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Small Hot Chocolate, No Whip

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It was going to be a shitty day. He knew within a half an hour of opening that it was going to be an absolutely shitty day. The line was nearly out the door and Alana was sick so the new hire was on the register and she stumbled over orders which slowed him down and irritated the customers. 

He'd forgotten his hair ties so his hair kept getting in his way and he'd dumped a hot cup of the Colombian blend down his jeans and the burns still stung. On top of all that he was in desperate need of a cigarette. 

The drinks were almost stupidly complex today: a large soy half-caf latte with a shot of vanilla and extra steamed milk, all sorts of odd flavored shots and almond milk in drinks that shouldn't have any milk to begin with.

"One small hot chocolate, no whip please Connor," the new hire, whose name he thought was Amanda, said. 

Connor whipped his head around to look at whatever angel had ordered a manageable beverage and found that it was a ridiculously cute boy in a blue polo with a nervous expression. 

"Thank you," he said with a grin. "You're my easiest order of the day."

The boy blushed and fumbled with his cash as he handed it over. 

Connor looked down at the name on the cup Amanda had handed him: Evan. He made the hot chocolate in record time, and winked at Evan when he came to collect it. 

"Th-thanks," he stuttered. 

"No problem. See you around I hope." Smooth, Connor Murphy could be smooth when he wanted to be. 

Alright, so the day wasn't terrible after hot chocolate Evan. In the afternoon traffic slowed down and Amanda loaned him a hair tie. Evan sat in the corner of the cafe and tapped on the keyboard of his laptop as he sipped his drink. Connor stole glances at him between croissants and lattes. He must've been working on homework of some kind because every now and again his face scrunched up in concentration. He was there for hours, just working and gnawing on his lip and twitching nervously. Connor thought he must have lost track of time in his absorption. In fact, he hardly noticed when the shop started clearing out and Amanda counted the contents of the cash register while he cleaned. 

"Do you want me to go tell him?" She asked, gesturing to the lone occupied table. 

"No, thanks. I can do it," Connor said. Amanda smiled and went in the back to finish the deposit. 

Connor proceeded with caution. Evan still hadn't looked up from his computer screen. His eyes were quite tired looking and his lips red from biting them. 

"Hey, um we're closing up," he said. Evan looked up, startled, and knocked over his hot (now cold) chocolate. It went spilling across the table and over the edge to hit Connor's shoes. 

"I-I'm so s-sorry!" He exclaimed, shaking like a leaf. Connor stood the cup upright and reached for a wad of napkins. 

"It's alright," he said gently. The boy was clearly freaked out and he didn't want to make it worse. He could feel liquid in his socks. "I didn't mean to scare you. You look like you were working pretty hard."

Evan closed his laptop and gathered up his bag. "I'm really sorry. I was working on this paper and I g-guess I lost t-track of time."

"Are you a student?" Connor asked. 

"Yeah, I'm an um...environmental science major."

Connor grinned. "That's cool."

"I shouldn't keep you. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Connor said, extending a hand. "I'm Connor Murphy."

"Evan Hansen," Evan said. "Nice to meet you."

"Do you live far?" Connor asked before he could stop himself. Zoe would say he was being too forward, and possibly creepy. But Zoe also said he wore too much black. 

"It's a 10 minute walk," he said. "3rd Street."

"I could walk you...if you want?"

Evan blushed. He looked even cuter when he was all pink. "Um, yeah. If you want to."

"Great," he grinned. "Just give me a minute." 

Connor grabbed his bag, threw off his apron, and assessed the mess of dried coffee and wet chocolate on his pants and shoes. He grabbed a couple of slightly smashed muffins from the reject bin and clocked out. 

"Care for a reject muffin?" He asked Evan, who was standing awkwardly by the doorway. "They're not nasty or anything, just a little rough around the edges." Kind of like him, Connor thought but didn't say. 

"Sure," Evan said. "Thank you."

"Lead the way," Connor said, opening the door for him. It was cool and clear enough to see the stars. Evan waited until Connor had taken a bite of his muffin before he followed suit. 

"Do you like being a barista?" He asked cautiously. 

"I like it well enough. It's good money," he said, though his parents paid most of his expenses. "I kind of need a lot of structure to function," he laughed harshly. "Between school and work I don't have time to engage in destructive habits." He considered that this might be too much to say right off the bat but Evan only nodded. 

"What are you studying?"

"English," he replied. His parents would've preferred a business degree but it had taken so long for their son to rebuild himself they couldn't help but support a subject that made him happy. He was happy. Happy was hard but he was happy. He'd gotten the barista job through Zoe's girlfriend Alana. Zoe worked alongside him between her own classes (of which she had quite a lot of in her psychology and music double major.) He and Zoe lived in a house near campus. After years of rebuilding their fragile relationship they could live in the same house without weekly meltdowns. Years of therapy and medication and regaining trust was beginning to take shaky steps towards paying off. "I'm a sophomore."

"Me too," Evan said. "My classes have gotten harder this semester and I have trouble keeping up sometimes...because of my anxiety."

He said anxiety like it was a dirty word and Connor looked over at him to see his eyes glued to the pavement. 

"Hey, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I've had a lot of trouble with mental health stuff too," he said. He was about to swap diagnoses, medical histories, and lessons from therapists if necessary. If he'd learned anything in the years since he tried to end it, it was that shame only made things harder. "If you ever need someone to study with..." What are you doing Murphy? You only just met the guy. "Feel free to hit me up." Evan laughed nervously and Connor shoved a piece of muffin in his mouth to avoid further embarrassment. 

"I'm a lot better now than I used to be," Evan muttered. "Not that anyone can tell."

"The important thing is that you can tell," he said. 

Evan laughed again, it was still nervous but Connor thought he quite liked Evan's laugh. 

"Thanks," he mumbled. "Thanks I really needed that today." 

"Is that your place up there?" Connor pointed to the small house with the porch light on. 

"Yeah, Evan said. "It's not much, needs a new coat of paint. But it's fine for me and my roommate Jared."

"It's nice," Connor said, eying the plants in neat rows around the front patch of land. "Are you a gardener Evan Hansen?" 

Evan's face lit up. "I'm an amateur botanist. I have the flowers in the front yard and some succulents and a bonsai tree inside."

As if the dork wasn't cute enough. 

"Well I guess this is goodnight," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets and shooting Evan a smile. "See you around. I hope?"

"Yes," Evan said quickly. "Goodnight Connor Murphy."

"Goodnight Evan Hansen."

***

"Oh my god," Zoe looked positively joyous. "My brother has a crush!"

"On who?" Alana came up beside them with a tray of scones. 

"Small hot chocolate no whip!" She replied excitedly, stirring a bowl of orange flavored glaze. 

"You know him?" Connor shot back. 

"I know his order," Alana answered for her. "He's been coming here for weeks but you've either been off or in the back until now."

"Can you believe it Alana? Con's got a thing for hot chocolate boy."

"He has a name," Connor said. "It's Evan."

"I can't even remember the last time you had a crush. Was it middle school?"

Maybe it was the internalized homophobia or maybe it was the general dearth of nice, funny, and cute boys willing to talk to him in high school. 

"I just walked him home. It's not a big deal."

"Not a big deal? That's a huge deal! Did you get his number?"

"No," he said. "But he said he'd see me around."

"So that's why you combed your hair today! I thought I was hallucinating."

Connor's face went red and he rolled his eyes. It wasn't as if he had much experience with this. He didn't really know he was capable of flirting before last night. Although something told him Evan wasn't used to this sort of interaction either.  

"Let me French braid then. It looks so cute like that," Zoe said, reaching out for his mess of brown hair. 

"Fine," he mumbled, not wanting to admit that he liked it when she braided his hair (not only because he did look nice with a braid but because he felt closer to her whenever she offered.)

She sat him down at one of the tables while Alana finished up with the new pastries. Running her fingers through his hair, she began twisting strands into a neat braid. "You remembered your meds this morning right?" He never forgot but she worried, so she asked. Sure, there were bad days: days where everything felt like an argument and his ears didn't stop ringing. But today wasn't one of those days. 

"Yeah, I did."

"Good, okay you're done."

She grinned at him when he stood up, and Alana gave him a thumbs up. It was time to open. 

He quickly found that he was wrong about yesterday. Yesterday was a walk in the park compared to today. Orders flew like major league pitches and he always swung two seconds too late. They were out of cold brew, which seemed to piss everyone off. 

An hour and a half in his ears started to ring in the foreboding way they always did. Alana looked over at him with concern written all over her face and asked him if he wanted to take his break. He accepted. 

It was kind of cold outside. He pulled the sleeves of his dark sweater over his hands and crossed his arms over his chest. He was in the habit of wearing long sleeves to cover up the scars on his arms but it really was jacket weather. He couldn't go back inside to get his jacket though. He wasn't sure he could go back inside. He sucked in a few deep breaths and tried to focus his swimming vision. When things were too much he either snapped or fell apart. Today was the latter. 

He had four more hours in his shift and he wasn't sure he could do it. Damn his brain. He closed his eyes. 

"H-hey, Connor?" His vision was still tilting but it was unmistakably Evan Hansen, nervous and bundled up in a navy coat and sky blue scarf. "Are you okay?"

"I'm...uh. I'm having a bad day," he replied, hoping that his emphasis on the word bad wasn't revealing too much.

"Can I get you anything? Do you want me to leave you alone?"

"No," he said too quickly. He should want Evan to leave before he saw him make anymore of a pathetic fool of himself but he didn't. "No, um...distract me. How are you?"

Evan's expression softened. "I'm okay. I just got out of my climate lecture. Here." He pulled off his scarf and wrapped it around Connor's neck. Connor felt his shoulders relax a fraction. 

"Did something happen?" He asked. 

"No, it was all just a little much," he breathed.

Evan was nodding. "I like your hair," he said. 

Connor had forgotten about his braid. He laughed. "Thanks, my sister did it," he said, gesturing to the cafe behind him. 

"Your sister works with you?"

"Uh, yeah. Zoe said you were a regular?"

"Zoe's your sister?!" Evan exclaimed, face turning a startling shade of pink. 

"Yeah..." he answered slowly, brow furrowing. "Why?"

"Nothing," he said, voice hopping up an octave. "I just...she's nice."

Connor's heart dropped. He had a crush on Zoe didn't he. Yet another person liked her better than him. He didn't blame him, in honesty he liked Zoe better too. 

"Connor?"

"I should go back in," he said, handing back the scarf. 

Evan's expression muddled. "Oh, okay. You're sure your okay?"

"I'm fine," he said through gritted teeth, fighting off the urge to snap at him. "You should get your hot chocolate."

Inside, Zoe's eyes found his with worry. He tucked some stray hair behind his ears and stalked behind the counter again, thanking Alana for her patience and pointedly ignoring his sister. 

Evan got his hot chocolate and smiled at him and Connor tried not to be upset. He was being stupid. He barely knew Evan. It didn't even matter. But it had been years since he'd even considered asking someone out and now his plans were shattered. 

"What is up Con? You're looking at me like I just killed a puppy," Zoe said, trying to keep her voice light but visibly concerned. It was closing time and he was wiping down the counters rather aggressively. Evan had gone with his hot chocolate, saying goodbye but seeming confused and downtrodden by Connor's apathy. 

"Nothing."

"Seriously Connor, what happened with Evan?"

"Leave me alone Zo. I don't want to talk about it."

"Fine," she said, deflated. "Alana and I are having movie night. I'll be back by 11:30."

He went home and smoked in the backyard so Zoe wouldn't smell it when she came back. The pot made him feel less shaky and hurt. He took a scalding hot shower, standing under the water and letting it burn from his scalp down his back. The bathroom filled up with steam and choked, broken sounds escaped his throat without his consent. You're being stupid Murphy. Why does everything end in tears with you? 

He fell asleep before Zoe came home.

The next day he had class but no work so he didn't have the misfortune of accidentally running into Evan Hansen. His classes weren't all that bad this semester: a personal essay writing course (which he didn't entirely suck at), a fiction class centered around the coming of age story (which seemed oddly fitting), and a couple of history and science credits he needed to graduate. He paid attention in his lectures and then went to the library (best to steer clear of the cafe) to study. He was trying his best not to half ass things or let his grades slip when he felt drained and sliced open and generally shitty. His unspoken reserved desk was waiting for him on the fourth floor and so, he realized with horror, was Evan Hansen. 

Well, waiting for was the wrong way to say it. Obviously Evan didn't know he'd be there. In fact, he didn't even look up until Connor was at the desk right beside him. He seemed engrossed in a big book with an oak tree on the cover. 

"Are you stalking me Hansen?" He asked, smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Evan was cute when he was surprised, not that he wasn't cute all of the time. The anger from yesterday had faded a bit. Connor Murphy was used to disappointment (as much as it stung.)

"Connor! I didn't know you'd be here. I was..." He looked down at the book in his lap. "Distracted." So was Connor, but by Evan Hansen's freckle-y face. 

"I um...are y-you angry w-with me?" He managed. "Yesterday you seemed k-kind of..."

"No," Connor cut in. He felt a surge of guilt for his juvenile meltdown. Evan didn't deserve it. "No, I'm sorry. It was just a bad day. It wasn't you."

"Oh," Evan looked relieved. "Okay good. I was wondering then if we might e-exchange emails that is...if you'd want to t-talk to me and uh...be f-friends?"

Connor cocked his head to one side in confusion. "Emails? I could just give you my number?"

"Oh! Right, your number. Y-yeah, that's fine."

Connor laughed. This could work. He could get over his little crush and maybe get a friend out of the whole mess. 

"Here." He pulled a Sharpie out of his back pocket and gestured for Evan to stick out his hand. "Is it chill if I write it on the back of your hand?" Evan nodded and Connor took his, slightly sweaty, hand in his. Evan had short, stubby fingers with nails bitten short. Connor wrote his name in block letters with his number beneath. "Nice to see you Hansen."

"Yeah, n-nice to see you too Connor."

When Evan left the library, and Connor was hard at work on his essay he got a text:

Hi Connor :) -Evan 

He spent the next half hour stalking his Instagram: photos of him and his roommate, videos of sunlit tree branches, and one of a tragically bare cast on his arm. He scrolled through his own feed when he got home, hair wet from the shower, eyelids drooping already. Was Evan looking at the old photos of him when his acne was bad and cheeks chubby because his medication wasn't properly calibrated yet and fucked with his metabolism? On second thought why did he even have those photos up still? He hoped he was looking at the slightly better adjusted photos of his: third wheeling it with Zoe and Alana, sunshiny pictures of him reading on the couch credited to Zoe, and the three of them again at a pride parade. The last one had Zoe and Alana kissing and him with his face painted in rainbow hues. He hoped especially that Evan saw that photo and not that he only looked him up to get to Zoe. 

"You need to stop," Zoe said, far too dramatically given the situation at hand. 

EH: Are you at work?

CM: ya, it's a drag. U should come save me. 

EH: I have class :( I can be there in an hour?

CM: nice, I'll take my break when u get here. 

CM: shit, sis is on my ass ttyl

"I know you got this job because of nepotism but you've gotta stop texting that boy while you're supposed to be working."

Connor turned red. "Fine."

"What happened between yesterday and now bro?"

Connor looked down. "I think he has a crush on you. He's probably straight," he said quietly. 

"Connor..."

"Shut up, I'm over it already. We're going to be friends."

"Are you sure you're okay?" She asked, voice gentle. 

"I'm fine," he said through gritted teeth. "It was a stupid crush."

Zoe knew the truth. Neither of them had to say anything. 

"Connor, two vanilla lattes and a mocha!" Alana called, voice bordering on irritated. Connor did as he was told. 

He fell into the monotonous routine of the work: steaming milk, letting the harsh grind of the blender clog his ears, and fixating on the chips in his nail polish. He almost missed it when Evan walked through the front door. 

He still had traces of Sharpie on his hand, and he tugged at the hem of a blue cable knit sweater. His face was flushed from the autumn chill and he looked around like he wasn't supposed to be here. 

Connor tracked his movements to the end of the sizable line and nearly spilled a caramel macchiato. 

"Hey Alana can I go on break?" He burst, too quickly and much too loudly. 

She glared at him but relented. Zoe took his place and he hurried in the back room to clock out and take off his apron. He'd brought lunch from home: a container of pitiful veggie slices and hummus, a smashed peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a handful of medication in a plastic baggie. He filled up his water bottle, glossed over his thin face and tired eyes in the mirror, and went out to meet Evan. 

He was twitching anxiously at a corner table, hot chocolate in hand. Connor smiled and took the seat across from him. "How's it going Hansen?"

"I'm good, h-how are you Connor?"

He emptied the contents of his lunch on the table and took the pills in his hand. "Could be worse," he grinned, swallowing his medication with a long sip of water. "Do you like hummus?"

Evan nodded and he pushed the container of vegetables to the center of the table for easier sharing. 

"Zoe and her girlfriend Alana are always trying to get me to eat healthier. They're all about chia seeds now," he said, nose scrunching up.

"Alana," Evan repeated, and it occurred to Connor that Evan probably didn't know Zoe had a girlfriend. "She was in a lot of your..." he stopped, face crimson. 

"A lot of my what?" He asked. 

"I k-kind of l-looked at your Instagram page," he managed, not meeting his eyes. "I'm sorry."

"No reason to be sorry," Connor laughed. "Alana and Zoe are in most of my photos. And if we're being honest I looked you up too."

Evan's head shot up. "You did?"

"I like to know a thing or two about my friends," he said. "How did you break your arm by the way?"

Evan grimaced and Connor wished he could take the question back. "I didn't mean to pry or anything."

"It's okay," he said tightly. "It's just...a little hard to talk about."

"I get it," Connor said. "I did some shit in high school I don't like talking about." He traced the scars on his wrists with his thumb. "So what did you learn about me?"

Evan stumbled over his words for a second and then settled on. "You like books and you love your sister. You always have your nails painted and..." he trailed off. 

"I'm super gay. You got that right?"

Evan nodded, hint of a smile on his lips. 

"And you like trees."

Evan nodded again, eyes lighting up. "I love trees." 

"Trees are cool," he said dumbly, mostly to see his eyes shine again. 

"I can take you on a nature walk sometime if you want," he said, no trace of his stutter. 

"Absolutely," he said. He took a bite of his sandwich and Evan sipped his hot chocolate. "I have to get back," he said reluctantly. "But I'm glad you came. Text me okay?"

"S-sure," he said. 

"See you, Hansen." Don't get a bigger crush Murphy. Stop. 

He did face masks with Zoe that night. He was making popcorn, face still green from the mask, for their movie night when his phone pinged. 

Instagram: Evan Hansen has followed you 

He followed him back. 

Chapter Text

Evan couldn't figure out whether he was happy or upset. He felt tingly all over and when he got home he tripped over Jared's shoes in the doorway. 

"Dude did you fall?" The owner of said shoes said, coming out into the hallway. His glasses were crooked and he was wearing pajama pants and a t-shirt despite the fact it was only 7:30. They were alike in that respect. He and Jared had been on the edge of close for most of high school: Jared was kind of mean for a while and then it happened and there was a lot of talking and a few confessions and somewhere along the way they became friends. School was easier with Jared there. 

He was a computer science major with more friends than Evan could even comprehend. King of the nerds he'd dubbed himself. 

"A little. Can we talk?"

Jared's eyebrows rose in amusement.  "Sure, what's up?"

"Zoe," he started, chewing on his bottom lip. "Has a brother."

"Zoe, the barista love of your life?"

"She's n-not the l-love of my...I think her brother was flirting with me."

"Holy shit. Is he hot? Do you like him?"

Evan passed him in the hallway and collapsed on his bed. Jared followed him. "Evan Bisexual Hansen are you COURTING?"

"Leave me alone Jared," he said, blushing ridiculously. "He's just...he's cute okay? And now I'm c-conflicted."

Jared cackled. "This is the funniest shit I've heard all week and the newest John Oliver was really good."

Evan buried his face in his comforter and moaned. He wasn't good at this sort of thing. He wasn't good at a lot of things but he certainly wasn't good at this. Connor walking him home had felt like something, but today he'd been largely ignored after trying to help him outside of the cafe. Maybe he'd realized how pathetic Evan was and wanted to cut things off before they went too far? Maybe Evan had unknowingly said something offensive?

"Dude, are you okay?" Jared said after awhile of this. 

"'M fine," he said, voice muffled. 

"Alright," he said, giving him a comforting pat on the back. "I'm ordering pizza. "If you want to talk about your coffee siblings kink further you know where to find me."

The next day Evan was early to his climate lecture. He wasn't as early as he was the first day. Petrified of being late, he'd shown up nearly an hour and a half early and sat, knees curled to his chest in the overly air conditioned hallway. He took his usual seat in the third row and pulled out a notepad. 

Dear Evan Hansen, 

Today is going to be a good day and here's why:

Jared promised to go over your notes with you so you won't worry that you missed or misunderstood something. Connor Murphy is nice and has a cute smile and you don't have to see him today so you can think about what yesterday meant. You have leftover pizza for lunch. 

You're doing okay. 

Sincerely, 

Me 

The letters were no longer a therapy assignment but they made him feel better so he'd kept up the habit. He flipped over to his notes and scanned the shaky handwriting. Sometimes he had a question but was too afraid to ask it and his own fear and guilt over not being able to articulate himself made him nervous and he started shaking and spacing out and that was when his handwriting went to shit. 

Today's lecture wasn't as bad. He understood all the concepts they discussed and his letters stayed even and legible. After class he made a beeline for the library, walking with purpose so he didn't have to talk to anyone. He had some homework and when he was finished he went up to the fourth floor where the windows were big and the view was better and found a book on the world's coolest trees. 

"Are you stalking me Hansen?" He looked up. Of all people, he did not expect to see Connor Murphy here. For half a second he thought he was there to say something mean. But he was smiling kindly and Evan felt guilty. Connor crossed his arms over his chest. Connor was tall: all angles and lean muscles. Today he had the same black hoodie rolled up to his elbows and a new gray v-neck. Evan noticed the mess of friendship bracelets and hair bands covering both of his wrists and the new coating of black polish on his nails. His hair was glorious as usual, though it looked soft and fluffier today. 

"Connor!" He jumped. "I didn't know you'd be here. I was...distracted."

Connor tugged on the strap of his messenger bag and Evan felt his eyes  looking him over. He worried that there was something on his shirt or face. C'mon Evan just communicate. 

"I um...are y-you angry w-with me?" He said, feeling his heart pound rapidly. "Yesterday you seemed k-kind of..."

"No," Connor interrupted. Evan forced himself to look up at him. His eyes were big and sad. "No, I'm sorry. It was just a bad day. It wasn't you."

"Oh," He said dumbly. "Okay good. I was wondering then if we might e-exchange emails that is...if you'd want to t-talk to me and uh...be f-friends?"

"Emails? I could just give you my number?"

Emails? Emails! You idiot why would he want to talk to you in the 90s. He might well have asked if their moms could set up a play date. 

"Oh! Right, your number. Y-yeah, that's fine."

"Here." He pulled a Sharpie out of his back pocket and gestured for Evan to stick out his hand. Evan was suddenly preoccupied with the idea that his hand might be so sweaty the whole message would wipe off.  "Is it chill if I write it on the back of your hand?" Instead of saying this he nodded. 

"Nice to see you Hansen."

"Yeah, n-nice to see you too Connor."

Jared had trivia night at the bar down the street. Thanks to him his team was undefeated. He'd invited Evan to come watch numerous times but going meant being around fellow 19 year olds with fake IDs sipping beers he was entirely uncomfortable with. 

Evan thought he was probably the most vanilla college student in existence, not that Jared ever hassled him for it or that he planned on changing his behavior. 

He was almost 20 and he'd never even kissed anyone. If that could change maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing. 

Because Jared wasn't there to tell him not to, Evan pulled up his Instagram and searched for Connor. Careful not to like any old photos, he scrolled through his profile with interest. 

Zoe was in most of the posts. He could tell they were close. On her birthday he'd made her an ice cream cake and posted a multi paragraph caption about how lucky he was to have her in his life. Evan grinned at the older photos where he was shorter and less lean and his captions were riddled with typos. 

He stopped on a photo of Connor at what appeared to be a Pride parade. His grinning face was painted: rainbow streaks beneath his shining eyes and hair swimming with glitter. Beside him, and Evan finally put two and two together then, Zoe was kissing her no doubt girlfriend who was tagged as Alana. 

Connor Murphy wasn't straight. That was a sign as encouraging as the photos of Zoe Murphy's girlfriend were discouraging. 

The conversation in the coffee shop the next day went about as well as could be expected until Evan let slip that he was a creepy Instagram stalker. And then the business about his broken arm...

He knew Connor didn't mean any harm but he wasn't in the habit of telling people about the time he threw himself out of a tree and laid there pathetically friendless, sobbing about how he should've died but didn't. It didn't seem like the kind of detail you revealed to a boy you liked. 

He hoped he was serious about the nature walk. Despite his stumbling speech he had a whole tour planned in his head. It was dumb but when Evan was in a forest he felt at peace. His limbs that usually stirred with unwanted activity quieted; his thoughts that circled menacingly slowed and straightened out into neat and gentle lines. In the forest he didn't feel like everyone was looking at him. His flaws were not on display and he could breathe in the fresh air without worrying that he didn't deserve to. 

Connor Murphy looked like he would be good at climbing trees. He could probably reach branches Evan couldn't. He was probably fast. 

*** 

Evan didn't know how he got here. That happened sometimes when his panic was intense. The lines between past and present blurred and he got the feeling that someone had dragged a big pink eraser through his brain. 

He knew he was shaking. He knew he was drawing in raspy, shallow breaths and that his face was wet with tears. After a moment it came back to him. He was locked in the bathroom at the coffee shop, curled up pitifully on the tile, and the walls seemed to be crashing in on him. 

There was a knock on the door. He curled in tighter. "Hey Evan? Is that you in there?" Connor sounded worried. He didn't want to worry him. 

"I...y-yeah," his voice quivered terribly. "I'm fine."

"Are you sure? Are you sick?"

"I had an uh...a p-panic attack," he said. "S-sorry to..."

"Evan can I come in?" He interrupted.  His voice sounded tight. "Please."

Evan got up and wiped his face with his hands. His head spun and vision swam but he crossed the room and unlocked the door. He couldn't meet Connor's eyes. 

"Come in the back. I'll get you some water. Do you want to take my hand?"  

Evan nodded despite himself. Connor's hand was warm and his grip was firm. He let himself be led to a chair in the back room. Connor sat him down and brought him a cup of water. He sipped from the cup and felt his breathing slow. Way to go Evan. Now he knows you're a quivering mess and you probably have snot all over your face. 

"Sorry," he muttered, looking up at Connor. "I'm really sorry for c-causing all this trouble."

Connor ran a hand through his hair. "Don't be sorry. You're fine. I just want to make sure you're okay. Do you want to talk about it?" Connor chipped at the nail polish on his thumb and his brows furrowed. "I mean I know we're not...I um," he blushed. "I just want to help. You kind of scared me."

"I'm sorry," he repeated. 

"No," Connor's eyes widened. "I didn't mean it like that. I...I'm sorry Evan."

What was he sorry for? Evan was the one having a break down in public. Evan was the one whose breath still felt a bit shallow and very existence a bit worthless. He was making progress, he really was. He just wasn't making any today. Just because you feel like you're taking a few steps back today doesn't mean you won't roll doubles and move forward a lot tomorrow. Jared said to him once. It wasn't the first board game metaphor he'd thrown at him. 

"Evan," Connor repeated and Evan realized he'd been staring at him like an idiot.

"T-there's no r-reason for you to be s-sorry. I'm the one who got a D on my test and is probably going to flunk out of school and end up living in a box and then I'll be basically friendless and homeless and I'm sorry I can't be rational about that and have to panic in your bathroom like a pathetic child and..."

"Evan." He liked it when Connor said his name. It was gentle. Connor didn't look like the kind of guy who could speak like that. But Evandidn't like judging people based on stereotypes.  "One bad grade doesn't mean you're going to flunk out, believe me," he said slowly. "And having a panic attack doesn't mean you're pathetic or a kid. It's okay," he said, insistent. When Evan sniffled he reached forward to put his hand on his shoulder. Evan flinched and then felt bad. 

"I'm sorry." Connor drew back. 

"Don't be," he said. "Let me walk you again. I can talk Alana into getting you a free hot chocolate. "

"Okay," Evan said. His face was probably so red. Great, red, snot covered, hiccuping now and he was still offering to spend more time with him. "You're really nice," he blurted. Maybe it was a Murphy sibling thing.

Connor laughed. "I'm not that nice." 

Evan took small sips of the free hot chocolate and stole glances at Connor Murphy beside him. 

"I freak out during tests sometimes. It uh...when I have trouble I tend to s-shut down," he muttered. It wasn't as if he had to keep up false pretenses anymore.

"Have you talked to any of your professors about your anxiety?" 

He should. He'd told himself to numerous times but he always seemed to get in his own way. "I can deal with it," he said instead. 

"I know," Connor said with a confidence that admittedly, Evan didn't feel. They were at his place. The lights were on and Jared's car was in the driveway. 

"Thanks," Evan said. "For everything." Connor Murphy smiled at him and how could he not have a crush on this boy? 

"It's going to be okay," he said seriously. He seemed to blend in with the blackness of the night. When Evan was little he was afraid of the dark. He begged his mom to leave the lights on in his bedroom and cried when she didn't. Connor Murphy made the dark seem like a big, warm blanket tucked beneath your chin. 

"Thanks," he repeated because it was better than saying sorry. 

"You're welcome Evan Hansen." Jared would say he should have invited him in for coffee but it seemed dumb to ask a barista that and he wasn't daring. The panic attack had drained him and Evan didn't have a lot to drain in the first place. 

"Hey, um..." Connor's mouth fell open and his awkward start hung for a moment. "My sister's having a music showcase on Friday and I was wondering if you might want to come with me? It would be nice to have a friend there you know?"

A friend. 

"Sure. Text me the details." Connor Murphy isn't completely repulsed by you. 

"Okay, well goodnight."

"Goodnight."

He got the text while he was brushing his teeth:

CM: showcase is at 7. I can pick u up early and we can get dinner? ps: I think ur really brave Hansen. That's probably weird to say but fuck it. 

Fuck it. 

Chapter Text

When Connor arrived on Evan's doorstep Friday evening he couldn't shake the feeling that he'd chosen the entirely wrong outfit. Zoe's showcase was a semi-formal occasion (a fact which he informed Evan of via text to ease his mind.) Connor had never felt entirely comfortable dressing up. Dressing up brought up memories of agonizing family gatherings that included torturous amounts of sitting silently or smiling and nodding to strangers. He had a black suit jacket and white dress shirt on. A tie wasn't happening, neither were dress pants since he looked passable in dark jeans. He was being a bit of a baby about it. It was a good distraction from his nerves surrounding his totally not a crush on Evan Hansen. 

 

He knocked on the door and fiddled with his collar.

"Connor Murphy I presume?"

The guy in front of him was wearing a t-shirt and khaki pants and stared at him through a pair of smudged glasses. 

"You must be Evan's roommate Jared. It's nice to meet you." Connor put on his friendliest smile and hoped it didn't look too stiff. 

"Yeah," he said slowly. "Nice to finally meet the infamous Connor Murphy." 

"Infamous?" Connor felt his palms sweat. 

Jared's expression softened "Dude, I'm kidding. Come on in. Evan's just finishing getting ready."

Connor stood awkwardly in the hallway and Jared called up the stairs that he was here. 

"Hey, seriously though," Jared began, walking over to the fridge and pulling a soda out of it. "He's...Evan's fragile. So don't mess with him or anything," Jared looked at him seriously. Evan hadn't said much about his roommate apart from the fact that they'd known each other since elementary school and that he had an odd sense of humor. 

"I wasn't planning on it," he said. "We're just friends," He added because of the look Jared was giving him. 

Jared nodded. "In any case he's sensitive. He's great but he's sensitive," Jared took a long sip of his Mountain Dew. "And he's my best friend so..." 

"Of course," Connor said. "I'd never fuck with him or anything. I'm not...I know I don't look it but I'm not like that."

"Don't tell him I told you any of that though," Jared muttered. Connor nodded, trying to hide his smile. Jared Kleinman seemed like the kind of guy who cared a lot but pretended not to. 

"Hey Connor!" Evan shouted from upstairs. "C-could you come up here for a second?"

Jared waggled his eyebrows. "Second door on the right."

"Thanks."

Evan's stairs creaked. He knocked on the door and Evan opened it immediately. "Do I look okay?" He said, voice leaping up an octave. He stepped back and motioned for him to come in. "I don't usually dress up so I was worried."

Evan's room was small: white walls with a poster with a picture of a forest and another with a world map his bed was unmade and covered in clothes and discarded hangers. His desk in the corner was cluttered with books and dirty coffee mugs. 

"S-sorry it's such a mess." 

"I like it," Connor said, grinning. He wondered what Evan would think of his room. That train of thought didn't seem healthy for ridding himself of his crush so he stopped. "And I like your outfit." Evan was in a blue button up and navy jacket that looked a little too small on him. 

"Are you s-sure? Because I can change. It's not a big deal if I..."

"You look great Evan," he said. Evan blushed and looked down. 

"Is Italian okay?"

"W-what?"

"For dinner? Is that okay?"  Connor stuck his hands in his pockets and rocked on his heels.

"Yeah, y-yeah that's great."

"Because if you'd rather go somewhere else it's fine." Damn, was he always this sweaty?

"No. It's not that," he blurted. "I'm just a little nervous."

"Don't be. You've got me.

"Okay," Evan said. "Cool, okay," he repeated. 

"Okay," Connor laughed. "You ready to go?"

The restaurant had mood lighting. He wasn't that hungry but he stuffed his face with chicken alfredo to avoid staring at Evan Hansen like a lovestruck idiot. 

Evan ate his eggplant parmesan like it was the best thing he'd ever eaten. He got some sauce on the corner of his mouth and Connorwaited awhile before he told him because he knew it was going to embarrass him. 

Connor insisted on paying the bill, citing rich parents when Evan protested. They arrived at the showcase early. The performers were all lined up in the first three rows. Zoe sat in the third row, Alana behind her in the first row of general seating. Connor led Evan over to them. 

"Evan this is Alana. Alana, Evan," he said. Evan smiled at her and extended a shaking hand. Connor wondered where Evan Hansen felt truly comfortable. He wanted to go somewhere where Evan's hands didn't shake and his voice was even and laced with honey sweet happiness. 

"Nice to meet you Evan," Alana said. "I'm glad you came." Zoe turned around to smile at him too and repeated the sentiment. 

"I'm third," she said, shifting the guitar that was balanced between her knees. Zoe was studying classical guitar at the moment, though it wasn't exactly her speed. She had been practicing a Spanish piece for the showcase in their living room. Connor knew she was kind of nervous but she was good at hiding it. 

"You're going to do great," he said quietly, and the look on her face melted into something more genuine. 

"Don't get all weird and brother-y on me dude."

"They've got refreshments in the back Alana said helpfully, getting up herself. I'm going to check with the camera guy and make sure everything's set up." This was a typical Alana intervention. 

"Do you want something to drink Evan?" 

"S-sure." 

He watched Zoe and Evan from across the room as he grabbed two plastic cups of fruit punch. They were talking about something and Evan was blushing. He'd have to ask Zoe about it later. 

The first performer was a saxophonist. He was quite good. Evan was leaning forward in interest. The next act was a ballet routine with several students from the dance program. Evan really liked that, he shifted over, shoulder brushing up against Connor's as he craned to see the whole stage. He looked over at him. His face was open and his eyes were shining. He bet Evan Hansen would be nice to kiss, especially if he looked like that. Stop it Murphy I swear to god. 

Zoe took the stage and there was a moment of quiet as she collected herself, fingers poised over the strings. She looked at peace. Connorwas glad she'd decided to double major because though she wanted a job in psychology, she never looked happier than when she was surrounded by music. Her playing was effortless. Evan turned to him halfway through and just grinned. Alana was the first to start clapping when she finished. Connor whistled and Zoe shot him a look. 

"That was great," Evan said as they walked out. Zoe and Alana had gone to grab a late dinner. 

"It was," he agreed. "Do you want to get milkshakes?" He asked. It was getting kind of late but he didn't want the night to end. 

"Absolutely," he said, more enthusiastically than he'd ever heard him. They went through the drive through at Dairy Queen. Connor got chocolate Evan got peanut butter. He turned up the radio and sipped as he drove. He stole glances at Evan at the ref lights. Once Evan caught him staring and instead of being weirded out or looking away he laughed, loud and breathless. Connor Murphy could fall in love with that laugh. 

"Do you know how to dance Evan?" He asked hesitantly. 

"N-no why do you ask?"

"No reason, it just seemed like you really liked the dancing."

Evan blushed again. "I did. I'm too clumsy for anything like that though."

"I took tap lessons from elementary to 8th grade," he admitted. 

"Really? That's super cool."

Connor shrugged. "If you say so. You don't dance? Not even swaying? What did you do at prom?"

"I didn't go."

"Oh." He bit the inside of his mouth the way he always did when he'd said something really stupid. "I didn't either." He had been in the hospital getting his wrists stitched up during prom. He sucked in a breath "I uh...I'm kind of a loser. In case you hadn't realized."

"I don't think you're a loser," Evan said. "And if you are then I am too and we can be losers together." 

Connor laughed. He didn't laugh a lot in high school. Most jokes were at his expense and he didn't even have loser friends to joke around with. 

They pulled up in Evan's driveway and climbed the stairs to his porch. Jared had evidently left the light on for them. 

"Hey Evan." He was feeling reckless. 

"Yeah?"

"Do you wanna dance?"

"I-I told you. I c-can't dance."

"I'll show you, here." He reached out and took Evan's hand, guiding the other to his waist. "Just pretend there's music okay?"

"O-okay." They swayed slowly. Connor pulled him close and he smelled like lemon and lavender. After a second he started to hum. Evan laughed again. "I'm gonna step on your feet Con," he said. 

"Con?" He raised an eyebrow. 

"Oh...uh I'm sorry I..."

"Don't be," he said for what felt like the millionth time. He didn't mind. "You're my friend. I like nicknames."

Evan was looking at him funny, head tilted to one side. "Do you want to come in?"

Connor stole a glance at his watch. It was nearly 11:30. "You're sure?"

"It's fine is you just want to go home," he said quickly. 

"No, no it's cool. It's just late. But if it's fine with you it's fine with me."

"We could um...watch a movie if you want? Have you seen Billy Elliot?"

Why did he have to be so fucking cute?

"You really like dancing don't you? I have but let's watch it anyway."

He didn't realize how fucked he was until he woke up on Evan Hansen's couch the next morning. His vision was blurry for a minute and he pushed his tangled hair out of his eyes before he realized that Evan was quite literally in his lap. He was fast asleep and Connor realized he was going to be late for work. 

"Evan! You want toast?" Jared called from the kitchen. Evan woke with a start, head shooting up and nearly knocking his head on Connor's.

"Uh, yeah, okay!" He called back. "Shit I'm so sorry I fell asleep," he whispered harshly, turning to him. 

Connor was disoriented for a second by Evan's cursing and the drool on his face. "It's okay," he said dumbly. "It's my fault too I shouldn't have..."

"How did things go with coffee boy? Did you profess your undying love?" Jared yelled from the kitchen. 

Evan turned bright red. "Jared shut up please!"

"I should go. I'm going to be late for work so..."

"Yeah, definitely I-I'll see you later."

"Thanks for last night Hansen. I'll text you."

He bolted before Jared could see him. 

***

It was the first of what turned out to be many movie nights. The next time they had it at Connor's place and watched the original Star Wars trilogy and ate Chinese food on his couch. Zoe sat with them for a little while and ended up going on about how Connor had a giant crush on Luke Skywalker when he was little. He shushed her before Evan laughed too hard. 

They made it a weekly thing, switching off between their houses. Connor texted him every day and they ate lunch together whenever Evan came to the shop. 

He walked him home in the snow a couple of times. Once he forgot his gloves and Evan offered him his. Before Connor could stop him Evan reached out and took his hands.He pushed his sleeves to see his wrists. Evan saw the scars he'd been carefully trying to hide for the month and a half they'd known each other. His heart was in his throat. Connor finished putting on the gloves and didn't meet his eyes. 

"Thanks," he muttered. 

"Hey...um, can we stop for a second?"

Connor stopped. His boots were old and let in the cold. If they stopped for too long his feet might freeze off. He turned to look at him. 

"Look," he muttered. "I don't like to..."

"You remember when you asked about how I broke my arm?" Evan asked. His face was pale despite the cold and his eyebrows were furrowed. 

"Yeah." He rubbed his wrist. Sometimes his scars itched when he thought about them too much. 

"I didn't want to talk about it either. I um...my senior year things were really bad and I climbed a really tall tree and uh...I kind of let go and fell. I thought I was high enough up that I would die. My senior year I broke my arm trying to kill myself." 

"Evan..."

"So you don't have to be embarrassed and I won't be weird about it. You're my friend. And I don't want secrets between us when there don't have to be." Evan fumbled for Connor's hand and took it in his own. His jaw was tight and his bottom lip wobbled like he was going to cry. 

"I think you're really nice Connor Murphy."

"It was two and a half years ago Hansen. I'm okay."

"Are you sure?" He sniffled. Fuck, he was crying. 

"Evan I meant it I'm..."

"I don't know what I'd do if you were gone Con. I just don't know what I'd do." His breathing was sharp and Connor leaned in to hug him before he could stop himself. He held him tight, burying his face in his neck. 

"I'm sorry. If I could go back I'd change it. I'm sorry Evan. I don't know what I'd do if you were gone either."

Connor's feet were frozen. His chest felt hot. He hadn't really talked about the scars lining his wrists with anyone outside of Zoe and his therapist. He'd come close with his mom but they weren't quite there. It hadn't been that long ago when he really thought about it. 

"We should go. I'm cold," he said. 

"Do you wanna come over and talk a little?" Evan asked. 

"Yeah."

***

"Okay bro we need to talk," Zoe leaned on the counter and stared him down as he tried to cook dinner. 

"About what pray tell?"

"Small hot chocolate no whip."

"Fuck you."

"Why don't you just tell him how you feel? All you two do is stare at each other lovingly."

"He has a crush on you remember?" Connor poked at the scrambled eggs in his pan with a spatula. It was breakfast for dinner night. "I don't want to talk about it," he said sharply. 

"Do you think maybe you jumped to conclusions? I mean he never said he..."

"I said I didn't want to talk about it Zoe." 

"I know you don't like putting yourself out there but..." He turned around to look at her. "You deserve to be happy Connor. That sounds dumb but sometimes I feel like you don't know that." 

"The eggs are done."

"Think about it."

He didn't want to think about it. He wanted it to go away. 

A week later Evan came over to make cookies with him: peanut butter because it was Evan's favorite. He had dough on his nose and Connor couldn't stop laughing. 

Evan read the next step and yawned. He was looking a little more haggard lately. Finals were coming up and though Connor was able to balance work, studying, and sleep, Evan clearly wasn't. 

"Hey, do you want to take a nap or something you look really tired?"

"I'm fine," he snapped in a way that didn't seem fine at all. 

"I just don't want you to wear yourself out."

"I said I was fine," he said, rolling a ball of dough furiously. "I'm tired of people asking me that. No one thinks I can handle myself. Everyone thinks I'm a pathetic loser who can't handle college."

"I didn't say anything close to that Ev I just think you should get some sleep."

"Why, cause you know so much better than I do? Last time I checked we were both friendless freaks who thought it was better to off themselves than stick it out!"

"Evan..." He felt numb for a second. His ears started ringing. In front of him Evan paled. 

"Con I'm sorry I didn't mean..."

"Get out."

"Connor I..."

"Get the fuck out Evan I can't do this right now."

Evan fell silent. He grabbed his coat and left. The oven beeped to let him know the oven was preheated. For the first time in a long time he broke down and sobbed.

His wrists burned. 

Chapter Text

Despite Jared's probing, Evan did know that this wasn't a date. Connor just needed someone to come with him. He probably didn't want to third wheel it with his sister and her girlfriend. They were only getting dinner because it was around dinner time and they'd get hungry otherwise. It absolutely wasn't a date.  

Connor looked nice. He looked distractingly nice and Evan had the strange buzzing feeling he often did in which it felt entirely possible that his stomach would fall out onto the floor: a mess of mucus and half digested food. He thought about a lot of weird shit like that when he got anxious. 

"Is Italian alright?"

His jacket cut him nicely and his grin was ridiculously cute. It was nice to have someone excited to see him.  Dinner was nice too. Of course it wasn't a date but it was probably the closest Evan had ever been to one. He felt a little light headed and stupid thinking about it like that. Connor Murphy had probably been on hundreds of dates. He had probably kissed tons of boys and bought them Italian food and grinned his pretty grin at them. Evan wasn't special. He wasn't even on a real date. 

It was hard not to feel happy when they got to the showcase. Zoe was nice. She was always nice but it was easier to talk to her now that he didn't have feelings for her. Her girlfriend seemed nice too. Alana seemed like the kind of person who would walk to the end of the earth for a cause or a person she believed in.

Connor went to get lunch and Zoe Murphy turned to look at him. Her sharp eyes were bright and interested. She had her hair pulled back with bobby pins and the more of her face Evan could see the more he connected her expressions with her brother's. They were both open and sly at times. They both smiled at him as if he were the sun. Maybe they did that with everyone but at times it felt like it was just for him. 

"So you're friends with my brother now?" She asked. He nodded.

"Y-yeah, we're friends."

"Just friends?" She leaned over the back of her chair to whisper. 

"I-I uh...I mean if he w-wanted to I-I'd..." It was rapidly becoming harder to form sentences. He felt his face heat up. Zoe wasn't supposed to know right? She might tell him. But then again she didn't seem the type to go blabbing other people's secrets and he was halfway there anyway. 

"If he wanted to be more I would uh...I would really like that."

Her face lit up and she clapped her hands together excitedly. "You have a crush on my brother? Great! Awesome, dude you guys would be great together."

"D-don't tell him please," he squeaked, glancing around to make sure Connor wasn't heading their way. 

"I've got you dude, pinky swear." She held out her pinky with a somber expression and he accepted. "Connor's changed a lot since high school," she said, eyes going out of focus slightly. "He has done a lot of work on himself. I'm really proud of him," she added quietly. 

"What was he like in high school? If you don't m-mind my asking," he mumbled. He knew Connor had had problems from the scars on his wrists and his accompanying habit of itching at them when he was uncomfortable. Connor thought he didn't see them. He did a decent job of hiding them but sometimes in happy and unguarded moments his sleeves slipped down his arms and he didn't notice. Sometimes Connor wore those scars like fresh and bloody wounds. At least now Evan didn't have to look down at his cast and feel shame bubble up in his throat. Connor would always have a reminder. He would have to make peace with his scars. 

"He was really angry a lot of the time and he'd have episodes where I thought he was a different person he was so paranoid and all over the place. Then, you know, he'd snap back and shut himself in his room and sleep for hours and smoke god knows what. He drank...and smoked a lot more than he ever does now. Mom and Dad thought the mood swings were just normal teenage things. They were worried, sure, but when it got to the point where he really needed therapy and medication they didn't want to believe it. I uh..."

She hesitated and Evan stopped to process all he'd heard. 

"We didn't have a great relationship. He was really mean and did some uh...some really stupid, hurtful shit when he was manic. But once he got the treatment he needed and we talked about all the shit that went down between us things started getting better. I even joined a support group for family members of people like Connor." She shook her head. "What I'm trying to say is that my brother has come a long way and sometimes I don't think he gets that. He thinks he doesn't deserve to be happy after all the pain he caused but..."

Here she looked him in the eye fiercely. "Evan, the past is the past. You can't change it. All you can do is be the best you you can now. And I think Connor is doing the absolute best that he can."

She was right. Of course she was right. But sometimes the past felt like it was never gone. 

"I didn't turn you off him did I?"

"Absolutely not." 

Connor came back and they quieted. Zoe winked at him but he didn't think her brother noticed. 

Everything after felt like a dream: Zoe's effortless playing, the sweetness of ice cream and chewing on the plastic of his straw, Connor asking him to dance and the feeling of his hand on his waist, his sudden surge of bravery and falling asleep beside him. The next day after Connor left he couldn't get the ridiculous grin off his face. Jared made fun of him good-humoredly but mercilessly as he recounted the night.  

The tears fell uncontrollably and inexplicably the day in the snow when Connor told him how he tried to end it. He didn't know he had those tears. In truth he didn't really realize how much he liked Connor Murphy until he saw him there, snow in his hair, thumbs nervously tracing the marks on his wrists, eyes concerned and full of shame. He thought about what Zoe said. He thought about the reckless and cruel Connor Murphy of high school. He thought about Connor as a scared and angry little kid with no one who believed he needed help. He thought about how different it would've been if they'd met then. Connor Murphy was nice. He was really so nice even if he didn't think so. 

It was weird telling someone other than his mom that he'd tried to kill himself. When he broke down and told her it was a release. And everyone who needed to know found out from her. It was hard to find the words at first, like before, but like before it was a release when the words came. 

Hugging Connor Murphy was even nicer than when he smiled. He was probably getting Connor's hair damp with his tears but he didn't really care. 

"Do you wanna come over and talk a little?"

"Yeah."

***

"Get the fuck out Evan I can't do this right now."

He was so tired. He'd been tired all week. The anxious, awful voice in his head told him all night that he needed to stay up studying or fail all of his finals. The voice was loud: an abrasive shout that made everything around him seem louder. He didn't mean any of it. He didn't mean any of it but it spilled out anyway. He thought maybe his organs were dissolving in his chest, another morbid thought intensified by exhaustion. 

"I'm sorry," he said aloud to no one. "I'm sorry. I'm so fucking sorry Connor."

Sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry

His head pounded and he tried to keep his breathing steady. He should go home. He should go home and get Jared. He always made him tomato soup and grilled cheese when he had a panic attack. He got him water and talked him through it even if it took hours for his hands to stop shaking.

"Evan? Evan are you alright you look...holy shit Evan come in and sit down." Jared's hair was mussed and he had a pencil tucked behind one ear. He had finals of his own. Evan shouldn't have been bothering him like this. 

"Evan can you do the breathing like they show you in therapy for me? I'm going to get you some water. You just sit. You're safe okay? Everything's going to be okay."

It didn't feel like it. It took a long time for Evan to calm down and when he did he was out like a light. 

Evan Hansen didn't want to be anyone's charity case. Evan could handle things by himself. He had to be making progress. He owed it to everyone around him. If he wasn't making progress why was he even here? Zoe's pride in her brother, her musings about how far he'd come only served to remind Evan of how much he hadn't. 

Failure failure failure failure failure failure failure failure fucking failure

He woke up to Jared yelling into his phone. "He came home a mess Murphy, wherever your piece of shit brother is is none of his concern anymore! I haven't seen him this bad in a long time Zoe I don't know what the fuck happened! No you calm down! My best friend just had a panic attack because of your brother I..."

"Jared," Evan interrupted "Jared give me the phone."

"Evan, you need to go back to bed what are you...?" Evan grabbed the phone and supported himself on the counter. He was still a little dizzy with fatigue. 

"Zoe what's wrong?" 

"Evan? Jared just said you were...are you okay?"

"More or less. Where's Connor?"

"I don't know. I got home and he wasn't here. I've been calling his cell and he's not picking up. He always picks up; we talked about it." He could hear the worry in her voice. "I thought he might be with you. I'm so sorry I called I didn't..."

"No, it's fine. I'm sorry. We had a fight but it's my fault. I'll find him okay? Don't worry."

"Damn you didn't stutter once just then."

"Don't p-push it. I'll call you."

Jared was glaring daggers. "I don't trust him. You need to take care of yourself. You shouldn't be out looking for that asshole."

"He matters to me."

"You matter to me." His voice strained like it was about to crack. On the phone he'd called him his best friend. 

"I'll be right back okay? I'll be back and then I'll rest."

"You can't put him over your own health and wellbeing."

"I'm not. I'm fixing something I screwed up."

"Fine." Jared threw his hands up "Find, just drink some orange juice and take a vitamin first."

He called Connor twelve times. On the twelfth call he got a text: Harriisonb Paek. Connor usually made typos but this was a little much. After a second he made out Harrison Park. It was a 5 minute drive. 

Connor was on the swing set. He had a bottle of something in his hand and when Evan got close he could smell the pot. 

"Hey," he said softly. 

"Hey," he replied, word drawn out and slurred in a way that made Evan's jaw clench. 

"What do you have there?" He asked and Connor held up the bottle of whiskey and giggled. 

"Don't tell Zoe," he said with a grin. "I just needed something to take the edge off you know?" He scratched at his wrists furiously. Evan thought he saw blood. 

"I won't." He kept scratching so Evan kelt in front of him and took his wrists. 

"I'm sorry," Connor said miserably. "I shouldn't have thrown you out. I shouldn't have come here. My therapist is going to..."

"I'm sorry okay? I shouldn't have said what I did. You're right. I'm not doing so well and I'm taking it out on you."

"Evan," Connor drawled, reaching out and cupping Evan's face. His wrists were scratched bloody. "I'm a fucking mess Evan why are you here?" Connor did something entirely unexpected: he started to cry, deep, gut wrenching sobs that shook his whole frame. He hiccuped pitifully. 

"Con, hey Con it's alright. You're allowed to slip up honey. I'm not going to leave you for that. Tomorrow will be better sweetie." God, apparently he turned into his mother when he needed to comfort someone. 

He leaned up to hug Connor, who smelled awful and was getting mucus all over him. "You can't do this again. You can't disappear. You can't worry your sister like that. Or me."

"I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too. Let me take you home okay?"

"Okay." He helped him up. Connor was unsteady on his feet. He helped him to the car and he fell asleep in the passenger seat before they got back. Evan carried him to the front door. Connor was surprisingly light. He wasn't sure he could until Connor was in his arms. 

Zoe was frantic. She showed him Connor's room in relieved sighs. "I'm so sorry Evan. I'm so sorry. You shouldn't have to do this he's not your responsibility." 

"It's okay. I don't mind, really."

"Evan," she choked. "Jared said you had a panic attack, a panic attack about my dumbass brother. That can't happen."

"Panic is part of my life Zoe. So is Connor. I'm not giving up because of one rough night."

She laughed. She had been running her hands through her hair nervously but now she was laughing. "He's a lucky piece of shit you know? He's lucky he has you."

"Zoe..."

"I love him."

"I know. He knows," Evan sputtered. Before he could process she was crushing him with a hug. For the second time in an our a Murphy was sobbing on him. He was exhausted but he felt strong. 

"You should go. You should sleep."

"Okay," he said. "Tell him to call me."

"Thank you Evan."

"You're welcome Zoe."

***

*incoming call: Mom*

"Hi Mom."

"Hi honey. Is everything alright? You sound tired. Are you eating enough sweetie?"

"I-I'm doing okay. I'm trying."

"That's all you have to do honey. I'm so proud of you."

"I...Mom?"

"Yeah sweetie?"

"Do you think I've made progress since high school? Be honest with me."

"Evan of course you have. You just have to take things one day at a time."

"Sometimes I feel like I'm standing still."

"That's okay. Everyone moves at a different rate. You're doing really well honey. Trust me."

"Thanks Mom."

"So what's new?"

"Um...I kind of met someone."

Chapter Text

When Connor was little and things weren't so hard he went on a family trip to Kings Island. His dad bought him and Zoe orange sherbet push up popsicles and his mom took them on the carousel. Zoe convinced him to go on the roller coaster with her even though he was scared and got nauseous easily. It didn't end well. He threw up the second he was off the ride and later fainted out of a combination of fear and the heat. On the ride home he curled up in the seat beside Zoe and asked her about what had happened. He was still woozy and the events of the day blurred.

"I'll tell you if you want but I think you'd rather not know," she had said. She said something similar the night after his fight with Evan. 

He had a raging headache and his mouth tasted like dirt but he wanted to know. 

"He brought you home dummy. He went and found you and brought your drunk ass home," she said. "That's not his job you know?"

"I know it isn't," he said, putting his aching head in his hands. "I've really fucked myself over haven't I? There's no way I have a chance now."

"Did you hear what I said doofus? Evan Hansen tracked you down, got you in the car, and carried you to bed. I think he gives more than a passing shit."

"He carried me?" His face burned. 

Zoe sighed and handed him the aspirin. "Look, from the look of it you two made up last night, but I think you should go do it again now that you're sober. And you can't do this okay? If you're having trouble you need to call me not get wasted and ghost on us."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"I trust you. You can't go and betray that trust."

"I'm really sorry Zoe."

He avoided Evan for a few days out of embarrassment. According to Jared, Evan was on bedrest for the rest of the weekend and was only permitted to leave the house for his finals next week. Connor knew he hadn't been wrong. Sleep deprived and sick with anxiety, Evan's words were sharp and hurtful. Connor knew he didn't mean it, but standing in his kitchen, feeling totally at home and finally in control, they hit him like blows. For a moment the voice in his head that never failed to berate him turned into Evan. 

When they saw each other again Connor blurted out an awkward apology and thrusted a hot chocolate in his hands. Evan, as per usual, was sweet and accepting and even invited him over. 

"How were your finals?" Connor asked hesitantly. Connor's had gone fine for the most part. 

"Really well actually," he said sheepishly. "I guess I was worried for nothing like always."

"Don't beat yourself up. Now you know to be more confident in yourself."

Evan nodded. "That's what Jared said."

Connor ducked his head and rubbed at his wrists. "I guess Jared hates me now."

"He'll come around," Evan said firmly. "He worries. That's all. I told him that the fight was my fault anyway."

The trip to Kings Island was one of the last times he felt like a normal kid in a normal family. Shortly after he began seeing himself as the family disappointment. 

"It was my fault too. I shouldn't have kicked you out like that."

"It's in the past. Let's stop talking about it."

Connor liked the brisk way he said that, as if reciting from a book of rules he'd recently memorized. The next few weeks were better. School was winding down in preparation for the holiday break and Evan had more time to breathe and waste hours in the coffee shop. 

"I'm serious bro, you've got to tell him today," Zoe said, counting the ones in the register. "You know him. He's going to want extra time to pack if he decides to come."

"He might say no," he replied, snapping the rubber band on his wrist. It was a better habit than scratching at his scars. "He could have plans."

Connor had his hair pulled up into a pollyanna. He thought it looked stupid until one day when Evan walked in and complimented him profusely. 

"I'll do it today," Connor said. 

It was one of those days where Evan came in after his morning class and sat there for hours, working on homework and sipping hot chocolate.  Connor decided to ask him when he brought him a refill. 

"Hey Ev," he smiled. "How's it going?"

"Did you know the tallest tree is a redwood called Hyperion? It's 379.7 feet tall!"

"No I didn't," he said. "That's really cool. I brought you another hot chocolate."

"Thanks!"

Stop pining Murphy. Just spit it out. 

"I um...you probably have plans but Zoe and I were wondering if you'd like to come home with us for the holidays? You can meet my parents and uh...I mean obviously you don't have to. It would be three days. It's a four hour drive so I understand if you..."

"Yes," Evan cut him off. 

"What?" Connor said dumbly. 

"My mom has to work over the holiday anyway. If I went home I'd just be alone."

That image made Connor sad for a moment. He'd heard all about the hard working and compassionate Heidi Hansen but the thought of Evan in his house all alone made his heart clench. 

"You think they'll l-like me? I'm not great w-with new people."

"They'll love you. How could they not love you? You're only the sweetest person ever."

Evan blushed and when Connor comprehended his words he did too. He snapped the rubber band again. "Okay, I'll text you the details then. Thanks Evan."

You make everything better Evan. 

"He's coming," he told Zoe. 

"Yes! Is he excited? Did he seem like he was excited? He's so cute when he's excited."

"Shut up Zo."

***

"So I'm going to bring the sweater and my usual jacket but which pants should I bring?" Connor dug through his drawers nervously and Zoe rolled her eyes. "He knows what you look like doofus. It doesn't matter what you wear."

Connor's phone pinged and he checked the message:

EH: I'll see you soon! Can't wait. :)

He grabbed a bottle of iced coffee. It was his second of the morning. 

"Quit drinking those. You're gonna crash when we get there and it'll just be me, Evan, and them."

He was nervous. Going home always made him nervous but this time was different. Going home with Evan meant letting him in to a part of himself he'd tried to bury. 

Evan sat shotgun so Zoe could stretch out in the backseat. Connor put on his music: a strange conglomeration of Green Day, Nirvana, and classical piano. The last of which made Evan laugh when it came on. 

"It's soothing!" He protested. "It's like your ambient music." When they ran out of his music they put on Zoe's (mostly pop songs with a good amount of classic rock, Spanish guitar music, and sappy love songs that reminded her of Alana.) Evan fell asleep beside him and he chugged another iced coffee before they pulled in the driveway. 

He nudged him and Evan's eyelids fluttered adorably. "We're here." 

"Is my hair messed up?" He asked. It was, a little, but Connor reached up and smoothed it instead of answering him. 

"You look great," he said. "My parents are going to love you. You'll be the son they never had."

"Con..."

"I'm kidding. I'm fine. C'mon Zo we're here." 

The house looked the same: yellow paint and wreath on the door. His mom welcomed them at the door. 

"Mom this is Evan Hansen. Evan this is our mom."

"It's very nice to meet you Mrs. Murphy," Evan said politely, and Connor was proud of the way he kept his voice even. 

"Please, call me Cynthia. It's a pleasure to have you Evan."

They shuffled in past the photos of him and Zoe that hung on the wall. They were mostly before his mental health started getting bad. It was as if life stopped just as he entered middle school. There were buck toothed group shots and dorky school photos nestled in neat frames. 

"I hope you like roast chicken Evan," his mom said. 

"You're making mashed potatoes right?" Zoe asked. 

"Larry they're here!" Mom called. 

Larry Murphy wiped his hands on a dish towel. 

"Dad this is Evan Hansen," Zoe said. Larry extended his hand and shook Evan's.

"Nice to meet you Evan."

"Nice to m-meet you too sir," Evan said. Connor got the feeling he was better at meeting moms than dads. 

"How about you take Evan up to where you'll be sleeping while Zoe sets the table?"

Zoe rolled her eyes. "I just got here and you're already putting me to work."

"Sure," Connor said. "It's right up here," he grabbed Evan's hand instinctively and saw Larry's eyebrows raise. 

"My room's over here." He didn't let go as they climbed the stairs and entered Connor's old bedroom. He cringed at the teddy bear still stationed on his bed and My Chemical Romance posters on the wall. "I can sleep on the floor. You take the bed."

"N-no I can't s-sleep in your bed," Evan mumbled. 

"I insist Hansen. Now can you braid hair?"

"B-braid?" Evan was pink again. 

"Yeah, can you help me out?"

"I'll t-try." 

Connor sat on the edge of his old bed and thought about all the times he'd cried in this room. He thought about the blood shed and obscenities screamed and boys daydreamed about in here. Evan's hands shook as he braided. "I like your room."

Connor laughed. "Thanks Hansen."

"Your parents seem nice."

"They're nice enough."

"M-my dad left when I was little. I don't really remember him."

"I'm sorry." He couldn't put together why someone would want to leave Evan. 

"It's okay. I'm done." He secured the braid with a hair tie. "You were kind of emo weren't you?"

"Shut up."

They had roast chicken, mashed potatoes, and asparagus for dinner. Mom was planning something even more extravagant for Christmas dinner but the house was already uncomfortably suburban. The Christmas tree was decorated with red and green ornaments. There was a model manger on the mantel and the house was lined with lights. 

"What are you studying Evan?"

"Environmental science," he said brightly. Across the table Zoe grinned at Connor

"The sciences," Larry chimed in. "There's something useful, not like Connor's English degree."

Evan frowned. "I think English is plenty useful."

Cynthia smiled at him. "Of course."

"Oh please, his degree's about as useful as his ridiculous hair."

"Dad," Zoe warned. Connor's jaw was tight. Evan looked over at him with worry and after a moment put his hand on Connor's leg. 

They strayed to Zoe for a moment and the conversation was alright. Zoe showed them a video Alana took of the concert. Mom and Dad didn't know Alana was Zoe's girlfriend. She'd made him promise not to tell.

The night started to wind down and Connor felt a vague buzzing in his fingertips. 

"Hey Con, did you take your meds?"

"Oh shit, no I forgot." He got up from the table and Larry scoffed. 

"Back in my day men solved their own problems. None of this chemical garbage."

Evan visibly tensed. Connor did to want to start a fight. For once he was too tired. 

"Larry please," his mom began. 

"With all due respect Mr. Murphy, medication is a very useful and in cases like my own a vital part of treatment for mental illness. That's what your son has. Illnesses need medicine," Evan said.

The silence hung. Evan turned white.  

"I like him," Cynthia said. "Evan honey would you like some more chicken? Connor go take your medicine so we can get to dessert."

After dinner Connor stalked to the back porch while Zoe showed Evan the rest of the house. No one was going to bother him so he lit a joint and took a long drag. He hadn't wanted to get high this weekend, not with Evan here, but the pot made the horrendous scene at dinner more bearable. 

"Con? You okay?" He turned around to see Evan in the doorway. His brow furrowed. "Are you smoking?"

"Sorry," he said reflexively. "I only brought the one joint I promise."

Evan closed the door and came to stand beside him. 

"You wanna try?"

"I'm fine."

"Thanks for what you did back there. I get tired of fighting with him. It feels pointless."

"You're okay right?"

"I'm fine. I just needed something to take the edge off."

"We have very different ways of relieving stress."

"Why, what do you do?" He looked over at him with a lopsided grin.  

"Cry, or garden."

Later that night Connor sat on his bed and thought about, with a squirming feeling, how much he liked Evan Hansen. You have it bad Murphy. You have it so bad. Evan was in the bathroom brushing his teeth and changing into his pajamas. Connor passed the time by painting his nails. 

"Are you sure I shouldn't sleep on the floor? I really don't mind." Evan's PJs consisted of a blue and white baseball shirt and the shortest shorts. Connor nearly choked on air. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," he replied. "And I want you to have the bed. I'm just not tired yet. Do you want to talk for a bit? I have a cool nightlight."

Evan nodded eagerly. When Connor still lived in the house of ghosts he went to bed with a blanket of fake stars. They shown above them squeezed into Connor's old twin bed. They spoke in gentle whispers that reminded Connor of sleepovers when he was very young and had friends to invite over. 

"Is it usually like that?" Evan asked softly after a minute or two of pointless questions. (Evan's favorite color: blue, book: My Side of the Mountain, food: his mom's tacos, ice cream flavor: peanut butter.) 

"Yeah...I mean it used to be a lot worse. I uh, I mean I know he cares. He's just set in his ways you know?"

"I know but it doesn't make it okay." Evan rolled over to face him. His face was so close. If Connor leaned forward an inch he could kiss him. God, how he wanted to kiss him. 

Connor had known he was gay since about 5th grade. He got crushes on every boy in his class. He doodled his name attached to whichever boy captured his attention in notebooks. Connor Murphy was a not so secret romantic. He'd dreamed of kissing boys in this room, though it never happened. It wasn't going to happen tonight. 

"I know it isn't okay. But that's family right?" 

Evan nodded slowly. "I guess." He leaned forward so his head was resting on Connor's chest. Connor felt like he could fall asleep right there. But he didn't. 

"I get it I guess. I mean...I can't solve my problems without my medication. I'm not like him. I'm not a real man."

"S-stop it with that t-toxic m-masculinity bullshit," Evan said firmly. It was funny to hear him stumble over a term like toxic masculinity. 

"I'm trying," he said weakly. Sometimes it hit him all at once: how hard he'd been trying for so long, all the progress he'd made and yet the approval that constantly eluded him. It made all the work seem more exhausting. "I did a lot of bad shit Evan," he continued, voice cracking. "I wrecked my dad's car. I threatened to kill my sister. I stole shit.  I said terrible things. I...I don't know Evan sometimes the past seems like too much to get over. Sometimes," he whispered, ashamed of the words as soon as they came out. "I think it would've been better if I'd just died when I tried to."

Suddenly Evan's arms were around him. He pressed his head closer to Connor's chest and clung on tightly. "I think you're great Connor Murphy. I think you're great and I'm so lucky to be here with you. I'm so lucky. I never want you to leave Connor, not like that."

He sucked in a breath and was aware of his lungs and ribs and skin over his veins. He breathed in and thought about what it meant to be alive.

"I'm lucky," he replied. "I'm really the lucky one Hansen."

They were silent for a moment, and when Evan detached himself from Connor's chest Connor moved from the bed to the sleeping bag. As much as he wanted to fall asleep curled around Evan he knew it wasn't a good idea.

"Goodnight Hansen."

"Night Connor."

***

The next morning Connor asked his mother for permission to commandeer the kitchen for breakfast. Evan agreed to help him. 

"Mom always wants us to make her fancy coffee now so I thought I'd take her up on it this time," he said. A good night's sleep had done him some good. He felt less like his brain was oozing out of his scalp. 

"That's awfully nice of you," Evan said, looking bewildered at the sugar water Connor had put on the burner. "Can I help with anything?"

"You can grab me some ice," he replied, stirring the simple syrup and preparing another saucepan to steam some milk. 

"What are you making?"

"I was thinking some lattes and iced mochas provided we have chocolate syrup. I'm also going to make eggs and toast so we're not all bouncing off the walls with caffeine overload."

"So you make breakfast a lot?"

"Zo and I switch off on the weekends. I like cooking."

Evan brought him the ice cube tray and he plugged in the blender. The caramel was done and he located the chocolate syrup in the cabinet. He turned off the coffee pot and poured a portion of the coffee into the blender with the ice. To this he added some cream, simple syrup, chocolate syrup, and vanilla extract. Evan watched him with interest. 

"Can you crack some eggs in a bowl and see if we have any shredded cheese in the fridge please?"

Evan nodded vehemently and turned back to the fridge. 

"Shit, sorry Evan I forgot my meds and I should probably take them before my dad gets up. Do you think you can grab the pill bottle from my bag upstairs?"

"Sure," Evan abandoned the eggs and darted down the hallway. 

The house was quiet in the morning. Connor eyed the photos and magnets on the fridge. He remembered why it was so easy to get lonely here. In high school it had felt like no one really knew him, like if he died anyone could make up anything about the person he was and no one would question it. He imagined people would pick and choose the parts of Connor Murphy they wanted to remember. They'd piece together a puzzle with missing pieces: his mental illness, greasy hair, nasty attitude, sexuality. It wasn't until college that he felt truly known. God, how it helped to be known. 

Evan came back and he thanked him as he swallowed his pills dry. 

"Do you want me to show you how to do the cute latte designs?"

"Absolutely!" Connor had never seen someone who by all accounts didn't drink coffee get so excited about it. 

"Alright." He poured the remaining hot coffee into his mom's nice round coffee cups and handed Evan a cup of steamed milk. "It's kind of tricky so don't be upset if it doesn't work out okay? Now you've gotta pour from one side to the other and shake the cup of milk as you go to get the pattern. Go slowly okay?"

"Okay," Evan said, face scrunched up in concentration. He followed his instructions to make a shaky flower. 

"Great job Evan. You're a natural."

"Now you do one."

Connor took his own milk and carefully crafted a foam heart over the top of the coffee. He glanced over at Evan, who was a lovely shade of rose. "I'd say one was for you but you don't drink coffee." Smooth Murphy. 

"Th-thanks anyway."

"No problem. You wanna put whipped cream on the mochas while I do the eggs?"

"S-sure."

Breakfast went swimmingly. Mom loved the lattes and Dad was a sucker for unnecessarily sweet caffeinated beverages. 

Mom had planned a baked ham, roasted squash and zucchini, fresh baked bread, and a pumpkin pie for Christmas dinner. She was busy in the kitchen all day while Larry was in emergency conference calls for work.  Zoe had plans to visit some of her high school friends, and because Connor didn't have any of those, it was just him and Evan.

"It's funny, they say the holidays is for spending time with your family and all that and yet it's just us."

Evan laughed. He'd convinced him to drink half of a mocha and Evan was running on a caffeine high. Connor thought about what would've happened if he'd tried the weed and grinned. 

"We could watch some movies? I bet all the dumb Christmas ones are on TV."

"Don't lie. You know you love all the sappy Christmas crap," Evan giggled. He actually giggled like a dork. 

"Fine, fine okay let's watch Love Actually."

Evan was sitting close, socked feet tucked beside him. Partway through the movie he leaned his head on Connor's shoulder. By the end of the movie Evan was asleep and leaning heavily on him. Connor was trying very hard to maintain his chill. 

"Connor honey do you know what time your sister is...oh," his mom came into the living room and smiled softly. "He's a very sweet boy," she whispered. 

"Yeah mom."

"Are you two...?"

"We're friends mom, just friends," he said, face heating up. His mom knew he was gay. His dad didn't. 

"But do you...?"

"Yeah," he interrupted. "I...yeah."

She smiled again. "He's really very sweet."

Evan complimented his mom's dinner and Zoe told stories about high school that didn't make him look like such a loser. Larry was bearable and Connor felt more at home than he'd ever felt. 

After dinner he snuck out back, pulling Evan along with him. It was snowing and he felt the cold in his fingertips. The cold burned his lungs. "My mom loves you you know?" He said breathlessly. "She thinks you're great."

"I am great," Evan said uncharacteristically. Connor cackled.  

"Yeah, yeah you are. Hey can I ask you a question?"

"Sure." 

"Do you have a crush on my sister?" He asked. 

Evan looked down. Suddenly Connor felt so hot he didn't mind the snow. 

"I used to," he muttered. "Um...now I don't. Now she's just a good friend."

"You don't have to lie to make me feel better. It's okay."

"I'm not lying. I like someone else now."

Don't cry Murphy. He'll feel bad if you cry and that's not fair. 

"Oh, okay."

At least he knew. It was better to know. 

***

It was New Year's Eve. It was New Year's Eve and Evan's roommate was throwing a party. Zoe was invited and Evan had talked Jared into inviting him too. 

He let Zoe pick out his clothes and do his hair. She even gave him a little eyeliner because it looked badass (her words not his.) They brought a bottle of champagne and Jared warmed up to him quickly. 

"Hey Ev." Connor found him quickly. He was standing in a corner by himself holding a drink. He looked nervous. Connor wanted to kiss him. 

"You made it!" He sounded too loud in the crowded room. He swayed on his feet. 

"Yeah I did. Are you drunk?" 

"A little! Jared said I should relax more."

"Good," he said. "Good, he's right." 

"Do you wanna drink?!"

"I'm not drinking tonight, but I'll take a soda if you have one."

"Yeah!" He grabbed his hand and  pulled him into the kitchen. His hand was kind of sweaty but Connor didn't mind. 

"Do you know anyone else here?"

"They're mostly Jared's D&D and trivia friends," he said in a loud stage whisper. 

"Ah, so it's a nerd party?"

"Shut up!" He hit him on the chest playfully. Connor reached for his arm to steady him. 

"You're such a dork I bet you only had one drink."

"Shut up," he repeated, slinging his arms around Connor's neck and pulling him down for an awkward hug that brought their faces too close together. 

"You're doing a good job at relaxing huh Ev?"

"What time is it?"

"11:45."

"Let's go outside!"

"It's freezing dork."

"C'mon!" Evan's eyes were shiny and his lips were very red. 

"Sure, okay."

"It's been such a great year hasn't it? I met you this year Con. How great is that?"

"It's pretty great."

Evan's smile was wide and his nose was running from the cold.

"I think you're my favorite person," Evan said. "Well probably my mom too but you're definitely up there."

"What about this new crush of yours?" He said bitterly. He felt dumb. The first crush he'd had in years and he liked someone else. He was cute and drunk and liked someone else. 

Evan giggled again. "Jared says I have a Murphy kink."

"I thought you didn't like Zoe anymore?" He folded his arms over his chest protectively. 

"I don't."

"I don't get you. And anyway it's 11:56 we should go back."

"Con it's you."

"It's me what?"

"What time is it?"

"11:57."

Evan took a step closer. "I think you're great."

"You said that already."

"Shut up Murphy."

"Okay."

"You deserve so much."

"I don't know about that."

"You do."

"Evan," his voice cracked despite himself.

"What time is it?"

"11:59." Inside he could hear the party goers counting down. 

"Connor I like you," he said. 

Connor could feel his heart pounding.  "Like as a friend?"

"No, like in the gay way. Or more like the bi way cause I'm bi. What time is it?" 

"It's midnight Hansen."

Evan Hansen kissed him. He tasted like beer and bubble gum. He kissed him for a long time and Connor kissed him back. He curled his arm around Evan's waist. It was midnight on New Year's Eve and he was kissing Evan Hansen. They drew back at the same time. 

"I like you too," he said.

"Oh thank god," Evan replied. "Cause that would've been really bad."

"You look really cute."

"No you do."

"We should go inside. It's freezing."

"Okay, hey Con do you wanna go out sometime?"

"Yeah doofus we can do that. Let's go back inside before you freeze to death okay?"

"Okay."

The rest of the party was boring by comparison. When he and Zoe went home he couldn't get the smile off his face. Evan waved at them from the porch. 

"What are you smiling at weirdo?" She asked. 

"Oh, nothing. I'll tell you later."

Chapter Text

Evan Hansen lived in feelings: the warmth of a paper coffee cup in his hand, the taste of laughter and Jared's cheap liquor in his throat, the stinging cold of snow beneath his worn tennis shoes and the joy of Connor Murphy's chapped lips on his. Feelings, not words or sounds or expressions traded in dizzying and confusing fashion, made the gears of his brain turn. 

Anxiety was all about feeling. Panic was white hot and paralyzingly sometimes. Tears were wet and salty and felt like a hose in summertime: knotted and building up until his mom untangled it and the water came crashing in a burst that muddied the potting soil and drowned the more delicate flowers. 

The alcohol dulled feelings and at the same time excited them. Everything felt louder and more blurred together like a cityscape through a rainy window. Feelings slipped from his grasp in the brightness and yet everything felt more

Connor Murphy was wearing eyeliner. He could see it from across the room. The eyeliner brought out the weird colors of his eyes. Maybe Jared was right and he did have a thing for Murphys because Zoe looked radiant too. She'd curled her hair and was smiling brightly at Alana whose arm was hooked in hers. 

When he looked at Connor Murphy he couldn't help but feel all over the place. The closer he came the more Evan felt. 

"Hey Ev," he said. His voice was kind of hoarse and he looked like a dream. 

Evan was going to kiss him tonight. 

The next morning Evan woke up with a headache and drool on his face. The night came back in pieces: Connor's hair brushing against his face, the giddy high feeling just after they kissed, Jared's persistent teasing and Evan's ridiculous laughter all night afterward. Apparently he laughed a lot when he was drunk. He laughed a lot and he talked too loudly. 

It was nearly 11 and he wanted to see Connor. 

"Hey, are you alright?" Jared asked when he stumbled into the kitchen. The lights were too bright. Jared looked pretty haggard himself. 

"I'm fine. Just hungover. Good party Jared."

"Thanks Ev, have you talked to Murphy yet?" He grinned. Jared was starting to warm up to Connor Murphy. 

"Not yet...I was gonna go over to his house."

"Right now?"

"Yeah."

"Eager much?"

"Um...yeah. I want to make sure everything that h-happened when I was drunk is okay n-now that I'm sober."

Jared's expression softened. "He really likes you Ev. Those are like totally pining eyes. Trust me."

"Thanks...I um, it's probably a bad idea but..."

"No, it's okay. You should go. Tell the Murphys I said hi."

Evan didn't bother changing out of his pajamas. He tucked his plaid pajama pants into his snow boots and put on his coat. Connor's house wasn't far. 

A slightly disheveled Connor Murphy answered the door. His hair was a mess and his eyes looked tired but he looked happy to see him. "Hey Hansen. What's up?"

"I..." This was stupid. His face burned as he realized the full extent of his actions. He'd shown up the next morning at the house of a boy he'd drunkenly kissed expecting...what? "I don't know really I just wanted to see you I guess."

"Well I'm glad you're here. Do you want to come in?"

Evan tugged at the edge of his coat. "I think we should talk about last night," he said so quickly it came out more like: Ithinkweshouldtalkaboutlastnight. 

Connor's face fell. "Oh, okay we can.."

"I mean because I really liked last night and I want to make sure everything was okay."

"Hansen if you regret it we can just..." Connor snapped the rubber band on his wrist. 

"No! No, that's not what I mean I've just never kissed anyone before and I worried that maybe I did it wrong. I kind of wanted to do it sober you know?"

Connor's eyes widened. The cold wind was chilling his legs through the pajama pants. "I was your first kiss?"

Evan looked down to avoid meeting his eyes. "I'm not l-like you. I don't have boys f-fawning all over me."

"I don't have boys fawning over me Ev. That was my first kiss too."

Evan's head shot up so quickly he thought his neck might've cracked. "It was? I'm so s-sorry! I didn't mean to..."

"It's fine Hansen." He reached forward and grabbed both of Evan's hands. His hands were warm. "I'm glad it was you."

"It didn't suck?" He asked. He hadn't thought about it when it was happening but he thought about it now. Evan was very good at overthinking. It had been good if he was remembering things correctly but there was a definite chance that he wasn't. 

"It was great Hansen. You're a great kisser."

"You mean drunk me."

"No I mean you. Kiss me again. I'll prove it."

"I c-can't." He blushed. "I can't just k-kiss you."

"Why not? You did last night."

"I was drunk. I'm not that daring when I'm sober."

"Daring?" Connor let out a breathy laugh. "What are you scared of me?"

"No! It's not...a little. Like scared in the nervous excited way."

Connor was grinning. His breath was visible in the cold air. "Kiss me Ev," he repeated. "Kiss me and then come in and have some of Zoe's chocolate chip pancakes."

"Promise you won't laugh if it's bad?"

"I won't laugh. And it won't be bad."

"You're going go have to lean down a little."

"Alright."

It was nicer this time. The feeling was less tilting and heart pounding-ly in his throat. It was gentler and more calming. Connor's hand on his waist anchored him. 

"It was good," Connor said when they broke apart. "Very good." It might have been his imagination but Connor looked a little pink. 

"I can have pancakes then?"

"Yeah, come in before you freeze your ass off."

He could smell the pancakes before he could see Zoe making them. He was suddenly aware of how hungry he was and how badly his head still ached. 

"I know you don't drink coffee but you look like you could really use a cup," Connor said, pouring him a mug and gesturing to a seat at the kitchen table. The more time he spent in the Murphy house the more he liked it. The table was cluttered with paperback novels and sheet music that Connor pushed aside to make room for the plates. The big windows let in the sun that gleamed brilliantly when reflected off the snow outside. Zoe had on the radio and a gentle voice announced the songs in between car dealership jingles. The Murphy house had the comfortable air of a place that was just waking up. Movements were slow and sleepy and Connor poured out the last of a jug of orange juice before opening a new bottle. 

Zoe, dressed in a big sweatshirt with rips at the sleeves, smiled at him as she served up a couple of pancakes with a spatula. "Happy New Year Evan Hansen. Careful, those might be a little hot."

"Thanks Zoe," he replied. Connor was trying to manage his mess of hair. It was tangled around his face and stuck out in the back. He gave up after a moment and pulled the mess into a ponytail. 

"Eat your pancakes Ev, they're world famous." Connor had a smile that made his shoulders relax and chest warm up from the inside. With a smile like that he was surprised he had been his first kiss and not some other boy, some beautiful, confident boy years ago who was better than him. 

Evan sat across the table from the Murphy siblings and ate pancakes and drank coffee while they talked and laughed and ate their pancakes too. 

"So," Zoe said at last, voice drawn out. Her foot was up on a chair and her brother was painting her toenails. "Are you two like a thing now or...?"

"Yes," Connor said. He smiled that smile at him again. "I mean...we are aren't we? You want to date right Evan?"

"Why would you say yes before you asked him doofus?"

"Yes, I want to date if you want to date."

"I want to date."

"You dorks are hopeless."

"Hey Ev do you wanna make out in my room?"

"S-sure."

"Hopeless!" Zoe repeated, getting up to clear the plates. "Make good choices Evan!"

Kissing Connor was all feeling. It was breathlessness and joy and Connor's hands on his skin. "You're really pretty," Evan blurted out. He tended to word vomit when he was nervous, that is if he wasn't stuttering. "Why do you want to...I mean I'm not like you. I'm not..."

"You're pretty too," he said. His eyes were big and shiny and full of something Evan felt in his jaw and chest and fingertips. He loved the way Connor looked at him. 

"So how do we do this whole boyfriend thing?" Connor asked after they got tired of kissing (not that Evan would ever get tired of kissing him.)

"Um...I guess we k-keep going like usual but with more of that? And maybe we go out to dinner just the two of us?"

"Yeah, okay. I can do that. That doesn't seem as hard as..." Connor's jaw clenched. "I'm just good at fucking important things up you know? And this is important."

"You're not going to fuck anything up. I trust you." 

"That makes one of us." He snapped the rubber band at his wrist again. It was a habit that made Evan nervous because he knew it meant Connor was nervous. 

Evan kissed him. "Well you should have more faith in yourself."

"Like you're one to talk," he muttered. "And anyway you don't know about all of my past fuck ups. I'll find a way believe you me."

"Shut up, that's my boyfriend you're talking about."

The look on his face was priceless. He wondered if Connor got freckles in the summer. If he did Evan might just die. 

"Say it again."

Evan laughed. "My boyfriend Connor Murphy. My cute, sweet, smart, and capable boyfriend Connor...what's your middle name?"

"Lionel."

"Connor Lionel Murphy."

"You're dumb," he said, but he was smiling. 

"Yeah, and you need to brush your hair."

***

School started up again. Evan's classes got hard like they always did but this time he had Connor to study with and talk him through how to approach his professors about his anxiety. 

And he helped Connor edit his piece for his personal essay writing class and made him soup when he got the flu. 

They had movie nights every Thursday and most Fridays Evan had to wear a scarf or turtleneck to cover up the hickeys on his neck. They'd been dating for nearly three months and Connor Murphy had yet to fuck up. In fact he was doing excellently. 

He gave him a lot of free hot chocolate. "Hey Hansen, you sure you don't want whipped cream? Or some mini marshmallows?"

"I'm good Con. What's up?" He looked up at him in his hoodie and work apron. He didn't look as tired as he used to and his complexion was less pale and cheeks less sunken. 

Connor sat down. "Okay, so this was going to be a surprise but I know surprises make you anxious so I changed my mind."

"What are you talking about?"

He leaned in close. "You know how you said you never went to prom?"

"Yeah." He got a weird lonely feeling in the pit of his stomach. Prom made him think about high school which made him think about that day in the tree. 

"And I said I didn't either remember?" He added quickly and Evan felt guilty for the way his expression had clouded. 

"Yeah?"

"Well, I talked to Alana. Her parents own the shop I don't know if you knew that. Anyway, they're going to let us use the shop after hours to have our own prom. Zo and Alana wanna come and you can ask Jared and his nerd friends and Zoe's gonna get some music school kids to play a set and...get stop me if you hate this idea okay? Because you're allowed to hate it. I won't be mad or any..."

"You planned this all for m-me?" He croaked. If Connor Murphy got any sweeter Evan might turn into one of those people who posted about their significant other on social media ten times a day. He'd already tweeted a picture of Connor and a particularly cute latte design this morning. 

"Yeah Ev, do you like it?"

"Of course I do." It wasn't that he never wanted to go to prom. If he could have gone with Connor Murphy back in high school he would've in a heartbeat. "When is it?"

"Next weekend. I think that's enough time to get outfits and corsages and everything? I don't want you to worry about anything. I'm running this show."

"Thank you."

Connor cocked his head to one side. "Why are you thanking me? I'm just as pumped for prom as you are. And anyway you're my boyfriend, I'm supposed to do these sort of big, dorky things for you."

"Well thank you anyway."

"You're very welcome." He kissed him. "Okay, I've gotta get back to work now but I'll talk to you later Hansen."

Back at home Evan threw himself on his bed and sighed in dramatic exasperation. 

"Evan can I help you with something?" Jared asked, voice laced with sarcasm. 

"What should I wear to Connor prom?" He groaned. "I have absolutely nothing that looks decent on me. I look like shit in everything Jared why is he still with me?" 

"Whoa whoa whoa slow down there Hansen you're way hotter than Murphy and I'm not calling it Connor prom."

"I am not and you're not helping."

Jared went over to his closet and started rifling through it. "You know I don't hate him anymore right? I was wrong before. He's a good guy."

"Thanks, I know."

Jared flopped down beside him. "You've got that blue jacket and I've got some nice ties. Oh, or a bow tie that'd be nice."

"You're coming right? To prom?"

"Yeah..." Jared hesitated. "Actually there's this guy..."

"Yeah?" Evan's mouth quirked up.

"He's a junior, a TA for my advanced coding class..." Evan looked over to see the blush spreading over his roommate's face. "He's cute so I kept asking for his help with assignments and stuff even though I'm bomb at coding and I guess he caught on because last week he asked for my number."

"Ask him! Oh my god Jared what's his name?"

"Asher," he muttered. "I'm not sure he even really likes me. He's probably just being nice."

"Whoa whoa whoa are you or aren't you the insanely cool Jared Kleinman?"

Jared laughed. "Sure, whatever. I'll ask him."

They were quiet for a long moment. Evan tried to figure out whether or not the blue jacket was awful. 

"Hey are you and Murphy like...good? Like are you happy Ev?"

"I'm really happy."

"I'm glad. I want to be happy," he muttered. 

"Hey can I give you a hug?"

"Sure, nerd. Sure."

***

Zoe Murphy was an actual angel. She looked like an angel in her lavender dress that matched the tie Alana was going to wear. She sounded like an angel when she told him Connor prom wouldn't have a huge crowd and that Connor had been planning everything for weeks. 

"He thought it was a stupid idea but I convinced him it wasn't so you should really be thanking me," she said smugly. "Now what is this outfit crisis?"

Evan chewed on his lip and showed her the dark blue jacket with matching dress pants  and light blue button up. He'd borrowed a bow tie from Jared. 

"You're going to be so cute. You two are going to be the cutest couple there oh my god."

Evan laughed. "You're exaggerating and in any case you and Alana will be the cutest couple."

"You haven't seen what he's wearing Ev. You wanna do the face masks now?" Zoe Murphy was a literal angel. 

"S-sure," he replied. 

"Dude you have the nicest skin."

"Thanks," he mumbled. The face mask was green and smelled like mint and pine. When he closed his eyes he could pretend he was a leaf, which was comforting. 

"Hey I wanted to say thanks." He opened his eyes. 

"For what?" The mask was starting to crack on Zoe's forehead. Her hair was up in a magnificently floofy bun. The Murphy siblings were definitely cut from the same cloth. 

"For being so good to him and with him and for being patient and all. I know you'll say it's not work because you care about him but I do too and I know his bad days are hard and you've got stuff of your own to deal with so just thank you. Thank you for being here with me."

"You're welcome Zoe. Um...h-hey, we're friends r-right?" It was a stupid thing to ask. People who were confident and social and put together didn't need to ask the people they considered friends if they were really friends. They just knew. 

"Of course Evan! Of course we're friends. Here, hug me, just watch your face."

Zoe Murphy hugged like he thought an angel would. 

She was right, about Connor at least. He was going to be the prettiest person at his own prom. He showed up at Evan's front door in a velvet suit jacket that looked like it cost more than Evan's entire wardrobe. His nails were freshly painted and for once he didn't have a slew of rubber bands on his wrists. 

"How do I look?" He asked cheekily and Evan found that the ability to form coherent sentences had escaped him. 

"G-good. You l-look really g-good honey." 

Connor grinned. "Honey?"

"S-sorry it just slipped out."

"I brought you a corsage." He held out the cluster of blue flowers: blue bells, mourning glories, hyacinth. It was beautiful. 

"I can't believe you're doing this all for me," he whispered. 

"Well you better believe it Hansen because we're gonna be late for prom."

He offered his arm and Evan linked his arm in Connor's. They stared at each other for a moment before Jared came out on the patio. "You two are such gay dorks," he groaned. 

"You look nice," Evan said, because he did. Frankly, Evan couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Jared in anything but a tee shirt and khakis or pajamas. He cleaned up nicely. 

"Thanks," Jared muttered.

"Is Asher coming?" Connor's eyebrow quirked up. 

"He said he'd meet me there but he might just ditch me."

Connor frowned. "Why would he do that Kleinman?"

"I'm not some weird emo hunk like you Murphy," Jared grumbled. 

"Kleinman if he said yes then clearly he likes you."

"That's what I said," Evan grinned. 

"Now let's go and have fun at Evan's prom," Connor said. 

"You know he's been calling it Connor prom?" Jared said. Evan swatted him. 

The coffee shop looked fantastic. There were lights and streamers hung from the ceiling, a band in one corner, punch and pastries, and the tables were pushed aside so there was room for dancing. The music school kids and some of Alana and Jared's friends were already there. Zoe waved when they came in. She and Alana were dancing energetically.  

"Jared!" A tall guy with a mess of dark curly hair and a braces laden smile came up to them and handed Jared a corsage. "You look great. I brought you this. Is it too much?"

Evan and Connor looked at Jared in unison. He was bright red. 

"No it isn't," Connor answered for him. "You must be Asher. I'm Connor, the roommate's boyfriend. It's nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet you," he replied. He was very clearly just as much a nerd as Jared was. "So you're Evan! It's a pleasure." He shook Evan's hand and Evan saw he was wearing a calculator watch. 

"Nice to meet you too Asher," he said, nudging Jared who was still frozen. 

"You wanna get some punch?" Jared blurted and Asher nodded. 

"I never thought I'd meet someone nerdier than Kleinman. The dork has braces."

"Shut up, I had braces," Evan muttered. "He seems nice."

"Let's dance," Connor said. "Now that your such a good dancer." He winked at him. 

Dancing with Connor Murphy was all feeling too. The lights caught in his long lashes and Evan was thankful for their height difference because it made it easier to lean his head on his chest when he got tired. There were lots of slow songs and even during the upbeat numbers they stayed close together, feet moving in rhythm and smiles equally luminous.

"Happy prom Ev. I'm glad we got to go."

He looked up at him and thought about the first time he'd given him hot chocolate and smiled and told him he was the best customer of the day. 

"I love you."

"What?" Connor's eyes widened. "What was that Ev?"

"I l-love you Connor," he repeated. Why did he repeat it? Connor was looking at him like he had two heads. 

"Do you wanna go outside for a sec?" Connor's voice cracked and he fingered his wrist as Evan nodded and they made for the door. 

"Sorry," Evan said when they were outside. "I didn't mean to freak you out I just felt it so I said it. You don't need to say anything."

"Don't be sorry Hansen." He ran a hand through his hair. "I love you too you just surprised me and I thought maybe everything tonight would be too much for you and I was worried you were uncomfortable and I don't want this to be weird or anything but I love you a lot Ev and I'm so happy but if you're..."

"Hey, hey, slow down." Connor was rubbing at his wrists again so Evan reached out and took his hands. "Take a breath Con."

Connor nodded, eyes averted. "You love me?" Evan tried carefully. 

Connor met his eyes. "Yeah, I think I said that a couple of times in there."

"Thanks for prom Connor."

"You're welcome Ev."

"Everything's going to be okay you know? Well maybe not everything but the things that aren't we'll get through together."

"I love you Evan Hansen."

"I love you too Connor Murphy."

Evan didn't care for hot chocolate all that much. He didn't have much of a sweet tooth. When he came into the shop the first time he wanted to order tea but at the counter he got nervous and read the first thing off the menu. Then it became a habit. When Connor Murphy came into the picture he couldn't imagine ordering anything else. Now he couldn't imagine loving anyone else like he loved him. It was stupid how much he loved him. He loved him on good days and bad days, with scars and tears and too much caffeine. He loved his hair and his eyes and his smile and the way he made him feel safe and whole and capable. And Evan never felt capable. If this was real prom maybe things would be different. If they met somewhere else over a different drink maybe it wouldn't have worked out. But here, in the dim light from the shop, holding Connor's sweaty hands in his, it felt like they could be happy here. It felt like they could go on like this forever