Chapter 1: Prologue
They say people live as long as their names are still spoken.
Don’t ask Connor who the fuck ‘they’ are in this situation, it’s a universal ‘they’. Someone said it. He would have called bullshit, because a lot of the dead would be lurking around earth if that were the case. Shakespeare? Man would never die.
But as it turns out, someone was right.
Because Connor Murphy is far from gone, even though he should be. Wanted to be. This is worse. Being.. a ghost? Haunting? It’s worse than the life that killed him, because he has even less to make anyone notice him at all. At least his furious moments burned bright. At least his pain hurt and bled.
Now he was here, wherever that was, fucking, in between them the living the loud, and..
Well, he’d never been religious. But all things considered, he probably belonged in hell. People who killed themselves should. Certainly no one important enough called them to stay and haunt here. That was the whole point of leaving - he knew he wouldn’t be missed.
Thought he knew. Turns out while alive, Connor had assumed a lot of things.
His first new memory is watching his mom tell Evan Hansen that he is dead.
It takes Connor a bit to even remember the boy’s name. He’s fidgety, dark brown hair tousled, busy tugging at his striped shirt to keep his hands occupied. Until Mom says it. Then he stills completely, head snapping up to finally look her in the eye.
It’s the shirt that brings that day back.
“Hi Connor. Lovin’ the new hair length. Very.. school shooter chic.” Some asshole said. He's never been good at names, at remembering people. Being dead does him no favors. But behind the guy Connor deadpanned, “Oh, I’m laughing, can’t you tell. Am I not laughing hard enough for you?” was Evan, in that same blue and white shirt, silent and wide eyed.
Just like he is now.
“Evan? Evan Hansen?”
Connor’s mom is hysterical, clutching a piece of paper in her hand. He’s a little in shock at just how fallen apart she is. He feels guilty for being surprised, but.. part of it is that Connor’s never seen her like this. She looks awful.
Her hair is clearly unbrushed, thrown into a hasty ponytail. Her clothes are nice, for going out, but wrinkled and completely uncoordinated. There is a single dab of makeup on her cheek is if she had started to apply it only to give up immediately.
The worst part is her eyes. Holding back tears but, more than that, the turmoil in them and the dark bags look eerily like the ones that used to gaze back at Connor in the mirror.
And she looks at Evan like he is a lifeline.
His dad is reading the letter. Choking out the sentences, really.
Connor has no idea why.
The words march past him, meaningless, until his sister’s name comes up. Connor flinches, looking at Evan with eyebrows drawn. He appears stricken.
That’s where Connor had stopped reading, the first time. Obviously, Evan had been fucking with him.
.. Or, that’s what he’d thought.
He absentmindedly slips a hand into his pocket.
He is dead. He doesn’t exist. Of course it was fucking -
“N- no, um, miss Murphy? I -” Evan was stuttering like mad, but no one was really listening to him.
“Connor’s letter is to you -”
“Do you know why?”
Connor’s head is pounding. Everyone is talking over each other. His letter? He hadn’t left one. He sure as hell hadn’t addressed it to Evan Hansen.
“If he was your friend, did you - know about this?” His mom finally asks loudly.
The room falls silent.
Connor sinks to his knees. He's still buzzing. Why.. the hell..? Is he so faint? He looks up through his hair at Evan, waiting for things to be set straight.
“Maybe we can both pretend to have friends.” He had said that himself, but that was before..
“N- no. I didn’t know.. he was going to do this.” Evan finally said.
His father stands up abruptly. “Let’s go, Cynthia. It’s time to go.” Connor can hear his voice, steely like it used to be whenever he was mad at Connor, but his vision is fuzzing over.
He tries desperately to stay here, stay awake, because the realization that Evan didn’t deny their relationship is hitting him. Or it would be, if he could just fucking hold.. on….
Chapter 2: [Scraps]
it's been 6 months and 400+ hundred tumblr followers since the last time i updated this fic!!!
and almost as long since i've been working on it
i've been busy reading the official novel adaption and falling for my now-girlfriend and livin' life you know
so yeah long story short i'm discontinuing Reckoning. BUT!!! why am I adding this chapter then? Well.. I got more done than that itty bitty little preview from September. I write in disorganized chunks - they're gathering dust in my Docs - whole scenes needing their inbetweens.
but well funny thing, remember how i mentioned that official novel? yeah uh, without spoiling (though really, if you haven't read it by now i can't imagine you will) it ended up taking an EXTREMELY similar approach to Connor and his presence in the story. so much so that even if HAD had the time to keep working on this fic after reading the book, i wouldn't have felt comfortable doing so. our ideas overlap too much that it'd be hard to justify them as my own (and what i had previously is!!! but inspiration from then on might be too close to copying...)
in short, i'm letting what i have go so it's able to see the late of the day, because i AM proud of it.
it's worth noting though, these aren't wholly edited and have never been beta-ed. i am not looking for critique on these either, for that reason.
[BELOW NOTE IS SPOILER-Y FOR THE NOVEL]
and really, i see this as being basically in the canon book universe, in-between connor's actual PoVs. supplemental, i guess. (except for him being trans that's still just a headcanon of mine. oh and there's no mention of miguel)
[scene=unfinished, takes place directly after my prologue]
There’s no way to describe it, really. Connor just.. fades back into existence. It’s not like waking up - no matter how deeply he’s ever slept, he was never literally dead. (despite any wishes he had been) And he has absolutely zero concept of where he is or what time has passed until he starts looking around.
He recognizes his surroundings instantly, to his frustration.
Against one wall, a bookshelf sags very slightly under its collection, ranging from novels clearly meant for 12 year olds to classics old and new like The Great Gatsby and The Raven Boys. But all of them are collecting dust.
Across from that is a dresser that’s clearly been ransacked. It’s contents are scattered across the floor in what surely was some kind of frustration. There’s some weed dumped into the trashcan next to it.
The bed can barely be seen from under all of the empty boxes sitting on it.
A plain bedroom by all means, but it’s always been that way. He had cleared it of all evidence of his childhood.
It’s Connor’s room. It’s home, but he hasn’t honestly called it that in years. In here, he plotted his own death. It was a prison cell as much as his own body was.
Why the fuck am I back here?! He growls. Except he doesn’t. He thinks about it, but the words get lost before reaching his mouth.
He tries to step towards the door, but it feels like he’s moving through sand. Sticky and lethargic, his limbs are weighed down like balls on chains. Something that resembles panic worms its way through him, but even the emotion itself is too slow.
He didn’t want to be alive, but he definitely does not want this spectral bullshit either.
All of a sudden a wave of very real, very present emotions bumps into him. Without having turned around or moved of his own volition, he is now facing the door, where his sister is standing.
These emotions - an utter mess of anger, confusion, guilt, sadness - they’re coming from her. They’re splayed all over her face in naked pain. She holds onto the doorway frame tightly. Looks in, except she’s not really looking at anything.
Connor is frozen.
Zoe finally turns away, eyes sliding right past him.
And why would she see him? I’m dead. Maybe if he keeps saying it, it’ll feel like he’s actually succeeded.
He’s a cavity when she walks away, taking her storm with her. He wants to cry or scream or maybe not be anything at all. They’re dull blades of old feelings. Familiar and so, so alien at the same time.
Connor slowly goes to his bedside table. In there, is a knife. He can’t open the drawer - when he lifts his hand it’s like something ripped from of a faded-out photograph. But he remembers it’s there, because his parents wouldn’t think to check. Knowing that is why he’d tucked the bottle of pills in the night before.
Antidepressants. And they’re not even his. The irony.
Fuck. Why the hell is he here? Frustration ripples through him. He looks around himself again. Connor wants out. He tries to summon the feeling of disappearing, like he had before, but it’s in vain. He’s still standing here, a flickering existence.
He doesn’t remember clenching his hands. Looking up, his throat tugs painfully with the weight of a sob that can’t come.
When he looks down again, he’s suddenly in the dining room. Connor looks around himself, aghast, because he is no longer alone.
[no specific place in timeline. cw; scars, self harm, anxiety attack, t slur/misgendering]
Connor stares hollowly down at his arm. Lines criss crossed it, from his wrist to his elbow. Methodical in appearance. They were lighter than the rest of this skin, which was already ridiculously pale.
He was fucking dead. Why did he have scars?
Because they were a part of him. Just another sign, this one visible, of the fact that he was broken. Because the feeling of blood being ripped from him is still there in his mind. He did that to himself.
Connor shakes like a leaf met with a sudden frigid wind. How could he have.. taken a knife to his own body? Not once, but multiple nights, dark hours of the a.m. that blended together in a towering haze of self loathing.
He never even let himself heal. When they would start to scab over, he’d worm at them, scratching or tearing. His hands always kept busy, and he never seemed to be able to help himself. He never cared enough to stop.
Well.. except for when someone saw them.
They - who was it?
He had been standing, in the middle of a doorway. To the kitchen. No one was home, or that’s what he’d thought. So he wasn’t really concerned about spacing out to his buzzing head until -
That’s right, it was Zoe. Of course it was Zoe. No one else would have been home. School had only just ended, and his parents would be at out for a few more hours.
Connor had skipped last period. So he was home first and had the place to himself. He hated his last class: a study hall full of loud as hell dickheads. Somehow they had a way ignoring him as loudly as possible, so that it still pointed right at him like a negative image. Tthe freak’s over there. Don’t look, she might snap. Not like there’s anything to see anyway with all the shitty clothes that hang off her. I thought her family was loaded. Wait she’s a trap? Oh, that all makes sense -
They didn’t have to say any of it in front of him. Connor knew they were thinking it. And the pitying presence of the teacher, who managed to make it worse with his very presence like any adults can, squeeze him into something small and pitiful. Those last 50 minutes of the day felt like hours. They felt like something that physically wore away at his skin, like ocean on rock.
Sometimes yeah, even the escape route of reading didn’t help. Sometimes he let it get to him and worried at his scars. That’s where he was that day, and he could tell the moment he walked in. His mind was anticipating a fucking storm.
So he had sat in there for five minutes. Then had had gotten up, claiming to need to go to the bathroom, and walked out of the building.
He was a junior at the time, but had never in his life skipped school. So even though Connor was home, even though he should have be able to relax, he just sat paralyzed on the couch. Fear worried at him like a bone. Surely, the call from school would come. Or maybe it’d be his parents calling. What would be worse? His dad’s unsurprised voice, or his mom’s disappointed one?
‘It’s just study hall’ .. Which wouldn’t even work and anyway, if it was just study hall then how could he explain that he needed to leave? That he’d lose his fucking mind sitting in there?
Finally he’d gotten up, intending to.. He didn’t even know. But he was so disconnected he didn’t make it far.
And that’s how his sister found him. Staring at nothing standing in the doorway to the kitchen. He hadn’t even heard the door close. Zoe had been humming to something playing in her earbuds, but she abruptly fell silent as she almost ran into Connor. He practically jumped out of his skin, turning to look at her.
The blinked at each other.
Thing was, they had a well-rehearsed rhythm for avoiding the other’s presence like the plague. Another one of those things Connor had no recollection of the beginning of. So neither knew what to do in that situation.
It had made him sad. That sadness easily flipped into anger for himself. What the fuck was wrong with him for ruining whatever the siblings had used to have? Because it was obviously his fault. It was all him.
Zoe finally blurted out “Did you come home sick?”
He narrowed his eyes at her, mostly in confusion. “Aah.. uh, no?” It came out much sharper than he intended. He didn’t even think that answer through, and Connor was now realizing too late that that would have been a perfect lie -
Zoe’s jaw dropped. “Wait, are you saying you fucking skipped!? Dude-”
She reached out to grab his arm, and he hissed in involuntary pain as her hand closed around his freshly aggravated scabs.
Connor snatched his arm back and held it to his chest, clenching his jaw in fear. She had halted mid sentence in shock.
“C-connor?” Zoe voice was bruised.
He closed his eyes. “Yes I fucking skipped. Just..” He looked at her expression of concern. It was too much, and just like that his anger was aimed outwards. “I just needed to fucking get high okay, why don’t you stick your nose into someone else’s shit! Jesus.”
He flung his words over his shoulder as he stormed around her and up the stairs. “Fuck you too!” She screamed. Connor could hear the tears she so hated in her voice.
Before he hadn’t wanted to get high. But his pulsing anger shook his brain, and now all he needed was to close the shutters of his thoughts.
Zoe had almost seen his self harm scars. In hindsight, this is what really bothered Connor about their confrontation. The fear that the knowledge of that particular secret could somehow hurt or corrupt his little sister had grabbed him by the throat.
But at the time, the question of will she tell? consumed him. He didn’t doubt that she could guess. She’d always been smart after all.
So he hid. The next morning he found a huge, baggy black sweater in his closet, probably stolen from his dad, and wore it almost constantly from then on. No risk of Zoe or anyone seeing his arms if they were covered in sleeves. As a plus, that made it harder to pick at the skin, especially in public. Even if no one was around, he never dared the risk of rolling them up. They were too easy a reason to hate himself.
[for forever, connor's PoV. cw; suicidal ideation]
As Evan Hansen tells his story - because that’s what it is, a story, completely made up - Connor sees his real memories play through his mind. He can do that now, feel (see? Hear? whatever) people’s thoughts. It’s a more than a bit overwhelming, because Connor’s own thoughts can be loud enough. Back when he was alive anyway. Now others’ screwed up minds are a reminder he never wanted.
Evan is a ranger at a local state park. But his uniform makes him look smaller rather than official or grown-up. He walks across fields and to the tallest tree in sight alone.
Here more than ever, Connor feels like an intruder.
But maybe, considering he’s lying about Connor, or because he somehow can’t pull himself away out of sheer curiosity, he watches anyway. And as the real memory of the day Evan recalls plays out for him, he realizes this boy might just be as fucked up as he was. Connor hadn’t given up yet, during his junior year. But, as he is now realizing, Evan had.
Through Evan’s eyes, he relives that moment again and again.
There’s no one around, Evan thinks. Fearfully. Happily. As he stares up at the tallest oak this side of the park.
Connor only knows the specific tree species, and it’s age, through Evan.
He’ll only go up to see how tall it is. He’ll report right back to the head ranger. If she happens to be around. Or if she talks to him first. Or .. Maybe not at all.
He hadn’t come up here sad, in one of those moods, just restless. Normally risks like this - were too scary. He wasn’t even that high up but, his heart should have been racing. And it was - but not out of terror. Out of something far worse. Exhilaration maybe. Because of the danger. Because of the way the ground loomed far below. Because he wanted to meet it.
He flexed his tightly clenched hands around the branches. Evan had never felt this kind of recklessness before. This kind of not caring. He always thought in his worst moments, that he was too much of a coward to kill himself anyway.
But the wind whipped past his ears, goading.
Connor appears in the doorway of his sister’s room.
She’s on her bed leaning against the headrest, plinking idly at her guitar.
He didn’t know she still played. He hesitantly steps in, realizing he hasn’t actually seen the interior of her room for.. Way too long.
She looks up sharply, and he freezes despite himself.
Her gaze seems to be on him, but it slides away before he could be sure. Zoe frowns, eyes furrowed in something like annoyance or anger.
Connor looks away, suddenly unable to bear it, when he spots a slip of paper ripped from her notebook. Noticeably crumpled, haphazardly sticking out from under a book on a dresser, he can make out a line on it;
‘And when the villains fall, the kingdoms never weep’
He gasps. “Zoe..?”
The writing is unmistakably his sister’s, though the letters are dark and slanted as if written quickly in a burst of emotion. Harsh in comparison to her normally pretty cursive.
She flinches in her spot on the bed. Glaring- at Connor?
No. She presses her eyes shut and grabs for her headphones, throwing them on and playing music so loud that even he can hear it.
Her words are what loops in his mind though. They feel like a physical blow because he knows they’re about him. He’s the villain.
And well? You’re right Zoe. Why should you mourn me at all.
Villain. An apt word for what Connor was in her life. He always made sure that when he spoke to her, he found the most horrible thing possible to say. “I’m just being honest,” He’d snark.
Connor was his own worst enemy, too.
You’re the first who’s seen me.” He shrugs in a small, defeated way. “Now I know why.”
“I -” she sobs, tears of frustration streaking her face. “I never got to say it. My side. I was never done - but I guess.” She squeezed her eyes closed for a moment. “I guess you were.”
He doesn’t say anything to confirm. She was right, and they both knew it.
Zoe is silent for a long pause. The tears keep streaming down her face.
“You know,” She says, voice still scratchy but firm. “After that one night you came to me.. And, I don’t even know why-” It crackled off. Connor looks up at her, eyes narrowed. “I had comforted you, I let you stay in my room next to me because you were.. You refused to leave my side. You weren’t angry anymore, you were terrified. Completely out of it. Even if, even if I had the heart to tell you how much I fucking- how I felt, it wouldn’t have stuck. I remember falling asleep exhausted, since I had to wait until you did first, but relieved.. You were still a real person. You still saw me and needed something from me.”
Connor is blank faced. He doesn’t know how to tell her he has no idea what she’s talking about. But he is too transparent, and his bewilderment slips from him.
Her face crumples in resignation; she had already known.
“And then, you were gone when I woke up. I had the moment of terror. When I walked out of my room, you were coming back from the bathroom. You didn’t even-” She chokes on a sob. “You didn’t even look at me. You slammed your door. Right back to fucking normal.”
“Zoe..” Tears would have been welling in his eyes too now.
She jabs a finger at him. “No. That was the same way you said my name that night. That’s the same way you got me to let you in.”
“I’m sorry.” He grinds out. Sorry he was high. Sorry he doesn’t remember. Sorry he never let himself be broken around his sister. Sorry sorry sorry. “I bet I didn’t say that then.”
She turns away from him. “You did actually.”
His eyes widen.
“That was the worst part.” She spits. “At first I thought.. I thought it was real. But then I looked in your eyes and realized you were in the damn clouds. The only evidence I had the next day that any of it happened was the stench of pot in my room. I fucking hate that smell, you know.”
Hearing his little sister swear still puts him off. Which is ridiculous, he acknowledges, but still.
Connor clings to his mother, cold and wispy, sobbing without tears. Mom has enough for both of them. How long has it been since they’ve been this close? Since he’s allowed himself to seek her out for comfort, to let her hug him? How had Connor ever drifted from this protective grasp?
Because you can’t protect me from life. Because right now, there is nothing else to ward off. I’ve met the worst end already.
She has to let go.
He has to let go.
But he doesn’t want to.
“You can stay.” She says quietly, the memory of tears still present in her voice. Or maybe she doesn’t say it aloud at all. The difference right now is insubstantial. “You can always come home.”
It’s been years since he’s seen this place - or any - as home. Welcoming.
She knows this. Mom squints her eyes shut in a shockingly furious way. “I’m sorry,” She squeezes through clenched teeth.
Her hands on him are frigid now, but her desperate anger is a familiar curl of heat to him. Anger at herself? Connor isn’t keeping up. He’s shocked by the strength of it.
“You were so young.. When I let you get away.”
Yes. Back then. Memories of memories, that’s how faded they were now. But he saw them more clearly in her mind’s eye. What had happened?
What had divided the before from the after?
Or was I always this broken?
Connor looks at his past.
At his present.
And finally.. Finally… he opens his eyes to the future.
Connor Murphy is a lot of things. He let those cracks crumble him. Because falling apart is so much easier than holding yourself together.
He had fought until he could not. One can only last so long all by themself. Especially when their own mind is the enemy.
Death is not brave. It isn’t a new frontier, or a solution, or a gift.
It’s a final choice, that takes away any other choice you get. It’s rejecting further choice, and responsibility.
The battle is about more than just surviving. It’s about living, whatever that means to you. You can’t disappear if a piece of you is held safe in another’s heart. And it takes truly living to do that.