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All My Hope

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Connor Murphy was dead. That was the only thing that he knew for a fact. 

Connor remembered the weight of the pills in his shaking hand the moment before, and sinking into the blackness the moment after. He remembered the certainty that he wasn’t going to be stopped or discovered by a family member. He remembered knowing that this was it.

He knew he was dead. 

He did not know why he was now sitting in the middle of a completely white room. There weren’t any doors. It felt like he had been drawn into an art student’s reference book.

It wasn’t a hospital room. Even the ones without furniture or windows had some amount of human error (whether is was a stain on the floor or a dent in a wall). This place was devoid of any mistake. It was completely blank. 

But it couldn’t be a hospital anyway, because that would meant that someone had saved him.

Briefly he considered that this was purgatory. That would make some sense. He wasn’t exactly pure enough for heaven, but he doubted he was fucked enough for hell. 

When he was alive he hadn’t worried much about what happened after death. He’d never really listened to the shit his father’s church spewed, or the spiritual phases his mother had gone through. Connor had always thought that death would be like going to sleep and not waking up. He didn’t mind the afterlife only consisting of a soft blackness. 

This, however, was unpleasant. 

The space around him seemed to be radiating light. It made his head hurt. It made him confused that he could feel pain. Maybe this was hell after all.

Connor wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting there. He found the whole not being aware of time thing very cliché. Which, now that he thought about it, would probably support the hell theory. This was Connor’s punishment for being a terrible son and brother: a boring cliché headache. For moment, Connor really did believe that he was going to be stuck like this for the rest of eternity. 

That was why the tap on his shoulder startled him. He refused to admit that he sprang backwards, but at least he was able to stumble to his feet without tripping. His body felt like he had been sitting there for ages.

Standing where his back had been facing moments before was Alana Beck. Only, it wasn’t her. He knew it couldn’t be. 

For one, he was fairly certain that Alana Beck wasn’t dead (and her dying the same time as him felt too coincidental to be real). Plus, if or when Alana Beck died she wouldn’t end up the same place as Connor. 

And there was something off about the girl standing in front of him. It reminded Connor of looking at a staged photo of someone he saw regularly. He could recognize Alana’s face, the way she parted her hair. But there was something a little too presentational about her. He didn’t know Alana very well. In fact, he barely knew her, but he’d seen her enough to recognize that those weren’t her eyes. They were too frozen. 

“You’re dead,” Not-Alana told him in the crystal clear voice the real Alana always spoke in.

“I know,” he uttered his first words since death. They came out smoothly. He expected his throat to be clogged and horse after the pills, but instead his voice was crisp.

“Good,” she grinned at him. It didn’t look right. “Then we can skip the freaking out bit.”

“What are you?” he asked before he could think of a better way to phrase that. 

He was prepared for a lie. He was ready for her to tell him she was Alana, and he should know that since they’re such good ‘acquaintances.’ Instead her lips pursed into a very different sort of smile, and her eyes flickered over him. It took a second form him to realize that she wasn’t annoyed, she was impressed. 

“You’re smarter than you look,” she told him. “I don’t know, maybe you could call me a ghost. I got demon once. Why don’t we go with that? I’m the closest thing to a demon you’ll meet.”

“So this is hell?" he asked. 

“No,” she shook her head. Her voice was light. “It’s far from it.”

“Okay,” Connor took this in. “Um, why do you look like Alana Beck?”

“I don’t have to,” she seemed slightly offended at the question. 

Connor wondered if she was asked pointless things a lot. Did she talk to people a lot? He can’t imagine the dead having anything but questions. 

“I figured this form would be easiest for you to cope with,” she continued. “If you want I can change to your sister—”

“No,” he said too quickly. He didn’t want to see Zoe, even if it was just an image of her. And he did not want to hear her voice, even if it was only an imitation. 

“Okay, then,” Not-Alana nodded matter-of-factly. “We can get on to business.”

“Business?” Connor echoed. 

“Connor Murphy, welcome to your second chance,” she announced. 

“What?” he blinked at her. 

“You’re getting the chance to live again,” she explained. “If you can save someone else."
"What I don’t want to live?” Connor asked.

He had ended his life for a reason. He didn’t want a do-over where he knew he’d only screw everything up more. He didn’t want to feel pain anymore. That’s what death was supposed to be. It wasn’t supposed to be sitting in a white room talking to a demon in the form of someone he knew from high school. 

“That’s not for you to decide,” she informed him. 

“I killed myself,” he stated. “I chose to die.”

“Humans always think that life and death is in their hands,” she sighed, a knowing look passing over her face. “It never really is.”

“I don’t want to save anyone,” Connor held his ground. He just wanted an end.

She regarded him cooly before asking: “Do you want to be a murderer?” 

“What?”

“If you do nothing, he will die.” She spoke this as if she was talking about something simple. “You don’t want that on your conscience when you move on.”

He. So Connor wasn’t being asked to save just anybody, there was a specific person Not-Alana had in mind. Connor didn’t like this. He couldn’t save himself, how was he supposed to help someone else?

“Who?” he asked, even though it probably would have been smarter not to know the name of the person he was about to accidentally kill. 

“You don’t know how this works yet,” she crossed her arms, but smiled as warmly as he figured was possible for her. “You’ll get the hang of it. I can’t tell you any more.”

“You didn’t tell me anything,” he started. 

She took a step closer to him.

“You need to go to sleep now,” she said levelly. She reached her arm out to him.

“Don’t fucking touch me—”

He didn’t stumble backward in time. The second her cool palm made contact with his forehead he was slipping from the white room into darkness. But this time he knew the darkness wasn’t going to stick. 


Connor woke up on his feet. 

He was standing in the middle of a zoo. For a second it was just disorienting. One moment he was falling, the next he was on his feet. He missed the darkness as soon as it was gone. The world around him was too bright, loud, and real.

Hesitantly, he stepped forward, barely able to catch himself from stumbling. He felt dizzy. Maybe that was the fault of the pills. He wasn’t entirely sure what they did to him. He’d just hoped it would be more permanent than it was turning out to be. 

Connor hadn’t been to a zoo since he was in elementary school. It was crowded. He didn’t realize this many people chose to spend their weekends in the hot sun, surrounded by other sweaty people and the smell of animals. He couldn't see the enjoyment. 

Connor started walking, his feet dragging on the dirty cement. He didn’t understand what he was doing here. How was he supposed to figure out how to save the life of someone who’s name he didn’t even know?

He scanned the crowd for Not-Alana, but his eyes couldn’t find her. He’d been dropped in the middle of a fucking zoo with little explanation and no instruction. 

“What am I supposed to do?” He demanded at the air. 

Wincing, Connor realized that maybe shouting into a crowd of people wasn’t the best way to get answers. Even if Not-Alana was spying on him, he doubted she was going to lend a hand after what she’d said before knocking him out. So all he’d really accomplished was making everyone standing remotely near him think he was crazy. 

Only, none of the people around him spared a glance.

Connor was used to not being noticed by others, but this was different. This wasn’t a crowd of people pointedly ignoring him. It was as if—

“They can’t see me,” Connor spoke loudly. The lack of reaction from everyone around him proved his theory. Well, that only made everything ten times harder. 

He kept walking. 

Aside from being able to slip past people without feeling eyes on his back, this didn’t feel much different than life. The sun was still irritatingly bright, and the cheerful voices of others were still gnawing at his nerves. He still hated strangers. He hated the sunny smiles on their overly cheerful faces. 

Everything about this place was just too obnoxiously happy. There were too many picture perfect families and couples. It was like he’d been zapped into a painting of a spoiled child’s understanding of reality. 

Except for the couple yelling at each other next to a water fountain. 

Connor wasn’t the type of person to eavesdrop. Unless if had to do with his parents of Zoe, he usually kept the hell out of other people’s business. However, he was invisible and these were the only two in the entire area that weren’t grinning like idiots. Not seeing what was going on would be a waste. 

It took him a second to notice the kid standing behind the woman’s legs, and staring up at his parents with wide eyes. He looked scared. Connor wondered if either of the pair were violent, or if the kid just didn’t like the shouting. Judging by the way he was inching backwards, Connor was going to go with the later. 

He pitied the boy. Even if the five-year-old couldn’t understand whatever his parents were yelling about, Connor was certain that he’d be able to see that his family was the only one not smiling. Connor knew that feeling all too well.

He watched the kid stumble away, unnoticed by the two adults, before breaking into a run. He didn’t know that toddlers could move that fast. But, without fulling realizing what he was doing, Connor followed. 

Dodging the people littering the sidewalk slowed him down. Connor vaguely wondered what would happen if he tried to plow through them, but decided to save knocking unsuspecting zoo patrons on their asses for after he’d caught up with the little boy. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was doing this. It was almost like his feet were acting on their own accord. 

What was he supposed to do when he found the kid? He was an invisible ghost, he couldn’t do anything.

The word ghost felt like the only way to describe his existence right now. For most of his life he hadn’t believed in spirits, or anything remotely supernatural. Acknowledging anything like that just felt like another connection to whatever weird spirituality phase his mom was sucked into. But what else should he call this? 

The kid stopped when the crowd thinned out and the cement gave over to a grassy area. Connor watched him slump under a tree, pulling his knees to his chest. It made him look even smaller. As Connor approached, he realized the kid was crying.

What now? It wasn’t like Connor could go get his parents or a security guard. All he could do was stand there and watch the kid cry. 

Hesitantly, he sat down next to the tree. Usually when small children cried the sound was shrill. It broke through the air in a harsh demand for attention. This kid’s tears were silent. He wasn’t crying for the reaction of others, he was crying because he was hurt. Connor had never witnessed this in someone so young. It was sad.

Eventually the kid lifted his gaze up. Connor watched his eyes scan the unfamiliar surroundings he’d darted to moments before. He stopped on Connor. 

That was weird.

“Where am I?” the kid’s small voice whispered.

That was weirder.

“You can see me?” Connor blurted.

The kid was probably too young to realize how odd of a question that was, because he just nodded his head. Why could a toddler see him and no one else?

There were still tears in the kid’s eyes. He was looking to Connor for some sort of answer. Connor guessed he seem like an adult in comparison. Maybe the kid knew that he’d been sitting there the whole time. 

“Do you want to find your parents?” Connor asked him.

He nodded again. Connor stood up, but the kid didn’t move. He just kept staring at Connor with enormous brown eyes.

“Come on,” Connor held out his hand. Slowly the kid grabbed onto his fingers, using Connor to pull himself up.

Connor led him back the way they came. He doubted that the parents were still at the water fountain. He wasn’t sure how long they’d been sitting under the tree, but he was certain that even the most distracted parents would have noticed their child’s absence by now. Connor also doubted that they’d be able to find the couple by just walking around. The kid would probably start crying before they were even close.

They kept walking until Connor spotted a security guard. He stopped, and kneeled down to talk to the toddler who was still clutching his hand. 

“Hey, you see that guy?” Connor made his voice as gentle as he could. He’d never ben good at talking to children.

“Yes,” the kid stated, his gaze following where Connor pointed. 

“He’s like a police man,” Connor didn’t know how else to explain security guard to a five-year-old. “Go tell him you don’t know where your parents are, he can find them for you.”

The kid’s face scrunched up.

“Can you?” he asked. 

“No,” Connor answered. 

“Why?”

The truth wasn’t the most believable answer, but it wasn’t like Connor was talking to someone old enough to question his logic. 

“I’m invisible,” he stated. 

“No,” the child informed him.

“Yes, I am,” Connor said back.

“I see you,” the kid pointed out.

Okay, that was a reasonable argument. Connor considered trying to show the kid that the passers by thought he was talking to the air, but there was the chance that would freak him out. 

“That’s because you’re special,” Connor told him slowly. The kid just blinked at him, so he went on. “Only you can see me. The thing is, that guy isn’t special, but he’s nice and he’s gonna want to help you.”

The kid looked at the security guard again, then back at Connor. 

“Do I have to?” he asked. 

“Do you want to find your parents?” Connor asked him, his voice nearing irritation. 

“Mommy can find me,” he decided. 

“Look,” Connor forced himself to not sound frustrated. “All you have to do is tell him your name and that you’re lost.”

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” the kid chirped. 

“You’re talking to me,” Connor reminded him.

“I know.”

“Oh my god,” he muttered through his teeth. He gave the kid a pleading look. “Please? You’re mom is probably worried.”

That seemed to get some effect. Connor wondered how many times younger him would have stopped doing something stupid or annoying because he knew it would make his mother upset. 

“Can you come too?” the kid asked in a small voice. 

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.  “Yeah, sure.”

Connor walked next to the kid as he made his way to the security guard, who looked concerned the second he noticed the five-year-old by himself. The kid ended up not having to talk at all. When the security guard asked where his parents were, all he had to do was shake his head. Connor didn’t understand why it had been so easy for this boy to speak to him and not an adult who had a far more trust worthy appearance. Maybe it was because Connor had sat under the tree near him.

The kid glanced worriedly at Connor when the security guard began to lead him to the help desk. Connor nodded, then realized he didn’t have to nonverbally communicate that he was going to follow.

“Right behind you,” he said in a voice he hoped was assuring. 

The security guard pointed out the different animals they passed on the way to the help desk. Connor figured that this was in an attempt to cheer the kid up, and it worked for the most part. He saw a small smile creep onto the kids lips, and he did look less scared than he had when he realized he didn’t know where he was. 

The woman at the help desk had a sickly sweet voice, but the boy didn’t seem to mind. The security guard explained that he’d wandered away from his parents and they’d need to announce that he’d been found and where his parents should meet them. The woman asked the kid for his full name. He looked at Connor, who nodded again. 

“Evan Hansen.”

“What?” Connor was glad he was invisible. 

“Evan Hansen,” the kid said again, his eyes darting to Connor with fear he’d done something wrong. Connor quickly plastered a fake smile on his face. He couldn’t deal with this boy—with Evan Hansen—crying at his direction right now. 

This couldn’t be the same person he’d gone to school with. The person he’d pushed in the hall, and who’s weird letter he’d taken. That was impossible. It had to just been some weird coincidence.

Only, now that Connor was thinking about it, there was something familiar in this kid’s face. He remembered Evan Hansen’s eye color. If he tried very hard, he could remember Evan Hansen’s eyes. They were brown, and he’d seen them go very wide when he yelled at him. His eyes looked exactly like this child’s.

Barely three minutes after the announcement had been made over the zoo’s speaker, Evan’s parents were running toward them. Well, the mother was running, the father was following at a significantly slower pace. Connor knew what it looked like when parents were a unit, and what two people being forced together by a mistake they’d made looked like. He knew his own parents were rarely on the same page, but these two looked like they were on entirely different books.

Connor watched Evan hug his mother. She was crying. He wondered how scary it must have been for her, even if her son had only been lost for fifteen minutes. 

The father listened to a lecture from the security guard, while the mother made Evan promise he would never do anything like that to her again. He only nodded. She looked guilty. She wasn’t the type of parent to blame her kid for a mistake. Connor imagined she was mentally berating herself for taking her eyes off of him. 

The ordeal was a little too much. Connor didn’t need or want to be watching it. Silently, he waved at the kid before retreating into the crowd. He didn’t exactly know what to do now, so he settled for just walking. 

Not knowing ended up not to be so big of a problem. One second he was trying to get past a crowd of overly excited families, the next he felt a rush of tiredness pour into him.

In less than a second, his vision was blurring and then fading into darkness.

Chapter Text

When Connor’s eyes opened, he was standing in the middle of a sidewalk. The first thing he noticed was that it was dark. Not only was he in a completely different place, but time had passed. He’d closed his eyes and suddenly it was night.

How long had it been since he’d died? Was it just a day or had he been dead an entire week? He hadn’t been able to tell time passing when he first woke up, and now it seemed that it could rapidly increase.

“Why am I here?” Connor demanded at nothing. What did it matter if he talked out loud? Only that five-year-old had been able to hear him. He didn’t like this. Never in his life had he been okay with being kept in the dark by someone who deemed themselves an authority figure, and that was exactly what the “demon” who looked like Alana was doing.

Because he saw no other options, he started walking. He let his mind wander away from everything that was happening around him until is feet came to a stop.

This was probably the first time he’d ever taken noticed of a news stand. Honestly, who even read newspapers in this day and age? Still, glancing at the numbers under the headline would at least tell him how much time had passed since his death. Bending slightly, he squinted at the date.

“What the hell?” he murmured involuntarily.

Okay, that didn’t make sense. It really didn’t make sense. According to the newspaper it wasn't a few days after Connor had killed himself, it was nearly ten years prior.

Connor’s ghost had been sent back in time.

This was a dream. He must have failed, and now he was still alive and in a coma or something.

Yeah, that had to be what was going on. This was just his mind’s way of coping with still being alive. Any second now he was going to wake up in a hospital with his mother crying and his father looking at him like he was the biggest disappointment imaginable. None of this was real. It couldn’t be.

But he had felt death.

He could remember fading out of life. He could remember the warmth being drained away from his body. He could still feel the chill that implanted itself in his chest.

This couldn’t be a dream, because he couldn’t have imagined that feeling. He wasn’t that creative, and he doubted even the most talented thinker could have conjured that. Connor wasn’t alive.

So that meant he’d been sent back in time to save someone’s life. First he woke up in a zoo, and now he was in the middle of no where. Earlier only a five-year-old had been able to see him—a five-year-old that was almost definitely the kid he’d screamed at the day before killing himself.

Connor had been sent back in time to save Evan Hansen. That was irritatingly comical.

He started walking again. The first time it had helped to keep moving. That is, if taking a five-year-old Evan Hansen to a help desk was what he’d been supposed to do. The task wasn’t exactly saving anyone’s life. Then again, maybe if Connor hadn’t been there something bad would have happened. He wouldn’t waste his energy trying to think of what.

After what felt like half an hour, Connor found himself nearing a crosswalk. The neighborhood he was wandering through was either exceedingly quiet or very good about staying asleep. It had taken Connor this long to stumble upon a person.

From where he was standing, Connor watched a short boy with dirty blonde hair start to walk across the street. His hands were nervously clutching the straps of a backpack. His head was down. Connor knew silent contemplation when he saw it. Even if he wasn’t invisible, he doubted this kid would notice him.

Connor was about to continue walking, when he was startled by a car veering around the corner only a little ahead of the sidewalk. The driver might have been drunk. That was more than likely considering the car didn’t slow even though the boy was in the middle of the road.

The boy’s head was still down. He couldn’t see the car. He was going to get hit.

Connor darted forward, hurling himself at the boy just in time.

When his body hit the road, he was surprised that it hurt. He’d thought that maybe being practically a ghost would make him immune to pain, but his arm still burned from scraping against the asphalt.

“Fuck,” he muttered before turning his attention to the boy he’d just saved.

It was only when brown eyes were blinking at him did he realize this was Evan Hansen. Well, he’d done his job then.

“I’m sorry!” Evan stammered. “I wasn’t looking, that almost—Thank you so much!”

Connor let the kid babble an apology for being in the middle of the road, expecting the darkness to come and bring him back to wherever Not-Alana was. That was what was supposed to happen now, right? He’d save child Evan Hansen from getting run over and should now get to rest in peace (or whatever was next).

But the darkness didn’t come. Connor was about to get annoyed when his attention was snagged on how large the backpack that a kid who couldn’t be older than seven had been carrying. Only now did he noticed the red rimming Evan’s brown eyes. He’d been sobbing and was now on the street in the middle of the night.

“You’re running away from home,” Connor realized out loud.

“I, no,” Evan Hansen shook his head too quickly. “I’m going to the park.”

“You’re lying,” Connor stated. Nervousness aside, there was nothing convincing in the way this kid spoke. Connor doubted he’d be able to successfully lie about anything.

“I kinda need to go,” Evan’s eyes were wide. He looked like he was about to bolt. Regardless of just saving him, Connor was still a stranger asking too revealing of a question.

“I’m not going to get you in trouble,” Connor tried to make his voice as neutral as he could. Evan didn’t look like he believed him. “But it’s not safe to walk alone at night.”

“I know,” Evan mumbled. Almost becoming roadkill was enough to teach him that.

“Where are you headed?” Connor pulled himself to his feet. “I’ll walk you there.”

Instead of answering, Evan produced a bus pass from his pocket. Connor doubted it was his. Who gives a seven-year-old a bus pass? Evan must have taken it from a parent’s wallet. Connor mentally gave him points for being thorough. Himself at that age would have probably just shown up at the bus stop empty handed and have expected to be able to get on.

“Okay, then.” Connor offered a hand to Evan. “Come on, before the next car comes.”

Evan took the hand, but let go once he was on his feet.

“Thank you,” he mumbled.

Evan knew the way to the bus stop. Connor let him lead, wondering how planned out this really was.

“So, where are you going?” he asked. Evan avoided eye contact. Connor wasn’t sure if this was because of ‘stranger danger’ or embarrassment.

“I don’t know,” he said softly.

“Of course you don’t,” Connor muttered.

This kid was just going to hop on a bus and expect it to take him somewhere better. He was just going to get himself lost and scare his parents half to death before coming home and realizing there were consequences to his actions.

“Why are you running away?” Connor asked him.

Evan didn’t answer. Connor wasn’t really sure what exactly his job here was, but he doubted that letting this kid get on a bus to nowhere was part of it. He needed to talk him out of it and get him to go home.

The only problem was Evan had no reason to listen to him. Connor at that or any age would have never listened to a random stranger. And could Connor honestly convince him to go back? If he had thought it possible, child him would have probably ran away. Hell, the way he’d ended was practically running.

“I get it, you know?” Connor said without thinking. “Parents suck.”

Evan looked at him now. Connor wondered if anyone ever told this kid it was normal to not be able to handle life. He took the interested expression as encouragement.

“I spent so much time trying to get away from them or get them to just cut me a break for once,” he continued. “My mom was always trying to get me to be someone I wasn’t, and my dad gave me so much shit—”

Connor probably wasn’t supposed to swear in front of Evan.

“I mean,” he cleared his throat. “He gave me a lot of flack for everything he thought I did wrong. Sometimes it feels like its better to just get out. Make a choice for yourself.”

“My dad’s gone,” Evan stated. His voice was numb.

“Oh,” Connor didn’t know how to respond to that. His mind called back the image of the man he’d seen at the zoo. He remembered that man not running when his son was found. Connor’s eyes fell back on Evan. Had he looked that small this whole time?

“You need help carrying that?” he asked, pointing to the bag.

Evan shook his head.

“Stronger than you look?” Connor assumed with a slightly forced smile.

“I guess,” Evan shrugged.

They made it to a bus stop. Evan looked like he was going to continue walking.

“This your stop, or…?” Connor trailed off.

“Yeah,” Evan seemed to only now notice it. “I think so.”

“I’ll wait with you,” Connor decided, sitting down on the bench.

“You don’t have to,” Evan told him, taking a seat next to him.

“It’s still dangerous,” Connor reminded him.

“I’m not gonna get hit by a car,” Evan murmured.

“You never know,” Connor shrugged. He meant this to be a joke, but laughter was far away from this kid’s eyes. “Dads suck. Seriously, it’s like in their handbook or something.”

“It’s my fault,” Evan said, his eyes on the pavement in front of them.

“I doubt that, kid,” Connor told him seriously.

“It is though,” he looked at Connor now. “I’m not good enough.”

“Pretty sure it’s the other way around,” Connor said.

“But if I was smart, or could do sports like he wants me to, or had friends, then he wouldn’t think I’m a failure and he wouldn’t want a new family,” Evan exclaimed.

“You’re not a failure,” was all Connor could say.

“Yes I am,” he mumbled.

“I’m literally failing out of high school,” Connor told him. “Seriously, my teachers told me to stop coming, I’m that bad.”

Evan just looked confused, but Connor took that as an indication to keep going.

“I’ve sucked at pretty much every sport my dad signed me up for. Once I tried to hit a baseball and smacked the kid standing behind me with the bat.” Connor had to admit that memory made him laugh. “And I have absolutely no friends. Not one.”

Evan nodded. Connor couldn’t tell if he was starting to understand where Connor was going with this.

“But, a few minutes ago I saved a kid from getting run over by a crazy driver,” Connor told him. “I’m pretty sure I’m not a failure, and I’m way worse than you are everything you just said.”

A small smile crept onto Evan’s face.

“How did your mom feel when he left?” Connor asked.

“Sad,” Evan admitted.

“Right,” Connor nodded. “And how do you think she’s gonna feel when she wakes up and her son’s gone too?”

“If I go away Mommy can get a new family like Daddy is,” Evan explained.

Connor was suddenly angry. How did that man have the right to let his son think this? What made him think that he could just leave a kid who was trying so hard to please him? It was fucked up. It made Connor want to find the guy and punch him.

“The thing about moms is,” Connor forced any anger away from his voice. “They never want that. Moms always want the happy cheesy shit.”

“That’s a bad word,” Evan let him know.

“No matter what, moms are always more upset when you’re not with them,” Connor could feel something drop in his stomach as he said this, but did his best to ignore it. “Even if you think you’re a failure, your mom never will.”

“Then how come she cries?” Evan asked in a small voice.

“That’s the other thing about moms,” Connor said with a knowing look. “They have to make up for dads when it comes to tears.”

Evan nodded slowly.

“Do you really think she’s gonna stop crying if you leave her too?” Connor knew the answer to this.

“She was mad today,” Evan mumbled.

“Are you always happy?” Connor asked.

Evan shook his head.

“She’s not perfect,” Connor told him.

That was when the bus arrived. Connor watched Evan’s gaze flicker back and forth between Connor and the bus. He’d probably been very sure he was doing the right thing not too long ago. Connor’s words had planted doubt.

“I don’t,” Evan uttered.

“The world is kinda scary,” Connor told him. “But I bet your house isn’t.”

The bus driver said something Connor didn’t catch. Evan stood up, but didn’t look like he’d be able to step into the bus.

“Walk away,” Connor instructed. “You’ll be happier in your bedroom, trust me.”

“Okay,” Evan nodded.

Connor followed him. He heard the bus drive away, but neither of them looked back.

“I know you,” Evan suddenly said.

“What?” Connor didn’t know how to respond to this.

“I saw you before,” Evan stated. “Don’t remember where.”

“You don’t know me,” Connor tried.

“I think I do,” Evan mumbled.

“Call your mom, kid,” Connor told him.

“I don’t have a phone,” Evan said.

“Okay,” Connor sighed. “Where’s your house?”

“This way,” Evan pointed.

“Hurry up then,” Connor said. “It’s late.”

“Okay,” Evan nodded. “Did you run away?”

“What?”

“You said you wanted to make your own choices,” Evan reminded him.

“Yeah,” Connor wouldn’t tell this kid he was dead. Running was the easiest way to explain what he’d done. “I did.”

“Does your mom miss you?” Evan asked.

“Yeah,” Connor didn’t want to think about that. “She probably does.”

“You should tell her what you told me,” Evan suggested.

“You’re right,” Connor forced a smile. “I should.”

“You look sad,” Evan told him.

“You’re suddenly very talkative,” Connor commented.

“Sorry,” Evan mumbled.

“Don’t be,” Connor said. “I think you’re smart. So don’t let people tell you you’re not, okay?

“Okay,” Evan smiled again. “This is my house.”

“Go,” Connor stopped walking.

“Can you come with me?” Evan asked.

“No,” Connor couldn’t explain being invisible to an Evan that was old enough to question the logic.

“Why not?” he questioned.

“Because I’m not good at talking to parents,” Connor wasn’t exactly lying.

“Oh,” Evan seemed to understand.

“Bye, kid,” Connor said.

“Goodbye,” Evan mumbled before turning and walking to his front door.

Connor watched it open to reveal his mother. She was crying again. She looked older. He didn’t realize it was possible to age that much in just a few years. He watched her hug Evan, and watched him hug her back. They were both broken, but they had each other. A lot of people couldn’t say that much.

Evan glanced Connor’s way one more time before the door closed.

Connor just stood there. He should be fading away now, but he wasn’t. Evan was with his mother, what else was Connor supposed to do? Silently, he started walking, but the blackness didn’t come.

Suddenly, he realized that was okay. There was something else he could do while he was stuck in the past.


Over the years, his house hadn’t changed much. Aside from an older paint coat, the exterior was exactly the same as it had been the last time Connor saw it. Being here felt like a bad idea, but after walking a mile it would be stupid to turn back.

He couldn’t go inside. That would be too much. It would unleash an onslaught of memories he’d forced himself to forget. So instead he hovered outside the kitchen window.

The first thing he saw were his parents. They were fighting. It was more than ten years ago and they were fighting. He pushed down the anger. He didn’t want to feel anything at the raised voices. He didn’t want to care.

He could hear a snatch of the argument. Then he heard his name. Of course it was about him. Why else would they be fighting. It was always his fault. Had he really believed it when he told Evan Hansen he wasn’t a failure?

This was why he’d made the right choice. They were always going to be better without him.

As he listened to his father’s anger and his mother’s desperation, he realized that he remembered this day. He’d gotten sent home from school after punching another kid. He couldn’t really recall why he’d done it. Actually, he couldn’t really remember the incident at all, just the aftermath.

He remembered his father yelling at him. That was the first time he’d really yelled without holding back. He remembered his mother just watching. That was the first time she hadn’t stepped in to calm him down.

It wasn’t that she was afraid. She had looked sad. No, she had looked disappointed. That was the first time Connor realized that was how they saw him.

Connor forced himself away from the window. His feet brought him around the house until he was peering into the room he and Zoe used to share. In the present his mother used it as a storage space, but right now it still had the soft baby blue wallpaper and the two tiny beds.

Him and Zoe were huddled next to his bed. Connor couldn’t remember the last time she’d willingly been that close to him. There were tear stains on his younger self’s face. Zoe was holding a cookie. Connor had been sent to bed without dinner, but Zoe had always been good at smuggling snack food under their parents noses. She had to be barely five right now. She looked so small.

“Not hungry,” younger him muttered.

Zoe simply pushed the cookie into his hands.

“I don’t want it,” he made no effort to give the cookie back to her.

“You have to,” she informed him, her expression as serious as she could make it.

“No, I don’t,” he said stubbornly.

“But if you don’t eat your tummy is gonna eat you!” she exclaimed, expression not changing.

Connor felt himself laugh. He’d forgotten how hilarious his little sister’s thought process used to be.

“No, it’s not,” younger him argued.

“Is too,” she whined.

“Go away,” he pouted.

“No,” she slumped into his shoulder. “Mommy’s not mad.”

“Daddy is,” he mumbled.

“Daddy gets mad at spiders,” Zoe said, as if that proved his anger was not a force to be reckoned with. “Did you really hit him?”

“Mhmm,” Connor nodded.

“Why?” she asked with huge, not judgmental eyes.

“‘Cause,” he shrugged.

“‘Cause why?” She asked.

“‘Cause he was being mean,” he stated.

“We’re not supposed to hit anybody,” she mumbled.

“I know,” he sighed.

“Very mean?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he confirmed.

“Tell Mommy,” she suggested.

“She won’t listen,” he brushed off.

“Oh,” Zoe was silent for a little bit. “I listen.”

“I know.”

“Your tummy will eat you,” she reminded him, pointing at the cookie.

“Okay, okay,” he took a bite.

Connor stumbled backward. He couldn’t remember what it felt like to have Zoe listen to him. He couldn’t remember what having her believe in him felt like. This hurt more than he thought it should. He didn’t want to mourn his relationship with his sister. He’d lost it so long ago. It was an old wound, a scar he didn’t think could be reopened.

When the blackness came, he let it take him.

Chapter Text

Connor was back in the white room he’d first woke up in. Not-Alana was regarding him with an unamused expression, but all Connor could register was his own immense relief that he was no longer stranded in his past.

“It’s not a good idea to stray from the target,” she informed him.

“That makes it sound like you want me to hurt Hansen, not help him,” he told her. His head felt fuzzy. He figured it might be a side effect of this room.

“That wasn’t my intent,” she sounded like a robot—a robot with Alana’s voice. “Try to keep on task for the next part.”

“Next part?” Now she had his attention. Hadn’t he been taken out because it was over?

“You’re not done,” she stated.

“I stopped him from getting hit by a car and kidnapped on a bus,” he nearly shouted. Does that not qualify as saving the kid’s life?

“Yes, and you did a lot better than I thought you would,” her voice was slightly warmer. “Good job.”

“I’m not going back,” he told her. He couldn’t look at that kid’s face again. He couldn’t see the way he hugged his mother. He couldn’t watch someone have everything that Connor wanted but still have nothing at all.

“I already told you, that’s not for you to decide,” she said levelly.

“Evan Hansen doesn’t need saving!” Connor couldn’t keep the exasperation from his voice. “I know him. He turns out fine.”

“Does he?” her voice held no interest.

“Can I just die?” he begged. “I’m not asking for a second chance. I’m asking for it to be over. Because this isn’t death.”

“How do you know he doesn’t need saving?” she asked him.

“Because he made it to when I died fine,” Connor told her. “How disaster prone can one kid be?”

She shrugged, saying: “You’ll get it at some point.”

“I don’t like this,” he said, as if his words held any weight.

“I can tell.”

“He’s going to recognize me, you know.” Connor informed her. “He’s going to think I’m stalking him.”

“You’ll figure something out,” she shrugged again.

“I can’t go back,” he pleaded.

“I’m sorry.”

She didn’t touch him this time. The darkness came on it’s own. Connor knew it wouldn’t hold.


It was raining. Correction, it was pouring. Connor wished that being invisible meant he also wasn’t corporeal, but he was soaked to the bone in seconds flat.

He was in the middle of a park. He recognized it, he’d been here a few times when he was younger. His eyes scanned his surroundings before landing on a small figure huddled under a tree. Sitting in the middle of a park during a rainstorm was the most cliche instance Connor had been wrapped into. On a hunch, he approached.

“I remember you,” Evan Hansen told him when Connor was close enough to make out his face.

He didn’t look much different than the last time Connor has seen him. Despite being wet, Connor could tell Evan had a shorter hair cut. From the way he was sitting, it wasn’t clear if he’d grown at all.

“Why are you alone?” Connor sat next to him.

“Are you real?” Evan asked as simply as if he was asking Connor what he had for breakfast.

“What?”

“My mom couldn’t see you,” Evan explained. “When she brought me inside and I told her you were standing in front of the house, she said that there was no one there. Could the bus driver see you? Because he only talked to me, but you look more like a grown up. How old are you? Because you look—”

“Do you really think I’m not real?” Connor cut off the babbling.

“Makes sense,” Evan shrugged. “Maybe I’m crazy.”

“I’m a ghost,” Connor stated.

“Oh.” It took a second for Evan to process this. Connor watched him nod. “Are you haunting me?”

That was one way to put it.

“Yes,” Connor said.

“Why?” Evan didn’t look scared at that prospect.

Connor figured that he’d eliminated any possibility of appearing scary to this kid after he saved him from getting hit by a car and talked him down from running away from home. That was funny. He was fairly certain that he could terrify the Evan his age if he’d wanted to, while the Evan ten years younger and far more vulnerable was looking at him with trusting eyes.

“I don’t really know,” he replied.

“Oh,” Evan said thoughtfully.

“I’m supposed to save you before I get to move on,” Connor didn’t see the harm in letting him know.

“You’re here to protect me?” Evan asked.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“Then you’re not a ghost,” Evan decided. “You’re an angel.”

That was sweet. Evan said it with enough conviction for Connor to almost believe it. But he knew he wasn’t Evan’s guardian angel. He was the boy who was going to push him in ten years. The boy who was going to blow up at him and storm off with no sign of remorse. He wasn’t a savior, he was just the kid who killed himself.

“I’m not your angel, Evan,” he tried to keep the melancholy from his voice.

“You know my name,” Evan didn’t seem too surprised.

“Yeah,” Connor said. “It’s less creepy than it sounds.”

“I don’t think it’s creepy,” Evan murmured.

“Then I fear for your judgement.” The joke fell flat. “How old are you?”

“Eight,” Evan answered.

“And last time I saw you?” Connor wondered.

“Seven,” he confirmed.

“Okay,” Connor nodded. “I was right about that. It’s been a year?”

“Yeah.” Evan’s voice was difficult to hear over the rain, but the kid had a dazed look in his eye and Connor wasn’t about to ask him to speak louder.

“You thought you were crazy for a year,” Connor couldn’t imagine a child being able to handle that.

“I thought you were dream or something,” Evan admitted. “When I saw you over there I thought I was crazy.”

“You’re not,” Connor said.

“Okay.”

“You don’t believe me,” he realized.

“Not really,” Evan confirmed in a small voice.

“I stopped a car from hitting you,” Connor reminded him, hoping that this would at least prove Connor wasn’t a dream.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded at the memory.

“Why are you alone right now?” Connor asked him.

“Mom’s gonna pick me up soon,” Evan stated.

“Right,” Connor exhaled. “How soon?”

“Hour ago,” Evan mumbled.

“Shit.”

“That’s still a bad word,” Evan informed him.

“I know,” Connor smirked.

“I didn’t think you were real,” Evan stated.

“You said that already,” Connor reminded him.

"I’m glad you are," Evan finished.

“Because someone’s looking out for you?” Connor couldn’t help asking. Of course a kid who’d only ever seen him help would be happy he existed. It had nothing to do with who Connor was, just the action he was being made to preform.

“I guess,” Evan shrugged. “But also ‘cause you’re nice.”

“You’re the only person who’s ever said that,” Connor meant this to be a joke, but Evan’s eyes widened.

“Really?”

“Fuck,” Connor muttered. “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Why?” Evan blinked, clearly now aware of what his face was doing. This kid would have so much power if he realized how cute he was. Connor knew so many adults who would fall for that shit.

“Never mind,” Connor shook his head. “How have you been?”

“Okay,” Evan put no effort into the word.

“We don’t have to talk about that,” Connor let him know.

“Thanks,” Evan mumbled.

It was still pouring. Connor could feel his hair plastered against his neck. Evan’s arms were wrapped around himself. He wasn’t wearing a rain jacket. There was no way he was making it out of today without at least a cold.

“Why are you at the park on a rainy day in the first place?” Connor wondered.

“I don’t know,” Evan mumbled.

“Yes, you do,” Connor nudged him with his shoulder. Evan didn’t smile.

“I was gonna meet someone,” he told him. “But he probably noticed the rain, so…”

“So you got stood up?” Connor questioned.

“I guess,” Evan shrugged as if it didn’t matter.

“That sucks,” Connor tried to sympathize.

“I guess,” Evan didn’t look at him.

“I like the rain,” Connor forced his voice to sound cheery.

“But it’s cold,” Evan said.

“Yeah, but it keeps other people way,” Connor pointed out. “We have the entire park to ourselves.”

“But the grass is wet,” Evan argued.

“Water never killed anyone,” Connor said lightly.

“Yes it did,” Evan replied.

“You’re not gonna drown, Hansen,” Connor told him.

“I could get pneumonia,” Evan stated.

“Are you always this mopey?” Connor asked him.

“No,” Evan answered honestly.

“You know why your mom’s late?” Connor asked out of curiosity.

“Probably work,” Evan said off handedly.

“What does she do?” Connor wondered.

“She’s a nurse,” Evan answered.

“That’s good for her,” Connor commented. His mother didn’t work. She didn’t have to. Connor had always took for granted how easy things were financially for his family.

“She works a lot,” Evan murmured.

Connor knew what this meant. Evan Hansen had been forced to get used to being alone constantly.

“Your dad doesn’t pay child support?” Connor asked.

“What’s that?” Evan blinked at him. Connor reminded himself that Evan was an eight-year-old. Whether or not he was aware that his mother was working to make ends meet, he doubted she disguised this with him.

“Never mind,” he shook his head. “Nothing you should have to worry about.”

They watched the rain for a bit. Connor wasn’t lying when he said he liked it when it rained. He liked the stuffy smell that some how had the power to ward off all others. He liked the water caging him indoors.

“You were gonna meet a friend?” He remembered what Evan had mumbled earlier.

“Yeah.”

“Last time you said you didn’t have any.” Small or not, it was still progress.

“His mom is friends with my mom,” Evan admitted.

“Oh.” Connor had never had friends who were forced to be around him, but that didn’t sound fun for either party. He wasn’t going to say that out loud. “Still, that’s better than nothing.”

“Yeah,” Evan shrugged before glancing back at Connor. “Why me?”

“What?” Connor didn’t know where this question was coming from.

“Why are you protecting me?” Evan clarified.

“I don’t know,” Connor answered honestly, then added in a lighter tone: “You’re less whiny than other kids.”

That earned a small smile. Connor was a littler surprised that having to have a ghost protect him didn’t put this kid on edge. Or, maybe Evan Hansen was always on edge and this just didn’t add to it. It was a little saddening to acknowledge that the latter was more likely than the former.

“Do you remember getting lost at the zoo when you were five?” Connor asked him.

“No,” Evan shook his head. “Mom told be about it.”

“I was there,” Connor told him.

“Really?” the smile was still on his face.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded. “Found you crying under a tree.”

“Like now?” Evan muttered.

“Are you crying?” Connor could hear the lack of concern in his voice. He’d probably need to work on that.

“Not anymore,” Evan admitted.

“If you want to talk about it,” Connor told him.

“I don’t,” Evan answered.

“Okay,” Connor nodded.

“How did you become a ghost?” Evan asked him suddenly.

“I died,” Connor deadpanned.

“Oh,” Evan took this in. “Did it hurt?”

“Kinda,” Connor said, because how was he supposed to tell an eight-year-old that he liked it? He liked closing his eyes and believing that he wouldn’t have to open them again.

“How old were you?” Evan wondered.

“How old do I look?” Connor asked back.

“I dunno,” Evan murmured. “Not old enough.”

A car pulled up at the street corner. Connor watched Evan’s gaze flicker to it. Evan didn’t stand up.

“Is that your mom?” Connor questioned.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded. Slowly he pulled himself off the wet grass. He was completely soaked. “Am I gonna see you again?”

“Yeah,” Connor tried to hide his distaste at being stuck haunting him. It wasn’t Evan’s fault, and he honestly didn’t mind talking to the kid. He just thought that death would give him the control life never had.

“Okay,” Evan nodded. “When?”

“I don’t know, kid,” Connor sighed.

“Okay,” Evan said again. He didn’t move.

“Bye, Evan,” Connor gestured toward the car waiting for him.

“Bye,” Evan paused. “What can I call you?”

“Connor,” he said without hesitation. There was no way he was letting Evan Hansen refer to him as an angel.

“Bye Connor,” Evan waved before running to the car.

Connor watched him go. He leaned against the tree. After about a minute he determined that Not-Alana was either trying to test him or wasn’t watching him right now. That was great.

He didn’t see the harm in breaking the rules of a game he hadn’t signed up for. What was the worst that could happen? He’d die?

Chapter Text

When he reached his house, he couldn’t tell what time it was, but knew it had to be late. It was one of those still hours. The times of the night where kids would be afraid on nonexistent monsters. No one should have been awake right now. So, of course his parents were.

Their voices were loud. Connor could discern the words from the window. A voice in his head told him to go away. He’d always tried to shut out whatever they said during their fights, but right now he was oddly drawn in. Curiosity was beating self regard.

It took a second of trying to make sense of his mother’s voice to realize that the fight was about him, and another to realize exactly what he had done this time. He was eight, so this was about the time that it must have happened. Connor didn’t keep track of dates, especially for events like this. He couldn’t remember most of his incident, just the very bad ones. Throwing a printer at a teacher qualified as one of those.

“Did the principle say anything about expelling him?” he heard his mother demand.

“Cynthia he threw a printer, why would they keep him?” His father’s voice sounded like stone. It always did when he was angry. It made itself into a impenetrable force that no one could get through. That didn’t mean his mother wouldn’t try. She always tried.

“It was an accident,” she said. Connor remembered back when she took his side in times like this. She still tried to later, but eventually understanding became watered down with exasperation.

“You know it wasn’t,” his father told her. “He’s lying because he knows it works on you.”

Connor didn’t remember what he’d said to his mother after being dragged home that day. He remembered crying. He remembered everyone being angry. This was after the anger was gone from him. After he’d calmed down enough to realize that he’d actually listened to the voice screaming at him to act. He’d never been good at ignoring it, even back then.

“It does not,” his mother’s voice always got higher before being broken by tears. “You never give him a chance.”

“A chance to what?” his father asked her. “Get himself kicked out of second grade?”

“He knows what he did was wrong,” she was pleading, but he was too mad to see it.

“He knows he’s in trouble and if he talks to you he can get away with it!” Connor’s father shouted.

Something broke in the air. It was like it had taken only now for them both to hear themselves.

“I’m sorry,” the stone was gone from his father’s voice. “This is, just a lot. I’m going to bed.”

“I need a minute,” his mother was trying not to cry.

“Cynthia—”

“It’s okay,” she said all too quickly. “I just, I need a second alone, alright?”

Connor watched his father process this.

“I’ll keep the light on for you,” he told her before leaving the room.

Connor watched his mother sink into a chair at the kitchen table. He watched her put her head in her hands. He’d never seen her look this small before, this helpless.

It was his fault.

Connor felt his feet running before he registered that he was bolting from the house.


The next thing Connor knew he was standing outside of his old elementary school in broad daylight. His eyes registered the new setting just in time for him to witness a blue blur dart through the gates. It took a moment for him to recognize the blur as Evan. Eight-year-old Evan was trying to sneak out of school.

“What are you doing?” Connor asked loudly.

“Ah!” Evan literally jumped. “Oh, hi Connor!”

“Evan,” Connor raised an eyebrow.

“I’m sorry, I can’t talk,” Evan stammered quickly. “I need to go.”

“You’re sneaking out of school,” Connor stated.

“I can’t be here right now.” It took until now for Connor to realize that the look in Evan’s eyes was close to panic.

“Hey,” he took a step closer. “Hey, calm down.”

“I need to go,” Evan said again. He was hyperventilating, or at least close to doing so.

“Evan, okay, you need to go, I get it,” Connor said. “Tell me why.”

“I,” Evan winced. “I forgot my homework folder, and I can’t tell Ms. G, because she’s gonna think that I’m lazy and didn’t do it. But I did, I promise! I just forgot. So I gotta go home and hide now—”

“Evan,” Connor’s mistake was asking him to talk in the first place. “Breath.”

“I am,” Evan sputtered.

“You’re not,” Connor stated.

“I’m sorry,” Evan looked like he was about to start crying.

“Come on, we’re gonna go sit down,” Connor gestured to the bench outside of the school’s walls.

“Someone’s gonna see,” Evan told him. “But they’ll just see me and they’ll think I’m playing hooky but I’m not, I swear.”

“Hey,” Connor grabbed Evan’s arm. He needed to get this kid out of sight before he started seriously freaking out. “Come here.”

Connor led Evan behind the building before Evan could say anything else. He pushed away any nostalgic feelings he was having. They weren’t wanted, especially when he had to figure out how to calm this kid down.

“No one comes back here,” he explained, kneeling to look Evan in the eye.

“How do you know?” Evan asked him.

“Because this is where I hid when I was your age and my dad dropped me off too early,” Connor answered before realizing that this was more information than he wanted this kid to have.

“You went here?” Evan asked him.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

Connor wasn’t sure if it was good or bad that Evan was too preoccupied to react much to this. He watched the kid squeeze his eyes shut, unconsciously leaning against the wall.

“Evan?” Connor tried to bring him back to earth.

“Yeah?” Evan hummed, eyes still closed.

“Breath,” Connor stated.

“I can’t,” he uttered.

“Yes, you can,” Connor tried to make his voice warm. “You’re fine. No one’s gonna bother you, right now. You’re okay.”

“I need to go home,” Evan stated, the panic wasn’t gone.

“How far is your house from here?” Connor asked.

“Far,” Evan said after a second’s pause. Connor realized Evan probably hadn’t realized how impossible running home was.

“You think you can walk all the way there?” He questioned.

“Maybe,” Evan mumbled.

“You know your teacher is gonna call your mom, right?” Connor said

“What?” Evan blinked at him.

“If you don’t show up they have to,” Connor explained. “You could have been kidnaped or something.”

“I,” was all Evan was able to get out. Connor wasn’t helping. He really wasn’t helping.

“Okay, ignore what I just said,” Connor told him quickly. “Shit.”

“That’s a bad word,” Evan exhaled.

“I know,” Connor smiled slightly. “Okay, did school start yet?”

“Five minutes,” Evan mumbled.

“Right,” Connor nodded. “Okay, Hansen, here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re gonna walk into the classroom and you’re gonna tell Ms. G that you left the house very fast because your mom had to go to work and you thought you grabbed your homework, but you didn’t.”

“But when Connor said that she said he was lying,” Evan argued. “Not you Connor, there’s a boy in my class—”

“Yeah, but he probably never has his homework, right?” Connor cut him off.

“Most of the time he doesn’t,” Evan admitted meekly.

This was the grade Connor stopped cooperating. It got better then worse again as he got older, but it was with this teacher that Connor realized he didn’t have to obey. Sure, he paid the price, but his younger self decided it was worth it if he could at least piss her off. Because he’d hated that teacher (well, he wouldn’t have thrown the printer at her if he didn’t). She never made an effort to give him half a chance because got upset easily, because he couldn’t help being disruptive sometimes, because he was different.

“See,” Connor snapped back to focus. “She’ll believe you because you’re a good kid.”

Because teachers like that always listened to the good kids who were quiet and smiled and didn’t ask too many questions.

“But,” Evan shook his head. “But I can’t just say that.”

“How come?” Connor asked.

“Because,” Evan scrunched up his forehead.

“Yeah?” Connor prompted.

“I just can’t,” he stuttered.

“What if I come with you?” Connor offered.

“They can’t see you,” Evan stated.

“Exactly. They can’t but you can,” Connor nearly exclaimed. “So I’ll be with you, but you won’t have some weird teenager hovering behind you.”

“You’re a teenager?” Evan took the wrong words out of what Connor had just said.

“How old do I look?” Connor sighed.

“I dunno,” Evan mumbled.

“Let’s go now,” Connor decided. They’d make Evan late if they didn’t.

“But,” Evan tensed again.

“I’m right next to you,” Connor told him.

“But—”

“Hansen, it’s not a big deal,” Connor’s frustration seeped through his voice.

“You don’t know that,” Evan whispered.

“Yes I do,” his voice was too hard. “Trust me. I know exactly what a big deal looks like and this isn’t it.”

Evan closed his eyes. Connor swallowed, only hearing his own words after he’d carelessly thrown them. He knew what he sounded like—who he sounded like.

“I’m sorry,” he put his hand on Evan’s shoulder.

“No you’re right,” Evan’s voice was shaking. Connor realized how close to crying he’d just made this kid. “I—”

“Do you have a phone?” Connor asked him.

“No,” Evan shook his head.

“Okay, come on, we’re going to the school nurse,” Connor decided. “Tell her you don’t feel good, she’ll call your mom.”

“Mommy’s at work,” Evan stated.

“She’ll come get you and take you home,” Connor doubted the woman he’d seen tearfully embrace Evan twice would have any other reaction to him nearly having a panic attack at school.

“No!” Evan shouted. “No, she can’t. She’s busy, if I make her leave then—”

“She’s your mother, she won’t mind,” Connor told him.

“You don’t know that,” Evan said again.

“She loves you,” Connor tried to tell him.

“I know,” Evan didn’t look at him.

“And she wouldn’t want you to go to school like this,” Connor added.

“I,” Evan shook his head again. “I can’t.”

“I’ll hold your hand,” Connor offered. He didn’t know what else to say.

“Makes it look like I’m holding hands with the air,” Evan mumbled.

“Okay, okay,” Connor sighed. They’d do this step by step. “Can you talk to the nurse?”

Evan nodded.

“Tell her you don’t feel well and need to lay down,” Connor instructed. “She’ll tell your teacher, you’re here but feel sick.”

“My mom can’t get me,” Evan stressed.

“That’s why you’re gonna say you’re fine in about an hour,” Connor decided.

“Why?” Evan looked at him.

“Your teacher collects the homework in the morning, right?” he remembered this. “She’ll forget about it when you come to class.”

Connor had tried this once, back before he was deliberately not being a good student. For someone who was so irritated whenever Connor was deemed disruptive, this teacher didn’t have the sharpest attention span. As long as Evan walked in while she was teaching, she wouldn’t realize that he needed to turn in his work.

“Everyone’s gonna look at me,” Evan realized.

“For a few seconds,” Connor shrugged. “Then they’ll get over it.”

“Promise?” Evan asked in a small voice.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“Can you still come with me?”

“Sure,” he didn’t exactly have anywhere else to be.

“Thank you,” Evan murmured, pushing himself off of the building’s wall.

“Still not gonna hold my hand?” Connor joked.

“I’m okay,” Evan’s lips turned in a half smile.

Connor’s plan went smoothly, and his presence seemed to have somewhat of a soothing effect. He promised he wouldn’t leave until Evan made it safely to class, but told him he couldn’t go into the classroom with him. Evan had nodded at the air. He stopped verbally responding to Connor once they got onto the campus.

It was odd how vividly Connor remembered this space. So many settings blurred in his mind, but he remembered his second grade classroom perfectly. He hated it enough to recall the trivial details. So many teacher’s faces hadn’t stuck in his mind, but this one seemed to be burned into his memory.

This was where he learned that life was unfair. No, it was where he learned that life fucking hated him.

He watched Evan blend into the back of the class. The kids were all sitting on the floor, Connor couldn’t hear what the teacher was saying through the window. Old habits would die hard for that kid. Having successfully gotten Evan there, Connor figured there was no need in him sticking around.

He didn’t mean to notice younger him. He was sitting a little apart for the rest of the kids. Connor had friends the year before, but they’d realized how weird he was a little before the incidents started. The asshats of second grade noticed this and made it their job to torment him. That was why Connor had punched a kid. He didn’t remembered himself regretting it, but looking back he was fairly certain that was when his teacher decided that all Connor would ever be was a trouble maker with rich parents. Now that he was old enough to understand money he knew that was the only reason why he hadn’t been kicked out of the elementary school.

Younger him didn’t look happy. He looked so much more out of place than Evan Hansen did, but he doubted that kid could notice anything but his own discomfort. Evan alienated himself, the same way that Connor did.

He’d know that when he offered to sign Evan’s cast on the day that now felt very, very long ago. He’d know that they were probably in the same boat, or at least in the same ocean. But he hadn’t realized that it stretched back this far for either of them.

At least Evan wasn’t being called a waste by authority figures. Maybe Evan’s mother would have realized if he was being bullied by a teacher. Why hadn’t Connor’s parents fucking noticed? They were supposed to know him, weren’t they?

Connor walked away from the classroom. When the blackness came, he didn’t mind. If he broke the rules, he’d probably just see the same fucking thing he did the last two times. Nothing changed. Nothing ever did.

Chapter Text

It was night again. Connor was outside Evan Hansen’s house. Vaguely he wondered how much time had passed. Slowly, he approached, expecting to have to peer through the windows to find Evan and figure out what was wrong this time.

He was proved wrong when he nearly tripped on a small figure hiding under the shadow of the tree in the front lawn.

“Why are you sitting outside?” Connor had no other way to start the conversation.

“I dunno,” Evan was hugging his knees.

“It’s night,” Connor said as if that wasn’t obvious.

“I know,” Evan mumbled.

“Are you locked out?” Connor questioned. He didn’t want to break Evan into his own house, but if that was why he’d appeared he probably didn’t have much of a choice.

“No,” Evan shoot his head.

“Is your mom in there?” Connor asked.

“Yes.”

“Hansen—"

“Go away,” Evan meekly told him.

“I kinda can’t,” Connor muttered. He held back a sigh, and sat down next to Evan. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Evan squeezed his eyes shut. Connor’s presence was agitating him. That was a little bit irritating.

“Somethings wrong,” Connor made it clear he wasn’t buying half-assed bullshit. “You’re sitting outside of your house when you could be asleep.”

“I’m not tired,” Evan said.

“Did something happen with your mom?” Connor questioned.

“No.”

“Did something happened at school?” he tried.

“No.”

“Is this about your dad?” he was sounding more and more demanding, but he couldn’t fucking help it.

“No.”

“Jesus Christ,” he blurted. “You need to give me something to work with.”

“Can I be alone?” Evan asked in a small voice.

“No," Connor mimicked.

“Its not a big deal,” Evan said after a moment. Connor knew when he’d last heard those words

“Quoting me back to me doesn’t work,” Connor informed him dryly. “Trust me, my sister has tried.”

“You have a sister?” Evan asked.

“We’re not talking about me,” Connor said firmly.

“I don’t wanna talk,” Evan mumbled.

“You need to go inside,” Connor told him.

“Why?”

There were a lot of ways he could answer this.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, voice not lacking frustration. “Because staying out puts you in some sort of danger.”

“How?”

“I don’t fucking know,” he said through his teeth.

“That’s a bad word too,” Evan mumbled.

Connor stood up. Evan watched him but didn’t move. Connor didn’t realize someone so passive could be so stubborn.

“Come on,” he said.

“No.”

“So, what? You’re gonna sit outside moping for the rest of the night?” He demanded. He didn’t realize it was possible from Evan to shrink into the tree even more, but apparently it was, because now it looked like Evan was trying to get the shadows to absorb him. “You’re gonna let your mother find you passed out under a fucking tree?”

“I’m sorry,” Evan whispered.

“Are you going to treat every little thing like the end of the world?” Connor couldn’t stop himself. Maybe in the back of his mind he knew it wasn’t fair to yell at this kid, but he couldn’t fucking take it anymore. “A boy threw a printer in your class—threw a fucking printer, and you didn’t know how to tell your teacher you forgot your homework!”

“I’m sorry,” there were tears in Evan’s eyes now.

In that moment he reminded Connor so much of Zoe. The feeling wedged in Connor’s gut was something he’d only ever taken out on his little sister. The quiet fear and soft hurt was exactly what she’d looked like when it first happened. Slowly it had shaped into anger. But Evan Hansen wasn’t going to get angry. He was just going to stare up and Connor with large brown eyes and silently realize that, no, Connor was not his angel. Connor was a monster.

“I can’t do this,” Connor wasn’t sure who he was talking to anymore.


He didn’t mean to end up back at his own house. All he’d known was that he wanted to be away from Evan Hansen’s. Maybe this whole time his body had been on autopilot, and he’d only been deluding himself in the moments where he thought he had control.

His father’s car was not in the driveway. Connor assumed that meant he was at work. It made sense. Connor couldn’t recall a time where his father hadn’t had to work late every once in a while. It was only when he was older that he realized work could so easily be used as an excuse not to deal with the rest of them. Connor hadn’t been angry about that. He’d been jealous that he never got such an easy escape.

No one was in the kitchen, so he walked to the living room window. There his mother was sitting, with the same quiet pain she’d held the last time. Only, she wasn’t alone now. Connor’s younger self was next to her, his eyes clouded with what eight-year-old him must have thought was the weight of the world.

There was a first aid kit on the table in front of them. Connor watched his mother cleaning a scrape on his arm that was very clearly not from falling on pavement. She wouldn’t talk until she was done. That was how she handled things. She waited until the words were there and the wounds were healed.

“How did you get it?” when she finally asked her voice was calm.

“I was running,” Connor watched his younger self mumble. He doubted that he had expected her to believe this.

“Connor,” she started, there was a warning in her tone. Younger him ignored it.

“I tripped on the curve,” he kept going anyway.

“Tell me the truth,” she commanded.

“It is,” Connor chirped defensively. “You never believe me.”

“I’m your mother, I can tell when you’re lying,” she told him plainly. “Was it at school?”

“No,” he shook his head.

“Where?” she questioned.

“Outside,” he mumbled.

“Outside our house?” there was a hint of horror to her voice now. She knew that Connor had a hard time in school, but she must have imagined their home as a safe zone.

“Close by,” he shrugged.

“Connor,” now he could hear the pain.

“It doesn’t matter,” he didn’t mean that. He needed it to matter so much to her that it would stop mattering for him. But if eighteen-year-old Connor still wasn’t able to say that, there was no way that younger him would ever voice it.

“If you don’t tell me what happened right now, you’re grounded,” she decided.

“Already grounded,” he reminded her. Probably from the incident with the printer.

“You’re more grounded,” she told him.

“I got in a fight,” he whispered. Connor knew it wasn’t the threat that loosened his lips. He wanted to tell her. He’d wanted to from the beginning, but he needed her to want to know more than he wanted to speak.

“Connor you can’t keep doing this,” she exhaled. There was the exasperation younger him would read as disappointment. Connor watched himself retreat back into his shell.

“Wasn’t my fault,” he mumbled.

“There are consequences to your actions,” she told him.

“I know,” he was looking at the bandage on his arm.

“I’m not talking about the cut,” she said gravely.

Connor remembered the last conversation he’d spied on. He’d never been kicked out of school, but as a kid he hadn’t realized how close he’d been. He always thought that his parents were just upset that he wasn’t acting like the perfect angel they wanted.

“I didn’t start it,” his voice was defensive now. He was trying to hide the hurt, but as a child he’d never been the best at quelling back tears. “It’s not my fault.”

His mother’s gaze softened.

“Who was it?” she asked.

“Kids from school,” he mumbled.

“There was more than one?” The horror was back.

“Yeah,” he didn’t lie this time.

“How many?” she asked.

“I,” Connor opened his mouth, but the words didn’t come out.

“Connor,” she didn’t sound mad. She sounded scared, helpless.

He hated watching this. He hated knowing that he’d never been okay. There were so many times that he’d pretended—forced himself to think that the problems never really started until middle or high school. He’d tried so hard to trick himself into thinking that there was a time where he wasn’t broken.

There never was. His mother looked like she was going to start crying. She couldn’t help him. There were so many times when Connor had truly believed she didn’t want to. There were so many times where she acted like she hadn’t.

But she did care. Connor couldn’t tell himself she didn’t. As he got older, and worse, and angry, she may have forgotten how to talk to him. Still, the woman he was watching now was hurting just had much as her kid was. She couldn’t do anything about it. They were both going to hurt now and for the next ten years, because that’s how fucked Connor was.

Connor wasn’t glad he was dead. He wished he was never born.

“Three,” younger him answered.

“They were picking on you?” she asked. He didn’t look at her. “Sweetie, answer me.”

He shook his head. Even if that had been convincing, the tears now leaking down his face were all the confirmation needed.

“I’m going to talk to your teacher tomorrow,” his mother decided.

“She doesn’t care,” Connor said bitterly.

“It’s her job to care,” his mother said logically.

“But she doesn’t!” he exploded. “I’m a freak no one cares!”

Then she hugged him. Then they were both crying.

“I do,” she murmured into his hair.

Despite coming home with a scrape up his arm and knowing that he’d have to go back to the people who had given it to him the next day, younger him looked safe. Connor wished he still knew what that felt like. He melted into his mother’s arms. He believed they could protect him. Connor couldn’t remember the last time she hugged him like that.

“I don’t like school,” he told her.

“I know, honey,” she rubbed his back.

“It’s not fair,” he sobbed.

“I know, honey,” her voice was steady. Through everything she could keep it steady, because she knew how to be strong for her kid. “You’re not a freak. Don’t you dare believe anyone who says that.”

“But what if somethings wrong with me?” he asked softly.

“Nothing is wrong with you,” she told him. “I love you.”

“Love you too.” Connor didn’t know the last time he’d heard his voice say that.

“Come on,” she let go of the hug, pulling him off the couch. “It’s past your bedtime.”

Connor watched her lead him out of the room. Acting on an impulse he walked to the front of the house. He knew his parents hadn’t changed the garage door code since they moved in, if his mother was in Connor’s room she wouldn’t be able to hear it open and close. Connor wasn’t sure what he was going to do once in his house, but he had to do something. He couldn’t just stand their watching his mother’s world start to fall apart.

He wouldn’t go farther than the kitchen. Everything was nostalgic and he didn’t want to focus on any of it. Moving through a haze, he pulled a mug from their cupboard and filled it with hot water. He doubted that his mother would go to sleep until his father came home, but tea usually had a comforting effect on her. She was tired and stress, when she saw it on the table, she’d probably just assume she made it and forgot. He’d seen her do this before when she was distracted.

Connor left the tea on the kitchen table and exited his past the way he’d entered. He didn’t let himself think about the worn table cloth, or the lingering smell of the dinner his mother must have cooked for him and Zoe. He forced the emotions away, only letting himself cling to the honest fact that for once he was trying to help her. It took dying for him to do that.

When he got outside, he wasn’t entirely surprised to see Not-Alana standing there. She looked even less amused than when she’d pulled him back to the white room. He couldn’t bring himself to give a shit.

“This is not a good idea,” she stated.

“Choosing me to save a kid wasn’t a good idea,” he snapped.

“I didn’t choose you,” she told him, hopefully knowing it made little difference.

“Whatever,” he rolled his eyes.

“You snapped at him,” her voice held more weight now. Connor didn’t want to think about what he’d said to Evan.

“I know,” he said plainly.

“But you’ll make a woman you left behind tea?” she questioned harshly.

“Yeah.”

“You can’t change what happened,” she said.

“That’s not what I’m doing,” he replied. He didn’t know what he was doing, but if he couldn’t make things right when he was living he doubted he could now.

“Look,” she sighed. “You’re not doing a bad job with Evan Hansen, but you need to work on being nicer.”

That broke something in him.

“Do you know why I killed myself?” he demanded. “Do you have any idea what I’ve done to the people in there? I’m not nice. I never will be.”

“Try harder,” she instructed.

“I didn’t ask for this,” he wasn’t going to try at all.

He hadn’t helped that kid because she told him to. He wasn’t sure why he had. Maybe empathy? Maybe because what else was he supposed to do when the one person in his high school who wasn’t a complete asshole looked like he was about to get himself hurt.

“You want to help them?” Not-Alana questioned, her eyes flickering back at his house. “There is only one way to do that.”

“No,” Connor shook this head. “There’s no way.”

He let her knock him out.

Chapter Text

Connor came to standing in the middle of what looked like a living room. It wasn’t familiar at all. That was a little confusing. Since the zoo and stopping Evan from running away, he’d appeared in places that he knew his way around at least a little. This felt weird, like he was trespassing.

His thoughts were interrupted by the loud sound of something crashing behind him.

Connor whirled around to see Evan Hansen gaping in his direction. In hindsight, Connor shouldn’t have been that surprised. He couldn’t think of any other house it made sense for him to appear in. Still, seeing Evan was shocking.

Evan was taller, a lot taller, and his face had lost a bit of the roundness it held the last time Connor saw him. He still looked like a child, but Connor doubted that this boy would ever really lose the innocence to his appearance. But it was clear that time had passed since Connor left him under the tree. Years must have passed.

“You,” Evan stammered at him. “You’re…”

“Hi, Evan,” Connor greeted.

“No, no,” Evan shook his head. “This isn’t real.”

“I thought we went over that,” Connor let himself smirk.

“It’s not normal to have an imaginary friend when you’re not a kid anymore,” Evan babbled.

“You don’t really look like an adult,” Connor let him know.

“I,” Evan stuttered.

“And I’m not imaginary,” Connor added.

Evan opened and closed his mouth.

“You’re not crazy either,” Connor took a step closer to him.

“This isn’t,” Evan looked like he wasn’t breathing.

Connor’s smile faded. Evan was seriously freaked out. He had every reason to be. When eight-year-old Evan decided that seeing Connor made him crazy, the word probably held little weight. But now Evan knew what seeing something that shouldn’t be there meant.

“Hansen,” Connor spoke slowly. “You need to calm down.”

“Connor,” Evan whispered.

“Yeah,” Connor offered a small smile.

“You’re wearing the same clothes,” Evan blurted.

“I am,” Connor nodded, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh my God,” Evan was giggling now.

“Is this good laughing?” Connor asked cautiously.

“I think so,” Evan nodded numbly. His face still looked like the color had been drained from it.

“You thought I wasn’t real again,” Connor stated.

“Sorry,” Evan murmured.

“Don’t be.”

“Why,” Evan swallowed. “Why were you just standing there?”

“I don’t know,” Connor told him honestly

“This,” Evan stuttered. “This is…”

“Too much?” Connor finished.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“Could you have at least knocked on the front door?” Evan asked sheepishly.

“No,” Connor stated.

“Oh,” Evan breathed.

“Would that have really given you less of a heart attack?” Connor questioned, trying to keep the chuckle out of his voice. “You want to sit down?”

Evan stumbled to his couch, falling into it very ungracefully. He was still a child, and still looked as small as he had every other time Connor witnessed him. Connor didn’t sit down. He wasn’t sure how close Evan would be alright with him being.

“I think I broke that cup,” Evan murmured.

“I’ll get it,” Connor offered.

“No,” Evan said quickly. “You don’t have to.”

“How long has it been?” Connor couldn’t help asking.

“Four years,” Evan answered, his voice still lacking air.

“Definitely an adult then,” Connor joked.

Evan let out a nervous laugh.

“So, um,” Connor didn’t know how to figure out what he was doing here. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Evan nodded. “Just give me a second.”

“I don’t mean about seeing me,” Connor tried to clarify. It didn’t make sense for him to just pop up while Evan was safely in his own house. “No, you’re not in danger right now.”

“What?” Evan was listening to him.

“So why am I here?” Connor asked the air. He knew he wasn’t going to get an answer. He never had before.

“Who are you talking to?” Evan asked slowly.

Great. If Evan didn’t think he himself was crazy he definitely believed the ghost he was hallucinating was.

“No one,” he tried to brush off. “What’s going on?”

Connor attempted an open tone. He didn’t know how to sound trusting. After the last time Evan had seen him, Connor doubted that he’d want to tell him anything. Connor knew he shouldn’t really care—he didn’t, really care. So what if he was stuck? It didn’t matter either way. But, he owed this kid something after the snapping.

“I don’t,” Evan blinked at him. “What?”

“Your mom home?” he asked.

“No,” Evan mumbled. “She’s at work.”

Connor nodded. So that was still the situation. Connor wouldn’t blame Evan for whatever he felt about his mother not being home. But that couldn’t be the reason he was here.

“You’re not,” he didn’t know how to ask this. “You weren’t doing something stupid before I got here?”

“I was drinking water,” Evan said. “Shoot, the glass shattered!”

Evan jumped up, but Connor held out a hand to stop him. The last thing he needed was for Evan to get a piece of glass stuck in his foot.

“Get a wet towel, and don’t step there,” Connor instructed. “Trust me, I’ve broken a lot of nice shit.”

“That’s a bad word,” Evan said with a very small smile.

“That you should know by now,” Connor dismissed.

“Yeah,” Evan admitted, his eyes falling on the broken glass.

“I’ll just do it,” Connor decided. “Sit down.”

“I broke it,” Evan reminded him meekly.

“I startled you,” Connor shrugged. “Besides I still owe you one.”

“For what?” Evan didn’t understand. Connor wasn’t going to bring up yelling at eight-year-old him now.

“Where are your towels?” Connor asked.

“Bathroom is around the corner,” Evan gestured to the hallway.

“Okay,” Connor nodded.

Evan didn’t talk to him while he cleaned up the broken glass, but Connor could feel his eyes flickering to him when his own gaze was on the floor. Silently, he cleaned up the mess. Once he was done, he let himself awkwardly sit at the edge of the couch. Evan was looking at his hands.

“Is anything wrong right now?” Connor questioned.

“No,” Evan shook his head. “No, I’m fine.”

“No,” Connor murmured to himself. “There has to be something.”

“I don’t understand,” Evan voiced.

“I can’t really explain it,” Connor doubted that would make the kid feel any calmer. “But I’m here for a reason.”

“And?” Evan asked.

“And I don’t know what it is,” Connor told him.

“It’s okay,” Evan mumbled.

“Hansen,” Connor started.

“I’m fine, really,” Evan tried to stress, but his voice faltered. “I just—”

He was pulling at the hem of his shirt. Connor wondered if he did that when he felt uncomfortable.

“Just?” he prompted.

“I can’t order pizza,” Evan blurted.

“What?” it was Connor’s turn to be confused.

“I can’t talk on the phone, or answer the door,” Evan babbled. “My mom thinks I just need to get the hang of it but—”

“I’ll do it,” Connor said.

“But they won’t be able to see or hear you,” Evan reminded him.

“Is that really the only thing bothering you right now?” Connor questioned.

“Yeah,” Evan confirmed.

“Give me your phone,” Connor instructed.

“But,” Evan tried to argue.

“Trust me,” Connor held out his hand. “I have a hunch.”

“No one says hunch,” Evan told him, but yielded a flip phone from his pocket to Connor.

Connor rolled his eyes.

“You have the number?” he questioned. Evan nodded, giving him a scrap of paper it had been hastily written on.

Connor dialed and waited for the call to be answered. Evan was still looking at him skeptically when Connor hesitantly spoke into the phone that he wanted to order a small cheese pizza. After a very long second in which Connor feared that he had been wrong after all, the voice at the other end asked for his address. Connor got Evan to feed that to him, and hung up with a triumphant grin.

Not long after Connor answered the door, to find that the man delivering the pizza could both see and hear him. Evan waited in the living room. When Connor returned with the food, he looked very relieved.

“Thank you,” he smiled at him.

“Were you seriously not gonna eat?” Connor questioned, putting the pizza box on the coffee table.

“Yeah,” Evan confessed. He opened the box, and picked up a large slice. Connor was slightly amused that he didn’t bother to get a plate.

“Dear god,” Connor murmured.

“It’s not that I want to be bad at it,” Evan sputtered.

“No, no, I think I get it,” Connor told him quickly. “Ignore me, I’m an ass.”

“Okay,” Evan laughed slightly.

“Which you already know,” Connor mused.

“You saved my life,” Evan said. He wasn’t looking at Connor like he saw a monster. Connor didn’t deserve the look he was giving him.

“And shouted at you,” Connor reminded him. “I’m sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,” Evan said softly.

“I mean it,” Connor told him.

“It was four years ago,” Evan shrugged. “I don’t really care anymore.”

“Did you make it inside that day?” Connor wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer to this.

“My mom found me in the morning,” Evan admitted.

“Fuck,” Connor exhaled. That was his fault.

“You swear a lot,” Evan let him know.

“Yeah,” Connor forced a smirk. “I do.”

“Can you eat?” Evan was almost done with his second slice of pizza. “Or not because you’re…”

“A ghost,” Connor finished.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“I don’t know,” Connor hadn’t really thought about it. He hadn’t felt hungry or thirsty since he died. He was pretty sure the only reason he was breathing was force of habit.

“I can’t eat all of it,” Evan told him.

Connor took a slice of the pizza and bit into it. Nothing profound happened. It was as if he was still alive and eating not because he needed to but because food was there. He didn’t mind that. It made his whole existence feel a little less paranormal.

“Four years,” he commented.

“Four and a half,” Evan corrected.

“That puts you in middle school?” Connor figured.

“Yeah.”

“I hated middle school,” Connor let Evan know.

“Do you hate a lot of things?” Evan asked. Connor couldn’t tell if he was joking or genuinely wondering.

“Maybe,” Connor shrugged off. “So, what have I missed?”

“Nothing really,” Evan murmured.

He was less talkative. Connor felt out of place now that he’d gotten Evan what he needed, but he wasn’t flickering out and didn’t want to just walk out of the house. So he let Evan voice a handful of facts and watched the way he nervously turned his wrist or continued to tug at his shirt.

It wasn’t getting better for Evan. The only difference between this kid and the one Connor had last seen was that now Evan was old enough to put words to what was wrong. Still, Connor doubted that he voiced these words to anyone. They just existed in his brain, slowly eating away the remaining blissful thoughts.

“I think I’m gonna go to bed now,” Evan said when he’d had his fill of the food.

“I should go,” Connor decided.

“Where do you go when you’re not here?” Evan asked. From the way he said it, Connor could tell he’d been wondering this for a while.

“It depends,” he said simply. He wasn’t going to explain going to his house or the blackness that took him once there. Evan didn’t need to know any of that.

“How long has it been?” Evan suddenly asked.

“What?”

“You talked about yelling at me like it just happened,” he explained. “How long ago was it for you?”

Connor could lie or jus not answer, but he had brushed off a lot of Evan’s questions already. It wasn’t like it wasn’t Evan’s business. Connor was being forced to help him, but Evan hadn’t exactly been given a choice of declining it. He’d give this kid the certainty that he wasn’t getting.

“A few hours,” he answered.

“Oh,” Evan took this in.

“Goodnight, Evan,” Connor said.

“Thank you,” Evan murmured, about to leave the room.

“Don’t do that,” Connor instructed. He didn’t deserve thanks.


It wasn’t a surprise that his parents were arguing again, but what they were arguing about was. Connor had always thought that he was the cause of the fights, especially once he was in middle school, but it was very clear that this one didn’t have anything to do with him.

They were fighting about the hours Connor’s father was working, about him missing too much. He didn’t know his mother had ever complained about his father not spending enough time with them. Of course, the conversation branched to Connor, but it didn’t start with some mistake he’d made. He watched his mother blame him acting out and Zoe closing in on them failing as parents.

It was shocking. It made him disgustingly glad. The joy didn’t last long.

They were too distracted to notice the garage door open and close again. Were Connor alive, he might have found that funny. He slipped past the both of them. He hadn’t come here to hear them yell.

He wasn’t surprised to find the door to his room closed. Not caring if he freaked thirteen-year-old him out a bit, he pushed open the door.

His younger self glared at the open door and empty space behind it. Connor had wondered what it was like to be on the other side of his own anger. Apparently receiving a not completely purposeful death stare from thirteen-year-old was as close as he’d ever get. His younger self trudged to the entryway and aggressively kicked the door back shut.

These were the years before weed or any of the less safe methods Connor turned to the drown out the world around him. Instead he’d blast music loud enough for the rest of the house (or neighborhood) to hear. He’d try to deafen his family without saying a word. It never worked, but this version of him didn’t know that yet.

He didn’t need to witness this.

Connor’s feet took him to his sister’s room. She glanced up when the door opened, but seemed to think it was just the wind pushing it. With significantly less attitude, she stood and nudged the door closed again. She went back to sitting in the middle of her floor.

Connor watched her plug earbuds into her ears. He sat down a few feet away from her. This might be intrusive, or creepy, but he’d never seen what happened on the other side of the wall that divided their rooms. He didn’t know how she held on to her sanity, and she was the only one in this house who wasn’t going to make him wish he’d stayed in Evan Hansen’s living room.

He watched her spend the next twenty minutes flipping through a magazine. She was trying to pretend that nothing was happening. The walls did nothing to silence the voices of their parents or radiating of Connor’s music. She was smack dab in the middle of everything, and there was nothing she could do. So she pretended that there weren’t tears in her eyes as she trained them on magazine after magazine.

Connor wanted her to see him. He wanted to tell her how much stronger she was than the rest of them. He wanted to promise that none of them meant to hurt her. This wasn’t the Zoe he knew. This wasn’t the Zoe he screamed at, or the Zoe who pestered him and stood by when he wasn’t listened to. This was a little girl who he never realized could look so alone.

After a while the shouting died down, but the music didn’t. When there was a knock on the door, Zoe didn’t look up. Tentatively, their mother entered. Zoe’s eyes remained on her reading.

“Hey,” their mother crouched beside her.

Zoe grunted.

“Whatcha reading?” she asked.

Zoe turned the cover to her.

“Zoe,” she pleaded.

“Mom, can I be alone?” Zoe only looked at her now.

“Yeah,” she nodded, a forced, sad smile on her lips. “Okay, sweetie.”

Connor followed her out of the room. She stopped in front of his door. She knocked once. It wasn’t half as restrained as how she had on Zoe’s.

“Connor!” she shouted over the music. “Connor, open this door!”

The music got louder.

“I’m not going to say it twice,” she raised her voice.

“Fuck off!” Thirteen-year-old Connor screamed back.

“Open this door right now!” she shouted. There was no response on his end. Connor watched anger dissipate back into the mournful expression she’d worn in Zoe’s room. “I’m sorry.”

Only after she walked away did the music stop.

This was when Connor expected to disappear. He’d already helped Hansen, and he wasn’t supposed to be in this house to begin with, so why wasn’t he being pulled into the next point in time he was needed?

Everyone had retreated to their own rooms. Connor wandered into the now dark living room. He sat down on the couch that used to be his and let his eyes close. The darkness that found him wasn’t the one he craved or the haze that made him flicker out.

Connor fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Connor woke up to the sound of a door slamming. He didn’t blink into existence standing up in the middle of a brand new setting. He awoke with a slightly sore back and craving a few more minutes of shut eye. It was as if killing himself, meeting younger Evan Hansen, and seeing his family from the outside had all been a dream.

Any fear or hopes of that were quickly dashed when thirteen-year-old him darted through the living room and in the direction of the kitchen. Connor was still dead. Being where he was didn’t make sense. But instead of pondering it intrigue made him follow his younger self into the other room

“My alarm clock is broken,” he got there in time to hear.

The four of them were sitting around the kitchen table. Both he and Zoe had toast and a cup of orange juice in front of them, while their mother seemed to have already eaten. Their father was holding the coffee mug he’d keep using for the next four years, only stopping when a slightly high and very enraged Connor hurled it at the wall above the sink.

“That’s ‘cause you punched it,” Zoe informed him, taking a bite of toast.

“Did not,” Connor narrowed his eyes at her, but it was half hearted.

The table wasn’t clouded in the tension from the night before. Awkwardly, Connor watched them behave as if everything was normal. In a way, it was. This was their family’s normal. Right now him an Zoe didn’t know how to hold grudges and their parents liked to forget their problems in the morning. They all looked so relaxed.

“Is it really broken?” his mother asked him.

“It didn’t go off,” younger him told her.

“Did you set it last night?” she asked.

“It’s supposed to remember,” he explained after shaking his head. “You don’t actually have to sent alarm clocks every night.”

“It’s broken,” Zoe stated.

“We can get a new one this weekend,” their father spoke now.

“Can we fix it?” Connor asked instead.

“We could try,” he shrugged.

“I can wake you up,” Zoe volunteered.

“You poured water on me last time!” Connor reminded her.

“It worked,” she said with a grin.

“I need to head out,” their father stood from the table now.

“You need to eat something first,” their mother told him. She looked worried, and maybe a little bit hurt.

“I’ll get something on my way,” he dismissed.

“You’re not taking us to school?” Zoe asked. Both parents ignored her.

“I’m sorry,” their father was only looking at their mother. They were speaking the unvoiced language they had to do when their children were there to hear the words. “Early meeting. I’ll make it up to you.”

She stood up and pulled a thermos from the cupboard,

“Take this,” she instructed as she poured the rest of his coffee into it. “You’ll fall asleep at the wheel.”

“I love you,” he said to her.

“I know,” she smiled slightly.

“Bye, Dad!” Zoe called at him as he walked out the door.

“Have a good day at school,” he called back.

Connor looked to his younger self in time to see him scoff.

“Eat your breakfast Connor,” his mother instructed him.

“I’m not hungry,” he pushed the plate away from him. “My stomach’s not awake.”

“Can I have it?” Zoe asked.

“You’re gonna get fat,” he informed her.

“You’re gonna get scrawny,” she countered.

“Stop it,” their mother chided, but she didn’t sound upset. “Both of you.”

“I don’t feel good,” Connor groaned.

“You’re going to school,” she stated.

“But I’m sick,” he tried.

“You’re not.”

Zoe didn’t try to suppress her laugh.

“Shut up,” Connor said to her.

“Connor,” their mother warned.

“I’m not swearing,” he exclaimed.

“We need to leave soon,” she told the both of them.

“We know,” Connor muttered.

“Get your school stuff together,” she told him. Zoe was already shoving a folder into her bright pink backpack and slinging a hoodie over her shoulders.

“It is,” Connor replied. “Zoe, that’s my jacket.”

“Mine aren’t warm enough,” Zoe explained.

“But it’s mine,” Connor complained.

“Please,” she drew out the word.

“Fine,” he rolled his eyes.

“Zoe, we can get you a warmer jacket,” their mother voiced.

“I like this one,” Zoe hugged her arms around it.

Connor saw younger him hide a proud grin. He knew she only liked it because it was his. All of this was weird to watch. They looked so normal, even with his dad leaving minutes into breakfast and him having punched an alarm clock. The contrast between this and the last family breakfast he’d sat through was too drastic.

He didn’t like this. It made him feel sick to see a younger version of himself tease his sister lovingly and roll his eyes at his mother without intending to hurt her feelings.

Connor followed the family out of he house, escaping when they opened the door. He ran from there. He needed to figure out why he was still here in the first place.


When he reached Evan’s house, he found the kid walking off of the porch with a large backpack slung over his shoulder. He stopped walking when he saw Connor. He looked surprised (but not as shocked as he had been the night before). Connor didn’t feel fatigued despite nearly running the entire distance. Dryly, he considered that might be the one upside of his current state.

“Connor,” Evan made no effort to conceal his stunned expression.

“Hey,” Connor greeted. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing?” Evan said quizzically.

“Okay,” Connor nodded. Something was wrong. There was some sort of mistake, he shouldn’t still be here.

“I thought you were a dream,” Evan sounded a little embarrassed.

“You gonna do this every time?” Connor hoped his tone made it clear he wasn’t offended.

“Probably,” Evan shrugged. He started walking again, Connor followed.

“Sorry, kid, the nightmares not over,” Connor couldn’t help muttering.

“I didn’t say it was a bad dream,” Evan mumbled back.

“Right.”

They didn’t talk for a minute of so. Connor matched Evan’s strides, watching him out of the conner of his eye. The backpack was too big for him. It looked like he was about to be crushed under the weight.

“My mom thinks I ordered the pizza,” Evan stated this as if it was some huge secret. In a way, it kinda was.

“You mean you didn’t tell her a ghost did?” Connor deadpanned.

“No,” Evan stammered. “I—”

“Ignore me,” Connor instructed. “I didn’t sleep well.”

“You sleep?” Evan questioned.

“Apparently,” Connor shrugged. He didn’t want to go into that now. “What did your mom say?”

“That she’s proud of me,” he voiced this like pride was something no kid should ever be saddled with.

“That’s good,” Connor told him.

“But she wouldn’t be if she knew what happened,” Evan argued.

“She’s never going to,” Connor tried to shrug off. The statement didn’t make Evan look any less agitated. “What?”

“Nothing,” Evan mumbled again.

“Where are we going?” Conor asked.

“School,” Evan stated.

“Right.” Connor only looked like a complete idiot. Where the fuck else would a middle schooler be going at this time of the morning? “You walk?”

“Sometimes,” Evan answered. “She had to get to work, and I don’t like to go super early.”

“Because there aren’t enough places to hide?” Connor could relate to that much.

“Kinda,” Evan shrugged, making it clear Connor’s assumption was spot on. “Why are you still here?”

“No idea,” Connor said honestly.

“Where did you go last night?” Evan wondered.

“No where important,” Connor tried to dismiss. “Wandered around a bit.”

“You said you slept,” Evan reminded him.

“On a park bench,” Connor lied.

If he said he went to his family’s house Evan would ask who his family was. Connor wasn’t telling him that. He wasn’t risking Evan realizing that he knew the living version of Connor. Not only would that be a pain in the ass, but it would probably freak the kid out to know around when his classmate was supposed to kick the bucket.

“That sounds uncomfortable,” Evan commented.

“It was,” Connor replied.

“Ghosts need to sleep?” Evan questioned.

“I don’t know, it just happened,” Connor didn’t have an answer to this one. “I’m still figuring this shit out—and don’t say that’s a bad word.”

“It is,” Evan murmured stubbornly.

“If you’re in middle school you have to hear at least ten people say it a day,” Connor countered.

“My mom says it sometimes,” Evan admitted.

Connor laughed.

“Accidentally,” Evan added.

“I like your mom,” Connor decided.

“You haven’t met her,” Evan said.

“I know.”

“She’s nice,” he murmured.

“She seems nice.” Connor had only witnessed her after Evan had accidentally done something dangerous. He didn’t know what this woman was like behind the crying worry of those moments.

“She won’t tell me she’s stressed out,” Evan voiced.

“Parents usually don’t,” Connor told him.

“But I can tell,” Evan’s voice neared upset.

“Kids usually can,” Connor allowed.

“What was your mom like?” Evan asked suddenly.

“She, um,” Connor wasn’t prepared for this question. “She tried her best.”

“What does that mean?” Evan asked.

“It means her best wasn’t enough,” Connor told him hollowly.

Evan was silent for a moment.

“How did you die?” he asked softly.

“I drowned in a molasses tsunami,” Connor stated in a monotone.

“Oh.”

“That was a joke,” he added.

“Oh,” Evan said again. “You don’t have to follow me.”

“What else am I gonna do?” Connor scoffed.

“Take a nap in the park,” Evan suggested.

“Funny,” Connor rolled his eyes.

He walked along side Evan until they reached the entrance of his old middle school. Connor would be lying if just seeing the exterior didn’t make his stomach churn. He hated this place. He hated feeling alienated and alone and thinking that he was the only kid who knew what depression even was. He hated knowing that if he lashed out his parents wouldn’t understand. He hated the ugly brown walls and the slippery tile floors.

Evan hesitated outside.

“You going inside, or…?” Connor watched him.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded quickly but made no effort to move.

“I can go with you,” Connor suggested, even though every fiber of his being was screaming that he needed to get as far away from the campus as possible.

“It’s probably better if you don’t,” Evan informed him, not so subtly glancing around.

Connor understood. Evan was weird enough without people thinking he talked to himself.

“Sorry,” he added hastily.

“Good luck,” was all Connor replied with.

“Thanks,” Evan looked at him before trudging through the gates of hell.


Connor didn’t go back to his house until it was around the end of the school day. He waited outside for his father’s car to drop off him and Zoe. His father often went back to work afterwards. Connor never liked car rides after the school day. He was always too socially exhausted to deal with Zoe’s energy or his father’s tired eyes.

He watched younger him jump out of the car nearly seconds after it stopped moving. Zoe took her time, while he stomped to the front door. Connor followed his younger self inside. All of the joy he’d seen the moment before was gone. This kid he could recognize. This kid was the same person he saw when he looked in the mirror.

“How was school?” his mother asked him in a sweet voice.

“Okay,” he shrugged off, he didn’t look at her.

“Are you hungry?” she asked.

“No,” he walked past her.

Connor remembered the feeling he saw in his own face. He spared a glance to his mother’s worried expression before sprinting to catch up with younger him before the door of his room was slammed shut.

This time he didn’t play music. He just sat on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He looked like he wanted to cry, but had forgotten how to produce tears. This was what it was like to be thirteen and know that getting out of bed each morning wasn’t supposed to hurt the way it did, sitting in a car with two people he loved wasn’t supposed to grate his teeth, and being asked how his day was wasn’t supposed to make him want to break something.

Connor sat at his desk chair, and watched.

Ten minutes later there was a knock on his door. Young him did nothing to stop his mother from entering. He barely looked up. She was carrying a plate with a sandwich on it.

“I’m not hungry,” he informed her.

“Then we can leave it here for when you are,” she set it on his nightstand and took a seat next to him.

“I won’t be,” he just had to fucking say.

“Humor me,” her tone was still pleasant.

His mother’s voice had always sounded like satin to him. It was soft, smooth, and didn’t know how to be coarse. Even it’s rougher side didn’t hurt. It didn’t know how to cause pain without tearing as well.

“Fine,” he mumbled, still not moving.

“What happened?” She asked him.

“Nothing,” he didn’t make eye contact.

“Does it have anything to do with you only telling me you’re sick once your father leaves the room?” she knew the answer to this.

“I had a sore throat,” he lied.

“Three times a week?” she called bullshit.

“It’s allergies,” he decided.

“You don’t have allergies,” she knew. “Is someone at your school bothering you?”

“No.”

“Connor, talk to me.” The tear threatened to start. Younger him didn’t seem that concerned.

“Why?” his own voice leaned toward demanding but didn’t quite make it. “So you and dad can yell at me about it?”

“Sweetie—”

“If I tell you, you’ll get mad,” he crossed his arms.

“I’m never mad at you,” she said.

“Whatever,” he said through his teeth.

“Do you want to switch schools?” she sounded so serious. “Rosevelt’s campus was nice.”

“Dad said I couldn’t,” he sat up now.

“I’m working on that,” she told him.

“He’s just gonna get mad again,” he clenched his jaw. “He’s mad I’m not like Zoe. I should just be fucking happy like Zoe.”

“Connor,” her voice was stern now (or as close as she could get to stern). “Do not use that language.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I’m telling you not to!” all her exasperation bled through. Connor could tell by the look on younger him’s face that he could hear every bit of it. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not gonna change if I go to a different school,” he told her. His voice was desperately trying to keep it’s anger, but he just sounded small.

“You don’t know that,” she said softly.

“I’m gonna be different wherever you put me.” He spat the word ‘different’ like it was a slur. Connor could remember abhorring it.

“There’s nothing wrong with different,” his mother tried to say.

“There is when people won’t fucking—” He stopped himself. “They won’t talk to me. I don’t want them too.”

“If you give your classmates a chance,” she started.

“They’re all idiots,” he said darkly.

“Connor.”

“They think that their stupid petty problems are the end of the world,” he exclaimed.

“It’s okay to think that when you’re young,” she said.

“No it isn’t,” Connor’s eyes narrowed. “They don’t get that some people want to die. They think it’s funny to push other kids down.”

“Do you want to die?” she concealed whatever horror that thought made her feel under a careful concern.

“I want them to die,” Connor stated.

“Don’t say that,” her forehead creased.

“They laugh at me because I’m not happy!” Connor nearly shouted.

“I’m sorry you’re not happy.” Her saying this seemed to ground him. It seemed to make him realize that he wasn’t the only one who was in pain right now.

“I want to be,” he whispered.

“I know,” she said.

“But I can’t,” his voice was shaking.

“It’s okay,” she told him.

“And then I see them and it makes it worse,” he was close to crying.

“I know,” she murmured.

“No you don’t,” his voice broke now. “You don’t get it. Dad doesn’t either.”

She hugged him. He let her. He let himself cry in her arms until there weren’t any tears left. If watching their breakfast this morning was weird, this was surreal. Connor didn’t want to be in the room anymore, but he couldn’t bring himself to stand. He couldn’t look away from thirteen-year-old him thinking that it was okay to cry.

“Mom,” Connor said softly after what felt like ages but was probably only a few minutes. “Can you pass the sandwich?”

She smiled and handed him the plate. He took a large bite. He’d never liked to eat much in school, and often came home feeling sick out of hunger.

“You wanna tell me a joke?” she asked.

“Not really,” he mumbled.

“You used to love jokes,” she nudged his arm.

“I’m not six anymore,” he informed her.

“Come on,” she pleaded.

“I don’t know any,” he didn’t cave.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” she asked him in a bright tone.

“Mom,” he whined.

“Why did the chicken cross the road?” she repeated.

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “Why?”

“Because it wanted to,” she stated with a laugh.

“That’s not funny,” he let her know.

“I think it is,” she grinned.

“No you don’t,” he huffed.

Her smile faltered. This was the look she got when she wasn’t getting through to him. It was almost an awkward fake smile and almost a concerned frown. Something changed in younger him’s expression when he saw that.

“Hey Mom,” his voice was a little less mopey. “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“Why?”

“To cockadoodle do something,” he said with all the pride he would have as a child.

She laughed again.

“Why did the duck cross the road?” she asked.

“Because he wanted to prove he wasn’t chicken,” he didn’t miss a beat.

“I didn’t think you still remembered that,” she admitted.

“I was a comedic genius,” Connor chuckled.

“It’s nice to hear you laugh,” her voice wavered on serious. “You know that’s all me and your father want, right?”

“I’m pretty sure you also want me not to swear and to eat my vegetables,” he said dryly.

“I love you,” she told him.

“Love you too,” he said back.

“I’ll talk to him about school, okay?” she sounded so optimistic. She actually believed things could get better.

“It won’t change anything,” he muttered.

“You told me last week you wanted to start over,” she reminded him.

“Yeah,” he mumbled.

“It might not make a huge difference, but we’re all gonna try, okay?”

Connor watched younger him nod, hope tempting to creep into his eyes. When his mother left the room, he did as well. If he was stuck, he wasn’t spending the night here again.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t see if the lights were still on from the outside of Evan’s house, but it was worth a shot. There wasn’t a car in the driveway, which meant Evan’s mother most likely was not inside with him. Connor didn’t know how to get in, so he knocked louder of the front door. It took a second for him to realize that there was no way in hell Evan Hansen was going to answer to that.

“It’s Connor,” he called. It didn’t matter if he shouted. The rest of the neighborhood couldn’t hear him.

A few minutes later the door opened.

“You can’t get in?” Evan had a puzzled but not surprised look on his face.

“Not unless you give me a key,” Connor stated blandly.

“Oh,” Evan held the door open for him. “I thought you could…”

“Walk through walls?” Connor finished.

“Kinda,” Evan shrugged, closing and locking the door again.

“I wish,” Connor scoffed. “Home alone?”

“Yeah,” Evan confirmed.

“You want me to call for pizza?” Connor asked.

“There’s leftovers,” Evan told him.

The Hansen’s kitchen was small and simple. In his house they didn’t have postcards taped to the refrigerator, but Evan’s mother had nearly covered theirs with pictures that were most likely sent by relatives. There were a handful of school portraits of Evan, as well as a bright yellow post-it note with a cellphone number Connor assumed was Evan’s mother scrawled on it. He doubted it was needed, Evan probably had the number memorized considering what a nervous person he was.

Connor spent the next few minutes watching Evan heat up his dinner. Evan offered several times to get Connor something as well, but Connor didn’t want to pretend that he could feel hunger right now. So, when Evan’s food was ready, he just sat across the table wondering what on earth he was still doing here.

“Are you stuck?” Evan asked suddenly.

“What?” Connor vaguely wondered if this kid had very recently become a mind reader.

“It’s just,” Evan started. “Every other time you just show up do something a leave, but you don’t look like you know what you’re doing, and, I don’t know, you seem like you’re noticing time, plus you said you slept—”

“Yeah,” Connor cut him off. “I’m stuck here, I don’t know why. Unless you’re in some emotional peril you’re not telling me.”

“Do people say peril?” Evan questioned.

“People who read do,” Connor countered.

“You read?” Evan seemed genuinely interested.

“I used to,” he shrugged. Right now all he did was wander around his or this boy’s pasts. “Do you mind me being here?”

“No,” Evan shook his head. Connor wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth of just being polite. It didn’t really matter.

“Do you like school?” Connor wasn’t sure why he was asking this.

“No.”

“Neither did I,” he remarked.

“I know,” Evan told him. “You said last night.”

Connor remembered. In the back of his mind, he wondered if Evan Hansen ever took notice of Connor Murphy. At that age, Connor had been so wrapped in his own isolation, that he hadn’t realized he wasn’t the only outcast. But there was no way the boy sitting in front of him was a part of any in crowd, especially after Connor saw what he’d turn into by high school.

“I hate it too,” Evan said.

“Yeah?” Connor was listening.

“It’s like this past year everyone suddenly got so judgmental,” Evan voiced.

“Yeah,” Connor could remember that.

“And I didn’t really feel like they weren’t judging me before,” Evan added.

Connor nodded for him to go on.

“But now it’s just so much harder,” he said.

“But you have friends?” Connor asked.

“Not really,” Evan shrugged sadly. “I kinda have one. Did you?”

“No,” Connor tried to keep the resentment out of his voice. He may have just witnessed thirteen-year-old him’s fresh wounds, but these should be nothing but old scars to him now. “Everyone thought I was a lose cannon.”

“How?” Evan asked. He asked like he had no idea what Connor was talking about.

“I have anger issues,” Connor stated. “To put it mildly.”

“Really?” Evan’s eyes were wide. It was like he couldn’t fathom Connor of all people having a temper. Connor wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be annoyed.

“You gonna question everything I say?” he asked back.

“Sorry,” Evan said quickly.

“No, it’s fine,” Connor shook his head.

“You just seem really calm,” Evan told him.

“What?” Connor blinked.

“I don’t know,” Evan mumbled self-consciously.

“I literally snapped at you when you were eight,” Connor reminded him.

“Once,” Evan said as if that made it no big deal.

“Jesus Christ,” Connor exhaled.

“I was hard to deal with as a kid,” Evan said in a small voice.

“You weren’t,” Connor informed him. “Trust me, I've seen hard to deal with. That was me.”

Evan laughed a little.

“And you're still a kid,” Connor added.

“I don't feel like one,” Evan let him know.

Connor was pretty sure he knew what Evan meant by that. This boy had to grow up far too fast, and was barely able to fend for himself as is. Connor blamed his father for leaving them without enough money for Evan’s mother to actually be there. How was a boy who was always alone supposed to feel like a kid?

“What do normal kids your age do?” Connor asked him.

“I don’t know,” Evan admitted.

“We could trespass somewhere,” Connor suggested purely to get a shocked laugh in return.

“Normal kids don't do that,” Evan let him know.

“Oh,” Connor pretended to contemplate this.

“Did you?” Evan asked.

“Yep,” Connor told him.

“Wow,” Evan sounded kinda impressed.

“It’s not half as cool as you think,” Connor said seriously. “Actually, it would probably give you a heart attack.”

“Yeah,” Evan agreed.

They chatted through the rest of Evan’s dinner. He looked a lot less stressed out when he was talking—actually talking, not the nervous sputtering he began with. Connor wondered how many people Evan didn’t ramble at. He wondered how many people he could even do that to.

“Can I sleep on your couch?” Connor asked when it seemed like Evan was about to go to bed.

“What?” Evan seemed taken aback by the question.

“I don’t think I’m going away tonight,” Connor hoped this offered some explanation.

“But my mom’s gonna get home at some point,” Evan told him.

“I’m invisible,” Connor stated.

“You weren’t to the pizza guy,” Evan remembered.

“I think that was because I was needed for that,” Connor said. He still wasn’t sure how all of this worked, but if Evan’s mother hadn’t been able to see him before and Connor’s family still couldn’t then there probably wasn’t much risk.

“You sure?” Evan asked.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“Um, it is better than a park bench,” Evan said sheepishly.

“Yeah,” Connor agreed.

“Okay,” Evan answered.

“Thanks,” Connor said to him. He wasn’t sure if he’d still be there in the morning. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to or not.


The next day Connor followed Evan to school again. Instead of leaving him at the entrance, Connor promised he wouldn’t get in his way through out the day and wandered onto the campus as well. At first he just stuck around Evan, who stopped openly acknowledging him when there were other people around. They spent the twenty minutes Evan had before school started outside of his first class. Connor watched Evan awkwardly fidget with his shirt.

“I used to read,” Connor found himself stating.

Evan glanced at him, to show that he was listening even if he couldn’t respond.

“It helps to hide,” Connor explained. “If your face is in a book people don’t notice you as much.”

Evan nodded.

“Even if you’re not actually reading it,” Connor added.

“Thanks,” Evan whispered.

Since he didn’t have a book, the advice didn’t really help him right now. Still, Connor had felt the need to fill the silence, especially since he was the only one with the power to. When the class did start, Connor didn’t follow Evan inside. He doubted knowing that he was being watched would make Evan any bit more comfortable, and Connor didn’t feel like boring himself to a second death.

He walked around the empty halls. Being here brought a knot to his stomach, but also a hit of nostalgia. He wasn’t sure why. He despised every second he’d spent in this building. But part of his sense recognized that this was a part of his life that was now over. It didn’t feel right to long for it back, but some corner of his brain missed being younger.

He’d been walking for at least five minutes, when he heard a muttered swearing and noticed his sister darting through the hall.

She was late to class. He wondered who’s fault it was this time. In the brief second he saw her face, she looked nervous. He didn’t know she was capable of that, especially at this age.

After what felt like an hour but may have been longer, his feet took him to the bathroom. He wasn’t sure why. That was one corner of this place he did not want to set foot in. Too many awful memories of hiding from classes and suppressed breakdown were bottled into those tile walls.

But something was telling him to go inside. He didn’t like being told what to do, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t very curious as to why he was being drawn to here in particular.

It made sense when he opened the door and heard loud shaky breaths coming from the stall farthest from the door. Slowly he walked to it, the sobs must have drowned out the sound of the door opening and closing. He was glad no one else had walked in.

“Evan?” he made his voice as gentle as he could. “It’s me.”

The sobbing got louder, but Connor was fairly certain Evan was trying to lessen the sound. He tapped on the door of the bathroom stall.

“Can I come in?” he asked.

There wasn’t a response. He could hear Evan trying to breathe. He sounded like he was going to make himself hyperventilate.

“Okay, I’m going to,” Connor decided. “So don’t freak out.”

He was really fucking bad at this. In a slow motion, he reached his hand over the door and undid the latch. The perks of being tall. Evan was sitting against the wall, with his head in his hands. Connor kneeled in front of him.

“Hey,” he said softly. “Hey, look at me.”

Slowly Evan did. His eyes were red but his face was dry. Connor didn’t know how to make this stop.

“Breathe, okay?” he started. “It’s easier said than done, I know. Hold your breath, okay I’m gonna count now hold it until I’m done.”

Evan sucked in an unsteady breath. Connor counted to seven out loud.

“Okay, now breathe out slowly,” Connor instructed.

Evan did as he was told. Connor continued until Evan was breathing normally, until some color returned to his face.

“Let’s call your mom,” Connor decided.

“No,” the panic was back in Evan’s eyes. “No, I can’t.”

“Evan, you’re not going back to class,” Connor stated. There was no way in hell he’d be able to act normal after breaking down like this. Doing so would hurt. He needed to be far away from his place as soon as possible.

“I can’t call her,” Evan was shaking again.

“Why?” Connor asked. “She’s not gonna be mad.”

“I know,” he stammered. “But I can’t tell her, she’s gonna get worried, and it’ll be my fault, I’m always ruining everything for her—”

“Okay, okay,” Connor cut him off. “We won’t call her.”

Evan exhaled. Connor didn’t have another solution, but he wasn’t letting Evan leave this bathroom without a plan.

“You know what, fuck it,” Connor said more to himself than the kid in front of him. “Come on we’re getting out of here.”

He stood up, extending a hand to Evan.

“What?”

“Come on,” he repeated, helping Evan to his feet.

“Where are we going?” Evan questioned.

“I don’t know,” Connor admitted. “Away from here.”

Connor kept hold of Evan’s arm, more pulling and leading. He’d figure out where they were running to, the only thing that mattered was getting Evan away from this place. He remembered crying in this bathroom, and he knew that if someone had pulled him out and gotten him far away it might have made things alright. He couldn’t fix his childhood. He could fix Evan Hansen’s.

“I’m gonna get in trouble,” Evan said meekly.

“You’re not,” Connor assured him. Once the school day had already started teachers didn’t call parents for a missing kid. Younger Connor would learn that the next year. “No one’s actually gonna give a shit.”

“Oh,” Evan mumbled.

“For once it’s a good thing,” Connor stopped walking to look Evan in the eye. “Trust me.”

“Okay,” Evan nodded.

“Follow me,” Connor continued leading him down the hall. “No one’s gonna see you.”

Everyone was in class, and Connor knew the fastest way out of here.

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

After successfully escaping, Connor took Evan to the park he’d found him sitting through the rain in. When Connor was younger and still getting the hang of skipping he’d come here. It was quiet and almost always empty this time of day. Plus Connor always felt like nature had a soothing effect on people who couldn’t be comforted by others. Hopefully he was night about that.

“No one really cares if some random kid’s alone here,” he told Evan.

“Can we still not be so out in the open?” Evan asked in a small, but less shaky voice.

“Sure,” Connor nodded. “Here, I know a place.”

They hid behind a large tree. Connor sat in the middle of the grass, watching Evan lean into the tree’s trunk. For a kid who’d just had a panic attack, he looked comfortable.

“Did you come here when you were my age?” Evan asked him.

“A little older,” Connor told him. “I didn’t know I could skip at your age.”

“Oh,” Evan hummed. He closed his eyes.

“I wish I did,” Connor admitted. “It might have made it a bit easier.”

“I’ve never skipped,” Evan said.

“I know,” Connor replied. In a more cautious tone he couldn’t help wondering: “Can I ask what started it?”

“It wasn’t really anything,” Evan said dismissively. “Just sometimes I can’t, you know.”

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“What do I do at the end of the day?” Evan asked him.

“Is your mom picking you up?” Connor checked.

Evan nodded.

“We’ll go back then,” Connor decided.

“Okay.”

“Can you lie without hyperventilating?” Connor was only half joking.

“No,” Evan said truthfully.

“Then try to avoid telling her how your day was,” Connor instructed.

“Okay,” Evan’s eyes narrowed in thought.

“Relaxing now might help,” Connor added.

“Sorry,” Evan seemed to say on reflex.

“Try talking,” Connor suggested.

“I’m not good at that,” Evan told him.

“I can tell, kid,” Connor laughed.

Evan didn’t seem to find it funny.

“Fine,” Connor sighed, his gaze drifting to the sky. “What does that cloud look like to you?”

“I’m not eight anymore,” Evan had a bit more humor in his voice now.

“I think it looks like a dog,” Connor stated. Out of the conner of his eyes he saw Evan squint upward.

“Or a table,” he said.

Connor felt his lips curve into a grin.

“That one’s a mermaid,” he declared, pointing.

“Or a whale,” Evan chirped.

“That one’s a tree,” Connor said.

“What kind?” Evan asked.

“I have no fucking clue,” Connor laughed. “You know different kinds of trees?”

“I like trees,” Evan mumbled.

“What’s that one,” Connor gestured to the tree Evan was leaning against.

Connor let Evan point out the different trees surrounding them. He asked a few questions he didn’t really care if he knew the answers to. Evan didn’t seem to notice Connor’s lack on enthusiasm. He liked talking about this, and Connor liked that he was calming down.

“We should leave now,” Evan voiced. It didn’t feel like hours had gone by, but Connor was loosing his sense of time more and more.

“Your’e right,” Connor stood.

“You don’t have to come with me,” Evan told him.

“I’ll get you to the school,” Connor shrugged.

“You sure no one’s going to notice?” Evan asked, the worry starting to creep back.

“They’ll just think you were sick,” Connor told him. “Pretend you were if anyone asks tomorrow.”

“Right,” Evan nodded. He knew no one was going to.

They spent most of the walk in silence, and didn’t talk once they reached the campus either. Evan waited outside, when other kids started filtering out they didn’t pay him much heed. Connor expected this. Evan still tensed when someone would walk past, but Connor didn’t expect much less from him.

“That’s your mom, right?” Connor asked when he noticed a familiar looking car pull up not to far from where they were standing.

“Yeah,” Evan whispered. “You could come?”

“No,” Connor shook his head. “There’s something I wanna check on.”

“If you wanna sleep on my couch again tonight…” Evan trailed off.

“Thanks,” Connor smiled at him.

“We can get pizza?” Evan sounded unsure.

“Okay,” Connor nodded. Evan took a step toward the car, but turned back quickly.

“Thanks for today,” he said.

“No problem, kid.”

“I like talking to you,” he stated.

“Good,” Connor smiled again.

He watched the car drive away. He was still here.


Connor entered his house the same way he had the day before. Instead of spying on his younger self, he sat on his sister’s bed. She spent the next few hours doodling while a TV show played on her computer. Connor realized this was before she took up the guitar. It was odd to see her not immersed in music. Without it, she looked bored.

When she was called down for dinner, Connor didn’t follow. He walked to his own room, only letting himself go in now that he knew he wouldn’t run into his younger self. It was funny how little it changed for the next few years. Aside from a few posters he’d later discard, it was exactly how’d he’d left it a few days ago.

When Connor did go down stairs, he got there in time to watch himself trying to escape the living room.

“I’m not hungry,” he was telling his mother. “I’m going to my room.”

“Connor,” she tried.

“I don’t want to watch a fucking movie,” he mumbled.

“Language,” his father said from his armchair. Zoe glanced at them from where she was sitting on the couch, but didn’t say anything.

“Please,” he looked to his mother for a way out.

“Come on,” she had a smile on her face. “It’s a long weekend, try to be happy.”

“What’s the point,” he muttered, but walked to the couch anyway.

Zoe moved over for him, but he paid her no attention.

It took until now for Connor to remembered this day. Recognizing it should have been enough to make him run from the house, but his feet wouldn’t move. He couldn’t run his eyes away from the almost perfect picture that he knew was about to shatter.

He knew why he was upset. He wasn’t supposed to overhear his parent’s conversation, but he’d listened to the tail end of his mother trying to explain to his father why Connor should be pulled from school. His father didn’t get it. Connor could remembered wanting to scream at him for it.

Instead he’d ran back to his room and vowed never to come out again. But then he’d been called to dinner and all his resolve had slunk away. He didn’t know how to fight when he was thirteen. He’d tried not to talk through dinner, but when he father asked what was wrong he’d spat an angry remark.

Connor couldn’t recall the words said to one another. He knew that his mother had pacified the fight. He knew that he’d decided then and there that his father was never going to try to understand him.

He right now knew that he wanted to be far away from this house and the mistakes he was about to make.

“You said I could hold onto it,” Zoe’s voice brought him back to what was happening in front of him. He saw younger him directing his irritation at her. She was too small to understand.

“It’s mine,” he stated. Connor realized they were talking about the hoodie Zoe was still wearing. Looking back, Connor hadn’t been able to remember what his tipping point had been. He hadn’t expected it to be that.

“Fine,” she crossed her arms. “I’ll give it to you after the movie.”

“I want it now,” he seethed.

“It’s cold,” she said stubbornly.

“What’s going on?” their father looked back an forth between them.

“Nothing,” Connor spat.

“Honey,” his mother started.

“Shut up,” he barked. It didn’t look like he knew which one of them he was yelling at.

The living room was being divided into a battlefield, and no one was on Connor’s side. His mother only said she was, Zoe never cared at the end of the day, and his father didn’t want anything to do with it. Only now could Connor see the difference between how he’d always seen this moment and reality. His mother didn’t look concerned, she looked regretful. She was still thinking about what had happened at dinner. Zoe wasn’t trying to fight him, she was clinging on to something that connected them. His father just looked tired, not angry.

“Do not talk back to your mother,” he told him.

Connor pulled the jacket off of Zoe’s shoulders.

“Hey!” she shouted.

She tried to grab it back. He nudged her away from him. Or, at least that was what he’d meant to do. He’d only ever remembered that moment as a blur. Right now everything was in full focus. He saw his fist hit her shoulder, sending her crashing off of the couch. He saw the startled hurt in her eyes as her hand touched where he’d punched her. He saw his own eyes widen.

“Zoe,” his voice was numb. “I—”

She darted from the room. Her mother hurried after her. Younger him just sat there. He hadn’t meant to hurt her, he could see it on his own face. But at the end of the day intent didn’t matter. There was nothing he could do.

Only now did Connor’s feet let him stumble backwards. He ran from the house. He ran before his father began scolding him and before he yelled back words that he didn’t mean. The front door wasn’t locked from the inside, and Connor knew that no one was going to hear it open and close. No one was going to hear him wish he’d tried like he said he would.

He wasn’t surprised to find Not-Alana waiting for him outside.

“Did you strand me here?” he demanded.

She met the fury with a cool shrug. The real Alana would never have been able to deflect emotion like that.

“Fuck you,” he said to her.

“That’s fair,” she pursed her lips, her eyes on the window behind him.

“You were watching, weren’t you?” he didn’t just mean right then.

She nodded. He looked at the ground.

“There were moments where you looked happy,” she said to him.

“It didn’t last,” he spoke through his teeth.

“Your parents were trying,” she sounded almost like she cared. “You can see that, right?”

“That didn’t last either.”

“So you’re mad at them?” she questioned.

“No,” he started, but that wasn’t true. “Yes. I didn’t need to see this.”

“You’re right,” she agreed.

“You know, nostalgia doesn’t make me regret dying,” he informed her. “It doesn’t wipe shit away.”

If anything, seeing this solidified it. If Connor hadn’t been there Zoe wouldn’t be crying, his mother wouldn’t be trying to pick up everyone’s pieces, and his father wouldn’t have reason to look so exhausted all the time. Without Connor they were so much better off.

“I didn’t tell you to come here,” Not-Alana reminded him. “Actually, I told you not to.”

“Well, I’ll take your advice now,” he meant this. He wasn’t coming back to this house. He’d made a choice to give it up and he wasn’t going back on that.

“Good,” she didn’t smile. “You ready?”

“Yeah.”

The darkness finally came.

Chapter Text

Connor recognized Evan’s living room when he opened his eyes. It was darker than usual, but the lights were on. A significantly taller Evan Hansen was standing next to the light switch.

“You,” Evan was staring at him. “You weren’t there two seconds ago.”

“You’re older,” Connor commented before he realized he was talking out loud.

“Yeah,” Evan looked like he wanted to laugh but wasn’t sure how.

He did look older. By a lot. Aside from the height, there was an edge to him that hadn’t been there before. Sure, the innocence and round face was still present, but it was accompanied by a maturity the certainly had not been there before. He looked so much more like the Evan Hansen who’s letter Connor had taken.

“And you’re not dropping a glass cup this time,” Connor realized.

“You’re real,” Evan stated.

“I am,” Connor replied.

“I know, that’s why I said it,” Evan winced at his own voice. “Sorry. I just—I mean, I know you’re real.”

“That’s good,” Connor felt himself smirk. “Kinda didn’t want to go over that whole thing again.”

“Why are you here?” Evan asked.

“I never really know,” Connor said honestly.

“Okay,” it seemed that was all the answer Evan had expected. “I was gonna go make a sandwich. I guess you can follow me? I’m sorry. It’s been a while.”

“How long?” Connor asked as they walked into the kitchen.

“Almost three years,” Evan said.

“Shit,” Connor whistled.

“I’m not gonna tell you that’s a bad word,” Evan said with the hint of a smile.

“Right,” Connor smiled back.

Like the living room, Evan’s kitchen hadn’t changed much. A few of the pictures on the refrigerator had been swapped out, but the yellow post-it note with his mother’s number was still there in it’s faded glory. Connor watched Evan assemble bread and cheese on a paper plate.

“What time is it?” Connor asked.

“Two a.m,” Evan stated.

“And you’re awake?” Connor looked at him questioningly.

“Unless you’re a dream, yeah,” Evan offered no explanation.

“Why?” Connor asked.

“Can’t sleep,” Evan shrugged.

“Right.” There was more to that, but Connor wouldn’t ask now. “How have you been?”

“Fine,” Evan stated a very practiced response.

“You don’t have to lie to me,” Connor started.

“I’m not,” he said too fast.

“You’ve gotten a bit better at it,” Connor mused. “So, you’re in high school now?”

“Started a few months ago,” Evan confirmed.

He was almost a different person. Connor had missed something. Or, maybe he hadn’t missed anything but time proving to Evan how shitty life was the way it had to Connor. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that walls were up and Connor didn’t know how to break them down. He couldn’t even break his own walls.

“Are you Connor Murphy?”

The questioned startled him. Actually, it mildly terrified him. Of course he knew Evan was going to put two and two together eventually. He hadn’t anticipated it would be this quickly or that he’d be asked this directly. There wasn’t a way to lie.

“Yes,” he uttered. “How did you figure that out?”

“He—you look like the same person,” Evan stammered. “I mean, I’ve know both you since I was seven, but it took until now for him to look like you. You have longer hair, though.”

“Yeah,” Connor nodded. “I started growing it out around now.”

“So,” Evan cleared his throat. “You’re not dead? Or you are but, you’re not dead yet?”

“Yeah,” he confirmed.

“Connor’s gonna die?” There was a tentative fear in his voice. Connor didn’t understand why it was there. Evan Hansen didn’t know him. He shouldn’t care what happened to him.

Connor nodded.

“When he doesn’t look that much older than now?” Evan had asked him his age before, but Connor had never said exactly. Evan was smart. He’d realize that it couldn’t be that far off.

“Can we not talk about this?” Connor didn’t mean to sound so exhausted.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Evan murmured.

“Because you’re reacting like this,” Connor could hear vexation seeping into his voice. “You don’t know me—living me, I mean, stop acting like he’s your best friend.”

“Sorry,” Evan pulled at the hem of his shirt. Old habits die hard.

“You don’t talk to him, right?” Connor needed to make sure.

“Wouldn’t you know?” Evan looked at him, confused.

“I’m just making sure,” Connor stated.

“I don’t,” Evan said. “He—you don’t talk to me.”

“I know,” Connor remembered. He needed to change the subject. He needed it to be far away from himself and whoever Evan knew him as. “Did I miss anything?”

“No,” Evan’s voice was unreadable. “Not really.”

“That’s boring,” Connor decided.

“Yeah.”

“I didn’t get you addicted to skipping class?” he attempted to joke.

“No,” Evan shook his head, he looked unable to form a smile. “I only did that that one time with you.”

“Listen,” Connor sighed. “Don’t worry about me, okay? It already happened.”

“For you.” There was too much emotion in his voice. Evan seemed to realize that. “Okay, I won’t worry.”

“Good,” Connor said.

Evan finished the sandwich he’d been eating and threw away the paper plate. Connor watched him turn off the lights and followed him back into the living room.

“If you’re going to bed I can get out of your hair,” he felt the need to voice.

“It’s fine,” Evan shrugged. “I can’t go to sleep anyway.”

“You look tired as fuck,” Connor informed him.

It was true. There were bags under his eyes and his whole form seemed to droop a bit. Sleeping was probably the best thing he could do right now.

“I am,” he didn’t lie.

“You can’t just close your eyes? Listen to music or something?” Connor suggested.

“It’s not that I can’t fall asleep. It’s,” Evan winced again, not finishing.

“I’m here to help you,” Connor told him. “Remember?”

“Yeah,” Evan let himself smile. “You’re my guardian angel.”

“Not what I meant,” Connor muttered.

He followed Evan to his bedroom. It wasn’t very different from what Connor would have expected from him. Everything was neat, a lot cleaner than a normal high schooler’s room would be. Aside from the bed and nightstand, the only furniture was a bookshelf and a desk. It was too clean. It didn’t look lived in.

“I get nightmares,” Evan blurted. “They’re probably stress induced, that’s what it says online at least. But when I go to sleep it’s worse in the morning than if I don’t sleep at all.”

“So you’re just gonna stay up forever?” Connor asked.

“I tried sleeping but—”

“Okay,” Connor cut him off. “I’ll stay up with you.”

“Seriously?” Evan looked surprised.

Connor didn’t get night terrors, but he wasn’t going to tell Evan he had to sleep through his. Connor wasn’t going to push him by calling his resolution stupid. He knew he hated it when people belittled his way of dealing with impossible things.

“Why not?” he shrugged. “I’m here for a reason.”

“So, you’re not gonna tell me that I’m being dumb or making myself sick?” Evan asked cautiously.

“No,” Connor sat down on the edge of Evan’s bed.

“Okay,” Evan sat down next to him.

“How’s your mom?” Connor asked, because he needed to keep some sort of conversation going.

“The same,” Evan stated.

“Is that good?” Connor inquired.

“I guess,” Evan didn’t want to talk about this.

“High school as shitty as middle school?” Connor asked.

“You’d know,” Evan reminded him.

“I’m asking you,” he replied.

“Kinda,” Evan admitted. “It’s the same people. They still don’t really pay attention to me, which is kinda good.”

“Sounds lonely to me,” Connor said bluntly.

“Yeah,” Evan didn’t lie. “Do you remember me?”

“What?” Connor asked.

“From when you were alive,” Evan clarified.

Of course Connor did. How do you not remember the only person who might be as socially pathetic as you are.

“Yeah,” he said out loud.

“Did you think I was a loser?” Evan asked. “I mean, it’s okay if you still think that, I kinda am. You don’t have to answer, it’s a weird question—”

“Yeah,” Connor stated.

“Oh,” Evan blinked, the answer momentarily stunning him. “That’s honest.”

“I didn’t think you were any more of a loser than I was, though.” Connor added to take the edge off.

“You’re not,” Evan said.

“Come on, Hansen,” Connor laughed mirthlessly. “You think I am.”

“You saved my life,” Evan stated. Connor wondered how many times he went back to those words when Connor showed bit of his true colors. How many more mistakes was it going to take for this kid to realize that his ‘guardian angel’ was a jerk?

“After dying,” Connor tried to dismiss. “We’re talking about living me.”

“I don’t judge people,” Evan told him.

“Everyone judges people,” Connor rolled his eyes. “It’s how society fucking works.”

“I’m an outcast,” Evan said.

“Yeah,” Connor knew this.

“So I don’t judge other outcasts,” Evan finished.

“That’s sweet,” Connor didn’t mean it to sound as patronizing as it did. “You’re not a loser. I just thought you were weird.”

“Oh,” Evan’s face fell a bit.

“Not because of you,” Connor tried to correct. “I thought it was weird that you didn’t have any friends even though there’s nothing really wrong with you.”

“I have anxiety,” Evan said.

Connor should have figured this, especially after finding him in the school bathroom. He hadn’t put that word on it. He didn’t think about other people’s mental health. It was hypocritical, and he knew this, but he always saw himself as the most fucked up. He could feel a snag of guilt for shoving future Evan.

“I can’t talk to people,” Evan reminded him.

“You’re talking to me,” Connor said.

“Because I know you,” Evan said dismissively.

“What do you mean?” Connor raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve known you since I was five,” Evan stated. “You talked me through a panic attack twice, you’re the closest thing to a friend I have.”

“That’s sad,” Connor heard his own voice say.

“I know,” Evan mumbled

“That’s really fucking sad,” Connor shook his head. “You haven’t seen me in three fucking years.”

“I know,” Evan repeated.

“Well,” he sighed. “I guess that’s still better than me.”

“Should I try to talk to living you?” Evan asked him.

“No,” Connor replied. “Stay away from him he’s not in a good place.”

“I could help,” Evan started.

“Don’t,” Connor said firmly. He’d only hurt Evan without meaning to.

“Okay,” Evan looked at his hands.

“You still obsessed with trees?” Connor asked him.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“That’s cool, you know?” Connor said.

“It’s really not,” Evan said.

“It’s cool that you have a hobby in the first place,” Connor meant this. At least Evan kinda knew who he was. He had something he could reach to. Connor had watched Zoe find that, while he stayed without a lifeline.

“You read,” Evan stated.

“When I was alive,” Connor shrugged.

“That’s what I meant,” Evan said softly.

“Are you spying on me?” When he was alive Connor hadn’t thought that Evan Hansen took any notice of him.

“No!” Evan said quickly. “I just noticed…”

He didn’t make eye contact. Connor scanned the practically bare room, his gaze falling on the bookshelf

“You have a lot of books,” he observed.

“Family members don’t know what to get me for birthdays since none of them really stop to…” Evan didn’t finish.

“Get to know you?” Connor offered.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“I know that feeling,” Connor told him. “So you ask for books?”

“They’ll get the wrong size clothe so it’s easier,” Evan brushed off. Connor remembered telling middle school Evan Hansen that it helped to have a book in your hand when you’re trying to not awkwardly blend in.

“Which ones have you read?” Connor asked.

They spent the next few hours going through Evan’s shelf. Connor had read a good handful that Evan had, and never really had the chance to talk to other people about books before. After a while, Evan stopped babbling whenever he thought Connor didn’t like what he was saying. Connor wasn’t sure if he had comfort or exhaustion to thank for that.

At four in the morning Evan did fall asleep. Connor turned the lights off for him and laid down on Evan’s floor. He closed his own eyes, not caring if sleep or the darkness found him first.

Chapter Text

Connor woke up to the very annoying sound of an alarm clock. He was laying on Evan’s floor. This was so much less comfortable than either of the couches he’d spent the night on. The alarm was quickly shut off, and Connor heard a mumbled groan from the bed next to him.

“Morning,” he said loud enough to ensure that Evan could hear his voice (and remember that he’d fallen asleep with someone else in his room).

“You’re still here,” Evan commented as he sat up.

“Seems like it,” Connor wondered if he was stuck again. Not-Alana wouldn’t do that if he wasn’t breaking the rules, right?

“I need to get ready for school,” Evan dragged himself out of the bed and walked to his closet.

“You look exhausted,” Connor told him.

That was putting it mildly. Evan was a mess. While the bedhead was kinda cute, the dark circles under his eyes were far from it. His face seemed paler than it had the night before, and his eyes looked stuck in a permanent squint. He shouldn’t be leaving the house, he should still be in bed and knocked out.

“I’m fine,” Evan tried to shake off. “Still waking up.”

“Do you drink coffee?” Connor asked. He himself had been downing a cup each morning since his last year of middle school.

“No,” Evan shook his head. “It makes me really jittery.”

“Right,” Connor should have figured that.

“I gotta change,” Evan told him in a more timid voice. “Do you mind?”

Connor stood up and walked to the door.

“I’ll meet you in your living room,” he decided.

“Okay,” Evan agreed.

Connor waited on Evan’s couch for the next few minutes. It was possible that he was supposed to get Evan to sleep the night before, and he hadn’t disappeared because he failed to. Compared to the last time he failed Evan Hansen, Connor was pretty sure he’d done a bit better. Unfortunately, if he was right about this he’d probably be stuck longer than the last time.

He wasn’t going to badger Evan with health facts or try to make him do something he didn’t want to. If Connor told Evan to go to sleep, it would be the same as telling him he didn’t think the nightmares were worth hiding from. Right now, living Connor was alone thinking no one understood or even gave a shit about what he was going through. He wasn’t going to do that to Evan. He wasn’t that much of a hypocrite.

Evan got ready faster than Connor thought he would. The kitchen was empty aside from a plate with toast on it and a glass of water sitting on the table. Connor assumed Evan’s mother had already gone to work.

“She leaves you toast?” he questioned, sitting down at the table next to Evan.

“Yeah,” Evan picked at the food. “She usually does that when she has to leave early.”

“You still walk to school?” Connor asked.

“Usually I take the bus. If I can—you know,” Evan looked at his hands.

“Deal with people?” Connor offered.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“Well,” Connor chuckled. “You grew up.”

“Last time you said I was still a kid,” Evan remembered.

“You’re taller now,” Connor justified. “Should I go with you?”

“Could you not?” Evan asked, eyes widened as soon as the words left his lips. “Sorry, that’s mean, but like, I don’t know if I could not talk to you if you’re there and—”

“It’s fine,” Connor said in a level voice. “That’s why I asked.”

They were silent for about a minute.

“Can I ask how you slept?” Connor blurted.

“I think only three hours,” Evan said.

“You know that’s not what I meant,” Connor wasn’t going to push, but he wasn’t going to not bring it up either.

“I’m fine,” Evan tried to brush off.

“But had a nightmare?” Connor could tell.

“I’m used to it,” Evan stated.

“I don’t think not sleeping in order to avoid it is used to it,” Connor commented before he could stop himself.

“I’m okay,” Evan told him. “I’m dealing with it.”

Connor nodded. He wouldn’t say anything more about it right now.

“Connor,” Evan started, his voice was different now.

“Yeah?” Connor hummed.

“Never mind,” Evan shook his head.

“What?” Connor asked.

“It’s nothing,” Evan mumbled, not looking at him.

“Evan—”

“What happens if you don’t try to help me?” The question came out quick, like Evan was forcing his voice to ask it.

“What?” Connor didn’t understand where it was coming from.

“It’s like your job right?” Evan tried to clarify. “That’s why you keep asking questions and talking to me.”

“I wouldn’t call it a job,” Connor said. He hadn’t chosen it and he wasn’t getting anything but sick nostalgia and irritating perspective out of it. “I’m not pretending to care.”

Evan nodded, but Connor knew that he didn’t believe this. The weird thing was that Connor did mean it. He wasn’t sure when it had started, but he did care about this kid. He did want to help Evan, even if some external force was making him do it anyway. He felt bad for Evan, but mostly he didn’t want this boy to turn out like him. He didn’t want both of the outcasts of their school to give up.

“I’m serious, kid,” was all Connor could say out loud.

“You just said I wasn’t a kid,” Evan tried to pull the conversation away.

“I’m serious, Evan,” Connor put full weight on his words.

“Thanks,” Evan smiled slightly.

“You remind me of my sister,” Connor admitted without really meaning to.

“Oh?” this surprised Evan.

“It’s weird,” Connor stated. “But she handles things a lot like how you do, and neither of you deserved being saddled with shitty lives.”

“Thanks?” Evan didn’t know what to say. Connor wouldn’t say out loud that the perplexed look was kinda funny.

“I’m not here because I have to,” Connor told him. “I mean, physically yeah since I can’t really control where and when I show up.”

“I know what you mean,” Evan smiled. “I gotta go.”

Connor watched him jump up from his seat and sling a backpack over his shoulders. It didn’t look too big for him anymore.

“Connor?” Evan hesitated at the exit of the room.

“Yeah?” Connor gave him a questioning look.

“I missed you,” Evan said.

Connor could only smile in response.

After Evan left, Connor didn’t disappear. He’d found ways to waste time in Evan’s house, settling on taking one of Evan’s books. He just needed something to keep him from his own thoughts. He didn’t need to see himself or his family to recall what freshman year had felt like.

Connor wasn’t exaggerating when he told Evan that his present self was not in a good place. Here was where the downward spiral started. In middle school he’d found things to keep him afloat, or simply pushed all of his negative emotions into anger. Freshman year of high school was when self doubt was carefully planted in his chest. This was where he watched his sister and his parents know how to pick themselves up and wondered how the fuck they’d learned to do that.

He remembered silent melt downs. He didn’t steal razors yet. He’d been under the false impression that someone in his family would fucking notice if he did.

He took hot showers. He let scalding water burn into his skin until the pain threatened to break his mind. That was what he wanted. He didn’t want to have to think anymore. Thoughts were always his enemy.

His mental spiral was cut off by the front door opening.

Evan’s mother looked tired. That word seemed to encompass her entirely. Her body was radiating exhaustion, both emotionally and physically. He watched her take leftovers from the refrigerator and warm them up. It made sense that she stopped by the house for lunch. She was home the one time that Evan wasn’t, and Evan was home all the times she couldn’t be.

The bags under her eyes were bigger than her son’s. Connor wondered how much sleep this woman allowed herself. If she got home later and left early it couldn’t be much.

After eating she fished her cell phone out of her pocket. Her finger hovered over the call button. Connor couldn’t see who’s number she’d dialed, but he had a pretty good idea. The phone rang for a good half a minute before going to voicemail, she sighed then pressed a forced smile to her lips.

“Hey, honey,” her voice was more awake than she looked. “I’m sorry, I’m not gonna be home for dinner tonight. I’m leaving money on the table, order whatever you like. I texted Jared’s mom, they’ll give you a ride home. I’ll get Wednesday off, I promise. Love you.”

When she hung up the energy was gone.

Connor didn’t feel like he should be seeing this. The look on her face was private.The silent defeat was something that Connor knew no one was allowed to witness.

He didn’t understand why he’d been granted access to this, or why only now the darkness was pushing him away from it.


Connor was standing in Evan’s kitchen. Considering all of the possible places he could have ended up, this was somewhat of a relief. It was dark outside the windows, but the room was bright enough to ignore the outside world. Evan himself was sitting at the table with a laptop in front of him. He hadn’t noticed Connor yet.

“Hey,” Connor cleared his throat.

“What?” Evan’s eyes darted to him, only slightly startled. “Hi, Connor.”

“How long has it been?” Connor asked, he leaned on the table.

“Um,” it took a second for Evan to understand the question. “A day?”

“Okay,” Connor nodded. “That’s not too bad.”

“You weren’t here when I got home I assumed you left or something,” Evan told him.

“It’s not really leaving,” Connor felt the need to say. “I can’t control it.”

“You come back,” Evan shrugged.

“So,” Connor didn’t know how to casually ask why he was here this time. “Did anything—”

The front door opened. Evan’s gaze whipped back to his computer.

“Hey,” his mother said as she walked into the room. “Whatcha doing?”

“Just homework,” Evan mumbled.

“I thought I heard you talking to someone,” she said.

“I was on the phone,” Evan didn’t look at her.

She looked like she wanted to say something to this. She looked like she wanted to walk to where he was, but instead she just stood there. Connor could see his own mother in this woman. This was what she must have looked like every time he didn’t let her reach him.

“You need any help?” she asked.

“No,” Evan shook his head. “I’m fine.”

“So, I was thinking,” she started. He still kept his eyes on the computer. “I’m trying to get Saturday off. Maybe we could go see a movie.”

“I have plans,” Evan said in a completely unconvincing voice.

“Really?” she seemed almost hopeful. This woman was fully aware how antisocial her son was. “With friends?”

“No. I,” Evan winced slightly. “I have homework.”

“Oh,” she quickly masked the disappointment. “Right.”

“I need to finish this so,” Evan stood from the chair, picking up his computer.

“You can work in here,” she said.

“It’s okay,” he shook her off before leaving the room.

Connor followed.

“That was cold,” he stated once the door to Evan’s room was closed.

Evan didn’t respond. For a second Connor wondered if he was going to be ignored too. Was this what Evan thought he had to do to the people who were trying to help him? Not that Connor had the right to blame the kid. He’d done worse. He knew he had.

“Why don’t you just talk to her?” he asked.

“Did you talk to your mom when you were my age?” Evan asked back.

“No,” Connor had no problem admitting that to this boy. “But you’re a bit more put together than I was.”

“Really?” Evan didn’t look impressed. That was the wrong thing to say. The last thing Connor wanted was for Evan to think he was minimizing his issues.

“Going to a movie with her isn’t going to kill you,” Connor tried.

“I can’t do movie theaters,” Evan stated.

“What does that mean?” Connor asked.

He kept his voice as open as he could. He’d listen to Evan’s reasoning, and he’d try to understand. Maybe his job wasn’t to save Evan’s life. It was just to make him realize that some people are capable of understanding.

“I just can’t,” Evan stammered. “There’s too many people, and it’s dark, and if I talk to loud they get mad at me, and you can’t always see the exits—”

“Okay, okay,” Connor cut him off gently. “I get it.”

“Sorry,” Evan tugged at his shirt hem.

“You could tell your mom,” Connor suggested.

He expected Evan to tell him that she wouldn’t understand, that she’d offer a bunch of solutions that would never work, that she had no idea what it was like inside his head.

“She doesn’t know how bad it gets,” Evan’s soft tone surprised him.

“She probably wants to,” Connor said.

“I know,” Evan sighed. “But she has a lot of stress from work.”

“She cares about you,” Connor told him.

“That’s why I can’t tell her,” he shook his head. “I can’t show her how much of a mess I am. It’s just going to hurt her.”

Connor didn’t have words that would make this better. Connor didn’t know how to reach out to parents, and he didn’t know how to convince scared kids that it was going to be okay. Only, Evan wasn’t a kid anymore. He was just lost, and how the fuck was one lost teenager supposed to guide another?

“That sucks,” he stated.

“Yeah,” Evan laughed slightly.

Sympathy wasn’t much, but it was probably a lot less than Evan Hansen ever got.

“Connor, is it okay if you,” Evan’s tone had changed. “Um, it’s not that I don’t want you to be here, but if I don’t finish this—”

“I’m distracting you,” Connor realized.

“A little bit,” Evan nodded. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Connor assured him. “I’ll go snoop through your house.”

“Right,” Evan laughed again. Like the first one, it didn’t sound humored at all.

Connor went back into the kitchen. Evan’s mother was concentrated on some sort of paper work. He wasn’t nice enough to not look over her shoulder. It looked like something legal. On the top was the name “Heidi Hansen.” Connor realized he’d never asked Evan what his mother’s name was. It had a nice ring to it.

He could imagine her being younger, being happy and thinking her life and her kid’s life was going to be easy. Maybe it wasn’t completely Evan’s father’s fault for leaving. Maybe good people who did nothing wrong were always supposed to suffer.

She sighed, then walked out of the room. The paper work and a pair of reading glasses stayed on the table. Connor figured she’d be back at some point. He took being alone in this room as his chance. He made her a cup of tea like he had for his own mother a few days (or years) ago.

When she got back, the cup seemed to surprise her. She sat back down at look defeatedly at the papers. Connor wished her and Evan could help each other with their loads instead of just baring witness to each other’s pain. Then again, he knew that was easier said than done. It wasn’t like he’d ever tried to help his sister or mother (he’d barely even known how to talk to his father).

Connor was about to leave to room, to go see if Evan was done with his homework yet, when he was startled by a shout. Heidi Hansen was staring in his direction. No, she was staring at him.

“You can see me,” he realized.

“Who the hell are you?” her voice was low. He knew what this looked like. She thought some stranger was in her house.

“Calm down,” he took a step toward her.

“I’m calling the police,” she declared, grabbing her cellphone. She was backed into the table. If he was an intruder, it would have been easy to fight her off. But it didn’t matter if she called the police or not. He was a ghost, and they were just gonna think she was crazy.

“Don’t,” he told her. “Seriously it’s a bad idea.”

“Are you threatening me?” she looked scared, but also like she was fully prepared to rip his throat out.

“No, no, I,” he needed to think. Fast. “You’re dreaming!”

Okay, that was the most stupid thing he could have said.

“What the hell?”

“Look,” he could convince her. It would sound crazy, but him being here was crazy. “Two seconds ago, I wasn’t standing here, right?”

“Yes,” she seemed to only realize this now.

“I’m not really here,” he tried.

“I’m not going to fall for—”

“When your son was five years old you lost him at a zoo because you and your husband were arguing,” Connor blurted.

Something changed in her face. This was working.

“How did you know that?” her voice was laced in denial, but he was getting there.

“I’m not a stalker,” he said quickly.

“I’m hallucinating?” she didn’t look like she believed him.

“No,” he didn’t want her to think she was losing it, but there wasn’t a better way to justify him being there. “Yes.”

“You need to get your story straight,” she informed him.

“I’m Evan’s guardian angel,” Connor blurted. “When he was seven years old he tried to run away after his father left. I stopped him from getting hit by a car.”

“I,” she was buying it.

“There were scrapes on his arms, right?” Connor remembered. “That’s because I pushed him into the pavement. He almost died, but he probably didn’t tell you.”

“He didn’t,” she confirmed. “You’re not really here?”

“You’re not supposed to see me,” he admitted. He glanced at the tea he’d made. “Um, this isn’t poisoned. I thought it might help. You look stressed.”

“I am stressed,” she wasn’t eyeing him with distrust anymore.

“You should sit down,” he told her.

“I should call the police,” she said.

“But you won’t,” he knew. “Because you believe me.”

She sat down. Connor took the chair across from her. She regarded the tea for a moment before taking a sip of it.

“Do you have a name?” she asked him.

“Connor,” he stated.

“And you’re an angel?” she raised an eyebrow. Connor knew he didn’t look the part.

“You could say that,” he murmured.

She just shook her head. Now that the panic was gone, the exhaustion was back. Since she was no longer regarding him as an intruder, Connor had a second to question why the fuck she could see him in the first place.

Evan was the only one who could see him. That made sense. Only once had someone else been able to, and that was because Evan needed him to answer the door. It didn’t make sense for him to be needed now.

“So, what?” Heidi broke through his thoughts. “You stop him from getting hurt?”

“I suck at it,” he told her. He felt almost like he should be apologizing to this woman for not being able to fix everything. “But I’m trying.”

“We’re all trying,” she sighed.

“I know.” Connor had a choice. He could either stay out of the overly complicated lack of communication going on between Evan and his mother, or Connor could attempt to help and end up messing everything up even more. “He wants to open up to you.”

“Really?” She didn’t quite scoff, but Connor would read her reaction as that.

“You’re a good mother, you know,” he felt the need to tell her. Because he’d witnessed the person that Evan was, and with the lot life had given him he could have ended up so much worse. “Most wouldn’t be able to handle all this.”

“I’m not really handling it,” she told him.

“He goes to school,” Connor pointed out. “Eats breakfast, he’s a lot better off than a lot of kids.”

“He doesn’t know how to talk to me anymore,” she said.

“All kids are like that at some point,” Connor tried to brush over.

She didn’t really believe he was real, so she was being honest. Connor could get her to open up. He could actually help.

“He’s trying to protect you,” Connor stated.

“From what?” there was more than exasperation in her eyes, there was a shred of hope. Connor could not afford to fuck this up.

“More stress,” he answered.

She laughed with out a hint of humor.

“I try so hard to get through to him,” she told Connor. “I’m not home enough. If I was around he’d know how to talk to me.”

“He didn’t want to tell you,” Connor started. “He doesn’t like seeing movies, something about inclosed spaces with a lot of people.”

“How do you know?” she asked.

“I just do,” Connor tried to shrug off.

He couldn’t tell her Evan could see him. It would complicate things to much. She’d ask Evan about him, and then they’d both think too much about Connor being dead. They’d think about living Connor. That wasn’t something either of them should spare a worry on.

“You should take a day off,” he suggested. “And just sleep or something. It’d help him to know you’re resting some.”

“Rest is easier said than done,” she let him know.

“You can’t take care of him if you’re not taking care for yourself,” Connor countered.

“You’re right,” she admitted.

Connor’s vision started blurring. He was fading away right now. He was about to disappear in the middle of a fucking conversation. Great.

“I think I need to go,” he stood up from the chair.

“What?” she was giving him a confused and slightly concerned look.

“Don’t tell him about the movie thing,” Connor quickly instructed. “Just don’t bring it up, it’ll be easier.”

“Alright,” she was still watching him. He tried to stumble to the room’s exit, but the darkness was already closing in. “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know,” was all he was able to get out before vanishing.

Chapter Text

When Connor opened his eyes he was standing in exactly the same place. Only, now Heidi Hansen wasn’t sitting at the table and it was light both inside and outside of the house. He didn’t know it this was the next morning or days after. No one else was in the room. The first thing he needed to do was to find Evan.

That didn’t prove too hard. When Connor entered Evan’s room, Evan was the first thing he noticed. The second thing was that Evan was lying in the middle or the floor with his eyes staring at the ceiling.

In seconds Connor was at his side.

“Evan?” he nudged the boys shoulder. “Hey? Okay, you’re freaking me out.”

Evan closed his eyes. Connor wasn’t sure if this was because he could hear him and he was talking too loud, or because he couldn’t hear him. He couldn’t tell if Evan could register anything right now and that was fucking terrifying.

“Ev?” He didn’t make his voice soft. He was going to cut through whatever mental barrier Evan had let himself be enclosed by. “You’re breathing.”

Evan’s eyes flickered open. They found Connor.

“And staring at me,” Connor stated. “Can you not answer or—”

“I’m sorry,” Evan winced at the sound of his own voice. “I just—”

“No, no, you’re fine,” Connor said quickly, trying very hard to make his voice soothing. “Come on, we’re gonna sit up.”

He extended his hand. Slowly Evan took it. Slowly, he let Connor pull him up and lean him against his bed frame. He wasn’t hyperventilating, but he was breathing. That was good. Hopefully it meant this wasn’t too bad.

“I need a second,” Evan stammered.

“Dude, you have as many seconds as you want,” Connor told him.

“I don’t,” Evan cut off and shook his head.

“Did something happen?” Connor asked him.

“No,” Evan’s eyes were closed again.

“Okay, don’t talk yet,” Connor hushed him. “Just breathe. ‘Cause that’s important. If you don’t breath you die. Which means I don’t really have to, but—”

“You still do,” Evan blinked up at him.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded. “Force of habit?”

Evan let his head fall backwards against the bed. Connor watched him breathe, watched him slowly sink into a more relaxed posture.

“Can you tell me what’s going on?” Connor asked softly.

“It’s nothing,” Evan whispered.

“Yeah you wouldn’t be laying in the middle or your floor crying if it was nothing,” Connor dismissed. “Talk to me.”

“I,” a pained expression formed on his face. “It’s just. I missed the bus.”

“Okay,” Connor processed this. “When did you miss the bus?”

“An hour ago,” Evan stated.

“Right,” Connor nodded. “And school starts?”

“In five minutes,” Evan’s eyes darted to the clock on his wall and then back to Connor.

“Okay,” Connor nodded again. “Your mom’s not home?”

“No,” Evan confirmed.

“Well, if we start walking now—”

“No, I can’t go to school!” Evan nearly jumped. “I can’t go to the office, because then I’ll have to get a late pass, and they as you why you’re late, and then you have to tell them, and if it’s not good enough they judge you, and then I have to walk into class and everyone is going to look at me—”

“Calm down,” Connor put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay. No one’s gonna judge you.”

“They will,” Evan hissed.

“Then you’re not going,” Connor said firmly.

“But if I’m not in class I’m going to get demerits,” Evan argued.

“Not if you’re sick,” Connor told him.

“I’m not sick,” Evan said slowly.

“I had to pull you to get you to sit up, you’re not exactly well,” Connor stated,

“I,” Evan just blinked at him.

“We’re gonna call your mom,” Connor decided. “And tell her you have a stomach ache and feel dizzy.”

“I don’t lie to her,” Evan said sheepishly.

“Yeah, and being this anxious isn’t making your stomach uneasy?” Connor countered.

“I guess,” Evan admitted. “But I’m used to it.”

“Ev,” Connor sighed. “Believe it or not resting isn’t going to hurt you. Actually considering you look like you haven’t slept in a week it’s probably the best thing for you.”

“But she’ll have to call the school,” Evan said in a small voice.

“And?”

“I don’t want to ask her to,” he mumbled.

“She just wants to take care of you,” Connor told him.

“I know,” Evan didn’t look at him.

“You don’t have to call her yet, okay?” Connor decided.

“I—”

“Let’s wait a bit,” he suggested.

“Okay,” Evan nodded.

“Then we can do it together,” Connor said.

“Okay,” Evan smiled slightly. It faded away after a second. “It’s like I’m still twelve.”

“No,” Connor knew what was going through his head. “I don’t think so.”

“You have to drag me out of a break down,” Evan glumly pointed out.

“No one ever dragged me out of mine,” Connor told him. “It’s not because I think you’re a kid, it’s because I know you’re not.”

“Sometimes it feels like I still am,” Evan’s tone had changed slightly.

“But sometimes it’s like you’re the oldest person you know because everyone else’s problems seem so childish?” Connor finished.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded. “Exactly.”

“Maybe we should have been friends,” Connor mused.

“We could,” Evan said. “I could—”

“Don’t,” Connor said firmly. “Be friends with dead me, alive me will break you.”

“I’m not scared of you,” Evan said meekly.

“You should be,” Connor replied.

Evan sucked in a breath.

“I can call her,” he said. Connor watched him take his phone from his nightstand and find his mother’s number. She picked up on the second ring. “Hey, Mom. No, no, I’m not okay.”

“Tell her you’re still in bed,” Connor instructed.

“I’m in bed,” Evan stated.

“You tried to get up,” Connor continued.

“I tried to get up,” Evan copied. “My stomach hurts. No, I don’t think I can go. I’m sorry.”

“When you sit up you feel dizzy,” Connor added.

“When I sit up I feel dizzy,” Evan chirped. “No, I think I just need to sleep…Okay…You don’t have to, I’ll take medicine in an hour…Thanks…Love you.”

He let the phone fall onto the ground.

“See,” Connor nudged his shoulder. “Not so hard.”

“I can’t actually sleep, you know,” Evan murmured.

“You look exhausted,” Connor told him.

“I feel exhausted,” Evan didn’t lie.

“Can I help?” Connor asked.

“How?” Evan looked at him.

“No idea,” Connor shrugged. “But if you need anything at all. Just name and its done.”

“Right,” Evan smiled slightly. Connor realized he wasn’t going to ask him for anything. This kid spent everyday of his life thinking that he was a burden. He didn’t know how to say he wanted help.

“Like if you need to kill someone,” Connor tried to joke.

“I don’t need to kill someone,” Evan informed him, smile widening.

“Damn,” Connor faked a disappointed tone. “That would be fun though.”

“Only you would say that,” Evan shook his head.

“Seriously,” Connor started. “If I’m still here it’s because there’s something I can do.”

“I’m fine,” Evan lied.

“Lay on your bed,” Connor instructed. “If you’re not going to sleep at least rest.”

“You’re not my mother,” Evan teased.

“I know,” Connor smirked. “That means if I have to physically move you I will.”

Evan pulled himself onto the bed. Connor stood up, he wandered to Evan’s book shelf, his eyes scanning for any particularly interesting titles. He stopped on one he was fairly certain living him had been meaning to read. He pulled it out of the shelf.

“Have you read this one?” he asked Evan.

“No,” Evan shook his head. “Not yet.”

“You wanna?” Connor asked.

“My eyes can’t focus,” Evan told him.

“That’s okay,” Connor sat down at Evan’s desk. “I’ll read it out loud.”

“You don’t have to,” Evan said softly.

“It’ll distract the both of us,” Connor declared.

“Okay,” for a split second Evan looked relieved.

Connor started reading. When he glanced Evan’s way he felt lifted by the entranced look in his eyes. He couldn’t tell how long they stayed like that. He only noticed when Evan was starting to drift off because he made a point to look at him every page or two. He didn’t try to stop him. Only when he was certain that Evan was indeed asleep did he fold the corner of the page he was on and put the book down.

It felt creepy to watch Evan sleep, but Connor didn’t think that leaving the room was a good idea. He selected another book and read that silently. He hadn’t realized he’d have so much time to read in death. It may be the only upside of being forced to be a ghost. Well, that and the rare moments where he was pretty sure he actually did something good for the boy sleeping in front of him.

Things would have been different if they’d been friends when Connor was alive. He’d wondered more than once what would have happened if he tried to talk to the only other loner in their school. Every time something had stopped him. Maybe Evan would have been able to help him. He certainly would have made Connor feel less alone. But Connor didn’t know if it would be the same on Evan’s side. Connor had managed to hurt everyone who tried to care about him. He knew he’d find a way to do the same to Evan Hansen.

Connor’s thoughts were cut off by a violent thrashing from the bed beside him. Evan’s face was contorted in a scrunched fear, his arms and legs jerked around him as if to fight off some unseen menace. Connor darted to him, but he didn’t know what to do. Touching Evan seemed inappropriate, but he couldn’t think of another way to wake him up. Fortunately for him, Evan solved this by jolting into a sitting position, his eyes wide.

“Hey,” Connor slowly put his hands on Evan’s shoulders. Evan flinched. Connor could tell from his eyes that he wasn’t fully awake yet. “Hey, it’s okay.”

“Connor?” the wide eyes met his.

“Yeah,” Connor made his voice was warm as he could. “It’s me. You’re fine, nothings trying to hurt you.”

“I can’t,” the fear hadn’t left Evan’s face. The dream was all around him, circling and trying to infect him again.

“Can I hug you?” Connor asked. “Is this okay?”

“Yeah,” Evan choked out.

Connor pulled Evan’s shaking form into his arms. He let Evan fall into him. He could feel the tears racking the boy’s body and sinking into Connor’s shirt. He tightened his grip.

“You’re okay,” he whispered into Evan’s hair. “I got you, you’re okay.”

They stayed like that for a while. Connor only pulled back when Evan’s breathing leveled and he stopped crying. He could feel Evan coming back to earth. The shitty thing was that Connor didn’t think that was much comfort.

“Is it always this bad?” he asked softly.

“Usually,” Evan admitted. Connor’s mind was flooded with images of Evan waking up in this state and having no one to hold him.

“You said you thought it was because of stress,” Connor remembered.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“Have you told anyone?” Connor knew the answer to this.

“Only you,” Evan confirmed.

“You need help,” Connor meant this. “If it’s this bad—”

“I can’t,” Evan uttered. “Right now isn’t a good time.”

“Because she’s working a lot?” Connor questioned. Evan wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“Because of a lot of things,” he whispered.

Connor would let the subject go for now. Evan needed a shoulder to cry on, not someone telling him what to do. Good intentions aside, Connor trying to get through to him right now would do more harm than good.

“You want to hear more?” Connor pointed to the book still sitting on Evan’s desk.

“Sure,” Evan smiled. “But I think I’m gonna eat something first.”

“I’ll come with,” Connor stood from the bed.

“I’d think you were snooping through my stuff if you didn’t,” Evan joked.

Connor didn’t fade away until the day was over and Evan was back to silently avoiding sleep. For the first time, he didn’t welcome the darkness. He wanted to stay and read to Evan and hold him when his nightmares came back.

Chapter Text

Connor was sitting in the passenger seat of a car. That was new.

Heidi noticed him before she opened the door. He watched shock turn to disbelief then to silent resolve. She got into the car.

“I’m not dreaming,” she stated.

The last time it had been night, and she’d been exhausted. Connor didn’t blame her for listening to his initial excuse for being there. But right now it was morning and she was clearly awake.

“You’re not crazy,” he told her.

“But I’m hallucinating?” she didn’t seem to believe that either.

“No,” he stated.

“I should see a doctor,” she sighed. She didn’t really sound like she thought she was losing it. Connor was grateful for that. He didn’t know how to convince her she still had hold of her sanity.

“You are a doctor,” he told her.

“I’m a nurse,” she brushed off.

She put her car in gear. Connor didn’t try to leave. Her seeing him wasn’t a fluke. His job was to help Evan, but that wasn’t something he could do on his own. Plus, she needed to talk to someone. He’d have to be blind not to see that.

“Evan needs to see a therapist,” he told her. He’d come to this conclusion after witnessing the aftermath of the nightmare, but it wasn’t something he could have said to Evan then.

“Did something happen?” her eyes filled with worry.

“I just think it would be good for him,” Connor wasn’t going to tell her about the dreams. Evan wouldn’t want him to.

“I’ve tried to get him to,” she sounded pained. “But every time I bring it up he has some excuse.”

“Yeah.”

That didn’t surprise Connor. Therapy and medication meant money. Evan knew that. He knew how much his mother worked just to support them. He wasn’t going to let her spare any more expenses on him, whether he was in desperate need or not.

“I’m not going to force him,” she said.

“He has anxiety,” Connor stated.

“I know,” she pursed her lips. How long had she watched knowing he wasn’t going to let her help him?

“Seeing a professional is the only way to help,” Connor knew this. He’d known it back when he was Evan’s age. He knew this because it was what he didn’t get and couldn’t ask for.

“I’ll talk to him,” her voice was stronger now.

“Thanks,” he smiled at her.

“I should be thanking you,” she told him. “You’re seriously an angel?”

“I’m a dead kid,” he blurted.

“That’s less romantic,” she commented dryly.

“I know,” he laughed.

“Sometimes I think—” she stopped herself.

“What?” he prompted.

“Would it have been different if his father didn’t leave?” she sounded so much smaller than she had seconds ago.

“Probably,” Connor said honestly. “But he sounds like an asshole so it might have been worse.”

Because sometimes having a father didn’t make things better.

“At least then Evan could have a real family,” she believed this. She actually believed that having some waste of space back in their lives would make both of them hurt less.

“You’re his really family,” Connor said firmly.

“I’m not enough,” she murmured.

Connor took a breath.

“When I was alive,” he started. “I had both parents and a sister. My parents fought all the time and mostly it was because of me. My sister didn’t know how to talk to me and when she tried I lashed out. Real families are overrated.”

Her expression had changed. Conor couldn’t tell if this was because he was getting through to her.

“When parent’s fight it’s never the child’s fault,” she said to him.

“Thanks,” he voiced softly, because she didn’t need to comfort him.

“I mean it,” she said firmly. “It’s always because one or both of them is unhappy. It may have looked like it was because of you, but it’s always the adult’s fault.”

“I’m broken,” he said before he could stop himself.

“And they should have stopped fighting and realized that,” she stated.

“You know,” he cleared his throat. “I’m supposed to be the one helping you.”

“I’m a mother,” she smiled knowingly. “It’s instinctual.”

“Right.”

“Is there something he's not telling me?” she asked, the fear was creeping back to her.

“Yes,” Connor stated because he wasn’t going to lie to this woman.

“Are you going to say it?” she asked.

“If it gets very bad, yes,” he decided. “But I want to give him the chance to.”

“I wish,” she cut herself off. Connor could hear the unspoken words.

“I know,” he said softly. “You love each other, you’re trying to protect each other. That’s better than any real family I’ve witnessed.”

“You think therapy would make it any easier?” she asked.

“I think it’s the best place to start,” he answered.

“Did your parents send you to therapy?” she could tell what the answer was, he could see it in her face.

“Not when I needed it.”

“I’m sorry,” a melancholy look crossed her face.

“It’s over now,” he tried to shrug of. “No big deal.”

“That’s a very sad thing to say,” she informed him.

“I know,” he sighed.

She parked the car now. Connor hadn’t paid much attention to their surroundings through the drive. He glanced at the exterior of the hospital building. He wasn’t getting out. He could feel that he wasn’t supposed to.

“He knows you love him,” Connor told her before she could exit.

“Looks like I’m not the only one who does,” she said.

“Yeah.”

Connor didn’t disappear until she was out of the car and walking away.


Evan didn’t look surprised when Connor appeared in the middle of his room. He was sitting at his desk. There wasn’t any light coming from the windows, so Connor was fairly certain it was night again.

“How long has it been?” he asked, sinking onto the edge of Evan’s bed.

“I saw you two days ago,” Evan answered.

Connor nodded. It could have been longer. The purple circles under Evan’s eyes were darker, his skin was chalkier. It hadn’t been a good two days.

“Have you slept since then?” Connor asked.

“A little,” Evan mumbled.

“How do you feel?” he didn’t expect an honest answer.

“Fine,” Evan glanced from the hem of his shirt to Connor’s face. “What?”

“You don’t look fine,” Connor said plainly.

“Oh,” Evan swallowed, then forced a smile. “You wanna read more of the book?”

Evan stood up, pulling the book Connor had started reading to him from the shelf. He was trying to change the subject. He probably knew that Connor could see through him. Connor walked to him, took the book and placed it back in it’s slot on the shelf.

“Ev,” he started.

“You’re the only one who calls me that,” Evan blurted.

“What?” Connor blinked at him.

“No,” Evan shook his head sheepishly. “It’s stupid. I just realized. Not even my mom calls me Ev.”

“Do you want me not to?” Connor asked, he didn’t know where this was going.

“No,” Evan said quickly. “No, it’s nice.”

“Did your mother talk to you about going to therapy?” Connor asked bluntly.

“What? No.” Shock melted into fear. “Connor, I can’t do that.”

“Why?” Connor questioned. Why was Evan always running from what could actually help him?

“Do you know how expensive it is?” Evan started.

“You’re making yourself sick,” Connor stated. He could see it, he doubted Heidi couldn’t, and he knew Evan could face it every time he looked in the mirror.

“I can handle it,” Evan stammered.

“There’s insurance,” Connor added. “Your mother knows how to manage that, honestly it would probably help her as much as you.”

“Because I’m a burden,” Evan said not because he wanted Connor to tell him he wasn’t, but because he truly believe it.

“No—”

“Or because she needs to fix me?” Evan blurted.

“Ev—”

“I can’t,” he sputtered. “I’ll figure it out on my own, or you’ll help me, or I’ll grow out of it.”

“You can’t just—” Connor kept trying. He’d keep trying until he got through to this kid.

“Face how broken I am?” Evan looked shattered. He looked like he was always shattered and only now couldn’t hide it. “I know, there’s a lot wrong with me, and I know I’m not normal, but I can fix it. I can try.”

“Evan, if you don’t let someone help you it’s only going to get worse,” Connor shouted.

Evan took a step back.

“You don’t know that,” he murmured.

“Yes, I do,” Connor said firmly.

“How?” this was the closest Evan’s voice ever got to demanding.

“I’m dead,” Connor stated.

He watched Evan slowly connect the dots, confusion morphing into a horrified understanding.

“You,” Evan stammered. “You never told me.”

“Yeah.”

“What do I do?” his voice was smaller now. His eyes were open and trusting. He was going to listen to Connor.

“Talk to your mom,” Connor softly instructed. “She wants to make things alright. She’ll try to understand. Not everyone gets that.”

“Okay,” Evan nodded shakily.

“Is she home?” Connor asked him.

“I think she’s in the kitchen,” Evan stated. “Should I go now?”

“It might be easier,” Connor knew it would be. If Evan felt like he could do it now he needed to move before he convinced himself otherwise.

“Can you come with me?” Evan asked.

“No.” Connor shook his head.

“Oh,” Evan’s eyes clouded.

“As stupid as it sounds, you need to do it on your own.” Connor told him.

Evan nodded. He took a breath before walking to the door. Connor waited a few seconds after he exited before following. He wasn’t going to hold Evan’s hand, because both Evan and his mother needed to reach each other without a third party. But, that didn’t mean he wasn’t morally above listening in.

Connor didn’t go into the kitchen. He stood outside the door. He didn’t know if Heidi could see him, and didn’t want to risk either of them knowing he was spying on them.

“Mom, can we talk?” he heard Evan’s voice say.

“Yeah,” Heidi sounded concerned. “Yeah, sweetie, we can.”

Connor heard chairs moving. They were probably both sitting down.

“I haven’t been sleeping,” Evan started. Connor could hear the unease in his voice. “No, I can’t sleep.”

Evan’s breath caught. Connor tried to imagine the look on Heidi’s face. She had to have seen this coming. Of course she knew that Evan wasn’t sleeping. But she might not have believed he’d come to her. Evan was closed off, even right now he was. Connor could imagine and mix of relief and pain mingling inside of her. Why did kids have to be hurt to come to their parents?

“I’ve been getting these nightmares,” he kept going. “Every night it feels like I’m dying.”

“Evan,” her voice was barely audible.

“I don’t know how to handle this on my own,” he told her. “I think I need help.”

Connor heard movement. They were hugging. He smiled to himself. For a moment they both were safe. For a moment they knew that they had each other.

“We can get help,” Heidi was crying. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Evan breathed.

“We’ll figure it out, okay?” she whispered.

“Okay.”

“We’ll do it together,” her voice wasn’t level, but he could hear her fighting to keep hold of it.

“Okay,” Evan murmured again.

They were alright.


Connor went back to Evan’s room when he was sure Evan and Heidi were going to be alright. He waited for a bit. He tried to read, but his mind felt numb. He didn’t like this feel. Seconds ago he was happy. He was proud that he’d been able to get through to Evan Hansen and his mother. But now he felt regretful.

“How’d it go?” he asked brightly when Evan opened the door.

“Thank you,” Evan’s eyes were warm.

Connor wanted to hug him, but he didn’t. The only time he’d touched Evan was when trying to calm him away from panic. It didn’t feel right to initiate contact in a different circumstance.

“I didn’t do anything,” he stated.

“You did,” Evan smiled at him. “You know you did.”

“Ev,” Connor tried to smile back, but the regret was still lodged in his chest. “I—”

“Are you okay?” Evan’s smile morphed into a worried frown.

“I don’t know,” he sighed.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Evan asked.

“You don’t have to do this,” Connor didn’t mean for his voice to sound so tight, but Evan didn’t look offended.

“You did it for me,” he stated.

“I think I’m hiding from something,” Connor confessed.

“From living you?” Evan asked.

“Kinda,” Connor couldn’t tell him. Even if he was able to explain how he was hiding, it wasn’t something he needed to weigh Evan down with. He stood up. “I need to go. I think I’ll be back.”

“Take your time,” Evan said.

“Thanks,” Connor smiled at him before darting from the room.

He knew what he’d see when he got to his house. He didn’t know what day it was, but he remembered screaming. This was still the beginning of the downward spiral and the year that he realized burning his skin with water didn’t make the air he breathed any less frozen. So he shouted at the people who were supposed to see his pain and try to make it stop. Connor’s life wasn’t like Evan’s.

He didn’t wait at the window. He walked through the fight. He walked past a boy shouting things that he meant and things that he didn’t, because he knew that the two people who were supposed to love him most in the world couldn’t save him. The didn’t fucking try to.

He watched his father harden. He watched him hide the damage that his son was doing. Connor hadn’t known he’d been able to leave a mark. He didn’t think it was possible to hurt this man. His mother didn’t hide her pain. But he knew younger him couldn’t see it. Could any of them see anything aside from their own anguish?

Zoe could. Zoe saw everything and had to deal with it silently.

Connor found her in her room. When he entered, she didn’t even bother to re-close the door. Her eyes only lingered on where he stood for a moment.

She was in her bed. The lamp on her nightstand illuminated the tear tracks on her face. In moments like this, Connor and never thought about her hearing him. He thought maybe the shouting annoyed her, he didn’t think she cared that he was hurting or that their parents were. He’d spent so much of his life trying to hurt her and thinking that it would never work. Right now he wished he had been right.

She turned off the lamp and buried her face in her pillow. Slowly Connor walked to her side. He pulled the blanket that had been at her feet over her.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, even though she couldn’t hear him.

He wished he could have said those words to her once before leaving. She’d continue to think he hated her. She’d continued to hate him. He supposed he deserved that.

Zoe was always the victim and he was always the monster.

Chapter Text

“Why are you still here?” Evan asked when he noticed Connor in the doorway of his room.

“I don’t know,” Connor answered.

“I’m sorry,” Evan’s eyes widened. “That sounds—”

“No, I know what you mean,” Connor assured him.

“You can’t control when you show up,” Evan didn’t phrase this as a question. Connor hadn’t fully explained this, but he’d made it fairly clear. He hadn’t been making much of an effort to understand the rules, but it seemed Evan was.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

He walked into the room. It wasn’t night this time, but judging by the lack of light seeping through the windows it wouldn’t be day for much longer.

“How did you die?” Evan’s question startled him.

Connor walked to the bed, sitting down next to Evan. He knew the answer to the question, Connor had made it clear enough the last time they spoke.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

“Okay,” Evan mumbled. He didn’t seem too shot down by the answer. “That’s fair.”

“How long has it been?” Connor wondered.

“A week,” Evan stated.

He didn’t look much better than he had when Connor last saw him, but he didn’t seem worse off either. The bags under his eyes were still there, but they weren’t darker. That was a small relief.

“When you left,” Evan started in a tentative voice. “You needed to do something.”

“Yeah,” Connor hummed.

“Is it okay now?” Evan asked softly.

“No,” Connor smiled tightly. “It’s never going to be okay.”

“I’m sorry,” Evan sounded like he meant it.

“Don’t be,” Connor said seriously. “Don’t waste any of that on me, okay?”

“It’s not wasting,” Evan argued in a small voice.

“Did you go to therapy?” Connor changed the subject.

“I had my first appointment yesterday,” Evan told him. There wasn’t much emotion in his voice.

“How did it go?” Connor prompted.

“Okay, I guess,” Evan shrugged. “My mom says it’s gonna take time.

“Yeah,” Connor murmured.

That meant one appointment hadn’t worked miracles. It meant that Evan was still at the beginning of a very long process that wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. That was the shitty part about admitting you needed help. It couldn’t all be alright at once.

“And it’s not like I can tell them my only friend is a ghost,” Evan said in a lighter tone.

“I thought I was an angel,” Connor nudged her shoulder.

“You are,” Evan smiled slightly.

“So,” Connor cleared his throat. “You don’t think you’re crazy?”

“I don’t know,” Evan said as if his sanity wasn’t something that concerned him. “I guess I don’t really think about it. If I am, it’s not like I can do anything about it.”

Connor didn’t understand how some who couldn’t arrive to school later in fear of people looking at him could so easily brush away that he was talking to someone who logically shouldn’t be there.

“I’m glad you think I’m your friend,” Connor let himself say.

“It makes it a little less sad,” Evan stated.

“I like talking to you,” Connor stated. Evan’s eyes flickered away from his. “What?”

“Nothing,” he said too quickly. “Thanks.”

“Why are you thanking me?” Connor questioned. He watched Evan swallow his words. “Ev—”

“You’re not the reason you’re here, right?” Evan asked in a jumble.

“I don’t—”

“I mean,” Evan took a breath. “Something is making you be here, right?”

“Yes,” Connor felt forced to admit.

“That’s what I thought,” Evan mumbled.

“I’m not just pretending to care,” Connor put weight in his words.

“I know,” Evan said unconvincingly. “It’s just…”

“Just?” Connor looked at him.

“Why would you want to be here?” his voice lacked any confidence.

“What?” Connor heard himself ask.

“You’re dead,” Evan kept going. “Shouldn’t you have better things to do than talk to me?”

“No,” was all Connor could say in response. Where was this coming from? Had he done something wrong? He thought that for once he was actually helping, not making Evan doubt if Connor gave a damn about him.

“Yes you do,” Evan called him out. “You have whatever you ran off to do.”

“That’s different,” Connor tried to dismiss.

“How?” Evan asked.

Connor wanted to say that he only ran off because he needed to see his family. He wasn’t even sure why, but he needed to know what he hadn’t been able to when he was alive. He needed to see how they’d be alright without them, and maybe he needed to let go of the hate. He wanted to tell Evan that he didn’t fucking care if Not-Alana (or whatever external force dictated what happened to him) were the reason he was there.

The reason he didn’t fight them and tried harder than he had at his own problems was because of Evan. He liked Evan. He wanted Evan to be alright.

“Can we not do this?” he asked out loud.

“I’m sorry,” Evan looked hurt. Connor wondered if he had hoped that Connor would talk him out of that fear.

“Don’t apologize,” Connor told him. “Ev, you never had to apologize to me.”

Evan smiled meekly.

“Did you talk to your therapist about the nightmares?” Connor asked.

“A bit,” Evan nodded.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Connor made clear. He would keep asking because he was worried, but it was always Evan’s decision to let him in.

“She thinks its because of stress,” Evan confirmed. “And that I need to talk through them.”

“Right,” Connor nodded.

“I don’t want to,” Evan admitted. “But it might help.”

“Yeah,” Connor agreed. “You could always tell me.”

Evan was silent.

“But you don’t have to,” Connor added.

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” Evan said quickly.

“If you’re not comfortable, that’s fine,” Connor kept hostility from his voice. Yeah, maybe he was a little hurt. He’d seen this boy at his worst but he still wouldn’t open up to him, and that wasn’t ever going to feel good. But this wasn’t about him. It never was.

“You’re in them a lot,” Evan’s words numbed out any emotion.

“Oh,” Connor’s stunned voice formed.

“And telling you,” Evan said. “It would feel weird.”

“Okay.”

Connor nodded, trying to defuse the tension tempting to net around them in the air, trying to hide that he felt like Evan had just slapped him in the face. He’d messed up a couple of times, but he never thought it was bad enough for Evan to be afraid of him, to have nightmares about him. He was so stupid to think Evan would ever trust him.

“Yeah,” he heard how unmasked his voice was. “That makes sense. I’m not, I don’t—”

“No,” Evan exclaimed suddenly. “You…”

He closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see Connor’s face as he spoke.

“You usually get hurt,” his voice wasn’t louder than a whisper. “And I can’t help.”

It took a second for that to hit Connor.

“You have dreams about not saving me?” he asked horsely.

Evan mutely nodded.

“It’s my job to save you,” Connor stated dumbly.

“I know,” Evan mumbled.

Connor stood up. This was too much. He didn’t know why he was here right now, but it wasn’t to push Evan into whatever world his brain had conjured to torment him.

“You want to read more?” he asked.

“Sure,” Evan nodded again.

As Connor continued where they’d left off in the book, Evan pulled a black notebook from his nightstand. A few glances at page turns informed Connor that Evan was sketching in it. He didn’t know Evan was an artist. Honestly, he didn’t know much about Evan aside from what he’d been sent to help with. That was kinda sad. He wanted to know the good things as well as the shitty ones.

“What are you drawing?” he asked when he reached the end of a chapter.

Evan pointed to the bookshelf.

“I didn’t know you drew,” Connor stated.

“I started last year,” Evan told him. “It’s calming.”

“I can’t draw a straight line,” Connor joked. (Then again, that was probably because he couldn’t do anything straight, but he wasn’t going to say that to Evan Hansen.)

“Straight lines are boring,” Evan declared.

“You’re right,” Connor couldn’t help grinning at him.

He continued reading for what felt like twenty minutes, but may have been longer. He wasn’t sitting where he could see Evan’s clock, and the sun was still out for the most part, judging from the light through the window.

“What do you think Charlie looks like?” Evan suddenly interrupted.

“The character description said blonde hair, blue eyes,” Connor remembered.

“I know,” Evan almost brushed off. “But, I mean, if you saw him on the street you’d see more than that, right?”

“I don’t notice people on the street,” Connor deadpanned.

“Right,” Evan looked slightly disappointed.

“He has freckles,” Connor blurted.

“Oh?” Evan perked up.

“Like, all over his face,” Connor decided. “But just his face.”

“Yeah?” Evan nodded encouragingly.

“And laugh lines,” Connor went on. “Since he smiles so much.”

“Yeah,” Evan grinned.

“His hair’s like yours,” Connor stated.

Evan unconsciously touched the top of his head.

“Short, but long enough to see the color and shape,” Connor clarified.

“Right,” Evan nodded again.

“What does Sam look like?” Connor turned the question to Evan.

“I don’t know,” Evan shrugged.

“Yes, you do,” Connor insisted.

“She has short hair, right?” Evan said uncertainly.

“Yeah,” Connor recalled. “That was mentioned. Short and black.”

“It sort of cuts off at her chin,” Evan’s hand moved to his jawline.

“Yeah?” Connor hummed.

“It looks light,” Evan narrowed his eyes, as if he was seeing the character in front of him now and trying to pin point each specific detail. “It’s like it’s a fog she somehow tamed to stay around her.”

“Frizzy?” Connor asked.

“No,” Evan shook his head. “Just soft.”

“And the rest of her?” Connor prompted.

“Charlie calls her eyes piercing a lot,” Evan stated.

“Yeah,” Connor remembered those descriptions. He was fairly certain these two characters would end up together by the end of the book.

“They’re pretty,” Evan smiled. “Blue, but not completely.”

“So more than one color?” Connor questioned.

“Kinda? I don’t know,” Evan glanced at him. “How do you picture her?”

“She looks like my sister,” Connor admitted sheepishly.

“You think about your sister a lot,” Evan commented.

“I guess I do,” Connor tried to shrug off.

“Were you two close?” Evan asked.

“Not at all,” Connor didn’t minimize.

“That’s sad,” Evan murmured.

“Why?” Connor asked.

“Because you love her so much,” Evan stated as if it was that simple.

“I had a shitty way of showing it,” Connor sighed.

He picked up the book again.

They didn’t stop until the sun definitely went down, and the room darkened around them. Connor felt normal. He felt alive, and he was fairly certain that for a moment Evan forgot that a ghost was reading to him.

“I should go to sleep,” Evan voiced when Connor was at a stopping point.

“Really?” Connor didn’t hide his surprise at that decision.

“I’m gonna face it,” Evan decided.

“Okay,” Connor was proud of him. “You want me to stay?”

“No.”

“Oh,” he murmured.

“I mean, if you want to,” Evan said quickly. “But you’re not always gonna be here, so—”

“You shouldn’t get used to it,” Connor understood.

“Yeah,” Evan said. “Plus, you have stuff you need to do right?”

“Maybe,” Connor was sticking with his resolve to stop hiding from his own past. “I’ll come back if I can.”

“It’s okay,” Evan told him.

“I’ll try to,” Connor knew it wasn’t much.

“I believe you,” Evan’s voice was warm.

“Night, Ev,” Connor walked to the door of the room.

“Goodnight, Connor.”


Connor didn’t expect anyone in his house to be awake. The lights weren’t on, and he was fairly certain both younger him and his parents had locked the doors of their rooms and hidden themselves in the darkness. It was only when he was outside of the door to Zoe’s room that he realized her lamp was on. He opened the door.

“The fuck…” Zoe stared straight through him. She was sitting on her bed with her cellphone pressed to her ear. There was a school folder and a handful of papers spread out in front of her.

“What? No…Sorry, my door just randomly opened,” she said into the phone. “Maybe, but how am I supposed to ask my dad to fix it?”

He walked into the room, listening to her pause as whoever she was talking to spoke. He couldn’t remember any of her friends from this age, but he wouldn’t have thought she was close enough to any of them to want to be on the phone late into the night. She may not have been as antisocial as he was, but she was hardly a people person.

“No,” she said to the person on the end of the line. “It doesn’t look like anything is wrong with it. Hold on.”

She stood up and walked to the door, taking a second to peer into the dark hall.

“Connor?” she called at the darkness. She waited a moment before shrugging and closing the door again. “No, I think he's asleep…Yeah…Okay, I’m putting you on speaker…’Cause my hand is tired.”

She placed the phone next to one of the papers. Connor sat down on her floor. She was a lot cheerier than he’d last seen her—she was a lot cheerier than he’d seen her in a long while.

“Can you hear me?” A very familiar voice asked through the phone.

Zoe was talking to Alana Beck. To say that was surprising was an understatement. Connor didn’t think the two knew each other, much less were in contact. Alana had tried to talk to him on a number of occasions, but never once had she mentioned she was friends with his sister. And Zoe—okay, maybe Zoe wouldn’t have told him. She didn’t like to talk to him, and it wasn’t like he ever showed the slightest of interest in who her friends were.

It still didn’t make sense. They had no reason to know each other, at this age especially. Zoe was still in middle school. How would they have met in the first place?

“No,” Zoe’s voice brought him back to earth.

“Okay,” Alana said through the phone. “You can.”

“No,” Zoe smirked. “I have no idea what you’re saying.”

“But you’re responding to me,” Alana pointed out in a voice that made it clear she didn’t understand the sarcasm. That was Alana for you.

“Or am I?” Zoe continued her joke.

“Zoe,” Alana seemed to get it now. “You’re not funny.”

“Yes, I am,” Zoe declared.

“Do you actually need help on your math homework?” Alana questioned, her voice was obliviously accusing. “Or are you just trying to distract me from mine.”

“Yeah,” Zoe looked back at the papers in front of her.

“Okay,” Alana started. “What’s confusing?”

“How do I find x?” Zoe asked

“Zoe,” Alana’s voice was patient.

“Yeah?”

“Did you pay attention at all?” she asked bluntly.

“No,” Zoe admitted. “But it’s not my fault! I can’t understand anything he’s saying.”

“It’s actually really simple,” Alana stated.

“Sure,” Zoe rolled her eyes.

“You have the formula, right?” Alana asked.

“Yeah,” Zoe drew out the work.

“You know what,” Alana sighed. “Just meet me before class. I can teach it to you.”

“You’re the best TA in the world,” Zoe exclaimed.

“I know.”

“But, seriously,” she started stuffing the math paper’s back into the folder. “Aren’t there more fun ways to get community service hours?”

That explained how they knew each other. Connor knew that a handful of high achieving students were given the option to assist teachers in the middle school. He didn’t realize that Alana had been doing this since her freshman year. She was scarily on the ball for everything. If he was alive, he’d feel self conscious about his own lack of preparation for the future. But now it didn’t matter.

“Like what?” Alana chirped through the phone.

“I don’t know,” Zoe shrugged even though Alana couldn’t see her. “Volunteer at an animal shelter?”

“That wouldn’t fit into my schedule,” Alana said seriously.

“I’m just saying,” Zoe kept going. “If I were you I’d be bored to death having to explain math to a bunch of stupid eighth graders.”

“Zoe,” Alana sounded slightly amused now.

“Yeah?” Zoe asked.

“You’re the only eighth grader I have to explain things to,” Alana stated. “I just tell everyone else to pay attention and grade their homework.”

“Oh,” Zoe uttered. “Still…”

“How’s your brother?” Alana asked suddenly.

“The usual,” Zoe deflated slightly. Connor doubted that Alana could tell from the other end of the line, but he could see it. He could feel it’s sting. “Why?”

“Just wondering.”

“You don’t know him,” Zoe didn’t sound irritated. “You don’t have to keep asking.”

“I know,” Alana said. “But I like to keep tabs on everything.”

“You are the only person who would say that,” Zoe didn’t hide her giggle.

“What?” Alana was making the oblivious voice again.

“Never mind,” Zoe shook her head, grinning.

“You’re laughing at me?” Alana realized.

“It’s lovingly,” Zoe informed her. “I promise.”

“I don’t get it,” Alana told her.

“I know.”

Zoe was laughing. In this moment she looked bright, innocent. It was like every weight the house she lived in through at her had melted away. Connor realized that he hadn’t see her look like this since they were kids. He felt like he should be crying, but instead something oddly similar to contentment grow inside of him. Zoe was gonna be okay. No matter what their family—no matter what Connor—threw at her she was going to find a way to endure.

He was proud of her.

Zoe and Alana talked late into the night. Connor knew he was eaves dropping, but seeing that look on her face was worth the slight guilt. He didn’t leave the room until he felt himself start to fade away.

Chapter Text

He was back in Evan's kitchen. It was almost like they'd slipped into a routine. Connor didn't mind that. He could deal with only appearing either here or Evan’s bedroom at around the same time of night. It skipped the wondering where he was and how the fuck he was supposed to figure things out.

He found Evan in the living room sitting on the couch. Evan looked up when he walked in. Connor noticed his eyes slightly widen before flickering away. Something was wrong. Evan looked guarded. He thought they’d gotten past that.

“Hey?” Connor sat down next to him. Evan’s gaze stayed on the ground. “So, should I be ordering pizza right now or—”

“It’s been a year,” Evan uttered.

“Oh.” Connor didn’t realize a numb voice could be so cutting.

A year. He’d been pulled away from an entire fucking year with no warning what so ever. Now that he was looking for it, yes, Evan did seem older. His haircut was slightly cleaner, and maybe if he stood up he’d be taller too. A few of the small youthful details were fading. These were all things that Connor wouldn’t have been able to recognize if he’d watch them over time, but being ripped from that made him feel like he was comparing two portraits of the same boy.

“I’m guessing it wasn’t a good year?” Connor said out loud.

“Years are never good,” Evan mumbled.

“I’m sorry,” Connor meant this.

He meant it so much it fucking hurt. This wasn’t how helping was supposed to work. How was Evan supposed to get better if he was being made to rely on someone inconstant. Connor wanted to scream at Not-Alana. That was probably why she hadn’t told him he was being moved forward.

“It’s not your fault,” Evan still wasn’t looking at him.

“Let’s get a pizza,” Connor decided.

“I’m not hungry,” Evan brushed off.

“I am,” Connor stated. Evan didn’t give him his phone. Connor would try to get him to eat in a bit. “So, how’d that book end?”

“I don’t know,” Evan’s voice was floating towards being grounded. It still wasn’t there yet. “It didn’t feel right to finish it without you.”

“That’s sweet,” Connor said before he could stop himself.

“It’s not supposed to be,” Evan stated. “Pizza sounds good.”

“Good,” Connor smiled at him, even though he couldn’t see it. “I’ll call.”

“You think it’ll work?” Evan handed Connor his phone anyway.

“Yeah,” Connor hoped.

He waited until the pizza arrived and they were both holding slices over the open box to bring them back to seriousness.

“What’s wrong?” Connor knew he might be approaching this a little too bluntly, but he didn’t know how to break through Evan’s haze.

“Nothing really,” Evan said.

“It has to be something significant,” Connor kept trying. “I’ve been gone for a year of shit.”

“I don’t know,” Evan did. He may have gotten a little better at hiding things, but not meeting Connor’s eyes was enough to prove he knew exactly why Connor was there. “Maybe it’s a mistake.”

“Me being here isn’t a mistake,” Connor said too firmly.

“You’re being over dramatic,” Evan let a smile creep onto his face.

“Yeah, I know,” Connor chuckled. He liked seeing Evan smile. They could leave seriousness alone for now. “Well, tell me what I missed then.”

“The nightmares stopped,” Evan stated.

“Really?” Connor couldn’t help how ecstatic his voice sounded.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded. “It took a couple months, but they stopped.”

“That’s great,” Connor told him.

“Yeah,” the smile didn’t leave.

“I’m serious,” Connor nudged his arm. “That’s really good.”

“I know,” Evan looked proud.

“Did you miss me?” Connor didn’t mean for the question to come out of his lips.

“No,” Evan’s lips curved into a smirk.

“Funny,” Connor rolled his eyes.

He watched the smile falter. Evan did meet his gaze now. Connor almost wished he hadn’t. His eyes were sad, but it wasn’t in a way Connor had seen them before. Connor had never caused the sadness before.

“For the first month I kept thinking you were gonna show up again,” Evan admitted sheepishly.

“I’m sorry,” Connor knew it didn’t make anything different.

“Then I thought maybe that was it,” Evan said. The thought scared him, Connor could tell even if he didn’t expect it.

“No,” Connor tried to make his voice light again. “I haven’t fixed you yet.”

“Right,” Evan forced a chuckle.

“Ev,” Connor started. “I don’t know when this ends, but I think when it does we will.”

Evan nodded.

“I miss talking to you,” he said in a small voice.

“Really?” Connor grinned.

“Don’t make me say it again,” Evan laughed.

“Okay, okay.” Connor watched the laugh fade the same way the smile had. Was there no way to keep this boy happy?

“My dad wants me to visit him over the summer,” Evan stated.

So that was what was bothering him. There were a lot of ways Connor could react to this. He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t angry that this man could hurt both Evan and Heidi and think he still had the right to be a part of Evan’s life. But being angry wasn’t going to do anything for Evan. He had probably been angry initially as well. It would have been easier if just that emotion had stuck. In many ways, Evan was the opposite of Connor. While rage seemed to constantly over power Connor, Evan was always weighed down by other emotions.

“Do you want to?” Connor asked, because he needed to know what Evan was thinking.

“No,” Evan sighed. “Yeah. Sometimes I do and sometimes I wish he’d just stop contacting us all together.”

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“He made it clear I’m not good enough,” Evan muttered.

“Don’t say that,” Connor’s voice hardened.

“Sometimes I wish he’d just stick with that,” Evan said.

“Have you seen him since,” Connor didn’t know how to phrase this.

“Yeah,” Evan understood what he meant. “Twice. We got dinner. He pretends that he cares what I’m doing, who my friends are. I’m a disappointment.”

“You’re not,” Connor’s voice was strong again. “He is. He’s the one who failed you guys.”

“I know, I know,” Evan said as if he’d heard those words a thousand times but could never force himself to believe them. “I hate him but at the same time…”

“You want him to love you,” Connor finished.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded slowly.

“It’s like,” Connor heard his voice say. “He doesn’t know who you really are, and you don’t want to be the person he sees you as, but part of you does because you think it’ll make you complete.”

“Parents are supposed to love their children no matter what,” Evan said numbly.

“But for some reason you have to fight for it,” Connor added. “And you’re always shit at fighting.”

“And when you think you finally know where you stand and are okay with it he tries to reach out,” Evan’s voice shook.

“And it’s always wrong,” Connor said darkly.

“Yeah,” Evan whispered. His eyes met Connor’s. “What’s your dad like?”

“You can’t tell?” Connor chuckled. Evan did too. “My dad used to try. He would play baseball with me and come home from work early sometimes.”

“Yeah?” Evan was listening. It was weird to have someone understand his complaints. It was weird to complain with someone.

“But when he looks at me,” Connor went on. “It’s like he’s trying to find the little boy who liked to play catch and tell jokes, and he gets mad that I’m not him anymore.”

“That’s not fair,” Evan said.

“Tell me about it,” Connor sighed.

“I don’t want to go,” Evan confessed. “Mom would probably get upset and try to hide it, and I don’t think I’d have any fun.”

“But?” Connor prompted, because there was a catch. He could tell.

“But he’s pretending to care for once and I want to believe it,” Evan answered.

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting that,” Connor told him.

“But I know it’s too good to be true,” Evan said frustratedly. “I can literally recognize it, but it doesn’t make it fucking stop.”

Connor put his hand on Evan’s shoulder. Instead of flinching away, Evan relaxed into the touch.

“You know,” Connor started. “I think that’s the first time I heard you swear.”

“I guess I’m growing up,” Evan quipped.

“You are grown up,” Connor shook his head. “And it’s fucking freaking me out.”

“Can we talk about something not serious?” Evan asked.

“Yes,” Connor nodded.

They spent the next hour joking about things that didn’t matter. It reminded Connor of how Zoe talked on the phone to Alana. He tried to push away the hurt that he didn’t get this back when he was alive or the guilt that he wasn’t doing anything to stop Evan’s only friend being a ghost. He didn’t let himself imagine what it might have been like if things were different. He liked making Evan laugh, and right now he didn’t care that he had to be dead to do it.

“Okay, that is the third time you almost fell asleep on me,” Connor informed the boy sitting next to him.

“Sorry,” Evan looked embarrassed.

“Don’t be,” Connor said. “But you should probably call it a night.”

“I don’t want to,” Evan said.

“Are you just being stubborn?” Connor tried to tease.

“No,” Evan didn’t look at him.

That was when Connor realized why Evan didn’t want to go to sleep. If he did, there was no guarantee that Connor would be there in the morning. Never in his life had Connor felt that needed by anyone.

“I can’t promise anything,” he voiced.

“I know,” Evan didn’t looked like he blamed him.

“I’m sorry,” Connor said anyway.

“It’s not your fault,” Evan told him.

“I’ll probably be back soon,” Connor hoped.

“Right,” Evan sounded far from convinced.

“I might not even leave when you go to sleep,” Connor tried.

“But you usually do,” Evan reminded the both of them.

“Fine,” Connor clapped his hands together. “We’ll stay up.”

“I’m acting like a kid,” Evan realized. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re fine,” Connor told him. “And I’d rather be here than anywhere else.”

“You don’t have to say that,” Evan smiled sadly.

“It’s true.”

“This isn’t the only place you go,” he stated.

“It’s the only place I don’t feel like a complete screw up,” Connor said honestly.

“You’re not,” Evan told him.

“Thanks,” Connor pursed his lips.

“I don’t know where I’d be without you,” Evan said in a small voice. “I know it sounds really cheesy, but I mean it, Connor.”

“Thanks,” Connor said again.

“You’re right,” Evan sighed. “I should go to sleep.”

“You don’t have to,” Connor stated.

“I’m not fixed,” Evan said back. “So, I’ll see you again soon. That’s how it works, right?”

Connor nodded even though he was less and less sure how it worked each time he reappeared.

Chapter Text

Connor was sitting on Evan’s bed. The lights weren’t on, but sunlight from the window illuminated the room. Connor was about to stand up to go find Evan, when he walked through the doorway. Connor watched a startled look pass over his face before he smiled openly.

“How long?” Connor didn’t think Evan would be surprised if time hadn’t passed.

“A little over a week,” he didn’t hide.

“I’m sorry,” was all Connor could say.

“You’re here now,” Evan said this like it made everything okay again.

“I am,” Connor smiled at him.

“Do you wanna go for a walk?” Evan asked him. “I kinda need to be out of the house now.”

“Sure,” Connor sprung off the bed. “Is there something wrong?”

“No,” Evan shook his head quickly. “No, I just feel cooped up.”

“Okay,” Connor responded. “Where should we go?”

“The park?” Evan suggested.

“I’ll bring the book,” Connor decided. “I want to know how it ends.”

“Okay,” Evan nodded brightly.

Connor didn’t know why he was here this time. As they walked, there was a spring in Evan’s step. He wasn’t on the edge of a breakdown or being tormented by his own thoughts. He looked happy. He didn’t need Connor right now. That being said, Connor wasn’t going to complain. He liked Evan being like this.

They found the spot that they’d hid in the time Connor had dragged Evan out of class. Connor sat down under the tree with their book. Evan stretched out on the grass, his fingers braiding stray blades of it.

“This is nostalgic,” Connor mused.

“Really?” Evan glanced up at him.

“Yeah,” Connor said.

“Shouldn’t it have only been a few days for you?” Evan pointed out.

“Time is weird,” Connor shrugged.

“Is that all the answer I’m gonna get?” Evan asked.

“Yep,” Connor winked at him before turning his attention to the book in his hands. “Do you need a recap?”

“No,” Evan shook his head. “I reread parts of it.”

“But you didn’t peek at the rest at all?” Connor questioned.

“It’s no fun that way,” Evan said simply.

“You’re weird,” Connor laughed.

“I know,” Evan stated.

Connor started where they’d left off a year ago for Evan and a two days ago for Connor. Reading this book was feelings less and less like something he was only doing to distract Evan more and more like something that they both turned to for an escape. The story was intriguing, and Connor was a little surprised to find he liked reading out loud. He enjoyed making different voices for each character and expressing their emotions through his tone. On top of that, it was nice to share a story. Reading had always felt so private, but right now Evan was experiencing every detail with him.

“My voice is tired,” he decided after what felt like ages. They’d read a good sixty pages, and honestly, Connor wasn’t quite ready to hear the end yet.

“Your voice gets tired?” Evan questioned.

“Theoretically,” Connor deadpanned. “You wanna look for four leaf clovers?”

“Seriously?” Evan gave him a confused expression.

“Yeah, come on,” Connor jumped to his feet, tucking the book under his arm. “I saw a patch over there.”

Before Evan could argue, Connor was hauling him to his feet and pulling him further into the park.

“I did this all the time with my sister when we were kids,” he explained.

“I never looked for clovers,” Evan admitted when Connor stopped at a large patch.

“Really?” Connor asked.

“I was a boring kid,” Evan mumbled.

“No, I knew you when you were a kid,” Connor dismissed. “You were far from boring.”

“It’s weird when you say it like that,” Evan informed him.

“How?” Connor didn’t get it.

“Never mind,” Evan shook his head, his eyes drifting back to the clover patch in front of them. Connor did the same.

“Found one,” he declared triumphantly.

“Already?” Evan grabbed Connor’s hand in his own to look at the plant in his fingers.

“Yeah,” Connor grinned at him before going back to looking.

“Who would find more, you or Zoe?” Evan wondered.

“Zoe, by far,” Connor told him. “But she’d share with me if I couldn’t find any.”

“Connor, I think you picked the only one,” Evan told him after a few minutes of silently searching.

“No,” Connor shook his head. “There’s more.”

“How do you know?” Evan questioned.

“I just do,” Connor stated.

“That’s code for you don’t,” Evan deadpanned.

“Shut up,” Connor’s voice made it clear he was teasing.

“I kinda know Zoe,” Evan told him.

“Yeah?” Connor hummed.

“From school,” Evan said quickly. “We don’t really talk to each other, but she’s there, and I’m there, and I notice her, because she’s your sister.”

“She’s easy to notice,” Connor stated.

“What does that mean?” Evan asked.

“That she’s pretty and not scary,” Connor said in a monotone. “Unlike her brother.”

“You’re not scary,” Evan mumbled.

“I am,” Connor told him.

Of course Evan would notice Zoe. Connor hadn’t forgotten the letter he’d taken off the boy—or would refuse to give back to him in the future. Maybe Evan didn’t have that big on a crush on Zoe now, but within the next two years he would. The thought of that didn’t bring back the anger of that moment, not now that he knew Evan and understood that this boy would never try to hurt his sister. If anything, they’d make a good pair.

“You’re kinda tied looks wise,” Evan murmured.

“What was that?” Connor raised an eyebrow.

“Nothing,” Evan didn’t meet his eyes.

“Aw, you think I’m pretty,” Connor didn’t resist the opportunity to tease.

“Shut up!” Evan hissed.

“No thanks,” Connor laughed.

“You’re in a good mood today,” Evan commented.

“I am,” Connor agreed.

He leaned back onto the grass. Evan was probably right about not finding anymore clovers, and the sun was just dim enough not to blind him when he let his eyes drift upward.

“How do you think it’s gonna end?” Evan asked suddenly.

“Hmm?” Connor prompted his head up with his arms so he could look at him.

“The book, I mean,” Evan clarified.

“I don’t know,” Connor hummed. “A happy ending seems unlikely.”

“Yeah,” Evan nodded. “Sam’s gonna die.”

“Oh, totally,” Connor had predicted this early on. “Probably in some big heroic gesture.”

“Yeah,” Evan mused.

“She’s your favorite, right?” Connor was fairly certain.

Evan nodded.

“Just don’t cry while I’m reading it, Hansen,” Connor said in a warning tone.

“No promises,” Evan grinned.

“Oh, okay,” Connor sighed.

“I give up,” Evan gestured to the clover patch in front of them.

“Fine,” Connor rolled his eyes, even though he had stopped searching first.

“Maybe I’m bad luck,” Evan said.

“No,” Connor told him. “If anyone here is bad luck I am.”

“Not true,” Evan argued. “You’re good luck. To me at least.”

“Then you don’t need a clover,” Connor pointed out. “You have me.”

“Right,” Evan laughed.

“Actually,” Connor sat up to tuck the one he’d found into Evan’s pocket. “Here.”

“I don’t,” Evan gave him a look Connor didn’t know how to read.

“For when I’m not here,” Connor said. “Plus, you’ve never found one and that’s kinda sad.”

“Thanks,” from the way Evan was smiling at him, Connor would have thought he’s just handed the kid the world not some plant. “I wish it was always like this.”

“Calm?”

“Yeah,” Evan sighed. “I wish you were always here. I mean, that wasn’t supposed to—”

“Thank you,” Connor said warmly.

“Why are you thanking me?” Evan asked.

“Because I’m not used to feeling wanted,” Connor confessed. “And it’s nice.”

They didn’t leave their corner of the park until the sun was on it’s way down. Connor could feel the air getting cooler, but didn’t feel at all cold. He wasn’t sure if he was now immune to that, or had just been lucky so far in his dealings with the weather.

“Shoot,” Evan suddenly sprang to his feet. “I need to get home. I told my mom I’d be back for dinner.”

“You should leave now,” Connor agreed, standing at a slower pace.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded. “Are you gonna…?”

“I’ll walk with you,” Connor decided.

It hadn’t been a long walk there, and Connor doubted that Evan’s mother would mind if he was a little late. She’d probably be happy he’d gotten out of the house instead of keeping himself locked up in his room alone. Then again, he would tell her he was alone.

“I like it when the sky’s like this,” Evan said as they walked. “It’s not bright, but it’s not dark either, so you can see the colors.”

“I don’t usually notice stuff like that,” Connor admitted. “It’s pretty.”

“Yeah,” Evan hummed.

“You’re neighborhood’s quiet,” Connor observed.

“It’s mainly old people,” Evan told him. “Which is nice since other kids would have been…”

“Annoying as fuck?” Connor offered.

“In different words, yeah,” Evan chuckled.

They reached the house fairly quickly. A sad look crossed Evan’s face when Connor stopped at the porch.

“You could come in if you want,” Evan said, but Connor had a feeling he already knew what the answer was going to be.

“There’s something I should do,” Connor voiced.

“Right,” Evan nodded. Connor handed the book back to him.

“But you’re still not fixed yet,” he reminded in a light tone.

“Yeah,” Evan smiled, but it didn’t hold the light it had when they were at the park. “Night, Connor.”

“Bye, Ev.”


He didn’t expect his father to be home. It was too early, and if Connor was correct in the time this was when staying late became more regular. Entering felt easier and easier each time he did it. That was a little sad, considering how rich they were. All a burglar would need to do was spy on them long enough to see someone entering in the garage code. Then they could easily steal whatever they wanted.

His mother was sitting alone in the living room. That’s not too much of a surprise either. He knew that if she wasn’t mad at his father she liked to wait for him. She gave all of them too many chances. Connor walked past her.

He didn’t bother going to his own room, he knew what he was doing.

Zoe was playing her guitar. She got up to close the door when he opened it, an annoyed expression crossed her face.

“I’m starting to think there’s a ghost in this house,” she said out loud.

Connor watched her eyes scan the room around her before realizing how stupid that sounded. He wondered if everyone who blamed things on ghosts no one else believed in were right too. He doubted it, but she’d never know how completely on the nose she was.

She went back to her guitar. There was sheets music spread on the floor in front of her. She started in the middle of the song she’d been playing when he entered. Connor didn’t recognize it, but that didn’t matter. He’d never watched her play before, he’d only ever heard through the walls and hadn’t payed attention much to that.

She looked peaceful. The tense bits of her melted away as she strummed, leaving only a calm girl and the music. He liked the sound of whatever she was playing. He wasn’t entirely sure if that was because it was a pretty song or because of the way she was playing it. He could hear her in the music. It wasn’t the parts of her that he was used to. The sound was a Zoe that he never got to meet but knew existed. It was a Zoe who would have picked more clovers but given them all to him to make him smile. It was the Zoe that Connor realized should be with Evan Hansen.

The peace shattered too easily.

Without warning younger Connor was pounding on the door, screaming at her to shut the fuck up. Connor watched the girl in the music evaporate and the one he knew close her eyes and clench her fist. She stood up and walked to the door, for a second he thought she was going to open it and tell younger him to stop, but then she swiftly brought her hand to the handle and turned the lock. She was afraid of him.

She moved back the her guitar. He didn’t stop. She shouted back. She told him to fuck off. He didn’t stop.

In a silent resign, she covered her ears with headphones and pulled her knees to her chest. On her face Connor saw all the pain he thought he’d never be able to inflict. He could never fully remember these instances. They were always blurred from emotions and weed, but he knew every time he expected her to be laughing at him. He expected everything he threw at her the bounce of because she was fucking invincible and she knew he wasn’t. She knew he was weak and he tried again and again to make her forget.

Zoe squeezed her eyes shut. She was enduring every hit, but nothing bounced off. Everything he shouted carved it’s way into her. It searched for the girl in the music. It tried to pollute the happy Connor would never reach.

And maybe it didn’t work, but that wasn’t what mattered.

What mattered was that Connor was hurting her. Connor would continue to hurt her for the next two years. In this moment, he hated himself for it.

Chapter Text

Connor wasn't able to leave Zoe’s room until after younger him stopped and it was clear he wasn’t coming back. Zoe unlocked the door to go to the bathroom, and Connor slipped out then. His mother wasn’t in the living room anymore. He wondered if she heard the screaming and just didn’t know what to do. He tried to stop that from making him angry, but protecting Zoe should have been her first priority. He had vague memories of his father dragging him away from Zoe’s door, yelling louder than either sibling could.

Connor expected to fade away in Zoe’s room, but it seemed that he wasn’t going to tonight. That was fine with him, but he wasn’t crashing on his family’s couch again. He wasn’t staying in this house any longer.

Evan’s mother arrived home the same time that Connor made it to the house. That was lucky. She couldn’t see him anymore. Connor didn’t know if that meant that she had needed him when she could or proved that their conversations had been a fluke. Connor briefly considered sleeping on their couch like he had once before, but he didn’t like the idea of being alone with his thoughts in the empty living room.

Evan was asleep. The door opening and then closing didn’t bother him. Connor sat on Evan’s floor. The only source of light came from a sliver of the window Evan’s curtains didn’t cover. It landed across Evan’s face. Connor didn’t know how he could fall asleep like that, but maybe he was used to it.

Connor knew that watching Evan sleep was creepy. It was beyond creepy. It was weird, and probably crossed some sort of boundary. He could barely explain why he was in this room to begin with, but now that he was he shouldn’t be staring. He should close his eyes and attempt to sleep until the morning came and Evan realized he wasn’t alone.

But he liked seeing Evan without worry etched in his face. He liked seeing that the nightmares really were gone. He liked seeing Evan feel safe.

Eventually, Connor passed out on Evan’s floor.


Connor awoke to a hand gently shaking his shoulder. He didn’t want to open his eyes. Aside from the stiffness in his back that drilled an annoying reminder that he had fallen asleep on the floor, he felt like he was in his own bed and his mother or Zoe were trying to argue him out of it. He was waking up to a loving irritation, not a droning alarm clock and a sickening reminder that opening his eyes was the worst thing he could do.

“Connor get up,” Evan’s voice broke through his thoughts.

“Fuck,” he jolted into a sitting position.

“Morning,” Evan didn’t hide his amusement.

“Hi,” Connor let out a slightly disgruntled laugh.

“Did you sneak into my house last night?” Evan’s smile didn’t falter. “Because that’s kinda creepy.”

“Sorry,” Connor sighed. “I didn’t think I’d still be here last night.”

“Yeah,” Evan nodded, before standing up. “It’s a school day so I need to get ready.”

“Okay,” Connor didn’t move.

“I need to change,” Evan said awkwardly.

“Shit,” Connor got to his feet. “Sorry.”

“No,” Evan huffed a nervous laugh. “It’s okay.”

Connor walked to the door. He could wait for Evan in his kitchen.

“Do you think you’re gonna be here all day?” Evan asked, stopping Connor from exiting.

“I don’t know,” Connor told him honestly.

“Okay,” Evan nodded.

Connor didn’t know how Evan Hansen went through his morning routine so quickly. Maybe he was one of those people that felt alive when he woke up. The thought of of Evan jumping out of bed ready for the day ahead of him did seem unrealistic. Still, mornings for Connor dragged longer than they had to be. It took him a good ten minutes just to convince him he was awake. Evan was dressed and ready in less than that.

“Is your shirt inside out?” Connor questioned when Evan walked into the kitchen.

“No,” Evan glanced down. “I think it’s supposed to look like this.”

“You look ridiculous,” Connor didn’t mean to laugh.

“It’s a nice shirt,” Evan huffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Evan,” Connor faked a very serious expression. “I’ve only ever seen you in polos or overly presentable t-shirts.”

“Is that bad?” Evan’s voice wasn’t self conscious.

He was comfortable with Connor picking on him, because he understood that Connor didn’t mean any harm. When Connor thought it out, it seemed simple, but it made something inside him feel almost warm. Before he remembered that he didn’t feel warm. He was dead.

“That is not overly presentable,” Connor told him.

“My mom bought it for me,” Evan stated.

“Why?” Connor snorted.

“She thinks I should get out of my comfort zone,” Evan shrugged.

“Through clothing?” Connor questioned.

“It was my therapist’s idea,” Evan admitted.

“Dear god,” Connor shook his head.

“Shut up,” Evan groaned.

“It’s cute,” Connor told him.

“It’s not,” Evan mumbled.

“Oh,” Connor laughed again. “Were you trying for cool?”

“I wasn’t trying for anything,” Evan walked to his fridge. “Do you want breakfast?”

“Sure,” Connor answered.

Connor was fairly certain that this room was never going to change. The Hansen’s fridge would always be filled with leftovers and easily assembled meals, the table would always be covered with a wore cloth, and the post-it note with Heidi’s number would always be in plain view (whether Evan had it in his smart phone or not). Unlike everything around Evan, this room was constant.

“Do you get hungry?” Evan brought Connor’s train of thought back to focus. “Because I’ve only ever seen you eat pizza and I don’t think when you leave it’s because you’re getting lunch.”

“Not really,” Connor mused. “On the hunger part I mean. Eating gives you endorphins. I don’t think I gain weight, so might as well, right?”

“I guess,” Evan said this like he didn’t really follow, but was going to humor Connor anyway. “Toast or cereal?”

“Cereal,” Connor stood up. “And I got it.”

“No, let me do it,” Evan set the box on the counter behind him. “It’s fine.”

“Okay, okay,” Connor raised his hands in defeat.

Evan got two bowls and a carton of milk. Connor leaned against the counter. The whole thing felt only domestic, which Connor knew didn’t really make any sense.

“So I was thinking,” Evan blurted as he opened the cereal box.

“Yeah?” Connor looked at him.

“If you don’t have anything you need to do,” he sounded no less jumbled. “You could come to school with me.”

“Seriously?” Connor hadn’t expected him to suggest that.

“Never mind, it’s stupid,” Evan launched into. “Why would you want to go there? You hate it there, forget I—”

“I want to,” Connor stopped himself from laughing since (for some reason) Evan really did seem nervous this time.

“Really?” Evan blinked at him.

“What else am I gonna do?” Connor shrugged.

“I don’t know,” Evan mumbled.

“But I’m not gonna distract you or anything, am I?” Connor remembered Evan not wanting him to follow before.

“No,” Evan’s voice was light again. “I think it’ll be okay.”

“Great,” Connor grinned.

“But I might not be able to acknowledge you,” Evan added.

“I know,” Connor told him. “You don’t want people thinking you’re crazy.”

“Sorry,” Evan stated.

“Ev, you really need to stop apologizing to me,” Connor put weight on his words. Even if it was just Evan’s reaction to voicing something he wasn’t confident it, Connor didn’t want Evan to ever think he needed to take back what he said to him. “We’ve pasted that point, okay?”

“Okay,” Evan nodded, a soft smile on his face.

They ate their cereal quickly, because Evan realized that he needed to hurry to the bus stop soon. Connor watched him hastily wash their dishes, offering a comment that his mother usually came home between shifts and he didn’t like leaving work for her. Then Evan was slinging his bag over his shoulder and pulling Connor out the door.

It was a short walk. They only beat the bus by a few seconds. Connor was surprised that Evan didn’t look much tenser than he usually was. Connor would have detested having to take the bus with kids from their school.

He followed behind Evan, fairly certain that he wasn’t making eye contact with anyone as he swiftly found a seat near the back. Connor slid in before him. When Evan gave him a questioning look, he just shrugged.

It was the second the bus started moving and one of the stupid girls near the front started blasting obnoxious top forty songs (which were even stupider now that Connor hadn’t heard most of them in two years) that Connor realized why a bus ride full of high schoolers was the only thing worse than a class full of them.

“Yes, this is going to give me PTSD flashbacks,” he said loudly.

It didn’t matter if he spoke, only Evan could hear him. Evan gave him a quick glance, before his gaze landed back on his hands.

“Hey,” Connor was going to have fun with this. “I’m aloud bad jokes if you’re going to have to ignore me all day.”

Evan mumbled something under his breath, but the only words Connor could hear were “not ignoring.”

“Same difference,” Connor replied.

The bus stopped again, and a handful of more kids shuffled on. They were loud. Connor didn’t understand the urge to make noise when you knew people weren’t listening to you. All it did was earn bystanders a headache.

“What’s wrong with your shirt?”

Connor looked up in time to see Jared Kleinman drop into the the seat across from Evan.

“Nothing,” Evan stammered.

“Shit, I forgot you hung out with this guy,” Connor groaned over dramatically.

Connor didn’t actually hate Jared Kleinman. He didn’t know Jared enough to hate him, but the times he had spoken to Connor were annoying to say the least.

“It’s backwards,” Jared was still pointing at Evan’s shirt.

“No, it’s not,” Evan sputtered, crossing his arms over the material. “It looks inside out, but—”

“Why are you wearing a shirt that looks inside out?” Jared questioned, he looked like he was about to start laughing.

“I don’t know,” Evan mumbled.

“You are so weird,” Jared shook his head.

“Says the guy who looks like he bought his glasses from Walmart,” Connor stated.

Evan didn’t have the time or warning to conceal his laugh.

“What?” Jared gave Evan a confused look. Connor knew this was because, for all Jared knew, Evan just started giggling at the air next to him.

“I didn’t say anything,” Evan tried to cover.

“You’re laughing,” Jared pointed out.

“No,” Evan swallowed. “I’m not.”

“You are,” Connor voiced, earning a quick glare.

“What are you looking at?” Jared drew out the words.

“Nothing!” Evan stammered quickly.

“Holly shit,” Jared suddenly exclaimed. He nearly jumped off the the bus seat, and it more than a little hilarious. Connor was definitely glad he’d followed Evan.

“What?” Evan sounded slightly concerned.

“You are not,” Jared was gaping at it. “Holly shit!”

“Jared, people are staring,” Evan hissed.

“You’re not high, are you?” Jared stage whispered at him.

“What? No!” Evan looked startled. Connor cackled. This was too much. “Why would you think that?”

“You’re smiling,” Jared informed him. “Like a lot.”

“I can smile,” Evan mumbled defensively. “I smile all the time.”

“And laughing,” Jared added.

“I laugh,” Evan uttered.

“Here?” Jared snorted. “Dude, last Thursday you almost threw up because you couldn’t sit in your normal seat.”

“Yeah, I remember,” Evan tried to hush him.

“I’m just saying,” Jared crossed his arms. “You’re really weird today.”

“Okay,” Evan said.

“Okay?” Jared blinked at him.

“Um,” Evan glanced at Connor for help, but he only shrugged. “Wait, what?”

“You’re not gonna argue or something?” Jared looked close to shock.

“No…?” Evan replied, confusedly.

Jared just shook his head, and leaned back in his seat.

“What’s wrong with him?” Connor asked, then realized Evan wasn’t going to answer, especially if Jared was already calling him out on acting suspicious.

It would be an interesting day to say the least.

The second the bus stopped, Evan was ready to get off of it. He ended up having to wait for everyone in the rows in front of them to lazily file out. Connor watched him shift his weight from foot to foot, his backpack already over his shoulders. Evan didn’t know how to be slow. Were it not for the other day and the handful of times Connor watched him slink into calm, he wouldn’t have thought that Evan knew how to relax at all.

Connor was more relieved than he thought he’d be when they finally got off the bus. He’d thought he’d never have to be crammed in a confined space with people his age again.

Evan walked quickly through the halls. Connor knew what he was doing. He was trying to block out everything around him to get where he had to be as quickly as he could. That’s what sucked about being alone and socially awkward. While you know you want someone to talk to you—to notice you—you also are painfully aware of how fucking terrifying that idea is. So instead you blur the words away and keep moving. Because you can’t have both and safety is better than a slim chance someone cares.

Connor nearly ran into Evan, when the quick pace suddenly faltered.

“What are you—”

He didn’t finish. He could follow Evan’s gaze well enough, even though he was standing a little behind.

Down the hall was sixteen-year-old Connor. Only now did he realize he hadn’t seen himself when he’d sat with Zoe and heard the screaming. It was almost like he was looking at someone he didn’t know, while at the same time he could clearly see everything he remembered from two years ago etched into the boy.

His eyes were dead. That was what hurt the most to see. Here was where he gave into the poison in his mind. He liked to call it that. It made it feel less his fault, and more like some invisible evil force had cursed him. This was when screaming for help turned to screaming to hurt. It was when he learned the hard way that no one would notice missing razors or ask why he always wore his hoodie. This was why he was what he was right now. And Evan Hansen could see it.

Connor didn't want to question Evan. He wanted to brush the staring off as Evan not being used to seeing both alive and dead Connor in one place. He didn’t want to see worry. Evan didn’t know this version of him. Whatever hue was in his eyes was just a momentary stun.

It took a second for the weight of Evan’s gaze to bare into younger Connor. As if he somehow felt the stare, Connor’s eyes flickered in their direction. He was looking straight at Evan. Any softness that those eyes may have been able to hold had been washed away with salt.

Evan shot down the hall. Connor tore his eyes away from younger him to rush after.

After darting through two more hallways, Evan stopped in front of a classroom. Connor assumed this was his first class. The rest of the hall was empty. No one else got to class this early.

Connor didn’t know how to process the running. Sure, the stare had ben harsh, but Evan could have just averted his eyes. He didn’t need to make a break for it. He didn’t need to react like younger Connor was going to attack him for making eye contact.

“Has he bothered you before?” Connor let the question slip.

Evan quickly shook his head.

Connor chose to believe that. He didn’t remember talking to Evan Hansen much for the incident before his death. He knew he had noticed the kid. They’d been in school together since second grade, how could he not?

All Evan had ever been was the nervous boy who was probably just as alone as he was. He wasn’t a threat, but he wasn’t an ally either. Evan was just another face Connor passed in the hall. He was a face Connor had thought would leave when he let go of his last breath.

He’d been wrong about a lot of things.

Chapter Text

Connor didn’t follow Evan into the classroom when school started. He stated out loud that he’d catch up with Evan later, and was pretty sure that Evan heard him but didn’t know how to subtly respond. The halls were empty. This was why not going to class had been so easy for Connor at this age.

No one silently watched a judged him for not being where he was supposed to be. That was the one time he was able to quietly slip away. Like he would have were he still that kid, Connor’s feet took him outside of the building. He was near the parking lot when he heard voices.

“We’re gonna get caught,” a voice that he was positive belonged to Alana Beck hissed.

“Stop freaking out, we’re not!” exclaimed Zoe.

It took Connor seconds to catch up with the two of them. Zoe didn’t look like the girl who’s room he’d left the night before. There was a bright, and more than a little bit mischievous, grin on her face as she pulled Alana toward the parking lot.

Part of him was mad that he hadn’t realized those two were friends. They made sense in an odd way. Connor knew that Zoe hated it when people weren’t to the point with her. This was mainly because everyone in his family loved saying what they didn’t mean and expected everyone else to understand. Alana didn’t do that. She was blunt in an innocent way, and of course Zoe would appreciate that.

“Let’s go back, it’s not worth it,” Alana stopped walking.

“Alana,” Zoe’s voice was close to nagging. That tone usually annoyed Connor, but right now it was hilarious. “My brother skips all the time and he never gets caught.”

That statement was slightly surprising. Yes, Zoe knew he cut class, by the end of junior year his whole family did. However, he’d thought that at least in the beginning of his sophomore year he’d been decent enough at being sneaky. Truthfully, he hadn’t thought that Zoe would care enough to notice even if he had made it obvious that he wasn’t attending school everyday.

“How do you know he doesn’t?” Alana questioned.

“My parents talk too loud,” Zoe said blandly. “Trust me, if they had any idea I would know.”

“Right,” Alana nodded.

“So, come on,” Zoe was tugging her arm again. “Let’s get out of here!”

“You promise we won’t get in trouble?” Alana’s voice was tentative.

“Yeah,” Zoe nodded. “And if we do you can say you were just following me because you thought I was gonna do something stupid.”

“I don’t think that works as an excuse,” Alana mumbled.

“Lan, you have a free period,” Zoe sighed in mock exasperation. “It doesn’t matter.”

“I’m still not supposed to leave campus,” Alana pointed out, but let Zoe pull her to the parking lot.

“Okay,” Zoe beamed at her. “Run now.”

Connor followed as they darted to Zoe’s car. Zoe opened the back seat to throw her bag inside. Connor took that as his invitation. He knew he should be sticking near Evan right now, but there was no way in hell he was missing this.

“What?” he heard Zoe’s voice say.

“You can drive?” Alana questioned, a doubtful expression on her face.

“Learners permit,” Zoe grinned.

“You’re old enough for that?” Alana teased. Connor had never seen Alana tease anyone before. It was odd.

“Surprisingly, I’m not a child,” Zoe deadpanned.

“I didn’t say that,” Alana stated. “You still can’t drive without an licensed driver with you.”

“It’ll be fine,” Zoe tried to brush off.

“Zoe—”

“I drive to school fine,” she reminded her.

“With your brother and his license in the car,” Alana argued.

“He barely passed,” Zoe let her know. Connor didn’t have it in him to be irritated. He never liked driving. “I’m a way better driver than him.”

“Zoe,” Alana started laughing. “Oh my god.”

“What?” Zoe turned the key in the ignition.

“I just didn’t realize you were such a rebel,” Alana crossed her arms.

“I am, I just hide it well,” Zoe sounded proud. “So, where are we going?”

They didn’t drive far, just the the mall a few blocks down. Connor was fairly certain Zoe had made farther trips at that age without a licensed driver accompanying her. Connor was able to jump out while both of them were distracted making sure their bags couldn’t be seen stashed under the car seats.

They didn’t go shopping. Connor hadn’t expected them to. Instead they bought cheap sandwiches and found an empty bench. Connor hovered awkwardly at their side. At least, it would be awkward if either of them could see him.

“That’s a lot of rule breaking just for lunch,” Alana commented as she sat down.

“I know,” Zoe said. “But it’s fun, right?”

“Yeah,” Alana admitted.

“Say it again,” Zoe was close to laughing.

“What?” Alana asked innocently.

“You’re the most studious person I’ve ever met,” Zoe told her. “Say you’re having fun being a rebel.”

“I’m having fun being a rebel,” Alana repeated.

Zoe giggled. Alana didn’t laugh, but her lips curved into a smile.

This was the difference between the real Alana and the thing that wore her face to talk to Connor. Not-Alana’s smile was perfect. The real Alana didn’t smile like that. The real Alana smiled with a subtle and not practiced warmth in her eyes. It was sloppy and real. She wasn’t just an image and level tone of voice. Was Connor only seeing this now? Did the person he saw look like that because he had never taken the time to actually look at the one person in his high school who made an effort to talk to him?

“Is something wrong?” Alana’s voice brought him back.

“What?” the laughter in Zoe’s eyes was fading.

“Not that there has to be something wrong for you to want to do this,” Alana began. “And not that I’m prying, you don’t have to tell me.”

“Lan,” Zoe wasn’t looking at her. This was what Evan did when he wanted to open up but didn’t know how.

“But, you’re acting like you’re running from something,” Alana finished.

“I’m always running,” Zoe closed her eyes.

“Zoe—”

“But I’m never fast enough, so why does it fucking matter?” The words came out too harsh. That wasn’t Zoe’s voice, it was Connor’s. He was bleeding into her. He hadn’t meant for any of that. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” Alana said gently.

“Thanks for asking,” Zoe nudged her shoulder. “Most people wouldn’t.”

“I care about you,” Alana told her. She meant this. Connor hoped Zoe could tell. He hoped she knew she had one person away from all the shit he was causing who she could lean on.

“Thank you,” Zoe murmured. She looked at Alana now, forcing a smile.

“Is it your brother?” Alana asked.

“Isn’t it always?” Zoe sighed.

“Did he,” Alana didn’t finish but both Zoe and Connor could hear what she couldn’t voice.

“No,” Zoe said quickly. “No, he’s not like that. He likes to make a big deal, say he’s gonna kill me, but he wouldn’t actually do anything.”

“That’s still not okay,” Alana told her.

“I know,” Zoe winced. “I hate it. I hate him, but…”

“But?” Alana prompted.

“He’s not okay,” Zoe’s voice broke. “And they’re not doing anything about it.”

“I’m not following,” Alana said softly.

“He needs to see a doctor,” Zoe sounded close to angry. “Or a therapist, or something.”

Connor didn’t believe that this was real. He didn’t know how to feel. He spent so long thinking that Zoe didn’t care, that she blamed him. He didn’t know that anyone recognized he needed help. He’d been so mad that none of them did.

“You think it’s because of the drugs?” Alana asked.

“No,” Zoe shook her head. “I think the weed is because he knows there’s something wrong with him and no one’s trying to help.”

Zoe understood him. The girl he screamed at for no fucking reason understood what he was going through. She wanted someone to help him, and in return he’d convinced her he was a monster. He’d tried to hurt her over and over again.

“Why don’t you help then?” Alana asked.

“Because he hates me, Alana,” Zoe laughed. It sounded like a sob. “And I’m not getting hurt over him anymore.”

“I’m sorry,” Alana put her hand over Zoe’s.

“I keep trying not to care, but—” Zoe winced again, cutting herself off.

“Yeah?” Alana looked at her with patient eyes.

“They don’t notice scars on his arms, or that he leaves in the middle of the night,” her voice was bitter now. “I don’t think my mom knows that he tries to break down my door, and she’s home for most of it. It’s like they’re blinding themselves because they don’t know how to deal.”

“You’re sure you’re safe?” Alana asked in a small voice.

“No,” Zoe’s face contorted. “Yes, he’s my brother. He hates me. I don’t know why, he just does. But he wouldn’t hit me. He’s stop there, he just wants me to feel like shit.”

“Why?”

“Because he does,” Zoe didn’t have an answer. “He has since we were kids, it’s just getting worse now.”

“You need to talk to your parents,” Alana told her.

“And be the reason the three of them start fighting again? No thank you.” Zoe nearly snapped. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Alana said evenly. “You shouldn’t have to go through this.”

“Life’s not fair,” Zoe said as if it didn’t bother her, as if it wasn’t eating away at her. “I miss when we were close.”

“Yeah?” Alana smiled sadly.

“He used to talk to me,” Zoe wasn’t crying, but there were tears in her eyes. “Now it’s like I don’t know him—No, that’s wrong. I know him, he doesn’t know me. He forgot who I was. He just sees my parents when he looks at me and I fucking hate it.”

She closed her eyes. Her hands were clenched into fists. Her lunch sat on her lap, uneaten. Connor doubted she had much of an appetite after letting all of that out. He didn’t blame her. He didn’t have it in him to blame her for anything.

“You wanna get ice cream?” Alan asked suddenly.

“Yes,” Zoe smiled at her.

Connor didn’t follow them, instead he walked back to Zoe’s car. He’d had enough of eaves dropping on his sister. He leaned on the outside of the car he used to feel forced to sit in nearly everyday. The girls were back in what felt like twenty minutes, but may have only been five. Everything seemed to drag on right now.

“People can’t tell we’re skipping,” Zoe’s voice was light again. “Calm down.”

“They can,” Alana crossed her arms.

“So what?” Zoe rolled her eyes. “They’re not gonna call the school.”

“Oh God, what if they did?” Alana’s face melted into a shocked fear.

“Okay, we’re doing this more often,” Zoe declared, unlocking the car. “You seriously need to loosen up.”

“I do not,” Alana huffed.

“You really do,” Zoe stated. She pulled her bag from the back seats first. Connor had to dive into the car to get in before she closed the door again.

“We’re not gonna get caught driving back?” Alana asked hesitantly.

“Nope,” Zoe said. “People drive on and off al the time during lunch. No one actually cares if they have a pass or not.”

“How do you know this?” Alana asked.

“Connor,” Zoe stated.

“Right,” Alana looked unsure how to react to that. “So you two talk about class cutting?”

“We did once last year,” Zoe said.

Connor remembered that.

“And here we are, safe, sound, and not in trouble,” Zoe declared when she pulled back into the school parking lot.

“I had fun,” Alana told her.

“Between thinking we were gonna get busted and me almost breaking down?” Zoe asked sarcastically. She didn’t seem upset about either of their actions. Zoe could poke fun at things without it hurting anyone. Connor would never be able to comprehend this.

“I mean it,” Alana told her. “I like spending time with you.”

Connor waited a few minutes after they left before unlocking and opening his door. Zoe’s car was safe enough with one unlocked door in a school parking lot. He needed to find Evan and not think about what he’d heard.

After a brief and unpleasant check of the cafeteria and surrounding hallways, Connor found Evan in the place he probably should have checked first: the back of the library.

“Hey,” he slid into one to the empty chairs at the table Evan was occupying. There was a book in front of him, but Connor didn’t think he was really that interested in it. Still, if someone walked by it provided that excuse for being in the school’s least used resource.

“Where’d you go?” Evan asked him.

Connor felt a pang of guilt. He should have said something more, but he hadn’t realized he’d be gone that long. Evan had thought that he disappeared again.

“Nowhere,” Connor forced his voice to sound casual. “Just stalked my sister.”

“Oh?” Evan gave him a confused, but not concerned expression.

“She cut class,” Connor stated as if that offered any explanation.

“That’s,” Evan looked at a loss for words. “Nice?”

“With Alana Beck,” Connor added.

“Connor, why are you telling me this?” Evan asked.

“I don’t know,” Connor admitted. He’d thought that Evan would seem a little more interested at the mention of Zoe. “Because I’m still here.”

“Do you spy on your sister a lot?” Evan laughed now.

Connor shrugged in response. Maybe it took until senior year for whatever crush Evan had on Zoe to develop. Or maybe he was trying to hide it, since Zoe was Connor’s sister and Evan knew Connor cared about her. He didn’t know much aside from that. It was possible be feared Connor would react—well, like he had that day.

“You said you know her,” Connor voiced.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded neutrally.

“Have you talked to her?” Connor questioned.

“No,” Evan told him. “I haven’t talk to you either. I don’t do a lot of talking.”

“You are now,” Connor pointed out dryly.

At that moment, Connor watched Evan realize that he was still in a public place and that Connor would still only be seen and heard by him.

“No one’s here,” Connor quickly reminded him. “Don’t worry.”

“Maybe bringing you was a bad idea,” Evan didn’t sound like he meant this in the slightest.

“Maybe,” Connor smirked. “Do you usually eat lunch here?”

“I don’t eat,” Evan said simply. “It’s against the rules to eat food in the library.”

“So you sit here until lunch is over?” Connor asked.

“I don’t like the cafeteria,” Evan said sheepishly.

“You could eat in a hallway,” Connor suggested.

“We’re not supposed to loiter in the hallways,” Evan stated. Connor didn’t tell him that he’d done it for most of his time being stuck in high school and had only been caught twice.

“Then eat here,” Connor instructed.

“Connor,” Evan started to argue.

“No one is around,” Connor told him again. “You’re not going to get in trouble.”

For a second Evan looked like he was about to argue, then he begrudgingly pulled a energy bar from his bag. Connor wouldn't choose this moment to tell Evan that he needed more than just that in his system.

“You’re a bad influence,” Evan informed him.

“I know,” Connor grinned.

Chapter Text

Connor was starting to wonder if he was stuck again. If he was being completely honest with himself, he didn’t mind that. While before the thought of being stuck in the very existence he’d tried to escape seemed just as bad as being alive, Connor was alright with this. Evan liked it when he was here. He could put up with not getting to move on if it meant he could make Evan smile.

At the moment, however, Connor wasn’t sure Evan was fully appreciating his presence.

“Hey, um, no offense,” Evan started. His eyes moved from the homework he was having considerable trouble focusing on to Connor, who was currently sprawled across Evan’s bed.

“I’m distracting you,” Connor stated.

“A lot,” Evan confirmed with a awkward smile.

“It’s late,” Connor pointed out. “Maybe you should go to sleep anyway?”

“This is due tomorrow,” Evan said.

Connor had never been the type of person to study over sleep. Evan had a future if he stuck with that work ethic (a future that involved being very tired all the time, but a future nonetheless).

“Suit yourself,” Connor pulled himself off the bed.

“If you need to sleep,” Evan started.

“I don’t,” Connor brushed off. “I’m gonna go for a walk.”

“Okay,” Evan didn’t ask where he was going. Knowing Evan, he’d probably figured it out by now, but Connor was grateful for not being questioned.

“I’ll come back in an hour,” Connor decided (because by then Evan really should be going to sleep).

“Can you even tell what an hour is?” Evan wondered.

“No,” Connor answered honestly.

“Have fun,” Evan said as Connor walked through his door.

“Have fun with your homework,” Connor dryly said back.

Connor hadn’t meant coming to Zoe’s room to become a habit, but he wanted to see if she was alright. He knew she had been smiling when her and Alana left the car earlier that day, but that didn’t make anything she was dealing with go away. He couldn’t help her, not now at least, but if it was at all alright he needed to see that.

Maybe because he was selfish and needed some sort of confirmation that he hadn’t fucked her up too badly. Maybe because if it wasn’t he had more validation for the action that had landed him in this whole situation.

Zoe wasn’t in her room.

She was sitting at the kitchen table. Their mother was pacing behind her chair. From the look on Zoe’s face, it was clear that she was very much aware of the movement behind her. Their father had his cellphone pressed to his ear. He was standing completely still. Connor wasn’t there.

“No, we don’t know how long,” his father was saying into the phone.

Connor watched his mother flinch and Zoe pull into herself at the words. Then everything hit him at once. He knew what day this was. He knew why he wasn’t there.

“Yes,” his father’s voice was tight. Connor recognized that tone. He was trying not to snap at whoever he was talking to. “Both cars are still here.”

Connor had fought with his father earlier that day. He’d been tired, and felt sick of everything. He couldn’t remember what his father had said, but something had made Connor break. He’d felt berated and ignored and wanted out. For a moment he’d thought screaming would make something change, but all his father did was call him selfish.

Connor had been sent to his room. He didn’t eat dinner with his family. For the first time, his mother didn’t call him when the meal was ready. That had hurt more than he’d ever let any of them know. He wanted to be far away from everything, so he took what weed he had left and climbed out his window.

Everything was hazy after he got high. He’d made it to the park with a very blurred sense of his surroundings. He was too impulsive. He didn’t know how to pace himself. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the hospital.

“I don’t know,” his father’s voice brought him back to the people in front of him.

This wasn’t how he remembered them. They looked worried. They looked like they were about to be lined up and shot. Connor didn’t understand. He’d always thought they’d been angry, disappointed, frustrated. This wasn’t what they showed him when he woke up. He thought they didn’t care. He thought they saw him as just some burden.

“Sometimes—” His father was talking to the police. Connor didn’t remember being told his parents had called them. “He’s sixteen.”

His father hung up and shoved the phone into his pants pocket. He was the only one of them not wearing pajamas. It later than any of them were usually awake.

Connor watched his father grab his car keys off the table.

“Where are you going?” his mother questioned, her hands were shaking.

“To find my son.” There was so much more emotion in his father’s voice than Connor thought he’d ever spent on him. This wasn’t the same person who he blamed so much on.

“You don’t know where he is,” Zoe spoke now. She wasn’t looking at either of them.

“Zoe,” his mother moved toward her, but Zoe crossed her arms.

“None of us do,” she stressed.

“What did the police say?” his mother looked at his father.

“They don’t know where to go either,” he admitted. He looked angry. Maybe at the police for not fixing everything. Maybe at Connor for running out in the first place. Maybe at himself because he knew that Connor wouldn’t have done that had they not fought.

“How did he leave the house?” he asked. Connor didn’t know he he was expected either of them to answer him. “We were in here the whole evening.”

“He climbed out his window,” Zoe murmured.

“What?” Both parents’ eyes were on her.

“He does that sometimes,” her eyes weren’t there. Connor didn’t know where she was.

“Zoe,” their mother was trying to be patient. “Why didn’t you tell us this?”

“Because he normally comes back by now,” her voice was small.

“How long has he been doing this?” their father demanded.

“I don’t know,” Zoe whispered.

“If you had let me put bars on it—”

He was talking to their mother now. Connor knew that he’d wanted to do this back in middle school when Connor had declared he was going to run away. He’d never followed through, but he knew his father didn’t trust his mood swings.

“And make your child feel like a prisoner?” their mother glared at him. She hadn’t always taken Connor’s side, but she hadn’t thought that keeping him caged in would help. That had made Connor happy for a very little bit.

“He wouldn’t have been able to leave the house,” his father stated.

“If he wanted to he would anyway,” she argued.

“Where doe he go?” he was looking at Zoe now.

“I said I don’t know.”

“He doesn’t talk to you about—”

“He doesn’t talk to me at all,” Zoe said sharply, cutting their mother off.

Then she broke. Connor hadn’t thought that Zoe would be the one crying over him. He knew their mother was capable of it, but he’d always felt that Zoe was stronger. He didn’t want to see this. He didn’t want to watch her worry. It scared the shit out of him.

Their mother hugged her. Connor felt the tension change. It didn’t matter who’s fault Connor running out was. Right now they were all on the same side.

“I’m going to find him.” Connor’s father decided.

“Where?” his mother asked, the exasperation was gone from her voice. She just sounded weak.

“Once he went to the lot a block away from the school,” Zoe said softly. “But that was a year ago.”

She didn’t think he would be there. He could see it in her face. She knew that she had no idea and their parents had less than that.

“It’s a start,” their mother murmured.

“Okay,” their father nodded. “I’ll go there.”

“I’ll come,” she said.

“Someone has to stay with her,” he indicated to Zoe.

“I’m fine,” she tried.

“Be careful,” their mother said. Their father was a safe driver, but more than once he’d driven too fast when anxious or upset.

“I will,” at that he was out the door.

Without fully realizing he was moving, Connor ran out of the house. His father wasn’t going to find him. The cold thought that he very well might die early because no one knew where to look ran through him.

Evan’s light was still on when he bursted into the room. Evan jumped, he was easily startled. Opening the door quickly without warning hadn’t been a good move on Connor’s part. Evan relaxed slightly when he saw that it was only Connor, but in seconds he was tense again.

“Are you okay?” Evan could read him. He could see the distress. This was the first time that Evan had seen Connor scared. It was always the other way around. “Here, sit down.”

Evan tried to lead him to the bed.

“No,” Connor didn’t move. He needed to do something. Why did he think coming here could make a difference?

“You’re shaking.” Fear was creeping into Evan’s gaze. “What’s going on?”

“Ev, I don’t know what to do,” Connor stammered.

“Is this about Zoe?” Evan asked.

“No,” Connor shook his head. “No, it’s about me.”

“You?”

“Fuck,” Connor hissed. He felt like his words were caught in his throat. He wasn’t supposed to feel so helpless here. “I think I’m about to die early.”

“What?” Evan paled. “No, no, Connor was at school today. He’s fine.”

“He,” Connor swallowed. “I had a bad day. I thought that if I was alone and cleared my head—no, I wanted to be so out of it I didn’t remember.”

“What did you do?” Evan grabbed hold of his arms. There was an intensity in his eyes now. It looked like what Connor had seen in the eyes of his family.

“I snuck out of my house,” Connor told him. “I was high. I was really fucking high, because I didn’t realize that I had limits.”

“Where are you?” Evan demanded.

“The park,” Connor knew that much. “Yeah, they found me in the park but, I don’t think they’re going to.”

“Why?”

“They don’t know where to look,” Connor shook his head again. “My dad won’t go there. He won’t think to, and the police don’t know me so how would they?”

“Where in the park?” Evan asked.

“I don’t remember,” Connor said

Evan nodded before darting out the door. Connor followed. He hadn’t meant for this. Evan shouldn’t have to find him, but he knew he couldn’t stop the boy running. He didn’t want to. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.

It wasn’t fair to his family. He’d leave them, but not huddled in the kitchen realizing they didn’t know where to look for him. They shouldn’t have to live with that.

Evan didn’t stop running until the reached the park. Even then he barely slowed down. Connor tried to think of the spots younger him liked to occupy, but everything had been so clouded when he was the one passed out.

It was dark. There wasn’t anyone else near by. Connor didn’t expect there to be. He didn’t think he overdosed, but so much could happen to an unlucky kid in the span of time it would take for him to come to his senses.

It took what felt like ten minutes to find him. He could feel Evan’s anxiousness growing each second. For the first time, instead of this breaking Evan down into as small as he could get, it forced him to push on faster. Connor had never seen him like this before. If he wasn’t so frantic, he might have been touched by how much Evan clearly cared about him.

His body was under the shadow of a tree. Evan saw him before Connor did. He watched fall to his knees beside him. Frantically, Evan shook him, in his fear he seemed to forget he had no way to justify being there.

Younger Connor didn’t open his eyes. Even in the moonlight, you could tell that his face wasn’t supposed to be that pale. Aside from that, he looked almost peaceful. That didn’t calm Evan in the slightest.

“He’s not waking up,” the panic was rising in Evan’s voice.

“It’s not an overdose,” Connor told him steadily. “I think I—he hit his head.”
“Connor, please,” Evan wasn’t talking to him. His trembling hands were still on his younger self’s shoulders.

“Can you call 911?” Connor asked.

Evan nodded. He took a breath before fishing his phone out of his pockets and dialing the number. Connor wanted to do something. He wanted to hold Evan’s hand, to try to steady him. But he couldn’t. For the first time he felt a divide between him and the living.

“I need help,” Evan said into the phone. “I’m at the park on fifth…My, um, my classmate, he’s knocked out…I—I don’t know, I just got here…He, I, um, I can’t wake him up…he’s breathing…okay, thank you.”

He let the phone fall onto the grass in front of them. He didn’t tell Connor that the ambulance was on it’s way. That was alright. Connor knew that he wasn’t stuttering because he was afraid to talk to a stranger on the phone. Evan still looked terrified. Finding Connor’s body hadn’t done anything to calm him.

Connor didn’t ask Evan if he was alright with being there when the ambulance came. He could tell he wasn’t going to hear him. In that moment Connor felt invisible next to his younger self. Gently, Evan brushed stray hairs off of younger Connor’s forehead. Connor didn’t know it was possible for anyone to look at him that tenderly.

When the police and ambulance arrived, Evan didn’t move. He didn’t acknowledge them until a policewoman put her hand on his shoulder and explained that the paramedics were going to take Connor to the hospital now. He was asked if he wanted to go with them, but he shook his head.

Shakily, he lied to the policewoman. Evan explained that he’d been on a walk because he couldn’t sleep and had seen Connor from the sidewalk. He said he recognized Connor from school. When asked if he was Connor’s friend, he shook his head.

Connor watched all of this from a few feet away. He caught the knowing, and slightly sad look in the woman’s eyes when Evan stammered through saying Connor didn’t really know him. He knew what it looked like, even if Evan didn’t. Evan’s worried, and almost loving expression had been on full display minutes ago. Anyone observing would think Evan was some poor kid who just found the passed out body of his crush in the middle of the night.

They let him leave as the ambulance sped away. Connor followed him. They didn’t talk.

It was only when they were back to the safety of Evan’s room, that Evan looked at Connor. The worry wasn’t gone. It was dulled considerably, but it still burned through Connor.

“Who found you the first time?” he asked softly.

“I don’t know,” Connor admitted. Was it possible that they’d changed his past? “Maybe this was always how it was supposed to be.”

“You wake up in the hospital?” Evan wondered.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“And you’re alright?” Evan’s voice was small.

“Physically, yeah,” Connor answered honestly. Everything else got worse from there, but his body hadn’t been hurt. “So, I guess we’re even now.”

“How?”

“I saved you a from getting his by a car,” Connor reminded him. “And now you saved me from whatever might have happened.

Evan didn’t laugh. Slowly he crumpled, it was as if the barrier keeping him on his feet had suddenly given way. This time Connor caught him. He pulled the boy who’d probably just saved his life into his arms, and felt each silent sob.

“I’m sorry,” Evan whispered into Connor’s hair.

“Don’t apologize,” Connor ran his hand up and down Evan’s back. “Jesus Christ, Ev, you literally ran out of your house at midnight to save my ass. If anything I should be apologizing to you.”

“Does it really make a difference?” Evan’s shaky voice asked him.

“What?” Connor pulled back to see his face. There wasn’t any light in his eyes.

“You’re still going to die, Connor,” Evan told him. “You’re dead right now and I can’t—”

Evan choked on the words.

“Calm down,” Connor murmured, hugging him again. “Breathe okay?”

“I can’t do anything about it, can I?”

“I don’t—” Connor wasn’t going to tell him. He wasn’t going to think it to himself. He was dead. He wanted to be dead. He chose to die. It didn’t matter if Not-Alana had told him this was his chance to live again. He’d already decided that he didn’t want to go back to a life that only meant pain.

“I don’t want you to be dead.” Evan was crying. Evan was crying for him.

“I didn’t think I’d ever hear someone say that,” Connor told him.

“Your family—” Evan started.

“Is better off without me,” Connor said firmly.

“That’s not true,” Evan tried.

“Ev, I saw you run away when you made eye contact with me at school,” Connor reminded him. “You can’t tell me that boy you found in the park is a good person. He isn’t. He still isn’t.”

“I’m not scared of you,” Evan pulled out of the hug to look Connor in the eyes.

“Right,” Connor mumbled.

“I’m not,” Evan stressed. “I’m scared of talking to that version of you because he doesn’t know I know him.”

Why did it hurt to know that Evan wanted to talk to him? Evan wanted to approach the broken boy who would shove him in the hall. Evan wanted to care about alive Connor.

“You should go to sleep,” Connor uttered.

“Will you be here when I wake up?” Evan asked.

“You know I can’t answer that,” Connor wasn’t going to make a promise he couldn’t keep. He wouldn’t do that to Evan.

Evan didn’t change into pajama’s. Instead he just turned off his lights and fell into his bed. Connor didn’t blame him. He couldn’t imagine how exhausted Evan must be. Connor laid down on the floor the way he had the night prior. He hoped he’d still be there in the morning, if he could make Evan feel the smallest bit more at ease it was worth it.

“Connor?” Evan’s groggy voice asked through the darkness.

“Yeah?” Connor wasn’t sure if Evan knew he was talking. He sounded like he was in the haze between awareness and sleep.

“I want to save you,” Evan murmured.

“I know,” Connor realized.

“I’m going to find a way,” Evan told him.

“Oh really?” Connor tried to burry the emotions that resolve stirred in him.

“I am,” Evan mumbled.

Connor was pretty sure he was asleep seconds after.

Chapter Text

Connor woke up to something tapping his shoulder. When he opened his eyes, he saw Evan poorly trying to repress a laugh.

“Morning,” Evan was fully dressed in his school clothes. Connor realized he’d just gone about his morning routine with Connor asleep on his floor. “You sleep a lot for someone who doesn’t need it.”

“You have school?” Connor asked, still looking at the clothes.

“Mom’s driving me today,” Evan told him.

“That’s nice,” Connor stated.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

Connor pulled himself off of the floor. Evan walked to his desk, and started rummaging through his backpack. Something felt different, but Connor didn’t know what it was.

“Do we need to talk about last night?” he asked Evan. “Because if you want to pretend it didn’t happen, I’m more than okay with that.”

“I don’t,” Evan said too quickly. “I mean, if you want to we can, pretend it didn’t happen I mean, but I’m not. Sorry.”

“Take your time,” Connor instructed calmly. He’d wait until the right words were there.

“We don’t have to talk about it unless you want to,” Evan said.

“Okay,” Connor took that in.

“But I’m okay with talking about it if you need me to,” Evan added.

“Okay,” Connor said again. “Thank you.”

“So, um,” Evan said hesitantly. “Do you want to?”

“No, I don’t,” Connor said honestly. “I just wanted to make it clear we could if you think you need to.”

“Right,” Evan nodded. For a second he looked back at the bag, but then turned to face Connor again. “I, um, I wanted to tell you. I’m not going to visit my father over the summer.”

“Really?” Connor hadn’t forgotten about that conversation, but he hadn’t thought that Evan would have his answer anytime soon.

“Really,” Evan smiled. “I don’t want to. If he wants me too, then tough.”

“When did you decide that?” Connor couldn’t help asking.

“Last night,” Evan said.

“Good for you,” Connor smiled at him.

“You think it’s the right thing?” Evan asked, an unsure look crossing his face.

“Right and wrong doesn’t matter for this kind of stuff,” Connor told him flatly. Realizing how that sounded, he added in a light tone: “But, yeah, I think you and your mom will be happier if you don’t go.”

“Yeah,” Evan nodded. He looked relaxed. Connor hoped that this was a weight off of his shoulders. Evan didn’t deserve to have to carry more than he was already being forced to. “So, do you get dreams, or…?”

“Not really,” Connor answered. It was just darkness, and then whatever was next. Sure, it felt more like sleeping than when he’d disappear and reappear, but it wasn’t like sleep had felt when he was alive.

“Guess that’s kind of a good thing,” Evan commented.

“It is,” Connor decided. “I don’t want to think about what fucked up stress blob my mind would conjure.”

“That,” Evan blinked at him.

“Don’t,” Connor groaned, mentally replaying what he’d said.

“That was the most interesting sentence I’ve ever heard you say,” Evan stated.

“Shut up,” Connor rolled his eyes.

“I’m impressed,” Evan said matter-of-factly.

“Whatever,” Connor crossed his arms.

“I should go down,” Evan told him. “My mom’s probably done making breakfast.”

“Can I follow you or is that weird?” Connor asked.

“It’s not weird,” Evan told him.

“Good.”

Heidi was already eating when they walked into the kitchen. As Connor predicted, she couldn’t see him. He almost wished she could. He’d like to talk to the both of them, especially at a moment like this. Right now the world wasn’t about to fall apart. This was a calm after the storm that the night before had been.

“I heard about last night,” Heidi told her son.

Okay, maybe Connor had been a little ahead of himself.

“I was going to tell you!” Evan blanched, a guilty expression glossing over his face.

“Evan, you’re not in trouble,” she told him in a warm voice. She was smiling at him.

“Oh,” Evan’s anxiousness deflated only slightly. “I didn’t think you would, um, how did you heard about it?”

“A friend of mine was one of the paramedics,” she told him. “She thought she recognized you.”

“I shouldn’t have been outside that late, I know,” Evan was suddenly babbling again. “I just, I had this weird feeling, I usually don’t—I never go for walks at midnight—”

“I’m glad you were there,” she cut him off.

“Really?” he looked taken-a-back.

“Evan, that boy might have died if you hadn’t found him,” her voice was serious.

“Is he okay?” Evan asked.

“I’m pretty sure his family is taking him home this morning,” she pursed her lips. “Is he a friend of yours?”

“No,” Evan glanced at Connor for a fraction of a second. “He goes to my school.”

“I’m proud of you,” she told him.

“Thanks,” he looked at his hands.

“I mean it,” she said. “You were very brave.”

“I was really scared,” Evan laughed a little.

“Honey,” her tone neared concerned. “You know if something like that ever happens again you can call me, right?”

“Yeah,” Evan nodded quickly. “I should have. I’m sorry, I just didn’t think.”

She nodded knowingly. Connor doubted anyone could have thought clearly in the situation he’d put Evan in last night. Part of him regretted it. It was his fault Evan had looked that scared. It was his fault Evan had cried and clung to him. But part of him—the part that was in control—wasn’t sure he wanted to know what would happen if he hadn’t told Evan he needed help.

“I’m sure that boy feels grateful,” Heidi said.

“Did anyone, um,” Evan stammered. “No one told him I found him, right?”

“I don’t think so,” she answered.

“Okay,” Evan let out a breath.

“Do you not want him to know?” she asked, giving him an odd look.

“It’s not that, it’s just,” Evan tried to lie around what he couldn’t explain. “I don’t really know him.”

“That might make it mean even more,” she said.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Strangers aren’t typically kind,” she explained. “You didn’t know him, so you didn’t owe him anything but you still stopped to help him.”

“Wouldn’t anyone do that?” Evan asked.

“You’d be surprised,” she sounded sad at that. “Come on, we should get going.”

“Right,” he stood up from the table.

Connor was about to follow. He was taking a step forward—or, at least, he was trying to. Everything was slowly blurring.

“Do you know his name?” He heard Heidi ask. Her voice sounded so far away.

“Um, no, I don’t,” Evan was stammering. Connor couldn’t see him anymore, he could only see the darkness. “I’ve just seen him around.”


The next thing Connor knew, it was night. He was standing in the exact same spot, but judging from his surroundings hours had passed. Or possibly days. The room was empty. If it was as late as it felt, Evan would be in his room.

“You're back,” Evan stated when Connor walked through the door. He looked only mildly surprised.

“What day is it?” Connor asked, closing the door behind him. Evan was sitting on his bed with a book in his lap. Connor sat down next to him.

“I saw you this morning,” Evan closed the book and put it to the side.

“Oh, okay,” Connor nodded.

“You disappeared,” Evan uttered.

“I know,” Connor didn’t know what else to say.

“I turned my back for a second and you were gone,” Evan told him.

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Connor’s voice was too harsh. He regretted the words as soon as they were out of his mouth.

“I know,” Evan said numbly.

“How was your day?” Connor tried to change the subject.

“I watched you at school,” Evan blurted.

“What?” Connor just looked at him.

“I didn’t—that wasn’t supposed to,” Evan stammered. Like Connor, he heard the things he said a second after they were out of his mouth. “Oh God, that sounds really creepy, doesn’t it?”

Connor just laughed. After a second, Evan smiled too.

“Do you spy on me a lot?” Connor teasingly questioned.

“No,” Evan crossed his arms. “I was worried, okay?”

Connor nodded. He buried anything he felt in reaction to that.

“I know I said we didn’t have to talk about it,” Evan’s tone changed.

“Yeah?” Connor prompted.

“But you really freaked me out last night,” Evan’s voice wasn’t small. This was the same boy who’d pushed aside his own fear because Connor was in trouble. In death Connor didn’t deserve this, and the living version of him Evan had saved certainly did not.

“I’m sorry,” Connor needed to say. “I shouldn’t have dragged you into that.”

“I’m glad you did,” Evan replied. “You said we were even last night, but we’re not. You helped me so much. This was nothing compared to everything you’ve done, but I’m happy I could help in someway.”

“Ev, you don’t need me,” Connor told him in a steady voice. Someday Evan was going to realize this. “All I’ve done is tell you what you need to hear. You could have done everything by yourself.”

“I wouldn’t have told my mom I needed help,” Evan responded. “Or not been scared about not going to school. I think I might have even gotten on that bus when I was seven if it wasn’t for you.”

Connor didn’t want to believe that was true. He didn’t want Evan to depend on him. Sure, he knew he’d helped, that’s what his job was, but everything he’d done Evan would have been able to get to on his own. Evan would be okay without Connor. He made it farther than Connor ever would on his own.

“You don’t owe me,” was all Connor could say.

“I know,” Evan’s fingers traced the hem of his shirt. “But, if you ever need someone to talk to. I mean, I’m probably the only one you could talk to, but if you wanted to, I’m here.”

“Thank you,” Connor put his hand over Evan’s.

Evan looked at him now. There was a hesitant, but very real smile on his lips. Had Evan always looked that cute when he smiled like that?

“Can I ask,” Evan started, his eyes not darting away. “You, um, you said you’d had a bad day, but most people don’t end up asleep in the middle of a park when they have bad days.”

Connor expected this at some point. Part of him wanted to tell Evan everything. He’d wanted to talk to someone about all of this for so long. He’d once thought it would be his mother or Zoe, but years built up walls and he knew that if he was still alive and they asked he’d pushed them away.

He couldn’t push Evan. All of Evan’s fears, his secrets, had been spilled to Connor. If Connor tried to evade, he’d feel like he was violating the trust they’d miraculously been able to build.

“I’m sorry,” Evan took the silence the wrong way. “I shouldn’t have asked, that’s your business.”

“You’re right,” Connor started. “It wasn’t just a bad day. I got in a fight with my father. I don’t remember most of it. I’m in a bad place, well, the me you saw at school is.”

Evan nodded. He wanted him to keep going. He was listening.

“Most of the time the me you saw at school doesn’t think anyone gives a shit about him,” Connor confessed. “Or notices when he can’t handle it all. Last night was the breaking point. Last night he realized that if you get hurt it’s still going to be your fault.”

“When you woke up, you’re family didn’t…” Evan trailed off, horror mixed with sadness in his eyes.

“Get me help?” Connor stopped himself from scoffing. “Not really.”

“You shouldn’t have been at school,” Evan told him.

“I know,” Connor said bitterly. His mind brought him back to their faces in the kitchen that night. “I didn’t know how much I scared them until last night. I thought they were just annoyed.”

“That’s not fair,” Evan whispered. He was right. Nothing was fair to any of them, and it sucked. It really did.

“They don’t understand me,” Connor told him.

“I do,” Evan said softly.

“Yeah,” Connor smiled at him. “If you don’t need me right now, I kinda—I want to see them right now. It’s not going to do anything but—”

“You should go,” Evan cut him off.

“I’ll come back,” he promised.

“I know,” Evan looked like he believed it.

Chapter Text

Zoe’s room was empty. Memories of what happened the day after slowly creeped to his brain, and led him to his own room. The door was already slightly open. He was able to slip in without Zoe or younger him noticing.

They were sitting on the floor. Neither of them were talking. They both looked very uncomfortable. Connor remembered this.

She’d knocked on the door, walked in, and just sat down next to him. It was the first he’s seen of her after the incident. He thought she was avoiding him. She probably was. He hadn’t known what to say. He hadn’t been angry that she was there, but he didn’t expect her to turn around and tell him he wasn’t going to be okay. They didn’t do that for each other.

“Do you want to watch a movie?” she suddenly asked.

“I’m not going downstairs,” he said.

He never told Zoe how much of an exception she was. Even when her presence made him angry, he’d still prefer her silent company to their parents. In the moments where he didn’t think she was judging him, or wishing he was better, he liked being around her. At times, he thought that she knew this. Now he realized he should have found a way to tell her.

“It’s just Mom,” Zoe told him.

“I don’t care.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “Can I braid your hair?”

“Whatever.” He rolled his eyes, but turned his back to her so she could.

Connor watched her fingers slowly smooth out any tangles. The touch was soft, and almost rhythmic. Zoe was smart. She knew how to calm him down. He’d never been able to appreciate that.

“Why can’t a bicycle stand on it’s own?” her voice wasn’t light enough to deliver the joke, but she was trying. Connor could see it in her face even if younger him couldn’t. “Because its two tired.”

“Ow,” he deadpanned.

“Shut up, it’s funny,” she declared softly. “What do you call a sad strawberry?”

“Eaten,” he said dryly.

“A blue berry,” she finished.

“Dear god,” he rolled his eyes again. For a moment she was silent. Connor saw something change on younger him’s face. “Where do orcas hear music?”

“Where?” she asked.

“Orca-stras.”

“Ow,” she mimicked.

“You’re laughing,” he pointed out.

“No, this is me dying,” she informed him.

“What does a dog do when he wants to stop the music?” Connor started.

“Do you only know music jokes?” she accused.

“He presses paws,” he stated.

“Why did the duck cross the road?” she asked.

“He wanted to prove he wasn’t chicken,” he finished.

They were both laughing. They were actually laughing together. It wasn’t supposed to last.

When his father opened the door, Connor watched younger him stiffen. His father’s gaze flickered between the two siblings. For a moment, he looked regretful. Connor didn’t remember that.

“I didn’t realize you were both in here.” His father knew that he’d chosen the wrong time.

“What do you want?” Younger him crossed his arms.

“I don’t like that tone,” he said sharply.

“Whatever,” younger Conner muttered.

“You’re grounded,” his father informed him.

“For talking back?” Connor questioned.

“You know what for.”

Connor remembered every emotion he saw on his younger self’s face. The strongest was injustice. He was being punished for getting hurt. He was being blamed for the argument that launched the running, and not being sympathized with for not being able to control himself. It wasn’t his fault. He hated everyone who thought it was.

“Leave me alone,” he was shouting now.

Zoe didn’t move. She looked like she wanted to be running from the room, but she stayed still. Younger Connor seemed t have forgotten she was there, and his father was too busy dealing with him.

“Connor,” his tone was still stern. Connor wondered if things would have been different if he walked into the room with an understanding voice and without being prepared to scold. “It’s not—”

“Fuck off,” Connor shouted. “I get it, okay? Just get the fuck out!”

“Do not talk to me like that!”

That was when Zoe left. That hadn’t helped. Connor remembered thinking that she didn’t care what either of their parents said to him as long as it wasn’t in her face. She left because she’d rather not be in the middle of their battlefield. She’d watch for the sidelines and keep her opinion to herself.

Now he couldn’t blame her. He couldn’t stand here watching this either.

He stayed in Zoe’s room until the sounds of the shouting stopped. When Connor thought back, he couldn’t recall the words. He wanted to keep it that way. He wanted to blur out moments like this.

He meant to leave after that. He wanted to go back to Evan’s house. Seeing Evan would calm him down. He wasn’t sure he wanted to figure out why, but anything Evan made him feel was better than the energy circling around this place.

He didn’t expect to find his father pacing in the kitchen. That stopped him. He wanted to walk past, he didn’t want to see conflict in the man he’d taught himself to hate.

When Connor’s mother walked in he thought they were going to fight. He thought that they’d start blaming each other for screwing up and making Connor into the monster that he was. Instead they hugged.

“I can’t get through to him,” his father said.

“It’s not your fault,” his mother told him

They both looked so exhausted. Neither of them knew what they were doing. For the first time, Connor would freely admit it wasn’t their fault. Most people couldn’t comprehend mental illness. They should have been trying more, but maybe it wasn’t their fault that they couldn’t understand.

“What did we do wrong?” his father asked.

They were just as lost as Connor was. They thought that they could help him. They were trying to, in ways that weren’t working at all, but it was still something. They were still hurting because they knew nothing they did was making a difference.

Meanwhile sixteen-year-old Connor was sitting alone in his room thinking he was a burden to all of them. He should have tried to talk to them. He should have stopped himself from closing off. If he’d reached out than maybe—

Maybe what? He’d stop being depressed? He wouldn’t have decided it was better just to die.

Connor killed himself. That was supposed to be the right answer. His family was supposed to be happy without him. His father wasn’t supposed to care, Zoe wasn’t supposed to notice his pain, and his mother was supposed to be free without her fucked up son to worry about.

Had spying on them really made him want to change his mind?

Connor made himself leave the house. He didn’t care if his parents heard the door opening. Let them be confused, he needed to get away from his place and back to the one person he hadn’t messed up.

When he reached Evan’s room he hoped Evan had gone to sleep. Instead, it looked like Evan had been waiting up for him. He wasn’t worth it, but he wouldn’t say that out loud. He wouldn’t drag this kid down with him.

“How’s your family?” Evan asked him. He was still sitting on the bed.

“We don’t have to do this,” Connor collapsed next to him.

“I want to,” Evan told him. “If you want me to, I mean.”

Connor did. He wanted to talk about it, even if saying everything out loud was going to make it real.

“I shouldn’t keep going back,” he admitted.

“Why?” Evan asked.

“Because it always ends like this,” he sighed. “I don’t want to see what they’re thinking, it makes everything messy and confusing.”

“Do you regret, you know,” Evan winced, Connor realized he didn’t know the right way to say this.

“Yeah,” Connor let the word fall from his lips. He hated that it was true. He hated doubting himself. “I don’t want to, but, I can’t stop it.”

“Is there anything we could do?” Evan asked in an unsure voice. The fact that he’d included himself into Connor’s problem didn’t go unnoticed. “We changed who found you, maybe we could change this.”

Connor remembered what Not-Alana first told him. He remembered what he’d been promised (like it or not) if he succeeded in keeping Evan safe.

“You know,” he said slowly. “I think we might already be changing it.”

“I don’t understand,” Evan looked at him.

“It’s weird,” he shook his head. “I think you’re saving me, Hansen.”

“You’re not making any sense,” Evan was still smiling at him anyway.

That made him feel warmer than he had since he was alive.

“I know,” he wouldn’t go into all of that now. It was enough for just him to know it. “Isn’t it a school night? You should go to bed.”

“I’m not tired,” Evan said.

“You wanna read?” Connor suggested. He wanted distance for the real world for a little bit. Reading to Evan would give him that.

“Yes,” Evan nodded.

Connor didn’t stop until Evan was falling asleep. Slowly, he put the book away and turned off the lights. He was making a habit of falling asleep on Evan’s floor.


Connor was still there in the morning. Evan joked that maybe he should get him a sleeping bag. Connor wouldn’t mind that, but he wasn’t entirely sure it would be needed. Evan seemed too okay for him still to be there. He wasn’t sure how long it would last.

He didn’t go with Evan to school. If Evan didn’t need him, he’d really had enough of that place. Not to mention he wasn’t sure he wanted to see himself right now. He knew what the days after the incident looked like, and wasn’t ready to relive it. Evan understood. Connor was starting to wonder if there was anything this boy wouldn’t understand.

He only went to his house because he expected it to be empty. He knew that Evan wouldn’t mind Connor spending the day alone in his room, but there was something weird about being in Evan’s house when Evan wasn’t there. It felt a little bit too much like he belonged, like it was normal for him to be there, and Connor wasn’t sure that he was alright with that.

So he walked to the place he thought he’d get to be alone with somewhat pacified thoughts. Zoe’s car in the driveway surprised him. He found her in the living room. She was sitting on the couch. Her phone was laying next to her. The TV wasn’t on. Everything felt very still.

Connor didn’t understand. He hadn’t known she cut class this much. In his mind, she’d always been the perfect child while he played the part of the fuck up.

After a few minutes of her just sitting there, not moving, her phone rang. It took a second for her to answer it. Connor watched her glance at the caller ID. For a second, he thought she was going to just ignore whoever was trying to reach her. She didn’t look like she wanted to talk. She didn’t look like she wanted to do anything.

Slowly she picked up the device and pressed it to her ear.

“Hey?” her voice was lighter than he thought it would be. “No, I’m not in school…Hold on.”

She pressed the speaker button and put the phone back where it had been a moment ago. Connor watched her lean back into the couch. Cautiously, he sat down a few feet away from her.

“Yeah?” she said at the phone.

“Did something happen?” Alana Beck’s voice asked from the other end of the line.

Connor couldn’t say he was surprised at this point. He didn’t know any of Zoe’s friends, and after what he’d seen of Alana and her conversations, he expected Alana to be the first person to notice she wasn’t at school.

“Not really,” Zoe told her.

“You’re just skipping because you feel like it?” Alana sounded doubtful.

“Are you judging me?” Zoe attempted to laugh, but the joy wasn’t in her eyes. Her eyes just looked blank. Connor had never seen this in her before. Then again, had he ever actually looked?

“Zoe,” Alana couldn’t even see her but she knew something wasn’t right. How did this person know Connor’s sister better than he did?

“I’m being a crazy rebel,” Zoe declared. “It runs in the family.”

“Where are you?” Alana asked.

“My house,” Zoe stated, the fake enthusiasm gone from her voice. “I’ll be back for my last class.”

“Why?” Alana’s voice was slightly softer now. It was subtle. Connor realized everything this girl did was subtle.

“Because I need to drive home and act normal,” Zoe answered.

“No,” Alana interjected. “I mean why are you skipping?”

“I told you,” Zoe tried to force the humor back into her voice. She wasn’t doing a very good job of it.

“No you didn’t,” Alana said firmly.

“Why do you have to be randomly good at this,” Zoe groaned.

“At what?” Alana questioned.

“Reading me,” Zoe sighed.

“Oh.”

“It sucks,” Zoe informed her.

“Sorry.”

“You’re not,” Zoe smiled slightly.

“No, not really,” Alana admitted honestly. “Is it about your brother?”

“No,” Zoe didn’t look like she was lying.

“Your parents?” Alana asked.

“Believe it or not, I’m aloud to have my own problems,” Zoe told her dryly.

“I know you are,” Alana said gently. “Can you tell me what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing, really,” Zoe breathed.

“That’s not true,” Alana pressed.

“I mean, I can’t pinpoint it,” Zoe told her. “I just don’t feel like I can sit through classes right now. I can’t be around other people today.”

“Do you feel anxious?” Alana asked in an understanding tone.

“It’s not like that,” Zoe shook her head even though Alana couldn’t see her. “Sometimes I just feel socially exhausted, okay? I can’t talk without feeling worn out.”

“Do you want me to go?” Alana asked.

“No,” Zoe said. “You can keep talking for a bit.”

“But you just said—”

“It’s different with you,” Zoe blurted then winced at her words.

“I don’t get it,” Alana plainly let her know.

“Neither do I,” Zoe stated. “It’s very confusing.”

“Oh, okay,” Alana said.

She clearly had no idea what Zoe was talking about. Connor realized that he might. For the first time he was pretty sure he understood his younger sister.

“Did I miss anything in chem?” Zoe changed the subject.

“I took notes for you,” Alana told her.

“Seriously?” Zoe asked.

“Yes.”

“You didn’t have to,” Zoe murmured.

“But I did,” Alana stated.

“You’re amazing,” Zoe smiled.

“I know,” Alana chirped. “You sure, you’re not gonna get caught?”

“My parents won’t be home until after school,” Zoe explained. “My dad has work, and my mom likes to stay out of the house during the day.”

“What if your brother comes home?” Alana wondered.

“He’s not gonna tell on me,” Zoe shrugged off. “He’d be in more trouble, anyway.”

“Why?”

“Grounded,” Zoe said blankly. Connor couldn’t read anything from that.

“I could skip too,” Alana offered.

“Don’t,” Zoe told her. “You’re an overachiever. Plus, I kinda need to be alone.”

“But on the phone?” Alana pointed out.

“Don’t question my logic,” Zoe instructed. “It’ll give you a headache.”

“I need to go,” Alana told her. “Class is gonna start soon.”

“Okay,” Zoe said.

“Can I call you during lunch?” Alana asked a little hesitantly.

“If you want to,” Zoe shrugged.

“Bye,” Alana said.

“See ya,” Zoe got out before Alana hung up.

Connor watched her sink further into the couch. She looked a little happier than she had when he walked in. Connor hadn’t seen that smile before. He assumed it was exclusively for Alana. It was nice. Connor wished that Zoe had talked to him. He wished she thought she could share this with him. He would have liked to see her happy. Or, he hoped he would have.

Chapter Text

Connor was back at Evan’s house by the time the school day was over. His mind didn’t stray from Zoe and everything he hadn’t known she was feeling. He wanted her to know that she could talk to him about it. She probably wouldn’t want to, not after everything he’d done, but maybe they could have rebuilt everything.

Maybe they still could. That was one more reason to take the second chance.

When Evan made it back to his room, he found Connor lying across his bed.

“Hey,” Evan greeted him with a cheerful smile.

“I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be here,” Connor told him.

The smile dropped.

“What do you mean?” Evan asked, sitting down next to him.

“It just doesn’t feel like you need saving right now,” Connor explained.

“I guess you’re right,” Evan said thoughtfully. “Um, what did you do today?”

“Have you ever been in love?” Connor suddenly asked.

“What?” Evan stammered, staring at him. “I, um, I don’t know. Where is this coming from?”

“I went to my house,” Connor stated, answering his question from before. “And Zoe was there.”

“She wasn’t at school?” Evan asked.

“No,” Connor shook his head. “Apparently she skips a lot.”

“What does this have to do with love?” Evan asked in a smaller voice.

“Alana Beck called her,” he continued. “And—okay, when I say it out loud it sounds like I’m reaching too much, but the way she was talking to her.”

“You think Zoe’s in love with Alana?” Evan questioned.

“I’m almost positive,” Connor stated plainly.

He knew how Zoe felt when she had to be alone. He knew the blankness he’d seen on her face because he was used to finding it in the mirror. He didn’t know why she’d talk to Alana through this. When he felt like that, he didn’t have an exception.

“You didn’t know this the first time?” Evan’s voice brought him back.

“No,” Connor confessed. “I guess I never paid enough attention.”

“Do you think she’s going to do anything about it?” Evan asked.

“What do you mean?” Connor didn’t understand.

“Connor,” Evan started with a very small smile. “There’s a difference between loving someone and trying to be with them.”

“Well, eventually, wouldn’t she have to?” Connor had concluded. If the look he saw on her face when she hung up was any indication, Connor was certain that whatever Zoe was feeling wasn’t about to go away.

“Not necessarily,” Evan said. “Sometimes you care a lot about someone, and don’t want to ruin what you already have.”

“What if they feel the same?” Connor asked.

He couldn’t speak for Alana. Even if she was making how she felt obvious, he doubted he’d be able to recognize if from her. But Zoe would have to. Plus, Alana could read Zoe. Sure, this emotion wasn’t exactly as easy to decipher, but they knew each other well.

“Sometimes it’s not clear,” Evan cut through his thoughts. “And it’s too much of a risk.”

“You’ve been in love then?” Connor realized. Why did that make something churn in his stomach?

“I didn’t,” Evan stuttered. “I said I don’t know.”

“Taking that as a yes,” Connor commented with a smirk that he hoped Evan wouldn’t realize was forced.

“Connor,” Evan tried.

“If it was a no, you’d just say it,” Connor pointed out.

Evan sighed. He looked slightly defeated, and more than a bit embarrassed. Connor hadn’t meant to cause that, but why was it so hard for Evan to tell him? He’d told him so many far more intimate things.

“It’s complicated,” Evan mumbled.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Connor called him out. “I know everything else about you.”

“It’s hard to talk about,” Evan tried to brush off. He was clearly uncomfortable, and Connor knew he should be changing the subject, but he wasn’t going to. “It’s just a crush, doesn’t really matter.”

“Is is Zoe?” Connor asked before he could stop himself.

“What?” Evan blinked at him.

“I’m sorry, I’m being stupid,” Connor sighed. “I shouldn’t have told you about her and Alana.”

“Why,” Evan stammered. “Why do you think it’s Zoe?”

Connor couldn’t tell him about the future. He didn’t want Evan to know that he was going to yell about him, and he didn’t want him to realize that everything was still going to hurt two years later. Connor could remember the words to the note he’d reread after angrily storming out. Maybe he could stop Evan from believing all of them.

“No reason,” he said.

“You’re lying,” Evan recognized.

“It’s just something you’ll understand later,” Connor told him.

“Right,” Evan closed his eyes. Connor watched a guarded expression come over his face. “Um, yeah, I kinda like her. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, and it’s weird since she’s your sister.”

“It’s not weird,” Connor told him firmly.

He meant it. He’d thought before that they’d make a good couple. He’d known about the crush since before he died. If anything, he should have expected all of this. He had expected all of this. So why did he feel like Evan had just punched him in the gut?

“You could have just told me, you know,” he kept his expression neutral. “You should talk to her.”

“You just told me she was in love with someone else,” Evan reminded him.

“Maybe she’s not,” Connor shrugged. “I’m bad at knowing what love is.”

“What does that even mean?” Evan asked.

“It just means I’m bad at it,” Connor stated. “If I’ve never felt it what would I know what it looks like.”

For a fraction of a second, Evan looked upset, but that was gone as soon as it came.

“It’s caring about someone,” Evan said slowly. “Wanting them to be happy and wanting to see them happy.”

“And wanting to kiss them,” Connor rolled his eyes. “And—”

“That’s just attraction,” Evan cut him off. “Love is more than just wanting someone. It’s wanting what’s best for them. Wanting them not to hurt anymore and wanting to help them even when you know you can’t.”

That hit him. Connor didn’t want it to. He didn’t want to recognize why it hurt to think that Evan was in love with Zoe or why he felt warm when Evan smiled at him. It was fucked up for him to feel like that. It was fucked up for him to want anything from Evan. He needed to help Evan, he was supposed to save him not lust after him.

“That’s still very plutonic,” Connor was able to get out.

“Okay, fine, attraction is part of it,” Evan looked slightly annoyed. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s wanting to hold them, and for them and only them to touch you, but—”

“You’re turning red,” Connor commented.

“You know what I mean,” Evan mumbled.

Connor did. Were it not for that, it would be so easy to pass of whatever was going through him as confused feelings. He wasn’t lying when he said he wasn’t used to the feeling of love. He could have convinced himself that he just cared very deeply for Evan and wasn’t used to caring so much. He probably would have believed that had Evan blushing not ignited something in him. He wanted to be the reason Evan looked like that.

But he wasn’t.

“So you think that about my sister?” Connor said out loud.

“She should ask Alana out,” Evan didn’t look at him. “If she really does like her. They both deserve to be happy.”

“Well, aren’t you selfless,” Connor commented dryly.

“Shut up,” Evan mumbled.

“Do you want to read?” Connor asked, desperate to change the subject. This was his own fault for not letting it go.

“No,” Evan surprised him. “I mean, if you’re going to leave soon I want to leave some for the next time.”

“You sure you can handle not knowing how it ends?” Connor asked.

“I’ll survive,” Evan told him.

“Then what should we do?” Connor asked.

“We could watch a movie?” Evan suggested. “Just until you leave.”

“Okay,” Connor nodded. “I’d like that.”

Connor let Evan choose what they watched, and honestly didn’t pay much attention to what was on the screen. He didn’t want moments like this to end. He wanted to be here when Evan was happy as well as when he wasn’t. But, slowly, he was realizing that the more he came back the less time there was before time would catch up to him.

“Hey,” he looked at the boy sitting next to him. “If it’s a while before I’m back again…”

“I know you’ll be back eventually,” Evan told him. “It’s okay.”

“Take care of yourself,” Connor instructed.

“You’ll be here if I don’t,” Evan pointed out.

“Yeah, that’s true.”

“I’ll miss you being here,” he said softly.

“Thanks for saying that,” Connor smiled at him.

“You don’t have to thank me,” Evan smiled back.

“I know.”

Connor was there for the rest of the night. He appreciated that he got that much. It was only when Evan had decided he needed to get to sleep, and they’d turned off the bedroom’s lights that Connor could feel the familiar darkness encasing him.


When Connor opened his eyes he was in the white room again. Not-Alana was regarding him with an unamused expression. He didn’t really care.

“Why am I back here?” He questioned. He’d expected to just be dropped in some random point of Evan’s life again.

“You need to be careful about doing things for personal gain,” she stated.

She hadn’t changed, even if he was beginning to understand the real Alana a bit more. She still felt like a robot in comparison, if anything her responses felt even more emotionless when he thought of the girl who’d held his sister’s hand.

“Do you mean me asking him to find me in the park?” Connor asked dryly.

“I can’t answer,” she said levelly. He took that as a yes.

“Well, I’m sure some random stranger would have found me eventually,” he meant this sarcastically, but wasn’t met with any reaction. “Right?”

“I said, I can’t answer.”

“What if I didn’t tell him?” Connor demanded. “Would I have been found?”

“I can’t tell you,” her tone didn’t waver.

“Did we change the past?” Connor asked.

“If anything was changed, it wasn’t you and him doing it,” she informed him. “It was just you, Connor Murphy.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel guilty about something?” Connor scoffed. “Because I don’t get it.”

“Listen,” she sighed. “If you don’t do your job right the future that needs to change won’t.”

“You mean me killing myself?” he deadpanned.

“Yes,” she said tightly. “That is what I’m referring to.”

“Does it really fucking matter?” Connor asked.

“What?”

“You saw my family,” he stated. Because if she saw him talking to Evan, she had to have seen everything else. “They’re better off without me.”

“This is why you’re not supposed to look,” she muttered.

“Too bad,” he told her darkly.

“Besides,” she gave him a careful expression. “You don’t actually believe that.”

“Excuse me?” he tried not to look taken a back.

“You told Evan Hansen he was saving you,” she said plainly.

“That doesn’t mean,” Connor tried.

“So you want to die?” she questioned. “Would you like to be dead right now?”

No. He wanted to talk to Evan again. He wanted to see his sister at least one more time.

“You can’t,” he kept his voice steady. “You said you wouldn’t.”

“No, that was called bluffing,” she admitted. “Consider life, Connor, if that boy is making you want to live it’s a good thing.”

“Maybe it’s not him,” Connor voiced. “Maybe it’s just that I can’t feel how much life hurts right now.”

“You want to change things,” she was confident in that. “Do it the right way.”

“Can I go back sooner?” he knew he was making himself look venerable, but right now that didn’t matter. “Every time you drop me there’s been a long period of time thats passed.”

“That’s not how it works,” she told him.

“It’ll be better for Evan,” Connor tried to argue.

“I’m sorry,” she looked like she actually might have meant it.

Chapter Text

The darkness faded slowly this time. Connor was used to it sharply landing him on his feet, but right now he felt like he was drifting awake from a sleep. No, that was wrong. He wasn’t drifting. He was being shaken into consciousness.

“What the fuck?” Connor forced his eyes to open.

The sky was the first thing he saw. He was lying on the ground outside. It was too bright. It had to be midday. The second thing he noticed was the owner of the hands that had been shaking his shoulders. Evan’s face went pale the second Connor’s eyes met his.

“I’m sorry!” he nearly fell backwards in an attempt to get out of Connor’s space. “It’s just, I saw you, and you looked like you were hurt, but then your eyes were closed and I thought—never mind, you’re awake, that’s good! I’m sorry, I sound so weird. I’ll just go. I’m sorry I bothered you.”

Connor barely had the chance to process that Evan didn’t recognize him (at least as the version of himself that he was). Quickly, Evan scrambled to his feet and tried to dart away. Connor jumped up just as fast. Acting on instinct, he grabbed Evan’s arm.

Evan flinched. He didn’t meet Connor’s eyes.

“Ev, it’s me,” Connor told him in a voice he hoped came out as gentle.

All at once, Evan relaxed.

“Oh thank God,” he sighed. Connor released his grip on him, no longer afraid he’d have to chase him through the park. “Why, um, why were you asleep in the middle of the park?”

“I honestly have no fucking clue,” Connor told him.

Evan laughed. His voice hadn’t adjusted back to calm.

“You wanna sit down?” Connor suggested. “You look like you can’t breath.”

“I can,” Evan blurted. “I mean, yeah. Sitting is good.”

Connor let himself fall back onto the grass. Evan sat beside him. Connor could recognize the Evan that he’d seen when he was last alive in this boy. Evan clearly had thought Connor was the other him. The last time he checked, Evan had been able to tell the difference between them. They’d lost time.

“How long has it been?” Connor asked him.

“Not that long,” Evan said softly.

“Ev,” Connor started.

“Almost two years,” Evan admitted.

“Fuck,” Connor breathed. “So you’re a senior now?”

“No, but I’m gonna be soon,” Evan shook his head. “Summer starts in a week.”

Evan’s eyes wouldn’t meet Connor’s. Connor watched his fingers nervously grip his jeans. They shouldn’t be out in the open right now. He didn’t think that would help whatever was going through Evan’s brain.

“Do you want to go back to your house?” Connor asked him.

“No,” Evan said quickly. “It’s fine.”

“You just look really agitated,” Connor pointed out.

“You scared me,” Evan looked at him now.

Connor realized what Evan must have thought. If the living Connor looked so much like the version of him Evan knew, Evan had to be constantly aware how close he was getting to Connor’s death. He’d found him alone in the park before. That time he hadn’t been okay. Evan must have thought he was hurt. Or worse.

“Why did you flitch when I touched you?” Connor asked. Evan had looked scared in that moment, but not because he thought that Connor wasn’t alright. He’d looked afraid of Connor, not for him.

“Alive you doesn’t do that,” Evan was clearly trying to brush him off.

“Did you think I was gonna hurt you?” Connor questioned.

“I thought you were mad,” Evan met his eyes now. “That’s all.”

Connor nodded. He didn’t believe that for a second.

“Ev, did I miss anything important?” he made his tone softer.

“No,” Evan shook his head again.

“I can still tell when you’re lying,” Connor informed him dryly.

“Everything is actually really okay right now,” Evan said.

“That’s a surprise,” Connor admitted.

“Disappointed?” Evan tried to tease.

“No,” Connor answered honestly anyway.

Connor let himself drop the serious tone here. They talked about things that didn’t matter. He tried to make Evan laugh, and felt a little bit lighter each time he succeeded. Evan’s laugh was beautiful. It lit up his face, making all of the earnest fear Connor usually saw in him melt away. Evan shone when he laughed, even if it was just for a moment and it was gorgeous. Connor didn’t understand how he hadn’t seen how breathtaking this boy was before. He didn’t know why alive him hadn’t taken one look and fallen.

It was sick, he knew it was, but a part of him loved the worry he’d seen in Evan’s eyes. It wasn’t just because a person was caring about him. It wasn’t that he was so starved for attention that he was grasping at the only thing close to compassion he could fine.

It was Evan.

He loved knowing that Evan cared about him. It made him feel less broken, less worthless. No matter what else Connor had ruined at least he’d never managed to fuck this up. At least he could still make Evan Hansen laugh.

Maybe this was love. This was everything his parents couldn’t feel for each other, everything Evan’s father had walked away from, and everything Evan felt when he looked at Zoe.

That didn’t used to sting. Connor didn’t want to hold onto the hope that he was right and Zoe did love Alana Beck, because honestly that didn’t change anything. Evan had chosen the better of the Murphy’s and Connor couldn’t really blame him.

It still hurt. Of course it still hurt.

“Hey, are you alright?” Evan cut through his thoughts.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“Is it your family?” Evan asked hesitantly.

“Kinda,” Connor wasn’t exactly lying. “But it doesn’t matter right now.”

“If you need to go,” Evan started.

“I don’t,” Connor said firmly. “I need to be here.”

They stayed at the park for hours. Eventually, Connor walked with Evan back to his house. Evan explained that his mother didn’t have a shift tonight so he was eating dinner with her. Connor wasn’t going to intrude on that, so he told Evan he’d go for a walk until dinner was over. Evan knew where he was going, but he didn’t say anything. Connor was grateful for that.

His parents were arguing again. He knew that it happened more and more around this time, and he knew that he was often the reason behind it. Maybe it wasn’t always his fault. He knew they didn’t communicate well, and they handled so many things poorly. Still, he was the ignition. Without him, they’d be able to skate around everything else.

This time it was because he’d blown off his most recent appointment with his counselor. Connor did this a lot, after a while they’d stop caring.

Connor only started seeing a counselor after living through the nightmare that rehab had been. His counselor there had strongly encouraged and broached the subject to Connor’s mother instead of his father. It was a littler scary how people like that could always tell which parent was frantically worried enough to believe anything they shoved down their throat.

Connor never wanted to go. A few years prior he may have possibly appreciated it, but being forced to (or feeling pressured into) telling some stranger all of his problems didn’t make him feel like they wanted him to get better. It wasn’t like they’d bothered to find a therapist he liked. No, he’d just been sent of the first time on the list of people recommended to his mother.

Tonight Connor didn’t go inside. Instead he watched for the window like he did the first time he’d stumbled here. He watched the hot anger of not seeing eye to eye slowly defuse. Connor already knew that, whether he skipped or not, his mother didn’t want him to stop any of the treatments he was on. His father thought differently.

Connor waited for his father to bring up the cost of each appointment. Money had always been the first thing he reminded Connor of every time he lectured Connor on ditching. Connor expected the same irritated numbers to be thrown at his mother, but they weren’t. He didn’t bring it up at all. He didn’t actually seem mad that Connor was being sent to therapy, he was mad that it wasn’t working. He wasn’t mad at Connor for getting worse, he was mad that it was happening.

For a second that infuriated Connor. It wasn’t anyone’s fucking fault that his mind was messed up, and by reacting like this all his father did was make Connor feel like it was his. This was why he couldn’t handled it. This was why he fucking gave up.

Then the anger faded. Numbly Connor realized that, even through the warped understanding, his father did notice that there was something clinically wrong with Connor. He wasn’t blaming it on hormones or Connor’s need for attention. This was his ridged way for caring about his son.

Connor didn’t like seeing this. Everything had felt one way for so long.


“You’re still here,” Evan was already in his pajamas when Connor knocked on his bedroom door.

“Yeah,” Connor smirked as he walked into the room. “You gonna tell me what I’m supposed to fix this time?”

“I mean it, nothing’s wrong right now,” Evan told him.

They sat on the bed. Connor wondered if this could be considered routine if each instance was becoming so spread out for Evan. For Connor this felt almost normal.

“How’s your mom doing?” he asked.

“Working too much,” Evan’s voice gave little emotion.

“As always,” Connor mused.

“Yeah,” Evan’s eyes were fixed on his face now. Connor felt like all of the thoughts he knew he’d never be able to tell Evan were inscribed there in this moment. “Are you okay?”

“I’m supposed to be asking you that,” Connor reminded him.

“You have this look right now,” Evan stated.

“What does that even mean?” Connor questioned.

“Just that your mind’s on other stuff,” Evan said thoughtfully. “Is it Zoe?”

“No, she’s fine,” Connor assured him. “It’s other family stuff.”

“You can talk to me,” Evan’s voice was soft but not tentative. He wanted Connor to talk to him, but he didn’t want to scare him away. Connor knew what Evan was thinking, because he’d thought all of it when he didn’t know how to get Evan to open up to him but knew he wanted to help.

“You remember when you saved me in the park that one night?” Connor started. He wasn’t going to brush Evan off. Maybe it was because he needed to get everything off of his chest and know someone else was listening. Maybe it was just because he couldn’t say no to Evan.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“Did you see much of me afterwards?” Connor wondered.

“Just in class,” Evan stated.

“And I didn’t look so good, right?” Connor knew Evan noticed younger him, even if it was only because he had trouble not thinking of them as the same.

“You didn’t,” Evan agreed. His voice was guarded. He was trying not to react too much because he wanted Connor to feel comfortable saying anything. Connor didn’t deserve this.

“Everything got really bad for a while after that,” Connor confided. “My parents didn’t know how to handle it—they didn’t know how to fucking try to handle it.”

His voice was shaking. Was he really this bad at composing himself? It was pathetic. He shouldn’t break down this easily.

“Keep going,” Evan prompted gently.

“I threatened to kill myself,” Connor told him. “Except I wasn’t just threatening, I meant it. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be alive.”

Something changed in Evan’s face. The understanding that had been there blended with the same worry Connor had seen earlier that day.

“My dad thought I just wanted attention,” Connor couldn’t stop his voice from tightening. “He said that to my face.”

Talking about it made him angry. Remembering the look on his father’s face made him angry. He’d felt betrayed, not just by his father but by all of them. For a second he remembered waiting for his mother to take his side, to say that she believed him and he was scaring her. But she hadn’t then, and because of that painful silence Connor refused to give her the chance to when she realized she’d been wrong.

“Do you hate him?” Evan asked. There wasn’t any judgement in his voice.

“I thought I did,” Connor let himself voice the uncertainty that was trying to eat away at him. “I want to. It makes it so much easier.”

“Yeah,” Evan whispered.

“I thought he didn’t care, but,” Connor forced his voice steady. “Maybe he just didn’t know how to.”

Connor remembered his father’s face when his younger self had been missing that night. He remembered his father running out of the house to find him even though he had no idea where to look. He remembered both of his parents standing in the kitchen after Connor had been grounded. He remembered the lost look.

“What if he wasn’t embarrassed about the weed and the skipping class?” Connor knew neither Evan nor himself had the answer to his. “What if he was mad that I was hurting myself? I mean, that’s still fucked up right? It’s not my fault.”

“Some people get mad when the people they love are in pain, because they can’t do anything about it,” Evan told him softly.

Connor thought about Zoe. He thought about every time he’d let himself scream at her because he didn’t know what to say. He thought of every time he’d purposely hurt her because he was just so angry and didn’t know what to do.

“Well I guess I know where I get it from,” Connor said darkly.

“Connor,” Evan whispered, but didn’t try to correct him.

“So many things are my fault and I can’t fucking change it,” Connor heard his voice break. “I can’t tell myself that I’m wrong or right about anything.”

Connor couldn’t stop the tears. He’d told himself so many times he wasn’t going to cry over these people. He’d made himself certain that he was right and they were wrong. He’d thought that maybe if he had that then it wouldn’t matter that he was alone.

Turns out he could be alone and wrong.

He was wrong in so many ways he didn’t know how to face. It hurt. It hurt as bad as it had when he was alive.

“Hey—”

Then Evan’s arms were around him. Evan pulled Connor against his chest, letting him cry into his shirt, and not releasing the hold when Connor’s sobs leveled. Evan just held him. He held him like he was still alive, like embracing him now would make a difference. The crazy thing was it felt like it could. Connor let Evan’s arms be the only thing he could feel. He let himself fall into the embrace.

He wanted this moment to last forever. He wanted a second chance and for it to only be Evan holding him. He wanted Evan. He wanted Evan so much it felt like his heart was breaking just being near him.

“You should go to sleep,” Connor murmured after a while.

“Do you think you’re still gonna be here?” Evan released his hold to look Connor in the eye.

“I don’t know,” Connor answered the way he always did.

“You can’t sleep on the floor,” Evan decided.

“Because I’m crying?” Connor tried to scoff, but couldn’t force dryness into his voice. “That’s not the best logic, Evan.”

“We can both sleep here,” Evan gestured to the bed.

Connor would be lying if he said his stomach didn’t do a flip at that thought.

“I’m fine on the floor,” he pushed the thought out of his head. He tried to stand up, but Evan grabbed his arm.

“Maybe I’ll sleep better if you’re here,” Evan said with a tentative smile. Connor really couldn’t say no to him.

“If you fall off the bed it’s not my fault,” Connor informed him.

“I’m not gonna fall off the bed,” Evan beamed at him. He quickly moved onto the right half of the bed. Connor laid down next to him before Evan shut his lamp off.

“When we were kids, Zoe and I had to share a hotel bed and I kicked her off in my sleep,” Connor remembered.

“Seriously?” Evan laughed.

“It was a queen sized bed and I was six,” Connor added.

“You’re lying,” Evan said after a second.

“I’m not.”

“What were you like as a kid?” Evan’s voice was lighter now.

“I was a little brat,” Connor deadpanned.

“Come on,” Evan all but groaned. “You met tiny me. It’s not fair that I don’t know anything about you.”

“You’ve known me since I was eight,” Connor reminded him.

“And never talked to you,” Evan pointed out.

“Still, I think everyone got a pretty accurate impression,” Connor muttered.

“I disagree,” Evan wasn’t going to let this go.

“I was annoying,” Connor told him. “I threw tantrums for stupid reasons.”

“You still do that,” Evan giggled.

“I will push you off this bed,” Connor warned.

“I didn’t mean it,” he mumbled.

“I wasn’t as nice as you were,” Connor said seriously.

“Were you nice to Zoe?” Evan asked.

“When we were that young, yeah,” Connor said evenly. “We used to play games.”

“And pick four-leaf clovers?” Evan was grinning. Connor could tell even in the dark.

“My family would go to this orchard sometimes on the weekends,” Connor recalled. “Zoe and I had this toy plane we’d fly around.”

“Yeah?” Evan hummed.

“Until my dad flew it into the creek,” Connor added.

“Oh.”

“I didn’t get mad back then.” The memory was surprising. “I think I actually laughed. I can’t remember the last time I laughed when I was alive.”

“You laugh all the time,” Evan murmured.

“With you,” Connor said. “It’s different.”

“How?” Evan asked.

“I don’t know,” Connor lied.

There were so many answers to that question, and he wasn’t going to voice any of them when they were both half asleep. It was too risky that he’d say something he didn’t mean for Evan to know. Not to mention, were he going to pour his heart out, he’d like to know Evan was absorbing every word.

They didn’t talk anymore after that. Evan drifted off first. Connor just lied there, lulled my the sound of Evan’s breath and the warmth of their proximity.

Chapter Text

When Connor opened his eyes he was standing on a sidewalk. His surroundings were not familiar. That made an unpleasant change. Still, the only reason he’d be at some random street had to be because Evan wasn’t too far away. He just needed to find him.

Connor walked without a destination in mind. It was a somewhat public place. Every so often he had to jump out of the way of a person who clearly could not see him. It reminded him of the zoo. That felt like such a long time ago now.

A few blocks later, he spotted Evan across the street from him. He wasn’t looking in Connor’s direction, and probably wouldn’t have been able to pick him out in the crowd (or recognize which version of himself he was for that matter). Evan was standing outside of a store. He had a large paper bag in his hands.

He looked a little bit lost. Well, more lost than usual. That was alright, Connor could help him with whatever was going on. Or, at least he would the second the street light changed and he could actually get to Evan.

What happened next probably would not have if Connor had been able to cross the street at that second.

Connor saw the group of guys before Evan did. He saw them approach Evan and he saw the look on Evan’s face when he did notice their presence. For the distance, Connor didn’t know what they were saying. It didn’t matter. Evan looked like he wanted to run but wasn’t sure how. Connor could see Evan’s mouth moving. He could imagine the words coming out a mile a minute without him being able to stop. Evan was afraid.

“Ev!” Connor shouted from across the street.

He watched Evan’s gaze dart to him. Only Evan could hear him. Connor waved above his head. It might have just been his hopeful imagination, but Evan seemed to relax the slightest bit when their eyes met. Connor gestured for Evan to get to him. If he started moving now, he’d meet the light. Then Connor would figure out a way to protect him.

Evan tried to walk away, but suddenly he was being pushed against the wall of the store. Connor watched him drop the bag he was holding. The guy pinning Evan to the wall was shouting something. It was loud enough for Connor to hear, but the words weren’t computing.

No one else was reacting. People were walking past them. Evan looked terrified and no one around him gave a fuck. Seeing the fear in Evan’s face, seeing someone try to hurt him, made something in Conor snap.

The light chose that moment to change, but Connor would have ran into the street (through the fucking traffic) anyway.

In second’s he was at Evan’s side. Connor’s fist collided with the face of the boy holding Evan in a smooth and practiced motion. He’d never wanted to take self defense classes, but when he was younger his father had ensured both him a Zoe know how to throw a solid punch. Until now, the knowledge hadn’t been needed.

“What the hell?” The boy stumbled backward. Connor was ready for him to hit back, but he didn’t. Instead he froze. He just stood there gaping at him.

Realization forced it’s way into Connor’s anger hazed mind. For a second, that boy could see him. The moment Connor’s punch landed, he’d seemed real. Now he only was to Evan.

That was their chance. Connor grabbed hold of Evan’s arm and sprinted in the direction he had come. He didn’t stop running until they were a good few blocks away and he could hear Evan gasping for breath. Connor grabbed hold of Evan’s shoulders.

“Are you okay?” he demanded.

Evan nodded.

“Fuck,” Connor let go of him. He could feel his own hands shaking. So much for being the calm one.

“Why did they stop?” Evan asked.

“I can control it,” Connor’s voice was barely audible, even to himself.

He wasn’t supposed to be seen by the boy he’d punched, but for that moment he had been. If he focused hard enough—no, none of that had been focus. He’d needed to do that to protect Evan. Every fiber controlling him was bent around emotion.

If he felt strongly enough, he could flicker into what he’d been when he was alive. If he wanted to—if he really wanted to—he could be seen by more than just Evan. He could choose to be seen.

“Do you know how to get home?” his voice asked.

“Yeah,” Evan nodded.

“Then let’s get out of here, okay?” Connor looped his arm around Evan’s.

Evan smiled faintly.

“I dropped my stuff,” Evan seemed to only realize when they were walking in the direction of the one place Connor was certain spelt safety.

“Was it anything important?” Connor asked.

“Groceries,” Evan answered. “I told my mom I’d get pastries for after dinner tonight.”

“From a store in the middle of nowhere?” Connor questioned.

“We like those the best,” Evan told him sheepishly. “I thought I could handle it.”

“Tell her what happened, she’ll understand,” Connor instructed. “Well, maybe not all of what happened.”

“I’ll edit the story,” Evan murmured.

“Did you know those people?” Connor hadn’t recognized any of them.

Evan shook his head. For some reason, that made Connor’s blood boil a little bit more. Those assholes had targeted Evan just because he looked lost and alone. Connor wished he’d gotten more than just a punch in.

“Thanks for saving me,” Evan said softly.

“It’s my job, remember,” Connor smiled at him. “I’m your angel.”

“Yeah,” Evan looked like he was trying very hard not to start crying.

They didn’t talk much for the rest of the walk. Connor didn’t let go of Evan’s arm until they reached the house. He knew he should stay with him. He wanted to, but he couldn’t discover control and not use it. He’d find a way to make it up to Evan.

“I have to go,” Connor said when they reached Evan’s porch. “You’ll be okay?”

“Yeah,” Evan’s voice wasn’t as shaky as Connor thought it would be. “Is something wrong?”

“What do you mean?” Connor released his hold of Evan’s arm.

“You look freaked out,” Evan stated.

Connor couldn’t explain the adrenaline. He couldn’t explain that finally he might have the chance to do something.

“I’m okay,” Connor promised. “I’ll be back.”

This time he meant it. This time he knew he actually had a say.

Connor made it halfway to his house before turning around. It was midday. If it was a weekend there was a chance his mother and sister where home, maybe his younger self was too, but they weren’t who he needed to talk to.

He needed to talk to the one person he had sworn he never wanted to again. He wanted answers. He was owed at least something.

Connor hadn’t been to his father’s office since he was in middle school, but he hadn’t erased the memories. When they were younger and actually wanted to be around each other, his father used to bring Zoe and Connor their after school. This only happened on days his mother was busy, but Connor liked to get soda from the vending machine (which was allowed as long as his mother didn’t hear about it) and kept the layout of the hallways saved in his brain.

He knew what elevator to walk into and which door to stop at. Until he got this far, he hadn’t tried to be seen. His mind called back what it felt like for the split second earlier that day. It was impulsive to come all this way without knowing if his image could even hold for longer than that. But Connor wasn’t going to be rational right now.

Right now he didn’t feel like the Connor who took his own life. He was the boy who Evan saw in the hallway. His emotions weren’t him looking back on something that he’d missed. He was real, and burning, and completely alive.

And alive him was fucking pissed off.

He knocked once on the door, but ended up barging in anyway. His father looked up from the paper work he had been reading when the door opened. Connor let it fall closed behind him as he watched confusion turn to annoyance on his father’s face.

“Connor? What are you doing here?”

“You can see me.” Maybe Connor hadn’t thought this through. Maybe he should turn around right now and let his father think that seeing his son randomly appear in his office had been some sort of hallucination.

“Your mother said you were at home,” his father was saying. “Did Nancy let you in?”

Or maybe this wasn’t worth second guessing.

“Why?” Connor heard how numb his voiced sounded. He didn’t want that. He wanted to sound in control.

“Connor,” his father looked concerned now. He must have realized that Connor wouldn’t show up here if everything was alright. “Did something happen?”

“Why do you act like you don’t care?” Connor’s voice was louder than he meant for it to be, but he didn’t give a shit. He’d scream if he had to, because right now he was going to say everything he’d never let himself.

“You came to my office to ask me that?” Irritation. That only ever served as fuel to the fire.

“You talk about me like I’m not even here,” Connor spat. “Like I don’t exist and I can’t fucking hear you, but then you turn around and tell mom you’re losing me.”

“I can’t do this here,” his father was shaking his head. “Go home.”

“No,” Connor tried very hard not to sound childish. “No, I’m not fucking leaving.”

“Do not swear at me—”

“This is the only time I’m going to fucking listen to anything you have to say,” Connor shouted. “This is the only time I’m going to try to be open minded. If you make me leave it just means I’m right to hate you.”

For a second, his father looked taken a back. Then the mask was slipping back on. While Connor knew he himself had many masks (and had recently learned Zoe had quiet a few as well) he was fairly certain his father only wore one. It was always stiff. While Connor’s emotions creeped through cracks, his father’s could hide everything.

“You don’t hate me,” he told him. “You’re just angry. It’s normal.”

“Really? You think I’m normal? That’s fucking rich,” Connor snorted. “I hated you because I thought you hated me.”

“I’m your father, I love you.” It was said so matter-of-factly. That was how his parents always said in near the end. It was a well rehearsed line that had somehow lost all meaning.

“Yeah, you love that I’m wasting your money on therapy,” Connor scoffed. “And embarrassing everyone by smoking pot, and making you never want to come home.”

“Connor, I want you to get better,” he stated. “That’s all I want.”

“I can’t see that,” Connor seethed.

“Because you don’t want to,” his father said dismissively.

“Yes I do.” Connor had to. He’d never decided he didn’t want his family to care about him. He’d taken the measures he’d needed to in order to face that they did not.

“Getting you help isn’t a waste of money,” his father softened slightly. “If I yell about that it’s because I don’t know how else to get you to go to therapy.”

“So yelling at me is supposed to make me feel better about being broken?” Connor questioned.

“You’re not broken,” his father’s voice wasn’t as condescending as Connor expect these words to come out.

“Then why yell at all?” Connor demanded.

“Because I know you,” his father’s voice snapped.

Connor watched the mask fall. He watched the man he’d seen the night he was missing and the man he’d always thought saw him and a waste mix into one. For a moment, Connor wondered if they’d ever been different at all. For a moment, he admitted that maybe he’d wanted to see everything one way.

“You’re not going to listen to your mother’s codling,” his father said. “And you’re not going to pay attention to either of us forgiving.”

“That’s not,” Connor stammered.

“Yes, it is.”

“So you make me feel like shit because it’s what’s best for me?” Connor asked. He tried to sound bitter, he tried to feel angry, but it was draining away from him.

“You’ll understand when you’re older.”

“That’s not fair,” Connor pressed.

Because he wasn’t going to be older. This was it. If he didn’t understand now he never would. He’d go back to being angry. He’d go back to remembering why he needed an out. If he didn’t let himself believe that this would be okay, he might as well not take a second chance. Connor wanted to shout this, but he didn’t have to. Somehow, his father seemed to see Connor’s desperation.

“Sometimes you have to do the hard thing,” he stated.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Connor voiced.

“I’m harsh to you because if I’m not you’re going to take the easy way out,” he told him.

“What easy way?” Connor could hear exasperation in his own voice. “I’m sick.”

“And you’re not going to get better wallowing in it,” his father told him.

“You think you’re helping?” Connor couldn’t scoff. He didn’t know how to anymore. “You’re not.”

“I want you to get better.” Those words sounded different that they had a few minutes ago. Connor believed them. He believed that they hurt the man saying them. “Do you think I don’t want you to be happy? I miss my son who dressed up as Spiderman for halloween and told jokes to his mother and picked four-leaf clovers with his sister.”

“That’s not me anymore,” Connor whispered.

“I know,” his father looked defeated. “You can hate me for not going easy on you, but you can’t say that you’ve tried more than I have. Connor, when is the last time you stopped and wondered how you’re making the rest of us feel?”

Connor couldn’t argue. Maybe the him who was alive right now would have, but Connor had seen what he was doing to them. He had seen what he knew he couldn’t have helped and he had seen what he knew he could. He’d never wanted this to be his fault, and it might not all be, but (like with Zoe, like with his mother) Connor realized he had failed too. He’d given up being a good son before his father had tried to show he wasn’t going to let go of being his dad.

“I can’t be who I was back then,” Connor told him. “It’s not because I don’t want to. I do. I want to be happy but I fucking can’t and you act like its my fault.”

“It’s not my fault either,” his father said fairly.

“I didn’t say,” Connor stopped himself. That was a lie. He’d pinned so much on this man. He’d wanted to. It made everything so much easier.

“Ever since this started you’ve wanted me to be the bad guy,” his father voiced the thoughts Connor realized were going through the both of their heads.

“And you haven’t thought the exact same thing about me?” Connor wasn’t turning the question around. He’d let it point at both of them, because that was what they both deserved. He couldn’t say that one of them had failed. They’d done that together. “We’re both wrong.”

“You sound like your mother,” his father said softly.

“Or Zoe,” Connor added.

“I love you.” And this time he looked like he meant it, like saying it hurt because he knew he didn’t show it in the right way at all.

“I love you too, Dad.” Connor murmured.

“If I try to be less hard on you, can you try to not take it out on the people who care about you?”

Connor wanted to say yes, but he wouldn’t do that to his father. Connor wasn’t the son he was going to go home to. Connor couldn’t promise change that was out of his control.

“No,” he shook his head. “This isn’t real. You’re dreaming, you fell asleep at your computer. I’m not here right now.”

“I don’t—” his face was back to confusion.

“Goodbye, Dad.”

Connor stumbled out of the office. He let go of the need to be seen. As the slowly walked away, he wasn’t sure if his father would accept all that had been said as a dream. It didn’t matter. No one else in the office saw Connor come or go, and the alive him wouldn’t acknowledge the conversation ever happened.

The darkness came quickly this time. It might have been Connor’s imagination, but it didn’t feel as soft as it usually did. It felt angry.

Chapter Text

“What the hell was that?”

Connor was in the white room. This was the most upset he’d ever seen Not-Alana. Instead of feeling the dull, timeless numbing that the room usually gave off, Connor could sense energy radiating through the walls and air. It stung at his skin and threatened to suffocate him.

“I don't know,” he said defiantly anyway. He wasn’t afraid, not of her and not of this place.

“You can’t change things,” she told him.

“Why?” he challenged. “I’m not hurting anyone.”

“You’re getting distracted,” she chided. “Your job is to save Evan’s life not mess with your own.”

“I’m taking care of Evan,” Connor’s voice didn’t waver. “You’re the one who’s not letting me do my job.”

“I have no idea what you're talking about,” the emotion seeped out as if she wasn’t capable of holding it for long.

“I had to fight to get him away from those boys,” Connor remember. “Do you know how much easier it would have been if they could see me to begin with?”

“You weren’t supposed to hit anyone,” she dismissed.

“Right,” Connor scoffed. “You know, I think you’re just pissed off that I have a little bit of control.”

“Get over yourself,” she said flatly.

“No,” Connor didn’t back down. “You’re mad that I actually have a say in what I’m being forced to do.”

“Do you even want a second chance?” She demanded.

Yes. Connor wasn’t wavering on the thought anymore. Even if it hurt, he wanted to make things right and try a little bit harder to live.

He wanted to apologize to Zoe. He wanted her to braid his hair and tell him jokes because they didn’t know how to say they loved each other. He wanted to talk to her about Alana, to see the smile she got when she thought of the girl. He wanted to hug his mother. He wanted to make it okay again. And, for once, he wanted to talk to his father again. He wanted to tell him that they were both wrong, and that he understood that now. He was going to try as long as he was met halfway, and he’d do everything he could to stop himself from hurting them.

He wanted to be warm and real when he held Evan’s hand.

But he wasn’t going to say any of this. Not-Alana didn’t get to hear it and neither did the white room. They didn’t understand. He didn’t want to be here right now. Everything he was feeling was too raw and it hurt to stay in this space.

Connor closed his eyes. He tried to focus his emotions the way he had when he saved Evan and talked to his father. In the background he heard Not-Alana shouting something, but that didn’t matter. He was going to fade from this room and finish saving Evan. Then he was going to fix everything.

He tried to feel how much he needed to go back, but as he did he watched his emotions separate from him. They pushed their way out of his chest, and surrounded him with every thought he had just stopped himself from voicing. He didn’t fade through the darkness and back into the living world. Instead his mind was flooded with images.

He saw himself dead. He saw his mother crying, his father just standing there like he didn’t believe any of this was really happening. He saw Zoe turn away. She didn’t know how to feel. She couldn’t grieve for him, because what had Connor fucking left her with? She should hate him. Even in his death she should hate him. That stung more than the Connor who had swallowed those pills would have thought it would.

Then his parents were talking to Evan. That didn’t make sense. They didn’t know Connor knew him—the Connor who had just died didn’t know him. Slowly he could hear their voices ringing around him. They drowned out whatever Not-Alana was shouting.

He watched his parents think that Evan’s note that Connor had kept in his pocket had been written by Connor. He watched Evan stammer and look absolutely terrified but not deny it. He watched Evan Hansen lie to Connor’s family.

Evan was at his house, he was sitting in his bed, he was talking to his sister. And Zoe didn’t look like she didn’t know how to feel anymore. She looked like she understood and she was smiling and Evan was smiling back at her.

He watched Evan keep lying, and he watched the uncomfortable boy he’d seen through years of his life slowly slip away. He watched Evan actually look happy, look like he belonged. Evan kissed Zoe and Connor was right about them being good for each other. Connor’s mother gave Evan the tie that Connor had never worn, and maybe Evan was a better son to her than Connor could have been.

Connor’s father let Evan keep the baseball glove that Connor had never wanted. The last attempt his father had made to reach him that Connor had dismissed. Connor had seen it as his father reaching for a boy who wasn’t there anymore, his father must have seen it as him not wanting to be found.

Evan took the glove. Evan listened to all the things that everyone in Connor’s family said. Everything Connor knew he would have dismissed. Evan didn’t even fucking belong there, but he fixed everything Connor had broken.

Suddenly the images were gone.

“Never do that again,” Not-Alana was seething.

“Is that the future I’ve been trying to avoid?” Connor heard how numb his own voice was.

“Part of it,” she allowed.

Connor felt disgusted. What the fuck was the point to any of this? Why make him want to live again if everything was clearly so much better without him? What was the point in hope if he’d made the right choice to begin with?

This time the emotions didn’t tangle in front of his eyes. Connor succeeded in willing himself away while he heard Not-Alana screaming at him to stop in the background.


Evan wasn’t in his room with Connor opened his eyes. He didn’t know why he’d made himself come here. He wanted to push everything he’d seen from his mind but he couldn’t. He wanted to go back to thinking that after he was done helping Evan he’d just go back to giving up, but he couldn’t. Even after everything he’d seen, he still wanted to live.

He was selfish. He’d fucked up everyone else’s lives and still wanted to take away whatever they could have had without him. He just couldn’t stop taking. That was all he ever did. Why had he let himself believe he could help anyone?

On Evan’s desk was the sketch book he constantly drew in when Connor read to him. Not once had Connor tried to look at Evan’s drawings. He’d always thought that if Evan wanted to see he’d just show him. Connor wanted to respect Evan’s space.

But right now he wasn’t going to delude himself with thoughts like that. He was a selfish asshole who didn’t stop to worry about what is actions would do to the people he loved. If he thought that Evan was different than everyone else he’d hurt, he was just lying to himself. He was good at that, but he had to stop now. He had to stop pretending that he was a good person.

Connor picked up the book. What he saw inside made everything he was feeling wash away in a violent but clearing wave of even more conflict.

Connor was staring at a drawing of himself. This wasn’t alive him, it was the him Evan saw every time he needed him. He was laughing. He looked happy. Connor had never seen that happiness in the mirror, but it looked too real to just be Evan conjuring the image. This was how he looked in Evan’s eyes. He was bright and gentle and smiling.

The next page was a younger Connor. This had to be back in freshman year. His hair was shorter, and most of it was covered by a beanie. His eyes were down. They weren’t happy, but they weren’t filled with the rage that Connor thought everyone saw in him. They were sad. They were asking for something that Connor didn’t understand.

Connor flipped through page after page. Everything was him. He watched joy fade to sadness and sadness fade to fear. He knew the fear didn’t belong to him.

He didn’t know how to feel. Part of him was filling with a bliss that he couldn’t explain, another part of him was terrified. Evan had taken a delicate care in each drawing. The pencil strokes were soft and precise.

Connor never thought Evan looked at him like this. Even through the listening, through the fear that something would happen to younger him, Connor had still believed that Evan viewed him as something stable. Connor had always thought that Evan saw him as someone who would always be there, while to Connor Evan was everything. Evan was the reason Connor wanted to live and the hope that he could be better.

In these drawings, it was as if Evan felt the same. It was as if Evan was in love with him to. But that didn’t make any sense. Evan loved Zoe. Connor had seen Evan’s future of loving Zoe. Evan had to know Connor wasn’t good enough for him.

Connor jumped when the door opened, but the boy standing there looked even more startled than Connor felt.

“You were outside a second ago,” Evan stammered.

He was wearing the same clothes that he’d been when Connor left him. No time had passed. Right now another Connor was running to his father’s office. So this was what happened when Connor had a bit of a say how he came back.

Evan’s surprised sharply turned into a poorly concealed fear when his eyes flickered to the book in Connor’s hand. Connor braced himself for Evan to be angry, to say that Connor had no right to look at it. That didn’t happen.

“I’m sorry,” Evan stammered.

Connor quickly put the book down. He took a step toward Evan, but Evan flinched backward.

“It’s creepy,” Evan looked mortified. “I know. I didn’t think you’d ever see it—Oh God, that sounds so much worse—”

“This is how you see me,” Connor’s voice was softer than it should have been.

Confusion passed through Evan. He nodded.

“Why?” Connor knew he shouldn’t ask, but he needed to understand how anyone could look at him like that. He needed to extinguish the hope before it consumed him.

“I don’t know what you’re asking,” Evan sputtered. “I’m sorry, I’ll get rid of it. I should have asked if it was okay.”

In that moment, Connor didn’t give a shit about the future he’d seen or abiding by some stupid rules that had already fucked him over. He wasn’t going to think about consequences, because where the fuck had that ever gotten him anyway?

Connor closed the distance between him and Evan. He pushed their lips together slowly. He didn’t want the first and only kiss he’d get with this boy to be harsh. He wanted everything he knew he could never have in a sweet and blissful lie.

Evan let out an audible gasp. Connor’s hand cupped his cheek, the pad of his thumb caressing Evan’s face. Evan was soft. Connor felt like he was melting into him. He didn’t let the kiss get deeper than him running his tongue along Evan’s lips. Evan shivered, and Connor pulled back.

He felt himself slip into a haze, and watched Evan do the same. But he didn’t feel numb. He felt warm, and safe, and almost alive.

Then Evan was crying, and Connor’s blood froze.

He hated himself. Why the fuck had he thought that would be a good idea? He stumbled backwards. He was about to apologize, to tell Evan all of that was a mistake, that he wasn’t thinking, that it would never happen again. He was sorry, he was so fucking sorry.

All of his words were cut off by Evan grabbing hold of his shoulders. There were still tears in his eyes, but Evan didn’t look hurt, he looked afraid.

“Please don’t leave,” Evan choked.

Connor felt his heart break in his chest.

“I won’t,” he promised. He would fight to stay, and he knew that he could win. Nothing was going to pull him away from this boy.

Evan pulled him into an embrace. Connor closed his eyes. He let Evan’s arms be the only thing that mattered.

They didn’t talk anymore. Eventually, they fell onto Evan’s bed. Connor pulled Evan to his chest, but didn’t try to kiss him again. It was enough just to hold Evan and know they needed each other. He fell asleep with Evan’s breath ghosting across his face, and Evan’s heartbeat gently drumming in his ears.

Chapter Text

Connor’s face was pressed against cement. It took a moment for his mind to drift back into consciousness and realize how wrong this situation was. When he shot awake, he wasn’t surprised that the first thing his eyes found was Not-Alana.

“You have no idea how weak you actually are.” She didn’t even look angry this time. Instead she seemed resigned to a quiet disapproval. But that wasn’t important.

“What day is it?” Connor demanded.

“You get one more chance,” she informed him.

“What fucking day is it?” Connor was on his feet now. “No, it’s been more than a few days hasn’t it?”

“I can’t answer—”

“I promised I wouldn’t leave him!” Connor didn’t care that he was screaming. Who the fuck was gonna hear two ghosts? “You made me—Do you know how much that’s going to hurt him?”

“I didn’t make you do anything,” her voice was softer now. It was almost as if she was scared of him. “I have no control, Connor. You’re messing with time. It’s just trying to right itself.”

“How long has it been?” Connor pressed.

“I’m only here to facilitate,” she continued.

“I need to know how long it’s been,” Connor was very close to lashing out. He was very close to hitting her and not caring if it hurt or not. She seemed to sense this.

“July 28th.” Then she was gone.

Connor could feel himself shaking. He’d been gone for months. He’d promised Evan he wouldn’t leave him and he had disappeared for months. He had to find him. He had to apologize, he had to explain, he had to—

He had a problem.

Connor usually didn’t remember dates, but there was a reason this one stuck. Today was the last appointment he’d blown off. It was the last time his father payed for him to continue to push away the half assed efforts Connor knew was never going to work.

Today was Connor’s last meltdown. It was the day he decided that life didn’t get better, and actually stop to ask himself why the fuck he had to put up with it. Connor wouldn’t die today, but he’d make his mind up, he’d realize that maybe it was the only option he had left.

Today he was going to yell at his family and mean it. He was going to break whatever hope his mother had left, whatever tolerance his father could afford, and the already spent love Zoe wasn’t going to cling to. Connor would see that. He’d realize that he really had nothing left.

If Connor could stop himself, if he could change today, maybe he’d survive. Maybe his family wouldn’t not know how to feel about his death, and replace him when he was gone.

Connor could live, but that wasn’t why he was here. Somewhere, Evan needed him. Connor could already feel himself being pulled to wherever that was. Evan was waiting for him to justify a broken promise and everything Connor had let himself do the last time they saw each other.

It wasn’t right to leave him, but Evan had been waiting for months. A few hours wouldn’t make a difference. He’d understand. He wanted Connor to be okay. He’d convinced Connor he cared, and Connor trusted him.

It would only be a few hours.


When Connor made it to his house, him and his mother were already screaming at each other. Connor felt each word the both of them said cut into him. Their anger was polluting his veins, but that was okay. Right now he didn’t need to breath. What happened to the image that he was at the moment didn’t matter, as long as he could save the boy he used to be.

Because he was sick. He was broken and maybe he was right that life wasn’t worth living. But as long as there was a chance he could get better, as long as there was a chance someone like Evan Hansen would hold his hand and believe the best in him, he was going to save himself.

Only he couldn’t.

Connor tried to move. He tried to let them see him. He tried to shout at himself to just fucking stop. But it didn’t work.

He held the emotions he had both times he’d been seen, he called back the feeling he’d used to escape the white room, but it didn’t fucking work.

It felt like there was a barrier separating him and the Connor in front of him. He couldn’t touch that boy. Something was physically keeping him away. Not-Alana’s words echoed in his mind. He wasn’t supposed to have control. Time was angry at him, it was trying to right itself.

He’d come all this way. He’d realized so much, but he couldn’t fucking change anything.

Connor ran. His feet carried him to Zoe’s room. She was still in there, but she was going to come down the stairs soon. She was going to walk into the room and Connor was going to explode at her.

He tried to grab her arm, but his hand stayed frozen in the air. He needed her to stay here. He couldn’t prevent what was going on in the kitchen, but couldn’t he at least keep her out of it? He knew she hated him. He knew that, even without today, she wasn’t going to grieve the loss of him. That didn’t matter. He just didn’t want her to get hurt anymore. Younger him couldn’t see it through the fog that polluted this moment, but she was still his baby sister and he was poisoning her.

“Zoe—”

She walked out of the room. Connor stayed paralyzed, his feet rooted to the middle of her floor. He couldn’t run away—he couldn’t fucking move. He was stuck listening to his own broken voice and the pained voices of his family.

What hurt the most was that Connor knew exactly where younger him was coming from. He could still feel the meaning of every word he hurled at them, and part of him didn’t think he was wrong. Sure, he’d failed as a son and brother, but he shouldn’t have to take the blame alone.

His father had thought that being hard on him, that treating his son like he didn’t give a shit about him had been the right thing to do. His mother had tried to get him help, but every time he couldn’t be happy she’d acted like he deliberately chose pain. Zoe hadn’t shown the slightest hint that she noticed he was hurt at all. They’d all taken a step back and watched him slowly break and thinking of it made him hate them.

He still believed all of this, but now he knew that they hadn’t been sitting back watching him spiral out of control. They’d all tried in different ways, and it might not have been enough, but it was so much more than nothing.

Connor knew why he said everything he was saying right now, but that didn’t mean he had to voiced any of it. With trembling hands he coved his ears, closed his eyes, and waiting for Not-Alana, time, or the darkness to pull him away.


When Connor released his desperate attempt to block out his senses, he was met with an overwhelmingly peaceful setting. Instead of opening his eyes to the chaos that was his house, he found himself in the middle of a park. It wasn’t the park he’d gone to through his life and had taken Evan to when they’d needed to escape. None of Connor’s surroundings were familiar.

Slowly, he started moving. His own voice was still ringing in his ears, but he didn’t want to think about that. He wanted to block out everything he’d reheard and how much it still stung. Right now he’d focus on finding Evan. He’d force away everything tormenting him until the only thing he could register was Evan Hansen, because that was what he’d been doing since he walked away from his house after middle school Connor’s meltdown.

Evan would calm him. Seeing Evan would somehow make everything alright again. Connor still didn’t understand how. He’d blame it on love.

He wasn’t sure when he started using that word to describe the emotions knotted in his chest when he thought about Evan. It felt right, and for once he wasn’t going to hide from something good. When he saw Evan he’d explain everything. He’d apologize for kissing him but confess that he’d never really be able to regret it. He loved Evan, but for once he didn’t need anything back.

If he said he didn’t care that Evan was in love with his sister, he’d be lying. The images of them together hurt, but Connor would never let himself be angry at either of them anymore. If Evan loved Zoe, Connor would deal with it. He wouldn’t stop loving Evan, but he wouldn’t expect Evan’s mind to change.

Because it turned out change was impossible.

The park was empty. Connor was starting to wonder if there was some mistake. Evan wasn’t here, no one was.

In the distance, he could see a large gate. That was probably the exit, or in the least was an end to the maze of trees. He started in that direction, but his eyes caught sight of something on the ground under a large oak tree that made him freeze in his tracks. Connor bent down to pick up what looked like a worker ID. It had Evan’s picture and name displayed across it.

That at least explained why Connor was here in the first place. This must be where Evan’s summer job was. He had probably dropped this on his way out and—

And Connor was a fucking idiot.

Evan had a broken arm on the first day of school. Connor had sighed his cast. He’d asked him how he broke it and Evan had told him he fell out of a tree.

Evan fell out of a fucking tree. Evan was hurt, and probably alone, and Connor had to get to him.

As panic rushed through him, the small corner of Connor’s mind that was actually working realized that Evan had to be in the hospital now. His arm was broken, and he was probably getting his cast at that very moment.

He started running. He didn’t realize he was capable of moving this fast. He’d never had to until now.

If Connor could get himself out of the park, he could get to the hospital. He remembered the way from the car ride with Evan’s mother. That felt so long ago right now.

Only now did Connor realize how useless breathing was for someone who was already dead. As he ran, he didn’t feel his lungs sting. His legs didn’t force him to stop for fatigue. By the time he reached the hospital, his body didn’t feel tired at all. His blood felt like carbonated water, fear refusing to let it be still.

When he reached the entrance, his mind had no idea where to go, but his feet didn’t stop moving. This was like when Connor had wandered Evan’s middle school. It was alright if he was uncertain where he needed to be, some part of him knew and that was all that mattered.

He stopped outside of an empty waiting room. He could see through the glass window on the door. Evan was alone. The white cast was already wrapped around his arm. He was probably waiting for his mother to come pick him up.

The door creaked when Connor opened it. Evan’s eyes flickered to him and then found the ground. Connor could feel his heart sink, but he should have expected this reaction. He’d broken his promise, and Evan had the right to be upset.

At least he was alright. At least it was only a broken arm. Connor didn’t want to think about how worse it could have been. He’d seen how tall that tree was.

Connor walked into the room, and sat down in the seat next to Evan. He’d wait for his friend to break the silence. Evan got to decide where they stood. Connor owed him that much.

“Where were you?” Evan’s voice was hoarse.

He sounded physically and emotionally drained. Connor wanted to touch him. Connor wanted to wrap his arms around him and guide him to a place they felt safe.

“I’m sorry,” Connor needed to start with that. “I was wrong. I thought I could finally control it, but the second I let my guard down they pulled me away.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Evan sounded hallow. “You told me that you’re supposed to show up when I need you.”

“Evan,” Connor felt his throat go dry.

“I needed you,” Evan wasn’t looking at him.

“I’m sorry,” Connor said again. “There was something I had to do. I should have been there. But you’re okay now, right? You got to the hospital, and it’s only your arm. It’ll get better.”

“I kept thinking that you were gonna stop me,” Evan spoke like he couldn’t hear what Connor was saying. “I kept waiting for you to just appear on the ground and tell me to get down. I think I would have even listened to you. And when it didn’t work, I thought you were gonna find me. I thought you were gonna come get me. I waited for you. Connor, you’re the only one who cares what happens to me! Why weren’t you there?”

“What do you mean stop you?” Connor could feel the air being sucked from the room.

Evan didn’t answer.

“Evan,” Connor didn’t want to be right. He didn’t want any of this to be true. “How did you break your arm?”

Evan closed his eyes. Connor felt something inside him shatter.

“Do you want to die?” Connor demanded. He could vaguely hear rage swelling in his voice, but he couldn’t stop himself. He couldn’t breath. “Do you know what it feels like to be dead?”

“I don’t want to live like this,” Evan snapped.

There was a fire in his gaze. For the first time in so long, Connor realized that this boy was as broken as he was. He’d actually let himself believe otherwise, because he’d wanted to. He wanted to see Evan as okay, so he’d taken everything as face value. He was just as bad as his own family. No, he was worse, because he knew exactly how Evan felt and he hadn’t fucking recognized it.

“You were happy a few months ago,” Connor murmured. He remembered sitting in the park. he remembered Evan comforting him, asking him about what he was like as a kid. They were happy. They’d held each other and believed they’d be okay. Had that all been a lie?

“That doesn’t make up for it,” Evan’s tone didn’t soften. “Happy moments don’t make the bad ones hurt less.”

“You have so much to live for,” Connor needed Evan to understand this. He needed Evan to understand that life just might be worth the monsters. Because if Evan didn’t believe it, then Connor didn’t have anything to fight for.

“Do you want to know why I flinched when I woke you up in the park?” Evan’s voice hadn’t lost its steam, but there was something different in it now.

“You’re scaring me,” Connor told him.

“I tired to talk to you,” Evan let out a small mirthless laugh. “The alive you.”

Connor felt himself freeze.

“The real you doesn’t want anything to do with me,” Evan softened now. He was trying to close into himself and block Connor out of his walls.

Connor didn’t remember Evan talking to him. He’d thought that the first time they’d actually acknowledged each other was the first day of senior year. This didn’t make sense. Connor needed to tell Evan this, but his voice wouldn’t work. He needed to talk Evan down, he needed to get through to him, but the first time in so long he didn’t know how. He couldn’t reach him.

“Did you choose to be my guardian angel?” Evan was accusing him. “Or are you just being forced to as some sort of penance for whatever you did wrong when you were alive?”

Connor couldn’t answer.

“Yeah,” Evan whispered. It turned out saying nothing was enough. “You wouldn’t have chosen this.”

“That’s not—”

“When I was a kid you didn’t care about me,” Evan’s voice shook. “I know you don’t right now either.”

“You’re putting words in my mouth,” Connor couldn’t take it anymore.

“What are you getting out of this?” Evan asked.

Connor didn’t know how to explain everything he had tried not to tell Evan but had let slip anyway.

“You,” Evan’s eyes traced his cast. “Once you said that I was saving you.”

“You are,” Connor meant this in so many ways that he only now realized he wasn’t going to get the chance to voice.

“Because if you save me you get to live again?” Evan’s gaze met Connor now. His eyes didn’t match the unfeeling voice he was making. His eyes were in pain.

“That’s not why,” Connor choked on his words.

“You know,” Evan looked like he was going to start crying. “I actually thought that you liked me. I thought that you meant I could save you, but that’s not it, is it?”

“Why won’t you fucking listen to me?” Connor stood up now.

“Because you’re only pretending to care about me because you’re going to get some reward!” Evan sputtered.

Connor felt like Evan had punched him. No, he felt like Evan had pointed a gun to his head, but Evan was never going to be the one to pull the trigger. Connor always did that for himself.

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Connor took a step back. He hadn’t stopped Evan from hurting himself. He couldn’t protect Evan, because like always he made the wrong choice and ruined the one nice thing he had left. “I failed.”

With the realization came the pull back to the darkness. Connor wouldn’t fight it. This was how everything was supposed to end.

“Goodbye,” Connor murmured.

He watched the anger in Evan’s face dissolve. He understood. It would hurt. Connor’s last action was going to hurt everyone, but he’d seen their future. They’d all be alright. No, they’d be better without him. His family would make Evan happy and Evan wouldn’t take them for granted.

Connor turned away. He wouldn’t disappear in the middle of a hospital waiting room. He’d let it take him when he was out of Evan’s sight line. He owed Evan that much.

“Stop!”

He could hear Evan stumbling after him. He could hear Evan screaming that he was sorry, that he’d listen, that he just wanted Connor to come back.

Connor felt the tear run down his face before the darkness surrounded him.

Chapter Text

Not-Alana was crying. Connor blandly noticed the this was the first time he’d seen her display any emotion aside from irritation towards him. He wouldn’t question that. He didn’t have the energy to.

“Do I die now?” he asked her.

He already knew the answer. He could feel the end coming. For the first time, he felt afraid. He didn’t know what death meant, and the thought of losing who he was didn’t feel liberating anymore. He didn’t want to die.

“The future isn’t any different,” Not-Alana stated. Connor figured that was the best answer he was going to get.

“Okay,” he nodded.

She didn’t move. She didn’t make the darkness get him. Connor realized that she didn’t want to. That was why she was crying, and why she got so upset every time he broke her rules. Failing wasn’t just ending his life, he was making someone else end it.

He didn’t feel guilty, he didn’t have guilt left in him. But he knew that it wasn’t fair to her. She wasn’t Alana Beck. He honestly didn’t know who she was, but she was capable of feelings and another number to Connor’s collateral damage.

He tried to will the darkness to him. He could at least make this his doing again. But it seemed at the end Connor couldn’t learn from his mistakes. He wasn’t able to jump into the darkness, instead he found himself being drowned out by images of the future.

For a moment, that was alright. It was insurance that he really hadn’t made the wrong choice. But then the flickers of Zoe smiling, of Evan laughing, and his parents actually hugging each other were gone.

He saw Evan and Zoe kissing, but something was wrong. He saw Evan auguring with Heidi. Connor watched his parents talking to Heidi, he watched Evan not be able to explain. The lies were reaching around Evan and dragging him down. They were swallowing him and he didn’t know how to get out.

So he scrambled. Connor watched him scramble and tried to shout through the noise. Evan couldn’t hear him. Evan was alone and broken and believed he didn’t have anyone on his side. And maybe he was just as good at making mistakes as Connor was.

For a moment, Evan was trying to get out, but then he stopped. Then he was struggling to keep everything he hadn’t really obtained on his own. Then Alana, the real Alana, was putting the note Connor took from Evan online. Then everything was falling apart.

In flashes Connor watched people who had no idea who he was turn on his family. He watched the world pin everything that they’d done wrong and everything that wasn’t their fault on them. The insults melted and fused into them. Even as they fought the hateful words, Connor watched his family believe them.

His mother thought that he’d died feeling failed by her. Zoe thought that he thought she hadn’t given a damn about him. His father thought Connor believed he cared more about his money and his job than getting his son help.

And none of it was true. Connor screamed that it wasn’t. He yelled that he loved them, that nothing was their fault until his throat hurt. He watched his words be drowned out by the misplaced anger of strangers.

And then there was Evan. Evan who had let well meaning slip away from him just like Connor had to him. He wanted to tell Evan that he was sorry. That he wished everything was different. He’d had the chance to fix everything, but he’d blown it. That wasn’t anyone’s fault but Connor’s.

Suddenly everything was fading. He could hear Alana—no it wasn’t the real her. Not-Alana was trying to talk to him. She was trying to bring him back the white room. She was demanding that he did right now before—

He was in his family’s bathroom. There were pills in his hands and he couldn’t control his own body. He tried to throw the white tablets on the ground, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want them, he didn’t want this. Oh God, he really didn’t want this.

He wanted to make things better. He wanted to tell his family that he loved them and promise Evan Hansen that there was something somewhere in this fucked up world worth living for.

Connor wanted to live. He didn’t want to find out what was behind the darkness. He didn’t want to let go.

His hand forced the pills into his mouth. He felt them slide down his throat. They were stuck in his chest, melting into his veins.

He sunk to the ground. In the inside he was screaming for help, but his mouth wouldn’t fucking open. His vision was blurring. Connor didn’t know if it was because of the medicine taking hold of him or the tears in his eyes. He wasn’t panicking anymore. That scared him. He wanted the adrenaline to take hold.

His chest hurt. He was trying to breath, but he felt so heavy. Vaguely, he realized that he needed to breath. He was alive. For this one brief moment, he was alive again and he couldn’t fucking move.

Then Not-Alana was there. Only she wasn’t. He couldn’t see her. Everything was just a white blur. For a moment, he could feel her presence, but then she was gone. He was alone again. Because that was how this ended. It ended with him thinking he was alone and everyone who loved him realized that was how he’d always felt.

This was how Evan felt. No one came to get either of them. Because that was what happened to lost kids who didn’t know how to fix their broken parts.

The darkness was coming. It was going to take him away and he was never going to see Evan or Zoe or his parents again. He wasn’t ready. He never had been.

He wanted to run away, but all he could do was feel his body shake. He was shaking. That hadn’t happened the first time. The first time he just fell asleep.

Connor willed himself to focus through the foggy haze around him. Slowly, he lifted his arm, the arm that had held the pills, the arm that had killed him.

But he wasn’t dead yet. The darkness was coming, it was so fucking close, but he could move.

Connor tried to push himself up. He needed to throw up. He needed to get the medication out of his system, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t strong enough.

In a slow motion, he grasped his hand around the cellphone he’d left in his jacket pocket. His fingers hovered over his keypad. He needed help. He needed to call someone who could help him, but his mind couldn’t remember numbers. If he could just think for half a second he could do this, but it took every bit of him to not fall asleep forever.

A yellow paper floated to the top of his memory. He’d seen that faded paper and the numbers scrawled across it nearly everyday since he’d been pulled from dying the first time. He remembered the numbers, his fingers found them.

“Hello?” Heidi Hansen asked after the third ring. Connor’s throat was closing in on itself. “Hello?”

“Help,” he forced out.

For a second, she didn’t any anything. Connor felt terror run through him. She was going to hang up. He was going to be left alone for the darkness to take him.

“Connor?” Heidi’s voice was full of disbelief, but she recognized him. After nearly three years she remembered his voice. Connor couldn’t say anything else. He prayed that she’d somehow figure out what to do. But how could she? He’d never told her who he was.

“Who are you talking to?” Evan’s voice was in the background of the call. “Mom, give me the phone!”

He had to be shouting if Connor could hear him.

“Connor?” Evan sounded frantic.

“I’m sorry,” Connor coughed. At least he could say that. At least Evan could know he never meant for any of it to go like this.

“Where are you?” Evan demanded. “You’re at your house right?”

“I—” Connor choked.

Then everything was black.

Chapter Text

Connor opened his eyes.

He was in a hospital room. His throat hurt, and his back was sore, but his hands were warm. He was alive.

Not-Alana was sitting at the side of his bed. There was a tight smile pressed to her lips. He opened his mouth to ask her what was going on, but the words wouldn’t come out. She seemed to understand.

“You might not deserve a second chance,” she stated fairly. “But if you don’t neither do I, or anyone really.”

For the first time, Connor believed her. She really hadn’t had any power over him. She was just like him. She was doing a job that she had on control of to reach a goal that she was owed but had lost.

“What now?” Connor asked in a soft, hoarse voice.

“I don’t know,” the smile didn’t leave. “Maybe I’ll get what I want, maybe I won’t.”

Just like him.

“Did you save me?” he asked.

Because she remembered feeling her before he’d been able to move. If she had helped him, it had to be against the rules she’s so dutifully forced him to follow. She’d broken her own code for him, and the meant something.

“I may have helped a little bit,” she confessed. “But I wasn’t the one who called the ambulance.”

Connor couldn’t ask her who she was or what she’d done to end up like this. It didn’t matter. She’d move forward and so would he, and they’d both figure out how to be alive.

“Would he really have died without me?” Connor remembered the first conversation he’d had with Not-Alana. She’s promised him that if he refused to help Evan, he’d be essentially killing him.

“It’s complicated,” she told him.

“Did he even need me?” Connor questioned. Or was it always supposed to be the other way around? Was he sent into the life of Evan Hansen because only Evan could make Connor change his own mind about living.

“That doesn’t matter,” she said in a firm, but kind voice. “You’re both alive. That’s what’s important.”

Connor wouldn’t argue.

“Good luck, Connor,” she stood up. “You get another shot, don’t waste it.”

Then he was alone. Connor felt tired, but he wasn’t going to let himself fall asleep again. He’d had enough of darkness. He needed a second to breathe and clear his mind. Everything was a jumble, and he’d been right that it hurt less when he was just a ghost.

A nurse checked on him not long after that. She asked Connor a handful of questions Connor assumed were routine, and informed him that he’d been out for about a day. She didn’t warn him that his family was literally right outside.

Connor wasn’t sure he would have never been ready to face them after what they believed he’d just tried to do. He could tell that his mother had been crying, but his father’s face was stone. Zoe lingered behind the both of them. She wouldn’t meet his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he was able to get out.

He looked at his mother, but he meant the words to all of them. She started crying. His father held her hand. Zoe looked out of place. Connor softly admitted that he knew he needed help but promised all of them that it wouldn’t happen again, but he knew they didn’t believe him.

They had no reason to, and he couldn’t explain to him that he’d changed. He couldn’t expect his mother not to look hurt, or his father to conceal whatever was going through his mind. Zoe wasn’t going to forget what he’d done to her.

For them nothing was different. It was going to take time to heal everything, but he’d fight to do it.

A few minutes after his family had to leave to talk to one of the doctors, there was a timid knock on the door. Connor didn’t expect to see Evan Hansen walk into the room. He couldn’t speak. There were so many things he wanted to say to this boy, but he couldn’t find what he needed to voice first.

“Um, could I sit down?” Evan’s gaze stayed trained on the floor.

“Yeah,” Connor couldn’t make his voice louder than a murmur, but Evan heard him.

“I’m sorry,” Evan stammered, looking up at Connor now. “I know I don’t belong here, but your parents found my note—you, um, you had it in your pocket—and the doctors told them that I was the one who called the ambulance, and they thought that I should talk to you. So, um yeah.”

“Okay,” Connor didn’t know what to say.

“I, um,” Evan’s hand picked at his cast. Connor’s eyes traced his own signature that was boldly scrawled across it. “I can’t explain calling the ambulance. Everything happened really fast, and it feels like some insane fluke, but you’re okay, and that’s important. I’m sorry, I really shouldn’t be here.”

Evan didn’t realize that Connor knew him. Connor didn’t know why he’d thought he would. For all Evan knew, he was talking to the boy who’d screamed at him and called him a freak. But he’d still saved him. Connor tried to tell Evan that it was okay—that he wanted him to be here, that he was honored that Evan was talking to him after everything he’d done—but the words didn’t come out.

“But I didn’t know how to explain to them how you got my note, so they thought that I gave it to you for a reason,” Evan was talking a mile a minute. “That we’re, um, friends or I wasn’t telling them something, but I can just leave now. I’m sorry!”

“Wait,” Connor stopped Evan from darting out the room before what he’d just said set in. “They wanted you to talk to you because they think you gave me your note?”

“Yeah,” Evan nodded sheepishly.

“They didn’t think I wrote it?” Connor didn’t understand. This wasn’t the future he’d seen.

“Why would they think that?” Evan’s face contorted in confusion.

“Do you have it?” Connor questioned.

Evan nodded.

“Could I see it?” he asked.

Evan pulled the folded piece of paper out of his pocket and put it in Connor’s hands. Connor quickly unfolded it and scanned the lines he could remember reading. His eyes stopped halfway through.

Because there’s Connor, and all my hope is pinned on Connor, who doesn’t think I know him, and who doesn’t know me.

Everything was the same except for that one line. Connor didn’t remember reading that line. He remembered reading Zoe’s name and getting upset because he thought that Evan met to upset him by talking about his sister.

His head hurt.

He changed something. He hadn’t altered his past, he’d barely prevented his own death, but he’d changed Evan Hansen.

“What,” Connor’s throat was dry. “What does this mean?”

“I’m sorry,” Evan snatched the letter from his hands. “I didn’t write it to freak you out, or make fun of you. I tried to tell you that, but I couldn’t catch up to you, and you looked mad. I’m really sorry! I should go—”

“Ev, calm down,” Connor grabbed hold of his hand.

Evan’s eyes widened. Connor watched him let go of a shaky breath.

“You’re alive,” Evan whispered.

“I’m so sorry,” Connor could say this a thousand times and it wouldn’t be enough. “I should have been there that day. I was so fucking stupid, Ev.”

“It’s okay,” Evan whispered.

“It’s not,” Connor told him firmly. “I thought I could change things I’d already done, but I should have been with you. I should have been saving you. I fucked up, but I’m gonna make it right. Somehow, I’m gonna fix everything, okay?”

The next thing he knew Evan was hugging him.

“I don’t want you to fix anything,” Evan murmured into Connor’s hair. “I just want you.”

Connor wrapped his arms around Evan and closed his eyes.

“I shouldn’t have shouted at you,” Evan voiced. “I didn’t mean most of it, but I couldn’t stop the words from coming out.”

“I know that feeling,” Connor hummed.

“I wasn’t fair,” Evan argued.

“And I’ve been fair to you?” Connor asked back.

“I’m just happy you’re here,” Evan whispered.

Connor knew that by “here” Evan meant “alive,” but they wouldn’t talk about how close either of them had come. Maybe someday it wouldn’t hurt to think about, but now that it did they didn’t have to focus on it.

“I love you.” Evan froze the second the words left his lips. Connor pulled out of the hug to look at his face, to search his eyes for truth, before realizing he didn’t have to. He trusted Evan too much to do that. “I’m sorry, I—”

“I love you too,” Connor told him.

When Evan kissed him it was soft. There weren’t the fireworks he thought he should expect, but Connor liked that. The kiss felt like a promise. It was gentle, and sweet, and everything that Evan was to him.

Evan didn’t draw back when their lips parted. Connor wanted to pull Evan onto the hospital bed with him. He wanted to hold him and not let go for whatever time they both had left.

“What about Zoe?” Connor asked instead.

“I never liked Zoe,” Evan laughed. “I mean, she’s really pretty, and nice, and I’d love to be friends with her. But I just told you I like her because, I, um, I didn’t know how to tell you the truth.”

“I don’t,” Connor shook his head. “How long?”

“Freshman year,” Evan said softly.

“Why?” Connor murmured.

“What do you mean?” Evan gave him an odd look.

“What about me would make you…” Connor trailed off.

“You really don’t get it,” a small smile formed on Evan’s lips.

“I don’t,” Connor stated.

“It wasn’t something about you,” Evan told him. “It’s just you.”

“Ev, you’ve seen everything that’s wrong with me,” Connor murmured.

“And you’ve pulled me out of school when I couldn’t breath, and told me I needed help when I had to hear it, and distracted me,” Evan’s smile didn’t fade.

“You said you thought I was just pretending to care,” Connor didn’t want those words to come out.

“I didn’t mean that,” Evan whispered. “You weren’t, were you?”

“I don’t,” Connor said firmly.

“But, it’s not just that you helped me,” Evan said quickly. “It’s, um…”

“Yeah?” Connor prompted.

“You understand me,” Evan said softly. “And for so much of my life I thought no one could.”

Connor kissed him again. Connor cupped Evan’s cheek in his palm, he brought his other arm around Evan’s waist. Evan leaned into him, deepening the kiss. Connor felt Evan’s hand run down his shoulder and stop at the middle of his chest. He was feeling for his heartbeat, he was proving to himself that Connor really was alive.

“I’m here,” Connor broke the kiss to whisper.

“I know,” Evan’s lips brushed across his cheek.

Connor closed his eyes. This was what having a second chance meant, and he wasn’t going to waste it.

Chapter Text

Connor didn’t completely hate the mental hospital. After being in a stable enough condition physically, his parents proposed the idea to him. They’d thought that it would be better for him to stay there for a while, and he didn’t fight them on it. He’d admitted that he needed help, and that him wanting to live didn’t make everything that had driven him to death go away. This was the first step, and Connor was ready to take it.

There was more free time than he expected. His mother told him not to worry about school, but Zoe brought him the homework he was missing and he did his best to complete what he could. If he was going to get back on his feet, that meant starting to worry about the future.

Mostly he reflected on everything. He knew there were a lot of things he needed to rethink and for the first time he was done running from what he felt.

His family visited him everyday but in different intervals. Connor was grateful for that. He didn’t think he could handle them all at once, and it was easier for everyone to figure out what they needed to say to each other on their own.

There was a lot Connor wanted to say that he knew he couldn’t yet. He knew that he needed to ease them into a lot of the things that were going through his head. That was alright. He’d take it slow if he had to.

Zoe never wanted to talk about the past. Neither did he (right now at least) so they spent most of their visits talking about the future, and school, and Alana Beck. They talked about Alana a lot. It didn’t feel normal yet, but they were getting there.

“I ran into Evan Hansen at school today,” Zoe said casually.

“Oh?” Connor tried to keep his tone just as level.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “He asked how you were doing.”

“Right,” Connor couldn’t keep the smile from his face.

“How long are you gonna keep it a secret?” Zoe deadpanned.

“I was going to tell you first,” Connor assured her. “Are we that obvious?”

“Him more than you,” Zoe shrugged. “I’m happy for you.”

“I’m happy for me too,” Connor stated.

“I’m also annoyed,” Zoe informed him.

“I was going to tell you,” Connor raised his hands in mock exasperation.

“Come on,” Zoe rolled her eyes. “I talk to you about Alana all the time.”

“There’s a lot less to talk about,” Connor said flatly.

When it was time to tell people, he didn’t know how to explain his relationship with Evan. He couldn’t tell anyone about dying and what happened after that, but there wasn’t a way to explain falling for Evan so hard and so quickly.

“Still,” Zoe nudged him.

“I can’t explain it,” Connor sighed.

“You don’t have to,” she looked more serious now. “You don’t have to justify anything.”

“Thanks,” he smiled at her.

“But you have to tell me about him,” she pressed.

“Okay,” Connor nodded. “He’s nice.”

“I know that,” Zoe laughed. “Everyone who’s ever met him knows that.”

“Fine,” Connor leaned back in his chair. “He understands me.”

Connor’s words echoed what Evan had told him in the hospital room, the way he knew his feelings had echoed Evan. They both now knew that Evan fell first, but that didn’t mean that Connor loved him any less. He felt like they were a unit, even with Connor stuck in the hospital and Evan stuck at school.

“He does know that you’re not—” Zoe didn’t finish.

“Gonna miraculously get better?” Connor offered.

“Yeah,” she said sheepishly.

“He does,” Connor nodded. “And we both know it’s not gonna be perfect all the time.”

“No relationship is perfect,” Zoe told him.

“Yeah,” Connor nodded.

“Alana and I fight sometimes,” she stated as if that proved it.

“Right,” Connor smirked.

“I’m gonna talk to Evan tomorrow,” she warned.

“Don’t scare him,” Connor groaned.

“I won’t,” she exclaimed. “I just wanna tell him I support you guys.”

“Thanks,” Connor said more seriously now.

“Well, you helped me with Alana,” she shrugged.

“I mean it,” he needed her to understand.

“I know.”


Connor was only allowed family visitors, but somehow Heidi Hansen was the exception. Connor was fairly certain that his mother had told the hospital that Heidi was his doctor, which he guessed wasn’t a complete lie. Heidi and his mother had been talking a lot. It was weird, and Connor wasn’t entirely sure how Heidi had justified knowing Connor, but he thought that the talking was helping the both of them. They were both mothers who didn’t know how to reach their mentally ill sons. Connor imagined it must be nice to finally know someone who understood what that felt like.

Every visit she brought Connor a letter from Evan, and Connor gave her one to give to him. They talked on the phone too, but Evan still didn’t like the phone even if it was Connor on the other end, and right now it felt easier to think through everything they needed to say to each other. Plus, it was nice for him to have something tangible to hold onto while he had to wait to see Evan again.

“Are you still writing?” Heidi asked after handing Connor the crisply folded paper.

“Yeah,” Connor tucked Evan’s letter into his pocket. “I’m actually almost done.”

Only Heidi and Evan knew that the journal Connor started keeping once he arrived at the hospital wasn’t a fictional expression of everything he was feeling. Connor wrote down everything he could remember since he woke up in the white room. It was his way of stopping the memories from driving him insane, and process what everything he’d seen made him feel.

Heidi encouraged it. She and Evan both thought that maybe one day he could make something of it. Connor wasn’t so sure about that, but he was realizing that he liked to write. It relaxed him, and helped him channel the emotions that usually drove him up the wall.

“You can read it when it’s ready,” he told her.

“I’d love to,” she said warmly.

“Only you and Evan, though,” he added. He wasn’t sure how long it would take for him to be able to show it to people who didn’t know it was real.

“How are you feeling?” she asked in a more careful tone.

“Today’s been okay,” he answered honestly.

“Your mother says you’re smiling more,” she let him know.

“I guess I am,” Connor hadn’t thought much about this.

She must have thought he’d forgotten how to smile all together. Maybe he had, and it had taken knowing Evan to reteach him. Smiling was good. If he could smile and laugh then it meant everyone around him were reminded that he could feel things other than pain.

“Hey,” he could hear light in his own voice. “Why did the duck cross the road?”


Connor stayed in the hospital until around the holiday break with the plan to go back to school the next semester. He’d need to pass all of his classes if he wanted to graduate on time, but Alana had very energetically offered to tutor him on any subjects he was struggling in.

Moving back into the house felt weird. Connor didn’t comment that his door and most weapon-like objects were gone when he got there. He’d tried to explain to his parents that he wasn’t going to hurt himself, but his father had warned him before bringing him home that regardless they were going to take precautions for his own safety. Zoe made a joke that his room was now “Connor proof” and that he had to stop blasting his music now. He decided that he would anyway.

“It’s brighter in here,” Zoe commented, when Connor was done making the changes he needed to the room.

He just shrugged. There were some things that he’d needed to get rid of. His mother had said something about items holding bad energy, but to Connor it wasn’t that complicated. He just didn’t want to hold onto anything that reminded him of the person he used to be.

Zoe sat in his room during most of his the cleaning process. She helped him lift things if he needed her to, but mostly just offered comments and bickered with him over what music they should be playing. They were both a little startled when their parents walked in carrying a box wrapped in bright paper.

“It’s not Christmas yet,” Connor commented.

“We thought it’d be better for you to have it now,” his father told him.

They put the box on his bed, and Connor opened it to discover a computer. He’d had one for school, but it was old and constantly getting confiscated as punishment. He hadn’t asked for a new one, because he’d never seen the point.

“We noticed you were writing a lot,” his mother explained. “This might make it a bit faster.”

“Thank you.” Connor meant both for the gift and just for noticing what he was devoting his time to.

A few hours later he had began typing out the story that no one would know wasn’t fiction. He really needed to work on his handwriting, if it was getting hard for himself to decipher what he’d written a few months prior he had no idea how Evan had read his countless letters.

“Connor!” he heard Zoe shout from downstairs. It turned out that the worst part about not having a door was that he knew she wouldn’t buy that he couldn’t hear her whenever she yelled for him to do something.

“What?” He shouted back.

“Answer the door!”

“I’m busy,” he informed her. “You do it.”

“Just answer the fucking door!” she didn’t sound annoyed.

That usually meant she was up to something. Connor got up, only because he was curious, and made his way to the front door. When he opened it to see Evan holding mistletoe he realized he really shouldn’t have been surprised.

“You are the cheesiest person I have ever met,” Connor informed him.

“Does that mean I don’t get a kiss?” Evan grinned.

Connor rolled his eyes before pulling Evan to him. He wrapped his arms around Evan’s neck in the middle of the doorway, not caring at all that Zoe or his parents could walk into the room at any moment. He’d spent months daydreaming about kissing Evan again.

“I was gonna call you,” Connor let him know.

“I figured,” Evan told him. “But I thought you’d like a surprise.”

“I do,” Connor took his hand. “Come on.”

Connor led Evan to his room. For a moment he felt very normal. This was what people who didn’t have his problems did. They laughed with their sister, didn’t scream at their parents, and kissed the boy they liked without being afraid. Connor didn’t have anything less than that. He was just saddled with a little bit more. It meant pain, but it also meant that the moments like this felt even more amazing.

When they reached the room Evan pulled a book out of his bag.

“We never finished it,” he reminded Connor.

“We didn’t,” Connor had spent more than a few occasions wondering about the ending.

“Do you want to? Evan held the book out to him.

“Yeah,” Connor took it, pressing their lips together again as he did so.

He wasn’t sure he’d ever get used to this and he didn’t want to. Every time he kissed Evan it felt new again. It was exhilarating and comforting at the same time.

“I know we don’t talk about this,” Connor started. “But I’m sorry for what I said that day I read your letter.”

“You don’t have to apologize for something you don’t remember,” Evan told him. “Plus, I was kinda stalking you.”

“You weren’t stalking me,” Connor said firmly. “You were worried, and I just didn’t know I knew you.”

“I was never upset about that, okay?” Evan smiled at him.

“I know,” Connor kissed him again.

Connor sat on the bed with the book in his hands, while Evan laid his head on his lap. He started where they’d left off, both of them had mentally saved the details of the story they shared together in the untouchable corners of their memories.

Connor didn’t know how long this moment would last. He didn’t know what would and wouldn’t hurt tomorrow. He didn’t know how long either of them had left. But he wasn’t supposed to have those answers, and that was okay.

Connor Murphy was alive. That was the one thing he knew for a fact.