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Friday

Unknown 1 (11:20): We’ve been friends for too long for us not to have a group chat

Unknown 1 (11:21): So welcome to the

Unknown 1 (11:21): Besties for Life Open-forum Windows-based Messaging Experience

Unknown 1 (11:21): Or BLOW ME for short

Unknown 1 (11:23): We’re still on for tonight, right?

Unknown 2 (11:25): What’s tonight?

Unknown 1 (11:25): Broooo….

Unknown 2 (11:26): :D

Unknown 3 (11:27): Where is pre-drinks?

Unknown 1 (11:27): Even and I are hosting

Unknown 2 (11:28): Come one, come all

Unknown 4 (11:30): I will def make it.

 

Isak squinted at his phone, like it would make the group chat he was suddenly part of make more sense. 

It didn’t. 

Sitting in the cafeteria waiting for Jonas and the others, Isak’s phone had started going berserk as soon as he lifted his bun to take a bite.  At first, Isak assumed it was Eskild’s fault because most things that went weird in Isak’s life could be linked to Eskild, but he didn’t appear to be the ringleader in this case.

Instead, as Isak scrolled through the intermittent chatting, he became certain he had no idea who those people were.  After a couple minutes of back-and-forth information sharing and then a couple more minutes of good-natured bickering, the messages stopped.

Isak waffled over whether to leave the group, idly tapping his finger against the side of his phone as he thought, but ultimately decided it would be better for his phone bill if he wasn’t a part of it.  Isak swiped his finger across the phone screen to wake it up and pressed the button to exit the group.  Just as he was about to confirm, Magnus crashed into Isak’s side and started begging to copy his Norwegian homework.

Isak smirked and shoved his phone into his pocket, settling back into his chair.

“You know, you won’t learn anything if you don’t do the homework yourself,” mocked Isak, smug.  Magnus groaned and thumped his head against the table.

“I need this grade to pass,” begged Magnus.  The crazed look in his eyes suggested he was one second away from wrestling Isak’s workbook away from him.

“Another reason to do your homework,” said Isak, but he was already leaning down to pull the assignment out of his bag.  By the time Jonas and Mahdi made their way to the table, Isak had already forgotten about the mysterious group chat.

 

Tuesday

Eskil (15:13): Why is UoO the worst?

Eskil (15:13): I treat her right, I give her my soul

Eskil (15:14): and all I get back are these shitty grades

Even (15:16): Rough exam? 

Eskil (15:17): The roughest

Even (15:18): Don’t worry, I’ve got Laerer’s exam tomorrow

Even (15:18): We can drown our sorrows together

 

After a couple days filled with conversations from the group chat, Isak could place names with numbers.  A couple of them he could even assign addresses to, in addition to the other miscellaneous information he learned through their conversations.

All of them attended University of Oslo, but they had met when they had attended Elvebakken.  Mikael and Even were roommates and both majored in media studies, while Eskil and Anders were bioscience and linguistics majors, respectively.

All of them had their own quirks that the rest responded to with the carelessness of people who had been dealing with it for far too long to be surprised anymore. 

Mikael posted videos posing as fake wildlife documentaries following a random victim in their natural habitat.  Often, the subject was Even – hungover, harried, or in a rush – and ended with Even flipping off the camera.  (Mikael’s videos became Isak’s guilty pleasure and Even with his pretty eyes and lips and hair became a reminder that Isak was very, very gay.)

Even went off on tangents about obscure movies and spammed the chat until the others threatened to kick him out unless he stopped.  Eskil talked about his girlfriend and wouldn’t quit until the other drowned him in emojis.  Anders seemed almost normal in comparison, but sometimes he liked to break down the linguistic history of a phrase if someone used particularly obscure slang.

None of them seemed to realize Isak was in the group. 

Isak considered leaving.  Sometimes he got as far as his finger hovering over the button, but the exchanges made him smile, so he just…didn’t.

 

Wednesday

Mikael (15:45): So.  Even and I are hosting a party on Friday

Eskil (15:46): Even agreed to host a party?

Eskil (15:47): won’t that fuck with your sleep schedule?

Even (15:49): Because Mikael makes promises

Even (15:49): And doesn’t tell me

Even (15:49): and I’m an asshole if I say no

Mikael (15:50): ;_;

Even (15:51): but no, I’ll be fine

Even (15:51): if it goes on too long, I’ll make Mikael kick people out

Mikael (15:52): Anything for you (´ε` )♡

 

“We need more friends.  Friends who hold parties that they invite us to,” said Magnus, leaning his head back against the back of his couch and staring up at the ceiling like it had personally offended him.  Jonas made the mistake of clearing his throat and Magnus turned towards him, eyes wide and waiting.  Jonas shook his head.

“Quiet weekend, man.  Seems like nothing’s going on,” said Jonas, taking a drink of his beer.  Isak ran his thumb along the edge of his phone, pressing his fingernail against the seam in the plastic.  Magnus turned to Mahdi, who gave a similar answer.

“Isak.  My man,” started Magnus.  Isak pursed his lips; the momentary hesitation earned him the additional attention of Jonas and Mahdi.

“There’s a party in Elvebakken tonight,” hedged Isak, the words spilling out of him slowly.   In the ensuing betrayed silence, Isak muttered, “It’s a university party and I’m not sure I can get us in.”

“A university party?  Who do you know in university?”

“Is it a boyfriend?” asked Magnus.

“Just a friend,” said Isak firmly.  “It’s the only party I know that’s going on.”

“What are we waiting for?” asked Magnus, draining his beer and getting to his feet.  He shoved the unopened beer in a plastic bag and headed to the front door so he could put his shoes on.  Mahdi was more reserved, looking between Isak and Jonas thoughtfully before ultimately following Magnus.

Jonas was still sitting.  “Is it a friend of Eskild’s?”

Isak shrugged.  His palms were sweaty; he wiped them on his jeans.  “No.”

“I thought Eskild was the only university student you knew,” said Jonas.  Isak shrugged again.  Jonas got to his feet and shot Isak one last questioning look before following Magnus and Mahdi.

 

Friday

Mikael (21:46): Are you guys here yet or what?

Anders (22:03): I’m on the way.  Had something to take care of

Eskil (22:05): Stopped by Elise’s, we’re on our way

Even (22:07): Party’s going to be over by the time you get here

Mikael (22:09): Yeah and Even’s the worst to hang out with

Mikael (22:10): Just

Mikael (22:10): the worst

Mikael (22:10): Save me

Even (22:11): Fuck off

 

“Hey, no kids allowed,” said the guy standing near the door.  Dressed in a slightly too tight shirt with his burly arms crossed over his chest, he reminded Isak of a bouncer, especially apt with the loud bass thumping through the house behind him. 

Isak pushed to the front of his group of friends.  “We were invited.”

The guy snorted.  “Yeah, right.  Get lost.”

Isak half-frowned, then reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone.  Scrolling through his conversations, he pulled up the one labelled UoO and turned it towards the guy.  “We were invited by Mikael.”

The guy squinted at the phone and sneered, but walked away to join a rowdy group of co-eds away from the door.

“Dick,” muttered Isak, shoving his phone back in his pocket and turning to his friends.

Magnus and Mahdi both gave him a high five as they passed him to go inside, but Jonas shot him a look that promised questions Isak wasn’t sure if he wanted to or even knew how to answer yet.  Before Jonas could open his mouth, Isak abruptly turned and followed Magnus and Mahdi inside.

It was somehow even more packed than Isak was expecting and the music was deafening.  The entryway opened to a small hallway, with the kitchen on one side and a closed door on the other.  Isak spotted Magnus and Mahdi in the kitchen grabbing beers, but he continued down the hallway, assuming Jonas would join them and wanting to avoid him and his questions for a bit.

The hallway ended at the living room, with the bathroom to the left and another, shorter hallway across the room.  The lights were off, but Isak could make out two doors opposite each other, so he assumed they were Even and Mikael’s bedrooms.

Without noticing, the flow of the crowd had swept Isak into the middle of the room, with drunk university students trying to dance with him with alarming frequency.  Isak disentangled himself from a tall blonde girl’s clutches with a half-smile and looked for a break in the crowd. 

He spotted a somewhat secluded area off to the right and started politely shoving people out of his way to get there.  The third person he tried to nudge to the side didn’t move; instead, the guy planted himself in front of Isak and looked down at him expectantly.

Isak recognized that face; he’d seen it in Mikael’s “safari” videos all the time.  The only difference was that this time, Even didn’t look hungover, sleep deprived, or irritated.  Instead, his hair was swept back stylishly and there was a healthy glow to his skin that highlighted his smile.  Isak stared up at him and Even wiggled a bottle in Isak’s direction.

Bright eyes crinkling with a smile, Even said, “You looked like you need a drink.”

Isak accepted the beer with a nod, not trusting himself to not blurt out something horribly embarrassing that would make Even walk away.  Even held out his own already halfway empty bottle for Isak to clink against and Isak went through the motions, toasting and taking a drink.

“I’m Even, by the way,” said Even, his smile fading into a grin.

We’re hosting pre-drinks.  Even and I are hosting a party.  Even’s the worst to hang out with.

God, based on Even’s easy smile and friendliness, Isak doubted anyone ever seriously thought Even was a bother to hang out with.  It didn’t hurt that he was hot in a way that, every time Isak looked in his direction, he realized that, yes, he did have a type and apparently that type was Even.

Who was staring at Isak.  And waiting for a reply.

“Uh, Isak.  I’m Isak,” said Isak.  He quickly took another drink to get out of a talking for a moment.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

“Uh.  No.  No, you haven’t.”

Even tilted his head to the side.  “So, are you a University of Oslo student?”

“No, I’m a third year at Nissen,” said Isak, grimacing as someone jostled him particularly hard.  He resumed making his way to the less crowded section of the wall and Even followed him, step by step.

“Nissen?  I’m from Bakka, myself.  Almost transferred to Nissen before I graduated, though.”

“Huh.”

Even chattered at Isak with the air of someone who was drunk enough to be slightly friendlier than usual while Isak tried to think of something witty to say.  He couldn’t think straight around Even, so he focused on making their way out of the crowd around them instead, sighing in relief when they finally broke free of the madness.

Isak turned and leaned back against the wall.  There was a table covered in magazines to one side of him and Even took the other side, bracing his shoulder against the wall, eyes never leaving Isak’s.  “Do you have a friend here or--?”

Isak nodded and actually met Even’s eyes for a few seconds before he had to look away again.  “Yeah, uh, just some friends who heard about the party.   We got separated.”

“Shame,” said Even, but his tone and the slight uptick of the corner of his mouth implied it was anything but.  They stood there in silence, Isak looking at the floor more often than he looked at Even until Even cleared his throat and asked, “What kind of music do you listen to?”

“Not this,” said Isak without thinking, gesturing to the blaring house music.  Even grinned.  “I’m, uh, a big fan of early 90s hip hop.  Like, uh, NWA.”

“Ever heard of Nas?”  Isak hesitated momentarily and Even continued, “I have a couple of his albums; I could lend them to you so you could tell me what you think.”

“Yeah,” said Isak, looking up to make prolonged eye contact with Even for the for time.  Meeting those grey-blue eyes was like touching a live wire; heat ran through Isak’s veins and settled in the pit of his stomach.  When Even reached across Isak to set his beer down on the table next to them, he brushed against the bare skin of Isak’s hand and it burned.

Isak didn’t have time to wonder if he was alone in this attraction:  as soon as Even set down his bottle, he shifted his stance until he was standing directly in front of Isak, closer than most of the couples that were dancing behind him.

Even placed one hand against the wall near Isak’s hip and the other trailed along the curve of his jaw, tracing a path that Even followed with his eyes.  “Do you have a girlfriend, Isak?”

“No,” breathed Isak, back flat against the wall for support, staring up at Even through lidded eyes.  His knees quivered the slightest bit.

Even moved impossibly closer, until they were pressed together from sternum to thigh, one of Even’s legs sliding between Isak’s.  “Do you have a boyfriend?”

Isak’s fingers were numb around the neck of his beer bottle, sliding in the condensation; he put the bottle down next to Even’s on the table, raising his hand to wrap around Even’s bicep.  “…no.”

“Can I kiss you?” asked Even, swaying closer still.  He licked his lips and Isak couldn’t help but stare, intoxicated by the heat he could see in Even’s bright eyes.

Not trusting himself to speak lest he break the spell of the moment, Isak nodded.

It felt like slow motion. 

Even leaned in, one hand gently cupping the side of Isak’s jaw to hold him in place, his eyes focused on Isak’s lips.  Isak’s ears were buzzing; he felt Even’s breath against his lips and it made butterflies flutter in his stomach.

Isak had never kissed a boy before. 

But, oh God, he wanted to.

As soon as Isak felt Even’s lips press against his, his heart began thundering in his chest.  It was sloppy in the way most drunken kisses were, but Even slid his hand into Isak’s hair, gently tilting his head to get a better angle, and it was perfectly imperfect.

Even traced a tendon on Isak’s neck, pulling back to watch the play of his fingers over Isak’s skin.  His lips were shinier and his eyes were darker and Isak felt a flash of heat, adding to the building arousal in his stomach.  Even bowed his head until he was close enough for his breath to ghost over the shell of Isak’s ear.

 “Do you want to go to my room?”

Without waiting for an answer, Even kissed the skin just below Isak’s ear, hands trailing down to rest lightly on his hips.  Even swayed and hummed with the music, but he stayed close enough to breathe in the air Isak exhaled, his forehead resting against Isak’s.  Isak buried his hands in Even’s hair, reveling in the way it felt, the way it looked when it wasn’t so expertly coiffed.

Even trailed his lips lower on Isak’s neck, kisses already making Isak burn with anticipation, but when he set his teeth against the skin and sucked, Isak couldn’t help the muted moan that escaped as he squirmed against wall, pressing hard against the nape of Even’s neck to hold him in place.

Isak’s head with the wall behind him with a gentle thump, fingers grasping for purchase in Even’s hair even as he felt the lips against his skin curve into a smile.  He stared blankly up at the ceiling for a moment, then a familiar face over Even’s shoulder caught his eye.

Jonas, Mahdi and Magnus had spotted him from across the room; Jonas raised his eyebrows and Mahdi and Magnus both gave him thumbs up.  Without being entirely certain what they were silently trying to convey, Isak nodded and all three of them began high fiving each other.

Isak bit his lip; his throat felt like it was full of gravel.  “Yeah.”

“Hmm?”  Isak could feel the vibrations against his throat, followed quickly by the warm slide of a tongue.

“Yeah, I want to go to your room.”

Even pulled back just enough to smile down at Isak.  He reached up to trace along the hand Isak had at the back of his neck and twined their fingers together, half-dragging him through the crowd to the dark, less-occupied hallway Isak had seen earlier.

Even became more insistent the closer they got to his room, hands roaming up and down Isak’s sides and tugging his shirt out from where it was tucked into his pants.   Someone (probably Mikael) catcalled as Even walked Isak backwards down the hall, but Even just flipped him off over his shoulder, preoccupied with tracing the curve of Isak’s jaw with his lips.

They stumbled over the carpet, a bit off balance, and Isak’s back hit a door with a thud.  Even fumbled around for the handle and the door swung open, causing Isak to stumble back a few steps, stunned just long enough for Even to close the door again, lock it, and get back on Isak.

“God, you’re so fucking hot,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to the side of Isak’s jaw and nuzzling at his neck.  He tugged at the unzipped hoodie Isak was wearing and it fell to the floor.  Even wrapped one arm around Isak’s waist, keeping them pressed together as he licked along Isak’s lips, groaning low in his throat when Isak parted his lips.

They shuffled further into the dimly lit room, their kisses getting wetter and deeper to the point that Isak could hear their lips sliding against each other in the relative silence of Even’s bedroom and it made Isak’s blood burn, made him dig his fingernails into the skin at the base of Even’s back.

Even broke the kiss with a whimper, arm tightening fractionally around Isak’s waist as he paused, resting his forehead against Isak’s shoulder.  “Fuck.

From their position in the middle of the room, Isak could make out some shapes in the darkness: a wardrobe against the wall near the door, a desk hidden in the corner, a window seat in front of a window mostly hidden behind long curtain.

He wondered where Even slept just before his back hit something solid and Isak glanced over his shoulder to make out a ladder leading to Even’s bed.  Even ran his fingers along the hem of Isak’s shirt, tugging at it meaningfully.

In the dark, it was easier for Isak to pull his shirt over his head and shove at Even’s jacket.  He toed his shoes off and his fingers tangled with Even’s when he went to unbuckle his own belt.  Even laughed breathlessly and tilted Isak’s head up to press a smile against his lips.

Pulling his belt free and stepping out of his pants, Isak turned and climbed up the ladder, situating himself comfortably while he waited to Even to join him.  Isak heard a few seconds of rustling from the floor, then the wooden frame of the bed creaked softly and Even placed one leg on either side of Isak’s hips, grinding down with his weight as he leaned down to kiss him.

Even reached out, fumbling around for something above Isak’s head before he made a sound of triumph and clicked on a light.  The lamp was directly over Isak’s head and he grimaced, covering his eyes with one hand and blindly swatting at the light with the other. 

“Oh, shit, sorry, sorry,” said Even and pointed the light towards the ceiling.  It was bright enough to see the two of them, but not so bright it lit up the edges of the room.  Isak scowled over his shoulder at the small lamp clipped to the bedrail.  Even kissed the wrinkles between his eyebrows, murmuring, “Sorry, I usually use it to read; didn’t mean to sear your retinas, promise.”

Watching the shadows play over Even’s face, suddenly able to see where his hands were and how little clothing they were wearing, Isak felt a tight uneasiness settle in his stomach.  He shifted, uncomfortable.  “Do we have to have it on?”

“I’m too ugly to look at?” asked Even, a teasing lilt to his voice.  Isak turned his head to the side and Even ran his hands over Isak’s bare arms, soothing.  “Hey, if you don’t want the light, we don’t need the light.  But if you don’t want the light because you think I don’t like what I see, I have to question whether you’ve ever looked in a mirror before.”

The pillow under Isak’s head crinkled as he turned back to look up at Even.

“Because you’re so hot, I mean,” continued Even, smile playing at his lips.  He stroked his fingers down the side of Isak’s face to his ear, his nose, his lips.  “Hot like a habanero pepper.  Like the Sun.  Like when Vivian kissed Edward for the first time.”

“Oh my god, you are such a fucking weirdo,” said Isak, not quite getting the reference, but indulging in the laughter that bubbled up anyway.

Even grinned.  “I just like it when you smile.”

Isak bucked underneath him, playful, but Even hissed and suddenly the room shrunk back down to just the two of them, Even locking their fingers together and pressing Isak’s wrists into the mattress.  He licked at Isak’s lips and panted against his mouth, “Do you still want the light off?”

With Even grinding against him and the flimsy cloth of their boxers not doing a thing to hide how hard they both were, it was difficult for Isak to think of anything other than the beautiful boy staring down at him.

Isak swallowed, trying to wet his dry throat.  “It can stay on.  For now.”

“For now,” echoed Even absently, pressing their lips together again.  Isak braced his foot against the mattress and jerked his hips up, trying to get more of the sensuous friction Even was teasing him with.  Even keened, pupils blown wide, harsh breath turning even more ragged.

Nuzzling under Isak’s chin, Even trailed his hands down Isak’s stomach to the elastic top of his boxers, slipping two fingers underneath them, tugging one side of them down to expose the pale jut of his hip.  He mouthed at Isak’s neck, breathing out, “Do you want me to fuck you?”

Isak groaned, writhing underneath Even and pulling him into another heated kiss.  The bass from the party pounded outside Even’s room, but all Isak could focus on was the slick slide of their lips and Even twitching in his lap.

Even leaned back to rest on his haunches, trailing his fingers along Isak’s chest “That wasn’t an answer, you know.”

“Huh?”

Even punctuated each word with a kiss lower on Isak’s sternum.  “Do.  You.  Want.  Me. To.  Fuck.  You?”

Isak nodded and breathed, “Yeah.”

 

Saturday

Mikael (06:58): Uggghhh I have work in an hour and my head is killing me

Mikael (07:00): This is your fault, Even

Mikael (07:02): Even, answer me

Mikael (07:03): Listen to the reasons why this is your fault

Eskil (07:07): He’s probably still with that guy he took to his room

Mikael (07:08): Nah, saw the guy doing the walk of shame earlier this morning

Mikael (07:12): Evvvveeeeennnnn

Even (07:12): Did you get his number?

Mikael (07:13): …why would I have possibly gotten his number?

Even (07:15): I meant to ask for it, but he was already gone

Even (07:15): Fuck

Mikael (07:16): hahahahaha

Mikael (07:16): You are a failure

Mikael (07:17): Just get it next time.

 

“So.” 

Jonas sat down next to Isak.  Isak refused to make eye contact; maybe if he didn’t make eye contact, Jonas wouldn’t notice him.  “Who is the friend you know in university?”

Isak pointedly stared down at the homework he hadn’t done over the weekend, scribbling answers in and hoping they made sense.  What he had momentarily forgotten was that Jonas had the patience of a saint and the tenacity of a bulldog, which meant he wasn’t going anywhere until Isak told him what he wanted to hear.

“Just a friend,” muttered Isak, scribbling harder than before.

“The friend you hooked up with?”  There was no judgement in Jonas’s voice, just plain curiosity.

“Kind of.”

“Kind of?”

“Yeah.  Kind of.  Him and a few of his friends.”

Jonas mulled over that for a moment, then asked, “So, that was…Mikael, then?”

“What?  No.  No, that was Even.  Mikael is one of the other guys.”

“How did you meet them?”

“They, uh…they sent me a text by accident.  My number’s one off from Eskil’s, so I got added to a group chat by accident,” admitted Isak. 

He was almost done with his biology homework when Jonas asked, “Is Even more than just a hook up?”

Isak paused, staring down at his mostly-filled paper.  He wanted to see Even again and, based on the text he had seen on Saturday, Even wanted to see him again, too.  He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I hope so?”  He glanced at Jonas, then back at his paper.  “I don’t know.”

Jonas fell silent again, then hazarded, “You know we would be okay with that, right?  If you got a boyfriend?  No one would have a problem with it.”

Something unclenched in Isak’s stomach.  He knew his friends didn’t give a fuck who he hooked up with, but whenever Isak thought about bringing a boyfriend to meet Jonas and the others, he got nauseous, like he was subconsciously waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The bell rang and Isak shoved his almost complete biology assignment in his bag.

“If I get one, you three will be the first to know.”

 

Thursday

Mikael (13:04): Bro, what was that guy’s name?

Eskil (13:04): What guy?

Mikael (13:06): The guy Even’s stuck on.

Mikael (13:07): Name?

Mikael (13:15): oh my god, tell me you have a name

Even (13:16): I was really fucking drunk, ok

Mikael (13:19): you are a failure on so many levels

Even (13:25): It started with an I, I know that

Even (13:25): I think

Anders (13:27): this is like watching a car crash

Anders (13:27): I just can’t look away

Even (13:30): fuck all of you

Mikael (13:45): I was gonna tell people to bring their friends with that name

Mikael (13:45): to the party tomorrow

Mikael (13:45): But I guess that doesn’t work without an actual name

Eskil (13:46): Maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll show up anyway

Eskil (13:46): That’s what he did last time, right?

 

Isak didn’t go to the party.  He had homework and had already promised to go to Eva’s party and could think of a million other excuses why he absolutely couldn’t under any circumstances make it to Mikael’s party.

It had absolutely nothing to do with the bundle of nerves and anxiety that had settled low in Isak’s stomach the moment Even admitted he had been too drunk to remember Isak’s name.  It was certainly not because Isak wasn’t sure how to react if Even looked at Isak like he didn’t measure up to what he remembered.

It was for the best, anyway, Isak decided.  He had a test in physics on Monday and a report due on Tuesday, so he could just focus on schoolwork and maintaining his 6s.  It was the responsible thing to do.

Isak eyed his phone, but it didn’t move.

 

Saturday

Mikael (09:55): No I-guy last night, huh?

Even (10:02): No

Mikael (10:03): Sucks, man.

 

Isak frowned.  He had made the trek from the apartment to the closest store in order to find food to munch on while he and his friends played video games, but it turned out that Isak had stepped into the shop with the worst selection of chips in all of Norway.

He rifled through the chips on the shelf in front of him, searching for any flavor that wasn’t terrible and only found each bag worse than the one before it.  Why the fuck did someone make chips out of paper?  Who decided that was a good idea?  What kind of world was he living in?

“Hey, can you help me?”

Isak glanced up at the person addressing him and gaped.  It was like not seeing Even for a week and a half had destroyed his defenses.  He looked stunning, hair perfectly styled and cheeks appealingly rosy from the cold.

Without the chatlog on his phone, Isak probably would have missed how apprehensive Even actually was.  Even’s eyes were just a little too wide to be natural surprise.  His hand was clenched around the handle of his basket just a hair too tight to be anything other than anxiety.  His eyes dropped to Isak’s lips a little too frequently to be anything other than interest.

Even absolutely recognized Isak and he absolutely orchestrated this meet-cute to talk to him again.  The realization made that cold, steel ball in the pit of Isak’s stomach dissolve and he averted his eyes for a couple seconds to regain his composure.

“…Even, right?” asked Isak, turning to face Even fully.  Before Even could say anything, Isak continued, “I don’t know if you remember me; I’m Isak.  We met at your friend’s party a couple weeks ago?”

As Isak spoke, he could the tension in Even’s body drain away.  He relaxed his painfully rigid spine and replaced his carefully neutral expression with an open smile.  He shifted his weight and stood with one hip cocked, confident.

"Isak!  Of course I remember you,” promised Even.  He was practically thrumming with excitement.  “You were the best thing about that weekend.”

Isak smiled, quietly agreeing, “It was a pretty good night, wasn’t it?”

Even’s smile widened and he cleared his throat.  “Uh, how do you feel about a repeat?”  When Isak was silent a second too long, Even blustered on, “I mean, we’re having pre-drinks at mine this Friday, if you want to come.  My roommate and a few buddies will be there.  You can bring your friends.”

“I’ll ask.  I’m not sure if they already have plans.”  They definitely did not already have plans.

“Cool.  Well, it starts at 20:00, so if you can make it--”

“I’ll definitely make it,” cut in Isak. 

Even beamed and it brought Isak back to their first meeting; suddenly, looking straight at Even made his mind go blank and his heart beat wildly in his chest.  Isak averted his eyes.

“So, uh,” trailed Isak, “what did you need help with?”

“Huh?  Oh!  Uh, chips,” said Even, gesturing to the shelf Isak had been studying before Even walked up.  “I was looking for chips, but there they are.  You know, in the, uh, the chip aisle.”

Isak bit his lip, trying not to smile.  “So, uh, what type of chips are you looking for?”

Even glanced at the chip shelf.  “Slim chips.”

“Oh?  What’s your favorite flavor?”

Even’s preternatural calm was the calm of someone who knew they were going down in flames.  “The purple one.”

Isak turned to pull the white and purple bag off the shelf.  “So, you like to eat paper flavored like blueberries?”

Isak could practically see the Even regret his life choices.  He nodded and said, strangled, “Yeah.  Of course.”

“To each their own,” said Isak, handing the bag over.

Even grimaced, but took the bag with a nod.  “Thanks.”  Sounding more genuinely hopeful, Even reconfirmed, “I’ll see you on Friday, then?”

“Yeah.”  Isak glanced up at Even, then away again, voice quiet.  “I’ll see you Friday.”

 

Wednesday

Even (17:37): Isak.

Mikael (17:40): wut

Even (17:41): His name is Isak.

Even (17:42): And he’s just as fucking hot as I remember

Mikael (17:45): heeyyyyy

Eskil (17:45): So you found him?

Anders (17:46): And got his number?

Even (17:50): Found him, but didn’t want to scare him off

Even (17:50): he’s coming to pre-drinks on Friday, tho

Mikael (17:55): Our boy’s gonna get laaaaiiiiddd

 

It didn’t take much (or any) convincing to get Jonas, Mahdi and Magnus to come to pre-drinks with Even.  As soon as Isak mentioned pre-drinks, they were interested, and when he mentioned Even’s name, the three of them shared a look and unanimously decided they would join.

Isak was pointedly not thinking about what that look meant.

Hanging out with the rest of the members from the group chat was surprisingly chill.  Regardless of how they came off in the chat, they were surprisingly well-behaved and not at all eclectic in front of Isak’s friends. 

Who were also, surprisingly, on their best behavior.  It was a very surprising night.

They set up in the kitchen after introductions.  Isak had a moment of panic when he thought Jonas was going to unknowingly spill the beans about the group chat, but the moment passed and they moved on to other subjects as they started drinking.

After a few rants about how unforgiving University of Oslo was, a debate over the pros and cons of veganism and a few choice insults about peoples’ beers of choice, Even leaned over to Isak and, echoing his first words to Isak at the party, said, “You look like you need a drink.”

Isak groaned, which made Even smile, but grabbed a can from one of the packs they had brought over and popped it open.  He clinked the can against Even’s bottle in cheers and took a long drink.

Even settled back in his seat, one arm comfortably along the back of Isak’s chair, and laughed at a joke Mahdi made at Magnus’s expense.

The group gelled relatively quickly, until Jonas and Mikael were having quiet conversation of their own about free range coffee or biodegradable skateboards or whatever the fuck hipsters talk about and the rest were having an impassioned debate about the finer points of Elvebakken vs Hartvig Nissen.

Even was mostly paying attention to the Elvebakken vs Nissen discussion and smiling faintly, but wasn’t contributing to the discourse.  Isak studied Even’s profile; knowing that this handsome boy wanted him was somehow more intoxicating than the alcohol.

It made Isak want to make him laugh, make him kiss Isak on his neck, make him look at Isak like he was the only thing in the room worth looking at.  It made Isak want to be reckless.

Isak took a sip of his drink (to stall.  He knew he was stalling), then placed a hand on Even’s upper thigh to keep himself balanced while leaned over to whisper against his ear.

“I want you to fuck me.”

Even’s back went rigid.  He whipped his head toward Isak, pupils already dilated and mouth gaping slightly open.  Isak leaned back in his seat, but when he tried to pull his hand back, Even put his palm on top of it, holding it in place.

No one noticed.

Even drifted closer to Isak and murmured, “Are you trying to give me a boner in front of your friends?”

“I don’t know.  Is it working?”

Even groaned, quietly enough that only Isak heard it.  He shifted in his seat, scooting their chairs closer together.  “Unfortunately.”

Isak wiggled his fingers where they were still trapped against Even’s thigh.  “And you think keeping my hand there is going to help in some way?”

Isak twitched his fingers closer to Even’s inseam.  Even sucked in breath through his teeth and tightened his grip on Isak’s hand.  His eyes darted between their friends.

“You shouldn’t start something you don’t plan on finishing,” said Even lightly, still looking at their friends.

Isak grinned.  “I have every intention of finishing.”

Even’s chair scraped against the floor as he stood up, drawing the attention of everyone in the room.  Isak’s hand still firmly clasped in his, he bit out, “I have to show Isak something in my room.”

Mikael was the first to recover, his laughter fading behind them as Even pulled a grinning Isak down the familiar hall to his bedroom.

As soon as the door closed behind them, Even flicked on the light near the door frame and crowded Isak against his desk until Isak hopped up and pulled Even close by his hair.  They breathed the same air for a charged moment, Isak lightly scratching at the base of Even’s neck and pulling him into a kiss.

Isak wrapped one of his legs around the back of Even’s thigh, urging him closer and deepening their kiss.  Even seemed content to keep things slow and deep, grinding against Isak without urgency and running his hands over every part of Isak he could touch.

Pulling back for just a moment, Even carded his fingers through Isak’s hair and murmured, “You’re so hot.  How are you so fucking hot?”

Isak’s face burned and he shrugged inelegantly.  He grabbed the hand Even still had on his waist and hesitantly tugged it up to kiss his palm.  “So are you.”

Even’s lips turned up at the edges and he kissed Isak gently, pulling off his own shirt before helping Isak tug off his.  As Isak’s snapback joined his shirt on the floor, Isak hiked his other leg around Even’s waist and Even ran his hand down it before hooking both hands under Isak’s knees to hold him up as Even pulled him off the desk.

Isak huffed out a laugh against Even’s mouth.  “Sorry, are we going somewhere?  Do we have somewhere else to be?”

Even kissed the side of Isak’s forehead.  “It’s just been way too long since I’ve seen you in my bed.”

“I guess now would be a good time to fix that,” said Isak, locking his feet together around Even’s waist.

Even carried him over to the ladder that led to his bed and Isak ended up perched on one of the rungs, holding Even close as they kissed.  Separating for air, Even tapped Isak’s knee and said, “You know, you’re going to have to let go if you want to get up there.”

Isak shot him an unimpressed look.  “You mean you can’t carry me up there?  Disappointing.”

Even grinned as Isak slowly released him, feet landing back on the floor.  Isak twisted in Even’s arms and climbed up the ladder, Even crowding him closely from behind.

As soon as Isak’s back hit the mattress, his phone buzzed weakly from across the room.

And buzzed again.

Even pulled back from making what felt like a truly impressive hickey on Isak’s collarbone and asked, “Do you need to get that?”

Isak groaned and nodded, hand sliding off Even’s bare shoulder and falling to the bed.  He scowled at his phone lying innocently on the floor.  “It might be Jonas or the others.”

Laughing, Even fell to Isak’s side and made himself comfortable as Isak walked across the room.  Even watched him from over the railing with lidded eyes and a content smile, absently tracing patterns on his stomach.

Isak flicked his finger across the phone’s screen.

 

Jonas (21:35): We’re heading to Eva’s party, so you don’t have to worry about us.

Jonas (21:35): Have fun.

 

“Is everything okay?”

Isak hummed noncommittally, still looking down at the texts. He glanced back at the bed and saw Even leaning forward on his elbows, eyebrows raised.  Isak ached to join him, but he was caught by how much…fun this was.

It was fun seeing Even trying to get his attention.  It was nice seeing Even focus entirely on Isak.  It was euphoric in a way that Isak had never experienced before: having a crush he knew for certain liked him back and wasn’t just a construct of Isak’s imagination.

Isak wanted to hold onto that feeling.

“Uh, Jonas said they’re going to a party.”

“Okay.”

“And, uh, I should go with them.”

Even jumped down and walked over to Isak, crowding him back against the desk, trailing his hands up Isak’s back and dipping his head to nip at Isak’s neck.  “You could stay.”

"It’s bro time.  You know.  I have to hang out with my friends.”

“I could come with you?”

“No,” said Isak a little too quickly.  Even tilted his head to the side and Isak hurriedly continued, “If you come too, we are definitely just going to end up hooking up in someone else’s bed.”

Even smirked.  “Was that supposed to make me not want to go?  Cause I’m not seeing a downside here.”

“Even.”

Even leaned in for a kiss, running his hands down Isak’s back to grab his ass and grinning at the happy moan Isak made against his mouth.  Isak shivered as Even trailed his fingertips along his spine, his skin tingling in their wake.

With an extremely put-upon groan, Even stepped back and purposely kept his hands held out in front of him and away from Isak’s body, gesturing to the door.

“You should go now.  I can only keep my hands to myself for so long.”

Isak smiled dopily and reached for his shirt.  As he tugged it on, Even grabbed Isak’s snapback from where it had fallen and placed it back on Isak’s head.

“I’ll see you next time.”

Before Isak could make it out the door, Even grabbed his wrist gently and turned him back around, pressing a kiss to his forehead, cheek, lips.  It was far more chaste than before, but it still made Isak’s heart thump wildly in his chest.  He grabbed Even’s hair and tilted his head, trying to deepen the kiss, but Even stepped out of reach again.

“No.  No, no.  You have a party to get to,” said Even.  “Jonas and Mahdi and Magnus are waiting.”

“I will see you next time.”

“I’m already looking forward to it,” said Even softly, a gentle smile tugging at his lips.

 

Saturday

Mikael (08:15): Even got laaaiiiiiddd

Even (08:16): Even did not get laid

Mikael (08:16): What?

Eskil (08:16): Why not?

Anders (08:16): What happened?

Even (08:20): His friends texted him, wanted to know where he was

Even (08:20): so he had to go

Mikael (08:23): useless friends

Mikael (08:23): they should be more like us

Mikael (08:23): helping our bro bone a bro

Eskil (08:25): Seriously, he seems cool tho

Anders (08:30): Did you get his number at least, this time?

Anders (08:32): Even?

Mikael (08:32): hahahahaha I just heard FUCK from across the hall

Mikael (08:32): so I’m guessing not

 

Isak was exhausted. 

All his classes decided on this week to rampage and Isak had been buried in assignments and tests and papers and more tests until he was drowning.  Days were blurring together as Isak started losing sleep and could only blearily focus on classes during the day and fumble his way through homework at night.

It was lunchtime and Isak was sequestered in the library – away from all his friends – because he had a page and a half bibliography he needed to write by tomorrow, then shoehorn some quotes into his paper so it didn’t look like he wrote the paper based on what they learned in class and sped through the research afterwards (which was what he was actually doing).

His friends at University of Oslo were a much-needed, temporary distraction from the pain and Isak found himself learning a lot about their lives just by checking in on the conversation every so often.  Mikael and Even were engaged in a long-running debate about why Baz Luhrmann was a hack (Mikael) vs why he was a visionary (Even), Anders just got a new puppy and kept spamming the chat with pictures and Eskil seemed to be have an existential crisis over liking a Justin Bieber song.

Isak grinned at the latest photo of Anders’ puppy dressed as a pumpkin, saving the picture to his phone’s memory before setting his cellphone down.  He spied Jonas looking around curiously and raised a hand to get his attention.  Jonas nodded at him and headed in his direction.

“Hey.”

“Hey.  What’s up?”

“Nothing much.  You up for the pre-game at Magnus’s tonight?”

“Hmm?  Yeah, of course.  Why wouldn’t I be?”

Jonas shrugged.  “Is Even going to be there?”

Isak stared intently at the computer screen in front of him.  He should have known he couldn’t avoid this conversation forever.  “Why would Even be there?”

“You two just seemed pretty cozy last Friday.”  Isak said nothing.  “So, what’s up with that?”

Isak stayed silent and Jonas ventured, “You said you’d let us know if you got a boyfriend.”

“I don’t have a boyfriend,” Isak denied, but it sounded weak, even to his ears. 

Jonas didn’t push.  It was one of the perks of having been friends with him for so long.  He knew how far he could push Isak, but was careful about crossing that unspoken line.  Instead, Jonas fell silent and sat there while Isak continued his work.

“I’m here if you need me, okay,” said Jonas, voice carefully devoid of emotion as he placed a hand on Isak’s shoulder and walked away.

 

Thursday

Even (15:47): Help.  I’m about to creep around Nissen until I find Isak

Even (15:47): Convince me not to

Even (16:00): I am seriously about to do it

Mikael (16:01): Bro

Mikael (16:01): I mean this in the most loving way possible

Mikael (16:01): but in the immortal words of Kanye West

Mikael (16:02): that shit cray

Even (16:03): Okay.  Cool.  Thanks.

 

On Friday, Even and Mikael hosted another party in the hopes that Isak would show and Isak did, in fact, choose to show up at this party.  This time, however, he had a game plan.  This time, unlike the other times, he came alone and avoided Even.

It wasn’t hard to see that the cat-and-mouse chase (if it could be called that) with Even was going to be over soon and Isak liked the happy, jittery feeling that came with knowing Even was attracted to him, but that they weren’t together just yet.

Isak just wanted to play one more game.

When he got to the house, he snagged a beer from the kitchen and started a conversation with the first person who looked bored.  It took him two rooms, but Isak found a boy with black hair and blue eyes and a twist to his mouth that said he was five minutes from going home.

The conversation was simple: video games and music and - surprisingly - physics, when they fell silent on the first two topics.  It took maybe fifteen minutes before the guy looked over Isak’s shoulder and someone stepped up to join the conversation.

Isak smiled up at Even as innocently as possible and it took two seconds for Even’s expression to subtly change and Isak knew he’d been found out.  It was made even clearer a moment later when Even casually draped an arm around Isak’s waist and kissed his cheek.

“What’s up?” he asked, addressing the third party in their group.

The guy didn’t even blink at the display; instead, he launched back into their discussion about particle physics.  It was a little over Isak’s head, if he was being honest, but that wasn’t really the point of the conversation, anyway.

Even began rubbing his fingers in little circles, eventually tugging up the back of Isak’s shirt and tickling lightly at the base of his spine.  It made Isak’s blood run hot; this was far from the most explicit thing they had done, but something about the casual intimacy made Isak feel strung too tight and ready to burst.

Luckily, Even was better at making small talk and he politely excused them from the conversation, using his hand on Isak’s back to steer him towards the living room.  Leaning in close enough to be heard over the blasting music, Even asked, “Are you trying to make me jealous, Isak?”

Isak sputtered.  “Me?”

Even raised his eyebrows.  Isak sputtered some more.

“Because I was,” admitted Even and suddenly Isak’s heart went cold in his chest.  Even didn’t look upset; if anything, he looked amused.

But Isak thought about the chat group on his phone and lying and purposely setting up situations to play with Even and it felt less like a fun time and more like a joke.  Like he was laughing at Even.

Isak stopped walking abruptly and Even crashed into him.  “Isak?”

Turning to face Even, Isak ran his hands down the side of Even’s face and kissed him.  It was an impossibly quiet moment in the middle of a deafening party.  When he opened his eyes again, Even looked dazed.

Isak cleared his throat, trying to get rid of the nervous lump there.  It didn’t work.  “I like you.  Like, really like you.”

Even grinned dopily.  “That’s good, cause I’m crazy about you.”

Even’s smile faded a little when Isak looked away guiltily and bit his lip.  “Can we go to your room?  Um.  There’s something I want to talk about.”

"This sounds ominous,” said Even, aiming for lighthearted, but missing the mark and landing somewhere between confused and anxious.

“It’s, uh, important.  I just—Can we talk in your room?”

“Yeah, of course.  Stick close to me and I’ll get us through the crowd.”

The trek took a bit longer than expected; a few of the guests stopped Even to have a conversation and Even had to politely bow out before they got stuck.  As soon as they made it to Even’s room, Even shut the door behind them and turned on the light.

Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, Isak gestured to couch underneath Even’s bed.  “Can we sit down?”

Even pointed to the couch, mimicking Isak.  “Please.  Take a seat.”

Isak sat without ceremony, his legs too much like jelly to support his weight anymore.  The worried crease between Even’s eyebrows grew more pronounced as he mirrored Isak on the couch, hands in his lap.

“What do you want to talk about?”

“Um.  So.”  Isak trailed off, staring down at his hands.  Even laughed, but it was quiet, strained.  Isak clenched his hands.  “I knew who you were before I met you at that party.”

Even tilted his head to the side.  His jaw went tense and his voice was carefully controlled as he asked, “From Elvebakken?”

“What?  No, no.”  Even relaxed minutely, his shoulders losing some of their tension.  Isak closed his eyes and wished for a little more courage to just get out what he wanted to say.  “You know how you have a group chat with Mikael and the others?  That Mikael started like a month ago?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Isak could see Even reel back, confused.  “I do.”

“I’m part of it,” admitted Isak.  “I’ve been in it from the beginning.”

“I don’t understand.  Mikael said he didn’t even know your name.”  Even was starting to tense again, leaning away from Isak.

“He didn’t.  It was an accident.  None of this was planned,” said Isak.  Now that he had started, it was difficult to stop talking.

Even turned to Isak and placed a hand on Isak’s in his lap.  Eyes so open and inviting it made Isak weak at the knees, Even cautiously offered, “Why don’t we start at the beginning, yeah?”

 

Friday

Mikael (21:21): So, I saw Even and Isak disappear into his room

Mikael (21:21): Did you finally get lucky?

Mikael (21:22): Maybe you’ll stop being so cranky now

Mikael (21:22): GET

Mikael (21:22): IT

Eskil (21:22): Oh, Isak, I love you so much

Anders (21:23): You’re the light of my life

Mikael (21:23): Make sweet love to me by the fire

Even (21:25): We’re just talking

Even (21:25): And this is so much more embarrassing now

Mikael (21:26): You’re embarrassing

 

“I’m bipolar,” said Even quietly.

They were lying in the darkness in Even’s bed, Isak tucked under Even’s arm and their legs tangled together.  Isak tilted his head up to look at Even’s expression, but Even was pointedly looking away.  Running his fingers through the hair at the nape of Even’s neck, Isak pressed a gentle kiss to the underside of his jaw.

“Ok.”

“I just want you to know.  We’re being honest about everything, getting it all out in the open.  I…don’t think it’s fair to blindside you with it a month down the road.  Just.  So you know.”

“Ok.”

Even didn’t reply, just swallowed once and fell silent.  His body was tense against Isak’s.  Reaching down blindly with the hand that had been in Even’s hair, Isak linked their fingers together.  He turned on his side so he was lying half on top of Even.

Even bit his lip and forced out, “I’ve been pretty stable since you’ve known me, but things can get…bad.”

“My mom’s schizophrenic,” said Isak softly.  He trailed a finger along Even’s jawline.  “And Magnus’s mom is bipolar.  I know it’s not easy.”

“I just…wanted you to know.  I have rules I follow and sometimes I’ll do things that don’t make sense to anyone but me.”

“Does Mikael know?”

Even hesitated, then nodded.  “All the guys do.  The first time I had an episode, it was all over the revue wall at Bakka; it was why I almost transferred to Nissen.  It was kind of hard to hide after that.  If it hadn’t been for the guys, I might have dropped out.”

“I’m glad you didn’t.”

“Hm?”

Isak smiled up at Even, snuggling closer against his warmth.  “If you dropped out, you might not have moved in with Mikael and been a part of the chat group.  And who knows if we would have ever met, then?”

 

Saturday

Even (09:10): So it turns out Isak has a secret.

Mikael (09:12): ??

Eskil (09:13): ?? seconded

Anders (09:13): ?? thirded.  He’s not secretly a jerk, right?  Cause he seemed ok

Even (09:15): Isak?

Isak (09:16): Soooo I’ve kind of been in here this whole time

Mikael (09:17): WHAT

Eskil (09:17): What the fuck?

Mikael (09:17): BUT HOW

Anders (09:18): I don’t know how, but this is Mikael’s fault

Isak (09:20): Turns out my number is one digit off from Eskil’s

Isak (09:21): You probably just typed it wrong, then forgot to delete it when you fixed it

Mikael (09:23): So you knew Even was a dork since the beginning?

Isak (09:24): Yeah

Even (09:24): Shut up

Mikael (09:24): hahahahaha

Anders (09:26): Seriously.  Mikael’s fault.

 

Mikael called for another meeting of Isak and Even’s friends in light of Isak’s deception, to gather enough intel to blackmail Isak so that he could never share the secrets he had learned about them.  Given that he told Isak this upfront when he suggested the meeting, Isak wasn’t worried about Mikael’s aptitude with subterfuge.

The bell attached to the door jingled cheerily as Isak and Even entered the café that Mikael had insisted on meeting at.  It didn’t take long to find their obnoxiously large group all packed into one side of the coffee shop. 

“Hey, love birds!” greeted Mikael, waving Isak and Even over to the table their party had commandeered.  “How are things?”

“We’re good,” said Even.  “Now that Isak’s done playing with my emotions.”

“Oh my God--”

Mikael snorted.  “Yeah, I mean, what kind of monster--”

“—just toys with people for their own amusement?  I dunno, man.”

“Sets them up to knock them down.”

“Kind of sadistic, if you think about it.”

“It’s like something out of Saw.”

Isak rolled his eyes.  “You’re both drama queens.”

Even laughed and kissed the crown of Isak’s head, then turned back to Mikael.  “We’re good, though.  Really.”

 

Thursday

Even (19:24): We won’t be able to make it to the party tomorrow

Mikael (19:30): Yeah.  Based on what I’m hearing from your room

Mikael (19:30): you won’t be leaving that bed any time soon

Mikael (19:31):  That was a hint.  You two are super loud.

Even (19:32): You want us to be louder?

Isak (19:32): We can do that.

Mikael (19:35): OH MY GOD just turn on some music

Mikael (19:37): Don’t think I won’t walk in there

Eskil (19:40): Good luck, Mikael.

Anders (19:41): Yeah, rest in pieces, Mikael.

 

“It was just nice, you know,” admitted Isak quietly, sometime later in the evening.  They were sitting on Even’s bed, Even leaning against the headboard and Isak between his legs with a laptop still playing the credits of Pretty Woman.  “To be the one being chased this time.  To see someone else try to get my attention instead of me trying and failing to get theirs.  It was just…nice.”

Even smiled and pressed a sweet kiss to the top of Isak’s head.  “Well, now you’re going to have to deal with it all the time.”

“Huh?”

“My attention.  You have it.  And I’m going to give you so much of it, you’re going to be sick of it.  You deserve nice things in life, Isak.  And I’m going to do my best to give them to you.”

Isak rubbed his hand over Even’s, bringing it up to his lips to kiss his palm.  “Well, I got you.”  Isak shifted in Even’s lap, turning halfway to tilt his head up for a soft kiss and snuggling closer.

“I think that’s pretty nice already.”