There are things about film school Even loves:
Namely, the filming, then there’s the editing, then there’s the casting and the directing and the lighting and producing and Even can whip you up a short film out of nothing, if you’d like, animated, short-stop, live action, you name it, he’ll do it—
So long as he doesn’t have to write a fucking script for it.
It’s not that he’s terrible at script-writing. On the contrary, he’s passing the class with near-sixes, but that’s mostly because, so far, the assignments have been very simple and to-the-point, there’s been no ambiguity to them: write a spec for your favorite show on television, write a three-page scene at a high school, present a problem and a resolution in less than five pages—
Simple things. Things that don’t necessarily have to be the most creative, the most original. Even’s creativity shines through visually, more so than on paper; he can tell a story through camera angles, through striking, through cross cutting or directional concept, he can bring a story to life, but his words tend to fail him when they’re meant to come directly from him. He can take someone else’s character and understand them, dissect them, learn them front and back, he can take someone else’s story and make it his own on screen, he can control that, so long as he has something to work off of. Starting from scratch? That’s unfair. That’s cruel and unusual. He’s in film school to be a director, not to write a science fiction short film.
And then there’s that, too. Science fiction, of all things. Things he hates: science and the trite genre that stems from its fiction. He’ll forgive A Space Odyssey, because the film was way ahead of its time and told the story visually (one cannot appreciate that film by just listening, Even thinks that was never the intention, and he thinks you’re meant to trust your eyes) rather than relying heavily on its dialogue (though Even can admit that that, too, was stunning), but he won’t forgive the likes of Interstellar or Inception, and he’ll thank you never to mention Alien to him while he’s alive and breathing. And even then, there’s the chance of an afterlife, and he’d rather not hear that from you then, either, so it shouldn’t be mentioned near him at all, alive or dead.
And it’s not that science fiction can’t make for good cinema. Even thinks he’d probably have a lot of fun directing a sci-fi, in fact, and he thinks that the fact that nowadays sci-fi movies rely very heavily on visual effects would present an interesting challenge as a director, working around green screens and attempting to bring his actors into their characters and into the world with nothing to show them but a couple of words on the script and the things he’s managed to dissect from said words.
It’s not at the top of his favorite genres, but it would definitely be fun. Writing a sci-fi film, though? When he knows next to nothing about space or extraterrestrials or artificial intelligence or what the hell the future or an alternate present could look like?
Definitely not how he wants to spend a Saturday morning.
But he has to, because he’s been stuck on a certain scene for the past week, now, and the stupid script is due next Friday, and if he doesn’t get through it now he won’t get through it ever, because Mikael’s already finished his, the fucking nerd, which means he’ll just be trying to get Even to go out with him every night, and Even will probably do so, because a) he likes going out and b) he’s helpless against his best friend’s personality, what can he say?
He’s been staring at the blinking cursor for the past twenty minutes, though, to no avail, and he hasn’t written anything but some corny dialogue that he’s not proud of, nor would he ever include in a portfolio, and some action.
Arvid, his male lead, is currently about to meet his maker because Anna, his female lead, has just discovered Arvid is behind the A.I. revolution happening down on earth, a la I, Robot, because Even doesn’t know how to write sci-fi without making it satirical, and so she pushes him off the ship and into the depths of outer space without a suit. Even writes this action, then makes Arvid explode, because isn’t that what happens when one ventures into outer space without a suit?
His cursor blinks at him some more, taunting.
Even thinks he spends about fifteen more minutes staring down his computer screen before someone behind him coughs pointedly.
Blinking, Even twists in his chair to look behind him, just to make sure the cough wasn’t for him, but—
As it turns out, it is, and he’s suddenly looking into the greenest eyes he’s ever come across, and trust him, Even’s come across many a green eye in his time, but these are especially green, they’re deep-set and bright, even through their incredulousness at the moment as they consider Even quietly.
Then Even realizes he’s staring into the eyes of The Boy. The Boy, you see, is the boy Even saw on the very first day of the school year, walking past the quad with his shoulders slumped, a red hoodie lazily thrown on, and a stupid snapback the wrong way on while his arms hugged a binder to his chest. He made Even quite literally stop in his tracks and stare, because The Boy demanded attention without realizing so, even as he made himself smaller to walk through campus unnoticed, and Even had looked around to see if anyone else had noticed him, this beautiful creature that was just making his way through campus, completely unassuming, like he hadn’t just shifted the axis of Even’s entire world.
And maybe he’s being dramatic. A little bit, he’ll admit. But Even’s found they cross paths every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, when The Boy is headed towards West Campus and Even’s heading North towards – funnily enough – script writing.
And The Boy will always be hugging a blue binder to his chest and wearing a stupid snapback and a hoodie and Even will always try not to melt right then and there, and he’s tried to catch his eye a couple of times, but it’s like The Boy walks in his own little world, completely unaware of the people surrounding him, and that’s okay, Even guesses, everyone’s entitled to ignore people, but not when a certain person that falls under the “people ignored” category happens to be smitten with you and is desperately trying to find out your God damn name.
So now Even thinks he’s been staring for too long, because The Boy’s cheeks suddenly pink slightly, like he’s realized he’s been staring, too.
“Hello,” Even finally says, smiling crookedly. “Can I help you?”
The Boy coughs into his hand. “Uh,” he clears his throat. “Hi, sorry,” he points towards Even’s computer screen. “I just – sorry, I didn’t mean to snoop, or anything, but you’ve been staring at your screen for a while, and I got curious—”
Even raises an eyebrow. “Curiosity killed the cat, you know.”
The Boy purses his lips. “I – guess? Yeah, you know what, I’m sorry.”
Even shakes his head. “But satisfaction brought it back,” he finishes. “Did you know that’s the missing part of that particular idiom?”
“No,” Even nods solemnly. “I understand. But was your curiosity satisfied enough to bring you, the cat, back?”
The Boy’s brows furrow, like he’s not sure what to make of Even. “I don’t—”
Even gestures towards his computer. “Was this as interesting as you’d hoped it would be?”
The Boy bites his lip, and oh, that’s just sinful. “It was – it’s a script, right?”
Even shrugs. “Supposed to be.”
The Boy nods. “Uhm,” he clears his throat. “I just – when you say – Arvid explodes—”
“He was just pushed out into space without a suit,” Even frowns. “Shouldn’t he explode?”
“Well, no,” The Boy looks a little nervous. “No, not really, and I thought maybe I should warn you, for the sake of realism.”
“Warn me about…?”
“I know they, like, explode in movies,” The Boy replies. “Which is cool and all, I guess, but the truth is kinda dull,” he admits. “You probably wouldn’t even hurt that much. All that really happens is asphyxiation. You lose oxygen without a spacesuit, and you would probably stay alive for like, one or two minutes.”
Even raises his eyebrow. “Oh, really?”
“Well, yeah,” Isak sighs. “The most you’d feel is like, mild discomfort as the air inside your body expanded, but nothing would explode, and you’d be dead before you could even feel the cold of space.”
“Oh, space is cold?”
“I—” The Boy stares at him, a little disbelieving. “Yes, space is cold.”
“I didn’t know that,” Even states casually.
The Boy looks a little scandalized. “Then why – are you writing a script about space?”
“Not by choice,” Even scoffs. “It’s an assignment. Have to write a sci-fi script, hence, the space,” he raises an eyebrow. “Which brings me ‘round to, thanks, but also, there’s the fiction part of science fiction.”
“Yeah, but,” The Boy shakes his head. “Isn’t sci-fi supposed to have some semblance of realism? It’s at least based on reality. Or, you know, the facts are. And the facts state no one would explode in space.”
“See – I’m sorry, what was your name again?”
“Isak.” The name feels sweet on Even’s tongue. “See, I’m not a very big fan of the genre, but I have to write for it if I want to pass this class, so I’ve decided to make my script satirical,” he explains. “By taking overused elements of every single shitty sci-fi film I’ve ever been subjected to in all my twenty-one years of life and blending them into one shit show of a script. So, you know, whether he explodes or not, it’s not that deep.”
Isak furrows his brows. “But this is for a grade, right?”
“Yes,” Even shrugs noncommittally. “But she never said the script had to be of any actual substance, just had to fall into the general vicinity of ‘science fiction’, which I think my script does well.”
“What’s it about?”
Even turns his chair over towards Isak’s table. “The artificial intelligence revolution and the two astronauts trying to fight it in space,” he explains. “Because, if shit goes wrong on earth, then at least there are two Very Intelligent Norwegians up in space to figure out a solution or carry the human race on elsewhere.”
Isak looks like he’s trying really hard not to let his nose wrinkle in disgust. Even is endlessly amused. “Then why is Anna pushing Arvid out of the space ship?”
“Because, as it turns out, Arvid’s the reason behind the A.I. revolution.”
Isak blinks. “How?”
“How is he behind it?”
Even scratches the back of his head. “I dunno, he set them loose?”
“That—” Isak looks frustrated. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Of course it doesn’t,” Even tells him. “It’s not supposed to, because sci-fi films never fucking do.”
“But at least they try.”
“Hm, do they, though?” Even taps at his chin dramatically. “I think that’s subjective.”
Isak huffs, then crosses his arms over his chest, a little petulantly. Even thinks it’s adorable. “No, I don’t think so, you have to think the writers at least tried.”
“How can you be so sure?” Even raises an eyebrow. “I’m here, writing a sci-fi script, and I am clearly not trying.”
Isak sputters. “Well, yeah, but you’re deliberately making fun of the genre.”
“Which doesn’t make you cool, by the way, or edgy,” Isak raises a challenging eyebrow, and Even merely grins brightly in reply. Isak blinks. “Uhm. Yeah. You just – you look like – with your denim jacket and your hair—”
“Whoa, whoa,” Even holds up a placating hand. “Listen, we just met, I don’t think we should veer into insults so early in our friendship.”
“I wasn’t going to insult your hair,” Isak snaps. “And there is no friendship. I could never be friends with someone so – pretentious.”
Oh, Even is so endeared. “Pretentious?”
“Yeah. Too good for the sci-fi genre?”
“Pft, no,” Even waves him off. “I just don’t like it. I’m sure there are things you don’t like, right?” Even’s brows rise. “I bet you’re not a fan of romance.”
Isak scowls. “You wouldn’t know that.”
“Well, by the looks of you—”
“You can’t just judge someone by the way they look.”
Even gapes dramatically. “You were literally just doing the same thing to me!” he counters, and Isak is suddenly blushing a crimson red. “Why are you so angry at me, anyway? I have no idea when this conversation turned so hostile.”
Isak lowers his gaze. “Uhm, I don’t know,” he clears his throat. “I’m sorry, I just – yeah, people don’t explode in space, and I guess I got carried away, trying to defend the fact.”
Even considers him for a moment. He looks genuinely sheepish, like he never meant to get this passionate about the subject, but Even admires that – he admires people that can hold their own in a conversation, that won’t back down when they believe in a matter, that can get heated and excited and will ramble on uselessly about Why This Is Important, and he wants to make this abundantly clear to Isak, who seems embarrassed and chastising.
Even turns around to grab his laptop from his table, then he turns around again to set it down on Isak’s. Isak looks up at the sound of the machine hitting the top, furrows his brows in confusion. Even stands from his chair and grabs his coffee, then makes his way to sit next to Isak in his table, bringing his laptop over to him and positioning it so that they both can see the screen.
“Alright,” Even looks at Isak, smiling. “Go ahead.”
Isak looks at him. “What?”
He points at the screen. “Read it.”
Isak squirms. “I’m scared I might just get mad again.”
Even laughs loudly, and Isak blinks at him, looking a little awed. Even holds on to that look. “You’re allowed to,” Even tells him. “Critique my work. Tell me what I need to change, what I need to take seriously.”
Isak eyes him suspiciously. “You’re serious.”
“As a heart attack,” Even holds up a swearing hand. “I don’t mind the sci-fi genre all that much,” he admits to Isak. “Not when it comes to directing. That’s where I can tell a story, right? Visually. With the angles and the shots and the positioning. Directing is where my heart lies,” he explains, and Isak’s expression clears, almost with something like understanding, though Even can’t be too sure, considering how quickly the boy’s expressions change. “That’s what I like to do. I like to take someone else’s story and visually make it my own.”
“Uh huh,” Isak sounds a little strained.
Even perseveres. “Script-writing, though, oh,” Even shakes his head morosely. “That’s my worst enemy. I hate it. I never feel like I develop the characters enough, or tell the story correctly, and when I’m writing it’s hard to write what I’m seeing in my head, you know? I can’t put it to paper,” Even raises his eyebrows at Isak. “I guess, to me, directing mirrors life,” he hums. “You get a script to work with – you know, a path to follow – but you get to direct it the way you want to. Maybe that’s why it’s easier for me. I like to have control,” he concludes. “And when you’re writing, I feel like you lose it.”
Isak stares at him for a moment. “That’s…a lot.”
Even smiles lazily. “I’m a lot, yes.”
“No, I don’t mean—” Isak blushes. “I just mean, you really hate writing.”
Even laughs. “Oh, yes,” he nods. “I’ve always been about visuals. I draw, too.”
“Of course you do.”
Even frowns. “Sorry?”
Isak shakes his head furiously. “No, no, nothing, I – that’s really cool,” he clears his throat. He licks his lips and looks at the computer screen again, a little hesitantly. He brings his fingers up near the touchpad, then glances at Even in silent question.
Even nods. “Go for it.”
Isak gently presses his fingers against the touchpad and scrolls up. Even looks at him the entire time, drinking in his profile, wondering how in the hell someone could look this much better up close. It’s not just his profile, it’s everything – it’s the deceptively broad shoulders and the long, defined fingers and the sharp nose and the soft-looking hair and it’s everything, and Even wonders if beautiful things like this were ever meant to be touched, ever meant to be seen.
He watches as Isak mouths Even’s name quietly to himself. When Even glances at the screen, he sees he’s finally reached the byline, and when he glances back, there’s a very soft smile lining Isak’s lips.
Isak glances at him. “Hi, Even.”
Even’s expression softens of its own accord. “Hi, Isak.”
As it turns out, Isak decides it’s best if Even scraps the entirety of his script. With less than a week ‘till deadline.
“You can see why this concerns me,” Even tells him the next day, where they sit at the same table as the day before. “At least with the satirical script I was nearly halfway done.”
Isak gives him a look. “You’re not losing much, and you know it,” he tells Even, and, well, Even can hardly argue with such a compelling argument. To be fair, though, Even doesn’t think he can argue with Isak at all, because he’s got such nice eyes and such a soft voice and Isak could tell Even the earth is flat and he’d damned well believe him.
“But what could be a better story than rogue A.Is?” Even asks.
Isak shifts his weight in his seat. “So, I was thinking about what you said yesterday, about being able to direct your own life? And how you feel like that’s not the case when you write?” He looks at Even expectantly, so Even nods his assent. “Well, I was thinking; what if you apply that lack of control to your writing?”
Even furrows his brows. “I thought I was already doing that.”
Isak shakes his head. “What I mean is – fight fire with fire. If your characters have no control, then you might be able to point them in the right direction. The same way you do when you’re directing.”
Even considers this. “And how would I do that, exactly?”
Isak reaches into his backpack and pulls out a library book, drops it unceremoniously onto the table. It looks worn and dirty, and it’s got several different colored divider tabs peeking out of the margins. In fact, it’s almost full of them, and Even wonders how Isak can tell which divider tab is which, and how long, exactly, he’s had this book checked out for.
“The multiverse theory,” he smiles proudly at Even, and his eyes crinkle at the ends so endearingly it takes Even a moment to stop staring and reply.
“Okay,” Even’s smile is slow to take over. “Do you want to expand on that, or should I just wing it?”
Isak blushes. “No, listen – the multiverse theory suggests there’s more than one universe in the world. We’re living in one, where our consciousness is at, but there are thousands, millions, infinite universes that exist out there. The theory I’m referring you to is the one that follows quantum mechanics”—and here, Isak licks his lips and hurries to open the book to a blue-colored tab—“which is part of the daughter universe theory.”
“You realize I need definitions for this, right?” Even asks, amused despite himself.
“So, okay,” Isak shifts again. “If you follow the laws of probability, it’s suggested that for every outcome that could come from our decisions, there would be a range of universes – each of which saw one outcome come to be. Are you with me?”
God, he’s such a nerd. Even is obsessed. “So you’re saying that when I’m faced with a decision to make, it doesn’t matter which one I choose, because I technically chose all of them?”
Isak nods. “Yeah, kind of like that,” he replies. “That makes way for a couple of different universes, and then within those universes, the decisions you don’t make make way for more universes, and so on, so forth.”
“This is giving me a headache.”
“It’s—” Isak huffs a laugh. “It’s a little confusing, but just think of it with the small stuff first. The kind of shirt you wear, for example. Right now you’re wearing a red flannel, but in another universe you chose to wear your plain white tee.”
Even scoffs. “That wasn’t even a choice.”
Isak rolls his eyes. “Alright, James Dean, that’s not the point.”
Even smirks. “You think I look like James Dean?”
Isak sputters. “That’s – I said that’s not the point,” he huffs. “You think of it in small details, and that’s where it starts, but then you start getting into the bigger details. Like, in one universe, a close family member died. And in another, they’re still alive.”
Even purses his lips. “And this is because of a certain choice that was made?”
Isak nods. “Maybe they chose to drive drunk in one universe. But in another, they chose not to.”
“So dead people could technically still be alive throughout the universe?”
“That’s a nice way of looking at things, I guess,” Even hums. “And how exactly does all of this apply to the script that is now due in less than a week?”
Isak smiles. “Write about Arvid and Anna as travelers.”
“To different universes?”
“But how the hell do they travel from one universe to another?”
Isak shrugs. “That’s something you figure out,” he says. “But the gist of it is they can carry their consciousness from one universe to another. So their physical body never leaves the universe they’re in, it’s simply their consciousness that can find its way to different versions of themselves.”
Even stares at him. “Have you thought about this before?”
Isak blushes. “Sometimes.”
“How is this any easier than an A.I. revolution, again?”
“Arvid and Anna might not have any control over how or when their consciousness travels,” Isak suggests. “So you get to help them find the reason, and control it.”
Even furrows his brows. “And the conflict?”
Isak shrugs. “Death? Maybe one of them’s looking for a universe in which their mother or father or sibling’s alive, but the more they travel, the more they forget.”
“Oh, you’ve definitely thought about this before.”
Isak ducks his head, looking a little sheepish. “Sorry.”
“No, don’t apologize, are you kidding?” Even raises an eyebrow. “This is amazing. I mean, it’s really fucking complicated, and most of the time I’m probably gonna be asking questions more than writing, but – I think this could work.”
Isak lights up. “Really?”
Even is willing to make it work, if it means Isak will stick around. Even if he has no idea what he’s doing half the time. Even if he fails the entire assignment, fuck it, he thinks it’s worth it, so long as Isak gifts him with those small smiles and the crinkle in his eyes and the light that shines through them when he’s rambling on about the subject. Even’s willing to make it work because when you find a beautiful thing, it’s hard to let go of it.
“Really,” he replies, smiling easily. “I’ll try to guide Arvid and Anna into – the right universe?”
Isak laughs quietly. “Or the universe they want to end up in.”
“How does Arvid tie into Anna’s story, though?”
Isak furrows his brows. “Aren’t they love interests?”
Even scoffs, offended. “Maybe if this were still satirical. But now? You can’t think I’d do something as trite as the male and female leads falling in love.”
Isak hums. “Then it might be hard to come up with how Arvid ties in.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Even shrugs. “We’ll scrap him. I never liked him, he started the A.I. revolution.”
Isak rolls his eyes. “You need more than one character, Even.”
“Sure, but not more than one lead.”
Isak considers this. “I guess.”
“I can always make Arvid the villain again, though.”
“Will Anna be pushing him out of a spaceship again?”
Even grins at the quip. “I don’t know, maybe in one of the universes they decide to be astronauts, and then the A.Is – like Siri and Alexa – suddenly go rogue and—”
Isak’s chuckling, but he looks like he’s holding back on it. “Oh my God, stop.”
“Maybe Arvid’s trying to get Anna to stop traveling? Maybe he’s just being a dick and doesn’t want her to find her dead mother. Or maybe Anna is suddenly Anders, and now they’re love interests, and suddenly it’s a gay love story in space.”
“They’re not in space anymore!”
“Fine, a gay love story through multiple universes, whatever.”
Isak is looking at him, a little curiously. “You’d make this a gay love story?”
“Well, yeah, why wouldn’t I?”
Isak shrugs. “Most straight guys wouldn’t.”
“Hm, probably. Good thing I’m not straight.”
Isak looks a little taken aback. He clears his throat. “Oh?”
Even grins. “Is that a problem, Isak?”
“No,” Isak is quick to snap. “No, it’s not, why would it be? I’m not a homophobe. I have a gay roommate.”
Even’s a little disappointed with the answer. “Good to know.”
“Okay, I shouldn’t have led with that, I should have probably led with, “I’m gay, I can’t be a homophobe!”, but I panicked, so I led with the roommate thing, and I’m sorry.”
Even looks at Isak for a moment before he bursts out into a laugh. “Oh, my God. You are seriously something else.”
Isak is blushing, and Even thinks, again, that he’s never in his life seen a prettier sight. Not once. And he once saw the Northern Lights on a spontaneous trip to Iceland. “Did I make this weird?”
“The only thing making this weird is that book,” Even points at it. He looks over it a little dubiously. “Be honest with me, how long have you had it with you?”
Isak ducks his head and mumbles something incomprehensible.
Even raises both his brows. “What.”
“Since my first year,” he sighs. “I paid the fine so the library would just mark it as lost, and I kind of just, kept it.”
“You stole a book from the library.”
“I technically paid for it.”
“You’re a thief, I can’t work with thieves!”
Isak frowns. “I guess this is goodbye, then.”
Even sighs dramatically. “I guess so. This was nice while it lasted. You’ve made an impact on my life that will last forever, Isak – what’s your last name?”
“Isak Valtersen! I bid you farewell.”
Isak’s smile at Even is crooked. “But you know you can’t write this script without me, right?” he shrugs. “Maybe it’ll benefit you to keep me around until you finish it. After that, you’ll never have to see me again.”
Even hums, pretending to be lost in thought. “I don’t know, that doesn’t sound like a very good deal to me.”
Isak raises his eyebrows. “No?”
Even smiles. “Maybe I’ll keep you around for a couple of days after that. Provided you’re not a thief and a murderer, that is.”
Isak shrugs casually. “Guess you’ll just have to find out.”
Even turns back to his computer, and suddenly, the blinking cursor looks inviting rather than taunting. “Yep, I guess so.”
They got about a third of the way into the script, and that’s mostly because they’d pause to talk about different aspects of their lives every other five minutes. Isak would insist they get back to the script twenty minutes after this, and Even would pout and say this was absolutely no fun until they got to the good stuff. Isak would then wonder what Even thought the good stuff was, and Even would waggle his eyebrows and say the kissing, of course, just to see Isak blush and stutter and be a grump about it.
Not that that’s what made the most impact on him yesterday, though. What made the most impact on him was everything he’s learned about Isak so far:
He’s a biomedicine student at the university – which makes sense, the kid’s such a fucking nerd – and when Even asked him what he wanted to do with the title, Isak had shrugged his shoulders and said, “help people”. When Even asked him to elaborate, Isak explained that he could go the doctor route, sure, but there was something in him that wanted to be a part of the bigger picture – of research to cure diseases that plagued the world, for example. Even told him that was very admirable, but Isak tried to downplay the fact by admitting it was a little selfish of his part – it’s what he liked to do, so maybe it felt indulgent. Even couldn’t believe Isak would think liking his future career made him selfish, and he’d told him as much. Isak had then suggested they get back to the script.
And there’s that, too. He’s just as creative as he is smart, and it would be annoying on anyone else, anyone, but on Isak it’s endearing. He’s walking around with that kind of brain and Even thinks, well, that’s kind of unfair, but also, that’s kind of beautiful, and Isak is so, so much better than the Isak Even had made up in his head when he was just “The Boy”.
What they have so far of the script consists mostly of Isak’s ideas – Anders’s mother has died, and he’s suddenly waking up in different universes that have only the slightest differences – a different kind of ice cream in the freezer, a different brand of shaving cream, the one he’d considered buying instead of his usual one – and Isak told Even they’re building up to the good stuff, the bigger stuff, the stuff that clues Anders into a universe where his mother is still alive.
And the thing about Isak is he’s a subtle writer – the best kind of writer Even knows. He doesn’t insult his reader’s – or, in this case, the viewer’s – intelligence by spelling everything out for them; instead, he hints at small details that were brought up in the beginning and makes you start guessing the same way Anders does: finding his mother’s toothbrush in the bathroom after sleeping with a picture of her clutched to his chest, realizing they threw it out just days before, and then forcing himself back to sleep afterwards and waking up to it gone – he’s brilliant, but he won’t admit it, and he’ll just blush when Even stares at him in wonder and tells him as much.
So they stayed at the coffeeshop until sundown, and then made plans to see each other the next day, after both of their classes – which meant less time to work on the script, sure, in between the steady flow conversation they were sure to be engaged in, but Even wasn’t about to complain, was he? Spending time with Isak was probably the most self-indulgent thing he’s allowed himself in a very long time, and so when Mikael calls him and asks if he wants to do something after class, Even admits he’s got other plans.
“That’s impossible,” Mikael sounds wounded. “You never make plans without me.”
“Okay, one, false,” Even laughs as he pulls open the door to the coffeeshop. “Two, this is far more important than I’ve let on.”
Mikael hums. “Unless this is about the end of the world, I don’t want to hear your excuses, Bech Næsheim.”
Even makes his way to what he’s now deemed his and Isak’s regular table – ignoring the fact that it’s literally been two days since – and holds his phone between his ear and his shoulder as he fishes his laptop out of his bag. “If you must know, I’m meeting Isak Valtersen.”
“Who’s Isak Valtersen?”
“I’m glad you asked,” Even grins despite himself. He opens his laptop, then holds his cell phone with his hand once again. “Do you remember The Boy, the boy I’ve seen walking across the quad, the pretty one with the snapbacks?”
“How can I forget, when you talk about him every other—” Mikael pauses, then gasps. “You’re shitting me.”
“Well, well, well,” Mikael sounds impressed. “You finally got the balls to talk to him.”
“Oh, of course not,” Even huffs. “I’m still a coward. No, he sat behind me at KB on Saturday and told me my script was basically bullshit, and he’s offered to help me write it, and also, he’s gay, by the way, so – fate? I think so.”
Mikael whistles. “I think so, too. No one should be as lucky as you.”
Even sighs happily. “I know, I feel like I’m walking on air.”
“You’re ruining it with your cheesiness.”
“Last week you told me that your life would literally be empty without my friendship.”
“I was drunk, that doesn’t count, and you promised you wouldn’t bring it up again.”
“I was also drunk when I promised that, so it also doesn’t count.”
“Anyway, it’s not—”
It’s right at this moment that Isak decides to walk past the window, and for a second, Even doesn’t recognize him – and then he does, and his mouth does not mean to hang open, it doesn’t, but it definitely does, because suddenly Isak’s no longer in a snapback and he’s got these large glasses on and he looks so good, he looks so much better than before – and Even didn’t think that was possible, he didn’t, and Even thinks that this is definitely the moment where he spontaneously combusts. It can’t be any other moment, surely, this is the last thing he’ll see before he dies, and he’s absolutely fine with that. Maybe Mikael was right – maybe this does have to do with the end of the world.
“Even, are you dead?”
“Almost,” Even croaks. “He’s so pretty.”
“Oh, my God.”
“I have to go.”
“Of course you do.”
Even hangs up and unceremoniously drops his phone on the table as Isak pushes open the entrance door. Even doesn’t think he’s capable of moving, much less waving Isak over, so he kind of just – waits uselessly for Isak to spot him, and he’s completely helpless against the smile Isak throws his way, and he realizes he’s staring at Isak in wonder when Isak sits in the chair next to him.
Isak’s smile falters, and his friendly expression turns into one of concern. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Glasses” is all Even manages to say.
Isak’s cheeks tint pink. “I woke up too late to put my contacts in,” he mutters. “Sorry.”
Is he apologizing for wearing glasses? Who made this kid? “Why are you sorry? They look good on you. In fact, I’m starting a petition right now to make you wear them every day. I’m sure it’ll fill up by the end of this hour.”
Isak rolls his eyes. “Shut up, Even.”
“And also, I’m making everyone sign another petition, similar to the glasses one, only this one’s for you to throw out all of your snapbacks. Your hair is so – it’s so nice, why do you hide it?”
Isak looks frustrated. “Can you stop?”
“I’m really trying.”
Isak’s expression turns exasperated, then amused. “Can we work on your script now?”
Even grunts. “Maybe. I’m gonna stare at you for a little while longer, though.”
Even stares. Isak’s blush deepens.
“Even,” his voice is quiet, shy.
“Okay, okay,” Even holds up his hands. “You’re right, it’s not the time. I have a thing due Friday.”
“Your script,” Isak reminds him.
“Hm, is it really mine, though? I feel like I’m cheating. I feel like you’re the best cheat sheet in the world. In fact, I think you should come with me to all of my written tests.”
“I don’t think so.”
“You already steal.”
Isak holds up a finger. “I paid for that book.”
“Okay, fine,” Even concedes. “But you did lie.”
Isak huffs. “Your script, Even.”
Even rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine,” he waves Isak off, then turns to his computer and pulls up the document. “Your highness,” he bows as much as he can, exaggeratedly.
It’s Isak’s turn to roll his eyes. “You know, I could just not help you.”
Even shrugs. “You could,” he agrees. “But I also know you would be thinking about me making a mess out of this story for weeks.”
Isak sighs. “I know.”
“They’d also end up in space.”
“God, I know.”
“Someone would explode.”
Isak’s laughing now. “Stop, I get it,” he shakes his head. “Okay, where did we leave off?”
“Uhm,” Even scrolls to the bottom of the document quickly, which, to be fair, isn’t very far down, but it’s already better than what he had before. “Okay, so Anders just met the mysterious Arvid, who’s speaking to him in code.”
Isak turns the computer over to him. “He’s not speaking in code,” he reminds Even patiently. “In fact, he’s going to be very forthright about the situation.”
“Well that’s no fun.”
“If he speaks in code, this script will go on forever, and isn’t it supposed to be at most thirty minutes?”
Even clicks his tongue. “Something like that.” It’s actually only supposed to be fifteen, but the longer he makes it, the more time Isak spends with him, and he’s willing to sacrifice a couple of points of his grade for that.
“So no speaking in code,” he tells Even. “Just let him do the talking.”
“Right,” Even scoots his chair closer to Isak – partly to be able to type on the computer comfortably, and partly because this way, his arm ends up brushing against Isak’s, and though Isak stiffens momentarily at the contact, it takes him just a second to relax against Even. Even cheers internally.
They banter for about an hour about what dialogue is cheesy and what isn’t, which means they don’t get very far – maybe about one more page in, which might be less than a minute, in practice, and Anders and Arvid haven’t exchanged more than a couple of words about their similar situations. Isak keeps insisting Arvid should know about Anders beforehand, should have some sort of connection to his past. Even thinks they’d have less control if they flew in blind, Arvid knowing nothing other than the fact Anders’s consciousness can travel through universes as well.
“But how would he know if they don’t have some sort of connection?” Isak insists, a little too passionately. “Anders has to know about Arvid’s ability through that connection.”
Even sighs loudly. “Alright,” he finally gives in. “So, Anders knows Arvid from before, but not vice versa, right?’
Isak shifts in his seat. “Well—” he clears his throat. “What if Arvid had something to do with Anders’s mother’s death?”
Even stares at him. “That is dark.”
Isak blushes. “He could be feeling sorry, he could be trying to remedy the situation.”
“You realize there’s no way that would end well, right?”
“No, it can,” Isak furrows his brows, voice a little defensive. “You just have to think outside of the box.”
“Isak, if someone murdered my mother—”
“No!” Isak’s eyes widen. “He wouldn’t have murdered his mother, maybe he was just – traveling while Anders’s mother was being mugged, or something, and he didn’t have a chance to do anything.”
Even rubs the bridge of his nose. “So much is happening right now.”
Isak laughs quietly. “Look, let me just—” he turns the laptop towards him. “Give me a minute or two.”
Even frowns. “Isak, you don’t have to—”
Isak shushes him. “You’re not gonna ruin this story, Even,” he states firmly, but there’s a hint of teasing underneath it. “Let me do this for you, alright?”
Even stares at him in wonder. “Alright.”
And so Isak starts typing, and at one point his tongue sticks out of the side of his mouth slightly, as if he’s deep in concentration, and Even can do nothing but look at him. He thinks maybe he should be subtler about his infatuation, but he’s having a really hard time, what with the glasses and the hair and the furrow of Isak’s brows and the fact that he’s writing Even’s script for him, like some sort of hero in disguise. Some sort of Clark Kent. That’s who he reminds Even of – Superman, no less, and maybe Mikael’s right, maybe he’s extremely cheesy, but—
After about ten minutes of on and off writing, Isak glances at Even, then does a double take when he realizes Even’s staring at him. Isak blinks at him. “Stop looking at me like that.”
“Like – like you know something I don’t.”
He does, though. Apparently, Isak is clueless about the effect he has on probably anyone he speaks to. He must be picking up on Even’s wonder, and it must be genuinely foreign to him, this look, this feeling. Even wonders if he can communicate all of this with a look, but then again, Isak is far more intelligent than Even in every single way, and Even’s never been exactly subtle.
“I think I’m looking at you like I look at everyone else?”
“Is it too intense?”
Even pretends to consider this. “I can try to tone it down, but I doubt it’ll work. It might be my eyes, or just my general awe of you.”
Isak blushes. “Anyway,” he clears his throat loudly. “I’ve decided that Arvid can come and try to keep Anders in one universe. He’ll pretend to be clueless about the way Arvid can travel to a certain universe, because he wants to keep Anders safe, and—”
“And it might be a very long time until Anders finds him mom, anyway. And their consciousness might not end up in the same universe if they don’t travel together, which means—”
“They wouldn’t remember each other,” Isak finishes quietly. “And Arvid can’t stand the thought.”
Even considers Isak for a moment. He looks genuinely sad. “I told you this wouldn’t end well.”
Isak shrugs his shoulders lightly. “Sci-fis don’t always end well.”
Even smiles, a little ruefully. “You’re not wrong.” Maybe that’s why Even hates them so much. He’ll watch any romantic tragedy you put in front of him, but give him a sad ending in any other genre, and he thinks it’s far too much. He wonders if it’s because he’s never truly let himself believe the world is completely hopeless – he’s always wondered if he could have a happy ending, were it under any other circumstances. He couldn’t find his happy ending with Sonja, and so romance has never been his strong suit, but he looks at Isak and he feels like he can conquer the world, and maybe not everything has to be sad. Not every ending has to be tragic.
But then, sometimes the story calls for it. “Think we can get them there by tonight?”
Isak’s expression turns solemn. “Maybe,” he says.
Even bumps Isak’s shoulder. “Hey,” he says quietly. “That doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of me, you know.”
Isak’s smile is small. “Maybe I want to get rid of you.”
Isak shakes his head once. “Or maybe I don’t.”
In the end, they don’t actually finish the script until Thursday. A day before the deadline.
To be fair, once they had an ending in sight, it was very easy for them both to find common ground and write quickly. Isak would suggest certain actions, certain dialogue, and Even would be quick to accept it, because it made sense, and this was far more Isak’s story than it was Even’s, anyway.
When they finish, Isak’s expression is proud and content, and he looks over at Even, beaming. “I’m proud of you.”
“Me?” Even scoffs. “You should be proud of you.”
“I’m proud you accepted my help, then. I’m practically a stranger.”
“Practically,” he teases. “But now that I’ve seen you with glasses and without a snapback, I feel like I’ve known you for years.”
Isak smiles slightly. “Hey, maybe you’ll get there.”
Isak blushes. “I mean, I wouldn’t mind.”
Even hums, turns to save the document and close his laptop. “Let’s go somewhere.”
Isak looks at him, confused. “You want to go where, exactly?”
Even stuffs the laptop into his bag and shrugs. “Anywhere,” he looks at Isak. “I don’t think I’m ready to let you go just yet.”
Isak’s bottom lip is sucked between his teeth. “I—” he clears his throat. “I just want to be clear, because, this has happened to me before, and it’s ended – weirdly, so,” he looks at Even. “Are you asking me out on a date right now?”
Even grins. “I’m absolutely asking you out on a date right now.”
“Did you plan this?”
“I absolutely did not plan this.”
“So you’re just going to take me on a date, anywhere, that you have not planned?”
Even smiles crookedly. “Technically, that is a plan.”
Isak looks at him, a little fondly. “You know there was a whole talk during orientation about accepting spontaneous offers from cute boys.”
“You think I’m cute?”
Isak frowns. “Shut up, you think I’m cute.”
“I think you’re beautiful,” Even corrects. “I’ve been staring at you for months.”
Isak looks taken aback. “What?”
Even shrugs. “I saw you like, one time in the quad, and I don’t know if you noticed, but we cross paths like, every other day, and you’re always looking down and you’re never looking back, but I’ve seen you before.” He cocks his head. “Is that weird?”
Isak blushes. “No, that’s not weird.”
“It’s a little weird.”
“You’re wrong,” Isak blurts. “I was.”
“You were what?”
“I was looking back.”
Even raises his eyebrows. “What?”
Isak blushes and lowers his gaze. “When I saw you here, and I saw your script, I just – I really didn’t care if you made someone explode in space,” he glances up at Even. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely not realistic, but it was really none of my concern, but you were so close, so I—” he clears his throat. “I talked to you.”
Even gapes at him. “You are—” he shakes his head. “You are much braver than I am.”
“I’m sure you would have come up to me eventually.”
“Isak, I could have lived my entire life looking at you from afar.”
Isak furrows his brows. “Well, that’s disappointing.”
“We’re here, aren’t we?”
“And in another universe, maybe I did make the choice to come up to you.”
“Don’t care,” Isak smirks. “It’s good to know who would be killing the spiders in this relationship.”
“Relationship, huh?” Even raises both eyebrows. “You think we’re there already?”
Isak shakes his head. “No. You have to take me on that date first.”
Even grins and stands, bag slung over his shoulder. He holds out his hand towards Isak, and after a second of what is obviously contemplation, Isak takes it, standing.
“Isak Valtersen, I think I’m taking you to space.”
Isak raises an eyebrow as he laces his fingers properly around Even’s. “And you won’t push me off the ship?”
Even squeezes his hand. “No,” he says. “I think I’m keeping you on board.”
In the end, Even takes him to the science museum, and Isak immediately leads them to the space exhibition. He admits, with a blush painting across his cheeks and over his nose, that he’s been here more times than he can count, and Even thinks that’s the best thing he’s heard in years.
(Other than, you know. I was looking back.)
They hold hands the entire time, and Isak talks his ear off about the constellations and the different drones surrounding their planet and everything Even doesn’t understand, and he talks about how strange it is, to know that there is no end to the universe, it just goes on and on and on, and when the earth is gone, life outside of them will go on and on and on, and they won’t feel a thing. There are a million things they can feel now, Isak tells him, but in the end, they’re nothing. Just a blip on a radar.
Even hums, takes this information in. “You think feelings don’t count, then?”
Isak shrugs. “I think feelings don’t last.”
Even looks at him, smiling. “I think they last as long as we’re here, no?”
“It’s not that long,” Isak responds quietly, staring at the moving stars that take up the entire wall. “Compared to everything? It’s not that long.”
Even stares at the side of his face. “You don’t think it’s long enough?”
Isak glances at him. “Not nearly. Not to properly enjoy it.”
“You’re not enjoying this?”
Isak bites his lip. “I am.”
“Then that matters, yeah?”
Isak looks down at their intertwined hands, strokes Even’s knuckles with his thumb. “In the grand scheme of things?”
“I don’t care about the grand scheme of things,” Even scoffs. “I care about right here. Right now. There are a million things wrong in the world, but I’m holding your hand, and I’m standing around stars, and I feel good. And I feel happy. And I feel like you’re going to be much more than just a blip on my radar, Isak Valtersen.” He can feel his smile turn lopsided. “And maybe you’re right. Maybe we’ll travel through different universes, and then we won’t remember each other. Maybe this won’t last long enough. And maybe it’s been six days and maybe this’ll last seven. Maybe eight, maybe ten. But those days matter,” he tells him quietly. “You matter.”
Isak purses his lips. “And you couldn’t write a script?”
Even laughs quietly, brings his hand to grab Isak’s chin and lifts it to meet his gaze. “It’s all about the angle,” Even gestures towards the moon, projected directly behind Isak. “It’s all about the timing,” he presses his forehead against Isak’s. “It’s all about the direction,” he mutters. “That’s what makes an impact. That’s how you take control. That’s what tells the story.”
He can feel his heart desperately wanting to jump out of his chest when Isak nuzzles Even’s nose. “And how does it end?” he whispers.
Even cups the back of Isak’s neck. “That’s the thing,” he replies, and his breath ghosts over Isak’s lips. “It doesn’t.”