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“I’m gonna die today.”

 

He doesn’t know why he even says it, but Connor looks over at him, tilting his head to the side. Evan doesn’t meet his eyes. He can’t. “Is that so?”

 

“Yep,” Evan says, closing his eyes when the cool breeze sends some of the smoke from Connor’s joint into his face.

 

“Oh,” Connor says after a moment.

 

Evan takes a deep breath, slouching down a bit against the tree behind him. He’s sure he’s going to have mud stains on the butt of his pants, and for a second he’s worried his mom’s going to yell at him, but then he remembers it’s his last day on this earth and he can’t find it in himself to care.

 

“Me too,” Connor says casually a few moments later, and when Evan glances over at him he takes a deep pull of his joint, avoiding Evan’s eyes. Or maybe he just doesn’t care enough to meet them.

 

He wonders how they both ended up here. And he wonders if Connor’s telling the truth, but he doesn’t see the point in Connor lying to him.

 

“Gotta be honest, Hansen, I never pictured you as the suicidal type,” Connor says, gaze lazily sliding to Evan. “No offense,” He tacks on.

 

“None taken,” Evan sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Call me Evan. Or don’t, whatever. I just— fuck. I’m surprised you even know my name. Nobody ever notices me anyway. It’s not like anybody’s going to miss me, which… it sucks.” He deflates, fighting back tears and cursing himself because the tears were supposed to be gone by now, and Connor just keeps staring at him, calculating, as Evan looks away and aggressively wipes at his cheeks.

 

“If it makes you feel better, at least I know your name.” Connor pauses. “Only because you have a creepy crush on my sister, but still.”

 

“Yeah, that doesn’t make me feel better at all.”

 

Connor shrugs. “Sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry.

 

Evan should leave. He’s not supposed to be here anyway, he’s supposed to be throwing himself off a roof or the tallest branch or a fucking skyscraper or something. But he stays put. He can’t get his legs to take him anywhere but here.

 

“I don’t have a crush on your sister,” Evan says after a second, just because he can. “Just saying. She’s— she’s great and all, but… that was a long time ago.”

 

Connor laughs once. “Dude, I don’t give a shit. And she’s not great. She fucking sucks. I don’t know how you ever had a crush on her. You must have bad taste.”

 

“She can’t be that bad—“

 

“Have you ever seen her speak to me at school?” Connor’s head snaps to face Evan, his eyes cold and angry. “Ever?”

 

Evan hasn’t. He was surprised when he found out they had the same last name, and even more surprised when he found out they were siblings. “No.”

 

“That’s because she doesn’t want people to know we’re related. Which, like, I get it, y’know— I’m the fucking gay school shooter wannabe. I’m kind of the family embarrassment, so.” Connor snaps his mouth shut, clenching his jaw. “Whatever, it doesn’t matter.” He crosses his arms, resting them on his knees.

 

“That’s... really shitty,” Evan replies quietly, because it is and he doesn’t know what else to say.

 

He feels Connor look at him. He meets Connor’s eyes and Connor’s immediately dart away. He rests his chin on his arms. “I guess.”

 

They lapse into silence, Evan picking at his cast and Connor taking a drag every so often. Evan considers leaving, but. Connor’s not leaving. And it’s kind of nice to be in the presence of someone else before it’s all gone, even if he refuses to admit it.

 

The wind gusts hard in their direction, and Evan curls in on himself. He’d forgotten how fucking cold it gets at night in the fall, but he hadn’t planned on being conscious for longer than fifteen minutes after leaving his car. Connor glances at him.

 

“You’re cold,” Connor states matter-of-factly.

 

Evan nods. He’s sure Connor’s about to ask him to leave, or at least politely suggest that he go find somewhere else to kill himself so he doesn’t have to witness it, but.

 

“Take my jacket,” Connor mumbles, putting the joint out in the dirt and starting to slide his jacket off his arms.  

 

“No, no, that’s okay, I’m good, don’t— you don’t have to—“

 

Connor rolls his eyes. “Christ. I’m a fucking heater, Hansen, don’t worry. I’ll live.”

 

They both pause, Connor’s words echoing in their heads, and then Evan hears Connor snort. And then Evan looks over and sees that Connor has a hand slapped over his mouth and his shoulders are shaking, and he’s hit with the sudden realization that he’s never ever seen Connor Murphy laugh.

 

Evan doesn’t want to laugh, because the accidental joke is so fucking morbid, but Connor’s hiding his face in his arms and then Connor snorts again and Evan’s cheeks betray him, and he turns away from Connor to press a palm to his mouth.

 

Evan takes a sharp breath in and then Connor’s collapsing into giggles, his shoulder bumping Evan’s and god, Connor really is a heater. Evan can practically feel Connor’s body heat radiating off of him as he inches closer, giggling, and Evan has a fleeting thought: he’s never going to hear that laugh again. This is the first time he’s hearing it, but he doubts many others have heard it lately, and. It feels… special, hearing Connor Murphy actually, really laugh. But both he and Connor won’t ever laugh again after tonight. That’s weird to think about.

 

That thought kind of kills the mood, no pun intended.

 

Connor’s laughter dies down and he shoves his sweatshirt in Evan’s direction, immediately withdrawing his arms and folding them across his chest when Evan takes it from him.

 

It’s soft. It’s really worn down and thin, but in the best possible way because Evan knows Connor’s been wearing this for years and that it’s well loved. He feels like he’s intruding on something as he pulls it over his shoulders, because it smells like weed and febreeze and Connor and that’s weird. He’s wearing Connor’s sweatshirt and they’ve only really known each other for thirty minutes at best.

 

He pulls it a little tighter around him.

 

Connor laughs that sarcastic laugh that Evan’s only ever heard when Connor’s talking back to teachers or responding to the people who pick on him. Only this time, it’s softer. Friendlier. Evan looks over at him. “How long do you think it’ll take them to notice we’re gone?” Connor asks, bracing himself against the wind.

 

“I dunno. My mom’s barely home, and I miss enough school to go at least a week without any suspicion.” Evan tries to ignore the sadness that suddenly weighs on his chest.

 

Connor hums. “Yeah. The family is probably going to think I ran away or something, because sometimes I just fuck off for a couple of days and no one asks any questions, and the school’s probably going to assume the same. I doubt they’ll even go looking for me,” Connor says, shrugging.

 

“Ever? They’d notice eventually.” Evan feels weird talking about Connor’s death in a non-hypothetical sense. It doesn’t feel right.

 

“They won’t,” Connor says simply. “I’ll just be that kid who threw a printer once in second grade that everyone forgot.” He glances at the ground. “Then they’ll find my body and it’ll be too late for anyone to care. At least you’ll get a Facebook page or something.”

 

Evan scoffs. “Yeah, a Facebook page full of people pretending like they ever gave a shit about me or knew who I was in the first place. I’d rather be forgotten.”

 

“That’s a fair point.” Connor pauses. “So what’s the plan?”

 

“The plan?” Evan asks.

 

“You know. The plan ,” Connor repeats, drawing a line across his neck with his finger.

 

“Oh,” Evan’s face heats up. “I was just gonna— I dunno, like, jump.” The word hangs in the air.

 

“That’s dumb.”

 

“What?”

 

“That’s not efficient at all. You’re way more likely to survive that than if you slit your wrists or down an entire bottle of sleeping pills.” Connor says it like they’re talking about the weather or the latest football scores.

 

“I know,” Evan says, “I… I know.” He doesn’t know what else to say, because, well.

 

When he looks over, Connor’s looking at his cast.

 

“Oh,” Connor says quietly.

 

Evan plows forward, avoiding his eyes. “It just seems less… intense. It’s less pressure. Like, what if I don’t take enough pills? Or what if I get scared and call 911? Or what if I don’t cut deep enough and then chicken out? At least with a fall, I don’t have time to rethink anything. It’s just... done.” When the words come out of his mouth he realizes just how fucked up they really are. Connor doesn’t seem phased.

 

“Yeah, I get that.”

 

“What’s, um— what’s your preferred method?”

 

Connor smiles bitterly. “Pills,” He says easily. “All I gotta do is just lay down and die. Easy.”

 

Evan nods. It’s that easy. For a second, he feels warmth in his chest because Connor smiles at him again, this time warmer than the last.

 

Evan’s never really had a bucket list.

 

He’d always wanted to visit some other state, or actually see the world in its full capacity, but he just always knew he’d chicken out of it one way or another. He didn’t see a point in making a bucket list because he didn’t picture himself living past eighteen anyway. And sure, he wants to lose his virginity before he dies, but that’s just a dream and he knows it. There’s really nothing else he can think of, so he’s never really had a bucket list.

 

Except maybe to have made one friend.

 

“For what it’s worth,” Connor says casually, “I don’t think you should die tonight.”

 

“Huh?” Evan asks suddenly.

 

“You heard me.”

 

“I— why?”

 

Connor sighs like it’s obvious. “You’re, like, a saint. You put up with Jared Kleinman for fuck’s sake. And I saw you pick up Alana’s books after she got shoved by that dickhead in the hallway yesterday. You’re… a good person. I dunno.” Connor tucks a strand of hair behind his ear, staring into the forest. “You got a second chance when you fell the first time, and I think you should take it.”

 

Evan just sits there for a second, staring at him.

 

The tips of Connor’s ears have gone red, and he curls in on himself a little more. Connor’s… he’s kind of cute. Evan feels a weird clenching in his chest. He just. Evan just doesn’t understand. Connor’s never even talked to him aside from that time he pushed him, and those words were not kind, so Evan just. Doesn’t get it.

 

“What?”

 

“Just— just take the compliment, Evan,” Connor says harshly, going redder.

 

“You are… you’re trying to talk me out of suicide,” Evan says slowly, “While you prepare for your own suicide? Isn’t that kind of fucked up?”

 

For a second, Evan had forgotten that Connor could be, like, really fucking scary, because right now he seems like a decent person. But when Connor turns to him with fire in his eyes, Evan remembers. It hits him like a train. He gulps.

 

“Didn’t I tell you to just take the fucking compliment?” Connor asks, baring his teeth like he’s trying not to completely lose it.

 

“Yeah,” Evan says shakily, “But… it’s… you don’t deserve to die either.”

 

Connor laughs, and it’s loud and scary. “Please tell me what I contribute to this world. Enlighten me, Evan Hansen. I can’t fucking wait for you to come up empty.”

 

Evan thinks for a second, because he really doesn’t know Connor that well, but he remembers one thing.

 

“You write.”

 

Connor’s head snaps to the side, eyes burning into Evan’s face, and Connor goes bright red. “What?”

 

“You— you, um. In fifth grade, we had this— this assignment in English where, um, we had to write creative stories and then the teacher read them to the whole class. Yours was, uh— yours was about a magical tree that transported people to another dimension when they were feeling lonely,” Evan laughed a little at the memory, “And I just remember sitting in class and considering asking for a copy because it— first of all, it blew everyone else’s writing out of the water, seriously, and second, it was… just so relatable? Like, the only person that talked to me— talks to me, I guess— is Jared, and back then he had more friends so he wouldn’t really talk to me in school and I’d sit on the bench during recess because I didn’t have anyone to play with and—“ Evan stops himself, fully aware he’s rambling, and Connor’s giving him this open and honest and broken look that Evan can’t even begin to describe. As he looks at Connor, the memories come flooding back.

 

“And in eighth grade you put a poem in the yearbook and I just remember circling it because it… I think you wrote it, I don’t really remember, but… I really liked it. And you signed my yearbook that year, and you were the only one because everyone was passing yearbooks around in math class and no one… no one asked to sign it.” Evan takes a deep breath. “So you came over to me and kind of ripped the book out of my hand and signed the top corner and didn’t really say anything else and just dropped it back on my desk and walked away and I have to admit I was a little scared but— it just—“ His fingers brush against the block letters on his cast. “You’ve always made me feel less alone, so. I think that matters.”

 

Connor doesn’t respond for at least five minutes.

 

For some reason Evan waits, watches Connor as he sits there with his head in his arms and his shoulders rise and fall with his breath. Eventually, Connor lifts his head slightly.

 

“Mrs. Morrison asked to talk to me in the hallway after class about that story,” Connor says quietly.

 

“She did?”

 

“Yeah. She, um… she asked me if I was having problems at home, which. Duh. The psychology is practically screaming at you with that one,” Connor says, and laughs a little. “I kind of can’t believe you remember that.”

 

“It… it meant a lot to prepubescent me,” Evan responds, and immediately feels dumb as hell. He blinks a couple of times, processing what he said. Oh no.

 

But then Connor smiles a crooked smile at him, finally letting himself sit up. His smile widens and he narrows his eyes. “Did it?”

 

Evan feels himself go red. “Not— not like that—“

 

“It’s okay, Hansen. I can’t say I didn’t kind of have a thing for you in middle school.”

 

Evan stops breathing. He’s sure his face resembles a tomato. “You did?”

 

Connor laughs fondly. “Yeah, dude. Probably would’ve gone for it if I hadn’t been so socially awkward and angry.” He pauses. “Angrier, at least.”

 

“Oh. Wow. Okay.”

 

“That’s weird of me to say, isn’t it?“

 

“No no, it’s fine, um— it’s cool—“

 

“Don’t act like it’s not at least a little weird, man—“

 

“I mean—“ Evan cuts himself off and Connor grins at him. Evan catches himself thinking that in another world where eighth grade Evan didn’t have crippling social anxiety and eighth grade Connor Murphy didn’t have extreme anger issues that made Evan want to cower in a corner around him, he probably would’ve been… dating Connor Murphy. It’s a weird thought. Because Connor was one of the smartest kids in Evan’s classes, and Evan was always jealous of Connor and his smarts and his looks and Evan always wondered why he had no friends. Until Connor opened his mouth and anger and insults tumbled out.

 

“Oh well. I’ll never have to deal with the repercussions of telling you that, so it doesn’t matter, right?”

 

Evan feels his heart sink.

 

As much as his mind and body are aching for it, just a little echo in the back of his mind, right now the echo is a little quieter. He doesn’t want to die right now. He doesn’t.

 

“I won’t if you won’t,” Evan says.

 

Connor raises an eyebrow at him. “Won’t…?”

 

“Kill myself,” Evan says, voice cracking on the last syllable.

 

Connor hums.

 

They sit there for what feels like hours.

 

“You should get home,” Connor says eventually, startling Evan out of his thoughts.

 

Evan doesn’t budge. “So should you.”

 

Connor measures him up. He scans Evan’s face, and as red as Evan knows it is, he doesn’t back down from the eye contact. He needs to let Connor know he’s serious.

 

“Do you need a ride?” Connor asks, tone careful and calculated.

 

“Nope.”

 

“Okay,” Connor says, looking away.

 

“Will I see you at school tomorrow?”

 

Connor sighs in frustration. “Why do you even care?”

 

“I…“ Evan’s not sure, actually. “I don’t… I don’t know. But I do. Why do you care about me ?”

 

“Who says I do?”

 

Okay, that one stung a bit. Evan decides to risk it. “ You did. When you told me I shouldn’t kill myself, like, fifteen minutes ago.”

 

Connor just sighs, looking away. He doesn’t deny it, which Evan counts as a win, and slowly Evan rises to his feet and dusts off his pants.

 

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Connor.”

 

There’s no response, so Evan just sighs and walks to his car. He feels eyes on him as he walks away, and when he gets home, he flops down in bed. This whole night has been so fucking weird. First, he and Connor just happened to bump into each other at the park, which was weird enough, and then they shared basically their life stories with each other despite having known each other for, like, an hour. And Connor gave Evan his sweatshirt to wear and told him he had a crush on him in eighth grade—

 

Connor’s sweatshirt. Fuck.

 

Evan reluctantly takes it off and folds it up neatly, placing it in his backpack. He’ll give it to Connor tomorrow. Because Connor better be at school, and if the only reason Evan has to live right now is that Connor might make it through the night, so be it.

 

Connor doesn’t deserve to die, no matter what he’s done in the past. Evan is going to make sure he knows that.













Chapter Text

Waking up the next morning is not what Evan had planned on his weekly agenda.

 

He also hadn’t planned on kind of befriending the guy who would win Most Likely to Shoot Up a School in the yearbook if that were a category, but here he is, walking through the crowded halls and seeing absolutely no sign of Connor Murphy. He’s distracted, so he keeps bumping into people, and that’s only causing the anxiety of not seeing Connor literally anywhere to skyrocket, because then he feels bad about pushing people but he’s too anxious to say anything so people probably just think he’s someone who pushes people now. Great.

 

Evan thought for sure that Connor would be at school the next day, waiting for him against his locker or smoking outside the door or some other early 2000s teen movie cliche. But as he scans the faces of the people passing by, the voice in his head only gets louder.

 

He’s not here.

 

He’s dead.

 

You weren’t good enough.

 

You actually thought you could save him?

 

Pathetic.

 

“Hansen,” He hears from behind him, and he about jumps out of his skin when a hand claps him on the shoulder. He spins around and comes face to face with literally the last person he wanted to see this morning.

 

“God, Jared— give me a warning next time.”

 

“God? That’s a high compliment.” Jared smiles at him obnoxiously, waiting for him to laugh, but Evan’s heard that one too many fucking times and he’s really really not in the mood, so he just stares at him. “Jesus, what’s your problem today? And why are you all jumpy?”

 

“I’m not —“

 

“Jumpier than usual, which is saying something, because you’re literally always on edge, I feel like I manage to scare you at least once a day, but first thing in the morning? You must be on drugs or something because—“

 

Jared ,” Evan hisses at him, glancing around them where people have begun to stare. “Do you have to be so— so loud all the time?”

 

Jared raises his eyebrows. “Okay, seriously man, who shit in your cereal today?”

 

Evan sighs in frustration, scrubbing his hands over his face. “It’s— I told you, I’m fine.”

 

“Whatever you say, dude,” Jared replies, leaning against the lockers and crossing his arms. Evan just sighs again, struggling to get his shaking hands to work well enough so he can unlock his locker and Jared just standing there and staring at him really doesn’t help. When he finally does, he unzips his backpack and his breath gets caught in his throat when he sees Connor’s sweatshirt folded up nice and neat on top of his books.

 

He coughs, trying to force some air out of him, and he nonchalantly picks up the sweatshirt and places it gently in his locker. A second later he gets a strong whiff of weed and febreeze— and by the scrunched up look on Jared’s face, he does too.

 

“Woah, is that why you’re so freaked out? You been having fun without me?”

 

“It’s— it’s medical, you know, for my, uh— my anxiety and all that.” Evan feels a bead of sweat run down his back.

 

“Since when? Is weed even legal here?” Evan’s eyes dart around for a distraction, anything , but people have begun to scatter from the hallways.

 

“Um— they, uh, I think they just passed—“

 

Jared holds up a hand. “Y’know, I don’t care. More importantly, why didn’t you invite me? You know I’ve always wanted to try—“

 

The bell goes off, and Evan breathes a silent sigh of relief.

 

“Anyway, tell me more about this later. I got a muy caliente date with Señorita Sanchez,” Jared says, shooting Evan finger guns before spinning on his heels and heading down the hall.

 

Evan doesn’t even have the energy to correct Jared when he gets Señora’s name wrong, because he already knows the reply: Señorita sounds hotter, Evan, duh. Evan rolls his eyes as he watches Jared walk away.

 

There are only a few people left in the hallway now, none of which have long brown hair and combat boots on. Evan’s stomach twists with guilt, and as he gathers his books, he feels like he might pass out.

 

Connor isn’t dead. He’s just late today. Everything’s fine. It’ll be fine. Connor skips all the time. He’s fine.

 

Evan takes a steadying breath before racing down the hallway to beat the late bell.






Connor’s not in English either.

 

Next period is lunch, and if he’s not here by then Evan isn’t going to know what to think. It’s not like he has Connor’s number and he can just text him like, ‘ hey man, u alive ?’ He can’t even utter two words to Zoe because she’s intimidating as hell and it would be weird to ask how her brother’s doing considering the fact that he and Connor have never even talked or hung out before. She’d just laugh at him and tell the whole school that he’s an idiot and then they’d all point at him in the hallways and—

 

God, get it together, Hansen. He can’t be dead. He’s just not at school. Maybe he’ll be at lunch. The words of Dr. Sherman echo in his head: Don’t worry before you have to.

 



He’s not at lunch.

 

And okay, at this point Evan’s fucking worrying.

 

He shouldn’t even care, really, because he doesn’t even know this kid, but. Fuck. He could .

 

The final bell rings and it’s decided, Connor’s not there. He’s not coming. He’s probably dead somewhere, and tomorrow morning the announcements will say they have an important assembly later on in the day where they will announce to the school that a fellow classmate is dead, and then Evan will throw up because he does that when he’s nervous and then he’ll go down in history as the kid who puked during an assembly.

 

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but in the moment it seems plausible.

 

Evan reaches his locker and there it is, Connor’s hoodie. Sitting on top of all of his other books like it belongs there, but simultaneously looking so out of place. He looks around to make sure Jared’s not going to pop out of thin air and jumpscare him, and when the coast is clear, he takes the sweatshirt carefully out of his locker and holds it in his hands.

 

If Connor’s really dead… his family will probably want this back. And it would be really, really selfish of Evan to keep it, but…

 

He shoves it into his backpack.

 

“Hansen.”

 

Once again, Evan is startled out of his thoughts, but this time the voice is much softer and much closer. He whirls around, hands slamming against the lockers behind him, and then he’s staring into ice blue eyes. To his surprise, Connor has a bit of brown around the iris of his left eye. Evan had never noticed that before. He takes a step back and immediately relaxes.

 

“Jesus Christ, you scared the shit out of me.”

 

Connor shrugs. “Sorry.” A second later, he says, “I thought you were Jewish.”

 

Evan’s mind goes blank. “I am. What?”

 

“You said— nevermind. Hi, by the way,” Connor says awkwardly.

 

“Hi,” Evan says after a moment. Then it hits him.

 

Connor’s not dead. Connor’s right here. And he could be hallucinating, but he’s pretty sure he’s not and that Connor is living and breathing and staring at him right now.

 

“You’re not dead,” He says on an exhale like it’s the most normal thing on the fucking planet. He’s never gonna get used to that, the way they can just talk about death like it’s nothing.

 

“Neither are you,” Connor counters, shoving his hands in his pockets and shifting his weight from foot to foot. He’s having some kind of staring contest with the floor.

 

Evan clears his throat. He has a sudden urge to pull Connor into a bone-crushing hug, but that’s really fucking weird and they don’t even know each other, so he pushes that thought way way way down. “Well… I’m glad.”

 

“Yep.”

 

More silence. It’s deafening in Evan’s head.

 

“I have your—“

 

“Do you have my—“

 

They both stop, looking away and laughing. Evan reaches down into his bag, and as he zips it back up he sees that his hands are shaking.

 

“Thanks,” Connor mutters as Evan hands over his hoodie.

 

“Oh, uh— no problem,” Evan nods. He expects Connor to turn around and walk away, because the hallways are starting to empty and people are slowly trickling out of the school, but. He’s not moving.

 

“Anything fun happen in English?” Connor asks, gently kicking at the floor and actively still avoiding eye contact.

 

“Oh, uh— not really,” Evan says, because honestly, he can’t remember. He absolutely was not paying attention. “It was pretty boring. Same stuff as yesterday.”

 

“Oh. Good.”

 

Evan wants to ask him so many questions. Where were you? Why did you let me worry? Are you okay? Where the fuck were you?

 

“So, um— what changed your mind?” Evan hears himself ask. Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

 

Connor’s eyes flash with something unrecognizable. He looks away, and Evan swears he’s just going to start walking down the hall, but then Connor looks down and his cheeks turn the slightest bit of pink.

 

“Wanted my sweatshirt back,” Connor mumbles, shrugging.

 

Yeah, okay, that’s not what Evan had been expecting.

 

But nonetheless, Connor’s here and he’s breathing and he’s still talking to Evan which. Is something, at least.

 

“Oh.”

 

“Thanks again,” Connor says quietly. It takes a second, but Connor makes fleeting eye contact and then he’s walking down the hall, and Evan just watches him go. He wants to tell Connor to wait up, to walk him to his car or ask for his social media or something so that they’re not done, because he really doesn’t want them to be done. Because no one’s ever even attempted to do what Connor did. Connor talked him down. And it worked .

 

And sure, that little echo is still there, but another nagging voice in his head is telling him that hey, at least someone cares.

 

It’s something. It’s got to be.

 

When Evan gets home and settles on his bed he tries to focus on homework, he really does. He sits there for a solid thirty minutes with his chemistry homework in front of him, twirling his pencil around in his fingers, but.

 

Somehow he finds himself on his phone, and somehow Connor Murphy’s name ends up in his search bar on Instagram.

 

And when Evan sees the username con.murphy420, he knows he’s found the right person.

 

The pictures are all in black and white, and there are only a couple of them, but Evan taps on every one. The newest one, a high-contrast photo of his hand holding a cigarette, is only a couple of days old. The caption is simple, just some song lyrics that Evan doesn’t recognize. He makes a mental note to look them up later. The next photo is of a (presumably) grey cat, and the corner of Evan’s mouth quirks up at the caption, which reads, ‘ Found this girl outside begging for food. Keeping her. ’ It’s from a couple of months ago. Evan wonders if he actually kept the cat.

 

The oldest one kind of breaks Evan’s heart. It’s from three years ago, and it’s Connor holding a polaroid of himself and Zoe when they were kids. It doesn’t have a caption, but it doesn’t need one, really. They have their arms slung around each other, and Zoe’s wearing overalls and has a bandaid on her knee and a missing tooth, and Connor has much shorter hair and he’s got his tongue poking out, wearing a plain shirt and jeans. It’s really fucking cute.

 

They’re so different now. Zoe doesn’t want anything to do with Connor, and by the way he talked about her, he has no hope of them ever fixing what went wrong. Evan wonders what went wrong. He also wonders why Connor has such a huge time jump from this photo to his newest.

 

Evan goes to zoom in, because Connor just looks so damn different, and— fuck.

 

Shit.

 

Fuck.

 

He accidentally liked the photo.

 

From three years ago.

 

He liked Connor’s Instagram photo from three fucking years ago.

 

Which tells Connor that he was stalking him, that he was being a goddamn creep and zooming into Connor’s photos and now there’s literally no hope of Connor ever speaking to him again because that’s fucking weird and creepy.

 

So he does what any sane person with crippling anxiety does. He freaks the hell out.

 

He’s glad his mom isn’t home, because if she heard the amount of pacing coming from his room she’d be worried for sure. Evan tries to calm himself down but he’s fucking hyperventilating and he’s never been able to do that breathing thing that Dr. Sherman recommended, because he’s too focused on the fact that he feels like he’s going to pass the hell out.

 

He hears a ping from his phone and freezes in place.

 

Evan immediately grabs his phone, attempting deep breaths and failing miserably. He especially fails at deep breathing when he sees the notification pop up on his screen.

 

con.murphy420 : Sup stalker.

 

Yeah, okay, he needs to take a breath.

 

Another notification pops up.

 

con.murphy420 : (I’m joking. That was a joke.)

 

He exhales the breath he's been holding, grinning down at the tiny screen.

Chapter Text

“This is weird, isn’t it? Like, we haven’t really— we haven’t really even talked that much and I just, like, asked you to eat lunch with me out of nowhere and I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable or anything but I justthoughtmaybewecould—“

 

“Not weird,” Connor interrupts him sharply, mouth full of pizza. He doesn’t follow up with anything, just turns back to the lunch tray on his lap.

 

Evan just nods. “Okay.”

 

And yeah, he said okay, but he’s, like, the furthest from okay. Well, that’s not true. But he’s pretty damn freaked out, and Connor’s just sitting there next to him and he’s not talking. What if Connor doesn’t want to be there? What if he just agreed to eat lunch with him to pity him? What if—

 

“Hansen?”

 

“Huh? Yes?”

 

Connor gives him a strange look. “Are you…um, are you gonna eat anything?”

 

Evan looks down at the tray on his lap. He hasn’t touched it. “Oh. Uh. I dunno, I’m not really that hungry.”

 

Connor blinks at him. “You should eat.”

 

“Yeah, I mean, you’re not wrong, I just. I dunno.”

 

Connor just raises his eyebrows and looks at him for a second, then reaches for his apple and shrugs. “Suit yourself, I guess.”

 

Evan picks at the grass, desperate to change the subject. “So, um… why do you, uh— why do you eat out here?”

 

He laughs, but it’s bitter. “You should see what it’s like if I eat in there. That cafeteria is like a fucking zoo.”

 

“People pick on you,” Evan says softly.

 

“Yeah, no shit.” Connor says back. “I don’t think I’ve eaten in there in, like… almost three years?”

 

Evan nods. “Yeah. I’ve seen you in the lunch line, but I’ve always kind of wondered where you went after that.”

 

Connor looks over at him. “Huh.” He kind of sizes Evan up, blue eyes boring into his. Evan swallows. “Didn’t think… hm.” He looks away and Evan feels like he can finally breathe. “Anyway, what do you normally do for lunch? You eat with Kleinman or something?”

 

Evan laughs once. “Oh, yeah, no. No, we don’t eat together, he kind of, um… he eats with other people?”

 

“What? Why?” Connor asks, looking over again, and his eyes are cold. He looks kind of upset. It makes Evan’s chest feel warm.

 

“Oh, um, he has… other friends that he. Eats with.”

 

Connor just blinks, and Evan wonders what he’s thinking for a second. He also wonders why it takes Connor so long to form sentences. He thinks it’s probably because Connor doesn’t talk to people in a kind manner very often.

 

“So you don’t sit with them?”

 

Evan looks down. For some reason he can’t look Connor in the eyes anymore. He picks up his fork and pushes his green beans around. “Nope.” And Connor’s about to say something else, so Evan quickly adds, “I mean, it doesn’t really bother me that much— like, I hang out with Jared after school and stuff, so like, it doesn’t really matter if we eat lunch together—“

 

“So you eat alone?”

 

Evan stops. “Yeah.”

 

“That sucks.”

 

“Yeah, I mean, like I said it doesn’t really bother me that much so—“

 

“You don’t have to lie to me, Hansen. I know it sucks.”

 

Evan sighs. “Okay, yeah it does. But, like— if I say it’s fine, even though it’s not, then it makes it less… painful, right?”

 

Connor looks at him like he’s crazy. “Your logic is super fucking flawed, but whatever.” He laughs a bit and Evan’s taken back to that night in the park.

 

“Just— just let me be in denial, okay?” Evan laughs, and Connor looks back at him with the slightest smirk. They make eye contact for a second, and then Evan looks down, smiling to himself.

 

Connor’s about to say something, but the bell rings very loudly above the two of them and Evan about jumps out of his goddamn skin. Connor heaves a giant sigh, lifting himself up and— to Evan’s surprise— waiting for Evan to do the same. They walk inside and take their trays up, and they get a couple of glances, but nothing too serious.

 

“So, uh— see you later, I guess,” Connor says, waving awkwardly before walking down the hall, and it strikes him right then and there that neither of them are really experts at this friend thing they have going on. If it’s even a friend thing.  

 

“Oh, yeah, see you!” Evan yells after him, way too late as Connor’s already turned a corner. Stupid. And he doesn’t see Connor for the rest of the day, not even in passing. For all Evan knows, Connor could have just walked out after lunch. It wouldn’t be unlike him.

 

Which is kind of worrying, to be honest. Because Evan’s suddenly feeling responsible for Connor’s existence for some reason, even though he shouldn’t because Connor’s his own person and does what he wants, but like what if Connor has decided from their one actual real conversation that Evan’s not worth his time? Or what if he goes straight from the school and straight to that park?

 

But to be fair, he did say he’d see him ‘later’, whatever the hell that means. Maybe that’s just something cool mysterious people say to seem… cool and mysterious.

 

God.

 

Either way, when Evan gets home that day he feels better than he has in… a very long time, actually. He hadn’t seen Jared all day, which was kind of a good thing considering the torture he would endure when Jared found out about his friendship with Connor, and he didn’t publicly embarrass himself in front of the entire school, which was definitely a good thing.

 

And on top of that, he didn’t eat alone today. Not that he actually ate, but the sentiment is there. He definitely isn’t used to that, eating with someone else, considering the Jared situation and also the fact that his mother works weird hours and picks up shifts and Evan practically eats alone all the time, really. He’d never realized how much it sucked.

 

Naturally, when Evan gets another DM from Connor that night, he’s kind of caught off guard.

 

con.murphy420: Hey.

con.murphy420: Weird question.

 

And of course Evan’s about to freak the hell out, but then—

 

con.murphy420: Ok not that weird but whatever.

con.murphy420: I need to get out of the house. Are you busy?

 

Of course Evan’s not fucking busy, who the hell does Connor think he is?

 

evan22hansen: not busy!!

 

And he thinks the exclamation points are a little much, and although they’re very accurate, he tries again.

 

evan22hansen: not busy. what’d you have in mind?

 

It doesn’t take long for Evan to receive a reply, and it doesn’t take long for Connor to show up at Evan’s doorstep, giving him a timid half grimace half attempt at a grin.

 

“Have you eaten?” Connor asks, climbing into the car before Evan can really get the chance to answer.

 

“Oh, dinner? No, not yet, actually. But I’m fine if you already have and of course you don’t have to take me anywhere just because I haven’t eaten yet—”

 

“So food it is,” Connor says loudly, quickly shutting down Evan’s rambling, and Evan would be lying if he didn’t jump a little. Connor glances at him before muttering an apology. And if Evan’s being completely completely honest, he kind of appreciates the fact that Connor’s blunt and cuts off his rambling, even if it’s only because he finds it annoying. Because sometimes he doesn’t even realize that he’s doing it, and to have someone check him like that is something Evan’s never had the luxury of.

 

Evan quickly realizes that Connor’s not saying much on the car ride to… wherever they’re going. Like, Connor isn’t really much of a talker, but this silence is kind of deafening. He feels like he’s about to hyperventilate because he knows Connor didn’t mean it really when he yelled at him but he still yelled at him , and the air just feels wrong and pretty soon, before he can even process it, he’s talking.

 

“Is everything okay?” He asks quietly, and immediately regrets it when Connor shoots him an angry glance. He deflates after that though, running a hand over his face and shaking his head, which is very dangerous while driving. Evan readies his hands for if he has to steer the car.

 

“I’m— no, I guess. It’s not.” Connor’s knuckles are white on the steering wheel.

 

A beat of silence.

 

“Do you, um… would you like to tell me about it?”

 

Another beat of silence.

 

“I mean, not that you have to or anything,” Evan adds. “You definitely don’t have to—”

 

“It’s—” Connor takes a sharp breath in through his nose— “My family just sucks, okay? I— I don’t think I can talk about it right now without… freaking the fuck out.”

 

Evan takes a breath, and then nods. “Okay.”

 

Yeah, he’s a little scared. But he’s supposed to be trying with this friend thing, because he knows Connor can be pleasant to be around and he knows that his anger isn’t directed toward him and he knows that even if only the smallest amount, Connor cares about him. So he reassures himself that it’s not him, it’s not him, it’s not him, and that it’s going to be okay. Even if his brain won’t let him believe it.

 

Connor parallel parking is probably one of the most magical things Evan’s ever witnessed.

 

He did it flawlessly, like he was just born with this innate knowledge of how to maneuver a vehicle, and Evan kind of laughs a little when he manages to take only one try to pull it into the spot.

 

Connor whips his head around at the sound. “What?” He spits out angrily.

 

“No no, I’m not laughing at you, just— um, that was— that was really impressive.”

 

“Oh.” Connor says quietly. “Thanks.”

 

“It took me at least three tries for maneuverability, and also I’m too anxious to actually drive, so. Yeah. Impressive.”

 

Connor looks over at him, outwardly radiating stress. “I, um…” He takes a deep breath, running his fingers through his hair. “Yeah, I… did it first try, actually.”

 

“That’s cool. I’m kinda jealous, actually.”

 

Connor gives him an almost smile before getting out of the car, and Evan’s grateful, because he almost starts rambling again.

 

When he gets out, he’s… more than surprised, to say the least. They’re in front of this beautiful brick building built into a shopping strip, with outdoor seating and fairy lights hanging from the overhang. The door has a decal with a coffee cup on top of a book, and Evan quickly puts two and two together.

 

“It’s… it’s a café,” Connor says as Evan gets out, “Obviously. Well, actually, it’s a bookstore with a built in café, but whatever.”

 

“Wow. This place is… really nice.”

 

Connor looks almost pleased, but his eyebrows are still pulled together in stress. He has his arms crossed over his chest like he’s afraid his heart is going to fall out. “Yeah. Come on,” He says, leading Evan inside.

 

Evan thinks it’s the most beautiful place he’s ever seen. There’s a small counter in the corner with red barstools, a huge highly decorated sign above that with all of the options, there are lights hanging everywhere, and there are rows and rows of books with beanbags and chairs scattered about for people to lounge in.

 

“They have sandwiches and stuff,” Connor says, already walking forward, and Evan is quick to follow him. As cheesy as it sounds, at the mention of sandwiches his stomach growls and Evan can think of nothing better to eat.

 

Once he stumbles through the ordering of a roasted tomato chicken avocado BLT panini (which is absolutely a mouthful of a name and is totally unnecessary), he and Connor settle in the corner of the store on two matching bean bags with a sandwich and a black coffee between the two of them.

 

“Coffee?” Evan asks, taking a timid bite of his sandwich. It’s a little too hot and he burns his tongue, but he doesn’t really know Connor at all so it’s not like he can just spit it out. He deals with the pain, as any sane person would do. “It’s, like, 8pm.”

 

“Hey, I don’t try and regulate your caffeine intake,” Connor says jokingly.

 

Evan smiles. “Touché.” He takes another bite and takes a second to look around.

 

The atmosphere in here is quiet and comfortable, with some indie music playing softly above them, and Evan feels almost at peace, which is the closest to feeling at peace he’s probably ever felt. The little corner they’re tucked into is between two bookshelves, and usually the impending doom of the possibility of bookshelves falling on him is too much but for some reason it feels safe. Evan can see the appeal.

 

“Do you come here a lot?”

 

Connor looks over at him like he’d been zoning out. “Oh, yeah, um. I come here a lot to think. This is kind of my corner.”

 

Evan feels his cheeks tinge red. He’s in Connor’s corner.

 

To cover up that embarrassment, he decides to joke around.

 

“So you like to hang out in…“ He scans the books around him for the first time, and when he turns around, he realizes that their bean bags are pushed right up against a set of comic books. “...the comic book section. That’s, uh…“

 

“Stupid?” Connor asks.

 

No , no, I was gonna say it’s relatable. And also kind of unexpected, to be honest.”

 

Connor cocks his head to the side, furrowing his brow with a smirk on his face. “Why?”

 

“Oh, well, you know, you… you don’t strike me as someone who reads anything other than classic literature and poetry.“

 

He covers his mouth as soon as it comes out, because okay, he’s getting way too comfortable around this dude to be cracking jokes like those, but as Connor has a record of constantly surprising him, he laughs.

 

“Yeah, I guess I do come off as kind of pretentious.”

 

“I mean, I didn’t say that—

 

Connor raises his eyebrows. “Evan. Come on.”

 

“No, you— you just—“

 

“It’s true, though. I do really like classic literature and poetry.” Connor cracks a smile. “But I can also appreciate a Wolverine comic book once in a while.”

 

Evan almost gasps. “Wait— I had a whole collection of vintage Wolverine comics when I was a kid! I bet I still have them—”

 

“No. Really?”

 

“Yeah, dude. It was one of my favorites. My mom used to read them to me and do voices and everything.”

 

“I can one-up you,” Connor says casually, taking a sip of his coffee with a smirk. “I have an X-Men comic that was signed by Stan Lee himself.”

 

“No you do not.”

 

“I do!”

 

“Connor. Are you serious?”

 

“Yeah, dude. I’ll have to show it to you sometime.” That sentence makes something twist in Evan’s chest.

 

“Yeah,” Evan agrees breathlessly. “I’d love that.” After a moment, under his breath, he adds, “You really aren’t as cool and mysterious as I thought.”

 

Connor fakes a scoff. “I can be a nerd and cool and mysterious at the same time.”

 

“I dunno,” Evan says, taking a bite of his sandwich. “I feel like that’s not a thing.”

 

“Whatever. I’ll be the first, then.”

 

A comfortable silence falls over them, and for the first time in a long time, Evan doesn’t feel completely alone.

Chapter Text

“This is my cat, her name is Shadow.” Connor pauses. “And don’t judge me for that, okay? The parents let Zoe name her, so of course now our cat has the most basic cat name in the entire fucking world.” It’s getting colder now, the chill of fall finally starting to set in, and Connor pulls his sleeves down over his hands as he points his phone screen in Evan’s direction.

 

Evan’s never heard Connor talk this much in his entire life. Thank god for Shadow.

 

It’s nice, being around Connor. Evan feels like he can breathe; like he can be himself and not have to worry about stepping on eggshells so he doesn’t get made fun of for regulating how much he stutters or how many breaths he takes in a minute because how many breaths is too many and it’s. It’s just nice.

 

Connor makes him feel like a person.

 

“My dad has a cat named Oreo,” Evan says, and he feels a lump form in his throat and clears it before any sort of emotion can creep out and scare away his semi-new friend. “I feel like that one beats Shadow on basicness.”

 

Connor nods after a moment. “Your dad wins for being the most basic for sure.” He swipes left on the photo and Evan sighs a silent breath of relief when Connor doesn’t bring up his dad. “I love this one. She looks like a fucking shrimp.”

 

“She’s adorable,” Evan says kind of breathlessly.

 

Connor smiles triumphantly like a new father showing off his baby photos. It’s a look Evan has never seen on Connor’s face literally ever. Happiness is a good look for him, he thinks. “I love that cat.”

 

Evan laughs softly. “I’m jealous. I was never allowed to have animals.”

 

Connor looks scandalized. “Are you actually serious? I feel like you of all people could use an animal in your house. They relieve stress and all that stuff.”

 

Evan sighs, looking down and picking at a string on his pants. “Yeah, I know. I’ve always wanted one, and I begged my mom for a dog for years, but we both know no one’s in that house enough to take care of any animal, so.”

 

“Oh.” Connor frowns. “That’s kind of the saddest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.”

 

“No, yeah, I know. It’s… I wish it could be different, you know? Like, I wish… I don’t know. I wish a lot of things could be different.” He doesn’t really know what he means by that, but he looks over at Connor anyway in hopes that maybe he does.

 

Connor blinks at him; holds eye contact like he’s trying to relay a message through telepathy or something. “Me too.”

 

“Hansen? Evan, where the hell are you?” He hears coming from inside, but before he can even think about hiding or running or anything, Jared bursts through the cafeteria doors and immediately spots them both. He has to admit that it looks kind of sketchy, the two of them sitting on the grass outside of the school, and Evan’s heart drops to his stomach when Jared’s eyes narrow.

 

“Jesus. Fucking. Christ.” Jared drawls, walking a little closer to the two of them, glancing between them both and shaking his head. Evan can practically feel Connor tense up beside him. “I knew it wasn’t medical,” Jared huffs under his breath.

 

Connor glances at Evan. “What?”

 

“Nothing,” Evan spits out loudly, trying to communicate to Jared with wide eyes that he should probably leave right now, “Do, um— do you need something, Jared?”

 

Jared rolls his eyes. He pulls out a paper and flops it around. “You said I could copy your chem during lunch, remember? Jesus. You could’ve told me you had a date, dude. I’m cool, I understand. Lots of people swing both ways these days.” Jared glances over at Connor with a furrowed brow. “Though I’m not sure I approve of you dating the school shooter of all people. There are plenty of better guys at this school—”

 

“We’re not— Jared, Jesus—

 

“Don’t you have something better to do, Kleinman?” Connor grits out, practically vibrating with anger. There’s a venom in his words that Evan hasn't heard in a long time. “Go be a fucking piece of shit somewhere else.”

 

Fuck.

 

Jared looks speechless, raising his eyebrows and taking a step back. Unfortunately, he’s not speechless. He never is. “Piece of shit, huh? Funny. Last thing I remember you were such a freak that everyone was too afraid to come near you, isn’t that right, Murphy?” Jared turns back to Evan, and Evan feels Connor about to get up. “Come on, dude, I can hook you up with much cuter guys—“

 

“Just— shut up, Jared.” Evan hears himself spit out. Connor freezes. “You don’t— you don’t get to decide who I… who I hang out with, okay? Just leave.”

 

It takes Evan to realize what exactly just came out of his mouth, but he could have guessed based solely on the look on Jared’s face. “Woah, okay, hold on. Are you really defending him, Evan? Really ? Connor Murphy. Really. Over me, your best friend.”

 

Evan tries to speak, he really does, but nothing comes out.

 

“Jesus. I don’t see you for, what, three whole days and now you’re fucking around with some batshit emo kid?” It’s a joke, but there’s real anger in Jared’s eyes. “I’m worried about you, man. You’ve changed.”

 

“Don’t act like you’ve ever cared about him,” Connor says, rolling his eyes. Oh no. Oh no no no no. Evan moves the tiniest bit closer to Connor, pressing his knee to Connor’s as a signal to simmer down. He prays to god that Connor gets it because he doesn’t know if he could speak if he wanted to.

 

“Oh, and you do?” Jared asks, folding his arms and quirking his eyebrow. The second of silence following that is crackling with tension.

 

“Well, I’m the one sitting here and you’re the one demanding homework answers that a middle schooler could do on their own.” Connor shrugs, crossing his arms to mirror Jared. “Seems pretty fucking simple to me.”

 

Jared sputters for a moment, looking between the two of them. “Fuck you, Evan. Asshole.” He goes to turn away, but stops at the door and turns around. “When this freak ruins your fucking life, don’t come crawling back to me. I won’t be there.”

 

With that, the door slams behind him.

 

Evan takes a moment to steady his breathing. “Jared’s, um… he can be a bit dramatic. I’m sorry.”

 

When Connor doesn’t answer, Evan glances over at him and sees that Connor’s curled himself into a ball with his knees to his chest and his hands in his hair. He’s pulling so hard that he could probably pull it out, and Connor’s shaking, and Evan kind of has no idea what to fucking do.

 

“Connor?” Evan asks timidly. No answer. “I— should I leave? What can I do?”

 

He can hear Connor’s labored breathing, like he’s having some sort of attack, and Evan’s concern grows as time ticks by without a response. The reality of the situation is actually sinking in now. The words I won’t be there are repeating in his head, and he’s fucking angry, because Jared’s never been there, he wasn’t there the night Evan texted him asking if he could come over because that night he had the overwhelming urge to not exist and Jared doesn’t even talk to him outside of their discord or asking for stupid fucking homework answers and—

 

The bell rings.

 

Connor’s up as soon as it happens, so fast it feels like he got up before the bell, and he slams open the doors before Evan can even blink.

 

As per usual, Evan doesn’t see Connor for the rest of the day. As per… not usual, Evan doesn’t hear from him that night, either.

 

And when the next day rolls around and he doesn’t see Connor at school either, he starts getting flashbacks to that day that feels like so long ago when he thought Connor was dead and his worrying gets so bad that he texts him during class , which is something he’s literally never done in his life because who the hell would do that knowing they could get caught?

 

He doesn’t get an answer then, either.

 

Evan tries to call during lunch, and although his anxiety is telling him that he’s being dramatic and that the texts and calls are excessive, there’s a little voice that’s yelling at him in the back of his mind because even though they’ve only known each other for a little while, he knows Connor. He thinks he knows Connor.

 

He knows enough to realize that this isn’t good.

 

And of course Evan sees Jared in the hallway, and even though he barely even glances at Jared, of course he notices and fucking trips Evan in the middle of the crowded hallway and he drops all of his things and people laugh and it just. Sucks. It really fucking sucks. Because the past couple of weeks he’s felt like things were good, that they were getting better, that he was getting better, but now it feels like he’s taken two steps backward. Into a pit of fire. With spikes at the bottom.

 

When he gets home that day he’s exhausted and he has a bruise on his elbow and his knee and when he lays in bed he breaks down. He cries and he screams into a pillow and even though he knows he’s having a panic attack he doesn’t take a pill because it doesn’t fucking matter, nothing helps and he thought he was getting better .

 

Crying is supposed to help, right? It’s supposed to relieve some of the pent up emotion, right? But when the tears stop and he’s laying there gasping on his bed he still feels that empty dread in the pit of his stomach. He wants so badly to be in the presence of another human being because he feels like he’s going insane here, like the room is shrinking or something. He needs someone. Anyone.

 

His mom doesn’t come home that night.

 

Evan doesn’t sleep.

 

Another day passes with no word from Connor and Evan’s starting to get angry because it’s not fucking fair. He’s used to this with Jared, being ignored for a couple of weeks until Jared pulls his head out of his ass, but Connor. Connor doesn’t just get to walk into his life and show him what it’s like to be cared about and then just up and leave with no explanation. It’s driving Evan crazy because on top of having literally no one, he has no idea what he did wrong. He’s gone over the series of events so many times in his head, recounted the movements he made and words he spoke and he has obsessed over every little thing that happened with Connor and with Jared beforehand and he just. Can’t figure out where it went wrong. Why Connor just stopped caring all of a sudden.

 

He doesn’t know how long it’s been since he’s heard from Connor, but at some point he decides to send one last text. It can’t hurt, right? He’s at rock bottom. What’s another stupid text?

 

 

Evan: just tell me what I did wrong

 

 

He’s tired and he’s empty and he’s so drained from the lack of sleep that he does that edge-of-sleep thing where he feels like he’s falling and wakes up with a racing heartbeat when he hears his phone ding.

 

 

Connor: Please just let me go.

 

 

It catches him so off guard that suddenly he’s more awake than he’s been in the past week, because what’s that even supposed to mean? He’s been silent for nearly a week and when he finally answers he’s being cryptic and stupid and Evan feels a spark of rage in his chest.

 

 

Evan: screw you

Evan: everything was fine and then you disappeared for a week and I had no clue what was happening or if you were dead or what

Evan: if you don’t wanna be around me anymore that’s fine I don’t care, just tell me what the fuck I did that made you so angry

 

 

His first instinct is to throw his phone across the room after hitting send, but he always fucking cries when he’s angry so the tears start and this time they’re fucking relentless. He buries his head in the pillow and wonders how many times in the last week he’s done this, just laid down and cried because that’s all he’s been able to do.

 

Evan’s not sure when exactly he falls asleep, but he’s shaken awake by his mom telling him that she picked up a pizza on the way home from work and to come downstairs when he’s hungry but if he’s being honest, food is the last thing on his mind.

 

He has three new texts from Connor.

 

 

Connor: Jared was right.

Connor: I’m going to fuck up your life just like I fuck everything else up. So please just leave me alone and stop worrying about me because I don’t fucking matter and I can’t be the person that brings you down when you have so much potential.

Connor: I hope you and Jared can fix things. I’m sorry.

 

 

It’s bullshit.

 

It’s utter bullshit.

 

Deep down, Evan knows Connor’s hurting and he regrets being so fucking angry at him earlier but none of the things Connor said were true. None. And even deeper down he knows he can’t let this go because no one has ever really understood him, not even his shitty therapist, and it might be selfish and they haven’t even known each other for two months but Connor’s the best friend he’s ever had so he’s not just going to stand idly by while Connor self-destructs. He’s not.

 

The phone rings and rings and rings and Connor doesn’t answer.

 

He tries again. No answer.

 

He’s about to fucking give up, just accept that Connor won’t budge and must just be telling him that so he doesn’t have to say how annoying he actually thinks Evan is, how much he hated hanging out with him, but then his phone rings.

 

He picks up after the first ring, and no words will come out. The other line is silent. He has so many things he needs to say. So many things to lay on the line. But every time he tries the words get stuck in his throat. He hears some rustling on the other line and then Connor clears his throat.

 

“Hi.”

 

That seems to do it.

 

“I can’t— I can’t fucking believe that you made me think you’re dead.” Evan says, pacing his room with the phone pressed hard to his ear and his free hand tangled in his hair. “It’s not true. It’s not. You’re not going to ruin me, or fuck up my life or— whatever because I was going to kill myself and then you were there and I didn’t, and I haven’t really felt that bad since then and I’m not just going to give up on you because you’re pushing me away.”

 

“Evan—“

 

“No, shut up. I don’t care if people talk. I don’t— I don’t give a shit about what Jared thinks; he’s a fucking idiot and he’ll be over this in a week and everything will be back to normal and I just.” Evan’s voice cracks and he takes a breath. “I don’t think you know how much you mean to me, okay? I’ve been. I’ve been worried sick. Because considering how we met and everything, you’re not— you could’ve— I would’ve blamed myself, you know? I— I fucking care about you. I’m not— you can’t just be an amazing friend to me and then just. Just leave. I can’t— I don’t. I don’t want that.”

 

When he finally steps off of his soapbox, he takes another breath and then sits on the bed. It’s silent for a long moment, but then he hears Connor sniff and all of his anger and resentment drains out of him.

 

“I’m coming over,” He announces, standing up and pulling a jacket on while his phone balances between his ear and his shoulder.

 

“You really don’t—“

 

“Text me your address or I’m asking Zoe for it,” Evan says, then hangs up quickly before Connor can protest. He doesn’t even have Zoe’s number. He doesn’t know why he even said that. And then he just sits on the bed for a second, processing everything, because he just told off his best friend and then invited himself over and hung up on him and he still can’t tell if Connor wants anything to do with him or not.

 

But Connor texts him the address and he’s out the door before he can even think about it.

Chapter Text

Evan: please let me in

 

Connor: You don’t have to do this.

 

Evan: i want to. come on it’s cold

 

Connor: You don’t have to do this, Evan.

Connor: Please just go home.

 

Evan: no

 

Connor: Please don’t do this.

 

Evan: not leaving you, sorry

Evan: actually i’m not sorry

 

Connor: Stop. Leave. Move on.

 

Evan: Connor. let me in. please.

 

At that moment he can’t exactly pinpoint which interpretation of that he means.

 

Connor: Please stop.

Connor: Go home.

Connor: I don’t want you here.

 

Evan: sucks, i want to be here, so

 

Connor: Evan stop.

 

Evan: no

Evan: I’m not leaving until you open this door and let me in

 

A minute of silence.

 

Evan silently and very naively hopes it’s because Connor’s coming down to unlock the door and let Evan in and Let Evan In and then they’d hug and everything would be okay for a while. Connor would be okay. Evan would be okay. Everything would stop being so fucking bad.

 

And he’d have his friend back.

 

Connor: Guess you’re going to freeze to death then.

 

He should’ve known that’s not how it works.

 

He sighs. Sinks down onto the Murphy’s front porch.

 

And just. Catches his breath for a second.

 

Because he’d just up and decided that he was Going To Connor’s House, that he was going to show up and. And. He hadn’t exactly planned what to do after that, he just knew it was what he needed to do. It felt like his legs had done all the work for him, like his brain was just absent when he decided he needed to do this, to protect Connor. And now he’s here, sitting on the Murphy’s front steps like a creep or some modern fucking Romeo and Juliet remake, and Evan can’t even imagine what Jared’s going to say when he—

 

What he would say. If he and Evan were on speaking terms. Which.

 

Jared’s a dick. He’s a grade-A asshole. Evan knows this. He’s stupid and he’d blunt and he can be so fucking mean, but. Evan hasn’t forgotten a time when he wasn’t. He still remembers the sleepovers and the times they’d sneak away when their parents talked and talked and talked and times they’d play Xbox and yell at little kids about their game strategies like are you trying to get us killed and he remembers coming out to Jared and Jared just. Hugging him. And not letting go for a long time.

 

But that was before Evan had anxiety and became too embarrassing and too clingy and Jared found other friends who didn’t have a crippling mental illness that’s too much for anyone to deal with and before Jared had a car that he needed insurance paid for and before Evan became such a fucking burden to everyone.

 

He shouldn’t care. He really shouldn’t.

 

Evan’s mom would have said it’s because he has a big heart. Evan knows it’s because not many people ever care, ever notice, and for a time Jared did. Evan hasn’t forgotten. He's not sure he ever will.

 

Connor cared, too. Past tense, just like Jared. Connor was kind and still sort of closed off but he was getting there, they were getting there, and Evan did something to fuck it up. So he just sits on the Murphy’s doorstep, deciding if he should text Connor again or go home or take a walk or—

 

Or.

 

No. He can’t go there.

 

His hands are getting sweaty. He balls them into fists, finding comfort in the sting of his nails pressing hard into his palms.

 

He’s supposed to be over this. He can’t be like this when he’s supposed to be talking someone down or whatever. Connor could be in there with a noose or a blade or a bottle of fucking pills and Evan’s here thinking about. About how sometimes he wishes he could just.

 

He’s a bad friend, he’s decided. Jared’s upset. Connor’s upset. God knows the only thing connecting them is Evan. He’s the common denominator. He’s the problem. He should have seen this all along. Why did he actually think he could have friends? That he could possibly be happy? That— that he could have something… not bad in his life. Something. Anything.

 

When he sighs out he feels like the whole world is weighing on him; his shoulders, his back, his neck; and that the exhale out only sinks him down further. He has a fleeting thought that maybe he’ll feel like this forever. Maybe the sadness and the constant fear and constant worry and twitchiness will never end. Maybe— if he could just—

 

He startles when he hears a door creak open from behind him.

 

And he doesn’t turn around. Not at first. He just sits there, eyes squeezed shut, shaking like a fucking leaf, all shuddering breaths and bleeding cuticles, but then.

 

“You’re still— You’re.”

 

When Evan glances over his shoulder he gets a glimpse of the Connor in the cafe/bookstore he took Evan to. He sees the one sitting on Evan's bed and talking endlessly about how fucking stupid and pointless the Star Wars prequels are. The one scrolling through photos of his cat and smiling because he can’t keep his affection for this fucking cat in like he keeps every feeling in, hidden from everyone.

 

At one point, for just a split second, he wasn’t hidden from Evan.

 

Connor’s face goes blank. It's terrifying. It’s like a chalkboard being wiped clean. “Go home.” Connor doesn’t look at him when he speaks, instead directing his words into the cold night, breath fogging up the air around him.

 

God, he looks awful.

 

Like he hadn’t slept in weeks. Week , probably, Evan thinks. He can’t be sure. It especially doesn’t help that the halogen porch light is kind of making Connor look like a corpse; skin tinted blue, cheeks hollowed. Evan thinks for a moment that if they were on Evan’s porch, he would be washed over with this dim orange glow from their shitty light bulbs they got from the dollar store.

 

“You… are staring at me,” Connor says, but there’s no bite, no teasing, just. Nothing. It’s what he imagines the base of a human is like. A Ken-doll. Except, like, 6-foot and gangly and emo and gay.

 

And, like the complete and utter idiot that he is, Evan blurts out the first thing he can think of. “How long have I been out here?”

 

Connor’s gaze drops to him and Evan notices that Connor’s gripping the door so hard his knuckles are white. His face contorts just a bit, his eyebrows pulling together and his nose scrunching up just a bit, but in his eyes Evan can tell he’s not there. “What?”

 

“I, um. Have I been out here long?”

 

Connor just looks at him. Blinks. Shakes his head like he’s trying to get a bug out of his hair. “I. I don’t. I don’t.” He shuts his mouth. Opens it. Shuts it again. “Like, an hour. Maybe an hour and a half?”

 

Evan just blinks right back at him. “Oh.”

 

Connor still has his eyebrows pulled together, glancing from side to side like he’s trying to remember lines to a poem or a math formula or something. And with that same bewildered look on his face, he takes a step back, and then another one, and then he’s shaking his head again like he’s fighting a war in his own brain and then he heads inside.

 

And the door’s still open.

 

And. Well.

 

Evan doesn’t want the Murphys to get robbed or get fruit flies or have a rabid raccoon run into their house or anything, so.

 

He finds himself shutting the front door behind him and following Connor up the stairs like a sad puppy. And when this ghostly Connor walks into his room Evan notices he doesn’t have a door. For some reason it makes his breath catch in his throat. Connor sits on his bed slowly, so slowly, and then he scoots backward until he’s against the wall where the headboard should be and pulls his knees to his chest and tips his head back against the wall and his eyes are closed and he just. Sits there.

 

It takes a moment for Evan to remember he has legs.

 

He sits down on Connor’s bed, because Connor’s room is practically barren and he’s got a desk but he doesn’t have a desk chair and Evan wonders if that’s for the same reason there’s a hole where his door used to be. When he sinks into the mattress below him, completely across the bed, Connor doesn’t even flinch.

 

Connor’s been in his house a couple of times, but Connor had never invited Evan over to his. It got too loud, Connor said. Naturally, Evan had never seen Connor’s room before either, so he takes some time to look around.

 

When he’d imagined Connor’s room, it was nothing like this. This is a prison cell. He’d imagined dark walls and dark flooring and rock band posters and art supplies and sketchbooks and piles and piles of books, all wider than they used to be because Connor had taken the time to underline his favorite quotes but sometimes he’d do it just to scribble. He’d imagined a cat bed right next to Connor’s, and a closet so overflowing with clothes that the doors wouldn’t close.

 

Connor doesn’t have closet doors.

 

Connor does have a desk, yeah, and he has a rug on the floor that’s almost completely pushed underneath his bed depicting Van Gogh’s starry night, which he imagines would be very expensive, and he has a bed and a tall, overflowing bookshelf but he doesn’t have anything to let anyone know it’s his. His bed is just a mattress on a box spring, he doesn’t even have a bed frame, and he and Connor are both sitting on an expensive-looking navy blue comforter. It’s soft. Evan’s comforter is covered in fabric pills and rips.

 

It doesn’t add up.

 

“God, you think so fucking loudly ,” Connor says sharply, shocking Evan out of his thoughts. Connor still hasn’t opened his eyes.

 

“I— I’m—”

 

“They took it all. After the first time I, y’know.” Connor visibly swallows. Evan’s heart drops into his stomach and he’s suddenly underneath a tree with mud on the ass of his pants and a plan to not exist. He'd never thought about— He'd never given himself time to think about this. About the reason they were here right now.

 

“They, um,” Connor laughs bitterly, smiling this incredibly pained smile, “Cynthia read up on teen suicide and Larry decided, ‘ hey, let’s just take everything that’s solid and remotely moveable to make him feel like he’s in a padded cell. That’ll fix everything, and then we don’t have to worry about him fucking up our lives anymore.’”

 

Evan wants to say something. Anything. His words get stuck on the way out.

 

“It’s always something temporary. ‘ Maybe the cat will help with his outbursts, Larry. Oh, how about a new rug? You like art, don’t you, Connor? How about a new comforter? Your old one is disgusting. Connor, what about a new car? A baseball glove? Will that fix you, Connor? Will that make you less defective?

 

He still hasn’t opened his eyes. He’s twisting a ring around his finger.

 

“Spoiler alert: it didn’t,” Connor adds. “Obviously.”

 

Evan’s mouth is so dry, suddenly. He opens his mouth to speak. All he can manage is a choked sigh.

 

But he has to do something to rid Connor of his scrunched up nose and knitted eyebrows and now Connor’s absentmindedly scratching at his left arm through his hoodie and Evan doesn’t want to think about that. About what's underneath. But Connor doesn’t stop. So Evan does the only thing he knows to do.

 

He gets up and Connor’s face falls just a fraction, but he steels himself again when Evan sits down on his side of the bed. He scoots over and leans against the wall, and the space between their arms is so close but they’re not touching so it makes the hair on his arms stand up. When Evan’s situated next to him, Connor resumes with the scratching. It’s like he doesn’t even register he’s doing it, like it’s automatic.

 

“Just— stop that ,” Evan huffs out, grabbing Connor’s left hand and pulling it away from him. Connor’s entire body tenses up, and as Evan looks at Connor’s raised shoulders he realizes that, oh, he’s holding Connor’s hand.

 

Connor doesn’t pull away, doesn’t relax his shoulders. He just… doesn’t .

 

So Evan adjusts his awkward hold on Connor’s hand to something more comfortable and he doesn’t either.

 

After a minute he hears a pop and glances over at Connor to see that his jaw is clenched and that sounded like it hurt. Shit. Evan guesses he’s grinding his teeth, which he knows can lead to headaches, which can lead to grinding your teeth down to nubs, and then your nerves are exposed which hurts, and then you have to get dentures at eighteen because your stupid friend is just sitting there while your grind your teeth away and he doesn’t know how to comfort people properly.

 

Evan looks down at their clasped hands. Evan’s fully holding his hand, a full grasp of their interlocked fingers, arm overlapping Connor’s and practically pinning him there, but Connor’s spidery fingers are full of so much tension and every other second they twitch just a little bit, like Connor’s purposefully keeping himself from relaxing into Evan’s touch.

 

Evan also notices that they both have torn up cuticles and horribly bitten-down nails. They should work on that or something. As he listens to Connor’s breathing, Connor’s very alive-and-living-and-not-dead breathing, he reminds himself, he observes that the nail polish on Connor's thumb is chipped and it kind of looks like Africa.

 

Connor takes in a sharp breath from beside him, scaring Evan for probably the hundredth time today. His face is still pinched, eyes closed, and his jaw is still locked but his lip is wobbling. Evan just grips his hand tighter, giving it an experimental squeeze and watching Connor for a reaction. For him to become human again.

 

Connor just squeezes his eyes shut more, so tightly it looks like it hurts, and then Connor’s opening his mouth. Closing it. Opening it again.

 

“You— don’t—” Connor starts, voice scratchy. He clears it. “You don’t—” His face falls. Crumbles. He swallows. “Have… to…”

 

“Oh, shut up,” Evan exhales almost fondly, pulling Connor into a bone-crushing hug that both he and Connor were not anticipating in any way, shape or form. For a second Evan thinks Connor’s just going to stay there frozen against him but he stays put anyway, resting his cheek on Connor’s shoulder and squeezing him like he’s about to disappear and then he hears it.

 

It sounds like a deranged laugh at first, and Evan successfully holds back a flinch. But then it happens again, and again, and then Connor’s deflating against Evan’s chest and winding his hands into the front of Evan’s old summer camp sweatshirt and gasping for air.

 

“I didn’t— you— you didn’t— I don’t underst— why do you— why do you— even— care , why do you— I don’t even—”

 

“Shhh,” Evan shushes him gently, eyes stinging with tears without his permission because he knows this feeling. Connor just sounds so broken. Evan knows this, this feeling. He was here, hyperventilating and screaming and crying, every single fucking night, but then he wasn’t and he had Connor and sometimes it was only the crying which. Was something. He finds himself cradling Connor’s head against his shoulder and gets an immediate rush of affection in the center of his chest.

 

“I’m— Evan, I’m so fucking— God,” Connor cut himself off, shaking his head and winding his hands further into Evan’s sweatshirt, pulling him closer, voice cracking, “I can’t understand, I can’t— why do you— I’m just— I’m just so—

 

“Don’t,” Evan says to him, clear and steady. Connor shakes his head slowly against Evan’s shoulder, shuddering.

 

“You— you stayed, you didn’t— why didn’t you— everyone always,” Connor sucks in a stuttering breath, letting out some empty, ragged sobs, “God, everyone… I’m— I—”

 

Evan squeezes him so tight he’s sure Connor’s going to break in half. “Shut up,” Evan says harshly, maybe too harshly, with watery eyes, trembling to the core, hands shaking where he’s holding Connor against him. “You don’t get to—” Evan’s voice cracks, and he lets a few tears shed. Clears his throat. “You don’t get to decide— who I’m friends with. Or who I— who I care about.”

 

Connor just keeps shaking his head, making an attempt to catch his breath but every failed attempt just seems to upset him more, and Evan knows there are tears and snot on the front of his sweatshirt which is pretty gross but he’s done the same exact thing to the school nurse and his therapist and his third grade teacher and his Aunt Martha and his bus driver and a security guard at the mall and his mom, so, so many times, and Evan can’t find it in himself to care right then.

 

At some point they’re laying down next to each other and Connor’s curled up against Evan’s chest, the same vice grip on the front of his sweatshirt, hiccuping and doing his best to take shuddering breaths as Evan rubs circles into his back.

 

He’s not sure who falls asleep first.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Waking up in someone else’s bed is never not disorienting.

 

Especially when Evan is woken up with a stabbing pain in his side and a quiet chuckle from across the room.

 

He groans, because no one wants to be woken up like that, and when he blinks his eyes open he’s face to face with the cutest, chubbiest grey cat he’s ever seen in his life. She’s draped over his side, her back paws pressing into Evan’s back and he can’t help but let out a chuckle because of course this is how he would meet the famous Shadow.

 

She blinks at him very innocently, like she hadn’t just almost taken out one of Evan’s kidneys, and he shakes his head at her, scratching her behind the ears and grinning widely despite himself when she nuzzles into his hand.

 

He hears a soft laugh coming from the corner and glances over to see Connor sitting there against the wall, cross-legged on the floor with a sketchbook open across his lap. Its pages are worn and yellowed, like he’s had it for a long time, and when Connor sees Evan looking his smile falls just a little bit and he closes it.

 

“Guess she likes you,” Connor says with an almost-smile. His eyes look sad.

 

At the sound of Connor’s voice, Shadow uses Evan’s torso as a launch pad and Evan lets out this ‘oof’ sound, watching as Shadow bounds over to where Connor’s sitting on the floor. “Guess so,” Evan grits out sarcastically, pressing a hand to his side and sitting up in the bed. Connor’s bed.

 

At first he flushes a little pink, because he hadn’t meant to spend the night and what if Connor didn’t want him to? What if the reason he’s on the floor is because Evan sleeping in his bed makes him uncomfortable? What if he thinks Evan’s weird for falling asleep practically cuddling him last night? But then he’s brought back to last night’s events; showing up uninvited, following Connor up to his door-less bedroom and Connor collapsing into his arms. He thinks they should probably talk about it, even if he’s already forgiven Connor for ignoring him for an entire week. Evan couldn’t be mad at him if he wanted to be.

 

He looks over at Connor again, Shadow peacefully curled up in his lap, and when they make eye contact Connor’s face goes blank just like it had last night and Evan feels his stomach drop. Evan’s always been a person who’s easy to read, and he guesses Connor’s no different. He might even be better at reading Evan than most. Connor looks down at his cat.

 

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Connor says softly, running his hand down her side. She stretches one of her paws out and nuzzles against his knee. “Not— not right now, at least, I dunno.”

 

Evan takes a breath. “Okay,” He says gently, “But I think… I think maybe we should eventually. Not, like, immediately, but…” He trails off, and Connor doesn’t look up.

 

“You hungry?” Connor asks, still running his fingers through Shadow’s fur.

 

Evan’s going to give him this, changing the subject, just once. But he’s not letting Connor get out of talking about it later.

 

“Yeah, a little,” Evan sighs, stretching and pushing back the comforter. “Are— is your family even home?” He asks with dawning realization.

 

Connor laughs once, rolling his eyes. “Zoe wanted to go skiing with the family, and me being the person that I am, I said ‘ fuck that ’ and they don’t really bother to argue with me anymore, so.” Connor goes quiet, furrowing his brow. “You can leave if you want,” He adds, quieter.

 

“I’ll leave if you want me to,” Evan suggests, and when Connor doesn’t answer, he continues. He doesn’t miss the side of Connor’s mouth twitching upward, though. “Skiing sounds awful. I hate the cold. I feel like— I feel like if I were to try that I’d either have a panic attack or die or something. That’s just— that’s how my life goes,” Evan says, trying to sound lighthearted.

 

Connor smiles a bit. “I like the cold,” He says simply, “I hate skiing, though, because it’s just an excuse for Larry and Cynthia to try and act like our family is fucking normal. Also, exercise.” Connor scrunches up his nose and scratches Shadow’s forehead. “No thanks.”

 

“That’s… so relatable,” Evan laughs, sitting on the edge of the bed— Connor’s bed— and tilting his head. “Food?”

 

Connor glances up at him. “Yeah.”

 

 

“Did I ever tell you about that time in middle school when I— you might remember this, actually— I faked an asthma attack so I didn’t have to do the mile run?” Evan says casually, smirking at Connor and taking a sip of his tea. He let it cool off this time, miraculously.

 

Connor almost spits out his coffee. “ You ? Breaking the rules? No,” Connor shakes his head, “You’re lying.”

 

“I’m not!” Evan protests, face turning pink, “I’m serious. I— I mean, obviously no one found out, but like. I just really, really didn’t want to run, and I felt like everyone was staring at me already, so.” Evan shrugs. “I still kinda feel guilty about it, though.”

 

Connor barks out a laugh. “Of course you do.” He takes another sip of coffee. “I was the kid who just walked the whole fucking time and wore skinny jeans.”

 

Evan grins at him. “Yeah, I can see that.”

 

“I’m jealous. You’re innocent-looking enough that you can get away with that shit.”

 

Evan absolutely does not feel his cheeks turning red. Nope. “I look innocent, huh?”

 

“You’re like, the literal embodiment of innocence. I knew you had a devious side in there somewhere.” Connor grins at him, and okay, yeah, Evan's face is red. “I stopped being able to fake shit like that after I faked sick and Cynthia found me smoking pot in the living room in my underwear,” Connor says, straight-faced, and Evan can’t help but laugh. He absolutely does not picture Connor in his underwear. Nope. Not at all. “Moms aren’t supposed to see that shit.”

 

Oh.

 

Mom.

 

Evan shakes himself out of his thoughts. His mother . Fuck. “Shit,” He mumbles, pulling out his phone to check for missed calls. He hadn’t even told her he was going over to Connor’s, let alone spending the night.

 

“Everything alright?” Connor asks, adjusting his position on the bean bag.

 

“I’m— I didn’t exactly remember to tell my mom where I was going last night,” Evan says, distracted, pulling out his phone and fumbling with the unlock code. “She’s gonna kill me.”

 

“Shit,” Connor agrees.

 

“Yeah.”

 

When he finally unlocks his phone he has no new messages.

 

Evan shuts his eyes for a second, breathing out a sigh and trying to ignore the way his heart breaks just a little.

 

When he looks up Connor’s looking at him expectantly, taking a bite of his muffin and raising his eyebrows. Evan just shakes his head. “It’s— it’s fine, she just. Probably just didn’t come home last night, so.”

 

Connor’s face falls just a bit but he nods, and it’s silent for a very long time. Well, that’s probably an exaggeration, but as every second passes by he can feel the sadness creeping up the back of his neck and he wants to cry, but he doesn’t think he has the ability to cry about this anymore.

 

“Um,” Connor starts, crumbling up his muffin wrapper and avoiding Evan’s eyes, “Do you, like… do you need to— we could talk… about it or something, if you—”

 

“No,” Evan says, louder than he wanted to. “No, um, I’m okay. I’m good. Let’s just— do you wanna go play video games or something?”

 

He prays that Connor doesn’t say anything, because he gave Connor an out this morning so Connor kind of owes him one. He eyes Evan suspiciously, pursing his lips, before shrugging and nodding his head. “Sure.”

 

The walk back to Connor’s is relatively silent, but Connor kind of clears his throat in the way that Evan’s learned he uses when he wants to say something but he also really doesn’t.

 

“Listen, I’m—” He cuts himself off, taking a breath. “I shouldn’t have just. Ignored you, or whatever. Just— the shit Jared said to me really got in my fucking head, you know?” Connor says, hunched over in a way that’s absolutely not good for his neck and looking intently at the ground as they walk side by side. “So. I’m sorry for. For doing that.”

 

Evan looks over at him, but Connor just keeps staring at the ground. “It’s— I forgive you.”

 

“You don’t have to,” Connor says, flipping his hair forward so it hides his face from Evan’s view. “I get it if, like. You know, since I haven’t been… the nicest, um— nicest person and last night was kind of a lot, I get it, y’know, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t wanna—”

 

Evan just sighs, and his body does that thing where it decides things without his brain’s permission and his hand shoots out to the side and grabs ahold of Connor’s for the second time in the last 24 hours. Evan almost lets go, because they’re literally in public walking down the street hand in hand, but he doesn’t really have the words to say right now, so he just takes a breath and accepts that he’s already done this, he can’t take it back now. Not that he even wants to, exactly. So he gives Connor's hand a squeeze and waits for rejection.

 

But.

 

It has the initially desired effect though, because Connor immediately shuts up and if his face is as red as Evan’s in this moment he’d never know. It takes him a second, but eventually Connor relaxes into his touch and Evan feels Connor’s fingers press against the back of his hand.

 

They only let go of each other when they finally reach Connor’s house, and if Evan happens to notice that Connor looks a little pinker than usual, he doesn’t mention it.

 

He spends the night again, this time shooting his mother a warning text first, and Evan takes Connor's couch. He doesn’t sleep much, but it’s worth it because he doesn’t want Connor to be alone. And although Evan doesn’t think he’ll ever admit it, he doesn’t want to leave.

 

 

Evan wakes up on Monday morning in his own bed, immediately missing Shadow jumping on him to wake him up instead of being shaken awake by his mother. She’s actually upset, he quickly realizes, because he’s slept way past his alarm and he has to scramble to pull on clothes while she warms up the car. That should have been the first sign that this day was going to go to shit.

 

The second sign comes when he’s opening up his locker and Jared “accidentally” bumps into him as he’s making his way through the hall. He almost drops his books again, which was probably Jared’s true agenda, but he doesn’t and thanks his lucky stars that Connor doesn’t see Jared do that. He doesn’t need any more drama pushed onto him after this past week.

 

In chemistry, which he shares with Jared, comes the third sign. They’re doing this stupid thing where they take turns reading paragraphs in the textbook and whoever reads last gets to pick who reads next, which Evan can’t stand because he doesn’t know which one he’s going to read so he can’t prepare, and at least if they go by rows then Evan can count the number of kids in front of him and practice. But of course Jared reads his paragraph and then chooses Evan to read the longest paragraph on the page, and Evan stumbles his way through it, sweating through the shirt he’s wearing, and people laugh and they look at him and by lunch Evan’s kind of a wreck.

 

“You good?” Connor asks as Evan slumps against the wall beside him, lunch tray in hand.

 

Evan leans his head back against the brick wall, letting a sigh escape him. He doesn’t want Connor to have to deal with his problems. Connor’s going through enough. He fought with his family as soon as they got back on Sunday and Connor had texted him that he was suffering and Evan just can’t do that to him today.

 

“Yeah,” Evan says, trying to appear cheery but not too cheery. “I’m good. Tired. It’s— I’m good. How was your day? I mean, like, how has your day been up to— up to this point?” Nice going, Evan. Real smooth.

 

Connor gives him a look. “Uh…” He trails off, blinking at Evan. “It’s been… good. I guess.”

 

“What have you— um, have you done anything interesting today?”

 

Connor scrunches up his face. “Did you steal some of my weed?”

 

“You— what?”

 

“You’re acting, like, really weird today.” Connor says, wiping his apple off with the sleeve of his hoodie. “Did Jared mess with you? ‘Cause I swear to god—”

 

“No!” Evan says, too quickly, too loudly, and Connor just narrows his eyes. “No, no, uh, nope. He’s— I haven’t even seen him today, so.”

 

“You have chem together.”

 

Evan’s surprised he remembers that. “Oh, he— he wasn’t there.”

 

“Uh huh,” Connor deadpans, unconvinced. “What did he do?”

 

“He didn’t— it’s not a big deal or anything,” Evan breathes out, very obviously lying.

 

“I’m not gonna kill him, you know.”

 

“No, I know, it’s—”

 

“Unless you want me to.”

 

“No, I do not, just—”

 

“You’re a really shitty liar, Hansen—”

 

“Can we just drop it?” Evan snaps, and his voice echoes around them.

 

Connor’s silent for a second, but then he raises his hands in surrender and goes back to picking at his food. And Evan’s immediately filled with regret.

 

Because he didn’t mean to snap at Connor, he just. Doesn’t want Connor to feel responsible for shit he brought upon himself. Evan breathes out a sigh, pushing his hair off of his face and trying to ignore Connor hanging his head in Evan’s peripheral vision.

 

But he can’t help but glance over at him out of the corner of his eye when he notices Connor fishing around in his bag. He looks away when Connor pulls something out, and he braces himself for the smell of a cigarette or a vape or weed or something but. That does not happen.

 

Instead, he watches as Connor’s hand comes into view and he gently places an old, rusty penny on Evan’s thigh.

 

The confusion is what forces Evan to look up at Connor with a questioning look on his face, and Connor glances away for a second before gesturing to the penny resting on his leg. “You know… penny for your thoughts, or whatever.”

 

Okay, that’s probably the most endearing thing anyone’s ever done literally ever.

 

Evan hesitates, processing the situation, watching Connor’s face go red, and then Connor looks away and mutters, “Just— it was stupid, I’m sorry—”

 

“I didn’t mean to yell at you,” Evan blurts out, getting Connor’s attention. “I just— I’m not doing the best today and I took it out on you and I’m sorry.”

 

When he finally looks up at Connor, he looks confused. “That was you yelling?”

 

Evan blinks. “Yeah?”

 

“Huh,” Connor says, biting into his apple. “I must be really fucked up, then.”

 

Evan can’t help but snort. “Dude—”

 

“It’s fine, though,” Connor continues. “So what’s going on?”

 

Evan sighs, picking up the penny and slumping over so that his shoulder is pressed to Connor’s. “I miss Jared.”

 

“Why?” Connor says immediately, but then shakes his head. “Shit. Sorry. Comforting friend mode is on. I’m listening.”

 

Evan laughs. “It’s just… Jared was the only one I had for a really long time, and… like, I know he’s an asshole and I know he’s not always nice to me and he doesn’t like to call me his friend and he eats with other people, but I love him, you know? It’s... it's pathetic, really.”

 

“It totally is,” Connor says lightly, bumping Evan’s shoulder and smiling at him.

 

Evan smiles back. “He’s like a mean older brother that you know loves you deep down, but he just sucks at showing it.”

 

He feels Connor tense up beside him.

 

“No, no, I’m sorry, oh my god, I didn’t mean it like that, Jesus, I’m so sorry—”

 

“It’s cool,” Connor says, relaxing. “I get it. Go on.”

 

“Are you sure? I really didn’t mean anything by it, I would never—”

 

“Evan,” Connor says a little louder than before, but without malice. “Shut up. I’m not upset. Go on.”

 

“Okay. I just. I really miss him. I want to know why he gets so angry at me all the time, and if he really wants to—” Evan takes a breath. “If he even wants to be my friend for real instead of 'Family Friends', I guess.”

 

Connor sighs, leaning against Evan’s shoulder. “I could kill him.”

 

Evan scoffs. “Yeah, that would solve all of my problems.”

 

Connor laughs just a little, bumping Evan's shoulder with his own again. “You could… talk to him? I dunno, I’m bad at advice.”

 

“That’s… that’s an idea. I just don’t know if he wants to talk to me.”

 

“You could talk at him.”

 

“Pffft.”

 

Connor hums. “He probably does want to talk. Just, like, text him or whatever and be like, ‘hey, fuckwad, i miss you.’”

 

Evan bites back a smile. “I could do that.”

 

Connor turns his head toward Evan’s just a bit. “That exact wording?”

 

“Yep. Word for word.”

 

“Wow. I’m impressed.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“I’m a bad influence on you, obviously,” Connor teases, sitting back up so he can finish his lunch. Evan immediately misses the warmth.

 

“Maybe,” Evan says with a grin, digging into his own lunch.

 

It’s quiet for a moment.

 

“So… you wanna listen to music?” Connor asks, mouth full of apple, holding out an earbud.

 

Evan smiles at him, and it’s genuine. “Yeah.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

At first, Evan thinks he might be actually going insane.

 

It’s about time, he thinks.

 

It isn’t impossible considering the very recent history of his mental health, but as he sits on the bed pulling his covers up to his nose and cowering against the wall, he decides that something is definitely tapping his window. With intent. After it happens a second time, and then a third time, it’s official. This is happening. Someone, or even scarier, something is tapping his window with purpose.

 

This thought, of course, brings upon others. It’s not a serial killer, Evan tells himself, because he’s on the second story and they would have just broken through the window if they wanted to murder him so badly instead of just tapping on it. Duh. It could be a tree, because there’s one right outside of his window, but he doesn’t think trees are capable of making this gentle “plink” noise every few seconds.

 

The curiosity is too much after the fourth tap, so he makes a silent prayer to whichever deity is listening so he doesn’t get axe-murdered and pushes back his comforter with a sigh.

 

Evan stumbles over to his window, rubbing at his eyes because he had just started falling asleep and he’s kind of pissed that his anxiety just had to yell at him about this of all things. He heaves it open and it creaks a little bit when it gets stuck, but he’s greeted with the cool night breeze and a familiar voice.

 

“Fucking finally — uh,” Connor clears his throat and puts on a Victorian-esque voice, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your… cast? I guess? Fuck, I dunno.”

 

Evan shakes his head, suppressing a laugh. When he looks down, Connor’s doing the same. He’s looking up at Evan and his eyes are shining with mischief and Evan kind of never wants to look away. Connor should always be this happy.

 

‘Let down your cast’, huh?”

 

“Oh, fuck you. I’m the one with all the hair. What else was I supposed to say?” Connor throws his hands in the air and laughs, a bright and genuine sound.

 

Evan shakes his head, biting back a smile. “Can I help you with something?”

 

“Just popping by,” Connor says easily, but he has a strange look on his face. It’s suspicious. Evan raises an eyebrow.

 

“A, um— a text would’ve been nice,” Evan teases, tilting his head.

 

Connor scratches his head. “Shit, sorry, it was sort of a last minute thing— can I like… come in? It’s cold.”

 

“Oh! Yeah, yeah, um… I’ll be down in, like, two seconds. Hold on.”

 

“Don’t let me freeze to death!” Connor yells after him with a laugh, and Evan holds back a cringe and makes a mental note to tell Connor to work on his volume control because his mom is asleep and if she knew he was sneaking boys into the house, well…

 

Well.

 

It would definitely conjure up a conversation, that’s for sure.

 

When he opens the door Connor’s right there, grinning widely, and the fact that Evan hasn’t slept combined with the light from the porch for some reason has the audacity to make Evan yawn right in his face.

 

“I just got here and you’re already bored?” Connor says with a fake sneer, pushing past Evan into his house, “I thought you were one of the good ones.”

 

He’s not sure why, but that sentence warms him to his bones.

 

Connor starts up the stairs two at a time, and while Evan’s definitely not short he’s certainly not as tall as Connor and struggles to keep up the pace. “You are— you’re faster than I thought you’d be,” He says casually, trying not to sound too out of breath. He doesn’t think Connor would mind, though, strangely.

 

Connor glances backward. “Grow longer legs,” He says with a shrug.

 

Evan bites his lip to hold back a giant grin. He’s hit with this sudden rush of affection for this stupid boy who’s agreed to be his best friend, and he so badly wants to tell Connor how much he appreciates his presence but he doesn’t want to break this happy spell they have between the two of them at the moment. It’s too precious to risk. So he keeps it in.

 

The bed squeaks loudly when Connor unceremoniously flops belly-first onto it, and Evan almost pops a blood vessel shushing him.

 

My mom is asleep! ” Evan says with the best whisper-scream he can muster but he’s giggling, so the effect is quickly lost. “God, she’s gonna think—“ Evan’s face is suddenly warm.

 

Connor smiles an evil, evil smile. Evan’s reminded quickly of Jared because he knows what’s coming next. If he ever fixes things with Jared, he has a feeling that they’ll get along just fine. Eventually. “What’s she gonna think, Ev? Huh?”

 

Ev. That’s new.

 

Evan sputters for a second, because. The closest he’s ever gotten to a nickname is Tree Boy or Acorn or something else on the verge of mortifying, and this. It’s not. It’s… Evan doesn’t mind it. He doesn’t mind it at all.

 

“She’s— oh shut up, Connor,” Evan grumbles, watching the latch on the door as he shuts it quietly. He makes sure to take an extra long time to shut the door, and that might have something to do with Connor’s ever-so-present skill to make him blush constantly. Either way, he hopes he can blame his rosy cheeks on the cold. Or his lack of sleep. Or something.

 

He doesn’t turn the lights on in case his mom walks past, but Evan plops down onto the bed, softer than Connor did before him, and turns to see Connor with his arms behind his head, head tipped back and eyes closed. He has this soft content smile on his face and for once Evan can actually see his whole entire face because it’s not hanging over his eye for once. He finds himself staring.

 

It’s interesting, is all.

 

“Did— did you come over here just to sleep in my bed, or what?” Evan stutters out, desperate to fill the silence. He quickly realizes that what he’s doing could be considered flirting because he’s tired and his brain is thinking weird things and flirting was not the goal, so he backtracks. “I mean, not like— I’m not saying you’re like coming onto me or anything and like if you did I wouldn’t necessarily—

 

“Woah,” Connor says, sitting up. “I didn’t catch a single word of that, what’d you say?”

 

“That’s— it’s fine. It’s. I’m tired. Anyway,” Evan says with a breath, “What are you, um. Are you okay?”

 

“Knew that was coming,” Connor says under his breath, leaning back on the bed again. “No, not really,” He sighs.

 

“Tell me about it,” Evan says sincerely, and he doesn’t even stutter or beat around the bush because this is just what they do for each other.

 

Connor sighs even louder, just for dramatic effect. He throws his arms over his face and Evan almost laughs. “I don’t wanna .”

 

“Connor, you know I won’t judge you or anything—“

 

“No, no, I know, I just…” Connor blows a raspberry with his lips. “It’s not anything huge, but it’s… a lot. Just Larry being… fucking Larry ,” Connor spits out, throwing his arms to the side so they dangle off of Evan’s twin-sized bed.

 

“What did, um… what did fucking Larry do this time?” Evan asks timidly. It has the desired effect, because Connor throws his arm over his eyes again and lets out a snort.

 

“You’re sure you wanna know? It’s a long-ass story. I wouldn’t even want to listen to myself speak for that fucking long.”

 

“I want to know!”

 

Okay , okay. He, like— alright, so we were eating dinner and of course I was being myself and not responding to Larry’s questions, and mind you, Zoe wasn’t either, but she’s not the fuck-up kid so I guess it doesn’t matter.”

 

“Hey, don’t—“

 

Anyway , so Larry starts telling me how disrespectful I am and how I’m never gonna go anywhere in life ‘with this attitude’ and so I said, ‘Hey, your shitty attitude got you somewhere didn’t it? ’ And so of course Cynthia backs up Larry even though he was the one picking on me in the first place when I was just minding my own damn business, and Larry goes, ‘This is exactly what I’m talking about! Maybe if we would have forced you to go outside or join a sport or something you wouldn’t be like this!’” Connor’s voice for his father is half-British, like someone who’s trying to sound smart. He wonders if Larry actually sounds like that.

 

“Did he— did he actually say what I think he’s about to say?”

 

Connor opens one eye and holds up a finger. “Hold on. This is the best part. So Cynthia defends me now because she can’t pick sides apparently and says, ‘Just because Connor wasn’t in sports doesn’t mean he’s any less than you, Larry!’ ” Connor does a shrill, nasally voice to imitate his mother and Evan holds a laugh behind his hand.

 

“I hope your mom doesn’t actually sound like that.”

 

“Oh no, she does. So anyway, Zoe left the room at this point and I don’t blame her, honestly, but then Larry says ‘Maybe if you hadn’t babied him he wouldn’t be painting his nails and slamming doors! Maybe he’d have a girlfriend instead of a drug dealer! ’”

 

Connor looks at Evan for a response, but Evan just sits there looking at Connor with wide eyes and an open mouth. He frowns. “Oh no. Connor .”

 

Connor grimaces. “Yeah. But there’s more.”

 

“Jesus.”

 

“So Cynthia goes, ‘You’re not making any sense, Larry! I don’t see how that’s related at all!’ And Larry goes ‘Maybe if you would have let me give him the tough love he needed he wouldn’t be such a goddamn pansy! ’” Connor sighs, shaking his head and tangling his hands in his hair. “And we both know what that was implying. So.”

 

Connor’s eyes look empty. Evan scoots over to that they’re almost hip to hip and lays down next to him, staring up at the ceiling. The glow stars are still there from when he was little.

 

“Did you know he was… like, that he didn’t accept you, or…?”

 

Connor closes his eyes for a moment. “Not really. I mean, he wasn’t psyched about it when I told them all in, like, middle school, but he hasn’t really brought it up and so I guess… I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Evan says softly. He means it.

 

Connor doesn’t smile, but his eyes shine just a little at Evan’s words. “Wanna hear how the story ends? It’s a major fucking plot twist.”

 

“Oh— yeah, yeah, of course.”

 

“So after he says that I get madder than I’ve literally ever been before in my entire life. Cynthia’s yelling at him which surprised the shit out of me, but then I go, ‘Just call me a faggot, Larry! We both know that’s what you really want to say!’

 

“Oh, shit. Nice.”

 

Connor smirks at him in the darkness. “ Oh shit, indeed. Larry almost came around the table but thankfully Cynthia pushed me up the stairs before he could and then… then I just put on some headphones and tuned out.”

 

Evan clears his throat. “If he would have… um, he wouldn’t have like— would he have, like, hurt you? If he would have gotten to you?”

 

Connor gives him this soft look that Evan can’t really describe. “I don’t… I don’t think so. He never has, and I’ve given him worse than that, so. No.”

 

Evan just nods. He lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

 

“But I’m not completely done yet.”

 

“What— seriously?”

 

“Yeah, dude. So in the middle of one of my favorite songs, I feel someone tap on my shoulder because of course I was zoned the fuck out listening to my music at the highest volume possible.”

 

“Naturally,” Evan laughs.

 

“Always. So it scared the living shit out of me, and I was about to get really fucking mad, but. I looked up and it was Zoe, of all people.”

 

“Zoe? I thought—“

 

“Yeah, me too. So I take out my headphones and just kind of look at her for a second, and I think she considered leaving or regretted the decision or whatever because she took a step back, but then she was like, ‘I heard what dad said about you. ’”

 

“She heard?”

 

“Yeah. We always hear them fight, hence the headphones.”

 

Evan frowns.

 

“It’s kind of funny, because that was the quietest I’ve heard her talk to me in years. So I said, ‘And ?’ like an asshole because I fucking suck and I thought she was gonna yell at me or something like she usually does, but she just said, ‘Dad doesn’t know anything. He’s a dumbass.’ And I just kind of sat there because the bitch hasn’t sided with me since elementary school, so I kind of thought it was a prank but then she just sat down on my bed next to me for a while and we didn’t talk but. It was so… not bad? Like, she hasn’t wanted to even be around me for such a long time and I… I don’t get it, honestly.”

 

“You don’t?”

 

Yeah ,” Connor says like it’s obvious. “I’ve been… not good. To her. And that’s partially because she’s a fucking bitch, but whatever. She takes every single moment she has with me to tell me how much she can’t wait to get away from me because I’ve ruined her life, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be confused.”

 

“That’s… she sounds awful. Do you even want to be around her?”

 

Connor hesitates. Sighs. “Things are too fucked to ever get fixed between us.”

 

Evan props himself up on an elbow, turning to look at Connor. “I don’t think so.”

 

“You don’t know Zoe, then.” Connor raises a challenging eyebrow, rolling his eyes and scoffing.

 

Evan bites his lip, choosing the next words carefully. “Okay, I’m only saying this because I’m your friend and I care about you, so don’t get mad, okay? But, um… do you… do you even know Zoe?”

 

Connor blinks once. Twice. Three times. Bites the inside of his cheek.

 

“Connor, you can’t… if you want to fix things with her I think… I think you’ll basically have to start over with her.”

 

Connor just chews on his fingernail.

 

“Because she’s not just gonna let you back into her life. I think… if tonight wasn’t just a one time sibling solidarity thing, I think that means she wants to try too. Which— which is good! But you have to, like, actually tell her that. That you want to fix things. And like, apologize and stuff. You know?”

 

“Never said I wanted to fix things,” Connor mumbles, eyes glued to the ceiling.

 

Evan looks pointedly at him. “Connor.”

 

Connor rolls his eyes.

 

“I don’t think it’s a lost cause,” Evan says softly. For just a second he considers calling Connor by a nickname, but he chickens out before he can.

 

The words hang in the air between them and they’re both quiet for a long, long time.

 

Eventually, Connor closes his eyes and speaks.

 

“You’re straight, right?”

 

Evan almost chokes. “Um— I, uh. No?”

 

Connor raises his eyebrows. “‘ No?’

 

“No, um. No . I’m not. Straight.” Smooth. He’s glad Connor can’t see his burning ears in the dark.

 

Connor nods. “Oh. Cool.”

 

The tension is suddenly so thick Evan feels like he could catch on fire at any moment. Connor turns on his side to face Evan and his heart rate kicks up, Connor’s eyes searching his face.

 

“Does your mom know?”

 

Evan purses his lips. “No. It’s never… I guess it’s never been a, um… it’s never been a relevant subject, I guess.”

 

“I get that.” A pause. “Do you think she’d be okay with it?”

 

“Probably.”

 

Connor finally looks Evan in the eyes. “That’s good.” His lopsided smile doesn’t reach his eyes.

 

“It is,” Evan says lightly with one of his nervous laughs, hoping Connor will change the subject because for some reason it’s weird and there’s tension between the two of them.

 

Silence.

 

“So what’s your deal?”

 

“My— my deal ?”

 

“Yeah, y’know, like… you said you’re not straight, so…”

 

“Oh!” Evan doesn’t know why he’s suddenly anxious, but this conversation is carrying a lot of weight for some reason. He starts fidgeting with the hem of his shirt. “Uh… I don’t— I don’t know, really. Anyone, I guess?”

 

Connor smirks at him. “Sounds like a fun time.”

 

Evan immediately flushes, lightly punching Connor in the arm. “ No , that’s not— I didn’t mean— I haven’t even ever—“

 

“Ev, chill.” There’s the nickname again. Connor makes it sound so effortless to just give someone a new nickname without worrying if the person’s going to hate it or not. Evan’s jealous, quite frankly. “ I’m stuck with only boys. At least you have options .”

 

Evan scoffs, talking without thinking. “And it makes me feel extra horrible about myself because I have so many options but no one—“ He cuts himself off. “Yeah.”

 

Connor’s looking at him with a new interest. Evan has a hard time meeting his eyes. “Fuck them. Everyone at our school walks around with a giant stick up their ass.”

 

Evan smiles. “Sounds uncomfortable.”

 

Connor smiles wider. “It’s not as bad as you’d think.”

 

Evan can’t help but laugh. “You’re— you’re stupid,” He says fondly.

 

He can’t remember the last time he was around someone who made him laugh like this, but every time he’s around Connor he’s actually, genuinely happy. He’s content. Comfortable, for once.

 

When Connor falls asleep, Evan listens to his soft breath and tries to will himself to sleep. He really does. But every couple of seconds his eyes are drawn to the sleeping form beside him and Evan finds himself mapping out every freckle, every little imperfection. Connor has a tiny scar near his eyebrow, Evan discovers, and he also discovers that Connor’s eyelashes are really fucking long.

 

Evan smiles suddenly when he remembers how Connor had shown up to his house that night. He fucking quoted Rapunzel at him, for god’s sake. Evan doesn’t understand why Connor’s so good to him. Everything Connor does makes Evan so happy, and Connor’s so endearing, and he gets it, and he’s kind of perfect and Evan almost moves to caress the side of Connor’s face because there’s a hair that’s about to go in his eye but. That would be super weird.

 

The conversation they’d had is weighing on Evan’s mind as he shifts fully onto his side, facing Connor. He assumes that Connor had asked about his sexuality out of curiosity, or because his dad’s a blatant homophobe and he wanted to know if Evan’s family was the same, or. Something.

 

Something.

 

It doesn’t matter, really. He falls asleep thinking about how lucky he is to have someone like Connor in his life.

 

And if Evan wakes up first and Connor’s fingers are somehow laced with his, nobody needs to know. Not even Connor.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Winter sucks,” Connor mumbles, eyes fully closed, as Evan approaches the table.

 

“Relatable,” Evan replies, setting his things down with a plonk on the table next to him. He doesn’t have any idea how Connor knew it was him, but it makes him smile nonetheless. Connor glances up at him from where he’s sitting with his cheek pressed to his crossed arms.

 

“Midterms suck.”

 

“Also relatable,” Evan says, resting his face in his hands and tilting his head at Connor. Something’s off. “So, um— anything fun happen in any of your classes? Or, like… anything… not fun?”

 

Connor sighs, dramatically pushing himself up so that he’s resting on his elbows. “No,” He says shortly, pushing his food around with his fork. “Wish we could be in our spot, though.”

 

“Me too. Um— fuck the cold!” Evan announces in an attempt to make Connor laugh, loud enough for Connor to hear but soft enough so he doesn’t disturb anyone else in the library. He takes his water bottle and holds it out like a toast, and Connor snorts and rolls his eyes before bumping his milk against it.

 

Then they sit there in silence, which is slightly unusual considering how much they’ve grown comfortable with each other in the past few months. If something was bothering Connor, Evan would like to think that he’d tell him about it. But for some reason, he kind of doesn’t want to bring it up. It just feels wrong. Bad timing or something.

 

His anxiety counters that with a not-so-subtle, ‘ But what if he’s mad at you? Sick of you? Just ask him already.

 

So.

 

“Did, um… did something happen?”

 

Connor blinks, glancing up at him for a second with the darkest glare Evan’s seen from him in a while, and he pulls his sleeves down over his hands like he does when he’s uncomfortable. “Doesn’t matter,” Connor says, his tone edging on annoyed.

 

“Okay.”

 

More silence. Evan takes a bite of his lukewarm hotdog.

 

Everything was fine this morning. He had texted Connor good morning like they had recently gotten into the habit of doing, and he seemed content when he stood at Evan’s locker and walked with him to class. He was fine in English, so it had to be something very recent. What changed between then and now? Is Evan’s presence annoying him?

 

Connor groans, sliding his palms down his face. “I can feel you staring at me.”

 

Evan coughs, looking down at his tray. “Sorry,” He almost whispers, feeling small.

 

Yeah, Evan’s definitely annoying him. He decides to count the number of corn kernels on his tray a couple of times to keep his brain occupied as it screams at him to escape to the bathroom or to flee the country or something. When Connor’s in one of these moods, it’s hard to get him out of it without someone’s feelings getting hurt.

 

It takes a second, but Connor huffs out a breath eventually, winding his hands into his hair. “It’s not you.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I’m not—” Connor cuts himself off, groaning in frustration. “I’m not mad at you, okay? I’m. I’m sorry.”

 

Evan looks down. “It’s fine.”

 

“Jesus, Evan— it’s not fine. I’m being pissy and I’m sorry.”

 

“I know you’re sorry,” Evan says genuinely, meeting Connor’s eyes. “It’s okay, really.”

 

Connor lets out a breath, slumping onto the table. “I am… irritated.”

 

Evan hesitates. “I get it if you don’t wanna talk about it but just so you know I’m here to listen and if you want to talk about it I really won’t mind I just don’t want you to be unhappy,” He says all in one breath. He makes himself smaller, curling his shoulders inward to prepare for impact.

 

“It’s just gonna make me even more angry,” Connor counters, clenching his jaw. He starts bouncing his leg, his knee knocking softly against the table and making the whole thing vibrate.

 

“Hm,” Evan thinks, scooping up some corn and then watching it fall back down onto his tray. “But maybe… maybe if you tell me about it… some of the anger will, like… leave? And you won’t be just bottling it up and stuff.”

 

Connor purses his lips. “Yeah, maybe.”

 

“Only if you want to, though,” Evan continues, getting anxious. “Like, you don’t have to. I just want to help.”

 

Connor looks to the side, and when he looks back at Evan his eyes soften. “I know. So— ugh. Earlier I was walking to class and I overheard something that made me want to slam someone’s head into a locker. Or, like, my own head.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Evan prompts him to go on.

 

“Fucking—” Connor takes a second to breathe. “Jared Kleinman.”

 

Evan’s heart stops for a second. “Oh, uh— J-Jared, huh?” The hem of his shirt is suddenly very interesting.

 

Connor sighs again. “Yeah,” He says flatly. “I was at my locker and he was behind me talking to someone and he said something.”

 

Evan blinks. “He said something ,” Evan repeats.

 

“Yup.”

 

“What— what did he say?”

 

Connor dramatically blows out a breath like this subject pains him. “Alana came up to him and asked him where you had been recently because she hadn’t seen you two together.”

 

Evan raises his eyebrows. He tries to ignore the fact that his heart just about drops into his stomach. “Oh.”

 

“He said—” Connor clenches his fist. “He said you were too busy with your new best friend to give a shit about him anymore.”

 

Evan just sits there.

 

“And I really just wanted to punch him in the fucking face, because he’s the one who freaked out on you for no fucking reason, and he has no right to say that you don’t give a shit about him anymore because he knows you have anxiety, he knows he’s the one who fucked it up, and he also knows that you have a huge fucking heart and that you probably miss him. So i’m kind of mad that he’s being such a fucking dick .” Connor shuts his mouth and closes his eyes, clenching and unclenching his fists.

 

After his heart skips a beat at you have a huge fucking heart , he processes what Connor’s just told him. “He’s… oh my god, he’s jealous.”

 

Connor’s eyes are wild. “What?”

 

“I can’t believe I didn’t realize it. He’s…” Evan trails off, not sure how to approach this. “He’s an interesting person. Whenever he’s in pain or something, he always uses shitty jokes or anger to cover it up. He— he doesn’t know that I know because I’ve never really confronted him about it, but… I think he’s jealous. Of us.”

 

Connor licks his lips. “Jealous.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Well, he’s got a shitty way of showing it.” Connor takes a rather aggressive bite of his hotdog, glancing at Evan’s tray before looking back up at him. “You should eat.”

 

Evan looks down at his tray, which has barely been touched. “I don’t know how you eat this food.”

 

“I eat it so I can live ,” Connor says pointedly, taking another bite. It strikes a chord within Evan, and he remembers all of their conversations about suicide and self-hatred and life and he can’t help the sneaking suspicion that this is all connected somehow. “Eat, Ev. You’ll be hungry.”

 

So he doesn’t argue.

 

 

Connor hasn’t texted him all afternoon.

 

Which would be fine. It would be healthy, even, if that was something that happened a lot. But it doesn’t. Connor is almost always texting him to complain about one of his mom’s new fad diets or Zoe’s shitty TLC shows she makes Connor watch with her. So when it’s nearly 8pm and it’s been radio silence from Connor ever since lunch, he gets a little worried. It’s almost normal to not see Connor for the rest of the day, but after school? They’re always in contact.

 

Needless to say, the state of Connor’s mental health is on the forefront of Evan’s mind.

 

It makes Evan wonder if he’s become too attached to Connor. He shouldn’t be relying on him for every little thing, he shouldn’t be constantly thinking about him and wanting to be around him and wanting to hear from him, even just to know what he’s up to. It’s not normal.

 

He misses Connor, though. He can’t help it. But maybe Connor’s starting to get sick of him.

 

Maybe he’s overreacting.

 

It’s 1am when he finally decides that he needs to stop worrying and just go to sleep, but a part of him wants to wait up just in case. He’d texted Connor a couple of times, just telling him little things that have happened since he got home like his mom actually being home for dinner and how the old Wizard of Oz was on TV tonight, but he’d gotten no response. Nothing.

 

Maybe Connor’s in one of his moods, like Evan had previously expected. Sometimes when he’s angry he tells Evan that he’s feeling pissy and that he’s probably not going to want to talk much, and that’s probably the case, but something still feels wrong about it. Connor’s just off . He usually wants to talk about it, and Evan wants to fix it.

 

A ping coming from beside him has him shooting up in bed to grab his phone.

 

And.



Jared Coolman : Skype?



That’s. That’s an interesting turn of events.

 

Evan doesn’t really know what to say. Or what to feel.

 

He could pretend to be asleep, because he doesn’t turn on read receipts for this exact reason, or he could say no and that he was about to go to bed, or he could reply with something snarky about what Jared had said just earlier in the day but that feels like a lot so he just does what he does best.

 

He gives in.



Evan : sure



He heaves his ancient laptop onto his bed, flipping it open and waiting very anxiously for Jared to call him. He can’t help but wonder what this is about, why it’s happening, if Jared’s going to tell him off for something he didn’t know he did—

 

The tune of a skype call coming in has his stomach in a twist.

 

“Hi,” Evan says, voice cracking when he sees Jared’s pixelated face on the screen.

 

“Hey,” Jared says, looking down and adjusting his glasses. He takes a breath. “I am such a giant dick.”

 

Evan’s caught off guard, frankly. He laughs just once, too loudly, then when Jared looks at him with serious eyes he composes himself. “I, uh. Yeah. You kinda are,” He admits, face burning. He guesses that this random streak of confidence comes from Connor.

 

Jared runs his fingers through his hair. “I mean, you didn’t have to agree with me. Jesus.”

 

“You… you said it first.”

 

Jared rolls his eyes. “Yeah. Anyways, I, uh. I am… sorry. For being such a giant dick to you.”

 

Evan pauses. “You’re sorry?” He was half expecting for Jared to either be mean to him again or to act like none of this ever happened, but he’s pleased with this alternative.

 

Yeah , Evan, good god. Don’t make me say it again, it was painful enough the first time.”

 

Evan cracks a smile despite himself. “Is everything okay? You kind of freaked out for no reason. I’ve been… I’ve been worrying, honestly.”

 

Jared shakes his head, looking up. “Man, I do not understand you. I’ve been ignoring you for a month and you’re asking me if I’m okay.” Jared laughs. “I guess he—”

 

Jared’s connection cuts out for a second and he’s frozen on the screen.

 

“— so I just wanted to apologize because I was just being a jealous little bitch and honestly, it kind of sucks to not have you to pick on.”

 

“That… doesn’t really make me want to forgive you, Jared.”

 

“C’mon, you know I’m just kidding.”

 

Evan hesitates. “Yeah, I… I guess.”

 

Jared lets out a frustrated sigh. “Evan, my dude. Come on. I like to make jokes . I’m funny. You know this.”

 

Evan looks down, face reddening. “Yeah, well, sometimes it doesn’t feel like a joke, okay?”

 

A beat.

 

“Well, shit. I guess I didn’t really… I didn’t really think you took that shit seriously.”

 

“Well. I did. I do. A lot. Like, maybe I want to be called your friend instead of your family friend if you care about me so much. And maybe I want to eat with you at lunch sometimes, because— it sucks when someone who you think is your friend constantly fucks with you and makes you question if he’s actually your friend or not.”

 

Shit. He doesn’t know where that came from, but he’s damn proud of himself for telling the truth. He makes a mental note to tell Connor about it later.

 

Jared’s face falls. “Why didn’t you tell me, man?”

 

Evan looks down and picks at a hangnail. “I thought you’d laugh at me or something and then— I dunno. You’d leave for good this time.”

 

Jared doesn’t speak for a long time.

 

“I just,” He says finally, “I had no idea, Evan. I’m really sorry.”

 

Evan’s never heard Jared sound this serious or genuine before. It’s kind of freaking him out. “It’s okay. I’ll get over it. Not sure if Connor will, though.”

 

“Speaking of, I also promise to be nicer to Hot Topic, even when he’s being a giant douchebag.”

 

“Jared. He’s my friend .”

 

“I know, I know. Joking. Jokes .” Jared pauses. “I’d like to formally invite you to the cool table at lunch tomorrow,” He announces, “ And you can bring your emo boyfriend as your plus-one because I’m so incredibly generous and amazing.”

 

“Oh, um— thank you, but I don’t really like the cafeteria that much. The noise is kind of… a lot. And I don’t really think Connor would be welcomed with open arms, either.”

 

Jared rolls his eyes. “God, you drive a hard bargain. Alright, fine. Since you begged and pleaded, I’ll eat lunch with you and Fabio in the loser department.”

 

Evan’s eyebrows almost shoot into his hairline. “You— you want to eat with us?” He feels a bit dizzy all of a sudden. He doesn’t know if he can handle that .

 

If Jared rolls his eyes any more they’re going to get stuck in the back of his head. “Duh, dude. I never really—“ He cuts out again, face frozen on the screen.

 

“— and I know she’s into me, but whatever. Anyways, I’ll see you at school tomorrow, man. Night.”

 

“Night, Jared.”

 

He lays back in bed, shell-shocked. Jared Kleinman, who has formerly claimed that he doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself because he’s the best, actually apologized. Evan doesn’t think he’s ever seen Jared own up to his actions before, unless he was in trouble and admitting the truth would get him less of a punishment.

 

Huh.

 

Interesting night.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Evan tried. He really did.

 

He had packed his stuff up before the bell for once, he shot out of his seat and shoved most of his stuff in his locker and he even ran up to the library even though it was up, like, a million flights of stairs and he was embarrassingly trying to hide the fact that he was out of breath by the time he finally got there.

 

Because the last thing he wanted was for him to be the last one to arrive at the tiny table in the back corner of the library, but when he gets there he immediately spots Jared yapping at Connor and tapping his pen while Connor scowls and glares at him. Fuck.

 

As he gets closer, he sees Connor’s eye twitch. Then Connor shifts his jaw and. Evan’s not feeling positive about this whole endeavor, honestly. He looks like he’s about to lose his mind or storm off or start yelling or all of the above simultaneously.

 

“...so I was like, ‘ Evan, you’ve gotta stop humping trees, man. It’s fucked up .’ And he tried to deny it, because he wants everyone to think he’s a sweet little angel, but he really just has a super intense tree kink. Sometimes those sweet branches are all he can think about.”

 

“Uh.” Evan stops about three steps away from the table.

 

“Evan!” Jared says brightly, flipping around in his seat. “Welcome! I was just telling Connie here how you broke your arm.”

 

Evan feels his breath get caught in his throat. He coughs, trying to force it out, but all he can see is the view from where he had laid on the ground, blinking in and out of consciousness just waiting. He wasn’t even sure if he was waiting to die or waiting for someone to find him. Either way, it was the waiting that was more excruciating than the pain of his twisted arm. He can still kind of feel his rapid heartbeat and breathing from that night, and how much he was sweating and how for just a second, even though he was sure he was just a couple seconds from death, he was worried about dirt stains on his shirt.

 

While Jared’s turned around in his seat, Connor takes the opportunity to mouth ‘ I’m going to kill him ’ at Evan, who frowns in response. “ Connie ?” Evan manages to choke out.

 

“Yeah,” Jared says easily, flipping back around when Evan takes the seat next to Connor. “It’s a nickname. Y’know, like how you’re Acorn and now he’s Connie. I dunno, though, it doesn’t have the right ring to it. He needs something more… exciting.” Jared puts his feet up on the table, leaning back in his chair so it tips off the ground a bit. Unfortunately, those feet happen to be right in Connor’s personal space, just inches away from his lunch.

 

“I have an exciting one,” Connor says lightly, looking at Jared way too calmly. Fuck. Not good.

 

“Oh shit, really? Lay it on me, man!”

 

“Alright, hold on to your seat, here it comes,” Connor holds up his hands and Evan braces for impact. “ Connor . It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think ?” With the last word, Connor shoves Jared’s feet off the table and Evan clamps a hand over his mouth to keep the giggles in. Connor settles back into his seat, glaring at Jared’s shocked expression. When he hears Evan laugh he glances over at him for just a second, grinning slightly. It disappears when Jared talks again, and Evan almost blushes because it’s like that smile was only for him.

 

“God, you two are no fun at all .” Jared rolls his eyes, crossing his arms. “That was a good one, though. You got me. Congratulations.”

 

Connor just shrugs, hunching forward and trying to hide the satisfied look on his face.

 

“So, Acorn,” Jared starts, putting his feet up on Evan’s side of the table, “It’s been a hot minute. What have you and your boy toy been up to these days?”

 

Connor pauses for a second, but then takes a quiet breath and lays his palms flat on his knees. Evan quickly glances at him and sees that he has his eyes closed. “Oh, um— y’know, just hanging out. Watching movies and stuff.” The second he mentions a movie, Evan knows he’s fucked up. Majorly.

 

“Ohhhh,” Jared nods slowly, “I see. Like, Netflix and chill?” He waggles his eyebrows at Connor.

 

Jared— you’re such an idiot,” Evan says almost lovingly, desperately wishing for a cool breeze to come through a window right about now to tone down his red face.

 

“You didn’t deny it!”

 

“How could I be Netflix and chilling with Evan when I’m spending so much alone time with your dad?” Connor says quietly, almost nonchalantly, flipping the page of a book he’s miraculously conjured since Evan had last looked at him.

 

There’s a few seconds of stunned silence before Jared starts cackling.

 

Evan immediately feels the weight of anxiety pressing on his chest because people start looking , Jared’s being so loud, and Evan feels his hands start to shake as the new librarian starts marching toward them. He tries to take a deep breath, but he can’t help but focus on all of the pairs of eyes that are looking at him, judging him, and.

 

He really can’t breathe when Connor’s hand falls on top of his and squeezes.

 

Evan glances over at him, but Connor just keeps his eyes glued to the pages in front of him and gives Evan’s hand another light squeeze.

 

“Young man, are you aware that you are in a library?” The librarian asks, cocking his head to the side and tapping his foot. He’s the kind of guy that Jared absolutely cannot stand; a ‘hipster wannabe’, as Jared would put it. He’s got this mustache that he twirled the ends of and tortoiseshell glasses and he’s wearing a button-up and patterned socks and Evan can practically see the cogs turning in Jared’s head.

 

“I am, actually. I have eyes, you see.”

 

The librarian presses his mouth into a line. “Keep it down,” He says sharply, turning on his heel and marching back over to his desk.

 

When he’s gone Evan’s anxiety starts to cease and he’s finally able to take a breath.

 

Connor doesn’t move his hand.

 

Evan’s not complaining.

 

“God, that new guy is such a douchebag,” Jared huffs, turning back around and crossing his arms. “He’s new, though, so he still wants us to like him. He’ll learn soon enough.”

 

Connor breathes out an exasperated breath from beside him.

 

“Anyways, Connor, my dude! I had no idea you actually had a sense of humor!” Jared laughs, earning a death glare from the librarian. Jared waves at him and he just rolls his eyes, sticking his nose back into his newspaper.

 

“Fuck off,” Connor says flatly, flipping the page with one hand. Evan keeps his other hand in his lap. “Also, it’s ‘ anyway’ .”

 

“Huh?” Jared asks, mouth full of grilled cheese.

 

Connor sighs, flexing his fingers against Evan’s. “Nothing.”

 

“Seriously, though. You’re fucking funny . If someone woulda told me that Connor Murphy had a sense of humor, I wouldn’t have believed them. But look at you!” Jared gestures to Connor, making him flinch. “A regular comedian. Your mom didn’t mention that when I was at your house the other night,” Jared adds, sitting back with a satisfied smile on his face. Connor sizes him up, tilts his head to the side.

 

“She did show you the extra-small condoms in the cabinet though, right?” Connor asks, completely dead-faced and monotone. “Or were you too busy looking for my dad’s Viagra?”

 

Jared barks out a laugh, face disgusted, slapping his hands on the table. “Dude, you’re gross !”

 

Connor just shrugs, looking back at his book. Evan squeezes his hand when he laughs, earning a slight twitch at the corner of Connor’s mouth.

 

“My god, Hansen. I approve of this one.” Connor’s hand relaxes against Evan’s. “You really know how to pick ‘em,” Jared laughs, shaking his head.

 

“Pick—?”

 

“Oh yeah, Con-Con, by the way, I didn’t end up using your condoms from the cabinet. Figured I’d risk it for the biscuit, you know what I’m sayin’?”

 

“Funny. I thought the exact same thing when I fucked your dad.”

 

Evan decides right there that this is literally the weirdest experience he’s ever had in his life. He doesn’t know that he could even speak if he wanted to.

 

“Damn, I should have known when I banged the hell out of Zoe that you were going to be just as uptight.”

 

Evan’s hand about snaps in half at the way Connor’s crushing it in his, gripping onto Evan so hard that he starts to shake. “Don’t you dare talk about my sister like that.” Connor leans closer to Jared. “ Ever . Got it?”

 

For a second there’s fear in Jared’s eyes, but then he just smirks. “Sorry, dude. Struck a nerve, huh?” He asks Evan, trying to get him involved. Evan just sits there, eyes wide. He’s never been one for fighting or flying, he’s always preferred to freeze.

 

Connor’s hand falls from Evan’s as he suddenly pushes back his chair and stands, gathering his stuff. “Bell’s about to ring,” Connor grits out. “See you later,” He says to only Evan.

 

Once Connor’s slammed the library door behind him, Jared turns to Evan.

 

“Well,” He says, putting his feet on Connor’s chair, “I think that went well.”

 

Evan just rests his head on his forearms, groaning. He can still feel the warmth of Connor’s hand in his.

 

 

“Tell me again why I agreed to this?” Connor asks, pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

Evan sighs, scooting closer and bumping Connor’s shoulder with his own. “Jared wanted to say sorry for— for being a giant dick earlier, basically,” Evan says, unsure if he should ignore his sudden impulse to wrap Connor in a hug or to just do it and see what happens. “You don’t have to be here if you don’t want to— I can just tell him not to come over, or you can… you can leave or something or if he’s already on his way I can tell him to turn around, or—”

 

Connor just places a hand on Evan’s forearm, settling back into Evan’s old couch. It shuts Evan up immediately.

 

“Sorry. Rambling.”

 

“Stop apologizing,” Connor says flatly. “Kleinman is a giant douchebag.”

 

“I know, I’m sorry, I should have told you we were going to eat lunch with him—”

 

“But he’s… really funny, actually.”

 

Evan stops. “What?”

 

“It pains me to admit that, honestly,” Connor sighs, “But it’s true. I don’t mind being around him that much.”

 

“You—” Evan stops. “Are you— where did Connor go?” Evan asks, turning toward Connor and grabbing his shoulders before he can stop himself. He squints into Connor’s eyes. “Connor? Are— are you in there?”

 

Connor grins, pushing Evan off of him. “Shut up. I never said he wasn’t an awful person, because he is, and he’s been bullying you for years—”

 

Unintentionally—

 

“— and that fucking sucks, but I’ve already said my piece to him about that so I don’t think I need to say it again.” Connor freezes in place.

 

“What—” Evan pulls back. “Your piece ?”

 

“Uh,” Connor flips his hair so that it falls over one of his eyes. “Yeah, um. I may have… talked to Jared. About how he was treating you.”

 

Evan’s heart kind of breaks. “So… he didn’t apologize to me because he was sorry? Just… because you told him to do it?”

 

“No,” Connor says desperately, putting a hand on Evan’s arm again. Evan almost wants to shake it off.

 

“I can handle my own problems, you know— just because I— just because it’s hard for me to stand up for myself doesn’t mean I’m not able to, Connor—”

 

“I know that,” Connor says gently, grip tightening on Evan’s arm.

 

“I don’t need you to be my guardian or, or anything— I can— I’m a big boy, I can handle a little conflict once in a while, I’m not completely helpless—”

 

“Evan!” Connor shouts, eyes closing. Evan’s glad his mom isn’t home. “Let me talk, fuck . I didn’t ask him to apologize.”

 

Evan blinks. “Then what did you say?”

 

“I just—” Connor shakes his head. “I kind of blew up on him, okay? I saw him in the hallway after lunch yesterday and told him how he was being a literal sack of shit to you. That’s it.”

 

“That’s it.”

 

Yes . I swear. I told him how much you missed him and… how much he doesn’t deserve you as a friend and how he should have— I didn’t tell him to apologize, basically. All I did was tell him off.”

 

Evan uncrosses his arms. He scratches a spot behind his ear. “Okay.”

 

“Listen— I know you can, like, fight your own battles or whatever. I’ve seen you do it. I wasn’t… doubting you. I was angry.”

 

“I know,” Evan says quietly. He feels like an idiot for getting mad at Connor for no reason. “Sorry.”

 

“Why?” Connor asks, bumping Evan’s shoulder. “We’re cool.”

 

“I yelled at you.”

 

“Again, I don’t think you understand what yelling is,” Connor laughs, shaking his head. “I’d get upset about that too. It’s chill.”

 

Evan bumps his shoulder back, looking up at Connor and giving him a timid smile. Connor returns it easily, pushing his hair back off of his face. And then he leans closer, narrowing his eyes, and Evan’s heart starts beating out of his chest. He can’t help but keep his eyes open, mind racing, and then Connor lifts his hand to Evan’s face and Evan feels like he’s short circuiting.

 

This can’t be happening.

 

It can’t.

 

The biggest problem is that Evan doesn’t know if he wants to push Connor away or not.

 

“Eyelash,” Connor mutters, picking something off of Evan’s cheek and pulling back, holding it out on one finger. “Make a wish,” He says sweetly, and Evan’s just stuck there for a minute.

 

Okay.

 

When they met, he remembers sitting there on the grass with Connor by his side, happy that he got to at least be with someone before he was gone. He remembers Connor offering him his sweatshirt, and telling him he didn’t deserve to die. Caring, like no one else had. And he knew next to nothing about him.

 

But this feels like a completely different person. It’s the same Connor, but he’s nothing like the detached person Evan had met that night. Connor cares more than anyone Evan’s ever called his ‘friend’. He cares about Evan for real this time, not just about how he thinks Evan’s a good person and has a future. He cares. He knows Evan and how he is and how he acts and feels, and he cares. He stayed.

 

It’s more than Evan could have asked for.

 

He has what he’s always wanted: a good friend. So what does he have left to wish for?

 

Evan shakily blows out a gust of air and the eyelash flies off of Connor’s index finger, Connor smiling with satisfaction when it disappears.

 

“What’d you wish for?” Connor asks, winking and poking his arm.

 

He doesn’t even want to admit it to himself.