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It’s not easy being Evan Hansen.
Oh what a great way to kick things off.
For one, this nail biting habit that god damn it, Evan, you need to get under control. He’s lost too much blood from chewing on his cuticles to the point they’ve almost completely vanished. Even then, though, he finds a way to chew. Sometimes he’ll resort to hang nails that are bugging him and end up bleeding even more and having a bandaid on 50 per cent of his fingers for the rest of the day.
But that’s just a general thing he needs to work on and is easily changed about himself.
One thing that isn’t easily changed is how lonely he is.
That came off sadder than intended, but it’s oh, so true. He’s tried to make friends that aren’t forced or his grandma through the years, but he always ends up scaring or pushing them away. Heidi used to say it’s because they’re not used to such in-detail facts about trees, but she eventually stopped making excuses for Evan’s lack of friends as Evan stopped believing those pile of garbage lies. It’s because of his trust issues, crippling anxiety, and absolute inability to act like everyone else.
He never meant to have any of those three things; they weren’t born with him. They sort of slowly developed around him and he began noticing little things that no one else noticed and jumping more at sounds and crying easier than anyone else in third grade. They sort of slowly developed around third grade, the first full school year Evan had without his dad.
Evan usually blames his anxiety on his dad, taking the strain away from his mom for even those few minutes she truly believes it. Maybe if he hadn’t left when Evan was so young he wouldn’t be so fucked up, or even if he had stayed somewhere closer. A road trip away, maybe. Not an entire 400 dollar plane ride into another country away. Evan doesn’t blame him, though. If he were Mark he would want to get as far away from Evan as possible, too.
But maybe Mark leaving was for the best. He remembers seeing how fake-happy he and Heidi were together, even if he was only a little kid at the time. They would whisper fight for hours into the night, thinking Evan couldn’t hear it and was sound asleep, and Heidi would come sleep with Evan in his room most nights because she wanted to comfort him and stay away from Mark.
He remembers seeing the absolute and unwavering joy upon Mark’s face during his wedding to Evan’s step mom when Evan was fourteen. That’s when it really hit him how unhappy he and Heidi were together and maybe him leaving was for the best. Besides, Sydney is a lawyer. Oh, was a lawyer.
Evan doesn’t know the whole story, but he remembers the old monthly email he would get from his dad saying that Sydney had mysteriously lost her job and is now cocktail waitressing at some ‘Boob Restaurant’ (as Jared put it). Heidi suspects Sydney lost her job because she was bad at it, because both of them know she’s not very good at arguing, as shown by the Skype calls Evan and Sydney would have when she and Mark began dating. Jared thinks she lost her job because she had an affair with her boss’ son. Evan’s not sure which one is more likely.
“So,” Heidi breaks the silence. She grips the steering wheel tightly but her shoulders are slack. She’s trying not to look too tense. The wrinkles in her forehead and bags under her eyes say a different story. “Anything new?”
“What?”
They lurch toward then fall back as Heidi begins driving again. They get stuck behind some elder in a car that looks like it could break down any moment. Evan’s anxiety of getting to school on time skyrockets.
“What’s going on in your life? I feel like I barely see you!”
“Oh. Yeah. Nothing, really. Um… yeah,” Evan fiddles with the inside hem of his slacks. He pulls at it a few times when he feels a string is loose and jerks his hand away, resorting to picking at his thumbnail.
“Really? Nothing. Do you have a secret girlfriend I don’t know about? That’s something lots of teens still do, right? I had a secret boyfriend for almost a year when I was your age, you know,”
God, he wishes. The amount of times he’s stared at Zoe Murphy from down the hall or across the room or on the bus. The amount of times he’s imagined her lips kissing his, her beautiful, pink, soft lips. The amount of times he’s imagined running his hands through her hair as they watch cheesy rom coms on his couch and slowly fall asleep, she listening to his heartbeat and he hugging her like she could leave any second now. The amount of times he’s wondered what her hands feel like in his, whether they’re warm but get cold easily like his, or always warm, or always cold, playing with each other’s fingers and giggling as they bend even the slightest bit.
“Yeah, no. Sorry,”
“What about school? You’ve been back for almost a month, there has to be something special going on,”
No, not really. It’s really mostly the same as past years, except this time everyone is younger than him and the teachers act like anyone in his class can do no wrong because they have the most experience and smarts of all the students, they must be the most logical. His grades are alright, a little above average, his lunches are spent alone in the library playing Angry Birds because he has no friends to talk to, school assemblies give him panic attacks so those are spent in the nurse's office eating mints and drinking plasticky water.
“Good. I guess,”
Heidi sighs.
“How’s Jared doing?”
He doesn’t know. They talk for about five minutes every week before class, Jared paying his iced coffee more attention than Evan. Other than that, it’s awkward looks in the halls and avoiding each other during classes they have together because Jared is truly embarrassed to be seen with Evan at all. Heidi knows about as much about Jared as Evan does, which is pretty much nothing other than what he acted like as a kid and pre-teen. Though all kids and pre-teen boys acted the same, so yeah. Neither of them know anything about Jared.
“Good,”
“That’s good,” Heidi taps her fingers lightly against the steering wheel. She purses her lips. “Why don’t you invite him over to dinner sometime this week. It’s been a while, you know. I miss him,”
That isn’t a good idea.
“Oh, yeah. Good—good idea,”
“I know right?” Heidi smiles and scrunches up her nose, a little too proud of herself. “I’m such a cool mom. I’m such a cool mom, right Evan? I’m so cool and hip and young,”
Maybe if she were able to get a reasonable amount of sleep she would be able to look like it. She’s so sleep deprived she looks about double her age, which really isn’t a good thing when people mistake her for Evan’s grandmother. “I’d rather be called your older sister than grandmother,” she said one day after leaving the mall and some kiosk vendor leaned over to Evan and whispered ‘why don’t you get something nice for your grandma over there.’ Evan was pulled away before he could say anything back.
“Yeah. So hip and cool, because kids these days still say that,” Evan says, a hint of genuine amusement in his voice. Heidi fist pumps and pulls into one of the parking slots in front of the school.
They say their goodbyes. Heidi reminds Evan to try to have a good day. He tells her he’ll try. She crosses her fingers and Evan waves half heartedly as she drives away.
He loves his mom, he really does. She just tries too hard sometimes. Shit, that’s not right. Maybe desperate is better. Whatever, that’s the closest he’ll get.
Just… rewind and try again.
He loves his mom, he really does. She’s just a little too desperate sometimes. She’s too desperate to connect with her son the way other moms somehow seamlessly do. She’s too desperate to act her age, like she is only in her late thirties. Like a young mom. Though, sometimes it feels like she forgets she’s in her late thirties and not mid twenties. She acts younger than she is, but looks older.
It’s basically every student in his school’s dream to be like Heidi when they’re older; act younger than they look and actually be a good balance between the two. Evan’s sort of given up dreaming of the future. At this rate, he won’t even make it through this school year without killing himself, so what’s the point of imagining his future when it’ll be spent dead, rotting away, in a wooden box under six feet of dirt and bugs and probably animal feces.
“Evan!”
Evan almost drops his binder onto his feet at someone almost screaming his name. They scream it in a faux excited way, their voice way too over the top and loud. A couple look around for an Evan, is there an Evan? I don’t think so. Is that Evan? No that’s George. Sorry, kid, the person you’re looking for isn’t here.
Of course, it’s the one and only Jared Kleinman who saunters up to Evan and throws an arm around him with immense difficulty. That’s the only thing Jared doesn’t bully Evan about; their heights. Jareds always been jealous of Evan’s height, so is probably pretty thankful for his bad posture and hunchback that makes him shorter and closer to Jareds height.
Jared slinks his arm off of Evan and his hand goes immediately to his pocket. “Still don’t have any signatures on that there arm of yours?”
“Oh, uh. No,”
“That’s sad,” and Jared slurps his iced coffee. It’s almost out of coffee, now just a pile of ice with some light brown liquid at the bottom.
“I mean, you can sign it? Every time you’ve pointed out there’s no names I say you can and—”
‘‘Don’t you get it off in, like, a week? It’d be pointless now. Besides, don’t only friends sign each other’s casts?”
“But—you are my friend?”
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re not friends. We’re family friends. The two don’t line up at all,” Jared finishes his coffee, though pretends he hasn’t. He waves the cup around and gestures to it a couple times as he speaks, as if the ice will add anything to the conversation. “Anyway, apparently theres a kid that tried to kill themself a couple weeks ago, and they’re coming back to school today. My dad won’t tell me who it is because apparently the kid wanted to remain anonymous. I don’t think it’ll do anything, really. I mean, they basically disappeared for, like, three weeks, people have noticed they’re gone,”
Evan knits his eyebrows together. “Who is it?”
“Dunno. Like I said, dad won’t tell me,” Jared says. “Gotta go. Remember: car insurance!”
And like that, Jared disappears into the swarm of incoming students. Evan watches him leave for as long as he possibly can until Jared has completely gone.
Evan tries to like Jared. He just makes it so difficult sometimes. Evan is pretty sure most people don’t say goodbye to each other by yelling ‘car insurance!’ down the hall. Now that he recalls it, Evan can’t remember the last time Jared actually said ‘goodbye’ to him. That’s… not how normal humans interact.
Evan may not know much about how normal humans interact, but how he and Jared interact definitely isn’t it.
Believe it or not, though, there was a time they acted like actual friends. Acted or actually were, that’s still a question Evan doesn’t know how to answer. They grew up together, so he’s not sure if it counts considering they were basically forced to be friends. Jared probably hated every second it it, even back then. He only pretended to like Evan to make his parents happy.
That’s the way it still is. Fortunately or unfortunately.
•••
Ouch.
Why do hangnails exist? Hey, God, or whatever is out there, why do hangnails exist? They’re so inconvenient and gross and they hurt and they’re perfect for chewing when you’ve run out of nail.
Evan swears under his breath, jerking his hand away from his mouth to look at it. The middle finger is bleeding around the nail and his thumb is just barely keeping blood from escaping, the rest of the tips bright red and irritated from Evan’s religious chewing.
The scraping of chairs lifts his gaze around the room.
All around him are classmates, walking across the room to friends or waiting for friends to join them or laughing loudly at some doodle on their desk. All around him are classmates being actual, functioning people. People that have friends.
Shit, why are they even going to their friends in the first place? Evan looks around the room, panicked, as he attempts to figure out what is going on. No one else is doing the same, so it turns out he’s the only person that was too invested in their hangnail to pay attention to class. Oh Jesus he’s going to fail. He’s going to fail this class and end up not graduating and being thrown out for being a disappointment by Heidi and be able to stay with the Kleinman's for a bit until they get annoyed with him and he’ll end up begging for loose change outside of 7/11 as he watches his classmates rise to the top of the business chain.
He begins stroking a crease in his cast, a comfort tool he’s developed the last few weeks. It’s coming off in a few days and soon he’ll just be stroking creases in his hoodie because the cast won’t be there and he’ll be known as that weird kid that knows too much about trees and nature and rubs his arm as he focuses too hard on the floor.
“—an! Evan!”
Evan blinks a few times. He looks up, shocked to hear anyone saying his name, let alone know it.
The shock goes away when he realises it’s Alana Beck that’s calling him. She knows everyone’s name, the street their grandfather lives on, their phone passwords, and probably even their social security numbers. Evan doesn’t want to get on her bad side, if she even has one.
“Come on!” Alana waves Evan over to a pair of desks huddled together in the back corner. It’s the furthest space away from the teacher’s, so it comes as no surprise that Connor Murphy is in the desk next to Alana, his head down and eyebrows arched in annoyance.
Evan is too aware of the way he walks to the pair. He feels as if all eyes are on him, especially Connor’s (though they’re closed).
It hits him.
People are pairing up because there’s a group project going on. Oh, mother fucking shit. This isn’t good, for a multitude of reasons that Evan doesn’t want to get into but apparently his brain wants to.
One, it’s a group project and Evan’s people skills are severely lacking; most people group or pair up with friends, but Evan doesn’t have any friends; he’s too scared to speak up and suggest things in group meetings, instead suggesting things (and very nearly talking) to himself; if they need to present it, Evan will end up having a panic attack in the nurse's office and not be able to do it no matter how many Xanax he takes and ultimately failing his entire group because they couldn’t present without him
“Come—sit down,” Alana gestures toward the chair across from her. Evan would have put the chair across from Connor, truthfully, because of Alana’s array of binders and folders and pencil cases spread about the desk. “So, what are we thinking?”
“He wasn’t listening,” Connor says without a beat, pointing with his eyes still closed towards Evan, “he was too busy fucking voring his fingers,” Connor then points to himself, “I wasn’t paying any attention either,”
Evan appreciates that, though the wording leaves something to be desired. It was nice and to the point. Nice isn’t a word Evan ever thought he’d be associating with Connor Murphy, of all people. And, yet, here he is. Calling Connor Murphy nice. And maybe possibly accidentally grouping up with him for an English assignment that he doesn’t know anything about.
These three must look like they’re on crack, sitting and grouping together. Evan Hansen, the weirdo no one knows the name to and has a weird obsession with trees; Connor Murphy, the kid that is definitely a hardcore stoner and probably planning on killing his entire family then himself; and Alana Beck, the overly-optimistic straight-A’s student that knows everything about everyone (somehow). Evan is suddenly all too aware of the fact that, though they’re in the back of the classroom, anyone can look their way and judge them in a heartbeat.
“Oh, well, that’s not good,” Alana frowns. She bites her lip slightly. “Um, okay, so we need to pick a book, any book really, as long as it has chapters, read it, then choose our favourite or the most important chapter and perform a skit of it in mid-November,”
Oh, Jesus Christ. This could not get any worse.
He’s going to be spending a month and a half with these people, in a group project, and have to perform it to 30 people at the end of this month and a half. This is it. This is Evan Hansen’s absolute worst nightmare come to reality. It actually happening. Killing himself suddenly sounds way too attractive to be healthy. This is not something he’ll be telling Dr Sherman any time soon, that’s for sure.
Evan looks around at the class. Most people already have their heads down, writing down books to read or have already been read so they have more time to work on their skits, or joking around and drawing penises on the margins. Another person in the opposite corner seems to be doing the same thing as Evan. They turn their head back to their group and soon three people are staring at him and whispering about something. Probably him. He smiles apologetically and turns back to Alana.
“Oh. Fun,” Connor says, sarcastic and deadpan. He’s turned his head to lay on the cold desk and stare as Alana writes something down in one of her folders.
“Thanks,” Alana mutters, just as deadpan and sarcastic as Connor and eyes not leaving her paper. “I was thinking we do a classic book. Pride and Prejudice, maybe?”
She looks up for reactions. Evan, once again, is ‘voring’ his thumb, drawing blood and grimacing as the metallic taste hits his tongue, meanwhile Connor pulls a considering, considering, declining look.
“Why?”
“The title makes it sound like a fucking gay tragedy, I don’t wanna get the class’ hopes up or some shit,”
“Oh. Well, it’s not a gay tragedy, it’s a genuinely good book that I’m pretty sure anyone can like. It’s—,”
“A waste of my time,”
Alana groans. She looks back down at her paper. “To Kill a Mockingbird?”
“No,”
Evan very nearly laughs at the immediate response from Connor. He manages to stifle it with the help of his thumb, not wanting to call attention to himself and the two making him weigh his opinion. That would not go down well. If he agrees with Alana on any of her suggestions, he’ll probably make Connor annoyed and Connor will, like, push him over or something. If he agrees with Connor, he’ll have to let down Alana, one of the only people probably on Earth that even knows his name, let alone treats him like an actual human being that exists. There’s really no winning either way.
“What’s wrong about it this time?”
“It’s such a fucking downer. Like, I don’t wanna read a book that makes me feel bad. Books are supposed to make you feel better, to, like… let you escape from the shittiness of the real world,” Connor shrugs and does a once-over of the room then focuses back on Alana’s pen as it considers crossing out To Kill a Mockingbird.
“So you’ve read it. We could do the chapter you hated least,”
“No. I’m not gonna do that,” Connor falls quiet, then adds, “I’d rather go to Hell,”
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? It’s iconic, you can’t say anything bad about it,”
Evan turns to look at Connor. Surely, he can’t say anything to turn down Harry Potter. Evan can’t think of a single thing not good about the series. He might be biased about that, considering it’s the series Heidi read to him after Mark left to comfort him.
“First of all, how dare you? It’s Philosopher’s Stone and you know that; second of all, too twelve year old girl going through her wizards and vampires phase,” Connor scrunches up his nose, as if in disgust, as he says it.
Evan very nearly laughs again. He’s not even sure why, to tell the truth. Connor is definitely wrong. Example one: Evan is a seventeen year old boy that is terrified of the concept of vampires and originally had the books read to him when he was seven, so Connor’s anti-Harry Potter argument is pretty weak.
“Oh my goodness, fine, um…” Alana turns around in her seat, staring at the tiny bookshelf the teacher has at the back of her class. She studies it for a moment, Connor watching her as she does so and Evan avoiding looking at anyone in case they think he was staring at them which is usually something people do when they have crushes on the other and the only two people in sight are Connor and Alana and he doesn’t like either of them and that would be weird and—
“The Diary of Anne Frank?” Alana suggests, spinning her head around. If it weren’t for Connor’s head being against his desk, her braids would have hit him right in the face.
“Great pick, ‘Lana, let’s do a skit about a teenage girl hiding during World War II,”
At least she isn’t going through her wizards and vampires phase. Oh, Jesus, that was mean, wasn’t it. He just made fun of two people at once. He can’t tell which one is worse to make fun of; the girl that is way dead and had to live during World War II, one of the worst events to ever go down in human history; or the resident school psychopath that can (or will) kill Evan in a heartbeat with no afterthought.
“Do you have a better idea?” Alana deflates. She presses excruciatingly hard on the paper as she crosses out Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, and writes The Diary of Anne Frank just to immediately cross it out.
“The Little Prince,” Connor suggests with no hesitation.
“It’s a good idea, but aren’t there only, like, two characters,”
Connor’s eyes flick to Evan for half a second. He lifts his head, cheek bright red from being pressed against the desk for so long. His hair is messy and slept on, and looks like it hasn’t been washed in weeks. Just like his three layers of clothing, which Evan can’t imagine how Connor isn’t sweating in. He’s sweating in just a t-shirt and khakis, a giant jacket, sweater, and button-up cannot be doing anything good for Connor.
Though, Evan might just be sweating because of anxiety. It’s most likely anxiety.
“Whatever. I don’t think Hansen here will be going up there any time soon,”
“He has to, though!”
Yeah, Connor. He has to go up there or else you guys fail the class and will have to retake it again after everyone else graduates and be the oldest seniors this school has ever seen.
“No, he really doesn’t. He can just, like, sit out or some shit. Make up some excuse,” Connor turns to Evan and stares at him pointedly, “pretend to fucking, I don’t know… lose your voice just long enough to get out of it, okay?”
“Um, okay?”
“No. Not good enough. Stop talking,”
Is Connor suddenly the physical manifestation of Evan’s conscience now? How did he say exactly what Evan tells himself every single day? It’s slightly impressive. There’s a little voice that tells him he shouldn’t be impressed, that it’s way too sad to be impressed by, that he needs to stop thinking that kind of stuff about himself.
Plus, why is he even thinking of Connor as his own conscience? That is weird and makes no sense. Connor is a real human being with actual thoughts and (maybe) feelings. He isn’t some sort of illusion that comes by and voices Evan’s thoughts for him. He needs to stop thinking that before he even does, before he begins turning to Connor for commentary on anything.
“Connor! That isn’t nice!” Alana smacks Connor’s arm, genuinely annoyed. Connor slouches in his chair, arms crossed and mock-pouting.
“Do you have anything to turn it down?”
“I don’t know!” Alana squares her shoulders and stares down at her folder.
Evan wipes his sweaty (uncasted) hand on his khakis. The fact that it doesn’t leave behind a dark brown mark comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering the amount of moisture currently exuding from the sweat glands of both his palms. And the award for grossest sentence ever goes to—! He grimaces at the fact that wiping his hand did nothing but spread the sweat to the base of his palm and upper wrist. He turns the palm over, staring at it with immense focus.
Palms are really weird. He can’t pin what exactly is weird about them, they’re just… strange. They’re covered in wrinkles and lines and sweat glands that make awkward encounters even more awkward. Why are handshakes such a common thing? Why are you just pressing your hand wrinkles and sweat against someone else’s hand wrinkles and sweat and calling it polite? Why is that a thing that humanity has developed to call nice?
He could say that about a multitude of things—smiling at strangers on the street; moving over for someone to sit next to you on the bus; nodding as if you’re listening and give a shit as someone tells a story.
“Fine,” Alana snaps, voice tense. It’s sort of unnatural in her throat. Evan never thought that Alana was able to sound tense or angry or annoyed in his entire lifetime, so it’s strange when he hears it. “Evan, what do you think?”
Oh, god. This is amazing. Just what he asked for.
He could say yes to The Little Prince and get on Connors good side and not be murdered in the near future but also annoy Alana even further for its lack of characters, or he could say no and absolutely obliterate any type of progress they would be able to get done this class. He knows that Connor is going to say no to anything Alana suggests, but there has to be some time Alana just gives up and chooses a book with no input from anyone else. There has to be.
“About what?”
“Is doing a skit on The Little Prince a good idea?” Alana asks, then adds, muttering, “despite its extreme lack of characters and sentences coherent enough for everyone to understand,”
Evan eyes Alana, then Connor, then Alana again, then nods unsurely. “Um. Yeah? I guess?”
Alana groans—“Oh, come on!”—meanwhile Connor fistpumps and thrusts his fist across the desk toward Evan. Evan flinches away quickly, afraid of a punch coming his way for some reason. Oh, Connor is probably angry that Evan was obviously not sure about his decision and wants to beat him up because who doesn’t like The Little Prince? He’s such an idiot. Why did he have to sound so unsure? He could’ve just said it confidently and no one would be punching him.
Except no one is punching him.
Someone, though, is holding their fist only a few feet away from him with wide expectant eyes and tight lips.
“What are you doing?” Connor asks, voice a little too high to be coming from Connor Murphy of all people now that it’s not completely deadpan or dripping with sarcasm.
“I—I don’t know,” Evan says truthfully.
“Here,” Connor reaches over the desk, grabs Evan’s uncasted hand, roughly tightens it into a fist, and bumps in lightly against his own fist, “Have you never fistbumped someone before?”
“I don’t know,”
That seems to be his default response now. This next month and a half will be fun.
•••
Evan leaves the school just fast enough to avoid the mass crowds of people vaping or listening to music way too loud so he can hear it. The latter always confuse him. Who is so confident in their music taste that they have it blaring at full volume? Evan can’t remember the last time he even talked about his favourite song without being scared someone would judge him for having such bad taste or teasing him over the fact that he isn’t up with the current trends; the last time he knew what was cool in the music world was 2012 when One Direction was the biggest thing.
So he doesn’t put on any music as he walks home. He just lowers his head and stares around, hoping no one is staring back and silently judging him. It feels like someone is following him for a good five minutes, though he doesn’t turn around to check in case someone actually is and they’ll think he’s weird. He just wobbles along, anxious and paranoid.
The world has a different feel to it when his house comes into view. It’s not a feeling Evan can describe. It’s like the air opens up and his posture straightens out and he’s determined to get inside and away from the judging eyes of the public. The determination melts away a little bit when his eyes hit the two old cars in his driveway. One belonging to him, the other Heidi.
The determination melts away.
It’s not like Heidi having the day off of work is a bad thing; she definitely deserves it, Evan just wants some alone time. After being at school for eight hours and walking home all paranoid that someone is watching, all he wants is to drop everything, get into pyjamas, and feel the weight of the world lift off his shoulders—even for 20 minutes.
He braces himself. The door is already unlocked—something Evan would never do himself, but Heidi isn’t him. She’s Heidi. A hardworking, desperate, mom that simply wants what’s best for her son. It doesn’t feel like that sometimes, though, and those are the days Evan wants to die the most.
“Oh! Sweetie, you’re home!” says Heidi. She’s genuinely surprised to see him. She probably forgot about him.
“Yeah,” Evan agrees.
“How was school?” Heidi pauses Chopped and stands, leaning against the doorway to the living room as if she’s actually interested in his life.
Why would she be interested in what’s going on? It’s not like anything new happens, and even when something new does happen, it’s only temporary. She smiles, the frown lines in her face disappearing for a second. They make a comeback soon enough.
“Uh, good. Do we have a copy of The Little Prince somewhere?” Evan asks, looking around the foyer with wide eyes as if he’s distracted by the photos he’s seen a million times or that one patch in the paint that’s lighter than the rest of the walls, but truthfully just avoiding eye contact with her.
With his own mother. Who is uncomfortable with eye contact with their own mom? Actually, that’s quite a bad question. Just… start from the beginning again. Who is uncomfortable with eye contact with their own mom if she hasn’t ever walked in on them showering, masturbating, or having sex? Evan is pretty much 100% safe with any of those three; he makes sure the bathroom door is locked whenever he’s in there; Heidi is out of the house most of the time, it’s pretty impossible for her to catch him masturbating; and no one can catch him having sex if he isn’t.
That isn’t something he wants Jared knowing. Jared would make fun of him for hours, maybe even make a congratulatory card when Evan does end up having sex.
This isn’t a good thing to think about right in from of his mother.
“I think so. Why?”
“I need it for a school project. Uh, we need to read it and write an essay. Pretty boring,”
That came way too easily. (Came? Really? After that whole monologue?) Dont get Heidi’s hopes up for Evan making friends and she won’t make a big deal out of it. It’s sort of sad, actually, the fact that he doesn’t want to tell her that he’s technically being forced to hang out with people for a month and a half. There’s one specific reason for not telling her that Evan knows perfectly well: he doesn’t want to be pressured into inviting Connor and Alana over for dinner some evening and Heidi assuming the three of them are the best of friends and she realising who Connor is and being scared to even send Evan to school because Connor is probably gonna shoot it up some day.
Shit. Evan can’t let his mind wander in that direction.
“Oh. I’m pretty sure it’s in some box in the attic,” Heidi lifts herself off the doorway and begins down the hall, “your grandfather gave me it for my tenth birthday, actually,”
“That’s, uh, that’s nice,” Evan mutters. He watches in awkward silence as she pulls down the ladder up to the attic.
The attic is sort of off-limits. Not for any particular reason other than both of them are scared. Due to how old the house is, everywhere is always creaking all the time, especially the attic. Both of them know very well it’s because of the houses age, but both of them still fear running into some supernatural entity up there. A ghost, mostly.
When Evan was younger, he remembers not being able to sleep because of the creaking, so he would walk out into the living room and watch the last however many minutes of whatever TV show or movie Heidi was watching with her. Once she was really sleep deprived and Evan ended up watching the last 20 minutes of a horror movie and didn’t sleep for nearly a week because of it.
Evan drops his bag near the wall and Heidi begins clambering up the ladder. He follows only when she’s completely out of sight and in the attic. It’s dark. Holy shit dark. Darker than when Evan would hide in the closet (both figuratively and literally) as a kid and pre-teen. He would hide in there when Heidi would leave for night shifts in fear someone would break into the house and find him and kill him. He thought maybe cowering under a giant stuffed teddy bear in the corner of his closet would slim his chances at all.
Heidi clicks on the rapidly dimming lightbulb, which barely illuminates the brown boxes and various holiday decorations. A menorah sits glimmering in the corner, light from the lightbulb bouncing off of it and shining directly in Evan’s face. He squints, looking around at the boxes. Heidi is already hunched over one in the same direction as a plastic rocking horse Evan used to play with as a toddler.
Evan pulls himself onto the exposed wood and begins shuffling through one of the nearest boxes. There are countless books in it, most of them looking as if they’ve been read hundreds of times over the course of thirty years. He assumes he’s in luck.
They work in silence, other than Heidi’s occasional ‘aww’ as she comes across an old photo of Evan or Evan clearing his throat. Not to speak clearly, no, simply to rid the air of an awkward silence that develops every few minutes.
“Oh my God, Evan,” Heidi gasps. She turns on her knees toward him, thrusting a small piece of paper at arms length. “Is that your second grade class?”
Evan takes the paper. Sure enough, grinning up at him are thirty little seven and eight year olds, all standing in three lines. Toward the end of the middle line is Evan.
“Look at you! You were so cute!” Heidi exclaims. She points enthusiastically at second grade Evan.
Little seven year old Evan who was the chubbiest kid in the class and everyone would bully because his lack of a dad. Who never understood why people bullied him because of it until the next year. Who looked happy and carefree, unknowing of the life waiting for him. The life of panic attacks and depression naps and suicidal thoughts and pills and sweaty hands and pretty girls and cute boys and looking in the bathroom mirror just wondering when he’s going to finally snap and kill himself. Second grade Evan was only ten years ago. Ten years of absolute torture. Evan holds the picture with his casted hand and runs a thumb along a crease in his cast subconsciously.
“Do you think you still know any of these kids? Oh, wow, that’s Angela’s daughter,” Heidi points out a short redhead girl kneeling in the front row, “and there’s Jared,” second grade Jared sits in the middle of the middle row, glasses too big for his face and hair messy and teeth jutting out as he grins, “wow. You guys have grown up so much,”
Evan nods in agreement and flips the paper over. In his messy second grade writing with an orange crayon are the names of all his classmates, written in order of how they sit. The Rs are backwards and he got lowercase Ds and Bs mixed up pretty much all the time, but he can still make out the names.
Jomy, isadel, henry, bamian, comor
Evan flips the page over, looking over a few of the kids. Jonny, with his bright blond hair and distracted face; Isabel, with her curly brown hair and eyelashes that even she would brag about; Henry, with his neat dirty blond hair and generic (almost as if computer-generated) little kid face; Damian, with his puffy cheeks and stupid red streak in his hair; Connor, with his messy ginger hair and freckles covering half his entire body.
Holy shit, that’s Connor. Connor Murphy. Even as a seven year old, he towers over everyone else and a scowl is apparent on his still smiling face. Evan can remember, quite clearly, actually, that the day right after they took class photos, was the day Connor realized how much he liked being line leader and threw a printer at Miss G. Evan remembers watching with wide eyes and holding back tears as that happened. He never thought much of it until Jared brought it up, probably too casually, during their fifth grade graduation that Connor actually did that. Connor, a little seven year old that looks like he can do no wrong at all, threw a printer at their teacher because he liked being in front of every body else.
How did a seven year old even lift a printer?

Chapter Text

He’s heard it all before. He’s heard about all the people that apparently love him and he’s heard about all the reasons to live. He’s heard about the endless possibilities of his future and that his problems are only temporary. He’s heard the You Have so Much to Live For talk so many goddamn times.
They all sound the same. Every single time, they all have the same general meaning and every word seems forced as they give the speech because who the fuck actually wants to give Connor Murphy the You Have so Much to Live For talk? Who is such a good actor that they genuinely want him to somehow see a good side to his life. The good side to his life that is pretty much nonexistent most of the time.
Ah. Cynthia, that’s who. But, he shouldn’t expect much less from his own mother. She would probably do anything because it made Connor happy. Actually… that’s not true. She does do anything because it makes Connor happy. And while, of course, Connor loves this, it does get too much sometimes. She acts as if he’s still a little kid with how far she is willing to take it. She bought him Marvel comic books until his fifteenth birthday because he had shown interest in Spider-Man when he was seven, like, once. She seems to forget that people grow and people change and people have fucking depression, mom, Peter fucking Parker won’t fix it. (People also say a lot of things they don’t mean when they’re angry)
The world seems to spin only a little bit. The bright white and brown of untouched cereal going soggy in his bowl is the only thing Connor’s eyes will focus on. And every single other goddamn sense, it seems. He blocks out Cynthia’s You Have so Much to Live For speech, just like the million and one other fucking times he’s heard it. The only time he actually listened to someone’s You Have so Much to Live For speech, other than Cynthia’s first, was that time a stranger on the street talked him down from the top of a building during the Murphy’s trip to New York that one time. He was about fourteen and the stranger looked like a middle aged man, who definitely had a pedo-stache, so Connor sort of realized that the stranger didn’t care, he just wanted another young teen to fap to. Connor managed to get himself out of there before the stranger did anything and didn’t get any sleep that night.
“Connor, are you even listening to a word your mother is saying?”
Oh, of course. Because this You Have so Much to Live For speech is so different and he hasn’t heard it a million times before.
“Do you want the honest answer?” Connor looks up at his father, wrinkling his nose in disgust at the thought of him becoming his father. Like Larry and literally every single person in his family wants. Larry nods, sharpening his gaze in annoyance. “No,”
“Oh, come on, Connor,” Cynthia groans. She pours a cup of black coffee for herself. That’s gross. Piping hot black coffee. “You need to listen to this. Especially considering the circumstances. We can’t be doing this every six months,”
“Then actually do shit to help,” Connor suggests with more bite than intended. He folds his arms against his stomach and hunches over, staring into his soggy Cornflakes as if that will help.
“We try, Connor. You simply won’t cooperate when we do,”
Cynthia places a hand on Connors shoulder. He pulls it away slowly and makes intense eye contact with her, as if to make a point of don’t fucking touch me or I will blow my fucking brains out.
Ah, right. Dr Steiner. Don’t even think about suicide, Connor, you’ll convince your brain you still want to kill yourself and both of us know that isn’t true. Yeah, sure, dude. Connor agreed with her regardless because he really wasn’t in the mood to stay an extra hour or schedule another appointment.
“You think sending me off to some hippie yoga retreat for two days will do shit?”
“Connor, that’s—”
Larry fixes his tie in the foyer mirror one last time. He spares an annoyed glance at Connor, then yells up the stairs for Zoe.
“A bullshit excuse for therapy, I know,”
Zoe hops down the stairs, her hair bouncing and shiny in the light. Hanging off one shoulder, which sags when she sees Connor, is her backpack (the straps adorned with pins referencing various musicians and painters and TV shows). It reminds Connor that this is his first day back at school in almost a goddamn month.
That’s a fun thought. Going back to the place he feels least welcome and literally no one likes him but they pretend to like him because the news that he almost died from downing a bottle of pills somehow spread throughout the school. Though, this might be a good place to try to take some of Dr Steiner’s advice and maybe make a friend. Or something. He’s fucked up too much, no one will want to be his friend. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Dr Steiner just doesn’t understand how badly Connor’s fucked everything up.
Why would she? It’s not like she doesn’t know anything Cynthia hasn’t told her.
“Come on,” Zoe deadpans, turning from the closing door behind Larry to Connor. There are bags under her eyes that she evidently hasn’t even tried covering up with makeup. She looks absolutely exhausted. “We’re gonna be late,”
“Go without me,”
Cynthia smacks Connors arm. He doesn’t pay her any attention, instead just focuses back on the bowl of cereal sitting in front of him.
“Connor, you need to go to school. It’ll be good for you,” Cynthia says. “You need to see people your own age after three weeks of not doing so, right?”
“Mom,” Connor says.
She looks at him with curiosity and hope. She looks at him as if she’s expecting something—an announcement, maybe? An announcement of what? That he doesn’t want to kill himself anymore, that school actually is the best place to be now? Neither of those are true. Though he could say something along those lines, he’s always been good at lying. Actually, no, that would lead to some shitty stuff and possibly go too far and ruin his entire life, then he would try to kill himself again and Cynthia would either A. realise he was lying all along; or B. think he relapsed and something set him over the edge and become goddamn Detective Mom. Or maybe he could frame it like a murder and make it look like someone at school did it. No. That’d be absolutely fucking cruel.
“Those people fucking hate me,” Connor nearly laughs at Cynthia’s reaction to his cursing (as if he’s never done it before), “they’ll end up murdering me, or I’ll end up murdering them. It’s not a good idea,”
Cynthia pales at the mere thought of her son being murdered or murdering someone. Zoe scoffs, rolls her eyes, and pulls at the straps of her backpack impatiently.
Maybe he should say things like that more often. Just to see what would happen; if Cynthia would plant a tracker in him or something. She probably would. She’d plant a million trackers just to make sure Connor wasn’t lying about his location. She has the money. Maybe. Fuck, if his parents can and will pay to fix his phone screen or car every month, they can and will pay for ten trackers to keep track of Connor.
“Try not to murder anyone, then!” Cynthia says with an air of happiness and enthusiasm. She pulls the bowl of cereal away from under Connor’s nose, much to Connor’s dismay, and purses her lips at the complete waste of food.
The tapping of Zoe’s foot begins. Connor loved playing with her impatientness a couple years ago and take as long as humanly possibly to do literally anything, simply to annoy her. That ended immediately when she punched him in the gut and he threw up all over her arm. Connor ultimately got in trouble for it, because You shouldn’t have been provoking her, Connor. Which, at the time, was stupid and unfair, but now that he looks back at it, it’s nice that for once the woman didn’t take any of the blame. God. What a world it would be if the government had the mindset of Cynthia when he was 15.
He stands and steps, one by one, for the front door. Because that’s how people walk. Dumbass. He tugs at the sleeves of his jacket and toes on his boots, taking longer than necessary. Not to piss off Zoe, rather to make sure he spends as little time at school as possible. Zoe clicks her tongue, rolls her eyes, and switches which foot she’s tapping.
“What?” Connor barks, snapping his head up and glaring at his sister. She just rolls her eyes again and turns away from him.
That seems to be her only retort as of the last few months. Well, that and fuck you, but fuck you has been going strong since she was 13. He doesn’t really count fuck you as a recent retort, however it definitely takes the cake as longest-running.
Cynthia enters. She carries Connors bag over one shoulder with great difficulty. It repeatedly hits her knee as she walks and it seems only to want to fall off her shoulder onto the floor. She passes the bag onto Connor, who lifts it over his head with ease. She frowns when it only reaches down to his hip.
“You’ve had that for so long, sweetheart,” though she’s hugging Zoe goodbye, Cynthia gestures for Connor bag, “we should get you a new one,”
“No,”
Cynthia blows out a great deal of air. She kisses Connor on the cheek and opens the front door for Zoe and Connor to exit. Zoe does so quickly, Connor taking his sweet, sweet time. The air is cold against his face and there’s a thin layer of sparkling frost against the lawn. The sun is only just rising, leaving a golden pink glow against everything the light touches.
“Have a good day, honey,” Cynthia says sweetly. “And, in case the word got out about—you, please don’t let it bug you. People may ask you and your sister questions all day, but it won’t last forever, so please don’t let it get to your head, okay?”
People heard that you tried fucking killing yourself because your dumbass sister and her friends spread the word and now people want more information as to how you did it, where you did it, but don’t punch them. That’ll just make things worse and you want to kill yourself again. Ignore them and make them ask more questions. Got it?
Connor nods. Cynthia smiles sadly and watches her son leave.
Zoe starts her car quickly, not bragging that she is still allowed to use hers, but definitely bragging that she’s allowed to use hers. It’s not like she should be. Connor’s allowed to use his again… when? He’s pretty sure Dr Steiner said the 30th, and that’s tomorrow, but his memory has been fucked up and all over the place since he swallowed those pills.
Connor begrudgingly climbs into the passenger’s seat, refusing to buckle his seatbelt over himself despite Cynthia’s silent attempts to make him. He pretends he doesn’t know what she’s saying. This causes Zoe to mutter ‘absolute dumbass’ under her breath, which means he convinced both of them he can’t understand Cynthia.
Cynthia leans against the doorframe and waves goodbye until they’re completely out of view.
Despite his attempts, he can’t understand why Cynthia warned him about everyone at school today. Like, no one will ask him anything. Everyone’s too scared to do so. They all think he’s gonna break their nose or some shit. Plus, no one cares. No one cared the first time he tried killing himself and the countless other times he’s announced it, why should they care this time?
Ah. That’s right. Zoe’s in the same school as him now. And because Zoe is his sister and they realised he actually has a family, they care. Whatever. They care more about Zoe than him. They think she likes him, that she’s now scarred for life because her brother nearly took his own life. Twice. They feel bad for her because she’s not fucked up in any aspect other than her brother.
She’s not fucked up in any aspect. Unlike her brother. Look, he didn’t mean to be the fuck up kid. He didn’t mean to be the kid that has a look of I will kill you if you even so dare as breathe in my direction; that has even a brain that hates him. His brain hates him. His brain is him. It’s like… Dr Steiner described it as a light inside of him turned off one day and hasn’t ever come back on. Connor hates to admit it, but it’s the best way he’s ever heard to describe it.
Some people (example A: Larry Murphy) like to think his rebellious pre-teen emo phase went a little longer than expected. Like, six years longer. Larry thinks Connor is doing it for attention; to be special; to fit in with the Millennials (of which Connor is not); to charge thousands of dollars from therapy and the hospital to his bank card; acting practice (whatever that means). He thinks literally anything except maybe that Connor is actually suffering and needs actual help. Maybe he thinks that because whenever he asks Connor why he’s suffering, or why he needs actual help, Connor says he doesn’t know. Because he truly doesn’t and he was raised to always tell the truth, dad.
•••
Connor lurches forward and the clicking of a seatbelt coming undone is heard. He stares out the frosty windshield up at his school. Zoe does the same, seemingly bracing herself. Groaning, Connor exits the vehicle and curls in on himself as he hits the cold air. There are students entering the school still, and teachers exiting, and people just sitting around outside people-watching while listening to their music way too loudly. There’s clashing of heavy metal, Disney songs, recognizable and unrecognizable showtunes, weird indie ‘chill’ music that Zoe likes. And all these people at least know that someone they go to school with tried killing themself. Fuck.
He ducks out of view, still towering above most of the other students, and sticks close to the wall. He’s learned over his years of not being noticed and sneaking away from people that the wall is the place to go. Less people to sneak up on you and easier to pass. As long as you avoid any open doors, you’re good. He looks around, paranoia settling in (or, rather, kicking him in the dick and screaming in his face), for anyone that might be staring at him or whispering about him and the fact that he basically disappeared for three weeks and suddenly he’s back, visually sickly and tired.
It’s bizarre that no one has come up to him, offering to be his friend or own personal therapist by now. Suicide is pretty much a one-way first-class ticket to friends in movies and shit and Cynthia’s mind, and according to movies everyone would be freaking out. Maybe they’re still all tuckered out from the freaking out they did in freshman year, they need more than three years to recharge their faux/non-existent-suicide-concern.
Actually, there is a chance that none of them know. Do none of these goddamn idiots know that he’s the one that tried killing himself? He’s been gone for three weeks, someone must have noticed. Is he actually so invisible that no one realised he was gone for almost an entire month in the hospital and trauma recovery.
There must be one idiot here that knows. Or at least has high speculations. He knows there are observant people in this school, such as the student body. They’re all just miniature copies of the principal. Their dreams are probably all to become the principal of a school at some point. Why else would you be so involved with everything in this bullshit excuse for a school. Like, who keeps track of everything, all the time, obsessively. The student body. And Alana Beck. Though, considering how much she tries to make conversation with everyone (including Connor) and not knowing that they don’t want to talk, she may not be observant, rather overly-optimistic and excited.
He does recall being bombarded with questions from Alana about how his summer was (boring) on that Fateful Day. She didn’t even give him time to answer, not that he would, before she went on with her own answers as if they were rehearsed that morning in the mirror. Connor laughs under his breath. Things Alana Beck Is Which Aren’t Observant: overly-optimistic, excitable, imptaient, and loud.
Connor absentmindedly approaches his locker and begins turning the lock, the hallway a little less crowded now that people have begun heading to their home room classes. He hunches over the little dial, finding the numbers, and pulling open the metallic door. He finds it the exact way he left it. There are books in messy stacks and a flannel shirt that he brought in his early-morning high the first day. There isn’t any room in it for his bag. Guess it’s coming with him today.
He doesn’t step away from the locker, though, instead he basks in the cold air and dark metal and textbooks and breathes deeply a couple times. The breathing exercise works only for a few seconds for some absolute dickhole runs into Connor, elbowing him between the shoulder blades. Connor whips around, glaring at the victim.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Connor yells. The stranger just sputters, their face pale and friends tugging on their arm. They don’t move, as if Connor is some kind of weird Medusa that doesn’t kill them or turn them to stone, but just makes them stand completely still and unable to look away while they’re making eye contact.
The stranger blinks, opens and closes their mouth a few times, and shakes their head in an attempt to look away from Connor.
“Sorry, man, I was just—”
Connor Leonard Murphy!” Screams the unfortunately recognizable voice of Zoe Elizabeth Murphy.
Shit. Zoe. Why did she have to bring middle names into this? Like, at least her middle name is somewhat decent and not after her shitty parent. It could be after the goddamn Queen of England for all Connor cares. He never liked the fact that her middle name is decent and his is—he cringes just thinking about it—Leonard.
Connor winces and turns on his heels toward her. Zoe is stomping toward him as if she’s prepping to fight God. “This is exactly the thing Dr Steiner wants you to be working on! You can’t be lashing out at people for—what did he do?—bumping into you.” Zoe points an accusing finger at his chest.
Connor groans. Zoe turns to the stranger and, in the drop of a pin, becomes a seemingly entire different person as her voice sweetens up and she apologises profusely to the stranger before sending them on their way.
Sometimes Connor wonders how they’re related. Siblings are supposed to be at least somewhat similar. Maybe it’s like that thing with parents with a queer kid; only one kid is queer as if they used up all the queer genes on that one. Larry and Cynthia used all the non-fucked-up, polite, likeable genes on Zoe.
“Oh, like you’re one to talk about lashing out; you’re fucking screaming at me in the middle of the hall,”
Zoe’s eyes widen. Connor feels like he should be nervous, like he’s about to feel the wrath of a hundred Suns’, though he doesn’t. Actually, he very nearly laughs at Zoe’s attempt to look scary. Laughing at her would bring them back to that time they got into a fist fight and he nearly broke her ankle. That wasn’t fun, or maybe it was. Either way, he’s pretty sure she pulled out a few handfuls of his hair that day.
I only yell at you. You, however, get angry about—about the milk being gone after you finish it for the third time in one week,”
As if she’s one to talk. Connor could very easily bring up the amount of times she’s cried about their grandma’s cookies being gone, or about some video of a dog on Instagram, or about some celebrity that she admires. Most of the time that celebrity is Harry Styles, but Connor’s not keeping track. (Zendaya is in second place, but by only a few points)
Plus, the milk being gone is a pretty common thing to get angry at. Who pours a bowl of cereal and finds out there’s no milk and thinks ‘oh well, I guess I’m having no-milk cereal today.’ Absolute dumbasses, that’s who.
Connor can’t contain the laugh (or possibly scoff. He’s not sure) that escapes him this time. “Fuck off,”
Nice. Bringing out an iconic Zoe Murphy reply but changing it up a bit. This move hasn’t been seen since Christmas last year. Extraordinary.
Zoe rolls her eyes a crosses her arms. She does the same thing as always—turns away and pretends she’s only paying half attention to Connor when both of them know very well that her only focus is that of Connor.
“You really don’t have anything better to say?” Zoe laughs patronisingly. She turns back to him with a look in her eyes that is calling him pathetic. “No I’m gonna kill yous’ or You’re gonna wish you were fucking deads’? Wow,”
“Actually, yeah I do,” Connor nods, forcing himself to grin. A few people whisper, surprised to see Connor Murphy smiling, even if it’s fake, for the first time in years. They have this fear in their voices which make them sound like little kids playing Hide and Seek. “Fuck off—oh, I’m not done there—you hypocritical piece of donkey shit,”
Zoe clicks her tongue and Connor pushes her away. He slams his locker shut and races the opposite direction, feeling as if he’s in some Netflix original teen drama. The people that were whispering are now competing over who can care about Zoe more and Connor the least. That’s the theme for pretty much everything in his life.
People step out of the way for Connor to pass them with ease, or out of fear that he’ll knock them out. Most likely the latter.
•••
Do the people that design decorations for classrooms know what animals look like? Like, they’re masters at stupid inspirational quotes, but when it comes to recalling what a squirrel looks like? They may as well be four years old. Because that squirrel behind Mrs Walden’s desk looks nothing like a squirrel.
Actually, does it look like a squirrel? Connor can’t recall any time he’s ever seen and actual, real life squirrel in person, and it’s probably been years since he’s seen a photo of one. If squirrels look anything like the hand puppets in museum gift shops, then the little bitch on Mrs Walden’s poster is the exact opposite of what squirrels look like.
Connor blinks. His eyes lead downward naturally, bringing him to read the stupid inspiration quote under the not-squirrel. Got a dream? Gopher it! Nice. So Connor was either right or wrong, he’s not sure, it’s not a squirrel. It’s a gopher. A pretty shit gopher if he thought it was a squirrel.
His eyes lead around the room now that he’s not focusing on a shit gopher. Everything looks so natural and normal. Everyone is going about their lives, as if absolutely nothing is out of the ordinary. He imagines being a ghost for a second and looking in on the class from the afterlife. It’s not too difficult; everyone is already looking directly through him already. Everyone is going about their lives, not even noticing he’s dead because he made such a small impact. This fact would have bothered sixth grade Connor, wanting to be noticed and validated by his peers. Fast forward six years and twelfth grade Connor isn’t sure if he’s bothered by it or not. Because on one hand, everyone wants to be noticed at least a little bit; on the other hand, it’s nice not being noticed because less people to mourn your meaningless life after you inevitably kill yourself.
He wonders who else thinks that. There must be at least one person who wants to be noticed but dreads it at the same time. Isabel? Oh no, she is constantly drawing attention to herself. Ethel? Yeah, fuck that, they definitely think they don’t want to be noticed but definitely do. He examines his peers, watching their behaviour for any sign of attention seeking-but-also-dreading. Toward the middle of the class there’s someone hunched over and biting at their nails like it’s the end of the world. Connor can recall doing the same thing sophomore year—and then he began painting his nails and found out how bad nail polish tastes. Tally one attention seeking-but-also-dreading peer.
Connor closes his eyes and rests his head against the desk, tapping along to Somewhere Over The Rainbow in his head against the desktop. One attention seeking-but-also-dreading peer found is good for today. He’s tired. A heavy weight hitting the desk next to his forces him to wake, followed by metallic scraping of a chair and a satisfied sigh.
Connor opens his eye. To his left sits Alana Beck, because of course it is, with a pile of textbooks and pencil cases and a yellow folder displayed proudly in front of her, and she’s waving over that same Tally from earlier. Connor recognizes the Tally as Evan Hansen, the kid he pushed the first day of school and Zoe tried to convince him to apologize to afterwards. He decided not to apologize, because it wouldn’t matter in the long run; he was planning on killing himself later that day, what would the point be?
Connor shuts his eyes again, not thinking much of the situation.
“So,” Alana begins. Connor can hear the excited grin in her voice, as if she’s Zoe talking about architecture and interior design TV shows. “What are we thinking?”
We’re thinking that you’re way too excited about everything and that you need to chill the fuck out, Alana. We’re thinking that no one knows what you’re talking about and that you’re the only one in this room that cares about this class. We’re thinking Evan, you really need to chill with your nail biting.
“He wasn’t paying attention,” Connor mutters when he realizes no one else is going to say anything. He points somewhere ahead of him, hoping its Evan he’s pointing at. He then adds, “he was too busy fucking boring his fingers,” because God fucking damn it, Evan, if I bring light to the situation will you cool it? “I wasn’t paying any attention either,”
Connor hopes that’ll do. He places his hand flat against the table, not tapping any more, instead bouncing his leg violently.
“Oh, well, that’s not good,” Alana vocally frowns. She taps her pen against the desk. It echoes. “Um, okay, so, we need to pick a book, any book really, as long as it has chapters, read it, then choose our favourite or most influential chapter and perform a skit of it in mid-November,”
“Oh. Fun,” Connor says because, definitely, this will be.

Chapter Text

Anxiety is fun.
Anxiety is fun. Including, but not limited to, when you’re simply trying to pack your backpack and get ready to go to Alana’s house to work on your English assignment but you don’t know how you’re going to get there. Because that’s currently the situation Evan is in.
Does he ask Alana for a ride? Or does she take the bus? Does he need a special card to ride the bus? They needed a special card in middle school, who’s to say he doesn’t need one now? Where does Alana even live? Can he walk home after or is it so far that he has to burden someone with driving him home? And if she takes the bus who will drive him home after they’re done? The goddamn city bus? Gross.
Will Alana offer to give him a ride? She seems nice enough to do that. But what if she doesn’t offer him a ride and just assumes he’s not anxious to the point he doesn’t drive. Even if she does offer, what will he say? Will he say no and pretend he is perfectly capable of driving without slamming on the brake every few seconds and be screwed because he can’t get to her house otherwise? Will he say yes and risk sounding like an idiot and too eager. What if he does get a ride from Alana and has to sit awkwardly in silence with her as they drive because she doesn’t want to talk to him, just like everyone else? No one wants to talk to Evan Hansen, including Alana.
Evan slams his locker shut, the loud metallic bang emptying his head in the matter of seconds. Thank God the hall is empty, no one can judge him for staring into his locker five minutes longer than necessary or slamming it shut or leaning his forehead against it because the cold metal feels nice. He closes his eyes, sighing. It isn’t a good thing the hall is empty. The rest of the school probably is, too, which means Alana has left already and he is definitely screwed. He’s going to miss this practice (can he even call it that?) and he’ll be kicked out of the group and he’s going to fail this class because he didn’t do anything and was too anxious to—
“Hansen!”
Evan’s head shoots up. His forehead apparently stuck to the locker. It’s probably bright red from the pressure and all flat and he looks stupid. He stands up straight, as if he wasn’t just on the verge of a panic attack and cooling himself off on his locker, and faces the direction Connor’s voice came from.
Oh, right. Connor exists and is in his group.
Evan can’t bring himself to move, though he wants to, and Connor takes long strides down the hall until he’s standing only a few feet away from Evan. His messenger bag bounces against his thigh despite his idle attempts to calm it.
“D’you need a ride to ‘Lana’s?” Connor asks. He speaks as if it’s the most casual thing in the world. And sure, while it is to most people, Evan can’t help but be impressed by Connor’s speaking skills. Every word is pronounced lazily yet with care, voice somehow always deadpan and bursting with emotion. Oh sweet Jesus, Evan hates himself for even thinking those words in that order. He takes it back. He isn’t impressed by Connor in the slightest.
What does he say? No because he can drive himself and be screwed because he actually can’t drive himself. Yes and risk sounding like a too eager idiot. Will Connor force them to ride silently, or will he make Evan talk, or play music that Evan doesn’t know, or get super bad road rage and end up trying to swerve in front of someone because they were being an asshole and they’ll end up flipped over dead in a car that’s on fire on the side of the road and end up failing Alana.
“Oh!” Evan tugs at the hem of his shirt, “uh, yeah actually,”
Connor nods and turns around and begins walking in the opposite direction of Evan without so much of a breath. Evan stands still, not sure whether or not to follow Connor already or what, playing with the straps of his backpack. Is Connor joking? He must be joking. They’ve talked, like, twice in a decade, so why does Connor think he should give Evan a ride. They’re not friends. They barely even know each other. Besides, if they did know each other better, Connor would know that Evan is a loser and generally uncomfortable to be around.
Just as Connor is about to turn a corner, Evan realizes that, no, he is not joking about giving Evan a ride. Are they friends? Does this mean they are friends now? Jared always declined driving Evan places with the excuse that they aren’t friends. Evan doesn’t dwell on the question longer, instead speed walks in Connor’s trail and doesn’t dare walk next to him. Evan makes sure to stay a few steps behind Connor at all times. He pretends it’s not out of fear.
Connor’s car is the last one left in the parking lot. It’s… it doesn’t look like a car Connor Murphy, of all people, would drive. It’s all clean and new and definitely worth more than everything Evan owns combined. From across the lot, Evan can’t point out a single thing wrong with it. Connor unlocks it as he approaches it. He isn’t in the car and he can unlock it.
What’s that one Catholic prayer he learned in third grade for some reason? Lord, I am not worthy you should enter under my roof or some shit? Yeah. Evan isn’t worthy enough to get into Connor’s car with his weird, off-brand everything. And yet he does.
The inside looks not even a week old. The seats are that weird leathery fabric he knows from riding in his dad’s car a few years ago. If it weren’t for the Coke bottles and Miss Vickie’s salt and vinegar chip packets at the passenger seat’s feet, Evan would have guessed Connor only recently got the car.
Connor doesn’t even wait for Evan’s seatbelt to be on before he’s backing out of his parking spot and speeding out of school property. He’s being way too careless to be legal. He’s probably going way over the speed limit. Doesn’t he care about the safety of himself and others on the road?
Oh, no. Connor’s getting uncomfortably close to that car and why isn’t he stopping, why isn’t he stopping, why isn’t he stopping. Connor slows down just in time to not hit the car in front of them, his impatiently annoyed face contrasting against Evan’s panicked. The other driver must be flipping Connor off, because Connor does so with both hands and steers with his knee for a few seconds.
Evan whips his head around to stare at Connor with wide eyes, as if to say ‘you could’ve just killed us!’ Connor isn’t even wearing a seatbelt, driving like this is… he is going to die.
“That’s the plan,”
Evan hugs his backpack close. He stares at the bumper of the car in front of them, imagining what would happen to it and what it would look like if Connor crashed into it and crushed it and Connor’s engine burst into flames and Evan wasn’t able to unbuckle his seatbelt—
“What?” Evan chokes, desperate to rid his car crash thoughts.
“You said not wearing a seatbelt would kill me, I said that’s the plan,” Connor explains slowly as if he’s talking to a little kid. He explains further with, “not wearing a seatbelt in the event of a crash increases my chances of dying,”
That… that definitely rid Evan’s mind of his car crash thoughts, plus any other thoughts. “That’s—that’s not good. Dying in a car crash isn’t good,”
Connor shrugs. He flattens his lips into a tight line and follows the GPS directions into one of the Rich People areas of town. Nice. “I really don’t care how I die, as long as I do. Y’know?”
No. Or maybe yes? Evan has this feeling that Evan from… way back would understand better than Evan from now, but Evan from now also has a broken arm because he didn’t care how he died, just as long as he did, and Evan from way back is the same person as Evan from now, so Evan from now must understand more than he thinks he does.
Regardless, Evan drops the conversation, scared it’ll get deeper and more intense than it should with someone he still considers a stranger. And good thing, because Siri announces they’ve arrived at their destination. Their destination is… bigger than Evan ever expected. How can one family have this much money? He’s pretty sure Alana has, what, four siblings—she told him in freshman year. Five kids and only two parents? That’s… impossible, how do they provide so well?
Alana is sitting on her porch already, with her backpack still on and yellow folder on her lap. She stands and almost runs to the car before Connor can even fully park it. Evan and she wave half heartedly to the other.
“You’re eager,” Connor remarks, pulling out of the Beck’s driveway with as little care as the school parking lot.
Alana gets comfortable and Evan is pretty sure her soul leaves her body when she realizes Connor is driving and her seatbelt isn’t on yet. She does it in the snap of a finger. “My, uh, my sister is in town. Well, I say that as if it’s only temporary or a visit. It’s sort of permanent, now. She dropped out of college without telling my parents, so you can imagine how upset they are. She was one year away from becoming a lawyer, after all,”
“Good thing she dropped out. Lawyers fucking suck,” Connor rolls his eyes and readjusts his hand on the steering wheel. It makes a weird squeaking sound that Evan is sure he doesn’t want to hear ever again. “Speaking from experience,”
Evan turns around to see Alana’s reaction. She looks only mildly offended behind her excitement about life. God what he’d do for that excitement.
“Anyway, my house is currently chaos because of it,” Alana pauses, “I simply don’t want anyone seeing it,”
“Wonder what that’s like,” Connor mutters to himself.
Alana changes the subject to some project she’s working on, one of that Evan isn’t too interested in. He stares out the window and feels himself begin to pick his nails, but makes no attempt to stop.
Ah, shit. Did he bring his copy of The Little Prince? He can’t recall putting it in his bag this morning but maybe he just wasn’t paying attention. Mornings are usually busy and it all goes by so fast, so, yeah, it’s probably in there. but, then again, is he completely sure? It’s happened before; he’s needed a book and didn’t have it so instead of sharing with anyone, he had to sit there for a couple hours as the rest of his group worked ahead of him.
What if that happens again, what will he do? Will he ask to borrow or share one of the others? What will they say then? Connor would probably make fun of him because he forgot his book and who forgets the most important part of a project when they’re working on the project? Would Alana share her book? Probably. But how would he go about asking her to share? Hey, somehow I forgot to bring really the only thing we need for this project. Can I use your probably only copy and screw you up even though you’re definitely going to be the one carrying the group? No, suck it up? That’s fair, have a nice day.
His palms are sweating just thinking about it.
As Evan wipes his uncasted hand against his jeans, he leans left and Connor turns right. Surrounding the car are Holy Shit Tall trees. The sun shines through the trunks and onto the gravel road ahead of them. Sometimes Evan wonders why he loves nature so much, and then scenes like this occur and he’s reminded.
Connor pulls into a tiny patch of gravel. Evan would call it a parking lot, because that’s what it’s definitely trying to act as, though it’s too small to fit more than three cars. Lining the patch of gravel are garbage and recycling bins every few feet, a surprise to Evan considering the amount of trash everywhere else in this city. There’s not this many garbage bins even in the city’s community garden. It’s refreshing.
The three exit the car, all in an unspoken agreement to let Alana lead the way, because she knows where they’re going. Evan, true to himself, makes sure to stay a few feet behind Connor. The walk is short. The walk is short and sweet, other than the scent of laundry detergent and an unfamiliar skunky scent wafting behind Connor. It ruins the whole nature immersion, if Evan’s being honest. He doesn’t ware much cologne because he likes to be completely one with nature. Jared had a heart attack and drove him to the mall immediately when he found out. They ended up buying a $20 bottle of forest river scented cologne, which has been sitting on Evan’s night stand doing nothing but collecting dust since them. Heidi was way too excited when she saw the bottle, her little boy was becoming such a man! Evan hates imagining how disappointed she is seeing the bottle hasn’t changed in two years.
The dirt path turns into gravel which turns into sand. Evan looks up from his feet at first, Connor’s back, then beyond that to a small secluded beach with a large lake and mountains in the distance. Gasping at the view and the fact that he actually, like, lives near this, Alana makes no mention of it, as if everyone has seen this. Connor turns around at Evan’s gasp before stepping out of the forest and onto the sunny sand.
Evan follows suit, still completely blown away by the view.
Alana has already set everything up at one of the two picnic tables at either side of the tiny beach. The yellow folder threatens its leave by flapping in the wind a few times, quickly solved by Alana setting a rock from the ground on it with more force that necessary. Beside it sits her copy of The Little Prince and her pencil case. Evan can’t imagine what she has in the pencil case that makes her carry it with her everywhere, but she has her reasons. He just hopes she doesn’t sleep with it in her bed at night—that’d be crossing the line.
Connor takes the spot next to Alana, leaving one last spot for Evan across from them. He has his copy of The Little Prince (which is definitely older and has been read more times than Alana’s. Alana’s looks like it hasn’t ever been opened) open and is reading it, not paying the world around him any attention. Between his fingers twirls a brown feather, something he definitely didn’t have on their drive here.
Evan fixes his gaze on the feather.
Heidi always told him not to touch random feathers he found in nature, they could carry dangerous diseases, and that’s the last thing Evan wants: a deadly disease contracted from a feather he accidentally touched.
Due to Heidi’s warnings, Evan developed a fear of birds of all shapes and sizes. Even birds people keep as pets.
The Kleinmans had a pet bird that Jared would taunt Evan with when they were kids, though the bird technically belonged to Jared’s brother. At some point during fifth grade, the bird apparently flew away and never came back, though it was so old Evan knew it had actually died. Jared and David believed their parents and were both completely distraught. Evan never told Jared the truth because he didn’t want the backlash of that happening.
So why is Connor holding that feather, a feather he most likely found on the ground on their walk over here. Oh, no, he’s going to contract a disease and then have to spend the rest of his life (which will be cut extremely short) in the hospital and Evan will have to 1, go present the Little Prince chapter with Alana; and 2, somehow live with the guilt that he was there as Connor played with the feather and didn’t do anything and now Connor is dying in the hospital and it’s all his fault
“Oh my God,” Connor gapes. Evan looks up from the feather to meet Connors gaze. Their expressions contrast again, Evan’s eyes wide with worried curiosity, Connor’s half lidded with mocking amusement. “Chill out. It’s just a feather,”
“Hm? What?” Evan bites his bottom lip with delicacy.
Connor scoffs and rolls his eyes. “You we’re talking about how I’m gonna get a disease from this thing,” he waves the feather around, “I’m not. Don’t worry,”
That’s the worst possible thing to say to Evan. That, and valm down. Does chill out count as some weird, bro slang for calm down? Because if so, Connor really has to take some lessons on how to speak to Evan. Or, let’s be more general, people with anxiety. Bad anxiety. Crippling anxiety. Anxiety that’s taken over their entire life.
“Worrying is what I do best,” Evan cringes as soon as he says it. He sounds like a mom from some old cartoon. He sounds like a character in a movie in which the writers just thought ‘this character will be socially awkward,’ but didn’t realize the character portrayed mass levels of anxiety until people on Twitter pointed it out.
“Oh making jokes now? You’ve known me for, what, two days?”
Evan’s not making jokes because he’s comfortable. Evan makes jokes when he’s scared.
Is Connor gonna kill him? Connor’s gonna kill Evan and Alana. He probably has a pocket knife that he’s gone stab them with and he’s gonna dump their bodies in the lake before they’ve even died then drive off and no one will find them because this place is so secluded until they’ve rotted away at the bottom of the lake. Some seven year old will find them in a year and be scarred for life because they just found the skeletons of two people that were stabbed and bled and drowned to death in a public lake and the murderer is long gone, whether in a physical sense or life/death sense.
Connor would probably kill himself after killing someone. Not because he feels guilty, because that’s probably what he finds fun. Murder and suicide. Two in a row. Oh God what did Evan get himself into.
Before Evan can voice his concerns, Alana instructs him to sit and take out his book. He sits. You know what? Forget the fact that he’s going to get murdered soon, whether he remembered to bring his book is the new problem that is going to kill him. He almost doesn’t want to look. As if Alana would let that happen.
Yet, sure enough, there it is. Why was he even worrying about it in the first place? Heidi probably put in in there this morning or he last night which is why he doesn’t remember packing it this morning. Idiot, doesn’t even know details about his own life. Wow, he’s an idiot. The book is placed on the table, older looking than even Connor’s. Connor’s looks well read and loved but stored away carefully; Evan’s looks like it was left out and dropped and used as a coaster for cups as well as read hundreds of times. He can blame Heidi and grandpa Henry for that.
Connor tells the table that he was reading The Little Prince last night. He recommends which chapter they should do the skit of: chapter 2. Alana says she appreciates this, but she hasn’t read it yet. Before either of them can say another thing, Alana clears her throat and begins reading out loud as if she’s the teacher of a kindergarten class. A class of two students; a class of two seventeen year old kindergarteners.
Connor would be the bully between them. There’s always a class bully, and in a class of two with Evan as one of them, the other would be the bully. Unless the other student was Alana; then neither of them would be the bully and neither of them would cry to their mom after school about how Damian and Richie were making fun of them because of their dad.
“Oh my god,” Connor says. “You good?”
“Uh, yeah? Why wouldn’t I be?” Evan replies. He can feel the heat in his ears pounding and ringing.
Connor presses his lips into a thin line and his eyebrows toward each other. He quints his eyes with suspicion and doubt toward Evan. “Okay. Whatever. Continuer, ‘Lana,”
Alana, nodding sharply once, straightening her back, clearing her throat again, continues her reading of chapter 1.
Evan finds himself unable to focus on the reading, whether it be by himself or Alana’s. His eyes won’t leave Connor no matter how hard he tries, watching his every move for Connor reaching for that knife he’s going to kill Evan and Alana with. Is murder with a pocket knife possible? Probably. Wait, yeah it is. He can easily slit their throats with a pocket knife. He’s gonna get Alana first and Evan won’t be able to run because his legs will refuse to move, and even if they do, Evan can’t drive a car, let alone hotwire one. That’s it, he’s screwed.
One of Connors fingers makes a move against the cover of The Little Prince. Evan focuses on the finger, unblinking, and begins to unfocus on it. His eyes linger in the general area, refusing to watch anywhere else. A glimpse of Connor’s book and Evan’s heart skips a beat, because why is Connor so far ahead? Has Alana already read all of that and Evan spaced out so badly that he didn’t even realise? He races to look at the stack of pages read in Alana’s copy, which is significantly shorter than Connor’s. Okay, so either Connor is a really fast reader and is annoyed by how slow Alana is reading, or Alana keeps stopping her reading because the sun in currently facing her and is reflecting in her glasses.
“No,” Alana’s enthusiastic yet flat voice says with her eyes not leaving the book, “it’s the fact that you keep talking over me that I’m not done chapter 1 yet. Please stop speaking over me or else we won’t get anything done,”
Right. Okay. Sorry. Sorry? Who’s he apologizing to? His brain? It should be the other way around, actually. But isn’t he his brain? Nope, not gonna think about that today.
Evan nods his head with quick, jerky movements. He hears Connor exhale loudly in the place of a weak laugh.
Right. Okay. He can do this. He can be quiet, even though that’s what he was just doing. Maybe. Possibly. That’s what he thinks we was just doing. Was he accidentally taking out loud. He half expects one of the other two to answer his question. Thankfully, neither of them do.
Maybe he can distract himself from thinking. From talking to himself without realising it. It should be easy, right? Yeah. He looks over to Connor.
The sun already slowly going down over the hills and trees far behind Evan gives a sort of golden yellow look everywhere the light touches. Like the rocks and dirt encasing the beach and pebbles in the sand, and the sand itself, they glitter slightly. They glitter mostly white and pink, a nice contrast for the gold of the sand and light from the sun.
The sun beats on the water beside them, the ripples giving the reflection a messy neat look about it and certain areas glimmering bright like the glare in a camera. It reflects up and onto the trees overhanging the area, a beautiful zoomed-in-photo-of-a-leaf pattern dancing upon the bark.
It shines gold upon Alana’s face. She looks beautiful; her silver glasses shine a faint yellow and eyes a hazelnut shade instead of their regular and familiar dark brown; her skin sparkles a little bit like the rocks; her hair glows a brownish yellow, almost like the leaves in the trees right now, lightening up with her eyes.
The way the sun hits Connor’s hair as it covers his face makes him look like he has a halo, like he’s an angel. Dust in the air settles around him like tiny specks of sunshine and every single loose strand of hair shines bright like it wants to be the centre of attention. For a split second, Evan wonders which Murphy sibling he’s truly attracted to.
Alana clears her throat with satisfaction, pulling Connor from his book and Evan from his thoughts. “So. Who would like to play who?”
Evan fills with joy when he realizes he didn’t say any of that. Connor would knock him out, without a doubt, and Alana would avoid him at all costs as if he’s the most disgusting human being on earth. And yet, Alana probably would try to become friends with the most disgusting human being on earth.
“There’s no way in hell I’m playing the Prince,” Connor shakes his head. He hesitantly closes his copy on the table. At Alana’s inquiring look, he continues, “I’m not gonna request you draw a sheep for me a thousand times and decline it a thousand times. I’m the author, okay?”
Alana purses her lips. “Okay—but Evan still has to do something,”
“We’ve agreed that, no, he doesn’t. Besides, Mrs Walden is pretty goddamn weak when it comes to persuasion, and it just so happens that even my therapist says I’m good at arguing,” Connor sets his eyes on Evan for a split second, which makes Evan’s palms sweat, then turns back to Alana, “So, No, he really doesn’t,”
For the second time in only two days, Evan is somewhat grateful Connor Murphy exists. The thought sits uncomfortably in his mind, a fact Evan doesn’t like; Heidi raised him to always see the good in people until they gave him a reason not to. Connor hasn’t given him a reason not to see the good—nope, that’s a lie. How many times has Connor yelled at him for being an idiot? Or what about that time Connor pushed him in the hall? Those are reasons to not see the good. But Connor has also somehow convinced Alana that Evan doesn’t have to perform, and offered to give him a ride without knowing him at all, and fistbumping him for simply saying ‘yeah.’
Evan isn’t sure how to feel about Connor, to tell the truth.
“He can just sit out and take notes or some shit,” Connor adds, “carve fucking Harry Potter bondage orgy smut into the desk for all I care,”
That’s a little too vulgar for Evan’s liking, but at least Connor tried.
“He still won’t get a good grade if he writes Harry Potter fanfiction instead of presenting,” Alana protests.
Connor winces and stares at a splinter in his index finger; he had been flicking a stray splint of wood on the table as Alana read and they bickered. A small dome of blood settles on the tip along with the tiny piece of wood stuck in his skin, and gets rid of the blood by simply sucking on his finger.
“Write an essay, then!” Connor says, “she’d accept that, right?”
Perfect. And Evan says that with no sarcasm at all. Heidi already thinks he’s supposed to be writing just an essay. If he can get out of performing a skit to over 30 people by just reading the book and writing an essay on it, that’s great! Oh, but how will he bring that up with Mrs Walden? And what if she turns that down because she doesn’t understand anxiety disorders? And what if she does say yes, what will he do every class? Will he stay with Alana and Connor or will he just sit there all alone with no one, again?
The last two questions leave Evan’s mind as Alana agrees he can do that, under the condition he still has to come to all their practices and be as much a part of the group as them. She offers to shake with Connor on the deal, holding her hand out politely; Connor spits on his palm and doesn’t hesitate to shake her hand, to which she pulls hers away with a disgusted look on her face.
And they’re off!
Evan watches as they rehearse, picking up makeshift props from the ground and forest behind them, but only half paying attention.
The sun has now painted the sky a beautiful array of pinks and oranges and blues: three colours that Evan didn’t know worked so well together, but he’s not the artistic type.
It looks like the mural in the dining room of Evan’s grandparents house. Well, it’s not really a mural, more like Henry got bored one day and stole paint from his friend and began painting his wall without telling Anne. He tells that story every time Evan and Heidi go to their house for dinner, as if Evan can’t remember it off the top of his head
Evan doesn’t really mind. It’s a longer story than you’d imagine (Henry describes everything in perfect detail). It keeps him from talking about nonexistent friends and fake after school activities and hyping up his grades to sound amazing when in truth they’re really just mediocre. Sometimes Evan needs to stop himself from mouthing the words to Henry’s story when he tells it, and sometimes Heidi needs to kick his leg because she knows her dad has told the story a million times before but it’s still rude, Evan.
The way Connor sits, drawing sheep (and forgetting the second one is supposed to be a ram and not drawing the horns) with a stick in the sand reminds Evan slightly of little kids drawing their giant brown flowers, and blue humans the size of half the flower stem floating, and a yellow pterodactyl flying over the entire page because they saw it on TV once. His legs are bent weirdly and in a way that no one else would be comfortable in, though somehow Connor looks actually genuinely comfortable.
Alana progessively gets more and more annoyed and progressively tries to hide it more and more. The way Connor laughs quietly and looks at Evan tells Evan that he’s annoying Alana on purpose, forgetting queues and what to do and pretending to not pay attention to what she said.
Alana looks up at the sky of oranges and purples and silver stars as she throws her head back in exasperation, eyes widening and becoming panicked in the matter of seconds.
“Oh my goodness! It’s gotten so late, my parents don’t know where I am!” She shoves all her belongings off the table and into her backpack. “I could be dead and they wouldn’t know!” There’s a hint of genuinity in her voice and behind her panicked eyes.
That reminds Evan of Connor. He turns around mentally preparing for Connor to be standing there with a knife, ready to stab him and leave him to bleed out. But no one is stabbing him. Someone is yelling at him to hurry up and calling him and idiot, so that’s no fun.
Alana takes the front seat in an unspoken arrangement between herself and Evan. Evan assumes she’s already friends with Connor, considering he has a nickname for her and everything.
The nickname thing makes Evan think that maybe they’re already good friends and made an agreement to always pair up together in group projects; and they only let Evan into their group with no protest because they feel bad for him.
Maybe they’ve always been friends, grew up together, though never showed it, and are having trouble hiding it from Evan because they were just at the lake for over an hour and pretending you’re not friends with someone for that long is probably pretty difficult.
Maybe they were friends in middle school then grew apart when they moved to high school and this project it the perfect opportunity for them to rekindle their friendship, and forget Evan even exists.
Maybe they’re actually dating but are trying to keep it ‘on the D.L.’ (as Jared says) but Connor isn’t a good actor, and Alana isn’t a good actor, and Evan is just an idiot that can’t read people because it’s so obvious.
And—just like that—Connor pulls into the Beck’s driveway again. Alana exits with a bright smile and enthusiastic thanks and basically runs to her from door; she’s afraid Connor will try to run her over and kill her.
“Get up here,” Connor demands, watching the front door close behind Alana, “I’m not a fucking taxi,”
Evan does so. Extremely awkwardly, might I add. Because where does he put his bag, does he leave it in the back seat or bring it up with him? What if Connor drives off while Evan is switching seats? He’d do that, right? And even if Evan went behind the car, Connor definitely wouldn’t hesitate to run him over.
He decides to bring his bag with him because it’ll be better in the long run and he won’t have to make Connor wait longer than necessary to get out and let him get a good look of his small soggy home. Connor doesn’t drive off or hit him either.
The only words said between them are that of instructing Connor where to turn or go straight. Evan doesn’t want to talk, sort of scared it’ll turn out like their last one-on-one conversation.
Can you even call it that? It wasn’t really a conversation. It was sort of Evan accidentally commenting that it’s unsafe to not wear a seatbelt and Connor saying that he wants to die.
It’s not good. Is that how all their conversations wil go? Tense and awkward and neither enjoying in even the slightest bit. Evan hates the silence, but he also eats it up, because as much as he hates silence, he hates talking. He’s scared he’s going to stumble over his words because his brain is working faster than his mouth or he’ll get distracted by something else and lose his train of thought completely or say the wrong thing at the wrong time and end up fucking everything up. Again.
He can’t make out whether or not Connor also likes the silence or not. His face is completely unreadable without Evan turning his body uncomfortably or staring too long. He would understand if Connor likes talking, just not to Evan. Evan isn’t fun to talk to. He’s boring and doesn’t have any cool interests that other people also like and it takes him about a minute to form one simple sentence and he can’t stand long pauses and doesn’t know when to laugh or stop laughing or anything. He doesn’t know how to human, as thirteen year old Jared put it.
They pull up beside Evan’s house, directly under the streetlight that is on but not really doing anything considering it’s still considerablylight out.
Evan once caught some homeless drunk guy peeing on the streetlight at about midnight, but didn’t do anything because he was scared something might go south. So he just sat and watched the guy from his bedroom window until the guy left. He’s never told anyone that story.
Connor sits expectantly, waiting for Evan to get out of the car. Evan doesn’t realize and is once again focusing on the crack in the windshield, wondering how it got there.
Maybe someone threw a rock at it hit the windshield and Connor’s parents don’t pay for his insurance so he couldn’t get it fixed. Maybe he’s saving up for it right now.
Maybe zoe threw a party at their house one day and some drunk kid fell on the car and cracked it but didn’t tell anyone and now Connor’s making Zoe pay for the damage because she threw the party and she’s refusing to pay it.
Maybe during one of connors ‘fits,’ a delicate wording, he punched the glass and is simply too lazy or careless to fix it. Though, it is a pretty large crack, he doubts that’s what happened. A human fist can’t crack a car windshield, right?
“So…” Connor holds the steering wheel tightly, his knuckles a light shade of orange under the streetlight, “you gonna get out? Or have you never seen a damaged car before?”
“Shit. Sorry. Yeah, I’m getting out, sorry,” Evan scrambles for the handle and pushes the door open. It opens smoothly, unlike Heidi’s car doors, “thanks—uh—that’s for the ride,”
“Yeah, no problem. Need another one tomorrow?”
“No I can walk. Oh, my God! That’s sounded so rude, I’m so sorry! I just meant that my—my house is close enough that I can walk. Sorry,”
Connor deadpans.
“Hansen. Shut up,” he says, with more bite than necessary, “I was just offering,”
“Oh.” Evan pulls the backpack onto his back, tightening the straps and letting them loose mindlessly. “Sorry. Uh, see you tomorrow,”
Connor drives off with no goodbye, no wave, not even a smile. He doesn’t even wait for Evan to close the door, it closes by itself in the wind as Connor speeds off and down the road.
The sun is almost gone now and suddenly Evan is just standing under a yellow streetlight that a homeless guy peed on, in front of his shitty home, watching as his pshychopathic classmate drives away and completely disregards a stop sign in his fancy new car.
Evan turns around to see his car. It’s really not nice. The paint is chipped and the metal is rusting slightly around the tires from disuse for almost a year and a half how. It’s still a newer car than Heidi’s, so that’s a plus.
She actually bought her son a nicer car than hers because she thinks he drives it. She hasn’t ever seen him not drive it, so she probably assumes he does. Oh, God. Heidi wasted thousands of dollars on a car that Evan will probably never use.
He lets himself into the house and drops everything as soon as he does. Why is he suddenly so tired? He could make some coffee because it’s only about 6:30 but coffee makes him more jittery—and the last time he had a full cup of coffee he stayed up for almost 18 hours and had to take some of his mom’s sleep medication because he hadn’t slept in so long.
He stared at that bottle for way too long, honestly. He just imagined swiping it up off the shelf and mindlessly going somewhere, anywhere, to down it and end everything. Of course, his thoughts of his mom overcame him because this is her medication, he can’t kill himself with something that’s specifically hers. He can’t kill himself with his own medication, she pays for it, and that’d be evil.
Anywhere in the house would be absolutely cruel considering Heidi would be the one that found him. But at the same time, out of the house would be just as bad because he doesn’t know how long he could be dead and beyond saving before someone found him.
But who cares? Because he would be dead, right? No. He wouldn’t be able to bring himself to die like that knowing what he’d do to Heidi or whoever found it. The emotional strain and trauma he’d put on them would be too much.
He find himself mechanically making a cup of tea, checking thrice that it’s decaffinafed, drinking it in silence and stillness at the kitchen table, then going to bed.

Chapter Text

Usually, Connor will sneak in when he’s late, sometimes not go inside at all, but right now? It’s not that late, Cynthia is probably still making dinner and sobbing because she doesn’t know where he is, so just walking in through the front door isn’t too much of a risk. The worst that can happen is maybe Cynthia babying him.
No. Almost the moment his shoes have joined the other dozen pairs near the door, Zoe is standing a foot away from him with an annoyed expression upon her face.
“What?” Connor finds himself groaning. Sort of fucked up that that’s how he greets her now, the more he thinks about it.
“Where were you?” Zoe demands, voice frantic and aggravated. The tapping of the foot begins.
“Out,”
Zoe scoffs, as if she doubts it. You were outside smoking weed, I can smell it from here. Ha, joke’s on her, Cynthia confiscated Connor’s weed during her raid of his room That Night and he still doesn’t know where she put it. She might have smoked it to calm her nerves while he was in the hospital, actually. No. She was always telling him that marijuana was illegal and he shouldn’t be smoking it because he could go to jail. White people don’t go to jail for weed, mom. Besides, it’s gonna be legal in a few weeks anyway.
“Mom was about to file a missing person’s report! She thought you were dead!” Zoe says, as if it’s revolutionary news or he didn’t expect it.
“Tell her I’m not then.” Connor pushes past her and begins up the stairs. He then mutters half to himself and half to Zoe, “it’s not that hard. Damn,”
It’s almost as if she wants to be yelled at, to be threatened endlessly. She tries her absolute hardest to get on Connor’s bad side, which has always confused him. He just doesn’t have the energy to really do anything right now, he’s already done a lot of talking today. He needs more time to recharge, then he’ll be good to break someone’s neck.
But, like, if she let him, he would definitely be up for being friends with her. She just makes it so hard sometimes; she thinks they have to be enemies, to hate each other, to threaten each other with fucking murder every other day. They don’t, though.
There was a time they were close. They were pretty much inseparable. Connor’s realized that it’s because they were only little kids and had no choice since, and they were sort of forced to be friends. And then his brain decided to go and fuck all that up.
He hears her click her tongue and a few seconds later Golden Girls begins playing on the TV. There’s quiet arguing behind the master bedroom’s door and the smell of burnt kale wafting through the house. How does one burn kale, of all things? It’s a food you boil, the worst you can fuck up is letting it sit for too long and it’s gets all mushy and gross. Cynthia has somehow found a way, which is truly impressive.
Connor stands in his empty doorframe, staring in at his bedroom that is way too big. Or possibly way too empty. Big and empty, how about that? The walls are a dull beige with obvious spots of plaster everywhere, places where Connor got angry and punched a hole in the wall. Larry eventually took Connor’s door of the hinges when he realized that no other punishment would work.
Upon one of two busy bookshelves stands a family photo from when Connor was… God, 10, 11 years old? Cynthia insists he keeps it up, so he does. He squints at the photo. It’s just sitting there collecting dust. Beside the photo is his other copy of The Little Prince. The copy that doesn’t leave the house. He’s considered getting it framed a couple times.
Three knocks come from the wall behind him. He whips around and Cynthia is standing there, smiling with relief.
“How was your day?”
Yes, that’s how you greet your son after you thought he died (most likely from suicide) and needed to file a missing person report.
“Why?” Connor moves to his bed, not sitting on it, but standing against it with his calves bouncing on and off the mattress.
“I don’t know, sweetheart, only wondering.” She, too, tries to enter his room. She stops in the doorway abruptly and grimaces at the permanent smell of weed.
He raises an eyebrow. “If you’re waiting for me to, like, come clean about something, you’re out of luck,”
Cynthia looks mildly offended. “No, honey, I’m just curious about the going’s on in my son’s life!” She cautiously takes a step in, looking for any sign or protest upon Connor’s face. She doesn’t find any. She continues and sits on Connor’s bed next to him. He doesn’t do the same. “So, are there any girls you’re not telling me about?”
Yeah, definitely.
Connor shakes his head no, thinking about Alana: the only girl he hangs out with regularly and she’s a goddamn lesbian. Besides, girls aren’t really his...type, so to speak.
“What’s for dinner?” He asks, not wanting Cynthia to pry further into his life, specifically that of love.
“I slaughtered a Gregorain monk.” She jokes. She has a smile he knows her real estate agent friends do so often, in a way that says ‘It’s a joke but it isn’t funny and you won’t laugh so I won’t laugh even though I want to.’
He laughs slightly, feeling bad for her. She stands and leaves, but not before ruffling his hair and he cringing away at the contact.
He hates it when someone other than himself touches his hair. It feels like an invasion of privacy, like they’re tresspassing into private property and they’re fourteen year old Connor. Other people touching his hair is just unbearable.
Connor sits slowly, eyes fixed on the carpeted floor. God, that floor has seen some shit. He blocks out the world around him, spacing out as he examines the small loops and lines of beige and grey in the carpet.
Moments may pass, minutes may pass. Zoe has been knocking steady on the doorframe for a while now, Connor pretending not to hear and still be focused on the ground, but he knows he’s not a great actor, so that drops quickly. He lifts his head and looks her dead in the eye. She doesn’t stop knocking.
“Oh my God, what in God’s saggy left testicle do you want?” He demands, the words not forming in his brain but just spilling out. She stops knocking but looks taken aback slightly.
“First of all: God is a beautiful trans lesbian,” She has a self-satisfied look upon her as she says it, “Second: dinner is ready,”
Connor mutters to himself: “Why didn’t mom come and get me herself?” and Zoe turns around not quite happily, hair swinging and bouncing as she walks.
The table is already completely set and the rest of the family is sitting around it, Larry at one end and Cynthia at the other, staring around in tense silence.
The moment Connor walks in, he regrets it. Larry fixes his eyes on his son, a disapproving look in his eyes; Cynthia sitting with her back straight and pretending to like her food; Zoe immersed in one of her Shakespeare books and half heartedly poking at her spaghetti. He feels as if all eyes are on him as he walks the few feet from the archway to his chair.
His chair. They have assigned seats. It’s normal with strict teachers at school or stupid yoga retreats Cynthia brings him on, probably not at home. Most people just sit wherever at home—normal people. Makes sense, though: the Murphy’s aren’t normal.
New neighbours and general strangers think they are normal, like they’re like every other rich white family in the world. A dad with a successful business, a stay-at-home mom, two attractive teenagers (one with a decent future and actual friends; the other a complete burnout and tries to kill themself every year). People that have been in the neighbourhood long enough know they’re not normal, obvious with the ambulances and police cars that are parked around the house every few months.
Connor’s surprised he isn’t in prison yet. He has no clue how he’s managed to slip past the cops four times, especially with the amount of weed he has stashed in his room. No one will ever know where he hides it—other than Cynthia. She ripped the house apart That Night.
Everyone is obviously tired. No one wants to talk to one another, they all just want to eat (or in Zoe’s case, sit and pretend to eat) until they can all go back to whatever they were doing before. And yet, Larry attempts to make conversation.
It’s all the usual old people talking to young people shit—‘How’s school going? How are your friends? Have a significant other?’ He only gets mumbles from Connor and silence from Zoe in response. So he turns to Connor specifically, something that is so extremely dangerous, both of them know it.
“What about you, Connor?” Connors raises his eyes to look at his father. “You’re in senior year now, you must be thinking of college,”
He says it as if he hasn’t asked it every year leading up to now since Freshman. You’re in high school now, you should start thinking about college. He hasn’t asked Zoe once.
“I literally just got out of the hospital after trying to kill myself, I don’t think college should be at the forefront of my mind,” Connor drops his fork. It makes a loud clang over Cynthia’s lazy attempts to stop things from escalating.
“You had plenty of time to think about it while you were there,”
“I was knocked out for a week and a half, I can’t fucking think when I’m like that,” Connor raises his voice only the slightest bit. Cynthia tells him off. “The last half a week was spent watching Shark Tank and wondering how I could’ve done it better and actually fucking died, then I had to go to some nuthouse that told me I’d be fucking fine!”
Connor doesn’t notice as she does so, but Zoe stands and leaves, nose still buried in her book but leaving her plate on the table, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. It may as well be with this family. If you can even call them that.
“Don’t curse at me!” Larry stands, hands flat on the table and vase of fake flowers shaking.
“Fuck, shit, bitch, cunt,” Connor lists. He stands as well, knocking his chair over and kicking it into the foyer, “fuck, shit, bitch, cunt, asshole,”
Cynthia is the only one still sitting at this point. She makes attempts to calm them both down, to make them sit and eat again, to which both ignore completely. Connor begins walking back and forth as he sing-songs any swears that come to mind.
He sort of blocks out the next few minutes. It’s full of Cynthia pleading for Connor to stop and Larry yelling at him. In his eyes, time stops completely but the world keeps going, the earth keeps turning. Larry is only but a ringing in his ears, annoying and unwavering for longer than he’d prefer.
Cynthia grabbing his arm is the thing that starts the world again, pausing the ringing, pausing the singing. She looks at her son with tired eyes, pleading him to just have one quiet night where no one fights and everyone walks away from the table the way they walked to. He pulls his arm away from her grip, taking his chair, standing it upright, and sitting. For her sake. Larry follows his lead. Cynthia has a proud grin on her face as she looks around, eyes still sad when they land on Zoe’s empty chair.
That could be his chair. That could be his chair, empty at the dinner table, which Cynthia’s eyes are glued on. He could’ve taken those pills ten minutes later, or went to a more secluded spot, or that random citizen could’ve passed by him without so much of a glance, and that empty seat could be his.
He could be dead right now.
Larry let’s out an exasperated sigh. “Sorry.”
Connor mutters a thanks. His eyes are glued on Zoe’s chair as well, imagining what it would be like if she were dead. If she were him. He doesn’t want to think about that.
“Connor, I think your father is just worried about your future, that’s all,” Cynthia’s voice is soft and calming and only a little condescending.
A future that either A) doesn’t exist; or B) will be the worst thing known to man. She really doesn’t know what Connor is like, does she? If she did, she would understand that at this point, Connor doesn’t have a future. It’ll be spent dead, rotting away in the ground, and he cannot wait for that.
Connor looks at Larry. Larry is shaking as he holds back the urge to give Connor a stern talking to.
“Go on,” Connor grants Larry, knowing exactly that what will come out of his mouth next is—
“At least tell me you have a girlfriend,”
How did Connor ever guess? If he wants a literal answer, then yes. He does have a girl friend. Alana. Though, Alana may not consider him a friend. They’re always bickering and she’s always annoyed with him, so he can’t exactly say she counts.
She’s the only friend he has. That’s absolutely delightful.
Connor stares at Larry’s lidded, blank eyes. “No, I don’t,”
“Why not?”
Because he’s gay.
“Why does it fucking matter?” Connor raises his voice an octave. He hears Zoe scream ‘oh my God,’ from her room upstairs. “The goddamn future mom was talking about? You think it’s gonna be like yours: I meet some rich girl; I go to school for business; get rich; have kids. It’s not gonna be like that!”
He truly doesn’t know what he was trying to accomplish with that. It’s comes as a surprise when Larry replies as if Connor made any sense at all. Is he like this when he’s high? Talking in incoherent sentences to the point Larry knows exactly what Connor is talking about?
“Yes! It’s a better path than what you’re leading right now!” Larry raises his voice louder than necessary. But then again, this is dinner at the Murphy household; no voice volume is too loud.
“What’s that path, then?” Connor very nearly raises from his chair. He stops himself, not wanting Cynthia to be Cynthia. “What’s that fucking path? Death? The path that’s leading me to a death before I’m twenty fucking years old,”
Cynthia pales and gasps as if she doesn’t believe it, or doesn’t want to believe it. It’s like her own son hasn’t tried to kill himself twice now, like he’s still five years old and giggling and laughing at everything. He turns toward her, glaring and refusing to lessen the glare when he sees tears forming in her eyes. After a couple seconds, he turns back to Larry, who is bright red.
“Go to your goddamn room,” Larry just about screams.
Connor complies, not before making a scene of flipping his plate and splattering gluten-free vegan spaghetti all over the blue checkered print tablecloth. Cynthia exclaims, telling Larry off for everything he just said and did and causing them to fall further apart as a family.
Connor didn’t know that was possible. He’s been unofficially disowned from the Murphy’s for a while now, and he’s pretty sure they barely even know Zoe exists. He’s like that weird neighbour that always stays over because he’s bored and Zoe is like some… one that lives in the attic and eats only saltine crackers and fruit juice.
Zoe might be destroying her guitar, considering how loud she’s playing it. It’s not even plugged in and Connor can hear it through the wall. It’s about time she destroyed it, so it might me a good thing; she’s had it since she was 10, a hand-me-down gift from their grandmother. What gift did Connor get that day? A stack of playing cards.
Connor’s slams on her door a couple times, “stop playing that shit or I’ll fucking burn it!”, to which Zoe responds with her classic “fuck you.” He punches her door as she strums another off-tune unreasonably loudly and stalks off to his own room.
It doesn’t take Connor a second thought as he pushes a bunch of papers for school and the hospital to the floor off his desk, over the desk, and out the window. He doesn’t bother to even pretend to not have left. The last thing he hears before hopping down from the slope of roof under his window and into the backyard is Zoe beginning to blast some Janelle Monáe song; she’s been in a Janelle Monáe phase as of late.
Larry and Cynthia screaming at each other to stop screaming is heard as he crosses the yard. It’s way too easy to open the gate into the alley, considering Cynthia baby proofed the entire house after he did this is exact thing That Night. She must have forgotten the yards, knowing how little Connor goes outside.
What if he had actually died that night? It was already three weeks ago. He could have been dead at this time, rotting away underground all gross and shit. What would everything be like if he has actually died then? Like, would it be any different?
For one, Zoe wouldn’t have to hide in her goddamn room every evening for dinner; Cynthia wouldn’t have anyone to treat like a baby. She should start a daycare if something. Be able to baby and actual baby, not her seventeen year old son that could be dead right now if he wasn’t such a dumbass. Larry wouldn’t have anyone to yell at for no reason other than disappointment, to desperately try to mold into himself. Lucky Connor.
Orange lights illuminating the street as the sun rapidly sets comes into view. Beyond their poles of green sits a river. It’s quite a small river, he can see the other side of it, but still a river. He used to come here with Zoe to skip rocks when they were kids, though they were never able to find any good rocks and ended up just going home and watching The Muppets. The city has added a bridge leading to the other side as well, which is just another way to get to another rich people neighbourhood. Connor barely slept for an entire year because the construction was so loud.
He crosses the small walking path and takes caution as he steps down the hill of rocks beside the river. He sits on a particularly large one. It’s a blueish grey.
The world seems to stop as he stares out at the river. It’s so calm and beautiful. Nature is actually like this… it’s naturally so beautiful. If humans hadn’t destroyed the planet Connor would probably go outside more, or at least enjoy the time he’s forced to go out.
“Connor!”
Connor turns around at the shout of his name. It doesn’t sound angry—it sounds happy and excited. Like, actual happy and excited, not mocking. To no surprise, Alana is approaching the hill of rocks with determination, grinning at Connor from ear to ear.
“Why are you here?” She sits on the rock to Connor’s right.
Connor looks out at the river, watching the white water as it dances over rocks and plants, “Could ask you the same question,”
“My parents are still yelling at Anna for dropping out,” Alana explains, “I just needed a little air after dinner,”
She wraps her arms around her legs and squeezes, letting out a heavy exhale and closing her eyes calmly.
“Ah.” Connor looks away from her and back to the river. She looks like she’s looking at it through her eyelids; like they’re see through. Like a chameleon’s eyes. Are chameleons the ones with two sets of eyelids? He’ll have to look it up when he gets home. “My dad thinks I have a future,”
To this, Connor reaches down and cups a handful of water into his hands. Alana opens her eyes only slightly to watch this.
He raises the hands above their heads. “To family issues!”
Alana just laughs along, like she’s not sure whether it’s a joke or not. It’s sort of a joke; adding comedy to something truly tragic. He does that a lot with a lot of things. He would joke around with one of his nurses during his time at the hospital, for one, though the nurse only laughed because she felt bad. It’s sort of not a joke; it’s clear their families are fucked up, Murphys more so than Becks, but still fucked up.
Connor dumps the water on a nearby rock, admiring as it turns sparklier than before.
“How’s Zoe?” Alana speaks up. She clears her voice after saying it. She’s weird.
Connor stares up at the sky. It’s a dark blue by now, though stars still won’t be visible for at least twenty more minutes. “No fucking clue,” he mutters. Alana makes a noise in the back of her throat. “Why?”
“She’s part of your family. She’s your sister,” Alana reminds him.
It’s good that she reminded him, too. Sometimes he’ll forget (or force himself to) that he actually shares DNA with Zoe. Forcing himself to forget is due to these situations, where the conversation somehow always turns to Zoe and how everyone is in love with her.
“I swear, if you touch her, I will rip your head off,”
Alana raises an eyebrow of inquiring curiosity and hums in protest. “I thought you guys weren’t close, though?”
That’s true.
“Fucking hate each other. But, I dunno… there’s still some part of me that’s all Protective Older Brother, you know?” He puffs out his chest mockingly as he speaks. Alana laughs half heartedly, picking at the sleeves of her sweater uncomfortable.
“Ah,” she sighs. A cloud of breath escapes her lips, drifting up and up and into the sky. Connor follows this action, watching as his warm breath floats and reminds him that he’s living and breathing and really just told Alana that.
Neither of them go on. A light silence falls between the pair, calm and airy. He’s used to being tense when he’s with people like this, angry at them or the world. Why he’s so calm is a mystery; maybe Alana is just like that, all calming and peaceful. That’s probably not the case considering how stressed she was earlier.
He’s way too sober for this. Cynthia must have slipped something into his food, maybe she replaced some ingredient with weed or added it only to his plate. That’s very unlikely, but she still might have done it.
What has Cynthia done with Connor’s weed? So far, she might have smoked it, used it as a garnish for his spaghetti, or simply hid it somewhere. He can find it; Cynthia has, like, four hiding spots. It’ll take him half an hour.
The sun is nearly entirely gone at this point. The only thing lighting everything up is the orange street lights behind them, beautiful against the rock Connor is sitting in.
Alana shakily sighs, teeth chattering in the cold, and readjusts her glasses. A fish flails out of the water over one of the rocks. Alana jumps as it appears and Connor laughs at her, Alana joining in and laughing at her own stupidity.
“Connor!”
He turns around at the shout of his name. Alana does too, still grinning, and they watch as Zoe runs down the street toward them like she’s running after a dog that has escaped. Connor rolls his eyes and looks over to Alana, who is staring at Zoe the same way Zoe stares at Harry Styles. She stands abruptly and climbs the rocks to the sidewalk, waiting for Connor, of whom stays completely still and watches the water again.
“Hey—Alana. Thanks for—watching—this goddamn—asshole!” Zoe pants, placing a hand on Alana’s shoulder and leaning over as she tries to catch her breath.
Connor turns around with a ‘fuck you’ locked and ready to go. He only doesn’t say it because this would usually be Alana’s turn to say ‘you’re welcome,’ but she’s just standing there, staring down at Zoe with this gross look on her face. He gags and stands, patting Alana’s other shoulder as he passes her, and begins down the same way Zoe just came racing down.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Zoe mutters. She takes her hand off Alana’s shoulder, thanks her again, and jogs to keep up with Connor’s long strides. “Why the fuck did you sneak out of the house?”
It’s like she’s never met him. Just like Cynthia, and Larry, maybe sometimes Alana. Face it, no one has ever met him. Connor looks up at the starry sky, remembering the first time he snuck out; he was too anxious to have left the house for so little time. He barely made it ten minutes then, now he’ll leave for days on end with no trace whatsoever. It’s great.
“Have you met Larry? Like, at all?” Connor answers after a few moments.
Zoe scoffs. “Fuck off. He’s not that bad,”
Sure.
“Yeah, definitely. All those times he’s yelled at me for not having a fucking girlfriend? Not that bad,”
“Fuck off. Mom keeps asking me if I have a boyfriend,”
Knowing Zoe, though, she probably does. She probably has, like, seven boyfriends. The longest amount of time she’s been single was 11 years, after that? Probably two hours. But still, she’s doing that thing Dr Steiner says when Connor complains: ‘there are other people everywhere going through the same thing in different ways.’
Instead, Connor scoffs, and says: “When has she ever fucking looked at you long enough to know you’re her kid?”
Zoe closes her mouth tightly. She replaces any words with huffs and puffs and angry groans, and must have forgotten why she left the house in the first place as she stomps ahead of Connor. A reasonable distance slowly closes between the pair as the house comes into view, Zoe presumably remembering Connor is right there and Cynthia would… not exactly beat her ass, but whatever the Cynthia equivalent of an ass beating, that’s what Zoe would get. Connor doesn’t feel like running off again, so Zoe slowing down and walking only a few feet ahead of him is ineffective and useless.
The moment Cynthia opens the door, Zoe is racing up the stairs and into her room, making sure Connor on the porch can still hear it. Connor takes his sweet, sweet time following in her steps, turning on his heels to face Larry in the dining room.
“Hey,” Connor deadpans. Larry taps his foot the same way Zoe always does. Most people tap their foot the same way, but apparently these two do it the exact same way. Connor’s cheek twitches.
“You’re sleeping on the couch tonight, no ifs, ands, or buts,” Larry threatens. Connor nearly laughs. Buts. “We are getting a screen installed on your window tomorrow, got it?”
He’s aware it’s possible to punch out the screens, right? Like, they’re not impenetrable, they’re not supposed to be; you have to be able to get out in case of a fire. Seventh grade health class finally coming in handy. What else is he gonna do? Take away Connor’s window all together? That’s illegal, also in case of a fire.
“Oh, fuck off,” Connor groans, unable to keep up his uncaring act any longer. Despite his parents protests, he makes his way upstairs and into his room.
He hits the wall with an open palm, which stings, a good loud substitute for slamming a door which isn’t fucking there. Zoe hits the wall back at him. Downstairs, Cynthia and Larry are already fighting again. Over what? Connor doesn’t know. All he knows right now is that he needs to sleep, despite the clock showing a time that is definitely too early to be sleeping.

Chapter Text

From sixth grade all the way up to tenth, English was Evan’s favourite class. He loved, and still does love, writing stories and analyzing text and reading stupid classic literature books—he adores it. That changed less than a month into eleventh grade, when he found out that every essay they would write that year, would become an oral assignment. Evan wrote a total of seven essays last year, and eventually having panic attacks just thinking about reading it out in front of everyone, and that dropped his grade by almost 20 percent.
Mr O’Reilly died over the summer break, which couldn’t be less convenient. Evan almost failed English last year because of him! Couldn’t Heidi and Mark have waited another year to have Evan? Or Mr O’Reilly’s parents had him a year earlier?
Back to the point—English became his worst and least favourite subject last year, and History became his favourite. It may also be the case this year, but not today. Because today, class is already half way done and Connor hasn’t showed up once.
“That is not a sheep—that’s a lamb!” Alana attempts reciting her lines, eyes and book closed. Evan is sitting across from her, filling in for Connor the best he can. Evan informs her she’s wrong. She collapses.
“Evan, I’m worried about Connor!”
She grabs Evan’s arm. He flinches at her grip.
She didn’t seem too worried about him every other class before they started this project; she didn’t look behind her once. Evan doesn’t even understand why she’s concerned—it’s Connor. He’s probably skipping class to go smoke weed behind the school with some friends. He’s gone to school with Connor for his entire life, that’s most likely it.
“You never know, though! He could be dying for all we know,” Alana groans. Evan raises an eyebrow. “You were talking about how he’s probably smoking drugs with friends right now,”
“Oh.” He really needs to work on not doing that. Accidentally speaking out of turn that is. “Well, it’s the most likely—”
“I’m sorry, I’ve just been under a lot of stress lately. You know, with my sister, and finding time for everything, and school,” Alana’s brain seems to have shut off for the moment. She drops her head on the desk, closing her eyes and definitely dozing off for a second or two. It’s only been two days since her sister got back and Alana is already nearly falling asleep in class.
“No I’m not!” Her body shoots a stream of energy through itself. “I’m sorry. I haven’t been sleeping too well,”
“You can come to my house if you can’t?”
Jesus Christ why did he say that. She’s gonna think he wants in her pants, which is not the case. She’s gonna think he’s weird for not even hesitating to suggest it. He’s not going to be treated like a human by anyone. He’ll go back to being lonely and invisible and uncomfortable all the time just for offering his friend (is she his friend?) a good night’s rest.
“I’ll think about it,”
Almost as if on queue, the door at the back of the class swings open and in storms Zoe, pulling Connor by the ear and a string of ‘ow’s following them. The pulls him through the room, not stopping for a second, to Mrs Walden’s desk. Mrs Walden stands up. Connor stands next to Zoe, pouting and rubbing his ear.
Alana, ever the leader, takes it upon herself to race to Mrs Walden’s desk and join their discussion. Mrs Walden usually waves people away or completely ignores them when they join in on her conversations, but she happily lets Alana join. Zoe leans forward and grins at Alana, both completely ignoring Connor for a second. When Zoe looks back at Mrs Walden, Alana turns away and covers her mouth with her hand, eyes wide. Looks like Evan has some competition.
Not really. Alana is so much better at interacting with people than Evan, she has much more of a chance with Zoe. If Zoe even likes girls, that is; if not, Evan has the higher ground. But what if she doesn’t like guys? Evan doesn’t remember seeing her with any guy or talking about boys with her friends. What if she does like girls? Oh, God, Evan is done for. He’s pining after a lesbian. That’s it. He’s going to die alone.
No, stop thinking that. She might not be a lesbian. Maybe she likes both boys and girls! That means both Evan and Alana have a chance and one would be let right down if the other got Zoe.
He wonders what it’s like to have two people liking him at once. It’s impossible to even imagine; he’s never noticed, no one likes him. Alana likes Zoe, too, which means she’s probably gay; Jared ignores Evan no matter what; Zoe barely knows his name; and Connor scares Evan, so even if Connor did like Evan, Evan wouldn’t be brave enough to do that. Dare to dream, though, right?
Alana is taken off guard when Connor begins walking in Evan’s direction. She follows him closely, just barely stepping on his heels. Evan jumps just slightly when Connor sits in Alana’s seat, and dropping his head to the desk. His head rests on Alana’s book.
“Hey, dumbass.” Both Connor and Evan acknowledge Zoe when she approaches the table and stands next to Alana. Alana’s shoulders square and she seems to hold her breath anxiously. Zoe flicks the back of Connor’s head. “I swear to god, if—”
If,” Connor scoffs.
“—you even think about doing that again, I will not hesitate to murder you,”
Connor throws his head off the desk, shaking it wildly with every word. “You say that like it’s bad for me and good for you, when, really, it’s the opposite way around.” He says, voice level yet still growling with anger, “I’ll die, positive; you’ll go to prison for the rest of your goddamn life, negative. Fucking asshole,”
“Fuck off, you smartass,” Zoe smacks his head once again. She whips around, hair slightly ginger in the lights overhead. This is the only classroom in which her hair does that. It’s probably Evan’s favourite classroom.
Evan glues his eyes to Zoe until it’s impossible to. She makes walking look so easy, like no one is watching or judging her. Evan would do anything for that ability. Face it, though, Zoe will always find everything Evan finds hard easy; she’s going to be able to ask someone out as if it’s the most normal thing ever; she’s going to be able to talk to people seamlessly; she’s going to be able to admit things to people that could change how they look at her forever.
As she leaves the room and turns the corner, Evan looks back at the table. Connor still has his head up, but this time he’s staring at the wall with empty, glazed-over, red eyes.
“If either of you touch her, I will kill you,” He mutters, refusing to look at either Evan or Alana. Alana sputters, eyes wide and face low.
“I wasn’t staring at her…” she whispers, trying to convince herself. She then suggests they practice lines properly now Connor is back. Connor groans at this and lets his head fall back on the desk; he begins snoring only moments later. Alana deflates. “Let’s keep going,” she tells Evan.
Evan rips his eyes from Connor’s sleeping face and nods, mindlessly agreeing.
•••
Evan sits in one of the corner tables, away from people and the books people actually need. This section is saved for mostly books from elementary schools. Why this section exists is a mystery; he’s only ever seen two other people over here, and even they were definitely high out of their minds as they read If You Give a Pig a Pancake.
Evan, however, isn’t high. Ever. He’s always been too scared to try anything. Jared offered him a blunt once when they were 14, and Evan was going to take it if Mrs Kleinman hadn’t came into the basement looking for any dirty laundry and ended up yelling at Jared. He doesn’t think Jared has gone near anything like that since either.
Evan, however, is reading. Chapter 5 of The Little Prince, actually. Though he wouldn’t consider it reading, rather spacing out and staring at the words and pictures while making no sense of it whatsoever.
Almost as if out of thin air, Connor Murphy appears in the seat across from Evan. He breathes heavily, fists clenched on the table uncomfortably.
“Uh,” Evan considers. He leaves his book open, but stares up at Connor’s hardened face. “What—what’s wrong?”
What he least expects is a reply. What he gets is a reply: “Zoe, fucking Zoe. It’s always all about Zoe this and Zoe that and it’s fucking bullshit. I can’t fucking do anything in my own goddamn bedroom without someone fucking ruining my privacy.” Connor snarls at the librarian. The librarian doesn’t shush him. “My bedroom is my place, I don’t understand why I need a goddamn babysitter instead of a door!”
Evan blinks, unable to understand. Sure, he’s not a therapist or anything, but when explaining your problems to people, does Connor know it should make at least a little sense? He can’t jump from one subject to the next and pretend they’re related.
“I’m sorry, I’m just having trouble… understanding, I guess?” Evan picks his words carefully, tiptoeing so he doesn’t wake the monster that is Connor’s anger.
Oh, I’m sorry, Zoe. You won’t be able to come with us today because you need to stay home with your brother so he doesn’t fucking kill himself,” Connor mocks in a high-pitched voice, probably a bad impression of his mom.
“I’m just—I’m having trouble following,” Evan silently commends himself on how he’s actually admitting all this to Connor. Not in a good way, considering he’s still tripping all over his words, but still admitting it. “What’s going on?”
“My parents were invited to this big ass event for Larry’s company. They tell Zoe and me that Zoe is going with them and she’s all stupid like, ‘Oh I can’t wait to go to this, it’ll be so fun!’ Then, they fucking remember I exist and need a babysitter, so I’m spending my evening locked in the house as my little sister babysits me,” Connor explains. His voice is definitely less tense than before, though not as soft as it can go. Evan isn’t sure Connor’s voice can go less tense than this, though, considering it’s the softest he’s ever heard it.
“Oh. That, uh, that sucks,” Evan looks at Connor for a split second more then down to the table, “is there maybe anything I can, uh, do? Maybe?”
Connor scoffs. “Like what? Let me sleep on your fucking couch?” He says it as if it’s a joke. Evan doesn’t take it as one, though. He grew up with Jared, after all; anything can or can’t be a joke. Evan’s sort of learned that nothing is a joke in some way.
“I mean,” Evan tilts his head, considering the proposition, “you obviously don’t like your sis—family. It might be better than, I dunno, dealing with… them,”
Connor rolls his eyes and forces eye contact with Evan. He has this strange ability to keep eye contact as well, considering Evan doesn’t look away. Evan notes that one of Connor’s eyes is brown and the other is blue. He’s never seen that before. Wait, nope, that’s a lie; his aunt has one green eye and one brown (almost black) eye, though he hasn’t seen her since he was six.
“Hansen, I appreciate the offer, but it’s fucking stupid.” Connor’s voice is deadly sharp and serious. Why is he saying this about an offer he brought up? “We’re not friends. I’ve only known your name for a week now, I’m not gonna crash on your fucking couch because I can’t deal with my family,”
And there it is. Evan Hansen is once again reminded that he has no friends and no one knows his name. Thanks for that, Murphy.
“It was just a suggestion,”
Connor rolls his eyes again. Now’s Evan’s chance to look away. He turns back to the book open on the table, once again staring at the words and pictures but not processing any of it.
Connor said they’re not friends. So why is he ranting to Evan, and sitting with Evan, of all people. He chose Evan over his goddamn stoner friends. That sounds weird and creepy. He just chose to rant to Evan over anyone else. Over the school counsellor, even. Maybe the counsellor doesn’t tolerate swearing and Connor apparently can’t go five words without swearing. That’s probably it.
Connor groans and stands, turning around but not bothering to push his chair in. His hands are balling and unballing into the hem of his sleeves as he navigates through the tables and bookshelves and lonely pieces of shit like Evan.
Even Connor Murphy doesn’t have any friends. The kid that has no friends, but at least people know his name! What Evan would do for friends and for people to know his (painstakingly average) name and be mentally stable and actually have a life and—be the exact opposite as he is now.
Maybe then Zoe would notice him without her being angry at Connor and she would think he’s good enough for her and she would like him back and he would actually have a girlfriend; or maybe she definitely doesn’t like Evan at all and is just nice to him out of pity because the world wants Evan and Connor to know each other.
Evan and Connor: the two most different people of all time. And maybe she won’t ever like Evan because he’s being forced to hang out with Connor and she thinks it’s on purpose and he wasn’t technically tricked into this group project
The bell rings.
Evan collects his bag and leaves the library in a hurry, wanting to get to at least the changing room before other people. The changing room has always been Evan’s personal hell, for… so many reasons even changing in the bathroom won’t fix. He knows he’ll just be made fun of no matter what and be uncomfortable even though he’s obviously completely covered.
But his plans are cut short when Jared—in all his 5’3” glory—steps in front of Evan’s path.
“Hey, Ev,”
Heidi tried calling him Ev for about a week when he was fifteen, then stopped as she began seeing the look on his face when she did so. Jared heard her say it once—once!—and noticed how horrible Evan finds it and decided that the only nickname he’s going to give Evan from now on.
“Yeah?”
“Why the hell was Connor Murphy in there with you?”
Jared says it almost protectively. Evan doesn’t understand why or who Jared would be protective over between Evan and Connor. He doesn’t care about Evan, made obvious by Ev; and he hates Connor, or maybe he just pretends to hate Connor but they’re actually secretly in love. Jared’s always had a weird taste in guys. It wouldn’t surprise Evan, to tell the truth.
“I don’t know!” Evan tries to step past Jared. Jared steps in his way again. “He wanted to talk?”
“What—Why—What did he wanna talk to you about?” Jared stammers, closing his eyes tightly as if attempting to figure out a math problem. He does that when trying to piece together something that just doesn’t make sense no matter what.
“He could’ve talked to anyone, really. I was just closest? Or—or he just couldn’t think of anyone else?” Evan suggests, “I really need to get to P.E. Sorry.” He hurries off before any more questions form out of Jared’s hesitation.
Usually, Jared goes out of his way not to talk to Evan. Doesn’t he have some reputation to uphold? Talking to Evan will ruin that so-called reputation. Though, what else can you expect from the one and only, Jared Kleinman. Being weird within relationships and always loud.
Near to no one has gone to class yet; he struggles getting through the hall and to just the change room. A few people bump into him (he assumes it’s on purpose) and he very nearly trips over his own feet more than once, that was weird.
Evan has only opened his locker door for his gym clothes when the door swings open again and in rushes Connor, not exactly angry, though not not-angry. His hand clutches a small thick book that looks like is belongs on Evan’s grandma’s shelf. Connor passes by hastily. He sits not on one of the benches or against the wall, but against two lockers and it doesn’t look like he’s going to move any time soon. Hopefully the people that use those lockers don’t have gym this period.
Evan ducks behind his locker door as well as possible in an attempt to hide. Connor scoffs.
“Dude,” that catches Evan’s attention pretty well, “you don’t have to do that. I don’t want to, nor will I, suck you off or whatever,”
Out of anything, anything, even vaguely comforting right now, Connor chose that? Knowing Connor, though, he’d probably chop off someone’s genitals before even thinking about… things like that.
Evan feels him blush and hides behind the locker door regardless. Connor continues sitting against the lockers, legs spread out and the tips of his toes nearly touching the lockers opposite him. Why he chose the floor over a perfectly good bench only four feet away from him? Good question. Reasonable question. Evan asks it himself and cannot, for the life of him, figure out the answer.
“More room on the floor,” Connor mutters, flipping the page of his book. Evan makes a curious, anxious hum at the back of his throat. Connor clicks his tongue and rolls his eyes. “That’s why I’m sitting on the floor,”
“O—Oh. Okay,”
Connor raises his eyebrows and purses his lips and nods once. For a second, a stray piece of hair flips in front of his nose only to be pulled away by Connor. Zoe does the same thing with annoying pieces of hair. She doesn’t adjust every hair; simply picks the piece that’s annoying her between two fingers and places it someplace else. It usually ends up falling right back where it was, which isn’t much of a bad things; she ends up just giggling to her herself and going almost cross-eyed as she stares at it. When Connor’s piece of hair falls back where it was, he doesn’t giggle and go cross-eyed, rather tucks it behind his ear with frustration and furrows his brow at the book.
“What are you reading?” Evan says. He doesn’t really care, but he’s heard his mom make small talk like this.
“Hamlet,”
“Oh. That’s, uh, that’s cool,”
“Yeah, Shakespeare is so cool,” Connor makes a silly mocking face up at Evan. He smiles the slightest bit at his own joke, then frowns again as if it’s a mask, and turns back down to the pages. “I dunno. Surprised ‘Lana didn’t try to convince us to do this one for English. I mean, the script is already done!”
Evan forces himself to laugh halfheartedly. Connor glances up for a moment then back down.
“You gonna continue or just stand there staring at me like you want to fuck me?”
Evan blushes and continues changing.
When Jared and Evan were still close, Jared once said that if a girl says more than one sexual thing to you, she probably wants to have sex. He never quite explained further than that, instead focusing on his Call of Duty game and ignoring Evan. That statement has been stuck at the back of Evan’s mind since, and is constantly reminded of it when ever Jared makes a not-so-accidental innudenos when he’s trying to pick up guys. Evan isn’t quite convinced that Connor doesn’t want to suck him off simply because of Jared.
But does Jared’s Rule apply to boys, too? Like, he uses it a lot when flirting, so it must be? Or maybe Connor was just making jokes or Evan as uncomfortable as possible. Either way, Evan isn’t up for Connor sucking him off. The first time in history a teenage boy has said he doesn’t want a blowjob.
The door swings open and in saunters ten more students, all being obnoxiously loud and annoying. Evan has finished changing before the first one has even opened his locker, but he doesn’t want to be the first one out! That’d be so embarrassing; the only person doing laps and waiting for everyone else as they mess around in the change room for ten minutes and be all gross and sweaty before proper class has even started. He sits on the bench closest to the wall and beside Connor.
“What are you doing?” Connor asks. He looks up for a second at Evan’s cheap runners then back down to Hamlet.
“Waiting,”
“For what? Me?”
As if. Connor’s made it very clear that they’re not friends and just because they have two classes together, doesn’t mean they’re hanging out all the time. Neither of them want to hang out with the other, either. It’s a win-win situation.
“I’m not doing that shit,” Connor mutters, moving a stray piece of hair from his face to behind his ear again.
“I, uh, I don’t wanna be the first one out there?”
He couldn’t make this more confusing; or weird. Who is so strange that they can’t even leave a locker room first? Evan Hansen, that’s who. Connor voices Evan’s thoughts (again) and simply says “That’s… weird,” with raised eyebrows. Evan laughs along uncomfortably.
“Anxiety. Anxiety disorder,” Evan explains quietly, heart pounding as if Connor will call him a freak again, “i—it makes me do… weird things and think unreasonable things that… don’t make sense,”
Connor doesn’t look up from Hamlet for even five seconds before looking back down. He gives Evan a one-over and nods, sticking out his bottom lip in a way Zoe does when she’s anxious to tell a joke. “Makes sense,” he says finally, eyes reading once again.
Evan’s heartrate slows down a bit and his hands stop sweating so badly and his ears cool down. He sort of expected a more… explosive reaction to tell the truth. He expected to discover a bruise on his arm from Connor because Connor knows Evan’s a freak. He expected Connor to relentlessly make fun of him because of his dumbass brain. He didn’t expect Connor to understand so well, like he’s dealt with it before. That’s a true surprise. Connor doesn’t look like the type of person to understand what an anxiety disorder does and looks like.
A group of four or five ‘Chad’s leave the room, bellowing laughter (and a headache) in their trail. Evan stands and follow’s them slowly, nearly tripping over Connor’s crosses legs, though Connor probably did that on purpose considering the tiny small carved into the corners of his mouth as Evan leaves.
•••
It’s days like this Evan really wished Heidi didn’t have work or he could be brave enough to drive. Rain pours from out of the sky in sheets of cold directly onto the top of Evan’s head. He has his hood up, though it’s soaked all the way through Evan may as well take it off. He doesn’t, for the sole reason direct contact with the raindrops (hail) to the top of his head would give him an immediate headache.
He’s only made it a block or two before a car pulls to the curb and drives slowly along with him. He attempts to speed up, though the car speeds up with him. The drivers window comes down and out looks Connor.
“You need a ride?”
“Uh… no? I’m good, thanks,” Evan smiles uncomfortably, “besides, Zoe is probably in there and I don’t want to feel like you were forced with me in the back seat and I don’t want to take her spot and I’m really close to my—”
“Zoe has her own car. I would never let her in mine,” Connor screams a quick string of curses at someone honking at him to speed up and continues, “and, I’ve been to your house. It’s still, like, ten blocks away. You’re not walking in this weather,”
Evan looks behind the car at the pileup of other vehicles. All they want is to get home and probably masturbate and he’s holding them up because a stupid offer is too much for his stupid brain to handle.
Ah, shit, Connor’s gonna kidnap him. He’s gonna be kidnaped and held in Connor’s weird underground prison and Heidi won’t even have known what happened to him. What was the last thing he said to her? Does he have time to text her and tell her he loves her right now? He can do that on the way to his doom, right? Or will Connor take his phone away the moment it’s taken out?
Evan pushes his doubts away in a swallow of nothing, really, and proceeds to walk to the other side of Connor’s car to get in. He does all this while being way too self-conscious and worrying he’s going to get himself or the car door hit. The only noise other than the engine that graces it’s presence as they drive is Evan clicking his seatbelt on until Evan gives panicked instructions to his house to Connor. Connor nods and informs Evan that he knows.
“You know?”
Somehow, Evan’s voice has become more panicked. He unconsciously shifts away from Connor.
“I just said it, I know where you live,” Connor mutters, “last week. After the lake. I dropped you off because you can’t fucking drive,”
“Oh…” Evan exhales. He blinks and strokes the crease in his cast. It’s coming off tomorrow; he won’t be able to comfort himself without looking like he should be locked up in the pshych ward. He’ll have to just bask in this next less-than-24 hours. “Sorry,”
“Look, I know it’s because of your anxiety… whatever, but you don’t have to apologize for every single fucking thing you do,”
Evan nearly lets it slip. He shuts his eyes tightly and his mouth becomes a straight line of uncertainty and self-hatred; flexes his casted fingers as they begin to tingle and his face twitches.
“You wanna say it again, don’t you?” Connor readjusts his grip on the steering wheel, knuckles white and shoulders hunched though he leans into his seat.
“Yes, very much, actually,”
“Go ahead,”
“Sorry,” Evan gasps as if he was holding in a deep breath.
Neither say a single word to continue.
The hail outside is coming down harder than ever now, it could break a windshield. Evan half expects a piece of hail to come hurtling down and shatter Connor’s windshield, to tell the truth. That doesn’t happen. Rather, Connor nearly runs over a homeless guy as he flies down Evan’s road and Evan gets out and inside without looking back. He stands in the foyer for a second or two before anything else, listening to the hail and silently thanks Connor for the ride.

Chapter Text

The ceiling. The ceiling in all its beige, paint-flaking, slightly sagging glory. You’d expect this kind of condition in a house that isn’t very new, but if you barely let your father into your room, how well can the ceiling be holding up? Well, the fact that Larry is not allowed in his room, added with the countless times Connor’s nearly hung himself from… various spots. The worst area for sagging is toward the middle, where the ceiling fan used to be. Larry told the contractors that the ceiling fan simply fell out because of bad installation or something as they fixed it; he’s embarrassed to admit Connor tried hanging himself from it.
It’s reasonable, though. The hanging. Life is bullshit and has been for a while now, yet no one understands that it isn’t preteen angst running a little too long. From the denial of issues by his parents to simply how he’s treated, life is so bullshit. They’ve tried getting him a therapist, Dr Steiner, but he barely talks to her. Who trusts a complete stranger to keep every single secret because Larry pays them a hundred bucks per hour? People at school think he’s gonna shoot it up, for God’s sake! A therapist isn’t going to and never will do shit.
The ceiling.
A couple dust particles fall from the flaking paint as Zoe smacks his door frame a couple times, nearly yelling at him to wake up. She throws a pillow from the couch directly at his face for good measure.
“Fuck off,” Connor mutters into the pillow. He flips Zoe off, “bitch,” and hurls the pillow back at her. It bounces off her stomach and lands at her feet, a foot or two too far into Connor’s room to live. She shrugs and fucks off. The pillow stays.
Connor considers sitting up for only a moment. One excruciating moment. The warmth and weight of his duvet and multiple blankets covering him stops the sitting up thought from lingering too long. This is really the only thing he missed when he was in the hospital; his bed. Hospitals try to make their beds as comfortable as possible for patients (like himself) who are staying for a while. They make them comfortable, but not warm. Even in the autumn, they blast the AC like they’re in the deepest pits of Hell. Cynthia brought a few knitted blankets to the hospital when Connor was still out cold, but he doesn’t like the feel of knitted blankets and kicked them off as soon as he could.
And, now, Cynthia is taking his warmth away. She tiptoes into the room, as if Connor is still asleep and doesn’t know she’s there, and flips his duvet and multiple blankets off him. He groans, the cold air hitting him like a train. She tugs at his arm.
A yawn escapes Connor as he follows his mother down the stairs, the scent of blueberry pancakes and blueberry jam filling the house. The two main components of this morning’s breakfast, as aforementioned, sit waiting in front of Connor’s chair. He pokes at it lazily with his pinky.
“Your father and I have a charity event later on tonight, as you know,” Cynthia begins and forces a fork into Connor’s hand and closes Zoe’s book, “and, Connor, we would like you to know that Zoe will be staying home tonight instead of coming with us. She’s agreed and—”
“Because you think I need a fucking babysitter? That I’m gonna try to kill myself again?” Connor’s fork falls on his plate with a loud clatter. Zoe groans and leaves the room, Cynthia watching her with sad eyes.
She pours coffee into a mug and sits in her chair, facing Connor and giving him the same look Dr Steiner gives him, “No, sweetheart. Your father and I just realized that there will be no one your sister can talk to because everyone is our age. She’s agreed and is okay with it,”
“You’re paying her,” Connor scoffs.
Larry enters the room. He takes a sip of coffee from his own mug. “This coffee is amazing, honey,”
Fuck off, Larry. It’s the same shit she buys every time. It’s not any different from any other morning, you’re just trying to distract her from arguing with Connor. Just… fuck right off.
Zoe enters the dining room again, stomping and huffing and puffing and definitely not as okay with staying home tonight as Cynthia is making it sound.
“Shut the fuck up, I’m not happy about it either,” Connor tells Zoe as she leaves again, flipping to the last page she read.
“Good we agree on one thing,” she scowls up at him for a second. He scowls in return.
•••
It’s one thing being ten years old and not being allowed to be left home alone and your parents hiring a babysitter, it’s another thing being seventeen years old and not being left home alone and your parents hiring a babysitter who just so happens to be your younger sister. Haven’t they seen Home Alone? He can just make a shit ton of traps last minute in case robbers come in and try to steal something. Robberies are more common in this neighbourhood than you’d think. Rich old people are stupid and have the worst security.
They’ve sort of banned him from his own room tonight as well. It’s not like he can do anything in there; they took his door away. Zoe can just stand in the hallway and watch as he reads or sleeps or some shit. It’s just that easy. But of course not, Cynthia just needs to make things as difficult as possible.
Cynthia reiterates the fact that he isn’t allowed in his room tonight approximately 4 million times.
“I’ll handcuff you to the goddamn fridge if you attempt to go upstairs,” Zoe threats Connor, zero trace of joking or lightheartedness in her voice.
Cynthia flattens her blouse. “Zoe, please don’t do that. Besides,” she says, “we don’t have handcuffs in the house,”
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Zoe says, zero trace of seriousness in her voice. She directs it at Cynthia with a small, light hearted laugh and gets an equally lighthearted laugh in return.
How does that work? She’ll believe there’s no handcuffs in the house when she sees them? You can’t see it if it isn’t there. They learned that in fucking… it’s common sense. If it isn’t there, it isn’t there, and you shouldn’t attempt to see it. Plus, if there were handcuffs somewhere in the house, someone would make sure they were well hidden. Does Zoe know hiding objects exists? It’s a common phenomenon. He had his weed hidden for the longest time, now he doesn’t know if it exists any more.
She can steal a couple hundred bucks from Larry and buy a metal detector or something? For just a pair of handcuffs? What would she do with it afterwards?
Everyone says awkward goodbyes and Zoe stands on the porch to wave their parents off. Connor saunters to one of the loveseat furthest from the living room arch and sits and pouts. His sweater is just a little bit too big, burying him in scratchy knitted material.
He got this sweater from his grandpa when he was about ten. It’s been hanging in his closet since then, forgotten about, then rediscovered at fifteen years old and not taken off since. He once made the mistake of not wearing an undershirt and ended up wearing his gym shirt because it was so unbearable and itchy on his arms. That was uncomfortable for multiple reasons, most of them secrets he didn’t want out.
Rain shines in the yellow street light in front of an inky sky. It’s sort of beautiful. Not that he’d admit that to anyone… else. Connor’s always loved rain for everything it does. He doesn’t stare at appreciate its beauty this time, though, instead he just sits and pouts.
His parents act like he’s a toddler; not able to take care of himself under any circumstance or else he’ll end up killing himself (intentionally or unintentionally). He needs a babysitter all the goddamn time, and since they don’t know anyone who isn’t scared of Connor, Zoe is the only viable candidate. They pay her and everything. Minimum wage, but still.
Like, Zoe isn’t any better. She’s less mature than him by a long shot. She once threw a party while everyone was out for the night at some therapy sleepover thing. She wasn’t even grounded when their parents found out, just got a literal slap on the wrist and a warning. Larry would never go through with his warnings with Zoe. Connor, however? Larry once threatened that he’d stop letting Connor into the basement, and since then, guess where Connor hasn’t been. He’s tried picking the lock, but he either gets caught or it takes too long and he gets bored. Zoe also almost set fire to the house while making Mac ‘n’ Cheese in July, and what’s she gotten as a punishment? Nothing.
Connor knows why they trust her more; no matter what, if he’s left alone for even two minutes, he’s gonna fucking kill himself. Like he’s a toddler.
Zoe steps slowly into the room, hands in sweatpants pockets. She stares at Connor with empty, half-lidded eyes for a second or two, and begins toward the opposite loveseat. The sound of her phone buzzing fills the silent room, chopping through the tense air like those Japanese knives Connor’s seen on Instagram. They glare at each other as Zoe answers the call and greets whoever is on the other line.
Only a few words are spoken from her to the other person, a few ‘yeah’s and ‘no’s and even a ‘maybe’ thrown in there. Connor focuses back on the rain, watching it fall and hit the window with satisfying sounds. He’s always loved the sound of rain. Zoe used to be scared of it, she seems not to be any more. Zoe ends with a little goodbye and hangs up.
She stands, crossing the room and taking one of the blankets from the stack next to Connor.
“I swear, if you try anything—” she attempts to sound scary, she just sounds scared. He guesses she still doesn’t like the sound of rain but can manage it. Or she’s one of the people who are scared of Connor. Both are decent answers.
“What if I try standing up?” He deadpans, not looking at his sister.
She groans in annoyance. “I will kill you,”
“You’ll kill me if I stand up,” Connor mutters as if it’s reasonable and makes sense. He nods slowly.
Zoe rolls her eyes and doesn’t continue with her bullshit (or maybe it’s Connor’s bullshit. Or maybe it’s a little bit of both their bullshit) and enters Netflix, logging into her account. Connor’s stomach drops as she puts on Full House, though not because he doesn’t like the show (he’s watched it in its entirety more than a handful of times), but she puts on an episode she knows Connor hates. A glare is exchanged between them, followed by an innocent smile on Zoe’s part, and a scowl on Connor’s. They still both sit and watch the episode in silence from opposite sides of the room, Zoe scrolling some social media app as she does so.
She’s even acting like he’s a child, her playing the irresponsible babysitter that doesn’t care about the kid’s wellbeing as long as she gets paid and the kid isn’t dead. He can remember when their babysitter from when they were, like, eight putting on a sitcom from the ‘90s and doing the same thing as Zoe; they put on an episode of Full House for their seven year old cousins when they were supposed to be watching them during Thanksgiving one year. The kids loved it.
But at least those two times were decent shows and episodes. Sure this episode is good, Connor just hates it. And she knows he hates this episode. This is stupid as fuck, who let Zoe be alive?
Zoe taps at her phone keyboard a few times and says, without looking up, “one of my friends is coming over,”
“Jesus fucking Christ.” Connor mutters, rubbing his temple and closing his eyes in annoyance.
It’s less than ten minutes later when someone knocks on the front door and Zoe gets a text notification. She races to answer the door, greeting her friend with a huge grin and warm welcomes from both parties. She leads her friend in the living room, turning the volume of the TV down and introducing the friend to Connor.
She looks like Alana. And not in the way some people have vaguely similar facial features, this bitch has the exact same face as Alana except her skin is a little lighter and her eyebrow is pierced. Zoe informs him on her name. It’s Ava.
Oh, Jesus, are the Becks one of those families. He thought that maybe Alana having a sister named Anna was just a coincidence, but three ‘A’ names? That’s just annoying.
“Who is that?” Ava whispers in Zoe’s ear, pointing at Connor. Her voice doesn’t sound like Alana’s; more…deep. Deeper. She has a slight lisp.
“My brother,” Zoe says with as much distaste and dread in her voice as possible, “I’m being forced to stay home with him tonight, so we can’t go anywhere. Sorry,”
“It’s not like they held a fucking gun to your head. It was probably a couple fifties in front of your face,” Connor snaps, eyes glued to the TV in an attempt to hear a single word of Full House. Zoe turned it down too much.
“We could just take him with us if we went somewhere?” Ava suggests, seemingly afraid to speak at a normal volume.
“Unofficial house arrest,” except for school and errands. House arrest probation. Is that a thing? Or is it just probation. Whatever.
“Oh, fuck you,” Zoe scowls, then turns to Ava: “his name is Connor,”
“Oh my god! Alana knows you, she was talking about you the other night!” For the first time, Ava speaks at full volume. Her voice is definitely deeper than Alana’s, just barely touching the top shelf of shitty Barack Obama impression, and her lisp isn’t slight at all. It’s definitely familiar, which is confusing; he can’t recall talking to her before.
“Fantastic,” but it’s not. That means Alana is committed to their sort-of-friendship and thinks it’s not a sort-of-friendship, but an actual-real-friendship. Good Lord, is he sure he wants Alana as his first and only friend?
Zoe throws his small earbuds (which were way too expensive) across the room at him. They land on the floor. She tells him to listen to music while she and Ava do homework. He follows her instructions easily, wanting to fight but not in front of their guest. As Mamma Mia plays in the background, Connor opens his dusty old Facebook app, finds Alana, and types out a short message.
yo lana whats this i hear abt you talking abt me to ur family
He can already imagine Alana’s brain aneurysm at his spelling and punctuation and capitalization and general sentence structure. Their seventh grade English teacher would have boiled him alive if she saw that.
Her reply comes almost instantly. Weirdo.
Hello, Connor! I was just telling them where I was and who I was with after the lake the other day.
u didnt tell them anything else tho right
What do you mean?
like where we were and who we were w n shit
Language. Yes, I told them both where we went and who was there. They were relevant to the story. Should I not have done that?
She would make a fantastic mother, or teacher, or tutor, or maybe even Prime Minister. Can she be all at once at some point? Probably. Will she be all at once? Oh, most definitely. Imagine that: a black lesbian as a world leader; a republicans worst nightmare. Perfect.
my god lana ur the literal worst
That’s not nice, Connor!
i know. c u on monday
Goodbye!
Connor pulls out one earbud and clicks his phone off. Zoe’s exchanged Full House for weird indie acoustic music that Connor’s grown to sort of like. Ava is tapping her pencil along to the guitar of the music as she reads her textbook. He looks up at Ava.
“How much does Alana speak, in general, at home?” Connor asks, leaning his head back on the armrest. Ava looks up with wide eyes.
“Stopped paying attention a couple years ago,” she shrugs, writing a few words on a piece of paper, and continues, “but probably quite a lot. Less now that Anna is back, but that’s because our parents are too busy scolding her—Anna, I mean,”
Even Alana’s family is blocking her out. Jesus that must be hard. Connor’s family pays attention to him and only him; what’d he give to be ignored by Cynthia for just one day.
“So, like… details about the whole group—story—skit thing?” Connor raises an eyebrow, “did she talk about that at all?”
Ava shrugs, eyes fixed on her textbook and writing another few words down. “I dunno. Like I said, I don’t pay much attention to her speeches, let’s call ‘em,”
“Great.”
Truth is, even Connor’s not completely sure why he doesn’t want anyone knowing he’s in a group with Evan. It might be better if they knew, wouldn’t bully Evan for hanging out with Connor, but it’s still embarrassing. Evan’s such a loser… nerd… mess. Though, at the same time, he’s not embarrassed about it, because they know they’re sort of forced to hang out together and who cares? No one. Maybe Jared Kleinman; Connor’s seen Evan and Jared together quite a bit.
It doesn’t really matter. This is Alana’s family, the Becks. Considering how Alana has turned out so far, they are overly nice and don’t gossip about anyone or anything. It’s not like some other kid, one of Zoe’s other friends for example, he’s talking to.
Actually, something on Connor’s Things Alana Beck is that Isn’t Observant list is talkative, so the chances of her telling everyone that Connor and Evan were hanging out are pretty well likely. He wouldn’t put it past her considering the first day.
Ava doesn’t seem like Alana. She seems pretty reserved and fairly quiet, so is she the kind of person to tell everyone? So far, no. But Zoe also doesn’t seem like the type of person to be a complete bitch to her entire family all the time, so you can never tell.
•••
Sometime ten minutes ago, Zoe went upstairs for a book and didn’t come back down, so Ava went up (presumably because she didn’t want to be left alone with Connor) and they haven’t come back down. Knowing Zoe, they’re distracted by some sparkly pen or baggie of glitter. He decided in the seventh minute of being left alone that he’s going to leave and possibly make Zoe not get paid.
The river is his best bet. It’s not too far but not too close, either. He stops on the bridge crossing between his neighbourhood and the neighbouring neighbourhood. Beams tower over him with bright yellow lights shining down upon his slightly damp hair. Rain clatters against the beams and covering of the bridge, shaking the bridge by nothing but a small shiver.
He tugs his hood up and tightens it to cover his face lazily. Hair is everywhere, itching his temples and cheeks and back of neck, but he makes no attempt to move it.
Once toward the middle and tallest part of the bridge, Connor stops and turns toward the railing. He leans over it, looking down at the river. It’s a dark, inky black with small star-like shimmers everywhere. The water still races over rocks and around small plants while still catching the little splashes of rain with equally as little ‘bloops.’ He hooks one leg over the rail.
And, look, it’s not like he was going to jump. It’s not like he came to the bridge just to jump in an attempt to kill himself again, he doesn’t even think of it. He sort of just… closes his eyes and feels the raindrops against his face and in his hair and listens to the river. It’s extremely therapeutic. Cynthia said that Dr Steiner would be therapeutic, or at least the things she—Steiner—said would be; therapy is just cathartic. He can vent for an hour and a half, non-stop, and Dr Steiner has no choice but to listen and suggest coping methods; things to help him. The other leg comes over and he sits on the rail.
Legs dangling slightly, he opens his eyes and looks out at the dark river and dark sky and dark houses and darkness. He breathes in deep the air, a calming—
“Don’t do it!”
Connor’s head whips around, all stillness and calmness breaking away like broken shards of glass. His jaw tightens and his pupils dilate, pissed beyond pissed that he’s being interrupted.
“What?” He asks, for he’s not quite sure the voice he heard was real.
“Don’t jump! Please!” The voice is that of a middle aged woman, frantic and panicked. She must have come out of her house in a hurry to scream at a kid who wasn’t going to jump not to jump. “Everything will be alright! This is only temporary!”
Connor scoffs. “Fuck off, man. I can’t enjoy nature for two seconds without people assuming I’m trying to kill myself?”
The rando crosses her arms. She takes a step closer to Connor, but stops before she can set foot on the bridge due to the glare Connor gives her. “But what if you were going to? What if I saw you and didn’t do anything and then you did? I would have felt so guilty!” Her voice is still frantic and annoying.
“I’m not,”
“At least I did something! Most people wouldn’t,”
Oh, fuck off. How many times does he have to say he wasn’t going to jump for her to leave? For her to understand he doesn’t want to talk to her? Besides, most people would speak out if they saw someone about to kill themself. They will drop everything if they see a teenager buying rope at Home Depot, or a toaster at Walmart. Sometimes, they just have to mind their own goddamn business.
“Didn’t I tell you to just fuck off? Multiple times?” Connor snaps. The woman decides to continue.
“At least—”
“Fuck off!” The woman silences. Her face probably pales and she looks extremely offended. “Damn,”
The woman ‘hmphs,’ crosses her arms, and fucks off. Connor watches as she goes down the street and enters her house again.
As soon as the woman’s front door closes behind her, Zoe comes barrelling down the street in her car. Ava sits in the passenger seat, holding onto the roof handle for dear life with a terrified look on her face, and Zoe stops right when she lays eyes on Connor.
She leaves the car running and slams the door, nearly running at Connor.
“Son—of—a—bitch!” She throws a rock at him.
“Are you talking to me?” Zoe squeals a ‘yes’ at his dumb fucking question, to which he continues, “wow, you just called mom a bitch. Rude,”
Connor swings his legs, hitting his heels against the bannister, again and hums a slow tune.
“Shut the f—”
“Or Larry. Could’a been calling Larry a bitch—I’m fine with that, just please don’t call mom a bitch,”
Zoe throws her body at Connor, arms wrapping around his torso and face in his hair. She tugs at him, attempting to pull him off the bannister, with grunts and curses under her breath. It’s truly useless; Connor would have gotten off if she just asked. They’re doing it the hard way, then. Just like everything else they do with each other, they do it with as much difficulty as possible. Connor smacks at her hands in a lazy attempt to get her to let go of him.
“Let go of me or I jump!”
Sort of a… contradiction to what he said earlier. It would be funny to jump just to see the look on that woman’s face. She’d probably look betrayed and horrified and offended. It would be hilarious, honestly.
“You’ll die!”
“No I fucking won’t! It’s too low, the worst I can do is break a bone or two!” Connor nearly laughs at the rhyme. He settles for a mental self-high-five. Zoe eventually let’s go, leads him to her car, and drives the three of them back to the Murphy’s, the entire time Ava looking horrified.

Chapter Text

Evan’s locker has become such a safe-haven lately. It’s like his bedroom at home; cold and dark and so, so isolated. He likes isolated. It makes him feel safe. When he’s out there for people to see, he feels vulnerable and like anything bad that can happen, will happen. He knows very well it’s because of his anxiety and meds dosage being still too low (Dr Sherman is reluctant to up it because of his ‘still developing brain’), but there’s nothing he can do to stop it. It’s become him at this point. The locker brushes all that away too easily.
Someone interrupting his locker time, whether it be student, or teacher, or student teacher, is the thing Evan dreads most about the day. He wishes locker time could go on for hours, or days, or to the end of time. Someone interrupts him, a student… no, two—two!—students interrupt him with a brief rapping at the locker beside his own. Evan sighs in mental preparation.
Alana is standing behind the locker door with a tired smile and Connor beside her with tired eyes. Alana holds a small piece of lined paper and thrusts it in Evan’s hands before a single word is spoken.
“Th—”
“I need you two to go to a store and get these props,” Alana gestures to the words written on the paper. Her hand writing is very neat. “I’d do it, but I’m not feeling completely up to the weather,”
Why does it have to be the two of them? Couldn’t just Connor, or just Evan, go? That would be so much easier; no distractions, just in and out. She seems to really value friendship or whatever, and thinks Connor and Evan are a perfect match.
They’re too different. Just standing next to each other, they’re polar opposite. Connor is tall and lanky with sharp feature and ears that are way too big for his face and long hair and just a bit of freckles on his nose and cheeks. Evan is… the exact opposite. Short, with round features, and short neat hair, and a whole shit ton of freckles. More than Zoe, and that’s saying something. Heidi used to say his freckles were like little constellations, but she also said that with his acne in seventh grade.
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Evan agrees mindlessly. He’s staring down at the card at the short list of props. Alana can probably find all of these in her own closet, she doesn’t need help buying them.
“Thank you!” She exclaims, “I’ll pay you back, just give me the receipt and I’ll pay a third of the total,”
She definitely isn’t sick. She can’t even pretend to be sick somehow. Her voice is forced nasally, and her sniffles are completely clear. She’s not sick and Evan is slightly annoyed with the fact that she’s making up an excuse not to go with them. Evan watches as Alana leaves them alone, he standing awkwardly under Connor gaze, and Connor staring down at Evan with cold eyes.
They don’t say a word.
Connor is somehow more reckless a driver as they leave than any other time they’ve driven together. He slams on the breaks almost too late and turns sharply and honks at people going the speed limit then yells at them to ‘hurry the fuck up.’ They almost die about three times, and Evan almost screams at him five. Connor even runs a red light, to which Evan screams, then Connor creates the the excuse that it turned red when they were in the middle of the intersection. It definitely did not.
A ride that would usually take fifteen minutes, takes seven.
Connor parks in a handicap spot first, then moves due to Evan’s protests. Slight improvement, Evan thinks for a second, then they pull into a mother with children spot and Connor has a look on his face that’s says, ‘I am not moving an inch.’ It’s good enough, considering it's not a handicap spot? Oh, Jesus, what did he get himself into with Connor?
Well, he didn’t technically get himself into anything. He needs to keep reminding himself that, that he was too spaced out to realize what anyone was doing, then too awkward to turn down Alana’s offer. It wasn’t quite an offer in the traditional sense, rather a ‘you're with us now and you don’t have any say in the matter because I’m too nice and can’t let anyone be by themself for two seconds’ type deal.
Evan sits still and listens to Connor take a few deep breaths as he prepares to get out. That’s something Evan would do when Heidi forced him to drive her places when he was 14. Mentally preparing for the worst. His mind always somehow lead to him setting the car on fire and killing his mom and becoming an orphan because Mark definitely wouldn’t take him in for his various issues and… personality traits and end up homeless and dead before he hit 20. That last part Evan was, and is, pretty alright with, to tell the truth; though he wants to deny it.
Connor unlocks all the doors and gets out and leaves Evan in the car. Like an irresponsible mother and her two year old. Fitting they parked in a mother with children spot, now. A few seconds of panic are followed by Evan rushing to get out of the car and picking up a slight jog to keep up with Connor. And, for the first time, Evan walks beside Connor. Not behind or ahead. They stay in line at the same pace.
Evan sees it as a slight victory. Why? No clue. His anxiety makes everything small into a huge victory (walking beside someone, opening the right drawer for hand towels, writing a single word correctly), while big things are always somehow fucked up (a class presentation, dinner for himself and Heidi, going to Dr Sherman for their scheduled appointment). Dr Sherman said it’s common in people with anxiety disorders, and prescribed him yet another med to control it. He ran out of that specific pill about two months ago and just hasn’t brought it up.
And, suddenly, he’s behind Connor again and nearly stepping on his heels and surrounded by mixers and blenders. Connor is hunched over a shopping cart and staring up at the eye-straining red Betty Crocker blenders.
“Stupid fucking hair,” Evan hears Connor mutter. Connor flips his hair to one side of his head, out of his face, only to have it fall back down again and he mutter a string of curses. “This shit is always fucking… everywhere,”
Evan is truthfully surprised to hear Connor speaking to him. He’s even more surprised when he looks up and sees that Connor has slowed down to match Evan’s pace and is looking at him.
“Why don’t you just, like, cut it?” It’s the first reply that comes to Evan’s head and he immediately regrets it. Of course Connor isn’t going to just chop all his hair off, he’s been growing it out for years now. Since sophomore year, actually. Growing hair out is dedication, and Connor definitely wouldn’t just cut it all of because it’s annoying him slightly.
To Evan’s surprise, Connor answers. More than expected, actually. “When Zoe and I were younger, 12 and 13 I think, she dared me to grow it out,” Connor has a small smile on his face as he stares ahead at the Tupperware containers, “my parents wouldn’t let me, said people would start thinking I’m a girl. When I turned 16 and got my own car and shit, this newfound power went to my head and I decided that I’m gonna take her up on that dare and refuse to get haircuts,” the smile disappears, “things went downhill a while before that, but I guess I started that dare when I could to, I dunno, hold onto the time when shit wasn’t as fucked up?”
Connor let’s it hang in the air, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Like they’re friends, like they’re friends who talk about deep stuff and are each other’s friend-therapists. He’s never had one of those before, and he can only assume neither has Connor, but no way in hell is he going to let Connor Murphy he his friend-therapist. His secrets would get out as soon as they were told.
“You can’t tell anyone that,” Connor adds, eyes glazed over as he stares at a pack of hangers, “especially Zoe,”
Evan wasn’t planning on it. He wants to die, but not at the hands of anyone else, especially Connor. He doesn’t want anyone going to prison because of him, no matter how much of an ass they are.
And, before Evan can stop himself, he asks if there’s anything else he can’t tell Zoe. He doesn’t know why he asks it, but he sees it as some sort of chance to discover more about Connor. Or maybe Evan’s drawn to keeping other people’s secrets. He’s kept multiple of Jared’s secrets just that for years now, and he’s not going to go spilling it to anyone, so back off.
“I’ll tell you when I think of some,” comes his reply. Not quite what Evan wanted, but he isn’t sure what he wanted.
The pair collect the things on Alana’s list in silence. Connor now keeps a steady pace, a few steps ahead of Evan at all times. Evan doesn’t understand why he does that, they can walk next to each other as proven earlier. Does Evan stink? He woke up late and didn’t have time to shower this morning, it’s totally possible. Oh, no, is he still talking to himself without realizing? Did Connor hear what he thought earlier? Sorry, Connor, it’s just that you do look like you’d murder someone. Nope, that doesn’t make it any better. Fuck, just shut up already.
Connor pulls up to a self-check out and scans all their items. A man just like Evan. Avoiding all human contact no matter what. A wave of sort-of pride, and understanding, and pity all hit Evan as he watches Connor scan their items. Connor pays and ignores Evan’s pleads to pay half and walks away with the plastic bag in hand.
Evan nearly stops to put the shopping cart away, then stops himself at the realization that Connor would get to his car before Evan and definitely drive away and Evan would be stranded at WalMart like an 8 year old girl distracted by the new Barbie doll. So he doesn’t.
The drive home isn’t nearly as reckless as the drive there, but Evan still nearly shits his pants a couple times as Connor swerves in between other vehicles. Connor speeds down the street when they turn on to Evan’s road and comes to a horrifying halt in front of Evan’s house.
“You take the shit,” the bag of ‘props’ is thrust at Evan, “and stop talking once and a while,”
Evan watches as Connor speeds off.
It’s frustrating, hearing people call him a murderer as is, but when someone goes back and tries to justify why they said it, it gets somehow worse. Connor’s fine with death, desperately reaches for it at all times yet only barely grasping it, but can’t help but have his stomach churn when thinking of taking life away from someone else. Cynthia tells him all the time that life is a precious gift, we should treat it like a delicate showglobe, and while he doesn’t apply that to his own life, he applies it to others. Her choice of comparison is also shitty, because he only snow globe he has ever owned was one he got at the New York airport when he was fourteen for twenty bucks, then proceeded to throw at Zoe’s head less than two weeks later.
Larry is still at work and Cynthia has some sort of yoga thing going on, so Connor takes the other free space in the garage. Zoe’s Mazda sits where Larry’s car usually is, roof down despite the cold weather. As Connor gets out of his own vehicle, nearly hitting Zoe’s car with his own but just barely missing, he whistles some tune that… was on the radio at WalMart earlier? Maybe? He definitely heard it somewhere today. Probably the radio at WalMart, though he’s not too confident in that guess.
Over the years of sneaking in and out the house, Connors learned the quietest routes and stairs and floorboards to go to to his room at 2 am. It’s become habit at this point, though, this specific route in from the garage. Leave the garage door unlocked after dinner, skip the second stair to the kitchen, avoid the middle of the room because the floor is squeakiest… it’s all habit. And slightly worrying. He’s become so used to sneaking in that it’s where he goes automatically. It does, however, come in handy when coming in and not wanting to be bugged by people.
Also, eavesdropping when people are talking in the dining room.
Which he does. Presses his back against the wall separating the kitchen and dining room and listens… to Zoe Skyping with Ava.
“Yeah, I dunno, they’re trying to convince her to go back to college for another year. Like, she’s been back for a week and a half and they’re still trying to talk her into it. She just doesn’t wanna go!” Connor can hear the annoyance and frustration in Ava’s voice. He can picture her throwing her arms up in agitation and gritting her teeth.
“Why doesn’t she wanna go back, though?” Zoe asks. The pauses and eats something crunchy. “I’d kill for a better education than the bullshit I’m being fed right now,”
Ava laughs. It’s lazy and half hearted but real; like Zoe is actually funny. “She says she’ll go back, but only if she can be a music major or something. Parents hate that idea. Say they want her to succeed, and being a musician doesn’t do that,” Ava deepens her voice in a mocking dad tone.
“Uh, have you seen a single famous musician? They’re successful,” of course Zoe would say that. She plays, like, 9 instruments and can probably make up an entire band by herself. One-man bands do exist. Zoe can just be playing and singing everything at once.
“Not as good money as a lawyer,”
True. Zoe’s made nothing in tips, just playing her guitar in strip malls and coffee shoppes like in shitty indie movies; Larry is the only one with a job in their family and they’re set for life. Both Zoe and Connor’s college funds are saved up (they were when they were 14), Connor is forced to go on 20 thousand dollar yoga retreats every month, and that’s just income from one lawyer. Fuck. They’ll be living off Larry for the rest of their lives.
Connor gets bored quickly. He pushes himself off the wall and enters the dining room, glaring at Zoe and barely listening as she tells him she ordered food. That’s nice of her, he’ll give her that. She ordered food and is offering to share it. He won’t take any for sure, but appreciates the offer.
Once around the corner and up a stair or two to his room, Alana is brought up. By Ava, obviously, because Zoe doesn’t look twice in Alana’s direction. (He sort of hates knowing that Alana definitely has a crush on Zoe but Zoe ignores her. The same thing happened to him in eighth grade with some cute popular boy).
“Yeah, Alana was saying the same thing,” Ava mutters. Her voice sounds extremely sad; or maybe bored. He wouldn’t be surprised if she were bored talking to Zoe; all Zoe wants to talk about is music and dogs and how shitty her home life is. People get it, they don’t need to know Connor yells at their parents every night at dinner. Fuck.
“What doesn’t Alana say, though?” Zoe gets a short, ingenuine laugh in response. Connor always knew the Becks were close as a family, apparently Zoe doesn’t know that. Wow. Connor knows something Zoe doesn’t. This is a new feeling, he’s not sure he likes it.
Connor leaves back up the stairs regardless. Hearing people shit on Alana isn’t how he wants to spend his evening. Hearing people shit on his best friend.
Alana Beck is his best friend. Jesus Christ. Jesus fucking Christ. He’s never met a single person, in all 17 years of being alive, who’s ever even wanted to say that sentence; and yet here he is. Saying it and sitting on it as if it’s a huge deal.
She probably doesn’t see him as a best friend, though: she barely sees him as an acquaintance. They never talk, maybe once a week in the halls, other than during English class. The latter will be done and over with in a fucking month, then they’ll be back to speaking occasionally in the halls about their weekends because Alana feels bad for him. Somehow, things just got even sadder.
And, somehow in less than two minutes, he doesn’t have a best friend. A maybe-possibly-but-probably-not friend. A probably-definitely-mutual acquaintanceship which includes conversations fairly often. Wait, no. An acquaintance he has conversations with fairly often is Evan. Evan fucking Hansen. And things just got so much sadder.
It sort of just happened that they have three classes together. How fucking convenient is that? Connor doesn’t have a single other person he has more than one class with for three years, then as if out of nowhere, an Evan Hansen Appears!
“Chinese is here!” Zoe yells up the stairs. “Help me eat it before mom gets home or you’ll starve!”
Zoe brings Connor back to his senses. He’s standing with all lights off in the middle of his bedroom. Hasn’t even taken off his shoes. What kind of monster is he? He always knew he was evil, but not this evil.
Zoe’s right, too. Cynthia probably won’t even realize when she gets home that Connor is too, despite his Jeep being right fucking there. He can hide out on the roof when she gets home to be sure she doesn’t know he’s home. Keep it so Cynthia is clueless as long as he can. Maybe he can smoke more of the shitty weed he got from the school dealer. No river today.
Alana’s probably at the river right now. Which is part of the reason he doesn’t want to go. He can’t face her after that whole… thing about how he’s not sure whether they’re friends or not. Maybe, right? They’re maybe-friends. They’re in that weird stage of friendship where they don’t quite know how to act around each other or what to refer to the other as.
He could text her right now? See what she’s up to. She’ll probably make up some bullshit about how she’s sick in bed and can barely get up (Connor knows she was lying earlier to get out of hanging out with him and Evan). He can’t blame her; he does the same thing when he doesn’t want to see someone. Plus, texting her to hang out would be weird. They’re maybe-friends not hanging-out-outside-of-school-friends. That is way further down the line, further than they’ll make it, definitely.
And, being the monster he is, Connor climbs into bed with his shoes still on. Cynthia seems to love doing laundry, she’ll appreciate it. He falls half-asleep for twenty minutes (and within that twenty minutes, Zoe places a plate of takeout on his desk), then fully asleep.
His shoes stay on the entire time.

Chapter Text

Memorising lines and passages have never been Alana’s strong point. She can remember mathematical formulas and useless sciences answers easily, but with memorising and reciting lines, she cannot remember a single word. Hours into the night she reads and rereads her lines in The Little Prince, attempting to remember what to say in what order. Her family’s constant arguing downstairs makes nothing Alana does any easier.
Anna has said, multiple times, that she wants to go back to college for a music major and that’s it; their parents want her to become a lawyer and that’s it. Even Aiden says it’s stupid—it’s Anna’s education, she should be able to do what she wants. Alana brought this up at dinner yesterday, but her parents just made her feel like garbage with their whole I birthed you, I should get a say in your life lecture.
She thanks Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for creating such a calming book and using such muted colours for the illustrations. Listening to everyone argue and bicker downstairs, Alana would usually have a panic attack if it weren’t for the sober watercolour blues and greens.
And, of course, the rain. Rain has always calmed Alana. When she was a little kid, Ava would get terrified of the rain, so she and Aiden would make a little blanket nest and watch cartoons with Ava until she fell asleep.
She wishes things were still like that—calming each other down during panic attacks and stressful times. Contrary to what strangers think, the Becks aren’t all nicey-nice. These days, they have more issues than friendly conversations. Alana doesn’t exactly mind it, to a certain extent; she hates talking to her family about her life, she’d rather just watch a movie with them; but she also hates hearing them argue with each other downstairs as she tries to get homework done. She doesn’t want to admit it, but their parents make it that way.
The only one of her siblings Alana is still close to is her brother, Aiden. The only boy in the family. Though, she’s barely been seeing him recently—he’s away across the country in his second year of college. Both their schedules are so full and busy that they can only ever make time to Skype once a week for ten minutes. It’s tiring and stressful not being able to talk to him while everything else is going on.
The arguing comes to a slow halt: like trying to stop your car at a stop sign in winter. It takes a minute, but eventually she hears a door slam and a car drive away and someone coming up the stairs and another car. The parents’ room, right next to Alana’s own, door shuts slowly and Alana pads across her room and downstairs, feet falling softly against the carpet. She’s learned to move silently in this house, because of all the skipping dinner to study and eating cereal at 1 am and not wanting to wake her family. Dr Adams, the Becks shared therapist, told her not to do that ever, and she succeeded at it for about a week.
The kitchen light is still on. They’ve chosen to fight in the kitchen today, it seems. Alana isn’t too surprised; a burned grilled cheese is still on the stovetop; she could hear the arguing through the vents; there were little to no doors slammed. The front door was slammed twice, though, and the only other door in the ground floor of the Becks is the kitchen door. They must have gone through the dining room. Hm.
Alana takes the grilled cheese off the stove and throws it directly in the trash, replacing its place with a pot of water. Kraft Dinner always has and always will be her first choice for comfort food. Along the wall across the island hangs a fairly large painting her father got done of their family at the lake.
Alana can barely remember the last time they went there as a family. She was maybe ten. She’s seventeen now. That’s near to a decade and, over that decade, their parents have said they’re going back every summer. They haven’t.
The last big family outing they had was a celebratory dinner for Aiden getting into his first choice college. The next family dinner will most definitely be Ava’s birthday in a few weeks. After that, Alana’s college.
Since she got her car, she’s been going to the lake to… preserve happy family memories? Convince her parents to take all the kids back again? Remember happy times? Whatever the reason is, the moment she got an opportunity to take others there, she immediately took it. Despite Evan and Connor being… interesting to spend her time with.
That sounds like she doesn’t like Evan and Connor. She does, she really does. They’re just not really her first pick to spend her time with. Wow, she used to be so desperate for friends. Now that the option for friends has arisen, she’s unintentionally insulting them and acting like they’re just together for this English project. But, there are people she would rather be with than them. Like Zoe Murphy, just off the top of her head.
It’s just… Connor can be a little too much sometimes. He’s very extreme with everything he does; there’s no middle ground with him. He either cares too little, or is relentless with his, what he would call, ‘joking.’ Alana just considers it plain rude. Maybe if she were to talk to him and say that, he would be better with… not being like that? Despite it all, he’s nice. He’s the closest thing Alana’s considered a friend in a very long time.
Whereas Evan. Oh boy. Where to start with Evan. He’s so quiet and hard to talk to about… everything. Alana’s tried to have conversations with him in the past, he just talks too quietly and slowly, or too loudly and quick. Just like Connor, he’s extreme with everything he does: he’s either focusing too hard on everything, or in his own little world; comfortable and open, or closed off and awkward.
They’re the three most different people in the school, yet they’ve come together in a tiny little friend group, and get along surprisingly well. Alana and Connor more so than either with Evan, but that’s for multiple reasons; one, Evan, like stated previously, is closed off and awkward and Alana and Connor aren’t like that; two, Alana and Connor have had at least one class together every year since eighth grade; three, they—
“Your water’s boiling,” Ava interrupts her thoughts. And thank God she does. Alana was going on for too long.
“Thanks,” Alana mutters, tipping the box of Kraft Dinner in the water slowly. Ava nods and sits at one of the barstools at the island.
“They’re pretty annoying with their fighting, huh?” She says after a moment or two. “Anna and mom and dad,”
“Dunno. Sort of started to block it out,”
They share an awkward laugh.
“Yeah. Honestly, I don’t see why they don’t just… let Anna do what she wants. Her choices. She’s an adult, and it’s her future.” Ava taps her fingers against the island. “They let Lex have Jordyn when she was just a year older than Anna is now!”
Sure, she brings up a good point, but Alana can’t focus on that right now. She focuses on the fact she’ll be a legal adult in half a year. Six months. Sweat settles itself on the palms of Alana’s hands and her armpits. The thought of being independent, and legal, it terrifies her.
Aiden's a legal adult, too, and look at him. He told everyone he’s in school to become a doctor, but he’s majoring in History. He’s an adult! He can make those choices! Alana will be an adult soon and she doesn’t have the heart to lie to her parents about anything. Yet she is, about Aiden. They took a blood oath not to tell anyone. Even if the news does get out somehow and they force him to quit school, Aiden has a backup plan with his best friend, Marcus.
Aiden’s majoring in History but everyone thinks it’s in Health and Medicine; Alexis somehow juggled her last year of Law school and being pregnant, two things she desperately wanted to do; Anna obviously knows what she wants to do and is not changing her mind. They’re all legal adults and know exactly what they’re doing. Alana doesn’t know what she wants to major in, or if she even wants to go to college!
There is a part of her that wants to go because it’ll be fantastic in the long run, and give her a lot of new experiences, and a better chance of landing a job she enjoys down the line. But the other part of her wants to just piss off her parents. The latter overpowers the former so much for no reason other than, ‘I’m a rebellious teen who wants to make their parents angry by not going to college.’
“I don’t know,” Alana stirs her noodles slowly and avoids eye contact with her sister, “we’ll all have to deal with this at some point in our lives. I think Anna’s just getting it done and over with,”
“Ooh, good tactic. I may consider dropping out of school this year. Thoughts?”
“I’m siding with mom and dad on that one. Sorry.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ava sighs. She draws little patterns on the island with her pinky. “I won’t, don’t worry,”
They fall quiet. It’s slightly awkward. Mostly because Alana isn’t answering when she usually has something to say. About just about anything. Someone could talk about glass blowing techniques and she could be able to pitch in an opinion or idea, or how fascinating she finds the subject. But, now, she wants to finish making her Macaroni so she can go back upstairs and try to memorise lines.
“I went to Zoe’s the other day.” And that’s how Ava gets Alana’s attention in mere seconds. “Saw Connor,”
“Cool,”
“Yeah. He’s sort of weird,” Ava scratches the back of her neck and grimaces, “and not in the I’m a forty-year-old man and I’m obsessed with My Little Pony weird. Like, concerning weird. Like Bruno weird.”
There are quite a bit of similarities between Bruno—one of Aiden‘s friends from his Freshman and Sophomore year of high school—and Connor. They’re both very careless and distant, sarcastic, playful bully their friends. Aiden stopped hanging out with Bruno because he found out Bruno had a stash of weed in the ceiling of an old bathroom at school. That he had it at school isn’t even what made Aiden stop being friends with him; it was that he had the weed at all. If Connor has weed, Alana doesn’t care much. If he has any other sort of bad drug, she will become Aiden and Connor will become Bruno.
“Do you know anything that’s going on with him?” Ava asks. “I asked Zoe, but she didn’t wanna talk about it,”
“Sort of?” Alana takes the pot off the heater and drains the water in the sink. “The two of us spend little time together, but I know he deals with mental health issues. And I suspect he has a problem with substance abuse, but I can’t be sure,”
“Ah. Okay, thank you,” Ava smiles uncomfortably and leaves the kitchen in a rush.
Alana silently curses after her. Ava knows she hates small talk, why did they make so much sort-of-small-talk that made Alana anxious. Just get to the point. Alana’s always been the only one in their family who knows how to get right to the point and avoid small talk.
The butter and milk and ew-cheese are mixed in with the macaroni in record time as the familiar sound of Anna’s car can be heard down the street. She doesn’t bother to put anything away or in the trash, except run upstairs and lock herself in her room (nearly tripping over her feet multiple times). Closing the vent, the main reason she can hear the arguing down stairs, crosses her mind for a second. It’s flushed away because it’s the only thing keeping her bedroom warm at the moment. Rain beats down on the window and nearly drowns out the arguing.
•••
Thursday morning English class is fantastic most of the time. Most of the time, Connor isn’t there until halfway through the period. And while, yeah, that isn’t good for their project at all, but he is dragged in the class by Zoe. And it’s not like she wants to walk into class and not see Connor sitting at their usual spot, but she doesn’t want to walk into class and see Connor sitting at their usual spot. Her stomach drops, and she nearly tears up when Connor is there, waiting, and before most other people have arrived.
Seconds after Alana sits beside Connor, still trying to figure out why he’s already here, Evan walks in the room. He stumbles over his own feet and nearly walks into an occupied desk. A string of ‘sorry’ follow him.
The three go about their technically should be usual line memorisation. Connor delivers his in a monotone voice without opening his eyes once, meanwhile Alana tries and tries for the life of her to remember a single word of her lines, and Evan reads the book and informs them whether they’re right or wrong. Despite minutes and minutes of racking her brain, she cannot remember a thing and Connor supplies the correct words without hesitation.
“I could, uh, I could take over for you today?” Evan suggests, presumably seeing the pained look upon Alana’s face. “Maybe—Maybe hearing them would help?”
She doesn’t want him to. She wants to remember her lines without the help of anyone. By herself. Alone. It’s obvious that she can’t, at all. She needs help. With a sigh and nearly silent yes, Alana crosses her arms and leans back and pouts. All she wants to do is be good at remembering things easily.
She watches as Evan and Connor restart the scene. Connor has his head down and using his copy of The Little Prince as a pillow, and Evan has his nose close to the page of his own copy as he slumps back awkwardly. They’re both getting all their lines and actions perfectly correct. She’d expect it from Evan, but not Connor. Like, he’s not even looking as he draws little… goats? On the desk.
How is it that everyone somehow better than Alana at something? She comes from a family of overachieving intellectuals who graduated at the top of their classes, yet she can barely remember what animal is primarily featured in a sort-of children’s book? At least she’s at the top of her class in everything else, except for English!
Connor Murphy is better at this than her! He barely even shows up to class, and when he does eventually come, he does not look—or act—like he’s just been skipping. He’s memorised all his lines and queues and everything in between. This isn’t fair in the slightest.
“Can we not work today?” Alana suggests quietly. Connor opens his eyes and Evan looks up at her. “I’m just—I’m feeling sort of out of it,”
“Alana Beck doesn’t wanna work?” Connor raises an eyebrow. He looks to Evan with his jaw-dropped. “Holy. Shit.”
Evan nods along uncomfortably, staring at a Connor, confused. Alana can’t blame him. Connor’s weird when it comes to interacting with them; sometimes he’s cold and distant, other times he acts like they’ve been friends for years. It’s easy to say which Connor she likes better (the latter), she wishes he were a little more… constant with how he acts with them.
“Uh—Yeah? What do you wanna… do? I guess?” Evan still hasn’t closed his book. He’s still not entirely convinced Alana doesn’t want to work.
“Nap,” is Connor's suggestion. He doesn’t hesitate to lay his head down on his folded arms.
“Talk? Maybe?” Alana mutters, “I don’t really not work during school, I don’t know what to do,”
“About what?” Evan asks. The book is finally closing and being put on the table next to Connor's head.
“Don’t you dare say Zoe,” snaps Connor. You wouldn’t think he’d be like this with Zoe, all protective, and yet here he is, all protective. The Murphys have become a sort of… famous in school for hating each other’s guts. Alana can’t believe her ears.
Besides, she wasn’t even going to mention Zoe; Connor brought her up. What would they even talk about regarding Zoe? Her hair and how it falls perfectly on her back and shoulders; her eyes and how, when they hit the light just right, they look as if they’re glowing; her laugh and how a fairy gets its wings every time she hears a joke; her fashion sense that Alana aspires to have but cannot pull off or together. Okay, so maybe she was sort of thinking about Zoe, but it’s not like she was about to talk about her with Evan.
But would she? She seems to be running on autopilot recently, she can’t exactly control what she says or not. But, when Connor’s around, she seems to have a pilot and watches what she says even the tiniest bit more. It’s weird. So, she might have talked about Zoe because her brain doesn’t like working at the moment; but she might not have because Connor, Zoes surprisingly protective older brother, who can (and would) knock Alana over if he hears Zoe’s name even muttered, would most definitely do just that. God, she’s so out of it even she doesn’t know what she was going to say.
Evan chews on his thumbnail, staring around the room with wide eyes. It sort of reminds Alana of a baby seeing the world for the first time. When she speaks up and suggests their first speaking topic, God forsaken small talk about how their week has gone and plans for the weekend, Evan jumps and whips his hand away from his mouth.
The pair of them talk about… nothing too important, really, for twenty minutes. They pretend to be going over lines when Mrs Walden watches their group for a minute or two while Connor sort-of naps.
Sort-of naps. Contrary to what Alana believed for half the period because of the stillness and calmness and slow breathing and slight snoring, Connor does not fall asleep. He just lays his head down and closes his eyes contently to trick people into thinking he’s asleep. She makes this discovery when, as soon as the bell rings for next period (which so happens to be a free period for Alana), Connor stands and walks out of the class and is probably the first one in the hall. Alana sits there, stunned, staring at the door.
She follows quickly, yet casually, because she’s seen no one walk with so much purpose before. Other than her grandma’s cat when he saw Ava, so no other human walk with so much purpose. Alana considers stopping following Connor when he goes outside, he’s probably just going off-campus for lunch. Many people have lunch this period. She’s about to turn around and head to her locker when Connor doesn’t head for the Senior parking, but to a little cluster of trees behind the gym shed. She follows, tiptoeing for some reason, and probably looking insane, and hides behind a brick wall to watch what’s going on. There’s no way Connor was just walking to a bunch of trees like that; like he was in a hurry.
Connor approaches another student, in a dark blue hoodie, and says words. Alana can’t figure out what he says, but eventually Connor and the other student trade small objects and the other student sits against a tree and Connor begins walking back toward the school. He shoves whatever the other student gave him in his bag.
Alana’s heart pounds as she races inside and up the stairs, toward her locker. She cannot let Connor know she followed him, because then he’ll want to know why she followed him, and then she must say it was sort of sketchy and weird how walked like that, and then he’ll accuse her of calling him sketchy and probably crazy, and then he’ll get angry and never talk to her again. She can’t lose her only friend because of some sketchy thing.
Ah, whatever, she can’t avoid it anymore. It was most definitely some sort of drug deal, probably marijuana. Connor bought marijuana on school property. That’s a crime! Is it worse for the student who sold it; they were selling drugs on school property! The dealer will probably get in more trouble because, well… Alana can’t come up with any reason, she knows the dealer will get in more trouble.
A part of her wants to ask Connor if she can smoke marijuana with him. She’s a teenager, and she has not tried marijuana, not that it’s really a requirement, but… she’s barely lived a satisfying life so far, and with all the stress she’s under with school and Anna and her parents being pains in the neck, she could use it.
Her parents would kill her if they found out she was even considering smoking marijuana. That’s it, she’s not doing it.
The moment Alana opens her locker, her phone buzzes in her back pocket with a text message from, the one and only, Ava Beck!
Hey sis. Uh I sort of just finished my homework it’s due next period I know you have a free period right now and probably do not wanna spend it going over my homework but can you do just that please?????
Alana exhales a small laugh at her sister’s text-communication. She finds multiple question marks at the end of sentences funny; and no periods or commas; and how Ava always seems rushed and stressed in her texts. It’s funny.
Though, Alana can’t bring herself to do any of that. The most she can do it accidentally type two question marks instead of one.
Sure thing! Meet me in the library! :)

Chapter Text

Connor hasn’t been high in a while.
Well, decently high. Over the years, Connor's got a little pretentious with weed and the kind he smokes. It’s very… not school dealer weed. The school dealer, who is anonymous and changes from day to day, sells really shitty weed. He used to think it was the shit, when he began smoking in, like, ninth grade. Now he thinks it’s shit.
Now, though? Oh, man. He found out from the school dealer that Alana’s own fucking sister sells amazing weed. A Beck is a drug dealer! Holy fuck. Connor tried to contain his excitement and surprise when they told him, not wanting to be questioned on if he’s gonna switch to her or if he knows her and is a super low-key dealer with her. Stoners aren’t great at keeping secrets. Which, considering the amount of times Connor’s been high and the amount of secrets he has, he’s surprised he hasn’t fucked up his life even further.
When he met up with Anna behind some church on the bad side of town (she said it was because more drug deals went on down there and it wouldn’t be too suspicious), he expected to get overpriced, only slightly better than the school dealer’s weed. Anna even said it was shitty. But, no, it’s not. A Beck was wrong. He needs to tell someone that.
It’s great. Dr Steiner has somehow convinced him not to drive high, and also his mom, and also Alana, so guess what Connor’s trying not to do anymore. Three women who are trying—some succeeding, some failing—to make Connor’s life a little better. Fuck, Cynthia’s been trying for years and Steiner literally gets paid for it. Alana’s just doing it from the good in her heart. He trusts Alana. Regardless, being high and not driving is calming. He sways along in the passenger seat of Alana’s car, laying down despite Alana’s greatest attempts to get him to sit back up. He refuses.
He watches as white clouds roll by through the sunroof. The weather has been nice lately, if you ignore the huge rain storm they had a few days ago, with decent weather. To where Connor has agreed to a weekend practice with Alana and Evan. Most of the time, he wouldn’t agree to things like this, considering the first time he did it (in ninth grade) he accidentally broke a kid's finger and was suspended from school. He never understood why he got suspended, considering it didn’t happen on school property or during school hours. Still. The few days plus the weekend off was nice; other than that Cynthia stayed home the entire time. He shut himself in his room, not knowing that would be the incident to lead to the removal of his door.
“You have a sunroof.” Connor says it more than a statement than a question. Still, Alana answers it.
“Yeah, I do,”
“When’d that happen?”
Alana furrows her brows and shifts uncomfortably in her seat. They turn onto Evan’s road. “When I got this car,”
“Wow.” Connor whispers, “my car just has cup holders and y’all got a sunroof?”
Alana lets out a small laugh and pulls up in front of Evan’s house. She honks once. A moment or two later, Evan is climbing into the back seat. His thighs are only a foot away from Connor’s head. Evan is buried in a giant blue jumper and those same goddamn khakis.
Connor wouldn’t consider Evan a friend, a more frequent acquaintance, but he has to take him out and get him some decent fucking jeans. Then burn all the khakis in Evan’s closet. But that’s a problem for another day; when Alana is ‘sick’ again and can’t be their babysitter.
And for a split second, Connor glances downward and is convinced Evan is wearing Uggs. They completely erase the khakis-burning idea from Connor’s head.
Cynthia had a pair of Uggs which Zoe eventually threw out (after being paid 20 bucks from Connor) when Connor was 15, which she wore everywhere, all the time. Eventually, after Cynthia dragged him along to the mall to get another pair of Uggs (he convinced her not to), Connor slipped a note with a 20 dollar bill under Zoe’s door. He half expected her to take the money and not do shit. Less than an hour later, Connor entered his room to see a note with ‘The deed is done’ written in Zoe’s dumb bubbly handwriting and a Polaroid of Cynthia’s Uggs in the dumpster. You read right; a Polaroid. Zoe used to be obsessed with Polaroid photos. She’s either grown out of it or is better at hiding it by now taking a photo of every single fucking thing she sees.
Evan’s wearing brown rain boots.
Connor is slightly relieved at this realisation. However, they’re brown rain boots. No one should ever wear brown, nor rain boots when it’s sunny out. He hasn’t even seen anyone casually wear rain boots since fourth grade, but whatever. To each their own.
“What? Do I have something on my face?” Evan rubs at his cheeks hastily, trying to get whatever he apparently has stuck on it off.
Connor stares at Evan with an extremely concentrated face. It’s not like… schoolgirl crush staring at a boy; more Why The Fuck Is This Creature Wearing Brown Rain boots? staring at a boy. Connor can’t tell the difference sometimes, though, but he’s sure it’s the latter.
And, for some other reason, Connor replies with: “no. Just bored,”
“And probably high!” Alana pitches it. “Remember that,”
“With weed your sister gave me,” Connor gives Alana a lazy grin, then exaggerates a wink to Evan.
“Anna or Ava?” Alana sighs. He’s met both. Both are likely.
“Anna,” it comes out sing-song like.
“That idiot. That bitch. Mom and dad will kill her,” Alana mutters half to herself and half to the other two in the car.
Damn. Alana beck just insulted her sister and swore. What sort of alternate timeline have they travelled to? Is Alana’s car like the one in Back to the Future, except her’s just brings them to a different reality unexpectedly? That’s cool. No one comments on anything Alana just said. Connor stares back up and out the sunroof. Evan sits awkwardly, hands folded tightly and neatly on his lap.
As they pull onto the familiar dirt road, like they always do to the lake, Connor raises his chair into a sitting position and places a hand on Evan’s knee briefly. In a non verbal reassurance saying, ‘calm down, I’m not gonna do anything, I’m high as shit right now.’ It seems to work as Evan exhales and releases some tension in his shoulders. His hands stay folded tightly and legs close together. It’s still an improvement.
A single raindrop falls onto Alana’s (uncracked) windshield. She sighs in defeat; Connor, on the contrary, smiles to himself at the realisation they don’t need to leave the car now! He looks back in the back-seat-looking-mirror, whatever it’s called, and Evan is evidently siding with Connor. Jesus, Evan can not be claustrophobic. That’d be a disaster. They’d end up calming him down from a panic attack and not doing work, the latter Connor would rather do.
“Well…” Alana leans her elbows on the steering wheel and stares out the window solemnly. She bites her thumbnail.
“Let’s stay inside the warmth of this ve-hi-cle,” Connor suggests. The hard H and long E in ‘vehicle’ make Evan laugh the slightest bit. Connor considers it a win.
He also considers staying in the car rather than leaving for their regular spot, a good opportunity for a nap. When Connor’s high, he gets tired once the weed begins wearing off. Depending on how high he was, the more tired he gets. It’s not great when dealing with school and stern teachers or his parents, but funny when dealing with Zoe; she gets very frustrated with him yawning every two seconds.
Connor drops the back of the seat again, smiling lazily at Evan this time, gets an uncomfortable and confused smile in return, and shifts, and drifts off before anyone can say a word.
•••
Over the course of his nap, Connor hears words from the real-world float into his dream-world. They don’t exactly go along with the story; considering the words are the second chapter of The Little Prince and the dream has something to do with flying brooms and dinosaurs. Dreams are really fucking weird…
He also gets jostled around a few times. Definitely from Alana or Evan trying to wake him, most likely Alana. They wake him twice, both times he pretends to be asleep still. He’s gotten good at it. Wow, two of his talents include staying awake all night, and pretending to be asleep. They’re pointless but good for party games if he doesn’t want to be there. Not that Connor’d be invited to a party in the first place, but… you know.
Connor scratches his jaw and scowls. The first thing he sees when he opens his eyes is Evan staring down at him with a foggy, unclear expression. It’s not a great view to awake to, but it’s also not the worst. It’s better than most days when he wakes up to a pillow in his face or Cynthia hovering over him whispering about breakfast. So, like, it’s not a great view, but good.
Not in that Evan’s like… attractive. He’s a good-looking guy, that’s for sure, just not really Connor’s… type. Fuck. He sounds so rude right now. Forget he said any of that.
“Finally,” Alana murmurs. “We’ve been sitting here for two minutes. Get up and get inside,” she instructs.
Connor yawns. He rubs his eyes slowly, like he’s in a movie or cartoon. It’s fun. The moment he exits Alana’s car and closes the door, Alana pulls out of the driveway and down the street. She doesn’t even wait for Evan to move to the front. She better not be one of those people that likes to pretend they’re a taxi and only drives people's places if they’re in the back seat. Unfriendly and disowned if she does that.
The walk across the driveway and up the balcony staircase and to the front door takes longer than necessary. He could sneak in through the back. But, whatever, they have cameras and windows and shit. It’d be no use. The only reason Connor can sneak out at night is by turning off the cameras. He made that mistake once and will not make it again. The code to the house is easy to remember (1990. The year Larry and Cynthia got married) and as soon as he swings the door open, Zoe is standing from her seat on the bottom stair. She takes a few steps, so she’s only an arm's length away from her brother and waves a little baggie of weed in his face.
“What the hell is this?” Zoe demands.
Connor scoffs and closes the door with his foot. “Weed. What did you think?”
“Why do you have it? Didn’t mom take and hide it? There shouldn’t be weed in this house!”
“I can buy more. Weed doesn’t just disappear off the face of the earth when a tiny bag gets confiscated,” deadpans Connor. He picks at the nail polish of his right thumb, then continues speaking, this time slightly louder than before, “I have it to cope with what the fuck is going on inside my brain at all times,”
“Don’t tell me that bullshit. You don’t need it,” Zoe insists. She drops her arm to her side and clutches the baggie tightly.
“Yes—I—do,” Connor spells out, “because I’m the fucked up kid. I don’t get straight A’s and play 70 goddamn instruments because of my perfect, neurotypical brain. I dunno if you’ve noticed, but nearly everyone I’ve met thinks I’m crazy,” tears prick the corners of his eyes, “that shit makes me normal,”
“You think I’m not fucked up? You think I have a perfect brain? You think I don’t want weed now and then?” She grins but a tear slowly falls down her cheek. “I sat in my room for four years listening to you punch holes in the wall and scream about how you’re gonna kill your family, then yourself,” her words bite Connor. He’s reminded how much more shit of a brother he used to be. He is still a shit brother but… still. “You’re not the only fucked up one here!”
Connor hates she’s right. Everyone he knows is fucked up somehow. He’s not special or important; nothing he does will make any impact; he will spend the rest of his days bullying people and whining about how he’s sad and tired doing nothing to change it. Take it up the ass, every concerned teacher, elementary school teacher, therapist and counsellor he’s ever had.
“Oh, fuck you. At least mom and dad do shit to help your so-called issues,” he shouts. He doesn’t expect it to be so loud, it sort of did, and it feels fantastic. Not only because he’s finally getting some pent up hatred and jealousy toward his sister out, but also—
Zoe goes pale. Connor knows he hit a nerve with that one, and he can’t help but feel slightly victorious for it. Most people find victories in… winning an arm wrestling competition, or ordering food without fucking up once. Not Connor. Oh, no, he finds victories in hurting his little sister; and, yet, he hates hurting her.
She doesn’t deserve it. She’s done nothing wrong toward him. She’s just… guilty by association. He hates hurting her, knows she doesn’t deserve it, yet doesn’t do anything to change it
So-called? My issues are just as real as yours and still mom and dad don’t do shit!”
That’s a lie.
“Oh, fuck off,” Connor feels an oncoming headache. “At least you don’t have professionally diagnosed mental… fuck-shit they deny us going on,”
That is also a lie.
When Zoe was 13, she was diagnosed with ADHD. She’s been on meds since then. Some days she skips her meds and nothing is too different. Cynthia barely notices. They still act like it’s the biggest deal in the world though it’s manageable without her meds.
And the first time Connor tried killing himself, Larry immediately talked to a doctor and had him diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder. They’re two huge, life-dooming and ending disorders, and what do their parents do? Nothing. He only got prescribed meds a couple months ago, and they don’t care if he doesn’t take them.
It’s all about Zoe, Zoe, Zoe.
“Fuck you!” Zoe, the centre of attention, screams.
Connor turns around again, shaking his head and scoffing. “I swear, one of these days, I will actually kill you,”
From behind him, Zoe gasps, offended; or in disbelief, the latter least likely, though. The amount of times Connor’s said he will kill her is definitely too high, and it’s happens way too often. Even he knows that. Yet he does nothing to change it.
Maybe if he tried hard enough and really set his heart to it…
Zoe shoves her brother to the side and whips open the front door. She nearly hits his face with it. It hits the wall and Connor is truly surprised a dent isn’t left where the handle hit. Connor barely has time to process what he’s doing, but the next second he’s following Zoe and climbing into his own vehicle. Not a word is spoken; only death glares and snarls.
Zoe leaves the driveway first, seemingly not caring for her her own or Connor’s safety, and drives the direction of the river. Pathetic. Not even gonna leave the neighbourhood. Well, Connor was terrified of getting in trouble when he left impulsively in anger, so it’s understandable. He backs out and begins in the opposite direction and doesn’t stop when he realises the front door has been left wide open.
Driving is very therapeutic. Late night stops at the lake and driving around aimlessly are therapeutic. Most people find Bob Ross or meditation therapeutic. Good thing Connor Murphy isn’t most people.
Extremely good thing, now he thinks of it. Imagine what the world would be like if most people were Connor Murphy; not all, just most. Crime rates would barrel through the roof and finding decent porn would be more difficult. Imagine porn, except it has most people’s face. God. Connor gets nauseous just thinking about it.
But, also, people would be better. They’d stop littering, and animals would get adopted instead of bought from a breeder. Weed would be legal everywhere, not just a few countries. That only works if everyone is just clones of Connor. What if they all only looked like Connor, but everyone still thought differently? Like… Beyoncé but with the face and body of Connor Murphy. He’d consider it an improvement, honestly.
That’s makes him sound like so much more of a dick. It’s not that he doesn’t like Beyoncé, she’s just… meh, you know? Overrated. She’d be better with the face of Connor, or funnier. Yeah, not better, funnier.
Around him, tall buildings reach for the sky with possibly hundreds of people working in them. Larry’s law firm sits a block ahead, his weird mid-life crisis sports car sitting in his reserved parking spot. What would be funnier than Beyoncé with Connor’s face would be getting on a train and leaving his car right across the street from the doors of the law firm; and, you know, Connor’s getting bored. He speeds up and halts on the street directly across from Larry’s car. He snickers and throws up a middle finger toward the car for good measure.
This is so fucking lame. He’s acting like it's some huge deal and act of teenage rebellion; it’s just leaving his car outside his dad's building and… ah, getting on a train. He spots the train station and a train speeding his direction, how convenient. It won't do shit. Larry probably won’t even notice his Jeep sitting there, he’ll be too tired. Connor will just show up at home tomorrow after school and Cynthia will have fresh vegetables cut for him which he will ignore and everything will be the exact same. Whatever. He needs to get a bit of teenage rebellion out of his system before his death. Death of a seventeen-year-old: the ultimate act of teenage rebellion.
Connor ignores the ticket machines (partly because he doesn’t have any money on him, and partly because no one checks for tickets), and gets on the train within a minute of it stopping. He shoves through a flood of fellow train-goers. He recognises one of them from school: a girl with bright blue eyes and ginger hair she prides herself too strongly on. He grins at Connor, then rushes away at the scowl he delivers in her direction.
The train compartment he climbs on is pretty much empty, even after people getting on with him. It’s convenient for getting one of the furthest back seats with a table. He sits heavily, exhaling and resting his head against the window. Across the street, two or so people exit Larry’s building, Larry among them. Connor laughs.
Then he has to stop himself from crying. The entire reason he’s on the train is that his relationship with his family is shitty. Whatever, he can deal with not being close with Larry, Larry’s an asshole, but with Cynthia and Zoe? Neither of them deserve anything he puts them through. Cynthia is just trying, and refuses to give up trying until Connor finally agrees to try her weird dopamine-inducing foods and do yoga with her at dawn. He’s considered trying her weird help tactics a couple times just to get her off his back, but always ends up backing out of it.
But Zoe? She doesn’t try, he doesn’t try, yet he expects them to wake up one day and be best friends all of a sudden. Or, if not best friends, not hating each other’s guts. He can’t fucking do that, though. You know why? He gets angry at her for his mental fuck-shits being treated and his not. They don’t have any control over it, their parents do. They’re the ones somehow still in denial about Connor’s mental fuck-shits after two suicide attempts and almost a dozen near-to suicide attempts. The thing which lifts his spirits a bit is that he’ll he legally allowed to deal with his fuck-shits in, like, three months. If he’s not dead by then.
His upcoming death is so inevitable he’s pretty sure he won’t be alive to see eighteen years old. How fucked up is that? No one should be like that; no one should think about how easy it would be to get off the train at the next stop and jump in front of it before it can stop. But, alas, Connor doesn’t do that. Now that he’s stood up and walked places, he doesn’t have the willpower or energy to do it again. That’s what depression is like, right. He’s not just lazy.
The train begins on a slow upward slope over the river; not the river that runs between his neighbourhood and the next, the river that splits the city in half. South to north. They’re going north, to the… lower class part of town, so the risk of Connor getting murdered goes up quite a bit.
Why he closes his eyes? Not an answer he can give you. Why he falls asleep? Still, not an answer he can give you.

Chapter Text

It’s Saturday. It’s Saturday and Saturday’s get boring real quick. Like, Friday’s are decent because of school and at least you have something to do; Sunday’s are also decent because Zoe can look out her bedroom window and see all the old people of her neighbourhood all dressed up and coming from church, then laze around the rest of the day and mentally prepare to school the next day.
Saturday is just… boring. Unless you have a decent hobby that doesn’t get boring quick, what do you do? She doesn’t feel like playing any instruments today, a sentence thought she’d never say, and refuses to wake up after 8 am on weekends. It was a habit she developed in about… seventh grade, when she found out that sleeping schedules are actually very important.
So when Connor leaves and probably isn’t coming back until later later, and Larry was called into work for some emergency, and Cynthia decided it would be a fantastic time to go visit her parents, Zoe sees it as fantastic but also loathes it. She relies on her family for things to do, now they’re all gone… what does she do until someone gets back?
Snoop. That’s what she does.
She decides on a complete whim while watching Friends that it would be a great time to find some dirt on Connor. She will not use it, obviously, but just in case. Although she’s home alone, she tiptoes upstairs and into Connor’s room, telling herself that he will catch her and scream at her again.
She knows it’s not true. Ava said Alana is taking the boys for a ‘weekend practice’ or whatever, and anything that happens with Alana goes on for at least an hour.
Connor’s room is very underwhelming. There’s nothing out of the ordinary for a teenage boy’s room; a couple pairs of dirty underwear in the corner; candy wrappers all over the floor; scrap pieces of paper around the desk with multiple pens; a nearly dead plant in the corner which Cynthia gave Connor to ‘get some life in the room.’ Zoe winces at the scent. She recognises it too easily: weed. Which is strange considering Cynthia took Connor’s weed away a month ago?
A slow, yet obvious, conclusion comes to her. The question is: where the fuck would he be hiding it? Like, Connor’s never been fantastic at hiding things (he used the same spot in Hide-and-Seek for four years), so it will be pretty easy to find. She stands in the middle of the room, staring around and wondering just where to start the search. She opens drawers and shuffles clothes around; lifts his mattress and looks under his bed; in the empty cups on this desk; in the plant pot beside the desk. Connor’s definitely to make a joke of ‘pot in the pot.’
When all hope seems lost, though, and as she stands in the room’s middle, her eyes land on the closet doors. Surely, Connor wouldn’t hide anything but his (secret) mini fridge and (also secret) toaster oven in there. Would he? He doesn’t keep anything else in his closet, considering everything is in his drawers, except maybe jackets and hoodies and stuff like that?
Zoe throws open the doors, staring at the near-to-empty closet. Two hoodies and three jackets and a suit are the only things in the closet, along with the aforementioned (secret) mini fridge and (also secret) toaster oven, and a box shoved lazily in the corner beside the left door. Zoe stares at it. It’s a shoebox, that’s for sure, and what else is better to hold in a shoebox in your closet than a secret stash of weed? She picks it up, mildly terrified of what’s inside in case it’s not a secret stash of weed and she—or her nose—was just making shit up.
The relief that befalls over Zoe and she stares in the box and sees multiple already rolled joints and a lighter and a bowl and a baggie of weed and papers and what the fuck when did Connor get all this shit? How did Connor get all this shit? He’s legally not allowed yet, so in case he had someone else buy it for him (who would do that?), he could easily go to jail. Not that she’d rat him out to the cops or anything—she’s not that bad.
The temptation of taking a joint and calming herself down real quick is overwhelming all other senses Zoe can feel. Her mind races with outcomes, negative outweighing positive, and despite all the possible outcomes she takes one of the joins in her fingers, along with the lighter, and lights it with care. No matter how much she hates Connor, she’d never burn his clothes, even if it were on accident.
She takes in a deep breath of air with the smoke, letting it settle in for the next little bit, and sits on the edge of Connor’s bed. The box sits next to her, unmoving and silent. The room is dead silent, which is nice, but unusual. She’s never in Connor’s room, only when Cynthia sends her to wake him up, and even then there’s some noise. The room is silent and it doesn’t feel like Connor’s. Like an imposter. Like Connor died and someone took his room.
She’d kill whoever would do that, honestly. She doesn’t care how shitty Connor is, if he was dead she wouldn’t let anyone change a single thing in his goddamn bedroom.
She flicks the end of the joint in Connor’s ashtray on his bookcase. Yet another thing Cynthia didn’t get rid of.
She then stands, joint held between her two lips, and places everything back in the box. Before she can place it in the approximate spot she found it, though, she gets the brilliant idea of taking the baggie of unrolled weed and asking Connor about it.
And so she does just that.
•••
The drive to Ava’s is met with swearing and screams of frustration with Connor, and her family, and her stupidity, and her entire goddamn life. For fuck sake, why does Connor make everything about her? He thinks he doesn’t do anything to her—that his actions don’t affect her at all—to the point he can insult her day after day without feeling bad.
She’s beginning to feel bad coming to the Becks at least two nights a week because of Connor, but where the fuck else is she supposed to go? Her grandparents, who are in bed by six? Her other friends who have only a vague idea of what goes on at home? Ava’s the only decent person she can go to who knows the complete situation. Still, she feels bad for basically turning the spare room into her room—even worse for having a toothbrush in the spare room en-suite.
Wiping tear marks from her cheeks and taking a few breaths as she steps up to the front door makes Zoe feel mildly ashamed. She knocks apprehensively, keeping in mind the fact that Ava may not be home. In which case, what the hell should she say? ‘Hey, sorry for interrupting your family dinner, but I’m gonna spend the night here because my brother is an ass and my parents don’t do anything to help him.’
Slowly, the door opens in front of her. For a second, she stands completely still and stares at Alana, unsure as to what to do. Alana is pretty much a free therapist for any time of day, but it’s also not Ava and they made a pact not to get close with any of the other’s immediate family.
“Shit—sorry,” Zoe ducks her head and twists one of her rings around her finger. “I was, um, Ava. Looking for her, not was her,”
She shuts up before anything else can be horrendously fucked up, which is somehow possible. Her voice is still wobbly and obviously on the verge of tears, but she chooses to ignore it in the hope Alana will ignore it too and send her on her way.
“She’s out with Anna,” Alana mutters, voice flat. She pokes her head out the house and turns it in an attempt to see Zoe’s face. “Are you okay?”
That’s a heavy question, Jesus Christ. In certain aspects and ways, yes: her friends are great, her school life is actually decently disconnected from Connor; but mostly, no. Most of… everything in her life is not okay and she can’t do anything about it but wait for someone to finally die.
“My brother is an asshole,” is the only thing Zoe can manage to croak out. Her voice cracks toward the end, another thing she decides to ignore in an attempt to get Alana to ignore it as well. Which Alana does do, a small action Zoe appreciates immensely, in exchange for stepping out of the house and putting a comforting hand around Zoe’s shoulders.
“Connor?”
“I only have one brother,” Zoe says a little mental ‘fuck you’ to herself for accidentally sounding rude to someone who really doesn’t deserve it. The thought of apologising half-crosses her mind but she doesn’t do so, just walks side by side, arm around shoulders, with Alana into the Beck’s house.
She’s led through the kitchen and into the dining room, where Alana sits her down and leaves immediately. The sink turns on for a few seconds, then Zoe is looking up to see Alana placing tea bags in two different mugs.
Honestly, she’s never been much of a tea person. It’s always too strong or too weak; impossible to drink because of the overwhelming taste, or just hot water. It’s boring. Cynthia used to take Zoe and Connor to a tea house downtown when they were younger, but they never drank the tea Cynthia bought them. They’d just eat the food and play with the menus (or secretly with the toys they brought along). Connor, once he hit the age of ten, stopped going because he was ‘too old,’ but Zoe kept going until she was 14 just because she felt bad for Cynthia.
“So,” Alana sits down across from Zoe, “Why—er (I know why)—How is your brother an asshole?” She tiptoes around her words, afraid of offending Zoe somehow.
“He’s just—ugh!” A sob escapes her throat, “I was home alone and I found some weed he had stashed somewhere, then I asked him about it. Obviously, in true Connor Murphy fashion, he got angry at me for asking a simple question. We started yelling at each other and he called me names and insulted me and—”
She can’t bring herself to tell Alana Connor threatened to kill her. Again. Because she’s seen Connor and Alana together at school quite a bit, Zoe assumes they’re friends and telling Alana… that would not improve Connor’s chances of maintaining that friendship. And, hey, if he somehow does manage to do that, he might improve as a person and become a decent brother.
“Fuck.” Zoe laughs to herself quietly, looking around the room with wide eyes. Everything is mildly blurry through her tears and her voice is so clear it surprises even Alana. “I hate to admit it, honestly, but sometimes I wish one of us was just… gone—dead or left or whatever—just so we could avoid each other,”
The weight of finally saying it out loud to someone feels like she’s stuck underwater still, but now she’s floated up just an inch and is closer to the surface: closer to surviving.
That’s an intense word for the situation. Surviving. It sounds like she’s trying to survive her life with Connor, or surviving the last few months or years until one of them finally snaps and kills themself (Connor will probably do it, but Zoe’s impulse control has never been too great and her intrusive thoughts have been getting worse lately).
Alana clearly doesn’t know how to reply. She just sits there, hand holding Zoe’s forearm despite neither of them noticing it ended up there, and jaw slightly slack. She sputters a couples times, tripping over her words until finally a whole sentence forms.
“And—and what did you do to… attempt to prevent him from doing… all that?” Alana carefully chooses her words. Zoe does the same thing sometimes when she’s talking with her friends.
It takes a moment for the question to fully be understood in Zoe’s head. What did she do to prevent him from being an ass? She tried to deescalate the whole argument by… she didn’t. What about trying to calm him down? That didn’t happen. Did she at least try to avoid a fight? No. Of fucking course not.
The realization comes to her in the snap of her fingers, though she doesn’t snap her fingers; rather opens her eyes wide and groans.
“Nothing.” She mutters, “I did nothing to prevent it. I… I brung up the weed in the first place. Why the hell’d I do that? I know he yells and screams about everything,”
Zoe finds herself sobbing again. A soft and delicate hand is placed on her shoulder comfortingly, the thumb rubbing in circles. Alana shushes her like a mother to her baby, comforting and loving and very calming. Cynthia used to do the same thing when Connor’s fits were only starting to happen regularly, which comforts Zoe even further as she’s reminded of those memories.
“I know you probably don’t want to hear this, but a lot of yelling has been going on in this house too,” Alana mutters. Her voice is hesitant and uncomfortable but soothing, “I try to ignore it, but when I can’t I go for a drive to a place just out of town,”
It’s less of a statement and more a proposition. Zoe isn’t exactly opposed to it, but she barely knows Alana. What if Alana kills her? What if Alana and Connor are actually plotting something and made an elaborate plan to kill both Alana and Ava and that’s why Ava isn’t here, because Connor kidnapped her and knew—fuck. She really needs to see a therapist and find out what’s up with her spiraling. Hopefully it’s nothing too bad like Connor.
Though, going to Alana’s… place would be great because, one: she might not get murdered; two: she may become friends with Alana and get to know Ava’s family better. Ava and Zoe made an agreement to see each other’s families as rarely as possible as both are sort of… not great. Getting to know Alana would be fantastic for Zoe, horrid for Connor. And, truth be told, she’d rather Connor have Alana as a friend as she’s actually a good person.
“Yeah?” Zoe makes sure to make it sound both like a confirmation that she wants to go, and a simple curious ‘yeah’ in case it was just a statement.
Alana isn’t so much an asshole she would mention a place she goes to to calm down but not take the person she told.
“It’s just a little lake. Well, not little, but, you know, hidden. We don’t even have to get out of my car; we can just part and sit,”
So it was an invitation. Zoe nods, looking up at Alana and smiling weakly. She’s honestly excited, but tired; this afternoon has taken a lot of energy from her. Alana takes her hand off Zoe’s shoulder and stands to finish making the tea.
They drink it in a silence.
•••
Zoe’s always loved stars. They’ve always fascinated her more than anything else. How can such huge blazing balls of fire so far away look so pretty? They twinkle and they shine and they look like they’re pulled straight from a fantasy graphic novel.
Once, Cynthia and Larry took Connor and her to the back yard late at night to look at the stars and for constellations. They were so excited; Connor had just gotten a telescope because he did really well on a spelling test and he and Larry spent hours setting it up. Zoe stayed aside and watched, staring at the sky and trying to find stars in broad daylight. She never did find any. After the disappointment of not finding any constellations (Cynthia said it was because they were sleeping, but Zoe realised later on it was because of light pollution), they all went inside and ate popcorn and watched a movie together. It’s one of Zoe’s favourite memories. She was five at the time.
When she was thirteen, she got glow-in-the-dark star stickers to hang around her room, which fell down really quick. She got them because Ava had them and both of them found the stars very cool. Connor got jealous and painted stars with glow-in-the-dark paint on his roof, to which he got in shit for. That same night, Zoe slipped her stars under Connor’s door and hasn’t seen them since. It’s more than likely he threw them away immediately.
In Freshman year of high school, and desperate to join a club to make friends, she joined the Astrology and Astronomy Club because she likes stuff like astrology. What a disappointment it was, though, when she realised no one else in the club were interested in astrology or astronomy the same way she was. Everyone was interested in them in the way of ‘let’s talk about the science of a black hole!’ or ‘what chemical properties are found in a… space whatever?’ Zoe stopped going after only three club meetings and ended up joining the band.
Sure, two of her favourite memories and best descisions of her life included stars and being disappointed, but she can never feel bad while looking at stars or be negatively reminded of those memories. The firey balls of death bring her so much peace and calmness into her world.
Being in a small car with Alana, though, brings a little anxiety. It’s not anxiety of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time or anything like that; they’re just the only two people around. It’s sort of intimate. She and Alana completely alone looking at stars. It’s like taking your partner to a hill that overlooks a city at night and holding hands and looking at the lights: intimate and like you’re the only two people in the world. It’s sort of romantic in a way.
She looks up and out the sunroof, time moving so slowly it might as well have stopped completely, and feels herself drifting off to sleep. Her eyelids become heavy and her jaw slacks only a bit.
But before she can sleep, Alana’s slapping her hand down on Zoe’s arm and shaking her awake. Zoe’s eyes shoot open and she stares up at Alana, who is staring at her with a small smile on her face, obviously laughing at how Zoe bolted awake. They share a laugh. It’s a short laugh; short but bursting with togetherness and friendship. Zoe told herself and Ava she wouldn’t become friends with any of Ava’s siblings, now look at her.
“Don’t fall asleep,” Alana advises with a grin. “I’ll drive you back to my house so you can get your car,”
“I won’t, ‘Lana,” Zoe replies, voice teasing and croaky. She might have actually fallen asleep for a bit without realising. Alana starts her car and a frown falls upon her face.
“Your brother calls me that,”
“Oh. Sorry,”
“No! Don’t apologise. I was just saying it,” Alana’s voice becomes tense and uncomfortable and frantic, “I dunno. You might not want to call me something Connor also calls me because that might become weird but you just didn’t know. I was just telling you and now you’re apoligising to me. I’m sorry,”
Zoe stays laying down, wondering why the leather of Alana’s seat smells like weed, and stares at Alana as she anxiously drives.
“You don’t need to apologise either,” she says eventually. “But apology accepted,”
•••
As Zoe exits Alana’s car and into her own, a series of thank you’s and you’re amazings follow her. Alana blushes in the darkness and says the proper responses and pulls into the Beck’s driveway when Zoe gets in her own car.
The ride home, Zoe’s heart feels a little lighter. Not only is the weight of the fight with Connor gone, but her stomach flutters with happiness as she thinks of her new friend. She’s always loved making new friends, more than anything else in the entire world, but none of them have made her this happy.
Neither Cynthia or Larry are home quite yet (work must be busy for Larry tonight considering he should be home; visits with their grandparents always take hours so it’s no surprise Cynthia’s still gone), and neither is Connor but she isn’t too concerned about him, a mild disappointment. She was excited to rat Connor out on his weed stash, excitement turns into relief though when she reaches in her pocket and feels the bag of weed.
Ah, fuck. Fuck. It’s been with her this entire goddamn time without her even knowing it. She could have had some with Alana. Stolen even more from Connor. No, Alana would probably call the cops. She still could turn it in to her parents.
She climbs up the stairs, staring in Connor’s room and considers tossing the baggie on his bed, then a selfish part of her wants to keep it all for herself.
Compromise. She’ll split it in half (not including what she took earlier), keep half and give the other half to Connor. A little baggie which once upon a time held goldfish crackers sits on Zoe’s desk, which she snatches up and cleans out, then pours a bit of weed from Connor’s bag to her own. She holds them next to each other, happy with each take, and writes a little note to give to Connor.
Dont demand for yours back or Ill snitch. ~Zoe.
Post placing Connor’s bag and note on his desk, Zoe stares around her room and ponders where she’s gonna hide hers. The closet is way too obvious and empty that anyone could find it in mere seconds; under her mattress would make too much noise; Cynthia dusts every two days so the shelf is an obvious no. Her eyes land on her guitar case in the corner. She cringes. She pops it open and shoves the bag in the side of it, until nothing can be seen. It’s a risky hiding place, considering she takes her guitar to school every day, and she’ll be expelled if anyone finds it while at school. She can just blame it on Connor.
Blaming bringing weed to school on her brother, but considering this sharing of the weed a sort of… peace offering? Counter productive, honestly. Pointless, too, as Connor definitely has another, more secret, stash of weed in his locker, and she totally could’ve taken it all for herself. But, like before, it’s a sort of peace offering. Premature peace offering.
Premature. Fuck that. As if they’ll ever get along; as if Connor will actually take the words of her note to heart and not demand her share back. He might take them to heart and not demand her share back, but, in her wildest dreams, offer to share both them and smoke them together.
God she wants her brother back.

Chapter Text

Every day is long when you have possibly the most boring job in the world. She used to think working with old people would be a great job, they’d be easy to work with because they do so little all day. Then she actually began, and Heidi realized how boring and sad it could really get. Old people not doing much isn’t easy, it’s hard and boring. They need help to raise a spoon to their mouth, for God’s sake! She doesn’t enjoy wheeling around old people to the dining room all day, occasionally reminding Lewis where he is.
And, if you thought working in a hospital could get sad, just imagine working in an old folks’ home. Sure, she doesn’t deal with much death, but she has to help people outside so ambulances can take them to the hospital, where they’ll spend the rest of their life; she has to deal with families coming to visit parents and grandparents and reminding the old person who they are every time. Watching the sadness come over visitors faces every time they realise their family member doesn’t remember them doesn’t make her job worthwhile.
Sometimes, though, her coworkers make it a little more fulfilling and fun. Some of them know how to joke around and find positives to all the sad stuff that goes on. Today was not one of those days. Lorraine complained that her mom would be moving to their exact home, so she wouldn’t have any excuses not to see her; her boss said her cheque would come in a day late; Muriel and Henrietta were being especially difficult. That, and now her car is nearly out of gas.
Fuck. She could drive home and run out in the driveway and just… call in sick tomorrow while trying to get gas however she can? Or, she could call a friend and ask them to bring her a jerrycan of gas and she can pay them back? Fuck. With what money? She barely has twenty bucks with her. Considering she’s on the last scraps of money from her last paycheque, she’ll just have to… wait for tomorrow, when she gets that cheque.
Heidi pulls into the parking lot of the nearest train station, shutting the car off as soon as she can to preserve at least a bit of gas (or, as Jared has called it, car juice). She sits for a moment, closing her eyes and preparing for the worst, which shall not be named. In the distance, the train rattles and probably wakes up half a dozen babies.
She climbs out of her car, watching as trees and buildings further down become illuminated by the headlights of the train. The world seems so calm right now. Everyone is asleep and the trees sway slowly in the cold breeze, all of it interrupted by the loud ass train which Heidi really hates. Sure, it looks cool, and it shows her the prettiest views of the city, but it ruins the serenity of everything.
Once the train has come to a stop and the doors are open, she steps on and stares around for a seat. Where she usually sits—toward the back, with a table to do any extra work—is occupied by a teenager. They’re wearing what Heidi wore when she went through her… let’s-not-talk-about-it-phase, and their hair is covering 90% of their face. They’re also fast asleep. She can’t even imagine being like that: so clearly alone in the world they feel the only place they can sleep is on a gross public train. Her heart saddens, wondering how their parents must feel.
Then, the over-protective motherly part of her feels the overwhelming urge to adopt this kid, even for just a night. It would still make a difference in their life, giving them one more night of comfort, one night closer to true happiness.
She hesitates. She stands still for a second, brain buzzing like radio static, wondering what it must feel like to have some early middle-aged woman to approach her in the middle of the night and invite her home. It’ll probably scare the kid away, but, hey, if it does at least she tried.
“Excuse me?” Heidi whispers, too aware of the third person in the compartment (an old lady who is too preoccupied in her magazine to care). She shakes the kid’s shoulder. They mumble incoherently and shove her hand away. “Are you okay?”
“Fuck are you doing?” The kid mumbles again. They wipe their hair out of their face and blink a few times to get a good look at her. She smiles in an attempt to comfort the kid. “Fuck are you? Leave me alone,”
“I’m sorry, I was just wondering if you needed a place to sleep tonight?” She asks, not daring to touch the kid again after seeing their face, “I can’t imagine this bench is too comfortable,”
“It’s good enough for me,” they turn away from her, “now get away from me before I call the cops and get you arrested,”
“Look, I’m just a concerned mother—” the kid turns back to Heidi and looks at her with a little less hatred in their eyes “—if you were my kid and I knew you were sleeping on a train instead of your bed, I don’t know what I’d do. I might just kill myself!” The kid doesn’t laugh at Heidi’s lame attempt at a joke. They glare at her even harder.
“I appreciate what you’re doing, lady, but I don’t care. My parents don’t care where the fuck I am,” the kid deadpans, “I’ve been on here since, like, six, and none of my family has even tried to contact me,”
Their voice cracks. Heidi’s stomach drops. How bad they must feel knowing their parents, and maybe siblings, are so unconcerned with them that they’re not even trying to find out where they are. Fuck, and she thought her mom didn’t care.
“Just, please, answer me. Are you okay? Do you need a decent place to spend the night tonight? I promise you, your parents’ care, and they definitely do not want their son, or kid, or whatever sleeping on some gross public transport,” Heidi begs. The kid looks up at her. They stop glaring. In fact, the pure hatred and annoyance in their eyes is mostly gone and replaced by empathy and consideration.
“Son,” they mutter and look back out the window. “I’m a boy. And, fine,”
Heidi grins. “Great! Oh, by the way, I’m Heidi. You don’t have to tell me your name or anything, not if—”
“Connor,” the kid—Connor—interrupts her. He turns to look at her, eyes now vacant of any feeling.
She grins again and sits in the seat across from Connor. Not willing to annoy him any further, she plays a lazy game on her phone while he stares out the window sulking.
Honestly, though it’s rare and definitely wouldn’t ever happen, she wishes other parents would do this for Evan if he ever found himself in the same situation as Connor. He could accidentally lock himself out of the house and instead of calling anyone he could just ride the train all night until he got that dreaded phone call from Heidi the next morning. Obviously, he would politely decline and say he was going somewhere in the fear that he’s inconveniencing them; or become too panicked and say yes simply out of that panic and become stuck in the situation. Somehow, both situations are things Evan would do.
She loves Evan, more than anything else in the world, but she wishes he could act… normal. Like a normal teen sometimes. Like Jared. Maybe Jared could teach him how to act normal and like an actual teenager. Maybe then he could get a girlfriend—or boyfriend! She forgets he likes boys too. She’s such a bad mom, fuck. Forgetting who her kid likes all the goddamn time.
A short ride later, the train stops only a few blocks from the Hansen household. It’s convenient when she has to take the train, but oh so annoying when she’s trying to sleep and just can’t because of it. Evan’s always been a deep sleeper, he’s been able to sleep through the worst of things, so it’s no surprise he always looks so awake and aware of his surroundings. Heidi’s not sure where he inherent’d it from, though, considering Mark—at least he used to—averages about three hours of sleep each night.
The gut feeling of fuck, he will hate me gnaws at Heidi’s insides as she shakes Connor awake. It’s really never safe to wake a teenager from their nap—it’s crucial for them considering the stress of school. However, instead of bolting awake and immediately glaring at her, Connor yawns and stands automatically, ready to follow Heidi where ever. It’s considerate, and she appreciates that.
Connor’s foot exits the train almost as soon as the doors close again. Heidi can’t imagine what would happen if he got stuck or if they took even two more seconds to get off. The next stop is way too far to walk home; she might have had to simply spend the night on the train and let Connor down.
Through the station and to the sidewalk, Connor keeps a safe distance behind her. He saunters, dragging his feet and absolutely destroying his shoes. She can’t imagine he cares too much because he doesn’t stop doing it. Evan would stop doing it the moment he caught himself, partly because shoes can get expensive and neither Heidi nor he can afford a new pair. For about a year, he wore Uggs, which even Heidi hated, but they stayed in decent condition.
“So, uh, Connor,” Heidi begins awkwardly. She stops for a second to make Connor walk next to her. He stops too. “What grade are you in?”
“I’m a Senior,”
“Hey! My son’s a senior! Maybe you know him,” she turns around and smiles.
Connor raises his eyebrows and smiles lazily. It’s not even really a smile—it’s a more weird half-smile half-grimace. “Maybe.”
The unfamiliarity of the neighbourhood is now clear on Connor’s face. He looks around at the old houses and cracked streets and Heidi can just assume he comes from a lot.
“Don’t worry, you won’t get murdered. Our neighbourhood looks way more dangerous than it is,” she reassures him, “no murderers or rapists here; just poor old ladies and shitty drug dealers selling shitty coke,”
Connor exhales an uncaring ‘oh.’ Heidi exhales, too, a large breath of exasperation and desperation. Can Connor just make a little of conversation? That’s such an asshole thing to say. They just met each other—of course he’s not up for a conversation yet.
And yet, Heidi‘s brain keeps on going and telling her to press the conversation further, and goes directly for the questions she asks Evan when they’re all uncomfortable like this.
“Any girlfriends?”
Connor gapes and scoffs. “No. Hell no.” His voice has a mildly offended tone in it. Heidi can’t understand why, though. Most teenage boys are happy to talk about their girlfriends, or just girls in general, to whoever is willing to listen. Unless they don’t like girls, which again, she somehow has to remind herself that Evan likes boys, too.
“Boyfriend?”
“Nope,” the offended in Connor’s voice is now sad. Like he wishes he had a boyfriend, or maybe he had one but they recently broke up. Yep. He likes boys.
When Evan came out to her, Heidi said she’d be okay with him dating anyone, no matter who they were; as long as they make Evan happy. Now, she’s not so sure about that statement. Knowing Connor likes boys, and Evan does too, raises their chances of dating. It’s not like she wouldn’t like it if Evan chose Connor to date, Connors probably a good kid, but most definitely a bad influence on Evan.
And Jared isn’t? Shit, that’s mildly mean. She, in her head, apologises to Connor. Mostly because Connor would then ask her why she was apologizing and she would have to explain she thinks he’d be a bad influence on Evan.
Evan’s bedroom light is still on, she can see it shining through the windows, but doesn’t think to get Evan to turn it off. He often falls asleep with his light on while doing homework. His desk isn’t the best pillow in the world, for sure, but it’s definitely better than falling asleep with nowhere to put his head! When he does that, Heidi puts a blanket on his shoulders and a pillow under his head and turns off the light so he can sleep well.
She turns around when she opens the front door, expecting to see Connor standing there ready to enter the old house. Instead, he’s standing on the sidewalk and staring up at the house. The light from Evan’s room shines down on his face as he stares up at it.
“You coming?”
Connor squeezes his eyebrows together and nods once. He hastily follows behind Heidi, closing the front door behind him and toeing off his boots near the door. Right next to Evan’s.
He stands in the doorway from the front room to the living room awkwardly, watching Heidi as she sets out a blanket and fluffs a couple throw pillows on the sofa.
“Sorry it’s so small—we have no spare beds,” she stands next to the sofa and puts her hands on her hips. She turns to Connor. He’s still standing, unmoving, and staring around the room. “I’d offer you my son’s room, but he’s obviously up there using it. Fingers crossed you don’t fall off!”
“Heh, yeah,” Connor laughs, not completely ‘there.’
Heidi stands in the middle of the room, watching Connor with curiosity. He’s way too interested in the house; in the pictures on the walls and the way the roof looks; in the small and large houseplants Heidi got for Evan everywhere; in the simplicity of the rooms.
Simplicity vaguely translates to small rooms with barely any furniture because they can’t fucking afford any. With how he’s looking around like the room is from another universe, Heidi can tell he hasn’t ever met a poor person before, much less been in their house.
“Uh, I’ll show you the kitchen in case you need it,” Heidi says unsure of what else to do. It’s not like Connor’s giving her much else to work with. He’s just… standing there, saying nothing, and probably planning on leaving the moment Heidi goes upstairs to her own room. She totally understands if he did that, but it would be a dick move considering he agreed to staying over.
Shoving all that to the back of her mind, Heidi leads Connor to the kitchen where a pizza box sits open on the island. Only one slice has been eaten, not a strange occurrence with Evan. He’s never had much of an appetite. Heidi shows Connor where the cups are, tells him they just drink tap water because their filter is broken, shows him where the snacks are. The usual things.
“What about if I need to, y’know...shit?” Connor seems mildly embarrassed to say it. He shouldn’t be; everyone poops. Heidi points to the door leading off the kitchen. “Woah,”
“Hm? I thought no one would find a folding door so interesting,” Heidi says truthfully, “thank you,”
“No, it’s just… I swore. I just swore, and you didn’t freak out. My mom just loses it when I swear, like she can’t believe it or something, but you…”
“Oh. Well, I do pride myself on being a cool parent,”
Connor let’s out a small, but genuine laugh. She’s never gotten a genuine laugh at that from anyone else. Evan sometimes replies with a tone of mild amusement, but no one ever actually laughs. It makes her feel great. Like someone actually appreciates her.
Connor leaves the room again, this time stopping at the sofa and sitting on it. He feels the cushions. Heidi passes him, set on going upstairs and forgetting about the world for the night. However, instead of going upstairs, she stops in her tracks and turns back around to Connor.
“I know I’m being annoying, but do you wanna borrow a pair of my son’s sweatpants? Just to sleep in, you know?” She offers. She notes to not mention anything else to Connor that every word said is another second she’s not getting of sleep.
“No, thank you,” he shakes his head.
Heidi nods once. On her way from the lower floor, she turns off the light and stares down into the darkness where Connor is sleeping.
•••
As she lays in her bed, staring at the dark ceiling, tucked in how she likes it, Heidi can’t help but think about what would happen if Evan and Connor actually became friends.
Well, first, they’d have to meet. She’s pretty sure they don’t know who the other is other than in passing at school. Next morning would be the perfect opportunity for them to meet! After Heidi leaves for work, Evan gets up for school and Connor is still there. Evan would make breakfast for the two of them, right? He loves cooking, but doesn’t like eating with people; is too considerate not to make breakfast for Connor, but too anxious to make breakfast for Connor.
If only Heidi were there in the morning. Fuck, how good the mornings would be. Things would actually get done. Not that Evan doesn’t do things around the house—he’s pretty much the primary tenant at this point—it’s just… she wishes she could drive him to school every day, or do that ‘Rise and Shine’ thing moms in movies do, or make breakfast for them.
Really, the only time she can do any of that is Wednesday mornings. Her shift starts only two-and-a-half hours later than any other days, so even having the early mornings off doesn’t do much when she’s all go, go, go to get Evan to school then speed off to work. Obviously, there are rare days when she calls in sick just so she doesn’t have to go, and then does all the classic Morning Mom stuff, but those are so few and far apart.
Heidi closes her eyes, slowly drifting off into dreamland. Most of the time in dreamland, she finds super pleasant things like seeing her mom again, or replaying happy memories from when Evan was a little kid, or even just strolling through a dog park. Tonight is not one of those nights.
She knows for a fact as she drives to work that she shouldn’t be butt-ass naked, and yet here she is. The unfamiliar feeling of weird car corduroy against her back is not something she wants to feel ever again, but she does nothing to prevent it from happening in the moment. She doesn’t pull over to rummage through any bags for clothes, or stop and turn around and go home. The latter would be dangerous, because Evan might be at home still. She should text him just in case.
Nope. She makes the decision, and doesn’t act upon it. Just keeps her hands steady on the wheel and stares out at the road and tries to muster up any courage she can find to walk into the Home and not mention anything about her lack of clothes.
Shit. Wake up.
Heidi forces her eyes open. The contrast from the bright morning sun to her dark ceiling hurts her eyes for a moment. She stares at it for a second or two. Or maybe more. Maybe a couple minutes. Or hours. Okay, fine, she stares at the ceiling for an hour and a half waiting for any noise, and with it: excuse, to get up and check on Evan or Connor or have a reason to still be awake.
Technically, she doesn’t need a reason other than she’s a bad sleeper and her brain is just going. Note to self: don’t have a coffee, no matter how small the amount it is, with dinner to get you through the rest of you shift. It will keep you awake worse than your stress.
For a second, and she hates that she even considers it, Heidi gets the urge to wake Evan up and take him for a little midnight drive. Maybe even take Connor. The three of them can get… snacks? Evan and Connor can maybe become friends. That’d be good. Evan needs a friend, and so does Connor (probably). Though maybe taking only Evan would be better. Better son-and-mom time. They haven’t had any bonding time in years.
Evan’s probably asleep, though. And she doesn’t want to wake up her one and only child for no reason. That’d be an ass move and she doesn’t want to be an asshole parent to her kid.
Maybe never seeing her kid makes her an asshole parent. Weekends are a perfect time to bond with him if only Heidi didn’t have work. She used to pride herself on her work ethic and automatic voulenteering; now she’s taking over everyone’s shifts for no reason. Once, she covered two shifts (which amounted to over twelve hours combined all three people), but Linda and Jaine didn’t have a baby shower they needed to go to. Her coworkers are taking advantage of her and it does not feel good.
Feeling her heart speed up at the thought of Linda and Jaine using her generosity just to get out of work for a couple hours on a Saturday, Heidi decides she needs something to calm her down. Like tea.
Her mind is completely blank as she goes from her bedroom to the foyer. She skips the creaking stair, afraid of waking Connor, but also sort of out of habit. After years of going up and downstairs while having—and keeping—Evan asleep in the house, her body has become used to skipping the old stair. Her dad said he’d come around and fix it, but then he died.
She tiptoes through the living room, making sure that Connor is at least under a blanket if not asleep. He has the blanket she set out for him tugged up to his chin as he lays facing the back of the sofa. Evan does the same thing. Or, at least he used to. Heidi’s not too sure anymore. She feels an overwhelming amount of motherly protection kick in, making a promise to herself to keep Connor safe as long as she possibly can. He can’t ever be in danger as long as he’s with Heidi.
She cringes and holds her breath and watches Connor through squinted eyes as she turns on the light to the kitchen. It illuminates the kitchen and half the living room. It shines down on Connor’s hair brighter than it should—she should have offered he take a shower his hair is so greasy. Whatever, his mom will probably force him to take one when he gets home. It’s not Heidi’s place to parent another woman’s kids.
She fills the tea kettle and places it on the stove to heat, and not even five minutes later it’s screaming. Hurrying to take it off the stove and make sure not to wake the boys, Heidi curses and burns her hand. All of it for nothing, too, as when she turns around to run her hand under cold water, she spots Connor standing and staring at her with blank eyes from the doorway.
“Oh! Did that wake you up? I’m sorry,” she mutters, placing her hand under the water and hissing.
“No… no, I didn’t fall asleep,” he says, voice as empty of emotion as his eyes. “I… my brain told me not to. That you were gonna kill me in my sleep or some shit. Make it look like a weird suicide,”
Heidi presses a cloth to the burn and makes a face of confusion. “Why would you think I’d kill you?”
“I know nothing about you. I know your name and I know you have a son who’s my age, which sounds like a pretty shit fuckin’ cover for when the cops are after you for killing me. At least you can say he’s out of town or visiting his grandma or some shit,”
“You think like him. Making up the worst-case scenarios because you can’t stop it,” Heidi points out. Connor shifts awkwardly, obviously not sure how to take the comment, “anyway. My name is Heidi Hansen. I have a seventeen-year-old son. You probably know him—or at least go to school with him—named Evan,”
She pauses for a second, expecting a response to the not-exactly question of whether or not he knows Evan.
“I don’t think I know him,” Connor considers, “sorry,”
“Don’t apologize,” Heidi pours herself the tea and blows on it, nodding toward the dining table. She takes her seat, Connor takes the one next to Evan’s and closest to the door. “I work at an old folks' home, mostly as a nurse for emergencies with the residents that aren’t bad enough for the hospital, but I do other things. I also take night school for law,”
Connor’s nods along. He stares at the wood of the table and purses his lips in frustration. Mark used to do the same thing. It used to make Heidi smile and make fun of him. Now seeing Connor do it is mildly heartbreaking.
“Why’d you invite me here?” Connor mutters, breathless and hesitant. He scrunches up his face in self-hate and regret for a second, then looks up at Heidi. “You totally could’ve left me on the train, and I’d be fine,”
“I’ve known you for an hour, but you and Evan—I can already tell—are a lot alike. I can see him falling asleep on a dirty old train filled with homeless people, no matter how sad that sounds. If he were in that situation, I’d hope someone would at least offer him a decent place to sleep,” Heidi explains, “if they didn’t and he woke up the next morning on the opposite side of town and late for something, or stressing about me wondering where he is, most likely going to have a panic attack, I dunno what I’d do. Id probably feel like I failed as a parent.” She pauses briefly. “I don’t want your parents feeling like that,”
“Oh, my parents don’t care. They know they’ve failed. When I was like, twelve,”
“I’m sure they care, Connor! They just… don’t know how to show it. My mom was the same way when I was younger,”
Connor gives her a weak, doubtful grimace.
“How old are they?” Heidi asks. She takes a short sip of her tea and quietly curses how hot it is still.
“I dunno. Like… Larry’s probably pushing 50; Mom’s the same,”
“See? They were raised in a time where parents showed their kids they cared in wildly different ways. Every generation shows their emotions in different ways. They’re still learning how to raise a kid in today’s climate, however crazy that may sound. Hell, I’m still trying to figure out how to connect with Evan and I’m not even 40 yet. I like to think I’m doing a good job, that I know about raising a kid these days, your parents do as well.”
Connor hesitates. He opens his mouth in a small ‘o’ for a moment as if he’s going to say something further, but all that exits is a tiny, “ah,” as if he understands.
“Give your parents a break, okay?” Heidi places her hand on Connor’s arm encouragingly, something she used to do with Evan; like Evan, Connor flinches away and glares at her like he wishes she were dead in a ditch. Evan’s never glared at her like that before, just being clear. Their relationship isn’t that bad. Instead of pushing it, Heidi folds her arms against her chest and nods toward the living room, “Now get back to sleep,”
Connor agrees silently. He stands, walking briskly but slow as Evan’s old turtle, and asks if he should leave the light on or off. Heidi tells him to turn it off, that she’ll finish her tea and go back to bed in the complete darkness.
•••
There’s a vibration against her ass.
It’s her phone. Telling her to wake up.
There’s a cold, flat surface against her cheek.
It’s the table.
Heidi squints across the room and tries to make out the glowing green numbers on the stove. They glow 04:30. As they should. She yawns and lifts her head, taking in her surroundings. Street lights shine faded yellow through the windows and a police siren wails in the distance. And her phone vibrates in her pocket, which is quickly shut off. She stands groggily, crossing the room and forgetting about Connor for a second. She turns on the light and nearly turns it off again before peering into the living room. There, on the couch, where Connor should be, is a blanket haphazardly folded with the pillow on top. She sort of expected Connor to leave.
She turns around, looking for her tea mug from earlier. A bright pink sticky note on the island catches the corner of her eye before she can do anything else.
On the sticky note, in small messy writing, reads:
hey. thanks for offering me the couch. sorry i left. what you said abt my parents actually caring kinda stuck in my brain. you’re a complete stranger but i might just take your advice. be nice to my family. or if not nice not as much a dick i already am. i stole a water bottle and some fruit snacks for the way home. again thanks. -connor
Heidi smiles softly to herself. For the kid Connor let Heidi think he is, he’s actually a good kid. She folds up the sticky note and shoves it in her pocket.

Chapter Text

When Evan woke up this morning, there’s no way in absolute hell he’d think to go to school. A pounding headache to start the day, then followed by a piece of bread and nothing else for breakfast, then finding out he was out of toothpaste all mixed together into one disgusting recipe for a terrible day. The headache went away after he took two sips of his water, and truthfully, he wishes it hadn’t. He wishes it would have stayed, so he didn’t have to go to school, with a decent excuse and everything!
The moment he opened his locker, too, was the same moment Alana knocked (no—slammed) on the next locker over and made Evan hit his head on the door. For a moment he wished the headache had come back, or maybe Alana had been trying to kill him with fright. But, alas, Alana was simply trying to get his attention in the most Beck way possible.
She beamed at him the moment he looked her way, only to be met with an unenthusiastic smile. In a lightning quick flash of words, Evan had only picked up something about after school practices and no Beck houses. He’s fine with that. Alana’s house is enormous anyway, he feels unworthy to enter it. He agreed automatically, muttering something about his house being a mess so they couldn’t go there; in reality, it’s so broken down Alana and Connor would make fun of him for it. They’re so rich and he’s so… not.
After Alana had walked away and Evan was re-granted his locker time, he thought. And not about anything in particular, only the fact that Connor knows where he lives and has seen the outside of his house and it wouldn’t be much of an embarrassment. He could only imagine the horror on Connor’s face when they suggest he enters the Hansen house.
And, you know, that the snow is coming down harder than Evan has ever seen it, the lake was completely out of the question. Maybe Alana is okay with cold, Connor too, but Evan is not in any way, shape, or form.
Only a few minutes later, Alana arrived again, this time pulling Connor behind her.
“We can go to my place after school. Can I go now?” Connor had whined. He made a face at someone who looked him up and down with judgement.
“But your family,” Alana pointed out. Connor just rolled his eyes.
“Larry won’t be off work until, like, 8. We can tell Zoe and mom to fuck off and they will. Zoe with a fight, but she will,” Connor gave a half-hearted thumbs up. “We Gucci,”
As Evan floated through the rest of the day, finding himself from classroom to classroom with no recollection as to how he got there, and zero sightings of Zoe, Connor saying ‘We Gucci’ repeated in his head. It’s so bizarre to have seen someone who isn’t Jared, even more bizarre that it’s Connor Murphy, say something like that in everyday conversation. It was the only thing he can think of at school and while trying to read and while riding in the passenger seat of Connor’s Jeep.
Evan used to feel bad riding in the Jeep, the amount it probably cost compared to Evan’s pathetic bank account, he felt it was too much. He’s now ridden in it more times than he’s ever driven, which isn’t much, but still too many times. Alana trails behind them, a much better driver than Connor. Evan quickly realizes he wishes he had driven with Alana.
“You know, I know you like my sister,” Connor breaks the silence. Evan stares out the window at a battery store even harder and tightens his hands between his thighs a little tighter.
Fuck.
“H—How? Er, no? I don’t? Where—uh—where’d you get that idea?” Evan laughs awkwardly and unconvincingly.
Connor squares his shoulders and readjusts his position. It’s as if making Evan uncomfortable suddenly makes Connor uncomfortable as well. If only this happened sooner, especially all those times Connor jokingly (or not, Evan’s not sure) offered to suck Evan’s dick.
Fuck.
“It’s pretty fucking obvious, bro,”
Did Connor Murphy just call him bro? Once again, Evan is taken aback by something Connor has said to him today. Taken aback and stunned someone other than Jared said it to him. Well, actually, Jared doesn’t say bro, rather bruh. It always sounds forced and hangs uncomfortably in the air, but Evan’s sure Jared loves it. Jared’s always loved weirdly using slang of years ago.
“Anyway,” Connor continues, pulling Evan from his thoughts and driving once again, “I’m just telling you to control your dick. She’s gonna be at the house, and I swear I will beat your ass—not in a kinky way I’d rather have my ass beaten, but that’s beside the point—if you make her even remotely uncomfortable. Got it?”
“You’ve said something along these lines multiple times before. I don’t need to hear it again,”
He feels the need to address the ‘making Zoe uncomfortable’ thing out loud. Tell Connor that he’s constantly making Evan uncomfortable with all his sexual jokes. He’s not even sure if he should use the word ‘jokes.’ Are they jokes? Or does Connor actually want to—do stuff with Evan. Evan doesn’t want to.
But he doesn’t.
“I know. You need to know, and maybe you’ll pick something up if I, like, pound it into your brain for a while.” Connor readjusts his position again and let's go of the steering wheel and nearly drives onto a sidewalk. “I’ll be telling ‘Lana the same thing; don’t think she’s off the hook because she’s a girl,”
Evan didn’t assume otherwise. Alana is just as capable as Evan at making Zoe uncomfortable. It’s unfortunate both he and Alana like Zoe, but it is what it is. When he was younger, he and his cousin liked the same girl who ended up moving two city’s over and never seeing them again. He can’t remember anything about her, only that she had long black hair.
Thinking about his weird crushes on girls back then, some of them not even real just to get his cousins off his back, Evans impulsive urge to rub at the crease in his cast makes its reappearance. Instead of feeling the familiar and comforting hard plaster, he feels the cold but soft material of his hoodie. The same hoodie he got when he started his apprenticeship at Ellison. The same hoodie he was wearing when he fell.
“You really don’t have to stress about it,” Connor notices Evan rubbing his arm and has learned it means Evan is anxious about something. He’s very observant. “Just don’t make those weird googly eyes like you do at school,”
“I don’t make googly eyes at her!”
“Yes, you do. I notice it, bitch, and I hate it,”
Did… did Connor Murphy just call Evan a… bitch?
He’s not sure how to feel about it. And, now, looking over at Connor, Evan can conclude Connor regrets it.
“Why do you care, anyway? Everyone knows you two aren’t close,” Evan becomes defensive. So what if Zoe ends up dating him? Connor can’t control that! It doesn’t matter!
“She’s still my little sister,” Connor says through gritted teeth, “and, I met—someone who told me I shouldn’t be such a dick to my parents. ‘Give them a break,’ I think were her words. Why not apply that logic to Zoe too?”
Evan doesn’t get it.
“I don’t get it,”
“So, imagine you had a family member—let’s say Jared—who you used to be super fucking close with, but you two fell apart but still see each other regularly. You’ll still feel protective and the urge to help them, even though you two don’t get along anymore, because you spent (and still do spend) a lot of time together. If that makes any fucking sense at all,”
Sort of. Marks daughter, and Evans half sister, Haley, will start dating soon. Although Evan has seen her a total of three times in her entire life because they share the same dad he’d still hate whoever would (theoretically) break her heart.
It’s definitely not at all the same situation as Connor and Zoe, but it’s slightly related.
Almost as if on queue, Connor pulls into the driveway of the Murphy household. Evan still can’t believe how huge their house is, the disbelief multiplied tenfold when he remembers the Murphys are also a single-income household. Like, shit. Heidi always said the hardest working people get paid the least, and the Murphy house compared to the Hansen home is only proof of that. Connor jumps out of his Jeep, hurrying to the porch to hide from the snow. Snowflakes still get stuck in his hair, appearing as glitter.
Evan must admit, Connor is kind of attractive.
Nope. Push those thoughts down. Evans okay with having non-platonic thoughts about other boys, but definitely not Connor. That’s weird. Connor would kill him. He pushes the thoughts to the side, unintentionally saving them for later, and follows in Connor’s trail to the porch. There, they wait side-by-side for Alana to pull up, and Evan wishes he had worn more than only a hoodie.
Evan takes a few steps back to avoid the cold wind and stares at the back of Connor’s head. His hair is messy and hasn’t been washed in God knows how long, and he’s hunched over and ruining his back at the same time, and oh so lanky. Taking back everything he said about Connor being attractive before, Alana joins the other two and Connor lets them inside. Evan enters last, of course.
The moment Evan steps foot in the enormous foyer, he knows he doesn’t belong. It’s the exact vision Evan had for every fancy house. There are double curved staircases and a balcony looking down to the foyer and the living room is sunken in and it’s way too much. There’s a goddamn chandelier! He can’t do this. Maybe he can fake having a stomachache, or force that headache back, and go home instead of feeling bad and judged for simply being in a house. From an archway to Evan’s right, from the dining room, Mrs Murphy enters the foyer with a grin larger that any other grin he’s ever seen.
“You’re home! Before your sister!” She directs at Connor. She lays eyes on Alana and Evan and her grin grows. “And you have friends!? Who are you two?”
Connor rolls his eyes and grunts softly. He mutters something incomprehensible under his breath and hooks his foot around Evans ankle for a second as if in warning. The supposed warning only makes Evan uncomfortable; he’s only ever seen actions like it done in romantic settings and he and Connor are definitely not romantically involved.
“Hello, Mrs Murphy!” Alana steps forward, hugging Mrs Murphy with warm arms; Mrs Murphy accepts the hug. “I’m Alana Beck! You’ve probably heard Ava mention me a few times; I’m her sister,”
“Please call me Cynthia. Mrs Murphy sounds too official. Like I’m a teacher,”
Cynthia offers an uncomfortable laugh.
Alana will not even think about calling anyone above the age of 30 their first name, and it's obvious by the look on her face when Cynthia merely suggests it. Cynthia looks to Evan.
“And you are?”
“I’m Evan,”
“That’s a nice name,”
There are better names out there. Evan isn’t the greatest—it’s ordinary, but it also isn’t the worst. It’s not as bad as Ziv, which is what Mark and Sydney are naming their next kid. What the hell kind of name is Ziv? Haley is a decent name, it’s a cute name, but Ziv? You only name someone Ziv if you want them to get bullied.
Anyway,” Connor clears his throat. Everyone turns to him. “I hate this more than anything in the entire world. We’re gonna go upstairs,”
“Oh, are they staying for dinner?”
It’s as if Evan and Alana have disappeared from the room. Now, it’s just Cynthia and Connor and they have forgotten about the other two. It’s like they’re in a cardboard box, able to hear everything, but not see anything of the world around them.
“I dunno. We’ll figure it out when we get there,”
Evan hates that just as much as Connor hates his group members meeting his mom. He likes plans and being sure what will happen and when. Being with Connor, who evidently just does whatever happens, is the worst mistake Evan has ever made. He’s gonna be too awkward to tell anyone when he should leave and end up staying and becoming a part of the family. Heidi will forget about him and Cynthia will adopt him and make him a bedroom and everything, and he will see Zoe every day and he can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.
Stuck in his own world, it takes Evan a few seconds to notice Connors tapping on his shoulder and nodding up the stairs. They walk, nearly side-by-side to the left staircase, at which point Connor notices Alana and Cynthia still in (one-sided) conversation and calls her over. As the three of them begin upstairs and Alana has trouble closing their conversation, Cynthia calls something about snacks and Alana politely declines. Cynthia insists half-heartedly, until Alana silences and Connor mutters “fuck off.” Evan stays silent, afraid of where saying a word may get him.
“Welcome to the Bitch Cave,” Connor presents his room to his friends with pride. Evan and Alana stay in the doorway for a second, staring at Connor who is standing in the middle of the room. “The moment you enter, you are officially a bitch,”
Evan pushes his way in and stares at a snow globe of what looks like the Manhattan skyline on Connor’s shelf. “I’m honoured,”
“Hey! You’re making actual jokes!” Connor punches Evan’s arm jokingly, but it still hurts. Evan turns and meets eyes with Connor.
Connor is grinning. He looks happy. Evan has gone to school with him for nearly their entire lives and not once, since fourth grade, has he seen Connor smile so genuinely and hugely. The world seems to spin for a second, and that headache seems to be coming back as they lock eyes. And for that same second, Evan admires the colour of Connor’s eyes in a not-normal way. He never knew he could like brown, almost black, eyes so, and yet he’s standing completely still staring at Connor.
The world around him comes ringing back. Traffic outside, and Cynthia playing music downstairs, and Connor’s small giggles, and Alana clearing her throat. The boys turn to her at the same time, Evan clearly lost in thought or maybe ad—no. He’s lost in thought.
Alana saunters to Connor’s bed and sits down heavily. She sits with her back straight and her hands folded neatly in her lap—the way all mothers wish their daughters would sit. Mrs Beck must be proud. Heidi would be proud if she had Alana as a daughter, but instead she got stuck with Evan.
She clears her throat once again, and Connor’s sits on the floor, and she pulls The Little Prince out of her bag. Connor pats the spot next to him for Evan to sit. Afraid and not willing to risk what might happen if he didn’t, Evan sits next to Connor. They share a book and, for the next ten minutes, try to help Alana memorize her lines. She’s nearly gotten them memorized, but she still isn’t quite there.
She—and Evan—becomes even less there as Zoe knocks on the doorframe.
“Hey… gays,” Zoe mutters uncomfortably, as if a realization comes over as her eyes roll over Connor, then Alana, then Evan. “Uh, mom made cookies,”
“I’m—fuckin’…” Connor mumbles and rubs his temples.
He looks to Evan, and Evan looks to him, and neither of them look to Alana, and Evan is visibly uncomfortable.
“We’ll be down in five,”
And just like that, Zoe turns the corner and disappears. That always seems to be the case when Evan sees her: she’s there for a few seconds, says a few words, then leaves. It’s making Evan wonder why he started liking her in the first place? Like, he’s never seen her for long, and when he does, it’s from across the gymnasium.
Ah, right. She’s has an unforgettably gorgeous face, and hair you want to run your fingers through, and hands you want to hold at all times of the day, and lips you want to kiss until you can’t breathe, and a smile that makes you forget the world. Zoe Murphy is perfect.
But Evan's dumb brain, yet again, decides to begin thinking about Connor instead of Zoe.
He wonders why, after seeing Evans obvious uncomfortable-ness, Connor decided they’d go downstairs and engage in an uncomfortable situation with Cynthia and Alana being the only two speaking. Ah, Connor knows what will happen, he knows what he got them into. Hopefully.
Alana turns back to the pair on the floor. She grins that iconic, overly peppy, Alana Beck grin and comments on how nice Cynthia is, and how having Cynthia as a mom must make a for perfect life, and how Connor really shouldn’t take her for granted. Evan can’t disagree. However, Connor evidently can. He informs them on how insufferable Cynthia is when anyone comes over. Last time Connor brought a ‘friend’ over, he was 16, and Cynthia scared them away. The room's air feels heavy after Connor says this, and Alana pushes out an, “it’s still nice that she’s trying.”
They sit in discussion for the next two minutes, mostly Connor and Alana jokingly arguing about whether or not Cynthia is a good mom and Evan laughing at them every now and again. Connor doesn’t crack a smile which adds to the faux-serious nature of the conversation. For the first time with them, Evan is having real fun and feeling real happiness.
So he doesn’t know why, the moment Cynthia calls them downstairs, Evan is up and out the door and in the doorway of the dining room in seconds. Panting, Evan stares in the room with wide eyes, not realizing he’s actually staring at Zoe until she clears her throat. He says a quick ‘fuck you’ to himself for being so excited for cookies and looks away from her and literally anywhere else.
Slow behind him, Alana and Connor both take their sweet time descending to the foyer. It’s like they’re making fun of him. He wouldn’t blame them, to tell the truth.
“Hungry? You leapt down here like there was a murderer sneaking in through the bathroom window,” Connor says. He stops next to Evan and hooks his foot around Evan’s ankle again, except this time it lingers. It lingers and Evan wishes time would stop for even a few seconds.
“Yeah,” Evan laughs awkwardly, “I, uh, I barely had anything to eat today,”
“Well! Today is your lucky day!” Cynthia enters with two plates of cookies, “we have day old oatmeal raisin and fresh white chocolate macadamia nut,”
Evan cringes. He’s allergic to macadamia nuts, but he won’t be telling Cynthia that. Just make up something about white chocolate being too sweet.
“You know… why the hell are you guys here of all places?” Zoe asks, munching on an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Evan backtracks on his reaching for an oatmeal raisin, afraid of being seen as weird by Zoe by choosing the same cookie as her. Dr Sherman won’t be happy to hear this, but what if Zoe actually does think he’s weird? What if she confronts him and she’ll think he’s lying by saying he’s allergic to macadamia nuts and never talks to him again? Dr Sherman will understand that, right? Yeah.
“They didn’t want to go to Evan’s house, and my house is currently in a state of disaster, and definitely not the lake because it’s snowing,” Alana butts in. She takes an oatmeal raisin cookie and takes a bite of it and sits next to Zoe, like she’s trying to get Zoe to acknowledge her choice in cookie and not panic about it.
“Lake? What lake?” Zoe turns to Alana in interest. Evan’s stomach churns with jealousy for a moment, then is reminded of Connor’s presence right next to him.
“Ellison Lake! It’s, like, right near the park!” Alana informs happily. She looks way too excited about it.
“I didn’t know it was called that,” Evan mutters, and suddenly all eyes are on him, “oh, it’s just, uh, I worked at Ellison Park over the summer as an apprentice park ranger. Not that, um, not too exciting,”
“That’s, like, super nerdy,” Zoe laughs.
Evan’s stomach fills with butterflies this time. He sits in the seat across from her and Connor follows promptly.
“Not that it’s a bad thing. Nerdy and kinda cute, honestly,” Zoe adds. Evan tries to hide the blush and ignores Connors flexing of his fists on the table.
Unsure of what else to say or do, Evan agrees and laughs awkwardly, meanwhile Connor is trying his hardest not to kill anyone.
“Did you know my parents once considered saving up money to buy the lake?” Alana’s voice is tense. Like she can’t stand Evan and Zoe talking to one another.
She continues, Cynthia occasionally going ‘oh’ or ‘really?’ Against his will, Evan learns that Mr and Mrs Beck wanted to buy the lake and turn it into a big… thing, call it Beck Lake, and maybe even open a garden or greenhouse and call it Beck Gardens. Alana says she was really excited about it, but her parents forgot about it before they could save any money type of premature money.
“Any-fucking-way,” Connor says through gritted teeth. “I—”
“Alana, why don’t you take me there one of these days? If your parents wanted to buy it, it must have been pretty!” Zoe asks, obviously and purposefully cutting off Connor. Evan turns to look at him and grows concerned at the tears forming in Connor’s eyes.
“It’s absolutely fucking gorgeous.” Connor stands and turns to Evan, catching him by surprise, and grabbing his shoulder for good measure, “Can we go now?”
“W-where?”
“I don’t fucking know! I hate that my sister and friend are flirting like there’s no tomorrow!”
“Oh, shut up, I’m not flirting with anyone,” Zoe scoffs. She leans back and crosses her arms.
“Yeah, you fuckin’ are! If not with Alana, it’s Evan you’re trying to bone!” Connor raises his voice and tightens his grip on Evan’s shoulder to the point he’s just holding Evan’s shirt. “And I don’t appreciate you trying to fuck up the only friendships I’ve ever made!”
“Who the hell—” now, Zoe is standing and leaning over the table. Evan’s knows it isn’t the time, but he finds it kinda hot.
“Yeah, I think we should go,” Evan stands and heads for the foyer, only stopped by the tightening of his shirt around his chest. Then Connor let’s go and tugs Evan for the door.
Connor is very touchy today (or maybe all days and Evan just doesn’t know it) and Evan isn’t sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, he hasn’t touched another person on purpose in probably years and it feels nice to be from Connor; on the other hand, Connor kind of scares him.
“What about Alana?” Evan mutters as he and Connor put on their shoes.
“She lives, like, two blocks away,”
And so, without even taking his coat, Connor leaves the house (not closing the door behind him), and begins on his way to his Jeep. Evan follows quickly, pulling on his hoodie as he walks, and says he forgot his backpack inside. Connor says he’ll bring it with him to school the next day. Evan appreciates it, but there’s stuff he needs.
“Evan?” Connor asks when they’re settled and speeding down the road. He only continues when Evan hums in acknowledgement. “What are your opinions on weed?”
Now there’s a subject Evan knows nothing about! He knows it’s, like, not great but not terrible for you, and Jared likes to make jokes about it.
“Uh, I don’t know? Don’t really care for it, I guess?”
“Would you care if I lit up in here I just… need to take the edge off a bit,”
“Just as long as you don’t make me have some, like in those D.A.R.E ads,”
Connor laughs but doesn’t smile as he reaches into the glove-box. Evan’s shifts uncomfortably when Connor’s hand gets way too close to his knee.
“Dude. This isn‘t some elaborate scheme that ends in me trying to sleep with you or some shit. I want to grab my weed,” Connor reassures him, “besides, I haven’t had meaningless sex in, like, two years,”
Evan doesn’t elaborate on the fact that Connor was having sex at fifteen-years-old. It’s not too uncommon in the neighbourhood Evan’s from even before fifteen—people will do anything for money—but in Connor’s neighbourhood? There’s no way anyone has any reason to be having sex at fifteen.
“I know, I…” make up some bullshit excuse, “don’t like physical contact,”
It’s not entirely a lie.
“Ah. That makes sense,”
Connor pulls a little Ziploc bag from the glove-box, and parks in the small parking lot of a church. He’s going to smoke weed in a church parking lot. Evan considers it a massive fuck you to religion.
“My parents used to drag me here all the time when I was younger,” Connor leans his seat back and stares up at the giant wooden cross nailed above the door, “hated it. Other than the Sunday School activities. Those were fun. We’d watch Veggie Tales and colour and shit. It was lit.” Connor pauses. He inhales smoke and exhales it out the window best he can. “Then the priest raped me and we stopped going,”
“Wait—what? You—what?”
“I’m kidding!” Connor says with a grin. “Mom just realized I hated it and convinced Larry to stop making me go. A couple years ago the old priest did rape a little seven-year-old boy, so… good thing we left,” he pauses again, but this time to just look over at Evan for a moment. He looks away and adds, “doesn’t set a great example for us gays,”
Evan ignores Connor’s ‘us gays,’ like he was insinuating they are gay together. Evan does like boys, just… not boys like Connor. Probably. Maybe. You never know until you try.
“That’s—that’s not really something to joke about,”
“I know. But, whatever, y’know?”
“I don’t know,”
And, also, it’s not whatever. It’s one of those things you don’t joke about, especially when it has happened. It’s like joking about… methheads sleeping in your backyard when you know a methhead actually does sleep in your friends shed; or killing animals when PETA has a shelter in your city. It’s just not funny.
It may be some sort of coping mechanism though? Jared jokes about stuff he’s insecure about. Heidi does too. And Evan himself. Many people joke about their problems as a coping mechanism.
If it isn’t, then Connor’s humour is really fucking weird.
“Bit of both actually,”
“Oh,”
Connor tosses the last of the joint out the window, yet another giant fuck you to religion, and starts the vehicle up again. Evan is calm for a second, then his senses kick in again and he remembers Connor shouldn’t be driving. They nearly hit a lamppost on their way out of the parking lot, and then a fire hydrant when they’re back on the road.
They learned about road safety and not driving under the influence when they were 14! Apparently Connor didn’t pay attention (Evan stops himself before he can say he’s not surprised, considering Connor was having sex only a year later). It still isn’t a surprise, Connor doesn’t pay attention to anything important. It’s a surprise he even passed his driving test.
For a second, after they nearly rear-end an old lady, Evan considers offering to take over the driving, then remembers how skittish he gets behind the wheel and how he’d probably kill them both.
Connor comes to a fast halt, probably almost forgetting where Evan’s house is, in front of Evan’s house. The living room light is on and Heidi’s car is in the driveway. Fantastic. Bracing himself, Evan exits Connor’s Jeep.
“I’m bringing your backpack to school tomorrow. Meet me at the sex corner of the courtyard before class starts, yeah?”
That needs a little explanation. There’s a very secluded corner of their school’s courtyard where, reportedly, multiple condoms and condom wrappers and apparently even a dildo (some say strap on, the details are blurry) have been found. The school knows about it all, but have done little except put up posters and a half-assed assembly about teenage sex and sex before marriage, which led people to believe it was a couple of the teachers having sex.
“People might think we’re… you know,”
“Not in the corner, idiot, just near it.”
Obviously. Though, it would be nice for people to at least think Evan is having sex. His social life wouldn’t seem so pathetic, not to mention his amount of friends would definitely increase.
“Of course I don’t know why I assumed otherwise,”
“You wish you could get this ass, though,”
Alrighty then. That’s… not true at all. He doesn’t wanna… nope. No, thank you. Besides, he’d be shit. Evan doesn’t wanna go into too much detail about his sex life, mostly because there is no sex life to begin with (unless you count Jared offering to give him a hand job after sex ed in tenth grade).
“Okay. Bye. See you tomorrow?” Evan says with uncertainty. Is that what people say to each other? He’s never properly said goodbye to anyone other than his mom and grandma.
“Bye,”
Apparently it is what people say to each other. Evan stands still and watches Connor drive off. A couple people sit on the other side of the road, smoking something definitely more intense than weed, and watching the sun go down. Evan rushes inside before they think he wants to steal their drugs and beat him up for it.
On the couch in the living room is Heidi, curled up under a knitted blanket with an entire pot of Kraft Dinner in her hands. She’s immersed in the TV show she’s watching and doesn’t even notice Evan until he shuts the door.
Fuck. She’s always off on the days and nights Evan doesn’t want her to be off. The most inconvenient days. The days the most stuff happens he doesn’t want to tell her.
“Hi, honey! Where were you?” Heidi sets down the pot and climbs off the sofa. She’s in her pyjamas. “Where’s your backpack?” And hugs him. She’s warm and comfortable but Evan’s body stays straight like a board and doesn’t hug her back.
“I was at a friend’s house, and dropped it off here before I went over there,”
Heidi’s grin disappears and changes to confusion. “You have a friend?”
Pushing aside the offence he took to her disbelief, he nods.
Not that he’d really consider Connor a friend, but it’s probably the closest he’s come to one in a couple years. Which is kind of sad because he grew up with Jared and even he and Jared aren’t real friends. They hung out when their parents told them to, and that’s it. But with Connor, they’re spending time together mostly because of school, but they’ve actually gotten to know each other!
Not the right stuff, obviously. Evan doesn’t know Connors birthday, but knows he was having sex at fifteen, maybe younger.
“Yeah.” Evan pauses, waits for Heidi to continue, and carries on when she doesn’t, “his name’s Connor,”
Her face softens a bit and she looks a tiny bit more confused. “Well, he sounds like a very nice young man.”
Evan nods.
“Hey, why don’t you join me? Been a while since we watched TV together. This one is about a rich family who loses everything, then—”
“Sounds great, but I feel greasy right now so I’m just gonna shower,” Evan avoids her explanation of the show. Heidi tends to ruin shows she starts without Evan, hence why they haven’t watched one together in a while, and he eventually just asks for the show’s title and watches it himself when he’s bored on a Saturday. It’s a good system they have going.
Heidi steps out of his way, expecting him to go to their bathroom-slash-laundry room, but he avoids that and heads to the stairs. He can feel the sadness in the room skyrocket.
“Oh, well, bye sweetie. Hope you had fun with your friend,” Heidi mutters after him, “I love you,”
“Love you too,”
When he reaches the upstairs landing, though, Evan doesn’t go to the bathroom. He took a shower before school, and he can’t believe Heidi believed his lie. The bathroom is right above the living room, but he can’t bring himself to care that Heidi will be skeptical and wonder why the water isn’t running. He definitely accidentally inhaled some of Connor’s weed… air… smoke… stuff.
Don’t think about Connor in your spare time, Evan, especially not in your bedroom! That’s so weird! What would Connor do if he found out? He’d think Evan was weird, definitely, and stop talking to him, then Alana would side with Connor so she could get with Zoe, and Evan would be back to having no one, being friendless, alone. But, it’s not like he’s thinking about doing anything with Connor, he’s just thinking about Connors weird weed smell.
Not that Connor smells like weed or anything. Well, Evan takes that back, he does smell like weed, but it’s not like he’s paying any extra attention. Anyone can tell he smells like it. It’s like his signature scent. If you smell weed, you think of Connor and Evan is going to shut up now.
He stands at the window, staring down at the sidewalk below. A couple years ago, there was a dead bird that have Evan multiple panic attacks on the sidewalk right in front of their house, and the stain is still there and it still terrifies him. The people smoking crack (maybe. He’s not sure) across the street have gone inside now, and now there’s just a sketchy guy standing behind one car on the street. He’s looking around frantically, paranoid, until his wild eyes land on Evan for just a second too long. Evan feels himself nauseating at the sight of the man, so he closes the curtains and sits on his bed and stares at the floor for a few minutes, then kicks off his shoes and shoves his jeans off and gets under the covers and tries to fall asleep. He forces himself to think of nothing.
Nothing, meaning Connor Murphy’s weird weed smell, then Zoe Murphy and her smile, and the crinkles at the sides of her eyes when she does so, and her laugh, and the small amount of contentment that comes across her face after she’s done laughing, which reminds Evan of the small amount of contentment and pride that comes across Connor’s face after he laughs at one of his own high not-jokes.