isak spoke up.

“That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done. You’re seriously the best best friend ever, thanks for telling me before we went in though, because I probably would’ve freaked,” the younger boy said.

“Isak, you know I’d do anything for you, and 11 is a big number, so we’ve gotta live up to it,” Even grinned.

 

When the boys walked in the house and everyone called out happy birthday, Isak was elated. There was a big group hug and then multiple individual hugs given out. They made cupcakes per tradition and watched movies until it was late. When they all crashed onto a giant mess of blankets Isak laid next to Even and the newly 11 year-old couldn’t contain the smile that covered his face thinking about how lucky he was.

———

They spent the remainder of the summer together, building forts and racing to the end of the street and they had multiple sleepovers with all their friends.

When school started, the boys saw each other less. Even decided to join the music club and band to further his understanding of music. Isak took up football after his father saw him reading one day.

“If you sit around reading books all day Isak you’ll turn into a sissy. People will take advantage of you,” his father had said.

Isak found that pretty ironic, but a week later he was wearing Even’s hand-me-down cleats and playing knock out.

The boys really only saw each other on the weekends, and sometimes not even then if Isak had a tournament or Even had a performance. On a snowy day in early November Even woke up at around 4 a.m. to frantic tapping on his window.

“Issy?” Even had said rubbing his eyes. Standing outside his door had been a bloody, panic stricken Isak.

Even pulled him in, more worried than ever due to the amount of blood. Isak enveloped him in a hug and Even couldn’t seem to get him to let go. He dragged them to the bathroom and couldn’t get Isak to release his death grip.

“Issy you need to let go it’ll be okay, you’re in my room we’re safe. You can let go,” Even urged the younger boy. When the younger boy shook his head Even decided to take a different approach.

“Isak, let go,” he said in a hard voice making Isak jump back, his eyes filling with even more tears. “Oh baby Isak, it’ll be okay I didn’t want to scare you but you were scaring me,” he’d said pushing the hair out of Isak’s eyes.

“He came out of nowhere Evi, I-I-I,” Isak said trying to breathe.

“Shh Issy, come sit on the edge of the tub. We don’t have to talk about it right now. Let’s just clean up.” Even said trying to calm the small boy.

Even wiped up the blood, and it looked thankful just like Isak got socked pretty hard in the nose and escaped further damage. Even couldn’t help but feel responsible like maybe if had just been around more he could’ve prevented it.

“S’ not your fault father is an asshole Ev,” Isak said seemingly reading his friends mind. “He knows he can get away with more because I can just blame it on football,” Isak said looking down.

Even gave him a clean set of clothes and the pair fell under Even’s duvet. Even was flattening Isak’s hair and sighed deeply.

“I just wish I could take you away sometimes. It’d be me and you, and we could just hangout with out having to worry about this,” Even said looking down at Isak’s already bruising nose.

Isak had been nodding off, but grunted in affirmation with Even’s plan. The boys were grateful it was a Friday night and they had planned on spending the weekend together anyway. Isak told Even he’d explain what happened in the morning and Even told him to take his time.

In the late afternoon, after they’d both eaten lunch and were laying on the floor while Even strummed the guitar, Isak retold the previous night’s events.

His father came home wasted. And Isak hadn’t wanted to deal with him so he hid. When this typically happened he would wait out his father’s taunts in the guest room closet, but his mother had tore through the room a few days earlier so he settled for the utility closet. But his father had caught on to his son early on and after an hour or so of calling his name stopped outside of the closet.

“Kinda wished he’d just have opened it and dragged me out. Wasn’t very comfortable,” Isak said trying to lighten the mood.

When Isak thought he was in the clear he walked out, only to be met with a hit to the face.

“I got dizzy, and fell so when father went to hit me again he punched a hole in the wall, and his momentum made him face-plant into the wall and pass out on top of me, so I couldn’t breathe, then I wiggled out and ran to the balcony,” Isak finished.

Even reached out to his friend but when he looked at him he decided instead to sing away the pain.

“Wise men say, only fools rush in,” Even began. By the end of the song he’d abandoned his instrument in favor of the small blonde boy. Even pulled Isak into his lap while the young boy breathed deeply and buried his head in Even’s shoulder.

“But I can’t help, falling in love with you,” he ended it with a kiss to Isak’s forehead.

It was then, while holding the fragile boy, that Even swore one day he’d get his Isak out of here. And he swore on his life that one day, Isak’s father would rue the day he lis a finger on his favorite person, his everything.

Chapter Text

As a child, Even could never sit still long enough to qualify as a lull in energy. He was a flash of blonde hair, a wild smile, and a booming voice. He chased nothing and his parents would sometimes give him a set of exercises to do in an attempt to calm their wild child.

There were also days though, that the boy seemed too quiet. They never lasted for very long, but it was easy to see he was upset. His parents would question him and he shrugged so they played it off as their son just being more sensitive. They were never too worried because a day later he’d be climbing the walls.

The Bech Næsheims never once put their son down though. They would play with him and try to keep up with him all day long, or cuddle with him and watch movies. They were concerned however when it started affecting Even’s sleep levels. They took him to a doctor shortly after his 4th birthday. There he was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Ritalin. The doctor showed no real concern for the boys sad days, and focused more on the hyperactive side of his personality. The medication seemed to work for a little while, but eventually Even was back to running laps around the house, and the doctors had done nothing for his other problem, so sad days were still a re-occurrence.

It wasn’t until his parents discussed options with various doctors that they found a solution to both problems. There were home remedies and printed out articles and sleepless nights until one day Even had woken up his dad at 4 a.m. and enough was enough. Mr. Bech Næsheim picked up his son, placed him on his hip, and the two made the journey into his office, where Even was not allowed to be in under any circumstances. Even was plopped down and his father took a seat next to him.

“Do know what this is champ?” Even’s dad asked.

“S’ a pee-a-no Daddy,” the young boy responded.

“Exactly right son! Did you know Dad can play? Because right now I’m going to teach you how to,” he responded hopefully.

There had been many attempts at teaching Even to play almost every sport known to man, but Even could never seem to pay attention long enough learn how to fully play. This was a stretch, and Mr. Bech Næsheim knew that, but he was willing to try anything. He played a few simple notes, the guided Even’s hands on top of the keys and told him to copy what he had just done. To his surprise Even did exactly that. He played a couple more keys and then a more complex set, and both times Even copied almost perfectly.

That day, the pair spent almost 10 straight hours just playing the piano, and once they had found a more challenging level for Even to play at, he seemed to be using enough of his energy to sleep almost 8 hours that night. Music became Even’s refuge and sometimes he had larger than life spurts of energy, but he could always sit down and pick out an instrument to soothe his racing mind. When Even had a sad day he could play instead of talking and write symphonies to express his mood.

By the time Even met Isak, he pretty much had his brain under control. There were days he would sprint past his younger friend in a haste, then sprint right back when he noticed he’d left him behind. There were also days that all he wanted to do was lay around and watch movies, but in the end, neither instance was common enough to raise suspicion. In general, Even was slightly more active than other boys his age, but Isak was the opposite, so they balanced each other out pretty well. And both boys knew that should it ever get to hard, they could find one another and lie on Even’s floor blasting music.

It wasn’t until the boys grew older that Even’s behavior developed into confusing, intense flashes of emotion on different occasions. When Even was around 12 and Isak was 10, Even began to act a little differently. It was only during specific times and in specific situations. And even then, it wasn’t usually anything that someone who didn’t know Even could probably pick up on.

One day, Even and Isak had been at the river in the back of the woods near where they lived. The current had been particularly strong, and it was cold, but not cold enough to freeze still water. Even had been looking at the river almost longingly while Isak had been messing with the pebbles he had found on their walk over to the spot. All of the sudden Even jumped up and walked over to the edge of the river. Isak got up as well, curious as to what his best friend was doing.

“Let’s jump in Issy,” Even had said excitedly.

Isak had started laughing at his friend’s ridiculousness, until he noticed that Even was completely serious.

“Um, nei Even. It’s freezing, and if we got in the current would pull us in. We would drown, were not at all strong enough,” Isak said trying to understand what was going on in Even’s head.

But Even was having none of it.

“I’m going to get in, you don’t have to,” Even said taking off his left shoe.

Isak grabbed his arm and looked him directly in the eyes. “No, you are not. You will drown. We’re leaving,” he said trying to pull Even back. The older boy sighed and put his shoe back on and let his small blonde friend take hi away.

After that there had been maybe six more instances over the span of 2 years where Isak couldn’t seem to figure out what Even’s brain process was. But the young boy did notice that 2 of those times had occurred directly after days when Isak showed up at Even’s balcony due to his father.

Even would just be filled with so many emotions that he would try to do 5 things at once or he would feel each emotion so intensely that he almost couldn’t see. He would get angry and just curse Terje’s name, cuss words being used instead of words. Or he would smother Isak in concern and worry, holding the boy and asking what hurt. Isak let Even do his thing, and only got concerned when Even would get sad and blame himself, then Isak would explain pretty fiercely that it was NOT Even’s fault, which normally did the trick. But there was a day that Even’s brain got the best of him, and it happened three weeks after Isak’s 12th birthday.

———

Over the course of the year, both Even and Isak had grown up considerably. Even had become fairly popular with the ladies, but in his personal opinion, they only liked him because he sang, because he had never had a single interesting conversation with a girl about anything other than what songs he could play to date. Even was content to just hang out with Isak and the boys anyway.

Isak had become considerably good at football. He made the first team for his school and started almost every game. He would still walk on to every field with more bruises than he had earned in practice or during the last game though, but no one really seemed to notice, except for Even.

The boys attended each other’s events. Isak clapped the loudest at all of Even’s performances, taking the time to choose Even’s tie before he went on. Even cheered the loudest at all of Isak’s games. He had gotten a jersey with ‘Valtersen’ written on the back and Isak’s birth year as the number. Each boy would deny the fact that they definitely had competitions to see who could get a bigger reaction out of the other during these times.

Both boys were also coming into their personalities. Mr. and Mrs. Bech Næsheim loved to watch the boys little quirks from when they were younger develop into full blown defining features they possessed in present time. Even’s hyperactivity seemed to highlight his carefree attitude, but contradict how mellow he had become. Isak’s shy quiet nature turned into a thoughtful stoic disposition that was more warm than distant. Both boys were still attached at the hip, that was probably always going to be a constant though.

Everything had gone fairly well for each boy, as well as it could, until the night everything went to hell. Isak had grown confident over the year. He’d been complimented on his abilities and bulked up a little, grown a few inches. He could withstand more pain than he used to be able to. Even had told him one night after a bloody nosed Isak came in, that he was worried.

“Isak, you can’t test your father. I know you’re strong, and I know he’s an asshole, but he’s got at least 55 kilos on you and 76cm,” Even reminded him.

Isak waved it off and said he wouldn’t purposefully agitate the man again.

A month later, Isak was standing in the kitchen at midnight. He had just put his mother to bed when his father came in slamming the front door.

“Ha surprised you’re here,” Terje said. “Usually on Fridays you’re over at those weirdo neighbors’ house,” he finished.

See, Isak was a patient boy, but there was no one in the world that was allowed to talk negatively about his boy.

“Don’t call him that,” Isak had said with an edge in his voice.

“What? Weird? He is, he’s a fucking pansy. Walking around their backyard playing music like a freak, he’s just asking to get it,” Terje said knowing fully well what he was doing to his son.

“Shut. Up.” Isak said glaring.
“Oooh, tough guy, what is it Isak, did i hurt your feelings?” Terje mocked using an infantile voice. Isak was seething. “Did I hit a nerve, is your precious little boyfriend off limits, he’s fucking asking me to beat the shi-“ but Isak had heard enough.

Isak had swung his fist, but Terje jumped out of the way and kicked his son making him fall, but caught him by his left arm and lifted him to his eye level.

“Wrong move son. If you think for a moment that your little stunt was acceptable, you’re wrong. I. Own. You.” Isak’s father paused, brought both arms to grip his son’s arm. There was a sickening crunch and a blood-curdling scream and Isak was dumped on the floor. He scrambled up and sprinted to his room, his father close behind. Isak locked the door to his bedroom and used his good arm to push his desk in front of it before going out onto the balcony and jumping to Even’s leaving a screaming Terje behind.

 

Next door Even had been lying awake, not having slept for almost two days. There was too much going on in the fourteen year old’s head. He’d written countless pieces and drank a lot of tea, but he just had this itch that he couldn’t get rid of. He was spiraling though after hearing the scream from next door. Isak was supposed to be at his house right now. He could be dead and Even couldn’t make up his mind up about what to do when there was frantic knocking at his balcony door. He unlocked it only to find his best friend.

“Issy! I was just wondering where you…What’s wrong, why are you crying?” Even began freaking out.

“I’m-I’m-I’m sorry Evy, you told me not to make him made but-but,” Isak was sobbing.

“Shhh baby Isak, it’s okay, look we……Isak, what happened to your arm,” Even had become very serious very quickly.

“Father snapped it Evy, it h-hurts real bad Evy,” Isak said tears streaming down his face.

Even’s mind went into over drive then, the only consistent thought he had was that he needed to get Isak out of danger. Normally Even could try and strategize, but his current state didn’t let him do anything but panic.

“We have to go Issy, we need to leave and,” Even tried to come up with something that would get the younger boy to go with him, “go to the hospital.”

“O-okay, but we can’t tell them how it happened Even,” Isak said seriously, thinking that they were going to wake up Even’s parents.

Even nodded grabbing a draw-string bag and filling it with extra shorts and shirts and money. He threw in a couple random things like a book and then his phone. Isak thought nothing of it, seeing as he had never been to the hospital so he wasn’t sure what he would need.

The pair began walking out the front door after Even pulled one of his sweatshirts over bother their heads.

“What about your parents Even?” Isak said confused.

“They’ll ask too many questions Isak, and then I’ll never see you again,” Even said seriously.

The thought of never seeing Even again made Isak panic, but he had a sinking feeling that the two were going to leave Even’s house and get into more trouble than they were already in. He decided he’d rather be with Even tonight though than any where else, so he just nodded and the pair began their journey.

———

Even lead them to the Metro. It had been a long walk, and Isak was already exhausted from earlier. Even practical dragged him onto the train. They took a seat near the back and received a few weird looks from an old lady but Even just glared at her until she turned away.

Even adjusted himself and the bag so that Isak could lay down with his head in Even’s lap. Even played with Isak’s hair and smiled down.

“Evy, can you sing please,” Isak whispered.

Even nodded enthusiastically before starting. “When you came into the world you cried, and it broke my heart,” Even sand and Isak snuggled closer. “I’ll make it right for you, I’ll give the world to you and you’ll blow us all away,” Even continued watching Isak’s eyes flutter closed.

Even continued singing even though Isak was already asleep, “Your father wasn’t around, I swear I’ll be around for you,” when he’d finished he looked up and saw the old lady looking at him.

“Do you need help?” she had asked tentatively.

“No,” Even had said looking down at his sleeping best friend. They’d be fine, he couldn’t really seem to stop thinking but he knew as long as he had Isak with him, away from his father, they would be fine.

“Well, here is some cash, I don’t know anything about your situation, but the bruise on his arm,” she said and Even quickly, softly pulled Isak’s sleeve down, “looks pretty bad and you seem like good boys, and you’re a good brother for taking care of him.” The lady walked over and Even’s mind wasn’t sure if she was a threat so he covered Isak with his arms while she placed the money next to him.

Even nodded, and when it was the lady’s stop he decided to clarify, “And he’s not my brother, but thanks anyway,” this only seemed to make the old lady gaze even softer.

It wasn’t until hours later, after the sun came up that Isak woke up. Tears gathered in his eyes. There were about ten other people on the train now so Even quickly shushed the boy lifting him up by his armpits.

“My arm hurts Evy,” Isak whimpered.

“We’re almost there Issy, don’t worry,” Even said trying to sound cheery.

Isak nodded, and a half an hour later they were getting off on the next stop. When they got off, Isak was shocked, “Even! We’re in Stavanger! That’s so far away from home! What were you thinking!?” Isak said panicking.

“Isak? I thought you’d be happy? We’re away from your father now, you won’t get hurt anymore,” Even was confused now, why didn’t Isak think this was a good idea?

Isak groaned. “Even, you don’t need to protect me from my father. Yeah, he’s an asshole, but we can’t just leave, what about your parents, what do we do when school starts up, where will we sleep, what will we eat,” Isak said trying to get his best friend to understand.

Even made an offended noise before starting, “I Isak, He broke your fucking arm, so I’m fixing it, I promised i would always fix it, none of that other stuff matters,” he said confidently.

“Yes Even, and you do always fix it, so why couldn’t you have done the same thing you normally do because my arm hurts AND now we’re miles away from home. And of course that other stuff matters, we’ll die without it,” now Isak was getting really frustrated.

“You’re not being fair and I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” Even said and started walking out of the tunnel. Isak ran after him.

“Fine, then where are we going, what’s your plan,” Isak asked.

“We, dear Isak, are going on an adventure,” Even said happily.

The boys stopped at the bike rental rack and Even payed for one and told Isak to hop on, but the younger boy complained about not being able to hold on because of a bunch of nonsense that Even wouldn’t listen to. Even put the bag on Isak and then pulled him to sit behind Even and hold on with his good arm, then started pedaling.

There was a chilly breeze and Isak buried his head behind Even’s back. Even was laughing at the grumbles pouring out from Isak’s lips. He could feel the tips of his ears and his nose growing red due to the biting cold, and he couldn’t wait to see Isak’s face because he always looked so cute like that. Even also couldn’t wait to get to the park he was bringing them to. Isak had never been, and Even had always thought it was so pretty.

After about a fifteen minute ride, the boys hopped off the bike and returned it to the rack. Then Even took the bag off of Isak’s shoulders and placed it back onto his own shoulders. Then took Isak’s hand and they started off into the park. There was a pretty scenic walk through the trees on a cleared path. Isak picked up a rock and put it in his hoodie pocket, momentarily letting go of Even’s hand then intertwining their fingers once again when they were done. They came to a clearing near a big pond where the water was slightly frozen over.

Even brought them over to a tree and they sat down on the wet grass, Even made a disgusted noise that caused Isak to giggle.

“Oh you think that’s funny,” Even had said. He reached up to shake the tree leaves and water poured onto Isak’s hair.

“Eeeevvvv, that’s not fair,” Isak whined while Even laughed loudly at his friend’s wet hair.

He dried it by shaking it out with his sleeves, but then Isak looked like a poodle which only made Even laugh harder, and in the end both boys were laying on the ground laughing because Even’s laugh was so infectious. They spent the next few hours walking around the rest of the park. They stopped to carve ‘Isak and Even’ into a log because, “My name sounds better first Even,” and “The names will be ruined if a tree falls Isak, this one already has.”

They rode a bike back into town where they found a small cozy cafe. They ordered at the front and Even paid with the money the old lady had given him on the train. Both ordered hot chocolates, but Even got cinnamon bread and Isak got 2 chocolate chip muffins. They slipped into the same side of a booth near the back and dug into their treats, or Isak did, Even didn't really feel hungry.

They sat in the cafe for a little while after they had finished, and then walked around town window shopping. They went into a couple souvenir type shops, Even picked out a beanie with ‘Stavanger’ written across it and placed it on Isak’s head. Isak found a post-card and wrote “For Ev, love Isak” and the date on the back.

After their journey into town they went back to the park. Even leaned his back against a tree and Isak played down on the ground, his head in Even’s lap. Then Even took out the book he had brought along and read it out loud while Isak tied some flowers into a crown. It was starting to get late though, and the days activities were catching up to Isak.

“Ev, we need to go home,” Isak had said quietly.

“Isak, I already told you I don’t want to talk about this,” Even sighed exasperated.

“B-but my arm hurts, and I miss my bed, and your parents are probably worried,” Isak rambled.

The two boys kept going back and forth using the same arguments until Isak, not thinking, used his broken arm to push himself up, and cried out in pain.

“Isak! Okay, okay, we’ll go to the hospital, but I don’t want to talk about going home just yet,” Even said picking his friend up. “Get on my back, hold on with your good arm,” Even explained while putting the drawstring around Isak’s shoulders.

Even started fast pace walking. He stopped a couple times to take a map and check where they were going. And once they had arrived he placed Isak gently on the floor and walked over to the front desk.

“My friend broke his arm and it’s really bad and you need to fix it right now please,” Even rushed out.

The nurse told him to slow down and asked for their names, and Even, not having thought clearly about any of his actions for a while, gave their real names to her.

“Okay boys, come with me,” the nurse said getting up and brining them into the conference room where security was. See, across Norway, hours away, the Bech Næsheims were worried out of their minds. Even had disappeared, and his phone was shut off, and to make matters worse, Terje Valtersen had come to their door demanding to see his son, only to be told they hadn’t seen either boys all day. They were only able to report them as missing people a couple hours ago, but the police forces and main hospitals were now in possession of a list of missing children with their names on it.

“Okay boys, you wait here while I go make a call,” the nurse left the room. Even cuddled a sleepy Isak in a chair. The nurse returned a little while later, followed by two police officers.

 

Isak knew what was coming next, but Even thought nothing of it.

“Alright boys, we’re going to put the little ones arm in a cast, and then we’ll go for a drive,” one of the officers said.

Getting the cast took a little while, and Isak was very upset the entire time because they wouldn’t let Even back with him. He had tried to hold onto Even, but they’d been ripped apart, and after that Isak refused to talk. The staff eventually gave up and let Even in when they were setting the cast because Isak wouldn’t tell them what hurt, or what color cast he wanted.

“Issy? It’s okay Isak, they just want to know your favorite color, they’re just trying to help,” Even said.

“Don’t care, just want to leave,” Isak said burying his head in Even’s neck.

“Blue,” Even said, “his favorite color is blue.” “You need to tell them how much it hurts Issy,” but Even already knew his best friend would down play it, he always did.

“Doesn’t,” Isak simply stated.

In the end, Isak was given pain medicine and even was given a sharpie and they followed the police into their car.

“Where are we going?” Even had asked after about an hour of driving.

“Back to Oslo son, your parents have been worried about you,” the police officer said, giving Even a weird look.

“NO, no no no no no,” Even began franticly shaking his head. “We can’t, Isak can’t, he was safe, why did you ruin it,” Even let his head hit the back of the seat.

“It’s okay Ev, we’ll be okay,” Isak whispered. He noticed that Even was getting worked up and the police looked ready to ask questions so Isak looked back up at his friend. “Even, can you sing please?” Isak asked.

“Fine,” Even sighed. “You’ve got a fast car,” Even began, and it seemed to do the trick in calming him down. Isak’s eyes started fluttering when Even reached the end, “And I-I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone,” Even finished stroking Isak’s hair.

The police men just looked back confused, and started driving a little faster because they really didn’t know what they had gotten themselves into.

———

Both boys were rudely awaken to the slamming of car doors. They blinked the sleep out of their eyes and hopped out of the car. They were lead to a separate room where Terje and the Bech Næsheims were waiting. Immediately Even was enveloped in a family hug, but the calm didn’t last long when Terje started shouting.

“Your son broke his arm!” Terje said pointing his finger at Even.

“What!,” Even cried out, “that was NOT my fault it was-,” but Isak cut him off.

“I fell down the stairs before we left Father,” Isak said quietly.

“You mean before he kidnapped you,” Terje injected. “You know, I let Isak play with your son because I felt bad for him. That was my mistake, your son is a freak, that kidnapped and broke my sons arm. Isak, we’re leaving, and you can forget about continuing this friendship, because I will contact my lawyer if I catch your son around mine,” Terje had directed at the Bech Næsheims.

Isak was crying silent tears and reached his arm out while his father dragged him away, but Even’s parents held him back while he screamed for his best friend. Even became so overwhelmed that he began hyperventilating, when his parents tried to comfort him he blacked out. The medics rushed to him, but Even was numb, because he realized that he would never see his best friend again, and it was all his fault, and he couldn’t stand it anymore.

Chapter Text

The days following Even and Isak’s return were a blur. Even’s parents questioned his decision to take Isak across Norway. When Even couldn’t seem to remember all the pieces, they grew even more worried.

Then immediately after they had been home, Even crashed. He refused to get up, or he just couldn’t make himself. The Bech Næsheims decided the best solution would to consult a professional. After many grueling doctors appointments in which Even barley participated, he was diagnosed as bipolar.

To Even, the world seemed to be ending. He lost his best friend, and now he was a freak. He made the fortunate error of expressing his opinion out loud however, and the psychiatrist who he had been sent to fervently discredited his fears. She told him that there was medication to regulate his mood swings and that anyone who told him otherwise was not someone he needed to subject himself to.

The family then decided to take this in stride. While Even rode out the last of his low, his parents were researching and discussing options. When they found a couple therapists they felt were a good fit, and Even was up and about enough to think clearly, they made appointments. Out of the three candidates Even settled on a man in his mid-thirties named Jack. Everything was worked out in the time span of a little over two weeks. And then it wasn’t.

Even’s parents ran into his room after hearing him sobbing. They couldn’t console the boy, he was hysterical. After what felt like hours Even was able to finally put his thoughts into a sentence.

“I-I-Isak’s gone. It’s all my fault, I’m never going to see him again, I can’t do it,” Even cried.

“Even, baby listen to me. You’ll see him again. Maybe not soon, but you guys are best friend, you’ll find your way back to each other. And your father and I will do anything we can to bring you guys back together,” his mother spoke strongly.

His father nodded in agreement while stroking his son’s hair. And in that moment, Even had never felt more loved. There was a family group hug and family ice cream well into the night.

———

In the following month, Even attended his therapy sessions, and after building up the confidence called up the boys to hang out and tell them about his circumstances. They were all super supportive. Adam and Mutta brought over his favorite candies, and Mikael tackled him in a hug, and he and Elias did their secret handshake. But in the end it was Yousef who hit Even hard with the deep stuff. After everyone had gone to sleep Yousef sat up.

“It’s really big of you to share that with us man,” he spoke. “I really mean it, when I said nothing was going to change. You’re still our Even, you’re still our fun loving tall ass friend,” he chuckled.

Even didn’t have the words to respond, so he just hugged the life out of his friend. When they pulled away Yousef still had something on his mind.

“I know that this probably isn’t my place, but where is Isak? Have you not decided if you were going to tell him?” the boy wondered.

“It’s not good Sef,” Even began, and the retold the story of how they traveled 7 hours and about how Terje lost it. “I-I’m worried for him all alone. Like I know he has Jonas, but I don’t know if that’ll be enough,” and in that moment Even chose to relent the secret that he wouldn’t even tell his therapist Jack.

“His dad,” Even said looking directly into Yousef’s, “he’s not a good person Sef. H-he…he broke Isak’s arm.”

“Shhit Ev. I mean, me and the guys, we figured something was wrong. I mean you’re protective, but with Issy it’s like on a whole other level. But that’s, that’s bad man,” Yousef said.

And the two boys sat in their shared silence. They talked about their different options, figuring the boys could one day ask Isak to go play to get him out of the house, or Jonas could. In the end they crashed near 2 a.m. and Even was so grateful for his friends. He informed the rest of the boys in the morning about Isak and his situation and out of all of them, Elias seemed to have the most drastic reaction. He stood up saying he was going over to Isak’s and the other five had to physically restrain him and tell him how bad of an idea that was. They all agreed to the plan Even and Yousef had made, but they were all scared.

That afternoon, the boys figured they had a pretty fool-proof plan. Michael and Adam would walk over to the house posing as neighborhood kids, and ask if Isak wanted to hangout with them. It was a pretty chilling 10 minutes of suspense until the boys heard noise coming towards where they had been waiting near a park.

Even poked his head around the corner and monetarily forgot how to breathe. There in front of him was his tiny best friend looking worse for wear. His arm still in the cast but he had a handprint shaped bruises on his left arm and his hair was going in every direction. But Even walked up and wrapped him in the tightest hug that Isak swears he felt in his bones. The two boys too in each others embrace for at least three minutes until one of the others cleared their throat.

“I missed you so much Issy, I’m so sorry, this is all my fault,” Even had said taking Isak’s face into his hands.

But Isak shook his head, “It’s not, none of it, Ev I moss you so much all the time, I don’t know what to do,” Isak said, his eyes filling with tears.

“No, it is my fault,” Even said seriously, “Isak, I-I’m bipolar, I’m sick in the head, and I hurt you, it’s all my fault.”

Isak again just shook his head, “Evy, I don’t care, and you’re not sick, never say that, your brain just works differently, and none of this is you fault,” Isak said hugging his friend once again.

They were able to hangout for a little while, Isak explaining that his father had been out, and Isak saw Mikael and Adam and ran out of the house after his mom fell asleep. Isak had thanked each of the boys profusely to which they had told the boy they would do anything to help him.
It was a very tearful goodbye, and Isak and Even quietly whispered about their plan. Talking about what the boys had come up with at Even’s and in the end not knowing what the future held because school was coming up, and the boys would finally be attending the same school, but wouldn’t have any classes and Isak said his dad was making him ride the bus so he couldn’t be around Even. And when they came up to Isak’s house the boys hug for a final time and Even wiped away Isak’s tears promising him that somehow they would manage.

———

School came up quickly. And on the first day, Isak sat alone on the number 21 public bus with his head against the glass. They were pulling away from his neighborhood when someone plopped themselves down in the empty space next to him.

“Why the long face Is?” the person had said, and Isak whipped his head around so fast he pulled a muscle.

“Ev! What are you doing on the bus?” Isak questioned because the older boy’s parents enjoyed taking their only child to school.

“Well I couldn’t miss the beginning of your first day! Plus, I’m getting kind of old to keep bumming rides off of my parents,” he had responded.

They talked about what they had done in the two weeks they had been apart. Even had found some new songs and told Isak about how cool his therapist was. Isak told Even about running laps in his yard because he was so bored.

When they pulled up near the school and got off the bus, they walked in together. Just before they parted ways to collect their schedules Even squeezed Isak’s hand and they were separated.

When they got on the bus to go home they talked about their days. Even told Isak about all the perks he got being the in the oldest class. Isak spoke animatedly about a couple new friends he had made. They were super proud of each other and sat in their happy world. Even got off at the stop before his designated one so as to not be seen by Terje and he was happy to do so, it was only a 5 minute walk anyway.

That was how the boys spent most of their time together, on the bus. Sometimes Isak fell asleep on Even’s shoulder and other times Even would have his guitar and he’d play quietly for the few other people there, and Isak of course.

Isak showed up to the couple of performances Even had, his favorite being the fall musical where Even played Danny Zuko and Isak laughed so hard at the amount go gel in his hair that there were tears in his eyes. Even always stayed after school and waited for Isak to finish football practice so they could ride home together.

Everything was going well, and they even saw each other outside of school and the bus at least once a week now. This was due either to the 5 boys breaking him out or Isak jumping the distance across their balconies. But alas, one night Terje pulled into the driveway to witness Isak sneaking home, and in the morning he woke his son up and forced him to board up the doors.

They saw less of each other after that but it was okay though because they still had their 21 bus. And they’d figure it out, they always did.

———

Fall turned into winter which brought a couple of challenges. Even couldn’t always wait for Isak because he started voice and instrumental lessons across town. consequently, they saw one another less.

That topped with how cooped up Isak was in his house because Terje was making him watch his mother more now. They talked and during winter break got to see each other for almost two days when both told their parents one of the boys (in Isak’s case Jonas) needed help/ wanted to hang out. This time was spent throwing each other in the snow until Isak disappeared and Even almost had a panic attack and Isak Laughed so hard he cried after popping up and scaring the crap out of his friend.

Then came the hardest part, Even’s second episode. Isak had seen Even acting funny on the bus but thought nothing of it until the following day Mr. Bech Næsheim called to Isak from the front porch saying Even was down.

Isak beat himself up for not noticing. And wallowed for a day until deciding that he needed to be there for his best mate. So he told coach he had to miss practice and took the bus back home only to knock on Even’s door seconds later. Mrs. Bech Næsheim pulled Isak through the door way and into a quick squeeze. She lead him upstairs explaining that it was hard to engage Even in conversation while he was down. But Isak figured he’d do what he could.

The room was dark and Even was lying in bed. Isak called out Even’s name and when there was no answer just stood awkwardly for a couple minutes.

“Fuck it,” Isak whispered to himself, climbing up on Even’s bed, lying down on his side to face him. Even was asleep, so Isak fiddled with his own hands before taking Even’s and playing softly with them.

Even stirred at this liking long and hard.

“Why are you here?” Even asked, void of any emotion, something very foreign to Isak.

“Because I want to help you feel better, I don’t want you to sit in here without anyone all day,” Isak said nervously.

Even withdrew his hand from the younger boy looked at him and said, “Just go home Isak.” He then rolled over and closed his eyes again.

Isak was taken aback but respected his friends wish bidding him sweet dreams and stumbling out the door. He made something up about needing to go home to Even’s parents before all but sprinting out of the house.

That night he cried silently for his friend. But after his pity party, Isak realized that crying wasn’t going to help. So he did what he loved, researched. He read articles about depression and bipolar disorder and about how to care for someone when they were down. By the tome he had finished it was late, but Isak was determined to help his best friend, and he was ready to go up against anything for that boy he thought. Always.

Chapter Text

Isak woke up early that day to set his plan into motion. He walked over to the Bech Neæshiem’s house after his father left and operation ‘Cheer Up Even’ was a go.

Isak greeted Even’s parents and made the hike up to Even’s room. He walked in without knocking and pulled open the curtains. He jumped on Even’s bed and went on his tangent.

“I know you don’t want me here and you’ll probably tell me to leave, but I don’t care. You’re my best friend and just because your brain is telling you that you want to be alone doesn’t mean that- it’s- I know you better than you know yourself Ev and I’m not leaving,” Isak finished breathing in deeply.

All Isak got was a grunt in response which was discouraging but not the worst thing.

“Come on Even, don’t be sad, I brought your favorite candy and I found some new songs we can listen to and,” but he was cut short when Even’s head whipped up and he fixed Isak with a glare.

“That’s not how it works Isak,” Even said gritting his teeth.

Isak was shocked for a minute because he couldn’t remember the last time Even had ever been mad at him, but he was going to pull through for the sake of his friend.

“Then explain to me Even, you haven’t talked to me in a week and I have no idea what’s going on because you won’t talk to me,” Isak said on the verge of tears.

“I’M BIPOLAR,” Even yelled.

“I KNOW THAT,” Isak screamed back.

“You- wait- I’ve already told you?” Even questioned.

“Yes Even, what- is that why you’ve been avoiding me because I swear to,” Isak was cut off once again.

“No, no, Issy, it’s just- I’m a bit down now because of it…if you close the blinds I can explain it all to you,” Even said burying his head in his pillows.

Isak nodded and shut out the light. He climbed up into Even’s bed once again and when the older boy turned to face him, Isak snuggled into his side.

Sighing, Even began, “It just means that sometimes I have so much energy it’s like my body can’t process it so it builds up until it’s too high so it all crashes down.”

Isak nodded his head in encouragement.

“That’s where I am now,” Even began. “It’s like I used up all my energy and now I- well I just can;t find it in me to want to do anything, much less do it out of free will.”
Isak took a second to process this and Even watched him as he did because a concentrated Isak meant a distracted one so he could look at him all he wanted.

“Okay, so you don’t have any energy,” Isak stated, “then we’ll just have to wait for you to recharge.”

And at that Even’s eyes filled with tears. He was already in a fragile state and then he had to explain to his tiny best friend how much his brain sucked, and he didn’t want to scare Isak like Isak’s mom scared the small boy (Even knew she did even though Isak vehemently denied it). And in waltzes Isak’s flawless Isak logic, simplifying everything so that it looks like everything will turn out okay in the end.

“I’m sorry,” Isak rushed out, assuming he had said something to upset Even.

Even just shook his head and buried his face on Isak’s shoulder and the pillow beside him. Isak rubbed Even’s back like Even would do for him while a few tears escaped from Even’s eyes.

When he had calmed down enough to explain to Isak that he wasn’t upset, just extremely grateful all he could manage was to croak out,

 

“I love you,” and he buried his face once more.

the boys sent the rest of their day lounging in Even’s bed floating in and out of consciousness. When it was time for Isak to go home he squeezed Even as hard as he could without hurting him and left the goodies he had brought on the bedside table.

That night each boy fell asleep a little happier and a lot more at peace than the previous night.

———

Even eventually, ‘recharged’ his batteries as Isak put it, and the two boys tried to carve out more time for each other in their busy schedules.

The holidays rolled around and each boy got the other some sort of musically themed gift. A new notebook for Isak’s lyrics and a new ukulele for Even. (Isak found it buried deep in the attic and carved out little designs on it for his best friend. He was actually very proud of his gift and when Even jumped up and down after receiving it, Isak didn’t think life could get any better.

Shortly after was Even’s birthday which was enjoyed with the whole crew while they went to a skate park then back to the Bech Neæsheim’s for food and to ‘hang out’ as the boys put it. Isak had to make sure his father thought he was at Jonas’ to pull that one off but it was worth it in the end.

The remainder of the school year passed by in an unfortunate blur. Seeing as it was the last year for a while that the two boys would be in the same building, they tried to make the most of it. Even showed Isak where he ate lunch and hangout, and the best exit to leave through if you were cutting class. In return Isak took advantage of most of these privileges while thanking Even profusely.

The last day of school the boys got on bus 21 for their last ride together. That day Isak ate lunch with Even, walked to his classes with Even and when the bell rang signaling the end of the day, they got right back on bus 21 and got off at Even’s house. Isak had already told his father he was going to Jonas’.

Even promised Isak that night that they would stay close friends despite the fact that they were going to separate schools. They had done it before, they would do it again. And after Even had fallen asleep that night Isak laid awake hoping he was right.

Chapter Text

Summer flew by and then was the dreaded year apart. Surprisingly for Isak, this year went fairly well.

The boys did spend a significantly less amount of time together, but in the end it only made their time together that much better.

They were now 13 and 15, almost 14 and 16. They had a fair few of different interests, so they found themselves branching out to befriend more people their age. (Or Isak did, Even made a couple acquaintances)

Isak met Magnus on his first day back to school when the noisy boy plopped down in the seat next to the one Isak had been in. He had attempted to make conversation with Isak to little success, but was undeterred. Eventually, Magnus wore him down, but to this day Isak’s story remains,

“He was just so annoyingly desperate that I had to be his friend.”

Magus will shove him and tell him to,

“Fuck off.”

And later when no one is around to see Isak will pat Magnus on the shoulder and they’ll be right back to where they were.

Jonas introduced Mahdi about half way through the year. The pair had met at the skate park, exchanged maybe two words (there is still a debate about whether or not they even had a conversation) and he had stuck with the newly founded trio ever since.

They had a couple memorable moments that 1st year together. For example the time that they broke into the science lab because Isak was worried about how his plant project was doing, only to end up accidentally killing all the plants except Isak’s in what Jonas maintains was a freak accidental series of unfortunate events.

There was also the time when they were 14 that they all got accidentally high because Mahdi bought some sketchy brownies from a fake bake sale.

“In hindsight I should’ve known that a Luau was not an endangered species,” was Mahdi’s later side of the story.

Even had been upset about that one.

“I don’t want you to end up in trouble Isak,” Even had said worriedly after being told about the brownies. “I just want to know that you’re safe because I can’t be around to help you out like I used to.”

“I’m fine Even, it’s not that big of a deal, and besides you’ve gotten high before, what is the big deal?” Isak replied.

“It’s just- that stuff can be dangerous and… I kind of wanted to see you high for the first time if I’m honest,” was Even’s response.

“I know it’s dangerous Ev, and nah, I don’t think we had enough to really alter our state of mind too much, so you can look forward to that,” Isak said.

Even had been busy making connections across town just like his best friend. He still had the boys, they would hopefully always be a constant for Even, but he felt like now was the time to branch out, broaden his horizons. So in came William Magnusson.

At first Even hated the guy. He was arrogant and quiet in the wrong moments, and he made Even do most of the work on their school project. But one day, when a scrawny boy in their grade was being picked on, Even watched as William walked over to his tormentors and shoved them to the ground. He exchanged a few words with the small boy in which he was thanked profusely. Later Even walked up and told William that he thought that was really cool of him and from time to time the two hung out.

With William came Chris. If Even was honest he still couldn’t figure the guy out. He seemed to have a caring demeanor but then he would hook-up with a different girl behind his girlfriends back for a week. One time he saw Chris give a baby duck, yes a baby duck, CPR. Later that same day Chris walked past a homeless man asking for money on his way to buy new shoes he didn’t need. So Even really had no idea what to think of the guy, but Chris had never been anything but chill to Even so there’s that.

Unlike Isak, with his constant updates to Even about the new friends he made and what they got up to, Even kept his newfound relationships a secret of sorts. He didn't actively try to hide it, but it never came up in conversation so it wasn’t common knowledge.

———

Things familial wise stayed about the same for both boys. Isak spent a minimal amount of time at home, played well in his games, and made decent grades. His father didn’t really have a reason to rough up Isak too hard, but that didn’t stop him from hitting his son around. It never got to the point it had been at in the beginning, but from time to time Isak would jump across the balconies to knock on Even’s door for a particularly nasty bruise on his side.

The Bech Næsheim’s stayed supportive of their son and his endeavors. They brought him to therapy and his music lessons. They let him invite his friends over when ever he wanted, they understood when his grades slipped, and were just overall the best people Even has ever met.

———

That was another thing, both boys became deeply invested in their perspective extracurricular activities. Even became even more dedicated to his music while Isak dove into football as an escape.

Isak became pretty invested in his sport. He was a starter for the school’s best team by the time he was 14. He could make some pretty incredible trick shots which were do to the ridiculous amount of time he spent just messing around on the field. Isak could also outrun anyone on the field. He had already been put up against all the boys on all the teams at school, the closest to beating him finished the 100 meter dash 3 whole seconds later.

Isak became almost as invested in soccer as Even was in music. These were for completely different reasons however. Isak wanted nothing more than to pummel someone to the ground. He had a lot of pent up anger inside himself. The only problem was he never felt the rage until he was playing. That’s when he would slide tackle and shove boys to the ground to sprint down the field and shoot the ball as hard as he could. Football was more of a way to release his rage and was an excuse to spend time away from home.

For Even on the other hand, music was his entire life. This was already a pretty widely known fact, but if anyone had had any doubt about the boy’s dedication, it was answered. Even wanted so badly to make a career out of his music. He really only told Isak about it. Even wanted to write and perform for the rest of his life.

Even had regularly attended voice and instrumental lessons on top of the ones he got during and after school. He spent most of his time coming up with his own music. Sometimes he would mess around with Isak and other times Even would take out pages from Isak’s lyric journal. At first Isak was upset.

“Issy you can’t write such good lyrics and expect me not to use them. After all, I bought you the journal in the hopes that we could make music together..Plus! you leave it here so it practically begged me to open it,” Even had whined .

“It’s not that, it’s just- you could have told me, I would have let you, just let me know. Oh! and tell me which song you’re going to take because sometimes you rip them out just to tape them to the wall, and I’ll write you a separate copy if you want to do that,” was Isak’s response.

The boys’ dynamic worked. They supported each other at their events whenever they could. And sometimes they would both skip practices just to hang out. It wasn’t until Even reached 17 that things started picking up and Isak realized maybe things in their little bubble might be popped.

Chapter Text

Now Even Bech Næsheim had always been very talented. His parents knew from the day he was born, and often told him, but that’s kind of what parents do. Then his friends told him, and he Even was unsure because they were his friends, they wouldn’t be mean to him. That was until that day he was messing with Isak and the younger boy told him he sounded like a dying cow. And then his teachers told him. Even felt like that one really counted, because most of his teachers had music experience, and his special lessons instructors were certified in deciding whether or not people were talented.

Most kids are dedicated to their hobbies, but music was Even’s whole world, next to his best friend Isak that is. You could see it in the way that he only asked for instruments and albums on his birthday and holidays. You could see it in the way he relaxes after a hard day when he sits in front of his piano. Or the opposite, when Even is just so happy that he walks around strumming his guitar to a made up tune. Hell, Even’s entire bedroom wall was filled with lyrics and poems and symphonies.

Music wasn’t just for Even either, it was a way for him to connect to other people. For ice breakers, Even always said his name, age, and favorite song. The first question he asked most people was “What’s your favorite genre of music?” And Even will always attribute the strong bond he has with Isak to music.

Even remembers a time when tiny Isak, who was always very unsure of himself, would just sit and listen to his older friend sing. It meant a lot to both boys. Even helped Isak sleep sometimes, (a lot more now that they were older). Isak helped Even clam down (not much has changed in that respect). Even remembers Isak coming into his room when they were 12 and 14. There were tears and bruises, and Isak couldn’t stop hyperventilating, and Even couldn’t clam his boy down until he sang “You are My Sunshine.” Respectively, Isak remembers being 15 and Even not getting up for three days. Isak didn’t know what to do because the depression had never hit Even so hard. And Isak decided that the best way to get a reaction would be to softly sing/hum “Look After You.” Their relationship had always been a two way street, and music was always what grounded them, kept them from floating off into isolation.

Even’s passion was so evident. That’s why his parents signed him up for lessons, and why at almost 18 years old, Even was pursuing a career in music.

———

There was a big show coming up. There were talent scouts and a significant sum of money as the 1st place prize. Even had been nervous. Not the silly kind of nervous he was when he was performing in his first talent show. The big nervous, because this was his shot, this was how he was going to make it.

It was meant to be more of a showcase than a competition, but Even and the 19 other performers had all won at least 2 other competitions to qualify for it, so it felt like the mother of all competitions.

He had been preparing for months. Going through songs, learning new techniques. Even had been at it non-stop. He would sometimes just come home a crash for 10 hours, which worried his parents, but worried Isak more.

“Listen Even, I know this is important, but it’s not worth dying over,” Isak had said while laying on Even’s floor, throwing a small ball into the air.

Laughing while laying on his bed Even said, “I’m not dying Isak, I’m just tired. And if we’re being honest, this competition is definitely worth dying over.”

“The fuck Even?” Isak said and sat up. “Don’t say shit like that. I get that this is a big deal or whatever, but this isn’t the only thing you have to live for. Like you- you can’t just- you’re really talented Even, this won’t be your only opportunity to make it, and when you say stuff like that- it makes me feel like you don’t enjoy your life, which is a big fuck you to me because I’m a pivotal figure in it. So don’t- just- don't say stuff like that.”

Isak had been having a pretty bad week. He crawled through Even’s balcony door 3 times, and his mother was getting bad again. On weeks like that the smaller boy didn’t say much, and he didn’t say much to begin with. The tangent Isak went on shocked Even so much that he just kind of stared at Isak. The younger boy eventually laid back down but didn’t continue to throw the ball, so Even knew he was still upset.

“Isssyy,” Even called while crawling down to his friends level. “Issy I didn’t mean it like that. You’re right, you are such a big part of my life,” he was stroking Isak’s hair and the younger boy turned his head to the side, away from Even. “I’m so happy right now, I love my life, and I love every second of time I spend with you, I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Isak turned his head up to face Even. A few tears rolled down his face, because it had been such a long couple of days, and he had been running on no sleep, and here Even was being such a good friend. Isak wrapped his arms around Even’s neck and Even pulled him up. He laid them down on his bed, Isak on top of his chest. While Isak cried Even whispered quiet reassurances.

“Shhh Issy, it’s okay. I’ve got you now, you’re with me. It’s okay,” and when Even went to get up to take the boy’s jacket off, he was pulled right back down. “Okay, that’s okay. I won’t go anywhere, just go to sleep Isak. It’ll be okay, I’ve got you, don’t worry.”

And in that moment Even decided that no competition mattered more to him than the boy laying with him. Isak fell asleep eventually and Even browsed his phone, because it was only 5 p.m. Mrs. Bech Næsheim came up an hour later to let them know dinner was ready. Even put a finger to his lips to signify the quietness she needed to maintain in order not to wake the sleeping boy.

“Even, he needs to wake up honey,” Even’s mom had said.

Even just nodded and started stroking the small boy’s back to calmly wake him up. That night a sleepy Isak joined the Bech Næsheim family dinner table. Even looked around at the scene in front of him and decided that he wanted this more than anything any stupid competition could give him.

———

It was hard to remember that touching moment when Even was about to go on stage.

The time had come, Even was about to make or break his career. He had worked tirelessly just to get here, and now, he was scared out of his mind. Of course he would be okay if he lost, but if he won, his life was about to change forever.

Each artist was meant to perform an original piece for the four judges, and so far, all the artists had been amazing. Even had the advantage over the ones who just sang, because judges seemed to be more impressed when an artist could play their song, not just sing it. But at least 5 had brought instruments with them so far and there were still 6 to go. Even was third from last, a spot he appreciated because he would still be fresh in the judges minds without having to close.

Even went through his mental check list again. It consisted of making sure he had his guitar, making sure it was tuned, and singing the lyrics to the song he had chosen. At first the choice seemed daunting. This song had to be one he like, but more importantly one others enjoyed as well. He had been wallowing in self pity over not being able to choose when a flash of red caught his eye. There, on his art wall, was the perfect choice.

———

“No Even,” were the words that Isak spoke. “I’m not helping you write a song that could potentially ruin your career, no thank you, have a nice day.”

“But Isak, it has to be this song, it’s perfect, it has meaning and a great tune,” Even started.

“Yeah a great tune YOU came up with 4 years ago, so YOU can finish the lyrics,” Isak insisted.

“I can’t Isak, this is your song,” Even was interrupted.

“See, but it didn’t even start out as a song Even, it was a poem, and that’s how it ended, because that’s as long as the teacher asked for it to be. Plus, I was like 3 years old when I wrote that, I can’t remember where I was even going with it,” Isak finished.

“Bull,” Even called, “Also you were 5 idiot, don’t try to oversell the story,” Even snorted.

“Oh, yeah now I really want to help you, you’ve sweet talked me into it, I’m convinced,” Isak retorted sarcastically.

“Isak, pleeeeaaaaassssse, please please please,” Even chanted while poking the younger boy. “I need your help, that’s what we do, we help each other. I want to do this with you, because you’ve been through it all with me. You have to help me Isak, I don’t care if I don’t win because of the song, heck if I don’t like what you come up with I won’t use it,” Isak rolled his eyes, “but just- at least try, please, for me?”

Isak huffed dramatically, then faced his friend, “Fine, I’ll help you, but when it’s a crappy song, don’t come crying to me,” Even hugged his friend and danced around.

The song was completely finished about a week and a half later, and of course it was perfect, and of course Even loved it. It was his tune and Isak’s words, the perfect combination.

———

“Even Bech Næsheim, you’re on,” the stage director said and pushed him forward.

‘This is it’ Even had thought, ‘it’s now or never, I can do this’ so he went on stage, introduced himself, sat down on the chair in front of the mic, pulled put his guitar, and started strumming.

“This is called You’re Gonna Live Forever in Me,” Even said, and looked out into the crowd. His parents, Isak, and the boys were all in attendance. And Isak had told Even in the car before they arrived,

“Just look for me, if it’s like too bright, or you don’t know where to look,” and he shrugged like it was no big deal. To Even it was though, so he began to sing once he had made eye contact with his best friend.

“A great big flash and dinosaurs, fiery raining meteors, it all ends unfortunately,” were the familiar opening lines.

“ And you're gonna live forever in me I guarantee, it's your destiny,” Even made it to the second refrain, and that’s when the tone shifts.

“ Life is full of sweet mistakes, and love's an honest one to make, time leaves no fruit on the tree,” it’s more mature now, more meaningful, which would make sense because the beginning was written ten years before the middle and end.

 

“And when the pastor asks the pews, for reasons he can't marry you, I’ll keep my word and my seat,” that was Even’s favorite part, and Isak was smiling now.

 

“But you're gonna live forever in me I'll guarantee, just wait and see,” Even finished.

The crowd had erupted in applause for the boy. Isak had stood up before anyone else because he was so proud, and Even bowed and walked off the stage.

It was later that he felt the crushing disappointment. He had not won, he hadn’t even gotten 2nd place, no, he earned 3rd. It was a blow to his ego more than anything. The boys all congratulated him, and Isak offered to go get Even’s guitar with him.

The two were walking backstage in silence when Isak spoke up.

“Sorry I single-handedly ruined your career,” he said with his head down.

“Hey, this is not your fault. i told you if I didn’t think the song was great, I wouldn’t have played it. It’s a great song, it’s probably one of my- no it is my favorite one you’ve written. if that is why the judges and the scouts didn’t like it then screw them, they don’t know anything,” Even ranted.

Then behind them someone cleared their throat. The two boys whipped around to be met with a man in a very nice tux, eyebrows raised.

“I surely hope that your rant does not extend to talent scouts who greatly appreciated the song Mr. Bech Næsheim,” the man had said.

“Oh, no, my apologies sir, I didn’t mean to offended you,” Even said.

“No need my boy, here, take my card,” he said handing it over to Even. “I was very impressed with what I heard on stage, and look forward to meeting again. Have a nice night, and congratulations.” And the man left.

Isak and Even stood shocked for a moment until they started screaming nonsense at each other and jumping up and down. The sprinted out to the car and attempted to hastily retell the events to Evens family and the boys. They retold it three more times on the ride home, and celebrated well into the night.

Through all the excitement the boys had failed to really come to terms with what was coming next. Everyone, except Isak that is, who laid awake that night, contemplating what this meant for their friendship, and trying to come up with a plan. Nothing though, could've been done to prepare him for the following six months, and the future that laid before him.

Chapter Text

6 Months Later

Things had picked up pretty quickly after Even’s first encounter with the talent scout. Pacific Records had met with Even a week after the ‘competition’, he demoed a few of his original pieces, and within the week, he was signed.

At first, Isak still saw his best friend pretty frequently. In between meetings and recordings, Even still attended school regularly and met up with Isak and the boys. But deep down, Isak knew that it wouldn’t last because once the world got a taste for his charming, beautiful boy, they’d never let him go. And that’s exactly what happened.

Even became an overnight sensation in Norway with the release of his hit single “Above the Sky.” The song was a banger. Even had had a small listening party for the single to try and gage his family and friends’ opinions. Of course it was amazing and of course that was the reaction everyone had shown Even. But then, at like 1 a.m. in the dark of Even’s room where Isak and he were sharing his bed, Even had asked Isak again what he thought.

“And don't bullshit me Issy, you’ve always been shit at lying.”

Sitting up and scoffing Isak said, “Yeah that’s a good way to get a positive review, insult my amazing lying abilities. You know Ev, we’re good friends, and I was going to lie to you,” Isak threw a glare as Even tried to stifle a smile, “but the song sucks. Like you sound like an actual dying moose. Also those lyrics, what the hell is, ‘I can see you’ll be just fine’ supposed to mean, like it sounds like shit I’d hear in those ridiculous romance movies you always watch.”

Even is holding his stomach he’s laughing so hard, “A-a dying moose.” Isak smiled rolling his eyes.

After Even calmed down he turned his head to look up at his best friend.

“Thanks Is, it means a lot to me that you like the song.”

“Yeah, well, I couldn’t hurt your ego so early in your career. And I guess the song is okay.”

Even hit his shoulder and Isak laid back down again. That was probably the last time the two boys spent the night together in Even’s bed just as regular teenage boys, because Even’s song combined with his charm were enough to shoot him straight to the top.

When word reached that this young boy from Oslo had a song that was being downloaded by 3 times the rate than a normal boy at his position, Even’s career began. It seemed like everyone wanted to claim the right to “discovering” Even. He was on morning shows and night shows. Hosts would say things like, “Our team is proud to premier for the first time ever,” or, “We would like to introduce our quiet little discovery” which irked Isak in a weird way. Even wasn’t some new species waiting to be awed at by the public. And if anyone got to got to take credit for the discovery of Even, it was tiny four year-old Isak who had asked Even to sing to him when he couldn’t fall asleep.

From his TV appearances Even’s fan base grew. After he released his album titled, “Dandelions” (Isak’s still confused by it) he decided to tour Scandinavia. Even attributes most of his success on his album to the several songs he wrote in English out of the total 10. It was something he did in the hope that it would widen his audience, and he was happy to see that it did.

As he blew up in Scandinavia, word of Even Bech Næsheim spread through Europe, then the United States, then it felt like there wasn’t as soul alive that didn’t recognize the name.

Isak saw Even on his Scandinavian tour a couple times, and it had only lasted a little over 2 months, but when Even got home he was offered a TV gig on the Jonathan Ross show in England, so he flew over there. Then while he was over there he got a call from James Cordon, and by then Even had been picked up by what seemed like every well known talk show in the majority of the world.

Isak was so proud to begin with, and even felt good enough to FaceTime Even and tease him about his English. But then it got hard, because see, before this all happened, Isak always has a confidant, a partner in crime, someone to pick him up while he was down. And don't get him wrong, Even was living his dream, and Isak couldn’t be happier for him, but sometimes at night, when he was holed up in his room under his blankets, a selfish part of him really wished he could jump across the balconies and into the comfort of his best friend.

Then Even was offered a world tour. It wasn’t in any big arenas or stadiums or things like that, but it was a world tour none the less. The boys and Isak had all been at Even’s when he told them. They jumped up and down and yelled their congratulations, and then Mikael had to go and ask,

“So when do you leave?”

“Two weeks,” Even had said, pausing before answering.

Isak remembers his heart dropping, but keeping his grin wide. He couldn’t let himself ruin this for his best friend, he refused to. So two weeks later when Even was headed for his plane, Isak hugged him tightly.

“I’ll call you every week okay?” Even had said in to the younger boy’s hair.

Isak nodded his head which was buried deep in Even’s neck.

“Every Thursday okay?” the older boy had assured.

“Don’t forget about me Even Bech Næsheim, or I swear to god I will spill all your secrets to the highest bidder,” Isak said looking into Even’s eyes.

Chuckling, then growing serious when he saw the intensity in Isak’s eyes.

“Never.”

They broke apart and as Even started walking down the path, Isak had called

“Bring me back something nice!”

“I’ll bring you a flag from every country I visit!” was Even’s response.

With one last goodbye, he was gone, and Isak had turned and leant into Yousef’s shoulder as the older boy rubbed up and down his arm. Isak knew he still had the boys, and his boys, but no one compared to Even. And this thought would become one that hung at the front of Isak’s mind for the weeks to come.

———
Present Time

There’s a constant ringing in Isak’s ear. Maybe it’s because of how hard his father hit him upside his head the previous morning. Isak shrugs to himself. From across the room, Isak sees his phone lit up. Oh, his phone, yeah that’s the source of the ringing.

“Hello,” Isak says groggily.

“Issy? Sorry, did I wake you up?” is what Isak hears as a response.

“Ev? It’s almost 4 over here, where are you?” Isak answers.

“Toronto… I’m sorry I just wanted to hear your voice. And I couldn’t miss ‘talk to Even Thursdays’ could I?” Even says chuckling.

“You’re good, I need to get up in a little anyway, what’s up?” Isak assures.

“I’ll do better to know the time difference next time, sorry. And not much I just finished a show, Toronto’s sick, when we get the opportunity you’re coming with me,” Even replies.

“Sounds good Ev, we’ll go right after we visit San Fransisco, London, and Nice,” Isak says.

Every time Even finishes a show in a place that he particularly enjoys, he calls Isak promising to take him there one day. It’s a kind gesture, but with the speed that Even’s career is picking up at Isak isn’t sure if there will be time to fulfill those promises.

There’s a pause on the line, then, “You know I’m going to take you Issy, you’d be here right now if we could swing it, you know that right?” Even worries.

Isak sighs heavily, “I know Even, I know. Just forget about that right now though, go out and tour the city for me yeah? Bring me back a flag?” Isak asks.

“Definitely, I always get one for you.”

The pair enjoys their shared silence for a couple more minutes until Isak speaks up again.

“Well don’t let me keep you from your festivities. I’m going to hop in the shower before school. I’ll text you later, maybe when it’s 4 in Toronto just because I’m a petty asshole,” Isak jokes.

“Haha, yeah good luck trying to wake me up, I’m about to crash. But do text me, I miss my bestest friend,” Even half whines.

“Will do…Goodnight Ev.”

“Have a good day Issy.”

And the pair hung up. That was how most of their conversations go now. They reach each other at odd hours, then proceed to talk until they can’t, or someone passes out (usually Isak). But it wasn’t that bad, they still talked and regularly face timed, and Isak still went round the Bech Næsheim house when he could, or when there was someone home. But Isak didn’t dwell on those things, because life keeps moving forward, and now he has to go to school.

Isak skips the shower, because he’ll probably take one after practice so why waste the water. He puts on his jeans, shirt, and jacket, pulls his bag over his shoulder and rushes downstairs through the front door before his father can say anything to him. He starts the trek up to the tram because the buses don’t come down to his street anymore. Something about a heavy flow of traffic due to the amount of people that sometimes camp outside of Even’s house.

It’s actually a pretty nice morning, so Isak’s not too upset. Once he called Even when it was like 3 a.m. somewhere just to complain about the freezing rain he had been walking through just because a bunch of teenage girls wanted to see this house Even grew up in.

“It’s not even a cool house, like I’d get it if there was free candy or something, but it’s literally just a house. And they have to know you’re not actually there right?” Isak’s teeth chattered the whole time. Even had laughed and said he’d make it up to him.

Isak made his way onto Nissen’s campus. He spotted Jonas and Mahdi from across the schoolyard. As he begins to walk however, the oh so pleasant to talk to Christoffer Schist appears.

“What Chris,” Isak groans.

Weirdly, after Even left, Chris showed up. He was never rude, oddly accommodating to Isak’s grumpy attitude if anything. He asked simple things about Isak’s day, or an upcoming match, and it wasn’t mean or biting, but it was still weird that the very popular 3rd year would at all approach the 1st year.

“Woah, woah, woah. Can’t I just want to catch up with my favorite 1st year?” he says grinning.

Isak’s blank stare is his response.

“Okaayy then,” Chris says putting his hands up. “Can I ask one question then?”

“What Chris,” Isak bites out.

“Where’d you get that bruise on your neck?” Chris says gesturing to the purple-yellow colored splotch near Isak’s shoulder.

Isak knocks his hands away and starts towards the boys.

“You can’t avoid me forever Valtersen!” Chris yells as Isak walks away.

That seemed to happen more often than it should. Isak’s theory was that Chris either thought Isak would make a good addition to the fights Chris’ stupid Penetrator group gets into, or he was put up to it by the school nurse. That lady was too nosey for anyone’s good Isak thought bitterly.

“What was that all about?” Jonas said scrunching up his nose.

“Who knows, Schist’s a weirdo,” Isak responds rolling his eyes. “So what did I miss boys?” he says adjusting the collar on his shirt.

And then began a discussion about some new girl all the boys decided was attractive. It’s not like Isak was uninterested, it was just…well he was uninterested. He had his three week stint with Sara that ended with everyone thinking they hooked-up even though Isak’s reluctancy to was the reason they broke up. Honestly, Isak figures that he just needs to find the right girl. He could be interested if the subject was captivating, but right now, that was not the case.

“Yeah she’s pretty hot. So Isak, what’s the 411 on Even?” Magnus asks.

“You’re weird stalker relationship with him is starting to get creepier Mags,” Isak jokes. Magnus shoves him. “Alright, alright, sorry. He’s good. In Toronto at the moment,” Isak says nonchalantly.

“When’s the next time he’s in Oslo? We’ll all have to say hi and catch up,” Mahdi asks while Jonas and Magnus make noises of agreement. Mahdi probably knew the least about Isak’s best friend, no thanks to Magnus’ obsession.

“Umm, I think in like two weeks? I’ll have to check my texts, but yeah I’m sure he’d love that. We could get the other boys to join or something,” Isak finishes. Where are the other boys anyway, he thinks? Last time he saw Mikael was like two days ago.

The bell rings and they all start walking into the building. Isak arrives at Norwegian just in time.

“Halla Isak,” Eva, Jonas’ girlfriend, calls.

“Halla Eva,” Isak responds. Eva’s nice enough, she’s sweet and funny, but Isak fears that she might be a tad too dependent on his friend, but that’s none of his business he thinks.

“Rough night?” Eva asks.

And there’s that too. She is always asking bothersome questions Isak is pretty sure she knows the answers to. ‘Rough night?’ ‘Hard test?’ ‘Weird morning?’ the last one is his least favorite. What evn is a “weird morning” and who even asks that. She only asks him that when he has an encounter with his mother at some point in the morning. Isak guesses it throws off his facade but it’s not like Eva needs to continuously point it out. Like, we get it, Isak’s struggling, no need to kick him while he’s down.

“Nah, just woke up early to talk to a friend,” Isak says taking his seat.

“Oh! Even?” Eva asks excitedly.

That’s another thing. Isak understands being a fan of someones music. Hell, Even’s biggest fan is arguably Isak himself, but it’s the other fans. More so the fans Isak knows personally. Some people know about his friendship with Even, but when people want answers to burning questions, they usually ask Yousef and them. Eva has a knack for asking about Even when Isak doesn’t care to talk about how much he misses the boy who is currently halfway across the world.

“Uh, yeah,” is all Isak says, and then the teacher chooses to being talking and Isak thanks whatever higher power is in the sky.

Later during lunch, Isak’s about ready to pass out. Eva continued her questioning even after Isak told her he didn’t want to talk about Even. Then he was rushing out of that class and tripped so his assignments went everywhere. And it got worse when his test grade came back and he made a 3.

“Anything you’d like to talk about?” Jonas asked when Isak slammed his head onto the table.

“Shhhhh Jonas,” Isak said pronouncing the J in English. “Time for all present Isaks to sleep.”

“You okay man?” Mahdi asks worriedly.

“Mhm, peachy, don’t worry about me,” Isak responds. Why is everyone suddenly so concerned? Isak’s just tired, his stupid best friend did wake him up at 4 in the morning after all.

“It’s just- what’s on your neck Is?” Jonas says interrupting Isak’s train of thought.

Shit. Well, might as well get up now to avoid questioning. Isak wonders if he can sprint away like he did one time to get out of answering their pressing questions.

“I dunno,” is what he settles on instead. Smooth Valtersen, real smooth, he thinks.

“It looks like a bruise,” Jonas says.

“oh that! yeah, I feel in the shower last night, pretty embarrassing, I was hoping you wouldn’t see that,” Isak moves to cover it up while talking.

“Okay…” Jonas says, he and the other boys not convinced.

They continue off into another conversation about yet another girl, and Isak puts his head down. After they all begin to disperse, Jonas grabs Isak by the sleeve of his jacket.

“You know I’m here if you need anything right?” Jonas searches into Isak’s eyes.

“Of course Jonas, if I need to I will,” Isak shoulders Jonas’
hand off.

“No, see, you won’t. And I know it’s hard because Even isn't here,”

“Wha-“

“No, it is, don’t lie. Just know that I’m here. I won’t replace him, none of us can, but he’s not here, so for the time being, just talk to me about the things you only seem to tell him about. Because Isak, you’re my best friend, and I don't want to see you get hurt,” Jonas finishes.

Nodding while looking down Isak answers, “I know bro, thanks, it’s just hard to remember sometimes that he’s not home, but I appreciate the gesture. I really did fall down in the shower though, fucking fell asleep,” he lies.

Laughing Jonas claps Isak on the back, “Yeah, I guess that is pretty believable.”

‘Ha’ Isak thinks, ‘take that Even, I knew I wasn’t a shit liar’

And Isak’s relived, because he doesn’t need anyone looking out for him, he can do that himself. But maybe a small part of him wishes just that Even would be there to talk to him at decent hours of the day, but this is his life now, and he’ll power through.