Actions

Work Header

we can take the long way home

Chapter Text

It’s too bright when he opens his eyes. The sun is shining through the window, illuminating the small specks of dust floating around mid-air. Birds are chirping outside, and he closes his eyes again, tries not to move too much. He doesn’t remember how much beer he had to drink last night, but today it feels like too much. 

He’s sweating, the duvet is clinging to his chest and legs, and his hair is damp. There’s a sour smell in his room, of sweat and beer and smoke. Fuck. His mother is not going to be happy about the state of him today.

It’ll be worth it though. His friends and him are all aware that this may be their last summer together. Fresh out of school, adult life ahead of them. They take every chance to spend time together, yesterday they hung out in Urraparken, drinking and laughing and playing.

He actually doesn’t feel good at all; he’s feverish, and when he tries to turn around there’s a searing pain just below his ribs, like his skin is on fire, or like there’s a big scratch-wound there. He winces, tries to remember if he took a fall yesterday, but he can’t, he’s too dizzy. 

When he gently puts his hand on the right side of his stomach, the skin is burning hot and feels rugged underneath his fingertips, and when he lifts the cover to look he sees a dark patch there, about the size of his palm. 

He freezes, has to close his eyes for a moment. 

Surely, it can’t be, not this soon?

But when he looks again, he’s sure. 

He’s gotten a mark. He’s only been eighteen for about a month, haven’t even had the time to start worrying about it yet. 

No, that’s a lie. Of course, he’s thought about it, what it would mean. How it would facilitate his life if he was bonded. How content his father would be if he got a mark. 

The lines are blurry, but some of them have started to crystallize. 

He pulls the cover back up, tries to process what’s happening. What will be happening. His mother is going to tell his father, who will be making the call as soon as he finds out, he’s sure of it. There’s no way he’ll be able to hide it from his mother, not with the fever. 

They’ll probably come to get him this afternoon, and then he won’t be back until it’s done. 

Until he’s been bonded. 

He knows he should be glad, but at the same time, he can’t help but think that his life is over. At least his life as his own. Soon, he’ll be tied to another person for the rest of his life, and even if that’s supposed to be wonderful and meaningful and everything, he likes the way things are now. 

Maybe he’ll be moving someplace else, where his mate lives. Maybe his friends will, too, if they get marks. 

At least he’ll know soon. And when he knows where he’ll live with his mate, he can apply for university, at least there’s that. He’ll no longer have to wonder if or when it’s going to happen. 

It feels a bit awkward, sending the text to the group chat. He doesn’t want to brag or sound smug about it, absolutely not. But he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to speak to them when he’s at the clinic, so he just sends it. Gets several hearts and well-wishes and encouraging words within minutes, as well as status reports: they’re all very hungover. 

His mother starts crying when she finds out, like he knew she would. 

She’s got that green dress on, the one she wears when she’s outside in the garden during summer, and her hair is drawn back with the brown combs she always uses. She wipes her cheeks with a kitchen towel, sits down beside him and pours him some more orange juice. 

“It’s so soon, I wasn’t prepared for you to leave just yet,” she whispers, and Isak is struggling to hold back the tears, the sandwich growing in his mouth. “Should I pack your bag? We should call your father, let him call the clinic. I’m sure he wants to be the one to do it.” 

 

---

 

It doesn’t take many hours until there’s a hard knock on the door. The man outside is wearing a dark suit, and a black SUV with tinted windows  is parked in front of their own car. He’s got a serious expression, doesn’t smile at all, even though he must see how worried Isak’s mother is.Maybe the man is trying to be professional, reassuring in front of them both, but there’s really no need to act like someone is seriously ill, Isak thinks. 

His mother is nervous too, he can see it in the way she twists her hands, how her jaw is set. She’s changed into a light blue dress she usually wears for church, wouldn’t ever wear her garden dress in front of people she doesn’t know. 

“Good afternoon. I’m here for Isak Valtersen.” The man has got a folder in his hand with Isak’s name and today’s date on it. There’s also some kind of logo that Isak supposes belongs to the clinic, but he’s not sure, not aware of where he’s going exactly. 

His mother nods. “Yes, he’s here.” 

“And you are?” He looks at her, eyebrows raised in question.

“His mother. Marianne Valtersen.” 

“I see.” He writes something on a paper and then hands it to her. “Here is the contract instituted by the clinic between them and Terje Valtersen. It states that Isak is to go with me to the clinic in Dokka, where he will remain until bonded. During the stay, the clinic will provide him with all necessities and see that he is well taken care of. We have medical professionals and specialists available at all hours.” 

“Will – will he be able to make phone calls?” 

“The number to the clinic is written on the last page, and there is also the name of his coniunctologist, who will be the one to decide when contact with the outside world is beneficial for your son.” 

She nods once again, and Isak can see how her hands are shaking. He wishes he could be more of a support to her right now, calm her, but he’s already having trouble standing up from the fever, the nervousness, the whole situation. 

Suddenly, he wishes he’d studied more, read things about bonding, how it’s supposed to proceed from now. But it’s too late now, and he guesses he’ll find out anyway.

“Thank you, Mrs Valtersen. And remember, this is all natural, nothing to fear. You should be happy your son has presented with a mark.” 

“Yes.” She swallows. “I am. Thank you.” 

“We should go.” The man looks at Isak, but doesn’t move, doesn’t turn around to give them some privacy, and Isak can’t relax when his mother hugs him goodbye, has a hard time keeping it together. His fever must have increased too, he's sweating through his t-shirt. She kisses his cheek before she hands him his backpack, and then he’s being led to the car by the man in the suit. When he turns around just before stepping inside the car, he can see the tears running down his mother’s cheeks while she's blowing him kisses, smiling weakly. 

 

--- 

 

He must have fallen asleep during the car ride, because when he wakes up it’s dark outside. A gate opens before them, and they drive slowly towards a well-lit compound. It’s almost like some kind of military base, with trees and bushes in straight rows, houses without any kind of ornamentation or bright colors. Only the clinic's name in an impersonal font over what he supposes is the main entrance. 

He’s led inside by a nurse whose name he can’t remember. It hurts when he walks, he’s sleepy and still feverish, shivering from the cool air outside. She leads him patiently through long corridors but doesn’t speak much, must see that he’s pretty out of it. Maybe everybody who comes here is? 

They’ve only touched upon the subject in school, in civics, mostly regarding the division between those with a mark and those without, Isak didn’t really pay attention, he kind of regrets that now. 

Should have done some reading, he knows that there’s a whole section at the school library about soulmarks. And of course, there are endless sites dedicated to soulmarks and soulbonds, but the field is vast and quite intangible. 

Both his parents have got one, they’re bonded and all, but he knows that was no guarantee for him to grow one. That no one really knows what causes the soulmark to develop - or what impedes it. 

Even though he didn’t speak with his father before he left, he knows Terje is relieved. Isak has seen the nervous strain it has put on him this last year leading up to his eighteenth birthday.

But he’s surely content now. Relieved that his son turned out the way he wanted. Marked, soon to be bonded. 

The nurse stops and directs him inside an exam room with bright, fluorescent lights. 

“Doctor Nielsen will be here shortly, so if you would please undress. You can leave your underwear on.” She turns around, starts sorting through some papers and Isak exhales. He’s exhausted, it feels like he’s been awake for several days now, even though it was only this morning it all started.

His mark is still hurting, and he grits his teeth as he pulls his t-shirt off and puts it on the chair with his backpack and the rest of his clothes. 

The man who enters must be about the same age as his father. Glasses, grey hair, not very tall, Isak probably has a few centimeters on him. He nods towards the nurse as he closes the door, and then proceeds to greet Isak with a handshake. 

“So, Isak. Welcome.” He looks down at the irritated skin surrounding the mark before he catches Isak’s eyes again. “This is just a quick check-up to get you inscribed, okay?” 

Isak nods. 

“You can lie down, please.” 

The coarse paper on the examination table rustles when he moves, and he has to close his eyes when the nurse lights an even bigger lamp above him, pulls it down towards his stomach, directing it just above his iliac crest on his right side.  

“Isak, it says here that your mark showed up this morning?”

He nods, tries to look at the doctor, but squints. “Yes.”

“And you are eighteen years and..?” 

“Three weeks.”

“Hm. It looks irritated. Is it sore?” The doctor touches it before he’s finished asking the question, and Isak fights the urge to recoil. “I see. And this is nothing you did to yourself, Isak?” 

“What, no, I – ah!” He cries out as Doctor Nielsen touches it again, prodding at the outline of the mark with his fingers. 

“No, no, it looks real enough. But it’s only half a mark, that may be why his reaction is so severe.” He is talking to the nurse, but turns to Isak again. “It’s not unusual though, that marks appear gradually. It will probably develop during the next few days, don’t worry.” Doctor Nielsen removes his gloves and nods to Isak, maybe it’s supposed to be reassuring, Isak doesn’t know. He’s just grateful that he isn’t required to answer any more questions. His mind is swimming, his whole body is hurting and he just wants to go to sleep. 

After leaving both skin and blood samples and getting his vitals checked, the nurse applies some calming ointment on his mark before he is given medication to ease his fever along with some clothes; loose pants and a long-sleeved shirt, white with thin, blue stripes. They’re comfortable, fabric soft from being washed countless times. Like an old fashioned pajama. 

He is finally being led to a room, will soon be able to lie down. He hopes he’ll get to sleep, that the fever and the tiredness will quiet his mind and let him drift off. 

 

---

 

There are voices and flickers of light, and then it’s all black again. He’s warm and it seems his clothes are wet. Everything burns but then it’s like he is submerged in cool water. In that lake by the cabin where they went when he was a kid. Where he admired his father’s mark, covering his left shoulder. He had drawn a mark on himself with a pen later that evening, and his father had laughed and ruffled his hair. 

He is hurting again, and his throat is dry, too dry to talk. When he opens his eyes, he has to close them again, the light is too bright and he doesn’t recognize the room he’s in. His back is stiff and his neck smarting and it smells of sweat when he moves, whiffs of warm air from underneath his cover. 

“Isak?” 

There is rustling in the room, the sound of a door opening and closing. 

“I think he’s waking up.” 

He tries to speak, but only manages to croak and then cough. When he opens his eyes again, he remembers everything. The mark. The clinic. The fever. 

“Isak, do you know where you are?” Doctor Nielsen is standing beside his bed, a serious look on his face. Isak nods, and a woman dressed in grey approaches his bed with a cup and a straw, offering him to drink. 

The lemonade is sweet and cool, and he drinks it all in big gulps. The woman in grey puts the cup away and dabs his forehead gently with a damp cloth. 

“How are you feeling, Isak?” she asks, voice low and gentle. 

“I’m – I don’t know. Sore?” He closes his eyes again. 

“You’ve been drifting in and out of consciousness for the last four days, we were getting worried.” Doctor Nielsen interrupts.

For days? Isak draws a sharp breath. “Oh, I –  “ 

“Would you please uncover his mark so I can take a look?” 

He is wearing a different shirt now, it’s more of a gown with buttons on the front, he realizes as the woman in grey lifts the cover and starts unbuttoning it. He can feel the mark burning before he sees it, an angry red eruption surrounding it. It looks horrible, probably not at all like a mark should, the black lines blurry against his swollen skin. He winces when Doctor Nilsen touches it, closing his eyes to try and fight back the tears that are threatening to spill over. 

“Your mark is expanding, but the process is slower than we would like. It’s still tender, I see?” 

Isak nods. He doesn’t trust his voice enough to speak right now. 

“As long as your mark isn’t complete, we can’t match it against your mate.” Doctor Nielsen clears his throat. “You know that the marks are supposed to match, right, Isak?” 

He nods again. 

“Right now, yours is underdeveloped, the lines aren’t very clear, and they are yet to form the outer ring surrounding your mark.” He speaks slowly as if he’s talking to someone very uninformed. “So what I propose is that you’ll be staying here, in your room, and we will begin hormone treatment to help it along.” 

Isak blinks, and Doctor Nielsen must see his confusion. “The treatment is intense, and you won’t have the strength to wander around anyway. The helpers and the nurses will see to it that you have everything you need.” He nods at that, as if that’s the end of the matter, an overbearing look on his face. 

He swallows and nods, slowly. “Yes. Okay.” 

“This is nothing to worry about, we will make sure to find your mate. And you should be grateful that your parents signed you up to come here, where we can offer you the most advanced and efficient treatments.” And then he turns around and leaves with a short nod. 

Isak closes his eyes again, tries to swallow down the lump in his throat. Fuck . Of course his mark has to be faulty. Maybe it’s not even a real mark? What if he doesn’t get one, if he can’t be bonded? What will his father say? 

He wants to call someone, wants his mother to comfort him, wants to listen to Jonas rant about how bonds and soulmarks are just a construction, a standard set by an unequal society depending on an upper class and another, disposable class to be used without reconsideration, but he doesn’t know where his phone is, or if he is even allowed to use it. 

“It will be fine, Doctor Nielsen is very competent,” the woman in grey says as she carefully buttons his gown and pulls the cover back up. “Would you like to eat something? You haven’t eaten since you got here.” 

The mere thought of food makes Isak stomach churn, but he nods nonetheless. “That would – yeah, I can try.” 

The woman nod, smiles at him. She closes the door behind her, and Isak lets out the breath he’s been holding, tries to relax his hands balled into fists, tries to fight back the panic threatening to overtake him. 

Tries to believe that it is indeed going to be fine. 

 

---

 

There’s a window in his room, and when the blinds are up he can see some kind of yard outside. The few benches are unoccupied, there aren’t many people outside despite the sunny weather. There aren’t any flowers here, just well-trimmed bushes and never-ending lawns, but he knows that the meadow in the glade behind their house is blooming now, it was when he left. Poppies and bellflowers and different kinds of grass he can’t name. It’s probably warm outside, and he wonders what his friends are doing. If they’re on the beach or in a cabin somewhere, enjoying their last summer before adulthood. Without him. If someone else got their mark.

Every morning after breakfast the nurse comes with his shots, and then again after dinner. Doctor Nielsen was right about the treatment – he barely has energy for anything else than staying in bed. There are several persons dressed in grey that helps him, bring him lemonade and help him sit up. He doesn’t know their names, they don’t say much. And he’s not in any shape to strike up a conversation, anyway.  

The first couple of days the hormones made him throw up, made him almost delirious. Now he’s just nauseous and tired. Bored out of his mind, hungry but without appetite. He still hasn’t got his phone back, and there’s no tv in his room. It’s best to avoid too many impressions, as your body has got a lot of adjusting to do , the nurse explained when he asked. 

He tried to understand how watching tv could change the due course of hormones in his body but knew better than to question the doctor’s orders. He’ll be out of here soon, and he’s still got his books from school. And of course, the book that the nurse gave him. The Beauty of the Bond - an Introduction to Soulmarks and Soulmates. Even though the cheesy cover that honestly looked like something out of a romantic movie made him roll his eyes, he flipped through it, curious about what he is supposed to experience in the near future. 

The read was a disappointment, though. While he wanted to know about the evolutionary reasons behind the bond, why the human race had started to present with marks some centuries ago, what the genetics research shows, the book focused mostly on love. How a bond conjoins two persons for life, like two missing pieces of a puzzle, almost as of some divine intervention. How genuine love is something that grows between bonded mates.

He himself has never been in love, he thinks. He’s been attracted to people, sure. Mostly boys, if he’s honest, but he’s never done anything. Never gone further than kissing someone at a party, letting his hands roam over strong shoulders and firm chests. 

Some say that it could affect your mark if you were to fall in love with someone who isn’t your soulmate, but Isak thinks that it’s mostly rumours.  

He sighs. Looks up at the ceiling, at the cracks he knows by heart now. The grey stain at the far left corner, the door seal that is a centimeter too short where the ends are supposed to meet. Lets his hand travel downwards, underneath the cover, touching the mark through the gown. 

It’s not as sore now, still aches but he’s able to touch it. And it’s grown, developed as planned, according to Doctor Nielsen. The mark is placed just above his iliac crest on his right side, an intricate pattern of thin lines that run in parallel, almost like a large fingerprint. It would be exactly like a fingerprint, only one possible match, had it been completed. 

The next day, it’s Doctor Nielsen himself who administers his shots. He’s much less gentle than the nurse, pinches his skin where he’s already sore and shoves the needle in deep.

“I know these shots aren’t very pleasant, but they’re for a good cause, you know.” 

Isak nod, clenching his teeth and tries not to bite back at the condescending tone. 

“I’ve got news for you, though,” Doctor Nielsen continues as he turns around to discard of the shots and the gloves. 

Isak pulls up his cover, doesn’t feel comfortable like this, undressed and almost vulnerable. He clears his throat. “Okay?” 

Doctor Nielsen turns around again, rights his glasses. “Even though your mark still isn’t fully developed, it was enough for the database.” 

Isak just looks at him, doesn’t dare to guess, even for himself. 

“We’ve found your match, Isak.” 

Chapter Text

Isak is so nervous he can barely stand. He’s sweating, drawing his fingers through his hair, trying to tame it, to make it seem like he’s not been lying in bed for a week straight. His legs feel weak, almost wobbly when he walks through the long, bright corridors of the clinic. 

If only they’d let him wear his own clothes. 

He knows it doesn’t really mean anything, that his mate will be his mate either way, but it would have been nice to have been able to make a somewhat good first impression. 

After all, he is about to meet the person he’s going to spend the rest of his life with. 

He wonders if he’s going to get to call his parents after the meeting. Or call someone else, just to talk. 

“Can you feel it?” The nurse looks at him, eyes glittering, a big smile on her lips. “This is my favorite part of my job, to be there when mates meet for the very first time.” 

Isak nods and swallows dryly. Tries to assess whether he does feel something, but doesn’t really know what to expect. 

“I – I  feel dizzy?” he croaks out.

The nurse smiles even wider, and nods at a door in front of him. “Do you see that green light? That means that your mate is inside and that you can enter.” 

She nods for him to open the door, and Isak exhales. Puts his hand on the handle, the metal is cold against his hot skin, it moves easily when he presses downwards. The room is bright, white and impersonal, like every other space here. But there’s a sofa in front of him, and a table with some flowers in a vase, like someone actually tried to make it a bit homier. Or romantic, even. 

“Hi.” 

He turns his head towards the person speaking and is met by blue eyes, blonde hair,  and a hand stretched out towards him. 

“I’m Sara.” 

He clears his throat. "Isak." Tries to hide his surprise, he was almost certain that his bondmate would be a man. But, what does he know? This might be it, no, this is it. For sure. 

Her hand is small and cool when he hesitantly takes it in his. He doesn't know what to expect the first time he touches her, but he knows it's not this. 

Nothing. 

He feels nothing when their skin touches for the very first time, and he can see in her eyes that she is as surprised as he is. 

"I..." She pulls her hand away, clutches it in front of her. "Do you want to sit down?" 

He nods, and she gestures towards the sofa.  It’s so small that they'll have to sit close enough to touch. 

Still nothing. 

"My mark –  " He clears his throat. "My mark hasn't fully developed yet. Maybe that's –  " 

She nods, puts her hand on his arm. "Neither has mine." 

They’re interrupted by a short knock on the door, and then Doctor Nielsen steps inside, followed by the nurse that showed Isak to the room. 

“So, Isak, Sara.” Doctor Nielsen looks at them, a stiff smile plastered on his lips. “I see you’ve met and gotten acquainted some. You both suffer from the, ehm, same condition , with an uncompleted mark, but we have been able to conclude that you are, indeed, a match. Congratulations! Nurse Brandrud here will explain how we’ll proceed from here.”  

When doctor Nielsen has left the room, nurse Brandrud sits down in front of them. They’re still on the sofa, still close, touching, and Isak is too hot, almost itchy, has trouble taking deep breaths. Maybe it’s nerves, maybe it’s the hormones. He tries to will himself to breathe slowly through his nose, to relax his rigid posture. 

“You’ve got such an exciting time ahead of you!” The nurse’s smile is sweet, her voice sugary. Sara is smiling too, leaning towards him, her whole side plastered against his. “Now that you’ve met, as you may know, your bond will start forming. But it’s also very important that you help it along, that you spend time together. That will strengthen the bond and benefit you greatly.” She nods as she speaks, the words spilling out of her mouth in a never-ending stream, and Isak is dizzy again. He nods anyway.

“How long will it take?” Sara asks. 

“Normally it takes about a week for the bond to fully form, but in your case, it’s difficult to tell. The important thing is that you actively encourage the bond to develop.” She looks at Sara, then at Isak. “In the book you’ve been given there is a lot of helpful tips, and in the back is a long list of questions to discuss together, to gain a better knowledge of your mate. And I think that this step is especially important for you two.” 

She looks at them with raised eyebrows, almost as if she expects them to immediately start asking each other personal questions and bond before her very eyes. 

Isak swallows again, tries to fight the nausea rising. This doesn’t feel right, how nothing at all happened when they met, even when they touched. How he’s not drawn to Sara, at all. But on the other hand, nothing has felt right since he got his mark. It’s like he doesn’t even know who he is anymore, like his body is fighting some kind of battle where he doesn’t even know which side to pick. 

“I understand that this is all very confusing and that it might even feel strange, but very soon, all the pieces will fall into place, I promise. There is nothing to worry about. And remember that we are here to help you, okay? And starting tomorrow, you’ll each get a questionnaire to fill out so that we can further monitor the progress of your bond.” 

He can see Sara looking at him, and he glances back, tries to manage a smile, something reassuring, as much for himself as for her. 

It’s going to be okay. 

 

---

 

He hasn’t slept at all when a nurse knocks on his door the next day. His mind has been racing all night, veering between an irrational fear of the life ahead of him, and reassurance that they’ve found his mate, that all is going to be fine, that he’s in the hands of capable people and that they’re taking good care of him. 

She checks his mark, measures it and write down the numbers with a frown on her face. Still no progress he guesses but he doesn’t ask. Instead he tries to lie still when she prods at it, the skin is still tender, still very much irritated. 

“Did you fill out the form that nurse Brandrud gave you?” 

He did, of course he did. The questionnaire with standardized questions that had been placed on his bed when he returned from being with Sara yesterday, where he got to grade his experiences with his future bondmate from one to five. He mostly put down one’s, as in no, he didn’t feel any tingle, no, her touch didn’t feel exceptionally warm. The only thing he could grade higher was the nausea, but it didn’t exactly increase when they parted ways. 

He nods, gestures to the table beside his bed.

“That’s good, i’ll give it to Doctor Nielsen. He’s decided to increase the dosage, by the way. That should accelerate the progress with your bond,” the nurse explains as she changes gloves and prepares the shot. 

Isak steels himself, gritting his teeth when she pinches his skin. They’ve been alternating between his thigh and his stomach, but now it hurts everywhere, and he’s already tired of how the medicines are making him feel; weak, disoriented and sick

He covers his face with his hands when the nurse has left, tries to breathe right. Knows he should be grateful, but can’t help thinking that everything sucks right now. 

 

-----

 

Sara and Isak are spending the day together, trying to get the bond to grow. She seems kind, obviously as nervous as him, and that calms him a little. 

The conversation is forced, doesn’t flow easily at all, but at least they’re both trying. It’s not exactly easy in the sterile environment that the clinic provides, the uncomfortable sofas, the unforgiving, fluorescent lights everywhere. They go outside for a while, sit on a bench near the entrance and at least that’s reinvigorating, to get some fresh air, to hear birds instead of the unfamiliar sounds inside the clinic.  

At the end of the day, Isak knows that they have absolutely no common interests other than that they both like pizza and are quite good at math, and that when he touches her he still doesn’t feel anything. Not a single spark or even an indication that what they’re doing is right.

It’s like a bad dream that forces him to relive the same horrible day time and time again, with no progress or chance to change the course events.

During the next days, the nurses encourage them to keep going, send them out for walks around the compound, and that helps a little. That warm summer air, humid, smelling of grass and dirt renews Isak’s faith in what they are doing. It’s easier to talk when you’re walking, and when their hands touch and Sara smiles at him, it actually feels quite nice. 

They’re trying to be more physical, both of them aware of how that would benefit their relationship, even if it always feels a little forced. But he lets Sara cuddle up beside him when they’re watching a movie, some romance cliché about soulmates that live happily ever after, where marks are matching and things are meant to be, and he tries to relax when she caresses his leg, tries to will away the awkwardness he’s feeling. 

When the credits are rolling, she’s pressed even closer, her head resting on his shoulder. 

“This is nice.” She looks at him and smiles, and Isak nods. Swallows. 

“Yes.” 

“I really liked the movie. It was so romantic.” She sits up a little before she leans toward him. Isak sits there, not really sure of what to do, but Sara closes the distance between them and presses her lips against his. 

The angle is off, and Isak tries to decide what to do with his hands, but Sara smiles against his lips and climbs onto his lap. Puts her arms around his neck and kisses him again while she presses herself against him. He hesitantly puts his hands on her waist, tries to focus on the kiss, on the slide of her lips against his own. 

She’s lean. Her thighs on either side of him are soft, strong but rounder than his, and her hair is tickling his neck when she leans forward. When she opens her mouth he follows, the slide of their tongues together is slow, careful, and Isak lets one hand travel up her back, along with the knobs of her spine.

She lean her head to the side, and Isak opens his mouth a little. Doesn’t really know what to do with his tongue and then it hits him that he’s never thought about that before when he’s kissed someone. And has it always been this wet and sloppy?

Suddenly, the door opens. 

Sara stands up, she’s obviously as startled by the sound as Isak. A man with some cleaning equipment looks at them, one hand on the door handle. He’s tall, dressed in grey, a surprised look on his face. 

“I’m sorry, I –  this room was supposed to be empty.” 

“Well, it’s not.” Sara looks at him, eyebrows raised. “And you should know better than to just barge in like this, I’ll – “ 

“The light outside was off.” 

“We’re busy.” She turns her back towards him, climbs back onto Isak’s lap, and starts kissing his neck. 

Isak doesn’t know what to say, what to do. He watches the man over Sara’s shoulder, mouths sorry at him, and then the man looks at him and smiles. A sad kind of smile that Isak can feel deep down in his stomach, a strange pull that makes him somewhat dizzy. 

“Could you get out?” Sara has turned around again, her voice is shrill in the small room, and Isak feels as though he’s been swimming, weightless, content, but now he’s being pulled up against his will. 

The man looks down and starts to back out of the room. He catches Isak’s eye right before he closes the door, leaving Isak and Sara alone again. The ambiance from before is gone, and Isak is more confused than ever. 

“Such a creep, right? The helpers are all creepy, staring all the time. I think they’re jealous.” She flicks her hair over her shoulder and leans in again, puts her mouth back on his neck, and this time, there’s a tingling feeling in his limbs, a flicker of something he hasn’t felt before. 

“Feels good?” Her mouth is close to his ear, her breath warm against his skin. He nods, it feels good even though the small tingle he felt before is gone. Her weight against him, her smell surrounding him, her hands in his hair. 

“I think so too. I – it works when we try, doesn’t it? And this, I think –  I think touching is good, too.” She kisses him again, her hands on either side of his face, and he lets her. Lets her sigh into the kiss and lean closer, press herself against him. 

Later, he excuses himself. Tells her that he needs the bathroom, and that that he’s tired. She hugs him goodbye, kisses him. Whispers. “I’m really looking forward to seeing you again tomorrow.” 

Isak nods. 

He really is tired, not that it helps him sleep. His head is a mess, and no matter how many times he tries to sort through what he’s thinking and compare it to what he’s feeling, he never succeeds. 

But he’s getting more and more sure that Sara isn’t the one for him, that there has been a mistake. He’s spent almost all of his waking hours with Sara, these last few days, trying to get to know her, trying to like her. And it’s not that she’s detestable or even ugly in any way - she’s a sweet girl that is occasionally funny, obsessed with gossip and who would love to be bonded, mated, made into a wife and a mother - but she’s not for him. Nothing about her excites him or makes him feel drawn to her, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be, at least he knows that. 

He thinks about when they kissed the other day, when they were interrupted. How he didn’t even know where to put his hands or what to do with his mouth and how he absolutely not wanted to take it any further. 

He has to talk to doctor Nielsen about it, has to ask them to compare the marks again. Since things aren’t developing, they’ll have to realize they’ve made a mistake too, and that Saras and his respective mates are still out there. 

And if he’s got a faux mark or can’t be bonded, then so be it. He’d rather be alone than to adapt to some fake life just for the sake of being bonded. It wouldn’t be fair to Sara, and it certainly wouldn’t be fair to him either. 

Chapter Text

His clothes are damp against his skin and his hair plastered against his forehead when he wakes up. One of the side effects of the hormone treatment, the nurse had explained to him one of the first mornings here. 

He’s so sick of this, to not feel like himself, to not fit in, to not fit with anyone. It’s eating him, making him anxious. The only interaction he’s had with others since he got here is with the doctors and the nurses. And Sara. The helpers that move around the clinic don’t speak much, he’s noticed, they’re always kind of in the periphery. 

He misses his friends so much it hurts, misses his own bed, his mum’s cooking. He even misses his father, would give anything for a conversation about something that doesn’t involve marks or bonds or hormones right now.

It’s not supposed to be like this, no one prepared him for this. All he’s ever heard about soulmates and bonds is that it’s easy because it’s right, that the bonds happen because they are supposed to and that soulmates always fit. So why doesn’t that apply to him? Why is he suffering from half a mark and a girl that is supposed to be his soulmate but that he doesn’t have any connection with whatsoever?  

Logically, he understands that it can’t all be fairytales, but right now he wishes he’d never even got that stupid mark. 

He just wants to go home, to be left alone. 

The nurse enters before he’s taken a shower. The first few days he thought it was embarrassing, but now he doesn’t care. Either way, he doesn’t have the energy to get up before they come in the morning. Barely has the energy for anything. 

She uncovers his right side to check his mark, and then she stills. 

“Oh.” 

Immediately, he knows there’s something wrong. “What?” 

“It –  it’s growing. Your mark!” She looks at him, a big smile on her face. “I’ll call Doctor Nielsen.” 

He looks down at his stomach, at the small bruises from the shots, at the irritated skin surrounding his mark. She’s right – it has grown. The line that is supposed to surround his mark has stretched further and is now forming almost three-quarters of a circle. The majority of the circle is yet to be filled, but still. It’s progress. 

He’s relieved and concerned at the same time. Yesterday he was sure that Sara and he weren’t compatible, and now his body is proving him wrong. 

Doctor Nielsen is satisfied with the results, clearly content that his treatment is working. He looks closely at the mark, measures it, and asks the nurse to take more photos afterwards. 

“This is very good news, Isak. As you can see, the circulus clausa has grown considerably and is near closing now. There’s still quite a big part of the inner print missing, but it’s clear that the increased dosage is working very well. Along with the time you’re spending with your future mate, of course.” 

Isak doesn’t know what to respond, last night he had this list of questions he was going to ask doctor Nielsen, tell him about how he feels something is not right. 

But now, he’s as confused as ever. Maybe Sara is his mate? She has to be if spending time with her has made his mark develop like this. Maybe he should just try harder with her, and it will all work out as it’s supposed to.  

Doctor Nielsen must take his silence as an agreement, because he continues.  “What I would like to do now, Isak, is to step up your dosage even further, to speed up the process even more. I follow your progress closely, both via your mark and the forms you fill out whenever you’ve spent time with Sara, and to be frank, I’d like your answers to develop along with your mark. I want you to feel the bond in your body too, and it’s pivotal that the bonding is consummated as soon as possible. That’s our goal here, it always is, for your own safety. There have been fatal accidents with youths roaming around unbonded in the past, and that’s the last thing we’d want for you.” He looks serious, a deep frown behind his thick glasses, nodding to himself while he’s talking to Isak. 

And Isak knows, he knows. He’s heard the stories, everybody has. How some people tried to live unbonded and free despite their marks a long time ago, how they wanted to belong to no one, and how they mixed with unmarked. And how it all ended in tragedy. 

He inhales, tries to focus on the outcome of what doctor Nielsen just told him. That he’ll get out of here, with his mate. That it’ll all be good.

“Okay, yes.” He nods and doctor Nielsen looks content. Puts his hand on Isak’s shoulder and squeezes before he exits the room.

He stays in the shower for a long time. If he closes his eyes and just listens to the sound of the running water, this could have been the shower at home, with the white tiling on the walls, the blue floor and the soft towels that smell the way they’ve always done. With the mirror that is placed a little too low since he’s grown, and that crooked clay turtle he did in preschool, but that his mother kept on the shelf above the towels ever since. 

He washes himself, tries to get rid of the sweat, of that sticky, uncomfortable feeling. His hair is getting too long, it has started to curl and that’s normally when he cuts it really short. They’ve been playing lots of soccer this year, hung out at the gym, gaining strength. But now, after two weeks here, he feels weak and skinny. It’s like he doesn’t recognize his own body, like it’s changing in a way he can’t comprehend or keep up with. 

The mark still feels warm to the touch, but it doesn’t hurt that much anymore. At least not when he touches it himself, when he gently lets his fingers follow the lines that are permanently set in his skin. 

There’s breakfast waiting in his room when he gets out of the shower. The coffee has become lukewarm, but he drinks it anyway. Swallows it down with one of the sandwiches, the same bread as every other morning, with the same cheese. It doesn’t matter anyway, his appetite is ruined by nausea. 

Today's dosage is indeed higher, the syringes almost filled completely, and he hisses as the nurse injects the liquid under his skin. It burns for a long time afterwards, skin sore and tender. 

He’s sitting in bed trying to read when the nausea creeps upon him. It’s more violent than normal, makes him want to crawl out of his skin, to disappear. He’s sweating heavily, almost shaking while wave after wave of nausea hits him. Ultimately, he can’t keep his breakfast down any longer, his stomach is cramping and he throws up violently before he has the time to run to the bathroom. 

When he regains consciousness, his mind is still swimming. His body is heavy on the mattress, limbs seemingly impossible to move. Every time he tries to go back to sleep, he’s awoken by voices he doesn’t recognize and the sound of people moving, the rustling of fabric. 

He realizes that there are people in his room, cleaning, talking. The nurse is giving orders and the helpers in grey are executing them. They help him out of his dirty clothes, and change the sheets on his bed, all while he’s shaking and sweating and whimpering.

When he wakes up again, the room is silent. His limbs are still heavy, and he’s warm, his hair wet and his skin tastes of salt when he licks his lips, but he’s not uncomfortable. He’s feeling floaty, as if they’ve given him some kind of sedative. It’s dark outside –  he must have been out if it for a while. 

“How are you feeling? Isak?” The deep voice is close to him, and then there’s a gentle press on his forehead, a damp cloth, cool against his heated skin. 

Isak clears his throat. “I –  okay. I think.” He closes his eyes again, blinks slowly before he turns his head to look at the person sitting beside his bed. 

The grey shirt looks soft and comfortable, Isak notices, before he looks up, meeting a pair of blue eyes, looking directly at him. 

It’s like something suddenly erupts within Isak, a deep pull inside his stomach, making him draw a sharp breath. 

“Are you in pain? Shall I call someone?” The man looks concerned, stands up, reaching for the red button beside the bed. 

“No –  no, I.. I’m fine. Sorry. I just –  “ 

The man looks at him, looking like he’s trying to assess whether Isak really is fine. 

Finally, he nods and sits down. Picks up the cloth again. 

Isak exhales, tries to relax.  It’s like Isak’s mind is swimming, reeling, going too fast and too slow at the same time.  “I think I – sorry. It just felt so weird. Like my whole body was just warm, or something?” He almost flushes at how strange and stupid it sounds.

The man nods. He’s got blonde hair, swept back in a stylish hairdo that doesn’t match the dull, grey scrubs at all. “Okay,” he says, looking at him with kind eyes, and Isak feels it again, a small shiver that runs through him, that makes the hair on his arms stand up. 

“I’m sorry I barged in on you the other day.”

“What?” 

“When you –  you were – with that girl. Your soulmate.” The man looks down, studies the damp cloth in his hands. “I didn’t mean to.” 

“No, it’s fine, it’s –  it wasn’t your fault.” 

It’s difficult to form words, let alone sentences, and he starts to sweat again, feels hot all over. 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” The helper’s brows are knitted. “You look like you’re running a fever.” He gently puts his hand on Isak’s forehead, and everything slows down. Isak takes a deep breath, and opens his eyes. 

The man is still watching him, with those big, blue eyes, and Isak swears he can see small specks of glitter in them, like the ocean on a sunny day. 

The helper withdraws his hand quickly when the door slams, and stands up to greet the nurse entering the room, and Isak has to close his eyes to the surge of emotions rolling in like a wave, taking him along for the ride. Suddenly, the world is moving too fast, like he lost his anchor point and is drifting, completely lost. 

When the nurse takes his temperature he closes his eyes, tries to relax. He still doesn’t understand what just happened, how he’s suddenly having such strong reactions to almost everything. He feels beside himself, like he’s not really present, and yet it’s like every touch to his skin is amplified by a thousand, and not in a pleasant way. Suddenly he feels raw, almost exposed, and he wants the nurse to stop touching him, to stop talking to him. To leave him alone.

He wishes he could go outside, just to sit somewhere and breathe air that doesn’t smell of desinfectant, that he had the energy to sort through and understand everything that’s happening now. 

But as soon as he manages to relax, he falls asleep again. 

 

-------

 

Later that afternoon he is waiting for Sara in a room next to his own. It’s another one of those social rooms, where mates are supposed to get to know each other. The same narrow kind of sofa, only in a different color. A painting on the wall with two people holding hands on a beach. 

He still hasn’t recovered from this morning, he’s feeling weak and somewhat disoriented, but the doctor had insisted that Sara and he spent time together. That they are now in an active phase of the bond developing and that they should encourage it as much as possible. 

Sara is sitting close, her arm around his shoulders, her hand gently caressing the nape of his neck. He swallows, tries to relax, tries to will away the feeling of her fingers as something foreign. 

“I’m sorry you’re not feeling well,” she says. “But it’s for a good reason. The shots made me feel queasy too, but at least they help.” 

“Yeah.” 

“My mark has grown, by the way. It’s complete now.” 

“That’s – that’s good.” 

She nods, moves even closer. “I can show it to you someday?” 

Isak tries to smile, but isn’t really sure it works. So he nods, maybe looking too eager. “Yeah.” 

“Honestly, I can’t wait to be bonded to you, to start our life together. I –  I’ve always kind of known, you know? That I would get a mark. I just knew.” 

He furrows his brows. “Okay?” 

“Like, everyone in my family’s got marks. It’s –  it’s really in our genes.” 

“I –  it doesn’t work like that, you – “ 

“Yes, I know, I’ve read the book, Isak. I just believe that some of us are destined to get marks, be bonded, start a family. A real family.”  She smiles, speaks low just next to his ear, holds him closer before she presses her lips against his cheek. “Like us.” 

 

---

 

He fucking hates this room. It’s small and impersonal, the colours are dull and boring, there’s no tv and no books. The bed is too narrow and not at all soft like the one he’s got at home, he doesn’t sleep well at all here. 

It’s probably due to the stress and the medication, but still.

Every time his body has learned to tolerate the new dose of hormones, they increase it again. He feels like the world’s most miserable human being, and all he wants right now is to get out of here.  He doesn’t even want his mark anymore, would be perfectly happy to live his life as unmarked and unbonded. 

The other day, he got to talk to his father on the phone. The first call he’s been allowed to receive in the weeks he’s spent here. And even though his father encouraged him to soldier on and to do as the doctor says, even though he said exactly the things Isak knew he would, it made him miss home like crazy. 

He doesn’t even recognize his own reflection in the mirror anymore. He’s lost weight, his face pale and hollow, and his hair is long and curly. His body mottled by bruises from the shots he gets twice a day. That fucking mark on the side of his stomach that still hasn’t fully developed. 

He should be healthy and sunkissed and freckled, he should be swimming at Sørenga with his friends. Shouldn’t be lying in bed puking his guts out because he’s too nauseous to do anything else. 

Normally, he only cries at night, when there’s no one around, but today he can’t help it. When the door opens, he tries to wipe most of the tears away, but he knows it shows anyway, that his eyes are red and puffy. 

“Hi Isak, I’m here to – “ It’s the blonde man again, the one from the other day. He sits down beside him. “Isak, what’s wrong? Are you in pain?” 

He blinks away a few stray tears. “No, I –  I’m sorry. It’s nothing.” He actually feels better, all of a sudden, lighter. 

“Maybe I can help you?” 

“You can’t! Isn’t it obvious that no one can?” All of a sudden, he feels angry. Angry at everyone who claim to  want his best but who are making him feel more and more like shit, angry at his faulty mark, that he doesn’t succeed to connect with his mate. Sick and tired and angry. 

“I’m sorry, I – “ 

“No, no.” He draws his hands over his face, pushes his hair away. “ I’m sorry. For lashing out like that.” 

The helper smiles. “It’s okay, I’m sorry you’re not feeling well.” 

“What –  what’s your name?” 

“Even.” 

“Okay. I’m sorry, Even.” Their eyes meet and it’s like he suddenly remembers every small tinge of glitter in Even’s eyes. Like he’s looked into them a thousand times before. He draws his breath, it suddenly feels as if he’s falling, and he has to close his eyes again. When he opens them, Even looks flushed, but doesn’t meet his eyes.  

He clears his throat. “I – I came here to help you change. For your, eh, date.” 

“Yeah. Okay. Shit.” Isak’s stomach sinks again.

Even glances at him, fiddles with the hem of his shirt. “Or, you don’t want to..?”

Isak swallows, tries to compose himself a little. He’s not normally like this. Doesn’t vent his innermost fears to people he just met, but there’s something about Even that just makes him do it. Or maybe it’s the fact that he hasn’t spoken to anyone in weeks, besides his doctor. “It’s just – I don’t think we’re doing too well, you know? It doesn’t feel like we’re compatible at all. And – “ He glances at Even, who gives him a small nod. “ – I hate it that some stupid mark is going to decide who I’m going to spend my life with. What if it’s not right?” 

Even looks down, and Isak knows how spoiled he sounds.

“I’m sorry, I – “ Isak starts, but Even interrupts. 

“No, I –  I can understand that feeling. That someone else, or something , made a choice for you, that you have no control over. And – and you should be the one in control over your life.” He looks at Isak. “Everyone should.” 

They’re quiet for a moment, seconds that stretch out between them, sharing the silence.

It’s Even who breaks it, who gets up so fast it almost startles Isak. “I –  I forgot to bring your clothes. I’ll be back.” 

And then, he leaves. 

Suddenly, Isak feels nauseous again. The numbing, bone-deep tiredness is back, and he sighs, rubs his eyes until little dots are forming under his eyelids. Fuck. 

A light knock on the door and Even re-enters, and with him, a breath of fresh air. Isak sits up in his bed, watches Even as he places the neatly folded clothes on the table beside his bed. 

“Can I?” Even gestures towards the buttons on his gown and Isak nods. The nausea has been replaced by a slight dizziness, and he focuses on sitting up straight when Even starts unbuttoning his clothing. 

Even’s fingers are long and deft, the skin on his arms smooth and pale, and he smells of summer and of spices. Not of clinic and disinfectant, like everything else here. Even gently lifts Isak’s gown off his shoulders when he’s finished unbuttoning it, his fingertips barely grazing Isak’s bare skin, but that small touch reverberates through Isak’s whole body, makes his skin tingle.

He blinks, looks at Even. “Did you feel that?” 

Even doesn’t move, just swallows thickly. Lets his gaze sweep over Isak’s torso, stopping at his mark. He keeps his eyes on it, and Isak can feel it prickling, almost itching. 

“I don’t know,” Even whispers, and reaches for the shirt. “Do you want me to help you with the trousers too?” He doesn’t look at Isak now, seems almost eager to leave. 

“No, I –  it’s fine. Thanks.” Isak buttons the shirt, doesn’t move to remove his trousers, doesn’t look at Even either. The air in the room is thick, and Isak can hear himself swallow. 

“Okay, just – “ Even clears his throat. “ – have a nice date. With Sara.”  And then he leaves. 

 

---

 

“I think we just have to try harder. Your mark is growing, mine too, that has to count for something? Must mean we’re doing it right, right?” 

“Yes, but – “

“Maybe we should start sleeping next to each other? That has to be good, don’t you think?” 

They’ve been arguing for some time now. Sara is pacing the room, and Isak would too if he hadn’t been too worn out from the treatment. 

“Sometimes it feels like you don’t even want to be bonded? Like this is a joke to you?” She stops and looks at him. “This matters for the rest of our lives, Isak. If we don’t do this right now, we’ll have to live with the consequences!” 

He knows this, even read about it last night when he couldn’t sleep. The risks of not taking care of the bond, especially in the beginning, when it’s as most fragile and malleable. That it could be damaged, become more fragile and unsteady, how it can make the bondmates nervous and sometimes prone to jealousy. What they do now will matter for a long time, and even if he’s not entirely sure, is he certain? Willing to risk what might be his true bond? 

He pushes his hair from his face, inhales. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” 

She deflates a little, and he stretches his hand towards her, pulls her onto his lap when she takes it. “I’ll be better. I want to make this work too, okay?” 

He puts his arms around her, feels her relax against him. Her hair tickles his skin and for a brief moment, he realizes that he doesn’t even remember the color of her eyes. But he’ll be better. He has to. 

 

-----

 

Sara is asleep in front of him, his arm around her waist. They’re in her room, just down the hall from his own. The nurses cast them glances when they went inside together, and Sara had giggled, clearly excited with their new plan: to spend as much time as possible together. 

Like they should. Like they must.

She had shown him her mark. Smaller than his, but with clear lines and completely filled. On the back of her thigh and she had blushed when she undressed, when she had urged him to touch it. 

He still had felt nothing. Nothing but the big lump that resides permanently in his throat now. 

After that, Sara had insisted they went through some questions from the book. Questions about family, about bonded life. What they wanted for themselves, and for them as a couple. It had felt surreal, like he was part of some strange play, or talking about the life of someone else, someone he doesn’t even know.

He wanted to bring up the questionnaire that he fills out every time they’ve seen each other, the one that she must be filling out as well, how he doesn’t seem to be making any progress at all, but he didn’t. Sara is so sure of herself, of them, that it makes him doubt even his own notion of their time together.

He’s thinking about Even again, the helper he’s met twice now. Thrice, if you count the time when Sara was present. 

There’s something about him, something sad, or vulnerable, maybe? Something that touches Isak, moves him. And it’s strange, and maybe even stupid, because he doesn’t know Even, and he’s probably just nice and caring because that’s his job. But then he thinks about his eyes again, and how it had felt when he looked into them. 

He can remember exactly how they look, the very shade of deep blue and now his mark is tingling again, just as Sara presses up against him in her sleep. 

It’s nearly eight. He should get going, doesn’t want to get his shots here. Wants to sleep in his own bed, alone. Sara’s body lies heavy and still when he slowly pulls his arm from underneath her neck, puts the cover over her and slowly exits her room. 

As he walks down the corridor to his own room, a tall figure catches his eyes. 

He recognizes Even instantly. His long arms, his posture. 

Isak stops, takes a step back behind a pillar so he isn’t visible to Even, but can watch him unseen. He’s cleaning, mopping the floors. Singing something that Isak can’t quite distinguish. A strand of hair has fallen onto his forehead, his plush lips puckered as he hums. He looks strong and fragile at the same time, like he could withstand almost anything and fall apart simultaneously. 

He’s beautiful. The long line of his neck, his pale skin. His hands. Bigger than Isak’s, soft, caring. If he put his arm around Isak’s waist, Even’s palm would rest on his mark.

He swallows when he realizes what he’s thinking. Feels the dizziness take over again, has to support himself against the wall. 

This can’t be right. 

He’s never longed for Sara to hold him, never thought about how her hand would fit his mark or not. 

And Even. He works here. As a helper. Unmarked, as all the other helpers. 

Maybe the doctor was right, maybe he shouldn’t be out among others but keep to himself, focus on his mark. His bond. With Sara.  

He flees into his room before Even sees him, and closes the door. Tries to think of Sara, of them together. How they had kissed before, in her bed. Slow, soft kisses. How she had caressed his hair and told him that it was going to be okay

Later, the nurse comes to give him his shots. It hurts nd it burns, but it’s for the greater good, he knows that. 

In the middle of the night, he wakes up, as usual, warm and sweating.

But there’s something else too. A tingling feeling, light and heavy at the same time. He’s almost panting, but it’s not from terror or pain. 

At first he’s afraid that something’s wrong, his body pulsating strangely, his breath almost laboured. Then he feels it. He’s aroused, hard underneath the covers, and it almost makes him blush, like it shouldn’t happen here.  

He hasn’t gotten off since he got here, he tried once in the shower, but since he’s been all sick and weak and panicked it didn’t work, just felt wrong.

Now though, he’s as hard as ever and and he moans softly when he puts his hand around himself underneath the cover. Hesitates for a second but can’t help but to move his hand. . There’s no finesse to it, just his regular, steady grip, the twist with his wrist and he knows he’s not going to last long, but that’s not the goal anyway. He’s already close, tries to keep his breathing quiet, but it just feels so good, finally, something feels good, normal. 

But when he closes his eyes and comes, all he can see is Even. His hands unbuttoning Isak’s shirt, the way his throat had looked  when he swallowed, his tongue peeking out to wet his lips.  

Isak’s heart is racing, his breathing too loud, to fast. He knows he shouldn’t feel like this, think like this. He’s not supposed to get off thinking about a helper.  

Suddenly, he’s ashamed. 

Sara should be the one occupying his mind, even during times like these. 

Once again, the feeling creeps up on him. What if there’s something wrong, with him or with the bond they’re trying to create for him? Why isn’t he capable of bonding with Sara, of developing feelings for her? 

He swallows thickly, feels uncomfortable with his sticky hand and wet underwear. Stupid, even. 

And more alone than ever. 








Chapter Text

“You and Sara are making excellent progress, Isak,” doctor Nielsen says as he’s scribbling something on a paper on his desk. 

Isak is in his underwear, lying on the examination table while the nurse is taking pictures of his mark, measuring it and documenting it. He clears his throat. “I – are we?” 

Doctor Nielsen turns around, brows furrowed. “You don’t think so?” 

“I don’t know, some days, I – some days it feels wrong. Like nothing is happening.” He swallows, can feel that the nurse stops what she's doing, that they’re both looking at him. 

“Isak. You’ve had a difficult journey so far, and I can understand that it sets you off course. The treatment you are undergoing is tough, and that affects both your mind and your body. But the results are unequivocal. Your marks are developing, and your bond should start forming for real any day now. Just be patient, okay?”  Doctor Nielsen sighs, tilts his head a little, gaze suddenly softer. “Is it because of the questionnaire? I’ve read that you don’t experience any great changes when you’re with Sara.” 

He shrugs. “Yeah.” 

“I can understand that a sense of well-being is difficult to assess when you’re given hormones as strong as the one you get, it might even dull your senses a little. And you’ve said yourself that you’re feeling confused sometimes, right?”

Isak nods. 

“According to my experience, a complete mark is what triggers the bonding, so I wouldn’t worry. Okay?”

He nods again, tries to remember his arguments against the bond with Sara, why it feels so wrong, but nothing comes out. It’s like his thoughts are trapped in this vortex, just spinning, and he can’t get hold of them, sort them out. Put them into words.

“And the fact that you are spending so much time together is excellent. You are both very dedicated to making this work, and that will benefit you greatly in the long run.” 

Doctor Nielsen leaves him with that, obviously has other places to be, and Isak is left alone with the nurse. She smiles at him before she continues to study his mark. 

“Doctor Nielsen is right, you know. You are making progress. The lines are much clearer now than just a couple of days ago, and the outer circle is as good as closed now. See?” She points at a picture of his mark, magnified on the computer screen on the desk. “And you and Sara are doing so well, you make such a pretty couple.” 

She gets up, nods for him to dress while she disposes of her gloves and changes the paper on the examination table. 

He’s just about to leave when she calls him again. 

“Isak. You know that we are here to help, right?” 

He nods. “Yeah.” 

“And – if there is anything you need, you and Sara , just – we’re here for you. It’s natural to want to be as close to one’s future mate as possible, you know?” Her smile doesn’t falter, and maybe it’s supposed to be reassuring, but Isak’s face burns hot with embarrassment. Both because she brought it up – but also because he’s never even thought about doing something like that with Sara. Like he knows he should.

He nods again, then exits the room and hurries down the corridor. Doesn’t want to go to his room right now, it’s too small, too confined. This whole compound is too closed with too many nurses ready to help and he wants to leave. Just go. 

He’s disappointed in himself. All the arguments he had practiced, all the reasons why this is wrong, why it feels wrong – nothing came out. And meanwhile his body is betraying him, because even though he’s quite certain there’s something wrong, his mark grows. That’s probably because of the hormones, though, he argues. He wants to quit taking them, but he suspects that doctor Nielsen would never agree to that. Would probably blame Isak’s doubt on the medicines too. He hates not being able to think for himself anymore, hates that he second-guesses every single thought that goes through his head. Has to evaluate  everything to try and see if it really is something he normally would say or think, or if it’s something delirious made up by his exhausted, confused brain.

There’s a lump forming in his throat, his skin is crawling, he’s sweating. It’s too hot in here, he can’t breathe. 

If he wants to go outside, he’ll have to pass at least one nurse, and right now, he can’t bear the thought of talking to someone working here, to be pitied or to have someone smile at him in that patronizing fucking way. He doesn’t want to talk to someone at all, for that matter, just  be alone, have some space. 

When he’s passed by his room he turns left, to the corridor where there’s mostly supply rooms. He got lost one day on his way back from a check-up, and ended up here. and now, it’s seems like the perfect refuge.

There’s a nook at the end of the corridor, hidden if you’re not actively looking for it. He crawls inside and sits down, pulls his legs towards his chest and lets his forehead rest on his knees. Curls into a ball and tries to get his breathing under control again. There are tears running down his cheeks now, impossible to contain, and he has to stop himself from sobbing. 

These last weeks have been endless repetitions of the same scenario. Shots, nausea, doubts, a bond that never happens. Then a small flicker of hope, his mark growing, a tinge down his spine from something he can’t seem to pinpoint. And doctor Nielsen says it’s going well. That he’s making progress. When he himself can’t feel the progress at all.

He presses his nails into the skin of his palms, hard, keeps them there until his fingers ache and there are half-moon-shaped indents left on his skin. 

He doesn’t know how long he stays sitting in the nook, if it’s still day or not. The corridor always looks the same, the fluorescent light never fades. The floor is hard and cold underneath him, and he really wants his sweater. He’s shivering, but he’s not ready to go back. To face everyone again. To face Sara. 

He’s supposed to be with Sara now. She probably thinks he’s not feeling well. Hopefully, they’re not looking for him. He needs to stay here a bit longer. 

Alone. 

Not that he’s come to any sort of conclusion about what he should do – he feels as confused and miserable as ever. Unsure if he should just accept his fate and try to bond with Sara, or if he should… 

He doesn’t even know what the option is. 

And now, he’s crying again. 

“Hello?”

He probably should be surprised by the voice coming from just outside the nook, maybe should be  bothered that Even found him in this state again. But he’s not, on the contrary. It almost makes him feel calmer all of a sudden.

“Isak?” 

“Yeah.” He croaks, and clears his throat. 

Even steps closer, Isak can see his shoes and his legs, before he crouches. His brows are furrowed. “What are you doing here? Are you okay?” 

Isak shakes his head, looks down again. Draws a full breath, the first in a long time. 

“Can I sit with you?” 

He doesn’t look up but moves a bit to let Even  sit down beside him. 

The nook isn’t big at all, the ceiling is quite low, probably due to a ventilation shaft. Maybe there’s supposed to be laundry wagons parked here or something. Now Even is crawling inside, folding his long legs together, pressing up against Isak so it doesn’t show from the corridor that someone is sitting here. 

Even is warm, that’s the first thing Isak feels. A warmth that transmits to Isak and makes him shiver again. 

They sit there for a while, together, in silence, watching the opposite wall and the dull, gray floor that is everywhere in the clinic. Isak is squeezed between the wall and Even’s side, almost like he’s being held. It’s settling, and he catches himself wanting to lean his head against Even’s shoulder. 

There's something about Even’s presence that calms him. Maybe it’s the fact that he lets Isak be, that he doesn’t ask lots of questions, that he seems to almost understand anyway. 

Even casts a glance at him, and then turns his head again so he’s looking straight forward at the wall. “As much as I love this nook, it’s almost half-past seven. And I think the nurse might be heading for your room soon.” 

“Fuck.” He draws his hands over his face, tries to eliminate the traces of tears. Knows it doesn’t work, that he’s probably all red and puffy still. 

“Yeah.” 

“I should go.” 

Even nods. 

“Thank you for sitting with me.” 

“Yeah.” Even unfolds his legs, gets up to stand outside the nook. He straightens his uniform and then extends his hand towards Isak. “There's no one here. You can come out.” 

Isak crawls out and takes Even’s hand to get up. And suddenly, his whole body is pulsating, intense warmth spreading throughout. He looks up, wants to say something, but nothing comes out. 

Even pulls him up, just glances at him before he quickly averts his gaze and lets go of Isak’s hand. He looks flushed, his voice unsteady as he speaks. 

“I have to go, I – I’ve got stuff to do.” 

And then he leaves. 

It takes a while for Isak to compose himself, to start walking towards his room. There’s nothing left of that warmth he felt before, instead his whole body is drained, aching, as if something’s missing. 

 

-----

 

Nurse Brandrud has just left, and Isak is alone again. In his bed, in his room, in the clinic. And he feels nothing. Just this big void inside of him, but it doesn’t hurt, it’s just... there. Filling him with nothing. 

The shots stung as usual, but it was kind of… nice? Almost reassuring to feel something he knows is real. 

When Even left him in the corridor he was so confused he had trouble even standing up straight. He knew he had felt something, this time he was sure. That intense warmth throughout his whole body wasn’t anything he made up by himself. 

He wonders if Even felt it too. And if he did, what would that mean? How can a helper, someone who works here, affect him more than his soulmate to be? 

He rubs his eyes with his fingers until orange dots are dancing underneath his eyelids. This whole situation is so confusing, and Isak doesn’t know what to believe. Doesn’t recognize himself. 

And it scares him. 

He’s shaking, can’t stop the tears from falling. Again. 

Thinks that he must be going insane, maybe he should just trust the doctor, the nurse, Sara . If they say they’re meant to be together, who is he to say no? He clearly doesn’t understand this, isn’t capable of feeling the right things, what’s best for him. 

And Sara is great. He’ll just have to get over that she’s not at all what he pictured his soulmate to be, but they’ll get there. He just has to work harder, has to trust her. Trust the bond. Shut down his own feelings, since they clearly are unreliable right now. 

He pulls the blanket up. 

Tomorrow. Tomorrow he’ll be strong. Tomorrow he’s going to try harder, to make it work.

 

------

 

He doesn’t know why he wakes up. Maybe it’s the stale air underneath the cover or his sweaty hair clinging to his neck and his forehead.  

It’s still dark outside, but he doesn’t bother looking at the clock. It’s not like he’s going to oversleep – he doesn’t have  something important to do here. Besides, the nurse will wake him up when it’s time for his shots. 

He turns the pillow, tries to lie comfortably, wants to go back to sleep. His body aches, but he’s used to that now. It’s not the good kind of pain, like sore muscles after a workout, but the ache that tells him that his muscles and joints are stiff, inactive. And he hasn’t really moved in a long time, he feels as though he’s aged twenty years in the time he’s spent here.

And there it is again, the sound that made him wake up. 

Someone’s knocking at his door.

He sits up, looks across the room. Croaks out a “Yes?” but regrets it instantly. What if it’s Sara? What if she starts asking questions, or if she wants to sleep here? But when the door slowly opens, it’s not Sara who enters. 

It’s Even. 

He closes the door behind him, but stays just in front of it, like he’s afraid to enter. He’s just a silhouette against the light walls in the dim light, but Isak would recognize him anywhere. His lean arms and long legs, that hair. 

Isak opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. Blinks a couple of times to make sure he’s not dreaming, but Even is still there. 

He takes two steps forward, towards Isak’s bed. His fists balled against his thighs, and then he looks at Isak. 

“I –  I’m sorry about before. How I just ran off.” 

Isak just looks at him, his mind still foggy from sleep, and Even takes another step forward. 

“Are you okay?” 

Isak shrugs. “Why?” 

“I –  I just wanted to make sure that you – “ 

“In the middle of the night?” He drags his hands over his face, through his hair. He’s so immensely tired of this place, of this mess. He doesn’t need Even bullshitting him right now. “What do you want?” 

“I was worried, and – “ 

“Me too!” His voice is too loud now, he knows it, but he can’t stop. “I’m worried because I don’t feel anything when I’m with the person I’m supposed to bond with. I’m worried there’s something wrong with me because the only time I’ve ever felt something since I came here is when –  “ 

Even steps closer, next to his bed. Doesn’t look away from Isak. Then he slowly puts his hand on the edge of the mattress. “When?” 

His fingers are long, his skin pale, his wrist slender. Isak swallows, head spinning again. He’s not even sure, because the more he has thought about it, the less sense it makes. Not that anything is making any kind of sense right now. 

He inches his hand towards the edge of the bed. Even doesn’t move, doesn’t pull away. Isak lifts his hand, lets his fingertips softly graze Even’s fingers. 

The tingling that shoots up through his arm makes him shiver, and soon he can feel it in his whole body, down to his toes. He draws his breath and does it again, but this time he lets his hand rest atop of Even’s fingers. 

There’s warmth, and a pleasant hum almost vibrating through him and Isak draws his breath, and he can hear that Even does too. His whole body tingles, like a feeling of well-being slowly spreading inside him. When he looks up, he meets Even’s eyes instantly. They’re the exact shade of blue that he remembers from last time, and the times in between when he’s thought about them. Piercing, almost like Even is seeing inside.

“This?” Even licks his lips. 

Isak nods slowly. “You feel it too?” 

“Yes.” 

He has to close his eyes, suddenly he feels elated, on the verge of intoxicated and there’s that warmth again, filling him up from head to toe. He’s squeezing Even’s hand like a lifeline and tears are running down his cheeks again, maybe from relief, he doesn’t know, but he won’t let go of Even’s hand, he can’t. He almost sobs when Even turns it, puts his palm against Isak’s palm, laces their fingers together. He can feel it in his chest, how it expands, how it’s whirling inside of him. 

He wipes his cheek, tries to clear his voice, but it comes out small. “What is this?” 

Even shakes his head. “I don’t know, I –  I just had to go to you.” He raises his other hand towards Isak’s face, looks at Isak, as if he wants permission, and wipes away Isak’s tears with his thumb. 

He moves closer, hopes that Even understands, that he wants him to stay. Just a little, just until this strange sensation settles. 

Even smiles, squeezes his hand lightly and sits down on Isak’s bed. 

Their fingers are still laced, palm against palm, Even pressed up against Isak’s side. Their legs stretched out in front of them, Even’s a bit longer. It’s warm, comfortable, and Isak feels almost calm.  

Despite the  million questions whirling around in his head, he can feel himself starting to doze off. He’s spent, too tired to mull over anything right now. 

In his sleep, he can feel the light press of Evens cheek against his head, as they sit close together, leaning on each other. Like they’ve known each other for a long time, like they are used to being this close. 

They lay down, still close, and for the first time since he got here, he sleeps.  

 

---

 

There’s a frown on nurse Brandrud’s face when she prods at his mark. It doesn’t hurt anymore, it’s mostly itching and he can feel it on his skin even when he’s not touching it. 

The bed was empty when he woke up, but someone had tucked him in. He’d woken up with a smile on his face, allowing himself to bask in the calm sensation still enveloping him. He’d been contented and warm, comfortable, and the bed still smelled of something that must have been Even. 

Now he’s alone, bare. Stripped of his gown so that nurse Brandrud can examine his mark before she gives him his shots. She studies it with a magnifying glass, her frown even bigger than before.

“It’s closed,” she says, but her voice bears no certainty, it’s almost like she’s asking a question. 

“Okay?” He looks down, tries to get a glimpse, but nurse Brandruds hands are in the way. 

“It looks closed, but it’s not finished. Not filled. I think I’ll schedule you with doctor Nielsen this afternoon, we need to look at it together.” It’s as if she’s talking to herself before she looks up at Isak. “But, there’s nothing to worry about, it looks completely fine. And you, how are you feeling?” 

She takes out a thermometer, pushes a button so it lights up, and puts it in his ear. It beeps within seconds. 

“Uh, fine.” 

“No fever.” She puts the thermometer away and fastens a blood pressure cuff around Isaks arm. Puts her stethoscope on and counts his heartbeats while looking at her wristwatch. “120/60, that’s good.” She smiles at him. “You’re doing so well, Isak. I think these might be the last shots I’ll give you, if the doctor doesn’t say otherwise.” 

When Isak doesn’t respond, she smiles even wider. “Are you seeing Sara now? I think she’s waiting for you.” 

Isak’s brain is too slow for this, too sirup-y. He hasn’t really thought about what he’s doing today, but sure, he should probably see Sara, so he responds with another nod.

“I’ll send someone in with fresh clothes. And breakfast.” 

Like every morning, he goes into the shower when nurse Brandrud has left. It’s a nice way to re-start the day, alone. A place where he can close the door, where no one is watching him or examining him or diagnosing him. 

He washes thoroughly, stays underneath the spray of hot water for a long time. Thinks about last night. How he and Even just sat there, close.  It’s strange, how the presence of a helper can calm him like that, can make him feel better than he ever has during his weeks here. Wonder if it’s just a coincidence. If the side effects of the hormones have ebbed out every time they’ve met.

Or if Even really affects how he feels. 

Which shouldn’t be possible. 

He’s a helper. Probably a few years older than Isak, and certainly unmarked. He shouldn’t be able to work here otherwise. And the unmarked don’t have any effect on the unbonded, wasn’t that what the book said? 

Shit, he wishes that he had his phone or at least access to a computer. Or a library. He wants to ask someone, but everyone are just so focused on him and Sara, and he - he just needs a fresh set of eyes. 

He dries himself off and wraps the towel around his waist. The nausea from the shots is approaching, he can feel it. It’s not as violent as usual, though. Maybe he’ll even be able to eat something. 

When he opens the bathroom door, there’s someone in his room. Sitting on his bed, even. 

It’s Even. 

He turns towards him when the door opens, and Isak freezes. Feels hot all over when Even looks at him The tingle he’s felt before is back, roaming his skin, giving him goosebumps. 

Even gets up, but doesn’t take his eyes off  him. Takes a tentative step towards Isak. 

“Hi.” 

“Hi.” 

“I –  I brought you clothes. And breakfast.” Even licks his lips. “I’m sorry that I left while you were sleeping this morning, I –  I was afraid that the nurse –  

“I understood that. Thank you.” He runs his hand through his wet hair, unsure of what to say next. 

But then, he sees Even, looking at his mark that must have  showed when he just raised his arm. There’s that tingle again, and Isak has to close his eyes. Breathe in.  

When he opens them again, Even is still staring at his mark, eyes wide. It makes him self conscious, about all the bruises on his stomach. They’re extra visible on his pale skin that hasn’t seen the sun in weeks. He folds his arms in front of his chest, mumbles a “What?” while staring at the floor. 

“I –  nothing. I’m sorry. I just – “ 

“Just what?” 

“Nothing.” 

“I know it doesn’t look  like it’s supposed to.” Isak sounds a bit defensive, he knows he does.

“No, it’s – it’s me, I – “ 

Even takes a small step towards Isak, hand stretched out in front of him. And Isak stays, doesn’t dare to move right now. He wants Even to touch him, he realizes, remembers when their fingers intertwined late last night and how overwhelming it had felt. Even meets his eyes  again, before he raises his hand and lets his fingers softly graze Isak’s mark. 

They’re soft and warm against Isak’s skin, making him shiver. He wishes that Even would press his palm against Isak’s mark, or soothe it with his lips. His thoughts surprise him, and he flushes. He inhales, looks up at Even. At his full lips, his reddened cheeks. 

Suddenly, he feels overwhelmed. Dizzy, even. “What –  what is this?” His throat feels dry.

Even withdraws his hand slowly. Licks his lips and opens his mouth, when there’s a knock on the door. 

“Isak?” 

It’s like someone pours a bucket of cold water over him when he hears Sara’s voice on the other side of the door. Fuck, what time is it even? They were supposed to meet after breakfast. 

“Tonight, okay?” Even whispers, and then turns around. Isak can hear him explain to Sara that Isak is on his way before he closes the door after himself, and leaves Isak alone. 






Chapter Text

He gets dressed quickly and skips breakfast. Isn't really tempted by food right now – rather, he’s feeling quite nauseated. But he can’t stop thinking about Even’s expression when he laid eyes on Isak’s mark. It wasn’t with a medical interest, like with nurse Brandrud or Doctor Nielsen. It was something else, something more… emotional, maybe? Isak never had the time to ask.

When he enters the room where he was supposed to meet Sara almost an hour ago, he’s prepared to apologize profoundly. The room looks the same as always – the small, uncomfortable sofa, the mass-produced art on the walls and the misplaced flower on the table. 

Sara’s sitting with her legs pulled up underneath her, reading the book they’ve been given by the clinic. Her brows are furrowed, and she looks a bit pale. Tired. Or maybe it’s just the unforgiving glare of the fluorescent lights.

“Hi.” He sits down beside her on the edge of the sofa. He feels tense, a bit stressed. 

Sara looks up, greets him with a small smile. “Did you close the door? And turn on the light outside?” 

“Yeah.” He nods, tries to relax, to focus on her. Tries to push Even and everything else to the back of his mind.

“So.” She sighs. “I’ve been reading this book, cover to cover, and I’ve been trying to understand.” 

“Okay?” He swallows dryly.

She opens the book where there’s a piece of paper sticking out between the pages. Her book has got plenty of scribbles in the margins, he notices. Lots of question marks. 

“Like – I’m not trying to hurt your feelings, I’m really not, but nothing in the book – okay, just listen to this: The second you meet your soulmate, your bond starts forming. Some are strongly affected by this, some feel just a slight tingle. A great sense of well-being is very common.” She looks serious, furrows her brows. “And this, listen to this: It is common to dream about your soulmate, especially if you have just met. Take notes and try to remember your dreams.” She closes the book with a thud and looks at Isak. 

“Have you been dreaming about me? Do I give you a sense of well-being?” 

“Uh… I – “ 

“Because, and I’m sorry to say, I have not. And you don’t.” 

“No?” He feels quite relieved, and it obviously bleeds into his voice, because Sara doesn’t look as stern anymore. 

“No. Isak, this – “ 

“I haven’t done that either. I just – I just thought that – “ he moves a little closer, lowers his voice a bit. “–  that it was my fault, you know? With my mark that’s not been complete and all.” 

“Gosh.” She sighs, sweeps her hair back. “And there are countless examples in the book of how it’s supposed to be.” 

“Yeah. But – “ 

“But we’re not right, are we? We’re not matching.” 

Isak shakes his head, draws a deep breath. The fact that Sara has experienced the same, that she has been thinking the same thing that he’s been agonizing about for some time now makes him both scared and relieved. It’s not just him. “No. I don’t think so.” 

“Shit.” She wipes away a tear, puts the book in her lap. 

“I’m sorry.” 

“No, it’s – it’s not your fault. And it’s not my fault either.” 

“It’s not.”

They look at each other, both suddenly smiling, Sara with tears in her eyes, Isak with a heart that feels lighter than it has in a long time. Sara is beautiful, she’s funny and ambitious, but they’re not destined to share their lives with each other.  

“I’ve been so confused, and frustrated. With me, and with you, and – I thought that I wasn’t good enough, you know?” Sara wipes at her eyes. 

“You are. And I’ve been thinking the same thing.” Sara takes his hand, and this time it doesn’t feel strange or forced. “But how come they paired us up at all?” 

“Yeah. And why have they told us that we’re making such progress? I mean, it seems like they all agree on that?” 

Isak shakes his head. “I don’t know.”

“That’s strange, right?” Sara answers. . 

“Aren’t there tests one can take? Like, to verify? Beside the questionnaire, I mean. Why haven’t we done that?”

“God. The questionnaire.” She rolls her eyes and Isak huffs a laugh. ”There are. But they’re not very reliable in the early stage, I think.” She opens the book again. “It –  it’s not very much written about the tests, actually.” 

“No. I’ve been thinking that I’d like another book. A book with a more, eh, scientific approach. Without so much of the, you know, romance.” 

She nods, still smiling. Looking as relieved as Isak feels. “Yeah. Me too.” 

They sit in silence for a while. Once again, Isak’s thoughts drift to Even. To the tingling he feels when Even is around. How Isak’s nausea almost always has been subdued in Even’s presence. 

Sara’s voice tears him from his thoughts. “What should we do now? We have to talk to someone, right?” 

He nods. “I think I’m going to see Doctor Nielsen this afternoon. My mark is basically closed, so – ” 

“It is? That’s amazing, Isak!” She puts her hand on his arm, squeezes lightly. 

“Yeah, but – it’s not… it doesn’t look like it should, I think.” 

“Oh.” She clears her throat. “Can I –  can I see?” 

He hesitates before he moves a bit, lifts his shirt to show his mark. It feels a bit awkward, but at least she doesn’t touch it, and he’s grateful for that. Just studies it, follows the lines with her eyes. 

“I’m no expert, but it looks finished to me? Like, maybe it’s supposed to be half-filled like that?” She tilts her head and smiles. “It’s beautiful.” 

“Yeah,” he croaks. “Thanks.” He pulls his shirt down and straightens it with his hands. “Maybe – maybe you should come with me to see Doctor Nielsen? If you want to?” 

She nods. “Yeah. That’d be good, I think.” 

“Do you – do you think he’s going to help us? I mean, do you think he’ll take us seriously?” 

She looks right at him. “He’d better take us seriously. This is a private clinic, you know? Do you know how much money our parents paid to put us here instead of in a public one? So, it’s kind of their reputation at stake now, you know.” 

She looks fierce and determined, and it calms him. He’s not alone in this. 

And he won’t take any more of those fucking shots. 

They both agree on going out, to get out of the sterile, boring rooms for a bit. The nurse at the entrance smiles sweetly at them when they ask to go outside. To everyone watching they’re still two soulmates getting to know each other, bond growing stronger every day. 

It’s a warm day, the birds are chirping and the sun is shining. Summer has reached its peak, and he’s still here. They’re still here. Maybe closer to a solution, and yet not at all. Because if Sara isn’t his soulmate, then who is? Will he be starting all over again, waiting for the doctors to find his match, or is his soulmate already in the system? He. Or she. 

God, he really can’t see himself with a girl. 

They walk slowly, side by side. Doesn’t say anything, and Isak figures that Sara is as absorbed by her thoughts as he is. 

He’s glad to have her on his side, that they’ve reached the same conclusion. It will make it easier to speak to the doctor. And now, he doesn’t have to come up with excuses to why he doesn’t want to sleep next to her, or spend more time together. 

At least he feels a little bit reinvigorated. Like there’s hope. Like things don’t have to be as bad as he has imagined them in his darkest moments. 

Maybe they’ll find someone that he’ll actually bond with, that will feel natural for him to be with. Someone he’ll even grow to love one day. 

Or maybe they won’t. Maybe he’s carrying a false mark, or something. 

Weirdly enough, he finds that thought kind of unsettling. Maybe it's because he's been getting used to the idea of a soulmate now? To think of himself as alone or unbonded makes him feel kind of empty, and that surprises him. 

What worries him the most about maybe not being able to bond, however, is his parents. How ashamed, how disappointed they’d be in him, for something that he can’t help or do anything about. He feels dizzy just thinking about it. Tries to breathe with his stomach, to focus on now. On the sunlight hitting his face, warming his skin. On the light breeze making the leaves rustle. 

Once again, he catches himself thinking about Even. He knows he shouldn’t, that it’s pointless, but he just can’t help himself. It’s like his brain is comparing everything to Even, measuring it to a completely new standard. The sky is clear and blue, but Even’s eyes are a darker, more complex shade. Sara’s skin is pale but has a rosier hue to it than Even’s. Even might be taller than Isak, he’s not sure. It may be his narrower frame that gives that impression. Either way, Isak is curious to know. 

Sara’s words from before echo in his head. A sense of well-being. A tingling. The dreams. 

He wants to share his thoughts with someone, ask what it all means. Search for more information, maybe. He should really read that book more carefully, he’ll do that tonight. 

If only Jonas was here. And Magnus and Mahdi. Or if he could just text their group chat, ask them about things. He knows that Jonas would scoff at him initially, but also that he would help him no matter what. Magnus would cheer him on, he’s a romantic at heart, and Mahdi would stay calm as always, no judging, just acceptance. 

“Are you okay?” 

“Yeah. I’m – yeah.” He sighs. “I just… miss my friends, I guess.” He shrugs, tries to not let it show how sad it makes him. 

“Me too. This place really sucks.” 

A burst of laughter escapes him. “It does.”

“Shit, I miss my phone too. There’s so much I want to google right now. I honestly don’t get why we have to be isolated?” 

“Me neither. But I guess that if we had been paired up correctly, it wouldn’t matter as much.” 

“Yeah. I wonder who my soulmate really is. I was kind of getting used to you.” She looks at him and shoves at him playfully.  

“You wanna keep me?” He laughs, winks at her. 

“Nah. I’m good.” 

 

---

 

“Isak!” Nurse Brandrud hurries towards them as they walk down the corridor. “I’ve been looking for you today, but I, eh,  understood you were outside?” She looks between them, and Isak nods. 

“We were.” 

“So, unfortunately, Doctor Nielsen had to leave early today, but I’ve scheduled you tomorrow morning. At nine.” She hands him a piece of paper with his name and the hour on it and fuck. He really wanted to get this over with, wants to start over as soon as possible. Wants to get out of here. 

“Eh, Nurse Brandrud? Helen? Could –  could we speak to you for a moment? Isak and I?” Sara looks at Isak, raises her eyebrows, and yes. That’s a good start. He nods. 

“Oh. Of course. Right now?” 

“If it’s okay with you?” 

“Sure, yes. Follow me.” 

She shows them inside an empty examination room, and gestures for them to take a seat. The walls are painted in a warm, yellow color, and there are several posters on the wall depicting people who’ve bonded, some of them with the parts of the brain where the bonding happens highlighted. Amygdala, and to some extent, the hippocampus, Isak reads on the posters. 

And, on the desk, there’s a big glass jar filled with condoms, and Isak is thrown back to their conversation the other day. 

Shit.

She must think that they want advice. On that.  

Nurse Brandrud smiles sweetly at them and sits down on a chair facing theirs. “So, Sara and Isak. How are you doing?”  

“We’re fine.” Sara looks at Isak, and then at nurse Brandrud again. “But we’re not soulmates.” 

She stills for a second before she nods slowly. “Okay. And what makes you think that?” 

“We’ve been spending time together now for more than a week, and – nothing is happening. Like, there’s no connection. What it says in the book, nothing of that has happened to either of us. There’s no spark, we’re not bonding even though our marks are complete now. There has to be something wrong, and we want to find out what it is.” Sara delivers her speech perfectly, doesn’t hesitate or even tremble. He nods to show that he agrees with her but doesn’t add anything. 

If Nurse Brandrud is phased by what Sara just said, she doesn’t show any sign of it – just opens a drawer and takes out a notebook, and clicks her pen a couple of times.

 “I know you’ve been very diligent, you two.” She studies them for a couple of seconds. “Could you walk me through it? What you’ve done and how you’ve felt during?” 

Sara takes the lead again – explains in great detail what they’ve done, all of it, and nurse Brandrud listens and takes notes. 

For a second, Isak is almost sorry that Sara isn’t his mate. The way she controls the situation, the way she doesn’t shy away from subjects that Isak finds difficult to talk about. He’s glad to have her on his side, that he’s not alone in this.  

“But Sara, Isak,” Nurse Brandrud scolds, “you’ve both written in the questionnaires that you’ve experienced tingles or heightened sensation of warmness after you’ve spent time together. Was that – isn’t that true?” 

Isak squirms a little in his seat. He clears his throat. “I think – I didn’t really know what was going on, or how it was supposed to feel. And you know how sick I was from the shots.” 

“The hormones can absolutely add or diminish those sensations, we know that. But you’re still getting them, right?” 

He nods, his stomach sinks a little from nurse Brandrud’s tone. She continues before Sara has the chance to speak again. “Either one of your marks has been complete for more than a few days, so to say that you’re absolutely not bondmates is – it’s jumping to conclusions.” She puts down her pen. “But I think we have to take new photographs of your respective marks and make a new search, to confirm.” Nurse Brandrud concedes. 

“But what if we still don’t feel anything? We’ve been spending today together as well, and we – “ Sara tries. 

“There might be elements that don’t fit the profile, and I’m going to speak to Doctor Nielsen about it. And if there’s been a mistake, we’ll make sure to rectify it. Okay?” 

Chapter Text

“Before the bond has fully evolved, the presence of the soulmate is often accompanied by a strong sense of well-being, a tingling, almost arousing sensation throughout the whole body. However, the feeling is replaced by slight nausea or a feeling of emptiness or hopelessness when the soulmates to-be are separated. This inconvenience goes away once the bond is fully developed.” 

“Seemingly unimportant details become crucial to the budding mate, and the newfound soulmate becomes the unattainable standard to which all others are measured and deemed less satisfying, if not unqualified.” 

Isak closes the book.

He’s been reading all afternoon and all evening, and he’s sure of at least one thing: Sara really isn’t his soulmate. 

The book is mostly romantic and slanted fairytales, everything normal and standard. Nothing out of the ordinary is even touched upon and almost none of his questions are actually answered. 

Like incomplete marks. Like how you can feel so strongly in the presence of an unmarked. 

Some of the wording in the book actually got to him, the lightness and feeling of well-being, the urge to touch and be touched, but he feels almost ashamed when he confesses to himself who he's really thinking about. 

Who he wants to touch. 

He whispers Even’s name to himself, as if to try it out on his tongue but it makes him feel guilty, like he’s not allowed to. 

The truth is that he hasn’t stopped thinking about Even all day. It’s already past nine, and still no sign of him. The wait is making him anxious and he has no appetite whatsoever. His supper is still on the tray, almost untouched, certainly cold by now. 

When he closes his eyes, he sees Even. Can almost feel Even’s hand on his skin, or the way they touched when they sat close yesterday. How his body reacted with Even so close, how good it felt. Exciting and familiar at the same time. 

He’s almost dozed off when there’s a light knock on the door. And just like that, he’s wide awake again. Gets out of bed quickly and calls out a quiet “Yes?”. 

It’s Even. Dressed in his regular, grey, scrubs with his hair combed back and his blue eyes completely focused on Isak. 

There’s a warmth spreading through Isak’s body, a small tingle, almost like a shiver, running along his spine, making the hairs on his arms stand up. 

“Hi.” He can’t help but smile and Even mirrors him as he closes the door behind him. 

“Hi.” Even takes a step closer to Isak, almost like he wants to reach out and touch, but stops before they’re close. Even swallows, and smiles at Isak before he averts his gaze. “I –  I’m sorry about before. This morning.” 

Isak furrows his brows. “For what?” 

“When I –“ Even looks up. “– when I touched you.”

“Okay, but –“ 

“I shouldn’t have.” Even takes a small step closer. “Not without asking, at least.” 

“Oh.” Isak can feel his cheeks heat up  – he remembers vividly how Even’s fingers felt on his skin, on his mark. And he knows Even felt it too. “It’s okay.”  

They’re almost the same height, Even and him, he notices, now that they’re standing close. Close enough to touch, if Isak would only stretch out his hand. Just a little, just to see if it still feels as much as it did this morning, just to convince himself that he didn’t make it all up. 

So he reaches out, slowly, carefully. Makes sure that Even sees what he does, gives him the time and space to retreat, if he wants to. But Even doesn’t back away. Instead, he lets his fingers softly touch Isak’s, runs the pads of his fingertips over Isak’s hand. 

When Even does, the  warmth spreads faster throughout Isak’s body, more intense now than before. The pull is overwhelming, the urge to touch more intense than anything Isak has ever felt before. It makes him gasp, makes him want to throw himself at Even, cling to him. 

“This, it’s –“ 

“What?” Even whispers. His mouth is slightly open, a faint blush sitting high on his cheeks.  

“– What is this?” 

Even lets go of his hand, almost reluctantly it seems, and Isak wants to reach out for him again, wants to keep touching. Even clears his throat, looks at Isak. “I – I found a book. And I – I searched online.” 

“Okay. And?” 

“It’s – I’m not sure, but –“ Even draws a hand through his hair, looks up. Licks his lips and sighs. 

And Isak gets it. Even is nervous, just like he is. 

“You wanna sit down?” He gestures towards the bed, the only place to sit down in his room, save for the hard, wooden chair by the window.

It’s not less awkward to sit on the bed, Isak realizes. He’s leaning against the headboard, legs pulled up underneath him, while Even is sitting further down, legs dangling off the bed, hands folded in his lap. Isak’s book is on the table by his bed, and he can see Even looking at it. 

“That’s kind of a shit book.” 

“Yeah?” Even laughs. 

“Yeah. I really want to read something… more substantial.” He clears his throat, looks at Even. “Or google stuff. Like you did?” 

“Like I did.” 

“Did you find anything?” 

“It’s – I just found rumors, nothing certain.” 

Isak sits up straight. “Tell me.” 

“I found these stories, like old ones. Of people that –“ 

“That?” 

Even sighs and closes his eyes. “Of people who claimed they bonded even though one of them didn’t have a mark, or… was the wrong age.” 

“When was this? Did it say?” Isak leans forward, heart beating fast, almost like he’s been running. 

“No, just – a long time ago, you know. Almost like fairytales, it seemed.” 

“Maybe it was before they could verify that there actually was a bond? Before the tests?” He looks at Even, feels more and more eager.

Maybe he isn’t the only one. Maybe it is possible. 

Even looks at him. His eyes are big, serious, darker than before, and he bites his lip before he whispers. “Yeah.” 

There’s something about Even’s posture, the way he sits on the very edge of the bed, his small voice that makes Isak scoot a little bit closer before he speaks again. 

“I’ve been reading too. That awful book they give you here. Have you read it?” 

Even smiles, a careful smile. “Yeah.” 

“It doesn’t say anything about marks that aren’t filled, or about bonding without them.” 

“I know, I – “ 

“No, wait.” Isak interrupts him. “But it – it does say that you feel good when you’re near your soulmate. And… that you feel worse once they leave.” He lays his hand in front of him, on the bed. Close to Even, without touching him. 

Even looks at his hand, then at Isak, like he’s trying to fathom what Isak is really saying. He licks his lips, they’re pink and shiny, his eyes even darker now, and Isak has to swallow. The air is thick with tension, it’s difficult to breathe calmly, and Isak closes his eyes, only to open them immediately when he feels Even’s hand on his hand, long fingers grasping his. The effect is immediate, bolts of warmth and lightning running through his body and Isak can’t help but to move towards Even, until his legs are pressed against him, until he can’t get any closer. 

They’re still holding hands, but also touching in several other places, their proximity adding to the feeling of belonging, of home that seeps through Isak. He puts his forehead against Even’s shoulder, can smell his perfume, can smell him.

“You don’t even know me.” Even speaks quietly, as if he’s telling someone a secret. 

“No, I don’t. You don’t know me either.” 

“I mean – do you think that we – that we – “

“I don’t know. But it feels like it.” He raises his head, glances at Even. “What do you feel?” 

Even turns towards Isak and takes hold of both of his hands, rubs his thumbs over Isak’s. It’s a calm movement, soothing. “I thought I’d never get to have this. That – that it was too late.” 

Isak looks at him. At his blonde eyelashes casting shadows on his cheeks, at the small birthmarks scattered across his face, at his full lips.. 

“I thought I was going to spend my life with someone I don't feel even remotely close to.” 

Even flinches, swallows. “Sara? Is she – “ 

“She knows. We both do.” He holds Even’s hand, doesn’t let go. “We’re gonna talk to Doctor Nielsen tomorrow.” 

Even nods, doesn’t let go of Isak’s hands either. “Okay.” 

It’s as if something settles between them in this moment. Something safe and sure. Like a silent understanding, that whatever it is that they have is worth to explore, and that they’re both eager to do so. 

And at the same time, Isak feels calm. Like there’s no rush, no need to haste forward. It’s strange, he thinks, how everything he feels now is the opposite of what he’s been subjected to these last weeks. It makes him smile, and he looks at Even again, at the stray lock of hair falling onto his forehead, at the hollow at the base of his throat. 

“Can you stay? Or do you have to work?” 

“I’m not working until tomorrow. I just – I put the clothes on so that no one would notice me.” 

“That’s smart.” 

“Thanks.” Even smiles, tilts his head. “I’ll stay. If you want me to.” 

Isak nods, squeezes his hands, and Even toes off his shoes and turns towards Isak so that they’re facing each other, both sitting with their legs crossed in front of them.  

Isak’s whole body is thrumming, almost vibrating and he’s feeling floaty, like his mind can’t hold on to singular thoughts. There’s just this strong pull towards Even, to touch him, be closer to him. 

Even’s eyes are dark, glazed over. He’s breathing audibly, his mouth a little open, and he lets go of Isak’s hands with one of his own, only to raise it towards Isak’s cheek. 

Even touches his face softly, gently and Isak shivers, has to close his eyes to this new sensation, of Even touching him like this. He lets his own hand follow Even’s arm, to his shoulder, his neck, his cheek and it’s like a wildfire spreading throughout. They both lean closer, foreheads touching, breaths mingling between them and when their lips touch it’s like everything slows down and just falls into place. 

Suddenly it’s like nothing at all is missing, like everything is exactly like it’s supposed to be. 

He gets up on his knees and clasps his arms around Even’s neck, pulls him even closer, can’t stand to have a single centimeter between them. His lips are sliding against Even’s and his heart is pounding, too big for his chest right now and he knows. 

This is it. 

They shift and they fumble and they kiss and when Even takes his shirt off Isak does too. Chest to chest with their arms wound around each other, mouths never separating, breathing each other’s air. 

Isak pulls the cover up, knows they need to be secluded, absolutely alone, shielded from everything and everyone. Even’s lashes tickle Isak’s cheeks and his lips are soft and plush against Isak’s jaw. Isak lets his fingertips travel along the hard knobs of Even’s spine, down and up again. Lets them skate the hem of Even’s trousers. 

He wonders if the skin underneath them is as soft as the rest, if it’s paler than the skin on his chest. If the hairs on his legs are coarse, just like his own. He longs to find out. 

 

------

 

It’s as dark as it gets outside during summer nights, the sky a deep shade of blue behind the trees. Isak has no idea how long they’ve been lying like this, but he knows that he never wants to be apart from Even ever again. Even has put his leg over Isak’s hip, keeping him close and they’re lazily moving against each other, still kissing, always kissing. 

They’re both hard, Isak can feel it through the thin fabric of their trousers, but there’s nothing urgent about how they touch. It’s soft and caring, it’s slowly getting to know each other, letting the bond root. 

They haven’t even pronounced it, but Isak is sure, and somehow he knows Even is too. This is something more than just desire, something deeper, more permanent.  

It just feels so right, sharing their breaths, the heat between their bodies, the feeling of fingertips on soft skin. 

Even slides his hand down Isak’s shoulder, his chest, down to his side and to his mark. Covers it with his hand, traces it with his fingers. The outer ring, the thin lines on the inside. To Isak, it feel as if Even is spreading the warmth within him with his fingers and he shivers at it, has to draw his breath.

“How does it feel?” Even whispers. 

“Like –  it feels warm. But, like, everywhere, like it’s radiating from you.” Isak smiles. “It’s difficult to explain, but – but it’s nice.” 

Even smiles against his lips and kisses him again. “It is.” 

Chapter Text

He wakes up screaming. 

There’s a tearing, stabbing pain ripping through his body. Like someone tore off a limb and left him with an open wound, and he’s trembling, fighting the sheets tangled around his legs. 

He tries to draw deep breaths, tries to find his bearings, to understand what’s happening. His arms are weak, shaking with the strain of pushing him up to sit. Tears are streaming down his face, making his cheeks wet.  

Golden sunlight is seeping through the blinds, and he realizes it must be morning. The air outside is probably cool and fresh, not stuffy with no oxygen left like in his room.

The pain doesn’t subside, it’s a constant ache, worse than anything he’s ever felt before. 

And then it hits him: Even is gone. 

The shirt that Even left on the chair is gone, his shoes nowhere to be seen. Shit, he had a shift this morning, hadn’t he? 

The thought of Even is making the ache worse, and Isak lies down again, tries to stifle a groan. He’s having problems thinking straight, is starting to feel dizzy with the pain that still hasn’t settled.

The only thing he can think about right now is Even. That he needs him. Desperately. 

He fumbles to find the red button attached to the bed, pushes it and hopes the nurse will come to help him soon. Right now he can’t think of another solution, he just needs this pain to go away. 

Isak tries to focus on Even between shallow breaths, tries to remember the way his skin felt underneath Isak’s fingertips yesterday, how he sighed when Isak kissed him. That makes the pain almost bearable, and he is able to relax a little. What if Even is in pain too? The ache intensifies immediately when he thinks about that, and he wants to go to him, wants to find him, has to.

“Isak? How are you?” The nurse has entered without knocking, it’s the blonde nurse who almost always works during nights and whose name Isak can never seem to remember. 

“Just –  can you please get Even?” 

She puts a thermometer in his ear. “Even?” 

“Even, he works here. He’s a helper. Please.” 

“You’re burning up, Isak. I’ll give you some ibuprofen and call the doctor, okay?” 

“No. Please. Even.” He grabs her hand, tries to get up but groans when he moves, the pain sharper now. 

“I don’t understand, a helper? Did he do something?” 

“No! Just – “ 

Suddenly the door opens, and relief washes over him. The mere sight of Even eases the pain, replaces it with a strong pull, an urge to touch, to be close. 

Even doesn’t even stop for a second, just walks straight up to the bed,  pulls Isak into a hug and buries his face in the crook of his neck. Isak wants to cry with relief, all the anxiousness is gone, the pain quickly subsides. 

It’s absolutely clear to Isak now, natural: they’re bonding, it’s happening. 

“This is Even?” The voice of the nurse breaks through after a while, and Isak reluctantly opens his eyes to look at her. 

He nods. 

“But he’s – “ She looks at them carefully. “Isak, can I take your temperature again?” 

He doesn’t let go of Even while she puts the thermometer in his ear once more. She does it again, and then she puts her hand on his forehead. 

“It’s gone. The fever. Was – Isak, can you describe the pain?” 

“It’s gone now.” He clears his throat. “But it hurt all over, like – like I was being pulled apart, or stabbed, or something.” 

She nods. “Bech N æs… uh, Even, why did you come?” 

Even glances at the nurse, but keeps his eyes on the floor while speaking. “I – I was working, but then I suddenly – couldn’t, I was hurting, but – “ Isak holds him closer, firmer, tries to give him courage. “– it hurt here. “ Even points at his right side, where Isak’s mark is. “And I knew it was Isak.” 

The nurse doesn’t say anything, just keeps watching them, like she doesn’t understand. 

“Please.” Even says. “I can’t work right now, I have to – “ 

“He has to stay here.” Isak continues. 

“Yes. I can see that.” The nurse nods slowly and Isak relaxes a little at her words. She won’t make Even leave. “There’s a couple of hours until Doctor Nielsen comes in, you usually see him, don’t you, Isak? I’ll talk to him, tell him what’s happened. And you can rest until then, okay?” 

“Thank you.” 

“And please call me if you need anything. Or if something happens.” She nods at them, smiles briefly, and then she leaves. Closes the door behind her.  

Even looks as harried as Isak feels, his hair in disarray, and he’s warm, sweaty like he’s been running. 

He lays down on the bed beside Isak, and they stay like that for a while, arms tight around each other, chests pressed together. The pain is almost entirely gone, just the occasional tremble ripping through Isak’s body, making him cling to Even even harder. 

Isak puts his head on Even’s shoulder, lips against Even’s neck, breathing him in. His heart is beating slower, steadier. Even’s heart too, Isak feels it underneath his hand on Even’s chest. 

“I’m sorry I left.” Even whispers against Isak’s skin. “And I’m sorry you were hurting.” 

“It’s okay now. I’m glad you’re back.” 

“Do you – do you think you were hurting because of me? Because I wasn’t here?” 

“Maybe.” Isak answers, doesn’t want to make Even feel bad, but then he decides that there’s no point in not telling the truth. He clears his throat. “Yes. I – I don’t know. But I think so.” 

“I’m sorry.” 

“Weren’t you – did you feel anything?” 

Even sighs. “Yes. At first, I thought I was just tired and had a bad headache coming since we didn’t sleep very much. And then – then I started to feel nauseous and kind of weak, you know?” 

Isak nods against Even’s shoulder, holds him tighter. 

“And then –” 

“And then what?” Isak turns his head a little when Even doesn’t continue, lets his fingers move softly against the fabric of his shirt.  

“I – it was almost like… like I saw you, like I could feel you. That you were in pain. I get it if you think it sounds stupid.” He tenses up, almost as if he wants out of the embrace, but Isak holds him tighter. 

“It doesn’t. Not at all.” 

“No?” 

“It kind of makes sense, you know? It’s all in the book.”

“Which book?” 

“The book they gave me. About bonding. We’re like the textbook example of two people bonding. Except…” 

“Except I don’t have a mark.” 

“Yeah. And I only have half a mark.” 

“And I’m too old.”

“Ancient.” Isak smiles, enjoys being this close to Even, basking in how right it feels, how easy. And how strange it is, the absolute urgency to be close to someone he doesn’t even know. He inhales. “Bech, is that your last name?” 

“Yeah. Bech N æsheim. And you?” 

“Valtersen.” 

“Nice to meet you, Isak Valtersen.” Even smiles. 

“Likewise.” He grins back, before he looks down between them, suddenly feeling a little bashful. “I’m sorry I’m all sweaty and gross, I had a bad wake up today.” 

“Oh god, me too. I can’t believe I slept in my uniform.” 

Isak giggles. “You were only helping a patient out. They should really give you a raise.” 

“Yeah, for bonding with patients myself. Very smart.” 

“Very.” He sighs, inches closer to Even. “I actually can’t believe this is happening.” 

Isak swallows, suddenly overcome with what is going on right now, the grandness of it. Like small clouds of reality seeping inside their bubble, almost making it burst. His father who absolutely is going doubt them, everybody’s expectations of a regular, normal soulbond. The certainty he feels about their bond. Even though Isak knows it’s true, he also knows that they will be questioned. Probably frowned upon.

Suddenly the walls are closing in on him, making it even harder to breathe. The air is so stale now he can’t even draw a deep breath and it’s too hot

“Isak?” Even shakes him gently. “Isak. Hey, where are you going?” 

“I – I just – “ His heart is racing again, his mind going a thousand miles per hour, but Even is stroking his back gently, and Isak tries to mimic his calm breathing. “I’m sorry.It’s not you, it’s – it’s this whole thing.” 

“It’s scary.” Even concedes, and Isak nods against his shoulder. “I guess –  I guess we’ll just have to roll with it. Take it day by day, you know? Or even slower.” 

Isak nods again. “Yeah. I just wish – “ 

“What?” 

“I don’t want to talk to any doctors or get my vitals checked or have any more shots. I want out of here, I want to be alone.” He takes Even’s hand. “With you.” 

“Me too.” Even smiles, leans even closer. “We could escape a little?” 

“What?” 

“To the bathroom? We can lock the door. Open the windows so it’s nice and cool here when we get back. And I know where the sheets and clothes are stored, so we can change out of these sweaty ones. Perks of bonding with a helper.” He wiggles his eyebrows, and Isak can’t help but laugh, to let out some of the tension that’s been building up inside him. 

“Okay.” 

“Yeah?” 

“Yes. But please just take the clothes and stuff from the wardrobe here. You can’t go anywhere.” He’s serious now, just the thought of Even leaving his side right now makes him ache all over again. 

“I won’t. I don’t want to.” 



Again, it’s strange, Isak thinks. 

Strange to be with someone you barely know, but can’t stand to be without. Someone whose favorite food or childhood dream you can’t name, but whose touch and smell and specks of gold in their eyes are imprinted on you forever. 

Someone who Isak will come to know like himself, who is part of him now. 

They’re standing close, holding hands, can’t bear not to touch. The bathroom isn’t exactly small, but it’s not big and luxurious either. It’s functional. Easy to clean, probably. Luckily enough, the shower is big enough for two. They’ll have to shower together – there’s no other option right now. 

The door is locked, and the only light is the lamp above the sink. 

Even’s skin is pale in the dim light, his chest as smooth as Isak remembers it, and he can’t help but lean in and touch before he rids himself of his own shirt too. Maybe it should feel strange, undressing each other like this without hesitation, but it doesn’t. Not when Even puts his arms around Isak and pulls him close, letting their hearts beat against each other. Isak smiles and tilts his head up, and they kiss, just a light, slow press, lips against lips. 

“Come on. In the shower.” Even’s breath is hot against his lips and Isak proceeds to wiggle himself out of his pants. He leaves them in a heap on the floor and backs slowly towards the shower, and Isak is quick to follow. 

Even has already started the shower when Isak pulls the curtain, and then they’re absolutely alone. The sound of the water falling against their bodies, running in steady streams towards the floor transports them further away from the clinic and the doctors and the difficult conversations they’ll have to have. Later.

Even’s skin is all smooth and unmarred, his body long and lean in front of him, and Isak wants to touch so bad. He stops himself though, looks at Even for permission. Even though they’re this close, naked, in the process of forming a lifelong bond, he doesn’t want to take things for granted.  

But Even takes Isak’s hand in his, and puts it on his chest, over his heart and then leans in to kiss him. Slowly, like he wants Isak to be sure too, and Isak doesn't know if it’s due to this new proximity, but it's almost like he can hear Even ask as he leans in, even if he doesn't say anything. 

The water makes everything slippery, eases the slide of their lips against each other, their bodies warm and smooth, hands gliding unimpeded along delicate skin. Even’s lips are as soft as he remembers them, and to kiss him is a heady mix of something he wants and desperately needs right now. 

They’re slowly exploring each other, it’s all both new and familiar. The way Even’s tongue curls around Isak’s, the way Even sighs when Isak puts his hand on his neck and kisses him even deeper. The way Isak’s body shivers when Even lets his hand travel lower and presses their hips together. 

There’s a fire building between them, like the embers of last night has lived on and are now invigorated, thriving on their proximity. Isak opens his mouth and kisses Even harder, explores Even’s mouth with his tongue, revels in the sounds Even is making, how he pulls Isak flush against him, strong arms around his waist. How he's sure Even wants the same thing as he does.

They’re hard against each other, Isak can feel Even against his hip, can feel his own dick pressed between their stomachs, and it’s never been like this before. He’s never been naked with another person, never been hard in front of anyone. Has never wanted anyone like this.

He moans when Even pushes him against the wall, is already on the edge, just from Even kissing his neck, biting his earlobe gently. 

“Can I touch you?” 

Isak nods. “Yes. Please.”

Even smiles at that, and kisses him again. A deep kiss and Isak welcomes it, opens his mouth and lets Even inside. Even’s hand is traveling downwards, his fingers tracing the ridges of Isak’s ribs, following the line of his hip towards his groin. Soft fingers against his skin, and when Even puts his hand around Isak’s dick, they both moan, like it's equally good for both of them. He moves it slowly up and down, and Isak feels as if his legs are going to give in. It’s so good, Even’s hand firm around him, his breath hot against Isak’s lips, the warm water caressing them as they touch. 

Isak puts one arm around Even’s neck and lets his other hand travel downwards, in between them. Maybe he should be nervous since he’s never done this before, never with someone else, but he’s not. He’s curious, excited. The skin on Even’s hip is soft against his fingertips, the hair surrounding his dick coarse. Even’s balls are pulled up tight, the skin almost hard to the touch when Isak cups them, caresses them before he lets his fingers travel along Even’s dick. It’s velvety soft, standing hard between them and he sighs when he takes it in his hand, mimicking Even’s movements. 

Their hands brush against each other when they move, and one of them – Isak doesn’t know if it’s Even or himself – grabs hold of them both. It’s even better, Even’s dick against his own, their joined hands around them both, moving in sync, pushing them together towards the edge, like they're one. 

They’re kissing sloppily, everything is hot and wet and they’re both becoming desperate, moving their hands faster. Isak clings to Even, holds him close with his arm around Even’s neck, grabs his hair just to keep him from moving away, and Even moans against his mouth at that. He shakes and pants and Isak can’t believe that he did this, that he made Even come undone and when there’s more wetness over their hands, something slicker, Isak lets go as well. He’s shooting between them, his come mixing with Even’s and the warm water from the shower. 

They kiss again, bodies lax, sated, smiling against each other’s lips. Something warm is blooming in Isak’s chest, it’s big, taking up every small space, spreading throughout his body, leaving him almost dizzy. He didn’t know it could feel like this, so much more, bigger, in a way.

Even sweeps the hair from Isak’s forehead, kisses him there too. “I still can’t believe this is happening.” 

“No?” 

“No.” He holds Isak tighter. “It’s just – something I never thought would happen. And it feels – it feels so good.” He ducks his head. “You’re amazing.”

Isak holds him tighter, buries his face in Even’s neck, focuses on the heat between them, something more than just the warmth from their skin, almost like it’s going back and forth between them, inside them. He shivers, knows that Even can feel it too without even asking. “You too.” 

---

 

“Are you okay?” Isak squeezes Even’s hand. He’s pale, silent, looking uncomfortable. 

“Yeah, I – I’m just nervous. I don’t really like doctors.” 

Isak can’t help but smile a little. “Even, you work at a clinic? You meet doctors every day?” 

“Yes, but… they don’t talk to me, you know? And they don’t talk about me either. This – this is different.” 

“I know.” He sighs. “I just want this over and done with, so I can go home. So that we can go home.” Isak furrows his brows, looks at Even again. “Where do you live, by the way?” 

Even opens his mouth as if to answer, but before he has time to respond they’re interrupted by Doctor Nielsen, who bids them come into his office. The big one, where Isak was first examined when he got here. He shivers at the memory, remembers how bad he felt, how everything hurt. It was only three weeks ago, but it feels like an eternity away, like he’s lived an entire life within these walls now. 

Doctor Nielsen looks tired and stressed. His hair is a bit disheveled, and there’s a stain on his shirt, probably from coffee. He sits himself down behind the desk, and gestures for Isak and Even to take the seats across from him. 

Isak moves his chair closer to Even’s, and Even takes his hand immediately. They both need the security and comfort right now. 

“So, Isak.” He shuffles through some papers, finds his glasses and puts them on. Then he looks at Isak like he’s urging him to start talking. 

“So, Sara and I, we – we didn’t bond.” 

“I got the report from the nurse this morning. It’s very strange, you were a perfect match.” 

“Were we?” 

Doctor Nielsen stills, look at him again. “As far as we can see, you are. I know it has been tough on you, being here, Isak. And I understand that you might feel as if Sara isn’t your match, but – “

“She’s not.” Isak interrupts.

“ – and we are obviously going to investigate that further. There are tests we can perform to verify that you really are bonding, but also – “ Doctor Nielsen takes off his glasses, leans forward a bit, lowers his voice. “I’m afraid there is a possibility that you can’t form a bond, Isak, due to your unfinished mark.” He puts his glasses back on, looks at one of his papers. “Your condition is unusual, but not unknown. An imperfect mark sometimes prevent the bond to develop, but we have several effective treatments that – “ 

“I have bonded, though.” He forces himself to look straight at Doctor Nielsen, who stills. 

“Excuse me?” 

Even squeezes his hand, and Isak continues. “I am bonding. With Even. It’s happening right now.” He glances at Even, mainly because he needs reassurance, but also because Doctor Nielsen doesn’t seem to understand. He looks between them, brows furrowed.  

“We need a bigger room to stay in, and we need to have tests done to confirm once it’s settled.” Isak is surprised by how steady his voice is, how sure he sounds. Sara must have rubbed off on him, he thinks. 

“I recognize you.” Doctor Nielsen says eventually, looking at Even. 

“I – I work here.” Even doesn’t meet Doctor Nielsen’s eyes. 

“You’re not a nurse.” 

“I’m a helper.” 

Doctor Nielsen crosses his arms in front of him. “Ah, yes. Bech something, isn’t it? Of course. You’re unmarked, yes?” 

Even nods and Isak squeezes his hand even harder, can see how nervous Even is, can feel it within himself, like a tremble that’s affecting him too. It doesn’t make him want to back off or hide, though. It makes him feel protective of Even, almost aggressive towards the threat that Doctor Nielsen seems to pose right now. 

“I am sorry, Isak, but this isn’t possible.” Doctor Nielsen sighs. “This is going to sound harsh, but I know you’ve been struggling here. And, maybe the will to bond has made you believe that – that there is something between you two. And with Even here, this isn’t the first time that he – “ 

“Stop it!” 

Isak doesn’t know where this strong reaction comes from, he’s never been one to stand up for himself like this. But now, there is something that urges him to speak up, to defend not only himself, but them . He’s almost shaking, holding on to Even who is folding in on himself, making himself smaller and Isak wants to leave, wants to take Even with him. 

“It is real. And if you can’t bother to even listen, then – “ He stands up. “We’ll talk to someone else. Move to another clinic.” 

“Isak. We can discuss this as adults, just – “ Doctor Nielsen gets up from his chair when Isak takes Even by the hand and pulls him towards the door. 

“It’s real. You should do some reading.” He puts his arm around Even. “Come on.” 

And just like that, they leave. Isak has got his arm around Even, is supporting him, leading him. Even feels almost frail under his arm, and he’s pale, not meeting Isak’s eyes as they make their way back to Isak’s room. Isak leads Even straight into the bathroom, and then he locks the door. 

The floor is uncomfortable and there’s really no space for them to lie down, but at least they’re alone, shielded from prying eyes and open doors. Isak pulls Even close, holds him, breathing him in. He still hasn’t said anything, but Isak can feel that he’s hurting. The shallow breaths, how his heart constricts, the burn behind his eyelids. He holds Even even closer, tries to convey a sense of reassurance across to him, to make him feel safe. 

They need to go somewhere where they can just be together, by themselves. The book they’ve been given at the clinic might not be very helpful to them, but if there’s one thing he’s learned from it, it’s the importance of nurturing the bond when it’s forming. That they should be in a calm environment, shouldn’t have to worry about anything.  Least of all whether a doctor thinks they’re faking it. 

“Even.” Isak moves a little, puts his hand on Even’s cheek.  “We need to leave. Maybe I could call a friend and – “

“Home. We should go home.” Even whispers against Isak’s shirt and suddenly there’s something warm carefully growing inside Isak, something that he’s almost sure Even planted there. A small flicker, fond, almost tender. “I live – I don’t live far. Do you want to come home with me? To my place?”

 

-----

 

Even doesn’t live far from the clinic, and after sneaking out the back, they took the bus here. Not that Isak wasn’t free to leave, he could have just walked out the front door. But he didn’t want to talk to anyone, didn’t want to have to defend them or convince anyone. He simply left a note in his room, telling them where he went. There’s no point in hiding, he figured. If they’ll look for him, they’ll probably start at Even’s place anyway. 

Even invites Isak in with a faint blush on his cheeks. The apartment is small and homey, and Isak loves it instantly. Loves that he gets to see more of Even manifested in his home. They’ve only ever spent time together in the clinic, wearing clothes that aren’t their own, always anticipating someone barging in on them. 

Hopefully, they’ll get a few days by themselves. He promised to come back, just to calm them down, wrote that he’d contact his parents. 

He might. 

He has to, at some point. But right now he just wants to be alone with Even. 

They’re still holding hands as they toe off their shoes in the narrow hallway, and then Isak is being led inside. The apartment is painted in soft colors, with framed posters, paintings, and sketches pinned to the walls. Books and drawing pads are stacked on the kitchen table, the sort of mess that tells you that someone lives here, spends time here. 

Even is tired, Isak can feel it. And he is as well, still affected by the meeting with Doctor Nielsen. 

They lie down on Even’s bed. It’s big, much bigger than the narrow one at the clinic. The pillows are soft and everything smells of Even, of home. He’s starting to relax, can feel the tension bleeding out of his muscles, but Even is still taut beside him, anxiously moving his feet, looking up at the ceiling. 

Isak turns toward him. “Even, I’m sorry. I should have gone to see Doctor Nielsen by myself.” 

“No. I’m sorry. I just…” Even sighs, closes his eyes. There’s a tear slowly trickling down his temple that Isak wipes away. 

“Even…” 

“He’s right, you know?” 

“About what?” 

“About me. I’ve – believed things before.” 

“What do you mean?” There’s this dull ache inside of him now, something old and stale, but it’s not coming from him. It’s Even who is hurting.  “Baby?” 

A flicker of something light runs through him with that word, and he puts his hand on Even’s cheek, makes him turn his head and look at Isak. 

“I’m sick. I’ve got this thing, this –  I’m bipolar.” 

“Okay?” He knows this, knows what it is. The mania, the deep abysses, what Magnus has described. A flicker of a heart breaking and then it’s all black before Even speaks again.  

“I was in love once, I thought it was for real. And then she developed a mark and I didn't. I was eighteen you know, everything was - I thought it was going to happen. Then I turned nineteen and it was too late. And I became ill.” 

There’s so much fear trembling inside Even, self-doubt, dark and sticky and Isak is almost overwhelmed by it, by this new sensation of feelings that aren’t his own invading his body. 

He moves closer to Even. 

“I’m so sorry you had to go through that.” He clears his throat. “But this is real. You can feel it, can’t you?” 

Even sighs, closes his eyes again and nods slowly. 

“Don’t listen to Doctor Nielsen. Listen to us, okay? There are clearly things he doesn’t know about. We are the only ones who know how we feel.” 

“Okay.” Even looks at him, his eyes big and wary. 

He can feel Even relax a little at that, lets Isak hold him closer. He’s still anxious, there are still doubts, Isak can feel them, but they’re mixed up with something lighter and easier as Even takes his hand and lets their fingers intertwine. 

“What are you thinking about?” 

“I’m thinking about you. Us. How it’s nice to be here, by ourselves.” 

“And... what are you thinking about me? About what I told you?” Even’s voice is barely a whisper. 

Isak looks at him, Even’s dread invading him, cold and dark and scary. 

“I’m thinking about one of my best friends. His mother is bipolar too. She makes the best waffles there is. She’s wonderful.” He smiles, and can feel himself blush a little. “Not as wonderful as you, though.” 

“I’m not always wonderful.” 

“Me neither. No one is.” 

“You still want to be here?” 

Isak nods his head and puts Even’s hand on his heart. “Can you feel it?” 

“I –  you’re not scared?” It comes out as a question, with Even looking straight at him. 

“I’m not.” 

“I am.” 

Isak scoots closer, pulls at Even so that he rolls up almost on top of Isak. His warm weight pressing Isak towards the mattress, grounding him and Isak combs his fingers through Even’s hair. He lifts his head to kiss Even’s cheek, his forehead, his nose and Even smiles at that. Kisses him back and winds his long arms around Isak.

“I’m scared of a lot of things, but this, with you – it doesn't scare me.” 

“What are you scared of?” 

Isak holds Even closer, fascinated by the courage that builds from their closeness, by the sentiments they exchange without words. Even genuinely wants to know, wants to help him fight his fears. 

“I’m scared of what my father will think. About me. This. Us. He’s very preoccupied with me having a mark, getting a family, living the right kind of life.” 

“I’m sorry.” 

“Yeah. At some point, I almost hoped I wouldn’t present with a mark, you know? Just to get him off my back.” 

“Yeah, I can see that. It’s difficult when others want to decide for you. When they want to control you.” 

“And then all my fears about having a mark and being forced into this role, this predetermined way of life where no decision was my own, it – it almost became real when I was paired up with Sara.” 

“You were scared.” Even puts his hand on Isak’s cheek, strokes him gently. 

“I was. And at the same time, I felt like I should be grateful.” There’s care and worry in Even’s embrace, and Isak lets himself be held. Focuses on Even’s heartbeat against his chest, how there’s warmth spreading throughout his body. “I am now though. Thank you for bringing me here.”

They stay close like that, sharing breaths, warmth. At some point, Isak is completely in sync with Even. Or at least that’s what it feels like. They’re one. It’s a completely new state of mind, a feeling of well-being, shared more intimately, bigger in a way that he can’t really explain, even to himself. 

Like he’s not his own person anymore. 

A sudden surge of fear runs through him, overpowers him -  what if he’s not ready for this? What if he can’t be what Even needs, or if he’ll get sick with Even? Magnus’ parents aren’t bonded, so he can’t ask them, but just as the feeling of loneliness creeps up on him, Even holds him tighter and kisses his neck and the tension bleeds out of him again, slowly but surely. It’s safe here. They’ll have to work the rest out as they go along.

They wake up a couple of hours later, still close, Even’s hand wedged underneath Isak’s shirt, his fingers splayed across Isak’s chest, his nose buried in Isak’s neck. 

Isak turns towards him, sneaks his hand under Even’s shirt too, sighs when he feels Even’s skin underneath his fingertips. 

They’re both yawning, stretching. 

“Are you hungry? I am.” Even says. 

“Very. But I don’t want to get up. Ever.” Isak can’t help but think about what lies ahead of them, can’t push his father out of his head. Even must notice, because he kisses Isak, places his hand on Isak’s mark and murmurs against his neck.

“We should have stayed at the clinic. Better service there. Great helpers.” There’s a lightness in his voice despite the situation and Isak can feel it pulling him up from the dark hole he was sinking down into. 

Isak holds him closer, smiles a little. “The food is shit, though.” 

“It is.” 

“I know we have to go back eventually, but… not now, okay?” 

“Not now. Now we’ll fix something to eat.” 

“And then?” Isak tilts his head towards Even, looks at him expectantly.

“Then… we’ll kiss.” 















Chapter Text

He’s not awake, but he’s not sleeping anymore either. Just lying completely still, trying to stay in this blissful state of perfect relaxation, his body heavy against the mattress, limbs seemingly impossible to move. 

There’s sunlight seeping through the curtains, a cool breeze coming through the open window. Everything is soft, fuzzy around the edges, his mind still calm and silent from a peaceful sleep.

Even is lying beside him, pressed against his side. Sleep-warm and soft, like Isak. No distress or bad dreams - just contented rest next to one another. Isak turns a little, wants to look at him. Again. 

He wonders if he’d sense it if Even had had a bad dream. How much their feelings and moods are going to affect the other. If he’d be able to make Even feel better when he’s sad, for example. Or if he would be pulled down with him. 

It probably won’t be very drastic once their bond settles, but most soulmates can still feel it if the other is in distress, he’s read. Some can’t. 

He wonders if he will be able to balance Even if something happens. If he gets sick. He doesn’t even know how often it happens, how much Even is affected by his disease.

They’ll talk about that later. 

Right now, he doesn’t want to think about anything else but Even, and the fact that they’re waking up next to each other, in Even’s apartment. Just them. 

Even is stirring, taking a deep breath, yawning and Isak watches, fascinated. How his eyelids flutter, the bob of his Adam's apple when he swallows. The roundness of his nose, his cheekbones. His hair that’s soft and flat against the pillow. 

He’s beautiful. Isak is almost overcome with it, how strongly he feels for Even now, and how he finally dares to admit it. 

The first time Isak laid eyes on him, he thought he was handsome. He remembers that distinctly, that even with Sara on his lap, he couldn’t help but notice Even’s eyes as they met with his, how he had looked at Isak, held his gaze for just a moment. 

And then… it feels almost ridiculous to think about it now. How he felt better every time he laid eyes on Even or were in the same room as him. How his body lit up at his touch – how could he be so blind? So oblivious to what was going on, to what was happening with him? 

Right now, he doesn’t doubt it one bit. 

He inches closer and Even relaxes against him, his body a warm, safe weight against Isak before he turns and throws his arm around Isak’s waist and pulls him close. Their legs tangle immediately, Even lays his leg over Isak’s hip, wiggles against him, tries to get closer still. 

Isak runs his nose along Even’s throat, almost overwhelmed by all the soft skin pressed against him. The small circles Even’s fingers are drawing on his back, the huffs of warm breath in his hair. 

There’s a pleasant buzz pulling them in, tingling between them, that makes Isak press his lips against Even’s neck. He’s hard against Isak’s hip, soft and velvety and firm all at once and Isak presses back, can feel himself grow harder too. He’s not used to being affected by Even - or by anyone, really - this way, but it’s a pleasant feeling. 

They’re still naked, undressed almost as soon as they got here yesterday –  wearing clothes just felt unbearable. Like a physical border that separated them when they wanted nothing more than to be together. And it felt good to get rid of the clothes from the clinic that don’t really fit him or have anything to do with him. 

Isak loves being able to touch Even like this, it’s mesmerizing. To run his fingers along his side, over his ribs, his hip, down to his thigh. To hear Even sigh when his fingers slowly slide from his knee up along the inside of his thigh, to feel the heat between his legs. 

He wants to have it all, all of Even. And he wants to give it all, too. There’s so much to discover, things he hasn’t even thought about wanting before. 

He kisses Even's neck again, small kisses all the way to the hollow of his throat and along his clavicle, and Even shudders, pulls Isak up on top of him, still holding him close. 

“Mm. I like waking up like this.” 

Isak smiles and leans down for a kiss. “Me too.” 

Even tilts his head towards Isak, opens his mouth immediately, lets Even inside and Isak moans, quickly growing harder against Even’s stomach. 

Yesterday he got just a quick taste of what it’s like to be with Even like this, and it left him wanting more. He knows Even does too, and now that they’re finally alone, there’s nothing that stops them. 

He buries his hands in Even’s hair and kisses him deeper, harder. There’s teeth and tongue and it’s almost sloppy, but it’s perfect. His dick is straining between them and Even is hard between his legs as well, grabbing Isak’s hips and pulling him down while grinding up. It’s intoxicating. So much but not nearly enough. 

Even’s hands are strong and sure on Isak’s body; holding his hips, carefully stroking his thighs, grabbing his ass and Isak wants to stay here, on top of Even. Wants to feel Even inside of him, he wants to watch him while he moves slowly and he can’t even finish the thought before Even moans, louder, almost trembling underneath him. 

“Okay, okay.” Isak hushes. 

“Fuck, Isak. This –  you feel so good.” He leans up to kiss Isak again. “Do you really want to?” 

“You heard that?” 

“I – I don’t know, I guess I kind of felt it?” 

“Fuck.” 

“We don’t have to, you – “

“I do. Please.” 

“Okay, baby. Yeah.” He pulls Isak towards him, holds him close and Isak revels in the feeling of being held like this, of being called baby by someone. It should feel strange. They haven’t even known each other for more than a couple of days. Normally, Isak doesn’t let people close very fast, but with Even - it’s completely different. 

He feels safe. 

Even turns his head to kiss Isak’s neck, it’s soft and loving and maybe Even heard what he was thinking again? Maybe this feeling of safety and surety is shared between them, enhanced by both of them? 

“You want to lie down?” Even whispers against Isak’s skin and Isak shivers – even if he hasn’t done this before, he’s fully aware of the mechanics, knows what Even is planning to do. He even tried once himself out of curiosity, with his own fingers. Didn’t reach very far though, and he remembers that he felt clumsy. A little bit embarrassed, hoping that the lube wouldn’t stain his sheets. 

Even rolls them over, hovers over Isak, kisses him slowly, and simultaneously it’s like someone is nudging him, asking if it’s okay, if he wants this. It’s not exactly a voice – more like a feeling, or a thought that isn’t his own. Isak draws a breath and looks up at Even, puts his arm around his neck and pulls him down on top of him. 

“It is. And I do.” He speaks against Even’s mouth and Even smiles against Isak’s lips as they kiss. “This – it was you, wasn’t it?”

Even nods and kisses him again, deeper this time, his body heavy against Isak’s, pressing him down, grounding him, and he relaxes into the mattress as Even trails kisses along his chest. 

It’s all happening so quickly and yet not fast enough. 

Even kisses his ribs - slowly, one by one - his stomach, the dip between his hip and thigh, trailing kisses towards his groin and Isak spreads his legs even more, trying to anticipate where Even’s lips will touch him next. He’s achingly hard, almost trembling with arousal. 

When Even carefully puts his lips around Isak’s dick, he can’t help but moan. The heat and the wetness of Even’s mouth on him are exhilarating, and the closeness and intimacy between them almost take this breath away.

Even keeps his eyes fastened in Isak’s as he does it again, let him sink a little deeper this time and the warmth and the pressure is incredible, almost too much, he’s dangerously close to coming just from this. It feels amazing and Even looks amazing doing it. Lips red and shiny, his hair in disarray, looking at Isak like he’s never enjoyed himself more. He lets go with a pop and continues even lower, let his tongue trail over Isak’s balls, down his taint and even though Isak can guess where Even’s going next, it still takes him by surprise when Even continues further down between his ass cheeks. 

For a split second Isak wonders if Even knew that he’s dreamed about this, if his mind has given it away without him noticing, something buried deep within. Because he most definitely has. 

And there’s that nudge again, Even asking him if it’s okay. 

Fuck. Yes. Isak answers and did he just say that without opening his mouth? Without making a sound? 

He’s not sure, but the thought is long lost when Even pushes one of Isak’s legs up and gently spreads him open, suddenly all he can think about is the gentle laps of Even’s tongue right there

Lightly at first, but then more firmly – and Isak feels like he’s going to die. He’s never felt anything like this, never felt more exposed or aroused and he never wants Even to stop. 

He reaches for the lube, finds it immediately in the bedside table, to the left in the drawer and realizes that Even might have conveyed that piece of information subconsciously to him, and yes, I’m ready for a finger too he thinks and Even moans at that, a sound that reverberates through Isak and makes him shiver.

When Even sits up his chin is slick with spit and Isak pulls him down for a kiss at once, can taste himself on Even, and that turns him on even more. The fact that he doesn’t even hesitate about it; that it feels so right, they feel so right. 

Even’s eyes are dark and hooded, and Isak nods, whispers an impatient “come on” against his lips. He spreads his legs, groans when Even’s fingers circle his rim, when they make him wet and slippery with lube before he breaches him. 

He can feel Even everywhere, like a sixth sense connecting them, making them tune in on each other. And he knows that Even feels it too, when he stops right before it gets too much, how he keeps kissing Isak, holding him. 

And Isak knows too, got all these new sensations that aren't his own. Feels his scalp tingle pleasantly when he runs his fingers through Even’s hair and a jolt of pleasure when he pulls, just a little. It’s easy, the give and takes. Natural. Like a circular flow that grows and gives in an endless cycle.

Another finger and Isak moans, arches his back, thinks that he’s ready now and Even agrees but he still curls his fingers inside of Isak and swallows his sounds with his lips pressed against Isak's. 

“I need you.” Even speaks close to Isak’s mouth as he pulls his fingers out. 

Isak nods. “Like this. Now.”

 “You don’t want me to wear a condom?” 

Isak shakes his head and Even nods. “Okay. That’s – I’m clean. But are you sure?” 

“I’m sure.” Because he can’t wait to feel Even, just Even, nothing between them. “And I’m clean too, I’ve – this is my first time – like, ever.” 

Even nods, kisses him again. “I –  want that too, god, I just want you closer.” Even’s voice is deep, raw, sending shivers down Isak’s spine and suddenly he can’t wait for a second longer. He pushes at Even, makes him lie back down, and kisses him before he gets up on his knees. 

Even smiles as Isak inches closer, draws him down for a kiss before he helps Isak get on top, to straddle him. It’s breathtaking, watching Even like this. How his hair is disheveled from Isak’s hands, and how there’s a new color to his eyes, a darker shade Isak didn’t see before, something raw, wanting. 

Even’s hands are firm around Isak’s waist, on his hips, his thighs, around his dick stroking him, holding him close, grounding him and he’s ready, they both are. 

More lube, and Isak gasps when Even’s fingers inch between his ass-cheeks, pulling at his rim, pushing inside just barely – he’s desperate to feel more of Even now, not scared or even tense, just eager, expectant. 

He lowers himself down, slowly. Gives in for the blunt pressure, supports himself with his hands on Even’s chest, his heart beating underneath the palm of Isak’s hand, his moans a vibration between them, making Isak sink down further, making space for Even inside of him. 

When Isak sits down fully, he pulls Even up towards him, lets him sink in all the way and gasps at the feeling when Even moves slightly inside him as he puts his arms around Isak and holds him closer. 

The buzz is steadier now, increasing in strength as they move together, urging them closer until they are completely tethered to each other. 

Isak’s cock is wedged between them, sliding with sweat and precum as they move, as Isak lifts up just a little and sinks back down again, guided by Even’s hands on his hips and around his waist. 

They’re so close, almost as if they’re merging, melting into one, breathing each other’s air, moving in sync. Even is close, Isak can feel it through the bond, how it’s buzzing, vibrating between them and it’s drawing Isak closer to the edge as well. It’s almost too much, too intense, he can feel it in his bones, in his core. 

They belong together. 

Even is moaning constantly, holding on to Isak’s hips, pressing him down on his dick, filling him up again and again while Isak is clinging to him, arms around his neck, Even’s movements more and more uncoordinated. Isak is so fucking close to the edge, aching to come, and when Even sneaks his hand down between them and swipes his thumb over Isak’s tip before he takes him in his hand, Isak comes almost instantly. 

He’s shaking, painting their chests with his come, feels the orgasm in his whole body; the roar of blood in his ears, the heat spreading throughout, the white dots dancing before his eyes. It’s so strong, more intense than anything he’s ever felt before and before his orgasm has even begun to subside, a second wave hits him. This time it’s from deeper within, like the vibrations he’s felt from the bond are expanding throughout his whole body. He’s clenching down hard around Even who is moaning, clinging to Isak, holding him tightly, like he never wants to let go.  

Their hearts are slowing down – Isak can feel them beating in sync, and it makes him wonder where his own body starts and ends now, after they all but entered each other’s minds.

Maybe it should be scary, but it’s not. It feels safe, like he’s not alone and never will be. 

They lie down, Isak on top of Even, with Even still inside of him. They’re sweaty and dirty and it’s perfect. Isak never wants to move, and he smiles into the skin of Even’s shoulder, kisses him on the neck, Even’s hair wet against Isak’s cheek. 

“I can’t believe how we just… How... “ Even starts. 

“Yeah.” 

“Like I could feel you. Everywhere.” Even is stroking his back, soft fingertips along Isak’s spine, and Isak presses against him, makes Even sigh. “And hear you.” 

“I could too. Hear you, I mean. And feel you, everywhere too.” Even kisses his forehead and Isak sighs. 

“Was – was it okay though?” 

Isak lifts his head. “I – yes.” He furrows his brows. “And it’s strange, because I guess it should feel, I don’t know, almost frightening, because everything is so new. Like, the bond. And the sex.”

“But?” 

“But it doesn’t.” He lays his head on Even’s shoulder again. 

“How – “ Even draws his breath “ – like, can you hear me too? Or could you, just now?”

Isak nods against his shoulder. “For me, I think it was more of a feeling, that I sort of knew what you felt or what you wanted.” 

“Me too. Or, it was a mix. Sometimes almost like pictures.” 

“Wow.” Isak buries his face in Even’s neck, breathes him in. “I never want to move.” he mumbles, and Even holds him. 

“We don’t have to. But when we do, I can make you breakfast.” 

Isak smiles, kisses Even’s neck. “I’m glad it’s you. I’m so glad it’s you.” His eyes are burning and Even holds him tighter, kisses him. 

“Me too.”

Chapter Text

“... and this couple can sort of tune in on each other, and can feel if the other is happy or not. And they’re both unmarked.” Isak looks from the computer screen to Even and then back again. “This – this is so much bigger than I could ever imagine. There is so much more, like –  like the actual marks are just a small part of it.” 

They’re on Even’s sofa, legs tangled and body heat shared after a late lunch, and there’s something about what Isak just said that worries Even. It’s obvious, he feels it in his whole body, and he’s pretty sure what it might be.

“Even.” Isak looks at him pointedly. “I don’t want to pry, but we’re kind of sharing almost everything now. And you don’t have to worry about you being sick. Okay?”

“I just don’t want you to –  to experience that. When I’m – I’m no fun when I get like that. It’s not fun to be me, and – ” He looks down at his hands, and Isak can feel the anxiety blooming in Even’s chest. 

“Baby.” Isak puts the laptop down on the floor and climbs over to Even. “We don’t even know what’s going to happen. Like, at all. Maybe we won’t even feel each other like that. Maybe we will, and maybe it’ll be amazing." He puts his hand on Even’s cheek. "And we've still got so much to learn, I mean, I guess we'll have to practice shutting each other out as well. Otherwise, it'll be exhausting, don't you think?” 

The heavy feeling in Even’s chest eases a bit, and Even nods before Isak kisses him gently. Runs his hands through Even’s hair, silky strands between Isak’s fingers and Even leans into the touch. “Did – did you find anyone else like us?” 

“Yeah, I did. We’re not alone, at all. There’s plenty of people online that have bonded even if they don’t have a traditional mark. Some don’t have marks at all.” 

“Hm.” 

“But it seems that it’s more difficult to get the bond verified if it happens like that. To be soulmates in the eyes of the law, you know.” 

“Verified? By a clinic?” 

“Yeah.” 

“I hate it that someone has the right to decide whether a bond is true or not.” Even sits up a little, eyes darker all of a sudden. 

“It’s really shit.” 

“It is.” 

“But, uhm, do you still – “

“If I want to try to get it verified?” 

“Yeah?” Isak looks up at Even, tires to gauge his feelings about this. They seem to be mixed, to say the least.

“Maybe. I think so.” 

“Just to, like, show that it’s possible. And – ” Isak swallows, suddenly unsure. “ – I was thinking, if you wanted to like, study? I know I do.”

Even’s eyes are big, wary. He nods. “I did. I do.”

“Make the most out of it and get accepted into the programs we want. At the schools we choose. Even if – even if it’s shit that the system works like that.”

“Yeah.” 

“But, we could get it verified and then we could write about it on a page like that. Make it known, you know. Maybe even help others, I don’t know.” 

“Fight the system from within.” Even smiles a crooked smile that doesn’t really reach his eyes.

“That’s exactly what my best friend Jonas would say.” 

“Yeah?” Even smiles and raises his eyebrows, and Isak lets his memories of Jonas flow through them. From school, sleepovers and late nights playing video games and eating junk food. 

Even squeezes his hand. “He seems nice. You go way back?” 

Isak nods. “We do. He’s been my best friend since – for as long as I can remember. And I’ve missed him like crazy these last few weeks.” Isak lets his fingers run through Even’s hair. “I can’t wait for you to meet him.”

“Me neither.”  

They lie like that, passing childhood memories and friends between them, letting all that is safe and familiar fill them up. 

It's easy, getting to know someone like this without even having to talk. 

Maybe Isak ought to be scared, but he’s not. They’re equal in this, exploring their bond together, on the same premises. And if it’s one thing Isak has learned about Even, it is that he’s kind. Kind and gentle and loving, and Isak hopes with all his heart that Even will only find traits in Isak that he can accept. Maybe like. Or even love. 

 

---

 

“I managed to get to speak to nurse Brandrud. She’s agreed to test us tomorrow. We sneak in the back door and she said to wear normal clothes, not your work uniform.” Isak says. 

He’s been pacing the apartment while talking on the phone, had to try several times before he managed to connect himself to the right person. He didn’t want to talk to anyone else, convinced that nurse Brandrud is their best chance. She’s listened before, and Isak believes she’ll listen again. 

He knows it’s delicate, especially since Even works there. A helper that ran away with a patient isn’t really ideal. Not for the clinic, and certainly not for Even. 

They spoke about it a little. The fact that Even hasn’t been to work in a couple of days. Normally, you’d get a doctor’s note when you’re bonding, and then you’re paid by the social insurance the days you’re missing work. But Even hasn’t got a doctor’s note, he’s not really sure he’s got a job anymore. 

It’s stressing them out, but right now, there’s nothing they can do. They’ll just have to wait for the bond to settle so that they can lead a normal life again, and be able to spend a good amount of their days apart without feeling like they might die. 

Right now though, it’s not exactly a hardship. 

Days spent as close as possible to the person you can’t imagine being without, lazy mornings and late breakfasts. Coffee on the balcony, sharing memories, always touching. Even’s head on Isak’s lap, their thoughts almost entwined, and sometimes they don’t even have to speak to know what the other wants. 

It’s dizzying, mesmerizing. 

Even called his mother yesterday, and Isak got to say hello. The warmth in her voice was comforting, she sounded genuinely happy for them but agreed that it was for the best to try to get the bond verified. Especially since Even isn’t even the right age. 

When she brought up Even’s medication, Isak sensed some resistance from Even, an awkwardness maybe, the feeling of being supervised and looked after almost suffocating. 

She wasn’t about to question them or their bond though, and when Even got that, his mood changed quickly. You were seventeen when you started taking medicines, Even. Maybe they have something to do with you bonding this late?

That’s not even something they’ve thought about. When he hadn’t presented with a mark after turning eighteen, Even had just accepted the fact that he was an unmarked, as his parents, and then just proceeded to go on with his life. 

Maybe Even’s medication hindered his mark? It’s something they’ll never know for sure, but it’s a possibility at least. 

Isak still has to call his parents, though. 

It’s been almost a month since he spoke to them, and he wonders how much they know. How much the clinic has told them. If they already know that the mate that the clinic paired him up with was the wrong one. 

He’s torn between calling them now and tell them everything – he really wants his mother to know – or to wait until they’ve had the test, until he’s solved the problem himself. 

There’s this new sense of pride in him, of wanting to care for himself, for Even, for them . Logically, he knows it’s not possible since he doesn’t have a job and just got out of high school, but at least he can do this. Go to a clinic to bond and return with a soulmate. 

Return with Even

Isak puts the phone down, lets his gaze rest on Even who has returned to his book. He’s on the couch, long legs stretched out in front of him, sunlight falling in through the open balcony door. Dressed in only boxers and a t-shirt, they haven’t been wearing many clothes ever since they arrived at the apartment. It’s been too warm, and also, they’re too eager to touch. All the time. 

Isak can feel himself chubbing up just thinking about everything they’ve done. How he can still feel what they did yesterday morning, when Even fucked him. How his cum had trickled out of Isak afterward, made his thighs sticky. How he had felt wet the entire day.

Even puts his book down and looks at him with dark eyes. There’s no way he didn’t catch what Isak just thought of – he was probably being loud about it too. 

For a second, he’s worried that he’s too much, that he wants too much. Thinks that he should leave Even alone, let him read, but Even is there immediately, pushing those thoughts away, his want as blatant as Isak’s. 

Even reaches for Isak with his arms and pulls him toward the couch, makes him settle on top of him. Even nuzzles him, kisses him softly. “I was just admiring you from afar.” 

“Yeah?” 

“Mm. You’re hot when you’re focused.” 

Isak flushes, he’d been so caught up in the phone calls that he didn’t even notice Even looking. 

“I was just – talking.” He moves a little, makes himself comfortable on top of Even, and Even spreads his legs to accommodate him, puts his arms around him. 

“You’re also very hot when you’re arranging things. For us. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” 

“And just now.” 

“Hm?” Isak hums with his lips against Even’s neck, presses himself closer.

“What you thought about just now. That’s hot too.” 

“About – “ He clears his throat, still isn’t used to talk about these things.

“About me, fucking you.” Even raises his eyebrows, teasing. 

Isak groans, his cheeks probably bright red now. He mumbles into Even’s shoulder. “Yes.” 

He can’t stop thinking about it now, not with Even so close, and certainly not with Even feeding him images and memories about it, pressing up against him, both growing harder as they let the memories of yesterday envelop them. 

Isak turns his head and kisses Even, open-mouthed and wet as he grinds down slowly. 

Even moans, but stops, and takes Isak’s head between his hands. “I’m sorry if I got carried away. With the memories, it’s – it’s still so new.” He looks serious. “You know you can always say stop, don’t you?” 

“Shit. You got me worried something was wrong.” Isak kisses Even again. “I don’t want you to stop. And – we’re both learning.” 

“Nothing’s wrong.” Even’s voice is filled with relief, and he licks his lips, eyes never leaving Isak. 

“No, nothing’s wrong.” Isak smiles, and then consciously tries to convey too Even what he feels, how much he wants him, now. At first, just the general feeling of desire for Even, of the need he feels for him and then he attempts to be more specific, just to try it out. 

How he wants to taste Even, to feel what it’s like to have him in his mouth, to take him as deep as he can. Isak almost flushes at that, it’s such a primal want, but Even urges him on, wants to know more. 

So Isak doesn’t stop. Thinks about how he wants to move inside Even too, how he wants to open him up with his fingers and Even groans at that, kisses Isak hard and starts pulling at his t-shirt. 

It’s smoother this time, how they can reassure each other as they go along, urge each other on. How Isak can make Even tremble just by conveying what he’s about to do, just by thinking about where he’ll kiss next when he slowly moves his lips down Even’s chest. 

Even spreads his legs as Isak sinks down on the floor in front of the sofa and he can’t help but lick the inside of Even’s thighs, taste the skin there, tease it with his teeth just to hear Even gasp, to feel his desperation through the bond. 

There’s much less hesitation about what’s being said through the bond this time, they can read each other much more easily. And it’s effortless to communicate via the bond, especially in intimate situations like this, when words are difficult to form and one’s mind is fogged. To be able to sense how Even reacts to Isak’s mouth around him, how he’s aching for Isak’s fingers, for more. 

After a quick sprint to get the lube from the bedroom, Isak sinks to his knees once more. He pulls Even toward him and puts one leg over his shoulder while he pushes the other one to the side. Even is gorgeous above him, all flushed with heaving chest and dark eyes and Isak mouths at his balls while he opens the lube and coats his fingers with it and that makes Even whine.

Even’s never done this, not with anyone else, not like this , he adds and then Isak can feel the sureness, the want to continue, the reassurance from Even. He traces his finger between Even’s ass-cheeks, remembers how careful Even was with him, and how good it felt. He looks up at Even as he touches his rim, makes him wet and slippery before he pushes inside slowly. Watches Even’s mouth fall open as he draws his breath, sees the small crease between his eyebrows before he relaxes around Isak’s finger and lets him sink in further. 

Even is hot and tight, and he moans when Isak kisses the inside of his thigh as he pushes in further, urges him to add another one. And Isak does, slowly, carefully. Can’t help but look at his own hand, at his fingers disappearing inside Even, how he’s stretched around Isak, shiny with lube. Even spreads his legs even more, letting Isak look, channeling just how good Isak feels and how he can’t wait to feel more of him.

The trust and intimacy between them makes Isaks chest constrict, it’s so much, all of his senses filled with Even . He has to draw a deep breath, swallow. Keeps his fingers inside of Even as he climbs up on the sofa, the need for skin on skin urgent all of a sudden, and Even pulls him up and kisses him, envelops Isak in his arms immediately. Moans when Isak moves his fingers, and Isak pushes against that spot again and again while he swallows Even’s sounds. 

If I bend over the armrest , Even thinks, then I’ll stand behind you , Isak continues and he can’t help but smile into the kiss at the actual conversation they’re having with their mouths still occupied with other things. 

If Even looked beautiful while sitting on the couch reading, this is a whole other level. Now he’s naked, arms folded underneath his head on the armrest, his long back deliciously arched, legs spread as far apart as the sofa allows. And he’s waiting for Isak, craving him. 

“Please,” Even whispers, and that makes Isak almost dizzy with want. 

Red, hot desire is pulsing between them through the bond paired with the urge to be close, to touch and Isak strokes Even’s back, down to his legs and up again, lets his mouth make a moist path along Even’s vertebrae as he moves closer behind him. 

He’s wet with lube when he gently pushes against Even, moaning when he sinks inside slowly. It’s overwhelming for both of them, and Even is panting, sweating, all of his senses focused on how Isak makes space inside of him and he reaches for Isak’s hand as he urges him further inside, pushing back against him. 

The sofa is too narrow, Isak has to put one foot on the floor to keep his balance and he keeps stroking Even, firm hands along the knobs of his spine, gentle fingers running through his hair. 

They stay like that for a little while, Isak pressed flush against Even, breathing against the skin on Even’s back, his arms around Even, holding him firmly, only moving when Even says so. He’s constantly telling Even how good it feels, how beautiful he is, feeling him squeeze around Isak when Isak gently runs his fingers along Even’s dick. 

They take it slow at first, shallow thrusts that have Isak moaning, head spinning with how good it feels. Then deeper, a little faster, hands gripping Even’s shoulders or waist, pushing Even back on his dick. 

Even is sweating and moaning and Isak is already so close he can barely hold it together. The sight Even makes before Isak’s eyes is more breathtaking than anything he’s ever seen; that long, lean back arched in front of him, Even’s hands gripping the armrest tightly as he pushes back against Isak’s thrusts. He’s tight and warm around Isak and when Even begs Isak to put his hand around him, he does so immediately. 

Even is wet with precum and it’s as Isak can feel the impending release in himself too. He speeds up his thrusts, supports himself with one hand on Even’s shoulder as he’s stroking him faster as well. Blood is roaring through his body along with Even’s plea for more, more , and then they’re overcome by static, white noise, a wave pulling them under, together. 

When he comes back to it, Isak realizes he’s clinging to Even, plastered against his back, mouth against Even’s damp skin. It feels wrong to even consider moving away from him. He grins, kisses Even’s back, can feel the way Even’s chest is heaving, how his heart is beating fast and hard against Isak’s palm. 

Don’t move. Please. Even’s plea echoes through the bond, seeming just as raw and bared as Isak feels. So he stays there, close, arms around Even, nose buried in Even’s neck, letting him settle.

Even reaches for a pillow and Isak lets him stretch his legs, lies down on top of Even, still inside. They’re sweaty and sticky and Isak brushes Even’s hair away from his forehead. Kisses his neck and his cheek, and Even turns his head to meet Isak’s lips. 

“Mmh. This is so – you’re amazing.” Isak speaks into Even’s neck when he lays down again, kisses his shoulder. 

“You are, too. I – “

“What?” 

“I didn’t know it could feel like this.” Even looks back at Isak. “That it would feel like this.” 

Isak kisses his neck again, lets his hand card through Even’s hair. “The sex?” 

“That too. The sex, and the bond. And like, sex with a bond. It felt like – like I could feel you coming too? Like it all happened together?” Even’s voice reverberates through his chest. 

“Yeah. And the way we could – I dunno – communicate? Like I felt what you felt? All the time.” 

“I did too. I think. Some things were – almost like they were amplified?” 

“Yeah.” Isak lets the silky strands of Even’s hair run between his fingers, the pleasant prickling extending to him as well, a feeling of blissfulness that emanates from Even. 

“It’s – what if we’ll be able to continue to talk like that?” 

Isak smiles, tries out the thought of always having Even close. Right now he can’t imagine he’ll ever want it any other way. I’d like that , he thinks, and Even whines at that, reaches for Isak’s hand and turns his head for another kiss. 

Me too. 

Chapter Text

They walk to the clinic the next morning. The air is warm even though it’s early, humid, smelling of asphalt. The birds chirping is mixed with the sound of the traffic and people riding bikes, talking on their phones, kids yelling. 

They’re holding hands, walking slowly, lost in their bubble together. Almost as if the mere thought of returning to the clinic is making them slacken their pace even more. There’s so much at stake right now. First and foremost they want to prove that they're real, that what they've been through is true. 

After that, they don’t know. They just have to be together, but evidently it would be best to do it as bondmates. Easier. 

The days they’ve spent together has been amazing, they’ve shared things and gotten to know each other. Now though, Isak is getting nervous. Their visit to the clinic feels almost fateful. Maybe he should have called his parents after all? Explained it all? 

Either way, it’s too late for that. 

Isak is dressed in Even’s clothes, and he smells like Even too. Has been sleeping next to him for several nights, has been using his shampoo and eating his food. 

They’re roughly the same size, although Even’s shoes are a number too big for him. It’s okay, he just laced them up a little tighter than normal. The grey shorts Isak is wearing are soft and worn, Even’s favorite pair that he gave to Isak. 

Last night, they experimented a little with the bond. 

Even though they’re not sure that the bond is settled yet and their abilities final, they couldn’t help but try stuff. 

An old deck of cards, and then they tried to communicate through the bond which card they had drawn. It worked surprisingly well. 

They also tried to block each other out, to not reveal which card they had in front of them, and that was harder. Probably because the bond is so new and so very open, Isak argued. He could feel Even’s distress at not being able to shut Isak out and then they had to stop the experiment, their minds suddenly in a whirr, making them tired and stressed and hungry. 

After that they watched a movie instead, silently commenting on things they like or didn’t like, and didn’t test the bond any further. Just sat close together and tried not to think about today. About the fact that they were going to leave their bubble and return to the clinic.

The area surrounding the clinic is void of activity – no one’s outside, despite the beautiful morning. It’s breakfast-time , Even explains. Everybody’s working.  

That’s probably a good thing , Isak answers. 

They sneak inside through a door in the back, one Even always uses when he arrives at work, and Isak is led through changing rooms and narrow corridors whose walls and floors are raw, not painted in the soothing nuances of white and yellow like upstairs, where the patients reside. 

Maybe they don’t have to sneak around, but Isak is not willing to take any chances. They go straight to nurse Brandrud’s office and wait for her inside. 

She opens the door at eight o’clock sharp.

“Isak, Even! It’s great to see you!” She sounds happy, no anger or annoyance lacing her voice. “Can we talk in here for a bit, before we go to the do the tests?” 

Isak looks at Even, and they nod. As eager as they are to get this over and done with, they can’t blame her for wanting to talk, that she wants to know more. If their bond has evolved, how they’re feeling. 

Nurse Brandrud looks at them expectantly, before she clears her throat. “I’m glad you called, Isak. How are you? Both of you?” 

Isak looks at Even, then at nurse Brandrud. “We – we’re fine.” Even nods and Isak continues. “It’s been good, like, really good to just be to ourselves.” 

“And you two, you think that you’ve bonded?” 

They nod. “Yeah.” 

She looks at them, at their linked hands. “You look well. Better than the last time I saw you, at least.”

Isak snorts a laugh. “Yeah. I – I’ve never felt so bad in my life, I think. But then, when Even came around, it – I got better. Fast.” He squeezes Even’s hand and nurse Brandrud smiles at them again. She clears her throat. 

“As I said, I’m glad you’re both here. This – I know you’ve had a hard time, Isak. And I’m sorry for the distress it has caused.” She looks at Isak. “I guess you’ve been searching for cases like yours?”

Isak nods. “Yeah, but.. only online. Kind of.” 

“Yes, exactly. Online. And I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but there isn’t any scientific proof that cases like yours even exist.” She puts one leg over the other, looks between them. “Do you want to tell me something about how you’ve experienced it?” 

“Uhm, we –  “ Isak starts, suddenly feeling unsure of where to begin.

“We’re very attuned to each other. For example.” Even squeezes his hand, and Isak nods.

“Yeah. It’s like we can feel what the other one feels as well. Like I sometimes know what he wants, without him saying it.” Isak nods at Even. 

Nurse Brandrud takes notes while they talk, nods even though her brows are sometimes furrowed. 

“...and Isak, is your mark still not completely filled?” 

“No, it’s the same.” 

“Do you mind if I take a photo?” 

He shakes his head while he lifts his t-shirt to show his mark. It’s completely crystallized now, the lines clear, and the print filling half of the closed circle is dark and almost looks smudged where there’s a part missing. Even loves it, has been tracing his finger around it for hours during the past few days. 

“Have you –  do you know if someone has called my parents?” Isak asks as he lies down on the examination table to let nurse Brandrud take the pictures. She halts and inhales deeply before she answers. 

“I – I’m going to be completely honest with you and say that I don’t know. Doctor Nielsen didn’t take kindly to you leaving in the middle of treatment, and I’m not aware of the actions he’s taken.”

“Okay. Thanks.”  

The big light above the examination table is directed at Isak’s mark, and nurse Brandrud takes several photos from all different angles. Even is nervous, Isak feels it in his own body and is just about to try to calm Even down when he speaks up. 

“Uh, nurse Brandrud?” Even sounds hesitant as he addresses her. “You know that I’m – older than Isak?” 

She puts the camera down and gestures for Isak to get up. “No. Well, I figured since you work here as a helper, but – ” 

“Yeah. Two years older. And – I spoke to my mother the other day, and, well, the thing is…” Isak walks up to Even and takes his hand. You don’t have to.  

But Even takes a deep breath, and continues. “I’m bipolar. I was diagnosed when I was seventeen, and my mother suggested that my medication might have something to do with… this. Everything. That I haven’t bonded until now.” 

If nurse Brandrud is surprised, she hides it well. She looks as professional as ever, nods and switches the light above the examination table off. 

“That’s – thank you for telling me, Even. That is very interesting to know. And if you have indeed bonded, it doesn’t sound impossible, depending on the substance and dosage.” She’s back at her desk, taking notes. “Have you read anything about it?” 

“No, we – we couldn’t find anything.” 

She continues to question Even about his disease and his medication, and he answers her almost without hesitation. Isak can sense how difficult this is for Even, and it warms him that he’s doing it for them , that he’s really putting himself out there, laying himself bare for Isak’s and his sake. 

And Isak sits there, listening, with Even’s hand in his, sending as much love and courage through the bond as he can, until nurse Brandrud has asked all of her questions and says that they should get going. 

 

---

 

Isak has his eyes closed, tries to focus on what nurse Brandrud tells them. 

They’re each in a chair, big and blue and lined with crinkly paper, leaned back almost like at the dentist’s. Even is beside him, but they can’t touch, not yet – apparently, it will affect the outcome of the test. 

Electrodes are glued to his head and his face, measuring his brain waves, comparing them to Even’s. Supposedly, they should match, act the same way when nurse Brandrud instructs them to think about different things and scenarios. 

Firstly, she wants them to think about Isak’s mark. To picture it, to feel it. It makes Isak flush, because the only thing he can think about is Even, and how he traced it with his tongue this morning before he continued lower. And Even’s thoughts don’t exactly help, his mind a copy of Isak’s own. 

Then they’re asked to think about each other, how it feels to know the other person through the bond, before they are to focus solely on each other’s presence in the room. At first without touching, and then with their hands linked. 

“That’s good, you can open your eyes.” Nurse Brandrud starts peeling the white stickers off Even’s face. “I want to take a blood test too if that’s okay with you?” 

“It didn’t – we didn’t…?” Isak swallows, can feel the dread creeping upon him. What if they didn’t pass? 

“We’re going to need an expert to look at your results, I’m afraid I’m not qualified to tell you.” Nurse Brandrud clears her throat, before she pulls another sticker from Even’s temple. “But I’ve been assisting at numerous tests like these and – and it looks very promising. However,  it’s not an official result. And it’s even more difficult to interpret the results when the bond hasn’t settled yet, so you’ll probably have to take another test later on.” 

Isak nods, tries to process what nurse Brandrud just said. 

“But that’s why I want to do the blood tests as well,” she continues. “It measures the oxytocin-levels in your blood. People who are in the process of bonding display extremely high levels of that hormone.”

The blood test is just one small drop of blood that nurse Brandrud squeezes out of their fingers and catches on something that looks like a paper.

Then, they wait. 

Both their tests turn a bright pink within a minute, and nurse Brandrud nods. “Extremely high,” she concludes.

Isak takes Even’s hand into his own and squeezes it. I know we are bonding, I don’t need any tests, he thinks, and Even squeezes back, though they both know it’s not that simple.

That they’ll need a doctor’s signature to verify the bond.

Suddenly, the door opens. 

It’s Doctor Nielsen, accompanied by a guard. His face is red and his mouth is open as if he doesn’t know where to even begin. 

He looks around the room, seemingly taking it what’s before his very eyes. 

“Helen. You let them have the test?” 

Nurse Brandrud freezes for a couple of seconds, apparently unsure how to react. She looks almost pale, especially compared to the doctor. 

“I – “ she clears her throat and stretches for some papers that the printer just spat out and holds them out for Doctor Nielsen to see. “I had to. And the results are interesting, you really should take a look.” 

She told him? Isak is shocked and he knows Even is too. He thought that nurse Brandrud was on their side, trusted her to help them. The way Doctor Nielsen treated Even just before they left the clinic, the way he looks at them now - Isak just wants to leave, wants to get out of here, but Doctor Nielsen and the guard are standing in the doorway, effectively blocking the only exit. Isak feels betrayed, angry. Even more angry when he senses Even’s fear through the bond. 

Doctor Nielsen turns to Isak, his mouth stretched into something that is probably supposed to be a smile. “Isak. We’ve been worried about you. Would you please return to your room, so that I can have a look at you? ” 

“If Even comes with me.” 

“Mr. Bech N æsheim isn’t a patient of ours and as of recently he doesn’t hold a position at this clinic either.” Doctor Nielsen turns to the guard. “He is to be taken away from here, I have a patient to take care of.” 

The guard nods and approaches them resolutely, but Isak moves to stand between the guard and Even. The bond is pulsing, and he knows, with absolute certainty, that Even and he can’t be apart right now. “Then I’d like to terminate my treatment here. Now.” 

Even if everyone with a mark is required to be bonded at a facility, overseen by professionals, they can’t keep him here, Isak knows that. He can opt for another clinic, or change doctor. He just has to talk to his father. 

Doctor Nielsen stretches his mouth wider, but his eyes are dark and angry. 

“Of course. But we’d still have to do a final examination to ensure that you leave here in good health. It’s required, you can read about it in the contract.” He turns toward the door and looks at Isak. “Please follow me. Isak.” 

“I’ll wait for you outside, okay?” Even whispers, voice unsteady but the distress and instinct pulsing through the bond is evident. We need to leave, and Isak nods. His hand is damp where it’s clutching onto Even’s and he hesitates to let go even though he knows he must. 

One last, tarrying gaze and then he follows Doctor Nielsen. He thinks his heart might be clawing its way out of his chest, but he tries to take deep breaths and continues anyway. For them. 

The corridors have never been greyer, duller or longer than they are right now. Every step Isak takes physically pains him, the distance from Even palpable with every throbbing heartbeat. He’s sweating, feeling a little dizzy, and he tries to calm himself by burying his nose in Even’s t-shirt. It helps a little, but not much. Ultimately, it only makes him miss Even more, and he’s on the verge of turning around and make a run for it when he notices they’ve arrived outside Doctor Nielsen’s office. 

The doctor turns toward Isak, his hand on the door handle. “So, a discharge. I’ll have a nurse deliver the paperwork in time for our appointment. Unfortunately, I’m booked full this morning, so I’ll see you after lunch. At one, okay?” 

Isak is left dumbfounded when Doctor Nielsen enters his office and closes the door behind him. 

He wants to scream, wants to cry, but he can’t . It’s like someone’s stretched him so thin he can’t move or he’ll break. Shatter, like carelessly handled glassware. At least he’s absolutely sure now: Doctor Nielsen can’t be trusted, he clearly doesn’t want what’s best for Isak, can’t stand being proven wrong. 

He takes a few deep breaths and looks around for a clock. It’s nine. Four fucking hours until he’s meeting Doctor Nielsen again, and the thought of four hours without Even makes him hurt all over, makes him sweat. He needs to find him. 

Half an hour later, Isak is desperate. He’s sweating, his heart is beating rapidly and he’s feeling weak, almost disoriented. He searched for Even everywhere, but in vain. Eventually, he found a helper that had seen Even with the guard. Apparently, he had been cast out from the compound, isn’t allowed to enter, and Isak can’t leave, not without the discharge-papers. They’re watching the exits, guards in dark blue uniforms and he just screamed at one of them. 

The hallways are disturbingly empty, as if everyone has been told to stay away from him. It doesn’t matter, really –  he doesn’t want to talk to anybody either, just wants to leave this place. 

A little more than three hours to go. 

His mark is burning hot and he wishes that Even was here, how soothing his hand would be if he put it there. Suddenly, a small tingle that runs through him, and he stops. 

It’s a tingle that doesn’t hurt, but rather one that –   

He looks around and turns left before he dives into the small nook where Even and he sat close together several days ago, before everything started for real. Here, he can focus without being seen or watched.

These last few days with Even, he’s started to mind his own body, its signals, in a new way. He’s been trying to listen, to understand. To notice the tingles and the shivers, to mind them.

Right now, it’s as if someone is poking at him, wanting to get his attention, and he’s almost sure it’s Even. He’s the only one who made his mark prickle like that. He’s the only one who’s made him feel that tingle, that small spark running up and down his spine. Almost like a call, a recollection of his presence, a reminder for Isak to know that Even’s there

Maybe the bond is strong enough for them to reach each other even if they’re physically apart? Isak remembers reading about that online.  

What if they could do that too? Communicate even though they’re separated? Maybe that would even soothe the pain. 

He pulls the hood up and closes his eyes. Tries to focus on Even, not on the feeling of his absence. 

It’s shaky, at first. Not that easy, silent exchange of notions and feelings they’ve shared lying next to each other in Even’s bed or sofa. But after a while, when Isak forces himself to relax and when he tries to focus on Even’s voice, his eyes, the feeling of his body close to Isak, something does happen. 

He can actually feel him. Almost as if Even’s sitting next to him, crammed up in that small space with his legs folded in front of him, heat bleeding into Isak’s body, his heart rate slowing down. 

At first, all he manage to focus on is the pain of being forced apart, the urge to touch. But after a while, something settles, almost like the bond reconciles with this new, temporary distance between them, and it allows them to start communicating. Stray words and images at first, but soon Isak is able to hear Even. Not with his ears, more of a voice - Even’s voice, from inside. 

Even is, indeed, outside the compound, patiently waiting for Isak.  I’ll wait for as long as it takes, and it makes Isak want to cry, he knows it’s true and he can feel Even relax slightly. It calms him that Isak is so sure about them and about their bond. The scars from having been let down and doubted before run deep, and that’s a profound, more stabbing pain, one that goes much longer back, for years. Doctor Nielsen telling Even that this is just another sick idea of his, that it was a mistake to hire him even to do the simplest tasks, and that he should leave Isak alone, that Isak should be glad that Even isn’t bonded  to him and Isak wants to scream at that, tells Even again and again that it’s not true. That there’s no one else he’d rather be bonded with. His eyes burn and his stomach hurts. It’s okay, don’t be sad , Even says, and Isak buries his nose in Even’s shirt once again, inhales the smell of him. Thinks back to this morning when he woke up with Even sleeping firmly with his head on Isak’s chest, arm slung over his stomach. The heat of their skin touching, the safety of Even’s apartment, how it was just them, together. I love how you grunt just before waking up, Even giggles and Isak has to wipe at his eyes once more. You were drooling on my chest, he answers and then he can feel Even laugh, like bubbles bursting and popping inside of him.   



-----



Isak holds off until noon, then he’s waited enough. 

He’s stronger now, doesn’t feel like he’s about to break apart from the pain, knows that Even is fine, that he’s outside. 

Doctor Nielsen’s door is closed, but Isak doesn’t care. He’s going to get his discharge papers, his backpack, his phone and then he’s going to leave. 

Knocking will do him no good, so he just opens the door and walks right in. The three pairs of eyes looking at him as he enters Doctor Nielsen’s office are all too familiar. 

“Dad? Mom?” His eyes dart between them, has a hard time believing that what he’s seeing is real. “What – “ 

His mother looks pale, frightened almost, and his father is frowning, stern-looking. He’s shaking his head slightly, sighing, but Isak just walks over to his mother. Hugs her and tries not to sob when he feels her arms around him, her hair against his nose, the familiar smell of her shampoo. 

“Baby, I’m here for you,” she whispers so that no one else hears, and he holds her tighter before he lets go and turns to Doctor Nielsen and his father. 

“Are you here to pick me up? I’m getting discharged.” He turns to his mother again. 

“Isak – “ his father starts, and he knows what’s coming next. Knew they weren’t here just to take him home. “We are worried about you.” 

Isak just stares at his father with his eyebrows raised. He’s pretty sure he knows exactly what’s been going on between his father and dr Nielsen. Probably, his father has been in contact with Doctor Nielsen all along, maybe even pressuring him about Isak’s treatment when Isak’s mark didn’t develop accordingly. He’s good at that. 

“Doctor Nielsen says that – that you’ve been running away and that you’ve not followed the course of his treatment.” 

He stops himself from rolling his eyes –  it would likely set his father off. “Dad. I’m bonded, okay? It worked. You don’t have to worry.” Terje raises his eyebrows and shoots a quick glance at Doctor Nielsen.

Isak’s mother gasps beside him and takes his hand as he turns toward her. “His name is Even, and he’s outside. You’ll love him.” He squeezes her hand and has to concentrate to remain focused. He can feel Even as well, the bond lighting up, almost singing inside him when he thinks of introducing his mother to Even. 

“Even – eh, Bech N æsheim is a former employee here. A helper.” Doctor Nielsen starts, and Isak’s father sighs immediately. 

“A helper? Isak – “

“What?” He lets go of his mother’s hand, crosses his arms. 

“You know that all helpers are unmarked. They can’t bond, Isak. This – this is why you ought to stay here, to let Doctor Nielsen see to it that you meet your true mate.” He takes Marianne’s hand as if to show Isak that they both agree on this. “You know we only want what’s best for you, right?” 

“But what if they can, dad? Mum?” He looks between them, is feeling weaker all of a sudden, needs to convince them. “I – we looked stuff up, online. And there’s so much more to it than what’s in the books, there are – “ He takes a deep breath before he continues. “ – there are people who have bonded without marks, or with only one of them being marked and I know that is what happened to us. Please, just – “ 

Doctor Nielsen clears his throat before he turns to Terje. “I’m very sorry about this, Mr. Valtersen. This helper, he – he’s been in trouble before, and as I said, he’s no longer an employee of ours, we – “

“You know that we can communicate through the bond, right?” Isak interrupts him, fixes Doctor Nielsen with his stare. “Because there is a bond, I can talk to Even right now, I can hear him. And I know what you told Even earlier, when you had the guard throw him out. That he should stay away from me, that he is sick and that I should be glad I wouldn’t have to be bonded with him for the rest of my life. That’s what you said, isn’t it?” 

Isak has to focus to keep his voice clear, he’s feeling cold, weak. But what he said affected Doctor Nielsen, who is looking pale all of a sudden, his forehead shiny with sweat. He stammers, but Isak steels himself and continues. 

“And if you would just let us have the test to verify the bond, then we could all move on.” He turns to his father again. “A nurse took our blood this morning, to test the oxytocin levels, and it’s true. We are bonding, we’re in the middle of the process.” He swallows, is feeling dizzy, knows he needs to go now. Maybe they’ve reached the limit and can’t be separated any longer, he doesn’t know. He just has to go to Even. 

His father looks between him and Doctor Nielsen, brows furrowed, the corners of his mouth pointing downwards. Like he always looks when he’s confronted with something he doesn’t understand.  “You did?” 

“Yeah.” Isak nods. The pull from Even is stronger, almost physically pulling at him now. “Mom, dad. It’s real. We can do the tests elsewhere, okay? I – I need to go to Even now, will you get my stuff? Dad, please.” 

His mother nods, and her hand is almost shaking when she strokes Isak’s hand. “We’ll meet you outside, honey. Go.” 

“You knew about this? And you didn’t tell me?” His father's voice echoes through the office as he exits Doctor Nielsen’s office. Hopefully for the very last time.

Grey floors and white walls and the boring paintings of supposedly bonded couples and he won’t ever have to look at them again. It feels strange to walk, like his body is too exhausted to do anything but is moving forward anyway. Like he is actually physically pulled outside without a single chance to change directions or to stop, but it’s okay. 

He trusts the bond to lead him straight to Even. 

The guards are gone, and when he exits the clinic he can see Even on the other side of the gate. He’s wearing dark jeans and a denim jacket and he’s obviously nervous, hasn’t spotted Isak yet. His hairdo is spoiled, Isak knows he’s been running his hand through his hair too many times, and he’s bouncing on the soles of his feet, clearly unable to stand still. 

Isak understands him. Even doesn’t know exactly what has happened, has probably only felt Isak’s distress from the meeting in Doctor Nielsen’s office, unable to intervene or to help in any way, just knowing that his soulmate is out of his reach. 

The weather is clearing up, the thick clouds dissolving, blue sky showing and Isak smiles to himself. Can’t help it when he looks at Even. 

The bond is so strong now, completely open, and for a short second Isak can swear that he sees it between them, like the air is suddenly thicker somehow; vibrating, moving. And that’s when Even looks straight at him. His eyes as blue as the sky behind the clouds and the pull between them is overwhelming, urgent. 

Isak hurries across the yard and through the gate, doesn’t bother closing it, just throws himself in Even’s arms.  

It all goes quiet at that. 

A comfortable silence, a calmness spreading throughout them both when their hearts start beating in synch again, when they’re finally close, back together. 

“I don’t ever want to live through something like this again.” Even whispers into Isak’s hair. “It’s been horrible.”

“I was so scared when I couldn’t find you. When Nielsen had thrown you out.” 

“I know. Me too.” Even kisses his hair, his forehead, his cheek. “How did it go?”

“I – I don’t know. But I guess we’ll have to go to another clinic. Or, I don’t want to go back here.” 

“Me either. Not ever.” 

They hug again, tighter, and Isak turns his head to seek out Even’s lips. The kiss is slow, they stop from time to time to just rub their noses together, to sense each other, their proximity.

Isak feels much calmer now, isn’t scared or worried anymore. He knows this is right. 

“Isak, who – ” Even squints towards the entrance of the clinic and Isak turns around.

His parents are watching them from afar, Terje holding Isak’s backpack in one hand and something that looks like a folder or a binder in the other. His mother raises her hand as if she wants to wave but holds back. 

“Yeah. My parents are here. They – ” Isak swallows, doesn’t really know where they stand right now. If his father is carrying his discharge papers in that folder along with Isak’s backpack, or if he’s going to try and talk him into going him back inside. But as Isak waves back he sees how his mother visibly relaxes, and how Terje nods, like a sign of approval and raises his hand as well, the one with the folder.

Maybe there’s a chance that they actually understand? That they believed him inside Doctor Nielsen’s office?

Isak looks at Even, doesn’t let him go. “I’ll tell you later. You want to say hi?” 

“Do you? Want me to, I mean?” Even has his arm around Isak’s waist, his hand on Isak’s mark. It’s safe, steady, and the bond is almost glowing between them, around them, like a shield. 

Isak looks at his parents, how they’re watching Even and him closely. His mother has got that fond expression, a small smile playing at her lips and she takes his father’s arm, squeezes it. 

He relaxes against Even, kisses his cheek. “Of course I do.” 



















Chapter Text

 “Baby? You home?” 

Isak closes the door behind him and hangs his jacket on the coat rack. It’s cold outside, a thick layer of snow has been covering Oslo for weeks now and apparently even more is to be expected in time for Christmas. He shivers, but not from the cold. It’s something else, and it’s making him anxious. He calls out again while moving through the hallway. “Even?” 

“I’m here. Bedroom.” Even’s voice sounds weak and Isak hurries inside. Even is sitting on the bed, tears running down his cheeks and Isak’s heart clenches at seeing Even like that. Something is going on, he can’t believe he didn’t notice earlier; on the tram, outside the apartment. Normally, they’re so attuned to each other, they check in several times during the day, and it’s been fine, today’s been a normal day. Except for now. 

“What happened? Baby?” He crawls onto the bed, gets as close to Even as he can and puts his arms around him. Still nothing. “Please don’t shut me out, tell me.” 

He feels like crying too, heart almost beating out of his chest, he’s so afraid now. But then Even wraps his arms around him and lets the bond unfold again. He does it slowly, almost as if he doesn’t want to overwhelm, all while he strokes Isak’s back, fingers soft against his sweater.

There’s no trace of fear in the bond, no distress. Just a thrumming vibration that gets stronger by the second, that flows through them, fills them, conjoins them.

“Even! What is it? Tell me.” He’s not scared anymore, just anticipated. Doesn’t let go of Even, but urges him on.  

“They called,” Even whispers. “The clinic. Doctor Lyng signed the papers today.” 

“What?” Isak’s throat is suddenly so thick that he barely can speak. He sits up so he can look at Even, searches his face for more information, still on the verge of crying. 

“She said that there’s no doubt about us, that the tests were absolutely clear.” 

Isak holds on to Even tighter, almost can’t believe what he’s hearing: that what they’ve been fighting for is finally real. He clears his throat. “We’re bonded? Officially?” 

“Yes.” Even nods against his shoulder. 

Their hearts are beating fast against each other, love soaring through the bond. It’s overwhelming, but in the best of ways. Isak lets it fill him, embrace him, consume him. 

Neither of them move, they just hold on tighter. 

“I can’t believe we finally found someone who -- someone who believed us.”

It’s such an amazing feeling, knowing that they can do almost whatever they want. Not only will they have the privileges that come with an official bond, but they are living proof that a bond doesn’t have to look the same as always to be real. 

You can study to become a nurse now , Isak thinks, and Even nods again. Or you can become a doctor and kick Doctor Nielsen out of his office and Even laughs and kisses Isak’s neck, his cheek still wet from tears. 

There’s that feeling of being shielded again, of being both absorbed and surrounded by the bond, like they’re the only ones in the world right now. Even’s lips against Isak’s neck, Isak’s fingers carding through Even’s hair and then Even tilts his head and meet Isak’s lips. The kiss is tender at first but grows hungry when they lay down, still clinging to each other. 

“Baby.” Even whispers and Isak knows Even can feel it too; how the bond is wide open now, both of them totally susceptible to the other one. Like they’re one person, heartbeats and thoughts and breathing in sync. 

Normally, they have to really concentrate to open the bond like this, it’s only happened by itself during sex once or twice. It’s never felt this intense, though, never like Even was actually inside Isak’s body, making oxygen surge through his blood with the breaths he takes. 

I need you. Now. Even thinks, and Isak knows, he feels the same. Pulls at Even’s shirt while he kisses him. They lose their clothes slowly, have to stay close. It’s slow and hurried at the same time, purposive, movements sure and natural. 

Until it’s just them, nothing else. Skin against skin, Even’s lips against Isak’s until Even rolls on top and continues downwards. Your mark, Even thinks, and Isak almost whimpers when he kisses it. The skin there is warm, pulsating, Even can feel it too as he touches it gently with his fingertips, soothes it with his tongue and Isak shudders. He wants more, is desperate for it. Wants to feel all of Even, and he’s overcome by a sudden need to be closer, to be held, to be taken care of. 

Everything that has happened; the maltreatment at the clinic, the anxiety, how it’s all been so unsure. The fear of having a faux mark, of disappointing his parents, how he struggled to bond with Sara and especially how they were apart when their bond started forming – it has left deep scars in them both.

And then these last few months where they have been struggling to find a doctor who would even consider letting them take the test, how suspicious everyone has seemed.

Now? Like this? Even asks and Isak nods, pulls him on top and kisses him again. Spreads his legs to make Even fit between them, clings to him as he stretches for the lube. “No fingers. Just go slow,” he whispers as Even clicks the lube open and nods, he already knew. Like he always does.

He lets Even push his legs open even more, revels in the way he looks at Isak, in the pure, almost primal want pulsating through the bond as Even lines up. 

The pressure against his opening is blunt and unyielding and he groans as Even pushes inside, stretches him open with his dick while he soothes Isak's lips with kisses, swallows the sounds Isak is making. He’s feeling raw and vulnerable, needs Even to shield him, to be a part of him, to make him stronger.

Even rocks slowly back and forth, sinking deeper inside with every rolling movement, keeping close, eyes never leaving Isak. The bond is whirring between them, around them, inside them. Like the air is thicker somehow, the bond cocooning them.

Even puts his forehead against Isak’s, his breath hot against Isak’s lips and then he pushes inside fully, a firm thrust that tears a moan out of Isak and makes him  grab onto Even’s arms. 

They breathe for a second, revel in the closeness, of how they’re bound together even more profoundly than before. 

The bond. Can you feel it? 

Isak nods, clings to Even. It’s so much. So intense. 

“Like it’s all new again,” Even whispers against Isak’s mouth. “Right now I don’t think I could stand being apart from you.” He pushes even closer, thrusts carefully, just small movements, as if he’s trying to sink deeper still, to be absorbed by Isak.

“Fuck. Me neither.” 

“I love this. I love you.” 

Me too. Isak pulls him down, kisses him hard, with a fervour that urges Even to move. Slow and languid at first, as opposed to their kisses. Almost all the way out, making Isak whine with how empty he’s left, only to be filled to the brim, again and again until he’s shaking. 

More? Even asks and Isak nods. Moans when Even pushes his legs up to spread him open and sink even deeper with every firm thrust. 

He loves this, loves Even like this. How he’s making space for himself inside of Isak, and how Isak craves it, needs it. Without Even, he doesn’t feel whole. Before he bonded, he’d pictured it as scary to need someone like that. But it’s not. Everything is just - better. More. 

Like how the bond is cradling them right now, harbouring them. Heightening the sensation of being this close, of moving together.  

Isak’s skin is hot, he’s sweating and his mark is prickling, pulsating. It’s intense, spreading through him, making him feel like he can’t fit into his body anymore, like he’s too big and too small at the same time. He cries out, the sensation intensifies, increasing with every thrust from Even, the noise in his head deafening.

But then Even puts his hand on his mark, covers it with his palm, squeezes Isak’s hip with his fingers and kisses him. It’s soothing, and the world narrows down again to just them , to Even moving inside of him, keeping close.

The overbearing feeling is replaced by pleasure, it’s singing through him, shared between them, pure and exquisite and Isak moans, he’s close, rushing towards release.

Fuck , Even whispers, can you feel it? 

He leans over Isak, almost folding him double, but keeps his hand on Isak’s mark, and Isak nods. Stretches for Even, wants his lips too, his kisses. 

And he does feel it. How close Even is, how their sensations are linked. How his body’s strung tight, and how they’re trembling together. The bond is still wide open, amplifying everything between them and when Even comes, it reverberates through Isak’s body as well, rips through them both and pushes Isak over the edge as well. Back and forth, expanded and prolonged by the other until they’re drained, exhausted, completely spent. 



---



“I forgot napkins, could you bring some?” 

“Did you only get the beer and nothing else?” 

Isak smiles and shrugs. “Maybe. But I’ve sliced the pizza at least.”

“God, I’m hungry.” Even dumps down next to him on the sofa and throws the napkins on Isak’s lap. “And thirsty. You wear me out.” 

“Aw, are you too old to keep up?” 

Even stretches for a slice of pizza and takes a large bite. “Obviously. You should get someone younger.” 

“Yeah. It’s a pity Sara is already bonded.” Isak pouts and takes a swig of beer. Leans against Even and takes a bite of his slice. 

“How are they, by the way?”  

“I got a text from Sara today, actually. They’re great. She says that Ingrid is both prettier and has better taste in movies than I have .” He rolls his eyes as he quotes her text, and Even laughs. Coos him and kisses his cheek. 

They’ve been keeping in touch, Sara and Isak. When Isak left, Sara persuaded nurse Brandrud to give her his number and one day she called. Told him that she left the clinic the day after he did, that her parents helped her to find another,  and that she’d actually found her mate.It was nice hearing from her. To be honest, Isak had felt kind of bad for just leaving her there. But right then, he just wanted to get away as soon as possible. Leave. With Even. 

They devour the rest of the pizza, clinking their bottles together several times and sharing kisses that taste of cheese and meat and beer. Comfortable in soft sweats and hoodies, still warm from the long shower they shared. 

The sofa is new, they bought it together at Ikea. It’s big and cosy, and Even said that he had been thinking about getting rid of the one in his old apartment anyway. 

Also, it felt nice to buy some stuff together. 

Isak loves it here, this place makes him feel calm. The walls in the living room are lined with Even’s drawings and some of Isak’s old posters. Isak’s dad helped them repaint, and his mum insisted that they should have the small bookshelf that originally belonged to Isak’s grandparents and together they’ve filled it with photos and trinkets and just random stuff they like. 

The tv is playing some show they’ve already seen. It doesn’t really matter, though, there are too many thoughts whirling around in their heads right now for them to focus on something new. Possibilities. How they should tell people. What they should tell them. 

They’re both private people, but this is important, they’ve spoken about it at length - that they want to challenge the perception of what a bond is, and what counts as a bond. 

Tomorrow they’ll call their families and tell them. His parents are going to be so happy for them, he knows that. Even’s too. And their friends. 

“We should throw a party, don’t you think? To celebrate this. Our bond.” 

Isak smiles, it’s almost always like this; that a thought that just started forming in his own mind is actually pronounced by Even. “I was just thinking about that.” 

“Mm. Good thinking.” 

“We should. And we should make it a big one.” 

Even holds him closer, leans against him. “Yeah. I like that.” 

“Right now though, can we just stay here? Like this?” Isak looks at him, steals another kiss. 

“We can.”