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Things Look Different in the Morning

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12/09/16-18/09/16

Isak drops down onto the couch unoccupied by Noora and Linn, internally groaning at the thought of a flat meeting.

Normal flat meetings usually take the form of Noora making out a chore chart because she’s picking up everyone’s slack and Isak can handle that. Noora’s meetings are short and to the point; she gives them a mini lecture, makes Isak feel sufficiently like a chastised child, and then he skulks off to his room to play video games.

Eskild’s flat meetings on the other hand…

Eskild could talk for Norway and half the time, Isak doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. Especially when it comes to flat meetings.

As if summoned by Isak’s thoughts, Eskild swans into the living room with an indulgent smile in the girls’ direction before he rounds on Isak, perching delicately on the coffee table in front of him. And why does Isak suddenly feel like he’s at the centre of an intervention?

“Hello, little buddy,” Eskild greets sweetly.

Isak raises an uncertain eyebrow, melting back a little into the couch cushion behind him. “Hi?”

Eskild puffs out a breath, glancing over to the other couch at Noora and Linn again before clapping his hands together. “Okay! So the flat meeting is now in session.”

Isak just about refrains from rolling his eyes, tucking his legs up under himself on the couch. Better get comfortable.

“So, I was in class the other day,” Eskild begins. “And my friend Yousef – you know my friend, Yousef, right Isak?”

Isak’s not sure why the question is being directed at him but he shakes his head nonetheless. “Uh, no?”

Eskild waves a hand, dismissing him. “Sure you do! Lovely boy, nice hair. Anyway, I was talking to Yousef and he was telling me about his poor friend Even.”

Oh jesus.

“You see Even just broke up with his girlfriend of five years,” Eskild reveals, tutting sympathetically, and Isak’s still trying to figure out how any of this is relevant. “And obviously he has to move out of their apartment but now that uni’s started it’s impossible to get accommodation.”

Isak looks to Noora and Linn to see if either of them are any more clued into what’s going on but Linn is just staring at Eskild with an apathetic expression. Noora, on the other hand, is suspiciously avoiding Isak’s gaze.

“Yousef’s flat is full, you see,” Eskild continues, “And he can’t move back in with his parents because the commute would be too long in the morning and, I mean, who wants to move back in with their parents after living on their own for nearly two years?” Eskild laughs, the sound trailing off uneasily when he meets Isak’s blank stare.

“So,” he says, drawing the word out. “I told him he could stay here.”

Isak blinks, convinced he’s misheard.

“Eskild,” he says flatly. “We don’t have a spare room.”

Eskild straightens his back, expression turning sheepish. “That’s the other part…I was thinking he could stay in your room?”

“What?!” Isak demands incredulously. You have got to be fucking kidding me. “Eskild! Why can’t he sleep on the couch?!”

“On the couch?” Eskild exclaims. “Isak, the poor boy just went through a terrible break up and you want him to sleep on the couch?”

Isak throws his hands up in exasperation. “That’s not my problem!”

“He can’t stay in Linn’s room when it’s already the smallest and she lives in almost constant darkness,” Eskild huffs, ticking her off on his fingers. “Noora has far too much stuff; there’s simply no room for him. And I have too many gentlemen callers.” He finishes his sentence with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows and Isak rolls his eyes so hard they almost fall out of his head.

“Your room is the only option,” Eskild concludes simply.

So Isak is a minimalistic virgin in his roommates’ eyes. Great.

“We took you in when you needed somewhere to go,” Eskild points out and that is not the same. What the fuck.

“You had a spare room!” Isak cries.

“It’s just for a few weeks,” Eskild says beseechingly. “Just until he finds somewhere else more permanent.”

Isak bites the inside of his cheek, feeling himself waver and hating himself for it. God, why is he even fucking considering this? His room is the only place he gets any peace and now he’s considering letting some stranger invade that space. But…Eskild, Noora and Linn had been there for him when he’d needed it and he feels kind of shitty at the thought of denying someone else that kind of help.

Heaving a long-suffering sigh, he drops his elbows onto his knees and hangs his head. “Ugh, fine.”

Eskild claps his hand together in delight and Isak gives up entirely when he bounds off the coffee table to bounce onto the couch beside him and squeeze his shoulders. “Thank you, Isak! I’m gonna call Yousef right now!”

Eskild hops up again, sailing out of the room with his phone pressed to his ear.

Isak raises his head from out of his hands, looking across to the other couch as soon as he’s gone. Linn is already lying down and after turning the TV on; Noora, meanwhile, meets his gaze sheepishly.

“You couldn’t have talked him out of it?” he asks tiredly.

“I tried,” she tells him and something about her expression makes him believe her. “This is really kind of you, Isak.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

He just hopes this Even guy isn’t gonna be a pain in the ass.

*

Even’s not a pain in the ass. Even’s a problem.

He shows up bright and early Saturday morning with a backpack slung over his shoulder and a suitcase in hand and Isak almost chokes on his cereal.

This is who he’s supposed to be sharing his room with? This tall, blond swoopy-haired, blue-eyed, fucking ethereal specimen of a human being is his roommate? Isak is so fucked.

After a strangled, “Hi!” he lets Noora take over welcoming Even, opting instead to disappear to the kitchen. He’s not mentally prepared for a conversation just yet. He spends as much time as possible busying himself with washing up after breakfast and corners Eskild the second he comes into the kitchen a few minutes later, squinting his eyes at him. “Does the fact that he’s hot have anything to do with why you were so insistent on him moving in here?” Isak asks, voice low so Even doesn’t overhear where he’s still talking to Noora in the living room.

Eskild’s eyes light up. “You think he’s hot?”

And fuck, that’s not-

“Believe me, Isak,” Eskild continues before he can argue. “If I wanted him in my bed he’d be staying in my room, not yours.”

Isak sighs, fixing Eskild with an unimpressed glare.

“But go you, baby Jesus,” Eskild says, smirking appreciatively. “Show him some Valtersen charm.” With that, he winks and saunters out of the room.

“I hate you!” Isak calls after him, a beat too late.

He still hears Eskild’s “Love you too!” from the other room though.

*

Eventually Isak decides he can’t hide in the kitchen any longer. Since Even is moving into his room he kind of has to be the one to show him where he can put his stuff. He steels himself, looking longingly around his sanctuary before wandering down the hall and into his room.

He finds Even sitting on the floor sorting through a cardboard box, suitcase and backpack still closed beside him. He looks up when he notices Isak in the doorway, offering him a cheerful smile that very nearly makes Isak’s knees buckle. “Hey! I didn’t wanna disturb anything so I figured I’d just do inventory of my own stuff ‘til you were finished your breakfast.”

Oh fuck, he’s nice too? Isak is going to kill Eskild.

“Sorry,” Isak says awkwardly, cringing at his own stiltedness. “I didn’t realise you’d be here so early.”

Even waves him away, pushing himself to his feet. “I feel like I should be the one apologising. I’m the one inconveniencing you by taking over your room.”

“It’s cool,” Isak says quickly, leaving the relative safety of the doorway and stepping into the room. He and Eskild had pushed his standing shelves against the left wall next to his wardrobe last night to clear up some space so Even could fit a single bed perpendicular to Isak’s. Rather than seeming cramped, it feels snug almost; he doesn’t hate it as much as he thought he would.

“Uh, I cleared some space in the wardrobe and I emptied out the bottom drawer too so you can fit all your clothes,” he says, avoiding Even’s gaze and gesturing uselessly at his wardrobe.

He flits his eyes to Even when he doesn’t get a response and regrets it immediately because Even is grinning and fuck, his smile looks like the sun?!

“That’s really nice of you, Isak,” he says earnestly. “Thank you.”

Isak nods, offering a weak smile. “Um, I tried clearing space on my desk but that didn’t really work?” He looks over to his desk sitting against the opposite wall, cluttered with science books and different scraps of paper. He’d tried putting them somewhere else but the only other option was his nightstand which offered space for little more than a lamp and his phone.

“Don’t worry about it,” Even says with a blasé wave of his hand. “I either study in bed or at the library. Consider the desk completely yours.”

Isak nods, unsure what to do next; after a moment he opts to drop down onto the end of his unmade bed. “Do you, um, do you need help unpacking or something?”

“Nah, I didn’t bring much with me,” Even explains. “Most of the furniture and stuff is at my parents’ place so I mostly just took my clothes and whatever I need for my classes. Oh, and my DVD collection.”

“DVD collection?” Isak repeats before he can stop himself.

Even looks up from where he’d been digging through his suitcase, sending him a bright smile. “Yeah, I’m doing Film and Media Studies at uni; I’m a pretty big movie buff.”

The twinkle in Even’s eyes suggests he’s more than a movie buff and it makes Isak smile. There’s something so enthralling about him – something hidden in his smile that’s instantly drawing Isak in. He’s disarming but in a charming kind of way that sends a little fizz of intrigue spiralling through Isak’s veins.

“So am I right in saying you’re a science major or are those textbooks on your desk just for fun?” Even asks wryly, carefully transferring his folded clothes from his suitcase to the drawer Isak had emptied for him.

“Just a bit of light reading,” Isak jokes. It’s a poor attempt but Even laughs nonetheless and the sound makes Isak feel warm. “I’m studying Bio-Chem,” he explains.

“I’m rooming with a genius,” Even hums, impressed. “I better stay on your good side then. That could come in handy someday.”

Isak feels a genuine laugh bubble out of his mouth, silently preening at the inadvertent compliment. “Yeah, if you want a place in my Nobel Prize acceptance speech you better be a good roommate.”

Even looks up solemnly, hand pressed to his heart in mock sincerity. “Isak- what’s your last name?”

Isak snorts, shaking his head. “Valtersen,” he supplies.

“Isak Valtersen,” Even begins again. “I promise to be the best literal roommate you’ve ever had.”

Isak barks out a laugh, flushing happily at the way Even’s serious expression transforms into a smile when he does. “Hopefully my only one,” he mutters.

“Until you get married,” Even points out, resuming unpacking his clothes and seemingly oblivious to the blush currently pinkening Isak’s cheeks.

As the morning progresses Isak finds himself relaxing in Even’s presence. He’s surprisingly easy to get along with once you get past the glaring good looks and he rarely lets an awkward lull in conversation occur, always asking questions and sounding genuinely interested in the answers. At the very least, Isak is pretty sure he hasn’t agreed to let a serial killer move into his room so that’s a bonus.

After the eventful experience of helping Even carry a mattress up three flights of stairs they’re lying on their respective beds, Even having abandoned unpacking about twenty minutes ago. It’s then that Isak’s curiosity finally gets the better of him.

“So how come you broke up with your girlfriend?”

He hears Even blow out a breath and it’s weird, he thinks, that they’re co-existing so comfortably already. “It hasn’t been working for a while; I think we both just finally admitted it.”

“If it hasn’t been working, why did you stay?” And maybe a little bit of Isak’s own resentment for his father seeps into the question. He doesn’t think Even notices.

“Sonja’s been there for me through a lot really shitty things,” Even explains. “It felt kind of like I had an obligation to stay.”

Even stayed when he really didn’t want to, why couldn’t his dad have sucked it up for another year or two and at least waited ‘til Isak finished school before leaving him stranded with his mother and no form of help?

“Like what?” And he doesn’t really mean to ask the question but he’s so caught up with thoughts of his parents the words just slip out.

“You don’t know me well enough to unlock that tragic backstory.”

Isak picks his head up off his pillow to look over at Even’s bed and finds him smirking back with his eyebrows raised. He huffs a laugh, head falling back to his pillow again. “Fair enough.”

“What about you?” Even asks. “This is your first year of college, right? Did you just move in here in August? Is that how you drew the short straw of being lumped with me?”

“I moved in here when I was sixteen,” Isak answers automatically, not realising that probably sounds strange until Even makes a surprised noise in the back of his throat.

“How come?”

“You don’t know me well enough to unlock that tragic backstory,” he parrots back, biting down on his smile.

Even barks out a laugh. “Touché.”

They slip into silence after that and a part of Isak wishes he was sitting up right now so he could see what Even’s expression looks like.

“Do you think we should set up some ground rules?” Even asks after a moment and Isak does sit up this time. Even follows suit a moment later.

“What d’you mean?”

“Well, we’re going to be living together in really close quarters; the likelihood of us pissing each other off is pretty high.”

Isak is pretty sure the only reason Even could piss him off is because of his face being stupidly attractive but he lets Even continue anyway.

“So we should set up some boundaries to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Isak shrugs, “Sure. What did you have in mind?”

“I guess the obvious one is not taking each other’s stuff without asking?” Even suggests.

Isak thinks of his biology notes, organised in his own particular messy order and winces at the thought of Even disturbing them. “Good one. No blaring music – or movies, I guess – when one of us is trying to study or finish an assignment.”

Even grins at the movie comment but nods along. “If one of us gets a hook-up let’s just agree now to always go back to the other person’s house.”

Isak’s mind goes to unfortunate place of imagining Even hooking up with someone before he redirects his focus to his own pitiful dry spell. He thought things would improve once he came out but it turns out there hadn’t been a hundred out and proud boys at Nissen ready to make out with him when he’d finally told his friends the truth. He’s had a few hook-ups in the last year or so but nothing that really makes it past the club or party bathroom. He also feels weird hooking up with people when he’s out with Eskild, it’s like his dad is watching.

He realises he’s probably paused for too long and quickly flits his gaze to Even. “Yup, sounds good!”

Even gives him a funny look but doesn’t comment. “Anything else?”

“I think those are the major ones for now,” Isak agrees. “Anything else, I guess we can just talk it out if it comes up.”

“Ah communication!” Even exclaims. “The key to any successful relationship.”

How do I communicate do you that you referring to this as a “relationship” is making me want to jump your bones?

Isak smiles weakly, for once actually thankful when Eskild blusters into the room and announces they’re all going out for drinks tonight to celebrate Even moving in. It sets Even and Eskild off on an enthusiastic conversation about potential bars that has Even climbing off his bed and following Eskild out of the room to continue their discussion while making lunch. Isak is quietly glad for the reprieve.

Fishing his phone out of his pocket, he opens his last conversation with Jonas.

Isak: Roommate’s moved in, save me?

Jonas: That bad already? Yeah, man, come over

He manages to escape while Even and Eskild are distracted in the kitchen; Linn’s in the living room but she doesn’t even raise her head to acknowledge his existence while he silently toes on his shoes at the front door.

Jonas already has a sandwich and a beer waiting for him when he arrives and Isak really fucking loves his best friend. He collapses onto the couch and gratefully takes the proffered plate from Jonas’ hands, curling his legs up underneath him. “Thank you,” he sighs happily, taking the first precious bite and closing his eyes with relish.

“That text sounded ominous,” Jonas says by way of an answer, taking a pull of his beer and regarding Isak with a look. “So how bad is he?”

Isak huffs out a breath, pouting only a little bit. “He’s not bad, that’s the problem.”

Jonas screws his face up in confusion. “Huh?”

Isak rolls his head to the side. “Jonas, he’s so pretty.”

“Oh my god, Isak,” Jonas laughs, rolling his eyes in exasperation. “I thought the guy was a fucking creep or something.”

“Jonas, help,” Isak whines, drawing out the word and probably laying it on a little too thick.

“What do you want me to do about it?!” Jonas scoffs, shaking his head. “If you like him then do something about it.”

Isak almost breaks his neck, snapping his head up to stare at his best friend. “What?!” he asks incredulously. “I have to fucking share a room with this guy for the foreseeable future, I can’t hit on him.”

“Okay, can you actually explain to me what’s so great about him?” Jonas asks, looking far too amused about this entire situation. “You’ve only known him like five minutes.”

“Well, he has a nice face, like I said-“

Jonas snorts but gestures for Isak to continue when he scowls at him.

“And he’s just- really nice. Like he was so serious about not getting in my way or anything; he even fucking promised to be the best roommate ever. And he’s so easy to talk to! We were talking all morning and I- what?” Isak cuts himself off, eyes narrowing at the smirk on Jonas’ face.

“Nothing, I just think this is the first time you’ve ever had a proper crush.”

“I don’t have a crush,” Isak says, offended. “And even if I did, it’s not my first one so fuck you.”

“I don’t count,” Jonas argues, waving a hand dismissively. “I mean like, you genuinely getting flustered over some guy and gushing to me about it. You haven’t really done that before.”

“I’ve only been out for a year,” he mutters, feeling suddenly shy. Looking back on it now, he hasn’t really spoken to Jonas about boys all that much except to maybe fill him in if he hooked up with anyone on a night out. Honestly, he hasn’t really liked anyone since he came out. Jonas is right. “And there weren’t many options at Nissen.”

“Well, it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good option currently occupying your bedroom so I don’t really know what you’re doing here,” Jonas teases.

Isak rolls his eyes but the smile is hard to fight. “Come on. You know I can’t do anything,” he says seriously. “He just got out of a five year relationship with a girl. He’s probably straight.”

“That’s very heteronormative of you, Isak,” Jonas admonishes, maintaining his serious expression until Isak elbowing him in the side makes him laugh.

“I’m dealing with a real problem here!”

“Okay, okay,” Jonas laughs, holding his hands up in surrender. “Look, just relax. You’re a little starry-eyed right now because you just met the guy but you’re about to live with him. Everyone has gross habits; I guarantee he’ll fall right off his pedestal by next week.”

Isak chews his lip. Jonas has a point – Isak isn’t exactly the pinnacle of put together when he’s in the comfort of his own room, surely Even is the same? “You think so?”

“I’m telling you, you’ll be over here complaining about how he chews with his mouth open within a week.”

Isak nods uncertainly, picking at his half-eaten sandwich.

“Can we play Fifa now?”

That pulls a grin out of Isak and he nods. “You mean can I kick your ass at Fifa now?”

Jonas snorts, reaching for the controllers. “That’s definitely not what I meant.”

*

After a few hours of losing dismally to Jonas at Fifa Isak gets a text from Eskild demanding he come home so he’ll be ready in time for drinks later. When he gets back to the flat the first thing he hears is Noora and Eskild calling to each other from their respective bedrooms about outfit choices and Isak tiptoes past as silently as he can – he does not need Eskild trying to pick out his outfit for him tonight.

Successfully escaping to his room is a relief – or it would be if he didn’t walk in on a half-naked Even.

“Sorry!” he says instantly, whirling around to face the door.

Even’s laugh rings out behind him and Isak’s face is on fire. “Isak, it’s chill. We’re sharing a room, I’m pretty sure we’re gonna see each other shirtless sometimes.”

Please don’t put that thought in my head.

Slowly, Isak shuffles back around to face the room at large, ducking his head when his eyes land on Even grinning amusedly at him.

“Sorry,” he mutters sheepishly. “Usually walking in on someone around here entails accidentally opening the bathroom door when Noora’s in the shower or witnessing Eskild in compromising positions.” He clears his throat; he’s still scarred from the last time he walked in on Eskild.

“Okay, note to self: always knock before going into Eskild’s room,” Even laughs and he’s still shirtless. He wants Isak to die.

“It’s better for everyone,” Isak agrees awkwardly.

Even chuckles again, finally shrugging into the t-shirt that had been dangling from his hand when Isak had walked in. “But seriously, I don’t care if you’re in the room when I get changed. I don’t get weird about that kind of stuff.”

Isak nods, venturing a little further into the room to search through his wardrobe.

“Unless you’re uncomfortable, of course,” Even adds and his expression is nothing but sincere when Isak looks up.

“No, it’s cool,” Isak assures him, even if it feels a lot like lying. “So uh, did Eskild say where we were going tonight?”

“He wants to go out for dinner first,” Even tells him and Isak pointedly stays turned into the wardrobe when he hears him start to change out of his sweatpants. “Then head to some bar near campus, I think.”

“Cool,” Isak croaks, pretending to be extremely interested in his t-shirts while Even shimmies into his skinny jeans out of the corner of his eye. What the hell was he thinking? How the fuck is he supposed to survive the next few weeks?

Getting a roommate was a terrible idea.

*

Isak ends up shoved between Even and Linn at the booth they’re sitting in for dinner and he tries not to focus on how the entire left side of him is humming with electricity everywhere he’s touching Even. He tries to pay attention to the conversation instead, listening to Noora’s story about Eva but after about five minutes he realises he hasn’t heard a word she’s said.

He knows Jonas is right. He knows this is just- a reaction to being subjected to a really attractive guy when he hasn’t hooked up with anyone in a while. He knows after a few days of living with him he’s going to start looking at Even like a normal person and he’ll laugh at the thought of being attracted to him. But right now- right now Isak’s a little distracted.

“So how did you all end up living together?” Even asks when there’s a lull in the conversation. “You seem like a bit of an eclectic friend group.”

“Well Linn and I ended up living together by pure chance,” Eskild informs him, settling in to tell his story. “I was moving out for uni and she and I both applied for the flat. We initially had two other roommates-“

“Oh do you still see them?” Even interjects interestedly.

Eskild snorts, shaking his head. “Oh no, I much prefer Noora and Isak.” He pauses to throw them both an indulgent smile before looking back to Even. “One of them moved to Germany right before Noora came back from Madrid so we had a spare room just when she needed it.”

A private smile passes between Noora and Eskild then and Isak feels his own lips tug up at the sight. Eskild might be a little overbearing at times but he’s easily the most caring person Isak knows. The way he unfailingly surrounds himself with introverts like Isak, Noora and Linn and never actually pushes them, just tries to make them happy, is all the more impressive considering his outgoing personality. Isak will never be able to repay him for all the ways he’s helped him.

“Our fourth roommate, Erik, was a bit of recluse anyway so we didn’t miss him much when he left to move in with his girlfriend,” Eskild continues with a wave of his hand, and Isak suppresses a laugh. He knows for a fact Eskild despised Erik and literally threw a party the night he moved out.

“We had a free room for a while since no one seemed to be looking but then Isak needed a place to stay so it worked out kind of perfectly.”

“Isak and I went to school together,” Noora supplies. “He’s good friends with my friend Eva so when we found out he needed a place to stay it was the option that made the most sense.”

It’s more than Isak had given him earlier and he can feel Even’s curious gaze burning a hole in the side of his head but he doesn’t look up from his food.

“And we’ve been a happy family ever since!” Eskild exclaims, throwing an arm around Noora and squeezing her shoulder.

“It sounds like it,” Even replies and it sounds genuine coming from him, not at all teasing. Isak likes that. He likes that Even seems to take people seriously and actually pay attention to them. Isak has had less than a handful of conversations with him so far but already he can tell that Even’s sincerity isn’t fake.

Conversation moves on after that and they last another half an hour at the restaurant before they migrate to the bar. Once they arrive, Noora and Linn make a beeline for a table in the corner so no one else can claim it and Even offers to get the first round of drinks. After he’s taken everyone’s orders he turns to Isak. “Help me carry them?”

“Sure,” Isak says, ignoring Eskild’s eyebrow waggle and following Even to the bar. He stands at Even’s side – closer than he’d intended with people constantly trying to wedge their way up to the counter to be served – and watches as the bartender sets down first Isak’s beer, followed by Eskild’s gin and tonic, followed by Linn’s daiquiri, and finishing up with a Coke and a Sprite.

Isak knows the Sprite belongs to Noora, the Coke however- “You’re not drinking?”

Even looks at him as he hands the bartender his card. “Part of that tragic backstory I don’t know you well enough to talk about yet,” he says with a wink.

“But how are you ever supposed to tell me the tragic backstory if you don’t get drunk enough to let your guard down?”

Even laughs, handing Isak his and Eskild’s drinks to carry once the bartender has returned his card. “Fair point. Guess you’ll just have to figure out another way to get me to spill all my secrets.”

Isak flushes at the thought, shoulder bumping Even’s as they make the walk back to their table. “Okay but that means you can’t wheedle my tragic backstory out of me when I get drunk tonight. That’s cheating.”

Even casts him a sidelong glance. “Fine. We’ll save it for a late night deep and meaningful when neither of us can sleep.”

Isak huffs a laugh, “Deal.”

*

Despite his warning, Isak manages not to get past tipsy tonight. It’s more for his own sake than anything else – god only know what he’d tell Even with alcohol loosening his tongue. Eskild gets drunk enough for the both of them anyway.

They walk home together the five of them: Eskild linking arms with both Noora and Linn while Isak and Even walk a little bit behind them. Eskild is singing and Linn, in her slightly inebriated state, is actually laughing along. Noora just keeps saying placating, “Okay Eskild”s.

“Regretting moving in with us yet?” Isak asks dryly, hands stuffed in his pockets to ward off the chill.

Even barks out a laugh and suddenly that same chill all but disappears, warmth spreading throughout his insides at the sound. “And miss this? Not a chance,” Even retorts amusedly.

Isak gives him a sceptical look. “Tell me that again in a week and maybe I’ll believe you.”

Even puffs out a breath in surprise. “You mean this is all a façade? Am I about to be ritually sacrificed when I get home?”

“Yeah, I mean I didn’t wanna say anything. But since you asked.”

That startles another laugh out of Even and god, Isak really likes that sound. Even raises his eyebrows at him and Isak finds himself laughing back, a little more comfortable in his skin with the beer quelling his anxiety.

“Well, if this was my final night I guess it was a good one,” Even declares dramatically and Isak rolls his eyes at him, desperately fighting a grin.

Yeah, he thinks, it’s been a good one.

*

Isak manages to get out of another awkward changing–in-front-of-each-other scenario by shrugging on his own pyjamas the second Even goes to use the bathroom. He then spends probably longer than necessary in the kitchen getting a glass of water while he waits for Even to change.

It isn’t until he’s lying in bed with the lights off, Even falling asleep in his own bed only meters away, that Isak remembers the problem.

His insomnia’s been killing him lately.

With the stress of starting college and his mom not doing so well at the moment and his dad continually trying to ingratiate himself into his life, he’s barely slept more than four hours a night for the past three weeks. Normally he reads or researches for his assignments or watches a movie or something to try and tire himself out but he can’t do that when there’s someone else in his room. He’d have to turn on the light or the movie would make too much noise.

So instead he lies awake, staring up at his ceiling and watching it slowly become clearer as his eyes adjust to the darkness. At some point Even’s breathing evens out and becomes heavier and the sound is almost enough to trick Isak’s body into feeling tired too but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t keep his eyes closed for longer than a few minutes.

Watching the light outside his curtains slowly get brighter Isak thinks, yeah. Even might be a problem.

*

Chapter Text

19/09/16-25/09/16

Isak is leaving the kitchen with his instant noodles on Monday night, fully intending on making a beeline for his bedroom, when he’s stopped in the living room.

“Isak,” Eskild whines from where he’s got his head resting in Noora’s lap. “Come watch a movie with us.”

Eskild is sprawled across one of the couches with Noora while Even and Linn are curled up at opposite ends of the other couch. And it looks cosy and inviting, sure, but Isak is also up to his eyeballs in work.

“Can’t, I have an assignment,” he says distractedly, sidestepping a little closer toward his bedroom.

Eskild tuts. “Two hours won’t kill you. Spend some quality time with your roommates! We’re bonding,” he finishes proudly, nodding at the others.

Isak looks longingly towards his room, already knowing he won’t win this argument. He’s considering folding when Even chimes in with, “I’m introducing Noora and Linn to John Hughes.”

“John who?”

Eskild and Even both widen their eyes comically and Isak is so focused on Even’s reaction the sound of Eskild’s loud, “Okay!” makes him jump. He looks back over to the other couch and finds Eskild sitting up, pointing emphatically at the empty spot between Even and Linn. “Sit down, baby Jesus. We’re watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You don’t get a say.”

Accepting defeat with a long-suffering sigh, Isak trudges over to the couch and takes the empty seat in the middle, pulling his noodles closer to his chest out of Linn’s reach and doing his best not to brush against Even. Eskild reaches for the remote to press play when Isak is settled and everyone falls quiet again.

The silence only lasts about twenty minutes, broken first by Noora asking, “Isn’t that the girl from Dirty Dancing?” which starts Even off on a tangent about why Dirty Dancing is one of the best romantic movies of all time. Isak stares at him in disbelief as he speaks, talking with his hands excitedly about the exposition of the montage scenes. There’s something fascinating about the way he explains it with so much passion and Isak finds himself agreeing even though he doesn’t think he’s ever seen Dirty Dancing.

Not long after that conversation has died down and they’ve all returned their attention to the movie Isak lets out a scoff, declaring, “I’ve never done anything even close to that when I skipped school. If I skipped it was to sleep or get to McDonalds before the lunch rush.”

Even casts him a sidelong glance, mouth tugging up in a smirk. “Clearly you weren’t adventurous enough. Don’t worry, we’ll skip uni someday and I’ll take you to a museum.”

Isak bites the inside of his mouth, desperately fending off the smile threatening to break out across his face. He can’t think of anything to say so he settles for nodding a beat too late and turning back to the film.

When he’s sure Even’s no longer looking at him he ducks his head, allowing a private smile to spread across his face. If only for a moment or two.

*

Isak’s first week living with Even goes surprisingly well except for a few things:

  1. He has yet to discover any bad habits of Even’s that make him seem any less attractive
  2. He’s slept a grand total of about eleven hours.

Even has been staying in his room for six days and, if nothing else, they’re able to co-exist peacefully. Even normally gets up before Isak does which means the room is empty when Isak emerges from his fitful sleep. Even is clean but he’s not a neat freak either so he doesn’t get mad when Isak leaves clothes on the floor. And true to his word, Even either works on his bed or stays on campus after class to go to the library which means Isak’s desk remains undisturbed.

Honestly, other than the lack of sleep it’s kind of perfect.

Isak had expected to feel uncomfortable having someone in his space all the time but Even has been really good so far about giving Isak time to himself. If he notices Isak slipping off to their room after dinner he’ll hang out in the living room with the others for a while or go for a shower to give Isak a chance to just spend some time on his own. It’s an unspoken gesture but Isak appreciates it a lot.

But the sleep thing, yeah it’s getting worse.

The fact that Isak’s been dodging a call from his dad all week and that he just got loaded with another chemistry assignment probably isn’t helping either.

The last time things were this bad Isak had just moved out of home and his anxieties about his sexuality had been making him isolate himself and shut everyone out. It’d gotten better when he’d come out to Eskild and subsequently Jonas. For almost all of his third year he’d gotten a full eight hours every night, feeling like a weight had finally been lifted off his shoulders once everyone he loved knew the truth. He’d even made an effort to reconnect with his mom after his father had finally got his head out of his ass and gotten her the help she needed.

Now he feels like he’s back to square one again.

Things had been getting stressful over the past few weeks but now he feels like any trick he did have to make himself fall asleep is useless when it could potentially wake up Even.

People have started noticing too. The first time, Eskild makes a joke about Isak not getting as much sleep with Even in his room but after two or three days of Isak walking into the kitchen in the morning like a zombie and drinking more coffee than should be humanly possible Eskild asks him if he’s okay with a concerned frown creasing his forehead.

He’s seen this before after all.

Isak just shrugs helplessly and says he’s a little stressed over his assignments. Eskild drops it but Isak doesn’t miss the worried glances he throws him when he thinks Isak’s not looking.

Jonas is a different story.

They’re having lunch on Thursday and waiting for Magnus and Mahdi to meet them when he brings it up.

“Is, are you feeling okay?”

Isak looks up from his admittedly depressing sandwich and is hit with the full force of Jonas’ concerned eyebrows. “I’m fine,” he says automatically.

Jonas gives him a look. “The circles under your eyes are so dark it might as well be eyeliner.”

Isak rolls his eyes, avoiding looking back at Jonas’ all too knowing gaze.

“Have you been sleeping?”

Isak stares down his food, shrugging half-heartedly. “I’m just a little stressed.”

“Are you sure?” Jonas presses. “Because the last time you weren’t sleeping-“

“I know, okay?” Isak sighs, cutting him off. “I’m not keeping anything from you. Uni’s just hard.”

“Isak, I’m not worried if you’re keeping things from me, I’m worried if you’re okay.”

Finally, Isak looks up from his food and sees nothing but beseeching sincerity in Jonas’ expression. Isak promised himself a long time ago he would always go to Jonas when he had a problem instead of bottling it up and he’d meant that. He’s just not sure what Jonas can do about this one.

So instead he settles for, “I promise I’ll tell you if it gets worse.”

Jonas relents at that, nudging the chocolate bar he’d bought for himself over to Isak as a peace offering. “Just take care of yourself, Is. Please.”

Isak nods, picking up the bar. “I will. But I’m not sure how much chocolate helps?”

Jonas huffs a laugh, rolling his eyes. “Chocolate always helps, fuck you.”

Isak laughs and doesn’t say anymore when Magnus and Mahdi come blustering over to their table with their own food.

“Why is the line here always so fucking long?” Magnus complains as he slumps into his seat.

“You just need to be patient,” Mahdi advises him, leaning over in his chair and poking at Isak’s half-eaten sandwich. “That looks pathetic, man. Have some of my fries.”

Stealing a few fries off Mahdi’s plate with a grateful smile Isak lets himself get swept up in their conversation and feels himself relax.

He can worry about sleep later.

*

Isak is at his desk, reading through one of the books he took out of the library this morning for his chemistry assignment and making notes. It’s tedious but the chapter he’s reading is interesting, at least. Even is on his own bed watching a movie with his headphones plugged in. The notebook he’s writing in would suggest it’s a film he has to watch for class but Isak is finding that it’s hard to tell with Even.

He has one page left in the chapter when his phone buzzes on the desk. He glances away from the book to see who it is and feels his mood immediately shutter when he sees it’s his father. He doesn’t know how to explain their relationship anymore. He doesn’t hate his dad, despite everything he doesn’t think he ever could, but that deep-set resentment he feels towards him for abandoning him and his mother is still there. Things got a little better when he actually helped Isak’s mom get the treatment she needed but conversations between them are still stilted. His dad has a terrible habit of always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time – it’s probably where Isak gets it from.

Suppressing a sigh, he hits save on his laptop and unlocks his phone to read the full message.

Pappa: Isak, mamma isn’t doing so well at the moment. She’s staying at the care facility for the next few days, it’d be nice if you visited her.

There’s a special kind of sinking feeling that comes with these texts. When Isak had been halfway through his second year at Nissen, just over a year after his father had left, he’d finally done something about Isak’s mom’s mental health. She’d been admitted to a care facility and stayed there right until the start of Isak’s final year. Now she lives at home with weekly visits from her nurse and therapy appointments but there’ve been a few incidences in the past year where she’s had to be checked back into the facility.

Isak’s relationship with his mother has improved a lot in the last year – with her making progress and him finally coming out to her he’s felt closer to her than he has in years. It doesn’t make situations like this any easier though.

He doesn’t realise how long he’s been staring down at his phone until Even’s voice is jolting him back to reality.

“Everything okay?”

Isak snaps his head up, twisting in his chair to look back at Even. His earphones are in his hand and he’s watching Isak with an innocuous expression.

“Yeah, fine,” he says belatedly. “It’s just my dad.”

Even chews on his lip for a moment, gaze flitting down to his laptop and then back up to Isak. “I know we’ve only known each other for a few days but- I’m a good listener. So if you ever wanna talk, the offer’s there.”

“Thanks,” Isak says, feeling genuinely touched at the earnestness in Even’s voice. “It’s just tragic backstory bullshit.”

Even gives him a rueful smile. “Is “tragic backstory” going to be our code word from now on when we don’t wanna talk about things?”

Isak huffs a laugh, shaking his head. “That’s probably not a bad idea.”

“Got it,” Even replies, nodding decisively. “If either of us mentions the words “tragic backstory” the topic’s off limits. I’ll add it to the roommate contract.”

Isak smiles at him but he knows it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“If you’re finished studying you can come watch this movie with me?” Even suggests, nodding down at his laptop.

Isak looks at the textbook and then at the cursor blinking on his laptop screen. He thinks his concentration and motivation levels plummeted the minute his phone buzzed. He can’t see himself getting much else done tonight that’ll be any good to him. “What movie is it?”

“Casablanca,” Even tells him. “I’m watching it for one of my classes but I only started like twenty minutes ago. I don’t mind rewinding?”

Silently deliberating for a moment, Isak turns back to his desk to close his laptop, folding down the corner of the page in his book so he won’t lose his place. “My brain doesn’t work properly after 22:00 anyway.”

Even grins up at him as he pushes himself out of his seat, unplugging the earphones from his laptop. It’s only when he reaches Even’s bed that Isak starts to panic – Even has a single bed, it’s not exactly very roomy. But Even scooches over to make space for him so Isak tentatively climbs onto the mattress and tries to make himself comfortable.

Their shoulders are overlapping and their sides are pressed together and Isak wishes he’d suggested they move to his bed. But there’s nothing he can do about it now so he lets Even balance the laptop between both their laps and relaxes back against the pillow behind him while Even presses play.

Truth be told, Isak finds it difficult to pay attention to the movie. For the first half an hour, he’s so hyper-aware of all the places he and Even are touching that he can’t focus on anything else. When he finally starts to feel at ease it’s mainly because the exhaustion takes over and he’s too tired to be self-conscious. He sinks a little deeper into the pillow, eyes drooping and sending him into that hazy place between sleep and awake.

It’s only when his head drops onto Even’s shoulder that he bolts awake again.

“Sorry!” he blurts out in a rush, pushing himself to sit up straight and feeling his face flush scarlet.

Even sends him a sidelong glance as if he hadn’t even noticed Isak’s head on his shoulder. “It’s okay if you want to sleep. I won’t be offended if you find the movie boring.” His voice is playful and it only causes Isak’s blush to deepen.

“It’s not the movie,” he insists, feeling inexplicably panicked at the thought of Even believing he’s not interested. “I guess I’m more tired than I thought.”

“Time for bed?”

“Probably,” he agrees, smiling weakly. “Thanks, though. Maybe we can finish the movie some other time?”

Even’s smile shouldn’t set his heart racing but the hammering in his chest is too loud to ignore. “Of course we can. Goodnight, Isak.”

“Night.” He slips out of Even’s bed after a pause, thankful he’d had the foresight to change into his pyjamas earlier so he can just crawl straight into his own bed. Even turns off his bedside lamp as soon as Isak’s under his covers and plugs in his earphones again.

Considering how close to sleep he’d been only minutes before, Isak expects to drift off almost immediately but when he closes his eyes sleep doesn’t come. He ends up staying awake until Even finishes the movie. He stays awake while Even puts away his laptop and shuffles out of the room to go to the bathroom. He stays awake while Even climbs back into bed. He stays awake while Even’s breathing slowly evens out.

He stays awake.

*

Before Even moved in Isak’s Saturdays were usually dedicated to sleeping in for as long as possible and then stumbling into the kitchen for something vaguely resembling breakfast and retreating to his room again. (Or alternatively, Eskild rudely waking him up around noon and bothering him until he got up.)

Now, however, he wakes up to the smell of bacon wafting down the hall through his cracked open door, accompanied by the tinny sound of the radio playing in the other room. He pushes himself up on his elbows, face scrunched up in confusion. It’s definitely too late for Noora to be cooking breakfast and bacon’s not really her style anyway – she’s more of a granola and natural yoghurt type.

Feeling slightly dazed, Isak ambles out of bed, grabbing a hoodie off the back of his desk chair and shrugging it over his head as he pads down the hall. When he reaches the door to the kitchen he peeks inside and feels his eyes widen in shock at the sight of Even standing at the stove, pushing bacon around in a pan with a spatula.

Isak doesn’t recall making a noise but Even must sense his presence because he looks up after a moment, offering Isak a bright smile. “Good morning!”

“Morning?” Isak greets confusedly.

“Want some breakfast?” Even asks cheerfully. “I always make way too much.”

It’s only then that Isak notices the scrambled eggs heating in another pan. This all feels so bizarre, this doesn’t feel like Isak’s kitchen. It’s like he’s stepped into a parallel universe. (Where Even is his boyfriend and this is a typical Saturday morning.)

(And that’s a thought he should not entertain.)

“Uh yeah. Thanks,” he answers belatedly, taking a few measured steps into the kitchen and moving to sit at the table. “Where are the others?”

“Linn’s still in her room,” Even tells him over his shoulder. “Noora’s meeting the girls for brunch and Eskild’s in the shower.”

Isak nods even though Even can’t see him. “Can I do anything to help?”

“Nah, this is just about done!” Even says, turning off the knobs at the stove and dishing the eggs out onto two plates and Isak definitely didn’t miss Even reaching for a second plate in the last two minutes which means that plate was already out. Had he been planning on making breakfast for Isak the whole time?

Again, a thought Isak probably shouldn’t entertain.

Before he can think to say anything else Even is swivelling around and presenting a plate of eggs and bacon to Isak, setting his own down in front of the opposite seat. “Do you want a drink?” he asks, turning to the fridge presumably in search of the orange juice.

“Yeah, thanks,” Isak says absentmindedly, still not entirely sure what’s happening right now.

Even returns moments later with two glasses and two forks, finally taking up residence on the other side of the table. Isak takes that as permission to start eating and has to suppress a moan at the first forkful of eggs.

He mustn’t be that successful because he catches Even grinning at him from across the table. “Good?”

Isak nods, wiping his mouth and hoping his cheeks aren’t quite as red as they feel.

“The secret’s a tablespoon of sour cream,” Even tells him conspiratorially.

They eat in companionable silence for a few minutes but when Isak feels Even’s eyes on him he looks up.

“I didn’t keep you up last night, did I?” Even asks, frown etching into his forehead.

Isak blinks in surprise; he hadn’t thought Even noticed he was awake after he went to bed. “No, why?”

“You were just tossing and turning a lot after you went to bed,” Even explains with a shrug. “Thought the glow of my laptop might’ve been too bright even with the light off.”

“Nah,” Isak says, brushing him off. He had trouble sleeping long before Even showed up and sitting in Even’s bed last night had been the earliest he’d dozed off in weeks. “I’m just a restless sleeper.”

Even nods, not looking 100% convinced. “Me living here isn’t a problem for you, is it?” he asks, trepidation seeping into his voice and making Isak furrow his brow.

“Why would it be?”

Even sighs, staring down at his breakfast. “I feel like I’m constantly in your space and you can’t relax with me around. If this is more than you signed up for, it’s okay. I can leave.”

Isak stares at him, needing a second to digest what Even’s suggesting. He wants to leave? Or, what’s probably more surprising, Isak realises he really, really doesn’t want him to leave. “No!” he says when his brain finally catches up with his mouth. “No, it’s okay, honestly. I- it’s nothing to do with you.”

Even still doesn’t look like he believes him so Isak swallows down the anxiety he feels at divulging any personal information and says, “I have insomnia. It gets pretty bad when I’m stressed and starting uni’s been a big transition so I haven’t been sleeping well lately. It’s nothing to do with you.”

Even’s face is blank and Isak chews the inside of his cheek while he waits for him to say something.

“That’s- sorry, Isak, I didn’t know,” he says as if it’s somehow his fault Isak’s not sleeping.

Isak shrugs. “I’m used to it.”

“Have you ever gone to the doctor about it?”

Isak huffs a regretful laugh, thinking back to the ill-fated but somehow still helpful trip to the school doctor at the end of second year. “Once. Back when being in the closet was eating me alive. She told me to try talking to someone.”

“Like a therapist?” Even asks.

Isak shrugs again. “She suggested it but in the end I just talked to my friend Jonas.”

“You came out to him?” Even guesses.

Isak nods, “It actually helped a lot. I started sleeping better. I haven’t really had this problem in almost a year.”

Even smiles sympathetically, pushing his eggs around his plate while he deliberates something in his head. He meets Isak’s gaze and it feels a little too knowing considering they’ve only known each other for a week. “Well my offer from last night stands. You can talk to me, if you want to.”

Isak lets a genuine smile twist up the corners of his mouth. “Thanks.”

“Seriously, just wake me up, I don’t care,” Even continues. “I know what it’s like not to be able to sleep.”

Isak raises an eyebrow, opening his mouth to ask when Even cuts him off.

“Tragic backstory,” he clarifies with a quirk of his lips.

Isak rolls his eyes exasperatedly, fighting a smile. “I just told you a bit of mine! For free and everything!”

Even’s eyes are sparkling with something playful and it makes Isak’s tummy do flips. “Ask me tonight if you can’t sleep.”

*

Isak never actually intends to wake Even up. Despite their joking that morning, he doesn’t want to disrupt his sleep schedule or make him divulge any information about himself that he’s not ready to. Considering the lock he keeps on his own past, he doesn’t expect or need Even to tell him anything he doesn’t want.

But it’s 3:41 in the morning and Isak’s been trying to get to sleep for nearly four hours. He’s desperate.

So he tentatively murmurs, “Even?” into the quiet of the room and waits for a response.

The answer is a sleep-heavy, “Hmm?” a few moments later.

“Are you awake?” he asks timidly, squeezing his eyes shut at how nervous he feels. This is stupid, he shouldn’t be doing this, he should just tell Even to go back to sleep.

But then he hears a sighed out, “Yeah. Can’t sleep?”

“No,” he whispers.

“Alright, ask whatever you want,” Even mumbles and Isak can hear him shifting around on the bed. “My defences are down.”

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to,” Isak says softly.

Even is silent a moment and then he murmurs, “I won’t.”

Isak bites his lip, considering his words carefully. “What did you mean when you said you know what it’s like not to be able to sleep?”

The silence is even longer this time and Isak is almost convinced Even has fallen back to sleep but then Even’s gravelly voice is breaking the quiet.

“I’m bipolar,” he says. “I don’t really sleep when I’m manic; I don’t need to. When I’m depressed I oversleep but sometimes I have days where I can’t shut my brain off and I end up staring at the wall for eighteen hours. So yeah, I know the feeling.”

Isak allows himself a moment to take in the information. He knows a little bit about what Even’s talking about because of Magnus’ mom; though all he really knows about her is that she makes the best spaghetti he’s ever tasted and that she likes to give all the boys a kiss on the cheek whenever they come over.

“My mom’s schizophrenic,” he confesses and he’s not sure what makes him say it. Maybe it’s because it feels like Even will understand. Maybe it’s just because he really needs to talk. “That’s probably one of the other reasons why I can’t sleep. She’s a lot better now than she was before but um, when my dad text last night- she’s uh, she’s going through a bad patch at the moment, I guess.”

“That must be hard,” Even says finally.

“So is having bipolar probably,” Isak returns.

“It’s okay,” Even whispers. “I’m okay.”

Isak doesn’t know what to say next but then his mind strays to their conversation from last night. “You can go back to sleep if you want,” he says quietly. “But um, could we maybe watch the end of that movie?”

Silence and then, “I’ll get my laptop.”

“We can watch it on my bed,” Isak says. “There’s more room.”

A moment later the room is lighting up from the glow of Even’s laptop and Isak can hear his soft footfalls as he shuffles from his own bed to Isak’s.

Isak pushes over to the left side, closer to his nightstand, to give Even room. And part of him feels strange because this is strange – he’s inviting Even into his bed – but another part of him just really needs to sleep.

Even sets the laptop on the mattress between them and the distance between them is bigger this time; it helps Isak breathe a little easier. Even presses play and turns the volume down until it’s just loud enough to be heard.

He lies down then, curled on his side toward Isak so he can keep his eyes on the film and after a moment’s hesitation, Isak shifts around to mirror him. Even plays the movie from the beginning again and Isak considers telling him they can just skip to where they stopped last night but he doesn’t really feel like speaking anymore.

He tries to pay attention to the movie this time and he actually finds himself keeping up with the storyline for the most part. But around halfway through his eyelids start to feel heavy and the sound of the film starts to filter in and out, like tuning a radio.

He just needs to close his eyes for a second.

When he opens them again the room is almost completely bright and Even’s fast asleep in his own bed on the other side of the room but the space he’d vacated on Isak’s mattress is still warm when Isak slides his hand over it.

If Isak shifts over to fall back to sleep on the right side of his bed, well, no one needs to know.

*

Chapter Text

03/10/16-08/10/16

Isak expects things to feel awkward after the whole falling-asleep-with-Even-in-his-bed thing but if anything, he feels somehow closer to Even. He feels like he understands him a little better. He knows Even revealed something deeply personal by telling Isak he’s bipolar and Isak doesn’t intend to abuse that information. He doesn’t feel the need to pry or know more. Regardless of their jokes about their personal lives, he doesn’t need Even to tell him anything else.

When it comes to himself, he can admit he feels a little bit lighter having told Even about his mother and not being able to sleep. Even though Jonas and Eskild know too, it still felt like a weight off his shoulders telling someone else.

He still hasn’t really been able to sleep and he hasn’t worked up the nerve to wake Even up again since that Saturday but midnight conversations aside, Isak likes getting to know him.

There’s something comfortable about Even’s presence.

Somehow after only a little over two weeks, he manages to insert himself into Isak’s life as if he’s always been there.

Where Isak used to lounge on the couch alone to watch TV, now Even sprawls across the other couch and makes a running commentary about whatever they’re watching. Where Isak used to cook himself a mediocre dinner of questionable ingredients, now Even helps him cook or just literally shares his own dinner with him. Where Isak used to get the tram to uni alone on a Wednesday because he started earlier than Noora and Eskild, now Even comes with him, squashed against Isak’s side during the busy morning commute in order to make his own 9am class.

In general, Isak likes to be alone. He’s easily irritated and there are only a select few people he can stand for an extended period of time but there’s something about Even that just makes him easy to be around.

He’s unassuming and doesn’t push and doesn’t make Isak feel drained like a lot of people do.

Right now they’re riding the tram home together – a coincidence, they’d bumped to each other at the tram stop near campus; apparently they finish at the same time on Tuesday’s too – and Isak is ranting about his assignment.

It’s only when he glances over and catches Even’s quietly amused expression that he realises he’s been complaining for about ten minutes without a pause.

“I’ve been talking too much, haven’t I?” he asks sheepishly and Even barks out a laugh.

“By all means! Tell me more about how your chemistry lecturer is in fact the spawn of Satan.”

Isak rolls his eyes, feeling his cheeks heat up as he bites back a smile. “Sorry. This assignment’s just kicking my ass.”

“Maybe you need a night off?” Even suggests. “I’m heading out with some of my friends tonight if you wanna join?”

Isak’s stomach fizzes at the thought of going out with Even but just as quickly he deflates, remembering he already has plans. “I can’t,” he says regretfully. “Sana’s coming over to try and work on the assignment. We’re hoping between us we can figure it out.”

Even’s face shutters slightly and his smile doesn’t seem as genuine when he replies. “Oh. Okay, some other time then.”

“Sure,” he agrees. “I mean, I’m gonna need to get wasted when I finally get this assignment off my back.”

Even’s grin returns and he bumps Isak’s shoulder with his own. “Do I get the honour of being there to witness that?”

“If you don’t spend the night personally buying me beer I’ll honestly be a little offended.”

Even laughs, sending him a teasing wink. “Can’t wait.”

*

He and Sana sit on the floor in front of the coffee table in the living room, notes and textbooks spread across the table with their laptops taking up the only remaining available space.

“You’re interpreting the question wrong,” she tells him impatiently. “It says, “Critically analyse.” That means you’re supposed to evaluate the theory, not compare it with another one.”

“Comparing and contrasting it with another theory is part of analysing it!” Isak huffs, pointing at his screen where he’s pulled up their lecture slides. “She did it herself last week!”

Sana rolls her eyes, heaving a long-suffering sigh. “If she wanted us to compare and contrast the question would say, “Compare and contrast,”.”

Isak is about to argue his point further when Even emerges from the hallway. “Having fun?” he asks Isak, eyebrows quirking amusedly, before nodding a hello to Sana.

“I love chemistry,” Isak drawls, feeling a preening grin spread across his face when he makes Even laugh.

Sana’s piercing gaze makes his expression falter slightly but he refuses to look at her.

“Don’t work too hard,” Even tells him. “Your first year of uni is supposed to be about hangovers and regrets.”

Isak snorts. “Is that what you’re doing tonight?”

“One, I’m in my second year so my days of regret are over,” Even says, ticking his answer off on his fingers. “Two, I’m not drinking. And three, I can’t let myself get a hangover when I’ve got an overcrowded tram to catch at 8:30 in the morning with my favourite roommate.” He bats his eyelashes at Isak, offering him a winning smile.

Isak ducks his head, hiding his embarrassed smile and giving himself a moment to compose himself. When he looks back at Even he’s managed to somehow contort his face into something resembling confident. “If you’re not at the front door by 8:20 I’m leaving without you.”

Even laughs again, pressing a hand over his heart. “I promise.”

Isak lets out a quiet chuckle, purposely avoiding Sana’s gaze. “You leaving now?”

“Yeah, I’m meeting the guys there,” Even says, grabbing his denim jacket off the hook by the front door. “Don’t wait up!” he singsongs over his shoulder, flashing them both a grin.

Isak smiles, trying to ignore the fluttering in his stomach that Even’s words elicit. “See you later.”

“Bye!” Even calls, pulling open the front door and slipping outside.

There’s a split second of silence once the door closes and then Sana rounds on him.

“So you and the new roommate seem to be getting along well,” she says conversationally.

Isak looks up from his laptop screen and finds Sana observing him with a calculating smirk.

“What?” he asks, feeling unnerved. Why does she always look like she knows everything?

“Nothing,” she replies with a carless shrug of her shoulders. “You just seem friendly, is all.”

“We’re sharing a room; we kind of don’t have a choice.”

Sana gives him an unimpressed look. “Because you’re not irritable at all and the most easy-going person in the world to live with,” she says sarcastically.

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” he demands.

Sana lets out a derisive snort in the face of his offended expression. “Isak, you don’t like people as a general rule. It’s why we actually get along.”

Isak feels himself smile a little at that. She has a point.

“I’m merely pointing out that you usually don’t warm to people this quickly,” she continues innocuously.

“I- yeah, well. Even’s nice,” he finishes uselessly.

Sana nods, more to herself than anything else. “I’m sure he is.”

“Can we get back to our assignment now, please?” he asks, facing back towards the coffee table and picking up a random page of notes. “I didn’t take you for a slacker, Sanasol.”

Sana doesn’t reply but Isak can see her smirking at her laptop out of the corner of his eye.

Dammit.

*

Isak is awake when Even gets home at two in the morning.

Even tries to be quiet as he tiptoes into the room but he ends up tripping over Isak’s jeans and hissing out a, “fuck!” as he catches himself on the wardrobe. Isak pushes himself up on his elbows, squinting his eyes at the glare of the flashlight on Even’s phone that he’d been using to navigate the room. When Even rights himself his eyes fall on Isak and he whispers, “Shit. Did I wake you?”

Isak shakes his head, dropping down onto his pillow again. “I was already awake,” he sighs.

He’d called his mom after Sana left and it was fine, she’d sounded good, but the whole situation is weighing on his mind regardless. The fact that he still doesn’t feel all that confident in that stupid fucking chemistry assignment isn’t really helping either.

“Still having trouble sleeping?” Even asks in surprise and Isak can just make out the shape of him pulling his t-shirt over his head. He averts his eyes to the ceiling instead.

“Mm,” he hums noncommittally. He just wants one fucking good night’s sleep. Just one. Is that so much to ask for?

Even doesn’t reply and for a moment the only sound is him changing and pulling back his covers to climb into bed. “Would talking help?” he asks when it sounds like he’s finally tucked up in bed.

“Maybe,” Isak replies quietly. “Did you have a good night?”

“Yeah,” Even says and Isak can hear the smile in his voice. “We’ve all been pretty busy now that the semester is in full swing so it was nice to catch up all of us together.”

“Where’d you go?”

“Just some house party,” Even answers. “But, I mean, the pre-game is always the best part of going out.”

Isak nods despite the fact Even can’t see him. “You know the way you said you don’t drink?” he asks slowly, tripping over the words slightly. “Is that to do with your bipolar?”

“Yeah,” Even replies. “I mean I’ll occasionally have one or two but in general I try to avoid it. It messes with my medication.”

Isak hums in acknowledgment, thinking over his next question carefully. “Do you- were you always good about managing it?”

Even doesn’t answer right away and with every passing second Isak feels like he’s crossed a line. He’s about to apologise and say forget it when Even speaks.

“No,” he says honestly. “I was a teenager when I was diagnosed and I guess I didn’t really want to accept it yet? So I drank at parties and smoked way more than I should’ve and ignored the signs whenever I felt myself slipping. But um, then I had a really bad episode halfway through third year and I ended up having to repeat so it kind of served as a wakeup call, y’know?”

“Yeah,” Isak whispers.

“So I started taking better care of myself after that. Sonja was pretty regimental about it too.”

Isak can hear the resentment creeping into Even’s voice and it surprises him. “Is that part of why you broke up?”

Even lets out a quiet noise of confirmation and sighs. “I know she meant well but it felt like she was controlling me, y’know? It just- it didn’t feel like a relationship anymore. I felt like a burden.”

“I don’t think you could ever be a burden,” Isak murmurs, barely above a whisper, and the truth of the words surprises him a bit. If anything, Even staying in his room should feel like a burden. But it never has.

Even’s, “Thanks,” is so quiet Isak hardly hears it but it makes his chest clench nonetheless.

“Why do you ask anyway?” Even asks after a moment, correctly guessing, “Worried about your mom?”

“She had to be checked back into the care facility,” Isak confesses. “I called her earlier and she sounded okay but I’m just- worried, I guess.”

“She’ll be okay,” Even says softly. “Progress isn’t linear, you know.”

“Yeah.” The word comes out a little choked and Isak is surprised to find his throat feeling tight. He’s just so tired and stressed and worried and he needs to fucking sleep. He screws his eyes shut, scrubbing at them with the heels of his hands and letting out a shaky breath. Just one night. One fucking night.

“Isak,” Even calls gently, making Isak lower his hands again. “Can I ask you something?”

“Mhm,” Isak answers even though it comes out too quiet.

“When’s the last time you hugged someone?”

The question pulls him up short. He’d been about to say the boys hug him all the time but he doesn’t think Even means one-armed claps on the back. Even Eskild’s tight squeezes that he worms Isak into sometimes are more playful than anything else. And any hug he gives his mother is usually too tentative to last more than a few seconds. The truth is, he can’t really remember the last time he had a proper, comforting hug from someone.

“I don’t know,” he whispers eventually.

There’s silence for a moment and then he hears Even’s feet hitting the hardwood floor. One, two, three, four steps and Even’s lifting the other side of his duvet.

“What are you doing?” he asks confusedly, voice sounding too hoarse considering he hasn’t slept a wink.

“I’m fucking hugging you,” Even huffs. “You need it.”

With that, Even climbs into the empty space in his bed, hands reaching out for Isak and pulling him back against his chest. Isak lets out a full-body shiver when they lock into place, Even’s arms looping around his middle while his knees tuck up behind Isak’s. Hesitantly, Isak folds his own arms over Even’s where they’re crossed on his tummy, closing his eyes against the swell of emotion he feels at being held for the first time in so long.

“Is this okay?” Even asks, his words muffled by Isak’s t-shirt covered shoulder.

He doesn’t think he’s strong enough to speak so he just nods, knowing Even will be able to feel it.

They fall quiet then, slowly becoming comfortable in their positions and Isak finds his limbs growing increasingly heavy as he settles. Even’s hand slides over his stomach, gentle and slow, and the touch is more tender than anything he’s experienced in so long it almost makes his eyes well up. Even’s chest is rising and falling against his back and Isak feels a special kind of security when he notices their breaths syncing up.

Releasing a shaky exhale, he tightens his hand on Even’s wrist and whispers, “Thank you.”

“Good night, Isak,” Even mumbles.

It doesn’t take long after that, with Even surrounding him and keeping him warm, for Isak to drift off.

*

Isak wakes up five minutes before his alarm the next morning, cocooned in warmth and feeling well-rested for the first time in weeks.

He has a brief moment where he buries deeper under the covers before he recognises the arms around his waist and the chest pressed against his back. His eyes dart open in panic but the slow breathing behind his ear tells him Even is still fast asleep. As quietly as he can, Isak picks up his phone from the nightstand to silence his alarm before it goes off and carefully eases himself out from underneath Even’s arms.

He allows himself a handful of seconds to linger on the sight of Even sleeping soundly in his bed before he tiptoes out of the room and escapes to the shower.

Under the hot spray, he tries to clear his head. What the hell happened last night? How did they even get to that point? And the thing is, it’s innocent, really. They cuddled and slept in the same bed yet somehow Isak feels more exposed and vulnerable than he ever has with a one night stand.

He shuts the shower off reluctantly, making the hesitant trip back through the apartment to his room. He relaxes somewhat when he hears Even bustling around in the kitchen even though he knows he’s just delaying the inevitable. He takes him time getting changed, towel drying his hair absently with one hand while he stuffs his notebooks back in his bag.

His covers are rumpled from when Even got out of bed and Isak wants nothing more than to crawl back under them and disappear into that comforting, sleep-soft place he’d sunk into last night. But when he checks the time on his phone and sees it’s 8:17 he sighs – they need to leave if they’re going to make the tram on time.

He steps out of his room and makes his way to the living room, finding Even already standing at the front door when he gets there. Even looks up at his arrival, offering him quiet smile. “Morning.”

“Morning,” Isak mumbles, feeling shaky under Even’s careful gaze.

“Ready to go?”

Isak nods, slipping out through the front door when Even opens it for him.

They walk to the tram stop in silence and it’s not their usual, it’s-too-early-to-speak silence. Isak can feel the tension between them like a physical barrier, forcing them apart rather than letting them walk shoulder to shoulder like they normally do.

But there’s no avoiding one another on the tram; it’s packed with commuters and they’re lucky to find a spot next to one of the poles in between a businessman and a couple of teenagers on their way to school. They’re practically chest to chest where they stand and Isak has no other choice but to bear it unless he wants to turn his back completely to Even.

“Did you have breakfast this morning?” Even asks when a few more minutes of uncomfortable silence have passed.

Isak looks up at the sound of his voice, momentarily startled as he tries to register the question. Food had been the last thing on his mind this morning. “Uh, no. I guess I forgot,” he mutters, finding it difficult to maintain eye contact, especially under Even’s penetrating gaze.

He’s busy staring at the zipper of his jacket when Even’s hand appears in his line of sight holding out a cereal bar.

He raises his head again, mouth dropped open in an attempt to speak while Even carefully folds the bar into his slack hand.

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you know,” he says and there’s something in his smile, as if it’s a peace offering for a fight they’ve never had.

“Thanks,” Isak says quietly, smiling weakly in return.

“Isak,” Even says. “Whatever you’re overthinking right now, it’s okay.”

Isak pauses in surprise, blinking at Even while he tries to slow the ratcheting of his heartbeat.

“Really,” Even promises lowly. “It’s okay.”

Isak wants to reply but he doesn’t know what to say so he just nods, smiling in silent thanks. Judging by Even’s own smile he can tell what Isak isn’t saying. The rest of their journey passes quietly but it’s different now, more comfortable. And when they arrive on campus Even’s soft, “See you at home,” makes something indescribable bloom in his chest.

*

His good mood carries through to the rest of the day and when he meets the boys for lunch they notice almost instantly.

“What’s this?” Jonas exclaims, eyes widening comically. “Isak Valtersen is smiling and doesn’t look dead on his feet?!”

Isak roll his eyes but it doesn’t dim his smile as he drops into the empty seat waiting for him. “Shut up,” he mutters.

“What’s your secret?” Jonas persists, eyes gleaming – but Isak can see the relief hidden in his expression.

“Just got a good night’s sleep last night,” Isak shrugs. “That’s all.”

“Finally,” Magnus declares around a mouthful of his sandwich. “You’ve been so pissy lately.”

Isak rounds on him, offended. “No, I haven’t!”

“You’ve been a little mopey,” Mahdi amends. “It’s fine, you’re tired. We mostly ignore it, bro.”

“Some friends you are,” Isak scoffs but he’s happy. For the first time in almost a month – pretty much since uni began, honestly – he’s gotten a decent night’s sleep. And sure, it ended up only being about five hours but somehow those five hours of real sleep rather than the fitful dozing he’s been experiencing for weeks actually make him feel rested. He’s not instantly better, he still feels a little sluggish, but it’s a step in the right direction.

“Man, we’re happy you’re sleeping again,” Jonas says, expression suddenly serious as he reaches over to squeeze Isak’s shoulder. “We mean it.”

Isak nods, allowing himself a moment to smile gratefully at each of them before he shakes his head and lets the tension break. Magnus relaxes back in his chair again while Mahdi and Jonas return to their lunch and Isak goes digging in his bag for his food. “Enough about my sleeping habits,” he says as he peels open the tinfoil his sandwich is wrapped in. “What’s up?”

“Eva’s having a party on Friday,” Magnus says. “I bumped into her and Vilde earlier. She said to say it you guys.”

“Sick,” Mahdi grins. “She throws good parties.”

Isak hums in agreement. There’s a certain kind of comfort he feels going to parties of people he knows at places he knows. And he hasn’t seen Eva in a while anyway.

“Sounds good,” Jonas says and Isak can feel his eyes on him when he pauses. “You should, uh, invite that new roommate of yours, Issy.”

Isak looks up, face instantly twisting into a scowl when he notices Jonas’ smirk. Fucker.

“Oh yeah, what’s his name again? Even?” Mahdi asks, oblivious to the daggers Isak is glaring at Jonas. “How’s that whole thing going?”

“Yeah,” Magnus chimes in. “You haven’t told us much about him.”

Isak is going to kill Jonas.

The thing is, he hasn’t really told his friends about Even beyond his first conversation with Jonas. He’s not good at bringing up crushes of his own accord! And he’s been secretly hoping it’ll just go away if he doesn’t talk about it. But after last night…

Isak thinks it’s becoming a bit of a hopeless cause now.

“Yeah, Even,” he mutters, directing his answer to Mahdi before looking at the others. “Things have been going fine, he’s nice.”

“Not like, using your stuff or anything?” Magnus asks.

“Nope,” Isak says, praying his voice sounds as even and casual as it does in his head. “It’s been chill.”

There’s silence for a brief  moment and then Magnus’ eyes widen and he points an accusatory finger at Isak. “Holy shit, you like him!”

Isak rears back, spluttering out a response. “Wh- I do not! I-“

“Oh my god, give it up, Is!” Jonas cackles, bent double in his seat. “Just tell them.”

“You knew?!” Mahdi demands, gaze snapping to Jonas. “We not good enough for you, Isak?”

“It’s not that,” Isak huffs, “I just-“

“Fy faen, would you stop making excuses and just tell us the details, please?” Magnus complains.

Isak looks from one expectant face to the next and slumps in his chair. “Fuck, fine.”

Jonas crows happily, clapping his hands together, as they all edge their chairs closer to hear him better.

“He’s-“ He falls silent for a moment, trying to think how he could possibly quantify the feelings swirling inside his chest every time he’s around Even. In the end he thinks back to his conversation with Jonas from right after Even moved in. “Jonas, you said after a couple of weeks I wouldn’t like him as much because I’d notice all his gross habits or he’d get on my nerves or whatever. But it’s been a couple of weeks and I only like him more,” he groans forlornly, slouching over the table and burying his head in his arms.

“Well, why do you like him?” Magnus asks which is actually a very reasonable question for him. Isak is impressed.

Isak pushes himself up again, sighing as he tries to think of the best way to describe it. “He’s just- really easy to talk to and I feel, like, comfortable with him.” He shakes his head, “I can’t explain it but it feels like I’ve known him longer than two and a half weeks.”

“Well, I mean, sharing a room would probably do that,” Mahdi says. “Being in one another’s most personal space all the time is gonna make you grow closer than if you were just living in the same apartment.”

Isak nods. “And that’d be fine if we were just friends but I don’t think I want to be just friends,” he admits, voice trailing off as he reaches the end of his sentence.

“Are you any closer to figuring out how he feels about the whole thing?” Jonas asks and Isak’s mind immediately flashes to last night.

He supposes that could’ve been considered platonic cuddling. He and Jonas have cuddled before, right after Isak’s dad left and he was a mess. But it just- it felt different. This feels different.

“I don’t know,” he answers honestly. “Part of me hopes so but I don’t know if that’s just wishful thinking.”

“Okay,” Jonas says decisively. “You’re inviting him on Friday. You need a second opinion on this, We’ll tell you if he likes you.”

Isak raises an eyebrow, huffing out a laugh. “I’m pretty sure Eskild has better gaydar than you three.”

Jonas rolls his eyes. “It’s not about gaydar, it’s about relationships. I can tell when two people like each other, trust me.”

“Jonas has a point, you know,” Mahdi says. “Plus Eskild lives with both of you; he’s too close to the situation. We’re outside observers. We can give you an objective opinion.”

Isak casts them a doubtful look. “You’re my best friends. How is that objective?”

“For fuck’s sake, will you just invite him?” Jonas laughs exasperatedly.

“Fine,” Isak huffs.

*

Isak goes to bed early that night, intending on trying to get a full eight hours sleep and spurred on by the success of the night before, but by midnight he’s accepted that tonight is probably going to be like every other night this month.

The fact that the only two times he’s slept properly recently both have the common denominator of Even is not lost on him but he’s not quite brave enough to reach out. Mostly because he feels stupid – what is he? A kid who can’t sleep without his stuffed animal?

But by 3am he’s desperate.

He’s desperate and he just wants to sleep.

“Even,” he calls, not loud enough to disturb the quiet of their room but loud enough that hopefully Even will hear him.

A beat or two of silence and then-

“Yeah?”

Isak inhales a shuddery breath, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and entirely unsure about how to ask for what he wants. In the end he settles for a murmured, “I can’t sleep.”

Even pauses for a moment. “Want me to come over?” he asks, voice soft around the edges with sleep.

Isak closes his eyes and whispers, “Yes.”

He doesn’t move until he hears Even padding across the room, lifting the covers and letting in a brief chill that makes goosebumps erupt over Isak’s body before it’s erased by his warmth. Even crawls under the blankets and Isak only hesitates for half a second before he sinks into the comfort of Even’s arms.

Even curls around him, face tucked up against the nape of Isak’s neck and hands spreading across Isak’s torso.

“I’m sorry,” Isak says in a hushed voice, because he feels like he has to. He feels ridiculous but he’s too tired for the shame to really eat at him, too comforted by Even’s presence to be strong enough to allow him to let go.

“Don’t be, Isak,” Even says gently, voice tickling the back of Isak’s neck. “You’re allowed to need this.”

The words make Isak’s eyes burn and he closes them in case any tears try to slip out. “Okay.”

Even rubs over his stomach, giving his shoulder the gentlest head-butt that’s so quietly affectionate Isak very nearly melts into the mattress. “Just try to sleep.”

Isak nods, pulling the blankets a little tighter around them.

“There’s a party at my friend, Eva’s, house on Friday,” he murmurs after a moment. “You can come if you want.”

He’s not sure but he thinks he almost feels Even smile against the place where his neck meets his shoulder. “That sounds fun.”

“Cool,” Isak whispers.

“Cool,” Even replies and he’s definitely smiling now, Isak can hear it.

“Goodnight, Even.”

“Night, Isak.”

*

Isak slips out of bed in the morning before Even wakes up. But that doesn’t stop Even from ending up in his bed once again Thursday night. By the time Friday evening rolls around Isak’s had three full nights’ sleep and he actually feels mostly human again. He and Even still haven’t really talked about it. It’s just this unspoken thing they only acknowledge with vague words during the day or silent understanding during the night.

But something has shifted between them, he can feel it.

Isak offers up the kollektiv for their pre-game before Eva’s party, mostly because he’d like as much control of the situation as possible since Even is coming with them and at least his flat is his territory.

Noora and Eskild have already left to help Eva set up and Linn is in her room which means it’s just Isak and Even while they wait for the boys to arrive. Isak busies himself with raiding his designated shelf in their cupboard for the bags of chips he knows he bought the other day.

“So how intimidated should I be about meeting your friends?” Even asks from his seat at the kitchen table.

Isak looks over his shoulder, face scrunched up in derision. “Not even a little bit. They’re three overgrown babies.”

Even barks out a laugh. “Good to know.”

Isak is about to warn him about how Magnus will likely say something inappropriate and/or offensive within five minutes of meeting him when the doorbell buzzes. Speak of the devils.

“I’ll get it,” Isak says. “Do you mind grabbing the beer and bringing it into the living room?”

Even gives him a soldier’s salute that makes Isak roll his eyes, though it’s mostly to hide the disgustingly fond look he gets on his face. Even’s not allowed to be hot and adorable. He has to pick one.

Isak buzzes the boys up and waits by the door while they climb the stairs. As soon as they’re through the door he’s on the receiving end of a back-clap from Jonas, a high five from Mahdi and an enthusiastic bear hug from Magnus. And despite the anxiety he’s feeling over tonight, he’s happy to see them.

They bustle through the threshold, all stumbling to a halt comically behind the couch once they realise Even is sitting there. Isak would laugh if he didn’t feel so nervous.

“Guys, this is Even,” he announces, gesturing to Even – which is a fairly useless action considering all three of the boys are paying Isak absolutely no attention and gaping at him in thinly veiled curiosity.

But his words manage to spring them into action and Jonas steps forward. “Jonas,” he greets, offering a hand that Even leans forward to shake.

Isak watches bemusedly as Mahdi follows suit and introduces himself and then literally facepalms when Magnus practically bowls Even over with a hug and exclaims, “We’ve heard so much about you!”

And this is before they have alcohol in their systems.

Isak suppresses a sigh and joins the boys on the couch, pointedly ignoring Magnus waggling his eyebrows when he takes a seat next to Even.

“So, Even, man, you go to UiO too, right?” Jonas asks and Isak is silently thanking whatever deity exists that his best friend is always so reliable at dispelling awkward situations.

“Yeah,” Even answers. “Film and Media Studies.”

“Sick. Are you working on any projects right now?”

That sets Even and Jonas off on an enthusiastic conversation about the concept for Even’s film and Isak feels something settle in him at how they instantly seem to click. It’s nice that his best friend can get along with his…Even.

Isak mentally scolds himself at the slip-up and lets Mahdi and Magnus pull him into a debate about how many chicks Magnus is going to strike out with tonight.

“Isak, please,” Magnus is begging a few minutes later.

“No,” Isak snorts, taking a slug of his beer.

Please be my wingman, bro.”

Magnus’ pleas seem to be enough to shake Even and Jonas out of their conversation and they both look up.

“What’s going on?” Even asks.

“Isak refuses to be my wingman,” Magnus sulks before twisting back to Isak and redoubling his efforts. “I’ll buy you beer for the next month. Come on, man. You’re the most charming out of all of us. You’ve got mad game with chicks.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “Magnus. I don’t like girls.”

Jonas and Mahdi crack up, sniggering into their beers and when Isak chances a glance at Even he finds him grinning amusedly down at his drink.

“I know that,” Magnus huffs. “Doesn’t change the fact you got any girl you wanted at Nissen without even trying.”

“That’s the point. I didn’t want any of those girls,” Isak says, shaking his head and biting back a smirk at Magnus’ pitiful expression. “Besides that had nothing to do with my personality. I’m just hotter than you.”

“Oi, check the ego,” Mahdi laughs. “When’s the last time you hooked up with a guy?”

Isak rounds on him, fixing him with a murderous glare. He thought tonight was supposed to be them figuring out if Even liked Isak, not “Embarrass Isak in front of Even until he realises what a pathetic mess he really is.”

“Fuck you,” Isak retorts indignantly. “I just haven’t gone out in a while.”

“Yeah, whatever, man,” Mahdi goads. “You definitely don’t have the same game with guys that you do with girls.”

That’s because I actually fucking like boys and I get nervous, asshole.

“I don’t know,” Even cuts in. “I mean, I haven’t seen him in action but I’m pretty sure Isak could get whatever guy he wanted.”

Isak chokes on his beer, snapping his gaze to Even and feeling his brain short-circuit at the tiny smile on his face.

Are you included in that equation?

Isak whips around to look back at the guys and when he makes eye contact with Mahdi he winks at him.

That smooth, reverse psychology-using motherfucker.

Isak is too stunned to react and is only absently aware of Jonas coming to his rescue again. “Of course he could. Which is why, Mags, you’re leaving Isak alone tonight. He needs a hook-up. Me and Mahdi will help you get girls.”

“I could help,” Even offers and Isak has recovered enough from his earlier shock that he’s able to look back at him in disbelief. “I’ve been told I’m a pretty good flirt,” he adds.

“No way, man,” Magnus says. “Thanks for the offer but no way in hell is any girl gonna look at me if you’re there.”

Even lets out a surprised laugh. “But it’s fine if Isak does it?”

“Well, yeah. He doesn’t like girls, they can’t really go for him instead of me,” Magnus points out. “And Isak said you just broke up with your girlfriend, so.”

And there goes the inappropriate comment.

Magnus,” Isak admonishes, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“What?” Magnus asks obliviously. “It’s not a fucking secret, Isak, it’s the whole reason he’s living here.”

Even laughs again before Isak can consider defending his honour. “Yeah, I like girls,” he allows. “But I like guys too so if you need me to make out with some boy to make sure your potential hook-ups don’t get the wrong idea, I can do that.”

Isak doesn’t even have time to process the information before he can literally see the idea forming in Magnus’ head and when he sees him opening his mouth to speak Isak jumps to his feet. “Anyone want more beer? I think there’s more in the fridge!”

He disappears to the kitchen before anyone can actually answer him and slumps against the counter once he’s safely hidden to get his bearings. Fuck, he learned a lot in the last ten minutes.

Seconds later, Jonas enters into the kitchen wearing a triumphant grin on his face. When Isak gives him an exasperated look his expression only brightens.

“Isak,” he says quietly. “He likes you. I know it.”

Jonas moves to grab a beer from the fridge, giving Isak a single nod and, with that, he slips out of the room again.

Isak watches him go, mind reeling and feeling a smile slowly spread across his face.

Maybe.

*

The party is in full force when they arrive.

Eva lets out a high pitched squeal when she spots them, bounding over to tug them into a sloppy hug before disappearing again just as quickly. Isak looks back at Even once she’s gone. “So that was Eva.”

“She seems enthusiastic,” Even chuckles.

“When there’s alcohol in her system,” Isak agrees with a fond roll of his eyes.

They push their way through the house, nodding and slapping hands with anyone they recognise until they eventually reach the kitchen. “Fuck, I didn’t think the place would be this packed already,” Jonas says, shaking his head at the thronged living room.

“The cops are definitely breaking this one up,” Mahdi nods, moving to stand next to Magnus to inspect the array of drinks sprawled across the counter. When they start reaching for some empty red solo cups Magnus looks up.

“Isak, Even, what do you want?”

“I’m good a while. Thanks, man,” Even answers with a shake of his head. He’d had a beer earlier which Isak had been a little surprised about but it hadn’t felt right to comment on it.

Magnus nods easily, turning to Isak. “What about you?”

Isak glances at the counter before looking to where Jonas is inspecting the contents of the fridge. “Is there any beer?”

In response, Jonas steps back from the fridge, victorious, with two beers in his hand. He passes one to Isak before searching around the counter for a bottle opener. After procuring their drinks they end up dispersing. Mahdi wanders off first when he spots someone from his marketing class and Jonas deserts them a moment later when he catches sight of the girl he hooked up with at the last party. As soon as Sana approaches them to greet Isak Magnus drags Even off to help him pull some girl. Even throws Isak a helpless smile over his shoulder as he’s towed away and Isak tries not to feel to put out.

When he looks back to Sana she’s smirking at him. “Still getting along well?”

“Shut up. We’re not talking about this.” He takes another desperate pull of his beer, pointedly looking away from where Even is now sweet talking some girl and reminding himself he’s doing it for Magnus’ sake.

Sana just raises her eyebrows at him but thankfully lets the subject drop.

He chats to her for a while – not about Even – until he gets wrangled into dancing with a very drunk Eskild and Chris. He manages to escape eventually with only some minor damage to his ego and is propping up the wall, nursing his beer, when Even materialises beside him.

“Having fun?” he asks, nudging Isak’s shoulder with his own.

Isak hasn’t seen him in well over an hour and the last time he did he was still flirting on Magnus’ behalf. “Yeah.”

Even quirks an eyebrow. “That doesn’t sound very convincing.”

Isak blows out a breath, sending Even a sidelong glance. “Sorry, I guess I’m just a little tired.”

“Wanna go home?”

Isak blinks at the question, heart squeezing in his chest when he hears the word home. “We don’t have to go,” he says, more out of obligation than anything else. Honestly his bed sounds pretty good right now. It sounds even better with the prospect of Even in it…

“I got Magnus a girl,” Even says. “I think my work here is done.”

“Don’t wanna hook up with anyone yourself?” Isak asks because he’s a masochist.

Even looks at him with an unreadable expression. “Nah. I’m pretty tired too.”

Isak can hear his own pulse thundering in his ears as he nods, sparing a glance for the crowded room before following Even out the door.

*

The flat is completely still when they get home and Isak feels strange.

He feels strange taking off his jacket and hanging it up next to Even’s by the door. He feels strange toeing off his shoes and leaving them next to Even’s against the wall. He feels strange seeing how seamlessly they both weave around each other to carry out their night-time routines. He feels strange when he’s about to climb into bed and he realises he expects Even to follow him.

He sits up in his bed, unsure of what to do. Even is still in the bathroom and Isak knows it’d be easy to turn off the light right now and just pretend to be asleep when he comes back into the room. But if there’s one thing he knows, it’s that he doesn’t want to go to bed alone.

Just one more night, he thinks. One more night and then he’ll leave Even alone. He won’t ask anymore.

Glancing down at his pillows, he switches them around without much thought, giving Even the blue one he normally sleeps on. He tells himself it’s because Even’s doing him a favour and the least he could do is let him sleep on his good pillow but in the back of his head he knows that if Even sleeps on that pillow his scent will linger and it might help Isak sleep when he’s in bed alone. He’s still sitting up when Even comes back into the room and Even stops short at the end of his bed, expression asking Isak a silent question.

Isak stares back at him, trying to force the words out of his mouth. He flits his gaze down at the mattress and looks back up again. “I- I don’t think I can go to sleep on my own,” he whispers, heart hammering in his chest.

Even’s expression softens and he steps forward, rounding the bed and crawling onto his – the other – side. Isak reaches over and switches the lamp off, lying down on his back and feeling his skin tingle where Even’s fingers circle his wrist, tugging gently. He rolls onto his side, shuffling back until the now familiar planes of Even’s chest press against his back. He goes pliant in Even’s arms almost instantly, body relaxing entirely and eyes drifting shut.

Even’s legs tangle with his beneath the duvet and the little bit extra, that little gesture that pushes them closer, makes Isak’s chest feel full.

He falls asleep within minutes.

*

Chapter Text

08/10/16

Isak’s not sure what time it is when he wakes up in the morning but he knows Even is still asleep.

It’s the first time they’ve woken up in the same bed on the weekend and Isak doesn’t really know what to do. During the week he had the excuse of class so he’d always slip out of the room before Even would so much as open his eyes. Now, he’s just lucky he still managed to wake up first.

He intends to ease out from underneath Even’s arms like he has for the past three mornings but when he tries to move Even’s arm tightens around his waist.

“Isak.”

Isak freezes, eyes widening in panic. He’s awake?!

“Yeah?” he replies when he manages to find his voice, still too hoarse from sleep.

“Do you have anywhere to be today?” Even asks and the words are muffled a little, made a bit fuzzy around the edges by the way Even’s face is buried in the nape of his neck.

“No,” he mumbles, breath frozen somewhere in his lungs.

“Then stay,” Even sighs, hands splaying over Isak’s chest and torso. “You don’t have to get up. It’s okay.”

Isak doesn’t relax – he can’t, not when he doesn’t know what this means. But the longer he stays tensed, the more Even rubs soothing circles on his chest and the shakier his breathing becomes. He feels unbalanced; he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to navigate this.

“It’s okay,” Even repeats, voice no louder than a whisper.

And Isak gives up. He melts back into Even’s embrace, breath rushing out of him as he fights against the overwhelming knowledge that Even’s choosing this. Even wants to be here.

They lie in silence for a few minutes, getting used to the feeling of holding each other in the light of day, but Isak soon starts to feel restless. It doesn’t feel right lying with his back to Even when they’re both awake. He knows if he rolls over Even will probably let go but he thinks maybe just lying next to each other could be enough.

So he shifts onto his other side and Even shuffles back to give him room but he doesn’t let go. His hand slide over Isak’s side to smooth down his back instead and when Isak looks up to find their faces mere inches apart his breath hitches. Their knees knock under the covers and Even’s smile is too much when it’s this close.

“Morning,” Even murmurs, fingers trailing up and down the knobs of Isak’s spine and helping to calm the adrenaline he feels rushing through his veins.

“Morning,” he whispers.

Even wets his lips, gaze flickering over Isak’s face like he’s steeling himself for something. “Isak…we can- we can keep doing this, you know?”

Isak furrows his brow. That sounded a lot like Even just said they can keep doing this. “What d’you mean?”

Even shifts onto his back a little, still mostly turned to Isak but now looking up at the ceiling. “I mean that you obviously sleep better when I’m here and I’m used to sharing a bed.”

“Are you rebound cuddling with me?” Isak asks teasingly, though it’s mostly to mask the hope blooming in his chest. (And the little bit of sourness he feels at the thought Even might just be using this to get over his relationship.)

Even huffs out a tiny laugh and they’re still so close Isak can feel it. “No,” he tells him. “I’m just saying this isn’t a hardship for me. If it helps you sleep we can be cuddle buddies.”

Even’s grinning at him by the end of his sentence and Isak can’t help the laugh that bubbles out of him. “Cuddle buddies?” he asks wryly.

“Mhm,” Even replies. “PG friends with benefits, if you will.”

Isak ducks his head, though whether it’s to hide his smile or his blush, he’s not sure. “That would maybe be okay.”

“Okay,” Even says quietly and there’s a kind of softness in his smile that makes Isak’s heart turn to putty.

“Are we gonna stay like this all day then?” Isak asks.

Even hums. “This is the initiation. This is how we solidify our relationship as cuddle buddies.”

Isak rolls his eyes, a reluctant laugh escaping his mouth. “You’re so full of shit.”

“Is that any way to talk to your cuddle buddy, Isak?”

“Oh my god, stop saying that,” he laughs. And it’s only when he lifts his hands to hide his face that he realises he’d been clutching onto Even’s t-shirt.

“Made you smile though,” Even murmurs triumphantly and Isak lets his hands fall again, fixing Even with a quiet gaze.

“Yeah, you did,” he whispers.

“I think,” Even begins, shifting back fully onto his side again and closer into Isak’s space, “you need a day off today. So yeah, let’s stay in bed and watch movies and talk. You’re gonna be so well rested your assignment won’t know what hit it tomorrow.”

Isak bites back a smile, eyes trained on a random spot on Even’s t-shirt as he nods. “Let’s do that.”

Even’s palm rubs over his back. “Do you want breakfast?”

Acting braver than he feels, Isak shifts forward, slouching down and tucking himself under Even’s chin. If Even’s surprised he doesn’t show it in his body, just raises his arm to accommodate Isak and settles it around him again once he stills. “In a minute,” Isak mutters. “The initiation’s not done yet.”

Even laughs and Isak almost cries when one of his hands brushes through his hair. “Okay. We can stay like this a little while longer.”

*

At some point during the day their positions change.

Isak’s not sure he can pinpoint the exact moment but he currently finds himself tucked into Even’s side, pillowing his head on Even’s chest and feeling the faint pitter-patter of his heart beneath his ear. True to Even’s word, they haven’t really left Isak’s bed yet today. Even had snuck off to the kitchen at one point to procure brunch for them and there’ve been a couple of bathroom breaks but, so far, they’ve spent the day just lying together.

And Isak has never felt more comfortable in his life.

He feels safe and warm and secure, all wrapped up in Even’s warmth, feeling the way his chest rumbles when he talks, getting tingles down his spine every time Even’s fingers card through his hair.

He never really realised how touch-starved he was before but each soft touch from Even is sapping every bit of tension right out of Isak’s body. He’s sure he’s less than an hour away from melting into the mattress. And the thing is, he expects it to be awkward. Because this isn’t normal, it’s not platonic, but Isak thinks he might be too comfortable to feel uncomfortable.

They just- they fit.

And whatever they are, whatever complicated feelings he has for Even, this feels right. And Isak decided a long time ago that he wasn’t going to deny himself what he wants anymore.

So he cuddles into Even and lets himself be held and he doesn’t think about what it does or doesn’t mean.

“Can I ask you something?” Even asks at one point and the way his fingers thread through Isak’s hair almost make Isak’s insides dissolve.

He hums in acquiescence, curling his fingers a little tighter in Even’s hoodie.

“How did you end up living here?” Even asks quietly and Isak stills.

“You can use our code word,” he whispers after a moment when Isak has yet to open his mouth.

Isak releases a breath through his nose, closing his eyes against the onslaught of emotions that hits him when he thinks about those awful few months. “Um,” he begins uncertainly, voice rough with disuse, “when I was in first year my dad left my mom – left us – and my mom got really bad.”

He pauses to take a breath, lip trembling when he feels Even’s palm soothing over his back. “Her hallucinations were the worst they’d ever been and she kept- she was barely lucid and I couldn’t take care of her. I was only sixteen, you know, and I was just so scared and tired and I couldn’t- I hated being at home. So I went out one night and didn’t go back.”

He waits for Even to tell him he’s a terrible person for leaving his mentally ill mother when she needed him but it never comes.

“Eskild found me shitfaced drunk in some gay bar and brought me back here,” he continues, secretly thankful for the way Even’s hand is still moving over his back. “And that was it, really.”

Even hums but he doesn’t say anything else and Isak starts to feel hot shame burn through the pit of his stomach.

He’s not proud of leaving his mother the way he did, especially because things are so different now.

“I don’t- I know it was wrong to leave her,” he mumbles. “I know she needed me. I was just- really overwhelmed and I couldn’t function, I-“

“Isak, you don’t need to explain,” Even says quietly. “You were way too young to be left with that kind of responsibility. Especially if your mom was untreated. Of course that would’ve felt like too much.”

Isak nods against his chest, eyes drifting shut.

“Besides,” Even adds. “Things are better now, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Isak answers hoarsely. “She’s much better and I like being close to her again. I think coming out to her helped a lot. She’s really religious, y’know, so I was always terrified of what she’d think and it drove an even bigger wedge between us.”

“I wish I’d known you back then,” Even says with a quiet sigh and Isak shifts his head on his chest, glancing up to meet his gaze.

“Why?”

“Because it sounds like that hug I gave you the other night was long overdue.”

Isak looks down, feeling a cosy kind of contentment spread throughout his chest. “I think you’ve made up for it,” he says softly.

A laugh bubbles out of Even and he hugs Isak a little closer. “I’m trying.”

Isak bites down on his bottom lip in an attempt to hold in his smile, adjusting his head on Even’s chest. They don’t speak for a moment and Isak has never known silences to feel as comfortable as they do with Even.

When enough time passes that Isak has started to feel his eyes droop shut again Even taps his shoulder, curling his palm around the ball of it. “Wanna watch a movie?”

“Mm, okay,” Isak mumbles, blinking his eyes open again in an attempt to wake himself up a bit.

“D’you want to sneak out to the kitchen and make popcorn while I set up my laptop?”

Isak reluctantly sits up, already feeling cold now that he’s not in the circle of Even’s arms. “Just because you’re the film student doesn’t mean you get to pick the movie.”

Even raises his eyebrows, a surprised grin twisting up the corners of his mouth. “Is that so? Tell me, then. What do you want to watch?”

Isak wracks his brain but every film title in the history of the world seems to have evaded him. “Ugh I don’t care,” he huffs eventually, making Even laugh. “Just not something sad.”

“You don’t like tragedies?” Even asks.

Isak gives him a look. “Our code word isn’t “tragic backstory” for nothing.”

Even’s expression softens a bit and he nods in acquiescence. “Got it. Nothing sad.”

Isak nods back, holding in a sigh as he drags himself out of bed. The living room is empty when he passes through but his relief at a seemingly empty flat is cut short when he walks into the kitchen and finds Eskild and Linn sitting at the kitchen table with mugs of tea between them. Eskild looks up at the sound of him, mouth dropping open in surprise before his face lights up.

“Isak! We thought you were still asleep.”

“No, just hanging out in my room with Even,” Isak mutters in return, opening the cupboard to dig through his shelf. When he finds no popcorn on his own shelf he moves to Even’s.

Eskild hums behind him. “You and Even have been getting pretty cosy,” he observes with about as much subtlety as a brick.

If only he knew just how cosy they’ve been.

Isak puts the popcorn in the microwave and switches on the timer before he deigns to turn around and meet Eskild’s innocent expression. “You and Linn look pretty cosy yourselves right now.”

Linn snorts into her tea and Eskild gives him an exaggerated roll of his eyes. “Isak, I’m gay.”

“So am I. What’s your point?”

“Linn, lovely though she is,” Eskild says with an adoring smile across the table at Linn, “is a girl. Even, on the other hand, is very much a boy.”

Isak throws his hands up in exasperation, returning Eskild’s earlier eyeroll. “We’re just hanging out in our room, Eskild, not on a fucking date- why are you smirking?!”

Eskild’s eyes are positively twinkling when he replies, “You said “our room”.”

Isak scowls at him. “That’s because someone decided I was going to be the one housing our fifth roommate.”

“Oh come on, Isak!” Eskild says with a scoff. “You like spending time with him. This arrangement isn’t inconveniencing you in the slightest.”

That isn’t strictly true considering his insomnia. Though he may have found a cure for that one.

The microwave timer saves him from having to answer any further questions so he promptly spins around and fishes a bowl out of the one of the cupboards before grabbing the bag of popcorn from the microwave. He tosses the bag in the bowl and steals two cans of Coke from the fridge, leaving the kitchen with a pointed, “Ha det,” in Eskild’s direction.

Even is sitting up in bed when he returns, looking up long enough to smile at Isak before his attention is redirected to the laptop screen.

“So what are we watching?” Isak asks, kicking the door shut with his foot and padding across the room to his bed.

“10 Things I Hate About You,” Even declares proudly. “Have you ever seen it?”

Isak shakes his head, climbing up onto the bed and opening the bag of popcorn to empty it into the bowl.

“You’ll like it,” Even assures him, fingers moving across the trackpad as he skips over the ads at the beginning of the DVD. “And at the very least, we can stare at Heath Ledger’s face for an hour and a half.”

Isak snorts, shaking his head in exasperation when Even looks over his shoulder to waggle his eyebrows at him. “Hurry up. The popcorn’s nicest when it’s just warm.”

Even pauses the DVD and scooches back against the pillow behind him. He lifts the laptop up with one hand while holding the other one out for Isak and Isak hadn’t been sure if this was still allowed but he’s not going to say no when the offer’s there. So he curls into Even’s side, letting out a contented sigh when Even’s arm slides around him.

Even perches the laptop on his lap and Isak returns his head to its earlier resting place of his chest, reaching for the bowl of popcorn and using the little gap between their bodies to hold it in place.

“Can you see okay?” Even asks, finger hovering over the trackpad and then pressing play when he feels Isak nod.

The movie is good and Even is actually silent for once while they watch. Or, he is until they get to the scene where Patrick serenades Kat with the marching band.

“I’ve got to try that someday,” Even says bemusedly.

“What? Serenade someone on the football field and get the campus police after you?”

Isak can’t see his face but he can practically feel Even rolling his eyes. “No, just serenade someone in general.”

Isak picks his head up off Even’s chest to regard him with a narrow-eyed look. “Can you sing?”

“No, not really. That’s not the point though! It’s romantic!”

Isak huffs a laugh, lying down properly again. “Not really if the person serenading you is tone deaf.”

“But imagine the look on the person’s face!” Even insists. “Getting all bashful and blush-y over you doing something nice for them like declaring your love via song.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “To reiterate my point from this morning, you’re so full of shit.”

Even barks out a laugh, nudging Isak’s shoulder with the arm that’s still around his back. “My imaginary significant other would love it, fuck you. I bet you’d love it.”

Isak stills, glancing up at Even. Did he just say-

“You’d definitely blush,” Even continues obliviously, seemingly unaware of the implications Isak’s brain is currently making because of his words.

Isak pauses for a moment, mouth working as he tries to come up with a response. In the end he looks back to the film and mutters a petulant, “Would not,” into Even’s hoodie.

They watch the rest of the movie in relative silence and Isak gets sucked back into the story. When Kat reads her poem he feels tears stinging behind his eyes and he has to very subtly wipe them away before they drip onto Even’s hoodie. “I thought you said this wasn’t a sad movie,” he accuses, voice thick with more tears he didn’t realise were forming. He clears his throat and tries not to feel too comforted by the way Even rubs his arm.

“It isn’t, I promise,” Even whispers soothingly. “Just wait.”

By the time they get to the end of the film Isak is smiling again and Even is singing along under his breath with the song playing over the end credits.

I want you to want me, Isak thinks. How fitting.

*

The Boys

Magnus: Isak

Magnus: Isaaaaaaak

Magnus: Bro, Even totally wants to bang u, when he was helping me get that chick last night he kept watching u from across the room

Mahdi: I’m with Mags on this one. I definitely saw him giving you heart eyes, bro

Jonas: go for it, Is. He likes you <3

Magnus: wait

Magnus: Isak why aren’t you replying

Magnus: omg did something happen after you and Even left last night?????????

Magnus: isAK?????????

Isak: go away. we’re watching a movie and I don’t want Even to see my phone

Magnus: asldjfhdsakjhgsdkjghssdkfj omg

Mahdi: get it, bro!!!!!!!!!!

Jonas: good luck <3

Isak: go away!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Isak: <3

*

10/10/16-16/10/16

After over a full week of sharing a bed with Even Isak is the most well rested he’s felt since July.

He actually manages to finish his chemistry assignment and submit it happily. The dark circles under his eyes are hardly noticeable anymore and he actually feels enthusiastic about the prospect of going out on Friday night to celebrate.

They go to a bar near campus – the same one kollektivet had gone to Even’s first night – and it feels good getting to spend a night with the boys. They’re on their second drink of the night and Isak can feel his buzz starting to kick in as Magnus regales them with a story of his latest failed conquest at the Starbucks on campus.

“I swear she seemed into me! She was smiling at me!” he insists, amid the boys’ cackling laughter.

“She’s the barista!” Mahdi crows. “She has to fucking smile at all the customers, man!”

Isak lets out a full body laugh, shaking his head fondly at Magnus’ confused expression.

“Whatever,” Magnus huffs, slumping back in his chair dejectedly. “Enough about me. Isak, you have to update us about Even. You wouldn’t tell us anything after last weekend.”

“That’s because there’s nothing to tell,” Isak says primly, reaching for his beer and ignoring his friends’ protests.

He hasn’t told them about the cuddling. He doesn’t know how to explain it in a way that makes sense. He doesn’t know how to explain it so they don’t get the wrong idea. Isak doesn’t know if it means more – he hopes it means more – but right now he has to take it at face value.

Even holding him helps him fall asleep. So Even holds him.

“Bullshit,” Jonas scoffs. “Isak, literally all three of us agree he likes you; what are you holding back for?”

Isak picks at the label on his beer uncomfortably. “I live with him,” he says. “Not just in the same flat but in the same room. What if you’re all wrong? Or what if you’re right but it doesn’t work?”

“But what if it does?” Mahdi presses quietly.

“Bro, stop letting your insecurities win,” Jonas pleads. “You’re allowed to want this.”

Isak feels an intense appreciation for his friends in this moment. But the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t change anything. What he has with Even right now – whatever it is – it’s not just that it feels good, it’s actually helping him. Isak feels better than he has weeks and no, it can’t go on forever but for right now Isak needs this. And he doesn’t want to jeopardise it by complicating their arrangement with his feelings.

“I-“ Isak starts and then stops again, smiling ruefully at his friends’ expectant faces. “It’s only been a month and, yeah, he and his ex weren’t happy for a long time before they broke up but he still just got out of a really long-term committed relationship. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

Each of the boys deflates and Isak feels his own disappointment bubble under the surface. Though he hasn’t really acknowledged it in his head, it’s one of the things that’s been holding him back the most. Even doesn’t talk about Sonja unless Isak asks and anything he has said suggests they haven’t been in love for a while but Isak still feels scared. What if Even doesn’t know how to be on his own because he hasn’t for so long and Isak is just convenient? They’d been joking last week about the cuddle rebound thing but what if Even actually is emotionally rebounding with him? Given how strongly his own feelings have been growing, the thought of it not being the same on Even’s side is crushing.

“I guess that’s a good point,” Jonas allows eventually. “Maybe wait a while, then. But don’t give up, alright? Because he likes you Isak.”

I hope so, Isak thinks.

Mahdi blessedly changes the topic a moment later and no one pushes Isak to get involved when he stays quiet, rolling his beer bottle between his hands. At a snort from Jonas a few minutes later Isak looks up, done with feeling sorry for himself and ready to take part in the conversation again, but as soon as he raises his head his eyes land on a group of guys at the entrance to the bar.

“Fuck.” His eyes widen and he looks back to his friends in panic. “That’s Even and his friends.”

He didn’t even know Even was supposed to be going out tonight. He wasn’t home when Isak had left. Shit, Isak is not prepared for this. For all that they share a room – and a bed – it feels entirely different to see Even in this kind of setting. Especially when Isak’s just spent the past fifteen minutes wallowing in self-pity over his feelings.

The boys all turn their heads to the door, looking back to Isak with varying expressions of sympathy and exasperation.

“Dude, relax,” Jonas says. “Just say hi.”

“Take a swig of beer; you’ll be fine,” Magnus adds nonchalantly.

Isak glares at him but downs the last dregs of his beer nonetheless, feeling his chest seize when Even’s eyes land on him across the room. Even’s face lights up and Isak watches as he turns to one of the boys he’s with – he thinks that one might be the guy, Yousef, that Eskild knows – and says something to him before he’s making a beeline for their table.

His friends follow at a more sedate pace but Isak is so flustered by Even’s quick approach that he barely notices them.

“Halla!” Even greets enthusiastically when he arrives at their table, nodding at each of the boys before looking to Isak. “I didn’t know you were heading out tonight?”

“Yeah,” Isak says, smiling weakly. “Celebrating finishing that chemistry assignment, you know?”

Even raises an eyebrow. “I distinctly remember a conversation on the tram where you told me I had to ply you with alcohol for finishing that.”

Isak feels his heart speed up remembering that day on the tram two weeks ago. How could he forget? That was the first night Even spent in his bed.

“You don’t have to,” he says, unsure of what else to say and feeling panicked at the thought of Even hanging out with them for the night. Isak hasn’t appropriately psyched himself up for this.

“Shut up, I’m getting you a beer,” Even announces, “You look like you just finished anyway.”

It’s at that point that Even’s friends finally arrive at their table and Even turns to them. “Guys, this is my roommate, Isak, and his friends. Introduce yourselves and pull up some chairs. I’m getting drinks.”

With that, Even leaves with one of the boys following after him. The remaining four stand there awkwardly for a moment before the one Isak thinks is Yousef steps forward.

“I’m Yousef,” he says, confirming Isak’s guess and holding out his hand. Isak shakes it and introduces himself – somewhat unnecessarily since Even already did that for him. They cycle through a round of introductions and by the time they’ve made room and grabbed some extra chairs Even returns from the bar with his friend – Mikael, he’d announced as he passed Elias and Adam their drinks.

Even takes the empty chair next to Isak’s, setting a beer down in front of him.

“Thanks,” Isak says, the word coming out much softer than he means it to.

Even just smiles at him in response. “So everything went okay with assignment in the end?”

Isak blows out a breath. “I think so? I mean, you’re the one who saw me writing it all week.”

There had been one particular night, on Wednesday, when Isak had stayed up until 2am trying to finish his draft. Even had coaxed him into bed with a gentle touch to his shoulder, looking far too inviting in his sleep-worn pyjamas. Isak had dropped off to sleep within minutes of his head touching the pillow.

“You aced it,” Even tells him surely. “I know it.”

Isak smiles, ducking his head and bumping his shoulder against Even’s in silent thanks.

When he checks back into the conversations being had around the table he’s surprised to find their friends mingling and talking amiably with one another. Despite his nerves, Isak actually enjoys himself. Even’s friends are fun and when Isak finds out Elias is actually Sana’s brother he feels himself relax. Yousef, surprisingly, seems all too willing to engage him in a conversation about Sana and he files that information away for later.

(He’s definitely getting Sana back for grilling him about Even and not telling him she already knew Even.)

By the time it actually comes time for their groups to part Isak can’t help feeling a little disappointed. But Magnus had found out about some party that he’s desperate to go to and apparently Even and his friends had been planning on going clubbing. Isak has half a mind to ask to go with them but he knows it’s a bad idea so he leaves with his own friends, quietly tingling over the way Even squeezes his shoulder and says, “See you at home.”

The party is boring and Isak finds himself counting down the minutes until he can convince the boys to go home. Eventually, somewhere past 1am, he persuades them to leave after Magnus has struck out and Mahdi’s gotten a pretty girl’s phone number.

It’s only when he’s climbing the stairs to the flat that he realises Even probably won’t be home yet and that he’ll have to go to sleep alone. He hasn’t done that in about ten days; he’s not sure how well he’ll manage tonight.

The flat is quiet when he unlocks the door, which only further confirms his suspicions that Even’s probably not here.

It isn’t until he gets to his room that he notices a distinctly Even shaped lump in the single bed from the light of the hallway. He doesn’t react when Isak comes into the room so he assumes Even must already be asleep – in his own bed – and Isak shoves down the disappointment he feels. By the time he’s brushed his teeth and changed for bed he’s pretty much resigned himself to a sleepless night. He sets his phone down on his nightstand and crawls under the covers, pulling them up high over his shoulder and hoping the alcohol in his system might be enough to make him sleepy.

He’s only been in bed for a few minutes when he suddenly hears the sound of Even’s blankets shifting and feet hitting the floor.

Within seconds Even is situating himself into the empty space in Isak’s bed, hands reaching out and twisting in Isak’s t-shirt. “I don’t like my bed,” he huffs.

“What’s wrong with it?” Isak asks, breath lodged in his throat.

“I’ve gotten used to yours,” Even mumbles, tugging a little on Isak’s shirt.

Isak gets the hint and shuffles back, sinking into the enveloping warmth of Even’s arms, trying and failing to ignore the way Even’s words set his heart racing.

“Did you have a good night?” Even asks quietly once they’ve settled.

“Mm,” Isak replies. “Your friends are really nice.”

“So are yours,” Even says. “We made friends with nice people.”

“What does that say about us?” Isak asks, lips quirking up amusedly. The nonsensical conversations they have just before they fall asleep are quickly becoming his favourite thing.

“I don’t know about me, but you’re extra nice,” Even mumbles, lips brushing over the spot where Isak’s neck meets his shoulder and bringing Isak’s heart to a screeching halt before it starts up again beating double-time.

“You’re nice,” Isak whispers.

Even hums, arms tightening around Isak’s middle. “This is nice.”

*

Chapter Text

 

17/10/16-30/10/16

Something happens after that first week or so of sharing a bed.

They start to treat each other differently. It’s little things but things that send a thrill down Isak’s spine nonetheless. When they’re on the tram in the morning on the third Wednesday of October Isak is still half-asleep and doesn’t even think about it when he puts his head on Even’s shoulder. Even just wraps an arm around him and rests his temple on the top of Isak’s head in response. When Isak joins Even to watch a movie on his bed Thursday evening he doesn’t hesitate in leaning against him while they watch. He falls asleep halfway through and they end up spending the night pressed together in Even’s bed instead of his own. And there’re touches, so many fleeting, soft brushes of hands and over one another’s arms and backs.

And the thing about all these little moments is that Isak loves them – he revels in them, he wraps himself up in them – and they make him feel whole. He feels better. So much better than he’s felt in the longest time.

But they start to bleed into other parts of their lives and other people start to notice.

It’s Saturday night and Isak feels only a little bit pathetic spending it at home with his roommates having a movie marathon.

Unlike other nights, Even and Isak have claimed one of the couches for themselves while Eskild, Linn and Noora squash together on the other one. Normally there’s always been some kind of buffer, someone else sitting next to them to remind Isak that they’re not alone in their room. But tonight they have the couch to themselves and when Isak starts to feel sleepy around movie number three there’s nothing stopping him from slouching against Even.

Almost as if not even thinking about it, Even lifts his arm to accommodate him, hand settling again over Isak’s stomach. Isak leans into him, pillowing his head on Even’s shoulder and folding his arm over Even’s as he feels his body go soft. They stay like that for the entirety of the movie – the only change in their positions being Even’s hand travelling up to his hair to card his fingers through it – and, honestly, by the time it ends Isak is considering the merits of shifting into a spooning position. But the meaningful look Eskild sends him when he glances in his direction stops him.

“I’m getting a drink,” Isak mumbles, more to Even than anything else, feeling uncomfortable under Eskild’s scrutiny. “Want anything?”

Even shakes his head, temple bumping Isak’s, and hands slowly falling away to release him. The sense of loss he feels when he stands up shouldn’t feel quite so staggering, nor should he want to drop everything and crawl right back into Even’s arms. But he’s gotten pretty used to that feeling recently. So he walks away on shaky feet, making the short trip to the kitchen to give himself a moment’s reprieve away from the prying eyes of their roommates.

He’s filling a glass with water when Eskild comes into the room and Isak isn’t the least bit surprised to see him.

“Isak,” he starts cautiously.

Isak turns around, setting his glass on the counter and leaning against it. When all he offers Eskild is a defensive raise of his eyebrows Eskild sighs.

“Want to tell me what’s going on with you and Even?”

“Nothing,” he mutters but the way he immediately avoids Eskild’s gaze gives him away.

“Isak,” he says again, quietly beseeching.

“We’re just friends,” he sighs. And it’s not a lie but somehow it feels like it is.

The thing is he doesn’t feel the need to question what they are to each other. He knows he likes Even, knows he’s probably falling for him, but he can’t really bring himself to do anything about it when he feels so happy with where they are right now. He knows it’s not always going to feel like this. He knows if they keep going the way they are he’s going to fall in love with Even and the possibility that the same thing isn’t happening for Even is too much to even consider at the moment.

But right now, he’s comfortable.

And he intends to keep this for as long as he can.

So if that means burying his feelings and blindly hoping they never get in the way of whatever this is then that’s what he’s going to do.

Eskild gives him a disbelieving look. “Isak, friends don’t act the way you two were in there.”

He flounders for a second, trying to think of a way to explain it that will make sense to Eskild. Trying to think of a way to explain it that sounds platonic. “I- He’s- he’s helping me sleep,” he settles on eventually.

Eskild stares at him for a moment and Isak tries not to feel self-conscious under his gaze.

“That’s-“ Eskild pauses, blinking in surprise. “Okay, Isak. If it helps then that’s- that’s great.”

Isak offers him a wan smile, picking up his glass of water and hoping this is the end of the conversation. He almost thinks he’s safe when Eskild suddenly starts speaking again, making him pause in the doorway.

“But be careful, okay?” Eskild says quietly. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Isak looks over his shoulder and meets Eskild’s rueful smile. He’s not sure what to say in response so he just nods, padding back out to the living room.

When he returns Even smiles up at him as he rounds the couch. “Did you get lost in there?”

“Was just talking to Eskild,” he mumbles, setting his glass down on the coffee table and taking a seat on the sofa again.

Even reaches for him instantly and Isak shouldn’t go pliant as quickly as he does but he’s helpless to stop it. He tucks himself back into Even’s side and leans against his shoulder, ignoring the silent conversation happening between Noora and Linn on the other couch. When Eskild comes back from the kitchen with a bag of chips he turns on another movie and when he refuses to meet Noora or Linn’s questioning looks Isak almost wants to smile.

Eskild is the most loyal person he knows.

“Everything okay?” Even whispers into his hair once the movie starts and Isak shouldn’t be surprised that Even’s picked up on his shift in mood since the kitchen. He’s perceptive. Or at least, he is when it comes to Isak.

“Fine,” Isak replies, cuddling closer and twisting the fabric of Even’s jumper between his fingers.

They’re fine.

*

Something else that changes is that Even starts coming to lunch with him and the boys.

Not every day, because their schedules don’t always link up and Even has his own friends but some days. Like today, for instance, it’s Monday and Mikael is working through lunch on a project for one of his classes so when Isak steps out of his ecology class he finds Even already waiting for him.

“I don’t know how I feel about being your second choice, you know,” he teases when he reaches Even, offering him a wry grin as they begin to make their way across campus to the student centre.

Even lets out an outraged gasp, draping his arm over Isak’s shoulder and reeling him in close. “Excuse me, you’re my first choice. You’re always my first choice; I just finally came up with an excuse to ditch Mikael.”

Isak huffs a laugh, smiling too wide and feeling his stomach do flips inside him. “About time you admitted it,” he mumbles and he’s honestly not even sure how the words make it past his mouth with how flustered he feels.

Even laughs, arm tightening around his shoulder for a minute before relaxing again. He doesn’t let go though. And Isak can’t find a reason to ask him to.

They keep up an easy conversation as they walk across campus and it isn’t until they arrive at the table the boys have claimed and Isak sees Jonas’ eyebrows shoot up into his hairline that he even remembers Even’s arm around him. Isak steps out of his hold neatly under the guise of taking a seat; Even sits next to him and when their knees bumps under the table Even doesn’t move away.

“What’s up?” Isak asks as he goes digging through his bag for his lunch, hoping against hope that none of the boys will comment.

By some miracle, they don’t. Though Isak sees the silent look they share before Mahdi answers.

“Nothing much, bro. I’ve got a fuckton of assignments to get done in the next week.”

Isak groans, mind going back to the biology assignment he’s been neglecting for weeks in favour the chemistry essay from hell. “Please don’t remind me,” he replies, voice close to a whimper as he drops his bag down on the ground.

“The next week is gonna be rough,” Jonas agrees with a grimace.

“No one fucking said college was gonna be harder than school,” Magnus whines, picking dejectedly at his food.

Even puffs out an amused breath, shaking his head. “College is about ignoring your responsibilities all year and then having a seven day panic attack the week everything’s due at once. I’m surprised you weren’t informed of that during your orientation.”

That actually pulls a smile out of Magnus – Isak thinks he might like Even more than he does – and his shoulders lose a bit of their slump as he straightens in his chair again. “Whatever. Ugh I don’t think we can go out this Friday. My last assignment is due Monday.”

“Same,” Isak says, casting a glance in Even’s direction. “Are you going to the library after class today?”

Even smiles and nods. “I need to get my film theory essay done before I can keep going with my project.”

Isak hums, mentally working through his own timetable “Meet you there at 16:00?”

Even’s face really shouldn’t light up at the mention of the library but his smile is blinding when he directs it at Isak. “You aren’t studying at home?”

Isak shrugs. “I need to get books out and I have my laptop with me. I can hang around until you’re done.”

The curve of Even’s lips softens and then it’s the smile that Isak only ever sees in the comfort of their own room. He ducks his head to hide the twitch of his own lips, nodding when Even says, “I’ll wait for you.”

Isak looks up again once the conversation has moved on around them but Jonas is staring at him with about a million questions in his eyes when he meets his gaze. Isak just offers him a shrug and a small smile. He doesn’t know what Jonas takes from it but he smiles back and redirects his attention to whatever story Mahdi’s telling so Isak thinks it’s probably enough for now.

When Even’s knee presses more firmly against his under the table he doesn’t pull back.

*

The library is busy but Even saves Isak a seat while he grabs the books he needs. It’s strange how much just being in Even’s presence can improve Isak’s mood – even when they’re hanging out at the library. They work beside one another for a couple of hours and Isak finds himself getting through a good chunk of his biology assignment. When he’s at the 1200 word mark Even nudges his arm and pushes a piece of paper in front of him.

He picks it up to examine it and feels a grin spread across his face when he realises what it is. It’s a cartoon, crudely drawn, of the two of them eating and sitting at what looks more like a McDonalds table than a library table. Underneath is just the word, “dinner?”

He looks back up at Even and finds him waiting with his eyebrows raised expectantly.

Isak grins back at him. He could use a study break.

*

Dinner ends up being a kebab in the park but Isak doesn’t plan on complaining.

They sit side by side, close enough that their thighs brush but not so close that they can’t comfortably eat. It’s nice; Isak likes knowing that whatever he and Even are exists outside of his bedroom.

“How’s your film theory essay going?”

Even takes a bite of his kebab, chewing quickly to swallow it down before he answers. “Good! I’m pretty much done now, I mostly just need to edit.”

“Is that all you have due in the next week?” Isak asks. It’s hard to tell what Even’s workload is like when he so often stays on campus to get anything done. When he’s at home he usually just lazes on his bed while he waits for Isak to put away his laptop.

“I have one for my American Cinema class too but I finished it a couple of days ago.”

“Is that why you were watching Casablanca a few weeks ago?” Isak asks, thinking back to that fateful night that inadvertently started it all.

Even grins at him, nodding before taking another bite of his kebab. “I also need to do some filming this week. I have to submit an edit of the first scene for my film project next Tuesday.”

Isak hums interestedly around his food. “What’s the film about?” Every time he’s spoken to Even about it the concept has been something different or else he’s spoken so technically about scene setups that the majority of the conversation has flown over Isak’s head.

“Nope!” Even deflects with a grin. “That’s a secret.”

Isak makes an affronted noise. “You finally divulge your tragic backstory and now you’ve got a new secret?”

“Gotta keep up the mystery!” Even exclaims, bumping Isak’s shoulder with his own and making Isak roll his eyes.

“Not even a hint?” Isak asks exasperatedly, feeling his attempt at a serious expression dissolve at the light in Even’s eyes.

“You’ll see it when it’s done,” Even tells him.

“You’re not supposed to submit the whole thing until Christmas!” Isak protests indignantly.

“Then consider it your Christmas present,” Even laughs. He pushes himself up a moment later, throwing the remains of his kebab in the trash can next to their bench before turning back to Isak. “Come on; let’s go home. You can fall asleep on my shoulder while I storyboard.”

Isak huffs but it’s mostly to hide the blush that’s no doubt colouring his cheeks. “You make me sound like a baby.”

In an uncanny imitation of Isak, Even rolls his eyes, grabbing Isak’s wrist and hauling him to his feet. “You’re the kollektiv’s baby,” Even points out, arm sliding around Isak’s shoulders like it had earlier today. As if this is normal, as if this is something they do all the time. (They do do this all the time, though they’re usually horizontal and on the brink of sleep.)

“Noora’s younger than me!” Isak argues, instantly leaning into Even’s side as they start to walk. It’s October; it’s cold, okay?

Even throws him a sceptical look. “Noora’s the mom friend and don’t even pretend she’s not. Her life is more put together than all of ours combined.”

Isak heaves a put-upon sigh. “Whatever.”

“Besides,” Even continues, undeterred by Isak’s attitude. “You’re not a baby; you’re my cuddle buddy. I’m just allowing you to avail of that service.”

“Would you shut up and walk me home?” Isak complains, elbowing Even in the side and feeling an involuntary smile tug at his mouth when Even laughs. The butterflies in his stomach are fluttering so wildly he swears he can hear them but that’s nothing new.

Even wraps both arms tightly around him for the briefest moment and Isak almost melts at the contact. But just as quickly he’s resuming their earlier positions and guiding Isak out of the park with the hand on his shoulder. “Sure thing, cuddle buddy.”

*

On Tuesday night Isak studies on his bed. He generally never does unless it’s the middle of the night and he can’t sleep but tonight he’s lying on his stomach while he does his reading for class. The fact that Even’s sitting up on the other side of the bed, leaning against the wall and drawing in his sketchpad, may have something to do with it.

Isak finishes the last page of the chapter and closes the book with a satisfying thunk.  Glancing over his shoulder, he finds Even absorbed in his sketchpad. Even draws a lot – he’s even got a few of his comics and cartoons stuck to the wall above his bed – but Isak has yet to take a peek inside his sketchbook. He’s beautiful when he draws though, with a tiny furrow of concentration between his brows, with his teeth sunk into his bottom lip as he brings the page a little bit closer to his face, and with the little uptick of a smile he gets every time he pauses to appraise his work.

Pushing himself up on his knees and shuffling around, Isak crawls back up to the head of the bed, sitting himself down beside Even and glancing over his shoulder. Even’s pencil pauses on the page and before Isak can get a good look at what he’s drawing Even’s looking over at him and forcing Isak’s gaze up. Even’s eyes are amused when Isak meets them and he feels his own expression turn sheepish.

“What are you drawing?” he asks.

Even’s gaze flicks down to the page before returning to Isak. “Just doodling.”

Isak takes that as permission to look down and examines the page. It’s still in the cartoonish style he’s become so accustomed to seeing around their room but this time the setting is a little different.

“Is this supposed to be in space?” Isak asks.

“What gave it away? The stars and planets?” Even asks dryly, grin widening when Isak throws him a sidelong glance. “Your science books gave me some inspiration.”

Isak’s gaze strays to his desk where he knows one of his physics textbooks is laying with a picture of a galaxy on the front cover and he feels his mouth tug up in a private smile. Slouching down where he sits, he drops his head onto Even’s shoulder and leans into his side. “Is it finished?”

“Not yet,” Even murmurs, setting the pencil against the page again and resuming his work.

Isak’s head stays on his shoulder as he watches the drawing come to life. Even draws another planet in the middle of the page and after a moment Isak realises its surface is made of quilts and blankets. Minutes later there’s a figure with a snapback that looks suspiciously like Isak sitting on top of the planet.

Isak feels a soft smile spread across his face and he thinks Even can probably feel it with the way his cheek is pressed against his shoulder.

Before he can think of saying anything Even starts drawing another figure, one with a swoopy quiff hidden under his hood. Isak’s heart clenches in his chest and he has to close his eyes against the swell of emotion he feels bubbling inside him.

He doesn’t know what they are to one another but looking down at cartoon-Isak and cartoon-Even sitting on their little planet of blankets, he really hopes they’re this.

*

Isak visits his mom on Thursday after college. She’s home now, finally, and she’d sounded good on the phone last night when he’d called to ask if he could come over for dinner.

That doesn’t stop his hand from shaking when he knocks on her front door.

She opens the door in her robe and Isak’s eyes immediately zero in on the sunken-in features of her face. She looks exhausted but she smiles when she takes him in. “Darling, you don’t have to knock,” she says. Her voice is weak but he can still hear the affection laced in her words.

He steps forward and pulls her into a gentle hug, squeezing his eyes shut and swallowing down the lump in his throat. Seeing her after a bad episode always hurts more.

The smile on her face when she releases him is stronger than before and he takes a measured breath as he closes the door behind him. In the kitchen he helps her cook dinner, peeling the vegetables while she bustles around, pre-heating the stove and getting out pots and pans.

“How are you feeling?” he asks, hoping his voice comes out casual rather than probing.

“I’m doing well, sweetheart,” she answers. “I’m tired but I feel much better.”

She’s not looking at him when he looks up, too busy adding chicken to the pan, and his heart clenches because in another world this could be a nightly occurrence. Helping his mom cook dinner and chatting about their days. Without the pain and stress of the last few years weighing them down. But they’re getting there; they’re rebuilding their relationship into something that’ll be stronger in the long run. They’re fighting for one another now and that’s what matters.

“That’s good, Mamma,” he tells her, joining her at the hob to add the vegetables to the pan. They cook in companionable silence and Isak feels a special kind of comfort in going to the cupboard and finding the plates in the same place they were when he was a child. This house stopped feeling like his home a long time ago but the little reminders of what it was matter to him.

When they’re finished cooking they eat on the couch, turned towards each other and holding a light-hearted conversation.

“So tell me about you,” she says when they’ve cycled through all topics of small-talk, setting her empty plate on the coffee table. “How’s everyone at the flat? How’s Eskild?”

Isak feels himself smile; his mother has only met Eskild once but she always asks about him. He thinks Eskild will always be the person who took care of Isak when she couldn’t in her eyes.

“They’re good, Eskild good,” Isak nods, hesitating for a moment before he continues. He hasn’t told her about Even yet. “We actually, um, we have a new roommate.”

“Did someone move out?” she asks in surprise.

“No uh. Even needed a place to stay so he’s been staying with us for a while until he finds somewhere else,” he explains and he doesn’t know how she figures it out but when he meets her gaze she’s got that knowing look in her eyes.

“That’s very kind of you all, Isak. Is he nice?” she asks and, inexplicably, Isak feels himself begin to blush.

“Yeah, he’s really nice,” he admits shyly.

She nods, absorbing the information before she offers Isak a kind smile. “Perhaps I could meet him someday,” she says, voice light and more playful than he’s heard it in a long time. He thinks about what it would be like for Even to meet his mom. Surprisingly, the thought doesn’t scare him like it probably should. The image in his head feels right.

“I think he’d probably like that,” he says softly and he knows the smile on his face is a new one, one that belongs singularly to Even.

“Isak,” she says and there’s so much weight in the word Isak finds himself meeting her gaze with his breath caught in his throat. “I’m so proud of you,” she murmurs. “I don’t tell you that enough but I am.”

Isak can’t stop the tears that spring in the corners of his eyes this time and he feels one slip out before he can think to wipe them away. He shuffles forward and a moment later he’s being folded into her arms and suddenly he feels five year old again. He feels safe, with his mother’s arms around him and the same comforting scent that’s a mixture of her perfume, fabric softener, and something entirely her filling his lungs.

They’re healing.

*

When he returns to the flat a few hours later he feels lighter than he has in a while and he realises the worry about his mom that he’s been carrying around like a knot in his stomach has finally subsided somewhat. She’s okay. That’s all that matters.

He finds Even sprawled across his bed when he comes into their room and he offers Isak a beaming smile when he sees him. “Hey, did you stay late at the library? I would’ve waited with you.”

“No, I went to see my mom,” Isak tells him, dropping his backpack by his desk and shrugging off his jacket.

“Oh, how is she?” Even asks, instantly setting his laptop aside in favour of paying attention to Isak.

“She’s doing really good actually,” he says, feeling himself smile. “She’s tired but she usually is after a bad period. She’s getting her strength up again though. And we had a really nice talk.”

“That’s so great, Isak,” Even says, sounding genuinely thrilled for him and Isak feels touched at the sincerity in his voice. Even just cares. About everything. About everyone.

He starts getting changed into his pyjamas without really thinking about it, Even’s presence too normalised for him to really feel self-conscious anymore. However once he’s pulled his sleep shirt over his head he looks over at Even and if he didn’t know any better he’d think he’d been staring. Just as quickly though, Even seems to snap himself out of it and he scrambles off his own bed, settling into his spot on Isak’s mattress.

Isak climbs into his own side with something warm settled in his chest, rolling into Even’s space as soon as he’s still and sparing a thought for the fact that this is furthest thing from platonic.

Even’s arms slide around him and he sighs contentedly, cheek pressed into Isak’s hair. “Mm you’re warm,” he breathes.

“You’re not,” Isak huffs, pulling the blanket up tighter around them. “I’m the one that was just outside, why are you so cold?”

“I’m always cold,” Even says. “Did you not know I’m using you as a human heater?”

Isak rolls his eyes, feeling a reluctant smile tug up the corners of his mouth. “I thought I was your cuddle rebound.”

One of Even’s hands travels up, fingers threading through Isak’s hair and making his eyes droop. “You’re not,” Even says and the conviction in his voice is unexpected. Isak opens his eyes again though he doesn’t make an effort to meet Even’s gaze, not sure he’s ready for what he might see there.

“You’re not,” he repeats softly. “I just like holding you.”

“I like it too,” Isak whispers, heart thundering in his ears and breath trapped somewhere between his lungs.

“That’s chill,” Even murmurs.

Burying his face deeper in Even’s chest, Isak replies, “That’s chill.”

*

Isak can’t sleep on Saturday night.

Even had gone out with Mikael that afternoon, announcing that they were going filming for a while, and at the time Isak had just nodded and said a simple, “Goodbye,” too absorbed in trying to get through the rest of his assignment. But now it’s midnight and Even’s still not home and Isak’s eyes aren’t even close to drooping.

Isak rolls over again, huffing in frustration. He has no right to text Even and ask where he is. Even isn’t his boyfriend; he doesn’t have to tell Isak where he is or what time he’s coming home. He and Mikael probably decided to go out after filming; it’s not a big deal. Even probably thought he could handle one night without him.

However after another twenty minutes of tossing and turning he gives up and feels for his phone on the nightstand.

He’s just worried; he just wants to make sure Even’s okay.

Isak: Hey, are you coming home tonight?

Even: yeah we just finished up shooting, why?

Isak takes a breath, shaking his head as he types.

Isak: Can’t sleep

Even: on my way, be home soon <3

True to his word, Isak hears a key turning in the lock of the front door no less than twenty minutes later. His heartbeat picks up and he scrunches the duvet up between his fingers to give himself something to do while he waits for Even.

Even shuffles around the flat a bit first, likely going to the bathroom and the kitchen before, finally, Isak’s bedroom door is opening.

“Still awake?” Even whispers once he’s closed the door behind him.

“Yeah,” Isak whispers back, chewing on his lip for a moment before mumbling a tremulous, “What took so long?”

“Sorry,” Even murmurs and Isak can hear him getting changed on the other side of the room. “I was filming night shots so I had to wait for it to get dark.”

He shuffles into Isak’s bed then and Isak only feels a little clingy when he immediately reaches for him. Even doesn’t seem to mind anyway, tucking Isak under his chin and running soothing hands over his back. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I’d be late,” he says quietly. “I thought you’d still be up by the time I got home.”

“I was tired,” Isak replies and he doesn’t know why his voice sounds so shaky but breathing in the familiar scent of Even’s t-shirt helps to settle him.

Even’s palm slides over his back again and then Isak’s feels a feather-light press of lips to his forehead. His breath hitches and he knows Even hears it but he doesn’t think his voice is working right now to say anything.

“I’m here now,” Even whispers, lips just shy of touching Isak’s forehead once again and making him shiver. “Let’s sleep.”

Isak wraps himself up in Even, shifts closer until there’s hardly an inch of space between them, and closes his eyes.

With Even’s hands on his back and the phantom feel of Even’s lips on his skin, he sleeps.

*

Chapter Text

 

31/10/16-10/11/16

It’s Monday. It’s Halloween. It’s the last day that assignments are due to be handed up until Christmas. It was also Magnus’ birthday yesterday.

So they’re celebrating.

They’re going to a Halloween party organised by one of the societies at uni. Isak can’t remember which one but he supposes it doesn’t really matter – there’s a party with alcohol and music at a rented out club venue, that’s enough.

Isak had left the apartment early to pre-game at Magnus’ so he hasn’t seen Even yet but he’d promised he was coming. Isak has just arrived with the boys but it’s impossible to tell if Even is here; the place is thronged and if that didn’t make it difficult enough, the fact that he doesn’t even know what Even’s costume is poses a little bit of a complication.

“Dude, let’s get some drinks,” Jonas yells over the thumping bass of the music, tugging on Isak’s arm and pulling him in the direction of the bar area that’s been set up. Between the four of them they manage to shove through the crowd and make it to the counter eventually. It takes another twenty minutes for them to actually procure their drinks and Isak spends the entire time scanning the room in search of Even.

As soon as Jonas has shoved a beer in his hand he rolls his eyes. “Bro, just call him and ask if he’s here yet.”

Isak huffs, “I don’t have my phone with me; I don’t have any pockets!”

Jonas looks down at Isak’s football jersey and shorts, shaking his head with a laugh. “You didn’t think this one through.”

“Like you fucking did,” Isak retorts, appraising Jonas’ Spiderman spandex.

Jonas puffs out his chest proudly, jostling Isak’s shoulder. “Fuck you, Spiderman is cool. Besides at least I’m not dressed like Magnus.”

They both glance over at Magnus, who is currently gesticulating wildly to Mahdi and making the ears on the top of his Tigger onesie flop ridiculously. Mahdi is the only one whose costume is somewhat practical, even though he’s gonna end up overheating in his big fireman jacket. Mahdi looks over at Isak and Jonas with an exasperated expression and it becomes abundantly clear what Magnus has been talking about it.

“I’m finding Magnus a girl and then I’m finding Anna,” he shouts over the music. Anna is the girl from his finance class that Isak has on good authority he’s hooked up with at the last three parties.

So he bites back a smirk and salutes Mahdi with his beer, watching him tow Magnus away with a long-suffering expression as the faint sound of Magnus’ yell of, “Happy fucking birthday to me!” travels over the music.

He and Jonas mingle after that, talking to Eva and Noora for a while until the other girls descend on them and drag them both away to dance. When, less than five minutes later, Isak catches sight of Jonas making eyes at some girl across the room he suppresses a groan. Here we go.

Jonas looks at him with pleading eyes as the girl and her friend begin to approach and Isak rearranges his face into something resembling pleasant. The things he fucking does for his best friends.

The blonde dressed as Tinkerbell is the one that greets them, though she barely spares a glance in Isak’s direction before she’s leaning in to talk to Jonas. Isak rolls his eyes looking over at her brunette friend. She’s pretty, Isak supposes, some kind of cross between Natalie Portman and Eleven from Stranger Things. She’s the kind of girl he probably would’ve made a move on when he was in the closet. Now, however, her peppy smile is making him want to disappear and find Even.

“Hei!” she greets happily, putting a hand on his shoulder and leaning in to say the word right in his ear. Which is a little unnecessary considering they’re away from the dancefloor.

“Hei,” he replies unenthusiastically, hoping the tight smile on his face is enough to deter her.

It’s not.

“I’m Emma, I didn’t catch your name earlier?”

Isak opens his mouth to reply when a hand drops around his shoulder and another voice exclaims, “Isak!”

Isak freezes, looking away from Emma and slowly raising his head to meet a piercing blue gaze. Even is staring down at him, eyebrows raised and the corners of his mouth quirked. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

Isak swallows hard, gaze flitting over Even to take in his costume. He looks- fuck, he looks incredible. Dressed in grey jeans but with chainmail and armour covering his torso and a sword slotted into the belt around his waist. His hair looks a little different too – it’s still swept up in a quiff but it’s messier, falling down slightly and curling over his forehead. Isak is gaping at him and he knows it.

“Who’s your friend?” Even asks then, clearly not as affected as Isak is and making him snap back to reality.

He blinks, shaking himself – though he’s careful not to dislodge Even’s arm – and looks back to Emma, whose face is a lot more pinched than it was a moment ago.

“This is Emma,” he says and when he looks to his right he realises he’s been abandoned by Jonas and Tinkerbell. “Emma, this is Even, my-“

“We live together,” Even says, offering Emma his free hand.

“How nice,” she says faintly, shaking Even’s hand after a beat. There’s a tense moment of awkward silence before Emma looks behind her. “Excuse me; I have to go find my friend, Lea.”

Even sends her off with a cheerful, “Ha det!” and Emma disappears into the crowd. Even’s arm doesn’t drop but it loosens slightly and Isak hadn’t even realised how tightly he’d been holding him. He blinks, trying and failing to process whatever the fuck just happened. He turns to Even finding him already looking at Isak with an innocent expression.

“What was that?” Isak asks.

“What?” Even asks, voice sounding just a little bit too unassuming.

Isak raises his eyebrows, giving Even a sceptical look.

“I think you’ve put yourself through enough straight flirting to last you a lifetime; I figured you could use the rescue.”

Isak splutters, floundering for a response as Even laughs, squeezing his shoulder before letting go. Isak feels the loss instantly and tries not to let his smile dim as he mutters out an exasperated, “Thanks.”

“Anytime,” Even chuckles, the sound fading out as his gaze suddenly becomes heavier. He eyes travel down Isak’s body and back up again and Isak has to remind himself that he’s looking at his costume. “So, tell me, who are you supposed to be?”

Isak looks down at his own costume before returning Even’s gaze with a sheepish expression. “Um, Jonas says I look like Antoine Griezmann, so,” he trails off, awkwardly scratching the back of his neck. What Jonas had actually said was, “Your legs are your best feature. This is your chance to show him some skin in a natural environment.”

Mahdi had argued vehemently that Isak’s cheekbones were his best feature but Jonas won by pointing out Even sees those all the time.

Even’s eyes on him become sharper and one side of his mouth turns up. “I can see it.”

Isak’s cheeks immediately flush and the only saving grace is the fact that it’s probably unnoticeable in the dim lights of the room. “So, uh, you’re supposed to be a knight, right?”

Even steps back with a scandalised expression. “Have I taught you nothing in the six weeks I’ve been living with you?”

Isak shakes his head, still confused and mind a little fuzzy from everything that’s just happened in the past five minutes.

“I’m Leonardo DiCaprio,” he sighs dramatically, gesturing down at his costume. “Specifically, Leo as Romeo.”

Isak thinks back to the Romeo and Juliet poster hanging above Even’s bed in their room. He’s never paid much attention to it but he remembers Romeo in the poster is dressed similarly. The only reason Isak even knows anything about the movie is because Even had gone on a fifteen minute rant about how Baz Luhrmann is a visionary when he’d asked about the poster.

“You look good,” he says quickly, casually. “Very Leo.”

Even smirks at him. “Thirty seconds ago you didn’t even know who I was.”

“I just needed you to remind me,” Isak argues, lacing his voice with exasperation to hide the way his stomach is doing somersaults.

“We’re definitely watching Romeo and Juliet tomorrow,” Even says decisively, hand fitting to Isak’s shoulder and steering him through the crowd. His voice is right by Isak’s ear when he continues and it makes a shudder ripple through him. “I can’t believe I waited this long to show you.”

“Where are we going?” he asks, voice breathless and probably inaudible over the music, completely ignoring Even’s comment.

“I wanna dance,” Even says, stepping forward to stand at Isak’s side once again and taking his hand.

Isak’s heart is in his throat as Even pulls him in between dancing bodies. They stand close but not close enough to be touching and Even instantly starts moving to the beat with the kind of confidence and ease Isak wishes he possessed. When he remains standing still Even makes a face at him and grabs his wrists, tugging on his arms while Isak watches them flop uselessly.

“Come on!” Even exclaims. “We’re at a party.”

“The song is shit,” Isak says because it’s the first thing that comes to mind. Truthfully he doesn’t even know what’s playing, can’t clear his head enough to pick it out.

Even tuts, rolling his eyes and pulling on Isak’s hands again. The action makes him stumble a step closer which only serves to send his nerves skyrocketing. “This is a great song,” Even disagrees and Isak finally forces himself to listen to what’s playing.

When he does he rears back with a derisive expression. “Gabrielle?”

“Yeah!” Even says obliviously and Isak can’t hear but he can tell he’s humming along with the music. “Come onnnn,” Even coaxes again, letting go of Isak and dancing ridiculously in circles around him.

At the very least, it serves to help Isak relax by pushing an exasperated laugh out of him. (At the most, it makes him fall even harder for Even.)

“See you're dancing now!” Even crows happily and Isak realises in horror that he’s been bopping his head in time with the beat.

“Nei!” he denies but his vehemence is lost somewhere in his smile. Even keeps shimmying closer, getting up in Isak’s space and making him giggle, and Isak thinks his own pulse is louder than the music but he doesn’t move away. Heaving a long-suffering sigh, he relents and gives into Even’s insistence, letting him pull on his hands and moving his hips half-heartedly. He breaks down into a fit of giggles when Even starts singing the lyrics, sound completely lost to anyone but Isak as a result of the volume of the music and it makes Isak’s heart beat a little bit harder in his chest. Makes him feel a little bit like they’re the only two people here.

Even is grinning at him and every time he dances closer their chests brush and Isak is starting to think this might actually be something. Even’s looking at him in a way he’s never really looked before and there’s something in his eyes Isak can’t parse. When they accidentally get so close that their noses bump the action serves to steal all the breath from Isak’s lungs and he feels it when they both freeze. Even’s eyes drop to his mouth and Isak feels his veins tingle in anticipation. This is it. This is going to happen.

But then-

“Isak!” Vilde, Chris and Eva descend upon them out of nowhere, effectively separating him and Even and dragging them into a dance Isak definitely didn’t ask to be a part of as the song abruptly changes.

Even throws him a helpless smile as Chris grabs his arm and Isak tries not to let the disappointment show on his face.

Almost.

*

They lose each other on the dancefloor after the girls’ arrival. By the time the girls have lost interest in him and Isak is able to escape Even is nowhere to be found. He tries searching the dancefloor but it’s impossible to see anything with so many bodies around. He looks around the bar next but Even doesn’t seem to be amongst any of the bodies. He spots Mutta and Mikael at the edge of the dancefloor at one point and hurries over to them.

“Have you seen Even?”

“Halla to you too, Isak,” Mikael laughs but he shakes his head a moment later. “Sorry, man. Last I saw he was running off to find you and that was a couple of hours ago.”

Isak’s shoulders drop in resignation and he nods, muttering a, “Thanks,” as he stalks off.

He just- he wants to see if what he felt before – the anticipation – was real. He wants to know if it’s still there.

After walking the entire room twice over – upstairs and down - Isak notices a cracked open fire exit and decides to try his luck. Sure enough, Even is sitting on the step outside, elbows braced on his knees.

Isak takes a few tentative steps forward and joins him, nudging Even’s shoulder when he sits down.

He doesn’t expect the expression on Even’s face. The spark in his eyes from earlier is all but gone and he looks…distant, drawn.

“Everything okay?” he asks quietly, trying to think what might’ve happened in the time they were separated.

Even smiles but it’s half-hearted at best. “Yeah, I’m just a little tired.”

“I thought that was my line,” he says, voice hesitantly playful and Even sighs out a tiny laugh.

“Sorry, I’m stealing it tonight,” he mumbles.

Isak frowns but he’s not sure what to say so he settles for remaining quiet. He stares out on the empty street, sounds of the party still loud behind them but muffled by the door. After a few minutes a shiver ripple through him and he hugs his arms close to his chest. “Fuck, it’s cold.”

Even glances over at him, seemingly finally noticing Isak is wearing only a t-shirt and shorts, and a bit of colour comes back into his voice when he asks, “Where’s your jacket? We live in Norway and it’s October- or November now, I guess.”

“I don’t need a jacket, I have my cuddle buddy.” It’s daring for him – especially when Even’s been the one referring to them as that all along and especially with what happened on the dance floor but Isak is desperate to get that faraway look off Even’s face.

It works. Even huffs a laugh and puts an arm around him, pulling Isak into his side.

“Do you wanna go home?” Isak asks.

“Aren’t you celebrating Magnus’ birthday? You don’t have to leave because of me.”

“If you’re going home, I wanna go home with you,” Isak murmurs. He looks up a moment later when he feels Even’s eyes on him and an inexplicable look passes between them.

“Let’s go,” Even whispers.

*

There’s a moment when they climb into bed once they get home where they both lie on their sides, facing one another.

And the silence in the room is tangible, almost. Like a physical presence wrapping itself around them. Even reaches out a hand, fingers circling Isak’s wrist like they’d done earlier that night and Isak allows his hand to move when he tugs, slipping out from under his head. When their hands are lying between them on the mattress Even carefully slides their palms together, lacing their fingers together.

Isak looks down at their hands before flitting his eyes back up to Even with his heart pounding heavily in his chest.

Slowly, Even leans forward and brushes a kiss over Isak’s knuckles, returning his head to the pillow a moment later with a small smile. “Thanks for coming home with me,” he whispers. “The party got a bit too much.”

Isak nods, fingers tightening around Even’s. “Of course.”

“Can we sleep like this tonight?” Even asks and it’s a more vulnerable request than Isak has ever expected from him.

So Isak smiles, rearranging the blanket around them so they’re both tucked up and warm. “Yeah.”

Even squeezes his hand and closes his eyes.

*

For the first time since they started sharing a bed Isak wakes up alone the following morning.

He has a faint headache from the alcohol and the empty space on his mattress is cold when he runs a hand over it. He frowns, feeling slightly unsettled as he sits up. He looks around the room and notices that Even’s backpack is missing and that one piece of knowledge makes him relax somewhat. He probably went to class.

Checking the time on his phone confirms that Isak has missed his first two lectures and that Even should’ve started his first class an hour ago. He probably didn’t want to wake you.

Isak doesn’t rush getting ready, taking his time in the shower and opting to grab a greasy breakfast on the way to uni rather than making something at home. He makes it in just before his lab and sends a quick message to Even.

Isak: finally dragged myself to uni, you around for lunch later?

By the time his lab starts he still doesn’t have a reply but he decides not to think too much of it, shoving down the uneasy feeling in his stomach.

*

Even doesn’t end up meeting him for lunch but he’s waiting outside Isak’s lecture hall when he gets out of his last class.

The first thing Isak notices is how exhausted he looks.

“Wow, you look worse than I feel,” he observes but his teasing barely coaxes a smile out of Even.

“Hungover?” Even asks him rather than acknowledging Isak’s statement.

“It’s not so bad now,” Isak says with a wave of his hand as they start making their way to the tram stop. “What about you? I didn’t know you drank last night?”

“Oh yeah, I had a few,” Even replies absently. “I guess my tolerance is just fucked from not drinking as much.”

Isak hums, “Did you submit your film scene?”

Even smiles and Isak is silently thankful to see it’s a real one. “Yeah. I’m really happy with how it turned out.”

“And you’re still not gonna let me see it?” Isak needles, making Even laugh softly.

“Christmas,” he promises.

Isak huffs but lets it go as they both fall silent. He thinks back over their conversations from last night as they walk and decides to settle on a relatively safe topic. “So are we watching Romeo and Juliet tonight?”

Even blinks, looking over at him in surprise, before a genuine smile finally spreads over his face. “Of course. I have to educate you.”

Their tram ride home is quieter than normal but Isak puts it down to both of them not feeling the best. After ordering take out for dinner and a mostly one-sided conversation with Eskild about the gossip from last night they finally duck into their room and Isak feels something pleasant thrumming in his veins at the way Even immediately goes to his bed.

Isak sits down beside him while Even sets up his laptop and is taken aback when Even curls into him as soon as he presses play. It’s never been a thing they’ve discussed before but Even always seems to be the one holding Isak, considering that Isak is normally the one who needs comfort. He feels his anxiety spike at the thought that something might be wrong with Even to say he’s reaching out like this but he pushes it down, telling himself Even’s probably just hungover still.

Even’s head is resting on Isak’s stomach, arms hugging him and legs tucked up against Isak’s side. Isak just straightens his own legs and moves the laptop to sit it on his lap, hand tentatively reaching out and carding through Even’s hair. Even sighs at the contact so Isak keeps his fingers moving, running them over his scalp and murmuring a quiet, “Okay?”

“Yeah,” Even answers tiredly. “I’m okay.”

Even falls asleep before the film ends so Isak makes the decision to shut the laptop and pull the blanket up around them.

They can watch it properly some other night.

*

Even starts to become distant over the next couple of days.

Isak can’t pinpoint exactly what’s wrong but he hasn’t been the same since the party. He thinks back to the moments they shared and he can’t help but feel like they must be the explanation. Things got a little too real between them, a little bit less platonic, and now Even’s- not avoiding him, exactly. But it’s not the same.

He still sleeps in Isak’s bed and holds him at night but he’s too quiet. He doesn’t talk Isak’s ear off about some film he’s never seen or ask Isak about his classes. Isak asks him more than once if he’s okay, if they’re okay, but every time Even just smiles and nods and Isak can see him putting effort into making himself look happier in the moments that follow.

On Friday Even doesn’t come home.

Isak doesn’t consider it strange at first, assuming he just stayed late in the library or is out with the boys or something but by 20:00 he’s picking up his phone and opening his chat with Even.

Isak: what time are you coming home?

Even’s reply comes in almost instantly and it serves to calm him somewhat.

Even: I’m at my parents’, I’ll be home later

It’s not an exact time but it’s enough to stop him from worrying. Or, at least it is until it reaches midnight and there’s still no sign of Even. He’s been in bed for half an hour, staring blankly up at the ceiling. Scrunching his eyes shut, he reaches for his phone again.

Isak: are you still at your parents’ place?

Even: yeah, not feeling well. Think I’m just gonna stay here tonight

He sends a heart seconds later and Isak has a moment where a smile flickers across his face but just quickly it falls when Even’s reply sinks in. He’s not coming home tonight. Isak has to sleep alone. It feels like his legs have been kicked out from under him despite the fact that he’s lying down and instinctively Isak knows something’s wrong.

Even wouldn’t- he wouldn’t do this.

He wouldn’t not come home without an explanation or an apology. Despite their joking around, he’s been so attentive about Isak’s insomnia and so dead-set on making him feel comforted. Cutting contact like this isn’t like him.

Isak lies in bed, staring at the ceiling and scrunching the blanket between his fingers, feeling panic slowly build in his chest at the thought that he’s done something wrong. That he really has misinterpreted everything and that Even doesn’t reciprocate his feelings.

It’s when he looks over at Even’s empty bed that he remembers their conversation from weeks ago.

When I’m depressed I oversleep but sometimes I have days where I can’t shut my brain off and I end up staring at the wall for eighteen hours.

Isak swallows hard, thinking back on Even’s behaviour over the last few days. He thinks about the distant look on his face when he’d found him at the party the other night and the way he seemed so exhausted on Tuesday. He’d said he was hungover but Isak is starting to think that wasn’t true. He didn’t see Even with a drink at all during the party and he didn’t seem drunk when he arrived either.

Even is depressed, he realises, heart clenching painfully in his chest.

It makes sense and he hates that it makes sense.

Figuring he probably won’t be able to sleep tonight anyway, he sits up and reaches for his laptop. He could be wrong but, instinctively, he knows he’s probably not. The thing is, ever since Even told him he was bipolar he never really thought to research it. Even shared information with him sometimes during their late night conversations or if Isak asked but he’s never gone looking for information himself, never particularly felt the need to.

Picking up his phone again and sending Even a heart, he looks back at his laptop screen and opens Google.

*

Even doesn’t come home on Saturday either. He doesn’t answer Isak’s texts and Isak doesn’t sleep for the second night in a row.

*

On Sunday morning Isak shuffles into Eskild’s room with his bones aching from exhaustion. Eskild is sitting up on his bed, playing with his phone, when Isak opens the door.

“What are you doing up so early, little buddy?” Eskild asks, voice much more comforting than normal.

“Haven’t slept yet,” Isak mumbles, climbing onto the empty space in Eskild’s bed.

Eskild sighs and Isak feels tears stinging at his eyes when Eskild wraps an arm around his shoulder and pulls him into his side.

“Can you ask Yousef if he heard anything from Even?” he asks tremulously.

“Isak, I told you I messaged him yesterday,” he reminds gently. “Yousef said he’s sick so he’s staying at his parents’ for a couple of days. You need to stop looking so sad! He hasn’t deserted you; he’s just not feeling well.”

Isak closes his eyes and takes a steadying breath. Eskild doesn’t know Even is bipolar so Isak’s not surprised he doesn’t sound worried. He probably thinks Even has the flu.

“I just miss him,” he admits quietly. If it were anyone else Isak doesn’t think he could allow himself to be this vulnerable but Eskild has seen him in far worse states than this.

“He’ll be home soon,” Eskild promises.

Isak hopes he’s right.

*

By Monday Isak is dead on his feet and his worry for Even has officially skyrocketed. He’s trying to remind himself that Even’s safe, that he’s with his parents, but he can’t help feeling like this is his fault somehow. Like he made Even sad.

He just wants to know he’s okay.

He spends the majority of his lunch with the boys completely zoned out but when they’re all about to make their way to class he holds Magnus back. “Mags, can I talk to you for a sec?”

Magnus frowns but stops walking and turns back to him. “Is everything okay?”

The boys had been worried, to say the least, when he’d arrived at their lunch table looking worse than he has in weeks but hadn’t pushed him to talk about what was bothering him, just offered silent support by giving him parts of their lunch they thought he’d like.

“Um,” Isak shuffles his feet, looking off to the side. When he looks back Magnus’ frown has only deepened. “Even is bipolar.”

Surprisingly, Magnus’ expression completely smooths out at that. “Oh, really?”

“Yeah,” Isak confirms. “And I think something might be wrong.”

“You think he might be manic?” Magnus asks and there’s no judgement in his voice. He sounds completely neutral.

Isak shakes his head. “No, he’s been- he was being really distant last week after the Halloween party and then on Friday night he didn’t come home-“

“Where did he go?”

“His parents,” Isak says, blowing out a breath. “And he’s still there but Mags, he hasn’t answered any of my calls or texts and I’m worried.”

Magnus doesn’t answer for a moment, a thoughtful expression on his face as he chooses his words. “He’s probably spent the majority of the past few days sleeping, Isak,” he says carefully. “He likely doesn’t even have the energy to lift his head off the pillow, nevermind actually checking his phone. He’s not trying to worry you on purpose.”

Isak nods, wishing desperately that the shaky feeling in his stomach would just go away.

“When was he diagnosed?” Magnus asks gently.

“When he was a teenager.”

“Then, as shitty as it is, he’s been through this before,” Magnus says with a sad smile. “And so have his parents. They know how to take care of him. He’s safe right now; that’s the most important thing.”

“What do I do though?” Isak asks and he hates how small and weak his voice sounds.

Magnus shrugs his shoulders, offering him a regretful twitch of his lips. “Just- let him know you’re there for him. He’ll call when he feels better.”

“Okay,” Isak whispers.

*

Isak: Hey. I’m sorry I keep texting and calling. You don’t have to answer but I’ll be here to hold you when you want to come home <3

*

When Isak goes into his biology lecture after two and a half hours of broken sleep the following morning and spots Sana he makes a decision.

“Do you have Yousef’s number?” he asks as soon as he sits down.

Sana blinks at him. “Excuse me?”

“Or Mikael’s? Or your brother’s? I don’t care just one of them.”

“Can I ask why?” she asks dryly.

Isak sighs, feeling his shoulders hunch in. “Even hasn’t been home in a few days and I want to know if he’s okay.”

Sana appears taken aback at that, mouth working for a moment while she decides what to say. “Is he- I mean, did he seem-“

Isak guesses fairly quickly from the way she’s floundering what she’s trying to ask. “You know he’s bipolar?” he assumes.

Sana’s posture relaxes and she nods once.

“I think he’s depressed,” he says quietly, meeting Sana’s eyes with a pleading expression. “Please, Sana. I just want to make sure he’s alright.”

She lowers her gaze before fishing her phone out of her pocket. He watches her send someone a text and barely a minute passes before she gets a reply. “Yousef and Mikael are getting coffee in the student centre in an hour,” she tells him. “You can join them if you want.”

Isak blows out a breath, slumping in his chair. “Thank you.”

*

He finds Yousef and Mikael easily enough when he races over to the student centre after class. They look up before he even gets to the table so he guesses they’ve been expecting him.

“Hi Isak,” Mikael says with a tiny smile.

Yousef nods his head in greeting and kicks the spare chair at their table out with his foot. “Do you want to sit down?”

Isak sits tentatively, looking from one face to the other. Both of their expressions are completely neutral; it’s impossible to tell what they’re thinking. After a moment he decides to just bite the bullet and ask the question he’s been dying to know the answer to for days. “Have you heard from Even?”

Yousef and Mikael share a look before Yousef nods at him. “Isak, what exactly has Even told you about-“

“He told me he’s bipolar,” Isak interjects. “Is he- is this a depressive episode?”

Both boys blink like they hadn’t been expecting that but Mikael is the one who answers. “Yeah, he’s going through a depressive phase right now,” he says quietly. “It’s still a bit too early to know if it’s a major episode or not.”

Having his fears confirmed feels like a punch to the gut and Isak sucks in a sharp breath before he asks his next question. “Is it- did I do something wrong?”

Mikael frowns and he sees Yousef furrow his brow out of the corner of his eye.

“Why would you have done something wrong?” Yousef asks.

Isak averts his eyes under their heavy gazes, glancing down at the bright yellow table and clearing his throat. “I was researching and I read that sometimes episodes can be triggered by certain things so I thought maybe I did something or-“

“Isak,” Mikael interrupts with a confused shake of his head. “Even is the happiest he’s been in years these past two months.”

“Really?” His voice is barely audible but the hope in it is smothering. He squeezes his own hands in his lap while he watches Mikael and Yousef share an almost amused smile. However, when they look back to him their expressions are sombre again.

“Yes, sometimes his episodes can be triggered by something specific,” Yousef agrees. “But sometimes he just feels sad. And it’s shit and it’s not fair but it happens. It’s nothing you did, I promise.”

Isak nods slowly, trying to quell the racing of his heart. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. “But- he hasn’t talked to me since Thursday.”

“Even’s kind of hard to get in contact with when he feels like this,” Mikael says. “It’s not just you. He finds it hard to have the energy to talk to anyone when he’s depressed.”

“But he left,” Isak says, voice thick with about five days of swallowed down tears. “Why did he leave?”

“Look, Isak,” Yousef says quietly, a pained expression on his face. “When Even’s depressed- it’s a lot to deal with, okay? It’s hard to take care of him when he feels like that because there’s nothing you can really do to make it better. He probably thought he’d be a burden if he stayed.”

Isak’s mind flashes back to a whispered conversation in the dark over a month ago and his chest tightens.

“He could never be a burden,” he says with conviction.

Mikael smiles, to himself, mostly, but Isak notices it.

“So what should I do?” he asks when neither of them have spoken, and the hopelessness in his voice comes out stronger than he’d expected to. “Should I go see him?”

Yousef and Mikael have a silent conversation with their eyes and then Yousef turns to answer him. “Just- text him and let him know you’re there. When he feels a bit better, he’ll reply. The chances are if you went over there he’d probably sleep the whole time you were there anyway.”

That’s what I want. I want us to sleep.

“But it’s already been five days,” he mumbles weakly.

“I know you’re worried but I promise he’s safe right now, Isak,” Yousef tells him. “We’ve spoken to his parents and they’re looking after him.”

“Give it to Friday,” Mikael says gently. “If you still haven’t heard anything by then. Give us a call. We’ll take you to see him.”

Isak nods, releasing a shaky breath and pushing himself out of his seat. “Okay,” he mumbles, “Thank you.”

“And Isak,” Mikael says as he’s about to turn away. His mouth is curled up in a half-smile and his eyes are glinting when he says, “Do me a favour. When Even’s feeling better, tell him how you feel.”

Isak’s expression goes blank with surprise but after a moment he feels a real smile make its way onto his face for the first time in days.

“I will.”

*

It’s Thursday night and Isak feels more tired than he has in weeks.

He still hasn’t heard from Even and the only thing keeping him going is the knowledge that he can see him tomorrow. Because, no matter what happens, he’s seeing him tomorrow. It’s been a week since he last spoke to Even, since he last looked at him, since he last touched him and, considering the gaping hole in his chest, it feels like much longer.

If there’s one thing this week has confirmed to him, it’s the thought he’s been steadfastly pushing down for about a month.

He’s falling in love with Even.

Probably already has fallen, honestly. Missing him this much isn’t normal. Being without him shouldn’t leave a physical ache in his bones. And yeah, he’s exhausted from a lack of sleep but more than anything else, he just needs Even. He needs to see him and touch him and know that he’s okay. He’d never sleep again if he could just have Even here.

Releasing a shuddering breath, he covers his face with his hands, scrubbing at his stinging eyes and resisting the urge to pick up his phone to try and call Even again.

He’s not sure how much time has passes when he hears his bedroom door open. He assumes it’s Eskild checking on him; he’s been extra mothering for the past few days and Isak hasn’t had the heart to ask him to stop. He sighs, letting his hands fall away from his face and opening his eyes.

It’s not Eskild.

Standing in the doorway, wearing a hoodie that Isak recognises as his own, is Even.

Isak sits up, heart stalled in his chest as he takes in Even’s hesitant, wan expression. He’s hair is flat and his cheeks are flushed stark against his pale skin and Isak can see his chapped lips from here. But more than anything, it’s his eyes that get Isak. They’re wide and filled with such a complex tangle of emotions it almost makes them unreadable. But he recognises one thing; the longing. It’s the same thing he’s seen in his own eyes every time he’s looked in the mirror this past week.

He gives himself half a second to swallow down the lump in his throat, to confirm this is real, and then he’s standing up. He crosses the room in three quick strides and then he’s pulling Even into his arms for a crushing hug.

He’s home.

*

Chapter Text

 

10/11/16-18/11/16

Even is holding him.

Even’s here and he’s holding him.

They’re still standing just inside the doorway, arms clinging to the fabric of one another’s clothes, faces buried in each other’s necks, breathing each other in and waiting for their heartbeats to slow to the same pace.

“I missed you,” Isak whispers and he doesn’t know how long they’ve been standing there but he’s hardly aware of the words leaving his mouth. He’s not even sure they make it out into the air of the room; he thinks they travel directly from his lips to Even’s skin. Even releases a hitching breath and his arms tighten around Isak’s frame.

“I missed you,” Even breathes, “I missed you.”

The words give Isak enough strength to pull back and he leans away, hands sliding over Even’s arms and circling his forearms. “Let’s sit down.”

Even meets his gaze and it’s still as heavy as it had been when he first walked through the door but Isak thinks there’s something calmer about it now. Something a bit more settled. Isak leads them over to his bed and sits on the edge, hands still holding Even as he sits beside him, knees bumping when they turn towards each other.

Even takes a deep breath and Isak doesn’t rush him, willing to wait for whatever he’s planning to say. There’s never been a need to rush with them.

“I’m sorry I didn’t answer your messages,” he mumbles and it sounds weary, exhausting, like just trying to get the words past his lips requires too much effort.

“That’s okay,” Isak says, running a placating hand over Even’s arm. Just touching him now feels like a privilege. He bites the inside of his cheek, gaze flickering from Even’s hands hidden in the sleeves of his hoodie to his anguished expression. “Can I ask why you left in the first place?”

Even looks away from him, staring instead at his untouched bed. Isak considered sleeping in it at one point in the last week before he realised his own bedsheets smell more of Even than Even’s bed does. “I- When I’m depressed I’m not exactly easy to deal with.”

Isak furrows his brow. “Even, I don’t care,” he insists fervently. Even isn’t a burden. He never could be. He’d meant that.

Even’s face scrunches up in a frown before it smooths out again and he looks at Isak with tired eyes. “No but- I have to lie in total darkness for most of the day and I barely eat or shower or get changed or any of that and you can say that’s okay but Isak, this is your room too. And it wouldn’t have been fair to make you go through that.”

Isak stays quiet for a moment. And in truth, he probably would’ve done something in the past week to make things worse for Even had he been here. The rational part of him knows Even’s parents also know how best to take care of him in these situations but still. “I would’ve done it for you,” he says quietly.

The corners of Even’s mouth twitch up and it’s hardly a smile but it makes Isak’s heart remember how to beat properly again. “I couldn’t ask you to, though,” he says quietly. “When I started to feel it coming on I went to talk to my parents about it. But once I lay down in my old bed I couldn’t really find it in myself to get back up again.”

Isak nods and it hurts to imagine how Even has been feeling this past week. To know this beautiful, vibrant boy has been shrouded in a cloud of darkness. Isak wants nothing more than to help him find the sunshine again. “Why did you come back now? Are you feeling better?”

Even looks down at his lap, shrugging slightly. “Today was the first day I felt well enough to get out of bed. And I just- I missed you.”

Isak sighs out a breath and it sounds both relieved and awed even to his own ears. He tips his head forward, forehead falling to rest against Even’s, and listens to the way air rushes out between Even’s lips in a tiny gasp. “How do you feel now?”

“I’m tired,” Even whispers and Isak meets his gaze. It’s too hard to see with how close together they are but he can make out the silent request on Even’s face.

“Then you should stay with me,” Isak murmurs. “And we should sleep.”

Even nods, forehead bumping Isak’s gently, before he pulls away. There’s a minute or two of shuffling, where Even takes off the hoodie and stands in the middle of the room, looking a little lost, while Isak pulls back the covers on his bed, giving Even back the blue pillow he’d reclaimed while he was gone. And then, finally, Even is lying in bed beside him.

The way it should be.

Before Even can even consider reaching for him Isak rolls towards him instead, nudging Even onto his side and then pressing up against his back once he does. Even’s shoulders sag as Isak curls himself around him, aligning his knees along the space behind Even’s and burying his nose in the nape of Even’s neck.

“I’m not usually the one being held,” Even whispers.

“Feels nice, doesn’t it?” Isak asks, pressing his smile into the skin of Even’s neck and hoping he can feel it.

Even hum in agreement. “Have you slept much since I’ve been gone?”

Isak grimaces, not keen on telling Even just how hard he’s found this past week. “Not really,” he admits reluctantly.

“I’m sorry,” Even tells him, voice hoarse.

Isak shushes him, brushing his lips over Even’s shoulder. “It’s okay; we can sleep now.”

Even sinks into him a little more and with that, Isak closes his eyes.

*

When he wakes up in the morning Even is still in his arms and that sight alone is enough to make him feel as if he might still be dreaming.

But then Even’s head shifts on the pillow and he remembers this is real.

He feels it when Even slowly begins to wake up and it’s the most fascinating thing he’s ever experienced. The way Even’s stomach flutters under his hands when his breathing begins to change, the way he becomes lighter, limbs waking up and losing the heaviness of sleep, the way he sighs out the quietest breath and Isak can just make out the slightest flutter of eyelashes over Even’s shoulder.

“Good morning,” he whispers, words muffled into Even’s shirt.

Even’s hand squeezes around his own and then, he’s carefully easing onto his other side, turning in Isak’s arms to face him.

He still looks drained but there’s the faintest flicker of light in his eyes and Isak intends to keep that light shining for as long as he possibly can.

“Can I stay with you today?” he asks, voice hushed because this moment isn’t built to be any louder than that.

“You have class,” Even says, voice croaky and rough with sleep.

“Missing two lectures won’t ruin my academic career,” Isak tells him, smiling playfully.

Even almost smiles at that, hands reaching for Isak under the covers and twisting in his shirt. Isak moves his own hand to rest against Even’s neck in response. “When I told you we could skip uni one day this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Even mutters and Isak can picture the grin that would be there if this moment were a different one.

“You’ll just have to take me to a museum some other day,” Isak says bemusedly.

“And serenade you on a parade float,” Even mumbles, eyes drifting shut again.

“It’s a parade float now?” Isak asks with a raise of his eyebrows. “Have we upgraded from the football field?”

Even’s eyes are still closed but he smiles and that’s everything.

Feeling out of his depth and acting a lot braver than his shaking heart, he leans forward, brushing his nose against Even with as much delicacy and tenderness as he possesses. A silent, I’m here, I’ve got you.

Even releases a contented sigh when he pulls away and Isak reaches for the duvet with his free hand, pulling it back up over their shoulders. “I think this is the kind of day off we deserve right now.”

Even nods and cuddles into him and Isak holds him.

*

Even sleeps for most of the morning and when he wakes up again he looks a little bit less groggy. Isak makes him toast and feels hopeful when Even actually eats a slice even if it takes him much longer than it normally would. The curtains are still drawn and the light in the room is dim but it doesn’t feel cold with the way they’re both still wrapped in the blanket.

“How are you feeling now?” Isak asks softly once Even has discarded his plate to the bedroom floor. Even’s hands twist in the blanket and he closes his eyes.

“Like the world is too loud.”

Isak reaches for his hands, slowly unfurling them from the blanket and slotting his fingers in the spaces between Even’s. “Okay,” he whispers. “We’ll make it quiet.”

The look Even gives him is indecipherable but Isak can see all the words he’s not saying written plainly in his eyes. Even shifts, moving to lie on Isak’s chest and tucking himself into his side, reaching for Isak’s hand with one of his own again as soon as he’s settles. Isak’s free hand travels wherever it can reach, gliding soothingly over Even’s back and through his hair and Even sounds like the weight of the world has finally been lifted from his shoulders when he sighs.

This is a different side to them that Isak has never had to contend with before. For weeks, Even has been the one holding him, the one comforting him, the one easing his mind and helping him sleep. And now the roles are reversed. He’s the one who’s taking care of Even. He’s the one navigating Even’s feelings and slowly learning how to comfort him with a touch.

That, in itself, is mind-blowing. That Even had wanted to see him, that Even had missed him It makes all the little fissures of doubt chipping away at his heart for the past week finally close up again. For weeks, Isak has known he feels better when Even is here and he thinks, though he can’t really make Even okay right now, Even might feel a little better when he’s there too.

It’s a nice thought. To feel like they could be good for each other.

He knows they could be good for each other.

*

The weekend is a quiet affair.

They spend the majority of it in bed, honestly. But it seems like Even’s mind hadn’t been playing tricks on him when he’d felt well enough to get out of bed on Thursday because, though he’s still tired and lethargic and though there are moments over the weekend where he goes too quiet or travels too far inside his own head, Isak can see traces of his spirit returning.

His smile, though fleeting, reaches his eyes on more than one occasion and he eats breakfast, lunch and dinner on both days even though it’s far less than what he normally would. Their roommates are a blessing and Isak is reminded once again why he calls this crowded little flat home. They don’t disturb them but they do periodically text Isak and ask if they need anything. Every time Isak has slipped out of his room to get food they’ve waylaid him long enough to make sure everything’s okay before letting him continue with his task with a simple offer to help.

But if anything, the weekend just confirms to him how deeply he cares for Even.

And Mikael’s words echo in his head the entire time.

When Even’s feeling better, tell him how you feel.

He wants to. He’s going to. He’s done worrying about the fact that it might be too soon or that something could go wrong. Because if he’s honest with himself, they blurred the lines between platonic and romantic a long time ago. And if he can feel this much with Even now – without going that extra step, without telling him how he really feels – well, he can’t imagine what it would be like to have all of him. Completely.

The timing’s not right right now.

But in a few days, or a week, or a month, or however long it takes, he’ll tell him.

He’ll tell him.

*

Even doesn’t go to uni on Monday and getting out of bed without him feels a lot harder than it should be.

Despite everything, Isak doesn’t feel quite so worried anymore. Linn is home all day and Noora will be home at lunch time and Even had seemed a little brighter before they’d gone to sleep last night. So he thinks the difficulty he feels about leaving doesn’t have as much to do with worrying about Even’s condition and everything to with just wanting to stay with him.

He allows himself a single moment of indulgence before he leaves his room, running gentle fingers over Even’s cheek before brushing his hair back off his forehead. Even asleep, Even leans into the touch, breathing out a soft sigh. Isak’s heart pounds a little harder in his chest and he withdraws his hand reluctantly.

When he reaches the living room he finds Eskild waiting for him with a small smile. Eskild doesn’t have class for another hour so the fact that he’s opting to drag himself out of bed earlier than necessary to catch the tram with Isak means he probably wants to talk. Oh god.

“Since when do you have a 10am lecture on a Monday?” Isak asks, picking his jacket up off the hook by the door and shrugging his bag off his shoulder to tug it on.

“Can’t I accompany my favourite roommate to uni in the morning?” Eskild returns innocently.

Isak gives him a sceptical look and unlocks the front door. “I’m telling Noora you said that.”

Eskild waves him off, closing the door behind them. He doesn’t say anything else as they walk down the stairs or while they’re walking to the tram stop but Isak can feel him biting his tongue. It isn’t until they’re comfortably seated on the tram that Eskild finally turns to him.

“So,” he starts magnanimously. “How’s Even this morning?”

“He was sleeping when I left,” Isak replies, pointedly leaving out his parting touch to Even’s cheek. “But he seemed to be feeling a little better last night before we went to sleep.”

Eskild smiles and it’s the genuine kind of smile Isak only ever sees when Eskild is being serious. “Good. That’s good.” He stops after that and Isak knows he’s gearing himself up for something. “And uh, how are you and Even?”

There it is.

“Fine,” Isak answers, avoiding Eskild’s gaze when he widens his eyes meaningfully.

There’s a beat of silence and then Eskild huffs. “Isak, are you really going to still pretend you don’t like him?”

Isak bites the inside of his cheek, internally scrambling to find an excuse before he eventually sighs. He supposes it doesn’t really matter if Eskild knows now. “Okay,” he says quietly. “I like him.”

To his surprise, Eskild doesn’t poke fun at him or make a big deal or anything like that. He simply nods with a little uptick to his mouth.

They both go quiet for a moment after that before Eskild nudges his shoulder with his own and leans in like he’s divulging a secret. “For what it’s worth, I think he likes you too.”

Isak ducks his head, staring down at his hands, lips quirking.

I hope so.

*

The boys are already waiting for him at their usual table at lunch time and their hopeful expressions make a smile curve up on Isak’s face as he settles into his chair. He’d texted the three of them on Saturday when Even was sleeping to update them on everything and each of them had responded with too many hearts and a promise to help if he or Even needed anything. He loves them too much.

After a few moments of shuffling while Isak shrugs off his jacket and pulls his water out of his bag, Jonas is the one who finally breaks the silence. “How’s Even?”

Isak blows out a breath. “He’s okay. I don’t wanna jinx it but I think he might be coming out of it.”

“Not a major episode then,” Magnus comments and Isak shakes his head.

“Even doesn’t think so,” he says. “He said when it’s really bad it can take weeks before he even wants to get out of bed. So it’s a good sign that he’s had a bit more energy the past couple of days.”

He watches each of the boys nod as they take in the information.

“And you’re sleeping again?” Mahdi asks, expression serious.

Isak feels his lips lift up in an involuntary smile and he inclines his head. “Yeah.”

Hesitating a moment, he decides it’s probably time to fill them in. “I also, um, I decided that when he feels better I’m gonna tell him how I feel.”

There’s a split second where no one speaks and Isak can hear his own heartbeat beating in his ears. And then suddenly all three of them are talking over each other, voices loud and hands gesturing wildly as Isak helplessly tries to decipher what they’re saying.

“When are you gonna tell him?” Jonas presses excitedly.

How are you gonna tell him?” Mahdi cuts in.

“Can we be there when you do?!” Magnus pleads.

Isak shakes his head, barking out a disbelieving laugh. “Oh my god, shut up! One at a time. Herregud.”

The way they clamp their mouths shut in sync really toes the line between creepy and amusing but Isak laughs again anyway. “I don’t know when I’m gonna tell him but it’ll be soon,” he directs to Jonas. “And I don’t know how either, I’m shit at this kind of thing. I’m just gonna be honest, I guess,” he says, turning to Mahdi. “And no, Magnus, you can’t be there, what the fuck?”

They keep quiet for a moment and if Isak didn’t know any better he’d think they were speechless, all grinning widely at him. But then Jonas reaches over and claps Isak on the shoulder. “Our boy’s gonna get his boy!” he exclaims.

Mahdi and Magnus crow along enthusiastically, leaning out of their chairs to slap Isak’s back, and the entire student centre is definitely staring at them but Isak can’t even be embarrassed about it. He just lets them pile on top of him. He has the best friends in the entire fucking world.

And hopefully soon he’ll have Even.

*

Even is sitting up in bed when he gets home, laptop in his lap and wearing a smile that crinkles his eyes when he looks at Isak.

“Halla,” he says and Isak has missed hearing that lightness in his voice.

“Halla,” he replies, dropping his bag by his desk and easing onto the other side of the bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Good,” Even murmurs, setting his laptop aside and turning onto his side a bit to face Isak. “I’m okay.”

Isak smiles softly, resisting the urge to reach out and touch Even. Instead his gaze strays to Even’s hoodie – which is, somewhat unsurprisingly, yet another one of Isak’s – and he’s reminded of what Even was wearing when he first came home. “So I have a question,” he says lightly, picking at the fabric of the blue hoodie Even’s currently wearing. “When exactly did you steal my hoodie?”

For a horrible moment, Even’s face goes blank and Isak can see the panic rising behind his eyes so he rubs a hand over his arm. It’s not much but it’s enough for Even’s expression to smooth out again. “It was payment for being your cuddle buddy,” Even jokes finally, though it falls flat, coming out a bit too tentative.

But Isak refuses to lose the lightness of the situation, rolling his eyes and letting out a scoff. “I already gave you my pillow, what more do you want?”

Even raises his eyebrows at that, glancing down at the blue pillow he’s leaning on – Isak had used it while Even was gone but hadn’t thought twice about switching them back on Friday night. “You gave me your pillow?” he asks quietly and Isak feels his cheeks heat.

“Didn’t you notice I used to sleep on the blue one before we started sharing a bed?” he mutters, clearing his throat and ducking his head when Even smiles at him.

Even moves then, tucking himself into Isak’s side and transferring his head from the pillow to Isak’s chest. Isak threads his fingers through his hair and wonders if Even can hear how loudly his heart is beating.

“Thank you for giving me your pillow,” he murmurs into Isak’s hoodie.

“S’okay,” Isak replies softly.

“And,” Even adds after a moment. “I took your hoodie because I liked the smell. It kind of felt like you were with me when I was at my parents’ house.”

Isak’s breath hitches and he has to remind himself to keep his hand moving in Even’s hair while he processes the words. “That’s okay too,” he whispers.

*

Even slowly continues to improve over the next couple of days. He doesn’t go back to uni right away but he goes through the lecture slides for the classes he’s already missed on his laptop and edits his film. His smile becomes a little brighter every day and his eyes slowly begin to lose their dark circles.

Seeing Even build himself back up and put himself back together again is admirable, to say the least. Isak loves so many things about Even’s personality but seeing how much strength he possesses makes Isak feel awestruck. The quiet determination and dedication he has to his own progress is so inspiring, Isak didn’t think it was possible to feel even more for him than he already did.

The thing is though, with every passing day that Even gets better, the more anticipation starts to hum in Isak’s veins. His own words are constantly repeating back in his head. When he feels better I’ll tell him.

He wants to tell him. He’s just not sure how.

He wants it to be perfect. Even deserves perfect.

On Friday, Even goes back to uni. He only has one class so it serves as a way to him ease him back in while also giving him the weekend to recover if it ends up tiring him out.

Isak finishes before him but he waits for him anyway, standing outside the media building and bouncing on the balls of his feet while he checks his phone. Any minute now.

The thought has barely crossed his mind when Even emerges from the building, a wide grin appearing on his face when he locates Isak. God, he’s beautiful.

“You didn’t have to wait,” Even says when he reaches him.

“I wanted to,” he says and he feels a bit breathless. He thinks it might be the right time. He thinks he’s going to tell him today.

He is. He’s going to tell him.

Even’s expression goes inexplicably soft and he bumps his shoulder against Isak’s as they start walking. “You’re nice.”

“How was class?” Isak asks, staring down at his feet rather than up at Even.

“It was good,” Even says, blowing out a breath. “It was nice to go back and get that sense of normality again. I feel kind of tired now but it’s a good tired, I think.”

Isak does look at him this time, if only to catch the peaceful expression on Even’s face. “Do you feel like going home yet or do you want to do something?”

Even hums thoughtfully. “I think it’d be good for me to stay out of the apartment for a while. We could get lunch or something.”

“Sure,” Isak agrees easily.

They eat lunch in a small café around the corner from the kollektiv and Isak spends the entire time internally debating over whether now is the right time to tell Even or not. He wants to say the words but he also wants them to be right. He wants them to be what Even deserves to hear.

By the end of lunch he still hasn’t said it but Even is smiling and really, that’s the only thing that matters.

*

When they’re lying in bed that night Isak can’t fall asleep – but mostly it’s because he knows Even can’t fall asleep.

Even keeps shifting restlessly while he tries to get comfortable and when he untangles himself from Isak entirely to roll onto his back Isak knows something is wrong. He shifts onto his other side so he’s facing Even and he can just about make out his features in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” Isak asks, voice hushed.

Even sighs and it sounds somewhere between frustrated and resigned.

“Even,” Isak murmurs, carefully reaching out a hand and touching Even’s shoulder. A touch of comfort mingled with a silent prod of encouragement.

“I don’t know, this happens sometimes when I’m recovering from a bad period,” Even mutters, voice muffled and tired as he lets out another deep sigh. “I’ve been sleeping so much, it messes up my sleep schedule a little when I try to regulate it again.”

Isak absorbs the information, thumb stroking over Even’s shoulder. “Is that all?”

Even remains quiet for a few seconds before admitting, “It’s just a little hard to shut my brain off tonight.”

Isak frowns, sliding his hand down Even’s arm to catch his palm. Shifting onto his back, he tugs on Even’s hand. “C’mere.”

Even rolls into him, arm sliding over Isak’s waist and head pillowed into the centre of Isak’s chest. The hand Even has on his chest ventures further after a moment and then Even is tangling their fingers together once again. Isak brings his free hand up and brushes it through Even’s hair, fingers massaging over his scalp and seeking to draw the tension out of him.

He wracks his brain trying to think of something he can do. Even doesn’t seem like he wants to talk and Isak doesn’t want to try and drag any answers out of him. Cuddling, though as warm and safe as always, clearly isn’t helping. So Isak considers what comforts him. At first the only thought in his head is Even but then other ideas slowly start to filter through. Getting a kebab with Jonas. Late night conversations with Eskild. Linn’s unconditional silence when he doesn’t want to talk. The soft sound of Noora’s voice when she sings to herself as she cooks dinner, so similar to his memories of his mother when he was a child.

Getting a kebab is out of the question, as is talking. Isak thinks letting Even wallow in the silence may only make it worse. But singing…

Isak isn’t a singer but he can carry a tune if he has to. He thinks about it for a moment; he could do it. For Even. He could swallow down any potential embarrassment if it meant it could help Even sleep. It’s only when he’s considering the song that a thought strikes him.

I’ve got to try that someday.

Can you sing?

No, not really. That’s not the point though! It’s romantic! But imagine the look on the person’s face! Getting all bashful and blush-y over you doing something nice for them like declaring your love via song.

Maybe. Maybe it’s time to tell him.

Feeling his heart speed up in his chest and swallowing down the dryness in his mouth, he wets his lips and begins to sing.

Wise men say, Only fools rush in…” His voice is hardly above a whisper but it’s loud enough to maintain the tune. Even stills completely on top of him the minute the first lyric passes his lips and it takes everything Isak has to push the rest of the words out. “But I can't help falling in love with you…”

Even’s breath hitches and Isak’s hand pauses in his hair for a fraction of a second but when Even doesn’t say anything he resumes gently brushing his fingers through the strands, focusing on the feeling as he trips over the next few lines. “Shall I stay, Would it be a sin…”

He’s not sure but it almost, almost, feels like Even cuddles closer, pressing them more firmly together. Isak‘s heart somersaults in his chest and he continues.

“Darling, so it goes
Some things are meant to be…”

He closes his eyes, feeling his lips twist up in the tiniest smile as he tightens his fingers around Even’s and softly sings, “Take my hand, Take my whole life, too…”

He pauses for a moment, swallowing down the lump in his throat and reminding himself to breathe. When the words tumble out of him they’re so hushed Isak isn’t even sure they can be heard in the quiet of the room but even so, he steels himself and murmurs, “For I can't help falling in love with you.”

He holds his breath when he finishes, hands still holding Even but suspended as he waits for a reaction. His heart is in his throat and his nerves are tingling but he doesn’t regret it. He did it. He told him.

He waits. And then he hears it.

Even’s breathing is slow and even where he lies on Isak’s chest. And Isak has been soothed enough by that sound at this point to know it means he’s fallen asleep.

Holding in a sigh and biting back a rueful smile, he cards his fingers through Even’s hair one last time before they still.

“Goodnight, Even.”

*

Chapter Text

19/11/16-25/11/16

When Isak wakes up in the morning he finds Even already watching him.

They must have moved in their sleep because they’re both lying on their sides now, facing each other. Even’s lips quirk the tiniest bit when Isak has finally blinked the sleep out of his eyes and he whispers a faint, “Hi.”

“Hi,” Isak whispers back.

Memories of last night come flooding back to him then and his chest seizes. He’d told Even how he felt. And Even hadn’t heard it. Or- he’d heard some of it. Isak isn’t entirely sure when he fell asleep. Even so, the thought runs hot through Isak’s veins. He’s not sure how to ask if Even heard him or whether he should figure out how to tell him again. He’s so caught up in his own thoughts, it takes him a moment to realise Even is still staring at him.

He meets his gaze, watching the way Even’s eyes crinkle a little at the corners when they do. His smile is magnetic and Isak feels his insides melt at the sight of it, even if it does make his cheeks heat up a bit. Feeling his own lips tug up involuntarily in response, he mutters out an embarrassed, “What?”

Even is silent for a pause and then-

“Can I kiss you?”

Isak is almost positive time stops in that moment. He feels it absently when his eyes widen and his mouth drops open in surprise but everything else is still. Unmoving. The perfect picture of a dream.

Even is still smiling at him, no trace of worry or uncertainty in his features, only calm surety. There’s an inevitability to his smile, and to this moment, Isak realises.

So, biting back his own smile, he murmurs a breathless, “Yes.”

Even’s expression, if possible, becomes brighter and then it’s happening in slow motion. The careful way Even’s head shifts closer on the pillow, the way Isak’s hands are still hidden beneath his own head as centimetres disappear between them. The way his breath tumbles out of his mouth in tiny puffs, hanging suspended between their lips. The way Even’s mouth is still curled up in a smile even until the very last second.

Even’s nose touches his and Isak’s eyelashes flutter. And with his heart half-stalled in his chest, Even kisses him.

The first brush is a barely-there touch but it sends a tingle down Isak’s spine all the way to his toes. The second brush is more solid; their lips catch and slide against one another – softer than soft and making Isak’s breath hitch. And then the most magnificent thing in the world happens; Even’s lips twitch and he’s kissing his smile into Isak’s mouth. Isak smiles back, can’t help it, feels too giddy not to. And when their lips break apart he feels a shy laugh bubble out of him at the look on Even’s face.

Because Even is beaming, letting out the most disbelieving little laugh, and Isak’s heart is trying to beat its way out of his chest.

Isak bites down on his smile, though it’s a futile effort, and removes his hands from beneath his head. His fingers catch in the collar of Even’s t-shirt and it’s nothing, really, except something for him to hold onto. His knuckles brush against Even’s thrumming pulse and he’s reminded that this is real.

This is happening.

Even moves his hand then, brushing Isak’s hair behind his ear before he begins twirling a stray curl around his finger. Even is watching him with the most quietly affectionate expression and Isak has never seen that look on his face before. Has never seen his half-closed eyes and gentle smile look quite so…fulfilling.

Isak isn’t sure how much time passes but Even’s fingers carding through his hair have him on the brink of drifting off when Even gently calls, “Isak.”

Isak forces his eyes open again, watching in fascination as the smile from before returns.

Even bites down on his lip for a moment and Isak feels a flicker of anticipation build in his tummy. “I can’t help falling in love with you, either,” he murmurs.

Isak freezes, mouth formed around the words that haven’t made it past his mind yet. He stares at Even and watches the way his expression softens, watches him give the tiniest nod.

He heard.

Squeezing his eyes shut and letting out an incredulous puff of laughter, he meets Even’s gaze again.

“Kiss me.”

Even’s eyes are smiling as he leans in, quicker this time, more hurried as he crashes their lips together.

And it’s blissful. It’s overwhelming. It’s everything.

Their lips slide together like they’re a perfect fit and Even’s hand is still curled in Isak’s hair, tilting his head closer and drawing him in with every brush. Isak’s own hand lets go of Even’s t-shirt in favour of sliding over his neck and he can’t help sparing a thought for the imperfection of the moment.

They’re still in their pyjamas and they definitely both have morning breath and that should make this unappealing, unromantic. Instead it just makes it real.

It’s perfect in its imperfections.

Even grins into his mouth again, shifting closer, and Isak gets the hint, rolling onto his back as Even leans over him, skimming his nose over Isak’s when their lips detach. Isak’s stomach erupts with butterflies at the softness of the touch and he hooks an arm around Even’s neck, reeling him in for another kiss.

It’s like falling into oblivion if oblivion was made of blankets and kisses.

Even’s chest presses against his and then his full weight is on Isak, hands reaching up instead to lace with Isak’s and bury in the pillows on either side of Isak’s head. Isak lets out a contented sigh, kissing his smile into Even’s lips and hoping he can feel it. It makes Even hum against his mouth, pulling back to press a series of pecks all over Isak’s mouth and sending him into a fit of giggles.

“Kiss me properly,” Isak complains, words softened by his laugh.

Even stills, staring down at him with an awed expression on his face. “I’ve wanted to kiss you for so long.”

Isak swallows hard, slipping one hand out of Even’s to brush away the hair that’s fallen in his face. “You could’ve,” he whispers, tilting his chin up in silent request as if to prove his point.

Even grins and kisses him soundly on the mouth, pulling back far too soon and making Isak chase his mouth. “Can we have the talk and decide what this is so we can go back to kissing?”

Isak leans back against the pillow and raises his eyebrows. “Forthright, as always,” he snorts.

“I told you literally the day I moved in here that communication is the key to any relationship,” Even retorts. “Are you really surprised?”

Isak blinks at him. “Is that what you want it to be, then?” he asks quietly. “A relationship?”

His heart thumps painfully in his chest while he waits for Even to reply but when he nods Isak thinks his heart might just stop beating altogether.

“I want that too,” Isak murmurs.

The tender expression on Even’s face is enough to knock the breath out of him and the kiss that follows makes his mind feel a little fuzzy around the edges – the soft kind of fuzzy that makes this feel more like a dream than reality.

“So what does upgrading from cuddle buddies to boyfriends entail?” he asks, voice a quiet mumble as he stares steadfastly at Even’s chest while his red cheeks no doubt give him away.

“Not much, I don’t think,” Even says conversationally. “Probably just more kisses.”

Isak looks up at that, catching Even’s playful crooked smile and rolling his eyes to hide the fondness in his own features. “That’s a pretty good upgrade,” he mutters, instantly melting when Even ducks in for another kiss.

This kiss doesn’t end. It keeps going and going and going until Isak’s lips are tingling and his fingers are threaded in Even’s hair. Every time their mouths tip together again Isak feels a little bit closer to heaven.

After an indeterminable length of time they break to catch their breath, foreheads leaning against one another and breathing in each other’s air when Even huffs out a tiny laugh. “I want to make us breakfast but I also don’t want to stop kissing you.”

Isak shakes his head against Even’s, raising his chin and mumbling his words against Even’s mouth. “Don’t ever stop kissing me.”

Even meets his gaze and the look that passes between them makes Isak shiver.

Right before Even leans down to capture his lips in another heart-stopping kiss, he murmurs, “I won’t.”

*

The Boys

Isak: So

        I have a boyfriend now

Magnus: asdkjfhKJDSHKJFDSHKJDSHFKJDHS W HAT

Jonas: you told him??????????????????

           OUR BOY GOT HIS BOY!!!!

Mahdi: sick! how’d you tell him?

Magnus: neVERMIND HOW HE TOLD HIM. HE CAN TELL US LATER. ISAK GO MAKE OUT W UR BOY I’VE GOT BLUE BALLS JUST FROM WATCHING YOU TWO THE PAST TWO AND A HALF MONTHS

Isak: thanks for the support??????

Jonas: we’re really happy for you <33

Mahdi: seriously, isak, that’s great <3

Magnus: this is the best news I’ve heard all weEK

Isak: <3 <3 <3

*

It’s well into Saturday night. They haven’t really moved all day, only slipping out for food or to use the bathroom and it’s so similar to the first day they spent together in bed. Except there’s more kisses. So many kisses.

Surprisingly, none of their flatmates even question them secluding themselves to their room for the day. Which he supposes makes sense considering they’ve spent most of their time in there for the past few days while Even was resting.

“When did you know?” Isak asks softly, playing with Even’s fingers and feeling a droopy-eyed smile spread across his face when Even twists their fingers together and flattens their palms against one another.

“When did I know I liked you?” Even asks.

“Mm. Like, the first night we cuddled- did you-“ He pauses, looking up into Even’s eyes. “Was it then?”

Even’s mouth lifts up in a smile and it’s so affectionate Isak almost wants to look away. “I liked you from the very first day I met you.”

Isak stills, forehead creasing in surprise. “Seriously?” he whispers.

Even only nods.

“Wow,” he mumbles, awestruck.

“Right from the moment you walked in on me shirtless and got all embarrassed.”

Isak splutters, head rearing back indignantly. “Wh- fuck you! I was not embarrassed.”

“You were embarrassed,” Even grins teasingly, letting go of Isak’s hand to wrap his arm around his waist and tug him closer. “It’s okay. I thought it was cute,” he says sweetly, darting in and slotting their mouths together for a kiss that makes Isak’s eyelashes flutter.

“So when we cuddled for the first time,” Isak starts when they pull away. “Was that you trying to get in my pants?” He asks it wryly, jokingly, but Even’s expression is entirely serious when he answers.

“No,” he says quietly. “Obviously I wanted to be with you but- Isak, being your friend was so important to me. And I really did just want to hold you that night. Because you were hurting and I wanted to make it better, not because I wanted to kiss you.”

Isak’s eyes feel a little watery as he meets Even’s gaze and he brings a hand up cup Even’s cheek in silent thank you.

“Though I really did want to kiss you,” he adds after a beat.

Isak laughs, eyes slipping shut and shaking his head as he leans forward to press his forehead against Even’s. “Thank you.”

Even brushes their noses together, once, twice, three times, and drops a feather-light kiss on the corner of Isak’s mouth. “I fell in love with you holding you in my arms.”

Isak’s breath hitches and he swallows down the lump in his throat. “I just fell in love with you. I don’t know when.”

Even smiles and he’s close enough that Isak can almost feel it.

“But I can’t go back now.”

Even raises his hand and traces his thumb along the arch of Isak’s eyebrow. “We can’t go back now,” he says softly.

“I don’t think I want to, anyway,” Isak murmurs.

“Me neither.” Even leans close enough to roll their foreheads together again and Isak lets his eyes drift shut. “This is the way it’s supposed to be.”

Isak nods in agreement, bumping noses with Even and cuddling closer.

“Just me, you, and this bed.”

*

They decide to tell the rest of the kollektiv on Sunday morning.

Isak wanders into the living room a little after 11:00 with Even in tow, fingers snatched in the back of his t-shirt, to find Eskild, Noora and Linn watching TV and cradling bowls of cereal in their hands.

All three of them look up at the sound of their arrival and Isak feels his stomach jump. Why does this feel like he’s bringing his boyfriend to meet his parents?

“Um, so we have some news,” he begins stiltedly, glancing from one expectant face to the next before reaching back and taking Even’s hand. “We’re- we’re together now.”

No one speaks for a moment and then Linn opens her mouth.

“Haven’t you been dating for like a month?” she asks disinterestedly. “Why are you telling us now?”

Isak splutters, looking from Even to Linn in bewilderment. Even only shrugs at him cluelessly. “We only got together yesterday?”

Linn raises an eyebrow, snorting into her cornflakes. “So I imagined all the spooning on the couch I saw in the last month and a half. Okay.”

Isak flounders for a response but Even is no help, too busy laughing quietly beside him to offer an excuse. In the end, it’s Noora that saves them.

“We’re very happy for you,” she says kindly.

Isak nods at her, letting out a relieved breath. At that point, Eskild seems to decide everyone is done talking because that’s all it takes for him to bound off the couch and grapple them both into a too tight bear hug.

“I’m so proud!” he cries dramatically. “Finally.”

Isak huffs a laugh, resigning himself to Eskild’s embrace even if the arm he’s got around his neck is squashing his windpipe. Eskild releases them both a moment later, bouncing back on his toes, and Isak feels a lot more comfortable when it’s Even’s arm draped around his neck instead. He leans into Even’s side, smiling shyly at Eskild’s sparkling gaze.

“I’m taking full credit for this, by the way,” Eskild informs them. “Even moving into Isak’s room was my idea. You’re welcome.”

Isak rolls his eyes, heaving a long-suffering sigh. “Thanks, Guru,” he offers begrudgingly – though he thinks it probably comes out more fond.

Eskild smiles at him, quieter this time, more genuine and nods his head. “Anytime.”

*

On Monday, they walk into the student centre hand in hand and when they arrive at the boys’ table Isak just about manages to hold in his laughter when all three of them go dead silent at their approach. He watches as Jonas, Magnus, and Mahdi’s eyes all zero in on their hands – as if Isak hadn’t already told them on Saturday – before their gazes slowly travel back up to Isak and Even’s faces, mouths gaping.

“Fy faen, he wasn’t lying,” Magnus whispers in awe.

And that’s what breaks Isak. He cracks up, eyes squeezed shut as he laughs. He can feel Even laughing beside him, hand tightening around Isak’s as his shoulders shake. They drop into their seats and Isak sobers just enough to take in Magnus’ sheepish expression and Jonas and Mahdi facepalming.

“I wasn’t lying,” he confirms, huffing out another laugh and shaking his head.

“We’re really happy for you, man,” Jonas says earnestly before flitting his gaze to Even. “For both of you.”

Isak glances over at Even and feels his heart thrum happily in his chest as he watches a touched smile spread across Even’s face.

“Thank you,” Even murmurs.

“I just want the record to show, we told Isak you liked him literally months ago so it’s his fault it took you guys this long,” Mahdi says, holding his hands up in defence.

Isak lets out an indignant noise while Even just chuckles beside him.

“To be fair,” Even says after a moment. “I didn’t say anything either.”

Magnus waves a hand. “Who cares how long it took them? Tell us how Isak told you,” he requests eagerly, making Isak roll his eyes.

Even looks over at him, eyebrows raised. Isak shrugs; Even can tell if he wants, he’s never going to live this entire situation down anyway. But then Even is shaking his head and returning his gaze to the boys. “Sorry. I think we’re keeping that one between us.”

Isak ducks his head to hide his smile, stomach doing flips when Even reaches over and laces their fingers together under the table.

The boys deflate a little at Even’s response but moments later, it seems to be forgotten about when Magnus instead asks how Even is feeling. Something swells in Isak’s chest at the sight of his friends so unconditionally caring about Even.

He knows the boys rooted for them. They’ve been supporting Isak every step of the way. But to actually see how wholeheartedly they’ve accepted Even into the group makes him feel more content than he has in the longest time.

Life really can’t get better than this.

*

Isak is woken up on Friday morning by a trail of soft, coaxing kisses. Across his shoulder, up the side of his neck and then finally all over his cheeks. When he blinks his eyes open Even is leaning over him with a soft smile.

“Good morning,” Even murmurs, ducking in to drop the sweetest of kisses on Isak’s lips.

Isak hums, curling his arms around Even’s neck to keep him in place. “I like being woken up like this,” he mumbles, face breaking into a smile when Even nuzzles their noses together. “What time is it?”

“It’s 9:00,” Even tells him, settling comfortably on top of Isak and clearly not intending to move for a while.

“I should get ready,” Isak sighs, glancing over at the light coming through the window. “I have class at 10:00.”

Even shakes his head, eyes twinkling. “No, you don’t.”

Isak raises an eyebrow, silently waiting for an explanation.

“We’re skipping,” Even tells him. “I’m taking you on a date.”

“Our Ferris Bueller date?” he asks, feeling an excited grin spread across his face. He should’ve known Even would be stupidly romantic.

Even simply nods, teeth sunk into his bottom lip in an attempt to contain his grin.

“Well, if you insist,” Isak drawls, sighing airily and feeling his insides fizz when Even presses giggling kisses all over his cheeks.

Isak tucks his chin up at the way it tickles, planting his hands on either side of Even’s head to pull him away. He looks down at Isak with a question in his eyes and Isak feels his veins hum in anticipation. “We can go on our date…But kisses first,” he requests.

Even’s eyes immediately stray to his lips and Isak can’t help the way his fingers sink into Even’s hair.

“We can do that,” Even murmurs, ducking down. Their foreheads connect first and Isak tilts his head up in an effort to make their lips catch. They do, just about, before they separate again and then, finally, Even’s angling his face and sliding their mouths together.

Kissing Even is something Isak hopes he never quite gets used to.

He never wants that little thrill of he’s kissing me to disappear. He never wants to lose the way his heart speeds up or slows down depending on the type of kiss. He never wants the syrupy feeling in his veins that makes his brain fuzzy and his limbs tingly to go away. He wants to keep relearning this. Over and over and over again. Until the feel of Even’s skin is embedded in his fingerprints and the inside of his lips are tattooed with the imprint of Even’s.

They make out lazily for a while. Trading kisses like cuddles and Isak can’t help but revel at the way the warmth that spreads throughout his chest with every brush of lips feels the same as when he’s wrapped up in Even’s arms.

It doesn’t take long for them both to become restless, for the slow grind of their hips to become a little more insistent and their hands to clutch at each other a little harder.

“I was gonna make you breakfast in bed,” Even mumbles breathlessly, trailing kisses down Isak’s neck and letting out a stuttered gasp when their hips connect just right.

“We can have brunch instead,” Isak mutters, tugging insistently on Even’s t-shirt and arching his neck to give Even better access.

Even laughs against his throat, hands travelling under Isak’s t-shirt and exploring the planes of his stomach. It’s getting impossible to ignore the hardness in his pants at this point and when he pulls on Even’s shirt again he finally gets the hint. Even sits up long enough to drag his t-shirt over his torso and toss it behind him on the floor before leaning back down again. Isak surges up to meet him, pulling him into a bruising kiss as they fall back against the pillows.

It doesn’t last long enough with Even pulling away again only seconds later but as soon as Even’s managed to struggle Isak out of his t-shirt he’s crashing their lips together again, hand wandering down Isak’s torso and catching on the waistband of his sweatpants. Even’s mouth follows next, kissing down Isak’s chest and over his hipbone, detouring for a moment to suck a bruise into the skin there.

His fingers curl in the waistband of Isak’s pants, tugging them over his hips achingly slowly until the cool air of the room hits his skin and makes Isak shudder. There’s a hazy moment of Even quirking his lips and meeting Isak’s gaze with a heated expression before he’s swallowing him down and Isak is done for. His head falls back against the pillows, a whispered, “faen,” making its way past his lips as his eyes drift shut and his hands slide into Even’s hair.

It’s a good morning.

*

After round two in the shower, Even’s plan for breakfast in bed ends up being Isak sitting on the counter while Even leans against the stove so they can eat eggs straight out of the pan. It’s not exactly romantic but it means Even can easily stand between his legs to ask for kisses and Isak is pretty sure that’s better than any Michelin star breakfast Even could’ve delivered to their room a couple of hours ago.

“So where are we going on our date?” Isak asks interestedly as they stand side by side at the sink while he washes the frying pan.

“Not telling,” Even quips, hip checking Isak as he takes the pan off him to dry. “Go get ready; we’re leaving in a few minutes.”

Isak rolls his eyes even though he feels excitement bubbling on the inside, darting in to plant a kiss on Even’s cheek before he leaves the kitchen. He pauses in the doorway though, looking back long enough to see Even grinning down at the pan.

Yeah. It’s a really good morning.

*

Isak doesn’t ask any questions while they’re on the tram – even though he’s ticking off every stop in his head and mentally mapping out where exactly Even could be taking them. Instead, he plays with Even’s hand and listens to him weigh the pros and cons of the different movies they could watch when they get home later.

He has to admit he’s not entirely surprised when they get off at the Museum of Science and Technology but he wasn’t exactly expecting it either. “Didn’t they go to an art museum in the movie?” he asks, confused face melting into a dopey smile when Even takes his hand.

“Yeah, but you like science,” Even says simply, leading him towards the entrance.

“But you like art,” Isak protests.

Even casts him a sidelong glance, smiling softly. “But today’s about you,” he counters, leaning in to kiss Isak’s cheek and holding open the door for him.

Isak stares at him, feeling a little wonderstruck. How is Even even real? “I’m taking you to an art museum later,” he says determinedly as Even guides them to the ticket office.

Even lets out a quiet laugh, kissing the side of his head while they get in line. “I love you.”

The words still make his breath catch. It’s still too fresh, too new, for the moment not to feel monumental and overwhelming whenever they say them. Whether it be in bed in between kisses or standing in line at a science museum.

Isak leans into Even a little more and squeezes his hand, murmuring, “I love you too,” into his jacket.

Their walk around the museum is aimless, meandering from exhibit to exhibit, while Isak elaborates over-enthusiastically about information he already knows and Even listens to him with an enamoured smile that Isak tries not to think too much about.

It’s a perfect morning. And it’s not because it’s this show-stopping date where Even goes above and beyond to prove his worth to him or anything like that. It’s perfect because Even chose something Isak liked and decided they could enjoy it together. It’s perfect because they’re not trying to make it perfect; they’re just letting it happen.

He thinks that’s a pretty good summation for their relationship so far.

*

They eat lunch at a burger place not far from the museum after Even comments that, “neither a baseball game nor hot dogs were available so I hope burgers will suffice.”

“You know if this was a real Ferris Bueller date you’d be driving me around in a Ferrari,” Isak points out when they’re midway through their food. “A stolen Ferrari, no less.”

Even laughs around a bite, washing it down with his drink. “Sorry, I couldn’t find one on such short notice.”

Isak grins into his glass, heart speeding up at the way Even hooks their ankles together under the table. “Do you have anything on the agenda for after lunch?” he asks when he’s recovered somewhat.

Even shrugs. “I know a pool we could break into.”

Isak barks a laugh, “I don’t need to have an existential crisis at the end of a swimming pool, thanks.”

“I was figuring we could just make out but-“

The words trigger something in Isak and he points an accusatory finger at Even. “You don’t want to recreate the scene in Ferris Bueller, you want to recreate the one in Romeo and Juliet.”

Rather than trying to defend himself, Even just grins adoringly at him. “Do you have any idea how hot it is that you’re recognising movie references now?”

Isak chokes on his drink, narrowing his eyes at Even from across the table and willing his cheeks not to flush. “Well you have subjected to more movies than I can count in the last couple of months,” he grumbles, more to his half-eaten burger than to Even.

“Hey,” Even says softly, making Isak raise his head. “Thank you for putting up with me.”

The words give Isak a pause. Does Even actually think he’s a burden? Or annoying or a nuisance? As if Isak doesn’t want to spend 95% of his time with him every day.

“It’s not exactly a hardship,” he replies quietly, an involuntary smile spreading across his face when Even’s entire expression lights up.

They don’t speak for a few minutes, enjoying one another’s company as they finish their food, but when the waiter’s getting their check Isak asks his question again. “Seriously though, do you have any plans for the afternoon?”

Even blinks at him. “Not really? I thought we could just wing it. Why, do you want to do something?”

“I meant it earlier, I want to take you an art museum,” he says. 

Even looks at him like he can’t quite believe Isak’s real. “Isak, we don’t have to.”

“You let me talk about science and space for like, three hours straight this morning,” he says, “And you planned this whole day. I want you to enjoy it too.”

Even reaches across the table to take his hand and Isak lets him, even if it does make the moment feel far more important than it had moments ago. “Being with you,” he says, “That’s what I enjoy.”

Isak tightens his fingers around Even’s, mumbling a breathless, “Same.”

Even smiles at him, pulling Isak’s hand up to kiss his knuckles. “Then that’s enough.”

*

They do end up going to an art museum later and Isak thinks, if it’s possible, he falls a little bit more in love with Even by the time they’ve made it through the exhibits.

On the tram ride home Isak is slouched in his seat with his head on Even’s shoulder as Even resumes his earlier debate with himself about what movies they should watch tonight.

“We could go the classic 90’s/early 2000s route,” Even suggests, hand absently moving over Isak’s arm as he ponders his options. “You know, Coyote Ugly, Never Been Kissed…Light-hearted and fun; you like those.”

“I do,” Isak confirms. Honestly, he feels so content right now, he couldn’t care less what they watch as long as he gets to curl up with Even and kiss him a little during the boring parts.

Or,” Even continues. “We could watch a musical. Like…Sound of Music. Or Grease?”

“Grease is good,” Isak mumbles. To tell the truth, he’s about five minutes away from falling asleep on Even’s shoulder but if his opinion matters to Even that much, he’ll give it.

“Yeah?” Even asks, glancing down at him with a playful grin. “I’m hopelessly devoted to you…” he begins to croon and Isak rolls his eyes, burying his face in Even’s jacket.

“Stop,” he pleads.

“Why?” Even asks and he sounds far too delighted by it.

“We’re in public,” Isak says exasperatedly, rolling his head on Even’s shoulder so he can look at him properly.

“But I haven’t gotten to serenade you yet!” Even protests. “It’s not fair you got to serenade me first.”

Isak smirks. “I’m obviously more romantic than you.”

“Obviously,” Even says sarcastically, ducking in to brush their lips together and making Isak’s inside melts.

“I’m the master of romance,” Isak mutters, closing his eyes and smiling softly at the sound of Even’s laugh.

“Alright, Master of Romance,” Even says bemusedly. “We’re nearly home; try and keep your eyes open for a few more minutes.”

“No promises,” Isak replies faintly, cuddling closer and feeling his veins buzz with contentment as Even wraps his arms more tightly around him.

Isak wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else.

*

16/12/16

When Isak gets home from lunch with the boys he finds Even waiting on their bed. (They got rid of Even’s bed two days ago, deciding they could use the extra space and that it really wasn’t necessary anymore considering he hasn’t slept in it since September.)

“Halla,” Isak greets, dropping his bag and leaning over to peck Even on the lips before climbing onto the mattress beside him.

“I have something to show you,” Even tells him, eyes twinkling, and Isak chances a fleeting glance down at the laptop on his lap, though the only thing on screen is a black and white collage of the two of them that Isak recognises as Even’s screensaver.

“What is it?”

Even bites his lip, gaze flickering from the screen and then back to Isak. “I finished my film today.”

Isak stills. Even’s been working tirelessly on his film for weeks and he still hasn’t given Isak even the slightest hint as to what it’s about. He’s been curious, of course, but other than some light teasing he hasn’t really pushed Even to tell him anything. Now though, he’s a little desperate to see the final product. “Can I see it?”

Even nods, smile somewhat nervous but still making his eyes crinkle in the corners.

Isak looks back to the screen, watching Even open a file and bracing himself in the moment it takes to load.

It’s a cold open, in a too bright, too white room, focused on a bed Isak doesn’t recognise. There’s nothing in particular standing out on screen; it’s just a double bed, pristinely made with a cream duvet and a lot of throw pillows. The shot doesn’t change but the room does, the light slowly getting dimmer, and it takes Isak a moment to realise the shots were all taken at different times of the day, showing the passing of time as the darkening sky outside the window makes the room appear dull and uncomfortable.

There’s a cut to an outside night shot of the Oslo skyline and Isak wonders if it’s one of the things Even filmed that night Isak had texted him because he couldn’t fall asleep without him.

This time, when the shot changes, Isak recognises the room. It’s his own one and the camera is focused on the stripped single bed Even had initially used. The sight of moving boxes out of the corner of the frame suggests it’s from the day Even moved in and Isak wonders when he took it. As the movie progresses the shot slowly begins to pan from Even’s bed to Isak’s.

His bed is actually made for once in the first shot and Isak has a moment to feel grateful for that, at least. The shot gets dimmer again like it had in the other room but this time it’s different. It’s warmer. As the room gets darker as night falls, the bedside lamps come on, bathing the room in a gentle, orange light.

The music that Isak had hardly noticed was playing in the background is soft, comforting. There’s another outside shot before it redirects to their room and this time the bed begins to change too. The first thing Isak notices is his grey and blue pillows being switched and he feels himself flush.

The duvet slowly gets messier, blanket getting twisted up in a heap before the screen fades to black. For a moment, Isak thinks the film is over before he realises the music still hasn’t stopped. With his breath stuck in his throat, something clicks.

The bed he doesn’t recognise that probably belonged to Even and Sonja, Even’s bed, his bed, their room, it’s-

It’s their story.

The black screen, he’s almost certain, is supposed to represent Even’s depressive episode.

His suspicions are confirmed when he the darkness slowly begins to lift and the music begins to change. As a dawn shot gradually comes into view, Isak hears the faint notes of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” tinkling in the background and, inexplicably, he feels a lump form in his throat.

There’s one final shot of their bed and it’s another morning shot, Isak thinks. After a moment of scrutinising the screen, he can just make out the faint shape of their bodies beneath the duvet, little tufts of their hair barely visible at the top of the bed.

And it’s almost identical to the very first shot but also entirely different. It’s bright but it’s a brightness the breathes warmth and hope.

With one last lingering moment, the screen fades to black.

Isak doesn’t move for a moment until he feels Even’s gaze on him and hears his anxious, “What did you think?”

He lets out a shuddering breath and turns to Even. “What the film called?” he asks hoarsely.

“Things Look Different in the Morning,” Even whispers.

Isak releases a quiet, disbelieving laugh and twists his fingers in the front of Even’s shirt, tugging him in for a kiss. “I love it,” he mumbles into Even’s mouth. “I love you.”

Even pulls back, thumb sweeping underneath Isak’s eye as he studies his face. “You mean it?”

Isak nods, pressing their foreheads together.

“I wasn’t happy for a long time,” Even tells him lowly. “And then I met you and things started to feel bright again. I started to feel something I’d never felt before. I fell in love with you in this bed and I wanted to show that, through one second every day.”

“I think you did,” Isak murmurs, feeling completely and utterly lost for words.

He doesn’t know if it’s because of the connotations the bed holds for him – for them – but watching the progression of time in Even’s movie, Isak could feel it.

He could feel the way his bed became their safe haven.

He could feel them fall in love.

*

27/12/16

It’s the Tuesday after Christmas when Isak brings Even to meet his mom. Isak had spent the day with her on Christmas Eve and decided it was time to confide in her and tell her that he and Even were together now. He thinks it says a lot that she didn’t look the least bit surprised.

Now, she opens the door with a gentle smile on her face and Isak feels a swell of affection at seeing the effort she went to to dress up for the occasion, with her hair curled around her shoulders and in a dress she normally reserves for church.

“How are you, Mamma?” he asks, leaning in to give her a kiss on the cheek.

“I’m doing well, darling,” she says, smiling at Isak when he’s stepped back again before looking over expectantly at Even.

“Mamma, this is Even,” he says, some trepidation slipping into his voice as he places his hand on Even’s back. “My boyfriend.”

“I’m Marianne,” she greets warmly, holding out a hand for Even to shake.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Even says, voice infused with so much earnestness, Isak can tell without a doubt that he means it.

“I’ve heard a lot about you,” his mother says and Isak feels himself blush at the conspiratorial wink she sends Even.

“Mamma,” Isak groans, face only flushing deeper when Even laughs.

“Good things, I hope,” Even jokes, but his arm winds around Isak, rubbing soothingly over his side and making Isak instantly relax.

“Only the best,” she confirms.

Dinner is a nice affair after that. It’s not as raucous and jovial as the dinner Isak had had with Even’s parents a couple of weeks ago but it’s comfortable. Isak feels at ease and he spares a thought for the fact that this wouldn’t have seemed possible just over a year ago. He’s sitting with his mother and his boyfriend and there’s an overwhelming sense of calm about this moment.

And Isak realises with a certain sense of incredulity, this is happiness.

*

17/02/17

“Can I ask a question?” Isak asks. They’re on their bed – as they so often are – working on separate assignments for their classes and Isak had been researching quite diligently when a thought occurred to him.

“Hmm?” Even responds absently, a little crinkle between his eyebrows as he focuses on whatever it is he’s looking at on his laptop.

“You know how you moving in here was supposed to be a temporary arrangement while you found somewhere else?”

Even does look up this time, eyes wide as he stares at Isak. “Yes…” he answers warily.

“Well, I was wondering, did you ever actually try to look for another place?

Even looks like a deer caught in the headlights, mouth dropped open in silent response. Isak watches amusedly as he flounders for an answer before Even finally huffs, cheeks turning a delightful shade of pink. “No,” he mutters. “I didn’t.”

Isak grins. “Knew it,” he retorts smugly.

“I was going to!” Even insists. “But then you couldn’t sleep without me so I figured you needed me here.”

Isak gives him a sceptical look – even if on the inside he’s dissolving into something soft. “It’s okay, you know. You can admit you just didn’t want to leave me. It’s not like I wanted you to go.”

Even sets his laptop aside, crawling over until he’s lying half on top of Isak, and brushes his curls back off his forehead. “It would’ve been much harder to woo you if I wasn’t sleeping in your bed every night,” he allows.

Isak huffs a laugh, sliding his hands over Even’s shoulders. “It would’ve been a waste of rent money too. Since I’d just want you back here all the time anyway.”

Even grins, darting down to kiss him soft and slow before he pulls back, head resting right beside Isak’s and palm still cupping Isak’s cheek. “Move in with me,” he whispers.

Isak crinkles his brow, smiling confusedly. “Even, we already live together.”

Even lets out a breath, shaking his head slightly. “No, I mean- move out with me. We could- we could get our own place.”

Isak pauses for a moment, gaze flickering over Even’s face like he’s trying to parse the hidden meaning in his words. “You want us to get our own place?”

“Me living here was always supposed to temporary,” Even replies. “This flat isn’t big enough for five people; I’m surprised we haven’t killed each other over the bathroom yet.”

Isak half-smiles at that.

“And- I don’t mind leaving but I don’t want to sleep without you anymore.”

“Me neither,” Isak whispers.

“I know it’s a big step but we’ve already been sharing a room for months. It’s not like we can’t cope with living on top of each other.”

“You’d really want to live with me?” Isak asks, a giddy smile slowly making its way across his face. The last few months have been nothing short of blissful but this- knowing that Even feels just as much as he does, it’s still a dizzying revelation.

“Becoming your roommate was the best decision I ever made,” Even says quietly, expression open and serene.

“Nah, I think that was actually becoming cuddle buddies,” Isak points out, quiet laughter mixing with Even’s.

“But seriously,” Even says when they’re still again. “Do you want to?”

Isak can see the barely concealed hope in Even’s eyes and considering the way his own heart leaps at the thought, there’s really only one answer.

“Yes.”

*

In the end it takes months.

It’s a tearful conversation with Eskild where he dramatically claims that their new roommate is going to be positively awful and he’s more than happy to keep their fifth roommate since Isak’s room smells so much better ever since Even arrived. Isak tremulously admits that he owes Eskild his life for everything he did for him and then it’s no longer just Eskild with tears streaming down his face.

It’s budgeting and trying to find time between both their uni schedules to go apartment hunting. It’s getting a second and third and fourth and fifth opinion until it basically feels like all of their friends are buying their apartment with them.

But at the end of March, they find it. A tiny flat with nothing more than a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom and a bedroom.

But it’s perfect.

And it’s theirs.

*

09/04/17

It’s their last night in the kollektiv and they’re gathered in the living room. All five roommates plus Jonas, Magnus and Mahdi, as well as the girls.

The coffee table is overflowing with various drink concoctions, empty cans and too many snack foods and half of them are sitting on the floor but Isak feels an overwhelming sense of home sitting amongst it all. Everyone’s mostly talking in smaller groups, laughing loudly or singing along to the music filtering out through Eskild’s speaker and Isak decides he has just enough alcohol in his system for what he’s about to do.

He clears his throat, raising his voice above the din of everyone else’s. “Can I have everyone’s attention for a second?”

Surprisingly, the group quiets almost instantly – though that might be due to Eskild’s shrill, “Shhh.”

Isak shares a smirk with him before glancing around the room. “I just want to say, to Eskild, Linn and Noora,” he begins, voice far more fond than he’d intended, “you guys gave me a home when I didn’t have one and I’ll always be grateful for that. I’ll never be able to repay you for everything you’ve done for me.”

Noora and Linn smile at him, open and sincere, and Isak feels tears prick at his eyes. But it’s Eskild sniffling, “I love you so much, you stupid, grumpy boy,” that really makes his heart squeeze in his chest.

Everyone laughs and Isak does too but the quiet smile he shares with Eskild is worth a thousand words. This flat is everything to him.

Even’s arm tightens around his shoulder and Isak leans into him more, taking the unspoken comfort he’s offering. “And I just wanna say, none of you get too drunk because you’re helping us move in the morning and you can’t carry furniture if you’re hungover.”

It diffuses the tension and everyone goes back to joking and enjoying themselves. But Isak just watches, revelling in how right this feels.

He’s with his friends and his flatmates and his boyfriend.

He’s happy.

*

10/04/17

Isak is half way up his second flight of stairs and he’s currently regretting all of his life choices. His forehead is sweaty, his curls are sticking to it, and he’s clutching desperately at one end of a mattress, while Even lifts the other end unconcernedly about ten steps down.

“it’s fine, Isak,” he calls calmly. “You just have to-“

“Don’t say it!” Isak warns.

“Pivot!” Even exclaims gleefully and Isak rolls his eyes.

“Tell me to pivot one more time and I’m throwing you and this mattress over the railing,” Isak huffs, heaving himself up another two steps.

“But then how will you sleep?”

“Jonas has a nice mattress, I’m sure he’d cuddle me if I asked nicely.”

“He doesn’t know how to spoon you like I do,” Even says confidently.

Isak groans into the mattress. His boyfriend is fucking ridiculous. “Will you just shut up and help me get this thing up to our apartment before my arms fall off.”

“Yes, dear,” Even singsongs sweetly.

After another twenty minutes and a lot more grumbling they finally manage to get the mattress up the stairs and through the threshold of their flat, dumping it unceremoniously on the floor just inside the entryway.

“I know the bedroom’s down the hall but I think we should keep it here,” Even says, hands planted firmly on his sides as he surveys the room. “It adds character.”

“Would save time when we get home late from uni,” Isak observes, catching Even’s eye and feeling himself smirk.

Even huffs a laugh, nudging Isak’s side with his elbow. “Come on, let’s make a start.”

They unpack everything they need for the bathroom fairly quickly since all they really need to do is put shampoo and bodywash in the shower and toothbrushes and toothpaste on the sink. Even stores their towels – already folded, courtesy of Noora – in the cabinet behind the door and, after adding a few more bits and pieces, the tiny room looks relatively more lived in.

They focus on the kitchen next, though by the time they’ve emptied most of the cutlery into the drawers Isak pretty much gives up.

“Baby, I’m tired,” he complains. “Can we just set up our bed and take a nap?”

Even pauses in stacking plates in one of the cupboards, glancing over his shoulder to raise an eyebrow at Isak.

When Isak only pouts at him he smiles, stepping away from the counter and reeling Isak in close with a hand on his hip. Even nuzzles their noses together when he’s close enough, a gentle skim that instantly puts Isak at ease and has him leaning into him. “If you promise to defrost the freezer tomorrow.”

Isak huffs, shaking his head exasperatedly but still curling closer in Even’s arms until he’s got his face buried in the crook of Even’s neck. “Deal.”

Surprisingly enough, the bed doesn’t actually take that long.

They’d brought Isak’s bed from the kollektiv with them and considering there was neither a headboard nor any assembling required, the main battle had been getting the solid base up to the apartment in the first place. (They’d managed it, with the help of Jonas, Mahdi, Magnus and Eskild before they’d all left to let them “get acquainted” with their new home.) All they really need to do is cover their mattress with a sheet and get it onto the base, before digging around in boxes until they find Isak’s duvet and pillows.

As soon as they’re done, Isak collapses down on the bed, shifting around until he’s not so tangled up in the blanket and got his head comfortably resting on his pillow. “Even,” he calls beseechingly, stretching an arm out. “Come on.”

Even climbs onto the bed beside him with a quiet laugh, lying on his side facing Isak and pulling him in close so their legs are tangled together. Isak lets out a soft sigh, hand coming to rest over Even’s neck as he moves a little closer on the pillow, noses just shy of touching.

“I can’t believe we’re here,” he says softly, closing his eyes against the dizzy contentment he feels swirling around in his stomach.

“I know,” Even smiles, tracing the curve of Isak’s cheek with his thumb. “Am I the best literal roommate you’ve ever had, or what?”

Isak huffs a quiet laugh, rolling his eyes fondly. “You’re the only one I’ve ever had.”

Even mumbles a quiet, “That’s true.”

“And the only one I want to have,” he whispers after a moment.

Even’s expression melts and the smile he directs at Isak is so full of love Isak could drown in it. “Good thing you’re stuck with me then.”

“Mm,” Isak mumbles, pressing their foreheads together and closing his eyes. “It’s a good thing.”

“It’s the best thing,” Even replies, closing the gap between them and drawing Isak into a kiss soft enough to send him to sleep.

In each other’s arms. In this bed. In this home.

This is where they’re meant to be.

*