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Heaven and Earth

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Evan Hansen had a hole in his wall. So did Connor Murphy. Neither one knew it yet, but Evan was about to find out.

He stumbled into his apartment, the argument still ringing in his ears. Still jostling for space in his already full mind.

It had been his mother again, telling him that he needed a proper job, and a proper girlfriend, and a proper life. Evan disagreed, as always. Right now, all he needed was some peace and quiet.

Evan sank into his second-hand bed, staring blankly up at the ceiling, where fingers of damp were beginning to stretch. Finally, sleep. Finally, peace.

"And therefore, as a stranger, give it welcome. There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Evan jumped awake, groaning into his pillow - what time was it? Who's voice was that? It came again, muffled but close.

"But come, here as before, never, so help you mercy..."

Evan felt the voice manifest itself around him like smoke. It was vapour, curling under the floorboards, everywhere, with a lilting, musical quality.

Perhaps, were Evan feeling a little more tolerant, he'd have enjoyed the voice. Maybe he would have followed the words, and recognised that it was Hamlet. Alas, Evan was exhausted, and he felt too full to take anything else in. If he didn't sleep, then he'd sleep through his alarm, then he'd forget to take his meds at the right time, and everything would be thrown out of loop.

So, naturally, he was annoyed. He propped his tired body up onto one elbow and squinted at his alarm clock. One in the morning. Just great.

"How strange or odd soever I bear myself..."

Maybe Evan did need a proper job - not to please Heidi, but so that he could move into an apartment with better soundproofing. Or just an apartment away from the mystery Hamlet-reciter. He got up from the bed clumsily, knocking over a pile of books on his way across the room. He pressed his ear against the wall, feeling it cold against his skin.

It was coming from that side. Now the voice had stopped, but he could still hear the shuffling of paper, as if the speaker were turning onto the next page.

"There are...more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of-"

The speaker broke off. There was another shuffle of pages. Evan knew what he was doing - he was experimenting with the words, seeing which tone sounded right. An actor, he presumed. An insomniac actor with an affinity for Shakespeare's tragedies.

The light in Evan's apartment was limited, so he felt his way along the wall, trying to find the exact source of the voice. His fingers traced the outline of a poster - he couldn't see it, but Evan knew that it was a poster of his favourite band, Good Charlotte. A hark back to his eight grade punk phase.

For some reason, here was where the voice rang the loudest. Evan carefully untacked the poster from the wall, leaning in closer. It took him a few surreal moments to work out that the wall wasn't moving, but rather that something was moving behind it.

How long had there been a hole in the wall?

Crouching down on one knee, Evan peered into the hole, which was about the size of his fist. Through it, the mystery Hamlet-reciter continued his twilight soliloquy, oblivious to being watched.

The reciter's back was facing him, and he was dressed all in black, with tight-fitting jeans, long dark hair, and a blazer which subtly changed colour depending on how the light hit it. He was pacing his room restlessly, swinging his hips to and fro.

Evan was going to tell him to be quiet, but he was already unconscious, slumped against the wall. The same voice that had woken him up had put him back to sleep again. No one could blame him - the mystery Hamlet-reciter had a way with words, spinning them out in the air, smoothing them out like velvet.

Said Hamlet-reciter stopped. Put his script down on his desk. Turned to his own wall, his eyes settling on the painting that hung there. Had he heard a sound come from that direction - a shuffling, perhaps, or snoring?

He pointed at the painting wearily. "Don't be haunted. I've only just moved in."

*

"Good. It's going pretty well, I guess." Evan paced his kitchen, which was quite difficult considering the minimal floor space. He kept knocking aside plates and pans with his elbows.

"Really? How many words is it so far?" Jared sounded sceptical on the other end of the phone. Or perhaps it was just the fuzzy connection.

"Two thousand, give or take a couple hundred." This had been their topic of conversation for the last week, non-stop. Evan's research paper for his PhD: the paper which he both loathed and treasured at the same time. It was driving him crazy, but it was all he'd ever wanted to do.

Suddenly he wanted to change the subject. "How's the job? Any new cases?"

He laughed. "When isn't there a case, huh?"

Jared worked as a barrister in Manhattan, a position he'd earned single-handedly from charm and sheer grit. He was, as Heidi liked to scathingly remind Evan, doing something worthwhile with the opportunities he'd been given. Unlike him, it seemed. Jared was the only one who actually sort of cared/pretended to care about Evan's PhD in plant sciences, and thought he'd make something of it. Although, Evan noticed, he never stayed at his flat when she visited, because he couldn't stand the damp.

A comfortable silence settled, and Evan began absent-mindedly sorting through the fridge with his spare hand. Jared spoke up again. "Come visit. No one else will play World of Warcraft with me."

Evan sighed. "I can't - Mom seems to have ears everywhere." The was only half true - Evan also had a crippling phobia of planes. "Speaking of, she called me yesterday."

"That's a first."

"Yeah." He took out some Pot Noodle and clumsily ripped off the lid. "I hope it was the last."

"Ugh. Are you eating Pot Noodle again?"

"How did you know?" Evan fumbled for a fork in the sink, savouring the taste. Sometimes he became so engrossed in his plant sciences that he'd forget to eat, then he'd suddenly realise that he was urgently hungry.

"It's the sound of the lid. I've heard it too many times. Seriously." His grin was practically audible over the phone.

"Mmmh. Don't care. It's delicious." Evan shovelled in another mouthful.

Jared's reply was drowned out by a sudden blast of music from the neighbouring flat. Evan cursed the mystery Hamlet-reciter under his breath. "Jared? Jared, I have to hang up. I can't hear you."

He hung up, shoving the phone into his pocket angrily. Why couldn't his conversion with Heidi have been interrupted instead? Jared was the only person he actually enjoyed talking to.

The music turned up a notch: a raucous bass line, thumping beat, and ungodly synth to top it all off. This was swiftly followed by the stomping of heavy boots, which Evan could feel vibrate the floor. It sounded as if the party was just beginning.

Wonderful. To add to the list of things Evan knew about his neighbour, it turned out he was a party-thrower with a terrible taste in music. He ran a hand over his Good Charlotte poster, and the hole in the wall behind it.

"SHUT UP, PLEASE!" He hollered, knowing that the mystery party-thrower Hamlet-reciter wouldn't hear him. Regardless, it was probably the rudest Evan had ever been to anyone.

Chapter Text

Evan Hansen had a hole in his wall, which he now knew fully well. Connor Murphy, on the other hand, was unaware that they shared this hole in the wall.

This would do well to explain why, when he woke up with an malicious hangover, he went through a train of thought with involved seriously considering exorcising his painting. Connor could have sworn that, at some point in the haze that was last night, he'd heard a muffled voice coming from The Painting's general direction. 'Shut up', or something along those lines.

He staggered over to the kitchen counter, which was strewn with empty bottles and used up spliffs. Connor's cat, Dog, was reclining on top of the microwave as if nothing had happened. Were all cats this misanthropic?

Squinting at The Painting suspiciously, he grabbed an empty glass, pouring water into it from a jug. At least, it looked like water - if it was vodka, Connor would find out soon enough.

It was, all in all, a very average-looking painting. He recalled buying it off the market for a few dollars - it was one of those faux-abstract pictures, all colours and shapes that were supposed to have a hidden meaning.

Screw hidden meanings. Connor was tired, and hungover, and...

Late. Today was Monday.

Connor flew across the counter, leaving spilled, cheap vodka in his wake, and made for the bathroom. It wasn't considered a stellar idea to wear the same clothes and the day and the night before, but time was precious, and it was running out faster than that vodka was dripping onto the kitchen floor.

As he sped to the door, grabbing a packet of chewing gum which would suffice for toothpaste, his sleeve snagged the frame of The Painting. It fell clean off it's hook, revealing the hole in the wall like the gaping mouth of a cave.

Connor stopped in his tracks. Was he seeing spots? No - surely the weed had worn off by now. Had it been there when he'd moved in and placed that godforsaken painting on the wall?

He took a step back as his eye detected a movement on the other side. Through the wall there was dark, dark, then...blue. Connor corrected himself - there was a pair of eyes, blue eyes, staring at him from the neighbouring flat.

Beautiful eyes, he guessed, grudgingly. A pity they had to be attached to such a disgruntled face. "You're my new neighbour." Said the man on the other side, frowning. He frowned twice: once at the mere fact that Connor was here, and the second time at his gothic choice of clothing.

"I am." Clarified Connor. "You're the voice behind the talking painting." He sounded quite pleased to have worked out the source of this mystery, because at least it meant he wasn't hallucinating again, and his mom wouldn't insist he go to the psychiatrist again. Because Connor was a fully grown adult who could decide by himself when he needed to go to the psychiatrist.

Anyway.

"You're...you're Hamlet?" His neighbour frowned even deeper, but now his anger was softened by innocent confusion. There were two small creases between his eyes. "'There are more things in Heaven and Earth...?.'"

"'Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'" Finished Connor. "Was I good?"

There was no answer - Connor's blue-eyed neighbour had put up a poster on his side of the wall, so that they could no longer see each other. He heard footsteps clomping away.

Which was kind of rude. But he'd talk to him again later - after all, there was a hole in their wall.

So it was inevitable, really.

*

It was like a dance.

Connor was determined to talk to Evan, who he had found endearing on sight, despite seeming grumpy. After all, if they were going to be neighbours, they would get to know each other whether they liked it or not. If Zoe landed of of her Surprise Visits™ on him again, he could use Evan to convince her that he actually had a friend.

(Why did the majority of Connor's decisions revolve around convincing his family he was a fully functioning adult? It was becoming a problem.)

Evan, on the other hand, was equally determined to avoid Connor at all costs. As if he needed another distraction from his research paper (which was so close to three thousand words). He reckoned Connor had got the hint about not making so much noise, because the music had been minimal. Which was how Evan liked it.

They kept skirting round each other. Connor could hear Evan's alarm through the hole in the wall, and had memorised exactly when he left the house in the morning. He would wait behind his door until he heard the sound of Evan's boots, and then step out into the landing at precisely the right time.

But Evan would always find a way to avoid him. He would make up a phone call, or walk ahead, or just plain ignore him. And it was becoming an intricate dance, a game, to see who would cave first.

For a while, life carried on nonchalantly. Evan wrote, sporadically attended lectures, and complained to Jared on the phone. Connor used his mundane job as a necessity to fund his acting, auditioning and socialising with way more people than he could ever remember.

Life didn't care, and neither did they.

Until Evan lost the game.

It was one of those mornings that didn't quite feel like morning, because it's was so dark outside. It was as if nature were having a lie-in, because the sky was inky purple and the birds weren't singing yet. Connor had been awake for longer - in fact, he planned on being early today.

He stepped quietly onto the landing, leaning his tall frame against his closed door. The space smelled faintly of cigarette ash and dead leaves. Four, three, two, one, and his elusive neighbour strode out, his eyes widening in surprise when he saw Connor.

"Hey." Connor fell into step beside him, and they were walking down the stairs together before Evan could do anything about it. Triumph flickered across Connor's face.

"H-hello." Said Evan, so quietly he almost hadn't spoken at all.

Connor's eyes glittered. "You never told me your name."

"You n-never told me yours." Evan shot back, adjusting his tattered bag on his shoulder.

"Connor."

"Evan."

They stepped outside, Connor pushing the door, propping it open with his foot for Evan to go through. "Just Evan?"

"Evan Hansen..." He took a deep breath, avoiding eye contact at all costs. "But no one calls me that - they just call me Evan, which I don't really mind because who even calls people by their full name anyway..." He trailed off, breathing fast as if he'd just been running. Connor wondered if he was asthmatic or something.

Connor smirked. "I do."

Evan Hansen scowled at his shoes. (Unforgivably clean New Balance sneakers with the label still attached.) After a lengthy silence, Connor spoke again: "Well, it was nice to meet you, Evan Hansen. I'll see you round?"

A leaf drifted down from above and into Evan's hair. Instinctively, Connor reached out to remove it, crushing it in his fingers and letting the pieces fly away in the wind. "You'll hear me round, anyway. Especially with that hole in the wall."

The early shadows hid Evan's face, but Connor could have sworn he was smiling a little. "That...that's true."

"We should really get that fixed," added Connor as an afterthought.

Evan nodded. "I...I don't have enough money to fix it yet."

"Oh, it fine," Connor waved a hand dismissively. "I'll pry my parents to send me money."

Evan was at a loss for words. "O-okay."

With that settled, Connor set off down the street on his way to work, throwing a last backward glance at Evan. "Goodbye, Evan Hansen."

Another leaf lodged itself on Evan's hair, but he didn't notice, because he was too busy watching Connor's retreating figure disappearing down the street.