Chapter 1: Neighbours
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edge of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
The first thing Even noticed was the silence.
He stepped out of his father's van and took in a deep breath of the unpolluted air, surprised by how fresh it was. He stretched his arms, hearing a crack in his back, and tried not to dwell on how many hours he'd just been in the car.
He looked around at the large green lawn and old, decaying barn that definitely needed a fresh layer of paint. He could smell pine and some sort of flower on the breeze as he glanced at his new house.
It wasn’t anything special. He hadn’t really expected it to be, but looking at it now made the reality of his situation sink in a little bit more. He actually had to live here, call this place home; eat and sleep and wake up inside the walls of this old fashioned, four bedroom farm house just off a highway - far away from every person he’d ever called a friend.
He was starting over and it was daunting as hell.
“The moving truck should be along shortly.” Even’s father announced, coming up behind his son and patting him on his back. “Let’s take a little tour around.”
Even nodded but his throat was too dry to speak. He was also afraid that if he opened his mouth all he would do is demand to go back home - to the house he’d grown up in, where he’d spent every Christmas and birthday since he’d been born.
But that house was gone. It no longer belonged to his family. There was no home for him except the one in front of him.
“The owner before us assured me everything is in working order. Of course we might need to add some paint here and there.” Edwin said, his arms out wide like he was presenting the house to Even as if on some kind of game show. They stood on the porch that wrapped around the entire house, a rocking chair swaying slightly in the breeze next to the front windows.
Edwin looked pleased with himself as he reached for his keys. The front door opened into a small sitting room and then immediately went into the yellow coloured kitchen that was filled with light.
Even nodded in acknowledgement, eyes wandering around the kitchen. It was a simple design but all the appliances were new, and the yellow walls made it feel more homey. He could easily picture their old table next to the bay windows, his father sitting there in the mornings before he headed off to work.
“There’s tons of room so we’ll both be able to have an office. I’ll do my work stuff and you can have a space to study and be comfortable.” Edwin continued, his face falling a little at the lack of reaction from his son. His eyes were filled with a tense sort of sadness, the same look Even had seen in them for the past six months.
Even wanted to be excited. He wanted to acknowledge that his father had spent a lot of time and energy searching for a place he thought would be good for Even, a place they could start again. He wanted to thank his father for doing pretty much all the work as Even had been comatose on the couch, unable to help the men Edwin had hired to move things out of their house slowly, week by week.
But again, Even couldn’t speak.
Even was sitting on the floor in the living room, fighting with his phone to find service and waiting for his father to come back with pizza for their dinner, when he heard the doorbell ring.
It was a muffled, clanking sound. Clearly the doorbell needed some updating or rescuing because it sounded horrific, making Even nearly jump out of his skin.
He made his way over the door, wondering who it could possibly be considering they lived near no-one. When he yanked open the old, wooden door his eyes went wide.
“Hey!” The boy smiled, waving slightly. He was about Even’s age, around same height, a gap between his teeth and his face was flushed. Even looked behind him and saw a bike lying on their driveway. “I’m Isak, your neighbour.”
Isak thrust his hand out, waiting expectantly for Even to take it. Even did, still lost for words. Isak was wearing a flannel button up t-shirt with black jeans, his running shoes splattered with mud and a maroon snapback on his head, exposing the curliness of the ends of his hair. Even hated how he wanted to keep staring, take in the sight of Isak longer than was probably appropriate. He tended to do that with attractive guys and Isak was definitely attractive, probably more so than a lot of people Even had met at Bakka.
He tried to snap out of it. Those kinds of thoughts were part of the reason they’d had to move.
“And...you are?” Isak prompted, chuckling at Even’s silence as he shook their conjoined hands up and down.
“Even. I’m Even.”
“He speaks! Nice to meet you, man.” Isak brought his hand back to his side, shifting from foot to foot.
“Sorry. Been a long day.” Even said, his voice rather hoarse and grainy. He coughed to try and clear it, feeling his cheeks heating up.
“All good. Is it just you here in this big house?”
“Oh, no.” Even shook his head. “I live with my dad. He went to get us some dinner while we wait for our moving truck. It got stuck in traffic.”
“That’s shitty. Can I come in?” Isak asked, stepping in through the doorway anyway, brushing Even’s shoulder as he did.
Even’s mouth opened and closed, debating on what he should say. No? I don’t want company? We have no chairs? Go away?
He decided to close the door and follow Isak into the kitchen. The boy was looking around at the empty walls and various bags they’d dumped on the floor. He turned on his heel and regarded Even mischievously.
“Where did you move from?” Isak asked.
Isak whistled, coming a little closer. “Living out here is a lot different. Have you ever lived on a farm before?”
“Nope. Wasn’t my idea, though.” Even mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck.
He wanted to change the subject but he didn’t know what else to talk about. He kind of wanted to be back in his solitude. He had forgotten how to socialize over the last half year.
“I can show you the ropes, if you want. I’ve lived out here all my life. I know the area really well. I can take you to all the nice places.” And suddenly Isak was right in front of him, smiling kindly.
“Yeah,” Even blurted out, nodding vigorously. “I would like that. Thanks.”
“Okay. Maybe after you’ve unpacked a little I’ll come back and we can go biking around together.” Isak nodded, walking towards the staircase and pointing up. “Where’s your room?”
“Uh, I haven’t picked it yet. I haven’t even been upstairs.”
“Unacceptable. Come on.” Isak said, grabbing Even’s hand and dragging him upstairs.
Even nearly lost his balance trying to keep up with Isak’s fast pace but he managed it, going along as he was pulled into the nearest room which just so happened to be the master bedroom. Isak still had hold of his hand as they walked towards the window, overlooking the main highway road.
“My house is over there.” Isak explained, pointing to a small, orange house just beyond the ridge on the other side of the street. It was a smaller house than Even’s, resembling more of a cottage, but the front yard was longer and fenced off. Two horses, both dark brown, trotted around while flicking their tails. The sight made Even smile.
Isak’s house wasn’t visible when someone was on the main floor or on the front lawn, but from up here Even could see it clearly. It wasn’t too far away.
“That’s what you meant by neighbour.” Even smiled, looking down at the way Isak still clung to his hand.
“I bet it felt like you didn’t have any neighbours, huh?” Isak asked, turning and looking at Even directly, shifting his whole body until their chests were practically touching.
Even stayed still as he looked into Isak’s eyes but he wanted to move. He wasn’t sure why Isak was doing this - initiating this closeness as if they weren’t strangers - because it felt too much like teasing; as if he was being set up in some way.
As if Isak was waiting to see what Even would do and if that was the right thing.
“No. I couldn’t see your house until just now and…” Even cut himself off, pulling his hand away and walking towards the doorway. “And so I thought we were kind of alone out here.”
Isak was quiet for a moment, still by the window. Even held his breath as he went into the hallway, wondering what Isak was going to say - if anything - about the hand holding thing. But then he simply followed Even.
“Nope, not alone but it’s just our property and now your father’s land on this stretch of road before you go up towards the town. About ten kilometres.” Isak said, walking out of the room and into the next one with Even, looking around. “I never realized how big this place is.”
Even nodded in agreement, hovering in the next doorway. “Too many rooms. I told my dad that.”
“Especially if it’s just you and him.”
There was a question behind the statement and Even caught Isak’s eye yet again. He licked his lips and nodded, staring out the window again.
“Just me and him. My mother...uh...she…”
She left because she couldn’t handle me. She walked out and never came back.
Even fumbled with his words for another few seconds before he gave up. He didn’t know how to describe what had become of their family, how it had gone from stable to what now felt like torn to shreds.
“Don’t stress. Family stuff sucks.” Isak said, placing a hand on Even’s arm in a reassuring gesture.
“Yeah. Uh, thanks. I just…”
I’m awkward and you’re touching me too much and I can’t really breathe.
“I think you should have this room. It will get the most sun.” Isak said, interrupting Even’s stammering and instead checking out the closet on the right hand side of the room.
Even was grateful he didn’t have to talk about his mother anymore, that Isak had given him an out.
“Technically, my dad said I can have two rooms. One for sleeping and one for studying. Like an office.” Even said, quirking an eyebrow and relishing Isak’s look of shock.
“You’re lucky.” Isak chuckled. “I share a room with my older brother still and it really sucks. We only have two bedrooms in the house.”
“That really does suck.” Even agreed, shaking his head. “The benefits of being an only child.”
Isak snorted. “I fucking wish. So, where are you going to put stuff? Bed, dresser, desk? Show me.”
Even looked around the room, considering the space and thinking about how big his things were. He only had a single bed, small dresser and average size desk but he figured that would go in the second room.
“Bed under the window. Dresser over by the closet. Easy.”
Isak nodded his approval. “My bed is under my window too. I like feeling the breeze at night and in the morning before it gets hot. No air conditioning for me.”
Even was about to mention that summers -especially the current one - could be extremely warm and he was hoping they could get some window air conditioners when Isak suddenly laid down on the floor underneath the window, crossing his arms and smiling up at Even as sunlight poured in through the glass.
The sight was so random that Even couldn’t help but laugh. “What are you doing?”
“Lie down with me.” Isak said, indicating to the floor beside him. “Let’s picture you waking up tomorrow right here and see if it’s a good fit.”
Even hesitated for a second, once again feeling as if he were being set up, but when Isak still looked inviting and kind, he slowly joined Isak on the cool wood panels of the floor - looking up at the stark white ceiling.
Their elbows brushed and Even noted how soft Isak’s skin was.
“So, what’s the verdict?” Isak asked, turning his head and staring at Even.
As Even stared back, smiling softly at how the light hit Isak’s face and made his eyes look forest green, he said, “I think it’s perfect.”
The sound of the door slamming shut made both boys jump, the haze of their closeness coming to an abrupt halt. Even got to his feet and helped Isak up, both of them walking towards the stairs.
“Isak?” An unfamiliar voice called, just as Even took his first step down. He froze, turned and looked at the way Isak’s face fell.
“Yeah, Dad. I’m up here.” Isak said, indicating for Even to continue down. His voice was upbeat, nothing at all like the blank expression he was now sporting - all trace of happiness gone.
When they reached the main floor, a man came around the corner from the kitchen and flashed a smile at them. He was tall, extra broad-shouldered and wearing plain jeans and a dark jacket. Isak looked like him, especially in the way his upper lip curved, but this man had darker eyes.
“Hi there. I’m Terje, Isak’s father.” The man said, thrusting his hand out and nearly squeezing Even’s fingers off when they shook.
“Good to meet you. Isak said he was stopping by to say hello but that was a solid hour ago. We have things to do, young man.” Terje said, his smile fading as soon as he met his son’s eyes.
Isak nodded, walking past Even and towards the front door. “Sorry, sir. Lost track of time.”
The tension between Isak and his father was like a dark cloud in the bright kitchen and Even suddenly didn’t want Isak to leave. He wanted to go back upstairs and lie down, keep the brightness in Isak’s eyes visible.
But then he remembered Isak was a stranger, and he definitely shouldn’t get involved.
“Your dad just bought the place, right?” Terje asked, killing time while Isak put his shoes back on.
“Yeah. He went to get dinner. Must have gotten held up.”
“No problem. I’ll leave you my card and this pamphlet. Hopefully we’ll see you both at church this Sunday. It’s a good place to get involved and meet people in our area.” Terje explained, pulling out two pieces of paper from the zipper inside his jacket and handing them to Even.
Trinity Lutheran Church - Celebrating Christ.
“Oh, uh...thank you.” Even said, feeling uncomfortable. He didn’t know what to say or what to comment on.
“Isak helps me out on Sundays and is very involved. You’d be more than welcome.”
Even frowned a little as he caught Isak’s eyes, not missing how Isak’s cheeks were tinged pink and how badly it looked like he wanted to run out the door.
“He helps you out?”
Terje nodded, placing his hand on Isak’s shoulder. “I’m the pastor of the church and I’m glad one of my boys has taken interest in pursuing the same career path.”
Isak squirmed a little but didn’t shake his father off. He reached behind him and opened the door though, smiling fakely at Even as he turned to leave.
“Nice meeting you, Even. See you later.”
“Have a goodnight.” Terje smiled, pulling the door closed behind them.
“I’d like to check it out.” Edwin said later, the sky finally fading to night and the moving truck long gone. They were sitting in the kitchen on the floor, surrounded by boxes and eating some cold slices of pizza.
“The church?” Even asked hesitantly.
“Yes. Despite everything Even, I’m still a believer. That won’t change.”
I didn’t expect you to change.
“I won’t ask you to come with me, but maybe this would be a good chance for you to have a friend. You said Isak was a nice boy. And in this area, going to church might be one of the only chances you’ll have to find some friends.”
Not the kind of friends who would like me though. Not if they knew the truth.
“I’ll let you know. Sunday is three days away.” Even mumbled, no longer hungry despite how many boxes and other items he’d dragged into the house and up the stairs over the past few hours.
Edwin nodded, not looking disappointed. Even knew his father wouldn’t force him, not after everything that had happened. But his father was a creature of habit and he’d been raised to go to church since he was a kid. It brought him comfort and Even didn’t judge him for wanting to find a new church community to be involved with.
“I’m heading to bed. We’ll unpack more tomorrow.” Edwin smiled, passing Even his toothbrush.
They’d laid out their sleeping bags in their separate rooms, not having the energy to put together their beds. Even was exhausted too, not caring if he might wake up with a stiff back.
He’d managed to get some service and decided to scroll through social media for a bit before turning in completely. He had been at it for no longer than five minutes before he began typing ‘Isak’ into every search engine he had.
Even tried not to be disappointed.
Isak was lighting the candles in the church when Even and Edwin arrived on Sunday. He was dressed in all black, smiling kindly to the people coming in. He looked like he belonged and it made Even’s insides stir with jealousy.
What was it like to belong somewhere - anywhere?
Terje was standing at the door, shaking hands with everyone as they entered. When Even and his father stood in front of him, his face lit up.
“Good morning. I’m so pleased to finally meet you. Sorry we haven’t been over again. We went away for the weekend.” Terje explained, shaking both their hands.
His grip wasn’t as tight as it had been three days ago.
“That’s all right. Thanks for inviting us here today. It’s a beautiful church.” Edwin praised, smiling over at Even brightly.
“Thank you so much. We’ll speak again after?”
“Yes, I’d like that.” Edwin nodded, and as they walked in to find a place to sit Even was glad he hadn’t had to do any talking.
Even had decided to come because the idea of having a friend was something that had kept him going as they’d set up their house the past three days. He hadn’t felt close to someone in a long time and Isak seemed like a nice person, someone he could get along with.
But of course, Isak had to actually want to be friends. He didn’t want Isak to feel forced to hang out with the new kid who didn’t know anybody.
He figured coming to church was the best way to find out how much Isak actually wanted to give, how much he’d actually meant by his offer to show Even around.
“I’m glad you came.” A voice suddenly said, startling Even out of his thoughts. He was sitting right next to the aisle between the pews and Isak was right in front of him, beaming at him.
“Hey,” Even said. “I’m glad too.”
“We’re about to start, so we could talk later?” Isak asked hopefully, shaking hands with Edwin briefly as he waited for Even’s answer.
“Yes. That would be nice.”
“Okay.” Isak said, looking pleased by Even’s answer as he headed to the front of the church to stand next to his father.
Terje raised his hands in greeting and the service began.
The church was small just like the town so it didn’t take long for everyone to file out. Some people lingered, talking with family and friends, and Edwin had found Terje pretty quickly - lots to say about some of the things mentioned during the hour they’d sat quietly.
Edwin always liked to discuss certain things pastor’s mentioned. He’d done it all Even’s life, often making notes in his own bible at home afterwards.
Isak had stood next to his father throughout most of it, keeping a neutral expression and handing Terje certain things he needed. He was kind of like an altar boy and probably would have been if they were in a Catholic church.
But about five minutes before the service ended, Isak had disappeared through a door off to the side and hadn’t emerged since. Even had figured he’d wait until Isak was done whatever duties he was obviously responsible for, but now that it was fifteen minutes after the service had ended he felt rather awkward.
He stood up and made his way over to his father and Terje, trying not to feel let down. Maybe something had come up and Isak had to leave. Maybe it had nothing to do with Even.
It didn’t mean Isak suddenly didn’t want to speak with him.
“Hey, Even. Did you enjoy yourself?” Terje asked, raising his eyebrows expectantly.
“Uh, yeah. It was...great.”
I tuned you out a lot, but don’t take it personally.
“Good to hear. Has Isak caught up with you? He said he wanted to.”
Even shook his head. “He hasn’t come back out.”
“He might be preparing some of the food for the Sunday schoolers. They’re still in class. If you go downstairs you’ll probably find him.” Terje said, pointing towards the door that Isak had gone through earlier.
Even nodded, thankful to get away. Something about talking to Terje set his teeth on edge. It didn’t make sense because he had been nothing but nice to Even, but as soon as he was walking down the stairs and was out of sight he immediately felt better.
The basement of the church was quiet at first but when Even walked further in, he heard the voice of a woman talking to students who were sitting in a circle on the floor. She smiled at him, cutting off her speech, and asked him if she could help.
“I’m looking for Isak.” Even said, feeling embarrassed as all the kids turned and looked at him. They were of different ages, ranging from probably seven to his own age.
“Back room. He’s doing some organizing with our other Sunday school teacher.” She said cheerfully.
Even nodded, walking towards the other side of the basement, blocked off by another door. He felt like he was walking through a labyrinth of doors, searching for someone that he hoped would be his friend.
He wondered if he should knock but he was eager to get away from the prying eyes of the kids who were probably sizing him up, wondering who this outsider was in their town. So he turned the doorknob and walked right in, hoping he wouldn’t be interrupting anything.
Oh how entirely wrong he was.
The room was dimly lit and Even’s eyes couldn’t adjust right away. He let the door close behind him, the heaviness of it propelling it forward without much help from him. There was a small window on the left side of the room, streaming in some of the day’s sunlight.
It was enough to illuminate the room as Even’s eyes adjusted and he was about to call for Isak when he heard someone breathing heavily on the opposite side of the room where there was a small kitchen. As he turned and saw two people standing very closely together, his mind didn’t register anything out of place at first. It was just a blur of shadows, the two people standing by and partly veiled behind the cupboards of the kitchen.
But then Even saw Isak, his mouth latched onto someone else’s - a man who was at least ten years older than him, wearing the same all black outfit that resembled a priest’s. And this man with dark brown hair, stubble across his neck and big hands that were settled on Isak’s soft, fragile jaw, looked like he was more than enjoying himself.
Neither of them noticed Even or had heard the door close because they were still all over each other as if they were alone. Even didn’t know what to do or if he should say something; if he should leave.
He began to turn back towards the door, knowing that was probably best. But his eyes were stuck on the way Isak’s mouth was moving together with the other man’s, how he was letting out small little moans as he pushed himself closer.
Even was fascinated by how badly Isak seemed to want it and he closed his eyes against the onslaught of arousal, the wave of memories that rushed into his head like a train going full speed into a wall.
“Your mom will kill me, Ev.” Mikael said, trying to push Even’s hips away from his own as they hid in the bathroom.
“She’ll be gone a bit longer. Keep kissing me.” Even begged, not embarrassed to show how desperate he was.
They only had ten minutes together. Ten minutes of unobserved, non-regimented time unlike the routine that Even’s mother had put in place after the first time she caught them. She didn’t even know Mikael was here right now but he’d snuck in, wanting to see Even just as badly.
She had gone to her friend’s house to drop something off and she would be back any moment now. Mikael had sprinted over from his house next door, grabbing Even and kissing him against the vanity of the main floor bathroom.
“I have to go. I’m sorry.” Mikael whispered, placing a last kiss on Even’s mouth before opening the door. He ran home as quickly as he’d come over, leaving Even shaking with unfulfillment.
He wanted to be free of this - the absolute shame his mother made him feel about being in love with his best friend.
He didn’t want to hide anymore.
“Even, what are you doing?” Isak whispered, shaking his forearms. He opened his eyes and sucked in a breath, both Isak and the other man looking at him with worried expressions.
“I...I’m sorry. I came to find you and I...I didn’t mean…”
“You better not say a word.” The man growled, pushing his finger in Even’s face. He was trying to be intimidating but Even could see the fear in his expression. He’d seen it enough times in the mirror to know all too well what it meant.
“I won’t. I’m sorry. I’ll go.” Even said quietly, turning to leave but the man beat him to it.
“Bye, Isak.” He said, pushing Even slightly so he could get out the door, not giving either of them a backwards glance.
Isak stood still, looking at the ground and biting his bottom lip.
Even swallowed thickly. “I really am sorry. I was waiting for you but I…”
“It’s not your fault. I’m sorry about him.” Isak interrupted, shaking his head and letting out a long breath. “It was stupid of us to do this here. Anyone could have found us.”
Even didn’t know what to do. He wanted to offer Isak some kind of comfort, tell him it was okay and that nobody would hear about it from him, but he was also afraid to say anything. He didn’t want to give himself away, overshare too much - relate too much.
Because then this whole moving-to-a-new-town-to-start-over-and-be-someone-else was going to amount to nothing, no new results.
No reunited with his mother.
“Can you keep it between us? For real? My father can’t know. He…” Isak cut himself off, that same dark cloud shadowing his face. “He won’t understand.”
Just like my mom didn’t.
“I won’t say anything.” Even shook his head, trying to look as if he really meant it because he did.
“Okay. I have to get back out there with all the food. Um...do you mind helping me with the trays?” Isak asked sheepishly, walking back to the kitchen and grabbing a giant plate of sandwiches.
“Sure.” Even said, lifting up the other tray and following Isak out.
They put the food down and the kids immediately lunged for it, the business of learning bible verses apparently one that worked up an appetite. Even was offered to join in but he refused, the man Isak had just been kissing watching him carefully as he instructed the kids on what they’re homework was for next week.
“I’ll see you later.” Even said, not entirely knowing if that was true. He waved awkwardly and began walking back up the stairs.
He was almost at the top when someone grasped his wrist. Even turned in a panic, thinking it was the nameless man, but he relaxed when he saw Isak smile up at him.
“I drive the school bus as a favour to the principal of our school since our farms are the farthest out in the region. It saves them trying to hire somebody who will have to drive an additional twenty minutes to pick up two teens. It’s probably not a hundred percent legal, but our town is so small and all the police know about it. You might have seen the bus on our property.” Isak said, his voice hushed.
Even’s eyes were wide with surprise but he nodded. He hadn’t expected a seventeen year old would be allowed to drive a full-size bus.
“That means I’ll be driving us to and from school every day, starting tomorrow. Do you mind meeting me at the end of your driveway earlier tomorrow, say around 7? We could...talk?”
There were a ton of things he could have meant by ‘talk’, but Even had a strong feeling it would have something to do with what he just saw. The thought made him nervous but he didn’t want to miss a chance - perhaps his only chance - at friendship.
“Yeah. 7 could work. I’ll be ready.”
Isak’s smile made all the uncertainty of agreeing vanish and Even found himself returning it once again.
“Okay. See you then, Even. Bye.”
Chapter 2: Friends
Even opened his eyes and cringed as he heard his alarm clock blaring. The sun was shining in his window despite the early hour and he buried himself under the blankets after pressing snooze.
He wanted to be back in the dream he’d been having a minute earlier. He had been somewhere walking in the streets of Oslo, hand in hand with Mikael, smiling and happy.
His mother hadn’t left. She was still talking to him. She still loved him, and everything had seemed to be back where it should be.
But now he had to get up and face how different everything was. He had to start at a new school with people who had probably known eachother since infancy. He had to try and somehow be okay with the fact that he wouldn’t have a place when he started his final year of high school - a time most students looked forward to at Bakka.
And he had to also make himself stop thinking about Isak with the man he’d been making out with yesterday; an incessant thought that had been nagging at his brain since he’d gotten home last night.
Even sat up with a groan, hating that he was awake at six-fucking-thirty, and began to get ready.
Isak jumped out of the bus as Even walked down his driveway, his bag slung over his shoulder and the taste of cereal fresh on his tongue. Isak was walking towards him with a smile on his face, waving behind Even and up at the house. Edwin had already been up when his son had run down the stairs, watching with raised eyebrows as Even explained he was meeting Isak.
He now stood at the front door, waving back at both of them and looking pleased as could be.
“Morning,” Isak said as they reached each other and stood only three feet apart.
“Hey.” Even said, hating how out of it he sounded. But to be fair he was still half asleep and he’d always despised mornings.
They walked back to the bus and got in, Isak gesturing for Even to sit in the chair behind the driver’s seat. He sat down, placing his books next to him and watched as Isak started up the huge vehicle. It was almost comical to see him put his hands on the wheel and begin to drive down the empty highway.
They were quiet for the first few minutes, Even gazing out the window at the various fields and trees that they went past. His mind was drifting and he felt like he could fall asleep, the lull of the bus pressuring him into closing his eyes.
But then Isak abruptly turned down a dirt road without a street name, a solid brown line that was shielded by trees on either side. Even frowned as he rubbed his eyes, wanting to ask what he was doing, but he decided not to ask.
He had a feeling Isak would soon be doing a lot of explaining and didn’t need much prompting.
He turned the bus off and moved his body so his legs were in the aisle. The road looked like it had once led to a farm, but there were no houses in sight. The field around them seemed overgrown, like the whole stretch of land had been forgotten. It made for a nice area to hide in, somewhere a bus wouldn’t be seen from the main road. Even wondered if Isak came here often to escape.
Isak kept his eyes on the floor, avoiding Even’s, and his hands were shaking slightly as he entwined his fingers.
“I feel weird about what happened yesterday. That you saw us.” He said finally, biting down on his bottom lip.
“You don’t have to feel weird.”
Isak sighed loudly, shaking his head. “How can it not be weird?”
Even shrugged. “I dunno.”
“I don’t want to make a huge deal of it, but I just...nobody can know, okay? My friends don’t know about me and neither does my dad. And Jason’s... family can’t know. It would cause trouble.” Isak said quickly, and Even didn’t miss the way Isak had hesitated on the word ‘family.’
Did that mean Jason had a wife? Children?
Even hated the idea of Isak being someone’s dirty secret. He felt the same strong urge to protect Isak swell inside his chest, followed almost immediately by bafflement that he cared so much. He literally didn’t know Isak at all, and here he was wanting to somehow make everything better for the guy.
What the fuck, Even?
“I already said I wouldn’t say anything. I get that this could be a big deal if people knew. You have my word that nobody will hear it from me.” Even said, wishing Isak would look at him.
But the other boy just continued to stare at the ground, knee bouncing up and down like he was impatiently waiting for something; like Even often did when he was bored in class.
“I can...pay you? If you wanted. Or do some favours for you.” Isak continued and the words made Even flinch.
“What? No. I don’t…”
“I could get you extra food at lunchtime, or try and hook you up with one of my friends. I know some girls who would…”
“ Isak.” Even interrupted, standing up and sitting in the seat opposite him, reaching for his hands. When he gripped Isak’s slender fingers, the boy shuddered.
“I don’t want anything in return for this. It isn’t some kind of joke to me.” Even said, wishing more than anything that Isak would believe him. He didn’t know what kind of people Isak had grown up with, how badly someone might have reacted to his sexuality in the past to make him think everyone would let him down, but he desperately wanted Isak to know that he wouldn’t be the same.
“It just...can’t get around. My whole life would fucking collapse.” Isak whispered, his eyes wide and imploring as he finally looked up.
Even didn’t have words to describe how scared Isak appeared, how his whole body was shaking now and tears were in his eyes.
He looked exhausted and on the verge of sobbing.
“Isak, I won’t say anything. I promise you. I would never do something to intentionally hurt you, especially…” Even trailed off, wondering if this was a step too far but at the same time not really caring if it was. “Especially when I know what it’s like to be in your position.”
Isak looked doubtful. “You know what it’s like to be secretly gay in a place where literally nobody would accept you? When you’ve spent your whole life being told gay people are wrong and that you have to pursue a career in the church, the very same fucking place that damns people like you?”
Even shook his head, hearing that Isak was still panicking and upset. He didn’t take his somewhat spiteful tone personally.
“No. You’re right. I don’t know what that’s like. But I do know what it’s like to be in love with a boy - your best friend - and have to hide it because your mother thinks it’s sick and wrong and does everything in her power to separate you.” Even said softly and he felt Isak’s grasp tighten around his hands.
Isak let out a small sound in the back of his throat as he gaped at Even. “I... fuck. I’m sorry.”
Even shook his head, not wanting Isak to feel guilty. He just wanted to tell his own experience.
“And I know what it’s like to have a breakdown when the boy you love also has a family who doesn’t accept him, moves him thousands of miles away from you, all while your mother decides that having a bisexual son is the worst thing in the world so she also leaves. Then you’re left alone with your father who is the only person who loves you enough to stay and who buys a new house in the middle of nowhere so you can start over again.”
Isak stared at him, his tears spilling over, and before Even could say anything else he was being hugged tightly.
Even could feel how hard Isak’s heart was beating against his own as he reached his arms up to hug back, unable to help the way his own eyes filled with tears. Isak smelled like soap and fabric softener, something that reminded Even of home, and he buried his nose in Isak’s chest; wanting to chase it.
“I don’t say it for you to feel sorry for me, Isak. But I wanted you to know so that you understand how much I mean it.” Even said when Isak pulled away, sitting back in his own chair.
“Okay. I believe you. I didn’t mean to doubt you, but...until a few seconds ago I thought you were another straight guy who had no clue how hard this all is.” Isak said, cracking a smile and Even returned it.
“Definitely not straight. And not a douchebag either.” Even winked.
Isak grinned at him a second longer before he reached into his backpack and pulled out a rolled joint.
“Are you perhaps not a prude too?”
His smile was full of mischief and Even couldn't help but think how fucking adorable he was when he was in a playful mood.
“You're in luck. Definitely not a prude.”
“Cool. Let’s go outside though. If this bus smells like weed I’ll lose my damn head.”
Starting his first class high as a kite wasn't Even's best idea ever - he could admit that. But it also didn't particularly matter because he was too pleased with himself, too happy with how Isak had introduced him to all his friends when they’d gotten to school and how welcoming they’d all been.
Isak had told them that Even was a nice guy, someone he wanted to include in their get togethers and parties, all the things they did together. And he made a note of saying that Even was “chill”, which apparently everyone understood as “this dude gets high so he’s pretty great.”
“I’ve always wanted to visit Oslo.” Isak’s friend had said, shaking Even’s hand as he raised his bushy eyebrows. Jonas bumped shoulders with Isak, explaining how they’d known each other since kindergarten.
“That’s nice.” Even nodded.
Just like me and Mikael.
“But this place is where it’s at.” The tall blonde boy said, fist bumping Even brutally before wrapping his arms around him.
Even couldn’t help but huff out a laugh, startled but also pleased. Magnus pulled back and rolled his eyes at Jonas and Isak who were still huddled together closely, saying something about ‘get a room’ and ‘if one of you had a vagina you’d be married by now.’
Isak glanced briefly at Even after that comment, but didn’t seem phased by it. If anything, he winked at Even which made him stupidly happy. They already had something close to an inside joke and they hadn’t known each other a full week yet.
“Nice to meet you. Welcome to the smallest high school on the fucking planet.” Mahdi sighed, sounding bored but not rude. He shook Even’s hand loosely before pushing through Magnus, Jonas and Isak - nearly knocking the three of them over.
“It’s not that small!” Magnus hollered after him.
“I hang out with you because I have no choice. That’s how I know it’s small!” Mahdi called back and Even laughed as Magnus let out a girlish squeal, pretending to be shocked and horrified.
“I’ll meet you for lunch?” Isak asked, just as he dropped Even off at his first class. He hadn’t really needed to considering the school was comprised of four hallways in a literal rectangle.
But Even was grateful all the same.
“Yeah, sure. Let’s just hope I can find it.” He teased and Isak rolled his eyes at him.
“Cheeky shit. See you later.”
Even was beaming when he sat down and continued despite the looks he was getting. He was so wrapped up in thinking about how finding friends hadn’t even been close to as difficult as he’d imagined when the teacher began to say there was a new student in the school and would he please come up and introduce himself?
Even’s red-rimmed eyes snapped up and he gulped.
Chapter 3: Secret Places
Heads up for some jumping timelines. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
2 weeks later
Even rubbed his eyes as he continued to stare at his computer screen, knowing it was far too late to be awake on a school night but he really didn’t have much choice. He couldn’t turn off his brain. He had tried to sleep for hours before, tossing and turning - sighing heavily multiple times before giving up.
He’d opened his laptop where it sat on his desk and put his slippers on to warm his cold feet. He was browsing Youtube, finding nothing interesting but mindlessly watching it anyway, when he heard his phone buzz beside him.
Dude, why are you awake??
Even rolled his eyes, typing out a quick reply.
You’re awake too.
I woke up to pee and saw your light on :P
I can’t sleep
Insomnia kicking your ass?
Sucks. Want me to come over?
Even debated on his answer, wondering what might appear too eager. He waited a long few minutes before saying yes, sending a please at the end of it as well. Isak’s reply was nearly instant and he said to give him five minutes to dress before they met at their now-secret spot.
Even put on a hoodie and his spring jacket, the nights unusually cold lately, and walked down the old wooden stairs as quietly as possible. Edwin was a deep sleeper and would probably snore through a tornado, but Even didn’t want to risk it.
He didn’t want the onslaught of questions that he could already hear his father asking.
Why aren’t you sleeping? Has it happened a lot recently?
Who are you going to meet?
Isak? What’s so special about Isak?
Is this like Mikael all over again?
Do we need to get your meds adjusted?
Even let out a frustrated sigh as he closed the back door gently behind him, sprinting towards their fence at the end of the long backyard. He’d discovered on their second day at the farm that they had a huge, unused field behind the line of their property, covered with wildflowers.
He’d dug out a little spot for himself with a shovel a few metres in, the view quite beautiful as the sun was setting. The golden-pink rays fell across the flowers of all colours, making them seem almost otherworldly - the wind moving them softly from side to side as the sky faded. A stretch of willow trees added to the scenery, the wisps on the branches shielding the flowers from too much light in the daytime and making them last longer.
After he’d found himself unable to sleep the last few nights, he often came out here in the darkness and just listened to the bird’s wings flapping against the tree branches and crickets humming within the tall grass.
The first night he’d come out he thought he might be scared - that his mind would conjure up some kind of animal creeping towards him or all the horror movies he’d watched throughout the last year would make him believe a ghost would appear to him and try to hurt him. There was no noise of the city to calm his wild imagination after all - nothing that told him people were nearby like cars or voices on streets; nothing to ground him.
But sitting there had turned out to be nothing but peaceful. And when Isak was with him, which he had been a few times now, it made it even better.
“Hey,” Isak said, holding up his flashlight. Even was already sitting on one of the chairs he’d brought out and he turned to look at the other boy.
His hair was ruffled from sleep, his eyes more squinty than usual. Even couldn’t help but feel jealous at Isak’s obvious ability to sleep unbothered but he returned the smile, grateful that Isak was forfeiting more sleep to come and be here.
“I have a blanket. And some snacks.” Isak said, sitting in the other chair; his knee brushing Even’s as he did.
Isak placed his snacks down before throwing the blanket across both their laps, moving his chair even closer so they could share more easily. He handed Even an apple the next moment and winked at him.
“All good. I’m always fucking hungry when I wake up.”
“I know.” Even smiled quickly, biting into his apple.
Even knew a lot of things about Isak now, a lot of his quirks and mannerisms, likes and dislikes. It was kind of inevitable considering they’d spent so much time together lately.
Isak hadn’t been kidding when he said Even was now part of his friend group. Even was with the guys all the time during lunch at school and for a good part of the early evening afterwards. They sometimes walked to the McDonalds (which Even had been surprised existed considering how small the town was), eating fries and ice cream. Or they would go to Magnus’s house which was near the school, doing their homework and then just goof around watching movies and playing video games.
Isak always met up with them when he’d finished driving students home on the school bus - his job every day. There was only a handful of them and it didn’t take long. He dropped the bus off at his house and then biked back into town.
Even discovered Isak had horrible taste in movies and made it his mission to show him some actually decent ones. Magnus, Mahdi and Jonas weren’t much better so the following day Even had brought some Baz Luhrmann films with him to Magnus’s house.
“Trust me,” He’d said, sitting back as Moulin Rouge began to start.
Halfway through, Magnus and Jonas had fallen asleep. Mahdi wasn’t really watching but browsing Instagram on his phone instead. Even was a little disappointed but then he saw Isak.
The boy was enraptured.
His eyes were glued to the screen as he sat next to Even on the loveseat - his arm a wall of warmth against Even’s side. His chest was rising and falling quickly, apparently caught up in the storyline.
When it was over, Even didn’t miss the tears that fell down Isak’s cheeks. Mahdi was asleep now too as the credits rolled and Even nearly jumped when Isak wrapped his arms around Even’s shoulders; pulling him into a hug.
“Isak? Are you okay?” He whispered, unable to help the way he rubbed his hands up and down his friend’s back.
He smelled really, really good too which was distracting as fuck up close.
“It’s all right.”
Isak had fallen asleep with his head on Even’s shoulder, his arm draped across Even’s chest. After about forty-five minutes of this, Magnus’s mom got home and came down into the basement. She rolled her eyes at her son before winking at Even, then shouting everyone needed to leave to wake all the boys up. Isak had groaned as he woke up, announcing that he was hungry as fuck.
Isak and Even would bike home together, switching who pedaled and who hung on to the other. They usually didn’t talk, just enjoyed the ride. But as they’d gone home that day, after the film, Isak wrapped his arms around Even’s middle tighter than usual and said, “I’m glad you moved here, Even.”
“Me too.” He’d said, his breathing a little shakier.
If they didn’t hang out with the boys after school, Even would get on the bus and wait until Isak had dropped everyone else off before sitting up close to him so they could talk, passing the time as they got closer to their own houses. Isak would park the bus and they’d continue talking, everyone in their families still at work so there was no rush to part ways.
It was during one of those times - earlier that week - that Even admitted he wasn’t sleeping well.
“I see your light on a lot when I get up to get a drink or go to the bathroom in the night. I was going to ask but thought it might be weird.” Isak admitted.
Even couldn’t help but chuckle. “Why do you think everything is weird ?”
“Seems like it.”
Isak rolled his eyes. “Well, it is kind of weird to say to a guy you’ve only known a week, ‘hey I see your light on a lot and I was worried about you so are you sleeping okay? Is there anything I can do to help?’”
Isak blushed and Even’s heart did a funny thing in his chest but he ignored it.
“I wouldn’t have thought that’s weird. And also, thanks. For, you know...caring.”
“It’s hard not to care about you.” Isak said, blurting the words out almost like he hadn’t meant to say them. He caught Even’s eye before looking at the floor, bouncing his knee like he did when he was nervous.
Even had picked up on that one pretty easily. But why was Isak nervous now?
“You look like that bothers you? To care about me?”
“No, it’s just that…” Isak tried, motioning between them and turning another shade of red. “I don’t know. I hardly know you, but I...really like being with you. I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”
Even nodded in understanding. “I feel the same.”
And it was true. After that first day in the bus, when they’d both shared their confessions, Even had felt this pull towards Isak unlike anything he’d experienced before. He wanted to know all about him, spend all his time with him, and when that had begun to happen he had been so fucking happy. It felt like some kind of miracle, if he believed in such things.
He wanted to share stuff with Isak - the things he liked and found funny, his ideas about his future, his regrets from his past at Bakka and everything in between. They started texting all the time, sending stupid memes and gifs but also having serious and meaningful conversations all through the evening and into the night.
Even blinked as he realized he’d only known Isak a little over a week at that point. How was that possible?
Isak had offered to sneak out and meet Even - if that would help at all - in the field once he knew that’s what Even did. Even hadn’t wanted to interrupt Isak’s sleep but he’d said it wasn’t a problem. So, Even had taken him up on the offer over the week - trying to avoid doing it again today because it wasn’t fair if Isak was sleep deprived too.
But usually Isak fell asleep against Even anyway, like they had during the movie that one night, and the soft sounds of Isak’s slumber made Even nod off too. They’d woken the previous morning with Isak’s head on Even’s chest, smiling as the sun began to rise.
“Earth to Even?” Isak called, waving a hand in front of his face.
Even blinked, still chewing on his bite of apple and glanced at his friend in the other chair. Isak shook his head, smiling, and brought the blanket up around them further.
“Sorry. My mind is wandering. I’m so sleep deprived.”
“You do look like shit.”
“Fuck you.” Even laughed, smacking Isak playfully.
Another thing Even had learned over the past two weeks was Isak didn’t pressure him into telling him anything. He hadn’t asked more questions about Mikael or Even’s mother, if Even had suffered from insomnia before. He didn’t pry, which was comforting to Even because he never felt like he had to explain himself. He tried to do the same, despite all the questions he wanted to ask about Jason and how that had all started. He mostly wanted to know if Isak was all right, if he was safe.
He didn’t feel like this topic was off limits, but it just never came up in conversation. Not really. A few times Even had wanted to ask if Isak felt close to Jason, if he loved him, but he found that he didn’t really want to know the answer anyway.
“It’s cold out here.” Isak commented, rubbing his arms and shivering.
“You can go home if you want. I don’t mind.”
“I just got here.”
“I know. But, you shouldn’t have to be cold and not sleep because of me.”
Isak sighed and put his head back, gazing up at the stars and bright moon. “We’ve been over this. I’m just going to worry if I go home and leave you here.”
Even looked up at the sky as well, awed by how bright the moon was - how it illuminated Isak’s face in an inky blue.
“Okay. Then let’s stay out here.”
“Or we could go inside your house and both sleep in your bed.” Isak stated, the words startling Even so much that he flinched.
Isak looked at him and smirked. “You actually sleep when I’m with you, so if that’s what it takes we might as well do this in your bed.”
Even waited, expecting Isak to laugh and say he was just kidding, but instead Isak stood up and gathered his blanket - holding out his hand for Even to join him.
“Come on. I want to get some more sleep before my test tomorrow.”
“Can I sleep in just my boxers?” Isak whispered.
Even nodded, walking softly across his floor and stood on the one side of his bed while Isak sat on the other. He was taking his socks off and was about to strip further but Even turned around so he couldn’t see.
Instead, he got into bed still in his hoodie and sweatpants and turned off the light.
“Come here.” Isak suddenly whispered, pulling Even down onto the mattress. He was already lying on his back, arms outstretched and Even allowed himself to be pulled against Isak’s warm chest.
Just like outside, Isak pulled the blankets up to cover them and began running his hands through Even’s hair.
“Stop over-thinking. Go to sleep.”
“Shh. I’ll be here. I have an alarm set so I can get home before my dad wakes up and kills me, but for now...I’m here.”
Guilt started to rush through Even at the thought of everything Isak was risking, but then Isak placed a small kiss on the top of his head and he lost all focus.
To his surprise, Even was asleep before he could reply.
* Some people asked about why Even describes himself as bisexual when canonically he is pansexual. This was intentional and will be explored more as the story goes ;) *
Chapter 4: Touch Me
Even had never been a morning person. What teenager was, right? But Even physically loathed getting out of bed ever since he was a child. He would find any excuse imaginable not to get up, to just have two minutes more under the haven that was his blanket.
And as the days turned cooler in the small town that was now his home, the sun in the sky for less time, Even still hated mornings. He didn’t like opening his eyes knowing he’d have to get out of bed.
But it was for an entirely different reason now.
This reason being a completely adorable and stealth-snuggler named Isak.
“Morning,” The boy whispered, rubbing his sleepy face against Even’s chest as his alarm vibrated on the bedside table.
“Too early.” Even grumbled, relishing the way Isak clung to him a moment longer before sighing and sitting up.
“ You can still sleep. I’m the one who has to sneak back into my house and freeze my fucking ass off while crossing the highway.”
“Sucks to suck.” Even shrugged, rolling over in his now too-empty bed.
“I get no appreciation.” Isak clicked his tongue as he teased, pulling his jeans on and his baggy sweater than Even noted was his favourite. It was a ratty, red thing that said something undecipherable now that it had been washed a million times.
“I…” Even began, automatically feeling guilty. But Isak jumped on him before he could finish his sentence and put a hand over his mouth.
“You know I’m kidding, Ev. I don’t mind. I can’t sleep on my own now anyways.” Isak whispered, smiling brightly.
Even’s insides turned to mush almost instantly at the feel of Isak’s body against him. He unconsciously pushed closer, seeing how Isak sucked in a small breath as his eyes lingered on Even’s lips now that his hand was gone.
“I gotta go. See you in about an hour.”
And then Isak was up and walking down the stairs like he was a practiced burglar, not making a single sound.
Even could hear the faint sounds of his father’s snoring as he sat up in bed, wound too tightly to go back to sleep. He often made it out like he got more sleep when Isak left but that wasn’t the truth. As soon as Isak was gone, Even got up and started getting ready for when they would meet on the bus and head off to school.
When Even came downstairs half an hour later, starved and looking forward to his bowl of cereal, he was startled by voices in the kitchen. He hesitated next to the staircase, straining to hear but then rolled his eyes at himself.
“Good morning, Even.” Noah greeted him, smiling as he poured himself some coffee.
“Ugh, hey.” Even waved awkwardly, glancing over at the other man sitting at his kitchen table who he didn’t recognize.
“This is Ollie. He’s helping me out. Your dad met him yesterday.”
“Nice to meet you.” Ollie said, looking as awake as Even felt which was hardly at all.
The two men were both in their mid-twenties, muscular and tall. Noah had light brown hair that was curly and looked soft, his clothes a bit dirty and his boots torn. Ollie was a redhead who was wearing a long, brown jacket and his hands were covered in a sea of freckles that all seemed to link together. They looked like they’d grown up on farms, hauling hay and working fields. Which was exactly why Edwin was working with them.
They were renting the land on Edwin’s property - growing wheat and potatoes.
“I don’t know a thing about farming, Even.” Edwin had said, exasperated, around the end of September.
“Why did we move to a farm then?” Even laughed, unable to help it.
“Because this property was quite cheap. I liked the house. I liked the town and the idea of being so far from Oslo. But...we are wasting the land.”
From what Even could tell, his father hadn’t put much thought into how they would use the land, how to properly make sure the crop grew and was sold. That had been secondary to Even starting at a new school. But as the first month went by, his father was faced with the reality that they had all this land and no real knowledge or means to work it.
Isak’s father had mentioned renting out the land. That way, someone was making profit from it and Edwin could focus on the job he still had - being an architect who sent ideas back to the main office in Oslo.
Noah knew Terje and Isak’s father had introduced him to Edwin at the beginning of October, quickly working out an agreement for the land. Edwin had seemed satisfied with it and allowed Noah to let himself into the house in order to make some meals for the day and use their coffee machine since his days often started at four in the morning. Noah was normally out on the field when Even woke up - and when Isak snuck back to his house - so he’d been surprised to see him this morning.
“Who was the boy I saw this morning?” Noah asked, making Even drop the bag of cereal he was holding.
Noah picked up the bag and handed it to Even, frowning in confusion. “There was a boy, about your age, running out the front door when I arrived this morning. I asked who he is.”
“You can’t tell my dad you saw him.” Even said, lowering his voice and glancing between the two men. “ Please.”
Noah raised his eyebrows but didn’t seem too bothered or suspicious. He just shrugged his shoulders and nodded, walking back to the table to sit with Ollie. His calmness made Even feel embarrassed and his appetite quickly disappeared.
He grabbed his backpack off the floor and walked out the front door without another word, heading towards Isak’s house. He didn’t care that he was too early and he knew Isak wouldn’t care either. It just meant they could spend some time in the bus together before picking up the other students.
As Even approached the house, he realized he hadn’t really been here before. During the middle of September, Terje had offered to have Even and his father over for dinner but cancelled last minute. Isak had mentioned something about his mother being unwell and Even hadn’t thought about it since. But there hadn’t been another invitation.
Isak had never offered to bring Even over to meet his mother or older brother, either. They spent so much time together at Magnus’s house with the boys or during the night at Even’s that it never seemed necessary.
Even stood on the porch, unable to see through the windows because the blinds were still drawn shut. He could hear people talking inside. Isak was probably having breakfast.
He reached up to knock when the door was suddenly pulled open and a woman looked at him through the screen door, her hair wild and her face contorted into an expression of fear.
“Who are you? What do you want?” The woman demanded, lowering her voice so nobody else except Even could hear her.
She looked Even up and down as if he had come to murder Isak’s entire family and also steal all their valuables. A horrible sense of unease passed through Even’s stomach and he took a step back.
“Um, I was here to find somebody but I’ll just...go.” Even said, not entirely sure what he was saying. He just wanted to go back to his house and wait for Isak.
“Don’t you come near us ever again! I know what you are!” The woman shouted, practically shrieking this time.
Even froze as Isak appeared behind the woman and touched her shoulder, trying to get her back further into the house. As he attempted this, he glanced towards Even and his face fell.
“Mom, it’s okay. Come on. That’s just my friend.”
“No. Isak, don’t you go near it!”
Knowing he was making things worse, Even turned and ran back towards his house. He didn’t stop until he was on his front porch, lungs burning and legs shaking. He sat down on the top step and grabbed his phone from his pocket, bringing up his last conversation with Isak.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause trouble.
Not your fault. I’m coming now if that’s okay.
Even looked up and saw the lights of the bus turn on, the vehicle backing up off of Isak’s property and onto the highway. Even met Isak at the end of his driveway, climbing the stairs of the bus and trying to meet Isak’s eyes.
But he wouldn’t look at Even. He didn’t say a word as they made their way down the road and Even decided to stay quiet as well. He had too many things he wanted to say swirling in his head that he didn’t trust himself to pick just one.
Isak turned down the road that led to nowhere, a spot that was a favourite of theirs. They smoked up together practically every week, always talking about something that was way too deep to unpack in the half hour they often spent there. Last week Isak had gone on and on about alternate universes, how many things were theoretically possible with a notion like this.
But after what happened this morning, Even felt that same uneasiness he had on Isak’s front porch surround them, veiling everything in a hazy grey that he didn’t want. This time together was supposed to be happy and carefree. Even didn’t want to get high when he or Isak weren’t feeling okay.
Isak turned off the engine and looked up into the mirror above his seat, finding Even’s eyes. His gaze immediately held Even, made him stay in place. All his muscles tensed and his breath came shorter, his hands balled into fists.
“Isak,” Even whispered, but before he could say anything else Isak was up out of the seat and walking towards him.
The other boy seemed so unsure of himself as he stood in front of Even, his hands ringing together. Even didn’t move an inch, wanting Isak to be the one to speak or do something first. He didn’t know what Isak needed, but he knew he had to wait.
“Touch me.” Isak said, the words barely audible.
Even reached out, automatically thinking Isak wanted to hug or something similar, but the next thing he knew Isak was straddling his waist and bringing Even’s hands up to either side of his face.
“ Please? I need you to touch me.” Isak said, sitting his weight down properly on Even’s lap and putting his arms around the back of Even’s shoulders.
“Okay.” Even said, every part of him on fire as he stroked the soft sides of Isak’s face.
He watched as Isak leaned in closer, clearly wanting to kiss, and Even didn’t stop him. He brought Isak closer by the hold he had on him until their mouths were touching - slotting together as they both let out small, soft sounds.
Even was lost in it immediately, hard in his jeans before ten seconds had passed, and he couldn’t believe he finally had Isak like this. He tried to move closer despite the small seat, despite the fact that they were already as close as they could get.
Isak pulled at the top of his shirt, trying to find skin and Even let him yank on the fabric until it ripped; his mouth there a second later - sucking a dark bruise above his collarbone. Even threw his head back and groaned, digging his fingers into Isak’s thick hair.
“ Touch me.” Isak moaned, thrusting his hips down against him.
“I am.” Even insisted, squeezing his hands where they were touching Isak’s body.
Isak looked at him, eyes glazed over. He licked his lips before moving his hand down, trying to undo his own jeans. Even looked down too, realization dawning on him as he saw how hard Isak was; how he strained against the zipper.
“Fuck. Okay, okay.”
Both his hands were suddenly below Isak’s waist, pulling his cock out of his pants and stroking the hot flesh a second later. Isak cried out, bringing his mouth back to Even’s and breathing against his lips; too riled up to properly kiss anymore.
Isak was fucking beautiful. Even couldn’t stop thinking that. Every single part of him was - even the ones still covered in clothes. There wasn’t any point trying to deny it anymore. All those nights they spent together, Isak gradually snuggling up against him; the feel of his body close to Even’s.
Even had been wanting this for a long time.
“Even, I...I’m close.” Isak gasped, putting his face into his shoulder. “Slow down.”
“It’s okay. I just wanna...touch you too.”
And then Isak’s hands were moving to undo Even’s zipper, pulling him out gently the same way Even had to him. The relief was excruciatingly good and Even couldn’t help the sound he made, kissing the side of Isak’s face involuntarily.
“Like this,” Isak whispered, lining them up and gripping both of them together. Even shuddered at the feel, knowing he wasn’t going to last.
Isak sped up the movements of his hand, catching Even’s eye again. His eyebrows were drawn together in pleasure and he leaned in to kiss Even’s bottom lip, this time slowly.
Even didn’t have time to warn Isak. His back arched and his mouth fell open as pleasure rocked through his body. Isak grabbed his shoulder with his other hand for purchase, following Even seconds later; crying out and mumbling something unintelligible under his breath.
Isak kissed him again, uncaring of the mess they’d made or that they should have left already to start getting the other students. He just put his mouth on Even’s and kissed him like he would die if they stopped.
They didn’t have time to talk about it.
Isak was late picking everyone up and they got a stern talking to from the principal when they finally reached the school. Even blushed as Isak took all the blame, unable to come to Isak’s defense without admitting the real reason they had been late.
They had rushed off to their separate classes after that, the morning a blur for Even. He tried to think of what he wanted to say to Isak when he finally got him alone. He tried to imagine what Isak was going to say to him too.
Had Isak had feelings for him all along?
Did this mean they were together now?
Did Even want to be together with Isak? Could he emotionally handle being in another relationship that he had to hide?
By the time lunch came, Even had worked himself up so much that he didn’t want to eat. He’d already skipped breakfast but he couldn’t manage to eat anything he’d brought with him. He sat at the table with Magnus, waiting for the others to join them.
“You okay, bro?” Magnus asked, chomping down on a slice of pizza.
Even cleared his throat, trying to smile and look like he wasn’t having some kind of break down. “Yeah. Yep. I’m fine.”
Magnus gave him a doubtful look but didn’t press it further. Even was waiting only a few more minutes before Isak finally appeared, coming over to them with Jonas and Mahdi.
He sat down with a plateful of food and looked completely normal. He was talking to Jonas about something that happened during the class they had together, laughing and carefree.
Even was sweating beneath his clothes, wishing he could somehow talk to Isak about everything. He had never been great at hiding his emotions, suppressing his feelings.
“Even? You’re not eating.” Isak said, snapping him out of his daze.
When he looked at Isak, he nearly flinched. His eyes were calm, how they were every day, and the intensity they’d shared earlier had completely vanished.
It was like Even was looking at someone he didn’t know.
“Y-yeah. I’m not...hungry.”
“Weirdo. I’m always hungry.” Magnus teased, grabbing half the sandwich that Even had brought and shoved most of it into his mouth.
Everyone laughed, including Isak, and Even thought he might be sick.
“Can we talk?” Even whispered, walking next to Isak as the bell rang - signalling the end of lunch.
“Not about that.” Isak said, shaking his head. “I can’t.”
Even looked at him, trying to figure out what was happening. He felt so fucking lost. He couldn’t be casual about this. He needed to understand.
“Later then? Tonight?”
Isak pulled on Even’s hand, tugging him between a doorway and a row of lockers. People walked past them, chatting, creating enough noise that nobody could hear just them.
“I’m sorry, Even. Okay?”
“Don’t be sorry. Just tell me what’s happening.”
“ Nothing. I’d like nothing to happen, including talking.” Isak sighed, looking at Even remorsefully.
Even stared at him for a long few seconds, many other questions on his tongue; wanting to scream at Isak that he wasn’t giving Even enough. He wanted to say that Isak needed to do more.
But he realized that this was all Isak could give him. He couldn’t talk about it because he didn’t know what he wanted.
Isak was just as lost as Even, and Even demanding anything of him would just make it harder.
“Okay. That’s all right, Isak.”
Isak looked at him as if he had heard incorrectly, his body tense and flighty. But Even continued to look at him, trying to show him that he didn’t have any kind of expectations, and Isak seemed to slowly relax.
“I’ll see you after school?”
Isak shook his head, clearing his throat. “Someone else is driving the bus home today. I have to...be somewhere. An appointment.”
Even looked at him, absolutely dumbfounded. Isak always drove the bus to and from school. He’d never missed a day. Even hadn’t even considered someone else could drive the bus.
“Oh. Um, okay. Hope it goes well.” Even said, forcing himself to turn on his heel and head to his next class. It took all his willpower not to ask more questions, such as what kind of appointment and is it for you or your mother?
And most of all, are you fucking okay?
Even waited up.
He checked his phone continuously. He looked out his window for any sign that someone else was awake at this ungodly hour.
But the house across the highway was completely dark. It was blended into the darkness like it didn’t even exist.
And Isak didn’t come to him that night.
Chapter 5: Funny
Sorry for the delay! I've been sick with a persistent cold the past 2 weeks and it's sucked big time. I'm hoping to post more frequently :P
Isak was smiling at him the next morning, hands clutching the wheel of the bus. Even barely glanced at him as he walked up the stairs and sat in his normal seat, placing his bag next to him. God, he was tired.
Isak looked at him through the mirror above the driver’s seat, eyebrows raised expectantly. Even knew he was looking to see if they were okay, if Even meant what he’d said about Isak not having to talk about yesterday.
And he wanted to give it to him, despite how fucking confused he was. He wanted to just go on as they were - friends. Hanging out after school and smoking up before it on this very bus. But as he looked away, wishing Isak would just start driving, he found that something held him back. Something made it impossible in this moment for him to be in the same place as Isak.
“I’m ready to get going.” He said neutrally, clearing his throat.
The bus didn’t move for several long seconds. Even could feel Isak staring at him, probably on the verge of begging for Even to act normally, but he couldn’t give in. He wasn’t in the mood for all this bullshit.
The lack of explanations. Isak completely ditching him last night. The other boy’s incapability to talk about fucking anything.
Right now, it was too much.
Isak began driving a moment later and they exchanged no words during the ride to school.
“How’s it going?” Jonas asked at lunch, leaning in close while the other boys talked about something. Even glanced at him, confused.
“Uh, fine? Just eating my lunch.”
Well, picking at his sandwich which wasn’t appealing at all was more like it, but what did it really matter?
“You seem out of it. Tired.”
Even nodded, suddenly wishing Jonas wasn’t so observant. “Didn’t sleep much.”
“Funny.” The brunette said, shaking his head. He pulled away a few inches and chugged a drink of his soda, not elaborating on what he meant.
“Why’s that funny?” Even frowned.
“Isak said the same thing this morning.” Jonas stated, glancing at Isak who was sitting at a different table working on a project with his science partner. He’d told them it was on her request and the thing was due tomorrow so he wouldn’t be able to sit with them today.
Even had thought it was a bullshit excuse to further avoid him but as the lunch hour had progressed, the two were working quite intensely.
“Must have been something in the air. No sleep for the wicked.” Even tried to joke, hoping Jonas would take the bait and back off.
“Must have.” Jonas nodded, not looking at all convinced but he didn’t say anything more.
Even looked over at Isak, trying to be subtle, but as he did Isak looked up at him too and their eyes locked. Even sucked in a breath, wishing this could be easier. Having a simple conversation would surely help something. If he could have some kind of sense of what Isak was thinking, what he wanted - what he needed - perhaps both of them could have slept last night.
Perhaps this look could have been a happy one rather than being filled with a heavy tension, an invisible grip reaching into both their chests and squeezing too tight.
Isak looked away first, his cheeks a deeper shade of red than before, and Even pushed his food to the side.
Even was walking down the hall towards the bathroom, his last class of the day nearly over, when someone tugged on his shirt and yanked him into a utility closet. He stumbled, trying to stay upright, and he also tried to see who the fuck was closing the door; jamming them both into the too tight space.
But of course, it was now pitch black.
“What the hell?” Even said, apparently too loudly because the person put a hand over his mouth
“Shh. It’s me.”
Jesus fucking Christ.
Even rolled his eyes, reaching up to pull Isak’s hand away. “Okay, this is stupid. Why are you doing this?”
He heard Isak sigh and he wished he could see his face. He reached around the wall, aiming to find a lightswitch.
“The light broke. Doesn’t work.”
“I just wanted to talk to you.” Isak sighed, his breath blowing in Even’s face due to how close they had to stand.
“You couldn’t wait until school was done? We literally drive home together.” Even stated, intentionally trying to sound like he was talking to a toddler because at this point that’s what it felt like.
“Even, fucking hell. Please?”
Isak said the words as his voice broke, suddenly grabbing onto Even’s waist and half pulling him towards his own front, hesitating before fully bringing their bodies together. He was breathing heavily and Even raised his hands, unsure of what to do with them.
“Please, what? I don’t know what you want, Isak. I have no fucking clue what to do.”
Even desperately wished in this moment that he could see Isak. He wanted to be able to calculate his facial expressions, have some sense of what he actually felt considering he probably wouldn’t say it out loud.
Isak slowly moved his hands up Even’s ribcage, continuing around to briefly touch the top of his biceps before landing on either side of his neck. He rested there, not saying anything, for several long seconds before leaning in and placing a single kiss on Even’s mouth.
“I want you. That’s all.”
Even hated that he was already getting turned on, that every part of him wanted to slam Isak against the other wall and have his way with him. He hated it because this wasn’t helping clear anything up. It was just making it worse.
“You want me but as what, Isak? A friend who you sometimes fuck? A sleepover buddy who you also sometimes fuck?”
“Does it matter?”
“I want to know. I need to know. Just give me something. Anything.”
Isak ran a finger gently across Even’s bottom lip, his hips now unconsciously grinding into his groin, and Even couldn’t help the moan that slipped out. Isak kissed him again, this time more forcefully, pulling away less than a minute later - panting and now obviously hard.
“I like you, okay? You’re my friend. I don’t sleep without you anymore. I didn’t come over last night because I had something to deal with but I can’t talk about it. I’ll try not to miss a night again because I missed you so fucking much. And now I really, really want to get on my knees and make you come before our classes are done.”
Isak kissed down Even’s chest as he reached to undo his jeans, sliding down onto the floor just as he said he would and pulling Even out - breathing hotly against his cock before swallowing him down. Even threw his head back against the wall and bit down on his fist to keep from shouting out. His hands found their way into Isak’s hair, needing to feel him.
It was kind of embarrassing how quickly his orgasm was building, how his body just wanted to empty itself into Isak’s mouth. But he couldn’t really be held accountable for it considering how amazingly Isak was blowing him.
“Close,” He moaned, trying not to thrust his hips too much and choke the other boy.
Isak didn’t make a move to pull away. If anything, he bobbed his head faster and sucked harder, pulling Even into the soft press of his throat. That was game over entirely and Even tried his best to stay quiet as he came, feeling his toes curling inside his shoes.
His body still tingling with afterglow, Even pulled Isak up by his arms and quickly changed their positions, getting on his own knees and reaching to undo Isak’s jeans.
“Wait, I…” Isak began, putting his hands on top of Even’s.
“What? Are you okay?”
Once again, Even cursed the fact that he could see nothing in the stupid goddamn closet.
“I kind of...already…” Isak mumbled, sounding so unsure that it was breaking Even’s heart a little.
“Ugh, this is fucking embarrassing.”
“Shut up.” Even practically growled, continuing to undo Isak’s jeans and reach down into his underwear - finding him sticky and wet.
Isak made a soft sound, hands still around Even’s wrists, but he didn’t try to stop him. He let Even feel him, bring his mouth to the cooling liquid and begin licking it off his hot skin - hissing through his teeth as he did.
“You’re so...fucked up.” Isak moaned, and if Even hadn’t already come, the way Isak pushed his face into his groin would have surely done it.
Satisfied Isak wouldn’t have a huge stain on the front of his jeans, Even stood up a minute or two later and kissed Isak quickly, smirking as Isak went to deepen the kiss as he pulled away.
“ I’m fucked up? Have you met yourself?”
“You just spent like five minutes licking me clean!”
“You came in your pants from blowing me.”
Isak punched his arm playfully, laughing a second later as they both zipped themselves back up. Even had a feeling they’d both be in trouble for being gone so long from class but he couldn’t bring himself to care. It was fucking worth it.
“How did you know I was here by the way? You stalking me?” Even quipped, kissing down Isak’s neck as the other boy leaned his head back.
“I saw you walk past my class. I came after you.”
“And who’s the one that’s fucked up again?”
“Shut up. Fuck, don’t leave a mark, Ev.” Isak whispered, contradicting himself by leaning into the pressure of Even’s mouth latching onto his collarbone rather than away from it.
“Don’t worry.” He pulled away, lingering for another few seconds before giving them both space.
“I’ll see you soon, I guess?” Isak asked, as if he didn’t know the answer. As if Even wasn’t already missing him.
“Well, yeah. You’re my ride.”
Isak chuckled before opening the door, glancing briefly down the hallway before looking at Even; silently nodding that the coast was clear. The light shocked him a little, making him squint, but he could focus enough to see that Isak’s hair was a mess. His was probably in the same sort of shape.
“Fix your hair.” He whispered before walking down the hallway, running his fingers through his own mop as he turned back and winked at a blushing Isak.
“My dad is home early today.” Isak said after the last student was dropped off, leaving them alone on the bus. It had begun raining heavily and the windshield wipers squeaked loudly as they headed home.
“Yeah?” Even asked, not missing the way Isak’s shoulders tensed and his grip on the steering wheel tightened.
“Sorry. We won’t be able to...talk or anything. But I’ll come over later.”
“You don’t have to be sorry, Isak.”
Isak nodded, looking at him gratefully in the mirror. Even smiled, not knowing what else to say. They stayed relatively quiet as they made their way down the highway, Isak talking mindlessly about the stupid rain making it hard to see.
As they reached Even’s driveway, Isak parked the bus and turned to look at him. He smiled, looking like he was going to say something, but instead he stood up and wrapped Even in a hug.
Even wanted to make light of the situation, say Isak was being sappy or something, but he could feel how badly Isak seemed to need this. Isak always did things with a certain amount of desperation. The way he kissed, hugged, talked. Hell, he even slept like it was the best thing he’d ever done.
He had an idea it had something to do with the fact that Isak often put on a show for others. He did what they expected of him, whether it was being funny or bro-ish around friends, a fake flirt with girls in school or standing up on Sundays next to his father being the perfect son. Isak often put on a mask.
But right now, and in similar moments, when Isak let himself just be - his entire self was part of the action rather than only a piece. It was like he finally let himself breathe, and that’s exactly what it felt like now.
“Bye, Even.” Isak said as he pulled away, looking down at Even’s mouth. He didn’t kiss him and Even didn’t push him to, their location too risky. But he relished in the thought that if they could, Isak would want to.
He walked off the bus and ran through the rain to his front porch, unlocking the door and going inside. He shook his hair, completely drenched, and began taking off his coat when he heard voices in the kitchen.
One of them was his father but the others he didn’t recognize right away, all of them speaking at similar times and muffling the individual voices. As walked closer and turned the corner into the kitchen, about to say hello, he was slammed backwards by someone’s chest - landing hard on his ass.
“Oh, sorry!” The person said, reaching his hand out to pull Even back on his feet. “I didn’t see you there.”
As Even looked up, slightly irritated but willing to accept some help up, his eyes went wide as realization set in.
“Jason?” He mumbled, wincing as the man tugged him up too fast - wrenching his arm.
The other man smiled but it was more like he was gritting his teeth, spinning on his heel back into the kitchen. “Even’s home!” He called, walking back the way he came.
Even trailed after him awkwardly, not knowing what he was going to find further inside the room. He wasn’t expecting to be greeted by his father’s kind smile as well as Terje’s and several other older men who he knew for sure he hadn’t met before. They were all sitting around the kitchen table, a fresh pot of coffee brewing and papers in front of them.
“Uh, hi.” He managed to say. “Sorry to interrupt?”
“No, no. Forgive us. We’ve taken over your father’s house for our little church meeting.” Terje laughed, standing up and shaking Even’s hand like he did after church, slapping him on the back.
Jason hovered near the coffee pot, not meeting Even’s eyes.
“Church meeting?” He asked, not really interested but feeling it was polite to ask. Perhaps this is why Terje had come home early. Isak was probably imagining his father would do this at his own house, though, and not here at Even’s.
“Yes, just going over the services for the coming weeks. Your father is part of it now and offered to host it here today. He has some very wise ideas.” Terje said, smiling over at Edwin.
Even expected his father to smile the way he always did around Terje, like the man could do no wrong, but this time Edwin’s smile was tight and small. Forced. It didn’t look like Edwin was at all pleased.
“I’ll just grab some juice and get out of the way, then.” Even said, walking to the fridge.
The older men, including his father, went back to whatever it was they were discussing but Jason lingered near the coffee at the other side of counter. It looked like he was waiting for something and he was inconveniently standing where they kept the glasses. Even approached him, about to ask him to move, when Jason suddenly came close so he could whisper something.
“How is Isak?”
Even flinched. He couldn’t help it. Jason looked at him anxiously, eyes wide and imploring - expecting a reply to a question that Even honestly didn’t know how to answer.
“Just fine? What’s going on with him? He won’t talk to me anymore.”
“What the fuck, man?” Even snapped, unable to help it. He couldn’t believe this guy was doing this here, in front of the very people he was hiding from.
Also, what the hell did Even know about their relationship? Isak hadn’t talked about it after that first day. He’d never brought it up. In fact, until the last ten minutes, Even had forgotten Jason even existed - that anything had happened between Isak and him.
“You’re his friend, right? I...I just wanted to make sure he was okay. He doesn’t answer my texts or calls.”
“I’m not getting involved, okay?” Even stated, grabbing a glass over Jason’s head from the cupboard and trying to run away. The whole situation was too fucking awkward and just added more things to the list of shit Isak didn’t talk about.
“Wait. Will you give him this? Please?”
Jason pulled an envelope out from his pocket with Isak’s name on the front in nice, neat handwriting and thrust it towards Even. He practically placed it in Even’s hand, giving him no choice but to take it.
“Tell him I love him. Please?”
All the begging was about to make Even sick. He nodded, not able to look Jason in the eye again for fear of imagining what Isak saw when they’d been together, and walked as fast as possible out of the room.
Isak was fast asleep in Even’s bed.
Their bodies were tangled together under the covers and despite how comforting it was to have the other boy back in his bed after an awful sleepless night the previous evening, Even was wide awake.
He looked at his ceiling, trying to turn his brain off. He didn’t want to be thinking about all this bull shit.
He didn’t want to be thinking about how Jason looked overly tired as he’d stood in Even’s kitchen, like he’d been unable to sleep as well. Perhaps they were both in the same situation of being unable to sleep without Isak.
Shit. Stop it. Go to sleep.
Or how apparently Isak had someone who was in love with him. Jason loved Isak. He’d said it like many couples did, as if he knew the other person loved him right back. So, it was likely that Isak had also been in love with Jason at one point. Perhaps he still was.
Maybe Isak was in love with someone else as he was lying in Even’s bed.
Was Even some kind of revenge fuck? Had Isak gotten tired of Jason hiding him? Sneaking around behind the backs of his family? And who the fuck was his family?
For fuck’s sake.
As gently as he could, Even moved away from Isak and managed to sit up without waking him. He swung his feet over the side of the bed before standing up and walking towards his desk where he had stashed the letter in a drawer.
He looked at it in the dim light of the moon streaming in from his window. The night had cleared up and there had been an amazing sunset before the stars had come out, shining brightly next to the moon.
He shouldn’t open it. The letter wasn’t for him, and it wasn’t any of his business what Jason had to say to Isak. He wasn’t part of all this.
Even continued to look at it for several more minutes before he rolled his eyes at himself.
I’m writing to you because you won’t answer my calls. You won’t respond to my texts. You won’t talk to me on Sundays anymore. You’ve apparently just vanished.
I miss you.
I’m sorry for what I said the last time. I didn’t mean it. Not really. You’ve always been just as important to me as they are. Probably even more so because I’m myself when I’m with you.
I’m writing this also because I’ve made up my mind. I’m finally going to do what I always said I would from the beginning of us.
I’m going to leave her and let her have full custody. Whatever she wants. I just want out. I just want you.
Please call me. I love you.
Chapter 6: Before You
“I’d rather not go this week.” Even said through clenched teeth as he sat at the kitchen table, watching his father as he put on his best tie.
It was early and Even wanted coffee. He had wanted to sleep in, given it was the weekend and all, but something had pulled him out of bed at an ungodly hour.
Probably the lack of Isak in his bed. They didn’t often risk sleepovers on weekends. It had been that way from the start but that didn’t mean he was used to it, even after all the weeks that had passed.
Their old coffee machine groaned loudly in the warm kitchen, the smell of dark roast invading Even’s senses.
Edwin frowned at his son, regarding him cautiously. “Okay. Any particular reason?”
Jason. He’s the whole damn reason.
“I have a headache.”
“Okay.” Edwin said, looking unconvinced. “I’m sure Isak will miss you there. He doesn’t look like he much enjoys being in the church.”
The comment surprised Even and he looked back at his father. Edwin had never said anything about Isak’s involvement with the church or how Terje seemed to love that Isak supposedly wanted to become a pastor someday as well.
In fact, Edwin had seemed entirely satisfied with Terje and the church and everything about it until that meeting Even had walked into. Something told him his father was having doubts about some aspect of the church.
“Are you and Terje all right?” He asked, unable to suppress his curiosity.
Edwin sat down next to him and let out a long sigh, answering Even’s question without saying anything more.
“He’s just...a very traditional man. Our views don’t always match up and it can be frustrating.”
Even nodded in understanding. He was sure Isak would agree as well.
“He often sounds just like your mother and it’s very annoying. We’re in the twenty-first century but he often talks like it’s the nineteenth century.” Edwin huffed, shaking his head.
The mention of Even’s mother stung a little bit but he tried not to show it. He reached across the table and gripped his father’s hand instead, smiling at him.
“For what?” Edwin asked, putting his hand on top of Even’s warmly.
“I don’t know. Being on my side. Moving us out here for a fresh start. Thinking outside of the box even though you were raised not to. Just...everything.”
Edwin’s smile faltered a little and he moved his hand away. He stood up and Even thought he was going to leave the room, but he walked around to his son and motioned for him to stand. Even complied, confused for all of a second before his father wrapped him in a hug, squeezing him tightly.
“Don’t thank me for things like that.” Edwin said firmly. “That’s just called being your father. It’s nothing special.”
Even couldn’t help the way tears sprung into his eyes.
“Yeah, but...thanks anyways.”
Edwin chuckled as he pulled away, winking at Even and pulling a little on his ear - something he’d done all of Even’s life. It was one of the most comforting things between them.
“I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Why aren’t you here with your dad?
Are you sick?
Even looked at Isak’s message for several long seconds, wondering what to reply. He wanted to lie and say that he was in fact sick, that he had a migraine. But he figured Isak would see right through that lame excuse.
Just not in the mood for church today
He didn’t want to imagine Isak and Jason in the kitchen together when he’d caught them that first Sunday, hands all over each other - mouths connected. He didn’t want to think about Isak’s desperate noises or the way he pushed his whole body towards the person he was making out with, clinging like he’d never let go.
He didn’t want to think about the fact that Isak had most likely been doing that with Jason for all of the time he’d known him, including after they’d begun their sleepovers.
This is boring as fuck without you
Dad’s preaching about morals again *kill me*
Even wondered what kind of morals Jason had, if any at all. Hooking up with a teenage boy behind the back of your wife didn’t exactly spell out star pastor. Or great human being.
Sorry. Try not to fall asleep
Here’s the thing.
Even had every intention of giving the letter to Isak. Honestly.
Why would he keep it? Or, more importantly, why would he keep it from Isak? It’s not like they were a thing. Not really.
Isak wasn’t his boyfriend.
Despite the fact that the letter was crumpled from the amount of times Even had wrung it tightly in his hands - trying to work up the courage to just give the damn thing to Isak - the intention to give it back was just as true as the day Jason had given it to him.
But it was so hard to remember why he was going to let Isak read all about how some other guy was in love with him when Isak was currently straddling him, tongue shoved deep into Even’s mouth like he was trying to lick his teeth clean.
So, it wasn’t entirely Even’s fault that he was unintentionally keeping the letter a huge, fat secret that was hanging out inside his drawer.
He just had more important things to worry about.
The stupid letter was all he could think about now and it fucking sucked. Even had come home to another fucking meeting - how many meetings did one single church need to hold for fuck’s sake?! - and been cornered by Jason; eyes more glossy than they’d been previously.
“Did you give it to him?”
“Why not? I’m fucking begging you, man.”
“This is creepy and I’m not getting involved.” Even snapped, glancing at the men huddled around the table again. His father had a deep frown across his forehead as he stared at Terje, unhappily listening to whatever he was saying.
Even rolled his eyes. “Dude, how old are you? You’re acting like it’s you who’s the teenager and not Isak.”
Jason blanched at his frankness, his shoulders slumping forward a little as he looked at the floor - apparently rendered speechless. Even started to feel bad but then thought better of it.
“I don’t expect you to understand but...you’re my only access to him. The only way he might come to me again.” Jason whispered, moving closer as if to touch Even’s arm. He moved away and the older man backed off, seemingly startled by himself.
“I’m leaving now.” Even stated, practically running for the stairs.
He couldn’t do his homework. He couldn’t answer any messages from Jonas about their assignment they were supposed to be finishing for History. He couldn’t even enjoy one of his favourite podcasts about filmmaking.
All he could think about was the damn, horrid letter that might as well have been burning a hole in the drawer of his desk now.
“I think my dad’s angry at your dad.” Isak said as greeting, crawling into Even’s bed at a horrendously early hour.
Usually, Even would love the way Isak curled his body against his, arm thrown across his bare chest. He would cherish the way Isak kissed him above his navel sleepily, hair a mess. Usually, this meant that he could finally relax and sleep.
But this time, Even squirmed away from the other boy, somehow unable to let go of how much he didn’t know about Isak; how he still had no clue where they stood and what the hell was happening with Jason. He couldn’t relax at all.
“I think my dad’s angry at your dad.” He said, laying as still as a statue.
“I wonder what’s up.” Isak sighed, frowning at the way Even had left so much space between them. “Speaking of which, what’s up with you?”
“Yeah, right. Talk to me.”
“Why should I bother?” Even snapped, sitting up. He turned his back on Isak, staring out his window into the black abyss.
“Even...are you angry, or something?” Isak asked, voice small and unsure.
“I don’t know.” He said, and it was the most honest answer he could give. His brain was a mess of emotions that he couldn’t sift through.
“What’s on your mind?” Isak touched his shoulder, rubbing it in a gesture of comfort, but it just made Even’s skin crawl.
He shrugged it off and stood up, walking over to his desk and pulling the letter out. He was tired of keeping it, tired of obsessing over it. He was never going to be as good as this as Isak; not talking about things - shoving them aside and pretending they didn’t exist.
He walked back over to Isak and handed it to him, practically shoving it into his hands.
“What the hell?”
“It’s for you. From Jason.” Even said, folding his arms in front of his chest, waiting for Isak to open it.
Isak’s eyes went wide at the mention of Jason’s name, staring at the letter like it was a bomb about to explode. He looked frightened by it.
“Why do you have...a letter from Jason?” He whispered, beginning to open it.
“Because he cornered me in my kitchen a few days ago, begging me to give it to you. He said that you won’t talk to him and I’m his only way of trying to talk to you.”
Even was aware his voice was rising, that he was venturing close to hysterics, but he couldn’t help it.
“ Shit , Even...I…”
“He also said to tell you that he loves you.” Even continued, scoffing.
Isak stopped opening the envelope, putting the letter on the floor and standing up. He walked closer to Even, eyes locked on his, and shook his head.
“I don’t love Jason.”
“Okay.” Even spat, and he found that he was on the verge of tears. Why the fuck did he feel like he was about to break into sobs?
“I never loved him, Even.”
“Good for you.”
Isak put his hands on Even’s face, taking in a deep breath. His hands were warm and shaking, his breath stale from sleep. Even took in some sharp breaths through his nose, trying to calm his fluttering heart.
“He pursued me. He kissed me first, and we used to...do stuff in the basement of the church, but he always wanted more than me. I told him that it was wrong because he’s married and has a son, but…” Isak explained, looking guilty. “He wouldn’t back off. It became kind of obsessive and I ended it. Around the time you and I…”
He trailed off again, cheeks reddening. He reached back to run his fingers through Even’s hair, eyes wandering to his lips.
“You and I...what?” Even asked, wanting Isak to say it.
Say we’re together.
Say that maybe I have the chance to be yours.
“That we got close.” Isak said, kissing Even softly before pulling back. “Ev, I haven’t thought about him at all . Not that way. Not since there’s been you.”
Even felt like crying all over again, but for an entirely different reason this time.
“Come here?” The other boy said, tugging Even back towards the bed and stepping right on top of the unread letter.
“You didn’t read the…”
“I don’t want to read it because it doesn’t matter to me. This does.” Isak interrupted, practically throwing Even down on the bed and putting himself between his legs.
Even shut up and finally stopped thinking about the stupid, goddamn letter.
He was almost asleep, wrapped up in the blankets and Isak and everything was safe and warm. He didn’t want to open his eyes but he did, finding Isak staring right back at him.
“Have you ever...gone all the way before? With a guy?”
The question threw him a little bit, opening his eyes wider in order to stay awake because the look on Isak’s face was one of concern and vulnerability.
“Um...yes? I have. Why?”
“Oh.” Isak said quickly, looking away and burying his face back in Even’s chest.
Even reached down and tugged on Isak’s curls until he looked back at him, surprised that Isak seemed embarrassed.
“Talk to me, Isak.”
“I was just hoping maybe...I could be your first. That we could be each other’s firsts.”
They hadn’t done that yet. Of course Even had thought of it, practically every time Isak sat himself in his lap. But he hadn’t pushed for it because it never seemed like the right time. They couldn’t do it on the bus and whenever Isak was here with him, the topic never came up.
“You want me to be your first?” Even asked, stroking his finger along Isak’s jaw; his stomach muscles tightening.
But Even’s insides were turning to mush at the thought that Isak wanted him to be his first real time and he smiled at the way Isak blushed crimson now, biting his bottom lip.
“Yeah.” He admitted, kissing Even deeply before pulling away. “But it’s three in the morning. So it’ll have to be another day.”
“Tease.” Even chuckled, rolling his eyes and snuggling up behind Isak who had become his little spoon. He grumbled about it all the time but Even knew he secretly loved it.
When Even got up the next morning to the sound of his shrill alarm, Isak was already gone. He didn’t remember the other boy saying goodbye but he imagined he must have. He always did.
As he rubbed his eyes and stood up, he noticed the letter was gone too. Isak must have picked it up from the floor. The thought made Even pause, wondering if he should be concerned. But Isak said he didn’t care about Jason anymore.
He didn’t matter because what mattered to Isak was Even.
He decided he wasn’t going to think about it anymore and headed to the bathroom, wanting to have a shower to wake himself up. He grabbed his phone, intending to listen to some music, but paused when he saw he had a few unread messages.
Even expected it to be Isak, or perhaps his dad telling him something about Noah being in the house and using the coffee machine. Edwin had taken to giving him more of a heads up when the other men would be there early.
But it wasn’t either of them.
In fact, it was the last person in Norway he would have expected to be contacting him, especially after how things had ended; how everything had been ripped away from both of them.
Hey Even, it’s Mikael
Can you call me when you have a chance?
I’m back in Oslo and I really need your help
8 months earlier
“You told Mikael’s parents!?” Even shouted, his hands itching to throw something at his mother’s head.
She’d found them three days ago in the living room of Even’s house, Mikael riding Even - head back and moaning,both of them unaware of her standing there in total shock. Nobody was supposed to be home but she’d come back early. They’d skipped class in order to be together, the rigidness of Even’s mother’s schedule designed to keep them apart catching up to them. It was an agony not getting any alone time.
“Of course I did, especially after what I saw. They deserve to know. ” She said, shrugging her shoulders like it was no big deal - like she hadn’t just ruined both of their lives.
“You have no clue what they’ll do to him!”
“That’s their own business. I hardly think sending him away to a new school in the UK is anything sinister though.”
Even couldn’t help the way tears sprung to his eyes, how he felt like he might fall over. His mother - perfectly dressed, make-up tidy and golden hair immaculate - smirked a little bit at him, clearly understanding that this so-called school wasn’t for Mikael to receive an education.
He wouldn’t be learning math or science, study languages or prepare for university.
Mikael had gone somewhere to unlearn, just as some of his family members had. It was one of the reasons Mikael was so scared about anyone seeing. Why everything was such a secret.
He hadn’t wanted to be sent away, too.
“You’re fucking horrible.” Even whispered, flinching as their front door opened and his father came in, calling out a greeting.
“And you’re a disgrace.” Faye stated, shaking her head. “It’s time this ended and you got your life back on track. You’re not a child anymore, Even.”
He wasn’t listening. He pulled out his phone and dialed Mikael’s number, listening to it ring and ring.
“He won’t answer.” Faye continued, barely reacting to her husband walking in and frowning at the state Even was in.
“Shut up.” Even demanded, calling again when it went to voicemail.
“He already left.”
“I saw him yesterday!”
“His mother moved quickly.”
“Oh, fuck you!” Even screamed, whipping his phone at her head and relishing in the way it collided with her cheek. She let out a sound of pain and Edwin rushed over to her.
“Even, what the hell are you doing?” His father cried, looking at Faye’s skin where it was darkening into a bruise.
“She did this on purpose. She knew what would happen! She’s ruined everything!”
Edwin was about to speak, glancing back and forth between his wife and son, but Faye spoke first.
“I’m trying to save you, Even. You weren’t going down a good path. It’s not too late for you. Now that he’s gone you can be okay again.” Faye said, her voice more sincere now but her words no less cruel.
“I love him. Don’t you get that? And he loves me.”
“Who are we talking about?” Edwin asked loudly, putting up his hands and motioning for both of them to stop talking.
“Mikael.” Faye sighed.
“You...are in love with him?”
Even didn’t want to explain himself again. He didn’t want to justify loving someone to the two people who would understand the least. He turned and ran out the door, heading to Mikael’s house and pounding on the door.
This couldn’t be happening.
He couldn’t be gone.
“Go away, Even.” A voice said from the window next to the door.
“Tell me you didn’t send him away!”
“You’re trespassing and I’ll call the police if you don’t leave immediately.” It was Mikael’s mother, her voice dark and low.
The window shut and that was enough of an answer for Even. Mikael was gone. And he hadn’t said goodbye. He hadn’t been given the choice to say goodbye.
And that was the moment that Even broke.