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Bittersweet Markings

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When Isak was 13, butterflies started appearing on his forearms. He’d been terrified, at first. Worried that there was something wrong with him, that he was some kind of freak. It wasn’t until his mother sat him down and explained that the butterflies were ‘gifts from his soulmate’ that he was able to calm down. It was that day that he learned how soulmate bonds worked, that whatever was drawn on his soulmate would show up on his skin, too, and vice versa.

At first, Isak thought it was beautiful. He imagined his soulmate idly doodling the beautiful butterflies while they were bored in class, or on the tram ride home from school. Isak loved watching them as they came to life, as seemingly random lines slowly formed butterflies.

Other words showed up occasionally, too. Usually homework, or to do lists on the back of his hands. Sometimes song lyrics, or fragments of poetry. Each time something new appeared, Isak’s heart jumped.

He wanted to write back, sometimes, if not just to let his soulmate know that he was there. But whenever he thought about it, Isak got nervous. He wanted to give his soulmate something as beautiful as the butterflies, but knew his art talent would never compare. For too long, Isak kept silent.

When Isak was 15, the word worthless appeared on his forearm. It was scratchy, messy. Horrible.

Without thinking, Isak grabbed a sharpie from his desk and crossed the word out, scribbling amazing underneath in his own, messy writing. He waited for his soulmate to respond, to do anything, but he didn’t.

After that point, Isak’s soulmate went silent.

Isak tried to reach out, occasionally. He’d write Nas lyrics, other fragments from songs his soulmate had introduced him to, or even just simple hello?s. There was never any response, and Isak worried that he’d messed up. That he’d ruined everything by butting in.

He missed seeing the butterflies. He missed the weird poetry, and song lyrics. He missed feeling connected to someone.

Then, one day, Isak noticed that Vilde had butterflies on her arm, too. His heart jumped—a little panicked, a little shocked—but when he looked closer, her butterflies were much simpler. Where his soulmates had been detailed, and each different than the last, Vilde’s were just simple outlines.

Isak wanted to ask Vilde about the butterflies. He wanted to know if there was a connection, if maybe she knew his soulmate. Isak was desperate for any clues, but nervous for the questions he’d get in return.

His salvation came in the form of Eva, two weeks later. Isak watched one lunch as his friend took Vilde’s arm in her hands, her touch gentle, and added another butterfly to the scattering that were already there. It was obvious that the butterflies meant something, and Isak could only hope that Eva had the answer.

He managed to stop her after school, tentatively asking if she was free to go for coffee.

“What’s up, Issy?” she asked as they took their seats at a table in the back of the KB.

“I, uh… I noticed at lunch today that you drew a butterfly on Vilde’s arm,” he said.

Eva nodded slowly. “What about it?”

“Do they mean something?” Isak blurted out. “I just… why does she have them?”

“That’s kind of a personal question, Isak,” Eva said sternly.

“I know, I’m sorry. I just…” Isak sighed. “My soulmate used to draw butterflies on their arms. I thought maybe they did it for a reason—that Vilde maybe knew them, or something.”

Eva’s expression softened instantly, and she reached across the table to take one of Isak’s hands in her own. “Oh, Isak. That’s not… It’s for self-harm.”

“What?”

“The butterflies are for self-harm,” Eva explained. “Or, rather, as a way to stop self-harming. You’re supposed to draw a butterfly every time you think about doing it.”

Isak thought back to his butterflies. They were beautiful, but they were also many. His arms had been almost covered in them at times, and it seemed that as soon as one faded it was replaced by another. Isak felt himself pale as he realized what that meant. “Oh.”

“Yeah. Sometimes, if the person is okay with it, close friends will draw butterflies, too. Like I did,” Eva said. “It’s a sign of love, and support. Saying that we understand that they’re struggling, and are there for them.”

“Do you… do you have a pen?” Isak asked, feeling a little numb.

Eva dug a sharpie out of her bag and handed it to him with a sad smile. Isak took it and uncapped it, but froze with the pen hovering inches above his clean skin. “What’re you worried about?” Eva asked quietly.

“I just don’t want to make things worse. I think, last time, I made things worse.”

“Last time?”

Isak nodded. “They wrote ‘worthless’ and I crossed it out and wrote ‘amazing’ instead. They stopped writing after that.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. I don’t want to make things even worse.”

“I’m sure you won’t.”

Isak sighed. “Yeah, okay. I’ll do it.” He took a deep breath, and then started drawing. His butterfly wasn’t nearly as beautiful as his soulmates always were, but Isak never thought it would be.

Isak sat, and waited. Waited for any sort of response. When none came, he sighed and handed the pen back to Eva. “Thanks anyway.”

“I’m sure it’ll work out, Issy. You don’t know where their head is at right now, it might just be a bad time.”

Isak nodded, but he wasn’t confident. “Yeah, maybe.”


 

Isak never got a response from his soulmate, but he kept drawing butterflies. Part of him was terrified that it was just making things worse, but a bigger part couldn’t stop imagining his soulmate alone and hurting somewhere. Isak just wanted them to know that he was there. That he cared about them, even if he knew next to nothing about them.

There was also a tiny part of Isak that was afraid his soulmate was already gone.

Isak couldn’t let himself think about that part. He couldn’t. He just kept drawing butterflies, and hoped desperately that his soulmate was still out there somewhere, alive and breathing. Finally, a week shy of Christmas break, Isak got an answer. Just one word, scribbled messily on his arm.

Why?

Isak didn’t really know how to answer that. Why was he doing it? Because he wanted his soulmate to be happy, because he hated thinking that his soulmate was hurting, because no one should ever feel alone. Isak decided that was probably his best bet for an answer.

I wanted to make sure you knew you weren’t alone.

He waited. Waited for his soulmate to answer, even though Isak knew that he probably wouldn’t. They’d never had a conversation before for a reason—his soulmate generally shut down whenever Isak made an attempt to reach out.

We’re all alone.

The words broke Isak’s heart. He wanted to argue. Wanted to call bullshit and tell his soulmate that he was always going to be there for them, so they’d never be alone, but he didn’t. After Eva explained what the butterflies meant, Isak had spent hours researching self-harm and depression, just so he’d have a small idea of what his soulmate was going through. Isak knew that he couldn’t ever feel what his soulmate was feeling, but at least he had a decent understanding of the psychology behind it. At least he knew what not to do, what would make things worse.

Though it seemed like no matter what he did, Isak only ever managed to make things worse. Still, he knew he couldn’t just sit back and let his soulmate believe that he didn’t care. That he wouldn’t be there for them if they ever wanted to talk about things.

I’ll always be here.


 

Isak kept drawing butterflies. He made sure to draw at least one a day, and it wasn’t long before his arms were covered in his own butterflies, much like they had once been with his soulmate’s. Sometimes he’d write little notes, too. Just observations.

It snowed today. Snow makes things seem so peaceful.

Does anyone actually go willingly to kose-group?

How could a teacher possibly get away with not wearing a bra to class? I can see her nipples, and it’s gross.

He never got a response, but it was okay. Isak didn’t need his soulmate to respond, he just hoped that maybe they would be able to remember that he was there for them, always, with the butterflies and notes. He didn’t really think about what other people would think about the butterflies until Vilde approached him on their first day back at school. Isak was happy to see that she had less butterflies now, just a few pale pink ones littering her wrists.

“Hey, Isak,” she said, a nervousness in her voice.

“Hi, Vilde.”

“I, um…” Vilde bit her lip, staring down at her shoes. “I don’t know how to say this without sounding weird, but I just wanted to know that I’m here for you if you ever wanted to talk.”

“Uh… thanks?” Isak asked.

“I just. I noticed your butterflies.”

Isak frowned, confused for a moment, before he realized what Vilde thought. Vilde thought that the butterflies were for him. “Oh. I, um… They’re not for me,” Isak said softly. “They’re for my soulmate.”

“Oh.” Vilde blinked a couple times. “That’s… that’s sweet of you, Isak.”

“I just want them to know I’m here, y’know?”

Vilde nodded. “I’m sure that’s really nice for them to know.”

“I’m not so sure,” Isak said. “I worry that I’m making things worse sometimes.”

“Why do you say that?”

Isak shrugged. “The few times they’ve responded, it hasn’t been very positive.”

“They’re probably just not in a good headspace,” Vilde said, reaching over to pat his shoulder gently. “They might not know it right now, but it is good to have people on your team. It’s just hard to remember that when you feel like you’re a freak, or like you’re alone in the world. Just give them time, Isak. I’m sure they’ll come around.”

“Thanks, Vilde,” Isak said genuinely. “And I’m here for you, too. If you ever want to talk.”

Vilde smiled. “Thanks.”


 

Everyone was talking about the new kid. Isak didn’t blame them, it was weird that there was someone transferring with part way through the last semester, but it got old after a while. Most of the conversations were all on bullshit rumours anyway. Speculation on why he transferred, where he was from, what his story was.

They went from the wild—he tried to jump off the roof of his old school while high as fuck—to the completely mundane—his parents moved for their jobs, and everything in between. There were even rumours that he had slept with one of his old teachers.

All and all, Isak knew a lot of stories about a guy he’d never seen and could barely remember the name of. Ethan, or maybe Even? Isak honestly wasn’t sure.

Even with all his disinterest, he couldn’t help but look for the guy in the cafeteria. Isak was fairly certain he’d stick out like a sore thumb—Nissen wasn’t that big, and it was likely the guy wouldn’t have any friends.

Isak spotted him not long after he took a seat next to Jonas. He was sitting in the back corner, closest to the door. He looked uncomfortable as two first-year girls talked his ear off. Even so, the guy was nodding along politely and smiling at them occasionally. Isak couldn’t stop watching him—couldn’t help but think that the guy was kind of gorgeous.

He had blonde hair, pushed up in a coif, and pale skin littered with random clusters of freckles. When the guy looked his way and managed to catch Isak’s eye, he noted that the guy’s eyes were pale blue. Still, Isak dropped his gaze to the table. He felt embarrassed, getting caught watching him, but not enough that he didn’t chance another look when he thought it was safe.

The guy had looked away, focused on something on the table that Isak couldn’t see, but when he lifted a hand to push a strand of hair out of his eyes, Isak caught sight of something on his arm.

Multiple somethings.

Specifically, a spattering of butterflies.

Isak’s heart jumped, but he reminded himself that it could just be another Vilde situation. The butterflies weren’t some secret thing—they were a commonly used coping mechanism for people who struggled with self-harm. Still, it felt different somehow. Isak couldn’t stop thinking that maybe, just maybe, this was the person on the other side of his connection.

In an attempt to feed his curiosity, Isak pulled a pen from his backpack and started to draw another butterfly, this one on the back of his hand. He glanced up, eyes moving to the new guy and waiting. Watching. Sure enough, his gaze shifted from whatever was on the table, to his hand with a frown.

Isak’s mouth felt dry. He was looking at his soulmate, and he was beautiful.

“Are you okay, man?” Jonas asked, pulling Isak’s attention back to the table.

He nodded, swallowing around the lump growing in his throat. “Yeah, sorry. Just got distracted. Did you see the new guy?”

“Even?” Jonas asked. “Yeah. He has biology right before me.”

Even. Isak’s heart fluttered. His soulmate’s name was Even. “Cool.”

“You sure everything’s alright?”

Isak nodded again, forcing himself to smile. “Yeah, of course!”

He pulled the arms of his hoodie down further, making sure his skin was completely covered. He didn’t want Even to see them, to be angry. He didn’t want Even thinking that Isak was going to put him on the spot and demand that they get to know each other, or anything. Isak knew that Even wanted nothing to do with him—and the fact that they now went to the same school didn’t change that.

Even if Isak wanted nothing more than to walk right over there and pull Even into the tightest hug he could manage.


 

All in all, life at Nissen didn’t really change. Isak noticed Even more, of course he did, but other than that things were about the same. He went to class, he hung out with the boys, he avoided Eskild and his over-active imagination at home. He kept drawing butterflies, and kept waiting for Even to respond.

One day, he did.

Where do you live?

Isak was a little shocked by the question. After so much silence, he wasn’t really expecting such a random question from Even. Still, it felt like progress. Isak quickly wrote back Oslo.

He waited for Even to react, to mention that they lived in the same city. He didn’t.

Isak sighed. He contemplated asking, but he didn’t want to Even to shut him out again. If all he got were random questions every couple of months, Isak would live with it. At least now he got to see Even on a near-daily basis. They didn’t talk, but Isak supposed that was no different from Even not acknowledging the butterflies. At least at school they didn’t talk because Even didn’t know Isak existed.

“Hei, Isak,” Vilde said, pulling Isak out of his thoughts. “How’re you?”

“I’m alright, how’re you?”

“Great! I actually—I’m the leader of Kose-group now.”

“Really?” Isak asked, flashing her a genuine smile. “That’s great, Vilde.”

“Yeah. I’m really excited about it. Eva and Sana are being really helpful and supportive. It’s nice.” She glanced down at her shoes, before looking back up at Isak nervously. “I actually… I was wondering if maybe you and the guys would come to the meeting on Friday? We’re really struggling to bring people in, and I’m hoping maybe people will think it’s cooler if you guys show up.”

Kose-group was about the last place Isak wanted to spend his Friday night, and he had no doubt the boys would share that opinion, but Isak couldn’t help but feel for Vilde. She looked better than she had before, and she seemed excited to be the group leader. He didn’t want to crush that excitement by being a dick. “Sure,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince the guys to come, but I’ll definitely be there.”

“Thanks, Isak!” she said, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “You’re the best.”

“Anytime, Vilde,” he replied with an easy smile. Isak was glad to see her smiling again. Even if it meant going to fucking kose-group instead of getting high on Friday like he wanted to.


 

Isak felt awkward, sitting by himself in the theatre waiting for Vilde’s group to start. The guys didn’t come, even though they promised they would, and the only people he would want to talk to were the Eva and the girls—who were too busy greeting people to bother with him. Other than them, it was mostly first-year girls. Not exactly Isak’s ideal crowd.

A few minutes shy of when the meeting was supposed to start, Even walked in.

Isak froze, gaping at him wide-eyed as his heart pounded. He tugged his sleeves further over his hands instinctively as he watched Vilde greet Even, thanking him for coming and complimenting his jean jacket. Even smiled, and thanked her politely, before heading towards the bleachers.

Heading right towards Isak.

Isak dropped his eyes to the ground, trying not to panic as Even got closer. He half expected Even to sit down next to him—if not just because they were some of the only guys present—but he didn’t. Isak watched in his peripheral vision as Even walked right past him, and dropped onto a seat directly behind him.

Isak could hear Vilde speaking as she welcomed everyone and explained that they were going to be playing some love exercises as an ice breaker, but he couldn’t focus on her. All he could focus on was Even—his soulmate—so close that Isak could feel his body heat.

When Vilde stopped talking and told them to get into pairs, Isak realized he had no idea what the hell they were supposed to be doing. He turned around, and met Even’s eyes for the first time. Well, for the first time intentionally. “Would you, uh… Could we be partners?”

Even quirked an eyebrow, but nodded with a small smile. He stood, and moved one row down to sit next to Isak. “I’m Even,” he said, holding out a hand.

“Isak.”

“Nice to meet you Isak.”

“So, uh…” Isak rubbed the back of his neck, ducking his head a little. “I don’t really know what we’re supposed to be doing—I wasn’t really paying attention, to be honest.”

Even laughed, and Isak’s heart fluttered at the sound. “That’s alright. We’re just supposed to be getting to know each other.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“So, you’re a second year, right?”

Isak nodded. “Yeah. You’re third?”

“Yeah.”

“Cool.”

“You don’t want to know why I transferred mid-year?”

Isak shrugged. “It’s not really my place to ask, is it?”

“No.” Even smiled. “Thanks.”

“So…” Isak said slowly. “What kind of music do you listen to?”

“I like Nas, you ever heard of him?”

Isak smiled, thinking of the lyrics that used to show up on his arm. “Yeah. He’s great.”

“Have a favourite song?”

Isak thought back to all the lyrics Even used to write. “I like The Message.”

“Me too!” Even said, his eyes lighting up. “I used to listen to that song on repeat.”

“It’s pretty great.”

Even nodded, still smiling, and Isak’s heart flipped in his chest. He’d wanted this for so long—to know his soulmate, to have a conversation with them, to see them smile. Except it wasn’t real. It wasn’t fair to Even, what he was doing. Isak knew that when Even inevitably found out that they were soulmates he wouldn’t be happy—he wouldn’t talk to Isak with such a carefree energy. Everything would go back to normal: Even would just ignore him.

“Are you alright?”

Isak nodded, and forced a smile. “Just tired.”

“I’m sure Vilde wouldn’t mind if you ducked out early,” Even said, looking concerned. Isak hated it—he hated that Even was looking at him like that while Isak was lying to his face.

“Yeah. I, uh, I think I might do that,” Isak said, standing and rubbing awkwardly at the back of his head. “Sorry to abandon you.”

Even smiled again. “Don’t worry about me. Hope you can get some sleep.”

“Thanks,” Isak said before starting to head towards Vilde.

“Hi Isak! Having fun?” she asked. She looked like she was having a great time, and Isak was glad. Vilde was going to make a great Kose-group leader.

“I am, but I’m not feeling so great,” he said. “I’m going to have to duck out a little early today, but I’ll come to the next one.”

“You will?”

Isak nodded. “Put me down as a member.”

“Thanks, Isak!” Vilde said, throwing her arms around his neck in a quick hug. “I’m so glad!”

“Thanks for inviting me. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye!”


 

Even started to show up more. It wasn’t like he tried to sit with Isak at lunch, or anything, but he’d always say hello and offer a smile. Sometimes, if Isak was studying by himself, Even would actually sit down to chat for a little bit. Never anything deep, or important, but conversation nonetheless. It was more than Isak thought he’d get with his soulmate, even if that little detail ate at him every time Even sat down.

Isak knew he should say something. He knew that it wasn’t fair to Even for him to keep it a secret. But Isak didn’t want to lose what he had—he didn’t want Even shutting down and ignoring him like Isak had been used to when it came to their connection.

Then, one day, Even started writing again. They were fragments of poems, beautiful sounding fragments that were part of heartbreaking poems—a detail Isak only discovered when he started to Google them.

The first made Isak hopeful.

Recently we have had our difficulties and there are many things I want to ask you.

For a moment, he thought Even wanted them to talk—he thought Even was finally going to open up about their bond and what everything meant. Isak quickly wrote back I’ll answer anything.

Even never answered.

The next made Isak less hopeful.

You wanted to be in love, and he happened to get in the way.

Isak had a feeling that he was the he in the line—even if Even couldn’t know his gender. It hurt Isak, to think that Even might’ve wanted to love, and that he had somehow ruined that. Isak hated that Even was so averse to the possibility that he could love Isak, too.

Isak didn’t write back. He didn’t know what to say.

Not long after, Even added more.

He had green eyes, so I wanted to sleep with him. Green eyes flicked with yellow, dried leaves on the surface of a pool—You could drown in those eyes, I said.

Isak froze, staring down at his forearm, where the words sprawled from his inner elbow to the inside of his wrist. He pushed his biology textbook away from himself and studied the words—tried not to think too hard about his own green eyes. About what it could mean.

Again, he didn’t respond. The words felt too personal. They weren’t for him. They were Even’s words, and it felt wrong to even be reading them—even if Isak knew that Even was aware his soulmate would be able to read them. Even just didn’t know that his soulmate was the boy he met at Kose-group.

The next day, after Even had spent all of lunch sitting with Isak and distracting him from actually doing any homework with his enthusiasm about some guy named Baz Luhrmann, another line appeared, small and messy, on his bicep.

Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.

He wanted to say It won’t ruin us, we’re meant to be together. He wanted to say It’s me. I’m the boy with the green eyes, I’m the one you smile at and joke with. He wanted to say I love you, talk to me. Choose me.

Isak said nothing.

Isak was at home, just about to leave for the Kose-group meeting (and definitely not panicking about whether or not Even would be there again) when another line came, sprawled across the back of his left hand. Big, bold letters that took up the majority of the surface.

Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside someone else.

It hurt to read. It hurt thinking about what the words could mean—was it just more commentary on how much Even hated that they were soulmates, or was there more there? Was it a fear of love in general? Isak didn’t know what to think of it, but he felt like somehow it was his fault. He felt like all of Even’s sadness was his fault.

For the first time in a long time, Isak wished he could scrub the words off his skin. He wished that he wouldn’t have to stare at them—that he wasn’t stuck with them until Even washed them away or let them fade.

Isak thought about skipping Kose, knowing that he was going to have to somehow cover his hand in case Even did decide to show up, but then he thought about Vilde. She’d been so happy that he’d shown up the first time, even when he didn’t stay for the whole thing. Vilde deserved to be happy, and if Kose did that for her, Isak wanted to support it.

So he dug through the medkit in the bathroom until he found the brace that Eskild had worn for about a week after he sprained his wrist doing yoga. Isak pulled it on, pleased to find that it covered almost everything, save the edges of some of the letters. With a sigh, he grabbed his wallet and keys before heading back to Nissen.

Even was there when he arrived, sitting in the same spot as last time. When he caught Isak’s eye, he smiled. Isak forced a smile of his own and moved to sit next to him. “Wasn’t sure you would be here.”

“I wouldn’t miss Kose-group,” Even said. “Vilde says it’s one of the most important groups.”

Isak laughed. “It’s one of the more relaxed groups, that’s for sure.” He looked down and saw that the words of the poem were covering the back of Even’s left hand, just like his own. Isak had to hold in a sigh. There were no doubts now that Even was his soulmate.

“Isak,” Even said, reaching out and taking his left hand, “what happened?”

Isak shrugged and tugged his hand back. “Sprained my wrist.”

“Yikes. Looks painful.”

“It’s not so bad.”

Before Even could say anything more, Vilde moved to the front of the room and started to pull Everyone’s attention to her. Isak let out a soft sigh.


 

After the second Kose meeting, Even started hanging around Isak more. They even exchanged numbers, and Isak discovered that Even was (shockingly) into animal memes. Their messages were filled with various baby animals doing all sorts of ridiculously adorable things, and they never failed to make Isak smile.

They also never failed to make his heart ache.

The more he got to know Even, the heavier the guilt sat on his chest. He hated lying to Even, lying to everyone, about the bandages on his wrist. He hated that he had to hide who he was to Even, that he was selfish enough to keep the whole thing from him just so they could continue their friendship. Isak was terrified how Even would react when it all inevitably came out, but he knew that each day brought him closer to finding out.

Especially when he asked about the poem on Even’s hand one day at lunch, his curiosity finally getting the better of him as he played with the bandages on his own hand.

“I was frustrated,” Even admitted with a shrug. He sounded so at ease, so relaxed. “I don’t really like the whole idea of soulmates.”

“No?” Isak asked, trying to keep the hurt out of his voice. It was as he had expected.

“No. Why should the universe get to decide who I’m supposed to be with? Shouldn’t that be my decision?”

Isak shrugged, but kept his mouth shut. He didn’t want his voice betraying the hurt squeezing around his heart.

“I just—” Even sighed. “I guess I just don’t want to meet this person and be expected to love them just like that. I want to know them. I want to figure out if I like them on my own.”

“Why do you write on your arms, then?” Isak asked.

“I’ve been writing on my arms since I was seven,” Even said, scowling. “It’s just something else my soulmate took away from me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I used to use my skin like a canvas—a diary, even. It was my place to just write down thoughts or doodle things that made me happy. My soulmate came along and tried to make everything about them. I couldn’t do anything without them making comments about it.”

“Oh,” Isak said, swallowing nervously and dropping his eyes to the table. “I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm.”

“Maybe not, but I still hate it. I hate that I can’t even write a shopping list on my palm without them knowing exactly what I’m getting.”

“Sorry.”

“Do you know who your soulmate is, then?” Even asked, a teasing tone back in his voice.

“No,” Isak said thickly. “My soulmate doesn’t write.”

It wasn’t the truth, exactly, but it was how Isak felt. Because even when Even wrote, the words were never meant for Isak.

“You okay?”

“Fine,” Isak said, cringing a little at the harshness in his voice. He stood abruptly, gathering up his things as Even watched. “I gotta go, sorry. Forgot that I was supposed to be meeting Jonas to talk about the math homework.”

“Oh, okay. See you later?”

Isak nodded. “Later.”


 

It was becoming a struggle for Isak to keep the tension out of his relationship with Even. He felt like a liar, and knowing for sure that Even hated the idea of soulmates just solidified how badly things would blow up in Isak’s face when the whole thing inevitably came to light. There were days where he thought about just telling Even, just getting it over with before they got closer, but then Even would do something, or say something, that reminded Isak why he’d ever kept it from him in the first place.

He was selfish. He was weak. He just wanted to know what it’d be like to have a soulmate who might love him, too. Isak knew it wasn’t fair to Even, but he couldn’t help himself.

It was going well for him, too. There were a couple awkward moments, a couple close calls where sleeves would slip, but Isak managed to keep the lie going.

Then, Even pulled out a pen at lunch.

“What are you doing?” Isak asked nervously.

Even shrugged. “Drawing.”

“Want some paper?” he asked, trying to keep his voice teasing and not worried.

“Nah. Thanks though.”

Isak nodded, and watched in stilted horror as Even started drawing. On his right hand.

Isak quickly pulled his own right hand under the table, trying to hide his nervousness from Even as he doodled on his hand. It wasn’t anything fancy, or important, seeing as he was using his non-dominant hand, but it was there. And Isak could feel it on his own skin, too.

After a minute Even stopped, and turned his attention back to Isak. He didn’t say anything, but his expression darkened just slightly. “Isak, show me your hand.”

Isak’s heart was pounding against his ribcage. This was it. Everything was going to come out. Even was going to see that they were soulmates, that Isak knew they were soulmates, and that he had tried to hide it from him. Everything that Isak had to come to know and love about Even was about to change, to be tainted by his lies. Isak was going to hurt Even.

Slowly, Isak pulled his right hand from under the table. He heard Even hiss in a breath, and it felt like a knife dragging across his chest. “It is you,” Even said.

“It’s me.”

“How long have you known?”

“Since your first day,” Isak said quietly.

Even opened his mouth like he was going to say something, and then froze. After a moment, he frowned. “The butterfly on the back of my hand. That was to check?”

Isak nodded.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t want anything to do with me before you showed up at Nissen. Why would that change?”

“I deserved to know.”

Again, Isak nodded. “I was selfish.”

“Selfish?”

“I didn’t want you to reject me in person too,” Isak said in a rush before standing and all but running from the cafeteria. Everything hurt, and he just wanted to get out of there before he broke down for the whole damn school to see. He didn’t want to make an even bigger fool of himself.


 

Isak knew that he was starting to push his 10%. He hadn’t gone since Even had finally found out about them, nearly a week earlier. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to care. Isak just couldn’t muster up the energy to face Even, even just in passing. He was embarrassed, he was hurt, and Even had gone quiet again. No more quotes, no more drawings. Not even a shopping list.

Part of Isak was glad. There were times he wished he could scrub off the marks that were already on his skin—part of him wanted to forget Even entirely. Another part of him wanted to fill the blank skin with apologies, but Isak doubted anything he could say would make the situation better. He knew he’d probably just make things worse again.

So, he stayed home and watched Netflix for hours without paying attention to whatever was playing. He tried to sleep, and spent hours upon hours tossing and turning. He avoided Eskild at all costs, and brushed off the texts he got from Jonas, and Eva, and even Vilde.

Isak knew he’d have to go back to school soon, but he wasn’t about to do it until he had no other options.

“Isak?” Eskild called, softly knocking on his door. Isak groaned. “I’m coming in, baby gay.”

“Eskild, I’m fine,” Isak said, as his door was pushed open. Eskild’s eyes darted around his room, which was admittedly quite a mess.

“What’s going on, Isak?”

“Nothing.”

“C’mon. You can talk to me.”

“I don’t want to talk.”

Eskild sighed. “I know. But it might help.”

“I doubt it.”

“Try?”

“Just fucking leave it alone, Eskild. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine, Isak. You haven’t gone to school in like a week, you’ve barely left your room in like a week. You’re clearly upset. Is it your soulmate again?”

Isak flinched. He’d made the mistake of telling Eskild about Even a while back, when he was really stressed about the butterflies and felt like he’d royally fucked up. Now, Isak wished he’d just kept it to himself. “It doesn’t matter.”

“What happened, Isak?”

“I fucking found him, okay?” Isak snapped. “I found him, and he hates me.”

“You found him? When?” Eskild asked. “How?”

“He transferred to Nissen over a month ago, and I noticed that he had the same markings as me on his arms.”

“Oh. And you didn’t tell him?”

“No. Why would I? My soulmate has never wanted anything to do with me, and I wasn’t about to have him tell me that to my goddamn face, too.” Isak sighed. “I thought I could just wait… test the waters a bit before I had to worry about telling him.”

“So, what changed? What happened?”

“I got to know him. And I really fucking liked him, and I knew it was stupid to keep the soulmate thing to myself, but I didn’t want to lose him.” He dropped his gaze to his bedspread, picking idly at it. “Now I’ve just royally fucked everything even more.”

“Have you talked to him since?”

“No?” Isak asked, cringing a little at the bitterness of his tone. He was annoyed, but it wasn’t like it was Eskild’s fault. “I told you, he fucking hates me.”

“Maybe he just needs more time.”

“He told me he hates the idea of soulmates, Eskild. Flat out, no nonsense. He hates that he’s stuck with someone that the universe chose for him.”

“A lot of people think like that, baby gay. It’s hard to accept that you’re destined to be someone before you meet them. But he got to know you first, didn’t he?”

“Yeah?”

“So, technically he did get to choose. He knew you before he knew you were soulmates. Did he like you then?”

“As a friend, yeah.” Isak thought back to the poem about the green-eyed boy. He’d always wondered if it was him Even seemed to be infatuated with, or if there was someone else. “But I don’t know about any more than that.”

“Maybe you need to ask him.”

Isak shook his head. “I don’t want to make him angrier.”

“He might not even be angry. Maybe he’s starting to realize that you had plenty of reasons to be scared to tell him,” Eskild said. “Maybe you need to tell him that you were falling for him, and that made it harder.”

“I just don’t want to push him further away.”

“I know, but you can’t avoid him forever, either. You’ve gotta think of yourself, Issy.”

“Okay.”

“Yeah?”

Isak nodded. “I’ll do it. Tomorrow.”

“Good,” Eskild said, pulling him in for a quick hug. “I’m proud of you. And I’m sure things will work out, in the end.”

“I hope so.”


Isak didn’t talk to Even the next day, even though he went to school for the first time, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. If Even was at school, he was damn good at being scarce, because Isak didn’t see him once. The nervousness he felt subsided by the time his last class rolled around, but it was replaced by disappointment. Worry. He wanted to write, to ask Even if he was okay. To tell him they needed to talk.

He didn’t.

Isak went home, tried to avoid Eskild, and slept. Then, he did it all the next day. When almost a week had passed, and Isak still hadn’t seen any sign of Even, he’d reached his limit.

We need to talk, he wrote on his wrist.

I have nothing to say to you, Even wrote back, almost instantly. Isak tried to hide his bitterness—of course Even was quick to reply when it was to tell Isak to fuck off.

Well I have stuff I need to say to you, he wrote, then added, Please.

Fine. Meet you at Nissen in 20.

Isak’s heart jumped into his throat. He looked around his room, as if expecting Even to just show up and see it’s cluttered mess, before glancing down at himself and swearing. He had already put on sweatpants and a hoodie, and Isak was almost positive that his hair was a mess from all the times he’d pushed his hands through it trying to muster the courage to write to Even.

In a desperate attempt to both not be late and not look like shit, Isak pulled on the same jeans he’d worn to school that day and a jacket, before pulling a beanie over his hair. He didn’t look great, but it would have to be good enough. It wasn’t like he was trying to impress Even, anyway.

Isak tried to keep himself calm as he made his way to Nissen, but he couldn’t help looking down at his phone every ten minutes. He wondered, briefly, if it would’ve been better to text Even. Instead of using the connection he hated to try and get his attention. Isak forced himself not to question it, not to regret it.

When he arrived at Nissen, Even was already there in the courtyard, waiting on a bench and scowling down at his phone. Isak had hoped he’d arrive first, but knew that he should just be glad that Even showed at all. He made his way over quickly, trying to swallow his nerves.

“Hey,” he said awkwardly once he reached the bench, standing in front of it.

“Hi.”

“I…” Isak swallowed nervously. “I guess I wanted to apologize, first. I know I should’ve told you when I figured out we were soulmates.”

“Yeah, you should’ve.”

Isak’s anger spiked at the dismissive tone in Even’s voice. “Yeah, well, can you really blame me for not?”

“Excuse me?”

“All I ever got from you was hostility. No matter what I did, you were just… vicious. Of course I wouldn’t be jumping at the opportunity to have you act the same way to my face.”

“You had no place butting in.”

“Maybe, but I was fucking worried about you. I had no idea what was going on, who you were, how old you were. All I knew was that I had a friend who put butterflies on her skin so she didn’t hurt herself.” Isak huffed out a breath. “I was told by her that getting butterflies from other people was comforting. She said that it was a reminder that someone was out there for you to turn to, always. Forgive me if I thought you might’ve appreciated the gesture a little bit.”

“I didn’t need your pity.”

“It wasn’t fucking pity, Even. It was concern. I just wanted to know you were okay.”

“Why?”

“What?”

“Why did you care?” Even asked.

“You’re my soulmate. But even if you weren’t, you were a person who was hurting and possibly alone. I wanted you to feel like you had someone to turn to.”

“You had no idea what was going on.”

“No. Because you refused any attempts I made to reach out to you.”

“I didn’t want a soulmate.”

“Well, you got one,” Isak spit. “You told me once that you wanted to choose who you ended up with. You got to know me before you knew we were soulmates—would you have chosen me?”

“What?”

Isak sighed. “Would you have chosen Isak, if soulmates didn’t exist?”

There was a pause, and then Even quietly said, “No.”

Isak felt his heart shatter at the words. He’d been so hopeful, so sure that they had something. He’d been so optimistic that he was the green-eyed boy Even’s poem had talked about. “Oh,” he said. “Okay. Then I’ll just leave you alone.”

“What?”

“You wanted to choose who you get to be with,” Isak said, “I’m letting you do that. If you didn’t feel that way about me before you knew, I’m not going to sit here and force you to pretend like you do now.”

“Seriously?”

Isak forced himself to nod. “Have a good life. Take care of yourself.”

“You, too,” Even said slowly. Isak nodded again, and then turned and walked away from Even forever.

Chapter Text

Isak felt numb. Everything he’d feared when he thought about meeting Even, about finally finding his soulmate, had proved to be just a shadow of how bad things really were. He felt stupid, he felt naïve, to think that Even might’ve actually felt the same way about him. Isak had thought that maybe the lingering touches, and gentle teasing meant that Even was interested. He hated that he had been wrong.

He wanted to stay home and wallow, but Isak knew that his 10% couldn’t take it, and he knew better than to let his grades suffer over something so… well, to let his grades suffer because of a boy. So he went to school, and he avoided even looking at Even, and he tried not to let his friends see how badly he was hurting.

Eskild stopped asking what happened, after a while. After Isak just kept pushing back, and telling him that nothing was going on. Isak could feel his worry still, especially on the nights he couldn’t sleep and Eskild would run into him at three or four in the morning, half-way to the bathroom. Isak knew he looked like shit at those times. He also knew that there wasn’t much he could do about it.

Still, Isak knew there was only so long he could avoid his friend’s curiosity. Though, he had to admit he didn’t really expect Vilde to be the one to approach him first.

“Isak?” she asked nervously, slipping into a chair next to him during lunch one day. Isak had gone to the library, partially to try and catch up on missed work, and partially to avoid conversations like the one he was sure to come.

“Yeah?”

“Is everything okay?”

Isak forced a smile. “Of course.”

“It’s just… you’ve seemed a little down lately, and you haven’t been coming to Kose-group,” she said. “Neither has Even.”

“I’m sorry, Vilde. I just got really behind in schoolwork. I promise I’ll try and come to the next one.”

“I don’t mind if you don’t come,” she said quickly. “I just wanted to make sure that you were doing okay.”

“I’m okay,” Isak said softly. “I’ll be okay.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Isak shrugged. “It’s nothing, really. Just stuff with my soulmate.”

“Are they hurting again?”

“No,” Isak said, shaking his head. “Things are just really complicated. But it’ll be fine, don’t worry!”

“Okay. I’m here if you ever need to talk.”

Isak nodded. “Thanks, Vilde.”

Vilde smiled, and reached across the table to squeeze his hand gently. “Can I draw a butterfly for you?”

“I would like that, but it’s probably not a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“My soulmate probably wouldn’t like it.”

“It’s not their skin,” Vilde argued. “They’ve littered your skin with butterflies before, and I’m sure many other things. You deserve to have things for you, too.”

Isak sighed, but realized she had a point. And he appreciated that she cared enough to ask, but not so much that she felt the need to pry into everything until he was uncomfortable. So he nodded, and placed his arm out on the table for her to access. Vilde smiled, and pulled a pink pen from her bag. She leaned over his arm and started drawing, smooth strokes that slowly unveiled a cute but simple butterfly.

“Thanks, Vilde.”

“Anytime, Isak. Take care of yourself.”

“I will, thanks.”

Shortly after Vilde left, words appeared on his skin, covering her beautiful butterfly with strokes of ugly black.

I don’t want your butterflies.

Tears sprung to Isak’s eyes. Anger, frustration, hurt. He hated that Even could make everything about himself, yet complain about how much he hated that Isak apparently did the same thing. He hated that Even ruined Vilde’s kind gesture. He hated that Even wouldn’t give him a goddamn chance.

And he was so, so fucking tired.

It wasn’t fucking for you.


 

“Dude, are you sure you’re okay?” Jonas asked one day after school, a couple weeks after everything had gone to shit. They were smoking with the boys, all lounging in the skate park but no one really up to falling on their asses. It should’ve been nice, and Isak normally would’ve enjoyed himself. He hadn’t been enjoying much of anything lately, though.

Instead of answering, he just shrugged. Isak didn’t have the energy to come up with excuses.

“What’s going on, man?” Jonas asked again.

“My soulmate doesn’t want me,” Isak said. He could feel Jonas staring at the side of his head. Shocked, confused, concerned. Isak didn’t blame him, they’d barely talked about the soulmate thing in all the years they’d known each other. Jonas had asked about the butterflies, and occasionally pointed out a quote he knew, but they were always a little disconnected from the whole thing.

“What do you mean?”

Isak sighed, and explained what happened with Even. He tried not to think about the fact that he was also admitting to having a male soulmate, focused more on filling Jonas in on all the crap that had happened between them, and Even’s ultimate confession that he wouldn’t choose Isak.

“What? That’s some bullshit, man,” Jonas said, handing him the joint.

Isak took it, rolling it between his fingers for a moment before inhaling deeply. “Yeah, well, it is what it is.”

“No, that’s seriously shit. He shouldn’t get to just shove you around like that.”

“I don’t know what you expect me to do about it, Jonas. He made his choice.”

“What about your choice? What about how you feel, Is?” Jonas asked. “From what you’ve told me, all this guy does is put his feelings first and accuse you of butting into his ‘personal’ life. Which is also bull, by the way, if he didn’t want you to see it, he could’ve just stopped putting it on his skin.”

“Whatever, it doesn’t matter. I’m not going to fight him to give me a chance.”

“You should.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s your soulmate!”

“Yeah, well, it hurts too fucking much, okay? I hate it. I hate being rejected by him over and over, and it’s not fucking fair. I can’t do it again.”

“So, what? You’re just giving up on him. On both of you?”

“Yeah. I guess so.”

“And you’re content to live your life without a soulmate, even though you know who he is and how you feel about him?”

“Yeah.”

“Alright.”

“Alright?”

“Yeah, I’m not going to force you to do anything you don’t wanna do,” Jonas said. “But if you ever want me to give him a piece of my mind, I certainly will. What a prick.”

“It’s not his fault.”

“It is his fault, Isak. He’s being insensitive, and you need to stop excusing everything he does just because he might’ve been hurting one time. You’re hurting, too.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Still. You don’t always have to put him first.”

“I know.”


 

Isak was nervous about going to Kose-group. He knew Even had stopped going, Vilde had said as much, but there was still something eating at the back of his mind that worried this would be the meeting that Even decided to show up again. It would match Isak’s luck.

Even wasn’t there, and Isak felt like he could breathe again. He smiled a Vilde as he took a seat, glad to see her laughing and enjoying herself as she organized everyone alongside Eva and Sana. There were no butterflies on her skin, now, and it made Isak happy to see it.

The goal of the night’s meeting was to organize everyone into groups for the following week’s baking duties. Isak was tempted to mention to Vilde that she really didn’t want him cooking anything, but didn’t want to burst her bubble, either. He figured he could always buy something from the store, or ask Eskild to help him if he was desperate.

Vilde was slowly making her way through the members of the group, pairing people up seemingly randomly. Isak watched as some of the first-year girls looked forlornly at their friends as they were forced to separate and pair with people they didn’t know.

When she finally reached his name, Isak held his breath. The chances weren’t huge, but he was Vilde’s friend, and up until a couple weeks prior he had been friends with Even. She probably saw Isak being there as a favour, and he worried that she’d try and make it up to him by putting him with someone he was familiar with.

Sure enough, “Isak, we’ve paired you with Even. He’s not here today, but I’m sure you can let him know?”

Isak smiled and nodded, but swallowed thickly around the lump growing in his throat. He struggled to focus on what she was saying through the rest of the, thankfully short, meeting. Once things wrapped up, Isak lingered in the auditorium, waiting for everyone to clear out so he could talk to Vilde in private.

“Vilde?” he asked, a little nervously. She turned away from Eva and Sana, throwing a thousand-watt smile his way.

“Hi Isak! Thanks for coming today!”

“Of course. I just, I actually had something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“What’s up?”

“I can’t… Even and I can’t be a pair.”

Vilde’s smile fell, and it was immediately replaced by a concerned frown. “Did something happen?”

“It’s a long story,” Isak said, “but Even won’t want to be my partner.”

“I’m sorry, Isak,” Vilde said sadly. “I thought you were friends.”

“I know. We were. It’s totally fine. I just… could I switch groups?”

“Of course,” Vilde said quickly. “I’ll talk to the other groups, see if anyone is willing to switch and get back to you. If not, you can always be my partner!”

“Thanks, Vilde.”

“Anytime.” She opened her mouth as if she was going to say something, then closed it again. Isak watched her bite her lip nervously, and then she blurted, “Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not really,” Isak admitted. “It’s kind of a huge mess.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Isak. You guys seemed to get along really well.”

“Yeah,” Isak said sadly. “We did.”


 

Isak felt so numb. Nothing made him happy anymore, or angry. Not even really sad. He was just… going through life. It almost felt like he was waiting for something, but Isak knew that there was nothing to wait for. Even wasn’t going to miraculously change his mind.

He hated that it was affecting him so much. He hated that he felt like shit over Even, over losing his soulmate. Isak didn’t want his happiness to depend on someone else, and logically he knew that it was ridiculous that he was letting Even’s rejection destroy his life, but he couldn’t help it.

Isak would never admit it to anyone, but he’d always loved the idea of having a soulmate. Even growing up with parents who ended up hating each other, he couldn’t help but dream that his soulmate would be different. He thought that having a soulmate meant there’d always be someone who would be there for you.

Now, Isak felt stupid. He felt ridiculous. He felt like he should’ve taken his parent’s failed marriage as a warning. Soulmates didn’t always work out, and they were far from dependable.

Isak did his best to not let his heartbreak completely take over his life. He stopped skipping classes, stopped ignoring Eskild. He did all his homework, and went out when they boys asked him to. He put on as happy a face as he could manage, and dealt with it.

Mostly, he tried not to look for Even at school. It just hurt, seeing him. Every time was like a slap in the face—a reminder that he wasn’t good enough. That Even would never love him. Isak thought it’d get better, with time.

It didn’t.

It hurt just as much every single time. Isak took to keeping his eyes focused on the table at lunch as much as possible, to keeping his head down in the hallways. Anything that increased the likeliness of him not having to see Even. He knew that it worried Jonas, but Isak always brushed the concern off with fake smiles and reassurances.

Two months after Even rejected him, something appeared on the back of his left hand. Neat, careful. Not anything Even would’ve written.

425 05 636

A phone number. Someone had written a phone number on Even’s hand. Isak’s heart broke a little more.


 

“Is that a phone number?” Magnus asked at lunch, as loudly and obnoxiously as always.

Isak pulled the sleeve of his hoodie down farther, covering the stupid numbers as best he could. “Yes.”

“Dude!” Magnus all-but shouted. “You got a number? From who?”

“Drop it Magnus,” Isak grumbled, eyes darting around the cafeteria to make sure no one was paying attention. Even was sitting two tables over with a group of third years Isak sort-of recognized as drama kids. Their eyes met briefly before Isak dropped his gaze back to the table.

“No way. I want all the details—who the fuck wants to go out with you?”

“Seriously, stop.”

“C’mon. Don’t be shy, Issy,” Magnus teased.

“They’re not for me!” Isak snapped, slamming his hands down on the table as he stood. “So just fucking drop it, okay?”

Isak practically ran out of the cafeteria. He felt like he was going to be sick as he made his way quickly through the halls. He could hear Magnus calling his name, questioning him, but everything sounded like he was underwater. By the time Isak made it to the bathroom, he had barely enough time to push his way into a stall before he started vomiting.

Once all the contents of his stomach were flushed away, Isak sat with his back to the stall door and his head on his knees. He was cold—shivering even in his multiple layers. He felt like shit, and his chest still hurt, and his mouth tasted like vomit, and he felt a bit like he couldn’t breathe.

Someone knocked on the stall, making him jump, and then a voice quietly asked, “Are you okay?”

Isak wanted to tell them he was fine, or tell them to fuck off, but he was too focused on his breathing. He’d never had asthma before, but no matter what he did, Isak couldn’t seem to draw a full breath. He stood on shaky legs and pulled the stall door open.

Even was standing on the other side, looking annoyingly concerned.

Isak groaned and shoved past him, moving to the sink and turning the cold water on. He splashed some on his face quickly before leaning his elbows on the counter. “Isak?” Even asked again.

“Just get the fuck out of here,” Isak forced out. He clutched at his chest, still desperately trying to pull in breaths.

“I think… I’m pretty sure you’re having a panic attack.”

“I’m fine, Even. Just leave me alone.”

“You should sit down.” Even moved closer, reaching for Isak’s elbow.

“Get the hell away from me!” he shouted, standing up straight so he could shove Even back. Isak regretted the move almost immediately as his vision blurred briefly, and black spots started dancing in the corner of his vision. He couldn’t tell if the room was swaying, or if he was.

The next thing Isak knew, Even’s hands were firmly on his forearms. Isak wanted to push him off—his touch felt like it burned—but he couldn’t. He felt like, without Even’s help, he would fall over. So he let Even lead him over to the wall, and then slid down until his ass hit the cold tile of the bathroom floor.

Even crouched down in front of him. “You need to put your head between your legs.”

Isak did as he was told, leaning forward and putting his head between his knees. He focused on his breathing, and the soft circles Even was rubbing into his back. Part of Isak hated that he was doing that—wanted to push Even far away. A bigger part relished in the comfort that came from the touch.

After a while, Isak wasn’t sure how long, his breathing returned to normal. The pain in his chest subsided a bit, and Isak leaned back against the wall. He still felt like shit. His mouth still tasted like vomit, and now he was covered in a cold sweat. And he had a headache from hell.

“Are you okay?” Even asked softly.

Isak glared at him. A silent what the fuck do you think?

“Is this because of me?” Even asked instead.

Isak rolled his eyes. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m fine.” Isak stood up, using the wall to help him as he tested how he felt. When the room didn’t start spinning, Isak counted it as a success.

“Let me—”

“Don’t touch me,” Isak said bitterly, pushing past Even. When he reached the door to the bathroom he chanced a glance back at Even. He looked worried. Maybe even a little guilty. “Have fun on your date.”


 

There is no date.

The words showed up less than an hour after Isak’s apparent panic attack, scrawled messily on his wrist. Isak had gone home, too tired and sore to be bothered with the rest of his classes. He’d almost fallen asleep when he felt the words appear.

Isak stared down at them, not sure how he felt about them. Angry, mostly. He wasn’t sure why Even felt the need to tell him that there was no date. Isak didn’t care if he went on dates. Even made his choice—and Isak wasn’t it.

For the first time, Isak was the one to ignore Even.

He figured that, as always, Even would go back to ignoring him in no time. It was what Isak was used to, and what he’d come to expect. His soulmate was just… not there. That was life.

Are you sure you’re okay?

They showed up at lunch—Isak felt them in the middle of Jonas’ story about Eva’s last party. He didn’t dare look. Not until he was safely in his next class and sure no one was watching. The words just made him angry. Why did Even suddenly care about his wellbeing? Isak didn’t want his fucking concern. Not when he knew it wasn’t genuine. Even probably just felt bad about the panic attack.

He didn’t write back. Maybe Even would know how it felt, for once, to be ignored by someone that’s supposed to love you.

Isak expected Even to give up. He didn’t. Instead, he got more annoying. More persistent.

Do you get a lot of panic attacks?

Have you been sleeping okay?

Do you have people you can talk to?

Isak couldn’t deal with it—he could barely handle the whiplash he was feeling from Even’s sudden flip. He couldn’t understand why Even suddenly cared, and each message just made him hurt more. Because Even was concerned, sure, but he still wasn’t Isak’s. Still wouldn’t ever be Isak’s.

It took about a week for Isak to hit his breaking point. He cornered Even after lunch and dragged him by the wrist to one of the bathrooms. “You need to stop,” Isak said once they were inside, crossing his arms over his chest and looking over Even’s right shoulder.

“Stop what?”

“Stop writing. Stop pretending to care.”

“I do care.”

“Bullshit,” Isak spit. “Just… stay out of my life, Even.”

“I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“Why?”

“We were friends.”

Isak rolled his eyes. “Barely.”

“Just because I don’t want a soulmate doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to you, Isak.”

“It’s none of your business what happens to me anymore.”

“You look like shit,” Even said bluntly. “I can see you trying to hide it around your friends, but as soon as they’re gone you just go back to walking around with this blank expression on your face. I was worried.”

“Don’t be, I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine, Isak.”

“Whatever, Even. It’s not your problem. Just leave me alone.”

“You should talk to someone. The school doctor maybe.”

Isak rolled his eyes. “I’m not doing that.”

“Mental health is important—”

“Whatever, Even.”

“Isak, please,” Even said, grabbing his wrist before he could leave. “I just want to know that you’re okay. That you’re taking care of yourself.”

“It’s not for you to be worried about.”

“I can still care about you,” Even argued. “I don’t want a soulmate, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care what happens to mine.”

“I’m fine,” Isak said again.

“I’m sorry,” Even blurted. “I’m sorry that I can’t be what you want. Just please, don’t let me ruin your life.”

Isak didn’t know what to say to that. The last thing he expected from Even was an apology. It caught him off guard, along with the sincerity in Even’s eyes. So Isak did the only thing he could think to do in that moment.

He ran.


 

The apology just made everything hurt more. Maybe Even was sorry, maybe he did have reasons why he didn’t want a soulmate, but that didn’t make the rejection any easier to swallow. It didn’t make the thought of living his whole life without his soulmate any better. Maybe it was a little selfish, to want Even to forget whatever it was that made him hate soulmates so much.

Isak figured he was allowed to be a little selfish sometimes.

Even so, he tried to make it seem like things were okay at school—tried to believe things were okay even though his heart still ached every time he saw Even. He still wasn’t sleeping much at night, but Isak did his best to not look like a zombie as he walked the halls. Part of him just didn’t want Even pestering him again, another part wanted Even to think he’d moved on.

Part of him wanted Even to hurt a little, too.

Even started writing again. Not to Isak directly. He just started using his skin as a canvas like he used to—lyrics, poetry, small doodles. Isak was torn between happiness that Even was apparently comfortable enough to do it again, and hurt because it was just a reminder that he was something Isak could never have.

Isak kept wearing long-sleeved shirts and hoodies and sweatshirts, even as winter gave way to the warmer months and everyone pulled out their summer gear. Even at home, he tried to stay covered up. Isak didn’t like looking at the marks. He didn’t like being reminded how hard he’d fallen for Even in the short time they’d been friends.

Sometimes, Isak tried to not even look at what was on his skin. He didn’t want to read the lyrics. He didn’t want to know what poem fragments Even was quoting. But he couldn’t help it.

Usually his resolve broke in the shower, where he couldn’t hide the marks even if he wanted to. He’d read every word, study every picture. Sometimes the words were sad, other times they seemed almost hopeful.

Then, one day, Can we talk?

It was written in bold, black letters on the inside of his right wrist, and Isak froze as soon as his eyes scanned the words. Talk. What could Even possibly want to talk about? What more was there to say?

Isak wasn’t sure if he wanted to talk, or if he’d be emotionally able to handle whatever Even had to say. Isak knew that he wouldn’t be able to take much more rejection. Still, a tiny part of him was filled with a little hope. What if Even had changed his mind?

So, despite his better judgement, Isak hopped out of the shower and made his way quickly to his bedroom. Once there, he pulled a pen out of his desk drawer and quickly wrote, Okay.

Meet you at the KB next to the school in an hour?

An hour. Isak glanced down at himself, still dripping wet. It’d be a tight squeeze, but he knew he could probably make it. He underlined Okay to let Even know he was fine with it.

Just under an hour later, Isak was waiting inside the KB at a table in the far back, his hands wrapped around a warm coffee cup and his eyes trained on the door. Not too long after Isak sat down, Even walked in. Isak hated that his heart still flipped, he hated the hope that was settling itself in his chest.

Isak watched as Even scanned the room. When their eyes met, he offered a small smile that Isak forced himself to return. Even moved to get himself a coffee, and before Isak really had a chance to process it, he was sliding into the seat across from him.

“Hi,” Even said.

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“Fine,” Isak said. “What did you want to talk about?”

“I think I owe you an explanation,” Even said, running his finger over the rim of his coffee cup. “I know it won’t make the situation any better, but you deserve to know my reasons why, at the very least.”

Isak nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“I’m bipolar,” Even said. It looked like it scared him to say it, like maybe he expected Isak to freak out.

He did his best to keep his expression neutral, silently encouraging Even to continue. Isak really hoped he wasn’t about to try and use his mental illness as an excuse to push Isak away. There were plenty people with mental illnesses who lived perfectly happy lives with their soulmates.

“For most of my life, I’ve struggled to feel in control of anything. Everything was decided for me. Where we lived, what medications I took and how often I took them, what schools I went to. Even my emotions weren’t always my choice because of my illness. Then I was told that I wouldn’t even get to choose who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I hated it. I just wanted to have one aspect of my life that was my choice. So for me, that became art. Writing. I used to always use my skin as a canvas, but then you started showing up and I felt like that was taken away from me, too.

I realize now that the way I handled things before we met wasn’t fair to you,” Even said. “I was rude. I was… spiteful. I took it all out on you, despite the fact that you weren’t in control of it either. I’m sorry for that.”

“I never meant to make you feel like you weren’t in control,” Isak said. “I wouldn’t have written if you would’ve just asked me not to. Instead you were just mean.”

“I know. I see that now.” Even sighed. “I wasn’t in a good place, when you first started drawing butterflies.”

“I know. I guess I’m sorry, too. I thought it would help. Instead, I just made things worse.” Isak dropped his eyes to the table, chewing on his bottom lip. “I never meant to make things worse.”

“You didn’t,” Even said. “I… I know I was an asshole about it, but it did help a little bit. It was nice to know someone was thinking about me, even if I didn’t like the whole concept.”

“I didn’t mean to freak out about that phone number,” Isak said after a moment of awkward silence. “I want you to be happy, I want you to find someone.”

“There… it wasn’t a girl’s phone number, Isak. It was my new therapist’s office number.”

“What?”

“I shouldn’t have written it on my hand. I knew what it would look like, I knew what you’d think.”

“Why did you, then?”

Even shrugged. “I don’t know. I was angry, I guess.”

“Because I didn’t tell you?”

Even nodded.

“That’s not fair. I didn’t tell you because I was terrified how you would react. Look what happened when you found out!”

“I know. I know that. I’m sorry.”

“Why do you have to keep hurting me? It’s not fair. I didn’t ask for this.”

“I’m sorry,” Even said again.

“What do you want from me, Even?” Isak asked. “Because I can’t do this. I can’t keep living like this. You can’t just come and care about me when you think I’m upset and then fuck off. It just makes things worse.”

“I don’t know what I want,” Even admitted. “I thought I wanted to live my own life, I thought I wanted nothing to do with you. But I can’t not care about you, either.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I miss hanging out with you, talking to you,” Even explained. “I was so fucking happy when I finally got to talk to you at Kosegroup, and then we started hanging out and you were amazing, Isak.”

“You said you didn’t want me,” Isak said, shaking his head. “You told me you wouldn’t have chosen me if soulmates didn’t exist.”

“I know.” Even paused, staring into Isak’s eyes. “I lied.”

“You… what?”

“I would’ve chosen you.”

“I don’t…why would you…?”

“I was just so angry. I wanted to hurt you, and I still didn’t want a soulmate.”

Isak couldn’t believe him. He couldn’t even really process the words, just that Even had intentionally hurt him. Again. He expected to feel hurt—and maybe he did, somewhere deep down—but really all he felt was angry. Irrationally, overwhelmingly angry. “Fuck you,” he spit, standing from the table abruptly.

“Isak—”

“No. Fuck you, Even. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m not listening to your bullshit. I’m not letting you take advantage of me, and I’m certainly not about to sit here and listen to empty apologies. Go fuck yourself and stay the hell out of my life.”

Isak didn’t give him the chance to respond. He high-tailed it out of the café, trying to ignore the adrenaline pumping through his veins. He didn’t even know if he believed Even, but the thought of it being true was just… Isak couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe that Even could do that, hurt him like that, with such ease.


 

Apologies were littering Isak’s skin. I’m sorrys, Please forgive mes, I made a mistakes.

Isak hated it. Hated that he couldn’t escape Even’s empty apologies no matter how much he tried. No matter how many times he wrote stop or go away. Even was persistent, and there wasn’t anything Isak could do about it.

Jonas was concerned, Isak could tell, and he knew his best friend’s concern would only be worse if Jonas could actually see what was hidden under the sleeves of his many hoodies. Patches of black, where he desperately tried to completely cover Even’s words, covered both his arms.

Part of Isak wanted to talk to Jonas about what was going on, if not just to get some sort of idea of how the hell he was supposed to handle things. But he was worried how his friend would react. Isak didn’t want to make a scene, he didn’t want anyone to go yell at Even for him. He just wanted to know what the hell he was supposed to do.

Even was his soulmate. That meant they were meant to be together. But Isak couldn’t understand how that would ever happen, after what Even did. After every single time Even had purposely hurt him. Isak understood how hard it must’ve been to not feel in control, but it didn’t excuse all Even’s actions. It especially didn’t excuse him lying to Isak’s face about how he really felt, just to hurt him.

In the end, Isak turned to Eskild. He figured, out of everyone, Eskild would be the easiest to talk to. He felt like Eskild wouldn’t immediately just get mad at Even and call it a day. Isak figured, out of everyone, Eskild would probably give the best advice.

Isak found him in the kitchen, chopping an assortment of vegetables at the kitchen counter as some sort of tomato sauce boiled away on the stove. “Hey, Isak! Just making some pasta, you hungry?”

“Yeah, sure,” Isak said, shrugging, “thanks.” He sat down across from Eskild, awkwardly picking at his sleeves as he watched Eskild chop.

“Is everything okay?”

Isak bit his lip. “No.”

Eskild stopped chopping, and turned his full attention to Isak, who squirmed a little under his gaze. Eskild frowned, just slightly, and put the knife down. “What happened, Is?”

“It’s my soulmate,” Isak said. “I just… I don’t know what to do Eskild.” Eskild nodded, encouraging him to continue. Isak told him about Even, about his initial rejection, and the weeks of avoiding each other, and Even’s admission that he was purposefully trying to hurt Isak. The entire time that he spoke, Isak felt like he had a lump in his throat.

“Oh, Isak,” Eskild said with a sigh, reaching across the table to take one of Isak’s hands in his own. “I’m so sorry.”

“I want to hate him,” Isak said, “but I can’t. He keeps hurting me, and I still keep wanting him and I hate it.”

“It’s okay to feel confused.”

“I’m not confused, though,” Isak argued. “I know that I don’t want to be with him. Not after what he’s done. It’s not confusion that makes me want him—it’s just simple attraction.”

“Isak, don’t you think that’s a little rash? He is your—”

“It doesn’t matter. Maybe the universe fucked up this time around.”

Eskild bit his lip. He looked like he wanted to say more, but after a moment he just patted Isak’s hand gently and offered a soft smile. “If that’s how you feel, then I’m sure things will get better with time. Easier. You’ll get over your simple attraction.”

“What do I do until then?”

Eskild shrugged. “Try to forget about him, I guess.”


 

Isak’s way of forgetting Even involved two things: alcohol and weed. Luckily for him, Eva was hosting another party that Friday night, and for the first time in a while, Isak was the one to suggest going to the guys. They were all a little shocked, though they at least tried to hide it a little bit, and Jonas looked more than a little suspicious. Isak forced on a big smile. Anything to make them think that he was okay.

That this wasn’t him trying to force the thoughts of Even out of his mind.

As soon as they got to the party, Isak split away the guys in search of alcohol. He was already feeling a little tipsy from their pregame, his fingertips tingling and his steps a little bit unsteady if he moved too fast. Still, he had no problem making his way through the crowd of bodies to get to the kitchen. Isak was thankful to find the fridge still stocked with beer. He grabbed one, popped the cap, and chugged. Then, he grabbed another and headed back into the party.

Just as he reached the guys again—they were sitting on the windowsill, all watching as Mahdi rolled the first joint of the night—he caught sight of Even making his way into the party with some guys from his year. Isak looked away quickly, swallowing around the lump in his throat.

He was not going to let Even ruin his night. He wasn’t.

As soon as Mahdi was done with his first puff of the joint, Isak reached for it. He inhaled deeply, taking in more than usual, and held the smoke in his lungs as he passed it to Jonas. As he exhaled, Isak chanced another glance at Even—only to find he was already watching.

Isak tore his eyes away again, lifting his beer to his lips and taking another large gulp. The alcohol was warm as it made its way down his throat, but not strong enough. It wasn’t working fast enough. Isak’s heart still hurt when he saw Even.

“Is, are you okay?” Jonas asked, leaning close as he handed the joint back to Isak.

He lifted it to his lips, taking another long drag. “I’m fine,” he said, smoke tumbling from his lips with each word.

“Maybe you should take it easy,” Jonas said, nodding at the almost empty beer.

“I’m fine,” Isak repeated, more firmly. He handed the joint to Magnus, chugged the rest of his beer, and pushed himself to his feet. “I’ll be back in a sec.”

It was harder to move through the crowd, this time. Isak was less stable on his feet, and every time someone bumped into him, Isak felt himself sway a little too far to one side. He made it nonetheless, pulling the fridge open a little more forcefully than need be, and grabbed another beer.

Isak was half-way through it when Even walked into the kitchen. He did his best to hold in his groan.

“Hi, Isak.” Even looked nervous, at least. Maybe even a little hurt.

Isak didn’t bother to respond. He just took another drink and stared at the floor, at Even’s feet. Waiting for them to turn and walk away. When then didn’t, he let out a heavy sigh. “What do you want?”

“I want to apologize,” Even said, “for everything I did.”

“You’ve already done that.”

“Look, Isak, I know what I did was wrong. I know that. I just… I was scared, I was angry, and I took it all out on you. I shouldn’t have.” Even took a step closer. “I’m sorry.”

Isak shook his head numbly and stepped back. “I don’t care,” he said. “Just leave me alone.” Much to Isak’s surprise, Even’s feet actually retreated. He lifted his head, watching Even’s back as he walked away, fading into the crowd. Isak downed the rest of his drink, and grabbed another.


 

Isak was drunk. He knew he was drunk, and he knew that he should probably go home, but for the first time in god knows how long, he felt good. Numb. Not happy, but a nice, content numb. He was sat on the couch, slumped over the arm and watching two girls making out in the corner. He had a beer in his hand—he’d lost count of how many it was now—and he wondered, briefly, if the girls were soulmates. If they were happy.

His staring was interrupted when Jonas stepped into his vision, crouching down so he was closer to Isak’s eye level. “Ready to go, man?”

“No.” Isak shook his head. “I’m good here. I’m gonna stay.”

“You should come with us,” Jonas said. “I think you’ve had enough.”

Isak rolled his eyes and pushed himself up. “I’m fine. Don’t monitor me.”

“I’m not. But you’ve been staring into space for the past ten minutes.” Jonas tried to grab the almost empty beer from his hands. Isak frowned, and tugged it out of his reach.

“No! Go away,” he grumbled, standing up on shaky legs and pushing his way past Jonas.

“Isak, hang on a second.”

“Leave me alone!” he said, pushing his way through the crowd, which had started to thin considerably. Isak made his way for the kitchen, ignoring Jonas’ protests on his quest for more beer. When he got there, though, the fridge was empty. Isak’s frown deepened.

He slammed the fridge door shut, stumbling backwards a little as he did so. Before he could fall onto his ass, warm hands slipped around his waist and held him steady. Isak blinked twice, waiting for his vision to stop spinning. Then he peered over his shoulder.

Even was there, holding him up with a firm, warm grip. Isak grimaced and tried to twist out of his grasp, but Even wouldn’t let go. “Stop it,” Isak whined, pushing at Even’s chest weakly. “Let me go.”

“You’re drunk.”

“That’s the point, asshole.”

“You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“I’m fine,” Isak spit, finally managing to squirm out of his hold. “I told you to fucking leave me alone.” He managed to take two steps towards the door before his vision started to blur. Isak reached for the wall, trying to steady himself, but it was farther away than he was expecting. Before he knew it, he was tumbling sideways, towards the floor.

Isak hit it heavy, grunting as his hip hit the tile. He managed to catch himself on his hands, just barely avoiding hitting his head. He heard Even curse behind him, and then he was there, too. Kneeling next to Isak with a concerned expression, his hands hovering over him.

“I’m fine,” Isak said again. “Just go away.”

“You’re not fine,” Even replied. He didn’t give Isak the chance to protest anymore. He grabbed one of Isak’s hands, and pushed an arm under Isak’s arms, then tugged him up until they were both standing. “Let’s go. Let’s get you home.”

“I don’t wanna go anywhere with you,” Isak slurred, trying to push him away again.

“Too bad.”

“I hate you,” Isak said as Even lead him through the party, out into the cold of the night.

“I know.”

“You’re the worst. You’re mean. You hurt me.”

“I know.”

“It’s not fair. Why don’t I get to have a normal soulmate?” Isak asked. He knew he was speaking nonsense, and he knew that Even was supporting most of his weight, but he didn’t care. He was drunk, and miserable, and angry. “Why did you have to hate me?”

“I don’t hate you. I never hated you.”

“You did.”

“No,” Even said softly, his grip on Isak’s waist tightening. “I didn’t. I just hated the concept.”

“It’s the same thing.”

“It’s not.”

“It is. ‘Cause you don’t do what you did to people you like.”

“I don’t know how else to tell you that I’m sorry, that I made a mistake.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Isak said. “It’s over now, anyway. Bye-bye to everything.” Even didn’t say anything for the rest of their trek to his apartment. Isak frowned in confusion as he was lead inside, down the familiar hallway to Even’s room. Even sat him on his bed. “What are we doing here?”

“I don’t know where you live.”

“I coulda told you. I don’t wanna be here.”

“Just let me take care of you, for one night,” Even said. “Let me make sure you’re okay.” He kneeled down on the floor in front of Isak, pulling on the laces of his runners. Isak watched Even remove his shoes, one after another. Then, he watched Even move to his drawers, watched him pull out a pair of sweatpants. “I’m going to go grab you some water. Try not to fall over when you’re putting these on.”

Isak did as told, tugging off his tight jeans and pulling on the slightly-too-big sweatpants. It felt weird, wearing his soulmate’s clothes. Part of him, a part Isak wished would just shut up, sang. It was something he’d always wanted.

When Even came back, he was holding a full glass of ice water and a bottle of pills. He handed Isak the water, then took two pain meds from the bottle and handed them over. “Drink.” Isak did as told, watching Even through his eyelashes as he did. Once he’d taken the pills and finished the water, Even took the glass back from him. “Good. Now get some sleep. You’re going to have a killer hangover tomorrow.”

Isak watched him turn to leave, and in a moment of panic he reached out to grab Even’s wrist. “Wait,” he said. “Don’t go.”

“Isak…”

“I want you to stay. I don’t wanna be alone.”

“You’re drunk,” Even said. “You’re not going to want that in the morning.”

“I don’t care. I want it now.”

“No, Isak.”

Isak frowned, and tugged him closer by the wrist. “Let me have this. You owe me at least this.”

“Isak…” Even closed his eyes, a pained expression on his face. Isak knew he’d won. “Fine.”

Isak crawled into bed, pulling the covers up to his chin as he watched Even set the empty glass on his desk before pulling off his own jeans, sliding a very similar looking pair of sweats on. Then, he climbed into bed next to Isak. For a moment, Isak didn’t know what to do. It was a little sobering, to have Even so close—to have Even in bed with him.

But he didn’t know if he’d ever have this again, so he swallowed his nerves, and his doubts, and he turned to curl into Even’s side, burying his face in Even’s neck and breathing deeply. Even tensed, at first, but after a moment he let out a sigh and relaxed, wrapping an arm tightly around Isak’s shoulders.

“I really am sorry, for everything,” he said quietly. “If I could go back and do it again, there’s so much I would change.”

“You keep hurting me,” Isak said in response. “It’s not fair.”

Even sighed again, and pressed a kiss to Isak’s hair. “I know.”

Chapter Text

Isak woke up with a pounding headache, squinting against the light coming in from the window on the other side of the room as he tried to blink his eyes open. For a moment, panic rose in Isak’s chest. He wasn’t in his bed, or in his apartment, and he couldn’t remember much from the night before. Before he could worry too much about what he did—or didn’t—do, his eyes landed on a figure sitting at the desk on the other side of the room.

Even.

Isak took in his surroundings again, noting that the room was familiar. He’d only been in it once or twice before, but he recognized the drawings hung up on the closet doors, and the windowsill he and Even had sat in to share a joint before everything went south.

Thankfully, Even was too engrossed in whatever it was he was writing in his notebook to notice that Isak had woken up. It gave him a few minutes to try and process what had happened the night before—why the hell he was in his soulmates bedroom. In his bed. Isak lifted the covers slightly. Wearing his clothes.

He wondered if anything had happened. What he’d said to Even, what Even had said to him. Isak was sure he’d get at least some answers as soon as Even turned around and noticed that he was awake, but Isak also wasn’t certain he actually felt up to dealing with Even’s bullshit.

Not with the hangover that he was dealing with.

Even so, he didn’t have much of a choice. It wasn’t like he would be able to sneak out of Even’s room unnoticed. And there was the little detail that he had no idea where his clothes—or keys, or phone, or wallet—were. God, Isak hoped he’d been the one to undress himself the night prior.

With a soft sigh, Isak decided there wasn’t much of a point in putting the inevitable off any longer. He cleared his throat, and Even actually jumped. Like he’d forgotten there was someone else in the room. Then, he turned in his chair to face Isak with a far-too happy smile. “Oh, you’re awake. Good morning.”

“Why am I here?” Isak asked.

“You were drunk last night.”

“And?”

“And you could barely walk, never mind form actual, coherent thoughts. I didn’t know where your friends were, or where you lived. So I brought you here.”

“Right,” Isak said. “Did we… we didn’t…”

“No!” Even said quickly. “No. I gave you some sweats because I thought they’d be more comfortable, but you put them on yourself. I slept on the couch.”

“Okay. Well, I’m just… going to go home now,” he said awkwardly, swinging his legs over the side of Even’s bed.

“Let me make you breakfast.”

“No, that’s okay.”

“I make the best hangover eggs.”

Isak huffed out a sigh. “No, Even. I’m going home.”

Even held up his hands defensively. “Okay. Do you at least want some Advil?”

Isak bit his lip. He didn’t want anything, not from Even. Not anymore. But his head was pounding, and he was going to have to make the long-ass trek back to his apartment. Advil would probably reduce the likeliness of him having to puke on the way. So, begrudgingly, Isak nodded. Even offered a small smile, and stood from his desk.

“Your clothes are just on the windowsill, if you want to get changed. Or, you can just wear those home and give them back whenever, I don’t mind. I’ll be back in a minute.” Isak watched him leave. Once he was certain Even was gone, Isak stood and made his way to the window. The clothes he had been wearing the night before were folded neatly, his phone, keys, and wallet placed on top.

Isak dressed quickly, really not wanting Even walking in when he was half-dressed. His clothes weren’t comfortable, and it felt a little gross to be wearing them, but he wasn’t going to give Even the self-satisfaction of taking his clothes.

While he was waiting for Even to return, Isak checked his phone. He had half a dozen messages from Jonas alone asking him if he was okay, if he got home safe, etcetera, as well as a good couple from Magnus and Mahdi.

Isak sent them all quick messages back saying he was fine, and that he’d managed to get home just fine. He didn’t mention that he’d actually been at Even’s. The last thing Isak needed were questions from them.

He was just slipping his phone into his pocket when Even returned, a large glass of water in one hand and a pill bottle in the other. Isak took both from him awkwardly, quickly opening the pills and grabbing two. He took a large gulp of water, swallowed them down, then handed the glass back to Even.

“Thanks,” Isak said.

“Anytime. You sure you’re going to be okay to walk home?”

Isak rolled his eyes. “I’m fine, Even.”

“Okay, okay. Sorry.” He shifted on the balls of his feet. “Let me walk you to the door, at least.”

“Fine.”

Even put the glass he was holding on his desk before leading Isak out of his room. Isak was glad to find that the apartment seemed to be empty. The last thing he needed was to meet Even’s parents. He didn’t want to know if Even had told them about his soulmate. Isak didn’t even know what would be worse: knowing that he had, or knowing that he hadn’t. Either way, he was glad he didn’t have to find out.

When they reached the front door, Even paused. “Isak—”

“Whatever you’re about to say, save it. I don’t want to hear it.”

Much to Isak’s surprise, Even nodded and just said, “Okay.” He pulled the door open, standing to the side and letting Isak pass. Isak’s shoulder brushed Even’s chest as he did.


After his sleepover at Even’s, Isak half expected things to change. He expected Even to try harder to get his attention, he expected more apologies. He expected something.

Instead, he got silence.

Memories from the night came back in fragments, over time. Isak was positive they weren’t complete, and they definitely felt a little blurry, but he got the idea. He remembered Even saying that he didn’t hate him, and he remembered Even taking care of him. Most embarrassingly, he remembered begging Even not to go.

So much for sleeping on the couch.

Isak just wished that he had a normal soulmate. He wished that he had someone he could always turn to, someone he could always depend on. He wished, desperately wished, that he didn’t envy his drunk self. That he didn’t try and remember the feel of Even’s arms around him, or the blissful moments where they were almost normal.

It wasn’t fair that, despite everything that had happened, he didn’t want to let Even go. If anyone else had treated Isak the way that Even had, they would’ve been gone from his life. Forgotten. Yet Even just kept getting chances, and Isak just kept letting himself get hurt. He didn’t know how to let go. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do, or how he was supposed to move on.

Because at the end of the day, Even was still his soulmate. They were supposed to be together—destined to be together.

Then again, Isak’s parents had been destined for each other, too. If Isak tried really hard, he could remember before things got bad. His parents used to use their skin like a cell-phone. They’d write each other little messages, sweet nothings that they knew would make each other smile. His mother, who’d always been more of an artist, would even draw pictures—temporary tattoos that documented their love on both their bodies.

Unlike with Even, both Isak’s parents had been ecstatic about finding their soulmate. They’d started off good—optimistic, and happy, and perfect. They were strong. In love. There for each other through everything, best friends first and soulmates second.

Then, Isak’s mum got pregnant. They were so happy about it at first. Isak couldn’t remember it well, but he knew that the first years of his life were good. That his parents were so, so happy to have him. He could remember his mum’s smile, and how his dad used to hum happy songs all the time. They were good. Perfect even.

Then, Isak’s mum got sick.

After that, things got tense. They started fighting. Everything was a problem—Isak, Marianne’s refusal to medicate, dirty laundry and stacks of dishes. Isak, way too young, was forced to watch his parent’s perfect relationship crumble. He was forced to watch as love turned to hate, as his house grew silent.

Eventually, his dad just stopped coming home. Not too long after that, Isak stopped going home, too.

He had no reason to have hope for his own soulmate. No reason to believe that soulmate was a promise of anything.

But, fuck, Isak had wanted so badly for it to be. He wanted Even to love him, even more so after they met face-to-face and Isak got to know what Even was really like. He wanted things to work out, wanted to prove that his parent’s failed relationship wasn’t foreshadowing his own.

He just wanted to be normal.


I never meant to make it such a mess, I never thought that it would go this far. So I just stand here sorry. Searching for something to say, something to say. Words fail, words fail. There’s nothing I can say.

Isak stared down at the words, the letters looping down his forearm from his inner elbow to his wrist. More out of habit than anything else, he typed them into Google. The first result was a YouTube link—something called Dear Evan Hansen. Isak let the song play, closed his eyes and listened to the lyrics.

Before the song had finished, Even started to write more. Another fragment.

‘Cause I’ve learned to slam on the break before I even turn the key. Before I make the mistake. Before I lead with the worst of me. I never let them see the worst of me.

Isak closed his eyes and sighed. He grabbed a Sharpie from his desk and wrote What are you doing? on his palm. Even didn’t answer right away. Another song started playing on Isak’s laptop—the same guy, an equally sad-sounding song. He wondered, briefly, why people would want to listen to a musical filled with depressing songs.

I don’t know how else to explain. I don’t know how else to say I’m sorry. I’m not good with words.

Isak ran his fingers over the letters, small and squished on the back of his hand. There was that word again. Sorry. Always sorry, but never changing.

I don’t want to read someone else’s explanations, Even, he wrote. I don’t want to know what Evan Hansen is sorry about.

More silence. Another song. Then, Let me try and explain.

Already did that. Things just got worse.

Let me try again, Even wrote. Quickly adding a please underlined three times.

I can’t, Isak wrote back. I can’t let you hurt me again.

They were running out of space on their left arm, but Even managed to squeeze another Please in there—squished between the song lyrics that had started the whole exchange. Then, obviously getting a little desperate, Even started to write down their fingers, looping front to back and covering them with words. Words, words, words.

I don’t expect anything from you. I don’t expect forgiveness, or another chance. I just want to try and give you some answers.

Isak sighed again, rubbing his eyes with his right hand. He knew that he shouldn’t give Even another chance. He didn’t deserve one. But he couldn’t resist it.

20 minutes.


Even was sitting at the back, at the same table Isak had sat at the last time they’d been in this position. Isak didn’t bother getting a drink this time. He knew he wouldn’t drink it, and he didn’t plan on sticking around for long. He sat across from Even, crossing his arms over his chest and quirking an eyebrow.

“I’ve treated you like shit from the minute you entered my life,” Even said. “I… when I wrote worthless on my arm, I wasn’t in a good place. It was just after my first episode, and I just… I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life dealing with the highs and lows, or medicating myself into a haze. I felt like I was just a waste of air.

Then you scratched it out and wrote what you did, and I was reminded that I wasn’t just here for me. There was someone out there—you were out there and I was supposed to be here to love you. I… I didn’t answer you, because I was terrified you’d think I was a freak. I wanted to be better for you. I wanted to be normal before I let you in.” Even pushed his fingers through his hair, eyebrows furrowing together as he frowned. “I didn’t know then that there was no way I could be normal.”

“I didn’t need normal, Even,” Isak said quietly. “I just wanted to know you were out there. Alive and breathing and okay.”

“I know that now. But back then, I thought that if you knew about the bad parts of me—the high-highs and the low-lows—it’d scare you off.” Even bit his lip. “I want you to know that everything you were doing back then—the lyrics, and the notes, and the butterflies… They all helped. So much. Every time I felt like I was going to be alone for the rest of my life, I could just glance down and see that you were there. That you were out there somewhere.”

“What changed?” Isak asked. “What brought on all the hostility?”

“I don’t know. Part of it was the control, like I mentioned before. I felt like I had no control over any aspect of my life. I wasn’t angry at you, so much as I was at just… the universe. At the fact that my brain was broken. I tended to take that anger out on you during depressive episodes, and it just made things worse. It just made me feel like I was going to ruin your life,” Even said. “I thought that maybe, if you hated me, you could move on. Be happy with someone else.”

“You can’t decide what I want, Even. It’s not your place to decide that.”

“I know,” he said. “I know. It was stupid. I was stupid.”

“It still doesn’t excuse everything that happened since you showed up at Nissen. You got worse. Meaner.”

“I met you,” Even said. “I was so… enamored by you. We just clicked. I’d never really met anyone who I could just… talk to. Like it was nothing, like it was just easy. I genuinely didn’t know you were my soulmate at first. Not until you started wearing that brace. I was angry that I couldn’t choose you, that I was destined to be with someone else.

“That’s why I got so angry when I finally realized you were my soulmate. I was mad that you hadn’t told me. That you’d kept it to yourself, and that I’d spent the past few weeks just hating the idea of you when in reality, everything was working out better than I ever could’ve imagined,” Even said. “But more than that, I was angry at myself. I knew that I’d been acting like a jerk to my soulmate, and there you were. Sitting right in front of me on the verge of tears because you were convinced I was going to reject you once I knew.”

“You could’ve talked to me. Told me any of this. Instead you just… kept hurting me. Every chance I gave you to make things right you just destroyed. How am I ever supposed to trust you again?”

“You aren’t supposed to. I could never ask you to. I just wanted to tell you everything. You deserved to know everything,” Even said. “That’s all I wanted from this, I promise.”

“My parents didn’t work out, either,” Isak said, trying but failing to keep the bitterness out of his voice. He just couldn’t hide his disappointment. “Maybe this is for the best. If we never start anything, there’s no way it will end.”

Even nodded. “If that’s what you want. If you want me gone, I’ll go.”

“Of course I don’t want you gone,” Isak said without thinking. “I just… it’s probably for the best, right? We’re obviously bad for each other.”

“Are we, though?” Even asked tentatively.

“Are you seriously asking me that?”

“Thank about it, Isak,” Even said, his eyes brightening a little. Just enough that Isak’s heart skipped. “Before I knew, those couple of weeks that we were friends, we were good.”

“I was lying to you,” Isak argued, “and you still hated your soulmate.”

“The idea,” he said firmly. “I hated the idea. Never you.”

Isak dropped his eyes to the table and mumbled, “Sure felt like you hated me.”

“I could never hate you,” Even said quietly, fiddling with the hem of his jean jacket and not quite meeting Isak’s eyes. “How could I ever hate the one person who was always there for me, even when I tried to push them away?” He shook his head. “I could never hate you. I just felt trapped in a life that wasn’t my choosing.”

“And you took it out on me.”

“I did. I’m sorry. I’ll never stop being sorry for that,” Even said. “It was so stupid of me.”

“Yeah,” Isak agreed. “It was.”

“I know I don’t deserve one, and if you want me to I will walk away right now and never bother you again, but I’d love another chance,” Even said. “I’d love to do right by you, for once in my damn life.”

“I…” Isak bit his lip. His first instinct was to agree—of course it was. Even was still his soulmate. There was a fundamental part of his biology that still wanted to lean into Even. To trust him, and to fall for him without checking if there was something there to catch him. Then he remembered his parents, and their brutal fall. He remembered how it felt every time Even hurt him. A knife twisting one tick at a time into his already fragile heart. “Can I think about it?”

“Of course,” Even practically breathed. “Take as much time as you need.”

“Okay. Thanks.”

“No, thank you,” Even said. “For even thinking about it.”

“Just… don’t get your hopes up.”

Even shook his head. “Whatever you decide, I’ll support. If that’s us going our separate ways, so be it. If it’s us just being friends, that’s fine. Whatever you want.”

Isak stood, flinching as his chair screeched across the ground. He took a deep breath, and rolled his shoulders back. “I’ll…”—he gestured to his arms—“you’ll hear from me.”

Even nodded. “Take as much time as you need.”

Isak didn’t say goodbye. It felt too weird. Too formal. He just turned, and walked out of the KB without looking back. He had no idea what he was supposed to do—how he was supposed to feel.

Instead of worrying more about it, Isak just went home. He went home, and he slept.


Jonas

12:47

Free for kebab?

Meet you there in 15.


Isak was quiet as he and Jonas waited for their food. He knew he wanted to talk to his best friend about everything that had been happening with Even. He needed to talk to Jonas about it—to just sit down and get a genuine second opinion. He’d been driving himself crazy since he and Even had talked the week before, flopping between wanting to give Even another chance, and being completely against the whole idea.

Once they’d found a spot outside, Isak realized he couldn’t put it off any longer.

“Even wants another chance,” Isak said, stabbing his fork into his kebab.

“What do you want?”

“I don’t know. Part of me wants to say yes, obviously, but I also don’t know how to trust him not to hurt me again.”

“It doesn’t have to be black and white. Giving him another chance doesn’t have to mean that you trust him, necessarily. It’s an opportunity for him to prove that you can trust him, but it’s trust he’ll have to earn.”

“I just don’t know if I can be hurt by him again.”

Jonas smiled sadly, bumping their shoulders together. “Do you think he’ll hurt you again?”

“I want to say no, but I really don’t know. It’s hard to tell with Even.” Isak picked at his food, but he had no desire to eat it. His stomach had been flip-flopping since they sat down. “Every time I think I know what he’s going to do, how he’s going to react, he does something different.”

“I wish I could be more help,” Jonas said. “I wish I could just say yes or no. But this comes down to you, Issy. Go with your heart, or your gut. It’s up to you to decide.”

“What if I decide wrong?”

Jonas shrugged. “Then we’ll all be there to help you through it. I don’t think you will, though.”

“It’s not pathetic to give him another chance, is it?” Isak asked self-consciously. “One last chance.”

“He’s your soulmate,” Jonas said. “Of course it’s not pathetic. I just really, really hope it works out for you.”

“Me, too.”

“If he’s a dick again, though, we’re going to have to beat him up,” Jonas said with a shrug. “I’m pretty sure I made a pact that if your soulmate broke your heart I’d have to break his kneecaps when we were like 12.”

“You did not.”

Jonas hummed and shook his head, smiling. “No, I definitely did.”

“You never told me that.”

“You just looked too fragile and sad whenever you came to class with butterflies on your arm. I couldn’t deal with it.”

Isak snorted a laugh. “You’re such a dork.”

“You love me.”

“There will be no breaking of anyone’s kneecaps.”

“Yeah,” Jonas said, “so long as Even doesn’t fuck it up again.”

Isak couldn’t help but laugh. It felt good to laugh. He hadn’t felt like really laughing in days—weeks, even. He’d been so caught up in everything Even that he forgot how amazingly lucky he was to have Jonas. To have all his friends.

Isak didn’t know what would happen next. He didn’t really know what giving Even a second chance meant—if he wanted to try to see what a relationship between them would be like, or if they should just stick to friends for a while. He didn’t know if he’d be able to put everything that had happened so far in the past.

He did know, without a doubt, that Jonas would be there for him, though. And that was all Isak really needed.

One last chance, he wrote before bed. Neatly, right across his left wrist. Even’s reply came moments later.

Thank you.


Even didn’t force himself into Isak’s life. He didn’t try and push their relationship, like Isak was worried he would. Instead, he started small. He started with hellos—just friendly greetings whenever they happened to be in the same place. It was actually… nice. For the first time since Even showed up at Nissen, Isak was able to just breathe. He wasn’t worried about Even finding out who he really was, or stressing about avoiding him.

Finally, Isak didn’t have to stress about his soulmate. And, fuck, was it ever a breath of fresh air.

Probably the best part of it was that Even had started using their skin as a canvas again. It wasn’t filled with apologies, or hostile poetry, or depressing song lyrics. Instead, there were doodles. Cute messages wishing Isak a good day.

It was like his parents, before everything fell to shit.

And, after a while, Isak started feeling comfortable adding to it himself. It was never anything important. Usually, just little observations or fragments of songs that he had stuck in his head. Sometimes, answers to questions that Even would ask.

Things were going well. And Isak was just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

He waited, and waited, and waited but it never seemed to come. And Isak was starting to feel more comfortable. Comfortable enough that he was the one to take the next step—inviting Even to lunch. Isak knew that it would probably be a little awkward, with Jonas being the only one of the guys who knew their full history—who even knew that Even was Isak’s soulmate—but he wanted to give it a try. He wanted to see if Even could mesh with his friends.

Isak got to the cafeteria first, alongside Jonas. They wasted no time in snatching their favourite table next to the window, Isak sitting down to claim it while Jonas went to grab them both food. It was tradition, routine, and it made it easier for Isak to pretend that nothing was different.

Mahdi came back with Jonas, a tray of waffles and a giant smile on his face. Jonas handed Isak his own plate of waffles just as Magnus arrived, loudly complaining about something that had happened in his History class.

Isak tried to pay attention to Mags, but his mind was elsewhere. Waiting for Even to show up—trying not to work himself into a panic thinking about what the guys would say. God, he was not looking forward to the questions. He just hoped they waited to ask them until after Even was gone.

“You okay?” Jonas asked quietly, leaning closer to Isak. His eyes darted to the entrance to the cafeteria, where Even had just arrived.

Isak swallowed thickly, and nodded. “I think so.”

“It’ll be okay. They guys will be chill.”

“They better be,” Isak muttered. He couldn’t help but watch as Even made his way through the lunch line. Isak could tell he was nervous, too, by the way he was bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet.

As soon as Even started heading their way, Isak felt his heart stop. His knee was bouncing impatiently under the table as he chewed on his bottom lip. Everyone went silent as Even placed his tray down next to Isak, and all eyes were on him as he sat down. Isak took a deep breath, then said, “Guys, this is Even.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment, and Isak could feel the panic rising like water filling his lungs. He could see the questions in their eyes. Magnus clearly wasn’t even trying to hide his surprise, and Isak braced himself—preparing for the worst as Magnus opened his mouth to say something.

“The fuck, since when do you have other friends?” he asked.

“Aren’t you a third year?” Mahdi added. “Why are you hanging around this idiot?”

Even glanced at Isak, who shook his head just barely. He hoped, desperately hoped, that Even would get the idea. He breathed a sigh of relief when Even just shrugged and said, “We met at Kose-group.”

“Kose-group,” Magnus said, “like… Vilde’s weird theatre thing?”

“Yeah. It’s a great place to meet new people.”

“Since when do you branch out?” Magnus asked. “I didn’t think you left your apartment unless you absolutely had to.”

“Fuck off,” Isak spit. “That’s bullshit, and you know it. Plus, I did it for Vilde. You guys were supposed to come, too.”

“But then you wouldn’t have met Even,” Mahdi said. “We were just… creating opportunities for you.”

Isak rolled his eyes. “Sure.”

He expected them to ask more questions, but they didn’t. They just went back to Magnus’ weird teacher, or whatever they were talking about before. Isak could practically feel his heartbeat returning to normal. When he glanced over at Even, he offered a small smile and knocked their knees together under the table. All good? he mouthed.

Isak nodded. For now, all was most certainly good.


 

Can I take you on a date?

Isak had been staring at the words, delicately scrawled on his calf (they were running out of space on their arms) for almost twenty minutes. Date was a big step up from occasionally hanging out. They hadn’t even progressed passed the group-setting yet. Usually Even just joined the guys for lunch, or they were at Kose-group.

Even was doing everything right, so far at least. He’d been a perfect gentleman—never pushing Isak further than he was willing to go. Never even trying to. Until now.

Date.

Isak took a deep breath. They were soulmates. Soulmates went on dates. Things had started off a little—a lot rocky between them, but it was better now. Normal. So they should start doing the normal soulmate stuff… right?

It’s okay to say no, Even wrote. I don’t want you to feel pressured.

No, Isak wrote back quickly, it’s okay. Is that… do you want to go on a date?

Yes. Do you?

Isak bit his lip, twirling the pen between his fingers. Date. Did he want to go on a date? The easy answer was yes. Of course it was. Isak had been enamoured with his soulmate, the idea of his soulmate, since he was a child. Meeting Even didn’t change that. Or, it didn’t until shit hit the fan.

Things were good now, though, and he didn’t want to risk ruining that. What if the date went badly? What if Even had second thoughts—what if they really were bad for each other? He knew he was likely worrying over nothing. It would probably be fine. He just had to take the leap.

Yes. Okay.

Tomorrow night?

Sure.

Even drew a smile, and a heart, and Isak could keep the smile off his own face.


 

Isak was nervous. He was pacing their living room, one hand idly tracing a sun that Even had just drawn on their left wrist. Eskild was watching him do so with a tub of ice cream in his hands. “Baby gay,” he said around a mouthful of ice cream, “he’s your soulmate. What are you so worried about?”

“Everything,” Isak said. “He’s my soulmate. If this date doesn’t go well, it could ruin everything. After all we’ve been through, that’s a pretty big risk.”

“I think you’re putting too much pressure on this. If it goes poorly, that doesn’t have to mean that it’s the end of everything.” Eskild placed his ice cream down on the table and stood, moving to stand in front of Isak and holding him still with hands on his shoulders. “It’s still a first date. Things are bound to go wrong, or be awkward. Don’t expect perfect—just look at it as an exploration of your relationship with Even. Use it to figure out if you two are ready to take this step, or if you need to stand back and stay friend a while longer.”

“I just don’t want to lose him, Eskild,” Isak said softly. “It took me so damn long to get him, and I’m scared we’ll fuck it up.”

“It’ll be okay. After everything you’ve been through, you’re due for some good karma.”

The doorbell rang, and Isak tensed. Eskild squeezed his shoulders gently, offering an encouraging smile that Isak shakily returned. “I hope you’re right.”

“Go,” Eskild said, turning him around and pushing him towards the door. “Have fun. And remember to relax.”

Isak nodded, more for himself than for Eskild, and started walking. He felt like his heart was going to break through his ribcage with how quickly it was beating, but with each step, Isak tried to remind himself that he had no real reason to worry. It was just Even. It was his soulmate. Obviously there was something that was supposed to work between them, despite the rocky start.

When Isak pulled open the door Even, thankfully, looked just as nervous. He breathed a sigh of relief, and offered a genuine smile. “Hi.”

“Hey,” Even said, flashing his own smile. “Ready to go?”

Isak nodded.

“Good, shall we then?” Even asked, offering a hand.

Isak hesitated, just briefly, and then slipped his hand into Even’s. When the world didn’t crash down around them, he breathed a sigh of relief and allowed himself to relax a little. It’s just Even, he reminded himself. There’s no pressure.

It wasn’t until they got to the tram stop that Isak finally managed to ask, “Where are we going, anyway?”

“I was thinking the movies, maybe?” Even asked. “If that works for you? We could always go somewhere else, if you’re not a fan of movies. I probably should’ve asked you beforehand instead of just assuming—”

“A movie sounds great,” Isak said, squeezing Even’s hand gently and offering him a smile. “Have anything in mind?”

“I was thinking, maybe, Love, Simon?”

Isak crumpled up his nose. “Isn’t that a rom-com?”

“Yeah.” Even nodded. “But it’s about soulmates like us.”

“What, two guys?”

Even shook his head, then frowned. “Yes, but… no. It’s about two soulmates that don’t work out at first—one person who’s too scared to act on it, and one person who’s hurt because of that.”

“Oh.”

“Does that sound okay?”

Isak smiled. “Yeah, okay.”

“It’ll probably still be cheesy.”

“Yeah. Probably. But fuck it, let’s go.”

Even smiled, tugging Isak closer gently until they were shoulder to shoulder and Isak had to tilt his head up, just the tiniest amount, to be able to look him in the eye. “Thanks for coming tonight,” Even said quietly. “I know after everything I did to you, I probably didn’t really deserve it. So thank you for giving me more chances that I deserved.”

“Just don’t make me regret it,” Isak teased, knocking their shoulders together. The tram arrived moments later. Even led them onboard, pulling Isak to a seat in the back. He sat next to the window, and then pulled Isak into his side, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. Isak couldn’t keep the smile off his face as they started moving—things were going well.

Things would be okay.

The theatre was pretty quiet when they arrived, which was nice. Even paid for the tickets, despite Isak’s protests, insisting that it was ‘the least he could do.’ They made their way into the theatre, and aside from an elderly couple sitting in the first row, were alone.

Isak led Even all the way to the top of the theatre, pulling him to the two seats in the middle of the row. The best seat in the theatre. The lights began to dim almost as soon as they sat down, the trailers beginning to play. Even was still holding his hand, the arm rest sitting in between them and stopping Isak from getting any closer, much to his annoyance.

Even didn’t let go of his hand, though. Instead, he started playing with the tips of Isak’s fingers, running his nails over the pads of each one. With each brush, a shiver ran down Isak’s spine. Once he was finished, Even started trailing his fingertips up Isak’s arm, dancing around the words that were littered there. He traced his fingers over a fragment of a song, and Isak blew out a shaky breath.

Even turned, pressed himself closer, and leaned in to speak. Isak could feel each word with the brush of Even’s lips on his ear, and the gentle puffs of Even’s breath on his neck. “I love being able to touch you.” Isak’s breath hitched, and he could almost feel Even smile at the reaction. “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to be able to do this.”

“What, breathe on my neck?” Isak asked, trying to sound like Even wasn’t driving him crazy with just the tiniest brush of his fingers. He doubted he was being successful.

Even pressed his lips to the soft skin behind Isak’s ear and hummed, the vibrations travelling down Isak’s spine like a livewire. “Among other things.” Isak wanted to egg him on—to ask what other things, but he didn’t get the chance. All too fast, Even was sitting back in his seat and the only contact between them was their joined hands. Isak whipped his head around to ask why, but Even just shushed him and nodded to the screen. “The movie’s starting.”

“You asshole,” Isak said, unable to keep the smile out of his voice.

Even’s soft laughter blended in to the opening song of the film.


“What did you think?” Even asked as they walked out of the theatre, the music from the closing credits following them out.

“It was…” Isak glanced back at the theatre, smiling. “It wasn’t what I was expecting.”

“In a good way, right?”

Isak nodded. “In the best way.”

“I still can’t believe it got made, if I’m honest.”

“Me, either,” Isak agreed. “But I’m glad it was. I wish that movie would’ve come out when I was younger, and worried about you.”

“It’ll be there for the new generations, though,” Even said. “Kids who are just discovering their soulmates will get to see that movie and know that the whole thing isn’t as simple as Hollywood makes it seem.”

“Yeah,” Isak said. “It’ll be good. Maybe imperfect soulmates will start becoming more common.”

Even nodded, holding the door to the theatre open for Isak to walk through. “We can certainly hope.”

It was chillier outside than Isak was expecting. The day had been warm, but the movie had taken them into the evening and, without the sun, the wind was cold on his bare arms. Even noticed, as he usually did, and pulled Isak close, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

Isak glanced at Even, his face illuminated by the lampposts that lined the street they walked down. He looked happy. Content. He looked exactly how Isak felt in that moment. After everything they’d been through, he hadn’t expected the night to go so smoothly and he wasn’t really ready for it to end just yet.

“Let’s get a coffee,” Isak said, pulling Even towards the coffee shop on the end of the block. “I could use something warm.”

“Okay.”

The café was mostly empty, save a couple people hunched over laptops or notebooks. After ordering their drinks—a hot chocolate for Even and an Americano for Isak—they moved to sit at the bar table in front of the window.

“I can’t believe you’re getting coffee,” Even said for the third time as they sat down. “You’re not going to be able to sleep tonight.”

“I’ll be fine,” Isak said. “Coffee barely affects me anymore.”

“That’s not a good thing!” Even said, laughing.

Isak stuck his tongue out in response and took a sip of his coffee. He watched Even dip a finger into the top of his whipped cream. He brought it to his lips, and licked the whip off. When Isak finally drew his eyes away from Even’s lips, his eyes were shining. “What?”

“Nothing, nothing.” Even grabbed another dollop, but this time he offered the finger to Isak.

“You don’t seriously expect me to lick whipped cream off your finger, do you?” Isak asked, chancing a look at the other patrons of the café. He could feel his cheeks burning at the mere thought of it, despite the fact that no one was paying them any attention.

“Your loss,” Even said, shrugging and eating the whip himself.

They sat and sipped their drinks in silence for a while, both staring out at the quiet street in front of them. Isak didn’t know what to say, he just knew he really wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Even yet. The silence wasn’t as awkward as he thought it would be, though. It was actually kind of nice.

“Thank you for coming with me tonight,” Even said softly, reaching over to gently loop their fingers together. “I know I haven’t really given you much reason to trust me.”

“You’ve been doing pretty good since our talk,” Isak said. “I know that this…”—He motioned between the two of them—“everything hasn’t been easy for you, either.”

“No,” Even agreed. “I suppose you’re right there.”

“But it’s better now, I think.”

“I think so, too.” Even brought Isak’s fingers to his lips and kissed them. “This is easier than I thought it would be, too.”

“What is?”

“Just… the transition from just friends to something more. I thought it’d be awkward, stilted, but it isn’t. Or, it isn’t for me.”

“It isn’t for me, either,” Isak said, smiling. “It’s good. Nice.”

“Good. You’ll tell me if you’re ever uncomfortable, though?” Even asked, his grip on Isak’s hand tightening a little. “Because the last thing I want is to make you feel uncomfortable.”

“Yes, Even. Of course I would.” Isak scooted his chair closer until Even’s knee was between his legs. “Just… don’t worry too much, okay? I trust you.”

“Okay.”

Isak’s heart felt like it was going to break out of his ribcage with how quickly it was beating as he leaned forward. His eyes darted down to Even’s lips, then back up to his eyes. They were wide, shocked, but he looked curious, too. Isak took a final, steadying breath, then closed the distance between them. Even’s grip on his hand tightened almost as soon as their lips touched. Then Isak felt Even’s other hand on his hip, tugging him closer until he was perched on the very edge of the stool. Isak gasped, his own free hand landing on Even’s thigh to steady himself as the kiss deepened.

He could feel the curve of Even’s smile against his own lips, and Isak didn’t want it to end. But they were in public, at a café, and he didn’t feel like having everyone watch his first real kiss. So he pulled back, just enough that their lips weren’t touching.

“Wow,” Even said, rubbing soft circles on Isak’s waist with his thumb.

“Yeah,” Isak agreed. He licked his lips, his eyes darting down just briefly as he did, and nodded. “Wow.”

“I can’t believe that I got in the way of that for so long,” Even said, huffing a laugh. “How stupid do I feel now?”

Isak hummed, dropping his eyes to their hands and trying to ignore how he could feel his cheeks burning. He’d always thought that a kiss was little more than just a kiss, but wow. He’d been wrong. Kissing Even was nothing like kissing Anna in the playground in second grade, or drunkenly making out with some girl from Bakka in the middle of a booming party.

Kissing Even was like a breath of fresh air, and Isak didn’t care how cheesy that sounded.

“Did you want to get out of here?” Isak asked quietly, a little nervously. He didn’t want to sound needy or desperate, but now that he’d finally gotten a taste of what it was like to be with Even (literally and figuratively), Isak just wanted to keep Even all to himself.

Even quirked an eyebrow. “What’d you have in mind?”

“Come to mine?”

“You sure?”

Isak nodded. “If you want to.”

Even smiled, his eyes practically sparkling, and leaned in to kiss Isak’s cheek. “Sounds like a great plan.”

They finished off their drinks and headed back outside. As soon as they left the café, Even reached for Isak’s hand again. The chill of the night was all but forgotten thanks to the excitement running through Isak’s veins. He didn’t know what the rest of the night had in store for them, but he had a feeling it’d be good, no matter what.


Once they got back to Isak’s place, some of the haze that had come after their kiss faded and Isak realized he had no idea what he was doing. Even was there, in his room, and Isak didn’t know what to expect. What was expected. If he was ready for things to go further than they already had. It was their first date! Isak hadn’t really expected it to go as well, or as far, as it already had.

“Are you okay?” Even asked quietly.

“Fine,” Isak said, the unsteadiness in his voice betraying him. “I’m fine.”

“I can feel you freaking out from over here. Do you want me to go?”

“No!” Isak said quickly. “No, I don’t want you to go. I just… I don’t know. I’ve never been in this situation before.”

“I haven’t either,” Even said.

“I just feel like it isn’t supposed to be weird, because we’re soulmates, but I’m making it weird.”

“Hey, no,” Even said, moving to stand in front of Isak, cupping his face gently between his hands. “You’re not making it weird. Of course it’s a little awkward, our relationship is shifting to something new.”

“I don’t want to fuck it up again.”

“You won’t. You never have.” Even’s thumb brushed over his cheek gently. “I was the one who kept fucking it up.” He kissed Isak’s forehead, then started to move back, towards the bed. Isak’s heartbeat spiked again. He tried to convince himself that it was okay; that it was just Even and Even wasn’t going to pressure him into doing something he didn’t want to do.

Even sat down on the bed, and then patted the spot next to him. Isak took a deep breath, then sat down. He grabbed one of Even’s hands, taking comfort in the feel of it between his own. It was weird seeing their arms close together, now that Even had taken his sweater off. Isak hadn’t really had the chance to look at their skin side-by-side, but it was… it was kind of amazing. Every mark was perfectly mirrored, yet Even’s skin was dotted with freckles that Isak’s was void of.

They were still individuals, they just had this beautiful thing that connected them.

“How do you think people at school are going to react?” Isak asked after a moment.

“I don’t know,” Even said, shrugging. “They might not care. They might think it’s cute. There might be a few who think it’s gross, or unnatural.”

“Because we’re both guys,” Isak said, keeping his eyes on Even’s hand. He traced a finger over a sun that Even had drawn on his wrist, carefully following the simple lines as he had before their date on his own arm.

“Yeah,” he agreed, “because of that.”

“It’s happening more and more with each year,” Isak said, frowning. “I don’t understand why people can’t just accept that soulmates don’t have to be straight.”

“Change takes time. At least we can walk down the street together without fearing for our safety now,” Even said. “Maybe in five years, same sex soulmates will be just as common and accepted as any other.”

“I hope so.”

“But if you’re really uncomfortable with it, or worried about it, we don’t have to tell anyone. I’ve only got one year left, you’ve got two. We can just stay friends at school.”

Isak shook his head. “I’m not going to hide who I am because they might not like it. Change doesn’t come by hiding.”

“You’re amazing.” Even leaned over and pressed a kiss to the corner of Isak’s lips. Even that tiny touch sent a shockwave down his spine.

“I know. Everyone knows. You just didn’t get the memo until now apparently.” Even laughed, big and loud, and Isak’s heart swelled. He wanted to kiss Even’s smile, so he did. It was chaste, barely more than a brush of lips, but it still left him smiling. Then, something dawned on him. “My friends don’t know.”

“What?”

“Magnus, Mahdi, Vilde…” Isak said, “they don’t know that we’re soulmates. Only Jonas knows.”

“Really?”

Isak nodded. “I’m sure they have their suspicions, but I never told them. With everything that happened, I didn’t want people knowing that my soulmate…”

“Was an absolute prick?”

Isak frowned, and shook his head. “That it was complicated.”

“Do you think they’ll react poorly?”

“No,” he said. “I know they’ll be cool about it. I don’t know why the idea of telling them is so daunting, but…”

“But it is. Because you know that, even if they’re cool about it, they’re still going to look at you differently.”

Isak swallowed around the lump in his throat. “Yeah.”

“It’ll be okay,” Even said, squeezing Isak’s hand, “I promise.”

“Yeah.” Isak nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. They probably already know. It’s not like we’ve been subtle when it comes to this,” Isak said, lifting their joined hands and gesturing to their thoroughly doodled-on arms.

Even laughed. “Good point.”

“I’ll tell them tomorrow. At the skate park.”

“Do you want me to be there, or…”

“Of course I do.”

Even dropped his eyes to his lap, biting his bottom lip. “I don’t deserve this. You.”

“You do,” Isak assured quickly, scooting closer until their thighs were pressed together. He reached up to brush a hand through the gently curled hairs behind Even’s ear. “We both made mistakes in the past, but it’s behind us now. You deserve to be happy just as much as anyone else.”

“As long as you’re happy, I’m happy,” Even said.

Isak could feel the blush that was creeping up his neck. He didn’t expect such a simple statement to make him feel like he was going crazy, but there they were. “Spend the night,” Isak blurted.

“What?”

“I…” he knew his face was probably beet red, and he was tempted to try and take the words back, but Isak knew that it’d be pointless. He’d said it. The words were out there now. And… it wasn’t like the idea of spending a night, sober, with Even sounded all that bad. “Spend the night?” he said again, a little quieter. More unsure.

“Are you sure that you want that?” Even asked. “It was our first date, and…”

“We’re soulmates,” Isak said. “Dates are nice, but ultimately they’re just formalities. We’re destined to be together.”

“I…”

“I’m not asking for sex,” Isak said bluntly. “I don’t think either of us are ready for that yet. I just… I want to know what it’s like to spend the night with you sober.”

Even flushed. “You remember that?”

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“I really was planning to sleep on the couch, but you were…”

“Desperate and whiney,” Isak provided, laughing. He rested a hand on Even’s cheek, gently stroking it with his thumb. “It’s okay. I’m glad you gave in to it, actually. But now I want to know what it felt like.”

Even nodded. “Okay. If that’s what you want.”

Isak got up from the bed, albeit reluctantly, and headed over to his dresser. He pulled out a pair of sweats for each of them, once again glad that Even was only a little taller than him. He handed Even his pair, then awkwardly said, “I’m gonna go change,” as he backed out of the room (and most certainly did not hit the doorframe while doing so). Even’s soft laughter followed him out of the room and down the hall.

Isak didn’t make it to the bathroom. Or, rather, he did, but he was barely able to take a step inside before Eskild was there, a huge shit-eating grin on his face. “So. Even’s in your bedroom.”

“He is.”

“I’m guessing your date went well?”

Isak ducked his head to hide his blush. “It did.”

“Once again, your guru was right!” Eskild exclaimed, throwing his arms around Isak’s shoulders and squeezing tight enough that Isak could breathe. “I’m so happy for you baby gay!”

“Thanks,” Isak mumbled, struggling out of his grasp. “Can you go now, please? I want to get changed.”

“Fine. But don’t think you’ve gotten out of giving me details, Isak. I’m not forgetting that easily.”

Isak rolled his eyes and shoved Eskild out of the bathroom, slamming the door in his face before leaning his forehead on the cool wood. Now that he was alone, his heart felt like a jackrabbit in his chest. Isak had no idea what he was doing. He’d asked Even to spend the night on their first date. That was crazy!

Sure, they were soulmates and they were supposed to spend the rest of their lives together, but still. He’d never imagined himself being so stupidly forward with Even. So much for being cautious and careful in the new stages of their relationship.

Isak dressed quickly and brushed his teeth, splashing some cold water on his face and shoving his clothes into the hamper Noora had put in the bathroom before she moved out. When he got back to his bedroom, Even was sitting at the top of the bed, back against the wall, scrolling through something on his phone. As soon as Isak walked in, though, he put the device on the table and directed his full attention (and the full-force of his smile) on Isak.

“Everything chill?” he asked.

Isak nodded. “Everything’s chill.” He took a breath, then moved to turn the lamp next to his bed on so he could turn off the overhead light. Once things were dimmer, Isak found it easier to slip into bed next to Even.

He left space between them. He was nervous—unsure—and he didn’t want to push things. Thankfully, Even seemed comfortable taking the risk. He looped an arm over Isak’s shoulders and pulled him tight against his chest. Isak breathed out a content sigh, draping the arm not trapped between them across Even’s stomach.

Isak nuzzled closer without really realizing what he was doing, rubbing his face against the fabric of his own shirt, now mixed with Even’s own sent. He felt a little embarrassed for doing so, but he couldn’t help it. Even was warm, familiar. Comforting.

After a while, Even shifted so he could turn off the lamp. Isak could feel his eyelids starting to droop closed. It was almost weird, how hard it was to fight sleep when he was curled against Even’s side. Usually it took him ages to fall asleep. But not with Even. Not with the consistent rise and fall of his chest, and the sound of his heartbeat in Isak’s ear. They were like lullabies.

“I’m pretty sure I’m falling in love with you,” Even said softly as Isak started to doze off.

Isak was conscious long enough to mumble out, “Me, too.”


Isak woke up to an empty bed, and his heart dropped into his stomach. He pushed himself into a sitting position and felt the space next to him. It was cold. Isak’s throat was tight, and he tried not to panic as he got out of bed.

Even wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye. He wouldn’t do that.

Isak threw open his bedroom door and stumbled towards the living room, terrified that he wouldn’t find Even there. But as he walked down the hall, he heard the distinct sound of two voices: Even and Eskild. Isak was relieved that Even hadn’t left for all of two seconds before he registered what he was hearing.

Eskild was talking to Even. Unsupervised.

Isak all but ran the rest of the way to the kitchen, sliding to a stop in the doorway. Even was standing next to the stove, a pan of eggs cooking in the frying pan. He was looking over his shoulder at Eskild, who was sitting at the kitchen table looking way too happy.

“Oh, Isak!” Eskild said with a smirk. “Nice of you to finally join us.”

Even turned his attention to Isak, flashing a smile as he turned off the heat on the stove. He crossed the kitchen in two, large strides and grabbed Isak’s face between his hands. Isak had half a second to process what was about to happen, and then Even’s lips were on his.

His eyes fell closed as he instinctively relaxed into the kiss, one hand grabbing Even’s elbow to hold him in place. Then Eskild started screaming, and Isak was pulled out of his happy moment.

“I’m so happy for you, baby gay,” Eskild said, wiping non-existent tears from his eyes as he stood from the table. “All grown up and kissing boys in my kitchen. So proud.”

Isak groaned, dropping his head onto Even’s shoulder. It shook with Even’s quiet laughter. “Please leave, Eskild.”

“You can’t kick me out of my own kitchen, Isak. That’s rude.”

Isak frowned, and leveled him with a disappointed stare. He half expected Eskild to ignore him and stay seated, because honestly Eskild was way too invested in Isak’s personal life. Instead, he let out a dramatic sigh and put his hands on his hips. “Fine, I’ll go. But only because I’m supposed to meet Noora for yoga in twenty minutes.”

Isak watched him leave, still tucked against Even’s chest. He thought for a moment about the fact that it wasn’t as awkward as it should’ve been. Isak had never thought he’d be the type of person to be all over his soulmate, but it just felt… natural to have seek out the comfort that came with Even’s touch.

“Did you sleep well?” Even asked softly.

Isak hummed. “Better than I have in a long, long time.”

“Hungry? I made breakfast.”

“I could eat,” Isak said, but when Even tried to step out of his arms, Isak held him tighter.

“Baby, I can’t get you food if you don’t let me go.”

Isak’s heart fluttered at the pet name. Baby. He used to cringe every time he heard someone use that name at school, but now? Jesus, Isak understood the appeal. “Don’t wanna move,” he mumbled into Even’s chest. “You’re warm.”

“But the eggs will get cold.”

“Ugh,” Isak groaned, “fine.” He reluctantly stepped away from Even, moving instead to take a seat at the kitchen table.

He watched as Even moved easily around the kitchen, opening cupboards and drawers aimlessly until he found plates and utensils. He dished out equal portions, then moved to sit across from Isak, handing him a plate with a flourish.

Isak wasted no time in digging in, shovelling a forkful of steaming eggs into his mouth. They were amazing. Easily the best scrambled eggs he’d ever had. Even smiled and took a bite of his own eggs. “Good?”

“Uh, yeah? What the hell did you do to them?”

“That’s a secret.”

“There shouldn’t be secrets between soulmates,” Isak argued.

“I’ll tell you one day, I promise,” Even said with a wink that made Isak’s stomach backflip. After spending as long as he did thinking that he’d never get to spend any time with his soulmate, it was insane to think about the idea of more—of togetherness.

Even reached over the table to take Isak’s free hand, looping their fingers together easily. It was nice. Strangely domestic, and definitely a little weird after everything they’d been through. But definitely nice. “I was worried you’d left, this morning,” Isak admitted quietly, embarrassed at the statement, but also not willing to hide his fears from Even any more.

He regretted it almost immediately when Even’s face fell. “I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t apologize,” Isak said quickly, giving Even’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “I just… I wanted to say that it was nice, finding you here. Talking to Eskild.”

“I thought you didn’t want us talking?” Even teased.

Isak rolled his eyes. “I don’t. Lord knows what Eskild was saying, but I’m sure it was embarrassing.” He dropped his eyes to their joined hands. “But it’s just further proof that you’re… here. You’re part of my life now. That’s a nice feeling.”

“I don’t plan on leaving any time soon,” Even said. “I promise.”

“Good.”

Even smiled. “Good.”

“And… you’re sure about coming to the park today?” Isak asked, quickly adding, “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I don’t know how the guys are going to react.”

“So long as you want me there, I’ll be there,” he said. “After everything I’ve left you to deal with on your own, I want to be there for this.”

“Okay.” Isak smiled, and leaned over the table to press a quick kiss to Even’s lips. “Thank you.”

“No need to thank me.”

“No?” Isak asked. He let go of Even’s hand so he could move around the table, plopping himself down in Even’s lap. Even’s hands moved to Isak’s hips, bunching up his t-shirt and exposing a sliver of skin above the waistband of his boxers. “That’s a shame. I had some fun things in mind.”

Even quirked an eyebrow. “Did you now?”

Isak looped his arms lazily around Even’s neck, pushing his fingers through the messy hair on the back of his head. He dipped his head down and pressed a kiss to the corner of Even’s mouth, then another to his cheek. Even’s grip on his hips tightened, tugging Isak closer and tilting his chin up for a kiss. Isak smirked, and turned his head just enough that Even’s lips landed on his cheek. “We should get ready. The boys are expecting us soon.”

“Oh, you little brat,” Even said, chuckling. “That was cruel.”

“Serves you right for scaring the crap out of me this morning,” Isak said, squirming out of his lap. “Plus, we really should start getting ready. I wanna get there before the guys, if possible.”

“Why?”

Isak shrugged. “I can’t back down if I’m already there.”

He started walking out of the kitchen, but Even grabbed his wrist and gently tugged him to a stop. “Are you worried?”

“No… Yes. I don’t really know,” Isak admitted. “I want to believe that nothing will change, but I know it’s going to. It might not be a bad change, but change itself is inevitable.”

“I’m proud of you, for telling them.” Even stepped closer, so their toes were touching. He cupped Isak’s neck, his thumb brushing against his jaw. “It’s brave.”

“It’s not.”

“It is,” Even said. He ducked down enough to lean their foreheads together. Before Isak could argue any farther, Even silenced him with a kiss. Isak let his eyes fall closed, relaxing into the kiss and the feel of Even’s hand on his neck. He reached up to grab Even’s arm to hold him there, to relish in the moment for just a little while longer.


The skate park was surprisingly empty for a weekend afternoon. There were only three people there other than Isak and Even, and they were all chilling in the shade on the opposite end of the park. Isak was sitting on the edge of the bowl, legs dangling over the side and occasionally brushing against Even’s.

Isak was trying to pretend that he wasn’t nervous. He was fairly certain it wasn’t working. He’d already texted Jonas to tell him that he was planning to tell the guys, and Jonas had promised they’d be cool about it. Isak knew he was right, that Even was right.

He was just scared.

Jonas showed up first, much to Isak’s relief. He made his way over with a huge smile, clapping Even on the back as he settled down next to him. “Nice to finally meet you as his soulmate, man,” Jonas said.

“Thanks. I’m just sorry it took so long for me to get my shit together.”

“Yeah. I was getting nervous I was going to have to come and beat the shit out of you,” Jonas teased. “You were one misplaced message away from serious pain.”

“Thank god I avoided that,” Even said.

Jonas leaned forward enough to look at Isak. “You alright, man? You look a bit like you’re going to puke.”

“I’m fine,” Isak lied. Even reached over to give his knee a squeeze. Isak wanted to reach out and grab his hand, but something was holding him back. He hoped whatever stupid insecurities he was feeling went away after telling the guys—he’d waited almost 18 years to be able to touch Even and he wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity.

It wasn’t long before Magnus and Mahdi showed up, skateboards in hand and laughing about something that had happened at lunch on Friday. Isak’s heart dropped into his stomach as soon as he caught sight of them, and he had to consciously remind himself to breathe. He could feel Even’s eyes on the side of his face—worried, but supportive.

“Even!” Magnus said happily as they got closer. “Hey, man! Cool to see you!”

“You too,” Even said with a small smile.

“Still can’t believe you hang around with this nerd,” Mahdi teased, ruffling Isak’s hair as he plopped down next to him, Magnus taking a spot on the other side of Jonas.

“Yeah,” Isak said, swallowing nervously. “About that.”

“Uh oh,” Magnus said, “that doesn’t sound like the start of a good sentence.”

“It’s not… It’s not bad,” Isak said. “It’s not bad. It’s just…” He took a deep breath and glanced at each of his friends before finally letting himself look at Even. He was smiling, encouraging and supportive. “There’s something I need to tell you guys.”

“You’re not dying, are you?” Magnus asked.

“What the fuck, no,” Isak said. “Seriously, what the hell?”

“You’re all serious. It’s weird.”

“Even and I are soulmates,” Isak blurted. When no one said anything, he added, “That’s it.”

“Wait, seriously?” Mahdi asked. “We already knew that.”

“What?”

“You guys have the same shit all over your arms,” he said. “Did you seriously think we wouldn’t notice that. Or all the weird sexual tension that you miserably fail to hide?”

“I…” Isak could feel his cheeks heating up with a blush he desperately wished he could hide. “You could’ve fucking said something!”

“Hey, you’re the one who chose not to tell us,” Magnus said. “We weren’t going to butt in when you obviously didn’t want us to know.”

“That’s not—It wasn’t that I didn’t want you to know. It was just complicated.”

Mahdi nodded. “But it’s not anymore?”

Isak looked at Even, who reached for his hand. His heart jumped at the contact. “No.”

“Good,” he said before changing the subject. Isak stared at his friends, feeling more than a little relieved, but also a little confused. He hadn’t expected them to move on so quickly. He’d expected… Isak wasn’t sure, actually. Just, not for things to continue like nothing happened.

It wasn’t until Jonas suggested they all actually start skating that Isak was pulled back into the conversation. “Actually, we’re probably going to go,” he said. “I still have to tell Eva. And Vilde.”

“Oh man,” Jonas said, laughing. “Good luck with that. They’re going to freak.”


They did freak. Isak hadn’t heard Eva scream as loudly as she had in a very long time. Vilde, thankfully, was a little quieter, though none less excited. Isak also didn’t miss the way she pulled Even to the side while Eva was going on about how long she’d known, and he had a feeling they were talking about the butterflies they had both been covered in a different point in their lives.

Isak was just happy to see both of them smiling, and both of their arms free of butterflies.

By the time they returned to Isak’s apartment, he was emotionally drained. He couldn’t bring himself to do anything but fall face-first on his bed with a groan. Even chuckled behind him. “Tired, baby?”

Isak nodded, his face still shoved into the pillow. “Too much social interaction.”

“Do you want me to go?” Even asked.

“Don’t you fucking dare,” Isak said, throwing a glare over his shoulder. “Get over here and cuddle me.”

Even laughed. “Who would’ve thought. Isak Valtersen asking for cuddles. No one would believe me.”

“Exactly,” Isak said. He turned onto his side so he could watch Even as he took off his jacket and draped it over Isak’s desk chair. As soon as Even slid onto the bed, Isak wrapped an arm around his waist and shoved his face into the crook of his neck. He felt rather than heard Even chuckle.

Isak reached for one of his hands and placed it on top of his head. It felt a little silly, and he worried for a moment that he was being too needy, but Even didn’t complain. He just started playing with Isak’s mess of curls, his fingers a welcome pressure against his scalp. “Today went well,” he said softly.

“It did.”

“Do you feel better now that people know?”

Isak bit his lip, tightening his grip on Even’s shirt a little. “Yeah. Sort of.”

“You don’t sound sure.”

“We’ve still got to face the whole school,” Isak pointed out. “I was almost positive the guys would be chill, but the school? I’m not so certain.”

“I won’t say that it’s going to go as perfectly well,” Even said, “but I will say that no matter what, we’ll have each other. And your friends. They definitely aren’t the type to let you get hurt.”

“You’re right,” Isak said. “It’ll be fine.”

“They’ll probably forget about it within a month, anyway,” Even said. “Something else will happen, and we’ll be old news. High school students have very short attention spans.”

“You say that like we’re not high school students.”

“I try not to let myself drop to their level,” Even said. “Anyway, that wasn’t my point. My point is that everything will be fine.”

Isak sighed. “I hope so. I’m so done with drama.” He sat up enough that he could face Even, tilting his chin up to ask for a kiss, which Even seemed more than happy to provide. Isak let himself relax against Even, their kisses lazy and slow. It was nice to think that they had the rest of their lives to enjoy each other.

Isak wasn’t naïve enough to think there wouldn’t be issues, that life would always be as perfect as it seemed to be in that moment. But he had Even, something he’d thought was impossible just a few weeks prior. They were figuring their shit out, finally, and Isak was just glad to be rid of the hostility and uncertainty.

He was just glad to finally be with his soulmate—to no longer feel like that part of him was missing.

Isak knew their story was far from a perfect one, or even a happy one, but in that moment, as Even’s fingers tugged at his hair and Even’s lips sent shivers down his spine, Isak couldn’t bring himself to regret any of it.