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Morning Downpour

Chapter Text

Rain pours down in chaotic drops, the whistling wind carrying it in diagonal sheets against the window, tapping against the glass in a cacophony of sounds. To most, the sound would be too distracting to focus, but Evan finds it rather pleasant, comforting even, to listen to the rain as he watches raindrops race each other down the window pane, eventually tearing his eyes away from the window to focus on his textbook.

The time is steadily approaching midnight on a dreary Saturday night, and instead of going out drinking and partying like most normal high school seniors his age, Evan finds himself in the library. There’s something about it that is calming to Evan; perhaps it’s the fact that they’re quiet, which means Evan doesn’t have to talk, or it’s because he’s surrounded by the comfort of books, which don’t laugh or judge him for his silence, or maybe it’s simply better than lying in bed at home, thinking about how his mother wouldn’t be home for hours or wishing that if he fell asleep, he wouldn’t wake up the next morning.

Yeah. Libraries were much better. At least he could get some work done.

It’s not like he minds studying, anyway; the rhythmic drumbeat of the rain helps him focus, and his Monday morning exam is for environmental science, his favorite class. Currently engrossed in the unit on ecological succession, he’s impressed by yet another one of nature’s miracles.

No matter where it is, no matter how bad things are looking, with enough time and care, trees will grow again, and even the smallest of plants will eventually blossom into a beautiful forest. Fascinating.

Evan often stays quite late into the night, and it’s common for him to be the last one there until the old librarian ladies give him the stink eye and he scrambles out of the building so they can lock up. Tonight would be no different; he plans to make the most of the half-hour he has left to cram for this exam.

He reads and takes notes until his eyes go cross-eyed and the words begin to spill off the page. As the clock crawls closer and closer to midnight, he feels sweat bead at his forehead and his chest tighten.

What am I even doing? He wonders in a panic. What if I forget it all and get a zero? What if by failing that exam, I don’t pass the class and then I can’t graduate because environmental science is a graduation requirement, which would mean I’d have to repeat senior year, and –

Evan realizes amidst his unreasonable panic that he has a death grip on his mechanical pencil, which is starting to drive into his palm. With a long, drawn-out sigh, he sets the pencil down and rubs his eyes.

This isn’t helping.

Evan rises to his feet, deciding that the chapter in the textbook wouldn’t be enough to master all the content on the exam. He has no idea, however, where he might find a book about succession, glancing around frantically. Nearly everyone has left, the only one left being a teenage boy at the checkout counter.

Well, that was new. Usually it is one of the elderly librarians who stay until closing. Evan doesn’t think he’s ever seen this boy before, but something about him is vaguely familiar. He looks completely disinterested in everything, long legs kicked back on the countertop and stretched out on a swivel chair. His eyes are shut, chin tilted down slightly; he’s trying to sleep, but clearly he’s not, Evan’s pretended to sleep too many times as to not worry his mother about his insomnia to know. Arms crossed across his chest, earbuds in, he is the epitome of boy in rebellion against the world.

Evan would rather die than ask this person, who clearly does not want to be bothered, for help on finding a book. What if he totally fucked up their interaction, what if the boy thought he was a total nuisance, practically anyone normal could locate a book in a damn library, what if –

Another sigh. He’ll do it himself.

Evan wanders around the library in desperate hope to spot the book he needs. After trying the computers, which were shut down, he scans every shelf in the science section, and then checks it twice. A groan of frustration escapes his throat and he’s ready to give up, grabbing a couple of books that seem close enough to what he’s looking for.

“What on earth are you doing?” An unfamiliar voice barks out.

Evan immediately tenses up, all muscles locking, and he goes from zero to hyperventilation within a second. The books he’s holding fly out of his hands and fall to the ground, startling him even more. His face alights with an embarrassed blush when he gathers the courage to look up, seeing the same boy from before standing there. He looks annoyed, annoyed at Evan. His eyes are narrowed in silent questioning. Evan notices they’re blue.

“I-I’m looking for a book,” Evan stutters out in a nervous rush, his words stringing together as he kneels down to quickly collect the books.

“No shit,” The boy rolls his eyes, squatting down to help him pick them up. “You’ve been wandering the library for ten minutes. We have computers to help you find what you need, you know.”

“T-they w-weren’t turning on.”

“Ah,” The boy’s unruly curls fall in his eyes as he stacks the books on top of each other. “Probably because it’s near closing time, they shut off automatically. Anyway, you could’ve just asked. I clearly wasn’t doing anything.”

You look like you didn’t want to be bothered, Evan thinks. Not like I had the courage to speak up, anyway.

Evan doesn’t answer, just stares at him helplessly, like a stranded deer in headlights. The boy blows out an impatient sigh. “Whatever. What kind of book do you need?” He looks down at the title of the books. “Environmental science?”

“Ecological succession,” Evan answers in a high-pitched voice. At least I didn’t stutter this time.

“How nerdy,” The boy grumbles under his breath, rising to his feet. He scans the shelves for a bit, his finger trailing the book spines until he finds something. He thumbs out a thin hardback on succession. The boy practically shoves it into Evan’s shaking hands, and Evan hardly manages to stutter out a thanks before he’s storming off.

“Whatever,” He says again, not bothering to look back. “The library is closing soon, so hurry it up.”

Nodding furtively, which is pointless as his back is turned, Evan scrambles back to his table in the corner. Opening the book, Evan quickly learns he lost all ability to focus, unable to sit still with the strange boy oh-so conveniently in his line of sight.

Chapter Text

After realizing he's read the same paragraph of his book about seven times, Connor comes to the conclusion that he is completely and utterly bored.

He throws the paperback on the counter, sighing in exasperation. He's long since given up trying to make this place enjoyable. It's all just so lame. Why would anyone come here voluntarily?

Taking in the dreary appearance of the dimly lit library, from the smudged computer screens to the dusty, cobwebbed corners, he is reminded of how much he hates it there.

Though, he supposes that serving sixty hours of community service at the library is better than picking up trash under a highway or sitting in some juvenile detention center on the outskirts of town. According to his father, scoring this volunteer job was a stroke of luck, and by default, Connor had automatically disagreed with him. 

His impatience getting the better of him, Connor stares out the window, watching the rain pour down loudly. Damn, now I’m watching the rain? He thinks in mild annoyance. Just how much more fucking depressing can I get?

He should be going home by now, hell, he shouldn’t be here at all – he never does the Saturday night shift, damn that old lady and her pregnant daughter going into labor, he doesn’t give a shit – but he isn’t going anywhere until that nerdy kid leaves.

Connor finds himself staring at the boy for a moment longer than what's considered socially acceptable. He’s hunched over about five different books, scribbling incessantly into a worn-out notebook. Connor notices he has a cast on his arm, and moreover, that it’s blank. Does he not have any friends? He wonders. He doesn't seem the type, to be perfectly honest. This is the type of kid who lurks in the shadows, preferring to be invisible, a side character in his own life. 

Nerdy kid looks up nervously, meeting his eye. Fuck. Keeping a neutral expression, Connor watches in slight amusement as the boy's face goes red and he looks back down at his books immediately, eyes widened in embarrassment. Connor resists the urge to roll his eyes and he figures he should start typical night-shift chores: shelving books, refilling paper towel rolls, sweeping the floors. 

It’s monotonous, but it has to get done, because he has no other choice. He works in tune to the music blasting in his earbuds; it’s all whining electric guitar riffs and screaming voices, but to Connor, it’s like singing a lullaby to a sleeping child.

Connor is just returning the book cart from returning checked-in books when midnight strikes. Not wanting to stay in this dusty old building a moment longer than necessary, he shouts across the room, “Hey, kid. Pack it up. Time to go home.” Flopping into the swivel chair, Connor's eyes flutter shut. After a moment, he hears the guy approach the checkout desk, followed by the sound of anxiously drumming fingers on the countertop.

Cracking one eye open, he sees the boy worrying his bottom lip nervously with his teeth. “Here to check out a book?” Connor asks in a sarcastic, sickly-sweet voice.

He nods, handing Connor the book and his library card. Connor scans them with the scanning gun, explaining half-heartedly the usual spiel: the book is due in three weeks, there is a five cent per day late fee, blah blah. Nobody fucking cares. Nerdy kid says nothing and scrambles back to his table to pack up his things.

Connor observes him carefully, noticing his frantic, sporadic movements and the way his fingers shake as he stacks up the books and struggles to carry them out the door. He walks in a wobbly fashion, the stack of books threatening to tumble out of his hands again.

Slinging his messenger bag over one shoulder, Connor takes the smallest ounce of pity on the boy and holds the door open for him and trails behind awkwardly as they approach the elevator. The doors chime open, they step inside, and nerdy boy seems mildly uncomfortable at the enclosed space by the way his shoulders tense up. 

“W-what floor?” He squeaks out, failing to meet his gaze.

“Well, obviously the ground floor, dummy,” Connor retorts in his usual sarcastic manner.

“S-sorry,” He stutters apologetically, punching the button with his pointer finger. Connor internally laughs at his abashed expression, but that only seems to make him even more embarrassed.

The doors slide shut. Leaning against the far wall, Connor impatiently taps his foot as the elevator descends, casting side-glances at the boy. His hands are clenched into fists at his sides, eyes trained intently on the elevator pad.

The creaky old elevator moves down, down, down, until the single lightbulb flickers and their world flips. One moment, the elevator is headed to the ground floor, the next, it’s not moving anymore. 

Just when Connor thinks things can’t get possibly worse, he jinxes the nightmare and the light turns off completely. Connor hears a choked-up gasp from the boy. After a moment, it is replaced by a dim read emergency light. Connor silently prays for the doors to open, but they do not. In one long stride, he approaches the metal doors, slamming on them with his hands in a fit of rage. “What the hell!” He shouts angrily. “Open up, you piece of shit!”

Nerdy boy has taken a step back, cornering himself in the elevator in a form of self-defense. Connor presses the ‘open doors’ button repeatedly, followed by a desperate slamming of every other button to make the damn thing open, but to no avail, they are stuck.

Not like Connor should be surprised, anyway. This old library was built over two hundred years ago when their town was first established, and the outdated elevator was hardly functioning at best. He’s been stuck in this elevator plenty of times before, but this time is different.

This time, he isn’t alone.

Chapter Text

“It isn’t going to open,” Evan whispers tiredly. It’s more of a self-realization than a reminder to the stranger that they’re trapped inside.

The boy whirls around to face him, a disgusted look on his face. “Well, no shit,” He retorts angrily. “Thanks for stating the obvious, Sherlock.”

“Sorry,” Evan whispers frantically, staring at his shoes. He takes a step back, his back now pressed against the cool metal of the elevator wall. The fact that he’s cornering himself should’ve scared him, anxiety kicking in, but claustrophobia is the least of his worries right now. He’s absolutely terrified he’ll never make it out of this library alive, that he’ll rot in this tiny four-by-six-foot coffin with a boy who scares him to even sneak a glance at. Everything about him is intimidating, from the double ear piercings to chipped black nail polish, ripped black jeans to scuffed combat boots. Evan feels like he’s looking at a Hot Topic catalogue model.

“This happens way too much for it to be okay,” Hot Topic continues ranting, his hands flying in the air in a blur of angry motions. “This fucking elevator just loves to break down when I’m the one in it. I must be bad luck or something.”

He pulls out his phone, unraveling a set of earbuds from the device. After pressing a button, he swears under his breath. “No cell service,” He mutters, plucking one earbud into his ear and sighing exasperatedly.

Evan says nothing, wrapping his arms tightly around his torso and keeping his eyes glued on the floor. He doesn’t trust himself to speak. If he says even one word, utters a single syllable, the hard knot in his throat will swell and he’ll start crying in spite of himself.

It’s all my fault, he concludes, swallowing the lump in his throat. If I hadn’t stayed as long as I had, if I hadn’t needed to get that stupid book, if I hadn’t clumsily dropped them all over the floor, if I had just taken the stairs instead of getting into the elevator with this stranger, maybe I’d be walking right now.

The eternal, taunting screams at himself do not seem to cease. Why are you such an idiot?

To save himself from his persisting thoughts, he sneaks a glance at the boy in hopes of finding a temporary distraction. Evan notices that his eyes, half-lidded, have greyish bags underneath them. It’s as if he hasn’t gotten a proper night’s sleep in weeks. His hair is slightly greasy, a frizzy, uncombed mess that curls behind his ears and flops limply on his shoulders. His lips are pressed in a thin line, head resting against the metal wall.

The silence between them is so deafening, it’s nearly palpable. Evan has always thought that silence is so much worse than noise, because it leaves him alone with his own thoughts, his worst enemy.

When he gets like this, his mind wanders and his head starts spinning until he’s so overwhelmed with dread he feels like he’s going to be sick. Staring at his wavering reflection in the metal, he wonders if it’s possible to die of asphyxiation in an elevator. How long would it take until all the oxygen is used up and they dropped dead?

Then comes a worse thought: What if this guy tries to kill him before that happens because they don’t have any food?

Evan’s seen his fair of nature shows, he knows that only the strongest survive. What if as a result of the broken elevator, the entire mechanism fails and they fall to their death, dropping down several stories before crashing on the ground?

Oh my God, Evan realizes in a sudden panic, his breath lodging in his throat. I’m going to die in this elevator.

A voice calls out to him, but it’s so faint it's nearly incomprehensible, like it’s a mile away. Evan can’t hear anything besides his thoughts, tying him up with marionette strings, going from whispers to shouts to screams and he just wants it all to stop.

“Dude… hey, kid! What the hell’s wrong with you?”

You’re going to die. You’re going to die. I’m going to die.

Evan feels like his head is being shoved underwater. He fights so hard to break free from the bone-crushing hold, to get even an ounce of air before his lungs explode. His hands fly to cover his mouth to choke back a muffled sob as he goes into a panic. Scrambling to the elevator door, he gasps out desperately, “I have to get out of here!”

His hands press against the metal doors, fingers prying into the slit between them. He strains to open the doors but freezes when he feels a hand on his shoulder, pulling him back.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” The boy mutters under his breath, whirling Evan around so he’s facing him. “Okay, kid. Calm down. Take deep breaths. You’ll be fine,” Judging by his uncomfortable expression, he must not do this consoling thing very often. “Look, this happens all the time. Whenever the elevator breaks down, the emergency repair company gets automatically notified. They’re probably already on their way. Just… Stop crying, please. Fuck.”

Evan tentatively touches his cheek, noticing for the first time its streaked with tears. I was crying? He wonders, sniffling. He hadn’t even noticed. He finds himself nodding, taking steady breaths like the boy told him to.

Evan doesn’t know how it happens, but he feels slightly better, like the black hole in his stomach just got a tiny bit smaller. Nothing about the boy is soothing in any way, but there’s something about him that makes Evan want to be stronger, even if he’s just pretending to be. He doesn’t want this stranger’s only impression of him to be a walking disaster with an uncontrollable anxiety disorder that makes each day a living hell, even if it’s true. Which it is. Still.

His heartbeat hasn’t slowed, but he’s forcing himself to breathe somewhat normally. The boy notices Evan’s quickness of breath and he frowns, deep in thought for a moment. Eventually he returns to his spot on the far wall, flopping to the ground. He stretches his legs out in front of him, looking up at Evan. “Sit,” He commands, eyes flickering to where Evan was previously standing. Without a moment’s hesitation, Evan scrambles towards the corner and pulls his legs close to his body, whereas the stranger stretches his legs out impolitely. He’s staring at Evan like he wishes he could be trapped in this stupid elevator with literally anyone else on the planet.

Which is why his next words are so surprising to Evan.

“Let’s play a game,” The stranger finally suggests.

“A wh-what?” Evan looks up to see if he’s kidding or not. Though, he doesn’t seem like the type to make jokes. Maybe he's in for a surprise. 

“You heard me,” He purses his lips. “To take your mind off of things. If I’m going to be stuck in here for a while, might as well entertain ourselves so you don’t have a nervous breakdown.”

“What kind of game?” Evan hears himself asking against his better judgment.

One side of his mouth curls upwards. It’s not quite there yet, but it’s the closest thing to a smile Evan’s seen since he first laid eyes on him.

The boy responds like the answer is crystal clear before he even speaks.

“A game of confessions, obviously.”

Chapter Text

Connor has no idea why he suggested to play a game of confessions. If he’s being completely honest, all he really wants to do right now is go home and sleep for as much as he can before he wakes up for another mundane day in his so-called life.

Maybe it’s the fact the boy looked so damn terrified for a moment there it kind of scared him too. Not like he’d admit it, though; for now, he tells himself it’s just a means to pass the time. Nevertheless, Connor knows deep down he probably couldn’t handle it if he watches the boy approach his breaking point again.

The boy looks mildly confused at the suggestion, and Connor resists the urge to scoff. (But he doesn’t; Connor has enough wit about him to know he needs to tread carefully on the thin ice if both he and the boy want to stay afloat while they’re trapped.)

“Haven’t you ever played confessions before?” Connor demands, and the boy shakes his head.

“That’s not it,” He says softly. “It’s just…” He trails off awkwardly, suddenly very interested in his fingernails.

“Just what?”

“Why would you want to know anything about me?” The boy asks with so much genuine confusion, it takes Connor aback for a second. He blinks, not quite processing the doe-eyed, parted-mouth expression of surprise. Just about everyone Connor’s ever come in contact with is self-centered in some way or another, but this boy is different. He legitimately believes Connor wouldn’t want to know anything about him, and that’s, in its own way, horrifying. For a moment, he doesn’t even know how to respond, and dare he say it, that doesn’t happen often.

Just who is this kid?

Connor studies him briefly. They look about the same age. Perhaps they go to the same high school. There’s something about him that’s vaguely familiar, like he’s seen his face in passing, but he doesn’t ever pay attention to the people around him. There’s no point, anyway. Friendships are pitiful and meaningless, always breaking in the end so what’s the point in trying to preserve them?

Still, Connor can’t help but be… not interested, no. Curious. That’s it. Curious as to how this boy ended up this way, broken beyond compare in a way that’s so different from him and yet he can sympathize.

“Because we have nothing better to do,” Connor finally responds coolly after realizing he’s been silent for too long. “So.” His hands clasp together.

The boy watches him, looking like he’s debating on saying something. He doesn’t.

“Look, if it makes you feel any better, we won’t ask any personal questions. Just enough to keep us busy on this rainy Sunday morning while we’re stuck.” Connor suggests, quieter this time. “Might as well make the most of it, right?”

The boy shrugs one shoulder half-heartedly. Connor takes it as a yes.

“How old are you?” He starts off easy, cupping his chin in his hand and waiting for the boy’s reaction.

He can’t help but raise an eyebrow in questioning, failing to meet his gaze. “Thought we weren’t asking any personal questions,” He mutters under his breath.

Connor groans in exasperation. “Oh God, come on!” He rolls his eyes. “What the hell am I going to do with your age? Look up sixteen-year old child with cast on the Internet?” He mocks. “Like that will totally work.”

Something in him relaxes, and he nearly smiles at Connor’s joke. Nearly. “Fine, you ass,” He huffs. “And I’m seventeen, actually.” Awkward silence. “What about you?”

“Nineteen.”

“Are you in college?” The boy pipes up in curiosity. Who knew he had it in him? Connor would’ve sarcastically applauded if him if he weren’t so damn tired from being stuck in the library, and now this elevator, all night.

“Nah,” Connor runs a hand through his hair reflexively, a nervous tick he can’t break. “Senior. High school. Got held back a year.” He watches as the boy’s eyes widen in surprise, but he clamps his mouth shut and says nothing. “ What ?” He demands coldly.

“Is it possible that we go to the same school?” He wonders aloud.

“Considering there’s only one high school in this tiny town, and neither of us are the type to go to preppy private school, most likely,” Connor sighs.

“It’s just, I haven’t… seen you around before,” The boy admits, looking mad at himself. His hands clench into fists in his lap.

“Not your fault,” Connor laughs dryly. “I don’t really show up to school much, and when I do, I’m not exactly the student body president around there.”

“That would be Alana Beck,” The boy comments under his breath with a small laugh. An uncomfortable silence falls about them.

Ah, Alana. His sister’s girlfriend. She’s a tryhard for sure, and cares way too much about what other people think about her or how filled her college resume is, but she makes Zoe happy. Which is damn more than he’s ever done. All Connor’s ever done for his sister is caused her stress and pissed her off.

“How’d you break your arm?” Connor asks when the silence is too much to bear, gesturing to his cast. The boy clutches it reflexively, his fingers nervously trailing over the plaster.

“I fell out of a tree,” He says so softly, his voice is nearly incomprehensible.

Connor can’t help the snort that escapes his mouth. “You…” He wheezes the word out, unable to contain his amusement. If he closes his eyes, he can picture the absolutely idiotic image of this nerd reading or something in a tree and accidentally stumbling out, screaming bloody murder on the way down. “You fell out of a tree?”

The boy only manages a nod, his face blurring into roses.

“What kind of idiot breaks his arm by falling out of a tree?” Connor demands.

“The same kind that gets himself stuck in an elevator past his curfew,” He says lightly with a ghost of a smile playing on his lips.

Connor smirks, knowing that’s the closest he’s getting to a joke out of the boy. At least he’s loosening up a little bit. Connor knows he’s not exactly the most approachable person, but he prefers it that way. The anecdote reminds him of an earlier question, and now he supposes he has the chance to get an answer. “Any reason why no one’s signed your cast yet?”

The roses bloom in darker hues, the smile on his face falling. “I don’t, exactly, erm… How do I put this? I-I don’t have anyone who would w-want to-”

“You don’t have any friends,” Connor finishes his sentence for him, saying it as more as a statement than a question. The boy nods his head. “Why not?”

Instead of answering the question, he deflects it onto Connor. “Why don’t you?” The boy challenges, looking defensive and a little bit hurt.

“I have friends,” Connor crosses his arms defiantly, narrowing his eyes angrily. The boy raises his eyebrow again, not believing it for a second. The way his eyes flicker across Connor’s body, he’s silently questioning what kind of kid that dresses like that would have friends that aren’t other stoners. “Oh, fuck off,” Connor says crossly. “Like you can fucking talk.”

“You’re right, I can't,” The boy agrees quietly, biting his lip. “But at least I admit it.”

“Shut up," Connor snaps loudly, his patience quickly leaving him. "You don’t know a fucking thing about me."

The boy looks crestfallen, and for a moment, he says nothing. Connor hates the way the tension wraps around him, like he's being constricted by black coils of smoke. He feels his breath hitch in his throat but manages to keep a straight face when the boy finally speaks.

“You don’t know anything about me either,” He whispers, and something in Connor’s chest tightens, and he regrets having opened his mouth before.

“Well,” Connor challenges, “I’m trying to, aren’t I?”

In reality, he has no fucking clue why, but he is. As far as he knows, he’ll never even see this guy again, but in this moment, all he can think is why the hell not?

He sure isn't going anywhere. It's pouring outside, surely there must be horrible traffic on the freeway. The emergency crew would probably take a couple hours to get here. Worst case scenario, they wouldn't show up until daytime. 

Connor certainly doesn't have anything better to kill the time - except maybe the weed in his messenger bag - and so he asks himself, what the hell does he have to lose? 

Chapter Text

It’s a miracle that Evan is still alive after calling out that boy on his lack of friends, whether it is true or not. He has absolutely no idea what came over him; usually he bites his tongue and is too afraid to even think about what he wishes he could say, let alone actually voice his thoughts.

That doesn’t stop him from not regretting it, though. He’s always thought that it’s better to accept the position you’re in than to change it. Evan’s completely aware he’s a total social pariah and the only person he even talks to, Jared Kleinman, has literally been paid into being friendly with him (not like it helps, Jared is a total asshole ninety-five percent of the time). Though, there is Zoe Murphy…

Evan shakes his head furiously, clearing his thoughts of auburn curls and blue eyes. No, he tells himself. You told yourself you’d stop thinking about her. It’s clear she doesn’t like you, so just… move on already.

Plus, she’s only talked to him, like, twice. Both times probably out of pity, so Evan wasn’t so sure they counted. He’s always known he’s never had a chance with her, but that doesn’t stop him from desperately latching onto that last swinging string of hope.

There is a heavy, awkward silence between the two of them for several minutes. Evan wishes he could muster up that ounce of courage from before to ask something, to say anything. Hot Topic is just sitting there quietly, knees pulled up to his chest, listening to music through tangled earbuds, wires poking out of one side. After a while, he must’ve noticed Evan is staring, and he cracks one eye open and gives him a questioning look.

“What?” He demands so harshly, Evan flinches.

“Nothing,” Evan mumbles, looking away.

“Seriously, what?” He says, softer this time.

“Just…” Evan trails off. “I was wondering what you were listening to.”

Instead of answering, he takes out one of his earbuds and holds it out in offering. Is this an invitation? Evan wonders, staring at the outstretched hand in mild confusion. When the boy shakes the cord impatiently, Evan scrambles to the other side of the elevator before he can over-think a moment longer. He situates himself next to the boy, putting as much distance between them as possible while still having both earbuds intact.

Evan carefully plugs the earbud in his ear, not sure what to expect. The song the boy is listening to sounds like it belongs to the alternative rock genre, with wavering guitar riffs, drum beats that echo in his head, and a singer with a very deep, grainy voice. Evan isn’t one for listening to music, but he doesn’t hate this.

“It’s good, right?” The boy says during a guitar solo. “Arctic Monkeys.”

“Y-yeah,” Evan agrees, because that’s all he can manage to say, because all he can focus on is that he’s touching the boy’s shoulder and oh my god, what if he hates when other people touch him, and I’m totally invading his personal space?

Evan feels his hands start to sweat and he subtly wipes them on his pants. Maybe he has  severe haphephobia, or worse, what if he thinks I smell bad? I haven’t showered since this morning, oh God, this is humiliating…

He forces himself to sit as still as he possibly can, but he fails. His anxiety is too much to bear, and he’s keenly aware of his toes curling in his shoes, his twitching fingers, his hands that won’t stop shaking -

He bites back a groan of exasperation, daring to sneak a glance at the stranger next to him. Out of the corner of his eye, he takes in his features, more close up this time. He looks completely unfazed, his mind in another world as his eyes lazily glance forward, staring at nothing.

Evan is grateful the boy breaks the ice so he doesn’t have to find the courage to himself. “What kind of music do you listen to?” He asks.

“Me?” Evan repeats.

“Who the fuck else would I be asking, the wall?” He mutters under his breath.

“Sorry,” Evan stutters out automatically. Stupid. “Well, um, I really like listening to, uh, nature sounds?” He stammers, his words coming out more like a question, as if he was unsure of it himself.

“Nature sounds,” The boy deadpans.

“It’s very relaxing,” Evan defends himself lamely, though he’s not sure why he’s getting so defensive about it; it’s nature sounds, for God’s sake. His oversensitivity will probably be what gets him killed before he walks out his elevator.

“Aren’t you a strange one,” He mumbles with a small shake of his head. Evan would take offense to it, but the way he says it, it’s almost endearing. Almost. It doesn’t sound like the boy finds it that weird, so Evan decides to let the thought slip away in relief.

“Well, what about you?” Evan prompts curiously.

“Mainly alternative stuff like this,” He answers. “Grunge, punk, all that jazz. Stuff I can listen to and remind me just how depressed I really am,” He says with a broken laugh.

Evan must’ve looked spooked, because he snorts, nudging his shoulder into him playfully. Evan barely holds back the squeak that nearly flies out of his mouth.

“Come on, dude, I’m joking,” He snickers, but there’s a dullness behind his bemused expression that hints he’s not. Evan isn’t going to make the same mistake on calling him out twice, because it’s clearly a touchy subject, so he bites the inside of his cheek and keeps quiet.

“My sister’s always playing this pop crap on full blast in her bedroom,” He continues on, as if he’s voicing his thoughts and Evan isn’t even there. Not like Evan minds, really. He likes listening. “It always sounds like the exact same song, and it’s awful. Sometimes I wonder if people even like it, or if they’re just listening to the mainstream stuff that they think will make them cooler.”

Nodding along, Evan can’t help but silently agree. “Most teenagers don’t really get what individualism is nowadays.”

He doesn’t tune into the radio much, but on the occasion he’s in the car with his mom, running errands or getting the very occasional dinner together, he gets a taste of what other teenagers like. Between all the commercials are crappy techno songs with repeating hook lines and meaningless lyrics about sex or partying.

Not like his taste in music is any cooler, though. He listens to music instrumentals and anything calming; his therapist says it’s to help him focus and zone in on his center, whatever that means. But the music advice helps a little, in its own way. He likes to listen to the rain at night - it helps him sleep, and it masks the sounds of their creaky house so thoughts of burglars and murderers when he’s home alone at night aren’t as scary.

From outside, he can still hear the pounding of the rain against the roof. It’s gotten louder since they first entered the elevator, and Evan wonders if a thunderstorm was coming. Either way, it isn’t letting up anytime soon, which could make it difficult for the repairman to make it here quickly.

“Can you blame them?” The boy remarks with a shake his head. “There’s so much crap in the world, media telling people to act and look a certain way because that’s what will make them happy, successful, popular, whatever. It’s all a load of bullshit, brainwashing a generation of mindless robots. They have no idea who they really are.”

“I don’t know who I really am,” Evan finds himself admitting, staring at his shoes.

And it’s the truth. All he ever does is schoolwork and occasionally gets guilt-tripped by his mother into doing volunteer work at different nature preserves, like the park ranger apprenticeship job from last summer. He vowed to never go back to that place. It was how he broke his arm; he fell out of a tree while sneaking a break from his job. At least, that’s what he liked to convince himself. Makes him sound less crazy than saying he purposely let go.

Still, even if he did latch on to his passion for nature, that wouldn’t get him anywhere in life. Best case scenario, he’d find a job that paid well but he hated, and he’d settle down with a wife, two kids, a picket fence, and hate the mundanity of every waking day until he eventually died.

Looking into the future is like trying to decipher what is behind a thick cloud of swirling fog. Evan isn’t sure if anything was even there.

“None of us do,” The boy agrees quietly, breaking him out of his down-spiraling reverie.

“But that’s okay, don’t you think?” Evan continues, trying to remain hopeful, because the last thing he wants is some stranger thinking he’s crazy or suicidal even though he’s hopelessly lost inside and all he really needs is for someone to understand. “Maybe we just aren’t supposed to yet.”

The boy meets his eye. Evan’s staring into a world of blue; he doesn’t look convinced in the slightest. Evan silently admires the way he immediately sees past the bullshit everyone puts into their individual facades; he isn’t sure if that superpower terrifies or impresses him.

“When will we find out, then?” He presses, frowning angrily.  “And who says we ever will?”

That shuts Evan up. For once, the reason why he doesn’t reply is not because he’s too scared to speak his mind, but rather too stunned to even think of a response. He stares at him blankly, trying to wrap his head around what he said.

Evan knows he's not satisfied with that answer. Truthfully, he's not either.

The words ingrain themselves into his mind, and he sighs, knowing they’ll probably stick with him for a long time. Forever, maybe. However long that would be.

They’re both silent now. The fog clouds around them, this time thicker than before.

Chapter Text

Shit, is Connor’s first thought. Why am I so screwed up?

And moreover, what kind of person has to be that fucked up to think that life is essentially so meaningless that there’s no point in trying? That absurdist values cloud any other way of thinking, that humans exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe, that everyday is just blindly stumbling through the day until you look back on your life and realize you did absolutely nothing with it?

Connor knows he can’t make anything of his life. He accepted that a long time ago, when the disapproving looks of his parents no longer affected him, after learning to block out the hushed whispers behind closed doors, wishing their son didn’t need a monthly antidepressant prescription, when recreational drug use became the only thing he cared about.

Which is such a lie, anyway. He doesn’t care about that either.

When Connor closes his eyes, he can visualize the judgmental stares of his sister, the perfect student and daughter. He knows that she doesn’t want him around; all he can do is push her further away so he won’t infect her with his repulsiveness.

He may look like an asshole doing it, but he’s doing her a favor, really.

The more he lets his thoughts simmer in his head, the more anger bubbles in his stomach. It burns his insides like acid, threatening to spill over and consume him. He’s so damn mad; pissed off at the rest of the world for not knowing how much he’s suffering inside, and yet, instead of opening up, he pushes everyone away.

So maybe, he’s just mad at himself.

But he should be. It’s all his fault, anyway. He deserves everything he’s gotten, he deserves all the shit his family gives him, the snide remarks from stupid kids at school, the inability to focus in class. Everything .

Every little fucking thing that makes him just one huge disappointment.

And it boils down to the little things too, like the way the nerdy kid is staring at him now, his expression a mixture of fear and pity, the two things Connor hates most. And so, the anger rises again, and Connor just can’t take it anymore.

“Agh! Would you quit it ?” Connor nearly shrieks, taking the kid by surprise. He coils back in fear, arms crossing around him. The earbuds between them are yanked out, tumbling to the floor.

“S-sorry!” He squeaks out an apology. He slides as far away as he can, cornering himself in the elevator, drawing his knees up to create a barrier between them.

Connor watches his lip tremble, feeling slightly guilty for reacting so violently towards the cowardly boy. He runs a hand through his hair, sighing exasperatedly. Of fucking course, he thinks. I’ve screwed up everything again.

Why can’t I do anything right? He thinks to himself in a bout of uncontrolled anger, and the next thing he knows, he’s seeing red and his hands are flying through his messenger bag, scrambling through its contents for a particular item.

When he finds the plastic bag of paradise, he promptly gets to work. Grinding up the weed with his fingers to even it out, packing it into his bowl, flicking his lighter. It’s routine, but because Connor’s hands are shaking so much, he’s paranoid he’ll drop some of it on the floor or burn it too quickly. It’s times like this where every last gram matters.

“W-what do you think you’re doing?” The boy squeaks indignantly, looking irritated. “Is that w-weed? We’re in a tiny box with no windows! What if you-”

“Can it, pipsqueak,” Connor hisses, instantly and effectively shutting him up. He worries his bottom lip, watching Connor with a careful - and perhaps worried - eye.

“If you smoke that in here, I’m going to breathe in secondhand fumes,” He points out stubbornly.

“Good,” Connor snaps irritably. “Maybe it’ll help you calm down a little.”

“Is that what it does for you?” He inquires, genuinely curious.

“Well, yeah, duh,” Connor rolls his eyes, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

Well, truth is, that wasn’t always the case. Sure, sometimes it calmed him down, but he mainly smoked just so he could feel like wanting to die a little less. “Haven’t you ever smoked before?” With a second glance - a striped polo, khaki pants, perfectly-laced sneakers - he already knew the answer before the boy opened his mouth.

“I-“

“Right. Of course you haven’t.”

Nerdy kid looks annoyed at his assumption, but bites his lip and chooses not to say anything. Satisfied by the silence, Connor takes a drag from the bowl and then exhales the smoke. Within minutes, he feels more relaxed, and due to the time of night, sleepy, even.

“Do you smoke a lot?” The boy asks when the silence is too much to bear, and either Connor is too high or tired to think, or maybe it’s just his lucky day, but Connor actually gives him a straight answer.

“A couple times a week,” He responds, picking at his nails. He twiddles the bowl between his fingers, not looking at the boy.

“W-why do you do it?”

Connor blows an exasperated breath into his bangs, making them flutter out of his face. He tucks the stray pieces of hair behind his ear, desperately wishing he had a hairband to tie back the unruly curls. “Why does anyone do anything, kid?” Connor responds sarcastically. “Because they want to.”

“Well that’s not true,” He retorts. “Some people do things because they h-have to, or they know it’s what’s best for them.”

“It’s too late at night to be lectured about human philosophy,” Connor groans. His mind is too scrambled to be able to process anything more than the reality in front of his eyes. The boy shrugs.

“Can I have a hit?” He asks, and Connor nearly laughs. He bites it back, just in time.

“Y-you want a drag of this?” He ushers to his bowl, which is already half-smoked. He’ll admit it, he’s taken back by the boy’s sudden question. The kid’s got some surprises in him, that’s for sure.

“Did I stutter?”

“No. For once,” Connor jokes. He holds it out to him, and he scoots closer again, taking the bowl in his hand and raising it to his lips. Like clockwork, he lights the cannabis and breathes in the fumes, eyes closing as he does so. The smoke coils out of his mouth, and Connor watches, mesmerized.

“I didn’t know you had it in you,” Connor admits, slightly impressed.

“You never let me finish my sentence,” He reminds him. “My friend, well, he’s not really my friend, he just hangs around me out of pity, we smoke together sometimes. Not much. It’s not that great. But-“ He looks around at their limited surroundings. “Maybe it’ll help me calm down too?”

“You sure do need it,” Connor jokes, and the boy grins, but something in his eyes knows Connor’s telling a half-truth. He takes another hit of the weed before passing it back. Connor takes it graciously, eyes still on the boy; the way his eyes are half-lidded, his arms wrapped tightly around his knees, the way he curls up to hide as much of himself as possible.

And yet for some reason, and he has no idea why, but Connor can’t seem to take his eyes off him.

Chapter Text

The weed does not calm him down.

The loopy smile on his face eventually falls when the pestering thoughts return. He’s only sharing out of politeness, you know, a nasty part of his brain reprimands. And that nasty part of his mind is right, because why wouldn’t it be? They’re stuck in an elevator together, for Christ’s sake, and he’s getting high. Evan would probably get high from the fumes anyway, so it would only make sense to offer. He’s talked to this guy for the entirety of one hour. One hour. In the grand scheme of things, that’s basically nothing.

They aren’t friends. Evan figures someone like him would never want to be friends with someone like Evan.

He doesn’t even know his name.

He notices Evan’s uncomfortable grimace, and wordlessly passes back the bowl. Evan takes it graciously, hoping a couple more long drags would silence the swirling thoughts clouding his mind and he could have a break for once.

After all the cannabis is gone and into their lungs, Evan watches him clean up everything and shove it back into his frayed messenger bag. He rests his head against the cold, metallic elevator wall, studying Evan like a science experiment.

Evan has half a mind to call him out on it, but he’s too tired to care.

“So, you and this friend. Why isn’t he your friend?”

Evan gulps back the truth. Because no sane person would ever want to be friends with me, that’s why. “He’s um, well, how do I put this - he’s an asshole,” Evan shrugs. The guy snorts in amusement. “He only talks to me so his parents will pay for his car insurance. Um. Yeah.”

The stranger clicks his tongue in annoyance. “Yeah, he definitely sounds like an asshole,” He agrees. “Why do you bother hanging out with him, then?”

“Not like anyone else will hang out with me,” Evan admits bitterly, eyes closing shut, as if it were painful to admit aloud.

“Hey, being a loner isn’t that bad,” The stranger jokes. “Just look at me. I’m one of the so-called ‘stoner kids’ that skips class and has no foreseeable future,” He raises his arms out triumphantly. “Sometimes you just gotta embrace you aren’t gonna change.”

Evan isn’t so sure that’s the best advice he’s heard, but he appreciates it anyway. With a shrug, he decides to change the topic. “When I was little, I was a really picky eater.”

“What the-”

Evan ignores him, continuing his confession. “All I would eat was mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. It was so bad, my parents had to blindfold me to convince me to eat fruits and vegetables. I think they even threatened to take away my favorite TV programs if I didn’t finish my food.”

Instead of making fun of him like Evan expects him to (it’s what everyone else does, after all), the boy does the last thing he expects: he joins in.

“I hate cheese,” He admits sheepishly, and Evan gasps.

“No!” He cries. He stares at the boy in utter disappointment. “How can you not like cheese? Have you ever had pizza?”

“Yes, dummy, I have,” The stranger snaps, but there’s amusement in his eyes. “And I don’t have much of a choice. I’m lactose intolerant.”

“That sounds horrible,” Evan continues his melodramatic spiel, clutching onto his shirt. “No pizza! No ice cream! No chocolate! How do you live with yourself?”

“So I take it you really like cheese?” He guesses, but Evan turns his nose away, purposely ignoring him. He catches on immediately rolling his eyes. “Wow, real mature, kid. Ignoring me because I have a dairy allergy.” Evan shrugs, keeping his lips pulled back in a tight, thin line.

“Well, not liking cheese is better than being forcibly blindfolded because you’re too picky to eat vegetables-”

“Hey!” Evan cries. “I was six!”

“Right. Well, what other weird things did you do as a kid?” He leans forward in curiosity.

“Honestly, I was kind of a boring kid,” Evan smiles sadly. “Only child, and my dad left when I was young, so it’s just me and my mom. I read a lot, kept to myself, stayed in the shadows, where it’s safe.”

The boy nods along. “Well, my childhood was kind of chaotic. I’ve always had anger issues, and one time in fourth grade, I threw a printer at my teacher.”

“A printer?” Evan repeats incredulously, eyes widening.

“Yeah,” The faintest of embarrassed blushes appears on his cheeks. “She was being a bitch, and the printer wasn’t working, and I just kind of lost it,” He mumbles. “Luckily, I didn’t hit her or anything. Oh, and in fifth grade, I was bullied for being the shortest kid in class, but I ended that quicky by socking one of them in the eye.”

Evan snaps his fingers. “I remember that!”

“You do?”

“Yeah!” Evan was in the grade below, but he was on the playground at recess at the same time as the fifth graders. He recalls the tiny kid looming over the taller bully, clutching his bruised eye. He had no idea this guy was that same tiny kid- he grew up so much since then. Not to mention grew three feet taller within those six years. “The guy deserved it, honestly.”

“He did,” The boy nods in agreement. “Tell me, kid, have you ever punched someone?”

“No,” Evan says softly.

“Ever hurt someone at all?”

“No.”

“Have you ever done anything that could give you any kind of disciplinary infraction?”

“...”

“I’ll take that as a no,” He shakes his head. “Come on, kid, live a little. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do?”

Evan pauses to think about this question. He’s never really considered what he wants to do; usually he’s thinking about what he should or shouldn’t do, or what other people, namely his mother and his therapist, want from him.

“I- I guess I’d like to get out of here,” Evan decides after a moment of thought.

“The elevator?” He quirks an eyebrow. “Yeah, no shit. So would I.”

“No, I mean, this town. Everything I’ve known my whole life. I want to get in a car and drive, far, far away from it all. Somewhere where I can start anew, and become anyone I want to be.”

“Escape is a wonderful thing,” The boy nods. “Sometimes, I think-”

The boy’s words are cut off by the crack of something loud, followed by a loud, explosion-like boom. He jumps in his spot, eyes widening in fear. “W-what was that?” He whisper-shouts.

The elevator? No, that was too quiet for it to be the elevator.

“I think that was thunder and lightning,” Evan points out. Normally, he’d be the one panicking, but he’s strangely comforted by the sounds of thunderstorms. He loves to sit by his window, listening to the rain pound against the roof, watching the sky light up as lightning strikes, his ears pounding as thunder fills his hearing.

“Fuck,” The boy draws out in exasperation. His head falls into his hands, muffling his voice.

Evan’s confused for a moment, but he quickly understands.

“Are you scared of thunderstorms?” He guesses, which was probably a bad thing to say, because the boy instantly looks up, glaring furiously.

“No! What kind of nineteen-year-old is afraid of thunderstorms? That’s fucking stu-” His words are cut off by the crack of lightning, and a squeak - yes, a squeak - flies out of his mouth.

“You’re scared,” Evan says again, softer this time. Weirdly enough, he’s worried.

“Shut the fuck up,” The boy snaps.

“But you are.”

“I said, shut up,” He hisses through clenched teeth. He crosses his arms over his chest and stares at the ceiling, watching his wavering reflection on the shiny metal. “Stupid fucking rain, keeping me trapped in here.”

“Hey, we’re safer in this elevator than we are anywhere else in the library,” Evan points out. “There’s no windows or anything.” He’s trying to make light of the situation, which is ironic, because usually his thoughts plague his optimism, forcing him to only think of the negatives.

The boy sighs. “Whatever,” He bites his lip, done with the discussion. Thunder booms through the building, echoing through the very walls. The boy visibly tenses, and Evan’s heart clenches with worry.

Maybe its the fact that his mind is clouded with marijuana, or that he’s exhausted, but Evan finds himself scooting closer to the boy. He places his hand on top of his in a silent gesture of comfort. The boy’s lip twitches, and his first instinct is to pull away, but he doesn’t.

“I’m fine,” He mumbles, looking away.

“No you aren’t,” Evan retorts automatically. “But it’s okay. We all have our fears.”

“Oh, yeah?” The boy pipes up in sarcastic amusement. “And what are you afraid of?”

“Everything,” Evan laughs, even though he’s not kidding. “Snakes, spiders, public speaking, closed spaces, clowns, cockroaches, big crowds, rejection, accepting myself for who I am, being alone forever, and anything social, really. Hell, even my own shadow.”

The boy cracks a tiny smile. It’s a small one, but even the smallest wins are worth celebrating. “Typical,” He teases. “I bet you were afraid of monsters when you were little, too,” His voice softens, and before Evan can react, he’s leaning his head on Evan’s shoulder.

“Sure,” Evan agrees. “Silly, made-up monsters. I’m afraid of monsters now, too. They’re just not-so made up anymore.”

“Like what?” The boy’s voice is much quieter now; sleepy, like he’s drifting off. Evan figures it’s probably the weed’s side effects kicking in. Or maybe the fact that it’s nearly one in the morning and they have no hope of getting out of this elevator anytime soon. Thunder booms in the sky again, but the boy doesn’t flinch.

“Never feeling like I can live up to my mother’s expectations,” Evan explains. “Not being good enough even though she works so hard for me. Never overcoming my anxiety and panic disorders. Struggling to get through each day. Forever living a life in the shadows.”

The boy mumbles something incomprehensible.

“What was that?” Evan asks.

“Just have to… Step into… the sun.”

Step into the sun, Evan thinks. It's almost comical, how simple he makes it sound. 

“What do you mean?”

But he receives no answer .All Evan can hear are the rhythmic sounds of his soft, steady breathing. Evan’s heart sinks in disappointment when he realizes the boy must’ve dozed off. Did I bore him to sleep? He wonders, forcing himself to quickly shake the thought off. No. Stop. 

Still, it’s weird. Looking down at the boy now, sleeping on his shoulder, he suddenly feels like less of a stranger and more like a friend. In his unguarded state, Evan takes the opportunity to take in his features. With the only light of the elevator being the dim red emergency light, Evan squints to make out details of the boy’s face.

His eyes trail over the constellations of acne on the boy’s skin, the purplish discoloration under his eyes from a lack of sleep, the way he always frowns, even in his sleep. Though, he looks lighter, less stiff, in his sleep. Evan gulps, his throat tightening, as he counts the beauty spots on the boy’s jaw, previously covered by curly hair. Nine. 

He’s not as scary when he’s asleep, Evan decides. Not peaceful, but not scowling either. He looks… relaxed. 

Evan feels creepy, like he’s crossing some sort of unspoken line between stranger-acquaintance-elevator-buddies. If the boy were to wake up at any moment, he’d notice Evan was watching him in his sleep, and probably think Evan was so weird he’d never talk to him again.

And yet, he can’t look away.

Heaving a sigh, Evan closes his eyes and wills himself to doze off. He’s absolutely exhausted, but there are too many thoughts in his head to allow him to sleep. After a few minutes, when he wears himself out by battling with his anxious thoughts, a heaviness wraps around him and he loses consciousness, the tiniest of smiles still on his face.

Chapter Text

Connor’s heart is like a star.

Not in the sense that it shines brighter than an entire galaxy, nor in the way that it radiates enough energy to eclipse the sun.

Connor’s heart is like a star because when it disappeared, it left nothing but a black hole behind: an empty void.

His heart is powerful enough to suck all of his emotions into an inescapable vacuum of denial and despair.

No light, no matter how bright, has the chance of escaping the dark mazes of his mind, so naturally, he’s given up long ago on silly things like hope. If he can’t escape himself, how could anything else?

- - - -

When Connor was younger, a budding supernova, he was much closer to his mother. Back in those days, she used to call him her star. Cradling him close in his tiny bed at night, she promised that he was the only thing that lit up the night sky.

Then, when Zoe was born, Connor’s heart swelled with jealousy over his perfect sister, and the star in his center collapsed upon itself.

He hated the world for being so cruel to take his mother away from him, the only person in his life who truly cared for him.

And then, when his mother passed away, sucking away her stardust and leaving nothing but a black hole, Connor stopped believing in the existence of stars.

To him, they’re nothing but placeholders for black holes. They’ll take away anything happy, any ounce of light in your life, and keep it forever. They kept sadness too.

Anger.

Hopelessness.

Everything fell prey to the void.

- - - -

Sometimes, when he can’t sleep - which is more often than not - Connor likes to climb onto his roof and look at the stars.

When Connor looks into the sky, he tries to make sense of the constellations, but he refuses to connect them. No matter how hard he tries, they’ll always be the absence of what once was.

The stars will always be there to remind him that his mother, nor his heart, is ever coming back.

Chapter Text

Evan stirs into consciousness what feels like mere seconds later, instantly feeling the crick in his neck from falling asleep vertically. A small groan of pain escapes his lips, and he rubs the sore spot on the nape of his neck in hopes to relieve the built-up tension.

For a moment, he forgets where he is. He jolts in surprise when he notices he's still in the elevator, which catches the attention of the other.

“Oh, you’re awake,” The boy says. Evan lifts his head to see him sitting in a different corner of the elevator, looking bored. He’s stretched out his legs and is arching his back to stretch as he texts on his phone. His hair has been pulled up in a messy bun. It suits him, Evan thinks.

“Was I asleep long?" Evan asks, his voice thick with sleep. The boy shrugs one shoulder, lifting one arm above his head to stretch.

"Half an hour, maybe."

Evan finds himself watching the boy’s muscles shift under his skin, trailing over the collarbone that was previously covered by his hair. His cheeks color when he becomes self-aware, and he coughs, staring at his hands.

The boy returns to what he was doing before - texting on his phone - and Evan entertains himself by keeping his eyes moving. Problem is, there isn’t much to look at in the four-by-six metal coffin. So, he finds himself looking at the stranger.

He has very unique mannerisms that aren’t hard to spot. Easily unnoticed at a passing glance, but as his gaze lingers, Evan picks up on little things. When the boy raises his phone to his ear, he worries his bottom lip with his teeth, his chestnut eyes going wide.

“Zoe!” He shouts suddenly, taking Evan aback. Zoe? Zoe Murphy? Why is this guy calling her?

“No, I’m not dead, oh my god - Zoe, stop screaming - tell Dad to calm down, then, fuck ! No, I’m still at the library, cell service is shitty - yes, I’m aware it’s two am, thanks -”

Evan notices he twists a stray curl around his finger as he rants. When he listens to the receiver, he bites on his knuckles in frustration. His cheeks flush from how animatedly he’s talking.

“The shitty elevator broke down. Again. Because of the storm, I may not get out until morning.”

“No, there’s someone else with me,” His eyes meet Evan’s. A pause. “No.” And then another. “ No! ” He shouts, his face twisting in indignation, and he sighs. “Maybe. Look, I’ll call you later. Tell Dad to chill the fuck out. I’ll be home soon. Bye.”

The call is ended, and Evan forgets to look away. The boy quirks an eyebrow at him as he sets his phone down.

“Why are you staring at me like that? You’re smiling like a doofus,” He states, but he doesn’t sound that annoyed, like usual. He’s more amused at the way Evan’s face turns pink from the accusation.

“You’re cute,” Evan blurts out before he can think twice. He can fee his face getting warmer and he runs his hand through his hair, looking away and frowning. What the hell, Evan? He screams at himself. Why would you say something so stupid? He probably thinks you’re crazy. He’s gonna beat you up, like those kids in middle school did when they found you writing that boy’s name over and over in your notebook - oh God, can that elevator cord just snap already?

“S-sorry, I didn’t mean to say that out loud,” He tries to cover it up, but he knows he’s only making it worse with each word that tumbles out of his mouth. And yet, he can’t shut up. “I mean, I d-didn’t mean to think it either. Even though I was. Sorry, you must think I’m a stalker. Yeah. Shutting up now. Sorry.”

He comes to a consensus. Evan Hansen, you are a complete and utter moron.

“So you were thinking it all along?” His eyebrow raises suggestively, the all-telling smirk on his face only proving he’s enjoying this. Evan’s eyes widen in fear, and an awkward cough escapes his throat.

“S-shut up,” Evan says weakly, his arms crossing over his torso in defense. He wishes the cheap carpet of the elevator would sink and swallow him whole so he can never show his face in public ever, ever again. The boy chuckles, and Evan feels even more embarrassed. Great, it’s middle school bullying all over again, Evan thinks with disdain, preparing for the worst.

The boy looks away, but Evan is just in time to see one side of his mouth curl into a smile. There is a dimple stretched underneath his skin. 

“You’re cute too.”

Chapter Text

Connor Murphy, you are a complete and utter moron.

Why the everloving fuck does he think its a good idea to open his mouth, and admit something as lame as “you’re cute” to this kid?

Not like it wasn’t true. Whatever. Irrelevant. What mattered is that the boy is biting his lip so hard it’s turning red, and he looks like he’s about to spontaneously combust. Connor starts to seriously worry that he will pass out or something.

What a… Connor can’t even think of a word to describe this guy. He keeps surprising him; something Connor isn’t used to.

“R-right, well, who was that you were on the phone with?” He quickly changes the topic. His fingers lace and unlace nervously, rubbing his hands in his lap.

Connor wonders if he’s ever able to stop moving. He’s like open fire; constantly buzzing, and Connor can’t help but be drawn closer. He knows it’s bad to step forward, but the boy has so much energy, it spills out of him like a cup under a waterfall.

And then, when he gets too close, he feels himself starting to burn.

“My sister,” He says coolly. “The moment I got a bar of service, I received a series of thirty-seven text message from her, demanding where I was. Then she proceeded to scream at me on the phone.”

“I’m sure she was just worried,” The boy sticks up for her. “She cares about you, after all.” Connor notices the way his expression changes when they start talking about Zoe.

“You don’t know that,” Connor challenges instantly. He’s never allowed himself to waste time on silly ideas such as family love. To him, family represents everything he’s lost, everything he’ll never get back. Now, it’s simply a matter of time until he can escape it all and pretend it never existed in the first place.

Wow, he’s being fucking depressing again. If only he didn’t skip out on his antidepressants this morning, maybe he’d be doing better off (at least, that’s what he convinces himself).

“Zoe is friendly to everyone,” The boy presses. “It’s why everyone likes her so much - she’s so kind.”

Connor resists the urge to roll his eyes. Does this boy not know everyone is multi-faceted? Nobody, not even Zoe - especially not Zoe, is the perfect, golden-girl all the time. Connor’s seen too much of her dark side: sneaking out at night, shutting Connor out of her life, pouring herself into her schoolwork, to know she’s far from perfect.

And yet, this boy seems to idolize her. Connor studies his face for a moment, and it clicks.

“You like her,” He announces matter-of-factly.

It doesn’t come out as a question.

It doesn’t need to. Connor knows.

Judging by the way the boy’s face resembles that of a ripe tomato, and his hands can’t stop twitching , Connor knows he’s hit the head on the nail. His mouth curls into a sneer as the boy stammers (something he’s quite good at), searching for any excuse he can muster.

Too late.

 

“Not to be the one to burst your bubble or anything, but she isn’t interested in someone like you.” Connor says, scrolling through his phone. It comes out harsher than he intended. When he looks up, he sees the boy’s baby-blue eyes watering, and he sniffles .

Oh my fucking god, Connor thinks. How pathetic.

Still, he feels kind of bad. Which is new.

“Come on, kid, I didn’t mean it like that,” Connor says slowly. “I meant because she’s dating someone. A girl. She’s a lesbian. It’s not because she wouldn’t like you, okay? Sorry. Rejection sucks. Just please don’t cry.”

Damn. Connor needs to work on his consoling-people skills. He’s not sure how his therapist does it.

The boy wipes his eyes with his sleeve. “I think I’m just tired,” He admits with a sheepish laugh. “I knew Zoe would never like me. But it didn’t stop me from hoping, I guess.”

Connor nods. He understands the feeling - in middle school, he went through many unreciprocated crushes, and by the time high school rolled around, he gave up on romance all together. There was no one in the world who could understand him, let alone stand him enough to try.

“So,” Connor studies him. He feels like he’s been given a puzzle that’s purposely had some of the key pieces removed. After a moment, he turns back to his phone. “Are you straight, then?”

A sharp laugh bubbles out of his throat. “Ha! No,” He shakes his head. “I’m, uh, bisexual. I think. Most likely, yeah. You?”

“I’m gay,” Connor barely looks up from his phone. Normally, he’d be more tentative to telling people but it’s hard to give a fuck when you’re locked in an elevator with a stranger at two in the morning. It just seems like the right thing to admit.

There’s a weird bond they share now, but it’s a good weird. The kind of weird that Connor doesn’t want to end when they’re rescued.

“Are you out to your parents yet?” Connor asks.

The boy nods. “Unfortunately. I asked my mom to read one of my college essays and forgot that was a part of it…” He pauses. “She’s fine about it, I think…” He trails off, unsure.

“And your dad? Was he supportive too?”

“Well, um,” The boy stares at his interlaced fingers. “My dad isn’t really around. He divorced my mom and walked out when I was five. It’s just been me and my mom.”

What kind of dickhead father walks out on their family like that? Connor thinks, enraged. He manages to keep his anger in check. “That sucks,” He frowns. “I’m sorry, man.”

“It’s okay,” The boy waves it off, even though it’s not. “So, two gay kids? How’d that go over with your parents?” He jokes awkwardly, scratching at his cheek.

“About as well as you’d think,” Connor groans. “Zoe wanted to come out first. She brought home her girlfriend, Alana. My dad started to give her shit about it, and I got mad, and I guess in that moment my way of sticking up for her was admitting I was gay too.”

“I don’t get why parents aren’t supportive to their kids that come out,” The boy says. “I mean, it’s not their life - it doesn’t affect them, so why stop people from what makes them happy? It may be “a phase”, but it’s what they want, then why the f-fuck not?”

Connor can’t help but smirk.

“What?”

“Nothing,” Connor laughs. “It’s just... you cursed for the first time.”

“Oh,” The boy touches his lip. “Oops.”

“It was funny,” Connor grins wider. “I must be rubbing off on you.”

“You’re a terrible influence,” He rolls his eyes. “Was your mom any more accepting than your dad, at least?”

“I’ll never know,” Connor shrugs. “She died a few years ago.” The forming lump in his throat chokes up his voice, and he hates it. He hates being weak.

The mention of his mom always sends a pang through his heart. Suddenly, he can see fading images of eyes like liquid glass, greying brown hair always tied into a plait.

The boy is speechless for a moment. And then, instead of hearing a generic “I’m sorry for your loss”, like he’s heard a billion times before, the boy says something completely unexpected.

“Tell me about her.”

Connor sets down his phone. “You really want to hear?” When the boy nods, his eyes alight with so much genuine care it sends Connor reeling. He feels his face heat up as he talks.

“She always called me her star,” He explains. “She’d make homemade mac and cheese for birthday dinners, and she’d let me sit in the front seat of her convertible even though Dad thought I was too little. She liked to sing and play the piano at night, after everyone went to bed. I’d always sneak downstairs and listen to her voice. We liked to go to the apple orchard on weekends, and sometimes, we’d stay until dark and watch the stars.”

Funny how much has changed after she passed. Dad sold the convertible. The piano collects dust in the living room - no one dares to touch it. The apple orchard shut down; it’s nothing but abandoned forest land now. Connor no longer believes in the existence of stars. They’re nothing but placeholders for black holes, just like what happened to his heart when his mother died.

“She sounds wonderful,” He breathes.

“She is,” Connor smiles, a genuine smile, a rarity reserved for thoughts about his mom. One by one, the memories he keeps safely stored away, far away from his emotions, resurface.

Everything comes crashing down at once, and suddenly, he’s burying his head in his arms, squeezing his eyes shut to force himself not to cry.

“So yeah. She would’ve loved me nonetheless,” He laughs sarcastically, blinking back tears. Can’t say the same for my dad, but whatever. I’ll be gone soon, anyway, and he won’t have to worry about me anymore.”

“College?” The boy guesses hopefully.

Not exactly.

Chapter Text

“Here's a confession,” Evan says suddenly, an unexplainable surge of confidence coming over him. “I’ve never been to the dentist.”

“What the everloving fuck is wrong with you,” The boy deadpans, rolling his eyes. “How do you not have a million cavities?”

“I still brush my teeth!” Evan cries.

“I bet you floss every day too,” He teases. When he sees the adamant look on Evan’s face, he practically facepalms. “Oh my god. You’ve transcended into a new level of loser.”

Evan forcibly reminds himself that the boy is kidding, that he didn’t really mean it. It was better to shove those negative thoughts out of his head before they wormed onto his brain and spread like cancer cells.

“I’ve never been to the beach,” The boy admits after a moment of silence.

“What does that have to do with the dentist?” Evan jokes.

“I don’t know,” He laughs, scratching his ear awkwardly. “I thought we were listing off things we’ve never done before, in honor of our game of confessions.”

Evan clasps his hands together. “Lightning round, then. Ready?” The boy straightens up, rolling his shoulders back and pursing his lips in a thin line. “Never have I ever finished an entire pizza by myself.”

“Never have I ever eaten sushi.” The boy fires back instantly.

“You’re disgusting,” Evan shakes his head. “Never have I ever been to Disney World.”

“It’s overrated anyways. Never have I ever sung in front of other people before.”

“Do you like to sing?” Evan inquires. He swears the boy starts to blush, but that could be the emergency red lighting filling the room.

“Yeah,” His voice is barely above a whisper. “I like to draw, too.”

“Really? Can I see your drawings sometime?” Evan asks. He watches as the boy instantly frowns, wrapping his arms around him as a form of self-protection. Damn it, Evan! He scolds himself. Why do you have to ruin everything?

Then he does the last thing that Evan expects: opens his messenger bag and removes a worn-out, leather-bound sketchbook. “Here,” He tosses it to Evan. “You should know, this is only because I’m high, exhausted as fuck, and probably losing oxygen in this tiny elevator.”

Evan grins, holding onto the sketchbook like it’s a lifeline. Which, he supposes it kind of is - the boy seems like the type to pour his heart and soul into drawing, materialize the unexplainable feelings he has into art.

He flips through the pages, drinking in figure studies, landscapes in blurred watercolors, 3D objects with darkened shadows, charcoal sketches of animals. A sudden confession bubbles to the surface. “I’ve never been in love before.”

The boy blows a raspberry in amusement, his eyebrows raising. “Never would’ve guessed,” He says half-sarcastically.

“Have you?”

“What? Been in love?”

Evan nods.

“Yeah,” The boy sets down his phone, turning to look at Evan. “Funny, you remind me so much of him. In that charming, innocent kind of way. Someone who glows golden from the inside.” His eyes squeeze shut briefly, as if he’s in pain just thinking of it.

Evan isn’t quite sure what that means, nor does he agree, but the compliment makes his face warm up nonetheless. He finds himself scooting a bit closer than he should. If he extended his legs ever so slightly, they’d brush against the stranger’s.

He makes eye contact with him, and there’s no mistaking the hurt in his eyes.

“What happened?” Evan asks against his better judgment.

“Ah, it’s just-” The boy runs his hands through his hair in exasperation, sighing angrily.

“Sorry,” Evan bites his lip. He has no idea what else he could say to make this situation any better. He’s not sure anything could.

“No, it’s not your fault, I just, fuck,” He bites his lip harshly, thumbs fiddling together. He’s wired with electrical energy that needs to be released, but Evan isn’t afraid to be electrocuted. Evan studies him carefully, daring to press it further.

“Do you…” Evan starts hesitantly, wondering if enough has changed between the two of him for the boy to open up. He already knows about his dad’s neglect, his mother’s death, what harm is an ex-boyfriend story?

What’s gotten into me? Evan is shocked by his thought processing. Where is this newfound bravery coming from?

“...want to talk about it?” He finishes. Another heavy sigh leaves the boy’s mouth and he opens his eyes again.

His eyes are glossy. “I’ve never told anyone,” He admits sheepishly. Evan’s bravery spurs him to move closer, so they’re leaning against the same side of the elevator now. Smiling warmly, he even dares to place his hand on top of the boy’s, in a silent gesture of comfort. Surprisingly, the boy doesn’t pull away.

“Just think of it as another confession, then.”

Chapter Text

The heat of the boy’s skin burns something sweet into the grooves on Connor’s hand, but by some miracle, he manages to keep his voice level and crack-free anyway.

“He was my best friend,” Connor begins, sardonic laughter edging his words. “My only friend, really. We met in science class in seventh grade, when I smashed a test tube and threatened to cut this guy who teased him for being gay. I got detention, and he punched the kid so we’d be in detention together.”

The boy tries, and fails, to suppress a laugh. The corner of Connor’s mouth turns up in a smile as he remembers the fond memory. The two of them ended up ditching detention and shared a Twix at the gas station. He still hears the crunch of leaves under his combat boots as they walked home together.

“He was the charming kind of kid, the one that instantly sweeps you off your feet with a dorky smile and careless attitude,” Connor continues. He sighs, biting his lip when the boy starts to rub circles in his skin.

Is he fucking aware what he’s doing to me? He wonders, though he can’t find the strength to be annoyed at his own weakness. Still, he doesn’t pull away. He’d never.

“He was obsessed with random trivia, and he played Dungeons and Dragons,” Connor snorts. “God, he was such a nerd.”

“Hey! What’s wrong with Dungeons and Dragons?” The boy cries defensively.

“Jesus Christ, kid, you’re a piece of work,” Connor jokes, watching his face fall. “Kidding,” he adds quickly, and the boy smiles a little in understanding. “The thing about him was that he made me laugh. He made me happy, more than anyone else. I trusted him with everything - the death of my mother, how fucked up my family is, my--” He swallows. “He never judged me for any of it.”

He feels himself dissociating just by thinking about it again, but the way the boy weaves his fingers through Connor’s is a... lifeline of sorts, tying him down before he’s sucked away from reality.

“We were best friends for a few years, but that New Years, he suddenly kissed me. When he told me he had feelings for me, I was ecstatic - I mean, come on ! What could be better than dating your best friend, you know?” The boy nods, smiling as a cue for him to continue. “I thought I was set for life. We’d go to college together, share an apartment, adopt a dog, maybe even get married. God, I was a fucking moron,” Connor runs his hand through his knotted hair, only making it messier. “I was stupid to tell him about my depression. He didn’t get it, of course he wouldn’t. No one does.”

“I’ve had depression since I was twelve, when my mother died. I actually thought it went away when I met him, I felt happier every day. But then it comes back,” He shakes his head angrily. “Fuck, it always comes back. Stronger than before.”

Connor knows he should shut up, but there’s something liberating about releasing all of this upon this stranger. It didn’t matter, anyway. Nothing mattered. It would all be over soon.

“When I opened up to him about it, it was like I became a completely different person to him. I was now the one desperate for attention, the one with suicidal thoughts. But when he would ask me what’s wrong, I would shut him out - I couldn’t stand to let him see me in my paranoid, anxious state.” His voice cracks somewhere in the middle of the valleys of his words and his gaze drops to his lap, hot tears brimming at his eyes. “I didn’t want to scare him off … I wanted him to stay.”

He clenches his jaw, ripping his hand away from the boy’s to press his palms into his eyes to stop his crying. God, he hated himself when he got like this. Weak. Pathetic. He’s usually so good at holding himself together, but right now, he’s never felt so exhausted.

The boy worries his bottom lip before reaching to hug Connor. Connor doesn’t have the strength to push him off. Instead, he buries his head into the boy’s shoulder. Connor feels the scratchy material of his cast brush past his neck and he shivers. “I didn’t want him to leave,” He admits, voice muffled by the boy’s striped polo.

“But that’s exactly what he did.”

He forgets who he is when he feels the delicate touch of the boy, running his fingers along his spine, whispering something to soothe him. He’s barely able to form cogent sentences. “I saw the way he looked at me. Warily, wishing I’d get better; the times before were easier. Our relationship stretched too thin a few weeks after that, until it became so unbearable for him that he suddenly ended things. The last memory I have of him is him screaming in my face about how ‘I gave up on us too easily’. A few months later, his dad got a new job and they moved, and I haven’t seen him since.”

The words he’s so used to hearing spill from the boy’s lips.

“I’m sorry.”

Connor sighs, burying his face in the boy’s neck again. He can sense the flush of his skin at the tender action, but he doesn’t pull away. He can’t remember the last time he’s felt something. He never wants it to stop.

“Confession,” The boy says. His hands are still moving, never stopping at one spot on his skin, and Connor can’t keep up with all the synapses alighting in his body. “I wish I could’ve been there for you when you needed someone the most.”

“It’s okay,” Connor laughs. “I’m used to being alone, you know? It’s easier. You don’t hurt anyone else that way.”

“But you’re slowly hurting yourself…” The boy points out, trailing off awkwardly.

“That’s the point,” Connor says. When the boy’s expression morphs into one of confusion, his smile becomes watery. “Better hurt yourself than everyone else around you.”

He stayed true to that belief too. Ever since the breakup, he pushed everyone else out of his life. For their sake. Connor knew he was a ticking time-bomb, ready to detonate at any moment. If he was going to explode someday, he didn’t want to take anyone out with him.

“Confession,” Connor admits softly, leaning his head on the boy’s shoulder. They fall against the elevator wall, slumping down from sheer exhaustion. A quick check to his phone’s clock displays the time: 6:18. They’ve been up nearly all night, playing confessions. Admittedly, it has moved the time along, even though it’s cramped as fuck and he’s starting to breathe funnily (at least, he blames it on the lack of air filtration).

“Yeah?” The boy’s voice is barely above a whisper. Connor wouldn’t have heard if they weren’t pressed next to each other.

“I was going to commit suicide tonight,” Connor’s voice breaks, and he feels himself shattering. Just admitting it, even to this stranger, finally put it into perspective. It was real. He was going to do it: the moment he got off his night shift from volunteering, he was going to walk to the river by the woods near his house, climb up on the old bridge, and jump. He had it all planned out; the thought of it brought him peace. But getting stuck in this elevator made him forget about all that. Now, all he wants to do is go home, listen to Zoe yell at him for getting home so late, and collapse into bed, because the next day at school, he’d have a familiar face to look for in the hallways.

Sometimes, it’s the little things that keep him going to the next day. The promise of blueberry pancakes, not finishing the rest of his weed, the beauty of tomorrow’s full moon. But this time was different. There was something, no, someone he found value in living for.

The boy didn’t ask why. He didn’t need to. The answer was there, suspended in the air, hanging from the ceiling.

“I’m glad you didn’t,” He says eventually.

“Why?” Connor asks with a genuine curiosity. There is an underlying question under the simple word. Why would you care about the life of a complete stranger?

“Because then I never would’ve gotten to do this,” He whispers, leaning forward. Connor feels his breath fanning his face, and he’s magnetized, all conscious thought flying out of his head. He can hear one last fleeting thought, his anxiety screaming at him. You're crazy! It shouts, but Connor ignores it, tired of letting his mind control his every move. Connor practically feels the boy's smile on his lips, but just before their lips meet, the elevator floor shakes with an earthquake-like tremor, causing the boy’s head to bump harshly against the wall and Connor’s body to roll back.

Chapter Text

Evan watches as the stranger flies back, looking surprised in himself. Evan’s surprised too; he has no idea what came over him. His face immediately flushing pink, he stammers out some excuse that just sounds like gibberish.

The boy straightens and regains his composure. His leg is propped on one of Evan’s books; he carelessly pushes it away, stretching out the stiff joints.

Evan squints as his eyes adjust from the dim red emergency lighting to the bright white lights as the power returns. The floor sinks, and it feels so weird to be moving; he was just getting used to that feeling of stopped time, an infinite world that consisted solely of the stranger and him.

Within moments, the doors open with a cheerful chime. A guy in his mid-twenties, with sandy hair and a five-o-clock shadow, looks down on the two boys sprawled out on the elevator floor. His brow furrows in guilt, stepping into the machine.

“I’m so sorry it took so long!” He cries in a southern drawl. “There’s been so much traffic with the rain, and the broken power lines shut out our communication around the city,” He continues to babble excuses, but Evan isn’t listening; he can’t take his eyes off the stranger, who looks so different in bright light. Paler. Thinner. Evan can see in the angles and shadows of his body how much he’s endured - how strong he is.

The repairman offers a hand to Evan, who graciously takes it. His legs wobble as he rises to his feet, legs having fallen asleep from not moving for so long. The stranger stands up on his own, wearing his usual disinterested scowl. “How long have y’all been stuck in here?” He sniffs loudly. “Do I smell weed? Y’all got any more?”

“About six hours,” The stranger says gruffly, shoving his hands into his worn-out hoodie pockets. “And no. Sorry, dude.”

“This old elevator always gives us trouble,” He shakes his head sorrowfully. “A few adjustments and she’ll be working again. Sorry again for all of this. At least you had each other to keep yourselves company.”

Evan and the stranger - if he can even call him that now - share a look. Evan tries to offer him a shy smile, but it comes out more like a wince.

“I have to go get some tools. I’ll be back. Y’all have a good night now,” He waves two fingers, rushing out of the mezzanine to the front doors. When he disappears, Evan feels the tension in the elevator swell once again. His eyes flicker towards the exit - so close, and yet he can’t find the will to take a step forward. He sees the first streaks of sunlight peeking out over the horizon, flooding the sky with creamy orange hues.

Evan silently bends down to pick up his backpack, slinging it around his shoulder. The stranger helps him collect his checked out library books. Evan tries to think of something to say - millions of thoughts run rampant in his mind, and yet he can’t seem to filter out a single one of them.

“So, this is it, huh?’ Evan asks, his voice shaking. There’s something about all this light. It’s so blinding, it’s overwhelming to his senses. He feels like every neuron in his body is on fire, like he’s swollen with potential energy. He tries to ignore the fact he’s upset the night, like all things, come to an end.

“Not yet,” The stranger strides forward. He places the books in Evan’s hands, looking down on the shorter boy with a small smile on his face. The elevator doors slide shut, and they’re enclosed in their world again. Evan’s heart beats so erratically, he’s convinced it’s going to jump into his throat when the boy’s hands grip his sides. His fingers trace out a message in Evan’s skin: I’m not letting go, they promise. Not yet.

“What are you-” The rest of Evan’s words are lost against his mouth and the world goes quiet. The stranger kisses him gently at first, hesitantly, but it isn’t what Evan wants, not now, not after everything they’ve gone through in the span of one night. He realizes he doesn’t want to give up on him either. He doesn’t want to give up on himself.

The kiss lasts mere seconds, but the taste of forever lingers on Evan’s lips as they pull away.

“I’m Evan,” He sighs, eyes opening to look at the boy through his eyelashes. It feels like he’s looking at him for the first time again, but instead of the angry scowl, he sees his eyes blooming with happiness. A small, nervous laugh escapes his mouth. 

“Do you have a Sharpie?” The stranger suddenly asks.

Confused, Evan nods. “Um, yeah,” He stutters, feeling his cheeks flush from the random question. He unzips his backpack and digs around his pencil case, flourishing a permanent marker. The stranger takes it and uncaps it with his teeth, yanking Evan’s arm towards him. Evan winces, watching the boy scribble something on his cast.

Before Evan can read what it says, the boy tilts his chin up and connects their lips again. Evan relishes in the taste, wishing he could map out his lips and the puzzles of his mind.

Though, he has a funny feeling this isn’t the last he’ll be seeing of the stranger.

The boy sticks the Sharpie in his shirt pocket, letting his fingers trail off Evan’s body. He presses the open door buttons on the elevator and walks out of the library, waving his arm behind him in a gesture of farwell.

“See you around, Evan,” He says, not looking back. Evan can hear the smile in his voice.

Evan watches in awe as he leaves. The moment he’s out of sight, an overwhelming wave of emotion crashes over him, and he fails to suppress his giddy smile. Looking down at his cast, he reads the stranger’s message, tracing it with his finger: a phone number.

And above it, in blocked, shaky letters, a name:

Connor.