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This Isn't Young Frankenstein

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It was a Monday and Evan was sitting at the table, watching Jared pace around the room.

“So you’re telling me that you went over to the Murphy’s house… and said that you and Connor had a secret friendship… and he used a private email address to talk to you?” Jared stared quizzically as he said this.

“…Yes,” Evan replied.

“You realize that his whole family probably thinks you two were like, secret gay lovers now?”

“What! I don’t, I didn’t—” but Evan was swiftly interrupted.

“It’s fine. We can just bring him back.”

“What?” Evan was staring now, thoroughly confused.

“Yeah. I read online, this guy in Iceland brought back his dead sheep. I think I understand it enough, we can just bring Connor back to life.” Jared started scrolling through his phone, searching for something. He sighed and gave up.

“That’s not… that can’t be real,” Evan said.

“It is, I just can’t find it right now. Deep web and all. I just need to pop by the CVS and pick up a few things. And dig up the body. But I think I can handle it. I am the super amazing and incredible genius Jared Kleinman, after all.”

“No. N-no way, digging up bodies, is like, illegal, right? And what if it goes wrong, and, and, you’ve just got this corpse sitting around and rotting and like, you need to rebury it or get rid of it or, or, or the police come!” Evan had started to shake slightly.

“Don’t worry about it. You don’t need to do a thing, just give me some money for the CVS trip, and I’ll handle the rest. You won’t even know it until Connor Murphy is back to life and gets to explain for you that no, you two were not secret lovers. It’ll be like, a huge weight off your chest,” Jared explained.

“W-why would you do this? You don’t even like me,” Evan replied.

“But I like the idea of putting ‘successfully resurrected a human being’ on my college application. It’ll only make me a huge hero and the world’s greatest candidate for pre-med. So give me a hundred bucks, and I’ll give you a nice, living and breathing Connor Murphy in no time.” Jared held out his hand for a handshake across the table.

“I don’t even have a hundred dollars,” Evan said.

“Don’t lie, I know you save the money your mom gives you for food when you don’t eat. So we got a deal?” Jared said this with a spark of mischief in his eyes, but Evan didn’t notice. He just took the other boy’s hand and shook it awkwardly.

“Okay. We’ve got a deal.”

Chapter Text

There was a knock at Evan’s back door. Then another. Then another. He didn’t think anyone would be coming over, especially not using the back door. He could hear it from the living room but pretended not to, hoping that if it was a serial killer, they would just get bored and leave. Then, he checked his phone.

Nine missed calls from Jared Kleinman. Oh, shit, Evan thought. He got up and quickly opened the door.

And there was Jared. Slightly red-faced and covered in mud, but it was Jared.

“Jesus Jared what have you been doing?” Evan asked. Jared just entered the house, tracking in dirt with his shoes and… what was that? A wooden box? Wait…

“O-oh my god, d-don’t bring that into my house!” Evan jumped back, yelling.

“Quit freaking out, Hansen. I knew your mom wouldn’t be home, so I figured we’d use your basement. Help me out here.”

Evan stood in shock. He could not believe that Jared was dragging a coffin around, and still speaking so calmly.

“I’m gonna charge you extra if you don’t help me,” Jared snapped, and Evan ran to pick up the other end of the dark wooden coffin. The two maneuvered it around, until finally, it was in the basement.

“W-what now? Did anyone see you? Are the p-police coming? Are we getting arrested, or—”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve got everything under control, no one’s coming to get you. Just, I don’t know, head upstairs and chill out for a second. I’ve got genius things to do.” Jared waved as he said this, already starting to pry the lid off the bleak looking box.

Then, Evan was upstairs, breathing heavily. And what if Connor did come back? What if he came back and freaked out and just… killed himself again? And again and again, and it was some horrible loop?

Evan took a few deep breaths and popped a cup of water in the microwave. He’d always thought, why use the microwave when you could use the stove and a kettle to make tea? Why do it the cancerous way when the noncancerous way was so easy? But in that moment, he just wanted tea as quick as possible. And within a minute it was done.

“Hey Evan, you wanna be my evil assistant?” Jared yelled from the basement. Evan moved to look down the stairs to the basement. He could see a pair of feet just at the corner of what was visible. Jared stuck his head out to see Evan standing there.

“You don’t wanna pull the lever?” Jared joked. Great, the feet were definitely not his.

“There’s a lever?” Evan asked.

“Nah, I hooked it up to your light switch. But you can still do a silly voice and pretend it’s a lever.” Jared laughed at this, but Evan just stared. Then he took a final deep breath, and descended into the darkness past the stairs.

'Pale' was the first word that popped into Evan’s head when he saw Connor’s body lying on the floor. He was naked except for a towel. He had… forks? They were forks, stuck into him, on his chest and limbs and neck.

“Why… are there forks?” Evan asked.

“Don’t worry about it, buddy. Just flip the switch. Or, actually…” Jared coughed.

“Pull the lever!” He yelled, in a silly villainous accent. Evan just felt sick. He figured Jared was trying to keep the mood light to prevent excess panic, which was working in a way, but Evan didn’t really appreciate it. He flipped the light switch.

And all the lights upstairs went out with a crashing sound. Then they flickered a few times, and went back on, along with the basement lights. Evan looked at Jared with wide, glossy eyes. A long moment passed. Then, Connor’s body, now covered in bruises right around the forks, started to twitch.

And Connor sat up, coughing violently. A few bloody forks popped out of him.

“YES! I TOLD YOU I COULD DO IT! IT’S ALIIIIVE!” Jared was yelling, jumping around the room.

“Jared, shut up! Connor, hey, um Connor…” Evan started.

“Quiet Hansen, I’m the doctor genius in this situation. Hey kid! What’s your name?” Jared moved to squat so that he was at eye level with Connor.

“Fuck off.” Connor whispered, still in a daze.

“I get it’s you, but you should say your name anyways. When I got my wisdom teeth out, I tried to prank the doctors by waking up and acting like Abe Lincoln. It was hilarious, they bought it for a good minute before—”

Connor grabbed Jared’s arm.

“Where the fuck am I, Kleinman? What the fuck did you do to me?” Connor’s voice was low and rough, as if he had awoken from a deep sleep.

“You’re at Evan’s house. You hung yourself a few weeks ago and we just Frankenstein’d you back. No need to thank me, but I’m totally your savior.” Jared laughed again, and Connor tried to punch him, but his arm just fell.

“What… the hell?”

“Oh yeah. Your muscles aren’t gonna be back to normal for like a month. And I got this list of vitamins you need to take so your skin doesn’t fall off. Like, zombie style, like skin sloughing off your body—” Jared started making motions with his hands to indicate skin falling off.

“Jared!” Evan yelled with a voice crack.

“Right. I left it upstairs, the whole printout on how to keep your skin and shit. I’ll be right back.” And in a moment, Jared was gone. Silence. Connor moved, straining to get up. He fell back, almost lodging a fork into his neck.

“Hey, Hansen. Toss me my clothes.”

“A-are you okay?” Evan stuttered.

“The uh, the clothes over there are mine, right?” Connor weakly gestured to the crumpled suit in the corner.

“Uh. I think so. Probably.” Evan briefly wondered what it felt like to wake up in a dark room looking at your own coffin. He tossed Connor the suit. Connor stared at it for a long moment.

“This is a really sick prank, you know,” Connor whispered, pulling forks out of himself. They were connected with wires into a huge, spider-like knot.

“It’s not a p-prank, you really, you really, um, killed yourself. Do you… do you not remember it..?” Evan replied. Connor didn’t say anything, He started haphazardly putting on the suit. Evan looked away, his face turned red.

“You embarrassed, Hansen? What, what’d you do with my corpse, huh? You figured you’d die a virgin if you didn’t—”

“How about you shut the hell up and read this nice stack of papers on how to keep your skin from falling off?” It was Jared, emerging from the staircase. He tossed the papers to Connor.

“And don’t fuck with Evan, he’s innocent. If it were up to him, you’d still be six feet under,” Jared pulled a remaining fork from Connor’s neck. Evan started to feel dizzy. Connor’s blood was dark and thick.

“Now. I’ve got to head out. I told my mom I was studying and I’d be back for dinner,” Jared said, standing and wiping his hands on his jeans.

“D-don’t… I can’t, um, I, I don’t know what to do,” Evan sputtered. Jared sighed.

“I did my part of our deal. It’s up to you two to figure out the whole ‘telling your parents that you’re not dead anymore’ thing. Just make sure he takes his vitamins and sleeps and eats and shit. Read the papers, if you want to. Call me if anything weird happens.” Jared started to walk towards the stairs.

“L-like what?” Evan asked.

“Like skin falling off. Like turning into Abraham Lincoln. Pretty much whatever. See ya around, Hansen,” said Jared, as he waved and left.

Chapter Text

Evan Hansen was searching through his closet for anything big and baggy. He kept glancing over at Connor, who was still staring silently through the open door to the bathroom.

“Um, I don’t know if these will fit, b-but like if they don’t I can ask Jared, and, um,” Evan said.

“Thanks,” Connor muttered. His white collared shirt was specked with blood and dirt.

“D-do you think you need bandages? Like, what if your, uh, fork wounds, um, get infected? Like, c-could you even go on antibiotics? Would you have to—”

“Don’t worry about it,” Connor said absently, stepping into the bathroom. He didn’t move or close the door. He just stared directly at the mirror.

He didn’t look like himself. He looked like a ghostly botoxed version of himself. He started prodding his face. Then, he turned the faucet and splashed some water in it. Then, more water. Then, he was standing there with makeup washing down the sink and his face dripping wet.

“I, uh, I think, I mean, they, uh, put that on your face, because it was like, there was like, an open casket…” Evan trailed off, looking at Connor’s reflection. He was silently rubbing at more makeup. It soon became clear that there was a deep purple bruise, all around Connor’s neck. Evan started breathing faster and faster.

But Connor was lost in his own head, seeing only the mirror, and still not quite believing it. His eyes looked more deep-set than before, and red around the edges. He lifted his hand up. No nail polish, he thought. Then he turned around and saw Evan curled up on the floor.

“Um, you good, Hansen?” He managed to say. Evan just sat there, thinking, this will be over soon, I’m going to wake up and none of this will have happened. But what if I don’t?

“Listen, um, I’m not… uh… I mean, I can’t hurt you, I couldn’t even punch Kleinman, so…”

Several minutes passed, then Evan was sitting on his bed texting Jared, and Connor was in the shower a doorway away.

‘i cant do this jared’

‘hmm. not my problem. also i believe in u buddy.’

‘im freaking out here i mean what if my mom sees him what if she sees the mess in the basement’

‘just kick him out lol. and the basement isnt a mess you could clean it in like an hour’

Evan heard the water sputter off. He sighed and put his phone away. Connor opened the door, wearing sweatpants and a slightly small t shirt.

“You look… m-more normal,” Evan said.

“Thanks?” Connor replied.

“So. Um. I don’t know if you, uh, want to go home, now, or whenever, or…”

“Yeah, that’d be good.” Evan said, pushing his hands into his pockets.

“Great, I’ll, um, get my keys, and we can go!”

They drove in near silence. Connor would occasionally give directions, and the radio would hum all quiet, but other than that, it was silent. It really made Evan uncomfortable. He checked the time every thirty seconds or so. It was after midnight.

“It’s this one, here,” Connor said, pointing to a relatively large, but mostly unremarkable house. Evan pulled into the driveway and watched Connor walk up to the door.

Connor knocked once. Then again. Then again, loudly. Zoe opened the door.

“Hey, Zo—”

Zoe screamed and shut the door, running back inside. Connor looked back at Evan’s car. Evan made an exasperated face.

“Come on, Zoe, let me in. It’s me. Connor.”

Then, it was Larry who opened the door.

“Get out of here, you sick fuck,” he yelled.

“Listen Larry, I know you think I’m a piece of shit, but can I at least get my phone, or—”

“You’re not Connor. Connor’s dead,” Larry whispered, as if distracted, before closing the door.

The drive back to Evan’s house was significantly less silent.

“I mean, Larry’s an ass, but I didn’t think he’d be that much of an ass, you know? Whatever, I’ll just come back tomorrow,” Connor tapped the window as he spoke.

“Um, we have, I m-mean, I have school tomorrow,” Evan said.

“I don’t wanna lurk around your house, I barely know you. I’m going to school, too,” Connor replied.

“I d-don’t think… I mean, everyone at school, they think you’re… you’re dead.” Evan said, quietly.

“You’re really not giving this up, are you Hansen?”

“What?”

“Still trying to convince me that I was… that you and Jared reanimated me or some shit. I’m not gonna buy it,” Connor said, crossing his arms and leaning into the window.

“It’s not, it doesn’t matter if you buy it, okay? You were d-dead. Dead. And you had my letter in your pocket, and your parents saw it, and they thought you wrote it for me, and they, they, they, were all, talking to me, saying we must’ve been good friends, and, and, we weren’t but I thought they’d leave me alone if I said that we were. But they didn’t, so you’re gonna go over there and say hey, I faked my death but I’m back, or some s-shit like that.” Evan gripped the steering wheel.

“Wow. Aggressive,” Connor laughed, almost bitterly.

“I, I didn’t mean to sound aggressive. Sorry,” Evan said.

“No need to apologize,” Connor replied.

“Sorry,” Evan said again. Connor laughed again, this time, almost genuine. Evan looked over at him, but couldn’t see in the darkness.

When they returned to the Hansen household, Connor opened the fridge.

“Make yourself at home, I guess,” Evan joked.

“What was it, you said I was gone for? Three weeks? With no food? Let me live,” Connor said, rummaging.

Evan got a few glasses and filled them with water. When he looked back up, Connor was making the most horrific sandwich he’d ever seen.

“W-what is that!? Mayonnaise and cheese?”

“Mayonnaise, cheese, and butter. If you have green olives, those are always, good, too.” Connor said. Like it was normal, or something.

“I’m gonna hurl, what the hell,” Evan said, despite getting the olives from a cupboard.

“Want me to make you one?” Connor asked.

“I’d rather starve, thanks,” Evan answered. But the light mood was interrupted with the sound of a car pulling into the driveway.

“My mom’s home. We need to, we need to run,” Evan said, color draining from his face.

The two hurried upstairs. Evan pushed Connor into his room.

“I’ll be right back, I promise,” he whispered, then rushed back to the kitchen, where Heidi Hansen was looking at the sandwich, confused.

“Honey if you want me to buy more lunchmeat, just tell me. Unless this is because you’re… going vegetarian?”

Evan nodded.

“Right. Okay. So how was your day?” Heidi asked.

“It was awesome, Jared came over, we did homework. B-but I’m really hungry so, I’m, um, just going to, uh, eat this in my room,” Evan took the sandwich and ran upstairs before Heidi had the chance to say anything else.

Connor was looking at the shelves of books and knickknacks when Evan returned to his room.

“Dude, you read anime books?” Connor asked.

“They’re called manga. But, um, n-not anymore, those were like, c-cool in middle school,” Evan stuttered.

“You’re an awful liar. But I think I’ve gotta thank you for saving my delicious meal,” Connor said, taking a bite of the sandwich.

“You’re disgusting,” Evan said.

“Aw, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me,” Connor replied with a laugh. The two sat silently for a long while after that, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. And for the first time that day, Evan felt sort of okay.

Chapter Text

Evan’s alarm went off. Six A.M. He checked downstairs, and was relieved to find that Heidi had already left. When he returned to his room for his backpack, Connor was awake.

“Leaving for school?” Connor mumbled.

“I really t-think you… should stay here. There’s a lock on the door, and—”

“You’re not locking me in this room for seven hours, Hansen,” Connor said, standing up from where he was on the floor, covered now in blankets and pillows.

“N-no, I mean, you could lock it if you, if you heard my mom come home, which she s-shouldn’t, but, uh, if she did…” Evan could tell he wasn’t going to win this.

“I’m going to school. Hell, I’ll lurk in the parking lot if things get weird. But I’m sure they won’t.”

“Y-you have a bruise around your neck, everyone’s going to see it, and, and, and,” Evan started.

“Don’t worry about it,” Connor interrupted, grabbing Evan’s arm (with the signed cast) and going downstairs.

They did not speak for the short car ride to the school. Connor slammed the door when he got out. Evan wondered if their brief friendly moment the night before was just his imagination. Connor seemed not to care that Evan was there at all, kicking the door open and walking into the hall.

All the high school chatter went silent. It was as if every head turned to look at Connor. The only voice was Jared’s, when he noticed what was going on.

“Connor! Nice to see you, man! Did you take your vitamins?”

“Fuck off, Kleinman,” Connor said.

“Evan did he take his vitamins?” Jared asked.

“I, uh, I d-don’t remember..?”

“The ONE thing I said—” Jared started to speak, but Connor, who had been getting more and more agitated, punched him in the face. Jared didn’t even move, it looked like it hadn’t touched him.

“You’re not gonna have functioning muscles again if you don’t take your vitamins,” Jared sighed. “I gotta get to class, so see you two around,” he continued, then turned and walked down the hall.

Evan and Connor went to class as well, after a nice long moment of awkwardness. Evan tapped his pencil on his desk the whole morning, going through every possible bad thing that could happen. Connor could run away. He could steal someone’s car and leave. He could get beat up and not be able to handle it and die. His skin could fall off. When lunch finally came, there was only one thing on Evan’s mind: I need to find Connor.

He wasn’t in the cafeteria. Or the library. Or the bathroom. Evan checked the empty classrooms, too. Then, he thought: the parking lot! He opened the metal side door and turned the corner, parking lot just ahead. He stopped and leaned against the brick wall. He could hear yelling, and wanted to remain unseen.

“You can’t just fucking do this! We buried you, Connor, and you, you—”

“You’re saying you wish I was actually dead, then?” It was Connor and Zoe, fighting. Evan felt bad about eavesdropping, but he couldn’t move.

“That’s not— Christ, Connor, that’s not what this is about.”

“Then tell me, what is this about? Huh? Thought so,” Connor said. Evan could hear him crush a can under his foot.

“I just, I don’t, I don’t believe this,” Zoe muttered.

“I didn’t either, until literally everyone I knew started telling me I should be dead. Ask Kleinman and Hansen. They did this,” Connor spat, sounding bitter again. Then, he turned, and started walking towards Evan. When he turned the corner, their eyes met.

“Stalking me, Hansen?”

“Uh, no, I was, just, um, looking for you, t-to see, that, um, that you’re okay,” Evan managed to say. Connor stared at him.

“I’m doing great. I’m doing awesome. I’m also going to hang out here and ditch the rest of the day. Don’t leave without me,” he replied. Connor’s voice was strained right at the end, on “without me.” Evan didn’t ask about it. He just nodded and headed back inside.

At the end of the school day, Evan drove Connor back to his house. He figured it might be a while before the Murphys would want their son back, based on what went down between Zoe and Connor. Connor didn’t say anything about it. They sat around in the living room, Connor watching TV and Evan doing homework. Then, there was the sound of a car. Connor silently ran upstairs. But instead of Heidi Hansen unlocking the door, there was a knock. It was Zoe.

“Is, uh, Connor here?” She asked. Her face was a little red, like she’d been crying.

“Oh. Um. Y-yeah. Hey Connor? You can come downstairs, it’s just Zoe,” Evan yelled. Connor emerged from the staircase soon after.

“I brought some of your stuff. Like your phone and backpack. And some clothes,” Zoe said weakly, handing a stuffed trash bag to Connor.

“Thanks,” Connor replied. “They’re not letting me come back, then?” He added.

“No, I mean, they don’t… Can I come in?” Zoe said.

“Yeah—” Evan was cut off.

“No. Text me when they change their minds. Thanks for the stuff.” Connor closed the door after saying this.

“T-that was kind of m-mean, you know,” Evan said, softly.

“Fuck off,” Connor replied. He started rummaging through the bag. He pulled out his backpack, and unzipped the front pocket.

“Are you… looking for something?” Evan asked.

“Weed.”

“What? You bring weed to school?? And, and, and, you can’t smoke in my house, that’s not, um, my mom will notice, and its illegal!” Evan shook slightly when he said this.

“Fine,” Connor replied with a sigh. Then, he winked at Evan.

“What? What does that mean? Why did you just wink?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And Connor winked again.

“I mean it, y-you know,” Evan said, sitting back down on the couch and returning to his homework. Connor abandoned his backpack and went back to flipping channels on the TV. They watched Ancient Aliens for a while. That show always made Evan tired, though he never knew why. The people on the show would probably say the government was interfering with his brain to keep him from otherworldly truths. Or something like that. Within an hour, Evan was asleep.

He woke up to the sound of the door opening. He didn’t remember putting away his notebooks and getting a blanket.

“Pizza’s here,” Connor said. Evan sat up.

“What’d you get?” He asked.

“Pineapple and olives,” Conner answered.

“What… the fuck?”

“Don’t worry, I felt like you’d say that. Half is just cheese.” Connor laughed.

“Thank god,” Evan mumbled, rubbing his eyes. The two sat on the couch for a long while, eating pizza and adding commentary to History Channel shows. After a particularly intense episode of Pawn Stars, Evan turned to Connor.

“I’m starting to suspect that you’re actually… a nice person,” he said.

“Um, that’s offensive and not true,” Connor replied. There was a pause.

“Why’d you… you and Kleinman, I mean… uh… you know. It wasn’t… it didn’t have anything to do with Zoe, did it?” Connor asked, more serious now.

“No. I swear, it didn’t. I had a crush on her for l-like two days. Totally unrelated,” Evan said quickly.

“Why, then?” Connor asked again.

“You know. Um. I was talking to Jared about… how your parents thought we were friends. And he suggested it. Thought it would. Um. Be better, for them, I guess, and for me, because then you’d be back and I wouldn’t have to… disappoint them.” Evan spoke slowly.

“Well. Thanks.” Connor said, clearly awkward about it.

“Um, yeah, um, no problem? I mean it’s really Jared—”

“I wouldn’t thank Kleinman for my life.” Connor said this as a joke, but quickly realized its other meaning.

“Wait, I mean, um, you get me,” he continued. Evan blinked a couple of times. He said “you get me,” not “you get it.” Evan filed that information away, somewhere in his brain.

“Yeah, I know what you’re trying to say. Oh, and, um, you probably don’t want to hear this, but, um, you should probably…” Evan trailed off.

“I took the vitamins already, if that’s what you’re getting at,” Connor said. Evan nodded.

They sat in the living room for a while longer before going upstairs. Connor changed into some pajamas that Zoe had brought him and collapsed the pillows and blankets littering the floor. Laying in his bed, Evan wondered if he and Conner were friends. No, he thought. They had only really talked to each other for a few days. But right before falling asleep, Evan had a strange feeling of hope.

Chapter Text

“Connor Murphy, you have three weeks of missed assignments you need to make up,” a bored English teacher said, monotone.

“I don’t give a fuck,” Connor said. He hit the top of the doorway with one of his long arms as he left the classroom.

“Now listen here, young man—” But it was too late. Connor was out of sight. Evan stared at the doorway from the back of the classroom.

 

“How do you… do that?” Evan asked. The two were eating lunch now, sitting outside leaning against the brick building.

“Do what?” Connor asked over bites of his sandwich.

“Say the… say fuck to a teacher, and act all cool about it,” Evan answered. Connor started laughing.

“W-what? It’s a serious question,” Evan said. Connor sighed lightly, ending the laughter. He was still smiling, though. Evan noticed this, but didn’t think too much about it.

“You just say it, man.” Connor finished eating and stood, throwing his trash into the nearest bin like it was a basketball.

“I can’t just say it. I’m not you.”

“Wait, is there a teacher who you want to say ‘fuck’ to? That’s wild, I thought you’d be like, friends with teachers and shit,” Connor said, sliding back down to sit against the wall.

“Is that what…? Do people really say that about me?” Evan asked, crumpling up a couple paper towels and trying to throw them into the trash, missing.

“I dunno, just what I thought. But hey, I’ll tell a teacher to fuck off for you,” Connor said. Evan picked up the paper towels and put them in the trash like a normal person.

“That’s a terrible idea,” Evan said. He sat back down.

“No, it’s a great idea. Who’s the teacher?”

“No one, okay? There is no teacher. No s-specific teacher.” Evan picked up a rock and tossed it into the street. Connor looked at him, then picked up a rock and tossed it further. Evan picked up a rock and hurled it beyond the street, so neither could see it.

“Fuck school in general, then,” Connor said. Evan nodded.

“Say it. Fuck school.”

“No way.”

“See, like this,” Connor stood up and faced the brick building, throwing his arms out. “Fuck school!” He yelled.

“They can definitely hear you inside,” Evan whispered, somewhat loudly.

“That’s the point, come on.”

“Okay. Um… fuck school?” Evan said, his voice cracking. The bell rang. “Actually, I have a class to get to…”

“Lame,” Connor said, before striding back inside, with Evan following.

 

“Oh, Connor, I read Jared’s paper on you. I found it very fascinating, but I was wondering if you could answer a few questions—”

“What?” Connor turned. It was Alana Beck, a girl he never knew too well. He thought they had a class together, but couldn’t remember which one. They were standing in the hall now, at the end of the day.

“It’s being reviewed right now, so it isn’t published yet. You can read it on the internet, though, if you search enough, and I really found it—”

“Jared did what?” Connor asked, looming over Alana.

“He wrote a paper on your reanimation,” Alana said.

“Hey Connor are we, um, are you, ready to go?” Evan asked, turning into the hall. Connor stormed towards him and through the door.

“I’m gonna kill Kleinman,” Connor said, slamming the passenger’s seat door.

“What, um, what happened?” Evan tried.

“None of your business,” Connor spat. The drive was silent for a while.

“Actually… you wanna stop at a library or something? I gotta look something up.”

Evan pulled into the parking lot of the nearest public library. He followed Connor inside. Connor sat at one of the public computers. You could’ve borrowed mine, Evan thought. He didn’t say anything, though, until he realized what Connor was searching for. ‘Jared Kleinman Research Papers’ was typed in the search bar.

“Oh, he uses his fake I.D. for science stuff,” Evan said.

“What? Kleinman has a fake I.D?”

“Yeah, he said it was for voting. But, uh, I think he meant it as a joke, or, um, s-something,” Evan replied. He leaned over and typed in the fake name. Klein Jerdman. Evan was close enough that he could feel when Connor laughed.

“That’s… the fakest sounding name I’ve ever heard.” Connor clicked through links. Finally, he found it. Twenty pages of writing on resurrecting a human being. Or specifically: Connor Murphy. It referenced all kinds of research, like the sheep resurrection from Iceland. Connor was relieved to see it didn’t mention him by name. He printed the paper.

In the parking lot on the way back, Connor got a phone call.

“Yeah… Yeah, okay. I’ll see you in a few, then,” he said. “Sorry Hansen, you gotta drop me off at my house this time.”

“Oh, that’s great! Um, y-yeah!” They got in the car. Evan turned the key. “Oh. Um, you should probably… I can give you my number, um, in case anything… in case you need it, for some reason.”

“Sure thing.” Connor nodded, handing Evan his phone. Evan put his number in and handed it back. They drove to the Murphy household.

 

Then, Evan was alone. He was alone in his house, putting away the pillows and blankets that were still on his floor. Within a few minutes, his room lacked all signs of Connor, save for the garbage bag with some clothes in it that sat beneath the window. Evan breathed in a deep breath. He went downstairs, then to the basement.

He shoved the fork contraption into the trash. He looked around. Jared had left some vials and syringes laying around, which he imagined shouldn’t be thrown out in regular trash. Actually, he thought, isn’t all of this like, a biohazard? He pretended not to worry about it and tossed everything in the same bin. All that was left was some dried blood on the concrete floors.

“Evan, I’m home,” Heidi called. Evan hadn’t heard the car, or even the door unlocking. Evan started walking up the stairs, quiet. He hoped she was buried somewhere in the house where he could remain unseen. He wasn’t that lucky.

“What were you doing in the basement?” Evan’s mother asked.

“Nothing,” Evan said quickly. Heidi raised an eyebrow moved towards the basement door.

“I was doing drugs,” Evan lied. He could hear his mother breath in sharply.

“You were doing what now?” She asked, voice raised slightly.

“Um.” Evan thought. He couldn’t say he was smoking weed, since he didn’t smell like it.

“I ate hallucinogenic mushrooms.”

“YOU WHAT?”

“Um, I read they actually have some healing properties, and—” Evan searched his brain. He knew nothing about drugs. He did, however, know a little bit about mushrooms. From a purely botanical standpoint.

“Go to your room. I… I can’t deal with this right now, Evan. Just. Go.” She sounded genuinely distressed. Evan felt a weight in his stomach as he climbed the stairs. He flopped down on his bed, staring at the ceiling for a moment before taking out his phone. There were three texts from an unknown number.

‘hey its connor’
‘familys kinda freaking out but i think theyll let me live here at least’
‘ill stop by tomorrow and get my stuff if thats cool w you’

Evan typed out a response.

‘yeah thats cool. good luck with your family :)’

He started worrying about it immediately after sending it. Are smiley faces weird? Should he have said something else? His phone buzzed.

‘thanks’

Chapter Text

“Damn, Evan. Didn’t think you’d have much under those khakis. Guess I was wrong.”

Evan felt dizzy. His vision was blurred around the edges. “Connor..?” He mumbled. He looked down. He was laying in the basement, completely naked. He felt his face instantly get warmer. He sat up. Then, Connor was sitting on top of him.

“Choke me,” he moaned. “W-w-what?” Evan said. Connor guided Evan’s hands to his throat. Connor’s long fingers pushed Evan’s shorter ones down into flesh. Evan froze completely, barely even breathing. With Evan’s hands buried in his neck, Connor caressed Evan’s chest. Then his stomach, then lower, then…

The lights went out with a crash. Evan couldn’t feel anything anymore. When the lights flickered back on, he didn’t see Connor on top of him anymore. Instead, he could almost make out a figure in the depths of the basement. It was approaching. It looked like the silhouette of a man, hanging from the ceiling, but he couldn’t see quite right. It kept getting closer and closer. When Evan could finally see the figure’s face, he screamed.

He sat up in his bed. Evan checked his phone. 1:07 AM. He rocked back and forth a little, breathing light, short breaths. He opened his phone with a shaking hand. One text from mom.

‘Hi, Evan. I should be back close to six in the morning. I need to talk to you before you leave for school.’

Great, he thought. Evan was entirely alone. I should text Connor, he thought. I really shouldn’t, he thought. He texted Jared instead.

‘is it possible to like eat a hallucinogenic mushroom then forget about it then when you bring it up again in a lie that isn’t really a lie because you ate one but you don’t remember and then your subconscious like remembers you ate one and you have a flashback?’

He hit send before bothering to check if the text made any sense.

‘dude are you okay’

This was not the kind of response Evan expected. He thought about what he wanted to say. After a few minutes of thinking, his phone rang.

“Evan, what the hell is going on?” Jared said, his voice tired over the phone.

“N-nothing, I-I-I’m fine. J-just a b-bad dream, or s-something like that.” Evan gripped the phone tight.

“You want me to come over?” Jared asked.

“N-no, I’m… just, can you, um, j-just talk.”

“Sure. About what?”

“I d-don’t know, just, s-say something. T-tell a stupid j-joke,” Evan regretted this immediately.

“Okay. I’m going to freeze myself at negative two hundred seventy three degrees Celsius. My friends think I’ll die, but I know that I’ll be… OK. Get it? Like zero Kelvin?”

Evan laughed a little, feeling slightly better.

“Here’s another,” Jared said. “A neutron is driving on a road trip. But when he goes though the toll booth and pulls out his wallet, they tell him, ‘for you? No charge.’ You know. Because neutrons, they—”

“I get it,” Evan said, “Neutrons have no charge.”

“I’ve got more jokes if you need them.” Jared said with a laugh.

“No, really. I-I’m good now,” Evan said back.

“Alright. Get some sleep, Evan,” Jared said. Evan held onto his phone for a while after that. He still wanted to text Connor, or to talk to Connor. He thought about that for a while. No matter how he tried to rationalize it, he could find no good reason why he wanted to talk to Connor in the middle of the night after… that. Evan realized he didn’t even know what they’d talk about. He thought about what they normally talk about. His head raced with thoughts. Connor doesn’t even know about my love of trees. Are we friends, do we count as friends? He figured out a text to send.

‘connor do you consider us friends?’

Evan regretted sending it immediately after. That’s probably really weird, he thought. His phone buzzed

‘what the fuck its almost 2 in morning’
‘also yes i do’
‘now go to sleep’

Three texts from Connor. Evan smiled at the glowing screen. He pushed away all his remaining feelings on the dream and decided to deal with them later. He just looked at the texts until his phone clicked off, and he was asleep soon after.

“Evan. We need to talk.” It was six fifteen. Evan had slept though his alarm. He sat up.

“Mom..?” He mumbled.

“There’s a group at the church near here for teens with drug problems. I’m taking off work tomorrow to make sure you go,” Heidi said. Her voice was cold.

“You don’t need to… I can just go by myself, you don’t need to skip work,” Evan said, rubbing his eyes.

“Evan, I don’t…” Heidi’s voice cracked. “If you’ve really been… been doing shrooms in the basement… then I don’t know if I can… if I can trust you right now.”

“I wasn’t—” Evan remembered there was a stuffed trash bin, dirt, blood, and a coffin he almost forgot about sitting in the basement. “In, uh, in some places in, uh, S-South America, families eat hallucinogenic mushrooms together as a… as a medicinal ritual and bonding experience.”

“I can’t… Evan, I can’t just… let you do this! I’m taking you to the group tomorrow. And that is that,” Heidi said. She hurried out of Evan’s room, almost slamming the door, but stopping herself. Evan sighed. He checked his phone. Another text from Connor?

‘can i get a uuuuuuuuuh boneless ride to school’

What? Evan blushed a little.

‘what does boneless mean’ He sent the text. His phone buzzed immediately after.

‘its a meme. but seriously none of my family can tolerate me enough to drive me’

Evan looked at this for a moment before sighing and typing a response.

‘i sort of slept in and then had to talk to my mom so we might be late but sure’

Evan threw on some clothes and sprinted out the door. Within a few minutes he was at Connor’s house. A few more, and they were at school, just in time to hear the late bell.

When lunch finally came, Evan looked around the cafeteria for Jared. He and Alana seemed to be having a pretty intense discussion. He headed outside and found Connor sitting against the wall, like usual.

“Hey,” He said, sitting next to Connor.

“You doing anything this weekend?” Connor asked.

“Hm?”

“We should hang out sometime. And I need to pick up some stuff from your house. But I, uh, can't today.” Connor ran a hand through his hair as he spoke.

“Oh, yeah. I’m free for most of the weekend. But my mom’s making me go to this like, support group for drug addicts tomorrow.”

“Wait, what? Evan, do you… are you secretly a stoner?” Connor laughed.

“No way. She caught me cleaning the basement and was going to see… well, everything. So I told her I was eating hallucinogenic mushrooms.” Evan said. Connor’s laughter grew into coughing, then died down.

“Oh my god. Christ, Evan, I didn’t think you had it in you. And shrooms? You don’t look like a shrooms kind of guy. You look like… hmm… pills, maybe? Or bath salts.”

“I feel like you’re insulting me but I don’t even know what bath salts are,” Evan laughed.

“Does this mean you’ll get stoned with me sometime?” Connor asked. He was fidgeting a little.

“You know I’m not actually doing drugs, right?” Evan replied, looking at Connor.

“Well, yeah. But now you don’t need to worry about your mom finding out.”

“I’ll think about it,” Evan said. Why did I say that, he thought. Marijuana would just give me asthma, he thought. Connor let out a sigh, the nature of which Evan could not quite understand. They heard the bell ring inside. They stood up and went back to class.

The drive back was much less rushed. Evan would occasionally glance over at Connor, leaning against the window in the sunlight. An image from his dream flashed into his head. An image of Connor’s face. Nope, time to bottle that up, he thought. His hands twitched against the wheel.

“Yo, you drove past my house,” Connor pointed out.

“Shit, sorry.” Evan did a quick and probably illegal U-turn.

“Christ! Don’t kill me, Hansen. You okay?” Connor asked. His hair looked so soft.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little distracted. A lot on my mind, you know?” Evan said, quiet.

“Don’t worry too much. And call me if you need to,” Connor said with a smile, just before opening the door and leaving Evan alone in the car.

Chapter Text

‘hey connor this kid keeps talking about rolling. whats rolling??’ Evan’s phone buzzed immediately. He silenced it and checked the text from Connor.

‘holy fuck are you at that drug meeting thing’

‘yes’
‘I dont know what any of these people are talking about’

‘ok well rolling is like doing ecstasy so dont do it’

‘u know i wont’

“Evan? Something fun going on over there?” A bored looking woman in her 70s with glasses perched on her nose was staring at him.

“Sorry,” Evan muttered, putting his phone in his pocket.

“Why don’t you tell us about yourself, Evan? You haven’t said anything yet,” the woman insisted.

“Okay. I’m Evan. I, uhm, eat… shrooms?”

“And why do you do that, Evan? Does it make you feel better? Are you having problems at home?” The woman’s voice put Evan on edge. She sounded like a heavy smoker.

“Yeah, actually. Um. It’s because one of my best friends killed himself.” Evan spat. The woman left him alone for the rest of the hour. When it was time to leave, Heidi was waiting just outside the door, tapping her foot. Evan watched as the old woman approached Heidi. He pulled out his phone again.

‘this place is full of snitches’

He turned the ringer back on his phone and it buzzed.

‘u gotta elaborate’

Evan smiled and typed out a response.

‘group leader lady is talking to my mom right now’
‘youre coming over and helping me clean the basement as soon as you can’
‘so that i never have to do anything like this or tell any lies ever again’

Evan wandered over to a table that had cookies and coffee on it once. Now there were just a few drops of decaf left. He looked at his sad paper cup and drank it anyways. He looked at his phone.

‘lame’
‘but i guess ill do it’

In the car on the way back to the Hansen household, Heidi kept trying to speak, but stopping herself. Finally, she figured out what to say.

“So, that kid, Connor… who signed your cast? You said he was a different Connor… than the one that died. Is that..?”

“I lied. Sorry,” Evan said, looking out the window.

“Oh,” Heidi said. She felt like she understood more, now. Evan knew she really didn’t. When they arrived at the house, Evan got out of the car and Heidi drove away, to work more. Evan sighed and went inside. He collapsed on the couch.

‘im home'
‘are you willing and able to clean the damn basement’

Evan looked at his phone, waiting for a response.

‘fine’

That was good enough. In a few minutes, Connor was knocking at the door. Evan opened it. They went down to the basement with some paper towels. There, they saw a trashcan of stuff, some blood and dirt, and…

“I guess I should… keep this?” Connor asked, kicking the coffin with his foot.

“I mean, if you want to. Like, I don’t know if there’s somewhere you could put it, or like, if your family would freak out…”

“Oh yeah. They’d freak out. Any way we could hide it?” Connor raised an eyebrow at Evan.

“We could put it by the Halloween decorations,” Evan suggested. Connor laughed. His smile is so pretty, Evan thought. He pushed that thought away and tried not to think about how he was in the basement with Connor, alone.

After propping the coffin up by the boxes marked ‘Halloween’ in sharpie, the floor was thoroughly covered in dirt. They swept it into the overstuffed trashcan and took it outside, placing it exactly in between Evan’s yard and the neighbor’s. Hopefully, Heidi would think it belonged to the neighbors, and they would think it belonged to the Hansens, and then it would be taken away and never seen again.

“What now?” Connor asked. The sun was setting, making the outline of his hair glow white.

“Um, I don’t know. Wanna just, like… hang out?”

Connor shrugged. They headed inside and ordered a pizza. They were looking through cases of DVDs next to the TV.

“Why does your family own Mean Girls? Do you have a sister I don’t know about?” Connor asked lightly.

“Don’t make fun of Mean Girls, Connor. It’s a brilliant film.”

“Is this… Magic Mike?” Connor was looking at a DVD he found behind Mean Girls, hidden.

“You should put that back and let me pretend it isn’t there,” Evan said, wondering briefly if he was supposed to have signed up Heidi for a dating website somewhere along the line.

The pizza came. Connor interacted with the delivery guy, letting Evan stand around in the living room feeling awkward, but less awkward than he would be if he was talking to a stranger.

They eventually picked a movie and sat down on the couch, pizza resting on the coffee table. Connor sat with his legs crossed, and Evan could feel a knee against his leg. Evan didn’t move his leg, but instead sat there, focusing on the warmth of Connor’s knee. He thought about how people are only warm when they’re alive.

“Hey, um Connor?” Evan looked over at him.

“Yeah?”

“You, uh, you’re… okay now, right?” Evan asked, moving his eyes towards the floor.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Connor sounded a little annoyed.

“Don’t kill yourself again,” Evan said, so softly he wondered if Connor even heard him.

“I won’t.”

Within an hour, Connor was asleep. Within a few minutes of being asleep, Connor’s head fell onto Evan’s shoulder. Evan took a deep breath. I need to… actually address how I feel about this, he thought. He noticed how warm Connor was, and how he felt that warmth in his chest. How he could feel his heartbeat pulse through his head, so loud he could hardly hear anything else. When he looked at Connor, he noticed Connor’s lips, softly parted in sleep. Evan sort of figured it out, then. I… have a crush, he thought.

He didn’t want to wake Connor, but as it got later and later, he knew he had to.

“Connor, hey. Um. My mom’s going to be here soon.”

“Mmmmh, five more minutes…”

“Come on, let’s go upstairs.” Evan stood, and Connor fell over into the couch. Evan took Connor’s arm and dragged him off the couch.

“Fine, fine,” Connor mumbled, heading for the staircase. He opened the door to Evan’s room and collapsed on the bed.

“Oh, come on. Fuck you,” Evan said. Connor sat up.

“No way. Your first time saying ‘fuck you’ to me can’t be over this. Take it back.”

“Sleep on the floor.” Evan crossed his arms.

“Is this how you treat your guests? Christ. Look, there’s room for both of us.” Connor moved over to one side of the twin bed. Evan felt a couple fireworks go off in his chest.

“Oh, what the hell,” he said, laying down next to Connor, brushing against Connor because the bed was so small. Evan felt ecstatic. He felt guilty. He felt at least ten different things at once.

“Take back the ‘fuck you,’” Connor mumbled.

“Hmm. No.”

“Hey Evan?” Connor said, his voice a little different. Evan turned to face him.

“…I’m glad you’re my friend,” Connor barely whispered.

“What? What was that?” Evan said at full volume.

“I said you’re a horrible friend!” Connor replied, turning away. But they were both laughing. It wasn’t until hours later, when Evan was lying awake, that he thought maybe he really was a horrible friend.

The way Evan saw it, he was abusing the trust between them by sharing the bed and also having a crush on Connor. Evan couldn’t get this thought out of his head, staying awake for almost the whole night.

Then, close to three in the morning, Connor shifted and unconsciously threw his arm around Evan. Evan felt warm again. He dismissed his guilt and fell into a light sleep.

Chapter Text

When Evan awoke, it was Sunday morning and his face was thoroughly pressed against a pillow. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Connor was next to him, leaning against the wall behind the bed and reading a book.

“Mornin,” Evan mumbled. Connor looked over at him.

“Morning.” Connor said, sounding significantly more awake. He set the book down on the table next to him. Evan felt his eyes closing again. Connor grabbed Evan’s shoulders and shook him lightly.

“Evan. It’s almost noon. You need to be awake now.” Connor looked into Evan’s eyes. Evan immediately looked away.

“…sorry,” Evan said, turning to the edge of the bed and standing up.

“Oh, also, your mom was here for a while. I heard her walking around and stuff. But I think she left, maybe fifteen minutes ago.” Connor stretched when he spoke, making his voice sound a little breathier than normal. Evan walked into the bathroom and splashed water in his face.

“Um, w-when do you, uh, n-need to be home by?” Evan stuttered, walking back into the room and looking vaguely at the floor.

“Oh, whenever. Hey are you okay?” Connor moved close to Evan. They were only a few inches apart. Evan moved back.

“Yeah. I’m f-fine. Just tired.”

 

Connor took the remaining things he had left at Evan’s house, and Evan drove him home. When Evan returned to his own house, he immediately went to his bed. It smelled a little like Connor. Evan took out his phone and texted Jared.

‘hey i gotta talk to you about something’

And Evan waited. Twenty minutes later, he called Jared. It went to voicemail. Evan turned onto his stomach, pressing his face to the pillow that Connor used the night before.

“…sorry I’m so disgusting,” Evan mumbled into the pillow. He closed his eyes and started brushing his fingers along his neck and arms, imagining Connor. He shivered. Then, his phone rang, playing Jared’s ringtone, which was just a bunch of air horns.

“Jared?” Evan said into the phone, mildly annoyed.

“The one and only. Sorry I wasn’t on my phone, I was in the operating room.”

“The what?” Evan blinked a couple of times. It seemed like Jared would never run out of strange things to do.

“Yeah, I got a gig as an intern working with this guy who does cosmetic surgery for like, escaped cons and drug lords. It’s pretty cool, and it pays okay. But don’t worry about me, Evan. What’s up with you?”

Evan sighed. “Can we meet somewhere?” He asked. The two agreed on a nearby park. Evan grabbed his keys and headed out the door.

 

They were sitting on a park bench, drinking coffee. “So,” said Evan. “In general, um, what the hell are you doing?”

Jared laughed. “I assume this is about my recent decision to, uh, be a doctor without a license or college education.”

“And your decision to bring a person back to life after reading an internet article on sheep reanimation. And your decision to get involved with criminals,” Evan said, crossing his arms.

“Yeah, okay. Maybe I don’t make the best choices. But you shouldn’t worry about me, alright? I’ll be fine.” Jared’s voice seemed distant. Evan decided not to bring it up.

“So,” he sighed. “…pretty sure I’ve got a crush on Connor.”

“Aw, you two’d make a cute couple,” Jared said with a laugh.

“Or, I’d ruin one of my two friendships. I don’t think… anything is worth that risk.”

“Well, what advice can I give? I’ve dated a grand total of zero people.” Jared drank the last of his coffee and tossed it into a nearby garbage can. Evan was surprised. He had expected Jared to be jumping around, asking for every detail.

“Alright. Why are you being weird,” Evan finally asked.

“I’m not being weird. You’re being weird.”

“Jared.”

Jared sighed and looked at the ground. “I’m thinking I might not go to college like I planned to.”

“What?” Evan said.

“Yeah. There’s money in illegal shit, and I’m already doing it. I’m also… I’m also trying to figure out how to live forever, which is stressing me out and probably shortening my lifespan, so it’s even more important to research, but… I don’t know. I want to do important things with my life, but not like, in the distant future. I want to do important things right now.” Jared’s voice cracked a little.

Evan nodded. He felt bad about even bringing up Connor when Jared seemed so distressed.

“I mean, you are doing important things, I think,” Evan offered, vague. Jared’s expression was completely blank.

“Maybe. Well, it’s been fun, Evan. I should get back to work.” Jared offered a forced smile. Evan smiled back, but Jared was already walking away.

Evan started up his car and sat there for a minute. The radio was humming a love song. When he switched to a different station, it just played another love song. Ten stations later, he plugged in his phone and played the Beastie Boys.

Evan kept mouthing the words to ‘Sabotage’ as he went inside. It was a Sunday evening now, and his house was empty, like it often was. He wished it wasn’t empty. He wished Connor lived with him, and slept in the same bed as him, and cooked dinner every night and actually loved him. He went to the kitchen and microwaved some chicken noodle soup, then ate it on the couch, alone.

Evan felt annoyed at everything, but he couldn’t figure out why. He flipped through channels on the TV. He stopped for a moment only to glare at a couple of glamorous reality stars, kissing. He ended up watching some nature show, talking about redwood trees. He felt mildly calmer. Before he knew what he was doing, he was texting Connor.

‘i need to tell you something connor’
‘i really like trees’
‘like i would commit numerous murders to end deforestation’

His phone buzzed.

‘what the fuck’
‘i mean im not judging you that much but still’
‘what’

Evan smiled. He typed out a response.

‘thank u for accepting me’
‘now u get…. tree pictures’
‘get ready’

Evan proceeded to send literally every picture of a tree that he had saved to his camera roll, as well as a few pictures of deer and squirrels. He explained all of them.

‘this is a ginkgo tree and theyre not really popular out where we live but theyve got cool leaves.’
‘this ones a pretty sick olive tree!! also very rare’

His messages were only interrupted occasionally, with Connor saying things like ‘yeah pretty cool.’ Evan knew he probably didn’t mean it, but was fine with that. Finally, he had sent every single tree picture.

‘okay thats it thats all of them’

He pressed send. Connor texted back immediately.

‘thank you. i feel like I have just been knighted or something’
‘knighted by the tree prince’

Evan blushed. He quickly typed back.

‘bless’
‘i dub thee knight of the dank leaves’

They continued texting each other for a while. Evan almost forgot that it was Sunday and he had homework to do. When he finally checked the time, it was midnight, and he hadn’t started any of the work due Monday. He sent a quick ‘goodnight’ to Connor and headed upstairs. He was still alone in his house, but he felt much better. He worked for a few hours then slept.

Chapter Text

Evan had slept a maximum of four hours. He felt like he might have a stroke, and he looked like it. It was a Monday.

“Mornin, Evan,” said a groggy voice behind him. Evan turned to see Connor, who didn’t look like he’d slept much more.

“Morning,” Evan muttered. They went to their classes, mostly silently, trying to avoid headaches.

Evan’s phone buzzed. He hid it under his desk to look at it.

‘im guessing that im not gonna convince you to ditch with me’

Evan was instantly more awake. He thought about it for a good minute. He could feel his heartbeat in his head.

‘ill ditch’
‘meet in the parking lot?’

Evan snuck out of the building and out to the parking lot. Leaning against his car, Connor waved.

“Where to?” Evan asked, opening the door and sliding into the driver’s seat.

“I dunno,” Connor said from the passenger seat. “Maybe just pick a direction, we’ll see what’s there.”

They turned left from the school. They passed the familiar landmarks: a couple bars, a yard statue store, a run-down flower shop, an ice cream place with pro-gun stickers all over the outside walls.

Then they were even more rural, passing only dense forests and the occasional cattle farm. Connor pointed out the window.

“Hey, turn over there. I think there’s an orchard, or something.”

The orchard was closed. They parked in a torn up lot and got out. Connor hopped over a short chain link fence with a ‘no trespassing’ sign. Evan waited for a moment, then climbed over to join him.

The two walked for a while, looking at the mangled and dying trees. Some of them had small, green apples just starting to appear. Connor sighed and sat under a tree. Evan joined him.

“So since you’re being edgy today and skipping school with me, you wanna blaze?” Connor was trying not to seem nervous when he asked this. He picked at his nails, looking like he was worried Evan would leave right then.

“Uh. Um. Y-yeah. Sure.” Evan said quietly. Connor looked up, a little surprised. He pulled a tin of mints out of his pocket. But, instead of mints, there was a joint in it. He took a lighter from his other pocket and lit the joint, inhaled, then passed it to Evan.

Evan held his lips to the joint. He thought about how Connor’s lips had just touched it. He inhaled and immediately began coughing. Connor put his hand on Evan’s back.

“Shit, uh, yeah, that happens sometimes. You good?” Connor asked. His hand was still on Evan’s back, even after the coughing ended. Evan nodded.

They passed the joint back and forth. They were close. Connor’s arm had dropped to the ground, but Evan could still feel it behind him.

“Hey Connor, you wanna know something lame? I haven’t had my first kiss yet.” Evan’s eyes were red.

“Why? You want it to be with someone, like, specific?” Connor asked. His eyes were even redder.

“I don’t know. Not really.”

Connor nodded. He leaned closer. He stared at Evan’s face for a while. “I’d kiss you,” he said.

“O-okay.” Evan’s face was flushed. Connor pressed his thumb against Evan’s lower lip, then dragged it down to his chin. Evan could feel Connor’s breath the moment before their lips met. It was a light kiss, and then it was over. Connor pressed his forehead against Evan’s.

“You’re really cute,” Connor mumbled. “I don’t get why you’re single.”

Evan couldn’t move at first. He felt dizzy. He took a deep breath and lifted his hands up to Connor’s face. He wanted to say something, but couldn’t figure out how. Instead, he leaned forward and kissed Connor back. When he pulled away, Connor’s eyes were glassy and wide.

Then, they both leaned in. Evan felt Connor part his lips slightly, and followed. They stayed like that for a moment, before Connor started lightly biting Evan’s lower lip. Evan squeaked in surprise, then melted into it.

Whatever was left of the joint had been dropped and forgotten completely. Connor pushed his hands up under Evan’s shirt. He moved his lips to suck on Evan’s neck. Evan stifled a moan.

Then, Connor was dragging his hands down Evan’s chest and stomach. He unbuttoned Evan’s pants.

“Connor.” Evan’s voice was breathy. He could feel Connor’s warm hands fumbling with his clothes.

“Connor, stop,” Evan said. Connor froze and pulled away.

“Shit, uh, sorry, Christ, I’m, uh, I’m so sorry, Evan, I didn’t mean to, I mean…”

“It’s fine,” Evan sighed, buttoning his pants. “We can still, um, I m-mean, n-not right now, but, um, later. N-not outside.”

They went back to the parking lot and sat in Evan’s car for a while, listening to the radio and waiting for the high to wear off. When he felt okay to drive, Evan turned the key and headed back out on the rural forested roads. He dropped off Connor and went home.

Evan was hungry. He immediately went to the fridge in the kitchen, not paying attention to anything else. He got out the milk and was in the process of getting some cereal when he heard a voice.

“Evan? What are you doing home, shouldn’t you be at school right now?” Heidi was standing by the entrance to the kitchen with her arms crossed.

“I’m sick,” Evan said, pouring himself some fruit loops.

“Why didn’t you tell me? I could’ve called the school. Wait, is that... Evan.” Heidi was closer now. Her voice shook. “Is that… a hickey? And why… do you smell like marijuana?”

Evan took a bite of his cereal and sighed. He had told himself not to tell any more lies, but he knew this wouldn’t be a fun conversation.

“I ditched school with someone and we smoked weed and made out.”

Heidi gasped. “I can’t… we need to talk about this.” Heidi sat down and made a quick phone call, saying she’d be late to work. Then, she and Evan just sat for a minute.

“Is this my fault?” Heidi finally asked with a shaky voice.

“What? No, definitely not.” Evan was looking down at the table. “I’m just… making bad choices, I guess.”

“Why? I don’t, I don’t even know, like, who were you with? Is this because of… that kid that died?” Heidi’s voice got quieter.

“Yeah,” Evan said. Heidi stared at him.

“That’s it? I’ll I get is a ‘yeah’? I’m your mother.” Her voice cracked a little. Evan felt terrible.

“The person I ditched school with…” Evan said, tense. “Is, uh, a guy. And you wouldn’t know him.” He looked down and ate another bite of cereal. Heidi was silent while she processed what was happening.

“Evan. I love you no matter what. But you need to go to school. And you need to stop doing drugs. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Evan said.

“Promise me.”

“I promise.”

“Say it,” Heidi said. “Say, ‘I promise not to skip school or do drugs.’” She still sounded serious, but now she was smiling a little.

“I promise not to skip school. Or do hard drugs.” Evan said with a small laugh. Heidi let out an annoyed sigh, but let it go.

“Fine. I’m going to work, now. You should invite this… um, friend you were with, for dinner sometime. I’d like to meet him.”

Evan thought through every possible bad thing that could happen if Connor and Heidi met. It must have shown on his face, because Heidi laughed.

“Alright, we’ll talk about that later. Bye, Evan,” she said.

“Bye mom,” Evan said back, but she was already leaving.

Evan sighed and poured himself another bowl of fruit loops. He checked his phone. There were three texts from Connor and a missed call.

‘im so sorry evan’
‘i really fucked up’
‘call me as soon as you can’

Evan stared at his phone until the screen went dark. Then he opened it again and stared at it some more. He finished his second bowl of cereal. He was about to come up with something to text Connor when his phone rang. Connor was calling. He watched it ring and ring. Then, he picked up.

Chapter Text

“Connor?” Evan said into his phone. He could see the sun lowering slowly outside.

“Evan, I, um, I wanted to, uh, talk to you.”

“Oh.” Evan started to breathe faster.

“Yeah. Um. I didn’t mean, to, um, do any of that. I shouldn’t have kissed you and I’m sorry and I hope that you’ll, uh, still be my friend.” Connor sounded distressed. Evan didn’t say anything for a moment. He took a deep breath.

“So you don’t want to, like… date?”

“I, uh, I didn’t think, you’d, uh, want to. Date me, I mean.” This was the first time Evan heard Connor sound so awkward.

“…of course I want to date you,” Evan said softly.

“Oh.” Connor paused. “Um, yeah. We can, uh, date.” Silence. “So, uh, what now?”

“I don’t know. Are we… going to like, tell people about it? Like, are we going to… call each other boyfriends, or, um…” Evan wasn’t exactly sure how to say what he was trying to.

“I’m okay with that. If, uh, if you want to.”

“Okay. Yeah. And, um, do you want to, like, go on a date sometime? Like, go somewhere?” Evan caught himself making faces and gestures that wouldn’t read on the phone. He wished Connor was there with him, and not several streets away.

“Yeah. Where do you want to go?” Connor’s voice was still a little shaky, but he was much calmer than before.

“I don’t know.” Evan thought for a while. “It’s going to be too cold to go to the beach, soon. Maybe we could go, the next time the weather’s good.”

“Yeah. That’d be… nice,” Connor said.

 

It rained on Tuesday. Evan hit the snooze button on his alarm twice. When he finally got up, the dense clouds made it look like it was still dark outside. By the time he was sitting in class, his hair was dripping with water from running to and from his car.

At lunch, Evan and Connor went to the library instead of sitting outside. They hadn’t really had the chance to speak to each other yet. For a good ten minutes, they were silent.

“Hey Connor,” Evan finally said. “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?”

Connor doubled over, coughing. “What the hell? Wait, no, I’ve got it. I once huffed a can of spray paint and tried to steal a bunch of shit from a gas station. But it was like, tubs of road salt and 2 liters of soda, so I didn’t get away with it, and the cashier didn’t even bother calling the cops. Hah.” Connor was looking up now, as if envisioning it.

“You… inhale paint?” Evan asked.

“I did once. It kills you though, so I don’t anymore.” Connor sounded distant. “What about you? Worst thing you’ve ever done?” He asked, snapping back into focus.

“Oh, um, I don’t know. Hmm. Keeping a corpse in my basement might be it. But that doesn’t really count. Probably hitting Jared with my car.”

“You hit Jared with your car?” Connor leaned forward, raising his eyebrows.

“Okay, in my defense I had just got my license and he ran in front of me. And it was in the parking lot, so I wasn’t going very fast. But yeah,” Evan said. Connor started laughing. Evan let out a few laughs, too. It was nice. The laughter had broken the tense feeling from before.

“Oh. Um. My parents aren’t home for a while. Dad’s working and Mom went to visit her sister. You know, uh, if you want to come over,” Connor said, running a hand through his hair. Evan looked at him.

“Yeah, that’d be alright.” Evan smiled at Connor. Connor looked down, blushing. Then, Jared walked up to them, turning from behind a tall bookshelf.

“Am I… interrupting something?” Jared laughed. Connor and Evan stared at him until he noticed. “Oh shit. Evan, is that a hickey? Are you guys like, actually..? No.”

Connor grinned and draped an arm around Evan. Evan nodded.

“Oh. My god. I’ve never felt more betrayed, why didn’t you tell me? Congratulations, but Evan, you need to text me and give me the details.”

 

After school, Evan and Connor ran through the parking lot in the rain. Evan looked at the sparkling drops of water in Connor’s hair as he turned up the heat in the car. The radio hummed love songs. He drove to the Murphy household.

Evan felt uncomfortable in Connor’s house. He was unsure of why the ceilings were so high, or why the floors were so shiny, or who played the grand piano.

“You play piano?” Evan asked.

“Only a little,” Connor said, kicking off his wet shoes. Evan did the same. He followed Connor upstairs to his room.

Connor’s room was fairly normal-looking. It had a twin bed and a couple of shelves. There was a desk in one corner with a record player next to it. When Evan turned to look at Connor, he was undressing.

“W-what are you d-doing?” Evan stuttered.

“Changing. I’m soaked. Here.” Connor tossed Evan a t-shirt and some sweatpants. Lightning flashed through the window. Evan’s face was bright red. He turned to face a corner of the room and changed as quickly as he could. When he turned back, he caught Connor sitting on the bed and looking at him. Connor blushed and looked at the floor. Evan sat next to him.

“So. Um. What do you, uh… wanna do now?” Connor asked. Evan leaned over and placed a hand on one of Connor’s legs. He bit his lip and looked directly into Connor’s eyes.

“Wanna show me your… record collection?”

Connor lost it. The two couldn’t stop laughing for about five minutes. When they finally calmed down, they were grinning.

“Yeah, okay, it’s mostly garbage, though.” Connor said, standing up and walking over to the records leaning against his desk. Evan crossed his legs at the foot of the bed.

“Okay. We’ve got, uh, the Frozen soundtrack on vinyl. Oh, The Muppet Show, this one’s from 1977.” Connor was holding up the records as he mentioned them. Evan laughed at the idea of listening to the Muppets on a record player.

“Okay, those are my joke ones. Now we’ve got some Neutral Milk Hotel, this one’s maybe my favorite. And some of the Smiths. Oh, almost forgot my true favorite. Nickelback. I bought this completely unironically. Now that’s the worst thing I’ve ever done.”

“Oh my god,” Evan said, laughing. Then, there was a knock at the door. Connor opened it.

“Is someone else here?” Zoe asked. Evan couldn’t see her, but he recognized her voice.

“Yeah. What is it,” Connor said, sounding a little annoyed. Zoe looked into the room and saw Evan.

“Evan? What are you doing here?”

“I, uh, I’m just—”

“We’re hanging out.” Connor said. “Is that it?”

“I… I guess. Fine.” Zoe sounded almost hurt. She closed the door. Connor sighed and sat back down on the bed.

“…wish I knew how to be a nicer person,” he mumbled.

“You are a very nice person. At times.” Evan said, moving closer to Connor.

“Hmm. Maybe. Hey.” Connor turned to face Evan.

“Yeah?”

“Can I kiss you?” Connor’s hand was already in Evan’s damp hair. Evan nodded.

Connor pressed his lips against Evan’s, then leaned back. Evan pulled Connor down so they were laying on the bed, then moved his fingers under Connor’s shirt. Connor gasped and leaned in for another kiss. He could feel Evan’s hands at his collar bones. He moved back and took off his shirt, but then instantly felt uncomfortable.

“Hey Evan,” he said. “Are, um, are you, um, staying here? Uh, tonight?”

“Do you want me to?” Evan asked.

“I, um… I don’t know,” Connor answered, looking away and blushing. Evan felt an overwhelming urge to wrap his arms around Connor, so he did. Connor awkwardly leaned into the hug.

“I’ll probably… head home, then. In a couple hours. Or whenever.”

Connor felt Evan’s warm breath on his neck. He looked out the window at the storm.

“Maybe… you should stay until the rain stops.”

Chapter Text

Jared checked to make sure his parents were asleep. The house was silent, but storms fell outside. He worried that a clap of thunder would wake everyone and ruin everything. But it didn’t. Instead, he silently crept out the back door, just as he had planned.

Then, Jared Kleinman was army-crawling through his own backyard. In the same yard where he once pointed out shapes in the clouds, he was now coating himself in mud.

After an endless minute of crawling, Jared pushed himself under a hole in his fence. From his view, he was finally on concrete, looking ahead to a black sedan parked a few feet in front of him. The time it took to crawl to the sedan felt like years.

Then, Jared was jumping up and opening the door, pulling out the man in the driver’s seat, and slamming the door on him until he was knocked out. Jared got in the car and heard gunshots. He floored it.

Most of the people in the neighborhood couldn’t hear the sudden engine roar through the rain. But in Jared’s head, every sound was amplified, all at once. He could hear everything but listened to nothing. He just stared straight ahead and drove, pretending that he was just an actor in a car commercial.

The countryside was void of any light, having no windows to illuminate the road. Jared could see cars behind him, but just barely. He turned a sharp left and was blinded by corn. But Jared knew what he was doing, even without seeing. He watched the angle of the steering wheel. He felt the car turn in a precise circle, then a few lines. Then, he emerged on the other side of the farm and kept driving.

Meanwhile, a satellite zoomed in on a newly formed crop circle. It projected this image to a computer in a room somewhere with a hundred other computers. A man in a straw hat leaned back and whistled at the screen.

Jared kept driving. He thought about when he was little and would play games, like trying to walk around with an egg in a spoon, and not letting the egg drop. For some time, he drove with his eyes closed, feeling only the wheel and the road and his muddy, soaked clothes.

Finally, he was there. He turned off the road, and drove to the crest of a hill. At the bottom of the hill he could see it: a giant, cold steel building surrounded by cameras and barbed wire. He got out of the car and slid down the hill in water and mud.

The doors slid open for Jared. Every camera stared at him as he walked in. He could hear the cars behind him, chasing him, but he was finally safe. The man in the straw hat nodded and went out the same sliding doors. Jared considered walking further into the maze of corridors, but stopped. He went towards the exit and crouched by the wall, listening.

“Shoot if you wanna shoot, but there’s no way you’re gettin though them doors. Not even a bomb could dent em.”

“Give us the target, and we won’t need to shoot.”

“The hell you need with Jared? He’s just a kid.”

“We have reason to believe that he’s assisting mafia.”

“Jared ain’t never done nothin. And if he did, you folks ought to get em with the law. The law is justice. This ain’t.”

Jared could hear gunshots. He rocked back and forth. He could feel tears at the corners of his eyes, but forced them to stop. Then, the doors slid open. The man in the straw hat crouched next to him.

“Thought you’d be listenin. Go on to sleep, I’ll be fine. Always could dodge a bullet.”

Jared nodded and stood. He disappeared into the depths of the building, trying to stifle more tears.

 

Jared was bathing in a sterilely lit room when he decided to check is phone. He saw a couple texts, from Evan, hours ago.

‘hey jared i told my mom i was staying over at your place but im actually with connor’
‘jared??’

Jared shifted and splashed some water on his face. He called Evan. It went to voicemail.

“Evan. I, uh, wanted to tell you some things. To talk to you. I’m, um, I just feel… never mind. Sorry. Bye.”

Jared hung up the phone and dropped it next to the tub. He hugged his knees.

“I just feel like I live an existence… that isn’t meaningful enough to offset the stress. Like, it’s not worth it anymore, Evan. It’s not fun anymore. Nothing’s fun anymore. I just run in circles and get into trouble and don’t even help people. Don’t even do anything. Don’t even seem cool like I thought I would, like people care about me or something…”

Then, he heard his phone ring. He reached down and answered.

“H-hello? Jared? Are you okay?” It was Evan, sounding tired and worried.

“Oh, yeah, just a bit of a bad day. Nothing you should worry about, though. I’m good! You and Connor having fun?” Jared’s voice was unfaltering, but he could feel tears drip down his face.

“Yeah. Um. You sure? You’re really okay? You sounded—”

“Yeah. I’m totally good.” Jared paused. “We should… hang out sometime. You need to help me out with my college essay.”

“I thought you weren’t going to college?” Evan asked.

“Yeah,” Jared said, rubbing his eyes. “I think I changed my mind.”

 

Jared’s eyes were bloodshot, but he couldn’t stop looking at the sunrise. It was a new morning, and he could watch a hundred different angles through the screens. I could become someone else entirely, he thought. “I could always change,” he whispered to himself.

The room was dark and cold and metallic, but through the screens, Jared watched the sun breach and warm up everything. He sighed and pushed his hands through his hair. He could hear the door behind him slide open, and the straw hat man entered.

“You know… the room in the third wing, with all the… all that research in it?” Jared said with a shaking voice. The man nodded.

“Burn it. All of it. Everything. The resurrection details. The keys to the codes I use, the journals. Burn it.”

The man sighed. “That’s what you want?”

Jared nodded. “And if anyone asks, I died burning with it.” The man nodded, gravely, sealing the deal.

“So what now, Jared? Could always do some farmin. Labor is good for folks like us.” The man said, taking off his straw hat and looking at Jared with old, watery eyes.

“I think I’m just… going to be normal for a while. Go to high school. Go to college. Live in the real world.”

The man let out a laugh. “The real world ain’t ready for you.”

Jared smiled a small smile, then looked back up at the glowing, sunlit screens. “Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. Only one way to find out.”

Chapter Text

At five in the morning, Evan could see the sun coming up. It was Wednesday and Connor was still sleeping, so he left quietly on his own.

When they saw each other again at school, they only had the chance to wave before being shoved into classrooms. They didn’t have a real conversation until lunch, sitting against the bricks outside.

“Sun’s out today,” Connor said. Evan nodded.

“I think it’s, uh, about an hour to the beach from here. Could be fun.” Connor was looking down at his hands.

“Yeah,” Evan sighed.

Connor looked over at him. “You okay?” He asked.

“Yeah. I just… I mean, it’s not important,” Evan said.

“No, I want to know, uh, what’s on your mind.”

Evan sighed again. “Why are we dating? Like, do you love me?”

Connor was a little shocked. “Well…” he said. “I, um, I don’t really know how to answer that.”

“Yeah,” said Evan. “Like, I really like you. But I don’t think I love you. But maybe I will, in the future. But like, how do I know if I will or not, you know?”

Connor nodded. They were silent for a long time. The bell rang. Connor stood, but turned to see Evan still sitting against the wall.

“It’s nice out today. Might be our last chance to go to the beach this year. Wanna go with me?”

“Sure.” Connor nodded, and extended a hand. Evan took it, and stood. They went back inside.

 

Acoustic guitars hummed through the radio speakers as Evan drove north. The windows were down. Connor’s hair floated around him in the wind. Every time Evan looked over at him, he seemed to be glowing.

It took an hour to get to the shore. A couple stray gulls hopped along the sandy ground. The two got out of the car and started walking. Evan felt warm. He was so close to Connor, their hands would occasionally brush. At one point, Evan grabbed Connor’s hand, and held it for a while.

They walked out to a lighthouse, and sat there, looking at the waves. They were quiet for a long time.

“Looks just like the ocean,” Connor mumbled, staring at the endless stretch of lake.

“More or less,” Evan agreed. He leaned his head against Connor’s shoulder. Connor reached up and set his hand lazily on the back of Evan’s neck.

Eventually, they got up and left, walking a little ways longer to a McDonald’s. It was the true Midwest beach experience. They ordered and sat down in a booth.

“What… are you doing?” Evan asked.

“What? Dipping fries in a milkshake is the best,” Connor answered. Evan sighed, exasperated. Connor ate a milkshake-coated fry.

“Why are you like this. Why do you eat trash.”

“It’s not trash,” Connor said with a laugh.

After a few moments of laughter, Evan noticed a spot of milkshake on Connor’s nose. He swiped it away with his thumb. When Connor smiled, Evan felt himself stop breathing. He wanted to kiss Connor right then, sitting in a grimy lakeside McDonald’s booth. So, he leaned over the table, and he did.

“Evan,” Connor said, moving back in his seat. “I don’t want to do this in a McDonald’s.”

Evan laughed and stood up, grabbing Connor’s arm and leading him outside. Then, they ran up to the shoreline and kissed again.

“Your hair’s really soft,” Evan whispered into Connor’s neck.

“My hair’s a mess,” Connor laughed.

They sat on the rocks at the shore and stared out at the water, telling jokes and kissing each other lightly. When the sun started to set, Evan swore he could see a halo of warm light around Connor.

“What? What is it?” Connor asked, blushing.

“You’re… it’s nothing.” Evan looked down. “You’re just… um, very… uh, nice looking. Right now.”

Connor smiled and pulled Evan to his chest. They watched the sun get lower and lower, then, they got back in Evan’s car and left.

 

When Evan arrived at home, he was surprised to see his mother there.

“Where were you? I tried calling,” Heidi said, right when she heard Evan come through the door.

“Sorry, my phone was off. I was, um. With, uh, with, you know. On a date.”

“Right.” Heidi crossed her arms. “Okay. It’s time I meet this mystery boyfriend of yours. What did you say his name was?”

Evan froze. No more lying, he told himself. “Uh. Connor. His name is Connor.”

A look of confusion crossed Heidi’s face. She decided to assume there were multiple people named Connor at Evan’s school, and she nodded.

“Okay. Invite him over. I’m getting Wednesday nights off, now. It’ll be nice.”

“Right. Wednesday. Got it. Thanks, mom,” Evan said, going upstairs to his room.

 

When Evan finally checked his phone, he saw the missed call from his mom, as well as a few texts from Jared.

‘okay whats the deal its been days and i still dont have the details on you and connor’
‘i wanna know everything’
‘e v e r y t h i n g’

Evan looked at the texts and laughed. He typed back a response.

‘okay’
‘we were just like normal friends’
‘but then we got high and kissed and now were in love’

Evan stared at what he had just sent. In love? He thought about that. He wondered if he really did love Connor, but didn’t have any real relationships to compare it too, and hadn’t considered the feeling to be love. His phone buzzed.

‘my god’
‘have u guys smashed yet’

Evan almost fell off his bed. He typed back instantly.

‘no!!!!’
‘and its none of your business!!!!’

Then, he got another text from Jared.

‘use protection’

Evan smiled. It seemed Jared was back to normal.

‘actually i got a question for you’
‘o sex therapist jared kleinman, wont you tell me’
‘what about the succ’

Evan looked at the bubble on the screen, showing that Jared was typing.

‘what ABOUT the succ’

Evan looked at the text, then replied.

‘do people need to use protection when committing the succ’

Jared texted back instantly.
‘theoretically yes but very few do’
‘and uuh no offence but you have a computer you can look this up’

Evan laughed.

‘thank u professor kleinman. now get some god damn sleep’

Evan smiled and put his phone down. He looked out the window. The sky was a deep purple. He thought about Connor for the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

The rest of the week passed. There were tests and papers, like any other week. Evan felt like he hadn’t had the chance to see Connor, aside from chatting at lunch and a few hours of studying together. From Friday night to Saturday morning, Evan slept a grand total of eleven hours. He woke up and immediately texted Connor.

‘good morning!!’

His phone buzzed.

‘it may technically still be morning’
‘but birds have been screaming at me for hours’

Evan smiled.

‘hmm there are no screaming birds over at my house’
‘you should come over ;)’

‘evan’
‘what was that’

‘;) ;) ;)’

‘evan stop’

‘;) ;) ;) ;) ;)’

‘evan what does this mean’

‘it means you should come over ;)’

After a few more minutes of texting, Evan’s phone went silent, since Connor was driving. Evan realized he should probably get out of bed. He brushed his teeth and threw on a clean shirt. He went downstairs just in time to hear the knock at the door. He opened it.

“Hey,” Evan said sleepily. Connor’s eyebrows were raised.

“Evan. Put on some god damn pants.”

Evan was standing at the door in a white t-shirt and a pair of blue boxers. He rolled his eyes.

“Fiiiiine,” He sighed. They went upstairs. Connor sat on Evan’s bed and looked at the floor, blushing, while Evan put on some sweatpants a few feet away. Then, Evan sat next to Connor, so close that their thighs were pressed against each other. He looked up at Connor’s red face.

“Do you want to kiss me?” Evan asked. Connor tensed up instantly.

“Um. Yeah. But, uh, I mean. Never mind.” Connor mumbled. Evan stared at him for a moment.

“It’s just, uh, what are we doing? Like, what are we… are we gonna date in college? Like, um, what… is this?” Connor made a vague gesture at Evan. Evan sighed and inched away from Connor, nodding.

“I’ve thought about that a little,” he said. “I think… I mean… I think about you all the time, I really… I don’t know. I think I love you, maybe.” Evan’s voice was intensely quiet.

“Oh.” Connor said. He looked like he was somewhere between starting to smile and starting to cry. “That’s, uh, good, because, uh… I think I might, uh, love you too.”

Evan and Connor made eye contact. They sat quietly for a while. Evan reached out and brushed his fingers against Connor’s soft hair.

“We should… apply to some of the same schools,” Evan said. Connor nodded, then pressed his hand into Evan’s. “We should…” Evan trailed off as Connor’s lips met his.

They moved so that they were laying down on the bed, Evan’s hand now on Connor’s warm neck. Evan wondered briefly if his hands were sweaty, but for once, he was able to dismiss that thought. He could feel Connor push one of his knees between Evan’s legs. Evan moved forward, pressing his chest flush against Connor’s and kissing him.

Connor pulled back and started kissing Evan’s neck. Evan let out a soft moan, and Connor smiled. He left a couple of hickeys before lifting up Evan’s shirt and kissing his chest.

“Wait,” Evan said. He moved back and removed his shirt completely, tossing it across the room. Then, he pulled of Connor’s shirt as well. Connor’s face flushed a soft pink. There were little scars dotting his body that Evan hadn’t noticed before. From the forks, he thought. He remembered seeing Connor’s body before, and how pale it was. He pushed those thoughts back and rolled on top of Connor.

Connor’s hair fell in spirals and aimless shapes onto Evan’s pillow. Evan pushed a few stray hairs out of Connor’s face with his thumb, then went in for another kiss. He opened his mouth and felt Connor gasp. He dropped his hips onto Connor’s, and when the kiss was over, he gazed into Connor’s eyes.

“Do you, um, want me to…?” Evan traced his fingers down Connor’s stomach. Connor reached down and unbuttoned his jeans, brushing Evan’s hand. Evan’s fingers drifted under the waistband of Connor’s briefs. Then, he realized he had no idea what he was doing.

“Connor, I have no idea what I’m doing,” he said. “Doesn’t matter,” Connor moaned, and guided Evan’s hand lower with his own.

 

Several minutes later, Evan was standing in the bathroom, looking at his beet-red face in the mirror. He washed his hands and texted Jared.

‘hey jared am i not a virgin anymore??’

Jared responded immediately.

‘virginity is a construct’
‘but did u and connor SMASH???’

‘what qualifies as a ‘smash’?’

‘bruh’
‘a smash is a smash’

‘but how do you define a smash??’
‘never mind’
‘ill talk to you in person’
‘later’

Evan put his phone in his pocket. He splashed some water on his face and turned to the door. Hesitantly, he opened it. Connor was on Evan’s bed, in Evan’s clothes now. The two were equally flushed.

“I, um, I’m sorry, Evan, I, um, I get it if you, um, if—”

“You, uh, don’t need to apologize. For, uh, for anything,” Evan mumbled, closing the bathroom door behind him.

“So. Uh. What, um, what now?” Connor asked. Evan blinked.

“I thought you would know,” Evan stated.

“What? No, I, um, I haven’t really, um, you know.”

“I... I think,” Evan said softly, looking down at his hands. “That we should… um, wash your clothes. And, um, maybe order some food.”

Connor nodded. He grabbed his clothes from the floor, then they went out to the hall and tossed them into the washing machine. They ordered Chinese food over the phone and went downstairs.

Evan was curled up on the couch, flipping channels on the TV when the food arrived. Connor brought it from the door to the living room, and sat down next to Evan.

“Anything good on?” Connor asked. Evan sat up to get an egg roll.

“You ever seen Young Frankenstein?” Evan asked absently, more focused on eating.

“Nope,” Connor said.

“It’s this like, comedy horror movie from the 70s.”

“Sounds good enough.” Connor leaned onto Evan’s shoulder on the couch.

They ate Chinese food and leaned into each other, watching the black and white pictures flash across the screen. Evan saw the image of a pickled brain marked ‘abnormal’ in front of him.

“Same,” he said with a small laugh. Connor looked over at him.

“You’re not abnormal, Evan.”

Then, they were quiet for a long time. Evan couldn’t focus; he felt like his heart was about to burst. Time passed. The movie ended. Connor stood up and stretched.

“I guess I should probably get going,” Connor said, softly. Normally, Evan wouldn’t consider trying to stop him. But Evan felt different than he usually felt. He stood and wrapped his arms around Connor’s waist.

“Don’t leave,” he said into Connor’s hair.

“Okay,” Connor replied. “I won’t.”

Chapter Text

A week went by. When Jared saw Evan at school, he gave Evan a bizarre kind of bro high-five. On Wednesday, Connor went over to the Hansen house for dinner, and sat through one of the most awkward hours of his life. The whole resurrection thing was a topic that remained narrowly avoided by inventing a couple other people named Connor. Then, Connor went home, and the week continued.

Saturday rolled around. Evan was staring at his ceiling, laying on his bed. He texted Connor.

‘does human existence mean anything’

His phone buzzed instantly.

‘evan. tf??’

There was a pause before Connor sent another text.

‘i think it does. definitely.’
‘didnt used to, but now i do’
‘if that makes sense’

‘yeah, alright’
‘sorry for being weird’

Evan stared at the ceiling for a while longer, then he stood and walked downstairs. He flipped through channels on the T.V. for a while.

 

Then, it was later in the day, and Evan was walking along an empty road with Connor next to him. The trees were dense in every direction.

“So, like, not as many farms are out this way, so we can have forests, and also like that’s where predators live to help with the deer overpopulation.”

Evan was making gestures all around as he spoke. Connor nodded absently.

“Sorry. This is boring, sorry,” Evan mumbled.

“No, no, it’s not boring,” Connor said, suddenly back in focus. “I’m just… I don’t know.”

They were quiet for a long time. They eventually hiked up a hill and sat on a rocky cliff, looking at about fifty feet to the ground.

“Evan,” Connor said softly.

“Hm?”

“Thanks for being… around. And everything.” Connor was looking down. He tossed a rock to the dirt below and watched it fall.

“Oh. Um. Yeah, u-um. Thank you for, um… for the same.”

After a while, they stood and walked back, ending up at Evan’s car, parked on the side of the empty street. The sun was setting, and the sky was all orange and pink. A couple of stars were just starting to emerge in the darker sky to the east.

“I remember it, you know,” Connor whispered, sitting in the passenger’s seat and turning the radio down.

“What?” Evan asked.

“I remember being dead.” His eyes were distant, and he was almost completely still.

“Oh,” Evan said.

“Yeah. And it wasn’t like, a bunch of cartoon angels and devils. It wasn’t just darkness or anything either.”

Evan nodded, unsure of what to say.

“It was like, suddenly I was a raindrop. In a giant ocean. And I thought, this is great. But then I also thought, it really isn’t. I should’ve spent more time on earth. Should’ve done more, seen more… been more, you know?”

Evan nodded again, but he noticed Connor wasn’t paying attention.

“And now I can. So I think that’s, well, the meaning of life, or whatever. Do as much as you can. Don’t die too soon. You know.”

There was a long silence. Then, Evan turned the key and the car started. The car hummed along in the empty evening. Evan thought about life and meaning and dying. He felt like he just couldn’t figure any of it out.

 

Then, they were each alone. Evan made some overcooked eggs for dinner. He sat in his room and stared at the window. The sun had set and there were stars. He thought about texting Jared or Connor, but decided not to.

Evan couldn’t recognize most of the constellations. He saw a particularly bright star and wondered if it was Venus. It was, but he didn’t bother looking it up.

Evan was about to go to sleep when he saw a text from Connor.

‘evan sorry i was so weird earlier’
‘and im so weird in general’

Evan sighed.

‘youre not that weird’

He paused before sending another.

‘i love you’

Evan stared at his phone and waited for it to buzz. And after a long moment, it did.

‘i love you too’
‘i love you so fucking much’

Evan smiled. He thought about sending a joke about ‘using the ‘fuck’ word,’ but decided against it. He was too tired. He fell asleep.

Evan dreamed that he was floating in a giant ocean. Then, the ocean wasn’t an ocean at all, but the Great Lakes, all combined into one. And he could see the beach. And he could see Connor waving, standing on the beach, next to the McDonald’s and the lighthouse.

It was a pleasant dream. Evan felt warm and happy. When he woke up, his first thought was that he was glad to be alive. He briefly hoped, at nine in the morning on a Sunday, that he would live indefinitely, and so would everyone else. He hoped for a moment that everyone he ever knew could live forever with him, and that they would go on a million adventures and see a million things.

But instead of sitting in bed and thinking about things, Evan decided to go downstairs. It was a Sunday morning and Heidi was home. Evan had made the decision, if unconsciously, to spend more time with his mother. And to spend more time with everyone, when he could.

And the light from the sun streamed into the kitchen, and Evan smiled because he could see his mother, and because everyone he cared about was alive and well, just like he was alive and well. It was going to be a good Sunday. And, Evan thought, it is going to be a good week, and a good year, and a good lifetime.

“Morning, mom,” He said.

And it was a good Sunday. So were all the Sundays after it.