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with love, from anonymous

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MANDAG 15.10

At this point, Isak’s pretty sure that his locker has become sentient enough to figure out how to fuck with him at the worst times. All he has the energy for is to grab his Bio textbook in time to catch the tram. He already has plans to veg out in front of his laptop with a bag of sour cream and onion chips, goddammit, he doesn’t care how much Eskild complains about his breath stinking up the whole place. He deserves it after the shitty day he’s had, because there’s no way a test on motion could’ve been that hard. Isak sometimes moves from his bed. He knows how it works.

The locker door finally opens as he’s struggling to remember whether he should’ve taken the square root of time in that last problem. He’s so distracted that he doesn’t notice when a piece of notebook paper flutters to the ground. He almost kicks it away before his eyes land on the giant heart drawn in green marker on the front. His eyes dart around the hallway to see if anyone’s noticed, but everyone’s going about their own business, unaware of how loudly Isak’s heart is thudding in his chest.

The note is wrinkled from being stuck in his locker, but the writing is clear. I like your hair, and it sucks that you hide it under your hats all the time, but I like your snapbacks too, so what do you know? Maybe I just like everything about you.

Isak blushes bright red. This has got to be a joke, because Isak isn’t a catch by anyone’s standards. He can hardly go ten feet without tripping, he’d rather spend his Fridays playing video games than talking to real people, and he can count on one hand the number of times he’ll leave his room on any given weekend. He’s objectively not bad-looking, but he’s not attractive enough to catch anyone’s eye either. He gets by with girls using his awkward brand of charm, but it’s not like any of that matters.

Fuck, he hates everyone at this goddamn school. He liked it better when he was just Jonas’s tagalong friend.

As he crumples the note to throw away, he catches Emma’s eye. Her locker is only a few doors down from his, and when she notices him looking, her face immediately brightens. Isak flinches when she waves at him, and he tightens his fist around the note.

If it wasn’t a joke, it must’ve come from Emma – who else? They’d almost hooked up last weekend, had gotten as far as making out in a bathroom before he’d stopped her as she’d sunk to her knees. Her lips had just made him numb, and even reminding himself what his friends expected of him wasn’t enough.

It’s just sad at this point, because Isak’s well aware that the problem isn’t just with Emma, with her pretty hair and her cheekbones and her complete willingness to suck Isak’s dick when her friend was just waiting on the other side of that bathroom door. Isak’s almost hoping that boys won’t do it for him either. He’s never actually tried. He probably never would, at the rate he’s going. Maybe it’s better to be alone forever than risk kissing a boy and actually liking it.

Emma bounces up to him, clutching her Chemistry textbook to her chest. Before he can make an excuse to dart away, she’s already asking, “You’re coming to my party on Friday, right?”

“Uh, party? Friday?”

“Yeah, I told you about it last weekend. At Eva’s?” she says. Isak wonders whether that was before or after she’d tried to give him the blowjob, but it probably doesn’t matter anyway – he’s been trying to block the entire experience out of his mind.

“Your friends said they’d come,” Emma continues.

Isak scratches the back of his neck. “I may have a…family thing that night, but I’ll let you know.”

“Okay,” Emma says. “Hey, what’s that in your hand? It looks important.”

Isak hurries to hide the note behind his back before Emma can inspect it more closely, but he can already feel his stomach dropping. The smile she shoots at him is too knowing for it to be a coincidence, and he has to force his train of thought into a stop before he reads too much into it. It’ll just confirm his worst suspicions, and his day has already sucked enough without having to figure out how to get this girl off his back.

This would be his friends’ wildest dreams. Figures.

“It’s just my Biology notes.”

“Must be some really important Biology notes.”

“Yeah, I have people fighting for these, so.” It’s true. The two stoners who sit in the back had offered him a shitload of weed for his notes before their last exam. He would’ve taken them up on it too, if Mahdi hadn’t told him the stories about their weed, and maybe there’s a reason why Isak has never seen them sober.

“So I’ll talk to you later, Isak?”

“Yeah,” Isak sighs, before Emma leaves with a wave.

Nothing good can come out of this stupid note, and Isak’s about to throw it away and forget the whole ordeal when he spots Even Bech Næsheim striding down the hallway, surrounded by his friends. Isak can’t claim to have ever strung together two words around Even, but he’s heard the rumors, although it’s barely been a month since Even’s transferred to Nissen.

Even had once climbed up to the roof at a house party to let himself fall backwards into the pool and barely made it. He rented an entire boat for a month – an expensive one at that – just to have parties in it every weekend, and decided to live in it for a week until his parents forced him home. He spray-painted a teacher’s car with the word “bigot” over and over after the teacher made a particularly racist comment towards one of his Muslim friends, and got suspended for two weeks. He paid for a random couple’s honeymoon suite in one of the most expensive hotels in Oslo out of the kindness of his heart. He wrote a 20 (or was it 30?) page essay on intersectional feminism, paid for a shit ton of copies to be printed, and scattered them all across the school when his teacher wouldn’t give him extra credit for it.

At this point, Isak wonders whether Even’s a real person, or whether he’s just a careful construction of the rumors Isak can’t seem to ignore, no matter how often he tells himself he doesn’t care. There isn’t a single cell in his body that wonders how Even gets his hair so perfect every morning, or how his jeans seem to fit perfectly on his long legs.

Just then, as if he can sense Isak’s eyes on him, Even looks over from where he’s leaning against the water fountain. Isak ducks his head, blushing, but he can’t put a stop to the flutters that erupt in his stomach. Of course Even notices him on a day when he’s barely awake after an all-nighter. His clothes don’t match, his snapback is askew, and there’s a horrible pizza stain on his shirt. The universe hates him.

He risks another peek, but Even’s eyes are still on him. He’s probably just wondering how such a human disaster had made it to seventeen, but Isak’s chest threatens to split wide open anyway.

Isak stares at the note again. There’s no signature. For all he knows, it was written by someone he’s never met, someone he may actually like.

Isak passes up the trash can and tucks the note into his pocket instead.

~~

MANDAG 16.00

Isak’s hardly a coffee person. He’d rather spend his money on energy drinks because at least those come in cool colors, but he’s so sleep-deprived after school that he finds himself at KB, tapping his feet as he waits for his vanilla latte. The sheer size of the menu had nearly scared him off, but he can’t go wrong with this, right? Even Mahdi will get the occasional latte, and he hasn’t turned into a hipster yet.

He’s lazily playing Candy Crush on his phone when Even slides up to the register with coffee in hand. Even proceeds to take the last three coffee sleeves out of the tin one by one, and slips them on his coffee cup stacked on top of each other. Isak can only watch, mouth agape.

Even turns to him, and it’s like Isak’s world slows down to a stop. “What? Did you need coffee sleeves too? Sorry, my hands are big, and they’re fragile.”

Isak looks down to Even’s hands, imagines them on his skin. Even’s not wrong.

The barista places his latte on the counter then, and Isak can’t even pick it up because he doesn’t want his hands to burn the fuck off. Isak pokes at it, but jerks his finger away immediately.

“Um,” Isak says, and he’s proud of himself for being able to make an actual sound around Even.

Even pulls a napkin from the paper dispenser and hands it to him. Isak wraps it around the cup without a word. The paper’s too thin to actually help, but Isak can’t just ask Even if he can sacrifice his poor fragile hands. Communicating properly would go against everything he stands for.

“So I saw you in the hallway today,” Even says. “After school?”

Isak’s jaw clenches. He should’ve just kept his head down. He would’ve been perfectly fine with catching glimpses of Even around school. Of course the first time he let his eyes linger would bite him in the ass. Even’s the kind of guy who can see right through him, right into the places Isak never wants to show a soul.

Isak tightens his grip on the cup. “What about it?”

Even shrugs. “I was just curious. We’ve never talked before.”

“So?”

“I’ve heard about you, from your friends?”

Isak immediately tenses. There’s no way his friends are cool enough to hang out with Even. Not even Jonas, who’s hooked up with third-year girls but is still only acquaintances with the kind of people who’ve adopted Even into their group. “Who?” he says warily.

“Elias? He said you hung out a lot last year.”

Isak’s breath hitches. He can imagine the stories Even would’ve heard from Elias. He could barely spend more than five minutes with Elias before worrying that the guy would figure it out. Isak was just the gay kid Elias had to put up with for Jonas’s sake, and he could never confront him about it, scared that the word would stick if he said it out loud.

It’s a little too late for that.

The whole charade pisses him off suddenly. He would’ve preferred Even warning him straight-up to stop staring at him, because that’s too gay, and I don’t want to deal with that. Isak’s heard it enough times from Elias, even if Jonas had brushed it off as a joke. It shouldn’t even matter. He knows people who’ve dealt with worse, if Eskild’s stories are anything to go by. Even’s just another straight boy who doesn’t want Isak projecting on him. It hurts, but Even’s allowed to want that. Isak would’ve done the same in his shoes.

“I think your coffee’s spilling.” Even nods down at the cup in Isak’s hand. Isak jolts back to attention when he realizes he’s been squeezing so hard that the coffee had spilled over the lip.  He hadn’t noticed the hot coffee dripping down his hand until now, but it burns so bad Isak swears his skin is about to shrivel up .

“Fuck,” he says, as he tries to dab the coffee stains off his sleeve. Even comes back with a wad of napkins in his hand, but Isak pushes it away.

“I can do it on my own,” he snaps.

“You’re about to spill the rest of your coffee.”

Because Even has to be right, Isak manages to lose his grip on the cup. It spills all over his shoe, staining the bottom of his jeans. Isak lets out a string of swears as he leans down to wipe up the mess, and before he can stop him, Even’s soaking up the coffee with his napkins.

Isak snatches the stack out of his hands. “Seriously, I can handle it.”

“I can help.” He sounds so kind that it almost makes Isak want to cry. Even’s pity somehow makes his chest ache tighten even more.

Isak avoids his searching gaze. “Can you just go away?”

One of the baristas leaves the counter to see what’s going on, and Isak blinks to hold the frustrated tears back. Fuck, he should’ve learned how to hide his feelings by now. Nothing good has ever come out of them.

“Seriously,” Isak says again, and something about the way Isak’s hands are shaking must finally get through to Even, because he stands up, biting his lip.

“Isak--”

Isak doesn’t look up. “Please.”

Even gently places the napkin dispenser next to Isak on the ground, and Isak can finally breathe again when Even walks out the door.

~~

MANDAG 22.50

Isak manages to hold off for almost the entire night before he digs up that video he found from from when Even went to Bakka. He’d tried looking up Even as soon as he knew who this guy was, but Even’s apparently from the Stone Ages, because Isak can’t dig up any social media on him. This one video is Isak’s only insight into Even, and he can’t say it’s a particularly good one, unless Even is more into Captain America and Putin’s romance than he lets on.

He wishes he could stay mad at Even, could hate the way his eyes light up when he talks about Baz Luhrmann or the way his eyes crinkle when he laughs. He can’t manage much more than quiet resignation, because in this universe, boys like Isak can’t like other boys without ruining themselves in the process. He’s used to it by now.

~~

MANDAG 23.05

~~

TIRSDAG 12.30

Have you ever had a day when everything seems to be going wrong? My alarm didn't go off this morning, and I had a Norwegian essay due that I forgot about, and my parents are bugging me about whether I'm okay again. What else am I going to say? Like “hi mom my life is fine, I’m eating, I go to class a good 90% of the time.” I haven't managed to self destruct yet. So it's been a shitty morning but then I saw you in the cafeteria, and you looked so cute today in that red scarf that it made everything a little better.

~~

TORSDAG 15.05

Here is a picture of you accidentally dropping a breakfast taco on yourself because you're a klutz, and I don't know why I'm smiling so hard.

~~

TORSDAG 19.30

~~

FREDAG 13.33

You looked really sad today and I can't ask you why so here are a few things that may make you smile:

 

  • They have cheap grilled cheese in the cafeteria. I think I ate three, and they were all so worth it.
  • I swear my dog has started resenting me because I don't spend enough time with him anymore, but he jumped on my chest to wake me up this morning. I may have stopped breathing for a minute, but it was just like old times.
  • Green is definitely your color.
  • I thought about you all day, and I don't know whether I want to stop

 

~~

FREDAG 23.07

Against his best efforts, they wind up at Emma’s house on Friday night, already a little high from the cupcakes Jonas had handed out earlier at Isak’s place. Jonas had looked a little too excited about the fact that the eggs were farm-fresh. He’d seen the chickens himself. Honestly, Isak just wanted to get high, not have his hipster cred validated, but he’s proud of Jonas’s commitment to sustainability.

“I thought you said one of Even’s friends was throwing this,” Isak says.

“He’s just bringing the alcohol,” Mahdi says, taking another swig from the beer can. “He got kicked out of his apartment last week, and Emma offered up her place.”

Jonas claps Isak on the back. “Besides, man, this is your chance to talk to her again.”

“I already talked to her at school.”

“And?”

“I said hi.”

Mahdi throws his hands in the air in surrender. “God fucking dammit, Isak, we practically shove you at a hot girl, and you can’t even do it right? She was so into you, man. What’s wrong with you?”

Isak gulps. If Mahdi only knew.  

Magnus finds Vilde talking to Eva in a corner almost as soon as they walk through the doors. The minute Jonas and Mahdi run after him for damage control, Isak slips into the kitchen, where it’s crowded enough that they won’t be able to find him until he’s good and ready. Isak lets out a shaky breath. Between all the notes and the text from his mom, his lungs have been close to bursting for an entire week. With every note, it seems harder and harder to believe that someone can be this dedicated to a prank, or maybe that’s just Isak’s wishful thinking, ready to bruise just when it would hurt the must.

He shouldn’t have said yes to this, but they’ve been on his case for making excuses every other Friday, and anyway, he can only pull the “family emergency” card so many times before they see right through him. He’d rather be spilling Cheeto crumbs on his bed right now, overanalyzing every note, not avoiding a perfectly pretty, perfectly nice girl who had just picked the wrong person to have a crush on.

He’s eyeing the counter, wondering where the vodka had disappeared to, when Even squeezes into the space next to him. Fuck, Isak had picked this spot just to avoid something like this. He can’t handle Even right now, and he keeps his gaze resolutely fixed to the counter.

This guy can’t take a fucking hint. “I’m sorry about the other day,” Even yells over the Justin Bieber that’s blasting through Emma’s speakers.

“Okay.”

“Okay. That’s it?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Acknowledging my existence would be nice.”

Isak’s eyes slowly slide over to Even’s face, but he can’t keep eye contact for long, because Even looks so goddamn earnest holding out a can of beer like a peace offering. Isak doesn’t want to forgive him, and he can’t trust himself when he’s high enough to think that crawling into the cabinet beneath the sink is a good idea. Not when Even’s smile holds no hint of ill will, and his shirt is buttoned up all the way to his collar in a way that should make him look like a nerd, but only makes Isak’s fingers itch with the urge to touch.

He forces himself to take a step back in the small space he has. It doesn’t help much, but he does clear some of the fog from his head.

“You look nice,” Even says. “That’s a cool shirt.”

Isak’s wearing a Winnie the Pooh shirt that Jonas had dared him to wear as his punishment for falling asleep first the last time they’d gotten high. Isak hadn’t even known the shirt was still in his closet, but Jonas has a knack for sniffing out every embarrassing thing about Isak.

So does Even, apparently, but it’s different coming from him. Isak is nowhere near as cool or interesting as Even is, but does he really need to keep pointing that out?

“Don’t you have other friends you can bother?” He self-consciously pulls at a loose thread at the bottom of his shirt.

“Nah, they’re all smoking on the balcony.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I saw you.”

Isak sighs. “You don’t have to apologize because you feel guilty or whatever. We can forget about it, alright?”

“I’ll buy you another coffee sometime.”

Isak grimaces. Sometime. Like he’ll keep running into Even at KB, like he’ll keep having to talk to Even and pretend that it doesn’t make his heart shrivel up, knowing what Even thinks of him. “You really don’t have to.”

“I swear I’m actually not as much of an asshole as you think I am. I should just come with a warning sign, you know? Will accidentally offend you and make you spill your coffee but has the best intentions.”

“That’s a lot of words to put on a sign.”

Even scratches his chin. “There’d probably have to be at least ten other warnings in there too --maybe I could get one of those teleprompters? Where the words scroll?”

Isak’s pretty sure word-scrolling technology has moved past teleprompters, but Isak doesn’t expect anything different from someone who doesn’t even have a Facebook.

He snorts. “More warnings. Of course you think you’re all complex and shit.”

A smile plays at the corners of Even’s mouth. “Something like that.”

Everything’s feeling soft and hazy enough for Isak to start maybe believing that Even actually means it, but then, Elias calls out to Even from across the kitchen. His eyebrows shoot up as soon as he realizes who Even’s been talking to, how close they’ve been standing, and Even jerks back so quickly that he almost spills his beer. The disappointment weighs down Isak’s bones, heavy enough to make him sink through the floor. He shouldn’t have let himself hope, not even for a second.

Even punches him lightly on the shoulder and says, “I’ll see you later, okay?”

Right. Later, because for some reason Even can’t leave this alone. Isak starts looking up the next-nearest KB from Nissen, because everything about Even is a bad idea.

Chapter Text

LØRDAG 9.14

Even’s staring down at his coffee, both hands wrapped around the sleeve when Mikael slides into the seat across from him, looking like death.

Mikael glares at him. Even levels him with an even look.

“This better be good, if you’re asking to meet this early in the morning after that party last night,” Mikael snaps. He’s bypassed the counter altogether, instead reaches to pry Even’s coffee from his hands and takes a sip out of the cup. Mikael makes a face.

“Your taste in coffee is shit.”

“So I might have fucked up,” Even replies, and Mikael’s eyes find the ceiling as he sighs.

“Oh, Christ,” he mutters. His gaze drops to meet Even’s, and his lips quirk upwards into what is clearly a forced smile. “What did you do now, my dear?”

Even shifts his position on the chair. “I’ve been doing the notes thing all week, right?” He waits for Mikael’s nod, even though Even’s a hundred percent sure Mikael knows what he’s talking about: he’s been talking about nothing but , in fact, telling his best friend all about Isak Valtersen, the beautiful second-year that caught his eye on the first day of school, and his Month Long Plan to Court Him, which involves slyly slipping secret admirer notes into the boy’s locker (“Just ones that make him smile,” Even had told Mikael as he wrote all of this on the whiteboard Mikael hangs in his room. “Nothing creepy.” Mikael pointed out to Even, with a mouth full of Doritos, that he was way past creepy already, which Even thanked him for by throwing a marker at his face.) while simultaneously attempting to build a friendly rapport outside the notes.

Then, after the month was up, he would reveal to the beautiful boy that both have been the same person all along, and, if the weather permitted, they would ride off into the sunset together.

But he’d fucked up, and this sets his month-long plan back about, well, a month, maybe, and so when Mikael nods, Even continues, “Well, he seems to be responding well to them, because I haven’t seen him throwing them away so far,” his leg bounces under the table nervously. “But I think he hates me.”

Mikael stares at him. “You, or the secret admirer?”

“Me,” Even clarifies. “Even. Me, Even Bech Næsheim, King of Fuckups.”

Mikael raises an eyebrow, but he doesn’t object to the title. Instead, he asks, “How do you know?”

“Well, there was the Coffee Incident,” he reminds his best friend -- he’d immediately tried to rectify that situation, in his defense, but Isak had snapped at him to go away and leave him alone, so he had no other choice but to obey. “Which I thought maybe was just a slip-up, something that I could easily rectify, but then yesterday,” he sighs at the memory. “At the party, he was just so -- tense around me,” Even deflates, Isak’s curtness serving to cut deep even now, hours later. “It’s like he was trying to forget about my existence altogether.”

Mikael takes another sip of Even’s coffee, distaste clear on his face. Still, he seems to think on this information, and Even can do nothing but stare at him in helplessness. “So you think he hates you.”

“Yes.”

“But he likes your notes?”

“Maybe,” Even shrugs. “Like I said, he hasn’t thrown them away so far. I’ve only ever seen him stuff them into his backpack.”

“Then maybe you should get to know him through your notes instead,” Mikael suggests, and Even stares at him.

“Make sense, please,” Even requests.

Mikael sighs, and as he rubs at his temple, he straightens his posture the way he always does when he’s about to explain something glaringly obvious to Even. “Make it a two-way thing, yeah?” Mikael looks at Even to make sure he’s keeping up. Even nods at him. “Find a way to have him send notes back to you, pick and choose some of the details you learn about him through them, and then try to bring them up in real life during a conversation,” Mikael spreads his arms out victoriously, then proceeds to mime dropping a mic. “Done. Just like a real stalker.”

“I’m not a stalker,” Even rolls his eyes. “The attention is not unwanted, so far.”

“So far,” Mikael nods.

“And I won’t harass him if he tells me to stop,” he reminds Mikael.

“Of course you won’t.”

“But you could be onto something,” Even hums, placing his elbow on the table and resting his chin on his hand, fingers tapping at his lips pensively. “Make it like a pen pal. An anonymous pen pal.”

“Try to win him over both ways,” Mikael adds. “So at least he likes one part of you.”

“And doesn’t hate me completely,” Even finishes.

Mikael throws Even’s coffee away in celebration. Even frowns at him.

“That was still at least half full,” he tells his friend accusingly.

“It was an abomination, Even,” Mikael deadpans in reply. “I did you a favor.”

Even holds his index finger up towards Mikael in warning. “You owe me a coffee.”

“I came here on a Saturday morning, after falling asleep at four o’clock last night, at your will, with a hangover , to talk about some guy you’re obsessed with outside your girlfriend ,” Mikael stares at Even. “I think we’re even, pal.”

Even stays silent for a moment. “I really appreciate you?” He smiles as sheepishly as he can.

Mikael rolls his eyes. “You’re lucky I like you,” Mikael stands, the chair scraping the shop’s floor unpleasantly. “I’m going to go get a real coffee, and then you’re going to buy me breakfast.”

Even looks over at the counter, where Eva’s chatting happily with a customer about his coffee order. He considers ordering Mikael’s coffee for him in order to strike up a conversation with Isak’s friend, but decides against it when he sees Mikael’s murderous gaze, clearly following Even’s train of thought.

Even holds up his hands in surrender. “Breakfast, got it,” he mutters, and Mikael promptly turns on his heels and walks up to the counter to order his presumably bland and boring coffee.

--

SØNDAG 12.03

--

MANDAG 10.45

Mikael’s idea is a good one, in theory.

Putting it to practice, however, is something else entirely. Even spent all of Sunday and all of this morning trying to figure out a way of making his secret admirer venture turn into an exchange between two people, but the more he thinks about it, the less plausible it seems.

First, he doesn’t know exactly how to make it so that Isak doesn’t figure out who he is. He’s turned the idea over every which way in his head, and the best he could come up with was to buy a burner phone and exchange text messages instead of handwritten notes, but that seemed to cheapen the entire endeavor. Text messages can be sent by anyone. Notes are far more personal, in his opinion, and the root of this plan, so he eradicated that idea altogether, moved on to the next.

Which was to have Isak drop the notes off at a certain stall in the bathroom, but Even’s pretty sure anyone can find the notes in there, and it would be a whole thing -- plus, it’s a bathroom , and that would just feel like a mocking premonition about where his entire plan was headed, so Even decided against that one, too, which leaves him--

At a standstill, currently, and sitting on a stairwell as he thinks.

The side of his head rests softly against the cold railing and he’s doodling aimlessly into his notebook, frustrated by all the things he hasn’t figured out yet, plus the fact that he’d forgone his homework yesterday for Sonja’s family reunion, which consisted of him standing quietly beside her, trying not to let the wary glances thrown his way bother him. Some of them were nice enough to acknowledge his presence with a hello -- most of them ignored him entirely. He’s pretty sure one of Sonja’s younger cousins flinched when he made his way over to grab another drink from the ice chest beside her, something Even’s replayed over and over in his head, unable to suppress the fear written clear as day on her expression, unable to erase the rising of her shoulders and cowering of her head.

Sonja apologized to him countless of times after they left (early, as it were). She told Even if she’d have known it would still be “this big of a deal”, she would have sat out the reunion entirely. Even held her hand and told her it was okay, though he said very little afterwards. He doesn’t think it’s her fault, not really, and it’s not her fault that he could hardly sleep last night, either, and it’s not her fault the only way he could subside the intruding thoughts was by closing his eyes and thinking of green ones, a pair that do not belong to her.

Belatedly, he realizes he’s once again managed to sketch a rough outline of Isak’s profile in his haze, and he huffs irritably, willing his subconscious to start thinking of other things, already. He considers ripping the page out and crumpling it in his hand, but decides against it -- there’s something about the beginnings of the drawing that squeezes at Even’s heart and he vows to come back to it at a later date to finish the sketch, see it through in its entirety.

He’s flipping to the next available blank page when he’s interrupted by a bouncing Vilde, who’s dragging Eva along with her by the hand. Even looks up at them, notebook still on his lap, and smiles as they both stare at him expectantly.

“Hello,” Even greets, and Vilde’s responding smile is bright.

“Hi!” Vilde looks over at Eva, who smiles encouragingly at her. “You’re Even, right?”

Even nods his assent. Vilde’s smile suddenly looks nervous, as if she didn’t think she’d get this far into the conversation without spontaneously combusting, so he decides to make this a smoother transition for her. “That would be me,” he makes sure his voice sounds as delicate and friendly as possible, so as to not scare her away. “Hi, Eva,” he nods at Vilde’s girlfriend, who waves at him lazily.

“Hi, Even,” she smiles. Vilde glances accusingly at Eva, who shrugs her shoulders sheepishly, then turns back to Even, nervous smile back in place as if it never wavered.

“So,” she clears her throat. “Have you thought about joining a revue group this year?”

Even hasn’t, actually. Considering why he had to transfer to Nissen to repeat his last year, he’s not exactly jumping at the chance to repeat the beginnings of his mistake. Still, he tilts his head to the side, politely pretending to consider it. “I haven’t thought about it, no,” he smiles. “Why? Got a pitch for me?”

Vilde’s swallow is audible, her hands are suddenly at her waist and her posture straightening as far as her back allows, chin held up high. “Well, yes!” she clears her throat. Even glances at Eva, who looks hopelessly fond, which he thinks he can understand, given the position he’s found himself in at the moment. Vilde’s something else, but she’s nice and Even supposes she means well, so he makes sure his expression looks interested the entire time she raves about Kosegruppa , the best revue group in the entire school, and Vilde knows that Even has probably gotten a hundred invites from a hundred different groups (he hasn’t), but if he’d be willing to consider joining theirs , they have a meeting next Friday, and she would love it if Even could attend.

He doesn’t have the heart to say no to her to her face. And even if he did, he wouldn’t think it a good idea, not with the way Eva is watching him studiously, as if waiting for Even to make the wrong move. Eva’s not impressed by Even’s looming reputation; he’s figured this out by the interactions he’s had with her at the coffee shop, and how long it took her to warm up to him enough to give him more than a polite smile and the forced “have a nice day” (this also involved a lot of bonding over the assholes in their shared English class; she seems to be the only other person with any common sense in there), so this means two things for Even: one, he very much likes her, and two, he very much knows she’ll fight him if he hurts her girlfriend’s feelings.

So he says the next best thing he can think of. “I’ll definitely consider it,” and he smiles as brightly as he can at her, and she smiles just as brightly back at him, looking like she can’t believe she got this far.

“You’re actually really cool,” she says suddenly, and Even feels the words coming before they can even slip out out of her mouth: “I don’t know why everyone’s so intimidated--”

“Okay,” Eva interrupts her, placing a hand on Vilde’s elbow. “I think we should head to class, right, Vilde?” Eva’s eyebrows rise, and Vilde looks at her for a moment, before understanding laces her expression.

“Right,” she sighs, looking back at Even. She looks apologetic -- Even thinks she shouldn’t. He knows the difference between someone who means harm and someone who hears harm. “I’ll see you next Friday, maybe?”

“Maybe,” Even smiles. “Bye, Vilde.”

Vilde’s expression lights up tenfold. “Bye, Even!”

Even nods at Eva. “Bye, Eva.”

Eva smiles, expression grateful. “Bye.”

And they leave, leaving Even alone with his thoughts again, accompanied only by the notebook on his lap. He looks down at the blank page he’d managed to flip onto before Vilde and Eva had walked up to him, and he wonders if he can draw something that isn’t Isak.

When his hands start to aimlessly sketch a snapback, he realizes he might not.

--

TIRSDAG 13.02

I drew you in cartoon form to commemorate how angry you looked this morning at your friends. I don’t know if that anger was genuine or exaggerated, but there is smoke coming out of your ears either way because that’s what I expected to happen when I watched the scene unfold. I wanted to think that maybe you looked unattractive angry, but even then, you looked ridiculously adorable. How terribly infuriating. Will report back to you if I ever find you looking anything less than. Though I don’t think it’ll happen.

--

ONSDAG 11.11

The idea comes to him when he catches a glimpse of the book peeking out of Isak’s backpack.

Even’s not sure of the exact title, but he does read “parallel universes” somewhere in there, and he makes his way to the library, scanning through the different bookshelves when he finally finds similar titles at the far back corner of the library -- they’re books that have very obviously not been touched for a very long time, save maybe for the one Isak’s carrying around in his book bag, and even then, that might be a personal copy. Even lightly trails his fingers over the spines of the books, one by one, then looks at the tip of them to find nothing but dust coating the skin.

It takes a little effort to pull one out of the shelf, which is irritably stuck between two others, which only cements the idea that they’ve been ignored by students for a while now -- when Even finally manages to pull it out, it’s dirty and dusty, but otherwise it’s in good condition, and when he opens it the hardcover groans quietly as it folds; Even thinks he might be the first person to open this book, no return dates stamped onto the first page, no folds at the edges or accidental pencil marks in sight. He closes the book again, reads the title. His fingernails tap loudly against the cover for a moment, and it takes him all of five seconds to make his decision. He makes note of the dewey decimal taped to the spine after he puts the book back in its place, and then he turns to head out of the library.

He spots Noora on his way out, who waves at him in greeting, smile in place. She’s talking to Jonas, presumably about a class, and Even waves at the both of them, hurriedly making his way past them and towards Isak’s locker, scribbling furiously into his notebook as he does.

--

ONSDAG 12.00

So I’m running out of things to say to you that don’t involve me sounding like a creep, so how about we turn this into a two-way street? If you ever feel like replying to my notes (and you’re not obligated to do this at all) why don’t you drop off one of your own? There’s this book in the library, at the far end corner -- Dewey Decimal #501.92 -- that no one has touched in probably years that might work for you to slip your note in. I’ll come check it after this one to see if you’ve replied. If you have, we have a system! If you don’t, I’m afraid I might sound like a creep for the rest of the semester, so really, you’d be doing me a huge favor. Have a good rest of your Wednesday. P.S. you look cute when your snapback’s turned forward. You should wear them that way more often.

--

ONSDAG 18.39

--

TORSDAG 16.15

Wednesday dragged. A lot. Wednesday was heavy, and then all of today was heavy, and it was also disappointing every time he went to check the library when he was sure Isak was in class to see if he’d replied to his note.

He never did.

And he’s tired. He’s just tired. It’s been A Day, he guesses, one of the days where he remembers all of his friends are in university without him and his girlfriend gets on his nerves more than his person and his parents have asked, for the hundredth time today, how he’s feeling. He’s tired of the questions and he’s tired of himself and he’s tired of believing in stupid, romantic-comedy endings, so he just wants his coffee and he wants to go home and he wants to cuddle with his dog and he’s texting Mikael all of this as he thinks of it when he feels a shoulder bump into his.

He’s about to turn and sigh loudly at the inconvenience, but his gaze meets a green one, and suddenly he’s speechless. Even’s unsure how Isak always manages to knock the wind out of him, make his stomach feel like it hasn’t been fed in days, makes the tip of his fingers feel inadequate if they don’t reach out and touch him, but he does and they do, and he curls his fingers into a fist to make sure they don’t do something stupid of their own accord.

This must look threatening to Isak, because he glances at Even’s hands and takes a step back. “Sorry,” he mutters, gaze cast downward. “I was texting, and I didn’t -- yeah, sorry,” he turns on his heels, ready to walk towards the table he’s most likely claimed for his own, and Even doesn’t want him to leave, knows that seeing Isak is the only thing that’s lifted his spirits and made him feel something in two days, so he takes action.

“Wait--” he calls out, reaching out to grab at Isak’s shoulder and keep him in place. Isak flinches, and as he does, the memory of Sonja’s younger cousin doing the same flickers past, and suddenly he’s a threat again, he’s the guy someone’s afraid of and the guy who can’t control his emotions or his actions. He’s the guy Isak doesn’t like, the guy Isak’s probably heard all of the rumors about--

--and did you know he jumped off a roof, and did you know he graffitied a teacher’s car, and did you know he wrote a thirty-page essay on intersectional feminism for no reason at all and forced the school to read it, and did you know he might be insane--

--and Even is tired all over again.

Isak turns, and Even can feel his own expression turn stony, and he shakes his head once. “Never mind,” he tells him, voice curt even to his own ears. He knows this isn’t the way to engage Isak -- he knows he’s digging a deeper hole for himself, but at the moment, Even can feel himself caring for very little, and most of what he does care for lies in the shape of his coffee order and the thought of his bed. “Forget it.”

Something makes way past Isak’s expression, and suddenly it’s angry, and Even feels about a hundred times worse than before. “You know--” Isak seems to be struggling to find his words. Even gives him a chance to. “You know, whatever game you’re playing, I don’t want to be a part of it.”

Even stares at him. “I’m not--”

“I don’t get you,” Isak’s voice is tight, and Even’s pretty sure they’re turning heads. He can feel his posture turn rigid at the wandering eyes, the hairs on the back of his neck standing upright. “You’re hot and cold from one minute to the next, and I don’t know what you want from me, but would you just -- would you just--” Isak sputters. Even attempts to help him.

“You want me to leave?” Even raises an eyebrow. He keeps his voice quiet, because they’re already drawing enough attention; the last thing he needs is another rumor about his uncontrollable actions making way round the school. “Because you seem like you want me to leave.”

Isak looks at him, and his face is flushed. “You know what, yeah,” Isak’s jaw twitches. “I want you to leave.”

Even stares at him. “I’m waiting on my coffee,” he points out, not unkindly, he doesn’t think, but Isak seems to take it in offense, and Even doesn’t know what else to do at this point. He’s so, so tired, and he’s already managed to make a fool out of himself enough for one day, and there are people staring, but Isak pushes him further, and Even can’t blame him -- it’s not like Even made the best first impression, and it’s not like he’s been particularly inviting today, and Isak’s allowed to be angry, but he’s just so loud .

“You’re the one who offered to leave,” Isak snaps, and Even can’t help it, he swears he can’t help the sigh that escapes his lips.

“I didn’t offer, I asked if you wanted me to,” Even massages the bridge of his nose with two fingers. “Isak, I’m sorry, I just--”

“Yeah, you keep apologizing,” Isak’s arms are now crossed over his chest. “But I’m just not buying it.”

Oh, goodness, he’s getting a lecture from a seventeen-year-old who looks ridiculously adorable with his arms crossed like that, and Even can hardly take him seriously. Still, he knows Isak’s feelings are valid, and he’s trying to get that across without sounding condescending, but Isak’s hardly letting him get a word in.

“I will work on that,” Even replies slowly. “I’m sorry. Again.”

Isak looks conflicted. Even feels his tiredness weigh down on him even more than before, and he glances over at Eva, who’s been trying to pointedly ignore their exchange by cleaning the same spot on the counter over and over, and then he looks back at Isak, who looks like he wants to disappear entirely.

And Even is tired.

“Okay,” Even nods, pocketing the phone he’s kept in his hand for the entirety of their conversation. “Alright, I’ll leave,” he feels his shoulders slump in defeat. He looks over at Eva, nods his head in apology. “Give that coffee to whoever wants it, yeah?”

Eva looks conflicted. “Even--”

Even looks back at Isak, not willing to hear someone else out after what he’s already had to listen to. “Hey, have a good day, alright?” he nods at Isak. “Just -- maybe don’t yell at people anymore.”

Isak looks both chastised and annoyed, and as Even makes way to the door, he calls out:

“Maybe don’t be a dick to people anymore.”

Even turns over and offers Isak a small but smug smile, one reminiscent of the person Even is outside of this fog.

“Sure,” he replies, then he pushes open the door and the fresh air hits him like a ton of bricks, and then he’s walking hurriedly towards the bus stop. His bones feel as heavy as his eyelids, and he thinks he can sleep for hours and hours, and he hates himself, and he hates himself for everything, but mostly, he hates himself for making Isak think anyone could ever hate him.

--

He sleeps the rest of the day off.

--

FREDAG 9.09

Even checks the book on a whim. He isn’t expecting anything, not after yesterday, even though he knows that in Isak’s head one event does not correlate with the other, but still -- Even slept most of the tiredness off, but sometimes the quiet thoughts slip in anyway the day after. He thinks he’s in a good enough mood, either way, when he catches a glimpse of notebook paper sticking out from somewhere in between the pages of the book.

He stares at it for a moment, taking in the difference, then opens it and gingerly takes the note in his hand. Even unfolds the note, and the first words Isak’s ever said to his secret admirer are:

Is this Emma Larzen?

And Even can’t help the laugh that bubbles from the depths of his belly and past his lips. The note is such a bright spot in an otherwise bleak morning that he wants to hold it in his hands forever, and he wants to thank whatever force in the universe has given him a second chance. A second, more secretive chance.

He’s willing to take it.

--

FREDAG 10.10

No, this is not Emma Larzen. Sorry if I’ve disappointed you. But, hey, if you see her around, tell her hi for me. I hope to have more interaction with you than she can ever dream of. What do you say? Pen pals for life?

--

Chapter Text

MANDAG 9.10

Seems a little presumptuous to ask someone to be your pen pal for life when you’ve only been talking to them for a couple of weeks. I’m glad you’re not Emma, but can’t you just tell me who are you are?

--

MANDAG 13.10

That would ruin the mystery, and it’s all about the mystery! I’m not ready to tell you yet. And isn’t it a little nice? Having an anonymous someone tell you nice things about you all day? Here’s a drawing of you in this universe, where you’re happy with my notes. Here’s another drawing, in a parallel universe, where you’re sad because we never knew each other. You’re listening to My Chemical Romance and scribbling angsty poetry in your diary, which I doubt is your kind of thing, but maybe parallel universe Isak has better coping methods than just glaring at his locker like he’d like to personally demolish it with a bulldozer. I’m pretty sure I have some of my old sad poetry saved up somewhere. You can see it if you ask nicely. There’s a lot of metaphors about dead flowers--I think it’s because my mom had a garden when I was younger, but it only seemed to have dead petunias. Considering my mom’s track record with raising living things, it’s a miracle I’m still here.

--

MANDAG 15.15

Honestly, if I wanted something to cheer me up, I could probably Google motivational quotes. I don’t even know anything about you. All I know is:

  • You’re not Emma Larzen.
  • You have too much free time because seriously, who writes notes anymore? AIM would be a step up from this. Wait, you’re not old right? Is that why you don’t use technology? Because that would be weird. Sorry.
  • You’re probably a dick because it takes a special kind of person to be stubborn enough to try to get someone’s attention for so long without hearing back. You must really love the sound of your own voice. Or, well, the sight of your own writing.

Honestly, you’re probably playing a prank on me, it’s whatever. I don’t even know why I’m writing you back. This is weird.

--

TIRSDAG 12.40

To address your concerns:

  • I checked my ID this morning just to make sure my name has stayed the same, and unless someone did plastic surgery on me overnight and then wiped my memory, I’m definitely not Emma.
  • I used AIM until last year, excuse you. I find it to be a very efficient messaging system. I can also promise you I’m not old, but I am older than you, so you should respect me more, honestly.
  • I’d say I’m a good 6 on the scale of dickishness? I’m about as much of a dick as my actual dick, which is an analogy that made a lot more sense in my head, but now that I’m writing this out, I’m realizing it requires me describing my dick in detail, and I don’t think you’re ready for that. Not yet.

This is weird! Embrace it! This may be unconventional, but it doesn’t mean it’s bad, right? And I’m not playing a prank on you, I promise. You could never be a joke to me.

~~

TIRSDAG 12.45

“Hey, are you okay?” Magnus peeks over his shoulder to see what he’s reading, but Isak shoves the note under his tray before he can. “Chill, man, what was that? You just looked kinda sick.”

“I don’t look sick. I ate all my vegetables today, see?” Granted, those vegetables have been stir-fried to death, but it still counts. He’s gotten his vitamins or whatever.

“What were you reading?”

Isak squints. He knew it was a bad idea to bring the note here, but he couldn’t help it. He’d been itching to open it for the past half hour, and he’d hoped Magnus would’ve been too distracted by his phone to notice. It’s just his luck that he picked the rare minute when Magnus actually developed some insight.

“I wasn’t reading anything.”

Magnus narrows his eyes. “Yeah...you were.”

“No.”

“It was literally in your hand.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Isak is spared from burying himself deeper in his own lies when Jonas and Mahdi show up. They’re arguing about whether Childish Gambino really is a misogynist and a homophobe or not, and Jonas is saying something about capitalism and marketing, but when they finally sit down, the conversation stutters to a stop.

“Isak, your face is really red,” Jonas says. “And your snapback is on backwards.”

This only makes Isak blush harder. He pulls at the sleeves of his sweater. “It’s really hot in here? Also, by some accounts, this is the right way to wear a snapback.”

By some accounts, especially the account of the notes guy, maybe.

“I’m wearing three layers and I’m still cold,” Mahdi says.

“Maybe you’re just weak.”

“Okay, you can keep being bad at lying, but don’t make it about me, man.”

“I’m not bad at lying,” Isak huffs.

“One time, you tried to get me to think that you skipped all your classes to smoke in the alley.”

“So?”

Mahdi punches him in the shoulder. “You fucking liar. You’re such a nerd, you’ve skipped maybe one Bio class ever, and you probably begged Sana to write down her notes word for word.”

“Going to lectures helps you learn.”

“Says the nerd.”

Magnus holds up his hand. “You two keep acting like twelve-year-olds. Honestly, this is getting embarrassing, and I need advice.” Isak snorts. Magnus had literally showed up to school yesterday wearing a boat hat, so he doesn’t have any ground to stand on. He hadn’t even known what that hat was called until Jonas had said just call it ugly, and Magnus had been so offended he’d worn the hat for the rest of the week out of spite.

“When do you not need advice?” Jonas says. He’s opening his packed lunch, which includes a lot of green things Isak can’t name. Isak knows Jonas has been texting Noora about it lately, and honestly, Isak can’t even pronounce half the food in the recipes they send each other.

“It’s girl advice, give me a break. None of us actually understand girls. Bros have to help each other out.”

“I think it’s just you.”

Magnus rolls his eyes. “Just because you’ve had two girlfriends doesn’t make you the expert.”

“Makes me more of an expert than you.”

Magnus purses his lips as he mulls this over, until he finally comes to a decision. “Okay, I’ll tell you, since you obviously want to know.”

Mahdi barely even takes the time to swallow down the food in his mouth before he drawls, “Yeah, we all want to know.”

Apparently, Magnus’s new sense of perception doesn’t extend to sarcasm, because he launches into this story about a girl who’d texted him about a party on Friday, but he’d caught her hooking up with another guy. Isak’s a little too aware that there’s a note under his lunch tray, and maybe if he stares at it long enough, the words would finally sink in.

A boy. A boy thinks he’s cute. Him, Isak Valtersen, who’d once given an entire Biology presentation on sexual reproduction with broccoli in his teeth before Jonas had pointed it out, but not before he’d Instagrammed it. Isak almost laughs right there at the lunch table, and he’s tempted to ask the guy whether he’d gotten the wrong locker. There’s no fucking way. Christian, who has the locker next to him, has the nicest fucking jawline and wears the tightest jeans. That would make sense.

There’s nothing about him that should stand out--especially not to a boy . He glances down. He’s still wearing the same nondescript hoodie as ever. Eskild had gotten him a shirt the other day, something green and clingy and that Isak had thrown into the dark depths of his closet before he could accidentally grab it one morning. He can’t risk that, not even to keep Eskild’s face from falling.

Magnus waves a hand in front of his face, and Isak snaps back to attention. “Seriously, what do I do about this girl?”

Jonas is texting someone, and Mahdi has a glazed over look in his eyes, so at least Isak isn’t the only shitty friend in this situation. “I don’t know how I can help you.”

Magnus pouts. “I mean, you hook up with way more girls than I do.”

There’s a folder in his backpack filled with notes from a boy--notes that make his heart race more than kissing any girl has. The exhaustion sits heavy inside of him, drags at his core. He could tell them all right now. He deserves to live his damn life without the paranoia hanging over his head. If Isak were someone different, someone brave, someone less fucking insecure, he’d tell them to accept him or go away, simple as that.

Jonas is telling Magnus how to go down on girls, and Isak’s throat clamps up. The thing is, Isak’s not that guy. He’s not brave enough to force his way past the tightness in his lungs every time he even thinks about finally telling his friends. In the end, he just laughs at Magnus because of course Magnus is the one struggling with girls. This is so much easier. He could keep this up for a while, maybe, if he could just stop himself from wanting more than he can have.

~~

ONSDAG 10.15

~~

FREDAG 10.25

I’m really sorry I haven’t responded in the past few days. Lots of school stuff going on. I just wanted to let you know that I’m flattered and everything, but I like girls. So thank you for all the notes, but I’m not interested. I hope you find someone else soon. You seem like a nice guy. I’m sorry you wasted so much time.

--

FREDAG 13.02

No worries! It was a long shot anyway, and honestly, just kinda wanted to tell you how great you are, even if nothing came out of it. Is that sappy? Probably. I promise I’m usually a lot smoother than this. I can be your pen just-a-pal if you like. You can’t say no to an extra friend! Especially not one who’s as cool as me.

--

MANDAG 9.05

At this point, I have zero proof that you're cool, and so I’m just going to choose not to believe it.

--

MANDAG 11.30

I can lick my elbow. I’d say that's pretty cool. I’ve drawn it, so you can see how it all works out.

--

MANDAG 12.30

I can stuff my whole fist in my mouth, which I think is way more impressive than licking your elbow. And have you heard about my rapping skills? I’ve been told they're pretty authentic. I have a lot of passion.

--

TIRSDAG 10.15

I have, in fact, seen your rapping skills. I’d give it a good 2.5 out of 5. Maybe if your music taste improved.

--

TIRSDAG 13.20

Are you seriously insulting my music taste based on one video?

--

TIRSDAG 14.20

You were rapping Eminem.

--

ONSDAG 9.10

It was from a year ago! And Eminem has some iconic lyrics, you have to admit. I doubt your music taste is any better, honestly.

--

ONSDAG 10.20

You have so little faith in me. It kind of hurts. I mean, insult everything else about me, but not my music. What kind of music do you listen to?

--

ONSDAG 10.30

Nineties hip-hop, I guess? I like NWA a lot.

--

ONSDAG 11.20

Ever heard of NAS?

--

ONSDAG 12.30

I listen to him all the time.

--

TORSDAG 13.20

Tell me your favorite lyric after your next class, because I know it’s Physics and you won't have time to Google.

--

TORSDAG 14.00

Are you in my Physics class? I thought you said you were older. And fine . I don't know anything about NAS.

--

TORSDAG 14.50

Haha, I’m not in your Physics class. I took one Physics class and skipped every day, I'm not putting myself through that again, not even so I can learn the secrets of the universe or whatever. Listen to Cherry Wine! It reminds me of you.

--

FREDAG 9.30

Listened to it on my way to school today. It’s cool.

--

FREDAG 10.20

It’s cool?? That’s all??

--

FREDAG 11.10

Some girl made fun of me for mouthing along to the words on my fifth time listening to it, are you happy?

--

FREDAG 12.30

Own it. NAS isn’t the worst thing someone can make fun of you for. A girl in my class told me my eyes are the color of shit. I think that’s the best way someone’s ever told me that my eyes are brown.

--

FREDAG 13.40

What did you do to make her tell you that your eyes look like shit?

--

FREDAG 14.30

Why did you automatically assume that I was the one who did something? I could’ve been the victim here. I’ll have you know that the girls in my Media Studies class are actually very rude, on top of their horrible taste in films. These people can’t appreciate art.

(But you’re right, I told her that minimalism is for faux creative people who’ll actually end up stuck in an office because too much excitement would give them a heart attack. She’s never worn anything but black and white--what else was I supposed to say? The other day, I wore a pink sweater, and you should’ve seen the look on her face, like I’d offended everything she stands for.)

~~

FREDAG 15.30

Illmatic is blasting through Isak’s earphones as a smile plays on his lips. He’s trying to sip his coffee, but Isak would rather reread his notes than drink his cappuccino, honestly, even if Eva had made it special for him. The notes have been the only bright spot to the week, and it’s kind of pathetic to admit that an anonymous stranger can make him smile more genuinely than he has in months, but it’s true. His dad’s been on his ass about spending more time with his family, Eskild keeps bugging him about paying his rent, and on top of it all, there’s the shit that happened earlier that day.

Isak hadn’t meant to check every boy at school for brown eyes. It’s a little bit of desperation, a little bit of self-preservation, because as soon as he finds out who it is, he can avoid him. He’s nothing more than a fantasy, and Isak has to learn to lock down the flutters in his stomach whenever he spies another note peeking out from the grates in his locker.

That doesn’t stop his eyes from wandering in the hallways, in his classes, in the fucking bathroom as he’s drying his hands. There’s Julian from his Bio class who stared at his lips too much last year, there’s Alexander who choreographs for the dance team, there’s Martin who’d been caught making out with a boy at a third-year’s party last month, but claims that he’d only been experimenting. He doesn’t see any of them listening to NAS, or licking his elbow just to prove a point, or taking the time to make Isak question every decision he’s made about who he is and who he can’t be.

It’s only a matter of time before he fucks up. After Bio that day, he finds himself looking into a pair of brown eyes, only to realize that those eyes belong to Elias. Isak freezes where he stands. Even’s hovering at Elias’s side, frowning. He actually looks worried, and for some reason, that worry seems to be aimed at Isak. As if he actually cares, as if he isn’t Elias’s fucking friend, as if they don’t snicker at him behind his back, because that’s what happens to boys like him.

“What are you looking at?” Elias says. He’s smiling, but the curve of his lips could turn cruel in a split second. Isak’s seen it, even if Elias covers it up in jokes.

“I just--” Isak shakes his head. “Never mind.”

“Better be careful not to look at boys too long, Isak. Someone may start rumors.”

Isak’s face flushes red. He’s on the verge of speaking up, but something about the glint in Elias’s eyes makes his throat dry up. Even is saying something to Elias, but all Isak can hear past the roaring in his ears is a sharp whisper. Isak doesn’t want to start a fight. It’d only confirm Elias’ suspicions. Maybe he’s a wimp, but he just ends up sucking in a breath and slipping past them with his head down, holding on tight to the straps of his backpack. Even’s calling after him, but just because he has a slightly more developed conscience doesn’t mean Isak will look back.

But school is over now, and Isak just wants to sit here picking apart his chocolate-chip muffin. The notes in front of him help a little. Someone thinks he’s worthy of attention, someone who won’t judge him for all the things he’s only learning to accept, even if Isak would probably never meet him. Isak’s reading through the last note when he hears a familiar voice behind him. He snaps to attention, and knocks down his coffee over his muffin in the process.

The spill quickly spreads to his jeans and his white shirt, drips down to the floor, and Isak manages to shove the notes back into his backpack just in time to save them from the same soggy fate. Isak whirls around, and of course Even’s standing there, watching the entire scene with his mouth open. Isak has to shut his eyes and take in a deep breath to keep himself under control. He can’t deal with this right now, not when Even’s going through some weird guilt trip for what happened earlier. Isak doesn’t even give a shit about what Even thinks of him. He’s just guarding himself from whatever Elias has managed to tell Even by now.

The fact that the rumors are true only makes it worse.

“What are you doing here?” Isak’s voice is still trembling.

“I promise I didn’t mean to make you spill your coffee. Again.”

“Somehow, that doesn’t help.”

Even’s opening his mouth to respond, but before he can, Eva’s running from behind the counter to hand him a towel. He dabs at his jeans, but he’ll need to go home and wash them. Fuck. He wonders if he still remembers how to use the washing machine, it’s been so long.

“You’re so clumsy,” Eva laughs. “We’re keeping you away from all liquids from now on. Hi, Even.”

“Hey, Eva,” Even says smoothly, “Have you started your reading?”

“Hell no, if I have to read one more man whining about lost love, I’m going to scream.”

“Take it you’re not a huge fan of Romanticism?”

“I liked Frankenstein.”

Isak pauses with his hand gripping the towel tight, looking between the two of them. “You know each other?”

“We’re in the same English class,” says Eva.

“Which means we mostly just sit in the back and make fun of Mr. Berg’s mustache. That thing could metamorphose into a butterfly, and I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“God, you weren’t in class when he tried to tell us that Percy was obviously the superior Shelley. As if starting modern sci-fi doesn’t matter because Mary Shelley’s a woman .”

“You’re writing your essay on why he’s wrong, right?”

“You bet your ass.”

Isak clenches his jaw. He’s not surprised that Eva can’t see through Even’s act. Isak would’ve fallen under his charm too, if he didn’t know better. The way Eva leans into him as she laughs at one of his jokes grates on Isak’s nerves, and he narrowly avoids saying something he’ll regret when Eva’s called back to the counter by her manager.

She pats him on the shoulder and looks down to the remaining mess. “I’d help, but…”

“It’s not your problem. Go. That guy at the counter looks like he’d give you a great tip.”

He’s tapping on his gold-plated watch, clad in an expensive-looking suit, and Isak can practically see Eva calculate the potential earnings.

After she’s gone, Even holds out his own muffin. “Here, you should have this.”

Isak grits his teeth. “How many times do I need to tell you I don’t need your help?”

“It’s a muffin, Isak. It won’t hurt you to just accept it.”

“Is this about earlier? Because, whatever, you and Elias don’t like me very much, and that’s fine. You don’t have to keep apologizing for that.”

Even purses his lips. “Do you really think that I don’t like you?”

“Yeah? And why are you talking to me? Aren’t you afraid Elias will catch you?”

Even just keeps staring at him, slack-jawed, and Isak takes the opportunity to wipe up the rest of the coffee. He places the wet towel in the bin next to the trash can, and when he comes back, Even has split his muffin in two and placed Isak’s half on a clean napkin. It’s Isak’s turn to stare at him in confusion.

“Is that for me?”

“No, it’s for some other boy named Isak, who’s a lot less grumpy and deserves this muffin way more than you do.”

“It’s really not a big deal. You didn’t make me spill my coffee.”

“Carbs make you happier, Isak. It’s science. Just take the muffin.”

Isak’s gaze drifts to Even’s eyes. He’s been suppressing it all week, because what if. He can see Even listening to NAS, can see him licking his elbow just to make a point, but maybe that’s just his brain confusing hate with attraction. Even’s been toeing that fine line ever since they met. But maybe Isak doesn’t hate Even at all--maybe it’s just easier to tell himself that he does, to force the distance, to protect himself--

Blue.

Isak stifles the crushing disappointment before he can analyze it too hard. Better to find out now than later, before he builds this up in his head too high for him to tear down.

“Look, about last week--”

A guy with long hair bursts into the cafe then, sending in a blast of cold air. It takes Isak a minute to recognize him as Mikael, the guy who’d made that interview of Even. Fuck, what if Mikael somehow knows how many times Isak had replayed it? It’s impossible, but there’s a chance that his desperation had somehow bled through the computer screen. Mikael pauses when he sees Isak, but he recovers so quickly Isak swears he’s made it up in his head.

“Hi,” he says gleefully. “I’m Mikael. What’s your name?”

“Isak,” he says. Even’s glaring daggers at Mikael, and Isak doesn’t have the emotional capacity to figure out why right now. Maybe he’ll never figure out Even, and that’s fine. His interactions with Even are limited to run-ins at coffeeshops, and they’re probably on cordial enough terms now for Even to stop feeling guilty, because it’ll be less awkward for both of them if they never talk to each other again. Probably healthier for Isak’s heart too.

“What are you doing here, Mikael?” Even bites out.

“I was trying to call you, but you wouldn’t pick up your phone. I mean, I knew you’d be here because--well, anyway. You’re pretty predictable, man. We have to go to your mom’s museum thing, remember? You promised her.”

Even slaps his forehead. “Shit, she’s gonna be so pissed I forgot.”

“Yeah, I brought your blazer, we gotta go now.”

Even shoots one last regretful look at Isak as Mikael tugs him out the door. Mikael waves and says, “Nice meeting you. I’m sure we’ll run into each other again sometime!”

~~

LØRDAG 11.01

Isak’s barely managed to take the first bite of his bagel before Eskild jumps on the couch with him, smoothly turning off the TV. That’s fine, anyway. Isak didn’t actually want to start his weekend watching kids’ cartoons, but he’d been too lazy to change the channel. Story of his fucking life.

“What do you want?” he says, with food in his mouth. There’s cream cheese on his lips, but he doesn’t have the energy to wipe it off. It’s before noon on a weekend. He’s never even up this early usually, cut him a break.

Eskild tils his phone screen to Isak to show him a guy’s Grindr profile. He has brown hair and blue eyes, and looks a bit like James McAvoy, if James McAvoy had at least ten piercings on his face. “Do you think he’s handsome?” Eskild asks, tilting his head in concentration.

“I don’t know. How would I know?” Isak says in a rush. He scratches at his hair to avoid looking at the screen.

Eskild rolls his eyes. “You don’t need to be gay to have an opinion.”

Isak forces himself to look again. “He’s okay,” is all he can mutter.

“But does he look like he could lift me up against the wall?”

Isak’s face twists. “Eskild, what the fuck?”

Eskild shrugs, grinning. “He said he wanted to. Among other things.” He pats Isak’s cheek. “But that’s a little too much for your innocent little mind.”

Meanwhile, Isak has someone telling him that he looks great in green and trying to cheer him up when he looks sad. It’s enough to make his head spin. Isak’s heart races when he spots the pile of notes on his desk. They probably have probably permanent sweat stains from his hands now, with the sheer number of times he’s opened them. Eskild’s reading through his guy’s messages again to decipher the meaning between the words, with his tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth. It would be so easy to bring it up now, before Eskild starts demanding that he clean his room or ask about the rent, because surely, Eskild would have a better idea of what to do next than Isak. That’s a pretty low bar to beat.

The moment is broken when Eskild shows him his phone again, so Isak can see the last few messages. Isak wants to laugh. What the hell made him think that he could spend his Saturday mornings eating a bagel and yogurt with Eskild, gossipping about boys? He’s not Eskild, who’s so comfortable in his sexuality that he’s willing to shout it from the rooftops in mascara and tights and a pink wig. Isak can barely go a morning without having a crisis about the least gay thing he can listen to on the tram to school that day.

“I think he’s coming over tonight. Should I do it?” Eskild says.

“You don’t need my permission to hook up with guys.”

“I just need a second opinion, and Noora’s still on the phone with Eva.”

Isak throws his hands in the air. “Just interrupt her. They talk all the time.”

Right on cue, Noora pokes her head out of her room. “Did someone call my name?”

Eskild waves his phone. “I need you to tell me whether this guy is worth the trouble. Isak’s too straight to do it.”

“Hey--” Isak protests, but he’s interrupted when Noora plops down on the couch on the other side of him. Eskild hands her the phone, and she begins scrolling through, efficient as always.

“These pictures look too good for him to really look like that every day, but they don’t look Photoshopped. I’d say go for it,” she says.

Isak has to duck down when Eskild reaches across him to give Noora a peck on the cheek. “You’re so good at this, Noora. You’d be unstoppable with Tinder.”

Noora purses her lips. “I told you to stop bugging me about that.”

“It’s been a month.”

“I’m focusing on myself.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t focus on boys too.”

Eskild’s train of thought is interrupted when he takes a deep sniff of Isak, inevitable given the way they’d all been pressed against each other. His face screws up in confusion. “You smell better than usual. Have you been showering more lately?”

“I think I actually saw him doing his laundry the other day,” Noora adds, because his roommates hate him.

Eskild’s eyes widen. “Is there a special someone?”

Isak shoves both of them off him. “Can’t I start doing the things you’ve been bugging me to do since I moved in without you asking stupid questions?”

“Nope,” Eskild says, popping the ‘p’.

“I don’t know why you expected anything better from Eskild,” Noora says.

In the end, he’s well aware how lucky he is to have his roommates, especially after everything that went down with his parents. They care about him--even Linn--who maybe speaks two words to the rest of them on a good day. Eskild hadn’t needed to take him under his wing, and Noora’s been surprisingly accommodating with Isak taking over her room. But right now, he hates them all, he really does.

~~

LØRDAG 12.05

~~

MANDAG 9.05

I can’t believe we’ve been talking for a week and I still don’t know anything about you. What am I even supposed to call you? “Possibly really creepy guy who’s managed to find my locker and knows where most of my classes are”? You know way more about me. If you’re supposed to be my pen just-a-pal, I feel like I should know more about you.

~~

MANDAG 10.00

Hit me up then. Any questions you want to ask. You get a question, I get a question.

~~

MANDAG 10.30

Okay. What’s your favorite color?

~~

MANDAG 11.00

Red. That’s way too easy, if we’re doing this, we have to do it right. Ask me something actually hard . Like, what was the best childhood memory you had?

~~

MANDAG 11.25

Oh, well. My mom used to light up all our candles for Christmas dinner. It was her favorite holiday. She made us go to church all the time, and on Christmas morning, she’d wake me up at 5AM to open my presents. Honestly, all those candles were probably a fire hazard, so my dad always tried to stop her, but she’d insist, and he had such a soft spot for her. I never really got Christmas--not the way she did--but the candles are all I remember from back when she was excited about it.

I didn’t even think I’d write that much. That was a lot, but I wrote in pen, so here it is.

What’s your biggest fear?

~~

TIRSDAG 10.05

Being alone in my own head. Being alone at all really, but my mind is a scary place. I’d rather not spend more time in it than I have to. That’s why I like other people so much. So I can drown all of it out. Sometimes, I feel alone even when I’m with other people--especially when I’m with certain people, because they don’t really know what I’m going through. But they try so hard that I’m always tempted to forgive them when they fuck up. Even if it’s better for me if I can cut them out of my life.

Sorry, this is is vague. If you knew me, you’d get it, so maybe it’s better that I’m just your anonymous friend.

Why parallel universes?

~~

TIRSDAG 13.04

Oh, I guess you picked this book on purpose, then? No one’s ever really asked. I just really like the idea of infinite possibilities. We could be texting in another universe, or I could know you in real life already, or I could’ve accidentally kicked that first note away and never known about you at all. Science is so complex that it’s hard for me to believe that this is the only possible universe. I mean, sci-fi is cool, but what’s cooler about it is that it’s based in fact.

And I’m sorry you’ve felt that way. No one should make you feel alone--not if they really care about you.

Okay, fun one, because I have an essay due tomorrow, and I need to hear something kinda happy before I start on it. When was the last time you sang to yourself?

~~

ONSDAG 9.10

You’re going to make fun of me, but I was playing my guitar for the first time in a couple of weeks yesterday, and my go-to song is Wonderwall. Yes, I’m a walking meme! I’ll accept that. It’s a damn good song. I know what your face probably looks like now--when your mouth gets all twisted up because you’re trying really hard not to laugh. I guess I could let you have one laugh. But just one, because otherwise, you’ll really hurt my feelings.

I’m glad that this isn’t the parallel universe where you kicked my note away. I would’ve been sad, and then you’d be sad too, because you wouldn’t have me to brighten up your day.

What was your first girlfriend experience like?

~~

ONSDAG 10.15

I laughed twice. I hope your feelings survived.

I don’t know. It was weird, to be honest? We dated a little in middle school, but we hung out once at a party my first year of high school. I didn’t even know we were dating until my friends told me we were, and then they kept asking me whether I was hanging out with her, or how far we’d gone, and shoving us together at parties. I barely even kissed her when they weren’t there. It was just so awkward all the time. She broke up with me, but honestly, I was pretty relieved.

~~

ONSDAG 11.15

I’m so sorry that was bad for you. Your first relationship shouldn’t make you feel like that. Did you try to date another girl after that?

~~

ONSDAG 11.30

I don’t know. I can’t really see myself with any of the girls at school. Or any girl. Ever, probably.

~~

ONSDAG 12.00

That’s okay, you know.

~~

ONSDAG 12.15

Yeah, maybe. I don’t even know why I told you.

~~

ONSDAG 12.35

That’s okay, too.

--

ONSDAG 12.40

Isak clenches the note in his fist. His breathing is so heavy he’s sure everyone in the hallway will notice. He manages to stumble into a bathroom stall before he can fully comprehend where he’s headed. As soon as Isak slams the door shut, he slides down against it, all the way to the tile floor. His shaking has gotten so bad that he has to wrap his arms around himself to keep still. The pressure in his chest doesn’t stop the tentative smile that’s trying to reach his lips, and after a minute, he lets it take over fully.

That’s okay. He’s okay.

 

Chapter Text

TORSDAG 16.00

Even doesn’t do the gym thing too often, but ever since Isak started replying to his notes, he’s had to find a way to blow off a little steam. It’s a wonderful experience -- getting to know Isak past first impressions, starting to realize he’s more than just the beautiful boy who’d caught his eye in the courtyard months back, and catching glimpses of his secret smiles when he’s looking down at Even’s ripped notebook paper in front of his locker, hands clutching at it like a lifeline.

(Even finds it exhilarating to know the other half of that paper is still bound to the notebook sitting in his backpack, torn clumsily and in haste.)

But the experience is also frustrating, because even though he’s been getting somewhere with Isak via anonymous note-sending, he’s made very little progress as Even , and that’s mostly because he doesn’t know how to approach Isak without a) having to apologize for an incident prior and b) having Isak immediately dismiss him and his intentions.

So, like he does with most of his impulsive endeavors, he’s dragged Mikael along with him to his gym sessions, and they’re both currently jogging at a leisurely pace on their respective treadmills while Mikael dramatically recounts last night’s pregame hookup, a story which Even is only half-interested in and half-listening to.

“Hey,” Mikael’s arm reaches across the machine’s bar to snap his fingers in Even’s face. “You’re not paying attention to me.”

Even looks over at Mikael, expression sheepish. “Sorry,” he apologizes. “My mind’s a little fried.”

“Your mind’s always fried,” Mikael quips, and Even flips him the finger. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to me.”

“I was listening,” Even lies. “Sara, right? Girl who used too much teeth, or something?”

“Or something,” Mikael sighs theatrically. “Why do I even bother? I lost you the second you laid eyes on Isak Valtersen, your One True Love, the Prince Charming to your Aurora, the Eric to your Ariel.”

Even furrows his brows. “I’m sorry, why am I the princess in both of these?”

“Look at yourself in the mirror, buddy,” Mikael suggests. “You’ll find your answer.”

“Aw, Mik, do you think I’m pretty?” Even wags his eyebrows at his best friend. “Listen, we could give it a try, if this Isak thing doesn’t work out. I wouldn’t be opposed to it.”

“You wouldn’t be able to handle me,” Mikael sniffs. “I require a special kind of man, one who doesn’t spend his time sending love letters to a second-year boy and then offsetting the effort by making him spill his coffee every time they meet in person.”

“That was -- not every time,” Even mutters in defense. “And I’m trying, fuck, I am, but he’s so -- I don’t know, he’s so stubborn , and I know that, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from talking to him, is that he has a hard time admitting when he’s wrong, and also, he’s a terrible liar, even in writing, which--”

“You find endearing, yes, you’ve said this to me already, move along,” Mikael waves a hand dismissively.

“I don’t know what to do at this point,” Even grunts in frustration, resisting the urge to higher the speed setting on the treadmill. He knows how dangerous that is, considering the last time he tried he had a hard time coordinating his legs accordingly and just barely managed to find his balance before he could fall on his face. “I don’t know if I should just -- stop, if I make him so unhappy, but keep up the notes just to -- to brighten his day a little bit,” Even shakes his head. “But the idea that we’d never be able to talk the way we do through notes in person is killing me.”

“Listen,” Mikael starts. “I shouldn’t be encouraging this, but as your best friend, it’s my job to encourage stupidity--”

“And I thank you for that,” Even interrupts.

“You’re welcome. But on that note, you should really limit your stupidity, because it’s going to cost you in the long run, and I think you might be a little bit obsessed.”

“I’m not obsessed.”

“You’re literally looking at his instagram page for the thirtieth time this week right at this moment.”

Even looks up from the phone he’s been surreptitiously scrolling through. “You don’t know that.”

“Ah, but I do,” Mikael raises an eyebrow. “But that’s not the point. You’re so caught up in the details of this thing it’s starting to weigh on you, and even though I’m always here to encourage you, I’m also here to look out for you, and you need to stop beating yourself up about this.”

Even shakes his head. “I don’t know how,” he looks at Mikael pleadingly. “Fix this,” he whines.

“Tell him you’re the one sending the notes,” Mikael replies smoothly, as if it were that easy.

But Even knows better. “If I reveal myself now, he’d hate me. We’re not at a point where he wouldn’t think I did this out of spite, or to make fun of him.”

“Then be friendlier to him.”

Even gapes at his best friend. “Mik,” he snaps. “I have been nothing but friendly. He takes everything I say out of context, he’s so -- he’s so -- he’s so--

Mikael throws his wet rag at Even’s face. It lands spectacularly, then falls neatly on the treadmill’s screen. Even glares at him.

“What?” Mikael blinks innocently. “You were stuck.”

“Every time I approach him, something goes wrong,” Even tries again. “It’s like the universe is telling me to fuck off, or something. I’m barely able to get a word in before something’s coming up, or he’s spilling his fucking coffee, or you’re walking in there to whisk me away.”

“Hey,” Mikael frowns. “Your mom would have been a lot more pissed than she was had you not shown up at all.”

“That’s not the point,” Even replies in frustration, clutching the phone in his hand tightly. “You know I don’t believe in signs, but if I did, this would be the largest, most obnoxious neon-colored sign in the world telling me to leave it alone.”

Mikael grunts. “Ugh, you’re so dramatic,” he looks over at Even and refuses to stop until Even meets his unamused gaze. “You like him, right?”

Even nods, because of course he likes Isak, what kind of a question is that?

“So then stop wallowing in your own self-pity and do something about it,” Mikael can obviously tell that Even’s about to bring up another counter-argument, because he holds up a silencing hand before Even can. “No, shut up, Mikael’s talking now,” he snaps. Even’s mouth closes obediently. “Apologize to him again, buy him a coffee, sit down with him, strike up a conversation about the weather, for all I care, I don’t know,” he rolls his eyes. “Make sure your intentions are clear: you want to be his friend. No, you are not making fun of him. No, you do not hate him. Yes, you may have come across as a dick before, and you’re sorry about that, but the circumstances have never been in your favor, and you’re trying to make up for it now.”

Even thinks on this. “And what if he doesn’t want anything to do with me, even then?”

Mikael raises an eyebrow. “Well, you know the answer to that,” he looks back at the television blasting a cover story about a break-in in a nearby area. “If I have to explain it to you, then we have much bigger problems, my friend.”

Even knows he’d have to stop, and he knows that he would , of course he would, but he doesn’t think he’s built to have his heart broken like that. He can already feel the beginnings of it, just the small prickle of disappointment, and it’s already poisoning what little remains of his self-worth, like it’s readying the mocking whispers of what could have been, had he been a little faster, had he been a little nicer, had he been a little smarter, had he been--

“Get out of there,” Mikael snaps. Even looks up at him. “I know that look, get out of there.”

“Ugh,” Even grunts, but he’s grateful for his friend’s intervenience. “I hate boys.”

“A blatant lie if I’ve ever heard one!” Mikael announces loudly to the entirety of the gym. Most people are wearing their earphones, so it’s easy to ignore them, but they do get a few annoyed glances from the poor souls who either forgot their earphones at home or just really love the sound of gym equipment. “You love boys. And girls. You love everyone, you love people, there is too much love in you.”

Even’s smile is small. “And not enough coming back?”

Mikael punches his shoulder lightly. “You’ve got all of mine, what else do you need?”

Even rolls his eyes. Mikael is ridiculous, and he’s hard-headed and he’s blunt and sometimes he’s enough to get on every last one of Even’s nerves, but he’s sentimental, and he means well, and that’s why he’s Even’s best friend, and has been for a very long time.

“In any case, figure it out,” Mikael presses. Even glances at him, then looks back down at his phone. Isak’s instagram page flashes brightly back at him, and Even’s thumb hovers over the video of Isak and Magnus, the one he’s played on repeat for the past two weeks now, of the two of them attempting to -- rap, maybe, Even doesn’t know, but it’s adorable as fuck, and he’s going to try to press down on it to watch it one more time, but the phone slips from his grasp and falls onto the floor beside the treadmill.

“Oh, God damn it,” Even mutters. Mikael clicks his tongue.

“You’re losing it, Even,” he tells him. “Losing it.”

Even flips him off, prompting a laugh from Mikael. He lowers the speed setting on the treadmill, enough so that he’s more fast-walking than jogging, and then, in an admittedly ambitious attempt, he leans down to try and grab for his phone.

This does not end well.

He barely has time to register that he’s falling by the time his forehead has hit the meter screen in front of him, and then his hands are flailing uselessly as he falls the rest of the way, the side of his face hitting the walking belt with a thud. He’s given up on trying to stand, now, and accepts his fate as he lets himself be whisked away by the belt and onto the floor, nothing to show for this entire debacle but the dull throbbing pain in select parts of his body and Mikael’s loud laughter ringing in his ears.

“You lost it!” Mikael gasps between breaths. “Fuck, you lost it!”

Even raises his hand as far as it’s willing to go, and promptly flips Mikael off one more time.

--

 

TORSDAG 17.00

--

TORSDAG 17.12

--

TORSDAG 17.30

Even’s kept all of Isak’s notes neatly pressed into the sketchbook he keeps in his closet, save for the one.

This one, he’s held onto for a whole two days, lets it rest in his pocket, lets it rest in his palms; it’s creased and folded and a little stained at the corner, and it reads:

I don’t know. I can’t really see myself with any of the girls at school. Or any girl. Ever, probably.

It’s not because of the words, but because he knows . Even knows how brave Isak must have had to be in the moment to write them down. He understands that it couldn’t have been easy, carrying that with him, and then suddenly have it pour out of him in less than twenty written words. He trusted someone who’s practically a stranger with this, and Even admires him so, so much, wishes he could be with Isak to promise him there’s nothing to be afraid of, that he understands, that it really is okay. That things are going to be okay.

Maybe this is the hardest part of remaining anonymous. The fact that there’s nothing he can offer other than a couple of words in return, maybe a doodle, in an attempt to capture exactly what he’s feeling, exactly what he’s trying to get across. This is where it gets tricky, because Even can’t give away that he knows, because he’s as much this anonymous sender as he is himself, but it’s hard to walk down the school hallway and not want to give Isak an encouraging smile, a comforting squeeze on the shoulder.

Baz is currently lying lazily on top of Even’s feet, keeping them warm. The pressure of him is comforting, keeps him rooted to the moment, even as he reads over the words again and again, trails his fingers over the pen marks, making sure they’re still there. After another minute or two, Even sets the note aside. He looks down at his dog, who’s snoring quietly, then looks down at the phone resting on his lap. The notifications are from Mikael, who’s live texting The Simpsons, and then there are three ignored texts from Elias, whom he’s been avoiding more and more lately after the incident with Isak, and five missed calls from Sonja, who--

Is an entirely different subject all on her own.

Even’s not an idiot. He knows things are going south. He’s known things have been going south for a while now. He’s sure Sonja can sense it, too. But he doesn’t know how to accept that entirely -- Sonja’s been a constant in his life since he was fifteen years old, has learned to cope with the person Even is and has never left him, despite things sometimes getting so bad he yelled, sometimes getting so bad he’d get into fights with her uncles, completely unprovoked. Sonja’s stayed with him even though she’s had no obligation to, because she loves him, and Even can’t help but feel terrible, absolutely terrible about the fact that things aren’t the way they used to be.

But they haven’t been for a while. And now, with the prospect of Isak, getting to know him, getting to like him beyond a superficial level -- it’s hard to think about what a future with her could look like. There are things Isak makes him feel that are entirely foreign, things in his stomach he never knew were possible to feel, has brought about thoughts he never knew his mind was capable of producing, and it’s so new , and it’s so wonderful , and it’s so Goddamn terrifying, because if this is the way he feels now, when their correspondence has only been transpiring for a little over two weeks, how would a real conversation with Isak make him feel? What kind of new, unexplored territory is he willingly stepping into?

He buries his feet deeper under Baz, rests his head back on his pillow. He stares at the ceiling for a couple of minutes before grunting out a, “Come here, Baz,” and then watches as his dog gleefully bounces off his feet and moves up to press the side of himself against Even.

Even’s arm reaches out to hug Baz, his hand clinging to the fur tightly. Baz’s nose sniffs incessantly at Even’s neck before he nuzzles it, and the two of them lay in that position for hours, Even ignoring the buzzing of his phone for the rest of the night, his eyes eventually closing and sleep taking him under, where it’s easier to pretend things are okay.

--

FREDAG 8.10

You ever think maybe there’s something wrong with you, and not the people around you? You can blame anyone you want, but at the end of the day, maybe you’re the problem. You’re the common denominator. The point is -- I’m just trying to find my way around this fucking life, trying to find exactly what’s going wrong, why I’m feeling the way that I’m feeling, but the only thing I’m sure of, absolutely sure of, is you.

--

FREDAG 9.34

Whoa, sorry my last note was such a drag. For context, my dog chose to cuddle with my mother instead of me and I was feeling especially betrayed. We’re friends again now, though, because I coerced him back into my lap with the help of my dear old friend bacon, so take that, mom. Bacon and your son will always prevail. Hello, I hope your day’s been good so far. You’re wearing a Superman snapback today. Facing forward! I like it. It’s cute. I mean, not as cute as a Batman snapback would be, but it’ll do, I guess. Blue suits you. Brings out your eyes, I think.

--

FREDAG 10.56

Sorry your dog betrayed you like that. You think you know a canine. And I’ll have you know I have quite an Opinion on Batman v Superman and one day we’ll have to have a debate about that. Not today, obviously, because I don’t have time to write you an essay, but one day soon. Also, Emma talked to me again today. You’re absolutely 100% sure you’re not her, right????

--

FREDAG 12.21

Dearest Isak, lost soul, who may or may not believe Superman is the superior hero: no, I am still not Emma, and unless the man in the mirror lied to me this morning, I don’t think I’ll be Emma any time soon. I like to think I have much better hair than her. She can look like Natalie Portman all she wants, but will she ever have hair as fluffy as I do??

--

FREDAG 14.10

Dearest whoever you are, asshole, who may or may not be in love with his own hair: thanks for clearing that up. This has to be quick because I’m already close to being late for my last class, but just so you know, in the battle of batman v superman, your ego would probably win

--

FREDAG 16.39

Elias has been trying to follow him around all day, and Even’s at the point in his annoyance that he’s about to be very upfront about what exactly “the problem is”, but he leaves Even alone for about the last two hours of the school day, which means Even can saunter into KB without a problem and without an unwanted tag-along.

Eva’s behind the counter again, her school day always ending a bit earlier than Even’s, and he smiles brightly at her as he walks up, no line in sight. “Hi,” he greets happily. There’s a handful of notes in his backpack that have made his day look up by infinite amounts, and the smile on his face must seem far too eager, because Eva gives him an amused look.

“What’s with the sunny attitude?” she asks him, already putting his order in. Even thinks it’s beautiful, how easily he and Eva can get along, so much so that his coffee order is already committed to memory (though that might say more about his coffee addiction than his friendship with Eva) and they’re able to say things to each other like “what’s with the sunny attitude” without offense being taken, which, Even wouldn’t take offense to anyway, because his attitude is absolutely very sunny at the moment, and he’s going to try and run into Isak today and make things right, so things are looking up.

“What, a man can’t be happy to see his friend?” Even raises an eyebrow. “His friend who will also conveniently deliver to him God’s gift of coffee? I didn’t know that was a crime, Eva,” he clutches at his heart dramatically. “Maybe I’ll take my friendship elsewhere.”

Eva rolls her eyes. “Okay, you don’t have to be a dick about it,” she says, but there’s an amused tilt of her lips making way, and then she’s resting her elbow on the register, boredly waiting for the next customer in line while her faithful colleague makes Even his coffee. “Vilde asked about you again,” she tells him, and Even grimaces.

“Eva, I’m flattered that your girlfriend likes me probably more than she likes you--”

“Fuck off,” Eva laughs.

“--but I already begged you to say no for me,” he looks at Eva in earnest. “I missed the meeting last week, you can’t expect me to show up to the one next week.”

Eva hums. “I feel like it’s your responsibility as a grown-ass man to say no to her face,” she raises an eyebrow. “It’ll hurt so much less coming from you.”

How,” Even deadpans. “She was really excited about asking me, and she does that -- that thing with her eyes!”

“I know the thing,” Eva sighs fondly.

“It’d be like letting down the family puppy,” he sighs, less fondly. “I don’t want to let down the family puppy, Eva.”

Eva smiles. “Even, she’s a lot stronger than she looks,” she promises. “If it doesn’t come from you, she’ll feel like you don’t like her enough to say it to her face, and she’ll be on about it for weeks ,” she raises both of her eyebrows challengingly. “Do you want to hurt my girlfriend for weeks?”

Even bites his bottom lip. “No, I suppose not,” he admits. “I’m also afraid you’ll hurt me if I do, so I’ll talk to her on Monday.” Eva looks at him. “I promise ,” he adds for good measure.

Eva offers him a genuine smile. “Thank you,” she replies, her tone kind. “I appreciate it.”

Even’s returning smile is just as genuine. “You’re welcome, Frankenstein.”

Eva laughs and her coworker hands him his coffee right on time, because at the very moment his hand closes around his caramel macchiato, Isak Valtersen walks through the door, looking flushed in the face, a small smile quirking at his lips.

Even’s still not used to how very beautiful Isak is, just how unassuming, the way beautiful things should be, and he’s still not used to that foreign feeling that darts past his stomach every time they’re this close to one another, and his Superman snapback’s still in place and there are a pile of notes with his handwriting situated inside Even’s backpack and he’s going to be nice today, God damn it.

His mouth goes dry the second Isak meets his gaze, when Even notices something about him just shuts down -- almost like he’s expecting his day to turn sour from here on out, in Even’s presence, and he can hear Mikael’s words prodding at his head: sit down with him, strike up a conversation about the weather, make sure your intentions are clear.

Isak looks like he’s hesitating to move forward now that Even’s in the way, but he steps aside and Eva waves him over, her expression clearly near-chastising.

Isak keeps his head down and is pointedly avoiding Even’s gaze, but Even doesn’t move from where he stands, so that when Isak reaches the register, he can lean against the counter and very smoothly say: “So it’s cold.”

Isak blinks up at him. “What?”

So it’s cold . Alright, he can probably work with this. He’s usually a lot smoother than this, in his defense, but there aren’t any coffee sleeves to take over this time, and he’s already fucked up so many times in the past that he thinks his mind’s not working at one hundred percent capacity anymore, so he’s stuck with the only part of Mikael’s advice that was shitty , and he’s got to work with it.

“Outside,” Even clears his throat. “It’s cold outside.” Right, so he’s a Christmas song now.

Isak stares at him. Even feels Eva staring at him, too.

“I just noticed that you’re not wearing a beanie,” Even perseveres, and let it never be said he’s a quitter, because on this day, he is quite literally diving head first into a pool of cement. “So you must not -- be that cold.”

Isak glances at Eva, then looks back at Even. “I have a jacket on,” he says slowly, then seems to backtrack. “I’m -- was there something you--”

“Will you sit with me?” Even blurts, and Isak looks just as puzzled as Even feels. “I mean, you should sit with me,” he nods over to an empty table at the corner, the one they’d found themselves seated at last time. “I promise I won’t make you spill any more coffee.”

Isak looks severely taken aback. Even glances at Eva, who’s studying the register very closely, looking like she’s close to laughter. When he looks back at Isak, he’s flushing red, but Even pretends not to notice, because if he says something now, he’ll scare him off.

“Uhm,” Isak glances towards the table, then back at Even. “I’m supposed to be meeting my friends.”

“That’s okay,” Even smiles easily. “I’ll leave when they get here.”

Isak’s gaze turns suspicious. “Do you want something from me?”

Even laughs quietly. “Only your company.”

See? Check and mate. He knew he could salvage the situation.

“Even--” Isak looks like he’s about to rant at him again, maybe snap something snarky, and Even can’t take that chance, because the second Isak starts down that path, they’ll be right back where they started. They’re doing good, things are looking good, he can’t risk Isak snapping at him once again and taking everything Even says out of context.

“I just want to talk,” Even promises before he can get another word in. “I promise I don’t want anything else from you.”

“You and Elias--”

“Elias is not me,” Even’s tone is firm. Isak blinks at him, looking slightly surprised. “And I don’t condone the things he says to you. I’m sorry. And I’m not -- he likes to pretend he’s better friends with me than he actually is,” Even says, slightly bitter. He knows it’s because of his reputation, the one back at Bakka, the one Even knows people try to cling to. It’s the same reason Vilde invited him to her revue group -- if Even Bech Næsheim could show up to her group, then surely everyone else would want to. “I really am sorry he’s such a dick.”

Isak is sputtering, but trying to make it seem like he’s not, so he looks like an adorably lost puppy, and Even wants to grab him by the shoulders, shake him, and yell give me a chance, I know you, you know me.

“Jeez, Isak, sit with the guy,” Eva chimes in, and both Isak and him look over at her. Even had forgotten about their audience for a moment. “He’s obviously trying to say sorry.”

Isak huffs. “I haven’t even ordered my coffee yet,” he points out, both to Even and to Eva. “And Jonas and the guys will be here any minute--”

“Isak,” Eva gives him a wide-eyed look. “Don’t be rude.”

Isak gapes. “I’m rude? He’s--”

“Still standing here,” Even waves happily at the two of them. Isak looks only slightly sheepish, Eva amused. “And seems like the guy back there has your order taken care of.” He nods towards Eva’s coworker, who waves at Isak with a big smile on his face, and suddenly Even’s not too fond of this guy. His eyes narrow to get a better look at his name tag -- it reads “Julian”, and he’s going to file that one away for later.

Isak looks like he wants the ground to swallow him whole. Even finds that ridiculously endearing. “Fine,” Isak sighs. “But, whatever you want to say to me, can you just -- make it quick?” He looks at Even pleadingly.

Even smiles kindly. “I will,” he promises, then he saunters off to find his seat on the table.

When Isak finally makes his way to Even, he’s dragging his feet, his shoulders slumped. He cautiously sits down in the seat across from Even, setting his coffee on the table. His back is pressed as far back into the chair as it can go, and he’s watching Even suspiciously. Even’s just happy he’s made it this far. He hears a voice in his head that sounds a lot like Mikael’s reminding him not to fuck this up, to make his intentions clear.

“I think I might have given you the impression that I don’t like you,” he starts off slowly. Isak snorts.

“Yeah, well, that’s ‘cause you don’t,” he replies. He looks like he’s about to leave again. “Listen, we don’t have to do this, you don’t need to pretend--”

“I’m not,” Even interferes quickly. “Isak, I don’t know--”

Suddenly, his phone is blaring Simple Minds’s Don’t You Forget About Me from his coat pocket, and he’s about to strangle whatever force in the universe has taken action against him, because seriously, what the fuck .

“God dammit,” he mutters frustratingly. “Just -- give me a second,” Even holds up his index finger. “One second, I promise--” Isak looks bewildered as Even scrambles for his phone, pulling it out of his coat pocket to read the name lighting up the screen.

It’s his mom, of all people, and he knows he can’t get away with ignoring his mom’s call more than three times, so it’s one he has to return after at least the second time. “Shit,” he mutters, then looks back up at Isak. “Listen, I’ve got to--”

Isak’s expression is accepting, like he’d been expecting this. “Yeah, okay,” he nods at Even, and Even curses once more under his breath.

He stands up. “I’ll be back,” he promises. “I will, okay?”

Isak looks at him. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Even nods firmly, makes his way outside the shop the answer the call. He presses down on the answer button, and as soon as the phone touches his ear, he says, “Mom, now’s really not a good time--”

“Sonja’s over,” she speaks over him, like she knows what his excuses will sound like. “I was thinking that it’d be nice if we all had dinner together tonight. It’s been a while--”

“Mom,” Even interrupts, sighing. “I’m kind of in the middle of something, can I just--”

“Even,” his mother snaps at him. “Listen,” her voice quiets, like she’s trying to spare Sonja the rest of this conversation. “Your girlfriend looks worried, thinks that she hasn’t seen you in so long because you’re not taking your meds, and I don’t know how to tell her that you’re perfectly fine without breaking her heart.”

Even seriously does not want to be having this conversation right now. “Mom, it’s just been--”

“Come home, have dinner with us, and if you need to have a conversation with her, you do it soon,” she presses. “Because I cannot keep covering for you, my love. Do you still want to be with her?”

Even turns around, looks at Isak’s back, hunched over, looks at his hands wrapped around his coffee. He looks a little tense, like he’s not sure what to expect from here on out, and Even’s heart squeezes, because he thinks he wants to say no. He wants to say, mom, there’s a boy, and I think you’d really like him, and when he thinks of his childhood he thinks of Christmas candles, and when he thinks of the universe he thinks of it in multiples, and when he’s sad his face looks broken, and when he’s happy his smile could light up entire cities, and he’s like a prayer, mom, the kind you used to make me recite when I was younger, the kind of prayer I can recite in my sleep and remember for the rest of my life, and I think he could be good for me, mom, I think he could be, if he’d just be willing to look me in the eye and give me a chance.

And it’s not fair, it’s not fair that he mutters a “yes” in reply instead, because there are still a million things he doesn’t know, because he doesn’t want to risk it. It’s unfair to Sonja, it’s unfair to him, and it’s unfair to the boy inside the coffeeshop, waiting for him to return.

“Then come home,” his mother sighs, like she knows. Somehow, Even thinks she does. Don’t mothers always know? “And have dinner with us.”

They hang up, and before Even can walk back inside, Jonas, Magnus and Mahdi are making their way in, and they’re all taking over the table that used to be Isak and Even’s.

Isak jumps comically when Magnus slaps his back in greeting, and he looks around the coffeeshop, maybe expecting Even to pop up again, and the guys are talking amongst each other when Isak finally makes eye contact with Even through the glass window.

They look at each other for a moment. Even huffs, and his breath forms a cold cloud in front of him. He smiles sadly at Isak, nods his regrets.

Isak looks at him just for a moment longer, then he looks away.

Even holds on to that look the entire way home.

--

MANDAG 9.33

Do you ever turn over an event in your head every which way and end up hating yourself more every single time? Like, I left a really bad impression on this girl the other day, one of my mom’s friend’s daughters, and I think she thinks I hate her when all I was trying to do was desperately get her attention. For my mom, that is. My mom’s friends got some big connections in her career world, so it would have been perfect for me to get along swimmingly with this girl, but instead I fucked it up monumentally. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

--

MANDAG 10.21

Can’t relate. I’ve never been desperate.

I’m kidding, kinda. But, don’t sweat it, I guess? I think people are gonna think what they want to think and you can’t really fix it. Once someone is set in their ways, I think there’s very little you can do to change their perception of you. If this girl really believes you hate her, and she’s not willing to give you a chance, then it’s kind of pointless to keep asking for one, right?

--

MANDAG 11.09

Are you saying you wouldn’t give someone a chance even after they’ve tried to apologize to you? I think that shows that they’re trying, right? You can’t always judge a person by your first impression of them. You sound a lot like Elizabeth Bennet right now, actually. From Pride & Prejudice. That’s literally who you just described. Oh, my God, you’re Elizabeth Bennet. This is amazing to me. Here is a drawing of you in period clothing, my dear Lizzie.

--

MANDAG 12.57

Dude, what the fuck. I didn’t say I wouldn’t give them a chance, I said some people wouldn’t give someone else a chance. What’s it to you if I give people a chance or not? I gave you one, right? Doesn’t that count for something? Maybe I don’t give assholes a second chance, yeah, but that’s to be expected. Assholes are assholes are assholes.

P.S. The librarian asked what the hell I did here so many times in one day. I think she’s onto me.

--

MANDAG 13.22

Sounds like you’ve got a certain asshole in mind. I’m just saying, if someone is trying , isn’t it just common courtesy to give them another chance? Maybe they came off as an asshole at first, like I did with this girl, but if I’m constantly apologizing and trying to rectify my actions, shouldn’t that at least grant me another sit-down?

P.S. Good thing she never cares about me doing the same. I think she likes me.

--

MANDAG 13.59

No certain asshole in mind. But, yeah, maybe you’re right. Maybe you deserve another sit-down. But this girl sounds stubborn as fuck. Is she really worth all of the trouble? How important can she be?

P.S. She hates me

--

MANDAG 14.30

She’s pretty important. I’ll try one more time and see if that gets me anywhere. If not, then I did my best, right? It’s not like I didn’t try. I’m hoping she can find it in her heart to give me another chance. I would really appreciate it. And I think people who grant other people second chances are the kind of people who make the world go round. I admire the hell outta them.

P.S. Can’t relate. I could never hate you.

--

TIRSDAG 13.32

--

ONSDAG 15.30

Even sees Vilde on her way out of the school, and he hurries to catch up to her. He hasn’t forgotten the promise he made to Eva, not even in his haste to forget all about that day altogether, so he calls her name as she walks. She turns back and looks surprised to see him, eyes widening comically, but she seems to regain her composure by the time Even’s directly in front of her, lazy and crooked smile in place as always.

“Hi!” Vilde greets him happily. “I didn’t expect to see you!”

Even laughs. “Yeah, I’m good at sneaking up on people,” he jokes, and Vilde’s laugh is a little too loud, which Even finds hilarious. “I just came to apologize for not making your kosegruppa meeting,” he looks at her, finding the most genuine expression he can muster and presenting it to her. “I’ve had a lot going on, and, last year wasn’t my best in regards to revue groups--”

“No, no,” Vilde holds up her hands. “I totally get it. I mean, I’ve heard some stuff, right, but I’m not going to pry,” she says this with such pride Even doesn’t have it in him to resent her. “Eva says I really need to work on my tact.”

“You don’t say,” Even smiles, amused.

Vilde blushes. “But, er, yeah,” she chuckles. “I get it. I get why you wouldn’t want to join, that is. But -- I appreciate you telling me,” she sounds like she does. Even thinks Vilde might be forthright, but she is very genuine, and she seems to desperately want to be liked. Even does like her. He wants to assure her of this. “I’m really glad you considered it, in any case.”

Even smiles. “Sorry again,” he apologizes profusely. “But you know if I was joining a revue, it’d be yours, right?”

Vilde grins. “Right.”

--

TORSDAG 9.15

Thought about you last night. Lately, you’re all I’ve been able to think about. I wonder if you would like me outside of these notes. You know a lot about me, I won’t lie, but not any of the bad stuff. It’s very easy to control these situations, I’ve realized. I can be whoever you want me to be, and yet, I’m as honest as I can be with you. But I can’t stop thinking about you. That’s the most honest thing you’ll hear from me. I can’t stop thinking about you.

--

 

TORSDAG 15.00

I can’t stop thinking about you, either.

--

TORSDAG 17.29

Baz is lying on his bed, gazing out the window, and Even’s been staring at the note he thought he wouldn’t get today, and this is it , this is the note he thinks he’s going to keep forever.

I can’t stop thinking about you, either.

He breathes out heavily and lets them consume him, those foreign feelings he has no names for yet, the shivers running up his arms and the ropes tying tightly around his heart and he lets himself feel them, and he doesn’t know them but he wants to, he wants to so desperately.

He reaches for the notebook inside his backpack and pulls it out, flips to the page where he’d started the sketch of Isak, all those weeks ago. It’s still rough, hardly a base, but he thinks he can continue, now, has committed Isak to memory enough so that it serves as an outline, something he can trace, and he begins to sketch in the shadows, roughen the jaw, fill in the lips.

I can’t stop thinking about you, either.

There’s a part of Isak that can’t stop thinking about a part of Even. He doesn’t know it, and he cannot push this any longer if Isak knows he wouldn’t fully accept the other part of him. He stops the drawing maybe a quarter of the way, looks at it intently, then closes his notebook. He’s going to try to win Isak over as Even, too. He’s going to try one more time -- Isak seemed willing to hear him out last Friday, he did, and Even knows he’ll be willing to hear him out, again. He just has to find the right strategy, the right time.

One more time, he tells himself.

He looks over at Baz. His dog takes over most of his bed, and Even huffs out a laugh. “You like all of me, right, Baz?” he asks, and Baz’s head snaps up in attention, ears perking and tail wagging. Even tilts his head. “That’s not an answer, you rascal.”

Baz barks happily and jumps off the bed to make his way to where Even sits on his desk, then he jumps upward to press his two front paws into Even’s chest. Even laughs as Baz’s large tongue licks his entire fucking face , and he has to push him off of him gently in order to avoid being bathed in dog saliva. “Okay, alright, that’s a good answer,” Even scratches at the back of Baz’s ears. “At least I know you’d hear me out if I ever needed to talk.”

Baz’s bark is lighter this time. Even smiles.

“Yeah, buddy,” he scratches at Baz’s head. “I know.”

--

FREDAG 15.10

Even’s going to catch him at his locker, he thinks. Once Isak’s opened his locker, it’s not like he can run away, not without looking like a madman, so he’s going to lean casually against the lockers beside his and he’s going to ask him if they could talk again. He’s going to make his intentions clear. He just wants to be friends, he doesn’t hate Isak, he’s sorry if he’s ever come off as a dick. He’s even put his phone on silent this time, in case someone decides to make an unexpected phone call again. Nothing’s going to interrupt him this time, so fuck off, universe, because--

“Even!” He blinks out of his stupor (one that involved staring intensely at Isak’s locker, at that) and turns around to find Noora walking up to him, smile in place.

Even glances back to the locker, then towards the clock. Isak gets out of class in about five minutes. He looks back at Noora and tries to make his smile a little less nervous than he actually feels, tries to make his posture relax. “Noora,” he greets her as smoothly as he can manage. “Hey, I was just leaving--”

“That’s okay,” Noora smiles. “I can walk with you, if you want?”

Even’s eye doesn’t twitch, but it’s a near thing. “No, no, this is fine, it’s fine, what’s up?”

Noora furrows her brows slightly, but her expression clears as she talks. “So I’m writing an article on the school paper, and I was wondering if we could sit down and talk about your experience in Bakka,” her voice is tentative, like she’s aware she’s swimming in shark-infested waters.

Even can feel his expression falter, his spine stiffen. He can already imagine the questions Noora’s going to be asking, and how hard of a time Even’s going to have explaining any of his “experiences” in his old school that doesn’t end with the phrase, it’s because I was manic.

“I don’t feel comfortable with that,” Even replies, voice quiet. “I’m sorry, Noora, but I’d rather keep the past where it belongs.”

Noora looks at him, a little alarmed, before her expression clears with understanding. “Oh, God -- no, I’m sorry, I should have worded it better,” Noora shakes her head. “Uhm, what I mean is -- I’m writing an article on intersectional feminism and its impact on Norwegian youth, and, uhm, its culture, and I know that -- I heard that you’d written an essay about it back in Bakka,” she clears her throat. “I was hoping to sit down and talk about that . Intersectional feminism.”

Even feels the breath he’d lost rush back into him in a second, and the smile he’d previously sported finds its way back to his lips. “Oh,” he nods slowly. “That, I can do.” His eyes find the clock one more time. Two minutes. “Uhm, was there something else?” He asks, eyes darting back to meet Noora’s.

“No, that was all,” she smiles. “I’ll text you to work out a time to meet?” she asks. Even nods eagerly, mostly because it’s almost time for Isak’s class to let out, and he expects that to be the end of it, but then Noora doesn’t move, instead focuses on something behind Even.

Even glances behind him, then back at Noora, then once again behind him to see what he’d missed. And then, there: Isak and Jonas letting out of the classroom, a minute ahead of schedule, chatting quietly to each other.

Even’s bouncing on his feet when he turns back to Noora. “Hey, I gotta go, but--” Even realizes Noora’s still looking over his shoulder. He raises an eyebrow. “Do you want me to get Isak for you?”

Noora blinks, looks at Even. “What?”

Even points behind him with his thumb. “Isak,” he repeats. “Did you want me to get him for you?”

Noora frowns. “No?”

Even looks back once again. “Jonas, then,” he tries, turning to face Noora. “You want me to get Jonas?” Goodness, Noora, throw him a bone here, he’s just trying to get over to where Isak is before he gets to leave.

Noora laughs. “No, that’s okay, I can talk to him on Monday,” she waves the comment off. “I was going to ask for his input on the article, but it can wait.” She nods over at him and Isak. “They seem to be talking about something important.”

Even can tell, too. He’s not sure he’s going to be able to interrupt that, which is frustrating. “Yeah,” he clears his throat. “So, text me the details?”

Noora blinks. “Oh! Yes, I will,” she smiles. “Thanks again, Even.” She waves at him as she leaves, and once she’s out of sight, Even turns back again, hoping to find Isak still where he stands.

He’s disappointed, however, because he’s gone, left Jonas to his own devices at his locker. Even sighs loudly. Monday, he tells himself. Monday.

Even has to walk that way anyway, so he decides to stop by Jonas’s locker, greets him amicably. Jonas smiles. “What’s up?” he asks Even.

“Noora was looking for you,” he explains. “Something about an article for the school paper. Just thought you should know,” he smiles. “She seems really into this. I feel like the more help she can get, the better.”

Jonas looks thoughtful. “Yeah,” he mutters. “You’re probably right.”

Even feels like he’s watching Jonas have some sort of internal dialogue with himself, so he awkwardly bounces on his feet, then gestures lamely behind him. “Yeah, so, I’m gonna--”

“Hey, what’s your deal?” Jonas asks suddenly. Even frowns.

“My deal?”

“With Isak,” Jonas raises an eyebrow. “Your deal with Isak.”

Even’s stomach falls. Is he this obvious about his attraction? And if Jonas has caught wind of it, why the hell hasn’t Isak, god dammit?

“Why are you such a dick to him?” Jonas presses, and, oh, that makes more sense. Even bites his bottom lip -- he doesn’t know how to explain the entirety of the situation to Jonas without making a fool out of himself, or digging a deeper hole for himself, so instead he shakes his head, defeated.

“I don’t mean to be,” he replies honestly.

Jonas considers him for a moment. “Tell him that,” he says to Even. Even’s trying. “He needs to hear that, I think.”

Jonas closes his locker then, waves goodbye to him lazily, and walks away.

Even sighs, leans against the lockers.

Monday. He’s going to do it on Monday.

Chapter Text

MANDAG 18.15

He'd gone to KB that day expecting to find Eva at the register, but it's her asshole of a manager instead. Belatedly, he remembers that she'd mentioned shopping with the girls, but he’d mostly tuned her out then. Eva would've given him the fucking coffee, but Jon just stares him down as he rifles through his pockets for change. He knew doing his laundry was a bad idea--he'd left all of it in his other pair of jeans, goddammit. If this is what he gets for being responsible and self-reliant, he's going to stay seventeen forever.

"Sorry, it's only one crown, is there any way--" he stammers. Isak’s face burns as the guy behind him shoots him a glare. He looks like the kind of asshole who has more suits hanging in his closet than he can ever wear, just because he can afford it.

"If you can't pay, kid," Jon says, because he's a dick who thinks that being 21 is vastly different from 17, even though Isak knows for a fact that Jon still lives with his mom and probably owns a Spider-Man onesie and a night light, if Eva’s skills of deduction are anything to go by.

Isak lets out a frustrated breath, then says, "Fine," before slinking away. He'd been looking forward to nursing a coffee to chase away his headache for the next few hours. He has a Biology exam tomorrow, and Eskild had texted him that maybe it would be better if he hung out with Jonas, which is code for “I’m trying to fuck someone and it may take all evening to romance him, which is a pain in the ass, but if you could leave so I can have something else in the ass, that’d be great.”

Isak’s left without an apartment to come back to, without a real reason to camp out here for the next few hours until Jonas is done running errands with his sister, and without any sense of dignity, when Even tugs at the sleeve of his hoodie to get his attention, because “bad timing” is the guy’s middle name.

“Why are you always here?” Isak sighs.

Even holds his hands up. “I need you to hear me out. I even turned off my phone, and Mikael’s at the spa with his sister, and I’m going to stand here in front of you until you decide you want to listen to me. I’m just a dude, standing in front of another dude, asking him to forgive him.”

“You’re not leaving, are you?” says Isak.

“Nope.”

“You don’t have anything better to do with your Monday afternoon?”

“It’s Monday afternoon-- what else am I supposed to do? Homework?”

Isak looks down at the Biology textbook in his hand, then back up to Even’s face. “Okay.”

Even stares at him, mouth popping open a little. It takes him a moment to process it, but when he does, the transformation takes over his face until he’s beaming at Isak so bright that Isak has to focus on a spot above Even’s head instead. He can’t deal with Even normally, but it’s so much worse when Even’s looking at him like his entire day is riding on Isak’s opinion of him. “You’ll listen?”

“I’m listening to you now, aren’t I?” But Even doesn’t let the snark deter him as he pulls out the chair from the nearest table and gestures to it. Isak stares at him blankly, and Even rolls his eyes. “Are you going to take everything I do the wrong way? I didn’t booby-trap this chair, I promise. I just need you to sit.”

“Why?” Isak asks warily.

Even’s answering grin lights up his eyes. “Prepare to be blown away.”

As soon as Isak sits, Even pulls his laptop from his backpack and sets it down in front of him. There’s a video already waiting to be played, and it registers somewhere in the back of Isak’s mind that maybe Even had planned this--that maybe he’d come here today with the express purpose of talking to Isak. It makes his head hurt.

With the press of a button, the video starts playing. It’s shot in a way that sunlight fills up the entire frame, coating the scene in warm colors. Isak catches the bottom of a black shirt in the video--a guy, probably, but Isak can’t see his face. It’s a reverse video, and it starts with a spilled cup of coffee on the floor and follows it in slow motion until it jumps back into the guy’s hand. As the video ends with him clutching his coffee again, Even proudly places the coffee he’s been hiding behind his back in front of Isak. As the words fade to black, the words “I’m sorry” pop up in fancy script.

“What did you think?” There’s a flicker of nervousness in Even’s eyes, and if Isak wasn’t so used to an entirely cooler and more reassured version of Even, hadn’t studied him down to the last molecule, he would’ve missed it.

Isak’s heart is beating loudly in his ears. “Did you do that for me?”

“Spent all of my Saturday on it. I wasted so much damn coffee that Mikael was ready to call it a national emergency.”

“But why?” He hates how small his voice sounds, how small he feels sitting in front of Even with his sweaty palms clasped together under the table.

Even shrugs. “You wouldn’t listen to my words, so I thought this was better.”

Just when he thinks he’s got Even pinned down, he manages to surprise him. Isak has to break eye contact with Even, who’s obviously waiting for some sort of a response. Even nudges the coffee across the table, keeping his eyes trained on Isak like he’s afraid Isak will reject him any minute. What the hell is he supposed to do now? Isak can’t handle the responsibility of actually mattering to Even.

Even clears his throat. “We’re never going to be best friends, maybe. I’m totally for everyone being allowed to dislike whoever they want without having to explain. I mean, there’s a guy I keep passing in the hallways who keeps wearing his Green Lantern movie t-shirt, and I flick him off behind my back whenever I get the chance, even though he’s probably not the worst person ever. But I don’t want you to think that I hate you, or that I’ve been talking about you with Elias behind your back, because I would never do that to you.”

Isak stares at the table. “You don’t even know me.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m going to let you think that I’ve been a dick to you for no reason.”

“I didn’t want to make you feel like you had to make a fucking video and buy my coffee. It’s not that big a deal,” Isak mumbles.

“It kinda is to me.” He nods to the coffee. “That’s going to get cold if you wait too long.”

Isak stares at the cup, then stares at Even, who’s looking at him a little too intently for comfort. “It’s not going to bite you,” Even says.

“You sure you haven’t poisoned it?”

“Some people would call caffeine poison. My mom says it’s turning my teeth yellow.”

Even’s smile is hard to ignore, and his mom must be blind, because Isak can’t find any fault with it. He almost wishes he could.

“There are worse things to get addicted to,” Even continues. “Coke, Adam Sandler movies, apologizing to people in coffeeshops when they won’t accept your peace offering. Honestly, I planned this out so well, it’s like fucking poetry. I could write essays about the symbolism here.”

“I can pay you back.”

“Seeing the joy on your face as you drink this instead of whatever boring shit you’ve been getting is payment enough for me.”

Isak rolls his eyes, but he takes a tentative sip of the coffee. His face immediately twists at the shock to his system. The drink goes down the wrong way, and he starts coughing so hard that Even has to rush over to his side of the table to clap him on the back.

“What the fuck was that?” Isak says when he finally recovers. His eyes are still watering.

“Caramel macchiato with extra caramel drizzle and extra whipped cream.”

“That sounds like a heart attack.”

“Hey, if I’m gonna die soon, might as well go out with a bang, right?” Even says. “Plus, you don’t have any right to judge me. Eva told me about your weird thing with adding at least five packets of sugar to lemonade and still calling it healthy because lemons are fruit.”

Isak snorts. “Don’t listen to anything Eva tells you about me. They’re all lies.”

“She also told me that no matter what happened between you two, you’re one of her oldest friends.”

Warmth spreads through Isak’s chest. They’ve been talking more lately, which is something he never even thought he’d have again after all that shit that went down his first year. He wouldn’t blame her if she hated him forever. He deserved it. “She said that?”

“Don’t tell her I told you. I think she’s expecting you to fall into shock whenever someone brings up feelings.”

“That’s not true. Anyone can handle feelings.” Even cocks an eyebrow. “Okay, fine, maybe it’s a little true.”

Even slides into the other chair, and God, he’s just sitting down--Isak’s heart shouldn’t speed up like this. It’s like they’ve crossed thousands of miles to get to this point. Or maybe that’s just the way it feels to Isak.

Even taps the cover of Isak’s Biology textbook. “What are you reading?”

Isak sighs. “We have a test on plants tomorrow, and one of my roommates has someone over, so I thought I might as well get this over with.”

“Plants? That’s awesome. Tell me more?”

Isak squints at Even disbelievingly. “You want to know more about plants?”

“Eva also told me you’re a total Biology nerd. I hope that’s not a lie.”

“Who the fuck wants to know more about plants?”

But Even places his chin in his hands and looks at Isak expectantly. “I’m ready. Hit me with your plant expertise.”

“God, why are you so fucking weird, ” Isak says. But he goes on to tell Even about how caffeine is actually the pesticide in a coffee plant, because it’s relevant, okay, but then there’s that one time a dendrochronologist came to speak to their class, which Isak has to talk about. He’s never going to study plant science, but it had been cool in a surprising way. The next thing Isak knows, it’s two hours later and he’s basically gone over his chapter in such detail that he’s ready to get a fucking six on this exam. Even could even pull a four, maybe, if he’d actually been paying as much attention as he seemed to be.

Isak stares out the window at the darkness that had settled without him noticing, then back at Even, who’s still smiling at him like he could go on all night. Isak’s blushing all over again, but it’s dumb. This is just the way Even is with people, and he’s not giving Isak any kind of special treatment.

Isak glances down at his phone. “I should head home. I think the guy my roommate’s trying to get with turned out to have a foot fetish, so it’s safe to go back.”

Even shakes his head. “Shame. I really wanted to learn more about ferns.” Isak’s packing up his backpack when Even says, “Give me your number.”

Isak furrows his eyebrows in confusion. “Why?”

Even shrugs. “Seems like the most efficient way for you to give me your cool plant facts. In case, you know, you have a revelation about plants at 2 AM.”

“Plants are all I think about 24/7. I don’t think you’re ready for this.”

Even leans back in his chair, smirking. “I’m ready for anything.”

~~

MANDAG 20.30

~~

TIRSDAG 9.06

We read the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in English today, and I couldn’t stop thinking that it’s how I’ve been living my whole life. Waiting, wondering if my life would be any different if I took a risk. Everything was a drag. I thought I’d seen it all. Then you showed up.

I’m glad I dared to disturb the universe when I sent you that first note.

~~

TIRSDAG 10.15

Has anyone ever told you that you’re one dramatic fucker?

~~

TIRSDAG 12.15

Was that a complaint?

~~

TIRSDAG 14.05

I don’t think so.

~~

TIRSDAG 22.10

Isak should’ve expected this, really. Jonas had been cramming for a test all last weekend, and now that he’s done, of course Isak finds him high when he comes over that night. He’s sprawled on the couch, lazily scooping chips into his mouth as Elias struggles to open another bag of Cool American Doritos. Magnus’s eyes are red as he laughs at them, and Mahdi looks one second away from passing out.

“Seriously? It’s a school night,” Isak huffs, but also, why the hell hadn’t they waited for him? He’d been complaining about a Biology assignment, but they could’ve at least extended the offer, given him the chance to say no, and please don’t miss me too much.

Elias is smirking at him, and he doesn’t try to hide how hard he’s staring at Isak. Isak feels hot all over. He gingerly sits on the arm of the couch farthest away from Elias, but he can still feel Elias’s eyes on him. Elias finally manages to open the bag of chips, and he does it so slowly that the sound pierces Isak’s ears. There’s no way Elias didn’t do it on purpose. Isak sneaks another look at him, making eye contact just for a second, just long enough for Elias’s smirk to spread over his face. Isak hugs his arms tight against his chest.

Jonas tries to poke at his arm, but misses and lands somewhere in the vicinity of Isak’s stomach instead. “Don’t be such a killjoy. I don’t even have anything due tomorrow.”

“Mahdi, don’t you have a Biology test?” Isak says.

“I’m learning about herbs. This is more practical than sitting in a classroom anyway,” Mahdi mumbles. His voice is muffled by the pillow he’s managed to faceplant into.

“Do you want some? There’s half a brownie left,” Jonas offers. “Elias came through.” They high-five then, and Jonas doesn’t miss that. The sound rings in the quiet of the room, and it makes Isak’s skin crawl even more. The irritation has been building up all night, and he desperately wants to shake Jonas by the shoulders. Maybe a tiny part of him had hoped that Jonas would’ve picked up on the way Isak feels about Elias. But maybe that’s asking for too much. There’s no real reason for Isak get like this. Elias is just teasing, and Isak shouldn’t take it so seriously.

Isak pushes away the Ziploc bag that Jonas is holding out to him. “I still have to input data for the Bio lab.”

“Can’t you have a little fun while you’re doing that?”

“Not unless I want to fail.”

Jonas lays his head against Isak’s shoulder. “You’re such a good student. I’m actually jealous.”

Isak awkwardly pats Jonas’s back. “Why’d you invite me over anyway?”

“I had homework planned.”

“And then you got high instead.”

“And then I got high instead,” Jonas confirms proudly. Isak can’t even fault him for it. He would’ve done the same, just with better company.

Magnus raises his head weakly from where he’s been leaning against the couch. “You missed such a good dance practice today, Isak.”

“You barely have enough coordination to walk from one side of the hallway to the other. How the fuck are you dancing now?”

Magnus shakes his head. “ I don’t dance. The dance chicks dance. I just watch.”

Even Mahdi works up enough energy to snap to attention. “Dance chicks? They’re so fucking hot, man. Do you think Maria would go out with me?”

“Maybe if you got less ugly,” Jonas says.

Mahdi pouts. “That’s not very nice. You’re usually nicer when you’re high, man.”

“Did you see the dance instructor though?” Elias laughs. “So gay.”

Magnus’s head whirls around. “You think he was homo? How can you tell?”

“Well, he was doing the whole thing with his hand, wasn’t he?” Elias cocks his wrist, and Magnus bursts into laughter. “And I’m pretty sure his tights sparkled. He did his eyeliner better than my sister does.”

Magnus giggles. “Fuck, dude, I can never tell. One time, this guy at a party told me he wanted to hook up with me, and I thought he was straight! He walked normally and everything.”

“It’s not that hard to know.” Elias looks straight at Isak then, and Isak swears that his breath stops in his throat. He struggles to get his lungs to work properly, but he can’t wrench his gaze away from Elias’s. Maybe he’s setting himself up for destruction, but that’s not entirely within his control.

It’s Jonas who breaks the spell. “Why are you shitting on gay guys?”

Isak blinks a few times to bring himself back, to break eye contact with Elias, and he can feel the first shuddering breath pass through his body. He looks at Jonas, who isn’t looking at him at all. Jonas is just a good fucking person. That’s all there is to it. Isak can’t help the flash of disappointment in his gut. Shit, he should be grateful.

Elias throws a chip at Isak. “We weren’t shitting on them. Just pointing it out.”

Jonas rolls his eyes but doesn’t fight him on it, and soon, they’re all talking about the girls they’ve been hooking up with for the past few months. Isak should grab his laptop out of his backpack, concentrate on something he understands instead, but when he listens to Magnus complain about a girl he’d wanted to hook up with but couldn’t because her arms were like a dude’s and I’m pretty sure she had a mustache, he freezes. Even Jonas is laughing at the story, and Isak’s sure the sound of his heartbeat could fill the entire room.

Elias might actually hear it, because he stares at Isak again as he gets up to grab a glass of water from the kitchen. The smile on his lips is anything but kind, and Isak shivers under the weight of his stare. He darts into the nook between the refrigerator and the wall, where Elias can’t see him. He presses his forehead against the wallpaper and forces himself to breathe. It works once, twice, but on the third try, he lets his body slump against the wall. If only he could sink into it, if only he could disappear.

~~

ONSDAG 9.01

Drew this cartoon of you bashing your locker in because I saw that it was being shitty to you this morning. Tried to make you look angry, but you still look adorable as hell. Sorry you have to go through this every day. But if you just cleaned it out...as I was slipping this in there, I’m pretty sure I saw an old sandwich through the vents.

~~

ONSDAG 12.15

You don’t have to respond to me, but is something wrong? I know I shouldn’t worry--that you’re probably fine, and you’re just too busy to talk to some weird guy who you only know through notes. But I can’t help it. I waited for you outside your Biology class today, but I couldn’t find you. You wouldn’t have known who I was either way, but I was there.

~~

ONSDAG 13.40

I hope I’m overreacting, but I have a bad feeling I’m not.

~~

TORSDAG 12.01

I’m sorry I didn’t talk to you yesterday. I had to think about some things. I know I’m always thinking too much, but I can’t be with you. Maybe I thought I could, for a moment, and it’s my fault for letting you expect more from me. I’m sorry I’m not brave. I’m sorry I can’t take risks the way you can. I’m sorry you did all of this for me, and you got nothing in return. I understand if you never want to talk to me again.

~~

TORSDAG 12.05

Isak lingers for a moment before he presses the book closed. He’d written and rewritten the note ten times before sending it off, and the final version is crisp and clean, with none of the wrinkles of the earlier ones. He’s never been good with words, and it had taken him time to get these out, especially since even now, as he’s standing here in the library breaking his own heart, he can’t decide whether he means them. Isak sucks in a breath and looks over to where Jonas is sweet-talking a girl near the Fiction section.

Maybe he just means right now, but what are the chances of this guy waiting for someone who doesn’t know whether he’ll ever be ready?

Isak slams the book closed before he can second-guess himself, tucks it into its space on the bookshelf neatly. He’s shaking as he makes his way back to his locker, and he’s staring so resolutely at the ground that he doesn’t even notice when he runs into Even.

The impact knocks the wind out of him, but before he hits the ground, Even catches him by the arms and pulls him back up.

It’s even harder to catch his breath now.

Even holds him by the shoulders and waits until Isak can finally lift his head. “Isak, you look like hell.”

“And you’re wondering why I thought you were an asshole.” Isak’s voice is still trembling, but he’s hoping against hope that Even doesn’t catch it.

Of course Isak’s not that lucky. Even’s eyes narrow in concern. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Isak bites out.

“You haven’t responded to my texts lately.”

“Haven’t you figured out by now that I’m bad at human contact?”

Even pouts as he considers something, and his touch on Isak’s shoulders grow soft, until he’s practically stroking Isak through his hoodie. “Can I give you a hug?”

“What--”

“Don’t punch me, okay?” Then Even wraps him in a hug, warm arms tight against his body. Isak lets out a shudder before he catches himself, and Even just tightens his grip. Isak doesn’t know what to do with his goddamn hands, because there’s no way he’s hugging Even back , so he just lets them hang at his sides like an idiot.

Before he knows it, it’s over. Isak sways into Even instinctively, to chase the touch, but his body goes rigid when he realizes what he’s doing. His hands tighten into fists, and his fingernails threaten to break the skin of his palms with how hard they’re pressing.

“I’m not going to ask you what happened, but if you want to talk about it--” Isak laughs, a little bitterly, and Even rolls his eyes, “Or, you know, we can not talk about it and you can bottle up all your teen angst.”

“Thanks,” Isak says. He tries to hold back his smile, but it spreads to his face anyway--tentative, but it’s there.

Even’s voice is soft as he says, “It’ll go away soon. All the sad things do, eventually. I should know.”

“Who’s being angsty now?”

Even pokes Isak in the shoulder. “I am nothing compared to you. You’re still, like, seventeen. That’s peak angst age.”

“You’re only a year older than me.”

“Two,” Even says easily. “I’m nineteen.”

Isak furrows his brows, but before Even can explain further, he’s striding down the hallway, motioning to Isak to follow. “I heard there’s free ice cream in the cafeteria today.”

“That ice cream is shit.”

“But it’s still ice cream. You coming, or what?” Even calls out.

In the end, it’s not even a decision that Isak consciously makes. Isak’s following him before he quite realizes that his feet have moved, before he can figure out why, and maybe that’s for the best.

~~

TORSDAG 23.10

~~

FREDAG 10.10

There’s nothing wrong with not being ready. It takes time, and you have nothing to apologize for. People struggle all their lives with this. You’re only seventeen. You’ll get there. You’re the bravest guy I know, and I hope one day you’ll see yourself the way I do. I hope I’ll be there to see that day, and if I’m not, that’s okay too--I just want to know that you’re happy. And I’m serious about being your friend. I’ll still be here for you, however you want me. I’m not going away that easily.

(Hope you don’t mind that I’ll keep reminding you how awesome you are though. Because you deserve to hear that every day.)

~~

FREDAG 19.20

For the first time, when Isak runs into Even at KB, he’s smiling. Even’s reading a book about film theory, and he’s sipping coffee from a cup so tiny Isak didn’t even know they made them that small. His feet had carried him to Even as soon as he’d walked through the door, but now that he’s here, all his courage is quickly slipping away from him. Even doesn’t look up from his book.

“Um, can I sit here?” Isak asks.

Even’s head snaps up, and he doesn’t miss a beat before saying, “Do you really have to ask?”

Isak lingers for a second longer, until Even kicks at the legs of the chair himself, to push it out for him. He folds his book closed, and beams at Isak. “Of course I want to hear more fun facts about plants.”

“We’re doing genetics now.”

Even tilts his head. “You know, I can never remember the difference between DNA and RNA.”

“Plants.”

“What?”

“RNA is in plants.”

Even chuckles, and Isak thinks that he can listen to that sound forever, could let it fill him up and replace whatever’s missing inside of him. “Of course everything comes back to plants.”

Isak nods to Even’s drink. “What’s that?”

“It’s a cortado.”

Isak raises his eyebrows. “What does that even mean?”

Even leans back in his chair. “It’s like, you know when a latte has too much milk but straight-up espresso just tastes like death? Voilà, someone invented cortado. It’s kinda like a flat white, but smoother? The Spanish don’t texturize their milk.”

“I have no idea what you just said,” Isak says. He suddenly feels totally wrong-footed. Even’s the kind of guy who knows foreign coffee, who can probably tell how much milk he likes in his drinks down to the last drop, who has probably ordered a drink at a certain temperature before, just because he knows how to best bring the flavor out. They’re not even meant to be speaking right now, and Isak can’t figure out what weird quirk of the universe had placed them here, sitting across from each other at this table like this is simple.

As usual, Even’s totally oblivious. He just brightens and pushes the cup towards Isak. “Do you want to try it?”

Isak eyes the cup. He could down it all in one gulp, and he’s already here taking advantage of Even’s time. He shifts in his chair nervously. “I mean, I’m about to leave.”

Even looks down at Isak’s backpack, which is stuffed with the textbook he’d been planning to read for a couple hours before going to a pregame at Jonas’s place. He raises his eyebrows, and Isak blushes, wondering how Even’s already learned to read him so easily. “You can stay for a few more minutes, right?”

“You already got me coffee once,” Isak says.

“You didn’t even drink it.”

There’s no denying Even, not really, not when he’s more persistent than Magnus is whenever he needs a wingman. Isak takes a cautious sip of the cortado, letting the bitter drink slide down his throat. It’s better than the abomination Even had gotten for him last time, at least, and Isak can see the exact moment when Even can tell he’s not hating it, because there’s no mistaking the excitement that crosses his face.

“You liked it?”

Isak ducks his head. “It was fine.”

“I’m going to take that as, yes, you’ll be ordering this drink again. See, I’m figuring out Isak-speak.” Even’s smile is smug, and Isak should hate him for that a little, but he can’t stop the flash of excitement that rises in his chest. You stupid fucker.

“Honestly, I can’t even tell the difference between this and a regular coffee.”

“You’re a disgrace,” Even says, but he’s smiling.

“Probably.”

Even nudges Isak’s backpack with his foot. “Why are you studying on a Friday?”

Isak’s throat suddenly feels tight. The truth is, he can’t stand being at his own place right now. His dad has given up on contacting Isak through text, because he’s found the number for their apartment. He’d called twice in the past few days, and after Eskild had come to his room to quietly ask whether he should block the number, Isak had to bury himself under the covers for an hour before he could get back up again, before he could text his dad to ask how he’s doing like he’s obviously waiting to Isak to do. They’re playing happy families, and Isak would have cut all ties if his dad wasn’t paying for his rent and his mother’s medication even though he’d fucked off to God knows where.

He hates that, even now, he still feels like an ungrateful little shit, and that with one missed check, his dad could have him running back. Sometimes, Isak wishes he hadn’t left at all. Maybe his dad would’ve come back to both of them, eventually. But now, Isak has left his mom alone with her fucked up brain and he’s here, getting drunk and high every weekend and daring to be happy.

Isak forces himself to shrug, like none of it matters. He’s good at pretending the hurt bounces off him, that he’s built his shields up enough to be someone like Even, who can’t be struck down by anything at all. That’s a lie. Even could keep going no matter what. Isak’s still wondering whether he can make it through the day. “Wanted to get ahead.”

Even holds up his book. “Mind if I keep you company?”

“You don’t have to. I’ll probably be here for a while.”

Even shakes his head, chuckling. “Isak, I don’t ask to do something unless I actually want to do it.”

Isak pauses for a second, just to see if Even’s going to break down laughing at him. When he doesn’t, Isak nods, tentatively, and Even’s answering grin rivals the sun.

~~

FREDAG 20.40

~~

FREDAG 22.30

They’re currently so drunk that the house of cards Magnus has been attempting to build for the past hour has collapsed five times in as many minutes when Isak slurs, “Jonas, do all hipsters know about coffee?”

Jonas chooses that moment to let out a particularly strong breath, and the house falls down again. A queen of hearts lands on Isak’s lap, and Mahdi pats Magnus’s hand in consolation. “Man, you can’t even do this when you’re sober. Don’t worry about it.”

“But I’m supposed to be smarter when I’m drunk.”

Mahdi squints. “Who told you that?”

“My aunt. But I think she was trying to get me drunk to get back at my mom.”

Mahdi claps Magnus on the back. “Magnus, let me tell you right now that there’s no substance in the world that could make you smarter.”

“I don’t know, man, I say some pretty profound things when I’m high.”

“Just because we’re fucked up enough to nod when we’re high doesn’t mean you got any smarter.”

Isak clears his throat and points a finger at his own chest. He jabs it so hard that it actually kinda hurts. “Okay, before we get into an argument, can Jonas answer my question?”

Jonas, who’s chosen instead to attempt to reconstruct the house of cards snaps to attention, but misjudges and knocks down his progress instead. He swears as he gathers up the cards into a pile. “Isak, what did you do that for?”

Mahdi rolls his eyes. “Fuck you, man, why do you always have to make it about you?”

“We talked about that girl you have a thing with for twenty minutes. I never want to hear another word about her blindfold kink, and whether that means she thinks you’re ugly,” Isak says. He smirks. “I think we all know the answer to that.”

Mahdi purses his lips, but before he can respond, Isak says, “I just want to know about coffee, fuck you all.”

“Coffee’s been co-opted by capitalists,” Jonas says, slowly. He nods to himself, then takes another swig from his beer. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Yeah, but do you know about it.”

Jonas’s mouth twists, and he’s looking at Isak like he’s not making any sense at all. It’s a look Isak’s gotten used to. “I know it exists.”

“But what cool drinks can I order?”

Jonas furrows his brows. “How the hell should I know? Also, why do you care?”

This makes Isak pause, and a blush rises to his cheeks. He’s well aware that Mahdi and Magnus are staring at him too, and he doesn’t care what Even thinks of him at all, but maybe he wants to see Even’s grin when he realizes that Isak’s studied up for this. That’s normal. They’re trying to get along now, and Isak needs to find some equal footing in this new friendship.

Isak scowls and picks at the hem of his shirt. “Can’t I just wanna learn more? About things?”

“I don’t know, man. I just drink my coffee black.”

Isak can already see Even making a face. He’d gone on a rant earlier about how Mikael always makes fun of him for his shitty coffee choices, but Even doesn’t get why everyone wants to prove that they’re tough by drinking gross coffee, when they have so many sugar and milk options right there. Isak had been pretending to finish a Punnett square, but he’d followed along with every word, because how could he not.

Isak shakes his head to dislodge the memory. He can’t go down this path now, especially when he’s too drunk to have any control over where his thoughts may lead.

Magnus drops his phone then as he lets out a string of swears. “Shit, guys, we have to go to this party now. One of the dance chicks just challenged one of the other dance chicks to a dance-off for, like, Penetrator Chris’ dick.” He grabs his phone again to show the rest of them the Facebook live. “Look, they’re stripping.”

No matter how hard Isak tries to concentrate, he can’t focus on the video. He’s spent years telling himself that he’s a late bloomer, or that he’s just too drunk to think straight, but one girl whips her jacket over her head, and Isak just feels his lungs constrict. Mahdi’s paying rapt attention, but this isn’t him.

Jonas shakes his head, but he looks mildly impressed. “I can’t believe Eva used to have a thing with that guy.”

Just then, the video zooms in on Penetrator Chris, who’s falling out of the couch he’d been perched on precariously. Jonas has to muffle his snort behind his hand.

Magnus is already grabbing his jacket. “Let’s go before it ends.”

~~

FREDAG 23.10

Isak’s sulking on the couch when Julian slides up to him, relaxing against the cushions with a sigh. Isak has no idea how he’d scrounged up champagne at this party, but it’s pink and bubbly, and Julian’s drinking it confidently, without giving a shit that anyone’s judging him at all. Isak takes another bitter sip from his beer can. Julian’s sitting a little too close for comfort, but there’s not enough space for Isak to move away. He wonders who can see. He wonders if he’s sober enough to even care.

Julian nudges his shoulder. “Are you enjoying the party?”

Isak doesn’t even know who’s throwing it. Magnus somehow gets invited to no less than five parties a weekend, though Isak wonders how many of them he just invites himself to. There’s a Drake song playing, and his friends are off trying to hook up with girls, and Isak is failing at Bubble Witch because his fingers are too heavy and slow. He’s having a great time. The best. The only thing that would make it better is Julian looking at him like he wants to devour Isak in one bite.

“It’s fun,” Isak mumbles.

“Are you here with your friends?”

Isak shrugs. “I guess.”

Isak spies Jonas talking to Noora in the corner. He doesn’t seem like he’s missing Isak at all. Isak chugs his beer again.

“Are you here with your girlfriend?” Julian asks slowly.

“What--no? I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“I thought you had a thing with that first-year with the short hair, I can’t remember her name…”

“Emma?” Isak snorts. “Nope. Don’t know where you heard that from.”

“Your friend Vilde was talking about it.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “Vilde has no idea what she’s talking about half the time.”

“So you don’t have a girlfriend,” Julian drawls. His hand inches closer to Isak’s thigh, and Isak has just enough sense to jerk his leg away. Julian doesn’t seem to notice as he beams at Isak. “Boyfriend, then?”

Isak nearly chokes on his beer. “No.”

Julian leans back. “Huh,” he says as he appraises Isak. He can feel Julian’s eyes picking him apart, and he has to look down to his knees. “You’re not with anyone then? See, that confuses me a lot, because you’re pretty cool, Isak Valtersen.”

Isak’s face is on fire. There’d been a time when he may have giggled, because first-year Isak didn’t know how to react to attractive boys whose behavior, if looked at in the right light, could be interpreted as flirting. But that was before he’d screwed up Jonas and Eva beyond repair, before he’d realized that he’s too selfish to go after what he wants without hurting other people along the way. He’s learned to toe the line since then. It may suck now, but it’ll be better in the end. He knows that now.

Isak hadn’t even realized that he’d drank all of his beer when Julian nods at it. “Do you want me to get you something from the kitchen?”

Isak nods mutely, if only so he can have a few minutes to get his breathing under control.

Julian winks. “Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

As soon as Julian’s gone, Isak hears a cruel laugh behind his back.

“Hi there, little Isak. I had no idea that you’d gone out and gotten yourself a boyfriend. Congratulations.” Elias is drunk, swaying on his feet. He’s harmless, really, but Isak’s blood runs cold. He can’t help the way his palms are sweating, the way his muscles are locked tight. Fuck, he’s so helpless. Poor little Isak Valtersen, who can’t even stand up for himself around some idiot he’d have no trouble taking down if it came down to a physical fight.

“Elias, I don’t want to do this with you right now.” Isak’s grip on the beer can tightens, so much that he actually crushes it a little. He struggles to keep his voice level, but he should’ve known that Elias would pick up on every hint of weakness.

Elias’s grin is wicked as he says, “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not into it, but if you wanna suck dick, no one’s stopping you. Between you and me, though? You could do better. That guy’s a little, uh, how do I put it? Flamboyant? You know what happens to fags like that, and you don’t wanna get caught up in that.”

Isak’s breathing is heavy, and he’s aware of every muscle it takes to force the air in and out of his lungs. His world has narrowed to the hands in his lap. They’re the only thing keeping him grounded. He can’t hold back the shudder that passes through his body.

Elias laughs. “Lighten up, Isak. Just trying to give you advice.”

Elias claps him on the back, and it’s all Isak can do to not shove his hand off. He shouldn’t even--Elias is just telling the truth, and Isak’s overreacting. He’s stronger than this, stronger than the panicked tears that are threatening to spill over. He’s telling himself to breathe, but it’s like it’s happening to someone else entirely. He doesn’t realize that his body isn’t responding until he starts feeling light-headed, until his vision starts to swim.

“Elias, fuck off,” a familiar voice says. When Isak looks up, Even is pulling Elias away, his face tight with anger. Is that for him? Could it be for him? Isak doesn’t understand, but he’s breathing again, slowly at first, but it’s catching on. “Get some water.”

“Isak and I were having a conversation,” Elias protests.

“I don’t think Isak wants to talk to you. Right, Isak?”

It takes Isak a moment for him to realize that Even’s talking to him, and even then, it takes all of his strength to mutter, “Yeah, um.”

“You heard him. I think you can go now.” Even’s smiling at Elias now, but there’s no humor behind it. “Just trying to give you some advice.”

Elias glares him down for a second, but Even crosses his arms over his chest. After a minute, it becomes all too obvious that Even isn’t budging, because Elias shakes his head. “Why’re you making such a big deal out of this?”

“You’re being an asshole.”

“Jesus Christ, I can’t catch a break. Elias throws his hands in the air, but he stumbles toward the kitchen, and Isak hadn’t even realized that Even had been holding his breath until he lets out a sigh at Elias’s retreating back. Isak exhales too.

Even turns to him. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. You didn’t have to save me,” he says shakily.

Even sits down next to him gently, but when Isak gives no sign that he’s going to bolt, he relaxes against the couch. “I wasn’t going to let him talk shit at you.”

Isak’s breath catches at the sheer honesty in Even’s voice, and the way he’s looking at Isak now is like he’s stripping himself bare. Isak doesn’t even know what to do with himself. These thoughts--these hopes begging him to pay attention--will only drive him crazy if he dwells on them for too long. “Thank you.”

Even chuckles. “Never thought I’d live to see the day when you’d actually thank me for something.”

“I’m a little ashamed of myself.”

Even sighs. “I really am sorry about Elias.”

Isak ducks his head. “I don’t want to make things weird between you two. He’s your friend.”

“He’s definitely not my friend.”

Isak’s throat feels tight, and he’s about to cry all over again, for an entirely different reason. “Thanks.”

“If anything, I should be thanking you. Now I have a reason to tell him to fuck off. He took advantage of my guitar skills for his shitty rapping? He’s even worse than you are.”

“Fuck you. I thought we were becoming friends.” He’s going to tell Eva to take those videos down as soon as he’s sober enough, even if she’d posted them a year ago. He can’t even imagine what went through Even’s mind as he watched it.

“Well, I do have room for one more friend now. But I do have to warn you the application process is pretty rigorous.”

Isak rubs his chin. “Maybe it’s not worth the trouble then.”

Even tilts his head as he looks at Isak. “Huh, you’re okay. I might play favorites with you.” His voice drops to a whisper. “But don’t tell anyone else. It’s pretty competitive.”

“To be your friend? Can’t figure out why.”

Even’s grin grows wider, and maybe it’s the alcohol in his system, but Isak thinks it could be the most beautiful thing in the galaxy.

~~

SØNDAG 19.10

Isak’s about to leave KB for the day with his Physics textbook tucked under his arm when he runs into Even, walking a golden retriever. The dog immediately runs at Isak, wrapping himself around Isak’s legs and panting. Isak leans down to pet it, and the dog licks his hand enthusiastically.

Even laughs. “Baz likes you more than he likes me.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“What the hell are you apologizing for? Makes sense.”

That’s all it takes for Isak to blush. Isak kneels down, concentrates on the softness of Baz’s fur instead. Of course Even has a dog, because this guy will not give Isak a break. Even leans down to run his fingers through Baz’s fur too, and their hands almost brush before Isak jerks his away.

Isak clears his throat. “What’s Baz from?”

“My favorite director, Baz Luhrmann.”

When Isak continues to stare at him blankly, Even gasps. “You don’t know who Baz Luhrmann is? What kind of movies have you been watching?”

“I really liked the X-Men movies?”

Even rubs his temples. “Don’t tell me the third one is your favorite.”

“I liked the explosions.”

Of course you liked the explosions. That’s it. I’ve decided that you’re going to come over one day, and I’m going to give you a thorough movie education.”

Isak can’t help the thrill that runs through his spine. He wonders what Even’s place looks like, what it would feel like if Even let him into his world.

He narrows his eyes at the drink Even’s cradling in his hand. “Are you drinking Starbucks?”

“Yeah,” Even says happily. “Soy latte.”

“Isn’t soy milk for old people?”

“Humans were never meant to digest lactose anyway. I out-scienced you.”

Isak scowls. “I knew that. Aren’t you betraying KB, just a little?”

“Sometimes, you have to give in to a multinational corporation, you know? I’m sure even Jonas has had Starbucks once.”

Isak snorts. “He’d be so offended if you told him that.”

“Starbucks is a monster that none of us can escape.” Even’s grinning at him in that way again, and Isak’s sober this time, but his brain still short circuits. “I’m glad I ran into you, though. Friday was a little weird.”

He’d been hoping Even wouldn’t bring this up. He’s been running that night over and over in his mind, but he still can’t figure out how he feels about Even seeing him at his most vulnerable. He struggles to keep the tremble out of his voice as he says, “I appreciate what you did, but you really didn’t have to. I’m not, like, that.” Isak coughs, but he can’t go on.

“Like what?” Even’s waiting patiently, waiting for Isak to fill in the silence with a word he can barely form in his head.

“Gay,” Isak whispers. “I’m not homophobic. I’m just not gay. So you didn’t have to--step in, or whatever. I was fine.”

He hadn’t acted fine at that party, but Even’s blank expression doesn’t betray much. He can tell himself Even believes it. Maybe that’s the only way he can go on being Even’s friend, without over-analyzing every move Even makes toward him, like they’re perfectly calculated to let Isak know that they’re friends and never more or I have to support my gay friend because I’m progressive and it’s 2016 and I have to fight for the rights of the marginalized because I’m Even Bech N æ sheim and I’m perfect.

Eventually, Even shrugs. “Okay, you’re not gay. Doesn’t give Elias the right to talk to you like that.”

“I just don’t want you to think you had to do that.”

“No, but I wanted to.”

Isak leans a little too close to Baz’s face, and he licks Isak’s face so thoroughly that it’s completely drenched when Baz finishes with him. Even’s laughing at him, clutching his belly. Isak can’t keep a straight face, even when a little bit of drool gets into his nose.

“I should definitely bring him around more,” Even says.

Baz pushes his nose into Isak’s insistently, and whimpers until Isak starts petting him again. “I wouldn’t say no.”

~~

SØNDAG 21.10

~~

MANDAG 10.30

Do you ever meet someone you think you’re going to hate, but they end up subverting all your expectations? I’ve gotten to know someone better over the past week, and I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ve judged this guy too harshly. In my defense, he was kind of a dick to me at first. It’s been a really nice weekend, actually. Which is weird, because it was so shitty at first. I guess I just wanted to tell you that because you always seem to notice when I look sad, and I wondered if you could tell that I’m happier. I met his dog yesterday, and we just sat there on the sidewalk for an hour to pet him.

You’d probably think your dog is better, but I promise this dog is pretty great too.

~~

MANDAG 12.00

You’re literally Lizzie Bennet. And I think you may be falling for Mr. Darcy already. I’m your pen just-a-pal now. I’m allowed to tell you these things.

~~

MANDAG 13.10

Shut up.

Chapter Text

TIRSDAG 17:23

It’s rare that his girlfriend and his best friend end up in his apartment at the same time, but some days, like today, Even forgets that they both have plans to show up at the same time, so this means all three of them are sitting at Even’s table, their respective KB coffee orders sitting in front of each of them, and the silence around them sits uncomfortably. Mikael, for his part, is smiling brightly, most likely to make Sonja uncomfortable, and Sonja looks annoyed, pointedly avoiding Mikael’s gaze. Even doesn’t really understand why the both of them don’t get along — it’s a little strange, considering sometimes Even thinks they’re made up of the same traits — but he knows spending time with the both of them at the same time is like pulling teeth.

“So this is just scintillating conversation, guys,” Even pipes up cheerfully. “I’ve never been more stimulated in my life.”

Mikael looks at him. His eyes shine with amusement. “I talked about the difference between Sony and Canon cameras for half an hour,” he reminds Even. “It’s not my fault neither of you had anything to contribute to the conversation.”

Sonja turns to look at Mikael. “Nobody but you could find that interesting,” she says, and her voice isn’t snippy, but it’s a near thing.

Mikael frowns exaggeratedly. “Oh, I don’t know, Even seemed to be into it,” Mikael grins brightly over at Even. “Right, babe?” He coos.

Even rolls his eyes. “Mikael, quit it,” he says, tone warning. “We’re all just here to have a nice night together, right?”

Sonja glances at Even. “I feel like I remember telling you that tonight was supposed to be just us,” she raises an eyebrow. Even smiles sheepishly as Mikael gasps scandalously.

“He told me the same thing,” he slaps his hand down on the table dramatically. Their coffees jump slightly. “Even, are you cheating on both of us?” he sniffs, turns back to Sonja. “Obviously, you’re the other woman, as he’s known me longer—”

Sonja scoffs. “You’re not even his type,” she raises an eyebrow challengingly. “He likes tall blondes.”

Mikael and Even both stiffen simultaneously, and they’re both carefully silent. They avoid each other’s gazes, but Even can tell Mikael’s trying not to laugh through his peripheral, and he extends his leg under the table to hit Mikael’s ankle with his foot. Mikael doesn’t even flinch.

Sonja’s brows furrow as she looks between the two of them. “What?” she looks over at Mikael. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Mikael looks at Sonja evenly. “You’re not wrong. He very much does like tall blondes. Likes them with big doe eyes and fluffy hair and impeccable coffee taste—”

“I think what Mikael is trying to say,” Even interrupts him with a warning tone. “Is that he apologizes for insinuating anyone but you could be my type, dear.”

Sonja looks at the both of them suspiciously. “You’re hiding something,” Sonja finally announces. Even can feel his heart beating loudly in his chest. “But I have a feeling it’s about porn, so I’m not going to pry.”

Even breathes out a sigh of relief, and Mikael laughs gleefully.

“Look at that, you have one redeeming quality, after all, Sonja,” Mikael nods. “You don’t care that your boyfriend watches porn.”

Sonja rolls his eyes. “So long as he’s not out there sticking his dick in someone else, I think porn’s the better option.”

Mikael chokes on the coffee he was taking a sip of. Even wants the ground to swallow him whole.

“Okay, that’s enough about my porn,” Even hands Mikael a napkin, along with a warning look. “Let’s stop talking about my porn, yeah?”

Sonja raises an eyebrow, then smiles a little smugly. “I bet you have a VHS collection,” she tells him. Even laughs, because whatever kind of mixed feelings he’s having about their relationship, Sonja does know him very well — has known him since they were fifteen years old, and wherever his feelings stand now, they’re friends first and foremost, and it’s comments like these that remind him of that. “Bet they’re all based on the dumb movies you like, like, Edward Penis Hands.”

“Inrearendance Day,” Mikael contributes.

“Assablanca,” Sonja smirks.

“Bitanic!” Mikael pipes up. Even looks at him, eyes narrowed.

“Good Will Humping,” Sonja says thoughtfully.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Even pokes her side, laughing. Both she and Mikael are cracking up at their brilliance, and Even can’t help but smile at the sight. This is so unusual, and it’s filling his lungs with guilt, nothing but guilt, because Sonja is brilliant, she really is, and there are moments like these that are rare nowadays when things aren’t tense, aren’t bitter, and he remembers what they used to be, but where her memories are built Isak overlaps, and Isak is never far from his thoughts, and at this very moment he has to stop himself from reaching into his pocket and checking to see if Isak’s replied to his latest message, inquire about porn titles with him, ask him some more about his terrible taste in movies and Isak is always there, in his head and in his heart and Sonja’s just a quiet hum in what used to be a loud symphony.

“Fine, fine,” Sonja breaks him from his reverie. “I have to go, anyway,” she sighs.

“Aw, no, Sonja, don’t go,” Mikael deadpans. Sonja glares at him.

“I know you’re both disappointed, but I promised my mom I’d be home to help her with some of her student’s papers, and she’ll freak if she has to read another summary of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby instead of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s.”

Even grins. “I will gladly read those for her,” he offers.

“You’d give them all sixes for watching,” Sonja rolls her eyes. “They’re supposed to be reading the book, not watching the movie adaptation.”

“Tomato, toe-mah-toe,” Even waves off her concerns. “So long as more young minds are learning to appreciate the brilliance of Baz, does it really matter?”

Baz, who’s been lying in front of the oven peacefully this entire time, perks up at the sound of his name.

“Not you, gorgeous,” Even coos. “The other Baz in my life.”

Baz seems to understand this, and his head falls back atop his paws gracefully, eyes closing once more.

“Anyway,” Sonja sighs. “I’m leaving,” she nods, then leans forward to press a kiss to Even’s lips. “I’ll see you later?”

Mikael grins widely and waves at her once. “See ya, Sonja.”

Sonja’s smile is cloying. “Goodbye, Mikael.”

Even walks her to the door, and watches her back disappear down the stairs before closing the door and sighing loudly.

“You know, I never noticed your type is totally tall blondes,” Mikael says immediately. Even glares at him. “Though I have to say, in the competition of cuter blondes, your boy totally wins. I think it’s the nose,” he hums. “There’s something about his nose.”

“Stop talking about Isak’s nose,” Even tells him, reaching into his pocket and smiling at the sight of three notifications from Isak. His heart squeezes as he unlocks his phone, reads Isak’s current review of St. Elmo’s Fire, another one of Even’s recommendations. So far, Isak thinks “all of these assholes are as dramatic as you are” and “Rob Lowe hasn’t aged a day in three decades, has he?”

Even types out a quick response and sends it to him with as many emojis as he can muster. When he looks up, Mikael is looking at him with an amused expression.

“What?”

“Your girlfriend literally just left five seconds ago,” Mikael tells him. “Can’t you at least act like you miss her more than you miss the guy you’re texting?”

Even’s face flushes. “It’s kind of hard,” he admits. “When I miss him this much.”

Mikael pretends to retch. “Fucking gross.” Even walks over to sit back down on his seat at the table. “So, real talk,” Mikael leans over. “When are you gonna cut ties with Sonja?” Even stiffens, but Mikael isn’t fooled, instead continues to push. “I’m the first person who’ll tell you that I don’t really care what she feels most of the time, but I also think it’s kind of a dick move that you think you can have your cake and eat it too.”

“I’m not having any cake,” Even mutters.

“What’s that?”

“There is no cake being had,” Even raises an eyebrow. “There hasn’t been. Not since — not since I saw Isak.”

Mikael’s brows furrow. “Are you using cake as a metaphor for sex?”

“Isn’t that what you were doing?”

“No, dude, it’s an idiom, what the fuck,” Mikael rolls his eyes. “In any case, it doesn’t matter if you’re not having sex with her, what matters is that you’re still in a relationship with her, and when you know you’re this crazy about your boy—”

“I don’t know if he’s that crazy about me, though,” Even points out. “I — I know it’s hard to swallow—”

“According to you, nothing’s being swallowed,” Mikael waggles his eyebrows.

“Dude, shut the fuck up,” Even rolls his eyes. “I’m saying that Sonja is just — she’s a safe bet,” he tries to explain. “Sonja’s just — I love her, I do—”

“Just not like that anymore,” Mikael reminds him.

Even grunts. “I can’t explain — she deserves so much more than me just — just calling it quits for a possibility,” he looks at Mikael. “A mere chance.”

Mikael looks at him. “Okay,” he says, in that way that means he’s holding back on what he actually wants to say. “Just figure it out soon, alright?”

Even sighs nervously, reaches into his left pocket to shakily pull out the small bag of weed Elias had offered him on Friday, before his showdown with Isak. He’s about to tear it open when he hears Mikael’s sharp inhale.

Even looks up.

Mikael’s jaw clenches.

Even gives him a look. “What.” he deadpans.

“That shit’s not good for you,” he snaps. “You know it’s not good for you. You remember the last time you smoked for a week straight—“

“Sorry,” Even tilts his head. “I didn’t know I was suddenly talking to my mom.”

Mikael takes the bag from him. Even fists clench at his side. He doesn’t know how to explain to Mikael that at times, it’s the only thing that keeps him rooted to the person that he could have been, it’s the only way to relate to the people around him.

Two years ago, when Even had been diagnosed, Mikael quit smoking. Said if Even wasn’t allowed to, then he wasn’t going to touch the stuff either. At the time it’d seemed ridiculous that weed could actually have any bearing on his illness — he thought the eradication of the drug was more a precaution than anything, didn’t think it could actually harm him in any way.

So he kept smoking. Away from Mikael, who refused to indulge Even, away from his parents, away from Sonja. He found some friends who weren’t aware of the warning or didn’t give a shit, and he smoked.

Three months later, he was being told it was better if he took the rest of the school year off, and he hardly had any recollection of the shit he was being told he pulled.

Mikael’s hand tightens around the bag. “You don’t need this shit,” Mikael presses. “If the only reason Isak is hanging out with you is because you can smoke together—”

“Stop it,” Even snaps, but Mikael refuses to listen.

“—then maybe you’re also better off without him.”

Even stands from where he sits so quickly that the chair topples backwards. Mikael looks unperturbed.

“This isn’t about Isak,” Even tells him, because it’s not; Isak wouldn’t give a shit whether or not Even smokes with him, he wouldn’t, and he wouldn’t ask questions about it, either, would probably chalk it up to another one of the mysteries that surround Even as a person, this legendary figure Bakka has managed to make of him. This is about him, this is about feeling like he can still cling to some sense of normalcy — he’s being robbed of a normal teen experience, being robbed of something he could use to bond with anyone and everyone around him, something even his grandmother does, and it’s not fair. Even doesn’t think it’s fair.

Mikael stands up, his chair scraping the floor gently, staying upright. “Even, I know,” Mikael’s voice is quiet and sympathetic, and Even absolutely hates it. And he’s wrong — he can’t possibly know how much it hurts, how foreign he feels among everyone at his school, how desperate he was to find common ground he ended up finding Elias, a stupid asshole and a less-than-subtle weed dealer to hang out with. Mikael doesn’t know, and it’s not fair that he pretends to.

“You can’t tell me what to do,” Even reminds him. The coffee in front of him is getting cold.

Mikael’s eyes roll. “Fuck off, you know that’s not what I’m doing,” he snaps. “But that feeling you had — when you came to me after your psych told you to take the rest of the year off, when you lay in my bed for fucking weeks and refused to look anyone in the eye — what did you tell me?”

I don’t know who that was, Even had said to him. I just feel the remnants of him.

The feeling of shame, the feeling of frustration, of realizing he couldn’t control anything around him but knowing that in the moment, another Even had taken over him — he knew himself, and he knew Jeckyll when he was down, and now he was meeting Hyde, and what he’d wanted everyone to understand is that it was fine, he was fine, it was perfect. He was on top of the world, and then he was angry, and then it’s all snapshots from there on out. Picked apart by the intensity of the feelings that arose at the time, played out like a movie, FADE IN, CUT TO, and then he FADES TO BLACK, and the credits don’t roll, they never do, because he feels as if this particular movie is never-ending. His mind is impatient and it pauses, then it rewinds, and the script writes itself again.

Even’s eyes well up with frustrated tears unwillingly. Mikael looks like he wants to reach out and hug him, or something, but Even doesn’t want that. Mikael is his brother, in every sense but in blood, and Even knows he’s doing this because he cares, but he doesn’t know how to explain to him how lonely it is, to be in this place, even when he’s out of this place.

Mikael tears open the small plastic bag and walks over to Even’s kitchen sink. Even does nothing as Mikael pours the grass into the drain, turns on the garbage disposal. The sound is deafening and it fires up every single one of Even’s nerves, and when it’s over Mikael turns on the water for good measure. Everything’s gone, and Even thinks he feels empty, but he also thinks he feels relieved.

Mikael turns to look at Even after shutting the water off. “Whoever’s giving you that stuff,” Mikael shakes his head. “Just tell them to fuck off, alright? You don’t want to end up where you were last year,” he reminds Even. Even quietly turns away from his best friend, leans downward to pick up his chair and set it upright. He doesn’t see it, but he can feel Mikael rub at his temple frustratingly, maybe tiredly.

“It’s not your job to take care of me, asshat,” Even finally replies, turning back around and offering Mikael a small smile. It’s half grateful, half defeated. “I’m a grown-ass man.”

Mikael looks at him for a moment, then grabs at the kitchen rag that sits next to the sink and throws it at Even. As per usual, Mikael’s aim is impeccable, and it hits Even right in the face, then falls unceremoniously to the floor.

“Why are you always throwing shit at me?” Even leans down to pick up the rag.

“Because you’re a pain in my ass,” Mikael replies cheerfully. “Now come on,” Mikael gestures towards their coffees. “Let’s take these things and go for a walk, or something, I hate getting intense with you,” he walks over to grab at his own coffee. Even does the same. “It makes me feel a hundred years old.”

Even follows Mikael out the door, and Even doesn’t tell him that sometimes, Mikael sounds like a lifetime of experience, like a hundred years old. And he doesn’t tell him that sometimes, he looks it, and sometimes, Even sees it, and sometimes, Even needs it.

TIRSDAG 21:03

 

ONSDAG 8.09

Have you ever watched Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet? I watched it last night and I surprisingly liked it. Don’t tell anyone, though. I just told you and this guy who recommended it to me. He’s really weird, in the cool sense, if that makes sense? I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter, because apart from that I think his movie taste is pretty fucking terrible.

ONSDAG 9.56

I can’t say I ever have. Sounds boring, though, because anything having to do with Shakespeare’s gotta be boring. This is the same guy that made you have a good weekend, right? Your Mr. Darcy? Can we call him that? I’m going to call him that.

ONSDAG 10.43

He’s not my Mr. Darcy, that’s so fucking stupid, I don’t even like him like that, he’s just some guy. He’s cool, and he makes me laugh or whatever, but we’re just friends. It’s weird, because I didn’t even think we could be that, but we’ve been texting a lot since last weekend, and I think he wants to come over to my place and watch movies, though I’m not sure if I want that. It feels weird. It makes me nervous. Does that make any sense?

ONSDAG 12.31

We’re going to refer to him as Mr. Darcy and if you try to fight me more on it then I’m going to make sure to call you Elizabeth Bennet every time, alright? Alright. Also, I guess that makes sense, it’s all very new to you. Maybe go over to his place first. Would that make things better? Wait for him to invite you over or something, because it’s easier to leave abruptly than it is to kick someone out abruptly, so if things start to feel a little off, boom. You run out of there like your life depends on it. Problem solved.

ONSDAG 13.22

Fine. If that keeps you from asking what his real name is, then we’ll fucking call him Mr. Darcy. You’re very pushy for someone who wants to keep being my friend. And maybe you’re right. That sounds like a good idea. But what if he doesn’t ask me to come over, ever? And he keeps pushing to come over to my place?

ONSDAG 14.04

If he wants to be your friend, he’ll ask you to come over. Trust me. Just wait it out. Hope this new “friendship” works out for you. Try not to make out with him too much.

ONSDAG 14.30

Asshole

ONSDAG 15.30

Even texted Elias to meet him at the courtyard after class today. He has plans to meet Isak at KB at four, and so he told him not to keep him waiting, lest Isak suddenly has more reason to panic over his newfound friendship. It’s a rush, to think Isak thinks of him this way, and it’s a rush, to think Isak might start showing signs of liking him back.

And he needs a sign. Any sign. He needs to know Isak’s willing to give him a chance, and he’ll end everything with Sonja. He’ll cut it off, he will, and he’ll stay with Isak for as long as Isak’ll have him, but the kid is so — he’s so—

Even’s head touches the wall he’s leaning against. Isak is very oblivious. Either that, or he’s willingly trying to keep Even’s hopes at bay, but Even just wishes Isak could be clearer on the signs, at least as clear as Even’s being, because he thinks if he were any more obvious, he’d be the damn sun on a summer day, and still, Isak doesn’t see him.

Before he can delve any further into this train of thought, he spots Elias walking over to him from inside the school, something clutched in his hand. Even raises an eyebrow as he finishes approaching Even, and he immediately throws a small bag of hash at Even. Even catches it on instinct. He looks at it thoughtfully.

“You gonna tell me why you’re ignoring me?” Elias says as greeting.

Even plays with the small plastic bag in his hand, thinks back to Mikael’s words. Tell them to fuck off. Shit’s not good for you.

Then he thinks of Elias’s words to Isak, the clear panic on Isak’s face, the shaking of Isak’s hands on Friday night.

It’s a herculean effort to throw the bag back to Elias, but he does it.

Elias just barely manages to catch it. “Dude, the fuck?”

Even shrugs. “I’m gonna go ahead and start taking my business elsewhere,” Even raises an eyebrow.

“Are you telling me to get lost?”

“Yep,” Even replies happily. “And while you’re at it, how about you stay away from Isak, too?”

Elias stares at him. “What?” he sputters. “Isak? What the hell does he have to do with anything?”

This is what gets to Even the most, he thinks. It’s the fact that to Elias, his words don’t mean anything — they’re not harmful, they’re easy to forget, he’s standing before Even and asking him what Isak has to do in this situation like he hasn’t given him a second thought all week.

Elias isn’t necessarily a bad guy, Even doesn’t think, he’s just a fucking bigot. He doesn’t understand the weight of his words, and doesn’t seem to care, for that matter, and what to him is a joke, Even can tell it breaks Isak at his very core.

Isak doesn’t deserve that.

“Are you a homophobe, Elias?”

“Shit, man,” Elias rolls his eyes. “I don’t give a shit who anyone fucks, the kid’s just easy to pick on.”

“That’s the problem,” Even pushes himself off the wall, walks over slowly to Elias as he speaks. “The fact that you have nothing better to do than to pick on others is not my speed. I don’t like it, I don’t condone it, and I don’t want any part of it.” He stops only a foot away from Elias. Both of his eyebrows rise. “Now I’m warning you off right now, and this is the only time I will. Leave Isak alone, and I’ll leave you alone.” Even feels it. It’s the prickle in his fingertips. He knows he’s stepping into dangerous territory, but he keeps rooted at the scene, thoughts of Isak suppressing the anger as much as they can.

They can’t hold it down for too long, though, they’re warning him, and so Even needs to get through this quickly.

“I think you know I’m not someone you want on your bad side, hm?”

Elias swallows audibly, though his posture doesn’t fold. He looks like he’s trying hard to express his nonchalance, though Even can see it in his eyes — he’s not afraid, he’s panicked, because if anything matters to this kid, it’s his reputation, and that’s the only thing Even’s threatening to take away.

“Fine, I’ll stay away from your fucking boyfriend,” Elias replies, adding a snort for good measure. Even smirks.

“Good,” Even says cheerily, slapping Elias on the shoulder twice. “I’m glad we had this talk.” Even pauses. “But just for good measure, don’t go spreading that around,” he looks at him. “Leave the gay thing alone. In fact, just leave his name out of your mouth altogether. Focus on other things. Go to the gym, maybe, take a sewing class,” Even raises an eyebrow. “Just leave him out of it. Yeah?”

“I said fine,” Elias growls. “I won’t talk about him, alright?”

Even smiles. “Just checking.” Even steps away and is about to turn, when Elias stops him.

“Why him?” he calls out. Even raises an eyebrow.

“Why him what?”

Elias’s face burns red. “He’s so ordinary, dude,” he laughs bitterly. “Everyone seems to like him, but he’s nothing special.”

For a moment, Even pities Elias. He sees it now: Elias’s never disliked Isak. Elias envies Isak, and that’s probably been the driving factor in all of this: just a kid who envies someone like Isak, so universally liked, so beautiful and unassuming and someone who receives love and attention without asking for it. Someone who could inspire loyalty in the most faithless of men, sins in the most devout.

And Elias can see this, Even thinks. And Elias does not have this.

Even clicks his tongue. “I think that’s where you’re wrong, Elias,” he replies. “Funny thing is, had you given him a chance, you might have seen it, too.”

Elias looks at him for a moment, then snorts unattractively. “No thanks,” he scoffs. “Hope you two have a long and happy life together.”

Even laughs, waves at him as he turns.

“From your lips to God’s ears, pal,” he mutters.

The thoughts of Isak stop suppressing what was coming.

It spreads through him quickly, so quickly his hands start shaking at his sides. His steps are long and hurried as he tries to find shelter, and once he does, once he’s sure he’s out of sight, he breathes into his hands rapidly. His fingers shake uncontrollably.

One, two, three.

He swallows harshly and lets his eyes close and he stops the memories from flooding his brain by pressing pause on the movie; the beating of his heart is in surround sound, and it’s out of sync with the memories, but it’s the only thing keeping his feet down on the ground.

One, two, three.

He exhales shakily. He thinks they’re leaving. It’s easy, to trigger these things, it’s easy to taste the guilt and swallow it whole, feel it like an unwelcome guest in his stomach, but he’s stronger than this, he knows he is, he wants to be.

Even’s phone goes off, signaling a text notification. He reaches a shaky hand into his pocket, pulls it out.

Isak’s name shines brightly at him, then it shines again, letting Even know there are two consecutive texts from him.

He breathes, and he smiles.

TORSDAG 8.11

Yesterday I triggered some ugly things in me. Are you okay with me telling you about them?

TORSDAG 9.15

You’ve been here for me through everything else. You’re allowed to vent to me, too.

TORSDAG 10.00

There are memories in my head that aren’t all quite there — they’re just little snapshots of a time I can’t really remember, choices I can’t remember making, and every time I do something remotely similar in my right mind as I did then I lose control of my breathing pattern. Does this make any sense? It’s a panic attack, I think, or something like it. It makes me feel ugly.

TORSDAG 10.56

I feel like I’m missing a lot of the story here, but I feel like I’m missing it for a reason, so I won’t pry. But I don’t think that’s ugly. I don’t think you could ever be ugly? I think it’s normal to feel ashamed of things, but I think we should be able to forgive ourselves for the shit we pull. We’re not always in our right mind. Doesn’t mean we can’t let it go, right? We’re so quick to forgive everyone else I don’t know why we don’t forgive ourselves as easily.

TORSDAG 11.05

Kind of like when you give advice to someone else but don’t take it yourself?

TORSDAG 11.56

Yeah, kinda. But I’m telling you now: there’s nothing ugly about you. It’s okay if you break once in a while. So long as you come back, right?

TORSDAG 12.18

Right. You’re pretty wise for a kid who’s only just figured out snapbacks are meant to be facing forward.

TORSDAG 13.21

Shut up. But seriously, I don’t want you to feel like this isn’t a two-way street. You said that to me the first time you asked me for a note in return, and you should stick with it. Whatever you need to talk out, you’re welcome to. I can’t promise I’ll always be wise, but we’re pals, right? Pals talk. At least anonymous ones do. It’s easier when you know the other person doesn’t know who you are, or, when you don’t know who the other person is.

TORSDAG 14.05

You’re not wrong, Isak. Thank you. I appreciate your friendship.

TORSDAG 14.25

No problem. I guess I kinda appreciate yours, too.

 

TORSDAG 16.24

FREDAG 16.00

Even’s drumming his fingers against the table, his opposite elbow pressed down on it to hold his head upright on his palm. He’s been staring at Isak like this for what seems like an eternity, but in reality has only been fifteen minutes, give or take a few.

Isak’s staring down at his biology textbook pointedly, looking like he’s trying very hard to write coherent notes into it, until he finally seems to give up with a loud sigh. Even greets his gaze with a grin.

“Don’t you have homework to be doing, too?” Isak raises an eyebrow.

“Isak, it’s Friday,” he blinks at him. Isak blushes prettily, as if he knows how ridiculous he’s being. Even thinks it’s delicious. “I, like you, might I add, have the entire weekend to work on homework. I can’t believe you’ve picked your biology textbook over me.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “I like to get shit done before the weekend so I can have that to myself,” he tells Even. “I don’t know why this is always an issue.”

“Because I’m bored, and I’m here with you to be unbored, and instead, you’re being boring.”

Isak glares at him. “I’m not boring,” he sniffs. “I’m the most fun person.”

Even grins. “I’ll believe it when I see it, buddy,” Even’s grin only widens when Isak’s smile turns fond, and he’s about to say something ridiculously cheesy, probably, when one of the employees from the counter comes round to their table.

Even blinks upwards, then blinks at the name tag. Julian. His eyes narrow, and his mind brings up what it’d previously filed away — he’s the guy who’d waved brightly at Isak that last time, knew his coffee order without having to hear it.

Interesting.

“Hey, Isak,” Julian greets with a smirk, bypassing Even altogether. Isak blinks up from where he’d been looking at Even, as if he hadn’t noticed his presence until then, and Even can’t help but feel a little smug at the fact. Isak seems a little taken aback, then a little uncomfortable.

“Uh, hey Julian,” he mutters. “What’s up?”

Julian shrugs a little bit, leans against Isak’s chair. Even’s sight sharpens at Julian’s hand. “Nah, not much, just got off my shift, though,” he grins at Isak. “You wanna grab a smoke with me or something?”

Even raises a hand. “Hello,” he greets loudly. Julian blinks away from Isak and looks at Even in distaste. “We’re sort of in the middle of something, here.”

Julian frowns. “Sorry, you are?”

Even breathes out a small laugh. “None of your concern,” he replies with a cloying smile. Julian’s eyes narrow.

Isak blinks between the two of them. “Uh,” he coughs. “Yeah, so, anyway,” he looks at Even a little suspiciously before looking back at Julian. Even, for his part, doesn’t break away from Julian’s calculating gaze, levels him with a smug one of his own. “Sorry, but I promised Even we’d go get a kebab after I finished my homework.”

“Oh, yeah,” Even hums. “He did promise me that.”

Julian looks like he knows exactly what game Even is playing now. “Ah, that’s fine, maybe we can do it tonight, then?” He raises a challenging eyebrow at Even. “I know a place at the park. Makes for a perfect view of the sky and everything.”

Even’s stomach flips unpleasantly — not out of nerves, no, but out of envy, he thinks, and the feeling is just another foreign one to add to the list, along with the list of all the things he’s discovered about himself through Isak, that it takes him a moment to adjust to it.

“Are you asking me or him?” Isak points at Even. Julian blinks, looks back down at Isak. His grin is sheepish.

“Sorry, you,” he laughs the moment off easily. “I promise it’ll be fun?”

Even licks his lips and clicks his tongue. Isak squirms in his seat.

“Uhm, I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight, and me and the boys are hanging out—”

“Jeez, man,” Even’s laugh is boisterous. “I think it’s time you took a break and tried again later, huh?” Even makes sure his voice sounds steady and sympathetic. Isak seems to buy it, but Julian doesn’t. “Isak’s obviously got plans for the rest of the day.”

Julian considers him for a moment, then smiles sweetly at Isak. “Hey, no problem,” he reaches a hand to grab at Isak’s shoulder and squeezes. Even suppresses the urge to reach over and break it. “I’ll text you tomorrow, yeah? See if you’re up for anything.”

Isak looks a little panicked. “Yeah, okay,” he squeaks. Julian smiles at him one more time, then nods at Even.

“None of my concern,” he smirks, tilting his head in acknowledgment.

Even smiles sweetly. “So nice to meet you, Julian, let’s do this again sometime.”

Julian leaves, and Isak noticeably lets out a sigh of relief. Even lets out a quieter one of his own.

“So,” Even looks at Isak. “That guy.”

Isak looks at him, a little warily. “Yeah, what about him?”

“Nothing,” Even holds up two placating hands. “Just seems like a character, is all.”

Isak frowns down at his textbook. “Uh huh.”

“Did I see you talking to him at the party?” Even suddenly remembers. He’d been sitting particularly close to Isak on the couch, before Elias started spewing drunk insults, hadn’t he?

Isak grunts. “Maybe, I don’t know, I don’t remember,” he studies his textbook a little too closely.

Even thinks on this memory. “Are you gonna hang out with him tomorrow?” he asks casually, because that’s what he’s being, he’s being casual, there’s nothing to look into here. A friend can inquire to another friend about his plans for tomorrow, can’t they? It happens. Things happen.

Isak sighs frustratedly. “Jesus, Even, I don’t know, alright?” he snaps, looks up at him. “Why do you care, anyway?”

Even opens his mouth to reply with some bullshit he’s probably gonna come up with while his mouth strings together the first words, but he’s interrupted by the ringing of the bell above the coffeeshop’s entrance, followed by loud familiar voices talking over each other.

Isak seems to realize the voices sounds familiar at the same time Even does, and his head snaps over to find Jonas, Mahdi and Magnus all walking inside the shop. Jonas and Mahdi seem to be talking over a frustrated Magnus, but when Mahdi spots Isak, he points over at him.

“There he is,” Mahdi tells the other two. They both turn to look at Isak at the same time. “Told you he’d be here.”

Jonas eyes Even suspiciously as the three of them walk up to them, and Isak looks like he’s trying very hard not to blush.

“Hi,” Even greets the three of them cheerfully.

Magnus gapes at him. “Uh, hi,” he glances at Isak. “Hi,” he extends his hand towards Even. “Hi, Even, hi, I’m Magnus,” he sounds excited. Even thinks it’s hilarious. He takes Magnus’s hand and shakes it.

“I know who you are, Magnus,” he laughs. “We met at the party last Friday?”

Magnus blushes red. “I didn’t know if you’d remember,” he looks like he’s in awe. Mahdi is staring at him in despair.

“Dude,” Mahdi mutters, though he’s laughing slightly. “Keep it in your pants.”

Isak is staring pointedly at the table.

Even nods at Jonas and Mahdi, whom he’s met before the party, and don’t seem as awestruck as Magnus. Mahdi, at least, looks amicable when he smiles in greeting, but Jonas still looks extremely wary.

Even flashes back to the conversation they had a couple of weeks ago, where Jonas confronted Even about his attitude towards Isak. He wonders if Isak’s mentioned him at all to his friends. The idea that he hasn’t makes his stomach a little queasy, his hopes falter slightly.

“Uhm,” Isak clears his throat, looks up at his friends. “What are you guys doing here? I thought we were meeting at Mahdi’s later.”

“We were,” Mahdi says, eyeing Magnus beside him. “But then Magnus decided to call an emergency meeting like the wimp that he is.”

Magnus gawks. “I’m not a wimp,” he glares at Mahdi. “This is a serious issue, that should be taken very seriously.”

Jonas is still eyeing Even heavily, and he tries not to squirm under his gaze. “We can come back later, if you need us to,” Jonas looks at Isak.

Isak is about to reply, but Magnus whines before he can get to.

Jonas, I need everyone’s advice on this,” he says. Jonas gives him a look. This seems to fly over Magnus’s head, though, because he looks at Isak pleadingly.

Even clears his throat. “I can leave—“

“No,” both Isak and Magnus say at the same time, and Even looks between them.

“Or not,” he replies, amused. Isak blushes, and Even has to do everything in his power to not reach out and feel it.

“Stay, Even, I mean, you’re good with women, right?” Magnus looks at him in earnest.

“Er—”

“You can’t pressure someone into giving you advice, Magnus,” Mahdi looks at him. “You wanna be his friend so bad, maybe try not scaring him off.” he grins.

Magnus squawks. “I’m not—” Magnus looks over at Even. “I don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re all crazy, they’re—”

“It’s alright, Magnus,” Even laughs. “We can be friends.”

Magnus looks like he’s brimming with excitement. “Seriously? Dude,” Magnus looks at Isak. “Why didn’t you tell us you were hanging out with him earlier? This could have happened sooner.”

Isak doesn’t look like he has an answer for that. When he meets Even’s gaze, he looks apologetic, and Even tries to keep the ruefulness out of his smile.

Magnus is oblivious to all of this, instead pulls out one of the chairs of the table and sits himself down, grinning. He looks up at Jonas and Mahdi expectantly, and, with a sigh from Jonas and a roll of the eyes from Mahdi, they both take a seat, as well.

Isak isn’t looking at Jonas, specifically, and maybe it’s because he can feel Jonas looking at him. Even tries not to look into this.

“Okay, so let me set the scene,” Magnus holds out his hands before him. Mahdi’s snickering under his breath. Isak looks like he wants the ground to swallow him whole. Jonas looks like he’s going to help him do just that, maybe.

Before Magnus can delve any further into the story, however, Even catches a glimpse of Noora walking inside the coffeeshop alone, and Noora immediately catches sight of him, too.

She smiles brightly at him and waves, walking over to their table. “Hi!” she greets him. “I haven’t thanked you for sending me that paper yet, have I?”

Even laughs. “Only about twenty times through text,” he teases. Noora laughs with him.

“It’s always polite to thank someone in person,” she tilts her head. The boys are all looking at them now — Magnus, especially, looks a little dejected.

Jonas is looking at him, gaze a little heavier than before. Even has no idea what he’s done to warrant this particular weight, but maybe he should start not saying anything.

“You guys look like you were in the middle of something,” Noora looks around the table. “Sorry if I interrupted.”

“No, it’s cool,” Jonas cuts in. Noora turns to look at him, then looks away. There’s something in their gazes that speaks volumes to Even — they’re not speaking to each other, for one reason or another, and that’s interesting to Even, if only because it clues him into why Jonas is suddenly being colder towards him.

Noora clears her throat. “Anyway, thanks again, Even,” she smiles brightly at him. Even can feel both Jonas’s and Isak’s gaze on him now. He doesn’t know how to reply shortly without also seeming rude — Noora’s his friend, and they had a successful talk about intersectional feminism, and what do they want from him, damn it — but before he can figure it out, Noora opens a segue. “Hey, do you think we could meet next week?” she smiles. “We’ve got that maths test, and Sana’s great and all, but she tends to get really — uhm, angry at the answer key, so we spend most of the time fighting over the validity of it than studying and that really killed me the last time,” she explains. “So I was wondering if you wanted to study together?”

All of the guys are looking at him, waiting for his answer. He wonders why Noora couldn’t have done this at a less inopportune time. “Yeah,” he grins brightly, trying to make his tone final. “Yeah, no problem, just text me and we can set something up, okay?”

Noora nods happily. “Great!” she glances at Jonas, but her gaze doesn’t linger too long, instead lands on the rest of the boys. “Sorry, again,” she looks at Isak. “I’ll see you at home later?”

Isak is looking at Noora a little bitterly. “Yep,” he nods. “See you.”

Noora waves them off, and suddenly they’re left to stew in their own silence.

Jonas clears his throat. “So, Magnus,” his voice is extra loud, extra cheery — a blinding contrast to his attitude before. “Your story?”

Magnus suddenly brightens. “Oh, yeah!” And that’s how Magnus ends up telling them the story of a girl who’s been texting him on and off for the entire week, asking him strange questions about his past and his personal life, and asking questions like what his birthday is, what was the elementary school he went to, did he ever have any pets?

And Mahdi and him are arguing about whether or not this girl is trying to steal his identity when his gaze meets Isak’s, and it’s tired, and he’s looking at Even a little strangely, but Even tries for a smile. He tilts his head towards the door, inviting Isak to leave with him to get the kebab Isak had promised him, and suddenly Isak’s face is flushing again, but the small smile he’d had before the boys had shown up is back in place, and Even could drown in it.

They end up getting the kebab, eventually.

With Magnus.

LØRDAG 10.10

MANDAG 9.10

So how’s it going with Mr. Darcy, my dear Elizabeth?

MANDAG 10.00

I hate you. And fine, I guess. He invited me to his house after school today.

MANDAG 10.35

Hah! Told you he would. All you had to do was wait it out. What does he want to do?

MANDAG 11.12

He said he just wanted to chill.

MANDAG 11.46

He just wants to “chill”? That’s very broad. Sounds suspicious.

MANDAG 12.09 

I know! That’s what I thought. He’s got to have something else in mind, right? Or maybe I’m just being paranoid. We haven’t done anything other than drink coffee together and eat kebab. Am I being paranoid?

MANDAG 12.48

Maybe, maybe not. I guess the only way you’ll find out is by going over to his house, see what “chilling” entails. I mean, you want to, right?

MANDAG 13.08

Yeah, I want to.

MANDAG 13.37

That was very curt. You’re sure?

— 

MANDAG 14.00

I think I want to more than I should? Does that make sense?

MANDAG 14.27

:) Oh yes, Ms. Bennet.

MANDAG 15.00

I really do hate you. 

MANDAG 16.25

Even’s tidied up as much as he could, and he’s been nervously pacing his kitchen for the past fifteen minutes, muttering under his breath about what the hell he could do to keep Isak entertained for as long as possible without it seeming like he’s been trying to keep him here against his will.

Baz’s gaze follows him from left to right, and he looks a little tired of Even’s pacing, but Even can’t help it. He wasn’t lying to Isak when he said coming over to his place meant Isak could escape as easily as he wanted. Maybe that’s the most nerve-wracking thing of all: the fact that if at any point Isak decides to leave abruptly, Even will be left wondering where exactly he went wrong.

He’d told Isak to take his invite at face value: it was just chilling. And yet, here Even stands, unsure if he remembers exactly how to “chill”.

When the knock comes at the door, it takes everything in Even not to jump out of his skin. Baz’s ears perk up and his tail begins to wag, but Even holds up a finger in his direction.

“Stay,” he orders, and Baz looks like he’s considering disobeying, but, as per usual, he doesn’t. Even makes his way across the kitchen and towards the door, wiping his hands on his jeans; he’s not sweating, or anything, but this seems to be something his body’s decided to do to attempt to calm his nerves, so he allows it.

After he’s done with that, he exhales quietly before turning the knob and pulling open the door.

If Even thought he was nervous, it’s nothing compared to the look on Isak’s face right now, which looks forcefully sedated but clearly panicked, as if he’s reconsidering this whole venture altogether.

This serves to relax Even, and he lets out a laugh for good measure, feels his nerves leave his body with it. “Hey,” he raises an eyebrow, smirking. “Are you nervous?”

Isak frowns, considering him. “I don’t know, are you really gonna eat me?”

Even grins, shrugs his shoulders. “Maybe, who knows? Jury’s still out.”

Isak looks at him for a moment, then a small smile gives way on his lips. Even counts it as a victory: a small one, but one nevertheless.

“Are you gonna let me in or are we just gonna…” Isak gestures lamely around him. Even rolls his eyes and steps aside, holding the door open wider.

“Come on in,” he offers, and Isak does just that, looking a little more relaxed than when Even opened the door. Isak kicks off his shoes as Even closes the door behind him, and he walks further inside and towards the kitchen again. Isak seems like he’s about to follow him, but before he can get any further than the foyer, Baz is gleefully running up to him, pressing his paws to Isak’s chest and making him tumble backwards.

“Baz,” Even scolds, slightly amused despite himself. Baz is never this enthusiastic about visitors — in fact, he’s been trained not to jump on anyone and keep a respectful distance at all times — but that training seems to go out the door where Isak is involved, and even though he has every right to be annoyed, Isak seems to enjoy the attention. He laughs quietly after he gains his footing once again, leans down to rigorously scratch behind Baz’s ears.

“It’s alright,” Isak assures him, smiling brightly at Baz. Even raises an eyebrow at the way his expression softens tenfold, but Even supposes it makes sense — a puppy recognizes a puppy.

His lips twitch upwards for a moment before he’s turning towards the pantry, pulling it open. “Have you eaten?” he asks.

“Uh, just at school,” Isak replies, straightening up again and walking towards the kitchen, Baz bouncing happily at his side. “It’s fine, I’m not all that hungry.”

Even shrugs. “I’ll make a snack,” he tells him. “Nothing too heavy, yeah?”

Isak nods. “Okay.”

Even turns around and grins brightly at Isak. Isak blinks uselessly back at him. Even extends his leg over to the nearest chair and kicks it. It slides backwards, and Even gestures towards it. “Sit,” he offers, and after a moment, Isak does.

Even reaches for the bread inside the pantry then makes his way towards the fridge, looking for the cheese. “Beer?” he pokes his head over the refrigerator door to raise an inquiring brow at Isak, who nods in reply.

He reaches for both the cheese and two beer bottles, then closes the fridge. On his way back to the counter he hands Isak a beer, smiling at his quiet “thank you”, the places his own beer and the cheese on the counter beside the bread.

As Even starts unpacking everything, he tries for casual conversation. “You mind if I put on some music?”

He glances over at Isak just in time to catch him shaking his head. “Uh, no, go ahead.”

Even smiles and fishes his phone out of his pocket, opening his Spotify playlist. He doesn’t shuffle it, because that’s not his style; instead, he starts from the beginning. He’s very aware that the first song is Nas’s It Ain’t Hard to Tell, and he allows the first notes play out.

Isak grunts from his seat at the table. “Is this Nas?” he asks. Even smiles crookedly, though he doesn’t turn to face him.

“Yep,” he replies cheerily. “You like him?”

“Oh, yeah,” Isak replies quickly. “Been listening to him all my life.”

Even bites the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He’s glad Isak can’t see his face from where he sits. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Isak pauses for a moment, presumably to take a sip of his beer. Even’s smart enough not to call Isak out on his lie, instead glances over his shoulder at him one more time and offers him a bright smile.

“Greatest hip hop album of all time, am I right?”

“Illmatic,” Isak replies smoothly. Even laughs quietly and turns his attention back to spreading the cheese on the bread.

“On another note,” Even changes the subject before he gives himself away. “You get through the list of movies I told you to get through?”

Isak groans. “I could hardly get through the first three,” he tells Even. “You’re so pretentious.”

Even gasps indignantly, turns to face Isak entirely. “I beg your pardon,” he raises both eyebrows. “I think your taste is just shitty.”

“What’s wrong with normal movies, like — I don’t know, National Treasure, that’s a good one, right?”

Even stares at Isak, betrayed. “I can’t believe we’re friends,” he sniffs, turning back to his work. “National Treasure, he says, in my house, under my roof!”

Isak sounds amused. “You don’t like it?”

“Isak, I will admit it has its charms,” Even holds up the fork he’s been using to spread the cheese towards him for a moment. “But, right beside the first fatal mistake they made — casting Nicolas Cage, for God’s sake — there’s the fact that that movie could not have been more stale if it’d been dug up by archaeologists.”

Isak scoffs. “Pretentious,” he mutters.

Even shakes his head. “No, that’s just common sense.”

“It’s fun,” Isak presses. “And Nicolas Cage wasn’t all that bad.”

“Say his name one more time and he’s sure to appear in my kitchen.”

Isak laughs. Even thinks he’s going to hear that laugh in his dreams tonight. “You’re such an asshole.”

Even finishes spreading the last piece of cheese onto the bread. “What movie did you leave off on?” he asks Isak.

“Uh, Romeo and Juliet,” he says. “After that I decided you were a sadist and that maybe I should stop.”

“You’re not far off,” Even admits. He gestures Isak over. “C’mere,” he says. Isak hesitates only for a second, then stands and walks over beside Even, leans against the counter. It only takes Isak a second to decide he’d rather sit on the counter, and to Even, it looks like he fits there so perfectly, he’s almost ready to burst.

“What am I doing here?” Isak asks, taking another sip of his beer.

“You’ve gotta help me choose the spices,” Even looks over at him and raises an eyebrow. “Unless you want me to pick?”

“And have you poison me? No thanks.”

“O, ye of little faith,” Even sighs dramatically, but holds up the first spice. “Caribbean jerk barbecue?” he asks.

Isak laughs. “Sure,” he nods. “Go for it.”

“Alright.” Even starts sprinkling some on all four of the pieces of bread. “If you left off on Romeo and Juliet,” he says, picking up where they’d left off before Isak insulted his safe space by bringing up National Treasure. “That means Moulin Rouge is next on your watchlist, yeah?”

Isak rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Perfect,” he grins, holding up the next spice. “Chili?”

Isak smiles. “Why not?”

“Why not!” Even opens that spice up too and starts sprinkling as well. “Considering I cannot know whether or not you will watch Moulin Rouge, you’re going to have to watch it here.”

“Now?” Isak furrows his brows.

“After our toasties,” he says. “So we can make popcorn.”

“Are you trying to fatten me up to eat me?”

“Maybe,” Even smirks. He holds up the next spice. “Rosemary?”

Isak laughs. “If you like it, better put lots of it, since you’re the one who’ll be eating me later,” he raises an eyebrow.

“Genius,” Even nods his assent, starts sprinkling some rosemary on the bread. “The popcorn’s non-negotiable, though. It’s not a real movie experience without it.”

“I’m more of a Pringles kind of guy,” he shrugs. “That’s what seals the deal for me.” 

Even sighs. “You’re such a disappointment,” he teases. He looks at the next brand of spice, furrowing his brows. “Pot—pottagaldrar?” he tries, in a terrible Icelandic accent.

Isak laughs once, shaking his head with a crease in his brow. “Sure?”

Even snorts, starts sprinkling some of that, too. “I don’t know half of the shit we keep here.”

Isak smiles. “Sounds dangerous.”

Even shrugs. “I love to live on the wild side,” he waggles his eyebrows. Isak laughs, but there’s a pretty pink that tints his cheeks, and Even cheers internally.

Isak’s phone has been going off loudly, even over the music, so he finally pulls it out. Even manages to keep himself busy for a total of two minutes before he’s prying Isak’s attention away from his phone, his fingers stopping mid-type.

“Cinnamon?” he asks, and Isak looks up at him, smiling.

“Okay,” he nods. He turns back down to his phone and continues to type, and Even suddenly curses whoever is just as obsessed with Isak as he is in the moment. He’s sprinkling the cinnamon a little sourly when the thought that this person taking Isak’s attention away from him could be Julian crosses his mind, and suddenly he’s narrowing his eyes unpleasantly at the bread and sprinkling a little harsher than before.

“Even,” Isak laughs. Even stops and looks up to meet Isak’s green gaze. “I think that’s enough cinnamon, dude.”

Even looks at him for a moment, takes in his green eyes and his smile and the fact that his phone is no longer in his hands and he grins brightly right back at him.

“You can never have enough cinnamon,” he jokes, but puts the spice down. He wipes his hands in a dramatic fashion against each other, then turns over to the oven, turning the knob to start preheating it.

As he does this, Kanye West fades from his playlist and immediately after, the opening notes of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Run Away With Me fill the kitchen.

Automatically, Even’s leg and head start bouncing to the rhythm as he starts putting away all of the spices inside the top shelf. When the lyrics start, Even starts humming along to them, completely unaware for a moment that Isak is staring at him.

Even looks over at him when he finishes putting away the cinnamon. “What?”

“What the fuck are you doing?” Isak laughs, though he looks genuinely perplexed.

Even raises an eyebrow. “This is called dancing, Isak. I know you must not know much about it, because you presumably have two left feet—”

“To this?” Isak interrupts, gaping. “You went from Kanye West to this?”

“This is Carly Rae Jepsen, Isak, and if you don’t understand the genius behind her eighties pop aesthetic—“

“Oh my God.”

“—then you obviously have very little taste in modern music.”

“This is so embarrassing for you.”

“Me?” Even points at himself, and Isak nods a little furiously. “I’m not embarrassed, though, so — you’re wrong?”

“Make this stop,” Isak looks over at Even’s phone and he looks like he’s about to make a grab for it, so Even reaches over first to snatch it off the counter. “If I told everyone at school about this, your reputation would be torn to shreds, I hope you know.”

“Hey, Isak?” Even pockets his phone, speaker right side up, so the song isn’t muffled.

“What?”

I’ll find your lips in the street lights,” Even starts singing along to the first lyric he can catch up to, and Isak’s mouth comically hangs open.

“Dude—“

I wanna be there with youuu,” Even continues to snap his fingers along to the rhythm, and Isak looks like a mixture of amused and embarrassed. Even loves it.

“Don’t you dare,” Isak holds up a finger when Even takes a step towards him, but Even completely ignores it, instead bursting out into the chorus along with the song.

Baby!” he dances. “Take me — to the — feeling!”

Isak half-groans, half-laughs, and as Even continues to sing, he also continues to dance, and he’s being outrageous about it just to see Isak’s expressions and how they shift and just to hear his laugh. Even’s heart is so full, his stomach flutters, and every time Isak does laugh when his hips move a certain way or his fingers snap above his head or he hits a particularly high note with a crack in his voice, he feels victorious, he feels alive.

Because Isak Valtersen is sitting before him, and he’s laughing, and he’s blushing, and he’s beautiful and he’s perfect, no matter what he believes.

Even will believe it enough for the both of them.

Isak covers his face with his hands and groans at a particularly “cheesy as fuck” lyric Even sings along to, and Even laughs loudly as his fingers wrap around either of Isak’s wrists to bring his hands apart.

“You can’t hide from this,” Even teases, Isak’s wrists still at his mercy.

“Oh, my God, stop, “ Isak laughs loudly, gaze darting downward. “You’re a fucking mess.”

Even laughs at him and lowers his head to find Isak’s eyes again. “It’s not a show if I don’t have an audience, Valtersen.”

Isak rolls his eyes, and then he attempts to free his hands by reaching towards Even’s wrists over the back of his hands, but Even’s fingers still remain loosely wrapped around Isak’s wrists, so now they’re in a position where, to the unsuspecting eye, they would look like they were holding hands — awkwardly, sure, but holding hands nevertheless.

This seems to hit Isak a beat after it hits Even, but he doesn’t pull away. Instead, his blush deepens and spreads from his nose to his cheeks, and the song continues to blast from Even’s pocket and they’re both staring at each other, the remnants of their respective smiles still ghosting their lips, and Even’s a little out of breath because he’s been dancing and singing along to notes he cannot reach, but he’s not sure exactly why Isak’s out of breath.

Still, when Isak’s breath shakily ghosts over Even’s lips, his entire body suddenly fires up. The shivers start from his jaw and make way down his arms and touch his toes, and Isak looks like he’s trying to keep up with both the skin contact and the proximity of their faces, but before either of them can make another move—

The oven’s beep is obnoxiously loud, and they both pull apart as if burned.

Even clears his throat. “That’ll be my cue,” he says cheerily, grabbing at the pan with the toasties and opening the oven door. He doesn’t look at Isak in order to give him a moment alone to compose himself, because Even knows — he realizes it was too much too fast, especially for someone in his position, and he wants to apologize, but he also doesn’t know how to do it without giving away what he knows.

So he slides the pan inside and closes the oven door instead, sets the timer, and then finally looks back at Isak. There’s a hint of red on his nose, but he looks like he’s composed himself alright, and Even offers him an easy smile to help him.

“I hope you enjoyed the show,” he jokes. “Very few people get to see me in action.”

Isak coughs, but he offers Even a small smile in return. “I don’t know why I didn’t think to record that,” he admits. “Could have served as good blackmail material.”

“Pft,” Even waves the notion off. “First, you wouldn’t have the guts to, and second, that was not embarrassing to me at all. That was art,” he raises an eyebrow. “I would not have minded if you shared the art. Maybe it’s time the world saw.”

Isak laughs. “No, I think it’s better if you fucking spare them,” he shakes his head. “I’ll keep it to myself for now.”

Even grins. “Just yours, then,” he offers.

Isak looks down and rubs at the back of his neck. “Yep,” he mutters. “Just mine.”

Isak’s gaze meets Even’s one more time, and they look at each other for just another beat before they both burst out laughing — whether because of the ridiculous antics that just took place, or the relief that things hadn’t immediately gone south after this, or both, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that Isak’s laugh rings loudly in Even’s kitchen, and it sounds like a song he can dance and sing along to for the rest of his life.

MANDAG 17.42

They’ve decided their cheese toasties are absolute atrocities, but they both put on brave faces and eat them anyway, because otherwise Baz will keep staring at them with those big eyes that say he’s truly suffering as a poor dog who absolutely gets no love ever.

“I think the cinnamon might have done it,” Even hums thoughtfully, forcefully swallowing his last bite. “I think that might have been the deciding factor.”

Isak looks at Even incredulously. “I think it might have been everything,” Isak laughs at the last piece of toastie on his plate. “I think we crossed the line at caribbean jerk barbecue.”

“You’re probably right,” Even agrees, reaching for his beer and swallowing as much as he can manage to get rid of the awful taste in his mouth. He licks his lips afterwards. “I think this might be my one fatal flaw. Making cheese toasties.”

Isak snorts. “One?”

“Oy,” Even laughs. “There’s no need to bring up all my other ones.”

“Like the way you treat your hair like it’s a human child,” Isak nods solemnly. “You’re right.”

Even bursts out into laughter. “A human child?

Isak raises both eyebrows. “You take care of it as much as you take care of yourself!”

Even continues to laugh. “And you’ve been paying a lot of attention to my hair, have you, Isak?”

Isak snorts. “It’s hair envy,” he says. “I don’t know how you get yours to defy gravity and then mine’s over here flopping.”

Even shrugs. “I like your hair.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“I do! Besides, floppy hair is hardly a flaw,” Even taps at his chin. “I’d say a more glaring flaw of yours is the way your nose scrunches anytime you drink anything.”

Isak’s nose scrunches. “It does not!”

Anything,” Even continues, as if Isak hadn’t protested. “Literally saw you drink a water bottle at school and you’d look like someone had fed you gasoline.”

“Alright, well, what about your annoying tendency to walk backwards?” Isak raises an eyebrow. “There’s a flaw, and a dangerous one. How haven’t you tripped over something already?”

Even grins. “If I have, why would I tell you?”

“It’s annoying,” Isak grunts, downing the rest of his beer. His nose scrunches again, and he seems to notice this a second too late, because he’s flipping Even off when he laughs. “Shut up.”

“If we’re getting into my flaws, though, you have to point out the most obvious one,” he says. “My singing.”

Isak snorts. “Okay, true. And your dancing,” he adds.

“Okay, that one’s debatable.”

“You’d have to point out my short fuse, though,” Isak says, then looks like he immediately regrets it, blushing deep. “Or, whatever,” he mutters.

Even smiles. “You? A short fuse? I don’t believe it!”

“Shut up,” Isak snaps weakly. “I know sometimes I’m — well, anyway, it’s a flaw, I admit it.”

“I tend to trust people too easily,” Even thinks. “I think that’s a flaw, because then I end up befriending assholes like Elias.”

Isak stiffens slightly. “Uhm,” he clears his throat. “Have you—”

“No,” Even replies firmly. “Not since the party.”

Isak looks at him in wonder, and Even doesn’t know what to do with it. He wants to take Isak’s face in his hands and promise him he’s perfect, and it’s okay to feel what he feels, and he wants him to know he’s not alone, but he also knows he can’t and doesn’t want Isak to find out about his run-in with Elias last week, anyway.

“I also snort sometimes when I laugh.”

This breaks the spell enough so that Isak laughs quietly, shaking his head.

“So basically we’re both very flawed. Who the fuck would want flawed assholes like us in their lives?”

Even wants to tell Isak he’d take him just as he is, without question.

“Hopefully someone with better movie taste than you,” he teases instead, and Isak rolls his eyes.

“Oh, here you go again.”

National Treasure,” Even scoffs. “The audacity—”

“I watched it when I was young, alright, it made me happy, douchebag,” Isak looks at him. “That and, like, Peter Pan.”

Peter Pan?”

“Oh, fuck off,” he rolls his eyes. “I was into it! I was little.”

“Did you want to be a Lost Boy?”

Isak squirms. Even laughs gleefully. “Oh, my God, you did.”

“Everyone did!” he says defensively. “No one wanted to grow up!”

Even keeps laughing. Isak throws whatever’s left of his cheese toastie at him, but Even continues to laugh.

“Be straight with me,” Even looks at Isak, amused expression still set. “Do you still want to be a Lost Boy today?”

Isak rolls his eyes. “Fuck off,” he mutters.

“I’m serious,” Even presses. “Do you still feel like a Lost Boy?”

Isak purses his lips. “I just — maybe sometimes, but, whatever, it doesn’t matter, like, not in the sense—” Isak looks frustrated. Even gives him a moment to decide whether or not he wants to continue. “You know how in the movie, they were lost because they never really had anyone,” he grunts. “It never goes into it, but it’s implied that they were lost because no one was looking for them,” Isak explains. “And that’s why they were never found.”

“And so you feel like no one’s looking for you?”

Isak shrugs. “I’ve accepted my place in the universe,” he explains. “I know no one’s gonna find me because I’m pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things, you know? In all of the worlds and all of the universes. I think I’d be wasting my time if I tried to pretend someone was gonna “find” me.”

Even frowns. “Hm.”

“What?”

“Just haven’t thought about it.”

“You haven’t?” Isak’s face lights up. “It’s so interesting to me.”

“It sounds lonely, though.”

Isak looks at him. “I mean, maybe,” he frowns. “But it’s amazing.”

Even smiles halfheartedly. “You think accepting the fact that you’re lost for the rest of eternity in the universe is amazing, but not lonely?”

Isak blushes. “There’s a difference between being lonely and being alone, though.”

Even looks at him. “Sure there is,” he agrees. “Loneliness is what kills you.”

“What?”

“Did you know you’re more likely to die of loneliness than of obesity or excessive alcohol consumption?”

Isak furrows his brows. “What does that have to do with—”

“I feel like that’s why I might die of,” Even says thoughtfully, looking out the window. “Loneliness.”

Isak pauses. “You’re not alone, though,” he says quietly, and Even looks over at him, offers him a sad smile.

“Not physically. But like I said, it’s the feeling that kills you,” Even explains, holding a hand to his heart. “Right here. That’s what gets you.”

Isak continues to look at him. His mouth opens, then it closes, then it opens again, until finally — “You shouldn’t think like that.”

“Don’t I know it,” Even snorts, looking back out the window. “You don’t think about it, though? How you might die?”

“No,” Isak replies immediately. “I don’t know, that’s really dark.”

Even laughs. “You’re talking to me about being lost for all eternity and how insignificant we are and you’re saying my comment’s the dark one?”

Isak scoffs. “I didn’t bring up death, just facts.”

“Death is a fact.”

“Not the way you die, though,” Isak tells him. “That’s all speculation until the day of, and even then, I don’t even think you should speculate at all.”

Even shrugs. “You have your way of coping with things, I have mine.”

Isak looks at the floor. His brows are furrowed, still, like he’s trying to figure out what to say next. “I think,” he starts, still staring at the floor. “Then I think that we both should start coping some other ways.”

Even smirks. “You’ll admit someone will maybe find you someday?”

Isak looks up at him. “Only if you stop thinking about how you’re gonna die.”

“How will we both even know we’re sticking to our word?”

Isak shrugs. “I guess we’ll have to trust each other.”

Even laughs quietly. He can’t believe this kid, he can’t, and yet, he wants him all for himself, him and his thoughts and his light and his universes. “Yeah, okay.”

“So we agree,” Isak continues. “I admit someone might find me some day—”

“Someone’s looking for you, first,” Even corrects.

Isak rolls his eyes. “Jesus, fine, someone’s looking for me and maybe they’ll find me, I don’t know, and you—” he waves at Even.

“I’ll die when I die.”

Isak laughs. “Good enough, I guess.”

MANDAG 20.14

They’ve navigated from Even’s room to the living room, and Isak’s lying on the couch now, Baz sleeping on his feet. Even told him earlier he could move him if he wanted, but Isak had refused, said he kept him warm. Even tries not to look over from the loveseat too often at the picture they both paint, tries to quiet the beating of his heart every time it picks up, tries to quell the thoughts of how many nights like these he could have, if only he jumped, if only he were given a chance.

They’re watching Moulin Rouge, and Isak’s already properly told him off when Christian told the viewers the love his life died right off the bat, but he’s sitting through it anyway, eyes glued to the screen.

Even’s seen the movie a thousand times, so he’s more interested in watching the loud colors bouncing off the screen paint Isak’s face, back and forth, and examine the way Isak’s lips part during a particularly intense scene, or the small smile that twitches onto his lips during a comical one, or the furrow of his brow during a heartbreaking one.

Isak’s already given up on the popcorn, but Even’s still eating them steadily, thinking that there might be no better movie than that of Isak’s facial expressions.

“She’s about to die, isn’t she,” Isak deadpans, glances over at Even.

Even grins. “You can’t ask me that,” Even rolls his eyes. “I won’t tell you.”

Isak scoffs. “They already told me at the start!”

“Then you should already have your answer, shouldn’t you?”

Isak narrows his eyes at Even. “I hate you,” he says.

Even smirks. “I know.”

Isak turns back to the film, and Even continues to look at him, and at Baz, who’s snoring quietly at his feet, and he thinks this is something he could get used to. This is something he wants to get used to.

When the movie’s over, Isak’s already gone off on Even three times about his stupid tendency to recommend tragic romances, and Even’s already told him that most of the movies Even listed for him next are all happy eighties romances.

“I don’t believe you,” Isak grabs at the leftover popcorn and stuffs a handful into his mouth. “You’re probably trying to lure me into a false sense of security,” he says between chews.

Even laughs. “I promise I’m not,” he says. “But come on. You’ve got to admit Baz Luhrmann’s directing style is genius. You’d be able to pick it out from miles away.”

Isak frowns. “I guess, I don’t know much about that stuff,” he starts. “But it’s pretty cool. Are those the only movies he’s directed?”

“Nah, there’s Australia, too, but after that they’re all mostly shorts,” Even reaches for more popcorn. “Oh! But there’s also The Get Down.”

“Is that the series on Netflix?”

“Why, yes it is, Isak, good job,” Even smirks, tossing the popcorn into his mouth.

Isak rolls his eyes. “Fuck you.”

“It’s a good show. We should watch that next. Soon.”

“Not now?”

Even raises an eyebrow. “Isak, starting a show together is a commitment,” he says. “It’s taking the next step in our relationship. I think we should slow down.”

Isak sputters, and Even laughs.

“I’m kidding. I just want to have time to get through it in one day, and it’s getting pretty late,” Even smiles. “My parents will be home any minute. So next time.”

Isak smiles tentatively. “Yeah, okay,” he replies quietly. “Next time.”

MANDAG 21.30

— 

TIRSDAG 8.50

So, how did it go with Mr. Darcy last night? Hoping you didn’t have to use my advice of flight, but if you did, I’m already sorry.

TIRSDAG 9.32

No, I didn’t. It was actually pretty chill. He’s a fucking nerd, though. He did some crazy stuff I didn’t think he would ever do. He’s a good guy, though. He’s fun.

TIRSDAG 10.09

I’m glad you had fun. Does that mean you’ll be inviting him over to yours soon?

TIRSDAG 12.34

I want to.

TIRSDAG 13.01

You don’t have to hold back on what you’re actually thinking for me, Isak. We’ve already been over this. Pen just-a-pal, remember? I’m a big boy, I can handle it.

TIRSDAG 13.56

I don’t know what else to say. Yeah, he’s really cool. Yeah, he drives me crazy. I don’t know what else you want to hear? I like him. He’s a good guy. But there’s nothing else there. I don’t think there could be, anyway. For one, he’s pretty straight, and for another, you’re the only person who knows about me, and so shit just isn’t looking good. That’s why I’m not telling you much. Not because of the other thing. I know you’re taking this Mr. Darcy thing literally, but it’s not. He’s just a friend.

TIRSDAG 14.27

Alright, if you say so. But also, don’t sell yourself short. If the guy’s putting so much effort into a friendship with you, then maybe there’s something there for him, too.

— 

TIRSDAG 15.30

TIRSDAG 16.54

Even couldn’t meet Isak at KB right after school because he had to get home and get Baz beforehand — because, as he does with many things in his life, he had to make this as grand of a gesture as possible, even when it was one as small as returning a snapback.

Baz is actually good about walking with something on his head — not that Even’s ever tried before today, of course, but the snapback manages to stay put as he bounces right next to Even, following wherever Even may lead. He’s never needed to put a leash on Baz — he goes where Even tells him to and stops when he tells him to — but he should have thought twice about it this time, because once they reach the coffeeshop, Baz’s tail starts wagging uncontrollably and he looks like he’s about to leap forward.

Even grabs at his collar before he can, then looks up to see what Baz got so excited about — and there is Isak, walking towards KB, Jonas beside him. He’s laughing at something the brunette’s telling him and Even’s heart gets caught in his throat like it usually does when he lays his eyes on Isak. Baz is whining underneath him, obviously trying to hurry him up, and Even looks down at his dog.

“You walk beside me,” he warns. Baz’s ears flop backwards, but he’s obedient when Even lets go of his collar and walks beside him towards the coffeeshop.

“Hey!” Even calls out, before the two boys can make their way inside. They both look up, and Isak brightens immediately and then it looks like it’s trying not to brighten even more, which Even finds endearing and beautiful and when he and Baz reach Isak, he’s out of breath, and it has nothing to do with his walk over.

“Hi,” Isak breathes out. He blinks downward and laughs gleefully at the sight of Baz wearing his snapback, shakes his head. “You’re such an idiot.”

Even shrugs. “Baz said he wanted to enjoy it for just a little longer before it had to be returned to you,” he teases, reaching over to grab Isak’s snapback off of Baz’s head. He flips it over so that he’s holding on to the visor and then he places it on Isak’s head, tugging it downward and adjusting it so that it fits snugly.

Isak grins brightly at him. Even does the same.

He’s not sure how long they do nothing but grin at each other, but they’re interrupted by Jonas’s loud cough.

Even blinks over at him. “Oh,” he clears his throat, smiling crookedly. “Hi, Jonas.”

“Yeah, hi,” Jonas raises an eyebrow. He glances at Isak, whose gaze is glued to his shoes and whose face is burning bright red. “So your dog has a habit of stealing other people’s snapbacks, I see.”

Even laughs. “Just Isak’s, I think.”

Jonas raises an eyebrow at Isak, who’s still avoiding his gaze. “That one’s mine, actually.”

Even raises both eyebrows. “My apologies,” he smiles. “Apparently Baz is an equal opportunity employer, then.”

Last week, Jonas had given Even about twenty murderous looks, all at different times, all for different reasons. At first they were wary, and understandably so, after the first impression Even had left on Isak and, consequently, Jonas; but then Noora came into the picture, quite literally, and his looks shifted from what are your intentions to why are you still here. Even knew that Jonas had hardly forgiven him when he noticed that before leaving with Isak and Magnus, he’d grabbed Magnus by the arm and whispered something to him quickly and fiercely. Even can’t be sure it was about him, of course, but Jonas was staring straight at him, and Magnus did walk in between Isak and Even the entire way to the kebab shop afterwards, so, maybe.

Now, though, it looks like Jonas is considering him in a new light, and there’s even the hint of a smile playing at his lips. Even’s not sure what brought about this sudden flip-switch, but he’s not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Jonas reaches over and takes the snapback from Isak’s head. Isak glares at him. “You’ll never give it back otherwise,” he tells him, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh, fuck off, it’s been like, a week.”

Jonas shrugs. “Better safe than sorry,” he holds up the snapback towards Even. “See ya.”

“Bye,” Even says, and Jonas walks into the coffeeshop.

Isak looks up at Even. “Thanks for bringing it by,” he says. “Do you, uh, wanna join us?”

Even shakes his head. “Nah, Baz and I are going to finish our walk,” he says.

Isak nods. “Yeah, okay,” he squirms a little.

“Oh!” Even pretends to just have had a revelation. He snaps his fingers. “I just remembered — guess what they’re showing at the movie theater on Saturday?”

Isak frowns at him. “What?”

Even grins. “Number six on your to-watch list. Dirty Dancing.”

Isak groans. “Oh, my God.”

“So what do you say?” Even tilts his head to the side and offers Isak a smile. “You wanna come with me? I have it on good authority we’re guaranteed the best seats in the house.”

Isak blinks. “You want me to go to the movies with you?”

Even laughs. He can feel Baz’s wagging tail hit the back of his feet over and over. “Yeah. It’s an important movie, Isak.”

Isak clears his throat. “Saturday?”

“Saturday.”

Isak shrugs his shoulders. “Uh, sure,” he says, looking like he’s trying very hard not to blush. Even thinks he’s the most adorable person on the face of the planet, and simultaneously the most attractive. “Yeah, Saturday’s good.”

“Good!” Even grins brightly. “I’ll send you the details, okay? I’ll be fun,” He reaches to squeeze Isak’s shoulder, the same shoulder Julian squeezed last week. “I promise.”

Isak laughs. “I believe you.”

“I’ll text you soon,” he winks, then gestures for Baz to follow him. “C’mon, bud,” he turns over to walk backwards, grinning all the while at Isak. “How much are you betting I’m gonna trip over something?”

Isak laughs. “If you do, would you tell me?”

Even shrugs his shoulder, stepping expertly backwards. “Maybe I would.”

Isak’s smile is crooked. “I’ll talk to you later.”

Even waves once, then turns forward again. There’s a spring in his step that wasn’t there before, and Baz looks like he knows, because he immediately starts mimicking it.

ONSDAG 21.38

Even’s mom has him rearranging the living room furniture with her because she read in a magazine that constantly changing the position of your furniture can lead to less stress and deliver positive vibes. Even told her he very much thinks this article is bullshit, but she’s having none of it, so this means he’s spent the past fifteen minutes pushing couches from one end of the room to the other.

His mom’s been talking to him about the newest art gallery she’s been inspecting, tells him about all of the up and coming artists she’s met there and how their pieces could make for an interesting contribution to her collection, talks about how the art museum’s been looking for newer, fresher things, things that’ll make history before anyone realizes it’s history.

Even’s only half listening, trying not to let the strain in his back show, when his text notification goes off. He stops sliding a chair over to the opposite corner of the room to pull out the phone, and smiles fondly at the outdated meme’s Isak has sent him in reply to Even’s own.

“Is that Sonja?” his mother suddenly pipes up, and Even blinks up at her.

“Uh, nah,” Even locks his phone and pockets it again. “Just a friend.”

“Hm.” His mom takes a step back to inspect their work so far. Her hand is on her chin when she continues, “Is it the friend you had over on Monday?”

Even freezes, eyeing his mother. “Uhm,” he clears his throat. “What friend?”

She raises an eyebrow at him, clearly unamused at his attempt to lie to her. “The boy who was leaving as soon as we were coming in? The boy who forgot his snapback here, Even.”

Even squirms slightly under her heavy gaze. “Yep,” he avoids her gaze, instead focuses on pushing the chair he’d been taking care of previously further into the corner. “That’s him.”

His mom is silent for a moment. “What’s his name?”

Even looks up at her. “Isak,” he replies, setting the chair where his mom had instructed him to.

His mom mouths the name back silently, looking thoughtful. After an agonizing moment, she gestures towards the other corner of the room. “Never mind, I think it’d look better over there.”

Even sighs. “Mom, seriously,” he deadpans.

His mom claps her hands. “We don’t have all day, you have school tomorrow!”

He rolls his eyes good-naturedly and grabs the chair one more time, turns it over and starts sliding it to the other side of the room. “This has got to be considered child labor.”

“Don’t joke about those things,” his mother scolds. Even’s mouth snaps closed. “So why hasn’t Sonja been around lately?”

Even shrugs noncommittally. “I don’t know, mom, it’s been a busy couple of weeks for the both of us,” he mutters quietly, letting the chair find the corner of the room. He adjusts it accordingly before turning back to look at his mom. “She’s doing her own thing in uni and I’m still in high school, so.” He raises an eyebrow.

His mother’s expression softens. “Do you feel you’re growing apart, baby?”

Even sighs loudly. “Mom, seriously.”

“It’s okay if you feel like you’re growing apart,” his mom walks over to him and envelops him in a hug. “I know how hard that is. I know how hard it is to feel like you’re not in love anymore, and not knowing what to do with it.”

Even hugs her back awkwardly. “Everything’s fine.”

His mom pulls away, hands still holding on to Even’s shoulders. “Don’t lie to me, Even,” she orders. “I’m your mother and I know you better than anyone, apart from yourself. I’ve known for a while now that you’re no longer happy, not with her, and you’re only happy when you’re looking at your phone or—”

Even looks at her. “Or?”

His mom’s smile is very small. “Or when your friend leaves the apartment and you think I didn’t notice.”

Even casts his gaze downward.

“If you’re unhappy with her, why not end things?” His mom brings her hand to Even’s chin and forces Even to meet her gaze again. “You shouldn’t be with someone when you no longer make each other happy.”

“She’s—” Even sighs frustratedly. “She’s always been there for me, mom, don’t you think it’d be kind of a — kind of a dick move to just drop her, after everything she’s seen me through?”

His mother's brows furrow. “Do you think she has an obligation to you, and vise versa?”

“What?”

“By your logic, she should also not break up with you for the same reason,” she tells him. “After everything she’s seen you through, how could she “drop you” without making you feel like you’re the problem?”

Even remains silent, thinking on this.

His mom runs a hand through his hair. “Even, you cannot put your life on hold because you’re afraid of the unknown,” she tells him. “You’re holding yourself back, and that is not fair to you, or to her.”

Even clears his throat. “What if it’s just — I think I might still love her, maybe,” he tells her. “Just maybe not as much.”

His mom considers him for a second. “Then I think you should figure that “maybe” out before you end up breaking more than just one heart,” she smiles at him knowingly. “Don’t you think?”

Even feels his cheeks redden.

“In any case,” she pulls away, pinches his cheek. “I think we’ve done a good job here tonight. Do you think your sister would want us to go over to her place and do the same for her?”

“Mom, she’d hate it.”

“I think it would be a nice change of pace for her,” she says pensively. “She needs some sort of excitement in her life! She hardly sees the light of day since she’s had Anette.”

“She’s constantly posting pictures of her and her friends at the arcade.”

His mother gives him a look. “Going out with your friends and their children is not the same thing as seeing the light of day. Maybe one day you’ll understand.” She adjusts one of the throw pillows on the couch. “Besides, it’s not like Erik’s doing much to keep her interest these days, either.”

Even grimaces. He knows Lillian and Erik have been having problems, and he knows his mother’s only trying to help, but Lillian is very much like him in this respect — they try to keep their life as separate from their mother as possible, lest they add to her stress and worry her more than she needs to. It’s hard, oftentimes more for Even than for Lillian, for obvious reasons — but Lillian’s always been a protector, both for their mother and for him and now for her daughter, as well as a fighter, so if anyone can survive this particular bump in the road it’d be her. He suddenly misses his sister so fiercely he doesn’t know what to do with it. He’d be able to talk openly about Isak with her, he thinks. She wouldn’t judge him. She’d tell him exactly what to do, and she would be right about it.

It’d be easier with her, because his mother’s advice always boils down to “do what makes you happy”, and sometimes it’s hard for Even to know exactly what that is.

(Though her guess of Isak — it’s not far off, he doesn’t think.)

“You should call her up and ask her,” her mother breaks through his stupor. Even furrows his brows.

“Why do you want her to yell at me? This is your idea.”

“Even, I raised you better than to be a coward,” his mother looks dramatically offended, hand clutched to her heart.

“You’re calling her,” Even holds up a finger. “I am not getting involved in this ordeal. It’s bullshit!” he holds up his arms exaggeratedly. “All of this, it’s bullshit.”

“Can’t believe you’re throwing your own mother to the wolves,” she sniffs.

Even smirks. “Sorry, mom, but sometimes you’ve gotta make the tough decisions in order to survive.”

His mom narrows his eyes at her. “Would you send your dad this quickly over to the wolves?”

“I wouldn’t have to,” he shrugs. “He’d go over to them himself thinking he could pet them.”

His mother laughs. “I’m going to tell him you said that.”

Even shrugs. “He’ll agree with me.”

His mother sighs fondly. “Oh, he would, wouldn’t he?” she shakes her head. “Your father loves far too much, I think. How he’s been able to keep up with me all these years, I’ll never know.”

“I mean, I think you’re worth keeping up with,” he admits. “Pretty sure dad thinks so, too.”

His mother smiles kindly at him. “You’re an exact replica of him, good God,” she reaches out to stroke his cheek. “Physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself,” she demands. “That big heart of yours weighs so much it falls harder than most.”

Even laughs. “I think I’ve got a handle on it.”

His mom’s expression softens. “Baby, I don’t think you believe that.”

Even thinks of Isak, and the way his heart demands to be let out of his chest when he’s around. He thinks of Sonja, and the way his heart squeezes harshly until it feels like it’s not beating anymore. He thinks of trying to take control of it, and realizes that it’s been a very long time since he felt he could.

Some comedy, Even thinks bitterly. It appears he can control his heart just about as well as he can control his mind — that’s to say, with a lot of help, and sometimes not at all.

“I’m fine,” Even tells her, though it sounds more like he’s trying to convince himself rather than his mother. “I’m fine.”

TORSDAG 10.20

FREDAG 08.56

You’ve been smiling a lot more lately. I’ve noticed it. It’s a wonderful smile, and it always has been, but it’s so much brighter nowadays. Whatever you’re doing differently, keep doing it. It’s a good look on you.

FREDAG 10.35

I’m not doing anything differently. Maybe things are just starting to look up. I don’t know, maybe I’m seeing things in a more positive light since you came around. You know me. And I mean, every part of me, at this point. You’re like a diary that talks back, you know? It’s pretty cool to have you around. I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked you for that.

FREDAG 11.24

There’s no need to thank me for it, Isak. This whole endeavor started as a way to make you happier. I’m glad the original plan’s stuck.

FREDAG 12.03

See? There’s nothing ugly about you. You’re too fucking nice. I bet everyone tells you how nice you are all the time and I bet you’re the kind of person who’s all like, “Me? Nice? No, no, of course not” while you donate a hundred thousand kroner to charity.

FREDAG 13.27

That would not be the first thing I did with a hundred thousand kroner, trust me. I’d probably buy a farm and a couple of cows and some horses. The rest, maybe. I’d give you some, though. Kickstart whatever career you’re looking to get into. What is the career you’re looking to get into, anyway?

 — 

FREDAG 14.03

Truth? Probably something in biology. No lie, I’ve almost always wanted to be a vet. But that’s hard as shit, and I know it’s a long shot, but it’d be cool. I like animals, and I like the subject, and I like to help, I guess. So, maybe that. If my rapping career doesn’t pan out, of course.

— 

FREDAG 14.35

Of course. But that’s really cool, Isak. Also, “hard as shit” should mean nothing to you. You’re one of the brightest people I’ve ever met. You don’t give yourself enough credit. You’d make an amazing vet, I’m sure of it. I’m rooting for you. I’d take my dog with you in a heartbeat. He’s so small and vulnerable, he could use someone like you calming him down.

— 

FREDAG 15.30

Sounds like a good plan. Thanks, though. You know, for helping me out. For listening. And all of that shit. You’re really cool. So, yeah. Thanks. 

LØRDAG 19.00

Even and Isak meet up at the movie theater and sneaking into the projection booth is actually a lot easier than it probably should be — Mikael looks disgruntled the entire time, and Isak looks like he knows he is, but when Mikael manages to get them inside, he offers Isak a bright smile.

“You enjoy the movie, alright?” he pats Isak’s shoulder amicably. “Bet you’ll like this one the most out of whatever Even’s recommended you.”

Isak looks at Mikael. “Uh, thanks,” he coughs. “Yeah, thank you.”

Mikael looks at him. “Once the movie is over, you’re out with the crowd,” he warns. “And if you’re caught—” 

“It was Yousef who let us in.”

Mikael grins. “I’ve taught you well.” He salutes them, then turns around and disappears behind the door, closing it quietly.

Isak looks at him. “Yousef?”

Even rolls his eyes. “His mortal enemy,” he explains, shifting his weight on the chair. “That’s what he says, anyway. You wanna hear my theory?”

Isak’s eyebrows rise. “What?” 

He grins. “I think they’re gonna fuck.”

Isak blinks at Even. “Shut up.” 

Even shakes his head furiously. “No, I’m serious, there’s some mega sexual tension brewing there,” he tells Isak casually, arm leaning against the back of his chair. “Don’t think Mikael’s at the point of realizing it yet, though.” 

“Just because two people, I don’t know, bicker doesn’t mean there’s some — some sort of unresolved sexual tension between them.”

Even furrows his brows, feigning ignorance. “It doesn’t?”

“No,” Isak huffs. “By that logic, that would mean—” Isak stops himself in his tracks. Even bites his cheek in an attempt to hold back his smile. 

“That would mean…?” 

“Never mind,” Isak mutters, gaze shifting towards the blank, looming screen before them. “Wasn’t he supposed to set the movie up or something?”

Even smiles, deciding that maybe letting the subject go is best, for now. “It’ll run automatically,” he explains. “He set it up before we got here.”

“Oh,” Isak squirms a little on the seat Mikael provided for him. “This is weird. We could have just sat down with the rest of the losers.”

Even laughs. “Trust me, this is the best way to experience Dirty Dancing,” he tells Isak. “Besides, you can actually talk to me in here, whereas down there it’d be a chorus of shushes.” 

Isak rolls his eyes. “And what makes you think I’ll talk to you, exactly?” 

Even shrugs. “I think you like talking period.” 

“Me?” Isak points at himself. “I like talking? Me?” 

“I said what I said.” 

“Oy,” Isak snorts. “I can’t believe you’re talking to me about talking, of all things, how ironic.”

Even’s smile is smug. “I think I hit a nerve.” 

Isak grabs one of the popcorns that they’d bought at the concession stand and throws it at Even. Even laughs quietly. 

“I definitely hit a nerve, then.”

“Shut up, it’s about to start.”

Even obliges, if only because he wants to see exactly how Isak’s going to react to all of this — this is a very important movie to Even, and Isak doesn’t realize just how big of a step it is for him to share the experience of it with someone, doesn’t know how special this really makes him to Even, and he wishes he could understand, that Even could find just the right button to push to turn him on and clue him into exactly what’s happening here.

But he conforms himself with what he has now, so he settles into his own seat, and watches.

“How do they do those things with their bodies?” 

“I don’t think it’s that hard to learn.”

“You obviously don’t watch yourself when you dance, Even.”

“Keep your insults to a minimum, Valtersen.”

“Dude. That guy’s an asshole.” 

“I know, right?”

“How are you gonna be that rich and not pay for her abortion? He’s an asshole.”

“Yep.”

“Fucking dickwad.”

“You tell him, Isak.”

“Shut it.”

“She can’t dance.”

“But that’s the point.”

“I know, but like, she really can’t dance. She reminds me of you.”

Even laughs, flips him the finger.

“Also, her name is Baby, and you’re a baby.” 

Even laughs harder. “Oh, my God.”

“I’m on a roll.” 

“No, you’re really not.”

“I’m scared of walking out of here and never feeling for the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”

Even pauses at the words out of Jennifer Grey’s mouth, breathes out. He glances at Isak, whose brows are furrowed and eyes are glistening against the light of the film, hands clutched at his jeans harshly. Even swallows quietly and turns back to the movie, watches Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey give into their characters’ passion.

Even thinks of the words again. Thinks he knows the feeling. 

“Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” Isak’s brows furrow as he repeats the line back to Even. “Oh my God, is that the thing you texted me last week? When I told you the boys had abandoned me at the coffeeshop?” 

Even grins at him. Isak scoffs.

“Fucking unbelievable,” he mutters. “Is everything a movie reference with you?”

Even’s seen the ending of Dirty Dancing over fifty times, maybe more, what does he know? It’s been a long time. He’s never once wanted to miss it, thinks the experience is a new one each and every time. 

Tonight, however, he thinks he can skip it. His view of Isak’s profile is a far more beautiful experience than the film’s end, the view of him breathtaking, the song of him timeless.

Isak looks taken aback by the ending, almost like he’s not sure why he likes it so much, and Even wants to drink him in for the rest of his life. For a moment, this is all that happens — Even takes in as much of Isak as he can, and Isak takes in as much of the movie as he can, but then there’s a moment where Isak shifts his weight, and catches Even looking at him.

They look at each other for a moment. Isak clears his throat. “What?” he laughs breathily. 

Even’s responding smile is small. “Nothing,” he replies quietly.

Isak’s mouth parts open slightly, then it closes once again, as if he’s unsure what, exactly, he should say next, because there’s something heavy hanging between them, something neither of them thinks they can break easily.

So he continues to look at Even, and Even continues to look at him, and Time Of My Life is playing loudly in the background and there’s something in Even that wants to burst, wants to give in; he hears his mother’s words ringing in his ears, “you cannot put your life on hold because you’re afraid of the unknown”, and they’re sitting so close together in this small space that Even’s fingers brushing Isak’s knuckles doesn’t have to seem deliberate, but he makes it so, anyway. 

He feels Isak’s hand shiver underneath Even’s, but he doesn’t move it from where they touch. Their gazes never waver from each other’s, and when they do, it’s only so that Even’s gaze can travel to Isak’s lips for a moment, only to come back to Isak’s eyes. Isak looks like he doesn’t know what to make of any of this, but he also looks like he’s denying it’s even happening; he looks like maybe in the darkness of this room, they can pretend it’s not for real.

Even exhales, and he can see it touches Isak’s skin, because he shivers.

Isak swallows audibly. “I think the movie’s over,” he tells Even quietly. Their hands are still touching.

“Yeah,” Even continues to look at him. Doesn’t make a move to leave. Isak doesn’t, either.

He thinks he’s going to do it. Even seriously considers leaning in and kissing Isak, letting their lips press against each other, finally find out what he tastes like, but he also knows this is foreign territory to Isak — he doesn’t know, thinks Even doesn’t know, would probably run the second after it happens.

So he brings his hand back, and smiles at Isak.

Isak’s breath is shaky and laced with relief. 

They manage to sneak out of there intact, Isak thanking Mikael one more time when they run into him towards the exit, and once they’re out of the theater and stepping into the night, Isak seems to be willingly keeping his distance. 

Even doesn’t push it. “So you liked it?” he grins brightly over at Isak, who blinks up at him with something akin to surprise. 

“No,” he finally replies, a little cheekily. “It sucked.”

Even scoffs. “You’re such a bad liar,” he laughs, reaching his hand over to push Isak by the shoulder.

Isak laughs with him, a little quieter, but his smile is just as bright. It could light up the entire building they’re walking next to. “I guess it was better than the other movies you’ve made me watch,” he agrees, if a little sulkily. “But don’t let that get to your head.” 

Even grins. “I probably will let it, though.”

“Probably,” Isak sighs, defeated. 

They both reach the tram stop, and Even stops beside Isak at the sign. 

“I’m actually headed back to the theater,” he points behind him. “I promised Mikael I’d wait his shift out with him if he did me this solid.”

Isak looks at him. “You’re going to stay there until he’s off?”

Even nods. 

Isak snorts. “I guess that’s one way to pay him back.” 

“Literally,” Even adds. “Just one way.” 

Isak looks at him, confused. Even laughs at the expression.

Before he can say anything else, the tram comes into view, loudly making its way towards the stop, the screeching of the braking wheels an unpleasant sound in Even’s ears.

“That’s you, then,” Even smiles, ignores the several people making their way out of the tram. “Thanks for coming out tonight. It meant a lot to me.”

Isak looks up at him. Below the city lights, the pink of Isak’s blush looks brighter. “It was just a movie.” 

Even shrugs. “Thanks anyway.” 

Isak continues to look at Even for a while longer, before he gestures lamely towards the tram. “Yeah, I’m gonna—”

Even steps forward and pulls Isak into a hug by the shoulders.

If he can’t do any more than this, then this is what he’s going to do. He’ll take it, he’ll take anything.

Isak stiffens momentarily, long enough so that Even wonders if maybe he should have asked like the last time he hugged Isak, but before he can step back Isak’s arms wrap around his waist. They’re loose, and Even can feel Isak’s hands shaking against his jacket, but it’s a hug, and the contact feels like a million finished movies and an infinite amount of stars welcoming him home.

His nose nuzzles Isak’s hair for a moment. He exhales shakily into it.

Isak’s own exhale is shaky, too.

After a moment, Even finally summons enough strength to pull back, and Isak looks like he’s conflicted, whether on what to do or what to say, Even doesn’t know — but he doesn’t give himself the chance to find out. Instead, he punches Isak’s shoulder lightly, offers him a crooked smile. 

“‘Till Monday, Isak,” he calls out as he begins walking backwards, hands now in his coat pockets. “Don’t you forget about me.”

Isak says nothing in return. Just looks at him for a beat longer, coughs, and scurries onto the tram. 

Even’s heart is louder than it’s ever been before.

Quiet, Even tells it. You’ve got nothing to sing for yet.

MANDAG 11.03

Even.” 

Even’s broken out of his stupor by Eva’s snapping fingers before him, and her demanding hiss. He blinks, turns to look at her, and her expression is both annoyed and amused, like she’d been expecting this kind of behavior from Even in class a long time ago.

“Hi,” Even grins lazily at her. “Sorry, I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“Hmm,” Eva tilts her head. “I know the feeling.”

Even purses his lips, pencil rhythmically tapping the notebook paper before him. He thinks they’re supposed to be working on a writing assignment together at the moment, but Saturday keeps replaying in his head the same way it did Sunday, and he can’t get over it, he can’t, can’t get over the feeling that overtook every single part of his being and demanded a chance with Isak.

He looks at Eva, who looks expecting. “Eva,” he starts.

Eva sighs. “Yes?”

“You used to date Jonas, right?”

Eva furrows her brows, obviously not expecting this to be the topic of their conversation. “Yeah,” she replies carefully. “Why?”

“How did you know—“ he pauses, whether to gather courage or coherent thoughts, he doesn’t know. “How did you know it was time to break up with him and move on?”

Eva considers him for a moment. “Well,” she closes her textbook. “This took a turn.”

“I’m sorry,” Even squirms in his seat. “We don’t have to—”

“You’ve already gotten me started,” Eva teases. “Let me finish, at least.”

Even thanks her with a smile. 

“I think it was just — time,” Eva looks at the ceiling, considering. “I think that’s mostly what it was. Just time to break up.”

“You didn’t love him anymore?”

“Oh, no, I think I did,” Eva looks at Even. “I was still in love with him, if even the slightest. We literally had sex the same day we broke up,” she smirks. “You could say there were lingering feelings.”

“So then…” Even raises an eyebrow.

“So then a lot of shit came up,” Eva explains. “Mainly trust issues. A lot of them. From both sides,” she says. “Not just one. And then there was the fact that I—” she hums. “I could blame anyone I wanted for it, but this was also a little bit my fault, because I’d started feeling more for someone else.”

“Oh,” Even says, quiet and intelligently. 

“Jonas was safe, you know? And he was comfortable. But after Vilde—“ Eva laughs quietly. “She was a completely surreal experience. I’d never been faced with another human being like her and it was — I don’t know, it was kind of fascinating, and she was beautiful, so we were friends and then I just kinda—” she shrugs. “Fell into it.”

“While you were with Jonas?”

“Yeah,” Eva bites the inside of her cheek. “But I don’t think I really knew it. I mean, I knew it enough to make it simple for me: Vilde made me think about who I was and what I wanted. Jonas — I could never keep up with him,” she admits. “He was so smart and I’m not saying I’m dumb, or whatever, but he needed someone who could challenge him and I,” Eva snorts. “I wasn’t it, trust me.”

“So this all played into your decision?” Even asks.

“Yep,” Eva nods once. “It was either taking a chance or knowing I could play it safe — that we both could, because I know Jonas would keep me around if I hadn’t done anything, and that’s why I think what’s best for him now is finding someone who can challenge him and take him for all he’s worth,” Eva smiles crookedly. “And I obviously decided to take a chance. Haven’t looked back since.”

Even thinks about this. “Do you miss him?”

Eva smiles sadly. “I miss his friendship,” she admits. “We were good friends. But do I miss anything other than that?” She shakes her head. “I know for a fact I would be miserable if I’d stayed with him. And he would be, too.”

Even thinks about the tension between him and Sonja, boiling up since before Isak. He thinks about the way their tense moments by far outweigh their happy moments nowadays, and he wonders if all this time he’d been thinking more about his own misery and not paying close attention to hers, as well.

Eva bumps Even’s shoulder with her own. He blinks over at her, smiles when she smiles.

“Whatever it is you’re thinking of doing,” Eva says quietly. “Just remember that no opinion is worth more than yours, and nothing is more important than your happiness.” She nods at him, and Even laughs.

“Thanks, Frankenstein,” he bumps his shoulder against hers in gratitude. Eva beams at him.

“Anytime,” she tells him sincerely. “Now,” she opens her textbook once again. “Can you please pay attention? I am not gonna come last to those idiots over there,” she points at a group of guys goofing off at the other end of the room. “I’ve been doing so well with grades this semester I refuse to let you fuck with them.” 

Even laughs brightly. “Whatever you say, Eva.” He opens his own textbook, puts every other thought aside that might be fighting to make its way to the forefront aside.

For now.

MANDAG 12.52 

Thought about you this weekend. I was out of town visiting my grandmother for the entirety of it and she told me about a boy she used to love before my grandfather. Guess what he works as now? A vet.

— 

MANDAG 13.14

Are you comparing me to an old man who couldn’t get with your grandma? Harsh.

MANDAG 14.31 

No, Isak. I think I’m comparing you to the man my grandmother couldn’t get to love her back.

— 

TIRSDAG 17.02

Even’s thoughts have been swimming around the pool of Eva’s words, and then they dip their toes into his mother’s: at this point, Even is absolutely sure of what he wants. The question now is whether or not he’ll be brave enough to take the leap he needs to stop playing it safe.

His head hit the pillow two hours ago and hasn’t left it since, eyes glued to the ceiling and thoughts racing endlessly. Once in a while they’ll take a break and Even will be able to think of things he’s all too happy to think about — the way Isak’s eyes light up when he talks about science, or the way his lips purse when he’s nervous, or the way his smile takes over the entirety of his face — and then he’s right back to where he’s started, doubting himself and every step he wants to take.

He doesn’t love Sonja. No, that’s not true — he does love Sonja, but he doesn’t love her enough. He doesn’t love her the way he used to love her, and he doesn’t love her the way he thinks he can love Isak. They’re so different, but Even thinks that’s not the reason why Isak brings about so many foreign feelings inside him; he thinks it’s not about the differences, it shouldn’t be, Isak doesn’t deserve to be compared to someone else.

Isak is an entity all of his own in Even’s head. He’s neither an if, or an and, or a but. He just is.

Even doesn’t know where or when he lost Sonja. She had a grip on him, for a very long time, but he’s not sure when she let go, at what point Even let her.

All he knows is that what he wants has never been clearer to him. And it’s in the form of a boy whose eyes are as green as a spring field and whose heart is much bigger than he lets on.

He thinks of Isak’s words to his alter ego — how he makes sure Even doesn’t feel ugly, how he knows virtually very little about his real struggles and yet makes them sound so simple, so trivial. He thinks of Isak’s innocence when it comes to many subjects they discuss, but his wisdom in unexpected places, and he thinks that Isak is a mystery he’s slowly unraveling — a movie’s plot twist he’s slowly spoiling himself for.

Even thinks he’s catching up to him. There’s just that loose end not quite tied up yet.

He finally sits up on his bed and Baz does not move an inch, not even when Even pulls his feet out from underneath the dog’s head and moves them to the floor. He stands with some effort and makes his way to his desk, opening the drawer and pulling out the notebook he’s been avoiding altogether for a while.

Even flips the pages until he finds that unfinished drawing of Isak, eyes not quite filled in (Even just can’t find the right expression), hair nothing but an outline, lips all wrong.

He bites his bottom lip, the thought a lingering one. With a deep exhale, he grabs his eraser from the other end of the table and brings it to Isak’s lips, erasing the pencil marks that shaped them carefully. He dusts off the remnants of the eraser, sets it aside and grabs his pencil one more time.

Even thinks he can finally get his lips right. He’s been staring at them for so long and he’s been craving them for so long that it’d be more of a shock if he couldn’t get them right. He draws them carefully, the way he thinks he’d handle kissing them: softly, but confidently; exploring the shape, but coming back to them again and again until he’s sure he’s explored every single inch of them. 

After about half an hour of this, simply drawing Isak’s lips, Even drops his pencil and leans back. He looks at the finished product, and thinks that, yes. Yes, this is his truth. His truth is the fact that he can remember Isak’s every feature as if he were standing right in front of Even, but he can’t remember the last time he looked at Sonja long enough to memorize her.

His truth is that he’s going to see this drawing to its completion, whether it takes a couple of more days, or a couple of more weeks, or a couple of more months. His truth is that he knows he’s going to keep coming back to it. His truth is Isak, and Isak is his truth, and Even thinks it’s about time he stops hiding from it because he’s afraid. 

He has lived his entire life afraid, these past couple of years, especially, and he’s tired of it.

Even knows he needs to break up with Sonja. He knows he decided this long before this moment, but today is the only day he’s let himself think the words in absolute. He’s going to break up with Sonja, tomorrow, at the latest, and he’s going to keep finding his truth in Isak. 

Until, maybe, Isak will find his truth in Even, too.

Chapter Text

ONSDAG 16.15

It feels a little bit funny, and a lot like setting himself up for failure, as Isak’s heart starts beating faster when he glances down at his phone. Even’s only fifteen minutes late, which isn’t a big deal at all, but Isak had mentioned his Bio project, and Even had mentioned that he has an eye for art, and Isak had mentioned he might be working on it at KB after school that day, and Even had texted back with a smiley face emoji, and so he should be here, right?

Isak’s tapping his foot in line, and he’s let five people go ahead of him already. This is so fucking dumb, how he has all these expectations riding on a boy who he’s only known for the past month. It had taken him a full six to realize that Jonas was his best friend, and not just the kid who he always ended up with on the monkey bars by accident.

His phone weighs down his pocket, and he’d had to force himself to put it there so he wouldn’t check the time every two seconds. That wouldn’t make Even show up. Isak’s not quite sure what’s been making Even show up, honestly, what makes him want to spend time with Isak like he’s interesting, like he’s worth Even’s attention. Maybe Even’s just so nice that he’s taken Isak on as a pity case. It would make sense--Even shines so bright he could make everyone feel like they matter, and that’s messing with Isak’s head. He’d get out if he were smart.

Then, Even slips through the glass doors, and Isak breathes out a sigh of relief that releases every knot of tension in his body. He’s not that smart, not that brave, especially when it comes to protecting himself. Even pauses by the door to type something on his phone, and Isak’s phone pings with a text notification almost immediately. Even’s just sent him a long string of exclamation marks.

He rolls his eyes, but that only makes Even’s grin grow wider as he navigates past the tables over to where Isak is standing.

Isak holds up his phone. “You couldn’t have waited two seconds to talk to me?”

“Didn’t think you’d let me verbally tell you how excited I am to see you. That’s what the exclamation marks are for, just to clarify. Not just because I’m excited for my chai latte, but that’s a nice perk.”

“You’re excited to watch me me make a model of a cell?”

“I’ll do one better. I’ll help you.” He pulls a pencil from behind his ear in one smooth move, and Isak swears the remaining sunlight through the windows catches on Even’s smile. It should be obnoxious by now, how the world revolves around Even, cradles him like he’s the best creation it’s had the honor of making. Isak still can’t get enough. “Besides, I know that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. I’m perfectly qualified to help.”

Isak pulls his backpack straps tighter around his body. “I’m sure you have your own homework to do.”

“I’m trying to expand my horizons. I could write this 1000-word essay on the use of metaphor in Dracula, but all of life is a metaphor. Experiential learning, you know? I’d much rather be learning about…” Even takes a peek at Isak’s project assignment sheet. “The difference between the smooth and rough endoplasmic reticulum.” Even makes a face. “That sounds like a horrible disease. You sure you don’t want to skip this and hang out with Baz instead? He wants you. I hear his sad little barks everywhere I go.”

“I don’t think Baz would be offended that I’m choosing school over him for one day.”

Even clutches a hand to his chest. “But I’m offended.”

They arrive at the front of the line then, and Julian’s there waiting to ring his order. He smiles brightly at Isak, and it’s all Isak can do to not duck behind his textbook.

“Hey, Isak, how was school today?” Julian beams at him, without giving a care to the five people standing in line behind him. The girl directly behind them raises her eyebrows, but he just shoos her over to the next cash register. Julian places his chin in his hands, stares at Isak through his eyelashes. “I tried to catch you after Norwegian, but you ran out of there pretty fast.”

“He was meeting me,” Even cuts in. Isak sneaks a glance at him out of the corner of his eye. His jaw is clenched almost imperceptibly, so subtly that anyone who didn’t know him well wouldn’t catch it at all. He looks at Julian up and down like he’s gearing up for a fight.

Even had texted him during the morning to pretty please meet him in the yard during lunch it’s an emergency. He’d expected imminent destruction, and he’d ran out of Norwegian as quickly as his legs could carry him, lungs bursting in his chest, only for Even to calmly hand him a crushed piece of notebook paper with a blue pawprint stamped on it.

“We were painting with my parents, and Baz wanted to send his love,” Even had said. He tapped Isak’s red nose, which was running from the physical exertion and the cold. “You should come to the gym with me sometime, do some cardio. Build up that endurance.”

 “This was your emergency?” Isak had said. He tried to keep the frown fixed firmly on his face, but it wasn’t long before the laughter started bubbling over. He blamed the adrenaline. He blamed Even’s growing grin as Isak clutched the paper to his chest, like he would imprint it on his heart if he could.

“Giving you the love you deserve is always an emergency. Baz is pretty impatient, you know.”

Isak had blushed and ducked his head, because he only had one default setting when Even caught him off guard with the simplest of gestures. There’s nothing to the affection Even hands out to everyone he meets, and it’s easy for him to open up his heart. Isak’s just another function of the rule, not an exception.

Now, Isak has to shake himself out of the memory as Julian narrows his eyes at Even. “You again?”

“Yep, it’s me. Here to buy my coffee. Which, according to your apron, seems to be something you should be helping me with.”

“Of course.” Julian’s grin turns wicked, and he asks, “Isak, your usual, right?” Julian says, winking. He makes no move to ask Even his order, doesn’t even spare him a glance even when Even coughs so loudly that he startles the couple in the next line.

“I’d like a chai latte,” Even says.

Julian doesn’t look up from where he’s writing Isak’s order on a cup. “It’s on the house. You have that big Biology project coming up, right? My friend Sara is in that class. She says you’re doing really well.” Julian flashes him a smile as he passes off the cup to another barista, who rolls his eyes at their entire exchange. Isak thinks he catches him flipping off Julian beneath the counter.

Julian continues, “You’re so smart. I don’t know anything about science at all. Maybe you could teach me sometime.”

Even coughs again, but the only indication that Julian’s heard him is a slight pursing of his lips.

Isak ducks his head. “I, uh, don’t really know that much. I just work hard.”

Even tells him, “That’s not true,” as Julian says, “You’re just being humble,” and they both end up glaring at each other. Isak sighs. At least Julian’s acknowledging Even again. He’d probably have to before cutting him to pieces, and judging from the determination in both their eyes, this is the way this conversation’s headed. If Even’s so determined not to let Isak spill his coffee again, he should probably nix his plan to commit murder right in front of Isak’s eyes.

Julian’s distracted from their pissing contest when the other barista returns with Isak’s coffee. Julian hands it to Isak, beaming. “I told him to add extra whipped cream just for you.”

“We’re running out, you asshole,” the barista calls from where he’s making someone else’s order.

“Oh, fuck off,” Julian calls back. Isak wonders what kind of customer service they’ve been learning, or if dealing with harried businessmen and faux-hipster college kids have drained all of that out of them.

Isak takes a tentative sip of the coffee. It’s fine--he’s never treated coffee like a religious experience, but Julian’s stare is expectant, and he’s obviously expecting a better reaction than the blank face Isak gives him. His disappointment tugs at something in Isak’s chest, but all he can muster is a mumbled, “Thanks.”

Julian’s eyes land on Isak’s lips, and Isak suddenly finds it hard to breathe. It’s all he can do not to glance over and check Even’s reaction. The corner of Julian’s mouth quirks upward. “You have whipped cream on your lips.”

“Oh, uh.”

Julian reaches out a hand to brush it off before Isak can process what’s going on, but Even’s faster. “Let me,” he says.

He’s spinning Isak around to wipe it off himself before Isak can protest, and even though Even’s thumb brushes his skin for only a second, his warmth lingers much longer than that. Isak doesn’t know how long they stay like that, Even cradling Isak’s chin in his hands, eyes on Isak’s lips. If forever could fit into a minute, if a minute could stretch into forever, it would be this one. Even’s close enough to catalog every one of Isak’s shuddering breaths. Isak’s well aware that Even can feel how his muscles have tensed with the effort to stay on his feet. Maybe it’s Isak’s dumb heart whispering lies again, but he doesn’t think Even would care if he fell.

And maybe he already had.

“You did it. Isak’s mouth is officially whipped-cream free,” Julian deadpans from the counter. Isak jerks away, furiously rubbing at his mouth. Next to him, Even only runs a hand through his hair, like nothing happened at all. It irritates Isak suddenly. This is so fucking unfair. He’s had enough of his brain playing tricks on him.

Isak shoves his coffee at Even. “Here, you can have some of mine. Let’s just go. There are other people waiting.”

Even takes a sip of his coffee. “Hm, needs more creamer. Julian,” Even bites out his name like it’s physically hurting him to say it, “you won’t mind me grabbing some more?”

Even doesn’t wait for an answer before grabbing the creamer packets from their basket and methodically placing them in his jacket pockets one by one. Julian can only gape as Even makes quirk work of the entirely full basket, until it’s empty. His smirk is entirely too smug. “Looks like you’re out. Oops. Maybe you should get some more.”

Isak tugs Even away from the counter before Julian can leap over it and strangle him, and he shoves Even into a seat at the table furthest away from the counter. Back at the counter, Julian’s coming up with a hurried explanation for his manager, and Isak sighs.

“Why did you do that?” he asks.

Even shrugs, the perfect picture of innocence. “I just like milk in my coffee.”

“That’s the exact same thing you did to me when we first met.”

Even furrows his eyebrows. “What?”

“You know, with the coffee sleeves?”

It takes a minute for Even to register his words, but Isak can see the moment when it dawns in Even’s eyes, and then his shoulders are shaking with the effort to suppress his giggles. Isak frowns. There’s nothing funny about this. Even is always a step ahead of him. No matter how friendly they’ve become, Even will always be that mysterious, unattainable boy he’d first met.

Isak wonders if there’s enough liquid in that coffee cup to drown him, whether he can bend the laws of physics to make that possible.

“That’s not the same thing at all,” Even asserts. He’s peering at Isak intently now. When Isak doesn’t respond, Even bites his lip. “You know that, right?” he says, slowly.

Isak throws his hands in the air. “No, I don’t. I don’t get you at all. You keep telling me that you never hated me, but here you are, in the same situation. How many packets of creamer did you steal again?”

Even shakes his head. “The difference is that you’re my friend, and Julian’s not. Besides, I didn’t steal them. They were there for anyone to take.”

“Why don’t you like Julian?” Isak asks.

Even snorts. “I didn’t think you liked him either.”

Isak glances back at Julian, who catches his eye and waves back enthusiastically. He’d worn glitter eyeshadow to school today--the kind Eskild wears when he goes clubbing--and Isak had heard the whispers in the hallway from Elias’s friends. He’d ignored them then. If it doesn’t apply to him, it’s not his problem.

It hits Isak suddenly, like a train that he’d managed to dodge with every moment he’d spent with Even, every moment that had lulled him into feeling safe around the guy. His hands grow clammy, and the weight on his chest forces the air out of his lungs. “Is it because of the rumors?” he says softly, quickly, so fast that Even could’ve missed it. Almost wishes Even had missed it.

Even raises his eyebrows. “What rumors? You know I don’t pay attention to that stuff.”

Isak traces circles on the table, pressing the pads of his fingers against the wood so hard that they almost hurt. “You know, the rumors that he’s…” Isak makes an aborted sound in his throat, and it’s almost painful to speak past the lump in his throat. “Gay.”

This shocks Even into perfect stillness. Maybe Even can stand up for gay people, but he won’t ever be entirely comfortable around them. He wouldn’t be the only one. And isn’t that what Isak is most afraid of? The ones who’ll claim to fight for him even when they’ll never see him as entirely normal.

Even has been silent for so long that Isak is quickly realizing his own mistake. He’d given too much of himself away. “Not that I, you know, care. I was just wondering. My roommate’s gay, and he’s great.”

Even’s calm voice is laced with an undercurrent of tension as he says, “Do you think that’s what this is?”

“I don’t know.”

Even doesn’t respond, and it makes Isak so nervous that he can’t help but chance a peek. As soon as Isak catches Even’s eye, he’s stuck, and his breath lodges in his throat. There’s no mistaking the glint in Even’s eye. This matters to Even, though God knows why.

“Do you really think that I don’t like Julian because he’s gay?”

Isak thinks back to the way Even had casually confronted Elias at that party like it took no effort at all, like it didn’t flip Isak’s entire world upside down. Isak thinks back to Even’s easy acceptance of his boundaries, how he doesn’t push Isak but somehow challenges those clear-cut lines every day. He thinks about the past few weeks, how his heart has started to flutter every time his phone buzzes with a text from Even, and if Isak squints in just the right lighting, he can trick himself into believing he’s not the only one inflicted with those traitorous butterflies.

He sighs, expelling the tension from his body. The fact of the matter is, he trusts Even, more than he lets on, probably more than he should. Even has Isak’s entire world cradled in the palm of his hand, could shatter it with a clench of his fist. It’s lucky then, that Isak’s determined now to never make Even feel like any moment with Isak is a fight. Even deserves the ease of the world at his feet, even if Isak isn’t ready to give himself that same gift.

“No, I don’t really think that,” Isak says. “You’re better than that.”

The pure brightness in Even’s face makes it worth it. “Thanks,” he says.

Isak furrows his eyebrows. “What did I do?”

“Nothing,” Even says, but the way he’s grinning like a loon definitely hints at something. “Nothing at all.”

Even grabs a box of colored pencils and a packet of pipe cleaners out of his backpack then. Shit, he’d come prepared, and Isak had barely remembered to grab the white posterboard that his teacher had specifically laid out for their project at the end of class. It’s already bent at the corner, and there are smudges of dirt everywhere just from the trip between Nissen and here. Even tsk’s when he eyes the damage.

“I thought you cared about your Biology grade,” he says.

“It’s looking like you care more about my Biology grade than I do. What’s up with all the supplies? I only told you, like, two hours ago.”

Even hands his a marker to Isak and takes a marker for himself. Isak starts drawing the outline, and Even follows behind him, filling the nucleus with color. “You never know when the inspiration’s going to strike you. Art isn’t for the weak.” He throws the pipe cleaners at Isak. “Here, you know what ER looks like. We’re making this shit 3-D.”

“You really don’t have to help, you know,” Isak says.

Even snorts. “And watch you try to do this on your own? Trust me, I’m doing myself a favor.”

They’re putting the final touches on his foam nucleus when it strikes Isak again. “So why don’t you like Julian?” he says.

Even freezes where he’s painting the nucleus dark green, but it only takes him a moment to recover. He chuckles as he looks over at Isak. “You really haven’t figured it out?”

“Figured what out?”

Even taps his nose, leaving a smudge of green paint there. “Hey!” Isak protests. He hurries to wipe it off, but it only makes the mess more obvious. The irritation builds in his gut, but it deflates as soon as he catches the soft smile on Even’s lips. He’s weak, really.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get it one day,” Even says. “I’ll make sure you do.”

~~

ONSDAG 17.15 

~~

ONSDAG 18.10 

~~

TORSDAG 12.10

He grips his phone tight in his hand, hard enough for his knuckles to turn white. It shouldn’t even affect him, not now that he’s spent so much time away from his mother, now that he can forget how she’d used to look at him like she was looking at a ghost. His dad has no fucking right. He’d left Isak to handle her himself, and he’s only seventeen, goddammit--can anyone blame him for not being able to handle that weight on his shoulders?

(The answer is yes, because there’s a part of Isak that still blames himself for fucking off the way his dad had. What gives him the moral high ground when he’s built from the same mold?)

He stares at Sana, who’s bent over her the Biology homework that they’re meant to be working on together. They’re getting a head start at lunch that day--it isn’t due until the rest of the week, but from the way Sana’s concentrating, it may as well be due in the next hour. Her lips are pressed together as she reads over Isak’s answers, and every few minutes, she lets out a disbelieving snort as she crosses out Isak’s answer. They’re going to have words, but right now, Isak doesn’t have the energy for that fight.

“The answer to this question is transmembrane proteins, not integral proteins. And you totally forgot about peripheral proteins--did you read this chapter at all?” she mumbles.

“I had a busy week.”

“I did too, but I’m glad one of us takes this class seriously,” she huffs. She erases his answer and replaces it with her own. Normally, Isak would be Googling the answers to prove her wrong, but he only sighs.

Sana and his mother aren’t the same person--probably wouldn’t even be able to stand being in the same room. Isak and Sana are almost friends now. Weeks of shitting on the guys sitting in the back who’d laughed through their entire seual reproduction unit, of trying to find a way not to awkwardly stare at their teacher’s boobs can do that to the worst of enemies. As much as they’ll argue, there’s no bite behind either of their words anymore. Sana has nothing in common with his mom, except.

“You’re staring at me. Spit it out,” Sana says as rolls his eyes at another one of his answers.

“Do you believe in sin?” he blurts.

Sana raises her head slowly. “Yes,” she says, her voice brittle, “but obviously, you don’t. And obviously, you’re right, because you always are.”

“I don’t understand how you can believe that there’s a right and a wrong in every situation, and if you’re wrong, you’re condemned to an eternity in Hell. Isn’t that a little harsh?”

Sana’s glare could cut glass. “Why are you asking? Have you sinned recently?”

That’s a question Isak doesn’t have the answer to. It’s a simple yes or no, and he could easily go with the latter. There’s nothing transpiring between them, and he’s making all of it up in his head. But there’s the feel of Even’s hands on his, his warm breath over his face, close enough for Isak to bridge the gap with one wrong--or right--move. It must be a sin, if he craves it this much.

Isak shakes his head vigorously. “I don’t see why you should be punished forever for cheating on your wife, or being gay, or whatever.” His voice trails off, and he suddenly wants to take back his words. Sana’s answering stare is all too knowing, too piercing, and Isak can’t hide from it.

“Hi, Isak, Sana.” Even bounds up to them from the next table over, clutching a cheese toastie on a plate in his hand. “For you,” Even says, passing it to Isak. “To make up for the other day. Though, I gotta say, this is shit compared to what I can do on my A-game.”

Isak snorts. “I should start carrying a lie detector with me when I’m with you, but I think you actually believe that you’re genuinely that cool.”

“Nothing wrong with believing the truth.”

“Is that what you tell yourself before you go to bed at night? Is that how you can get up and sing to fucking Carly Rae Jepsen without hating yourself?”

Even holds up his hands. “Hey, attack me all you want, but leave my girl Carly out of it.”

Between them, Sana coughs into her fist. Isak blushes and schools his face back into impassiveness, but Even doesn’t bother, and Isak squirms under his gaze. He’s looking at Isak like he doesn’t have to hide a thing, and Isak would hate him for it if he could, if he had the capacity to hate Even for anything at all.

“Anyway, I actually have to go call Mikael. He’s going through a personal crisis. I think a girl insulted his hair, and he’s being a dramatic asshole about it.”

“Makes sense that you’re friends then.”

Even gasps. “What are you implying, Valtersen?”

Isak shrugs. “I think you know.”

Even pulls his snapback over his face, until it’s over his eyes. “See you later, you little shit.”

“Why are you like this?” Isak calls out at when Even begins walking backwards away from him.

When he turns back to Sana, her eyebrows are raised so high they almost disappear into her hijab. “What?” he snaps.

Sana smirks. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile for that many consecutive minutes. Good for you. Even’s cool.”

At this point, Isak’s not even surprised. Sana’s approval takes time and effort, and it’s no wonder Even’s managed to get it.

“And about what we were talking about earlier, Islam preaches love, Isak. And if anyone’s been trying to tell you otherwise, they don’t understand what religion is really about, okay?”

~~

TORSDAG 12.30

Do you ever wonder if being gay is really wrong? I hate unloading all of this on you, but you’re the only one I know who may actually understand. Except for my roommate, but I can’t go to him. He’d just be smug about this whole thing. Did you know we met at a gay bar? I know what you’re thinking--not like that--but he’d be so happy to be proven right, and he’d want to give me advice. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet.

That’s one of the things I resent the most about my parents, actually. I barely talk to them anymore, but I think I’m hardwired to care about what they think. I don’t think I believe in sin anymore. I don’t think I even believe in God anymore. But I believe--no, I know--that my mom wouldn’t look at me the same if she knew.

I’m sorry, it’s after lunch, and you probably just wanted to hear about the bomb ass sandwich I just ate, but I’m so tired of being scared of myself.

~~

TORSDAG 13.04

I am so sorry you ever had to hear this homophobic bullshit, especially from people who are supposed to love you unconditionally. You deserve better than that. I’m sorry you’ve ever been made to feel this way at all, because there’s so much love inside you that it kills me to see you bottling it up. I know you may not believe in God, but I think that if He existed, He wouldn’t give a shit if you decided to live your life without worrying what everyone else thought. I like to think that God is a pretty chill dude (or lady), to be honest. There’s enough genuine evil in the world for Him to worry about. There is nothing about you that could be wrong, Isak Valtersen.

(Unless you were into Donald Trump. Then I’d judge you a little bit.)

Look, I’ve drawn you happy Isak again! Because you need to be reminded that’s possible. Look at how he glows!

~~

TORSDAG 14.15

Thank you. Weirdly enough, that helped a little bit. I can’t talk about this with any of my other friends, but at least I have you.

~~

TORSDAG 14.50

Glad to be of service.

~~

TORSDAG 16.05

Isak hadn’t meant for them to end up at his place, but there hadn’t been a single empty table at KB, and when Even had suggested they go back to Isak’s, he’d instinctively said yes.

He’s regretting it now a little, as Even circles his room, appraising every detail. His eyes linger on the picture of the girl hanging above his bed, and Isak blushes. That’s not me, he wants to say, but that’s flirting with danger, and Isak’s already risking enough by letting Even into his space, inviting him to share these parts of Isak that he’s all too willing to give him.

“It’s very you,” Even finally declares as he sets his backpack down.

Isak snorts as he kicks his pile of laundry out of the way. His hamper is overflowing, and the last time Eskild had stepped into his room, he’d taken one deep sniff and walked right back out. Isak had made Even wait in the hallway while he sprayed down his room, and now it smells like springtime. He could thank Eskild for the air freshener, but that feels like surrender.

“Messy and gross?” he says.

“Lived-in. Comfortable.”

“That’s definitely not what Eskild says.”

“Eskild doesn’t know you like I do.”

He’s not sure anyone knows him like Even does at this point, or at least in quite the same way. He curses his past self for being too stubborn to suck it up and ask his dad for enough money to buy a table, because there’s no place to sit but his bed. If there’s a part of him that thought he could get anything done like this, with Even’s shoulder pressed against his on his fucking bed, where he sleeps, where he’s watched countless porn--among other things--then he was so wrong.

He can feel Even’s every breath as he bends over his laptop. He’s editing a video, but when Isak had tried to peek over his shoulder, he’d shoved Isak’s head back and waggled his finger at him. “Nope, it’s not ready yet.”

“But I wanna see.”

“Let me do my art in peace. You science types will never understand,” he scoffs.

Even’s tongue is poking out of the corner of his mouth, and Isak can’t help but stare. He wonders if Even is feeling this too. But he’s probably sat in thousands of other beds like this, sprawled out with his legs nearly falling over the edge, looking so at home that Isak wants to keep him here forever.

The next time Even takes a break from the video to stretch, Isak is so frustrated with the tension that he throws his flashcards at Even. “Here, help me study.”

Even eyes the stack of no less than 100 flashcards. “Are you sure you’ve prepared thoroughly enough? We may be a couple of flashcards short.”

Isak hits him with a pillow. “Oh my God, dude, just ask me a question.”

Even wipes an imaginary tear out of the corner of his eye. “I can’t believe that the great Isak Valtersen, who’s pulling a 5+ in Biology--”

“A six,” Isak corrects.

“...Is letting me help him study,” Even finishes. “I’ve never felt so honored. This is better than the time my Great-Aunt Astrid caught me smoking and wanted to take a hit. If you’ve never seen a seventy-year-old lady high off her ass, you’re missing out.”

“If you don’t start right now, I’m taking it back.” Isak crosses his arms over his chest, but he’s betrayed by the smile threatening to split his face in half.

Even’s grin matches his own as he reads, “What’s the carbohydrate-containing layer at the surface of the plasma membrane?”

“The glycocalyx.”

Even doesn’t even turn over the card before he says, “Correct.”

“What? You didn’t even look at the right answer.”

“Do you think that’s the right answer?”

“Well, yes,” Isak says carefully.

“Then I figure you’re right anyway.”

“Holy shit, that’s not how it works,” Isak says, but he’s having a hard time saying much of anything through a fit of laughter. Even is so ridiculous, and Isak--Isak doesn’t know why he’s feeling like this, honestly, why he has these butterflies in his stomach for this particular boy, when he’s so fucking weird.

“You’re the one pulling a six in Biology. I thought trusting you would be a safer bet than trusting my own mortal eyes to read this answer correctly.”

He hits Even with his blue pillow, but Even only grabs his other one and whacks Isak back with all he’s got. Isak gets another few good hits in--he’s pretty sure Even literally gets a taste of pillow at one point--before they both fall on their backs on the bed, smiling almost too wide for their faces to contain. Isak’s clutching his stomach with the effort to hold back his giggles, but it’s not working all that well. His only consolation is that Even doesn’t seem to be doing much better.

“Your test is Wednesday, right?” Even finally says when he’s regained some semblance of control.

“Yeah.”

“Then you don’t really have to be studying now, right?”

“Are you tempting me to the wild side?”

Even grabs the first flashcard from the stack and checks the back. “I think the correct answer is yes.”

They end up ordering pizza and playing FIFA in Isak’s room for the rest of the day. Even insists on ordering pineapple pizza, and even though Isak puts up a good fight--seriously, why would you put fruit on a pizza, that shit’s just gross--Even ends up getting his way. Isak’s not the slightest bit surprised, and he thinks having to miserably pick off pineapple pieces may be worth it if he gets to hear Even ramble about the history of pineapple pizza, how innovative it is.

He’s still laughing at some dumb joke Even made when it comes time for him to leave. It’s just his luck that Eskild catches them right before Even makes it out the door. Isak forces his smile down, and he can’t help feeling like he’s been caught somehow, like Eskild’s intrusion had burst a bubble. He has no right, but he can’t help resenting Eskild for it.

Even, of course, takes it all in stride. He holds out a hand for Eskild to shake. “Hi, I’m Even. Isak’s friend.”

Eskild takes his hand. “I’m Eskild. Isak’s roommate.” Eskild turns to Isak. “Where have you been hiding him?” he says gleefully.

“He’s been keeping me prisoner in his underground dungeon,” Even replies easily.

“Sounds kinky.”

Even reaches over to ruffle Isak’s hair. “Isak has a lot of hidden layers. You’d be surprised.”

“I hate both of you,” Isak mumbles.

Even really does have to go meet his mom, and as soon as he shuts the door behind him, Eskild says carefully, “He seems nice.”

Isak only shrugs in response.

~~

FREDAG 9.10

I don’t think I know how to be brave. I’ve been telling myself for so long that I couldn’t have what I wanted that I don’t know how to go after the things I want anymore. Does that even make sense? I sound so pathetic. Sorry I’ve been such a downer lately. I’ve been thinking through a lot of stuff.

You were brave, though, when you sent me that first note. You didn’t even know who I was. Sometimes, I wish I could be more like you, and I don’t even know you.

~~

FREDAG 10.15

It’s flattering that you thought that was brave. Honestly, I just couldn’t stand seeing you at school without talking to you anymore. It was a release of pent-up frustration if anything. Not exactly brave, not when I’m talking to you anonymously like this, instead of telling you who I really am.

And you don’t think you’re brave? Fuck that. You’ve been so brave these past few weeks, just through these notes, and I am so incredibly proud of you for opening up to someone, even if it’s just little old me.

(P.S. Is this about Mr. Darcy? Because from what I can tell, my only advice to you is GO FOR IT. What do you have to lose?)

~~

FREDAG 12.15

He may hate me forever?

~~

FREDAG 13.01

I highly doubt that would happen. I can’t think of a single person in this entire universe who wouldn’t want you in their life.

~~

FREDAG 21.30

“Dude, I still can’t believe that you’re friends with Even Bech Naesheim,” Magnus says, “He’s a total legend.”

“You don’t even know him,” Isak bites out as he takes another swig of his beer. With Magnus talking, the best strategy is always to get as drunk as possible, as quickly as possible, and Isak’s getting there already. His head is foggy, and the last time he’d stood up to grab a glass from the cabinet, he’d nearly toppled over into Mahdi’s lap. Mahdi had been surprisingly cool about it, but that may have something to do with the vodka shots he’d poured into his beer on Jonas’s dare. His eyes are unfocused enough that Isak would be surprised if he’d even noticed.

“I heard he once hooked up with five girls at a party. Third-year girls, when he was a first-year. Man, I wish I had that much game,” Magnus says. Isak’s stomach twists. He knows that there may be nothing to these rumors. He’d even mentioned the one about Even running an underground fight club, and Even had only laughed, because seriously, Nissen must be thirsting for gossip if that’s the material they’re coming up with. But Isak can’t help but think about Even’s lips attached to a girl’s, his hand trailing her curve of her waist, bunching her shirt up so he can touch her skin--

And suddenly, it’s not a girl at all, but Isak. Even has his fingers curled into Isak’s hair, kisses him with the intensity he fixes on Isak, when he thinks Isak isn’t looking back. Isak can imagine it on his lips, the taste of beer on Even’s mouth, his other hand planted firmly on Isak’s hips to pull him closer, so close that they meld into one.

He gulps, and takes another sip of the beer to drown it out. Five girls isn’t the same thing as one pathetic boy with an overactive imagination. Alcohol is a beautiful fucking substance, because none of the guys notice the blush that he’s trying to calm down.

Isak’s starting to regret giving Magnus control over the playlist, because he really doesn’t want to be discussing this over Stacy’s Mom right now, especially with Magnus waggling his eyebrows at the most suggestive parts. Not when he can definitely relate to locking himself in his bedroom when the pining became too much.

Isak has to take another swig of beer to drown out that memory.

Jonas makes a face. “I hate that I kinda like him now.”

Magnus gasps. “Why didn’t you like him before?” he asks, like he can’t comprehend the idea of someone not falling head over heels for Even at first sight. Isak gets the feeling.

“Anyone can dress like a hipster and swagger around, you know? And everyone fell for it. Even Noora likes him.”

Isak coughs, and keeps his voice as level as possible as he says, “Noora likes him? Are you sure?”

Jonas is lost in his own thoughts as he stares down at his beer. “Seems like they’re pretty close. I’ve seen them talking at school.”

“Oh,” Isak says. He hugs his arms close to his body.

Noora and Even would look good together. She’s pretty, sophisticated, just the kind of girl that Even would fall for. Should fall for, if the rules of the universe work the way they’re meant to. She’s probably seen all the movies Even’s watched, or at least can discuss them intelligently. He could take her to his mom’s art shows and Noora can comment on trends in contemporary art, and when he kisses her, her lipstick would smear prettily, and Isak would catch them around the kollektiv, curled up into each other like they’re the only two people in the world.

God, Isak’s so dramatic he can’t fucking stand himself sometimes. The image is locked in his head now, and no matter how much he drinks tonight, there’s no erasing it.

“That’s nice. Even’s my friend, Noora’s my friend. So nice,” Isak says.

“He’s a step up from William,” Jonas says, but the grimace on his face says otherwise.

Magnus has finally stopped mouthing along to the song long enough to pay attention to the conversation. He laughs. “That’s such bullshit. Even doesn’t like Noora.”

Isak sets his beer down. “How do you know that?” he asks slowly.

Magnus shrugs. “He told me that the person he likes has short hair. Noora’s been growing hers out.”

Jonas’s expression is growing less sour by the minute. “How did that even come up?”

“I, uh, asked him if girls like it when we pull their hair. He said it depends, and that I should ask them first. Girls are so fucking confusing, I don’t know why I even bother.”

The rest of Magnus’s words are slowly catching up to Isak through the haze of alcohol. “Even likes someone?”

Magnus pouts. “He wouldn’t tell me who, though. Which sucks, because we’re supposed to be bros now.”

Even hasn’t even told Isak this much. What makes Magnus so fucking special? He can’t help the hurt that slices through his chest. Why would Even keep this from him? Isak clenches his fist around the beer bottle. Maybe he’s noticed the way Isak’s eyes have lingered on him the past few weeks, the way his hands always seemed to reach out to Even when he’s trying to keep them planted firmly at his sides. Maybe he’s just protecting Isak, because it can’t be Isak, and Even’s a good fucking friend.

Jonas holds up a hand. “Let me get this straight. Noora and Even don’t have a thing?”

“Isn’t she still hung up on William?” Magnus says.

Jonas’s slowly growing grin falls again, and he takes another sip from the beer. “Right. Yeah, she is.”

Isak’s mind is still stuck on a loop. He blames the alcohol. “So you asked him and he wouldn’t tell you who it was?”

“He said I’d find out eventually.”

“That means it has to be someone we know.”

Mahdi manages to pull himself out of his haze then, and he plants the bottle of vodka on the table with a bang. Isak jumps in his seat.

“Okay, no more talk about Even. I’m bored, you assholes.” Mahdi whirls on Jonas. “Let’s talk about our own hipster bro over here who won’t stop texting someone with that soppy look on his face.”

Jonas sets his phone down abruptly, but the damage has already been done. “It’s nothing,” he mumbles.

“Shit, Jonas, do you have a girl?” Magnus says gleefully.

Jonas throws his hands in the air. “It’s Noora, okay? But I only text her as much as I text any of you. Or as much as, like, Isak texts Even.”

Isak freezes at that, but thankfully, none of the guys have made the connection. Even’s at dinner with his parents, which is the only thing that’s stopping Isak from texting him all night. Even had just made him watch Atonement, and he’s getting ready to fight him.

“Noora’s hot, but, man, it’d be impossible to tell whether she liked you. She’s always frowning at me, you know?” Magnus says. “Honestly, it kind of hurts my feelings.”

“Sometimes it’s just hard to tell. One time, I thought this girl hated me, but she really just wanted to bang me. She’d steal all my pens in English, but she just wanted an excuse to talk.” Mahdi smirks. “Top five fucks of my life, man. I even let her keep all the pens.”

Something niggles at the back of Isak’s mind, something about Even and coffee sleeves. But that can’t possibly be a reasonable explanation. Even’s eccentric, and he’s weird, and for all Isak knows, Even’s hands really are that fragile. But Isak can’t put a stop to the runaway thoughts in his head, and he’s just waiting for the crash it’ll come when he’s sober, when he’ll see the world clearly again: Isak leaning on a precipice, ready to fall, with no one to catch him before he breaks into pieces.

Isak snorts dismissively. “That’s so stupid. We’re not in elementary school anymore.”

“It worked though,” Mahdi points out.

It really, really did.

Jonas scowls, picking at a scratch in the table. “I think that mindset makes abusive behavior acceptable. Look at William and Noora. He was a dick to her, and she kept trying to justify it.”

Mahdi throws his empty beer can at Jonas. “Just ask her out already. The worst she can do it say no.”

“It’s not what you think it is,” Jonas insists, but even Isak, who’s hardly well-versed in the minutiae of human emotion, can hear how weak that sounds.

The argument devolves into bickering, and then Mahdi is daring Jonas to drink five shots at once, but Isak zones out. His mind can’t stop racing. Mahdi had planted a dangerous seed in his head. It colors his memories, warps them until Isak can’t recognize them anymore. There’s Even singing to him in the kitchen, laughing so hard that they’d forgotten the cheese toasties altogether. There’s Even’s hands on his skin in the dark of the movie theater, where every moment seemed to hold the weight of entire universes. It turns out that when Isak Valtersen lets himself want, it’s impossible to stop.

What if?

It’s a whisper on the wind, so faint that he’s surprised he catches it, but the he cradles the possibility close to his heart anyway.

~~

FREDAG 23.00  

 

~~

FREDAG 23.30

Isak keeps an eye out for Even at Eva’s place, but Magnus has pulled him into a game of beer pong, though he can’t figure out why. He hardly has enough coordination to get himself out of bed when he’s sober--when he’s drunk, all hopes of them winning against Eva and Vilde are shot. Vilde presses a kiss to Eva’s lips every time the ball lands in the cup, and Eva melts into her touch with every one. They’d tried out Jonas’s new bubbler before leaving Isak’s, but he’s quickly regretting it. The headache that’s building up is unique to being crossfaded at a party with too many people who are happier than he is.

Isak’s not bitter. Eva’s his friend, and she deserves every happiness, especially after what he’d orchestrated during their first year. But right now, he can’t stand how Eva’s looking at Vilde like she hung the moon, how they’re no doubt holding hands under the table. Casual, effortless, as if it would ever be that easy for Isak.

“Are you two ready to give up yet?” Eva says, raising her eyebrows.

Isak’s about to agree when Magnus declares, “Give up? Never.”

Isak sighs loudly. He never should’ve agreed to this in the first place, but Magnus had been desperate for a partner, and Isak may be an asshole sometimes, but he’s not actually a bad person.

Just then, he overhears a familiar laugh from the couch. When he looks over, Even’s surrounded by a couple of his friends from the third year. His head is thrown back as he laughs at a joke, and Isak wishes he were closer, so he can see the crinkles around Even’s eyes, the unabashed joy in his smile. He always wishes he were closer.

Isak claps Magnus’s back. “Great game, bro, but I think I’m gonna go talk to Even.”

Magnus brightens. “Even’s here? Can I come?”

“Uh, well.” He scratches the back of his neck. Chris Berg passes their table then, and thank God she’s finally free of Kasper’s lips when Isak needs her, because he grabs her wrist to pull her over. She doesn’t even have time to protest. “Look! I found you a new partner. You should definitely stay and finish them off.”

Vilde shrugs. “We’re so far ahead that there’s no way you can win.”

This jolts Chris to attention, and she rolls up the sleeves of her shirt. “Get ready, Vilde. We’re gonna kick your ass.”

Eva, who looks like she’d wanted them to give up just so she could make out with her girlfriend in peace, rolls her eyes grandly. Vilde’s already got one eye shut, lining up her next throw, so Eva does her girlfriendly duty and keeps her mouth shut.

Isak tries to slip away unnoticed, but Eva taps his arm as he passes him. “Good luck,” she whispers.

“What for?”

Eva only nods in Even’s direction, and Isak blushes. There’s no way Eva’s caught on--not when the rest of his friends remain as oblivious as ever. But Isak finds, as he’s entertaining the idea, that it’s not the end of the world. Maybe it’s just the right time, and as much as he doesn’t let it show, hiding has taken its toll on him.

Even’s talking animatedly to his friends, two third-year boys Isak’s seen around school, when Isak approaches him. He’s gesturing with his hands so intently that he doesn’t notice Isak. He lingers by Even’s shoulder as he’s explaining to the guy why he thinks La La Land doesn’t deserve to be sweeping awards season. Isak can’t interrupt him like this, not with his face lit up with the kind of passion Isak’s never been able to muster for anything at all.

(And if a part of him is jealous that Even’s like this with all his friends, that this isn’t a part of himself he reserves for Isak alone, then Isak is a fool.)

It’s Even’s friend who notices him first. “Hi, are you looking for someone?” he says warily, looking Isak up and down.

Isak bites his lip. He doesn’t belong here at all, and if other people can already tell, how long until Even does?

The grin that Even grants him doesn’t calm his thundering heart, not even when Even scoots over to make room for Isak on the couch. “Have you been avoiding me? I couldn’t find you at all,” Even teases.

Isak waves a hand in the vague direction of his friends. “I was helping Magnus lose at beer pong.”

Even grimaces. “Never challenge Eva to drinking games. That girl may act sloppy when she’s drunk, but when she’s got her mind on something, she’s getting it.”

Just then, Eva and Vilde high-five as another one of their balls land in a cup, and Isak almost feels sorry for Magnus.

“Isak, this is Anders and Thomas. They’re in my media class, but I met them way before Nissen. Guys, this is Isak. He’s, uh, Isak.”

Anders stares at him warily, but Thomas’s eyes narrow as something dawns on him. “Is this the guy Mikael--”

He only shuts up when Even kicks him, hard.

“Mikael doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Even says.

“Mikael only wants to look out for you, man,” Anders says.

Even rolls his eyes so hard his entire body moves with it, then pats the empty spot on the couch. “Ignore them, Isak, all my friends are idiots.”

Isak sits down gingerly, and the couch is so small that as soon as he does, he feels the weight of Even pressing against him. His warmth is slowly bleeding into Isak, and with the way Anders and Thomas are considering them, Isak wouldn’t say no to spontaneous death right now.

Anders takes a sip of his beer and says, “Do you miss Bakka parties, Even?”

Even shakes his head grandly. “Hell no. No one wants me there anyway. Pretentious fuckers.”

“You’re best friends with someone who has a giant boner for Darren Aronofsky.”

“He may be pretentious, but at least he’s good.”

Thomas sighs, and his smile is wistful. “Remember that one party when you were so drunk you went up to your teacher and told her to shove her Sartre kink up her ass?”

“Existentialism makes me sad, man. I don’t even know why she was there.”

Thomas’s voice drops to a whisper. “I heard she was fucking the guy hosting the party. Mikael said he caught them going at it in a supply closet.”

Anders shudders as the memory comes up again. “He was texting me the whole goddamn time. As if I wanna hear a detailed account of the sounds old people make when they’re getting fucked.”

“She was twenty-five. And she had amazing tits,” Thomas protests.

Isak’s quickly losing track of the conversation, and it’s like they’ve forgotten he’s there at all. Even must notice the way Isak’s tensed up, because he says, “You’re both horrible gossips. Isak doesn’t even know who these people are.”

“It’s okay, I’ll just find Jonas or something,” Isak mumbles. He’s shooting out of his seat before Even can stop him, because surely Even would. He’s nice like that, and right now, Isak can’t stand it. He can’t stand being just another friend Even is perfectly nice to. He’s too selfish with his love, too primed to self-destruct to ever to be fine with these pieces of Even he can’t even call his own. He’s been lying to himself if he thought otherwise.

“Isak--” Even says.

“Look, he’s over there,” Isak says, pointing at what he’s sure is a coat rack. He knows he’s overreacting, but the weed is hitting him hard now, and Even looks like he has no idea what’s going on at all--how could he? None of this makes any sense. Just Isak making up shit in his head.

“You don’t have to go,” Even says, but Isak is already stepping away.

~~

LORDAG 0.05

“You’re hiding in a bathtub,” Even says when he finds him. Isak’s been sulking here for the past thirty minutes. When that door had opened, he’d been sure it was Emma or some other girl, because this is just how his luck is going tonight. Probably karma for all the times he’s kissed a girl with a grimace waiting behind his smile.

Finding Even there is a million times better, which, honestly, makes it a million times worse.

Isak had tried to find the boys on the off chance that they wanted to leave, but Jonas had been making out with some girl in a corner, and Magnus and Mahdi were nowhere to be found. He’s surprised that Eva’s bathroom had been empty, but he wasn’t going to pass up the only quiet space at this party. “Yeah?”

Even leans against the doorway. “Why are you hiding in a bathtub?”

“I’m drunk. Drunk people never make sense.”

Even considers him for a minute, and just when Isak thinks that he’s going to leave, he settles down next to him. It’s tentative at first, but when Isak doesn’t skitter away, he scoots closer, enough to make Isak’s breath stutter but not enough to overwhelm him. His long legs stretch over the edge of the bathtub.

“Mind if I don’t make sense with you?” he says.

Isak shrugs. “You don’t have to hang out with me, you know. You should go back to your friends.”

“Nah, Anders started waxing poetic about how revolutionary La La Land is, and I wasn’t going to sit through that.”

“I know you want to argue with him. Just go. I’m fine here.”

Even raises his eyebrows at him because, really, how many people hiding in bathtubs at their friends’ parties are really fine. “I prefer this.”

“They’re your friends.”

Even nudges at Isak’s snapback, loosening more of his curls. He gives Isak a soft smile. “So are you.”

“You’ve known them forever.”

“And I’ve known you for a month. What does that matter?”

Isak ducks his head. “Sorry I can’t argue the merits of La La Land versus Moonlight with you.”

He means I’m sorry I’ll never be able to keep up with you, I’m sorry I’m not interesting enough, or cool enough, and I’m sorry you’re probably finding that out every day.

That’s probably too overwhelming for the state they’re both in though.

Even stares at him, so intently that it actually makes Isak wilt a little bit. “That’s not important to me.”

Isak shrugs, but he doesn’t protest further. He wants to change the subject already, before Even probes too deep into his insecurities, before he can see where they really stem from, and Isak is forced to block Even’s number and avoid him for the rest of forever. Isak’s glad that he brought more beer into the bathroom with him. There’s no way Isak can handle Even’s honesty if he were sober, because then he’d be tempted to offer up some honesty of his own. Neither of them are ready for that.

Even tries to lean his head back, and groans when it hits the wall. “You couldn’t find someplace more comfortable?”

“I’m sulking. Comfort wasn’t a top priority.”

“Comfort should always be a priority! Turning your frown upside down would be so much easier if you were buried under at least ten blankets.” Isak rolls his eyes, and Even points at his mouth, which is slowly curving upwards. “See, you’re smiling now, but I could’ve gotten you to smile five minutes ago if we weren’t in Eva’s bathroom, where anyone could come in any minute to pee. Or, you know, hook up. Jonas was getting really close to some blonde before I came in here, and they’ve been inching in this direction. If I could do math, which I can’t, I’d give you another ten minutes.”

Isak glares at him. “Did you have to point that out?”

“One of us has to be the voice of reason. And you’re the one who decided that a bathtub would be better at cheering you up than a real, warm friend who gives great hugs--that’s me by the way.” Isak tries to keep it down, but his smile is stretching into something more solid now. He’s a little bit mad at himself for letting Even have this effect on him when he should realistically give himself another day before forgiving Even for something he hadn’t even realized he was doing.

Even tilts his head as he considers Isak. “Do you really want to stay at this party?” he says softly.

Isak shakes his head. “I don’t want to leave my friends. Jonas wanted to stay over so his parents wouldn’t catch him drunk off his ass.”

Even places his hands on Isak’s shoulders. It’s as intimate as a caress. “Forget about them. What do you want to do?”

This gives Isak pause. He’s always stopped himself from asking this question. It’d be like breaking down a dam, and it’ll only hurt more when he remembers all the reasons why he can’t. His friends, his parents, these goddamn expectations. He’s never considered what Isak Valtersen would look like unchained, because that guy wouldn’t be him.

“What do you want, Isak?” Even asks again. His hands move from Isak’s shoulders to stroke at the base of Isak’s neck, and his heart lodges in his throat.

He thinks, with Even, that he could be that guy.

“Let’s get out of here.”

~~

LORDAG 0.30

“Even, you can’t just steal a bike.” It comes out as a whisper, but in the silence of the night, Isak may as well be announcing it to the world. As soon as they’d left Eva’s house, Even had gravitated to the bike rack at the end of the street. Isak’s watching out for him, glancing down the empty street every few minutes to make sure they’re still alone. He should stop Even, because this is a fucking bad idea, but his heart is pounding so fast with the thrill of it that he’s rooted in place. The streetlights bathe Even in a warm glow, and it makes him more touchable somehow, in this universe when they can be alone in the most open of spaces.

“I’ll return it when we’re done, I swear. Besides, no one’s gonna be missing their bike at one.”

Even finally finishes picking the lock with a pen he’d found in his pocket, and he presents the broken lock to Isak proudly. “This is why you should always have two locks on your bike. Kids these days.” He shakes his head.

“This is illegal,” Isak says.

“How many beers have you had tonight? Can I see an ID?”

Isak shakes his head, but watches silently as Even climbs on the bike. He gestures at Isak to climb on behind him. When Isak hesitates, he says, “Come on, walking is for people who aren’t nearly as cool as we are.”

“Where are we going?” Isak asks.

“We’re going on an adventure.”

“That’s the most pretentious, stupid answer I’ve ever heard,” Isak grumbles, but he hops on the back of the bike anyway. He gently wraps his arms around Even’s waist, presses his chest against Even’s back, and maybe it’s just his imagination, but Even melts into his touch a little bit. Isak’s suddenly finding it hard to breathe, not just because his face is smushed into Even’s hoodie.

Even turns back to check whether Isak’s settled. “You ready?” he asks, but he’s kicking off before Isak can answer. He turns his face to the sky and lets out a whoop. Isak can’t help but find it endearing, and he’s laughing before he can hold it back. He wishes he could see Even’s face right now under the night sky, with the wind blowing through his hair. He can imagine the glee lighting it up, the curve of his lips as he’s caught between a smile and a full-blown laugh.

“Did you know I couldn’t ride a bike until I was 15?” Even asks.

“How come?”

“I was so afraid of falling off that I never learned. And I just kept putting it off for years and years, until I realized that it was better to just take the plunge, even if it hurts. Better late than never, right?”

Isak wonders if they’re talking about bikes at all. He wraps his arms more tightly around Even, an I understand that he can’t put into words just yet, and hopes that it’s enough. He’s put off being himself for years, but doesn’t know when he’ll be ready to get on that bike. Even is far braver than he is.

“I never would’ve guessed. Feels like you’ve been riding bikes since you were born,” Isak says.

“Thanks. I do try.”

They end up in the playground of a local elementary school, and Even heads to the swings before Isak even finishes dismounting from the bike. He manages to get two swings in before Isak walks over from where he’s let the bike fall to the ground, and on his next ascent, he calls out, “Join me.”

Isak’s never been one to back down from a challenge. Isak kicks off from the ground with all the force he can muster, and manages to catch up to Even’s height in three swings. Isak looks over to catch Even’s grin when they begin swinging in tandem, matching each other’s rises and falls perfectly. They’re both a little too tall for these swings, and Isak has to remember to tuck his legs close to his body so that they don’t scrape against the ground, but he thinks he could do this for the rest of his life, so Even would keep looking at him like he’s discovering Isak for the first time.

“When I was a kid, I spent all my time swinging. It was easy, and it gave me room to think, but it was still exciting enough to make me feel alive,” Even says.

“Always made me feel like I was on top of the world.”

“We kinda are, though.” Even yells suddenly, and the sound is lost to the night sky. “Look at that, Isak. We’re the only two people in the world.”

He knows, tomorrow, that this will all feel like a dream, and he’ll wonder why he’d agreed to go along with this, knowing all that’s at risk. But for now, he swings his legs even harder, so that he rises above Even. The night is a cloak, and he may as well take advantage of it when he can. He catches Even’s offended expression when he looks behind him, and it makes the laugh bubble over in his throat, until he’s giggling uncontrollably.

“Are you challenging me, Valtersen?” Even asks. There’s a gleam in his eye.

“It’s not a real challenge if I already know I’m going to win.”

“Okay, that’s it.”

Isak only swings harder and harder to match Even’s efforts, and before long, it feels like he’s about to flip over every time he reaches the peak of his swing. He can’t tell how much time has passed, but the burning in his legs is starting to grow unbearable. Even’s getting tired too, if the huff of his breath is any indication.

“Do you want to jump?” Isak calls.

“What?”

“We jump on three?”

“Together?” Even asks.

There’s a pause before Isak agrees, “Together.”

It’s so quiet that Isak’s not sure whether Even caught it, but he feels his gut settle.

Isak makes sure to count loudly enough for Even to hear, and when they crash to the ground, they’re both panting. Isak’s scraped his hands on the concrete, but the pain is only a low buzz with the adrenaline coursing through his system. It’s easy to ignore with Even here with him, clutching a hand to his chest as he catches his breath.

“I think we may be too old for that,” Isak pants. “I don’t remember it hurting that much, which is weird, because we should have less height to fall now?”

“Never too old for fun,” Even protests. He sucks in a breath as he pushes himself up from the concrete. He’s still wobbling on his legs when he says, “Bet I’m faster than you.”

Isak furrows his brows in confusion. “Wha--”

Even doesn’t give Isak time to respond before he’s running off in the direction of the slides. “That’s not fucking fair!” Isak says, but he’s leaping to his feet. His knees will probably be bruised tomorrow, but he’s not letting himself think about that now as he hurries to catch up to Even. He runs until his lungs are about to burst, until there’a stitch in his side, and he only just manages to brush Even’s hoodie with the tip of his fingers.

Even laughs at Isak’s near stumble, and it spurs him to use his last bit of energy to push himself harder, until he can wrap his hand around Even’s hoodie firmly enough to pull him down with him.

They’re laughing as they fall, and Isak tumbles over so he falls straight onto Even. His elbow jabs into Even’s stomach, making him groan, but Even doesn’t push him off. He’s still coming down from the high when he realizes that they’re pressed together on the ground. Isak knows it’s impossible, but he swears he can hear Even’s heartbeat underneath his own. His lips hover only a few inches from Even’s, and if he dared, he could close the distance. Even runs a soothing hand down Isak’s back, and he’s biting his lip in a way that only draws Isak’s eyes to it. If Even kissed him now, there’s a part of Isak that would maybe, just maybe, let him.

It’s Isak who breaks the tension with a cough. “You’re not faster than me. You just got a head start.”

Even smiles, and shit, there are those crinkles again, the ones that make Isak itch to touch. “You keep telling yourself that. Now I know you play dirty.”

“You forced my hand.”

“Admit that I’m better than you.”

“No.”

Even’s hand trails from Isak’s back to tickle his sides, and he’s never thought that he was sensitive there, but Even reduces him into an incoherent, giggling mess within a minute. He tries to squirm out of Even’s arms, but Even holds him down tight, smug smile playing at his lips.

“Admit defeat,” he says again.

“Go to hell,” Isak manages to pant.

Even tries again with renewed fervor, and this time, Isak’s giggling so hard that it’s a little hard to breathe. He hides his face in Even’s chest and mumbles, “You can stop now.”

“Say it again.”

“You can stop now. You’re better than me,” Isak says with a sigh. Even finally stops, and as soon as he does, Isak hoists himself off Even, so they’re lying side by side. Their arms brush, and their hands are so close that Isak could reach over and hold Even’s without any effort at all. The light from the street is dim, and lying here on the grass, Isak feels like he can do anything, be anyone. He turns to his side so he can face Even.

“You’re an asshole, you know that?” Isak says.

“But you’re here with me anyway,” Even says happily. His voice grows soft, serious as he says, “Sometimes, I think we were meant to meet.”

Isak furrows his brows. “Like destiny?”

Even shakes his head. “No, destiny scares me a little bit. It’s like losing control, like no matter what you do, you’ll always end up where fate wants you to go. You could be living your life to the fullest, and if destiny says that you’re meant to die in a car crash at 21, there’s nothing you can do about that.”

Even’s staring at the sky again, and something in his voice tugs at Isak’s heart. If he could, he wouldn’t let Even think about dark things at all, would only fill him with thoughts of the sun and the freedom of swing sets and smiling on the grass with someone you feel safe with. “Then what do you mean?”

“I like to think that even if I had full control over my life, a part of me would’ve wanted to find you, somehow. If I could choose, I’d always choose for us to meet.”

Isak scowls. “That’s cheesy,” he says, but he knows exactly when Even means. Sometimes, it feels like there’s some sort of force pushing them together, something Isak has no control over. It feels a lot like fate, or destiny, or something he doesn’t have a name for quite yet. That may have been the start, but if Isak can keep choosing Even, he would every time.

“That’s the truth,” Even responds.  

Then, Isak’s stomach grumbles, and Even’s mouth pulls into a smirk. “Did that little run tire you out?”

Isak groans. “I still think you’re a cheater.”

“I just take advantage of life, Valtersen.” Even sits up and checks his phone. He shows Isak the time. “The night is young. Food?”

Right then, Isak would’ve followed Even wherever he wanted to go. But his stomach grumbles again, and it’s good, probably, that Even has his best interests at heart. He pushes himself back to his feet. “Yeah, let’s do it.”

~~

LORDAG 1.30

It had taken them thirty minutes to find the nearest 24-hour McDonald’s, and when they finally sit down with their cheeseburgers and drinks, Isak lets out a sigh. He hadn’t realized how tired he was until now, and under the fluorescent lights, he’s even more aware of the aftereffects of the weed and alcohol.

More than the aftereffects, apparently, as he struggles to remember how to chew his cheeseburger. There are just too many goddamn textures. A piece of tomato drops out of his mouth, and Even laughs at him. He wipes at the ketchup on the corner of Isak’s lips with a napkin, and Isak doesn’t have the energy to stop him.

“Took a good hit earlier?” Even says, quirking his eyebrows.

“Yep. Or like 10.”

“That’s illegal, you know.”

Isak only flips him off before he attacks his Oreo McFlurry with his straw. This had been a good decision, and for a minute, Isak’s distracted by how cold it is. He doesn’t realize how long he’s been turning over the same sip of McFlurry in his mouth before he glances over to see Even staring at him, smile tugging at his lips.

He barely remembers to swallow before saying, “Is there something else on my mouth?”

“Nah, you’re good.”

He purses his lips. “Then why are you staring?”

Even shrugs, but doesn’t respond.

Isak is distracted for the next few minutes when he realizes that dipping his fries into his McFlurry adds to the fun, but then a thought occurs to him. “What do you think will happen tomorrow?”

He wishes he could take the words back as soon as they come out of his mouth. It’s just one night together--nothing more to it. Tomorrow will be the same as every day before, and Isak will  still be the little boy who’s scared of his own thoughts and desires.

But when he sneaks a peek at Even, he looks more vulnerable than Isak’s ever seen him. “What do you want to happen?” Even asks softly.

Isak ducks his head, but he steals one of Even’s fries, letting his fingers brush Even’s hand in the process. “I want this.”

This, them, together.

Isak wishes he could frame Even’s answering grin. “I can make that happen,” he says.

~~

SØNDAG 13.15

 

~~

SØNDAG 13.30

Isak is presumably playing Black Ops, but he can’t stop thinking about what had happened the night before. Everything had felt monumental in the dark of night, but Even’s wish I could see you instead could very well be friendly. He hasn’t made it a secret that he enjoys Isak’s company, and even though Isak can’t figure out why, that may just be it. Just two friends hanging out.

For a moment there, he’d thought it was more, but even the sheer force of his desire can’t make something real out of nothing.

He doesn’t realize how intently he’s picking apart all the details--the laughter, the brush of their hands, the comfort--until Jonas swats him with a video game controller. He snaps, “Fucking shit, Isak. Pay attention. You just got all of us eaten.”

Isak stares at his own controller. He hadn’t realized he’d been pressing any buttons at all, but that may have been the problem.

He rubs at his temples. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.”

“Bad hangover?” Mahdi says.

Isak shakes his head. “No, that’s not it.”

“You left the party pretty early yesterday.” Jonas says it casually, but there’s an unspoken question underneath.

Isak shrugs it off. “Even wanted to get food, and I was pretty hungry, so.”

“You should’ve seen Noora’s face when she found Jonas hooking up with someone else. Fucking gold, man,” Magnus says.

Jonas groans. “Fuck all of you. Just let it go.”

Isak’s phone beeps with a text notification then, and when he glances down, he realizes it’s from Even.

Julian’s glaring at me. Help.

He’s holding boiling water and I’m pretty sure he’s about to pour it all over me

I miss you :(

He cradles the phone in his hand for a minute, reading over the last line. He hadn’t been aware of the question beating at his heart until he feels the answer settling deep inside him. Yes, I choose this.

Even may not want anything from him, probably doesn’t, but Isak can’t stand to be away from him now, not after he’d given Isak a night without worries or fears. A night when he can pretend to be someone with less baggage, someone who’s less afraid to let himself love. All he knows is that he needs to see Even, needs to see that familiar grin to remind himself that last night wasn’t the dream of a desperate boy who needed to be shown that the world isn’t as cruel as he’s always believed.

“Sorry, guys, I think I have to take care of something,” Isak says, as he’s hurrying out the door. He struggles to pull on his shoes, barely even bothers to tie them properly in his rush. “You’re welcome to stay here, though, take some of Eskild’s food if you want, he’s been pretty obnoxious. Now Magnus can have the title of worst player again.”

“What the hell, dude--” Jonas calls out, but Isak is already slamming the front door behind him. He sucks in a breath, leans against the door to calm his racing heart. He feels a smile spread across his face. He’s ready.

~~

SØNDAG 13.50

He doesn’t realize how quickly he’s been running until he arrives at KB, panting. It’s a struggle to pull the door open, and honestly, what are the chances that Even would still be here? Isak doesn’t expect Even to wait for him, especially since he didn’t even warn him first. Even may not believe in destiny, but Isak’s kinda wishing it’s working in his favor here, because if Isak just missed him, he’s going to scream--

He spots Even sitting at their regular table, and God, there’s that grin he’s been waiting to see. Last night wasn’t a mistake, Isak wasn’t a mistake. He jogs over, ignoring the people he bumps into on the way, and when he reaches Even, beaming widely, he says, “I just wanted to see--”

The last word dies on his throat when he notices that there’s a girl sitting across from Even. She’s pretty, with short hair, and she could be even prettier if she smiled, but right now, she just looks confused. His grin drops when he realizes they’re holding hands.

He can’t think. He can’t breathe. All he can see are their fingers intertwined so effortlessly, like they’ve been doing this for years, and Even’s gotten used to the touch of her skin.

Even jerks his hand away immediately. The expression he’s giving Isak is almost guilty, but that can’t be right. He’s holding hands with some girl in public, and it’s everything Isak wishes he had--thought for a second, he could’ve had. Fuck, he’s an idiot. “Hi, Isak. I thought you were hanging out with the boys,” Even says levelly.

“I ditched them. To talk to you.” He realizes a second too late how pathetic that sounds, but that’s all in the open now, isn’t it? Hell, he doesn’t want Even to know how much this hurts. He doesn’t have the right to expect Even to care, not when Isak’s the one who had expected too much in the first place. He ducks his head. “But it’s fine, whatever. I just wanted to ask if you ever returned that bike after I left.”

“Of course I did,” Even says softly. “You wanted me to.”

“Even, is this one of your friends from school?” the girl asks. She holds out her hand for him to shake. “I’m Sonja, Even’s girlfriend. It’s very nice to meet you.”

Isak takes her hand, but he feels too numb to register it. He can’t even hold it against Even. He deserves this kind of life, with a nice, pretty girl who makes his heart race the way Even did for him. It’s Isak who’s wrong--not this beautiful fucking couple with their beautiful fucking life.

“I’m Isak,” he hears himself say, but the sound is distant. “We just end up running into each other here a lot.”

He hears a strangled sound coming from Even, but resolutely doesn’t look over at him. He has enough strength for that at least.

Sonja beams. “He does love coffee.”

“You’d think considering how much coffee he drinks he’d buy himself his own coffeemaker already.”

“Right? But I have to be the responsible one here.” Sonja pats Even on the hand. “Ready to go, babe?”

“I--” Even shakes his head and takes a deep breath. “Yes,” he says shakily. Sonja leads the way, but before Even follows her, he grips Isak by the arm. Isak has no choice but to pay attention. “I’m so sorry,” he says, his voice low.

Isak can’t keep his voice from trembling this time. “For what? She seems like a sweet girl. I’m happy I got to meet her. Friends should meet each other’s girlfriends.”

“But--”

He’s interrupted when Sonja calls his name from the door. “I really am sorry,” Even whispers again.

“Okay,” Isak says, because what else is he supposed to say when the ache doesn’t even stop at his heart?

An hour later, Eva finds him at the same table, staring at the surface with his arms wrapped tight around his body. He’s berated himself a thousand times for letting in that that traitorous spark of hope. He knew from the start everything Even is and isn’t to him. This is just the world reminding him of the true state of things, where beautiful boys ride off into the sunset with beautiful girls, and boys like him are only stuck in place. Even didn’t do anything wrong.

Reminding himself of this doesn’t do much to push the hurt away.

“Isak, are you okay?” Eva asks gently. She sets a cup of coffee down in front of him, and he flashes her a grateful smile. That smile doesn’t last for long.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he says, but his shaking betrays him. Unfortunately--or fortunately--Eva doesn’t buy it.

“I’m taking my break now,” she calls out to Jon. She pulls out the chair across from Isak and sits down. “You may be fine, but I’m wondering whether you could use a friend?”

It takes him a moment to answer, but there are no ulterior motives behind Eva’s smile. “Sure,” he says, and the ache finally gives him a moment to breathe.

~~

MANDAG 10.15

I took your advice. I went for it. A part of me is kinda glad that I got to prove you wrong, since you were so sure about this.

Most of me isn’t though. Most of me just hurts.

I don’t know what I expected. No, that’s wrong. I do know what I expected, and it was too much. I think, the whole time, I was trying to remind myself that it was all in my head anyway. I thought if I did that, it would be fine in the end, so I don’t know why I’m feeling like this. I’m sorry if this is hard for you to hear. I just didn’t know who else to go to.

Chapter Text

MANDAG 11.00

I’m so sorry. I’m sorry you’re feeling this way. The only reason it’s hard to hear is because it’s hurting you so much. I wish there was a way I could help you. I wish there was a way I could make the hurt go away. I’m so, so sorry.

--

MANDAG 11.54

It’s not your fault. I’m the one who projected. I’m the one who thought maybe it could be something, even when I was trying my best not to. You know I asked the universe for some help when I showed up to see him? And it did. It showed me I need to stop thinking ridiculous unrealistic things. I saw him holding hands with one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen. I thought It was just He’s happy. I’m glad he’s happy.

--

MANDAG 12.39

Isak, you are the brightest soul I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Everything about you is kind, and everything about you is good, and everything about you is special. Your thoughts were not ridiculous. I know for a fact there is not one person on this planet that comes across you and doesn’t fall a little bit in love with you. Mr. Darcy is no exception.

--

MANDAG 16.58

 

--

MANDAG 18.09

--

MANDAG 19.00

Even’s replayed the scene over and over in his head — he thinks of all the things he could have done differently, he thinks of all the possibilities he’d still have within his reach had Isak decided to leave his apartment just five minutes later, had Even not insisted they get a coffee before heading to Sonja’s grandmother’s funeral.

Isak’s wounded expression paints like the clearest picture in Even’s head, and it won’t leave him be, it won’t let him breathe. Even saw the light in Isak’s eyes — the light he’s so desperately been clinging to these past few months — disappear entirely, watched it be replaced by the ghost of what might have been hope, and Even hates himself, he hates himself, for killing the only thing keeping the possibility of them alive. It was Isak’s hope — the hope he believed to be naive and misplaced — that kept Even pushing, kept him wishing, kept him wanting.

And he destroyed it. Brutally so. In less than five minutes, it was gone, and in its place was nothing but betrayal — and he doesn’t think Isak believes Even betrayed him, but instead, Isak may believe his own consciousness did. He’d built up hope, hope , he was planning on diving in headfirst, and Even would have held him afloat and they would have been happy , Even knows they would have been happy.

They already were, and all it took was five fucking minutes

After about the hundredth time of the scene replaying in his head, he uselessly tries to rewrite it.

They’re small things. Even seeing Isak through the window and excusing himself to go greet him outside; Even insisting Isak listen to him, even when he refused to admit anything was wrong; Even throwing caution to the wind and confessing his affection for Isak, Sonja or no Sonja, funeral or no funeral, and he might have come out of there the villain of two stories but at least—

At least Isak would know. He would know that he wasn’t building something up in his head. At least Isak would know everything they were — every touch, every glance, every laugh, every smile, every quiet affectionate moment that could stretch for days — all of it was real. All of it was palpable and there for the taking, and maybe Isak wouldn’t be avoiding him now, embarrassed and hurt, and maybe Even would have a better chance of holding him through this, instead of this: lying on his bed, Baz curled around him, torturing himself with blurred memories of what might have happened and what could have happened.

Even almost doesn’t hear the door of his room open, but by the time he realizes that’s what he’s heard, the door is slammed closed once again. Even’s head peeks over to the entrance, and his eyes find Mikael, arms crossed over his chest and a stormy expression on his face.

Even turns back and buries his face into Baz’s fur again. “Go away,” he orders lamely.

Mikael, of course, doesn’t listen. “I won’t.” His voice is steady and affirming, but there are undertones of concern, and Even wishes there weren’t — he doesn’t deserve Mikael’s concern. He hardly deserves Baz’s, but he’d already tried to push the dog away to no avail — Baz is wired to help Even when he’s down, and so the dog stubbornly attached himself to Even’s side and hasn’t left it since.

“I just want to be alone,” Even sighs, absentmindedly running a hand through Baz’s fur. “I’m fine, I just want to be alone.”

“Guess you’ll just have to be alone with me.” Even doesn’t see it, but he can feel Mikael’s shrug, and he rolls his eyes.

“Mik—”

“Stop,” Mikael interrupts him. “I know you’re hurting, Even, but you don’t have the luxury of sitting around and sulking. You know that.”

Even does. The longer he stays in bed and sulks and feels sorry for himself, the more possible it becomes to slip under, and then before he knows it he’s in bed for two weeks, snapping at anyone who comes close to him and refusing to get up to shower.

“Get up, at least,” Mikael demands, and Even merely grunts in response. His bed is warm, and so is Baz, and lying on it makes the situation he’s found himself in far less real.

Mikael is suspiciously quiet for a moment, and then Even realizes why: suddenly, his best friend is sprawled over him and over Baz, like the line crossing a “t”, and the squawk that leaves Even is indignant and not at all embarrassing, if that’s what you’re wondering.

“Get off of me,” Even nudges Mikael by the shoulder, but he doesn’t budge.

“Only if you get up.”

Even glares at him, then turns his nose up once again, ignoring him. He knows that what Mikael is doing, as ridiculous as it might seem, is for his own good, and it’s derived from a place of concern and of affection, but Even doesn’t want any of it. He just wants to lie here and think about Isak, and think about what he could have done better, and think about how Isak might have, for just a moment, wanted him back as desperately as Even wanted him.

Mikael starts poking at Even’s ear with his index finger. “Hey,” he barks. “Get up.”

“Dude,” Even slaps his hand away from his ear, rubbing at it uselessly. “Could you just — I’m trying to—”

“Be dramatic, I know,” Mikael raises a challenging eyebrow at him. “Can you at least sit up?”

Even thinks about this for a moment. It’s a good compromise, but also, Even thinks this has been Mikael’s plan all along, and he considers not giving in to him for a moment. Though the idea sounds particularly inviting, he decides to go ahead and do it, turning on his back, Mikael in tow and everything. He then manages to slide his legs from under Mikael’s torso and press his back against the headboard triumphantly.

Baz scoots up with him, leaving Mikael without a resting place for his head. It drops unceremoniously onto the mattress, and he curses under his breath, but he looks victorious nevertheless. Mikael sits up, removing himself from Even’s lap, then makes his way to the other side of the bed to sit beside Baz, their middle man.

Baz starts nibbling affectionately at Mikael’s hand with his front teeth as Mikael talks. “So I guess he’s still avoiding you?”

Even bites his bottom lip. “Yeah.”

They’re both silent for a moment.

“I fucked it up for good this time, didn’t I?”

Mikael hums. “No, I don’t think so,” he says, and Even glances over at him incredulously. Mikael raises both his eyebrows. “What? I really don’t. I mean, should you have broken up with Sonja sooner than you decided? Yes. But what were you supposed to do? The day you were gonna break up with her her grandmother decided to play matchmaker and croak.”

Even glares at him. “Dude.”

Mikael holds up a defensive hand. “Sorry,” he says. “But she’s dead, it’s not like she’d mind.” Mikael clicks his tongue. “You couldn’t break up with her. I get it. Isak would probably get it.”

“I broke his heart,” Even says quietly. “I can’t stand the idea that after — after everything he must have gone through to accept the fact that he likes me, I fucking broke his heart.” He looks over at Mikael desperately. “I think I might — what I feel for him, what I’ve been feeling for him for these past couple of months, what I know about him, Mik, I’ve never —”

Mikael sighs loudly. “I know, you’ve never felt for anyone before,” he looks at Even. “He’s perfect and beautiful—”

“—and I don’t deserve him,” Even finishes quietly. “I don’t deserve him.”

Mikael shakes his head furiously. “You deserve every good thing that comes your way,” he snaps. “And if Isak’s one of those good things, then you deserve him, too.”

Even looks at him.

“You have another way to show him how you feel,” Mikael reminds him. “He doesn’t want to listen to you in person? Fine. Give him time. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose him entirely.”

“I don’t think I should—”

“What, are you gonna stop with the notes now?” Mikael raises an eyebrow. “You’re gonna break the boy’s heart twice, is what you’re saying? Gonna make his anonymous friend ditch him at the same time his crush does?”

“I’m—”

“You have another way of keeping in touch with him. You have another way of helping him heal. He needs anonymous you right now. He can’t talk to anyone else about it.” Mikael reaches over to poke at Even’s arm, enunciating his point. “So don’t be selfish, Even. Stop wallowing in your own self pity and think about your boy, instead. He needs you.”

Even bites his lip. He wants to talk to Isak, but Isak clearly doesn’t want to talk to him. He doesn’t want to spend every day of his life fiercely missing Isak, and his anonymous alter ego is one way to keep him in his life. And Mikael is right — Isak has no one else to talk to about this matter other than his secret admirer, so who is Even to take that away from him, too?

Maybe Isak won’t listen to Even. Maybe he needs time to figure it out, and that’s fair. That’s absolutely fair. But Even isn’t going to leave Isak alone, not when he needs a shoulder to lean on the most.

Mikael is right. It’d be selfish to leave him alone, now, but Even secretly thinks it’s a little selfish to continue talking to Isak through notes, too.

He doesn’t mention this, however. Instead, he looks over at Mikael and offers him a weak smile, which Mikael returns with a blinding one of his own.

“Let’s go get ice cream,” Mikael offers, patting Baz’s head affectionately. “He can come with, because you know he won’t leave your side until he’s absolutely sure you’re not sad.”

Even laughs quietly, and doesn’t tell Mikael that Baz will most likely not be leaving his side for a while.

--

TIRSDAG 8.08

And then the day came,

when the risk

to remain tight

in a bud

was more painful

than the risk

it took

to Blossom.

--

TIRSDAG 9.21

You draw pretty flowers. Why don’t you draw them more often?

--

TIRSDAG 10.01

I’ll draw you anything you want. Tell me, and I’ll draw it for you. I’ll draw you the world, if you want. Every single inch of it.

--

TIRSDAG 11.00

How can you still be so nice to me even after all the shit I’m telling you? I don’t mean to hurt you, but I know that it’s gotta hurt a little, right?

--

TIRSDAG 11.52

Do you remember that one time, weeks ago, when I told you the only thing I was absolutely sure of was you? That still applies. Whether or not you feel the same way, whether or not you feel that way about someone else – all I want is for you to be happy.

--

TIRSDAG 12.33

I think the only thing I’m absolutely sure of is you, too.

--

TIRSDAG 16.30

Even doesn’t know if Isak’s going to be showing up at KB today — they usually have an unspoken agreement to meet there every day after school, but considering what happened on Sunday, and then also considering the fact that Isak failed to show up yesterday, it’s safe to assume Even might be the reason for the breach of contract.

So he can only hope Isak does. There’s so much he wants to say, and he’s written an entire script in his head, wants to follow it to a tee when he shows up, and he wants to make sure that Isak understands that he does have feelings for him, he does, and that everything they had was very real, and Sonja will not be in the picture any longer, and could Isak find it in his heart to maybe, just maybe, wait for him?

Reading back on it now, actually, it sounds pretty pathetic, and were he Isak, he’d probably be extremely angry. Wait for him, what kind of bullshit, action-thriller movie was he writing in there?

He doesn’t have time for rewrites, however, because by the time he’s realized his speech definitely needs a couple (a lot) of them, Isak is pushing the entrance door open, the hood of his jacket propped upwards and his gaze cast downward.

Even’s heart wants to jump out of his chest. He feels his palms start sweating faced with the mere possibility of Isak finally putting them to rest, pushing Even aside because if he knew it was real, if it hadn’t all been in his head, then why would Even hurt him that way?

For a moment, he’s too paralyzed by the fear to actually stand from where he’s sitting, but then Isak catches sight of him and stops in his tracks. Even’s mouth parts — whether to call him over or say something ridiculous, he doesn’t know — but before anything can make way past his lips, Isak is doing a complete one-eighty and walking out the door.

Even curses under his breath and scrambles clumsily out of his chair, accidentally bumps into a guy on his way out the door. He calls out an apology over his shoulder but doesn’t stop, manages to push open the door aggressively and find Isak only just turning the corner. “Isak!” he calls, and Isak freezes where he stands on the sidewalk. His posture looks rigid, like he’s trying hard not to bolt, and Even’s heart is breaking at the sight of him.

When he catches up, Isak turns over to look at him, and his expression is so — so schooled that Even doesn’t know what to do with it. Isak offers him a smile, one that looks but doesn’t feel genuine, and Even clears his throat.

“Hi,” he greets him.

“Hello,” Isak greets him in return. He gestures with his thumb over his shoulder. “I was just going home, so—”

“No, yeah,” Even doesn’t call him out on the obvious lie, because he was clearly going to stay for a coffee before heading there, but Even also doesn’t want to ruin this further, so he keeps it to himself. “Yeah, I just wanted to — I wanted to say sorry, for the other day.”

Isak looks at him, then swallows audibly. Even takes a shaky breath, trying to sum up the courage to stampede through the shitty speech he’d written that required rewrites, but before he can say anything—“I really have to go,” Isak blurts, and Even deflates.

“Isak—”

“Even,” Isak’s gaze flits over to the shop, then back towards Even. “I’ll text you later, alright? I just — have a lot of shit to do,” he finishes lamely. “I can’t waste time.”

Even feels a pang of hurt despite himself. “No, yeah,” he clears his throat. “Yeah, if you need to — but I’ll — listen, Isak—”

“Bye, Even,” Isak turns around then and makes a beeline for the crosswalk, and makes it across the street just in time for the light change.

Even stares at Isak’s disappearing back for as long as he can manage to, then he stands there for an extra minute (or five), just to let the very real facts sink in:

Isak is angry. Isak is hurt. Isak does not want to see him, or talk to him.

And the worst part, the absolute worst part about all of this, is that Even deserves this. This is his fault, completely and entirely.

He pockets his hands in his coat and turns around to make his way back into the coffeeshop. He’d go home now, but Isak and Even share a tram route, so out of respect, he’ll let Isak get home and escape first.

Lucky him, Even thinks; at least Isak has the luxury of escaping him.

--

ONSDAG 8.19

He keeps apologizing to me like he knows how much it hurt me. Like he knows what an idiot I am but he’s trying to soften the blow. I’m so fucking embarrassed.

--

ONSDAG 9.00

Are you sure there isn’t another reason he’s trying to apologize? Maybe he felt it, too. Maybe he’s apologizing because it happened this way.

--

ONSDAG 9.52

Please don’t say that. Please stop getting my hopes up. Please just let it die. Please. Draw me something, or whatever, but please stop saying those things. I’m sorry, but I can’t do that anymore.

--

ONSDAG 10.23

Okay. I’m sorry. If I could draw you a solution, I would. As it were, I can only draw you a heart, in hopes that it’ll replace your broken one. You don’t deserve this, Isak. You don’t. He doesn’t deserve you. There are a million other things I don’t know, but I do know he doesn’t deserve you.

--

ONSDAG 10.46

Do you think I’m pathetic?

--

ONSDAG 11.03

No, I think you’re a warrior. I think you’re gonna get through this. Don’t you? I think you’re pretty strong. Just get into the “I can’t lose” mentality and you should be fine. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!

ONSDAG 11.42

Did you just make that up? It sounds like the slogan for a Nike commercial.

ONSDAG 12.01

Isak, I’m appalled. Have you never once in your life watched Friday Night Lights, the only true revolutionary show to ever come out of the United States of America?

ONSDAG 12.21

It’s not the only one. I like The Walking Dead.

ONSDAG 13.00

Oh, my God. You would like the show with nothing but gore and one-dimensional characters. I might have to rethink this entire endeavor. I can’t stand to think your mind’s rotting away watching this atrocity of a television show. You’re probably one of the fans that kept watching even after Glenn died, aren’t you?

ONSDAG 13.36

It’s a good show! It keeps me entertained, it gets the job done so far as television shows go. And maybe, but there are a lot of other interesting characters on the show that can keep the storyline going. I liked Glenn, but he’s not the be-all-end-all of the show.

ONSDAG 13.59

Okay, stop watching that low-budget Dawn of the Dead ripoff and instead watch Friday Night Lights. I think it’s about time you were exposed to one of the more time-worthy and consuming shows in the world. You’ll love it.

ONSDAG 14.22

No. Or, what’s it about? I’m not flying in blind here.

ONSDAG 14.51

Oh you most certainly are. I’m not telling you anything. Go home and watch as much as you can tonight. Hit me up with your thoughts tomorrow. It’s gonna be good, I promise. It’ll keep your mind off things. CLEAR EYES FULL HEARTS CAN’T LOSE.

ONSDAG 15.15

You’re an idiot.

— —

TORSDAG 8.13

Dude. It’s like a football cult. What the fuck is wrong with Texas?

TORSDAG 8.52

TEXAS FOREVER, ISAK!!

TORSDAG 9.17

It’s a stupid show. I can’t believe I’m still watching it. It’s like a car wreck, I just can’t look away. You did this to me.

TORSDAG 9.59

Did you know that both Lyla Garrity and Tim Riggins helped me discover my sexuality? Both of them. Simultaneously.

TORSDAG 10.27

You swing both ways, then?

TORSDAG 10.53

I swing all the ways, Isak. Except for animals. And furries.

TORSDAG 11.15

What are “furries”? Aren’t they just animals?

TORSDAG 11.42

Oh, no. I’m not explaining that one to you. Google it, I can’t be your guru for everything. There are lines even I won’t cross.

TORSDAG 12.40

Okay? You’re being so weird about it.

TORSDAG 13.00

Come back to me when you’ve googled it. And also watched some more of Friday Night Lights.

TORSDAG 13.42

I don’t even understand their “football”. How did you even enjoy it when it makes no sense? Their “football” is stupid. They don’t even use their feet. Everyone’s so obsessed with a bunch of guys just jumping on top of each other and hitting each other and then they just keep loving it even after it paralyzed Jason. America is wild.

TORSDAG 14.11

Oh, my God. You’re already calling the characters by their first names. I’m so proud. You can complain all you want, you’re hooked, I can tell. It’ll do that to you. Sink its claws into you and never let you go. Before you know it you’ll be choosing your true OTP and be fighting for them until the end.

TORSDAG 14.30

Okay, what’s an “OTP”

TORSDAG 14.54

Jesus. GOOGLE IS FREE, ISAK

TORSDAG 15.00

Keep being passive aggressive, see who talks to you about their experience with Friday Night Lights from now on.

TORSDAG 15.15

:( I’m sorry, please don’t leave the show because of me. It’s a good show. Keep enjoying it. Keep talking to me about it, it’ll be like I’m experiencing it for the first time all over again.

TORSDAG 16.10

--

TORSDAG 17.23

— —

FREDAG 8.08

Why is everything so dramatic in that town? They even close down the shops for an entire day because of their “football” game. That’s so stupid.

FREDAG 8.59

:) But you’re liking it.

FREDAG 9.43

A car wreck, dude. I can’t look away. I don’t know what I’m supposed to take away from this, though? None of it makes any sense to me.

FREDAG 10.49

I don’t know, nothing of value, but a whole lot of entertainment. Or, wait. WAIT OH MY GOD. Can you imagine Coach Taylor-ing your future animal patients, though? “GOOD DOGS DON’T COMPLAIN! YOU’RE NOT A GOOD DOG UNTIL YOU’VE EARNED IT!” I don’t know how much better they’d get, but they sure as heck would be motivated as fuck.

FREDAG 11.38

I’ll bring the dogs back from the dumps. I’ll teach them how to play fetch again. They’ll go the the state championships. They might even go pro.

FREDAG 12.49

I have never been prouder of you, Isak.

— —

MANDAG 8.00

Why are they always eating pie? What is it with Americans and pie? I don’t get it. It’s so gross.

MANDAG 8.43

Aw, it’s not that bad. I always have apple pie for my birthday. Never tasted the cherry one they’re always eating, though.

MANDAG 9.09

They’re never eating a cherry pie, it’s always apple.

MANDAG 9.38

No, pretty sure as the upmost expert on all things Friday Night Lights, they’re almost always eating cherry pies. At least that’s what they always ate when I watched it.

MANDAG 10.00

Oh, man. It could have been both. It could be because of the Mandela Effect.

MANDAG 10.14

The what now?

MANDAG 10.34

Google is free, you know.

MANDAG 10.58

Wow. Touché.

MANDAG 11.50

So the Mandela Effect is named after Nelson Mandela. You remember he died in 2013, right? Well, a lot of people are sure they remember him dying in the 1980s. Crazy, right? You could call it bad memory or whatever but it’s too coincidental that SO MANY people remember it that way, even though some of us know for a fact he died in 2013. Some of the people that remember his death in the 80s even remember seeing clips of his funeral on TV with eerily similar details.

What a lot of people believe is either time travelers have gone back and altered just the tiniest thing that have made small details in our present different or that a lot of us can actually travel through parallel universes, but we don’t take our memory with us, just a little part of our consciousness.

It’s so interesting. You should actually try checking this book out when you have a chance. You can’t just keep using it to get my notes, that’s lame.

MANDAG 12.23

Okay, I knew you were a nerd, but now I know you’re a fucking nerd . I’m pretty sure all of that is definitely collective bad memory. What are the odds that a lot of us would be traveling through parallel universes at the same time? And to the exact same ones?

MANDAG 12.56

Don’t discount the time travelers theory, then. Even though parallel universes makes more sense, because that has to do with consciousness and not memory, and I don’t think either of those would be affected by time travelers.

MANDAG 13.08

So you’re saying just because a bunch of people think one guy died three decades before he actually did, suddenly we’re all traveling through different universes? Sounds fake, but okay.

MANDAG 13.28

You’re so skeptical. Just think about all the smaller things, too! How do you remember Oscar Mayer spelled? Do you remember the Monopoly man having a monocle or not? Is the end of Pikachu’s tail black, or has it always been completely yellow? Does Darth Vader say “Luke, I am your father” or “No, I am your father”? Did the Mona Lisa ever actually smile? Does Forrest Gump say “Life is like a box of chocolates” or “Life was like a box of chocolates”?

Think about your answers and then prepare to have your mind blown when you realize THERE ARE SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO THINK DIFFERENTLY.

MANDAG 14.00

Okay, you’re crazy, but I kind of like it, it’s kind of hot. Still, I’m not convinced all of this isn’t just really bad memory. Or kind of like the way a plague spreads, you know, kind of like miscommunication. One person famously says something one way, and it spreads that way, and so a lot of people are implanted with false memories. Boom. Suddenly it seems like everyone always knew a certain something, but it was never that way. Just started with someone saying the wrong thing.

MANDAG 14.18

How do you explain the cartoon pictures though? You can’t just “miscommunicate” those.

MANDAG 14.30

Are you gonna bite my head off if I keep arguing about this?

MANDAG 14.52

I don’t know who you are, so technically I wouldn’t be able to. But I can give you the silent treatment for a couple of days, so maybe stop arguing and accept that there are some things we can’t explain. Parallel universes are a thing that exist. Some of us travel through them. We’re so fucking insignificant compared to everything.

MANDAG 15.00

Okay, sure. There are some things we can’t explain. Like the color magenta. Or pineapple on pizza.

MANDAG 15.08

Thank you! Pineapple on pizza is fucking gross. Did you know Mr. Darcy actually likes it? It’s so stupid, he’s so stupid.

MANDAG 15.15

Add that to the list of what’s wrong with him, then. Soon enough it’ll be so long you’ll forget all about how he hurt you.

— —

TIRSDAG 8.10

I really miss him. I hope that’s not weird. I know he broke my heart, but it’s not like he did it on purpose, and I keep avoiding him in case he can tell how much I’m hurting but I miss him. He really is one of my closest friends. I miss his stupid laugh and his stupid jokes and all the stupid movie references that sometimes go over my head until days later. I hate that I miss him so much.

--

TIRSDAG 10.01

Have you considered maybe seeing him? Maybe you just need to sit down and talk to him again. Heartbreak eases, Isak. It gets easier. I promise you it gets easier.

--

TIRSDAG 10.54                                                                              

Maybe. I think it still might hurt too much. Can you talk to me about something else?

--

TIRSDAG 11.32

Remember how I told you about my grandmother’s first true love before my grandfather? They had coffee last week. We talked about it over dinner, and she said he still looks as handsome as he did the first time she laid eyes on him. He told her that her feelings had always been reciprocated. I think they might go on a date, soon. Isn’t that nice? Doesn’t matter how old you get, how many people leave you, you can still find a happy ending.

--

TIRSDAG 12.06

Are you lying about this story to make me feel better?

--

TIRSDAG 13.00

I can get you a picture of them together if you want proof. I’m not lying. They really did reconnect. Maybe one day we’ll reconnect just like that in the future.

--

TIRSDAG 13.44

Why do you think we wouldn’t be reconnecting now? Or connecting or whatever. Why are you talking like we won’t see each other until years in the future, when our future spouses are dead or whatever?

--

TIRSDAG 14.00

Because maybe we won’t be. Nothing in life is for certain, Isak. I can tell you right now that I want to see you tomorrow. And then maybe I won’t be able to see you tomorrow. I can tell you that I want to see you every day for the rest of my life. And then maybe tomorrow it’ll hurt too much. I can tell you all the things for certain, but they’re never truly certain. So the further into the future you look, the more palpable the possibilities become. If I tell you fifty years from now I want to reconnect with you, then for about fifty years, give or take, that possibility is still a certain one. Do you understand?

--

TIRSDAG 14.56

Maybe. Do you really think I’d be worth waiting fifty years for, though? That seems like such a long time. I don’t know. I think I’d like to meet you before my hair turns gray.

--

TIRSDAG 16.20

--

TIRSDAG 17.34

Noora’s there before Even arrives, and she’s already ordered his coffee. He thanks her profusely and offers to pay her back immediately, but Noora simply waves him off and tells him to sit down, she can pay for a drink without having to be paid back. Even smiles, amused despite himself, and takes a seat across from her, thanking her again.

From the look of things, Even thinks Noora’s been here for a while — maybe even since she texted Even, which makes him wonder just how much, exactly, she was actually craving the company. He considers her carefully, unsure whether to come right out and ask what’s wrong or attempt to make small talk, first.

Noora decides for him. “So,” she clears her throat, traces aimless patterns on the table. Even follows the movement with his eyes. “How are your classes?”

Even furrows his brows, but a smile makes way past his lips anyway. “Good,” he teases quietly. “Noora, it’s okay if you wanted me here to talk about something,” he tells her, voice as kind and as genuine as he can muster. “We’re not strictly small-talk friends.”

“I know,” Noora scoffs. “Maybe I don’t want to talk about something in specific, Even.” she raises both her eyebrows and leans back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest. “Maybe I just want to have a conversation about the weather.”

Even chuckles. “Last time I tried to have a conversation about the weather, it backfired on me.”

Noora’s brows furrow. “How can that backfire on someone?”

Even shrugs forlornly. “I’m something else, I tell you.”

Noora looks at him suspiciously. “Hmm,” she hums, thoughtfully. “I mean—” she stops herself, gaze drifting from Even’s. Even lets her take her time. “I just — how…much would you judge me if I wanted to talk to you about…” Noora clears her throat. “About a boy?”

Even goes over every single cherished memory made the past two months. Verdict: all about a boy. Conclusion? “Not at all,” he promises. “I’m just a little curious as to why I’m your go-to for this conversation?”

Noora squirms, looking a little uncomfortable. “I’ll get to that,” she promises, pink tinting her cheeks.

Even’s eyebrows rise, and a crooked smile settles on his lips. “Noora,” he gasps scandalously. “Are you having a teacher-student affair?”

What ?” Noora snaps. “No! No, Even, why would you—”

“Noora,” Even grins. “I’m kidding.”

Noora looks at him for a moment, then scowls. “That was rude.”

Even laughs brightly. It feels good — it feels like a relief. “It was funny.”

“It was not.”

“It was a little funny.”

Noora holds up a finger towards Even, mouth open. It snaps closed, then opens again as her eyebrows rise. “It was not.”

Even laughs louder.

“Well, I just don’t feel like telling you anything now.”

Even looks at Noora, smiling in amusement. “Come on,” he teases. “I’m sorry. I know you’re not dating a teacher.” he takes a sip of his coffee, surprised that it’s exactly the way he likes it. He furrows his brows down at it in wonder.

“What?” Noora asks, looking down at his coffee, as well. “I didn’t get it wrong, did I?”

“No,” Even admits. “You didn’t.” He meets her gaze curiously. “Why didn’t you get it wrong?”

Noora looks offended. “I pay attention,” she tells him. “Sometimes.”

Even smiles at her.

Noora coughs into her hand. “Anyway,” she clears her throat. “I can’t — I don’t feel like I can necessarily go to the girls with this one, and Eskild — he can get a little over enthused about these situations and Linn and Isak—” she chuckles, while Even’s heart traitorously picks up at Isak’s name. “—well, they wouldn’t be much help.”

“Oh,” Even raises his eyebrows. “So you’re saying I was basically your last option, once you ran out.”

Noora sputters, obviously attempting to hide her blush, but she sounds indignant when she replies, “And because I trust you.”

“Mhm,” Even smiles. “I hear that.”

Noora purses her lips. “I think — I might have feelings for someone,” she starts off slowly. “Someone I don’t think I can have feelings for.”

Even blinks at her. “So, Jonas.”

Noora backtracks. “What?” she snaps. “How did you — I was getting to that.”

“I pay attention,” he smirks. “Sometimes.”

Noora looks like she wants to look offended, but mostly she just looks guilty — her expression is overtaken by something like grief, and she covers her face with her hands in defeat. “I keep doing this,” she snaps, but Even knows it’s out of frustration and directed at herself. “I did it with William, and now I’m doing this with Jonas, and that’s not—” Noora inhales shakily. “It’s not fair. It wasn’t fair to Vilde and now it’s not fair to Eva.”

Even furrows his brows. “But Eva’s not with Jonas anymore,” he points out. “And literally just the other day she was talking to me about how she doesn’t have any lingering feelings for him.”

Noora looks at him. “That’s not what it’s about,” she says. “It’s simply the fact that it’s someone my best friend has been with, and — and it feels right , you know?” she tucks her hair behind her ears, shifting her weight from one side to the other. “There is no one who infuriates me more,” she tells him. “And he’s — he’s so genuine, and sweet, and he’s never had to lie about who he is just because things — bad things have happened to him and he is,” Noora sighs loudly, looks Even straight in the eye. “He drives me crazy. He’s not usually — I wasn’t looking for anything,” she swallows. “He just found me.”

The words hit Even a little harder than he thinks Noora intends them to, and for a second, he finds himself speechless. It’s obvious Noora is beating herself up about this — and it’s also obvious to Even she hasn’t actually done anything about these feelings, else she wouldn’t be talking in the tense she’s talking in, and this conversation would be going a very different way. “So,” Even smiles kindly at her. “I’m guessing you’re gonna have to talk to Eva soon.”

Noora looks at him. “No,” she shakes her head. “I’m not pursuing him.”

Even blinks. “Okay,” he starts slowly. “But you just said—”

“I can’t go down that road again,” Noora tells him, her voice quiet. “Vilde — Vilde is strong, and Vilde was different. She was never really in love with William. Vilde built him up in her head and I guess — I had the same problem,” she explains. “But there’s the difference. I didn’t build Jonas up in my head. What I see is what I get, and I see exactly what Eva saw,” she sucks her bottom lip into her teeth. “Exactly what Eva fell in love with. Because she was in love with him. And I can’t — that’s not something I can touch again. I’m not going to.”

Even narrows his eyes, unsure of where to begin.

“Besides,” Noora beats him to the punch. “He was — hooking up with some girl at a party, apparently, and he—” she huffs. “He obviously doesn’t care enough about whatever’s happening between us if he’s so easy to give into temptation.”

This is so, so much. Even genuinely thought there would be a lot less information during this talk. Still — he realizes that this is something he can help with, this is actually something he can control, this is something he can be useful for — this isn’t Isak, these aren’t his problems, and maybe this is what he needs, to put it all aside and maybe realize this is not the end of the world. His problems may seem like the biggest ones right now, but they’re not. They’re really not.

“I think,” Even starts. “That you should tell Eva all of this.” Noora looks like she wants to interrupt again, so Even holds up a placating hand. “No, listen, I know Eva,” he smiles crookedly. “She’s in love with Vilde. She’s moved on. And, okay, it’s probably going to hurt her, I won’t lie to you,” he admits. “But I also don’t think she’d want you to be unhappy.”

Noora lowers her gaze. “I don’t want her to hate me,” she admits quietly. “I don’t — I never really had a family,” she explains. “And the girls — they’re the closest thing I’ve ever had to one.”

Even can relate. If it ever came down to a girl or Mikael, Mikael would most likely win every time. He’s his brother, through and through, but that’s the thing about Mikael — he’d never make Even choose. He never liked Sonja, not really — it has to do with a falling out they had back in junior high, before she and Even even started liking each other — but not once did Mikael tell him not to pursue her. It’s never about friendship versus happiness — they go hand in hand, and Mikael’s always realized this.

He thinks this is the truth for Eva, too. Noora’s not giving her enough credit — and not because Noora doesn’t know her, he doesn’t think, but because Noora’s always been more wary about her choices; at least, this is what Even’s seen from her since the beginning of the school year, and he sees that now, in her expression, in the way she seems to be weighing her options, even now, when she thinks she’s made a clear decision.

“Okay,” Even agrees. “But also, I don’t think you should be making decisions for Eva.”

Noora looks at him, looking slightly annoyed. “Even—”

“I’m just saying,” Even insists. “You and I both know Eva hates that. What if she ever finds out that you did this? It’ll come out eventually — it’s high school, Noora, shit gets around. You’re going to be drunk one day or Jonas is and it’s gonna slip, and then she’ll be even angrier,” Even raises an eyebrow. “She’ll try not to be, but she will be.”

Noora bites the inside of her cheek. “But the girl,” she pushes.

Even frowns. “I think you should give him another chance for that,” he says, and maybe he’s being a little biased here, but—

“Why?”

Because,” Even sighs, shrugs a little. “Sometimes people do stupid shit for reasons that seem justifiable in the moment, but then later—” he glances down at his coffee. “Later, it comes back to bite them in the ass. I don’t think Jonas meant to hurt you, Noora. I think he might even want everything with you. But if you’re not — if there’s no chance to jump into, how can he take the leap with you? It stands to reason he stuck to what’s safe for him, which is hooking up with some random girl at a party, because that’s what he knows, and sometimes — you need to learn to forgive people, okay, and I just—” Even swallows, clearly lost in a whole other train of thought now.

“I bet he wants your forgiveness. I don’t think he ever meant to do something stupid to lose you. I don’t. I think he wants this, and he wants you to tell him you want it, too. And then maybe he’ll stop being stupid. Because you’ll be straight with him, and you’ll finally give him the chance he’s been waiting for, and all you have to do is get out of your head, let go of your fears, and face the facts: you have feelings for Jonas, feelings you obviously can’t ignore, and you need to face your demons, accept them, and figure out a way to — to deal with them and get what you want.”

He’s a little out of breath by the end there, and he’s not even sure whether or not he finished strong, or whether or not anything he was saying applies to Noora’s situation anymore, and he thinks he might have come across a little bit crazy — if the way Noora’s looking at him a little bit funnily is anything to go by. “Are you okay?” she asks quietly.

Even blinks. “Yes,” he replies, a little defensively. “I’m just tired.”

Noora considers him. “Have you been eating?”

Even blinks at her, then raises an eyebrow. “Of course—” he pauses. Tries to think back to his last meal. He’s been living in his head for so long he can’t remember if he’s actually eaten anything, not today, not even yesterday. He doesn’t say any of this out loud, though. Just leaves it at what he started off with.

Noora’s smile is a little rueful. “I’ll take what you just said under advisement,” she says to him. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe forgiveness is where all of this begins and ends.”

Even clears his throat. “Yeah,” he says quietly. “Yeah, maybe.”

“And maybe you can come over to the apartment soon,” she offers. “We can cook together. You look a little malnourished.”

Even laughs, a little brokenly. He looks Noora in the eye and offers her the kindest smile he can muster. “Yeah,” he nods. “I’d like that.”

--

TIRSDAG 17.31 

— —

ONSDAG 8.43

Finally got around to googling “furries” and oh my God.

ONSDAG 9.41

This would be you as a furry. Aren’t you beautiful?

ONSDAG 10.22

Stop , it’s so weird. I mean, a lot of things are weird, like those guys who like the Little Ponies or whatever and sexualize the fuck outta them, but these people are also. I mean they’re close enough, right? They all have conventions and shit.

ONSDAG 10.45

I’m sure there are okay furries. But most of what I know is very perverted. That’s like toeing the bestiality line.

ONSDAG 11.09

I should never ask you about anything again. I mean, I also googled “OTP”, which I guess is less weird. Do people really go that crazy about romantic pairings?

ONSDAG 11.54

You have obviously lived your life outside the realms such as Tumblr, Twitter and sometimes even Pinterest. There is so much for you to learn, young grasshopper.

ONSDAG 12.32

It’s weird. Everything you know is weird. You have too much time on your hands.

ONSDAG 12.54

Maybe. But at least with that time comes a lot of television show recommendations, specifically your new favorite show FNL.

ONSDAG 13.19

I would totally bang Lyla.

ONSDAG 13.39

Quit it with your dudebroness. Did you forget who you’re talking to?

ONSDAG 13.57

Sorry, force of habit. But really, she’s the kind of girl I’d pretend to like for the sake of everyone else.

ONSDAG 14.14

I mean no offense when I ask this, but does it get tiring? Having to pretend to be attracted to women you have no actual interest in?

ONSDAG 14.35

Sometimes. There’s this poster I hang above my bed of a swimsuit model that kind of taunts me every time I go home. I look at it and I try to force myself to feel something, but it never works. I don’t care for it. I don’t understand her. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes I wish I did. Other times I don’t care.

ONSDAG 14.43

I get it. It can be hard. You’re doing great, though. Talking to me so openly about it? Just a huge step in the right direction, trust me.

ONSDAG 14.58

It’s easier with you. I think it’s both because I don’t know who you are in person and also because I kind of feel safe with you, you know? I might not know your physical self or whatever but I feel like every day I know just a little more of your actual self.

ONSDAG 15.05

You don’t know any of the ugly parts, though. You know what I want you to know.

ONSDAG 15.15

I already told you, I don’t think you could ever be ugly.

— —

ONSDAG 17.23 

--

TORSDAG 8.45

Look, I found a picture of you online. Don’t you just look amazing? I think you’ve never looked more handsome.

--

TORSDAG 9.05

That’s a picture of a fucking pug in a tux

--

TORSDAG 10.00

Just dashing. Were you going to a wedding?

--

TORSDAG 10.56

You’re so stupid. You’re probably the kind of person who has a spirit dog for everyone you know, don’t you?

--

TORSDAG 11.32

I can neither confirm or deny your theory. But if you ever catch me calling you a Golden Retriever, you can assume what you’d like.

Hey, wanna hear something crazy?

--

TORSDAG 12.00

Do I actually have a choice?

--

TORSDAG 12.43

You didn’t talk about Mr. Darcy once yesterday. You hear that? That’s the sound of your heartbreak easing up.

--

TORSDAG 13.04

Maybe. Or maybe you’re making it easier. You’re making it hurt less. I think you’ve always managed to do that for me. I’m happy I have you.

--

TORSDAG 13.58

I’m happy I have you, too.

--

TORSDAG 14.15

Do you think I could meet you anytime soon?

--

TORSDAG 15.00

Isak. I want to be straight (hah! Get it? Okay) with you. I don’t want to be your rebound. You’re still trying to process the fact that Mr. Darcy broke your heart. This is typical post-heartbreak behavior. And I’m here for you, and when we do meet, whenever I do reveal myself, I hope you’ll be sufficiently aware of your feelings. I hope you’ll be able to tell if they’re real.

— —

FREDAG 10.23

Does this mean you don’t have feelings for me anymore, then?

--      

FREDAG 13.42

I don’t think there’ll ever come a day where I don’t have feelings for you, Isak.

--

FREDAG 15.00

--

FREDAG 15.30

Even thinks it’s very telling of the coward that he is that he decides not to follow his first instinct – which is to bolt out of school and run towards KB immediately – and instead make his way to his apartment first, shoulders slumped and gaze cast downward.

It’s easier this way. He doesn’t know what he’s going to say to Isak; it’s not like he’s got any new developments to share with him, and it’s not like he can use the information he’s gathered as his anonymous pen pal to his advantage during a conversation as Even – that’s not fair, he doesn’t think, and Isak deserves to hold those conversations private, to feel like they’re safe where they are, written in ink and shoved in a backpack.

But there’s an excitement brewing inside Even anyway, which he tries to quell with his remaining guilt; a reminder that he’s still done something wrong, and he’s still broken a boy’s heart, and he doesn’t deserve the olive branch Isak’s extending him, not really, and these are the thoughts that propel his feet towards his apartment, keep him from turning around and waiting an hour and a half for Isak to show at the coffeeshop.

The tram is unusually crowded when he climbs inside, and there’s a boy that looks familiar sitting across from where Even stands – he furrows his brows and tries to pinpoint exactly where he knows him from: blonde hair, pointed nose, green eyes—

Oh.

Even snorts quietly to himself. He’s pathetic.

He turns to look out the window and the flurry of buildings and people and trees are evocative of his racing thoughts around Isak, he thinks: cloudy memories and foreign feelings all at once, so quick to come and go Even can never pinpoint which is which. He wonders if Isak’s ever felt his own feelings as intense as Even has, multiplied by a hundred, seen them in kaleidoscope colors and heard them in surround sound. He wonders if it’s even possible to harbor this many feelings inside, if it’s healthy, if it’s normal. Maybe under different circumstances, Even decides. But having all of them provoked by a single boy?

Maybe that makes him even more pathetic.

He sighs loudly to himself, which earns him a dirty look from an elderly woman sitting in front of him; Even looks at her curiously, wonders what in the world could have caused her to be in such a bad mood that she’s bothered by a sigh, then offers her a bright smile for her troubles. The woman blinks, then pointedly looks away. Even bites back his laugh.

No, Even thinks, maybe humans are this complicated – he knows better than to put all of them and all they are in a box. A woman can be bothered by a sigh on the tram, a boy can be brought back to life by an anonymous conversation, and he can feel things he’s never felt before fill him from his head to the tip of his toes, until he’s completely consumed by these feelings, defined by them.

His stop comes a little unexpectedly, and he almost doesn’t get off at the right moment, but he manages to avoid a Situation just in time – he almost waves goodbye at the woman in front of him, but decides against it at the last minute, lest he ruins her day further than is. He makes his way towards his apartment, says hello to the neighbors leaving the building, and finally spares a glance at his phone: it’s 15.45, and his heart misses a beat at the thought that in less than an hour, Isak will be willingly sitting across from him again, willingly speaking to him.

Even swallows the beginnings of a lump in his throat. He reminds himself he doesn’t deserve this. He reminds himself he did nothing to earn this. He reminds himself Isak is far too kind, far too good for him.

This is nothing to be excited about.

When he pushes the door to his apartment open, he expects Baz’s excited greeting – what he doesn’t expect is the smell of pastries, and something akin to chocolate, coming from the kitchen. Brows furrowed, he makes his way further inside and closes the door behind him, absentmindedly scratching at Baz’s head as the dog follows him towards the kitchen.

His mom is standing with her back to the oven, a muffin pan sitting on the counter, filled with – well, muffins.

Even looks at the muffins, then looks at his mom, who seems to be enthralled in her attempts to carefully lift the muffins from their respective cups; enough so that she hasn’t noticed Even standing there with her, looking at her incredulously.

“Uh,” Even clears his throat. “Mom?”

His mom looks up in surprise, then a smile spreads over her lips. “Oh, hi, honey,” she greets him happily, like it’s not completely out of character for her to be home before nine o’clock and baking muffins. “How was school?”

Even narrows his eyes suspiciously. “Fine,” he raises an eyebrow at the muffins. “So, those are muffins.”

“That they are,” his mother sighs contently. “Would you like to try one? They’re chocolate chip.”

Even shakes his head. “I think they’re still too hot,” he points out, which simply earns him a noncommittal hum in reply. “What are you doing home?” he asks, dropping his backpack on one of the kitchen chairs.

“Both my clients cancelled on me,” she explains, and, okay, Even supposes that makes sense. “So I had the entire day to kill. The entire day, can you believe?” His mother snorts, almost indignantly. “As if I need an entire day. So this is what came of it,” she gestures grandly towards the muffins. “Muffins.”

Even laughs once. “You couldn’t have, I don’t know, baked a cake?” he asks her. “You’re an artist. You could have done so much with a cake.”

His mom blinks at him. “You’re grounded,” she sniffs, turning back to her work of fishing the muffins out of the cups.

Even laughs. “What?

“You can’t just waltz in here after school and make me regret my endeavors,” his mom points out matter-of-factly. “That’s not very son-like.”

“Yeah, well, grounding your son for being smarter than you isn’t very mom-like, so,” he teases as he walks towards his room.

“You’re not smarter than me!” his mom calls after him. Even laughs again.

“I think I am,” Even calls back, shrugging his hoodie off and reaching for his denim jacket. He does not examine the reason why he’s suddenly switching from one warm attire to the other closely, nor should he, he thinks, because that’s going back down the course he’s trying to veer off of.  

When he walks back into the kitchen, his mom looks him over and raises an eyebrow. Even avoids her gaze as he pretends to look through his backpack. “You’re leaving me already?” she asks.

“Yep,” he replies, pulling out a random notebook. “I have plans.”

His mom hums. “With Sonja?” she sighs. “How is Sonja?”

Even looks at her. “Not with Sonja,” he replies quietly, a little guiltily. “And she’s – as good as can be expected. Doing better,” he admits. “Better than a lot of us would be doing.”

“Of course,” his mom agrees. “God, that poor thing.”

Even agrees. Sonja’s grandmother was like her mother – now she’s lost both of them, and Even’s been unable to break the news that he no longer has feelings for her yet, lest he wants to wind up looking like an asshole and hurting her further. He doesn’t say any of this to his mom, though. Just nods quietly and pretends to sift through his notebook.

“Who are you meeting, then?” she asks. “Mikael?”

“No, uh, Isak,” he says, clearing his throat. “At KB.”

“Ah,” his mom stares studiously at her muffins. “Isak.” she repeats, voice contemplative.

Even shifts his weight nervously. He hates the way his mother talks like she knows things Even doesn’t, hates to think that this is just like the time Even came out to her, the way she looked like she’d always known, because somehow, somehow, Even thinks mothers always know.

He clears his throat. “Yeah, so,” he shoves his notebook back inside his backpack. “I should get going.”

“Yes,” his mom smiles at him. “You should.” Even makes to leave, but his mom interrupts him with a loud, “Oh!”

Even raises an eyebrow. “What?”

His mom hurries to the cupboard behind her and pulls out a plastic container, then proceeds to place three muffins – the number of muffins that fit – inside. “Here,” she says, closing the lid. “They’re for Isak,” she tells him warningly. “Don’t eat them.”

Even looks at her, disbelieving. He shakes his head and takes the container from her, smiling slightly. “Thanks,” he tells her, and his mother beams.

“Go on,” she shoos him. “I’m probably gonna head to the store to buy some more stuff after you, anyway.”

Even smirks. “For a cake?”

His mom glares at him warningly. “Even Bech Næsheim, you leave this house right this instant or so help me God—”

Even laughs brightly and salutes her. “See ya, mom,” he calls out as he walks towards the foyer. Baz whines after him, which reminds him to turn around and place a kiss gingerly on top of his dog’s head. “I’ll be home soon,” he promises Baz, and he hears his mother sniff behind him.

“Oh, the dog gets a kiss,” she complains dramatically.

Even chuckles and blows her one from where he stands, then walks out the door.

--

FREDAG 16.45

Isak texts him that he’s running a little late when Even gets to the coffeeshop, and a part of him wonders if Isak will show up at all. He thinks it’s funny that he wouldn’t feel offended, or angry, or anything at all, really – in fact, he thinks he maybe deserves to be stood up, sent a text about how Isak got far too busy with literally anything else and left to stew in his own disappointment, in his own sadness.

Even doesn’t really deserve Isak’s time of day, so when he sees Isak push open the door to the coffeeshop, he feels betrayed by his own consciousness when his heart lifts at the sight of him.

There’s nothing different about him. He’s in a hoodie and in a snapback (and it’s facing forward, of course it is) and in the jeans Even swears he wears all week and there’s nothing different about him, of course there isn’t, but it feels like it’s been years and so everything, everything is different about him.

Isak finds his gaze after a moment, and Even waves at him, feigning cheerfulness. It’s easy, it’s always been easy, to fake happy, even when everything inside him feels like it’s on fire, even when everything inside him feels like it’s mocking him. Not yours, it tells him, and should never be.

Isak smiles slightly and finds his way over to Even. “Hi,” Isak greets him, sitting across from him. He looks down at the coffee Even’s already set in his place, and Even revels in the small twitch of Isak’s lips. “Thanks,” he looks at Even, eyes still slightly guarded. He deserves that, Even thinks. He does.

“Never a problem,” he reminds Isak. “And also,” he pushes the plastic container full of muffins towards Isak, who merely blinks down at them, puzzled. “They’re for you.”

Isak furrows his brows and reaches over, opening the lid. “They’re muffins,” Isak looks up at him. “You brought me muffins?” Even laughs at his confused expression. “They sell muffins here, Even.”

Even grins. “Yes, but these are my mother’s muffins,” he replies matter-of-factly. “They’re chocolate chip, and she specifically told me not to eat any of them, as they were all for you.”

Isak blinks at him in surprise. “They’re from your mom?”

“That’s right.”

Isak sucks his bottom lip between his teeth. “Uhm,” he clears his throat. “You – she knows—” Isak sighs, obviously frustrated. Even lets him find his footing. “You talk to your mom about me?”

Even smiles kindly. “Of course,” he replies, not telling Isak his mother probably knows far more than she lets on where Isak is concerned. “Try to get me to stop. I could talk about you nonstop, if she let me.”

Isak looks like he’s trying to ignore the fact that he’s blushing. He stares down at the muffins in something like wonder, then his expression dims slightly. “Uhm,” Isak glances up at Even. “Well, tell her I said thanks.”

Even nods. “I will.”

Isak pulls one of the muffins out of the container, and after another second of contemplation, he takes a large bite out of it. Even grins at the sight – no finesse, he thinks, but Even can’t help but be endeared anyway.

Isak grunts in approval, wiping at his bottom lip. Even forcefully and very carefully ignores the movement. “This is good,” he says, and Even laughs.

“Don’t sound so surprised,” he teases. “She’d be offended.”

Isak swallows. “Sorry,” he smiles crookedly. “But, yeah, thanks.”

The conversation’s already looking like it might be a little stilted – and Even has to remind himself, once again, that this is no one’s fault but his own. In the end, he brought this onto himself, and though he misses the ease of conversation with Isak, this is so much; the fact that he showed up today, the fact that Isak decided that maybe Even was worth time spent, is so, so much. He wonders if it would be strange to thank Isak, then deflect when he asked what Even’s thanking him for, instead steer the conversation to something that would bring the light back into Isak’s eyes – he misses it. He misses the large grins, not the small, guarded smiles he’s being offered now.

He deserves this.

“So,” Even tries for cheerful, normal. He links his fingers and sets them in front of him on the table. “What has the wonderful Isak Valtersen been up to for the past week, hm? And,” Even looks at him seriously. “Isak, I want you to be very honest with me when you answer my next question: are you a vigilante?”

Isak snorts. “What?”

“The blow-offs? The vague responses to my texts? I’ve seen every animated and live-action Batman series and movie, Isak,” Even tells him. “I know the signs.”

Isak’s lips purse, almost like he’s trying to hold back a laugh. “You’re such a fucking nerd,” he sighs exasperatedly, eyes finding the ceiling. After a moment, a smile makes way past his lips, anyway, and he seems to accept this as his gaze meets Even’s again. “I’m not a vigilante, asshole,” he says. “I’ve seriously just had a shit ton of homework.”

“Mhm,” Even’s grin turns lopsided. “That’s exactly what a vigilante would say, you know.”

Isak scoffs, tearing a piece of his muffin with his fingers. “Then I guess you’ll never know.”

Even clutches at his chest dramatically. “Isak,” he pouts. “And here I thought we were friends.”

Isak slowly pops a piece of the muffin inside his mouth, chews carefully as he avoids Even’s gaze. Even wonders if he’s pushed the boundaries – if he’s brought up old wounds, if he’s reopened battle scars. He backtracks as soon as he can, says the first thing that comes to mind, which happens to be:

“I saw a video of two turtles having sex yesterday.”

Isak chokes on his muffin.

Even laughs, reaching over to grab Isak’s coffee and hand it to him. Isak takes it quickly, downs as much as he can before setting it back down and clearing his throat. “Dude, what.”

Even shrugs casually. “I did.”

“What the fuck.”

“I’m serious,” Even pushes, very seriously. “I can show you.”

Isak blinks at him, then snorts. “I don’t want to see two turtles having sex, Even.”

“Well, the way they’re doing it, you’d be more hearing them—”

“That either,” Isak looks at Even, still disbelieving, but his expression’s also amused. “I don’t want to see or hear them having sex, and I don’t know why you wanted to.”

Even shrugs. “I had to make use of my time somehow,” he tells Isak. “Since most of it used to be spent with you.”

Isak’s expression shifts from amused to guilty, and Even’s heart squeezes at the sight. No, that wasn’t fair of him. Even knows the fact they haven’t been spending any time together is entirely fault of his own, and it’s not fair of him to spring that on Isak and make him feel like he’s the bad guy for refusing to see Even. Even gets it – but he doesn’t know how to tell Isak that he gets it without giving himself away, so he just—

“I’m sorry,” Even apologizes anyway, because he’s so useless, and it’s all he can do.

Isak sighs frustratedly. “No, stop apologizing, you haven’t—”

Isak.” Even stops him, and Isak looks at him, and he looks wary, he almost looks scared. “Isak.”

Isak swallows. There are the words, hanging between them, and Even wishes he could catch them and push them past his lips but it’s impossible – but they know, they both know, and Isak knows. Isak can deny it all he wants, but maybe that’s the worst part about this; it’s that, deep down, Even’s sure Isak knows. He’s always known. And Isak knows Even’s apologizing for a reason, and maybe that reason is one Isak refuses to accept.

“Even—”

“I want to tell you so many things,” Even tells him quietly, and Isak’s lips thin before he licks them, eyes flickering down to the table. “And maybe I don’t—”

“Hi, Isak,” a loud voice interrupts them, and both their heads snap towards it. And it’s Julian, of fucking course it is, and Even’s hands immediately ball into fists. He hides them under the table. “Just getting in?”

“Uhm,” Isak blinks at him like a deer caught in the headlights, as he usually does. “Yeah.”

“Nice,” Julian clicks his tongue. “Just getting in, too. About to clock in, actually.” He smiles brightly at Isak. “You look good today.”

Isak glances at Even, then back at Julian. “Uhm.”

“Wow, you really have a knack for interrupting conversations, don’t you?” Even pipes up, cloying smile in place. “Ever thought about making a career out of it?”

Julian sighs loudly and rolls his eyes before turning to look at Even, offering him a bitter smile. “Oh, hi, Even, didn’t see you there,” he tells him. “How’s your girlfriend? Pretty tall thing, isn’t she?”

Isak stiffens where he sits and Even can’t stand it, can’t stand that Julian’s found something to hold over him – he deserves it, he does, but there’s no one he dislikes more in this moment than Julian, not even himself; especially when throwing it in Even’s face also means throwing it back in Isak’s, and Julian has to know what a low blow that is. He has to be aware.

“Her grandmother just passed,” Even manages to keep his voice steady. “So she’s not doing so well. Thanks for your concern, though.”

Julian’s smile falters. “Oh,” he mutters. “Uhm, yeah, sorry, dude. Sucks.” He glances at Isak, who’s looking at Even. “Yeah, I’m gonna go clock in. See you later, Isak?”

Isak blinks back up at him. “Sure?”

Julian leaves, and he behind him he leaves a tense atmosphere, one Even was hoping he could have broken through before Julian decided to intervene.

“Isak—”

“Sonja’s grandmother died?” he asks him quietly.

Even looks at him. “Yes,” he sighs. “She raised her after her mother died, so she’s – pretty broken up about it.”

“Oh.” Isak nods. “I’m sorry.”

Even is always in awe of this boy – how he can find it in himself to apologize for things that are far beyond his control, and not at all his fault, and offer these apologies as sincerely as he does. Isak’s heart must not fit inside him, Even thinks. It’s far too big to handle him, far too big for him at all.

Even doesn’t deserve him. Doesn’t think he ever will.

“So am I,” he admits. “We were on our way to her funeral, the day—” he clears his throat. “The day you met her.”

“Yeah,” Isak’s voice is weak, like he’s been trying to forget. He plays with the half-eaten muffin in front of him. He looks like he wants to say something, and Even is silently pleading for him to say it – just say it, Even will take anything, any sort of acknowledgment. He’ll take fault, he’ll take anger, so long as Isak breaks through this unspoken tension, so long as he knows.

Instead, Isak starts packing up his half-eaten muffin, presumably in a move to leave.

And Even doesn’t think when his hand reaches over to hold Isak’s in place where it’s closing the container’s lid. Isak freezes, stares at their hands, then looks up at Even with a question in his eyes.

Even doesn’t know what he wants to say. He didn’t think it through, all he knows is he doesn’t want Isak to leave. Every second spent with him is like coming up for air, and Even’s struck by the sheer need he feels.

“What makes you happy, Isak?” he asks suddenly.

Isak looks at him incredulously. “What?”

Even simply waits for an answer.

Isak’s mouth parts and stays that way for a moment before he replies. “I don’t know,” he snaps. “I don’t – what makes you happy?”

“You,” Even replies, without missing a beat, without a hint of hesitation. “I think you’ve made me the happiest I’ve been in a very, very long time.”

Even’s known sadness for so long it’s almost like an old friend; happiness is more an acquaintance, but it never leaves him when Isak is near. He feels like he can conquer the world, he feels invulnerable, similar to when he’s on a high, but he’s in control this time. Isak is a thousand emotions rolled into one, and humans may be complicated, and these feelings may fill Even up to the brink, but there are only a handful of good things in Even’s life, and Isak – Isak is a great one.

Isak looks conflicted. Then he looks hurt. Then he looks betrayed. Even wants to reach and wipe the wavering frown from his lips. “You should be saying that about your girlfriend.” There’s a bite to his tone, and Even deserves it. So he takes it, and he nods.

“Says a lot about my situation with her, don’t you think?” And there. It’s as close to a confession as Even can get – he’s not with Sonja by choice anymore. It’s obligation, to not leave her alone when she needs a shoulder, to save her from more hurt that’s already unfairly been caused to her. It’s as close as Even can get to saying she is not you.

Isak looks down at their overlapping hands. He inhales shakily, eyes suddenly narrowed and glaring. “Then you should figure that out.”

“Isak—”

“I have to go,” Isak says, pulling his hand back quickly. He grabs the muffins, he grabs what’s left of his coffee, and practically bolts out the door, leaving Even with nothing but words stuck in his throat and a heaviness in his heart.

Isak doesn’t look back once. And Even thinks that’s what hurts the most: the thought that maybe he’s not worth looking back for anymore.

--

LØRDAG 10.23 

--

LØRDAG 15.34

Even doesn’t remember much leading up to Sonja’s arrival. His mind does this, sometimes; it’ll block out the painful, or it’ll block out the difficult. Even thinks it’s some sort of defense mechanism his body’s built, to combat everything that’s wrong with him. So it’ll forget his words. They’ll escape him and they’ll sit there and he won’t hear them, but it’s clear when Sonja hears them. Even notices, in order: her face crumple, her eyes turn glassy, and her hands begin to shake. Even knows what she’s thinking before she even says:

“This is — this is like the last time you broke up with me, you were just — Even, I need you to come with me, okay? We need to get you home—”

“Sonja,” Even looks at her, his expression sad. “Sonja, I’m not manic.”

Sonja’s gaze is panicked. “Okay, Even, I—”

“Sonja,” he reaches out to hold her shoulder gently, keeping her in place. She looks like she wants to sway backwards, away from Even’s words. “You know i’m not manic. You know I’m not.”

Sonja’s eyes are filling with tears. Even tries his best not to reach out and wipe at the stray ones — he knows that’d make it harder.

She brings her hands up to wrap around Even’s wrists. “God,” she laughs tearfully. “I saw this coming, you know?”

Even nods. He knows.

“It’s not the same anymore, is it?” Sonja looks at him. “It’s been so — so unpleasant , lately, but I didn’t want to think — I wanted to believe—”

“You thought breaking up with me would make you a terrible person,” Even tries for her. Sonja looks a little panicked. “It wouldn’t have, you know. You’re allowed to want to break up with me.”

“But it’s not because you’re bipolar —”

“Sonja,” Even laughs, takes Sonja’s hands from where they’re wrapped around his wrist and squeezes them. “I know. and I would have known, had you done it before.”

Sonja’s bottom lip quivers slightly. “I still love you,” she whispers. “I just—”

“Don’t very much like me anymore?” Even raises an eyebrow.

Sonja looks at him. “No,” she starts slowly. “No, it’s not that. I just don’t like who we are around each other anymore.”

Even can understand that. Things have been so tense. Things have been unpleasant. Things have been forced, they’ve been so forced, and Even thinks it’s not fair — not of him for sticking with this because he felt it was the right thing to do, not of Sonja because she felt the need to protect Even. It wasn’t fair of them, and it wasn’t fair to them.

“You’re still my friend,” Even says quietly. “I don’t think that could ever change.”

Sonja smiles sadly at him, brings a hand up to caress the side of Even’s face. Even leans into the touch. “Maybe,” she says, but she doesn’t sound defeated — she truly sounds hopeful. “It’s weird to think your affections lie elsewhere, though.”

Even stares at her. “They don’t—”

“Oh, please,” Sonja rolls her eyes, laughs a little mirthlessly. “I’ve seen the way you look at him, Even.”

Even’s breath hitches.

“Mikael.”

Even backtracks.

“What.”

Sonja brings her hand back and laughs, she laughs so genuinely and so loudly that it takes a moment for Even to realize that the reason he’s so shocked is because he hasn’t heard her laugh like this around him in a while. He can’t remember the last time, he can’t, and maybe that’s the saddest fact of all.

He holds on to that laugh, though. It really is a beautiful laugh. He hopes she can find someone who gets to hear that laugh forever.

“I’m sorry, you’re such an idiot,” Sonja chuckles.

Mikael, oh my God,” Even shakes his head.

“You know who I meant,” Sonja’s smile is crooked. “You know who I meant.”

Even swallows, his gaze cast downwards. “I’m sorry,” he says, and he is. He’s so sorry that he can’t explain to her just how much he loves Isak.

And, yes, he loves him, he loves him, and he’s never felt a fraction of what he feels for that boy for Sonja, and he’s sorry it happened this way, and he’s sorry she saw it, and he’s sorry the words are only coming to him now, but they’re true; he loves Isak, the way he’s never loved another person, in that all-consuming, powerful way they tell you about in movies and in literature and in anecdotes, and that’s what he’s been feeling: they’re not nameless, foreign feelings, they’re just one.  

Sonja hums thoughtfully, unaware of Even’s inner monologue. “You never looked at me that way,” and the words don’t sound malicious, or sad, they sound factual. “I think I knew. The second his face fell when he saw me, the second your face fell, I knew. I didn’t want to believe it, but — I knew,” Sonja sighs. “He must be something special, hm?”

Even forces himself to look Sonja in the eye. She deserves that much. “God, he’s so much more,” he laughs shakily. “He’s beautiful.” He stops himself there, because if he keeps going, he’ll never stop, he’ll talk about Isak’s eyes and his laugh and his sense of humor and his horrible movie taste and his aversion to dancing and his unexpected love of Peter Pan and his love for Superman and his intelligence and his passions and his heart and how much even wishes any part of that heart, any part of it, could love Even whole.

Sonja doesn’t hear any of this, yet she acts like she did, loud and clear. “Make sure he’s good for you,” she says, and her words sound firm. “If he’s not good for you, I’m going to come after him.”

Even laughs. “Okay.”

“And tell Mikael not to celebrate too much,” she warns with a roll of her eyes.

Even’s about to pretend not to know what she’s talking about, to protest on behalf of his best friend, but Sonja levels him with a look. Even laughs. “I will,” he promises.

Sonja wipes a stray tear away. “Okay,” she nods. “Yeah, I think I’m gonna go?”

Even looks at her. “You don’t have to.”

Sonja laughs. “Even, I’m not going to stay here,” she looks at him. “We just broke up. That’s weird, even by our standards.”

Even rubs at the back of his neck. “I meant it, you know,” he says quietly. “You’ll always be my friend.”

Sonja tilts her head. “I know you meant it,” she sighs. “Give it some time, okay? This is still — it still—”

“Yeah,” Even nods. “I know.”

When Sonja leaves, there is silence. He swallows the knot in his throat and tries to categorize his feelings, put them in a box and let himself acknowledge them in order. He’s going to miss Sonja. He’s sad to see her go. He’ll always consider her a friend. She’s better off without Even. And he loves Isak.

And he’s not sure if that’s supposed to feel so heartbreaking, but it does. Because this is where he’s meant to decide what to do: does he tell Isak he’s been the two men in his life this entire time? Does he come clean, promise him his heart’s always been in the right place, stand in front of him and express all that he can and promise him that Isak’s never been second; Even doesn’t even think Isak could ever come in second.

Even knows there are risks. But he thinks maybe Isak’s worth all of them. And maybe Isak knows. And an hour later, when he’s filling in some more of Isak’s drawing -- saving his eyes for when he sees them light up again, for when he finds an expression he wants to immortalize -- he thinks Isak’s anonymous pen pal is going to ask Isak to meet, exactly where it all started. And Even will take the leap he’s been too afraid to take in regards to every single aspect of his life.

And maybe Isak will hate him. And maybe Isak will want nothing to do with him anymore.

But maybe, a traitorous, hopeful voice inside him whispers. But maybe, he won’t.

--

SØNDAG 02.56

 

Chapter Text

MANDAG 8.00

Things I have learned about you so far:

  • You can stuff your whole fist in your mouth.
  • You have some “sick rapping skills”.
  • You did not know who Nas was, but you’ve seen the light now.
  • You think of your childhood fondly, especially Christmastime.
  • You don’t like pie.
  • You don’t understand American football.
  • You like that wreck of a zombie show that we shall not name.
  • For some reason, you’ve watched Romeo + Juliet? But not Pride & Prejudice, which, alright.
  • You want to be a vet someday.
  • You believe in parallel universes and the Mandela Effect.
  • You’re the bravest boy I’ve ever known.
  • You’re the smartest boy I’ve ever known.
  • You’re the most beautiful boy I’ve ever known.

Things I don’t know about you yet:

  • Whether you’d like me in person.

So, what do you say we fix that? We can make it a day. I think we’re both finally at a point where we want to, right? Isak Valtersen, I am officially asking you to meet with me. In person. No bullshit. Just you and me, no one else, no buffer, no notes, no ink, no drawings. Just us.

Ahem. Check yes or no, please. (I really hope it’s a yes, though, just so you know. I have a good feeling about this. But also, no pressure. Only if you’re really ready. This is me saying I will wait as long as you need me to.)

~~

MANDAG 10.01

Why are you always so dramatic?? This is real life, not one of those rom-coms that you’re into, sorry to break the news.

(But yes, the answer is yes a million times over.)

Where do you want to meet?

~~

MANDAG 11.01

I would suggest KB, but I don’t how how comfortable you are with that.

~~

MANDAG 12.25

Fuck it, let’s do it. It’s time I forget about it. I can’t keep associating everything with him, because then I’ll never stop. The other day, I heard this dumb Carly Rae Jepsen song on the radio, and it was just annoying before, but I felt so sick I had to turn it off. I don’t think it’s sadness, not anymore. More like regret, for letting it get to the point where I thought it meant something.

For the record, I’m glad that you’re not like Mr. Darcy at all.

~~

MANDAG 13.35

If you’d prefer, you can be the Bingley to my Jane.

~~

MANDAG 14.35

Why am I the one who’s dumb enough to leave the love of my life as soon as I find them? And they’re like the most boring couple in the entire movie. I nearly fell asleep every time they showed up onscreen.

~~

TIRSDAG 9.05

Did you just watch the 2005 movie? I always thought you’d be more into Colin Firth sexily stepping into a pool.

~~

TIRSDAG 9.35

I didn’t watch it. I didn’t believe your whole shit about him being Mr. Darcy anyway, and it’s a cheesy movie.

~~

TIRSDAG 10.35

Isak, I’m literally the king of cheesy. I’m the last person who would judge you.

~~

TIRSDAG 11.05

Fine, but I was just curious! My roommate says he always cries at the end, and I wanted to know what that was about.

~~

TIRSDAG 11.35

I take it you didn’t appreciate Pride and Prejudice’s beautiful ending as much as you should have?

~~

TIRSDAG 12.15

I don’t know--isn’t that a little unrealistic? Them ending up together after he was shitty to her and her family. I know he made up for it, and it’s supposed to be romantic, but no one ends up that happy. Not in real life, anyway.

~~

TIRSDAG 13.00

You don’t think you’d have an ending like that?

~~

TIRSDAG 13.15

Not really. Real life is a lot messier. My parents never ended up happy, and my best friend’s parents are fine, but they fight all the time too.

~~

TIRSDAG 13.45

Good thing I have enough faith for the both of us that you’ll get that happy ending.

~~

TIRSDAG 14.05

With you?

~~

TIRSDAG 14.30

Maybe.

~~

TIRSDAG 18.20

Eskild shows up at his door holding two belts. One is a skinny, simple black, and the other one boasts a giant metal clasp that shines so brightly that it’s almost impossible for Isak to look away from it. He tries to avert his eyes, avoid all contact, but it’s too late, he’s already acknowledged Eskild’s existence. Leaving his door open even a crack was a bad idea. Eskild had been eyeing Isak suspiciously every time he’s left his room in these past few weeks. This is just a badly-disguised attempt to make sure that Isak is still capable of normal human contact, and no wonder. He knows that the dark circles under his eyes haven’t exactly been a stunning endorsement of his own ability to take care of himself.

Eskild worries too much, and there are times when Isak appreciates it. But now, he isn’t sure he can even explain his feelings to himself, much less dissect them into something anyone else can understand.

Eskild jumps on Isak’s bed. “Noora isn’t here, and I’m in the middle of a crisis,” he announces dramatically. He shoves over the pile of worksheets Isak’s been accumulating over the past few days to make more room for himself, and Isak lets out a loud sigh when he loses track of his Physics formula sheet again.

He’s been steadily working through all the homework he’s missed over the past few weeks, when his mind could only supply him with constant thoughts of Even, and Even’s face inches from his, Even staring at Isak like he’d let his entire world burn if Isak were left standing, Even holding his girlfriend’s hand like it was the most natural thing, and Isak’s the part of this equation that doesn’t fit.

Looking back on it, there’d been nothing there in the first place. He just wishes Even would stop fucking apologizing, and pretending he’d done anything wrong. He has nothing to be sorry for. Isak’s the one who projected, who put all his hopes into yet another boy who was only meant to break his heart. He should know better by now. How many heartbreaks does it take to turn a boy to steel?

This boy though, the boy who he’s only gotten to know through his notes, feels different. Isak catches the wisp of something real there, and it’s the opposite of how he should be feeling about someone he’s never even met. All he knows is that he’s been running the words over and over in his head, trying to find any sort of ulterior motive for them. Maybe it’s foolish to hope for happiness, but Isak can’t help it. Here’s a boy who likes him, who Isak may like back, and he can’t help that his heart races whenever he clutches the notes to his chest, like if he pressed them to his heart hard enough, he’d be able to sense the boy waiting on the other side.

It’s far too sentimental for Isak--or too sentimental for the image of himself he’s been building up for years--but there’s something about this guy that makes Isak feel like he deserves this.

He’s still smiling to himself when Eskild snaps his fingers in front of Isak’s face. Isak has to blink a few times to clear his head, and before he can even get his heartbeat functioning like normal, Eskild is waving the belts in front of him. “Which one?”

“What?” Isak scowls.

“I think the first one lends an air of, like, sophistication, but the second one is more me, you know? And it may be best to get that out there. Plus, this metal bit draws attention to my di--”

Isak throws his hands over his ears. “Eskild, don’t be gross.”

“Don’t be such a baby. Dick. There, I said it. You have one, I have one, they’re great.”

Isak grimaces. “I don’t need to hear about you actually using your dick.”

Noora had told him about the time when she’d walked in on Eskild mid-blowjob, and ever since, it’s been his worst nightmare. Eskild is like a big brother, one who Isak understands is probably getting pretty great dick at least once a week, but that knowledge is theoretical. He may love science, but some hypotheses are never meant to be proven.

“What else is it for if you can’t have a little fun?” Eskild waggles his eyebrows, and Isak tries to shove him off the bed, to no avail. Eskild only bursts into laughter. “You know you love me, little baby Isak.”

“Just because I let you come in here, unannounced--”

Eskild scratches his chin. “Who let you live in his basement for weeks, who lets you pay your rent two weeks late, who makes you eat healthy food?”

Isak makes a face. “You don’t have to baby me.”

“That’s like telling Mother Teresa not to save a starving child.”

“You’re not Mother Teresa.”

“And you’re not starving, but you may end up as one if your entire diet is jalapeno chips. Do you know what a vegetable looks like? Do you still remember?”

Isak punches Eskild’s shoulder, but only gets a smirk in return for his efforts. It’s not like he’s the one who cooks in his apartment anyway, and Noora has her whole weird thing about food that makes it easy to ignore all her rants about the versatility of potatoes altogether and just go for the stash of junk food in his kitchen cabinet instead.

“Didn’t you come in here for a favor? A crisis? I don’t know if the best way to go is shitting on me,” Isak says.

Eskild perks up right away. “Right. Belts. Pick one.”

“What’s it for?”

“I’m going on a date with that new guy I’m seeing? Roberto. He’s taking me out to that fancy French place--the one I wanted us to go to but you said you were allergic to food that doesn’t come in a package.”

Isak tilts his head. “I thought you went on a date with him a while ago.” He remembers Eskild pottering about the kitchen maybe two weeks ago, muttering nervously under his breath about one of Noora’s old friends from Spain, who’s apparently great in bed and studies fucking art history, if the prospect of a hot Spanish man wasn’t enough for Eskild to agree to a first date already. Isak hadn’t paid much attention at the time, probably because he’d been texting Even, if he’s being honest with himself, but he thinks this is the right guy. They’d been so loud that night that Isak had blasted NWA through his headphones until he fell asleep.

Eskild’s voice drops. “I have something to tell you, and it may change your entire life, but as your mentor and life coach, I feel like I have a duty to enlighten you. Sometimes, when two people like each other very much, they’ll go on more than one date with each other. Maybe for an extended length of time. Imagine that.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “God, shut up. You know what I mean. You never date someone for this long.”

Eskild shrugs, and picks at the design on his belt. “I like him. He’s fun, and it’s nice to have someone care about you, even when you’re a little shit.”

Isak can’t help the smile that creeps on his face. He’s beginning to understand the feeling, starting to believe that he’s allowed to feel this way about anyone.

I don’t think there’ll ever come a day where I don’t have feelings for you, Isak.

He should’ve taken this chance in the first place, instead of pining after some straight boy who’d never made his feelings clear, who can’t even get his head out of his ass long enough to sort out his feelings for his girlfriend.

His stomach curdles as soon as the thought appears. That’s not right. Even’s great, and if he’s having some sort of cold feet with his long-term girlfriend, that’s none of Isak’s business. Isak is meant to be Even’s friend, and Even doesn’t deserve Isak judging him for something he has nothing to do with, creeping into corners of Even’s life where he doesn’t belong.

Isak sucks in a breath. That’s over. He’s moving on.

Maybe it’s a testament to how shitty he’s been to himself up until now, but it feels like one of the bravest decisions he’s made.

“Do you like Roberto?” Isak asks quietly.

“No, that’s why I’ve been spending so much time with him.”

“And he likes you?”

“If the sounds he makes when I’m sucking his dick are anything to go by, yes.”

Isak shoots him a glare, and Eskild sighs. “Yes, I like him, and he likes me.”

“But how do you know?”

Isak doesn’t duck away in time to avoid Eskild patting the top of his head. “You’ll learn someday. When you feel it, you feel it.”

“But what does that even mean?”

His intuitions have strayed him wrong too often for him to put any trust in them. He could make a fortune off a formula for this, if he could boil human emotions down to a language they can all understand. But if that were possible at all, he would’ve learned to guard himself sooner.

Eskild raises his eyebrows. “What’s with the sudden interest in my love life?”

Isak lets out a shuddering breath as his entire body deflates. “I don’t know.”

And he doesn’t. He doesn’t know what he’s been hoping to get out of this conversation at all. Roberto and Eskild aren’t him and his notes boy, or him and Even, or him and the other million boys who could potentially shatter his heart.

Eskild’s gaze softens. “I just want to know what’s going on with you. You’ve been so distant lately. You won’t even keep me updated on the saga of Ms. Nipple and her increasingly see-through shirts anymore.”

Isak picks at a loose thread on his pillow. “I don’t think you want to be updated on that,” he mumbles. The thread breaks off in his hand, and he’s left staring at it. For something that had given him so much trouble, it’s looking sad and lonely in his palm now.

Eskild makes a face. “No, probably not. I swore off boobs when I was five.”

Isak’s next question surprises him. “You knew all the way back then?”

“As soon as I realized what crushes were, or understood attraction,” Eskild says simply.

Isak presses his eyes shut. It’s getting hard for him to force air in and out of his lungs, but he’s pushing forward, onward, because this isn’t pain, exactly. It’s just a little too real, a little too much, and drawing out the real Isak from beneath all the masks is a process that he suspects will take years.

Eskild tentatively wraps an arm around his shoulders, and Isak lets him keep it there, holding Isak close even as he longs to run away, to avoid this conversation altogether. “What’s this really about?” Eskild says, his voice soft.

Isak sighs. “I have a thing with someone. I guess. Maybe,” he says carefully.

“It’s not that Emma girl your friends keep bugging you about, is it?”

Isak shakes his head.

“It isn’t a girl at all, is it?”

“No.” Isak grips the sleeves of his hoodie tight, waiting for his world to crash around him.

It doesn’t happen, and Isak can’t decide if that, or the fact that he’s not shocked at all, surprises him more. Maybe he’d been underestimating himself all along. That knowledge is only a small comfort, but it’s there, hugging him close.

“Thank you for trusting me,” Eskild says.

“You’re not surprised?”

“We literally met at a gay bar. I’ve been waiting for this day for months. I’m ready to take on the role of gay guru starting now.” Eskild nudges Isak’s shoulder with his own. “But it looks like you’ve been doing pretty okay for yourself. Already got a boy, huh? Is it Even?” he says.

“It’s not Even.” Isak clears his throat, a little wetly. “He has a girlfriend, actually.”

Something in Isak’s voice must hint at the words left unsaid, because Eskild tightens his arm around Isak’s shoulders. There’s a second when he tries to fight it, but Isak finds himself relaxing into the touch. “Are you okay?” Eskild asks.

“Yeah.” Isak nods shakily. “I think I am.”

Eskild doesn’t look like he quite believes him, but he doesn’t question it. “So who is this mysterious boy then?”

Isak shrugs, and a small smile starts to tug at his lips. “Wouldn’t I like to know.”

“Isak, now is not the time to be cryptic. You can’t just tell your gay guru that you have a thing with someone and not tell him who he is.”

His grin grows wider. “No, I really don’t know who it is.”

“What?”

Isak opens his bedside drawer to pull out the stack of notes he’s been keeping there, tied together with a rubber band. He hands them to Eskild, and as he flips through them, Isak explains, “I started getting these notes in my locker a few months ago, and at first, I thought they were a prank, but I think this guy may be serious. I don’t know. Do you think it’s weird?” He bites his lip. “I’m realizing now that it’s super weird that I have a secret admirer, and you’re not saying anything, so I’m assuming that you think it’s weird too--”

Eskild looks up from reading. “Isak, I don’t think it’s weird. This is great.”

Isak blushes. “You really think so?”

“If I’d had someone like this when I was your age--” Eskild shakes his head. “But that’s all in the past now.” Eskild tackles him into a bear hug. “I’m glad you’re getting everything I never had. You deserve it, Isak.”

Isak breathes out finally, and he may be too tense to hug Eskild, but he awkwardly pats Eskild’s back. It’s a sad attempt, but from the way Eskild’s grinning when he lets go, Isak thinks it’s enough.

“You’re letting me choose your outfit when you meet him,” Eskild declares. “I don’t trust you on your own.”

Isak rubs at his eyes. “Do you think he may be, you know, playing me?”

“Do you want to know the truth?”

“Yeah.”

“He could be playing you. There’s always that chance, with anyone you meet, whether they’re your best friend and you’ve known them for years or they’re a boy whose face you’ve never seen. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying new things, or going after what you want.”

Isak’s throat feels tight. “You really think so?”

“If I managed to convince you not to go for it, would you regret it?”

“I think so,” Isak says. “Yes,” he decides, with more conviction this time. This thing between them has been building up for months, and they both deserve to see it through. Isak doesn’t bother tamping down the flutter of excitement that flares up in his stomach. It’s natural. What he’s feeling is normal.

“Then you have your answer.” Eskild beams. “I’m proud of you.”

Isak ducks his head. “There’s really nothing to be proud of.”

“Yes, there is. There really is.”

~~

ONSDAG 9.06

I can’t believe we’ll finally be meeting soon. I know I shouldn’t be nervous--you probably know me better than most people, but this feels important. There’s a part of that thinks it’s all going to go wrong, that you’re going to think I’m weird, or that you’ll think my nose is actually really ugly up close. I think it’s bent weird. My friend keep pointing it out, but he makes fun of everything about me, so it may just be a general criticism.

I’ve never done anything like this before. Gone after what I wanted, I mean. I guess, a little bit, with Mr. Darcy, but look how well that turned out.

~~

ONSDAG 12.05

Isak Valtersen, there is nothing you--or any version of you in any parallel universe--could do that would make me stop talking to you. I hope you know that. I hope you know how much you mean to me. Before you, my entire future seemed unclear, and now everything leads me to you.

I could be the one with the ugly nose. I think we’re forgetting that I have a lot more to lose here.

~~

ONSDAG 13.10

I bet your nose is perfect.

~~

ONSDAG 14.35

I have had many people compliment my nose, I’m not gonna lie.

~~

TORSDAG 8.05

Specifically your nose? Nothing else?

~~

TORSDAG 9.15

It’s very regal.

~~

TORSDAG 10.15

What does that even mean??

~~

TORSDAG 11.16

That means you’re going to fall in love with it.

~~

TORSDAG 12.40

I figured that out already, to be honest.

~~

TORSDAG 1.00

Isak’s running out of the cafeteria and trying to stuff a sandwich into his mouth when he nearly collides with Even. He stops himself a second away from impact, but it’s a little too close for comfort, and when Even wraps his hands around Isak’s forearms to steady him, it’s all Isak can do not to bolt.

“I thought you were supposed to eat lunch at lunchtime?” Even says. He makes a good effort, but the strain behind his smile shows.

“I was trying to finish an assignment, and Sana kept arguing with me.” Isak makes a face. In the end, they’d found an old practice test online that had given them a good approximation of the answers to their homework, but at this point, they both get a kick out of arguing with each other--even when Isak objectively does know cell transport better than Sana does. When Even makes no move to get out of his way, Isak awkwardly shifts his backpack on his shoulder. “What’s up?”

Even sucks in a breath. “I wanted to apologize for our conversation the other day. I made it weird, and--”

Isak sighs. He should’ve known what this was--Even’s misguided guilt boiling over again. The thing is, it doesn’t do anything for Isak, only reminds him how stupid he’d been.

“You don’t owe me an apology,” Isak tells him. “We can forget about it, okay?”

“But--”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Can’t we just,” he waves his hand, “not be weird around each other anymore?” Isak pleads.

It’s a pipe dream, and honestly, Isak doesn’t know if they were ever really just friends, at least not on Isak’s side. The seeds of more had planted themselves in Isak’s head as soon as Even decided Isak was worthy of his time, even if he hadn’t admitted it to himself back then. Now it’s all out in the open, and Isak doesn’t trust himself not to get caught up in it again, to turn mixed signals into a love story that doesn’t exist.

If he knew what was good for himself, he’d give himself a clean break. There’s someone he likes waiting for him to write back, someone who trusts Isak more than he trusts himself, and maybe he needs that. The last thing he needs is a boy who makes Isak question his own instincts, someone who makes Isak feel like he’s on top of the world but has already found his entire world in someone else.

“Not being weird around each other probably means that we should actually hang out.”

“I’ve been busy,” Isak says.

“I mean, I’m not bugging you about hanging out for me. Baz stared longingly at your snapback the other day, and his sadness makes me sad.”

That draws a chuckle out of Isak. “Shit, did I leave that at your place again?”

“I may have strategically misplaced it. Baz really loves that snapback, you know.”

“‘Strategically misplaced’. You’re so full of bullshit, you thief.”

Even shrugs. “I mean, you can have it back if you want. If you’re ready to deprive Baz of his only source of happiness, short of the real Isak Valtersen.”

Isak laughs. “I’ll visit sometime.”

“I’m holding you to that.”

They’re grinning at each other in a hallway that’s rapidly filling with people, and Isak’s reminded of why they’d become friends in the first place. It’s easy with him, even when Isak feels like he may die from how deep he’s buried his feelings. With Even, he can just exist.

Isak inhales deep. He’ll try. Even’s too important to give up, not for some silly unrequited crush.

“I really am sorry,” Isak says. “This week has actually been busy.”

Even’s mouth curves upwards. “I can tell. Whenever I see you, it’s like you’re in another world entirely.”

There’s a moment when Isak thinks to protest, because Even’s always been a little too perceptive. A part of Isak is still waiting for the day when Even will put two and two together, connect Isak being happy with Isak liking someone and that someone is a boy. It’s a far reach, but he’s lived his whole life like this, smothered himself in lies to prevent even the furthest possibility of anyone finding out. But it’s Even, and maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing.

Isak stays silent, but that’s acknowledgement enough.

“Whatever it is,” Even says, “I hope it makes you happy.”

Isak’s grin sneaks out of him before he catches it. “It does.”

~~

FREDAG 8.30

So tonight? KB at 20?

~~

FREDAG 9.15

Yes :)

I’ll be that remarkably handsome guy in a green sweater. If you squint a little bit, you’ll see a glow around me, something that screams “the man who’ll sweep you off your feet.” I expect you’ll be wearing one of your snapbacks? Turned the right way this time, I hope.

~~

FREDAG 9.30

I wish. But I told my roommate, and I’m sure he already has an outfit picked out for me. It’s weird--I thought telling him about me would be harder, but he didn’t seem surprised at all. He thinks he’s my gay guru now, or something. It’ll be a miracle if I can stop him from putting makeup on me, but I’m putting up a fight.

~~

FREDAG 10.00

You with makeup on! I want to see that.

~~

FREDAG 10.45

My roommate’s makeup drawer is better-stocked than most makeup stores, and I’m pretty sure he saves it up for situations just like this. Or maybe he just does it to torture me.

~~

FREDAG 11.30

Your roommate sounds cool. You think he’d be willing to do my makeup sometime? Last time I tried mascara, I nearly poked my eye out, and it took a lot of pleading on my part to convince my mom not to drive me to the hospital.

~~

FREDAG 12.34

He’s plenty cool if you like people barging into your room at 2 in the morning to help them decide who they should fuck on Grindr.

~~

FREDAG 13.30

Have you been helpful?

~~

FREDAG 13.35

Mostly I just scream in my head and try to look away.

~~

FREDAG 13.45

Hope you won’t be trying to look away tonight.

~~

FREDAG 14.05

Of course not :)

But honestly, as much as I complain about my roommate, he’s helped me through a lot of shit.

~~

FREDAG 14.30

What do you mean?

~~

FREDAG 14.35

I told you I met him at a gay bar, right? I was a little fucked up that night because my dad had just left my mom, and I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t really know what happened. I was so drunk, and I went to the first place I could think of. He found me when some guy was hitting on me, and kind of took me under his wing. I even lived in his basement for a couple of weeks. So I give him a lot of shit, but honestly I owe him a lot.

~~

FREDAG 14.45

I’m glad you have people like that in your life, especially when you need them the most, and I’m sorry about your parents.

~~

FREDAG 14.50

Don’t be. My dad barely made an effort to bring me home, and I don’t think my mom even noticed I left for the longest time. She keeps texting me, but she’s never even asked me to come back, or told me she misses me. It’s like she doesn’t realize she’s texting her son at all.

~~

FREDAG 14.55

What the fuck--how could your own parent not notice that you were gone? They’re supposed to protect you no matter what. That’s what parents are for . Especially because it’s you--you deserve so much better, Isak.

~~

FREDAG 15.07

No, I mean, it’s really not her fault. She’s insane. It’s such a weird situation. She used to think that I had the devil in me, and would lock me in the pantry because she couldn’t stand the sight of me. Or yell at me that I was her worst sin. That was only when it got bad, though. Most of the time, she just looked right past me. Mom and Dad used to fight about it a lot, but I think eventually, he just got sick of it.

It’s a lot better now, though. Mostly, she just keeps sending me Bible verses. It’s pretty harmless.

~~

FREDAG 15.15

No one should have to grow up like that, and I know you said it’s not her fault, but I can’t help but resent your mom, a little. You deserve everything good in the world. And I found that out over a couple of months. Your parents have had your entire life to love you, and it is not your fault that you got put in that shitty situation.

~~

FREDAG 15.30

It’s okay. I’ve decided to cut toxic people out of my life, and honestly, I’m a lot happier now that I’ve moved away. I don’t need to deal with mentally ill people anymore.

~~

FREDAG 18.10

~~

FREDAG 18.30

It’s just a fucking coffee date. Isak will order the first thing he sees on the menu, and they’ll sit down across from each other at one of those tables he knows so well, and they’ll talk, maybe, though Isak can’t imagine what about. He’s already given so much of himself to this guy that finally seeing him in person will feel just as comfortable as meeting an old friend.

But you don’t want him to be a friend, Isak reminds himself, which is the source of his entire dilemma. He stares at the depths of his closet, cursing his past self for not having the foresight to buy anything date-worthy, something that screams I’m here to woo you but also please help me through this. With girls, none of it had mattered. A part of him had even wanted to show up to dates with Sara in his grossest clothes, dug from the depths of his laundry basket. Back then, he’d thought it was self-sabotage, but maybe he’d just been trying to save himself.

Eskild had suggested a shirt and jeans combination that would cling to Isak’s skin, and he’d entertained the thought for a minute before chickening out. It’s a fucking coffee date. Isak’s not asking to fuck him against the first available horizontal surface--even the prospect of that is enough to turn Isak into a stuttering mess. But now, Eskild is out with Roberto, and Isak can’t ask for his advice, and maybe he really did need a gay guru.

He’s never telling Eskild that, though. Keeping his ego in check is doing everyone a favor.

Isak has searched through his entire closet at least twice now, and nothing seems to work. Those jeans make his legs look like twigs, that shirt makes him look like a nerd, which is an objectively true statement, but Isak doesn’t need to start their first meeting by telling notes guy everything he learned about dwarf stars in his Wikipedia crawl last night. This guy already know that Isak is the opposite of cool - there’s no need to remind him.

He’s holding up a tight black shirt that Jonas had dared him to buy, grimacing at his own reflection when Noora knocks on the open door to announce her presence. “Hi,” she says. “Need some help?”

Isak whips around so fast he nearly breaks his neck, and he drops the hanger in the process. “I didn’t know anyone was home,” he says cautiously.

Noora shrugs. “Eva and Vilde ditched me for impromptu date night, Chris is with Kasper, and Sana has to deal with her brother’s bullshit. Looks like a Friday night all alone.” She glances around the room, taking in the mess, and her eyebrows shoot up about a mile. “Guess you don’t have the same problem though.”

Isak blushes red. “It’s not a big deal.”

She nods to the stack of clothes on the ground. “Seems like it’s a big deal to you.”

“Don’t you have something better to do? Painting your nails? Buying more lipstick?”

Noora shrugs. “Probably. But I just thought my roommate could use some support.”

Isak tilts his head, regarding her for a minute. Her hands are folded together in front of her, and only the stiffness of her posture shows that she’s nervous at all. Most of their interactions are limited to tense kitchen debates about who took the last yogurt parfait. Noora standing at his door, wanting to know what’s going on in Isak’s love life, wasn’t written in their roommate contract.

But then, the people in his life keep surprising him, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Isak sighs, and sits at the edge of his bed. “I’m usually not like this.”

Noora manages to navigate her way across the room, somehow, and gingerly sits next to him. “In my experience, no one is ever really like this. But when you like someone, that goes out the window.” Isak opens his mouth to protest, but she beats him to it. “That’s not a bad thing.”

Isak’s shoulders slump. “It don’t know why I care so much.”

Noora bumps Isak’s shoulder with hers. “It was even like this with William, you know? And he wasn’t worth my time or energy.”

Isak motions to the mess surrounding them. “You’re saying that this is a waste of time?”

“No. I’m just saying that there are better things you can worry about than trying to impress someone else.”

Isak snorts. “Did you read that from a pep talk script?”

“The next step is trying to get to the root of your insecurities,” she jokes. “But I can end anytime by giving you an awkward hug and forgetting that this ever happened.”

“My insecurities? Where do I even fucking start.”

Noora’s voice is soft. “You’ve got a lot going for you, Isak. Whoever this person is, they’re lucky to have you.”

Isak narrows his eyes at her. “You barely even know me.”

“One time, you left your leftover strawberries in the fridge for me.”

“That’s, like, the bare minimum of nice.”

“And you’ve got Eva’s stamp of approval. After everything that happened your first year, that’s saying a lot.”

Isak clears his throat. “You know about all of that?”

Sometimes, Isak thinks that the version of himself from his first year wasn’t himself at all, just some parody horror version that been unleashed after too many glances that Jonas had missed, too many times he’d walked into on Jonas staring at Eva like she was the only person who mattered.

“Eva’s my best friend,” Noora says simply.

“I just want you to know that--that wasn’t--”

She holds up a hand. “That’s over now, and I doubt you have one intentionally malicious bone in your body. You care about people a lot more than you let on.”

Isak looks at her in surprise. The tension had seeped out of her as she’d settled into his room, and she’s stopped wringing her hands. Now, she’s just staring around his room curiously. She’d hardly stepped in here to check how her old room had changed since she came back. Isak blushes when her eyes linger on the picture of the model that hangs over his bed. There’s no way she knows , but Isak keeps his hands clenched until she looks away.

Noora’s smiling when she turns back to him, and she pokes him in the chest with a finger. “You’re not nearly as good at hiding that you care as you think you are.”

“Or I could actually just be an asshole.”

Noora tilts her head, before finally deciding, “Nah. You’re not that good of an actor. Eskild was right. There’s more love in you than you think.” Isak rolls his eyes, but Noora continues, eyes glinting with mischief. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. I have to protect your angsty teenage boy image, right?”

As she stands to leave, she picks up a red scarf from a discarded pile of clothes and hands it to him. He sinks his fingers into the soft material.

“I like this. You look good in red,” she says.

“Thanks.”

“It’s no problem.” She winks. “I hope I was a good enough replacement Eskild.”

Isak ducks his head, but the corners of his mouth tilt upwards. “I’ll give him a good report.”

“Not tonight, though. He’ll probably be with Roberto.” She says his name with a perfect Spanish accent. “What about you? Are you going to be free tonight?”

Isak blushes. “Yeah?” he squeaks. “I think?”

Noora laughs, and he can suddenly see why Jonas likes her, why so many of his friends are hers as well. He’d never seen her as entirely human, with real human problems past William, but maybe he’d just never given her much of a chance.

From the way she’s smiling at him conspiratorially, she’s probably feeling the same way. The things forced proximity will do for friendships.

“No matter what happens, I hope you’re happy,” Noora says.

“Thanks,” Isak says. She’s halfway out the door when Isak suddenly calls out after her. “Before I forget, you should call Jonas.”

Her furrow between her brows grows even deeper, and her face drops. “Did Jonas tell you about that?”

“No, but I figured it out.”

“I didn’t know you were that perceptive.”

“I’m not. You’re just really obvious.”

And that gets a smile out of Noora. It’s barely there, but if Isak squints, he can catch it. “You really think so?”

“He’s a really good guy,” Isak says emphatically. And he is. He’s a better person than Isak ever will be, and he still questions why they’re best friends, after all that Isak’s put him through.

Noora looks at her feet. “I know.”

“And I can say with pretty good confidence that he’s worth way more of your time and energy than William was.”

“You’re his best friend.”

“But don’t you think that makes me the expert?”

Noora bites her lip. “Do you think he likes me?”

“I think you should ask him that.”

Noora is punching a number into her phone as she leaves his room, and Isak feels a sense of peace settle over him. It feels like progress, even if it’s progress that should’ve been made months ago, but he’s getting there, and acknowledging the small steps may be as important as the big leaps.

Isak thinks back to the notes guy, to the genuine care he manages to pour out on paper, how he’s slowly coaxing that out of Isak too, word by word. He’s changed over the past few months. Even should have turned him bitter, hardened him inside and out. But Isak’s lying on his bed now, imagining the night ahead with a boy he has a crush on--a boy Isak would allow to tear his walls down brick by brick. He makes Isak better.

It’s good that Isak’s only correspondence with him is through letters. Gives him less potential for chickening out. As it is, he finds himself compulsively searching for the stack of notes, just so he can feel them in his hands, to check if they’re real. He still has an hour before has has to leave, and if he doesn’t keep himself occupied, he’s going to end up locked inside his own head, and that’s not a place he prefers to be.

As he’s rifling through his drawers, he knocks down his Biology textbook from his nightstand. The book flips open, and a sealed envelope slips out.

Isak picks it up gingerly. His name is written on it, in the handwriting he’s gotten to know over the past months. His stomach churns. He’s never gotten a note like this before. They’ve always been so informal--just paper torn out of notebooks and folded in half. He doesn’t know how he missed this, and he can only blame his own jitteriness all day.

He shakes his head to clear his thoughts. It’s probably nothing, just his brain overreacting the way it’s hardwired to do. His fingers are still shaking as he opens the envelope.

Hello, Isak, I know this isn’t the way we usually do things, but I wanted to make sure that you would get this note before you left school. I’ve given it some thought, and neither of us knows what we’re getting into. I think we’ve both gotten ourselves too invested, a little too fast. The truth is, I don’t think that we’re good for each other. I’m so sorry, and I hope you understand that I’m trying to do what’s best for both of us.

Isak goes limp, and he lets the note fall out of his hands. He’s shaking as he drops down to the bed. He struggles to inhale as his throat closes, but no matter how hard he tries, the shudders won’t stop wracking his body. He draws his knees to his chest, wraps his arms around them to calm his nerves, but he only finds himself blinking the tears out of his eyes.

Suddenly, he’s hit with the wild urge to laugh. Poor Isak Valtersen, who’d really thought he was good enough for someone to crush on, to pine for from afar. It’d all been a sick joke, and Isak’s the worst perpetrator for letting himself believe that anyone could ever see him this way. It’s worse than fucking Even, who’d never promised him anything.

But this guy hadn’t promised Isak anything either. It was one meeting, no commitment past that, and Isak’s feeling a little bit dumb now. What made him think someone so open, who’s probably never had to lie to himself a day in his life could like a fucking closet case? He wouldn’t want to deal with his own bullshit and insecurities either. He’s just not good enough, for anyone.

He stares at the mess he’s made of his room and has to stifle a scream. He kicks over another stack of clothes, and sends the pile of shirts flying everywhere.

He should clean it up--it’s just a reminder of everything he’d hoped for, but he sags down on his bed instead, staring at the ceiling of his room. He focuses on steadying his breaths. It’s a toss-up on whether he manages to make any progress.

Noora pokes her head in an hour later, and cocks an eyebrow when she sees that Isak hasn’t moved. “When’s this date happening anyway?” she asks.

He lets out a bitter laugh, but it verges on a sob at the end. He’s not quite that good at lying to himself. “Turns out it really was a waste of my time.”

~~

LØRDAG 20.15

Mahdi and Magnus are arguing about the best song on More Life as Jonas tries to question whether Drake is actually worth all the attention, but Isak’s been zoning out for the past thirty minutes. Their voices grate on his nerves, and if he has to hear one more word about the lyrical genius of Passionfruit, he’s going to fucking scream. It’s difficult enough keeping it together, even with the alcohol turning his limbs loose and his brain foggy. He tugs his jacket tight around his body, but it’s still cold, so fucking cold that Isak could freeze to death without noticing. It’s probably the best way this night could go.

Jonas shoots him a worried look over his shoulder, but Isak manages a smile in return. It reads like a lie, but Jonas is too high to probe him further. Jonas turns back to the rest of them, grinning at a joke Mahdi makes on Magnus’s behalf, and it feels like it’s always been. The three of them laughing together as Isak stands to the side, never quite normal enough.

“How far is Thomas’s place, again?” Mahdi asks.

“I don’t know. Close?” Magnus says.

“You didn’t look it up, man? We could be out here for an hour. I’m not gonna be pretty when I’m frozen.”

“I didn’t think it would take this long,” Magnus protests. He shivers against the cold, and rubs his hands up and down his arms. His nose is red, and Isak’s well aware he doesn’t look much better.

Mahdi makes a big show of rolling his eyes. “Why are we going to his place again? We could’ve walked down the street to Lise’s.”

Magnus looks to Jonas and shrugs helplessly, and Mahdi groans. “Don’t tell me it’s because Noora’s gonna be there.”

“Okay. I won’t tell you that,” Magnus says, but even Isak can see through it.

Mahdi claps Jonas on the back. “After all this, man, you better suck it up and just go for it.”

Jonas slumps his shoulders. “It’s Noora, though.”

“So?”

“She’s better than, like, everyone. Objectively.”

Mahdi and Magnus both “ooh” and Magnus makes a comment about Jonas being whipped that earns him a heated glare. Isak grits his teeth. Jonas may think it’s obnoxious, but with the teasing comes easy acceptance, the kind Isak would kill for. There’s no possible world where Isak could tell them about his crushes and have them badger him the way bros are meant to.

It’s so fucking cold.

Manus takes a swig from his can of beer. “Besides, I heard this party was gonna be epic.” He elbows Isak--a move that was probably meant to be gentle but knocks the wind out of him instead. “Maybe we can even find Isak someone to hook up with. Make him actually enjoy a party for once.”

“Yeah, what the hell is with you disappearing on us lately, man?” Mahdi says.

Magnus laughs. “Maybe he’s got a girl on the side, and he’s just not telling any of us.”

Jonas eyes him quizzically, but Isak just stares at his feet.

“Really, are you okay, Isak?” Jonas says.

“I’m fine,” he snaps.

Jonas holds his hands up. “Okay, you don’t have to get all pissy at me.”

Isak rubs at his eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m just having a really shitty night. Can we just keep walking? I need to be more fucked up right about now.”

There’s a moment when Isak thinks Jonas won’t let it go. They have a history of probing into each other’s business, but it’s slowly faded as they’ve grown up. Isak hates the idea that growing up could mean growing apart, but sometimes, it feels like this is how all friendships go. Neither of them are as carefree as they once were. Jonas has taken care of him through so much that Isak’s always on edge, waiting for Jonas to hit his limit. Isak hasn’t given him much in return.

The moment passes as Magnus hands Jonas his beer. He takes a sip, then says, “Let’s go then.”

Magnus points ahead. “To the promised land of women and alcohol!”

Mahdi buries his face in his hands. “Dude, why are you such a loser.”

They’ve only been walking for another five minutes when Isak’s phone beeps with a text. His fingers fumble as he swipes his lock screen, and it turns out to be a picture of Baz curling up at Even’s feet, wearing Isak’s snapback again. Isak can catch a glimpse of Even’s laptop. He’s watching The Get Down and his socks have cats on them and Isak suddenly feels warm, even when the wind picks up. Isak’s heart swells until it threatens to break his ribs.

He hadn’t realized he’d stopped walking until Jonas calls out, “Isak, are you coming?”

Isak finally looks up from his phone. He’s only ten minutes away from Even’s apartment, and he could make it in five if he runs, even if the alcohol slows him down. He has a choice to make. There’s a party, with girls and beer and Jonas and Noora’s epic love story, and there’s Even and Baz, comfortable and soft in his bed, and in the end, it’s not a choice at all.

He finds himself shaking his head. He’ll blame the alcohol for this the next day, but it’s all on him. “You guys go ahead. I just realized I left the oven on.”

“You don’t even bake!” Jonas says, but Isak is already lost in the night.

~~

LØRDAG 20.50

Even is on the phone when he opens the door, speaking to someone in hushed tones. Isak doesn’t catch much, but Even’s shoulders are tense, and he’s too distracted to realize Isak’s there.

God, this was such a fucking bad idea. What had he been thinking? It’s a Saturday night, and Even probably has other plans. He has his own life, and he doesn’t need Isak barging into it unannounced. Isak had created this tension between them for no good reason, and this is what he gets.

He’s already inching away when Even says, “Isak? What are you doing here?”

He ends the call, but his lips are still pursed as he regards Isak with wary eyes. Isak’s stomach churns.

He clears his throat. “Forget about it. I just wanted to--” He shakes his head, frustrated. Fucking words should be easier to use. “I don’t know, actually. But you probably have better things to be doing, so I’m just going to leave now.”

Even’s hand wraps around his wrist. “You don’t have to go.”

Isak stares down at his hand long enough for Even to drop it awkwardly, and he runs it through his hair instead. It’s messier than Isak has ever seen it, and he hasn’t slept in days, if the dark circles under his eyes are anything to go by. He’s wearing his rocket ship pajamas, which are a couple of inches too short, and Isak feels a pang in his chest as he stares at Even’s exposed ankles. Sometimes, his life has a hard time remembering that it’s actually not a Regency-era romance.

Isak shuffles his feet. “Are you sure?” Isak’s voice is quiet. “You probably have plans with, like, Sonja, or whatever--”

“I broke up with Sonja, Isak.”

“Oh.” It takes a moment for the revelation to hit. “Oh,” he says again.

Isak takes in his appearance again. The rumpled pajamas, the bags under his eyes, that’s all Sonja. Isak should be glad that this is it--just a normal response to a four-year relationship ending--but he can’t stem the bitterness that rises up in his throat at the thought of it mattering so damn much to Even. That he’d cared about this girl with his entire being when Isak had been right there the whole time, ready to hand over his heart.

Fuck. This isn’t right. Even’s going through a lot of shit, and Isak’s the worst friend. This is a repeating pattern--Jonas, now Even--a cycle that Isak can’t break. He’ll always be a terrible boy with terrible thoughts.

“I’m sorry that you’re sad,” Isak says, because that’s the truth. He may resent the root of the problem, but Even should always be full of bright smiles and sunlight. Everyone wilts in the dark, but sadness fits Even especially poorly. Isak can’t reconcile this broken boy in front of him with the Even he’s gotten to know, who always seemed larger than life.

But how well does Isak know Even, really? There’s so much Even hasn’t told him, and if he’d been hiding a long-term girlfriend, Isak wonders what other secrets Even’s keeping from him.

Even sighs, but he forces a small smile. “I’m not sad about that. We should’ve ended things a long time ago.”

Then why didn’t you, he longs to ask, but that’s intrusive, and Isak has no right to the parts of Even’s life where he’s obviously not wanted. Instead, he says, “Then why do you look like hell?”

Even slaps his forehead. “Shit, I must’ve forgotten to drink the blood of a virgin this morning.” He leans against the door and crosses his arms over his chest. “Besides, I could ask you the same, Valtersen. Are you okay? You look like you’re dead on your feet.”

Isak shrugs. “I’ve been drinking.”

“Alcohol doesn’t make you look like all the life’s been drained out of you.”

There it is again, that annoying perceptiveness that should make Isak hide away, cover up his secrets like he does around everyone else. But with Even, it only leaves him wanting to be known.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Isak mutters.

Even chuckles low in his throat. “For a minute, I was scared. Imagine Isak Valtersen wanting to talk about his feelings. I was gonna ask how an alien replaced you without me noticing.”

“I’m not that emotionally repressed.” Even only raises his eyebrows, waiting. “Alright, maybe.”

“You’re in luck. I’ve heard from reliable sources that emotional repression and ice cream go hand in hand, and I just bought some more chocolate chip cookie dough.”

Even steps out of the doorway to let Isak in, and he lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “I just want to clarify that I came here for Baz, by the way.”

“I’ll let him know.” As if on cue, Baz bounds out of Even’s bedroom to sniff Isak’s shoes excitedly. His tail is wagging, and it’s impossible to resist dropping down to give him a good rub. Baz licks Isak’s face all over when Isak buries his hands in his fur, but Isak’s laughing too hard to complain. He’s missed the ease of this.

Even rolls his eyes, but his grin betrays him. “I really have to teach his dog who his real owner is. I feed him, I bathe him, I raised him, and this is the thanks I get.”

Isak turns Baz’s head so the dog is looking straight at him. “Aw, don’t listen to him. He’s just being a dick. We all know that you love me best.”

“Sometimes, I think you only hang out with me for my dog.”

“You just realized this now?”

All three of them end up in Even’s bed, eating ice cream out of the tub. Baz is laid out across their legs, and there’s no chance of Isak moving anytime soon, even if he wanted to. But he’s content here, shoulder pressing against Even’s as they watch Titanic, struggling to keep up with Even’s film commentary. Even’s brought out a couple of beers from the fridge, and Isak’s already downed another can. There’s no way ice cream and beer are supposed to taste good together, but Isak thinks anything could, with Even.

By the time they reach the end of the movie, Isak’s glad he’s not experiencing this sober. It numbs the sadness a little, and anyway, he doesn’t trust himself crying around Even. Too much vulnerability, too much raw emotion, and Isak’s not ready for Even to see him like that. He could be crying about Jack and Rose one minute and Even in the next, for all he knows.

“I fucking hate you,” Isak says. “Would it kill you to let me watch a single happy movie?”

Even laughs, and God, Isak’s missed the sound. “Hey, I tried to get you to watch High School Musical 3 with me, and you refused.”

“Anyone with a sense of self-preservation would.”

“You’re more of a movie snob than I am. Me, someone who actually wants to make movies for a living.”

“Maybe I just have better taste than you,” Isak teases.

They turn back to the screen together, and now, Isak’s having a hard time keeping the tears out of his eyes. Even’s a fucking masochist, if he really thinks that tragedy makes love stories more epic.

“Besides, it’s a little cathartic, you know?” Even finally says. “Heartbreak helps you process a lot of shit, if you let it.”

Isak bows his head, focuses on tracing the pattern of Even’s comforter. “I think heartbreak just makes me sad.”

Even’s arm is ready to wrap around his shoulders the moment Isak shudders. Isak stiffens for a second, but the safety of Even’s chest is too hard to resist.

“I’m sorry,” Even says, and the weight of it drags Isak down. “You don’t deserve whatever’s making you feel like this.”

It comes out in an alcohol-fueled rush. “I think I liked someone.” Isak grimaces in frustration. That’s the same wishy-washy shit that just makes Isak feel like he’s a little kid with no control over his own emotions. “Shit, no, that’s not right. I definitely liked them. I thought it was going well, but all of a sudden, they told me they don’t want anything to do with me anymore. And I guess I’m still dealing with that.”

Even clutches Isak’s hoodie so hard that Isak swears he’s about to rip it in half. “Well, whoever they are, they’re an idiot for passing you up.”

The truth is, Isak’s tired. This isn’t him standing up against his own dark thoughts. It’s the desperate cry of a boy who thinks he’d like to start getting to know himself.

“He. It was a he.” When Even remains silent, Isak says, a little desperately, “Please just say something.”

Isak can’t look at Even, not when he has the power to crush Isak completely with only a few words. He jerks himself away from the warmth of Even’s hoodie. Maybe this is just a little too gay for Even. Isak doesn’t want to make him uncomfortable, especially since he’d opened his doors without expecting any of this. Even’s not a homophobe , but everything’s different when you have your gay friend with his gay fucking feelings wrapped around you on your bed.

Isak’s still detaching himself when Even suddenly pulls him into a tight hug, one that has Isak trembling from head to toe. He’s not sure what he’s allowed here, but he eventually presses his face into Even’s shoulder and just breathes. The stars had aligned one by one to give Isak this moment, and he’s never felt quite so aware of the improbability of the universe.

“You’re amazing, Isak,” Even eventually says.

His toes curl in his socks. “I think you’re a little biased.”

Even just pulls him in closer. “Maybe I am.”

Chapter Text

FREDAG 16.40

When Even was younger, he was terrified of needles. Showing up for his yearly vaccinations was a spectacle; a mess, his mother recalls even today, and Even, for his part, mostly remembers how loudly he’d cry. He thinks he earned himself several disapproving looks from people in the waiting room, and exasperated looks from nurses all around, but it’s hard to remember, exactly, through the blurred eyes in his memory.

On a particularly tough day for him, he recalls his nurse telling him to pretend it wouldn’t hurt, and then it wouldn’t hurt at all.

Did she promise?

She promised.

So Even did as he was told – he pretended it wouldn’t hurt. Shut his eyes tightly, and waited for it to pass without even a single prickle.

It hurt, anyway.

And it’s that betrayal that sticks with him. Not of the nurse’s part, but of his own; he’s never been brave enough, never been strong enough, to handle pain, to handle a needle piercing his skin, to handle a boy breaking his heart. He’s never been strong enough to pretend it doesn’t hurt.

So it hurts.

And it’s every single part of him, too. It’s his head, which whispers, what do you think a life with him would have looked like? It’s his heart, which replies, beautiful, quiet, sound. It’s his fingertips, which wonder, what do you suppose his hand would have felt like under us? It’s his skin, which replies, like the ocean on your feet.

It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere, it’s everywhere.

The worst part is that Isak doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what those words sound like in his head.

I’m happier now that I’ve moved away. I don’t need to deal with mentally ill people anymore.

The weight of the paper feels like lead in his hands. It sounded like rejection of the part of him that is the most – maybe it doesn’t define him, but it is him, and Even’s never wanted it to go away so badly; he’s never hated this part of himself so intensely that he wished for it to disappear entirely, and take him under, please, take him under, he wants it to stop.

He wishes he could be normal. He wishes he could be someone else entirely for Isak – he wishes his mind could be rewired, he wishes science could find a permanent fix, he wishes so fiercely he could find a way to get rid of it for Isak. He wants to be someone worthy of his time, worthy of his love. He wants to be someone who could never make Isak feel like he was carrying a burden with him, like he was—

Toxic, Isak had said. That’s what Even would look like, in his eyes. Toxic. Like something that’s difficult to swallow, like something better not acknowledged at all, like something that would make his life worse. Even realizes, now, that if Isak knew about him, Even would look like his worst nightmare, like the worst memory of his life suddenly finding its way to the forefront of his mind. Even would be a reminder of the worst time in his life, of Isak’s ugliest experiences, and Even has never felt uglier. He’s never felt so useless. He’s never felt so distant. He’s never felt so alone.

He’s been lying on his bed, note clutched to his chest for about half an hour now, after successfully slipping his own note cancelling his and Isak’s meeting into Isak’s biology textbook. It’s funny, he thinks, because for once, he wasn’t subtle about it at all – maybe, Even realizes, he’d wanted to get caught. Maybe he’d wanted Isak to confront him. Maybe Even wanted desperately to tell him the truth. Please, please love me anyway, he would have begged. Please love me despite this.

But of course, the universe did him no favors – and his endeavor went unnoticed by Isak. Even could only hope he’d opened his biology textbook back at his apartment, could only hope he wouldn’t show up to the coffeeshop only to be stood up by the one person he thought he could trust, now that everything around him seemed to be crumbling.

Even curls in on himself at the thought, and Baz is suddenly lying next to him, whining. Even lets go of the note and instead clutches onto Baz’s fur, and the dog nuzzles his neck soothingly. Even breathes him in, and lets the tears he’s been so adamantly holding back since he got home finally fall. He’s always told himself they don’t exist if they never make it to the ground. They disappear into Baz’s fur, and so it’s like they never happened at all.

Baz breathes evenly against him. Even’s breath is shaky, but he breathes at his dog’s pace. One-two-three, one-two, one-two-three.

He can feel his hands shaking.

Isak could have been good for him. It’s a traitorous thought that’s never made way past his lips, that he’s never let himself think so clearly until now. He’s always been sure he doesn’t deserve Isak, but a part of him – the darkest, most selfish part of him – knew Isak could have been good for him, even if it’d never be the same the other way around.

(But he’d try to be. God, he really would have tried to be, though.)

Despite this, he’s always wanted to say the words out loud. Isak could be good for me. Isak could be good for me. The words are a prickle on his tongue, bothersome and tiresome.

He doesn’t say them out loud.

It takes everything in him not to look at the clock. He doesn’t want time to be real, palpable enough to remind him that Isak has either found the note by now or hasn’t, and is currently under the impression he’ll meet the man who’s been with him through so much, to tell him exactly what he wants to hear. He wonders in what way Even has broken his heart tonight.

He wonders how many more times he can break Isak’s heart before his own turns to stone.

Leave it be, he tells himself. Leave him be. Let him live his life without worries, without burden. Even’s nothing but a comma in Isak’s life, and he’ll forget all about the boy in high school who broke his heart, once, maybe twice. And he’ll move on and he’ll have a happy life and he will never, never know just how much of an impact he had on Even, just how many feelings he’d introduced.

Baz sniffs at Even’s neck and whines some more. Even nuzzles his nose into the dog’s fur.

Pathetic, he thinks. He’s not the one whose heart should be broken. He’s not the one who should be wallowing. He doesn’t deserve to, not when he’s so clearly the villain of this story.

He wonders if villains ever realize their role in the story, the same way he’s aware of his own.

He wonders if it matters at all.

--

SØNDAG 10.23

Even’s come to the conclusion that he’s a masochist.

He wasn’t going to keep Isak in his life. Of course not, and Even thinks, even now, that maybe he still won’t, but he’d shown up at Even’s doorstep last night, looking worse for wear, looking so – dejected, and Even’s heart couldn’t handle it. It couldn’t. He knew exactly what he was getting into when he invited Isak in, and then the boy had to go and come out to him in person, as Even, and he had no clue what to do other than hold him close and offer his truth: that Isak was amazing, and he was brave, and Isak couldn’t know, he just couldn’t know how much holding him in that moment, having him so close, was like having a thousand needles prick his arms.

Isak had left Even’s place looking lighter, and Even is disgusted with himself for allowing himself even the slightest bit of indulgence, in the way Isak smelled, in the way he clutched at Even’s shirt.

He’s ugly. Isak would be right to write him off as toxic, if he ever found out.

Not that he ever would. He’d have to find a way to quietly slip out of his life, and soon, before Isak found out the hard way about his condition. And then things would get far uglier, and then things would probably hurt more for them both.

Even’s been ignoring Mikael’s texts all of last night and this morning, which is why it’s not surprising when he’s showing up at his doorstep, a thunderous expression on his face. Even does nothing more than blink at him and step aside to allow him inside, and Mikael flies past him in a hurry.

“You just hung up on me,” he tells Even without preamble. Even closes the door behind him. “You didn’t even tell me what you did after reading that note.”

Even drags his feet into the kitchen. “I cancelled our meet-up.”

“You what.”

Even looks at him.

Why would you do that?”

Even looks at him again, this time a little disbelieving. “You do remember I’m mentally ill, right? This isn’t something that’s slipped your mind from one day to another?”

“So what, Even?” he furrows his brows at him. “You’re just going to give up on him because he made one stupid comment? He probably didn’t think twice about it. I have a feeling he wouldn’t have said it at all, if he knew.”

“Right,” Even nods. “Maybe. And maybe that’s still a problem, if mentally ill people are so toxic to him. Maybe he’d let me be in his life anyway, and maybe we’d both know the entire time that it isn’t good for either of us. But we’d live our life pretending, and maybe that’s just as bad.”

Mikael gives him a look. “Jesus, always with the dramatics.”

Even is suddenly tired. “You know what, Mik? I think you should go.”

Mikael furrows his brows. “What? Even, I’m trying to help you—”

“Maybe I don’t want your help.”

“If you sat down with the kid and just tried to communicate with him, I’m pretty sure you would stop being so fucking dramatic and realize—”

“Shut up,” Even snaps. “Stop it. Stop fucking calling me that.”

Mikael shakes his head. “I’ve always—”

“Maybe you could stop invalidating my feelings for once,” Even raises his eyebrows. “Maybe I need you on my side this time.”

Mikael blinks, and he looks wounded , and he has no right to. “Even, I’m always on your side.”

“Are you?” Even laughs bitterly. “Because sometimes I wonder.”

“You like this kid so much, I’m just trying to—”

“What, Mik?” he throws his hands up uselessly. “What are you trying to do? Convince me things could work out? Convince me he’d hear me out if I tried?”

“Well, yes.”

Even laughs bitterly. “Okay, say I did talk to him. Say he did give it a chance. Say he did put it aside. How long do you think that’d actually last?” he raises an eyebrow at Mikael. “Until my first manic episode? My first depressive episode?”

“Maybe if you gave him a chance to decide—”

“He’s a kid,” Even snaps. “The only reason Sonja put up with this—”

“No one’s putting up with anything—”

“—is because she was already dating me, and I fucking hate this, alright?” Even’s eyes are suddenly sore. “I hate it, I hate that I’m this way, I hate that I’m not normal, and I hate that he won’t love me, and I hate that I know he needs stability. He’s been through so much with his mom, the last thing he needs is me fucking shit up, and if I could change that I would, Mikael, in a heartbeat, but it’s over. It’s done. I hate myself for it, and I hate this entire fucking situation, and I wish I were someone else entirely, but I’m not, and I can’t be, and maybe I just need you to talk me through this instead of – instead of trying to give me hope where there clearly is none.”

Even feels the tears falling, and God, he feels so weak . He can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. He can’t pretend it doesn’t hurt. “Maybe I don’t need any advice right now. Maybe I just need my best friend.”

Even bites his bottom lip to keep it from visibly shaking. He feels the tingling in his fingertips, the tightening in his stomach. He feels his vision blur at the sides, and he’s suddenly unable to do anything other than let his legs fold themselves over and his back land on a kitchen chair. He buries his face in his hands and allows himself one wrecked sob, but does his best to swallow the rest. He has no right to feel this way. This is his fault. His heart has no right to be split in two.

And he absolutely does not deserve Mikael’s arms suddenly around him, holding him as he shudders, because this – this is reminiscent of the feelings of shame, of the memories of before, of during, and he wants it to end. He just wants it to end.

“I’m sorry,” he hears Mikael whisper, but it sounds distant, like he’s in another room. “I’m sorry.”

Even wants to say he’s sorry, too. Even wants to tell him he knows Mikael’s heart is in the right place, but villains don’t get pity, they don’t get guidance. They never triumph, and this is where Even holds his truth.

--

SØNDAG 16.45

--

MANDAG 10.23

He skips school on Monday – partly because there’s nothing interesting happening, partly because he too tired, and partly because the longer he avoids Isak, the longer he can put off inevitably cutting him out of his life.

After his small episode, he’d told Mikael this was his plan, and Mikael could either be on board or pretend to be. It was obvious to Even he’d chosen the latter, but he hadn’t said much on the subject – instead, he’d changed it, talked about things happening at work and some of their friends, pretended like he wasn’t at all thinking about Even’s situation. They watched some TV in the living room for a couple of hours, and sometimes, Even would feel Mikael’s gaze on him, and Even couldn’t pinpoint whether it communicated pity or judgment. Even thinks it was a little bit of both – though Mikael would never admit it to him.

He’s been lying in his bed since he woke up, and his mom came by before work to give him a long, comforting hug, and she stroked his hair like she’s done since he was a kid and told him she loved him. She pulled back and stroked the side of his face with her thumb and reminded him she doesn’t know what she’d do without him. Even let her press a small kiss to his forehead, then watched her back disappear out the door, and his heart felt heavy and afraid. He knows the path he’s walking on. His mother does, too.

There’s a moment where he thinks he thinks he won’t do much else but stay in bed, but there’s a part of his brain that gathers the courage to remind him that’s not the best of ideas. He sits up, at least, and stares at his phone, rereads Isak’s messages from yesterday. I’m just really glad you’re my friend. Even can’t stand the fact that Isak still clings to this idealized version of Even, one that has not broken his heart – not once, but twice – and he realizes that’s his own fault, for not coming clean, for letting it happen, but it’ll end soon. He’ll make it end soon.

He scrolls back to his previous conversations and hovers over Sonja’s – it’s been a while, now, and they haven’t texted since they broke up, and he doesn’t think she’s the most ideal person to talk to right at this morning, but Mikael’s currently out of the question and he feels desperate and alone, and for a very long time, Sonja was the one who stayed with him when he did.

It takes only about two minutes for Even to press the call button and bring the phone up to his ears.

Three rings in, he hears Sonja pick up, and her voice is calm – not at all hostile, more curious. “Even?”

Even clears his throat. “Hi,” he greets her uselessly, because this unfair, isn’t it? He’s been doing this more often than not, being unfair to the people he loves, the people he respects.

“Hi,” Sonja greets him quietly. “Are you okay?”

And that’s the thing about Sonja – she’s always been very intuitive, when it comes to Even. She’s never once beaten around the bush, can probably decipher Even’s moods depending on the fluctuation of his tone, and the only other people who can do as good of a job as her at this are his mom and Mikael. And he thinks it’s very indicative of the person she is, the fact that she’s immediately asking if he’s okay, like he’s not the one that broke things off between them, like he’s not the one that admitted to loving someone else.

“No,” Even admits, because it benefits no one to lie. “Can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” Sonja immediately replies. “What is it?”

Even hesitates for only a moment. “When we were together,” he glances over at Baz, who’s breathing heavily, lying at the corner of his room. Even frowns. “When we were together,” he starts again. “Did I make your life harder?”

After a beat, Sonja replies, “Of course not,” and her voice is soft, soothing. “I loved you, Even. I loved every part of you, and nothing about you made my life difficult.”

Even swallows the lump in his throat. He wants to believe that so badly. “But it had to be draining,” he tells her. “It had to take a toll.”

“Sure,” Sonja allows him. “But I knew how to take care of myself. I knew what I could handle and what I couldn’t.” Even can hear Sonja take a deep breath. “But I feel like, despite what you were going through, despite what you were dealing with, you were also always there for me,” she says. “And that’s what makes you so special,” she laughs, and Even hears a hint of disbelief.

“You went through so much shit, and so many people would have given up by now, and still, still, you made me laugh when I was sad, you took care of me when I was stressed, you never once let me out of your sight when I needed you the most.” Even swallows, ignores the burning in his eyes. “How can someone like that be a burden, Even? You’re not just your bipolar. You’re so much more than that. You shine through it every day. This does not define you,” her voice is firm, here. “And I saw the person you are, every day. And I loved you,” she repeats her words from before. “And you always told me how lucky you felt to have me in your life, and I’m so sorry I failed to tell you I felt the exact same way about you.”

Even’s breath is shaky, and he has no idea what to reply to this – instead, he lets his head fall back onto his headboard and his gaze find the ceiling. “You never had to say it.”

“I did, though,” Sonja sighs. “I always forgot you were just as vulnerable as me – no matter how strong you pretended to be.”

Even licks his lips, but says nothing.

“Can I ask if this is about Isak?” Sonja asks slowly, as if she’s treading dangerous waters.

Even says nothing for a moment. Then: “You know he’s been through something like this with his mom?” he asks her quietly. He doesn’t expect an answer – he already knows it. “He said he doesn’t want any more mentally ill people in his life.” He hears Sonja’s breath hitch. “Guess what I am?”

“Even,” she breathes quietly. “Did he say that to your face?”

“No, he – he doesn’t know about me. He just. I don’t know,” Even sighs. “It’s not fair to him, right? For me to want to be in his life?”

“Hm,” Sonja replies quietly. “I don’t think that’s exactly the unfair thing.”

“Then what?”

“I think it’s unfair you’re not giving him a chance to choose,” she admits. “I think it’s unfair you’re not letting him make up his own mind about this.”

Even scoffs. “Have you been talking to Mikael?”

“No, thank God,” Sonja laughs. “But if he’s said the same thing – he’s right,” she sighs. “As much as it pains me to admit it.”

“So I should tell him.”

“Give him a chance.”

Even hesitates. “He could hate me.”

“Right.”

“Or, worse,” Even says quietly. “He could accept me. Pretend I’m not actually affecting his life as much as I actually am.”

“If he does any of these two things, I’ll have to give him a very stern talking to.”

Even laughs quietly. They revel in the silence for about two minutes, hearing each other breathe. Just when he thinks Sonja’s about to say something, Even beats her to it. “Things were so much easier when we were together,” he admits. “You were with me for so long, you were forced to like me.”

Sonja laughs softly. “No,” she replies. “I was never forced to. I just kind of did.”

--

TIRSDAG 13.15 

--

TIRSDAG 15.00

Anette is six years old and she’s probably one of Even’s favorite people in the world.

She’s far more intelligent than you’d guess a six-year-old would be. She questions absolutely everything, and will be very disappointed when Even doesn’t have the answer to her question. He’ll often offer to google it for her, but she’ll huff and cross her arms over her chest and say that’s not the point, Even, you’re supposed to just know.

Even thinks this is his sister’s fault. She’s always been very open to talking about just about everything with Anette, and has always encouraged her to question everything. Literally, everything. Once, Even took her to the animal shelter, and she questioned whether or not the animals were going to live long enough to ever see the light of day again. Even turned them right back around and he hasn’t taken her back since.

It’s always a joy to spend time with her, and maybe this is why he invited Isak along. She’s a good buffer, after everything that’s happened between them, after everything Even’s been mulling over since yesterday, after everything he’s been taking into consideration.

There’s a part of him that wants to try one more time – just one more. He wants to see how real this thing between him and Isak is (though there’s a quiet part of his mind that insists it’s always been real), and if it’ll be worth coming clean. About everything. If maybe, just maybe, Isak’ll give him the chance to explain, and maybe Isak will understand, Isak will want him in his life.

Maybe Sonja and Mikael are right – maybe Isak does deserve a chance to make his own choice. And maybe things will work out. And maybe things will be good.

It’s that unwavering hope inside him, dim as it might be, that propels him forward.

“So who is this friend that’s coming with us?” Anette asks Even as they walk towards the ice cream shop. They’re about one block away, and Anette’s been chatting endlessly to him about ducks, and at one point Even had to shush her, because she was about to get into the anatomy of them which is absolutely nothing a six-year-old should be talking to him about. “Is he cool?”

“Yeah, he’s pretty cool,” Even smiles down at her. “So cool I don’t even know if he’ll like you.”

Anette scowls. “I’m cool!” she protests, and Even laughs, wraps his arm around her shoulder as much as he can and squeezes it.

“I know you are,” he promises. “Just don’t talk to him too much about ducks.”

“Ducks are cool,” Anette tells him. “You’re the only one who thinks ducks aren’t cool.”

Even laughs. “Anette, I don’t think that’s accurate.”

Anette huffs. “If he doesn’t like ducks, he’s not as cool as you say.”

Even hums. “Maybe he does. I don’t know, I’ve never asked him.”

Anette looks up at him curiously. “So then what do you talk to him about, if not his favorite animals?”

He looks down at her as they turn the corner of the shop. “Everything,” he says. “More than just his favorite animal, like, his favorite color, what he wants to be when he grows up – and hey, guess what?”

“What?”

“He wants to be a vet.”

Anette gapes. “That’s so cool.

“Told you so.” Even backtracks for a second. “But, uh, don’t mention that to him.”

“Why not?”

Even scratches the back of his head when they reach the ice cream shop, then opens the door for his niece. “Well, he doesn’t know I know that, because it’s a secret, and we don’t want him to find out we know his secret, right?”

Anette wrinkles her nose as she walks past him and inside the shop. “I guess.”

Even licks his lips and walks inside behind her, a little panicked. He forgets, sometimes, where to draw the line between Even and his anonymous sender, all the things he knows about Isak blending together and building these feelings, this wonderful cascading love that drops down his bloodstream and overwhelms him every day. It’s difficult to keep track now, when they’ve shared so much on and off paper, and he should have made a list, maybe, been far more organized with his thoughts, but this is where he is now, and maybe he just needs to be extra careful, tread the waters carefully.

Anette looks around the shop and narrows her eyes. “Which one is he?” she asks, looking up at Even.

Even raises his brows. “I don’t think he’s—” Before he can finish the thought, he spots Isak at the corner of the shop, sitting in a booth and looking a little out of place; maybe nervous, if he’s trying to find a more accurate word for it. Even feels everything about him soften, his heart reaching out, and he points towards him, almost without meaning to. “There,” he says, and his voice sounds smitten even to his own ears.

“Hm,” Anette considers him. “Why the hat?”

Even laughs. “Why don’t you ask him yourself?” he asks, and Anette shrugs her shoulders in response. They make their way towards the booth, and Isak looks up right before they reach it, a small pink over his cheeks.

“Hi,” he greets them.

“Hi,” Even greets back with a smile. “Isak, this is Anette. Anette, this is Isak.”

Anette looks him over carefully. “Hello,” she greets, holding out her hand. Isak looks a little taken aback, but he takes her hand anyway and shakes it. Anette looks satisfied with this response. “Why the hat?” she asks.

Isak huffs a small laugh, glances over at Even before turning back to his niece. “Uhm,” he shrugs. “Just hides my mess of a hair.”

Anette narrows her eyes. “Can I see your hair?”

Even nudges Anette gently. “Anette, you can’t just ask people to see something they’re hiding.”

“It’s fine,” Isak replies, then he reaches over and pulls his snapback off, his hair practically rising as if it hasn’t breathed for days. Even thinks he looks beautiful – like this, like anything, Even thinks he’d look beautiful no matter what.

Anette assesses the situation. “It’s not that bad,” she concludes, and Isak smiles, a little triumphantly. “Can I wear a hat to hide my hair, Even?”

“Your mom let you wear a Pikachu jumper to school, Anette,” Even rolls his eyes. “I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t mind you wearing a hat.”

Isak smiles up at Even, then grabs his snapback off the table and offers it to Anette. “You can wear it for the rest of the day, if you want,” he says. “Baz already steals all my snapbacks, I don’t see why you can’t.”

Anette’s entire expression lights up, and Even’s heart is melting for various reasons. “Thanks!” she exclaims, grabbing quickly at the snapback and putting it on her head. It’s too big for her, obviously, and she looks up at Even expectantly with a large grin. Even rolls his eyes and leans down to adjust the buckle so that it fits at least a little more snugly, and then she laughs when it’s done.

“Do I look cool?”

“Very cool.”

Anette looks over at Isak and beams. She then realizes Isak’s already got a cup of ice cream sitting in front of him, so she tilts her head. “What kind of ice cream did you get?”

“Uhm, chocolate,” he admits. “Not the most exciting.”

“Chocolate is good,” Anette looks up at Even. “I want chocolate this time.”

Even raises an eyebrow. “Do you even like chocolate?”

Anette scowls. “Even.

Even holds up his hands. “Alright, alright,” he laughs. “I’ll get you chocolate, damn.” Even looks over at Isak. “Do you mind looking after her a bit while I go get her ice cream?”

“Uh,” Isak clears his throat. “No, that’s fine.”

Even smiles. “I promise she doesn’t bite.”

Isak laughs. “I didn’t think she did, but thanks for making me sound like a coward.”

Anette giggles and Even makes a show of rolling his eyes. “Alright, you two, don’t burn the place down while I’m gone.”

“No promises,” Isak quips, and Even smiles down at him, and God, he’s so, so fucked.

Even walks over to the counter and asks for both his and Anette’s ice cream, and while they’re being scooped, he glances over at Isak and Anette. Anette is talking animatedly to Isak about something, sitting across from him, and Isak seems to actually be listening, so he wonders if they’ve found a subject in common. He wouldn’t doubt it, really – they’re both very intelligent, and despite the age gap, he’s sure there’s something nerdy they can both agree on amicably.

The girl behind the counter give him his total, and Even pays accordingly. He grabs the two cups, spoons and everything, then makes his way back to the table.

“—and so they say a duck’s quack doesn’t echo, but me and mom went to see some at the lake once, and that was totally not true—”

“You’re talking about ducks again?” Even laughs, setting her ice cream down in front of her. “I told you ducks aren’t cool.”

Isak glances up at Even. “She’s actually got some interesting facts, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” Even rolls his eyes and slides into the booth right beside Isak, letting their thighs brush against each other. “But then she gets into the, uh,” he clears his throat and looks at Isak. “Anatomy of the duck, and—”

Isak’s face clears. “Oh.” His lips purse as if he’s trying to hold back a laugh. “I see.”

Anette scowls at Even. “It’s not that bad, I’m six years old, Even, I know what a—”

“Anyway,” Even speaks over her loudly. “Anette, why don’t you tell Isak about yourself, instead? I’m sure Isak is super interested in the life of a six-year-old, right, Isak?”

Isak glares at him. “Sure,” he says, and when he turns back to look at Anette, he smiles. “I’d love to.”

“Hm,” Anette takes a spoonful of her ice cream and then chews on it quickly and thoughtfully. “I don’t know. We had to write about our families today at school,” she offers. “I wrote about my mom and my dad and grandma and grandpa and Even. We were supposed to tell the teacher interesting facts about each of them.”

Isak nods. “Right. What were the interesting facts?”

Even snorts quietly and Isak’s expression, which looks a little lost, as if he’s never been faced with a six-year-old in his life. Isak glares at him through his peripheral, but Even puts on an innocent expression, reaching down to take a bite out of his own ice cream.

“Well, grandma can sell any painting,” she says. “And mom can hit all the high notes in that song – what’s that song again, Even, that song in English?”

Take On Me,” Even supplies helpfully. He glances at Isak, who looks amused.

“Oh. I might have written the wrong one,” Anette thinks on this. “But, anyway, grandpa can knit, and dad can cook, and Even is bicoastal.”

Even chokes on his ice cream. “What?”

“Yeah, isn’t that what you are?” Anette furrows her brows.

Isak looks over at Even. “So you’re bicoastal, huh?” he asks, amused.

“Bisexual, Anette,” he corrects, hoping this is what she means and not his other bi. “I’m bisexual.”

“Oh, yeah, that, whatever,” Anette waves him off, her expression clearing.

Isak stiffens beside Even, then glances over at him, a little warily. “Really?”

Even smiles softly, and his hand brushes Isak’s under the table, very deliberately. “Really.”

Hope shines through Isak’s eyes, and God, despite everything, despite it all, Even feels it shine through his own, too. His heart is beating a thousand miles an hour, and Isak does nothing more than turn his palm upward where Even’s hand is still brushing his own, and were Even to lace their fingers right now—

“What about you, Isak?”

They’re broken from their stupor by a curious Anette, looking suspiciously between the two. “Uh,” Isak blinks. “What?”

“Well, my mom says bisexual means Even likes both guys and girls,” she explains, and Isak blushes slightly. “Are you also bisexual, Isak?”

“Uhm.”

“Anette, what have we said about being rude?”

“Okay, okay,” she concedes with a loud sigh. “But mom said that liking guys and girls is nothing to be ashamed of. She told me I could like a girl, if I wanted to.”

Even raises an eyebrow. “Do you like a girl?”

“No,” Anette furrows her brows. “But I don’t like a boy, either. I’m too young to be thinking about crushes, Even,” she rolls her eyes. “Please.”

“Oh, forgive me,” Even grins. “How backwards thinking of me.”

Isak snorts quietly beside him, and he scrapes some ice cream off the sides of his cup. “Yeah, Even, can’t believe you’d think that way.”

“Thank you!” Anette grins at Isak.

Even raises an eyebrow. “Are you even eating your ice cream?”

Anette glares at him. “I’m almost done, obviously,” she tilts the cup over to Even. “See?”

“Hm,” Even raises an eyebrow. “So I guess you do like chocolate.”

Anette blushes. “Shut up, I’ve always liked chocolate.”

“Mhm,” Even smiles over at Isak, who’s smiling back.

It’s easy after that, to build a conversation. Anette talks of all the things she’s learned in school, and Isak and her have a conversation about the stars, and Isak teaches Anette things not even her teacher has taught her, which Anette finds “awesome”, and they talk more than Even does, but he’s okay with just watching them – Isak out-brats Anette sometimes, which seems to make their rapport that much easier, and once in a while both of them will ask Even for an opinion and he’ll proclaim he’s Switzerland and stay out of it.

He can’t help but watch Isak as much as he can, though. His eyes light up when Anette brings up a subject he’s particularly familiar with, and then he’ll talk and talk and talk about it, obviously thrilled with the fact Anette is really listening, stopping him periodically to ask questions. He wonders if someone as kind and as bright as Isak Valtersen could ever, ever hate him, and he wonders if someone as intelligent and brilliant and beautiful could ever find it in his heart to love Even, love him as much as Even loves him.

There’s a point where Anette finishes her ice cream and asks Even if she can have another, which he refuses. “I don’t have the money, and I’m not sending you back to your mother all hyped up on sugar.”

Anette sighs. “Please, I’m still hungry.”

“Anette—”

“I’ve got some money,” Isak interrupts, and both Even and Anette turn to look over at him. He shrugs. “If you want another one.”

Anette grins widely. “Oh man, he is so much cooler than you.”

“No, you are not taking Isak’s money for something I already said no to.”

Isak raises an eyebrow and slowly reaches into his coat pocket. Even narrows his eyes at him.

“Do not.”

Isak smirks and pulls out the money, then slowly extends his hand over to Anette, without once breaking eye contact with Even.

Even narrows his eyes. “Oh, you think you’re funny?”

“I think I’m hilarious.”

Anette squeals as she takes the money from Isak’s hand. “Thank you, Isak!” she looks over at Even. “You are no longer cooler than my mom. Isak is.”

Even looks over at her. “I’m ridiculously cool.”

“Eh,” Isak shrugs. “I think you could be cooler, at least.”

Anette giggles and high fives Isak when he offers.

“I can’t believe you two have ganged up on me.”

Isak shrugs. “You just seem pretty easy to gang up on.”

Even smirks, leans closer to Isak. “Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, Valtersen?”

Isak blinks uselessly at Even and he blushes a pretty pink, but not before a small smirk quirks his lips upward. “Maybe I will.”

Even bites his lip. “Oh, yeah?”

Isak follows the movement, but before he can reply—

“You both are suddenly sitting very close together,” Anette pipes up, and they both jump slightly and break apart. Isak’s blush deepens and Even feels a rush at the sight, at knowing that this is the effect Even has on him, that this is the effect Even can keep having on him, if he comes clean, if he offers Isak everything he has.

“Go get your ice cream,” Even rolls his eyes. “I’m watching you from here.”

Anette grins, slides out of the booth. “I’ll be back!”

Even watches her go fondly, then shakes his head over to Isak. “You are a terrible influence.”

Isak laughs quietly, then lowers his gaze. “Uhm, thanks for this, by the way,” his voice is suddenly solemn. “I know I’m not being – entirely myself, but, you know,” he clears his throat. “I really needed this.”

Even does know. He also knows he’s the cause of this, even if Isak doesn’t. He also knows he doesn’t have the right to make him feel better, not really, not if he goes by decent human standards, which Even thinks he’s lost along the way, somewhere in between knowing Isak and falling in love with him.

Even takes a bite out of his ice cream, which is slowly melting. “I’m always here for you,” he promises Isak. “No matter what, alright?”

Isak looks up at him, then laughs quietly.

Even raises his eyebrows. “What?”

Isak shakes his head. “You’ve got ice cream on your face.”

Even rolls his eyes. “I knew I should have gotten napkins.”

“Here, I got it.”

For a stupid second, Even thinks Isak is going to magically whip out a napkin and hand it to Even, but then he ends up bringing his thumb to the corner of Even’s lips to wipe the ice cream off himself – reminiscent of when Even did the same for him, in the coffeeshop, what feels like ages go – and Even reacts accordingly; he moves his lips towards Isak’s thumb so that it’s suddenly brushing over his bottom lip softly. And maybe this is where anyone else would pull their hand back, but instead Isak stares at where they’ve made contact, and it looks like he has no control over what he’s doing when his thumb presses down a little harder on Even’s lip and strokes it gently.

Even shivers, and Isak notices, and Even can hear his breath hitch slightly.

Isak swallows. “What are we doing?” he asks quietly, thumb still pressed against Even’s bottom lip.

Even smirks. “I’m being very clear about my intentions this time.”

Isak blinks. “This time?”

Before Even can reply, Anette’s walking back up to them, and Isak pulls his hand back quickly and blushes a crimson red. Even doesn’t take his eyes off him, not once, not even when Anette starts talking excitedly about getting strawberry this time, and Isak clears his throat and nods along to her words.

Even thinks that, yes, yes, this is worth telling the truth for. This is worth keeping. And when he reaches out under the table to lace his fingers with Isak’s, Isak squeezes his hand, almost like a lifeline, almost like he’s making sure this is real.

And this is real, Even reminds himself. All of it. All of it deserves to be real.

--

When they’re walking out of the shop, after Anette’s finished her second ice cream, Isak mentions he’s going the other way, since he promised to meet up with Jonas and the guys tonight. Even smiles at him, remembers how his fingers felt all throughout their time together, and tells him that’s fine, he has to get Anette back to her mom, anyway.

Isak looks like he’s about to say goodbye, but Even brings his hand to wrap around Isak’s wrist before he can go. “Hey,” he stops him, and Isak stares down at their hands in awe, then looks back up at Even, happiness written all over his expression. “You want to go for a walk with me tomorrow night?”

Isak’s brows rise. “A walk?”

Even’s thumb strokes the inside of Isak’s wrist, and he feels him shiver. Even leans closer to him, foreheads only centimeters apart. Their breaths mingle together, and when Isak swallows, Even’s eyes follow the movement. He licks his lips. “Just you and me this time.”

Isak glances at Even’s lips, then meets his gaze again. “Okay,” he whispers, and Even offers him a grin.

“Okay,” he nods, and presses his forehead against Isak’s. “Tomorrow, then.”

“Tomorrow,” Isak agrees, and they stay like this for a moment longer, gazes never breaking apart, never wavering, before Anette sighs loudly behind them.

“You guys are gross.”

Even breathes out a laugh and pulls away from Isak. He holds up a chastising finger towards Anette. “You’re walking home.”

“We walked here.

“You’re walking home alone.”

“You would never!”

“Wouldn’t I?”

Anette pouts. “Even.”

Even laughs and ruffles her hair affectionately. “Come on, you brat.” He turns to look back at Isak, who’s blushing. “Bye, Isak.”

“Bye, Even,” he replies softly. He looks over at Anette. “Bye, Anette.”

“Bye, Isak!”

Even walks backwards them, holds up a finger towards Isak as Anette walks beside him, the right way forward. “Tomorrow!” he calls out.

Even from a distance, he can see Isak roll his eyes, a small smile playing on his lips. “I’ll see you then.”

Even beams at him, and Isak’s expression softens visibly, and then Even almost trips over a rock and tries to find his balance again. He can hear Isak laugh, and Anette sighs loudly beside him.

“You’re a dork, Even.”

Even turns around to walk forward beside her. “Do you like me anyway?”

Anette shrugs. “I guess.”

--

TIRSDAG 18.23

Even feels like he’s walking on air when he gets home, and his smile is beginning to hurt his face, but he doesn’t care. He still feels Isak’s fingers wrapped around his own and he feels like he can fight off a thousand dragons, he feels like he can fight through every universe, he feels like he can find Isak, finally.

It’s this smile and these feelings that waver when he sees the look on his mother’s face when he enters the kitchen, and his father kneeling on the kitchen floor, softly petting Baz’s fur. Even panics immediately and kneels beside his dog, looking into his eyes, which look glassy and pained. His breathing is erratic and he’s not really looking back at Even – Even looks up at his parents, heart dropping to his stomach.

“What’s wrong?” His voice is angry and afraid, and he doesn’t mean for it to be accusatory, but it is, and he repeats the question again, this time louder.

His dad reaches over to squeeze his shoulder. “He’s just sick,” he promises. “I’m sure he’ll get better.”

“What happened?” his voice is worried and it’s strained, and he shrugs off his father’s hand, irritated. “That’s not an answer, what’s wrong?”

“Bloody stool,” his mother finally replies. “He hasn’t been eating, and everything he does eat he throws up.” His mom hesitates. “He’s been like this for a couple of days, Even. I think it’s time we take him to the vet.”

Even suddenly can’t feel his throat, not with the size of the knot that lodges there. God, God, he’d been so preoccupied with his own problems, with his own worries and his own misery that he’d failed to notice the one living being on this planet that has never once left his side, never once failed to let Even hold him, the one living being that doesn’t care if he’s the villain of the story or not – he just cares.

Even nods furiously. “Okay,” he sniffs, a little belligerently. “Let’s go. Let’s take him right now.”

His parents exchange a look, then nod. “I’ll call ahead,” his dad offers, standing. “Just give me a second.”

Even doesn’t watch him go, instead pets Baz’s fur as delicately as he can. “It’s gonna be okay,” he promises, and Baz does nothing but whine slightly. “I promise.”

--

TIRSDAG 19.30

The vet told them this is something Baz can come back from, provided he can keep his antibiotics down – if it’s not looking any better after a week, he suggested they check him into the hospital, lest he dehydrates and then has no way to come back from it.

Even insisted they check him into the hospital now, but the vet told him very calmly it’d be better to keep him at home, where he felt comfortable and safe, where he’d be around people he trusted and therefore wouldn’t refuse the antibiotics offered to him. He promised things should look better in a week if they followed his instructions to a tee. Even wants to believe him.

When they get home, Even refuses to let his parents take Baz into their room – he tells them he’s always slept with Even, and he’s going to continue to sleep with Even, even if it means Even has to wake up every hour to take care of him. His parents remind him he has school tomorrow, and that maybe this isn’t the best time to be looking after Baz, but he’s not having any of it – he’s been a terrible, terrible friend to Baz, and he’s going to look after him now.

They let him. And Even doesn’t sleep much that night, considering he sleeps on the floor with Baz since he can’t make it up on the bed, and he clutches at his fur and strokes it as gently as he can.

He whispers promises he’s not sure he can keep, but in the quiet of the night, they sound honest.

--

ONSDAG 10.14

--

ONSDAG 12.20

--

ONSDAG 19.00   

--

ONSDAG 20.17

Even’s a little late to pick Isak up – mostly because he had to stare at himself in the mirror and give himself a pep-talk. Not that he’d admit this, obviously, but he needed a couple of minutes to convince himself that this was the right thing to do – he needed to remind himself that telling Isak the whole truth was fair, and he needed to remind himself how much he loved this boy, and remind himself that he is kind, and understanding, and this wouldn’t hurt. This would go well. This would go well.

(The weight of the carefully-chosen notes in his pocket want to beg to differ.)

He texts Isak when he reaches his apartment and then pockets his hands in his coat, watching his breath turn into a cold cloud in front of him. He’s bouncing on his feet and keeps glancing at the building, an irrational fear of Isak not showing up at all squeezing at his heart, and he thinks about the thousand different ways Isak can reject him tonight before he sees said boy walking his way, a shy smile coating his lips.

And God, something this beautiful could never be unkind, could it? There’s a part of Even that foolishly believes things won’t be complicated at all, that maybe Isak will take some time to assimilate and maybe Even will have a hero’s ending: where all his problems are readily fixed and he gets the guy, and he lives happily ever after, and after, and after, in love.

Isak stops right in front of him, shy smile widening slightly. “Hi,” he breathes.

Even stares at him and hopes Isak knows Even thinks he holds all the secrets of the universe. “Hi,” he replies quietly, and he resists the urge to bring his hand to hold the side of Isak’s face. “You look…warm.”

Isak stares at Even for a moment, before he bursts out laughing. It sounds a little nervous, a little disbelieving. “Why do you always comment on my winter attire?”

“I don’t know,” Even admits. “You just always look warm.”

Under the light of the street lamps, Isak’s blush looks particularly deep. “I guess.”

“Besides,” Even smiles at him. “Both times I’ve thought, he looks warm, and God, he looks beautiful, too.”

Isak clears his throat and lowers his gaze. This does nothing to hide his blush, however, nor his smile, and Even is smitten, and Even is grateful for Isak Valtersen’s existence. “Okay,” he laughs. “Stop.”

Even smiles lopsidedly. “Afraid of the truth, Valtersen?”

When Isak breathes out, Even can hear it’s unevenness. His gaze rises to meet Even’s, and there’s something wary in his eyes, though there’s also something soft, something like wonder, and Even wants to cling to that look and make it through the rest of the night with it in his heart. “A little,” Isak finally admits, and Even’s expression softens. “This – this is the truth, right?”

Even makes sure that his smile is kind. “This whole night is a night for truths,” he admits, and Isak looks like he’s not exactly satisfied with the answer, but he’ll conform.

Isak clears his throat, and then shifts his weight. “So,” he says. “The park, huh?”

Even nods. “It’s practically empty right now,” he gestures to the right of them, and they begin to walk towards the direction of the park. “Since it’s mostly a children’s playground.”

Isak glances at him suspiciously. “Should I be worried about the fact that we constantly find ourselves in children’s playgrounds?”

Even laughs brightly. “No,” he promises. “They’re no fun if you’re not there with me, anyway.”

Isak licks his lips a little nervously and looks down at his feet as they walk, and Even can’t do much but stare at his profile.

The rest of the walk to the park is mostly in silence, only a couple of words exchanged between the two. Even can tell there’s nervous tension hanging between the both of them, and he doesn’t know how to fix it – he knows it’s there for entirely different reasons. Isak’s finally seeing things come to fruition between the two of them, after discovering his feelings for Even so early on, and Even’s about to admit to him he knew of that all along.

His stomach jumps. He has no idea how to make that sound at all redeemable.

When they reach the park, Even glances over at Isak, whose shoulders have seemed to relax. Even smiles at the sight of him – Even will always smile at the sight of him – and Isak turns to look over at him and catches him in the act. After a moment’s hesitation, Isak smiles back at him.

Even turns to looks forward. “You know this was my favorite place to come to when I was younger?” he asks.

Isak shakes his head, which Even sees through his peripheral. Even hums. “When I first got Baz, we’d come here literally every day after school. Used to be a lot prettier,” he admits. “There was a lot more upkeep for it back then, I think.”

“It’s still nice,” Isak offers him kindly. Even looks over at him and grins.

“It’s okay to admit it’s not, you know,” Even tells him. “Besides, there are far prettier sights to look at right now.”

Isak’s blush is a deep red. “Shut up.”

Even smiles softly. His knuckles reach out to brush against Isak’s in a silent question. Isak’s breath hitches, then he looks around the empty park, almost as if he’s afraid. Even understands, so he doesn’t push at all for a moment, and then Isak exhales shakily and then brings his fingers to lace around Even’s.

And this feels exactly like he’d imagined – like the ocean on his feet. Like the waves rolling in and the sound of them in his ears and there’s only him, and there’s only Isak, and there’s only the stars and the moon and there’s nothing else, nothing else around them, and at this very moment there is nothing more important to him than Isak Valtersen.

God, he wants to kiss him so badly. Close the distance and finally find out what he tastes like.

Isak is biting his lip nervously when they reach Even’s favorite bench, and when he sits, he pulls Isak down with him. Their fingers remain intertwined, and Even strokes the back of Isak’s hand with his thumb, looking down at it. He feels like he could compose a thousand melodies and dedicate every single one of them to their joined hands, and he doesn’t know anything about writing or composing music, but he’d learn just about anything if it made Isak happy. He’d teach himself and he’d teach the world and he’d make sure every single part of it would bend to Isak’s will, so long as he was happy.

Isak squeezes Even’s hand. “I didn’t know I could have this,” he whispers, and Even wants to laugh gleefully, wants to tell Isak all the masterpieces he’s written in his head in dedication to his eyes.  

He swallows. “You always could,” he admits to Isak. The words hang between them quietly, the truth of them heavy. “I always wanted you to.”

Isak looks up at him, a little surprised. “But—”

Even holds up his free hand. “I know what you’re going to say,” he admits. “And, yes, even with Sonja. I saw you—” he laughs quietly. “I saw you the very first day of school, and I thought, that’s him. Everything that came after was difficult, but not all of it was circumstance, and—” he clears his throat. This is it. This is it, this is where he confesses.

“I have to tell you something,” he tells Isak, voice barely above a whisper. He’s never been more frightened of anything in his life – needles seem insignificant by comparison. He looks down at their hands one more time, takes them in, in case he’ll never have this again, then he breaks them apart.

Isak’s brows are furrowed. “What?” Even doesn’t reply. “Even, what?”

He looks into Isak’s eyes. “Just—” he breathes out nervously. “I want you to know that I want this.”

Isak’s expression doesn’t change. “What are you going to say?”

Even doesn’t know how else to preface this. Any words he can think of seem useless, insufficient. So he does the best next thing he can think of – he reaches into his coat pocket and his fingers clutch at the pile of notes in there; all of them written by Isak to his anonymous sender, all of them written with care and trust and the belief that they were for someone else’s eyes only, the notes that were first Isak’s and then turned into Even’s, the notes he held as close to him as possible whenever he needed to remind himself that there is good, that there is innocence, that there is beauty in the world—

The notes that now find their way back into Isak’s hands, where they were first conceived.

It takes a moment for Isak as he sifts through the notes, confused. When he realizes what they are, when he takes in their familiarity, he looks up at Even. “What is this?” he asks. “Where did you get these?”

Even feels his heart in his throat. “You gave them to me.”

“No,” Isak shakes his head furiously. “No, I gave them to my—to my—”

Even lets him get there.

And when he does, Isak’s expression suddenly turns afraid, then it turns angry, then it turns betrayed. “No.”

“Isak,” Even reaches out to him. “Let me explain—”

“No, you don’t get to explain,” he snaps, and before Even can reach him, he stands, crumping the notes in his hand, which is shaking uncontrollably. “What is this, Even?”

“Isak—”

“Were you – were you playing me this entire time?” Isak’s voice is so loud it echoes throughout the empty parking lot. Even thinks he deserves this.

“No, of course not, it wasn’t like that—”

“Did you think it was funny?”

“Of course I didn’t, I’d never – Isak, I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you.”

“It doesn’t matter!” Isak yells at him. His hands are gesturing wildly. “It doesn’t matter, because did you – did you think it was fair? I opened up to him!” Isak holds up the notes in his hands. “I told him everything, absolutely everything about me, things I couldn’t even admit to myself, and you knew. You knew all along.”

“I know it wasn’t—”

“Oh, my God,” Isak laughs bitterly, wipes his nose with his sleeve. “Oh, my God, you knew how I felt about you,” he shakes his head. “You knew. You knew how much you broke – oh, my God, you knew about Sonja and—” he laughs bitterly. “I’m such an idiot. I’m such an idiot.”

“Isak—”

“Why?” Isak looks Even right in the eye. “If not to play with me, then why?”

“I can explain,” Even finally stands to meet Isak’s gaze. “Everything. Everything, down to the decision I made to not meet you in person, but you need to hear me out—”

“I don’t want to,” Isak is suddenly speaking through angry tears, and Even can’t think of anything other than this is my fault, this is my fault, this is my fault. “This was – what you did was gross,” Isak tells him. “It was unfair, it was – it’s crazy,” he bites out. “You’re crazy. And I know crazy, I’ve lived with crazy.”

Even stiffens at the word, and feels the heart that’s been beating erratically this entire time come to a halt. “Isak—” he pushes past the lump in his throat quietly.

“Just – just leave me alone, Even,” Isak wipes angry tears from his eyes. “Just please leave me alone. I hope you’ve had your laughs,” he tells him. “I hope you’ve had your fun.”

“Isak,” Even’s protest sounds weak to even his own ears, but it’s the word – crazy, crazy, crazy – playing on repeat in his head that doesn’t allow for much else.

Isak throws the now-crumpled notes at Even’s chest. They fall unceremoniously onto the ground, mocking him. “Goodbye, Even.”

Even can’t do anything as Isak turns around and storms away, and it’s as he watches Isak’s back disappear into the distance, into the dark, that the knot in his throat becomes far more prominent, and—

Yes.

This is how a villain’s story ends.

Chapter Text

LORDAG 11.05

He can still feel the ghost of Even’s hand laced through this, warm fingers dipping into the spaces between Isak’s. He’d never felt more at peace than when Even held his hand, never felt more whole. Even’s hand slipping into his had been the tether he’d been looking for all along, and but the way his heart had melted had only been preparation for the heartbreak, hadn’t it?

Because that had all been a lie, a sad, disgusting work of fiction he’d manufactured because he couldn’t deal with his own average life. People like Even don’t exist, people who shine beautifully inside and out, people who’ve intertwined themselves with the very pulse of life. But maybe they do, maybe they’re here, and Isak’s just lying to himself again. Maybe they do exist, and just weren’t made to love boys with sadness so deep in their gut that they’re not sure they’ll ever fully escape from it.

He’d just been a joke to Even all along, just someone to toy with. Did Even think he was easy? Vulnerable? What had he been thinking when he read all the notes Isak had blindly handed him? Did Even show it to his friends, did they laugh at Isak behind his back? Because it’s funny, isn’t it, to see Isak fall into Even’s trap. Even didn’t even have to try that hard. Isak had been so fucking desperate to pretend, just for a moment of happiness.

Isak remembers, once again, all he’d said about Even back when he’d first found out about Sonja, the crushing disappointment, the fear, the sheer foolish rush of it, and a wave of shame slams into him. Even had known all along, but he’d played Isak like a puppet on a string, and Isak was all too happy to comply. He was so fucking dumb for letting himself think for a second, someone could love him unconditionally, that someone saw a future with him in it.

Eskild knocks on his door. “Isak, are you in there?”

Isak buries himself deeper under the blankets. He has empty bags of chips littered across the floor of his room, and he hadn’t even bothered to grab a bowl before shutting himself in his room. There are crumbs littered everywhere, and he hasn’t showered in three days. There’s sweat sticking to his skin, and his hair is a mop on his head, and he can’t, can’t face the possibility of confronting Eskild now. He can already hear Eskild’s worried admonishments, his probing questions, and the prospect exhausts him. If he’s been pretending with Even all along, this is the real him, a sad shell of a human who will probably remain in his bed for the entirety of forever.

Eskild refuses to give up. “Are you going to school Monday? You already skipped two days. Jonas came by earlier, said he’s worried about you.”

Isak pulls the blankets over his ears. “Yes, I’m going,” he croaks. It’s the first sound he’s really made in days, and his voice is weak from disuse.

“And he speaks!” Eskild jokes, but Isak can hear his relief. It grates on Isak’s nerves. “Do you need anything? I have tea.”

“I’m fine.”

“You didn’t even leave your room for dinner yesterday, and I even bought Noora a cake for finally blocking William’s number. We were supposed to do apartment-bonding. I borrowed Roberto’s Scrabble.”

Isak burrows himself deeper under his comforter. “Next time.”

“Have you eaten a meal in the past few days?”

Isak’s been sneaking into the kitchen at night to grab whatever snacks he could, but none of it would constitute a full meal. He’s gotten carbs from pretzel sticks, and he’d ended up eating Noora’s vegetable chips, but that’s far from a well-rounded meal. His stomach had growled for the first few days, but now it’s just a familiar background ache. He almost welcomes it. It’s the only sign that he hasn’t faded away completely.

Isak clenches his jaw. “Yes, I’ve eaten.”

“I could make you lunch.”

Isak sucks in a breath. “I don’t need you to cook for me, or take care of me, or anything. I’m fine, so why don’t you admit that you’re only meddling in my business because you’re a nosy asshole who always has to know what’s going on in everyone else’s life because you hate your own?” he snaps.

His breathing stops for a moment. He hadn’t meant - but shit, it’s too late to take it back, and and the silence from behind the door is oppressive. There’s a part of him that’s itching to apologize, but his mouth refuses to open.

“I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you, Isak, but I hope you figure it out soon,” Eskild says, so soft that Isak almost doesn’t hear it.

He hopes so too, but that’s beginning to feel more and more like a pipe dream.

As soon as Isak’s judged that Eskild has moved a good distance away, he presses play on his laptop again. This is his second time watching Romeo + Juliet in as many days, and he’s cycled through all of Even’s favorite movies at least once, searching for some insight. The worst joke was the easy assumption that Isak had known Even well, that he was showing Isak his whole truth, but maybe there’s no real truth to Even at all. Maybe there had been nothing at all under all his layers, and Isak had just projected on him because he’d needed someone.

It’s easy to place all the blame on Even, but it doesn’t do much to alleviate the pain.

His heart is beating so loudly that he has to slam the pause button before the final scene. Even’s favorite movies may end in tragedy, but those characters were at least in love, which is more than he can say about Even.

This isn’t a tragic love story. This isn’t a love story at all, and Isak Valtersen will never go down in the history books. He’s just another misguided little boy who’ll be forgotten with time, buried in dust.

~~

LORDAG 15.05

Eskild’s out with Roberto when Isak finally slips out of his room. It’s quiet in the apartment, but Isak still makes sure to tiptoe past Linn’s closed door. There’s no point in checking the cabinet for food--nothing’s left, not at the rate he’s been going. He struggles to slip on his shoes. Apparently, a few days without normal human functioning makes it difficult to tie your laces, but he eventually manages to slip his sneakers on. He’s watched enough inspirational Ted Talks in the past few hours. He can do this, and if his bones drag, begging him to lie down in bed again, then he’s ignoring the impulse. Isak Valtersen hasn’t put up with this much shit just to have some boy finally break him.

If he feels broken already, well, he’s ignoring that too.

It’s a quick tram ride to the grocery store that carries the wildest assortment of chips that he’s had the pleasure of discovering. He’s still trying to decide whether he’s going to be responsible and go for multigrain or give in and just get the new Loaded Bacon chips when he sees her. His mom is right down the aisle, loading her cart with a jar of salsa. She’s brushed her hair, and the dark circles under her eyes have lifted, and she looks so young, so like the mother Isak used to know.

Isak freezes, heart pounding in his chest. She’s smiling as she pushes the cart along, and he narrowly manages to duck out of her field of vision as she walks past him.

He doesn’t dare move until he’s sure that the sound of her cart is gone, and his exhale rattles something deep inside him. Even before his dad had left, his mom hadn’t been able to leave the house much, and the one time she’d tried, she’d been dragged back by an angry neighbor who’d found her trying to exorcise his son’s demons. His parents were careful enough to send Isak to his room before they’d fought, but the yelling was a little hard to ignore even when he shoved headphones over his ears. It was why can’t you be normal and you’ll never understand this thing inside of me, and Isak couldn’t stop shaking for the rest of the night.

His dad was careful to keep his mom indoors after that, and when he’d moved out, Isak was the one to run errands. He’d even managed to remember his mom’s favorite brands of condiments. Leaving the house had been too much for her on a good day, and seeing her here, out and about, makes Isak feel like the worst sort of son.

He hadn’t kept up with her, hadn’t called her once to see how she was doing. He wonders if his dad had either, or whether they’d both silently agreed that she could take care of herself, if it came down to it. It was easier to put it out of their minds than to check and see if that really were the case, even if he couldn’t sleep some nights because of it. The unknown was better than seeing his worst fears confirmed.

There’s a part of himself that wonders if she’d even recognize him if she saw him, or if she’d always look past him like she always did, before he left. There’s a part of himself that wonders whether she’d have treated him the same way if he were someone else entirely, someone with more love to give, someone who could’ve stayed with her no matter the circumstances. There’s a part of himself that wonders whether she really could see the sin inside of him, that she knew him better than anyone else.

Something crunches beneath his hands, and Isak blinks when he realizes he’s still holding that bag of chips. He sighs. Multigrain it is, then, Eskild should be happy that this at least resembles the kind of food that he should be eating. He’s grabbing his own jar of salsa when his phone flashes with a text notification.

Pappa: I’ve been talking to your mom, and I think it would be good for all of us to have dinner on Friday. She’s doing a lot better, and I know she misses you.

Isak: I have plans with some friends.

Pappa: Can you cancel them? This is important to her

Isak: No, it’s a friend’s birthday. Maybe another time

Pappa: I know you’re avoiding me, you can’t do it forever. We’re your family.

Isak: Maybe you should have thought about that before you left.

The typing bubble pops up on his screen, but he presses the phone to his chest before he can see the reply. He’s never called his dad out like this before, because in the end, hadn’t he abandoned his mother too? They’re not all that different.

He loves her. That hasn’t changed. He doesn’t think it ever could, even if it would be easier to call this a clean break if he didn’t want her fucking approval.

He can already imagine dinner with the two of them. Awkward questions from his dad, Isak trying to pretend that he gives two shits about his homework when the thought of running into Even at school makes him want to crawl out of his skin, pretending that he’s still his mom’s son, when she would hate him if she ever found out that all he can think about lately is a boy.

God, he still hates himself so much for getting invested enough to hurt this badly.

He checks his phone to see if his dad has responded, but he must have thought better of it. Isak tucks the phone back into his pocket, and lets himself breathe out.

~~

TORSDAG 11.10

~~

TORSDAG 19.40

It doesn’t take long for Jonas’s brownies to take effect, and before Isak knows it, he’s sprawled out on Jonas’s bed, limbs too heavy to move. His hands are folded over his stomach, and he’s staring at the ceiling like it could give him the secrets of the universe. If he squints hard enough, he can see the individual strokes of the paint, but that’s probably just his imagination. Jonas isn’t faring any better on the other end of the couch, and his legs lie tangled with Isak’s, and fuck, it’s like middle school all over again. Simple, easy, two boys who only needed each other to exist.

Jonas sighs, and snuggles into the couch. “Do you miss this ever? We haven’t hung out, just us, in so long.”

“You’re sentimental when you’re high,” Isak says.

“I’m always sentimental, you fucker. I just know you can’t argue with me when we’re both high.”

Isak furrows his brows, tries to find some way out of it, but he realizes forcing his brain to function properly is like slogging through mud. “I missed you too,” he finally says, and Jonas’s grin spreads across his face.

“Man, Eskild complains about your grumpy ass all the time. Should’ve just told him to get you high.”

“Don’t give him any ideas.”

“He just wants you to talk to him.”

Isak makes a face. “He’s worried for no reason.”

“Dude, I’m worried about you. You never text me back anymore, and your teachers are starting to ask where you are.”

Isak scowls. “I haven’t hit 15% yet.”

“You know you’re only getting 10%.”

“I’ll bake the principal cookies. Whatever. Or I’ll get Noora to do it.”

Jonas sighs again, shaking his head. “This is supposed to be chill, so. Wanna smoke?”

Isak shoots Jonas a relieved smile. This is why Jonas will always be his best friend, no matter how many other people they let into their lives. Eva, the rest of the boys, Isak’s roommates, none of them are as attuned to Isak as Jonas is--none of them have been through enough to know the right moments to back down, and when to push back. After his dad left, Jonas had hugged Isak for hours without saying a word. It’s difficult, sometimes, for Isak to sort through all the thoughts in his head, but Jonas will never force him before he’s ready.

Isak chuckles. “I don’t think smoking more is a good idea. I keep hearing Nickelback songs, and I’m pretty sure neither of us would be caught dead playing Nickelback?”

Jonas shrugs. “I don’t know man. Your taste in music is pretty shitty.”

“Fuck you.” Isak’s eyebrows furrow as he concentrates, but he eventually gives it up. His laughter bubbles over. “Shit, I can’t even tell which song it is. They all sound the same.”

“Sometimes, I’m pretty high up there in terms of male angst, but then I remember Nickelback exists.”

“Thank God for them. Setting the bar low enough for everyone.”

Jonas’s phone rings, but he glances at the screen for only a second before rejecting the call. He throws an arm over his face. “Fuck, it’s Noora. I can’t talk to her like this.”

Isak bites his lip. “Are you two okay?”

“Yeah, we’re--” Jonas tilts his head as he considers his answer. “We’re better than okay, actually. I think? She’s started to talk to me again.”

“That’s...good. That means she likes you back, right?”

“I think so.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah.”

Isak nods. “She’s...nice.”

“She really is.”

“Nice hair.”

“Yep.”

“We’re both shitty at talking about feelings, huh?”

“Speak for yourself.”

They stare at each other for another second before bursting into loud laughter. Isak has to clutch his belly to hold himself together, and it may be the weed, but it may also be the fact that he’s having an honest conversation with his best friend for the first time in recent memory, and he feels like he could take on the world again, with Jonas at his side. He somehow finds enough energy to push himself upright, and punches Jonas’s shoulder.

“How come you can talk to us about hooking up with girls, but with Noora, you’re so fucking quiet? She’s my roommate. I need to know if she’s gonna replace me as your favorite.”

“You’re my favorite? This is the first time I’m hearing of this,” Jonas deadpans, and Isak has to shove him back down on the bed. They’re still giggling, and the knot in Isak’s stomach loosens a little. Isak starfishes over Jonas, pressing him against the mattress. In another time, any touch like this would’ve sent Isak’s heart into overdrive. He remembers moments when Jonas would throw an arm around his shoulders, or hug him close without hesitating. It had never meant anything to Jonas, but those moments had turned Isak into a sweaty, fumbling mess.

There’s no real part of him that wants to go back, but he can’t help but remember that, for all the hurt Jonas had caused him, none of it was intentional--which is more than he can say about Even.

He shakes his head to clear his thoughts. Weed always makes his brain go down all these paths he has no control over. Not tonight.

He forces a laugh. “Admit I’m your best friend,” Isak tells Jonas.

“My parents always taught me not to lie.” Jonas tries to shove him off, but Isak is a dead weight. He blames all the junk food he’s been eating lately. Jonas gives up after a few minutes, and just flips Isak off for good measure. Isak sticks his tongue out at him in retaliation.

Isak waves his hand around the room. “Jonas, we’re literally sitting in your bed, smoking weed. I don’t think your parents would approve of any of this.”

Jonas smirks. “I don’t know--I heard my parents were pretty wild back in the day.”

“Your mom did offer me vodka once.”

“She’s not a regular mom, she’s a cool mom.” There’s a moment of silence, then Jonas’s expression turns serious. “No matter what, I don’t think anyone could replace you. Not even Noora, and she’s pretty awesome.”

Isak’s definitely feeling something now, and it’s not the weed. Jonas has stuck with him through so much shit that he doesn’t know if anything will ever be enough to thank him, but Isak hugs Jonas tighter, and hopes that he gets the message. “I’m just happy that you’re happy, man. You really like her?”

Jonas nods, slowly. “I don’t know if I’m in love with her yet, but I think that this could be something.”

Isak snorts. “Love, whatever the fuck that means.”

Jonas pokes Isak in the back. “Hey, just because you’re bitter and alone doesn’t mean love doesn’t exist.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “You really are sentimental as fuck.”

“Maybe I’m maturing,” Jonas says. “Besides, Noora and I are taking it slow. Eva would have my ass if I ever hurt Noora, and that scares me more than anything.”

Isak chuckles, but it sounds empty even to his own ears. He lays his chin on Jonas’s chest. “What do you think it’ll feel like, falling in love?” he says quietly.

Jonas sighs, spreads his arms out on the bed. “I don’t know. I think it’s--like, if your whole world is tilting, but it feels okay? And maybe you were the one living upside down all along.”

Isak presses his eyes shut. Even’s everywhere, bleeding into his thoughts where it hurts the most. Isak can’t carve Even out of his life without cutting himself in the process. Even’s under his skin, in his molecules, entwined with his DNA. The worst part is that he’d let Even show him what was possible, if Isak were someone different, someone Even could love, and Isak had believed it. There was no question there. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Even Bech Naesheim?

Isak swats Jonas’s head. “You’re so fucking dramatic.”

“Hey, you asked.”

“You should brand that and put it on a Valentine’s Day card.”

Jonas scrunches up his nose. “I refuse to participate in that blatant capitalistic bullshit.”

“What if Noora tells you William was really into expensive romantic gestures?”

Jonas grimaces. “I guess I could reconsider.”

“Marx would be so ashamed.”

They’re giggling again, and Jonas is saying something about the workers’ revolution, but Isak isn’t really following the thread of the conversation anymore. He wonders what Even’s doing right now, if he’s out with his friends, or if he’s doing homework, or whether he’s thinking about Isak too. Isak misses him so fucking much it tears at his insides, misses the way Even experienced the world like it’s got so much love to give him. Was that Even real, or was be perfectly constructed to make Isak fall for him?

“I think I was in love with someone,” he says suddenly, cutting off Jonas’s spiel about all the feminist YouTubers Noora’s making him watch.

Jonas’s hand stops drawing circles on his back. “Was?”

Isak clenches his hands into fists. Maybe Even’s been the one making him feel like he could be brave lately, and maybe that was all a lie, but Isak is his own fucking person. “No, am , I guess. I’m trying to make it was. He never actually gave a shit about me, so.”

The pronoun slips out easily. He blames it on the exhaustion, the constant fear keeping him up at night. He braces himself for Jonas to throw him off, because he can’t have a homo as a best friend, Isak’s heard this story before, and maybe Jonas would come around eventually--

Jonas only hugs him tighter, squeezes him so hard that it becomes a little difficult to breathe. It takes Isak a second, but wraps his own arms around Jonas. “Whoever he is, he’s an asshole,” Jonas says.

“A little bit, yeah,” Isak says breathlessly. “I know that. The problem is that doesn’t make it any better.”

“Do you want me to punch him?”

Isak shakes his head furiously. Jonas really would, if Isak asked . Just knowing that makes Isak want to hug him even harder. “No, I guess I just need to get over it.”

Jonas still looks unconvinced. “Even may be cool and all, but I don’t care. You’re my best friend.”

Isak’s breath catches in his throat. “How do you know it’s Even?” he says, slowly.

“You always looked at him like he hung the moon. Besides, there are maybe five guys you talk to constantly, and I assume it’s not Mahdi or Magnus, because they’re both idiots, Eskild’s like a weird as hell older brother, and--wait, it’s not me, right?”

“Oh my god, it’s not you.”

“Am I that terrible?”

“Of course not. You’re just-- you.” Isak gestures wildly, and nearly smacks Jonas on the face.

Jonas just smirks. “Are you admitting that you can’t handle all of this?”

Isak rolls his eyes. “You’re fucking ridiculous. I don’t know why I’m best friends with you.”

Jonas pauses for a minute, thinking. “You know this doesn’t change anything between us, right?”

Isak lets himself smile wide, and it feels like he’s starting over again, shedding some of the sadness and the misery of the last week. It’s not much, but it’s a beginning. “Right.”

~~

FREDAG 17.10

Eskild had taken only one look at Isak trying to catch up with all of his homework at the kitchen table, clad in only boxers and his most stained hoodie, before shooing him out of the house. Isak had tried to grab the bag of Doritos before being rushed out the door, but Eskild snatched it out of his hand. “If you’re gonna try to integrate yourself back in human society, you have to go big or go home. Which means no more Doritos.”

Isak reaches for them, but Eskild stands on his tiptoes just to hold them out of Isak’s reach. “Nope, little baby gay. Whatever it is, it’s not worth it.”

Isak keeps on pouting, but Eskild just pats the top of his head. “By the way, there’s cheese dust on your hoodie.”

Eskild hurries away with the bag as Isak tries to brush it off, and he’s cursing as soon as Eskild’s gone. It honestly hadn’t even been that bad, and he deserves this small progress. The fact that he can even concentrate on stoichiometry right now is a miracle, and he’s not taking any of it for granted.

That’s how he finds himself at a table at KB, with his textbook and periodic table spread around him. He’s been texting Sana about the homework he’s missed, but even she’s having a hard time figuring it out. His carbon dioxides won’t fucking balance, and he’d missed the day when his teacher had given them a helpful trick. He’s run his hand through his hair so many times that he’s undone all the effort he’d actually put into brushing it this morning, and he’s about to get his second cup of coffee.

When he manages to tear his eyes from his homework, there’s Even, handing the barista a few coins. Isak can’t breathe suddenly, can’t do much of anything as he stares. Even looks so good, it should be fucking illegal, and Isak hasn’t seen him in so long that it hits him all over again. Even is so close, but Isak doesn’t have him, will never have him, and that knowledge sits like acid in his gut.

But Even had told him the opposite, had wanted Isak to have the entire world, and honestly, Isak doesn’t know what to believe anymore. He remembers the worst notes, the one that had taken every last bit of courage to write, the ones where he’d had to stop the progress of his pen just to breathe. The ones that bled love, and yearning, and hurt.

Even had all of that quite literally in the palm of his hands, and he’d chosen to do nothing about it. Had it been fun for him to watch Isak tear himself apart, while he had all of Isak’s secrets laid out for him? He hopes it had been entertaining at least, he hopes it was fucking worth it.

Even’s eyes meet Isak’s when he turns around with his coffee in hand, and his entire face falls. The dark bags under his eyes stand out against his pale face, and Isak’s first instinct is to worry, before he realizes that it’s not his problem. Even shifts his gaze away in an instant, but Isak still sees his own pain reflected there.

Suddenly, a fresh wave of anger rises inside of Isak. Even has no right to feel like this, has no right to pretend that he fucking cares when he’d been the one to orchestrate this sick scheme in the first place. Even’s scrambling toward the door as fast as he can, and in his haste, a piece of paper slips out of the folder he’s been clutching in his hand. It shatters the last of Isak’s resolve, and before he can think through the consequences, he snatches it up and chases after Even. It’s an application for a film festival, and Isak can’t think about Even poring over the edits for a short film right now, can’t think about how he would poke his tongue out of the side of his mouth when he concentrated, how he would experiment with every detail before he got it right.

“Hey, dude, you dropped something,” Isak calls out.

Even freezes in his tracks, takes a few seconds to turn around. He doesn’t meet Isak’s eyes as he mumbles his thanks, and tucks the paper inside the folder.

“That’s my hat,” Isak says, when he notices the red snapback poking out of Even’s backpack.

“Yeah, I guess it is,” Even says absentmindedly. He plays with the strap of his backpack for a bit, and they stand there in uncomfortable silence until Even draws in a shuddering breath. He squares his shoulders, looks Isak in the eye. “Look, Isak--”

It’s too fucking much, Even looking at him like he’s important, hearing Even whisper his name like it’s a prayer. How often had Isak wanted this--Even stripped of all his layers, finally as vulnerable as Isak is? It should feel like a victory, but he can’t let Even play with his head again.

Isak rubs at his eyes. His voice shakes as he says, “I can’t do this, actually. I can’t look at you and listen to you talk without wanting to scream.”

“You can scream if you want. I deserve it,” Even says quietly.

“Then why did you fucking do it?” Isak snaps. Even’s mouth drops open, and he waits for a second too long, because Isak’s already shaking his head. “I shouldn’t have followed you.”

“Isak--”

Isak presses his eyes closed, but a tear sneaks out anyway, the fucking traitor. He wipes it away on his sleeve. “Save it. I’m done with this. I don’t know why I even thought you--” He breaks into a sob that he’s not fast enough to hold back.

“You thought right,” Even tells him, but Isak’s shaking his head again, more desperately this time, because this is what screwed him over in the first place, thinking that all these empty, beautiful words actually had something behind them.

“You can’t say shit like that, not after what you did.”

Even sighs. “I fucked up, but I did what I thought was right. I wish I could take it back.”

“Well, you can’t.”

Even ducks his head, unable to answer. Isak is hit with the inexplicable urge to hold him, wipe the sadness from his face, but that’s not his place, that shouldn’t be his instinct. He may be angry at Even, but he’s angry at himself more than anything, for letting it get to this point in the first place.

He leaves behind a silent Even as he walks back inside, legs wobbly. He’s so distracted that it takes him a second to realize that Julian is standing next to his table, smiling wide with a coffee in hand.

“Hi, Isak, I thought this was your stuff. I’m off work for the day, and I thought you could use some company? I haven’t seen you here for the past few days, and--” Julian’s eyes widen when he takes in the full sight of him, from his gross hoodie to his mussed hair to his red-rimmed eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Ye--no, actually. Not really.”

“Do you want to...sit, maybe?” Julian says. Isak almost wants to laugh. Julian can hit on him at parties, can threaten to wipe whipped cream off his face, but he’s shifting nervously on his feet now. The tables have turned, and Isak only had to turn into a crying mess. Julian pulls out Isak’s chair, and the move is so unbearably sweet that Isak feels his heart clench. He could’ve had something this nice, something easy. Maybe if he didn’t hate himself so damn much, maybe if he weren’t such a goddamn danger magnet.

In the end, Julian was never an option at all, not with Even in the picture.

Isak carefully sits down in the chair, and Julian drops down across from him. There’s an awkward pause between them before Julian runs a hand through his hair, and says, “Do you want to talk--”

“No.” Isak realizes a second too late how curt it sounds, but when Julian flinches, he mutters, “Not like that. It’s not that--that I think you’re annoying or whatever. It’s just too soon, you know?”

Julian tilts his head. “I saw Bech Naesheim here earlier. Does it have anything to do with him?”

Isak shrugs, but that’s confirmation enough. Julian hands him the coffee, and Isak takes it gratefully, letting the warmth seep through the cup and into his fingers. “Okay, I won’t pry,” Julian says.

“Thanks,” Isak mumbles.

Julian pokes Isak’s textbook. “So, chemistry huh? And here I am still confused about the difference between atomic mass and atomic number.”

“Somehow, I don’t think you actually want me to tell you?”

Julian chuckles. “No, go for it. Anything would be interesting coming from you.”

Isak recalls sitting at the same table with Even, watching Even’s face light up as Isak talked about plants, out of all the shitty things in the world. Even had never let Isak’s words go wasted, had drank them up no matter how boring Isak knows them to be, and back then, Isak had basked in it. Even’s attention had been unconditional, unwavering, and with him, Isak could pretend he actually meant something to someone. A sob rises from his throat.

Julian’s smile is kind. “Too soon?”

All Isak can do is give a shaky nod.

Julian shakes his head. “Bech Naesheim, the fucker. I don’t know how he does it.”

“He’s an idiot,” Isak bites out.

“Apparently an idiot that you’re still not quite over yet.” Isak opens his mouth to protest, but Julian stops him. “There’s no point in arguing. I can see it.”

Isak ducks his head. “But I want to be over him.”

Julian wraps his hand around Isak’s where it’s still holding the cup, gives it a tentative squeeze. “And I’ll be here when that day comes. But until then, I hope you find your happiness, Isak.”

~~

LØRDAG 22.10

Isak should take the fact that he’d let the boys talk him into attending a party as progress, that maybe he’s not destined to become a hermit after all, but he can’t help but regret saying yes when someone turns the volume on the speakers even louder. The bass vibrates Isak’s entire fucking brain, and it’s impossible to escape. The guy throwing the party is a friend of a friend of Magnus’s, and it’s a different crowd from the usual Nissen group. He’s standing alone in a corner, wondering if he can befriend the lamp next to him, when he finally spots Jonas across the room, holding the shot of whiskey he promised Isak.

On his way to the kitchen, he must’ve spotted Noora, because they’re holding hands now. Jonas is smiling wider than Isak’s seen him in the past year, and Noora practically glows, and here he is, stuck staring at them in the corner. Isak’s lips curve into a smile, but it’s bittersweet. He almost had that. He never had that. Fuck, he doesn’t even know anymore.

As they sway into each other to the Sia song playing, Jonas finally looks up to meet Isak’s gaze. He waves apologetically, and gestures to Noora, but Isak just rolls his eyes. Be happy, you deserve to find love.

“Hey, didn’t see you or your boy Even at that Bakka blowout last weekend. It was pretty wild,” says a voice next to him. With a start, Isak realizes that Elias had snuck up to him. He’s sipping a beer, looking Isak up and down with appraising eyes. “Why so silent? I haven’t seen you in a while. Just trying to catch up.”

Isak’s heartbeat thunders in his ears. He feels so helpless, rooted to the spot. Elias hasn’t bothered him in a while, and his absence had lulled Isak into a false sense of security. This is so fucking dumb. This guy is a bully, and Isak’s not who he was a couple of months ago, he’s not who he was a couple of weeks ago, before Even broke his heart. He’s stronger now, braver, but that’s hard to remember when the guy who used to be the biggest threat to all of Isak’s disguises is standing right next to him.

“What do you want, Elias?” Isak snaps. He hopes it masks the waver well enough, but Elias’s smirk says otherwise.

Elias’s voice turns silky, even as it’s slurring from the alcohol. “Just wanted to chat. Don’t you want to talk to me?”

Isak’s no is still choked in his throat when the whispering starts. He turns to the center of the room, where Jonas and Noora are currently facing off against--it takes him a second to comprehend, but that’s definitely William standing there in the flesh. A circle has formed around the three of them, and the Rihanna song is a little softer, but Isak still can’t make out what Noora’s saying to William.

“Holy shit,” Elias curses gleefully, but Isak is already shoving his way through the crowd. He nearly knocks over Vilde to slip behind Jonas. Isak squeezes his elbow, and Jonas turns his head to shoot him a grateful half-smile. His face is still pulled tight.

“...don’t even know why you showed up, to be honest,” Noora is saying to William. Her hands are clenched at her sides, and she’s glaring at him so intently that she hasn’t noticed the people watching. Most of the party still hasn’t caught on, but their friends have definitely noticed, and Isak catches some of the old Penetrators gathering too.

William sneers at Jonas. “We were in love, and I was ready to talk to you again. Then I come back to find you with this guy? What the hell, Noora?”

“It’s been months.”

“You haven’t contacted me either.”

“That’s because you made me feel like shit for being weak. You always have. You never validated--”

“I changed for you.”

Noora shakes her head. “No, you didn’t. I thought you did, and maybe it was easier that way. But everything you did was for you, and I’m so sick of it.”

“When have I--”

“Did you know I hated London? I hated all your work friends, and I hated meeting their wives and girlfriends like I was just your arm candy.” She pulls her cardigan tighter around herself. “Your dad called me a gold digger once, did you know? I was trying not to cry that night, but you didn’t even notice.”

There’s a gasp from Vilde, and that’s when Jonas grabs her elbow. “Noora, maybe you two should do this in private.”

“I--” Noora’s mouth pops open as she looks around the room. Her eyes land on Isak, who gives her an encouraging nod. She takes a second to steel herself, then shakes her head and says, “No, this ends right now. I’m exhausted.”

“Noora, don’t do this,” William says.

Noora straightens her back. “I don’t want you contacting me, ever again. Go back to London, William. Go back to your dad and your happy life and your new job. You don’t need me to be happy.”

William’s mouth opens, and closes again just as quickly. Apparently, he’s got nothing to say to that.

“I hope you have a happy life,” Noora says, finally, as she turns towards the door.

Jonas hurries after her, but not before whispering to William, “You never fucking deserved her anyway, asshole.”

He nearly trips over Elias on the way, though, and Jonas furrows his brows in confusion even as Elias is pulling him upright. Elias’s voice drops low. “Wow, Jonas, you don’t talk to me for a week, and now I catch you with a hot piece of ass at some party? Makes me feel like I don’t even know you anymore.”

Jonas’s face turns bright red, and that’s fucking it. Isak can put up with a lot of bullshit when it’s directed at him--and maybe that’s not okay, and maybe that’s a sign of cowardice, but Elias is an idiot if he thinks Isak is going to stay silent through all of this.

“What’s your fucking problem? Are you really this fucking insecure?” Isak snaps.

Elias’s eyebrows shoot up about a mile. Isak doesn’t think he’s ever spoken to Elias like this before, and it gives his adrenaline a spike. “Little Isak, talking back. Never thought I’d see the day.”

As Jonas glances between the two of them, comprehension finally graces his eyes. “What the hell are you doing with Isak, Elias?”

“I was just saying hi,” Elias says easily.

“Was he just saying hi?” Jonas asks Isak.

Isak’s waited years for this, ever since his first year, when he was too scared to even consider the possibility of his best friend finding out that he was gay. He remembers that cabin trip, those nights spent at Elias’s when Jonas laughed at all his shitty jokes. He’d never felt loneliness quite as acutely as he did then. Isak’s always hated Elias, but he’s always hated his weakness around Elias more.

But that’s not fair to him anymore. He’s fantasized about this for a while, but now, the victory feels more like an inevitability, because Isak, for all his doubts and insecurities, was never meant to live a half-life.

Admitting that lifts a weight off his shoulders. “I don’t want him here,” Isak says, no trace of a tremble to his voice.

“Then I think you should go, Elias,” Jonas tells him.

Elias’s face goes dark. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. I know too much about you.”

Jonas snorts. “Are you really trying to threaten me right now?”

“You’re never going to find a friend like me again.”

“Dude, you’re my drug dealer, not my friend. I think you’re vastly overestimating your importance.”

Isak chuckles. “Doesn’t he always.”

Jonas nudges Isak’s shoulders with his, and he doesn’t feel quite so lost, for a second.

They shove past Elias, who’s still sputtering for words, to find Noora, Mahdi, and Magnus waiting for them downstairs. Mahdi’s tapping his foot impatiently as he takes in the sight of their widening grins, and Magnus just looks clueless as usual. He has lipstick on his cheek, and Isak wonders what poor girl he’s tricked into hooking up with him. Jonas slips an arm around Noora’s shoulders, and she leans into his touch.

“You’re finally here,” Noora says.

“So are you,” he tells her, pressing a kiss to her cheek. “Nice job with William back there.”

“I don’t think he was expecting that at all.”

Jonas shrugs, and tugs her closer. “Well, I always knew you had it in you.”

Mahdi is apparently not so easily satisfied. “What the hell just happened with Elias?” he asks.

“Something that should’ve happened a long time ago,” Jonas says. He turns to Isak. “I’m so fucking sorry, man, I should’ve dropped him as soon as I realized you felt uncomfortable--”

Isak holds up a hand. “You couldn’t have known.”

Jonas gives a frustrated sigh. “Yes, I could’ve. I could’ve at least asked.

“I wouldn’t have told you, back then.”

“I’m glad you did, eventually.”

They’re beaming at each other now, and of course Mahdi chooses that moment to interrupt. “I’m glad that you two have feelings, but that doesn’t explain why Elias looks like he wants to cut both of you up into little tiny pieces.”

Jonas rolls his eyes. “He’s harmless.”

“He has badass drug dealer friends, and I haven’t touched a gym in a year.” He pokes at Magnus’s noodle arm. “And I don’t think this guy even knows what a gym is.”

“We’ll deal with it, if it comes,” Jonas says.

“I think he’s too much of a coward to start anything,” Isak says, and he knows it’s true immediately. He’s spent so long being scared of this guy, projecting on him, when his worst fears were really the parts of himself he kept hidden. The monsters in his head are always scarier than the real-life ones, but he’s taking them down, one by one.

“But why would you fight with our best drug dealer? We can’t go back to Nils. You slept with his girlfriend, oh shit, sorry Noora.” Mahdi winches when Jonas punches his shoulder, but Noora just grins, and dismisses it with a wave.

“We’re looking toward the future, not the past,” she explains.

“Wow, you two mind if I steal that?” Magnus says, and Jonas shoves his shoulder.

Jonas sighs. “Look, the Elias thing--he’d been bothering Isak for years, okay? It was worth it.”

Mahdi still looks skeptical, and when Isak meets Jonas’s eyes, he gives him a subtle nod. This is it. The monsters have nothing on an Isak who’s no longer afraid of his own will to live freely . “I--uh, I’m gay. And Elias wasn’t okay with that, so.”

It takes a moment for it to hit, and Isak is hyper-aware of the silence. “Wait, dude, you’re gay? Since when?” Magnus shrieks. “But you hook up with girls all the time.”

Mahdi swats Magnus on the arm, then turns to Isak. “That’s cool. Is that why you’ve been acting so weird lately?”

Isak’s head is still swimming. “I guess? Kind of. Not the gay thing, exactly. But I guess it’s related.”

“Do you think you can be my wingman from now on? My friend at Bakka says having a gay best friend is the best thing that happened to his sex life,” Magnus tells him. “Shit, I can see it now. Isak and Magnus, hookup dream team.”

Mahdi groans. “Man, have you ever considered shutting up? I could give you a pros and cons list, and trust me, there are going to be a lot more pros for everyone involved.” Isak grants him a grateful smile, and Mahdi pats his arm. “I’m happy for you, man. You know we have your back.”

He does, he always has, but hearing that spreads his grin wider.

Jonas yawns, stretching his arms over his head. “Fuck, I’m tired. Anyone wanna get food? I could really go for a kebab right now.”

“Nothing’s open,” Isak points out.

“We could buy pita and make our own?”

Jonas shoots Noora a hopeful look, but she only smirks. “I’m not helping you boys screw up our kitchen. Besides, I have plans with the girls.”

“It’s two in the morning!”

“Even Sana’s coming, the night is just starting.”

They end up buying all the ingredients for kebabs from a 24-hour supermarket near Isak’s place, but as soon as they get there, Jonas starts passing out drinks from the stash of beer he’d stored there after their last pre-game. Soon enough, they’re all drunk off their asses, and when Isak’s attempt to turn on Eskild’s portable grill turns into five minutes of staring at the knobs in confusion, and when Magnus starts laughing at the word “marinate,” they all give it up as a lost cause.

Isak ends up stuffing the ingredients into the fridge for some unspecified later date. It’s a lot more fucking complicated than anyone thinks, okay. When Isak comes back from the kitchen, swaying on his feet, Jonas groans from where he’s faceplanted into a pillow and says, “The only thing we’re good at is failing at shit.”

“At least you can cook, a little. Remember when Isak asked me how to make Ramen?” Mahdi says.

Isak blushes. “I wasn’t sure how long to boil the water.”

“If it’s hot, and is bubbling, then you’re good. Should’ve just stuck your hand in it.”

Magnus sighs dreamily. “If we’re all gonna be failures anyway, I’m glad I’m failing with you guys.”

There’s a chorus of aww’s, and maybe this is why they keep Magnus around.

“Hey, Isak, do you think gay guys think I’m hot?”

Fuck, he takes that back.

Chapter Text

FREDAG 12.34

Even didn’t think his hatred of hospitals would extend to veterinary hospitals, but as it turns out, he learns something new about himself every day. Back here, the vet smells of bleach and piss, and where there would normally be barking and whining, instead there’s eery silence, as if the animals are acutely aware of the gravity of their situations. He wonders if they’re scared, and then he clutches onto Baz’s fur tighter when he wonders if any of them are aware someone’s coming back for them.

He thinks Mikael can tell he’s having immediate regrets about this decision, because he kneels next to Even and brings a hand to squeeze at his shoulder reassuringly. “This is the best option, Even,” he reminds Even gently, but Even still has a hard time letting go of Baz, who’s only just barely sitting up. “You know there’s no chance of him getting better if you don’t let him go.”

Even shakes his head. He knows, he knows, but Baz is sometimes the only reason he gets out of bed some days, and he’s aware that his dog’s over ten years old, and these things aren’t easy to come back from at his age. What he’s most afraid of is not being here if something happens to Baz -- of his dog meeting his end alone, surrounded by strangers, by people who haven’t known him and loved him all of his life.

He swallows harshly and speaks none of these worries out loud, afraid that once they’re out in the universe they’re a real possibility, and they might take. Instead, he nods shakily and presses a small kiss to the top of Baz’s head one last time before standing, Mikael along with him. The veterinary assistant offers him a tight nod before she attaches the leash onto Baz’s collar, and after a couple of attempts, Baz slugs behind her and past a back door, tail between his legs.

Mikael reaches over to pat Even’s back soothingly. “He’s going to be fine,” he says, and it sounds like a promise. But Mikael can’t know that; when they were younger, Even thought Mikael had all of the answers, but he knows better now, and Mikael can’t know that.

Still, Even offers his best friend a small smile and an equally small nod. “Yes,” he tells him, hoping he sounds a lot more sure than he feels. “He is.”

--

FREDAG 13.42

Mikael refuses to let Even go home after dropping Baz off, so instead they find themselves at KB, which is surprisingly half-empty, especially for a Friday afternoon. Even’s dragging his feet behind Mikael when they walk in, and the naive part of him automatically scans the entirety of the shop to see if he spots Isak somewhere -- then he remembers, and his gaze finds his shoes instead. There’s too much heaviness in his heart, Baz coupled with Isak and weighing it down, and there are unwelcome thoughts racing through his brain that help the situation none.

So it also doesn’t help to see Julian behind the counter, chatting animatedly with a customer. Even’s never really noticed, not with Isak always being the buffer between the two, but Julian isn’t bad-looking. His eyes are a warm brown and his hair’s always styled and he’s tall -- not as tall as Even, or even Isak, but tall enough so that his smile is charming and effective. He’d never noticed the thin layer of eyeliner coating his eyelids and there’s something like glitter above it, and he wonders if, were Isak to remove Even from the picture entirely, he’d go for someone like Julian. If he’d give him a chance.

There’s a whisper in his ear that tells him anything is possible, and the heaviness in his heart weighs him down even more.

He looks over at Mikael and gestures to one of the back tables. “I’m gonna sit,” he says, making his way over to the table before Mikael can protest. His legs fold easily over the chair and he’s tired, far more tired than he thinks he can let on, and he closes his eyes for what feels like a moment but is probably much longer -- long enough so that he suddenly hears the quiet sound of a cup being set in front of him and the scraping of a chair across from him.

Even opens his eyes to find a cup for himself, and he gives Mikael a look. “I didn’t want anything.”

Mikael shrugs. “Just ‘cause you didn’t want it doesn’t mean you didn’t need it,” he points out, taking a sip of his own coffee. “You should be grateful. I can’t believe I had to physically string all those stupid, unnecessary words together to order that abomination. I did it out of love.”

Even reaches over and plays with the coffee sleeve, offers Mikael a small smile. “Thanks, Mik.”

“You’re welcome,” he proclaims, setting down his coffee. They’re silent for a moment, and Even can’t bring himself to drink his coffee or say much at all -- he’s hardly even thinking, his brain giving him a break, and even if he had been, he’s sure he wouldn’t have the energy to say much at all.

Mikael looks a little lost in thought himself, and were it any other day, under any other circumstances, Even would inquire, offer a penny for his thoughts, but he’s so, so tired.

It seems his best friend doesn’t need to be asked, however. “How did you know you liked boys?”

Even furrows his eyebrows, surprised at the question despite himself. “What?”

“Boys. How did you know you liked them the same way you liked girls?”

“I don’t know,” he replies, blinking. “It wasn’t difficult. I just realized I could picture myself kissing both of them, I guess.” He pauses. “If this is supposed to keep my mind off Isak, I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s not doing a very good job.”

Mikael rolls his eyes. “Never mind,” he sighs. “You’re useless to me right now.”

“What?”

“The guy at the counter,” he nods over to it. “You know him?”

Even glances over, finds Julian once again. His stomach flips unpleasantly. “Yeah,” he looks back at Mikael. “Julian. He’s obsessed with Isak,” he adds bitterly. “Probably has a better shot with him than I do right now.”

“Of course he does,” Mikael hums. “Would be just my luck.”

“What?”

“Stop asking me for clarification,” Mikael tells him. “You’re not in a state where I can give it to you.”

Even wants to want to understand what’s happening here. He feels a little selfish, even, for feeling the slightest bit of relief at Mikael not expanding on his inquiries. But there is very little he cares about right now -- not himself, not anything around him, maybe Baz, mostly, Isak, but even then, the part that does is very small in comparison to the part that doesn’t want to. He’s been here before, in this place that doesn’t give him room to care for much, care for anything, and he feels it fighting for control, for the last bit of energy he was able to muster that brought him here today, that’s keeping him awake.

Mikael tilts his head, and his expression softens. “You still haven’t told me the whole story,” he says, and his voice sounds patient, worried. Even plays the coffee sleeve again, avoids Mikael’s gaze. He doesn’t deserve his concern -- Even feels like he deserves very little, and Mikael’s concern doesn’t make the cut. “I know he didn’t hear you out, but I don’t understand why you’re not fighting like hell to make him.”

Even meets Mikael’s gaze. “I already took too much of his choice,” he explains. “He needs to choose to hear me out, now. I won’t approach him if he doesn’t want me to. I can’t take that away from him, too.”

Mikael’s lips purse. “Even,” he says softly. “What did he say to you?”

Even lowers his gaze again. “He was angry.”

“Right,” he can see Mikael nod. “That’s not what I asked, though.”

Even exhales. He doesn’t want to say it out loud. The words haunted his dreams the past week, mocked him when he’s looked in the mirror, whispered to him when he’s tightened his hand around his meds, stared at them blankly, rolled them over and over in his palm until he resolved to open them up.

“He said,” Even clears his throat of whatever lump’s wanting to build there. “He said it was crazy.” He’s still avoiding Mikael’s gaze, afraid of what he might find there. “That I was crazy for doing what I did, and then he asked me to leave him alone and left.” Even’s fingers are shaking slightly. “I deserved that.”

Mikael is quiet for a moment. “You didn’t,” he replies finally, and his voice is tight. “He doesn’t have the full story, and I know he probably -- he’s a kid, he probably didn’t mean it, but that’s no excuse to throw around that word.”

Even glances up at him. “I deserved it,” he repeats.

Mikael looks frustrated. “I wish you could see yourself through my eyes,” he tells Even. “Through anyone else’s eyes, even his. You didn’t deserve it. You don’t deserve half of the shit you put yourself through. And I--” Mikael grunts. “God, it’s my fault.”

Even looks at him, furrowing his brows in confusion. “What?”

“I was the one who told you to start this stupid thing,” he reminds Even. “Start this anonymous pen pal business. And I pushed you to keep going, and then I told you to keep talking to him even when he found out about Sonja, and this is partly my fault,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

Even stares at Mikael blankly.

Mikael looks regretful. “I am.”

There’s a spark of something that ignites in Even, and maybe this is what gives him enough energy to say the following: “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Mikael raises an eyebrow. “You’re saying it’s not true?”

“No, I’m saying that I had a choice in all of this,” Even tells him. “I didn’t have to do what you told me to. I liked the cloak of anonymity. I liked thinking he would never know everything that’s wrong with me, and a part of me got so caught up in it, to the point where I couldn’t find a stopping point that made sense, and so I thought I could have both. That eventually they’d blend together, and I could cut ties with one without him ever finding out about the other.”

Even is quiet for a moment. “But that wasn’t fair. It’s not fair now, either. He deserved to know, a long, long time ago. I made the conscious decision not to tell him. I broke his heart twice and that’s why I deserved it. I deserve his anger, because a lot of this was fueled by a part of me that didn’t want to let go, was afraid of losing him, because long before he even told me about how he felt about mental illness -- I was already ashamed,” Even laughs, a little wetly, the realization hitting him in the moment. “I still can’t say the words out loud, Mik. Have you ever heard me say them out loud?”

Mikael parts his lips for a moment before closing them, sans an answer.

“Being his secret admirer made me feel -- normal, for a time. Like this wasn’t a part of me at all. Like it wasn’t real. Like it’s never been real. And I was scared,” Even swallows harshly. “Feared the reaction I actually got, and it was selfish. It was selfish of me. And he got hurt in the process, and that’s all on me,” he snaps. “None of it is on you. This is my fault, my burden to bear, and if he doesn’t want me near him anymore, if he never wants to hear from me again, then I at least owe him that much.”

Mikael is quiet for a moment. “Even,” he starts, and his voice is soft.

Even looks down at the table. “I love him,” he admits quietly, before Mikael can get another word in. “But that’s just not enough anymore.”

He glances towards the counter, just to be able to look anywhere else, and he finds Julian looking right at him, brows furrowed. Their gazes linger on each other’s for a beat longer, before Julian looks away, busying himself with wiping down the counter again. Even gazes at his profile, wonders if he knows, wonders what he sees through his eyes. Even thinks back on all the times they’ve been spiteful towards one another, and then he thinks that was unfair. Of him, mostly. He doesn’t know Julian, and through it all -- maybe he’s always been the better man between the two.

Mikael’s hand is suddenly warm over Even’s. Even blinks at it in surprise, then raises his gaze to meet his best friend’s. Mikael’s expression betrays nothing but sympathy and understanding. “You’re the bravest person I’ve ever met,” he tells Even. “You’ve been through hell, and you’ve come back, and you’ve found yourself there again, and there are very few people that come out of that unscathed.”

Even snorts. “I’m broken all over.”

“No,” Mikael shakes his head. “You’re not broken. A little dented, maybe, but you’re whole. You’re full of love to give and I’m so sorry you feel like that’s not enough. You’re so bright, it angers me that you see yourself in black and white.”

Even feels the stinging of his eyes like a house on fire. “It was mean, wasn’t it?” He looks at Mikael. “It was selfish.”

“You were protecting yourself,” Mikael tells him, squeezing his hand. “Sometimes we do stupid things to avoid getting hurt. Sometimes those things are mean. Sometimes they’re selfish. But they’re hardly ever meant that way. And you came to your senses,” Mikael reminds him. “You put all of that aside -- the fear, the shame -- and you told him. That counts for something. That means something.”

Even looks down. “I miss him,” he says quietly. “I think I’ll always miss him.”

Mikael says nothing for a moment. “Yeah,” he finally replies. “I know.”

Even’s coffee has gone cold.

--

LØRDAG 11.20

There’s a drawing of Isak sitting in his drawer, asking if it’s ever going to be finished. Even wonders that himself, thinks he’s missing Isak’s eyes, his gaze, wonders if he can remember what Isak’s gaze looked like when it was filled with wonder and not anger, love and not hatred.

He entertains the idea of scrapping it altogether -- letting it lie, along with this entire situation, but he can’t bring himself to. He lets the drawing sit where it’s hidden, then, lets it whisper to him in the quiet of his room, where he feels the emptiness left by Baz on his bed, where the darkness settles around him comfortably, like he belongs.

There’s a memory that creeps in, unwelcome and yet warm, at the coffee shop one day where Isak’s laugh is bright and loud in his ears even now, and Even had asked him how he felt about the rain. Isak had looked thoughtful for a moment, then said he guessed it was fine, annoying, most days. Even admitted to him that he found the rain soothing, like the ocean waves, like Isak’s laugh. He remembers Isak’s pretty blush at the comment, the small disbelieving laugh that’d escaped him as he demanded Even shut up.

Even had looked at him, smile as wide as it was allowed to go. “The rain and your laugh. I think those two things, at the same time, could quell any kind of fear inside me.”

Isak’s blush had only deepened. “I didn’t think you were afraid of anything.”

And in that moment, Even remembers wanting to tell Isak everything -- come clean, tell him everything he’s afraid of, everything he will be afraid of, but most of all, how afraid he was of losing him. Instead, Even had smirked, said Isak was probably right, and the moment was gone as quickly as it’d come.

The rain and Isak’s laugh. He realizes now he’ll never have the two things at once. And so his fears sit inside him, loud and in color, and they close his eyes.

--

SØNDAG 0.00

He sleeps Sunday off.

--

MANDAG 15.09

Even doesn’t go to school again, and most of the day has been spent unconscious and in bed; sometimes, he’ll stay awake long enough to stare at the wall, but his thoughts are quiet and unobtrusive, almost like they’re biding their time, waiting until he’s completely helpless before they get louder and mocking.

His mom missed work today, claimed loudly it was because she was feeling sick, but Even knows the drill by now. Once the signs start to show, his parents are nervous to leave him alone, and check up on him constantly, quietly, ask if he needs anything. Even sometimes has the energy to answer -- other times, he doesn’t.

He doesn’t really look at the clock when he hears his door creak open again, and he expects it to be his mom, walking over to him and looking over his shoulder to see if he’s asleep or awake, but it doesn’t happen -- instead, there’s a quiet groan beside him in the bed as it dips, and Even furrows his brows, confused.

He musters up enough energy to roll over, and when he looks up to see who’s joined him, he finds familiar blue eyes looking back at him. Even blinks uselessly up at his older sister, who’s looking back at him a little cautiously, like she’s sailed these waters before and she knows where the storm hits exactly every time.

Even narrows his eyes slightly. “What are you doing here?”

Lillian shrugs her shoulders. “Erik’s got Anette for the day,” she tells him, as if this explains everything. Even tries to convey how much it doesn’t with his expression. Lillian rolls her eyes. “What do you think I’m doing here, stupid?”

Even buries himself under the covers a little more. “I don’t know what you think you’re going to be able to do for me,” he sighs. “I’m just tired.”

Lillian laughs once, no actual mirth in her tone. She reaches a hand to run through Even’s hair softly, and she shakes her head slowly. “What happened?” she asks quietly. “This is definitely a something happened episode, isn’t it?”

Even doesn’t know how his sister can tell the difference. She’s always been able to, though. She’s observant like that -- the same way Anette is, which, makes sense, considering. Even’s gaze switches over to the wall directly behind Lillian, afraid to look her in the eye, afraid she’ll find out just what shade of fucked up he truly is.

Lillian allows him the silence. She’s patient like this -- won’t say a word until you think it’s time for it, will breathe quietly next to you and provide a comforting presence for as long as you need it, as long as you want it. Even thinks it’s unfair that she has to waste her time and effort on someone like him, someone who can’t even get past a heartbreak without slipping under, to this dark place that almost feels like home, at times. Envelops him like he’s always belonged.

There are times in which Even knows nothing else. In which he thinks he doesn’t know himself if he’s not here, if he’s not hopeless, if he’s not useless. There are times in which Even wonders if this is really him, and anything outside of this is a projection of some kind. Nothing feels real. Then again, not much else feels real here, either.

“There’s a boy,” Even starts quietly. Lillian looks down at him and waits patiently for Even to continue. “And I fucked up.”

So there is very little energy in Even left, and very little resolve, at that, but he manages to get through the story of Isak, of all the months of him, of every single part of Even Isak has managed to worm his way into and how he felt, sometimes, like he had no idea where he began and Isak ended. He talks about Isak’s hand in his, about the sound of his laugh, about how brave this beautiful boy is, about how perfectly he fit in Even’s arms, about how he felt like he was lost and the universe was far too big to fit all of them and the color of his eyes and the shape of his lips and how, in a misguided attempt to protect himself, Even ended up hurting the one person on this planet that felt like a forever.

When he finishes, Lillian offers him an impressed whistle. She doesn’t say much else for a while, and Even lies beside her, heart in his throat.

Then: “You know, if you’d come to me first, I could have told you exactly how all of this would have ended.”

Even laughs mirthlessly. “I’m not your problem anymore.”

“Don’t say that,” Lillian snaps. “You’re still my family. You’re still an important part of my life. That doesn’t change because I don’t live here anymore, or because I have another one.”

Even remains quiet. He wants to believe that. There are things in his mind and his body that don’t allow him to, however. He bypasses the comment altogether; instead, he rolls over to give his back to his sister, stares at the wall again. “I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel for anyone what I feel for Isak.”

Lillian’s laugh is quiet and soft. “Of course you will,” she says, running a hand through his hair. “You’re nineteen years old. There are plenty of more people to come.”

Even closes his eyes. “Then why does it feel like the end of the world?”

Lillian hums. “I think it always feels like the end of the world,” she admits. “And maybe it is, for the moment. But I think the good thing about that is -- that out of the rubble, you get to start again,” she tells him. “In an entirely new one.”

Even thinks on this. “Do you think it was stupid?” he asks her suddenly. “Or -- wrong?”

“I think,” Lillian hums. “That you’re nineteen, and your heart was in the right place.” She pauses. “Why didn’t you tell him before?”

“It was never the right time,” Even admits tiredly. “First it was way too soon, then it was trying to let him settle into who he was before he admitted he liked me, then when he finally did admit it it was Sonja, and when that was finally resolved, when I finally told him, it was too late.” Even pauses long enough to regroup. “So never the right time,” he finishes softly. “Just too soon or too late.”

Lillian lets him lie in the silence for a while longer. Even can’t tell you how long that actually is -- in times like these, seconds and minutes and hours all blend together into one, and with his curtains drawn, he has no way of knowing how much time has actually passed. He prefers it this way. Lets him pretend he’s not wasting so much space, wasting so much time.

“It’s going to be okay,” Lillian finally says, and her voice cuts through the silence a little sharply, like she hadn’t meant to. Even feels his lips curl into a frown.

“Okay.”

“I’m serious,” she states firmly. “I know it doesn’t seem like it now, and I know it’s easy for me to say it, but it’s going to be okay. And if this Isak kid is as special and wonderful as you say he is, then he’s going to come around.”

“Okay.”

Lillian sighs, but it’s not frustrated, or impatient -- it just is. It’s a sigh like any other, like she’s resigned herself to not getting through to Even, as if she didn’t know this is how it works. Even wants to point out to her that this kind of talk has never been successful before, and he’s not sure why she thought it’d be any different now; still, there’s a small part of him that appreciates that she never gives up. Makes him think that maybe he’s worth not giving up on, sometimes.

“Hey,” Lillian runs a hand through his hair softly. “I love you, kid.”

Even buries himself deeper inside his covers. “I think I’m gonna fall asleep,” he tells her quietly. After a moment: “You mind staying until I do?”

Even can’t see her face, but he knows Lillian’s expression softens the way it’s always done when Even shows any kind of vulnerability with her. “Of course,” she replies softly. “Always.”

--

TIRSDAG 16.34

Even thinks Mikael showed up earlier. He talked to Even for a while, out loud about not much at all, but Even can’t remember much of it -- he remembers sleeping on and off, remembers wishing he would leave. Eventually, he did.

His mom made some soup for him, brought it over to his room. It’s sitting on his end table and the steam’s disappeared -- gone cold while it waited for Even to reach out to it. He turns his back to it and lets it sit there, untouched.

He sleeps.

--

ONSDAG 20.09

He hears his parents whisper furiously about Baz out in the kitchen. Even does himself the favor of pretending he can’t hear them.

He sleeps.

--

TORSDAG 15.23

Even has stopped keeping track of how many times a day someone comes into his room to check up on him. Things are easier that way. The less he knows about the people who worry, the less guilt is added to the pile of emotions that already is.

--

FREDAG 23.18

This is the part where his thoughts get loud, get mocking. This is the part where Even stops caring about the details -- who, what, where, when, why -- and starts caring about nothing at all; the part where all he knows is uselessness, and all he feels is worthlessness, and all he wants is quiet.

And so, he sleeps.

Chapter Text

MANDAG 12.01

He’s not worried--Even can do whatever he wants, and if that’s not showing up to school for an entire week, then that’s on him. Isak shouldn’t even care, not for someone who obviously hadn’t cared about him in return. He’s skipped his fair share of days in the past few weeks, but he hasn’t seen Even once since coming back to school. The worry in his chest doesn’t subside when he sees that Even’s usual spot at lunch, right next to Anders, is empty again. Isak’s gotten used to staring at him over his own lunch, until one or the both of them burst into giggles over an inside joke neither of them fully understood.

That’s not happening anymore, even if Even were here, so Isak’s brain can stop going down that path already, thanks.

“Objectively, though, Evans is more attractive than Pratt, hands down. He’s got the--” Magnus flexes, but it doesn’t do much for his biceps, “muscles and everything.”

Jonas waves a spoon, and a bit of yogurt plops down on the table. “But we’re forgetting Hemsworth.”

“Thor is boring as hell though,” Mahdi chimes in.

“You’re just DC trash,” Jonas says.

“There is no good thing about Marvel, at all.”

“Batman is not that cool, man. He’s just a glorified rich kid who could use his money to fix Gotham’s infrastructure, but would rather play vigilante instead.”

Mahdi takes a swig from his water bottle, and he purses his lips, ready for a fight. “Okay, first of all--”

Magnus holds up both of his hands. “Before you two start, can we answer the first question? Which Chris is hottest?”

“We forgot Pine,” Jonas points out.

“But is this a question of just the Marvel Chris’s, or just famous Chris’s in general?” Mahdi says.

“Let’s ask Isak!” Magnus pokes Isak in the shoulder, jolting him back to attention. He whirls his head around, but Jonas’s frown makes it clear that he knows exactly where Isak had been staring. Mahdi and Magnus haven’t noticed, though, but it’s a small blessing. “Which Chris would you rather bang?”

Jonas buries his face in his hands. “You can’t just ask him that.”

“But he has, like, an expert opinion. Because he’s gay.”

“That’s exactly why you shouldn’t ask him.”

Magnus furrows his brows. “I don’t get it?”

Mahdi sighs. “All these white dudes look the same, I don’t know how you tell them apart half the time.”

It’s five minutes before their next class, and Anders and Thomas are already getting ready to leave. Anders whispers something to Thomas as he tucks his Biology textbook into his backpack, and they both glance over at Isak.

Isak ducks his head, blushing, as soon as they make eye contact, but they definitely caught him. He doubts he even cares anymore, at this point.

He’s on his feet before his brain catches up with his body, and he barely hears Jonas’s, “Where are you going?” before he’s running after Thomas and Anders. His heart pounds in his chest as he cuts them off before they get back to the hallway, and he’s still panting when he asks them, “Have you seen Even lately?”

They exchange a look, before Anders says, cautiously, “He hasn’t been in school, so no.”

Isak huffs. “But has he told you why?”

Thomas presses his lips into a thin line, before saying, “Why don’t you ask him about it?”

“I, uh, haven’t really talked to him.” His face burns as he shifts on his feet. It’s hard, suddenly, to keep looking at the judgment in their eyes. He shouldn’t have to feel like this. He’s not the one who caused this rift between them, and this is probably what Even wants in the end, anyway, now that Isak knows the truth. He can stop pretending that Isak actually meant something, that out of all the people in the world, Even had chosen him.

“Have you considered that’s the problem?” Thomas says quietly. Isak sucks in a breath. They must be mistaken. Even’s absence has nothing to do with him.

“I really don’t think I’m that important.”

“Okay.” Thomas shrugs.

“That’s it?”

“I mean, if you don’t think you’re that important, man, maybe Even shouldn’t either.”

Anders bumps Thomas’s shoulder with his own. “Let them figure him figure it out on his own.” Thomas’s shoulders slumps, but he’s still shaking his head at Isak. Anders turns to him. “Talk to Even.”

Isak snorts. “I doubt he wants to talk to me.”

“Have you even tried?”

Isak opens his mouth to speak, but clamps it shut immediately. The truth is, everything happened so fast that he’d never stopped to replay those last moments before everything fell apart, those minutes where Even had crushed all his hopes for whatever was brewing between them. He was ready to declare his feelings for Even one minute and crying in his room the next, and maybe that was a little too fast, a little too rushed for either of them to have time to breathe.

Too little time for Isak to stop before he jumped to the worst conclusions, maybe?

No, he’s been here before, with Even. There’s no sense in hoping. Even will just disappoint him again.

“He hasn’t tried to talk to me,” Isak protests.

“Maybe he’s just waiting. Maybe he thinks this is what you need.”

Isak doesn’t need this. What he needs is for Even to show up at his door with a pint of ice cream tucked underneath his arm, waxing poetic about some old movie that Isak needs to see, because he has a social duty to give Isak a taste of culture. Even’s nose would be red from the cold, but he’d look so cozy tucked underneath all of his layers. That familiar ache would settle in Isak’s heart again, the urge to pull Even into his arms and press a kiss to his cheeks, his forehead, until he’s warm all over. Even would tell him that the fight was a big mistake, that he was just one boy all along, a boy who wanted to be with Isak more than anything. There’d be nothing between them--no baggage, no games, just two people who’ve finally found a home.

When Isak speaks again, his voice is raw. “I don’t need this. I just want Even.”

Even, the boy from the notes, who had drawn out Isak’s worst vulnerabilities and made Isak stronger for it? Even, who somehow made his heart race but calmed the noise inside his head all at once? He’s not sure which version of Even is the right one. He’s not sure whether that matters.

Anders and Thomas exchange another look. “Maybe you should be telling someone else that?”

~~

MANDAG 16.10

Isak barely knows what he’s doing here, and he hesitates before ringing the doorbell. He’s been here so often that it should be second nature by now. Isak would give two hard jabs of the bell, and Even would swing the door open just as Isak contemplated the third ring. He’d be wearing whatever dorky patterned socks suited his fancy that day, and his smile would grow impossibly wider as he took in the sight of Isak on his doorstep, like he wasn’t expecting him, like Isak hadn’t texted him not ten seconds ago that he was getting close.

The door doesn’t open as quickly that day, and Isak is on the fifth try before he finally finds Sonja on the other side. Her hair looks like she hasn’t brushed it in ages, and when she spots Isak, she purses her lips.

He doesn’t know what he expected. Of course Even doesn’t actually want him. Isak should’ve trusted his own instincts. He knows his own worth, and that’s not very much, not to Even, at least. But there’s something about Even that makes Isak believe that he could be more than that, something that’s apparently let him make a fool of himself again.

He’s already backing away when Sonja says, “What are you doing here?” Her voice is so sharp that it slices through him, halting him in his tracks.

“I just thought--” Isak rubs at his eyes. “Look, never mind. He’s obviously with you, so he’s fine.”

Sonja raises her eyebrows. “Are you serious?”

“Yes?”

“He’s fine? That’s all you have to say?”

“What do you want me to say?” Isak snaps. “I came over here to talk to him, to beg him for an explanation if it came down to it, but you’re here, and so. He’s probably fine.”

Sonja just blinks at him, before finally saying, “You’re the biggest idiot I’ve ever met.”

Isak’s so fucking tired of this. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“He’s not fine. He’s far from fine, and it took you a week to come talk to him?”

Isak’s heartbeat accelerates, and it’s too much. It’s too fucking much when all he wants to turn back time before he found out about any of this, back when Even still seemed like an impossibility. He’d been so naive then, and maybe it was better when Isak thought he couldn’t have him in any parallel universe.

(That’s a lie. Isak would rather have pieces of him than nothing at all, but Isak wishes it didn’t have to hurt this bad.)

“Can you please explain?” he begs.

Sonja shakes her head, and Isak suddenly notices the redness in her eyes. Her next words come out strangled. “He’s bipolar, Isak. He’s bipolar, and you’re not good for him. So will you please just leave?”

Isak’s mouth drops open. His thoughts are rearranging all at once, colliding and reforming to create a picture that’s uglier than any truth he could’ve imagined. Bipolar? He knows what it is, he thinks. They’d done a short unit on psychology in Biology class. But that doesn’t square up with his image of Even. Not Even, who’s always seemed too good for this world, who always took on life like it was made just for him. Crazy, Isak had called him. Crazy, and gross, and terrible.

The Even he knows is none of those things. The Even he knows may not exist at all.

“I don’t--I don’t--” he sputters.

“No, you really don’t get it,” Sonja says.

Isak is saved from more useless muttering by the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs.

“Isak?” Mikael says. “You’re here?”

Isak just blinks at Mikael dumbly as he approaches both of them, and he doesn’t react when Mikael places a warm hand on his shoulder. He doesn’t have much capacity to do much of anything right now. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t pierce the fog in his mind.

Isak has always been that kid in science classes who raised his hand first. His brain works that way--fast, analytical, quick enough to him to sort through alleles in his head and balance formulas just like that. He can make the facts work, make them fit together in ways that his classmates always had trouble grasping. But there’s nothing to analyze about this. There’s nothing about this to think through, nothing for him to sort out: just the bare, unfiltered truth staring at him straight in the face.

Nothing for him to do but swallow it down and hope that it’ll make sense with time.

Mikael squeezes his shoulder, and it’s a little easier to stand up straight. “What did you say to him, Sonja?” he sighs.

“I just told him the truth,” she says, defensive.

“You know Even wouldn’t want this.”

“I don’t think what Even wants is always the best thing for him.”

Mikael presses his eyes shut as he takes a deep breath. “Goddammit, Sonja. I thought you would’ve learned by now. This is exactly why you two broke up.”

“You think I don’t know that? He’s one of my best friends, Mikael. I just want him to stop hurting.”

“Well, you’re not helping.”

Sonja gestures to Isak. “I don’t know how you can look at him and not want to yell at him. This kid--”

“Oh, trust me, I want to. But it’s not our business.”

Sonja crosses her arms across her chest. “I’m not letting him in to see Even.”

“I’m not saying you should.” Mikael squeezes his shoulder again and says, “Isak, what do you want?”

It takes Isak a minute to realize that he’s actually being addressed. “I--I don’t know?” he says.

Mikael’s eyes roam over him, takes in his trembling hands and his pale face. He exhales. “I know a pretty good smoothie place. Are you down?”

Isak is numb as he nods, but Mikael’s fleeting smile, so quick Isak almost misses it, tells him that it’s the right decision.

~~

MANDAG 17.00

Isak’s strawberry banana smoothie is sitting in front of him, untouched, when Mikael finally says, “Sonja told you Even’s bipolar?”

Isak jerks his head in a parody of a nod. He’s still not quite used to hearing Even and bipolar in the same sentence. He wishes he didn’t have to. It isn’t fucking fair.

“Do you know what that means?”

Isak takes a moment to respond, and he does so carefully. “I know that means you get really intense highs and really low depression. That’s about it.”

Mikael chuckles mirthlessly. “That’s the textbook answer, yeah.” He doesn’t seem to have any trouble drinking his chocolate avocado strawberry smoothie, but it seems more like a nervous tic than anything. Isak had never heard of those flavors going well together, but the way Mikael’s slurping it down would have Isak think that it’s the nectar of the gods. He continues, “But do you know what that means? For Even? He’s not an abstraction, you know.”

Isak clenches his hands into fists under the table. “Of course I know that.”

“He’s not a textbook answer. He’s a real person, with real feelings--”

“I know. You don’t have to treat me like a kid.”

Mikael considers him for a minute, and it’s long enough that Isak wilts under his stare. Isak breathes out a sigh of relief he finally sets down the smoothie cup. “You know, you’re not a bad guy. I kinda get why he likes you. Kinda naive, but so is he, sometimes. That’s probably a good thing.”

Isak lets the information wash over him. His hands unclench a little, and he sounds so young when he says, “He likes me?”

Mikael just stares. “That’s what you’re focusing on?” Isak breathes in as a blush spreads over his face. Mikael chuckles again, but this time, it sounds more like the real thing. “Of course that’s the important part for you. Maybe he was right about you after all.”

Isak’s head is swimming. “I don’t understand shit right now.”

“I know you’re hurt and confused, but he really did mean well. He cared about you a lot.”

Isak shakes his head. “I don’t know--”

“Isak, think back to everything Even did. Would he do anything to intentionally hurt you?”

And Isak does. He thinks back to the Even he first met, that guy who’d seemed unattainable and a little unreal, and to the Even he’d slowly grown to know, who still seemed like he was carved from sunbeams, but maybe Isak could touch him without getting burned. He thinks back to Even singing love songs to him in a kitchen, and all those touches, so many touches that had always meant more than Isak let himself believe. He thinks about Even telling him he’s beautiful, and it makes him feel a little giddy in spite of himself, because he’s nothing, nothing next to Even, but maybe they’ll always fight about that. He thinks back to that Even, and to himself, and to them, and it’s not entirely possible to think that, yes, he likes me.

But there’s the Even who lied, the Even who had let Isak believe that he had all the puzzle pieces in his hand before ripping that fantasy apart. “But he--he knew the whole time, how shitty it was, and he knew so much about me, could’ve laughed about it behind my back--”

“You knew so much about him too. All the parts that mattered.”

It’s a low blow, but Isak says it anyway. “Not about this.”

Isak immediately regrets it when he sees Mikael sigh. “Even is not his illness.”

Isak ducks his head. “I know that.”

“Do you?”

When he lifts his chin, his eyes are bright. “Yes.”

It’s easier to say than he expected, but he shouldn’t be surprised. Even has always been more than anything Isak could ever conceive of, more than the typical boundaries of human existence. Isak knows that deep in his gut.

“Look, Isak, he really did think it was the only option. Those notes made his entire fucking day, you should’ve seen him.”

“Why couldn’t he have told me from the beginning?” Isak says. He’s all too aware of how desperate he sounds.

“I’m not saying what Even did was right, or that he should’ve waited that long to tell you, but you have to understand that he’s always seen his mental illness as something to be ashamed of. He was scared that you would reject him, and it just snowballed into this thing he couldn’t control.”

Isak bites his lip. “I wouldn’t have rejected him.”

“It’s a lot to handle. You know he hasn’t been out of bed for the past week?”

The idea of Even lying in bed, unmoving, makes something ugly churn in Isak’s stomach. The idea that Even tried to keep that from him in fear that Isak would walk away burns like hell, until he feels physically sick. What the fuck has he done?

“I could handle anything, if it was for Even,” he says, slowly. He squares his shoulders in an attempt to inspire the kind of confidence he doesn’t actually have. “He didn’t even give me a chance.”  

“He told me, about your mom.”

Oh. Oh, fuck. Sonja was right. He’s an idiot. This shouldn’t even come as a shock, Isak fucking up the good things in his life yet again.

“Even’s not my mom, though,” Isak says.

He isn’t. Even had never made Isak buy up half the canned goods from every grocery store in Oslo as a contingency plan for the apocalypse, hasn’t locked him outside in the rain because he needed to be cleansed, hasn’t told him she regretted the day he was born. He can’t even think about his mother without his chest splitting open. He knows, of course, that it’s not her fucking fault, but he’s her son. He was never meant to be her protector.  

Mikael gives him a wan smile. “He knows that. But knowing how much she’d hurt you, I don’t think Even was ready to take that chance.”

“Even hasn’t hurt me the way she has.” Isak balls his hands into fists again, until his fingernails dig at the palm of his hand.

“But he could. God, that boy has love pouring out of him, but he’s always been so afraid of hurting people, especially the people who would stick with him no matter what. Especially you.”

Isak just keeps staring at the table. He wishes he could say it. There’s no possible world where anything Even did would make me leave. It’s sitting there, burning on the tip of his tongue. It’s the truth, he thinks, as real as all the physics formulas he’s memorized, all the calculus theorems he knows.

But he already has. He left his mother, and he left Even, and maybe in the end, he’s too empty to love anyone in the way they deserve. If Even deserves the world, and Isak can’t give that to him, maybe it’s just not worth the pain tearing them apart.

Mikael stands, and the sound of his chair scraping against the tile makes Isak grit his teeth. “Go home, Isak. You have a lot to think about, and I could talk to you about Even all day, but it wouldn’t mean anything. In the end, it’s your decision.”

He hunches down on himself, doesn’t look at Mikael as he asks, “Do you think I could be good for him? Honestly?”

“Right now? No.”

Isak breathes out, “Oh.”

Of course not. Mikael is his best friend. Mikael has Even’s best interests at heart.

Mikael places a hand on his shoulder again, fleeting this time, but it’s enough to make Isak look up. Isak gets a smile for his effort. “But eventually? You could be great for each other.”

~~

MANDAG 22.30

Eskild gets home from his study session later had anticipated, and by the time he plops down on the couch and shoves his shoes off his feet, the pasta has already gone cold. Isak dutifully scoops a healthy helping and pads out of the kitchen anyway. Eskild has his eyes closed, but he jolts away as soon as Isak pokes him in the arm.

“Hi, um, I made you dinner,” Isak mumbles. He shoves the plate at Eskild.

Eskild takes it, his eyebrows are still furrowed. “Did you cook this?”

“You don’t have to act you surprised.”

“But you never cook.”

Isak shoves Eskild’s legs out of the way to make room for himself on the couch. “Don’t expect anything good. I literally just poured the sauce out of the can.”

“But you cooked. You turned on the stove. On your own.”

“Oh my God, Eskild, just eat it,” Isak grumbles. With a grand roll of his eyes, Eskild places a forkful inside his mouth. He chews it carefully, and it takes him a while to swallow.

Isak can’t help but bite the inside of his mouth. He coughs when Eskild sets down his fork. “So, what’s the verdict?”

“Terrible. The worst pasta I’ve ever tasted, and I thought Linn was bad.”

Isak’s face falls. He knew this was a bad idea. “Oh, I--”

Eskild tackles him into a hug, and presses Isak all the way down on the couch. “God, little baby gay, I’m just giving you shit. It tastes fine. Thank you.”

Isak lets out a sigh of relief--or tries to--because Eskild’s fucking heavy. He tries to shove him off, but Eskild only lets out a contented sigh and starfishes over him. He’s so fucking ridiculous. Isak has the most fucking ridiculous friends on Earth. If he kinda likes it, none of them have to know. “Yeah, honestly I wasn’t worried at all.”

“Really?”

“Really. Don’t you know I’m secretly a master chef?”

“Does this mean I can throw out your supply of junk food now?”

Isak cuffs him on the back of his head. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

“What’s the special occasion anyway?” Eskild asks.

“Maybe I just wanted to be nice.”

Eskild stares him down, and it only takes ten seconds for Isak to break. In his defense, Eskild’s stare is a lot. He’s had practice, probably with all the Grindr hookups he somehow has to get out of the kollektiv by the next morning. “I know I haven’t been the best roommate--or friend lately--”

Eskild finally lets him up, offering a hand to pull Isak upright. “You know I don’t care, right? We all have rough days,” he says softly.

Isak blushes. “Just think of it as repayment for all the food you made me that I didn’t eat.”

Eskild laughs and bumps Isak’s shoulder with his, but he turns serious in the next second. “But those rough days. Are they over?”

Isak lowers his head. He’d been cooped up in his room for the past two hours Googling whatever information he could about bipolar disorder. It was the reason he had ended up cooking the pasta in the first place, just for something to do with his hands. His mind had been racing all over the place, filled with words like manic, and depression, and medication. His eyes were burning when he finally dragged himself from his bed. There’s a thought that niggles at the back of his head, about Even and the symptoms of mania and Isak. In the end, Mikael could be wrong, and Even genuinely liking him, having a crush on him, seems too good to be true.

It seems a little bit dumb to even call it a crush, at least from Isak’s side. It feels bigger than some schoolboy romance, it’s not just something he’ll cherish in the future but ultimately won’t last. What he feels for Even is a part of him now, ingrained in his core.

He just doesn’t know if Even feels the same way. He’s not sure that he wants to find out.

It would make sense. Even’s depressed now, probably, and maybe he just crashed after a manic episode. He wishes he could ask Mikael, but he’s afraid of planting the idea in his head, afraid that Mikael will consider the possibility and say, yes, you were never what he wanted.

Isak shakes his head. “Nah, not really, but I’m alright.”

“Are you sure? You can tell me.”

Isak pauses for a second, before asking, “Do you think being in love is worth it? Even when it hurts?”

“Who hurt you? I’ll fight them.”

Isak draws his knees to his chest. “I don’t know if anyone hurt me, really. Just circumstance, I guess.”

It feels like the truth. He’s made his peace with the entire situation. In the end, hating Even was never an option. He would never be able to.

Eskild wraps a cautious arm around Isak’s shoulders, and when Isak doesn’t immediately push him away, he grows braver, draws Isak to his side. “If it’s hurting you this bad, maybe letting it go really was the best thing to do.”

“But I’ve never been happier than I was with him.”

It takes Eskild a moment to answer. “Then maybe it’s worth a shot. Sometimes, the good is worth all the bad. Hurt goes away, most of the time, but it’s rare that you find that person who just feels right.”

And Even does. Or, he did.

“I don’t even know if he likes me back. Or still likes me. I don’t know.”

“Anyone would be lucky to be with you, Isak.”

“You have to say that. You’re like my big brother.” Eskild gets a gleam in his eye, but Isak cuts him off before he has the chance to say anything. “And I’m never repeating that, so you can stop being smug about it.”

Eskild clutches a hand to his heart. “I’ll always cherish this moment, then. You’re secretly so nice. Has anyone ever told you that? It’s okay, I’ll keep your secret, baby gay.”

Isak groans. “I knew I should’ve kept it to myself.”

Eskild waggles his finger. “Ah ah ah, no take-backs.”

Isak coughs, and he’s a little ashamed to hear that it comes out a little wetly. Too many emotions all at once. His teenage boy body was not made for this. “But really, thanks for taking me in. When you found me in that bar. You didn’t have to.”

Eskild has a soft smile playing at his lips. “I saw you sitting there alone and sad, and some creep was about to hit on you. Of course I had to. Better yet, I wanted to.”

“Walking away from my mom was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I just couldn’t take it anymore--the yelling, the delusions. Sometimes, I think I made a mistake.”

“Are you happier now?”

Isak’s not sure how to answer. His existence had been muted back then, back when he thought a mother who wasn’t always there, a life that wasn’t always his, was the only option. It was easier to tell himself that he couldn’t have more than that. The possibilities were too painful, too close but so far out of reach.

He’s had those possibilities now, and he’s not sure if he’s any happier, at this moment when his heart is still in two, but, “I think I am.”

“Then you didn’t make a mistake at all. You shouldn’t be ashamed of putting yourself first. You’re not living for your parents.”

Isak stares at his hands. “My dad says that she’s doing better, though. Do you think I should talk to her, give her another chance? It’s just dinner.”

“Depends. Are you doing it because you feel guilty or because you actually want to reconnect with your mom?”

He remembers her, before her episodes became more frequent. He remembers the smell of enchiladas, her always asking him how his day at school went without fail, her uncanny ability to beat him and his dad at Scrabble every single fucking time. He’d asked her how she did it once after she’d gotten another triple word combo, and she’d just tapped her temple, said, “My brain is a mystery.”

Turns out that was truer than he expected.

“I think I just miss my mom,” Isak says softly. He remembers the ugly and the bad, but the truth is, he remembers her love too, and the way it used to be. Unconditional, unwavering. He may be a fool for needing that again, for thinking he deserves it, but he needs his mom. God, he’s seventeen fucking years old and he needs his mom to tell him that everything’s going to be okay.

“Is your dad pressuring you again?” Eskild says.

“Yeah, but I think I’ve put it off long enough, don’t you think?”

Eskild regards him for a minute, then draws him into a hug. “Just dinner? And you call me if you need me, okay? I’ll be here, and I can come grab you.”

“I’m pretty sure I can get out on my own, Eskild.”

“That’s not what I’m offering. I just don’t want you to be alone.”

Isak hugs him back, hard enough to crush Eskild’s lungs, but it only makes Eskild’s grin grow wider. “I knew you couldn’t be a grumpy little shit all the time, baby gay.”

And the moment’s over. Isak kicks Eskild with a socked foot, but he’s still smiling. It’s more of a nudge than a kick, really. Isak’s growing soft in his old age. “This is enough feelings for the next month, got it?”

“Oh, we’ll see about that. I know your secret now. You have so many feelings in your little body.”

~~

ONSDAG 16.30

Isak is still trying to explain buffers to Magnus when Jonas lets out a loud sigh and slams his history textbook closed. “I can’t study anymore. Let’s play video games.”

Shooting him a glare, Isak says, “We’ve been studying for thirty minutes.”

“Exactly. Too long.”

“What’s the point of Chemistry if you’re not learning how to blow shit up or how to make meth in your basement?” Mahdi says. Jonas and Mahdi don’t have anything pressing coming up, but they had both insisted on tagging along when Isak came over to Magnus’s place. Magnus had let them, for moral support, but it looks like he’s regretting it now. Isak has it on good authority that the last time Jonas had studied completely sober was two weeks ago, and that was because Noora had forced him to, right in Isak’s kitchen. They’d been feeding each other organic strawberries, and making kissy faces every five minutes, and Isak had to remind himself that he’s actually super happy for them. The happiest . So happy for them that it made hiding in his room an even more attractive option.

Magnus buries his face in his hands. “Guys, I need to, like, actually pass. My parents want me to have a future, or some shit like that.”

“I don’t think a good grade in Chemistry is going to help you have a future, either way,” Mahdi says.

Magnus throws his pencil down. “You know what? At least I still have chemistry with women.”

There’s a pause as Jonas, Mahdi, and Isak exchange looks, before they all burst out laughing. Isak clutches his belly to try to hold it in, but he’s snorting so hard that tears start streaming out of his eyes. Magnus crosses his arms over his chest, and gives an indignant huff, but he’s smiling.

“One day, you’re gonna regret that. When I’m rich and famous and marry Kate Winslet, or whatever,” Magnus says. At Jonas’s raised eyebrows, Magnus protests, “The Titanic was really important to me, okay?”

The door opens then, and Magnus’s parents step inside. They’re laughing about something, and his dad has his arm slung around his mom’s shoulders. He only removes it to hang up his coat, and that’s when Beth walks into the living room to see all four of them sprawled out next to their untouched textbooks. “I see you boys are being productive,” she says, lips curving into a smile. “Magnus, I thought you had an exam soon.”

Magnus flops over on the couch and buries his face into a pillow. When he groans loudly, Beth just laughs. She pats the top of his head, runs her fingers through his hair. “Mom, save me from science.” Magnus’s voice is muffled by the pillow.

“I’m a biochemist, sweetie. I don’t think I’m the person you should be asking.”

Magnus’s dad, Erik, walks into the living room, stretching his arms over his head. He takes the spot next to Beth and pulls her closer by the waist. She protests a bit, pushes at his chest, but eventually gives it up. A pang shoots through Isak’s chest. God, it’s come to this, Isak being jealous of old people.

Isak’s only met them a couple of times—whenever they do hang at someone’s place, it’s usually at the kollektiv. No parents watching over them, and Isak’s roommates normally keep to their own rooms. But the few times he’s met Beth and Erik, they’ve always been like this. Magnus is always complaining about how they’re still in love with each other after all this time. “Fucking ruining my expectations for a relationship,” he’d grumbled once.

“Do you need snacks? I make a mean dip,” Erik says.

“We’re okay, Dad. We got pizza on the way home. Can you just let us die in peace?”

“Chemistry again?”

Beth nods to confirm, “Chemistry.”

“Well, you know, chemistry is the foundation of life—“

Magnus rises from his half-death just to hit his parents with the pillow he’d been laying on. When they both slip off the arm of the chair, Erik bursts out laughing, holding his hands up in surrender. “Alright, alright, we’ll leave. But I’m going to heat up some food and leave it on the counter, okay? Just in case you decide to love your parents again.”

“What are you heating up?”

“Leftover baked ziti.”

Magnus sighs. “I guess I can love you two again in thirty minutes.”

They’re gorging on the ziti—way earlier than the thirty-minute mark—when Jonas’s phone buzzes with a text from Noora. They all gasp dramatically, but Jonas just rolls his eyes. “She just wants to know if I’m down to bowl with Vilde and Eva.”

“Isn’t that weird?” Mahdi asks. “Going on a double date with your ex and her new girlfriend?”

Jonas shrugs. “Not really. Eva and I are chill. We were chill right after we broke up too, and that hasn’t changed.”

“So things are going well with Noora then?” Magnus asks with his mouth full. A bit of sauce drips from his lips and onto his shirt, but Isak has no room to judge. This is some good ass baked ziti, and it’s practically impossible to shovel food into your mouth without getting a little messy, okay.

Jonas’s smile goes dreamy, but Isak figures he can give him a free pass. “Yeah, she’s great.”

“I can’t even mention Jonas’s name around the kollektiv without Noora making a face that makes me want to puke, so,” Isak says.

“Fuck, I hate couples,” Mahdi sighs.

“I hate single people,” Jonas retorts.

Magnus elbows Isak. “How’re your romantic prospects? How’s, like, the gay dating scene?”

“It’s no different from straight dating, I can tell you that. Not that you’d know.”

Magnus cuffs him on the back of his head, and whistles. “ Dude, if I wanted a girlfriend I could get one.”

“Depends on how much you’re willing to pay,” Isak mutters, but he doubts anyone hears him over Mahdi’s question.

“You mean you don’t have a thing with anyone?”

Isak freezes. The question hits a little too hard. He looks over at Jonas, who nods once and holds his fork up for encouragement. He takes in a breath, and says, “I did. Even.”

Magnus whistles again, more loudly this time. “How’d you get him to go out with you? He’s hot as hell.”

Even Mahdi looks impressed. “You lucked out.”

Isak sets down his plate, loudly enough for them to stop chattering. “I did, okay? It’s over.”

He’s staring down at the remains of his ziti when Jonas places a hand on his shoulder. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

Isak shakes his head. If there’s one thing that he’s sure of, he knows that’s not true. For all the bad shit that had gone down, for all the lies and the tears, Even had made him better. More like himself than he had ever been before. He’s never going back to that half-life, now that he’s had a taste of what living for himself can do. “I don’t know if it was either of our faults.”

“You said he didn’t care about you—“

Another shake of his head, more vigorous this time. “It’s not that. His ex just told me that he’s—he’s bipolar. I don’t know.”

The silence in the room presses down on him, oppressive, until Magnus breaks it. “You know my mom’s bipolar, right?” he says, slowly.

Isak’s head shoots up. “Your mom? But she’s totally normal.”

“Yeah, of course she is. She’s just bipolar too.” Magnus snorts, starts gesturing wildly. “One time, the supermarket down the street refused to take any of our coupons even though she made sure all the expiration dates were right, so she spelled out ‘fuck you’ with all their condom packs. It was fucking hilarious. I don’t think they even caught her, because she made sure to put tape over the cameras.”

“But she’s fine, though? Most of the time.”

Magnus continues to shove the baked ziti in his mouth, unaware of the tension. “Duh. She just takes meds, and sometimes she’s really stoked or down. It’s not a big deal. Dad and I know how to get through to her, eventually.”

A sigh passes through Isak’s body. “I keep reading all these fucking articles about people not know what they’re doing when they’re manic, and they could even think they’re in love—“

“Are you serious?”

That’s when Isak finally lifts his chin. “What?”

“You Googled bipolar disorder and got worried? I thought you were supposed to be smart.”

Isak grits his teeth. “You have no idea what happened between us. Fuck, I barely know what happened between us.”

“Have you asked him?”

With a shake of his head, Isak says, “No. At first, it was because he hurt me, but now I’m starting to think that I hurt him even worse. Like, catastrophically. I fuck everything up. Shit.” He buries his face in his hands to hide the wetness that’s starting to seep from his eyes, but Jonas’s arm is a comforting weight against his shoulder.

“You do not fuck everything up. We’re still friends, aren’t we? And I have a pretty high standard, you fucker,” Jonas says.

“You were friends with Elias.”

“Low blow,” Jonas says, but Isak’s smiling a little as he allows Jonas to draw him into a hug.

On his other side, Magnus gives him a tentative nudge with his elbow. “Dude, I have no idea what you did, so I can’t say whether you fucked up or not. But you won’t know until you actually talk to him.”

“I don’t know if he even wants to talk to me right now,” Isak sniffles. “Sonja said that I’m not good for him.”

“Is Sonja his ex?”

“Yeah?”

Magnus lets out an exasperated sigh. “Dude. Dude.”

And yeah, Isak is beginning to feel a little bit dumb now, but that doesn’t eliminate all his fear. “But what if he tells me it didn’t mean anything to him?”

“Would you rather have it hurt now or avoid him forever and never know?”

Avoiding Even would mean no more inside jokes, no more laughter, no more late-night conversations that seemed bigger than the multiverse. Avoiding Even would mean the end of something they hadn’t even gotten the chance to start. Avoiding Even would mean losing a little bit of himself. In the end, it’s not much of a conscious decision. He’s not sure how to explain it: whether it’s a biological principle that hasn’t been discovered or the sheer force of Even’s gravity, but maybe that doesn’t matter. Either way, the only thing that makes sense is Even.

“Go get your boy,” Jonas whispers to him.  

~~

FREDAG 19.00

Isak doesn’t end up visiting Even Wednesday night, or on Thursday. There’s one last thing he needs to take care of first.

His hand is shaking as he presses the doorbell, and he has to press it again to make sure it rang loudly enough for his parents to hear. He’s about to give up when the door opens with a creak, and his mom is standing in front of him for the first time in months. She’s wearing a faded floral dress that she’d bought from a flea market when he was just a kid, and her hair is uncurled, but she’s smiling softly, in that familiar way he thought he’d only see again in his memories. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it until now, how absent it had been from their last months together.

“Hi, Mama,” he says.

“Hi, baby,” she says. Her voice comes out raspy. There’d been a time when he would close his arms around her automatically. Even as a kid, he knew when all wasn’t right with his mother. He’d take her hand, or hug her close, or curl his hands in her hair, and she’d whisper in his ear that she loved him, and she’d love him forever.

It’s been too long, and Isak has forgotten what it feels like to be someone’s son, so his arms remain at his sides.

“How’ve you been?” he asks softly.

“Good, especially lately. I’ve been seeing a new therapist. Your father’s been over a few times.”

“Where is he now?”

She bites her lip. “He’s running late from work.”

Isak rolls his eyes. “Of course he is.”

“Isak, cut him some slack. He’s under a lot of stress.”

“You’re too easy on him.”

“Maybe. Probably. But he’s family.”

She probably doesn’t mean it that way at all, but Isak can’t help the guilt that boils over. You’re family too, but you’ve been away, living your life like you don’t have a mother at all.

His mom steps to the side to let him in. He slips off his shoes and carries them over to the shoe rack, before realizing that it’s not there anymore. There’s only a pile of his mom’s heels, her sneakers, and a pair of flip-flops. Before he can even ask, she’s already explaining, “There wasn’t really a point anymore. Since I’m the only person living here.”

He surveys the living room. His dad’s notepads no longer litter the floor, and the remote’s actually lying on the coffee table for once. When Isak had lived there, it would take at least ten minutes for them to find it. Between him and his dad, the remote would end up all over the living room--in between some couch cushions, on top of a lamp, even wedged in a copy of A Tale of Two Cities as a bookmark. His mom must sense his mood, because she says, “I’ve been doing fine here on my own, really.”

“I should’ve visited.”

“No, baby. You were right not to.” Before he can probe further, she’s already walking to the kitchen. “Help me with dinner. Your dad said to eat before he got here.”

“Mom.” It comes out instinctively, the familiar cry of a petulant teenager. She’s well aware of how hopeless he is in the kitchen. Fuck, he’d microwaved an egg once, and it had taken him hours to clean it out. She’d given him a lecture about being careful with the microwave, and he’d rolled his eyes the entire time.

Now, it only makes her smile. “I’m sure you can chop up chilies without a catastrophe.”

“Me? And sharp objects?” But he’s already following her into the kitchen.

“Just keep the knife as far away from your fingers as possible, honey.”

“What are we having?”

“Enchiladas.” The ingredients are already laid out on the table, and the beef is already done. She sets to frying the tortillas and hands him a vegetable knife. His first slice is tentative, but when he manages to get past it uninjured, he begins to cut faster. He’ll never be a master chef, but one day, he may be competent in the kitchen. Maybe.

Out of the corner of his eye, he sees his mom mixing something inside of a bowl and says, “Are you making the sauce?”

“Of course.”

Isak’s mouth waters. Her enchiladas had been famous around the neighborhood for years. It had been the only dish Jonas ever asked for explicitly when he came over, and his mom obliged all too easily. “You’re going to have to give me that recipe. I’ve been eating sauce from a can.”

“I expected better from you,” she says, mock indignant.

A smile plays at the edge of Isak’s lips. “No, you didn’t.”

“You’re almost an adult.”

“I have some time left,” he says, and she laughs. It’s a beautiful sound, clear and loud. His dad always said that he’d gotten his laugh from his mom, but there hasn’t been much cause for either of them to laugh lately. It’s clear, though, that his dad wasn’t entirely wrong.

When Isak is done chopping the vegetables, his mom tells him to help her soak the tortillas in the sauce. She arranges everything into a baking dish, then tops it off with a healthy portion of cheddar. When Isak dips a finger into the sauce, she slaps his hand away. “Not yet.”

“But it’s going to be done in twenty minutes anyway.”

“Then you can wait, can’t you?”

Isak rolls his eyes, but he gladly places the pan in the oven to bake.

There’s a moment of silence as they’re waiting. Isak can’t tear his eyes away from the clock. The second hand is moving slowly, more slowly than is scientifically possible, when his mom clears her throat. “How’s school going?”

“You know, same old deal. I like my science classes a lot. Norwegian is a lot harder. I don’t know how to analyze literature at all, apparently.”

She chuckles as she leans against the counter. “You always did want a clear answer for everything. It made the where did I come from conversation a lot harder, let me tell you. And Jonas is fine?”

“Yeah, he has a new girlfriend too. Eva’s best friend, weirdly enough.” He’s about to mention Vilde, but thinks better of it. His mom may seem fine, but anything could set her off. Those were always the worst ramblings--the ones about homosexuals taking over, how they were punishment for our worldly sins. They were words--just fucking words-- and she’d done worse. But no matter how hard Isak reminded himself of that, those simple words would make their home under his skin, ready to slice through him when it hurt the most.

The thought of it would keep him awake on the worst of nights. Back when he’d been living at home, he’d come up with half a dozen contingency plans for when he finally told her the truth. He knew though, that he’d never do it. There’s too much on the line, and when it comes down to it, he’s still a kid who needs his mom to love him.

He’s still staring at her warily when she sighs, “You don’t have to keep looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“You’ve always been a terrible liar.” She laughs, but it’s mirthless this time. “Like I’m a ticking time bomb. I know you didn’t really want to be here.”

“That’s not true.”

“Baby, you don’t have to lie. I know you have better things to do on a Friday night--”

“I want to be here, okay? I just didn’t want Dad pressuring me into it all the damn time, like it’s my fault for leaving when he was the one who left first. It just--it’s just going to take time for it to be normal again. Fuck, I don’t even know if it can be normal again. All I know is that I do want to be here.” It’s not until his mom slips her hands through his that he realizes he’s shaking. He screws his eyes shut, focuses on the feeling of her hands, and his heartbeat slows.

“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” she whispers.

He shakes his head in a desperate attempt to hold the tears back. “Mom--”

“You really are. I’m sorry if I never told you enough, or if I told you the opposite. You were always the one thing that mattered, and I am so sorry I lost sight of that.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” he mumbles.

“Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m trying really hard to not let that happen again. You deserve so much more.”

He squints over her shoulder, at the pictures lining the shelves above the fridge. “Are those the old pictures of us? From that beach trip? I thought you--you burned all of them.”

The memory is as clear as day. The week before Isak left, he’d come downstairs to find his mom throwing all their old pictures into the fire. They hadn’t used their fireplace in years, and the smoke was too much. He’d ended the morning having to explain the situation to a host of firefighters while his mom raved that her earthly family wasn’t hers at all, and she couldn’t wait to be welcomed into the arms of God. He hasn’t looked at a fire quite the same way since.

His mom looks behind her, and smiles wistfully. “Yeah, turns out I had them all saved on a hard drive. It wasn’t hard to print them out again. I couldn’t forget about you that easily.”

Suddenly, Isak buries his face into the crook of her neck, and it takes her a second to react, but she pulls him tight against her. All he can do is clutch the back of her dress. He’s not having much success at stemming the flow of tears down his cheeks. He’s grown taller just in the months that he’s been gone, so he towers over her, but they’ve never fit together so easily. “Oh, baby, I’ve missed you so much.”

He tries to get the words out, but a sob comes out instead. It’s a whole minute before he can hold himself together long enough to say, “I should’ve checked up on you more.”

She shakes her head. “Baby, I said it before and I’ll say it again. It took me time to get to where I am now, and I didn’t want you to see all that. You already went through so much. This was something I had to do on my own.”

“I didn’t even text.”

“I didn’t make it easy for you to connect with me over text.” She strokes his back. “Isak, you will not feel bad about this. You made a difficult decision, and I’m proud of you.” His mom pulls back, so that she’s holding him at arm’s length. “You look so grown-up.”

“It’s only been a few months.”

“Still.” She squeezes his hands. “Oh, honey, I’m just glad you decided to come back, eventually. You had no obligation to.”

“You’re my mom.”

“And you’re my son. And I will try my hardest every day from now on to treat you like a mother should.” The oven dings then, and they both laugh. Isak’s chest feels light again, free, and he can finally take a breath. His mom has never looked more radiant, and he’s sure that’s reflected on his own face, even through the tear tracks. “Let’s eat on the couch?”

She’s always been against it, insisting on family dinners at the dining room table even when it was just the three of them. Isak had never understood it. It gave her more to clean up at the end, and he much preferred the comfort of their couch anyway. This is a concession. This is a new start.

“Thanks, mama,” he says.

“Hush, you have nothing to thank me for.”

They settle into the couch, their feet curled under them. The enchiladas are perfect, as usual, and his mom’s face lights up when he closes his eyes in pleasure at the first bite. The conversation is stilted, surface-level, but it’s more than he could’ve asked from today. His mom asks about his his new roommates (great), his grades (amazing), and his plans for the future (nonexistent). He asks her about her therapy sessions, the new meds she’s on, and the painting classes she’s been taking on the weekends.

He can’t help but think, Even would like her, but he shoves that thought out of his head almost immediately. Once it’s there, though, it won’t stop turning circles in his brain. They could talk about art, about the perfect shade of blue of the sky, and about their love of Van Gogh. He can see it already, and it fucking hurts.

Better not dream about that.

But the way is mom is looking at him, like she’s seeing him for the first time, makes him think he could.

Thirty minutes in, it’s all too obvious what’s missing from this night. Isak leans against the couch as he says, “Are you sad Dad isn’t here?”

She considers the question for a minute. “Yes. But not in the way you’re thinking. I wish he were here for you, not for me. Your father and I--we aren’t what we used to be to each other.”

“But you must have loved him once, right?” When he was younger, he used to catch them pressing kisses to each other’s cheeks, running their fingers through each other’s hair. As he grew older, the casual touches grew less frequent, until they stopped altogether, and only unshakeable tension was left. Isak couldn’t miss it, even when they tried to shield him from it.

“I did,” his mom agrees. “But sometimes love doesn’t last forever, and that’s okay.”

“Aren’t you mad? That he left you because of your--because--”

She’s smiling. “Strangely enough, no. If he left because I have schizophrenia, then he never really loved me at all. My therapist helped me come to terms with that, with all of this.” She gestures to her head. “You can’t separate me from it.”

“But how do two people fall out of love, just like that?”

She sets down her plate, turning all her attention to him. “Oh, honey, what’s this really about?”

His mom had always been able to see through him a little too easily. He’d forgotten about that.

Her gaze is unflinching but loving, and when he meets it, warmth seeps through his chest. The words almost stick in his throat, but he forces them out anyway. “I--I think I’m in love with someone.”

Her face glows. “Isak, I’m so happy for you.”

When she reaches out to hug him, he jerks away. He can see her face fall out of the corner of his eye, but he needs to get the words out before they’re lost forever. He won’t let them get lost. This moment is important.

“Mama, it’s a boy. I know you don’t approve, and that you say God thinks being gay is a sin, but when I’m around him, nothing’s felt more right. I hope you won’t be sad.” Her silence is answer enough. “Please don’t be sad,” he pleads.

She grabs his sweater and pulls him into a hug. It’s not enough to stop his trembling, at least not right away, but he holds her back just as tightly. He shudders again, but she only tightens her arms around him. “Isak Valtersen, let me make this clear.” Her voice doesn’t shake once. “I have loved you from the day you were born, and I will love you no matter what. I just want you to be happy. Does this boy make you happy?”

“Yeah, he really does,” Isak breathes.

When she tucks his curls behind his ears, he leans into her touch. “I want to meet him,” she says.

The truth is sitting there on his tongue, a truth of loneliness and nights spent wide awake, but his throat clogs up when he sees how wide her grin stretches. He can’t ruin that. This is the happiest he’s seen her in months, and he’s not letting his romantic bullshit bring her down.

And maybe there’s hope blooming in his chest again, real and honest and tangible.

“Maybe you will,” he says.

His dad finds them curled up on the couch together, watching The Princess Bride. Isak’s spine goes rigid when he spots him, but his mom scoots over to make space for him next to her. She touches the inside of Isak’s wrist, whispers, “Give him this.”

They watch the rest of the movie in silence. Isak won’t look at his dad, doesn’t trust himself to hold back all the barbed words he’s been keeping inside of him. This could be the start of a reconciliation. This could fall apart in the next breath. Isak doesn’t know. It’s quiet inside their living room, and the air is full of unspoken apologies, but there is this: Isak’s mom reaching out to hold both of their hands, threading the pieces of their family together.

~~

FREDAG 22.30

The walk to Even’s place is calm. Isak doesn’t know if it’s a facade, his brain going numb to mask the anxiety that’s eating him from inside out, or whether he really is this calm. After tonight, he’ll have an answer. He’s spent the past few weeks playing out such shitty scenarios in his head that just seeing Even again, even if it’ll end in rejection and tears, feels like a sort of budding hope.

A snapback is clutched so tightly in one hand that his knuckles are turning white. He’s holding a mocha from KB in the other hand for symbolism, because Even would like that, and God, he’d do almost anything to see that familiar smile lighting up Even’s face again. It’s weird, how much he misses it when he can still see it so clearly--the crinkles around his eyes, the pure joy that was contagious, even on Isak’s worst days. But it’s a pounding ache inside of him, drawing him closer, closer, until he’s standing in front of Even’s door.

It’s Sonja who opens it, but Isak doesn’t shy away this time. She’s just a manifestation of his insecurities. He can be stronger than that. He has to be, if he’s choosing Even.

That’s not entirely right. He may be choosing Even, but fuck, he’s choosing himself too.

Sonja doesn’t even open the door fully, and barely sticks her head out of it to talk to him. “Haven’t I told you to go away?” Exhaustion makes her voice heavy, and he’s reminded that she’s just a victim of circumstance too.

“Yeah, you did.”

“And you’re here.” It comes out like an accusation.

“And I’m here,” he agrees.

“He won’t talk to you. He won’t talk to anyone.”

“Won’t you give me the chance to try?” She’s already shaking her head, but he cuts her off. “I think you’re wrong. I don’t know whether I’m good for him or not, but that’s not for you to decide. That’s his decision to make, and I’m going to be here trying to prove that I care about him until he tells me to leave.”

His hands are fisted at his sides and his back is straight, but the confidence is seeping out of him with each minute Sonja continues to stare at him. Her eyebrows are high on her forehead, and she doesn’t give the impression that she’s budging anytime soon. He’s on the verge of speaking again when she says, “Fine.”

This had been his plan all along, but the concession still startles him. “Really?”

“You obviously do care, and I think keeping you two apart is just making it worse in the end.” She sighs. “I only wanted what was best for him.”

“Thank you.”

Her eyes turn steely. “I hope you’re right. I hope you really will be good for him.” She sighs again, and this time, her entire body slumps. “If you ever need my help, let me know, okay?”

He nods jerkily, and before he knows it, she’s grabbing her purse from where it hangs by the door and tugging on her coat. “You don’t have to leave,” he says.

“No, I really should. His parents will be home soon, and he has you now.” She nods in the direction of the kitchen. “I made him some soup. See if he’ll eat it? It’s probably cold now, but--” She shakes her head. “Try your best, I guess. Be patient. That’s the best advice I can give you.”

“Thanks. I can’t cook for shit.” They share a small smile. He’ll never be best friends with Sonja, but he thinks they can forge some sort of grudging respect.

The walk to Even’s bedroom is only a few feet but it feels like Isak’s hurtling through space, crossing light-years, as he pads into his bedroom. The lights are off, but the windows are open, and there’s still enough light from the moon and the streetlamps outside for Isak to make out a lump underneath the blankets that he presumes is Even. The sound of his footsteps rings loudly in his ears. The mattress slumps under Isak’s weight, but Even gives no indication that he notices.

“Hi, Even,” he whispers, barely, but it’s still so loud in the silence.

There’s no movement. Even’s pulled his comforter over his head so Isak can’t see his face, and there’s no way to gauge his reaction. “It’s Isak. I know that you can probably tell--or, well, maybe--but I just wanted to let you know.”

Silence.

“Sonja made you soup. I’m putting it on the table here, but you don’t have to eat it. I’ll just leave it here in case you want it. I brought coffee too. From KB? Decaf. I know I shouldn’t worry, but better safe than sorry, at least for right now.”

The stillness scares him, makes his breathing shallow, but Isak takes in a deep breath. This isn’t about him. This is about Even, and making sure that he’s okay. If Isak’s palms are sweaty, if his heart is threatening to race right out of his chest, he can ignore it.

“Do you mind if I stay?” There’s some shuffling this time, which Isak is going to take as a yes. He settles against the wall, letting out a breath. “I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing. But I’m here, okay? And I’ll be here until you tell me to go.”

There’s no response again, and all Isak can do is sigh.

He waits there for hours, and every tick of the clock above Even’s bed rings loud in his ears, vibrating all the way through him. At some point, he hears Even’s parents come home, but Sonja must have left a note out for them, because they don’t open the door. Good. Isak doesn’t think he can deal with them right now, doesn’t think he can deal with explanations and apologies when all he can focus on is Even. He can hear them cooking, the sound of a faucet turning on, but he tunes all of that out. He listens instead to the sound of Even’s steady breathing, letting it wash over him.

At the end of the second hour, Isak begins to read Wikipedia articles about quantum physics on his phone. The words blur in front of his eyes, and most of the information goes way over his head, but it helps to keep him calm. It seems so far-fetched but makes so much sense, and his brain craves something it can grasp. Something that slips easily into his knowledge gaps, interlocking like puzzle pieces. Not this aimless uncertainty.

At the end of the third hour, Isak finally hears the blankets shuffle. He nearly bangs his head against the wall in shock. Even turns over slowly, and when he emerges from his cocoon, his eyes are blank, rimmed by dark circles. Isak’s never seen him like this, and it knocks the breath out of his chest.

Isak wills himself to breathe. This is Even. This is not a shell of him, or a sad version from a romantic tragedy. This is the Even that Isak knows, and this is the Even that Isak will continue to know, if Even lets him.

“Hey,” he says again.

“What are you doing here?” Even says. Every syllable drags, and it sounds like it’s taking all of Even’s energy to get that one sentence out.

It’s a struggle to keep his own voice level. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. For everything. For telling you that you were crazy, or sick. You’re not . I was so fucking stupid.”

Even’s response is dry. “I am crazy and I am sick. You can’t deny facts.”

Desperation hits Isak hard, and tears prick at his eyes. “No. Not like that. Your brain just works differently from other people’s, that’s all. I fucked up if I ever thought otherwise. It’s all my fault.”

“No--”

“I’m not going to leave you. Please understand that.” Isak would sit here for days, weeks, years, if Even would one day understand. He deserves to love. He deserves to be loved, and this? This is nothing, not if Isak has the privilege of loving Even.

Even sighs. “You probably should.”

“You’re one of my best friends. This doesn’t change that.”

Even shakes his head, desperate. “This isn’t going to go away. This is always going to be a part of me.”

Isak’s shaking as he says, “Yeah, so? There is so much more to you than this, so many more parts of you. You love such dumb sugary complicated coffee drinks that you must be the bane of every barista in Oslo. You love pretentious movies that I’ll never get, but that’s okay, because I’d only ever watch them with you anyway. You love your dog, and your best friend, and your family. Fuck, you love everyone, and it’s so beautiful to see, to know that people are really capable of that much love.”

It’s everything Isak’s been holding back since walking into this room. Everything he’s been holding back since he met Even, since he fell for him. It’s a love letter. It’s nothing in the grand scheme of things. It’s everything he’s ever felt for this boy. It’s not enough to even get at the swelling of his heart when Even draws near, the home they’ve carved out of stolen moments and missed chances. It’s the trembling of Isak’s hands as he smooths the comforter over Even’s frame, it’s the hitch in Even’s breath when he does.

Even doesn’t draw away, and Isak smiles for the first time in hours.

Isak wipes at his eyes. “So, you see, you loser. I care about you a lot, and seeing you be this harsh on yourself makes me feel like, like I’m losing all control. Like the best things my life are entirely out of my hands.”

Even’s still staring at him, lost in thought. Nothing’s changed in his expression, but knowing that he listened, even if he’s not quite taking it in, is enough for now. Baby steps. Isak would slow down the entire world to see this boy smile just once.

“Do you mind if I sleep here?”

“If you can stand me,” Even says.

“Being with you isn’t standing you. You’re not something I have to put up with. Being with you is a decision I’m actively making--and I’ll make it time and time again.”

A moment passes before Even cracks a smile--more of a twitch of the lips, really, but it’s there. “Look at you, actually using your words.”

“Well, I’ve learned what happens when you don’t use them.”

Isak pulls the covers over himself, carefully so he doesn’t disturb Even. Even watches him dutifully, tracks every movement with his eyes until Isak is fully settled under his comforter. There’s a good two feet between them, but Isak’s never felt closer. He tucks his hands under his head and just takes a long look at Even. He’s so fucking beautiful, Isak can admit that now. He’s beautiful and whole and here. Isak’s never letting go.

“Where’s Baz? I was under the impression that I would get quality dog time tonight too. I brought a snapback just for him,” Isak says.

Even sighs again, and he pulls the blankets closer around himself. He seems to shrink. “He’s at the hospital. He hasn’t been feeling well for a while, and they haven’t figured out what’s wrong with him yet. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“I hope I’m a pretty decent replacement, even though I’m not as cute as he is.”

That makes Even smile again. It goes away just as quickly, but Isak catches the sight and wraps it around his heart. “That’s pretty debatable.”

“Excuse me, sir, but you’ve never cuddled me to sleep.”

“That’s not for lack of trying.”

Even’s eyes drift close then, but Isak’s still grinning like a loon, butterflies erupting in his belly. Tomorrow, they’ll wake up and maybe nothing will have changed, or maybe everything will. It’s useless to worry about that now, as his own eyes are closing. He hadn’t expected to sleep, hasn’t been able to in days, but be can already feel the tiredness overtaking him. He knows, of course, that it should feel like choosing an unknown, choosing fights and misunderstandings and never quite getting it.

But he knows Even, inside and out, even if that hasn’t always been obvious. Isak knows exactly what he’s walking into, and there’s no other choice to make, really.

The universe has been narrowed to the boy lying next to him, but it’s never felt more limitless.

Chapter Text

ONSDAG 18.20

Sometimes, Even wishes things could be fixed as easily as Isak obviously wanted them to be. Even can’t be too sure, but he thinks Isak spends every day after the fact with him – only for a while, only to lay next to him. He might talk, he might not, but Even feels his presence, warm and looming next to him, and sometimes he thinks he can hear Isak whisper things to him when his eyes are closed in the haze of unconsciousness, and he can’t tell whether he’s dreaming the words or they’re reaching him through the fog.

He’s not sure how long it’s been when he opens his eyes and has the energy to keep them open for longer than a minute or two – he feels lighter, and his eyes can see past the black and white, and the sight that greets him is that of Isak Valtersen lying next to him, hands tucked under his cheek, eyes closed and breath even. Even doesn’t think he’s capable of anything but taking in Isak’s face – the way his eyelashes tickle his eyelids, the way his lips part slightly, the way his hair curls softly at his sides – and then he’s helpless against reaching out and stroking his cheek softly, fingertips shivering against Isak’s skin, like they’re aware they’re touching a beautiful, fragile thing.

This is when Isak shifts slightly on his side, and he buries his face deeper into his hands before his eyes flutter open slightly, presumably adjusting to the light coming in through the window, burning at Even’s back and illuminating Isak’s profile. He blinks at Even for a moment, and then he smiles softly, like he’s been waiting for this moment for days. Even hesitates for a moment, fingers hovering over the side of Isak’s face.

“Is this okay?” he mutters quietly, unsure if he’s allowed.

Isak unburies his hand from under his cheek and it finds Even’s own, where their fingers lace together. “Yeah,” he replies softly. “It’s okay.”

Even brings their hands in between them to lay on the mattress, and he subtly searches Isak’s expression – he expects to find incredulousness, maybe resentment, but all he finds is fondness and relief, like he’s been waiting to hear Even’s voice all this time, like he’s content Even’s finally responding to his words.

“Why do you keep coming back?” Even asks, because that’s what isn’t adding up – he knows they worked through this; thinks he recalls Isak pressing himself against Even, but he doesn’t understand why Isak seems to have accepted Even’s apology, or has accepted the situation altogether, almost like Even didn’t break his heart twice, almost like he understands. Even doesn’t think he deserves Isak’s understanding – he wants it, God, he wants it, but everything was wrong, and Isak was well within his right to be angry, and now suddenly he’s here every day, and he regards Even with a soft expression, a kind one, like it might have never happened at all.

“I already told you,” Isak pauses long enough to yawn. “I’m not going to leave you.”

Even purses his lips, staring at this boy in wonder. He thinks, this could be mine, and this might be mine, and—“I’m pretty sure you’re the best thing to ever happen to me.”

And there’s the pretty pink tint over Isak’s nose and spreading to his cheeks, then he’s burying his nose into the pillow bashfully, like this is news to him, like he can’t understand why Even feels this way at all.

“Be honest,” Even grants him a pass, knowing Isak would have no idea what to reply to his confession. “How many Isak and Evens do you think are lying like this right now?”

Isak’s smile is crooked. “Infinite,” he whispers.

Even strokes Isak’s knuckles with his thumbs. He looks down at their hands, unable to look into Isak’s eyes when he asks his next question. “Do you think some of them are happier?” He furrows his brows, swallows harshly. “That some of them never fucked up?”

Isak untangles his hand from Even’s, only to reach over and cup Even’s neck. Even raises his gaze to meet Isak’s, and it’s firm, and it’s honest. “I don’t care about them,” his voice is steady. “I care about right here, right now, this Isak and Even.”

Even half smiles. “Even when you could probably be happier with another Even?”

Isak runs his hand through Even’s hair. “I wouldn’t trade my Even for the world,” he whispers. “Not for anything.”

Even laughs quietly, his throat in knots, but his eyes dry. “Your Even, hm?” His grin is meant to be teasing, but instead it’s flattered, it’s hopeful. He can feel it in his heart and in his hand when it reaches over to wrap around Isak.

Isak doesn’t wait for Even to pull him closer – he scoots closer himself and hides his face in Even’s chest, wrapping his own arm around Even. Even nuzzles Isak’s hair and breathes him in, holds him as close as possible, lips brushing the top of his head. His hand rubs soothing circles on Isak’s back and he wonders if Isak can feel how loud his heart is beating, like it wants to jump out of his chest, like it knows it’s near the most beautiful sight he’s ever laid his eyes on and the most beautiful and forgiving soul Even’s ever met.

He tightens his grip on Isak and he wants to tell him he loves him, loves him more than he’s loved anyone before, loves him more than he thought was possible to love someone, but he quiets his thoughts and enjoys the moment instead – the warmth of Isak’s skin and his breath against Even’s chest and the shiver down his spine, and he thinks that if happiness could speak to him, if happiness could show itself, if happiness could find him, it’d look like Isak Valtersen pressed into his chest, quiet and soft and unassuming, listening to Even’s heartbeat and promising him a future.

--

FREDAG 17.39

Even musters up the energy to get out of his room after a couple of more days, and Isak’s expression lights up when Even suggests they actually eat out in the kitchen.

“I’ll help you up,” Isak suggests, and Even smiles at him in amusement.

“You know I can get up myself,” he points out. “I’m depressed, not sick.”

Isak blushes slightly, shrugs his shoulders sheepishly. “I’m new at this,” he mutters, a little defensively. “Give me a bit of leeway.”

Even swings his legs to fold over the edge of the bed and he rubs his eyes tiredly, though that doesn’t stop him from smiling at Isak teasingly. “You’re talking like you’re gonna be doing this long enough to learn.”

Isak raises an eyebrow. “I think you know by now that’s exactly what I’m gonna be doing.”

They grin at each other stupidly for a moment or two, a minute or maybe five – Even never knows when he gets lost in Isak this way – but however long they do, eventually Isak coughs and looks at his feet embarrassingly while bouncing on them.

“We should—” Isak clears his throat. “We should go out now. I think your mom’s done with dinner,” he tells Even. “And we should spare her the trip in here.”

Even nods and pushes himself off the bed, finding his balance. Isak reaches out to grab his hand, probably noting Even’s about to fall over, but it’s not like Even complains – instead, he squeezes Isak’s hand gratefully, and Isak blushes slightly, but not without smiling up at Even shyly, like he doesn’t know whether or not to let go of his hand. If it were up to Even, he’d hold Isak’s hand all throughout dinner and then some, but he knows it’s easier that they don’t, lest his mom eyes them all through dinner.

When they make it out the door, his mom doesn’t turn around – she’s still stirring something in a pot, and she hums knowingly. “Would you like to stay for dinner again, Isak?” She asks. “You can eat in the room with him, if you want.”

Even and Isak exchange a glance, then Even brings his hand back to himself and clears his throat. His mother turns around, then smiles softly at the sight of Even – though he must look like a mess, since he hasn’t showered in about a week, his hair falling over his eyes and wearing the same sweatpants he’s worn for two.

“Hi, mom,” he licks his lips. “Is it okay if we eat out here?”

His mom sighs loudly and walks over to the both of them – she runs a hand through Even’s dirty hair and presses a kiss to his forehead. “Of course, baby,” she mutters, smiling down at him. She shares the smile with Isak, too, then walks back to the stove, where she turns back the knob and removes the pot from the heat. “Wash your hands,” she orders, though the slight shakiness of her voice doesn’t escape Even, not for a second. He exchanges a glance with Isak and nods his head towards the sink, and Isak leads him to it, washing his hands first.

When they’re done, they both sit at the kitchen table, and his mom sets down two plates of chicken soup – one in front of Isak, and one in front of Even. She smiles at them both and squeezes Isak’s shoulder, like this isn’t the first time, and Isak blushes slightly, almost preening. Even smiles softly at the sight of it – he hopes Isak feels the fondness his mother so obviously has for him, hopes it makes him feel like he’s not alone, like he won’t be, like there’s a mother’s love waiting for him in Even’s home.

“I have news,” his mother clasps her hands together. Even looks up at her, a little suspiciously, and Isak shifts his weight on the chair. “It’s good news,” his mom adds quickly. Even allows his relief to be palpable – his mom affectionately runs a hand through his hair. “Baz is better,” she tells him. Even’s heart almost stops in his chest. “The vet called us two days ago. We were going to pick him up tomorrow, but—”

“I can do it,” Even interrupts, voice breaking for a moment. “I can get him.”

His mom offers him a small smile. “I know you want to, baby,” she tells him. “But you just got out of bed today. I think you should give it a couple of more—”

“Mom,” Even clears his throat. He knows, he knows snapping out of this isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers, that you have to ease into it, but he feels like that’s what he’s been doing, all those days with Isak here – easing into waking up longer than an hour or two, easing into eating again, easing into holding a conversation that lasts longer than fifteen minutes, and—

“I can go with him,” Isak suddenly pipes up, and Even glances at him. He’s wiping at his lips with a napkin, then he licks them, as if finishing the job. Even finds him mesmerizing. “Really. We can go and be back in no time.”

His mother and Isak exchange a look – one that communicates words silently, Even can tell, because he’s exchanged his fair share of those with his mother in the past – and then his mother sighs, smiles kindly and looks back at Even. “Alright,” she nods, then huffs out a laugh. “Oh, I miss him so much. This’ll be good. It’ll be really good.”

Even wants to laugh, too, but he doesn’t know if he’s capable past the relieved knot forming in his throat, a welcome change from all of the dreaded emotions lodging in there for so long. “I miss him, too,” he replies truthfully, because he does, he did, Baz has always been a comforting presence beside him on his bad days, and sometimes the warmth of him would be the only thing from keeping Even in bed for an extra week, an extra day, an extra hour. And he’s been carrying this guilt inside him, and worry, and he wants to see his dog instantly, and the desire to is so overwhelming that it almost doesn’t settle well inside him.

“Easy,” his mom narrows her eyes at him. “I see your train of thought. You finish your dinner first,” she warns him, holding up her index finger. “Then you can shower and you and Isak can go pick Baz up.”

Even glances down at his soup. It’s suddenly not as appetizing as it was before – could be because of many other reasons, but he’s willing to bet at the top of the list is the fact that he doesn’t necessarily want to waste any more time and leave Baz in the hospital longer than he needs to be.

There’s suddenly a hand squeezing his underneath the table and he blinks down at it, heart tightening at the sight of Isak’s hand on top of his own. It’s feels soft against his knuckles, and kind against his fingertips, and he turns his hand over to lace their fingers together gingerly. He glances back up at Isak, who’s smiling shyly at him, blushing slightly.

There’s no sight more beautiful or reassuring at the moment. And suddenly, here, in his kitchen, in the face of wonderful news and a wonderful boy, he feels like the luckiest person alive.   

--

FREDAG 19.00

Even’s aware that he keeps shifting his weight while in the waiting room, and he’s aware that Isak’s aware, but neither of them are really doing anything to stop it. Even thinks Isak’s letting him be as anxious as he needs to be, which Even really appreciates, considering he doesn’t know what else to be. There’s a ridiculous part of him that’s worried his dog will walk out the door a different color or a different breed, unrecognizable or, worse, no longer loving Even. Even tries to count the days Baz has been in here without once seeing Even again, and his stomach wants to fall to his feet under the weight of his guilt.

Isak reaches out to brush his knuckles against Even’s in what Even assumes is meant to be a reassuring gesture, and Even exhales softly – he doesn’t look over at Isak, fearing he might betray just how little the gesture’s helped, but he’s appreciative of it nevertheless. He considers lacing their fingers in an attempt to magnify the effect of it, but right when he’s about to try it, the door he’s been staring at swings open, and out comes a man dressed in scrubs, holding a leash attached to Baz.

He looks – he looks the same. His tongue is hanging comically to the side as he pants and he’s bouncing happily on his feet as he approaches Even, and suddenly, it’s like he’s finally realizes who’s in front of him – and he barks happily, manages to break free from the man holding on to his leash and he runs up to Even and Even kneels down to meet him halfway, and suddenly his arms are wrapped around his dog’s neck and he’s clutching Baz tightly to him, Baz licking whatever he can reach of Even’s face.

Even laughs happily, hating that his eyes burn with content tears, but he doesn’t hold them back, either. He scratches at Baz’s back enthusiastically, unable to contain his joy – his dog beat the odds, he really beat the odds, and if his dog is strong enough to beat the odds, who says Even’s not, too?

Isak kneels next to the both of them and then his forehead is pressing against the side of Even’s head, and through his peripheral, Even sees his bright smile. He allows himself a relieved laugh, then releases Baz from his tight clutch; Baz turns to Isak and licks his face enthusiastically, too, which makes Isak laugh and scrunch his nose.

“Oh, my God,” Isak pulls away, scratching at the back of Baz’s ears. “His breath smells terrible.”

“It’s perfect,” Even looks over at Isak, feigning offense. “His breath smells of mint and flower fields.”

Isak eyes Even incredulously. “Is your nose okay?”

“Is your nose okay?”

Isak laughs. “It might be a little pessimistic, I guess.”

Even grins at him. “Good thing it’s cute.”

Isak blushes. “Shut up,” he mutters, rolling his eyes. Baz licks his face one more time, for good measure, and Isak laughs breathily again, and the sound settles Even’s stomach.

“We should go home,” Even suggests, standing. Isak follows his lead, standing beside him, and Baz pants happily up at the both of them. Without really thinking – much like he does most things in life, Even’s realized – he reaches over to lace his fingers with Isak’s, which causes the other boy to stiffen momentarily.

Even hesitates then, considers pulling his hand back, wondering if it’s too much too soon – and then Isak squeezes it, taking a deep breath and pointedly looking at his shoes. Even glances at him fondly; he knows how much this means, he knows what a big deal it must be for Isak to hold hands with him in public, with people around them, watching them, knowing exactly what two boys their age holding hands means – and yet, here he is, holding on to Even’s hand like a lifeline, expression determined even when it’s staring at his shoes.

Even squeezes Isak’s hand in return, this time reassuringly, and Isak looks up and locks his gaze with Even’s. Isak offers Even a smile that is small and grateful, and Even makes sure his smile is large and welcoming.

Even’s not taking this for granted. The fact that Isak’s decided Even’s worth this – worth venturing outside of his comfort zone – is not lost on Even, nor will it ever be. For a long time, he didn’t let himself deserve this, didn’t allow himself to hope for this, but now—

Now, he has it, and as he pulls Isak out of the vet, other hand holding onto Baz’s leash, he thinks that if Isak thinks he’s worth it, if Isak thinks he’s deserving of this; then maybe, a quiet voice at the back of his head whispers to him, maybe he is.

--

LØRDAG 10.25

 

--

LØRDAG 12.57

--

LØRDAG 13.49

Mikael lives in an apartment with only his father – who’s almost always there, so far as Even knows, considering he’s a writer and he’s been working on a book for the past two years. Mikael is very vague about how exactly they earn their income, but ever since his mom left, it’s never been an issue. Even remembers sitting on Mikael’s bed for hours after it happened, waiting for any kind of reaction out of him – sad, angry, hopeless – but Mikael was always stronger than him; he confessed to Even he was almost relieved his mother left, since he always felt like she didn’t love him as much as a mother should, and she spent most of her time fighting with his father.

So their apartment is small, but it’s always been lived in, and Even’s always thought it felt like a real home. Mikael gets along well with his father – even when they argue, they make up in the same day, and Even’s never really understood the bond between the two of them, not even as someone who gets along relatively well with his parents, but he thinks it’s nice, and he appreciates Mikael’s father for being the way he is.

It’s why Even offers him a large smile when he opens the door to the apartment, and most likely why Mikael’s dad offers him a large smile in return as he further opens the door and invites him in.

“Excuse the mess,” he tells Even. “I hit a major breakthrough in my plot and I’ve been writing like a madman for the past two days.”

Even shrugs. “That’s okay,” he promises. “If this is a mess then my room’s a pig’s pen.”

Mikael’s father laughs loudly, like Even’s the only person who’s ever shared humor with him, then he gestures towards Mikael’s bedroom door. “He’s in there,” he tells Even, walking back towards the kitchen table, where his laptop and several scribbled-on notebooks rest. “He’s been playing video games all day. Tell him he needs to eat something,” he requests of Even. “He can’t live on chips and dip.”

Even chuckles. “Will do,” he promises, and he walks through Mikael’s door without knocking, because it’s just habit by now – they know they probably should knock, but they’ve walked in on each other wanking so many times now that it almost feels moot, considering there is no mystery left in their relationship.

Mikael is not wanking this time, however, and instead is lying on his bed, mindlessly manning his PlayStation controller. He only glances over at Even and offers him a smile before turning his gaze back to the television. “Hey,” he greets lazily. “Grab a controller, we can play in teams.”

Even snorts, walking over to Mikael’s bed and sitting on his feet. “No thanks,” he says, leaning his back against the wall. “I’ll just watch you like a dutiful girlfriend.”

“Man of my dreams,” Mikael sighs dreamily, and Even laughs, flicking at Mikael’s thigh. After a moment or two of comfortable silence, Mikael finally presses pause on the game, then turns over to look at Even. He unburies his feet from under Even’s thighs and sits up, looking at him fondly. “I’m glad you’re out and about,” he admits softly. “This one was a long one, huh?”

Even shrugs. “It’s not entirely over,” he admits. “It likes to sneak up on me at night.”

Mikael makes a face. “What a dick,” he says.

Even nods in agreement. “The biggest.”

Mikael scoffs a laugh, then looks down to start playing with his hands. “Listen—”

“No,” Even holds up both his hands before Mikael can get into some bullshit apology he doesn’t need to give. “You – thank you for being there,” he tells Mikael. “Honestly, I know you always are, but things – have been a little strained, since Isak, and you could have walked away, because you know I wouldn’t have noticed in – in that state, but you were still there for me, and I really, really appreciate it.”

They’re quiet for a moment, and Even lets the silence hang between them tensely, afraid to try and break it. Finally, Mikael says, “Bro, you could probably kill someone and I’d help you hide the body.”

Even rolls his eyes and laughs quietly. “Even if it were your dad?”

Mikael shrugs. “You know, sometimes he can get pretty annoying, so I’d understand.”

“You’d never get to see him finish his book, though.”

Mikael furrows his brows at Even disbelievingly. “What? No, Even, he’s a novelist, he’s never gonna finish his book.”

Even barks a laugh. “Jesus.”

“Besides,” Mikael nudges Even with his foot. “How many opportunities do you have to bury a dead body in this life?”

“Hopefully none,” Even raises both of his eyebrows at Mikael. “Like. Ideally, none.”

Mikael waves him off. “We all have our grievances.”

Even blinks at him. “Please don’t murder someone.”

“I can’t promise anything,” Mikael sniffs indignantly. “Maybe I’ll murder your boy toy, spare you all the guilt you’re drowning in.”

“I don’t think that’d help with the guilt.”

“You’d never have to know it was me,” Mikael adds after a moment of contemplation. “Just a freak accident.”

“Please stop talking about killing Isak,” Even sighs deeply. “I don’t – I don’t really know what I’d do without him, at this point.”

Mikael is silent for a moment as he regards Even’s expression. Even’s gaze travels down to his hands, where they lay still on his lap, ordered by Even not to fidget, lest they give away his nervousness. Mikael picks up on it, anyway, much like he picks up on everything Even’s feeling.

“I heard he stayed with you for about a week,” he brings up casually, like he’s not burning a hole through the side of Even’s face. “If my intel’s correct, sometimes he spent the night.”

Even licks his lips. “Maybe,” he shrugs softly. “I don’t really remember much.”

“Hm.” Mikael shifts his weight on the bed. Even doesn’t dare say a thing, not sure what he can say – he doesn’t know who ended up right in this situation, but he’s willing to bet it was Mikael, even though towards the end there he wasn’t Isak’s number one fan anymore. Even doesn’t know where to go from here – he doesn’t know how to tell Mikael he might have been wrong all along, and that he should have given Isak more credit, and he’s not sure how to tell Mikael everything about Isak is too much; too much forgiveness, too much kindness, too much good, too much beautiful, and he doesn’t know how to tell Mikael that Even still doesn’t think he deserves such an ethereal presence in his life, close to him and wanting him, but he also thinks he maybe does, if Isak thinks he does, and that he doesn’t think he can let go either way.

“For what it’s worth,” Mikael finally pipes up again, and he doesn’t continue until Even forcefully meets his eyes. “I’m glad he got his head out of his ass.” Even laughs. Mikael continues, “I’m glad you got your head out of your ass. I’m glad there are no longer any heads in any asses.”

Even swallows harshly. “He’s – ridiculously wonderful,” he admits to Mikael. “Almost like he’s not real at all.”

Mikael exhales deeply. “Sounds like we all should have given him more credit.”

Even nods in assent. “We should have,” he replies quietly. “I knew him, inside and out, and I still couldn’t see him.”

Mikael offers Even a rueful smile. “Like I said,” he shrugs. “Head, ass.”

Even bites the inside of his cheek, but there’s a lopsided smile that manages to sneak up on him, anyway. “I don’t know why you stuck with me,” he finally admits. “When I was clearly in the wrong all this time.”

Mikael tuts. “Even, you’re not a proper best friend if you can’t stick with someone through the good and the bad. And,” Mikael points at himself. “I’ll always be a proper best friend. Just let Isak know he can’t replace me,” he warns. “Like the queen, Beyoncé, once said: I’m irreplaceable.”

Even frowns. “I don’t think that’s the point of that song?”

“Did I ask.”

Even huffs. “I guess not.”

Mikael grins, then it falters slightly. He looks out the window for a second, and Even watches as the light coming in through the blinds illuminates his face and accentuates his contemplative expression. Even wants to ask what’s on his mind now, but he figures it’s fair to let Mikael tell him himself – Even hasn’t been listening, not really, has been hearing him out but never really taking his advice in, and so for once, he wants to listen. He wants to know what Mikael wants to say, and he wants to take it to heart.

Finally, Mikael turns back to meet Even’s gaze. It’s not hard, nor is it soft – it’s carefully neutral, as if Mikael knows Even’s going to try to find answers through it before he can give them to Even himself. “You’re sure you love him, yeah?”

“Yes,” Even replies, without a moment of hesitation. The answer comes as easily as breathing – there are a thousand things Even is not sure of right now, and a lot of them have to do with his and Isak’s future, but one thing is for certain, no matter which way he turns it over: Even loves Isak. Even loves Isak like the sun loves the sky, permanently and brightly, sometimes dim and quiet and even when you can’t see it, it’s always there. “I’m absolutely sure.”

Mikael’s smile is crooked and brief. “You think he loves you, too?”

Even shrugs. “I think he likes me well enough,” he smiles slightly. “I’ll take what I can get.”

Mikael hums. “I think he loves you, too,” he admits. Even feels his face flush in embarrassment, but he almost feels like preening – the thought that Isak could feel even a fraction of what Even feels for him is just as impossible as it is exhilarating. “The kid’s – a little naïve, yeah, but the way his eyes dimmed without you, and when they lit up when I told him—” Mikael pauses. “Yeah, anyway, he definitely loves you back.”

“When you told him what?”

“I’m sorry?”

“You said his eyes lit up when you told him – what?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Even narrows his eyes at Mikael. “Mik,” he starts warningly. “What did you tell him?”

“What did you tell him?”

Even blinks at him. “What?”

“What?”

What?”

“So when are you planning to make it official?” Mikael takes advantage of Even’s momentary confusion expertly. “You know. When are you calling him your boyfriend?”

“I—” Even furrows his brows. “Uhm,” he shakes his head. “No, I don’t know, I think – I think I need to,” he purses his lips. “I think we both need to talk this out some more. I don’t think we’ve really – you know, gone through what we need to.”

“Sure, sure.”

Even looks at Mikael. “Do you know something I don’t?”

Mikael shrugs. “I know a lot of things you don’t know,” he admits. “None of them have to do with Isak, though, I don’t think.” He doesn’t meet Even’s gaze as he speaks, though, which leads Even to believe he’s lying. Still, it’s not like Mikael would lie to him without a reason – so he doesn’t push, unsure if he wants to know at all, really. “Listen, I’m just happy for you, alright?” He meets Even’s gaze again. “You deserve this.”

Even smirks. “You think so?”

“You know I think so,” Mikael rolls his eyes. “If that kid makes you happy, then he makes you happy. I’m not gonna question it, same as I never questioned Sonja.” He pauses. “And I questioned her a lot.”

“You did.”

“Like, dude. Why?”

“Mik.”

“I’m just saying, like, Sonja, really?”

Mik.”

“Sorry,” Mikael holds his hands up in a placating gesture. “The point is I like him better, anyway, so I won’t question him as much.”

Even smiles. “Thanks.”

“Nah,” Mikael shakes his head. “You don’t have to thank me. Just promise me one thing?”

Even raises an eyebrow. “What?”

Let him make you happy,” he requests. Even tilts his head. “Stop keeping him at arm’s length.”

Even snorts. “How do you propose I do that?”

Mikael looks at him for a moment, long enough for Even to start squirming under the weight of his gaze. Then: “Just start being honest with him,” Mikael suggests softly. “I think he’d really appreciate that, after everything.”

Even considers this for a moment, then nods his head slowly. “I agree,” he replies. “No more alter egos. No more lies.”

“Just you.”

“Just me,” Even smiles at his best friend. “Think he’ll like me?”

Mikael rolls his eyes, then grabs a pillow to throw at Even’s head. Even squawks indignantly and throws it back, but Mikael catches it in his hands expertly before it hits his face. “If he loves you now, with all your fuckery?” Mikael raises his eyebrows. “He’ll love you without the bullshit. And that is something I know that you don’t.”

--

MANDAG 10.30        

Even skips school again on Monday to get his affairs in order – which is a bullshit way of saying he needs a little more time before he faces the music, which his parents understand, to a certain extent, so they let him stay home. His mom warned him that he has to go back tomorrow, though, no excuses, and Even promised her she wouldn’t hear one excuse out of him. His parents left for work satisfied enough with the answer, leaving Even in the kitchen eating eggs with his toast.

In the middle of a bite, his phone lights up next to him on the table, and the contact reads Isak – Even smiles despite himself, realizing just how ridiculous he is for missing a contact popping up on his phone, and he slides the notification to open up the message. The conversation between them stalled for a while, after everything, and so seeing a new, fresh, unanswered message in the conversation makes a ridiculous shiver run down Even’s spine, as if he were exhilarated by the prospect.

Isak asks, Where are you??

And Even replies, In my kitchen. He pauses after sending that, then begins to type again. Why, where are you?

School, asshole, comes the almost immediate reply. Where I thought you’d be, too.

Even smiles, types out his answer. Tomorrow, he promises. I’ll find you tomorrow.

Too far away, Isak replies. Even’s grin threatens to break his face.

Then come over after, he suggests in reply.

Can’t, Isak sends. I’m meeting mom for dinner.

And there’s a story Even has to pry out of him next time he sees Isak. He doesn’t pry now, however, knows it’s not exactly a conversation to have through text, not after everything Isak’s confessed about his home life, so he glosses over it. Then we’ll just have to make do without each other for a day.

Lame, Isak replies immediately. Even smiles softly, watches the bubbles pop up and waits accordingly. I miss you.

The words send a thrill over Even’s skin. I always miss you.

Tomorrow, Isak replies.

Tomorrow.

Before Even can see if Isak’s going to reply or not, he’s broken out of his stupor by a loud knock on the door, which makes him flinch slightly. It’s insistent and repetitive, and Even rolls his eyes, knowing exactly whose knock that is. He slides out of his chair and walks towards the foyer, unlocking the door and opening it up with a loud sigh.

“Hi, Anette,” he smiles down at his niece. His niece grins brightly up at him in reply, then Even’s gaze meets his sister’s, standing behind Annette. “Lillian.”

Lillian holds up a small plastic bag. “I brought bagels,” she says, and Even raises an eyebrow.

“I just ate.”

Lillian shrugs. “More for us, right, Annie?”

Anette grins. “Right.”

Even steps aside and lets them stroll inside – they walk identically, Even notices, with poise and purpose, and it’d be funny if it weren’t so indicative of the people that they are. He closes the door behind them and follows them inside the kitchen, where Anette is situating herself on a kitchen chair and Lillian’s poking through the fridge to presumably find the cream cheese.

Even sits back in his place, where his plate is almost empty. “Are you here to check up on me?”

“No,” Lillian says, just as Anette says, “Yes.”

Even raises an eyebrow at the both of them.

Lillian pokes her head out of the fridge, cream cheese in hand, and closes it behind her. “My daughter has this nasty habit of being honest all the time.”

“I know,” Even smiles at Anette. “That’s a good thing.” Even reminds her.

Anette shrugs. “Mom says I need a filter sometimes.”

“So does your mom,” Even glares at his sister. Lillian rolls her eyes and drops the cream cheese on the table in front of Anette, who happily takes Even’s plastic knife to prepare her bagel. Even leans back against the chair and watches the two of them prepare their breakfast, suspiciously quiet.

“Okay, what?” Even raises both his eyebrows at Lillian. Lillian doesn’t meet his gaze, and Anette merely glances at him before turning her attention back to her bagel.

“How are you feeling?” Lillian asks, spreading the cream cheese on the bagel excruciatingly slowly.

“Fine,” Even replies curtly, crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m sure mom’s kept you very updated concerning my condition.”

Lillian hums. “Yes, she has,” she licks her fingers of some stray cream cheese, then sets the knife down. She finally meets Even’s inquiring gaze. “She tells me that Isak boy spent a lot of time here with you.”

Even fights the blush trying to make way to his skin. “Yeah,” he raises an eyebrow. “And?”

Lillian shrugs casually, taking a bite out of her bagel. She chews slowly and contemplatively, which leads Even to bounce his leg impatiently, waiting to hear why she’s poking around in his business. Finally, Lillian swallows, and says, “And you think that was a good idea?”

Even furrows his brows. “What?”

“Him being here,” Lillian’s gaze is intense. “Was that a good idea?”

“I wasn’t exactly in a state where I could argue,” Even says defensively.

“I know,” Lillian nods. “But I hear you’re on speaking terms again.”

“Yeah,” Even narrows his eyes. “What is this about, Lillian?”

Anette pipes up, mouth full. “Mom thinks Isak’s not good for you,” she explains, and Lillian sighs loudly at her. Anette doesn’t take the hint, though. “She said – she said he has too much power over you, or something.”

Even looks at Lillian. “What?”

“What I mean,” Lillian holds up both of her hands. “Is that I know he meant well, and I’m glad he came around, but – he really triggered something in you, Even,” she tells him. “You haven’t – that episode was deep, and it was long, and it was scary; I haven’t seen one like that since you last came down two years ago.”

Even offers her a blank stare for her troubles.

Lillian tilts her head impatiently. “You’re nineteen,” she insists. “And this kid comes along and suddenly a fight with him makes you this sad?”

First of all,” Even argues through gritted teeth. “It wasn’t a fight. I thought I lost him for good,” he holds up a finger when Lillian opens her mouth to speak again, stopping her. “And second of all, it wasn’t him. It wasn’t what he did. It was me. It was what I did that triggered this.”

Because of him—”

“Lillian,” he snaps. “I fucked up, okay?” Lillian says nothing. “I know – I know you’re trying to protect me, but you’re looking at me through rose-tinted glasses, and it’s about time you took them off because I’m not – I’m not innocent,” he laughs bitterly. “I’m – I’m—” He wants to swallow the words. It’s automatic, almost, it’s like an instinct, but if he doesn’t say them now, in Isak’s defense, in his truth, then he won’t say them ever. “I’m bipolar,” he spits out, and his voice is shaking along with his hands. “I’m – I’m that, and that doesn’t make me innocent, and it doesn’t give me a free pass.” He looks at Lillian. “That’s not an excuse, Lil,” he tells her quietly. “I made some stupid choices. I hurt him. That’s on me. I’m not a child,” he says. Lillian looks like she wants to argue, but she keeps quiet, thankfully. “This isn’t on him. This is on me. And the fact that he decided to forgive me—” Even laughs in disbelief. “It says more about him than it does about me.”

Lillian looks at him for a moment, purses her lips as if she’s trying to find the appropriate response. Even’s aware that she doesn’t know how to reply without making it seem like she’s taking Even’s side out of instinct – Even knows Lillian would do anything for him, for her family, as it were, but this also means Lillian refuses to see Even for his flaws, refuses to find fault in him, when the reality of it is this: Even fucked up, and he faced the consequences for that. It was him. This was him. And just as Lillian will defend Even blindly, Even will do the same for Isak, because he’s not at fault. Isak’s reaction was to be expected, even if Even hoped for a different one, and whatever happened to him afterwards, whatever triggered his lying in bed for days upon days, had to do with his own guilt and his own bearings, not Isak’s.

Lillian is still silent, and she looks like she’s trying to find a loophole to this entire speech, when Anette pipes up beside her. “If it counts for anything, mom,” she says, looking over at her. “I think Isak is pretty cool. He bought me more ice cream when Even said no.”

Lillian frowns at her. “Did he, now?”

“Mhm,” Anette hums while chewing.

Lillian considers her for a moment longer, then turns to eye Even suspiciously. Even holds her gaze as long as she needs him to, because this is not something he’s running away from, and this is not something he should be ashamed of any longer – this is him, and he fucks up a lot of the time, and he’s an idiot, and he hardly thinks things through, and the fact that his illness is a part of him does not excuse everything else that makes him up.

“Okay,” Lillian finally concedes quietly. Even lets go of the breath he wasn’t even aware he was holding. She takes another bite out of her bagel, and after she swallows, she says, “I should meet him properly.”

Even blinks. “Huh?”

“I don’t know him,” she reminds him. “I want to meet the boy that’s oh so special he’s got you admitting you’re an idiot.”

Even doesn’t fight his blush this time. “Yeah.”

“Besides, I think he should meet mom and dad properly, too.”

Even frowns. “How do you mean?”

“As your boyfriend,” Lillian smirks, and Even clears his throat awkwardly, looks down at the last piece of his toast.

“That’s not—” Even chokes a bit. “I mean, that’s not exactly true at the moment.”

As he says this, his phone lights up again with a notification from Isak, and the message reads on the lock screen: I think Magnus might try to steal you away from me.

Even bites his lip to keep from smiling. Another text comes in after that one, reading, Not that I think you’re mine, or anything.

Even can’t help the chuckle that escapes him. Isak sends another message: Ignore me, I’m high by association right now.

Like, I didn’t get high, but I was around people who were getting high, so I might have inhaled some of those fumes.

Even taps his fingers impatiently against the table, itching to reply to him. He meets Lillian’s gaze when he feels it heavy on him, and she raises her eyebrows. He glances at Anette, whose eyebrows are raised almost identically.

Even wonders if it’s a family trait.

“Yeah,” Lillian snorts. “It’s definitely not.”

They stare at each other for a moment before she gestures towards his phone. “Are you gonna answer?”

Even quickly swipes his phone from the table and opens up Isak’s conversation, quickly replying: Well, it’s not like I’m anyone else’s, either.

He thinks on the next message for only a moment. Being yours doesn’t sound half bad.

Even stares intently at the conversation before the bubble appears again, and then he waits, avoiding both his sister’s and his niece’s gazes.

Isak replies, Okay. I’ll be sure to let sober me know. I think he’ll be excited.

Even laughs quietly. I know I am.

He locks his phone before he can bury himself further in the conversation, in the feelings rising in his stomach and curling around his heart, and finally meets Lillian’s gaze again. This time it’s not amused, nor is it hard, nor is it disappointed.

It’s soft, and Even feels his own expression soften with it. “Thank you for reminding me you’re as much of a fuck up as I am.”

Even laughs. “I think we’re swearing way too much in front of Annie.”

Anette shrugs, unimpressed. “I’m six, I hear things.”

Both Even and Lillian laugh, and his phone lights up with another message as the tension dissipates, and all that’s left is quiet acceptance from both sides, understanding and kindness.

I think I might like you more than anyone right now.

Even swipes his thumb over the screen and replies quickly.

I think I might like you more than anyone for a very long time.

--

TIRSDAG 8.15          

The thing about school is this: it doesn’t care that Even hasn’t been here for the past two weeks. Even probably thinks he has more of an impact than he actually does, but when he walks in first thing in the morning Tuesday, nothing’s really changed, and no one really looks at him; Anders and Thomas do, but mostly to pat his shoulder, welcome him back, tell him they’re happy to see him again. They catch him up mostly on the gossip they’re interested in, and tell him once again how much they actually hate school, but other than that, there are no new developments for him; he’s there, like he’s always been there, and it’s not a disappointment, it’s just a relief.

What does make him nervous, however, is finding Isak; they’d texted all day yesterday, not a pause in between save for showers and sleep, and though it was natural, flirty, even, it’s a lot more different to see him again here, with people around them, in a place they haven’t interacted in in a long time. He hates feeling like this; nervous, unsure, as if he were a kid again on his way to get his shots, feigning bravery not enough.

But he actively looks for him, anyway, because he misses him, and it’s like a fire in the pit of his stomach, thinking about how it’s been a day – nothing, really, in the grand scheme of things – and he’s feeling like he hasn’t seen Isak in months.

To be fair to himself, though, it really has been a long time since they’ve interacted for more than a couple of hours in person; that’s completely on him, of course, but it doesn’t negate the fact that he’s been without Isak for far too long, and he’s trying to make up for lost time. Isak’s not the one that should be putting in the effort, even though he has – this is on Even to fix, and that’s exactly what he plans to do when he spots Isak and the boys convening in the hallway, lost in conversation.

Isak’s hands are in his coat pockets and he’s mostly listening; he smiles once in a while and laughs when the rest of them do, but Magnus is leading the conversation loudly and with flourish, as though recounting a magnificent tale. Isak’s wearing a red snapback, facing backwards this time, and Even can do nothing but stare at him behind the stairs for a while, taking in just how wonderful and beautiful he is, and he lets his heart fill with fondness and excitement at the prospect of talking to him again, in the openness of the school hallway. His fingers tingle at the memory of Isak’s fingers laced around them, and he wants so badly to walk over to him and kiss him, easily, naturally, as if they did it every day.

He knows better, though, and when he finally decides to walk up to the small group, Magnus is finishing his story and Jonas is pointing out all of his flaws in it.

“Hey,” Even greets them, and they all turn around to look at him in surprise. Isak’s expression is the first to clear, turning into soft fondness, and Even holds on to that look to make it through the awkwardness of the rest of the group’s silence.

Someone clears their throat, though Even can’t know who, since his gaze is locked onto Isak’s; but he does look around at the rest of the group as if he’s trying to find out. After a moment, he notices Magnus break out into a grin, and he’s stepping forward to pull Even into a tight hug, enunciating their height difference. Even’s a little taken aback, but he manages to wrap his hands around Magnus’s back, patting it gingerly.

“It’s good to have you back, Even,” he says, pulling back and grinning up at him. “The days have been seriously dull without you.”

Before Even can reply, Mahdi pipes up. “What the fuck, dude, are we not enough for you anymore?” He asks, but he’s smiling up at Even, too. Even doesn’t know what to do with the kindness they’re all showing him, after everything – he’s sure Isak must have told them by now, he’s sure they must know what he’s done, and yet they’re extending their friendship, as if Even is deserving of it. Mahdi walks up and pushes Magnus aside, holding up his hand to greet Even. Even slaps his hand against Mahdi’s, and Mahdi pats his arm in greeting.

“I’m happy you’re back too, man,” he glances at Magnus. “Probably not as much as Magnus, but enough to count.”

Even breathes out a laugh, and he can hear the relief in it as he does, which means the rest of them can, too. Still, none of them really point it out, nor do they hint at realizing this – instead, Magnus and Mahdi exchange a look, which Even is sure has nothing to do with him, really, and his point is proven when Magnus sighs loudly and irritably.

“I guess we should get to class,” he rolls his eyes at Mahdi. “Even though it’s the last thing I want to do.”

“You’re gonna fail if you skip again, you idiot,” Mahdi reminds him, but his voice is fond. “Come on.” He pats Magnus’s back encouragingly, then looks over at Even one last time.

“Nice to see you,” he says, and he sounds like he means it. Even smiles at him gratefully.  

“You, too,” he enthuses, and both him and Magnus wave at Isak and Jonas, Magnus telling them they’ll see them at lunch. They walk away together, bantering, and then Even is left with a smiling Isak and a wary Jonas.

He deserves the wary expression from Jonas, actually. Of that, he’s sure. Even licks his lips nervously, unsure of how to proceed in the face of this predicament, but Jonas chooses for him, crossing his arms over his chest, a little defensively.

Isak bumps his shoulder against Jonas’s when he realizes the other boy’s stance, and Jonas rolls his eyes at the gesture. He looks back at Even, eyeing him warily, and then he sighs, expression clearing of any malice. It mostly looks tired and protective now, which is understandable to Even, and it’s not surprising when he holds up a warning finger towards Even.

“Listen,” Jonas starts. “I like you, dude. I do. But I won’t like you anymore if you hurt Isak again,” he warns. “I don’t care how many puppy dog eyes you make at him. I’m on his side, and I’ll make sure he puts himself first.”

Even’s lips twitch upwards, trying for a smile. He holds it back, though, glances at Isak when he groans, but he reacts before Isak has a chance to. “That’s fair,” he admits, and Jonas nods, looking satisfied.

Jonas looks over at Isak, who’s glaring at him, and then Jonas grins at him lazily. “Alright, I’m leaving,” he tells him, glancing back at Even. “I’ll see you two later,” he waves lamely behind him as he walks away, leaving Isak and Even alone in the hallway, no student around in sight. Even thinks they’re all in class by now, but Isak makes no move to leave, and so neither does Even.

They look at each other in silence for a moment, and then Isak breathes out a laugh, stepping closer to Even. It feels like the distance between them is on fire, and he’s dying to close it and put it out, but Even keeps his distance, unsure if that’s something Isak wants yet.

“Hi,” Isak greets him quietly.

Even smiles at him softly. “Hi.”

“You don’t have to listen to Jonas, you know,” Isak rolls his eyes.

Even raises an eyebrow. “Are you kidding?” he snorts. “After the shit Mikael put you through? I’m probably getting off easy.”

Isak considers him for a moment. “You know you probably will hurt me again, though,” he tells Even. Even feels his heart sink to his feet for a moment.  

“Not if I can help it,” Even replies firmly, unable to stop himself. He wants Isak to know he’s all in this, he’s not here to play games anymore, he’s going to be so good to Isak, he’s going to try his best, he’s going to love him enough for the rest of the world. Even’s determined to make Isak feel loved every single day from here on out, like he’s enough, like the world wouldn’t survive without him.

Isak laughs quietly. “I’m aware,” he promises. “But I’m also aware things won’t be – like, they won’t be perfect,” he admits. “And I’m aware that I’ll probably hurt you again, too, because – that’s the kind of shit people go through, right?” He waits for Even to acknowledge this, and so Even nods once. “But – I mean, I don’t care,” Isak shifts his weight. “I think we can still have this, perfect or not, and – and it’ll still be good.” He looks at Even. “Do you think so?”

Even can’t believe a person like Isak exists. He can’t believe a person like Isak exists, and he wants Even, of all the people in this world. “Yeah,” he replies softly. “I think so, too.”

He closes the distance, then, puts out the fire, and presses his forehead against Isak’s. They’re still alone in the hallway, and it’s dead quiet, the only sound being that of their mingled breaths, and he follows the movement of Isak’s heavy swallow, his shaking hands taking hold of Even’s elbow.

They don’t really do anything but look at each other, and then Even nuzzles Isak’s nose fondly, which causes Isak to breathe out a sigh that sounds like one of relief. Even rests his hands on either side of Isak’s waist, and he strokes them gently with his thumbs.

Isak’s hands slide upward to cup the back of Even’s neck, and his lips curl upwards into a smile. His nose is still nuzzling Even’s when he asks, “Can we see each other after school?”

Even laughs quietly. “We can see each other whenever you want.”

Isak’s smile brightens. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” he warns jokingly. “You should know better by now.”

And hearing Isak reference everything they’ve been through so casually, as if it had merely been a bump in the road and nothing else, nothing life changing, nothing that could really come between what they’ve built and what they have right now, fills Even with nothing but light and hope and he feels like his feet are no longer on the ground, and the only thing keeping him tethered to this spot is Isak’s eyes on his, his hands on his skin. “From here on out,” he whispers. “All my promises will be ones I can keep.”

Isak blinks at him, and his answering smile looks punch-drunk. “Okay,” he whispers in return, fingers curling around the ends of Even’s hair. “I believe you.”

--

TIRSDAG 15.30

--

TIRSDAG 17.48

When Even arrives at Isak’s apartment per his request, Isak is quick to sneak him into his bedroom, grabbing his hand and quickly pushing him past the door and closing it behind him. Even raises both of his eyebrows at Isak, quietly asking for any explanation at all, and Isak replies with nothing but a heavy blush at first.

“I don’t want Eskild to see you,” he admits, and Even chuckles at the response. “What? He’d start prying, and I don’t want him to pry.”

Even shrugs. “That sounds fine,” he promises, and Isak eyes him suspiciously.

“For real?”

Even smiles. “For real.”

Isak bounces on his feet for a second, hands tied behind his back nervously, and he avoids Even’s gaze for a full five seconds before his expression turns resolute and he steps forward quickly to wrap his arms around Even’s waist and bury his face in his neck.

Even only stills for a moment in surprise before he laughs softly and wraps his arms around Isak, affectionately nuzzling his hair. Even closes his eyes and breathes Isak in, wonders if there is anything better than this, than having Isak close to him, than having his arms wrapped around him, than having someone he loves so much, more than he ever thought he could love anyone at all, wrap their arms around Even and have his heart beat so quickly and so loudly Even can feel it against his own racing heart.

“I missed you,” Isak breathes quietly into Even’s neck, causing Even to shiver in response. “I mean—” Isak laughs, as if he’s being ridiculous. Even’s arms tighten around him, comfortingly and encouragingly. “No, I don’t think – I don’t think I could express how much—” Isak clears his throat, and Even feels his face warm against his neck. “How much I missed you.”

Even hums, rubs soothing circles on Isak’s back. “Sometimes I think the same,” he admits quietly. “I wish I could express how much I feel for you, in general.”

Isak stays silent for a moment, as if he’s unsure how to respond, and instead of using his words he tightens his grip around Even, like he’s afraid to let go. Even doesn’t say a word, lets Isak hold him as long as he wants to – he’s not leaving. He’s not leaving, not again, not as long as Isak wants him here. He rests his chin atop Isak’s head and closes his eyes again, letting this moment consume him entirely.

He doesn’t know how long they stand there, wrapped in each other as if they’re the last two people on earth, but eventually Isak shivers and pulls away, just enough so that their noses are still touching. Isak’s looking at Even’s lips when he says, “I promise I didn’t ask you here just to have you hold me.”

Even laughs in surprise at the words, presses his forehead against Isak’s. “That’s too bad,” he hums. “Since that happens to be all I want to do.”

Isak blushes, then, licks his lips and his eyes flicker back to Even’s; his smile is small and shy as he brings his fingers to lace around Even’s; then he tentatively pulls him towards his bed, and Isak folds his legs to sit on the edge. Even looks at him for a moment and lowers himself to press his forehead against Isak’s again, while Isak brings his hands to grip at Even’s waist tightly. Even’s breath ghosts over Isak’s lips and the shiver the visibly runs through Isak runs straight down Even’s spine, too.

Isak scoots backwards, eyes remaining glued to Even’s as his back finally hits the wall, and Even stays where he is, unsure if it’s an invitation. When Isak bites his lip and holds out his hands, Even is completely aware that it is, and he crawls over to him, knees on either side of Isak’s legs, but he’s too afraid to lower himself completely to touch him; instead, he laces their fingers together where Isak’s are still extended towards him, and he brings his lips near Isak’s again, head tilting. Isak’s gaze is glued to Even’s lips, and his breath is shaky and fast and Even’s willpower is diminishing by the second and his arms knees are shaking as they hold him up and away from Isak’s lap—

“Wanna know a secret?” Even whispers, as if they weren’t alone, as if it wasn’t just the two of them in the room.

Isak swallows. “What?”

Even nuzzles Isak’s forehead with his own. “I think I love you.”

And this is what Even thinks breaks Isak’s resolve – it’s a lie, of course it is, Even knows he loves Isak, but he thinks that confession should wait until they’ve talked through everything, until they know everything, but at the moment, it seems they’re both over waiting; Isak leans in and presses his lips tightly against Even’s, and then it’s like—

Thunder and lightning and it’s a whirlwind storm inside of Even, rushing through him like a hurricane, and the kiss is soft at first, like it shouldn’t be extraordinary at all, but even as it builds and builds in intensity, Even knows it’s so much more than extraordinary – it’s unreal, it’s almost like it doesn’t exist at all, and Even lets his body lower so that he sits on Isak’s lap and his hands leave Isak’s to curl around his hair, which Isak’s hands mimic; they only come up for breath for a second, and then their lips are back against each other’s, like every touch is not enough, like every time they tilt their heads they can’t get close enough to the other.

Even’s hand slides from Isak’s hair to his cheek and his thumb strokes it there, a little harshly – their lips breaking apart another second before they’re back at it, breaths mingling, pressed against each other like they’re one. Eventually, Isak manages to pull away, and before Even has time to think, he impressively turns Even over so that he’s the one with his back pressed to the wall and Isak’s the one in his lap.

And then Isak kisses him again, and Even’s hands automatically wrap around Isak’s waist to pull him closer, and Isak’s hands are cupped around Even’s neck and Even’s mind is a blur, now, can’t think of anything other than Isak’s proximity, the way his lips taste (he thinks there’s a hint of grape, but then he also wants to say he tastes of lavender, surprisingly, and his lips are softer than Even’s could ever hope to be) and Even’s hands manage to sneak their way under Isak’s shirt to press against the skin of his back and Isak gasps slightly, presumably at the contact, and arches his back enough so that he grinds against Even, and Even groans at the sensation.

Isak breaks away, breathing erratically. “Oh, God,” he groans, kissing Even again. “We need to stop,” he mutters against Even’s lips.

Even nods against him. “Mhm,” he hums, instead pulling Isak closer. “You’re right.” They don’t, though, and instead Isak’s hands snake under Even’s shirt and press against his chest, and Even shivers, Isak’s hands freezing against the flush of his chest and he grinds upwards automatically, making Isak gasp against his lips, opening Even’s lips with his own.

Isak has far more willpower than Even, now, as he pushes himself away enough so that their breaths aren’t mingling anymore, but his hands remain pressed against Even’s chest. Even’s lips want to chase Isak’s on instinct, but Isak pushes Even back as he swallows harshly. He’s panting when he says, “We should—”

“We should talk,” Even agrees breathlessly, not needing Isak to finish his sentence to know exactly where he’s going with it. “No, you’re right, we need to talk.”

Isak brings his hands back to himself, and Even follows suit, bringing his hands from Isak’s back to rest on either side of Isak’s waist. They’re both trying to catch their breath, looking at each other, and Even still feels Isak’s lips on his, like they’ve belonged there all along, like they’re part of him from here on until forever.

He doesn’t mean to, but he tries to think of the last time he felt this way kissing Sonja – and he realizes it never felt this electrifying, this axis-shifting, like his entire world has been changed and he’s suddenly discovered a hundred more colors, bright and all-consuming. The world has never looked brighter, the air has never smelled more enticing, and Even thinks every step he takes from here on out will be like his last, strong and purposeful and closer to Isak.

Even’s thumbs stroke at either sides of Isak’s waist, quiets his head, and he bites his lip in order to keep from saying something stupid.

Isak exhales shakily and brings his hands back to Even, rubbing cautiously at his shoulders. “I need to know something,” he mutters, and Even nods.

“Anything.”

Isak lowers his gaze nervously. “What – what was real?” he asks quietly.

Even’s heart slows at the words, and his brows furrow, confused. “What do you mean?” he asks, hands starting to rub up and down Isak’s sides.

Isak shifts slightly on Even’s lap, which is probably not the best idea, but he seems lost in thought, and so Even focuses on the crease between Isak’s brows instead of whatever’s snaking up his spine. “Out of – out of everything we’ve been through,” he explains. “Everything we’ve done, everything – everything you’ve said. I need to know what was real, and what wasn’t.”

Even can’t believe he’s done such a terrible job of expressing just how enamored with Isak he is. He can’t believe Isak still thinks there was even a day, a minute, a second that Even didn’t mean, that wasn’t at all real, that didn’t mean the entire world to Even, that wasn’t meant to be for the two of them only, quiet, careful, private.

He can’t believe he’s done such a terrible job at letting Isak knows he loves him more than he’s ever learned to love himself. More than he’ll ever learn, Even thinks.

“Everything,” he replies quietly. Isak’s breath hitches quietly. “Every single moment. Every second of our time together was real.”

Isak’s gaze doesn’t break away from Even’s. “The moment, in the kitchen,” he clears his throat quietly. “Making cheese toasties. Real?”

Even smiles softly. “Real.”

“And the moment in the projection booth. Real?”

“Very real.”

“The party?”

“Real.”

“The playground?”

“Real.”

Isak pauses, considering Even, gaze trailing over his face, as if he’s trying to find a trace of insincerity. “Okay,” he huffs. “Was there any part of this that wasn’t real, is maybe an easier question.”

Even hums, thinking. “Well,” he starts slowly, and Isak’s expression begins to falter. “I did lie about my eyes in the notes,” he admits, and Isak’s lips part in surprise. “And the fact that I don’t like pineapple pizza.”

Isak levels him with a look before he laughs, and his laugh sounds like a thousand holidays rolled into one, a careless summer night, a quiet winter’s snowfall.

He brings his hand up to trace softly at Isak’s jaw, and Isak leans into the touch, almost like he doesn’t realize he’s doing it. He licks his lips nervously, and Even waits for Isak to ask his next question, which is obviously taking a lot of courage out of Isak.

“Your—” he pauses. Even leans in to kiss Isak’s chin encouragingly. Isak’s eyes flutter shut. “Your time in Bakka,” he finishes, and Even can’t help his spine stiffening at the words. Isak’s eyes open and he searches Even’s nervously, almost apologetically, but Even smiles at him, quietly reassuring him. “Was that – was that real?”

Even’s hand trails down Isak’s back. He nods slightly. “Most of it,” he admits. “There were about three months – where my “legacy” comes from – that weren’t – they weren’t me at all,” he bites the inside of his cheek. “It’s all kind of a blur, to be honest,” he admits. He doesn’t remember talking about this out loud to anyone, not to Mikael, not to Sonja, not to his doctor or his parents – he hasn’t breathed a word of what this felt like, of what he remembers, but here, in the safety of Isak’s room and the touch of his hands against Even’s skin, it’s easy to pretend to be brave. “Sometimes I’ll – remember something and be overcome with this sense of – this sense of shame, and panic.” He tightens his grip around Isak, and Isak does the same. “I said things and did things that didn’t make sense. I had no sense of self-preservation. I felt invincible,” he tells Isak. Isak doesn’t break Even’s gaze, not for a moment. “Like the way I feel around you,” he smiles. “Except far more – irrational.

“I’m not the Even Bech Næsheim Bakka’s made me out to be, though,” he confesses. “I’m the Even Bech Næsheim you know.”

Isak stares at him in something akin to wonder, hands tracing every inch of Even’s face. Even’s eyes close as Isak’s fingers brush against his lashes, and he lets Isak discover him, know him, every inch of him – he’s Isak’s, and he’ll allow him anything, anything Isak wants to take from him.

When Isak’s fingers trace Even’s lips, his eyes open, and he takes in Isak’s somber expression. “I’m sorry,” he tells Even. “I’m sorry I ever made you feel like I wouldn’t want you, like—”

“No,” Even interrupts firmly, bringing his hands to hold either side of Isak’s face. “You’re not doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Apologizing,” Even replies. “You think I don’t understand you had every right to react the way that you did?”

“I should have—”

“I lied to you,” Even says. “For months. I pretended to be two people in your life. You had every right to be angry, to assume what you did, to not want to seek me out.”

Isak avoids his gaze. “I wish you would have come after me,” he admits to Even, voice small. “I wish you hadn’t – I’m fine with my choice, I don’t regret it, but a big part of me – an annoying part of me – wished you’d seek me out.”

“I’m sorry,” Even apologizes to him, voice cracking slightly. “I just – I took so much from you, Isak. So when you asked me to leave you alone, I wanted – I wanted to respect that choice.”

Isak looks up at Even, quietly assessing him. “I’m—” he swallows audibly. “I’m really happy you’re you,” he presses his forehead against Even’s. “And I’m happy you’re here.”

Even smiles softly. “I’m happy you exist,” he admits, nuzzling Isak’s nose with his own. “I’m happy when you look at me,” he mumbles. “I’m happy when you’re near me,” he kisses the corner of Isak’s mouth. “You make me feel like I deserve more than what I give myself,” he rubs at Isak’s back. “There’s the delusion during a manic episode, and then there’s you,” he watches Isak’s eyes flutter. “You’re the only high I need. The only high I want. You make me believe I can fight my demons and win. Because I want to stay,” he whispers. “I want to stay down here with you.

“I wish you could know how much I feel,” he balls his fist against Isak’s shirt. “I wish you could understand how much I love you.”

Isak’s eyes are watering and he exhales at the words, almost like they reached every inch of him, and his lips press a soft kiss against Even’s cheek, and then they press a soft kiss at the corner of Even’s lips, and then his hands curl around Even’s hair and he spends a moment in silence, looking at Even, taking him in, and Even lets him take, and take, and take, until—

“I love you, too,” Isak’s voice is so quiet Even could almost miss the words, but instead they erupt something in Even’s stomach, and curl at his toes, and burst through him like a hundred different symphonies, notes upon notes and they hit every chord in his heart.

“Okay,” Even breathes out, laughing.

“Okay,” Isak nods against his forehead, and he laughs, too.

Even feels like he’s found his place tonight, when he’s had every opportunity, all around the world – and he knows it doesn’t revolve around him, but in this very moment, he feels like it’s stopped and sharpened, and there’s nowhere else he’d rather be, no one else he’d rather be with, and he thinks he could live here for the rest of his life and find nothing but endless happiness, like the kind he’d been promised as a child.

He leans forward, fully intending to kiss Isak again and again and again until they’re both out of every breath imaginable, but—

—there’s a loud knock on the door that breaks them both out of their stupor, even makes Isak jump, as it were, startling him.

Isak looks back at his door, blinking irritably. “What?” he calls out loudly.

“Isak, have you seen my keys?” Eskild calls back. Even huffs out a groaned laugh, letting his forehead fall on top of Isak’s shoulder, and his own shake with stuttered laughter. He’s reminded, now, that it doesn’t matter if he feels like he and Isak are the only two people in the world, like it’s stopped just for them, the world spins madly on, and people’s hearts are breaking, and people feel abandoned, and there’s not enough happiness like the one Even’s feeling, and people lose their fucking keys.

“No, Eskild, I haven’t seen your fucking keys, oh my God,” Isak snaps. “Check under the couch, they’re always there.”

“I already did,” Eskild whines. “Can’t I borrow yours?”

Isak rolls his eyes and climbs off Even’s lap and out of his arms, which suddenly feel empty. “Oh, my God,” Isak groans again, walking over to his backpack and fishing for his keys. Even watches as he finds them and stomps over to his door, opening it up a fraction and poking his arm out to take the keys. “Take them,” he orders. “And leave.”

Even sees Eskild’s eyes find him on the bed, then he grins mischievously. “Is that Even?” He asks excitedly. “Hi, Even!” he calls out.

Even laughs softly. “Hi, Eskild.”

Isak starts to close the door. “Leave it alone, Eskild.”

“But I haven’t spoken to him in so long!” Eskild extends an arm between the door and the frame, holding it open forcefully. Isak scoffs indignantly.

“Eskild!”

“Take care of my baby!” Eskild calls out to Even. “I will have to hurt you otherwise!”

Even chuckles. “I promise,” he calls back.

“Oh, my God,” Isak groans, and Even’s starting to think that might be his favorite phrase. “Leave.”

Eskild’s arm finally retreats, and Isak slams the door shut at the earliest opportunity. “Be safe, boys!” Eskild sings from the other side, and Isak grunts in frustration.

“Bye, Eskild!” he yells pointedly, and after a moment or two, they hear the commotion of an exiting Eskild.

Isak breathes out a sigh of relief, then after a moment seems to realize exactly where he and Even left off, which makes him blush prettily and cough awkwardly. “Uhm.”

Even laughs quietly at the sight of him. He loves him, he loves him, he loves him. “Come here,” Even extends his arms invitingly, and Isak doesn’t hesitate even for a second before he finds his way into them again, tangling their legs together.

Isak presses his nose against Even’s chest and sighs loudly. “I’m sorry Eskild sucks.”

Even rubs at Isak’s back soothingly. “He’s sweet,” Even counters. “He cares about you.”

Even feels Isak’s smile against his skin. “Yeah,” he admits. “I guess he does.”

Even presses a kiss to the top of Isak’s head. “Just because he reminded me we are not, in fact, the only two people in the world, doesn’t mean I don’t still love you.”

Isak’s face visibly warms and his grip tightens around Even’s waist, nose burying further into his chest. “I’m gonna have to get used to that,” Isak whispers.

Even hums. “To what?”

“To you saying that,” he coughs slightly. “It’s just – I just – it’s nice,” he admits. “It’s nice to know. And – you know, right?” He picks his head up to meet Even’s eyes. Even smiles at him kindly. “You know I do too, right?”

Even keeps tracing patterns against Isak’s back. “I do now,” he smiles softly. “You’ll tell me if you ever stop, though?”

Isak considers this for a moment. “Okay,” he reaches to stroke Even’s hair. “But right now, it kinda feels like I never will.”

Even loves him so much he’s going to burst with it. “Neither will I.”

Isak tilts his head upward, asking for a kiss. Even gives it to him, happily, freely, softly. He can have whatever he wants, he repeats to himself. Isak can have all of him, and Even will never ask for anything in return.

Eventually they put on Friday Night Lights on the television, and they hold each other throughout, and they’ll comment here and there about the plots, banter about who’s better looking, and Isak will laugh loudly and Even will tease him and laugh even louder; their legs will remain tangled up in each other, to the point where they don’t know where one ends and the other’s begins, and when Isak falls asleep quietly in Even’s arms, he thinks about the meaning of forever—

Forever can mean eternity, but forever can mean however long Isak will allow him, and that’s the forever that matters to Even – the forever that includes Isak, and they’re young, Even’s aware, and he knows love fades, but sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes people make it, and when he disentangles from Isak’s arms and legs to go home, when he leaves him a note that reads “You’re the realest thing I’ve ever known”, when he kisses his forehead and strokes at his hair one last time, takes in his features and counts all his breaths—

He thinks they can make it. He thinks they will make it.

And Even’s willing to give up all of himself to make it so.

--

ONSDAG 7.20

--

ONSDAG 9.56

When he finds Isak, Even’s almost sure it can’t possibly be him – Isak is calmly and without trouble placing some books inside his locker, as if they’d never been enemies in the first place. He furrows his brows, but a smile makes way onto his lips anyway as he walks up to him, and he leans against the lockers beside Isak, grinning.

“Hi, there.”

Isak looks up at Even, and the way his expression lights up could feed starving children for decades. “Hi yourself.”

“Have you heard the rumors going around school?” Even asks casually, crossing his arms over his chest.

Isak raises an eyebrow, closes his locker and turns to face Even. “No?” he frowns. “What rumors?”

Even shrugs easily. “People keep talking about how we might just be the cutest couple Nissen has seen in all its years.”

Isak’s face clears, and he bites his lip as if he’s trying to hide his smile, but Even sees the corners of his lips curl upwards anyway. “Couple, huh?”

Even raises his eyebrows. “What? You haven’t thought about it?” He asks casually. “I think we could be a great couple.”

“Oh you do, do you?”

“Absolutely,” Even nods vigorously. “I mean, we’d probably fight over what movie to watch. We’d totally be that couple. I’d judge you because you’d want to watch a Nicolas Cage movie and you’d call me pretentious because I wanted to watch Casablanca.”

Isak purses his lips. “I’m pretty sure we’ve already fought about that, though.”

“Just proof,” Even shrugs. “We’d also fight about food.”

Isak gives him a look. “We wouldn’t fight about food.”

“Uhm?” Even furrows his brows dramatically. “We’d totally fight about food. We’d fight about who ate the last of what. And it would probably always be me and I would always make you food to make it up to you.”

Isak laughs quietly, shaking his head.

“We’d spend a lot of weekends doing nothing,” Even continues, humming as if he were deep in thought.

“Nothing?”

“Well, not nothing. Cuddling sounds good. Making out also sounds pretty awesome.”

“You want to just cuddle and make out all weekend?”

“Well, don’t you?”

Isak opens his mouth and then closes it, before shaking his head and laughing, this time louder and far more fondly. “Jesus, Even.”

“We’d also trash talk everyone,” Even continues, as if Isak had said nothing. He waits this time, though, and Isak sighs loudly.

“Yes, everyone.”

“And we’d wear each other’s shirts because we’d forget which belongs to who.”

Isak’s lips twitch. “Sounds like a good time.”

“I would take care of you when you got a cold,” Even promises proudly.

“Pft,” Isak waves the comment off. “I don’t get colds.”

“You do, and I would take care of you. Make you soup and wrap you up in blankets. And if need be, I would find the cure for the common cold. I would. I’d find it.”

“Would you, now?”

“I’d find absolutely anything for you.”

Isak blushes slightly.

Even continues: “Baz would probably start loving you more than me.”

“I thought we’d been over this?” Isak raises his eyebrows. “Hasn’t this already happened?”

“Probably,” Even sighs morosely. “And I’d be jealous.”

“Of me or the dog?”

“Yes.”

Isak bursts out into a small laugh. “Are you done?” He asks, smile bright and beautiful, and Even can’t resist taking a step closer to him and taking his hand, softly wrapping his around it.

“No,” he admits. “I’d also make sure you never felt alone.”

Isak’s smile falters momentarily, and he looks Even straight in the eyes, searching in wonder. Then his smile comes back, as if he realizes just how important what Even’s admitting to him is, and he replies, “I’d make sure you never felt unworthy.” And it’s so quiet and unexpected Even’s mouth dries for a moment.

Swallowing, he says, “I’d hold you for as long as you needed me to.”

Isak squeezes his hand. “I’d wait for you for as long as you needed me to.”

Even brings up his free hand to stroke at Isak’s cheek. “I wouldn’t leave when things got hard,” he promises quietly. “I’d stay. I’d always stay.

“And I’d kiss you,” Even continues, and Isak’s suddenly swallowing loudly and harshly, eyes reddening. “Every day, for as long as you’d let me, I’d kiss you. And we’d talk about anything you wanted to talk about, and I’d listen, because you are the most interesting person I’ve ever met in my entire life, and I want to listen to everything you have to say.

“I want you,” Even proclaims, quietly and privately, only for Isak’s ears, for the world they’ve built together. “Flaws and everything. Every single part of you, I want it. Do you want that?”

Isak sniffles through his laughter, brings his own free hand up to wipe at his nose. “Yeah,” he nods quickly. “I want it.”

Even’s going to kiss Isak, kiss him for everyone to see, and Isak seems to have the same idea, but then the bell rings and—

Isak pulls back. “I—” he sniffs again. “I have a test.”

Even looks at him for a moment, before he bursts out into laughter. “Go take your test,” he squeezes Isak’s hand. “I’ll meet you after.”

“Okay.”

“Actually, I’ll meet you after school, okay?” Even waits for Isak to nod. “Outside of KB?”

Isak nods again. “Yeah, okay.”

Even leans forward and presses a kiss to Isak’s forehead. “Good luck, baby.”

Isak shivers underneath him. He’s quick to lean up and kiss Even’s cheek, then he scurries away, leaving Even’s skin tingling and heated. Even brings his hand up to touch the place Isak touched, and it feels like it’s on fire, like it’s something he won’t ever truly get to put out.

Even supposes he’ll just have to get used to it.

He looks over at the clock and notes the time, sees his class starts in about half an hour. He considers walking over to it, getting there early, think about Isak for the entirety of it, but then he feels the weight of his backpack, heavy and loud – he turns it forward, opens it and digs out his notebook, quickly flips through the pages until he finds what he’s looking for.

The drawing of Isak, almost finished save for his eyes, Even always unsure of the gaze he wanted to draw, unsure of what would be fair to Isak. He never knew then, could never find the proper expression, but now Even remembers the way Isak stared at him in wonder when Even confessed his feelings, the way his eyes shone with hope and realization, the way the light hit them at just the right angle and reminded Even of the stars, and he knows exactly how to draw his eyes, how to capture his essence.

He walks to the library, and he greets the librarian as he does; then he makes his way to the back corner of the room and carefully pulls out the familiar book, the one he’d found so long ago – it looks worn now, not at all like what it looked like months ago, it’s creased at the spine and folded at the edges, and Even traces his fingers over it gingerly, picking at the memories, picking at the confessions. Isak revealed so much of himself inside that book, and it means the world to Even – it means every world, in fact, every world the book’s decided exists, and he walks over to the librarian’s desk and drops the book on the table.

“I’d like to check this out, please,” he tells her, and she smiles brightly.

“It’s about time you checked something out,” she teases, grabbing the book and scanning it. Even grins lazily, shrugs his shoulders.

“Just had to make sure my pick was perfect.”

“Uh huh,” the librarian rolls her eyes, stamps the inside of the book and hands it back to Even. “You’ll take care of it?”

Even holds up a hand. “With my life.”

Even grabs the book and walks over to an empty table, placing the book down, then his notebook. He picks a pencil and finally sets his backpack aside, starting to sketch. He captures Isak’s love struck eyes, and Even hopes he sees them more often than not, and Even hopes they’re directed at him every time.

He draws.

And he finishes.

--

ONSDAG 16.16

Even skipped class.

He had good reason to, in his mind, after he finished the drawing he’d been working on for months, and he decided impulsively he’d take Baz out for a walk – after he spent some time with him at home, of course. Even trusts him enough now that he lets him off his leash, Baz walking besides him and towards KB happily, like a week ago he hadn’t been dehydrated and shitting blood.

Even smiles down at his dog and thinks of how lucky he’s been – in every aspect of his life, after the storm, after everything had seemed so dark and so hopeless; he rarely escapes the fog without some aftershock, but this time, it’s almost like he walked straight into clear skies, as if it’d never happened at all.

Even knows Isak is near before he sees him – Baz runs up to him barking happily, and Isak turns around at the sound, laughing when Baz reaches him and starts licking his hand.

Even taps his fingers against the hard cover of the book as he patiently reaches Isak, too, and Isak looks up at him, smiling.

“Hi,” he greets Even.

Even grins, then holds out the book without saying a word. Isak looks down at it, brows furrowed, before they rise with recognition; tentatively, he takes the book out of Even’s hands, and he opens the book to the page where the note pokes out of it. He stares at the note for a good five, ten, fifteen seconds, and when he looks back up at Even, he laughs wetly.

“You know,” he starts, voice shaky. “I really did want it to be you.” Even’s heart swells at the words. “I wanted it to be you so badly.”

Even reaches over and strokes Isak’s cheek with his thumb, unintentionally catching one of his tears. “I’m gonna kiss you now.”

Isak laughs and nods furiously. “Please,” he whispers, and Even leans forward to press their lips together.

It feels like they’d never been apart at all, the familiarity of Isak’s lips welcoming Even’s, and he hears Isak drop the book unceremoniously on the ground before wrapping his arms around Even’s neck, and Even wraps his arms around Isak’s waist, and he vaguely hears Baz barking beside him, but he doesn’t care; all he can think about is the way Isak’s lips feels against his, the promises they’re making to each other silently, and his heart beating loudly against his chest, over and over and over again, to the rhythm of Isak’s kisses.

He doesn’t know how long they do this for, but it’s long enough for Even to feel victorious, triumphant, to forget all about his surroundings except for one—

He remembers Julian inside the coffeeshop chatting Isak up before he made it here, and, with his eyes closed and his lips refusing to part from Isak’s, he holds up a hand towards the window and flips Julian off, knowing full well he’s watching.

Isak pulls back momentarily, probably catching sight of this action in his peripheral, looks at Even’s hand then looks back at Even. “What are you doing?”

Even grins happily down at Isak. “Nothing,” he blinks innocently.

Isak glances back inside the coffeeshop, and Even sees a furious Julian stomping into the employee backroom. Isak’s mouth parts open, and he looks back at Even, eyes narrowed.

“You—” he grabs Even’s raised hand and lowers it. “Oh, my God, you—”

Even laces their fingers together and brings Isak’s lips back to his.

Isak laughs against his lips. “You’re such a fucking idiot,” he mutters against them, and Even laughs and kisses him and kisses him, and their smiles are making it impossible to kiss correctly, but it still feels like every single planet aligning around them, every single clock around the world stopping to cater to their needs, and then Even wraps his arms around Isak’s waist to hoist him upward and Isak wraps his arms around Even’s neck so he doesn’t lose balance when Even spins him around excitedly.

“You’re so corny,” Isak laughs. “I’m gonna fall, stop.”

Even puts him down gently, presses another kiss to his lips. “Isak Valtersen, I think you might have already fallen.”

Isak groans. “Okay, nope, never mind, I take all of this back, I don’t want this.”

“Too late,” Even takes both of Isak’s hands in his. “You’re stuck with me.”

He brings Isak’s hands up to kiss his knuckles softly. Isak looks flushed, but there’s a smile that will not leave his face, and Even clings to that smile alone. Isak kisses him again, and then again, and then once more before he whispers into his mouth, for him and him alone—“I love you.”

And Even squeezes at Isak’s waist and replies, “I love you forever.”

Isak smiles and Even wraps their hands together, before Isak blinks stupidly and looks at the ground between them, where the book lays open towards the sidewalk.

“Ah, shit,” Isak brings his hand back to bend down and grab it, but as he tries to close it, the wind takes control of the drawing, and it flies away from the both of them, too quickly to run after it, far too quickly to catch it.

“Fuck,” Isak nearly pouts. “God, no, I’m such an idiot.”

Even laughs. “It’s okay.”

“It’s not,” Isak rolls his eyes. “I wanted to keep that. You probably spent so much time on it—”

“Hey,” Even squeezes Isak’s arms. “It’s fine, alright? That’s – it’s from a time in my life where I was unsure about everything, about myself, mostly, and I can make you a million more notes just like that one.”

Isak smiles at him softly. “Promise?”

Even brushes his lips against Isak’s nose. “Promise.”

Baz barks at them from underneath and Isak laughs along with Even, and then he holds out his hand for Even to take. Even takes it without a moment of hesitation, and he tugs him towards the tram stop. “Your place?”

Isak hums. “Will you be able to spend the night this time?”

Even shrugs as they walk off, away from the coffeeshop, away from the place that’d finally brought them together, in the end. “I could probably sneak back into my place in the morning. My parents would be none the wiser.”

“Aw, you’d do that just for me?”

“How many times do we have to go over this? I’d do just about anything for you.”

Isak hums as Baz follows them across the street. “Would you watch National Treasure with me?”

“Don’t test me, Valtersen.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I was under the impression anything meant—”

“I would not survive that movie, do you want me dead—”

“You’re such a fucking drama queen, oh my God, I sat through countless Baz Luhrmann movies—”

“Those are masterpieces, not movies—”

“I’ll even let you order pineapple on your damn pizza—”

“It’s not enough, how about—”

—and their conversation fades away, far from the coffeeshop, and so do Baz’s barks; and somewhere, there’s a note being carried off by the wind, with a drawing of Isak Valtersen filled to its completion, and underneath it it reads:

Hey, Lost Boy.

I found you.

            With love, from Even.