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Evan steps into the office and immediately a sense of dread drops in his gut, settle's over him like a stifling blanket. "Good morning." Evan clears his throat, eyes wandering over the vaguely familiar couple sitting on the couch in the principals office. "Um...is Mr. Howard...s-sorry. I'm sorry, it's just, um, they said on the loudspeaker for me to go to the principal's office-?"

"Mr. Howard stepped out." Says the man, and he stands up.

"Oh." Evan says, stepping back once, so that he's back in the doorway.

The man's frown deepens. "We wanted to speak with you. In private. If you'd like to maybe..." He gestures to the seat adjacent to the visitors couch.

Evan sits, nervously. He doesn't think he's done anything illegal, as of late.

"We're, uh," the man glances to the woman, and then back to Evan, "we're Connor's parents."

"Oh." Evan looks to both of them. Yes, that's why they look so familiar. He's seen them in the cliché family portraits hung up in their living room. He swallows, uncomfortable. Why do they look so sad? "Um...where's he been the last few days?"

Mr. Murphy touches his wife's shoulder. "Why don't you go ahead?"

"I'm going as fast as I can." She replies, sounding exhausted.

"That's not what I said, is it." He murmurs. Evan is so confused.

"This is..." Mrs. Murphy passes Evan a crumpled piece of paper, "Connor, he wanted you to have this."

Evan gives it a cursory glance, seeing his own name scrawled messily at the top, in a green fine liner pen. In Connor's hand. He looks up when Mr. Murphy starts speaking again. "We never heard your name before, Connor never...and then we saw..." Evan glances back to the paper.

"Dear Evan Hansen..." He shakes his head, looking up to the couple. "I don't understand, what's going on?"

"We didn't know you two were friends." Mrs. Murphy tells him.

"Friends?" Evan gulps.

"We didn't think Connor had any friends." Mr. Murphy cuts in. "And this...this letter. It seems to suggest pretty clearly that you and Connor...that Connor thought of you as a friend."

Evan doesn't want to look down. He knows something is very wrong.

"It's addressed to you, he wrote it." Mr. Murphy presses.

"These are the words he wanted to share with you." His wife whispers.

"His last words." He adds.

"This is what he wanted you to have." And she looks and sounds on the verge of tears.

"His last words?" Evan can't process any of this. Last words? "What do you mean-?"

"Connor...Connor took his own life." Mr. Murphy states.

"He what?" Evan thinks he can feel his heart thumping in his throat.

Mr. Murphy gestures to the paper. "And this all we found with him, folded up in his pocket. And you can see he was trying to explain it...why he..." Why is it that the only thing Evan can think of is that one Queen song? Don't try suicide. Did Connor listen to Queen? Did he used to skip that song? Took his own life...

"I-no," his voice is raw, but far away, in his own ears, "no, please-tell me you're lying, tell me this is a-a-a-a sick j-joke. Please-no-Connor, no..." Evan grips the paper tighter.

"We didn't read all of it, didn't want to invade the privacy he'd shared with you, but we read enough to see that he thought you were...were you close?" Mrs. Murphy tells him, tears in her voice.

"I-I-I don't-no-this has got to be-to be-a joke." The words are swimming. Oh, god, he's crying. Evan shifts the paper before any tears fall on it, and obscure the writing. He wipes his eyes, aggressively. "This isn't real, he wouldn't-"

"Oh god." It's Mrs. Murphy who says it. Evan swallows down the lump, rubs his eyes until they're dry.

He stares at them, trying to calm his irregular breathing. "Connor killed himself?" Evan knows the answer, and he's not sure he wants to hear it, but the words are just going in one ear and out the other.

"Yes." Mr. Murphy confirms.

A new wave of tears threatens him. "Oh-o-oh-oh my god. Oh my god. No. No, no, no." Evan stands up, clinging to the strap of his backpack like its the only thing keeping him alive.

The couple stand with him, and Mrs. Murphy reaches for him. "Evan-"

Evan doesn't mean to. He flinches "Take it."

"What?" She looks bewildered.

He holds out the note. He doesn't want to read it. If he reads it, this becomes real. And it cannot be real. He cannot live in a world without Connor Murphy. "Please, take it."

"It's addressed to you-" Mr. Murphy says, but Evan doesn't want to hear it. All he knows is that he needs to run.

"Please." Mrs. Murphy hesitantly takes it from him. Evan begins to back out of the room. "I need to go."

"Could you..." Evan halts when Mrs. Murphy's fragile voice breaks his train of thought. "Could you come over, for dinner? On Friday?"

"Why?" Evan can't be here, he doesn't want to be here.

She looks at the ground. "From the looks of things, you were Connor's only friend."

"We weren't..." Evan begins to protest, and then stops. "I will."

"Thank you, Evan." Mr. Murphy says, and Evan turns and runs.

~

"Uh, hi?" Evan turns and recognises immediately that the guy standing just inside the door of the reception desk at Ellison State Park is familiar. Maybe it's the long, dark hair, or the piercing, unforgettable eyes, or the fact that he's wearing black jeans and a hoodie in the middle of summer, but there's something about this boy that completely captivates Evan.

He's known him for years without actually knowing him.

Connor Murphy. Supposedly threw a printer at Mrs. G in the second grade, won third place in the middle school talent show for tap dancing, grown out his hair in the last few months.

Evan gulps. "Hi. Can I help you?"

"Uh, yeah." Connor pinks a little, at the tips of his ears, and down his chest, what little of it is visible beneath the layers that Evan's having trouble comprehending. "Can I get some details on the guided tours? Another ranger or whatever told me to head to the reception desk, and I'm pretty sure this is it, or the sign wouldn't say Reception." Connor gestures vaguely to the aforementioned sign over the counter that Evan's standing behind.

"Yeah. Guided tours? Sure thing. Lemme get one of the brochures." Evan shuffles through the piles under the counter, before coming up successfully the kind of brochure he needs. He hands it over to the other boy. "Anything in particular you're looking for? We do specific species of trees in the tours, sometimes."

Connor shrugs, taking the brochure from Evan and tucking it into the little blue satchel hanging over his right shoulder, and across his chest. "I'm just looking at a general tree tour."

Evan nearly laughs at the term general tree tour but refrains, because that's rude, and Connor might not come back if he thinks Evan's laughing at him. There's a sign on the Staff Lounge that reads 'No one judges in the tree sanctuary' and it's a sentence that Evan wants to live by. "Alright, well, the brochure has times on it." He says, and turns back to the shelf he was dusting.

"Thanks." The door to reception opens, and there's a pause. "Evan, right?"

Evan turns a little, catching sight of Connor standing in the doorway, dressed like something out of a young adult hipster novella, bathed in sunlight like some ethereal being. Evan swallows hard, noticing the way the light catches in Connor's dark eyes, the way his hair frizz turns gold in the sun. "Yeah. Connor, right?"

And Connor smiles, just a little bit, in the corner of his mouth. Like a secret, like a wish, one that only Evan can see. A smile that makes Evan think it's just for him, even though that's crazy. "Right." He nods, and turns, vanishing into the sunlight.

Evan stares until he disappears down the path and has to shake himself once Connor's gone.

No one in the world should have the kind of power as to simply smile and have the world halt in its turning to watch.

~

Evan: jared ohmygod

Jared: what. tree nerd, what's happening?

Evan: connor murphy killed himself

Jared: holy shit

Evan: he wrote his suicide note to me and his parents contacted me

Jared: holy. fucking. shit.

Evan: jared, he wrote his suicide note to me. i only read the first line. i made them take it back and i didn't even think about the contents of it

Jared: why wouldn't they have read their own son's suicide note? (also, why would you be terrified of them reading it if it was addressed to you?) (also, why was it addressed to you?)

Jared: unless

Jared: NO

Evan: shut up. i don't even know why I told you.

Jared: 'cause i'm your only friend?

Evan: you didn't used to be.

Jared: what's that supposed to mean?

Evan: i was answering your question

Jared: which one?

Evan: "also, why was it addressed to you?"

Jared: SO YOU AND CONNOR MURPHY WERE FRIENDS, WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?!?!?!

Evan: over the summer. look, his parents invited me over for dinner to talk to them more about Connor. i don't know what to do

Jared: tell the truth?

Evan: i guess

Jared: why wouldn't you?

Jared: unless

Jared: N O

~

"Oh. Hi. Evan."

It's Connor, again, hair half-tied back, this time, sleeves pushed up to his elbows to reveal two hair elastics on his right wrist, nails painted black, and freckled wrists.

The sight makes Evan absurdly embarrassed, like it's something private, like it's something he's not supposed to see.

He nods to Connor. "Hey. I saw you went on a tour?"

Connor nods back, leans on the visitor couch's arm. "Through the pines. It was nice."

"I'm glad." Evan says.

"I..." Connor purses his lips, and huffs. "Can I just come here whenever? And, like, hang out?"

Evan nods. "Yeah, totally."

"Oh, cool." Connor has an expression on his face that says that he expected Evan to say he couldn't. "Thanks."

"No problem." Evan responds, pulling his phone out to check the time.

"Hey, Evan?" He's a little startled, having thought Connor had left.

"Yeah?" The other boy fidgets, vaguely.

"Are you here a lot?" It seems as though he's embarrassed to ask, and that makes two of them.

"Yeah."

"You say that a lot."

"People usually say the same thing about how much I apologise." Evan says, squeezing the hem of his t-shirt between his index finger and thumb.

"I don't think I've heard you apologise once." Connor comments.

"Well, there's a sign...'no judging in the tree'..." Evan trails off, seeing Connor's vaguely amused face. "Sorry."

"No, I should be the one apologising. I broke your streak." Connor replies, smiling a little.

"Oh..." Evan smiles back, "well."

Connor raises a hand in goodbye. "I'll see you 'round, Evan."

He walks out, and Evan leans on the counter. "Well. Damn."

~

"You were close?" Mrs. ("Call me Cynthia.") Murphy asks.

Evan puffs out his cheeks, staring down at his untouched chicken. "I guess you could say that." An image of Connor, asleep, peaceful, hair splattered unevenly across the pillow like a Jackson Pollock painting comes to his mind, and Evan shakes it away. "He, uh, we met in, um, the end of May, or early June. He came to Ellison State Park, where I was working a junior park ranger, and asked about the guided tours we did."

Cynthia reaches across the table, and clasps Mr. ("Call me Larry.") Murphy's hand. Larry looks up at her, a vaguely confused look on his face. "That would have been just after he got out of rehab." Cynthia murmurs.

Evan nods, looking down at his hands, laced together in his lap. They're shaking. "He came back three days later and one of the other ranger's took him around the grounds. Then, at the end of the tour, he asked me if he could just come to the park and hang around." Evan laughs, but there's barely a sound, the way Connor used to laugh, the way he'd laugh when Evan said something a little mean. He swallows. "I found him there, under this one huge oak tree, sketching, the next day. Did you know he drew? He, uh. He used to draw all the time, at the park. Anyway, there was this particularly hot day in June and I brought him a water bottle from the Staff Lounge and he asked when I was off shift."

"And?" It's Zoe, this time, and that makes Evan look up, entirely.

"I - uh - I told him they were making it a half day because of the heat, and Connor drove me out to the edge of town, over the old mill bridge, and we checked out this old, abandoned apple orchard." She looks dubious, but Cynthia barely holds back a gasp.

"He took you to the Autumn Smiles Apple Orchard?" She whispers.

"Yeah." Evan nods, plays with the hem of his shirt. "Because he knew how much I liked trees. We hung out there a lot."

"Did you?" Larry sounds interested, suddenly.

"Yeah." Evan takes a breath. It's taking a lot of effort to not stutter. "Um, he suggested we get this peanut butter ice cream at a place near the orchard-"

"Á La Mode?" Cynthia says, and it's like she's seeing Connor again. She's gripping Larry's hand so tight it looks as though he may be in pain. Or maybe it's just the memory of his son.

"Uh, yeah. And then," he laughs at this, at the absurd memory, "when he found out that I was allergic, he joked that one day he'd make me a peanut butter sandwich and then drive me to the ER."

"Oh, my god." He looks up to see their faces are mildly shocked. It settles in that they might not quite get what practiced joking went into the statement.

"No, no. Wait, that was only funny to us." Evan rubs his face against his wrist. "Fuck. Sorry, shit. That wasn't a good memory. Shit."

"Evan-" Larry begins, and Evan knows, just from his tone, that he's going to apologise on Connor's behalf. Evan doesn't want to hear it, doesn't need to hear it. That's not what he's here for.

"No, uh." He cuts the older man off. Larry looks miffed. "Once, uh, we were at the orchard, and there was this creek-"

Cynthia turns to her husband, and says in a hushed, nostalgic tone, "Do you remember when you flew Connor and Zoe's toy plane into the creek?"

"It was an emergency landing." Larry replies, a melancholy look on his face.

Evan pushes on, knowing they need their moment, "-we were sitting by this creek, and we had our feet in it, and Connor leaned his head on my shoulder and said 'there's nowhere else I'd rather be' and I - uh - I said 'me too' and then he-" He flushes as he realises what he was about to disclose. Evan knows it's too late to take it back, too late to change the subject.

"He what?" Cynthia urges him.

They thought he was Evan's best friend. How can he tell them? "That's - uh - dammit." Evan struggles with his words.

Zoe peers at him from his left. Her eyes widen in realisation. "You and Connor, you were..."

Evan exhales shakily. "We were...dating." He winces at Cynthia's gasp. "Not for very long, before summer break ended. And then..."

"Oh, my god." She whispers.

"We had no idea." Larry says.

"No, it's fine." Evan protests. "I never let on. We weren't even together for that long. We didn't have time for it to really become-"

"How long?" Zoe demands, arms crossed over her chest.

"W-w-what?" Evan stutters and curses himself, in his head.

"How long were you together?" She repeats, slower, as if speaking to a child. Evan flushes hotter.

"Well, um," and, dammit, all that effort to speak like a normal fucking human being has gone down the drain because he was too fucking stupid to shut up on the front of his and Connor's short-lived relationship. "The - uh - the first time he-he-he...kissed me...was at the creek, in the orchard, the third time we visited. So, that was, um, that was mid-to-late June."

"Two months." Cynthia sounds heartbroken. It's funny how it all works out.

"Yeah. The last time I saw him before school, it was last Friday night." He bites his lip at the memory, thinking of the way he'd stood in front of Connor, clutched his hands, and pleaded with him to help him understand. Thinks of the way Connor's breath had hitched, the way he'd closed his eyes, and his mouth curled in a overwhelmed smile. Evan bites the inside of his cheeks and swallows back the lump attempting to form in his throat. "And I had to leave, he was asleep, and I left him with a note. I barely saw him at school on Monday. He was avoiding me. I tried to talk to him in the computer lab at the end of the day, but he wouldn't listen. And he ran out. And..." He's lying, because what happened in the computer lab that day is none of their business.

"Evan..." Cynthia releases Larry's hand and wipes her eyes.

He winces. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up."

"Talking about Connor will only just bring our minds back to it." Zoe snaps.

"Zoe." Cynthia says, voice soothing.

"What?" She demands, throwing her napkin (god, they were so rich, they had fabric napkins) onto her plate and stand up, her chair clattering back. "There's no use in ignoring it. And, Evan, it sucks that the last time you saw him, he was avoiding you, but you can't even begin to know our grief."

"Zoe!" Cynthia stands. Zoe scowls.

"I'm not hungry." She whispers, and strides out of the room, and up the stairs.

"I'm very sorry about her." Larry says.

"No, it's okay." Evan furrows his eyebrows. "Everyone deals with grief in different ways. I can't blame her for lashing out like that. None of you really knew me before yesterday, and now I'm here, claiming to be your son's boyfriend."

Cynthia's hand takes his and she smiles weakly, watery. "Thank you, for understanding, Evan."

He nods in response, mute in his fear of telling them any more.

~

"Uh, hey?" Connor looks up so fast it's almost blurred, to Evan. He visibly relaxes when he recognises Evan, and smiles a small smile, at the corner of his mouth.

"Hi." He responds, wiping his forehead with the back of his wrist. There's still sweat clinging to his hairline after he's let it drop back to his lap, where a sketchbook is lying.

Evan frowns at Connor's hoodie and jeans combo. "It's way too hot to be wearing that." He says, hands fidgeting around the cap of the plastic water bottle he's holding.

Connor grins at this, leaning his head back against the tree he's sitting in front of. His hair is tied up into a knot on the top of his head. It makes Evan appreciate his face a little more that usual, now that there's no hair hanging in his eyes. "You tryna get me out of my clothes, Hansen?" Connor inquires, tucking his pencil behind his ear.

"No! No." Evan huffs a little and thrusts the water bottle into Connor's hands. "I just brought you this from the Staff Lounge."

"...thank you. Oh, my god. It's chilled." He gives Evan a generally surprised look. "What the fuck."

"Is there something wrong with it?" Evan asks and goes beet red when Connor laughs. It's barely a laugh, just soundless huffs, like he's holding back the sound. Evan thinks he likes it.

"No, it's just..." He laughs again, and closes his sketchbook, before unscrewing the lid of the bottle and gulping a good third of it down. "No one's ever been this nice to me before. At least, not after second grade, when I dropped a printer on Mrs G's foot."

Evan puffs put his cheeks, a little confused. "I thought you threw it at her, because you wanted to be line leader?"

"No." Connor stands, sketchbook under his arm. "I was helping her move the printer across the classroom and lost my grip. Funny how rumours work. Isn't it?"

"Oh, my god, I'm so sorry." Evan apologises.

"No worries." Connor punches his arm and Evan barely holds back the 'ow' he impulsively wants to utter. Evan begins walking and Connor follows in suit.

There's a beat of silence as they crunch along the path, making their way back to the entrance.

"Hey, are you on shift for the whole day?" The taller boy asks, bumping their elbows together.

"No. They're making it a half day and closing the park." He gestures vaguely at the sky. "It's just gonna keep getting hotter. I'm about to head home."

"D'you want me to give you a ride?" Connor inquires, jingling his car keys in his hoodie pocket.

"No, that's fine." Evan shakes his head, ready for the long walk home in the heat.

"Are you sure?" Connor seems to know what Evan's planning, and looks unimpressed. "I know this sweet ice cream place. I'll pay."

"Shit. I can't turn down ice cream." Connor laughs at the muttered comment, and Evan grins at him. "I can never turn down ice cream."

"You'll come with me?" He looks almost surprised, but Evan guesses he used most of it up when he figured out the water was chilled as well.

"Yeah. Sure." Evan shrugs.

"Wow. Awesome." Connor grabs Evan's hand and tugs him down the path, the opposite way than Evan usually exits through. "C'mon, let's go to my car."

"Okay." Evan hardly dwells on whether his hands are sweaty or not. And, even if they are, he doesn't think Connor minds, as his are, too.

~

They give him back the note after dinner, as he's about to leave. "Please read it." Cynthia says and hugs him tight.

Evan leaves the empty house, not sure if he's done more harm than good or not.

That's something that Evan noticed, as he offered to help out with the dishes. The house is so different without Connor in it, without his large presence that became so small when Connor was half asleep and bared his vulnerable side to Evan.

Evan doesn't know if it's just the collective Murphy air to be so tense, or if it's just because Connor-

Well.

He goes home and reads the note.

Evan finds that he can't cry, because he's so muddled. So confused.

Nothing about this seems real. It seems as though he'll wake up in the morning and Connor will still be here.

Not that he'll wake up in the morning and have to get ready for Connor's funeral.

God, Evan reads it over and he can't cry, and he wants to, but he can't.

Dear Evan Hansen.
It didn't turn out to be a good day, after all. It's not gonna be a good week, or a good year. Because, why would it be? Nothing's going to change. I know you said that you'd be there for me, but, really, in the grand scheme of things, what difference does that make? And, I know, things could get better, and, at this point, all my hope is pinned on you. Everything I have is pinned on you, and I don't even know how the fuck that could happen. Because, at the start of the summer, I barely knew you, and then, slowly, achingly amazingly, you became everything, my everything, and you made a home in my chest, in my lungs, and you make it so hard to breathe, especially when I see you, and it hurts, a little in the good way, but also in that agonising way, because I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for someone to pull the rug out from under me, and I know it won't be long before you hate me for what I'm about to do. And I can't fucking take it.
You make it so painful, and I wonder if this is love, and I wonder that if this is love how do people live like this? I keep waiting for you to realise what a mess I am, I keep waiting for you to realise you can do so much better, and leave me. I guess I'll just have to go first, or something.
There's you. And there's Zoe. And my parents. My parents who fight. Zoe, who ignores me. And insults me. I know I'm awful to her. To them. And I know they love me. But, fuck. Everything I have is pinned on you.
How sad is that?
Fuck.
Everything is spinning out of control, and you said you'd be there, but you're not here, and I can't blame this on you. I can't.
I just want you to know that you're the closest I got to anything resembling love, even if I sound like young John Travolta like "summer lovin' had me a blast". I'd tell you more, tell you more, but you were there the whole time. (Leave it to me to quote Grease in my own suicide note.) I think you're one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me. And I keep asking myself why I'm doing this because you're so great and why would I put you through this? At this point, I'm still playing chicken, and if you end up reading this mess that means I won. (Or did I lose? Is there actually any resolution to chicken?)
They say there's no resolution in suicide, but there is for me. (Or, at least, I'm hoping there is.)
Sincerely, your dearest and most loving friend boyfriend Connor.

~

"You're gonna love this place. You ever had peanut butter ice cream? This place makes the best." Evan looks down at his hands. The car hums around them, the only ambient noise, because Connor neglected to turn on the radio.

"I'm allergic to peanuts." He says, barely avoiding his stutter. "And most legumes."

"Jesus." Connor mutters and looks over the console at Evan. "You mean you've gone through nearly eighteen years in this world without having a PB&J?"

"Yeah?" He doesn't mean to make it sound like a question, but it comes out that way, anyway.

"One day, Evan Hansen, I'm going to make you a PB&J and then drive you to the ER." Connor promises and turns a corner so fast that Evan swears he almost gets whiplash.

"There's no one quite like you," Evan says as they settle back on the road at a more reasonable speed, "suggesting an assisted suicide attempt."

"Second date plans?" Connor suggests. And there's a laugh in his voice. Something Evan hasn't ever properly heard from him before.

"This is a date?" He asks.

Connor shrugs, eyes set dead ahead, hands squeezing tightly at the wheel. And then he relaxes visibly, smiles small. "Only if you want it to be."

Evan licks his lips, tugs on the hem of his shirt. "And if I do?"

Connor glances to him, a grin wide on his face, "Wait until you hear my plans for a third date." He replies.

It's then that he pulls over, and turns the car off.

Evan's hardly got his seatbelt off before Connor's out of the car and sliding over the bonnet to reach Evan's side, faster. He opens the door with a little grin on his face and Evan stares up at him, a little stunned.

"Is this how you win everyone over?" He asks, climbing out of the car. "Finding a life-threatening allergy of theirs, and making it sound appealing?"

Connor laughs. "What can I say? I'm a hopeless romantic." He takes Evan's arm and turns him to face the little diner-like structure in front of them. "Welcome to Á La Mode."

Not long after, they're back in the car with their respective ice creams and heading further down the winding road out of town.

"Where are we going, now?" Evan questions through a mouthful of salted caramel ice cream ("It's second best, to peanut butter, and since you can't have peanut butter, you may as well have one of the best," Connor had said).

"I figured I'd give you the full tour of 'the only acceptable places to go while in town'." Connor responds. "This is stop number three. Ellison State Park was stop number one."

"I see." Evan pauses and smiles. "So, you're acting like I'm a tourist?"

"Well, it's not like you'll stick around long, is it?" He says it as if it's obvious. Evan puffs out his cheeks and wipes his mouth.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Evan questions.

Connor shrugs. "I'm an emo piece of shit and am anticipating your departure any day now."

"Well," Evan says, frowning, "I can tell you now, Connor Murphy, that I plan to stick around as long as you'll let me."

"Then I won't have to regret taking you here." Connor pulls over once more - cue bonnet-slide - and opens Evan's door.

"'Autumn Smiles Apple Orchard'? I thought this place closed down years ago?"

"Yeah. I was bummed when I found out. C'mon, I know this hole in the fence. There's a clearing and a creek."

"Oooh."

The clearing is framed with wild, old sycamores that twist and turn, deep, deep green leaves making the whole place a little more intimate in its shade.
 
The clearing is overgrown with a sticky green weed and small yellow flowers and Evan imagines himself lying down on them, and disappearing beneath them, like the opening to the animated Alice In Wonderland. He wonders if he's maybe fallen down a rabbit hole, himself; followed Connor into a world where they can sit at the top of a hill and eat ice cream, and not feel anxious.

(He doesn't dwell on that. Even if his mind begs him to see what's happening. That he hasn't stuttered in hours.)

Connor pulls three apples and full pomegranate out of his blue satchel when they've finished their ice creams.

"D'you like pomegranates?" Connor asks, holding the aforementioned fruit up in the light, as if for examination.

"Are you pulling a Hades on me?" Evan jokes.

Connor pulls a butter knife from the bottom of his bag and wipes it on his jeans, just in case, before beginning to slice into the pomegranate. "As in am I trying to keep you here forever, if you eat a single pomegranate seed?" Juice sprays on him and he huffs a laugh, wiping his hand down his face, only really succeeding at smearing it more.

"Yeah." Evan agrees and kneels to get closer and hand his abandoned Á La Mode napkin to Connor.

He accepts it with a grateful nod. "Do you really think I'd tell you if I was?" Evan considers it, and smiles.

Connor smiles back - not a corner-of-the-mouth smile, or a shy smile, a full smile. He looks down and considers the halved fruit. He holds one half out in Evan's direction. "Do you trust me?"

"Yeah." Evan takes it, and their fingers brush together, briefly, eliciting a small, nervous laugh from Evan. "You have to eat one too."

"Pulling a Hades?" Connor inquires, dutifully picking up his own half, and picking a seed out with his fingers, the fingers with nails painted black.

"Think of it in reverse; as if Persephone had stolen Hades, instead." Evan responds. Connor gives him a strange look.

"Oh..." He trails off.

"People would only die in the winter." Evan murmurs, picking out a seed, and holding it up to the light.

"Isn't it lucky we're in the middle of summer, then?" Connor comments, and they look to each other, popping the seeds in their mouth.

Evan thinks he's perhaps made a sort of commitment with that act, but he doesn't know for sure.

~

It rains the day of Connor's funeral, and it's horribly cliché. Evan knows he would be mocked it. Or maybe he's just projecting, because the rain is one of the first signs of the changing of the seasons.

Connor didn't make it to winter.

It's a Sunday afternoon, and the funeral procession is very small. It's the Murphy's, Evan and his mom, and a family referred to only as "the Harris's".

If Evan thinks too hard, he remembers, vaguely, Connor mentioning them, how his family would go skiing with them, during winter break, and remembers Connor saying how much he hated skiing. Evan avoids looking at them.

The casket is open for the briefest amount of time, when the rain ceases for a total of six minutes, right before the burial, so that those invited can pay their respects. Evan's mother stays back, having never known him.

Evan can barely look at him, because it makes everything real in his head. He's dressed nicely enough, in a dress shirt and slacks, hair half tied back. The hair elastics that used to reside on his wrist are gone.

Evan wonders, briefly, if the band aids are too. Wonders how Cynthia and Larry reacted to the band aids, and what they were hiding. Wonders how they felt when they found him.

Evan feels a few tears slip down his face and he wipes them on the sleeve of his jacket.

He stares at the ground and walks away, afraid of truly breaking down.

Evan wonders if Connor would want him to.

Evan wonders what Connor would think of all the flowers. He thinks Connor would hate them, and that makes him smile for a millisecond. Then, they begin to lower the coffin into the ground, and the smile vanishes.

~

"Did you know you can die if you eat too many apple seeds?" They're sitting a tree, just talking. It's been a week since Connor first brought him here.
 
"Oh?" They're passing a bag of M&M's back and forth.

"Yeah. Do you like apples?" Connor pulled out all the orange ones at the start, saying the spectrum looked better without orange, and immediately putting all of them in his mouth, and nearly making Evan fall out of the tree laughing.
 
"I really like apples. Like, more than chocolate. If that makes sense?" Evan nods.
 
"Well, I really like trees, so I guess we're equally matched. Especially here." They're straddling the branch, facing each other.
 
"How much do you like trees?" Connor insisted that Evan sit with his back against the trunk, reasoning that Evan is smaller, and therefore more likely to unbalance and fall, and they wouldn't want that.
 
"Like, a lot?" Evan doesn't say a word about Connor taking handfuls. he doesn't even like chocolate all that much.
 
"On a scale of general admiration to you would full on marry a tree if you were legally able, how much do you like trees?" The flowers in the clearing have gotten thicker, and now Evan's sure that he could lie down in them and completely disappear beneath them.
 
"Six-point-five." Evan decides on, taking the bag back.

"Which means?" Connor inquires through a mouthful of green M&M's.
 
"I would definitely steal a tree, and not think twice about legal repercussions." Evan eats a handful of yellow ones.
 
"Steal a tree?" Connor absolutely loses it, wheezing like an old man. Evan can't imagine him as an old man, and he's not sure whether that's a good thing or not.
 
"It happens more often than you think." He informs Connor, and then laughs.

"Do you like Lord of the Rings?" The question kind of comes out of the blue, but he decides to roll with it, with little complaint.
 
"Wow, what a segue." Connor rolls his eyes and makes grabby hands at the bag.
 
"Answer the goddamn question." Evan passes it to him.
 
"A reasonable amount. Why?" Connor grins.
 
"If you lived in Middle Earth, you'd probably try to fuck an Ent. Don't fight me on this, dude. You cannot deny the truth." He states.

"What the fuck." Evan laughs.

"You can't fight me on this." Connor repeats, but he's laughing too, now.

"I'm not trying to. But I'd at least try to get to know the Ent before making such a move on it."

"Is 'Ent' a euphemism?" Connor wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.

"I don't know; is it?" Evan winks and they both fall silent.
 
"I like you. You can stay." Connor gestures to the ground and says, "D'you wanna go look at the creek?"

~

"Is there anything I can help with?" Evan barely manages through the sentence without stuttering. Cynthia and Zoe look up.

Zoe gives him a scornful look, Cynthia smiles, that way she does, like she's pleased to see him, but also tearful, because his presence reminds her of what she lost.

"What are you doing here?" Zoe asks.

"Don't be rude, Zoe," Cynthia says. "Evan. What can we do for you?"

"Did you just let yourself into the house?" Zoe looks near-disgusted at the thought and Evan swallows audibly, because he did, in fact, just let himself into the house.

"I-I-I'm sorry." Evan stutters out. He's been in Connor's room once, when he was talking Connor down, when he was kissing Connor, when he was looking at all of the band aids on Connor's thighs, and Connor asked him what he wanted.

When Connor leaned back in the pillows, bare feet planted wide on the mattress, inviting, and raised his eyebrow in a challenge at Evan, Evan took it.

Zoe almost glares at him. Maybe this is her way of mourning? Evan doesn't know.

"Zoe!" Cynthia scolds. She turns back to Evan, the uneasy smile she gets when there's conflict fitting itself in place on her face. "We're just cleaning out his room as much as we can." She looks a little watery at the edges saying this.

"O-oh." Evan says.

"Would you like to help?" She gestures around. "There's so much to do."

Zoe sends him a look that says don't you dare.

Evan looks away and moves further into the room.

Cynthia nods, approvingly, and turns back to the beside table she's going through.

They end up leaving him to get some lunch, and Evan pulls a small blue satchel out from under all the garbage under Connor's bed.

It's the one he was carrying the day they met. It's small, and worn, and has a multitude of badges clipped onto it.

Evan wonders what it was doing under the bed.

There's a carabena attached to the loop holding the strap and the satchel together, and on the carabena is a llama pendant, carved out of wood and painted in reds and blues.

Inside the bag, there's a pen lid, a chewed up and snapped pencil, a tarnished silver ring with two tiny metal cubes looping the whole thing together, a stack of raffle ticket stubs all stapled together, and a small cowbell on some string, for some reason. At the bottom of the bag are candy wrappers and sticky notes with various things written in Connor's looping scrawl, and his parents's, and Zoe's. Evan passes his eyes over each one.

Heat up for three minutes on seventy percent, make sure to be in bed by nine, do not get high.

Please sing a little quieter in the shower. We get it, you wish you were a punk rocker, with flowers in your hair. Please, we're trying to sleep, no one gets up as early as you do to shower.

Math homework is due second period so FUCKING FINISH IT.

When you climb back through your window, please let us know, because you're fucking grounded, young man.

Pick up 'Catcher In The Rye' or 'To Kill A Mockingbird' for English class. We're probably reading both.

STOP TAP DANCING IN YOUR TAP SHOES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT YOU HAVE FLOORBOARDS AND THIS HOUSE IS TOO BIG AND ECHOEY FOR THAT SHIT STOP DOING IT OR WE'LL TAKE AWAY YOUR TAP SHOES. Love, mom.

And then there's one, in a cursive that's much too familiar.

His own.

Hey, sorry I didn't wake you. My mom called, and she was all panicky. I had to go home. I just wanted to say that you're awesome, and I'm sorry I left. Text me when you wake up? (P.S. Nothing has changed. I promise.)

That's when Evan starts to actually cry. For the first time, since finding out what Connor did to himself, Evan cries, with big, loud, unapologetic sobs that Connor would classify as genuine ugly crying.

That's how Zoe and Cynthia find him, curled around a little blue satchel with a blue and red wooden llama pendant on it, crying over a sticky note that's a relic of one of the last times they were together.

"Oh, honey," Cynthia says, in the tone of a grieving, understanding mother. And it doesn't sound anything like the way Evan's mom usually says it.

Zoe looks at him like she's finally seeing him, like she finally believes him, like she hadn't before, like he was unwelcome because he'd never been in the house, because he was alien. Like she's finally realised that he fits into the scenery here.

Like she finally the connection between him and Connor.

Zoe collapses to her knees with tears running down her cheeks, and in the crevice of her nose, because she finally sees the good of Connor, left behind in Evan.

It's all too real in that moment.

~

"What is this?"

"What is what?"

"This. What are we doing? Are you my friend? Are you my boyfriend? What's going on, Evan?"

"I ate a pomegranate seed that you gave me and joked that you were Hades. And that you were going to steal me. And then you kissed me, like, three weeks later, with our feet in the creek, like we were in a young adult hipster novella. Is that even a question?"

"I guess."

"Do you want me to be your boyfriend?"

"I wouldn't be opposed to it."

"That's a bullshit answer and you know it, you emo piece of shit."

"Call me out, why don't you?"

"I'll be your boyfriend, if you'll be mine."

"Well, then. I guess I'm yours."

~

They let him keep the satchel, and its contents. Evan reads the sticky notes over and over, presses the bent and crumpled ones between pages in books like he's trying to dry them like flowers.

He reads them over.

Evan didn't know Connor liked that Punk Rocker song.

(Evan didn't even know Connor could sing. Knew he could tap dance, had seen him tap dance, didn't know he could sing.)

He hangs the satchel on the doorknob on his closet. He throws away the candy wrappers, and the pen lid and the pencil.

Evan reads over the sticky notes, and the letter that lies next to his alarm clock.

I think you're one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me.

~

"So," Connor says as they enter, and he shucks his little blue satchel to the side. It slides on the floorboards and ends up just under the bed. "Welcome to my fortress of solitude."

"You sound like a twelvie." Evan points out as Connor flops down on his bed. "'Welcome to my twisted mind' you know what I mean?"

"More like 'welcome to my twisted ankle'." Connor laughs. That's the first sign that Evan gets that something's up. When Connor laughs, it's usually soundless. This laugh is different; loud, piercing.

"You comic genius. Maybe you should do stand-up comedy." Evan tells him. It's hard to make out Connor's face in the near-dark. Evan's not going to turn on the light. Connor would've turned it on if he wanted it on. That's the second sign.

"Nah." He waves a dismissive hand, eyes glinting in the light from the streetlamp, shining through his window. They're dark, his pupils dilating. Third sign. "My true passion and talent lies with drawing."

Evan looks up to all the sketches on Connor's walls, plastered to all surfaces, a monochrome mural painted on the ceiling. "These are all really good." Evan says.

"You think so?" Connor folds his arms.

"Yeah." Evan touches a page of doodles of a constellation that's obviously been ripped out of a schoolbook. "I couldn't draw anything this good."

"Yeah, but you know way more about trees than I do." He laughs, sees Connor frown a little.

"That's hardly something to boast about, Connor." He admits.

"Well," Connor purses his lips, "what else do you think you're good at?"

"Writing, I guess." Evan leans against Connor's bedside table. "But I hate seeing people read stuff I've written. I'd probably kill myself if anyone read anything I've written."

There's a long silence. Evan turns to look at Connor. He's staring at the floor.

"Maybe you should leave." He whispers. Evan knows he should've been more credit about what he said.

He flushes. "I'm sorry, that was insensitive."

"Evan, this was a mistake." Connor stands, still looking at his floorboards. "You should just go home."

"No." Evan steps towards Connor and Connor steps back, nearly overbalancing onto his bed. "Tell me how I can help you."

"Just go home, Evan!" Connor yells, but Evan stands his ground.

"No!" He yells back, and almost flinches at the volume of his own voice.

Connor tugs on his hair, chipped black nails stark near the pallor of his face. "You don't understand."

"Don't make this about me." Evan says, lowering his voice, and taking Connor's hands softly, pulling them slowly from his hair. He doesn't know if Connor can feel his hands shaking. "Just tell me what you need."

"I don't know what I need, Evan." Connor snaps, pulling away from him, entirely. "What kind of a fucking question-"

Evan watches him cross the room and shove his window up and open. "I need you to tell me what keeps you calm, what relaxes you." Evan murmurs. His hands are shaking, so he clenches them into fists.

"I don't know, I don't know..." His hands are back in his hair. Evan winces.

"You're having a panic attack, Connor." He says. Connor sinks down the wall.

"I know what a fucking panic attack is, Evan. Do treat me like a fucking baby." He spits, but he doesn't look angry.

Evan sighs, shakily, and crosses the room towards him, sitting down in front of him. "I wish I didn't have to say this, because I hate it when people say it to me, but I need you to focus on your breathing."

"Evan-" Connor hisses, and Evan takes his hands.

"Please." There is quiet. He listens to Connor's breath slow.

"Pot."

"What?"

"I get high," Connor mutters, "when I start panicking, when someone yells, when I don't want to be anywhere."

Evan looks away and runs a hand down his face. "That's so bad for your mental development. That's just worsening your mental health."

"And Xanax isn't?" Connor asks, voice uneven. "It's the same thing. Self-medicating to lessen panic and anxiety."

"Mine is prescription." Evan protests.

"I pay just as much. Maybe more." Connor argues.

"That's not the point." Evan stands up and leaned his head on the wall.

"Don't tell me to find another alternative. Just don't." Connor whispers.

"Connor."

"Evan."

"Why are you panicking?"

Silence. Evan exhales through his nose.

"Connor, please. I can't help you if you don't tell me." He hears Connor shuffle on the floorboard.

"...I'm trying not to kill myself." Evan swallows thickly.

"...okay. Can you tell me more about that?" Connor snorts from the floor. His next words are muffled by his hands.

"What are you, a Pink Lady?" He mumbles.

"Don't try to distract me with Grease." Evan turns to look at him, and Connor's barely smiling at the comment.

And then his face goes slack. He stares at his closed bedroom door, and licks his lips, nervously. "I tried to kill myself in the end of May. Right before I met you."

Evan slides down the wall beside him. He slides his hand into Connor's. Connor squeezes it.

"I went to rehab, and when I came back, my dad said I just did it to get attention. Just like when I- I..." His eyelids flutter, and Evan watches in a peripheral vision as a tear goes running down his cheek.

"When you...?" He's almost scared to ask.

"When I came out." Connor swallows and uses his free hand to wipe at his face. "He...he doesn't understand. And I know he doesn't know that he's being bigoted and terrible, but he's not trying to help. He won't let my mom book me in for therapy and he won't let me get medication. My dad is straight up ignoring the fact that I am so depressed I tried to kill myself two months ago."

Evan squeezes Connor's hand, and closes his eyes.

"He's been nitpicking me for days now. It's like he doesn't even care."

Connor breaks off and sighs. He shuffles and sniffs quietly, like he doesn't want Evan to hear him.

"...I'm sorry for dragging you into this, Evan." Connor mutters.

"No, no." Evan turns, to look at him, and Conner's face has gone pink and blotchy. Evan gets on his knees beside him. "I want to be there for you, Connor. You don't have to apologise for being human, for having flaws, for being lost. I don't want you to think that you have to be perfect, because what you are right now is mesmerising."

"Evan." Connor sighs, and Evan grabs his other hand.

"You know what I thought, when you were standing in the doorway of the reception at Ellison State Park, that first day?" Connor won't meet his eyes. Evan swallows.

"What?" Connor stares at their hands.

"That the world had stopped to watch you smile." Connor looks up, and stares with wide, disbelieving eyes. "Stopped turning for a moment to see you quirk your mouth up just a bit."

"You thought that?" Connor seems utterly incredulous. His eyes are shiny and wet.

"I did." Evan assures him. Connor exhales shakily. "And I know saying shit like that to you every time you feel suicidal won't get rid of your depression, but I can do a hell of a lot to try and help you, when you do."

Connor pulls his left hand from Evan's and reaches up to cup the side of Evan's face. "You are a wonder, Evan Hansen."

Connor pulls Evan gently towards him and kisses him, softly, lips trembling.

Evan leans their foreheads together, and they breathe, slowly, in the silence, in the growing darkness.

Connor sucks in a breathe and moves. Evan pulls away and helps Conor to his feet.

"I smell like shit," Connor breathes. "I'm gonna go shower."

"Okay. Do you want me to leave?" Connor grabs his arm, face looking a little scared.

"No. Stay. Please?" Evan nods.

"Of course." Connor nods back, and leaves the room.

Evan closes the window and goes to sit on Connor's bed, playing one of those supposedly-calming puzzle games on his phone, and huffing whenever he loses.

Connor comes back, ten minutes later, hair hanging in wet strands around his face, hoodie discarded somewhere in the bathroom, wearing worn-in blue socks, a hole in the heel.

Evan turns off his phone when Connor renters. He's fidgeting, which is not something Evan's seen him do before.

Evan scrunches a handful of Connor's top sheet in his hand, sees the way Connor's eyes follow the movement.

"Evan, I-" Connor furrows his eyebrows, and scrunches his nose. Evan's been around him long enough to know that that's his 'thinking' face. "Fuck."

"What is it?" Evan stands up from the bed, letting go of the crumpled bed sheet. Connor looks past him, at it, and then back up to Evan's face.

"Why did it take me this long?" He murmurs, looking at Evan as if he hung the moon.

"Huh?" Evan's bewildered.

Connor strokes a hand down the side of Evan's face, softly, making a face like he's in pain. "Why did I not find you before?"

"Are you okay?" Evan takes his hands in his own and squeezes them. Connor squeezes back and laughs that soundless, huffing laugh of his.

"I think I'm dissociating." He admits.

"Sit down." Evan responds, and leads Connor back onto the bed.

There's so much they need to talk about. There's so much he needs to say.

He has no idea how to do anything.

"Connor. What you-" he turns his head to look at him and Connor kisses him. Evan pulls back, fast, not shocked so much as unsure. "What are you doing?"

"Physical stimulation." Connor says, gesturing, vaguely with his hands. "Contact. It helps me when I'm struggling."

"I..." Evan doesn't know why he's having such trouble comprehending it's. It's not too much different for his need for nature when he feels too overwhelmed.

Connor takes his hand again. "If you're not comfortable, that's fine. But..." Connor bites his lip and looks down.

"No, that's fine." Evan assures him, and Connor looks up, a shine in his eyes that Evan hadn't noticed before.

"Please, touch me, Evan." There's a hint of pleading in his tone, and Evan's a sucker for Connor asking for things.

He does.

He puts his hands on Connor's biceps, bare for once, when Connor kisses him again. His arms are smooth, and pale, as if they haven't seen the sun since the summer before, far too long to be hidden.

When Evan tilts his head just so, when Connor's cupping his chin in a certain way, Evan can feel Connor's eyelashes brushing his cheeks.

Connor shuffles on the bed, away from Evan. "Tell me to stop."

"What?" He's muddled from the kissing.

"If you're uncomfortable, tell me to stop." Connor clarifies, and starts shimmying out of his jeans.

Evan blanches. "Should we discuss this?"

"Do you want to?" Connor asks, giving him a meaningful, understanding look.

"Yes." He tries not to nod too vigorously.

"Okay. I want to have sex with you." It's blunt enough for Evan to laugh a little. Connor bites his lip. "I'm not going to force you, and if you don't want to, I'll stop."

"Connor..." He trails off.

"Evan." He says it so simply. Like it's the only word in the world.

Evan can't think of a thing to say, without sounding like he's a character out of The Notebook. He kisses Connor instead.

Connor throws his jeans on the floor and reaches up to the hem of Evan's t-shirt. He asks wordlessly and Evan nods, letting him strip the polo off him.

Evan looks down, and frowns at the multitude of band aids decorating Connor's thighs. Connor follows his gaze and sighs, flopping into the pillows.

"I don't cut, if that's what you're thinking." He says, almost tiredly. "I just dig my nails in. The more I do it, the less room I have, so I take that as a plus."

"I'm not gonna scold you or anything." Evan says, incredulous that Connor might think otherwise.

Connor snorts. "I should hope not."

Evan puts his hands on his thighs, holding Connor's gaze, hands smoothing gently on the fabric strips.

They kiss, and Connor plants his shaking hands on Evan's arms. This close, Evan can feel the irregular rise and fall of Connor's chest, can feel the excitement, the nervousness rolling off of him in waves.

Connor runs his hands up Evan's arms and cups the back of Evan's head with his hand, pushing him closer, holding Evan's shoulder with his other hand. He's pushing him, towards the bed, trying to roll him over onto the mattress and the pillows and the scrunched-up top sheet. Evan pulls away, gently.

"I don't want this to get uncomfortable...I don't want you to...I need to know you're sure." He says, looking everywhere but Connor.

Connor sighs. "Evan, if I didn't want to have sex with you, do you really think I would have taken off my pants?" Evan glances at the aforementioned lump of black material and then up to the pale, blue-eyed boy in front of him.

"Point taken."

Evan tugs on the hem of Connor's t-shirt, and Connor winks, raising his hands up over his head, so that Evan can slide it off his body, smoothly.

His shoulders are covered in fading freckles. Evan really wants to kiss them. Flushes at the thought, no matter the situation he's in.

Connor scoots back, out of Evan's grip, until his head is level with the the top of the headboard.

When Connor leans back in the pillows, bare feet planted wide on the mattress, inviting, and raises his eyebrow in a challenge at Evan, Evan takes it.

"I think that it's a little unfair," Connor murmurs between kisses, "that you still have your pants on."

"Maybe I want to keep them on." Evan replies, voice teasing, well aware of what that may ensue.

"Fine." Connor relents, and gestures to Evan. "But I'm not sympathising with you when you have to clean up the mess you make in your pants."

"How about you take off your underpants, and we'll see how that goes?" Evan suggests.

"I like your thinking." Connor manoeuvres himself in such a way that Evan doesn't have to move while he strips out of his briefs and tosses them on the floor. Evan can feel his face flush, and he makes himself keep eye contact.

"I don't know how to..." Evan trails off, "I've never..."

Connor laughs softly, under his breath and takes Evan's hand. "Here," he says, a laugh still in his voice, "I'll show you. It's pretty much the same as jerking off, except that it's someone else."

It's a fumble, in the near-dark, in both their awkward inexperience. Evan laughs, nervously, whenever something's not quite right, and, every time he does, Connor freezes up until Evan kisses him again.

"Fuck," Connor swears softly, and his voice is deep and thick with something Evan's heard only a few times. He doesn't have time to think on it before Connor's kissing him breathlessly, and rolling them over. There's a mild panic in Evan's rib cage before he sees Connor's expression.

He calms. "Are we okay?" Connor questions, running a hand down the side of Evan's face. Evan puts his hand over Connor's and watched his already pink face flush further.

"Yeah." Evan replies, nodding. "Yeah, we're so good."

"Do you want to take off your pants?" Connor's voice is soft and earnest, and it makes Evan's lungs ache. Not horribly, but Evan can't ignore it.

"We'll see if we get there." He decides.

Connor pulls his hand away from Evan's face and then Evan arches into the pillows, making a strangled sound at the way Connor's pressing the heel of his palm to the front of Evan's khaki's.

"Shit."

"Wow."

"If you stop doing that I'm kicking you off the bed."

"And then there'd be no chance of me doing this."

"Holy shit, Connor."

~

"Did you love him?" Evan jumps. He turns, and there's Zoe. She's standing there, holding a hastily gathered bouquet of the yellow flowers from the orchard.

"What?" It's dumb answer, but it's the only thing that'll come out of his mouth.

"Did you love him." Her voice is more deadpan this time. Evan looks back down at the grave he's standing in front of. He remembers Zoe telling him about how much her parents had fought over what to put on the tombstone. How Connor used to joke that he either wanted a blank tombstone or a tombstone that only had a shrugging emoji on it.

They'd settled on 'Connor Murphy, 1999 - 2017'.

Evan thought that was boring.

He furrows his eyebrows, and looks at her. "We were only together for two months. I don't think I had the time to ever properly think over that question."

"I'm sorry." Zoe tells him, looking at the ground. She lays the bouquet down and steps back, standing beside Evan.

He grins sadly. "You know, it's dumb, but I didn't even know his favourite colour."

"It was blue." Zoe replies.

"Really?" She looks up at him, meets his eyes. There's no pity in them, and, for that, he's thankful. He knows she doesn't want any either.

"Yeah. Maybe that's why he liked you so much. You wear blue almost every day." She bumps their shoulders together. "Are you coming over tonight?"

"Sure." Evan replies. She nods , glances to the grave and then back to him.

"Eat beforehand; mom's making gluten free lasagna, and it's almost entirely inedible." Evan nods.

"Okay. I'll see you, Zoe." He hears her walk away, boots crunching in the fallen leaves.

~

On Monday, Connor actively avoids him.

Evan knows this, because he watches Connor walk into the cafeteria, meet eyes with Evan, turn, and walk out.

It's a miracle that he walks into the computer lab while Connor's there. Connor looks like a deer in the headlights.

"Okay. Fuck, what is going on?" Connor simply shakes his head and shuts down his computer, shoving past Evan on his way out.

Evan grabs his arm, but Connor's stronger than him. "Talk to me, Connor, please!" He stops dead in the doorway, shoulders hunched. Evan doesn't know what to do.

Connor turns, his thin face is pink, eyes gleaming, and the look of frustration on his face drops.

He strides across the room, and at first, for some inexplicable reason, Evan thinks he's going to punch him. Instead, there's a hand on his hip, and a hand on his jaw, and Connor's pushing him up against a desk.

Connor kisses him hard, left hand squeezing Evan's right hip, cocking his head a little to kiss him deeper.

There are tears on Evan's face but his eyes are dry.

There's nothing he can do, nothing he wants to do, but kiss him back, and so he does. Arms curling around Connor's neck, fingers wrapping around strands of chocolate brown hair.

Connor pulls back, breathing harshly, and drops his face to Evan's shoulder. He pants. They are still and quiet (Evan doesn't dare break the silence) and it's like they're standing in the eye of a storm.

Connor pulls away entirely, his face crumpling. "I have to go." He whispers, picking up his discarded bag - the little blue satchel, the one with the badges, and the llama pendant.

"Wait!" Evan calls, even as Connor's striding out the door. There's no way he'll catch him. He watches Connor walk away, with something thick in his throat, something sour in his mouth.

He gets a horrible feeling that something bad is going to happen.

The next time Evan sees Connor, it's in an open casket, and he can still see the indents on his throat where the rope he hung himself with dug into his skin.

Evan thinks of the band aids on his thighs; his jeans rolled up his calfs, shoes discarded behind them, as they sit by the creek; the way his eyes shone in the moonlight, welcoming and pleading; the peaceful look on his face when Evan left, early the next morning.

It's what he thinks about, late at night, when he thinks, for a second, that maybe he'll wake up the next day, and it'll all have been a dream.

That he'll wake up and tell Connor about it, and Connor will laugh and say something like, "I'd never hang myself. I told you, my preferred method of suicide is eating too many apple seeds."

It won't happen, but Evan can't help imagining. He can't help but imagine how it could've been, if Evan had run after him, if Connor had held on, if anything was different.

Evan hides the letter below a pair of jeans he never wears in the fourth drawer of his dresser.

He goes to sleep and dreams of the feel of Connor beside him, holding his hand, feet in the smooth water of the creek.

 

Fin.