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Can it Stay Between Us

Chapter Text

“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edge of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”

Margaret Atwood

 

Late August

 

The first thing Even noticed was the silence.

 

He stepped out of his father's van and took in a deep breath of the unpolluted air, surprised by how fresh it was. He stretched his arms, hearing a crack in his back, and tried not to dwell on how many hours he'd just been in the car.

 

He looked around at the large green lawn and old, decaying barn that definitely needed a fresh layer of paint. He could smell pine and some sort of flower on the breeze as he glanced at his new house.

 

It wasn’t anything special. He hadn’t really expected it to be, but looking at it now made the reality of his situation sink in a little bit more. He actually had to live here, call this place home; eat and sleep and wake up inside the walls of this old fashioned, four bedroom farm house just off a highway - far away from every person he’d ever called a friend.

 

He was starting over and it was daunting as hell.

 

“The moving truck should be along shortly.” Even’s father announced, coming up behind his son and patting him on his back. “Let’s take a little tour around.”

 

Even nodded but his throat was too dry to speak. He was also afraid that if he opened his mouth all he would do is demand to go back home - to the house he’d grown up in, where he’d spent every Christmas and birthday since he’d been born.

 

But that house was gone. It no longer belonged to his family. There was no home for him except the one in front of him.

 

“The owner before us assured me everything is in working order. Of course we might need to add some paint here and there.” Edwin said, his arms out wide like he was presenting the house to Even as if on some kind of game show. They stood on the porch that wrapped around the entire house, a rocking chair swaying slightly in the breeze next to the front windows.

 

Edwin looked pleased with himself as he reached for his keys. The front door opened into a small sitting room and then immediately went into the yellow coloured kitchen that was filled with light.

 

Even nodded in acknowledgement, eyes wandering around the kitchen. It was a simple design but all the appliances were new, and the yellow walls made it feel more homey. He could easily picture their old table next to the bay windows, his father sitting there in the mornings before he headed off to work.

 

“There’s tons of room so we’ll both be able to have an office. I’ll do my work stuff and you can have a space to study and be comfortable.” Edwin continued, his face falling a little at the lack of reaction from his son. His eyes were filled with a tense sort of sadness, the same look Even had seen in them for the past six months.

 

Even wanted to be excited. He wanted to acknowledge that his father had spent a lot of time and energy searching for a place he thought would be good for Even, a place they could start again. He wanted to thank his father for doing pretty much all the work as Even had been comatose on the couch, unable to help the men Edwin had hired to move things out of their house slowly, week by week.

 

But again, Even couldn’t speak.

 

**

 

Even was sitting on the floor in the living room, fighting with his phone to find service and waiting for his father to come back with pizza for their dinner, when he heard the doorbell ring.

 

It was a muffled, clanking sound. Clearly the doorbell needed some updating or rescuing because it sounded horrific, making Even nearly jump out of his skin.

 

He made his way over the door, wondering who it could possibly be considering they lived near no-one. When he yanked open the old, wooden door his eyes went wide.

 

“Hey!” The boy smiled, waving slightly. He was about Even’s age, around same height, a gap between his teeth and his face was flushed. Even looked behind him and saw a bike lying on their driveway. “I’m Isak, your neighbour.”

 

Isak thrust his hand out, waiting expectantly for Even to take it. Even did, still lost for words. Isak was wearing a flannel button up t-shirt with black jeans, his running shoes splattered with mud and a maroon snapback on his head, exposing the curliness of the ends of his hair. Even hated how he wanted to keep staring, take in the sight of Isak longer than was probably appropriate. He tended to do that with attractive guys and Isak was definitely attractive, probably more so than a lot of people Even had met at Bakka.

 

He tried to snap out of it. Those kinds of thoughts were part of the reason they’d had to move.

 

“And...you are?” Isak prompted, chuckling at Even’s silence as he shook their conjoined hands up and down.

 

“Even. I’m Even.”

 

“He speaks! Nice to meet you, man.” Isak brought his hand back to his side, shifting from foot to foot.

 

“Sorry. Been a long day.” Even said, his voice rather hoarse and grainy. He coughed to try and clear it, feeling his cheeks heating up.

 

“All good. Is it just you here in this big house?”

 

“Oh, no.” Even shook his head. “I live with my dad. He went to get us some dinner while we wait for our moving truck. It got stuck in traffic.”

 

“That’s shitty. Can I come in?” Isak asked, stepping in through the doorway anyway, brushing Even’s shoulder as he did.

 

Even’s mouth opened and closed, debating on what he should say. No? I don’t want company? We have no chairs? Go away?

 

He decided to close the door and follow Isak into the kitchen. The boy was looking around at the empty walls and various bags they’d dumped on the floor. He turned on his heel and regarded Even mischievously.

 

“Where did you move from?” Isak asked.

 

“Oslo.”

 

Isak whistled, coming a little closer. “Living out here is a lot different. Have you ever lived on a farm before?”

 

“Nope. Wasn’t my idea, though.” Even mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck.

 

He wanted to change the subject but he didn’t know what else to talk about. He kind of wanted to be back in his solitude. He had forgotten how to socialize over the last half year.

 

“I can show you the ropes, if you want. I’ve lived out here all my life. I know the area really well. I can take you to all the nice places.” And suddenly Isak was right in front of him, smiling kindly.

 

“Yeah,” Even blurted out, nodding vigorously. “I would like that. Thanks.”

 

“Okay. Maybe after you’ve unpacked a little I’ll come back and we can go biking around together.” Isak nodded, walking towards the staircase and pointing up. “Where’s your room?”

 

“Uh, I haven’t picked it yet. I haven’t even been upstairs.”

 

“Unacceptable. Come on.” Isak said, grabbing Even’s hand and dragging him upstairs.

 

Even nearly lost his balance trying to keep up with Isak’s fast pace but he managed it, going along as he was pulled into the nearest room which just so happened to be the master bedroom. Isak still had hold of his hand as they walked towards the window, overlooking the main highway road.

 

“My house is over there.” Isak explained, pointing to a small, orange house just beyond the ridge on the other side of the street. It was a smaller house than Even’s, resembling more of a cottage, but the front yard was longer and fenced off. Two horses, both dark brown, trotted around while flicking their tails. The sight made Even smile.

 

Isak’s house wasn’t visible when someone was on the main floor or on the front lawn, but from up here Even could see it clearly. It wasn’t too far away.

 

“That’s what you meant by neighbour.” Even smiled, looking down at the way Isak still clung to his hand.

 

“I bet it felt like you didn’t have any neighbours, huh?” Isak asked, turning and looking at Even directly, shifting his whole body until their chests were practically touching.

 

Even stayed still as he looked into Isak’s eyes but he wanted to move. He wasn’t sure why Isak was doing this - initiating this closeness as if they weren’t strangers - because it felt too much like teasing; as if he was being set up in some way.

 

As if Isak was waiting to see what Even would do and if that was the right thing.

 

“No. I couldn’t see your house until just now and…” Even cut himself off, pulling his hand away and walking towards the doorway. “And so I thought we were kind of alone out here.”

 

Isak was quiet for a moment, still by the window. Even held his breath as he went into the hallway, wondering what Isak was going to say - if anything - about the hand holding thing. But then he simply followed Even.

 

“Nope, not alone but it’s just our property and now your father’s land on this stretch of road before you go up towards the town. About ten kilometres.” Isak said, walking out of the room and into the next one with Even, looking around. “I never realized how big this place is.”

 

Even nodded in agreement, hovering in the next doorway. “Too many rooms. I told my dad that.”

 

“Especially if it’s just you and him.”

 

There was a question behind the statement and Even caught Isak’s eye yet again. He licked his lips and nodded, staring out the window again.

 

“Just me and him. My mother...uh...she…”

 

She left because she couldn’t handle me. She walked out and never came back.

 

Even fumbled with his words for another few seconds before he gave up. He didn’t know how to describe what had become of their family, how it had gone from stable to what now felt like torn to shreds.

 

“Don’t stress. Family stuff sucks.” Isak said, placing a hand on Even’s arm in a reassuring gesture.

 

“Yeah. Uh, thanks. I just…”

 

I’m awkward and you’re touching me too much and I can’t really breathe.

 

“I think you should have this room. It will get the most sun.” Isak said, interrupting Even’s stammering and instead checking out the closet on the right hand side of the room.

 

Even was grateful he didn’t have to talk about his mother anymore, that Isak had given him an out.

 

“Technically, my dad said I can have two rooms. One for sleeping and one for studying. Like an office.” Even said, quirking an eyebrow and relishing Isak’s look of shock.

 

“You’re lucky.” Isak chuckled. “I share a room with my older brother still and it really sucks. We only have two bedrooms in the house.”

 

“That really does suck.” Even agreed, shaking his head. “The benefits of being an only child.”

 

Isak snorted. “I fucking wish. So, where are you going to put stuff? Bed, dresser, desk? Show me.”

 

Even looked around the room, considering the space and thinking about how big his things were. He only had a single bed, small dresser and average size desk but he figured that would go in the second room.

 

“Bed under the window. Dresser over by the closet. Easy.”

 

Isak nodded his approval. “My bed is under my window too. I like feeling the breeze at night and in the morning before it gets hot. No air conditioning for me.”

 

Even was about to mention that summers -especially the current one - could be extremely warm and he was hoping they could get some window air conditioners when Isak suddenly laid down on the floor underneath the window, crossing his arms and smiling up at Even as sunlight poured in through the glass.

 

The sight was so random that Even couldn’t help but laugh. “What are you doing?”

 

“Lie down with me.” Isak said, indicating to the floor beside him. “Let’s picture you waking up tomorrow right here and see if it’s a good fit.”

 

Even hesitated for a second, once again feeling as if he were being set up, but when Isak still looked inviting and kind, he slowly joined Isak on the cool wood panels of the floor - looking up at the stark white ceiling.

 

Their elbows brushed and Even noted how soft Isak’s skin was.

 

“So, what’s the verdict?” Isak asked, turning his head and staring at Even.

 

As Even stared back, smiling softly at how the light hit Isak’s face and made his eyes look forest green, he said, “I think it’s perfect.”

 

The sound of the door slamming shut made both boys jump, the haze of their closeness coming to an abrupt halt. Even got to his feet and helped Isak up, both of them walking towards the stairs.

 

“Isak?” An unfamiliar voice called, just as Even took his first step down. He froze, turned and looked at the way Isak’s face fell.

 

“Yeah, Dad. I’m up here.” Isak said, indicating for Even to continue down. His voice was upbeat, nothing at all like the blank expression he was now sporting - all trace of happiness gone.

 

When they reached the main floor, a man came around the corner from the kitchen and flashed a smile at them. He was tall, extra broad-shouldered and wearing plain jeans and a dark jacket. Isak looked like him, especially in the way his upper lip curved, but this man had darker eyes.

 

“Hi there. I’m Terje, Isak’s father.” The man said, thrusting his hand out and nearly squeezing Even’s fingers off when they shook.

 

“I’m Even.”

 

“Good to meet you. Isak said he was stopping by to say hello but that was a solid hour ago. We have things to do, young man.” Terje said, his smile fading as soon as he met his son’s eyes.

 

Isak nodded, walking past Even and towards the front door. “Sorry, sir. Lost track of time.”

 

The tension between Isak and his father was like a dark cloud in the bright kitchen and Even suddenly didn’t want Isak to leave. He wanted to go back upstairs and lie down, keep the brightness in Isak’s eyes visible.

 

But then he remembered Isak was a stranger, and he definitely shouldn’t get involved.

 

“Your dad just bought the place, right?” Terje asked, killing time while Isak put his shoes back on.

 

“Yeah. He went to get dinner. Must have gotten held up.”

 

“No problem. I’ll leave you my card and this pamphlet. Hopefully we’ll see you both at church this Sunday. It’s a good place to get involved and meet people in our area.” Terje explained, pulling out two pieces of paper from the zipper inside his jacket and handing them to Even.

 

Trinity Lutheran Church - Celebrating Christ.

 

“Oh, uh...thank you.” Even said, feeling uncomfortable. He didn’t know what to say or what to comment on.

 

“Isak helps me out on Sundays and is very involved. You’d be more than welcome.”



Even frowned a little as he caught Isak’s eyes, not missing how Isak’s cheeks were tinged pink and how badly it looked like he wanted to run out the door.

 

“He helps you out?”

 

Terje nodded, placing his hand on Isak’s shoulder. “I’m the pastor of the church and I’m glad one of my boys has taken interest in pursuing the same career path.”

 

Oh.

 

Of course.

 

Isak squirmed a little but didn’t shake his father off. He reached behind him and opened the door though, smiling fakely at Even as he turned to leave.

 

“Nice meeting you, Even. See you later.”

 

“Have a goodnight.” Terje smiled, pulling the door closed behind them.

 

**

 

“I’d like to check it out.” Edwin said later, the sky finally fading to night and the moving truck long gone. They were sitting in the kitchen on the floor, surrounded by boxes and eating some cold slices of pizza.

 

“The church?” Even asked hesitantly.

 

“Yes. Despite everything Even, I’m still a believer. That won’t change.”

 

“I know.”

 

I didn’t expect you to change.

 

“I won’t ask you to come with me, but maybe this would be a good chance for you to have a friend. You said Isak was a nice boy. And in this area, going to church might be one of the only chances you’ll have to find some friends.”

 

Not the kind of friends who would like me though. Not if they knew the truth.

 

“I’ll let you know. Sunday is three days away.” Even mumbled, no longer hungry despite how many boxes and other items he’d dragged into the house and up the stairs over the past few hours.

 

Edwin nodded, not looking disappointed. Even knew his father wouldn’t force him, not after everything that had happened. But his father was a creature of habit and he’d been raised to go to church since he was a kid. It brought him comfort and Even didn’t judge him for wanting to find a new church community to be involved with.

 

“I’m heading to bed. We’ll unpack more tomorrow.” Edwin smiled, passing Even his toothbrush.

 

They’d laid out their sleeping bags in their separate rooms, not having the energy to put together their beds. Even was exhausted too, not caring if he might wake up with a stiff back.

 

He’d managed to get some service and decided to scroll through social media for a bit before turning in completely. He had been at it for no longer than five minutes before he began typing ‘Isak’ into every search engine he had.

 

Nothing.

 

Even tried not to be disappointed.

 

**

 

Isak was lighting the candles in the church when Even and Edwin arrived on Sunday. He was dressed in all black, smiling kindly to the people coming in. He looked like he belonged and it made Even’s insides stir with jealousy.

 

What was it like to belong somewhere - anywhere?

 

Terje was standing at the door, shaking hands with everyone as they entered. When Even and his father stood in front of him, his face lit up.

 

“Good morning. I’m so pleased to finally meet you. Sorry we haven’t been over again. We went away for the weekend.” Terje explained, shaking both their hands.

 

His grip wasn’t as tight as it had been three days ago.

 

“That’s all right. Thanks for inviting us here today. It’s a beautiful church.” Edwin praised, smiling over at Even brightly.

 

“Thank you so much. We’ll speak again after?”

 

“Yes, I’d like that.” Edwin nodded, and as they walked in to find a place to sit Even was glad he hadn’t had to do any talking.

 

Even had decided to come because the idea of having a friend was something that had kept him going as they’d set up their house the past three days. He hadn’t felt close to someone in a long time and Isak seemed like a nice person, someone he could get along with.

 

But of course, Isak had to actually want to be friends. He didn’t want Isak to feel forced to hang out with the new kid who didn’t know anybody.

 

He figured coming to church was the best way to find out how much Isak actually wanted to give, how much he’d actually meant by his offer to show Even around.

 

“I’m glad you came.” A voice suddenly said, startling Even out of his thoughts. He was sitting right next to the aisle between the pews and Isak was right in front of him, beaming at him.

 

“Hey,” Even said. “I’m glad too.”

 

“We’re about to start, so we could talk later?” Isak asked hopefully, shaking hands with Edwin briefly as he waited for Even’s answer.

 

“Yes. That would be nice.”

 

“Okay.” Isak said, looking pleased by Even’s answer as he headed to the front of the church to stand next to his father.

 

Terje raised his hands in greeting and the service began.

 

**

 

The church was small just like the town so it didn’t take long for everyone to file out. Some people lingered, talking with family and friends, and Edwin had found Terje pretty quickly - lots to say about some of the things mentioned during the hour they’d sat quietly.

 

Edwin always liked to discuss certain things pastor’s mentioned. He’d done it all Even’s life, often making notes in his own bible at home afterwards.

 

Isak had stood next to his father throughout most of it, keeping a neutral expression and handing Terje certain things he needed. He was kind of like an altar boy and probably would have been if they were in a Catholic church.

 

But about five minutes before the service ended, Isak had disappeared through a door off to the side and hadn’t emerged since. Even had figured he’d wait until Isak was done whatever duties he was obviously responsible for, but now that it was fifteen minutes after the service had ended he felt rather awkward.

 

He stood up and made his way over to his father and Terje, trying not to feel let down. Maybe something had come up and Isak had to leave. Maybe it had nothing to do with Even.

 

It didn’t mean Isak suddenly didn’t want to speak with him.

 

“Hey, Even. Did you enjoy yourself?” Terje asked, raising his eyebrows expectantly.

 

“Uh, yeah. It was...great.”

 

I tuned you out a lot, but don’t take it personally.

 

“Good to hear. Has Isak caught up with you? He said he wanted to.”

 

Even shook his head. “He hasn’t come back out.”

 

“He might be preparing some of the food for the Sunday schoolers. They’re still in class. If you go downstairs you’ll probably find him.” Terje said, pointing towards the door that Isak had gone through earlier.

 

Even nodded, thankful to get away. Something about talking to Terje set his teeth on edge. It didn’t make sense because he had been nothing but nice to Even, but as soon as he was walking down the stairs and was out of sight he immediately felt better.

 

The basement of the church was quiet at first but when Even walked further in, he heard the voice of a woman talking to students who were sitting in a circle on the floor. She smiled at him, cutting off her speech, and asked him if she could help.

 

“I’m looking for Isak.” Even said, feeling embarrassed as all the kids turned and looked at him. They were of different ages, ranging from probably seven to his own age.

 

“Back room. He’s doing some organizing with our other Sunday school teacher.” She said cheerfully.

 

Even nodded, walking towards the other side of the basement, blocked off by another door. He felt like he was walking through a labyrinth of doors, searching for someone that he hoped would be his friend.

 

He wondered if he should knock but he was eager to get away from the prying eyes of the kids who were probably sizing him up, wondering who this outsider was in their town. So he turned the doorknob and walked right in, hoping he wouldn’t be interrupting anything.

 

Oh how entirely wrong he was.

 

The room was dimly lit and Even’s eyes couldn’t adjust right away. He let the door close behind him, the heaviness of it propelling it forward without much help from him. There was a small window on the left side of the room, streaming in some of the day’s sunlight.

 

It was enough to illuminate the room as Even’s eyes adjusted and he was about to call for Isak when he heard someone breathing heavily on the opposite side of the room where there was a small kitchen. As he turned and saw two people standing very closely together, his mind didn’t register anything out of place at first. It was just a blur of shadows, the two people standing by and partly veiled behind the cupboards of the kitchen.

 

But then Even saw Isak, his mouth latched onto someone else’s - a man who was at least ten years older than him, wearing the same all black outfit that resembled a priest’s. And this man with dark brown hair, stubble across his neck and big hands that were settled on Isak’s soft, fragile jaw, looked like he was more than enjoying himself.

 

Neither of them noticed Even or had heard the door close because they were still all over each other as if they were alone. Even didn’t know what to do or if he should say something; if he should leave.

 

He began to turn back towards the door, knowing that was probably best. But his eyes were stuck on the way Isak’s mouth was moving together with the other man’s, how he was letting out small little moans as he pushed himself closer.

 

Even was fascinated by how badly Isak seemed to want it and he closed his eyes against the onslaught of arousal, the wave of memories that rushed into his head like a train going full speed into a wall.

 

“Your mom will kill me, Ev.” Mikael said, trying to push Even’s hips away from his own as they hid in the bathroom.

 

“She’ll be gone a bit longer. Keep kissing me.” Even begged, not embarrassed to show how desperate he was.

 

They only had ten minutes together. Ten minutes of unobserved, non-regimented time unlike the routine that Even’s mother had put in place after the first time she caught them. She didn’t even know Mikael was here right now but he’d snuck in, wanting to see Even just as badly.

 

She had gone to her friend’s house to drop something off and she would be back any moment now. Mikael had sprinted over from his house next door, grabbing Even and kissing him against the vanity of the main floor bathroom.

 

“I have to go. I’m sorry.” Mikael whispered, placing a last kiss on Even’s mouth before opening the door. He ran home as quickly as he’d come over, leaving Even shaking with unfulfillment.

 

He wanted to be free of this - the absolute shame his mother made him feel about being in love with his best friend.

 

He didn’t want to hide anymore.

 

“Even, what are you doing?” Isak whispered, shaking his forearms. He opened his eyes and sucked in a breath, both Isak and the other man looking at him with worried expressions.

 

“I...I’m sorry. I came to find you and I...I didn’t mean…”

 

“You better not say a word.” The man growled, pushing his finger in Even’s face. He was trying to be intimidating but Even could see the fear in his expression. He’d seen it enough times in the mirror to know all too well what it meant.

 

“I won’t. I’m sorry. I’ll go.” Even said quietly, turning to leave but the man beat him to it.

 

“Bye, Isak.” He said, pushing Even slightly so he could get out the door, not giving either of them a backwards glance.

 

Isak stood still, looking at the ground and biting his bottom lip.

 

Even swallowed thickly. “I really am sorry. I was waiting for you but I…”

 

“It’s not your fault. I’m sorry about him.” Isak interrupted, shaking his head and letting out a long breath. “It was stupid of us to do this here. Anyone could have found us.”

 

Even didn’t know what to do. He wanted to offer Isak some kind of comfort, tell him it was okay and that nobody would hear about it from him, but he was also afraid to say anything. He didn’t want to give himself away, overshare too much - relate too much.

 

Because then this whole moving-to-a-new-town-to-start-over-and-be-someone-else was going to amount to nothing, no new results.

 

No reunited with his mother.

 

“Can you keep it between us? For real? My father can’t know. He…” Isak cut himself off, that same dark cloud shadowing his face. “He won’t understand.”

 

Just like my mom didn’t.

 

“I won’t say anything.” Even shook his head, trying to look as if he really meant it because he did.

 

“Okay. I have to get back out there with all the food. Um...do you mind helping me with the trays?” Isak asked sheepishly, walking back to the kitchen and grabbing a giant plate of sandwiches.

 

“Sure.” Even said, lifting up the other tray and following Isak out.

 

They put the food down and the kids immediately lunged for it, the business of learning bible verses apparently one that worked up an appetite. Even was offered to join in but he refused, the man Isak had just been kissing watching him carefully as he instructed the kids on what they’re homework was for next week.

 

“I’ll see you later.” Even said, not entirely knowing if that was true. He waved awkwardly and began walking back up the stairs.

 

He was almost at the top when someone grasped his wrist. Even turned in a panic, thinking it was the nameless man, but he relaxed when he saw Isak smile up at him.

 

“I drive the school bus as a favour to the principal of our school since our farms are the farthest out in the region. It saves them trying to hire somebody who will have to drive an additional twenty minutes to pick up two teens. It’s probably not a hundred percent legal, but our town is so small and all the police know about it. You might have seen the bus on our property.” Isak said, his voice hushed.

 

Even’s eyes were wide with surprise but he nodded. He hadn’t expected a seventeen year old would be allowed to drive a full-size bus.

 

“That means I’ll be driving us to and from school every day, starting tomorrow. Do you mind meeting me at the end of your driveway earlier tomorrow, say around 7? We could...talk?”

 

There were a ton of things he could have meant by ‘talk’, but Even had a strong feeling it would have something to do with what he just saw. The thought made him nervous but he didn’t want to miss a chance - perhaps his only chance - at friendship.

 

“Yeah. 7 could work. I’ll be ready.”

 

Isak’s smile made all the uncertainty of agreeing vanish and Even found himself returning it once again.

 

“Okay. See you then, Even. Bye.”

Chapter Text

Even opened his eyes and cringed as he heard his alarm clock blaring. The sun was shining in his window despite the early hour and he buried himself under the blankets after pressing snooze.

 

He wanted to be back in the dream he’d been having a minute earlier. He had been somewhere walking in the streets of Oslo, hand in hand with Mikael, smiling and happy.

 

His mother hadn’t left. She was still talking to him. She still loved him, and everything had seemed to be back where it should be.

 

But now he had to get up and face how different everything was. He had to start at a new school with people who had probably known eachother since infancy. He had to try and somehow be okay with the fact that he wouldn’t have a place when he started his final year of high school - a time most students looked forward to at Bakka.

 

And he had to also make himself stop thinking about Isak with the man he’d been making out with yesterday; an incessant thought that had been nagging at his brain since he’d gotten home last night.

 

Even sat up with a groan, hating that he was awake at six-fucking-thirty, and began to get ready.

 

**

 

Isak jumped out of the bus as Even walked down his driveway, his bag slung over his shoulder and the taste of cereal fresh on his tongue. Isak was walking towards him with a smile on his face, waving behind Even and up at the house. Edwin had already been up when his son had run down the stairs, watching with raised eyebrows as Even explained he was meeting Isak.

 

He now stood at the front door, waving back at both of them and looking pleased as could be.

 

“Morning,” Isak said as they reached each other and stood only three feet apart.

 

“Hey.” Even said, hating how out of it he sounded. But to be fair he was still half asleep and he’d always despised mornings.

 

“Ready?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

They walked back to the bus and got in, Isak gesturing for Even to sit in the chair behind the driver’s seat. He sat down, placing his books next to him and watched as Isak started up the huge vehicle. It was almost comical to see him put his hands on the wheel and begin to drive down the empty highway.

 

They were quiet for the first few minutes, Even gazing out the window at the various fields and trees that they went past. His mind was drifting and he felt like he could fall asleep, the lull of the bus pressuring him into closing his eyes.

 

But then Isak abruptly turned down a dirt road without a street name, a solid brown line that was shielded by trees on either side. Even frowned as he rubbed his eyes, wanting to ask what he was doing, but he decided not to ask.

 

He had a feeling Isak would soon be doing a lot of explaining and didn’t need much prompting.

 

He turned the bus off and moved his body so his legs were in the aisle. The road looked like it had once led to a farm, but there were no houses in sight. The field around them seemed overgrown, like the whole stretch of land had been forgotten. It made for a nice area to hide in, somewhere a bus wouldn’t be seen from the main road. Even wondered if Isak came here often to escape.

 

Isak kept his eyes on the floor, avoiding Even’s, and his hands were shaking slightly as he entwined his fingers.

 

“I feel weird about what happened yesterday. That you saw us.” He said finally, biting down on his bottom lip.

 

“You don’t have to feel weird.”

 

Isak sighed loudly, shaking his head. “How can it not be weird?”

 

Even shrugged. “I dunno.”

 

“I don’t want to make a huge deal of it, but I just...nobody can know, okay? My friends don’t know about me and neither does my dad. And Jason’s... family can’t know. It would cause trouble.” Isak said quickly, and Even didn’t miss the way Isak had hesitated on the word ‘family.’

 

Did that mean Jason had a wife? Children?

 

Even hated the idea of Isak being someone’s dirty secret. He felt the same strong urge to protect Isak swell inside his chest, followed almost immediately by bafflement that he cared so much. He literally didn’t know Isak at all, and here he was wanting to somehow make everything better for the guy.

 

What the fuck, Even?

 

“I already said I wouldn’t say anything. I get that this could be a big deal if people knew. You have my word that nobody will hear it from me.” Even said, wishing Isak would look at him.

 

But the other boy just continued to stare at the ground, knee bouncing up and down like he was impatiently waiting for something; like Even often did when he was bored in class.

 

“I can...pay you? If you wanted. Or do some favours for you.” Isak continued and the words made Even flinch.

 

“What? No. I don’t…”

 

“I could get you extra food at lunchtime, or try and hook you up with one of my friends. I know some girls who would…”

 

Isak.” Even interrupted, standing up and sitting in the seat opposite him, reaching for his hands. When he gripped Isak’s slender fingers, the boy shuddered.

 

“I don’t want anything in return for this. It isn’t some kind of joke to me.” Even said, wishing more than anything that Isak would believe him. He didn’t know what kind of people Isak had grown up with, how badly someone might have reacted to his sexuality in the past to make him think everyone would let him down, but he desperately wanted Isak to know that he wouldn’t be the same.

 

“It just...can’t get around. My whole life would fucking collapse.” Isak whispered, his eyes wide and imploring as he finally looked up.

 

Even didn’t have words to describe how scared Isak appeared, how his whole body was shaking now and tears were in his eyes.

 

He looked exhausted and on the verge of sobbing.

 

“Isak, I won’t say anything. I promise you. I would never do something to intentionally hurt you, especially…” Even trailed off, wondering if this was a step too far but at the same time not really caring if it was. “Especially when I know what it’s like to be in your position.”

 

Isak looked doubtful. “You know what it’s like to be secretly gay in a place where literally nobody would accept you? When you’ve spent your whole life being told gay people are wrong and that you have to pursue a career in the church, the very same fucking place that damns people like you?”

 

Even shook his head, hearing that Isak was still panicking and upset. He didn’t take his somewhat spiteful tone personally.

 

“No. You’re right. I don’t know what that’s like. But I do know what it’s like to be in love with a boy - your best friend - and have to hide it because your mother thinks it’s sick and wrong and does everything in her power to separate you.” Even said softly and he felt Isak’s grasp tighten around his hands.

 

Isak let out a small sound in the back of his throat as he gaped at Even. “I... fuck. I’m sorry.”

 

Even shook his head, not wanting Isak to feel guilty. He just wanted to tell his own experience.

 

“And I know what it’s like to have a breakdown when the boy you love also has a family who doesn’t accept him, moves him thousands of miles away from you, all while your mother decides that having a bisexual son is the worst thing in the world so she also leaves. Then you’re left alone with your father who is the only person who loves you enough to stay and who buys a new house in the middle of nowhere so you can start over again.”

 

Isak stared at him, his tears spilling over, and before Even could say anything else he was being hugged tightly.

 

Even could feel how hard Isak’s heart was beating against his own as he reached his arms up to hug back, unable to help the way his own eyes filled with tears. Isak smelled like soap and fabric softener, something that reminded Even of home, and he buried his nose in Isak’s chest; wanting to chase it.

 

“I don’t say it for you to feel sorry for me, Isak. But I wanted you to know so that you understand how much I mean it.” Even said when Isak pulled away, sitting back in his own chair.

 

“Okay. I believe you. I didn’t mean to doubt you, but...until a few seconds ago I thought you were another straight guy who had no clue how hard this all is.” Isak said, cracking a smile and Even returned it.

 

“Definitely not straight. And not a douchebag either.” Even winked.

 

Isak grinned at him a second longer before he reached into his backpack and pulled out a rolled joint.

 

“Are you perhaps not a prude too?”

 

His smile was full of mischief and Even couldn't help but think how fucking adorable he was when he was in a playful mood.

 

“You're in luck. Definitely not a prude.”

 

“Cool. Let’s go outside though. If this bus smells like weed I’ll lose my damn head.”

 

**

 

Starting his first class high as a kite wasn't Even's best idea ever - he could admit that. But it also didn't particularly matter because he was too pleased with himself, too happy with how Isak had introduced him to all his friends when they’d gotten to school and how welcoming they’d all been.

 

Isak had told them that Even was a nice guy, someone he wanted to include in their get togethers and parties, all the things they did together. And he made a note of saying that Even was “chill”, which apparently everyone understood as “this dude gets high so he’s pretty great.”

 

“I’ve always wanted to visit Oslo.” Isak’s friend had said, shaking Even’s hand as he raised his bushy eyebrows. Jonas bumped shoulders with Isak, explaining how they’d known each other since kindergarten.

 

“That’s nice.” Even nodded.

 

Just like me and Mikael.

 

“But this place is where it’s at.” The tall blonde boy said, fist bumping Even brutally before wrapping his arms around him.

 

Even couldn’t help but huff out a laugh, startled but also pleased. Magnus pulled back and rolled his eyes at Jonas and Isak who were still huddled together closely, saying something about ‘get a room’ and ‘if one of you had a vagina you’d be married by now.’

 

Isak glanced briefly at Even after that comment, but didn’t seem phased by it. If anything, he winked at Even which made him stupidly happy. They already had something close to an inside joke and they hadn’t known each other a full week yet.

 

“Nice to meet you. Welcome to the smallest high school on the fucking planet.” Mahdi sighed, sounding bored but not rude. He shook Even’s hand loosely before pushing through Magnus, Jonas and Isak - nearly knocking the three of them over.

 

“It’s not that small!” Magnus hollered after him.

 

“I hang out with you because I have no choice. That’s how I know it’s small!” Mahdi called back and Even laughed as Magnus let out a girlish squeal, pretending to be shocked and horrified.

 

**

 

“I’ll meet you for lunch?” Isak asked, just as he dropped Even off at his first class. He hadn’t really needed to considering the school was comprised of four hallways in a literal rectangle.

 

But Even was grateful all the same.

 

“Yeah, sure. Let’s just hope I can find it.” He teased and Isak rolled his eyes at him.

 

“Cheeky shit. See you later.”

 

Even was beaming when he sat down and continued despite the looks he was getting. He was so wrapped up in thinking about how finding friends hadn’t even been close to as difficult as he’d imagined when the teacher began to say there was a new student in the school and would he please come up and introduce himself?

 

Even’s red-rimmed eyes snapped up and he gulped.

 

Oh fuck.

 

Chapter Text

2 weeks later

 

Even rubbed his eyes as he continued to stare at his computer screen, knowing it was far too late to be awake on a school night but he really didn’t have much choice. He couldn’t turn off his brain. He had tried to sleep for hours before, tossing and turning - sighing heavily multiple times before giving up.

 

He’d opened his laptop where it sat on his desk and put his slippers on to warm his cold feet. He was browsing Youtube, finding nothing interesting but mindlessly watching it anyway, when he heard his phone buzz beside him.

 

Isak (03:46)

 

Dude, why are you awake??

 

Even rolled his eyes, typing out a quick reply.

 

You’re awake too.

 

I woke up to pee and saw your light on :P

 

I can’t sleep

 

Insomnia kicking your ass?

 

You bet

 

Sucks. Want me to come over?

 

Even debated on his answer, wondering what might appear too eager. He waited a long few minutes before saying yes, sending a please at the end of it as well. Isak’s reply was nearly instant and he said to give him five minutes to dress before they met at their now-secret spot.

 

Even put on a hoodie and his spring jacket, the nights unusually cold lately, and walked down the old wooden stairs as quietly as possible. Edwin was a deep sleeper and would probably snore through a tornado, but Even didn’t want to risk it.

 

He didn’t want the onslaught of questions that he could already hear his father asking.

 

Why aren’t you sleeping? Has it happened a lot recently?

 

Who are you going to meet?

 

Isak? What’s so special about Isak?

 

Is this like Mikael all over again?

 

Do we need to get your meds adjusted?

 

Even let out a frustrated sigh as he closed the back door gently behind him, sprinting towards their fence at the end of the long backyard. He’d discovered on their second day at the farm that they had a huge, unused field behind the line of their property, covered with wildflowers.

 

He’d dug out a little spot for himself with a shovel a few metres in, the view quite beautiful as the sun was setting. The golden-pink rays fell across the flowers of all colours, making them seem almost otherworldly - the wind moving them softly from side to side as the sky faded. A stretch of willow trees added to the scenery, the wisps on the branches shielding the flowers from too much light in the daytime and making them last longer.

 

After he’d found himself unable to sleep the last few nights, he often came out here in the darkness and just listened to the bird’s wings flapping against the tree branches and crickets humming within the tall grass.

 

The first night he’d come out he thought he might be scared - that his mind would conjure up some kind of animal creeping towards him or all the horror movies he’d watched throughout the last year would make him believe a ghost would appear to him and try to hurt him. There was no noise of the city to calm his wild imagination after all - nothing that told him people were nearby like cars or voices on streets; nothing to ground him.

 

But sitting there had turned out to be nothing but peaceful. And when Isak was with him, which he had been a few times now, it made it even better.

 

“Hey,” Isak said, holding up his flashlight. Even was already sitting on one of the chairs he’d brought out and he turned to look at the other boy.

 

His hair was ruffled from sleep, his eyes more squinty than usual. Even couldn’t help but feel jealous at Isak’s obvious ability to sleep unbothered but he returned the smile, grateful that Isak was forfeiting more sleep to come and be here.

 

“Hi.”

 

“I have a blanket. And some snacks.” Isak said, sitting in the other chair; his knee brushing Even’s as he did.

 

Isak placed his snacks down before throwing the blanket across both their laps, moving his chair even closer so they could share more easily. He handed Even an apple the next moment and winked at him.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“All good. I’m always fucking hungry when I wake up.”

 

“I know.” Even smiled quickly, biting into his apple.

 

Even knew a lot of things about Isak now, a lot of his quirks and mannerisms, likes and dislikes. It was kind of inevitable considering they’d spent so much time together lately.

 

Isak hadn’t been kidding when he said Even was now part of his friend group. Even was with the guys all the time during lunch at school and for a good part of the early evening afterwards. They sometimes walked to the McDonalds (which Even had been surprised existed considering how small the town was), eating fries and ice cream. Or they would go to Magnus’s house which was near the school, doing their homework and then just goof around watching movies and playing video games.

 

Isak always met up with them when he’d finished driving students home on the school bus - his job every day. There was only a handful of them and it didn’t take long. He dropped the bus off at his house and then biked back into town.

 

Even discovered Isak had horrible taste in movies and made it his mission to show him some actually decent ones. Magnus, Mahdi and Jonas weren’t much better so the following day Even had brought some Baz Luhrmann films with him to Magnus’s house.

 

“Trust me,” He’d said, sitting back as Moulin Rouge began to start.

 

Halfway through, Magnus and Jonas had fallen asleep. Mahdi wasn’t really watching but browsing Instagram on his phone instead. Even was a little disappointed but then he saw Isak.

 

The boy was enraptured.

 

His eyes were glued to the screen as he sat next to Even on the loveseat - his arm a wall of warmth against Even’s side. His chest was rising and falling quickly, apparently caught up in the storyline.

 

When it was over, Even didn’t miss the tears that fell down Isak’s cheeks. Mahdi was asleep now too as the credits rolled and Even nearly jumped when Isak wrapped his arms around Even’s shoulders; pulling him into a hug.

 

“Isak? Are you okay?” He whispered, unable to help the way he rubbed his hands up and down his friend’s back.

 

He smelled really, really good too which was distracting as fuck up close.

 

“Yeah. Sorry.”

 

“It’s all right.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Isak had fallen asleep with his head on Even’s shoulder, his arm draped across Even’s chest. After about forty-five minutes of this, Magnus’s mom got home and came down into the basement. She rolled her eyes at her son before winking at Even, then shouting everyone needed to leave to wake all the boys up. Isak had groaned as he woke up, announcing that he was hungry as fuck.

 

Isak and Even would bike home together, switching who pedaled and who hung on to the other. They usually didn’t talk, just enjoyed the ride. But as they’d gone home that day, after the film, Isak wrapped his arms around Even’s middle tighter than usual and said, “I’m glad you moved here, Even.”

 

“Me too.” He’d said, his breathing a little shakier.

 

If they didn’t hang out with the boys after school, Even would get on the bus and wait until Isak had dropped everyone else off before sitting up close to him so they could talk, passing the time as they got closer to their own houses. Isak would park the bus and they’d continue talking, everyone in their families still at work so there was no rush to part ways.

 

It was during one of those times - earlier that week - that Even admitted he wasn’t sleeping well.

 

“I see your light on a lot when I get up to get a drink or go to the bathroom in the night. I was going to ask but thought it might be weird.” Isak admitted.

 

Even couldn’t help but chuckle. “Why do you think everything is weird ?”

 

“I don’t.”

 

“Seems like it.”

 

Isak rolled his eyes. “Well, it is kind of weird to say to a guy you’ve only known a week, ‘hey I see your light on a lot and I was worried about you so are you sleeping okay? Is there anything I can do to help?’”

 

Isak blushed and Even’s heart did a funny thing in his chest but he ignored it.

 

“I wouldn’t have thought that’s weird. And also, thanks. For, you know...caring.”

 

“It’s hard not to care about you.” Isak said, blurting the words out almost like he hadn’t meant to say them. He caught Even’s eye before looking at the floor, bouncing his knee like he did when he was nervous.

 

Even had picked up on that one pretty easily. But why was Isak nervous now?

 

“You look like that bothers you? To care about me?”

 

“No, it’s just that…” Isak tried, motioning between them and turning another shade of red. “I don’t know. I hardly know you, but I...really like being with you. I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”

 

Even nodded in understanding. “I feel the same.”

 

And it was true. After that first day in the bus, when they’d both shared their confessions, Even had felt this pull towards Isak unlike anything he’d experienced before. He wanted to know all about him, spend all his time with him, and when that had begun to happen he had been so fucking happy. It felt like some kind of miracle, if he believed in such things.

 

He wanted to share stuff with Isak - the things he liked and found funny, his ideas about his future, his regrets from his past at Bakka and everything in between. They started texting all the time, sending stupid memes and gifs but also having serious and meaningful conversations all through the evening and into the night.

 

Even blinked as he realized he’d only known Isak a little over a week at that point. How was that possible?

 

Isak had offered to sneak out and meet Even - if that would help at all - in the field once he knew that’s what Even did. Even hadn’t wanted to interrupt Isak’s sleep but he’d said it wasn’t a problem. So, Even had taken him up on the offer over the week - trying to avoid doing it again today because it wasn’t fair if Isak was sleep deprived too.

 

But usually Isak fell asleep against Even anyway, like they had during the movie that one night, and the soft sounds of Isak’s slumber made Even nod off too. They’d woken the previous morning with Isak’s head on Even’s chest, smiling as the sun began to rise.

 

“Earth to Even?” Isak called, waving a hand in front of his face.

 

Even blinked, still chewing on his bite of apple and glanced at his friend in the other chair. Isak shook his head, smiling, and brought the blanket up around them further.

 

“Sorry. My mind is wandering. I’m so sleep deprived.”

 

“You do look like shit.”

 

“Fuck you.” Even laughed, smacking Isak playfully.

 

Another thing Even had learned over the past two weeks was Isak didn’t  pressure him into telling him anything. He hadn’t asked more questions about Mikael or Even’s mother, if Even had suffered from insomnia before. He didn’t pry, which was comforting to Even because he never felt like he had to explain himself. He tried to do the same, despite all the questions he wanted to ask about Jason and how that had all started. He mostly wanted to know if Isak was all right, if he was safe.

 

He didn’t feel like this topic was off limits, but it just never came up in conversation. Not really. A few times Even had wanted to ask if Isak felt close to Jason, if he loved him, but he found that he didn’t really want to know the answer anyway.

 

“It’s cold out here.” Isak commented, rubbing his arms and shivering.

 

“You can go home if you want. I don’t mind.”

 

“I just got here.”

 

“I know. But, you shouldn’t have to be cold and not sleep because of me.”

 

Isak sighed and put his head back, gazing up at the stars and bright moon. “We’ve been over this. I’m just going to worry if I go home and leave you here.”

 

Even looked up at the sky as well, awed by how bright the moon was - how it illuminated Isak’s face in an inky blue.

 

“Okay. Then let’s stay out here.”

 

“Or we could go inside your house and both sleep in your bed.” Isak stated, the words startling Even so much that he flinched.

 

What?”

 

Isak looked at him and smirked. “You actually sleep when I’m with you, so if that’s what it takes we might as well do this in your bed.”

 

Even waited, expecting Isak to laugh and say he was just kidding, but instead Isak stood up and gathered his blanket - holding out his hand for Even to join him.

 

“Come on. I want to get some more sleep before my test tomorrow.”

 

**

 

“Can I sleep in just my boxers?” Isak whispered.

 

Even nodded, walking softly across his floor and stood on the one side of his bed while Isak sat on the other. He was taking his socks off and was about to strip further but Even turned around so he couldn’t see.

 

Instead, he got into bed still in his hoodie and sweatpants and turned off the light.

 

“Come here.” Isak suddenly whispered, pulling Even down onto the mattress. He was already lying on his back, arms outstretched and Even allowed himself to be pulled against Isak’s warm chest.

 

Just like outside, Isak pulled the blankets up to cover them and began running his hands through Even’s hair.

 

“Stop over-thinking. Go to sleep.”

 

“I…”

 

“Shh. I’ll be here. I have an alarm set so I can get home before my dad wakes up and kills me, but for now...I’m here.”

 

Guilt started to rush through Even at the thought of everything Isak was risking, but then Isak placed a small kiss on the top of his head and he lost all focus.

 

“Goodnight, Even.”

 

To his surprise, Even was asleep before he could reply.

Chapter Text

November

 

Even had never been a morning person. What teenager was, right? But Even physically loathed getting out of bed ever since he was a child. He would find any excuse imaginable not to get up, to just have two minutes more under the haven that was his blanket.

 

And as the days turned cooler in the small town that was now his home, the sun in the sky for less time, Even still hated mornings. He didn’t like opening his eyes knowing he’d have to get out of bed.

 

But it was for an entirely different reason now.

 

This reason being a completely adorable and stealth-snuggler named Isak.

 

“Morning,” The boy whispered, rubbing his sleepy face against Even’s chest as his alarm vibrated on the bedside table.

 

“Too early.” Even grumbled, relishing the way Isak clung to him a moment longer before sighing and sitting up.

 

You can still sleep. I’m the one who has to sneak back into my house and freeze my fucking ass off while crossing the highway.”

 

“Sucks to suck.” Even shrugged, rolling over in his now too-empty bed.

 

“I get no appreciation.” Isak clicked his tongue as he teased, pulling his jeans on and his baggy sweater than Even noted was his favourite. It was a ratty, red thing that said something undecipherable now that it had been washed a million times.

 

“I…” Even began, automatically feeling guilty. But Isak jumped on him before he could finish his sentence and put a hand over his mouth.

 

“You know I’m kidding, Ev. I don’t mind. I can’t sleep on my own now anyways.” Isak whispered, smiling brightly.

 

Even’s insides turned to mush almost instantly at the feel of Isak’s body against him. He unconsciously pushed closer, seeing how Isak sucked in a small breath as his eyes lingered on Even’s lips now that his hand was gone.

 

“I gotta go. See you in about an hour.”

 

And then Isak was up and walking down the stairs like he was a practiced burglar, not making a single sound.

 

Even could hear the faint sounds of his father’s snoring as he sat up in bed, wound too tightly to go back to sleep. He often made it out like he got more sleep when Isak left but that wasn’t the truth. As soon as Isak was gone, Even got up and started getting ready for when they would meet on the bus and head off to school.

 

**

 

When Even came downstairs half an hour later, starved and looking forward to his bowl of cereal, he was startled by voices in the kitchen. He hesitated next to the staircase, straining to hear but then rolled his eyes at himself.

 

“Good morning, Even.” Noah greeted him, smiling as he poured himself some coffee.

 

“Ugh, hey.” Even waved awkwardly, glancing over at the other man sitting at his kitchen table who he didn’t recognize.

 

“This is Ollie. He’s helping me out. Your dad met him yesterday.”

 

“Nice to meet you.” Ollie said, looking as awake as Even felt which was hardly at all.

 

The two men were both in their mid-twenties, muscular and tall. Noah had light brown hair that was curly and looked soft, his clothes a bit dirty and his boots torn. Ollie was a redhead who was wearing a long, brown jacket and his hands were covered in a sea of freckles that all seemed to link together. They looked like they’d grown up on farms, hauling hay and working fields. Which was exactly why Edwin was working with them.

 

They were renting the land on Edwin’s property - growing wheat and potatoes.

 

“I don’t know a thing about farming, Even.” Edwin had said, exasperated, around the end of September.

 

“Why did we move to a farm then?” Even laughed, unable to help it.

 

“Because this property was quite cheap. I liked the house. I liked the town and the idea of being so far from Oslo. But...we are wasting the land.”

 

From what Even could tell, his father hadn’t put much thought into how they would use the land, how to properly make sure the crop grew and was sold. That had been secondary to Even starting at a new school. But as the first month went by, his father was faced with the reality that they had all this land and no real knowledge or means to work it.

 

Isak’s father had mentioned renting out the land. That way, someone was making profit from it and Edwin could focus on the job he still had - being an architect who sent ideas back to the main office in Oslo.

 

Noah knew Terje and Isak’s father had introduced him to Edwin at the beginning of October, quickly working out an agreement for the land. Edwin had seemed satisfied with it and allowed Noah to let himself into the house in order to make some meals for the day and use their coffee machine since his days often started at four in the morning. Noah was normally out on the field when Even woke up - and when Isak snuck back to his house - so he’d been surprised to see him this morning.

 

“Who was the boy I saw this morning?” Noah asked, making Even drop the bag of cereal he was holding.

 

“What?”

 

Noah picked up the bag and handed it to Even, frowning in confusion. “There was a boy, about your age, running out the front door when I arrived this morning. I asked who he is.”

 

Fuck.

 

“You can’t tell my dad you saw him.” Even said, lowering his voice and glancing between the two men. “ Please.”

 

Noah raised his eyebrows but didn’t seem too bothered or suspicious. He just shrugged his shoulders and nodded, walking back to the table to sit with Ollie. His calmness made Even feel embarrassed and his appetite quickly disappeared.

 

He grabbed his backpack off the floor and walked out the front door without another word, heading towards Isak’s house. He didn’t care that he was too early and he knew Isak wouldn’t care either. It just meant they could spend some time in the bus together before picking up the other students.

 

As Even approached the house, he realized he hadn’t really been here before. During the middle of September, Terje had offered to have Even and his father over for dinner but cancelled last minute. Isak had mentioned something about his mother being unwell and Even hadn’t thought about it since. But there hadn’t been another invitation.

 

Isak had never offered to bring Even over to meet his mother or older brother, either. They spent so much time together at Magnus’s house with the boys or during the night at Even’s that it never seemed necessary.

 

Even stood on the porch, unable to see through the windows because the blinds were still drawn shut. He could hear people talking inside. Isak was probably having breakfast.

 

He reached up to knock when the door was suddenly pulled open and a woman looked at him through the screen door, her hair wild and her face contorted into an expression of fear.

 

“Who are you? What do you want?” The woman demanded, lowering her voice so nobody else except Even could hear her.

 

She looked Even up and down as if he had come to murder Isak’s entire family and also steal all their valuables. A horrible sense of unease passed through Even’s stomach and he took a step back.

 

“Um, I was here to find somebody but I’ll just...go.” Even said, not entirely sure what he was saying. He just wanted to go back to his house and wait for Isak.

 

“Don’t you come near us ever again! I know what you are!” The woman shouted, practically shrieking this time.

 

Even froze as Isak appeared behind the woman and touched her shoulder, trying to get her back further into the house. As he attempted this, he glanced towards Even and his face fell.

 

“Mom, it’s okay. Come on. That’s just my friend.”

 

“No. Isak, don’t you go near it!”

 

Knowing he was making things worse, Even turned and ran back towards his house. He didn’t stop until he was on his front porch, lungs burning and legs shaking. He sat down on the top step and grabbed his phone from his pocket, bringing up his last conversation with Isak.


I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cause trouble.

 

Not your fault. I’m coming now if that’s okay.

 

Even looked up and saw the lights of the bus turn on, the vehicle backing up off of Isak’s property and onto the highway. Even met Isak at the end of his driveway, climbing the stairs of the bus and trying to meet Isak’s eyes.

 

But he wouldn’t look at Even. He didn’t say a word as they made their way down the road and Even decided to stay quiet as well. He had too many things he wanted to say swirling in his head that he didn’t trust himself to pick just one.

 

Isak turned down the road that led to nowhere, a spot that was a favourite of theirs. They smoked up together practically every week, always talking about something that was way too deep to unpack in the half hour they often spent there. Last week Isak had gone on and on about alternate universes, how many things were theoretically possible with a notion like this.

 

But after what happened this morning, Even felt that same uneasiness he had on Isak’s front porch surround them, veiling everything in a hazy grey that he didn’t want. This time together was supposed to be happy and carefree. Even didn’t want to get high when he or Isak weren’t feeling okay.

 

Isak turned off the engine and looked up into the mirror above his seat, finding Even’s eyes. His gaze immediately held Even, made him stay in place. All his muscles tensed and his breath came shorter, his hands balled into fists.

 

“Isak,” Even whispered, but before he could say anything else Isak was up out of the seat and walking towards him.

 

The other boy seemed so unsure of himself as he stood in front of Even, his hands ringing together. Even didn’t move an inch, wanting Isak to be the one to speak or do something first. He didn’t know what Isak needed, but he knew he had to wait.

 

“Touch me.” Isak said, the words barely audible.

 

Even reached out, automatically thinking Isak wanted to hug or something similar, but the next thing he knew Isak was straddling his waist and bringing Even’s hands up to either side of his face.

 

Please? I need you to touch me.” Isak said, sitting his weight down properly on Even’s lap and putting his arms around the back of Even’s shoulders.

 

“Okay.” Even said, every part of him on fire as he stroked the soft sides of Isak’s face.

 

He watched as Isak leaned in closer, clearly wanting to kiss, and Even didn’t stop him. He brought Isak closer by the hold he had on him until their mouths were touching - slotting together as they both let out small, soft sounds.

 

Even was lost in it immediately, hard in his jeans before ten seconds had passed, and he couldn’t believe he finally had Isak like this. He tried to move closer despite the small seat, despite the fact that they were already as close as they could get.

 

Isak pulled at the top of his shirt, trying to find skin and Even let him yank on the fabric until it ripped; his mouth there a second later - sucking a dark bruise above his collarbone. Even threw his head back and groaned, digging his fingers into Isak’s thick hair.

 

Touch me.” Isak moaned, thrusting his hips down against him.

 

“I am.” Even insisted, squeezing his hands where they were touching Isak’s body.

 

Isak looked at him, eyes glazed over. He licked his lips before moving his hand down, trying to undo his own jeans. Even looked down too, realization dawning on him as he saw how hard Isak was; how he strained against the zipper.

 

“Fuck. Okay, okay.”

 

Both his hands were suddenly below Isak’s waist, pulling his cock out of his pants and stroking the hot flesh a second later. Isak cried out, bringing his mouth back to Even’s and breathing against his lips; too riled up to properly kiss anymore.

 

Isak was fucking beautiful. Even couldn’t stop thinking that. Every single part of him was - even the ones still covered in clothes. There wasn’t any point trying to deny it anymore. All those nights they spent together, Isak gradually snuggling up against him; the feel of his body close to Even’s.

 

Even had been wanting this for a long time.

 

“Even, I...I’m close.” Isak gasped, putting his face into his shoulder. “Slow down.”

 

“Sorry.”

 

“It’s okay. I just wanna...touch you too.”

 

And then Isak’s hands were moving to undo Even’s zipper, pulling him out gently the same way Even had to him. The relief was excruciatingly good and Even couldn’t help the sound he made, kissing the side of Isak’s face involuntarily.

 

“Like this,” Isak whispered, lining them up and gripping both of them together. Even shuddered at the feel, knowing he wasn’t going to last.

 

Isak sped up the movements of his hand, catching Even’s eye again. His eyebrows were drawn together in pleasure and he leaned in to kiss Even’s bottom lip, this time slowly.

 

Even didn’t have time to warn Isak. His back arched and his mouth fell open as pleasure rocked through his body. Isak grabbed his shoulder with his other hand for purchase, following Even seconds later; crying out and mumbling something unintelligible under his breath.

 

Isak kissed him again, uncaring of the mess they’d made or that they should have left already to start getting the other students. He just put his mouth on Even’s and kissed him like he would die if they stopped.

 

**

 

They didn’t have time to talk about it.

 

Isak was late picking everyone up and they got a stern talking to from the principal when they finally reached the school. Even blushed as Isak took all the blame, unable to come to Isak’s defense without admitting the real reason they had been late.

 

They had rushed off to their separate classes after that, the morning a blur for Even. He tried to think of what he wanted to say to Isak when he finally got him alone. He tried to imagine what Isak was going to say to him too.

 

Had Isak had feelings for him all along?

 

Did this mean they were together now?

 

Did Even want to be together with Isak? Could he emotionally handle being in another relationship that he had to hide?

 

By the time lunch came, Even had worked himself up so much that he didn’t want to eat. He’d already skipped breakfast but he couldn’t manage to eat anything he’d brought with him. He sat at the table with Magnus, waiting for the others to join them.

 

“You okay, bro?” Magnus asked, chomping down on a slice of pizza.

 

Even cleared his throat, trying to smile and look like he wasn’t having some kind of break down. “Yeah. Yep. I’m fine.”

 

Magnus gave him a doubtful look but didn’t press it further. Even was waiting only a few more minutes before Isak finally appeared, coming over to them with Jonas and Mahdi.

 

He sat down with a plateful of food and looked completely normal. He was talking to Jonas about something that happened during the class they had together, laughing and carefree.

 

Even was sweating beneath his clothes, wishing he could somehow talk to Isak about everything. He had never been great at hiding his emotions, suppressing his feelings.

 

“Even? You’re not eating.” Isak said, snapping him out of his daze.

 

When he looked at Isak, he nearly flinched. His eyes were calm, how they were every day, and the intensity they’d shared earlier had completely vanished.

 

It was like Even was looking at someone he didn’t know.

 

“Y-yeah. I’m not...hungry.”

 

“Weirdo. I’m always hungry.” Magnus teased, grabbing half the sandwich that Even had brought and shoved most of it into his mouth.

 

Everyone laughed, including Isak, and Even thought he might be sick.

 

**

 

“Can we talk?” Even whispered, walking next to Isak as the bell rang - signalling the end of lunch.

 

“Not about that.” Isak said, shaking his head. “I can’t.”

 

Even looked at him, trying to figure out what was happening. He felt so fucking lost. He couldn’t be casual about this. He needed to understand.

 

“Later then? Tonight?”

 

Isak pulled on Even’s hand, tugging him between a doorway and a row of lockers. People walked past them, chatting, creating enough noise that nobody could hear just them.

 

“I’m sorry, Even. Okay?”

 

“Don’t be sorry. Just tell me what’s happening.”

 

Nothing. I’d like nothing to happen, including talking.” Isak sighed, looking at Even remorsefully.

 

Even stared at him for a long few seconds, many other questions on his tongue; wanting to scream at Isak that he wasn’t giving Even enough. He wanted to say that Isak needed to do more.

 

But he realized that this was all Isak could give him. He couldn’t talk about it because he didn’t know what he wanted.

 

Isak was just as lost as Even, and Even demanding anything of him would just make it harder.

 

“Okay. That’s all right, Isak.”

 

Isak looked at him as if he had heard incorrectly, his body tense and flighty. But Even continued to look at him, trying to show him that he didn’t have any kind of expectations, and Isak seemed to slowly relax.

 

“I’ll see you after school?”

 

Isak shook his head, clearing his throat. “Someone else is driving the bus home today. I have to...be somewhere. An appointment.”

 

Even looked at him, absolutely dumbfounded. Isak always drove the bus to and from school. He’d never missed a day. Even hadn’t even considered someone else could drive the bus.

 

“Oh. Um, okay. Hope it goes well.” Even said, forcing himself to turn on his heel and head to his next class. It took all his willpower not to ask more questions, such as what kind of appointment and is it for you or your mother?

 

And most of all, are you fucking okay?

 

**

 

Even waited up.

 

He checked his phone continuously. He looked out his window for any sign that someone else was awake at this ungodly hour.

 

But the house across the highway was completely dark. It was blended into the darkness like it didn’t even exist.

 

And Isak didn’t come to him that night.

Chapter Text

“Morning.”

 

Isak was smiling at him the next morning, hands clutching the wheel of the bus. Even barely glanced at him as he walked up the stairs and sat in his normal seat, placing his bag next to him. God, he was tired.

 

“Even?”

 

Isak looked at him through the mirror above the driver’s seat, eyebrows raised expectantly. Even knew he was looking to see if they were okay, if Even meant what he’d said about Isak not having to talk about yesterday.

 

And he wanted to give it to him, despite how fucking confused he was. He wanted to just go on as they were - friends. Hanging out after school and smoking up before it on this very bus. But as he looked away, wishing Isak would just start driving, he found that something held him back. Something made it impossible in this moment for him to be in the same place as Isak.

 

“I’m ready to get going.” He said neutrally, clearing his throat.

 

The bus didn’t move for several long seconds. Even could feel Isak staring at him, probably on the verge of begging for Even to act normally, but he couldn’t give in. He wasn’t in the mood for all this bullshit.

 

The lack of explanations. Isak completely ditching him last night. The other boy’s incapability to talk about fucking anything.

 

Right now, it was too much.

 

Isak began driving a moment later and they exchanged no words during the ride to school.

 

**

 

“How’s it going?” Jonas asked at lunch, leaning in close while the other boys talked about something. Even glanced at him, confused.

 

“Uh, fine? Just eating my lunch.”

 

Well, picking at his sandwich which wasn’t appealing at all was more like it, but what did it really matter?

 

“You seem out of it. Tired.”

 

Even nodded, suddenly wishing Jonas wasn’t so observant. “Didn’t sleep much.”

 

“Funny.” The brunette said, shaking his head. He pulled away a few inches and chugged a drink of his soda, not elaborating on what he meant.

 

“Why’s that funny?” Even frowned.

 

“Isak said the same thing this morning.” Jonas stated, glancing at Isak who was sitting at a different table working on a project with his science partner. He’d told them it was on her request and the thing was due tomorrow so he wouldn’t be able to sit with them today.

 

Even had thought it was a bullshit excuse to further avoid him but as the lunch hour had progressed, the two were working quite intensely.

 

“Must have been something in the air. No sleep for the wicked.” Even tried to joke, hoping Jonas would take the bait and back off.

 

“Must have.” Jonas nodded, not looking at all convinced but he didn’t say anything more.

 

Even looked over at Isak, trying to be subtle, but as he did Isak looked up at him too and their eyes locked. Even sucked in a breath, wishing this could be easier. Having a simple conversation would surely help something. If he could have some kind of sense of what Isak was thinking, what he wanted - what he needed - perhaps both of them could have slept last night.

 

Perhaps this look could have been a happy one rather than being filled with a heavy tension, an invisible grip reaching into both their chests and squeezing too tight.

 

Isak looked away first, his cheeks a deeper shade of red than before, and Even pushed his food to the side.

 

**

 

Even was walking down the hall towards the bathroom, his last class of the day nearly over, when someone tugged on his shirt and yanked him into a utility closet. He stumbled, trying to stay upright, and he also tried to see who the fuck was closing the door; jamming them both into the too tight space.

 

But of course, it was now pitch black.

 

“What the hell?” Even said, apparently too loudly because the person put a hand over his mouth

 

“Shh. It’s me.”

 

Jesus fucking Christ.

 

Even rolled his eyes, reaching up to pull Isak’s hand away. “Okay, this is stupid. Why are you doing this?”

 

He heard Isak sigh and he wished he could see his face. He reached around the wall, aiming to find a lightswitch.

 

“The light broke. Doesn’t work.”

 

“Convenient.”

 

“I just wanted to talk to you.” Isak sighed, his breath blowing in Even’s face due to how close they had to stand.

 

“You couldn’t wait until school was done? We literally drive home together.” Even stated, intentionally trying to sound like he was talking to a toddler because at this point that’s what it felt like.

 

“Even, fucking hell. Please?”

 

Isak said the words as his voice broke, suddenly grabbing onto Even’s waist and half pulling him towards his own front, hesitating before fully bringing their bodies together. He was breathing heavily and Even raised his hands, unsure of what to do with them.

 

“Please, what? I don’t know what you want, Isak. I have no fucking clue what to do.”

 

Even desperately wished in this moment that he could see Isak. He wanted to be able to calculate his facial expressions, have some sense of what he actually felt considering he probably wouldn’t say it out loud.

 

Isak slowly moved his hands up Even’s ribcage, continuing around to briefly touch the top of his biceps before landing on either side of his neck. He rested there, not saying anything, for several long seconds before leaning in and placing a single kiss on Even’s mouth.

 

“I want you. That’s all.”

 

Even hated that he was already getting turned on, that every part of him wanted to slam Isak against the other wall and have his way with him. He hated it because this wasn’t helping clear anything up. It was just making it worse.

 

“You want me but as what, Isak? A friend who you sometimes fuck? A sleepover buddy who you also sometimes fuck?”

 

“Does it matter?”

 

“I want to know. I need to know. Just give me something. Anything.”

 

Isak ran a finger gently across Even’s bottom lip, his hips now unconsciously grinding into his groin, and Even couldn’t help the moan that slipped out. Isak kissed him again, this time more forcefully, pulling away less than a minute later - panting and now obviously hard.

 

“I like you, okay? You’re my friend. I don’t sleep without you anymore. I didn’t come over last night because I had something to deal with but I can’t talk about it. I’ll try not to miss a night again because I missed you so fucking much. And now I really, really want to get on my knees and make you come before our classes are done.”

 

Isak kissed down Even’s chest as he reached to undo his jeans, sliding down onto the floor just as he said he would and pulling Even out - breathing hotly against his cock before swallowing him down. Even threw his head back against the wall and bit down on his fist to keep from shouting out. His hands found their way into Isak’s hair, needing to feel him.

 

It was kind of embarrassing how quickly his orgasm was building, how his body just wanted to empty itself into Isak’s mouth. But he couldn’t really be held accountable for it considering how amazingly Isak was blowing him.

 

“Close,” He moaned, trying not to thrust his hips too much and choke the other boy.

 

Isak didn’t make a move to pull away. If anything, he bobbed his head faster and sucked harder, pulling Even into the soft press of his throat. That was game over entirely and Even tried his best to stay quiet as he came, feeling his toes curling inside his shoes.

 

His body still tingling with afterglow, Even pulled Isak up by his arms and quickly changed their positions, getting on his own knees and reaching to undo Isak’s jeans.

 

“Wait, I…” Isak began, putting his hands on top of Even’s.

 

“What? Are you okay?”

 

Once again, Even cursed the fact that he could see nothing in the stupid goddamn closet.

 

“I kind of...already…” Isak mumbled, sounding so unsure that it was breaking Even’s heart a little.

 

“You already...came?”

 

“Ugh, this is fucking embarrassing.”

 

“Shut up.” Even practically growled, continuing to undo Isak’s jeans and reach down into his underwear - finding him sticky and wet.

 

Isak made a soft sound, hands still around Even’s wrists, but he didn’t try to stop him. He let Even feel him, bring his mouth to the cooling liquid and begin licking it off his hot skin - hissing through his teeth as he did.

 

“You’re so...fucked up.” Isak moaned, and if Even hadn’t already come, the way Isak pushed his face into his groin would have surely done it.

 

Satisfied Isak wouldn’t have a huge stain on the front of his jeans, Even stood up a minute or two later and kissed Isak quickly, smirking as Isak went to deepen the kiss as he pulled away.

 

I’m fucked up? Have you met yourself?”

 

“You just spent like five minutes licking me clean!”

 

“You came in your pants from blowing me.”

 

Isak punched his arm playfully, laughing a second later as they both zipped themselves back up. Even had a feeling they’d both be in trouble for being gone so long from class but he couldn’t bring himself to care. It was fucking worth it.

 

“How did you know I was here by the way? You stalking me?” Even quipped, kissing down Isak’s neck as the other boy leaned his head back.

 

“I saw you walk past my class. I came after you.”

 

“And who’s the one that’s fucked up again?”

 

“Shut up. Fuck, don’t leave a mark, Ev.” Isak whispered, contradicting himself by leaning into the pressure of Even’s mouth latching onto his collarbone rather than away from it.

 

“Don’t worry.” He pulled away, lingering for another few seconds before giving them both space.

 

“I’ll see you soon, I guess?” Isak asked, as if he didn’t know the answer. As if Even wasn’t already missing him.

 

“Well, yeah. You’re my ride.”

 

Isak chuckled before opening the door, glancing briefly down the hallway before looking at Even; silently nodding that the coast was clear. The light shocked him a little, making him squint, but he could focus enough to see that Isak’s hair was a mess. His was probably in the same sort of shape.

 

“Fix your hair.” He whispered before walking down the hallway, running his fingers through his own mop as he turned back and winked at a blushing Isak.

 

**

 

“My dad is home early today.” Isak said after the last student was dropped off, leaving them alone on the bus. It had begun raining heavily and the windshield wipers squeaked loudly as they headed home.

 

“Yeah?” Even asked, not missing the way Isak’s shoulders tensed and his grip on the steering wheel tightened.

 

“Sorry. We won’t be able to...talk or anything. But I’ll come over later.”

 

“You don’t have to be sorry, Isak.”

 

Isak nodded, looking at him gratefully in the mirror. Even smiled, not knowing what else to say. They stayed relatively quiet as they made their way down the highway, Isak talking mindlessly about the stupid rain making it hard to see.

 

As they reached Even’s driveway, Isak parked the bus and turned to look at him. He smiled, looking like he was going to say something, but instead he stood up and wrapped Even in a hug.

 

Even wanted to make light of the situation, say Isak was being sappy or something, but he could feel how badly Isak seemed to need this. Isak always did things with a certain amount of desperation. The way he kissed, hugged, talked. Hell, he even slept like it was the best thing he’d ever done.

 

He had an idea it had something to do with the fact that Isak often put on a show for others. He did what they expected of him, whether it was being funny or bro-ish around friends, a fake flirt with girls in school or standing up on Sundays next to his father being the perfect son. Isak often put on a mask.

 

But right now, and in similar moments, when Isak let himself just be - his entire self was part of the action rather than only a piece. It was like he finally let himself breathe, and that’s exactly what it felt like now.

 

“Bye, Even.” Isak said as he pulled away, looking down at Even’s mouth. He didn’t kiss him and Even didn’t push him to, their location too risky. But he relished in the thought that if they could, Isak would want to.

 

“Bye.”

 

He walked off the bus and ran through the rain to his front porch, unlocking the door and going inside. He shook his hair, completely drenched, and began taking off his coat when he heard voices in the kitchen.

 

One of them was his father but the others he didn’t recognize right away, all of them speaking at similar times and muffling the individual voices. As walked closer and turned the corner into the kitchen, about to say hello, he was slammed backwards by someone’s chest - landing hard on his ass.

 

“Oh, sorry!” The person said, reaching his hand out to pull Even back on his feet. “I didn’t see you there.”

 

As Even looked up, slightly irritated but willing to accept some help up, his eyes went wide as realization set in.

 

“Jason?” He mumbled, wincing as the man tugged him up too fast - wrenching his arm.

 

The other man smiled but it was more like he was gritting his teeth, spinning on his heel back into the kitchen. “Even’s home!” He called, walking back the way he came.

 

Even trailed after him awkwardly, not knowing what he was going to find further inside the room. He wasn’t expecting to be greeted by his father’s kind smile as well as Terje’s and several other older men who he knew for sure he hadn’t met before. They were all sitting around the kitchen table, a fresh pot of coffee brewing and papers in front of them.

 

“Uh, hi.” He managed to say. “Sorry to interrupt?”

 

“No, no. Forgive us. We’ve taken over your father’s house for our little church meeting.” Terje laughed, standing up and shaking Even’s hand like he did after church, slapping him on the back.

 

Jason hovered near the coffee pot, not meeting Even’s eyes. 

 

“Church meeting?” He asked, not really interested but feeling it was polite to ask. Perhaps this is why Terje had come home early. Isak was probably imagining his father would do this at his own house, though, and not here at Even’s.

 

“Yes, just going over the services for the coming weeks. Your father is part of it now and offered to host it here today. He has some very wise ideas.” Terje said, smiling over at Edwin.

 

Even expected his father to smile the way he always did around Terje, like the man could do no wrong, but this time Edwin’s smile was tight and small. Forced. It didn’t look like Edwin was at all pleased.

 

“I’ll just grab some juice and get out of the way, then.” Even said, walking to the fridge.

 

The older men, including his father, went back to whatever it was they were discussing but Jason lingered near the coffee at the other side of counter. It looked like he was waiting for something and he was inconveniently standing where they kept the glasses. Even approached him, about to ask him to move, when Jason suddenly came close so he could whisper something.

 

“How is Isak?”

 

Even flinched. He couldn’t help it. Jason looked at him anxiously, eyes wide and imploring - expecting a reply to a question that Even honestly didn’t know how to answer.

 

“Um, fine?”

 

“Just fine? What’s going on with him? He won’t talk to me anymore.”

 

“What the fuck, man?” Even snapped, unable to help it. He couldn’t believe this guy was doing this here, in front of the very people he was hiding from.

 

Also, what the hell did Even know about their relationship? Isak hadn’t talked about it after that first day. He’d never brought it up. In fact, until the last ten minutes, Even had forgotten Jason even existed - that anything had happened between Isak and him.

 

“You’re his friend, right? I...I just wanted to make sure he was okay. He doesn’t answer my texts or calls.”

 

“I’m not getting involved, okay?” Even stated, grabbing a glass over Jason’s head from the cupboard and trying to run away. The whole situation was too fucking awkward and just added more things to the list of shit Isak didn’t talk about.

 

“Wait. Will you give him this? Please?”

 

Jason pulled an envelope out from his pocket with Isak’s name on the front in nice, neat handwriting and thrust it towards Even. He practically placed it in Even’s hand, giving him no choice but to take it.

 

“Tell him I love him. Please?”

 

All the begging was about to make Even sick. He nodded, not able to look Jason in the eye again for fear of imagining what Isak saw when they’d been together, and walked as fast as possible out of the room.

 

**

 

Isak was fast asleep in Even’s bed.

 

Their bodies were tangled together under the covers and despite how comforting it was to have the other boy back in his bed after an awful sleepless night the previous evening, Even was wide awake.

 

He looked at his ceiling, trying to turn his brain off. He didn’t want to be thinking about all this bull shit.

 

He didn’t want to be thinking about how Jason looked overly tired as he’d stood in Even’s kitchen, like he’d been unable to sleep as well. Perhaps they were both in the same situation of being unable to sleep without Isak.

 

Shit. Stop it. Go to sleep.

 

Or how apparently Isak had someone who was in love with him. Jason loved Isak. He’d said it like many couples did, as if he knew the other person loved him right back. So, it was likely that Isak had also been in love with Jason at one point. Perhaps he still was.

 

Maybe Isak was in love with someone else as he was lying in Even’s bed.

 

Was Even some kind of revenge fuck? Had Isak gotten tired of Jason hiding him? Sneaking around behind the backs of his family? And who the fuck was his family?

 

For fuck’s sake.

 

As gently as he could, Even moved away from Isak and managed to sit up without waking him. He swung his feet over the side of the bed before standing up and walking towards his desk where he had stashed the letter in a drawer.

 

He looked at it in the dim light of the moon streaming in from his window. The night had cleared up and there had been an amazing sunset before the stars had come out, shining brightly next to the moon.

 

He shouldn’t open it. The letter wasn’t for him, and it wasn’t any of his business what Jason had to say to Isak. He wasn’t part of all this.

 

Even continued to look at it for several more minutes before he rolled his eyes at himself.

 

Fuck it.

 

**

 

Isak,

 

I’m writing to you because you won’t answer my calls. You won’t respond to my texts. You won’t talk to me on Sundays anymore. You’ve apparently just vanished.

 

I miss you.

 

I’m sorry for what I said the last time. I didn’t mean it. Not really. You’ve always been just as important to me as they are. Probably even more so because I’m myself when I’m with you.

 

I’m writing this also because I’ve made up my mind. I’m finally going to do what I always said I would from the beginning of us.

 

I’m going to leave her and let her have full custody. Whatever she wants. I just want out. I just want you.

 

Please call me. I love you.

 

Jason xo

Chapter Text

Sunday

 

“I’d rather not go this week.” Even said through clenched teeth as he sat at the kitchen table, watching his father as he put on his best tie.

 

It was early and Even wanted coffee. He had wanted to sleep in, given it was the weekend and all, but something had pulled him out of bed at an ungodly hour.

 

Probably the lack of Isak in his bed. They didn’t often risk sleepovers on weekends. It had been that way from the start but that didn’t mean he was used to it, even after all the weeks that had passed.

 

Their old coffee machine groaned loudly in the warm kitchen, the smell of dark roast invading Even’s senses.

 

Edwin frowned at his son, regarding him cautiously. “Okay. Any particular reason?”

 

Jason. He’s the whole damn reason.

 

“I have a headache.”

 

“Okay.” Edwin said, looking unconvinced. “I’m sure Isak will miss you there. He doesn’t look like he much enjoys being in the church.”

 

The comment surprised Even and he looked back at his father. Edwin had never said anything about Isak’s involvement with the church or how Terje seemed to love that Isak supposedly wanted to become a pastor someday as well.    

 

In fact, Edwin had seemed entirely satisfied with Terje and the church and everything about it until that meeting Even had walked into. Something told him his father was having doubts about some aspect of the church.

 

“Are you and Terje all right?” He asked, unable to suppress his curiosity.

 

Edwin sat down next to him and let out a long sigh, answering Even’s question without saying anything more.

 

“He’s just...a very traditional man. Our views don’t always match up and it can be frustrating.”

 

Even nodded in understanding. He was sure Isak would agree as well.

 

“He often sounds just like your mother and it’s very annoying. We’re in the twenty-first century but he often talks like it’s the nineteenth century.” Edwin huffed, shaking his head.

 

The mention of Even’s mother stung a little bit but he tried not to show it. He reached across the table and gripped his father’s hand instead, smiling at him.

 

“Thanks, Dad.”

 

“For what?” Edwin asked, putting his hand on top of Even’s warmly.

 

“I don’t know. Being on my side. Moving us out here for a fresh start. Thinking outside of the box even though you were raised not to. Just...everything.”

 

Edwin’s smile faltered a little and he moved his hand away. He stood up and Even thought he was going to leave the room, but he walked around to his son and motioned for him to stand. Even complied, confused for all of a second before his father wrapped him in a hug, squeezing him tightly.

 

“Don’t thank me for things like that.” Edwin said firmly. “That’s just called being your father. It’s nothing special.”

 

Even couldn’t help the way tears sprung into his eyes.

 

“Yeah, but...thanks anyways.”

 

Edwin chuckled as he pulled away, winking at Even and pulling a little on his ear - something he’d done all of Even’s life. It was one of the most comforting things between them.

 

“I’ll see you in a few hours.”

 

**

 

Why aren’t you here with your dad?

Are you sick?

 

Even looked at Isak’s message for several long seconds, wondering what to reply. He wanted to lie and say that he was in fact sick, that he had a migraine. But he figured Isak would see right through that lame excuse.

 

Just not in the mood for church today

 

He didn’t want to imagine Isak and Jason in the kitchen together when he’d caught them that first Sunday, hands all over each other - mouths connected. He didn’t want to think about Isak’s desperate noises or the way he pushed his whole body towards the person he was making out with, clinging like he’d never let go.

 

He didn’t want to think about the fact that Isak had most likely been doing that with Jason for all of the time he’d known him, including after they’d begun their sleepovers.

 

Okay…?

This is boring as fuck without you

Dad’s preaching about morals again *kill me*

 

Even wondered what kind of morals Jason had, if any at all. Hooking up with a teenage boy behind the back of your wife didn’t exactly spell out star pastor. Or great human being.

 

Sorry. Try not to fall asleep

 

**

Monday night

 

Here’s the thing.

 

Even had every intention of giving the letter to Isak. Honestly.

 

Why would he keep it? Or, more importantly, why would he keep it from Isak? It’s not like they were a thing. Not really.

 

Isak wasn’t his boyfriend.

 

Despite the fact that the letter was crumpled from the amount of times Even had wrung it tightly in his hands - trying to work up the courage to just give the damn thing to Isak - the intention to give it back was just as true as the day Jason had given it to him.

 

But it was so hard to remember why he was going to let Isak read all about how some other guy was in love with him when Isak was currently straddling him, tongue shoved deep into Even’s mouth like he was trying to lick his teeth clean.

 

So, it wasn’t entirely Even’s fault that he was unintentionally keeping the letter a huge, fat secret that was hanging out inside his drawer.

 

He just had more important things to worry about.

 

Wednesday night

 

The stupid letter was all he could think about now and it fucking sucked. Even had come home to another fucking meeting - how many meetings did one single church need to hold for fuck’s sake?! - and been cornered by Jason; eyes more glossy than they’d been previously.

 

“Did you give it to him?”

 

No.”

 

“Why not? I’m fucking begging you, man.”

 

“This is creepy and I’m not getting involved.” Even snapped, glancing at the men huddled around the table again. His father had a deep frown across his forehead as he stared at Terje, unhappily listening to whatever he was saying.

 

“Creepy?”

 

Even rolled his eyes. “Dude, how old are you? You’re acting like it’s you who’s the teenager and not Isak.”

 

Jason blanched at his frankness, his shoulders slumping forward a little as he looked at the floor - apparently rendered speechless. Even started to feel bad but then thought better of it.

 

“I don’t expect you to understand but...you’re my only access to him. The only way he might come to me again.” Jason whispered, moving closer as if to touch Even’s arm. He moved away and the older man backed off, seemingly startled by himself.

 

“I’m leaving now.” Even stated, practically running for the stairs.

 

He couldn’t do his homework. He couldn’t answer any messages from Jonas about their assignment they were supposed to be finishing for History. He couldn’t even enjoy one of his favourite podcasts about filmmaking.

 

All he could think about was the damn, horrid letter that might as well have been burning a hole in the drawer of his desk now.

 

“I think my dad’s angry at your dad.” Isak said as greeting, crawling into Even’s bed at a horrendously early hour.

 

Usually, Even would love the way Isak curled his body against his, arm thrown across his bare chest. He would cherish the way Isak kissed him above his navel sleepily, hair a mess. Usually, this meant that he could finally relax and sleep.

 

But this time, Even squirmed away from the other boy, somehow unable to let go of how much he didn’t know about Isak; how he still had no clue where they stood and what the hell was happening with Jason. He couldn’t relax at all.

 

“I think my dad’s angry at your dad.” He said, laying as still as a statue.

 

“I wonder what’s up.” Isak sighed, frowning at the way Even had left so much space between them. “Speaking of which, what’s up with you?”

 

“Nothing.”

 

“Yeah, right. Talk to me.”

 

“Why should I bother?” Even snapped, sitting up. He turned his back on Isak, staring out his window into the black abyss.

 

“Even...are you angry, or something?” Isak asked, voice small and unsure.

 

“I don’t know.” He said, and it was the most honest answer he could give. His brain was a mess of emotions that he couldn’t sift through.

 

“What’s on your mind?” Isak touched his shoulder, rubbing it in a gesture of comfort, but it just made Even’s skin crawl.

 

He shrugged it off and stood up, walking over to his desk and pulling the letter out. He was tired of keeping it, tired of obsessing over it. He was never going to be as good as this as Isak; not talking about things - shoving them aside and pretending they didn’t exist.

 

He walked back over to Isak and handed it to him, practically shoving it into his hands.

 

“What the hell?”

 

“It’s for you. From Jason.” Even said, folding his arms in front of his chest, waiting for Isak to open it.

 

Isak’s eyes went wide at the mention of Jason’s name, staring at the letter like it was a bomb about to explode. He looked frightened by it.

 

“Why do you have...a letter from Jason?” He whispered, beginning to open it.

 

“Because he cornered me in my kitchen a few days ago, begging me to give it to you. He said that you won’t talk to him and I’m his only way of trying to talk to you.”

 

Even was aware his voice was rising, that he was venturing close to hysterics, but he couldn’t help it.

 

Shit , Even...I…”

 

“He also said to tell you that he loves you.” Even continued, scoffing.

 

Isak stopped opening the envelope, putting the letter on the floor and standing up. He walked closer to Even, eyes locked on his, and shook his head.

 

“I don’t love Jason.”

 

“Okay.” Even spat, and he found that he was on the verge of tears. Why the fuck did he feel like he was about to break into sobs?

 

“I never loved him, Even.”

 

“Good for you.”

 

Isak put his hands on Even’s face, taking in a deep breath. His hands were warm and shaking, his breath stale from sleep. Even took in some sharp breaths through his nose, trying to calm his fluttering heart.

 

“He pursued me. He kissed me first, and we used to...do stuff in the basement of the church, but he always wanted more than me. I told him that it was wrong because he’s married and has a son, but…” Isak explained, looking guilty. “He wouldn’t back off. It became kind of obsessive and I ended it. Around the time you and I…”

 

He trailed off again, cheeks reddening. He reached back to run his fingers through Even’s hair, eyes wandering to his lips.

 

“You and I...what?” Even asked, wanting Isak to say it.

 

Say we’re together.

 

Say that maybe I have the chance to be yours.

 

“That we got close.” Isak said, kissing Even softly before pulling back. “Ev, I haven’t thought about him at all . Not that way. Not since there’s been you.”

 

Even felt like crying all over again, but for an entirely different reason this time.

 

“Fuck, Isak.”

 

“Come here?” The other boy said, tugging Even back towards the bed and stepping right on top of the unread letter.

 

“You didn’t read the…”

 

“I don’t want to read it because it doesn’t matter to me. This does.” Isak interrupted, practically throwing Even down on the bed and putting himself between his legs.

 

Even shut up and finally stopped thinking about the stupid, goddamn letter.

 

**

 

“Even?”

 

“Hmm?”

 

He was almost asleep, wrapped up in the blankets and Isak and everything was safe and warm. He didn’t want to open his eyes but he did, finding Isak staring right back at him.

 

“Have you ever...gone all the way before? With a guy?”

 

The question threw him a little bit, opening his eyes wider in order to stay awake because the look on Isak’s face was one of concern and vulnerability.

 

“Um...yes? I have. Why?”

 

With Mikael.

 

“Oh.” Isak said quickly, looking away and burying his face back in Even’s chest.

 

Even reached down and tugged on Isak’s curls until he looked back at him, surprised that Isak seemed embarrassed.

 

“Talk to me, Isak.”

 

“I was just hoping maybe...I could be your first. That we could be each other’s firsts.”

 

They hadn’t done that yet. Of course Even had thought of it, practically every time Isak sat himself in his lap. But he hadn’t pushed for it because it never seemed like the right time. They couldn’t do it on the bus and whenever Isak was here with him, the topic never came up.

 

“You want me to be your first?” Even asked, stroking his finger along Isak’s jaw; his stomach muscles tightening.

 

But Even’s insides were turning to mush at the thought that Isak wanted him to be his first real time and he smiled at the way Isak blushed crimson now, biting his bottom lip.

 

“Yeah.” He admitted, kissing Even deeply before pulling away. “But it’s three in the morning. So it’ll have to be another day.”

 

“Tease.” Even chuckled, rolling his eyes and snuggling up behind Isak who had become his little spoon. He grumbled about it all the time but Even knew he secretly loved it.

 

**

 

Thursday morning

 

When Even got up the next morning to the sound of his shrill alarm, Isak was already gone. He didn’t remember the other boy saying goodbye but he imagined he must have. He always did.

 

As he rubbed his eyes and stood up, he noticed the letter was gone too. Isak must have picked it up from the floor. The thought made Even pause, wondering if he should be concerned. But Isak said he didn’t care about Jason anymore.

 

He didn’t matter because what mattered to Isak was Even.

 

He decided he wasn’t going to think about it anymore and headed to the bathroom, wanting to have a shower to wake himself up. He grabbed his phone, intending to listen to some music, but paused when he saw he had a few unread messages.

 

Even expected it to be Isak, or perhaps his dad telling him something about Noah being in the house and using the coffee machine. Edwin had taken to giving him more of a heads up when the other men would be there early.

 

But it wasn’t either of them.

 

In fact, it was the last person in Norway he would have expected to be contacting him, especially after how things had ended; how everything had been ripped away from both of them.

 

Mikael (07:03)

 

Hey Even, it’s Mikael

Can you call me when you have a chance?

I’m back in Oslo and I really need your help

 

**

 

8 months earlier

 

“You told Mikael’s parents!?” Even shouted, his hands itching to throw something at his mother’s head.

 

She’d found them three days ago in the living room of Even’s house, Mikael riding Even - head back and moaning,both of them unaware of her standing there in total shock. Nobody was supposed to be home but she’d come back early. They’d skipped class in order to be together, the rigidness of Even’s mother’s schedule designed to keep them apart catching up to them. It was an agony not getting any alone time.

 

“Of course I did, especially after what I saw. They deserve to know. ” She said, shrugging her shoulders like it was no big deal - like she hadn’t just ruined both of their lives.

 

“You have no clue what they’ll do to him!”

 

“That’s their own business. I hardly think sending him away to a new school in the UK is anything sinister though.”

 

Even couldn’t help the way tears sprung to his eyes, how he felt like he might fall over. His mother - perfectly dressed, make-up tidy and golden hair immaculate - smirked a little bit at him, clearly understanding that this so-called school wasn’t for Mikael to receive an education.

 

He wouldn’t be learning math or science, study languages or prepare for university.

 

Mikael had gone somewhere to unlearn, just as some of his family members had. It was one of the reasons Mikael was so scared about anyone seeing. Why everything was such a secret.

 

He hadn’t wanted to be sent away, too.

 

“You’re fucking horrible.” Even whispered, flinching as their front door opened and his father came in, calling out a greeting.

 

“And you’re a disgrace.” Faye stated, shaking her head. “It’s time this ended and you got your life back on track. You’re not a child anymore, Even.”

 

He wasn’t listening. He pulled out his phone and dialed Mikael’s number, listening to it ring and ring.

 

“He won’t answer.” Faye continued, barely reacting to her husband walking in and frowning at the state Even was in.

 

“Shut up.” Even demanded, calling again when it went to voicemail.

 

“He already left.”

 

“I saw him yesterday!”

 

“His mother moved quickly.”

 

“Oh, fuck you!” Even screamed, whipping his phone at her head and relishing in the way it collided with her cheek. She let out a sound of pain and Edwin rushed over to her.

 

“Even, what the hell are you doing?” His father cried, looking at Faye’s skin where it was darkening into a bruise.

 

“She did this on purpose. She knew what would happen! She’s ruined everything!”

 

Edwin was about to speak, glancing back and forth between his wife and son, but Faye spoke first.

 

“I’m trying to save you, Even. You weren’t going down a good path. It’s not too late for you. Now that he’s gone you can be okay again.” Faye said, her voice more sincere now but her words no less cruel.

 

“I love him. Don’t you get that? And he loves me.”

 

“Who are we talking about?” Edwin asked loudly, putting up his hands and motioning for both of them to stop talking.

 

“Mikael.” Faye sighed.

 

“You...are in love with him?”

 

Even didn’t want to explain himself again. He didn’t want to justify loving someone to the two people who would understand the least. He turned and ran out the door, heading to Mikael’s house and pounding on the door.

 

This couldn’t be happening.

 

He couldn’t be gone.

 

“Go away, Even.” A voice said from the window next to the door.

 

“Tell me you didn’t send him away!”

 

“You’re trespassing and I’ll call the police if you don’t leave immediately.” It was Mikael’s mother, her voice dark and low.

 

The window shut and that was enough of an answer for Even. Mikael was gone. And he hadn’t said goodbye. He hadn’t been given the choice to say goodbye.

 

And that was the moment that Even broke.

Chapter Text

Even stared at the message from Mikael, frozen to the spot. His fingers were shaking and his mouth was dry and he swore his lungs forgot how to breathe, but he made himself press the green call button and brought the phone up to his ear. 

 

It only rang once before Mikael picked up and said, “Even?” 

 

“Mik. Fuck. I can’t believe it’s you.” He was already crying as he sat back down on his bed, unable to stand any longer. 

 

“Baby, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.” Mikael said softly, but it only made Even sob harder. 

 

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Mikael.” He babbled, unable to comprehend that he literally hadn’t spoken to his best friend in eight months. 

 

He hadn’t even tried to find the number of the school in the UK. He hadn’t gone back to Mikael’s house and demanded to know which school it was and how he could get in contact with him. 

 

All Even had managed to do was break down after it happened. And then he moved away from Oslo. 

 

“Stop. Even, none of this is your fault. I’m okay.” 

 

“How can you be okay?”

 

Mikael laughed a little, and Even realized how much he had missed that sound. “Well, I’m finally talking to you again. That’s a good start.” 

 

He couldn’t help but smile as he tried to take a deep breath and stop crying. “Yeah. I suppose that is a good start.” 

 

“Are you home right now? I managed to get my cousin to let me stay with him for now and it’s not far. Can we meet up?” Mikael asked, sounding excited. 

 

Even sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I...uh, actually have something to tell you. I don’t live in my old house anymore. My dad and I moved out.” 

 

“Wow, really? When did that happen?” 

 

“In the summer.” 

 

“I want to hear all about it, just give me your new address and I’ll get the tram there.” Mikael said, and Even wished it was that easy. 

 

“You can’t get a tram here because I don’t live in Oslo anymore.” Even said slowly, biting down hard on his bottom lip as he waited for Mikael’s reply. 

 

“Oh,” the other boy said sadly. “Where do you live, then?” 

 

“It’s far, Mik. It’s a long drive. My dad moved us out here to try and start over after my parents separated.” 

 

And after I lost my mind and couldn’t function. 

 

Mikael went silent and Even wished he could go to him. He wanted to bring him into his arms, feel him close and try to take away some of the pain Mikael had undoubtedly felt the past eight months. He had no clue what kind of horrors his friend might have experienced. 

 

“I could ask my cousin to drive me. It might be a few days until it happens, but I could ask.” Mikael offered and Even nodded. 

 

“Yeah, and I’ll ask my dad if he’s willing to drive to Oslo and pick you up. Did you want to stay with us? You said you needed help, so are you not going back home?” 

 

“I don’t want to go home. I’m done the program and my cousin came to get me from the airport but I asked him not to take me home yet. I can’t go back there, Even.” Mikael cried, hiccuping soft sobs that made Even’s heart ache. 

 

“Listen to me, Mik. You don’t have to go back. I’ll come and get you, okay? I’ll call my dad right now and we’ll sort something out.” 

 

“Do you think he’ll say yes?” 

 

“I do. He’s not like my mom. He left her because of how hateful she was towards me. Us.” Even said, closing his eyes and trying not to remember the day his mother told him about Mikael being sent away. 

 

“Good job, Edwin. Ten points.” Mikael joked, sniffling before he let out a laugh that Even returned. 

 

“Yeah. I appreciate my dad so much. He’s been nothing but there for me.” 

 

“So, you’ll call me back when you ask him?”

 

“Yeah. Just give me ten minutes and I’ll get back to you.” 

 

“Thank you, Ev. God, I’ve missed you so much.” Mikael whispered and Even willed himself not to cry again at those words. 

 

“Me too, Mik. Talk soon.” 

 

Even smiled down at his phone for a handful of seconds before he stood up and grabbed some clothes. He knew Isak would be here soon with the bus  and he technically shouldn’t miss class but he needed to call his father. 

 

The phone was ringing as he headed downstairs when he suddenly heard the front door slam shut. He turned into the living room and saw Isak standing there, his eyes full of tears and his bottom lip all bloody. 

 

“Even. I…” Isak began shakily, staring at the floor in what appeared to be embarrassment. 

 

“Hello? Even, what’s up?” Edwin’s voice came through the phone, and for the second time that morning Even froze. 

 

“My brother...he told my dad I’ve been sneaking out at night.” Isak continued, seemingly unaware that Even was on the phone. 

 

“Even? Are you there?” Edwin asked, concerned this time. 

 

“Come here.” Even finally said, opening his arm that wasn’t holding the phone so Isak could come to him. Isak did as he was told and buried his face into Even’s neck, wrapping both his arms around his middle. 

 

“Dad, I need your help with something.” Even said into the phone, rubbing Isak’s back in an attempt to console him. 

 

“Okay, what is it?” Edwin asked, relieved. 

 

Even swallowed, the lump in his throat tightening as Isak cried and his father waited for an answer. 

 

“I need you to go to Oslo and get Mikael. He needs somewhere to stay. He can’t go home because of his parents.” Even said, trying to find the right words. Isak flinched a little against him, peering up. 

 

“Mikael?” Isak whispered, pulling back. He eyes widened as he saw the phone in Even’s hand. 

 

“Even, that’s not an easy drive. I’m working right now.” Edwin said, the surprise in his voice evident. 

 

“I know, dad. But he was sent away and now he’s back and he needs me. I can’t let him down.” Even said, willing to beg if Edwin said no. 

 

I can’t let him down like I did before. 

 

There was a pause and Even heard some shuffling, his father’s breathing picking up like he was walking somewhere. He waited, Isak completely still against him. 

 

“I’ll work something out and go to Oslo as soon as I can. Can you give me an address of where he is?” 

 

Even broke into a smile and couldn’t help the way he squeezed Isak in a half-hug. 

 

“I’ll get the address and text it to you. Thank you. I really mean it.” 

 

“I know you do. And it’s no problem.” His father said, the smile in his voice unmistakable. Even hung up the phone and slid it into his pocket, wrapping his other arm around Isak. 

 

“I’m sorry. I just had to deal with something. What happened? Are you okay?” He asked, running a hand through Isak’s hair. 

 

Isak let out a long sigh. “My dad knows I’ve been coming here at night thanks to my stupid brother. My dad got upset and he…” 

 

Isak touched his bottom lip and winced. 

 

“He hit you?” Even whispered, putting his hand over Isak’s and wiping away some of the blood. His lip was almost completely split. 

 

“He has a temper sometimes.” 

 

“Bastard.” 

 

“Fuck, Ev. I don’t know what to do now.” Isak said, looking like he would burst into tears again. “I think he suspects that something is going on between us. I won’t...be able to come here anymore.” 

 

The thought of Isak no longer sleeping next to him - never being able to reach out and feel the other boy currently in his arms - was like a slap in the face. It brought Even back to the here and now. The present in which he had a massive crush on his neighbour, a guy who came over for sleepovers nearly every night and who wanted Even to be his first. 

 

The boy Even had begun to fall in love with. 

 

Fuck. 

 

And now there was Mikael. Even’s best friend and first love. The guy Even had lost his virginity to - the one he thought he would be with forever. Did Mikael still have feelings for him? Did he think they would just pick up where they left off? 

 

Did Mikael still think they were boyfriends?

 

“Even? Did you hear me?” Isak asked quietly, sounding as unsure as he looked. 

 

“Yeah...I did. Sorry. I’m trying to...focus on everything all at once and it isn’t working.” He admitted, leaning down without thinking and kissing Isak on the lips. 

 

He tasted the blood instantly, not missing the way Isak winced. His lip was swelling even more and was probably tender but he didn’t look like he minded that Even kissed him. 

 

“It’s okay. I’m all over the place, too.” 

 

“Did you drive the bus over?” 

 

“Yeah. We need to go or we’re going to be late picking everyone up.” Isak sighed, moving away from Even and heading to the door. 

 

Even nodded, grabbing his bag and slipping on his boots. He pulled his phone out and asked Mikael for the address of his cousin’s house, assuring him that his father would be there shortly. He looked up as he sent off the text and noticed Isak watching him carefully, eyebrows a little narrowed. 

 

“Is Mikael your...ex? The one who moved away?” 

 

Even looked down at the ground, nodding slowly. Isak didn’t react beyond opening the door and heading down the driveway. The bus was sitting there, already on and heating up; waiting for them. 

 

Even took his usual seat and Isak got behind the wheel, licking his lips as he put the bus into gear. He began pulling out onto the snow-covered highway, going slowly in case there was ice. 

 

“Mikael didn’t move away.” Even said, clearing his throat. “He was actually sent away. To complete some kind of conversion therapy course. In the UK.” 

 

Isak’s eyes snapped up to look at him through the mirror, his mouth open in shock. 

 

“Fuck. Seriously? ” 

 

Even nodded, holding his phone tightly in his hand as he waited for a reply. “After that happened, I kind of...broke down. I couldn’t go to school. See my friends. I didn’t get out of bed for weeks.” 

 

“Even.” Isak said, not a question or a statement. Just an acknowledgement that he was still listening. 

 

“He’s going to be coming here because he can’t go home. If he goes back, he’ll be forced into a life that isn’t him.” 

 

“Okay.” 

 

Mikael answered him, giving him the address and sending a bunch of hearts afterwards, telling him how he couldn’t wait to see Even again. 

 

As Isak stopped to pick up the first students of the morning, Even watched him in the mirror - his smile, his kind eyes. The lips he’d kissed countless times now. 

 

And he wondered where the hell to go from here. 

 

**

Isak (12:04)

Meet me in the bathroom? 

 

I’m in class

 

I know, same. But I need to talk to you

 

Okay 5 mins

 

Luckily, the bathroom was empty of any other students when he got there. Isak wasn’t there yet so he leaned against the sinks awkwardly, not knowing how to rest his arms. He ended up crossing them in front of his chest. 

 

The day was only half over and yet it felt like he’d lived it twice already. The hours were taking years and Even was slightly losing his mind. Once he told Mikael his father was on his way, he hadn’t heard anything else from him. He knew his father was close to Oslo now, having left pretty much right after Even called him, but he wanted to know Mikael was okay. He was worried Mikael’s cousin might have taken him home already, not giving him the chance to escape. 

 

What if Mikael was hurt? What if his father now had no chance of getting Mikael out? 

 

The door swung open and Isak appeared, his lip no longer bloody but his eyes were still full of sadness and fear. He walked over to Even and immediately wrapped him in a hug, nearly knocking the breath out of him. 

 

“Whoa. You okay?” Even asked, returning the hug and placing gentle kisses on Isak’s neck. 

 

“No. Everything feels like it’s about to explode around me.” 

 

“Hey, just take some deep breaths and tell me what’s on your mind.” Even said, trying to be reassuring despite his own worries. 

 

“I just...I can’t have my dad find out about me. He’ll hate me. He’ll disown me and I don’t think I could live through that.” Isak stated, moving away and wiping at his eyes. 

 

“Has he even said anything about us being together? Like, what exactly did your brother tell him?” 

 

Isak rolled his eyes and made an irritated sound. “Because we have to share a room, apparently Liam’s noticed that I sneak out every night and don’t come back until a little before dawn. He made it out like he’s worried about me, but he mentioned that he followed me one night and saw me go into your house. Then my dad hit the roof.” 

 

“But why does that mean he’ll suspect we’re...fucking, or whatever?” 

 

“Apparently your dad has been saying things about supporting LGBT people and my dad hasn’t liked it. That’s why they’ve been off with each other. My dad’s simple-minded in the sense that he’ll put those things together and conclude that it means we have to be gay. It’s just how he thinks. Because two boys sleeping over at each other’s house has to mean we’re more than friends.” Isak said, the words fast and almost in one breath. 

 

“Even though we are more than friends, deducing it from that alone is pretty fucking stupid.” Even scoffed, shaking his head. 

 

“My dad is stupid. Haven’t you been paying attention?” Isak tried to joke, but it fell flat and he began crying again. 

 

“I’m sorry, Isak. I’m really fucking sorry this is happening.” 

 

“It’s not your fault.” 

 

“Kind of feels like it. I was the one who couldn’t sleep all those months ago. That’s what led to all this.” 

 

“That sounds like you regret it.” Isak said coldly, looking annoyed. 

 

Even frowned at his tone. “No. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret... us.” 

 

Isak was quiet for a long few minutes, sniffling and gradually composing himself, before he spoke again. 

 

“There can’t really be an us anymore now, right? It’s kind of over.” 

 

Even couldn’t help the way he flinched away, squaring his shoulders as he turned to look at Isak carefully. 

 

“What do you mean?” 

 

“Mikael. That’s what I mean.” 

 

Even breathed in deeply, running a hand through his hair. Isak was looking at him, expecting something, but Even didn’t know what there was to say. He was just as lost as Isak. 

 

“See? I knew it.” Isak concluded, turning on his heel like he was going to leave. 

 

“You don’t know anything, Isak.” Even said, probably a bit too loud. The other boy turned around, though, so it had the effect that he wanted. 

 

“No?” 

 

“No!” Even exclaimed. “You don’t know how fucking hard it was to know my best friend and boyfriend had been sent away to be fixed. You don’t know how badly I felt that I couldn’t do anything to help him. You don’t know how long I spent wishing I could die because in a sense I’d ruined my parents’ marriage. They got divorced because of me being with a boy. Being… gay.” 

 

Isak’s eyes widened at the word, and Even had a feeling he knew why. He also had a feeling he knew why he felt like his knees were going to give out. 

 

When Even first told Isak about himself, about liking boys and being with Mikael, he’d described himself as bisexual. He’d like to tell himself for a long time that he was bisexual because then - if the situation ever came up - it would be easy to say, well I might like boys but I still like girls so it isn’t that bad. In his own mind, it had become a word to hide behind because the idea of being gay made it seem like everything would be worse.

 

There was no chance to talk his way around it so all these hypothetical people could still consider him ‘normal.’ 

 

But the truth was that he was gay. He had never admitted it out loud to anyone before, or even to himself, but he was. He liked boys. 

 

And he had loved a boy, loved Mikael for a really, really long time. 

 

“Even…” 

 

“You don’t understand that I was in love with Mikael before he was gone. We loved each other, and then it was suddenly yanked away from us. I haven’t talked to him in eight months, Isak, and the fact that he suddenly reappeared when I thought I would never see him again isn’t easy. It’s not a simple thing, okay?” Even cried, shaking his head in frustration. 

 

Isak looked away, staring at his feet and bit down on his bottom lip. 

 

“You don’t understand that I liked you from the day I met you, despite the nagging guilt that came with it. In a way I felt like I was betraying Mikael. I was thinking about someone else when he was suffering somewhere. But I liked you so much. My world shifted its focus to you and I...got lost in it. In us.” 

 

Even reached for Isak, tracing the other boy’s jaw with his fingertips. 

 

“You don’t understand that I don’t regret what happened with you because you’re...an amazing person, Isak. And it hasn’t been very long since this started between us, but I care about you and the idea of this being over isn’t easy for me. I don’t want it to be over because I love you, too.” 

 

There it was. The simple yet impossible truth. 

 

Even loved Isak and Mikael. They were both nestled in the strands of his heart. 

 

He felt Isak tense at his last words, his body going completely still. Even waited, his heart hammering uncomfortably fast, wondering what Isak would say to that; wondering if Isak wouldn’t have anything to say at all. 

 

“I...need to go back to class. We’ll get in trouble.” 

 

“Isak…” 

 

“Goodbye, Even.” 

 

And he bolted out the door without another word, just as Even’s phone vibrated in his pocket. With shaking hands he reached for the phone and unlocked it, reading a message from Mikael that said he was with Edwin and on his way to Even’s house. 

 

Once again, there were about four hearts at the end of the message. 

 

And Even couldn’t breathe.

Chapter Text

3:45pm

 

Even didn’t know what to say as Isak drove him home, all the other students dropped off and a hostile silence lingering in the moving bus. 

 

He wanted to make it right between them. He wanted to ask Isak a million questions, tell him everything that was swirling around in his head. But he didn’t know where to start. 

 

And his mind kept drifting to how good it was going to feel to have Mikael next to him again. 

 

Isak suddenly turned the bus down the abandoned road they secretly stopped at, the force of the turn nearly knocking Even right off the chair. He managed to right himself as Isak kept driving, the bus bumping up and down from the uneven dirt road. 

 

As Isak turned the engine off, Even tried to brace himself for whatever was about to happen. He squared his shoulders, turned his body so his legs dangled off the side of the chair, and looked at Isak in the mirror. 

 

His lip was swollen and angry, a reminder of Terje’s rage. 

 

“You love me?” Isak asked, more of an accusation than a question. He looked at Even in the mirror as well, chest heaving with laboured breaths. 

 

“Yes.” Even said, nodding. “Did you think I was lying?” 

 

“No,” Isak shook his head, suddenly standing up and walking the barely two feet between them until he was hovering over Even. “I just don’t understand you.” 

 

Even sighed, trying to keep eye contact but his neck hurt now that Isak was above him; looking down at him like a parent scolding their child. 

 

“I’m in love with you. What’s so hard to understand about that?” 

 

“Because it’s me.” Isak choked, his voice cracking at the end. Even looked up to see Isak’s eyes filled with tears and his whole body shaking. 

 

“Isak…” 

 

“I’ve kept so much from you, Even.” He interrupted, walking away and down the aisle between seats; heading for the back of the bus. “I’ve avoided telling you so much about my life because it’s so fucked up.” 

 

“I think I already knew that.” Even said, running a hand through his hair. “The shit with your mom. Whatever was between you and Jason. I figured you have shit to deal with, Isak.” 

 

“It’s so much more than that.” Isak whispered, his sentence so quiet that it was nearly inaudible. 

 

Even stood up hesitantly, walking closer to where Isak was leaning against the back door; arms crossed in front of his chest. The other boy was looking right at him despite how unsure of himself he seemed, and when Even was within reach Isak grabbed onto his jacket collar like it was a lifeline. 

 

“You shouldn’t love me.” 

 

Even put his hands on Isak’s shoulders and let out a broken laugh. “Too late.” 

 

“What about Mikael?” Isak asked, pulling Even closer to him and kissing his adam’s apple; making him sweat beneath his many layers. 

 

“I don’t know, Isak. I don’t know what the hell is going to happen.” Even whispered, grabbing a fistful of Isak’s long hair and yanking his head back. 

 

This boy drove him fucking crazy. 

 

"But I do know how I feel about you." He said, tracing Isak's sharp jaw with his mouth - their actions now reversed. 

 

"Even. I…" Isak groaned, bucking up his hips, searching for contact without finishing his sentence. 

 

"What is it, Isak? What do you want?" Even asked, hands now moving down to hold onto Isak's waist - never stopping the kisses that were turning into bites on the beginnings of the other boy's stubble. 

 

" I just want you. " Isak suddenly and rather forcefully gasped, clinging onto Even's chin with his right hand and bringing their mouths together at last. 

 

The initial contact was hard and almost hurt along Even's lips. It was devastating to taste Isak, feel how badly he meant those words; how hard they were for him to say. But he took it, made himself focus on the heat of their bodies in the cooling bus; how badly his own body craved Isak in every single way. 

 

He felt a little bit out of control. 

 

"I want you all the time. I want to be yours. I want us to be together." Isak said, the words coming a little easier as he began unzipping Even's jacket; searching for bare skin. 

 

His hands were freezing as they pulled up Even's shirt, pushing up to grope his chest, lightly graze his nipples. Isak knew he loved that. 

 

"God, Isak. Really? That's what you want?" 

 

" Yes. Fucking hell. I'm scared to death to admit it, but I do." 

 

They were undressing each other as much as they could in the frigid air, the snow outside too cold for them to be entirely naked like Even wanted right now. He wanted Isak naked in his bed where they could do whatever they wanted. But he could work with this. 

 

They were kissing with a kind of desperation Even hadn't experienced before. Not even when every second of his relationship with Mikael was shrouded in secrecy, had become only handfuls of stolen moments. Even had tried to enjoy it so badly since their time together was so infrequent, and there was always a tinge of desperation but nothing like this. 

 

“I wish you could fuck me.” Isak moaned, pulling Even out of his pants and stroking him quickly. 

 

It was too much, too fast, and Even could already taste his orgasm. He put a hand over Isak’s, trying to get him to slow down.

 

“Let me make you come.” Isak said, and to prove his point he dropped to his knees and pushed Even until he was sitting in a seat; hands gripping the cold leather.  

 

“Isak, I’m not going to last.” Even said, just as Isak took him into his mouth and sucked until his cock was thrusting into the soft give of Isak’s throat. 

 

Apparently that didn’t matter to Isak because he didn’t stop or even attempt to slow down. He put his hands on Even’s bare thighs and kept bobbing his head. 

 

Even knew he was making a lot of noise. He knew he probably sounded like he was about to shatter, but he couldn’t do a damn thing about it. All he could do was touch Isak’s head, guide him, and give over to it. 

 

He was so lost to pleasure that he didn’t even know what he was saying. But he was mumbling something as Isak brought him closer and closer to the edge, the vibrations of Isak’s own moans making it all the more excruciating. 

 

As he began to fall, his body went still and he reached down to feel Isak’s lips where they were stretched around him. He heard himself say, I love you, just as he came; trying desperately not to thrust too deep. 

 

**

 

Isak hadn’t let Even finish him off too. He just wanted to sit together, hold onto each other for a few more minutes before going home. It was confusing to Even, especially since he knew how desperate Isak was too. But he didn’t question it. 

 

“I’m sorry.” Isak whispered, placing a lingering kiss to Even’s cheek; nuzzling his face between his shoulder and neck directly after. 

 

“Why?” 

 

“That I’m such a mess. That this whole thing between us has been so complicated. That I suck at talking about how I feel.” 

 

“It’s…” okay, Even wanted to say. But Isak put a finger over his lips before he could get out the last word. 

 

“It’s not okay. You don’t deserve to be treated like this. Not when you mean so much to me.” 

 

The words were breaking Even, the raw honesty of them almost too much after so long going on pretty much nothing. But it also soothed a part of Even that had been broken for longer than he’d realized. 

 

“I love you too, Even. I think I knew that from the first month of knowing you. But I was so fucking scared.” 

 

Even couldn’t take it anymore. He pulled Isak up so he could kiss him properly, slot their mouths together and put all he had into it. The desperation had lessened, but the kiss was still deep; full of a new shared confession between them that made Even feel like he could do absolutely anything in this moment. 

 

It was Isak who pulled away first. “I know this is such a shit time to say this, when your ex is back and you guys were practically torn apart and everything is even more complicated. I’m not saying this now because there’s a chance you could be with him instead of me. I just wanted you to know how...how wonderful you are, Even. And how much I wish I’d had the courage to tell you earlier.” 

 

“Isak.” 

 

He didn’t know what else to say. He was overwhelmed. Even couldn’t comprehend that he was finally hearing Isak say the words he’d longed to hear for months, while also about to go home and see the person he’d longed for for months, as well. 

 

“It’s okay. Even, you don’t have to decide anything or do anything right now. I’ll take you home. Come on.” 

 

Isak pulled Even up from the seat at the back and helped him into his normal seat behind where Isak sat down and started the bus. The air was nearly as cold inside the bus as outside now, and Even realized he was shivering. Isak blasted the heat as he pulled out of the road, beginning the short ride back to their farms. 

 

Even tried to keep his mind blank, not put any sort of pressure on himself. But he didn’t know how this was all going to turn out. He didn’t know what Mikael would need from him, what this now meant for him and Isak. He didn’t know how he was going to tell Mikael he was in love with someone else. 

 

He dug his nails of his right hand into the palm of his left, and took deep breaths; trying to calm his pounding heart. 

 

Before Even was ready to move, Isak parked the bus and turned the engine off. He made himself stand up and grab his bag, looking over to his house and seeing his father's car. That meant he was home and Mikael was inside waiting for him. 

 

This did nothing to calm his heart. 

 

"I won't be over tonight. I'm going to be watched like a hawk now." Isak said sullenly, hands gripping the steering wheel too tightly. 

 

Even had almost forgotten Terje and Liam, how they would now most likely make Isak's world even smaller. He put a hand on Isak's cheek, cupping it as the other boy looked up at him. 

 

"We'll figure it out. Try not to let them get to you." 

 

Isak laughed humourlessly, sighing. "Too late. I'll be fine though. Go home and see Mikael." 

 

"I don't want to leave you, Isak." Even said, the idea of Isak going home where he didn't feel safe suddenly unbearable. 

 

"It's not forever. Like you said, we'll figure it out, right?" Isak tried to say the words with conviction, probably wanting to make this easy for Even, but his tone gave away how distressed he was. 

 

"Okay. Bye for now." Even whispered, leaning down and kissing Isak - wanting to savour the feel and taste of him. 

 

"Bye for now." Isak repeated, smiling as Even got off the bus. 

 

**

 

4:30pm

 

“Even.” 

 

He was barely through the door, hadn’t even put down his backpack, when he was being pulled into a tight hug by his best friend in the entrance way of his house. 

 

Mikael held onto him like he was never going to let go and Even couldn’t help but do the exact same thing as tears rolled down his cheeks. 

 

“Mikael. Fucking christ, I can’t believe it.” 

 

He said the words into his friend’s shoulder, breathing in the familiar scent of men’s soap and cologne. 

 

“It’s so good to see you, Ev. I missed you, too.”

 

They’d already said as much on the phone, but actually having his friend in his arms again was better than he ever could have imagined. 

 

Mikael felt and pretty much looked the same. His arms were still muscled from the various sports he played in Oslo growing up. His hair was practically the same length. And that beautiful smile that had always made Even melt was still just as gorgeous. 

 

Edwin came around the corner, catching Even’s eye, and smiled as he took in the sight of the two boys embracing. Mikael pulled back and wiped his face, obviously sensing they were being watched. 

 

“Dad, t…” 

 

Edwin held up a hand, cutting off Even’s thank you. 

 

“It’s fine. I’ll be in my office if you need something, okay?” He turned and walked towards the staircase, mug of coffee in hand. 

 

“Do you want to go to my room?” 

 

Mikael shook his head, motioning for them to sit on the couch instead. As they did, Mikael folded his legs up and hugged them, something he used to do all the time during their movie nights. It made Even’s chest ache a little bit. 

 

"Mikael, I…" 

 

"I slept with someone else. At the school." The other boy suddenly blurted out, making Even flinch at the loud words. He looked at Mikael but he wasn't looking back, opting instead to stare at the ground. 

 

That had definitely not been anywhere close to what Even pictured their first conversation being about. But he sensed Mikael wanted to get it off his chest, and despite the fact that it should have hurt, Even found that he wasn’t angry. Or sad. 

 

"Okay." Even said slowly, still not upset but not entirely sure what he should do with that either. 

 

"I didn't expect it to happen. It was a long time after I got there. He was nice to me and we shared a room. I...I'm sorry, Even." 

 

"Don't be sorry." Even shook his head, reaching out and taking Mikael's hand. "I'm glad you had somebody there you could feel safe with. Honestly." 

 

Mikael clung back to his hand, lacing their fingers together. He looked as if he didn't believe Even wasn't freaking out. 

 

"I wish I had tried harder to get you out." Even whispered, licking his dry lips. "But I...kind of had a breakdown. I got so stuck in my own head. For so many months." 

 

"Evy." 

 

Mikael pulled on Evens hand so they were sitting closer, Mikael's arm wrapped around Even's shoulder. 

 

"You couldn't have done anything. I didn't expect you to, as much as I was scared and lonely. None of this was your fault." Mikael whispered, playing with the hairs on the nape of Even's neck. 

 

"Please tell me they didn't hurt you. Because if they did I'm flying there tomorrow and kicking all their asses." 

 

Mikael chuckled a little, shaking his head. "No. It wasn't as archaic as I thought it would be, even for England. Nobody strapped me to a chair and made me watch straight porn. It was mostly a lot of prayer, and admitting to my 'sinful desires.' I did actually take normal classes when we weren't all gathered at the church or in some kind of confessional. But it fucking sucked because I had to tell various people all the time that I didn't love you, that being gay was wrong. And I didn't have access to my phone, so I couldn't call you or anyone else. It really wears on your mental state." 

 

"Mother fuckers." Even practically growled. "I can't believe places like that are even allowed to exist anymore." 

 

"I know. But people like to think if they send their children there they'll come back straight. And be exactly who they want them to be, live up to their stupid expectations." Mikael sighed. "Which is why I can't go back home." 

 

"I understand." 

 

They sat close together for a few long moments, Mikael now rubbing the top of Even's back. 

 

"Did you fall in love? With this guy at school?" Even asked in a small, quiet voice. The question might not have been the best thing to ask, but he found himself wanting to know all the same - even if it meant he might get hurt. 

 

Mikael stopped moving his hand and instead moved forward to rest his forehead against Even's. His breath was warm on Evens's cheek and smelled like mint ice cream. 

 

"Yeah. I did." 

 

Even took in a long breath and on exhale said, "You don't have to feel bad about it, Mik. It's okay." 

 

"Is it okay because you fell in love with someone, too?" Mikael whispered, the smile obvious even in his tone. Even turned slightly and saw it, unable to help but smile back. 

 

"Yes. I fell really, really hard for someone else. And it kind of came out of nowhere, too. I didn't go looking for it." 

 

A silence fell over them again but it wasn't awkward. Even didn't feel jealous or angry that their separation over the past eight months had sort of ended their love story. 

 

Because they still both had love, loved each other. And Mikael was okay. Something good had come from his bad situation. 

 

"Even?" 

 

"Yeah?" 

 

"In a few weeks, I'm planning to go back to the UK to meet up with him. With Blake. That's his name. We're planning to meet in London." 

 

"Oh." Even nodded, turning so he could properly see Mikael's face. "Are you going to live there permanently?" 

 

"I think so. I'm working on trying to get a visa. We want to start over together, away from our families. He knows a lot of people in the city." 

 

"Wow. I wasn't expecting that." 

 

"Do you think it's a bad choice? To go there and be with him?" Mikael bit his fingernail on his thumb, a nervous habit of his. 

 

Even could tell he needed reassurance. 

 

"No, Mik. I didn't say that. I want you to do whatever makes you happy. Really." 

 

"Even, I honestly can't believe this is how this conversation went." Mikael said, tearing up but this time it seemed to be from happiness. "I didn't know how I was going to tell you all this and we'd still be okay. I thought you'd be so mad at me for being with someone else. I thought I was going to lose you completely." 

 

Even was practically pushed to the ground in the next second, Mikael putting his arms around him and squeezing him in a tight hug. They both ended up laughing until their throats hurt. 

 

“You won’t lose me, Mik. Not ever, okay?” Even said genuinely, after their laughter had subsided.

 

“Ditto.” Mikael nodded, sitting back up.  “Hey, do you still make awful cheese toasties? I’m starving." He followed up this question by poking Even in the ribcage. 

 

"Hell yeah." 

 

Fifteen minutes later, as they sat eating their toasties, Even couldn’t quite believe it was this easy either. It was hard to believe they had been dating the last time they’d been in the same room; had been in love with each other. And now that loved had shifted, not faded, into something else - a more platonic love. But it wasn’t making Even sad. 

 

It made something shift into place, put him at peace. And he couldn’t help but feel excited about the future. 

 

About Isak. 

 

**

 

7:45pm

 

Even and Mikael were sitting on the couch again, playing some video games like old times, when Edwin came around the corner holding his phone up to his ear. His face was flushed with anger as he listened to whoever was speaking to him. 

 

"No. No. Despite your low opinions of me, I wouldn't do that." Edwin suddenly spat, walking into the kitchen. 

 

Mikael glanced at Even as he paused the game, unable to help the way his whole body tensed. There was only one person who had a 'low opinion' of his father. 

 

"Like I said, he's not here. Yes, I think I would know if your son was in my house somewhere." 

 

"Fuck." Even muttered, knowing Terje was about to expose his and Isak's secret. 

 

It hadn't only been Terje who they'd fooled. Edwin had never found out about Isak sneaking in every night, or about their secret meeting place either.

 

"What? You must have that wrong. Isak has never once slept over here." Edwin said, but this time there was doubt in his voice. 

 

Even closed his eyes and tried to think about what he'd say to his father, how he could possibly explain without worrying him. He was startled when Mikael put a hand on his arm and squeezed, trying to be a support. 

 

"You okay?" 

 

"I don't know." Even said honestly, hearing footsteps coming back into the living room. He looked up and locked eyes with his father, who was staring at him with an unreadable expression. 

 

"I'm not going to comment on that. You know where I stand. I don't appreciate your tone, or your accusations. Goodnight." Edwin said curtly, bringing the phone away from his ear. 

 

Mikael remained quiet next to him, and Even slowly stood up. 

 

"Dad?" 

 

"Is Isak all right?" Edwin asked, his facial features returning to normal - the anger fading. Apparently Terje had a way of really getting under his skin when they were speaking. 

 

"When I left him after school he was okay. Why? What's wrong?" Panic was suddenly surging through him, his knees a little weak. 

 

"He isn't home. He ran out and didn't tell anyone where he was going. Terje seems to think he would come here." 

 

Even chose not to comment on that, not wanting to say something along the lines of I don't know why he'd think that. He was never good at lying directly to people, especially his father. 

 

Edwin glanced at Mikael, seeming to hesitate because he was in the room with them.

 

"Has Isak been...coming over? After school or..?" 

 

"Yeah. Sometimes." His voice broke on the last word, his giveaway that he was lying, and Edwin suddenly looked disappointed. 

 

"Even. It didn't have to be some kind of secret." Edwin said, walking closer and putting his hand on his son's shoulder. 

 

"It wasn't a secret. It was just something I didn't tell you. It never...came up." 

 

Mikael stood up and cleared his throat, slipping past them both. "I'm just gonna get some water." He said, practically sprinting away from them, but he glanced back at Even before he turned the corner and gave him a reassuring smile. 

 

"Dad, I'm really sorry. I didn't mean for this to cause tension between you and Terje." 

 

Edwin waved a dismissive hand in front of his face, tutting. "There's already tension that has nothing to do with you. Don't worry. I just wish you could have told me. Has he been sleeping here a lot?" 

 

Even nodded. "It started as him coming over to just spend time with me because I had trouble sleeping when we first moved in. He used to meet me in the backyard and stay up with me. But then the weather got colder, so we slept upstairs in my room. He just wanted to help me sleep." 

 

Edwin nodded, taking in Even's story. "Did he leave early in the mornings?" 

 

"Yeah. So that his dad didn't know he snuck out. He thought he would get angry." 

 

"Yeah, well. He's angry now. But it's so over the top. He was practically screaming at me on the phone, saying that you're some kind of bad influence on Isak." 

 

Even rolled his eyes, leaning against the wall. "Isak told me Terje found out just this morning about it. Dad, he... hit Isak. Punched him in the mouth. He came over this morning bleeding and scared." 

 

Edwin's whole demeanor changed. He squared his shoulders, dropped his arms and balled his hands into fists. 

 

"What? How dare he." 

 

Even shook his head. "He thinks Isak and I are together. That Isak is gay. It’s one thing to be vocally homophobic, but the fact that he hurt his own son…"

 

"It's not acceptable. Not at all." 

 

"I don't know how to help him." Even admitted, feeling his eyes fill with tears. Actually telling someone about it made him realize the severity of what Terje had done. 

 

It made him scared for Isak all over again. 

 

"I'll figure something out, Ev. I promise. Leave it to me." Edwin assured him, pulling his son into a hug and rubbing his back. 

 

"Thanks, Dad." 

 

"It's nothing, Even." 

 

It's everything, Even thought, hugging his father tightly. 

 

"In the meantime, text Isak and make sure he's safe. He's welcome to come here if he needs to. Do you and Mikael want to go to McDonald's for dinner?" Edwin asked, and before Even could reply they heard Mikael yell out from the kitchen. 

 

"Yes, please!" 

 

Even laughed, pulling out of the hug. "I guess that answers the question." 

 

Edwin nodded, leaning back in closer as he glanced towards the kitchen. "Can I ask if you and Isak are together?" He whispered, making sure Mikael couldn't hear. 

 

Even couldn't help but smile, feeling confident in the answer now. "Yeah, Dad. We are." 

 

And I can’t wait to be with him properly now. 

 

Edwin smiled back, nodding. "Okay. And everything is all right with Mikael?" 

 

"Yeah." 

 

"Good. I can see by your face that you're happy, so that's all I need to know. Let's to get some Big Mac's." 

 

As they got into the car, Even messaged Isak. 

 

8:17pm

Are you safe somewhere? 

Your dad called mine and said you're not there. Please let me know. xoxo

 

**

 

9:00 pm

 

Even walked out of the McDonalds, needing some fresh air. He’d left his father and Mikael at the table chomping on their fries and burgers, the joint in his pocket begging to be smoked. 

 

He just needed a minute to process all that had happened since he woke up this morning. 

 

Even decided to go around the back of the building, not wanting to be spotted by anyone. The chances were low, considering most people were home by this time of night but he didn't want to risk it. 

 

He leaned against the brick wall, searching for his lighter, when he suddenly heard a muffled sound. Even hesitated, listening to see if he heard it again. When he did, he noticed it was coming from behind the large garbage bin to his left and he slowly walked over to it. 

 

As he came around the garbage bin, eyes not knowing where to look, he saw a dark blue car parked pretty much exactly in front of him - well hidden in the back alley of the McDonalds and the small corner store next to it. 

 

It was a good spot to hide, which is what the two people in the car currently fucking apparently wanted. Even’s eyes went wide as he realized it was two guys going at it, one of them riding the other in the driver’s seat. 

 

He was about to turn away, give whoever it was privacy, when the guy on top suddenly turned and looked at him - eyes locking onto Even’s. 

 

And of course it was Isak. 

 

Of course it was the boy he was in love with fucking someone else - riding him like he knew exactly what he was doing despite claiming to have never gone all the way with another boy before. 

 

And of course - as the other guy looked over as well to see what Isak was staring at - it was Jason who was screwing him; hands on Isak’s bare hips and his hair sex-messy. 

 

Even turned and ran. 

 

Chapter Text

"Will you drive me to school?" Even asked, his eyes stinging from lack of sleep as he sat at the kitchen table with Edwin. 

 

His father looked up from his newspaper and frowned. "You're not taking the bus with Isak?"

 

"I'd rather not." 

 

Edwin sighed, putting the paper down and giving his son his full attention. "Did something happen between you?" 

 

"Nope. I'd just like to go in early." He said, surprised by the smoothness of his own voice. 

 

Apparently sometimes I can be a good liar. 

 

"All right. Is Mikael still sleeping?" 

 

"Yeah. He'll just hang around the house today, I imagine." 

 

"And every day until he goes back to the UK?" Edwin stood up and put his coffee cup in the sink, turning off their coffee maker near the stove. 

 

"I think that's his plan. He can help with chores too, and shopping. He said he would last night." Even said, not wanting his father to think Mikael wouldn't contribute if he was staying with them. 

 

"He doesn't have to do anything, Even. I'm glad he's here and that he's safe. He deserves to have some time to himself." Edwin smiled, and once again Even was blown away by how amazing his father was. "Do you have all your stuff ready? We need to leave in five minutes." 

 

Even had been dressed and ready for the past hour. He nodded and stood up, bringing his cereal bowl to the sink as well. 

 

"I'm good to go whenever you are." 

 

**

 

Even was in the library, making the most of his time and working on an English paper, when the bus arrived. He could see some familiar faces walking across the windows, all of them headed towards the front entrance. Everyone was chatting and laughing, looking carefree and normal. 

 

Even couldn't help but wish he was worry-free right now too, that he was walking with them. 

 

Isak was the last of the group, his backpack swung over his shoulder and his snapback sat crookedly on his head. Even averted his eyes almost immediately after he saw Isak, trying to ignore the painful twinge inside his chest. He tried to focus on his paper again, but the words were all blurred together. Whatever focus he had achieved was now gone. 

 

The bell was going to ring soon. He knew he had to move and go to class, but he felt weighed down to his chair. He felt like his limbs were chained to the library table and it wasn't going to be possible to get up. 

 

The library was practically empty, the dark-haired, middle aged librarian perched at her desk like a bird; gazing at her ancient computer. One other boy was sitting a few desks over, head on his pile of books and most likely asleep. 

 

The quietness of the room had lulled Even into a kind of trance, doing nothing to keep his sleep deprived brain awake. This was also why, when the door swung open too fast and slammed against the wall, he jumped so high he literally fell out of his chair; landing hard on his ass. 

 

"God damnit," He mumbled to himself, reaching up to grab the table and pulled himself back into his seat. 

 

He glanced up to glare at whoever had come in like a fucking hurricane, and nearly swallowed his tongue. 

 

Isak stood there, hand still on the door, staring at him with wide eyes. 

 

Even looked at him, let himself stare despite how badly he wanted to leave. Despite how his whole body was telling him to run, to push past Isak and shove him with his shoulder out of the way. 

 

Isak seemed unsure of what to do, if he should come over or turn around and leave. He clearly hadn't come looking for Even, but rather found him by accident. He took a step back, about to leave, and that's when Even stood up and shoved his things into his backpack. 

 

He was so fucking sick of playing games. He was so done with Isak’s unwillingness to talk, his back and forth confessions that never matched his actions. He was done having his heart broken. 

 

Even was just really, really done with it all.  

 

He put his backpack on his shoulder and walked towards the door, eyes no longer holding Isak's gaze. But as he got close enough - fully intending to walk past the other boy without a word -  Isak reached out and grabbed his wrist; startling him once again. 

 

"It's not what you think." Isak whispered, shaking his head. 

 

"Let go of me." 

 

" Please, Even. It's not what you think." 

 

Even pulled his hand away, anger surging through him. "I don't think anything because this is fucking done. Whatever it was, whatever it could have been, is over. I'm done playing fucking games with you." 

 

The words made Isak flinch, made tears almost immediately well up in his eyes. The sight made Even feel guilty, but he was more angry than regretful. He couldn't feel bad for Isak anymore. 

 

"Can we talk? I promise I'll explain everything." Isak asked, and Even didn't miss how he was practically begging. 

 

Isak glanced around, keeping his voice low so nobody could hear him. "I'm sorry, Even. I'm so fucking sorry but it isn't what you think." 

 

Even didn't know whether to throw his head back and laugh or just break down and cry. Did Isak ever actually listen to him? 

 

"I'm done. Done. I don't want to talk anymore. Do you hear yourself? Do you hear how full of shit you sound?" 

 

"Even, give me one last chance." Isak cried, reaching for him again but Even took three steps back - completely avoiding his touch. 

 

"No. I don’t have anymore chances to give you, Isak. I can’t stand this.” 

 

Isak rubbed his temple with both his hands, shaking his head. Even could tell Isak hadn’t gotten much sleep either, had probably been up all right. But it was likely that someone was keeping Isak awake, not that he was too upset to drift off - covered in blankets and crying so hard it gave him a headache. 

 

“That’s it, then? This is over?” Isak whispered, checking around nervously again. The gesture made Even roll his eyes, clench his fists at how paranoid Isak was. 

 

“How am I supposed to trust you, Isak? How am I supposed to believe anything you ever say to me again?” Even snapped, throwing his hands up into the air. 

 

“Please keep your voice down.” Isak whispered, putting a finger up to his lips. 

 

The way he did it was so patronizing that Even lost it. He turned around and punched the nearest thing to him - a cardboard box full of books that was sitting on a table. The impact made his hand instantly ache and the box tumble to the ground. 

 

“Excuse me!” The librarian cried, standing up from her desk and walking over to them. 

 

Isak looked between her and Even before he said, “I’m sorry. I walked into it by accident.” He bent down and began picking up the books, placing them back into the damaged box. 

 

Even was still fuming at Isak, the way he’d tried to get him to whisper - as if this was a fucking conversation he could whisper through. He wasn’t a fucking child. He wasn’t scared if people knew he liked boys. Not anymore. He didn’t even care if people thought they were together because he would have been proud to call Isak his boyfriend. 

 

He would have held Isak’s hand with pride. 

 

But Isak wasn’t there. He probably would never be there, and it was right then that Even realized they couldn’t be together. Isak was too scared. He didn’t know what he wanted. He was still sneaking around and fucking other people, despite the fact that he might very well think he loved Even. 

 

Isak was a fucking mess and Even couldn’t be caught in the crossfire of it, not if he was going to survive. He couldn’t give himself over to someone who wasn’t actually his; who didn’t know how to let himself have what he wanted. 

 

The librarian shook her head as she placed the last book in the box, asking them to please be more careful. She walked away a second later and sat at her desk again just as the bell rang. 

 

“Yes, this is over.” Even said, wishing he didn’t have to say it. Isak looked at him, face contorting as he slowly began to cry. 

 

“I really do... love you, Even.” He whimpered, wiping his face clear of the tears that had begun to fall. “I wasn’t lying.” 

 

“And I love you, too. But we can’t be together.” 

 

“Why? I’m not in love with Jason. I didn’t even…” 

 

“I have to go to class.” Even interrupted, not wanting to hear anymore. He walked out the door without another word, ignoring Isak’s call of his name. 

 

**

 

When lunchtime came, Even tried to avoid the cafeteria. He didn't want another confrontation with Isak. But as he headed out the back doors of the school, intending to go for a walk around the surrounding streets, he was ambushed by Jonas, Magnus and Mahdi. 

 

"What's going on?" Jonas asked first, looking like he was trying not to get mad. His hands were clenched around the straps of his backpack and he was looking at Even like he was supposed to know exactly what Jonas meant by his broad statement. 

 

"Um, with what?" He said slowly, glancing at Magnus and Mahdi who hovered behind Jonas; hesitant. 

 

" Isak. What the hell has been going on?" Jonas said, gesturing with his hands wildly like it was the most obvious thing in the world. 

 

Even sighed, frustrated because he couldn't tell the truth. Despite how badly he was hurting, he wouldn't out Isak. 

 

"Do you mean his lip? He got into an argument with his father. I don't know much else." 

 

"That's bullshit and you know it." Jonas snapped, shaking his head. 

 

Even didn't know if he was implying that it was bullshit that Terje hit his son, or that Even didn't know more. 

 

"Isak isn't okay. Something is wrong. You're neighbours. You must know something. Has his father lost it again?" Magnus asked, sounding more worried than angry. 

 

"Again?" Even asked, frowning. 

 

"Christ. You really don't know, do you?" Jonas spat, turning on his heel to walk away but Mahdi grabbed his arm. 

 

"It's not his fault he doesn't know, Jonas. Can you calm down?" 

 

"No! I'm fucking worried about my friend and if he doesn't know anything than this is a waste of time!" 

 

"Has Terje done this before? Hurt Isak?" Even asked, trying to keep calm despite his quickening heart. 

 

"He's a fucking monster." Jonas stated, shaking his head as he looked at Even. 

 

"He comes off as really nice, but his temper is brutal. He beat Isak's brother really badly a few years ago, so much that the police got involved. He somehow talked his way out of it." Magnus explained. 

 

"And he keeps Marianne at home all the time. She doesn't work. I think something is up with her mental health, but Isak won't talk about it." Mahdi added, his expression full of pain. 

 

"Isak's mother?" Even clarified at the mention of the unfamiliar name, and the three other boys nodded. 

 

"Isak hasn't been himself lately. He's more private. Withdrawn. And then yesterday he barely talked to us. I'm worried Terje has been hurting him more than just his bloody lip and thought you knew what was up." Jonas said slowly, the anger lessening. "I didn't mean to freak at you." 

 

"It's okay. I told my dad about what Terje did, and he said he would do something. I'm not sure what yet. I'm worried about him being safe." Even said, feeling comfortable enough to share that. 

 

"Okay." Jonas nodded, giving him a small squeeze on the shoulder that Even returned. 

 

Part of Even wanted to give them all the details, including the stuff with Jason and how he didn't trust this older man who had some kind of control over Isak - perhaps an obsession. 

 

But he couldn't. 

 

"Are you two...fighting?" Mahdi asked, and Even found himself freezing. 

 

Crap. What could he say? What could he give away that wouldn't out them? 

 

"Sorta." He decided on, sighing. "It's complicated."

 

"Maybe that's another reason he hasn't been okay lately. He doesn't like confrontation." Magnus added. 

 

"That's between you guys, though. I hope you can sort it out." Mahdi said, glancing at Jonas. 

 

"You want to come for lunch with us? We were going to grab some sandwiches at the corner store." Magnus asked, eyes lighting up at the mention of food. 

 

"Isak's working on a project. He won't be with us." Jonas added, sensing Even's hesitation. 

 

Even nodded, laughing as Magnus fist bumped him and put an arm around his shoulders. It was nice to have a distraction from his own thoughts - the sinking dread he'd been feeling all day. He let himself have an hour of happiness, and tried desperately not to think of Isak. 

 

**

 

Isak (14:45)

Can we talk? 

On the bus after I drop everyone off? 

I just want to explain one thing, and then you don't have to talk to me ever again if you don't want to. 

 

Even stared at the message for a long time before finally answering it. 

 

(14:56)

Okay

 

**

 

Isak turned down the abandoned road, and Even's mind drifted to yesterday when he’d been sitting in this exact same spot. Isak's confession, the hope that had bloomed in his chest that he might finally be able to date someone again - have a boyfriend. 

 

It was an entirely different feeling than he had right now. He was so tired, just wanted to sleep. He wanted to go home and dive under his covers, sleep for the next month. 

 

He didn't know if he could handle whatever Isak was going to tell him. 

 

The engine turned off and Isak got up out of the driver's seat, sitting across from him in the other row. Without any preamble, he began to speak. 

 

"Jason messaged me last night, and said that if I didn't meet him in the alley he would tell you something about me that I didn't want you to know." Isak said, his voice low and breathless. 

 

"What…" Even began, immediately wanting to know what it was Jason was threatening Isak with, but Isak held up a hand. 

 

" Please . Just let me explain all this before I lose my nerve. I want so badly to be honest with you, but this is the hardest thing I've ever done and I just need to tell you everything." Isak pleaded, and the sincerity in his voice made Even put his lips together. 

 

Isak took in a breath, wringing his hands together. 

 

"Jason wasn't the only guy I did stuff with. There have been others. Always older, usually married. It started as just kissing, but then it would lead to other things like blow jobs and hand jobs. It used to feel good, the fact that these guys wanted me - and it felt good with Jason at first. He seemed to want more than just getting to second base with me. We used to...go on proper dates, talk about maybe trying to be together and for a few months I believed it might work. He was going to leave his wife because he said it wasn’t fair that she was with someone who couldn’t love her properly.” 

 

Isak paused, still wringing his hands and not meeting Even’s eyes. 

 

“I tried to brush off what I had with Jason when you and I first started doing stuff - when I realized that I really liked you. I lied to you about him pursuing me, that it wasn’t mutual. Until you, I was going to go away with him at the end of this year when he left his wife. But that changed when we got close. You made me feel different than anyone else who I had been with. It felt more real with you, like it might be able to go somewhere that wasn’t a dead end.

 

“I told Jason that him and I couldn’t work, that it was too complicated. He was going to leave his wife and let her have their kid and basically give up his rights as a parent. For me. And I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t be the reason some kid grows up without a dad. But he couldn’t see reason. He kept calling and messaging me, so much that I just blocked his number and avoided him at church. That’s when he asked you to give me his letter.” 

 

Even’s hands had curled into fists at some point during Isak’s explanation. His knuckles were burning as he relaxed his fingers, shaking them out. 

 

“I was ashamed of how many older, married guys I’d hooked up with. I didn’t want you to know, especially if you were hearing it from Jason. I didn’t want you to think that I’m a homewrecker, or a slut. When Jason threatened me yesterday, the only thing I kept thinking was that I didn’t want you to hate me. I didn’t want to lose you. 

 

“But as I was in the car with him, and I saw you...I realized that I was the reason you would give up on me. My choices and my lies and all the fucking secrecy about my life is what would drive you away. And when you ran back around the corner, I got up and told Jason that it was over. I said that if he ever actually cared about me, he would leave me alone because we couldn’t be together. I loved you. I wanted you, and he needed to accept that.” 

 

“Fucking christ.” Even whispered, letting out a long sigh and running a hand through his hair. 

 

Isak gulped loudly enough that Even could hear it, and then cleared his throat. 

 

“We weren’t actually fucking. Not properly. I haven’t done that with anyone before, probably because I never felt comfortable enough to ask for it. Every single person I’ve kissed or hooked up with has never had enough time to spend on me, to make me feel like I matter to them. Even Jason, he’d go back to his wife every night after we would get maybe two hours together - driving to the next town over so we wouldn’t be recognized. 

 

“But with you...Even, you look at me like I’m incredible. You hold me and kiss me and touch me like you accept everything about me, and I’m so fucking sorry that I panicked and went to Jason last night. I’m sorry I didn’t trust you with this part of my past. I’ve just been so fucking scared of anyone knowing, that the idea of telling even one person made everything feel like it was going to explode around me.” 

 

Isak stopped talking, seeming to need a break, and they looked up at each other at pretty much the same time. 

 

Even had never been more conflicted in his whole life. He wanted to go over and pull Isak into his arms, tell him it was okay; that he still loved him and wanted to be with him. Tell Isak he wanted to make it alright. 

 

But another part of him was still angry that Isak hadn’t just told him all this from day one - that he felt this obscene need to hide it and almost fuck Jason so he would keep his mouth shut. 

 

“And my mother…” Isak said, quieter this time. “She’s been unwell for a few years now. I don’t know what’s wrong, but my father refuses to let her go to our doctor and actually talk about her symptoms. She goes for normal check ups, or if she’s hurt herself somehow. But he’s never taken her and explained to a doctor that she isn’t all there a lot of the time. 

 

“He’s embarrassed, I think. And afraid that she won’t ever be okay again. He likes to pretend things aren’t happening. Then he doesn’t have to deal with it.” 

 

“I’m sorry, Isak.” Even said, almost before he knew he was going to say it. He reached over and took the other boy’s hands between his own, squeezing. “That isn’t right. And it’s not right that he hits you, either.” 

 

Isak’s bottom lip quivered, and for the third time that day Even saw him break down, just absolutely crumble. This time though, Even pulled him against his chest and held onto him instead of walking away. 

 

Even ended up with his back across the window, Isak huddled beside him with his long legs tucked up against his chest. It wasn’t very comfortable, but Isak didn’t seem to mind. He just held onto Even’s waist and cried into his chest, his body trembling with the force of his sobs. 

 

He stayed quiet as Isak cried, knowing he needed to process everything Isak told him and Isak needed a break from explaining. They stayed close until Isak’s sobs lessened and eventually stopped. 

 

“Isak?” 

 

Even brushed the last of Isak’s tears off his cheeks, and moved the strands of hair that had fallen into his face back behind his ears. He then placed a barely-there kiss on the other boy’s smooth forehead. 

 

“Yeah?” 

 

“I want us to focus on keeping you safe for now, okay? We have to find a way to help your mother and get you away from your father. Something has to change.” 

 

Isak sighed like he was going to disagree, but then he nodded. “I just don’t even know where to begin.” 

 

“I told my dad. About how Terje hit you, and he said he was going to do something. I don’t know what yet, but I think we should tell him everything else - the stuff about your mom - so he has all the details.” 

 

Isak was silent for a long moment before he said, “Okay.” 

 

**

 

When Isak parked the bus in his driveway, Terje wasn’t home yet so Even didn’t think twice about walking into Isak’s house with him. Isak was tense as the front door closed behind them, looking around anxiously for his mother. The front door led right into the small kitchen, messy with dishes in the sink and the faint smell of rotting fruit. 

 

“She’s sometimes asleep at this time of day.” 

 

“That’s okay. Let’s just get your stuff.” 

 

They walked down the narrow, badly-lit hallway to the left of the kitchen and Isak opened the second door on the right. He paused when the door was open, seemingly startled, and when Even looked into the room from behind him he saw another guy about their age sitting on one of the beds. 

 

“Hi, Liam.” Isak said, his voice sounding unsure. 

 

“Hey. Who’s with you?” Liam asked, standing up. When he was closer and Even could see him properly, he noticed how similar Isak looked to his older brother. They could probably pass for fraternal twins. 

 

“I’m Even.” He held out his hand, trying to be polite despite the fact that Liam had exposed their secret and put Isak in harm’s way. 

 

“Oh. Shit. Nice to meet you.” Liam said, eyes wide as he shook Even’s hand. “What are you guys doing here?” 

 

Isak didn’t answer but instead walked further into the room and sat on the bed Liam hadn’t been sitting on, the one that was presumably his. Liam frowned and looked back at Even, clearly confused. 

 

“Isak’s going to stay at Jonas’s house for a little while. After what happened, I’m sure you can understand.” 

 

“You’re leaving?” Liam asked, putting all his focus on Isak now. 

 

“I can’t be here anymore, Liam. Dad’s scaring me, and mom’s not okay. I’m tired of living like this, and I don’t want him to hurt me anymore.” 

 

Liam sat back down, arms resting on his bent legs, and shook his head. “I get that, but don’t leave. We can’t do anything about all this if you’re gone.” 

 

“We can’t do anything about this if dad fucking kills me for being gay, either!” Isak snapped, grabbing a book from the floor and throwing it against the wall. 

 

Liam paused for about half a minute before asking, “You’re gay? Like actually?” 

 

“Yes. Your little brother is a big homo. Dad was right all along. But I’m not going to stay here and be watched like a goddamn prisoner when I’ve done nothing wrong.” 

 

The way Isak was already standing up for himself made a warm feeling spread throughout Even’s chest, made him feel proud that Isak had reached a limit and was finally willing to fight back. 

 

“Jesus, Isak. I know you’re mad, but I never thought you were sneaking out to sleep with guys. And I don’t even care if you like guys, but I thought you were doing drugs or something! I was actually worried. I was trying to talk to mom about it and dad overheard. He beat me until I told him that I saw you go over to the neighbour’s house.” 

 

“Why the hell would you talk to mom about anything? She’s gone!” 

 

“No!” Liam yelled. “She’s not gone! She still has moments when she knows what’s happening, when she remembers us. But you’re never willing to talk to her long enough to notice anymore.” 

 

“Okay, both of you just calm down.” Even intervened, putting his hands up. “Nothing is going to come from yelling.” 

 

Isak stood up and opened the drawers of the dresser between their beds, shoving everything he could into his backpack. He walked past Even and opened the small closet on the opposite wall, pulling a few more clothing items off the hangers. 

 

“Nothing is going to come from staying here, Liam. We’ll end up rotting away, just like them. And I don’t want that. I won’t let that be my life.” Isak stated, voice calmer now as he headed out his bedroom door. 

 

Liam pushed past Even and followed Isak towards the kitchen. 

 

"So you're just leaving? Staying with friends while I deal with them all alone?" Liam asked, and Even didn't miss the anger in his voice. 

 

"You don't have to. You could leave too. You were going to go to university, get your degree. You chose to stay!" Isak shouted, throwing his hands into the air and Even decided they probably weren't going to listen to his suggestion about not yelling. 

 

"Isak, do you think it was easy for me to stay? I'm here a lot so I can take care of mom. I make sure she doesn't leave the stove on, or forget to eat. I'm her fucking care taker." Liam said, hugging his arms around his middle like he was protecting himself. 

 

"How about you stop doing that then and focus on yourself? Why don't we both just leave and finally tell the truth that dad doesn't want anyone to know? Get mom some actual help?" Isak asked, moving closer to his brother and keeping his voice quieter. 

 

"You make it sound like it's so easy." Liam whispered. 

 

"It's not. I don't know what the fuck is going to happen, but I know I can't be here anymore. We have to take small steps, right? We have to start somewhere." Isak pleaded, placing a hand on his brother's shoulder. "Go and be with your girlfriend. She would let you stay, right?" 

 

Liam took a moment before answering. "Probably. I don't know." 

 

"Call her and ask." 

 

"I can't just leave mom here all alone." Liam protested. "It would be dangerous." 

 

"She'll be fine. Dad will be home soon. He doesn't hurt her." Isak said, a slight bitterness in his tone. 

 

Liam looked torn, like he was having some kind of internal battle; his hands shaking and body turning right then left. 

 

"Liam?" 

 

"Okay. Okay. I'm going to call her. I'll leave soon, too." Isak's brother said, suddenly reaching out and pulling Isak into a hug. "Text me. Keep in touch." 

 

"I will. Promise." Isak said, wrapping his arms around Liam briefly before the hug ended and Liam walked past Even to their shared room. 

 

Isak wiped his eyes before indicating to Even that he was ready to go. They walked out the door together, and headed over to Even's house. 

 

**

 

"Um, nice to meet you. I'm Mikael." 

 

Isak shook hands with the dark haired boy in the living room, glancing briefly at Even who could say with confidence that he'd never been more uncomfortable. Standing between his ex-boyfriend and the guy he could picture himself being with was way too weird. 

 

"I'm Isak." 

 

"Do you guys want cookies? I made some today." Mikael smiled, turning into the kitchen. 

 

"My dad should be home in about ten minutes. He'll drive you to Jonas's house." Even whispered, putting his hand on Isak's lower back and steering him into the kitchen where the smell of chocolate chip cookies met them. 

 

Mikael held a plate full and offered it to Isak. 

 

"Thanks." Isak said, taking one and then sitting at the kitchen table. 

 

Mikael awkwardly put down the plate and sat across from Isak, eyebrows raised expectantly for Even to join them. 

 

Last night when they'd gotten home from McDonald's, Even had told Mikael everything. Mikael had seen how upset Even was and he'd ended up explaining what he saw in the alley. 

 

As he sat down, it suddenly occurred to Even that Mikael didn't know why Isak had been with Jason, and Isak didn't know that Mikael would be leaving soon to be with his new boyfriend. The uncomfortable feeling in the room intensified and Even took a deep breath through his nose. 

 

"Isak, I'm not with Mikael. He's going to London to be with his boyfriend soon. He's staying with me for a while until he leaves, that's why I suggested you stay with Jonas." Even suddenly blurted out, both of the other boy’s looking over at him. 

 

“Oh. Okay?” Isak muttered, confused. 

 

“Just wanted to...clarify.” 

 

“Even, take a deep breath.” Mikael chuckled, biting into one of his cookies. 

 

A silence passed over them that Even didn’t know what to do with, and he snapped his fingers under the table. He felt like he should say something since he was the one who knew them both and they didn’t know each other. But he couldn’t think of anything else to say. 

 

“Even told me about why you went to England.” Isak suddenly said, finishing off his cookie. “I’m sorry that happened to you.” 

 

Mikael nodded and said, “Thanks. Nobody hurt me or anything, though. And I met Blake, so it wasn’t completely awful.” 

 

“Right.” Isak said, quieter than before and just as he said the word the front door opened and Even jumped out of his chair to explain the situation to his father. 

 

**

 

Isak and Even stood on the front porch of Jonas’s house, their friend inside putting Isak’s bag of clothes in the spare bedroom. Edwin was waiting for Even in the idling car. 

 

“Isak…” 

 

“Even…” 

 

They said each other’s names at the same time and then both paused, smiling sheepishly. 

 

“You go first.” Isak said, gesturing between them. 

 

Even opened his mouth to speak, but found that he didn’t know what to say. What could he say? How could he possibly express the millions of thoughts inside his head? 

 

Because he was so stuck, his tongue apparently done work for the day, he pulled Isak into a hug and kissed the soft skin between his neck and shoulder; savouring the warmth and smell of him for a long moment before pulling away. 

 

“I love you.” Isak whispered. “I know that might not mean anything to you, but I do love you, Even.” 

 

“It does mean something to me, Isak. It does. But, like I said, we have to focus on keeping you safe. For now, okay? Just for now.” 

 

Isak nodded, seeming to understand his meaning. Even hoped that Isak knew he had heard everything that he’d said on the bus, that he was processing through it. He hoped Isak understood that Even needed a bit of time to think about what came next for them, if they could be together. It wasn’t because Even didn’t like the things Isak had done - sleeping with other men was the least of his concerns - but it was more the fact that Isak was still so shrouded in secrecy. His whole world had been about keeping secrets, and it wasn’t as if that was an uneasy thing to unlearn. 

 

There was still a part of Even that didn’t trust Isak completely; a part of him that didn’t want to be hurt again. 

 

“Bye, Even.” Isak said, bringing him out of his thoughts. “You better go before your dad leaves you here.” 

 

Even smiled, waving to Edwin who was glancing at them from the car. “Walking home would definitely take me a while, so I probably shouldn’t risk it.” 

 

“Probably not.” 

 

Even took a few steps towards the car before turning and waving. “Bye, Isak.” He called, seeing the soft smile on Isak’s face as he stood in the evening dusk light. 

 

And despite Even’s hesitation, despite all the complicated shit between them, in that moment he couldn’t help but be more hopeful than not that they could be together someday. It might take a while, but as he closed the door and waved as his father drove down the street, it was an extreme feeling of hope carrying home. 

 

And it made him smile. 

Chapter Text

Even woke up to someone shaking him, the world tilting sideways again and again as he opened his eyes. Mikael was above him, saying his name as he sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his lashes. 

 

“What is it?” 

 

“You need to get up. I heard shouting from downstairs.” 

 

Panic immediately surged through him as he leaped out of bed and grabbed a sweater to throw over his bare shoulders. As he headed for the staircase, he heard two male voices bellowing from the kitchen. 

 

He ran down without hesitating, sensing that something bad was going to happen. When he got into the kitchen, he saw his father standing in his pajamas against the counter and Terje pointing a finger at him from a few feet away. 

 

“You tell me right now where my sons are, or else…” 

 

“What? You’ll hit me? Knock me out so my son can call the police and they’ll come and arrest you?” Edwin snapped, shaking his head in what looked like disgust. 

 

Terje fumed with anger, looking over at Even with a dangerous expression. “I suppose this was all your doing, huh? Putting stupid ideas into Isak’s head, making him think it’s right to abandon his family.” 

 

“Leave him out of it.” Edwin said, moving himself closer to Even like he was trying to be his shield. 

 

“Absolutely not. He’s the reason Isak is gone somewhere! He’s the reason Liam has also taken off without a word. He’s split my entire family apart!” Terje shrieked, moving towards them like he was going to try to knock them both over with his fists. 

 

Edwin grabbed Even’s wrist and backed them up, still in front of him. 

 

“You did that all by yourself, Terje. I’m not surprised they ran away considering the way you treat them. They deserve better.” Even said, unable to help the words from spilling out. He wasn’t just going to stand here and listen to the man not take any responsibility for his sons leaving. 

 

Terje stopped, mouth setting into a hard line. “Isak ran away because you’ve convinced him he’s gay! As if that’s completely acceptable! He’s abandoned everything to do with the church, doesn’t want to be a pastor anymore. And that’s your fault!” 

 

“No, it’s not! If you knew anything about Isak you’d know he doesn’t want to be a pastor. You’d know that he was gay before we even came to this town because nobody can turn another person gay you ignorant fuck!” Even shouted back. 

 

Edwin suddenly turned towards him and led Even around the corner, practically pushing him towards the staircase. 

 

“Let me handle this, Even. Don’t provoke him.” 

 

Edwin’s eyes were pleading, but the idea of leaving his father alone with someone who didn’t think twice about beating up his own family was too much to bear. 

 

“Dad, it’s not safe for you to be alone with him.” 

 

“I’m fine.” 

 

Terje walked into the living room, glaring at them both and it was now Even’s turn to instinctively shield his father from a man he knew could probably cause serious damage if he wanted to. 

 

“I guess this is where he gets it from, Edwin. You let him speak to you this way so it’s no surprise he speaks to other adults in the same manner.” 

 

“Oh, fuck you Terje.” Edwin said, moving past Even and getting up close to the older man’s face. The profanity made Terje’s eyes widen, surprised enough to take a few steps back of his own. “You have no right to come into my house and demand anything of me, or insult my son. I would like you to leave my property this minute or I’m going to call the police.” 

 

“If you’re keeping my son from me against my wishes, I’ll be the one calling the police.” Terje said, his voice still dark but not as loud. 

 

“Isak isn’t here.” Even said coldly, shaking his head. 

 

“Get out.” Edwin demanded again, pointing towards the front door. 

 

After a long moment, Terje smiled at them, twisting his lips into something that Even could only describe as sinister - threatening. Isak’s father nodded, moving to the door with his hands up like a criminal surrendering.

 

“Fine. But this isn’t over. I’m going to find Isak. And don’t you even think about coming back to the church, Edwin. You and your son aren’t welcome there anymore.” 

 

With a final slam of the door, he was gone. Edwin rushed over and locked it, peering through the glass panel on the side to make sure the other man was actually leaving. 

 

Edwin looked at Even, breathing heavily, before reaching for his cell phone that was in his bathrobe pocket. 

 

“Who are you calling?” Even asked, frowning in confusion. 

 

“The police. I need to report the abuse Isak experienced, as well as how Terje waltzed into our house unannounced about ten minutes ago. He came in through the back door like he lives here.” 

 

“Shit.” Even whispered. 

 

His father walked over to him, reaching up to pull lightly on his ear. It made Even smile, but only for a second. 

 

“You should text Isak and tell him what I’m about to do. I’m going to tell the police everything, including how sick his mother is and her lack of care. I imagine child services will get involved since Isak is still underage. A lot will likely change.” 

 

Even nodded, knowing it needed to happen despite how fast everything was going. He had hoped Isak could relax a little bit at Jonas's house, spend some time together before anything happened with the police. But it was probably for the best considering how angry Terje was. 

 

"I'll message him." 

 

Edwin nodded, putting the phone up to his ear. "And then go back to sleep. It's still early." 

 

When Even got back upstairs, Mikael was sitting at his desk chair with an anxious expression on his face. "Everything okay?" 

 

"Not really. Isak's dad is fucking crazy." He sighed, grabbing his phone and pulling up Isak's name. It was then he realized that it was only 4:30am. "Go back to sleep, Mik. I'm sorry this woke you up." 

 

"Are you sure? Do you want anything?" The other boy asked, already yawning. 

 

Even smiled fondly at him. "I'm fine. Goodnight." 

 

Mikael walked back to the bed and got under the covers, asleep before Even could even begin typing out his message. 

 

(04:37) 

Hi Isak. Sorry it's so early.

Your dad came over here tonight and was very aggressive. He doesn't know where you are and thought you were here.

 My dad is going to be contacting the police about him. I'm sorry it's happening so fast but we need to do this. I hope you're doing okay. You're going to be safe. 

xoxo

 

**

 

Even fell back asleep for about half an hour before he woke up to his phone vibrating under his pillow. At first he thought it was his alarm but when he looked properly he saw that Isak was calling him. 

 

He got out of bed and went into the bathroom so he wouldn't wake up Mikael. 

 

"Isak?" 

 

"Sorry to wake you up." He said, his voice hushed. 

 

"It's all right, baby." Even said, blanching a little at the unintentional nickname but he cleared his throat and continued. "You okay?" 

 

"I can't sleep. I haven't slept all night but then I got your message and now I'm even more awake." 

 

"I don't blame you. But it's going to be okay." 

 

Isak sighed, and Even could picture the way he would be fidgeting, tapping his hands against his thighs. He wished he could be there with Isak and hold him, somehow make it that the other boy didn’t have to go through this. He wished he could magically make Marianne better and Terje a more caring and understanding father. 

 

“I’m worried about what will happen to my mom.” Isak said, the words a little broken. 

 

“Yeah?” 

 

“Hm. I can’t help imagining her in some kind of psych ward, chained to a padded wall. I know it isn’t going to be like that, but that’s where my brain keeps taking me and it’s making me feel sick.” 

 

Even knew what it was like to overthink situations when your body hadn’t rested, when you’d been up all night. He often went to worst case scenarios which didn’t help him to calm down. 

 

“I know it’s hard to do this, but try to think of the good things that could come from this. Your mom getting actual help instead of being left at home and ignored by your father. Your mom gaining back some kind of independence if whatever she’s facing can be controlled through meds or therapy or something else.” Even said softly, wishing nothing more than to be a soothing presence for Isak right now. “And if you’re not living with your dad, your life is yours. You can do with it what you want rather than living by your father’s expectations.” 

 

Isak let out a long breath. “It all sounds too good to be true. It seems like nothing will come of it and by this time tomorrow I’ll be back at home, in my room, and not allowed to leave.” 

 

“A case against your father won’t be opened and closed in that small amount of time, Isak. I can guarantee you that much.” 

 

All of a sudden Isak let out a gasping sob that immediately broke Even’s heart. His fingers clutched firmly against the phone and he closed his eyes. 

 

“Isak, I know you’re scared. I know this is really hard to go through. But you’re not alone with this. Your friends are here for you and so am I. We’re going to get through this.” 

 

“I miss you so much.” Isak suddenly whispered, the words dripping in a sadness Even wanted to make disappear. “I miss sleeping next to you. I’m so...sorry, Even.” 

 

Logically, they hadn’t been sleeping separately for a long time at all. It had barely been two days. But Even knew exactly what Isak meant when he said he missed them being together. He missed it too. 

 

“I know.” Even said, licking his lips that were too dry. “I know.” 

 

Isak cried on the line for a few minutes before clearing his throat. “Thanks for talking to me. I’ll let you go now.” 

 

“Try to sleep for a little bit. It’s Saturday so you can sleep in. Play some games with Jonas.” Even suggested, but he knew neither of them would be sleeping again tonight. 

 

“Okay. Bye, Even.” 

 

“Bye.” He said longingly, hanging up and leaning his head back against the wall. 

 

**

 

Even stayed up and made some coffee. He decided to sit in the living room with his laptop and headphones and watch something on Netflix to distract his brain from everything that was happening. His eyes were burning by the time Mikael came downstairs close to ten, yawning and his hair a rumpled mess. 

 

“Please tell me you got some sleep?” He asked, sitting next to Even. 

 

Even looked at him sheepishly and shook his head. 

 

“You should go to the doctor about insomnia. That’s not good for you.” 

 

“I’m fine.” 

 

“You’re dumb.” Mikael quipped, flicking him on his bare knee. “But just consider it? For my peace of mind?” 

 

Even rolled his eyes but nodded. “Fine. There’s coffee if you want some. I’m going to get more.” 

 

“How about you take it easy on the caffeine?” 

 

“How about you shut your face?” Even chuckled, standing up and heading for the kitchen - and the coffee pot. He heard Mikael stand up and follow, glaring at him as he poured another cup. 

 

“Any news about Isak?” Mikael asked, apparently done his lecture about sleep. 

 

“He called me last night worried about what’s going to happen. But I haven’t heard anything else.” Even said, handing Mikael his favourite cereal from the cupboard. His friend’s eyes widened and he smiled, jumping up and down like a child. 

 

“I haven’t had these since I was in the UK!” 

 

“I figured as much.” 

 

“You know me so well.” Mikael said, bumping into Even playfully with his hip as he took a huge bite; pieces spilling onto the floor. 

 

“I do.” 

 

They sat down at the kitchen table and Even stared out at the cold morning, the lawn fresh with a layer of snow and the bare trees sparkling in the sunshine. He was suddenly overwhelmed with tiredness, so much so that he felt a little bit sick. 

 

“Even, don’t forget that I know you , too. I know when you’re pushing yourself too much.” Mikael whispered, reaching over and putting his hand on top of Even’s. 

 

“Mik, it’s not like I didn’t try to sleep.” 

 

“That’s not what I mean. You’re so caught up in this thing with Isak. It’s not good for you, man.” 

 

The words caught Even off guard and he immediately went into defensive mode. “You mean Isak isn’t good for me?” 

 

“I didn’t say that. But you’re putting everything into helping this guy when you’re not even together. He’s hurt you, Ev, and I don’t think you should overlook that. Maybe take a step off the Isak-train for a little bit and put both feet back on your own.” 

 

“Mikael, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” Even grumbled, shaking his head. Maybe he was too sleep-deprived to understand his friend’s meaning, but it all just sounded like bullshit. 

 

“From what you’ve told me, you haven’t been yourself for a while - since I left. You told me you broke down - couldn’t do the things you used to do because all you thought of was how I was gone. Then you move here and life seems to become all about Isak.” Mikael began, still hanging onto Even’s hand; cereal abandoned. 

 

“It wasn’t all about Isak.” 

 

“Okay, but sort of, right? You fell for him and he fell for you. I get that. You’re easy to fall for.” Mikael winked, and it was enough to make Even laugh - break the remaining tension. 

 

“Shut up.” 

 

“But, seriously! You have been so focused on other people that you haven’t had a chance to just be you. I think this might be where your sleep is fucked up because you’re still thinking about stuff you can’t fix right now. But the reality is, I’m fine. And Isak’s going to be fine because he has other people to help him, too. Not just you.” 

 

Even looked at Mikael for a long second before moving his hand away from underneath his friend’s grip. 

 

“So, I just forget about Isak? Give up on what we might be able to have together?” Just saying the words made that sinking feeling inside his stomach intensify and he thought he might actually be sick now. 

 

“No. I didn’t say that, either. I’m saying that you should take time to find yourself again, and I know that sounds like a cliche. But Ev, you used to have all these other hobbies. You played the guitar. Wrote poems. Drew pictures. Hell, you used to write film reviews in our school newspaper!” 

 

Even hadn’t forgotten that he used to do all these things, but as Mikael reminded him, it almost felt like new information. He realized that he had genuinely forgotten that he had been learning the guitar when Mikael was sent away. He was writing a comic, too. And despite the few movie nights he’d had with Isak and his friends over the past months, he really hadn’t focused on films at all. 

 

He hadn’t even given any thought to university applications, what courses he might want to take. And he imagined he would have to submit those soon if he had a chance of getting in. 

 

Fuck. 

 

He really had lost himself a little bit. 

 

“Does that make sense now?” Mikael asked, bringing Even back to their conversation. 

 

“Yeah, actually. It makes a lot of sense, Mik.” He said, reaching out for Mikael and finding both of his hands waiting. 

 

Again, he was tired as fuck, and so he blamed the fact that he was now crying on the lack of sleep. But he had a feeling it was deeper than that. This sadness wasn’t just because he’d been awake longer in the past forty-eight hours than any person should. He missed himself, the way he used to be. 

 

He wanted that piece of himself back. 

 

“I’m here for a few more weeks. Probably until Christmas. Whatever you need, Ev. I’m here for you, okay?” Mikael said, standing up and pulling Even to his feet so they could hug properly. “You’re not alone.” 

 

Even cried harder at those words, knowing he’d said them to Isak just a few hours earlier. He hadn’t noticed how badly he needed someone to say them to him, too. He hugged Mikael tighter and didn’t judge himself for the way he cried for another ten minutes. 

 

He just let himself feel. 

 

**

 

Isak (18:45)

Hey

How’s it going

 

Fine. I slept for a few hours

Mikael made me go back to sleep

 

He’s smart

 

Yeah. But don’t tell him that

His head is big enough :P

 

Noted. ;)

The police came by 

 

Do you want me to call you? 

Are you okay?

 

No, don’t call

I’m fine

I want you to have your own evening

 

I don’t mind talking to you

 

Jonas is here

We’ve been talking 

My dad has been told that a case is opening against him

For now, I’m going to stay with Jonas and Liam with his girlfriend

My mom is at the hospital

 

Okay. how do you feel about all this?

 

I’m actually feeling good about it.

The police were nice and said I would be safe

My mom is safe too, which is what I was worried about

 

I’m glad you’re okay

That’s what matters most <3

 

I wanted to say thank you again

For helping me and being there

I sometimes think I don’t deserve you

 

You deserve everything, Isak

 

So do you

I want to be better for you, Even.

 

Better?

 

To be the person you need like you are for me

Someone who isn’t selfish and terrified of everything

 

Things have been hard for you, though

It’s not easy to know yourself when you have to hide

 

I’m done hiding

 

<3 <3 

 

I told Jonas about us

I hope thats okay

 

It’s fine :)

How did it go?

 

He wasn’t weird or anything

He barely reacted

Just said that we need to get our shit together :P

 

Lmao well he’s right at least

 

I’d like that too

 

I know

I think we just need some time

 

As much as I don’t like the idea of not seeing you I know it’s for the best right now

 

Yeah

 

Have a good night

<3

I love you



Seeing Isak type the words made Even bite down hard on his bottom lip, trying not to be too overwhelmed with the need to jump up and down for joy. He felt silly because they were talking about needing a break from each other, and yet here he was being excited about it. 

 

But it meant that Isak wanted to work on himself. He wanted to give Even time to rediscover his own needs - even if he didn’t know that Even was going to be doing that. Isak wasn’t jumping right back into it after causing hurt, however unintentional. 

 

They were both letting themselves heal. 

 

And that is what was making Even dopily happy. 

 

I love you too

<3

Chapter Text

December

 

Even rubbed his hands together to try and keep warm as his father scraped the ice off their car windows. He could see his breath despite the heater desperately trying to heat the vehicle. 

 

The sun wasn't in the sky yet. It was too early, but Edwin had to head to work and Even needed to go to school. He yawned dramatically as his father got back into the car. 

 

"Goddamn it's cold." Edwin said, shaking and pulling his scarf up higher around his neck. 

 

"I think there's frost on the inside of the door." Even said, scraping at the spot and discovering he was right. 

 

"Let's hope the roads aren't too bad." 

 

"I'm all for a snow day." Even winked, relishing the way his father rolled his eyes. 

 

"I have a huge meeting today. Can't miss it, so let's hope it's not a snow day." 

 

As they pulled out of the driveway, Even glanced in the direction of Isak's farm - surprised to see the lights on this early. Terje must have had another sleepless night. 

 

Even imagined it was lonely in the house without your family. Might be hard to sleep in the awful silence. 

 

Isak and Liam weren't there still, and neither was Marianne. A lot had happened in only a few short weeks, and sometimes Even forgot how quickly everything had unfolded. 

 

"I saw an advertisement for farm equipment in the paper yesterday. Terje is selling it all, which makes me think he's selling the house, too." Edwin said, as if he knew Even had been thinking about Isak and his family. 

 

"Already? They only just made arrangements for Isak and his mom." Even frowned in confusion. 

 

Edwin sighed, gripping the steering wheel tighter. "I think Terje is embarrassed. It's a small town and everyone knows now. I think he wants to leave as fast as he can." 

 

"He's such a coward. He won't even attempt to make things right, or work on himself. He's just leaving." Even spat, anger surging through him. 

 

"Sometimes people can't face the consequences of what they've done. It's unfortunate, but I'm not surprised." 

 

Even looked at his father and understood what he was implying without saying it explicitly. Even's mother couldn't face it. She left too because it was the easiest option, the best thing for herself. But her leaving had allowed a lot of good things to happen, so maybe Terje's departure would be the same way. 

 

Maybe Isak would find a kind of freedom the way Even had, despite the hurt of being left behind. 

 

"He'll have to stay relatively close to see Marianne. They won't let him just leave her in the facility and not take responsibility. Isak and Liam will be fine without him, but legally he needs to take care of his wife." Edwin continued, pulling into the driveway of Jonas's house. 

 

"Thanks for driving me." Even said, unclipping his seatbelt and trying to push all thoughts of Isak’s father out of his mind. 

 

"It's okay. Have a good day. Good luck on your presentation." 

 

Even waved as he walked up the front steps, knocking gently on the door instead of ringing the bell. He rubbed his eyes in a further attempt to wake up, wishing that he could still take the bus an hour later. But Isak didn’t drive the bus anymore and Even was now forced to wake up super early just to make it to school. 

 

When Isak opened the door though, a bright smile on his face as their eyes met, Even immediately stopped being grumpy about it. 

 

“Hey,” Isak said quietly, stepping out beside Even with his backpack ready. 

 

“Morning.” 

 

“God, it’s fucking cold.” Isak shivered, making sure Jonas’s front door was locked and then put his jacket hood up over his head. 

 

“As far as I know, the school is open. But I don’t know how the sidewalks will be.” Even said, a harsh breeze blowing the snow up from the ground and into their faces as they reached the end of Jonas’s driveway. 

 

“I wish your dad worked in the direction of the school so we could have caught a ride.” 

 

“Whiney.” Even teased, knocking their shoulders together. 

 

“I hate being cold. Makes my whole body tense up and then I have shoulder pain for the rest of the day.” Isak continued, unbothered by the whiney comment. 

 

“Well, maybe just focus on the fact that we’re walking together and not how it’s so cold our dicks are gonna fall off?” As he finished his question, Even reached for Isak’s hand. Despite both of them wearing gloves, he managed to fit their hands together and shoot the other boy a smile. 

 

Isak flinched like the touch hurt, but then quickly clasped his hand around Even’s, looking back with wide eyes. To his credit, Even wasn’t surprised at Isak’s shock. They hadn’t touched in a few weeks. 

 

No kisses, or hugs. Not even rubbing shoulders as they passed each other in the kitchen a few nights a week - Jonas holding gaming and movie nights to help support Isak. Even went out of his way to avoid any kind of contact, despite how badly he wanted the exact opposite. 

 

They had decided on a break. Well, a sort of pause. For the greater good. Good meaning that they would have their shit together. They would heal. They would get back to what really mattered to themselves so they could be better for each other. 

 

And yeah, okay. Even had started playing guitar again. He had started drawing some more of his comic. Mikael had been helping him apply for various universities across Norway, and he was also thinking of applying to a summer course in which he would be able to work at a museum dedicated to art. 

 

He was finding himself again. Actually sleeping, with the help of some meds he’d gotten from his doctor - a temporary thing to help his brain remember how to sleep. 

 

Even was doing well. 

 

And part of him wanted to say, Okay I’m ready! Let’s do this relationship thing. He kind of wanted to scream it at the top of his lungs, swoop Isak into his arms and ride off into some sunset. 

 

But he also knew it wasn’t right. Not yet. Things were still fresh. Isak was still struggling. And if he was honest with himself, he still struggled more days than he’d like to admit. He still found himself gritting his teeth as the image of Isak in Jason’s lap invaded his mind - remembering how much pain he’d felt in that moment. 

 

So, they needed more time. And that was okay. But as Even held onto Isak’s hand, he thought the whole ‘non touching’ thing was now more torture than it was worth. They needed something to bring them back into each other’s realms. 

 

“Just this, okay?” Even said, wanting to clarify. Maybe he was just needing to clarify it to himself, but it felt like it was needing to be said nonetheless. 

 

“Yeah. This is...good. It’s nice.” Isak replied, and Even hoped his red cheeks were from a blush and not just the cold. 

 

Luckily, the school wasn’t far from Jonas’s house. He lived closer to the town center than Isak or Even and as they opened the front door and were greeted with warm air, Even felt relieved. 

 

“Beautiful, beautiful warmth.” Isak sighed, shaking some snow off his hat. 

 

The only bad thing about being at school and inside was that they had to stop holding hands. But Even told himself he’d make a point of doing it tomorrow during their walk together, too. 

 

Isak had asked Even if they could walk together in the mornings because he was up early, and going to school with Even had become part of his routine - before everything had happened with his parents. It was something that made him feel normal, despite the circumstances being a little different; now that he had been legally allowed to stay with Jonas and his mom as guardian. 

 

Isak’s case worker had asked Even if he would allow this because Isak needed to hang on to some kind of schedule. It would help him, she said, and how could Even refuse that? It wasn’t like she was asking him to full on date Isak and act like nothing had happened. 

 

Baby steps. 

 

“Meet you in the library?” Even asked, knowing their lockers were in different hallways. 

 

“Okay.” Isak smiled, almost shyly, and headed away. 

 

Even watched him go because he was a giant dork. Because Isak had an amazing ass, and looked back just before the moment he turned a corner like he had for the past few days; making Even blush as he winked cheekily.  

 

Even turned on his heel and walked to his locker in a daze. Being hopelessly in love with someone you’re taking a break from was really, really exhausting. 

 

**

 

“Marathon of LOTR this weekend?” Magnus asked at lunch, setting down a tray full of food that could easily have fed three people. 

 

“What?” Mahdi asked, clearly not knowing what the letters stood for. 

 

“Lord of the Rings.” Jonas clarified, chuckling as Mahdi rolled his eyes. 

 

“Aren’t those films about three hours long each ?” 

 

“Uh, yeah. That’s why I was going to suggest we go to Jonas’s house early.” Magnus said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. 

 

“I’ve never seen the last two movies.” Isak stated, eating his macaroni and cheese nonchalantly. 

 

He smiled as he met Even’s eye, and Even suddenly realized he was seeing that joy more often now. It had been nearly gone the first three weeks after Isak had moved in with Jonas; that infectiously relaxed, easy-going, fun nature Isak naturally had. But it was coming back. 

 

Eating lunch together was kind of new. In the beginning, they hadn’t really spent time together during school hours. Isak ate his lunch with the boys and Even had sat with some other guys he’d done a project with in Norwegian. They didn’t have much to talk about, but they were nice enough and Even hadn’t minded eating with them. 

 

But then Jonas had mentioned that Isak said he missed seeing Even at lunch, had been wondering why he never sat with them anymore. The way Jonas said it implied that Even’s lack of presence was making Isak sad - making it harder for him. 

 

And so, Even started sitting with them again. Not just for Isak, but for himself because Jonas, Mahdi and Magnus had become his friends, too. He really cared about them. And they always put him in a better mood. 

 

Since he’d been seeing Isak in the mornings, at lunch and at Jonas’s ‘boy nights,’ that spark had come back into Isak’s whole face. 

 

And Even loved it. 

 

“I guess we have to marathon them now. How have you not seen all the films?” To everyone’s surprise, it was Jonas giving Isak shit for his poor movie knowledge and not Even. 

 

Everyone looked at Jonas quizzically before breaking out into laughter.

 

**

 

“I booked my flight today.” Mikael said, Even’s laptop propped open on his legs as he sat on the bed. 

 

Even whirled around in his chair, startled out of his homework, and looked at his best friend. “Wow. Already?” 

 

“Yeah. Blake wired me some money for it. He’s already found us a place.” 

 

Even tried to ignore the sadness he felt. He knew it didn’t make much sense. He was happy for Mikael, and wanted him to have an amazing new life where he could be free. He just didn’t like the idea that he wouldn’t see him again for a while, probably a few months at least. 

 

“That’s awesome, Mik. When is it?” 

 

“New Years Day.” He was positively beaming, and it was so cute that Even had to go over and give him a huge hug. 

 

They ended up cuddling together the way they used to as a couple - something they had done frequently since Mikael's return - but it wasn't as awkward as Even thought it would be. It was comforting. It was nice to just hold his friend and know he was there, a solid warmth beside him. 

 

Mikael's head was resting on Even's stomach, an arm thrown across his waist as they talked. Even listened to Mikael's enthusiastic details of what life would be like in London, how Blake was looking for jobs for him to apply to; how excited Mikael was to see his boyfriend again. Their separation hadn't been easy, not when they were used to seeing each other every day. 

 

Even knew exactly what that was like. It's how he felt when Mikael suddenly disappeared from his life like he'd been ripped out of Even's hands. 

 

"Have any of your family contacted you?" Even asked, realising with a start that he'd never asked this question since Mikael had been living with him. 

 

"I blocked all their numbers. It's the first thing I did when I got my phone back." Mikael said, voice darkening. 

 

"That's probably a good thing." 

 

"I don't know if I'll ever talk to them again. Maybe one day. But I need time." He sounded like he felt bad about his decision to cut his family out, so Even pulled him a little closer. 

 

"You deserve to live your own life. They hurt you, and it's not an easy thing to move on from or forgive. It's okay to do this, Mik." 

 

"I know. I really do know that. It just hurts that I have to, that they couldn't just accept me as I am." 

 

An image of Faye's disgusted face as she'd found her son and Mikael together flashed through Even's mind, making him squeeze his eyes shut. 

 

"I don't think my mom will ever accept me as I am. Part of me is sad about it, but I mostly try to focus on who does love me for me. Like my dad. You. The friends I've made here. Isak." His voice broke a little on the last word, prompting Mikael to hug him tighter. 

 

"I'm going to try that, too. It's a good way to look at it." 

 

"You know I'll always be here for you, right? We're going to always be best friends and have each other's backs. No matter what or how far apart we live." Even said, knowing it sounded cheesy but he meant every fucking word. 

 

Mikael chuckled as he nodded. "I don't think you could get rid of me now, Bech Naesheim. Too late." 

 

"Good." He kissed Mikael's forehead before they started a movie. 

 

**

 

A week before Christmas, a ‘for sale’ sign went up on Isak's lawn. Terje had pretty much moved out already, all the animals and farm equipment gone from the property. 

 

It seemed Isak had already gotten the news because when Even showed up on Jonas’s doorstep for their last day of school before the holiday break, Isak’s eyes were red-rimmed and the bags under his eyes said he hadn’t gotten much sleep. 

 

Even reached for his hand immediately, and the way Isak stepped towards him made pulling the other boy into his arms that much easier. It was their first hug in over a month, and Isak sighed into his chest when their bodies came together. 

 

“It’s okay.” He whispered, a hand coming up instinctively to cup the side of Isak’s face. 

 

“I know.” Isak said, even quieter, and hugged Even tightly. 

 

Despite Isak’s obvious upset at losing his house, Even believed him when he said he understood it was okay - that things were going to be all right despite the loss of so much. Sometimes things needed to end before others could begin. 

 

“I got your Christmas present yesterday.” Isak said, pulling back and wiping away some of the tears that had fallen down his face. 

 

“Yeah?” Even smiled.

 

“Finally came in the mail. Jeannie helped me decide on it.” 

 

As part of Isak’s case, he was put in touch with a therapist and began sessions pretty much the week after he’d left his father’s house. Jeannie was a middle aged woman who wore large, blue-rimmed glasses and had greying hair pulled back into a tight bun. Isak described her as a kind, open person who was helping him make sense of everything that had happened. 

 

“I’m sure I’ll love it.” He said as they walked towards school, the sun trying it’s best to climb into the sky and light up the sleepy roads. 

 

They were holding hands, nearly at school, when Isak suddenly stopped. Even almost lost his balance trying to slow his own feet down. 

 

“What is it?” 

 

“Will you come with me to see my mom? They’re holding a Christmas dinner where she’s staying and I...want you to meet her.” Isak blurted out, biting down on his bottom lip when he finished his sentence. 

 

Even broke out into another huge smile and couldn’t help how he leaned forward to place a kiss on Isak’s cheek. 

 

“Of course, Isak. I’d love to.” 

 

“Yeah?” 

 

“Why do you sound so surprised?” 

 

“Because I still can’t entirely believe you love me and care about me and you’re still... here.” Isak said, looking startled at his own honesty. 

 

“Well,” Even started, grabbing the other boy’s hand and pulling him towards school. “I guess you’ll just have to believe it, won’t you? Because you’re stuck with me.” 

 

Isak was quiet for a long moment as they smiled at each other before saying, “Okay.” 

 

**

 

“I might have done something...crazy.” Edwin announced at dinner the next evening, letting out a long breath as he stared at his son. 

 

Even stopped mid-chew and raised an eyebrow. 

 

“I bought two horses.” 

 

What?” 

 

Edwin nodded, looking sheepish as he sipped his drink. “I know. I told you it was insane.” 

 

“Why did you buy horses? Like…I’ve never been more confused in my life, dad.” 

 

“I thought we could...keep them here at the farm? Clear out that back field and turn it into a riding yard. Maybe bring in some people in the summertime for lessons.” 

 

What?” Even nearly shrieked again, shaking his head - dinner completely abandoned now. “Have you ever rode a horse in your life?” 

 

“No. But Noah has, and he would be the one looking after them. Kind of like everything else on the farm.” Edwin shrugged. 

 

Even was aware his mouth was hanging open, that he probably looked completely stupid, but he was actually shocked into silence now. 

 

“Something you should also know…” His father started to say, sending panic surging through Even’s stomach. “The horses belonged to Terje. I bought them from him. Or...he more so gave them to me.” 

 

There was another long moment of quiet, as if Edwin was waiting for Even to take in this information, but the silence just made Even want to flip the goddamn table. 

 

“Dad, you’re going to make me have a fucking anuerysm if you don’t just explain this whole fucking thing in a huge amount of detail right this damn second. Because you sound like you’re on drugs.” 

 

Edwin laughed so hard some of his drink came out his nose, but Even didn’t really know what was funny. He was so fucking confused he felt like he was in some kind of bizarre dream. 

 

“Terje called me last week. Said he was selling everything. He wanted to know if I would take the horses because they’re something Isak has always loved. He was short and to the point, not rude at all, and said he’d give me a lower price for them. So I said yes.” Edwin explained, after he’d managed to compose himself. 

 

“Holy fuck.” Even said, this time a voice a whisper. 

 

“I know. And I know it’s very out-of-the-blue and probably not well thought out, but...the man was actually being considerate to a son he’s put through hell. He might not be able to do much else, but he wanted that boy to have the horses. I couldn’t turn him down.” 

 

For what was probably the hundredth time since moving to this town, Even stared at his father and wanted to burst into tears. From happiness. Relief. Indescribable gratitude that this man was his father. This kind-hearted, compassionate, wonderful human being who bought horses for his son’s boyfriend because he’d been going through a hard time. 

 

How did he get so fucking lucky?

 

“You’re looking at me funny.” Edwin stated, eyebrows raised. 

 

“Yeah.” 

 

“Are you going to shout at me? Tell me I’m insane?” 

 

“Dad, I love you so fucking much. I can’t…” Even shook his head, throat suddenly too thick with tears to finish his sentence. He stood up and walked over to his father, pretty much falling into the man’s lap like he was still small enough to get away with it, and wrapped his arms around his neck. 

 

Edwin hugged him back, because he always would, but he laughed as if he’d been expecting the exact opposite reaction. 

 

“We own horses, Even. Horses.” 

 

“You bought horses.” 

 

And they both broke into hysterics that lasted until their faces were bright red and their sides were in stitches. 

 

**

 

Christmas Eve

 

Isak was wearing a light grey dress shirt, maroon tie and black dress pants when Even knocked on his door. His hair was swept back off his face rather than pushed down by the shape of his hat. He smelled like sandalwood cologne and he smiled so wide when he pulled the door open that Even felt a little bit like swooning. 

 

Goddamn. 

 

“Hi.” Isak said, stepping to the side so Even could come in. “I just need to grab my shoes and then we can go.” 

 

“Okay.” Even nodded, trying to sound casual. Trying not to slam Isak into the nearest wall and destroy his mouth. 

 

He shook his head to compose himself as Isak walked into the living room. Even wanted to keep a clear head because he was going to be spending a lot of time with Isak during the next three days. It was the start of what he was labelling a ‘Christmas Extravaganza” and he didn’t want to be awkward or ruin whatever progress they had made because he got distracted by Isak’s sexiness. 

 

Tonight was dinner with Isak’s mom in her new home. Tomorrow Isak was coming over for Christmas dinner with Even, Edwin and Mikael. And Boxing Day was a boy’s night, a time for them to exchange gifts and have a few drinks and probably watch Christmas movies while eating leftovers. 

 

It was going to be a lot, but that also meant a lot of Isak time and Even was never going to be opposed to that. Christmas was one of his favourite times of the year and the fact that he was going to spend it with his favourite person just made his heart do jumping jacks inside his chest. 

 

“I’m ready.” Isak said, coming around the corner with his jacket on and his shiny, black shoes. “Do I look all right?” 

 

“You’re perfect.” Even said without thinking, internally face-palming. 

 

He needed to pull it the fuck together. 

 

“You look nice, too.” Isak said, giving Even a full up and down, lingering look that made it pretty clear he was in the same position as Even. 

 

“Let’s go then.” 

 

“Bye lovebirds!” Jonas yelled from the kitchen, only a dozen feet from where the door was. They couldn’t see him due to the living room wall but it was probably easy for Jonas to hear what they were saying. 

 

Isak rolled his eyes but smiled, walking ahead of Even to the driveway where Edwin was waiting in the car.  

 

They sat in the backseat together, staring out their respective windows as the radio played. Even felt like he should say something, make the silence less oppressive, but he didn’t know what to talk about. 

 

It was a big thing they were doing, and he knew Isak was probably nervous. It was a huge deal that he had even asked Even to come with him to see his mother, and Even didn’t want to make him uncomfortable by blabbing on about something silly. He wanted to just be there for Isak - show his support. 

 

As they approached the facility parking lot, Isak reached across the leather seats and gripped Even’s hand. His palm was sweaty and his fingers were shaking, prompting Even to look over at him properly. 

 

Isak’s eyes were closed and he was taking deep breaths like he was trying to calm himself down, the way a person would if they were panicking. Without thinking, Even unclipped his seatbelt and slid closer to Isak, wrapping his arm around the back of Isak’s neck. 

 

“Hey, it’s okay. Breathe , Isak. I’m right here.” Even whispered, his other hand resting on Isak’s chest. 

 

Isak whimpered at the words, apparently too overwhelmed to speak. Even tried to remain calm so Isak wouldn’t be further panicked, but if he was honest with himself he was concerned. Isak had gone completely pale, his breathing quickly turning into hyperventilating. 

 

“Everything all right?” Edwin asked, pulling into a parking spot and turning off the engine. 

 

At the sound of his father’s voice, Isak turned his face into Even’s shoulder; gripping onto his coat, almost like he was trying to hide. Maybe he couldn’t handle another person speaking, so Even asked his father to just give them a moment in the car alone which was a request Edwin quickly followed. 

 

“It’s okay.” Even repeated, placing a kiss on Isak’s forehead and rocking him gently in his arms, almost like he would a small child. 

 

Isak was still whimpering, still shaking, but he was finally breathing normally again. His grip on Even slowly loosened, and after a few more moments he pulled away and looked up into Even’s eyes. 

 

“I’m sorry. I…” 

 

“Don’t be sorry, baby.” He interrupted, shaking his head. “You have nothing to be sorry for, Isak.” 

 

Isak looked like he was going to break into tears, so much anguish on his beautiful face that Even did the first thing that felt right. He leaned in and gently placed his lips on top of Isak’s, both his hands on either side of the other boy’s face. 

 

At first, Isak was completely still and Even thought he might have royally fucked up. But after only five seconds or so, Isak melted into him - sighed deeply like he’d been waiting forever to breathe and then moved his mouth against Even’s. His hands found their way to Even’s waist as the kiss deepened, their tongues briefly touching; the sensation sending sparks of arousal all through Even’s body. 

 

As much as he wanted to continue this, and as much as he couldn’t really believe he was finally kissing Isak again, he knew they needed to stop. He slowly pulled away, running his thumb over Isak’s now kiss-swollen lips and smiled at him. 

 

“Even.” Isak whispered, staring at his mouth like he wanted to dive forwards again and never come back up for air. “I missed that.” 

 

“Me too. You have no idea.” 

 

“I have some idea.” Isak said cheekily, making them both smile. 

 

“Are you ready to go inside?” Even asked hesitantly, not wanting to pressure Isak if he wasn’t capable yet. “I’ll be with you the whole time.” 

 

“Yeah. I think I’m okay. I just...got scared for a second. I haven’t seen her since I left home and I don’t know what kind of state she’s going to be in.” Isak said quietly, finally unclipping his own seatbelt. 

 

“That makes sense.” Even said, following the other boy’s lead and taking off his seatbelt while opening his door to get out. 

 

As they got out, Edwin appeared from a few steps away near a large tree and gave them both looks of concern. Even mouthed ‘it’s fine’ and smiled, trying to reassure him. 

 

“I hope you boys have a good time. I’ll be back around eight to get you.” Edwin said, patting Isak on the back before punching his son playfully on the shoulder. 

 

“Thanks for the ride, Dad.” 

 

“Oh, I love being a chauffeur. It’s my life-long dream and I’m so glad you’ve helped me to realize it, son.” Edwin said, voice laced with sarcasm. 

 

Isak let out a loud, barking laugh that made Edwin wink at him.

 

“You’re hilarious. A real comedian. Is that another life-long dream?” Even quipped, linking arms with Isak as they walked towards the facility door. 

 

“I’m saving that for a few more years. Need some more material for my stage show!”

 

Even waved as they walked out of ear-shot, Isak still chuckling beside him. All the tension had now seemed to disappear from Isak’s body and Even was glad. He shouldn’t have to be worried about this. Tonight was something good. 

 

Christmas instrumental music greeted them as they walked into the medical building, home to many patients who found it hard to live on their own for various mental health reasons. A few people who worked there told them where to go, explained that everyone was in the dining hall and they could go find their loved one. 

 

Even let go of Isak’s arm and motioned for him to go first. He wanted him to take the lead, take things at his own pace and Even would just follow suit. 

 

They stopped in the dining room doorway, Isak scanning the crowd for his mother. A delicious smell of roast beef hung in the air, making Even’s stomach grumble. The room was large and open, the walls lavender and windows tall. During the day the room would probably be filled with light. A dozen large tables were spread throughout the room, offering room for all patients and at least two or three of their family members. 

 

“She’s over there.” Isak said, pointing to the farthest table on the right hand side - near the door of the kitchen. 

 

There were several people at the table, several older women about Marianne’s age so Even wasn’t sure which one of them was her. He’d only seen her once, very briefly, and she’d looked rather different that morning. Isak walked ahead of him, shoulders back, and when they got close to the table everyone sitting there turned to greet them. 

 

Even knew right away who Isak’s mother was because as soon as she saw the other boy, her eyes lit up in recognition unlike all the other people. 

 

“Isak.” Marianne smiled, standing up from the table and coming to hug him. 

 

She was wearing an elegant navy dress, almost fancy enough for a movie premiere, with her hair combed neatly into a side braid. Her face was powdered, lips a dark pink colour, and her nails had been manicured. From where Even was standing he could smell the flowery scent of her shampoo. 

 

“Hi, Mom.” Isak whispered - almost in awe - arms coming up to return the hug. 

 

“I’m so happy to see you. Merry Christmas.” She said. “I can’t believe how handsome you are. So grown up, too.” 

 

“Thanks.” Isak laughed, smiling so brightly at his mother that it made Even’s heart soar. “This is uh...my...my friend , Even. He wanted to meet you.” 

 

Isak glanced at him as if Even would be upset at the way he was introduced, but he wasn’t so he nodded reassuringly. They hadn’t discussed what Isak would call Even, if he would explain that they were together. But it wasn’t important right now, anyway. 

 

“Hello. Nice to meet you.” Marianne said, coming in for a hug before Even could say anything back. She hugged him warmly, exactly like he remembered his own mother hugging him, and patted his back as she pulled away. 

 

“Nice to meet you, as well. You look lovely, Marianne.” 

 

“I borrowed this dress from...someone. I think her name is Susanne. I don’t have very many of my nice clothes.” Marianne tutted, motioning for them to sit in the empty seats next to her. 

 

“Dad hasn’t brought your clothes?” Isak asked hesitantly. 

 

“Oh, he’s brought most of them. But I think he might have thrown out my work clothes, the ones that I had for my job years ago. They were very fancy.” 

 

“Right.” Isak nodded, and from his tone Even gathered that Marianne hadn’t worked for many years - maybe longer than Isak can even remember. 

 

“Don’t be scared, Isak. I...I understand what’s going on. Sometimes I forget, but it’s getting easier. The doctors have been helping me.” Marianne said softly, putting her hand on top of Isak’s. 

 

“Yeah?” Isak said, his voice wavering and Even couldn’t help but reach for his thigh and give it a slight squeeze. 

 

He remembered Isak’s words from a handful of weeks ago; how Isak had considered his mother ‘gone.’ Isak hadn’t talked about it much, but it seemed like he had been avoiding his mother - not even trying to have conversations with her because of her illness. Maybe he had been afraid of how quickly her mind could forget, how reality disappeared around her. 

 

“Yes. I’m sorry that things were so hard for so long. It wasn’t fair on you, or Liam.” 

 

“Liam said he’s going to be here tonight, as well. I know he wants to see you.” Isak said, reaching for his phone in his pocket and checking his messages. 

 

“Yes. I’d like that, too. But Isak...I’m very sorry. I...love you. You know that, right? I’ve always loved you and I always will.” Marianne said, cupping her son’s cheek in her palm and begging with her eyes for him to believe her. 

 

Isak abandoned his phone, body frozen as he looked at his mother. The music of ‘Silent Night’ played in the dining room as dinner began to be served, the sound of cutlery and glasses joining in. 

 

“I love you too, Mom.” Isak said, the words barely audible from where Even sat. 

 

Marianne reached for him again, running a hand through Isak’s hair. She looked up at Even, caught his eye and smiled a sort of smile that Even hadn’t seen before. It was almost like they had a conversation in the few seconds she looked at him, as if she somehow knew what they meant to each other. As if she was asking Even to take care of Isak, to love him as much as she did but always - during the times that she might not remember who exactly it was that she loved. 

 

Liam showed up shortly after with his girlfriend Therese, a petite girl with long, curly brown hair and bright red lipstick. She shook everyone’s hand, laughed at Marianne’s jokes about the pudding and Isak never really let go of Even’s hand under the table throughout the whole evening. 

 

**

 

Christmas Day

 

Mikael and Edwin were inside tidying up, putting away the dishes and boardgames that were scattered across the kitchen table while Isak and Even put on their coats and went outside; Even leading Isak by his hand. 

 

It had begun to lightly snow. It was the kind of winter night people write about in books, sing songs about - how it’s falling so softly, making the whole world white and sparkly. 

 

It was the kind of night that made Even believe in love and all things good, despite how cliche that sounded even in his own head. 

 

“Where are we going?” Isak asked, sounding amused. 

 

“To see your Christmas gift.” 

 

Isak’s gift to Even was currently around his wrist. Even could feel the leather cord of the bracelet under his jacket, the tiny medal clasp in the middle with their initials carved into the side. 

 

Now it was Isak’s turn. 

 

“And my present is...outside?” 

 

“Yes. It’s quite big.” Even said, taking Isak into the barn where the two horses Edwin had purchased were standing - giant red bows tied to their stables. 

 

Even turned to look at Isak, giddy with how the other boy was staring at the horses; eyes wider than they’d ever been. He put an arm around Isak’s shoulders and leaned in to kiss his cheek. 

 

“Merry Christmas, Isak.” 

 

“Oh my God.” Isak whispered, tears appearing in his eyes as he walked closer; holding his hand out to the first horse. She was a dark brown colour with the same colour hair, one of Noah’s favourites as he’d begun settling the horses in; getting to know them. 

 

“What’s her name?” 

 

“Fiona. And this one is Charley.” Isak whispered through his small cries, walking over to greet his other horse which look very similar to the first. Both of the animals seemed very receptive to him, allowing him to pet them without incident - knowing exactly who he was. 

 

“Hi Fiona and Charley. Nice to finally know your names.” Even said, coming a bit closer and holding out his hands the way Isak hand. 

 

“Even... how ? How do you have my horses here right now?” 

 

Isak turned away from the majestic animals for a moment and without waiting for Even’s explanation, wrapped his arms around Even and squeezed him tight. Even returned it, once again kissing Isak’s cheek and shook some snow out of his hair as he pulled back. 

 

“My father got them from your dad. He wanted you to have them. Terje said they meant a lot to you, so my father bought them.” 

 

Isak stared at him for a few seconds before suddenly leaning in and placing a kiss on Even’s lips, both hands finding their way to his waist despite his winter coat. Even was quickly learning this was one of Isak’s favourite spots to touch him, his hands lingering there as their mouths moved together. 

 

“I really, really love you Even. I’ve never felt like this before.” Isak said the words into Even’s skin as he continued to kiss him, his breath hot against Even’s face. 

 

“Neither have I.” 

 

And it was true. It was so fucking true. To love Isak was to love himself, like Isak was inside his own blood; part of him. 

 

They held each other for a few moments in the barn, and Even suddenly wished they could dance. He wanted to slow dance with Isak in the snow, shout out the lyrics into the darkness of their country road. 

 

He felt like he could fucking fly.

 

“Can we take Charley out for a ride? He’s the better rider.” Isak asked, placing a last kiss on Even’s chin of all places before going back over to the male horse. 

 

“You’ll have to show me. I don’t know anything about it.” 

 

“I’ll show you. I’ve ridden horses all my life.” Isak smiled, gathering everything they needed around the barn. Clearly Noah had left all the materials they needed for this. 

 

Noah had begun clearing out the back field - once the overgrown site of their secret meeting place all those months ago - and it was enough of a space for Charley to trot around with them. The lights from the house and backyard were enough to light the way for them, Even holding onto Isak’s waist as he steered the animal seamlessly. 

 

It was snowing. It was Christmas. Isak was in his arms. 

 

And Even had never been happier. 

 

**

 

New Years Eve

 

Jonas decided to host a New Year’s party. Mostly because Magnus and Mahdi convinced him to ask his mother, who just so happened to be going out of town with her boyfriend to celebrate with their friends in Oslo. 

 

But they couldn’t have a huge party. It couldn’t be big. It had to be low-key and responsible and just Jonas’s closest friends. Without alcohol. 

 

So when Even showed up two hours before midnight, he expected that this was going to be like every other boys night except maybe there would be a few more people. And maybe they’d sneak some beers and have a few joints for the occasion of counting down to the new year. 

 

What he showed up to was complete madness. 

 

Luckily, Edwin had let him borrow the car so he was alone when he parked the car and had two girls run out the house and puke about two feet away from where he was standing. He didn’t have to worry about his father also hearing how loud the music had gotten, or smell how thick the air was with weed all around the house. 

 

Getting into the house was a struggle itself. He had to basically shove people to get inside and find the kitchen, looking around for Jonas or any of the other boys. 

 

His boy in particular. 

 

It seemed like everyone from their grade was here, and a few younger grades as well. He cringed at how badly this was going to end if someone called the cops and also how screwed Jonas would be when his mom got home. But he also tried to not think like a middle-aged father so he could attempt to enjoy the party. 

 

He eventually found Isak. He was in the upstairs bathroom, helping to hold up Magnus’s head as he puked into the toilet. 

 

“He’s been drinking non-stop since about four this afternoon.” Isak said, and despite how happy Even was to see him he didn’t like the smell that filled the whole bathroom. 

 

“Jesus, Magnus.” 

 

“Yeah. I need to get him into a bed after this.” 

 

“I’ll help you.” 

 

They managed to get him into the spare bedroom - Isak’s bedroom - and put him on his side so he didn’t choke on any more puke in his sleep. They set timers on their phones to come back and check on him, leaving a glass of water next to the bed. 

 

“Hi.” Isak said as they closed the door, leaning in to kiss Even’s lips. 

 

It was something Even easily returned, thinking nothing of it. Until he realized that they were in a house full of people who knew them. They were literally in a house of high schoolers who up until right now probably thought they were both straight. And up until right now, Isak had done everything in his power to keep his sexuality a secret. 

 

But he kissed Even without hesitation. Without looking around to see who was watching. He just did it. 

 

And just like that, Even knew it was time. 

 

**

 

“3...2...1...Happy New Year!” 

 

Everyone was screaming, hands high in the air as they jumped. Someone was throwing confetti around the couples who were making out, and the music from someone’s playlist was still pounding through the walls. 

 

But the world might as well have been totally silent for all Even noticed. As he stood in the living room, pretty much right in the middle of everyone with Isak by his side, the only thing that existed was the boy next to him. 

 

And when Isak grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him into a long, deep kiss all Even could then feel was Isak. This boy who he loved so much he felt like he couldn’t possibly live with this feeling inside him - like it was going to make his chest expand too much and his heart burst. 

 

Isak felt like coming home. 

 

**

 

New Years Day

 

The party miraculously hadn’t been shut down by the police. Nobody had called about the noise or the drinking or teenagers being unruly. When Even opened his eyes from where he’d been sleeping on the living room floor, he had almost forgotten there had been a party at all. 

 

But then he saw the mess and it all came back to him. 

 

He heard a few voices from the kitchen, as well as footsteps upstairs. A few people were still sleeping in various places around him as he pulled himself to his feet, heading towards the kitchen for some water. 

 

He almost walked right in when he heard Isak’s voice, making him hover just before the doorway - out of sight. 

 

“I didn’t tell you because I thought you’d hate me.” Isak whispered. 

 

“Isak, what the fuck? I’d never hate you for something like this.” 

 

The other boy let out a long sigh, the sound somehow guilty. “It’s not because I think you’re a shit friend. I was just...scared.” 

 

“Well, I’m glad you’re telling me now. So, you and Even are together? Like boyfriends?” Jonas asked, and to Even’s delight it seemed like he was happy with that being true. 

 

“I want to be his boyfriend.” 

 

“And, what? He doesn’t want to be yours?” 

 

“I think he does. We’re just taking some time to figure it all out. A lot happened.” Isak explained, voice quieter now but again tinged with guilt. 

 

“When I’m not so hungover, we’re getting coffee and you’re telling me all your boy gossip. It’ll be fun because I have to catch you up on all the girl drama in my life.” Jonas said, and both boys laughed. 

 

“Deal. For now, let’s tidy up this hurricane that went through your house last night. I don’t need your mom kicking me out.” 

 

“She wouldn’t. She loves you more than me.” 

 

Even smiled, wishing he could give Jonas a hug for how wonderful of a friend he was to Isak. He also wanted to give Isak a hug too because he’d just done something huge. He came out to his best friend. 

 

As he was about to go into the kitchen as originally planned, his phone vibrated in his pocket. 



Mikael (09:34) 

We have to leave by noon if I’m making my flight on time

Please come back soooooon <3

Also happy new year!



Even’s good mood faltered at the realization that Mikael was leaving today, going to England to be with his boyfriend. He was happy for him, but also sad because it felt like he’d just gotten him back. 

 

Mikael had decided to not come to the party last night because he wanted to get all his stuff packed. He was overly excited and if he wasn’t methodically packing and making sure he had everything he would just be too worried to enjoy the party. Even had sent him a Happy New Year text, though, after he’d finished making out with Isak. 

 

“Even? What’s up?” 

 

Suddenly Isak was in front of him, looking concerned. He shook his head, trying to clear it and walked over to wrap Isak in a hug. 

 

“Nothing. I have to get back to my house soon, though. Mikael’s leaving today.” 

 

“For England?”

 

“Yeah.” 

 

Isak made a pouty, understanding face. “Do you have to go back now?” 

 

“I can stay and help clean up for a bit, but then I’ll have to go.” He placed a kiss on Isak’s nose, making him laugh. 

 

They were still hugging when Jonas came around the corner and spotted them. Isak didn’t attempt to move out of his arms but rather moved closer into him and winked at Jonas who rolled his eyes fondly. 

 

“I have to wake everyone up. All these fuckers who slept over need to help us clean.” Jonas announced, suddenly pulling a whistle out of his pocket and blowing it loudly. 

 

Even flinched at the sound, wincing. 

 

“All right people! Get the hell up and help us clean!” 

 

**

 

Even walked into the busy, loud airport and tried desperately to keep it together. Mikael was talking about what kind of furniture he and Blake were going to get for their new apartment, how he could picture them having a dog someday; how happy he was that in a few hours he’d finally see his boyfriend again. 

 

And Even didn’t want to ruin his friend’s good mood by breaking into pathetic tears. 

 

Fuck. He was going to miss this boy. 

 

Edwin was with them because driving all the way to Oslo wasn’t something he trusted Even with just yet. The car was his baby and they couldn’t get a new one if something went wrong, which Even thought was his father’s nice way of saying Even wasn’t a great driver yet.

 

After wishing Mikael good luck on his new adventure, his father had voted to stay back and get some coffee while Even and Mikael went together to get Mikael organized. They were walking hand in hand, stealing glances at each other and exchanging smiles. Even was glad his friend apparently needed comfort doing this as well, whether it was because it was such a big decision or because he’d miss Even too. He hoped it was both.  

 

When they reached baggage check, Even knew he only had a few more minutes left before he couldn’t follow Mikael anymore. He watched his friend hand over his ticket to the woman at the desk, get his bags carefully weighed and then he was being told to proceed to his gate. 

 

And when he turned around and looked at Even, he knew it was finally time to say goodbye. 

 

“Come here, Ev.” The other boy opened his arms and Even couldn’t help the way he dove forward, wrapping his own arms around Mikael and picking him up off the ground. 

 

Mikael squealed in surprise, laughing as Even twirled him around. “You’re making a scene.” 

 

“You love it. And it has to be an epic goodbye because you’re leaving me forever and I’m heartbroken.” Even teased, putting him down. 

 

Mikael rolled his eyes as he leaned in to kiss Even’s cheek. “You’ve always been so dramatic. I’ll see you soon. We promised.” 

 

“I know. Doesn’t mean I won’t fucking miss you.” 

 

And just like that, Even was crying. 

 

“I’ll miss you too. Even, don’t you fucking cry because then I’ll cry. Ah, fuck. See what you did? I’m crying in a goddamn airport.” Mikael wiped at his eyes, shaking his head as Even did the same and eventually they both were crying and laughing together - looking completely crazy. 

 

“Okay. Go. Have fun in England. I love you.” Even said once they’d calmed down, giving Mikael one final hug. 

 

“I love you, too. I’ll call you.”

 

“I’ll pick up. Don’t worry.” Even said, nodding reassuringly as Mikael gripped his backpack and turned to walk further into the airport. 

 

He waved just before he was out of sight, a huge smile on his face and Even waved back enthusiastically - so fucking proud that he got to call this guy his best friend. 

 

**

 

2 days later

Isak (12:56)

Are you free today?

 

Yeah :) 

 

Could you come over in about an hour?

I have a surprise for you

 

Okay 

<3



The surprise was an empty house. Jonas and his family had left for the night to visit family and Isak had the house to himself. He greeted Even dressed in an oversized sweater and scarf with soft, grey sweatpants and some wooly socks. He looked so fucking adorbale that Even couldn’t help but lean in and kiss him. 

 

“Hi.” Isak said, his favourite way to say hello in that shy way he always did. 

 

Isak was in the process of explaining that he’d made a fire in the basement fireplace and was going to prepare some hot chocolate when Even took his hand - stopping him mid-sentence. 

 

“Come here.” He whispered, suddenly needing more. 

 

He needed Isak closer. He needed the kisses to be deeper. He needed to have some sort of outlet for the intensity of what he was feeling, and that turned out to be shoving Isak against the wall and making the other boy wrap his legs around his waist. 

 

Fuck.” Isak gasped, hands finding their way to Even’s shoulders for purchase as their mouths briefly separated. 

 

“Too much?” 

 

“No. Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.” 

 

He didn’t stop. Even didn’t know if he would be able to again, now that he could finally hear how desperate Isak was; how he was already trying to grind down hard against him. 

 

And when Isak started trying to get him naked, Even lost whatever self control he had left and let the other boy down so they both had better access. In the middle of Jonas’s hallway, they stripped each other mostly bare and fell onto the floor; Isak putting himself back in Even’s lap almost immediately. 

 

“We should talk.” Isak said - moaned - into Even’s chest, slowly working his way down. 

 

“Yeah.” 

 

They should, despite the fact that Even was about 98% sure they were on the same page. Isak had said he wanted to be his boyfriend and Even sure as fuck wanted to be Isak’s boyfriend. They had been doing the whole kissing thing for the past few weeks and he no longer thought about anyone else’s hands on Isak’s soft hips the way his were lingering there now. Even knew Isak was working on himself and so was he. 

 

They were ready. 

 

“I want to be with you.” Isak continued, just before he wrapped his mouth around the tip of Even’s dick and gently sucked. 

 

“Jesus Christ,” Even whimpered, hands flying into Isak’s hair and tugging - not because he wanted to move him away but because he needed something to ground him. 

 

“Do you want that, Even?” 

 

It was probably a bad idea to have this conversation when Even was feeling like he could say yes to everything, but he had known before this moment; before pleasure was taking over every inch of his body as Isak took him into the back of his throat. 

 

He had known he wanted Isak in every way possible. 

 

Yes.” He groaned, feeling himself shaking. “Yes, Isak. I want you.” 

 

“For real? Like, proper boyfriends?” Isak was now stroking him in his palm as he looked up through teary eyes, and Even had never seen anything so beautiful in his fucking life. 

 

He nodded, pulling Isak back up so they could kiss - so he could remember this moment without focusing too much on how wonderfully Isak handled his junk. 

 

“You want to date me? Hold hands and go on dates and write each other cheesy poems?” He teased, still shaking when Isak straddled him and sat up so his entire, glorious body was on display. 

 

“I want it all. And I also want you to fuck me. Because Even…” Isak reached behind himself, his hand disappearing out of sight and made it pretty clear exactly where he was now touching. “I’ve been practicing. Preparing myself for you. Coming so hard thinking about you pushing into me, holding me down and making me take it.” 

 

Even involuntarily thrust his hips up, biting down on his bottom lip to avoid the shout he wanted to let loose. “You have?” 

 

Isak nodded, reaching for Even’s hand and bringing it up to his mouth. He put two of Even’s fingers on his tongue and made them absolutely soaking before he brought them around to his ass. 

 

“I love your hands. Been dreaming about them. Will you fuck me, baby? Finally make me yours?” 

 

Isak pushed on his fingers enough that they slipped inside his ass to the first knuckle, the tight squeeze driving Even mad with arousal. Isak threw his head back and moaned, a visible shiver running up his body and that was fucking it. 

 

“Take me to your room. Right now.” 

 

Isak didn’t have to be told twice. 

 

**

 

Even hadn’t been inside someone in a really, really long time - not with his dick or fingers. He hadn’t thought about how he used to experience it almost every week nearly a year ago until they got upstairs. It was almost as if he’d forgotten how fantastic it could be, how intense and how close you got with the other person as it happened. 

 

But when they started, he quickly remembered. When Isak handed him the lube out of the nightstand and presented himself to Even like some kind of Christmas gift, Even was desperate for it. 

 

Even could feel Isak’s pleasure and how quickly it was building as he stretched him out, preparing him with two and then three fingers. He could taste the impatience that Isak was moaning through, how he was frustrated that his body wasn’t opening as fast as he wanted. But when something seemed to slot into place, when Isak’s body stopped fighting it and rather gave into it, Even felt that too. He felt the snap of Isak’s hips, the sudden groan he practically screamed into the empty house - how he clung to Even’s shoulders bruisingly tight. 

 

As Isak whispered ‘ready’ and handed him a condom, Even realized that he couldn’t remember feeling this intensely before. He hadn’t been a virgin for quite some time but it wasn’t long enough to forget how it’d felt in the past, that it was intense and all consuming and powerful. 

 

But he knew for a fact that it hadn’t been like this. 

 

He’d never felt so close to simultaneously losing his mind and on the verge of melting into something so completely right. Finding himself in just the place that he needed to be - was meant to be. 

 

“On your front. Hands and knees. It’s...easiest.” Even struggled to instruct, shaking his head as he got the condom on himself and added more lube. 

 

“But, I want…”

 

“Just in the beginning. Trust me.” Even insisted, hovering over Isak and kissing him in reassurance. 

 

Isak listened and by the time Even had lined himself up and was ready to start this whole thing - take Isak completely - he found himself out of breath. 

 

“I…” 

 

“I know.” Isak interrupted, hands clenching the pillow beneath him as he arched his back. “I know, Even. But please just do it. I want you so much. I can’t stand it anymore.” 

 

Even went slowly because he wasn’t going to hurt him. He made sure to go slow, probably slower than Isak wanted, but he didn’t give into the other boy’s high-pitched moans of ‘more, more, deeper’ until he knew damn well he was ready. 

 

And like everything else, he felt it when Isak was ready. He was all the way in, gripping Isak’s hips to make sure he didn’t forget himself, when Isak pulled himself forward. He slid slightly off Even’s cock before pushing back down, effectively fucking himself into Even’s pelvis and whimpering like there was nothing better. 

 

Fuck me.” 

 

Even let himself go, trusted that Isak would tell him if something was too much, and slammed back into the tight heat surrounding him. 

 

It was a little blurry after that but Isak ended up kneeling in his lap, head twisted around at an awkward angle so they could kiss, and then he was suddenly being pushed onto his back so Isak was on top of him - trying to figure out how to ride him. 

 

He got there eventually, both of them chuckling at the few missed attempts, and as soon as he sat down all the way he wrapped his arms around Even’s shoulders - crying out into a messy kiss. 

 

“I feel like I’m close,” Isak gasped, as if surprised by it. Maybe the surprise was warranted because Even hadn’t touched his dick yet. He’d fingered him open but that had been it. 

 

Isak’s cock was rubbing between their bodies, probably enough friction to get him there. But Even wanted to feel it like everything else. He reached down and rubbed the glistening head with his thumb and pointer finger, tongue-fucking Isak’s mouth as he kept slapping his hips up. 

 

“Come for me.” He said as Isak buried his face in his shoulder, hips suddenly stopping as his whole body clenched - letting out a startled sound. 

 

It got Even close just like that as he felt Isak's ass squeeze around him, as he came across Even's chest. He continued to thrust into the other boy, not wanting to overstimulate him but needing his own release. 

 

"I love you, Even." Isak suddenly whispered, kissing his temple as he anchored himself on his elbows above Even’s head. 

 

And Even tipped over the edge, succumbed to the inevitable pleasure that made him short of breath and see stars as he closed his eyes; unsure if he was actually going to survive it. 

 

Isak was stroking his face as he came back to himself, whispering something sweet in his ear about everything being perfect. Even opened his eyes and found Isak smiling down at him, looking happier than he’d ever seen him before. 

 

“I love you, too. Boyfriend.” 

 

**

 

February

 

It was the day before Valentine’s Day that Even received a letter in the mail. It was sitting on the table when he came down for breakfast, half asleep. He picked it up as he chugged some coffee, realizing that it was quite heavy and therefore probably important. 

 

And then he read who had sent him the letter. 

 

Oslo University. 

 

“Holy shit.” He whispered, dribbling a bit of coffee down his front as he tore open the envelope and began to read. 

 

It is with great pleasure that we inform you of your acceptance to the university in the program of media studies…’

 

Without a second thought, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and called Edwin. “Dad! Dad! I got in!” Even hollered into the receiver, his father picking up after the second ring. 

 

“What?” 

 

“I got into Oslo University!” He shouted with joy, jumping up and down. He probably looked like a total idiot, but he couldn’t be bothered to care. 

 

“Holy shit!” 

 

Even nearly toppled over because his father never swore. Not ever, unless he was really angry and those times Even could count on one hand. And yet here he was, sounding equal parts astounded and proud, throwing out an s-bomb without so much as a shocked intake of breath. 

 

“I know!” 

 

“I’m so proud of you. We’re going out for dinner tonight to celebrate.” 

 

When he got off the phone, he texted Isak the good news and invited him to join them tonight at dinner. To his surprise, Isak called him back a moment later - a picture of them lighting up Even’s phone. It was the one they’d taken on their real first date, Isak pressed close against him and kissing his cheek. 

 

“Congrats, baby.” Isak said as greeting. 

 

“Thanks. I’m freaking the fuck out right now.” 

 

“Well, maybe you should sit down then because I have something to tell you.” 

 

“You’re pregnant?” 

 

“Fuck off.” Isak quipped, tutting. “I...got in too.” 

 

“To university?” 

 

“Yes, you dumbass. What the hell else would I mean?” 

 

The realization hit Even slowly, but when he finally registered what this meant he was once again dancing around his kitchen like a complete knob. 

 

“This is officially the best day ever!” 

 

**

 

September

 

Even held the keys to their apartment as he strolled towards the moving van, Edwin already beginning to unpack. Jonas, Mahdi and Magnus - who had volunteered to drive with them to Oslo to help them get settled - were discussing how to unload the couch without permanently ruining their backs while Isak just perched near the passenger door, beaming as Even returned. 

 

“Everything okay?” Isak asked, looking better than Even had ever seen him. And that just meant Even had to lean in and kiss him. 

 

“It’s perfect.” 

 

-The End