Actions

Work Header

Land of Skeletons

Chapter Text

ONE

“If not for flesh’s pretty paint, we’re just a bunch of skeletons…”

- Christopher Kennedy

Winter Creek is a quiet town at night, but lieutenant Lisa Ben is up late at night nonetheless. There are only a few other officers on night duty, two of them chatting over a large dozen box of doughnuts bought before the local Dunkin’ donuts closed, and the third presumably taking a snooze off at his desk.

Her mother always said that she was born with a disgruntled look on her face, born standing up and ready to fight whatever hell came her way. When she first started to walk, the devil himself shuddered. That stubbornness and anger kept her up late, glancing over an old case file of a missing child.

The child is twelve years old in the picture. She’s got long dark hair like her mother, and bright green eyes like her father. She’s missing a tooth, presumably one of the last of her baby teeth to fall out, and there are freckles dotting her cheeks. Lisa knows the face well—possibly too well, at the rate she was going at, studying the case every single night, hoping that she would finally find some sort of connection, some sort of hole to get through—

“Ahem.” A voice at her desk catches her attention. It’s detective Morales—one of the two who were chatting over the doughnuts. He was the youngest on the force and the freshest out of the academy, resembling more a teenager than a twenty-eight year old. “I hate to, uh, bother you, but I got an email from you-know-who.”

Oh. What a way to ruin the night. Lisa rubbed her eyes, groaning a bit. But it would drag her away from the cold case sitting on her desk, and possibly make her turn in for the night. “Alright, I’m coming.” She doesn’t have to walk far, at least.

You-know-who was an anonymous tipper that had become infamous around the force. They would always send an email in, in which a video was disclosed. The face was never shown, and no matter how many times the force sent the videos off to experts, it was a case that they couldn’t solve. And maybe they shouldn’t solve it, but Lisa Ben is not one to give up on cases.

They gave the tipper the alias “Lily”.

Lily was smart—she could give them that. Somehow they had acquired emails of the officers in Winter Creek, and every few weeks or so, one of them would get an email update. There was never any sort of humor or comedic timing in it—Lily was no prankster.

Instead, they were videos about cold cases. Cases that had long been buried in boxes in storage units. Cases that had been around before even the oldest of the force had been born. And somehow, someway, Lily found these cases.

And Lily solved them. Or, well, indirectly. Most of the time, Lily started off their emails with, “This is just a theory, but…”. No matter how often they would start off with just a theory, the theory had always been right. The theory had led the department in a direction they hadn’t thought of, or a direction they had where they missed an important clue, and in a matter of mere weeks, a case could be wrapped up.

How Lily did this, no one could figure out. It was almost…supernatural, even.

The video inclosed in detective Morales’ email is the same format as every other one had been. “This is just a theory, but the recent case of Jeff Britt is not a suicide. There’s something off about the gun he used. The gun is an important clue. Look closer, detectives.”

Look closer, detectives. Lisa had been looking as close as she could for as long as she could remember yet the face of the twelve-year-old girl still haunts her dreams. She glances at detective Morales. “Forward this to the Chief and the coroner . CC it to me.” She kept a storage of every video Lily had sent them for the last four years on her hard drive at home. To look closer at the video, to figure out who Lily is, and if she can find a way to recruit them to the force. “We’ll look into it in the morning.”

Jeff Britt’s “suicide” seemed off to her, as well, but Lisa took it just as the squints had said; perhaps, though, it was something else.


 “Evan! Evan, wake up! Evan! You missed the bus!”

Sometimes, having incorporeal house mates made really shitty alarms.

Evan Hansen jerked awake with the voice, his body phasing through one of his incorporeal house mates, causing him to shudder. He’d lived with ghosts for almost eighteen years but nothing would ease the cold feeling of going through one of them.

Said incorporeal house mate giggled, floating above his bed. Evan glanced at the digital clock on his night stand.

Lo and behold, it wasn’t even seven yet.

Willy grinned like the little shithead he was, as another specter descended from his ceiling. “Holy shit, Astila! You should’ve seen the look on his face!”

The other ghost whaps Willy upside the head. This ghost was the oldest one Evan ever knew, one of the first that he had ever seen when he was a child and was like a second-mother figure to him. Astila, in contrast to many of the other spirits Evan knew, was an elderly Native American woman, who died of old age a few years before English settlers took over her tribe’s land. She drifted through the lives of those who came after, until she settled in the old house that the Hansens bought when Evan was born.

After a few years, she came to recognize that the young boy could see her, and because like a second-mother. That was her given name, after all. Second-Mother.

“William, stop.” Astila knows broken English. It’s hard to learn a language after you’ve died, after all. “Evan, best get ready.” She floated out of his room.

“Aw, come on, it was funny!” There’s a murmur of agreement somewhere in Evan’s room, but it goes ignored.

“No, it wasn’t.” Evan should’ve known something was wrong because he didn’t ride the bus often anymore. The school was in walking distance and he often walked, if not got a ride from Jared, unless his mom was home one random morning and was able to take him in. He hadn’t stepped foot on a school bus since sixth grade. He didn’t want to think about sixth grade. “Now, get out, please? I need to get dressed.”

After all, he had to get ready for his first day of senior year.

His mom—Heidi Hansen, not some sort of ghost of the past—is able to drop him off at school the first day. She was able to request a few hours off of work to, as she said, “take my little man to his first day of senior year!”, as she’d done for his junior, sophomore, freshman and 8th grade years.

It was, for the lack of a better word, a tradition at that point, and Evan wasn’t going to go and complain.

“Alright, you have all your notebooks? Your pens?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“You have your textbooks? The school was really adamant that you bring them the first day—”

“I do, Mom.” The school giving out required textbooks during open house was definitely a new strategy, and Evan wanted to complain. It took three trips to get all of the textbooks to his mom’s car. A small, little Nissan from the year he was born, and Evan was surprised it didn’t collapse under the weight of it all.

(He left the one textbook for his art class at home. After all, he had that class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the first day was a Wednesday.)

“Alright.” As Evan reached over to open the car door, he felt his Mom put her hand on his shoulder. “Hey, Ev, remember what Dr. Sherman told you?”

“The letters, or the meeting new people?”

“Oh… Well, both, I guess.” Heidi let out a small laugh. “I mean the new people, honey. Just try and talk to someone new today, you know? You don’t even have to get their name, just say, ‘Wow, you have nice shoes’, or something like that. One good thing a day can really help.”

Evan nodded. “Alright, yeah, thanks Mom, I’m gonna be late—”

“Oh. Bye, honey! Good luck today!”

He wasn’t going to be late. It was just awkward to talk to his mother about his own social shortcomings sometimes, and even more awkward when she brings up Dr. Sherman, the therapist that he goes to every Thursday evening. Plus, it was satisfying to watch the small little car disappear in the distance.


 

Of course he’d have to deal with the large, looming threat behind him. School. Dreaded, awful, hateful school. Even as a senior-- especially as a senior-- Evan hated school. The closed quarters. The anxiety, the stress, the tests, the people, both dead and alive, constantly staring at you.

He hated it. 

After four years, he'd had his locker combination memorized by heart then. Even if he didn't there was always a friendly ghost around to help him out.

"8-6-7-5-30-9." One of the school's resident haunts had began to follow him around the middle of ninth grade. A lot of ghosts follow him, but none of them stick like this ghost had. The ghost said his name was William, William Brown, but everyone just called him "Willy", a nickname that stuck beyond his death. He died of some drug overdose in the back of the school and chose to haunt this place to make it a hell for everyone else. 

(Evan tries to forget that Willy was fourteen when he died, and that the drug overdose was intentional, but those are things that he feel like he shouldn't know.)

"So you've got Biology again, huh?" Willy asked, skimming over the schedule Evan held in his hands while he sorted his things. "This is, what, your fourth biology class?"

Evan nodded, only slightly. After seventeen, almost eighteen years of growing up with ghosts, he'd learned how to be subtle for people to not notice him speaking, but for the ghosts to notice him. He could become a great ventriloquist with what he could do, but the stage fright was too much. He'd stick to botany, thank you very much

"I'm sure Mr. Brown will be ecstatic to see you." Willy didn't sound happy, and of course he wouldn't, knowing that Mr. Brown was his younger brother, teaching at the same school where his older brother died. There was some sort of irony in that statement, but Mr. Brown was a nice teacher and he didn't make fun of Evan's stutter or anxiety, and he taught Evan's favorite class. His attention was caught again when Willy suddenly turned his head, and the lights over them flickered. "Uh-oh, here comes this motherfucker--"

"Evan Hansen, my main man!" Jared Kleinman, his one and only living friend, strolled by then. His locker was at the other end of the hall, but he tended to hang around Evan's every day. Not for any sort of reason, except to make sure he spent time with his "friend" so Mr. and Mrs. Kleinman would pay his car insurance. "It is so great to see you, buddy!" The sarcasm wasn't even that thin with him anymore. 

"H-hey, Jared..." Evan said, putting his final, unnecessary folders in his locker. He had his creative writing class to get to first, but he still has an extra few minutes. "H-How was your sum-summer?"

Damn stutter.

"Well..." Jared crossed his arms, looking away at nothing, in remembering his summer. He smiled. "My bunk dominated in capture-the-flag and I got second-base-below-the-bra with some girl from Israel. I think she's going into the army? So yeah, that was my summer. Yours? Or were you just hiding in your room again?"

Evan Hansen didn't do anything interesting this summer. Or anything that Jared would find interesting, that is. Mostly just... talking to ghosts. And trees. "I-I had an internship at Ellison state p-park. I, uh, mostly was b-by myself."

"Boring!" Jared rolled his eyes. He punched Evan in the arm, and Willy started rolling up his sleeves out of the corner of Evan's eyes. "Tell your mom I was nice to you today, okay? I need the car insurance."

Yes. Of course. Car insurance was all Evan was good for, for the living.

Willy attempted grabbing at Jared, like he usually did. Tried scratching his eyes out or punching him or causing harm-- his eyes went from pearly white to black and soulless, the air temperature suddenly took a dip for the worst-- but nothing happened, except Jared getting a small shiver. Evan caught his eyes and shook his head.

"Just one punch, c'mon! I'll only do one, I promise!"

Evan shook his head again, but smiled slightly, and that made Willy turn back to the normal, dead self he usually was. But, as usual, the realm of the living dragged him out of where he preferred, among the ghosts. Unfortunate. 

“Oh, would you look who comes!” Jared taunted, ripping Evan from his thoughts, as per usual. Glancing up, surely enough, he came. He, being Connor Murphy.

Few people didn’t know who the Murphys were. They were brother and sister, barely a year apart (the parents got busy after the first, Jared joked), and exact opposites. One of them was an angel who got perfect grades, was in the jazz band, and had hope for the future. The other was a stoner who yelled at anyone who crossed their path wrong.

Evan will admit to the dead that he had a crush on Zoe Murphy, the sister, when he was a junior. She was perfect and beautiful and all, but upon the realization that, if he ever does end up with anyone, they would have to deal with the ghost shit Evan deals with, but on a level that even he can’t comprehend, he pushed it away. Romance does not settle well around the dead.

Connor Murphy glared poison daggers to Jared, who grinned like the asshole he was.

“Chill out, dude!” Jared gave the eldest Murphy finger-guns, but in the most asshole-ish way possible. “I was just gonna comment on the new school shooter chic! Love the new hair cut.”

Evan had noticed that Connor had been growing his hair out since freshman year, and now it fell just a bit past his shoulders. It looked very fitting for him, and he knew that Astila would definitely approve. But he kept his mouth clamped shut, and turned back around to his locker.

He didn’t have anything to do but if it looked like he was doing something, he’d be ignored and that’s just how life was going to go.

There was, apparent, silence after Jared spoke. He nervously added, “C-C’mon, dude, it was just a joke.”

“Yeah, it was a joke. Can’t you tell that I’m laughing?” Connor deadpanned.

“Oh, shit, Jared is gonna get beat up. I wish I still had a solid stomach so I could have popcorn right now.”

“Whatever, Murphy. You’re more of a freak than Evan is.” Though the jibe was meant to go straight at Connor, Evan heard it and felt pinpricks in his heart. Yeah, he was a freak. He was the boy who talked seemingly to himself, in low, hushed mumbles that no one could hear.

He couldn’t own a very good phone without some mysterious interference messing up the programming. Lights would flicker around him, and the air just seemed colder. He was just colder. On the social ladder, Evan was so low that his feet were on the ground. And Evan knew that, yes, he was a freak, yet hearing it from someone he thought was a friend hurt.

He didn’t pay attention as Jared walked away, freaked out by Connor’s silent glare.

“I’m going to kill him. I’m going to take a knife and slit his throat, and then open his guts and pull them out one-by-one. And then—” A wave of a hand through Willy’s body was enough to make him stop. After all, the lights were flickering above them. Phones were definitely not working, if anyone was even on them.

Evan glanced over at Connor, who gave him the murder-eyes, too. “What the fuck are you looking at?”

“Nothing.” Evan lied, and he walked away.

Chapter Text

TWO

“An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young…”

- Edgar Allen Poe


 

The only haven in the hell that was school was his oasis in the desert. Also known as, the library.

Of course, Evan never took himself to be too much of a library person, but when Willy had shown him the small, secluded corner at the beginning of ninth grade, and when the librarian found him near the end of lunch period and told him that he could stay again, as long as he stays generally quiet and doesn’t make a mess, it became his safe spot. Where he could go during lunch and free periods to relax, work on his classwork or homework, and get ahead.

Getting ahead was handy, with his, um… “extracurricular activities”.

Being back in the library after months of being away was jarring at first, to Evan. Like seeing a new ghost, or a ghost of someone he recognized. But the cool air conditioning of the large, book-filled room, the smell of ancient tomes hidden somewhere…

It was amazing.

“Again, pretty sure our local librarian is a witch.” Willy commented as they both walked past, and the librarian gave just a subtle nod in response. “See?”

Witches were… Well, Evan knew the supernatural existed. Or he supposed, at least, that they did. After all, ghosts did too, so who was to say that vampires and werewolves and magic didn’t, either? Though all his research on internet (even finding the darker places he should avoid at seventeen), he found nothing that resembled a case like his.

Zilch on the anyone-seeing-ghosts.

“Whatcha gonna work on today, Ev?” Willy asked as they found their way to the secluded spot. It was through a few bookshelves, almost akin to an ancient castle, but made out of piles and shelves of books. A table was pushed into a corner, and there were cobwebs scattered throughout the small, hidden area. Chairs were stacked on top of the table and were covered in a thin layer of dust. A small bean chair was leaning against an empty, unused bookshelf.

“Homework.” Obviously. He had work from Creative Writing I, Biology II, Sociology, Geometry… He had work he’d rather like to get done before he left school, and he only had all of lunch to attempt to get ahead.

Well, lunch and his free period, which was spent in study hall, getting ahead on homework. After that, he could do what he really wanted to do, but first, homework.

Unfortunately, Willy had died in his sophomore year and had never taken Biology II, luckily, Evan was good at biology. He preferred the living things that didn’t judge him. And the dead things, too, but no one really knew about the dead things except for his mom.

He pulled out, first, the notebook he designated for Creative Writing. It wasn’t necessary he needed to take the class, but it was either Creative Writing I or being stuck in a third course of Spanish. After enduring grueling Spanish classes where he was asked to speak a language he didn’t grasp well in front of a class who laughed at him when he stumbled over his words and couldn’t roll an r perfectly, well…

Creative Writing it is.

And his teacher was interesting, too, which made up for the fact that it was a morning class. Mr. Phillips-- Michael, Mr. Michael, Mr. P, he didn’t care, as long as he wasn’t called asshole, he was fine—was engaging in the class, but also didn’t ask for much participation. They were expected to write an entire short novel (a novella, Mr. Phillips said, and it wasn’t what a Spanish soap opera was, apparently) within the next semester, starting in the next few weeks.

A finished novella for a final project. Certainly, Evan had some stories he could tell.

The first prompt was to test the waters of their writing, and it was simple. Tell an interesting truth or lie about yourself.

“You’re obviously going for the ghost stuff, right?” Willy asked, peering over his shoulder and the small slip the prompt was typed out on.

Evan shrugged, pulling out the bag of knock-off potato chips he had, settling a napkin under it to catch any fallen crumbs. “I don’t know—It’s not the most interesting thing about me.”

“And what would you say is the most interesting thing about you?” A new voice entered their conversation. Evan glanced up, seeing the tall figure of Connor Murphy leaning against the bookshelves of the library. Immediately, Evan’s mind went into overdrive—

-- What if he heard me talking to Willy? Does he think I’m insane? Crazy? It’s obvious that I’m below him on the social ladder- god, I’m so bad I’m below a literal stoner

“Oh, shit.” No kidding, Willy, Evan thought snidely to himself, before hesitating.

He’d hesitated too long, crap, Connor was looking at him weird… “Um, you know, uh, just me in general, I guess?”

“Hm. Sure.” Connor rolled his eyes. The taller, elder Murphy sibling was a hair short of being intimidating to Evan, though there were nerves bouncing around in his gut. The intimidation didn’t go far, however, with all the ghosts Evan’s seen throughout his life, he’s…

Well, certainly if he stumbled across a rotting corpse, he’d be indifferent, to put it simply.

“W-What are you doing back here?” Evan laughed, nervously, trying to look everywhere but Connor’s heavy gaze.

Connor blinked at him for a second, before saying something he’d never heard uttered from the boy’s mouth. “Look, I’m, uh—god, this is awkward—I’m sorry for yelling at you in the hall.”

Evan blanked. Willy whistled low. What?

“I wasn’t in a great mood this morning, and well, Kleinman wasn’t helping much. But I shouldn’t have taken it out on you, sorry.”

“You- You don’t have to apologize!” Oh, great, now Evan’s getting stared at. “I mean, I a-accept it, but it’s totally fine. I understand—Jared is, well…” Not a great person. Only friends with me so he can get his car insurance paid. Taunts me pretty much the same way. You only just… yelled at me. I’m used to it.

“Okay. Alright. Cool.” Connor nodded. He glanced at the bookshelf he was leaning against. “Man, how’d you even find this place?”

“Um.” Evan quickly glanced to Willy, who was floating around Connor and snickering at the cold spot he was creating. Ghosts, man. “I just… found it, ninth grade. I can stay back here as long as I don’t make a big mess. It beats, uh, eating in the cafeteria.”

“Hell yeah it does.”

An awkward beat of silence passes.

“Well, um, see ya later, Evan.”

“B-bye?”

Connor Murphy was gone just as mysteriously as he appeared.

“That was awkward as hell. Man, I wish I had popcorn.”

Evan ignored the ghost who was distorted from his own laughter, turning back to the notebook at hand. The most interesting truth about himself? It sounded like a lie, but he’d write it anyway.


Emilia “Emily” Rosenheart. Died at 11:12 AM, after being abducted from her bus stop and missing for three hours. Police reports say that there was evidence of sexual assault, and the cause of death was ruled blunt force trauma. They haven’t been able to match any DNA in any database.

Her body was found outside of Winter Creek, in the woods off of Mountain Drive.


 

That’s where Evan was headed.

Heidi Hansen had figured it out first, when he was younger, that he could see ghosts. It was after Evan claimed he had seen the faceless man who watched over him when he was alone. Who'd helped him stay safe. After that, the house became haunted with hordes of Evan's ghostly friends. They never did any harm. Or, serious harm, that is. Most of them weren't poltergeists, just lonely ghosts, stuck on the earth with nowhere to go. Heidi didn't mind them unless they started making dishes fly, turning the television on and off, and wasting electricity and water.

She knew what Evan did in his free time, helping ghosts. She didn’t know how dangerous it could be. It was better to keep that part of the job safe.

"Alright, haunted stop number one!" Willy cheered, stretching his arms in the air and floating four feet off the ground. 

"You don't have to put it that way." Evan mumbled, fighting with the Bluetooth headset in his ear. It was uncomfortable, but it allowed him to talk aloud without attracting much suspicion when walking around.

Oh, hey, that kid is talking to himself? Oh, no, wait he has a Bluetooth never mind. 

It allowed him to talk to ghosts easier, discomfort be damned.

"So what are the reports, Ev?"

"There's been rumors..." He glanced around, quickly, to make sure no one was paying attention. The street was empty. "Rumors of a poltergeist near Mountain Drive, in the woods."

"Ooh, they're always fun!"

And dangerous, Evan wanted to add. Dangerous because they could deal damage, level mountains with screams and turn the world into hell, if they weren't treated carefully enough. Dangerous, because ghosts can hurt Evan, and all he can do back is barely touch them. Dangerous because they could kill him.

"Supposedly..." He paused as he passed a group of teenagers, probably freshman, enjoying a day on the town. They didn't even look his way. “This thing happened twelve years ago.”

Twelve. It was always a specific number for ghosts. Twelve days, twelve weeks, twelve years... No matter what kind of ghost, they were always attracted to the number twelve. Evan really wanted to know why, but Willy couldn't offer a clean explanation whenever he asked. ("It's like humans and the number three." "What?" "Exactly!")

"Oof. Cold case?"

He only nodded in response.

This is what Evan Hansen did in his free time. He walked places, he helped ghosts move on from this plane to the next, and he did his homework. It was a meagre, boring life, but he's lived it for seventeen, almost eighteen years, all by himself. And he's been doing pretty fine, if he said so himself.

(His mother disagrees. He needs more human, 'living' friends, she always says. But it's hard whenever everyone thinks you're a freak.)


 

By the time they get to the forest, it's quiet. The sun is beginning to set and there's no sign of a poltergeist yet. She would appear around the time she’d passed, which Evan hadn’t been able to get much information on, as it wasn’t released to the public. Ghosts that they had passed on their way claimed that she was active around seven-thirty, but ghosts never had a good sense of time.

Evan found himself sitting on a log at sunset. At least the sunset was pretty nice. He pulled out his camera to take a good picture of it.

"Photo-bomb!"

The only thing that ever appeared of Willy in any sort of photo is a mysterious orb floating around. 

"Nice try." Evan mumbled to himself. The orb was only in the corner of the photo and it looked like a glare from the sun. It was still a nice picture. Maybe he'd... No, he hadn't touched his Instagram for months. He only made it to follow Jared (and that was because Jared needed to screenshot when he hit 6660 followers. How he had so many followers, Evan didn't question.) and that was it. Every now and then he posted a tree picture, which got maybe one or two likes. It was still a nice picture, at least.

He glanced at his watch.

7:10.

He had a bit of time to kill.

"Sweet. What's the plan of attack."

Evan shrugged. "Maybe just watching tonight?"

"Watching? Booring!"

"Well... We need to get a good idea of what she's capable of." Evan retorted, probably a bit too defensively. But who could care, he was out in the middle of the woods with nobody around except dead people. And dead people don't judge you. "Plus, uh, Willy, if you haven't noticed, I can still die."

"Yeah point for Evan. Woo." The ghost said, rather unenthusiastically. 

Evan rolled his eyes. Ghosts that had been dead for a while—such as Willy’s case—never understood why the living were afraid of it. Especially with someone like Evan around, they could ease themselves into a false sense of, “hey, I can still interact with the living, like I never died!”, but they commonly forgot (unless they were like Astila) that he could still die. And he had family he’d leave behind.

Evan was not set on dying any time soon.

“Evan. I think someone followed us?” Willy was squinting off into the distance, the same direction that they had come in just a few minutes ago. Evan turned, watching as Willy flew straight to whoever followed him, but Evan could recognize the hair from anywhere.

Did Connor Murphy follow him here?

Suddenly, a loud scream pierced the air. It wasn’t Connor—he was just casually walking through the woods, looking around with a suspicious eye, unaware of the screaming. The smell of death began to spill out into the air as it made a drastic drop in temperature, making Evan shiver. The wind was beginning to howl. He glanced back, quickly, to see a snow-white, twelve-year-old girl with dark hair in the center of a hurricane. She was still bleeding as if it were fresh, not from twelve years prior.

Behind Evan was now a poltergeist.

This wasn’t going to end well, Evan figured.

“What a stalker.” Willy hissed, suddenly appearing back at Evan’s side. “He’s followed you twice today, Ev! Isn’t that weird?”

“May-maybe it was only once? This could just be a coincidence?”

Willy gave him a glare. The likeliness of this being a coincidence was very small and meagre, after all. “Want me to mess with him?”

“No. Shh.” Even though Willy wouldn’t be heard, Evan still felt the need to hush him as Connor walked through the forest. He had noticed the drastic decrease in temperature, the oncoming darkness as the sun began to set, and had already lifted his hood over his head. If he didn’t see Evan, maybe he’d just turn around?

Evan was good at blending into the background, though his head was beginning to pound with the wails of Emilia not too far away, and the smell of death everywhere.

Connor stopped, somewhat near where Emilia was. It wasn’t possible that he’d seen her—if anything, it was just a strange current of wind, right? Connor was glancing around, looking for anything living in the forest, a flashlight now in hand brandished not just as a torch, but as a weapon.

hu͏̷̛r̕t ̸̛͞h̡ur͘t͢͜ ̡͞h͟u̴͘ŗ̕t̕͠͡ ͏͡

p̴a̸i҉͟n҉̵

k̷͡i̕l͞l̴̡҉

Evan couldn’t just watch Emilia anymore. He had to do something. She was going after Connor, and Evan was the only one who could stop this threat. No one is going to get hurt tonight, he decided, mostly to himself, before he’d come to the forest. That was once meant for him, but it could be applicable to any, if desired.

He’d snuck closer to Connor in the process—he was always light, silent, and quick on his feet, even if he portrayed himself as not being such.

Crack. A branch broke. Evan dove, pushing Connor out of the way of the falling tree branch.

“What the fu—”

They crashed to the ground, a tangle of limbs, as a large branch fell behind them. Too close to comfort, Evan thought to himself, sitting up immediately upon seeing the branch.

“Ow, fuck. What the hell.” Connor groaned, rubbing his shoulder that Evan had tackled to get both of them out of the way. “Hansen?” It was weird hearing his name from Connor's mouth, but they'd been in the same schools since they were both in middle school. They'd heard each others’ names in roll call in classes and Evan could've sworn he heard Connor's name get called for Creative Writing just that day.

“Branch.” Evan’s heartbeat was skyrocketing, and it wasn’t just because of his weird ghost-powers picking up on Emilia. A branch that size could’ve killed Connor, if it hit him well enough.

Connor glanced at the branch lying near their feet. “I, what the—” He slowly stood up, completely ignorant of the poltergeist that ravaged the forest nearby. By then, Willy had gotten the idea to distract her, so given as long as Emilia didn’t kill him—

Ghosts can’t normally die twice, Evan reminded himself, standing up and brushing off his pants.

“Thanks, I guess. But what the hell.” Connor kicked the branch, glancing up at the trees above them. “Where did this even come from?”

“I- I don’t know. I just—I saw it, and…” Connor knew the rest, Evan figured, and he just shrugged. “So, uh… What brings y-you to these woods?”

Connor furrowed his eyebrows and glanced away. “None of your business. What are you doing out here?”

Oh, shit. Um. He probably hesitated a beat too long, but hopefully, Connor would just rub it off as some sort of anxiety. “Oh, uh. N-nature walk. I like trees?”

I like trees. Oh my god, Evan, you’re an idiot! He’s just lucky that Willy is too distracted with Emilia to notice the failure of a living being that was Evan Hansen. Connor gave Evan a strange look, but nodded nonetheless.

Until he said, “Jesus Christ, are you okay?”

What? Evan didn’t understand what he meant, until he finally felt the blood dripping from his nose. How long had that been happening? Possibly not too long, touching his nose stung a bit. Probably just scraped it on the forest floor, or something. “Uh, it’s just a nosebleed. D-Do you have a tissue?”

Connor nodded, but there was something still off about it. “Yeah, in my car.”

It’s official, Evan decided. He was so weird that he had even managed to freak out Connor Murphy. Well, there goes any social dignity he had left.

Chapter Text

THREE

“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.” 
― Laurie Halse Anderson


His dreams are full of crows and rabbits with fur as black as ash. He knows there are seven crows, but the rabbits always multiply or disappear before he can count them all. They circle around the giant maple tree in the forest, and in the middle of them is Connor Murphy, and when he glances towards Evan's direction, the crows and rabbits explode into a fog, and Connor is gone.


"Holy shit, dude." It's Wednesday, and that means it's time for Jared to pick Evan up again. Every Monday, Wednesday, and occasional Friday, his "family-friend" drives over to his house (a good two blocks, which Evan thinks he could just simply walk. No one ever lets him) to pick him up and take him to school. It helps give Jared brownie points, so he gets his car insurance paid, and Evan doesn't mind being used as a pawn. 

Except on this particular Wednesday.

"You look like you got run over by a train, stood up, and then got hit by another one going the other way." He wasn't in that bad of shape-- or, well, he supposed, he could've been in worse. He usually was tired-looking and pale (despite a more tannish complexion), with bags under his eyes, but it never got too bad unless there was a ghost issue. And by god there was a ghost issue, the same Poltergeist from nights before hadn't quit and he'd been scraped so many times trying to approach her.

"Thanks." Is his reply as he crawls into the car. 

"Did you get the answer to four on the English homework?" Jared asked as he began to pull the car out of the driveway. "I'm not sure I entirely got who Elizabeth's father was, and Google was no help, whatsoever." In their shared English class, the current book was Frankenstein, a book that Evan had surprisingly read before, in his spare time.

(He's beginning to have less spare time with the entire ghost business he's running, because it takes up a lot of time and it's not paid, but he feels like helping them move on helps the world somewhat. It's a good distraction, too, at least.)

Evan nodded. "A guard--Italian, I think. Fought in some big battle, I can't remember." He was lucky he could remember Frankenstein easily, because he hadn't picked up his borrowed copy from the school since the class had started to read it a few days ago. He was running of his memory, because his time was spent in the woods, late at night, getting closer and closer to a poltergeist before getting slapped with a branch, or hit with a rock, and eventually calling it quits for the night.

Despite being incorporeal, Willy still hang out in the back seat by Jared's book bag. Evan never understood how a ghost was able to ride in a car with him-- Willy just phased through the door to get in, after all-- and at this point he was too afraid to ask.

"Is that all? No wonder Google wasn't giving me straight answers." Jared pulled into the parking spot that he always did when they arrived at school, never a long drive at all. "Anyway, tell your mom I was nice to you again, huh? So she tells my mom--"

"I will." Evan knew what Jared was going to say anyway, so he cut him off while he could. They were going to be a few minutes late if they didn't hurry. There wasn't anything else said than that, no "See you at lunch/in class?" or "Meet back here after school, we could get ice cream!", like other friends would be doing. 

He didn’t know if he should prefer that or not. After all, there was a part of him that longed for human interaction. To have someone be friends with him, someone who didn’t think he was weird or creepy, someone who enjoyed his presence. Someone to eat ice cream with. But he had friends, he knew. He had friends that were more of an eldritch horror than a living being, and sometimes, it was better to sit in the middle of a forest, listening to tales of long-forgotten soldiers who died on the soil, to listen to Native American tales by the ghosts who haunted his attic and his walls.

All of his friends were dead.

Standing in the hallway of high school is a grim reminder of the life around him. Or, maybe not grim—but Evan was most definitely a mixture of exhausted from a lack of sleep, add the anxiety he has on top of it (and he forgot to take his meds, this morning, he cursed at himself when he approached his locker, he should have the backups at the nurse’s office, at least), and the fact that the poltergeist has been worrying him for a few days straight is getting to him.

Not to mention he hadn’t talked to Connor since that day in the woods. The day he saved Connor from a rather unfortunate branch-crushing death and got a nosebleed all at once. At least he had a tissue, but after that, well… Connor packed up and drove away.

Why was he in those woods, that day? Why had he decided to be in the same place Evan was? Was Connor following Evan, or was it just a list of coincidences?

That confusion on top of everything made Evan very cranky that Wednesday morning.

“Do you have any idea on the poltergeist thing?” Willy always disappeared every morning when he arrived to school, appearing back up at the lockers. Evan never questioned it, it was rude to question a ghost’s schedule, and he figured it out when he walked past the biology classroom and saw Willy floating around Mr. Brown one day.

(Evan tries not to dwell too much on that Willy was fourteen when he died, and that when Evan was fourteen, he was in the same mindset but never went through with anything.)

Evan shrugged. Both of them know that talking in the middle of a hallway amongst the crowds was not the best thing to do, yet Willy still did it anyway. Ghosts tend to not understand human culture after a good decade or two past their death.

At least he’s become a master at subtle communication because of this.

“Think she’ll calm down soon?”

Another shrug; with the way poltergeists work and live (in relative terms of being a ghost and dead), it was hard to tell exactly. One of the first poltergeists Evan tried to work with didn’t calm down until two months after he had started acting up, and that was when Evan was in middle school and even more of a loser creepy freak than he was now.

And one of the more recent ones, a man who had been murdered by his brother, only took a few days. He was also recent and Logan Britt is now in jail for murdering his brother and making it look like a suicide, Evan thought as he pulled out the notebooks he’d be needing for his first periods.

Back to hell it was, Evan Hansen.


 “Evan, can I talk to you for a minute?” He heard the young voice of Mr. Phillips call him out as the class was dismissed. It was lunch time, and Evan didn’t have breakfast, and his stomach was growling, but his thoughts were elsewhere.

Did I do something wrong did I do something wrong—

Upon seeing Evan’s panicked face, the teacher gave him a laugh of reassurance. Or, well, it was more of a chuckle. “You’re not in trouble, I just want to talk to you about your last assignment.”

Oh. Phew. There’s a chair next to Mr. Phillip’s desk that Evan sat in, hanging his bag off the back of it. “Y-Yeah?” Teachers rarely called on Evan for much concerning his school work.

It was more of a “You need to get over your shyness” or a “You can’t keep not talking forever”, despite him having a note from his therapist that he has a bunch of different anxieties and hey, maybe not calling him out when he’s clearly having a panic attack or excusing him from presenting when he doesn’t feel good so he doesn’t have one? But the light in Mr. Phillip’s eyes conveyed something much different.

“The assignment I assigned Monday.” Tell a secret that no one else knows. (Can be fictional or nonfictional). “The ghosts?” He glanced to the desk and saw that, yup, there was his Creative Writing notebook, open onto the prompt he had mentioned.

I can see ghosts is scrawled out in his terrible fusion of print and cursive.

It was a good idea, Evan thought on Monday, to actually write about his ghostly experiences. He could tell someone else and they wouldn’t have to necessarily believe him, it was just fiction after all, a story he was telling. Except it wasn’t, technically, but people would believe what they wanted to believe.

“You’ve outdone yourself on this one.” Evan’s face flushed immediately. He wasn’t used to compliments. “I wanted to ask you, is this what you’re planning to write for the novella?”

Ah, yes. The big final project—the one they’re beginning to work on now. “I mean—um, yeah, if it’s not too dark?”

Because oh god, he could tell dark stories. Ghosts mutilated beyond recognition that he’s seen ever since he could remember. The stories of poltergeists and blood and the raw emotion and power the dead held over the living.

The story of the faceless man who watched over me when I slept when I was a child who turned out to be my father.

“No, no. Dark is good.” Mr. Phillips shut the notebook, putting it back on the graded pile. “A lot of people have come by with really… I don’t want to say cliché, because no story is cliché, but really normal ideas for a novella. A romance story, a nonfiction story about someone they look up to, even an autobiography—” Evan immediately knew that was Sheri C. who asked about the autobiography, because she’d asked the first day if she could write about her favorite things. Her favorite things all included her. “—But nothing dark, yet. Please, I’d love to see you write more about this idea you have, if you don’t mind.”

It would… Well, Dr. Sherman was always telling him to write in something to vent out his feelings, so maybe this would help? Evan nodded. “Uh, y-yeah, I’ll see what I can do.”

“That’s great, Evan.” He shuffled some of the papers on his desk, turning away. “You’re free to go to lunch now. Have a nice day.”

“Y-You too.”

He was waiting for the universe to screw him over more, and it seemed it finally happened.


 Connor Murphy was in the library, and Evan had to squeeze past him to get to his spot.

“Alright, I really think he’s stalking you now, Evan.” Willy said, floating nearby. Half of his body was stuck in a bookshelf and it looked like he was a video game character clipping into it, and if it weren’t for the fact that Connor Murphy was nearby, Evan would’ve laughed at the absurdity of him.

Whispers of ghosts that haunt the library falling to the back of his mind, he decides his options. He could confront or flee. Confronting was easier with ghosts than humans because Evan knew how ghosts worked—how their powers could be used against him, how he can avoid being killed—but humans? Humans were a mystery that Evan never would be able to understand (despite himself being human, too). Or he could flee. Flee to the bathroom, and fall behind on his homework, and fail his classes and flunk out of senior year.

Hm.

“C’mon, stick it to him, Evan!” Willy encouraged.

Never listen to Willy’s encouragement. He didn’t feel particularly brave or confident, but he did want to get to his spot.

Too much hesitation and thinking later, Connor Murphy looked up and straight at Evan. “Hey.” He said, closing the book he was reading and sticking it under his arm.

“Oh, u-uh, hey!” Massive failure, Evan, he thought to himself, but there were a lot of thoughts going on at once. Including Connor Murphy is more terrifying than any poltergeist I’d ever encountered, holy shit. “Wh-what’s up? O-Or, well, I mean, I know I saw you reading. You’re obviously reading something, sorry! I just need to, uh, get through? Where you’re standing.”

“Smooth, Ev.”

Shut up.

“Oh, yeah, sure.” Connor moved out of the small crevice that led to Evan’s back corner. Just as Evan thought he’d escaped, gotten away from everything having to deal with social interaction, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It gripped tightly. “Can I ask you something?”

“S-Sure?”

“That night. In the woods.” Connor had his grip still tightly on Evan’s shoulder, but he looked away as he spoke. “What were you really doing out there?”

“J-just a nature walk—”

“You see, I’d believe that normally, but…” He looked back at Evan, his eyes narrowing. “I don’t believe it. There’s no nature trails anywhere near there. I thought you were maybe geocaching, but there isn’t any near there, either. So, Hansen. What were you really doing out there?”

Connor is onto him. Evan feels his heart fall to a pit in his stomach and get pulled back out just to fall again. Willy is floating by, he can feel, and there’s a static in the air and the lights flicker up ahead, and the static is filling his head.

“It—I—” Evan tore his shoulder free from Connor’s grip. His heart was beating, and he needs to head to the nurse, to get out, because here comes a panic attack, and everything feels like its crushing him, a snake wrapped around his neck. You could tell the truth, the snake tells him. But he wouldn’t believe you. He’d call you a freak.

“I w-was telling the truth.” He lied, feeling tears building up. “I just go for nature walks in the woods. It’s the truth.”

Connor glared at him. While he’d probably seen worse, Evan flinched under the glare. “Alright, fuck, okay. Whatever you say.” Connor began walking off, but he stopped, and turned his head, slightly. He was going to call him a freak, call him insane, call him weird—Evan knew what was coming but suddenly it wasn’t. He’d paused, about to say something, but he just decided it was better to walk off.

“I’m going to passively-aggressively flicker his lights on all night, Evan. I am going to  a͘nnoy the̸ ͘hel͢l out̢ of ͠him fo̡r t͡ha̶t.” At least his ghostly friends were still there for him. Willy’s eyes had gone completely dark, almost like a poltergeist, except he wasn’t that out of control, at least.

Evan nodded, not even caring anymore. He wasn’t hungry, he was on the verge of a panic attack. Maybe he should just head home…

He glanced to where Connor had gone, and his eyes fell on the book that the elder Murphy sibling had been reading. Oh? He walked closer, and felt his heart, once again, plummet. 

It was a book about ghosts.


Lisa watched as Logan Britt confessed to murdering his brother. He told them everything, after he was brought in under the suspicion.

She wasn’t surprised that Lily’s advice, as per usual, led to the arrest of someone else. Usually, they didn’t take any recent cases, but something about this case possibly struck a chord with them? Or they saw something that the detectives missed, clearly. As in, it is totally possible to fake a suicide if you know how.

Not to mention, the squints at the computers—they’d managed to, with a warrant, recover deleted search history about “what to do if you accidentally kill someone” and “how to frame a suicide” on Logan’s search history. It was like having a how-to crime manual on your desk after you get arrested for planting bombs, or something to that extent.

“Lisa!” Her wife, Eleanor, had arrived at the station early. Too early, as there were still a few more officers than she’d be comfortable with around them. Eleanor grabbed her tightly and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

Lisa rolled her eyes, but the love for the woman she had married was too strong, and she couldn’t help but lovingly gaze back.

“You solved another case! This means it’s time to celebrate!” Eleanor didn’t know about Lily—no one outside the station knew about Lily except for, well, Lily themself, but they didn’t seem too keen on telling people who they were. Which was a shame, because they would be perfect for the force.

“Eleanor, we talked about this…” Lisa sighed, though she was still grinning. “We can’t celebrate every time I solve a case.” That would be a lot of celebrations and they shouldn’t really spend all that money on just her.

“When was the last time we celebrated?”

“Last week.”

“Oh.” Eleanor pushed some of her dark hair out of her face, staring at Lisa with large, chestnut-colored eyes. “Yeah, but this is different! No one expected this case!”

That’s true. No one expected this, not even the police force. But one little tip from a mysterious citizen in the town telling them where too look, almost—almost if Lily had spoken to Jeff Britt himself—led them to get justice. And there was nothing that Lisa loved more than justice.

Well, she loved her wife more than justice, obviously.

…Only by a small bit, sometimes.

“And I wasn’t thinking of anything big.” Following Lisa as she clocked out for the day (early, it was a special occasion, Eleanor had come, and all of the department couldn’t say no to her, and it was only an hour early, anyway), she continued talking. “Just an extra scoop at À La Mode! The peach ice cream is back only for this week!”

Peach, the same nickname that Eleanor called Lisa when they were alone.

“Alright, fine, we can go out.” Lisa smiled, linking her arm with her wife’s. She turned to Chief Maelstrom, who only grinned and nodded as they both left to share peach ice cream together. 

Chapter Text

FOUR

“O Death, rock me asleep, bring me to quiet rest, let pass my weary guiltless ghost out of my careful breast.”

--Anne Boleyn


 

Despite Evan trying to maintain an invisible presence at school, he was still noticed, every now and then. Especially by Lauren G., who had been in the library when Connor had confronted Evan the day before and had gotten snapchats of the two talking.

No video—they didn’t hear what Evan and Connor were talking about, thank god, but it looked like Connor was pushing Evan around. Bullying him. Tormenting him. And the school went berserk.

(According to Willy, he’d had the time of his life pestering Connor during the night. Evan didn’t think he’d actually go through with it, but Willy will always be Willy.)

The snapchats, however, brought another Murphy into his life—in the form of Connor’s younger sister, Zoe Murphy, who was just as intimidating as he was, but in different ways.

If Connor was a knife, Zoe would be the glimmering smile that came with a murder.

He’d been a witness to Zoe’s bad side, even though it had a place to be directed at and it was rightful. A substitute teacher in junior year had tormented one of Zoe’s friends. There was a “no eating in the classroom” by the substitute teacher’s laws. And while, for one day, most normal people would have found this fine, a diabetic girl named Susanna in their class suddenly had her blood sugar level drop drastically, and wasn’t able to even eat a candy bar in class.

Zoe grabbed her glimmering smile and went after the teacher, and students backed both her and Susanna up. Evan stood to the side, with Willy whistling in his ear, Damn, Ev.

That is also when Evan had a crush on her, but he’d gotten over it quickly, like he usually does. If he ever fell in love and married in his later life he would have to burden whoever he married with the same ghost problems he had, and he didn’t want to do that with anyone.

Zoe approached his locker early in the morning, a cup of Starbucks in her hand and her jeans covered in small, drawn-on stars and planets. “Evan! I heard my brother cornered you yesterday in the library. Did he hurt you?”

“Oh, uh, no? No, he didn’t. We were just talking, those, um, those snapchats look a lot worse than they were—”

“Evan you were on the verge of a panic attack, and then you had a panic attack ten minutes into your math homework.” It wasn’t always nice to have a witty ghost following you around, but he couldn’t control ghosts. He merely shifted his shoulder towards the ghost—as if he were shifting on his feet, just a casual mood—to shut Willy up.

“Oh, no, is he blackmailing you, too?”

“No? Oh, god, n-no, he’s fine. I’m fine. We’re both good.” What would cool people do in this situation? Probably laugh it off, give some finger guns and walk away. But Evan was not a cool person, and someone like Zoe stooping down to talk to him was enough to make his mind go haywire.

The only other time Evan had talked to her was congratulating her on getting some fancy award for jazz band after a concert. He was pretty sure she hadn’t heard her at all, but maybe she did, because she knew his name?

Or, everyone knew his name, as in, Avoid Evan Hansen At All Costs, He Is A Freak Of Nature.

“Alright, but if he does threaten you, tell me, okay?” Zoe takes a contemplative sip of her Starbucks before continuing. “He’s fucking mental sometimes. I know how he can be.”

“O-okay.”

“See you later, Evan.”

He couldn’t formulate a coherent response, so he just waved as Zoe walked away. He didn’t have a crush on Zoe, not at all, but damn, what he’d do for a friend like that. A living friend like that, so it could seem like Evan actually had friends and wasn’t the weird kid who hung out in graveyards and abandoned forests when no one was looking.


It was the eighth night of dealing with Emilia Rosenheart the poltergeist when he finally got through to her.

“Emilia—Emilia, it’s okay! It’s all over. You don’t have to suffer anymore.”

k̡įl͜l ̴

k̷i͟ l͟ l̛  

k il̨  l

“No one can hurt you anymore. No one can get to you anymore.” Please hear me, Evan thought, pushing all of the emotion into his voice that he could. All the power into his voice. “Em̡ili̷a̸, p͘l̡ea͢s̷e—”

no n͟o͡ n͡o͜ nono̴NON͢O͏N̨ O

“E-Em i҉li̷a̶?” The language of ghosts always felt weird and foreign to his tongue, but it had gotten through to her. Finally, there was a response. Finally, there was some sort of glimmer of hope.

“Don't̶ ͟c̕all me ͢t̨hat!” The girl shrieks, in a much more human voice, with a much more human form, dark eyes staring right through to Evan.

She fell to the ground, onto her knees. Without the energy whistling around her and the wind pulling in every direction at her body and the darkness dissipating, Evan saw how small she was. How small and frail and pale she was. Her dress was covered in red splotches, assumedly from her death. Her murder. “Ple͏ase, d̵on't̴ ̴cal̵l͞ ͡me t̛ha͟t.” She said, covering her face with her hands.

“A-Alright.” Evan stood still, assessing the situation. He shouldn’t try to approach when there was still a chance that Emilia—er, the poltergeist—could fall back and retaliate, and go full-poltergeist again. Slow and easy, as he’s been taking the past few days. Slow and gentle.  “What can I call you, then?”

She fell quiet. “…E͞mil̴y͞.” She said. “Don͟'̵t͟ ̶çall m͏e ̧tha͝t.͘”

“Okay.” Evan took a hesitant step forward. “Can I come closer to you? Is that okay?”

Emily glanced at him—her eyes were still black, soulless, much like a poltergeist. It was dangerous for Evan to approach her, but still, he had to try. He had to try to reach out to her. “Ş-S҉ure.̧” She said, looking at Evan more with curiosity than with anger and fear and murder in her eyes.

He slowly approached. Gently. Poltergeists were a fickle state of being, and one move—one step on a twig that was too loud, one movement that was too familiar—could set everything off. Could cause total mayhem, and possibly, Evan’s death. “My name is Evan.”

“Evan?” She mimicked English instead of using ghost, which sounded strange and convoluted. She’s been dead for twelve years and her ghost is just now acting up, of course it sounds weird. “Wait, you’re…Alive?”

“I think so.”

Emily held back a small giggle. “You think so?”

Dealing with younger ghosts was always easier. They don’t have the maturity of adults, and they can laugh at Evan’s jokes and feel more at ease. They were easier to please, but harder, at the same time, stuck for eternity in a state where their emotions could get the better of them and they could suddenly cause destruction without even knowing. He sat down next to her. “Yeah, I think so. I have a pulse.”

“You’re weird.” Emily said. “How do you see me? I thought—I thought—”

“I can’t exactly explain it.” Evan said, quickly interrupting her. Possibly a bit rude, but it stopped her from panicking more about her death. “But I can just see ghosts.”

“Oh.” She turns back to her hands, which are pale, coaked in dirt and blood, just like she’d been on the moment of her death, when her heart stopped beating. Just like all the ghosts Evan had seen. “Why am I here again? I should be dead.”

“I’m not sure.” There can be many triggers for a ghost to come back after death. More immediate ones are stuck because of unfinished business, or because of a curse, or they died in the wrong spot, such as on a leyline. After a while, ghosts can come out for many reasons. “My friend says it’s because it’s been twelve years.”

“Twelve years?” She possibly had been stuck in some sort of limbo-sleep, but Evan wasn’t entirely sure, and neither were the ghosts, as well. “I’ve been… for twelve years?”

“Yes.” He has to be truthful and honest with the ghosts, as much as he wants to help and shelter the younger ones. Tracing a scar on his arm, Evan looks at Emily, whose eyes are slowly fading to a grey color. “I’m sorry about your death.”

“It wasn’t your fault, right?” Evan shook his head, and Emily flopped back. Now that she wasn’t a deadly poltergeist trying to destroy and kill kill kill everything in her path, she was like any normal ten-year-old. Maybe a bit more mature, but still stuck, eternally, at ten years old.

At least she wasn’t stuck in eternal puberty like Willy was.

“Did they get him?”

“Hm?”

“The guy who did this to me. Mason Bishop.”

Oh. Oh. She just dropped this right on him. Normally it would take weeks to coax out the murderer of a ghost, but Emily was straight to the point about it. Evan shook his head. “No, they didn’t, I’m sorry.”

“But—but he di̵d̢ t͢his ̶to͝ m͟e.” Emily turned away, and the wind picked up a bit more. Shit. “He d̴i͏d ͘t͞hi̛s̸ ̛to̴ me͢ he did thiş ͏to m̛e h͞e ͜d̡i͡d̷-͞-͏”

“Emily, please, calm down. You’re okay. I can help you.” Evan instinctively put his arms out and reached towards her and feeling a ghost underneath them was disconcerting. Touching ghosts was something Evan tended to avoid—they could touch him, and he could touch them back, but it was weird science. They felt like the smoke of liquid nitrogen, except more condensed and a bit more solid.

“H̡ow? H͢o̕w͞ ͏can͝ y̸ou҉ he̴ļp͝ ͞me?͠” Emily is beginning to panic again, but she’s not pushing Evan away, and not even paying attention that hey, Evan can physically touch her. “He͟ ̕g̕ot away with i͡t͏!”

“That’s not—no, he didn’t get away with it.” Evan said. “He didn’t get away with it, he just hasn’t been caught yet. I can help you out. I can tell people what happened, and they can get him.”

“W-What?” The storm growing around them died down. “You can… you can tell people? About me? But… I’m dead. No one can see me.”

“W-Well…” She was ten years old. Maybe she’d think it was cool. “…Can you keep a secret for me?”

“Yes?”

“It’s like… A secret identiy.”

Emily’s smile widened. “Go on.”


 

"An unsolved case of nearly twelve years was solved tonight thanks to the police department of Winter Creek. Mason Bishop, a forty-eight year old man who lived outside Baldr County, was arrested today for the rape and murder of Emilia Rosenheart. She was ten years old when the crime occurred, and the family is thankful that her soul can be finally put to rest."

"Thank you so much. We are just so happy that her soul can finally be put to rest."

"The police have not said yet what charges Mason Bishop will be up against, but for a family who had to wait so long, it’s this terrible chapter in their lives that finally is able to end. Back to you, Janet.”


 

“Hey, Evan, honey! I’m covering a night shift tonight and I have class. I left you some money to get yourself something. Please try not to order another pizza, and please eat something. Love ya! – MOM”

The note on their fridge is written in handwriting similar to Evan’s own. He knows where he gets it from, he supposed. The second please is underlined multiple times, and Evan figures that it’s best to get something other than pizza. Maybe Asian would do.

It’s already September. It’s weird that it’s already September, and August has passed by without even thinking, and the ghost of summer is lingering as the trees begin to change colors from bright green to the vestigial autumn hues.

Emily is still around. She’s become another Willy to him, except she tends to hover all of the time. She’s visited her family once or twice, when she finally found where they had moved to, months after her murder, but she doesn’t stay long, as if she’s not welcome anymore in her own family. She described it as being a spectator, and the family she grew up with had changed.

She was excited that she had a younger brother, and that she can’t wait to meet him one day.

Hopefully, for him, that day was much longer down the line.

Things felt like normal. It was normal for him to be alone and with the ghosts, to be by himself in all other company but incorporeal. It felt normal, and it felt good.

Of course the universe, as fickle as it can be, decided to mess it up.

Chapter Text

FIVE

““He was a lonely ghost uttering a truth that nobody would ever hear.”

-- George Orwell


 

Connor Murphy was early for school for the first time since middle school. He wasn’t going to pride himself on that—while he did drop Zoe off early, back before she had her own car and could drive herself, and she always came early for jazz band things—he never stayed. He’d go to the park for an extra hour or two (or three, or four…) to make sure he’d be late.

It wasn’t just to annoy everyone—he hated school. Hated the institution that it was built on, the people that haunted the halls, taunting him. School had been hell for him since even before he’d thrown the printer in first grade. It’d never been one of his favorite things, and he’d fake sicknesses and illness just to get out of going it.

And nobody understood. Nobody understood him at all, and it felt like he was getting further and further away from everyone. He was on a boat that was drifting away from shore, his sails and masts broken beyond repair, and it was sinking, too. Sinking deeper and deeper, and Connor couldn’t see anything anymore.

He’d planned on doing it. On offing himself, that first day. He was planning it since summer began, and he wasn’t even going to go into school, but his mother was there, and she pushed him, and hell, might as well give the finger to everything before he couldn’t anymore. So he took pills from the bathroom, traveled out to Mountain Drive, and ditched his car at the side.

He wanted to die somewhere where his body wouldn’t be found until it was too late. He wanted to at least give back something to the world he’d been born in. It’s the least he could’ve done. The thought of some sort of wild beast eating out his intestines was one of the lighter thoughts Connor had had that day, and it brought an odd smile to his face.

And then he ran into Evan Hansen.

Evan Hansen. The only kid at the hell of a school that was on a social rung lower than him. Evan Hansen—the boy who could barely speak without a stutter, the boy who was followed by cold spots, flickering lights, the feeling of something just not right.

Connor was hoping for some sort of sign. Some sort of hope that would shine through he darkness of the storming sea, something that could turn his life around. Something that could convince him from downing the bottle of pills he’d brought with him.

And there he was. The insufferable enigma that was Evan Hansen. He hadn’t even seen Evan at all, in those woods, or heard him, until something had suddenly pushed him, and there was a loud crack, and someone was on top of him.

Evan Hansen had saved him from death by tree branch. If Connor was going out in this world, he was going out by his own hand, though not knowing of the impending death would’ve been nicer than having to do it yourself, yet, there he was.

Connor knew of Evan—they had English I Honors together, and when Connor couldn’t drive off on his own and was forced to stay at school, they were partners for a project. There was something about a concussion or something and Evan asked him if he could take over most of the assignment—Connor did and they both managed to scrape by with a B on the project overall. And the first day of school, Connor had blown up in Evan’s face.

At least he didn’t push him, physically harm him. The Murphy family doesn’t need whatever Evan is haunting them for the rest of their days.

(He also knew the boy was in that Creative Writing class, too, as he recognized the familiar head in the seats around him. He didn’t want to apologize yet.)

But there was something different about Evan. Evan had been… different out in the forest. Different, but in a way  Connor couldn’t explain. Could it be like Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Someone had taken over Hansen’s body and replaced it with something else.

When Connor passed Evan in school the next morning, he hadn’t noticed anything different, of course.

And it wasn’t like he was going to become a stalker, or anything. Connor was curious, and he wanted to know—no, he had to know, what Evan’s problem was.

Even if it was going to kill him.

(Not that he’d mind, if it killed him.)


 

Black cats haunt his dreams. Evan Hansen is there, too, surrounded by the black cats in a gray, desolate landscape.

Connor hasn’t remembered much of his dreams in a long time.


 

"Connor, I think we need to talk." Ugh, god no. He couldn’t enjoy one peaceful dinner in his own home without Larry coming after him, could he?

It had been going quietly so far, which Connor was thankful for. Zoe talked about some jazz band stuff, gossip he could care less about, Larry mentioned something about working on a Saturday he was supposed to have off, and Cynthia mentioning a meeting with the Winter Creek Women’s Club.

After that, pure bliss and silence, but Larry had to ruin it.

“’Bout what?”


“Don’t talk with food in your mouth, honey.” Cynthia pointed the fork at him, not even looking up from her dinner plate. It wasn’t that delicious, but at least it tasted better than anything Connor had for dinner all week. “Your counselor called us today. She told us you hadn't went to the appointment we signed you up for, for your college admissions."

“I didn’t.” There was no need to lie, he actually didn’t. He forgot it had even been set up—mostly because he’d been planning to be dead by now. But he’d forgotten. He wasn’t planning on going much father past unwrapping the mystery of Evan Hansen, so it didn’t matter much to him, anyway. “So?”

“These meeting are important for college, Connor. Your counselor is going to help you apply to colleges and scholarships.” The word scholarships is said as if they don’t have enough money to afford to send him somewhere.

“Why weren't you at that meeting?" Larry, as punctual and tact as usual, interrupted.

“I was in the library.” He didn’t need to lie. He was in the library, reading about dream symbolism or some other mystery shit. His dreams were getting weirder, too, and he wanted to know why. “Reading.”

“He was probably smoking something.” Zoe didn’t look up from her plate; something about the entire situation didn’t sit well with her, either, and it seemed like she’d been hoping for one quiet dinner for once. Cynthia sent a glare her way, and Zoe shrugged, before putting some more of their vegan, gluten-free dinner into her mouth.

“Don’t lie to us, Connor.”

“I’m not lying! I was in the library!”

Of course, it takes one raised tone to send the entire house spiraling into another Connor Lecture. This time it was about how irresponsible and lazy he was with his schoolwork, and how it was some sort of god-damn miracle that he hadn’t been kicked out or flunked anything at all yet. And he retaliated, of course—the more Larry yelled, the more Connor got angry, and the more he yelled, too, and it became a mess beyond recognition.

At some point, Cynthia gave up trying to calm both of them down, and Zoe excused herself from the table.

He should’ve offed himself the first day.


 

Connor needed to get out of his house. After storming back to his room, wishing to have a door to slam shut, so he could break something peacefully to calm his anger, or do something without his family peering in, he knew he had to get out. So he did.

Climbing carefully out of his window, he dropped into the bushes below, tucking and rolling. Years of sneaking out taught him you need to be careful when getting out of a second-story window with no tree nearby, to not break anything and alert your family you were sneaking out.

They’d cut his tree down a while ago, but a new one was springing to life in the spot the old one was.

With nothing but his keys in his hand and his phone in his pocket, Connor Murphy got into his car and drove.

He was planning to drive until he was almost out of gas, and he would have to stop somewhere where he could also buy something to eat to get rid of the vegan, gluten-free taste in his mouth, yet somehow, he found himself gravitated towards the park.

The park in Winter Creek was one of those parks, at least, at night. It was too open to leave yourself to die in, but there was a gas station only across the street, and a few other historic buildings that were left by themselves at night, haunting bones of a town that used to be.

What attracted most people Connor’s age were the haunted woods by the park, where people claim they can hear screaming and see dead people at night. But these woods were also the woods where teenagers would go into to smoke weed and do other drugs during the summer, where people would have summer high school and college parties with underage drinking and bonfires and sex. It was that kind of place, but at night on a Thursday, everything was much...quieter.

But ghosts were definitely the bigger thing. Did they exist? In all his eighteen years, Connor hadn’t seen any specter, so he didn’t know—did Connor even believe in ghosts? If there was something after death, he was going to have a Talk with whoever led that afterlife.

The air was crisp and cool, and the woods were eerily silent, but also comforting at the same time. Stars could be seen through the branches of the trees that were beginning to change colors, and Connor wished he could be like a tree, too, because trees don’t have to deal with any of humanity’s bullshit unless humanity decide they need to be cut down to make room for more of humanity’s bullshit.

Maybe Connor would make a cooler rock instead, or something.

Lost admist his thoughts, he almost didn’t notice the small light bouncing in the air, but it caught his eye last-second. Someone was out in these woods with a flashlight? He heard some sort of muffled language, and the flashlight stopped.

“C-Connor?” A timid voice asked.

God fucking damnit.

Evan Hansen stepped out of the shadows.

"The fuck do you want, Hansen?"

"O-Oh, um, it is you. Okay, phew. I-I thought it was you, but it-it could've been someone else. A-and imagine how awkward that would be!" Something about his tone of voice was more...forced, than his usual nervous stutter. It was almost as if he was making himself like that. Stutter-y and nervous. An act, a facade. A lie. "So, u-um, what are you doing out h-here late at night? I- I'm not judging you, sorry, I'm just curious."

"I could ask the same for you." Connor said. He never believed any of the “nature walk” BS that Evan kept trying to pull.

“O-Oh, well. Just a nice, n-night walk!” Yeah, sure, Evan. Sure, you just like to go on “nature walks” when it’s also pitch black out, where you have to use a flashlight to be able to see a foot in front of you. There could be murderers or thieves in these woods, but sure, Evan. “A-And you?”

“Needed to clear my head.” Connor would tell the truth, how about that, huh. He’d tell the truth while Evan would just keep on lying.

“Oh.” Evan glanced off to the left suddenly, and quickly, as a loud noise reverberated through the woods. Connor couldn’t recognize it, but there was a bit of a glimmer of a smile on Evan’s face. “Well, um, I guess I’ll be off, so, yeah.”

Maybe Evan really was as innocent as he looked. Maybe Evan wasn’t able to harm a fmly like Connor was thinking, and he was just over-analyzing the situation. It wouldn’t be the first time Connor had done this. Had it all been in his messed-up head? Had he been stalking an innocent man for the past few days?

“Hey. Let me drive you home, at least.”

“Oh-oh, no, that’s not necessary. I live in a walking distance—”

“Please.” Let me make up for what I’ve done to you lately.

Evan went quiet for a moment, before letting out a small sigh. “Ok-okay.”

Chapter Text

SIX

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.”

--Edgar Allan Poe


 

Evan wasn’t sure of what to make of his current predicament.

He was in Connor Murphy’s car, the car of someone he was pretty sure that had been stalking him for the last few weeks of school. Following him, keeping close. Maybe Connor was just curious about Evan and didn’t know how to approach?

(Or he was getting suspicious of Evan and what kind of person he was, why he was like how he was, why he was always talking to himself, why he was always just him.)

Surprisingly, the car didn’t smell like weed- or, well, as if Evan knew what weed smelled like. It didn’t smell like anything, really, except for a light vanilla air freshener that hung from the rearview mirror. A couple of papers were discarded in the back seat, some sort of math homework, by the looks of it, but other than that?

It was almost… perfectly clean and normal.

Willy floated in the back seat, followed quickly by Emily. Both of them, after Emily calmed down from poltergeist, had become quick friends. Willy wasn’t going to be a great influence on Emily, Evan already knew, but when Willy wasn’t with Evan now, he’d at least have one more friend looking out for him.

And Emily was curious about everything, and she was quiet, and she would listen… much better than Willy, sometimes. Though he was worried about the influence of them both, at the same time…

“So.”

“S-So?”

“What’s the whole deal with Mr. Phillips, anyway?” Oh, yeah, Connor was in that class, too. Evan forgot. “How are we supposed to come up with an idea of a story we could write in a semester?”

“W-well, I mean… He’s giving us prompts? T-to maybe inspire something, at least.” Evan already knew what he was writing about—a boy who could see ghosts. As long as he changed some names, his life could be as bizarre as fiction, anyway.

“It’s fucking stupid, but better than some sort of stupid final test, at least.” Connor stopped at a stoplight, before glancing over at Evan. “Which way do I turn?”

“N-Next light.” Evan said, pointing ahead. Where did Connor even live, to begin with? He didn’t seem like the type to live in the sort of place that Evan and his mom lived. In a small home, which was, in turn, in a small neighborhood of similar houses. Connor lived in some sort of mini-mansion across town, or something.

Connor nodded, and the light turned green.

An inhuman shriek tore Evan out of his thoughts. It sounded like…a tire squealing, a record scratching, high and pitched and almost freakish, but Connor didn't seem too worried with the car to notice. It sounded like the thing Evan had been at the park to investigate, the whole reason he’d been out at eleven at night in the park that was a good twenty-minute walk from his house.

Connor stopped at a stop sign. “Next light?”

Evan nodded, but suddenly, he felt his stomach lurch. There was a strange smell in the air, he realized. Almost like the smell of death that he was always around, the smell that came off of both Emily and Willy, not of rotting flesh, but just of death. It was bad, and even Connor noticed it, as he cracked open the windows but didn’t make a comment.

Evan glanced quickly in the rearview mirror, only to find a blank space. Ghosts usually appeared in some sort of reflection for him, but the seats behind them were empty—Emily and Willy had disappeared.

“Shit, was I supposed to turn?” Connor asked, glancing at Evan’s turned head.

“N-No. You’re fine.” Maybe Willy and Emily saw something from their life, and got stuck in some sort of flashback. That could happen with ghosts, Evan learned, but it never lasted too long. Evan took a deep breath to re-center himself, but his mind was screaming at him to run.

Run run run run run.

No. It wasn’t his mind.

There was something screaming at him to r̨un͟.

Connor slammed on the breaks and the car skid to a halt, in the empty road that was so close to Evan’s house, in between the two lights until you take the turn. The car screamed and Evan felt his stomach flip and flop inside of him, and both of them were lucky that they hadn’t crashed into anything.

Or anyone. Evan glanced up, seeing someone—a woman?-- in the middle of the road. She had dark skin and hair, which contrasted against her white dress. Her hair was windswept, despite there being no wind, and she had an ethereal glow to her. But she wasn’t a ghost, because Connor Murphy was staring at her, paralyzed.

“Evan͘ Han͢se͢n̴.̧” She spoke to him. Oh, god, the ghostly woman spoke to him, and Evan felt his stomach take another crash. He was definitely going to puke soon. “C̢o̵me ͠a͜n̸d fa̛ce͏ me.͏"

“The hell is she saying?” Connor asked, before turning to Evan, who was transfixed. “Hansen?”

“I, uh…” He nervously unbuckled his seat, before flinging himself out of the car. “I’ll be right back.”

The strange smell of death mixed with something—rotten eggs, was it? Something rotting—filled the air and hugged his being tightly, a wall of heat awaiting. The ghostly woman store him down, and he saw that she didn’t have white eyes like any ghosts, but they were black, black like he’d never seen before. Not on poltergeists, not on regular ghosts… What?

“It ̕se̛e̸m̶s͠ ͞a͝s̵ i̕f̨ you'̢re̸ bravȩr ̶t̨h͟aņ yo̶u ap̶p̷e̵a͏r̶.” She commented snidely, before disappearing and suddenly reappearing right in front of his face. “D̡o ̴y͟o̢u kno҉w ͟wḩa̵t͏ I̶ am,͡ whi͟s͝per͟e͝r?”

“N-̢No̶..͏.” It was almost like the words were forced from his mouth through the strange language of the undead, and Evan’s heart began beating in his ears. Run, run, run, r u̡n̨,̕ r̨u͞n͢, ̡run.̷..̶

“Hm̴.͡..”

“̴W҉ha͜t d͡o ̸y̸o̸u ̢w҉an̛t f͡ro͝m̨ me?” He knew that Connor was already out of the car, staring in awe as Evan Hansen stared down this inhuman creature. He couldn’t let any harm come to Connor, or him, either. Whatever this being was, she spoke the language of the dead, and maybe he could turn her back, tell her to go back to whatever realm she came from, to protect Winter Creek.

This thing was not… was never human.

“Con̶s̛ider̷ ͘thi̢s a ͠mȩss҉a̴ge, ͡E̶v͝an Ha͜n͞şe̸n.̨ ̶A fi͡n̷a̸l war̴n̷i҉ng͢ ̨be̵f͜o̵r͏e҉ ̵my̷ mast̨e͝r c͢o̧m̛es out̵.͜ ̕Sḩe'͏s up̨se̡t ̕with e̵v̸e̕r͠ything̶, ̷w͝hi̵s̕per̴er, inclųdin̢g ̷you͞.̕ “ The woman gets closer to Evan, and whispered in his ear, “Mani̢bu͜s͝ d̸ate͢ ̢lil͠ia̢ p͠l̷e͡ni̸s̵. ͠A ͝fin͘al w͞arn͡i̡n͜g̕..͢.̕”

“Again͏st̛ w͞ha͡t̕?̛ “ Evan asked, but the woman only smiled, showing sharp rows of teeth. Something clicked in his mind, run, run, run, run… but he stood still. “A̛ wa҉rn̸ing ag̸ai̡n͡s̡t͡ ͘wh͢a̧t?̷”

The woman was beginning to disappear into a fog, and Evan ran towards it. “
N͡o͢! Com͘e ҉ba͏c͝k͏-̷-“

She was gone.


 

That was not a ghost. Evan knew ghosts. He stood in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, minutes from a panic attack, panting and sweating from fear, knowing what the fuck, and I just spoke to a demon.

He’d heard of demons. They’d been whispers amongst the undead community a long time—and well, people believed in demons. Christians believed in the existence of demons that were meant to make them turn evil, too, against their god and against their religion, and whatnot.

But he’d never seen one, much less spoke to one. Especially in ghost.

Oh, yeah, and Connor Murphy was watching the whole thing.

“What the hell was that, Hansen?” Connor yelled, ditching the safety of being near his car to approach Evan, threateningly. “That woman just… Came out of nowhere, and disappeared? Was she some sorta fucking ghost? And you spoke to her, like it was nothing?” Connor took a breath. “What kind of cult shit are you into.”

“I’m not—I’m not in a cult!” Evan retaliated, quickly. He wasn’t, and he never would be. “This is not—no, this is not a cult thing.” He took a deep breath. He lived his life on the verge of panic every day, and someone finding out—someone finding out, against Evan’s will, of how much of a freak he is, of his connection to death, he couldn’t death with it, he wanted to just go home, but there was a demon—not helping much.

“Then what was that?”

“It was a—it was a demon.” Evan’s voice fell on the last word. A demon. He spoke to a demon who gave him a warning.

Why him? Why was he—“whisperer”? What did that phrase mean? What did anything mean anymore? He didn’t know.

“You spoke to a demon?”

“Y-yeah.” Not willingly. It felt mostly against his will, but there was a bit of him that screamed protect help protect help that he wasn’t going to think about. “I… Can we talk about this, at my house?”

“Sure, whatever.” Connor pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out a deep groan. “Tell me the truth. Everything, alright?”

Sure. Okay. Sounds good.


 

It did not sound good, but Evan kept telling himself that, yeah, sounds good. If he didn’t keep saying that, he was going to lose his three remaining marbles.

His mom wasn’t home. The familiar sedan wasn’t parked out front, and no lights in the house were on, which was good. He didn’t want to have to deal with his mother, as much as he loved her dearly, on top of…

Whatever the hell was happening in his life right now.

(Not to mention, he wouldn’t be able to explain Connor’s existence.)

“This is your place?” Connor asked, though Evan was pretty sure he was in some sort of daze. Evan was, too, in some sort of daze, but it looked like Connor’s world was falling apart around him.

“Y-yeah.” He knew his home wasn’t the best. It was small—technically, it was a one-person house, a starter home, or whatever those house hunter shows say. In fact, Evan’s room was a converted office, the internet cables hidden inside one of his dresser drawers.

It’s the same home he’s lived in since he was seven, give or take a few months. Small, homely… But it was home. And it was also very haunted.

The house was oddly quiet at home, but it hummed with the energy of otherworldly beings. Ghosts didn’t need sleep, so when it became nighttime, and the Hansen family retired to their beds, ghosts that haunted the house drifted off for the night; some returned to their gravesites, others visited family, friends, who might still be alive. Only one ghost stuck through the house—Astila, an ever-present guardian on the land which she died on.

Willy and Emily were there, floating and nearly invisible by the fireplace, sitting close together and watching. Both of them seem shaken up, and Evan could only imagine what had gotten them scared.

“A-are you hungry? Thirsty?” How does inviting people over work, anyway? Evan’s only ever had Jared over; who Heidi always says is like “having a second son, minus the ghosts”, and he takes what he pleases.

The Hansen family Dorito bags always mysteriously vanish whenever Jared is around.

“Just water, please.” Connor said, cautiously looking around. He was leaning close against the wall, looking for something…

Oh. Evan flicked the nearest light on. He always forgot he could see in the dark better than any normal person. “S-Sorry.”

Connor blinked in the light, following Evan into the bright light of the kitchen. “Not the weirdest thing all day.” He said, before taking a seat at the adjacent dining room table. There was a thin layer of dust on the table, Evan noticed, as Connor wiped some away with the dark sleeves of his jacket.

Evan nodded, pouring both of them a glass of water. His throat was dry, scratchy, sore—talking in the language of the undead always left a rather unpleasant aftertaste, sour and tart… If languages could ever do that.

He was nervous. He felt it through his entire being. The anxiety, the nervousness, and if his room weren’t on the other side of the house, he would consider just locking the door and hiding in it until Connor eventually gave up and left, but that would leave Evan to have to deal with it sometime in the future. It was best to just tear off the Band-Aid at the start, then take it off slowly, as his mom would say.

(He always took his Band-Aids off slowly, though.)

The thing is, Evan never had to do this. His mom had figured it out when he was younger, and he would tell stories of his imaginary friends, of the faceless man who watched him while he slept, the man whose face was burned off in a house fire accident when Evan was barely three months old. He’d tell her of the elderly Astila who made sure that he always had matching socks, who told him stories and legends of the local Native Americans who lived there. He’d tell her why her pots had mysteriously moved and why the cabinet doors always shut, because there was “an angry, little boy” in there.

His mom figured it out, and believed him.

Connor? This was an entirely different story.

“So…”

“So? Just “so”?” Connor glared at him. “I came here for an explanation, and I’m not leaving until I fucking get one.”

“O-Okay, okay…” Evan put his hands up in defense. After a terrifying second of Connor glaring at him, he put his hands around his glass to ground him somehow. Astila was watching from the kitchen, and Willy and Emily floated still in the living room, but eyes were all turned on the table, watching, readying for the next move. “That w-was a demon.” Apparently. He didn’t know it until it was over, of course.

“Caught that part.”

“Y-yeah, I’m sure—I’m sure you did. Sorry.” He took a deep breath. “I guess this all boils down to one thing.”

“Which is?”

His interrupting wasn’t helping, but Evan ignored it.

“I- I can see ghosts.”

Chapter Text

SEVEN

““We're all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.” 

― Liam Callanan


“You…see ghosts?”

“Y-yeah, I know it sounds really weird, and I know you probably won’t believe me, but that’s how I was able to talk to the demon in that weird language? And, uh, that’s what I also do in the woods at night instead of nature walks I go and calm down really crazy ghosts—and wow, I sound crazy now, don’t I? But it’s true and it’s okay if you don’t believe me—” Connor slammed his hand on the table, making a loud SMACK! All the ghosts in the room turned towards him eyes darkening with rage.

“Sorry. You weren’t stopping.” Connor said. “And… Well, if I didn’t see Evan Hansen just stand down a demon, or whatever the hell that thing was, I probably wouldn’t believe you. But I guess… I guess I do.”

“You do?” Evan spluttered incoherent noises after that. All his life he’s been afraid of telling someone about his weird ghost abilities, and the first time he does it, it goes… smoothly?

Has the universe finally given him a break?

“It explains a lot, actually.” He took a sip of his water before pointing one of his long fingers at Evan. “Why the lights always flicker, why you always mutter to yourself. The general… “creepy” vibe from you. It makes sense.”

“…Oh.”

“So, you see ghosts? Are there any, like, right now?”

Evan nodded, glancing at the three ghosts in the room, who weren’t looking at Connor with a bloodthirsty, black-eyed glare, but with the curiosity and intrigue, a young child might give a small animal. He smiled faintly at the ghosts who floated around him. Astila stayed close to Evan’s side, but her spirit flickered in approval and ease. Willy floated upside-down in front of Connor, making faces, and Emily kept trying to mess with Connor’s hair.

“My house is kind of, um… Haunted?” Evan added. “There’s a lot more activity during the day. A lot of ghosts tend to leave during the night.”

“That’s… cool.” He brushed aside a loose curl that Emily had messed with, not thinking twice about it. Emily giggled, tugging at it a bit more. “And that weird language you were speaking?”

“I-I just call it “ghost”. It’s kinda the language that ghosts speak. I’ve known it since I could talk.”

“So like being bilingual?”

Evan shrugged. “I’m sure it doesn’t count, but yeah, I guess.”

“Say something to me. In ghost.”

“U-um… M͢y ̕n̵a̡me͡ ̸is Ȩv͜a̧n̛ ͏Ha̵n͠s͜e̷n?” He didn’t know what to say to Connor, who just sprung the question on him, so he blurted out the first thing that came to mind. Introducing himself, of course. Of course. He knew what it sounded like to other humans, because his mom had explained it to him, once—it was otherworldly, mixed with the static of a television, sounding a little bit like Latin but not entirely quite.

“Cool.” Connor dug his phone out of his pocket, checking the time before his face fell into a scowl. After typing a rather angry message (Evan saw the way his fingers typed quickly and a shudder went down his spine, not to mention Willy read every word aloud), he stood up. “Apparently my family thinks I’m dead in a ditch or something.”

“That’s—that’s not good.”

“No fucking way, Sherlock.” At first, Evan thought it was some sort of insult, but he realized—no, that’s just the way Connor Murphy was. Angry talking, angry tone. There was a lot of anger built into his body. He typed a few more things in his phone, before forcing it into Evan’s hands. “Give me your email. And phone number, I guess.”

“U-uh, okay.” He glanced down at the phone. Just holding it felt expensive, and Evan forced down any sort of anxiety he had. Electronic things tend to break around Evan often, a sort of small, mini-power that came with seeing ghosts. Messages would get corrupted, files would get corroded like it had been covered in acid… While it came in handy sometimes, Evan’s phone never got any better than his trusty Samsung.

Does this mean that the two of them are… friends? Did divulging his one secret that he’s decided no one should know mean that he actually had a friend?

Maybe.

“See you at school?”

Evan nodded, following Connor closely to the door before watching him get into his car, back up, and then drive away at speeds that probably weren’t safe for the roads.

Maybe Evan did make a friend.


He loses sleep that night—not because of Connor Murphy, but because of his dreams. When he was younger, Evan had a lot of nightmares. Enough for Heidi to be concerned to take him to a doctor, but it was never given the official diagnoses of “night terrors”, or some sort of thing akin to that. After all, he was never himself in his dreams. Why was that?

Because, of course, there was something supernatural about his dreams. As he expected.

When new ghosts hung around him for too long, a weird part of his “ghost sight” powers acted up. Terrible dreams, reliving last moments. Last moments, moments before death, moments of fear and pain.

Standing over me blood everywhere it hurts it hurts

He woke up around three in the morning in a cold sweat, his room empty aside from one pale ghost sulking in a corner, playing with a stuffed animal she’d found in the back of his closet.

“I͢’m ͘s͠o̶rry̴.҉” Emily said, not looking up from the plush toy.

“It’s not your fault.”

He wasn’t able to fall back asleep, with haunting visions appearing whenever he closed his eyes. Instead, he dug out homework he was assigned, turn his desk lamp on, and got to work, distracting himself with stuff that wasn’t “supernatural”- just algebra. Numbers and letters and math, nothing supernatural at all.


For the next few days of school, Evan and Connor avoid each other. They only share one class—Creative Writing, with Mr. Phillips—and with varying schedules, it made sense. They still shared the same lunch period, but Evan ate in the library, as usual, and Connor…

…Willy said that he’d stalked Connor and, apparently, Connor just went to his car. Smoked a blunt, sometimes, but mostly just sat in the car by himself with a terribly small sandwich and music blaring. Eighties music.

His classes turn into a blur. Possibly due to the underlying effect of, hey, he spoke to a demon the other day, and he’s not feeling very well. The trees are beginning to turn amber and gold, and his frail human body can’t take the changes easily. A runny nose, a headache… the dreadful, the horrible allergies.

Gross. He feels just gross in general.

On the Wednesday after the incident with the demon, Evan gets a text from a number he’s never gotten a text from—it’s Connor, and the only things written in it are “meet me in the library at lunch”. As if Evan eats lunch anywhere else but the library, because his anxiety with eating around people gets too much.

The dead don’t judge. If anything, they’re envious of him, because they can’t eat anymore.

He sends a response ten minutes after delegating what exactly he should say. An “okay” could be too formal, while just “ok” could be too informal, while a “see you there!” could be seen as too excited, even though it’s just wanting to talk, hopefully, but a “see you then” could be too dismissive?

Why was texting so hard?

He ended up sending an “Okay, see you”, in response, and just looking at the send message afterward makes Evan hurt. He could’ve said a million things, that could’ve been better than that, but seeing that Connor doesn’t respond Evan assumed that he saw it and he’ll be there.

The library is pretty empty, as usual. Sheri C. and her girlfriend are on one of the computers, possibly looking up something for their shared geology class, and another kid, a freshman Evan doesn’t know the name of, is curled up in a giant chair with a copy of the final Harry Potter book, and by the way the kid looks, Evan knew that they got to that part in the book.

Connor is waiting for him in the little nook—Willy warned him of that because the specter immediately disappeared and reappeared as soon as they entered the library. “He looks like he’s not going to kill you, so you’re fine for now!”

“Thanks…” Evan mumbled as he maneuvered his way through the maze of the library. Sur enough, there was Connor Murphy, in all of his tall glory.

“Hey.”

“H-hey.” They stood in silence for an awkward moment, neither of them apparently knowing how to talk to people. Eventually, they both took a seat at the table.

“So what exactly did the demon say to you?” Connor asked, slinging his bag at the floor. His legs are just a bit too long for this table, and Evan can see him trying to sit comfortably.

“Well… A lot of things.” Evan cleared his throat. “She, uh, she called me a whisperer?”

“Probably because of the…” And as he says this, Connor looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “…ghost thing?”

“Y-yeah.” He’d been called a whisperer by a few of the older ghosts. When he’d stumbled upon a gravesite of a civil war soldier on accident once upon a time, the ghost of the soldier had called him a “whisperer”, so he’d assumed it was a term for what he could do. “There was also stuff about… a final warning.”

He felt the room’s temperature drop. Not just because of his statement, but because of the listeners, watching as Willy and Emily listened in, and immediately felt some sort of dread. What could it mean? Some sort of final warning?

Connor read Evan’s mind, asking, “Against what?”

“She—uh, the demon didn’t say.” Evan shrugged. “There was—I don’t know what language, uh, she spoke in near the end. It sounded like Latin or something? It was, like… m̴̧a̢n̶̶͢i҉͘b̵us ̧d̷a͞͞t͟e ̛͟͝l̨̨i̴͜͡l͘i̵͢͢a̸ ͡͝plen̕͢i̵͝s…” It took a minute to translate it through in his head. “Mainbus date lilia plenis?”

“That definitely sounds like Latin.” No kidding, Sherlock. Connor already had brought out a laptop. It was an old, used MacBook, covered in different sorts of stickers of some bands. A pride flag was buried under it, along with a sticker of a cartoon man holding a pair of scissors to pants, saying ‘cut me some slacks’. He typed furiously and without abandon before squinting at his computer screen.

“According to this website—” Connor turned the laptop around so Evan could see it, too, and it was one of those blogs a suburban white mom would create for “raising kids in a Christian lifestyle”, or whatnot, and the text was talking about something about Dante’s Inferno. “--- manibus dat lilia plenis means “give lilies with full hands”.”

The word lilies makes Evan’s blood run cold, and he covers his exposed arms with his hands in an attempt to keep warm. Willy whistled from where the ghosts float above them and Emily let out a small gasp.

Lily.

“Shit, does that mean something?”

“K-Kinda?” Evan shrugged, though he meant to do it more as a nervous tic than him not knowing anything. “Well, uh… I can talk to ghosts, you know.” Obviously. “And I sometimes help—uh, I sometimes help the police department with it? But I don’t, like, tell them it’s me. I tell them what the ghost tells me, and I’ve used the nickname Lily for it?”

“Holy shit, Evan.” Connor shuts his computer. “But why would demons care about you talking to ghosts.” Again, Evan shrugged. “Maybe it’s just coincidence?”

Maybe.

Maybe.

“Lily sounds familiar, though…” Connor scratched at his lip, before glancing at Evan. “What’s the connection between lilies and a final warning?”

Willy floated down from above them, landing near Evan’s side. “Well, if you know flowers, then you’d know lilies have to do with funerals. I had a bunch at mine.”

“Is-is that true?” Evan mumbled, before looking over at Connor, who looked confused. “G-ghost.” Of course, lilies had to do something with death. He didn’t even mean to have Lily become his name with the police, it’d just happened because one of the fake emails he’d sent from had “lily” in the name of it. “O-oh, uh, lilies have to do with funerals, apparently?”

“That still makes… Still, nothing connects.” Connor glanced at his phone, which had been sitting out on the table. “Fuck, lunch is over already.”

Evan hadn’t eaten anything, but his headache and runny nose and allergies were making him feel not well to even eat. Not to mention the whole demon-mystery hanging above them. Either way, Evan wasn’t about to skip class for this, because even though there were some final warning and demon business, he still wanted to get good grades.


 

Chapter Text

EIGHT

“ Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”

-- Stephen King


 

Just as Evan was leaving for his class, he froze, glancing ahead. Mr. Phillips was in the library, talking to the librarian, and he hadn’t been noticed yet. They were probably flirting—both of them were adults, single, and it was normal for people to do that, right?

Right?

Evan heard differently. They spoke in low tones, but Evan could hear everything from the shelf he was near, and he quickly turned, as if to inspect a book. He picked up a book about one of the presidents in history, and stared at one page, his ears turned to the conversation.

There was something about their interaction that wasn’t… right. If Spiderman had a spidey-sense, Evan had some sort of ghost-sense, because there was something not natural about it. That sort of feeling had always existed around Mr. Phillips, if Evan was honest and paying attention, but he didn’t want to pay attention to it. His ghost-sense had been wrong before, because even though Jared feels a bit too supernatural to be human, Jared was human.

It was probably some sort of latent energy that existed in only a few people, because Mr. Phillips had it, Jared had it, Susie T. had it…

“You’ve been keeping an eye on him, I assume?” The librarian asked, smiling over her desk.

“Yes, I have.” Mr. Phillips said, leaning one elbow on the shelf next to him. They both looked like they were flirting and spoke like they were flirting, but it was definitely not flirting, if you listened to it.

“No signs, yet? From her?”

“As far as I know. She isn’t the kind to be messed with, but her messengers always come first.” Mr. Phillips said. He glanced around, and Evan quickly turned a page in the book he was so invested in about George Washington. Apparently, he was a Freemason at some point, too. Interesting. “I wouldn’t put it past her to go to him first, though.”

The librarian—her name was Ms. Anagos, Evan remembered—nodded, organizing a few papers on her desk. “If he really is a whisperer and—” As she spoke, the phone began to ring, and she turned over to it, lifting up the receiver.

Connor had moved from the hidden table and was now standing by Evan, looking curiously at him, and then the two talking at the librarian’s desk. Ms. Anagos put the phone down with a shaking hand and looked at Mr. Phillips. “Get all the kids in here and get them in my office. Now. Code red.” With her tone of voice, it was not a drill.

Code red? Evan racked his brain for what it meant. They’d gone over codes during the first day—what to do in an active shooter situation, what to do when there’s a storm, when there’s a tornado, but all the codes and colors were lost because Evan couldn’t help but watch Willy mess with their assistant principal, who was discussing the different codes in a school assembly. But Evan’s head was screaming danger, danger, danger, danger--

Mr. Phillip’s eyes widened, and he nodded quickly, looking around at the library. Sheri and her girlfriend were already gone to their next class, and the freshman who’d been reading Harry Potter had assumedly finished it and left, because all that remained was the copy of the book in the seat. His eyes landed on Connor and Evan, and he called out to them, “Connor! Evan! Come with me.”

Evan shoved the book back onto the shelf and followed quickly after Connor. Connor was the first to speak up, “What’s going on?”

Mr. Phillips glanced as Ms. Anagos made sure that both of the library doors were locked. “I’ll explain in a minute. Hurry, this way.” He pushed them towards the librarian, who was standing outside of her office, which was just off to her desk. Evan’s heart was beating quicker than he could keep up with it, and he glanced to where Willy and Emily were, constantly trailing behind him like tendrils, and Willy nodded, heading through the front doors to the library, as Emily held back.

“What’s going on, Evan?” She asked, landing near him and grabbing his hand.

“Don’t know.” Evan mumbled in response. He glanced at Mr. Phillips, who, for a second—no, he was just seeing things. Mr. Phillips shouldn’t have had golden eyes.

Of course, just as they got to the office, the doors to the library flung open with a giant wind.

Evan and Connor were both pushed to the ground with the force, and his ears were full of the force of the wind and screaming. He didn’t know who was screaming—was it him? He recognized the screams of Emily, of a girl terrified of what was coming, a high-pitched, shrill screech from the ghost. He felt an elbow somewhere.

Oh, he fell on Connor again.

The wind died down, and Evan opened his eyes, blinking through the dryness. There was a smell of death in the air. It was worse than a hospital, but not as bad as it could be in a graveyard. The air turned into static, and Evan felt fear rise up in his chest.

Mr. Phillips stood, unfazed by it all, in front of where Connor, Evan and Emily had been pushed down to. Ms. Anagos picked herself up by the door, backing up as a mysterious figure stepped into the library.

It wasn’t human, but it wasn’t a ghost, either. Another demon? Evan couldn’t tell, but he could see that whatever it was, it was trying to be human, but it couldn’t get the small features right. It looked feminine, and had long dark hair, pale skin, and wore simple clothes, all in black. The hands ended in sharp, mangled claws, and the teeth were too sharp, and it was just a bit too twisted. There was still something ethereal about this thing, it radiated beauty, but in all the wrong ways.

It spoke in English, but it also felt like there was some sort of radio interference as it spoke. “Where is the whisperer?” It asked, glancing around the library, stretching its claws.

Evan and Connor exchanged a glance—they both had just been talking about the same thing, Evan had been called a whisperer by the demon nights ago, and the ghost years ago. Whisperer. What was that thing, and what did it want with him.

Mr. Phillips stood strong in front of the two of them, blocking the creature’s way to them.

“They’re not here.” Ms. Anagos said, but just as she did, the creature turned and glared at her.

“Silly witch.” Oh, so Willy was right? “I can feel his energy in here…” It turned and looked at Mr. Phillips. “Behind you.” It charged at a superhuman speed towards the teacher, claws out and reaching.

There was some sort of collision, but it happened too fast to catch. By then, Evan and Connor had managed to back up enough into the office, still staying low to the ground. The creature fell back, until it looked around Mr. Phillips and locked eyes with Evan.

He gulped, but Mr. Phillips still stood, despite his shirt being torn. Something had changed about their teacher.

“What the hell is that?” Connor asked, looking at the creature. Evan shrugged.

“N-Not a ghost.” He responded as Emily hid behind him, away from the creature. She couldn’t be hurt anymore, but when a ghost is afraid of something, you should be afraid, too.

“Your presence will not be tolerated here, baohban. Leave now.” Mr. Phillips spoke low and in a voice that sounded…different. It sounded like there were multiple voices in his voice, and there was something not natural about their writing teacher anymore. If there had ever been anything normal about him to begin with.

“You humor me. My master wishes to have him delivered to her dead, and that’s what I’ve come to do.” The creature charged again. What had Mr. Phillips called it? Baohban? Evan closed his eyes, preparing for an impact, a possible death, and god, no, he didn’t want to watch someone die—

There was a loud smack. A scream. Connor yelled something, but he couldn’t tell what. A thud. Evan opened his eyes just as a glowing sword disappeared from Mr. Phillip’s hands, and he could see cuts and abrasions from the arms, and Mr. Phillip was bleeding…gold. His blood was gold.

“What the fuck, what the fuck…” From the sounds of it, next to him, Connor’s gone into some sort of state of shock.

Mr. Phillips turned around to face the two of them. His eyes were glowing white. He smirked a bit, a kind of smirk that recognized what they had gone through, a knowing smirk that knew that, well, he had a lot of explaining to do. He let out a small chuckle, before saying, “Don’t worry, the school's probably gonna close for the rest of today. But I’d like to talk to you, first.”


 They’ve all huddled in Ms. Anagos’ office. She’s stood off to the side, wringing her hands nervously. The body of that creature, which has turned burned and malformed now that it was dead, had been “taken care of” by Mr. Phillips for a moment. No one really saw what happened, because one moment Mr. Phillips was holding the body, and then it seemed like he had walked back in, completely clear of wounds, aside from the tears in his shirt.

They’d been sat at the two chairs in front of the desk, and Evan felt like he was a young kid sent to the principal’s office. Connor was still in some sort of shock, chewing on his thumbnail, slunk in his seat. The hem of Evan’s shirt was torn beyond repair from his nerves and pulling at it. Ghosts were floating around, in and out of consciousness, not sure of what to make—Emily was sitting against Evan’s chair on the floor, and Willy was in the corner, staring at a few books to distract himself.

Mr. Phillips stood by the desk, before turning to them. “Well,” He said, looking at both Connor and Evan. “I can’t assume you two will unsee that?”

“Nope!” Connor responded, crossing his arms tightly. “Now, please, explain, what the fuck was that? And what the fuck are you?”

Mr. Phillips sighed, but a smile still remained on his face. “Well, that was a baohban. A baobhan sith. Kind of vampire.” Of course. “They’re supposed to be incredibly seductive vampire that seduce people into a trance, but it didn’t work for you two… hm.” He shook his head. “Anyway, And I’m Michael.”

There was a moment of silence, before it seemed to sink in, as Connor gasped. “Like, the angel dude?”

“We prefer the term “archangel”, but…” His eyes flash white for a brief second, and a mischievous grin crosses his face. “Yes.”

Oh. Oh that explains a lot, now, Evan thought to himself. Not looking up from his shirt, Evan mumbled out, “S-Sorry.”

“What?”

“You got hurt because of—because of me. ‘m the whisperer. Sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize, Evan.” Mr. Phillips—who is an archangel, which is weird to think about but it also explains the supernatural aura that’s always been around him, some sort of glamour (does this mean that the other supernatural auras he feels are actually supernatural?) “I’ve known that you were the whisperer for a long time. It was only a matter of time until something like this happened. I’m glad I was there to protect you.”

“Speaking of that…” Connor spoke up loudly and suddenly, causing Evan to jump. “What is after him? We’ve already had one demon encounter—”

“—Excuse me?” Mr. Phillips interrupted, and immediately sat down in the chair. From the corner, Ms. Anagos shuffled closer. “Please, go on.”

“Well…” Connor glanced at Evan who shook his head. He didn’t want to tell the story, he was feeling too overwhelmed by everything already. “We were driving through town when this demon lady just appeared in front of the car. Evan got out and spoke to her and said something in Latin in that weird ghost-language to him. Something about lilies?”

As Connor spoke, Evan noticed how the anxiety and fear rose in not just him, but in Mr. Phillips and Ms. Anagos as well. “Manibus date lillia plenis.” He said, quietly. “Give lilies with full hands.”

Mr. Phillips nodded, his finger to his lip in contemplative thought. He turned to Ms. Anagos. “This is more troubling than it appears, now.”

Ms. Anagos nodded. “Yes, we knew she was going to come, but we didn’t know it was going to be that soon.”

She? Who was she? Evan had heard them mumbling about it before, but they still hadn’t had any explanation for it. And why did she want him so much? His mind was racing too quickly for his mouth to catch up, and in a nervous haze, he managed to get out—“Who- who’s she?”

“A high-ranking demon.” Mr. Phillips responded. “She goes by the name Lilith, and she’s planning an attack on our world for her own master, Zcerneboch. They attempt to do this every couple of hundreds of years through Winter Creek, because, well…”

“The ley lines, which connect the world through various kinds of spiritual and magical energy, convene at a point in the middle of town.” Ms. Anagos explained. “The point in town is weaker than a lot of other points, so it’s easier for the supernatural to get through. That’s why there’s a lot of cases in town that tend to go unsolved, disappearances where people are never found, and mysterious figures in the shadows.”

“Some of the creatures that are in Winter Creek are pretty passive and laid-back.” Mr. Phillip took over again. “But when it comes time for Lilith’s Attempt, every couple of hundreds of years, we have to get a group of us to fight back.” We? Oh, well, now that Evan thought about it, Mr. Phillip was an archangel, so he was possibly older than time itself. If he existed, however, did that mean there was some sort of God, some sort of creator, above them?

“And it seems because of your abilities, she’s targeting you, Evan.”

Oh, well that was just nice.

“So, let me get this straight.” Connor said, leaning forward in his seat. “Every few hundred years a demon tries to attack Winter Creek? How come this isn’t in our town’s history, or something? Why doesn’t everyone know about it?”

“To answer your first question-- It is. Well, to an extent.” Ms. Anagos shrugged. “It’s been explained by random, bizarre things happening, like houses setting fire for no reason or bizarre storms. The last time was… I think, in 1863, during the Civil War. A lot of accounts of soldiers nearby talk about seeing monsters at night, soldiers dying from mysterious and unexplainable wounds, people disappearing…” As she spoke, the history of it intrigued Evan a lot. There was an entire history to the town that no one knew about? Although it meant that, hey, he pretty much had a horde of demons hunting him down, it was cool that there was a hidden side to history. “And to answer your second, Connor, it’s because people try to write off these experiences with… With a grain of salt, I suppose. There are always skeptics, and most of those stories are never officially recorded.”

Mr. Phillips nodded. “It’s important, too, to keep some of this secret today, too, because with governments and all… They’d demonize the innocent supernatural creatures that live in these parts and around the world, and it would cause an inter-species war, or at least, a lot of diplomacy issues.”

That wouldn’t sound good. Not to mention, Evan felt like his fears were confirmed. If the wrong person found out about his ghost abilities, believed him, he could be taken by the government, or something. Taken from his family, from his comfort zone…Though, now it felt like his comfort zone was being invaded by things that wanted to kill him.

“We’re not going to ask you to help us out. You maybe eighteen, but you’re still just kids.” Mr. Phillips explained under the intense glare of Connor. They were almost eighteen, but he was right—they weren’t fully matured until, like, 21, and then again, they were getting it from someone who was possibly thousands of years old. “We do want to make sure neither of you get killed, now.”

“Gee, thanks.” Connor responded, sarcastically.

Chapter Text

NINE

“Our feet are planted in the real world, but we dance with angels and ghosts.”

– John Cameron Mitchell


 

So, it turns out that both Mr. Phillips and Ms. Anagos were supernatural, and yeah, that’s fine. Evan can deal with it. He’s seen ghosts for the past seventeen years of his life, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there are other things out there, like angels and witches.

But demons? That are hunting him? Because all he can do is see ghosts? Evan Hansen is so dead.

There was a bit more that was said—more about “don’t tell anyone, keep this a secret”, as if Evan didn’t have enough secrets stacked up on his plate. Which he was fine with, because keeping the supernatural secret had become more of a talent of his than anything else over the past few years. And, apparently, wear an amulet, too.

“We’ve known that Lilith was going to go after you for a while, Evan.” Ms. Anagos added, pulling a mysterious box out from one of her desk drawers. She opened it, handing the content of the box over to Evan. It was a small crystal, wrapped in a metal coating, attacked to a piece of twine. “We figured out a way to make it so they don’t…well… go after you, when you might be alone.”

It’s nice that they thought of Evan at his home, alone, at the possible threat of being attacked by a demon. It’s nice.

The necklace, some sort of blessed crystalline talisman, is long and trails down almost to where his heart would be, a length that he could just shove under any shirt he wore and would only be noticeable by a bit of twine peeking out near the back of his neck. It’s a cold stone, and it never appears to be warm at all.

But that’s fine, because Evan’s usually cold anyway.

Because of the code red and the two injured students—not dead, Evan would be able to see the spirits and smell the death of it all from miles away, and he felt himself sigh in relief, not dead—school had been dismissed for the rest of the day.

Heidi had called him at some point when he and Connor were talking to Mr. Phillips and Ms. Anagos, and he quickly shot her a text telling her that he was okay, and didn’t even see the strange creature, which the authorities and principal had called “a rabid dog of some sort”.

It was mysterious to everyone how it had entered the school, attacked two students, disappeared into the halls, and wasn’t seen again after it, but there’s only a bit of trauma behind it. Only a bit. Of course, Evan and Connor knew the truth, and perhaps the other two students did, too, but they were in a state of shock as they were taken out by paramedics that no one really understood fully what was going on.

The school decided to dismiss all the students by themselves through the gym. It’s where Connor and Zoe reunited, even though both siblings didn’t show it, they’d been concerned for each other. Evan always thought it was a shame that they were both cruel to each other on most days, because if they ever joined forces, he knew that they would be unstoppable.

He shuddered at the thought, before spotting Jared in the crowd. Checking in on him would be a… friend-thing, right?

He passed a few kids who were talking about the situation, one of whom had seen it. “I have no fucking idea what that was,” the freshman said, surrounded by a group of people, mostly from yearbook. Of course. “But it was not just some rabid dog. The way it attacked Louis and Alana…”

Louis Howell and Alana Beck had both been the victims—Louis was the worst one maimed of the two, Alana getting by with wounds that only required stitching. He hoped that vampirism wasn’t as contagious as it was in movies as it was in real life, because the last thing he needed were vampires in his school.

(Evan shouldn’t be judging, though. If there were more supernatural creatures at his school, parading as human, maybe he should make some sort of secret club about it…Maybe, maybe not.)

“H-Hey—”

Holy shit!” Jared jumped as Evan approached. He turned, his eyes wide, before he let out a deep sigh, pitching the bridge of his nose. Jared Kleinman, afraid of school loser Evan Hansen? No, he had a reputation to keep up, after all… “Jesus Christ, Evan! Wear, like, a bell or something!”

He’d been told that joke before. Evan nodded, not paying attention. “Are you—are you okay?” He asked.

Jared glanced at the students around him, shrugging. “I was in class, but you know how it is.”

It’s true. Having a code red called at school when you’re there is a nightmare. People laugh and mock lockdown drills, but if it had been an actual school shooter, instead of a rabid dog, it would be… It would be…

No, Evan doesn’t want to think about it.

“I’m just surprised it was a rabid dog!” Jared elbowed Evan, giving his usual cheeky grin and wink. “Was expecting it to be Connor Murphy or something.”

Something about that made Evan… Well, he didn’t snap, but something in him did, because after getting to know Connor Murphy through a few unfortunate supernaturally-related circumstances and having to swear an oath that he wouldn’t speak about those supernatural circumstances to anyone, he knew that the elder Murphy wouldn’t do that. “H-he’d never do that.” Evan responded, glancing towards the aforementioned sibling, who was watching Zoe make sure her friends were okay under a death glare, surrounded by his hair.

“Shit, dude, do you have a crush on him? Didn’t know you swung that way, but I’m not judging—”

“I don’t—What?” Evan sputtered. He didn’t have a crush on Connor Murphy. He’s never had… well, there was Zoe, but he was still confused about the idea of a “crush”, if he was going to be honest. Yeah, he could picture him and Zoe going out on dates and stuff and holding hands, but a mixture of Evan’s own insecurities and the fact that he didn’t want to pressure anyone with the fact that he sees the dead, it went away as quickly as it had come. “No, no—”

“You’ve had a thing for both Murphy siblings—”

“Shut up, Jared, no I haven’t!” Evan nervously said as Connor glanced in their direction. He groaned internally about the whole situation, while the ghosts of the school had gathered in the gym to see what the fuss was about. Emily dashed between the living and the dead, chasing the spirit of a cat, trying to pick it up.

It’s amazing that, despite the circumstances of everyone in the gym, that Jared was able to still be as… well, asshole-y as he usually was.


 

Connor Murphy was not having a good day.

Was it demons? No, it because it was a little too humid—yes, it was the demons, through and through. He’d never thought that demons would exist, and then he decided to try and make up for stalking Evan Hansen by giving him a ride home, only to run into a demon, and then another monster that was working for a demon, and when the hell did his life become an episode of Supernatural?

His parents were going to come and pick them up soon from the gym, because all the kids needed at least one adult to leave, per some random school policy or whatever. He stopped over at Zoe first, the only person other than Evan Hansen who ever talked to him at this stupid school.

“Are you okay?” He asked, probably a bit too forcefully and a bit too loudly.

“Jesus, yeah!” Her eyes are red, as if she’s been crying. “I wasn’t near it at all. I was in class.” She scowled back right at him. “Are you okay?”

A bit shocked that Zoe was showing concern for him, for the first time in a long time, Connor blinked in response, hesitating, before responding, “Yeah. I was in the library. It didn’t, like, go in there or anything.” He hated deflecting actual concern, especially for him, with a lie, but… Mr. Phillips was an archangel, and he definitely felt something off about him.

He needed to figure out what “Michael” was the archangel of again… As reliable as the internet could be, he felt, maybe… No, that was stupid.

“Glad you’re okay.”

“Same.” They both looked at each other, in an awkward beat of silence.

Zoe shuffled on her feet, glancing at the crowd around them, that the principal and vice principal were trying to organize as best as they could. Winter Creek’s high school wasn’t ever that big, but it did have all the teens that lived in Winter Creek and the surrounding area, and the town was a medium-sized “small town”, after all. “Mom’s been texting me like crazy.”

Cynthia. There’s a bit of a sneer at the thought of the name, memories flooding back of being cornered, again, for missing another meeting with the counselor. Maybe he didn’t have plans past high school because he wasn’t planning on going on much longer in his life!

Though… A thought suddenly came to his mind as the vampire-lady (baohban sith, did Michael call it?) flashed behind his eyes. It was a weird thought, but maybe…

He glanced up, to make eye contact with Evan for a brief second, who was near that asshole Jared Kleinman. He didn’t even know how they were friends, because they were both opposites of each other. Even across the room, Connor could see how nervous he was, and it wasn’t just because the light above him was flickering, too.

He wondered if he died if Evan would be able to see his ghost.


 

Heidi Hansen was a bit of a mess at the moment. She’d taken the night off so it could be Taco Tuesday with Evan (despite it not being a Tuesday, but that was just a Hansen thing) when she got a call from the school in the middle of her daytime shift at work.

A wild, rabid dog had managed to get into the school (somehow) and it attacked two students. The students were dismissed for the rest of the week but required at least one parent to check in with the school and get their student, unless the aforementioned student was over eighteen years old. Evan wasn’t going to be eighteen until October, which meant that she had to get off her shift to go to the school.

But a rabid dog? There’d been no records at the hospital of any sort of rabid dog attacking anyone lately, and one just randomly appearing out of the blue made no sense to her, she thought as she had to excuse herself from work to go pick up her son—a few other nurses and a doctor had to do the same, so she was at least in like company.

Something about this seemed suspicious. Suspiciously… well, Heidi knew about the supernatural, ever since Evan was able to speak and he spoke of the man with no face who watched him while he slept. This man with no face was one of the first ghosts he’d ever seen. Thinking about it was strange to her because when her husband, Evan’s father, died in the fire…

His entire face was burned off. That’s what cued her into maybe Evan’s imaginary friends like Astila, who he said an elderly Native American woman who died around here, were maybe all ghosts, and her son could see them. It was absurd to think about, but when she went digging a bit into her husband’s family, she found that her great-grandfather-in-law (who had died before Evan was born) had claimed to hear the voices of spirits, so it could’ve just been a family thing.

Evan used to wake up from nightmares of dying terrible deaths (and she’s sure that he still does, sometimes, if there’s ever a new ghost around), the lights in his nursery always flickered when he cried, and there were always cold spots around him, and orbs in the pictures she’d take of him.

It all clued her into the supernatural existing. So maybe…

Maybe Winter Creek was just a place a lot of supernatural shit happened.

 

Chapter Text

TEN

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters”

—Victor Hugo


This was a curious case indeed to Officer Lisa Ben.

A rabid dog had attacked the high school—there hadn’t been any causalities, only two injured, thank God. One girl was barely scratched, but also a boy with a large, gaping wound from his shoulder. She tried not to think of it as she watched all of the children be dismissed and reunite with family members who were waiting for them.

She was mostly just playing babysitter outside, watching these children leave, next to Morales, who looks like his soul has left his body, watching these children.

It was a rather boring job, she’d admit to only Eleanor. But it was for the betterment of the community, the protection of the future of their community, and Lisa would lay down her life for any of these students if it meant something.

(Or, maybe, she was finally understanding why Eleanor wanted a kid.)

Something didn’t sit right with her in this case. Why would the school call in for a rabid dog attack? From her experiences in Winter Creek, there had never been a case like this, and there would have been at least an email from any other town’s police force if anything similar had happened to them. And what sort of “rabid dog” charges straight into the school?

Also, why hadn’t they found it, yet?

She was lost in her thoughts that she didn’t realize someone had been coming until she felt something collide with her. It catches her so off-guard that Lisa doesn’t have time to retaliate, which she’s thankful for, because it’s just a teenager, who hadn’t been paying any attention, glancing down at his phone, probably.

Which was a much older phone than she had, and even she thought dang, that’s an old phone.

“Oh—Oh my god, I’m—I’m sorry!”  The boy stumbled over his words, before he locked eyes with her. There was a bit of familiarity in the look. Perhaps he’d seen her patrolling around, once upon a time? She recognized him too, but no name came to mind.

It was strange how two people could live in the same town and never know each other’s names.

This boy was also… weird. Lisa wasn’t one to judge many people, and they never judged her back, but there was something weird and off about this boy that set off too many alarms. Her instincts screamed at her that something was wrong, but he looked like any other normal teen.

“I didn’t see that you were there, I tend to get lost in my own mind sometimes, and…”

“You’re fine.” She gave him a smile, not the smile she gave cornered criminals, but the smile she would give a child who wanted a picture with the “cool police-officer lady”. A warm smile. “Just make sure to pay attention next time, okay?”

He nodded. “Y-yes. Of course.” He mumbled something else before he walked off.

For a moment it sounded like the boy said her name, but it couldn’t be, because she wasn’t in any sort of uniform except a bulletproof vest. There was no way he could’ve known it, right?

She must have been mistaken.


 

Alana Beck was not sure what exactly was going on. She supposed it had to be some sort of shock of sorts, because one moment, she and the student-body president Louis Howell had been walking towards the office to drop off a few documents, a survey they had done for the freshman class, when the lights began flickering over them.

Of course, flickering lights weren’t uncommon in a school as old as Winter Creek’s high school. It’d been one of the things Alana had petitioned for last year, that got her the role as the vice president, and she, Louis and the principal were leading a fundraiser to fix those lights amongst the school.

Cookie dough always sells out fast, huh?

But the flickering lights weren’t the only thing, because a cold draft came into the room before they flickered completely out. Something in her was yelling run, run, run! But she kept the pace with Louis, a leisurely stroll due to his limp.

“Looks like we really need the fundraiser, eh, Beck?” He smirked, tapping the ground with his cane.

Alana nodded, glancing up. It was needed, and while she felt terrible that it was the students who had to raise money to help afford keeping the Winter Creek school intact, it was their duty for their school, as it was her duty to persuade people to do it, as student-body vice president.

And then it happened. It wasn’t noticeable at first in the dark, but the sun shining in through the windows of the school suddenly became very blurred. Fog drifted in from the cracks in the windows and the doors, almost as if someone had a fog machine planted. It was faint, at first, but it quickly became unbearable, and then it happened.

One of the front doors of the school crashed open, and a shadow leapt towards Louis’ figure, which was cloaked in the fog. He screamed, and Alana ran towards him, finding some sort of human hunched over, a larger-than-human mouth on the student-body president’s shoulder, biting and tearing at the flesh. The creature was covered in blood.

Alana panicked. Of course, anyone would panic when faced with some sort of event like this. A part of her, in the back of her mind, decided, Yup, this is definitely gonna traumatize me, but she chose to ignore it to protect her life, and hopefully, save Louis’ in the process.

She grabbed the long-forgotten, dropped cane. It was heavier than she expected, and there was a beautiful ornament of Jupiter fastened to the top, pure silver and the “most expensive thing” that Louis owned. She swung it towards the creature’s head, but it swung a hand up too quickly and caught it in a mangled, clawed hand.

It looked over at her, and there wasn’t a drop of blood on its beautiful, almost alluring face. It looked like some sort of woman for a second, with long, dark hair, fair skin, large, beautiful eyes, full of curiosity. She hesitated on her second swing as she ripped it from the creature’s hands, and the creature took the moment to pounce on her too.

She snapped quickly out of whatever trance the creature had put her in and pushed the creature off, using the crane as leverage, before pointing it towards the creature, like she was a knight protecting her prince with a sword against an evil, dark creature. And it could have been seen like that, but she knew that Louis would have been able to fight on his own, had the creature not pounced on him first.

It hissed at her. “You’re not the ones.” It was some sort of garbled form of English, the language going through what feels like a food processor before being spoken. And just as it had appeared, it disappeared down the hall, and towards the library.

People heard the screams, but everything went silent for Alana, the world disappearing from around her. Not from blacking out or unconsciousness, but from the shock of it all, of some creature attacking her and her acquaintance before disappearing into the unknown, and she only came to again at the hospital, sitting in a hospital room as she waited for her dads to make the trip across town to come to pick her up.

She was left to ruminate on it. It was a rabid dog, people told her, who had seen the creature dashing through the halls. It was a rabid dog, the doctor told her as she got shots to prevent any sort of rabies from infecting her, handing her antiviral medicine to take for the next few days. It was a rabid dog, everyone said.

No, it wasn’t. Alana knew what she saw—and it sure as hell wasn’t a rabid dog. It was some sort of woman, some sort of…She didn’t want to say it. If she said it, of she even thought it for a second, she knew it was going to be true, it was going to be real for her. The logical, scientific side of her couldn’t believe it.

It was some sort of monster.

Not like anyone would believe her, anyway. Who would believe someone who was in shock after witnessing a traumatic event that they’d seen a monster? She knew the shows, she knew how it went—the victim would make it seem like some sort of children’s book monster. Some sort of boogeyman. But it wasn’t, it was just an unfortunate circumstance and maybe it was making up what she’d seen in order to comprehend a monstrous attack on her classmate.

Even though they tried to stay quiet through the halls, as she sat and waited for her dads to come, Alana Beck heard the doctors. “This isn’t like anything we’ve seen before.” “Are we sure it was a dog bite? The teeth marks don’t add up.”

“What else could it be?”

If it truly was a monster, as Alana expected, as she’d seen and heard and felt (the creature was on top of her, you’d expect that she would’ve gotten at least a clear look at it, right?), why were people trying to hide it? Who was trying to hide it?

Well, Alana Beck wasn’t the president of the Journalism Club for nothing, and this was a new mystery, and she was going to get to the bottom of it.


Evan’s mom couldn’t take the night off to be with him after this traumatic event—even though he’d been nowhere near the rabid dog.

Which was technically true. He hadn’t seen a rabid dog at school at all, because there was no rabid dog. There was a creature, a baobhan sith.

As soon as he heard the front door shut as his mom left to return to work, Evan pulled out his laptop. It was as heavy as a brick and built as such, one he’d been given second-hand by Jared after his new one had come in (“I made it so you hopefully won’t break this thing. I know how bad you are with technology.”)

Oh, if only Jared knew.

He wasn’t all okay, either. Evan knew that his anxiety was sitting in the bottom of his stomach like he’d swallowed a rock, making everything inside of him feel sick and queasy. The ship of life he was on at that moment was going through a stormy sea, but his mom would always say there’s going to be some sunshine and easy waters soon, hold on!

She never said that exactly, but Evan would like to imagine she would. Like she’d be there for him when his ship of life finally docked, and he could kiss the ground again after sailing through storms and seas of anxiety. But life wasn’t that simple or that magical.

Well, maybe it was magical. Evan knew an actual witch now. So that was something.

He still couldn’t push away the events of the day in his head—the vampire-lady, trying to kill him, finding out one of his teachers is an archangel (who is also the angel of death, according to some google searches, which makes Evan feel really nice inside. No, he doesn’t feel nice inside. He feels uneasy that the angel of death is also his teacher), and of course…

Evan decided he needed some sort of achievement for “awkward encounters” because he seems to always have too many of them. Including when he ran into a police officer today he recognized as Officer Ben.

Who he knew was in charge of figuring out who exactly Lily was. His anxiety told him as he walked away and found his mom parked, a sullen, tired look on her face, that she knows, she knows, she knows, Evan, you messed up on the last one and she knows she knows she knows, but there’s no way that could happen, because he…

It’s a good thing that Jared made the computer very durable because then he can have ghosts mess with the files as much as they please as long as the file is still able to play just a little bit. It makes it much easier. He’d already had a close call when the police department traced down what computer he used at the library a few years ago, but he now knows better to switch it up, never develop a schedule, or they’ll find him.

Their anonymous tipper who is always, somehow, correct.

Lily.  

(It’s weird, Evan realizes, that he chose that name a long time ago, and now there’s a demon with the same name after his heart on a silver platter. It’s weird.)

 

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

--H.P. Lovecraft


 

He didn’t know where he was driving, but Connor Murphy was having one of those days. One of those days, entailing that he had some sort of fight with one or both of his parents, or perhaps even his sister, and his head was full of a red, hot, burning anger that wouldn’t quell, no matter how much he screamed at someone, no matter how many times he scratched scratched clawing to get out of this life, no matter how many times he bounced the pill bottom in his hand.

He kept it on hand too much—he’d figured out what the fuck was wrong with Evan Hansen, so he should feel like it’s time, but it still feels like something is keeping him alive. Perhaps it’s the demon invasion that Michael and the librarian-lady were talking about. It wasn’t every day that one was able to witness something like that, after all.

Of course, they were hunting Evan. He wished for a moment that he could be in that spot, to be hunted, so he could just give in and be killed and finally done with everything. But the other part of him was telling him, no if you die, you’re going out by your own hand, and not someone else’s.

He didn’t even realize he’d parked in the church’s parking lot until he pulled to a stop. Connor blinked, the daze of the anger melting into confusion. The parking lot was the same lot he remembered playing in with Zoe when he was a kid, and the church was at the height of its time but looking at it now… St. Michael’s Catholic Church was pretty forlorn, lost, and falling apart.

It was kinda ironic that it was Michael, of everything.

The parking lot was empty, aside from two other cars, which Connor could only assume were the car of the priest and the car of one of the workers, possibly the janitor or secretary. Being back in this place brought memories flooding back. He hadn’t attended church since middle school- since he’d come out to his parents. His father was fine not attending church, while his mother still went every other Sunday, or when she could, on her own. Zoe fell out of going as soon as Connor did, Why am I still forced to go if Connor isn’t going?

He pulled the key out if his ignition, sitting still inside of his car before steeling a breath and opening the car door. St. Michael’s was never one to preach against anyone in particular, but stepping back on the rough, cracking pavement after not being on grounds for four years made Connor feel guilty for something, and he wasn’t quite sure what.

The building the church was housed in was old, and Connor remembered how it smelled of old books that he would find in the corners of libraries and book stores, ones with yellowing and cracking pages. Whenever the priest would do the sermon, Connor remembered staring directly at a crack in the painted walls that looked like a giant foot, and his mind wandered to Bigfoot accidentally making that mark to other things, never fully paying attention.

Walking inside, he was met with the same smell he remembered, all those years ago, but it seemed to have grown even more over the past years that he hadn’t been in this building. It nearly suffocated him on his first step in, and he steeled another breath, not giving in to turning around and going back.

Why was he doing this?

Looking back on it, Connor wasn’t sure. After all, he couldn’t explain it himself. Sometimes he thought destiny was working in a weird way, other times he felt like he was out of control of his body, possessed by an otherworldly being. Either way, he found himself standing in the small narthex of the ancient church.

“Oh, hello.” A friendly, younger man was dusting in the corner. He wore exactly what a priest would wear, with the funky little black collar and white thing in it (Connor didn’t know what they were called) and black pants. “Welcome to St. Michael’s. Is there anything I can help you with?”

Connor paused. He didn’t know why he was here, but if this guy was a priest, maybe he’d know about… well, the things Connor had experienced over the past few weeks. “Uh, yeah, actually. I have a few questions—if you don’t mind.” Never in his life has he ever spoken to someone so politely, but it felt as if this man was giving off a commanding aura, or a calming aura, or something to that extent.

Or maybe he didn’t want people to get the wrong idea of why he was here (even if he didn’t know himself).

“No, of course. Go ahead.” The priest put his duster down for a moment, before catching myself. “Oh, pardon me. I’m the new pastor of this church, Father Paul, but you can just call me Paul, if you want.” He held out his hand.

There was a small, inked symbol on his wrist, but Connor ignored it as he quickly shook his hand back, “Connor Murphy.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” Father Paul hesitated, before looking at him oddly. “Any relation to Cynthia Murphy?”

“Uh- yeah. That’s my mom. You know her?”

Father Paul nodded. “Yes, she comes in quite a bit to volunteer. She’s mentioned her kids once or twice, but never anything too much.”

His mom volunteers at St. Michael’s? Connor never knew that, but then again, was he ever home except to sleep and to eat? And even then, he sometimes barely ate when he was at home. And it made sense that Cynthia wouldn’t mention Connor (the problem child), but not bragging about Zoe? It felt like a sin for even Connor to think about. Everyone knew that Zoe was the better-liked Murphy, after all.

“Would you like to sit down somewhere?”

“Sure.”

They walked through the two giant doors behind Father Paul—they creaked and groaned with age, and the inside of the church looked just as old as he had remembered. The Bigfoot crack was still there and still the same. It felt like the church hadn’t changed at all and was frozen in time, aside from the newest additions of a large speaker on the podium and an installed projector on one of the two walls.

So they’ve attempted to modernize a bit.

Father Paul gestured to the pews, and Connor sat down in one of them, and the father in front of him, turning to face him with a strange, curious look on his face. “So, Connor. What did you come to talk about?”

“It’s for my creative writing class.” No, it wasn’t. Sure, Connor had that class, but he didn’t have a good grasp on what he was going to do for it. It was one of the few times that Connor was interested in a class, and his interest had only grown because he found out that the teacher was an archangel. “I want to know more about demons.”

Father Paul didn’t even flinch when that word was thrown, and he only nodded. There was no elderly father giving him a look of disdain when he asked about boys liking other boys, there was no glance at the boy who threw a printer at Sunday school by an old lady who picked on him too much, and there wasn’t even any sort of fear in his eyes.

There was just a bit of… morbid curiosity. Which was weird, coming from a priest, but it was also weird to be looking at someone who looked only a few years older than him as a priest.

“Sure. Anything in particular?”

Connor nodded. “What… What are demons, exactly? Are they different form ghosts, or…?”

Father Paul shook his head. “The mainstream media tends to use “ghosts” and “demons” interchangeably nowadays, but they’re different things. Ghosts are more or less disembodied human souls—sometimes they cannot move on to the afterlife properly because of unfinished business, for example. They’re stuck in an eternal frozen state, purgatory.” Father Paul pulled on his collar, as if it was choking him, but it seemed to be more of a nervous reflex. “And demons… They’re preternatural beings that have rebelled against God.”

Connor nodded, making a mental note about it.

“Most are attracted to living beings because they’re parasitic. Of course, there are higher-ups who live off the energies of the lower tiers of demonic beings.”

“Like capitalism?” He couldn’t even control the snide mark at that point, and Connor mentally kicked himself. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Father Paul laughed in response. “I suppose so.”

“Are there, like, other things? Like, vampires and stuff, then?”

“Well if there were other beings such as vampires, the church would most likely categorize them as ‘demons’, though even that is up to interpretation in today’s society.” Father Paul explained. “The classical vampire like Dracula is distant from the signs of the cross and the sun, which would most likely be considered a demon. But the modern interpretation, including the sparkly ones, would be up for debate.” He hummed in thought, before shrugging. “other things?

Did this guy have some sort of English degree, too? Well, now that Connor was getting a good look at this young priest, it most certainly seemed as such. Nerd, he thought to himself. “Anything else you can think of?”

“Well… Yes.” Father Paul’s face of levity suddenly morphed into one of gloom, the entire room’s tone changing from a pleasant conversation of curiosity to one of warning, of impending doom. It gave Connor a shiver down his spine. “If, for whatever reason, you encounter a lower-tiered demon… Do not invite it to talk to you, under any circumstance. It’s the only way to prevent it from tying itself to you, and then…”

He left it at that. Connor nodded, most certainly feeling a bead of sweat fall down his forehead. Holy shit, this priest is intense.

Should I even say shit in a church? Was Connor’s second thought. But he considered himself more agnostic than Catholic now, so perhaps it was okay.


 

It was barely past three by the time Connor finished asking Father Paul his questions about the supposed Creative Writing project and the talk about demons. He felt like there were a few things that Father Paul got wrong about demons—but the church possibly twisted the truth like churches do sometimes, or at least, misinformation spreads quicker than information.

He sat back in his car, taking a deep breath. Heading back home meant dealing with a “where did you go” talk, asking him if he was high or snorting cocaine or something like that. As if he’d ever actually do drugs—weed was something that helped Connor’s thoughts sizzle out into nothing, a sort of euphoric state where the stress that was piling up on his back seemed to dissolve, only for a short amount of time.

I could go get ice cream. À La Mode was just down the road—a cute little ice cream-slash-café that they would go to after Sunday school sometimes when the Murphy family was much younger, much more energetic, and much happier. Sometimes the drive out was worth it, on days when Connor’s head was too full or he was high and craving something crazy. They had a crazy Tutti Fruitti flavor that tasted like fruit cake, which normally sounded gross unless you were high on something (and it tasted like rainbows no matter if you were high or not).

That sounded good.

He stretched for his gear stick, but in the process, something hit against his hand. He jumped, glancing down, and found a box that was most certainly not there before.

Connor couldn’t recall having such a box in his possession. It was some sort of antique jewelry box, by the looks of it, and the thin layer of dust that covered the inner crevices of the design. The box was a black obsidian color, with intricate, gentle designs flaring out from the corners, giving it a bit of a stand to sit on. There was not a fancy lock on it that mirrored the design, it was just a hook that held the box shut.

The box seemed to emanate power, causing goosebumps to rise all over Connor’s arms, and some sort of primal emotion awoke in him. There was something supernatural in that box, and Connor wasn’t sure if he should open it or not.

But he did.

It almost felt like, for a minute, his hands were not his own, that he was some sort of spectator in his life. A dead spectator watching something ancient grip his body and control it. The box opened, and in the box, was…

A bracelet.

He let out a deep sigh. It was probably his mother’s or something, but that wouldn’t explain why he had it. When he got high, Connor was at least aware of most things, and knew things, like not to steal something from his parents. He’d learned the hard way when he “borrowed” a ten from Cynthia to buy something that wasn’t gluten-free for once.

The bracelet had some sort of intricate design. Despite being mostly silver, a thin, black indent ripped straight through the middle. There were no clasps of any sorts on it, and it was rather large, like a bangle of sorts, or some kind of cuff.  There was only a single charm on it, a miniature sword, that hung off a bit.

It was definitely a simple piece of jewelry. It actually matched the few rings Connor always wore on his right hand. Maybe this was a gift from Cynthia, from his mom, or something? He shrugged and put the bracelet over his wrist.

Well, he was right about something. It was supernatural.

The bracelet sat on his wrist for a minute, before suddenly contorting around his wrist and tightening, sending a shockwave of pain up his arm. The charm began to shake and glow, and there was a bright light, and then there was a sword in his hand.

Connor’s had enough of this supernatural bullshit. “What the fuck?”

The sword glimmered as if it hadn’t previously been a bracelet, the only thing tying it back was a chain that connected to the bracelet. It was a broadsword of sorts, with a hilt decorated with a knight facing some sort of dragon, and bright silver glimmering in the late afternoon sun.

To make things weirder, because shit always has to get weirder, the sword said, “Hello, Connor Murphy!”

He’ll admit it—Connor screamed, dropping the sword. It didn’t fall, unfortunately, because it was connected to him by his wrist, and if anything, it brought his arm down with it. The sword chuckled in response, ancient magic forming some sort of living being out of the sword.

What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck? He thought he’d seen it all when that vampire-lady attacked him and Evan the other day, but this? This? Maybe he’ll never see it all, and he never wants to see it all.

“Connor Murphy! You have been chosen!”

“What the fu—”

“You have been chosen to be the next wielder of the demon-slayer, the sword of light, the one, the only, Barcephelous!”

“Bar—what? What the hell is happening?” Connor turned to his wrist, pulling at the bracelet. But it wouldn’t budge, stuck to his wrist.

“Silly mortal! The only way to free yourself from the binding is to die!”

“W-What?!”

The sword—Barcephelous?—chuckled again. He-she-they-it was sprawled out over the passenger side. “If you pick me up so that I can see you a bit clearer, I will be able to explain more!”

Connor reached a shaky hand over to the sword, picking it up awkwardly. It glimmered again in the sun, and hummed with ancient magic, possibly older than the town of Winter Creek itself. “What the fuck. I’m talking to a sword. Have I finally lost my mind?”

“You have not, Connor Murphy!” The sword said. “My first wielder, Hammurabi, named me Barcephelous. I am the demon-slayer, the sword of light, the sword that pierces the dark—”

“Okay, you have a lot of names, I get it.” Connor pulled at his wrist again. “How the fuck do I get you off?”

“You have to die for that to happen!” Seeing (somehow) Connor’s shocked face, Barcephelous made the sound of clearing their throat, but swords don’t have throats, which made things much more confusing. “I live off of my wielder’s life force. Not much—think of it as an extra stomach! The only way to get me off is to die a noble death in combat! Or of old age, I suppose, because is not age the biggest enemy in a man’s life?”

“What if I chop my hand off?”

“That would work, too, I suppose but—no, don’t do that.” The sword hummed again. “You will wield me against the evils of the world in many of your future battles, and your destiny has been chosen!”

No, he didn’t want this. A life-sucking sword that lived on his wrist? It was some sorted twisted, macabre reality to him. A sword, a talking sword, attached to his wrist, that sucked out his apparent life force? And the only way to get rid of it, is to die? You underestimate how much I want to die, then, Connor thought morbidly to himself, before asking,  “So am I just supposed to carry around a sword on my wrist for the rest of my life now?”

“No! My creator knew that carrying around a sword at all times would be a task, so he created special words that activated my magic!” The sword explained. “Calling my name calls upon me to appear, but to get rid of me, my wielder only has to say “return”, and I—”

“Return.” The sword glimmered, cutting off whatever Barcephelous was saying, and it faded back into the small charm as if nothing had happened. The only thing different now was a small cut alongside Connor’s index finger.

His mind was reeling—it had happened too fast, too suddenly. Connor didn’t want some sort of demon-slaying destiny, he just wanted either to die peacefully by his own hand, to just disappear. He didn’t need some sort of sword attached to his wrist. Could he kill himself with the sword to get rid of it? It didn’t seem too easy, and it’d be more painful than he expected.

Fuck this, the only other weird person in Winter Creek was Evan Hansen. Maybe he’d know something about an ancient-ass sword.

 

Chapter Text

TWELVE

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

--Marcus Aurelius


In the dark shadows of the woods at night, a single figure walked into the light of the moonlight. Despite walking in the forest in the middle of the night, with the moon high in the sky, they know where they need to go and don’t stop.

Their features were obscured by a deep navy-blue cloak, the hood pulled low over their face. Not a single breathing person was awake in any of their radius, nonetheless, the person kept their face hidden away.

A dark book is pulled from their robes. A strange ancient text is emblazoned in gold on the cover of the book, and they opened it without hesitation to a dog-eared page. They sat in on the ground before pulling out other things from their cloak. A small satchel, herbs of differing varieties, and a small knife. The hilt of the knife is decorated with ornamental gold, but different from the book. Different symbols decorated the hilt and the person holding it angled it towards their hand before slicing, dropping blood into the earth below them.

A small tremor shook the trees, and the bugs stopped chirping.

They then emptied the satchel, spilling small, fine crystals out into the dirt, and threw two of the herbs they had brought on top of that as well. The ground began to glow a pale hue of red, a shade of red that never seemed to exist before that moment, in a spiderweb, patchwork pattern around

Another small tremor, but it seemed to have grown more, a pulsating sort of tremor that shook the trees again, and birds began to flee from the immediate area. They fled south, they knew what was coming, and knew to get out of there as soon as possible.

The navy-clad person held onto the roots of the grass with all of their might as the ground shook and let out a deep breath after it subsided. Glancing down at the book, they began to chant, in a garbled, long-lost language, slowly at first, but as they kept chanting, their voice got stronger, got louder, got passionate, got powerful, and suddenly, the pale hue of red no longer existed as a pale hue, but as bright crimson, streaking through the ground before it seemed to crest like a wave would, falling quickly to a trough before cresting even higher than before, and then, it stopped.

And then the entire earth shook.


 All across Winter Creek, in the middle of the night, an earthquake shakes the town awake.


Evan Hansen’s dreams seem to have gotten weirder after finding out the history of Winter Creek—about the demon invasion, about Mr. Phillips and Ms. Anagos, about himself. He dreamed of seeing his town, his home, covered in fire and frost, a blue, glowing flame that destroys buildings and people, and a white, pale frost that never conflicts with the fire, that seems to spread faster than he can move, and suddenly it is grasping his legs and pulling, cold down to the bone, and he’s suffocated.

He dreamed of standing at the top of a tree, the tallest tree he could ever think of, and the ground got further and further and further away from him. There is growling and pain in his head, and he slips- he jumps- and he’s falling and crashing. There’s no one around, and a strange tune fills his head.

He dreamed of Connor Murphy and the day they ran into each other in the woods. He dreamed of seeing Connor Murphy continue to walk on, not paying attention to Evan and his bloody nose, and then there was a pill bottle, choking, death—

He dreamed of seven crows flying around him, attacking him, but never leaving a mark, but the pain, the pain, the pain…

He dreamed of sitting on a light pedestal in front of a giant woman, who just watched him with a large, unblinking eye.

And then something woke him up. Shaking, he recognized, but why his small room would be shaking with such a force he didn’t know, and things were falling off of his shelves.

Willy floated around his room and attempted to keep more fragile things—a picture frame that had a man’s face that he had never known, a potted plant, a couple of books—from falling to the ground and breaking, but ghosts couldn’t manifest enough energy to do something like that unless they had become poltergeists through some sort of intense emotion.

Oh. Evan’s eyes widened as Willy not only caught the picture, but held it, and Willy’s eyes widened, too. But they were momentarily distracted by the sound of ghosts screaming throughout the Hansen household, awoken from their not-quite-slumber-but-wandering-sleep by the feeling of the entire earth shaking.

And then just as it started, it stopped. Maybe it shook one last time as an aftershock, but it… stopped.

The earth ceased its tremoring, and it seemed to slip back into a peaceful sleep. Evan could see out of his window the lights of his neighbors turned on, and flashlights being lit up as people managed their way through their houses, making sure loved ones were okay.

“Evan?” He heard his mother’s voice at his door, and he carefully walked over to it, his legs wobbly from the shaking that stopped only a few moments before. He opened it cautiously, seeing his mother standing at the door, flashlight in hand, pointed at the ground. “Are you okay, Evan?”

He nodded. His ears had begun to ring all of a sudden, and felt so, so small in comparison to everything, in comparison to the world. A few hot tears fell down his cheeks and he felt his mom wrap him up in her arms, holding him tightly. “It’s okay, we’re okay, Ev…”

There’s a reassuring tone, but Evan’s mind is going a mile a minute. Were they okay? Evan couldn’t remember anything that earth-shaking (pun not intended) ever happening to Winter Creek. Once when he was seven, maybe, a small tremor ran through the town, but that was because of an earthquake across the world, and it didn’t do much but cause the trees to shake.

Which meant that something was most definitely wrong. And when something felt wrong, it felt…. Supernaturally wrong.

And he hated that feeling, in his gut, that something was supernaturally wrong, but he felt it and after the past few incidences, he recognized it. It’d been sitting in his gut like a heavy lead pipe when he and Connor first met the demon in the middle of the road, the messenger who first gave a telltale sign of Lilith’s coming. He’d felt it a couple of days prior when he and Connor and Mr. Phillips faced down that demonic-vampire thing (Baobhan sith, Willy’s voice echoed in his head) and whenever he was around Mr. Phillips, for that matter. Hell, he’d felt it just earlier that day, a good twenty minutes or so before Connor called him in a hurry.

“I have a fucking magical sword attached to my wrist, help me.”

He came over shortly after that while Heidi was still at work, and Evan had met the sword known as Barcephelous, and the supernatural energy that wafted off of it as it merely existed as a bracelet was enough to cause nausea, dizziness, but he got used to it. Kinda.

But this?

This was the overwhelming feeling he’d felt before, but ten times that amount. Or maybe even twenty times. Something powerful had awoken in Winter Creek.

Hopefully, he wasn’t the only one who had taken notice.


 

Across the town, there’s someone who was already awake when the tremors hit, and Zoe Murphy was having none of it as her room shook with tremors that matched the heartbeat of a living thing.

Her life had already gotten too fucking weird at this point. She’d just become a junior in the last month, and her mother had told her that junior year was going to be the worst year because she’s one of the oldest kids in her school, but also not quite the oldest, and she didn’t get the cool perks that seniors got.

Oh, yeah, and maybe the strange magical powers that came with turning sixteen over the summer had something to do with it.

She hadn’t noticed them much at first. After all, no one would seem to notice it when it was summer, and trees were in full bloom and there were flowers blooming everywhere. But on late nights like these, when Zoe was up late at night, trying to drown out the sound of her brother and her parents fighting and trying to disappear, they were unnoticeable no longer.

A tree branch would extend into her room, reaching a hand out to her in aid. The sunflower she got for her sixteenth birthday from Alana didn’t seem to wilt or die at all. Nature would whisper to her in quiet moments, telling her the songs that cicadas would sing late at night. She could hear the poems that the creek through the town told as it winded its way through the city, deep poems about the philosophy of life and extinction of dragons.

She was going insane.

Maybe her brother had something like this, too, Zoe wondered. Maybe he went crazy because of strange magical powers (or whatever kind of strange illness this was), but she felt like if she ever brought it up that she might get looked at weird, and she was the good Murphy child. She was the antithesis to Connor’s existence—good grades, good extracurriculars, popular.

Zoe Murphy was not going to bring this up to anyone, ever, and she would go to the grave with this.

But the night of the tremors broke through her core. Because it was not just tremors, she realized, as she curled into a ball on the side of her bed where she’d rolled off in her night of fitful sleep. It wasn’t just tremors, she realized, as she heard the birds cry and flee, as she heard the trees murmur and scream, as she felt the entire world shake.

It wasn’t just tremors, Zoe realized, as the earth came to life.

It seemed to last longer than it did, but later reports would show to her that the tremors- and the one, lone, after shake- lasted only about a minute. But it felt like it was forever that she laid there on the ground, the world getting louder and louder around her, as the entire planet seemed to shake from something unnatural coming to life somewhere. She felt like she was Alice in Wonderland after drinking the strange shrinking potion that made the entire world around her grow.

Zoe always liked Alice in Wonderland, but she never imagined she would know what it felt like to feel the world grow exponentially around her, as it quaked with new breath.

And then it stopped, and the trees stopped their screaming, and the birds had fled, and the world was quiet.

For the first time in a long time, Zoe Murphy felt like crying. Her ears rang as she pushed herself off of her carpeted floor, feeling a twinge of pain in her cheek from where she laid rather uncomfortably folded in on herself. Hot tears rolled down her face, and she winced as her door swung open with a bang!

Connor.

Her brother stood at the door, his eyes wide awake, but for once, he wasn’t high. He had actually changed into some more comfortable clothes to sleep in for once, and a strange new bangle adorned his wrist.

“Zoe, are you in here?” He asked, squinting in the dark. Sure enough, Zoe noticed that her digital clock, that usually lit up her room, had turned off. The power must’ve gone out.

“Y-yeah.” She wasn’t mad that Connor was in her room, for once. There was a little bit of relief, in it, more than anything, that someone had come to check on her, instead of forcing her to take the wheel and make sure her brother hadn’t accidentally killed himself in his bedroom when everyone was asleep. “What- what was that?”

Connor shuffled carefully through her room, moving a bit closer. “Some kind of earthquake, maybe?”

There was uncertainty in his voice.

“We’re-we're not in any kind of earthquake zone.”  It’s true. The only thing that Winter Creek was in danger of was a sinkhole, and there weren’t many mines or deep grooves in the town’s earth to have caused any such things. “Was it on the other side of the world?”

Connor shrugged. “Can that happen?”

“No—maybe, I don’t know.” She’d have to ask Alana that, Alana was taking geology and she’d know that. Of course, Alana had asked her to meet her early at school the next day, or in a few hours, judging by the last time she saw her clock. “What the fuck.”

“Yeah.” Connor agreed. “What the fuck.”

There was stomping, echoing the hallway, and then her dad was at the door, glancing in at Zoe and Connor, both shakily standing in the middle of her room, flashlight in hand. “Zoe—Connor?” He blinked as if in shock to see both of them in the same room without yelling and screaming. “Are you both okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Zoe said, and Connor nodded in agreement. “Are you and Mom okay?”

Her dad nodded, letting out a deep sigh. “Just a bit shaken is all. Nothing broke in your room, right?”

Zoe’s room has no shelves. Connor’s room has nothing but a single poster on the wall, but luckily, there was nothing broken.

Nothing physical, at least.

Chapter Text

THIRTEEN

“It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.”
 
― Victor Hugo


 

The town is abuzz the next morning after the tremors, and it’s all over the news. Even the national news, Evan noticed, as he flipped through the channels on their small cable television in the living room, a bowl of cereal precariously balanced on the armrest of the sofa.

Most places are closed that day from the damages. Buildings closer to the edge of the city to the east suffered a bit more damage, and most of the commercial buildings were set there, and the high school, too, meaning that Evan spontaneously had a free day off of school. They’d gotten a lot of free days, recently, with the vampire—baoban sith—attack, and now this.  

Not that he would have much homework to do, or anythingstudy for really. Even though his life seems to have been flipped upside down by the revelations and the sudden friendship with Connor Murphy, he still got his work done ahead of schedule, because who knows when the ghost real would suddenly be in need of his assistance?

Well, Evan didn’t. That’s why he did it early. And at least when he did, he had some time to himself.

Or, well, himself and ghosts. Evan was never truly alone.

Willy was buzzing with energy—enough to cause the television to occasionally freeze or give up in static energy. Evan could feel it, too, and he was pretty sure every ghost in a good mile or two radius could feel it.

After all, last night had been… Something, other than the tremors.

He picked up a pen from the coffee table and held it. Held it. In all eighteen years that Evan had been around ghosts, they were barely able to move things, unless their emotions were high and the air was full of enough potential energy to use to manipulate their surroundings, like poltergeists. But Willy was just Willyat the moment, and despite all the extra energy that was filling the air and causing everything to taste like static…

He was still just Willy but holding a pen.

He set the pen back down. He picked it up. He set it back down again.

Emily, her knees curled under her, sitting on the couch next to Evan, watched with glee, buzzing with energy, but not the same kind of energy that Willy had. Astila floated nearby, watching all three of them, humming a traditional song that Evan didn’t know.

“Look, look!” Willy picked up the pen again. To any sane person, it would just be a floating pen, but Evan could see past the veil of death and understand what was happening—a translucent teenager was holding a pen. “I can’t believe this, dude. Holy shit.”

Evan nodded. “It’s something.” Which it was. There was a bite of sarcasm in his tone, but it was strange and unfamiliar territory. He thought he finally understood his weird powers. He could interact with the living like he could the dead, he could speak to ghosts, he could see them, and they could see him, more importantly. There were other…unnatural side-effects to it, too. He could see better in the dark, he didn’t get as cold as easily as most people, the weird dreams he’s always had, but those could be seen as quirks that definitely weren’t hiding a dark secret.

But the ghosts were getting stronger. Or maybe he was influencing them, somehow? Evan wasn’t sure. He didn’t wantto know.

“Is it you? Is it me? Is this just something because of the whole demon thing?” Even when he wasn’t present at all the situations, Willy (and Emily, for the matter, though she tends to hang around more as a tethered being to him than other ghosts) always learned what was happening, always got caught up, somehow. “The barriers between the living realm and the afterlife are breaking, oh no!”

“Stop being overdramatic.” Evan responded, rolling his eyes, flipping through the channels. If it wasn’t a news channel, it was a soap opera. If it wasn’t a soap opera, it was a random show Evan didn’t know much about. His phone buzzed, charging from across the room; too far away for him to get it.

“Ja-Rad?”He heard Emily say from across the room, floating above the phone.

Oh. Jared texted him? A rare occurrence, unless it was asking about homework or study notes for an upcoming test. Evan pushed himself off of the couch and walked over to check his phone.

jaRAD: im coming over being home alone is boring

Well, that’s great. Jared would occasionally pop over on weekends, to make sure his act of being a “family friend for car insurance” was pretty solid. Most of the time, he’d come over with his Switch and play mostly on his own, concerned that Evan’s bad luck with technology would ruin the expensive console.

And he would raid all of their snacks, of course. Good thing his mom just stocked up on chips, though there was no doubt that they’d be gone within the next two hours.

Evan sighed; he was expecting some sort of weekend-visit coming soon, though this wasn’t technically a weekend. Willy wound enjoy it; he knew the ghost took pleasure in tormenting his family-friend by making him think that his Switch was possessed; by moving the joystick when it wasn’t in use and causing plenty of Game-Overs. But Jared still came, despite the haunted house the Hansens lived in.

“The Hansen Haunted House!”Jared had once joked at him, when they were just a bit closer. “Honestly, you could brand it and sell tickets, and make so much money off of it.”

Even though Jared didn’t know that Evan could see ghosts. Even though Evan thought, once, about telling him, but decided against it at the last possible second.

There was another text; one from Connor, something about the strange sword. They decided to meet up at his place in the next couple of days to really discuss what was happening, and whether they should bring it up to Mr. Michael or not. They hadn’t had a chance to talk about it, except for when Connor came over in a panic over the sword.

There was a knock on the door, just as Evan put away the plate that had a half-eaten waffle on it; mostly just for breakfast, but Willy and Emily hadtried to eat it themselves, Willy especially, after finding out he could hold things. It not only ended up as a chewed-up mess on the floor (Ghosts could chew, but not digest the food, go figure), but a frozenchewed-up mess. What remained of the waffle was frosted over.

Certainly… interesting. He shut the dishwasher and took a deep breath, getting ready to deal with Jared, just as the door opened.

“Hellocasa lá Hansen!” Jared greeted, and about three undead souls groaned in agony and annoyance. He held his Switch in one hand, and around his other arm was a familiar blue-bag from Walmart. Evan could see the edge of a Dorito bag peeking out of it and felt a twinge of relief wash over him; finally, Jared brought his own food.

“H-Hey, Jared.”

“Know the drill, right?” Jared didn’t even need to explain whyhe wanted to be here; Evan’s house, though small and homely, was a second-home to him. It was a place to get away from his parents, anda way to make sure his parents pay for car insurance. That’s what Evan’s been told, at least. An hour or two of chilling out in the Hansen house on his Switch with Evan ghosting around would get it paid, that’s what mattered in the end.

Evan nodded. His mouth was dry, but surprisingly, he wasn’t hungry. Despite that, he found himself stealing a few chips from the bowl that Jared had poured, even though they were the spicy kind and Evan didn’t like the spicy kind.

Even though he didn’t like being used by Jared for the purpose of keeping car insuranceout of Jared’s own wallet, the company was… nice. It was different than the company he usually kept. Alive, a little voice in the back of his head rings out. It was nice to be around someone who was… alive, for lack of a better word.

Though lately, Jared has seemed… off. He’d always been offto Evan, but the kind of off that one wouldn’t normally notice. It was a heartbeat that was off by just a second, a glimmer in the sun where something shouldn’t glimmer, a smile with teeth that are just too sharp… The list went on. And on.

And now that Evan’s encountered a vampire, a talking sword, a witch, an archangel, and a demon(with, unfortunately, more to come), Evan started to think that Jared might not be totally human.

“Evan.” Jared’s voice caught him out of the stupor. “You’ve been staring at me for, like. The past ten minutes.”

“S-Sorry.” Evan stammered, looking away, feeling his cheeks flush. He hadn’t meant to just be awkwardlystaring at Jared, but there was seriously something offabout him. He had to just be seeing things, right?The thought didn’t ease the nerves in his system. It felt like electricity had hit him, firing up everything. “Just, uh, lost in my thoughts.”

“Of this handsome ol’ face of mine?”

“N-No.” He lied. Jared pouted, only for a brief second, before turning back to the game.

The quiet silence that followed seemed to last forever—Evan glanced at his phone, scrolling through a few messages he had sent last night, to Connor. During the earthquake. If they were okay, if hewas okay, how was the sword, there was something supernatural about the earthquake was left unsaid, but he was sure that Connor felt it, too.

There was a loud crackfrom outside, one that seemed to shake the whole house. Like the earthquake. Except there was no earthquake, and all pictures stayed steady on the walls around the two of them. It was a sound, a feeling, that shook Evan’s soul.

He glanced out the back door. His backyard wasn’t much of a looker; weeds overgrown, mowed only when Evan or his mom had the chance to. Grew slowly, because of the impact of death on the house, but still grew despite the circumstances. There was a broken-down fence at the back of it, and behind the fence grew the great Winter Creek wilderness. Memories of exploring the woods alone exploded in his mind.

Behind the fence and in the trees, Evan saw a strange figure. Made of trees, made of earth, made of the land around it, and he blinked.

It blinked back, before leaning down towards the ground and burrowing into it, out of sight.

“Evan!” Jared’s voice cuts him out of a trance again, and he becomes cognizant of sharp nails piercing his skin, and a familiar-yet-strange warmth radiating. Jared isn’t blocking his way of the window, but he’s holding onto Evan, and he’s pretty sure that Jared’s nails have broken his skin. “Evan—”

“There’s—there’s something out there—” Evan tried to say. He tried to articulate his thoughts, but it was like spaghetti in his head. It felt like he said something out there, but it was the only articulate thing he couldsay.

“Something? What? Evan, you’re not making sense, and…” Jared blinked, trying to translategarbled Evan-speech in his head. His hands relaxed, pulling away from Evan. There are little pinpricks of pain where the nails (claws) held on. No broken skin, at least. “Okay, it’s understandable that we’ve all been quite, heh, shaken upafter that earthquake. But you don’t need to freak out so much, alright?”

Evan nodded, mutely. But he couldn’t focus on any of the words that Jared was saying—he listened, instead, to the souls of the Hansen household, particularly the one of Astila.

“That was ancient magic.” She said to the other two ghosts in the room—and, to Evan, as well, but less directly. “Whatever that was, it is not good for this land.”

He needed to see it. He needed to knowwhat it was that he saw. Evan stood up, pocketing his phone, before turning to Jared.

“I’m going out.” He said. Not to Jared in particular. But he did say it, and he did say it aloud.

And he did.


 

Evan expected at least oneghost to follow him—Willy wasn’t too far behind as expected, but Emily hid in the warm (cold?) embrace of Second-Mother and the other undead souls that drifted through Evan’s house.

What he wasn’t expecting, was Jared to trail behind him.

“That’s it, you’ve officially lost your marbles.” Jared yelled after him. He spent a good minute watching through the sliding glass door of Evan’s house in shock as Evan got up and walked out, was now trying to catch up desperately and was definitely annoyed. “Get back here—you knowI have short legs!”

“You—you didn’t have to come.” Evan wanted to turn him away—go back, this might not be safe—but he didn’t have any magical sword to protect him. All he had was Willy, and Willy was dead.

“Uh, you’re walking straight into a forest after having some weird panic attack, all by yourself. Like hell do I want to explain to your mom why you went missingagain.” Jared laughed, suddenly. “If you do end up getting hurt, I’m going to laugh, though.”

“Can I torment him? Please? Just a little bit?”

When Jared looked away, Evan gave the ghost a look. As in, I know you already do it when I’m not looking, one that neither said nobut also didn’t say yes, the look a child would get when they’re about to do something crazy and neither parent wanted to deal with the consequences immediately.

And if Willy caused a few cold spots while they stood in the forest, Evan turned the other way.

In all reality, Evan knew there was no reasonfor the two of them to be out in the woods. It was the start of one of those cliché horror-movies. Two teens, out in the woods on a random day, there’s bound to be some crazy axe-murderer or knife-handed serial killer willing to tear their insides to shreds. But Evan would knowif there was a killer around; the ghosts would be a dead giveaway.

Ha,dead giveaway.

But at least the woods are quiet, if not serene. There’s the one odd wayward soul, one in clothes ancient enough to not be recognized, with a face completely forgotten by history. Willy waved, excited at the new specter in the area, but it fades away before he can approach.  

“This is stupid, Evan.”

“Y-You didn’t have to follow me.” Evan replied, a bit too forcefully.

“Uh, yeah, I did.” Jared rolled his eyes, hinting at something that Evan was obviously not getting. “Do you remember what… what happened last time?”

Last time. It was years ago, and Jared mentioning it again brought up old memories. Painful memories. They were seven. Evan had seen a ghost that needed help and wandered off after telling Jared he’d be back. It would be six more hours until they found Evan, knocked out by a wayward branch from a poltergeist, a dry bloody nose and cut-open lip, bruised but otherwise alive.

Somehow that event should have traumatized him, but it added fuel to the flames of Evan’s selfless spirit.

Maybe it didn’t traumatize Evan. Maybe… maybe it hurt Jared, in some way?

“He’d be soupset if he knew what we did, Ev.” Willy laughed, but it was hollow, cold, and empty. Evan agreed.

“You… you remember that?” Evan mumbled. He wasn’t sure he was loud enough, but somehow, Jared caught it.

“Yeah? It’s one of those big momentsyou have as a kid when you realize the world isn’t exactly as fair as it should be.” Jared replied. He smirked, though, and any pain that were in his words faded. “Surprised you remember it, looking at the giant branch you got whacked in the head with.”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“You literally have a scarfrom it, Evan.” That was true, there was a small, faint scar on his lip from where the branch scratched him after hitting him. Jared sighed, again, crossing his arms. “Can we fucking go back, already? I need to get home and actually do homework, you know.”

Evan glanced around, and opened his mouth to respond, but no sooner than he did it did the ground start to rumble. Or his soul. Or both, Evan could see the trees shaking as a tremor gripped the earth around them. And then, something… changed. The ground lifted, as it was breathing. A lump formed, frozen in time before spinning and heading straight towards the two of them. It stopped feet away.

“What the hell.” Jared said, not even flinching at the beast.

“Evan, now would be a good time to get out of here.” Willy warned, resting his hands on Evan’s shoulders. Cold hands, and Evan saw the fabric under them bend with the pressure. That’s new.

The lump shuddered, and burst, suddenly. It was not just a lump—it was a thing, of some sorts, almost human but not quite. Where skin should be was dark stone and dirt, eyes nothing but hollow indents lit with pure white light. Its body was covered with grass, with moss, with more dirt and mud, and other than its earthly appearance, it looked like a large human. Almost.

It roared at them. The trees shuddered with the sound of the Earth’s screams.

Chapter Text

FOURTEEN

“The Earth has music for those who listen.”

--- George Santayana


 

“Fuck.” Jared said.

Fuck, Evan thought.

It wasn’t often that the earth came to life, such as this—as in, not common at all. Nothing Evan had ever experienced. But, if ghosts existed, and demons and angels and witches, it was at the point where this might as well happen. The creature stood tall in front of the two of them, sniffing at the air in a near menacing, tempting, anxious manner, shoving its hands into the dirt under it.

It grunted, like a bull, and reared back.

“Look out!” Jared’s movements were swift, too swift for any human, but Evan was more focused on not dying to pay attention—he’s pushed by Jared to the side, just as the Earth-creature comes barreling where they once stood. It flies through Willy, causing both parties to be momentarily paralyzed.

The good thing was, Willy was already dead. He shuddered back into his sense of self, and the energy in the air skyrocketed. “Hey, rock-head! I’m the only one who gets to torment Kleinman!” Evan was glad he didn’t have to find a way to subconsciously motion for the ghost to distract the earth-creature.

Catching his breath, he glanced over at Jared, who, instead of watching the monster try and catch nothing that he can see, is hunched over, trying to avoid eye contact from Evan. “Fuck. This isn’t supposed to be happening…” He heard him mumble.

“What?” Evan asked, over the screaming energy of the air. It tastes like static—he has to keep an eye out, to make sure Willy doesn’t descend into poltergeist, because the last thing they needed was a poltergeist on their hands. Especially one as strong as Willy, who now can hold corporeal objects when he’s calm. Or, as calm as Willy can be. “Jared, are—are you—”

“Shut up, Evan!” The venom in Jared’s voice stings, and Evan reeled back, in shock. He was used to the tone and the remark of general condescendence, a slight sneer that Evan saw out of the corner of his eye. But the tone here was a thousand times worse. “Just—fuck, you’re not supposed to get involved in this stuff.”

“W-What stuff?” If Jared was talking about ghosts—had he known, all along? Had Evan’s anxiety been making him think of excuse after excuse, to tell Jared? Or was there something else going on?

Jared didn’t look him in the eye as he turned around, keeping them low to the ground. His glasses, one lens completely shattered, was gripped tightly in one hand, and he motions to the scene behind him. The earth-creature was getting tired of Willy, but still trying, and Willy was electrified with anger and power. “This! This nonsense!”

Jared knew.

Jared knew, something.

Evan didn’t know what he knew but he knew that Jared knew something. Enough to talk about the earth-creature, whatever ancient magic formed it into existence, enough to talk about the supernatural, enough to be upset at it.

He didn’t realize it, but Evan took a step back from his “family-friend”, who still wouldn’t look him in the eye. The world seemed to be spiraling around him. Jared knew about this stuff, Jared knew about this stuff, and never thought to mention it to him? Evan could’ve told him about the ghosts, sooner. Evan could’ve told him about seeing ghosts, about the demon, the warning, Lilith, the vampire-slash-Baohban sith, the gut feeling he had about the earthquakes. He could’ve told him about everything.

He could have told him everything, but Jared gave him no clues that he knew.

Or, well, maybe Evan was too dense to see them. Whatever glamor that was over Jared was shifting, breaking, no doubt because of the intense magic in the air, the electricity from the spirit and the quaking from the large, earth-creature.

Jared dared a look up at Evan, and Evan’s heart stopped, for a minute. His friend’s normally hazel eyes turned deep violet.

“Evan, look out!” The earth-creature had bored of Willy and had turned its attack back on them. It charged at Evan. The world went in slow motion—Willy was at his side, pulling him away, an actual force of wind instead of a small breeze, and the creature was, once again, skidding to a halt, running into a barrier made of pure energy.

Jared stood on the other side, his glamor broken.


 

Jared Kleinman wasn’t human, he knew. That he wasn’t like the others. His parents, his human parents, were well versed in the magic of the area.

They knew what had happened, on a cold summer evening, when twilight approached and a fae from the Seelie Court took what human baby his parents had birthed, and replaced them with him, not as an act of malice or mischief but as an act of hope.

Hope that Jared, his true name only whispered in the night as the trees blow in the wind, would turn out better than the family he had come from.

He was a changeling—a replacement-baby, a fake baby, planted by his fae parents. Not entirely fae. Not entirely human. Purple scales stretched across his shoulders, his back, where the smallest of wings formed. His teeth were too sharp, even as a baby, his eyes a hue of violet and lavender, his ears too long. The tail was an issue, too.

Despite being a changeling, his human parents took him in as their own—and, in technicality, he was their own. He was Jared Alphonse Kleinman. Even if he was some changeling freak.

He was taught how to glamor at a young age. His mom, despite being out of practice for years, remembered the spells she had learned in the corners of the high school with her friends, to change how they looked, to fool people into thinking they were old enough to drink and actually be at the college parties in the next towns over.

And Jared took his magic in stride— despite the fact that he knew he was a freak, even by fae standards. A changeling, walking one foot in the fae court, the other in the human world. If he hid away behind his glamor, a mask, then he was human. He was human, and after nearly eighteen years, the spell he had learned as a toddler had become ingrained in him that he knew the words and the motions without having to look at the piece of paper, written in chicken scratch, shoved to the back of his desk drawer.

And Evan—he’d known Evan since he could put up the glamor and be a little kid. The Hansens were family-friends, Heidi and his other mother, Ma, were college roommates who returned to Winter Creek after Heidi met Mark Hansen. Ma stayed with Heidi for a year or two before settling down in the small town, meeting his Mom and falling in love.

He’d been given the opportunity to tell Evan who—what—he really was. His parents encouraged him, told him that it would be okay, you can trust Evan, but despite it, Jared never could. Because he knew, deep down, that he was not human and it terrified him.

Sometimes he would catch Evan studying him, weirdly. Evan Hansen w as his own brand of weird—one, that instead of hiding behind a glamor, leaked out through his pores and the area. Cold spots, flickering lights, silent stares off to the wall, snickering at a joke no one heard—well, by all accounts, Evan Hansens was insane.

It got the pressure of Jared, at least. He wasn’t the weirdest kid at the school. He was normal, he was human, and he was proud of it.   

Despite keeping a secret from Evan for eighteen years, despite ignoring him for most of the summer, somehow cruel fate manages to bring everything to light. Winter Creek’s supernatural scene had skyrocketed in recent months, if not weeks, after the attack at school. He heard Louis didn’t need to sleep or eat anymore. That wasn’t a good sign, but it was another addition to the silent club of unknown freaks at their high school, at least.

And then the earthquake. And now, this.

Jared hadn’t used his own magic for a while. Most of it was used, keeping up his glamor spell, to not alert humans of what he was. But the earth-creature was charging at Evan, after being distracted by some butterfly or whatever, and like hell was it going to get Evan. He didn’t push Evan, Evan got out of the way on his own. Instead, Jared through all his power and magic into creating something that could stun the creature, temporarily.

What Jared didn’t know, however, is that he was a curious case of a changeling. Most changelings are thrown away, put in foster care, given away, when the parents discover that their baby was replaced. They die young and don’t get to live healthy lives. Jared was an exception, and his magic was even encouraged at home, and so was something called imagination.

Most fae weren’t born with imagination, and they passed the curse down to changelings they would leave behind. But just because they weren’t born with an imagination, doesn’t mean one can’t foster and grow when left with humans.

Jared was a fair folk with an imagination.

A truly deadly, scary combo.

He felt his glamor fade away—fuck it, he thought, staring down at the Earth-creature. Some sort of troll, Jared could barely recognize it when it was made of the same stone and dirt and clay as the mountains in Winter Creek. The barrier had done enough to stun it, and Jared turned to look at Evan, who was staring at him, wide-eyed.

It wasn’t the stare that Jared expected when he thought of telling Evan about the whole fae-thing. He expected shock, distrust, disbelief, hatred, the nightmares of telling Evan going awry flooded his mind whenever he thought he could as a kid, and just pushed away from Evan. Left him behind.

The look he gave, though, was different. It was one of… understanding. Of knowledge, of trust.

His wings fluttered. Jared hadn’t flown in years, and they were itching for a flight. Despite it, he pushed the barrier on top of the earth-troll, pushing it to the ground, where it burrowed itself and didn’t come back up.

Evan stood still, watching Jared and observing, studying, listening, as if he could read Jared’s mind. Could Evan read minds? Did he know the entire time?

“So, I guess I can’t expect you to forget all that just happened, huh?” He knows that his teeth are sharper without the glamor. He knows that baring his fangs, just a little bit, could be intimidating. But Evan Hansen, despite being a freak and a bit of an anxious loser, was absolutely fearless.

Evan shook his head. Tears were forming in the corners of his eyes, and it looked like he was about to have a panic attack. Not over Jared’s appearance, but something in the air had changed. Whatever electric presence had faded. Evan mumbled something, too low for Jared to hear, looking away. He glanced up quickly.

“Y-you’re not h-human?”

“Nope.” Jared popped the p, clenching his fists and relaxing, showing off the claws that had grown in. Scales covered his shoulders down to his elbows, and even a splattering of them across his cheekbones. He had wings, he had a tail, curled around his leg in fear but still existing.

Evan nodded. “O-oh.”

“Seriously? Is that all you’re gonna say?” Jared groaned. “I’ve kept this from you for our entire lives. I’m not human, there’s a world of weird magic and freaks out there, and you’re not even batting an eye at anything?”  He snapped a bit there, sure. But it was infuriating how calm Evan was about the situation, despite the fact he was, in fact, having a panic attack.

Not best to speak to Evan when he was having one of those panic attacks. His varied, a lot, and Jared had been witness to many. The crying, the shaking fits. But the silent ones, where Evan froze, like a deer in the headlights, stunned to move, were the ones he hated the most.

“I—I kn̳̲͇o̱͖͎͢w͚̗̟̗͓͇.͏͎̱̜̺” Evan said. His voice did a strange noise at the end, and Jared didn’t catch it all. It was not just almost inhuman, it was completely inhuman, a noise that no one living should be able to make. “I kn͡o̴̴w̕͟ there’s a whole world of magic out there, like, there’s demons and angels and g͞͏ho̶̷͢s̶͜t̴͜s̨͝ and magic t҉al̶̕͘king swords that bind to your wrist, and I—” Evan’s voice cracked, sounding exactly like static. Some of the words he spoke sounded just like it, but it wasn’t peppered in anymore, it was the only thing Jared could hear.

If there was a language that the dead spoke, Jared was sure this is what it was. It sounded terrible, especially in the panicking voice of Evan, who held his head in his hands and sobbed, speaking words that Jared could not understand. It was almost demonic—there was no way Evan could have been a demon, but it sounded like it could come out of a horror movie.

“Jesus Christ, Evan—” He hid away his claws, his wings, his tail— and grabbed onto Evan’s shoulders, tightly, again. How many times had he had to do this, to calm him down? “—calm down. What the hell are you on about, I can’t understand anything you’re saying!”

Evan’s entire body shuddered as he took a deep breath. Through bloodshot eyes, Evan looked up at him and said,

“I see ghosts.”


 

It wasn’t the best way to tell Jared, in hindsight, Evan thought, as he found himself sitting on his couch again, by himself. Alone.

The dead were constantly present in his house, yet at the same time Evan felt so alone. Willy was gone, Emily was gone, a lot of the ghosts were seemingly avoiding him.

He hadn’t said much else to Jared. Freaked him out too much with the language of the dead, it seemed. But I thought you’d understand—and Jared didn’t.

Disbelief. Anger. Betrayal. He understood why Jared never told him about the entire changeling-thing. And he, in turn, wouldn’t tell a soul.

But Jared.

Just be glad you’re such a freak at school! You can’t possibly go any lower, especially with this!

Did Jared think he was lying? Evan didn’t know. But the truth—the truth, it didn’t go well. He curled up more on himself, feeling his lungs collapsing on him. It would be nice, he thought, to be like one of his ghostly companions. To be invisible and disconnected from the world, to not have to deal with human relationships and fights and broken-hearts and broken friendships. Ghosts didn’t have to deal with that. If they broke off a friendship with another ghost, they could go their separate ways. Never see each other again.

He has to see Jared at school. He’ll no doubt run into him in his classes.

Evan ran his fingers through his hair, tugging at them to bring some sense of reality back, but everything felt numb.

I’ll keep your secret if you keep mine, but don’t bring it up ever again, you hear?

Evan’s phone buzzed.

He didn’t want to pick it up, but he did, despite his best efforts. He was drained, not physically, but mentally. He didn’t want to have to deal with a text from his mother or from Jared, and he didn’t want to dump all of his problems on Connor, who was dealing with his own issues at his home. That wouldn’t be fair.

It was just a notification that his battery was dying. His phone reflected his life, it seemed.