The first time Evan saw him after The Incident, Connor Murphy was lying unashamedly to the instructor and their whole senior class, claiming that his abilities hadn’t manifested yet.
Whispers, like bees in a hive, raised immediately, angry and annoyed at the denial of the show they had been expecting. There had been rumors since Evan could remember about what Connor Murphy’s abilities would be, about how they would match the outbursts that had gained him his reputation, the destruction that always swayed at his side finally becoming chaos. It had always been spoken with an edge to it, as if the entire school was dreading to be the focus of the rage but they all hoped to be spectators when it happened.
Now, they shouted at the boy at front of the gym, goading him into some reaction that would give them the result they wanted, not just the clenched jaw and the pointed glare. The instructor moved, placing herself in front of Connor, head bent while checking boxes in the registration form, asking question after question. From the corner of his eye, Evan could see the replicates placating the people that had stood up from their seats and seemed to want to make their way to the front, to cause a scene and trigger a skill that they refused to believe didn’t exist.
Evan knew it wouldn’t take long for the teacher that had accompanied them to get fed up with the situation and start taking students back to their classrooms, a stern lecture about behavior waiting in each one. Some had already been ushered by other teachers for comments thrown here and there, prompting them to get registered without having to wait for the alphabetical call but also depriving them of seeing how their peers tried to demonstrate skills that they couldn’t control yet.
Alana Beck had to be removed from the gym after she suddenly appeared in the middle of the room while Bree Howards was showing the instructor how far she could throw the metal desk that had been placed for the try outs, missing Alana for a few meters and causing a massive silence to fall through the gym.
Jared, on the other hand, had been asked to leave after he made a joke about his temporary invisibility that had gained him a few scattered laughs, a bigger amount of eye rolls and the exit of the premises.
And Evan, Evan had been advised to step away from anything that seemed flammable, leading to his cross legged position on the floor, tiny flames matching his heartbeat as he watched Connor Murphy move around the different stages, failing at every single test, including the one he was supposed to pass.
After signing his name at the bottom of the registration papers, Connor looked up, locking eyes with Evan.
The fire sprinklers went off and he saw more than heard Connor snorting, the sound muffled by the sudden screams of surprise of everyone in the gym.
Cos Evan was on fire, drenched to the bone, but on fire. Erratic flames that did not burn him but blackened the cement were he had been sitting. He could sworn he heard the faint cackle that Jared called laughter, which made no sense since he wasn’t even in the gym. Where Evan was. And where every single student was starting at him. Which was frankly not helping at all with the whole control the fire thing that he was trying to achieve.
The replicates of the instructor moved as one, just as his mom’s did when she concentrated. He could hear his own breathing, forced and fast. They shouldn’t come close. He would hurt them if they did. The flames were annoying to his skin but they still burned everyone else. He couldn’t let that happen. He couldn’t hurt people again. He needed to leave.
A step back and then another, his shoes squeaking on the wet floor. He couldn´t breathe.
“Mister Hansen.” Three voices at once, a bad tuned radio.
The flames lashed out. Yelps as students moved out of the way, staring back at him with wide eyes. He needed to leave. Now.
Evan turned around and ran, embers following behind as he sprinted, hoping the door would not catch on fire when he pushed it open without stopping but assuring himself that it was better to burn wood than skin.
He maneuvered his way through deserted hallways, activating the sprinkles as he passed.
Evan knew he needed to calm down. To breath. To get a hold of himself. To stop. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t because the whole school had realized how dangerous he was, and they were gonna report this back to his mom, and that’s the last thing his mom needs, which is not surprising at all because when hasn’t he been a source for trouble for her, that worked a lot more than she needed for him and who he paid by being this fucked up, by making her believe it was her fault somehow, cos he just knew that she thought that, that it was her to blame instead of his stupid brain, that she had messed up somehow cos other kids weren’t like this. And now this. Fire. Like his dad. Just what she needed. Another reminder of what Evan could destroy so easily. He was never going to be able to control his ability, he was probably going to incinerate his house when having a nightmare or something. The school was going to kick him out and Jared would stop hanging out with him at all because why would he want to even be associated with the arsonist waiting to happen.
He feels his body overbalancing when someone yanks around his wrist, his sneakers slipping on the floor and finding no purchase to keep him upright. Whoever grabbed him, moves backwards without letting go of his wrist, to avoid Evan crashing into them. He opens his eyes –when did he close them? - when a hiss of pain and a muttered curse reach his ear. He tries to free his arm when he looks over at the contact point, scorched skin that makes him gag.
“Hansen, you need to calm the fuck down.”
Connor is drenched, his hair plastered to his face and around his neck, with the sleeves of the faded brown jacket rolled up precariously, as if he had done them without paying too much attention. He is scowling at Evan. Or most probably because he is in pain, since Evan is burning his arm, the fire almost reaching the fabric of the jacket, turning the pale skin an angry red.
Evan tries to tug his arm away again. Connor holds tighter, squeezing his wrist.
“For fuck’s sake, breathe.”
Oxygen feeds fire. He shouldn’t breathe, that seems more logical. Not that anything is logical around him, because his abilities doesn’t fit with him in the slightest, and they are supposed to. He has never met an adult tha-
Pressure in his wrist and his sight is hazy, the heat distorting the image.
“That’s hyperventilating, which is breathing but. Come on, slower.” His voice is pained but he is breathing slowly, as if Evan needs an example in how to breathe like a normal person.
He probably does.
He tries, willing the flames to dim, to focus in his surrounding again instead of the turmoil that is still fighting inside of his head. He closes his eyes and focus on the feel of the hand around his wrist, on the sound of some drops falling into the ground, on Connor’s breathing.
Once he can feel the itch under his skin, Evan opens his eyes and the fire is gone. Connor has his eyes screw shut, his other hand over his mouth to avoid making any noise and Evan knows exactly what he is doing. He can feel the finger around his wrist loosen up and he watches marred skin shrinks, leaving red in its wake before turning pink, until it fades back to white.
Evan is not sure if the water dripping from Connor’s face is water from the sprinklers or sweat at the effort it took to heal himself. The Incident flashes across his memory and he is quick enough this time to reach for Connor before he crumbles to the ground.
The extra weight forces Evan to lower himself to the floor and he is doing the breathing exercises he remembers from therapy cos he simply can’t have a repetition of that episode with an unconscious Connor in his arms.
He can’t stay here either.
He looks up and freezes.
Jared is staring back at the two of them and Evan is incapable of knowing for how long he has been there. He is tired and his brain is going to freak out once it catches up with the situation, but right now his head is full smoke and he still has an unconscious classmate who helped him, again, relaying on him.
“Can you give me a hand?”