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Firestarter (Modern Boys part one)

Chapter Text

Arnold Schwartzenegger was holding his shotgun pointing upwards like a torch, or an obelisk, or a scyscraper: an effort of man to reach the heaven and touch divinity. Except Arnold had reached it already. He was the perfect man, the living sculpture, the image of God himself, and thus an okay idol for a young guy to worship enough to place on his wall instead of bikini babes. Aspiration, not admiration, and even if your eyes wandered past the epitome of Man, behind his right arm, stretched out to protect, nobody knew. Nobody knew you spent your evenings looking at Edward Furlong, fourteen years old, near angelic in his beauty and near demonic in his hidden wrath.

Isak would have died before admitting it to anyone, but he had, sometimes, kissed that poster goodnight, on the lips curved into a scared but defiant expression. Luckily, nobody ever asked. Edward would keep his secret. Edward didn’t mind if Isak called him Jonas every now and then, whispered right against the glossy paper.

Isak had tried kissing Arnold, too, but it wasn’t the same.

He had never even considered kissing Linda Hamilton.

He knew that was wrong.

Isak turned away from the poster and flopped on his belly on his bed. He shoved his hand between the headboard and the mattress, and after some digging he managed to pull out the small, clear plastic box. It had a tape inside it, an unlabeled cassette. Isak had been saving it for a moment when he was balanced enough to listen to it. He needed to protect his heart.

It wasn’t that he didn’t know Jonas didn’t like him that way. He knew. Isak knew perfectly well he was the only boy who wanted to kiss Edward Furlong instead of Pamela Anderson or Cindy Crawford. But knowing it didn’t help. Every time Isak listened to the mix tapes Jonas made him he searched for hidden messages, and every time he found so many they nearly gave him a heart attack.

Jonas had MTV, and a rig that could record music from the television to cassette tapes. He was the sole reason Isak was still sane. Music like that was banned in this house. Most things were banned in this house. They made mother nervous, and when mom was nervous everything went to shit. But dad had bought Isak a Walkman, behind her back, and Jonas kept making his tapes, and Isak had somewhere to hide in his room now. The music.

Jonas never marked the tapes, and he didn’t give Isak the list of songs he had taped until after Isak had listened through the mixtape. It was a form of art, Jonas said, making a good mixtape, and the element of surprise was necessary for the full experience. If the full experience was supposed to feel like a heart attack, Jonas had nailed it every time. Every time Isak heard something like don’t you wanna be more than friends he stopped breathing and rewinded the tape so many times he was scared it would break.

So, the first listen wasn’t a thing to be taken lightly. Isak had to have privacy to die in peace, and he had to be strong enough to not actually die, and definitely strong enough to control his urge to run to the phone and call Jonas and tell him that yes, yes he wants to be more than friends and that soul shakin’ love is a really fucking accurate description you know.

Jonas never repeated songs. Isak was safe from Don’t Let Go, but there were a million other songs just like it. Isak’s heart had been bruised so badly by them all that it had grown to like the pain. Liking it didn’t mean it wasn’t hard. The first listen needed a lonely night, like this one, and even then it could be almost too much.

Isak reached over to the floor and pulled his backpack up on the bed. He dug out the old laundy bag he used for his gym shoes and such, and took the Walkman from it. He opened the player and took the tape inside it out. It was one of Jonas’ mixtapes, because they were all Isak had. Three of them. Isak couldn’t safely hide more, so he recycled four tapes that Jonas recorded over and over again. One was always at Jonas, and three with Isak. His most precious things, slipped between the mattress and the headboard, or tucked in a pocket of an old jacket in the closet, or inside the Walkman Isak carried everywhere with him.

The tape clacked into the Walkman. Isak snapped the lid shut and put the battered earphones on. He was saving up for a new pair, the kind you stick into your ear instead of wearing over your head, but he was still a couple hundred short. His old ones would have to do until then, no matter the padding being plucked to oblivion by his nervous fingers. Isak rolled on his back on the bed and turned to look at Edward. He was getting a bit young for Isak, but it was only three years. Well. Barely, Isak had just turned 17. But soon enough he would need to switch to Arnold.

Isak weighed the Walkman in his hand. Then he lowered it slowly on his chest. The weight and shape of it felt so familiar. Isak had laid like this a thousand times before, if not more. It was his own little ritual. He went to church every Sunday, he took the Holy Communion and uttered the words he knew by heart since he was four, but none of that felt like this. This was his true sacrament.

He closed his eyes. He let his fingers travel along the smooth, plastic surface to the button. He pressed it down, and it stayed down, the satisfaction of activating the mechanism rippled on Isak’s skin briefly. The tape hummed softly as the Walkman wound it from one wheel around another.

Isak didn’t recognise the instrument that started playing. Just the one, in one monotone siren-like howl, over and over again. It sounded almost like a guitar, but not quite, it was flatter and weirder and off. It was an alarm, an alert, and Isak’s every cell was electrified, prepared for what was about to come.

Then the beat dropped. Isak had never heard anything quite like it. It was also a short repeat, and it was full of power, and almost manic, like something was struggling to get released and would succeed any second now.

Hey-ey-ey-ey
I’m the trouble starter, punkin’ instigator
I’m the fear addicted, danger illustrated
I’m the firestarter, twisted firestarter

Isak’s eyes snapped open. He was staring at the ceiling without seeing it. All he could sense was the music, the angry, forceful music that pushed its way into his ears and rampaged over him taking no prisoners. It wasn’t a song, it was an attack, a cry of war, and Isak surrendered to it unconditionally.

Three minutes and fortyfive seconds later Isak stopped the tape. He was almost panting. He didn’t know music like this existed. Something this. Angry, defiant and unashamed. Isak had learned to hide his anger and defiance - don’t upset your mother - and this guy, this firestarter, was embracing it. He was channeling his madness outwards instead of inwards, and in Isak’s world that simply wasn’t done.

They played music like this on television. That thought felt absurd. Isak remembered the last time he had felt like this, when he had heard Smells Like Teen Spirit for the first time. It had felt equally insane and brutal, and equally alluring. Isak wanted to throw himself in front of that war machine and get crushed under its wheels.

He turned to look at Edward. John Connor would have loved this song. He would have played it on a huge ghettoblaster held on his shoulder as he was cruising down the road on a motorcycle.

Isak hit rewind. The Walkman whirred kind of slowly. It would need fresh batteries soon. Isak hoped he still had some in his stash. It was too late to go buy new ones, the stores were already closed for Saturday night. He waited, patiently, so scared that the whirring would stop that when it actually did and the button clacked up it made him jump.

“Fuck!” Isak hissed, then looked around, nervous. Cussing at home felt wrong. It had been hardwired into his system with palms and belts. But he was alone, nobody heard him, apart from Arnold, Linda and Edward. Isak was sure they approved.

He sat up on his bed. Then he got up on his feet, and attached the Walkman to his belt with the clip on the back. He pushed play. He danced. He couldn’t dance, not for real, but this song commanded him to do so anyway. It was more like trashing around than dancing, but the worse it looked the better it felt.

It was still light outside. That’s why Isak didn’t see the headlights as the car swerved in the yard. Firestarter was screaming in his ears, so he didn’t hear the doors slam. When the song rolled to the end Isak heard someone calling his name. It was mom. She was coming up the stairs. Isak froze. He yanked the Walkman off his belt, snapping the clip off, pulled the earphone plug off and threw everything under his bed just in the nick of time. Mom knocked on his door, but didn’t wait for him to answer before she opened it.

“Isak? What’s going on?”

Isak was short of breath, and blushed, and kind of sweaty. He didn’t know what to say.

“I saw you from the window, and heard you jumping around. Why?”

“I was just letting the Holy Spirit take me over, mom”, Isak tried. It was all he could come up with on this short notice. Usually he lied better.

Mom frowned. She didn’t look pleased.

“Our Lord doesn’t work like that, boy. The only power that can consume a man is the Devil. Have you been possessed by a demon?”

“Of course not! God!”

Mom’s frown got deeper.

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

Shit. Not the Ten Commandments. Isak hurried to bow his head.

“Sorry, mom.”

“Don’t apologize to me. Apologize to God.”

“Yes, mom.” Isak got on his knees and crossed his hands to prayer. He let the words flow out of him like from a record. A Walkman doesn’t know what it’s playing, and Isak was feeling the same way. He just played the words like a speaker, and when the song ended he started it again.

Five repeats were enough for mom. She nodded, approvingly, and rustled Isak’s hair.

“That’s my lovely boy. Now, go to bed.”

Isak looked at his alarm clock. Garfield’s tail was pointing at seven.

“But it’s Saturday. And summer.”

“Honor thy father and thy mother.”

Isak swallowed. He was one slip away from discipline.

“Yes, mom.”

Mom kissed his forehead goodnight and left the room. Isak toppled over on his side on the floor and closed his eyes. The words were playing on repeat in his head, altering, his own meak voice, mom’s stern voice and the insane British guy.

Apologize to God. Yes, Mom. I’m the bitch you hated, filth infatuated.

Chapter Text

Isak rolled over once again. He had been tossing and turning in his bed all night. He had turned the light off and read a book in the light that flooded in through the window when the curtains were pulled, but when the sun had finally set completely it had become too dark. Isak did have a flashlight, but he’d decided to spare the batteries and just try to sleep. After two hours it was painfully obvious that he wouldn’t get any sleep tonight. Again. Isak checked the time from Garfield. Half past one. The morning was lightyears away.

Isak really wished he hadn’t been an idiot and stopped the Walkman before throwing it under the bed. He had been so lucky mom hadn’t heard the whirring sound, but that was as far as his luck got him. It ran out with the batteries. Isak had checked everywhere, but he had no spare ones in his room. There might have been some in the kitchen, but after tonight Isak didn’t dare go look. He had gotten off so easy tonight, he wasn’t going to rock the boat anymore.

No book, no music, no sleep. No company. Isak was in Hell. He bit the inside of his cheek to drive that thought away from his head. Mom would have whooped his ass for that. Eternal damnation was nothing to joke about. Isak was willing to agree. He was just so tired and bored and lonely. It was the first week of summer vacation, and the weekend, and he just knew all his friends were in a party somewhere, having fun. He had nothing to base his certainty on. He knew his friends would have at least try to persuade him to come, too. But in the middle of a sleepless night it was easy to fall into self pity.

Isak’s stomach growled. He placed his hand on it and pressed down lightly. Mom had sent him to bed without supper, and her word was final. Isak had snacked all his back up food earlier this week and forgotten to restash, because he usually did that on his way home from school and he hadn’t remembered to build a new routine. So. Tired. Sleepless. Bored. Lonely. Hungry. How bad could you have it?

Well. John Connor was all probably all those things, while being chased by an invincible foe from the dark future. And he made it through. He made it through so hard that he sent robots back in time to guarantee his triumph. How alone must he have felt then, having built the man he had learned to trust and maybe even love, and then sending that man back through the fabric of time, knowing that he would have to die?

When was he lonelier? Then, or as a kid, watching the man sink into boiling metal? Did he realise it back then? Did John Connor watch Terminator destroy himself and understand that he must have known this would happen when he made his protector? That sounded like an awful lot for a ten-year-old to carry on his shoulders.

Isak blushed at that thought. John Connor, the fighter and survivor he was crushing on, was supposed to be ten years old. But it was obvious he was older. And Edward was fourteen. There were many things wrong and creepy about Isak’s thoughts, but pedophilia wasn’t one of them. Isak just wanted to sit behind Edward on the motorcycle, leaning against his back, smelling the leather of his jacket and his Axe Africa.

Jonas used Axe Africa. He smelled so good Isak could just roll in his skin all day. Isak felt Edwar’d shoulders grow broader and the boy get taller, his muscles bulking up, his hair growing longer and curlier. He was sitting behind Jonas on that bike now, speeding on the motorway, his arms wrapped tightly around Jonas. Inhaling him.

Isak sighed and opened his eyes. He was equally likely to ride behind Jonas and John Connor. Or Edward Furlong. A fictional character, a Hollywood actor and his best friend, the guy he saw like six days a week, were all equally out of his reach. That stung. No. It was blunter than a sting. It was a continous, dull ache, like a band slowly tightening around his chest.

He reached under the mattress and took out a small plastic bag. He pulled the ziplock open and buried his nose in the bag. The small white piece of cardboard he had sprayed at the mall still had a small whiff of the aftershave left. Isak sniffed it until his head was about to start aching.

Isak pushed the bag back in its hiding place and pulled his pillow over his face. He was so fucking pathetic. Why did he have to be like this? Why couldn’t he just like girls, or nobody at all? Why him? Isak knew some men liked other men, and he knew they most often died young because of it. AIDS. The gay plague. Everything Isak had ever heard about people like him talked about suffering and death.

It was hard to be barely seventeen and know you would either suffer or die. Isak had read somewhere that young people thought they were immortal. Isak certainly wasn’t. He shoved the pillow away and  turned to look at Edward. All he could see in the dark was the black shape of the poster. John Connor knew he was mortal. He must have known.

Isak checked with Garfield. Five more hours before mom would come knocking on his door to wake him up, so he’d have time to take a shower and get dressed and have breakfast before church. They didn’t want to be late. They never were. They were always there a bit under an hour early, seated in the front row, mom’s eyes raised up to the face of Christ and tearing up.

Isak shoved the pillow back under his head. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. Five more hours.

Isak woke up as a zombie, after like two hours of sleep. He showered, he got dressed, he ate breakfast sitting by the kitchen table with his parents. He walked to church with them, almost an hour early, and he sat in the hard, uncomfortable bench until and through the mass. After church he excused himself. He promised mom he wouldn’t be late for lunch and when his parents turned the corner Isak kept walking. He walked to the end of the street and entered the phone booth. It was one of the few around here that still worked.

Isak entered the card and checked the total. He had enough for a five minute call. That was plenty. He punched in the number and raised the handle on his ear. It was ringing. Once. Twice. Three times. Come on, bitch, pick up. Lea had ran away from mom. She owed it to Isak to at least speak with him, the one who was left behind.

Five minutes later the call was terminated because he ran out of money before running out of steam. He was squeezing the speaker with white knuckles. Pain shot up his arm as he banged it against the glass wall. It made a satisfying racket, beating the booth with it. Isak would have trashed the whole thing if he hadn’t remembered he would have to walk for two kilometers next time if he broke this phone. Isak slammed the speaker to the hook, yanked his card out and kicked the door open. He was so fucking angry. Lea had left him alone in that house. To be a prisoner of his mother’s illness. It wasn’t fair.

As Isak was powerwalking down the street someone placed their hand on his shoulder. Isak turned, ready to kick some ass and take some names, when he recognised the blond boy with a wide but nervous smile.

“Oh. Hi, Mags.”

“Is everything okay? You look -- upset.”

Isak tried to stop his heart from racing. Magnus had a heart of pure gold, but he wouldn’t understand. Isak forced a smile on his face.

“Yeah, it’s fine. Just some family stuff, you know how it is. Sisters.”

Magnus chuckled, awkward.

“I actually don’t.”

Isak gave him a pat on the back. Not too touchy feely.

“Imagine having a worst enemy who lives in your house.”

Magnus looked away for a second. Isak pretended he didn’t see the shadow pass over his face. Just like Magnus pretended he hadn’t seen Isak beating the shit out of a payphone.

“I can imagine.”

“What time is it?”

That cheered Magnus up. He had showed up on the last day of school with a brand new watch on his wrist. It had three different time zones on it, and it worked under water for up to thirty meters down, and Mags was really proud of the thing. Isak had to admit it did look kind of cool, with all the gears and buttons, and if Mags pushed one of them the face of the watch lit up. As did his. Isak listened patiently as Mags demonstrated all the functions.

“And it works up to thirty meters down under water! Imagine!”

Isak grinned.

“So if a fish ever asks you for the time, you can tell it.”

“Well, I might be diving some day, and not have to leave my watch up to be stolen.”

Isak agreed that that was a solid point. Then he remembered something, and grimaced. He hated asking. But he was in a pinch, and he could pay Mags back tomorrow, he just didn’t have any money with him right now.

“Do you happen to have your CD player with you?”

“Of course? I don’t leave the house without it.” Magnus pulled his backpack from his shoulder and unzipped it. “I just got a new single, too, been listening to it on repeat. I can’t for the life of me figure out how the chorus goes. It’s that Hanson song, you know it right? MMMBop?”

Isak knew it. Jonas had a habit of sticking a random, stupid song in the end of each side of the mixtape if he had extra room in there but not enough for a full song. So, Isak knew the first half of it, at least, and he had heard it play in the mall and such.

He also knew Taylor Hanson was one of the prettiest boys he’d ever seen, but there was no way he could have explained having his pictures anywhere. Besides he was too happy and perfect. He would never understand Isak’s suffering like Edward and John did.

“Yeah, I know it”, Isak said, just in time to interrupt Magnus from offering to let him listen to it. “Can I snatch the batteries? My Walkman died last night and I. I really need it. I can’t wait until tomorrow. I’ll buy a pack then and give you a fresh pair, okay? Please?”

Magnus hesitated.

“I’m going somewhere”, he said. Isak flashed his best puppy eyes at his friend. Come on Mags. Help a friend in need. Isak did feel bad for asking, but he was desperate, and finally Magnus cracked. “Gah! I can’t say no to those eyes and you know it!”

Mags popped the battery lid open and gave the batteries to Isak. Isak took them carefully, cradling them in his hand like precious jewels.

“Thank you. You’re a lifesaver.”

“Just buy some proper ones, too. Brand name. They last longer, you know?”

Isak nodded. He would buy the best batteries he could find, even though that meant his new headphones would have to wait at least until July. He would manage. His old headphones were beaten up, but at least they worked.

They agreed that Isak could come by tomorrow with the batteries and help Mags transcribe the chorus of MMBop. With that, Isak slipped the batteries in his pocket and hurried home. If he was late for lunch, mom would get nervous.

Chapter Text

Even was sitting on his bed, his legs crossed, resting his hand on his lap. He was stirring the pile of pills with his index finger, listening to the soft rattling sound. A soft smile was nesting on his lips. He had been worried about cutting back on his pills, but it had proved to be the right call. He was feeling fully again. The colours were back. The music sounded right. He could create again.

Even grabbed the bottle and rolled the pills off his palm into it. He pushed the bottle under the corner of the mattress. He’d been stashing them away just in case someone checked how many pills he had left. As if they knew better than Even what he needed.

He needed to feel.

Even took the remote control and turned the tv on. He took the other remote control and pushed play. On screen Leonardo DiCaprio was looking at Claire Danes, through the aquarium. Even’s sight was getting fuzzy. They were so beautiful. This scene was so incredible. Iconic. The music flowed over Even and filled his soul, making it sing. He was feeling. He was feeling so much.

Even fished out a cigarette from the pack and lit it up. The soft, warm smoke crawled into his lungs, then he blew it out in a pretty little cloud. He waved his hand to dismantle it, only to make another one right after it. A bit of ash landed on his blanket. He took it between his fingertips and smugded them.

He should draw something. He missed having coal in his fingertips, leaving small stains in whatever he touched. Making a mark. Something that told people he was here. Even drew in the smoke, his eyes narrowing, and paused the movie. He needed to think.

He needed to go somewhere. Anywhere. He had been cooped up in here for way too long, cuddled up in this middle class comfortable coziness. He needed to live. He needed something real. Something true. Even swung his legs down from the bed and got up on his bare feet. He walked to his closet to pick an outfit for today.

He pulled on a pair of boxers. They were tight fitting enough so they wouldn’t ride up under his slim cut skater jeans. He had paid a fortune for them, but they looked just right. They fit him just right, and they made his hips look super slim. His legs super skinny. Even pulled them on and admired his figure on the mirror inside the closet’s door. Just like Rent-boy.

“Choose life”, Even told the mirror, running his fingers down his chest. The chipped black nail polish totally completed the effect. “Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family.”

Even licked his lips quickly. A family. What did they know about life? Nothing. They knew nothing about Even, either. All they wanted was to contain him, to calm him down. To control him. Fucking fascists. Even pulled the last smoke from his cigarette and scrunched it in the overflowing ashtray.

He pulled on a white T-shirt with a picture of Kurt Cobain on it. He took a plaid flannel shirt and tied the sleeves around his waist. He made a little twirl and nodded. He looked the part. He looked real. Just one more thing.

Even swiped the junk covering his dressing table out of the way so he could sit down in front of it and lean close to the mirror. He leaned his elbows on the table and pulled out the cap of the eyeliner pen. He leaned in further and pulled his eyelid down. He circled his eyes with black. It made them look almost unnaturally blue.

He pouted his lips at his image in the mirror. He needed something. Something more. He twirled the eyeliner pen in his hand, and drew a short line just on the edge of his bottom lip. He smudged it with his fingertip. It gave his mouth a slight, grayish shade. A touch of decay. It was perfect. Even took the pack of cigarettes, his lighter and his wallet. He shoved them in the back pockets of his jeans with his keys. He was good to go.

Even took a good five minutes trying to undo the knot in the lace of his Dr. Martens. Then he decided to just fuck it and left them untied. He just pulled them on and headed outside. It was summer anyway, he might get hot with his shoes tied.

The streets were almost empty. Times like this Even really wished he knew how to skate. But his balance was shit, and his legs were so long that they got tangled. Riding a skateboard would be the same as riding a unicycle on fire while being chased by bears. Dangerous, and hilarious to look at.

Even chuckled at his own joke. He was so sharp and quick! He had been right to cut back on his meds. His brain was working again. He was caring about things. He was alive. It was the start of summer, and he was in full fucking bloom.

He walked down the street. All the shops were closed. That meant it must have been Sunday. At least for people who were bourgeois enough to care about something so phony as weekdays. A made up construct to shackle the people into a neverending cycle of abuse called capitalism. If Even wanted to buy, say, a bottle of bleach on a Sunday afternoon, why wouldn’t someone sell it to him? Just because an invisible man in the sky said it’s wrong?

It was all so fucking fake.

People were fucking sheep.

Then they had the audacity to tell Even he was insane. The people who were afraid the sky-man would punish them for selling bleach on a Sunday. Even ran his fingers through his hair, annoyed, and kicked at a pebble that rattled down the road. Even walked after it and when it stopped, he kicked it again.

The pebble hit something and flicked around the corner. It was a sign. Even had nowhere to go and no place to be, he was just going with the flow. He was free. He dug out his cigarettes and put one between his lips as he turned the corner.

His mouth dropped open, the cigarette stuck on his bottom lip and his hands raised up with the lighter. There was a phone booth at the end of the street, and inside that booth was a boy. He was wearing a smart suit, and his hair was combed, just like all the fake people had, but the way he was screaming into the phone was -- it was the realest, truest, rawest display of emotion Even had ever seen in his life. That boy was pure. There wasn’t a drop of fakeness in him, nothing held back, he was all real.

Even stared at him, in awe. He screamed for a full five minutes and then started smashing the booth with the phone. Still consumed by his anger, surrendering to it. Living it. Even had never seen anything so beautiful.

He must have that boy. He hadn’t felt like this since Mikael. His heart was beating again. It had been lulled to sleep for months, in deep hibernation, and now it was waken up by all that banging.

The boy left the booth. Even shook himself, to get his legs moving again. He pulled the cigarette off his lip and hurried after him, when someone got to him before Even did. A blonde guy. Even dove behind the phone booth to spy on them. He was looking at the boy through the glass tank, and he could almost see the water and the fish. He pressed his fingers on the glass.

Even got so lost in the aquarium scene in his head that he didn’t snap out of it until it was too late. The boy was gone. Both of them were. Even run where they had been and looked around, spinning in the middle of the street, but there wasn’t a trace of either. They were gone.

Had they been there in the first place?

Yes, they had. Even had heard the bangs in the phone booth, and the screaming. He hadn’t made out the words, and that was one way to tell they were real. If he imagined things he knew what they said. If he had imagined that boy, he would be standing right in front of him, right now.

His curls stuck a bit on his forehead after all that trashing about. His breath a bit short. His cheeks still a bit red. His lips a bit cracked.

Then Even remembered what had happened last time. When Mikael had stood in front of him, looking just like that, and Even had wrapped his arm around his waist and kissed him.

The rush of shame ran over him, draining all the colour out of the world around him. He remembered how Mikael had tasted. He remembered how Mikael had turned stiff, and how his lips had frozen, and how it had taken Even way, way too long to understand Mik wasn’t kissing him back. Even covered his mouth. His legs were shaking. He stumbled back a bit. He almost tripped over because he stepped on the lace of his boots.

Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning.

Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

Rent-boy was right. Even needed to unwind. He pulled out his wallet and counted his cash. He had enough for a couple of hits, and that was enough to get him in the pad. There the people were real. They were genuine. They didn’t want anything stupid and fake, all they wanted was heroin. In exchange for that they would do about anything.

Yes. Even had a plan now. He would go buy a couple of hits, then he’d go get his camcorder and his notepad, and he would go work on his documentary. The guys were probably wondering where he had disappeared. Rehab, he would tell them, forced by his family. That was kind of true, too. He had been on rehab. Not from heroin, but from reality.

Even started walking. Now that he had a plan to focus on his shame felt easier to carry. It was in the past. Mikael had forgotten about it, surely, and about him. They all had forgotten about him, and next fall Even would start  in a new school. It was embarrassing, to have to repeat a year, but he had missed so much school he had to.

Something caught Even’s attention in the corner of his eye. He turned to look. There he was. That boy, that angel, that pure creature of perfect emotion. Even stopped mid step to stare at him. He looked really sharp in that suit of his, and at the same time he looked out of place. Like he wasn’t comfortable in the skin he was forced to wear. The costume of society. Even was certain that just like him, that boy was struggling to be free from it all.

He was going to have that boy. There was no way around it. He was made to be his, and placed in his path so he could pick him up and take him home. They would do great things together. They would change the world.

Even would lose him again if he didn’t start moving. He snapped himself out of it and hurried after the boy. He was moving fast, and Even was far behind, and he had to fight himself so he didn’t start running after him. That might have scared the boy away, some stranger running at him.

When the boy started running Even forgot about that and dashed after him. Damn, he was fast! Usually Even had an advantage with his long legs, but the boy’s legs were almost as long and they had obviously been used more. Even was still almost half a block behind him when he ran into a yard and to a house and in through the door, leaving Even standing on the sidewalk, panting.

“Now I know where you live”, Even whispered, pleased. He would return. They would meet again. Not now, he decided. He wasn’t presentable. He was sweaty and his boots were untied and as he wiped his cheek and looked at his fingers he saw his eyeliner was running, too. Even took a moment to catch his breath, then he lit a cigarette, engraved the number of the house in his mind, turned around and started walking. He’d go freshen up, prepare a script for their first joined scene and come to get his boy soon enough.

Chapter Text

Monday afternoon Isak entered the corner shop, and the alarm gates started beeping. He rolled his eyes with a groan, and made eye contact with the short haired girl by the register. She seemed to prepare herself mentally for something, then she got up and walked to Isak, who was still standing by the gates, calm and cool.

“It seems to know I’ve come to steal your heart”, Isak told her, with a grin. She was about Isak’s age, probably on her first summer job. She was pretty enough to hear things like that on a daily basis. She ignored Isak’s line, and simply asked him to step through the gates again. Isak did, and the alarm started beeping.

Isak spread his arms, still grinning.

“Want to frisk me, officer?”

That made her chuckle a bit. She shook her head and waved her hand, dismissing Isak, and hurried back to her register where people were starting to line up. Isak walked up to the rack of batteries. He knew exactly what brand he needed, but he took his time reading the backs of the packages anyway, pretending to consider. His heart was racing. He knew he would get away with this, because he always had, but still he was nervous. Isak took a couple of deep breaths, turned his mind on God mode and waved his hand at the cashier, signaling her to come assist him.

“How can I help you?”

Isak read her name tag. Emma. He needed to make sure he bought the batteries from her next time.

“Yes, uh, hi. I’m looking for batteries for a portable CD player. Which would be the best?”

Emma suffocated a sigh. It was obvious she didn’t know, and she would have to do exactly what Isak had been doing for the last five minutes: read the damn packages.

“Duracell is a good brand”, she said, and grabbed the four pack of AA batteries Isak had set his mind on. They were what he would have liked to buy, but he didn’t have enough money for them. Isak took them in his hand and pretended to read the back, frowning.

“Yeah, but, uh.” Isak dug out his wallet and started counting his coins. Then he dropped his wallet, making the money spill out everywhere. “Oh, shit! Sorry!”

As Isak had expected, Emma got down to help him gather the coins. While they were picking them up from the floor, Isak moved his hand where the Duracell had been and let the pack slide down his wrist into his sleeve, while his fingers pulled the remaining packs forward to hide the gap.

“I’m so, so sorry”, Isak mumbled, blushing. The weight of the batteries in his sleeve gave him plenty to blush about. Thou shalt not steal.

“It’s okay”, Emma said, and she almost managed to sound like she meant it. She poured the coins from her hand onto Isak’s palm. Isak counted them quickly, then sighed.

“I can’t afford the Duracell. Do you have anything similar but cheaper?”

Emma helped Isak pick a pack of two store brand batteries. It was the cheapest one they had, that still had enough power in them to actually work with the hypothetical CD player. Isak knew his Walkman wasn’t too picky, as long as it was something better than clock batteries he was good. Mags would get his Duracell.

Isak thanked Emma, told her she kind of looked like Winona Ryder, made a clumsy effort of asking for her number which she awkwardly declined, and let her escape his company. He knew he had to keep it cool, no matter how hard he wanted to just run. He needed to visit this store frequently, he couldn’t get caught stealing from here.

After browsing for a moment Isak grabbed a Raider bar. He took it and the batteries to Emma’s line, and when she scanned it he grinned at her.

“Reminded me of you.”

Emma raised her eyes to look at Isak, confused.

“You know. Raider. Ryder.”

As Isak had hoped, Emma seemed to feel like she couldn’t get rid of Isak fast enough. Isak gave her the exact change, took the batteries and the chocolate and left the store. As he had expected, the alarm gates beeped. Isak turned to look at Emma, delighted to get to spend some more time with her, but she just waved her hand, ushering him to leave. Isak stepped out of the door and started walking.

Jonas had been right. It was a good idea to have an alarm tag under the insole of your sneaker when going shoplifting. Isak couldn’t wait to tell Jonas about his adventure with Emma today, he would laugh so much at his little devil in disguise. Isak blushed a bit at the thought of making Jonas proud.

Maybe Jonas would be at Mags’ house today. Maybe they could call him and ask him to join them. Mags was fun to hang out with too, but it had been days since Isak last saw Jonas, and he was missing him so much by now. There mere thought of Jonas possibly being there made Isak walk a bit faster. As he was walking he took his backpack off his shoulder and shook the batteries out of his sleeve inside it.

Mags lived in an apartment building that had a buzzer at the door. Isak pressed it and waited for Mags to buzz him in. The stairwell was almost dark even though it was summer. The windows were small and covered in years of muck. Still Isak didn’t bother to try if the lights worked or not. Most often they didn’t. He could climb up these stairs with his eyes closed if need be, he had done it so many times. Mags lived closest to the school, so they hung out here after classes quite often. His mom was also really cool with having four teenage boys around, and Mags had a big room. Enough space for eight long legs and arms.

Magnus was waiting for him at the door. Isak came inside and nodded at his friend.

“Hey. Got your batteries.”

“Huh?” Mags looked confused for a second, then it dawned on him. “Oh, those! You know what? Keep them. I found my spare spare stash yesterday, I’m good for the rest of the month.”

They both knew Mags was lying. Especially because Mags was terrible at lying to his friends. Isak chose to not embarrass him further by challenging his lie, he just shrugged and nodded.

“I’m not saying no to some Duracells.”

Magnus started snickering. Isak kicked his sneakers off his feet and glared at his friend.

“What?”

“If you stick them backwards up your ass you’ll keep coming and coming and coming.”

Isak had a special laugh in store for situations like this. He had used it quite often, and it had always passed. It did so this time, as well.

“Idiot. Your room?”

“I thought you’d never ask, Duracell-man.”

“Keep your hands to yourself, Fairy-boy.”

Magnus pretended to be shocked.

“Who you calling fairy, mister battery ass?”

“You seem to know a lot about this batteries up your ass thing. Fairy.”

“Fuck you!”

“In your dreams, fag.”

They laughed and joked their way into Mags’ room. Isak was equally astounded and relieved to see an acoustic guitar on his bed.

“You play guitar now?” Isak sat on the bed and grabbed the instrument, placing it on his knee.

“I’m learning. And you’re holding it upside down.”

Isak flipped the guitar over, blushing. He ran his fingers lightly along the shiny wood and the taut strings.

“I was just checking how advanced you were, poser.”

Mags blushed. Isak wanted to apologize and take it back, calling him a poser, but it was too late.

“Can you keep a secret?”

Isak nodded, solemn now.

“To the grave.”

Mags sat on his chair, pulling his heel up on the edge. He picked on his sock.

“I want to learn to play guitar over the summer so I can impress girls when school starts.”

Isak almost told Mags that it wasn’t that much of a secret, more like painfully obvious. Basically everything Magnus ever did was to try and impress girls. Still none of them ever seemed all that impressed.

“Here.” Isak handed the guitar over to Magnus. “Show me your best impressive pose.”

Magnus lifted the guitar carefully on his knee. There was a faint little smile on the corner of his lips.

“I’ve been practicing some chords already. This is E minor.” Magnus focused intensely, bending his fingers slowly, pressing the strings in the right places. Then he struck the strings with his right hand. It sounded almost but not quite like music. The strings weren’t all playing at the same time, and the ones that were weren’t in the same volume. But Mags was absolutely beaming.

Isak clapped his hands and whistled through his teeth.

“Next summer you’ll be on tour around Europe, I’m sure.”

Magnus blushed. He pushed his fingers through his hair, but it fell immediately back over his eyes.

“I just want to get a girlfriend on senior year.”

“Maybe a miracle will happen and you’ll hit a growth spurt or something.”

Mags howled his objection so loud it almost drowned the sound of the buzzer under it. Because Magnus was stuck holding the guitar, Isak hopped to the buzzer phone and picked up.

“You have reached the female repellent factory. How may we help you?”

“Issy? Is that you?”

It was Jonas. Isak’s heart made a somersault. It got stuck in his throat.

“I’m sorry, we don’t have an Issy here. He’s working in the babe magnet department.”

Jonas laughed. It was the best sound in the world.

“Issy, buzz me in before they fire you.”

Isak pressed the button and hung up the phone. He walked to the door and cracked it. He listened to Jonas’ steps, bringing him closer and closer, he could almost smell the Axe Africa in the air.

Jonas was grinning when he appeared from behind the corner. Isak hoped he was grinning himself, instead of smiling with his whole face and body and heart like a dork. Jonas stopped to pull up his baggy skater shorts after climbing the stairs. His oversized white T-shirt had a picture of Taz on it, and his curls were pushing their way out from under his snapback. Isak had never seen anyone cooler.

“Hey losers”, Jonas said when he entered Mags’ room. “Ooh, is that real?”

Magnus was grouching a bit behind his guitar. Isak was almost sorry that he hadn’t asked Mags if it was okay to let Jonas in. Of course it was okay, Jonas was their friend.

“I just got it”, Mags said, stroking the neck of the guitar. Jonas looked really interested in it.

“Can I try it?”

Mags hesitated. But then he nodded. Jonas took the guitar and tried a couple of chords, just like that. Isak had no idea Jonas could play guitar. It was possible that he couldn’t. He simply looked like he could, and that was enough.

“I don’t think this is properly tuned.”

Mags blushed up to his ears. He was starting to look almost upset. Isak licked his lips quickly and turned to Jonas.

“Need a spotter tonight? I think I can sneak out.”

Jonas grinned and handed the guitar back over to Magnus. Mags just sat there, kind of hugging the instrument. Isak felt bad for him for half a second, then Jonas sat down right next to him and patted his knee, and everything else in the world disappeared.

“I’m never turning down an opportunity to paint. I have this great spot I’ve been scouting for days now, I have a sketch ready for it and all. Want to see?”

Of course Isak wanted to.

Chapter Text

Isak didn’t really wake up when Garfield beeped his alarm, because he hadn’t slept all night. It was the fifth night in the row. Isak had been awake for longer than that, so he wasn’t worried yet. He hadn’t dozed off during the day, or standing up, or at the dinner table. His brain was still working pretty normally.

He wasn’t even feeling tired, like at all, because of all the adrenaline running in his veins. He listened, carefully, his ear pressed against his door. He didn’t hear a peep. Mom and dad were fast asleep, had been for two hours or so, and it was time for Isak to break free.

He changed his clothes for the third time. He chose his baggiest jeans, which still weren’t all that baggy, because mom refused to buy him real proper ones, and his loosest hoodie. It was big enough so he could carry an extra backpack under it, in case Jonas needed help with his paint cans. He took his Walkman with him, and the Duracells, and cracked his window open as quietly as he could.

Five minutes later Isak was out in the street. The summer night was filled with wild promise of bloom. It was dark but warm and windless, and the sky above Isak looked like velvet. He considered putting the headphones on and listening to his Walkman, but he was kind of enjoying the silence. He should save the batteries too, for the trip back home, when he would be tired and drained from being so close to Jonas for so long. Isak was walking his bike until he made it to the end of the street, then he hopped on and started pedaling. Jonas was waiting for him.

Isak just hoped he wouldn’t get lost. Jonas had shown the place for him on the map. Isak also had been there once, but just once, and it had been on broad daylight. The city looked different in the dark. It looked beautiful. And peaceful. It was Monday night, so most people were already asleep. Isak got up on his feet and pedaled faster. The breeze got caught in his hood and played with in his hair.

Isak hopped off the bike and walked the final stretch with it. He saw the spot Jonas had talked about. There was a painting there already, half done. It didn’t look like Jonas’ work, the style and colours were completely different. Isak frowned. What was going on?

“Motherfuckers”, Jonas hissed in the shadows, making Isak jump. “This was my spot. And that wasn’t there yesterday. It’s been painted last night. Who the fuck paints on a Sunday night?”

Isak’s heart was pounding so loud in his ears, thanks for his scare and how close Jonas was to him in the darkness, that he had trouble hearing what Jonas was saying. He just followed Jonas, like a shadow, as he walked to the wall. It was a nice piece, or half of it, as far as Isak could tell. But he didn’t know about these things, this was Jonas’ thing and Isak was just lucky to be here. Jonas allowed his presence. Most nights Isak was torn between being scared out of his mind, jumping at every sound he heard in the dark, and admiring Jonas. He was so beautiful when he was focused in his art. And so talented. And so beautiful.

“Seriously, this is a shit design, too. Look at that colour scheme. Did he just bring everything from the clearance bin and go to town?”

Isak had no idea. So he just laughed and shook his head, rolling his eyes in the universal gesture of can you believe this bullshit? and let Jonas keep ranting. Jonas pulled a cigarette from behind his ear and brought it on his lips. He patted his pockets, in vain, and looked at Isak.

“Got a light?”

Of course Isak did. He carried a lighter on him at all times, just in case Jonas needed it. He took it out of the pocket of his jeans, cradled his palm around it and struck the flame. Jonas leaned in and caught it with his cigarette. His hair almost touched Isak’s fingers.

The tip of the cigarette glowed red as Jonas sucked on it. It illuminated his face too, briefly. Jonas looked so dark and dangerous, and Isak really wished he could have asked for a cigarette too. But he couldn’t, mother might have smelled it in the morning and found out Isak had been outside. He just shoved the lighter back into his pocket and turned his eyes away, only to look at Jonas again less than a second later.

Jonas squinted just slightly as he exhaled the smoke. Isak almost died. Dark and broody Jonas was too. Much. He was too sexy, and Isak couldn’t handle sexy this time of the night alone in the dark with Jonas. He needed to make Jonas smile again. He was desperate for his smiles. So Isak reached down into Jonas’ bag, pulled out a random can and started shaking it. The rattling sound echoed in the walls around them. It sounded like gunshots. Rapid fire. A fucking Uzi.

Jonas looked at him, raising his eyebrows. Isak saw the challenge in his eyes. Jonas knew Isak would most likely chicken out, he was just waiting to see how far Isak would go before bailing out. They both knew Isak was too much of a coward to actually commit an act of vandalism of any kind.

But there was a song playing in Isak’s head now. He was ready for war. He raised his arm and stepped closer to the wall, his finger on the nozzle, and he pressed down. He had grabbed a dark red, it seemed. The paint hissed gently. Isak was shit at spraypainting, the colour was dripping and weeping down across the unfinished painting under it. Jonas just stood there, smoking, his eyes fixed on Isak. Jonas was looking at Isak. He was seeing nothing but Isak. Isak had died and gone to heaven.

Isak stepped back when he was finished. His palm and fingers were cramping, and the tip of his finger was painted red, but he didn’t care. Jonas flung his arm on Isak’s shoulders and gave him a little brotherly shake. Isak was feeling dizzy. Maybe it was the fumes.

“I knew you’d love it”, Jonas said. He was smiling. Isak’s mission had been a success. He knew that smile, it was the best of its breed. Jonas was smiling the smile of a conspirator. They had a shared secret. Something nobody knew but them. An inside thing. Something that was just theirs, to keep forever.

“It was incredible”, Isak replied. He was almost shaking. He really wished he wasn’t shaking, Jonas could feel it if he was.

“You paint like shit”, Jonas chuckled. “And with dark red? Thanks a lot for the work to cover that up.”

Isak looked at the shaky letters he had created. It felt like he was drunk, but without the blunt fuzziness. Everything was sharp. Everything was real. Jonas was right next to him, and no matter how much Jonas pretended to tell him off Isak could tell Jonas was impressed by the size of his balls. They stood there, in the warm summer night, in a soft cloud of smoke that Jonas blew out of his lungs, watching something Isak had done. Isak had finally, actually, grown a pair and done something.

Jonas crushed the cigarette butt under his foot and let go of Isak. Isak was immediately cold. He looked at how the dark hair curled up at the back of Jonas’ neck, and he just couldn’t take it anymore. He couln’t keep watching it like this, in the dark, in the shadows. It was killing him. Just as Isak opened his mouth and felt the words leave his lips, Jonas picked a can and shook it.

“Jonas I love you.”

Click click click click click click.

Jonas looked at Isak over his shoulder and stopped shaking the can. Isak was still hearing the rattling in his ears. A sharp echo. Or maybe it was just his heart, struggling to get back in the rhythm.

“Did you say something?”

Isak shook his head. He pushed his hands in the pockets of his hoodie and stepped back, giving Jonas space to work.

“Nothing. Do your thing. I’ll keep watch.”

Now that Isak had said it, actually said it, it felt so little. It really was nothing. Isak loved Jonas, and now, this very moment, he realized, he fully understood, that it wouldn’t change anything. Jonas wasn’t meant for him. He never would be. Jonas was something Isak could admire and look at, and for some odd reason, his best friend, but he would never be anything more.

Isak watched Jonas paint. He was supposed to keep watch, but he was, sort of, he was listening for footsteps and skateboard wheels and such. But he was watching Jonas. His heart was full of Jonas and he took a lid and placed it carefully over it. For good. Forever.

It was almost okay. Isak was filled with sort of peace. He would get to stop watching Jonas’ every move, in desperate search for clues. He would be able to just enjoy the music instead of trying to hear secret messages on the tapes. He could love Jonas with all his heart, but it wouldn’t matter. That was kind of. Comforting. Isak would never have to be brave. He could stay safe. He would stay unhappy, but at least he would be safe, and he could be with Jonas, just not like that. And though it was all Isak really wanted in life, he could settle. He could just live halfway. Half empty.

Jonas was making quick progress. Isak could already see the design he had drawn earlier come to life. Unlike Isak, Jonas was great at this. His every move had a purpose, and the paint job was impeccable. Isak’s pathetic cry in the night was getting covered quickly, by something superior. Still Isak couldn’t stop glancing at the letters as they were fading away.

IR ST RTER

Chapter Text

Even was walking backwards, biting his cigarette, holding both of his middle fingers up. Too bad Sonja didn’t see them. She was walking away. Even wanted her to fuck off, so he had to keep his thoughts to himself.

But fuck, Sonja was a bitch.

She was also a fucking psychic. She had barely said hello, when she had asked when Even had stopped taking his pills. How did she know! Was she spying on Even?

She wasn’t. There was no way Sonja was interested in Even’s life enough to ploy a scheme on how to spy on it. It was just that they had been together so intensely and for so long, that Sonja could read Even like an open book. Then she had gotten tired of the same old plot repeating itself.

She had left Even. Bitch! Even had needed her, because she knew him better than anyone, and then Even had kissed Mikael and Sonja had left and everything had gone to shit.

Well. Maybe.

If Even was honest, he wasn’t quite certain of the timeline. When Sonja had left, when he had gone to the looney bin, when had he kissed Mikael. What was the cause and what was the consequence. It all most likely boiled down into the bare, sharp core: Even was insane.

No. The world was insane. And if Even didn’t manage to fit in it, it didn’t mean there was something wrong with him. Even kept watching Sonja as her back got further and further away, and he looked extra carefully when she turned the corner.

She didn’t look back at Even.

Good fucking riddance.

Now, where was Even? He looked around himself, trying to remember where he had been going. He pushed his hands in his pockets in search for clues, and found the tiny plastig baggie. Oh, right. The heroin. He was going to buy his way in the realest place in the city, the drug house. He had his camcorder in his backpack, full battery, fresh tape, he was good to go.

Even checked his reflection at the video rental store’s window. His favourite jeans, a black T-shirt and a worn out hoodie, the ends of the string feathered from all the biting during the years. His nails gnawed and ripped short too, and there were still bits of black nail polish remaining. Even rolled his sleeve up and checked the needlemarks he had poked with a pin on his arm last night. They looked legit.

Even was just about to leave when he saw him. The boy. He recognised the curls first, the angelic hair, now bouncing freely in contrast to Sunday’s orderly neatness. And he was smiling, and laughing, and even that looked pure. Even stared at him with his mouth open, and then he walked behind a shelf and disappeared.

Even hurried into the store. He was in such a rush he forgot to throw out his cigarette. He had to step back outside and toss it on the sidewalk, then he slipped between the shelves in search of the perfect boy about to be his. He heard his voice from the other side of the shelves stacked full of romantic comedies and stopped to listen.

“Why can’t we watch Jurassic Park?”

That wasn’t the line Even had expected to hear from him for the first time. Jurassic Park? Really? He wanted to watch robotic dinosaurs and paper thin characters fight each other? Sure, Spielberg’s work was quite solid on the more suspenseful scenes, and the visuals were absolutely beautiful, but..still?

“Because we just saw one!”

Oh, oh dear. But maybe it was a guilty pleasure? A bit like the Aqua CD Even had hidden at the back of his closet. At times he enjoyed some kitsch.

“It was The Lost World! And it sucked! Jurassic Park is a masterpiece.”

Even bit his lip to keep quiet. His angel was wrong, but at least he was passionate about it. He was really, really keen on that movie, and he was willing to defend his view in front of his peers. Courageous. Real. He wasn’t some sheep. He also obviously didn’t like Jurassic Park because it was fashionable, or he would have liked The Lost World as well.

Even had to see him. He took a movie out of the rack and peeked through the crack. There he was. He was smiling and joking, and his smile made the whole world light up. He was with two friends, a black kid and the blonde from earlier. Even leaned closer, his fingers curled around the edge of the shelf. He was so grateful this place had cheap wired racks for shelves, that gave him an opportunity to observe them.

The blonde one was the omega of the pack. It was clear. He was agreeing with everything the one who was currently leading said. Whoever that was. It was endearing in its own way, and Even could see why his angel wanted to be in his company. He looked cute, too. But there didn’t seem to be anything between them. That was good, Even would have felt so bad for breaking that boy’s heart.

“Hey, losers! Have we picked a movie yet?”

All three boys turned to look at the newcomer. It was obvious who was the alpha. When the boy walked to his friends with his skateboard under his arm, the whole dynamic was suddenly different.

“Isak wants to watch Jurassic Park”, the blondie said. “But we just saw it in the movies.”

Isak. His angel had a name. His life had a purpose. It was called Isak.

“It was The Lost World and it sucked! I want to see the good one again!”

The boys laughed. Even lost interest in them, turning his eyes on Isak again. He wanted to memorize his every feature, now that he had a name for them. Isak.

The leader’s hand pointed at something, right in Even’s line of sight to Isak.

“That.”

“Uh, dude, Spice World doesn’t come out until December.”

“Also, what?”

“No, no, we’re not watching it. I’m talking about the party at Eva’s on Saturday.”

“The costume party?” Isak asked, frowning. He didn’t look impressed. His friends looked confused.

“Yes. I have the best idea ever. And that means you will have to come. Can you sneak out?”

Isak looked over his shoulder, where his friend had pointed at. Then he bit his lip briefly. He really, really wanted to go to that party, it was plain to see.

“Yeah. Sure. No problem.”

It was a problem. Isak couldn’t hide his emotions, not from Even. But Isak had decided to ignore the problem and go for what he wanted. He was thinking for himself, making his own rules and his own life. Even could totally forgive him his endearment for bad dinosaur movies.

“Great! We’ll gather up at Mags tomorrow night to plan our costumes. Tonight is movie night, and we’re watching Jurassic Park.”

The other two boys groaned. But they didn’t sound too upset. They were basking in Isak’s light, and Even couldn’t blame them for it one bit.

Even had to capture that light. He pulled his backpack off his shoulder, as quietly and quickly as he could, and fished the camcorder in his hand. He balanced it on the edge of the shelf and looked at Isak through it. He pressed rec. The tape started whirring quietly. Isak’s triumphant smile was caught on tape. It was Even’s to keep, forever.

Someone tapped on his shoulder. Even looked up and saw a security guard, who didn’t look pleased. Even flashed him his best awkward smile, then he tightened his grip on his camera, knocked the whole rack of movies over and ran. He managed to escape the store with his stuff, and he didn’t stop running until he was four blocks away.

He realized he was still holding the movie case he had taken out of the shelf. Julia Roberts smiled at him, in her skimpy skirt and hooker boots, letting Richard Gere lean on her back. Pretty Woman. The greatest romantic comedy known to man. It was a sign.

Even shoved the box in his backpack and hurried home. He was holding on to the camcorder all the way, scared that he might lose it if he let go of it for a second. It was his most prized possession to begin with, and now the tape was a real, true treasure. It was holding Isak’s smile.

The second Even got home he rushed to his VCR. He had to pause to take a couple of deep breaths before opening the camcorder and taking the tape out of it. He didn’t want to wrinkle the tape, or to break it, or some other stupid shit he could have done just because his hands were shaking so much. He had time. The smile was captured, it couldn’t disappear like moments did.

Finally the tape was in the adapter and the whole contraption was inside the VCR. Even held the remote control backwards first, he was so nervous. He chuckled at himself. He was so. He was like a school kid. He was crushing on that boy so hard it was ridiculous.

It felt so good to feel. Even had missed it so much.

He closed his eyes for a moment, to respect it. He was about to be in the presence of an image of an angel. That required proper respect. Even breathed in and out, slowly, remembering how Isak’s laughter had sounded. It was the best sound ever.

When he pressed play, Isak’s face filled the television screen. He was smiling. The tape lasted only for a couple of seconds before it turned to the floor and then the street, Even’s shoes disappearing from the frame and reappearing again, in a fast pace. Even rewound the tape, and when Isak was back he hit pause.

Even raised his hand at the screen. The glass was smooth under his fingers as he brushed his fingertips across the most perfect lips in all existence.

Chapter Text

Isak was sitting on Magnus’ bed, right next to the man himself, and waiting. Jonas had gathered them all up in here to tell them this greatest idea ever of his, but now that they had all arrived, Jonas still didn’t say anything. He had a huge hockey bag with him, and it was full of stuff. It didn’t sound like his paints. The bag didn’t make a sound when Jonas moved it.

“Well?” Mahdi was the first one to crack. Jonas grinned.

“So, we need to get you all girlfriends, right?”

Isak nodded with the rest of the gang. Yes, of course. He didn’t want a girlfriend, but he quite obviously needed one. Maybe she’d keep him busy enough to stop dreaming about Jonas. Though ever since he managed to say the words that were so easily discarded by the universe itself, it had been somehow easier. Lighter. Isak loved Jonas, and that was it, and there was nothing to be done about it. Easy.

“You know what chicks dig?”

“Not me!” Magnus sighed, making all the boys laugh. Isak ruffled Mags’ hair. He wanted to tell him Mags was a real catch and any girl would be lucky to have him, but this wasn’t the time for something that sappy. Maybe later, after a party, when everyone was still drunk but not in the fun way anymore.

“Confidence.”

Mags, Mahdi and Isak all nodded. Yes. Jonas was right. The cocky boys were the ones with girlfriends, and Jonas was the most confident of them all and he had Eva. The logic was solid.

“Well, Eva’s party will have loads of girls. And since it’s a costume party, they’ll all be sexy, too. We need to stand out of the other guys, and thanks to my genious, we will.” Jonas unzipped the bag and opened it. Isak, Magnus and Mahdi were staring at the contents, frowning.

“What?”

“We’re going as Spice Girls.” Jonas made his statement in a dead serious voice. He wasn’t kidding. Isak reached into the bag and pulled out something sparkly and skimpy, and shook his head. Jonas had lost it.

“I’m NOT Scary Spice”, Mahdi said. “Just because I’m black it doesn’t mean I have to be the black chick.”

Jonas laughed. He was in a good mood, and that was catchy.

“Sure. You know what? Pick out which you want to be. Any Spice.”

“Old Spice!” Isak laughed. Magnus rewarded him with a high five and Mahdi with a pillow in the face.

“Fuck no! I’ll be Sporty Spice.”

Isak grimaced. He wanted to be Sporty. Mostly because she got to wear track pants and sneakers instead of skimpy skirts or leopard print tights.

“With what credentials? I’m totally more athletic than you!”

Jonas shook his head.

“Oh no, Issy. You’re Baby Spice.”

That had Isak blushing furiously and Mahdi squirming in laughter. Magnus was snickering too, that traitor.

“Why the fuck am I Baby Spice?!”

“Because you’re the cutest one of us”, Jonas said calmly, looking Isak in the eye, and Isak’s stomach and heart rushed to meet each other in the middle. Fuck. Fuck. Jonas thought he was the cutest, and Isak knew he would now go as Baby Spice no matter how hard he tried to resist.

Magnus got serious for a moment. He rummaged through the bag.

“Looking for something special?” Jonas asked.

“I don’t see anything classy in here”, Mags whined. “I wanted to be Posh Spice.”

“Sorry, dude.” Jonas grabbed the glittery red thing that looked like a dress but was a bit short for that. “Our group needs a Ginger.”

Magnus stared at the dress. He didn’t look horrified, like Isak had expected, but disappointed.

“But Posh is the cool one.”

“Posh is the boring one. We need to stand out to impress the girls!”

Magnus was pouting at Jonas, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Why can’t you be Ginger?”

Jonas stuck his tongue out, grinning.

“Because I’m Scary Spice. Come on, dude, you totally have the legs for the dress.”

Magnus took the dress and held it in front of him. He wasn’t looking too convinced. But Jonas was right, Mags did have nice legs. It didn’t take too much convincing to make Mags accept his position as Ginger Spice, and with that, the roles were cast. Jonas divided the contents of the bag, giving everyone their outfit.

“Where did you get all this stuff?” Isak ask, feeling the sheer white fabric of the baby doll top he had been given. 

“Eva and her friends let me raid their closets.”

“Oooooh!” Mags was immediately excited. “You got to see their closets? Did you see their underwear too?!”

Mahdi pretended to slap Mags at the back of the head, but Jonas just kept grinning. Then he took out four pairs of bras, throwing each of his friends a pair. Mags immediately put his on, over his shirt, and stroked at the lace eagerly.

“Wow. I’ve never touched an actual girl’s bra.”

“You haven’t touched an actual girl’s anything, loser”, Mahdi said. Isak just sat there, feeling increasingly uncomfortable with all this, and knowing he could do absolutely nothing about it.

It was just one night.

Besides, they weren’t really dressing up like women. It was just a costume party.

Dressing up for a costume party didn’t mean you were anything.

Jonas thought he was the cutest one.

It took the boys quite a bit of time and a lot of laughing and curses, but finally they all had managed to get their bra on. They stuffed them with socks and boxers, and as Isak stood in Mag’s room with his friends, all in their underwear and with a pair of boobs, he was almost certain this was some surreal, demented dream of his. He hadn’t been sleeping lately, maybe he had dozed off on Mags’ bed.

Mahdi and Mags were competing on who got their tits bigger. Meanwhile, Jonas pulled on his outfit. Leopard print tights and a cropped top in neon orange. Both of them were a bit small for him, so they were super tight. Isak was kind of worried Jonas would just pop out of either one.

“How do I look?” Jonas asked with a smile. Isak tried to smile back at him.

“Scary.”

“Wicked”, Jonas said. “Go on. Try yours on.”

Isak held the baby doll top in his hands. The hem of it was almost like a skirt, it was so. Light. Flowy. It looked super girly.

“I bet you’ll look like an angel in it.”

Isak bit the inside of his lip. Fucking Jonas! Why did he have to say all the things Isak was hungry to hear from him, but in a totally wrong context? But he sighed, and he gave in, and he pulled the top over his head.

Jonas fixed the fabric so it was flowing freely, then stepped back with a nod and a smile.

“Perfect. Now, the skirt.”

Isak made a sigh of relief. He had been worried this top would be his only clothing. It was so short it barely covered his ass and balls. The skirt Jonas gave him was tight and white, and short as well, but when Isak put it on he was at least decent. Sort of. His bra was showing through the sheer white fabric.

“You need a white bra.” Jonas pulled his top and bra off and handed the bra over to Isak. He couldn’t help but admire how easily Jonas had popped his bra open, with one hand behind his back. Jonas must have been practicing a lot. Maybe with Eva, maybe alone, but when Isak was this scantily dressed he was not going to think about Jonas alone in his room wearing a bra and taking it off over and over again.

Isak changed to the white pair and Jonas had been right, it was so much better. Mahdi and Mags had settled their argument in light of the fact that Sporty Spice was quite flat, and pulled their costumes on too. Mags didn’t seem too confident in his red glittery mini dress, but Mahdi was totally embracing his look. He was doing some high kicks and flexing his muscles in front of the mirror. Lucky bastard was wearing track pants and a sports top.

“Looking good, lads! Now, all we need is to fix our shoes. Except for you, Mahdi, you’re good.”

“YES!” Mahdi raised his fist in the air. Magnus and Isak were looking at Jonas, confused.

“We need platform sneakers. I’m not buying them, and I guess they don’t come in our size, either, so we have to make some.”

“I have no idea how to”, Isak said. Magnus was with him.

“I brought this.” Jonas pulled out a roll of duct tape from the bag. “I reckon we can just take something durable enough for us to stand and walk on and just tape them to the bottom of our shoes.”

“Dude, that’s going to look fucking terrible!” Isak protested.

“Have any better ideas?”

“Well, yes? How about not doing it?”

“Come on, Baby! It’s a look!”

Isak’s brain shut down completely when Jonas called him Baby. If Mags wasn’t going to come to his rescue, he would die on Saturday night when his DIY platform sneakers caved in.

“How about”, Mags started. Then he had to pause to actually come up with something. “I have an old foam mattress. We could cut it up, put some tape around it and spray paint it so it won’t look like shit? It will be squishy to walk on, but if we wear them only for pictures and posing? That might work?”

“It’s not like anyone’s going to wear shoes indoors anyway”, Mahdi agreed.

Jonas was thinking. Then he nodded, satisfied.

“Good enough. Let’s get to it, then. We need all the time to practice walking on them we can get.”

Magnus went to fetch the mattress from the basement storage unit, while Jonas and Mahdi started practicing on their poses. Isak sat on the edge of the bed, looking at Jonas in his leopard print, fighting the urge to tell him what he really really wanted.

Chapter Text

Isak had to stop running because he couldn’t breathe from all his crying. The second he stopped, the sharp pain struck through him like a knife. When he was running it was dulled into a tolerable level, but now, it made his vision blurry and his stomach churn. He leaned his hands on his knees, crying out loud in short cramping coughs, spit dribbling from his open mouth to the ground.

He was almost there. He had to keep going. He had to make it before someone called the cops on him, or social workers or something. Everything would go to shit if they did. Isak took a couple of deep, shaky breaths, pushed himself upright and started running again. His Walkman in his backpack hit him with every step.

He was exhausted when he reached Jonas’ house. He looked at the fire ladder, at how high up it was from the ground, and he almost crumbled down into a ball of pain and sobs. But he knew he would make it. He had made it before, he was tall enough to almost reach the bottom bar standing up. Just a little jump.

But reaching the ladder wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was pulling himself up. The concrete wall was ragged and coarse enough to give him friction to climb up, but it would hurt. So. Fucking. Much.

Isak was out of options, though. He couldn’t return home, not tonight, maybe not ever. He had nowhere else to go. Magnus would let him in but he would ask questions Isak didn’t have answers to, not for him. Jonas knew without asking. He knew about mom and her fits and what happened when she got upset. He never asked Isak to tell someone about it, and really, who would he have told anyway? Dad knew. Dad had been there. Isak had heard him cough downstairs.

Isak looked up. He reached his arms up above his head. He jumped.

It only occurred to him when he was behind Jonas’ bedroom window, that maybe Jonas wasn’t home tonight. He had a girlfriend. Eva’s parents were barely ever home. It wouldn’t be odd for Jonas to be at her place on a Friday night. Matter of fact, it was highly likely. Jonas was with Eva, and she was kissing him, everywhere, absolutely everywhere and Isak would knock on this window and nobody would open it.

Isak wrapped his arms tightly around the bars, clinging to the ladder so he wouldn’t fall. He could barely breathe. He was suddenly certain he would die. He would fall. He had climbed this ladder hundreds of times, and he had never been afraid of falling. It hadn’t even occurred to him, that he could fall, at how easily that could happen. One slip.

He had to keep climbing. His back was almost cramping up, and if that happened, he would be stuck until he couldn’t hold on anymore.

“I’m a firestarter”, Isak whispered, his eyes closed. He released the lock of his arms. He started climbing up again. It took him almost a minute to reach the right window, but he did reach it. The room behind it was dark. Isak reached out his arm and rapped at the glass with his fingertips. Please, Jonas. Please be home.

The table lamp was lit. A shadow crossed the wall. Jonas appeared to the window. He looked tired, and annoyed, but when he saw Isak all that disappeared and he pushed the window open. He was only in his boxer shorts, but Isak was too busy wanting to get inside and not die to really notice.

“Issy! Shit! Come in.” Jonas reached himself out the window, all the way to his waist, and pulled Isak inside. That was it. The moment Isak’s feet it the floor his leg gave in, and he collapsed in Jonas’ arms, sobbing uncontrollably. It hurt so much. He was so scared. He was so tired. He hadn’t slept in over a week.

“Fuck! What happened?” Jonas landed on his knees with Isak, still holding him in his arms. Isak would have been in Heaven if he hadn’t been in Hell.

It took him forever to calm down enough to be able to speak. Even then his voice was barely there, washed away with his tears, and he was stuttering because of all the shaking and sobbing.

“M--mom found the t-t-tapes”, Isak pushed out of himself, and the memory of the pile of plastic strip on his bed waiting for him, pulled out of the tapes and shredded to pieces with scissors, made him speechless with crying again.

“Shit. Oh, shit, fuck, I’m so sorry Issy.” Jonas tried to stroke Isak’s back, then he pulled his hands away quickly, jolted by the memory. Isak didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. He just laid there in Jonas’ lap and let Jonas first peel the backpack off, then pull his shirt up gently and carefully, revealing the already developed bruises on his back and ribs. Mom had struck him down and kicked him, again and again, screaming Bible verses about respect.

The kicking had hurt so, so little compared to what had happened to Isak’s tapes. His music. His escape route. His connection and relationship with Jonas. All gone, except for the newest tape still safe inside his Walkman. Mom had split Isak in half and dragged all his insides out and stomped on them just like she had done to the tapes.

“Can I stay here for tonight?” Isak whimpered. “I can’t go home. I can’t.”

It wasn’t that he was scared. He wasn’t. Mom couldn’t do anything worse to him, and he had survived this. Barely, but still. But he couldn’t go back there because he couldn’t be the son mom wanted him to be, and right now that thought hurt too much.

“Of course you can. Fuck, Issy!” Jonas sounded really upset. But he didn’t push it on Isak’s shoulders. He was carrying his own pain by himself, and for that Isak was really grateful right now. Jonas pulled Isak’s shirt back down, covering his bruises. Isak tried to calm down, and Jonas let him take his time with that. He just sat there, holding him, letting Isak wet his shirt with his tears until he ran out of them.

“I’m so sorry”, Isak whispered, when he was on his side on the floor, his head on Jona’s lap and Jonas’ fingers in his hair.

“Mh?” Jonas sounded sleepy. He might have dozed off sitting up. It was the middle of the night, after all. Isak didn’t blame him for falling asleep.

“I’m sorry your tapes got ruined. I’ll buy new ones, I still have some birthday money left.”

Jonas almost laughed, but he backed down on the last second. He stroked Isak’s hair soothingly.

“Don’t worry about it, Issy. I have spare ones. I don’t use them anymore, I just make them for you.”

Isak’s whole body shuddered with a new sob. Jonas was just so. Wonderful. Isak couldn’t take all that wonderful. Especially since he had more to apologise for.

“I’m sorry about the party too. I ruined the costume.” His top was see through. His bruises would show. Everyone would know, and he couldn’t -- he just couldn’t. People would talk. They would ask questions.

“Hey. Hey. It’s cool. It’s totally cool, don’t worry about it one bit. Okay?”

Isak couldn’t stop worrying about it, and he didn’t want to lie to Jonas. So he didn’t say anything. Neither did Jonas, in a while, then he kind of sharpened up. Isak could feel it under his head, he didn’t have to look up. Jonas had just got an idea.

“Issy. Would you still want to come to the party?”

Isak nodded. His cheek rubbed on Jonas’ knee, almost his inner thigh, and he wished he had strength to feel some kind of guilty excitement about that.

“I need to get wasted. I really, really need to get wasted out of my mind.”

“In that case, I have just the thing. It’s in Thea’s room, but she’s not home. Wait right here, okay?”

Isak nodded again. He was too tired to move, anyway, and too sore, so it didn’t matter. Jonas wiggled himself away from under him and slipped out through the door. He came back soon enough, holding a pair of white feathered wings.

“These are big enough to cover your back. And they go great with Baby Spice, right?”

Isak bit his lip. His eyes were watering up again, because Jonas was just so. Great. He really got Isak. He always had. Jonas understood how much Isak wanted to not ruin the night for the guys, especially since Magnus had gotten really excited about the Spice Girls thing.

Isak nodded.

“It’s perfect. Thank you. You’re a lifesaver.”

“And you’re a firestarter. Twisted firestarter.”

That made Isak smile a bit. The paint had worn off his finger, but the memory of it remained. It had been imprinted into his heart like a tattoo.

Jonas hung the wings up on his closet door. Then he got a spare pillow and a blanket from his armchair. He placed the pillow on his bed, next to his own. Isak’s heart was beating faster, and harder, and he was so happy he was too sore and exhausted and devastated to even imagine anything.

Jonas borrowed Isak a pair of shorts to wear to bed. He turned the light off so Isak could change with at least some privacy. When Isak was done he crawled into bed, next to Jonas. It was a bit crowded, but it didn’t matter. Isak would lie awake all night anyway, he could keep out of Jonas’ way.

It took Jonas about twenty seconds to fall asleep. Isak listened to him breathing, slower and slower, his own breathing syncing with that rhythm. He didn’t fall asleep, but he kind of drifted away, and these days it was the best he could wish for.

Chapter Text

The plan was simple enough. There was no reason it took Even this long to come up with it. He blamed the rush of the chase, and the fact he had gotten his camera out so late in the conversation, and of course the way he had been just staring at the same few seconds of film over and over again, the perfect frames where Isak smiled and turned his head just a bit, illuminating the whole room both conceptually and literally. Even had been sitting in the light of the television all night, again, simply basking. He had barely eaten anything. He had barely slept. All nourishment he really needed was Isak’s light.

Then it struck him. Late on Friday night, probably closer to Saturday morning. Isak and his friends were going to a party. Eva’s party. Saturday night. A costume party, which was perfect, because nobody would realize Even was crashing it. Parties were like that. People brought friends, the word spread out. Nobody would think Even was out of place.

But. There were two obstacles in his way. One: he didn’t have a costume. Two: he had no idea, where Eva’s party was being held. But he did know where Isak lived. He could go outside his house to wait today, and when Isak left for the party Even could follow him.

Now, the costume. Even was broke at the moment, so he couldn’t go buy one. He would have to make do with something he had. Too bad he wasn’t crafty. It would have to be something he simply put on. Even scurried to his feet and to his closet, ripping out the clothes in there. He saw the needle marks in his arm and paused. Had he been shooting up? He’d remember that, wouldn’t he?

He pushed his fingers into his pocket and found the plastic bag in there, untouched. Okay. He still had the heroin. He hadn’t shot it up. But the needle marks..oh, right. Right. He had forgotten, he made them himself, with a pin. He could make a couple of more and go as Rent-boy..no. He was not going to shave his head. He’d look like an idiot.

The answer was staring at him from his closet. Even reached inside and took the gray cardigan out. Sonja must have forgotten to take it with her when she packed her things and left. All her flannel shirts, frumpy cardigans, fishnet pantyhose. Even remembered running into her earlier this week, right before meeting Isak, and she hadn’t changed one bit. Grunge had gone out of fashion ages ago, but she had kept her style. Sometimes Even could only admire her stubbornness.

Now he had her to thank for his costume. Even pulled the cardigan on. The sleeves were a bit too short, otherwise it would do nicely. A pair of jeans, a white T-shirt - Even decided to use the one with Cobain’s image, as an instruction - and the cardigan. Some eyeliner. He would have to smother his hair with gel to keep it down over his eyes, but that wouldn’t be impossible. Now all he needed was a stubble. He couldn’t grow one himself, but maybe...hm.

Even went to the bathroom with the eyeliner. He tried just poking his face with it, but it wasn’t sharp enough. If it was sharp enough, it would make holes in his skin. He would have to come up with something else. Even looked around, and then he saw the nail brush on the edge of the sink. He wet it under the tap and shook it dry-ish. He rubbed the eyeliner on the bristles, and tapped it against his cheek.

“Yes!” Even was laughing with excitement. It was perfect! His plan was flawless! He would meet Isak in person, and it would be perfect, just like in the movies, and Isak would be his forever. Now all he would have to do was get his costume on, get his ass to Isak’s house and wait. Even peeked out of the bathroom at the television, and smiled at Isak. Soon.

When after seven turned into after eight Even was starting to get bored. He was sitting on a rock behind some bushes where he could see Isak’s street, and waiting, waiting, waiting. He had been waiting for hours, but hadn’t seen Isak. Had he changed his mind? Had Even missed him, no matter how unlikely? Even was getting fidgety. He was running out of patience and out of hope.

Then he saw the fairy. She had a ballet skirt and a pair of glittery wings, and she was obviously going to attend a costume party. She was hurrying down the street, and Even rushed after her. He kept his distance so she wouldn’t notice Kurt Cobain’s ghost was following her. That might have scared her away. All Even wanted from her was direction, a heading, and he let her lead the way.

He heard the music almost a full block away. The party house was easy to tell, from all the lights in the yard and all the teenagers flocking around. Even tried to spot Isak, but he couldn’t. Many people were wearing masks, but Even knew he’d recognise Isak through any mask. He would see Isak’s light. He would know.

Even made it through the yard without raising any suspicions. Someone even gave him a high five, congratulating him on his wicked costume. Even just grinned and kept going. He needed to get inside the house to see if Isak was there. He opened the front door and stepped inside. The music was deafening, just the way it should be in a party like this. The house was packed. Even searched downstairs first, but for nothing. He made his way to the stairs and climbed upstairs.

The upstairs was quieter. There were some doors along a hallway, all closed, and when Even peeked inside one door he saw a boy and a girl rolling on a bed, kissing passionately. Even closed the door quietly and kept looking. Isak would be here. Even would find him. This was destiny. They were meant to be.

After searching through the upstairs Even descended down again. He was halfway down the stairs when he saw them. Three Spice Girls, on the porch, he saw them through the window. For some reason Scary Spice was wearing track pants, but right beside her stood an angel. Isak. He was Baby Spice, it was obvious, with that flowy sheer top and white skirt and the bows in his hair, but it was even more obvious Isak was an angel. He had wings on his back to prove it, and Even got so fucking excited at how much this all was like the aquarium scene in Romeo+Juliet that he couldn’t move. He could barely breathe.

But he had to move. He had to get closer to that window. Even forced his legs into working with him, and dragged himself down the stairs to the window. He wished he could hear what they were saying. If he could only open this window...wait. He could. There was a handle right there, all he needed was some courage and a bit of luck.

Even opened the window as slowly as he could, to keep the volume of the music rushing outside growing as gradually as possible. So it wouldn’t catch attention. When the window was open Even pressed his body against the wall. He couldn’t see Isak, just his friend in his leopard print tights - oh, of course, that was Scary Spice, the black kid was Sporty - but he could hear him.

“Seriously, Mags hasn’t chickened out. He’s coming.”

Scary seemed to agree with Isak. He was nodding, and then he saw something that brought a grin on his face. He waved his hand and called out.

“Ginger! This way!”

Ginger arrived on the porch. It was the blondie! Even deducted his name was Mags, and he was kind of happy to see him. He liked Mags. Mags seemed genuinely nice. He was real in his niceness, and that was rare. His face was an open book, as well, and now it was full of disbelief and terror as he stepped in front of his friends in his sparkly dress and full make-up.

“Guys? Why aren’t you in costume?”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Sporty was trying not to laugh. Poorly. “We have tits and all!”

Scary looked at Ginger, from head to toe, shaking his head a bit.

“Did you shave your legs for this?”

Mags tried to hide his legs behind each other. He was holding back tears. Even’s heart was bleeding a bit for him. Even knew a thing or two about being real and going all in, in this world of fakeness and phonies. He was touched.

“I thought -- I thought that -- shit! Fuck! I’m a fucking idiot!”

Mags stumbled back, and Isak stepped to hold him up. That also meant Isak stepped in Even’s sight, and Even’s bleeding heart was fluttering a bit. Fuck he was beautiful. A true angel. Isak took Mags by the hand and smiled at him. It was a wavering smile, but still made of light and purity.

“Mags. Listen to me. It’s okay.”

“No it’s not!” Mags’ mascara was running a bit. “I’m an idiot! This is a costume party, not a fucking drag show! I look like a fag, and no girl will even look at me now.”

“You look really good! Not half assed like we do.” Isak wiped the mascara off his friends cheeks, bless him. “Could you please save our sorry faces and borrow us some of your lipstick?”

Mags looked up, hesitantly. He looked at Sporty and Scary as well, and they looked at Isak in disbelief.

“I’m not shaving my legs”, Scary said. Isak glared at him.

“Well obviously not, Jonas! But you are putting on this lipstick and you’re going to rock it.”

“Ah, fuck it”, Sporty said and snatched the lipstick from Mags, who had taken it from his bra. “Anyone got a mirror?”

Nobody did. So they gave the lipstick to Mags, who painted all their lips, his hand almost but not quite shaking. When he was done they all looked -- well. They looked like guys dressed up as Spice Girls, with lipstick.

Scary fixed his boobs.

“Okay. Ready to rock, girls?”

They were. They headed for the door, and as Mags passed Scary he got his ass smacked. It made him jump and then laugh, and by the time they entered the house they were all happy and excited again. They were a team.

Isak was in the house. Now all Even needed to do was to separate him from his friends for a bit. He needed an aquarium scene.

Chapter Text

This party sucked.

Or, it didn’t suck in itself as much as Isak was having a miserable time. Jonas had given him some painkillers to help with his bruises, and it seemed that they somehow messed up something in his metabolism, making it impossible for him to get drunk. Figures, really, Isak thought bitterly as he put yet another empty bottle of beer away. He should have known this was a terrible idea.

Some guy grabbed Isak’s fake tits from behind and gave them a proper groping. Isak had lost count of how many times that had happened tonight. He forced an amused smile on his lips, but when the guy reached lower and grabbed his junk as well that smile withered away. Fourth time tonight. It was still at least twice less than Mags. He was the most popular one.

“Just checking!” The guy laughed with his friend and they both moved on. Isak closed his eyes, just for a second. In a way, he should have been happy, right? Wasn’t having boys touch his junk kind of his dream? But like most times, when your dreams came true, they left a sour aftertaste.

At least Isak was as far away from getting hard by those touches as it was humanly possible.

Count your blessings.

Besides, it was all in good fun, right? Why wear huge fake boobs if you don’t want people to play with them? Isak was just too sober, he was in pain and in a bad mood, and he was lucky to be smart enough to not make a fuss out of nothing and become a party pooper. Everyone was having a great time, except Isak, and it wouldn’t have been fair to ruin it just to make everyone as miserable as he was.

Isak headed for the kitchen. He needed a drink. It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it was wet and had alcohol in it. He didn’t, as usual, have any drinks of his own, but in a party that was this big nobody would notice. Still, Isak stopped to wait until he would be alone in the kitchen for a moment, before he’d open the fridge.

Soon enough the couple who was in there got tired of his presence and decided to find some other place to make out. As soon as they’d left Isak opened the frigde. He reached inside, grabbed the first bottle of cheap beer he saw and went to look for the bottle opener. It wasn’t on the counter where it had been all night. Who had been rude enough to take it with them?

“Allow me”, someone said behind Isak, making him jump. He blushed intensely. Had he been caught stealing? Isak twirled around, squeezing the bottle in his both hands, and suddenly he forgot pretty much everything. The groping, the bad music, the hollow loneliness you could only feel in the middle of a crowd you almost but not quite belonged to. Kurt Cobain’s ghost was standing in front of him, holding a bottle opener. Had Isak gone insane, for good?

The click of the bottle’s cap made Isak snap out of it. Right. This was a costume party. That was a costume. Kurt was standing far too near, Isak saw him too close, too well. He saw his blue, blue eyes. His definded cheekbones. His full, beautiful lips. But most importantly, Isak saw the way he was looking at him.

It was the same way Isak had been looking at Jonas when Jonas wasn’t watching. The same way Mags was looking at any girl in vicinity. He looked like he really, really wanted to kiss Isak, and Isak was powerless in front of that look. His heart was fluttering. He squeezed the bottle with his both hands, so hard he was afraid it would slip and hit the floor and break. He was worried about his heart in the same manner as well.

“Hi”, Kurt said. He raised his eyebrow a bit, and that look really worked for him. Isak was feeling weak at the knees. He kept looking at those lips. “I’m Even.”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. It was all Isak could think about, that one word reapeating over and over again like a stuck record. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Something was about to happen. Something terrible and wonderful and scary and horrible. Isak could feel it in the air, it was vibrating between their bodies, way too close together, it felt like trying to push two magnets against each other. It made Isak shake.

Even leaned closer. Isak cracked his lips.

“What’s your name, angel?”

Angel? Even didn’t even know his name and called him angel? Oh. Right. The wings. Isak tried to smile, but he couldn’t feel his face.

“I’m not. An angel. I’m Baby Spice.” Isak could barely speak. His lips wanted to do something else. But he had forgotten to tell Even his name. “Isak.”

Isak tilted his face up just a bit. He cocked his head, too, without really thinking about it. His legs were numb, too, and his heart was about to burst and he didn’t know was it a good or a bad thing. This was stupid. This was scary. This was wrong, and impossible, and still this was happening.

Even leaned closer still. He was looking at Isak’s lips. Isak was looking at his lips.

There was a sound at the door, a bang of some kind, or a thud, and Isak turned to look but then Even grabbed his chin, turned his head back and kissed him. Isak could barely see that people were standing by the door, looking at them, and then Even’s lips were suddenly on his, and to his horror Isak kissed him back. He even closed his eyes. He surrendered, powerless.

When the kiss ended Isak stepped back. He hit his lower back to the edge of the counter, and it made him wince in pain. But when he turned to look at the door his heart sank to his ankles. Jonas was there. And, even worse, there were other people too. From school. People that knew Isak and now knew what he was. That he kissed boys. And Jonas had seen him kiss a boy who wasn’t him, and. Everyone was so quiet.

With two long steps Jonas was by them. Isak looked at him, speechless, he was so scared and he had no explanation and his life was now officially, irreplaceably over. Jonas gave him a reassuring look, then he turned to look at Even and grabbed his face with two hands.

Then Jonas kissed Even. Isak stared at him, his heart shattering into tiny little pieces. He couldn’t have Jonas, and now Jonas was going to take Even from him, too? Isak couldn’t tell was Even kissing Jonas back because his eyes were filled with tears. He saw the kiss end, and Jonas turn to face him.

Then Jonas kissed him, too. Isak was dying. He was too busy dying and trying to understand what was happening to kiss Jonas back. This was his dream coming true, his  hungry hope being fulfilled, and he was missing out on it completely. His lips moved, but they didn’t feel anything, and when Jonas stepped back he winked at Isak.

Before Isak still could wrap his brain around all this, Jonas was by the kitchen door, kissing Magnus on the mouth. Mags wasn’t all that into it, he was squirming and trying to get away, and that made the kiss end very short. Jonas was grinning triumphantly.

“Three to one with one minute to go! The title of Slutty Spice will be mine!”

Mahdi was the first to catch on. He turned to face Jonas, slipped his hand behind his neck and started kissing him. Isak stared at them, with everyone else, still speechless. It looked like a great kiss. In any other circumstances it would have been turning Isak on. People were starting to gather to the kitchen doorway, pushing people inside, everyone gathering around Jonas and Mahdi who were still very much getting it on.

“Slutty Spice! Slutty Spice!” Magnus started chanting, clapping his hands. Even joined him, then someone else, and soon enough the whole crowd was cheering them on and nobody remembered Isak even existed. Isak pulled back, slowly, and slipped outside through the back door.

His first kiss had been with Even and Jonas. It was. It was too much for him to handle. Isak slumped down, sitting on the grass, despite the fact his skirt was way, way too short and way too white for that. He didn’t care. He had kissed Jonas, and he hadn’t liked it, and it felt so bad he wanted to cry.

Jonas had saved him. Now that Isak had time to think he understood that Jonas had figured it out, and he had come to save Isak. It was something Isak would never be able to pay him back. Jonas had stuck his neck out and turned this from a night when people found out Isak was a fag into a night when Sporty and Scary Spice were fighting for the title of Slutty Spice by making out together. People would talk about that for weeks, and everyone would forget about Baby Spice and her kiss that had torn Isak’s life apart.

The door creaked. Isak turned to look at Even, who was walking towards him. He shook his head, turning away. No. No. Not now. He wasn’t ready. He knew that if Even wanted to kiss him again he couldn’t refuse, and then Jonas’ sacrifice would have gone to waste. Isak took the bottle to his lips to make them occupied. The beer didn’t taste like anything.

Even squatted down in front of him. He reached out his hand and wiped the side of Isak’s mouth with his thumb.

“Your lipstick’s ruined. Sorry about that.”

Isak almost choked on the beer. He had to stop guzzling it down and pull the bottle away from his lips. Even kept touching his face, wiping the lipstick stains off, and Isak couldn’t stop him. He couldn’t stop any of this from happening, it was like he was stuck in a movie and everything just followed a script he hadn’t even seen.

Finally Even stopped touching him. Isak wiped his mouth once more with his own hand, then he shook his head. No. No. He had to leave. Isak pushed himself up on his feet and ran inside. He struggled his way through the crowd to the front door, then out to the street, and he just ran. It was hard, his skirt kept riding up, but he held on to the hem with both hands and ran into the slowly darkening night.

Chapter Text

Isak didn’t get far in his make-do platform shoes. They were squishing up with every step, dangerously, putting him in constant danger of twisting his ankle. He was battered enough to begin with, he didn’t need more injuries. So, after only a couple of blocks, Isak stopped and sat down on the curb of the sidewalk. He hugged his legs and buried his face against his knees. His wings moved gently in the soft summer night breeze.

Everything was over.

His life was over.

He knew that even though other people at the party might have been fooled, Jonas hadn’t. He had seen the way Jonas had looked at him, having caught him kissing a boy. Mags and Mahdi probably also had figured it out, and that meant all Isak’s friends now knew his most secret secret, and everything was ruined forever. They would kick him out of the gang. They would turn their backs on him, and Isak could imagine how Magnus would look like and that image broke his heart. How hurt Mags would be, and how he would still do what’s right and turn away.

Still all Isak could really think about was that kiss.

He should have been horrified and ashamed and scared to death. But he wasn’t. Or yes, yes he was, of course he was, but there was also this. Isak had no other name for it than joy. He was happy. He was ecstatic. He had finally, finally kissed a boy and it had been every bit as wonderful as he had imagined it would have. Isak’s cheeks were wet with tears, and still he had to laugh a little.

Then the hot stone of shame sunk into his belly. He had also kissed Jonas. Or, Jonas had kissed him, and Isak had given Jonas the worst kiss possible to man. He had no idea what he was doing then, and he had no recollection of it either. It should have been perfect. Not the kiss from Even, the guy Isak had never even seen before, but the kiss from Jonas. Isak had defiled his love for Jonas by kissing a stranger, just because that stranger had been willing.

“Slutty Spice”, Isak whispered to his knees. He moved his hand under his ribs, almost on his back, and dug his fingertips into his sorest bruise. It made him make a small, pained sound, muffled by his legs.

He pressed again. Harder. It made his eyes water and his shoulders shake. Again. Again. Isak moved his hand a bit, searching for the sorest spots in him, and pushed them, and he felt the kind of peace he did when he was on his knees in a closet for the third hour straight. The blunt, hollow kind.

A pair of Dr. Martens stopped right next to him. Isak held his breath.

Someone touched his wings. Lightly, just a brush of the fingers.

“Isak.”

It was him. It was Even. Isak’s heart was fluttering, and he was still holding his breath. He didn’t dare look up, but then Even’s fingers brushed at his hair, too.

“Isak. Are you okay?”

Isak shook his head. He wasn’t okay. He was so far from okay. He was in pain and his heart was breaking and singing at the same time, and he was so, so very dead. Maybe he had died. This was probably pretty much exactly what purgatory was like.

Even sat down next to him. His pocket rustled, and Isak heard a lighter strike. He smelled the soft, comforting warmth of tobacco. Even was sitting beside him and smoking, just like anything terrible hadn’t just happened. Just like Isak wasn’t dressed up like a Spice Girl and Even like Kurt Cobain. Everything about Even was radiating calmness that turned all this absurdity into business as usual, and that Isak noticed was something he craved for.

Isak lifted his face slowly. He looked at Even, who was looking across the street, smoking. His eyes were squinting a bit, and his lips puckered deliciously when he pulled a smoke. His hands looked so big, holding the slim cigarette. Even was so beautiful it was insane. It didn’t make sense that someone what perfect would want to kiss Isak.

“Are your feet okay?” Even asked suddenly. Isak almost jumped at the sound of his voice.

“Huh? What?”

Even pointed at Isak’s feet with his cigarette.

“Those are not real shoes. I’d take them off if I were you. It’s warm enough for bare feet.”

Isak blushed. Even was right. Why hadn’t he thought about it earlier? He tried to just kick the shoes off his feet, but that didn’t work. He had to fiddle with them for quite a while to remove them. Even had finished his cigarette by the time Isak was done.

“That’s better.” Even smiled and stood up. He held his hand out for Isak. Isak looked at his hand. The hand of the boy he had kissed. Somehow taking it felt like more than simply standing up. If Isak took that hand, he would take it for good, wouldn’t he?

“Isak!” Jonas called from down the street. Isak looked in the direction of the sound. Jonas was there, with Mahdi and Mags. Isak noted they were all still wearing their platform shoes. They couldn’t run in them, not for long.

He took Even’s hand and pulled himself up. He started running, and he forgot to let go of Even’s hand, and they ran together. The street was hard and rough under Isak’s heels, but at the same time the rush of the moment made him feel almost weightless.  It must have looked really strange. Baby Spice and Kurt Cobain on the run from Sporty, Scary and Ginger. They ran, into the night, and the sound of Even’s laughter echoed from the houses on each side of the street.

They ran until Isak couldn’t run anymore. Then they started walking, still hand in hand. Isak didn’t want to let go of Even’s hand. Not now, not ever. He was so lucky Even didn’t seem to want to let go of his hand, either. They walked in silence, just listening to the summer night around them, in the streets of the sleeping suburbian paradise.

Isak kept looking at Even at the corner of his eye. Even wasn’t looking at him. It was obvious, Even could believe that Isak was there, and Isak didn’t have the same luxury. He had to keep checking Even really was beside him, and every time he turned to look he was certain that Even would just disappear into thin air. Like a ghost of the rock star he looked like.

Even didn’t disappear. He held Isak’s hand, and he walked with Isak, and bit by bit Isak’s shoulders started to relax again. Butterflies were fluttering around his belly. He was walking hand in hand with a boy. Edward would have been so proud. Or, he would have scoffed at Isak, called him a faggot and kicked sand in his face. But Isak decided to believe Edward would understand. John Connor had seen enough hardship to appreciate any kind of love in this cold, cruel world.

They came to a playground. Even walked Isak to the swingset and smiled.

“Sit.”

Isak did. He had to wiggle a bit to get his wings between the chains. He grabbed the chains and lifted his feet off the ground. Even went behind him to push him, and that was the moment Isak remembered. It was too late. Even pressed his palms under his shoulder blades and Isak jumped up to his feet from the swing, yelping in pain.

Even didn’t say anything. Neither did Isak. Isak just stood there, shaking a bit, trying to calm down. His wings were fluttering with his heart and the wind. Isak stood there, in the sand, and heard Even’s steps walk behind him.

Isak stood there and let Even grab his wings very, very carefully.

Even took the wings off Isak’s back and put them on the ground by their feet. It was almost dark in the playground, and Isak was wearing a top, but Isak was sure Even could still see them. The dark, black and blue and yellow and purple bruises on Isak’s back. Isak heard Even breathe slower. More focused. He felt Even take the hem of his top and pull it up, to reveal the battered skin. He felt the coolness of the breeze raise his skin on goosebumps.

“Stop”, Isak said, stepping forward. He was breathing harder, faster, his heart was pounding in his ears and his blood was rushing. He wanted Even to touch his skin, he wanted it so much. Too much. They were outside. Anyone could see them, it wasn’t safe. Whatever it was that Even was going to do, it was dangerous and stupid and wrong. Why didn’t Even seem to care about how wrong this was?

Even took Isak’s wrist and guided him to turn around. To face him. Isak did, but he couldn’t look at Even. He didn’t dare. Even brushed an imaginary strand of hair off Isak’s face, making Isak close his eyes. Even was going to kiss him. Isak was standing barefoot in the summer night and he was about to be kissed by a boy. For the third time on this wonderful, terrible night.

Isak heard steps. More than one pair of feet, tapping on the street, running. His eyes snapped open, and they both turned to look. Three Spice Girls were running toward the park. Mags was leading the pack, and his running was this kind of mixture of tiptoeing and supermodel striding. Jonas was wobbling and cursing, and Mahdi was still with them out of sheer willpower. Isak looked at Even, pleading. He couldn’t do this. Not now. He couldn’t face them.

Even nodded. He took Isak’s hand and they started running. Isak’s wings were left on the playground sand, and a gust of wind rustled the feathers, pulling one in the air with it.

Chapter Text

Even was feeling light. Everything had gone better than he had ever imagined. Isak had let Even kiss him, and Isak was still holding Even’s hand when they got to his house. Even stopped, by the door, and turned to face Isak. He looked like an angel, even with his smeared lipstick and bare feet, his wings forgotten on a playground somewhere. Even pushed his hand in Isak’s hair. It was so soft.

He had longed for purity. Now he had it. This was pure, this was true, this was written in the stars. If it hadn’t. Isak wouldn’t be here. This was too insane. To be kissed by a total stranger in the kitchen, and from there just agreeing with everything, just walking down the path of the fate, hand in hand? That didn’t happen in real life. And yet, here Isak was.

“This is me”, Even said, quietly. He didn’t want to let go of Isak, but surely he wouldn’t come up with him? Follow a perfect stranger home? Isak was smarter than that, right?

Isak opened his eyes. They were so shiny. There was a clear, wet film of tears over them. Even could have stared into them for hours.

“I can’t go home”, Isak said. He sounded shy. It was a confession, and even in his movie high Even was able to put two and two together.

“Oh.” Even wet his lips lightly. This was the perfect spot to ask, wasn’t this? “Want to come up?”

Isak blushed. He was so cute when he blushed. Little angel, shy Baby Spice, in his whites and curls. Even hadn’t kissed him again, and he really, really wanted to.

“I do.” There was a but in there. Even waited, but it didn’t manifest. Isak swallowed the but, and just stood there, with Even’s hand in his hair. They were out in the street, but it felt like they were the only people in the world. At least the only people who mattered.

Even let his fingers slide out of Isak’s hair. He was still holding Isak’s hand. He stepped back, towards the door.

Isak followed him.

It was incredible. Isak actually followed him. Even kept trying his luck. He pulled Isak into the house. He pulled Isak up the stairs. And to his door. And in through it.

“Can I wash my feet?” Isak asked. Even hurried to show him the bathroom, and thanked his lucky stars he had a clean towel to give to Isak. And when Even entered his studio apartment’s single room, he thanked everything he could think of for the fact that he was now alone.

Isak was smiling on his TV screen. Even rummaged all over the bed but couldn’t find the fucking remote control, and finally he had to just yank the plug of the VCR out of the wall socket. The TV went black, after half a second of torture during which the image of Isak lingered like an afterburn.

Even wiped the screen with his sleeve to get rid of the lip marks he had left. His lips tingled a bit, at the memory of the static electricity hovering just above the surface of the glass.

“Nice place”, Isak said from the door. Even turned to look at him, with a nervous smile. Why was he nervous? Isak was here. He was actually here, where nobody would see them, and -- and. Even didn’t know how to continue from that, and he had a feeling that was the reason for him being nervous.

“Thanks”, Even managed to say. He wiped his face, and his hand turned black. Right, the stubble. “Uh. Excuse me. I’ll be right back.”

Even rushed into the bathroom, turned the water on and splashed it over his face. He rubbed the make-up off with both hands, and dried his face with the towel Isak had just used for his feet. He didn’t mind. Anything Isak touched was pure.

Isak was sitting on the edge of Even’s bed when Even returned. He was leaning his hands on the bed, and his legs looked so long, his body so lean, and his chest so -- ample. He was still wearing the fake boobs. Even really wished he wasn’t.

“Do you need help with those?” Even drew a circle in the air, pointing at Isak’s chest. Isak looked down and chuckled, confused.

“Actually, I think I do. I can’t get out of the bra on my own, I don’t understand how girls do it.”

Even didn’t care to mention it, but he had quite a bit of experience on unhooking a bra. He just walked to the bed and crawled behind Isak’s back, on his knees in the middle of the bed. The shadows of the bruises were still shining through the sheer fabric of the flowy top. Even lifted the shirt carefully. He didn’t want to touch the bruises and hurt Isak.

He wanted to touch Isak so much. But he focused on the hooks of the bra now. He kept his eyes on them, and he was careful to not touch anything but the bra. He unhooked it effortlessly, and Isak let out a relieved sigh.

“Fuck that feels nice”, Isak whispered. The shape of the bra had been imprinted on his skin. Even ran his fingertip along the red curve. Now he looked at the bruises. There were so many of them, and they were so fresh.

“Who did this?” Even asked. Isak’s shoulders tensed up.

“It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done.”

Even almost laughed. He would have laughed if he hadn’t been this angry. How could anyone lay their hands on this angel?

“That’s an honourable philosophy.” Even kept drawing on Isak’s back. He drew around and in between the bruises, with the lightest touch he could, barely brushing against the skin that was raised into goosebumps. “But will they do it again?”

Isak shook his head. But he stayed here, letting Even touch him.

“Not if they don’t have a reason to.”

Even bit his lip for a while. He had to consider what he would say, so Isak wouldn’t leave.

“I find it hard to believe anybody would have a legit reason to do something like this.”

Isak shook his head again.

“Even. Please. No.”

“Why not?”

Isak was silent for a moment. He still let Even touch him. Which was good, since Even couldn’t stop.

“It kills the mood.”

Even’s heart started racing. Isak wanted to keep a mood. It made Even’s skin rise on goosebumps as well, and his lips tingle again. He helped Isak out of his top and his bra, and when Isak turned around to face him Even was speechless.

Isak looked so focused. He was focusing super hard on this. His mouth was a tight line, but not the least bit stern. He was simply focused. On his fingers, unbuttoning Even’s cardigan. When the buttons were all opened, Isak pushed the cardigan off Even’s shoulders. Even wiggled out of it and threw it on the floor.

Was Isak going to undress him completely? Even wasn’t sure if he wanted that. Or, yes, of course he did, he had wanted that ever since he first laid his eyes on Isak, but did he want that now was a whole other thing. He hadn’t slept with boys before. He had slept with girls, many times, but Isak was the first boy since Mikael and with Mik he hadn’t got further than the first kiss.

He hadn’t got this far with a boy before.

But there was something more in this than just a boy.

Even hadn’t felt like this with anyone before. He was almost scared. He was frightened of the intensity of all this. Isak was so intense, and being here with him was even more so, and Even just didn’t want to screw this up like he did with everyone else.

Isak fiddled with the hem of Even’s shirt. His fingertips brushed against Even’s stomach. It tickled. But in the best way possible.

“What are you doing?” Even had to ask. He couldn’t take the intensity anymore. The whole world had been condensed into this bed, and that was a lot of mass, creating a lot of pressure.

Isak shrugged with one shoulder. He looked at Even, his chin pressed down, just a quick glance. Timid and shy.

“I don’t know?”

Even smiled. He raised his hand on Isak’s cheek.

“It’s okay”, Even said. “Me neither. Want to find out?”

Isak was blushing. But he nodded. So Even kissed him. Isak closed his eyes and kissed him back. He was shy with the kiss, too, he was definitely letting Even lead the kiss and just followed him with his own lips. Even didn’t mind. He was an experienced kisser, and though kissing boys wasn’t something he had practised on, it wasn’t too different from kissing girls. It was just lips on lips. Nothing to it.

Who was he kidding? This was so, so much more than that.

This was music of two bodies pressing together, carefully, one afraid to hurt and one afraid to want. This was Even laying slowly down on his back, and Isak following him, laying on top of him, their lips locked together. This was hands, wanting nothing more than to touch the other one, but holding back, out of respect towards the fragility of this moment.

This was a movie kiss. The first one Even had ever had, despite of seeing one a thousand times before. And when the kiss ended, it left them both breathless.

Even was so happy Isak was feeling it too. The magic. It wasn’t just in his head. He had been so sure of it so many times in his life, certain that whoever he was with could sense the wonder surrounding them, but now he knew he had always been wrong. It had never felt like this. This strong.

Isak pushed his hand down the side of Even’s hip. His fingers got lost on the way and slipped into Even’s pocket. Then they stopped. Isak raised his head and looked down, and pulled out the small plastig baggie filled with white powder.

Even could only watch, in horror. When Isak looked up at him he knew his face was full of guilt.

“I can explain.”

Chapter Text

Isak pulled the baggie up close to his face so he could take a better look at it. Fine, white powder. Even reached his hand up to take it from him, and that was when Isak noticed them on Even’s bare arm. Needle marks. Even was a junkie. Isak had heard about them in school, all the cautionary tales about the dangers of drugs, but he had never before met a real drug user.

It felt exciting.

Even was dangerous. He was using heroin. That explained his looks, really, how skinny he was and how dark the circles around his eyes were, even after washing the eyeliner away. Isak let Even take the bag a bit reluctantly.

“Can I have some too?” Isak asked, to his own surprise. He didn’t know he wanted to. But this was different. He trusted Even. He wanted to experience Even, and he would have really, really liked to try that euphoria he had seen in the movies. He hadn’t managed to get drunk, and he was still shaken after the party, and he was scared to death, he needed something he could handle.

Even shook his head.

“I don’t have any clean needles. Sorry.”

Isak nodded. Okay. No bliss. No euphoria. It didn’t matter. He could handle it. Barely, but still, he could. When Even put the bag away on the night stand Isak didn’t as much as look at it anymore. He wasn’t getting any, that was that. Instead, Isak looked at Even. He laid his head on Even’s shoulder and stroked at the underside of Even’s arm with his fingertip. He was connecting the dots of the needle marks. They looked like a constellation.

“My mom gets crazy sometimes”, Isak said, quietly. He felt like he needed to make a confession as well, something as big as a drug habit. Even’s heart beat in his ear, steady and loud, it was such a soothing sound. “She found my mix tapes yesterday. She got really nervous. When she gets nervous -- it’s bad.”

Isak closed his eyes. Talking about mom being nervous was something he had learned to fear. But when Even touched his face he didn’t jump. He wasn’t scared of Even, and that was really, really weird. He should have been, right? A stranger, a drug user, a homosexual. Isak pressed his cheek against Even’s hand and thought about John Connor. He met a killer robot from the future, and he didn’t fear it.

Just like John needed to trust the Terminator, Isak needed to trust Even.

“I’m so sorry to hear that”, Even said. “It’s not right.”

Isak sighed. Even’s shirt smelled so good. Not a whiff of Axe, just some detergent and Even’s skin. That was a scent he could get addicted to so easily.

“It is what it is. She’s my mom. I love her. That doesn’t make sense, right?”

Even’s fingers moved on to the back of Isak’s neck, to play with his hair. His heart was still beating in its steady pace.

“Family rarely does.”

Isak laughed, just a little bit.

“You can say that again.”

“I’m not making that joke, just so you know.”

Isak laughed again.

“That makes me like you even more.”

Isak blushed, realizing what he just said. He had barely met Even! Did he like him? Well. He was lying on top of Even, without a shirt on, he couldn’t stop thinking about kissing him - it was like a background noise in his brain and especially in his body - so it was safe to assume he liked Even, right? Yes. He liked Even.

Even was quiet for so long that Isak had to open his eyes and look at him. Even didn’t seem to mind Isak liking him, but Isak couldn’t tell for sure. Even just kept looking at him even when Isak looked back.

“What?” Isak asked, suddenly a bit shy again. He trusted Even, yes, but he didn’t trust himself. Even’s smile helped quite a bit with that, though.

“You’re so beautiful. Like an angel.”

Isak closed his eyes and shook his head.

“No. Don’t call me that. I’m not an angel, and I don’t want to be one either.” Angels were creatures of God. The antithesis of sin. Isak wanted many things, and each of them was a sin. Isak nuzzled his face on Even’s shoulder again. “I’m Baby Spice.”

Even chuckled. He buried his nose in Isak’s hair.

“You’re Isak.”

The way Even said Isak’s name was. It was. Different. Isak had never heard his name spoken like that, like the name of a thing that was wonderful and good. Isak hadn’t been happy with being Isak in a very long time, in years, but he would maybe like to be Isak if it meant the things Even meant with that name.

“This is so weird”, Isak said. “Maybe it’s the painkillers and alcohol mixing, I don’t feel drunk, but I might still be and. This is weird.”

Even’s fingers traveled lower, following Isak’s spine. He was barely touching Isak’s back, aware of the bruises.

“I don’t want to get up from here. Like, ever. Isn’t it weird?”

Even hummed softly.

“I like weird. It’s real.”

“Can I stay here?”

“Forever? Yes.”

Isak smiled out loud. It was a tiny sound, but it was bright.

“For now. For tonight.”

“Yes to that as well. Actually, you know what? I’m going to just say yes to anything you want, how about that?”

Isak glanced at the plastic baggie on the table. Even took it and shoved it in the drawer.

“Except that. And anything else that would hurt you.”

“Some people like pain, you know.”

“Mm. You don’t seem like one of those people. But I might be wrong. Am I?”

Isak shook his head. He did so a couple of extra times, just to rub his face on Even a bit more.

“You’re not wrong. I’m not one of those people. I think.”

“If you are, it’s cool by me. Just so you know.”

Isak blushed. Why was he almost talking about sex with Even? In this outfit? His skirt was so short it had ridden half way up over his ass, and the front wasn’t much more covered. Luckily Even was still very dressed.

For now.

Isak grabbed Cobain’s face and scrunched it in his fist. Then he opened his fingers, pressing his palm flat over Even’s chest. He was so. Flat. There was nothing extra in the way.

“I feel like I could tell you anything. Please, don’t let me.”

“First of all I’d like to express that you can. You can tell me anything. Why shouldn’t I let you?”

Isak shrugged with one shoulder. He didn’t really have an explanation. He just felt like it. He didn’t want to. He had been ripped so bare today already, he couldn’t handle much more.

“I can’t take it. Does that make sense?”

“Not really.” Isak’s heart sank a bit. Then he felt Even’s lips on his forehead and his heart started racing. “But it doesn’t have to. We can just lie here and enjoy each other’s company.”

Isak nodded. More than was necessary, because the face rubbing was really nice.

“Sounds great. I’ll have three of those and one to go.”

Isak laid his head back down on Even’s chest. He closed his eyes. He could almost fall asleep right there. He knew he wouldn’t, because he hadn’t slept in a week now, but he was feeling peaceful. His back was still sore and it felt like it was glowing, a dull light, but he didn’t mind it. He was almost happy. He knew it wouldn’t last, but he had it, for now.

Even’s breathing got slower and slower under him. Isak listened to it getting deeper, until the inevitable happened. Even fell asleep. Isak was still awake, wide awake. His eyes open, looking at Kurt on Even’s shirt, his hand resting on Kurt’s neck. He tried to move his fingers a bit. Even didn’t notice. He was fast asleep, and Isak was getting more and more curious by the minute.

He lifted his head carefully. Even stayed asleep. Isak got out of the bed, pulled his skirt down and looked around. The apartment was small, just one room, and a miniscule kitchen that had only a fridge, a sink and a microwave oven in it. No books. Isak had left his Walkman in Jonas’ room with his backpack, it didn’t match his outfit.

Isak saw the VCR. He could watch a video with the sound on mute. He tried to eject the tape to see what it was, but the button didn’t do anything. None of the buttons worked. The display was dark, the stand-by light was off. Isak checked the cord, and noticed it wasn’t plugged. That was easily fixed. Isak pushed the plug into the wall and the VCR lit up.

He took the tape out. It was a camcorder tape, in an adapter. It was something Even had shot himself, or someone he knew. It was personal.

Isak really, really wanted to see it.

But he wasn’t ready. It could have been anything. Maybe even a sex tape. Isak blushed intensely at that thought, and he really wished he could make it go away, but it kept pushing its way back in his brain. He looked at Even on the bed. He would wake up if Isak tried to undress him. It was better to leave him be.

There was another tape, a regular VHS with no markings, on top of the VCR. Isak popped it in and turned the TV on, his thumb ready on the mute button. He managed to turn the audio off before it made any sound. Isak sat down on the floor and scooted backward, as close to the bed as he could without it hitting his back.

He hadn’t seen this movie, but he recognised it from the posters. It was that Romeo and Juliet thing. The tape was really bad, it was a bootleg copy, recorded in a dark theater with a camcorder. But right now it was enough. A distraction was all Isak really needed, and he knew the original story well enough to be able to follow it. He stopped the tape to rewind it. He had all night.

Chapter Text

Isak watched the whole movie four times in a row. He couldn’t be bothered with trying to find some other tape and change it, and Leonardo looked really nice in this one, and the tale as old as time suited Isak’s mood quite well. He needed something like this, a cautionary tale about the perils of rushing blind into love.

The tape stopped whirring with a loud clack. Even’s foot nudged beside Isak’s head. Isak turned to look at Even, and saw that he was starting to wake up. He crawled quickly up on the bed again, next to Even. His bruises didn’t like that, but it didn’t matter. He was getting used to the pain, and he wanted to be the first thing Even saw when he opened his eyes.

“Hi”, Isak whispered, when Even looked at him. His stomach made a somersault in front of that dreamy blue. Then it made a little growling sound. Isak hadn’t really eaten anything in almost 24 hours.

“Hey.” Even yawned and rubbed his eyes. He was trying to wake up faster, but that didn’t seem to work. “What time is it?”

Isak stretched his neck to look at the microwave.

“Nine thirty.”

“Mmh. Sorry, I just blacked out. Have you been up for long?”

Isak shook his head, shy. He wasn’t technically lying, he hadn’t been up because he hadn’t gone down. He was just being.

“It’s okay. Did you sleep well?”

Even smiled a little bit. He rolled on his back and stretched his arms.

“I dreamed about you.”

Isak laughed.

“You did not, you’re just trying to be smooth.”

Even chuckled.

“No, really, I did. I just wish I could remember any details.”

Isak nested his head on Even’s shoulder. Even’s skin smelled so nice. It was so warm. Isak wanted to eat him up.

“Was it a nice dream or a nightmare?”

“Nice. Definitely nice.” Even’s fingers found their way into Isak’s hair. Isak closed his eyes. He was so happy to be here. Privileged.

“Was it a wet dream?”

Even bursted into laughing. His eyes squinted adorably when he laughed from the bottom of his belly.

“I hope I’d wish the details if it was. I think that was just a dream.”

Michael Stipe’s voice started singing in Isak’s head immediately. Just a dream, just a dream, dream. Losing My Religion was one of the songs Isak had learned by heart so he could repeat it in his mind when the tape got recorded over.

Thinking about the tapes made him think about Jonas.

Thinking about Jonas made his heart squeeze into a tight little ball.

His stomach growled again.

“Mm. You’re hungry.” Even wasn’t asking if Isak was hungry, he was stating the fact. And he was right. Isak was hungry. Famished.

“It’s okay”, Isak tried. Even shook his head and wiggled away from under Isak, sitting up on the bed.

“No it’s not. You need breakfast. I could use some, as well. Let’s just hope I have something.” With that, Even got out of the bed. Isak remained in there, just lounging. He rolled over on the spot where Even had been lying, hungry for his warmth still in the sheets. It was a comfy spot to ogle at Even who was bending over in the kitchen, rummaging his tiny fridge all the way to the back.

“I have nothing in here! Nothing! Not even mustard!”

Even sounded like he couldn’t believe how bad the food situation was. Isak giggled a bit at his despair.

“I mean it, I’m fine. I can grab something on my way home.” That was a lie. He didn’t have any money, and he wasn’t going to go home. Where he was going to go, he had no idea. But not home.

“No, no. The corner store is open. I’ll be back in ten minutes. I’m already dressed and all.” Even went to his shoes and pulled them on before Isak had time to stop him. Even patted his pockets, frowning, and then he started going through all the pockets in his jackets.

“Ha! Got it! Even waved his wallet triumphantly in the air and shoved it in his back pocket. “I’ll be back in a minute. Well. Ten minutes. See you soon.”

With that, Even was gone. Isak rushed out of the bed and to the window, and soon enough he saw Even step out into the street. HIs heart was pounding at the sight of him. But then it stopped beating altogether, when someone hurried after Even and touched his arm.

Jonas. Isak tried to press closer to the window, trying to hear what they were saying, but he couldn’t hear anything. Jonas looked worried and agitated, while Even looked. He looked radiating. Isak could only stare at him, like watching fire in the dark desert night.

Jonas and Even looked up at the window. Isak retreated, quickly. Did they see him? His almost naked body pressed against the glass?  Even gave something to Jonas. Keys. He pointed up at the window, saying something, and then he left. Jonas walked towards the building and then disappeared.

Shit. He was coming up, wasn’t he?

Isak needed to get dressed. He didn’t want to wear the top and the skirt from last night, so he raided Even’s closet. It wasn’t too much like trespassing, because like half of the contents were already spilling out on the floor. Isak just picked a T-shirt and a pair of jeans, and pulled them on the same moment he heard keys be turned in the lock.

Jonas stepped in. Isak couldn’t look at him, but he also couldn’t not look at him. Jonas looked like shit. He wasn’t dressed like Scary Spice anymore, but he looked tired, and sad, and scared. Isak was feeling just like that himself.

“Hi”, Isak said, quietly.

“Hi.” Jonas left his shoes and Isak’s backpack by the door and walked to the bed. He collapsed, flat on his belly, and groaned. “Fuck I’m beat.”

Isak didn’t know what to say. He had so much to say, so much explaining to do, but he didn’t know where to start.

Well. There was one thing. One important thing.

“Thank you. For last night. You saved me.”

“You know, out of you three, Mahdi was the best kisser. I’m surprised, to be honest.”

Isak laughed. He had to, he had no other response to give.

“You caught me off guard! I kiss better normally!”

“Keep telling yourself that.” Jonas rolled on his back, then pulled himself sitting up. “But at least I’m the reigning Slutty Spice, so I guess it was all worth it.”

Isak laughed again. But it started to sound more like crying, so he had to stop.

“Fuck, Jonas. I’m so sorry. Fuck!”

“Hey.” Jonas looked at him. His eyes were nothing but kind. Like always. “Come here, Issy.”

Isak came. He walked to the bed and sat down next to Jonas, and lowered his head on Jonas’ shoulder. Jonas wrapped his arm around Isak’s shoulders and gave him something like a sideways hug.

“Why did you run away from us last night? We had to take turns to keep an eye on this house all night, you know.”

Isak blushed. He had made his friends worried. He had been sitting here, watching Romeo+Juliet over and over again, daydreaming, while his friends had been out in the street, waiting.

“I was scared. I am scared.”

“What you did was incredibly stupid, Issy. Kissing a guy like that, when everyone could see you.” Jonas sounded stern. He wasn’t angry, but almost. “I thought you weren’t drunk.”

Isak curled up against Jonas. Jonas was right. It had been stupid. It had been dangerous.

“I know but. I mean.” A wicked glint flashed in Isak’s eyes as he raised his head and looked at Jonas. “Have you seen him? How could I resist?”

Isak waited. He was holding his breath, waiting for Jonas to react to his joke. It felt like a defining moment. Jonas would soon determine if Isak was wrong or not. Profoundly, irreparably wrong.

Jonas stared at him with his mouth open. Then his face melted into a grin and an eye roll combined.

“Okay who are you and what have you done with Issy? My Issy doesn’t run around kissing boys, he sits and watches them for months and months without making any move.”

Isak was laughing but as Jonas kept speaking his laughter died. Jonas was..he was sounding awful lot like he knew. Jonas wasn’t looking at him now, he was looking at their reflection on the TV.

“I mean. I was happy you didn’t make a move, because I don’t think I could have handled having to break your heart, but. I didn’t expect you to get over me so fast.”

Isak was speechless. Jonas had known. He had known, and he had let Isak suffer for so long, with no hope. But Jonas was right. It would have broken his heart. No matter how gently Jonas would have let him down, it would have broken Isak and forced him to leave the gang, and then he would have probably died.

“I mean. It’s stupid, isn’t it? Me being jealous about you, even when I don’t like you like that?”

Jonas turned to look at Isak. Isak wanted to look away, but he couldn’t. He licked his lips, slowly. He was suddenly feeling hungry.

“You don’t?” Isak spoke so quietly. He had lost his voice to the moment. This heavy, suffocating moment that wrapped itself around them, warping time, making it move slower.

“I don’t think so.” Jonas was quiet as well. He was speaking slowly, like feeling every cyllable with his lips before letting it drop from them.

Isak nodded. Barely. He tilted his head just a little. He leaned a bit closer to Jonas, and Jonas leaned in towards him. Isak’s heart was beating faster and louder, his skin was raised into goosebumps, tingling like with electricity.

Someone banged at the door.

Chapter Text

One might have thought it was reckless behaviour to leave an absolute stranger alone in your apartment. With all your stuff. And a bag of heroin, which Even really, really hoped, now that he thought of it, that Isak wouldn’t touch. But he didn’t have a needle. He didn’t own a syringe, because he had no use for one, and Isak wouldn’t be able to shoot up with a safety pin. But did Isak understand that the powder was heroin? What if he thought it was cocaine?

No. Even was being silly. He had said, specifically, that he didn’t have any clean needles. Isak wasn’t stupid. He was an angel, and angels were clever, right? Of course they were. Clever and benevolent and beautiful, pure, real.

And honest.

Isak wouldn’t rob him while he was at the corner store. It was a ridiculous idea. Even stepped out on the street and hurried his steps, eager to get back to Isak and feed him and take care of him and maybe kiss him some more and --

“Oi.”

Someone touched Even’s arm. Even stopped and turned around. This guy looked familiar. Even tried a smile.

“What have you done to my Issy?”

Oh. Right. Scary Spice. From last night. Even’s smile withered a bit. My Issy? Isak would have told him if he had a boyfriend.

“Nothing. Took him home because he had no place to go. Because he asked me to.”

“If you fucking considered hurting him --”

“It wasn’t me! He was hurt when I met him, I swear.” Even stepped back the slightest bit, eyeing Scary. He didn’t seem like the violent type, but you never knew. “He’s perfectly fine. But he’s hungry, and I’m out of food, so I need to go get some.”

“So you left him at your place. Alone. And he’s not tied up to the bed or handcuffed to the radiator or anything?”

Even laughed. Scary sure had a vivid imagination.

“Look. I really need to go buy toast and shit. Here.” Even dug out his keys from his pocket and gave them to Jonas, with his apartment number. “Go see yourself. I’ll be right back.”

With that, Even hurried away. Isak was hungry. He needed to eat, and Even needed to eat, and now that he actually wanted some food he had to act on the impulse. There was no way of telling when the next opportunity would rise. He heard the door open and close, and when he looked over his shoulder Scary was gone. In hindsight, it might have been a super stupid idea to give his keys to someone who was even more stranger. But what was done was done, and he was going somewhere.

And you had to trust people. Otherwise you’d have a lonely life.

Now, for example, Even had two hot young guys in his apartment.

It was a minor detail that he wasn’t in there with them at the moment. He would be soon. He would just run to the store and buy something to eat and hurry back. No biggie. This was something he did all the time. Walked to the store, bought things, walked home. A simple routine procedure.

Even just wished he’d remember the last time he did it. Or, more accurately, he wished he’d remember it having been closer to this day. He was starting to slip. He could feel it. He didn’t think about it because he didn’t want to, and because he was busy thinking about other things, like Isak. Issy.

Even practically ran through the store, shoving random things in his basket. Toast. Cheese. Cereal. Cream, because he accidentally grabbed it instead of milk and couldn’t be bothered to run back to the dairy section. He loaded everything on the counter, paid for it and left with his plastic bag full of things he didn’t remember what they were anymore. All he could think about was Isak, and Scary Spice, alone in his apartment.

Scary had kissed Isak at the party. Even had to stop to catch his breath when the thought impaled his chest. Scary could be kissing Isak right now. That pushed him moving again. He was running now, down the street, up the stairs, he searched for his keys for a moment before he remembered where they were. With Scary.

Even banged on the door. In his head Isak turned his head away from Scary’s kisses, his cheeks flushed, his skirt rolled up to his waist, and told Scary to let Even in, and Scary simply attacked Isak’s neck with his mouth, making Isak forget all about him.

The door opened. It was Scary. Even saw Isak sitting on the bed, he was blushing but he was also fully dressed. In Even’s clothes. That sight made Even feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy inside. Isak looked like his.

“I got the food.” Even pushed inside past Scary, sort of worried Scary would just tell him he lived here with Isak and close the door. Scary did nothing like that, he stepped back so Even could get inside and closed the door with Even on the inside.

Even scurried to the kitchen slash closet to unpack his bag. His heart was racing, and his brain was right behind it, and he simply couldn’t take it anymore. He turned around. He walked to the bed, to Isak, who looked up at him adorably confused and still blushing, and Even cradled Isak’s face gently between his hands, and bent down, and kissed him.

He kissed Isak really properly. Thoroughly. He was tasting every bit of that boy’s mouth, to find out if he could taste a hint of Scary in there. Even knew how he tasted like. Isak seemed surprised, but appreciative. He was kissing Even back, though timidly.

Scary cleared his throat. Even let go of Isak and looked at him over his shoulder.

“I’m not kissing you again.”

Scary rolled his eyes and scoffed.

“Back at you, dude.”

Even shrugged. Whatever. He wasn’t feeling hostile, and neither was Scary. It felt more like they were both just worried. Even was just about to go back to his sad excuse of a kitchen, when Scary grabbed his wrist and pulled his arm out. Even didn’t understand why, until he looked down himself and saw the needle marks. Fuck.

“Issy?” Scary turned to look at Isak, who shook his head. Isak didn’t want to talk about the marks now, thank god. Even pulled his hand back and glared at Scary. Two could play this game, dude.

“Speaking of. Your Issy?”

Direct hit. Scary’s eyes widened a bit, in realization. Isak cocked his head, looking at Even and Scary in turn.

“What?”

Even shrugged, still looking at Scary.

“This dude here asked me that outside. ‘What have you done to my Issy?’ if I recall correctly.” Even did recall correctly, he even nailed the tone. He raised his eyebrow at Scary. “You two dating?”

“What?!” Okay they both blurted that out at the same time. They sounded odd. Like, guilty?

“Jonas is my best friend”, Isak said, and Even was grateful to finally remember Scary’s real name. Jonas. But Isak was still sounding a bit weird. He was probably embarrassed by Jonas’ behaviour.

“And dating a girl”, Jonas added. Even shrugged. Been there, done that.

Isak’s stomach growled loud enough for all three of them to hear it.

“Oh! Right! Breakfast!” Even hurried to finish unpacking the bag. “I hope you guys like cheese toasties. Or cereal. With cream.”

Even could almost hear the look Isak and Jonas exchanged.

“Cheese toasties it is.”

Five minutes later Isak, Even and Jonas were all sitting on the bed, their legs crossed, in a circle or a triangle, and eating away. They were all young guys who were famished, so Even had to make three more rounds before their bellies were filled. Getting some food into them did wonders to their mood, as well. Jonas was actually quite nice, when he wasn’t attacking you to protect his Issy.

When they had eaten Jonas suggested that Isak and him should get going. Isak moved a bit closer to Even. Jonas noticed it, too.

“Issy. Your parents will put your face in posters all over the city if you don’t get back home.”

It was Even’s turn to be protective. He placed his hand on Isak’s knee.

“He’s perfectly fine here.”

Jonas looked at the underside of Even’s arm. Even pulled his hand away and wrapped it around his waist to hide the marks.

“I can’t go home, Jonas. Mom is upset.”

Even noticed those were important words. Mom is upset. They meant something else than they just said. He remembered Isak’s bruises, and how he’d got them.

“Fine”, Jonas sighed. “You can crash in my room for tonight. Okay?”

Isak looked at Even, shyly. Even wanted to pull him in his arms and never let go. But Jonas was right. Isak needed to call his parents, and Even would not be able to talk Isak into doing it. Jonas would. He knew Isak better, he knew which buttons to press.

“I should try to get this place cleaned up. To make some space for us to hang out.”

Isak’s shoulders slumped. Even hurried to touch his face, a brush on his cheek, to let him know Even really, really wanted them to hang out. Soon.

“Come by tomorrow night? I promise to have this shithole sorted out by then. We could watch a movie, maybe? Have you seen Jurassic Park?”

Isak’s eyes lit up.

“I love Jurassic Park.”

“Awesome. I’ll bring the movie and the popcorn, you just bring you. Around seven?”

Isak nodded. Even was happy to just look at him, and his light, but then Jonas made him stop by getting up from the bed.

“Thank you for the toasties, Even. And for looking after Issy. Can I use your bathroom?”

Even allowed it, and when Jonas was out of sight he looked at Isak. He had to steal a kiss from him, and the way Isak kissed him back made it obvious it wasn’t actual theft.

“I don’t want to leave”, Isak whispered, pressing his forehead on Even’s. “What if I never get to come back?”

Even took Isak’s hands in his.

“I promise you, Isak. You can always, always come back here. No matter what. Okay?”

Isak closed his eyes. But he nodded. They kissed one more time, then Jonas got out of the bathroom and started putting his shoes on. He had shoes for Isak in the backpack. Even let Isak keep the clothes for now and return them when he came back.

The door closed. Isak was gone. The place seemed dark and empty now, like the dump it was. Even made a deep sigh and collapsed on his back on the bed, his hands on his face. Fuck, he was so screwed.

Chapter Text

Isak walked with Jonas. He didn’t know what to say, so he didn’t say anything. He wanted to go back to Even and kiss him some more. Like, a lot more. Thinking about those things made him blush, and walk a bit faster, to get a bit further away from Jonas. It didn’t help. Jonas quickened his pace as well, keeping up with him.

Two girls from their class were walking down the street. They giggled as they passed them, and Isak’s heart had just sunken when the braver of them hollared after them.

“Looking good, Slutty Spice!”

The girls started laughing and ran away. The tips of Jonas’ ears were bright red. Isak felt a bit bad for him. Or, like, a lot bad.

“At least it worked”, Jonas said, with half a grin. “And I have Eva. She thought it was brave of me.”

“She’s right!” Then Isak got pale with horror. “Shit. Eva knows? What you did?”

Jonas nodded.

“She won’t tell anyone. She’s a good girl, Issy.”

Isak sucked on his bottom lip for a moment. He was swallowing quite a few words on Eva’s trustworthiness in the past. Besides, he had no options but to trust her. The damage was done, she knew the truth, and all Isak could do was hope she would keep it to herself.

“Neither of us deserve you.”

Jonas rolled his eyes.

“I’m not a fucking saint. Never have been. My life has just been full of easy decisions.”

“Wow. That’s actually deep. Did you come up with it yourself?”

Jonas shrugged.

“Maybe. I don’t know. I listen to so much music I suck great lines in my brain like a sponge.” Jonas puckered his lips and made a slurping sound. It made Isak chuckle a bit. Then he realized he had been looking at Jonas’ lips for way too long and he blushed again. Fuck, this was hard.

“My life has been nothing but hard decisions.”

“Life’s not fair, that’s for sure.”

Jonas was right. Life was not fair. It was tough, and messy, and full of moments that were either wonderful or terrible or both at the same time.

They walked the rest of the way in silence. Jonas half smuggled Isak in his room and locked the door. The concept of having a lock in the door to your room was baffling Isak, like every time. To be a teenager with that level of privacy? Not in Isak’s world.

Jonas turned his stereo on. Notorious BIG, Isak was proud to recognise. Jonas adjusted the volume loud enough to cover their voices in case someone tried to eavesdrop, then he pulled Isak to sit down on the bed with him.

“He’s a drug addict!” Jonas hissed. He had clearly been waiting to say that for quite a while now. “Did you see those needle marks?”

Isak pulled his legs up against his chest and hugged them.

“Yes. He also had a bag of heroin in his pocket.”

“What?! Did he take it when you were in there?”

“No. He put it away.” Isak paused. He wanted to let Jonas know Even was responsible, but that would mean having to confess he had asked to try it. Jonas would never allow him to go see Even ever again if Jonas knew Isak was curious about the drugs. “He didn’t seem high, either.”

“He offered us cereal with cream!”

Isak pressed his forehead to his knees. Jonas was right. Even was high, why else would he have kissed Isak? Anyone who looked like Even did could have done so, so much better.

“I can’t do anything about that”, Isak peeped. Jonas stroked at the back of his neck. He would have patted his back if not for the bruises.

“Is there something to be done in the first place? I mean, are you going to see him again?”

Isak knew Jonas expected him to say no. But he couldn’t do it. He just sat there, his face thankfully hidden, trying to blink his shameful tears away. For quite a bit.

“Seriously?” Jonas didn’t hide his disbelief at all. It made Isak curl up a bit tighter.

“I’m sorry”, he whispered. “I don’t know what happened, I’m the worst person ever, I don’t understand how can I fall for someone just like that when I just was completely in love with you.”

“Hey. Hey. Slow down. I’m not mad at you, Issy, I’m just worried about you. You’re not well.”

Isak sniffled a bit. Of course he wasn’t well, there was clearly something wrong with him. Something very wrong. Jonas let his fingers sink into Isak’s hair. They were so gentle and careful.

“Completely in love with me?”

Ohhhh fuck. Ohh shit. Isak raised his eyes at Jonas, letting Jonas see his despair.

“I thought you knew.” Isak made barely any sound when he tried to speak. His voice was gone.

“I thought that..I don’t know. That you fancied me. That you thought I was hot, and conveniently there. I thought it was a crush but -- Issy, are you telling me you’re in love with me?”

Isak shook his head. Barely. Then he realized he had to use his words too.

“No. It is more than a crush. I loved you. I mean. I love you.”

Jonas stared at Isak. He looked scared, and sad, and sorry.

“I can’t love you back.” Jonas sounded devastated. His outlines were getting fuzzy, as Isak’s eyes filled with tears. Jonas was too good to him, and he couldn’t handle it at all.

“I know.”

“Issy.” Jonas pushed his hand in Isak’s hair again. “I like girls. I love Eva. I guess. But..”

But? Why was Jonas talking about a but with him right now, his hand in Isak’s hair, his fingers wrapping the curls around them? Why was the air feeling so thick and heavy again?

“I mean. Making out with Mahdi wasn’t bad or anything.”

Isak’s heart was beating so loud all of a sudden. He didn’t know if he wanted Jonas to keep talking or to shut up. He couldn’t decide. His life was full of tough choices. And Jonas kept talking.

“If that would help to keep you. I don’t know. Safe? Alive? In general?” Jonas licked his lips. Isak’s eyes were stuck on his tongue. “If it would keep you from going back to that junkie.”

Isak was on the brink of a decision now. Jonas slid his fingers lower, at the back of Isak’s neck.

“We can fool around. Or whatever.”

Jonas kissed him. This time Isak could expect it. It didn’t help much. He still didn’t really kiss Jonas back, not at first. It didn’t seem to bother Jonas. He kept going, calmly, gently, it was a really loving kiss in its way, Isak just wasn’t ready for it. He was kissing Jonas. This was his dream coming true. He was in Jonas’ room and they were kissing on his bed, and Isak’s whole body was being filled with weird, vibrant energy. He felt alive. It was the same feeling he had running in the dark with his hand in Even’s hand.

But Jonas was right.

This was safe. Even was dangerous. He was so, so tempting, but he was bad news and trouble. Jonas was only good things. He was all the good in Isak’s life, had been for years. Isak moved his lips, just a bit, just to try it. He moved them like he had moved them on Edward’s mouth in his room.

Jonas was encouraged by that. He moved his body closer to Isak’s. He guided Isak with his own movements, on his back on the bed, and Isak followed that lead. He moved his mouth again, and again, and then he was kissing Jonas. He was kissing Jonas, and Jonas was on top of him, and he was warm, so warm, and so lovely, and so safe.

This was a dream come true. Isak was warming up to the idea more and more. He slipped his hand under the hem of Jonas’ shirt, on his waist, and Jonas made a little sound into the kiss. That sound traveled down Isak’s spine right into his groin, and he couldn’t help it, he was getting hard. Maybe it was a good thing. Maybe Jonas would notice and want to stop.

Isak didn’t want to stop, and that was bad. That meant he wouldn’t be able to stop this from happening. He couldn’t stop corrupting and tainting Jonas. He couldn’t stop ruining their friendship forever. He was too weak.

“Jonas..” Isak mumbled, in a desperate try. Please, Jonas. You’ve read Isak’s mind before, read it now.

“Mhm?” Jonas didn’t seem to get enough of Isak’s lips. He ran his fingers along Isak’s chest, not unlike Isak had done with Even.

“Why?”

Jonas stopped. He rolled off Isak, on his side on the bed, right next to him. He kept touching Isak’s hair.

“I don’t know”, Jonas whispered. He sounded almost shy. He totally didn’t sound like Jonas, or like someone who had kissed Isak the way Jonas had just done. “I mean, I love you. You’re my best friend, and I can’t stand the thought of losing you to some..junkie.”

This should have felt so much better. Lying in Jonas’ bed after kissing him and listening Jonas tell how much he loved him. Isak was impossible to please, wasn’t he?

“You’ll never lose me to anyone.”

“He literally held your hand and took you away from me, Issy.”

Isak closed his eyes. Jonas was right. Isak had followed Even, because he had wanted to run away from it all. Also from his friends.

“Is this what you think I want from you? Kissing me? Touching me? Telling you love me and that I still can’t have you?”

Jonas blushed. He didn’t look at Isak at first, he looked down, and Isak was almost scared to see Jonas like that because this was the first time Jonas had looked like this. This fragile. Jonas was the coolest guy Isak knew, with his skateboard and his graffiti and his music, and here Jonas now was, scared and shy.

“I want to kiss you. I want to touch you. And I do love you.”

“But I can’t have you?”

Jonas closed his eyes and pursed his lips. He shook his head, just the tiniest bit.

“I’m not like that, Issy.”

But Even is, Isak thought, wrapping his arms around Jonas to comfort him. Even is.

Chapter Text

They laid there for a long time. Isak embracing Jonas, who was sniffling every now and then, his face buried against Isak. His tears making Isak’s shirt wet. It didn’t matter. Isak couldn’t probably count far enough to list all the times he had done the same to Jonas. Jonas comforting him. Jonas making him feel like he wasn’t all alone in the world, and that the pain would stop eventually.

Jonas just was way, way better at this than Isak was. Isak had no idea what to say. So he didn’t say anything. He just held Jonas, and let Jonas press tighter against him. And tighter. And tighter. Jonas wrapped his leg around Isak’s.

“Did you do it?” Jonas whispered somewhere on Isak’s collarbones. Isak almost choked.

“No! I barely know his name!”

Jonas chuckled softly. He stroked at Isak’s chest again, absent mindedly. It felt good.

“You’re a good boy, Issy.”

Isak sighed. He closed his eyes and tried to relax. It was just hard to relax when Jonas was this close to him, touching him like this.

“I’m not. I’m really not.”

“Did he touch you?”

Isak blushed. Jonas was being weird. Or no, he wasn’t, he was asking the same exact questions they all had been asking ever since Jonas finally got it on with Eva, but still. They hadn’t been wrapped around Jonas like this when asking those questions.

“Not anything..interesting.”

Jonas laughed softly. He was seeming to be on a better mood. That was a relief, but that was about the only thing right now that wasn’t weird or scary or really, really tempting.

“Nothing interesting? I’d love to know what you find interesting.”

“You know! Anything naughty.”

Jonas ran his hand down Isak’s chest and to his side. It felt really nice. Isak was breathing slower, still trying to wrap his mind around all this. Jonas kissing him. Jonas touching him. Jonas fooling around with him. To keep him away from Even, the dangerous junkie. Jonas was a true fried, but Isak was pretty sure that fooling around with your friend wasn’t one of the requirements.

“Is this naughty?” Jonas asked. Isak shook his head. It wasn’t. Not naughty at all. All nice.

Jonas slipped his fingers under Isak’s shirt. On bare skin, that rippled in shivers under the touch. Isak’s abs pulled in, his chest pushed out, he was moving like a wave. Jonas was the moon pulling his tide.

“How about this?”

Jonas’ breath was hot against the side of Isak’s neck. His movements were focused. Determined. Isak  was powerless against this.

“I don’t -- maybe a bit?”

Jonas moved. He slipped his whole leg over Isak, and let the rest of his body follow it, and then he was straddling Isak’s thighs. Isak looked up at him. Jonas, towering over him, so strong and hot. Jonas pushed his hands along Isak’s sides, pulling the shirt up with them. Isak was like wax in his hands. The shirt was bunched up under his armpits and Jonas moved his hands again. On bare skin. His thumbs pressed on Isak’s stomach, his fingers along his waistline.

“This?”

Isak was panting now. He was squirming, helpless. His body didn’t belong to him now, it belonged to Jonas.

“Oh..yes. Yes.” This was very, very naughty. Jonas was being naughty and bad, and then Jonas pulled his own shirt over his head and pressed his body against Isak’s. His skin felt so warm. Hot. Smooth. And when Jonas kissed him Isak kissed back.

Isak could feel something against his thigh. It was Jonas. Jonas was hard. It felt so hot. Touching and kissing Isak had made Jonas hard. Isak kissed Jonas deeper, wetter, to enourage him to keep going. He knew this was wrong. He knew he wasn’t supposed to do this with Jonas. To Jonas. Because Jonas wasn’t like this.

Isak was. It was painfully obvious. Isak was exactly like this, like someone who kissed boys and let boys touch him and got hard because of it. Someone who wanted to never stop touching a boy. But he had to let Jonas step away. Isak turned his face to the side and pushed his thigh up a bit, between Jonas’ legs, in a rubbing motion that made Jonas moan softly.

Jonas didn’t get up. He didn’t roll off Isak and stop all this. Instead, he pressed his hips harder against Isak, and he nudged them, making them both freeze and shake at the same time. It was so, so naughty. Definitely naughty.

Isak grabbed Jonas’ face and pulled him into another kiss. Jonas kissed him hard, his tongue tasting Isak’s mouth. He grinded his hips against Isak’s thigh, rubbing his hard dick on him. Isak was almost touching it. There were just some thin layers of clothing in between. His own dick was throbbing now, desperate to be touched, but he didn’t touch it. He didn’t want to. He didn’t dare. It would have been too naughty.

Jonas was moaning and panting into Isak’s mouth now. He was moving his hips faster, pressing harder against Isak, and this was definitely the hottest, wettest thing Isak could ever dream about.

“Oh, Issy..” Jonas murmured, nibbling at Isak’s lips with his own. “You feel so great. Like a real little faggot.”

Isak froze. He got it, Jonas was just saying dirty things, things that turned him on, but. That wasn’t right. That didn’t feel right. Isak wanted to squirm away from under Jonas, but Jonas hadn’t noticed anything was off and he was having such a great time, that Isak had no heart. He knew what it was like to want something you weren’t supposed to, and he knew how it felt to be given exactly that, and he couldn’t take it away from Jonas.

Jonas grabbed Isak’s shoulders and rubbed himself harder against Isak’s thigh. Isak was just about to see Jonas come. He looked at Jonas through the crack of his eyelids. Jonas and his flushed neck, his glistening forehead, his eyelashes fluttering against his cheeks. His cracked lips, tiny little sounds escaping through them, and then it was over. Jonas came in his pants, and collapsed on top of Isak, and it was over.

Isak wrapped his arms around Jonas, slowly. His fingers enjoyed the feel of the bare skin now that they still could.

“I will always love you”, Isak whispered in Jonas’ ear. “Please call mom and tell her I’m alright. She likes you.”

Before what was happening sunk in Jonas’ orgasm fried brain, Isak was out of the bed. He was still mostly dressed, too. He just pulled his shirt down, picked up his backpack from the floor and he was ready to go. Isak was out the front door before he could hear Jonas call his name after him.

He didn’t stop running.

The summer sun was shining bright, making Isak’s eyes sting and water. The weather was in such a sharp contrast to his mood it felt like mocking. Isak rubbed his eyes angrily and stopped to dig his Walkman out of his backpack. He needed music to suppress the voices inside his head. Even, Jonas, mom, they all needed to shut the fuck up.

When Isak heard the wheels against the asphalt it was too late. Jonas hopped off his board right next to Isak, but he had been going so fast he had to run a couple of steps so he didn’t fall down. He kicked his board upright and grabbed it, then turned to face Isak.

“Issy. Don’t.”

Isak blinked, confused. Don’t. Just don’t. Huh?

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t go. Don’t leave me. Don’t run away.”

Isak wasn’t sure if any of those was what he was going to do. Then again, he didn’t know what he was going to do in general.

“Jonas, I can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

Isak sighed. He shook his head.

“I just can’t. I get it, you’re not --” Isak couldn’t say the word out loud, his label, not after what Jonas had just said and done. “-- like me. But I am. And I can’t.”

Isak closed his eyes for a bit. He was so tired. He was so, so fucking tired. He just wanted to crawl into his bed and sleep. Maybe mom wouldn’t be home, and Isak could raid the medicine cabinet for her pills. She had some mild sedatives in there, from years back, pills she never took but never threw away either. Isak would get caught stealing them, but he was too tired to care.

Jonas made a pained sound that made Isak open his eyes again. Jonas was biting his bottom lip so hard Isak was worried he’d break the skin soon.

“I’m not gay.”

“I am.”

Isak had expected more. He had thought that when he said those words the ground would split in half and hellfire would engulf him. Or that the sky would crack and a lightning bolt would smite him. Or anything. Any little sign that something had now changed forever. But he didn’t get any. To the rest of the world this was just a normal, beautiful summer day.

Isak sighed. He rubbed at the back of his neck and turned halfway away from Jonas. He just couldn’t deal with this right now, he could barely carry himself. He couldn’t carry Jonas too, no matter how much he owed it to Jonas.

“Look, Jonas, I’m beat. I’m just going to go home and suffer my punishment and call you when I’m off the hook, okay?”

“Issy..”

“It’s okay. Seeing my bruises always makes mom stop. Until they’ve faded I’m good.”

“Just. Be careful. Okay?”

“Stay away from junkies?”

Jonas tried to laugh, but it didn’t really sound right.

“Something like that.”

Isak nodded. He wanted to hug Jonas, but he was worried Jonas might not let go. So he just kind of waved his hand, turned around and pulled the earphones on his head.

I’m the fear addicted, danger illustrated

Chapter Text

Isak never came back to Even.

Even waited for him the whole night, sitting by the window, looking outside, but Isak didn’t come. He waited the next day, too, and the next night. He dozed off every now and then, but most of the time he just stared out through his window, convinced that if he just kept looking, Isak would come.

But he didn’t.

When Even finally understood Isak wasn’t coming he was drained. His body was filled with exhaustion from the tip of his toes to the top of his head, and he had to crawl to bed. Even curled up under his blanket and basically lost his consciousness for twelve hours straight. He didn’t even dream. There was nothing, not even black.

He woke up feeling like shit. He hadn’t eaten anything but cheese toast and cereal with cream in days, and now he was feeling rather withered. Wilted. He needed nourishment, and he needed a plan, and most importantly he needed a shower. Even forced himself up and about and dragged his ass to the bathroom.

As always, getting a shower and a fresh, clean set of clothes made Even feel a million times better. He looked better, as well, and his eyes were grateful for him having finally washed off all the remains of the eyeliner. Even fiddled with the pencil for a moment but decided to give his eyes a well earned day off.

Next, dinner. Or was it breakfast. Lunch? Even had no idea what time it was. It was summer, so looking out of the window didn’t do him any good. He had taken the battery off his clock a bit over a day ago, because the ticking had reminded him of all the seconds he had been spending without Isak.

Well, then. If the corner shop was closed it would be either before eight or after four. If the department store was closed too, it would be before eight or after eight, and Even would have to walk all the way over to the gas station and hope it wasn’t before seven or after ten.

The corner shop was open. Even grabbed a microwave pizza and a big bottle of Pepsi - Coke was for sheeple, who had no taste buds - and didn’t realize until half way back home that he could have asked the cashier what time it was. It didn’t matter. It was meal time. It was the hour without Isak.

While the microwave was humming Even sipped on his soda. The sticky, fizzy liquid gave him the sugar rush he had expected it to. It was just what he needed, a burst of energy, to get his brain going. When he’d get something in his belly as well he could hatch a plan to get Isak’s attention again.

Isak was probably with that Jonas. Even chose to not think about that any further. He would meet Isak again, because they were written in the stars, and no hunky skater boy had any say on that.

The microwave made a ding! and Even pulled his pizza out of it. It hadn’t heated up eavenly. Thank you, shitty cheap microwave oven. While some parts of the pizza were almost cold, some bits were scalding. It didn’t matter. Even’s sugar pumped brain was already working on other things, and his hands just shoved food mechanically into his mouth. He didn’t even taste it.

He needed to see Isak. He needed to taste Isak.

He did know where Isak lived. The last time hadn’t been a success, though. He had been sitting outside the house, like an idiot, for hours on end, and it was possible that someone would remember seeing him before if he went back, and they might call the cops on him. That would have been bad, especially since Even was still in possession of two shots of heroin.

Even looked at the phone. He didn’t have Isak’s number...but he did know where Isak lived. That was enough. Unless their number wasn’t in the book, but that wasn’t likely. Even shoved the rest of the pizza in his mouth with his palm and tried to chew without choking in it. It wasn’t easy. For a moment Even felt like he would choke on his food, but he managed to swallow the doughy lump with great struggle. He guzzled half a bottle of Pepsi to wash the pizza down. The burp he made immediately after that was the loudest known to man.

“Heh. Nice.” Too bad nobody was around to hear him.

Hm. He was just thinking about something, wasn’t he? What was it? Even walked around the apartment, frowning, trying to remember what he was going to do next. He looked in the mirror, trying to see if something was missing. He looked alright. A bit sad. Why was he sad?

Fuck. Even pressed his hand on his mouth, then he rubbed at his temples with his fingertips. He was losing it. He really was losing it again, and he didn’t want to, he couldn’t. But he could feel it. Even ran his fingers along his arm up to his shoulder blade, trying to feel the seams that were just about to burst. He was about to fall apart. He needed help.

He needed an angel.

Isak.

The moment Isak’s smile pierced Even’s brain he was focused again. He knew what he was doing, where he was going, and why. He grabbed his keys and his wallet. His shoes were, to his delight, still on his feet. He had forgotten to take them off when he came home, which was very convenient now that he was in a hurry to get to the phone booth before he would forget why he went there.

He didn’t forget. Because seeing the phone booth made him remember Isak, and his pure anger, his true emotions out on display for all the world to see. This wasn’t the same booth, sadly, Even was sure that the one Isak had been screaming inside still had an echo of him left. But this one was empty, and silent, but it had what Even had come for: a phone book.

Even flipped through the map pages until he found his home street. He followed the route to Isak’s house with his fingertip, drawing it on the map as he walked the streets in his head, until he reached the street Isak’s house was on. He closed his eyes and looked around the street, at the house where Isak lived. He was sure this was the right street. The map didn’t have house numbers, but the street name was probably enough. Even had checked the name on the mailbox, and he was sure there would be no other Isak Valtersen living on the same street.

Even kept repeating the name of the street all the way back inside. Calling the number service on a payphone would have been madness, it would have cost way too much. Even hurried up the stairs two at a time, and the second he got inside he dashed for the eyeliner and wrote the street name on the mirror with it.

A quick call to the number services later there was a phone number below the street name. Even shrugged, and wrote ISAK, MY PERFECT ANGEL under the number. Just in case he would forget. He sometimes forgot things. Important things. He would not forget Isak, because he was not going to let himself do that.

Even’s hand was shaking as he dialed the number. The beeps of the buttons sounded like a song. Even was humming to the tune while he waited for Isak to pick up. It rang once. Twice. Three times.

“Hello?”

It was a woman. She didn’t sound like a nice woman. Her voice made Even’s mouth taste like metal, and all she had said was hello.

“Uh, yes, hello, madam. This is Even Bech Næsheim speaking.” Even used his best, most charming tone. Older ladies were crazy for it, a bit of boyish charm with some old fashioned politeness. “I was wondering, if Isak could come to the phone?”

“No.”

Okay, she wasn’t impressed. One bit. Even squeezed the handle a bit harder.

“Oh? He’s not home?”

“He’s home. Tonight, tomorrow night, the night after that too. But he is not available. He is grounded for the rest of the summer.”

Even frowned. He had been grounded too, for long periods of time, but never ever for the entire summer. Still, Even had to do a tiny little happy dance. Isak hadn’t come to him because he was grounded, not because he was busy making out with Jonas. Then he realized that the real problem was Isak not being able to come to him for the rest of the summer. That wouldn’t do.

“But madam, I really need to speak with him. It’s important. Please.”

“I already told you, boy. He is grounded.” The tone she used when calling Even a boy was chilling. Ice cold. “Please don’t call again. You will see him at school. Unfortunately.”

She hung up. Even was still standing there, phone in hand, staring at his image through the lattice of the letters on the mirror and listening to the monotone, continuous tune. At school? Even couldn’t wait that long. Especially since there was no way of knowing if he could start school in the fall. By the look of things right now that didn’t seem too likely. He was losing it, and without Isak he wouldn’t stand a chance. He needed a star he could follow so he could sail his way through these waters. White areas on the map. Here be dragons.

Even focused his eyes on the surface of the mirror. Isak, my perfect angel. Juliet, trapped on her balcony. Even remembered the bruises on Isak’s back, and finally hung up the phone, shivering with disgust. That vile woman had laid her hands on Isak.

She would regret that soon enough.

Chapter Text

The painkillers made everything fuzzy. Or maybe Isak was just tired, or maybe the pills he had stolen from mom were still kicking, almost two days later. They had been old, maybe they weren’t good anymore. Whatever the reason, Isak was looking at Edward through a haze, like inside a cloud. Edward’s mouth was a tight line of disapproval. He knew Isak had cheated on him, and he knew Isak got to pay the price for it.

“I’m sorry”, Isak whispered. “I should have known better.”

Jonas hadn’t called him once. It was no surprise. Isak had seduced him, tempted him to step over the line to the dark side, and Jonas was absolutely right to stay away from him so he couldn’t do that again.

Thinking about Jonas made Isak look at his door. Mom had hammered four nails into it and wrapped all the pulled out tapes around them in the form of a cross. Isak had no idea where his Walkman was, or if it was broken too, or if the tape inside was also gutted like a slaughtered lamb. Isak looked at the cross through the permanent mist in his eyes and tried to feel comforted. He really tried.

Someone knocked on his window. Isak had a heart attack. He spun around and saw someone behind the glass, someone fair and tall, and his mouth and throat parched up. It wasn’t. It couldn’t have been. It was impossible.

“Even?” Isak tried to whisper, but he couldn’t make a sound. The boy waved at him through the glass, smiling. Isak rubbed his eyes. He must have been sleeping. That’s why everything was hazy, he was asleep. But Even knocked again, louder, and mouthed let me in at him. Isak almost shook his head.

He should have shaken his head and sent Even away. But when he stood up, pain lashed through his body and reminded him of the hell he was in right now, and his heart rebeled. Isak dragged his feet to the window and opened it. Before he could stop him, Even had slipped into his room.

“Hi”, Even said. Isak shook his head, horrified, and covered Even’s mouth.

“Shhh! They’ll hear you!” Isak was whispering, angrily, and his legs were shaking a bit. Even was really here. This wasn’t a dream. Even was here, in flesh, in Isak’s room, and mom and dad were downstairs watching TV.

That was absurd. And wrong. And incredible.

And incredibly dangerous.

Even smiled into Isak’s hand. Then he stepped back and looked over Isak’s shoulder, at the door.

“Wow, that’s really cool. Did you make it yourself?”

Isak didn’t understand. He turned to look at what Even was looking, and saw the cross. His stomach curled up into a tight little ball. Even thought Isak had made it as some art project. Where Isak saw the destruction and smoking ruins of his whole life, Even saw beauty. Isak had to sit down on his bed, because his legs couldn’t hold his weight up anymore.

“Issy?” Even turned around and knelt on the floor in front of Isak. Isak just looked at him, frozen. He couldn’t move, or speak, he was holding together so barely that a single breath might have made him crumble on the floor.

He couldn’t believe Even was really there.

The way Even looked at him made him feel. Alright. He was okay, he was okay to be what he was, whenever Even was looking at him, because to Even he was something wonderful. Isak could read it clearly on Even’s face. Even thought he was wonderful. Even was happy to be looking at him. To Even Isak wasn’t an abomination or a disappointment, or something stained but alluring.

Even knew what Isak was.

And he still looked at Isak like that.

“Hold me”, Isak pleaded, barely audibly. He was falling apart. He needed Even to hold him together, now that Jonas wasn’t around to do it anymore. Jonas had shattered something in Isak, in a way that made it impossible for him to keep living his life like he used to, and then he had been taken from Isak so he was left to fend for himself against the terrible void.

Even got up and pushed himself forward, toward Isak, at the same time, making Isak tip over on his back on the bed and Even enveloping him, on top of him, like a blanket. Isak tried not to, but he winced with pain. Even noticed, and tried to let go, but Isak clinged to him and pulled him closer.

“Hold me.”

The song started playing in Isak’s head. Jonas had put it on one of the mix tapes, and it had made Isak have a little heart attack when it started playing. He had been searching messages desperately back then, and something like Hold me, thrill me, kiss me, kill me had been really, really hard to not interpret as an invitation. Thinking about the song and Jonas, and how what Jonas had done with him had been exactly like the song said, made Isak shake in Even’s arms.

This was incredibly dangerous.

Isak’s door didn’t have any other lock than the cross, that was keeping him inside for the rest of the summer. Mom or dad could walk in any time. They usually didn’t, but if they did now, Isak would be taken out of Nissen and home schooled, and he wouldn’t leave his room until he graduated.

None of that mattered right now. Because Isak was about to fall apart, and Even was the force that kept him together, and alive, and feeling, and feeling in the amounts that made it possible to feel something in particular instead of a huge, general mass of “bad”. Isak felt, against all reason, safe.

“Kiss me”, Isak whispered.

Even kissed him. His lips were so warm and soft, and his mouth felt so good, and Isak drowned himself into the kiss. He let it take him over completely, he let his shaking be transformed from shattering into impatience and thirst. His desperation was still there, but now he was desperate for something much, much better.

Even pushed his hand under Isak’s shirt. Isak hadn’t prepared for it, and he flinched and squaked, and Even stopped kissing him. Isak tried to catch his lips again with his own, but Even sat up, straddling Isak. He grabbed the hem of Isak’s shirt and rolled it up, slowly, to reveal the imprints of the belt buckle. They stood out clearly, with scabs from cuts the tongue of the buckle had made, and Isak could see Even’s face darken.

“Who did this to you?”

Isak closed his eyes. He remembered the sound the buckle made when it slashed through the air before hitting him.

“I made mom upset when I ran away from home like that.” Isak spoke quietly. He was so embarrassed. He couldn’t look at Even. “So dad got enough of my shit.”

Even’s weight disappeared from Isak. Isak’s eyes snapped open and he sat up, too fast, he was seeing black spots and the mist that surrounded him got thicker for a moment.

“Even?”

“I’m going to fucking kill him.” Even’s voice was coming from closer to the door. No. No. Isak tried to get up on his feet but he got tangled with his legs and couldn’t.

“No. Even, don’t. Don’t kill my dad. Please!” It was hard to stay quiet when you were this panicked. But they had to stay quiet. At least Isak’s vision cleared up again and he could see Even. He was by the door.

Isak needed to bring Even back to him. Now.

“Even.” Isak was almost whispering again. His voice was low and dark, and it made Even turn his head and look at him. Isak pressed his chin a bit and bit his lip, and leaned back on his hand. He used his free hand to pop open the top button of his jeans. “Come back to bed.”

Even stared at him, frozen. Isak couldn’t see from his face what he was thinking, but his eyes seemed more blue than usual. Isak kept going. He popped the second button, then the last one, and leaned back on his both hands. His Bugs Bunny boxers appeated to capture Even’s attention. If Isak only managed to keep Even from noticing the bruises again this might actually work.

“Come here”, Isak whispered, as softly as he could. His heart was beating so loud in his ears there was no use of him trying to hear if his parents were approaching. All he could do was hope for the best. That he would be attractive enough to make a vengeful man’s head turn, and that they wouldn’t be disturbed.

Isak lowered himself down, leaning on his elbows. He kept his eyes on Even, biting his lip. When Even stepped towards him he was shaking again. He wasn’t sure if he was more scared that Even would take his offer, or that he would reject it. If Even would turn down Isak’s battered body offered to him, it would hurt more than the belt buckle had.

“Wait”, Isak whispered. Even stopped mid step. “Turn off the lights.”

Even reached behind him and flicked the switch. The room didn’t really get dark, the sky was still light outside the window, but it was enough to make everything sort of blue and soft. Even opened his mouth to say something, but Isak shook his head.

“Shh. They might hear us. Don’t make a sound.”

Even nodded. Then he walked to the bed, to Isak, and got down on his knees on the floor in front of him. Isak leaned down, grabbed Even from behind the neck with both hands, and kissed him. Come on, Even. There’s no need to leave this room, no need at all. Right?

The kiss got really heated really quick. It reminded Isak of the kisses he had shared with Jonas, but they were less frantic. Neither of them had anything to prove or fear. They were kissing each other just because they really, really wanted to. Isak leaned in lower, reaching down with his hands, and grabbed Even’s shirt. He pulled it up, over Even’s shoulders, head and hands, and threw it on the floor. Even hesitated with Isak’s shirt. Isak kept nibbling on his lips with his own, to encourage him.

“It’s okay. Just don’t look.”

Isak helped Even to take the shirt off him. It didn’t hurt. It was uncomfortable, but it didn’t matter. He wanted something more than comfort. Isak slid down on his knees on the floor, wedging his body between Even and the bed, and all that skin on skin made his blood rush downward.

It was insane. It was dangerous. It was impossible. But Isak was pressing his own erection against another one, his mouth against a boy’s mouth, his beaten and battered body onto a body like his own, only with less marks. While his parents were home.

It was so scary.

Isak was so tired of being scared all the time.

Even kissed him over and over again, but the kisses didn’t seem to be going any further. Even seemed happy with just kissing him, their bodies pressed tightly together, their hands roaming on bare skin but not  below the waist. Isak wasn’t feeling fuzzy anymore, or hazy. Everything was sharp and clear and beautiful, and he was disappearing into him and Even, and he was safe.

Chapter Text

When Even pushed Isak’s hand away gently but firmly for the third time, Isak finally stopped trying to touch Even’s crotch. It wasn’t that he really, really wanted to touch Even like that - though he kind of did - but that Isak felt like he was supposed to do it. They had been kissing without shirts on for what felt like hours, and all that time they both had been more or less hard, their bodies hungry for release.

It was frustrating, but it was clear. They weren’t ready. Especially not right here and now, where they could have been discovered any moment. Isak knew already that he wanted Even to be his first, but not here. Not now. It was just so hard to remember. They both forgot it in turn. Isak had pushed Even’s hand away as many times as Even had pushed away his, but the memory of those touches remained.

Finally they had to either stop or go further. They stopped. They fastened their jeans and pulled their shirts on, and then they were sitting on the edge of the bed, hand in hand, silent and still blushing at what they had just done.

Isak was so happy.

And so scared. He wanted to ask Even why he had come, why he had taken a risk like this, but he knew already. Even was high. It all made sense in that light. Even kissing him at the party. Even taking him in like that, without any questions. Even’s violent tendencies towards Isak’s parents. Him asking Jonas to just come in his apartment when he was away himself. Even was a junkie. He was on drugs.

No wonder he wanted to kiss Isak.

Isak wanted to tell Even so many things. But he didn’t dare. All of them would have made Even angry and want to go downstairs and get Isak killed if he was lucky. Of course his parents wouldn’t actually murder him, but they could and would reduce his whole life into so little it would have the same effect.

He wanted to tell Even what happened with Jonas, but that would have made him sound like a slut. Which he kind of was, but he didn’t want Even to know that. He didn’t want Even to stop looking at him the way he did now. Isak closed his eyes, sighed and rested his head on Even’s shoulder. He didn’t know that you could be at your most happiest and sad at the same time.

Even felt so warm. He felt so real. He felt like everything that could be but wasn’t just yet. Isak was seventeen, his last year as a child, and his whole life was opening up in front of him so fast, like a ring of paper streamer someone blew into. It was all just a whir of colours, beautiful but untangible. His chrysalis was ripping at the seams, his skin was too tight for him, and something violent and liberating was just on the brink of happening.

“You should go”, Isak whispered, reluctantly. He knew they were pressing their luck. Even had been in here for too long already. Isak’s lips were puffy from all the kissing, his skin was almost sore from all the touches. His heart from all the fluttering. He needed a break. He needed to breathe without passion or fear. If he could still remember how.

“I’ll come back.”

“No.” Isak shook his head and squeezed Even’s hand. “Please, don’t. Mom will calm down soon, and if she doesn’t get something else to be nervous about I’ll be out of here soon enough.”

Even chuckled, brushing his lips gently on Isak’s hair.

“Soon enough? Impossible.”

It made Isak giggle a bit as well. It felt good. To be wanted. To know someone missed him.

“Even, please. Promise me you won’t come. I’ll call you when I’m free. Okay?”

Even was quiet for a moment.

“I’m not sure I remember my number. I don’t ever call myself.”

Isak got serious again. Even was bad news. Was he so high all the time he couldn’t remember his own number? Isak didn’t want to confront Even about that now, or about anything, now that everything was so nice and warm and soft. He didn’t want to make Even upset.

“It’s okay. I’ll just come by, then.”

“I might be in the book. Most likely.”

Isak was just about to ask Even’s full name, blushing at the realization he didn’t know it already, when he heard steps from the stairs. He jumped up on his feet and pulled Even with him.

“Mom”, Isak hissed. “Leave! Now!”

Isak pushed Even to the window, maybe harder than necessary. He didn’t have time to even stop and consider that Even might fall because of all the shoving. He had to get Even out the window, and that had to happen immediately. The second Even’s heel was out the window someone turned the handle of Isak’s door. Isak didn’t even have time to say goodbye, he just yanked the curtains in front of the window and turned around to face his mother.

“Isak? I heard voices from upstairs.” Mom was talking calmly, but her eyes were restless and her fingers fidgety. She wasn’t all there yet. Dad appearing to the top of the stairs behind her proved it. He was here to keep an eye on her, but thanks to the sore spots all over Isak’s skin his presense wasn’t really soothing. Isak wasn’t mad at him, but his body remembered, and it cowered.

“I was just praying, mom.”

Seeing his mother like this made Isak’s heart ache. This summer had been a difficult one for her. The new prayer circle at church last spring had been dismantled for a reason, but for mom it had been a bit too late. She got upset more easily these days, and her fits lasted longer than before. Especially this stage, the worst days, when mom was almost but not quite here. The days when she understood herself that something was wrong, but couldn’t do anything about it but pray.

Some days Isak did pray for real. He prayed that mom would get better. He prayed that this wasn’t hereditary.

“I’ll keep it down.”

Mom turned her eyes from the cross on the door to her son. She blinked, confused, then smiled to hide her confusion.

“Don’t worry about it, love. Should we get pizza for dinner? I’m a bit tired.”

Isak looked at dad over her shoulder. Pizza? It was almost the middle of the night, no pizza place would be open anymore. Dad nodded, and Isak nodded too.

“Sounds great, mom.”

Mom raised her hand and patted Isak’s cheek, like she used to do when he was little. Isak felt a bit sick to his stomach, lying to mom like this. But mom wasn’t well. It wasn’t her fault. And it wasn’t her fault that her son was broken.

“You’re a good boy, Isak.”

Isak had to stop blinking for a bit to keep all the water in his eyes.

“I love you, mom.”

“I love you too. No olives for you, right?”

“Right.”

Mom patted Isak’s cheek one more time and left the room. She paused to look at dad, probably wondering what he was doing there, but as dad offered her his arm to walk her down the stairs she giggled like a young girl and slipped her arm under dad’s. Dad looked over his shoulder at Isak, mouthed thank you and walked mom downstairs.

Isak closed his door and wiped his eyes with the back of his palm. If dad would convince mom to let Isak come downstairs for breakfast tomorrow morning, he should be ungrounded by the weekend. If he didn’t act up again. If he didn’t do something stupid, like disappear for the night and steal sedatives from the medicine cabinet.

Or sneak a boy up in his room and kiss him half dressed. Isak rushed to the window and cracked the curtains, and he didn’t know which he was more afraid to find: Even lying on the ground, fallen, or sitting on the drain pipe, waiting, or no Even at all. Every option was terrible for a different reason.

Even wasn’t there. Isak sighed, relieved and disappointed, and pulled the curtains all the way open again. The summer night and all its promise flooded into his room. All Isak’s friends were probably out there, living their youth, enjoying it. Jonas was probably with Eva. They were probably in bed together. Jonas would press himself against Eva’s thigh, kissing her like he had kissed Isak. Did Jonas think about that, or had he pushed it off his mind?

Isak should have stopped thinking about Jonas. It didn’t feel right. He now knew what Jonas tasted like, and that made him and Jonas adulterers. Wicked. Sinners. Isak could maybe, possibly, consider the idea that being gay didn’t make him a sinner, but what he had done with Jonas? That definitely did.

The worst part was, that Isak didn’t know if he’d gone all the way if he hadn’t met Even. He probably would have. He would have slept with Jonas, or at least begged Jonas to sleep with him, and that was. It was sickening, wasn’t it? Eva hadn’t done anything to deserve to be treated like that. Sure, they weren’t married, or even engaged, but some promises had been made for sure, and Jonas had broken those promises because of Isak.

Isak turned his back to the night and the summer, and looked at the cross on his door. He walked to it, slowly, like walking to communion at church. The wrinkled up plastic strips glistened in the low light. Isak buried his face against them and breathed deep. They smelled like chemicals. Isak pressed his ear on them, trying to hear the music one more time. All he could hear was a sharp, crinkly sound, and the muffled voices from downstairs.

Chapter Text

Isak was allowed downstairs for breakfast. Mom had almost calmed down, too. She even made french toast. Isak wolfed down three plates and a tall glass of cold milk, and when mom said he could be allowed to call Jonas today Isak was both excited and scared. He wanted to call someone else, but he didn’t have the number. Because Even hadn’t remembered his. Jonas was right, Even was unreliable and volatile and dangerous, and Isak knew that now from direct experience.

It still had been the most exciting thing that ever happened to him.

In a row.

Even had given Isak so many shaking experiences. First he had kissed Isak in the kitchen at Eva’s party. Then he had ran with Isak into the night. And all the other kisses, and then Even just appeared into his room and rocked his world. It was incredible. Isak didn’t need Even’s drugs, all he needed was Even himself and he’d get a rush like never before.

And when Even wasn’t here, he was crashing.

At least he was sleeping again. Life was so much better after a proper night’s sleep and a good breakfast. Isak was on his way upstairs, when dad, getting ready to leave for work, grabbed his arm lightly. He nodded his head towards the door, and Isak nodded. They both glanced into the kitchen, where mom was clearing the table.

Isak followed dad to the front porch. Dad opened his briefcase and gave Isak a small plastic bag. It had something inside it, and the second Isak took it in his hand he knew what it was. It was his Walkman. Dad had kept it for him.

Isak looked up at dad to thank him, but he was already by the car. He didn’t even look at Isak. Dad just got behind the wheel and backed the car to the road, and then he drove off. But Isak knew what he was holding in his hand. An apology. He slipped it under his shirt against his ribs, draped his arm over the bulge and hurried inside and upstairs.

Sometimes Isak wondered how dad was doing. With mom and everything. But then he got too busy worrying about himself, and he forgot. He could have been a better son. He should have cared about that more, but right now all he cared about was his Walkman. Isak unwrapped it from the bag and stroked at its surface. It was okay. It even had the tape inside it. Isak put the earphones over his head, turned the volume down real low and pushed the play button in.

“Thank you Jesus”, Isak whispered. It worked. He couldn’t listen to it now, not when he was still under the watch, but when mom and dad would go to bed tonight Isak could finally escape his room for a bit. Isak hid the Walkman under his mattress. He knew it was risky, after all mom had found his tapes, but it was the best he could do for now. He would have to think of a better place to hide it soon.

Getting the Walkman back gave Isak the strength he needed to call Jonas. Mom was probably wondering why Isak hadn’t been more excited about the opportunity, like usually when he’d been grounded for days and finally able to talk to his best friend again. So, Isak got out of his room to get the phone.

“Mom, I’m gonna call Jonas, okay?”

Mom replied an okay, and Isak took the phone from the table to his room. He lifted the handset to his ear so he could hear the click if mom tried to listen in on the call downstairs. He didn’t hear anything, just the dial tone. Mom had  never, not even once, listened in to any of Isak’s calls, but you could never be sure. Especially with secrets this big.

Isak sat down on the floor, leaning his back on his door, and dialed Jonas’ number. He waited, anxiously. He really hoped Jonas was expecting him to call and would pick up himself.

“Hello?”

Isak’s belly was flooded with warmth when he heard Jonas’ voice.

“Hey. It’s me.”

“Issy! Wait.” Isak heard rustling and muttering, and a door open and close. Jonas took the phone in his room, by the sound of it. “There. Fuck, are you okay? It’s been four days!”

Isak sighed. Four days had felt like more.

“Depends.”

“Depends on what?” Jonas sounded puzzled. Isak could see his frown if he closed his eyes, and longing pressed his insides again. He pulled his legs up agaist his chest.

“What okay means.”

“Shit. Fuck. Issy I’m so sorry. Want to talk about it?”

Isak sighed.

“Not really.”

“Okay.”

They were quiet for a while. Isak was listening to Jonas’ breathing. He had never listened to it like this, for this long, usually Jonas tried to keep the conversation going even if Isak fell silent for long periods of time. Now Jonas was also quiet. Listening.

“Was it because of me?” Jonas finally asked. Isak shook his head, then remembered that Jonas couldn’t see him.

“No. It was because of me. I made mom upset and dad beat the crap out of me for it.”

“Fuck, Issy!” Jonas knew that if dad got involved, it got bad. It was rare, but when dad raised his hand at Isak, he meant business. “What did he do?”

Isak hesitated. He really wanted to tell. But. What if Jonas wanted to kill his dad too, now that he had kissed Isak?

“Nothing too bad. Just the belt.” Isak left out the part about dad using the buckle. It hadn’t been too bad, really.

Jonas cussed under his breath. But he didn’t give Isak a hard time about his dad. Isak really appreciated that.

“I thought you might be in trouble at home when you didn’t call me.”

“I’ve been up in my room all this time.” Isak hesitated again. He’d better not tell Jonas about Even. It would only make Jonas upset, and make his point about Even’s dangerousness for him.

“That’s just fucked up.”

Isak looked up. He saw the cross on his door. He felt sick to his stomach, but pulled a grin on his lips anyway.

“Worth it.”

Jonas chuckled a little before he caught himself in the act. Isak imagined him blushing.

“I miss you”, Isak sighed. It was true. He missed Jonas, and he missed kissing him, because he was a pathetic idiot and a slut to boot.

“Mm.”

Isak waited. He wanted to give Jonas time to gather his thoughts. But Jonas didn’t say anything. The silence just stretched on and on, until Isak had to up the stakes.

“I miss your lips.”

Isak blushed at his words. This was. This wasn’t proper. This wasn’t something good sons did on the phone with their best friend.

“Issy --”

“What?”

Jonas sighed.

“I don’t know. Do I have to know?”

“I don’t think so?”

“I miss you too.”

They were quiet again. Just listening their breathing, getting comfort from the sound. The thought of the other one being there for real.

“How’s Eva?” Isak asked. It felt like he should have asked. To remind them both.

“Fuck if I know”, Jonas groaned. “She made out with Chris.”

Isak frowned.

“Wait, what? She’s gay too?”

“What? No! Not with her, with boy-Chris! That asshole who follows William everywhere like a lovesick puppy.”

Isak flinched a bit. That description felt too accurate and close to home.

“Oh, him. Well. Fuck.” Before Isak could think about it, the words had escaped his lips. “Can’t blame her, that guy’s hot.”

Jonas responded with silence. Isak blinked, horrified. Jonas would hang up now, and he’d never speak to Isak again.

“I mean. Fuck her! Her loss.”

“I’m going to stop you now before you choke on the foot you just shoved in your mouth, Issy. I’m fine. I’m just letting her squirm for a bit and then forgive her.”

Isak kind of knew why Jonas was feeling so forgiving. Out of guilt. Over what they did.

“Oh. Good.”

“Mmhm. But, until then, I am single.”

Isak squeezed the handset so hard it hurt his hand.

“Why are you telling me that?”

Jonas tried to laugh to sound cool. It was the same laugh he used when he tried to impress girls. It wasn’t really working.

“Thought you’d like to know I’m free for now.”

That was just it, wasn’t it, really? Jonas would be free, but only for now. It would always be only for now. Never forever.

“I’m still grounded.”

“You got to call me. You’re off the hook by tomorrow night. Want to come over?”

Isak thought about the lock on Jonas’ room’s door.

“Why?”

This time Jonas wasn’t sounding cool at all.

“I’m not going to say it, Is.”

“No. I mean, I didn’t mean that.” Isak rolled the phone cord around his finger, tighter and tighter. “I mean. Why, Jonas?”

“I already told you last time. I’m keeping you safe.”

“I thought you weren’t a saint.”

“Ohhh, quoting me? That’s a low blow, dude.” Jonas chuckled a bit, to buy himself some time. “Look, what’s the problem here? You want me. I want action. It’s a win-win situation.”

“Jonas. Please. Say that again and really listen to yourself this time.”

Jonas didn’t say it again. He didn’t say anything.

“Look. How about we just go to Mags’ and hang, all four of us? Maybe watch a movie or something? I could really use the company after being cooped up in here like this.”

“You know what?” Jonas sighed. He sounded heavy. But Isak couldn’t take any of his load, he had too much of his own right now. “That sounds fun. Give us a call when you’ve done your time?”

“I will.”

Silence, yet again. This call had been more silence than speaking.

“So”, Isak started, but didn’t know how to continue. Jonas sighed.

“You’re right, Issy. I’m sorry.”

Isak’s fingertip was turning white from the constriction. He poked at it with his thumbnail. It was numb, too.

“Me too. If you want to talk about it sometime, you can.”

“I don’t”, Jonas hurried to say. “Sorry. There’s nothing to talk about.”

Of course there wasn’t. Just like Isak’s skin wasn’t covered in welts made by a belt buckle.

“In that case we’d better stop speaking on the phone?”

Jonas laughed a little.

“Seems reasonable. Hang in there, okay?”

“You too.”

Like always, Jonas hung up first.

Chapter Text

Even hung up the phone. Isak’s mother had answered it again. Even didn’t bother speaking to her at all, he just hung up and tried again later. Isak was bound to pick up eventually, right?

Even looked around in his apartment. It was filling up with Isak, slowly but steadily. He had taken pictures of the paused video with a disposable camera, the whole roll of them, and when he got the pictures back they were all alike and perfect in every way. They were right when they imagined a camera can capture someone’s soul. At least it had captured Isak’s light.

Even had taped the pictures on his window. He didn’t need sunlight, it paled in comparison anyway. Some seeped through between the cracks, and it was enough. It was plenty. Even kept one of the pictures in his bed, on the pillow next to his, so he could kiss Isak goodnight before sinking into his restless slumber.

He missed Isak so much.

He turned to look at the phone. He bit the nail of his thumb. A little sliver of nail polish chipped on his tongue. He kept it in his mouth, rubbing it between his tongue and the roof of his mouth, feeling the barely there scratching carefully.

He looked around again. Isak was everywhere in this room. In the photos, on the TV screen, in drawings he had made. Most of the drawings were details, like the corner of Isak’s mouth, or the hollow at the tip of his collar bone. It was like Isak was too much to fit on one sheet of paper at once.

Even had drawn pictures like that before, Sonja’s nagging voice reminded him in the back of his brain. When he had been in love with Mikael. He had recorded Mikael’s every detail again and again, unable to stop, and when Sonja had found the sketches she had been absolutely livid. Jealous bitch. She had no say in it this time, they weren’t dating anymore.

Besides, this time it was different.

“Isak loves me back”, Even said, out loud. Words felt more real when they were spoken. They gained substance and weight. Saying them brought peace in Even’s mind and joy in his heart. Isak loved him back. Even turned to look at the mirror, at his image peeking through Isak’s phone number, and smiled at himself.

“Isak loves me back.”

It was the most beautiful thing in the world. Love. Reciprocated love. Romeo would have been nothing, if Juliet hadn’t loved him back. But she did. Isak did. Even was filled with calm certainty, and he got up on his feet. He would go see Isak again. It had been too long.

Even ran the whole way to Isak’s street. He was short of breath when he got there, and then his breath was taken completely away from him. Isak stepped out of the house. He was out, and he was free, and on his way to Even right now.

“Isak!” Even called out, exhilarated, and waved his arm. Isak turned to look and he seemed -- frightened? No, Even must have misinterpreted. Excited and scared looked very much alike, especially from a distance. Even started to walk briskly towards Isak, but Isak wasn’t as patient. He ran to Even, and Even caught him in his arms and kissed him.

Isak wiggled out of his embrace.

“Even! What are you doing here? I said I’d be in touch.”

Even frowned. Isak didn’t seem as happy to see him as he was to see Isak. Even’s heart was singing, the colours were brighter, and he just wanted to hold Isak close to himself forever. But when he tried to kiss Isak again, Isak turned away.

“Even! Not here.” Isak was hissing. Even didn’t understand. But at least not here didn’t mean the same as not. That was good.

Isak had a backpack with him.

“Where are you going?”

Isak bit his lip. Even couldn’t get enough of those lips, he could have looked at them forever.

“To Jonas. We’re going to go hang out at Mags’ with him and Mahdi. I just got out of being grounded.”

Ah. The Spice Girls again. Of course. Isak missed his friends, and he didn’t have Even’s number.

Oh, right!

“I have my number now”, Even said. Isak looked puzzled. Even decided it was easier to show than to explain, so he rolled his sleeve up and showed Isak his arm. “I found it on a note stuck on my phone. Now I’ll never forget it.”

Isak took Even’s hand. Even’s heart was fluttering. Isak turned his hand a bit, to take a better look at his arm. He rubbed on Even’s skin with his thumb, too, and the touch was electrifying. Lovely.

“Even..this isn’t a marker?”

“I tried that first. It kept rubbing off.”

Isak leaned in to take a closer look at the slightly wavy numbers scribbled on Even’s arm.

“Did you get your phone number tattooed on your arm?”

“Of course not!” Even laughed. Isak’s shoulders relaxed visibly. “I did it myself. It was easy, I just poked my arm with a needle and a bit of ink.”

Isak looked up at Even, his eyes wide.

“What? Didn’t it hurt?”

“Not really? I don’t know, I have a high tolerance of pain I guess.”

Isak kept holding Even’s hand. That felt really nice. Even wrapped his fingers around Isak’s.

“I just wanted to make sure you’ll have my number. I’ve been calling you for days but your mom keeps getting the phone.”

Isak shook his hand free from Even’s grip.

“It was you every time? God! Mom’s convinced dad is cheating on her with his secretary or clients or both! She thought his whores were calling him, that he’s going to leave us. Do you have any idea how --” Isak stopped talking, shaking his head. Even bowed his head.

“I’m sorry? I just wanted to speak with you.”

Isak sighed. He looked at Even from the corner of his eye, and yes, that was a tiny smile on his lips, too.

“Did you miss me?”

“Like breathing.”

Isak smiled properly this time.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“I’m not too keen on making sense, you know.”

Isak’s teeth flashed when he smiled. Light.

“You’re insane, Even. Absolutely insane.”

Even rubbed at his arm lightly. At least the itching had stopped already.

“I prefer real. I’m real.”

“A real piece of work, I’ll give you that.” Isak looked over his shoulder, suddenly worried. “I should get going. Jonas is waiting for me.”

“Don’t go”, Even said. He took Isak’s hand. Isak let him do that. “Come with me. I need you.”

He really, really did. He needed Isak. Isak was his oxygen, his light, his love. He had been without Isak too long. It didn’t really work for him.

Isak hesitated. He looked over his shoulder again, then at Even, who was still holding his hand tightly.

“Okay. I’ll come for a bit. Can I call Jonas at your place?”

“Of course. If you have his number.” Even was a bit jealous now that he thought of it. Isak had Jonas’ number, he probably knew it by heart, and Even wanted the same for himself too. He wanted Isak for himself.

“I do.” Isak smiled at Even, a bit shy. Even really, really wanted to kiss him, but he should probably wait until they got home.

If he only could.

“Better get going, then. We can’t keep Jonas waiting to hear from you.” Even did his best to keep his tone light. He even smiled. Isak nodded, adjusted the straps of his backpack and started walking. Even walked with him, and his steps were light.

Chapter Text

Even kept taking Isak’s hand, and Isak kept pulling his hand away. He wasn’t in the high of ruining his life right now, and it was broad daylight, and people were out and about. There was no way Isak would be walking hand in hand with a boy all over the streets. No matter how nice it would have been.

Isak was embarrassed to be so prudish. It was just holding hands! It wasn’t like they’d be having sex out in the open. But to Isak it felt like a similar misdemeanor. Something prohibited. Forbidden.

Even was so much braver. He walked with his head held high, eyeliner around his blue eyes, black nailpolish on his fingernails, and he looked flawless. Fearless. He looked like the kind of guy who would kiss boys in broad daylight out in a street and not think twice about it. Maybe some day Isak would be as brave. Today wasn’t that day.

The closer they got to Even’s apartment the easier it was for Isak to breathe. Soon they’d be hidden and could hold hands and kiss and whatever that Isak wasn’t too keen on to be thinking about right now, when they were still outside. Even thinking about thinking about it made him blush. It was an odd contrast that Even seemed to be more nervous the closer they got. But maybe Even was thinking about the things Isak didn’t dare.

Isak was getting anxious. He felt like he was going to burst if he didn’t get to kiss Even soon. But Even was walking slower, and he stumbled at the stairs, and when he got out his keys his hands were shaking. Isak licked his lips quickly and looked around to make sure they were alone.

“Do you need a fix?” Isak asked, whispering. “I don’t mind.”

He really didn’t. It was actually kind of exciting. Maybe Even would let him watch? Or try? Isak still wasn’t sure if he wanted to, but the idea was tempting. To share something that intimate with Even.

Even didn’t really respond. He tried to laugh lightly and then he mumbled something Isak couldn’t make out. Then he managed to open the door and Isak hurried inside. The moment Even was in too Isak spun around and kissed him.

“I missed you so much”, Isak mumbled on Even’s lips, that kissed him back very enthusiastically. Even’s back hit the door and Isak pressed his body against Even’s chest. He couldn’t stop kissing Even, and he couldn’t decide did he or didn’t he want to push every thought of Jonas out of his head. He wasn’t ready to decide.

Even wrapped his arms around Isak and pulled him closer. Isak was getting super turned on by all this, and to his delight and partial horror he could feel Even was, too. He could feel the shape and hardness of Even’s dick against his body, and it made him shake. He was nervous. He was turned on. He couldn’t wait, and still he was a bit worried and a bit scared. He had never touched someone else like that, and he really, really wanted to do that now, but were they ready? Should they wait?

Even tasted so good. He felt even better.

“Even --” Isak gasped, somewhere between the kisses. “Can we go to bed?”

Even didn’t say anything. But he took Isak’s face between his hands and kissed him again, hard and hungry, while he was pushing Isak towards the bed with his whole being. Isak walked backwards, trying to keep up with the kiss too, and when his legs hit the bed he fell down on his back on it, pulling Even with him. He landed on something crinkly and crackly.

Isak shoved his hand under his back and pulled out a sheet of paper. It was a drawing, of a jawline and a pair of lips, that looked really familiar. Isak examined the drawing while Even was still kissing him, and soon enough Even noticed Isak wasn’t really kissing him back anymore. Even raised his head, making a hum that posed for a question, and Isak showed him the paper.

“Is this me?”

Even looked scared. For a moment he looked like a deer in headlights, his eyes wide and his cheeks pale. Then the moment passed and Even smiled.

“Yes. They’re all you.”

All?

Isak pushed Even off of him and rose up to lean on his elbows. He looked around. Everywhere he looked he saw sheets of paper, with different body parts drawn on them. He frowned. That seemed a bit..excessive. A bit much. Then he looked at the window.

It was him. Over and over again, a copy of the same picture repeating. It looked weird. Grainy, like there was something wrong with the film or the camera, and when Isak looked at the television he understood why. The pictures had been taken of the screen, with his face over it, shining a static light into the near dark room.

Isak swallowed. Hard.

“Even?” Isak didn’t even know what to ask. There was a million questions and he didn’t want to ask any of them because that would mean Even would maybe answer, and that answer could have been anything. It could have been dangerous.

Even didn’t say anything. He just sat on his heels on the bed, blushing, looking guilty. He looked so fragile there. Like if Isak would push him he would fall on the floor and shatter like thinnest porcelain.

Isak took a sheet of paper in his hand and looked at it. It had a shoulder on it, and a bit of the ribs, with a shadow over them. A bruise. Even was drawing his body from memory. An image flashed before Isak’s eyes. Him, on the bed, maybe naked, and Even sitting with his paper and pen, his eyes examining Isak intensely. Even looking at Isak the way he always did, but..more.

Fuck, yes.

Isak looked at Even.

“I can pose for you.”

Even raised his eyes, surprised. Isak really wanted to jump him right then and there.

“I mean. I am very good at being still for hours. I have practiced. At church and such.” Well. He hadn’t been posing the way he had in mind in church but still, the principle was the same. Don’t move. Pretend you’re not there. Endure. Let time pass, and eventually it will.

“You’re not. You’re not mad at me?”

Isak shook his head. He wasn’t mad. He didn’t know he was supposed to.

“It is a surprise. I mean, I’m not that -- you could have picked a more aesthetic model.”

Even laughed, shaking his head.

“I could have searched the whole world, and I couldn’t have found anyone I wanted to draw more.”

Isak blushed at the compliment. He had a hard time believing it, but it felt good anyway. He sat up properly, plucking at the sheets with his fingertips.

“So..do you want me to?”

Isak was certain Even would have declined. That he wanted to do something else more, like kiss Isak again, or touch him, or do that or. Something. But Even didn’t. He nodded.

“Yes. Please. I’d love to draw you.”

Isak smiled a little. Then he got serious again, the weight of the question pulling the smile off his lips.

“Naked?”

Isak saw the hunger flash in Even’s eyes. It felt so good. Even really wanted to see him naked. Him, of all people.

“Preferably.”

“The bruises haven’t all faded yet”, Isak said quietly. The familiar warmth of shame floated inside him. He was such a failure of a son that he had to be beaten to get him back in control.

“It’s okay. I’ll see through them.”

Even’s voice was soothing. It was warm, and gentle, and there was an undertone of need that Isak shared. He didn’t just want to get naked for Even, he needed to. He got up to undress, and just before he pulled his shirt over his head and covered his eyes with it he noticed a mirror. There was something written on the glass, but Isak turned his back to the mirror while his face was still hidden. He didn’t want to see the bruises. He didn’t want to see how he saw himself. He wanted to see how Even saw him.

Isak undressed slowly. His skin was rising into goosebumps. It wasn’t cold in here, more a bit hot and stuffy, but Even’s gaze was so intense Isak could feel it slide along his skin. The jeans came off pretty painlessly, but then Isak was in his underwear and his mouth felt dry. He slid his thumbs under the rubber band of his boxers. They had pictures of Garfield all over them. Isak had put them on today just in case Jonas might have seen him in his underwear, as an inside joke. But Even seemed, luckily, more interested in Isak removing them than what pictures they had.

He took them off. He had expected to be super aware of his body, and feeling worried and ashamed and insecure, but the way Even looked at him made all that go away. Every bruise. Every cut. Every little imperfection and even the weird mole at the very root of his dick, all of that was accepted and received with great pleasure.

“How do you want me?” Isak whispered, blushing when he realised what he had just said.

“Comfortable. I’m not very fast at this.”

Isak nodded. Then he crawled on the bed and piled up some pillows for his support. Yet another photo of him got stuck on his bare arm. Isak peeled it off and placed it on the night stand. He couldn’t blame Even for having a picture of him in his bed, if Isak had a photo of Even he would totally keep it there himself.

Isak got comfortable, and Even pulled up a chair for himself. Isak was on his belly on the bed, his arms folded under his head around a pillow, and he was looking at Even. Even was looking at him. So intensely, that it felt like touching. And it also made Even not notice that Isak was looking at him. Even looked bare. Unmasked. And the longer Isak looked at him, the sadder Even was starting to seem.

Chapter Text

Isak lost the track of time completely. He just lied there, watching Even, who was totally focused on his drawing. It was odd. At the same time Isak was the center of Even’s attention, and also something Even ignored completely. He was focused on Isak, the object in space, not Isak, the person inside the object.

It felt good. It felt like a break. Isak was expected to just be there, nothing more, nothing less. He wasn’t even thinking about anything in particular, just being. In this room. In this bed. The sheets smelled stuffy, but they also smelled like Even. Isak really liked that smell. It made him feel warm and, against all odds, safe.

Isak felt safe alone in the apartment of a junkie. A gay one. It went against everything Isak had ever been taught about anything, but he couldn’t deny the way he was feeling. Or, well, he could. He had, for a very long time, and he was just about done with that shit. It was time to start feeling instead of trying not to.

Even lifted his eyes and put the paper down. Isak blushed, for some reason. He had been lying here naked for what felt like hours, and now he was blushing about it. It was like one of those dreams where you suddenly noticed you were naked, and it became an issue only after noticing it. Weird.

“Done?” Isak asked. His voice was tiny, his mouth was parched.

Even shrugged. He was blushing a bit. It was odd to see Even this insecure. It didn’t suit him. Even was supposed to be radiant and charming.

“It will never be done. I can’t capture how perfect you are. Your light.”

Isak had to hide his red face in the pillow for a moment. His heart was beating louder in his ears. Perfect? Light?

“Should I keep posing?” Isak asked, into the pillow. It was a small miracle Even heard him at all.

“That’s okay. If I add anything, I’ll just ruin it further.” Even was silent for a moment. Isak heard a stroking sound, a fingertip on paper. “Do you want to see it?”

Isak had to really think about it. He had spent all this time being looked at by Even. But was he ready to see how Even saw him? Even could draw, that much Isak could tell from the sketches all over the apartment. He raised his face up and turned to look at Even, timid and shy.

“Yes.” Isak nodded. He wanted to see it. He was nervous, but his curiosity got the best of him. He had to know.

Even flipped the paper over. Isak turned to look at it properly. He could see himself, on the bed, the curve of his buttocks and his lower back, the muscles on his back, his shoulder blades, shoulders, and then his face. It was like his eyes were directed, to start from his feet and then travel all the way up to his eyes.

Isak barely recognised them.

The shape was spot on. They were his eyes. But Isak had never seen them like that. So full of light.

He had been mistaken.

This picture wasn’t showing how Even saw Isak. It was showing how Isak saw Even.

“Well?” Even sounded nervous. Isak had no idea how long he had been silent, just looking at his image. He smiled.

“It’s hard to believe that could be me.”

Even laughed.

“That bad? Not even recognisable?”

Isak grinned.

“No! Yes! I mean, it really looks like me. But I’m not used to looking like that.”

Even looked at Isak, from head to toe. Then he peeked at his drawing.

“You always look like that.”

“I don’t! I look. Darker.” Isak sat up slowly. He didn’t know how to properly explain it. Whenever he looked at himself he looked dark. Not like that, in the picture.

Even smiled softly. He raised his hand on Isak’s cheek, and guided him to look at his eyes. Those blue, blue eyes. Isak’s heart was racing again, beating loud and bold.

“All I can see is light”, Even said. Isak believed him. He could feel it radiate from his heart and through his skin, and his eyes. He was shining for Even.

Isak turned to look himself in the mirror. He wanted to see that light as well. But his eyes were caught by the letters and numbers on the glass. He recognised the number first. It was his home number. The words hit home next. Isak, my perfect angel. Even had written that and his number on the mirror with..eyeliner?

At least he hadn’t tattoeed it on himself. That was barely comforting.

“Even what’s that?” Isak didn’t want to ask, but he knew he had to. He couldn’t let this just slide, this was too much.

“Hm?” Even looked at Isak in the mirror. “Your number? I called the number services so I could call you.”

Isak nodded. The skin on the back of his neck was crawling a bit. He was feeling a bit too naked right now.

“I should get dressed”, Isak said. Even reached down on the floor and handed Isak’s Garfield boxers over. Isak took them and pulled them on quickly.

“Should I take it down?” Even asked.

Isak bit his lip. He didn’t know what to say. He just wished Even wasn’t so weird. It would have been so much easier if Even was just normal, not a weird and scary junkie. Though Isak still wasn’t scared. Uncomfortable, maybe, but not scared.

“You have drawn me now.”

Even blinked for a moment. He looked confused. Then something dawned on him an he hurried up to his feet, to the window, and started peeling the photos off the glass.

“Yes, you’re right. I don’t need these anymore. Good to have some light in here as well, right?” Even’s voice was weird. It sounded like metal. It had a mechanical echo in it. It made shivers run down Isak’s spine.

“You’re lying.”

Even stopped. His fingers were resting on a picture of Isak, on his cheek, and Isak got up on his feet. He turned to look at the television. It was a paused video. Isak’s hand was shaking, but he managed to press the right buttons on the second try. He rewound the video and pressed play. The video was short, for painfully obvious reasons.

“That’s from the video store. I don’t remember seeing you there. Did you record this video in secret?”

Isak wanted to stop speaking. Especially when he saw what it was doing to Even. How it made Even’s light dim out, and fade away. How much smaller Even started to look by every word Isak said. But he couldn’t stop. He had to know.

“I don’t remember seeing you before Eva’s party. I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning you. Were you even invited?”

Isak looked around. Really looked around. This wasn’t normal. This wasn’t right. It was so horrible, that something that felt as right as Even did could be this wrong. Isak knew what was going on. He had been trying so hard to not think about it, but he needed to.

“I live with crazy. I know what that looks like.” Isak could barely hear his own voice. He didn’t want to speak these words. He didn’t want to see what they did to Even. How Even kept shrinking and darkening. Disappearing. “Are you crazy, Even? Please tell me you’re not crazy.”

Even didn’t say anything. His silence was deafening. It made Isak’s heart boom in his ears. Beat by beat Even got further away from him. He had just found Even, and now Even was taken away from him.

“I can’t do this. Not now.” Isak gathered his clothes and struggled them on. Isak looked at the mirror again. My perfect angel. He had been an angel at the party, right? That could be explained, right? The pictures too, they were just for reference, right? Isak had to press his fingertips on the dressing table to keep his balance. His head was spinning. He wanted to fight and flight at the same time. The adrenaline filled his body, and if hadn’t been used to it he might have passed out from all the strain.

At least that would have gotten him out of this situation without having to make any real decisions. But Isak was conscious, and he was here, and he knew what had to be done.

“Please don’t call me again. My parents might get a divorce because of you.” Isak couldn’t tell mom it was just Even calling. She would want to know why some guy kept calling and hanging up. Isak couldn’t have given her an explanation that didn’t end in disaster.

Isak stumbled to his shoes. He put them on. Fuck, he had forgotten to call Jonas. He would go straight to Mags, Jonas was probably there. Mahdi as well. They were probably pissed off at Isak, but Isak needed them now. He needed someone, he couldn’t handle all this alone, and now, thanks to Even, Isak’s friends knew about him. He could maybe talk to them.

Thanks to Even, there was something to talk about.

“Even --” Isak looked up at Even. Even was still standing by the window, his fingers still on Isak’s cheek. He hadn’t moved one bit. He looked like a statue. He looked fragile. It made Isak’s heart ache. But he had to go. He had to leave. “Even?”

Even didn’t move. He didn’t turn. He probably wasn’t even blinking, he was barely breathing. They both knew that if Isak left now, he would probably never come back. His friends would talk some sense into him. Jonas would protect him, in whatever way he could. Whatever it took.

When Isak pressed his body against Even’s back and wrapped his arms around his chest Even collapsed. His strength was drained from his muscles, and Isak had to hold them both up. His cheek pressed against the back of Even’s neck, his arms hugging him tightly. His heart beating like a drum, loud and unafraid.

Chapter Text

Isak held on to Even. He let Even lean on him, pulled him closer, tighter. It felt like Isak let go Even would collapse into a pile of brittle bones on the floor. Isak was afraid to move his feet, scared to hear a crack.

“You’re shaking”, Isak whispered. Stating the obvious. “It’s okay.”

Isak stepped back slowly, just a bit. Even followed him. Barely. But he was moving, and bit by bit Isak got him in the bed. He helped Even lie down on his back and got on the bed with him. He rested his head against Even’s chest, his arm wrapped around him.

“It’s okay”, Isak whispered again. “Take your time.”

This wasn’t the first time Isak had been like this, comforting someone who was too upset to actually be upset. He had been so scared last time, but now he knew better. He knew this would pass. He just lied there, waiting, resting on Even to press him down and ground him. Or both of them.

Isak had almost walked out the door. He probably should have. But he couldn’t. He didn’t want to. There was nothing outside that door that felt more important than being here now. Isak closed his eyes an focused on breathing, slow and steady.

He almost fell asleep.

Then he probably did. At least he woke up, startled, as Even finally moved under him.

“I think you should leave”, Even said, quietly. Isak pressed himself tighter against him, shaking his head.

“I don’t want to.”

Even moved again. He was trying to squirm away from Isak. Isak wanted to cling to him.

“I said I think you should leave.” Even’s voice was firmer now. Colder. Isak didn’t understand why Even wanted him gone. It didn’t make sense.

Well. Even was crazy.

Even grabbed Isak’s shoulders and pushed him off. Isak kind of oozed down to the floor, on his knees by the bed. On his knees in front of Even.

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you in here.”

Isak didn’t understand. He was on his knees on the floor, his hands on his lap, tears filling his eyes. Even was kicking him out. Isak had chosen to stay, but Even didn’t want him here.

“Please leave.” Even went to the bathroom and locked the door behind him. A raspy sob pushed its way through Isak’s chest. But he sniffled it back in and got up on his numb feet.

Even wanted him out.

He already had his shoes on, so all he had to do was walk out the door. He took his backpack from the floor and walked out. He dug through his pockets and found some coins, enough to make a phone call.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mags.”

“Issy! Guys it’s Issy!” Magnus sounded relieved and angry at the same time. “Where the fuck have you been? We’ve been so worried about you! Are you okay?”

Isak squeezed the handset in his hand. The plastic was slipping in his sweaty palm.

“Can I come over?”

“Of course! We’ll all be here.”

Isak closed his eyes. They were all there. Isak couldn’t probably take it.

“Could you send the guys home? Please?”

Magnus covered the speaker with his hand and talked with someone. Isak couldn’t make out the words. He just waited, worried he would run out of coins before they were done.

“I’m on a payphone Mags.”

“Okay. They’ll go. I’ll kick them out right now, you come here when you’re ready.”

“Thank you. You’re --” The call got disconnected. The money had run out. At least they had got the important bit covered. Mahdi might have been okay, but Isak really, really couldn’t handle Jonas right now, and asking just for Jonas to leave would have sounded super weird. Mags was okay. He understood things like this.

Isak felt like shit when he finally sat down on Magnus’ bed. Mags sat on his chair in front of him, and he looked super worried.

“What is it?”

Isak couldn’t help it anymore. He started crying. He just didn’t understand what had gone wrong. Magnus looked at him, in horror, but didn’t make a fuss or anything. He just took out a tissue and handed it over to Isak.

“Even --” Isak managed to say between his sobbing.

Mags turned serious. His face grew two shades darker, and his eyes two degrees wider.

“What did he do? Did he try to boil you?”

Magnus was half whispering. But he made so little sense Isak was kind of knocked out of his crying by the surprise. He stared at Mags through his tears.

“What?”

“I heard of this junkie who was on a bad trip and thought he was a potato! He peeled his skin off and stuck his head in a boiling pot to cook himself!” Magnus was almost short of breath, shaken by the scandal. Isak kept staring at him in disbelief.

“Magnus what the fuck?”

“Don’t you remember? When they came to school and told us about drugs?”

Isak frowned. Now that he thought of it, he kind of remembered some class that had left the whole class in a mixture of nervous giggling and stunned silence.

“That was like five years ago. It really stuck, huh?”

“I had nightmares for weeks! I was so worried someone would lace my food or snacks with LSD and I’ll peel myself. Mahdi had to taste all my food.”

“I just thought he was greedy.”

“That’s why he agreed to take the chance, I guess?”

Isak nodded. At least he was feeling more composed again. This conversation made even less sense than Even kicking him out had made.

“Well. Even did not try to boil me.”

“Or peel you?”

“Or peel me.”

“Thank god!” Magnus relaxed. But he was still looking worried. “What did he do, then?”

Isak swallowed, hard. HIs heart felt like someone was squeezing on it really tight.

“I think he broke my heart.”

“Good.”

Isak looked up at Magnus, almost scared. He must have heard wrong. Magnus looked sad, and sorry, and angry.

“He’s no good, Issy. Nobody knows who he is. He is a junkie. Do you even know how old he is?”

Isak pulled his legs up against his chest for cover. He had not expected this. He was not ready for this.

“He’s dangerous.” Magnus sounded really upset. He had been holding this in for a while. “I mean. You’re gay, right?”

Isak was feeling sick. It felt like this was all happening to someone else, and he could just watch, powerless. But he nodded. He was gay. And Magnus didn’t seem to approve with that.

“Okay. Okay. First of all, why haven’t you told me! I thought we were friends!” Before Isak could come up with an answer, Magnus continued. “Second, you can’t run around kissing boys where people can see you!”

Isak didn’t know what to say. He had nothing. He hugged his legs tighter. Magnus didn’t want him kissing boys. Magnus was mad at him for being gay and hiding it from him. Isak remembered all the times Mags had hugged him, or held his legs in his lap, or his head on his belly, not knowing what Isak was.

“I’m sorry”, Isak peeped.

“You could get beaten up! Or killed!”

Isak closed his eyes and pressed his forehead on his knees. Mags was right. That was what happened to gays. They got killed. He thought about reminding Magnus about how he was beaten, quite regularly, and how he managed that just fine, but he didn’t want to upset Mags further.

“Please don’t see him again, Issy. He’s bad news.”

Isak shook his head. Magnus didn’t need to worry about that. Even didn’t want to see him ever again. It was for the best. Isak knew it, deep down inside him, that Magnus was right. Even was bad news. Isak was bad news.

Magnus was quiet for a bit. Isak tried really hard to not cry.

“I’m sorry you broke your heart, Issy.”

That did it. Isak was crying. His shoulders were shaking uncontrollably with his sobbing, and Magnus’ arm wrapping around them didn’t make them stop.

The door creaked. Isak tried to wipe his face, to hide his crying from Mags’ mom, and when he opened his eyes he saw Jonas. And Mahdi.

“What?” Isak peeped. Jonas and Mahdi looked awkward, and guilty, and determined.

“We were in the kitchen”, Mahdi said.

“Issy. This is an intervention.”

Isak looked at Jonas with his mouth open. A what?

“Ever since you met Even you’ve been acting weird. Disappearing on us. Not seeing us anymore.”

“We’re your friends! We care about you a lot and we miss you.”

“We don’t want you to end up dead in a gutter somewhere. Or addicted to drugs.”

“Have you been taking drugs?”

“Has Even done something to you?”

Isak pressed his head down and covered his ears. He couldn’t believe this was happening to him. He had to get out of here, and he knew just how he could.

“Even hasn’t.” Isak looked up at Jonas. Jonas knew what he was talking about. He turned pale. “I have to go home. Mom’s going to get worried.”

Isak stood up. Magnus tried to stop him, but Jonas put his hand on his arm. It had worked. Isak was free to go, and he went. He almost fell in the stairs, not seeing properly through his tears.

Wheels rolled down the street behind him. Isak hurried his steps, but Jonas caught up with him easily. He put his hand on Isak’s shoulder, still standing on his skateboard, rolling forward with Isak’s steps.

“Come home with me”, Jonas said. “We can call your mom and ask if you can stay over for the night.”

Isak laughed, bitterly.

“Should we tell her what we’re going to do, too? That would really make this day perfect.”

Jonas squeezed on Isak’s shoulder a bit tighter.

“She’ll beat the crap out of you for that.”

“Oh, really? Never occurred to me. Boy am I glad you were there to warn me.”

Isak tried to shake Jonas off. Jonas refused to let go.

“”I guess that’s fair”, Jonas sighed. “I’m sorry.”

Isak scoffed. Jonas was sorry. That didn’t do much good, now did it?

“I just want to go home. Please.”

Jonas was quiet for a moment. He still didn’t let go.

“I’m scared to let you. You’re not safe there.”

Isak stopped. He closed his eyes and clenched his fists. Jonas had no right. He had no fucking right.

“That’s really none of your business.”

Jonas hesitated. But he let go. Finally.

“Issy, are we okay?”

Isak shook his head. They were not. Nothing was. Everything Isak had touched had turned to ash. All in one day. Ruins, everything. He had bet everything he had on one hand, and that had failed him.

Isak listened to the wheels roll away. When he couldn’t hear them anymore he opened his eyes, wiped them with the side of his wrist and started walking.

Chapter Text

It was painfully obvious that Even had made a grave mistake.

He realized it the moment Isak closed his door, but he was too empty to pull up any strength to try and undo what he had done. He just sat on the toilet seat, his head against his knees, hugging his ribs, and tried to stay together.

Isak had learned his secret.

He was crazy.

Utterly, totally, batshit crazy. Not the fun, entertaining, cartoon villain kind, but black and seeping and corrosive kind, that eventually stained everything it touched. It made Even ruin everything, every fucking time. It made him also great and wonderful, and the most popular guy at the party, until it was seven in the morning and he was still dancing on the table, and everyone else just wanted to go home.

The worst part was not knowing when the tide would turn. It could happen so quickly, even in the same day. Even would be happy, and then he would be devastated by how horrible he was, and then it would start over again.

An hour later Even couldn’t feel his legs anymore. They were completely asleep, both of them, and as he tried to stand up his bones were like cooked spaghetti and he fell on the floor with an impressive thud. He rolled on his back, slowly.

“Ow.”

His voice pierced something in the air. Like bursting a bubble. It jolted him awake, to really understand what was going on, and what a terrible thing he had just done. He had been hurt by Isak, oh yes, deeply cut, but hadn’t Isak then been the best possible ointment for his wounds? Hadn’t his mere weight on Even’s chest pushed all other weight aside, making it possible to breathe?

All that Even had thrown away just because he had been ashamed.

Shame always made people make their worst decisions.

It was still clogging Even’s every pore. His shame. Isak had told him he lived with crazy. He had told Even that he was the same as the people who beat him. In Isak’s eyes Even was just as bad as his parents, people capable of something pure evil in their madness, and that made Even want to throw up.

He would never, never hurt Isak like that.

He could never.

But as Even looked around in his shithole of an apartment he saw it. For the first time, he really saw it. The pictures of Isak, the writing on the wall, it all looked like straight from Seven. Fuck, that was a great movie. But totally not something you wanted to be compared to. Especially by a boy you were really trying to impress.

Still, Even couldn’t ignore the fact that Isak had decided to stay with him anyway. Isak had seen all this serial killer level crazy, and he had stayed, just to hold Even together. And Even had kicked him out because he was too embarrassed to exist.

He was a fucking idiot.

Even tried to get up, but his legs still weren’t working properly. Trying to move them made them sting and burn like they were on fire. Even hissed and cussed and kicked his way through the pain, to get to the phone. Isak must have been home by now. And if his mother picked up, he would just tell her he dialed the wrong number.

Of course, she might have been crazy enough to suspect her husband was gay. But in that case, she probably would have noticed her son was? Even sat on the floor with the phone in his lap, considering, and finally decided it was worth the risk. He dialed Isak’s number, which he knew by heart now, and waited.

“Hello?”

“Please don’t hang up.”

“Shit”, Isak whispered. He didn’t sound delighted. He sounded exhausted. “Mom, it’s Eva, can I take it?”

“Five minutes”, someone said from the background. Probably mom. Even’s fingers curled up into a fist, his fingernails sinking into his palm. His anger was boiling inside him, and all he could think about was Isak’s bruises.

“Thanks mom! Hang on, Eva, I’ll step into the kitchen.”

Even waited. He waited and heard the phone be picked up and then put down, and then he heard Isak’s low voice, short of breath, speak to him. It was the best thing Even had ever heard in his life.

“I didn’t hang up. You have five minutes.”

Oh. Right. Even was the one who had something to say.

He had so much to say, and he didn’t know where to start.

“Oh, sure”, Isak said. Even blinked, confused, then he realized he had been quiet for too long, and Isak was supposed to be talking with Eva.

“I’m manic-depressive”, Even blurted. “I’m crazy but I’m not dangerous. I’m not going to hurt you like your crazy mom.”

“..ok.” Isak didn’t sound impressed. Then again Even just dissed his mother and came out as a crazy freak, all in one exhale.

“I hate myself and I want to die. Then I feel like a god. Then I focus on something completely and forget about anything else. Then I get tired and I crash and I want to die again. And I’m so sorry I’m this broken but I am, and I can’t help it, and I really try, and I love you.”

Stunned silence. From both ends. Then Isak drew a long, slow breath.

“That doesn’t sound right.”

“Fuck! I don’t! I mean, I do, but I didn’t mean to tell you like that, or at all, and oh god please don’t hang up, Isak.” Even’s whole body was shaking. He was dying. He would die, right after this call he would jump through his fucking window, the one with Isak’s pictures plastered all over the glass. Even tried to breathe. He tried to calm down, but it was so difficult. “I’m sorry. Please.”

Even was so, so sorry.

Please, Isak.

“I must ask mom if it’s okay. Hang on.”

Even waited. He was so scared, but at least Isak was still there. He was pretending to be speaking with someone else, and he wasn’t really giving Even anything, but at least he was still there.

“Mom, can I go to Eva’s tomorrow? The girls are working on some project and Jonas said he won’t come if I don’t.”

“What kind of project? Is that awful girl going to be there?”

“Is Chris going to be there?” Isak asked Even. Even had no idea what to say. Who the fuck even was Chris?

“Please. You can come over tomorrow, any time you want. I want to explain. I’ll take everything down.”

“She’s not, mom. Please, can I go? It’s just some art project. I miss Eva.”

Even was holding his breath. Please, mom. Please. Even was wishing so heard he couldn’t make out what her reply was. All he could do was hope.

“Yes! Thanks mom! You’re the best!” Isak managed to sound like he really meant it. Even bit his lip to not say anything about it. He didn’t want to give himself an opportunity to piss Isak off again by saying nasty things about his mother.

“What stage are you on right now?” Isak asked. It took Even a moment to understand that now Isak was talking to him. Then he had to figure out, what Isak was asking. What stage..then he understood. And it struck the wind out of him.

“I don’t..I don’t know. I’m not sure. I am on the edge and I might crash any time.”

“Isak! Five minutes!

Fuck you, Isak’s mom! Fuck you sideways!

“I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon then. Okay. Bye.”

Even was just about to say bye, when Isak hung up. He listened to the dial tone for a moment, then he lowered the handset with a heavy sigh. He looked around the room, deflated. There was so much to be done by tomorrow afternoon, and he had no idea how to do it. Where to even start.

Also. I love you. What the fuck, Even? Where had that even come from? Sure, Isak was an angel and perfect and Even wanted nothing more than to save him, and be saved by him, and run away with him someplace where nobody would hurt them, but. Was that love? Fuck if he knew. When he looked up at the window and saw the collection of disturbing, the blunt feeling inside him wasn’t love.

Even forced himself up. He went to the bathroom to fetch a garbage bag, and he started gathering the drawings in it. The plastic and the paper rustled as Even shoved Isak’s shoulders, wrists, feet and earlobes to the trash. He had the real picture he had made, and he would keep forever. He had the video. He didn’t need these anymore.

An hour later Even was done. Sunlight flooded the room and showed the sad state of it. Dust everywhere. Dirty laundry. Dirty dishes. Plain trash. Art supplies all over, even in the bed. Even looked around and despaired. He was already completely drained, and there was still so much to be done.

Wait.

He had something just for this very thing. He had medication, and he should take some right now. He had no idea when he had last taken them. Even crawled to the night stand and opened the drawer, and pushed his hand inside.

His fingers met plastic.

He pulled out the bag of heroin. He still had this thing? He should probably get rid of it before he got any ideas.

Annnnnd hello, ideas. Even saw himself on the floor, with his eyes closed and his body relaxed, a belt around his upper arm and a needle still in his vein. He had seen the junkies at the drug house, how they experienced pure bliss with just a prick of a needle.

Even considered.

Then he put the bag back into the drawer and closed it.

Chapter Text

Isak hesitated at the door. He was sure everyone could see it written all over him, why he was here, and what he was about to do. But he had come this far. Even was waiting for him. And he had to come prepared.

Isak opened the door and stepped into the library. He was sneaking along the walls, and hid between the tall shelves before any member of the staff could see him. Isak hurried to one of the computers they had for looking up books. He moved the mouse and the screen came alive, with the search bar right in the middle. Isak hesitated again. Then he took a deep breath and just typed.

manic-depressive

He didn’t get many results. That was both good and bad. Isak grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper from the table and scribbled on them the numbers and letters that were supposed to tell him where to find the books. Then he looked around, and that was when desperation sunk in.

There were so many books in here. He would never find the right ones. He couldn’t ask anyone for help, because they might ask him questions he didn’t have any answers to. He would have to do this alone. Isak looked at the computer and bit his lip. There was something else he wanted to learn about. He wasn’t sure if there were any books about it, like actual, proper books, that would tell him something of use, but it didn’t hurt to look.

homosexuality

Someone walked past Isak, behind his back, and Isak closed the window immediately. He pulled his hood on his head and hurried between the shelves again, muttering a silent fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck under his breath all the way. He was squeezing his coordinates in his sweaty hand so hard he had to worry about smudging the numbers. His heart was beating so fast and loud that he was half convinced a librarian would soon come to him and shush him.

Isak stopped in front of an impressive selection of cook books. He focused on the numbers and the letters on the backs, trying to decipher the system. He was pretty good at that kind of stuff. Pattern recognition. It didn’t take him long to figure out the alphabetical order, and the numbers seemed to be in order as well, by category. Cook books had one number, gardening books another one. Okay. So, he needed to find the psychology section. He could do this.

Five minutes later Isak was holding a huge textbook in his hands. It was some basic work on psychology, and the index was almost freaking Isak out. There were so many diseases and disorders he hadn’t even heard of. His finger slid down across the lines and stop when it came to Manic depression.

Isak stopped for a moment. He could still turn back. He could push this scary book back into the shelf, turn around and go home. Or to Jonas. He could return to his old life. Nothing was broken yet, that couldn’t be fixed.

He was kidding himself. There was no turning back. There hadn’t been ever since Even had kissed him for the first time. Isak flipped to the right page and ran his eyes quickly over the lines, trying to take it all in as fast as he could. Every word he read was scarier than the one before it. Schizophrenia. Incurable. Substance abuse. Psychosis. Suicide.

Isak slammed the book shut and pressed it against his forehead. He closed his eyes, and tried to think. Even was sick. He was really, really sick. And he would never get better, either. Never. Because he had been diagnosed, he must have known all the things Isak had just read.

How fucking scared was Even?

Isak pushed the book back in its place with silent determination. He thought about John Connor. How he had been scared, and alone, and then he had found someone who protected him. That was how Isak had felt with Even, like John, but he was beginning to understand he was actually the Terminator.

Even hadn’t wallpapered his apartment with Isak’s pictures because he wanted to hunt Isak, or worship him, or own him.

Even simply needed him.

That made Isak feel many things he had no name for. But he could tell they weren’t bad things. And the fact that Isak had been missing Even’s voice ever since he hung up the phone yesterday spoke volumes, too. Everyone told him Even was trouble and bad news, but compared to Isak’s every day life? Even was a fucking vacation.

Isak was feeling the travel fever. He slipped out of the library and kept his hood on until he had turned the corner. He was feeling guilty, for some reason. Like he had been spying on Even behind his back, when all he really had done was try to understand him better.

The least he could do was listen, right?

Isak considered putting his earphones on. But he didn’t feel like the tape he had in his Walkman. His only tape. It was something between him and Jonas, and thinking about him and Jonas made his heart ache and stomach curl up. He wanted to focus on Even now. He had stayed up half the night thinking about Jonas, and how scared he was he would turn into someone like him. Someone who used their best friend because that was all they dared to do. Isak loved Jonas, and he would probably never stop, but he did not want to become him.

He would have to talk to Jonas about all this. But he would do that later. Now he had someone who needed him more. Someone he could need back, and that need might be actually met..

When Even answered the door Isak smiled shyly at him. Even looked tired. He looked a bit on the edge, but he was also smiling. He didn’t look buzzing with energy, but genuinely happy to see Isak.

“Hello”, Even said, making way for Isak to step inside. Isak did. He entered Even’s apartment and took off his shoes and hoodie.

“Hey.” Isak looked around. The pictures were gone. There were two big garbage bags in the corner, and Isak suspected they were in there, but he was satisfied with them being out of sight. “I’m sorry. About everything. I just wasn’t ready for you.”

Even closed the door and stepped behind Isak. Isak turned around and saw Even, and the words in the book flooded into his mind. His heart was beating so fast.

“Everyone tells me I shouldn’t be here. That I should stay away from you, because you’re bad news.”

Even didn’t say anything. He looked at Isak from under his brow, guilty. Ashamed. Isak raised his hand up on his cheek. It felt hot against his hand. And so soft.

“You’re the best news I’ve heard in my life. I’m not afraid of you. Should I be?”

“No!” Even shook his head sharply. “I would never hurt you!”

Isak pulled his hand back and walked further in. He wanted to let Even know he was planning on staying.

“Not even on drugs?”

Even stopped on his way to the kitchen, to stare at Isak.

“Excuse me?”

Isak stroked at his inner arm out of instinct. Even’s eyes grew wide.

“Oh! Oh, oh no, no. No.” Even was blushing so intensely that Isak was kind of worried he’d get an aneurysm or something. “It’s not. I’m not. I mean.”

Isak waited, his head tilted slightly. He waited for Even to gather his thoughts and remember how words worked.

“I’ve never done drugs in my life. I still have the heroin from when we met.”

Isak couldn’t believe his ears. Or could he?

“What? But your needle marks?”

Even mumbled something Isak couldn’t make out. He had to ask Even to repeat what he just said.

“I poked them with a pin to look cool.”

Isak laughed. He couldn’t help himself. That was the most absurd thing he had ever heard.

“Really? My friends think you’re a junkie! They think I’m doing drugs with you!”

Even’s expression made Isak stop laughing and stand up. He walked to Even and took his face in his hands.

“Even. Tell me the truth. Please. I’m sorry I laughed, I was just surprised.”

“I don’t do drugs. There’s this drug house I like to visit because the people there are so -- real. People are usually so fucking fake, not like you or me. I want to see real people. The heroin is for them, to buy my way in. The needle marks are to make me pass as one of them, so they don’t think I’m a cop or something.”

Isak didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to think. His brain capacity was busy processing the fact that Even had just called him real, and apparently from Even that was a great compliment. It probably shouldn’t have felt this good. Isak was being ridiculous. He was flirting with dangerous ideas, dangerous things, but he couldn’t help himself. He had tasted blood and he wanted more. He was drawn to it like a moth to a flame, and he couldn’t wait to get burned.

“Are you trouble, Even?” Isak asked quietly. He was still holding Even’s beautiful face, still standing close to him. So, so close.

Even laughed a little. It wasn’t a happy laughter, not one bit.

“Nothing but.”

Isak smiled.

“All my life I’ve tried to stay out of trouble. That didn’t really work for me. I’ve been living for other people, and for a future -- fuck, for afterlife - and meanwhile my own life, the only one I have, has been drifting by without me even noticing it. Now, I have finally found trouble.” Isak leaned closer and licked his lips. His tongue almost touched Even’s lips. “And I think I like it.”

Chapter Text

Isak was feeling light. He always did when he was with Even. Or, when they weren’t having some serious conversations about scary topics. So, most of the time he was in here he was weightless. Floating. After some serious kissing for a while Isak had suggested he’d help Even clean up this place, and Even had, though begrudginly, agreed. Isak really tried to not mention any mess, so he wouldn’t embarrass Even for having it around. His priority was getting rid of the mess anyway, not scrutinize it.

While Even was sorting his laundry into piles of dirty, clean and wearable, Isak was in the kitchen. Or, well, a bit over half of him was. It was ridiculously tiny. Isak’s elbows almost hit the walls as he was doing the dishes. There was a small radio on top of the microwave, and it was playing some random music, just to fill out the silence and give them a pace to work in. Isak wasn’t really paying any attention to it at all, until Even jumped up from the bed.

“Turn it up!”

Isak didn’t understand what Even meant soon enough, so Even hopped to the kitchen with two long leaps and reached past Isak to turn the volume higher. Isak stood there, with hands dripping water and foam, and listened half sung, half spoken words that sounded really familiar but he couldn’t tell where from. Then he could finally make out the lyrics.

Shut up, and sleep with me
Come on, why don’t you sleep with me?

Isak stared at Even in disbelief. This song had been ridiculous when it came out, and when it played everywhere, and it still was. Isak had thought he had gotten rid of it by now, but apparently not.

“Sin with Sebastian? Really?”

“It’s a classic!” Even turned the volume a bit louder. The dance beat started, and Even was immediately swept out with it. He was dancing, sort of, pretty badly but smiling a beaming smile. His long, lean body looked really good when it was moving like that, a bit wonkily.

“It’s annoying!” Isak groaned, and rolled his eyes. But his heart wasn’t really in it. It was more like beating loudly in his ears, all starry eyed from Even’s performance. Then Even danced closer. Isak pouted his lips, just a bit, and caught Even’s kiss on them.

He pushed his wet, suddy hand behind Even’s neck and pulled him closer. He had to admit that this song had very relatable lyrics. And a catchy tune. And Even’s dancing was sort of catchy, making Isak rock a bit as well.

“Go Issy, it’s your birthday”, Even laughed in Isak’s mouth and clapped his hands high above his head. “Shake that booty!”

Isak blushed and giggled and slapped Even on the chest. Cheeky bastard! Even kissed him again before he could make any objections, then Even grabbed Isaks hips and pulled him into dancing with him. Isak tried to resist, badly, just for show. He was so fucking happy he could barely understand it.

Even pulled back mid-kiss. Isak tried to catch him back but Even kept him gently at an arm’s distance. His eyes were locked on Isak’s, and his lips were moving along the song as he squirmed and rocked his body like on a music video.

Shut up and sleep with me
Come on, aha, and sleep with me

Isak was sparkling and bubbling with laughter and something heavier. Darker in shade. Expectation. Even’s question seemed not only legit but pressing. Why don’t he?

Isak grabbed Even with both hands, from behind the neck, and yanked him back against himself. To be kissed. Even kept singing on Isak’s lips, and dancing against his body, and Isak’s heart kept partying. Even nibbled at his lips and then leaned his forehead against Isak’s, rubbing their noses together while mouthing the lyrics again.

You are young, you’re free
Why don’t you sleep with me?

This song was really, really growing on Isak.

Something else was growing, too. It made Isak blush intensely. He was breathing heavier, and his lips kept nipping at Even’s.

“Okay”, Isak whispered, nodding. He pushed his body against Even’s and kissed him, to shut him up and to kiss him. Practice what you preach, Even.

Isak dried his hands on Even’s T-shirt while he pulled it over Even’s head. He threw it on the floor and kissed Even again, his hands feeling the bare skin. He could feel Even’s heart beat against his hand, and it was beating just as fast and loud as his. Isak wanted to get closer to that beat. He wanted to dance to it.

Even pulled Isak’s shirt off. Isak lifted his hands in the air so it was easier, and the moment they were both topless Isak slammed his body into Even. He kissed Even’s neck, his shoulder line, his collar bone. This felt so different than with Jonas. There wasn’t an ounce of guilt in here. Absolutely none. They were young. They were free.

Isak’s hands traveled lower along Even’s back. He slipped his fingertips under the waistband of Even’s jeans. It made Even shiver, and stop kissing Isak for a second.

“Are you sure?” Even asked. Isak grinned.

“Shut up.”

They kissed again. Harder now. With a purpose. The bed was full of boxes and papers from their cleaning up project, so Even tipped Isak down on the pile of clothes on the floor. It worked just fine. It was hot. Isak was sure John didn’t lose his virginity, when he did, in a comfy bed either. It must have been something dirtier than that, gritty and quick, a flash of solace and comfort in the everlasting night.

That was what Isak was feeling now. Comfort. Solace. He had been hoping for a break for ages, and now, on a pile of Even’s clothes, being kissed by Even over and over again, with Even’s fingers popping the buttons of Isak’s jeans open, he was finally given one. Finally, finally, finally.

“Oh fuck”, Isak whimpered when his jeans were open and his erection got more space to grow. It got to its full hardness, and though Even had seen Isak naked before Isak was now a bit self conscious about it. Just a bit, and even that was melted away by Even’s lips on his chest. He kissed his way down Isak’s torso with his full, soft lips, peeking up at Isak after each one. Isak looked down at him and tried to take in the sight. He was so turned on he had never been in his life.

“Come here”, Isak begged, touching Even’s hair. He wanted to kiss Even. He wanted to kiss Even now, and hard, and when Even slid up along his body Isak wrapped his arms around him and pulled him into the hungriest kiss known to mankind.

Even was half on his hands and knees, so Isak could slip his hands between their bodies and undo Even’s jeans. He yanked them down, too, past Even’s beautiful ass, making both of them giggle and gasp at the same time. Isak looked into Even’s eyes. They were so blue, and so soft, and Isak knew he was ready for his first gay time.

With this beautiful boy.

“Let’s get naked”, Even said quietly. Isak nodded, mute. Yes. Yes. Fuck yes, he wanted to get naked with Even immediately. Even got up and wiggled his way out of his jeans and underwear, and Isak did the same laying down. He wasn’t feeling like getting up, not at all. He was perfectly comfortable right here.

He wasn’t feeling at all shy anymore, either. He was just impatient. Even had seen his naked body, for hours, but Isak had never seen Even’s. The moment they were nude Isak turned to look at Even. He gasped, accidentally. Out loud. That made Even chuckle and rub the back of his neck. Then he smiled and leaned back over Isak, to kiss him.

This was perfect. Isak hadn’t imagined his first time with a boy to be on the floor of a dirty studio apartment, on a pile of semi clean clothes, but now that he was here, he couldn’t imagine anything else. Isak was shaking. Even’s skin against his felt so good. It was so warm and smooth and alive. His lips were so hot and wet. Isak drank kisses from them over and over again. He had been so thirsty for so long.

Even’s dick brushed against Isak’s thigh. It made them both jump a bit. Even pulled back, sitting on his heels, and Isak nodded. Yes. Good. He wanted to see it. Isak got up, leaning on his elbows, and looked at Even’s dick. It was the first real one he had seen hard. It was exciting, and it was hot, and it was absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t too big, either. About the same size as his own was. Isak had been worried that Even might be really hung, because he was so tall and everything, but it was just right. It made Isak lick his lips impatiently.

“Can I touch it?”

Even nodded. Repeatedly. He leaned back on his hands, presenting his body to Isak, and Isak placed his hand on Even’s thigh. Its skin was immediately raised to goosebumps, and as Isak ran his fingers up toward the groin Even’s thigh was shivering.

Isak wrapped his fingers around it gently. It felt warm and smooth and hard in his hand. It was so alive. Desire come to flesh. Isak ran his hand slowly up, then even slower down, focused on the movement and the feeling.

“Fuck, I have to lay down”, Even sighed, and Isak made room for him beside him. Even laid down on his side, and Isak faced him, and the kissed again. Isak was still holding Even’s dick in his hand, refusing to let go of it.

Then Even touched his.

Isak made a loud moaning sound into Even’s mouth. His own mouth was opening and closing, like he was a fish on dry land. He leaned his forehead on Even’s, his eyes closed, and tried to just take all of this in. Even smelled so good. Isak’s head was swimming in his scent.

It was good he had a lifeline.

Even started moving his hand first. Slowly, examining, trying it out. Isak kept opening his mouth, and Even came to his rescue by kissing him again. That kiss snapped Isak out of his dream, and he started moving his hand too.

He was having sex with a boy.

He loved it so much.

He didn’t want it to stop, ever, and this time just for him. All for him. This was wonderful and amazing for him, and by the twitch he felt against his palm, for Even too, and that was really the best thing, wasn’t it? That they both were loving this. Right?

“You feel so good”, Isak whispered, gasping. “So fucking good.”

“You too”, Even moaned. “I love it.”

Isak could hear it, how Even swallowed the you and replaced it with it on the last second. He didn’t cling to it. Not now. He was busy. Besides, if being loved by Even felt this good, Isak didn’t mind one bit. He could totally get used to this.

“Oh god I’m gonna come”, Isak squeaked. Even let out a heated moan, and touched Isak faster. More demanding. He wanted to make Isak come just as much as Isak wanted to make him come. The thought of making Isak come was turning Even on. Isak had never in his life felt this wanted.

“Fuck! Fuck!” Isak’s voice probably pierced the walls of the apartment and disturbed the neighbours. But he didn’t care. He was coming. He was coming and squirting in Even’s hand. He had to let go of Even’s dick so he wouldn’t squeeze it hard enough to snap it off.

“Come on me”, Isak muttered. He rolled on his back on he clothes and let Even straddle him. Even was half sitting on Isak’s stomach, and after a few furious strokes he came on Isak’s chest. It felt every bit as good as Isak had hoped it would.

When Even collapsed on next to Isak and cradled him against his body, Isak was so happy he could cry.

Chapter Text

Even’s sperm dried up on Isak’s skin. It felt oddly good. Not just dirty, but also like an echo of closeness. Not that there was any lack of closeness anyway, with their naked bodies pressed together, their limbs entwined. Lazy, soft kisses traveling from lips to lips and back again.

“You know, if you want to seem cool”, Isak said softly, “you might want to reconsider your enthusiasm for Sin with Sebastian.”

Even laughed. His eyes squinted when he laughed, and he ruffled Isak’s hair.

“It worked, though.”

Isak nuzzled his face against Even’s neck.

“It did. But I don’t think I’m okay with that being our song.”

Even tilted his head to listen. There was a commercial playing on the radio.

“Let’s leave it to destiny. The next song they play will be our song. No cheating.”

Isak pouted. He wasn’t sure if he could trust a radio station that played Sin with Sebastian. But he did trust destiny, because when he was by Even’s side he felt like he could take on anything the world threw at him.

“Okay.”

They waited. Isak slipped his fingers between Even’s, in a gentle lattice, and rested his head on Even’s chest. The commercials stopped. The guitar started playing. Isak smiled, when Even shouted an excited YES! as the man started singing.

Call you up in the middle of the night
Like a firefly without a light
You were there like a slow torch burning
I was a key that could use a little turning

They laughed, because they couldn’t not to. It was perfect. It was a sign. It was destiny.

“I fucking love this song”, Even said, and joined the chorus. Isak just listened to him, smiling, holding his hand. Even couldn’t really sing, but he didn’t let that bother him one bit. He trusted Isak so much he threw himself into this song in front of him, and that made Isak’s heart swell.

“I love you”, Isak said. Even stopped singing and turned to look at him.

“Really?”

Isak nodded.

“Uh-huh.”

“But. You barely know me.”

Isak shrugged. He didn’t see a problem.

“You barely know me. You still know you love me, don’t you?”

Even was quiet for a moment, in awe of the possibility given to them.

“I do.”

“Can you explain to me how that’s possible?”

Even smiled. He understood what Isak meant. Then he kissed Isak, and Isak was happy to kiss him back.

Can you help me remember how to smile?
Make it somehow all seem worthwhile

Jonas had Firestarter. Even had this. Isak had them both, and they both were so fucking fitting. This was one of those moments when the whole universe seemed to have meaning. Peace. That was what Isak was feeling now, complete and total peace.

“You know”, Even said quietly. “This is really inspiring.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean.” Even stroked at Isak’s back, running his finger on the pathways between bruises Isak had forgotten completely, because he was now immune to pain. “You could just go. With me.”

Isak held his breath for a while, letting the dizzying opportunity run over him. It was so anarchistic to even say. That he could just go. Could he, really? Run away and never go back? In his rush of love and pheromones he was ready to believe it could be possible. That it could be done.

“Where would I go?” Isak whispered, almost scared. Could it really be done?

“Here. I know it’s not much, but at least nobody would hurt you ever again.”

Isak raised his head and looked at Even. Really looked at him.

“Are you asking me to move in with you?”

Even was smiling. He looked calm, and certain of himself. Not rushed or obsessed or. Well. Manic.

“Let’s say I’m asking you to stay. How about that?”

Isak sighed. He rubbed his cheek on Even’s chest.

“I can’t. I must go home. I don’t even have anything with me.”

“Is there something you need? We’re the same size. You can wear my clothes.”

Even made it sound so simple. It was so easy. The guitar was playing, and the sun was shining on their naked bodies and warming them up. Isak could just stay here. He could just not leave. He decided to wait until the next commercials before he’d stop believing he could.

He almost fell asleep. He was naked against a boy, and he had just been super gay, and he still was the gayest bastard around, and he could sleep. It was incredible. It was thanks to Even. He made it all okay.

Even made Isak okay.

No wonder Isak loved him already.

The commercials started. Isak yawned, and sighed.

“Isn’t it weird? How we fell in love so fast?”

Even hummed softly. His fingers were playing with Isak’s hair.

“I fell in love with you the moment I first saw you.”

Isak lifted his head and looked at Even. He had first seen Even at Eva’s party, but Even had seen him before that.

“When was that?”

“I saw you in a phone booth. You were so mad, and screaming and kicking. I had never seen anyone feel so purely. So real. You are the most real person I have ever seen, and the most beautiful, and I love you.”

Isak remembered the call. He had been mad at his sister, because she had escaped and left Isak to deal with mom and dad. Thinking about it made him squirm a bit. The gunk dried up on his chest made his skin tight. Thinking about mom made it start to turn into a stain.

“I really should go”, Isak whispered, defeated. “I promise to come back. Will that do?”

“Will you come to stay?”

Isak closed his eyes and shook his head.

“No. I can’t. What would we eat? Who would take care of mom when dad’s away for business? I can’t just leave, no matter how much I’d love to.”

Isak could feel Even’s chest sink under him. He squeezed his eyes shut. Why did he have to be the cruel one? Because he had to.

“Issy. You have to give me something. I can’t let you go if you don’t give me something.”

Isak understood. He drew little patterns with his fingertips on Even’s chest. It was so flat. So beautiful. So warm. He drew a heart shape  around Even’s heart.

“I wish I could give you a forever. But all I have to give is a minute at a time.”

Even was quiet for a bit. Deep in thought.

“That’s what forever is made of. Minute after minute after minute, infinitely.”

Isak drew another heart. And an arrow through it.

“For now I can give you fifteen.”

Even lifted Isak’s head with two fingers under the tip of his chin. He was smiling. There was a sadness hidden beneath that smile, but it was a soft sadness, not a black, sticky kind.

“I’ll take it.”

Even kissed him. Isak kissed him back, and when he could taste a hint of salt in it he kissed Even harder. He tried to pour his love into Even through their mouths, to fill Even’s heart up so it could keep beating until next time.

The kisses followed each other with the minutes. And when fifteen minutes had walked past them in single file Isak peeled himself away from Even.

“I have to go now. I absolutely must.”

He got up and searched his clothes. He got dressed quickly. Now that he was leaving his nudity was feeling kind of off. Nudity wasn’t for goodbyes, it was for hellos. Even seemed to agree. At least he got dressed as well. He stepped against Isak, and Isak pushed his hands under Even’s shirt, up his chest.

“I can’t stop touching you.” Isak laughed a little, embarrassed and confused. “I’m sorry but I can’t.”

“You must. You absolutely must.”

Isak’s smile wavered a bit. He was feeling guilty for leaving. But he had to. He pulled his hands away and pecked Even’s cheek a shy little kiss. He couldn’t kiss his lips or he would have to stay.

“I’ll be back.”

Even walked Isak to the door. Isak didn’t hear it close until he was out of sight. He walked out to the street with heavy feet but a fluttering heart. The sun was making him squint. He looked up at Even’s window, and saw Even pressed against it, looking at him.

Isak hurried up the stairs. He heard the door open when he was half way up. When he reached Even’s floor he had to stop, because something was stinging under his ribs.

“I forgot something”, Isak panted. Even looked at him, without a word. He was waiting. Isak walked to him and took his hand.

“I want to be your boyfriend. Can we be boyfriends? Please?”

Even laughed, surprised. Then he nodded. His eyes were twinkling, and the sad shadow was completely gone. Isak felt marvellous for being able to dissolve a darkness that deep. It was a miracle.

“Yes. We can.”

“I can’t kiss you. I won’t be able to leave if I kiss you now, and I really have to go or I’ll be beaten and grounded again.” Isak didn’t care about the beating, not one bit, but he could absolutely not be grounded. He would wither away and die if he didn’t see Even tomorrow. If he didn’t kiss Even tomorrow. So, he didn’t kiss Even today. It was a hard price, but it was worth paying.

Isak looked at Even. The darkness was there again. Just a hint, a passing shadow, and Isak hoped it was because he had mentioned the beating. That it was just anger, not sadness. He walked backwards, unable to turn his eyes away from Even.

“Close the door”, Isak whispered. “Please. You must close it so I can knock on it tomorrow.”

Even smiled. It was a tiny little smile, but it was real, and it was shining a light. When the door eclipsed it and clicked closed Isak turned quickly away and ran down the stairs all the way outside.

Chapter Text

Isak was sitting in his room, thinking about Even. The cross on his door looked upon him, and made him feel heavy. The air in the room was hard to drag into his lungs. He got up from his bed and walked to the window. He opened it, pushed his head outside and took a deep breath with his eyes closed. It smelled like rain. There wasn’t any drops yet, but there would be soon.

Isak opened his eyes and saw something on his window pane. It was a small package, wrapped in newspaper and tied with a rubber band, with I’m sorry written on it with a black marker. Isak recognised Jonas’ handwriting. He took the package in his hand and pulled it quickly inside, as if someone could have caught him with it if he didn’t retreat into his room as fast as possible.

He recognised the shape of the thing that was wrapped up. It was a cassette tape. Isak made sure he didn’t look at the cross. He kept his eyes on the black letters and walked to his bed. He laid down on his stomach on it, turning the package in his hands. He hesitated with opening it. What kind of music had Jonas chosen for his apology? Could Isak’s heart take it?

It also felt a bit like cheating, for some insane reason. Thinking about Jonas, after what they had done, knowing that Jonas would like to do it again. Isak didn’t know how he knew that, but he knew. Jonas and him both knew that if they got alone together it would happen again. Jonas wanted it, and Isak still couldn’t tell him no. He couldn’t deny Jonas anything. He owed too much.

Isak sighed. He reached for his backpack and took his Walkman out. Maybe he was a cheater, but he had to know. He hid the Walkman under a pillow and pulled the rubber band off. He peeled the newspaper off carefully, expecting to see a clear case with a tape inside. Instead, he saw colours and letters.

Blue sky. Sand. Water. Some kind of a crab.

prodigy
THE FAT OF THE LAND

Isak held his breath and flipped the case over. And there it was. Third song on the B side. Firestarter. And nine other songs from the same band, on a real, store bought cassette tape. They really didn’t sell these anywhere anymore. Jonas must have made some serious effort to find this for Isak. He could have just bought a CD and make a tape at home, but that wouldn’t have been the same.

Isak put the tape inside the Walkman. He covered just one ear with the earphones. He had to make sure mom wouldn’t walk in on him with this tape. It was too important. Isak couldn’t deal with it being taken from him. He pushed play.

After the first twenty seconds Isak stopped the tape. He took the Walkman and his backpack, and got out of his bed. He sat down on the floor, his back against the door. That would give him precious seconds to hide the evidence if mum came up here. That would have to do. Isak put the earphones on, leaned the back of his head on the door and closed his eyes. He pushed play again.

Isak didn’t move a muscle until the tape clicked when it ended. He didn’t open his eyes. He was breathing fast and shallow, still caught in the music. Isak opened the Walkman and flipped the tape with his eyes closed, and got lost in the violent, rampaging world of all his packed up, carefully hidden wrath.

This music made him unload that all. It flowed through him and took the anger and bitterness with it. It was easier to breathe in this room now. Isak listened the whole tape through, and when it was over he just sat still, quietly, and pulled the earphones down around his neck.

He could hear rain. The air around him was cooler and fresher, purified. He was feeling like that himself. His sins had been washed away, and he couldn’t wait to get some more.

It was painfully clear that Jonas really, really got him. Even looked at him like at a miracle, finding something new to marvel at with each glance, but Jonas was completely familiar with him. He knew Isak inside and out, and he knew exactly what he needed, and he was willing to sacrifice himself to give that to Isak.

Isak hid the Walkman in his backpack and got up on his feet. They were prickling a bit from being still for so long. Isak opened his door and walked to the stairs.

“Mom? Can I call Jonas?”

“What for?”

“I just want to speak with him. Can I?”

“No. I’m not paying for you just wanting to speak with your friend for no reason. Didn’t you just spend the day with him?”

Isak grimaced. Right. He was supposed to have been at Eva’s with Jonas today.

“Can I call him and ask him to call me back?”

Mum was thinking about it. Isak wished and prayed with all his heart that mum would say yes. Please. Please. He really needed to talk with Jonas. He needed to tell him about Even, that he had a boyfriend now, and that he couldn’t do anything with Jonas again no matter how much he wanted to. He needed to let Jonas know everything had changed now.

“Alright. But don’t hold up the line for too long.”

“Thanks mom!” Isak grabbed the upstairs phone and took it with him in his room. He sat on the floor again, so he could at least theoretically hear if mom came to eavesdrop. Isak dialed Jonas’ number and waited, his palms suddenly sweaty.

Jonas’ mom picked up. Isak asked her if Jonas was home, but he was at Eva’s. Isak’s heart sank. But he wasn’t giving up this easily. He had Eva’s number, and he tried that next. He really hope he wasn’t interrupting anything intimate.

“Hello?” It was Eva. She didn’t sound short of breath.

“Hi, it’s Isak. Is Jonas there?”

“Yes?” Eva didn’t sound too pleased. Tough.

“Can he call me? Please? I really need to speak with him.”

“Jonas?” Eva called. “Isak wants you to call him.”

Isak couldn’t make out what Jonas said. Then Eva hung up. Isak stared at the phone for a while, then he realized Jonas could’t call him if he didn’t put the handset down. The second he did, the phone rang, making Isak jump. He picked up, his heart racing.

“Jonas?”

“Hey. What’s up?” It was Jonas. His familiar voice made Isak’s heart thump louder.

“Can we talk in private?”

“We are. Eva went to fix some snacks.”

“I got the tape. It’s incredible.”

“Yeah.” Jonas was smiling. Isak could hear it, and see it in his mind. “I knew you’d love it.”

“Where did you even get it?”

“I have my ways.” Jonas sounded proud with himself. He had good reason to. “So, is this a call to say thank you?”

Isak blush. Jonas had caught him, again. He didn’t have much time. He couldn’t let himself squirm and tiptoe around difficult subjects. He had to get straight to the point.

“I have a boyfriend now.”

“What? Who?”

Isak laughed a little. As if there was an array of options, a whole row of boys that could be Isak’s boyfriend.

“Even. Of course.”

Jonas was quiet. Isak knew he was trying to come up with a way to tell Isak how bad an idea it was. So, he hurried to continue.

“He’s not a junkie. It was a misunderstanding. I can explain later in detail, but you must believe me. He’s not dangerous. He loves me, and he takes care of me, and he asked me to move in with him but I can’t. Right?” Isak needed his friend now. He needed Jonas to help him decide what to do.

“Issy.” Isak waited, but Jonas didn’t continue. So he had to pick up the slack himself.

“I love him. And I love you. But I can have him.”

Isak didn’t know silence could sound so jealous. He was probably just imagining it.

“He can’t have you.”

Isak laughed again, to hide his insecurity.

“What?”

“It’s simple”, Jonas said. “You love me. He can’t have you.”

“Jonas, you can’t claim me if you don’t want me.”

“I’m not claiming you! It’s just a fact. If you love someone you can’t give yourself to someone else.”

Isak squeezed his eyes shut. Now that Even wasn’t here, and he was talking to Jonas, he wasn’t all that certain about him and Even anymore. What were they really, except an obsessed madman and a needy fool? With Jonas Isak had so much more. He had years.

“When can I see you?”

“I don’t know. Tomorrow night?”

Isak bit his lip. He was going to see Even tomorrow. He really wanted to see Even tomorrow, he wanted to see him right now but couldn’t.

But he needed to see Jonas. To really talk with him. Properly talk.

“Okay. I’ll sneak out and come knocking.”

“Eva’s coming. See you then.”

“Okay. Bye.”

After taking the phone back in its place and returning to his room Isak collapsed on his bed. He was feeling exhausted. Completely drained. It was a familiar feeling. Loving Jonas had tired him before, multiple times. It was hard to love so much so hopelessly.

Loving Even was easy. It was light and wonderful and radiant. Loving Even turned Isak’s heart into a star, and loving Jonas turned it into glass.

This really should have been a no-brainer. Isak should have just given Jonas up and turned to Even, and loved him with everything he had. But Jonas was right. Isak’s glass heart wasn’t completely his. A shard of it was in Jonas’ pocket, and until Jonas gave it back to him Isak couldn’t give his heart to Even.

Everything that had been light and beautiful was now hard and heavy. Isak curled up on his bed, facing the poster. Looking at John gave him courage, and solace. The times were dark, but he could get through them. He had a star to follow, and he would see that star tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'm a flake! Zero chill!

 

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A bonus little headcanon:

 

When Isak left, Even finished the dishes. He stepped out of the kitchen, looked at the pile of clothes on the floor and curled up on them like in a nest. His clothes smelled like Isak now, and he didnt' feel like washing them anymore.