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You Better Watch Yourself

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Evan was an outcast. He knew it and he hated it. God, he hated it. Nothing about him was normal - not his home life, not his brain, and definitely not his soulmate mark.

Evan had first found it at thirteen. Written on the curve of his left hip were the words “You better watch yourself.” He was one of the small percentage of the population lucky enough to be marked and yet the words were so mean. He just knew his soulmate was some horrible, abusive person who would know and recognize just how broken and messed up he actually was.

He wished he’d been less lucky. He wished he’d been born without a soulmate at all, like his mom. Maybe she wasn’t happy, but at least she didn’t have to worry about disappointing anyone. Evan knew he would one day, if he ever found his soulmate.

It could be years before he did, or even decades. His own dad had found his when he was in his thirties at a bar. One thing led to another and soon the cocktail waitress had really and truly stolen Mike Hansen’s heart. Within weeks, he was moved out and gone and it was just Heidi and Evan. It had been that way for the last ten years.

He hoped in a way that he wouldn’t meet them. Then Evan could live his life without any concerns. Or okay, he could live his life with as few romantic concerns as possible - he’d never be totally free.

Evan knew he probably wouldn’t be completely without romantic concerns either, though. The only person he’d ever loved romantically was already taken, and he knew he could never compete with her soulmate. Zoe Murphy deserved better than him anyway. She deserved someone as talented and driven as Alana Beck. Evan was a mess and Alana was the most put together person he knew. No one could even come close to her.

So, he was left pining from afar. He’d seen them together, seen how happy they made each other, and in some ways, he was happy for them. In others, he was jealous, but he kept that to himself. Who would he tell, anyway? Jared? It wasn’t like his family friend cared about Evan’s unrequited feelings unless he was making a joke at Evan’s expense.

He’d just try to be alone forever. It couldn’t be that hard, right? He’d basically already been doing it for the last seventeen years. What could possibly go wrong?

Chapter Text

“Is it weird to be the first person in history to break their arm from jerking off too much, or do you consider that an honor?”

Evan could feel his ears turning red, a knot forming in his throat. Had Alana heard Jared say that? She’d probably tell Zoe and then they’d both find him disgusting and they wouldn’t even want to be his friend-

“Stop, no I didn’t‐ I wasn’t‑ I wasn’t doing that,” He rushed out, tugging at the well-worn hem of his favorite blue t-shirt. His eyes scanned the crowded hallway for signs that anyone was listening to their conversation, but as usual, no one was.

“Paint me the picture. You’re in your bedroom, you’ve got Zoe Murphy’s Instagram up on your weird, off-brand cell phone…” Jared replied, grinning at him. Evan felt his chest tighten as he bit his lip. Obviously, Zoe could never know he’d done that, even if it had only been once. God, why did he have to be a hormonal teenager with a crush? And more importantly, why did Jared have to know about it?

“That’s not what happened!” His cheeks burned and his hands balled into fists. Evan glanced around again, though no one was paying them any attention. People rarely did. “Obviously. I was just‑ well, I was climbing a tree and I fell.” Evan glanced down to the gray tiled floor, avoiding Jared’s eyes. The last thing he needed was for Jared to find out what really happened. God, he’d make fun of him and make sure everyone knew that Evan was messed up and needed to be in a hospital or something.

“You fell?” Jared cackled, forcing Evan to look up. “Out of a tree? What are you, like, an acorn?” Evan froze, his face in between a smile and a frown. He would have laughed if Jared hadn’t been talking about the worst day of his life like it was the gag from some wacky 90s sitcom, complete with a laugh track.

“Well I was — I don’t know if you know this, but I worked this summer as an Apprentice Park Ranger, um, at Ellison State Park? I’m sort of a tree expert now,” He gushed, grinning at the statement. Evan knew Jared found his love for trees to be dorky. Most people did. Evan loved them, though. “I mean, not to brag...anyway, I tried to climb this forty foot tall oak tree…”

“And you fell?” Jared asked skeptically. He raised an eyebrow at the taller boy and Evan felt his mouth go a little dry.

“Well, it’s actually a funny story, though, because there was a solid ten minutes after I fell where I just laid there on the ground waiting for someone to come get me. I was just saying to myself uh, any second now, they’re going to come.”

“Did they?” Jared asked. Evan thought he saw maybe a bit of concern on Jared’s face, but it was quickly replaced with an amused expression. Evan felt the heat coming off his face, embarrassed to admit the truth.

“No, nobody came. That’s what’s funny,” He said, trying to turn his broken arm and near-death experience into a joke. Jared just stared at him like he had grown three heads. Evan hated that look. He got it way more often than he liked, usually from Jared or some asshole jock who’d been forced to partner with him in one of his classes. He clamped his mouth shut.

“Jesus Christ,” Jared said, rolling his eyes. He glanced over Evan’s shoulder, his eyes widening slightly at whatever was happening behind Evan. He turned immediately, but Jared reached out and grabbed his arm.

“No, don’t be so obvious, man! Jesus,” He shook his head, then peered over Evan’s shoulder a second time. “Connor Murphy actually showed up today. And he grew out his hair! Jesus, he looks even more psychotic than usual.”

Evan swallowed thickly, trying to regain some moisture in his throat. “Jared, that’s a rude thing to say,” He said, quietly. Connor Murphy was scary. He was terrifying, actually. He’d glared so forcefully at Evan once that Evan legitimately thought Connor was trying to set him on fire. But, Evan knew logically that saying stupid things to him wasn’t going to help anything. In fact, it would just make things worse.

“Hey, Connor!” Jared greeted, moving past Evan to approach the brunet. Evan turned and followed quickly behind. If Connor killed Jared, Evan should probably watch just so he could report it back to their parents. He wanted to be sure they didn’t blame him for it. “Loving the new hair length! Very school shooter chic.”

An uncomfortable silence settled over the three boys as Connor stared blankly at Jared. Evan would have thought he didn’t even care about the rude comment were it not for the unbridled rage in Connor’s eyes.

“I was just...kidding,” Jared said with a shrug, clearly weirded out by Connor’s lack of a response. “It was a joke…?”

“Yeah, no. It was funny. I’m laughing, can’t you tell?” Connor replied apathetically, his eyes locked with Jared’s. Oh god, he’s definitely going to murder him, Evan thought as he watched helplessly.

“Am I not laughing hard enough for you?” Connor demanded, taking the few steps separating them quickly. Oh good, so it wouldn’t be a slow death. At least Jared probably wouldn’t suffer much.

“You’re such a freak.” Jared stumbled back, turning and leaving to go to class. Evan watched him go. He then realized he was still standing in the middle of the hallway, a quickly emptying hallway at that, with Connor ‘I solve my problems by throwing printers’ Murphy. He froze, an awkward smile on his face. Involuntarily, he laughed nervously and made eye contact with Connor, whose glare only intensified.

“You better watch yourself, you fucking freak,” Connor growled, rushing towards him. Evan had no time to move, or maybe he couldn’t move anymore at all. His legs felt glued to the floor and his heart leapt. Holy shit. No no no no no no.

Connor shoved him hard, hard enough to send him flying to the floor. Evan’s backpack absorbed most of the force, though, and he thankfully did not hit his head. He still felt his chest tighten, and tears began pricking at his eyes. He opened his mouth, ready to apologize for whatever he had done to make Connor upset, but he had already stormed off.

Evan was left on the floor when Connor’s words hit him, leaving him more breathless than before.

Chapter Text

He laid on the ground, his hands grasping at the straps of his backpack in an attempt to ground himself back to reality. Evan’s chest was tight, too tight. He couldn’t breathe and the world was ending and he was dying and he was too young to die and he had a pre-calc test in an hour and he needed it pass it to graduate and he needed to graduate to go to college and he needed to go to college to get a job and and and-

“Hey, I’m sorry about my brother‐ are you okay?” Oh god, oh god. He was dying and Zoe Murphy of all people was the person who would get to witness his final moments first hand. Oh god. She stood over him. His vision was blurring, but he would recognize her perfect voice anywhere.

“Wait, can you breathe? What’s...what’s happening?” She asked, bending down to sit beside him. Zoe’s face was suddenly the only thing he could see as she leaned over him. “Evan, right?” He could only nod once, a quick jerk of his head as he gasped for breath.

“Evan, I need you to breathe for me, okay? this, okay? In, out. In, out.” Zoe demonstrated a few times and grabbed his hand. Evan flinched, not expecting to be touched. She dropped her hand, concern in her eyes. Evan regretted the action immediately. That might have been the only time Zoe Murphy would ever touch him.

“In,” She said gently, making sure to give him some space. “Out.” He tried it, sucking in air when she told him to and hissing it out with her signal. Eventually, his breath began to mellow out and he could properly sit up. The weakness he felt after a panic attack hit not long after. He slumped back against the lockers, grateful for the chill they provided.

“So...are you okay?” Zoe asked. She looked genuinely concerned and Evan already felt ridiculously vulnerable for what she had witnessed and helped him through.

“Uh, I‐ yeah. I’m okay. Are you okay?”

Her head tilted, causing her long, dark hair to fall back over her shoulder. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”

“No, yeah, I asked if I was so I asked. I’m sorry,” he replied, rubbing at his eyes before staring resolutely at the floor.

“Why are you sorry?” Zoe asked, a small smile on her face. It was the same kind of smile he’d seen countless times at jazz band concerts and he felt his insides twist.

“I, uh, it’s just so annoying when people like, ask if you’re okay,” He said, his hands finding their way to the hem of his shirt like they usually did when he was anxious. Evan realized a second too late what he had said, and how Zoe might interpret it. “No, not like you’re annoying or anything. You aren’t! You‐ uh…sorry.”

She regarded him cautiously, like he was some weird science experiment that had escaped and she wanted to study him up close but she was a little too nervous to do so. Evan couldn’t blame her.

“I’m Zoe,” She said finally, offering him a hand. He wiped his palm again before shaking her hand, hoping and praying that his hand wasn’t as sweaty as he imagined. He didn’t need Zoe to think he was even more of a loser than she already probably thought he was.

“Evan,” he replied.

“We should probably get to class,” Zoe said, standing. She offered a hand to Evan, who accepted it with only a small amount of apprehension. He let go immediately in case Alana decided to, like, go to the bathroom or something and came out to see him holding her girlfriend/soulmate’s hand. Zoe didn’t even seem to notice.

"Or maybe you should go to the nurse?" She asked, pausing to look at him. Zoe was almost the same height as him, he could look into her deep blue eyes easily. They scared him a bit. She scared him a bit. Not in a she's a horrible person who could set fire to everything you love kind of way, but in a she makes my stomach feel like it's inside out and it's terrifying kind of way. Evan looked away, back down to the floor. Evan shrugged. He probably should go to the nurse, but she might call his mom. He didn't want to worry his mother further right now.

“Bye, Evan,” Zoe said finally with a small smile. Evan awkwardly jerked his head and watched her leave before finally turning and heading to his own class.

It was only when he sat down later in the computer lab to write the letter to himself that he’d promised his therapist that Evan remembered Connor’s words and how they matched the ones on his hip. That...that couldn’t mean anything, right? Connor Murphy was not his soulmate. He couldn’t be.

Not that Evan was exclusively attracted to girls. Really, he’d come to terms in his own way with being bisexual a while ago. He loved Zoe and she was so, so pretty, but he'd found himself attracted to other people before. Those had only been brief crushes or sudden feelings of sexual attraction. He felt completely different when it came to Zoe. Evan loved her. He knew she would never love him back. Really, he did. He knew no one would ever be interested in him.

Connor especially. Not only was Evan physically unappealing to just about everyone he’d ever met, he couldn’t even find the words to speak to the guy. Besides, Connor had anger issues, pretty severe ones. Evan didn’t like that. Evan couldn’t see himself falling in love and marrying someone who would shove someone for laughing awkwardly. No, he decided. Connor Murphy wasn’t his soulmate.

But then why had he said what was written on Evan’s hip? What sort of coincidence could that be?

Evan shook his head, wanting the thought to disappear. He just had to stop being so worried all the time. It was exhausting. And yet, he couldn’t. Nothing could quiet the noises in his head.

Dear Evan Hansen, he began, turns out today wasn’t an amazing day after all. This isn’t going to be an amazing week or an amazing year because why would it be?

Oh I know, because there’s Zoe and all my hope is pinned on Zoe, who I don’t even know and who’s definitely not my soulmate. In fact, her older brother who’s absolutely terrifying might be my soulmate. Maybe if I could just talk to Zoe, then maybe...maybe nothing would be different at all. I wish everything was different. I wish I was a part of something. I wish that anything that I said mattered to anyone. I mean, would anyone even notice if I just disappeared tomorrow?

Your best and most dearest friend,

He typed with difficulty, his cast far too clunky to type with ease. Evan stared at the words on the screen, feeling an ache in his stomach. No one would notice if he disappeared. Not Jared, not Zoe, not anyone.

"So,” a voice jolted him back to the computer lab. His head snapped involuntarily towards the noise and he recognized the face of Connor Murphy. Evan blinked in surprise. “What happened to your arm?”

His mouth fell open, but no words would come out. What if Connor was his soulmate? What then? Whatever Evan said to him would surely be written somewhere on his body, and Connor would recognize the words immediately. He’d probably be disgusted that Evan Hansen was his soulmate. Evan shook his head and closed his mouth.

“Uh…” Connor’s brow furrowed in confusion, though Evan could see frustration building. Connor’s shoulders were tensing up as if he were expecting a fight of some kind. “What? Don’t want to talk to the class freak?”

Evan shook his head again, then frantically began nodding as he realized what his action would convey. Connor looked even more confused now, his entire face contorting in a bemused expression. “Okay seriously, what the hell are you trying to say? You aren’t like...mute or something, are you? I don’t know sign language. Fuck.”

Evan waved his hands to indicate he wasn’t mute, but he realized things would be easier if Connor did know sign language. Evan could explain himself and then get the hell out of there before Connor kicked his ass. But now...he had no clue what to do.

“Okay. Christ, you really are something else…” Connor said, walking towards the printer. He plucked the freshly inked page off of it and walked back towards Evan. “Is this yours? Dear Evan Hansen...that’s your name, right?”

Connor’s eyes drifted down to the paper and the small smile that was beginning to form in the corner of his mouth vanished. It was replaced by a cold, angry frown as he read a line.

Evan reached for it back, trying to rip it from the other boy’s hand, but it was no use. He was taller and lifted it out of Evan’s reach.

“Because there’s Zoe?” He read aloud, then glanced back at Evan. He could practically see the thoughts forming in Connor’s head. Connor realizing Evan was talking about his sister, his very taken sister. Connor realizing that Evan had written about his sister in some weird letter to himself. Connor realizing that Evan Hansen was really, truly a freak.

“You...wrote this because you knew that I would find it,” Connor guessed, his voice gaining an angry edge. Evan began shaking his head so hard he was sure it would fly off. No no no no no no.

“Yeah. You saw that I was the only other person in the computer lab, so you wrote this and you printed it out so that I would find it. So I would read some creepy shit you wrote about my sister and freak out, right?!” He gradually began yelling, his voice echoing through the still, almost empty room. Evan shrank back, unable to explain himself.

“And then you can tell everyone that I’m crazy, right?! Fuck you!” Connor stalked towards him. Evan backed out of the way, but the taller boy just pushed past him for the door. Evan was alone.

Chapter Text

“A letter to yourself? What the crap does that even mean?”

Jared laughed, nearly falling off his bed. Evan frowned from his seat on the floor, clasping and unclasping his hands. After Connor had stolen his letter, Evan had had to call Jared to give him a ride and they had ended up back at Jared’s house. Evan’s mother was working an extra shift, then she had class and, well, Evan didn’t quite feel like walking home today. He was stressed out just thinking about what Connor would do with the letter.

Jared sat up abruptly, his glasses sliding down his nose as his eyes met Evan’s. Jared pushed them back up. “Is it some kind of sex thing?”

Evan’s ears turned red at the thought. “No,” Rolling his eyes, Evan responded. “No, it was not a sex thing. It was an assignment.”

“Why did you call me, then? What about your run in with Teenage Dirtbag made you think, ‘oh, you know who I should call? Jared!’” Jared asked, flopping back onto his mattress. Evan considered going back to his house briefly, but he knew he would just stress himself out too much worrying about the letter. At least here he had some sort of distraction.

“I didn’t know who else to talk to! You’re my friend,” He coughed, attempting to cover the fact that he’d almost called Jared his friend again.

“My God.”

“I don’t know what to do, okay? He stole the letter from me!” Running a hand through his dark hair, Evan fretted. He hoped Connor wouldn’t read it. Maybe he would just get so angry that he’d set it on fire, or rip it to shreds and throw it away. If he did read it, then he’d know that Evan thought that maybe they were soulmates and then he would definitely kick Evan’s ass.

“That does not bode well for you. What did you even say exactly?” Jared asked, picking up his cell phone to check a text. Jared couldn’t even fully pay attention to him. He didn’t care about Evan’s problems. Evan shouldn’t have come.

“Uh-it talked about today being a bad day,” he said quietly, hoping Jared would just drop it. The other boy was silent for a moment and Evan began to wonder if he’d even heard him.

“Just that? Then why are you worried?” Jared finally asked. Evan shrugged and glanced out Jared’s bedroom window. The maple tree he and Jared used to climb when they were little was visible from here. Back then, Jared still considered Evan a real friend, not a family friend. Evan shook away the memory and glanced back down to the carpeted floor of Jared’s room.

“I-also wrote about Zoe. And Connor,” Evan admitted. Jared sat up again, his eyes wide in surprise.

“You wrote about Zoe and Connor Murphy in your weird sex letter? Jesus, Evan!” Jared exclaimed. “He’s going to murder you. You realize that, right? You wrote about wanting to bang both him and his sister. He’s probably waiting at your house right now with like, an axe or something.”

“It wasn’t a sex letter!” Evan all but yelled. “It wasn’t a sex letter,” He repeated quieter, his eyes staring at Jared in earnest. “I wrote about liking Zoe and that Connor...”

Evan trailed off. He couldn’t tell Jared about Connor, not until he was sure. Evan wasn’t ready to be sure, though. Because what if Connor was his soulmate? Then he’d be stuck with a bully forever, and Connor would be stuck with a mess like Evan. But...what if Connor wasn’t his soulmate? Then who was? Or what if Connor was his soulmate, but Evan wasn’t Connor’s soulmate? What did he do then?

“What?” Jared asked, sliding off his bed to sit next to Evan on the floor. He was engaged now, Evan could tell. He probably assumed Evan was going to spill something interesting, and that he’d have something fun to gossip about tomorrow. “What did you write about Connor?”

“...I think he might be my soulmate.” Evan admitted so quietly he prayed Jared wouldn’t hear. To say those words out loud sent a rush through his body. He wasn’t sure what it was a rush of, though.

Jared scowled immediately and Evan’s feelings of-joy? Sadness? Terror?- disappeared. He knew soulmates were a sensitive subject. God, Evan never should have brought it up. Jared, like eighty percent of the population, had been born without a mark and while Evan would gladly trade places with him, it didn’t work that way. It wasn't that Jared would necessarily be alone forever, but he didn’t have a guaranteed person out there that would care for him and put him above everyone else. Whether he said it out loud or not, Jared wanted that. Evan could tell.

“Why would you think Connor Murphy is your soulmate?” Jared asked, facing the window. Evan followed suit and looked outside as well. He shrugged nervously.

“Uh, this morning-you called him a freak, right? Well, he heard me laugh and he called me a freak. But his words were the same as my mark.” Evan explained, glancing at the other boy. Keeping his gaze locked on the window, Jared raised an eyebrow. Evan bit his thumbnail and continued to try and gage Jared’s reaction.

“So your soulmate thinks you're a freak? Isn't that just great,” Jared replied finally. His shoulders were hunched. Clearly, he was uncomfortable talking about this. Jared never did well with serious subjects. He hadn’t even as a child. When Evan’s dad had left, Jared hadn’t had any idea what to say, so they would just go to the park and climb trees or sit and look at Evan’s books about different kinds of plants. Jared let him ramble on and on about oak trees until Evan was blue in the face because at least then he wasn’t crying. Evan wondered briefly what would happen if he tried that now. Jared would probably kick him out of the house.

“I...guess so,” Evan admitted. That wasn't surprising. He'd always known his soulmate wouldn't like him. Thinking he was a freak wasn't that far of a stretch.

“So Ted Bundy’s your soulmate,” Jared stated. Evan shrugged. “Well, Jesus Christ. He's probably jerking off to your weird sex letter right now,” Jared said, curling his hand into a loose fist and shaking it. Evan rolled his eyes.

“How do I get it back?” Evan asked. Jared snorted and shook his head.

“You aren't getting it back, dude. It's his weird sex letter now.”

Just then, Evan’s phone lit up. Fumbling to grab it, Evan's hand accidentally brushing one of Jared’s dirty socks. Evan grimaced but tapped the screen. When he saw the notification, he dropped the phone and it fell to the floor next to the sock with a dull thud. Jared reached for it before Evan could grab it back.

“You've got an email from...Holy shit!” Jared said, looking back and forth between Evan and the phone. Laughing, Jared's free hand wrapped around his stomach. “Jesus Christ!”

Evan snatched the phone back, clutching it tightly. He was terrified to look at the notification again, but Jared definitely didn't need to have access to it.

“Oh my god! He probably sent you a picture of his junk! Or maybe a tree pic, I'm sure those get you off too. As your soulmate, he probably knows that.” Ignoring Jared to the best of his abilities, Evan unlocked his phone. He pulled up the email from Connor.

It was brief, only a few sentences really. They still sent a chill down Evan’s spine.

Dear Evan Hansen,
What the hell does your letter even mean? Why the fuck do you think I'm your soulmate? If this was some fucked up joke to piss me off even more, then...shit, that's fucked up, man.

Connor Murphy

Evan’s face paled. So he had read it then. Oh god. Oh god. Evan was screwed. Maybe he could just not reply and then act like he hadn't seen it or act like Connor had sent it to the wrong person. Maybe he could transfer schools, or be homeschooled. No, his mom didn't have the time for that. He was just screwed.

“You have to respond! He’ll probably show up at your house if you don't,” Jared said, reading the email over Evan’s shoulder. Jerking away, Evan fumbling to put some distance between himself and Jared.

“What‐ what do I‑ I say?” Evan asked, staring at the screen.

“Dear Connor Murphy, my love for you knows no bounds. I totally want to bone you. Or let you bone me. Please fuck-” Evan smacked Jared’s leg, his face burning. He couldn't say something like that even if he tried. Jared laughed at his expression.

“I can't say that!”

“Why not? There’s nothing wrong with wanting some intimate time with your lover, Evan,” Jared said, grinning as Evan sputtered, trying to form a response.

“I'm not even sure he's my soulmate!”

“Then tell him that! Shit dude, just like, tell him what you know and how you feel,” Reaching for his phone again, Jared rolled his eyes. Evan leaned back even further. He didn't know what to say, but he knew literally anything would be better than whatever Jared came up with.

Evan hit reply and bit his lip. What should he say? He didn't want to lie - not only would that be a horrible thing to do, but it would also anger Connor further. No. He had to tell the truth.

Dear Connor Murphy,
Um, I think you may be my soulmate but I’m sure you probably aren't. It's just that this morning when you...when we interacted you said: “You better watch yourself.” That's my mark. So then this afternoon, I didn't say anything because I wasn't sure if we were or not and I didn't want you to like, get angry or anything. I'm sorry.

Evan Hansen

Jared had crawled forward while Evan was distracted with composing the email. He stared at the screen as Evan hit send, shaking his head.

“Dude, this is one fucked up rom-com.” Evan didn't disagree, but he said nothing. He sat and stared at his phone, eager for a response. Surely Connor would confirm that he didn't have a mark, or that his mark had something absolutely ridiculous that Evan would never say and they would be done with it. Connor would just destroy the letter and Evan could try to forget this happened.

His phone signaled a reply before long. His attention once again consumed by his own cell phone, Jared had crawled back onto his bed. Evan pulled up his email.

Dear Evan Hansen,
Why are you so sure I’m not your soulmate? I’m too fucked up to have a mark, is that it? Fuck you.

Evan paled. He hadn't meant to offend Connor. Really, he hadn't. He frantically hit reply, hoping to correct the mistake before Connor decided to murder him.

Dear Connor Murphy,
No! No, I don't think you're too messed up to have a mark! Um, do you have a mark?

I just thought that we probably aren't soulmates. I mean, what are the odds? Some people don't even find their soulmates. I just figured I never would. Again, I’m really sorry.

Evan Hansen

He didn't receive a response until later that night after he'd left Jared’s. Evan was already laying in his bed when his phone lit up again. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, glancing nervously at Connor’s reply.

Dear Evan Hansen,
I don't know what the fucking odds are that you’ll find your soulmate, but I’m sorry about pushing you.

I read the whole letter. Like, all of it. Uh, if you want to talk or anything, here’s my cellphone number. Emailing takes too much time.



Chapter Text

Evan had put Connor’s number in his phone, but he had yet to text or call it. Well, calling was out of the question because then Connor would hear him say something and Evan would know for sure if he were his soulmate or not. So texting would have to be their form of communication. If they communicated at all, which Evan still wasn’t sure they would.

He hadn’t told his mother about it as he left the house. Work, classes and his hypothetical potential collegiate future stressed her out enough; he didn't need to add on to that.

Evan wasn’t enthusiastic about college, but he was trying to be for his mother. College meant new people and new places and the thought of having to talk to so many people he didn’t know worried him.

Evan walked into school, tightening and untightening the straps of his black, off-brand backpack. Clutching his cell phone, Evan wondered if he should text Connor or not. What if Connor had only given him his number to be nice? Or worse, what if it was a prank and Connor had given him Zoe’s number or something in hopes that he’d text something really embarrassing and she’d hate him?

“Evan!” His head snapped up, looking towards the voice. His face flushed instantly when he realized who it was. Walking down the hallway was Zoe Murphy, her fingers interlocked with Alana’s. The girls were smiling, though Evan wasn’t sure why. Did they know about him and Connor? Did they think that Connor and Evan potentially being soulmates was some sort of hilarious joke or something?

“Hey, how are you feeling today?”

“Oh, uh. Okay. How are you feeling?” He asked, shoving his phone back into the pocket of his khakis. Evan tried offering them a smile in return, but his face ended up more as a grimace.

“Zoe mentioned you had a panic attack, Evan. Are you sure you’re feeling okay? One of the other interns had one this summer, so I know quite a bit about them,” Alana said, looking him over. Her eyes always frightened Evan a bit - he felt like Alana could see straight through him.

“Uh, I‐I’m fine, thanks,” He replied, dropping his gaze to the floor. Maybe if she couldn’t see his eyes, she couldn’t see the disappointment he felt at seeing Zoe’s hand in Alana’s instead of his. Evan definitely did not need Alana to know that he had a crush on her girlfriend.

“Wow, Murphy! Attending two days in a row. That must be some sort of record for you. What’s the matter, get busted for the weed?” A voice echoed down the hallway. It was some jock - Evan thought his name was Nick, maybe? He was laughing with some of his asshole friends at Connor, who looked ready to deck them.

“Zoe, shouldn’t we say something?” Alana asked, glancing at her girlfriend. Zoe’s eyes were narrowed slightly and her jaw was tight. She didn’t appear eager to intervene, though, probably due to the animosity between her and her brother.

“Shut the fuck up,” Connor grumbled, his voice quieter than Evan would have expected. Maybe he didn’t want to lose control. He’d hinted that people thought he was crazy due to his anger yesterday in the lab. Evan’s mouth opened and closed, unsure of what to do.

“Aww, Murphy, you know I’m just joking with you! No need to get upset! Be careful, losing your temper never works out well, does it?” Nick replied, his face twisting into a smug smirk. Clenching and unclenching his fists, Connor glowered at his bully. Evan frowned and bit his lip. He would never be courageous enough to stand up to a jerk like Nick, he knew that. Normally that would be something that Zoe would do, but she seemed just as lost as Evan.

It was Alana that strode forward, her shoulders back and her head held high. Her face held a small, calm smile. “Nicholas! Did you do the math homework?” She asked when she was close enough. Nick turned to look at her, frowning in confusion.

“Uh...who are you, again?” He asked. Evan’s frown only worsened, as did Zoe’s. There was nothing worse than being forgotten. Alana frowned for a nanosecond - Evan was almost certain she hadn’t even at all - before smiling even brighter.

“Alana Beck, the senior class president! We’re in the same math class, and I think we had P.E. freshman year,” She replied, chipper as always. “Anyway, I was wondering what you got for problem two…” Alana began, stepping in between Connor and Nick. Clearly, whatever fight that had been brewing was over. Looking bored, Nick's friends dispersed, leaving Nick to deal with the over-talkative Alana.

“I should go help her,” Zoe said, snapping Evan’s attention back to her. Bobbing his head rapidly, Evan nodded. He lifted his hand to wave goodbye, but she was already approaching Alana and Nick.

Evan looked around, trying to figure out where Connor had gone. He had disappeared, no longer in the crowded hallway. Maybe the bathroom? Or the computer lab? Evan reached for his phone, deciding that he would text him after all.

Hey, are you okay? I saw what happened…

This is Evan, by the way.

He typed out, pressing send before he had time to think too much about it. Evan fidgeted, unsure of what to do with the ten minutes before class. He didn’t want to be too early because then the teacher might try to talk to him. If he waited out here, though, everyone else would be talking with their friends and he would be alone and someone would probably stare at him and think he was such a loser for having no friends-

Evan’s phone buzzed, alerting him that he had a text.

Whatever. He’s an asshole.

Um, where are you? You just left…

Yeah, I’m ditching. You want to join?

Evan’s mouth dropped open at the response. Ditching school? People did it, Evan knew, especially Connor. Evan had never even considered it himself. It wasn't that he love school or anything, but he was terrified of missing something really important and then failing a test or an exam or something because he hadn’t been there. Or what if his teachers or the principal discovered he was missing classes? They would probably give him detention or maybe even suspend him, which would mean he’d miss even more and get even further behind.

Aren’t you scared you’ll get caught?

You’re such a baby, Hansen

Rolling his eyes, Evan frowned. Yes, he worried too much, but to use such a childish insult was ridiculous.

A baby? Really?

Really. I’m in my car. Get in before I kick your ass

Evan chuckled, fairly certain that Connor was joking. He doubted he would really kick Evan’s ass for not ditching with him, though he might be upset with Evan. That thought did not sit well with him. If Connor was upset with him, would he tell everyone about the letter Evan had written? Would he tell Zoe that all of Evan's hope was pinned on her? Unsure, Evan frowned once more.

But should he go? Staying sounded miserable, but what if he left? His mom would get a phone call, probably. He didn’t want to disappoint her. But Connor wasn’t worried about missing class. Besides, everyone needed a day away from school every now and then, right? He shook his head and dashed out the door towards the parking lot before he could stop himself.

Chapter Text

Connor’s Taurus was waiting, the engine running as Connor himself stared down at his phone. Hoping that no one was watching him, Evan took off running. He needed to get to the car and get in as soon as possible to avoid being caught. His hand clutched the door handle tightly and he wrenched it open, throwing himself inside. Connor jumped, looking at him with wide eyes.

“Jesus, Hansen. Did you have to rip my door off its fucking hinges?” He asked, putting the car into drive and pulling out of the parking lot. Embarrassed by his rush to get in the car, Evan flushed. It had probably looked quite silly, but at least a teacher hadn’t chased him down or anything.

“Still not talking to me? You realize you’re going to have to say something eventually, right?” Connor asked, his eyes leaving the road to glance at Evan. Evan gestured back to the winding road in front of them and Connor rolled his eyes before turning his attention back to driving.

“Okay, fine. Whatever.” Connor jammed the knob of the radio and the car was flooded with Twenty One Pilots. Evan had only heard a few of their songs, but Connor seemed to be a fan. His head bopped along to the beat. Evan wondered if he ever sang along to the music. Did Connor let himself enjoy it that much, or did he worry about singing something wrong or being seen and judged by other people on the roads? Evan did.

“So, I would ask where you want to go, but since you’ve decided to never speak to me, I’m going to decide,” stated Connor after a few minutes of silence.

Evan wondered where they would go. Where did a guy like Connor Murphy spend his days when he ditched school? Somewhere dark and inside, probably. Maybe he usually went back to his house, or maybe he just drove. Evan had no idea.

Ten minutes later, they pulled up to the local park and Connor turned off the car. He turned to look at Evan.

“Is this okay?” He asked. Evan had never really studied Connor’s face this up close before. It was...nice. It wasn’t particularly gorgeous or perfectly symmetrical like Zoe’s, but it wasn’t revolting. He had clear skin, unlike Evan, and his hair seemed a little less wild up close. Evan nodded in response to Connor’s question, his face reddening.

They got out of the car, leaving their backpacks inside. For a few minutes, they just walked around in silence, enjoying the late summer air. Connor stared at the ground and Evan stared at Connor. After a minute, he pulled his phone out and began typing.

Do you always come here when you ditch?

Connor’s phone buzzed and he reached into his pocket to pull it out. He glanced at the text, then back at Evan.

“Really, Hansen? Can't you just talk to me? Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Evan frowned. Where to begin?

What if we are soulmates? You’ll know immediately.

“Yeah, so what happens when I know?” Connor asked, raising an eyebrow.

Then we’re stuck with each other!

“Okay, really know how to charm a man, Hansen.”

I just mean

Evan stopped typing, trying to gather his thoughts.

I just mean that I know I’m not easy to deal with. I know that. And I don’t really know anything about you. If we’re soulmates, then…

You’ll see the worst of me , Evan thought. He didn’t dare type it out. Connor didn’t need to know how lowly Evan saw himself just yet. Connor studied his face for a moment, and Evan wondered if he could read his mind. Could soulmates do that? He’d never heard that but what if they could? Wait, then he would probably be able to hear Connor’s thoughts, assuming they were soulmates.

“Okay, fine. You don’t have to talk. But you’re right, you don’t know anything about me and I don’t know anything about you. We should‐ uh, probably change that, right?” Stopping, Connor asked. Evan stopped too, thinking this over. Even if they weren’t soulmates, then maybe they could be friends? Connor seemed just as lonely as Evan felt.

Yes. How?

“Uh, we can ask each other questions or something? Come on, let’s sit,” Connor grabbed Evan’s good arm and dragged him towards an oak tree a little ways off the path. Connor sat and leaned against it, his long legs stretching out in front of him. Pulling his own legs to his chest, Evan sat beside him.

“So uh, how’d you break your arm?” Connor asked. Evan tensed up. Jared hadn’t asked, he’d only made fun of Evan until he’d explained the situation. Heidi had asked, but that felt more...forced. Like she wanted to know, but more like she just wanted all the information. Connor’s question felt genuine. He honestly wanted to know what had happened to Evan’s arm.

I fell out of a tree.

“You‑ you fell out of a tree ? Well if that isn’t just the saddest fucking thing. Oh my god,” Connor replied, looking at him in surprise. He had sort of a half smile on his face, like he wasn’t sure if Evan was joking or not. Evan laughed awkwardly, nodding at Connor’s statement. “Why were you in a tree?”

I worked this summer as an Apprentice Park Ranger at Ellison’s

“So you really like nature, then?” Connor asked, raising an eyebrow. Nodding again, Evan smiled for real this time. If he could speak, he would be rambling on about the tree they were leaning against. Part of him was glad he wasn’t letting himself talk-Connor probably wouldn’t enjoy a tree rant. He’d probably think it was weird and then he’d leave Evan at the park and Evan would have to call his mom or Jared to come get him, and his mom was at work and Jared would make fun of him.

Uh, what do you like?

Connor frowned in confusion. “ general?” Evan nodded. “Uh, I like music. I can’t play anything worth a shit, though, and I can’t sing to save my life,” Connor said with a frown. He slid down the tree and laid out on the grass. His eyes shut. “I like art.”

That’s so cool! What do you draw?

Connor glanced at his phone, hiding a smile at Evan’s enthusiasm. “Calm down, Hansen. I draw different stuff. Mostly like, nature and animals. I can’t draw people. Their faces always turn out shitty.” Closing his eyes again, Connor looked calmer than Evan could ever remember him looking. Evan smiled. Connor looked a lot younger when he wasn’t frowning. His face relaxed, his forehead smoothed, and his mouth seemed to naturally curl up into a half smile. It reminded him briefly of the one Zoe wore at jazz band concerts. “I used to draw dinosaurs a lot when I was a kid.”

You were a dinosaur kid?

“Fuck yeah I was, Hansen,” Connor said, looking up at him. Evan laughed, imagining a tiny little Connor clutching plastic dinosaurs, playing with them all afternoon. “What were you? Still a tree kid?”

Evan shook his head, his smile vanishing. I mean, yeah kind of. I’ve always loved trees. But I used to be a truck kid.

Connor frowned in return, clearly confused as to why Evan was upset about being a truck kid. He peered up at the sky through the branches of the tree. “What’s wrong with liking trucks?”


Connor said nothing. They sat in silence, the sounds of bugs buzzing and birds chirping filling the quiet between them. Biting his nail, Evan glanced back and forth between Connor and his cell phone. He had no clue what was going on in Connor’s head right now. They had been having a nice time and Evan had to ruin it by getting quiet and weird. Connor probably wished he hadn’t brought Evan along now.

My dad left my mom when I was seven. He found his soulmate and they loaded all of his stuff into a truck...I guess I just think about that when I think about trucks.

Evan had never admitted that before, not even to Jared. Jared hadn’t asked questions when Evan suddenly just gave him all of the truck toys he’d accumulated over the years when they were seven. To be fair, Connor hadn’t technically asked either.

“...Shit, man. I’m sorry.”

No, it happened a long time ago. I’m sorry I brought it up. Nevermind.

Connor looked up at him, his blue eyes connecting with Evan’s. Evan looked away, not wanting to overwhelm Connor with random information about his past before they even really knew each other.

“My parents aren’t soulmates,” Connor said finally. His eyes were closed now, having glanced away from Evan at some point. Evan watched him. “They don’t have marks. I don’t know why they decided to marry each other, though, because they’re both pretty fucking miserable. They’re too scared of being alone to realize it, but they are.”

I’m sorry

“No, it’s okay. It just would be nice if they finally did admit that they weren’t happy, you know? Then we could stop trying to be the perfect fucking family, or whatever.” He shrugged, his eyes remaining closed. The crease that usually signaled his frustration had reappeared during his rant. Without warning, it was gone. “Okay, enough dark shit about our childhoods.”

Nodding his head in agreement, Evan laughed awkwardly. He glanced around the park. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t crowded probably due to the fact that it was nine a.m. on a Tuesday. The only other people there were an elderly couple walking around and a disgruntled nanny with a few toddlers.

“So, what kind of music do you listen to?” Connor asked, crossing his arms behind his head. He had bent one of his legs and Evan briefly thought he looked like some sort of painting. Then the question registered and Evan felt his hands reaching for the hem of his shirt without even meaning to. Questions like this made him anxious. What if Connor thought his taste in music was lame? What if he thought he was childish for liking the music he liked? What if Connor made fun of him?

Uh, I like a lot of stuff

“Yeah, but what specifically?” Connor asked. “Like, what’s your favorite song?”

I don’t have one

“Bullshit. Everyone has a favorite song, Hansen.” Remaining silent, Evan thought about a reasonable answer to the question. What was his favorite song? He liked a lot of different things, but he wasn’t sure he had an absolute favorite.

Maybe Hey Jude? Or Left Behind?

Hey Jude , like The Beatles?” Connor asked, reading Evan’s text. He smirked and Evan felt his stomach lurch. Connor thought The Beatles were dumb and lame and he thought Evan was dumb and lame and and and. Evan nodded, his head resting on top of his knees.

“The Beatles are the shit, man. I love Lucy in the Sky, ” Connor replied, his smirk morphing into a grin. Evan laughed, relief flooding him. He nodded, for he too liked Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds . It wasn’t his favorite, but at least Connor wasn’t making fun of him. Humming the song, Connor's eyes closed. He was once again at peace.

“Wait, what’s Left Behind ?” He asked suddenly, his eyes popping open again. Evan stared at him in shock.

You’ve never heard Spring Awakening?!

“What the fuck is Spring Awakening ?” Sitting up in interest, Connor looked at Evan expectantly. Evan rolled his eyes and began typing again.

It’s a musical

Like Broadway

Connor was still staring at him in confusion, and Evan wasn’t sure if it was because Connor didn’t know what he was talking about or if Connor thought he was a dork for liking musical theatre.

“I wanna listen to it. Do you have it on your phone?” Connor asked, crossing his legs and balancing his elbows on his knees. Evan nodded and pulled up iTunes, scrolling through his music until he found Left Behind. Evan pressed play and laid the phone between them.

Evan studied Connor’s face as the music played. At first, he seemed a little hesitant, but Evan wasn’t sure if it was because it was from a musical or if it was because the song was too slow for his liking. Once he seemed to realize what the song was about, his eyes widened slightly and he seemed to curl in on himself. Evan frowned. He hadn’t meant to make Connor uncomfortable.

“Turn it off,” Connor said, fumbling to grab the phone. Evan cautiously reached out and took it from him, turning the music off immediately. Breathing heavily, Connor's face turned red. He looked like he was trying not to cry.

I’m sorry

Evan watched him read his phone. He watched Connor shake his head, then hide it in his hands. He didn’t know what to do. Evan just had to sit and watch him, guilt eating his insides.

“I‐ fuck, Hansen. Why do you listen to that?”

Evan turned white. So his music opinions were trash and everyone thought he was stupid for liking them, especially Connor who had actual real music opinions. God, why had he said he liked musicals?

“It’s‐ Jesus Christ. Why would you listen to something that sad?” Evan’s eyes snapped to meet Connor’s. They looked so sad, so full of pain, and Evan’s heart hurt. Not because it killed him to see Connor in pain, but because he recognized that pain. He’d felt it every day last year, every day over the summer, every day since Freshman year. Evan rubbed at his own eyes.

It just helps, I guess? To hear that Moritz, the guy he’s singing about, meant enough to Melchior that he feels actual pain at losing him. It’s stupid, I’m sorry.

Cold and blank, Connor's eyes stared back at him. Evan had no idea what he was thinking and right then, he’d give anything to be able to read minds, feeling more exposed than he had ever felt in his whole life. He shivered despite the warm temperature and looked away, back down at his cell phone.

“Kids these days, always glued to their phones,” He heard the old lady walking with her husband grumble. “They can’t even make real conversations anymore. They’re what’s wrong with this world.” Evan’s throat was dry and his eyes were welling with tears. He was what was wrong with this world and he couldn’t help it. He had hurt Connor, embarrassed himself constantly in front of Zoe, and he was a burden to his mother. Why had he even agreed to come to the park with Connor?

“Hey, fuck you!” His head snapped up to see Connor yelling at the old couple, who were now several feet away. Turning around, their faces filled with rage. Evan’s mouth dropped open.

“What did you say to me, little boy?” The woman asked, her voice cold as ice. Connor was the opposite, his face full of fire and fury.

“I said, ‘Fuck you!’ Sorry, do you need to put your hearing aids in?” He said loudly, making sure they heard him this time. He moved to stand up, but the old couple was already hurrying away. Connor sat back down and Evan gaped at him.

“What?” Connor asked, looking at him. His shoulders were hunched and he still looked angry. Evan would have been terrified of him were it not for the fact that he knew none of Connor's animosity was directed at him. “She’s just some old bitch. If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to.”

With that, the taller boy flopped back down and covered his face again. Evan stared at him for a second before typing out one last message and laying down beside Connor.

Thank you

Evan glanced shyly at him while Connor read the message. Connor didn’t say anything, he didn’t even smile. But Evan could see the angry crease between his eyes fade away, and that was good enough for Evan.


Chapter Text

Connor had dropped him off at his house a few hours later with a small smile and a“You better fucking text me later, Hansen." For the first time in a long time, Evan actually felt excited to go to school the next day. Sure, he would have to be around rude people who intimidated him, but he’d also get to see Connor again.

He walked towards the stairs, only to stop short when he noticed curly blonde locks peeking over the couch in the living room. His mother was home, which meant she wasn’t working or at class. That was such an irregularity, it sent a chill down his spine. Had something happened? Was she sick? Was she hurt?

“Evan, I know you’re there,” Heidi Hansen said, her voice carrying through the silent house. Shooting one last hopeful look towards the stairs, Evan turned and entered the living room, sitting down on the opposite end of the couch.

“Hey, Mom.” She looked at him, her eyes full of worry. There was a bit of anger around the edges, but her concern was more apparent.

“Sweetie, I got a call from the school. They said you weren’t in class today,” Tucking her legs underneath her, Heidi turned to face Evan. She examined him as if looking for some sort of injury besides his arm. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, Mom,” Evan replied, playing with the hem of his t-shirt. She continued to study him.

“Then why did you miss school? Your education is important honey, you need‐”

“No, I know, Mom. I’m sorry,” Evan whispered, not meeting her eyes. He regretted ditching class only because it made his mother worry about him. Evan couldn’t bring himself to regret the day itself, though.

“Sweetie, I know going to class sucks. I know. I know how hard school can be for you, but you really can’t miss unless you absolutely have to. It’ll pay off one day,” She told him. Rubbing his eyes, Evan nodded and bit his lip.

“I’m sorry you had to miss class for this,” Evan admitted. He knew more than anyone how hard his mother was working to be a paralegal. She put in so much time and energy to better their situation for both of them. Why did he have to worry her so much? Why did he have to be such a burden?

“It’s okay, honey. Just let me know ahead of time if you need a day, or call me to let me know you’re leaving. I was worried,” Heidi admitted, reaching forward to pat his shoulder. He only flinched at the sudden contact a little and was proud of himself for it. She smiled at him.

“Since I’m already home...want to watch a movie? I can order pizza.” Smiling back at his mother, Evan nodded. It might not be a home-cooked meal at the kitchen table, but he’d take it. At least it was some time with her.

 Walking to school was never fun, but he was beginning to wish he’d chosen that option. Currently, he was trapped in a car with Jared, who was belting out Ed Sheeran. Evan hadn’t even been aware that Ed Sheeran was an artist one could belt to, but Jared had certainly proven that it could be done.

I’M IN LOVE WITH THE SHAPE OF YOU‐ so, where were you yesterday? You weren’t in math,” Jared asked, glancing at Evan, whose hand was currently clutching the safety handle above the door so tightly his knuckles were white.

“Jared, the road!” screeched Evan as they almost took out a pedestrian on the crosswalk. Jared waved cheerfully at the man currently flipping them off.

“Relax, he’s fine. Where were you, though?”

Praying once again that they’d make it to school safely, Evan sighed. One day, Jared would actually get into an accident and kill them both. Or maybe he’d just kill Evan and Jared would walk out unscathed. Evan hated both options.

“I‐ uh, I ditched school.”

“Evan, you were rebellious without me?! What’s next, weed? Alcohol? Porn? What would your mother say?” Jared asked, clutching his chest dramatically. Evan rolled his eyes and sighed.

“Uh, my mom said I just need to tell her next time I do it,” he replied, looking down at his shirt to prevent having to watch whatever Jared would hit next. If he was going to die today, he’d rather not have to watch it happen.

“Damn, Heidi is so cool. What did you even do all day?” Jared asked, taking a sip of the thermos he had in the cupholder on the driver’s side. Evan wanted to scream ‘BOTH HANDS ON THE WHEEL’ but the last time he had, Jared screamed ‘FUCK YOU’ and drove the rest of the way with his knees. Evan still had nightmares thinking about it. “What, did you spend all day in bed with Nine Inch Nails? Tell me, Evan, is he a generous lover? Does he fulfill your needs?”

Jared! No, I did not spend all day in bed with Connor!” Evan flailed, his hands waving to indicate that he had, in fact, not slept with Connor Murphy or even briefly entertained the idea.

“Connor? You’re calling him Connor now? What the crap?” Jared asked, using the hand not containing the thermos to shove his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Evan reached to hold the wheel steady for him.

“Well, we’re-” Were they friends? Could he call them that? They had spent time together yesterday, and Connor had opened up a bit, but did Connor consider Evan a friend? What if Evan said they were friends and Jared told Connor and Connor laughed in his face?

“What? Is this the part where you confess your undying love for Connor Murphy? If it is, keep that to yourself. I don’t need your unholy union to contaminate my sweet ride.” Evan reached into his pocket for his cell phone and unlocked it. He pulled up Connor’s contact and began typing.

Help, I’m pretty sure I’m going to die.

What the fuck. What’s happening? Are you okay?

Jared’s driving me to school

He took a quick picture of the reckless driver sitting next to him, making sure to get a picture with Jared only driving with one hand.

Fuck, dude. Hope you don’t die.

If you want me to drive you from now on, I can

Only if it isn’t an inconvenience

Well I have to go to school anyway, might as well drive your silent ass there.

Tell Kleinman (if you speak to him) that I’ll kick his ass if you guys die on the way here.

Evan snorted at Connor’s response. They had texted a bit the night before, after Heidi had gone to bed. Evan still wasn’t entirely sure what they were, but he was glad that he had someone to talk to his age besides Jared.

“What are you laughing at? Your own nudes?” Jared asked, bringing Evan back to reality. Pocketing his cell phone, Evan glanced back at the road. They were almost there and no one was dead yet, which was a good sign.

“Something Connor said.”

Jared sighed dramatically, though he kept his eyes one the road for once.

“So you’re texting that asshole now?”

“We‐ we actually ditched together yesterday,” admitted Evan, earning a look of interest from Jared. He whistled, an impressed smirk on his face.

“Wow Evan, at least tell me you used protection.” Evan shot him a glare.

“We went to the park-”

“Ohhh, so you showed him your tree kink. Hot,” Taking another sip from the thermos, Jared laughed. Evan was almost 100% sure that Jared didn’t need coffee, but he wasn’t about to try and take it from him. If he wanted to bounce off the walls in English, so be it. Evan didn’t have that class with him anyway.

“No! No,” Evan cleared his throat. “We just sat and talked. It‐ it was nice.”

“Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaay,” Jared replied, his attention back on the road. Apparently talking in the park with a guy who may or may not be your soulmate and may or may not be your friend wasn’t entertaining enough for Jared. Evan sunk into his seat, avoiding looking at the road for the rest of the short drive.

 Evan combed through his hair as they finally entered their school. He straightened his second favorite blue t-shirt and clutched the hem briefly to comfort himself.

“Glad to see you didn’t die,” said Connor suddenly, causing Evan to jump. He had failed to notice the taller boy, though that wasn’t that hard. His dark clothes blended in with the navy lockers.

His hands flying to his phone to respond, Evan grinned.

Yeah, no thanks to Jared.

Connor snorted, nodding in agreement. Jared, who was still standing beside Evan, scoffed. “What are you guys even talking about? Do you realize how weird you look?”

Connor glared at Jared, opening his mouth to retort. Evan shook his head, moving further between them. Jared looked back and forth between the two boys.

“Real nice, Hansen. Ditching your only family friend once you get some action. Real classy move,” Jared muttered, turning and stalking down the hall towards his classroom. Connor sighed as Evan watched Jared leave.

“That guy’s such a dick. Why do you even put up with him?” Connor asked, raising an eyebrow at Evan.

We’ve been family friends since we were kids. He can be an asshole, but he’s the closest thing I’ve got to a best friend.

“I’ll never understand you, Hansen,” Connor replied, shaking his head. He offered Evan a small smile, though, which brought Evan relief. He had been worried Connor not understanding him meant that he thought Evan was weird. He probably still did think Evan was weird, but at least he smiled. Evan would take that.

“So, did you get in trouble for ditching?” Evan shook his head. He had texted Connor the night before to let him know his mom had found out. Evan was very thankful that she hadn’t punished him, but then again, there really wasn’t much she could do. Grounding him didn’t accomplish anything as he spent most of his time at home anyway. Taking away his phone wouldn’t do much good either.

“Are you doing anything after school?” Connor asked, rocking on the balls of his feet. He actually looked somewhat excited, confusing Evan even more. Connor grinned fully as Evan shook his head no. “Want to come over? Zoe’s going to Alana’s and my mom has pilates. No one will be there.”

Evan grinned and nodded. He didn’t often have after school plans and if he did, they were to just go over to Jared’s. It would be nice to hang out with someone else for a change.

Chapter Text

“Oh, uh...sorry for the mess,” Connor said, kicking some dirty hoodies under his bed. His room looked a lot different than Evan had expected. Evan had expected the mess, but he had also expected it to be covered in band posters and for everything to be darker, or something. The room just didn’t feel like Connor.

“So, what do you want to do?” asked Connor, glancing back at him. Sitting down on the bed, he looked at Evan expectantly. Evan fished his cell phone out of his pocket.

I don’t know...Jared and I usually just do homework or play video games.

Connor wrinkled his nose as his eyes scanned the text. He glanced back up at Evan. “Video games? Really, Hansen? Besides, you can’t even use one of your arms.” Evan glanced down at his cast, his face heating up.

“Uh, we could‐ watch Netflix or something?” Connor's eyes flickered between Evan and his cast. He looked slightly ashamed of drawing attention to Evan’s arm, but Connor wasn’t apologizing and Evan wouldn’t make him.

Show me your drawings

Connor’s brow furrowed, the familiar crease appearing between them. He peered up at Evan from behind his cell phone, the screen illuminating Connor’s face. “Why would you want to see those? They suck.”

I want to see them. The dinosaur ones.

A small smile appeared on Connor’s face. It was almost nonexistent; his lip only twitched up a fraction of a millimeter. Evan was only sure he was smiling because the crease was completely gone, vanished from Connor's face. With a roll of his eyes, Connor stood and moved towards his closet. “I don’t even know if I still have them. Besides, I drew them when I was like, ten. They’re shitty.” Shaking his head, Evan moved to sit on Connor’s bed as he watched Connor grab the papers stuffed in the back of the closet.

“Here,” Connor said, thrusting them into Evan’s hands. Sitting next to Evan, Connor began playing with a loose thread on his comforter, avoiding Evan’s eyes. Evan looked at the drawings one by one, impressed with the talent Connor had at a young age. They weren’t perfect, not by a long shot, but they were much better than anything Evan could draw even now.

These are really, really good. Would you draw one now?

Connor regarded him cautiously. Evan could see him questioning if Evan was serious or not. It was hard to convey his opinion over texts, but Evan wouldn’t lie about something this personal. The taller boy was showing off a talent that he rarely, if ever, showed other people. Shrugging, Connor stood and walked over to his desk. He grabbed a worn sketch pad and some pencils and climbed back onto the bed. Evan watched in fascination as he began sketching. The dinosaur began to take shape with each stroke of Connor’s pencil. Evan glanced up at him, finding him just as interesting as the drawing itself. When Connor drew, his face became more concentrated than Evan had ever seen. Zoe let herself get lost in the music, but Connor was alive and alert in everything he drew. His forehead would wrinkle in concentration, his tongue stuck out just a bit. His eyes were glued to the paper, assessing every detail. It was hypnotizing to watch.

Finally, he pulled his pencil back and sat up. His face was still analyzing the paper, but he seemed more relaxed. His shoulders fell and he thrust the paper at Evan.

It was beautiful. Evan had never cared for dinosaurs really, but Connor’s was incredible.

“Look, I know it’s shit. You don’t-” Evan shot him a glare, then set the paper down to reach for his phone.

It’s not bad. It’s fantastic. Really.

Why don’t you show your art off? I’ve never seen it in any of the school’s art shows.

Ducking his head after reading Evan’s first text, Connor's face flushed a pleasant shade of light pink. Evan realized that may be the closest he had ever come to seeing Connor Murphy blush. Connor shook his head as he read the second text.

“Because who would want to see it? You think those assholes at school are lining up to see the fucked up, crazy kid’s artwork?” Connor asked, shoving the paper away and throwing his phone to the side. Connor ran a hand through his hair, his breathing a little faster than normal. The familiar look of anger washed over his face and Evan knew he had to do something.

He reached out, cautiously grabbing Connor’s arm. The other boy tensed up immediately, his gaze falling to Evan’s good hand. His eyes trailed back up Evan’s arm and finally looked at his face. When they locked eyes, Evan let go immediately, feeling like he’d been burned and doused with cold water at the same time. Evan’s mouth opened and closed a few times and Connor’s gaze dropped to his Evan’s lips before shooting back up to Evan’s eyes.

A bark from outside the door shattered the tension. Both boys' heads snapped to look at the closed door immediately. Standing and opening the door, Connor scooped a small black pug into his arms. He walked back over to the bed and placed the dog beside Evan.

Evan didn’t hate dogs. He didn’t. He liked the concept of dogs, but in reality? They were a little scary. They were so loud and forceful and usually, they made him jump. This dog was no different. It barked once, surprisingly loud for its small body. Evan scooted backward, pushing himself as close to the wall as he could. Pulling the dog away a bit, Connor held it securely in his arms.

“Are you okay, Hansen? Not a dog person?” He asked, looking both curious and concerned. Opening his mouth again, Evan quickly closed it when he realized that he’d gone this long without talking. Besides, answering ‘Yes’ wouldn’t quite help their case of ‘are we soulmates or not.’ People said yes all the time.

He settled for nodding his head. Connor glanced down at the dog in his arms and back up at Evan. “I can put him outside, but he’s only going to keep barking.”

Evan shrugged, his eyes never leaving the small black eyes of the pug. He could feel Connor’s eyes on him, but he was a little worried to look away. Yes, the dog was small and seemed fairly harmless, but all dogs could bite and Evan really didn’t want to be bitten today.

“His name’s Nugget. He’s not going to hurt you, I promise. Literally, all he does is eat and bark,” Connor said, rolling his eyes fondly at the dog. Nugget had gone still. He wasn’t barking anymore, and he certainly didn’t look like he was going to murder Evan. Hesitantly, Evan reached a hand out to pet him and Nugget licked it. Evan grinned.

“See? He likes you. He’s harmless,” Connor smiled as Nugget flopped down on his lap, content with just lying there. Evan ran a hand over his fur, smiling at the smooth feeling.

How long have you had him?

Connor glanced at his phone, then back down at the pug. “Two years. My parents got him halfway through sophomore year-”

He cut himself off, and Evan looked up at him curiously. Stroking Nugget’s fur, Connor avoided eye contact with Evan. Evan tried to figure out what would cause Connor’s sudden silence but could think of nothing. He hadn’t interacted much with Connor before a few days ago, and he certainly hadn’t talked to him before. He didn’t know what had happened during sophomore year, but clearly, Connor was uncomfortable talking about it. Evan watched him for a moment before the two plays with the dog in silence.

“I...went to rehab,” Connor said out loud a few minutes later. Glancing up at him, Evan wondered what had prompted this. It wasn’t entirely shocking news, so he wasn't exactly surprised by it. Evan knew the rumors about Connor’s drug use and had smelled the marijuana on him when they had been at the park. He could smell it now, all over the bedroom.

“Uh, I got into some stuff freshman year. Hard stuff. It wasn’t like I had a shitload of people wanting to talk to me, but some of the upperclassmen did for some reason. We hung out at the skate park even though none of us even owned a fucking skateboard,” Connor's hands carded through Nugget’s fur rapidly. Evan pulled his hand away to keep from crowding either Nugget or Connor.

“They got me into some pretty heavy stuff...mostly prescription. I‐ they liked me, you know? They talked to me, listened to what I had to say. And the stuff they gave me made everything...stop. I wasn’t upset anymore. I didn’t hate my family or want to kill Zoe or anything. I didn’t hate myself that much anymore either. But then a few months later, Mom found the pills in my backpack and freaked out. She told my dad and-”

Connor had begun to cry at this point. Scooting closer, Evan's hand found Connor’s arm again. This time, neither boy acknowledged it.

“They sent me to a rehab place upstate. It wasn’t that bad. The food was okay. The people were crazy but no one was horrible. We did yoga...that was nice. Anyway, so I get out and my mom’s done all kinds of fucking research on how to help troubled youths so she buys me this dog, right? He’s supposed to calm me down or something.”

Connor wiped at his face, letting Nugget go. The dog didn’t move, he only looked up at Connor with concern.

“He does, I guess. Fuck. I don’t know. I don’t know why I fucking told you that, you didn’t fucking ask.” Evan hesitantly reached for Connor’s hand and squeezed it before letting go again.

Thank you for telling me.

“You don’t have to pretend to give a fuck, Hansen. You can leave. I won’t make you hang out with me because you pity me or whatever anymore.” Laughing dryly, Connor shook his head.

Evan gaped at him. How could he possibly think Evan pitied him? That was about as far from the truth as possible.

Why would I do that? You’re my friend.

Connor read the text. Then he read it again. And again. And again. Finally, he looked back up at Evan, who was biting his lip. He had sent it on impulse. Evan thought they were friends, but maybe Connor still didn’t? But who would share something that big with someone they weren’t friends with?

“Fuck. You’re my friend too, Evan,” Connor mumbled, looking away from him. Pushing Nugget off of him, Connor laid down, his legs stretching well off the bed. Evan watched him, reaching out to pet Nugget once more.

I didn’t fall out of the tree.

Evan’s breath caught in his throat as he sent it. He knew he could trust Connor now, but he still felt uncomfortable admitting it. He knew Connor wouldn’t look at him like he was crazy or yell at him or hate him, but - sharing something like that made him feel so raw. He never thought he’d ever admit it to himself, let alone tell someone. But he had to. Connor wasn’t alone, even if he felt like it. Connor wasn’t alone, and Evan had to prove that to him.

“What‐ what does that mean?” Connor asked quietly, his eyes scanning the text as if it would become less cryptic and he would suddenly understand. His voice was raspier than usual like he’d been forcing himself to stop crying before he was well and truly done. He looked back over at Evan.

I let go

Connor sat up suddenly, looking at Evan with a mix of something on his face-pity? Concern? Understanding? He hesitantly scooted closer to the shorter boy, turning to face him fully. He tucked his feet underneath him.

“What the fuck does that mean?”

Evan only stared at him. Knowing what he meant, Connor wanted Evan to say it out loud or at least type it out. Evan wouldn’t.

“You let you wanted to hurt yourself?” Connor finally asked, his voice a little higher than normal, though not frantic. He had read Evan’s letter. He knew how Evan felt. He must have known that Evan had at least thought about it before.

“Or‐ Evan, did you want to kill yourself?” The air left Evan’s chest. Hearing it out loud made it real and it was painful. It was painful to acknowledge the truth. To admit he’d not only thought of it but had actually tried it. Connor studied him for a second before moving closer. He looked down at Evan for a second, trying to gauge his reaction to something. Evan wasn’t sure what.

Then he carefully wrapped his arms around Evan in a loose hug. Evan could break away if he wanted, or he could cling to Connor tightly, or he could even do nothing, just sit and accept that Connor’s arms were around him. Connor wasn’t forcing him to do anything at all, and Evan felt tears on his face before he even realized he’d started crying. He cautiously returned Connor’s hug, his arms slipping around Connor hesitantly before pulling him in tighter. Both boys sat in silence, crushing the other to themselves. Evan held on to the other boy like he were a safety blanket and Connor returned his grip. Evan cried until he was sure he had soaked through Connor’s hoodie and probably his t-shirt too, but Connor didn’t shove him off. He didn’t tell him to stop crying. He didn’t yell or scream or hit him. He hugged him and Evan had never felt closer to anyone else in the world.

Chapter Text

They sat like that for what felt like years. Evan only loosened his grip when he felt Nugget lick his hand, causing him to laugh. Cautiously looking at Connor, Evan pulled away from him, only to find the taller boy already studying him. His blue irises stood out vibrantly against the red coating the corners of his eyes. His jaw was set, not in a tense, angry way, but with a firmness Evan assumed was his way of dealing with how vulnerable he felt. Evan felt just as vulnerable, if not more so.

I’m sorry about that

“What the fuck do you have to be sorry for?” Connor asked, his voice rougher that it had been minutes before. Shivering, Evan glanced down at the comforter and shrugged. Apologizing felt like a natural response for everything at this point, even the emotional moment he’d shared with Connor.

“I just‐ if you ever feel like that again, Evan, fucking text me, okay? Or call. Or walk to my house. I don’t care. Just tell me."

Climbing back to his old spot on the bed, Evan nodded. He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped both his broken and good arms around his legs. Regarding him for a second, Connor leaned back against the wall and stretched his own legs out.

Can I ask you something?

Connor glanced at the text and nodded his head. He absentmindedly stroked Nugget, who was sleeping soundly a foot away from him. Apparently, drastic displays of emotion didn’t affect dogs.

Why do you smoke pot?

Connor rolled his eyes. “God, you sound like my parents. Weed’s not going to kill me, Evan. It actually makes me feel better. You know, some people do treat shit with weed. Medical marijuana and all that."

Staring at him for a second, Evan frowned and began to type.

I know, but yours isn't prescribed by a doctor.

I’m just worried about you. I want you to be okay.

“Oh Hansen, I’m about as far from okay as they come,” Connor said, his voice taking on a sarcastic edge even though Evan could tell he really meant it. His face was contorted; it reminded Evan of the day Jared had called Connor a freak. He had looked so angry then, but his eyes had held some acceptance. Evan realized the boy beside him genuinely believed that he was damaged, and his chest hurt a bit. No, Connor wasn't perfect, but he didn't deserve the abuse he received at school.

Cautiously, Evan scooted closer to the brooding boy.

You aren’t a freak, Connor.

Connor sat in silence for a second. Evan had seen him read the text, but he didn’t say anything in return. In fact, he turned his phone off, effectively silencing Evan. He could only glare at the taller boy who rolled over, turning his back on Evan.

Evan stood up with a frustrated groan. Connor didn’t look at him, but Evan could tell he was very aware of Evan’s movements. Striding over to Connor's desk, Evan began searching for some paper and a pencil. If Connor wouldn’t accept his texts, then he’d have to get his message across the old fashioned way.

He found a crumpled bit of paper and grabbing one of Connor's sketch pencils, Evan began writing, holding the paper down with his cast. It was time-consuming, but eventually, he had a finished product that was at least somewhat legible. Evan walked back over to the bed and leaned over Connor, allowing the boy no means of escape unless he wanted to shove Evan away from him. Connor’s eyes were closed. He slowly opened one eye as Evan towered over him, his face pulled into a tight frown.

“What do you want, Hansen?” Evan thrust the paper into his hands, but Connor only rolled his eyes and brushed it. Determined to be heard, Evan shoved it back. They kept this up, Nugget jumping from the bed and waddling towards Connor's desk to escape all the fuss. Evan watched Connor’s anger build, but he didn’t care. Connor was going to read what he had to say one way or another.

“Get. Off. Me.” Connor hissed, pushing Evan this time. Evan only shoved back with his good arm, much gentler than Connor had been. He pressed the paper to Connor’s chest, heaving his weight against the taller boy. Connor glared, rolling over so that Evan was the one trapped on the bed and Connor was the one looming over him. He shoved the paper into Evan’s chest this time, accidentally pinning Evan’s broken arm between them. Evan hissed in pain and Connor was across the room in seconds.

His eyes were wide. Connor looked back and forth between Evan, Evan’s cast, and his own hands for a second, his mouth open. He looked more disgusted with himself than Evan had ever seen. Tugging his hands through his tangled, wild hair, Connor breathed heavily.

“I’m sorry,” He whispered. “Sorry. Fuck! So sorry. Shit, shit, shit.” Connor leaned against the wall opposite Evan, his hands covering his face. He repeated the word over and over again, and Evan’s heart broke.

Cautiously, Evan pushed himself off the bed with the arm that wasn’t in a cast and crossed the room. He reached out, attempting to touch Connor’s shoulder, but the taller boy flinched. Evan pulled away immediately. Connor locked eyes with Evan, repeating his apology.

Stepping forward again, Evan extended both arms to show he meant no hard. When he was close enough, he carefully pulled Connor into a hug. It was returned immediately. All was forgiven on Evan’s end, but he wanted Connor to know that. Connor couldn’t blame himself for everything all the time, especially when he hadn’t intended to hurt Evan. Connor glanced up at him and Evan hugged him tighter.

“I’m sorry, Evan.” Evan shushed him, shaking his head.

After a minute, he let go and retrieved the paper from the bed. It was wrinkled now, but it held the same message. Evan grabbed the pencil and added something to the end, then handed it cautiously to Connor.


You aren’t a freak. You aren’t. People at school are idiots. You’re so much more than the way they treat you. I’m‐ I’m sorry. I’m not good at words. I don’t know how to express this. Just know you’re not a freak, okay?



P.S. Stop blaming yourself for everything. I’m okay. My arm’s okay. You’re going to be okay.

Connor read the letter, flipped it over, then tucked it away into a drawer of his desk. Evan liked to imagine that he’d read it again later, once Evan was gone. Maybe then the message would sink in.

They returned to Connor’s bed, sitting in a comfortable silence. Evan worked on homework while Connor read a book that looked well-worn. He’d retrieved it from a pile beside his bed, beginning in the middle of the story. Evan had raised an eyebrow and Connor had only rolled his eyes.

The silence was calming. They had had an emotional afternoon; spending some time without talking was comforting.

Connor flipped through his book, staring right through it. Sitting up a little, his legs twitched. Evan glanced over at him curiously.

“Relax, I’m just bored,” Connor told him, staring up at the ceiling. Evan frowned, reaching for his cell phone. Connor had turned his back on, so Evan could communicate with him again.

I’m sorry. I can leave if you want.

Connor rolled his eyes. “I wasn’t saying that you’re boring, Evan. I’m just bored.”

Putting his homework back in his backpack, Evan nodded. He could finish the assignment when he wasn’t spending time with someone else. Evan set the backpack back down on the floor, then turned to Connor.

What do you want to do?

Connor shrugged. “I’m just bored. I don’t know. We could-” He was cut off by the sound of the front door opening and then closing. Instantly shutting down, Connor's face regained the robotic features he maintained around people he didn’t like. Evan frowned.

“I’m home,” A voice called out from below. It was quickly accompanied by footsteps and a gentle knock on Connor’s door.

“Connor, sweetie‐ oh, hello,” A pretty woman around Evan’s mother’s age said, smiling at Evan. So this was Connor and Zoe’s mother. Sitting up, Connor leaned back against the wall properly, his eyes avoiding her.

“He’s not going to talk, Mom,” Connor replied when the silence had dragged on for too long. A look of confusion evident on her face, Ms. Murphy glanced at Evan and then back at Connor.

“Why not? Is everything okay?” She asked in a stage whisper. Evan’s brow furrowed slightly.

“He’s fine, Mom. Evan just doesn’t talk.”

Her lips pressing into a thin line, Ms. Murphy nodded.

“Well, I’m Connor’s mother, but you can call me Cynthia,” she said, then realized her mistake. Her eyebrows shot up, her mouth forming a perfect ‘o’. “I mean, you don’t have to call me anything, but that’s okay. Uh, you can think of me as Cynthia.” Connor laughed at her embarrassment until Evan elbowed him. He shot Evan a glare in response.

“Uh, are you staying for dinner…?”

“Evan,” Connor supplied for her. He turned to look at Evan. “Are you?”

Evan considered it, but concluded that it would just be longer awkward silences and more people thinking he was weird for not talking, especially Zoe since he’d talked to Zoe before. Evan didn’t know if Connor had told her about Evan maybe being his soulmate and Evan’s fear of finding out, but he guessed that Connor hadn’t told anyone. Evan finally shook his head, to the relief of everyone present.

“Okay, you can leave now. Bye!” Connor finally said, standing and shutting the door before his mother could respond. Evan looked at him questioningly.

You didn’t have to be so rude.

“She was rude to you,” Connor pointed out, reclaiming his seat on the bed beside Evan. Evan shook his head.

She didn’t mean to be.

Connor just rolled his eyes and laid down, staring back up at the ceiling. The pair went back to a comfortable silence, both lost in thought. Evan played with the hem of his t-shirt and Connor looked up.

“You live with your mom, right?” Connor asked, glancing over at Evan finally. Evan nodded, staring down at the plaid comforter. It was blue-Evan’s favorite color. He wondered what Connor’s was. Was it black like the clothes he wore every day, or was it something else? Something surprising, like orange? Or maybe it was blue too, like the comforter, or the color of Connor’s eyes.

“It’s just the two of you?”

Finally sliding down the bed to lay beside Connor, Evan nodded again. He left space between them, neither of them touching the other. Evan wasn’t sure if he would feel that electric hot-cold rush again if he touched Connor without one of them crying, but he didn’t want to find out.

“What’s that like?” Rolling onto his side, Connor propped himself up on one elbow. He turned to look at Evan. Evan didn’t move, just kept staring at the ceiling. “I mean, if you want to talk about it. I get it if you don’t.”

It’s fine. My mom’s great, she’s just never there.

She works a lot and takes night classes.

Evan sent, avoiding Connor’s gaze as he did so. Connor read the texts, then looked back over at Evan.

“And your dad — where is he?”

Colorado with his new wife and kids. He calls a lot though.

Not really, he only calls maybe twice a year. I don’t know why I said that.

Nodding, Connor rolled back over onto his back, this time a little closer to Evan. If he wanted to, Evan could move his hand over a few inches to grab Connor’s. He didn’t. The silence dragged on for a few more minutes, both thinking about Evan’s home life. Evan felt his face flush slightly in embarrassment. Surely Connor was pitying him now. He was the loser with no one to talk to — not even his parents listened to him. Evan could talk to his mom about some things, but with most big issues, he didn’t want to bother her. She already worked so hard to be able to afford therapy and medication. Worrying her was stupid.

“My dad’s shitty too, but I think you probably knew that,” Connor chuckled dryly. Evan glanced over at him. From the things Connor had told him - like his parents being miserable - Evan had gotten the idea that at least Connor didn’t like his dad. Evan hadn’t met him, so he had no idea what he was really like.

At least he’s here.

Connor read the text and dropped the phone back beside him. Evan watched him do it, wondering what was going on in Connor’s head. With some people, it was easy to tell what they were thinking. Not Connor Murphy, though. Evan could guess and sometimes he would be right. Right now, he had no idea.

What’s your favorite color?

He sent it quickly. The answer seemed important all of a sudden as Evan glanced around the room. It still didn’t look like Connor and Evan wanted to know why. He could see traces of him in it-his art supplies scattered across the desk, his clothes lining the floor. But the blank walls and the blue comforter, no matter how much Evan liked the color, didn’t feel like the boy lying beside him.

Connor read the text, then glanced over at him. Brow furrowing in confusion, his lips twitched in an attempt to hide a smile. “Why?” He asked.

I want to know. What’s your favorite color?

“Red,” Connor replied after a second. “I like red. What about you?”


“Of course it is,” He said quietly. Evan thought he meant it rudely at first, but realized there wasn’t a hint of condescendence in Connor’s voice. He was staring down at the slightly faded blue t-shirt Evan wore. His eyes trailed back up to Evan’s face, and he felt exposed. Evan wasn’t used to people studying him so intensely. Despite what his anxiety told him, people didn’t really stare at him that much; he was able to fade into the background easily. But Connor could see him now and Evan wasn’t sure if he liked it.

I should probably go.

Evan sat up, breaking whatever spell had been placed on Connor. He sat up as well, nodding. Connor looked at the shorter boy and then at the floor. Shaking his head, Evan tried to get rid of the small voice in the back of his head saying that Connor didn't want him to leave.

“I’ll drive you home,” Standing, Connor grabbed his car keys from his bedside table. Evan stood and stretched, following Connor out his bedroom door, down the stairs, and through the front door.

They rode in silence, the only sound coming from Connor’s speakers. His iPhone was plugged into the car’s aux cord and the songs were on shuffle. Evan didn’t comment on Connor’s eclectic taste in music, but he did smile slightly when Bitch of Living blasted through the car. Connor looked slightly flustered at Evan finding out he had bought part of the Spring Awakening soundtrack, but neither boy mentioned it.

Connor dropped him off with a distracted nod and a ‘See you tomorrow, Evan,’ before driving away. Evan watched his Taurus until it turned the corner, then entered his house.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Evan once again found himself in Connor’s Taurus with music blasting. Connor had arrived and awkwardly thrusted a thermos into Evan’s hands, driving away before Evan had even put his seatbelt on fully. Setting the thermos down in a cupholder, Evan grabbed his phone and prepared himself to explain that he didn’t drink coffee because it only made his heart race more and he was scared he’d have a heart attack, but Connor gruffly announced that it was green tea. Evan drank it without a word.

They arrived at school, parking near the back of the lot. Turning off the car, Connor cut Brendon Urie off in the middle of a lyric. Connor remained in the car, though, his hands clutching the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles turned white. Sitting next to him, Evan calmly took sips of his tea.

“I just really don’t want to go today,” Connor said finally, glancing over at him. Evan retrieved his cell phone from his pocket and began typing.

You should. We already skipped once this week.

Connor scoffed. “I’ve skipped entire weeks before.”

You still need to go. It sucks, but it’s senior year. We’re so close to being done.

“Yeah, but what’s the point of sitting through bullshit classes? I don’t even want to go to college, why the fuck do I have to be here?”

Shrugging, Evan watched Connor’s grip tighten. The angry crease Evan hated so much was back. He wanted to lean over and stick his thumb between Connor’s eyes to get the crease to smooth out, but even Evan could tell that would be weird. He squeezed the hem of his shirt instead.

“Let’s just ditch,” Connor said, looking at him with a grin. “Let’s go back to the park, I’ll-”

Connor's phone buzzed, interrupting whatever he was planning on saying.

We can’t. I can’t.

Connor shot him a sullen look, a hint of betrayal in his eyes. Putting the thermos down, Evan reached over to squeeze Connor’s shoulder quickly. Connor frowned at the gesture and pulled away.

“You can’t, but I can.”

Please try to stay? At least until lunch?

Connor rolled his eyes. The previous day, the two of them had somehow found themselves eating lunch together. Evan usually sat with Jared at some table in the middle of the cafeteria where everyone could see them and where Jared could socialize with as many people as possible. Evan didn’t like the possibility of so many people watching him eat, but Jared always rolled his eyes and said that if Evan didn’t want to eat there, he didn’t have to. Evan liked the thought of eating by himself even less.

Connor ate lunch outside near the bleachers. That was where a lot of the stoners ate, Evan discovered when Connor had found him and dragged him outside the previous day. Evan wasn’t sure how he felt about the other people who ate out there, but at least he’d been in the somewhat fresh air. That had been nice.

“Fine, whatever,” grumbled Connor, opening his door and getting out. He grabbed his bookbag with more force than Evan thought was necessary, but Evan chose not to comment on it. Instead, he followed suit, grabbing his bag and following Connor inside.

 Three periods later, Evan entered his math class with his head down. He hadn’t had a bad morning, per se, given that nothing particularly bad had happened, but he still felt uneasy. Evan had only a handful of classes with people he knew well enough to talk to, and he hadn’t had any this morning. Jared was in this class, though, so at least Evan would have a familiar, albeit slightly annoying at times, face.

Taking his usual seat towards the back, Evan waited for Jared to arrive. When he finally did - seconds before the bell rang - he took a seat near the front, avoiding looking at Evan at all. Evan swallowed, unsure of what he’d done to anger Jared. Maybe Jared wasn’t angry with him, though? Maybe this was all in his head? Maybe Jared was running late this morning or something?

Or maybe Jared hated him? Well, Jared definitely didn’t like him, but maybe he now actually hated him? Evan tried to pay attention to the lesson, but his foot wouldn’t stop tapping and his eyes couldn’t leave the back of Jared’s head.

As soon as the bell rang, Evan was out of his seat and by Jared’s desk.

“Why didn’t you sit in your normal seat?” Evan asked, biting his thumbnail as he finished the question.

Jared glanced up at him, his face contorting into a scowl. He glared at Evan through his glasses, and Evan knew he had messed up somehow. “Why don’t you sit with your boyfriend?”

Evan stumbled backward a little in confusion. His boyfriend? Last he had checked, he didn’t have a boyfriend.

“What are you talking about?”

“You know, obnoxiously tall, ridiculously crazy hair that looks like a bad wig, could pass as a forgotten member of Evanescence?” Evan would have laughed were he not annoyed. What gave Jared the right to be angry at Connor? He hadn’t done anything to Jared.

“Connor isn’t my boyfriend! And he isn’t even in this class!” Evan insisted. Jared stood up. Anger rolled off of him in waves and Evan might have been nervous if not for the fact that they had been friends since childhood. Evan had seen Jared at his meanest and knew in actuality, he couldn’t hurt a fly.

“Who cares? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind ditching next period for a quickie out under the bleachers,” Jared muttered, pushing past Evan.

“Why‐ why do you even care?” Evan asked, choosing to ignore Jared’s dig at the nature of his and Connor’s friendship. Jared whirled back around, his glasses made crooked by the force of his turn. Fixing them, Jared’s eyes never left Evan’s.

“Because you totally ditched me this morning for him! And yesterday afternoon!” Jared replied. The classroom was almost empty now, thankfully. Evan would have been embarrassed to be seen fighting at school, plus his teachers would probably tell the principal, who would tell his mom, who would tell Jared’s mom and then Jared would be even more upset with him.

“You and I didn’t have any plans yesterday!” Evan replied, trying to be rational. They hadn’t, had they? They would have just ended up in Jared’s room, Jared playing video games while Evan watched. Every now and then it was fun doing something else, and Evan had actually enjoyed his time at Connor’s, even if it had been emotionally draining. He didn't regret the time he had spent with the taller boy.

“We did have plans yesterday! I told you I wanted to go see the new Marvel movie a week ago! You said, ‘Sure, Jared. I love watching Captain America’s ass in spandex.’ and I said ‘Me too, Evan. Me too’-”

“I absolutely did not say that!” interjected Evan, his jaw clenching in frustration.

And I waited at your house for twenty minutes this morning before your mom finally came out and told me you had gone with Connor!” Ignoring him, Jared continued to rant.

Evan felt guilty now. He probably should have texted Jared not to pick him up, but this still seemed like an overreaction.

“I‐ I’m sorry I forgot to text you,” Evan apologized. Jared just rolled his eyes.


“But I didn’t mean to ditch you for him, he just asked if I wanted to hang out with him.”

Jared scoffed, picking up his bookbag. “More like you guys just wanted to sit in silence and be weird together.”

Evan bristled at that. How dare Jared assume things about him and Connor? It wasn’t like he had sat down and taken the time to hang out with them, or had even made any sort of effort to get to know Connor at all. Besides, Jared spent most of his time belittling Evan; why did he get to be upset when Evan spent time with someone who actually respected him?

“Well at least he actually cares about me,” snapped Evan, moving past Jared to leave. He was stopped by Jared’s response.

“You think he cares about you? You’ve never even talked to him, you just text him. That’s beyond pathetic, Evan.”

Evan stumbled, thrown off by Jared’s comment. He hunched over slightly, his shoulders curving and his head touching his chest. Evan tried making himself as small as he could while he took a few deep breaths and tried to control his emotions. It was a horrible thing to say - the word pathetic haunted Evan, echoing through his head. Evan felt it in every fiber in his being until he remembered the day before. Connor didn’t think he was pathetic, Evan was sure of it. He turned back around to look at Jared finally.

“I’m the pathetic one? At least I acknowledge that I have no friends. I’ve never once heard you admit the truth.” Evan immediately regretted his reply, even if it was correct. Jared didn’t talk to anyone really besides Evan; he never hung out with other people or ate with them at lunch.  Whether or not Jared wanted to admit it, Evan was his only friend. Most kids rolled their eyes at him or ignored him when he tried jumping into their conversations. He was tolerated at some level, Evan supposed, but it was a slippery slope getting from Jared’s current social position to Evan’s or Connor’s.

"Fuck you,” Jared said, taking a step back. He stared at the floor, and Evan wondered if he was going to cry. He wanted to take the words back. Calling someone else pathetic just felt so wrong and mean and Evan did not want to see Jared cry.

“Jared, I’m sorry — ” But he was gone, hitting Evan with his shoulder as he stalked past him. Evan rubbed his own shoulder, struggling to breathe. He was now fighting with one of the people he cared for most, and he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was his own fault.

Chapter Text

Evan had very much considered texting Connor and asking to ditch after his fight with Jared, but he knew his mother was already disappointed in him enough. So he stuck it out for the next two class periods until lunch, when he joined Connor outside. He was grateful that he hadn’t had either class with Jared.

“So, why was he even angry?” Connor asked, stretched out on the bleachers. If Evan tried lying like that, he was sure he’d fall and break something. Connor looked completely relaxed, though. His hair fanned out around his head, his arms dangling beside him. Evan had the overwhelming urge to scoot closer and pull Connor’s head into his lap and stroke the long brown waves. He ignored it.

I didn’t tell him I was hanging out with you

“What, is he in love with you?” Connor asked, opening one eye. He quickly closed it again to avoid being blinded by the sun.

No, we aren’t like that. Jared’s just complicated, I guess. He doesn’t have a lot of friends.

Connor snorted, smiling at the text. Evan liked it when he smiled. The crease was completely gone without even the smallest trace.

“Join the club,” Connor replied. Evan wasn’t sure if he was joking, or if he was doing that thing that he did sometimes where he really meant what he was saying, but he covered it with sarcasm to avoid really admitting the truth. Probably the latter of the two. Connor was an enigma - sometimes Evan thought he was completely fine having only Evan as a friend, and sometimes Evan thought Connor really did miss having other human connections. He chose not to ask about it, though, because if Connor really was joking, Evan didn't want to upset him in some way.

A shadow cast over them, blocking out the sun and a bit of the warmth. Evan glanced up and Connor opened both eyes. Standing there were Zoe and Alana, hands clasped together as usual. Anger was evident on Zoe's face, her eyes glaring with the same fierceness that usually resided in Connor's. Alana looked concerned, a strained smile on her face as if she were trying to negotiate a peace between two toddlers fighting over a toy. 

“You two are hanging out now?” Zoe asked, looking back and forth between them. “Evan, a few days ago he shoved you to the ground! Do you not remember the panic attack you had?”

Frowning, Evan bit his lip and looked away. He definitely remembered Zoe Murphy having to coach him through a panic attack; he was sure he’d never forget how mortified he felt by it. Sitting up, Connor glanced back and forth between Evan and Zoe. His face was blank, but Evan thought he could see a bit of guilt in his eyes.

“We’re friends, Zoe. Back off,” muttered Connor, crossing his arms. Zoe raised an eyebrow.

“Look, Evan. You don’t have to hang out with him — ” She began.

“I think what Zoe means is, it’s nice to see you both spending time with someone else. Right, Zoe?” Alana interrupted, squeezing Zoe’s hand. With her shoulders tense and her head held high, Zoe looked like she was still ready to fight. She thought he needed saving again. Evan wanted to interject, but he had no idea what to say. Besides, it wasn't like they would listen to him. Once either of the Murphy siblings got worked up, no one could stop them, except maybe Alana. Well, that's what Evan hoped for.

“Fuck off, Zoe,” Connor said, standing up. Stepping back, Zoe tugged Alana behind her.

“You know what? Fine. But if you hurt him again, I’ll-”

“Okay! Nice seeing you, Evan! Bye, Connor!” Alana pulled Zoe away, whispering to the brunette as soon as they were far enough away. Still looking ready to kill, Zoe shot a final glare in Connor's direction. Evan breathed deeply, glad that the War of the Murphy's had temporarily come to a ceasefire. 

“God, I hate her,” muttered Connor as he sat back down beside Evan.

Zoe’s nice

Connor snorted. "No, she isn't."

She's never been rude or mean to me, unlike a lot of people. 

Looking at the text, Connor's brow furrowed and his free hand balled into a fist. A mix of anger and guilt washed over his face. 

"I'm sorry for pushing you," Connor said finally, his eyes looking out at the football field in front of them. Shaking his head, Evan could only watch Connor. 

That wasn't what I was talking about. I'm not mad at you, Connor. I just think you should cut Zoe some slack sometimes.

"Why are you taking her side?" snapped Connor, his head turning to look at Evan forcefully.

A light breeze rustled Connor's hair and Evan shivered, trying to think of a response. Connor's eyes held nothing but vulnerability, as if Evan's silence was some sort of personal attack. Did he think Evan took Zoe's side because Evan hated him? Was he still punishing himself for pushing Evan, or accidently hurting his arm the day before? Connor finally looked away, down at the metal bleacher below them, and Evan opened his mouth. He didn't know what to say, but he knew he had to fix this.

Connor's head snapped up, his shoulders tensing. His eyes narrowed as if he’d remembered something suddenly and Connor glared over at the boy in the blue shirt.

“In your letter, you said ‘all my hope is pinned on Zoe.’  What the fuck did you mean by that?" Connor's voice was icy, colder than Evan could ever remember hearing it. Usually, Connor's anger was loud and full of passion; this coldness was different. It was like Connor already knew what Evan meant, he just wanted Evan to confirm it, to acknowledge the real reason he had written about Zoe Murphy in his letter.

When Evan didn't reach for his phone, Connor's jaw clenched and he nodded once.

"You're in love with my sister, aren't you?"

It was like a switch had flipped in Evan's brain. He needed to control the situation now before Connor's brain took the idea and ran with it. Evan fumbled for his cell phone lying on the bleacher beside him, but Connor continued before he could unlock it.

“You are! You know she had a soulmate, right? And it isn’t you, Hansen. She’s literally in love with someone else. God, why are you pining after her when you have your own soulmate out there somewhere?” Connor demanded, finally glaring at the other boy. The fire was back now. Evan gulped, his throat dry and his lungs tight. Tears clawed at the backs of his eyes and he wanted to scream, but his voice wasn't working.

Evan opened his mouth to say that no, maybe he wasn’t in love with Zoe, but - wasn’t he? He loved her a week ago. Had things changed so much in the past few days? Yes, they had. But he loved her. Evan had to love Zoe. That was who he was, the anxious kid who loved the girl in Jazz Band. He’d loved her for the past two years, and if he didn’t love her anymore, what did that mean?  What did that say about him? What did that say about the mark on his hip and about the boy in front of him? Evan didn’t have a good answer, so he shut his mouth and finally pulled out his phone.

I know she has a soulmate. I know I can’t even begin to compete with Alana.

“So you do love her?” Connor asked, his face going slack once more. Gone was the anger and rage. A sort of apathy replaced it, except in his eyes. Those held a crushing sadness - as if the news hurt him deeply. But just as quickly as the sadness had arrived, it was gone. Connor had built his walls back up, replacing every other emotion with quiet rage. 

I don’t know

He replied honestly. Connor read his message, then shook his head. His mouth opened a few times, but he kept closing it. 

“How the fuck do you not know? Jesus, Hansen. Figure your shit out.” Connor's voice was thick, a little watery. Evan could tell he was trying not to cry, and it hurt. He wanted to take it back, tell Connor that no, of course he didn't love Zoe. But he didn't know and so he couldn't say it. He couldn't. Evan could only watch as Connor breathed heavily, biting his lip as his face turned red.

Standing suddenly, Connor climbed down the bleachers. His stomped passed a group of freshman girls, all of whom scattered with terrified looks on their faces as he approached.

Evan watched as he walked towards the parking lot, his back disappearing among the vehicles. Finally, Evan felt the tears began to fall as he realized that he had messed up. He had messed up. He had messed up.

Evan wrapped his good arm tightly around his pillow, the other left lying across it uselessly. His throat ached and his head hurt, and he felt like he couldn’t cry anymore. How had things become such a mess? He only had two friends and he’d ruined everything with both of them in the same day. Now he had no one.

He had tried texting Connor, but he had gotten no response. After the fifth text, he just stopped because clearly, Connor wasn’t going to talk to him. Evan had emailed Zoe to make sure Connor was okay and hadn’t done anything stupid, and had received a brief response telling him that she had checked on Connor and that he was okay, so at least there was that.

There was a soft tap on his door.

“Sweetie?” Heidi’s soothing voice called into the room from the other side of the door. Wiping his face, Evan tried to hide his tears. He knew it was useless; his face would be red and blotchy and his voice would be hoarse.

“Come in,” Evan said quietly, sitting up. Entering the room, Heidi shut the door behind her. She looked tired and she was still wearing her scrubs; her hair was falling out of the messy ponytail she had thrown it in during her shift. Crossing the room, Heidi sat down on the edge of his bed, keeping a comfortable distance between them.

“Rachel Kleinman called. She said Jared was upset? What’s going on, bub?” Heidi asked. Looking down at the bed, Evan's hands found the hem of his t-shirt immediately.

“We‐ we had a fight.”

“What about?” Heidi asked, her voice free of judgment. She didn’t blame him, but she would. Evan knew she would because Jared was right - Evan was a horrible family friend. The worst, actually. Everyone in his life deserved better than he could give them.

“I‐ I’ve been spending time with this other guy. Jared said I ditched him.”

Heidi nodded, raising an eyebrow. “Did you?”

“I didn’t mean to! I just - Connor asked me to come over yesterday, so I did.” Mouth curving up slightly, Heidi looked confused but maybe a little happy? Evan couldn’t tell, but she definitely didn’t look angry.

“Who’s Connor?” Evan hadn’t told his mother about potentially meeting his soulmate. He had only even mentioned having a soulmate once, and that was because his mother had come home to find him crying in the shower after he discovered the mark. She had hugged him while he cried and worried about all the things that could go wrong with having a soulmate. Embarrassed and a little ashamed at having rambled so much about his mark when Heidi didn’t have one herself, Evan had decided not to mention it again.

“He’s just a friend, Mom,” said Evan, biting his lip. Heidi nodded, though he could still see the questions written on her face. She was trying to work out how he had made a friend, maybe. Or why this boy couldn’t be both his and Jared’s friend.

“Um, he may be my soulmate,” Evan blurted out. He’d never even told Heidi that he was bisexual, but to her credit, she only seemed slightly surprised at his confession. She took in his statement, nodding slowly.

“What do you mean he may be?” She asked finally, shifting to a move to a more relaxed position.

“He‐ he said my mark.”

Wincing immediately, Heidi scooted closer, cautiously placing a hand on his shoulder. She moved her hand to stroke his hair briefly before returning it to his shoulder.

“And you weren’t his?” She asked, sounding as if her heart was breaking for him. Evan began shaking his head immediately, biting his thumbnail. He pulled it out of his mouth to give his mother a proper explanation, for she seemed more confused than before.

“I haven’t talked to him.”

“You said you hung out with him yesterday, though.” Raising an eyebrow, Heidi looked at him curiously.

Nodding, Evan reached for his cell phone. “I’ve been texting him. He reads them and then answers out loud.”

“But why don’t you talk to him?”

Evan looked back down at his red blanket, his hands running over the well-worn and smooth fabric. The color reminded him of Connor, suddenly. Was this his favorite color, or did he like a more vibrant red, like scarlet? Or a maroon? Shaking his head to get rid of the thought, Evan tried to swallow the painful lump in his throat.

“What if he is my soulmate? Or what if he isn’t?” Evan finally said.

That was the easiest way to explain it. If Connor was his soulmate, what then? And if he wasn’t...well, Evan didn’t like that option. He wasn’t sure why. Maybe it meant that Connor would leave him. He would abandon Evan once he realized they didn’t actually have any sort of real connection. Evan liked spending time with Connor, he didn’t want that to end.

“Honey, you have to find out one way or another. Once you know, you can decide what to do about it. But this not knowing? It’s going to eat you up inside,” Heidi told him, patting his shoulder again.

“Come on, I made spaghetti. Come eat dinner with me and tell me more about this boy,” she said, standing up. Evan flushed. The thought of talking to his mom about a boy who may or may not be his soulmate and may or may not even still be his friend was intimidating, but he was thankful to have someone to talk to.

Chapter Text

Evan was dreading school the next day. He wasn’t even remotely surprised when neither Jared nor Connor arrived to pick him up. Refusing his mother’s offer to drop him off - knowing it would only make her late to her shift - Evan began walking.

Spotting a Volkswagen Beetle following him not long after he began, Evan's breath caught in his throat. Why was a car following him? Were they even following him, or was it in his head? Did they want to kidnap him? He’d seen enough episodes of SVU to know that that was a real possibility. Whoever it was, they could easily stop and force him inside - he really wasn't that strong, he probably couldn't fight back very well. Evan walked faster, hoping to avoid them.

The car rolled forward, driving slowly by his side before he knew it. The driver’s window rolled down and a familiar head popped out.

“Hey, Evan! Get in!” Zoe Murphy said, slowing to a stop. Eyes wide, Evan stared blankly at her. Why did Zoe Murphy want him to get in her car? Had Connor sent her? Or had she seen him and pitied him? Or maybe Connor had told her why they were fighting, and she wanted to kick his ass personally for having a crush on her?

“Uh, why?” He asked finally. Offering him a genuine smile, Zoe put the car in park. She climbed out and popped her trunk.

“Because if you don’t, you’ll be late to first period. Now come on, you can put your bag in the back.”

Evan walked around the black car and put his backpack beside Zoe’s. He closed the trunk with his good arm and climbed in the passenger side while Zoe got back in the driver’s seat, then pulled away from the curb.

“So, Evan, Mom said you came by after school two days ago.” Evan turned white. Did Zoe think he’d been stalking her? Did she think he’d found her address and had broken in, going through her room like some sick weirdo? Maybe she did know about his crush or that he was maybe in love with her, and she thought he was some creep?

“I was hanging out with Connor,” He blurted out, wiping his palms on his thighs. Nodding, Zoe's face showed no surprise. Her eyebrows did knit together, though, a small frown on her face.

“Why have you been hanging out with my brother so much lately? The only time I’ve seen you interact before yesterday was when he pushed you,” she commented, her eyes glued to the road. Zoe was a much more cautious driver than either Jared or Connor. It was nice not to have to worry about whether or not he would die on the way to school for a change.

“I‐ we’re friends,” He said finally, looking down. “Or, uh, we were. I don’t know if we still are.”

Zoe absorbed this information, a look of confusion flashing across her face briefly. She glanced at him quickly, then her eyes darted back to the road. Evan bit his nail until he realized that Zoe would probably find that gross, so he let his hand drop back into his lap.

“Whatever he did, I’m sorry. He can be such an ass-”

“It was my fault,” Evan interrupted her, not wanting to hear whatever she was going to say about Connor. It was his fault, not Connor’s - she didn’t know the whole story. Zoe couldn’t just blame Connor every time something bad happened. Yes, Connor messed up sometimes and let his anger get the better of him, but this time, Evan was to blame, mostly.


“I‐I...” How do you admit to someone that their brother, whom they don’t get along with at all, might be your soulmate? Especially when you’ve been in love with this person for two years? Or how to you explain that you're fighting with your maybe-soulmate because of the person you're trying to explain things to?

“On Monday, uh-”

“The day he shoved you,” Zoe interrupted. She glanced at Evan, her frown disappearing slightly at his quickly reddening face. “Sorry.”

“He shoved me, yeah. But‐ before‐ he said ‘You better watch yourself.’” Frown deepening once again, Zoe's eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. She kept her eyes on the road, but Evan could tell she was trying to work out how those words could make someone want to be friends with whoever said them.

“That’s my mark, uh‑ my soulmate mark.”

Zoe’s eyes were on him in an instant; her mouth dropped open and her eyebrows rose. Whatever she had been expecting Evan to say, that wasn’t it. She looked completely taken aback by the information. Questions flew through her mind.

“You’re‐ my brother is your soulmate?!”

“I don’t know,” Evan admitted, bunching the hem of his shirt up. Clenched and unclenched his hands rapidly, Evan kept his eyes on the dashboard.

“How do you not know?!” asked Zoe, panic serging through her voice. Taking a deep breath, Zoe seemed to realize that her shock wasn’t helping anyone. “ do you not know?” She repeated, much gentler this time.

Evan shrugged.

“Uh‐ I haven’t exactly talked to him, and he hasn’t even told me if he’s marked-”

“He is,” she interrupted him, a slight scowl on her face. “It’s — nevermind, I probably shouldn’t tell you," Shaking her head, Zoe changed her mind. Her scowl was gone just as quickly as it appeared, replaced with a look of confusion.

"Anyway. So you haven’t talked to him, but he may be your soulmate. That’s why you guys are friends now?”

Nodding, Evan kept his eyes straight ahead of him, lost in thought. If Connor was marked...then Evan really could be his soulmate. Or he could not be. Evan was overcome with an intense pain in his stomach at the thought, but he pushed that aside, deciding to deal with whatever the pain meant later.

“Okay, so why aren’t you friends anymore? Is he mad that you won’t talk?”

Evan shook his head.

“No, he’s okay with that, I think. I‐ it’s a long story,” admitting Evan, thinking about the situation. How could he inform Zoe without letting her know why they had really fought? He didn’t exactly want to admit to her that Connor was jealous or pissed or something because he thought Evan was in love with Zoe. That would just be way too embarrassing to deal with.

“He‐ I have this assignment for therapy where I write down reasons why it’s going to be a good day. I mentioned having feelings for someone that wasn’t him in one, and he found it. He remembered it yesterday and I don’t know why, but things just kind of got out of hand,” Evan confessed. Nodding, Zoe’s eyebrows raised slightly. Evan could see her working something out in her head, though he wasn't sure what it was. Coming to some sort of conclusion, a look of peace accompanied by a small smile crossed her face.

“So he’s jealous.”

“Maybe? Or just annoyed with me? Like maybe he thinks he’s wasting his time or something.”

Frowning, Zoe’s mouth twisted at the thought. She shook her head, her long brown hair fanning out behind her. Evan was briefly reminded of how Connor’s had looked the day before as he lay on the bleachers, the sunlight making it shine. He would give anything to return to that moment before they fought.

“If you are his soulmate, and God help you if you are, then things will work out,” Zoe said finally. She pulled into the school's parking lot, claiming a spot near the front. She parked and pulled her keys out of the ignition, but instead of getting out, she turned to face Evan. He avoided her gaze.

“Alana and I fight sometimes."

Evan’s head snapped towards hers. She and Alana were so good together. They were in love and perfect for one another. How could they possibly fight?

Zoe laughed at the look on his face. “Yeah, it’s true. Being someone’s soulmate doesn’t mean everything’s suddenly going to be sunshine and butterflies. Alana’s still going to get overwhelmed with school and clubs and college applications, and I’m still going to shut her out now and again when I'm dealing with family stuff, but we love each other. That’s never going to change. No matter how big or bad the fight may seem, we’re going to come out stronger because of it.”

Evan thought about her words. So Zoe and Alana weren’t completely perfect after all. And yet, they were. They loved and supported one another more than Evan could even begin to imagine. Would he and Connor be like that one day?

As soon as he thought it, he felt a tug in his chest. He was beginning to accept that maybe-maybe Connor was his soulmate. Even if he wasn’t, Evan could see himself loving Connor. He didn’t yet. No, they hadn’t known one another long enough to be in love. They knew things about each other that no one else did, but they didn’t know everything.

They hadn’t seen each other completely distressed, so utterly vulnerable and so broken that they felt overwhelmed by the weight of the world on their shoulders. They hadn’t seen each other at their most carefree, laughing and enjoying a lazy day together in front of the TV in their pajamas. They hadn’t seen one another in a blissfully intimate moment, so in love and in lust that they were taken aback by the feeling, wondering how it was possible to care about someone so much. Connor had never seen Evan panicked, so trapped inside his own head that he couldn't see or hear reason. Evan had never seen Connor despondent, so low that he couldn't even get out of bed and get to the shower. Connor had never seen Evan unbothered, laughing until tears ran down his face and snot dripped from his nose. Evan had never seen Connor at ease, dancing to his favorite song at three in the morning, not caring how silly he looked.

But Evan realized that he wanted that. He wanted all of it. With Connor, not Zoe. Zoe was perfect and Connor wasn’t, but Evan wanted him anyway. Evan wasn’t perfect either - he was made up of broken, messed up parts, just like Connor. Maybe, maybe those parts could fit together and form something good. Maybe they could make something great.

“Thank you,” he told Zoe. And he meant it.

They exited Zoe’s car, parting ways at the door as Zoe went to find Alana. Evan needed to make things right with both Connor and Jared. He just needed to figure out how.

Chapter Text

“Zoe, why the fuck are we here?”

Evan could hear them before he could see them. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, which made Evan smile. Now all he had to do was convince Connor to stay once he saw Evan was also at the park, which might be a little difficult seeing as the taller boy still seemed to be angry with Evan. In the hall the day before, he had returned to glaring whenever they locked eyes, but that hadn't stopped Evan from trying to meet his gaze. If anything, it had only made him seek out the taller boy more. He had to fix this.

“You need to get out of your room, Connor. Besides, the weather is wonderful today.” Alana’s voice drifted to him. Peering around the tree, Evan saw Alana walking hand in hand with Zoe, a dog’s leash in her free hand. Nugget waddled behind them next to Connor, seeming just as unhappy about their surroundings as Connor was.

“Can I just have my dog back?” Connor grumbled, trying in vain to swipe the leash from Alana.

“No,” snapped Zoe, shooting him a glare. “We’re all going to enjoy a nice day at the park together.”

“Fine, Mom,” Connor replied sarcastically. “I’m hiding all of Nugget’s leashes after this. Alana, you’ve got to stop stealing my dog.” Alana just leaned down to pet Nugget, who sniffed her hand curiously.

Picking up speed as they approached, Alana and Zoe grinned at one another. To most, they just appeared deeply in love, but Evan could see the excitement pass between them. He was grateful they had agreed to help him with this, even going so far as coaching him the night before on how to act and what to wear. It seemed they wanted both Evan and Connor to be happy - even Zoe. She had kept her grumbling about Connor to a minimum the night before, claiming that she would be happy when he spent all his time out of the house and with Evan. That wasn't true, though, Evan could tell. Zoe wanted the best for her brother, even if she had a hard time admitting it out loud.

As Alana and Zoe passed his tree, Alana bent down to scoop Nugget up. He stared at her curiously for a second before both girls took off sprinting. Connor was left behind, looking more confused and annoyed than before.

“What the hell?” 

Watching them run away, his scowl deepened. Connor reached up to run a hand through his hair, then thought better of it. He’d worn it up in a bun today, and Evan gulped and tried to neatly tuck his own hair into place. Zoe and Alana had used a ridiculous about of gel to smooth it back, much more than Evan was comfortable with. It looked nice, but now his hair was hard and physically wouldn't move no matter how much he touched it. He had also tried dressing up a bit to make this more special, even switching out his usual beloved blue t-shirts for a nice, dark maroon polo shirt Zoe and Alana had picked out for him. Evan had smiled when Zoe shoved it into his hands; he still wasn't sure what shade of red Connor liked best, but maybe this was it? Regardless, he hoped he looked nice enough.

Turn around

Whirling around, Connor's eyes found Evan’s immediately; his blue eyes narrowed and the unhappy crease appeared between them. Connor’s shoulders hunched and Evan knew he’d probably begin screaming any second now. He had to act quickly before Connor had time to run away without any sort of explanation. This was his moment - he couldn't screw it up.

“I don’t like Zoe,” he said, speaking to Connor for the first time. Evan's voice was quiet, gentle - a stark contrast from the usual roughness of Connor's. Evan studied Connor’s face for any sign of recognition at the words, but there was nothing. 

Connor's shoulders relaxed, but just barely; the anger didn’t quite leave his eyes. There was no shock, no surprise, absolutely nothing. It was as if someone had taken Connor's face and created a bust - an emotionless work of art. Evan felt his heart drop. What if the words weren’t written somewhere on Connor’s body?

“Connor, I, uh, I like you. A lot.” Evan pushed forward, trying to remember the sweet speech he’d written out the night before once Zoe had dropped him off back at his house. He couldn’t remember any of it now. Floundering to get his point across, Evan huffed and rubbed the back of his neck. A thin layer of sweat had gathered there, which Evan awkwardly wiped onto his jeans.

“Like in a romantic way, like I like like you. I like like you.” 

Connor raised an eyebrow and pulled his cell phone back out of the pocket of his hoodie. He began scrolling through something, and Evan was crushed.

Bile rose to the back of his throat. Zoe had refused to tell him what Connor’s mark said, and while he had given some thought to what he would say, he had blurted out his feelings in the moment. It had seemed so important to confirm to Connor that no, he didn't like Zoe, not like that. He liked Connor. But, had he been wrong? Had he chosen the wrong words? Was Connor trying to let him down gently?

Or had he been right? Maybe Connor had the words ‘I don’t like Zoe,’ written somewhere on him, but he was choosing to ignore it. Maybe he still hated him and Zoe was wrong and they couldn’t get through this. Maybe Connor wanted nothing to do with him ever again. The thought made Evan want to throw up, but he realized how disgusting that would look to Connor and how pathetic he would seem. Connor would probably be so sickened by it that he left Evan there all alone.

Finally, Connor put the phone back in his pocket and crossed his arms. The apathy had faded, replaced with something completely unreadable. It was doing absolutely nothing to calm Evan’s nerves. Evan felt his phone vibrate but ignored it.

“Why‐ why won’t you say anything? Do you hate me? What-”

Connor took a step forward, then another. “Evan, I texted you.”

Shaking his head, Evan grabbed at the hem of the new shirt. It didn’t feel as smooth or as comforting as the ones he usually wore, although it was really, really nice and would probably wrinkle if he kept doing that. He decided he didn’t like it and wondered if it was too late to return it. If Connor rejected him, Evan never wanted to see it again. It would be too much of a painful reminder to how utterly humiliating this day was.

“If you‐ if you don’t feel the same way, I get it. God, I’m so stupid. I’m sorry-”

“Hansen, why are you scared?”

Evan glanced up at the statement. Connor was even closer now, only a few inches away. He could see every detail of Connor’s face, from his long eyelashes to his thin lips. They were chapped. Evan felt compelled to give him the chapstick in his back pocket that his mother kept buying for him, insisting that his lips would crack and bleed if he didn’t properly moisturize them. He resisted the urge, choosing instead to focus on Connor's eyes. They were lighter than Zoe's or Evan's, a pale blue; they reminded Evan of the sky, or maybe a robin's egg. Connor's eyes were calm, so unlike the fire they had been two days ago as he accused Evan of being in love with his sister.

“I‐ I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-”

“Would you just look at the damn text?” asked Connor, crossing his arms in frustration. He was so close, the movement had sent a gentle breeze of air in Evan's direction. Shivering despite the heat of the fall day, Evan let go of his shirt with his good hand, pulling his cell phone out of the pocket of his jeans. He stepped back, away from Connor, no matter how much it hurt him. The last thing he wanted was to read Connor’s rejection while Connor watched him so closely, close enough for Evan to kiss him if he had any courage.

The text was a picture. Brow furrowing in confusion, Evan shot Connor a curious glance. The taller boy was still studying him closely, though his face wasn’t giving away any sort of explanation for the photo he had sent. Evan pulled the picture up.

It was someone’s back. Their skin was pale, covered in a light brush of freckles. They were tall and lean, and Evan immediately realized that the picture he was looking at was of Connor’s back. The thought alone sent a rush through him - the same hot-cold feeling he'd had when he’d touched Connor’s arm on the bed.

Connor’s hair was shorter - Evan could see a mole on his neck just above his shoulder that was usually hidden by hair. His arms hung by his sides, his shoulders tense with embarrassment. He was uncomfortable, either because he was shirtless or because of who was taking the picture. Evan guessed maybe both. He assumed Zoe had taken it - he thought that maybe he could make out a brunette in the mirror in the corner of the frame, obscured slightly by the angle.

Written in near chicken scratch on Connor’s left shoulder were the word’s ‘I don’t like Zoe.’

All the air in his chest rushed out of his lungs. He blinked, rereading the words once, twice, three times before he felt his phone fall from his hands. It clattered on the ground, but he couldn’t be bothered to pick it up. I don’t like Zoe.

He was Connor’s soulmate. Evan was Connor’s soulmate. Evan Hansen was Connor Murphy’s soulmate.

“I‐ what?” Stuttering, he looking back up at a smirking Connor. They locked eyes once again, dark blue meeting light, and Evan felt a rush of joy flow through him. He was someone’s soulmate. Someone was his soulmate. And not just someone - Connor Murphy. The strangest, most infuriating person he had ever met was his soulmate. The secretly kind, sneakily protective boy in front of him was his soulmate. Connor Murphy had his mark, and Evan had Connor's.

“I like like you too, idiot."

Connor took a step closer, and then another, his long legs making up the distance with ease. Shaking his head, Evan could only stare as Connor approached, stopping only when they were inches apart. Evan looked up into Connor’s blue eyes, breath rushing in and out of his lungs. How was this real? This couldn’t be happening, this couldn’t be happening, this couldn’t be-

Connor’s chapped lips were on Evan’s, their lips roughly crashing together.

Tenderly brushing a thumb across Evan's jaw, Connor held Evan's face in his hands while Evan stared at him with wide eyes. He worried that he was messing it up; he’d never kissed anyone before. But Connor didn’t pull away and laugh at him, or freak out because Evan wasn’t enjoying the kiss enough. Connor just leaned closer and moved his hands away from his face, wrapping his arms around Evan's waist and pulling him flush against his own chest. Evan hesitantly wrapped his own arms around Connor’s shoulders, his fingers buzzing as he ran his hand over the place where the words‘I don’t like Zoe’ were. He realized that there was literally nothing he could do to ruin this moment - it was perfect because he was sharing it with Connor.

Later, Evan leaned against the oak tree, his face turned up towards the sun. His good hand played with Connor’s hair as the taller boy napped in the sunlight, his head in Evan’s lap. Today was a good day for many reasons, he thought. No, his problems weren’t over - he’d always have anxiety and Connor’s depression wasn’t going away. Romance wasn’t an instant fix for those things. They would still struggle and fight and have horrible days, but they’d handle them together. They each had someone to be there for them now. They had each other.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you don’t need me to come inside? I could talk to Rachel-”

“I’ve got it, Mom. Thanks,” Evan said, unbuckling his seatbelt. Heidi sat in the driver’s seat, watching him. Evan wished the worry in her eyes would go away, but knew by now that it wouldn’t. He couldn’t solve all of his problems in one day or even one week. He had made things right with Connor though, and he needed to try with Jared.

Opening the door, Evan got out and sent his mother one last tight-lipped smile before closing the car door gently and walking up to the Kleinman’s front door. He knocked lightly, then stepped back to wait.

Rachel Kleinman, Jared’s mother and Heidi’s best friend, opened the door with a smile. She glanced back at Heidi’s car and waved before turning to look at Evan.

“Hey, sweetheart! How are you? Long time no see.” Evan wanted to remind Ms. Kleinman that it had been less than a week since he’d been at their house, but he kept his mouth shut. Compared to the amount of time he had spent here in the past, perhaps a few days was a long time. Instead, he nodded, giving her a small smile.

“Well, Jared’s up in his room! I’ll make some snacks.” Moving back, she allowed Evan to enter the house. Once she disappeared into the kitchen, Evan walked up the short flight of stairs. He knocked on the door and was met with silence, so he slowly pushed the door open.

Evan found Jared on his bed, his hair messy and his legs tangled in the forest green sheets. Pausing the video game he had been playing, Jared glanced over to see who had opened the door; he pressed resume when he saw that it was Evan. Sighing, Evan crossed the threshold.

“Did I say you could come into my room?” Jared demanded, his focus remaining on the video game. Or maybe it didn’t; Evan could see Jared’s character receive several blows that he normally would have successfully avoided if he were really paying attention to the game.

“I’ve never had to ask before,” Evan shot back, pulling out Jared’s desk chair with his good arm. He took a seat, spinning to face Jared fully.

“Yeah, well, the rules change when you started acting like a dick.”

The anger in Jared’s voice sent a spike of annoyance through Evan’s body. Part of him knew Jared had a right to be angry, but another part of him wondered why Jared cared so much.

“Would you just talk to me? I came to apologize,” Evan said quietly. Jared sighed and paused his game. He didn’t look at Evan, though. Instead, he flopped backward and looked up at the ceiling, effectively avoiding eye contact. Evan rolled his eyes.

“Fine. Apologize.”

“I’m sorry for ditching you for Connor. I should have texted you. I’m sorry,” Evan said. He was used to apologizing constantly for nothing at all, and yet this apology was hard to say, probably because he knew he had hurt Jared and he hated doing that. Biting his lip, Evan glanced down. Jared finally looked over at him.

“I want to be friends again.”

“We weren’t friends. We were family friends. That’s a totally different thing and you know it,” Jared scoffed. Evan had his work cut out for him.

“Jared - we used to be real, actual friends. What happened?” Evan asked, quietly.

Jared stared at him for a minute before rolling over to look out the window. From his seat in the desk chair, Evan could see the maple tree outside. Somehow seeing that and knowing the memories that went along with it made this fight feel worse, more personal. If he didn't make things right now, would he ever? Would Jared be okay with letting him go, letting their friendship die? Evan wouldn't.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Sighing in frustration, Evan shook his head. If Jared didn’t want to admit it, fine. That didn’t make it any less true. They had been friends, once upon a time. Jared had been Evan’s best friend until high school, then Jared became cold and distant. Even still, Evan considered Jared to be his best friend, no matter how much Jared wanted to fight it.


Turning around, he plucked a picture frame off Jared’s desk, then stood and walked it over to Jared. Inside were the younger version of the boys, chubby cheeked and grinning. They each wore matching Boy Scout uniforms and were clutching knots they had just learned to tie. Evan’s hair was longer, more unruly. Jared’s glasses were thicker, thick enough to stop a bullet. They were happy.

Jared glanced at the picture once, then looked away. He stared determinedly out the window. “My mom put that in here.”

Evan rolled his eyes. “So? You could have thrown it out. We were friends, and then we weren’t. Why?” Evan pressed, biting his nail. He put the picture back and took his seat in the desk chair once more.

“Freshman year you wouldn’t talk to anyone,” Jared said finally, rolling over to look at Evan as he sat up. “You wouldn’t talk to anyone. Not even me! You just sat there, reading your tree books! The other kids all thought you were weird, and you know what? They thought I was weird for talking to you!”

Evan’s mouth fell open. He would have stumbled backward at the cruel words were it not for the fact that he was currently sitting down. Instead, his hands shook and he curled them into fists to control the tremor. Jared's words cut through him like a knife, but that wasn't the worst part; Jared’s eyes were angrier than Evan could remember seeing them, except for maybe when they used to get teased on the playground growing up. Jared always stuck up for them, glaring and insulting their bullies with the same wit and precision he had today. What had changed? When had Jared stopped being his protector and had instead become one of his bullies?

“That’s — Jared, I didn’t talk to anyone because of how bad my anxiety was. Remember? That year I finally convinced my mom to let me go to therapy!”

Evan didn’t like to remember freshman year. He’d been too quiet and everyone else was too loud. He and Jared had only known a handful of kids at their new high school. Their middle school fed into a few different high schools, causing both Evan and Jared to lose a few of their friendlier acquaintances. Evan hadn’t responded well to the new environment and the new students; he couldn’t smile and pretend to be okay when he felt so alone. That was when Jared began pulling away.

“You could have talked to me! We were supposed to be best friends, and then you start shutting me out like you hated me!” Jared threw back, catching Evan off-guard. Jared thought that Evan hated him? What the hell?

“Of course I didn’t hate you, Jared,” Evan replied, scooting the chair a little closer to the bed. “We were best friends.”

“Then why couldn’t you talk to me? Why couldn’t you come to me when you had a panic attack or freaked out?”

“Because you teased me! You made fun of me for that stuff!” Evan replied, his eyes narrowing. Not longer after they entered high school, Jared had begun to make fun of Evan’s anxiety, turning every social blunder Evan made into some big joke. Evan hated that he did that, but he had never mentioned it before. Judging by the shock in Jared's eyes, he had had no clue that Evan felt this way. Jared frowned, looking guilty all of a sudden.

“Evan, those were just jokes. I was trying to lighten the mood. You’re kind of a human storm cloud,” Jared replied, a hint of a smile in the corner of his mouth. Evan’s own lip twitched - then he remembered their fight.

“They don’t feel like jokes. They hurt,” he said, glancing down at the floor. He played with the hem of one of Connor’s hoodies. He had taken one the day before when he had gone over to watch a movie. Or rather, Evan had shivered and Connor had shoved one in his hands, rolling his eyes but smiling slightly.

“I’m‐ Evan, I’m sorry. I just have a shitty sense of humor, I guess,” Jared said, taking his glasses off to wipe them on the front of his plaid shirt. “I don’t know. You’re just so upset all the time, I guess I try to balance you out or whatever.”

“It’s okay,” Evan said. And it was. Jared’s jokes still hurt deep down, but at least Jared now knew what he had done wrong. Maybe now they could work on fixing their friendship. Three years of distancing themselves from each other wouldn’t be easy, but Evan had faith that it could be done. “Just try to go easy on me. I’ll tell you if you’re going too far.” Jared nodded, smiling over at the other boy.

"As long as you stop ditching me for Sid Vicious every now and then."

Grinning, Evan nodded, accepting Jared's terms. Connor was great, but Evan needed Jared in his life, too. That would never change.

“Um, your mom handed me a shitload of snacks,” Connor said an hour later, opening Jared’s bedroom door. He balanced a veggie tray in one arm and three bottles of water in the other. “Does she always make this much food for people?”

“Oh, you have no idea,” Jared replied, still stretched out across his bed. Evan had taken his usual seat on the floor but jumped up to help Connor with the food. Taking the veggie tray from Connor, he placed it on the desk and grinned up at Connor shyly. He was still not entirely used to having a boyfriend, let alone one who was his soulmate. Connor smiled back, pulling Evan in for a quick kiss.

“Ew. Keep your fluids to yourselves in my room.”

Evan turned red and Connor choked, coughing slightly with wide eyes. Stepping back away from Connor, Evan nearly tripped over some of Jared’s discarded, dirty clothes in the process.

“I’m not saying you can’t get some action, just keep it away from me. I’m always down to watch attractive men get it on with other men, but I don’t want to watch Marilyn Manson corrupt my sweet little innocent friend, here.” 

Connor rolled his eyes and sat down in the desk chair. Evan cautiously sat back down on the floor between the other two boys.

“Oh my god,” Evan groaned, shaking his head. He was glad to have Jared back, even if it meant dealing with all the jokes about his sex life.

“Tell me, though‐ how is Evan in bed? I imagine he’s a gentle lover, very tender — ”


“What, are we not going to discuss this? I’m very interested in knowing, just nothing too detailed. I like to leave some things up to my imagination when I’m jacking off later,” Jared smirked. Evan briefly wished the floor would swallow him whole. Connor was actually laughing at this point, though, so maybe it was worth it. Evan would sit through quite a bit of embarrassment just to hear Connor’s laugh.

So, the three boys sat in Jared’s bedroom, laughing and swapping jokes for several more hours. Jared even convinced Connor to play a video game with him. Evan smiled, watching his best friend and his boyfriend compete against each other. He even cracked up when Jared kicked Connor to distract him, mostly because Connor kicked him back much harder. Evan felt warm all over — not hot and flushed like he felt when Connor stared at him, but warm and cozy, like being covered in too many blankets in winter. Things weren’t magically better, but they were pretty good.

Evan was still an outcast. He knew it, but he was beginning to accept that that wasn’t the end of the world. Nothing about him was normal - not his home life, not his brain, and definitely not his soulmate mark. He definitely didn’t have a perfect soulmate either, but sitting here between his best friend and his boyfriend, he realized he could be okay with that.