Chapter 1: Even
Lying in my bed I think of you
That song goes through my head the one we both knew
First, the room
or: a space of habitat
or: Even lives here, or
at least almost
The room isn’t big, but it has space for everything one needs. A wide bed, the sheets in a tangled mess, two pillows on the bed and one on the floor. The cheapest possible excuse of a closet in the corner, just some plastic based fabric stretched over a metal frame, closed with a zipper. A dirty mirror on the wall next to it. A trash can by the bed, a condom wrapper caught on the side. A small stool working as a night stand, holding: a pack of condoms (unopened), another pack of condoms (opened), a bottle of lube (half empty), a phone (full battery, still plugged in). A chair on the other side of the bed, working as a desk for a battered laptop and as a rack for jackets (one denim, one leather, one thick and filled with down). Under the bed? A box, full of various bottles, foil lined plastic sheets, cardboard packages, sheets of thinnest paper filled with tiny letters and refolded wrong. Between the folds? Emergency cash, enough to last for two weeks, aka. A lesson learned.
This is a room for a simple life of a complicated person.
The person in question, lying in the bed. His head on the mattress, between the two pillows, his hand bent under his cheek, his legs folded in a way that makes him look like someone tossed a doll on the bed after growing tired of playing with it. The position is the same he took when he threw himself on the bed three hours ago.
He opens his eyes and wishes someone was there to see how dark and full of pain they are, while simultaneously knowing he would never let anyhone see that. That is how party boys end up not being invited to parties anymore, and nothing is lonelier than being left out of a party.
Speaking of parties.
Even rolls on his back and reaches for his phone. The screen is packed with notifications which he dismisses without reading them. He opens his calendar app, and to his delight there is a marking for tonight. He double checks the date from the phone’s clock to make sure. Yes. Today. In two hours. Better get going, then.
Even moves his feet on the floor and pushes himself up on them. He grabs a towel with him and heads out of the room.
“Is the shower vacant?”
No response. Maybe nobody’s home. That’s a rare occurance in this apartment, Even thinks, then he remembers that somebody is home right now. Even is, himself. Right, right. He decides to check anyway, he walks into the common room and finds only empty cans and bottles on every available surface. So, at least Mik has been home recently. Even tries a liquid stain on the coffee table with his fingers and deducts that it’s about ten hours old. So, from last night. The party must have been over by the time Even dragged himself in through the front door.
Even stops behind Mikael’s room’s door and knocks on it.
No response. Either Mik’s not home or he’s passed out. Or listening to his music with earphones. Even stands there for a moment, imagining Mikael’s dainty body laid down in his bed. In his underwear, maybe a top on too, the spaghetti strap slipped from his shoulder. That’s a visual for the shower, thank you roomie. Sometimes people wonder how it is possible for Even to live with a pretty little thing like Mikael and still manage to see the outside world every now and then, but for some reason Even and Mikael never hook up together.
For some reason. Hah.
Even escapes the door before it has a chance to suddenly open. He slips into the bathroom and locks the door behind him. Me time. The bathtub seems clean enough, but Even runs his fingers along the bottom and sides to make sure. Yup, grime free. Good. Even is not in the mood for scrubbing. He decides to run himself a bath. His legs could use a shave, and he’s not in the mood for standing up, either. He’s going to be doing plenty of that at tonight’s gig.
Even doesn’t hate doing high society escort gigs, it’s just that he hates doing them. The stuck up events where you stand around all night in your tuxedo, surrounded by bored rich people. If Even was rich, he would know how to have fun. He would never be bored. He would be a proper playboy, with a mansion and everything. Helicopter loads of party hungry chicks and boys would be flown to his “gatherings” and the music would be so loud that the Martians would complain.
There would be so much cocaine that Columbia would build an embassy on the back yard.
When the water is high enough Even steps out of his slacks and into the tub. It is nice and warm, and he lowers himself down carefully. He is so tall that he does not simply enter a bathtub, there is some careful bending, folding and positioning involved, but finally he can tilt his head back to rest on the edge of the tub and relax.
As if he hasn’t been relaxing for three hours straight already.
As if that can be called relaxing.
Even takes a breath and slides his body forward along the tub, pulling his face under water. He lays there, his eyes open, listening to the magnificent noise of the water cascading into the tub from the tap. It sounds like a waterfall, and it technically is one, and if Even loves something it’s technicalities.
He sits up again, slowly. He turns off the water and leans back, closing his eyes. Four hour booking tonight. One hour would be the dinner, then three hours of cocktails and standing around and conversing. He needs to erase his mind before that. Cleanse the palate, so to speak. Remove the image of Mikael in his boyshort panties and spaghetti strap top dancing on the coffee table high as a kite from his head.
Even presses his palm on his stomach and slides it down. By the time he reaches his thigh he is hard. He grabs his dick firmly but gently and touches it, letting his fingers run along the shaft, in quick strokes. He imagines Mikael on the coffee table. On his knees on the floor, between someone else’s knees, his silky black hair swaying as his head bops up and down in the lucky bastard’s lap. On his back on the bed, for some reason he always imagines Mikael doing it missionary style, his slender leg up on the other guy’s shoulder, both legs if he’s feeling naughty. In Even’s fantasies (if they can be called fantasies, more like pastime and background noise) Mikael is silent like a little mouse, making only a random tiny squeak, and though Even has never made it so far that Mikael could come, he imagines that would be quiet too. A silent ah! escaping his cracked lips, disappearing immediately into the night.
Even makes a sound when he comes too, but more like a huff. He lets go of his dick, panting softly, his wet hair stuck to his forehead. He swirls the water slowly, mixing his jizz into the water. Mik says it’s good for the skin, because of the high zinc content. Even is just too lazy to do anything about it, and the lump floating around is kind of icky, so he stirs it away. There’s nothing wrong with his skin anyway.
After soaking in the water until it’s turned cool Even stands up and pulls the plug. He gives himself a quick rinse under the shower and realizes he forgot to shave his legs. He runs his hand up and down his leg and decides it will do for tonight. This is an escort gig, nothing naughty, all boring from the beginning to the end. No need to be porcelain smooth.
Even leaves the slacks on the floor and walks to his room with the towel wrapped around his waist. He blow dried his hair so it’s now extra bouncy. The customer asked for civilized flamboyance and though Even isn’t quite sure what that means, extra bouncy hair sounds like it fits the bill.
He takes his work underwear from the plastic bag also known as his underwear drawer hanging on the door knob and slips it on. His tuxedo is in the stupid zipper closet, as is his crisp white button down shirt. It’s probably also civilized flamboyance to wear a tuxedo with a black bow tie with its very edges dipped in silver coloured clitter. Even’s going to put his money on that tonight and hope for the best.
Even takes his cologne - Envy by Gucci, the real stuff, a gift from a regular - and sprays a little bit in the air. Then he walks through the cloud. A cologne is your most important underwear, Even thinks he remembers some stuck up rich person has once said, knowing perfectly well that most people can’t afford shit they can’t pronounce. Even takes a deep breath to calm himself down, and the repetitive ritual of buttoning up his shirt helps in that tremendously.
When Even is ready he takes a look in the mirror to make sure everything is as it should be. He checks the time. Forty five minutes for a half hour walk. Time to go. Even packs his lacquered shoes in his messenger bag and pulls his winter boots on. It’s been snowing all day and he has spent way too much time shining his party shoes to let them be stained by a mush of sand, snow and salt. He folds the cuffs of his pants into the boots as well, zips up his down jacket and heads out into the winter night.
Chapter 2: Isak
In each line lies another line full of sacred sound
But you're outside where the companies dream and the money goes round
Pretty much anyone would be willing to trade places with Isak Valtersen. The majority of them would probably give their arm and leg for the opportunity, too. To become someone who hasn’t worked a day in his life and still has more money than he can spend in one lifetime. Funds and stocks not included. Isak’s solid cash fortune would last him for the rest of his days, even with copious partying and a life of luxury.
He should know. He does plenty of both. Tonight is no exception, he’s attending - well, actually throwing, the guests just aren’t aware of it - a party where the dining will be fine and the conversations will be tedious and pretenteous.
Isak checks the time. His latest purchase should be here in ten minutes. They would have enough time to make the arrangements and reach the venue in time. Of course, provided that he was dealing with an actual professional.
No, take that back. A proper, professional escort would not agree on what Isak is about to ask this one. He scouted for this individual carefully. He looked for someone who has been on the listings of a prestiged escort service and then laid off. So, someone who looks and knows how to act the part, but who is willing to bend the rules.
There just is something about rules that are asking Isak to bend them.
God, he likes power. Real, proper, actual power. Not the power of money, or the influence of a name, those can be acquired so easily. Isak did nothing to gain them. He means actual power over people in the same room with him, his peers, brought forth by his command. His presence. Charisma. He has seen people grovel at his feet all his life, and he has become quite good at telling the difference between influence and power.
Isak takes a deep breath. He fills his lungs up to make his shoulders broader. His presence more commanding. He watches his image in the window that covers the whole wall and crabs his wrist behind his back. He looks great. He looks sharp. He looks the part.
The buzzer rings. Isak walks to the intercom and presses the button.
“Your guest has arrived, mister Valtersen.”
Isak checks the time. Three minutes early. Acceptable. Not ideal, but acceptable. At least he’s not tardy.
“Send him up.”
Isak walks back to the window. The elevator enters directly into the penthouse, there is no need for him to go about opening doors. Isak looks over the city, his hands behind his back, his shoulders broad, his posture impeccable. He waits. It’s a long ride up here.
The elevator arrives. The doors open. Isak can see the comer in the window. He’s tall. His posture is nice. He looks the part, as well, at least judged by the fuzzy reflection.
“Uh. Evening? Mister Valtersen?”
Ah. He hesitates? He knows he doesn’t belong here. A slight smile tugs at Isak’s lips. This is going to be an interesting night.
“Present”, Isak says, firmly. He doesn’t turn around yet. He wants to see how his guest will react to it. He keeps watching his reflection. He sees him walk further into the penthouse. Sneak a little lookaround. Isak is so accustomed to the luxury surrounding him that he only notices it when someone else has trouble taking it all in.
“Uh. I’m Even. Your escort for tonight.”
“I’m aware of your identity.”
Even moves closer again. It’s remarkable, how at the same time he looks like he belongs here and yet so out of place. He’s perfect for tonight.
“So. Where do you want me?”
Isak laughs, shortly, at the banality of Even’s question. And he finally turns around. He has a slightly cocky smile on his lips, accompanied by a snide remark, but they both tumble off when Isak sees his escort’s face properly for the first time.
He is absolutely flawless. No. That’s the wrong word. He has flaws, Isak can spot them immediately, but he has so much more going for him that the imperfections only emphasize that beauty. Isak has never had to ask for anything in his life, but now he has come face to face with something he can’t have.
He doesn’t like that one bit.
Isak pulls himself back together. He raises his upper lip a bit, and he runs his eyes along Even up and down, from his hair to his shoes, and stops at the shoes.
“What the fuck is that supposed to be?”
Even looks down and chuckles.
“Oh, sorry. I walked here. I have my proper shoes in my bag.”
Isak frowns. This Even is far more endearing than he would like. That will not do.
“I doubt you own proper shoes. But show me what you have.”
If Even is fased by Isak’s remark he hides it well. He puts his bag on the floor and takes out a pair of actually quite fine looking shoes. Civilized flamboyance, just like his cutesy little bow tie and that ridiculous hair.
“They will do. Put them on.”
“Is there someplace I can leave my boots?”
“Your bag seems roomy enough.”
Even isn’t happy about putting the wet boots in his bag, but he does so. Isak can only hope he has something in there that water can ruin. He waits until Even has put on his so called proper shoes and then nods.
“Adequate. Now, before we go, let’s get the business out of the way.”
Ohhhhh. Well played, rentboy. Well played.
“This way.” Isak swallows the ‘please’ from the end just in time, waves his hand and walks to his desk. He has a print copy of the contract Even has provided him earlier, and he has signed it beforehand. He drops the pen just as Even is about to grab it, and doesn’t apologize.
When Even has picked up the pen and signed the contract Isak presses his fingertips on it.
“I will give you ten grand if you follow my every order tonight.”
Isak looks in Even’s eyes. They make something stir inside him, and that has to stop.
“Ten thousand kroner. Cash.” Isak takes the roll of bills from his breast pocket and places it on the table. “You follow my every order to precision during the party, and this is yours when we return.”
Isak knows Even is only pretending to consider. He noticed how worn out Even’s bag is. He can tell Even hasn’t bought a brand new pair of socks for tonight.
“What kind of orders, sir?”
“That is none of your concern, because if you wish to get this reward, you will need to follow any kind of order.”
Even is still pretending. Isak can see the way Even looks at the wad of cash, all that money, placed carelessly on a desk like a flyer or a used envelope. Ten grand, thrown around like it means nothing, and to Isak Valtersen that is correct. This is his pocket change. Something he might find in the ashtray of his car.
Completely meaningless. Like everything else that money can buy, because if money can buy it, that means Isak can have it without any problems.
This rentboy is no exception to that rule. He reaches his hand towards the cash, and Isak places his own hand on top of it. Mine. For now.
“Good. The car is waiting for us downstairs. You can leave your bag here with your phone.”
Even doesn’t argue. He turns his phone off and puts it in the bag, then places the bag on the floor by the desk. Directly beneath the rolled up bills.
Chapter 3: Even
Lying in my bed
Watching my mistakes
Five hours later Even opens the front door and collapses into the apartment. Hello honeys, he is home. Someone is in the kitchen. The air smells like coffee, and oh yes please, Even would like some. He drags himself into the kitchen and sees Eskild, home from his late shift. Damn. He expected Mikael.
“Shouldn’t you be on a stage somewhere right now, taking your clothes off for money?”
Eskild turns to look at Even over his shoulder. He looks tired and worn out. Like one would expect from a geriatric nurse after a late night shift.
“Sprained my fucking ankle at work. I’m going to be late with the rent.”
Normally Even would freak out. He would yell at Eskild and make it clear to him that neither him or Mikael have money to throw around carelessly. But tonight is a special night, and Even has ten thousand (10 000, one thousand times ten) kroner in his bag.
“You’ll owe me one for that. Not just the money, but a favour.”
Eskild rolls his eyes.
“You owe me at least twelve favours.”
“Add a cup of coffee to that list”, Even sighs and takes a mug from the cupboard. “Is Mik home?”
“Yeah. Asleep. He’s got an exam tomorrow, he’s been cramming all day in his room.”
Ah. That’s why he didn’t hear Even earlier. Mikael always wore headphones when he was studying.
“I’m impressed he had the stamina to study after the party.”
“Which you are cleaning up, by the way.”
“Me?! Why me?”
“Because I did it last time. And the time before that. And the time you had a party you didn’t clean up.”
Even sighs, deep and loud, and collapses on a chair with his coffee.
“You don’t even know what I have gone through tonight.”
“Judging by your attire, some black tie event. I’m so, so sorry that you had to be bored for a couple of hours. Should I start a movement for you?”
Even closed his eyes for a moment. The last couple of hours have sure been many things, but boring is definitely not one of them.
“Fuck you too.” Even does his best to keep his voice from cracking. He’s so fragile right now, he’s seconds away from ugly crying in front of the most annoying roomie in the world. Sure, Eskild is a blessing when it came to housekeeping and stocking the kitchen with something else than vodka (cheap) and beer (cheaper, and Even almost does the math to see how many cases his ten grand could buy, and would that amount fit in their apartment), but he has this really bad holier-than-thou attitude problem.
It is most likely just Even’s imagination. But it doesn’t matter. Eskild is an arrogant bastard, that’s that.
Though he is nothing, nothing compared to the man Even just spent a few hours with.
Even closes his eyes again. Or presses them tighter, he doesn’t know, he remembers how their kitchen looks like and he sure as hell remembers how judgemental!Eskild looks like.
Wait, how long has he been quiet now? Is Eskild still in here with him? Even tries to listen, but he can’t tell has Eskild left the kitchen or is he simply sitting by the table. Or standing still, leaning on the edge of the sink.
Watching him. Judging him. How dare he, how dare he look down at Even like that? Just like the rich bitches and bastards in that stupid party, they all knew who Even was. What Even was. They all knew and saw how pathetic he was.
They were all right. He is pathetic.
Even stands up without opening his eyes and staggers out of the kitchen, into his room. He hears Eskild say something but can’t tell for sure is his voice coming from the common room or the kitchen, and quite frankly he doesn’t care. He slams the door shut and then realizes what Eskild just said.
Don’t wake up Mikael.
Well. What’s done is done. A closed door can be opened, but never again become unclosed.
Even presses his ear against the wall and listens. He can’t hear anything. Mikael didn’t wake up. Good. Party boys need their sleep so they don’t fall asleep in lecture halls at the mathematics department. Mikael insists he hasn’t blown his professors to pass the classes, and Even really wants to believe him.
He falls down on the bed. The game is over and the doll is unnecessary. Even feels his whole body kind of deflate. He is still in his tuxedo, and the bow tie is uncomfortable in this position, but that’s not the first uncomfortable position he has been in tonight.
The worst part, Even thinks, was mister Valtersen’s laugh. It had absolutely no joy in it. It was cold, and made of metal, and it had sharp teeth that bit down on Even’s flesh. Even strokes on his arm with his fingertips, searching for teethmarks.
He reaches under the leftmost pillow and takes his notebook from under it. He flips it open where he has left the pen and takes the pen in his hand. He draws a one, half the page high, and adds five zeros behind it.
A second later he runs out of his room. His door swings open and hits Mikael’s door with a bang, but he doesn’t really register it. He dashes for his bag and pulls it against his chest at the same moment Eskild barges out of his room.
“What the fuck?!”
Even hugs his bag tighter. He mutters an apology. Eskild just glares at him for a second, rolls his eyes and retreats back in his room. Even stands by the pile of shoes, hugging his bag, and hears Mikael’s door open.
Even closes his eyes and breathes in through his nose. Breathe in the universe. Breathe in the positive energy of everything that’s alive. The universe wishes well for everything it holds.
Even is holding ten thousand kroner. In cash. He is a man who knows exactly what he is worth, and as Mikael repeats his question but closer this time Even turns to look at him.
The spaghetti strap of his black top has slipped from his shoulder. His boyshorts match the top. His hair is a perfect mess and he looks sleepy, and he has an exam tomorrow, and he is worth so, so much more than Even could ever wish to.
“It’s cool. Go to bed, I’ll keep it quiet.”
Mikael yawns, and nods, and turns around. He goes back in his room, and Even returns into his own. He falls on his side on the bed, still hugging his bag, and opens it. He takes the money out and holds it in his hand. It’s surprisingly heavy. They seem to be hundred kroner bills, so there should a hundred of them. That’s a lot of paper.
Even pulls the rubber band off and slips it on his wrist. It’s a tight fit. That’s good. It helps him keep himself grounded in the here and now. He pushes the bag on the floor and rolls over on his back. He lifts his hands up, pushing his arms as long as he can, and divides the stack in two. He lets go.
He hoped it would look like in the movies. Making it rain. But the stacks just slap down on his chest, and fall apart a bit, but mostly they hold together. Even sighs and gathers the piles into one neat stack again. He places it on his face, covering his eyes. He sits up, too fast, and digs his phone out of the bag.
It is a pity Even has to stage a reconstruction. But he will be the only one who will ever know. He takes one of the bills and positions himself carefully on the bed. He turns the front camera on and raises the phone above himself. Then he places the money on his eyes and does his best indifferent, mildly suffering open mouth pouty lips face, and takes a picture.
He gets it with the first shot. It’s perfect. He digs under the pillow again and takes the mini photo printer. It turns on, yessss. He wasn’t sure if it has enough battery, but it seems to. Even sends the picture to the device as quickly as he can, just in case, and moments later he is holding a small polaroid of himself masked with money.
Even shoves all of the cash inside a pillowcase and slips the notebook and the printer under the pillow. He keeps the photo in his hand. He looks at it, carefully, taking in every little detail. It’s a perfect metaphor for tonight. He is a fucking genius.
Chapter 4: Isak
cw: self harm, references to conversion therapy
I listen to the band they said that it could be the 2 of us
Isak settles more comfortably in his bed. He really likes this mattress. It’s been hand made from scracth, filled with finest wools and horsehair and hand picked cotton, all by adults with proper working conditions. It cost a metric fuckton of money, Isak supposes. He never checks the price on anything because he has no need to.
He does know what he paid for last night’s fun. A wry smile drags itself on his lips as he remembers how astounded his company had been by his plus one. Sure, it is almost 2020, the future, but Isak invited a certain kind of crowd to this particular party. The kind that, when left alone, would not be shy to state their opinion on abominations.
So, basically, Isak’s crowd. It was a wonderful, terrible night. Illuminating, oh yes, just like Isak hoped it would be. Isak runs his fingers along the cool, silky smoothness of his sheets and closes his eyes. It was a test. He failed it, spectacularly, but at least now he knows where he stands.
It was easy to convince the guests that it was just a prank. That Isak was simply bored, once again, and decided to get himself a new toy. A real life sexual deviant. In gorgeous, delicious flesh. When the guests noticed the gay was in Isak’s leash they unleashed themselves.
Do not make a fool of me in front of them. Anyone asks you anything, you provide an answer. I don’t care if it’s truthful, but it must be unsarcastic.
Isak threw the poor bastard to the wolves last night. And then he paid very, very close attention. He would lie if he’d say he had no idea how nasty those people could be, but they sure delivered. Isak spent the whole night watching them tear the poor guy apart.
No, that’s a lie. He didn’t just watch. He cheered them on. He encouraged them.
Kneel. On your hands and knees, like a dog.
Isak turns on his stomach and buries his face between the pillows. They’re always cool against your face, some high tech space age fabric. Isak lives a life where nothing, absolutely nothing, bothers him. He can just glide through everything, without even noticing.
Hey, Maddy, guess what I had to pay him to get him do everything I tell him to. No, guess. Hahah, fuck no. Less. Nope, less. Way, way less, you’re not even trying. Give up? Okay. Ten grand. I know, right?! He probably enjoys it. I’m sure I overpaid him.
Now the party is over. Isak has learned what he wanted to learn. He can never, not ever, let these people know. No matter how much they would pretend to be okay with it in his face. They would talk behind his back. When they thought nobody would disagree with them. Among their own kind.
Isak can’t breathe, muffled by the pillows. He turns on his back and glares at the ceiling. Maybe he should just do something. Cocaine. Pills. Something to not take the edge off but to give some edge. Something to drag along his arm, like an uneven blade. He is way too cowardly to actually do anything like that. He specializes in lashes that don’t leave visible marks.
The rentboy knows that now.
Fucking pretty face bitch with his perfect, ridiculous hair.
Isak can’t get him out of his head. Not the payday waiting, humble and squirming, worthless piece of trash that crawled over the floors last night, but the guy Isak saw when he turned around for the first time. He’s trash. He is carbage. Worthless. No, he’s worth ten grand, and that is the same as nothing in Isak’s world. Pocket lint.
If the rentboy’s worth nothing, why can’t Isak stop thinking about him?
He knows why. He knows exactly why, and he has locked that reason very carefully behind several locks and lost the keys just to make sure he doesn’t open them. Isak messed up royally when he got the idea and executed it. Now he has an issue he most likely can’t buy his way out of.
But there is a way out. He knows it. He has taken it before, and he will take it again. What he now calls, bitterly, “the Jonas incident” sure taught him a lot. About himself and what he is capable of, if he puts his mind to it. All it takes is discipline.
Still, in his head, in his foolish, reckless head, Isak takes the locked box in his hands and gives it a little rattle. Just to see if the thing inside it is still alive. It is, it stirs and scratches at the walls around it. Isak throws the box off his hands and his eyes snap open.
“Fucking fucking fuck!”
Okay. It’s not that bad yet. Nothing that can’t be fixed hasn’t happened yet.
Shit. That’s a dangerous word, Isak! Yet. It holds a possibility, an option, and he knows perfectly well that there aren’t any options. The box stays closed, forever. Rentboys get their money and they leave, and they leave for good, and they spend the money on whatever rentboys find valuable and forget about where that money came from. Life goes on.
That bowtie was so infuriatingly cutesy.
Isak needs a shower. A cold one. He pulls himself up from his super nice bed and drags his ass to the bathroom. It’s more like a spa, really. It has a hot tub, and a huge bath tub, and a therapy pool, a steam shower, a rain shower, a massaging shower and a regular shower. What can he say, he likes bathing, and he loves variety. Today he opts for the rain shower. It feels appropriately melodramatic.
The water is so cold the drops sting as they touch his skin. Isak closes his eyes and focuses on his breathing exercises. He focuses on emptying his mind. Clearing his thoughts. Out with the impurities, in with healing energy.
ragged breaths, gasping
through the pain. the numbing
stench of the incense,
the burning sensation in his throat and lungs.
breathe in the divine, boy.
Isak opens his eyes and can almost hear the glass wall he tried to build shatter to pieces. He is so cold, his teeth are clattering, but he stays put. The cold feels pure. It feels overwhelming. Isak wants to feel nothing but cold, and then nothing but numb, and he knows this is a huge step backward but he doesn’t care. He’ll indulge himself with his pain tonight, then he will get a good night’s sleep and move on tomorrow morning.
For tonight, he wants that rentboy more than anything he can buy.
Chapter 5: Even
The snow might fall and write the lines on the silent page
Even is still asleep when he hears someone enter his room in great hurry. Something slaps against his face, something smooth and a bit cool, and then a living body bounces on his bed half on top of him. Even recognises the smell first. It’s Mikael. But what the fuck did he get on his face?
Even tries to open his eyes but it’s still dark. He runs his fingers over his face and grabs the magazine Mikael threw at him. He pulls it off his face and sees Mikael’s eyes really, really close to him. They’re sparkling with keen interest.
“What is he like?”
“What? What time is it?”
“Half past seven. I have to leave for class in an hour. I was having breakfast and reading this and then I remembered what you told me the other night.”
Mikael grabs the magazine and flips it through as he’s speaking. Even really, really isn’t awake yet. He tries to remember this other night Mikael just mentioned, but he’s drawing a blank. Based on that he knows which night it is, but he has little to no recollection of it. Even yawns, and tries to turn on his side in a way that would push Mikael out of his bed, but Mik just lands beside him and shoves the magazine in his face.
“IT’S HIM! Isn’t it?”
Even can’t see anything with the paper covering his eyes. (He remembers the money he had over his eyes the other night, now stashed in the pillow, he likes to rest his head on it at night.) He doesn’t know why, but he’s getting a feeling he knows what Mikael is talking about.
“Enough with the swatting already! Jesus! I’m not some bad dog!”
“Well you have peed on the floor.”
“I was sleepwalking, I dreamt I was in the bathroom!”
“That’s what you keep telling us. Now stop distracting me and wake up already!”
Even isn’t feeling like waking up at all. But Mikael will likely swat him again if he doesn’t. So, he opens his eyes (so much light, ow) and takes a look at the magazine.
Millionaire playboy at it again
Even glances through the story. Apparently Oslo’s favourite love-to-hate man, Isak Valtersen, had wanted to enjoy his movie in private and bought the entire theatre, kicked everyone out and after the show sold the theatre back to the original owners for half the money he had paid for it. Under the story is a picture of the man himself, with his cocky half grin on his lips. He isn’t looking at the camera, because he doesn’t need to. He’s a man to be seen.
Mikael taps his finger on mister Valtersen’s face.
“This is him. The john you talked about that night, the rich one, the one who had enough money to throw around without thinking about it, the annoyingly hot one.”
That does sound like something Even might describe that man with.
“Don’t you have a class?”
“I knew it! The second I saw this I knew it!” Mikael sounds pleased with himself. He lays half on top of Even, poking on his shoulder. “Tell me immediately what he’s like!”
Even sighs. He isn’t one to kiss and tell, in any sense. He already said too much, apparently, drunk out of his mind yet again.
“He’s. He knows his worth.”
It’s way too early for any discussion. Especially one like this. Even yawns, loud and long, to let Mikael know that.
“Details! I’m in no hurry yet.” Mikael slides off Even and lands his head on the pillow. Then he frowns and feels around, and Even realizes too late (he’s still half asleep, damn it!) that Mikael slips his hand inside the pillow case.
When he pulls out his hand he’s holding like a grand and a half of cash. And frowning.
“What the --”
Even doesn’t try to stop him. He decides to focus his energy on coming up with what he’s going to say. He just watches Mikael dig out all the money from the pillow case. He’s watching keenly, ready to snatch his notebook away from Mikael the second he grabs it. But Mikael doesn’t do that. He remembers it’s private.
“Even, this is like ten thousand kroner.”
“Eight thousand six hundred, math major.”
Mikael looks at him, his eyes wide and mouth round. Fuck he looks cute.
“Where did this come from?” Before Even has the chance to make up something Mikael figures it out himself. He gasps, then looks at the magazine, then at Even again. “What did you do?”
He looks so worried. He looks so pretty. He looks a bit mad, and right now he’s mad at Even but that can be changed easily. Even bites his lip and looks away.
“Whatever I was told to.”
Mikael gasps again. He presses his slender body just a bit closer against Even. It feels good, to be cared about like this.
“It was horrible. I have never been more humiliated in my life.”
Mikael wraps his arm and leg around Even, and rests his head on Even’s shoulder.
“Tell me everything.”
Even shifts a bit.
“You have a class to get to.”
“It doesn’t matter. Tell me.”
Even almost smiles, but catches himself in time. It’s just so nice to be taken care of for a change.
“He was nasty from the very beginning. Treated me like shit. But he paid me so well, and we need the rent money.” Talking about the rent makes Even remember something. He shivers. “He called me a rentboy.”
Mikael shakes his head in shock. His silky hair tickles on Even’s neck.
“That’s so spiteful.”
“He’s a spiteful man. For someone who bought me he sure didn’t like me.”
“Shut it. He didn’t buy you, you sold him your services.”
Even sighs. He feels his chest fill with sweet, sweet melancholy.
“With him it didn’t feel like that at all. I was his property, and he treated me accordingly.”
Mikael is silent for a moment. He’s playing with Even’s hair, and the cash on the pillow next to Even’s head. The paper has a very nice sound, it sounds like security.
“The thing with people who are rich like that”, Mikael says softly, “is that they don’t need to be too careful with their property. Do they?”
Even shakes his head and makes a little sad sound. Mikael hugs him tighter.
“Just tell me.”
“He made me crawl on my hands and knees. He treated me like dirt. He pimped me to his guests.” Even rubs his mouth absentmindedly. Mikael shivers.
“Why did you let him do that?”
Even grabs a handful of money and lets it fall on Mikael like leaves. He has been practicing on this and got the hang of it.
“Eight thousand six hundred.”
“It was ten before the party where I told you too much about a customer.”
Mikael raises himself on his elbow and looks at Even. He looks frightened.
“Even, you can’t have all this cash just laying around in a pillow. This is a party house.”
“I like to have it with me. It feels good. It’s so substantial.”
“It is a huge risk! What if someone finds it and wants it and stabs you or something?”
Even isn’t happy about the turn their conversation has taken. From sympathy to finger pointing.
“Nobody will find it.”
“I found it!”
Mikael has a point. Fuck.
“You invaded my bed.”
“Your bed isn’t exactly Fort Knox.”
Mikael has a point, again. How rude.
“Speak for yourself, frat boy.”
Okay that was uncalled for. Mikael seems to think so too. He looks at Even and pushes himself off the bed. He retreats to the door.
“I’ll be late for class. Get rid of that fucking cash. Take it to the bank, today.”
Even turns on his side, his back to the door.
Mikael doesn’t say anything anymore. He just closes Even’s door, and the apartment door soon after. When Even opens his eyes he sees the magazine on the floor. He reaches down to take it.
but you're outside making permanent love to the nuclear age
Isak taps on the headline and glances through the newspiece. The ratings have skyrocketed, when everyone want to see the movie Isak Valtersen wanted to see hard enough to buy the entire theater showing it. The theaters run four to six screenings a day, for over a week in a row now, for packed seats. Isak takes a screenshot and sends it, with a note: You’re welcome.
Isak doesn’t bother to read the reply message he receives less than a minute later. He knows what it says. They both know that this isn’t a favour, this is a service, and the price will follow later. Isak has yet to decide what the price would be, so there is no need to read the text. Besides, he has more interesting things to read. He has barely started the book on animal movement applied to robots, but he is eager to binge it.
The intercom interrupts him.
“Mister Valtersen? Are you expecting someone?”
Isak raises his eyes from the book and glares at his phone, but the poor device can’t tell him anything. He opens the intercom app and presses on the screen.
“No.” In the spur of a moment he adds something he knows he will regret the second the words leave his lips. “What is it?”
“Just tell him it’s me for fuck’s sake”, Isak can hear from the background. He drops his book. What can that man possibly want? Isak tries to make out if his speaking is slurred or not, but he can’t tell for sure.
“A rather persistant young man, sir. He claims to know you.”
Isak can hear the detest in the doorman’s voice. He licks his lips quickly, annoyed.
“You can read later! Come on Issy, it’s me!”
“Sir, shall I call the police?”
“Send him up.”
“Sir? Are you sure?”
“None of your business. Send him up.”
While the elevator climbs up here Isak has time to collect the book from the floor and put it on the shelf. He has time to take out two glasses and pour them half full of scotch. He has time to make sure his gun is still in its compartment under his desk. He knows he can never use it, but its mere presence feels soothing.
Isak would never have guessed he would check on his gun when this man comes for a visit.
The elevator stops. The doors slide open. Isak takes the glasses in his hands and turns around. He hopes that the scotch will distract his guest from hugging him.
He is correct. Jonas staggers towards him with his arms wide, but then he sees the amber liquid and takes the glass in his both hands. Isak gives it to him, and steps a bit back.
“Good evening, Jonas. You look --” Isak can’t say well because it would be such a blatant lie. “-- lively.”
Jonas drinks the scotch in two greedy gulps. Isak hands his glass over to him as well. He isn’t feeling thirsty right now, at least not like that.
“You look better than ever, Issy.”
“Isak. Please.” Jonas just shrugs. Isak doesn’t like this conversation one bit. He doesn’t like the way Jonas turns him, the king of Oslo, into an insecure teenage boy just by being in the same room. “What do you want?”
“Why do you always assume people want something?”
It is Isak’s turn to shrug.
“Because they always do.”
“Touché, my friend.” Jonas grins and swaggers to the armchair. He slumps down, careful to not spill his drink. Isak really hopes Jonas’ clothes are cleaner than they look. He likes that chair, and replacing an antique item is always a bit of a hassle.
“So,” Isak asks after near five minutes of silence, “what do you want?”
“You heard me. I want a million kroner, in cash, unsequenced serial numbers.”
Isak laughs in disbelief. Not because that would sound like a lot of money, because it isn’t, and he probably has that much cash in the house right now, but because Jonas wants something so mundane and meaningless like money.
“Are you serious?”
Jonas takes something from his breast pocket. A piece of paper, folded in four, worn soft and wrinkly. Isak knows what it is before Jonas tells him.
“I still have your letter.”
“That old thing?” Isak tries to sound like he doesn’t care, but he fails miserably. His voice cracks into a high pitched note. His hands almost shake and he’s pale as a ghost. He cares. He has always cared. “What for?”
Jonas folds it open on his knee. Oh god, no, is he going to read it? Isak can see the slightly faded letters, he recognises his own handwriting. The slightly wobbly letters that look like they would flutter away from the page at the slightest startle. His heart is feeling a bit like that right now.
“It’s my favourite keepsake. Worth quite a bit, too. The more name you get for yourself, the more valuable this thing becomes, you know?”
Isak walks to the side table and grabs the decanter with him. He walks to Jonas and fills his glass. He almost spills, but not quite. Jonas reeks of alcohol under the more pleasant aroma of the scotch, he seems to have lost more weight and his eyes are set too deep in his head. The kindness that Isak could see in them before was gone. Things happened like they happened, and Isak and Jonas became who they became, end of a sad story.
“So you’re selling it to me for a million?”
Jonas laughs at Isak’s face.
“Fuck no! What your million buys is me promising to keep this for the time being.”
Isak steps back. He leaves the decanter on the table by the armchair and walks to his desk.
“Why what?” Jonas barks. He’s trying to make himself angry. People cope differently.
“Why are you doing this?”
“I need that million. You have it. It’s just business.”
“If you want just money you can simply ask for it.”
“No, I can’t. Not from you.”
They are silent for a moment. Isak is standing by his desk, with his back turned to Jonas, his eyes closed. Breathe. Breathe in the divine.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?”
“To get your money.” Isak walks around the desk, unlocks the drawer with his thumb print and takes the keys. “Help yourself with the scotch.”
In the elevator Isak presses the teeth of the key into his palm as hard as he possibly can. When the doors slide open Isak takes the key and pushes it into the lock. The vault opens. Isak steps inside. He has about ten millions worth of cash in here. He likes cash, it’s concrete and tangible. He likes the way the paper feels like in his fingers.
Isak counts a hundred stacks of ten thousand kroner and gathers them in four large brown envelopes. He is hugging them with his both arms when he returns to Jonas.
“Here. One million, cash. I counted it myself.”
Jonas grabs an envelope and dives in. He flips through a couple of stacks to make sure about the serial numbers. At least he doesn’t embarrass Isak by counting them.
“Why do you need the money? Will you need more in a week?”
“None of your fucking business, Issy. Our business is this --” Jonas waves the envelope he’s holding. “-- right here. And it’s now complete. For now.”
Isak can’t see the letter anymore. Jonas has probably hidden it in his breast pocket again. Isak just nods and steps aside, letting Jonas get up from the armchair.
“I’m just worried.”
“No!” Jonas exclaims, scrunching the envelopes hard against himself. “You don’t get to be worried about me! Not in this fucking penthouse.”
Jonas heads for the elevators.
“Wait.” Jonas stops, but he doesn’t look at Isak. Fair enough. “You can’t walk around like that, shedding stacks of money. Let me get you a bag.”
“Fine. But hurry up, I’ve got places to be.”
Isak hurries up. He gets a bag from his walk-in closet and brings it to Jonas.
“It’s a Fendi. But I haven’t used it once, so I suppose I don’t need it. The documents are in the inside pocket, as is the dust bag. Wear a suit when you pawn or sell it.”
Jonas gives Isak a look he doesn’t quite understand. But he takes the bag, shoves the envelopes in it and marches into the elevator. Isak keeps looking at him until the doors slide closed.
The book Isak is reading is How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future by David Hu
Chapter 7: Even
Two silhouettes by the cash machine make a lovers dance
Even’s sleeping rhythm is messed up once again, thanks to the full weekend of partying almost around the clock. Yesterday he fell asleep around six or seven in the evening, which means he’s wide awake when Eskild comes home from the club he dances at. He is sitting in he kitchen with a bowl of dry corn flakes. (More stirring them with the spoon for the ASMR experience than eating them, the gentle dry rattle of the flakes.)
“Hey”, Even says, to let Eskild know he is here and awake. Eskild waddles into the kitchen. He’s wearing a pair of go-go boots and a pained grin.
“Someone fucking stole my shoes from the locker room! That bitch is so dead. I’m sure it was Marion, her foot is my size.” Eskild practically falls on a chair and yanks the zippers open so hard the other one gets stuck. “Fuuuuck!”
“Don’t wake up Mikael”, Even says. He clinks his spoon in the bowl and gets on his knees in front of Eskild to help him out. He wiggles the zipper a bit. “Uh. There’s a fifty stuck in here.”
“That’s where it went? I thought I had lost it. You better not break it, it’s yours.”
Even struggles with the zipper. The paper is stuck between the teeth, and the tab doesn’t want to move past it.
“Yeah, I managed to finally scrape up my part of the rent. Here.” Eskild takes three handfuls of bills from his bag and piles it into a heap on the table. “I’m sorry it’s a bit wrinkly, most of it has been stuffed somewhere.”
“It’s still money.”
Even pulls the zipper open and salvages the fifty from the boot.
“It sure is. Even with teethmarks.”
Eskild steals the fifty from Even and puts it between his teeth. He bites down, grinning.
“Idiot.” Even pulls himself up from the floor and starts to straighten out the money on the table. Eskild helps him count it to make sure, and yes, it is exactly what Eskild owes him. Even looks at him.
“Will this mean you will be behind next month, too?”
“I should be offended. But I’m too tired.” Eskild stifles a yawn, badly. “I’ll be on time next month. And now I’m off to bed. I have a shift at the nursing home tomorrow.”
“Wait.” Even takes a couple of hundreds from the pile and hands them over to Eskild. “Get yourself new shoes.”
Eskild opens his eyes wide and pouts his lips.
“Thank you, daddy.”
Eskild does take the money, though. Even gives his ass a smack the moment he turns around, and Eskild retreats into his room laughing quietly. Even is left alone with the money. He strokes at it like it’s skin. It feels just as good as skin does. Even gathers it all closer to him and bends down to lie on it. It whispers to him, sweet nothings, promises of a better life.
Even wakes up when someone closes the door of the apartment. He raises his head, a twenty stuck on his cheek, and looks at the clock on the microwave. Seven thirty. It’s either Mik or Eskild, or both. Even’s neck is killing him, thanks to sleeping on the fucking table. He’d better just crawl into bed.
After collecting all the money in one neat-ish stack Even grabs a bottle of water with him. He should probably take his meds. He’s not sure when was the last time he took them, but now is most likely time for a dose. The buzz from the party has finally worn off, and he shouldn’t have to worry about side effects anymore.
Even crashes on his back on his bed. He flips through the stack in his hand. This money is the second dirtiest he has held in his hand. When he mixes it with the dirtiest, the taint will be diluted by the slightest bit. Even spreads the money into a fan and waves it over his face. He pushes his other hand inside the pillowcase.
The money is gone.
Even sits up and lets go of the money fan so fast the bills spread all over the bed and the floor. He pulls the pillow out of the pillowcase and turns the fabric pouch inside out. There is no money inside it. It is gone. All of it. Even runs a list in his head, a list of people who could have taken it, who have been here this weekend, and he is so fucking ashamed when he remembers something Mikael said to him.
His bed isn’t exactly Fort Knox.
How many people has he slept with between now and then? Five? Six? No, five, that one girl visited him twice. Maybe it was her? She noticed the cash on her first visit and then came back for it? That is so, so fucking likely that it makes Even a bit sick to his stomach.
What the fuck is her name? She told Even her name, and Even didn’t listen, because he never listens, because he doesn’t care. He should have cared this time.
Then again, if she came here to steal Even’s cash, she probably gave him a fake name. And even if she didn’t, a first name and a description young and hot and kinda easy wouldn’t narrow the suspects down by much. This is a party house. People come and go all the time.
Fuck fuck fuck eighty and a four hundred times.
He can not, under any circumstance, let Mikael know about this. He would tear Even a new one, and, worst of all, he would be so, so fucking disappointed in Even. Again. Even can’t handle Mikael being disappointed in him, not one more time.
He needs more money. He needs it fast.
A magazine on the floor, half under the bed.
Now all he has to do is decide which would be worse. That Mikael is disappointed in him, or he is, himself. That is a no-brainer, really. Even takes his phone and opens the messages.
The money is gone. I’m sorry.
Mik is probably in class now. Or the class is about to start. Anyhow Even has a couple of hours to panic about the possible reply and -- his phone beeps. He reads the message.
I’m coming home. I can explain.
Even stares at his screen, frowning. What the fuck? Mik coming home is logical, he is probably too upset to stay at the uni, but what does he have to explain? It doesn’t make sense. Nothing makes sense. Even reaches for the box under the bed. He unfolds the medicine package leaflets carefully and counts all the money. It’s intact. It’s all there. Thank you, universe, for not making Even completely your bitch.
It’s a long half an hour, but finally Mikael arrives. Even comes to meet him by the door, and when Mikael removes his winter coat Even notices something. He looks at Mikael, carefully, like he always does, and he can tell.
“All of your clothes are brand new. And brand name. High end brand name, to be precise -- are those AirPods?”
Mikael takes the white earbuds off his ears and slips them in the pocket of his Adidas track pants. He takes off his shoes, that must have cost at least fifteen hundred. He looks at Even quite sheepishly.
“I can explain.”
Even doesn’t know what to say. Every option he can come up with is too bad to think of.
“Please. Please explain.”
It just seems that Mikael doesn’t really have an explanation. He stands there, near the kitchen door, twisting his fingers. Even keeps looking at his belly button, bared by his crop top and unzipped hoodie.
“Mikael. Did you? Please tell me you didn’t.”
“I will pay it all back! I swear!” Mikael barks. He sounds weird. Angry. Even steps a bit closer so he can see Mikael better in the dim light. His eyes look almost black.
“Mik are you on something?”
Mikael whips his head to the side and purses his lips.
“Most of the time? Uni is fucking hard work and I’m swamped, and my calculator broke so I was going to take just enough to get a new one. Then I decided that I’ll take it all to the bank. I swear, I was going to take it all to the bank!”
Even tries to stay calm. He really, really is trying.
“What did you do? Mickey, where is my money?”
Mikael turns to look at him.
“Do you even remember the things you once promised me? No more hand-me-downs, my very own room, store bought clothes? You promised to take me away from there. Remember?”
Even remembers. He has tried hard to forget, but he remembers. The summer nights on the roof of the apartment building, on his back beside Mikael, looking up at the sky and talking about a better future just within their reach. Back then he would have promised Mikael anything he ever asked -- but he never asked for much.
“This is the first time in my life I’m not wearing anything used. It’s all brand new, all bought just for me, and I am keeping it. You’ll get your money back before you need it.” Mikael’s voice is black and venomous. He doesn’t think highly of Even, that much is clear.
“I don’t need it”, Even says. “If I needed it it would be gone. I don’t need it.”
Mikael looks surprised. And intrigued. Even keeps talking.
“You look really good. And you do need a calculator for your studies. I’m not mad at you and you don’t need to pay me back. It’s just money. I can always make more of it if I need it.”
Mikael doesn’t look angry anymore. Even is so fucking relieved.
“I mean it. Keep it. Happy birthday. Merry Christmas. Many times over, I must owe you a dozen presents.”
Mikael glances at the microwave. Even does so, too.
“You should get back to uni. Wait.” Even hurries to his room and returns with a fifty. “Buy yourself a coffee on the way.”
Mikael looks at the money in Even’s hand. Then he takes it and shoves it in his pocket. He takes the AirPods out with the same momentum.
“I really am sorry.”
“It’s cool. Just promise me you keep the drugs under control, okay?”
Mikael flashes him a weary smile. Then he buries himself inside his winter clothes, pulls his fancy shoes on and leaves. Even returns in his room and takes the box out from under the bed. He unfolds the leaflets and shakes the money on the bed, collects every bill carefully and stuffs them in an envelope. Even takes his phone and checks when the nearest bank will be open.
Chapter 8: Isak
It's a tango for the lonely wives of the business class
Isak Valtersen is sitting in a concert hall, looking bored and playing with his phone. This whole event is arranged in his name, but that doesn’t mean he has to like it. Sure, it’s for charity, and that’s what his presence is as well: at least a third of the tickets sold tonight have been bought by people willing to have a chance, however minor, to meet him personally. Be noticed by him. Right now he isn’t noticing anybody, he is just idly browsing the newsfeed, when something catches his eye. It’s a short news story about a petty criminal who got caught trying to pawn a Fendi bag without any proof of purchase or appropriate documentation. He stops hearing the music around him. The whole concert hall disappears from existence. It loses its meaning and thus its presence.
Jonas has been arrested. And Isak is responsible of that, he has no doubt in his mind that Jonas isn’t thinking this is all Isak’s fault. No matter that Isak told him about the need of a suit, and gave him the documentation, it doesn’t make a difference whatsoever. Isak gave the bag to Jonas, and now Jonas is rotting in a cell for it.
Isak knows what the cells can be like. He has read at least half a dozen petitions that people have, for some reason, decided to send to him instead of someone with actual jurisdiction. People have died in police custody.
Isak looks around. He can’t leave. There are too many people watching, and Isak doesn’t want to make up lies unless it is absolutely necessary. Even then, the lies have to be fabricated carefully. Seamless. No chance of getting caught. He can’t come up with a lie like that here, now, when Jonas needs him. He can’t think clearly. He can’t think. He can’t breathe. Why is this fucking music so loud?
He reaches into his pocket and pops the small metal tin open. His fingers fish out a capsule, and with a twist and a flick of a nail it is open. It’s easy to feign a yawn and bring the half of a capsule and its powdered content by his nose. One sharp breath, a second of a burning sensation, and everything is calmer again. The music settles, his heart stops trying to escape his chest through his throat. He still can’t think, though, but he knows he has to act.
Isak browses through his phone in search for inspiration. Then he finds a conversation from a while back, one he has kept on a whim. Mementos are convenient in the digital age. Immaterial, yet ever present. Isak checks the time and the setlist, calculates himself enough time to change into something more comfortable and taps in a message without giving it too much thought. He knows he will get what he wants. He knows the price of the man who is receiving his inquiry.
10K for you tonight, cash. My place @21:21.
The rentboy replies quickly, with a simple Yes. Isak finally slips his phone in his pocket and pretends to pay attention to the music playing. He fucking hates Grieg.
Isak spends the ride home deep in thought. He’s thinking about Jonas. About the million he got from Isak, and how that wasn’t enough, because Jonas wanted to pawn the Fendi this soon after. What the fuck has that boy gotten himself into? Again? When will Isak learn it’s none of his business anymore?
Not today, that’s for sure.
He still sees Eva every now and then. In some social gatherings or events or soirées. She looks happy. She tends to have a new guy as her plus one every time Isak sees her, but they all know which fork to use and how to have meaningless conversations over non-controversial topics for three hours straight. They look like they belong, which is something Jonas never did.
It only just now occurs to Isak that maybe Jonas doesn’t have a suit. Shit. Still, he could have been not an idiot and taken the documentation with him. Jonas has never understood how civilized people act. He wasn’t brought up properly, because he grew up in a different world. Where exactly Eva found him, Isak doesn’t know. He just knows that when Eva first brought him with her Isak fell for him immediately.
Of course he didn’t know what it was, back then. He had no idea it was possible, to fall for a boy. Now he knows it is simply impossible, but there was a time, a couple of years of slow torture, when he thought it could be done. They were a tight group, him and Eva and Jonas, and every time Eva picked up the tab for both of them they all just pretended it wasn’t happening.
It’s not easy to pretend a million kroner doesn’t exist. But not impossible.
Isak visits the vault on his way up. He has copies of all paperwork such as the bag’s documents, filed neatly in a cabinet, and he finds the Fendi’s papers easily. When he enters his apartment it’s nine o’clock, sharp. He pours himself a scotch.
This time the rentboy is punctual. At precisely 21:21 the intercom buzzes.
“Let him come”, Isak says before he is asked. He listens to the silent humming of the elevator, how it first goes down and then comes up. It’s a soothing sound. It helps him focus. It helps him become.
“So, you spent everything I gave you last time already?” Isak turns to look at the man, this time believing he’s more prepared to see him. He is wrong. The rentboy looks even better in his own clothes, in that ridiculous outfit of his. Who in their right mind wears two hoodies at the same time? But all those layers just make Isak want to peel them off one by one, and he is so not prepared for this. Jonas is too close, under his skin, making him feel uncomfortable in it.
“It’s really not that much. All it bought was a party, a calculator and a set of clothes.”
“Must have been some party.” Isak has to admit he has no idea what things like calculators or clothes cost. Or anything. He doesn’t need to know. The only price he knows is the price of this man, and that’s so, so low it’s almost sad.
A party, a calculator and a set of clothes.
“I’ve had better”, the rentboy says and shrugs. “Why am I here?”
Isak takes a deep breath, places the envelope with the papers on the desk in front of him and explains. Jonas needs to get out, and this man will make that happen. All he needs to do is get in a suit, visit the police station, present the documents and tell them the bag was indeed not stolen. And then he will get out of there before Jonas can see him.
The rentboy doesn’t say anything. Isak looks at him, cocking his head a bit.
“I’m sorry, did I go too fast? Should I use smaller words?”
“So, this friend of yours, the one in the jail. Is he an idiot?”
Isak slams his hand on the table so hard it hurts his shoulder.
“I am not paying you to ask questions, rentboy.”
“Well, technically, you’re not paying me at all, so.”
Isak rolls his eyes. Seriously, money, the most mundane thing of all, is all people ever care about. Money is nothing! It’s paper! Most of it is not even that, just ones and zeroes on hard drives.
“You know what? If you don’t want the job, I’ll find someone else do it. You are dismissed.”
The rentboy shifts. Isak can tell he’s not happy about the turn of events. How desperate is he? Isak can’t wait to find out, but not now. Jonas has to get out.
“Ten thousand kroner. With your name on it.”
He chuckles, all of a sudden. Isak stares at him. Why is he chuckling? What’s so fucking funny?
“Really? My name on it? You have no idea what my name is.”
Isak reaches into his pocket. He takes out the roll of bills and looks under the first one.
“So your name isn’t Even?”
The rentboy’s face is priceless. Much more interesting than money.
“The wardrobe is in the bedroom. Go change.” Isak waves his hand in the general direction of the bedroom. Even sort of sneaks past him. All he had was his pride and now Isak has taken that from him. But he willl be compensated. Generously. Soon enough Even returns. Isak’s suit is not a perfect fit, but it fits well enough. The pearly gray really brings out those blue eyes, too.
“How’s your schedule for the rest of the night?” Isak asks. The rentboy doesn’t bother to pretend to check.
“That ten grand won’t stretch far.”
“There’s more where that came from.”
Isak can see the flash of greed spread across the blue and then disappear. Time to up the stakes. He pulls the drawer out and places the mirror on the table, and the small plastic bags on top of it.
“I know how to throw a party, too.”
“Well.” The rentboy licks his lips quickly. He can’t take his eyes off the mirror. “I’m always up for a party.”
“I can tell.” Before either of them figures out if that’s an insult Isak grabs the envelope and hands it over to Even. “Work first. Party later.”
The elevator hums. Isak looks at the baggies of bliss on the table, but decides to wait. It’s not polite to start the party before all the guests have arrived.
Chapter 9: Even
Even didn’t expect this when he responded to the rich bastard’s message. But here he is, at the police station, waiting for his turn. It feels weird to be sitting on this side of the bars for a change.
Hell, everything feels weird today. Things are a bit tense with Mik. Even has told him again and again that he doesn’t need to pay back what he took, and that all Mik owes him is passing his classes with the help of his fancy new calculator, but still -- Mik doesn’t look at him the same way.
Mik barely looks at him at all.
It’s Even’s turn to approach the counter. He gets up, still hugging his bag, and walks to the lady who looks like she doesn’t have time for anyone’s shit, yet she is stuck here dealing with it.
“Uh. Hello. I’m here to make a statement on someone you have arrested.”
It takes a while to make the lady understand Even is the victim of a crime that didn’t happen. He explains it over and over again, keeping as calm as he possibly can. There has been a misunderstanding, and it was an error on his part that he forgot to give the paperwork with the bag, and he is terribly sorry about all this confusion, and if he could just retrieve his friend he would take him off their hands.
Fifteen minutes later Even is facing a man he has never seen in his life and hugs him like an old friend.
“Play along”, he mumbles quietly, “I’m your old friend Even.”
The man hugs him back and pats his shoulder.
“Even! Thanks, man. I kept telling these idiots that I am no thief, but they didn’t listen.”
Even glances at the cops quickly. They don’t look pleased, and this house of cards could fall apart any moment. They need to get out of here.
“Chill, man. It was a mistake. My mistake. Let me buy you a beer okay?”
Even manages to get Jonas out of the police station. They head for a bar a bit further away and Even pays for their beers with money from Isak Valtersen’s wallet. Jonas looks at him, frowning a bit.
“So who the fuck are you?”
“I’m nobody, really. He couldn’t come personally, he’s too famous, so he sent me.”
Jonas scoffs and sips his beer.
“He’s too in love with himself and his status, you mean.”
Even shrugs. He really has no idea. He doesn’t know the man, and he is happy with that. Even takes the envelope from his bag.
“He sent you this. For the Fendi, he wants it back now.”
Jonas snatches the envelope from Even and peeks inside. Even can see his thumb move, flipping across the stack of money.
“This is ten grand”, Jonas says. Even almost flinches. And he waits. He sees the struggle on Jonas’ face, he sees how bad Jonas wants to both take the money and throw it in Even’s face.
“If you don’t take it, I will, and just tell him you did.”
Jonas takes the money. He stands up and finishes his beer with two gulps. Then he leaves, without saying a word. He leaves the Fendi on the chair. Even reaches over to take it and decides to hang in here for a couple of beers more. Just to make the bastard simmer in his own juices for a bit.
When Even is back in the elevator he is already a bit drunk. The pleasant aura of a light buzz envelopes his head in a soft embrace. As the elevator stops and the doors open Even marches in the apartment and throws the Fendi on a chair, carelessly like a backpack after school.
Isak Valtersen looks like he’s sitting on pins and needles. Whoever this Jonas guy is, he seems to be important to this man. It’s hard to believe, based on Jonas’ appearance. He is a simple punk, nothing more. If possible, he is further away from this world than Even is.
“How was he?”
Even looks away. The scenery really is breathtaking up here.
“Upset. Shaken. You know how it is, in the cells.”
“I do not”, the man says. “I suppose you do?”
“It’s not fun. If you’re locked up alone it can really drive you mad, and if you’re locked up with someone -- he had a pretty mouth, you know.”
Even can see that Isak Valtersen knows about Jonas’ pretty mouth. Interesting.
“I mean, I’m no expert, but I’ve seen young guys who are in way over their head with things like that. Not all are fit for this line of work. He put on a brave face, for sure, but -- who knows?”
“Did he say something? Did he take the money?”
God, this man is desperate to know. He looks almost vulnerable know. When you want something bad enough, it becomes a weakness.
“He took it and left. Clearly didn’t want to talk about it.”
“I can’t blame him for not wanting to have a conversation with a simple prostitute.”
That is a weak stab, and they both know it.
“I think he looked kinda familiar. I might have seen him in a cell before. It’s hard to tell, that guy was face deep in some thug’s junk, but from behind it was uncanny.”
Isak Valtersen steps back. He turns around and goes to pour himself a scotch. He spills a drop on his fancy pants.
“So, are we having that party now?”
The man waves at the desk, where the mirror, the blade and the baggies still are.
“Not for free. Sir.”
Even takes a little bow, but that sadly goes to waste because Valtersen still has his back turned on him.
“How much?” He doesn’t sound angry, or taken aback, or anything, really. Maybe a bit tired.
“You know my rate”, Even says, trying to sound equally calm. He keeps glancing at the desk. It’s been forever since he’s done some grade-A cocaine. This guy can afford the top of the line, for sure.
“Should I fetch the cash now?”
“Nah. I trust a returning customer.” Even has kind of migrated to the desk and twists a baggie open. He pours a bit of the powder on the mirror. Then, after a second of consideration, a bit more. This is a party, after all. And Isak Valtersen is a handsome man, but Even doesn’t like him one bit. He needs the extra boost. When he bows down he closes his eyes so he can’t see his face in the mirror beneath him.
“Fuck this is good shit! Fuck!” Even sniffles and rubs his nose a bit. The high attacks him in a rush, making his whole body all tingly. He is feeling so fucking good right now that he barely can take it. His grin must illuminate the whole apartment. He has a great grin. He’s a good looking guy all over, and this suit really, really works for him.
Finally his company turns around and faces him. Then he looks at the bags and the mirror, and Even can see the struggle. That man wants to, but knows he shouldn’t, and he is lucky to have a professional party guy in his service. Even presses his fingers on the desk and cocks his head.
“Want to draw a line from my belly? I have a cute belly button.”
Even decides to show instead of telling. He pulls the shirt out of his pants and unbuttons the couple of the lowest buttons. He pulls the shirt hem apart like a curtain at a show. The audience is captured from the very beginning. Even draws a little circle around his cute belly button, his chin pressed down a bit. Mik taught him that move.
It works like a charm. The man walks to Even, his eyes locked on that bare patch of skin. Even is feeling so fucking great, he is a sex god among men, and he is irresistible to even the prudest of prudes, the stuck up of all stuck ups. He sways his hips a bit, too, in a hypnotic circular motion. Luring the catch.
But the man walks past him. Very close, almost brushing his body with his, but still, past him. Isak Valtersen takes a bit of cocaine on his fingernail and sniffs it directly from there. No class at all, really.
If you’re this rich and powerful, you don’t need class. Especially around prostitutes. Even puts his hands on the desk and leans back a bit, letting the shirt still fall off his stomach.
“Have you ever done a line of coke from a body before?”
The man rubs his nose. Then he raises his face and looks at Even, and Even sees something he hasn’t seen before. Isak Valtersen is smiling.
“Fuck, that is good stuff.”
Even nods. He circles his belly button again, and draws a line down to his belt, too. He sees the green eyes follow the movement. Why he is this determined to make that man want to touch him, he doesn’t know. It probably has something to do with power.
Wanting something is a weakness.
“Put some music on. I want to dance to you.”
The man takes his phone and fiddles with it for a bit. Music starts blasting from the speaker system, in the middle of a song, at first so loud that Even’s ears sting and the bass shakes his organs in a not fun way. The volume is immediately lowered, but Even now knows something he’s not supposed to know. Nobody listens to this music on that volume for fun. But he gets distracted when he recognises the song.
“Fuck Tha Police? Really?”
“Seems to fit the theme of the night.”
Isak Valtersen grins. Even grins, too. Then they burst out laughing.
Chapter 10: Isak
Isak is sinking into an armchair. The black faux leather is smooth and soft like butter, the upholstery hand stitched by someone who got paid for their time. None of Isak’s guests can tell the difference, but Isak himself can. Power and exploitation are two different things.
Speaking of someone who’s getting paid for their time. Isak holds his glass up and lets the rentboy fill it up with whiskey. He takes a sip - no, a gulp - and lets it wash down the foul taste in his mouth. The little skank has taken off his shirt and is wearing only a suit’s jacket and a loose tie - both of which he has taken off Isak. Isak has popped the top buttons himself, just to give himself some room to breathe. He can’t take his eyes off the guy who is dancing in front of him, showing off his pretty belly button.
“Let’s do shots!”
Isak raises his eyes up to the rentboy’s face. It doesn’t help all that much, he has a gorgeous face. His eyes look almost wild. How much cocaine have they done? Isak has no idea. He doesn’t care. What was the question again?
“Shots!” He is alreday raiding the bar. He clinks two shot glasses on the desk and cracks a bottle of tequila open. Isak keeps staring at him. That guy sure knows how to party, it seems. Why shouldn’t he trust a professional?
When the rentboy lays down on the bar, letting the jacket hang over the sides, his torso now bare, and balances a shot glass on his belly button Isak knows exactly why.
“I’d rather not.”
“Whaat? Come on! It’s fun!”
“I’m not doing body shots with you.”
He looks down at his body and pouts. Isak can’t stop staring at him. Then he looks at Isak. Like, looks-looks at him, running his gaze up and down Isak’s body.
“Well, obviously not! But you can do one from me.”
Isak almost chokes. He tries to loosen his tie, even though he can plainly see it’s around the rentboy’s neck right now. Isak notices his feet are touching the floor, they are so long, and has to turn his eyes away.
“I said no. I’m the customer, thus I’m right.”
The rentboy laughs.
“The customer hires the professional for a reason.”
Isak has to admit he has a point. Isak hired this person to have a party with him, and a professional party boy knows his field. But there are things he doesn’t know.
“Look, I’m not --” The buzzer rings. Isak staggers his way to it. Who the fuck is it, at this hour? “Yes?”
“There’s a Jonas asking for you, sir. Again.”
Before Isak can think about it, he tells to send him up. The thought of seeing Jonas fills him up with expectation and hunger, not unlike he was feeling just moments ago, staring at the rentboy’s long legs.
“Give me that fucking shot”, Isak grunts and grabs the glass from the bare stomach with his hand. He downs it and waves his hand, ushering the guy pour another one. Isak downs that too, and then he can hear the elevator approach.
“Should I get up?”
“Do whatever the fuck you want”, Isak says, without even looking at him. He is looking at the elevator, waiting. He needs to hear Jonas is okay. He needs to hear it from Jonas.
The elevator doors open. Jonas steps in. He looks like shit. He’s drunk. He’s -- Isak doesn’t dare think that thought through, not really, he just peeks at it quickly and tucks it away like he has always done.
But Jonas is beautiful.
Jonas looks over at the bar and grins.
“Hello again, my old friend Even.”
Isak remembers now. Oh, holy shit. How could he forget? The rentboy and Jonas have met. Because Isak was a coward.
“Oh, hi! Want a body shot?”
Isak almost chokes. He can’t really feel his legs. He manages to somehow drag himself to the armchair again, and he sits down. Jonas walks to the bar. When did the party boy pour another shot and place it on his stomach? Isak watches as Jonas sprinkles a line of salt on the bare belly and places a wedge of lime between the plump lush lips.
Jonas is not going to -- is he?
Jonas bends down. He sticks his tongue out and licks the salt off, wraps his lips around the glass and stands up, tilting his head back. He spits the empty glass on his hand and bends down again, to press his mouth on the lime and suck on it. Isak can’t breathe.
How long does it take to suck on a lime after a shot of tequila?
Where did that lime go?
Isak sees it on the floor by Jonas’ foot. His blood freezes.
If the lime is there -- what is Jonas sucking on?
Isak keeps his eyes on the green wedge. He can’t look up at them. He can’t see whatever it is that is happening right now, because it will break his heart and turn him on at the same time so much that he might simply implode.
Why does he have to be this drunk?
Finally, after a small forever, Jonas stands up. He smacks his lips loudly.
“Yum! You have great taste, Isak. And expensive.”
Isak doesn’t say anything. Neither does the rentboy. He just keeps lounging on the bar, with his long legs. What a dick.
“You see, I did some research today.” Jonas pulls out his phone and wiggles it at Isak. He places his fingers on the bare belly on the bar. “This little piece of ass is quite pricey. You really sent your prostitute to bail me out? After all we’ve been through?”
Jonas is talking too much. Doesn’t he understand that the rentboy has ears?
“What do you want?” Isak asks, trying to sound annoyed instead of desperate. He can’t get the image of the kiss he almost saw out of his head.
“I want to join this little party. I love to party. You know that.”
Isak swallows. His mouth is so dry. He needs a drink. He waves his hand at the bar and at the desk.
Jonas does. He walks to the desk, picks up some cocaine and sniffs it from his nail. Just like Isak himself did earlier. It was Jonas who taught him that. Isak remembers, painfully, it was the last party Jonas was still a part of. They haven’t been partying together ever since.
“Hey! Evy! Pour me another shot!” Jonas yells from the desk, then takes a sniff in his other nostril too. Isak watches the rentboy fill up a glass, sprinkle the salt and push a lime in his mouth.
Isak’s head is spinning. But he doesn’t feel drunk. He feels...empty. He knows Jonas is doing this on purpose, but he can’t confront him on it. He can’t ask Jonas to stop. He knows Jonas is not gay, or even bi. He knows.
“You sure you don’t want a shot?”
Isak blinks. He looks up. And sees Evy on his back, looking at him, smiling like a whore smiles at a customer. It makes him feel sick to his stomach.
“I need a break”, Isak manages to mumble. He really, really needs one, too. Jonas laughs. His laugh is so familiar it aches. Isak turns to look at him and sees, he really sees the difference. The contrast. Jonas laughs like he did years ago but he doesn’t look the same. He has lost weight, a lot of it, he’s almost too skinny. His eyes are deeper in his head, his cheekbones are sharper, his hair is longer and messier. But still, he is Jonas. He is Jonas.
Jonas walks to the bar. But instead of bending down he climbs up. He climbs on the bar and straddles the rentboy’s thighs between his knees. They smile at each other, Jonas with a wicked glint and the other guy with radiant welcome. A professional party boy smile. Jonas grabs him from the hips before bending down.
It looks like it’s happening in slow motion. Isak notices a million details. How Jonas’ fingers bend when they take their grip. How the tie hangs down over a collarbone and into the armpit. How the toes press against the floor. How the tongue glistens with saliva as it picks up the white grains from the fair skin. The gleam of sweat above Jonas’ top lip as his mouth wraps around the glass. The way the bottom of the glass sticks on the skin a little bit, pulling it with it before it lets go. How the Adam’s apple bobs up and down as Jonas swallows the tequila. The drop of lime juice that bursts out of the wedge and lands on the rentboy’s cheek. Isak keeps staring at that drop, he sees the muscles under it move as they kiss again. He can see Jonas’ tongue move inside the other guy’s mouth.
He has seen enough.
Isak stands up, though he has no idea how he does it. He still can’t feel his legs. They both stop, and look at him. Jonas with a crooked grin, the rentboy with a sweet saccharine smile. They make Isak feel sick for completely separate but surprisingly similar reasons. Jonas hops down and the rentboy sits up.
Isak forces a smile on his face. He turns the music up.
Chapter 11: Even
This party has taken a turn. Even isn’t too sure where it has turned to, but it has turned. He almost convinced his host to do just one little body shot and then this Jonas appeared. They have history, Even can tell that much. His employer knows Jonas has a pretty mouth. Maybe an ex? No, no, can’t be. Nobody who is this guy’s ex will return this willingly. No matter how much money there is at stake.
Well. Even has to admit, that when it comes to Isak Valtersen, it is a fucking lot of money.
Would he come back? Hell yes. The cocaine is the best he has ever done, the alcohol is all top shelf shit and this apartment has all the goods one can wish for. Even looks around at the walls where lights are dancing and smiles. They’re so pretty. He could never have guessed Isak Valtersen has a disco ball in his living room, tucked in a cupboard behind the bar, but there it is, spinning, sparkling, beautiful.
Even gets up on his feet. He can barely walk, it seems, it’s more like modern dancing, but he manages to keep himself upright long enough to get to the bar. He picks a bottle he thinks is the prettiest one, uncaps it and drinks straight from it. The sickeningly sweet, thick liquid fills his mouth and throat, and he can hear someone laugh at his expression.
“That’s grenadine you fucking idiot!”
Ah. It’s Jonas. Isak Valtersen doesn’t talk like that.
By the way, where is Isak Valtersen?
Even looks around but can’t see him. But he can see Jonas, whom he looks at defiantly as he takes another swig of the sugar syrup.
“Ever heard of a sugar rush?” Even asks. Jonas grins. He grins differenty at Even compared to how he grins at their host. Less sharp. Even shoves the bottle away and grabs something clear instead. Gin? Oh, well. He’s drunk enough for gin.
“So”, Jonas says, swinging his legs over the arm rest of the chair he’s occupying. “How is he in the sack?”
Even tries to connect the dots in his head, but everything is swimming in booze.
“How is he..you mean him? Like, him him?”
Jonas rolls his eyes. He is way, way less drunk than Even is. Or their host. Probably on purpose. A professional party boy knows this type, oh yes he does.
“Yes, him. How is he?”
“I don’t kiss and tell”, Even says, but isn’t sure about his face. It can be saying something completely different. Even doesn’t like this conversation, it feels like a trap. Not necessarily a trap for him, but he isn’t enjoying being the bait, either.
“I bet he is rubbish.”
Oh. Ohhh. Jonas is not an ex! Even isn’t sure why he is this happy to hear it.
“He’s one of the best I’ve had”, Even hears himself say. He isn’t sure why. He doesn’t like Isak Valtersen one bit. But his instincts are telling him that whatever Isak Valtersen has done to this guy, it’s not giving Jonas the right to do this. Whatever the hell this is.
Jonas is taken aback by what Even says. He leans a bit back, and raises his brows, in disbelief.
“Why haven’t you starved already?”
“I mean, you are, if you don’t mind me saying, a prostitute. A whore. You fuck people for a living.”
Even snorts so hard he manages to get some gin in his sinuses. That’s not a pleasant feeling, and what better target for his anger than that asshole grinning in the chair? Even glares at Jonas through the water in his eyes, raised there by the gin. Mostly.
“I am an escort, dickhead! I don’t fuck people for a living! Only for fun.”
“Okay, so you obviously haven’t fucked him. Nobody touches that douche for fun. What did he buy you for, then?”
“None of your business, really.”
“Speaking of business.” Jonas raises his voice and lowers his feet on the floor. He runs his eyes up and down Even’s body. “How much?”
Even blushes. He blushes from the tip of his toes to the hair on his head. Two words, just two little words, and Even is made clear where he stands. What he is.
Hey, Maddy, guess what I had to pay him.
Before Even can answer Jonas goes to his bag and pulls out an envelope. Even know what’s inside it. He knows exactly. It’s making his head swim.
“You see, I have come across some spare change recently. And you are a great kisser.”
Even blinks and feels something wet on his face. Ten grand is a lot. But he doesn’t fuck for money. Does he? Is Jonas asking him to?
“The price depends on what you want to do.” Deep breaths, party boy. You got this. It’s just business as usual, isn’t it?
Jonas looks at his body again. Even pulls the jacket around himself, to cover up. Jonas peeks in the envelope.
“What can I get for ten grand?”
He probably enjoys it. I’m sure I overpaid him.
Even pulls a smile on his face. He doesn’t really need to make an effort for it, this is a smile he keeps in his pocket at all times.
“Anything you need. But, you see, I’m booked for tonight. Would you like to make an appointment?”
“Jonas. That’s enough.”
Even turns to look at the door that has just appeared in the middle of the windows. Oh, there’s a balcony? Neat. Isak Valtersen is standing in the doorway, and he’s not looking amused. Nor all that drunk. Is Even really the only person here who’s completely shitfaced?
Jonas looks at him, as well.
“Fuck you too, Issy.”
Even swallows. He wraps his arms around himself too, to make sure the jacket keeps him covered up. Issy? The name seems so affectionate. What the fuck has happened to make these two like this?
“Leave. Now.” Isak Valtersen is using his dryest tone. Even can imagine him talking to a roomful of executives with that voice. Commanding. Even can hear all the undertones, too. Leave, now, or else. There must be guards or some other form of security in here, this is Isak Valtersen’s penthouse for fuck’s sake.
Jonas stands up. He swaggers to Even, grabs his head from both sides and kisses him. It feels like a cartoon kiss. Bugs Bunny kissing Elmer Fudd. Simply out of spite, to taunt. Even doesn’t kiss him back. He does his best to crush Jonas’ lips between their teeth, too.
“I’ve got your number, doll. Keep your calendar clear.” Jonas grins at Even, steps back, takes his bag and shoves the envelope back in it. When he steps in the elevator he looks at their host and raises his middle finger. He keeps holding it up until the doors slide closed.
“Oh for fuck’s sake.”
Even doesn’t say anything. This isn’t about him, and he has nothing to contribute to this conversation. He has seen something he shouldn’t have, and the secret makes him feel heavy. Kind of dirty.
The music is still playing. The bottles are everywhere, as is the cocaine, on every smooth and clear surface. The lights are dancing all over the walls. Isak Valtersen walks to the armchair and slumps down, pressing on the rigde of his nose with his fingertips. Even leans his hip on the bar, still hugging himself. The party is definitely over now.
Isak Valtersen sighs.
“How does he taste?”
Even wipes his lips, instinctively.
Chapter 12: Isak
This party is so over. But Isak doesn’t want it to be. He has bought his present company to party with him, and when the party was over, his services wouldn’t be needed anymore. Maybe this is just the stage where everything calms down. The music changes from dance beats to slower tunes, maybe even some progressive rock, the cocaine gets swapped to pot and everyone just..chills. Isak remembers parties like that. Back when Jonas was still around.
Jonas taught Isak how to use a bong. And how to make one.
He might have some weed stashed out somewhere. If he only could remember where. Maybe it will come back to him. Soon enough. Isak opens his eyes and sees the rentboy is still standing by the bar, like frozen, with the taste of lime on his full lips. Isak gets up from his chair and walks to the balcony door. He slides it open. He steps outside. He leaves the door open.
The wind feels good on his face. They’re so high up, it’s always windy up here. The city is asleep under Isak’s feet. It’s almost beautiful, the dark buildings, the street lights, the neon signs illuminating the empty streets. Isak steps out to the railing and leans over it, peeking down into the abyss that makes his stomach tingle. If he’d fall he would have enough time to realize he is going to die before he hits the ground.
It has tempted him for years. The fall. Not necessarily the death, especially his own, but. The fall. To see something, someone, tumble down all that height. Would Isak see it in their eyes? The moment when they understand they are going to die?
Isak sighs. He wouldn’t do that to anyone. He is rich enough to get away with murder, but he’s simply not the killing type. He doesn’t want to take a life. Not even his own. That’s probably the biggest reason he hasn’t jumped from this balcony yet. He’s not a killer.
Ah. The rentboy found his way to the doorway. Well done!
“I never get tired of it.” Isak looks at the horizon. He can see the sea from here. When there’s light. Now all he sees is black.
The rentboy steps up next to him. He takes a tentative peek over the railing and pulls back quickly.
“Fuck, that’s high.”
“You get used to it.” That’s a lie. He isn’t used to it one bit. Every time he looks down he feels the vertigo. It’s a similar feeling he’s having now, looking at the rentboy’s profile in this low light.
Falling. Almost. The possibility of slipping and falling to his death.
“Give me your hand.”
The rentboy turns to look at him. Isak doesn’t dare look into his eyes.
“Your hand. Please.” Isak holds out his hand, and after a moment of hesitation, the rentboy takes it. Isak holds on to his hand and stands up on the chair. From there, with the same momentum, without giving himself time to pull back, he steps up on the railing. The rentboy is tall enough to keep holding Isak’s hand, helping him to keep steady.
“What the fuck?!” Isak feels the guy squeeze his hand harder. Hard enough for it to hurt. Isak hears the fear in his voice, too. “Stop that! Please!”
The wind is pushing at Isak’s body in angry gusts. Without the rentboy’s hand he couldn’t do this. He would lose his balance and fall, and he couldn’t tell for certain which side of the railing he’d fall.
Fuck, what a rush.
“Isak! Don’t do this!”
Isak turns his eyes slowly. He looks at the man standing on the balcony, at the despair. His shoulder is shaking from holding on so hard.
The rentboy called him Isak. And Isak likes the way his name sounds in his voice.
“Please! Come down!” His screams are scattering in the wind. Isak turns, slowly, to face him. His back turned to the vast emptiness. To the dizzying fall. Isak leans back toward it, just a little bit. Their grip is holding effortlessly. Isak isn’t one bit scared.
Even is. Isak stands there, on the brink of a gruesome death, holding a hand he has paid for to be there. His life depending on the presence of that hand. Jonas would shove Isak down. He’d be right to do so. But this man, this rentboy, whose name Isak is scared to use in his head, would keep holding on even after Isak fell. They’d fall together. Isak has nothing, zero evidence he’s basing this thought on, but in this moment, this dizzying, insane moment, he knows. They would fall together.
Isak leans back just a bit more. The wind is in his hair. He can see the sky curve above him, heavy and black. Even grabs his arm and pulls, now too scared to keep waiting and hoping for the best. Willing to take the risk of Isak losing his balance.
Isak looks in those blue, dark eyes. His stomach is tingling. Vertigo.
Isak leans in. He falls.
Even catches him. He wraps his arms around Isak and retreats, as fast as his shaky legs can, pulling Isak with him. He doesn’t quite hit the doorway, so the window stops him. Even slithers down on the balcony’s floor, and Isak follows him because he’s being held so tight he can barely breathe.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Even keeps yelling that same word, over and over again. Isak can feel his chest under himself. He can feel it tremble.
“Calm down. I was safe the whole time.”
Even doesn’t seem to hear him. Or care. He keeps repeating the fucks, and shaking, and squeezing Isak. Isak closes his eyes and rests his head on Even’s shoulder, waiting for him to run out of steam.
It takes about five minutes. But finally Even stops screaming. He stops shaking. And he releases his grip enough so he can shove Isak off his lap.
“Fuck you! Fuck you you fucking sick perverted freak! Is this how you get your kicks?”
Isak doesn’t have an answer. He lays on the cold concrete floor and turns on his back, slowly. He looks up past Even, up to the sky.
Even staggers up on his feet and manages to get inside. Isak can hear him rummage around the apartment looking for his things, and cussing, and opening a bottle to take a drink. Then he can hear Even spit out a mouthful.
A bottle shatters. Isak can see it in his head, the clear shards sparkling in a pool of thick, sticky red. Beautiful. Grim.
Maybe he is sick.
The elevator doors slide closed so silently Even has to slam his fist on the elevator’s wall to make his point. Isak feels the blunt, metallic echo inside himself, like it vibrates through the building, along the floor and into his bones.
Isak doesn’t know how long he’s been lying there. He maybe fell asleep for a bit, maybe not. But he can’t stay here forever. He doesn’t want to stay here forever. It’s getting cold. Isak sits up slowly and crawls inside on all fours. He sees the messy remains of the grenadine bottle. The spilled salt.
The lime rinds scattered on the floor around the bar. Isak goes and picks one up. He pushes it in his mouth and bites down, letting the sour bitterness spread all over his tongue.
Chapter 13: Even
Fuck, I love this story. I hope you like it too.
Even’s head is still buzzing. When he left that cold corpse of a party he decided he needed one more drink, just to recover from his scare with Isak Valtersen’s Great Balancing Act. That one drink turned into like six, and Even found a really nice and funny group of girls out on a bachelorette night who ended up doing body shots from him on a bench in the park. Until the cops came and dismantled their group.
He should be tired. He’s not, not the least bit. Must be all the cocaine he’s done tonight. Must be. The alternative is too pathetic to consider. Besides, it doesn’t matter, because he’s not planning to go to sleep any time soon. He checked at the machine and his customer had paid him in full. He is loaded, and the shops are just about to open.
Even stops by the shop window and checks his reflection. Not too bad. He looks tired, and like he’s still drunk, but he doesn’t look too ragged or frightening. He looks like someone who has made a series of unfortunate choices for the past fourteen hours. He also looks loaded. The suit jacket helps. Even took it with him by mistake and will return it as soon as he gets around to it, but for now, it will make him look like someone important enough to not kick out of the store for being wasted.
When the girl comes to unlock the doors Even flashes her a smile he’s pretty sure isn’t too creepy. At least she smiles back at him. A general customer service smile, but that will do now. Even swaggers into the shop to have a little look-see. A little look. A little see.
He doesn’t bother looking at the price tags. He knows he can afford this. It’s just mass produced cheap fashion, but this is exactly the stuff Mikael likes to wear. Even has noticed the tiny holes in the shirts on his laundry duty. He will buy Mikael a full wardrobe of brand new shit, and then drop by at some better store to get him some brand name shit too.
Even exits the shop his hands full of bags. He spent about ten grand in this one place, but he has more. Mikael has earned this all. He should buy Eskild something as well, but first he needs to find out what Eskild wants or needs. The buzz in his head has changed its tone. It’s less drunk and hazy, more sharp and focused. He’s on a mission. A mission of charity and mercy, the noblest mission of them all.
Even walks around the shopping center, looking at windows. A Louis Vuitton fanny pack would be awesome, but when Even asks for one at the shop, he finds out they’ve run out of stock. He decides to place an order online as soon as he gets home and can charge his phone -- phone! Mikael’s screen is shattered. Where’s the iStore?
Three hours later Even runs out of steam and money. His arms are hurting from the weight of all the bags, and his feet are killing him. Time to go home. If he’s lucky he gets there before Mikael and can surprise him.
Nobody’s home when Even arrives. Good. He walks straight to Mikael’s door. He got to sit down in the tram, and can stand up again. Even knocks on the door with his foot, his hands are full of bags. No answer. He didn’t expect one, he saw Mikael’s shoes are gone. Even tries the handle. The door is not locked. Mikael trusts them, for good reason.
Even sneaks into Mikael’s room. It’s neatly in order, even the bed is made. Even drops the bags on the bed and pulls the closet doors open. He takes out the piles of clothes and the hangers too, dropping them all on the floor. He hums softly as he works, pulling the tags off the new clothes and folding them neatly in the closet.
Mikael is right. Even promised him more. It’s about time Mikael gets what is his.
When all the clothes are in the closet Even goes to get a trash bag from the kitchen. He shoves all Mikael’s old rags in it. Out with the old, in with the new. He leaves the iPhone box on the pillow, like a mint in a hotel room, and closes the door carefully behind him. He kisses his fingertips and presses them on the door.
While he’s at it, he goes through his own closet as well. Everything with holes or split seams gets to go. He fills up the bag, and when it’s full he swings it over his shoulder on his back. Eskild always nags at him and Mikael for not taking the trash out. He would not get to nag this time, oh no. No rain on this parade, Eskild.
Even drags the bag out to the bins and throws it in. He whistles while he walks back up. His good mood is keeping him from crashing from his buzz, which is nice, since they don’t have probably any alcohol in the house and he spent all his money on Mikael. All of it. That should make Mik happy, finally.
After taking off the suit jacket and cleaning it carefully of dirt and twigs (probably from the park?) Even hangs it on his closet’s door in plain sight. He needs to see it at all times or he will forget about it. He has to bring it back. Even takes the jacket from the cuffs and swings his hands slowly back and forth. He’s dancing with Isak Valtersen.
It’s obvious, if you stop to think about it, that the jacket smells only like Even and alcohol, maybe a park bench. But as Even grabs the hanger from behind, covering his chest with the suit, holding the cuff in his left hand, his feet swaying them both in a slow dance, he can smell Isak Valtersen. It makes his heart bump louder. He remembers the balcony, the terrifying empty space behind the man, how nonchalantly he leaned back into it. What a fucking dick.
The door rattles. Even drops the jacket, blushing. It feels like he’s getting caught. He’s not, not really, his room’s door is closed and whoever it is who’s coming home can’t see him yet anyway. Even bends over to pick the garment up. He hangs it back on the closet door. He must not forget.
Even presses his ear against the door. He can’t hear anything. So, it’s Mikael. Eskild would be singing along to the music in his earphones, and shaking his moneymaker. Mikael moves quietly like a little mouse. Even is nervous, all of a sudden. He can’t wait for Mikael to see his surprise. Maybe he will be so happy he’ll kiss Even? Even is too drunk to be kissed by Mikael, he would try to take it further.
He presses his hand in front of his mouth and breathes out. Does his breath smell? He has no idea. It must stink, he’s been drinking so much. Suddenly, for a brief moment, Even is ashamed of himself and his state. But that dissolves the second he can hear Mikael open his room’s door.
Even is holding his breath.
Mikael yanks his door open, making Even almost fall on him. He’s looking less excited than Even expected him to.
“What the fuck, Even?!”
Mikael is holding the iPhone. Even smiles at him, his brightest smile. He’s so proud of himself, of his unselfishness. He spent all his hard earned money on someone else.
“Surprise!” Even is still smiling. His smile is wavering a bit, though. Something is off.
“Where did you steal this from?”
Wait. What? Steal?
“I’m not a thief! Besides, stealing an iPhone would be super stupid! Can’t they be deactivated and tracked and shit?”
“This is a seventeen grand phone! Where did it come from?” Mikael is yelling. He looks worried, but he sounds angry. Even does not appreciate that. His top lip curls up a bit.
“I bought it for you! But since you don’t seem to like it I’ll just keep it myself!” Even grabs the box and tries to pry it off Mikael’s hand. In the hassle it slips and falls on the floor with a loud noise that sounds super bad. “Fuck! Look what you did!”
Mikael looks at him with ice cold eyes.
“Show me your box.”
Even steps back. His walls are up, just like that, impenetrable bricks.
“Show it to me.”
Mikael kicks the phone into Even’s room.
“So is my bed! Nobody decides who gets in it except me!”
“That’s a fucking seventeen grand phone! Don’t kick it around!”
Mikael pushes his way past Even and dives for the box under Even’s bed. Even is too drunk, his reflexes aren’t fast enough. He tries to catch Mikael with the box, though, but Mik dashes back and forth across the room. Fuck, he is quick. Even runs out of wind well before he does.
“Don’t”, Even tries, his voice desperate.
Mikael doesn’t listen.
He opens the box. He rustles the sheets of pills and his lips move while he counts.
Even grabs the jacket from the hanger. He bends down and picks up the iPhone from the floor. He presses it tightly against his chest (the corners are so sharp and hard) and rushes out of his room.
Mikael runs after him. Even is stumbling, he is too upset and intoxicated to keep himself upright, he falls flat on his face and the box gets crushed under his sternum. It hurts so fucking much it pins Even down on the floor. He can’t get up. He can’t escape.
“Are you okay?” Mikael doesn’t sound angry anymore. Just worried. He squats by Even and nudges at his shoulder. Even groans to tell him he’s at least alive, and rolls on his back.
Mikael sits down beside him. He takes the box and rips the plastic open. He peeks inside the box.
“It’s just the box that’s busted. The phone seems okay.”
Even groans again. He can’t speak, that hurts too much. Mikael pulls his knees up against his chest and wraps his arms around his legs. The ceiling above them disappears. It turns into a sky, years ago, above a roof. It’s dyed pink and orange, the sun is setting.