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Re:Invention

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     For Jared, having a guy over at his house this late was normal. Hell, having two guys over was normal. It's just that usually, both of them would be alive, and neither would be wielding a scalpel in a shaky hand. Yet, here he was at 11:37 pm, with one anxious boy named Evan Hansen, and one corpse named Connor Murphy.

     Connor's body was gently draped onto a sofa, surrounded by several running fans and a portable cooler. Underneath his head was a large towel Evan had placed there in order to (hopefully) leave as little evidence on the couch of what he was about to do.

     He cringed as he forced himself to press his scalpel into the surface of the skin above Connor's skull. Once he had cut a clean incision through the skin, he used the scalpel and a small tong-like tool to loosen it and pull it off, revealing the bone underneath. In that moment, Evan was weirdly glad that Connor's heart wasn't still beating, because if it was, there would have been a looooooot more blood.
     "Uhhhm... Jere..? What do I do now?"
Jared swiveled around towards him in his chair seated at the computer before answering.
"Now, this is where the drill comes in, Ev. You're gonna want to drill a few wide holes around the diameter of the circle I'm drawing right now," He said, using a ballpoint pen to draw a large shape encompassing the entirety of the top half of Connor's head. "- and then you'll use a small bone saw to cut along the perforation you've made. After that, just pop off the bone and boom! We've got ourselves a brain."
     "Ahh-alright. G-got it,"
Of course, the entirety of what was going on made Evan sick to his stomach. He hoped Jared couldn't tell. (He didn't exactly have experience with "Drilling Wide Holes," wink wink.) He finally managed to get to the brain, and then gingerly pulled it out with his gloved hands after snipping the cord, trying very hard not to drop it due to his shaking arms and legs.
     "Trust me here, Ev. I'll have you know I'm an expert. I always do so well on those weird online surgery games, and this can't be that different!"

     By the time the worst of the trauma was over, Jared Kleinman had a human brain in a cooler next to him, albeit in individual, incredibly thin slices held in dozens of little plastic bags. (Evan had freaked out the entire time, making the first cut slightly uneven.) One by one, he scanned these pieces in, tagged their distinctive sections, and logged them together, all while filing them in every format he could think of.
     It was then that he realized that they had no plan as to what to do with the rest of the body.
He hurriedly shoved Connor's scalp back onto his head, stuffed his body back into the smartTomb, lugged it into his attic, and plugged it back in so it could function as if it was still where it was supposed to be - that is, six feet underground.
     He was lucky his new setup had so much data storage. He would spend the next week without more than two hours of sleep nightly, using his scans as reference for endless lines of code.
     It wasn't just a matter of mapping Connor's brain, oh no. He had to actually tell his computer what everything meant. He had to tell it what those meanings meant when it came to activity and responding. Then he had to tell it how to respond using actual words, in English. Every time he encountered a bug, or his software crashed, Jared just sighed deeply, took a swig of vodka he was in no way old enough for, and told himself, I'm doing this for money. I'm doing this for nearly $1150 in Evan's old Bar Mitzvah and birthday money... I'm gonna get paid get paid get paid gonna keep my car insurance.

---

     At the end of the week, 3AM Sunday morning, the scripts seemed ready to go. Jared backed them up onto his hard-drive, a google drive, and two flash drives. He closed all of his tabs and windows but one. With shaky hands and shaky breath, he started up an application.

     Loading. Please Wait.
     Preparing.
     Opening new save slot. Allow Connor to make changes to your files under the selected folders?
     Saving options. Please Wait.
     Please Wait.
     Please Wait.
     One Moment.
     Please Wait.

     Then, there it was. It wasn't exactly beautiful, Jared was a programmer, not a designer. He could ask Alana for aesthetic help later. It was a simple-looking program. A box for typing, and a response box.


     User: hello connor


Jared typed as Evan watched intently over his shoulder.

     Processing...

"J-jared, I - Well, is this really going to work?"

     Processing...

"It fucking better, Ev. Otherwise, we desecrated the body of a suicide victim for nothing." He let out a dry laugh.

     Processing...

Connor: Uh.
Connor: Hello?
Connor: What in the shit is going on?

     Jared actually squealed, wrapping his arms around Evan and hugging him tightly to his chest.
Then he collapsed and passed the fuck out.

Chapter Text

     After making sure Jared was actually breathing, Evan tossed a spare blanket over him and decided to let the poor guy sleep. It was then that he remembered Connor's AI (Conborg? Botnor?) was still running on the screen behind him.

Connor: Where the fuck am I?
Connor: And why can't I see shit???
Connor: Oh God.
Connor: I can't feel my legs.
Connor: Or anything else, for that matter?
Processing
Connor: I'm talking to myself, aren't I.

     Evan briefly wondered what Jared would say, before deciding not to give a shit. He sat down in Jared's chair and started to type. He was beginning to notice how hard it was to type with a cast. He could move his hand a little, but now lacked the motor skills in his left arm that were required for efficient typing. So slowly, he started to respond to this thing he had been an accomplice to creating.

User: hi connor!
Connor: Oh thank the Lord.
Connor: The voice is back.
User: im gonna try my best to answer your questions ok
Connor: Uh.
Connor: Alright, voice.
User: u can call me evan by the way
     Processing
Connor: Evan?
Connor: OK, Evan. You can start by answering me this:
Connor: Am I dead?

     Evan wondered what the right answer to that question was. Sure, Connor was dead. His brain was shut off. He had a funeral and everything - but - he wasn't really gone, was he? His personality was right here.

Evan: technically speaking, yes.
Connor: What.
Connor: The.
Evan: ur dead.

     Huh. Now that Connor knew Evan's name, it automatically labelled his input under it. That would probably piss off Jared once he woke up.

Connor: Fuck?
     
Processing
Connor: Really?
Connor: So is this like...
Connor: Purgatory or something?
Connor: Or is it Hell, since I can't see anything and I'm being punished by a disembodied voice in my head?
     Processing
Connor: Are you God?
Connor: Or am I just stoned out of my fucking mind, and this is the weirdest trip ever.

     Evan stifled back a noise somewhere between laughter and discomfort.

Evan: NO!
Evan: no no and no.
Evan: to all those things u just said.
Connor: Okay.
Connor: So what IS up, then?
Evan: its a long story
Connor: That's cool. Doesn't seem like I'm going anywhere anytime soon, anyway.
Connor: But if you're going to tell me, at least try to speed it up a little.
Connor: Because it takes you a long-ass time to reply, Evan.

     Evan would be offended if it wasn't true.

Evan: sorry dude! its just... its hard to type with one hand ok?!?
     
Processing
Connor: Typing with one hand?
Connor: ... Oh God.
Connor: Please tell me you aren't jacking off right now, Evan!
Evan: dude wtf!
Evan: ofc not?!!!
     
Processing
Evan the Jack-Off: i have a broken arm!
Evan the Jack-Off: did u really just change my name to evan the jack-off
Evan the Jack-Off: very mature

 

 

Chapter Text

While recovering from the soul-crushing blow to his  (non-existant)  ego that Connor(???) had delivered only hours ago, Evan managed to explain and discuss several things. First of all, Connor was in a computer. Or something along those lines. That was the most important thing out of the way, at least. Evan was prepared to answer several questions Connor had, such as;

     "How the fuck did you do that?" 
("I don't know, ask my friend when he wakes up. We stole your body, by the way.")

     "How do my parents feel about that?"
("They don't know - and hopefully, they never will.")

     "How am I talking to you?"
("Your thoughts get sent as text to me, and I type back. I guess my messages get broadcast inside your mind, huh?")

     "Why does your voice sound like an off-brand Siri crossed with that voice that announces stops on subways?"
("Haha. I don't know, it's probably the default text-to-speech on the computer. I can ask my friend to mess with the settings later if you want?"

     "Why can't I see? If I'm in a computer, shouldn't I see like, green binary code swirling around or something?"
("I don't know anything about computers, sorry. However, I know that that's not how computers work. You most likely need to be connected to a camera of some sort to see.")

And so on. Eventually though, Connor had a question that tripped Evan up. One that he stared at for a long time before even trying to think of something to say back.


Connor : So, why did you do this? 
Connor : Please, explain to me, why I have been chosen to become what I assume is some insane fucking experiment in 'How Far Humanity Can Push Technology', or whatever. 

     Evan gave an impatient nudge to the sleeping Jared behind him, hoping he would soon be awake enough to take over the "answering questions" department.

Connor
: ...
Evan, the Evil Scientist: well
Evan, the Evil Scientist: thats a goofd question
Evan, the Evil Scientist: *good
Evan, the Evil Scientist: haha typos, right?
Evan, the Evil Scientist: why are the f and the d so close on the keyboard
Evan, the Evil Scientist: almsot called ur question goofed lolol
     
Processing
Evan
: awkward, another typo
Connor: FOR FUCKS SAKE, EVAN!
Evan: sorry
Connor: Stop stalling.
Connor: You're spamming my fucking BRAIN so much that I was forced to shorten my nickname for you so I wouldn't have to hear it every goddamned time.
Connor: Fucking spit it out.
Evan: sorry haha
Evan: here i go. truth time.
Evan: u died the other week and for some reason, ur parents think we were friends and they were so happy u had a friend that i couldnt just say i didnt kno u? and then i heard u committed suicide and i felt really bad and also ur parents wanted these emails that i said we wrote to eachother, so ive been trying to make fake emails from ur perspective but jared keeps saying theyre nothing like you. and i said "wow i wish i could just ask connor what he'd say" and then jared was all like "oooOo maybe u can" and i was like "what" but then he said we totally could if i helped him steal ur corpse. wait that sounds so bad. if it makes u feel any better. he was really really drunk when he proposed the idea. and i was. slightly tipsy, i guess. so i promised to pay him all my bar mitzvah money for his help.
Evan: so yeah. 
    
 Processing
     Processing
     Processing
Connor: What the fuck what the fuck what the fuck what the FUCK.
Connor: Are you telling me that I successfully died and the first thing you do is bring me back?
Connor: So you can scam my shit parents into thinking we had friends or whatever?
     
Processing
Connor: Wait a minute.
Connor: Evan. Broken arm. Bar Mitzvah. Jared. Sorry Sorry Sorry
Connor: Evan FUCKING Idon'tknowyourlastname? Jared FUCKING Kleinman???
Fucking Evan: Hansen. last name is hansen. and yea
     Processing
Evan Hansen:
i mean, who else would it be. how many evans with broken arms do u know?
Connor
: None. Literally, none. I don't KNOW you, dude. All I know about you is that the last time I saw you, you were basically bullying me, writing some creepy ass letter about my sister. Your dumb-ass friend called me a freak, remember?
Connor: And now, you've got me trapped on your computer. You've seriously got some kind of fucked-up fetish for the Murphys, don't you?
Connor: Oh my GOD. I can't fucking believe this shit. I'm the anti-hero protagonist of the weirdest horror movie ever, where I have to escape my creepy perverted kidnapper!
     
Processing
Evan Fuckface: what no
Evan Fuckface: i swear this isnt a sex thing
Evan Fuckface: and i wasnt bullying you
Evan Fuckface: if anything it was the other way around. u pushed me over in the hallway
Evan Fuckface: and i swear i really really didnt print out that letter to mess with u. i have to write them as an assignment.
Evan Fuckface: for therapy
     
Processing
Evan Fuckface: and i just so happened to maybe have a crush on ur sister but thats not the point
Connor: ...
    
 Processing
Evan: sorry

     
After that, Connor stopped asking questions. He stopped saying anything for a while. Evan decided that this was the perfect time to join Jared in sleeping and hope that things would somehow fix themselves overnight. 

     Of course, they didn't. Things never do fix themselves overnight, except for hair and sometimes pimples.

 

     Evan woke up before Jared the next morning. He took it upon himself to go ahead and get a glass of ice water, a pillow, and start some toast. Jared would be needing them soon.

     "Nnnnm..... UUhGUgh what the hell," Jared shifted on the couch, sloppily reaching for his glasses. "EVAN, I feel like SHIT!"
Yup. There it was.

     Evan shuffled over, glass of water in one hand, and the pillow under his shoulder. He gingerly set down the glass, and sat down next to Jared, tossing the pillow over to him. Jared shoved his face into it and let out a muffled groan. Evan awkwardly patted him on the back for a while, and Jared responded by turning to him and switching out the pillow for Evan's shirt, now grumbling into his side. Jared's glasses were uncomfortably digging into Evan, but he couldn't find it in himself to say anything. He and Jared didn't really talk when Jared was hungover, it would probably just aggravate the migraines anyway. 

     ding

     Evan started to get up and retrieve the toast, but found that Jared was clinging on to his arm like an angry, gay koala. Jared slipped off said arm and back onto the couch as Evan walked back to the kitchen. He found it a little funny that he used to insist they were only "family friends" and that he only hung out with him for financial reasons - although that was definitely a perk. Still, Jared was only that clingy when either drunk or hungover, so Evan still had no tangible proof that Jared actually liked his company. For all he knew, Jared only stuck around Evan because he was a reliable provider of ice water and toast. That's all Jared had when he got like this - water and something warm, but overall flavorless and without any interesting texture. Anything else would make him sick. 
     Jared claimed to be perfectly fine in the mental health department, and therefore wasn't on any meds. Watching this seventeen-year-old kid half-heartedly pick at his toast and cry into a pillow nearly every morning he was over, Evan wondered if Jared should be. He couldn't say anything without being a hypocrite though. It's not like he actually took his anxiety pills. For Jared, Evan figured the best way to help would probably be putting a child-proof lock on his alcohol cabinet. He wouldn't.


     

     By noon, Jared seemed recovered enough to be back to his usual asshole self. 

     "HAaaoh my god! 'Evan Fuckface'? I didn't even know he could change the screennames, but I'm definitely using that one more often. Nice going, by the way. Now even robot-Connor hates us."
Evan didn't look at him, instead timidly apologizing while staring down into a mug of coffee.

     "...Dude. I was just joking? It's not our fault he's a jerk."

 

     ---

 

     Despite Evan's worry, Jared had him text Alana to come over. As Jared put it, he was hoping she could help 'polish' a software's functionality and visuals. She gladly obliged, already rambling about how excited she was to show off what she learned at computer camp by the time she was walking through the door towards Jared's laptop. 
     
     "So. This is an AI you made, Jared? I'm impressed!" Alana seemed pretty unaware that Jared was a tech-genius/megalomaniac, and so she was as reserved and polite to him as she was to Evan, and every other decent person. After taking a closer look at the logs however, she squinted at Jared.  

     "Why is this thing named after Connor Murphy? You guys do know he... took his own life, right? If this is some kind of joke, it's really not funny," Alana barked. "and I think you should delete this stuff."

Chapter Text

 

     "Oh, far from it," Jared spoke as if he had been rehearsing in his head. "What kind of people do you take us for, Alana?"
Evan had no idea what Jared could possibly say next that wouldn't get them both arrested.

     "Actually, Evan-"
He firmly placed a hand on Evan's shoulder.
     "-and I worked on this software to preserve Connor's memory."

     "What exactly do you mean by that, Jared? The dialogue I'm looking at here doesn't exactly look like a proper eulogy."
Alana eyed the laptop again, her eyes scanning through the text logs.

     "Ah, well. You see, me and Evan.. Evan and I. We. I thought we should try to keep it as true to Connor as we- well..." 
Jared was obviously struggling, and it was something that Evan found hard to watch.
Jared was always so confident, and so to see him trip up was like watching a goldfish be pulled up out of a tank - like watching it struggle and gasp for air.
It was almost painful.

     "U-uh! It's meant to be an AI based off of Connor, or a 'Connor-Conversation Simulator' ... i-if you will."

Both Alana and Jared turned around promptly, momentarily shocked by Evan speaking up.
     "We made it so that, even though Connor is... g-gone, people will, uh, still be able to talk to him, in a way," He continued, with a confidence even he didn't know he had.
He was basically making shit up, but somehow, it felt so natural to him.
He kept talking.

"So that... people won't forget what he was like. So that he won't just disappear and be forgotten."

     Alana stared blankly at him for a second, before glancing over at Jared, who had a wide, nervous smile plastered over his face. He gave a quick, enthusiastic nod, and Evan wasn't sure if the guy was even blinking or breathing.
Oh God, Evan thought to himself. This is it. This is the point where she says something like 'Evan, that's really fucked up and weird', or 'Evan, that's gotta be a sin I'm pretty sure' or even 'Evan, that's bullshit, you're lying. You fucking liar.'

     "Evan, that's... really amazing! I mean, you too Jared! I never really knew Connor, but with something like this, I could! If this thing is actually as good as I hope it is, it's like he's not even dead! Well, he is, but like... His family could still talk to him and stuff! It's almost like you... you guys saved him."

Oh thank fuck. She's cool with it. 
She wouldn't be, if she actually knew the truth.

Jared suddenly remembered how to talk after a short silence between the three.

     "Yeah! So! Do you want to help us with this or not?"

     "I'd love to, you guys! What did you need help with, again? I'm guessing it was layout-related, since this setup still seems pretty primitive - no offense."


---

     Alana worked quickly, sometimes typing so quickly that her hands blurred and created a constant rhythm, like a complicated drum solo was being tapped into the keyboard. At times, you could tell that a button was stuck or something wasn't loading, because you could hear her make an irritated groan while she double/triple/quadruple/quintuple-clicked with one hand and key-smashed with the other. For all her politeness, Alana was not even in the realm of fucking around when it came to getting work done. 
     "Jared. Another drink, please!"
The previously cocky Jared turned out to be intimidated by people superior to him in any sense, turning him into a cowardly servant for the time-being. He brought Alana another vitamin water. If he was her, he would either be drinking Red Bull, vodka, or some unholy combination of both. Alana was not Jared, Alana was one of those annoyingly perfect people who cared enough about their health to refuse soft drinks. Jared and Evan were both slightly jealous of people like that.

     When she finally stood up and stretched, stepping away from the laptop, Evan immediately rushed over to check out the changes, with Jared right behind him. The program was nearly unrecognizable. In contrast to the initial design, (or rather, lack-thereof,) it was now more convincing as a legitimate stand-alone piece of software, rather than an MSN ripoff. The new design featured a banner with a picture of Connor on it. Jared wasn't sure where she had gotten it, considering he had seen the guy around school since 2nd grade and had never seen him in any mood other than Vaguely Pissed Off. The strip bordering the top of the window now seemed to have new File and Options tabs, and below the banner, the submission and response area was left intact, although not without a font and layout change. The whole design felt familiar.

     "Guys!~ Try saying something to him now!" Alana beamed, obviously excited to show something off.


Alana: hey again, this is evan
     Thinking...
Connor: Fuck off, Evan.
     
     
"Fuhck off. Ev-an."
A voice came from the computer, making Evan jump a little. It was a low, male robotic voice with a slight English accent, sounding nothing like Connor at all. It was likely a default text-to-speech voice. Jared wheezed quietly, apparently finding this hilarious. 
     
     "Come on, you two. I think I worked pretty hard on getting him to talk out loud in the first place," Alana tried to say in a scolding tone, but even she was giggling a little.
"so, try to appreciate the fact that he's talking to you, Evan, even if he did just tell you to fuck off."
 Evan chuckled.
     "By the way, that algorithm is almost frighteningly accurate. Connor died, like, a week ago? So, Jared, tell me, how on earth did you create something so in-depth it could basically be a living person within the span of a week with little to no reference as to who Connor was?" 
Evan and Jared stopped laughing. This girl was way to smart for this situation to end well. She had said it innocently enough, like she wasn't even thinking of accusing them. She was asking a genuine question, Jared guessed, but there was no way she was getting the real answer. 

    "Well, we -" Jared started, before turning to Evan and making vague hand motions.
What?, Evan mouthed back. 
     Jared responded by making more vague hand motions and glaring into Evan's soul with the force of a billion suns. 
     "WE -?" Jared flailed his hands in Evan's direction again.
     Alana looked confused.
Ohhhhhh, you want me to lie again. Got it, Evan tried to motion back at Jared, ending with something resembling a thumbs-up.

     "We started working on the project with Connor, when he was still alive."
Alana blinked.
     "What?"
     "Yeah. Connor was actually helping us with this, even gave us s-some DNA samples and stuff... He was really helpful."
     "I... I didn't even know you guys were friends. The last and only time I saw you three together, Jared yelled something at him and he pushed you over."
     "We were suffering from creative differences, I guess? He had been having a bad week and I think he was mad at us over something with the program and so, we got into a fight. I swear we used to be friends, though. He signed my cast, right here..."
Evan stopped to show Alana the letters, 'C O N N O R', scrawled in black marker on the gauze wrapping his left arm. 
     "Evan, I'm sorry... I totally get it."
Evan sighed a sigh of relief.
     "But,"
Evan sucked the anxiety right back in.
     "Why would Connor feel the need to make something like this about himself?"
     "Uh, wellllll.... That's e-exactly what Jared and I always wondered. He never really explained why. Whenever we pressed him on the subject he... got upset."
     "Huh. Maybe he was doing it because he knew he was going to die, and he meant for the whole thing to play out as a fall-back?"
     "W-what do you mean?"
     "I mean, what if he wanted this to be how everyone remembered him? What if this program is Connor's true suicide note?"
     "YEAH! Uh, I mean. Y-yeah... that could be it..."
Evan tried his best not to sound relieved.


Chapter Text


     About a week later, Evan found himself up late yet again, intently typing back and forth with Connor, volume muted. Jared was there with him, because God knows Jared would not leave his personal laptop alone with Evan - or anyone else for that matter - And if that meant following the laptop back to Evan's house, that's what he'd do.
     Despite this dedication, Jared was curled up in a crumple of a posture under Evan's covers, looking to be asleep. One of Jared's arms was almost sprawled over Evan's middle as he stared into the screen he was resting atop his chest. 


     That was something that confused Evan - Everyday-Jared wasn't exactly a sentimental person. He was sarcastic, independent, and sometimes (read: often) insensitive. 
      But then, there was Tired-Jared, and Hungover-Jared. Those Jareds seemed to be on the softer side. Those Jareds always wanted to be held, wanted to hold someone. Those Jareds were clingy and pouty and tried to cuddle Evan in their sleep. 

     He would never admit it, but Evan got a weird kind of happy when one of those Jareds emerged. It felt nice to be needed.

     It felt nice to have a person, a warm weight holding him and maybe kind of nuzzling his chest and-

Evan could not focus like this.

     As quietly as he could manage, Evan slipped out from under the duvet and stumbled over to the living room to continue his conversation with Connor.


Connor: Changed? Who, me?
Connor: Nah, all that happened is I died and was brought back in the form of some unholy off-brand Cleverbot. Other than that, what could be different?
Evan: you kno what i meant
Evan: im just wondering how different this feels to you, as opposed to being actually
Evan: yknow
Connor: Living?
Evan: yeah
Connor: Uh.
Connor: I don't really know.
Connor: Not to freak you out but I don't think I can give you a straight answer.
Evan: wdym
Connor: Wuhdaimm???
Evan: what
Evan: oh
Evan: W D Y M , What Do You Mean
Connor: OH!
Evan: sorry, forgot youre hearing this stuff, not reading it
Connor: It's cool.
Evan: wait, does that mean every time i type im instead of I'm, you hear it like ihm?
Connor: Yes.
Evan: sorry shit
Connor: It's fine though, I can usually tell what you mean.
Connor: By the way, it's less like I 'hear' you, and more like it just shows up in my brain?? It's like a signal, or an intrusive thought. It's just there.
Evan: haha sorry
Connor: Anyway.
Connor: About the whole 'living' thing.
Connor: It's really weird, actually.

     Connor went on to explain that since he wasn't currently alive, the only idea of living he had to base his judgment off of was his memories, and how memories don't always really feel like real life. He wasn't hungry anymore, he didn't get tired anymore, his mood swings were milder and less frequent. Evan pointed out that some people would love to be like that. Connor didn't see why. It felt like he was on auto-pilot. It was worse than depression. It was like being high without the parts of being high that were actually fun. It was just blank and dizzy and nothing was solid.
     It felt like Connor's life had been run through autocorrect. Like every word he'd ever said, ever heard, had been split up and sorted in alphabetical order.

     Evan suddenly felt the weight of the whole situation hit him at once.
     For the first time, it truly hit him - He truly realized how fucked up this whole thing was. He somehow took the suicide of a friendless mentally ill teenage boy and made it worse. He was messing with the laws of nature, here. He was doing something people just aren't meant to do.
     Not to mention the corpse in the attic.

Evan: oh god im sorry im so sorry i dont know how to fix that or anything you just said
Connor: Well Fuck.
Evan: no i mean i'm really sorry connor this is fucked up and im sorry you got pulled into this mess
Evan: so just tell me what you want us to do and ill do it
Evan: if u want to see we could like activate webcams or something
Evan: i could uh try to build u a body???
     Thinking...
Connor: Slow your roll, dude.
Connor: Chill.
Connor: I appreciate the offer. I've actually grown to be ambivalent about this situation over the short time I've existed as whatever the fuck I am and WHAT THE SHIT
     Loading, Please Wait!
Evan: connor?
     [Error, message not sent.]

     The program window froze up as a the computer began to make a whirring noise that eventually turned into a dial-up-like sound that Evan didn't know current computers could even make.

     "Uuuh, Jared," Evan ducked back into his room. "Jared! Jared, wake up!"
     Jared groaned, looking up from a pillow, now damp with a spot of drool. He squinted and blinked up at a worried Evan, who was now shaking him by one of his shoulders.
     "Wazsup, Ev? You make breakfast or sum?" Jared slurred, reaching for his glasses and lazily putting them on. "What time is it?"
     "Not important right now. Can you please come help me with Connor? I don't know what's going on."
     "Oh my GOD, Evan Hansen. What did you do to our beautiful son? Our child? Our dear friend, robo-ass? Because if you fucked up the files, I'm friend-dumping you and we will no longer be friends."
     Evan shook his head. "No, I swear I didn't touch the files. Just-," He gestured over to the living room. "Just come look."

     Jared took the blanket with him, wearing over his shoulders like a cape. Lead by Evan hurredly pulling him along, he made his way into the living room.

     The noise was gone.

     "He-llo? Where did you go? Evan? Hello?"
A mechanical voice played at top volume through the laptop speakers. Jared ran up to the laptop, peering into the screen before realizing that the front camera light was on.

 

     "Oh, hi, Jared."

     Jared screeched and slammed the laptop shut.

Chapter Text

     Jared and Evan found themselves huddled under a heavy comforter on Evan's bed. Sitting under the fortress of blanket, they were staring down into the screen of the laptop Jared had on his lap, Evan watching over his shoulder.

(While Jared may or may not have liked the idea of being under the covers with Evan, he had never imagined it going this way.) Connor had been muted again, so that they could continue the conversation as quietly as possible.

 

     They were trying extra hard to be quiet because Ms. Hansen had been woken up earlier by the eardrum-shattering sound of Jared screeching in pure, unadulterated fear.

 

(She had run into the living room with two arm-fulls of bandages, rubbing alcohol, ibuprofen, latex gloves, and supplies for suturing.)

(She had fussed, "Jared, sweetie, what happened? Did you break something? If there's any shattered glass, don't move -- Evan, get a broom!")

(She was already taking out the alcohol and bandages before Jared could assure her he was fine.)

("...Oh. Well then, please go back to sleep, boys. You both know I have work in the morning. Love you.")

("Love you too, mom," Evan said quietly after she was already almost back in her room.)

("Love ya, Heidi," Jared stage-shouted after her.)

 

     Now, they were doing their best to read Connor's text through a slightly cracked screen in the dark of their makeshift tent. (Slamming it shut at maximum velocity had consequences, it turns out.)

It reminded them both a bit of that childhood memory everyone seems to have, of them with their sibling or cousin or best friend, in a pillow fort, watching stupid internet videos on someone's mom's iPad.

Except this time, there was a significantly higher percentage of hyper-intelligent AI with webcam access.

 

Connor: I'm telling you guys, I don't know.

Connor: Everything was as usual but then suddenly something started, like, "booting up"?

Connor: I think.

Connor: It was all tingly.

Connor: Then I blacked out, and then I could see shit.

Connor: And then Jared screamed like a fucking banshee and I blacked out again.

Evan/Jared: srry abt tht

Connor: T's cl.

Evan/Jared: wht???

Connor: Exactly.

Connor: And, "It's cool."

Evan/Jared: oh

Evan/Jared: so

Evan/Jared: r u still watchin us rn haha

Connor: Yes.

 

     Evan tried to cover the front camera with a finger.

 

Evan/Jared: WELL STOP THAT!

Connor: I CAN'T, IDIOTS.

Connor: Do you think I'd be looking at your sorry faces voluntarily?

 

     Evan lowered his head, shifting behind Jared further.

 

Evan/Jared: ok take tht back

Evan/Jared: youll hurt our feelings

 

     Banter of that nature continued for maybe thirty minutes, until both Evan fell asleep and Jared and Connor decided to just figure things out the next day. Jared sent a quick text to Alana, asking her to come over soon for troubleshooting purposes.

 

Jared: goodnight

Jared: cox

Connor: Cocks?????????????? ?????

Jared: *shit i mean X-O-X

Jared: as in hugs-and-kisses

Jared: the x and the c should not be right next to each other on the keyboard!!!

Connor: OH.

Connor: Goodnight.

Connor: You get no hugs or kisses from me.

Jared: damn

 

Jared closed the laptop. He got the feeling that this was the start of a beautiful friendship.

Was it sad that a computer program he made himself was becoming the closest thing to a friend he had besides Evan? Maybe.

Was it sad that he was only able to act civil to this guy after he had already died? Definitely.

 

- - -

 

 

     To nobody's surprise, Alana showed up first thing the next morning.

     She hadn't even actually texted Jared back to tell him she was coming over; It was a mutual understanding that she would have nothing better to do. She had already finished all her summer reading, applied for every scholarship known to mankind, and the local animal shelter had essentially forced her take a break from volunteering because she was there so much that the staff was getting worried that she was imbezzling their funds or planning to smuggle the animals or something.

     When Heidi left for work, she saw Alana and smiled. She was pretty happy to see that Evan was finally making some more friends.

 

- - -

 

     "So, you were talking to him and he just ...turned the webcams on by himself?" Alana prodded around Connor's pages.

     "Yes!!! And, AND, he recognizes our frickin' faces instantly!"

Jared was, obviously, still very much freaked out by the whole thing.

     "I... I didn't plan that part. I didn't program that in at all." Alana lowered her gaze, peering into the camera that Evan had put a piece of tape over.

     "So you did plan some of it, though?"

     "Kind of, Evan. I tried to add webcam access but I couldn't get it to actually, y'know, turn on. Every forum I read about it just said to type in an activation phrase, but there was nowhere to use as an input, so I decided to scrap the idea... I left the permissions to the camera on, though."

     "Well, can you turn them back off?!?"

     "I guess I could, but if the software's figured out this stuff, and it's been handling it without crashing, then I don't see why we would-"

     "Because it's creepy,"

     "Because it shouldn't do that!"

Evan and Jared offered nearly simultaneously.

     "I get it guys, I do. But you need to keep in mind, this isn't some government surveillance or deep-web spying. If this AI is as human as I think you've made it, don't you think he has the right to see like us?"

     Alana had been lobbying, protesting, and writing essays for AI rights since middle school, so it wasn't out of character for her to be passionate about this kind of thing.

     Jared wasn't sure if he really agreed with her on the whole, 'Bots are people too' thing quite yet, but considering this bot really was a person, technically, he was debating himself on whether this whole situation counted as a human rights violation. It probably did.

     He decided that if he were a dead kid who had been resurrected via immobile chat software, he would probably at least be able to see the faces of the fuckers who did it.

     "I guess." Jared peeled off the tape covering the inner camera.

 

Connor: Thanks, dickweeds.

Connor: By the way, I'd appreciate it if you guys didn't talk about me like I'm not in the room.

 

     "Well, you should have spoken up," Alana said, eyeing the camera. "I do believe I gave you that ability."

 

Connor: I would have.

Connor: Those idiots put me on mute again.

 

     "Oops." Evan quickly pushed past Alana to turn up the volume.

     "Alright." The mechanical voice spoke in a monotone, flat voice.

     "Ookay. That reminds me of the other reason I wanted to come over, y'all. I think I may have somewhat of a solution for Connor's voice."

 

     Alana plugged a flash drive into Jared's laptop. She took it with her to the nearest desk, easing down into a chair. There, she opened what looked like a few different softwares, exporting and importing files back and forth. She had the kind of look that said, 'I know what I'm doing, I'm just not 100% how I'm doing it.'

 

     "Evan, I may have figured out why the cameras activated."

     She explained that she had skimmed the logs right before acrash report was sent. When Evan had been offering to activate webcams, the phrase had triggered the access launch, thus restarting the program and giving Connor sight. As to how he had overrode the mute momentarily, nobody could say.

She kept typing, kept working.

     "Jared, I need your password for this next part."

     "Wh... What for?"

     "I need to reboot your computer for the changes I've made to take effect. It needs an 'administrator's permission', it says, to restart. I'm guessing that's you-"

     "Yeah. Yup, that's me. I-I'lll just... gimme that, I'll type it in."

 

     After what felt like - and probably actually was - several hours, she motioned for the boys to come over to look at her work. The screen didn't look different at all.

     "Connor, please say something for us."

Alana enthusiasticly looked back and forth between the boys and Connor, waiting.

     "Did you know that 'heck' is just a combination of the words 'hell' and 'fuck'? So heck is short for hellfuck." It was Connor's voice. Kind of.

Jared stared at the computer. It was like Connor, but as if individual words had been cut and pasted together. It was like the audio representation of the way a cartoon ransom note looks.

Chapter Text

     "Ooo-kayyy. I can assume from you two's facial expressions that I need to work on the tuning." Alana wrote something down quietly, making a face somewhere between intrigue and frustration.

     "You...your what, now? What do you mean, 'tuning'-"

     "You see, Jared, the basis of what I've done here is rooted in the concepts used in early 10's synthesis software such as UTAU and-"

     "Uh, wait a minute!" Evan interrupted, right before Alana could activate Full-On Info-Dump Mode.
"What we need to ask here is, where did you get audio clips of Connor's voice?"

     Alana smiled. "Mrs. Murphy!"

What the fuck? Evan thought. How?

     "WHAT THE FUCK," Connor asked in his robot pseudo-Connor voice. "HOW."

     "Well. I told her a little about this project we're doing."
What.

     "Not all of it right now, of course. we're not even done yet! But I told her about how we've been trying to connect to you and..."
What in.

     "So, she sent me a bunch of old videos of you, and I went through them and took the audio clips of you talking!"
What in the.

     "You guys are lucky I'm so dedicated! It was really hard to get all the syllables needed for a voicebank out of clips that mostly consisted of you saying, 'Don't film me.' I had to use some from a couple years ago to get all the sounds-"

     "WHAT IN THE SHIT," The voice began, "IS WRONG WITH YOU. OH MY GOD"

 

 

---

     

     Jared and Evan agreed that the window of proper timing to write those emails was starting to close. Before they could get started, however, they figured they may as well research the subject - That is; They needed to learn more about Connor before proceeding to impersonate him for the sake of Evan's believability. 

     That brings up the question: Is Connor aware of the entirety of the Connor Project?
No. No he is not.
     Jared tells Evan that it's better that way. After all, he would probably be way less cooperative if he knew that he was resurrected drunkenly with the sole purpose of pulling one over on Cynthia and/or getting it on with Zoe. 

 

     Thus, two boys and a computer found themselves sitting in a circle in Evan's room while Alana drove to pick up a pizza. (Olives and peppers on one side, regular pepperon on the other.)

     It was somewhat reminiscent of That Thing that happens at every elementary/middle school all-girls sleepover - that part where they all sit in a circle and play truth or dare and ask about boys on every 'truth'. Except at sleepovers, there's usually nobody dead. 

 

     "Okay, warmup in the sharing circle." Jared made a wide guesture to the other two, in a stature not unlike a condescending preschool teacher. "Connor, you first. ...What's your favorite color?"

     "Black?"

     "That doesn't count. Black is like, the lack of color. Try again, and this time, dial back the emo."

     "Gr-"

     "It can't be grey either. Try thinking about a rainbow."

     "Then, blue I guess? Blue is chill."

 

That works, although Evan was expecting Deep Dark Blood Red or something equally Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way. Jared wrote something down in a ratty composition notebook. 

 

     "Nice! Okay, now you ask Evan something."

     "Oh. Alright. Evan, are you a dog person or a cat person?"

Evan thought for a second. This was possibly the hardest question he had ever encountered. 

     "Um... Uhh, dogs. I always wanted one." 

     "That's nice, but cats are inherently better," The voice stated matter-of-factly.
It made sense. Evan could definitely see Connor as a cat kind of guy.

     "Now, this would be the part where Evan asks me something," Jared explained, "But we can skip that. We know everything about each other already."
That was a blatant lie, an excuse to keep getting information from Connor. Regardless, Evan blushed at the thought of Jared thinking of him as something other than a friendly acquaintance. 

     "Not fair. This is the Sharing Circle, not the Interview Connor Circle."
It technically was the Interview Connor Circle, but nobody said it.

     "Okaaaayyyyy," Jared groaned melodramatically. "Evan, ask me a question."

     "Sure.
     Ah- Hmmmmmmmmm--
     I.
     Hm. 
     Ah! I've got a good one. Jared, who do you like?"
Connor made what was probably supposed to be a laughing sound.
Evan seemed pleased with himself.

Jared, not so much.
     "Your mom, Hansen. It's totally your mom. Heidi and I are reeaaall close."

     "Jared, grossss," Evan squealed, nudging Jared with his elbow. "Be serious. Who do you actually like. Like, at school."

     "Nobody. And if I did like someone, why would I tell you, anyway? Next question. Connor-"


     "IT'S PIZZA TIME, BITCHES!!!"
Alana kicked the door open, pizza box in hand.

     "Thanks, Alana. I'm gonna have so much fun, like, totally eating that."
If Connor's sarcasm could kill, the boys would be in possession of yet another body.

     "We'll just have to program you some digital pizza someday!" Alana smiled, sitting down between Evan and Jared and sliding the box to the center. 

     "Wow. Was that, like, your first swear word?" Jared asked, smirking.

     "Actually, yes. I felt all tingly and powerful. Is that normal?"

     "I think you're good," Connor and Jared said in almost-unison while Evan held back a snicker.

     "Well then," Alana grinned maniacally. "Hell. Fucking. YEAH!"




---

     It really was exactly like a girly sleepover, except without pajamas and in the middle of the day. They spent the afternoon asking each other increasingly intrusive questions after Alana joined in, Evan eating a few slices of cheese pizza whilst Jared picked at a bell pepper.
Alana downloaded a picture of Alive-Connor onto Jared's laptop and asked Program-Connor to find and identify it. He did eventually, but not before finding Jared's porn folder. He was kind enough to not display it on screen, and instead settled for telling the group, "I HAVE BEEN SCARRED." at maximum volume.
Alana went home happy after learning some new and creative ways to cuss people out via Jared and Connor.
Jared stayed.
Finally, it was time.
Time to forge some emails.

     Jared wisely elected to do so using Evan's laptop, so there was no chance of Connor finding it and flipping his shit. 

---

 

Dear Evan Hansen,

     How's it hanging? I still see you around school sometimes, but we don't talk as much as we used to. How are you? I've been okay, I guess, but my life at home is seriously sucking ass right now. I hope you're doing okay, though. I've missed your stupid face a lot, so hit me up sometime soon.

     Sincerely, me.

Chapter Text

Things start happening all at once.
Jared sleeps over so much that his parents start to get concerned.
(They start insisting that he stay at home for a family dinner every Friday night, but other than that, they can’t do much. He has his own car and he’s not afraid to use it.)
Alana comes over on weekends and on days she’s not somehow busying herself with volunteer work or painting or reading or whatever she does.
It’s incredible, really, considering how smart she is. It’s incredible how little she asks about The Connor Project now. How little she really knows about what’s she’s doing.
Things start happening all at once.
Connor 2.0 gets better everyday, and before they know it, Evan and Jared have five full-fledged emails on their hands.
Evan presents them to the Murphys, and they seemingly have no trouble believing that Connor would’ve written “Dear fuckface. Skip class with me tomorrow or perish. Sincerely, you know ;)”
Yeah, and, due to Jared’s strong suggestion, they decide to let the Murphys think Evan and Connor were A Thing. Everything’s easier to explain that way. Jared was right, it’s exactly the plot of a cheesy gay romance. If cheesy gay romances ended in noteless suicides.
Connor still doesn’t know about The Connor Project, about the emails or the visiting of the parents. And he certainly doesn’t know that when Evan went over to the Murphy’s last Friday, Zoe immediately walked upstairs into her room and locked the door behind her.
He doesn’t know that everyone could hear muffled sobs through the door, through the “GO AWAY” signs she had taped on it when she was little.
Doesn’t know that when she finally read the emails, after everyone else had, after she had gotten the disgust out of her system, she really liked them. She said that the emails were just like how Connor used to talk. Nothing like he wrote, but everything like he talked. “He must have been pretty comfortable around you,” she said.
Evan would like to tell Connor about this, but he can’t think of a way that doesn’t blow his cover.
There is one thing Connor knows, though. He knows that Jared has Got It Bad For Evan. They’re talking about it in bed, when Evan has gone to sleep.

Connor: You’re gonna have to tell him eventually, you know.
Jared: tell who what
Connor: Come the fuck on. You know who and what. Even I can tell, and I’m pretty fucking dense.
Jared: shut up shut up shut up
Jared: i mean. i have no idea what ur talking abt
Connor: Jared.
Connor: I hate you.
Jared: thanks u too gn
Connor: I’m not done, idiot. I hate you, BUT. I don’t know what I’ll do if this never gets resolved. I feel like a straight girl feeling the sexual tension between two guys in a sports anime.
Jared: how do you know what anime is
Connor: Alana gave me access to the internet. I know a lot about anime now. Maybe too much. Definitely too much. You can’t see it, but I just mentally shuddered.
Jared: wow
Jared: anyway.
Connor: Anyway.
Connor: You either need to stop being in love with Evan, or you need to ask him out, like immediately.
Jared: im not in love with evan
Connor: Sure, Jan.
Jared: what
Connor: Isn’t that a meme?
Jared: yeah like one and a half decades ago lord
Jared: what parts of the internet do you even use
Connor: I like the wayback machine a lot. And coolmath games.
Jared: thats adorable actually
[log cleared]
Jared: what was that for
Connor: Shut up.
Connor: And for your future reference, his favorite flowers are forget-me-nots and bluebells!
Jared: what
Connor: Wink wink.

Things start happening all at once.
They talk more. It goes on for what feels like forever, it gets to the point where Jared and Evan hardly remember not having Connor 2.0 around. Alana becomes less of an annoying acquaintance and more of a genuine friend.
Jared and Connor start to warm up to each other, in a funny little way.

Evan: have u noticed something up with jared, by the way?
Connor: Oh absolutely.
Evan: do u know what it’s about? he’s been all... weird with me lately .

It was another Friday night, and Jared was at his parents house. Heidi was working late, so it was just Evan and the laptop (and the corpse) in the house.

Connor: Ask Alana.
Evan: does it have to do with alana? are they a thing
Connor: Please calm down, I can see even through this shitty camera that you’re like, a whole new shade of red right now.
Evan: i thought i turned the camera off!!!
Connor: I’m capable of much more than you think, Evan.
Evan: ...what the fuck?
Connor: Nothing. Anyway, no. Jared is not boning Alana Beck. I know this for a fact.
Evan: oh.
Evan: then, what’s up? you kno?
Evan: is he mad at me?
Evan: did i do something that annoys him?
Connor: Nah, bro. Nah. You gotta ask him yourself. I don’t feel right explaining it to you without his permission.
Evan: since WHEN do you give a shit about Jared’s permission to do shit???
Connor: Good point.
Connor: But Jared’s my friend now, I guess. So I have to uphold my strong moral code.
Evan: haha very funny. now tell me why he’s being weird or i uninstall the camera
Connor: I’m telling Alana you said that!
Evan: fuck no okay. just.
Evan: please
Connor: You making your puppy dog eyes at the camera does nothing, Evan. My metaphorical lips, are metaphorically sealed.

“Ugh, I hate you,” Evan groans at the laptop, before shutting it.

The next evening, Jared pulls into Evan’s driveway five hours late.
Alana has already left for the day, after making a few aesthetic adjustments to Connor 2.0.
Evan’s pissed out of his mind, until he sees Jared run out of his car and try to grab something from inside the door as he goes, but he trips over a crack in the driveway and falls on his back, hard. Evan runs out the front door and towards Jared, who is slowly getting up. He’s dressed nice, or rather, nicer than usual. He’s wearing real pants instead of his usual stupid shorts, and a button-up rather than his usual stupid graphic t-shirt.
“Oh God, Jared. Are you okay?” Evan asks, extending a hand to help him up.
“Fine,” Jared says in response, despite being a little scuffed up.
He refuses to take the hand and get up.
“Jared, what’s wr- Get up.”
Jared stares into nothing for a second, before sighing and standing up slowly.
Underneath him, a very crushed bouquet, a medley of little blue and purple flowers with baby’s breath. (A creepy-ass name for a beautiful plant, as Connor had said.)
“D-don’t look at the-“ Jared starts, very red.
It’s too late. Evan grabs the flowers off the concrete and looks at them closer. Bluebells and forget-me-nots. They look terrible together, actually, but it’s the thought that counts, right?
“Jared, are these for me?”
“Nn-“ Jared sighs again. “Yes,” he admits, defeated.
“That’s really sweet, I, uh. Uh-“
“I’m late because it took me an extra hour to get dressed because I had to do laundry to get a clean outfit, and it took and hour to get to the nearest florist, there’s none in town. It took forever to convince the lady to put bluebells and forget-me-nots together, and then an hour to get back. So, yeah.”
“How did you know? About the flowers?”
“Connor told me.”
“Goddamn it, I was expecting something way better, like you’re a mind reader or something,” Evan laughs.
“Maybe I am.”
“Then,  guess what I’m thinking about right now,” Evan says slowly.
“I don’t know, wh-“
Evan cuts him off with his mouth.

And then, they’re kissing, stumbling back into the house together. They’re landing on the couch, tangled together like forgotten yarn or unbrushed hair. 

Things start happening all at once.