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Headed Straight for the Castle

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It’s not too often that Isak follows the rules, but it’s been awhile since he’s actually snuck out. He’s pretty sure he’s in the clear but still feels the need to check over his shoulder every few seconds to see if his ‘please-don’t-give-me-a-security-detail’ has caught up with him yet. He had parted with his phone for the occasion, so he couldn’t be tracked as easily, be he knew it was only a matter of time before someone discovers his empty bed and conspicuously open window. Isak knows what he’s doing is pretty dangerous, but he can’t help but feel it’s justified. He just has to know--if he’s really, finally, going to this university next year, he has to scope it out first. He can’t go in cold and still be the cool guy, anxiety free (not happening), and do his family proud (definitely not happening).

But after only an hour on campus, it doesn’t seem like anything special. He likes it, and he’s sure that once he’s actually here he’ll find it more interesting, but besides the tired student he bumped into working the register of the café he hasn’t really seen anyone.

It happens as he’s checking over his shoulder for what must be the 400th time in the last 10 minutes. The world shifts and he’s suddenly laying flat on the ground.

“Shit. Fuck. Sorry. Are you ok?”

It takes Isak a second to realize that he must have bumped into someone. Someone who is currently looming over him, holding out a hand to help him off of the ground. Someone who is very attractive.

“Ummmm,” Isak mumbles, fairly disoriented. The tall blonde continues to hold out a hand, and Isak takes it tentatively. His heart is racing. Half because he doesn’t want to be recognized, and half because the boy makes him nervous. He looks so...perfect. Probably the most perfect boy he’s ever seen. “Thanks. I mean, sorry.”

“It’s fine, I bumped into you, I’m pretty sure.” There’s an odd amusement in his eyes, and he’s staring right at Isak. Unflinchingly. They’re so blue, his eyes.

“I’m also at fault,” Isak is quick to assure. “I wasn’t looking where I was going.” He’s suddenly self-conscious of his hastily assembled disguise. A snapback, a hoodie. He’d been so reliant on the darkness and not running into anyone, that he hadn’t planned very far in advance. There’s no way in hell he’s not getting recognized.

“It must have hurt, though…” The boy trails off. His face twists into a grin.

“When you body checked me?” Isak asks jokingly, his anxiety melting. “Yeah. A bit.”

“No. When you fell from heaven,” the boy starts to laugh, and Isak levels the most withering glare of his life at him before breaking and beginning to laugh too.

“Points for delivery, but deductions for unoriginality,” he says.

“It was worth a shot,” the guy shrugs slightly, making an almost pout and tilting his head. They stand there for another few moments, just staring at each other. Well, not exactly staring, Isak prefers to think of it as admiring.

“Yeah it was,” Isak says, stalling for time. “Uh...what’s your name?” He asks, trying to prolong the conversation. The boy smiles like he’s relieved Isak wants to keep talking.

“Even. Even Bech Næsheim. You?” The boy--Even--replies.

“Oh,” Isak had forgotten that this part was a natural next step. “Adrian Eksett,” he answers. It’s the name on his fake ID. “But my friends call me Isak. It’s my middle name,” he amends after a second. It would be too risky to try to remember to respond to Adrian all the time. Of course, this is all a assuming there will be more time together. With Even.

“Halla, Isak,” Even says.

“Woah. Woah,” Isak motions dramatically for Even to stop. “You have to be a level 3 friend to unlock my nickname. But you can level up through engaging conversation, compliments, and good taste in music.” Even laughs. Isak’s heart skips. How could he have gone his entire life without hearing that sound?

“Nas?” Even asks.

Isak nods, even though he’s not completely sure what they’re talking about. “Yeah?”

“Nas. Illmatic? The greatest album of all time. Have you heard it?” Isak shakes his head, feeling himself blush.

“I’ve heard of it, but-” Isak starts before Even cuts him off. Isak smiles. It’s likely Even has no clue who he actually is.

“No excuse. I have it on my phone. Do you want to grab some take out and we can listen to it?”

This couldn’t be going any worse or any better. Of course he wants to get take out with Even. More than anything. But he’s already playing a dangerous game. He’s amazed that he hasn’t fucked up badly enough for Even to notice. Yet.

“You think I’m that easy?” Isak says in mock outrage. He takes a deep breath. “Because you are completely right. Lead the way.” Even laughs his perfect laugh, and Isak feels himself blush. Again.

“C’mon. I know the best burger place,” Even starts to walk without another word, and, even to his own surprise, Isak follows him, tripping over himself to catch up before settling in to match Even’s leisurely stroll.

“What are you studying?” Isak asks after a few moments of silence. He’s hoping that Even goes to school here. It would be a safe guess...not to mention that Isak is supposed to study here come August.

“Film. I want to be a director I think. Anything to do with movies really,” Even responds glancing over at Isak. “What about you?”

“I want to study biology. Next year,” Isak says. He’s pretty sure his parents will push him towards politics, but it doesn’t hurt to hope.

“Oh! That’s fun. I’m a first year myself. Everything is really interesting. New. Fresh,” Even responds brightly. Isak feels a smile creeping onto his face. This perfect boy is only a first year? They might run into each other? As actual classmates?

By the time they actually get to the restaurant, Isak feels like his heart might jump out of his chest. If Even were anybody else, Isak has no doubt he’d be able to flirt effortlessly, but this...this is Even.

Even orders something complicated sounding, so Isak just follows his lead, repeating the older boy verbatim. Even makes a joke about how much of a coincidence this is, but all Isak can focus on is the smooth sound of his voice.

They grab a corner table in the slightly shabby space and sit on the same side of the table, with their backs pressed up against the wall. Their elbows bump as they begin to eat. Isak can feel Even’s leg bouncing up and down in time to the song playing over the restaurant's tinny speakers. After a few minutes of eating Even pulls out his phone.

“Here. Listen,” he says passing an ear bud to Isak. Isak hesitates for a second before pulling down his hood and taking the ear bud carefully. He hears a train. He purses his lips slightly and sneaks a glance over at Even. Even is staring back at him expectantly.

“Do you like it?” Even asks. Isak smiles. He’s only heard about 3 seconds.

“So far, so good,” he jokes. Even shushes him and they start listening again. They sit in almost complete silence for the entirety of the album. When it’s finished, Isak doesn’t really know what to do.

They’ve demolished their burgers - Even insisted they share, despite having ordered identical things. So, they cut their burgers in half and traded - half Isak’s, half Even’s. Isak thinks that even blindfolded he’d know the difference.

“Wow.” Isak doesn’t really know what else to say. “You’re definitely well past a level 3 friend with that contribution.” Even smiles, and Isak’s stomach flips.

“So. Isak. Is this the last time I’m gonna see you?” he asks teasingly, and the younger boy gives a nervous laugh.

“Maybe. Maybe not. Depends on what other albums you have to show me,” he answers before flushing slightly. He doesn’t want to seem so desperate.

“Good. I’m glad,” Even says, looking amused. “So, am I gonna send you letters by carrier pigeon or can I have your number?”

“Yeah, obviously. You can have my” he stutters, reaching for his phone with a shaky hand before realizing he doesn’t have it “Christ, sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.”

“It’s alright, as long as it means I’m seeing you again. You can punch me if you want, I don’t give a shit.”

“This is...crazy,” Isak says, laughing around his words. Even reaches into his pocket, pulling out a pen and scribbling his phone number on a napkin. He folds it carefully and reaches over, opening Isak’s coat, slipping it into the inner pocket. When he’s done, he smooths the coat back in place, smirking before standing up slowly, grabbing his bag, and leaving without another word.

Isak stares after him for what feels like an eternity before he realizes he’s alone. And it’s 3 AM. Fuck, he needs to get home.

He still feels the gentle pressure of Even’s hand on his chest, and it makes him shiver. He slowly stands, dazed by the last few hours. He knows better than to get attached. When Even finds out who he is...who his parents are, he won’t want anything to do with him. And his parents. They’d never approve of a friendship, much less a relationship with a boy like Even. Isak frowns slightly, his good mood dissipating as quickly as the warmth of Even’s hand on his chest. He turns after one last glance back at the table and walks away.

---

Isak knows he’s in trouble when he sees the sleek black car pull up beside him when he’s about 4 blocks from home. He’d taken the train over to the University and gotten back without any issue, but now, so close to home, he’d finally been caught. It seems fitting that a night filled with hope would crash into reality once more. He takes off his hat and pulls down his hood as quickly as possible on the off chance he’ll be able to use the disguise once more.

“Your highness,” one of his security guards steps out from the passenger seat of the car, nodding his head in a bow. “Get your ass in the car. You have lead us on such a fucking wild goose chase. Sir.” Isak rolls his eyes but complies, walking towards the car. He stops before he gets in.

“How many times do I have to tell you I hate that?” he says.

“Hate what, Sir?” His guard grins.

“That. Sir. Highness. It’s stupid. Just cut it out already, Jonas.” He steps into the back seat, and Jonas closes the door behind him.

“What should I address you as? Dude? Bud? Doesn’t seem appropriate.”

“If we smoke together you can call me whatever you want.”

“Fine, bro.” They’ve had this conversation countless times, but the change never sticks.

“Man I’m so glad you found me and not-” Isak breaks off when he see who’s driving. “Good morning Elias. How was your evening?” He stutters, abruptly and awkwardly shifting into forced formality.

“It sucked because some stuck up gay prince decided to pull a runner,” Elias glares in the rear view mirror at Isak. Isak curls in on himself slightly, hunching his shoulders as if he’s trying to blend in with the leather upholstery.

“Sorry,” he mumbles, unwilling to fight. He’s sleep deprived (but that’s nothing new) and confronted with someone who makes his skin crawl. It’s just not his night. Well, morning.

“Your parents are worried sick. They’ve been calling constantly,” Elias says.

“Yeah right,” Isak mutters before replying more clearly. “Don’t have my phone. But you know that I’m sure.”

“You’re right. About both things. They haven’t noticed. And we found your phone. I’m keeping it.” Elias says.

“Elias,” Jonas warns from his place in the passenger seat.

“It’s fine,” Isak mumbles trying to avoid prolonging the confrontation.

The car pulls away from the curb with a screech, and Isak looks out the window at the world he’s rarely allowed into. It’s not until now he realizes how actually exhausted he is - the world is almost swimming, and he can’t fight his heavy eyelids.

What seems like only a moment later, he’s being shaken roughly. Jonas is peering down at him with concern written in his features.

“Uh, Sir--dude. Sir dude. Are you sure you’re going to be ok?

“Why...why are you waking me up?” he grumbles, and Jonas cracks a smile, practically dragging him out of the seat and onto the pavement. He starts pulling Isak along through the halls of the palace. As they approach Isak’s room Jonas answers.

“If you’re going to sleep, do it quickly. You have things to do in the morning and you can’t go around looking like you’re perpetually hungover.”

“What? What do I have to do?” Isak asks and Jonas purses his lips.

“Breakfast. With some visiting people from...I don’t know exactly. Somewhere sort of far. Maybe Iralia. And...your parents. Of course. So, sleep is probably important.”

“Fuck. Ok.”

“Remember to represent our proud country of Baewyth well,” Jonas says mockingly. Isak flips him off as he enters his room and Jonas replies by blowing him a kiss. Isak pulls the door softly shut behind him. Finally, he’s alone. He lets out a shaky breath and allows some of the tension to release from his shoulders.

He manages to stumble his way into bed, not even bothering to take off his shoes before passing out. There’s no time to enjoy it because almost as soon as he’s out, he hears the blaring of his alarm clock, and he realizes with dread what he’s about to do.

He forces himself up and into the shower, leaning his forehead against the tiles for a few minutes, letting the hot water drench him. There’s nothing he wants to do less than get out, but he knows in the pit of his stomach that he has to. He doesn’t have a choice.

So, he washes his hair, scrubs his face until it stings, and steps out. He doesn’t know exactly what he’s supposed to wear for something like this, oddly enough, even though he’s been to a thousand of these breakfasts. He settles on the first thing he can find, hoping it’ll be at least somewhat acceptable.

His hair is still damp, but there’s not much he can do about that. His heart flutters in his throat when he imagines all the different ways this could go wrong. All the different looks his father could give him to show his disapproval. And his mother. He used to be so close with them. Sort of. No, not really.

“Shit.” He realizes he’s been standing here too long, staring in the mirror, day dreaming. He smooths his hair one last time and rushes down the stairs, almost tripping over his own feet.

“Where the fuck were you, Isak?” Elias mutters to him outside of the doors to the dining room. “They’re waiting for you.”

“Sorry,” Isak looks down at his shoes and frowns. Technically, Elias is supposed to call him Sir, just like Jonas does, but that’s almost never the case. He knows they have no respect for each other, but Isak at least tries to keep things civil. Elias goes out of his way to humiliate Isak and point out all of his flaws. Isak feels like he can handle that job well enough on his own, to be honest. Elias always stops just short of actually breaking his contract and endangering Isak, but he’s sure that any day now, Elias will forget those boundaries.

“I’m gonna find out where you went. Last night. Little asshole,” he practically hisses, and Isak grits his teeth, pushing open the heavy door.

As soon as he walks into the huge room, all eyes are on him.

“There he is. Finally,” his mother, Queen Marianne, says with an even tone, glaring at him through a forced smile from over her mimosa. Or, it could be orange juice, Isak thinks, but he sincerely doubts it. Truly, he’s impressed by how well she can keep a placid expression while simultaneously staring daggers at him.

“I apologize, Mama.” As soon as he’s said it he knows that it will be the subject of argument between him and his parents later. He never knows when they want him to make it seem like they’re closer than they are and when they want him to act with propriety and address them by title. He glances over at his father, who frowns as they make eye contact, shaking his head imperceptibly.

“It’s good of you to join us, your royal highness,” says the…(delegate? Isak isn’t entire sure what place he actually holds in the monarchy) from Iralia. God, he hates when people call him “his royal highness.” He’s barely a part of the family to begin with. It all seems too artificial. Sometimes he shortens it to HRH, which he’s come up a bunch of other meanings for. He can also use it as a sort of shorthand with Jonas and his other friends (more like allies) in the castle. He can ask if it’s an HRH situation and prepare his ‘game face’ if it is.

This is probably the epitome of HRH situations. Anytime his parents are involved in his life, it seems to magnify any of his mistakes and all of his problems.

“The pleasure is all mine, your grace,” he says. He’s glad he’d looked up the proper address of the visitors. He’d already fucked up one address, and two would be unforgivable in the eyes of his mother.

There’s a quick shaking of hands before he’s sitting, and almost immediately the food is brought out. He cringes to himself, realizing they’ve probably been waiting for him. His stomach twists uncomfortably and any appetite he might have had moments earlier disappears. He hopes the stomach ache is from anxiety - he’d hate to have his lack of sleep make him sick on top of everything else. Sometimes it can be hard to tell.

One of the servers pours him a cup of coffee, and he smiles gratefully. It’s Magnus. They’re fairly good friends at this point, and he’s beyond relieved that at least one person in the room cares about him. He feels Magnus bump against his arm. A note drops into his lap and he glances down. Head up. Game face. I have beer. Isak smiles at his lap, before looking up. No one’s noticed.

The meal continues on in a similar way, every so often he’s expected to respond, but most of the time he just sits in silence, pushing his food around his plate.

“So, Isak, where will you be pursuing your higher educational endeavors?” one of the guests asks, and Isak is about to respond before he’s cut off.

“He wants to study politics and economics next year at Noulyra University. The royal university of course,” his mother says, and he nods, the sick feeling intensifying in his stomach.

“That’s right,” he says, and he feels his stomach roll more violently. If he throws up he’s never going to hear the end of it. He stress-vomits all the time and now’s no different. He takes another sip of coffee, trying to calm his rolling stomach. It’s not working. “Excuse me for a moment,” he says trying to rise from his seat. His father, King Terje, clears his throat and Isak knows he has to sit. “Pardon me,” he apologizes, sitting back down.

“We have business to discuss,” his father states.

“Of course,” Isak replies, inclining his head in deference.

“These delegates from Iralia come with several concerns, primarily concerning their border with Thoara,” the King’s voice is measured. Only his eyes reveal his annoyance.

“Yes Sirs and Madam. Our territory continues to shrink as the Thoarans claim more and more land,” the Iralian delegate hurries to clarify, seeming not to pick up on the exasperation of the monarchs.

“How do you want our kingdom to aid in this dispute? This border is nowhere near our state. Not to mention how...difficult the Thoarans have been when it comes to foreign relations.” The King folds his hands in his lap. Despite the pointed wording of his question, his father still manages to appear respectful. Isak sometimes wonders how his parents can be so diplomatic with the affairs of Baewyth and not within the actual family.

“Your kingdom exerts an incredible influence over the free world, Sir. We were hoping you’d be able to...pressure them with your alliance,” the diplomat has clearly picked up on the request starting to fall on deaf ear and quickly turns towards flattery. Isak is tempted to roll his eyes, but a quick glance towards his mother (watching him like a hawk) deters his impulsivity.

“Pressure isn’t something I deliver easily. It’s not a game, as I’m sure you’re aware.” The royal family is notoriously cold towards other nations, one of the things that Isak can’t personally stand.

“We would not have come forward with this request if it wasn’t our last option. We have negotiated and called on many of our old favors, but still, they persist.”

“Before we’re able to do anything, we need to establish a dialogue. I will not risk war over something that could be easily solved with diplomacy,” the King says. The Queen nods in agreement. Isak sees the delegate’s face twist into a frown.

“We are willing to collaborate in any way possible as long as we can halt aggression between our two countries.”

“There is another possible option that we would be willing to pursue. It is more delicate, however, and we will not share the full details with you, but trust that everything will be taken care of,” the Queen says, taking over from the King. The diplomat nods in acquiescence. His father stands, and everyone else follows his lead. They shake hands again.

“We’ll talk later,” his father says as Isak walks toward the doorway. He nods, already dreading the exchange. He trudges out of the hall, the room spinning slightly due to his exhaustion.

“How’re you holding up?” Magnus says as he passes. He tries to smile, but he knows that Magnus can see through him when his face falls. “I’ll bring you something!” he calls, hurrying away towards the kitchens.

Finally, Isak is allowed to go back upstairs and sleep. He rushes up to his room as quickly as possible, utilizing every shortcut he knows.

He can’t make it fast enough. He ducks into a bathroom off of the main hall of the North Wing’s third floor, breathing heavily. He’s hyperventilating. He throws up the coffee and the few pieces of bacon he’d managed to eat as quietly as he can, knowing that even though he’s on the third floor, he is still in a more public area of the castle and being caught mid panic attack on the floor of a bathroom, puking is not in his plans. He waits until he doesn’t feel as though he’s on the verge of passing out before he sneaks back to his room.

Panic attacks are draining, and already being exhausted is making it worse, but he manages to make it back. In his bedroom, he sees a note on his pillow next to his phone.

Stole it back. - Jonas

He smiles to himself, folding the note carefully and placing it on the cluttered bedside table. Suddenly, he remembers the other note. Folded, in his crumpled jacket’s inside pocket. Even’s number. He knows there’s no way he’s going to stay awake long enough to even find his jacket, let alone type a coherent text, but just knowing it exists makes him feel a little better.

He slips off his shoes, and strips down to his boxers, climbing underneath the heavy comforter, asleep even before his head hits the pillow.

His dreams, nightmares actually, are only partially realized, but the uncertainty makes them almost twice as terrifying. He tosses in bed, waking every once in awhile only to quickly fall back asleep.

In a weird moment of almost deja vu, he is woken up by Jonas shaking him. Again.

“Hey buddy. You have visitors.” Jonas says softly. Isak groans and tries to pull his comforter over his head, but is stopped by Jonas grabbing his wrist.

“Dude. I’m naked.” And exhausted. And nauseous, he wants to say, but he doesn’t.

“It’s Eskild” Jonas explains quietly and Isak sighs. He loves Eskild and even though he gives him shit most of the time. He’d probably take a bullet for the guy who’d taken over for his childhood nurse when it became uncool to have a nanny when he was 12. Eskild had still been in school and had started unofficially watching out for him before being officially hired on later.

“You can let him in,” he replies grudgingly. If he’s letting Jonas talk to him he might as well let Eskild in as well.

“My bean. My child. My radiant, smelly son. How are we doing today?” Eskild says as he breezes into the room. He sees Isak and stops cold, his mouth dropping open slightly.

“M’ok,” Isak says, somewhat hoarsely. Eskild rolls his eyes.

“Right. Yeah. Of course. How could I have thought any different? What with you looking so healthy.”

“Trust me, I’m just tired,” he mumbles.

“You should know by now you can’t trick me. You’re a terrible liar. How bad was it?” Eskild asks, walking over and feeling Isak’s forehead for a fever.

“Bad,” Isak says giving up on any pretense of him being alright and leaning into Eskild’s touch. He rarely gets to be close with anyone. He thinks, if his circumstances were different, he’d probably be very tactile naturally. Now it’s just because he’s borderline touch starved from spending long days surrounded by people who he doesn’t know and who don’t care about him.

“What was bad?” Jonas asks. Isak forgets sometimes that Jonas (and most of his friends and allies for that matter) are relatively new to his life. For the longest time, it was just him and Eva, and later Eskild, against everyone else.

“It's…” Isak glances at Eskild helplessly, trying to prompt him to explain. Eskild seems to understand.

“He had a really bad panic attack. He gets them sometimes, it’s alright. I can try to coach you through some things that might help him, but he honestly just disappears and comes back from wherever he’s hid looking like he died and came back to life. Barely,” he finishes with a pointed glare at Isak. Jonas looks a little alarmed.

“Do you have any medicine? Or need any help?” Jonas asks hurriedly, already in crisis mode. Isak laughs bitterly before answering.

“You’ve met my parents. Do you think they’re going to believe that I need any help?”

“Your parents just want the best for you,” Jonas says, and Isak visibly deflates. He gives Eskild a desperate look, and he proves yet again why Isak loves him so much.

“Oh you poor deluded child,” Eskild says shaking his head. “We have, uh, something to do, right Isak?”

“Uh-” Isak starts, but Eskild cuts him off.

“Yeah. I just remembered. Jonas, you can leave. It’s alright. I’ll make sure nobody’s sniping him or slipping him a cyanide capsule or something,” Eskild makes a shooing motion, gesturing for Jonas to leave. Jonas looks down at Isak and then to Eskild before turning to stand guard in the hall. He motions for Isak to text him as he walks through the door and Isak gives a tight nod. He probably won’t text for a while.

“Thanks,” Isak breathes out as Jonas exits. He really likes Jonas, but Jonas doesn’t know what going on. He wants to protect Isak, but Isak has to remember that he is employed by the Monarchy, and therefore it is a requirement that he is loyal first and foremost to the king and queen.

“Now that eyebrow man is gone…” Eskild jokes. He’s taken to nicknaming everyone else in Isak’s circle of friends and pretending he doesn’t know their name, coming up with stranger names every time. It usually makes Isak laugh, which he realizes must be the point, but today the attempt is met with silence. “Wow, it’s that bad, huh?”

“It’s ok, Eskild.” Isak really isn’t in the mood to talk to anyone right now.

“A little birdy told me you snuck out? How did it go?” Eskild asks anyway. Isak hesitates. He’s conflicted. On one hand, he’s not really sure if he wants to share Even yet. On the other, he wants to tell everyone. He takes a breath.

“It wasn’t horrible,” he starts. Eskild tilts his head, encouraging him to continue.

“The campus was empty. The coffee was good…” Isak trails off.

“That’s it?” Eskild asks, slightly disappointed.

“I got a burger with a...student. A...guy,” Isak looks up at Eskild. “I really like him. I’ll never see him again.”

“My official job is to make sure you don’t wallow,” Eskild starts and Isak snorts. “No, really, look it up. Babysitter to a grown asshole, main duties include de-wallowing. It’s official. And as such...I must insist that you stop wallowing.”

“It’s not...anything...like a date or something. It was just a friend thing. Like, student to student,” Isak mumbles, glancing down at his coat lying on the floor next to his bed.

“Why are you so sure you’ll never see him again?”

“Things are just...not gonna work out.” Isak feels Eskild sit down on his bed. After a second he feels Eskild’s hand on his shoulder.

“It’ll be ok,” he murmurs, rubbing his hand over Isak’s back. Isak releases a breath that he wasn’t even aware he’d been holding, trying to relax into the bed further. “It’s ok to have crushes on pretty straight boys.”

“He gave me his number,” Isak says, tone shifting slightly and Eskild grins. “But I don’t have a crush. He’s just really cool. And nice.”

“Ok sweetie,” Eskild says, keeping a steady hand on Isak’s back.

“He played an awesome album for me.”

“Maybe you should text him?” Eskild prompts. Isak shakes his head, rubbing his eyes.

“He won’t want to talk to me.”

“How do you know, negative nelly?” Eskild teases softly.

“I just do. Leave me alone,” Isak says, finally reaching the end of his patience for other people in his space. He pulls the comforter over his head and tries to be as still as possible until Eskild finally leaves, rubbing his back before getting up.

He tries to sleep again. After a few hours of restlessness, though, it’s clear his body wants him to suffer. He’s lucky he doesn’t have anything else to do today because he’s pretty sure if he did he’d just pass out or die or throw up. Or all three.

He reaches over the edge of the bed, grabbing his laptop. He sits up slowly, opening up the computer. He hesitates for a moment before typing Illmatic into the search bar of Spotify. He clicks play and smiles, imagining he’s back in the tiny restaurant next to Even. He closes his eyes, letting the music wash over him, wondering what he should say when he texts him.