Even can tell the moment he sees Isak after their first class. Someone who doesn’t know him might not be able to tell, but the two of them have spent more time together than many people would say is healthy, and by now they know all the little details of each others’ body language. Even sees the way Isak’s shoulders slump just a little bit, how his eyes turn to the floor rather than the hallway in front of him, how the little dandelion Even picked this morning on their way to school is no longer tucked behind his ear, and something is obviously very, very wrong.
Even has no idea why. Isak was so happy earlier this morning, beaming with that dandelion behind his ear as they said goodbye before going to class. He would like to talk to him about it, but he barely has time to kiss him on the cheek and say hello before the boys join them. Magnus and Mahdi instantly pick up where the conversation from earlier this morning left off - something about one of the shitty movies they watched this weekend - and Even doesn’t blame them for it. They’ve spent little to no time alone with Isak; of course they haven’t learned how to read him. Jonas, on the other hand, sees it immediately, and he looks at Even like he’s asking; Do you know what this is about?
Even shakes his head ever so slightly; he barely moves at all. But Jonas sees it, and now he’s looking at Isak, obvious concern in his eyes. Isak doesn’t look back at him; his eyes are on the floor, the walls, the ceiling. Never on Jonas, never on Even.
They don’t get to talk for several hours after this; there’s no time. Not that Even would want to have this kind of conversation at school; it’s a conversation that should be saved for when they’re safe back inside the walls of their home. This doesn’t mean they don’t talk about it at all. They talk silently, through their little movements, while they sit closely together in the cafeteria at lunch. Even tries to look Isak in the eye. What’s wrong? Isak looks back up at him for a second, shakes his head, looks away. Leave it.
They both know he won’t.
They walk back home in silence. Not the comfortable kind, but the kind that means they should talk but don’t. Isak doesn’t want to, Even doesn’t know how to. So instead, they walk in silence.
Eventually, though, Even recognizes the small patch of dandelions that they passed this morning, and he can’t help but smile. He turns to Isak. “Hey, you.”
Isak looks up just as Even lets go of his hand and turns away from him to pick one of the flowers. Turning back, he gently strokes Isak’s cheek as he tucks the little flower behind his ear. This, finally, brings a smile to Isak’s face. A small one, but still; it’s a smile. He looks up to meet Even’s gaze for a split second, before turning back to the pavement below them.
That’s the final push that Even needs.
He slowly moves his hand from Isak’s ear back to his cheek, cupping his face. His thumb slowly moves up and down in gentle strokes, and Isak leans into the touch, closing his eyes. He looks almost relieved, like he’s finally allowed to rest after wandering for miles. He sighs deeply through his nose, and Even is so in love with him he can barely breathe. He lives for quiet moments like this; the moments that are intimate without the two of them necessarily being physically close. But Isak is hurting, and Even’s still worried. He slowly leans forward until their foreheads touch, breathes in and out; one, two, three times. Then he asks;
Isak sighs again. He sounds almost annoyed, like he’s wondering why they couldn’t just have this moment without bringing up the bad things again, and if it weren’t for the circumstances, Even would have been amused. “Nothing,” Isak mutters.
Even allows a couple of silent seconds to pass; closing his eyes and opening them again. Isak’s hands feel warm against his arms. “No, it’s not nothing, Isak.”
Isak slowly opens his eyes. His gaze is still glued to the ground. He shifts uncomfortably, but his forehead never leaves Even’s. “It’s fine, you… You don’t need to worry about it.”
“Yes, I do. I always worry about you. It’s my job.”
Isak finally looks up, meeting Even’s gaze. He laughs a little, and it’s at least half genuine. A small victory, Even thinks. “I thought I was your support person, and not the other way around?”
That actually makes Even laugh. “Yeah, yeah. You don’t know me. Maybe your parents pay me too.”
Isak lets out a surprised, fake offended laugh. He playfully shoves Even away, still holding him but keeping him an arm’s length away. “What? Really?”
“Yeah. It’s the only reason they let us move in together.”
Isak shakes his head. “Well, this is it. I’m breaking up with you.”
“No, why would you do that?” Even pouts, pulling the other boy back in.
“Well, obviously I can’t date someone who makes deals with my parents behind my back!”
“Why not? I put up with you.”
“Yeah, but it’s different when it’s you.”
“Oh, it is?”
Isak won’t stop laughing, and Even’s heart melts into a puddle in his chest. This guy. Finally seeing him happy, even if it’s just for a moment, feels like coming home. The giggly kisses that follow come as naturally as breathing, their banter continuing as quiet mumbling during the short moments when their lips part.
Eventually, though, Isak stops and just holds him, leaning his forehead against his chest as the smile slowly falls from his face. Even doesn’t push; doing so wouldn’t help, only make Isak return to his shell. He just holds him, resting his head on the other boys hair. They breathe; in and out, together.
The hint of a smile appears on Even’s face, out of pure relief that Isak is finally allowing him to help. Then, he frowns. “Did something happen to her?” The idea of Sana doing something, anything, to hurt Isak is completely out of the question to him. She’s one of the nicest people he’s ever met, and she’s even nicer when she’s with Isak. The two of them just seem to get each other, and if she’s upset about something Even can definitely see Isak being affected by it.
“No. Or, well. I don’t know.” He pauses. Even feels his warm breaths against his chest. “She… She won’t talk to me.”
It’s about the fight, Even realizes, and something sinks inside him. He pushes it away. Not now. This is about Isak.
“Is it… Is it about Elias?”
“She talked about him. Said she was sorry. But she wouldn’t keep talking to me after that.”
Even isn’t sure what to say. He runs his hand through Isak’s curls, pressing little kisses to the top of his head. When he finally speaks up, he’s more quiet than he was earlier. “I think she just needs some time. This probably hasn’t been easy for her.”
“No. She hates me.” Isak says it half-jokingly, but there’s an unmistakable undertone that Even recognizes far too well. This is what Isak sounds like when his relationship with his parents is going through a particularly rough phase, or when something he did in the past comes back to haunt him, or when someone -once in a blue moon - gives their joint hands a weird look and all that shame comes rushing back to him. Even leans down to meet his gaze.
“Isak. She apologized to you, right? Why would she do that if she hates you?”
Isak’s eyes remain on the ground, and Even knows it’s not getting any better than this. Not today. He caresses the younger boy’s cheek again, moving up to his forehead and back down again; touching the bruise on his eye, carefully. Slowly, he presses a kiss to Isak’s lips. No tongue, no moving around; just a soft, simple kiss. “Hey.”
Isak’s eyes are closed. At the sound of Even’s voice they slowly open again; moving back up to the older boy’s eyes.
Even moves back in, gently rubbing his nose against Isak’s. “I love you. Okay?”
Isak’s mouth hangs open ever so slightly. Even loves it when he does that; it’s like he still can’t believe Even has said those words, as if they both haven’t already said them countless times. He smiles a little. “Okay.”
Then, after leaning in even closer to Even, he adds; “I love you too”, and Even decides that they’ll be fine. They’re always fine.