Hi. It was nice seeing you too. I don’t know, but maybe things have gone a little bit too fast… I know it’s my fault, but I need some time. I didn’t mean to give you false hope.
Isak was still reeling from his talk with Eskild, snakes curling in his stomach. Upon first reading the text, it didn’t quite settle in what it meant. He’d hurt Eskild and there wasn’t anything that could be worse than this.
Being dumped was nothing new to Isak. His father had done it so many times, Isak had gotten kind of numb to it. He was over it — so what if he was unworthy of his father’s love? He deserved it; after all, he couldn’t even love his own mother like was supposed to.
Isak’d been dumped by girls to whom he couldn’t give what they expected of him. It was fine, that in particular had never hurt him. It might have given him some anxiety over not seeming straight enough, but that had been it.
But now, now there was this handsome, funny and smart boy that had kissed him like it meant something, like he could make Isak feel less alone and somehow more and less confused at the same time. This boy who talked about making movies about him and wanting to stay in his room with him forever to hide away from the world.
Except it had all been a lie, hadn’t it?
Isak had gotten two nights and one day of feeling like he was wanted, of just kissing until his lips had been bruised and felt sore. And then he had woken up to the bed empty beside him and he had only heard from Even three days later — and again he had been kissing Isak like they were meant for each other. A promise of “they’d love you,” when talking about meeting Even’s parents as if Isak was anywhere close to being open about this. And maybe he was because fuck, this was Even. He’d never felt anything quite like this.
Isak should have known from the moment he had woken up without Even next to him. He should have known that he didn’t deserve to feel this happy, this free.
He deserved the heartbreak and feeling physically sick because at the end of the day, he was an asshole who knew very well that his crush was in a relationship and he had kissed him anyway, had foolishly hoped he was somehow desirable enough that Even would leave her for him.
But Eskild had said it before, some guys just liked to suck cock for fun only to then return to their safe relationships with their girlfriends.
Isak should have known better but hope was a treacherous friend.
He was left with no one. He couldn’t imagine talking to Jonas about this, too scared what he would think of him after he knew, probably didn’t even care much for him right now because Isak was shutting everyone out. Because he had given all his attention to Even like a lovesick idiot. And Eskild, well, Isak was probably the last person he wanted to talk right now after he had hurt his feelings so much just because he was so insecure that he had pissed on gay pride.
Before he even properly realised it, tears were streaming down his face. I didn’t mean to give you false hope. Sobs were wreaking his body and when he realised that he was crying over a boy who never really cared for him in the first place and how pathetic that was, he just started crying more.
The sadness soon turned into anger. It was easier to cope like that, channel his pain into hatred — at his father, at his mother, at someone that wasn’t him because if he let himself believe that this was all his fault, it would break him. At Even.
In his head, he drafted a long reply about how Even had had no fucking right to use him like that, to play with his feelings, to play with Sonja’s feelings, that Even should have had the balls to break up with his girlfriend before he pursued someone else and fucked them both over. But then Isak realised that this was stupid because Even had never cared about him.
Then he just wanted to send him a FUCK YOU, capital letters and maybe a bunch of exclamation marks to really drive the point home. He wanted to be childish, wanted Even to know how much it fucking hurt, how much he was falling apart.
But Even didn’t care.
So what was the point?
Isak was the boy who couldn’t hold his breath under water. The boy who couldn’t breathe at all. He was the boy who had finally opened his heart only to have the person he had trusted unconditionally with it break it into a million pieces.
Isak hadn’t been in school for a week. After seeing Even at that party on the Friday after he had broken his heart — a party he hadn’t wanted to go to because he had wanted to do nothing else than curl up in bed but his friends had somehow convinced him to go to anyway.
The party that had made it a reality of how little he had actually meant to Even.
Because Even had looked happy, had flashed his beautiful smile at anyone he had deemed worthy (needless to say Isak hadn’t been one of those people, in fact Even hadn’t spotted him at all and maybe it had been better that way).
Because Even had kissed Sonja.
Isak had been sure he couldn’t hurt more, thought that after that text message, after having driven Eskild out of the kollektiv because he couldn’t bear the sight of Isak, after Emma having figured out his sexuality, there was nothing that could make him feel worse.
But then there was Even, 48 hours after asking Isak to be his boyfriend, telling him that he was on a break with Sonja, and he had been kissing her again like there had never been a doubt about his feelings for his girlfriend.
Isak had lashed out on Mahdi and then he had broken down again because that seemed to be all he was good at nowadays.
And then he had rarely left his room for the following week. Fuck his 10 %. He just couldn’t face his friends — if they still were that — or Emma or Even.
It had been two days since he was back and it felt like he was seeing both Emma and Even everywhere. Emma had told the whole school that Isak was gay so that was out there now and Isak wanted to punch anyone who looked at him for too long, could just imagine them talking about how abnormal he was behind his back.
Whenever Isak spotted Even, he couldn’t take to look at him for longer, too scared of what he’d find in his expression. Disgust, maybe, for being the reason the school’s rumour mill was working overtime, denoting Even as the guy who’d still been in a relationship while he had fooled around with Isak when all he had wanted had been to keep their thing his dirty little secret and go back to his girlfriend unscathed.
Isak couldn’t remember the last time he had properly slept. He was no stranger to sleepless nights but ever since his whole life had fallen apart, he was just running on caffeine.
Which maybe explained why he was mistaking someone for Even in line after him in the cafeteria and his heart started beating wildly in his chest.
Even after being hurt so much by him, Isak just couldn’t help it to feel this way, hating himself a little more for it. Was it too much to ask to forget Even?
His heart kept torturing him and Isak had to swallow his tears back down several times. He was not going to lose it in the cafeteria for everyone to see. He heard the whispered insults. He didn’t need to add “weak, crying homo” to it.
When he got his cheese toastie that looked wholly unappetising, Isak turned around to find a quiet spot to spend the rest of break. Only that he startled when Even stood suddenly in front of him.
Isak’s eyes darted around, unsure where to settle and Even was just— his eyes were wide, as surprised as Isak to stand right in front of him and his chapped lips were bitten even more than usual and Isak hated how he knew what they usually looked like.
“Halla,” Even breathed.
Isak felt tears burning in his eyes. He had missed his voice; this was so fucking unfair. “Halla,” He managed to get out as well.
Even just looked at him, clearly searching for words that Isak didn’t want to hear. He looked soft, maybe not as soft as that afternoon when he had worn one of Isak’s hoodies and their kissing was only interrupted to smoke some pot. But he was soft and Isak was tired and everything hurt but his tired brain made him want to press his face against Even’s chest anyway and just be held by him.
“No cardamom?” Even asked tentatively, looking down at the cheese toastie in Isak’s hand.
It punched an unexpected laugh and the saddest singsong of, “Cardamom!” out of Isak and it might as well hurt like a punch because Even was being unfair with reminding Isak of that afternoon weeks ago when they had gotten to know each other and had eaten cheese toasties together right before Even had broken his heart for the first time when he had introduced Sonja to Isak.
Isak should have known. He should have fucking known. He felt so fucking stupid.
And now Even was smiling and how dare he? Why was he here, why was he talking to Isak? Why did he still make Isak feel like this?
“Uhm, so—“ Even started because apparently this short moment had made him braver but Isak was having none of it.
He shook his head sharply, “No!” And then he pushed past Even, throwing the stupid cheese toastie in the trash before he hurried outside, pressing both pointer and middle fingers to the bridge of his nose to stop the tears, the sky above him dark and looming like a metaphor for his feelings that threatened to crash down on him. Thunder was rolling in the distance.
Hearing his name from those lips was the only thing Isak needed for the tears to start falling, pouring like the rain did as if it had just waited for that cue.
Isak increased his steps to put more distance between them and maybe Even realised that Isak didn’t want him, or rather, couldn’t want him close right now.
“Isak please,” Even tried again and he sounded desperate.
Isak bit his lip so hard that he drew blood but the physical pain was nothing against the emotional one. He almost ran down the street now.
But then Even caught up to him, his fingers wrapping around Isak’s arm and jerking him around. “I’m sorry, Isak,” He said, pain laced in his voice. Pain he wasn’t entitled to because he wasn’t the one hurting here, it was Isak. Isak was the one being all alone, who didn’t have a girl to go back home to, who hopelessly fell in love with a guy who didn’t want him back.
“What do you want from me, Even?” Isak asked, meekly.
Even didn’t let go of Isak’s arm and Isak wasn’t strong enough to pull away. “I— I don’t know,” He stuttered, “I don’t want it to be like this.”
Isak shook his head. Even needed to leave now. “There is no other way for this to be,” Isak yelled and he felt anger slowly building in his chest, “You wanted me to be your boyfriend, then you went ahead and changed your mind, telling me you didn’t want to get my hopes up like what the fuck? And then you go back to your girlfriend. Leave me alone, Even. I don’t want to talk to you right now or ever maybe.”
It felt good to let it out, so damn good.
Until he saw the sad expression on Even’s face.
None of this made sense. This was what Even wanted so why was he looking like that?
“Goodbye,” Isak sighed, wiping tears and raindrops from his face.
“You wouldn’t want to be my boyfriend,” Even said matter-of-factly and then took his hand away from Isak’s arm, releasing him.
Isak was free to go but he was too dumbfounded to move. In what universe would he ever not want to be Even’s boyfriend? How did Even even get to that conclusion? “I did want you… I do. You make me feel things I haven’t felt before. But you didn’t want me so I’m doing what’s best for both of us. I can’t give you anything else, Even. If you don’t want things to be like they’re now, you can’t have anything because I can’t be only your friend.”
The pouring rain made it impossible for Isak to say if Even was crying too but then he took a heaving breath and Isak was almost sure that he was. “You don’t want me around, Isak,” Even mumbled and it was almost inaudible but it was spoken with a finality that scared Isak.
He didn’t want to hear any of this. It was bad enough to receive that text message; why were they doing this right now? “If I could have you, I’d want you around me always,” Isak shot back and it was scary how easily he could admit that.
Even shook his head vehemently. “You don’t, believe me.”
Isak was growing frustrated. How dare Even tell him what to feel? After he had publicly told his girlfriend to not control him like that? “Don’t say that,” Isak whispered, his voice breaking on the last word.
Even reached up to brush his thumb against Isak’s wet cheek before he pushed the wet curls from Isak’s forehead. Isak was helpless to pull away even though he felt the disappointment coming. Even would break his heart again. “You said it yourself,” Even murmured, so close now that their cold noses were bumping together.
Isak felt his stomach jumping. “What are you talking about?” He asked, eyes wide as he searched Even’s gaze. His fingers tangled in the hem of Even’s wet shirt. “Please tell me because I have no idea what I said that could make you think that.” His heart started to get ahead of himself, beating wildly; he hoped that maybe Even had pushed him away because Isak had said something that might have upset him. That maybe there was a chance to fix this. “I just want to be with you, Even.”
That made Even surge forward and seal their lips together. It took Isak’s breath away, the kiss as passionate and desperate as their last kiss in the locker room two weeks ago. Back then, Isak had thought it would be the beginning of something that made him feel real and free. For Even, if he had made a decision then already, it had been a goodbye kiss.
So this kiss right now scared Isak. So, so much. He didn’t want this to be another ending. Isak deepened the kiss, hoping it would make Even stay, hoping Even would hear the please don’t leave me again.
He wrapped his arms around Even’s neck, fingers tangling in his sopping hair. He didn’t care that they were in public; the whole school was already talking about him anyway.
When Even pulled away, he stayed close, resting their foreheads together and running his nose along Isak’s. “You don’t want mentally ill people around you.”
Isak froze. It felt like the air was knocked right out of him — but not like the kiss had done moments ago. This was just painful.
He remembered making an offhanded comment about his mother when Even had asked him what his parents would think about them being boyfriends.
Except it had affected Even more than Isak had expected.
“Are you,” He gulped down the panic rising in his throat, deciding last minute to go the safe route, “Is someone close to you… mentally ill?”
Even pulled away completely. “Do you want to come back to mine? This is kind of a bad place to talk about this… with the rain and everything,” Even suggested but he was looking at the ground between them.
Isak couldn’t figure out where they stood. He was hopelessly confused what this development meant for him and Even. “Okay,” He agreed quietly.
The tram ride was as awkward as it had never been between them — not even on the first night they had talked during the kosegruppe meeting.
But even if it had been less awkward, there was no chance they could have talked because Isak was now shivering all over, the cold of the rain that had drenched them catching up to him, and his teeth were clattering. Even wasn’t faring much better.
When they arrived at Even’s flat, he was violently thrown back to a couple of weeks ago when he had first been here. “Hallo?” Even called out, though this time there was a bit of a stutter in his voice.
And someone replied. “Even? Is that you? It’s so early still, are you still not feeling—“
Isak wanted to back out of the still open door right away.
“I’m feeling fine, mamma,” Even called back, making no move to step farther into the flat. Instead he shot a nervous glance at Isak.
Isak just stared back in wild panic.
And then a tall woman stepped into the hallway, her bright smile that looked so much like Even’s dropping immediately when she took in the state they were in. “Oh my,” She gasped, her hand covering her mouth in shock, “You really didn’t see that storm coming, did you?”
Isak almost snorted at the wording. Some storm indeed.
“I’ll get you boys some towels. Just one second! We don’t want you to get sick!”
When she was gone again with a swift, sweet-smelling twirl, Isak was left dripping on the wooden floor, meticulously avoiding looking at Even.
A moment later, a towel was wrapped around him and then over his head, and Even’s mother’s voice reached him, “You must be Isak. Even’s been talking about you. I’m Astrid.”
Isak squeezed his eyes shut, willing the emotions away. Astrid was rubbing his curls dry, talking to him in a quiet, soft voice — nothing in particular, just chatting away while Isak slowly felt warmth returning to the tips of his fingers. He was overwhelmed by the sheer motherly love she bestowed on him.
“Mamma, we’re going to the bathroom,” Even coughed and Isak was incredibly thankful that he had apparently sensed Isak growing more and more twitchy.
Astrid stepped away from Isak, her face flaming red — much like Isak’s when he realised what Even had said. “To the bathroom? Both of you?” She said slowly.
“Yes,” Even replied calmly, wrapping his fingers gingerly around Isak’s wrist and tugging him away from his mother. “I’m sorry,” Even mumbled when they were in the bathroom. “I just wanted to be alone for…” He cleared his throat, “She won’t come in here. Do you want to take the first shower? I’ll turn away or I can leave. I don’t know.” He sighed and Isak could see the tension in his shoulders.
Isak stared down at his feet, letting the silence settle between them. He eventually slipped off his shoes in lieu of an answer and kept staring at his toes that were awkwardly turned toward each other. Coincidentally, he was wearing the socks he had worn a little under a month ago at the neon pregame when Even and he had almost kissed for the first time. He realised because the tiny hole in the sock had grown a little bigger, more of his little toe peeking out. In a month, his toe might stick out completely.
He heaved a sigh, tearing his gaze away from his socks and then peeled himself out of his clothes, jacket dropping to the ground in a sad lump and his fingers a little too stiff to properly grab his wet sweater, struggling a little to get out of it. It’s a bit of a struggle to disentangle from the dripping jeans. When he was standing in his boxer shorts, he finally met Even’s gaze. “Take off your clothes and get in the shower,” Isak mumbled, only a small blush appearing on his cheeks. He averted his gaze again when he pushed his boxer shorts past his hips and walked to the shower.
He was shivering as he waited for what Even would do and he was pretty sure that had nothing to do with how drenched he was.
“This scares me,” Even stepped into the shower, his eyes wide and watery. “I feel too vulnerable.”
Isak turned on the water, the warmth of it a relief on their frozen bodies.
Isak whispered, “I won’t hurt you.”
The smile on Even’s face was sad. Once again, he pushed the hair away from Isak’s forehead. “You already did.”
Isak gnawed on his bottom lip, swallowing harshly. “Because— because I said I didn’t want mentally ill people around me,” At this point, it wasn’t a question anymore.
They stood under the stream just staring at each other forever. Everything around them was quiet but Isak’s thoughts were screaming. He wanted to take his words back but he didn’t know how to seem earnest about it. How could he make Even understand that it was different with him than with his mother. He didn’t even know how to explain it to himself.
“I am bipolar,” Even said into the quiet.
The silence tried to suffocate Isak, the blood rushing through his head made him dizzy. “I’m sorry.” It felt stupid to say, inadequate. It only hit him now that he had made Even feel like shit. He had been so focused on himself that he hadn’t seen what he had done to Even. “I’m sorry,” He repeated; again, tears were mixing with the water coming from above. “I want you. This changes nothing. You’re it for me, Even. I know this is ridiculous, I’m ridiculous, we don’t even know each other that well but— you’re the man of my life. And I get that this is a lot, that it’s going too fast and that you can’t trust me because I’m an asshole who let the resentment I feel toward my parents get the best of me. But I want you, Even, and if you want me too…” He trailed off, averting his gaze from Even’s intense one.
Isak prepared for rejection, he couldn’t imagine someone like Even to ever want him.
But instead, Even closed the distance between them, wrapping his arms around Isak. It felt like an eternity that they stood under the spray of the shower just hugging, clinging to each other with their souls laid bare.
It was so wildly different from the first time they had showered together, arriving at kollektivet just as drenched but giggly and happy, frantic and desperate, slipping on wet tiles in their hurry to get their hands on each other with Isak not worrying in the slightest about doing this with a boy and what it all meant.
Right now, just being able to hold Even, feeling his heartbeat against his own, Isak knew that he didn’t need anything else, though. He just wanted Even, all of him and perfectly imperfect as he was.
They were quiet when they stepped out of the shower eventually, skin pruney, towels wrapped tightly around them. Only then did they realise that they didn’t have any fresh clothes. Their eyes fell to the heap of wet clothes on the ground, a puddle forming around them, and then Even looked back at Isak with a sheepish smile. “Give me a second, I’ll get us some clothes.” He slipped out of the bathroom but was back in the blink of an eye so that Isak luckily couldn’t start overthinking what would happen now.
Isak slipped into the sweatpants and Wu-Tang Clan hoodie Even held out to him, gnawing on his bottom lip as he waited for the verdict of if he was allowed to stay or if he should leave.
“Come with me,” Even stretched out his hand toward Isak and if he didn’t know better, he’d believe Even were completely confident — but Isak saw the fear of rejection in his eyes.
Hesitantly, Isak grabbed his hand, blindly following after Even to his room. It looked the same as the first time he had been here except that there now was a cartoon drawing in the style of the one Isak had gotten from Even after their first kiss on the wall: one side showed a speech bubble above cartoon Isak’s head with I don’t want you around and the other side was split in two, the first one with a speech bubble above cartoon Even’s head saying I’m mentally ill and the second half showing cartoon Isak and Even kissing.
When Even noticed where Isak was looking, he winced. “I’m sorry, you weren’t supposed to see that.” He went to take the drawing off but Isak stopped him.
Even had to stop apologising for the shit Isak had done. “I’m sorry for hurting you,” He whispered, holding onto Even’s hands. “I’m sorry I made you feel like you were worthless. That I didn’t know about your illness does not excuse that. I shouldn’t have said what I said in the first place.”
Even squeezed his hands. “You moved out from home when you were just sixteen, I should have realised that there was a lot going on. It’s not easy living with someone with a mental illness and from the little bit you told me, I guess your mother is untreated? Which just makes it harder. So I get where you’re coming from. It still hurt me but I get it. And I— I won’t hold it against you if you leave me because I…” He trailed off, untangling one hand from Isak’s to lift a finger to his temple in a gesture that indicated going crazy.
Isak took Even’s hand back in his, shaking his head vehemently. Of course he couldn’t make any promises, he had a track record of leaving when things got difficult but he could promise that he would try to be a better person for Even. “Do you want me to leave now?” Isak asked quietly because he’d understand if Even didn’t want to do this. “I don’t want to make you sad or— or always scared that I’ll just up and leave one day.”
Even considered him for a moment before pulling him against his chest and whispering into his damp hair, “I am so exhausted. Do you want to take a nap with me?”
As if the words had flipped a switch, Isak felt his own tiredness catching up with him. And with how little sleep he had had in the past few days and how emotional this day had already been, Isak was convinced he could fall asleep right there, standing up with his eyes open, Even the only thing that kept him upright. “Okay.” Maybe if they got some rest, they could talk more rationally about their future (hopefully) together.
They climbed the ladder to Even’s loft bed and lay down staring at each other.
“Please don’t be gone again when I wake up,” Isak begged. They were at Even’s so this would probably be a little harder than when Even had stayed over at the kollektiv but Isak was still scared.
“I will be here,” Even whispered, scooting a little closer so their noses were touching.
Isak wanted to kiss him. But this didn’t feel like the right moment. So he closed his eyes against it and with Even near him and the reassurance that Even would still be here later, Isak managed to fall asleep.
They’d been drifting in and out of sleep all day but now that there was a knock on the door, Isak woke up properly, scared for a second that Even wouldn’t be there anymore but they had ended up tangled with each other, barely any space between them.
Isak sighed in relief, pressing a kiss to a spot on Even’s neck that he could reach easily in that position. He was still sleepy enough to blame it on that should he need to explain himself.
He remembered hazy kisses, soft and innocent, but that might have been a dream and not reality.
Even’s eyes fluttered open and his lashes looked so feathery, Isak wanted nothing more than to touch. But he refrained from doing so, making his hands into fists to fight the urge. “Hey,” He mumbled.
“Halla,” Even croaked, his sleep-raspy voice the best thing Isak had ever heard.
“You’re very beautiful,” Isak whispered, biting his lip and lowering his gaze.
Even didn’t get a chance to reply because there was another knock at the door — and right, Isak totally forgot about that — and Astrid’s muffled voice, “Even? Isak? Can I come in?”
Even shot Isak a questioning glance and after a small nod, Even called out, “Yeah, sure.”
Astrid looked around the room before her eyes found them in bed. She had a neatly folded pile of clothes in her hands. “I washed your clothes. Oh, and Isak? I noticed a small hole in one of your socks so I stitched it,” She explained, a kind smile on her lips.
“Oh, uhm. Thanks,” Isak replied weakly. There went his sock trial. He felt Even’s arms around him tightening and the hole in his chest shrinking.
“Even, your mum just came home so we’re making dinner now. Would you boys like some?”
Isak was confused until he met Laila who looked adoringly at Astrid any chance she got and kept bringing a hand to her hip or laughed about a joke she made.
It was bittersweet for Isak because he had never seen his parents like that but he felt warm on the inside knowing a loving relationship like Astrid and Laila’s was possible. His gaze met Even’s and it came as a bit of a shock to find the same loving expression on Even’s face that he had seen on Laila only moments ago.
They might not have figured everything out, and it would be anything but easy but Isak was willing to take that step if it was with Even. He sat down next to Even at the table, his hand moving to Even’s knee immediately, squeezing, and instinctively, he leaned in to press a kiss to Even’s cheek.
Maybe they didn’t need to be sure of what was coming right now, maybe they could just take it minute by minute because if Isak was with Even, he dared to be himself and maybe that was enough.