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The first time Isak sees him is at a house party. The party slowly winding down, Isak has stepped outside to get some fresh air and to get away from his friends trying to set him up with some girl.

The shame burns through his lungs as he breathes in deeply. He wishes he could just come out and tell them. For a second he thought he could come out to Jonas.

Tell him he’d run away from home. Tell him Eskild found him in a gay bar in the middle of the night. Tell him he’s gay and lost and ashamed.

But then Jonas met Magnus and Mahdi in the summer before they’re supposed to start second year and Isak is back where he was before: scared, alone and confused. It’s not that the boys are bad guys, they are certainly a lot better than Elias ever was, it’s just that maybe he dislikes change, maybe he doesn’t trust easily, maybe he doesn’t want to lose the first friend group he’s ever truly had.

So he’ll remain hidden, hide the wince when Magnus makes another gay joke, fake a cocky smile when Jonas talks about how much of a ladies man Isak is.

Staying hidden is tiring, however, so that’s how he finds himself outside.

The door falls shut behind him, and suddenly it’s quiet. The only sounds from the party a low bass that could be any song.

The night air feels fresh, making him feel lightheaded, underlining the alcohol in his veins. Isak sways slightly as he steps away from the door, walking forward with no real destination in mind.

He stops when he sees a figure out of the corner of his eyes.

He notices the hands first. A cigarette dangling between slender fingers, slowly burning itself out. Then Isak’s eyes trail up to his neck, long and on display as his head is thrown backwards, resting against the house. Isak’s eyes make their way back down, everything elongated and graceful, even in rest.

He should turn around and go back inside, go back to pretending, but then the boy shifts his legs and Isak is stuck in a sudden lurch of want. Maybe it’s the alcohol in his veins or the memory of some girls’ sticky lipstick on his neck or maybe it’s just that he’s very gay and very lonely and the boy in front of him is beautiful. So he just stands there and watches.

“You’re staring,” a deep voice sounds and Isak’s eyes snap back up. “I don’t mind,” the boy adds, slowly pushing himself away from the house.

Isak blushes, fumbling for words. “I’m sorry?” he says, the words coming out more like a question than he intended.

The boy laughs softly, his hand coming up to take a drag of his cigarette. He’s standing in the half dark, the rising sun behind him and obscuring his face. When he breathes out, the smoke of his cigarette circles around his head, and for a second it looks like he has a halo.

Isak steps forward towards the boy without meaning to. He wobbles on his feet and the boy’s hand shoots out as if to steady him, although he’s still standing too far to actually touch Isak.

Isak wishes he’d touch him.

“Are you drunk?” the boy asks and Isak shakes his head, then shrugs.

“Are you?”

“God, I wish,” he says and there’s a sadness in his voice Isak wants to kiss better.

Maybe he is drunk. The boy smiles at him and Isak finds himself smiling back, squinting slightly against the sun.

“I’m Even,” he introduces himself.

“Isak,” he answers, his eyes following Even as he walks closer to Isak and turns them so Isak’s no longer staring into the sun.

The air crackles between them as they just stand there, looking. Isak thinks this might be the first time he’s ever really done that, really looked at another boy. Only Jonas has ever come close, but even then, Isak had been careful to look away every time Jonas looked his way.

This time, however, he lets himself look. His eyes roam Even’s face, follow the path of his hand as he takes yet another drag of his slowly dwindling cigarette.

Isak feels like he’s on fire, and at the same time, he’s never been calmer than this. There’s something in Even’s eyes as he looks back. Something that tells him maybe Even is as lost and lonely as he is.

“You’re really beautiful, Isak,” Even breaks the silence and Isak laughs softly. “What?”

“That’s such a line, oh my god,” Isak explains.

Even laughs and the pink morning light lights up his face as he steps fully into Isak’s space. He’s beautiful, eyes rimmed red and hair falling down, and Isak wants to touch him.

So he does.

He reaches out and pushes some hair out of Even’s face, making him smile. The touch is innocent, but it sets Isak’s fingertips on fire.

To distract himself from his pounding heart, he steals the cigarette from between Even’s slack fingers and takes a drag himself, turning up his nose at the taste.

He wonders if Even’s mouth will taste like ash. He wonder if he’d mind, if Even would let him taste. His heart thumps as he drops the stub of the cigarette, extinguishing it under the sole of his shoe.

He thinks he’d like to kiss Even, and that thought should scare him more but there’s something magical about 4 in the morning during summer. When the sun has never really set properly and the light outside promises new beginnings, like everything is possible if you only give it a try.

Isak looks down at their shoes, the tips almost touching, and he wonders what the odds are. He wonders in how many parallel universes Isak walked outside to find another boy, another boy interested in boys.

Because that’s what Even is, right? He told Isak he’s beautiful, he let him touch his face.

He risks looking up and finds Even looking back. He’s smiling softly, his head tilted towards Isak. Isak thinks he can see nerves behind his eyes but maybe that’s just the mirror image of himself.

“Isak?” Isak hums, “How drunk are you?”

“Not that drunk at all,” Isak says, trapped in the intensity of Even’s eyes.

Even swallows, his adam’s apple bobbing up and down heavily and Isak leans forward.

Right before their lips meet, Even whispers something, too low for Isak to catch but then his lips are on Isak’s and all he can think about is how right this feels.

Their kiss is soft, just lips pressing together, softly moving against each other. Isak’s hands on Even’s face, Even’s around Isak’s waist.

When they pull back, Even’s eyes are wide, afraid. All his cocky bravodo gone. “Are you okay?” Isak whispers, scared to startle him.

Even bites his lip, releases it and presses his mouth against Isak’s again.

“Even?” Isak asks when they separate for the second time.

“I think I’m okay,” Even says and Isak nods.

Isak is overcome with the need to protect this boy, keep him safe. Besides his name, he knows nothing about him, only that his eyes are sad and that he holds on to Isak a little tighter than you’d expect from someone you just met and kissed.

Maybe that’s also part of the magic, the night making everything more raw, more real and intense. The never ending day stripping you of your masks, leaving you bare.

“It’s okay,” Isak says, and kisses Even’s cheek. “You’ll be okay,” he promises him, and kisses the other cheek.

Even breathes out shakily and pulls Isak closer so he can bury his face in his neck.

“I’m sorry,” he says, the words muffled, his lips catching against Isak’s skin. Isak shivers, pulls Even even closer.

Isak opens his mouth to reassure Even it’s fine, when his phone rings. The sounds shatters the magic like a mallet through a glass window. Suddenly Isak hears the thumping bass again, the shouting from the other side of the house. He freezes, panic seizing grip of his body and Even pulls away.

“They don’t-” Isak starts, looking at the backdoor.

He sees the exact moment the mask slides back into place on Even’s face. Even smiles, steps backwards.

“It’s fine, Isak,” Even says, pushing the hair out of his eyes, and then reaching into his pocket for his packet of cigarettes. “Aren’t you answering that?” he asks, while lighting a cigarette.

“Even...,” Isak half-whispers, hand coming up to touch Even again when the back door opens and three boys spill out.

His hand snaps back like it’s burned and Isak sees Even’s eyes shutter completely.

“Isak!” Magnus shouts, leaning heavily against Mahdi, “We were looking for you, bro!”

Jonas walks around him towards Isak, “You okay? You disappeared all of a sudden.” His eyes are worried, roaming over Isak’s face and Isak remembers why he fell in love with his best friend once.

Isak nods, “I’m fine, I was just out here talking to -” he turns to where Even was moments ago, only to find him gone.

“Oh!” Mahdi says, wiggling his eyebrows, “You were ‘talking’.” He doesn’t need to make actual air quotes for Isak to hear them. “Wasn’t Kristina suddenly gone as well?”

The shame curls through Isak once again as he just laughs, not agreeing but certainly not doing anything to dissuade them from the belief he went outside to make out with a girl.

Only Jonas’ eyes stick to Isak as they make their way around the house towards home. He bumps shoulders with Isak, “Sure you’re okay?”

The sun catches on his curls, sticking up straight and slightly greasy from no doubtedly making out with some girl. His eyes are lit up with concern and Isak has to bite his tongue to not just come out right there and then.

He just nods and tries to not make it obvious he’s looking for Even as they round the house. The street is empty, however, and Isak’s heart aches.

“Hey,” Jonas says, voice low so Magnus and Mahdi don’t hear them, “if she ran off, she’s not worth it. There are plenty of girls out there for you!” He nods solemnly, like he just handed Isak some wisdom and Isak would laugh if the thought of never seeing Even again didn’t hurt so much.

*

The next time Isak sees Even, he’s walking home from another party, a week later. The streets deserted but the sun already high in the sky. An Oslo reserved for people of the night.

He’s had a good night partying with his friends. They’d been sitting in the bathtub smoking instead of trying to hookup with girls, Isak pressed against Jonas, sharing private smiles over the antics of Magnus.

He doesn’t notice Even at first, too busy trying to get home as fast as possible, but when he does, it makes him stop in his tracks.

Even is leaning against a building, eyes closed and shoulders hunched, the cigarette once again dangling between his fingers. As Isak slowly makes his way closer, he notices Even has earbuds in, the music softly spilling out.

When he’s close enough to touch, Isak reaches out, slowly placing two fingers on Even’s wrist. His eyes snap open and find Isak’s immediately.

“Hi, Even,” Isak says and Even sighs deeply.

“Hi,” Even replies, his voice raw, like he hasn’t spoken in a while, like talking hurts.

They’re standing on the street, at an intersection that will get busy in a little while, the 4 am sun creeping over their body and Isak knows that at any time someone could pass by and see them.

He still pulls Even in his arms, kisses the side of his head.

“What are you doing?” Even asks, but he doesn’t pull back. Instead he drops his cigarette and grips Isak around the waist, pushes his nose against Isak’s skin.

“I am hugging you,” Isak says, tightening his grip on Even.

“You smell like weed,” Even says after a while of just standing there.

Isak laughs, and when he slowly releases Even, he’s delighted to see Even smile. He thumbs that smile, watches it grow soft as Even looks at him more.

He looks tired, even more so than last time. Tired, and sad, and still the most beautiful person Isak has ever seen.

Even pulls up the earbuds that had fallen down when Isak pulled him in and the tiny music is clearer now. It’s a slow track, and even without hearing it fully, Isak hears the melancholy in the music.

“Radiohead,” Even answers a question Isak didn’t ask out loud, before putting one of the buds in Isak’s ear, the other in his own.

As the last notes of the song sound, Isak looks up into Even’s eyes. He’s hit with the absurdness of the situation, standing on the side of the road with a boy he’s only met twice, risking the secret he’s spend all his life guarding just to make the boy smile. This time there’s no alcohol in his veins to blame for the feelings that arise as he stares in Even’s eyes.

There’s only Even’s hand coming up to cup Isak’s face, his breath hitting the side of Isak’s face as he leans to kiss his cheek.

And suddenly the wild, untamable, irrational thought that he’d risk it all to have Even.

Isak knows it’s too much to feel for someone he’s only kisses once, and more than that, someone who might not even be feeling the same way. But he knows now what it’s like to have Even in his arms, Even’s lips on his and he doesn’t think he’s willing to give that up. Kissing Even opened something up in him, and maybe he’s finally ready to just fight for what he wants. No more hiding from his own feelings, no more going behind people’s backs and sneaking around.

Just this. Just Even.

So he turns his head to capture Even’s lips in a kiss and this time it veers past innocent quickly. Even’s back hits the wall as Isak presses in, tongues caressing and hands wandering and Isak wants it all, wants all Even has to give.

They kiss, and the fire is back, raging through Isak’s body, consuming him completely until Even pulls away slightly to whisper, “Come in with me.”

He points his chin to the door next to them, “My parents aren’t home. Come in with me.”

Isak swallows, looks at Even’s lips, red and shiny from kissing. The thought of going in with Even is both exciting and terrifying.

“We don’t have to do anything,” Even says, kissing Isak’s cheek once more.

Isak nods and their hands link as Even guides them in, up the stairs, into an apartment. He doesn’t let go of Isak’s hand until they reach Even’s room, not even to take of his shoes.

“Can we lay down?” Even asks, and Isak follows him up the stairs to his bed.

They settle on the bed, legs tangled together, Even’s head on Isak’s shoulder. Even’s weight on top of Isak feels grounding, and for the first time in months he feels at ease. Like he’s not running from something, his father yelling or his mother screaming or the secret that’s been suffocating him slowly. He’s just here, in the moment, with the prettiest boy he’s ever seen leaning heavily onto him.

“I don’t know anything about you,” Isak says.

Even laughs softly, sadly, drags his nose over Isak’s collarbone. “I don’t think you’d be here if you knew anything about me.”

Isak winds his fingers in Even’s hair and pulls softly. “I doubt that’s true.”

Even raises himself up to peck Isak on the lips.

“Tell me about yourself,” Isak says, looking Even in the eye.

“I fucked up, Isak. Really bad.”

Isak hums, fingers carding through Even’s hair. “What’s your favorite colour, though?”

Even laughs, a real laugh now, eyes closing and mouth wide. “Green, yours?” he says after he’s calmed down, eyes locked on Isak’s. The look on his face is almost unreadable, but if Isak had to guess, he’d say it’s something eerily close to adoration.

“Blue,” Isak replies and he’s not lost on the fact that those are their respective eye colours. Even smiles like he knows too.

They share other favorites, giggling stupidly and playfully arguing (“If you say Micheal Bay I’m throwing you out.” “At least it’s not some nobody no one has ever heard off.” “That’s it, I’m throwing you out.”)

When they run out of those, they start sharing firsts. Isak blushes furiously when he tells Even he was the first boy he kissed. Even kisses him silly.

Isak loves every bit of Even he throws at him, every snippet of information he gets, every laugh.

After a while Even’s answers start coming slower, his breath starts evening out and then suddenly he’s asleep. A heavy weight on top of Isak.

Isak follows him soon after, feeling safer and more at peace than he has in a long time.

*

When he wakes up the next morning, he’s alone. The bed suddenly wide and strange and not at all like the safe haven it had felt like when he fell asleep.

“Even?” he tries, his voice scratchy from sleep, his heart sinking when there’s no reply.

He makes his way down the little step ladder and out of Even’s room. The apartment is quiet, Even is nowhere to be seen.

Isak considers staying, waiting for Even to come back, but he’s afraid to run into his parents instead, having to explain why a strange boy is in their home.

Walking home in his rumpled clothes he had on the day before, feels oddly like a walk of shame. More so after being left alone in Even’s bed. He feels odd, ill at home in his own body, like he missed a step going down the stairs and his foot came down so hard he could feel it throughout his body.

He’s tired and confused and maybe a little heartbroken and he just wants to be home, lay in bed. He realises with a start he doesn’t really know which home he means when he thinks about going home. It’s a mixture of his mamma’s home and the Kollektiv, his mamma’s hands on a good day and Eskild’s feet padding around the room.

It’s the latter that greets him when he opens the door, however. Eskild rounding the corner to Isak and pulling him into a hug.

“Isak! I was so worried! You didn’t come home last night and weren’t picking up your phone and I called -”

“Eskild,” Isak whines, pushing Eskild off him, “I’m fine I was with… with Jonas. I slept over.”

Eskild frowns, stepping back from Isak. “Jonas? But… okay…,” he tilts his head, looks Isak up and down. It’s a strange look on Eskild, almost motherly, making the little ball of homesickness lurch in Isak’s stomach. “Are you okay? Do you want to talk?”

Isak shakes his head, making his way to his room. “I’m fine,” he tells Eskild, even though the lie burns on his tongue, just like any other time these past months he’s spoken it.

*

The third time he sees Even is not really an accident so much as Isak just walking past Even’s house almost every day, at odd times, trying to catch him.

This time Even isn’t alone. There’s a girl next to him, her face twisted in something complicated. Anger, maybe. Concern, definitely.

Even’s hand shakes as he brings it up to smoke and the girl’s eyes narrow.

Isak is torn between his desire to see and talk to Even and not wanting to get into the middle of whatever is happening. He misses Even, which is crazy and stupid considering how Even just left him alone in his bed last time he saw him. But then again, everything about his feelings towards Even are crazy and stupid.

After waking up alone in Even’s bed, he spent the first couple of days trying to forget about him, resulting in too many episodes of Narcos and snapping at Eskild until he told Isak to cool off, alone, in his room. His heart aching, his sleep pattern fucked. Even stuck in his head like a song only half-written, making him stumble through the lyrics, skipping beats.

Realizing he couldn’t forget about Even, he started making excuses to walk past his house. Until he ran out of excuses and just admitted to himself he wanted to see him. Even if it was for the last time, even if Even was going to tell him he never wanted to see Isak again.

Looking at Even now, half a street away, in broad daylight, Isak feels that, by now almost familiar, pull towards him. If he’d believe in soulmates, if he was more of a romantic, he’d think it was the universe pulling them together.

When he sees Even close his eyes and let his head fall forward, the desire wins. He steps closer, careful not to get noticed just yet.

“I can’t do this, Even. Not like this,” the girl says, her voice soft.

“I’m not asking you,” his eyes are still closed, his shaking hand resting on his chest, cigarette between his fingers. There’s been clouds hanging above the city all day, painting it in grayscales, making everything stand out stark and harsh. But right then, a beam of sunlight parts through the clouds and catches on his hair, setting it ablaze. A perfect vision of the angel Isak saw that very first night. He wants to push Even’s hair back, out of his eyes, catch the fire in his hands.

“I know,” she sighs, “I wish you did.” She rights her back, as if making a decision. “Take care of yourself, Even,” she trails her hand up his arm, cups his face, “I love you.”

Isak watches her leave, biting his lip in an effort to come up with how to approach Even.

“Do you see now?” Even’s voice startles him. His eyes are open again, focused on Isak. The sunbeam hidden from sight, he’s a boy. Eyes filled with sadness. “You don’t want to know me.”

Isak frowns, and steps up to Even, his nose crinkles as he smells the stench of cigarettes around Even. He must’ve been smoking a lot for the smell to linger like this.

“That’s such bullshit,” Isak says, surprising even himself with the force behind his words. His face scrunches up, and he shakes his head. “No,” he says, almost like a petulant child, unwilling and unable to buy Even’s shit. Isak takes Even’s face in his hands. His hands are big enough to fully cradle Even’s face, and Even closes his eyes, turns into them. “Please, let me know you,” his voice turns soft, pleading. He  presses his forehead against Even’s, trying to press his feelings for him into his skin.

“I’m so fucked up, Isak,” Even breathes. “I hurt everyone I love, lost all my friends and scared my parents to death. I’m sick, and I’m never getting better.” He sounds almost rehearsed, like this is something he’s said before, told himself before. Isak thinks it’s a lie he’s been telling himself over and over, deceiving himself into believing he’s not worthy of love. There’s no doubt for his own words in his eyes and Isak hurts for him.

But maybe he’s also… a little mad at him. Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair of Even to give up like this, to keep himself away from the world like this. Not when there’s Isak, begging to be let in.

Just as Isak opens his mouth to answer, to yell at him or to soothe him, he’s not even sure, the clouds break. They’re drenched within seconds, clothes and hair sticking to them. Even looks up, face tilted to the skies, and for a second he looks more alive than Isak has ever seen him.

Isak pulls Even towards him, chests against each other, the rain beating down upon them, their lips inches away from each other.

Even just waits, lets Isak look at him, eyes wide. When they kiss, it’s soft, rain mixing with spit, heat in the midst of the cold. Parting, Isak has no way of knowing if the wet on Even’s face are tears or raindrops, but when he leaves his eyes closed, and just bumps his nose against Isak’s, he could make an educated guess.

It’s the rain running down his spine, making him shiver, that pushes Isak back in motion.

He grabs Even’s hand to pull him inside. “Can we go up?” he asks, glad when Even nods and doesn’t let go of his hand as he guides him up.

The apartment is quiet as they walk through the door. Isak toes off his shoes, waits until Even does the same and then uses their still clasped hands to guide Even to his room.

Even is quiet, but his hand around Isak’s is strong.

Dripping in the middle of Even’s room, Isak suddenly gets stabbed with the feeling of being left alone here, the feeling of being out his depth. The raindrops are making a puddle around them and Even just waits, like before. Trusting -or maybe needing, or maybe both- Isak to take control.

“Get out of those wet clothes,” Isak orders, “Do you have any sweats or something you can wear and I can borrow?”

Even points to one of his drawers, leaving Isak to rummage in them looking for something to wear. When he turns back to Even, he’s standing with only his underwear left, the rest of his slender body on display. His chest is littered with little moles, milky pale and lean. His legs sticking out his boxer shorts impossibly long. His lips full and pale, shining with rain and spit. Eyes locked on Isak.

Isak thinks he’s beautiful. He tells him as much.

Even sighs shakingly, his eyes fluttering close. He sags into Isak’s arms when he steps forward to hug him, shivers when the cold of Isak’s wet clothes hits his skin. Isak’s hands rub comforting circles on his back as Even clings to him.

“It’s okay,” Isak whispers, reminiscent of the first night they met. “You’ll be okay.”

When Even shivers again, Isak slowly extracts himself from his grip. He bends down to pick up the clothes he let fall down and hands one set of them to Even, stripping out of his wet clothes himself.

Even’s eyes rove over his body, making the hairs on Isak’s body stand up. Even’s look like a caress, and Isak feels at peace under the intensity of it. He doesn’t show off, but he doesn’t hurry either, letting Even look, letting himself be watched.

It’s another first, one he’s more than willing to give to Even.

Then, finally both out of the wet clothes, Isak looks at Even’s bed and back at him, waiting for Even’s approval, which comes in the form of a nod. They arrange themselves on Even’s bed like last time, Isak on his back, Even’s head on his chest.

They just breathe for a while. Isak stroking through Even’s hair, slowly arranging his thoughts.

“My mamma is ill too,” he says, after a while, and then pauses, “I think that’s what you mean, right? Not a physical thing?”

Even nods against Isak’s skin, hides his face away in his neck. Isak turns his face to Even, trapping his face closer to his skin. It’s easier this way, Even’s breath reminding he’s here, every exhale a caress.

“My mamma is… she’s shizophrenic. Last year pappa left her… and me, I guess. He just packed his bags and left,” he swallows, turns his head again, locks his eyes on the ceiling. “I tried being there for her, I really did. Nothing I did helped. I walked on eggshells at home, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax. I was so scared for her. Not of her, for her.”

He’s quiet for a beat, fighting the lump in his throat. “Until one day, I hadn’t slept properly in days, she had a really bad episode. She started -” he swallows again, screws his eyes shut for a beat. Even’s fingers dance over his side.

“She screamed and ranted about the end of the world. And I ran. Ended up in some bar,” he chuckles softly, “a gay bar, actually. That’s where my roommate Eskild found me. He took me in, and I never went home again.

“I feel guilty about that… every single day. There’s… there’s not a single day I don’t think about her. She texts me sometimes, these long rambling Bible quotes about hellfire and sin. I hate that I left her, hate that I couldn’t help her.”

Even shivers and then pushes himself up to look at Isak. “You didn’t leave her, you took care of yourself. Your father should’ve never left you alone with her.”

“I know,” Isak breathes, his fingers skating over Even’s face.

“You can’t save me, either, Isak,” Even says, “I can’t… I can’t have you try to save me.”

“I know,” Isak repeats, “I don’t want to save you. I want to know you.”

The rain outside is still falling down, tapping against the window. It feels like Even and Isak are the only people left on Earth, sharing air and body warmth.

Even hovering over Isak, his face a complicated mass of emotions that Isak can’t wait to start figuring out.

“I want to know you,” Isak says again, “I want to kiss you and fall asleep with you. I want to…,” he breathes out deeply, “I want to maybe be yours,” he pauses, plays with the soft hair’s above Even’s ear, his eye contact never wavering “and… and you be mine. I want to have a chance to fall in love with you.”

Even doesn’t answer, just looks at Isak, as if searching his face for something.

“Is that too much? I know we’ve only just met, and there’s much we still need to learn about each other, but I just -”

Even shuts him up by kissing him, soft and sweet. When he breaks the kiss to talk, he doesn’t go far, and Isak can feel his words ghosting over his skin. “I want that too.”

A smile pulls at Isak’s lips, and he lets it spill over. Even’s eyes are soft when he looks at him.

They talk, the rain a soundtrack to their words, and their laughter, and their tears.

After a while, Even yawns, jaw popping and Isak laughs.

“Do you want me to go?” he asks, and Even’s arms tighten around Isak.

“Please stay,” he whispers against Isak, “I promise I’ll stay this time too.” He looks up at him, the blue of his eyes peeking out from under his eyelashes, still slightly wet. “I’m sorry.”

Isak shakes his head. “As long as you stay this time.”

“Promise,” Even says, voice solemn, true.

He falls asleep shortly after, Isak stroking circles on his back.

When Isak’s sure Even is asleep, he wiggles his phone out of his pocket, glad he put it there before he came up and calls Eskild, careful not to jostle Even.

After Eskild’s usual cheery hello, Isak steels himself, drawing courage from his fingers stroking through Even’s hair.

“I’m not coming home tonight,” he says, and Eskild hums, “I just… wanted to tell you. So you don’t worry.”

Eskild is quiet for an unusually long time. “That’s nice, Isak. Everything okay?”

“I… uhm,” Even turns his head more fully on Isak’s chest, his arms squeezing Isak for a beat before relaxing again, “I’m sleeping over at Even’s.”

Eskild hums again, “Is he a new friend of yours?”

“Yes… kind of... ,” Isak sighs, “I think he’s… I think he might be my boyfriend.”

“Oh,” Eskild says, and Isak can hear the smile in his voice, “that’s really nice, Isak!”

Isak nods, before realising Eskild can’t see him, “Yes, yes it is.”

It’s quiet for a beat, Eskild giving Isak the room to say more if he wanted to.

“Hey Eskild?” Eskild hums at him to continue, “You know that time I said I slept over at Jonas? I was with Even then too.”

To Isak’s surprise, Eskild laughs. “Oh, I know, Isak. I called Jonas when I couldn’t reach you. But I figured you had a reason for lying and that you’d tell me when you were ready.”

Isak breathes out. He sometimes forgets, that Eskild is young himself, that he’s been through heartache himself, the he knows. “Thank you,” he says, “I… uhm…”

“Yeah, I love you too, Isak,” Eskild says. “Go spend time with your maybe boyfriend. Make him your definitely boyfriend.”

Isak laughs softly before hanging up. He buries his nose in Even’s hair, pulls him more fully on top of him.

He sleeps.

*

The forty-second time he sees Even, he’s walking onto Nissen’s schoolyard. It’s the first day of school and predictably, Isak is tired and already annoyed at everything.

Until he sees Even, and his heart rate slows down and his breath evens out and it’s so easy to walk up to him and hold his hand.

“Hi,” Isak says as Even looks at him, small smile curving around his lips.

“Hi, baby,” Even replies, thumb stroking the back of Isak’s hand.

It’s a little past 8 in the morning, the sun is watery, making the still wet street shine and sparkle and Isak hates mornings, but then Even pops out one of his earbuds and passes it to Isak and pushes his nose softly against the side of Isak’s face.

Jonas, Mahdi and Magnus join them, loud voicing overpowering the song in Isak’s ear but it’s okay because Even still squeezes his hand when the voice in his ear sings “just don’t leave”, the melancholy counterbalanced by Even’s wide smile.

Even’s eyes sparkle and his cheeks are flushed and he’s still the most beautiful person Isak has ever seen.

He turns towards Isak, tilting his head softly and Isak knows now, knows what all these emotions on his face mean. He knows Even’s little head tilt, the raised eyebrows, the widening eyes. Reads Even’s amusement at Isak’s staring. Sees how pleased he is with Isak’s attention. Basks in the affection in Even’s eyes.

“Okay?” Even asks and Isak nods, smiles.

He tears his eyes away from Even, turns his gaze back towards the boys, Magnus’ hands waving around as he talks, making Even smile, and he catches Jonas’ eye.

Jonas grins, looks down at their clasped hands and back up, pride on his face. And there it is again, that reminder of why he once fell for Jonas. His way of reading Isak, knowing Isak, and Isak smiles, leans a little harder on Even.

Even’s laugh breaks Isak away from the silent conversation he’s been having with Jonas and he turns to look at him.

The song in his ear changes into something he’s never heard before and he squeezes Even’s hand.

He waits for Even to look at him again. “I need to show you something,” he says and accepts the hoots and hollers he receives as he drags Even away and around the corner to press him against a wall.

Smiles pressed together and giggles escaping. Then lips sucked between his teeth and Even’s hands making marks on Isak’s lower back. Fire licking up his body and spots dancing behind his eyes when Even licks into his mouth.

Isak’s phone pings with a message from Jonas, telling him not to be late on his first day of school.

He giggles, presses feather light kisses on Even’s cheek, delights in the way they make him smile.

There’s nothing particularly magical about 8 in the morning on the first day of school, weather gloomy and dark, body not yet used to early mornings and routine.

But there are Jonas, Magnus and Mahdi, waiting for them to go in, making lewd jokes and smiling wide.

There’s Even, lips spit-slick and hair slightly mussed, fingers still tangled with Isak’s, pressing a last kiss onto his lips before finally letting go to separate. Then turning back to kiss him again and whisper against his lips.

There’s Isak pulling him into a hug, lips pressed against Even’s ear, whispering it back.

“I love you.”