He had blood on his hands again.
Connor wasn’t bothered by the pain and the blood - he’d gotten used to the damage years ago, when he first started fighting with anyone who dared to call him out. These days, he tried to be better about starting something only when some idiot punched him first - Connor was the one throwing the final punch.
It was better for Evan’s nerves that way.
The things he did for his best friend - it was a decent list that included punching those unwashed miscreants that had made fun of Evan and his mother right in front of Connor.
Fuck, they could say whatever the hell they wanted about Connor - half of the shit wasn’t even a lie, because yeah he was gay and also a complete fucking basketcase - but when they went after Evan… He started seeing red.
The first thing the goon had said about Heidi Hansen had earned him a black eye. Even Evan would agree with that, if he ever found out. But he was not going to find out, not ever, about any of this. Not about how much of a hair trigger his best friend had, and how Evan was absolutely his fucking weakness.
How pathetic was that? Still crushing so desperately on his best friend, the same guy he’d only met because of the crush Evan had on Connor’s sister. Had? Was that even in the past? They didn’t really talk about it, for obvious reasons.
Graduation was imminent - and yes, to Larry Murphy’s surprise Connor was actually going to graduate with the rest of his class. Sure, his GPA wasn’t great, but he’d pulled himself together rather well this past year.
All thanks to Evan, of course.
“Connor,” the boy in question had found him.
Of course he did - Evan had a sixth sense for finding Connor, and Connor never actually varied his hiding places much. And after the fight, he wouldn’t be surprised if either Zoe or that asshole Kleinman had alerted Evan as soon as they heard the gossip.
“Evan,” Connor was hiding his hands in his hoodie sleeves.
“I thought we were going to meet up before class,” this was the closest thing Evan ever got to being confrontational - and it was miles away from that.
Evan was right, they were supposed to meet up before school. They always did, a stupid tradition that had gotten started when some assholes had gotten Evan so worked up he’d started hyperventilating before he’d even made it into the school. Connor had been adamant that he was not going to let that happen again.
Did beating up those very same assholes before first period count?
“Got caught up,” Connor mumbled, hoping Evan would let it go.
He usually did, but it seemed like today was not going to be one of those days - Evan’s phone screen lit up, but he didn’t even look at it, which was the weirdest thing. Evan couldn’t stand the anxiety of unread messages, of disappointing someone who needed him.
“Jared texted,” Evan had grabbed the first aid kit from his bag. “He told me you beat the shit out of Kyle and George again.”
Wow, Asshole Kleinman really did hear shit before it had even happened. That was a mildly useful superpower - though obviously teleportation was superior. The power to get away from his family at any fucking time? That would be gold.
“No use denying it, then?” Connor continued to hide his hands from view.
“None,” Evan was vehement, reaching for Connor.
Connor knew this was coming, but he still didn’t stop it, didn’t pull back from Evan or even put in a lot of effort in continuing to hide the state of his hands. What would be the point of that? Evan already had the first aid kit out, and he could be really fucking stubborn when he wanted to be, especially about taking care of Connor.
That didn’t help his stupid crush at all, thanks for noticing.
“Connor,” Evan sounded almost disappointed with him, and it fucking stung.
“Evan,” but he sure as heck was not going to show any pain.
Not even when Evan cleaned his hands with the stinging stuff. Nope, he was just going to toxic masculinity his way through that one. Besides, this was nothing after the stupid stuff he’d done to himself.
The pain didn’t matter, really. It was the gentleness that got to him, the way Evan’s calloused fingers lingered as they made sure the wounds on his skin weren’t going to get infected. Evan was probably going to want to bandage his hands too, keeping Connor’s hands in his lap as he meticulously applied bandages and band-aids.
“What did they say?” Evan was too perceptive for his own good.
“Nothing worth repeating,” Connor couldn’t stop looking at his best friend.
Of course Evan wasn’t actually looking up at him, focused as he was on making sure that Connor got the best possible care that he could possibly give. It gave Connor all the time he needed to study Evan, to stare unabashedly at his crush.
There was nothing different about Evan on this particular day - he wore the same type of clothes he always wore, his hair was the same and his touch was as gentle as always. He still stuck his tongue out a little as he concentrated, and the mutant colony of butterflies in Connor’s stomach just about had a collective seizure before keeling over entirely. Evan hadn’t changed, and neither had Connor’s feelings.
“You don’t have to defend me, you know,” Evan looked at Connor’s hands once more, before seemingly deciding that his work was done.
“I know,” Connor knew that his feelings were showing.
Somehow Evan always managed to lay him bare with just a few words, and Connor’s stupid responses always came close to betraying him. He fucking knew that Evan never asked for a white knight in tattered hoodie, but Connor was never going to let anyone say bad things about him - not when he could help it, not when he could do something about it.
“You’re going to get yourself expelled,” Evan just left Connor’s hands in his lap.
“But I’m taking those assholes with me,” Connor shrugged awkwardly, trying not to move his hands too much.
Shit, he never wanted to move. But eventually they’d have to get up and go to class, face the rest of the world again. Eventually he’d have to take his hands from Evan’s lap, have to stop touching Evan because they just weren’t like that. No matter how badly Connor wanted them to be.
“At least you have your priorities straight,” Evan sighed.
“The only straight thing about me,” Connor muttered.
Evan huffed out a giggle at the familiar joke. At least someone appreciated his awesome sense of humor - jokes like that one didn’t fly well at Murphy family dinners. Fucking Larry just about had a heart attack the first and only time Connor tried.
At least Zoe laughed, for half a second.
“Every time,” Evan looked at him so fondly that Connor’s breath caught for a second.
Any second now, Evan was going to realize that Connor’s hands were still in his lap, and that Connor was just a fucking mess and Evan deserved the world. Any second now, Evan was going to get flustered and start stammering because he didn’t want to hurt Connor’s feelings but he was still so uncomfortable with this closeness. Any second now.
But Evan remained quiet, just sat there on the bench with him, a blush high on his cheeks as he looked down at the ground, occasionally looking down to where Connor’s carefully bandaged hands twitched against the fabric of Evan’s pants.
“So, class?” Connor hated himself, but he had to.
He was actually going to graduate, and Evan was not the skipping kind, not even when he’d just had a fucking panic attack in the second floor bathroom and barely had his breathing under control. The thought of missing classes just made the anxiety worse for him, so for Evan to just sit there and wait for Connor, making them both late for class… Sure, it meant a lot, but Connor couldn’t do that to him, no matter how much he liked it here, outside, with no one to stare at him or judge him.
“Right,” Evan stammered a little, eyes wide. “We both have English first period and I know you refuse to use your locker anyway and I took my books home because of the homework so we have a little time but I can’t be late because Mr. Williams always…”
Evan’s breathing was uneven again, and Connor could feel him ramping up for another rambling sentence - and so he stopped him. He moved his least damaged hand to Evan’s knee and looked closely at his best friend.
“We’re good,” Connor reassured him. “We won’t be late. Take a deep breath, and we’ll get to class.”
Fuck, he was terrible at this whole ‘reassuring and comforting people’ shit. Evan probably knew that by now, and he wouldn’t dare ask for it, but Connor was still going to try. Just for Evan, though. Everyone else could go fuck themselves.
“How are your hands?” Evan studied the bandages closely.
Once again he took Connor’s hands and examined them, but this time he didn’t let go of both his hands after the examination. No, this time, Evan gently held Connor’s left hand in his right as he got up from the bench. This time Evan didn’t even let go to make sure that his bag was properly packed. This time Evan didn’t even let go of Connor when Connor stood and prepared to face the music yet again.
Evan intertwined their fingers, and Connor was a goner.
“I’m fine,” Connor pretended that the whole thing did not affect him one bit.
“You’re a terrible liar,” Evan muttered at him.
Okay, now he felt called out in more ways than one - he would have said something in return but Evan fucking Hansen was actually holding his hand and Connor was just too busy ascending to gay heaven.
Of course Evan did not know that, didn’t realize that Connor was reading way too much into this stupid gesture. Evan was probably just being supportive, being kind. But Connor was sure as hell not going to make them stop - he wasn’t that stupid.
“No, I’m not,” Connor protested out of habit.
Maybe that would distract Evan from noticing that he was still holding Connor’s hand while they entered the school - and people were definitely staring at them. Random freshman and sophomore girls cooed over the sight (ugh, gross), while some of the assholes that inhabited the school started whispering and pointing and laughing.
“I can t-tell when you’re lying,” the stammer was the first clue that Evan had figured out that they were putting on a show.
The blush on his cheeks was the second major clue. Any second now, Evan was going to be too embarrassed and he was going to let go and Connor was going to try really hard not to let his disappointment show.
Why did nosy assholes have to ruin good things?
“Yeah, but you’re special,” Connor blurted it out to distract his best friend.
That just made the blush spread even further, and fuck, Connor really wasn’t sorry about anything he just said, not anymore - he just wanted to know how far down he could make that blush go. He just wanted to put his hands or his mouth (or even better: both) on every fucking inch of that blush.
“Has your loser boyfriend come to protect you, Murphy?” that asshole just had to open up his stupid mouth. “Let’s hope he’s still willing to hold your hand when you’re expelled.”
Well, that kind of ruined the mood.
At least the asshole had a rapidly darkening black eye, so Connor had done his job earlier - he was proud of that. But that did not mean that he was going to let it go, not even when it would probably mean that Evan was going to let go of him.
“Go fuck yourself, Kyle,” Connor hollered, unable to properly flip him off with his injured hand.
“Connor,” Evan squeezed his hand, trying to calm him down.
It didn’t really work as much as it made him focus on the fact that Evan was clearly just holding Connor’s hand to keep him from punching people. The injustice of that, of feeling that his stupid feelings were being toyed with, made him huffy and more than a little pissed off. It made him volatile, impulsive, and a little dangerous.
“What?” So the words came out without him even thinking, flirtatious and completely out of line. “You’re going to keep my mouth otherwise occupied too?”
“I’m really sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable,” Evan started rambling, trying to make Connor let go of his hand. “I just really didn’t want you to hurt yourself any more than you already have and we both know that Kyle isn’t worth it anyway and neither is George. And if I have to hold your hand for the rest of the school year I will do it because you defended me and you defended Mom and also I sort of really like holding your hand but that’s probably super weird because best friends don’t hold hands.”
Connor would hold his hand forever if he could, but that wasn’t really the point. Best friends could totally hold hands if they wanted to - if that was what Evan wanted. If Evan wanted to be best friends who held hands, Connor would crush anyone who thought they were entitled to voice their opinions on the subject.
“I like being your best friend,” Evan was unstoppable, “but I also wanna hold your hand like all the time and I dreamt about kissing you last night and I probably should not have said that and you usually stop me from rambling on like this and why are you staring at me like that?”
Connor had no idea what Evan was seeing right now - he was a little busy trying not to freak out in front of half the school. He didn’t need to add more fuel to the fire.
“I’m going to kiss you,” Connor warned. “I want to. But I don’t want it to happen in front of half the school. Because it’s just ours, and it’s none of their business.”
Evan was still looking at him, eyes wide. A smile was starting to creep onto his face, and Connor wanted nothing more than to see that grow. For a second, he just wanted.
He let Evan lead him through the hallways, until they were right back at Connor’s bench. They were going to be epically late for English class, and Connor just didn’t give a damn about anything other than Evan right now.
“You want to kiss me?” Evan stepped in close.
“Yes,” Connor whispered, leaning down to make it easier for Evan.
Waiting for Evan to make the first move was killing him, but he had to do it. Shit, Connor would take anything from him right about now, because he’d been crazy about him for far too long. But Evan had to call the shots.
And he did, pulling Connor down and kissing him softly. Connor’s damaged right hand ended up on Evan’s waist, his left on Evan’s cheek. He could feel the heat of his skin through the bandages.
Shit, he would need to stop beating up assholes if he actually wanted to touch Evan without the bandages in the way.
Well, that was about as good a reason as any.