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~~*~*~~

 

Evan isn’t quite sure how he got to this point in his life.  He doesn’t know which god (or goddess, he’s not going to rule anything out) he may have offended, or maybe delighted?  He wouldn’t know because he’s Jewish, though for him it’s more about habits and traditions and less about religious beliefs, and he’s definitely not sure if he should be afraid or excited right now because Connor Murphy is shuffling nervously in front of him after asking him a question and he doesn’t know how to respond to him.  Because there’s no way Evan had heard him correctly the first time.

 

He just stares the other boy with wide, unblinking eyes.  He’s so very confused about how this all came about, the part of his day where Connor is asking to be friends with him.  That wasn’t a part of his plan that morning, the plan he obviously executed poorly seeing as he’s standing in a hospital lobby with a cast on his arm instead of blissfully unaware of anyone or anything.  He was expecting to die broken and bloody, not live to make a friend, so forgive him if he’s a little off kilter right now.

 

The bit that lands him here in the hospital, however?  Here to even have this conversation with Connor in the first place?  Oh, he knows exactly where the end of that spiral into hell stems from.

 

It starts with a series of overheard conversations barely two days into his summer at his dad’s.

 

~~*~*~~

 

It’s the harshness of his voice that has him sitting on a stair in the shadows to listen instead of bolting, hiding just out of sight of the kitchen where Mark Hansen is whisper-yelling, though Evan’s not sure if it can be called a whisper in any fashion if he can hear it outside of the kitchen.  He’s going to regret this, he knows, but he sits and listens anyway because apparently he’s an emotional masochist.

 

“Heidi, that is exactly what I'm saying.  He is your problem, not mine. I invited him this summer because I thought he would have outgrown this pathetic display now that he is a senior.  I thought we could actually bond now that he is nearly an adult. I did not invite him so I could babysit someone who acts younger than my own 5 year old daughter when it comes to anything social!”  Mark’s voice is cut off and the sounds of his pacing resumes.

 

The footsteps seem to echo in cadence with the voice in his head that tells him how worthless he is, how pathetic of a human being he is, how much of a problem he has always been and will continue to be.  How unexpected. His father still thinks of him as an issue, a problem, a mere roadblock along his path to success. He doesn’t actually want him here. What. A. Surprise.

 

There’s an aggravated sigh and Evan can just barely see Mark’s shadow running a hand through dark tousled hair and he hates that so many of his own mannerisms still come from Mark even though he hasn’t lived in the same house as him since he was seven.  “Yes, I know you said he still has his anxiety issues, but you didn’t say he would go catatonic when asked what he wanted for lunch when we took him out. It was humiliating having my five year old answer the cashier readily while my highschooler stands there silently.”  

 

He isn’t surprised in the slightest.  Not at the ranting, not at the disdain for Evan’s presence, not even at with the confirmation that his father left because of him, and that his father didn’t return because of his issues.  Issues he couldn’t help. Issues only made worse by his father abandoning him. He can’t be surprised by something he expects. He’s very aware of just how useless of an achievement he would be for someone to claim, so he doesn’t blame his dad for wanting to pass him back like a hot potato.  Or maybe a dirty diaper. People like hot potatoes, no one likes a used diaper.

 

“Of course still I fed him, Heidi, I’m not cruel.  He received exactly what Amelia ordered since I had to order for him.”   Mark sounds exasperated, and Evan doesn’t blame him. He is also frustrated with himself for his inability to complete basic human tasks.

 

He begs to disagree with Mark on that, the idea he isn’t cruel.  He’s certainly being so now, though perhaps if he knew Evan was listening he’d be saying something different.  

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Chances are, he’d be even more vitriolic, each word a spear intended to harm him.  The words are doing that already and Mark isn’t even aware of his audience.

 

Part of him wishes he could see just how darkly his dad is scowling while most of him is glad he can’t, because the absolute disdain in his voice cuts Evan deeply.  “I will treat him the age he acts, Heidi. If he wants me to treat him like he is a teenager, he needs to act like one and that includes ordering for himself at a fast food restaurant .  I don’t care what you do with him, you are entirely too soft on him and I have said that from the beginning.”

 

It’s been ten years, really, since he saw his dad and he’s not sure why he had expected things to go differently.  Mark had visited once when he was eight, and hadn’t stuck around long. Visits then became cards the next year, finally stopping completely when he turned 12 and it dawns on him just then, the reason for the abrupt drop in contact. That must have been when Amelia was born.  He’s growing numb as the words keep jabbing, and he’s not sure if that’s better or worse for his mental state.  He’s such a useless son that his father had another child to replace him.

 

Mark’s growling draws his attention back to the half of the conversation Evan can hear.  “When you said anxiety issues, I thought you meant a managed, controlled level. A normal human level, which he should be at by his age.  Everyone experiences some anxiety from time to time, Heidi, and that is what I expected you to mean when you...no don’t you put this on me, I am not the one who raised him.  That’s on you.”

 

He says it like Mom was the one who left.  Evan thinks bitterly, hands gripping the sides of his shirt so tightly he thinks it might rip.  He’s not sure when he wrapped his arms around himself but now that he’s aware of it, all he can feel is pressure too much worthless as he grips himself tighter and tighter.  He’s probably going to leave bruises that will last for weeks.

 

Evan jumps when a loud smack of hand on wood sounds and he sees his father’s fingers from where’s he’s slapped the door frame.  “How dare...No, I do not want him here the entire summer! I will not have him around my young, impressionable daughter. Lord knows she’ll pick up his bad habits and I will not have you ruining another child by using your first one.  God only knows what else Evan has gleaned from that depressing aura that always looms over you.”

 

Habits, like it is his choice to constantly freeze up when it comes to talking.  Like he wants to be so painfully awkward he can’t make friends because no one wants to be around his stammering and rambling long winded monologues long enough to even try.  Like he picked his crippling anxiety up at a hobby store and said ‘yup, this what I’m going to devote my life to.’ Like he wants to be so damaged his father considers him ruined, a failure, nothing worth knowing.

 

Mark isn’t even trying to whisper anymore.  “Why should I pay for your mista...You know what, fine.  If it will get him out of my house and me off the phone with you sooner, I’ll pay to change his fucking plane ticket.  The shit I still do for you, Heidi, it’s incredible your audacity.  I’ll text you his flight details.” There’s the very audible sound of the landline phone being dropped onto the receiver before a loud sigh reverberates through the quiet house.

 

He will hate himself just as soon as he finds his way out of the apathy cloud that settles about him like the densest of fogs.  Well, he already hates himself, but he can definitely manage more just as soon as he finds the energy to do so. He may not have a lot of ambition, but he can manage this one thing. Footsteps grow louder and Evan jumps when Mark suddenly exits the kitchen, muttering out loud as he crossing the hall from the kitchen to the living room how he dodged a bullet with Evan because he’s just like his freak of a mother.  

 

“I need you to clarify something for me.”  Bethany’s voice is cold and flat and he sees his dad start just as he nearly falls off the step he’s sitting on.  He hadn’t known his stepmother was standing there in the hallway, and it doesn’t appear like she realizes Evan is there above her listening in, too.  “Two things, actually.”

 

He should leave, he’s overheard enough tonight, but he doesn’t.

 

He rarely does what he should do.

 

“Yes, Bethany?”  Mark’s posture is as tired as his voice but Evan can’t find an ounce of himself willing to care.  He’s genuinely kind of interested in what the ‘other woman’ has to say, what her view point is on Evan because she’s very obviously heard every single thing Mark had just said, same as Evan.

 

“I’ve met Heidi, you introduced us.”  She’s calm, quiet, a lot calmer than Evan thinks anyone else would be, and he tries to push away the blatant admittance that she and his mom have actually met before.  He doesn’t want to unpack that right now. “And my impression of her was not crazy or freakish in the slightest.” She steps forward a bit and now Evan can see her facial expressions clearly and she looks innocently curious.

 

It’s instantly suspicious to him, but apparently Mark is useless at human interaction.   Great, one more thing I have in common with that ass.  “You only saw her for a few minutes, hardly enough time to form a correct picture of someone.”

 

His stepmother just smiles a little.  “Regardless, clarify for me if you will, first what exactly is it about Heidi Hansen that makes it okay to talk to her like that, and second, why I’m not allowed to talk to my stepson or allow my daughter to get to know her brother?”

 

“I never said…”

“Mark, I have been standing here since you I heard you say hello to Heidi.”  She interrupts him and Mark freezes, staring at her in horror.

 

“You…”

 

“Yes.”  She says simply.  “I heard the entire thirty minute conversation, though it can hardly be called that.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard someone talk the way you did to her.” Which means she heard everything Evan had and more and god she really has no reason to like Evan at all now, does she?

 

“Beth…”

 

She holds a hand up, the motion sending her long ponytail swinging lightly.  “No, save the excuses.” Bethany stands there watching Mark stare at the wall and sighs.  “I want to get to know my stepson. I want Amy to be able to get to know her brother, to know the joy of having someone who will be there for her and be a positive role model, but that can’t happen if you don’t let them interact.”

 

Evan’s brain whirls.  How is it that a woman who has only spoken to him once when he had first arrived, and telling him where his room was to be hardly constitutes a conversation, gives more of a shit about him than his own father?  He has fully been expecting his step mother to hate him, to make his visit miserable, but right now? She’s proving to be the best part of the trip.

 

Her words bring Mark’s head back to focus on her.  “He’s...I’m trying to protect you!”

 

“From what?”  Bethany’s flat blank voice turns harsh and derisive and biting .  “Having to listen to a word or two be repeated?  Having to say an extra five words at the take-out counter to ease the stress of a boy who can’t manage it at the time?  None of these things bother me or are something I consider to be a problem. You do remember what I do for a living?”

 

Evan perks up a little at that.  He had thought she was a waitress, that is what his mom had told him the one and only time they had talked about Bethany, way back when he was still 7, and he’s heard nothing else on the matter so he hadn’t updated his assumptions.  He wonders what exactly it is she does now, but he’s not about to draw attention to himself in order to find out.

 

“Of course I remember, I’ve only spent the last 8 years supporting and accepting the fact you wish to work.”  And even Evan knows Mark probably shouldn’t have phrased it quite like that, but he’s also pretty sure Mark isn’t aware of how he sounds when he talks to women.  The cashier at the restaurant yesterday, his mom, now his stepmom. He hasn’t heard him talk to Amelia, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he raises his voice at her unnecessarily, as well.

 

His gut smolders.  He is a piece of shit, he deserves whatever Mark says about him, but Amelia is only five.  She hasn’t had time to make the same mistakes as Evan, she’s perfectly fine. Normal, even.  She doesn’t deserve to have Mark for a father.

 

“You are an absolute monster, Mark Hansen.”  She hisses and Evan leans slightly away from the sound, careful to not make too much of an alarm.  He hasn’t heard anyone say his fathers name with such fiery disgust aside from his mother, and to hear it from his stepmom is a little jarring.  “Hating your ex wife and son because of anxiety and depressive disorders they can’t help makes you the worst type of person.”

 

And Mark protests.  He fucking protests.  “You don’t understand, Bethany.  You can’t possibly…”

 

“What happens if Amy starts showing signs of anxiety?”  Mark stops short and stares unblinkingly at her. Evan holds his breath, terrified that he’ll be heard in the absolute dead silence.  She speaks when he doesn’t. “What happens if, god forbid, I have an accident and need lifelong assistance, or we get cancer or some other life threatening disease, Mark?  What happens then?” She takes a short breath in and sighs it out. “Would you still love us?”

 

The silence ticks by and Evan feels ice go down his spine with each passing breath.

 

It’s a long beat before Mark replies.  “Of course I would still love you Beth.”

 

Evan doesn’t really believe him, and neither does his stepmother if her absolutely desert like tone is any indication.  “Yes, the 15-second hesitation is quite convincing Mark.”

 

He doesn’t stay to hear anything else and takes advantage of the rising voice of his father to help hide the inevitable sounds he makes when he slips back up the stairs.  He has enough to think about anyway.

 

His father only wants his children if they are perfect and if the child isn’t perfect, what does that say about the mother?  It stands to reason that Mark would easily walk from Bethany and Amelia just as easily as he had walked away from Heidi and Evan and the poisonous something deep in Evan’s gut continues to smolder and pop and boil.

 

He slips back into the guest room, too numb to cry.  He debates texting Jared, but doesn’t. Every other text so far has gone on read with no reply, so he's not going to bother.  He’ll just unwrap all this new information alone, like he’s always done before, and if he has a breakdown he’ll manage through it and hopefully not throw himself off the overpass two blocks down the street.

 

He thinks of his mother as he brushes his teeth in the adjoining bathroom, of the spat out accusations of corrupting people with her depression and sighs.  He didn’t know his mom has depression, or at least used to, and mulls over that in his head, turning the concept every which way to try and match it up to pieces of his childhood that fit the idea.  He wishes she would’ve told him, it could only have helped him growing up, knowing his mom was struggling, too.

 

Now he’s not sure the knowledge makes much of a difference.  His mom still works too much, still cancels every plan she makes with him, is still never there to talk to.  Even if he had known, he’d never have been able to use the knowledge to help himself because she would have to have been there to even have the conversation in the first place.  His toothbrush clanks in the cup and the light switch makes a harsh click when Evan shuffles slowly back into the room.

 

He’s standing in just his boxers when Mark’s muffled voice swells as he argues some point he can’t make out through the closed doors between him and the arguing couple and Evan feels something in his stomach drop.  He hates Mark. He’s hated him for years, and hates that he felt guilted into coming on this stupid trip, and he hates that he has to witness Mark’s ruining of yet another wife and child. His hands clench at his sleep shirt, halfway into putting it on as a horrifying thought comes over him.  Evan is a lot like his father, he knows this, and if Mark can do this sort of shit again and again, what does that say about Evan?

 

What is Evan Hansen capable of doing?

Chapter Text

When he first opens his eyes, every single insult and jab from the night before floods over him and before he even leaves the bed, Evan resolves to avoid everyone until he goes home.  Of course, this is an impossible thing to accomplish, and he barely makes it until ten without contact with another human.

 

He’s been hiding in his room and finally emerges when it feels safe, hoping he can escape to the park and hide there until dinner.  Thankful to finally be alone with his thoughts, he’s barely started off walking down the sidewalk when a loud, high voice calls his name.  He freezes at his half-sister’s voice, his father’s words about Evan ruining Amelia with his freakish ways still ringing in his ears, and turns to see the little girl bolting down the front walk, red curls bouncing wildly around her head.  “He...hey, Amelia.”

 

“I prefer Amy.”  The five year old is straightforward and blunt, and it makes Evan want to smile at her spunkiness.  Still, he knows he’s not supposed to be talking to her. Not if he wants his dad to continue to leave him unbothered.  He hasn’t seen the man since the conversation he overheard last night, and that was definitely not on purpose, and he’d like to keep being unbothered until whenever he goes back home.

 

“Your dad...Dad said to call you Amelia.”  He whispers, eyes flicking over each of the nearby houses to see if anyone is watching him talk to the little girl.  He wouldn't put it past anyone to report what they’re seeing Evan do to Mark, especially when it comes to his daughter, to the child he actually likes.

 

Amelia’s eyes roll so hard Evan’s certain they’ll keep going around in circles and her hands come up and ball into fists to rest on her hips.  He’s never met a child with this much sass and he kind of loves her a little for it. “Well he’s stupid, and I don’t like my full name. Call me Amy.”

 

Evan’s little grin escapes involuntarily.  They share that feeling in common. He loathes how he’s named after that horrible man who calls himself his father and he’s filled with a sudden burst of rebellion.  He leans over and whispers conspiratorially, “how about whenever he’s not around then, okay?” At least his shitty ass father has an adorable daughter. At least she has a backbone, unlike Evan who will rebel in his own little ways, thank you.  Like calling his sister the name she prefers, which just happens to be something Mark doesn’t like.

 

It must be just fine with the little girl because she beams a gap toothed, shit eating grin at him and grabs his hand.  “Evan, Evan I have a question.” She hops up and down in place until Evan nods for her to continue and she does with great enthusiasm.  “I really wanna go to the park and mom said to ask you so will you take me?”

 

Evan looks at each of the windows of the house but they are all empty of human presence and he twists his face into a little grimace.  “I’m, I’m really very certain I’m not to take...not allowed to take you anywhere.” Yes, he has just agreed to sneakily let her talk to him and call her by a nickname when his dad isn’t around, but to actually take her places?  Mark had made it very clear last night just how he feels about Evan around his daughter, and Evan has been avoiding Bethany like the plague so he doesn’t actually know how she feels about him being alone with her daughter. An overheard conversation doesn’t tell him anything.  After all, it’s not like Evan is her kid. She doesn’t have to give a shit about him.

 

Amelia scoffs loudly and he can’t honestly believe that such a sound can come from such a small person.  “Oh please. You’re my brother. If you can’t take me, who can?”

 

He likes her logic, despite the fact that they are only half siblings - not that he’s going to tell her that, of course.  He likes the idea of being a big brother, even a half-brother, at least a little better than he had when he had first arrived.  Regardless, he’s not about to be accused of kidnapping. “Still, I...I think I would feel better if, if your mom…”

 

Amelia apparently has none of Evan’s issues with interrupting or thinking of herself as a nuisance because she bowls right over him with her sigh.  “Fiiine.” She draws the word out like it’s physically paining her and rushes back to the house, red curls bouncing as she runs, shouting for her mom the entire way and leaving behind a very befuddled Evan still standing on the sidewalk just outside the house.

 

~~*~*~~

 

The park is as beautiful as he had hoped, though he’s not as alone as he had thought he would be.  Bethany had poked her head out of the master bedroom window and told Evan in very plain words that he is more than welcome to take his sister wherever they wish to go today so long as they return for dinner and he doesn’t feed her chocolate, so he has a five year old attached to his hand like a little octopus skipping along merrily as she chatters away about rainbows and how they’re so very pretty and she wants to touch one some day.

 

“You, I’m not sure you can.  Touch rainbows, that is.” Evan says, and when her face drops he realizes just what he said and who he said it to.   She’s only five!  His breath quickens and he struggles to try and find something to fix this, to make what he hurt better.  “You can make them.” He says abruptly and flushes when she stares at him with wide, unblinking eyes. “Rainbows.  You...um, it’s possible to make one.”

 

“Really?”  Her excitement completely wipes away any sadness she may have been feeling and Evan nearly collapses in relief.  His stepmom won’t murder him for making her baby cry, he is safe.

 

“Really.  So, so you can’t touch.  But you can um...you can create them.”  He nods and squeezes her hand just a little.  Now that they’re here, he’s not really sure what he’s supposed to do.  “You should play.” He sits on the bench under a large cluster of trees and motions to the playground.  He’s pretty sure she’s old enough to play without hands on supervision.

 

She shakes her head and tugs on his hand.  “You have to come with me.” She tugs again when he takes a half a second too long to even look at her and he coughs to try and buy himself some time to think.

 

“Oh, I do?”  He blinks rapidly for a moment, trying to process if this is correct, but then realizes he doesn’t have anything to compare this situation to in his own life.  He doesn’t remember much from before Mark left them, and afterwards Heidi never had time really to take him so he’d wander down to the park and back himself. He’s never had an adult, or someone much older at least, around to watch him or play games with him, and he’s a little surprised that Amy wants him to play.  “What, what are we going to, um...to do?”

 

Thankfully, her wish is something Evan can fulfill.  “Push me on the swing and tell me more about rainbows!”  She bolts across the sandy playground towards the swing set and Evan follows at a more sedate pace, not wanting sand inside his old grey shoes.  His mom can’t afford new ones, not yet, so he has to keep them put together and clean for as long as possible.

 

He looks over his sister, bright and exuberant and happy with her clean clothing without a single stain or rip or tear and he hopes she never has to grow up knowing what it’s like to have to choose between a new pair of shoes or eating that week.  He hopes nothing happens to her that disrupts her way of life, that sends her down the same path he was thrust down when he was abandoned at seven.

 

Shaking himself from his morose thoughts, he hoists the swing back and sends it swooping, Amelia giggling like a hyena.  As she arches higher with each push, Evan starts shuffling through his mental library of whatever it is he knows about light and refraction and how he can possibly explain it to a five year old.

 

~~*~*~~

 

“Evan, could you come help me with dinner?”  The front door has barely closed when Bethany’s voice comes from the kitchen and he holds back his tired sigh.  He had hoped to disappear into his room, to vanish without notice and thereby avoiding his stepmom yet again, but Amelia isn’t a very quiet child and their entrance into the house had sounded like herd of wildebeest coming in.

 

“What about me, Mama?!”  Amy nearly screams from where she’s already scrambled upstairs into her room and Bethany’s head pokes out from the kitchen and Evan snorts at her look of long suffering.  

 

“She knows better than to shout like that in the house.”  She says when Evan gives her a questioning look when the lack of an answer to Amy’s question has her shouting again.  “She’ll come to the top of the stairs after the fourth shout.” She says this with all the sagely wisdom of a woman who has experienced it countless times and Evan tries not to laugh.

 

Sure enough, stomping could be heard following the rapid “mom, moooom” and a wild haired little girl appeared, looking for all the world like a mini storm due to the fact her hair is a brilliant red mass of wild, windblown curls.  She definitely inherited her mom’s looks. “Mom!”

 

“Amelia Jane you know better than to shout in the house.”

 

The little girl’s angered ranting halts instantly at the tone and she flushes.  “Sorry.” She whispers and huffs over and over like she’s trying to calm herself down.  “Did you need me, too?” Apparently the method works because the question comes out very politely, a far cry from the shouts just seconds earlier.

 

Bethany smiles and shakes her head.  “Private talk, darling.” Butterflies instantly bloom at those words.  This doesn’t bode well for him, private talks never do. The last one sent him here to Colorado.

 

“‘Kay!”  She doesn’t hesitate to scramble back to her bedroom and Evan is left alone once again with his stepmom and he fights the urge to gulp.  He’s not sure he wants to talk to her, especially in private.

 

Actually, he knows he doesn’t.  The butterflies turn to wasps and he wants to throw up.

 

“Come on, Evan.”  She gives his shoulder the barest tap and he’s grateful for the lack of full contact because he’s certain even a second finger would send him upstairs to heave in the bathroom, provided he even made it there.  Only Bethany’s continued explanation keeps him from spiraling. “We’re keeping it simple tonight, spaghetti and a salad.”

 

He doesn’t really care what’s for dinner because he doesn’t plan on eating it.  There’s no way he’ll be able to stomach anything right now, not with the way his gut is rebelling.  “Okay.” It’s a safe answer, one that requires only one word, and is impossible for him to fuck up saying.  However, the water is already boiling and the salad already assembled and he realizes that there isn’t much for him to do and he can only pray that the following conversation isn’t about to be entirely focused on him.

 

Apparently, she’s a talker, which makes sense because so is Amelia and he knows she didn’t get that from his father.   “I know you are aware that Mark wants you to go home.” While Mark hadn’t spoken to Evan personally that morning, there had been a note taped to his bathroom mirror explaining a change of plans making it impossible for Evan to stay in Colorado much longer and how oh so nice it had been to see him and Evan had torn the note up and flushed each piece.  He realizes Bethany is still talking and only barely hears her say, “so I made your flight reservations for tomorrow.” The wasps only grow in number. She doesn’t want him here either. “I told him I would take care of it, so he won’t know until next month and the credit card bill arrives that I bought you first class. If he’s going to drive you out, you’re at least going to be there in style.”

 

That is such an expected twist that Evan snorts a weak chuckle and she in turn laughs merrily.  He relaxes a bit, relieved that she doesn’t seem to hate him even if she is assisting in sending him back before the summer is over, and decides to ask the one question that’s been bothering him since the night before.  “What do you do?” He mumbles and jumps a little when he realizes he missed a word or two at the end and he nearly opened himself to a billion different conversation topics he’s not ready for. “Work. For work! What do you do, for work.”  God he’s a disaster, why is she talking to him?

 

“Oh, I’m a therapist.”  She says brightly and the nerves double yet again.  He had been so sure she was still a waitress, and god she’s... Just knowing she’s a therapist?  Oh god. “I work primarily with children. I was only waitressing during school, and quit as soon as I graduated.  I finished a few years ago and had Amelia a few years into my career.”

 

A therapist .

 

Great.

 

Just what Evan needs in his life.  Thank goodness he’s leaving tomorrow.  He doesn’t need another doctor in his life giving him more useless ways on how not to hate himself.

 

“How was your day with Amelia?”  She’s asking him and it takes a moment for his brain to catch up to the change of conversation.

 

“Oh!  Um, we went the par... to!  We went to the park.”  Fuck why does he even bother to speak?

 

Bethany pretends not to notice Evan’s horrible manner of speaking and hands him the tossed salad.  Idly, he thinks it's very kind of her to do so, to allow him to pretend he's normal. No one else has done that for him.  “It’s her favorite thing to do. Thank you for taking her today.” She looks like she wants to add to it, but doesn’t. Instead, she just smiles and nudges Evan towards the dinner table and he moves obediently to help set it.

 

He’s whirling in his emotions, confusing and nauseating, and he just wants it all to stop.  He doesn’t understand just how Bethany can treat him with any amount of kindness when his own father, her husband, has shown nothing but distaste and disgust towards him.  Even Amelia just rolls her eyes at their dad and ignores him, and he knows it's stupid, but he respects her so much for it.

 

~~*~*~~

 

“Mom, mom.  Did you know, did you know that Evan knows everything about trees?”   Spaghetti sauce goes flying as the noodles whirl around in the midst of loud slurping.  Evan is glad he’s not wearing anything he loves as little specks of red fleck the exposed surfaces around Amelia and her wild spaghetti eating.

 

Bethany’s eyes flick to look at Evan around her bite of salad and he winces a little, shaking his head slightly in embarrassment at her declaration.  “Not, not everything .”  Oh please, just focus on something else, not him.

 

“But you know so much Evan .”  Amelia nearly shouts, the next forkful of spaghetti thrust high into the air for emphasis.  “You have to know everything!”

 

His response is automatic.  “It’s impossible to know everything .”  True to his mental word, he hasn’t eaten anything aside from a single bite of the spaghetti as a show he’s consuming the meal.

 

Amy just rolls her eyes at him and the sass just oozes with each word.  “Well, I’ll do it someday then. I’ll learn everything there is to know.  And then you’ll look at me with regret because I tried and you didn’t.”

 

Well, Evan does look at her and regret a lot, but not because she’ll attempt to learn every bit of information ever.  More like, regret that he’s going to be leaving her here in this hell of being raised by Mark Hansen, without a big brother to help mitigate the damage.  And now he feels like he’s going to dissolve into a puddle of ugly sobbing at any minute and he’d really like the attention off of him now.

 

Amy thankfully turns away from Evan to direct a question to her mom.  “Can Evan take me to a different park tomorrow to see what other trees we can find?”  Of course, she brings him up in the question so nothing really changed and he takes a slow breath in an effort to stem off the hyperventilation.

 

Her reply is immediate, and full of amusement though Evan isn’t sure if it’s towards him or her daughter.  “Of course he can.”

 

Amelia eats around her babbling, explaining all about the park that is in the other direction, and how it’s bound to have much cooler trees.  He nods absently as he listens, more lost in his own thoughts than truly following what she’s saying. It’s unusual to him, the notion that someone wants to be around him.  He doesn’t really care that the person is a five year old, at least not right now. Bethany shoots him another amused grin that he can’t return. He has no energy left to assign to facial expressions, everything is being pumped into not sobbing from the sheer notion someone actually wants to be around him, leaving only enough remaining to keep himself alert enough to follow the conversation.  


Finally, someone thinks he’s cool.

Chapter Text

His duffel bag sits by the front door, where it has been since he finished packing first thing that morning.  He’s now sitting at the kitchen table fidgeting with his fork, listening to Amelia ramble on about how exciting it is to be going to the airport, and she’s never flown before and what’s it like Evan?

 

He doesn’t know how to answer.  He doesn’t know how to tell her she’s not coming with him.  He can’t understand how his father had made it seem so easy, leaving behind someone you’re supposed to care about.  He hates this.  He hates that he's already grown so attached in so little time that his heart physically hurts right now.

 

“Leave your brother alone until after breakfast, love.  It’s too early for introverts to endure your amazing levels of exuberance.”  Bethany calls from the kitchen, clanking sounds telling Evan she’s unloading the dishwasher and thinks that maybe he should ask if she needs help instead of sitting here like a useless lump.

 

Amy heaves a heavy sigh only a five year old can make and slumps down on the table.  “Moooom, I’m bored.”

 

“You could always bring your bag downstairs for me.”  She calls back and the little girl grimaces.

 

Evan snorts at the wrinkled nose and clear look of distaste for the idea.  “You walked right-right into that one.” He mumbles and Amy narrows her eyes before wadding up a clean napkin to toss at his face, where it bounces off his forehead and lands harmlessly on the table.  He bursts into insane sounding giggles and she joins in, her laugh echoing off the walls as she bounces her way upstairs. He likes this. He likes having a little sister.

 

He hates he only has hours left with her.

 

He wonders what Bethany means by ‘bag’.  Does she mean a bag of toys or books for the car?  Mark hadn’t had one for her when he had picked Evan up a few days prior, and decides that maybe it’s something mom’s insist on having for their young kids.  He always had things to do in the car whenever they went somewhere.

 

The sounds of nylon against carpet draws his eyes up to the exposed upstairs landing and an eyebrow raises at the sight of her dragging a tubular duffle bag the size of her over the hall.  “He--hey, Evan?” She grunts and he leaps to his feet and practically flies up the stairs.

 

Wordlessly, he hoists the bag up and grimaces at the weight.  “Did you put your, um.” He frowns a little and sighs. He hates how his brain drails on the stupidest words.  “Um. shit. Room! Did you put your entire room in here?” It certainly weighs that much.

 

She beams at him and it’s unsettling and he’s not sure why until she speaks.  “Of course I did silly! I’m not moving to New York without my toys!”

 

The bag is dropped next to his as something akin to lava races across his skin and over his nerves and he can’t quite comprehend what she just told him.  “Wait, what?” Moving? New York? Both of them or all three of them? God, please tell me Mark is staying here! He doesn’t want to leave Amy here with Mark, no, but that doesn’t mean he wants his therapist stepmother to move back to the same city as him!

 

“Temporarily for the time being.  We have only essentials and things we cannot live without.”  Bethany appears in the doorway to the kitchen with a plate of sausages and toast that she slips onto the table with a quiet click.  She sits and motions to the pair still standing at the door. “Come and eat. We have a long day today.” Amelia bolts to the table and jumps up onto her chair.  She’s standing on the chair to dish herself out a plate but sits when her mom shoots her a disapproving glance.

 

Evan follows, far more slowly than Amy ran, and he can’t keep his mouth shut, not this time.  There’s too much happening, too much changing in split seconds that he can’t keep up. “Moving?”  He sits just as slowly as he walked and doesn’t even blink towards a fork or the plate of food. Flying makes him anxious, talking makes him anxious, and unexpected information makes him anxious, and when he’s anxious he just doesn’t eat.

 

It’s a problem.  He’s working on it.

 

Amy is the one who answers, but only because she doesn’t even give Bethany a chance to take in a breath to do so herself.  “Daddy is a jerk so we’re going with you.”

 

Evan knows this is a vast oversimplification of the situation, but the overheard conversations are still playing through his head on repeat so all he really understands the ‘daddy is a jerk’ sentiment.  Bethany heaves in a heavy, deep breath and releases it in a weary sigh. “Yes, Daddy has been a jerk lately and Mama has been doing a lot of thinking. Your visit, Evan, just happened to be the deciding factor.”

 

She doesn’t continue, so Evan doesn’t ask for any elaboration.  He instead stares at his toast wondering just how his life has become this mess and trying to remember just how to breathe.

 

In.

 

Toast is slathered in jelly and placed on the little girl’s plate.  “I’ll call for a cab in about a half an hour, so please make sure you have brushed teeth and used the bathroom before we leave, Amelia Jane.”

 

Out .

 

Little hands pick up the bread, accompanied by a side look and huff.  “ Okay , Mama.”

 

Evan just sits and breathes and internalizes yet another panic attack and breathes .

 

In.

 

 

Out .

 

~~*~*~~

 

In.

 

First class is far superior to the main cabin, this Evan is one thousand percent sold on.  He’ll never pay for it himself, he knows he’ll never have that sort of money, but for this one flight he’s going to enjoy the full comforts of the wealthy.  He is next to the window, with Amelia perched with her knees drawn up on the aisle across from Bethany. No one yet is in the seat next to her, but the flight was listed as full, so perhaps the person is just running late.

 

Still, he’s thankful to be next to his sister and not a potential stranger.  She’s already asked the flight attendants for three blankets and is nesting herself in the seat.  The flight attendants have also checked her four times now to make sure her seat belt is indeed on, and each time she’s answered in an increasingly annoyed tone that yes she’s buckled thank you very much.

 

When the attendants start to give their in flight demonstration of safety, Evan is surprised to see the seat is still empty and Bethany gives him a little grin.  “You’re welcome to come sit with me if she becomes too much for you.”

 

Amelia wrinkles her nose but doesn’t dispute the statement.  Evan shrugs and rubs at his jeans. “She’s, um. I’m fine. She’s fine.”  He’d rather sit with Amy and endure her five year old energy than sit with Bethany and endure small talk or worse, advice .  Besides, it just gives him more opportunities to try and talk to her.

 

Amy is surprisingly easy to talk to.  Granted, it’s less of a conversation that Evan has to actually provide input unless she’s asked a question, so it’s a type of conversation he very much prefers.  Currently, she’s going on about how strange it is that birds have to flap their wings to fly but airplanes don’t and isn’t that just so cool, Evvie?

 

Two days into their sibling-ship and he already has a nickname?  Granted it’s rather...odd and not one he ever wants Jared to overhear, but he’ll honestly allow her to call him anything so long as it isn’t his first name.  He’ll probably snap and murder the first person who calls him Mark ever again.

 

He’s staring out the window watching the clouds morph under them when the flight attendant comes by to ask them what they would like to eat or drink.  Evan’s panic sends his stomach whirling and his hands shaking but his little sister, his amazing wonderful he does not deserve her at all sister takes one look at him and then back at the attendant.  

 

“Could you please ask my mom first?”  The woman nods and Evan still can’t relax even after she turns to talk to Bethany.  Amelia hands him the large folded card from the back of the seat and points to menu.  “Tell me what you want.”

 

He doesn’t even blink as he stares at her, almost uncomprehendingly.  It takes another nudge of the booklet to get him to even look down at it and another few seconds for his eyes to focus enough to read the listings.  He points to the first soda he sees that doesn’t contain any caffeine because that is the last thing he needs and when she gives him an expectant look, he sighs and looks over the food as well.  “Sprite and the cheese board.” Cheese, crackers, and grapes. All safe enough for his stomach to handle in case of...well, in case of anything really.

 

He actually breaks a smile when Amy orders her food, and then Evan’s, as if a high class lady being accompanied by her bodyguard who is under strict orders to not speak.  The attendant plays along and Evan feels a strange warmth deep in chest as Amelia does all the talking for him.

 

Out.

 

She’s only five, and she understands him better than anyone else has.

 

~~*~*~~

 

In .

 

“Oh, my baby boy give me a hug.”  Evan fights a grimace as his mom pulls him in for a gentle, extremely brief hug as Bethany works to get the back hatch on the ancient station wagon open.  He doesn’t fight it, but hugs aren’t exactly an action she indulges in very often and to do so in public makes it even more uncomfortable for him to experience.

 

She’s pulled away almost before he’s even adjusted to the awareness that they’re hugging and he’s in desperate need of grounding because she leaves the very short hug with him, her own flesh and blood, to pull his stepmother - the woman she’s declared multiple times over she hates - into a warm, long embrace intended to comfort.  Bethany accepts the hug, she’d be stupid not to in Evan’s opinion. They have to have spoken before, there’s no way this scene makes sense otherwise.

 

“So you finally left.”  His mom is beaming at Bethany, and Evan decides he wants to die instead of trying to understand what is happening because he absolutely cannot handle any more surprises.  He busies himself instead with helping load up the bags into the back of the station wagon.

 

Out .

 

Bethany lets out a laugh, breathy and nervous, and one Evan relates to.  It’s the only laugh he has. “Yes. Yes, I think I’m finally ready to accept the truth.”

 

Apparently, Bethany and Heidi have met or spoken more than just the few minutes Mark had thought and Evan is burning to know more but he keeps his mouth shut and focuses instead on breathing.

 

In .

 

The bags stowed and the rear hatch closed, Evan opens the back to see a car seat designed for growing toddlers latched onto the left side of the car and realizes his mom knew that Bethany and Amy were coming, too.  He tries not to dwell on the thought as he helps to settle his half sister into her car seat and walks around to get himself buckled in, too.

 

“Oh, Evan, I wanted to give Amelia a hug, too.”  Heidi is saying as she scrambles into the driver’s seat, giving Evan a disappointed look before buckling herself in and flipping on the radio.

 

“There will be plenty of time at the house.”  Bethany laughs and Heidi chuckles and Evan feels like he’s in the twilight zone.

 

The two women start chattering, and Evan doesn’t want to even attempt to follow the conversation.  Instead, he quietly taps out a text to Jared saying he’s home early.

 

Out .

 

He isn’t expecting an answer, especially after the read receipt pops and no waving ellipses appears.  He stows his phone and turns his gaze towards the window. The airport is behind them now as they merge onto the highway and towards home and Evan isn’t sure if he’s excited or resigned that he’s back in New York.

 

In .

 

“Evan, Carol wanted me to let you know she found you something for the summer.”  Heidi calls over the seat and Evan frowns.  He doesn't know if he likes the idea of Jared's mom having any say in what his summer activities are.

 

He doesn’t turn his attention away from watching the scenery pass but he answers her.  “What do you mean?”

 

Out .

 

“A job at Ellison.”  The park near their house?  They have jobs available there?  “Well, with the state parks but mostly you’ll help around wherever you can walk to, so Ellison!”  She sounds chipper, overly so, and it makes Evan twitch in irritation.

 

“I wanna go to the park!”  Amelia squeaks and slaps at the window with a finger.  “Look, Evan! That kind of tree wasn’t in Colorado!”

 

In .

 

He doesn’t want a job.  He desperately doesn’t want one.  He wanted to spend his summer sequestered in his room reading his books or out in the parks and what not hiking and alone.  

 

He doesn’t want to deal with people.  He doesn’t want to deal with the stress of filling out paperwork and interviewing and failing at simple instructions or tasks.

 

He doesn’t want to admit that not only does his father not want him around, his mother wants him out of the house as well.  He hates that his summer is now going to be spent working instead of relaxing.

 

Though... though it will be nice to have money.   And it isn't like he has friends to make plans with.

 

Out .

 

“Evan, if you work at the park, can you take me every day with you?”

 

In .

 

“Amelia, please think about what you just asked him.”  He’s amazed how his stepmother has mastered the exasperated yet patient tone that seems to work wonders with Amelia so we'll.

 

Out .

 

True to form, she has a protest lined up.  “He promised he’d take me to the park today!”

 

In .

 

“But do you think, honestly think, that he can take you to his job?”

 

Out .

 

She’s pouting and it’s fucking adorable and it’s the first thing to make Evan smile since the plane.

 

In .

 

“I wouldn’t be in the way…”

 

Out .

 

He allows their voices to fade into static as they rumble their way down the pavement, exiting the highway and coming to a stop at a light.  His eyes come to focus just in time to see who he is absolutely certain is Connor Murphy standing next to...yes, that is his battered black Honda Civic.  He’s wearing a grimace or a frown or something he can’t quite make out while staring him dead in the eyes.

 

In.

 

What he can make out is the extremely tiny hesitant wave he’s giving Evan, one that Evan immediately returns with a little wiggle of fingers before he's even realized he's lifted his hand.  That garners a brief quirk of a smile so quick that Evan is so certain it didn't actually happen.

 

Connor's hair looks longer than he remembers it and thinks he might be growing it out.  He likes how it’s curling under his ears, edging towards his jaw.  He likes how it frames his face.  It sort of softens his jawline, in Evan's opinion.

 

Oh god, why would he think that?

 

Out .

 

The light turns green and Connor turns his attention back to his car while Evan agonizes over his stupid thoughts.

 

In.

 

He’s weird.  He’s so weird.  Who thinks things like that about other people?

 

Out .

 

 

 

Chapter Text

~~*~*~~

 

He’s up in one of the oak trees on the lowest branch to finish the last bullet point on the inspection chart being used for his training when he hears Amelia singing. He thinks he recognizes the song.  It's the theme song to some children’s show he knows is popular but can’t place to a name. He hears her nearly 15 seconds before he sees her and Bethany come around a bend in the path. He has the advantage being up in a tree at the moment so he spots them first and watches as Amy looks all around, mouth gaping open at the tall trees that surround them.  He hops down off the low branch he had been sitting on and feels a little amused twitching in his lips when she shrieks in surprise.

 

He’s less amused by her reaction to seeing him.  “I missed you!” Evan is nearly bowled over by the five year old’s exuberant leaping octopus hug and he has to step back in order to not fall over backwards.

 

“You saw me-you saw me a couple of hours ago at the house, Amy.”  He groans, rubbing at his head where her forehead had connected with his, her arms latched around him like tree roots on a rock.   That hurt like hell .  Her grip is going to leave bruises, he just knows it.

 

“That was forever ago, Evvie!”  She’s pouting and pats at his cheeks with both of her hands before squeezing his face.  “Now we can play!”

 

Bethany interrupts them before Evan can make any sort of protest.  “Love, Evan needs to work, remember? I told you we’d see Evan before going to the park, but that Evan would need to stay wherever he was…”  He lets her voice fade into the background as his eyes sort of unfocus as he stares at the tree he had just leapt out of.

 

It’s been three days since he started his job with the parks, and today is the first day he’s felt even remotely close enough to comfortable so he had reluctantly agreed to have Amy come and see him.  He knows she wouldn’t have been able to wait longer, but he also wishes she didn’t...want to. He would have rather wait until he's completely comfortable in his job, which would be never, so perhaps today was bound to happen eventually and it might as well happen now.  He simply doesn't want to do something wrong, is that too much to ask?

 

Apparently yes.  He starts to meter his breathing, steadily counting to help keep a calm tempo for him to follow.  It very nearly works and that's close enough for him.

 

Thankfully, it had been noticed rather quickly by the higher ups that Evan’s greatest strengths lay in working the trails and literally any activity that didn’t require actual interaction with any guests of the park, so these are his set daily tasks - tree and trail inspections.  It also helps that he only works three days a week, and that after his three day training this week, he will work Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from ten until three. He likes that they gave him a permanent schedule. That means much less he has to worry about in terms of remembering.

 

“Evan, when is your lunch break?”  Bethany’s question interrupts his thinking and he stares at her blankly for a moment before the question registers.

 

“Oh! Um.”  He has to think.  He can’t remember if or when he was told when to take a break today and his breathing quickens a hair.  Any faster, and he's afraid he's going to start hyperventilating and that really isn't ideal right now. “Um, I can’t...I can’t really.  Um. I don’t know.” He also has no idea what time it is and doesn't really think pulling his phone out to check while his step-mother is talking to him is a very polite thing to do so he leaves it in his pocket.  How long has he been at work for? Does he even get a break?  He probably does, legally.

 

“That’s fine.”  She smoothly interjects into his stammerings.  “When are you off work then?”

 

This one is a question he can answer because it’s written on his schedule that he memorized mere minutes after receiving.  “Three.” Finally, he managed to give a response with no mistakes. Granted, only one word makes a much easier sentence to not mangle.

 

Bethany nods, red ponytail swinging lightly.  “Find us then, and we’ll go for ice cream, how does that sound?”  Her smile is warm, friendly, and Evan knows it’s designed to comfort him but he can’t really feel anything but anxious right now.  Still, it’s nice she’s trying he supposes.

 

He sucks in breath after breath, hoping his chest isn't moving rapidly enough to give his anxiety away.

 

Amelia is leaping about in excitement and Evan finds himself smiling just a little, his previous irritation at his sister fading slowly as his breathing works to even out.  “Yeah, yes. That sounds. I like that idea.” Bethany’s expression doesn’t change but he can feel his face heat. “I’ll um. I’ll see you then.” He turns away before they can see his rising flush and sighs as he continues down the trail in the opposite direction as his step family.  He tries to ignore Amelia’s whining as they disappear in the direction of the park and he makes his way mindlessly towards the office. It’s nearly 1, surely his break is soon.

 

He breathes as if it's the only thing that is keeping him sane.

 

It almost works.

 

~~*~*~~

 

He’s been home almost three weeks now.

 

“Mom!”

 

“Amy, please don’t shout sweetheart.”

 

“Sorry Mama Heidi.”

 

Three weeks and his half-sister has no problem at all calling Heidi some form of the word Mother while Evan can barely talk to Bethany, nor does he really feel the inclination to.  He can understand why Amy does, she’s so little and it makes sense for her to latch onto Heidi as a mom, too. Especially since he’s already feeling like his mom likes Amy more than she does him, not that this is anything new in the life of Evan Hansen.  His dad certainly likes Amy more, everybody does. Hell, even Evan himself had decided within 5 minutes that he liked Amelia a lot more than he liked himself.

 

“You’ll need to walk over to her since she’s right by the speakers.”

 

Why does Amelia get Mom's patience?  Where is Mom for me?

 

More and more of Heidi’s rare bits of free time are spent either with Amy or Bethany and Evan isn’t sure how to feel about it.  On the one hand, he’s nearly eighteen, nearly an adult. He shouldn’t need constant supervision like Amelia does so it makes sense that whenever Heidi is home, she’ll be helping to watch over the child.  And when Heidi isn’t with Amy…

 

He has to be.  He's the one watching her, and she's still calling for the adults even when told to stick with Evan.  Not that he minds, he'd rather not be dealing with every whim of a five-year-old.

 

“Oh!  Okay!”  She turns back to rummaging through the bag she had brought to the lake with her.

 

He can’t even muster an irritated sigh as he keeps an eye on her form dashing about through the sand.  Thankfully, she’s far enough from the lake’s edge that he’s not too concerned about her falling in and tries not to resent the fact that he has to sit here and watch her instead of doing what he always does at the fourth of July barbecue - sit in his hammock and read.  He hadn’t even been allowed to bring it this year, instead he had been told that he will have plenty to do this year and he should "learn to be more social at family events, honey."

 

He doesn’t want to be social.  He hadn’t realized having a little sibling means never having private or alone time ever again.  He hates the annual Fourth of July picnic with the extended family, he hates the pinching fingers and the questions about what Evan plans to do with his life, and he especially hates that he now has a responsibility to watch his sister.

 

He hadn’t asked for a sibling.  He hadn’t asked for them to move in with them.  So why does Evan need to be the one to watch her?  Why does Evan need to be the one who sacrifices his time for her?

 

“Evvie!”  

 

He hates that stupid nickname.  He hates it so much. Mostly because she calls it countless times throughout the day, and he’s expected to drop what he’s doing to answer her beck and call.  At least, that’s how it feels right now. “Yeah, Amy?” He looks up to see that instead of going up to her mom, she’s come over to him and is holding out the bottle of bubbles and is glad he had managed to keep his voice relatively level and calm with nary a panic in sight.

 

“Could you open this please?”  At least she’s being polite about asking.  Wordlessly, he peels off the plastic and unscrews the cap and she snatches it and darts off back to the water, calling back a thanks over her shoulder.  As an afterthought.

 

That’s all Evan is, anymore.  The last thing on their minds, the last one they ask, the last one they notice.  He could probably slip away right now and no one would pay any attention. At least, until they realized Amy was alone.  That’s the other hand, that he is largely ignored until needed and it digs at him until his emotions are red and raw and that is how he’s been living for the last three weeks.  He’s only loved if he’s needed to do something and only wanted around if he’s going to be useful, or at least that is how it feels to him right now, and he's not sure how much more he can take.

 

He feels like Connor's old black car, the one he walked by every day during Junior year, the car he had seen the first day back on the way home.  He rubs at the tops of his hands and over his arms and imagines his skin peeling away like the paint and leaving him bare to the elements to rust wherever he’s exposed.  He wishes he could disappear.

 

No one would notice .

 

~~*~*~~

 

It would be so...easy.

 

It’s mid July now, two weeks past the fourth, and Evan is going absolutely crazy.  Bethany and Amy have been living in the Hansen house for a month now, and Evan desperately wants them gone.  He had been so accustomed to being alone that now that the house always has someone with him, he is so very tired of sharing his life with other people.

 

He wants his room back.  Their house is small, a mere two bedroom, so of course he is going to need to share with Amy because Bethany is sharing the master with Heidi.  When he brought up the idea that since Heidi worked most nights Amelia could stay in there with Bethany, he was told he was being selfish and he just needed to have a little bit of patience for just a little bit longer.

 

He doesn’t want to be patient.  He wants to be able to stay up all night with the side lamp on and read.  He wants to be able to have his anxiety and panic attacks in his bedroom instead of in the shower with his fist shoved in his mouth and the water running to muffle his cries.   He wants to be able to leave his fragile knickknacks and various bits that he doesn’t want messed with displayed proudly again, instead of hidden away from where grubby curious hands can ruin even more .

 

For fucks sake, he's a teenager.  He wants to be able to fucking masturbate in his bed again.

 

Why did he ever want a sibling?  

 

Maybe he’d be more open to a sibling were Heidi’s solution anything but putting a three panel room divider in between their beds.  Evan hates it. He hates it so much because it’s such a band aid solution.  Let’s ignore about how Evan is nearly 18, is nearly an adult. Let’s ignore the fact that Amelia will definitely want her own room as she grows up.  Let’s completely ignore the fact that Evan is certain is mom is banking on Evan going away to college so she can give Amelia his room and he’ll be delegated to the couch or the spare bed in the room that won’t be his anymore.

 

But he’s getting ahead of himself again.  Doctor Sherman doesn’t like it when Evan does that.  She likes to tell Evan to focus on the now, but the now isn’t exactly good either.  He’s currently staring at the wall full of permanent marker drawings crafted by the one and only Amelia Jane.  His mom is going to go ballistic. Evan had never been prone to moments of destruction, and for that he knows his mom has been very grateful for.  But now she has a five year old in the house who is curious, and exploratory, and will do things that Evan never dreamed of attempting.

 

Like creating a surprisingly accurate rendition of all the family at the barbecue on the wall lining the hallway.  

 

It’s just his luck that his mom comes home from class just as he has decided to pretend he hasn’t seen the drawing and his half way turned to escape upstairs.  “Evan, oh good, could you--holy shit what did she do?”  There’s a thud as her heavy backpack hits the floor and she groans loudly.

 

Evan can’t escape.  Nor can he answer. He doesn’t even know how to answer.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have to.

 

“I can’t believe how irresponsible you’re becoming, Evan!”  Wait, is she...yelling at him? And about being irresponsible, no less?  He has never been irresponsible.

 

“But, but I didn’t…”

 

She doesn’t let him finish.  “How else did she get a hold of the permanent markers?”  She snaps and then pinches at the bridge of her nose. “I don’t have time for this, I have to get to work.  You’re going to need to clean the wall off since she can’t use the cleaning chemicals.”

 

He’s never had anger issues before.  He’s always been passive and compliant and non-confrontational.  But being told that he has to clean and fix the mess that isn’t even one of his own makings, that is something he just can’t handle.  Not right now. Not when he has so many of his own messes he already can’t manage.

 

“I...I have work, too!”  He’s yelling. He doesn’t yell, he never yells.  But he is now and he doesn’t know how to react to it.  “Wh-wh-why, why, why do I have to clean up her mess?”

 

Heidi doesn’t seem to have the same problem.  “Evan, I’m not asking again. The wall will be clean by the time I’m home tonight.  And I expect you to show me where you’ve locked the markers up as well so this doesn’t happen again.”  She sweeps past him before he can blink, before he can breath, before he can fully comprehend what she’s telling him.

 

He groans and tries not to let his head make a noise when he makes it hit the wall once.  He didn’t even know they had permanent markers.  He hears his stepmother’s voice drifting down from the upstairs and hears little snippets of the conversation, but not enough to understand a lick of it.  His mind supplies the words.

 

He’s such a useless child.

 

Yes, I know.  I’m sorry you were stuck with him all these years, Heidi .

 

He misses when it was just him and his mom, no matter how lonely it had been.  He misses his silence and space, yes, but what he thinks he might miss more is the lack of blame for things he didn’t do.  His inhale is hesitant, shaky, but it inflates his lungs almost painfully and he’s lightheaded for just a moment before adjusting his backpack straps and slipping out the door to walk over to the park.  He’s not sure how much more of this he can take before he completely breaks apart.

Chapter Text

It turns out Bethany had been the one who had gotten out the pack of permanent markers and had subsequently forgotten to put them back in the locked drawer.  Understandable considering her first day at her new practice had been the day before and her mind had been acceptably elsewhere. Evan had at least received a teary apology from his mom for that, even if it had been after the marker had already been scrubbed by him after he had come back from work to an empty house and a still messy wall and he had been quite convinced his mom would toss him out were it not done as demanded.    And with the scolding Amelia had received from Bethany about appropriate places to color, no further mishaps had taken place.

 

It’s only a day into August, four weeks exactly before school starts back up, when he finally hears from Jared.  Or, he supposes it would be more accurate to say that he has his former friend's presence forced upon him when Jared comes up to him as he's leaving the house at 9:30 to walk to work for his shift.

 

He’s just putting his shoes on when there are three sharp raps at the door followed by three buzzes of the doorbell.  It’s Jared’s signature, a pattern designed to annoy Evan the most, and it provides the same reaction it always does: an immediate clenching of his fists and hunching of his shoulders.  It’s like his body is preemptively reacting to whatever hurtful barb Jared is going to throw his way.

 

Evan wonders what it will be today.  Last time he and Jared spoke was the last day of school and Jared had explained succinctly and bluntly that he had plans Evan wasn’t privy to for that summer and to just leave him alone.  Of course Evan didn’t listen, at least the first week of the summer, but even he’s not pathetic enough to keep texting someone who obviously doesn’t want contact with him.

 

His shoulders lift with the force of his breath in, intending to calm himself but instead only awakening the butterflies inside.  He slowly unlocks the deadbolt and swings the door open to reveal Jared in his standard cargo shorts, t-shirt, and button up combo with a shit eating grin on his face.  “Hey loser. Your mom’s not here, right?”

 

Evan shouldn’t respond to that, shouldn’t give Jared the satisfaction, but his mouth moves without his permission.  “He-hey Jared.” He opens the door wider and gestures awkwardly behind him. “Um, she’s at work. Wou-woul you, would you like to come in?”

 

“Fuck no.”  Jared laughs, harsh and derisive, and Evan’s stomach sours.  Of course he’s not here to hang out or something like that. He is here to deal his dose of pain and nothing more.  “My mom’s been up my ass about if I’ve seen you at all since you got back, so if she asks, we hung out today.”

 

The sour feeling travels up his esophagus and he feels his lungs and throat burn.  “Why can’t we actually...actually hang...you know, hang out? I mean, I work, but... when I'm off work?”  He knows he’s repugnant, he knows he’s pathetic to be around, but they used to be friends .  Evan hasn’t changed that much since grade school, has he?

 

He hates Jared’s mocking cackling more than anything in the world right now, purely because it’s directly aimed at him.  “That’s not something we do anymore, Evan. Not unless we have to. I wouldn't hang out with you if I didn’t have to and you know this.  Just because our moms are friends doesn’t mean we are, no matter how hard she and Heidi try.”  He sounds cold, dismissive, but Evan can’t let it go because Jared is here and it might be Evan’s only shot.

 

"Please."  He hates how desperate he sounds, but he just wants Jared back .  The Jared from grade school, the one who used to be his best friend, because he doesn’t like the one that took over in middle school, the one that carried over into high school.  He can kind of say he actually hates this Jared. “Not, just...even just for ten minutes?”

 

“No!”  Evan shrinks back from Jared’s hissed, sharp retort.  He may as well have shouted, it has the same effect on Evan.  It sends ice over every nerve, his lungs feel like giant bands are constricting them, and he can already feel muscles trembling in the beginnings of an anxiety attack.  “Because I have real friends , Evan.  Ones that I already have plans with that I’m not about to cancel for you , so that’s why if your mom or mine ask, we hung out today.  I'm not gonna be late to work just because you…"

 

He allows Jared's voice to fade off to a dull sort of almost buzzing, barely reacting when Jared abruptly leaves after Evan stops responding to him.  He really, really should not have expected anything different. He shouldn’t doesn't care anymore. He knows what Jared is saying anyway, that the only reason he makes sure he's seen with Evan is so that his parents keep paying his bills.  He’s never going to get Jared back, not in the way he wants or needs, and is imperative that he accept that sooner rather than later.

 

As he slips out the front door and shuts it behind him, limbs still wracked with slight tremors, he hears Amelia start to shriek about not wanting to go to summer camp today and Bethany responding that she must at least for a few hours and he’s never been so glad to be leaving the house before.  Hopefully work is enough of a distraction for him to forget just how alone and miserable he really is.

 

~~*~*~~

 

It is only three weeks from the start of his senior year and Evan is almost sure he can confidently say he's made it though the summer relatively unscathed.  He's still alive, isn't he? And if he doesn't think about it, neither the crushing loneliness of the summer nor the looming terror that is a new school year exist, right?

 

Sure.

 

He should really learn to not count even his minor victories prematurely because it never ends well for him.  It's another overheard conversation that reminds him of that bit of knowledge.

 

As it is a Saturday, Evan doesn't work this morning, so he is sitting in his room at his desk on his laptop after breakfast.  He can hear Amelia in the backyard commanding her doll troops to protect the sandcastle fortress from invading aliens and robot cowboys and he marvels at the imagination of soon-to-be kindergartners.  He’s glad she likes the little sandbox Heidi had put together when he was younger and more prone to staying outside all day, especially when it gives him more time alone in their shared room. Thankfully, she's adjusted to Evan being around all the time and has lessened her incessant need to follow him around everywhere, which has helped immensely in cultivating continued positive emotions in regards to her.  Also, he really relishes his small bits of alone time.

 

He’s moved the furniture around a bit to create a more solid room divide between the two sides, giving Amelia the half of the room next to the door, and he feels a bit better about it.  He’s still definitely not alone in the room, and he still has not nearly enough privacy, but he’s managing. At least, he’s pretty sure he’s managing. It’s hard to tell when your emotions feel dead and blank and nothing really matters anyway.

 

Muffled voices draw his attention to the closed door and he can barely make out Bethany muttering something about how her own mother is driving her crazy.

 

Heidi’s response is much clearer and he thinks they’re coming from the direction of the laundry as he hears their footsteps on the hardwood.  "Yes, mothers tend to do that. Is she still refusing to allow you back to the house?"

 

There’s a derisive scoff and a cupboard bangs open harder than most likely intended and it makes Evan jump a little.  "She says that I had a responsibility to make my marriage work, that it wasn't her fault I failed and she isn't about to house me and my daughter, never mind that it's her only granddaughter.”  It sounds to Evan like her mom is as much of a piece of shit as his father. “Did I tell you what she called Amy the last time we talked?"

 

There is a lot of sympathy in Heidi’s reply, and he desperately wishes it was directed at him.  He hasn’t heard that tone from his mom in months, if not years. “Didn't you say she called her a whoreson?”  There are rustling sounds that make Evan think they are putting away the sheets and towels from the laundry.

 

“Yes.”  She replies dryly.  “It's as if she looked up all the synonym phrases for ‘illegitimate child’ and chose the one that sounded the most dramatic.”

 

His mom echoes the immediate rebuttal bouncing in his head.  “But Amelia is not out of wedlock?” She sounds just as confused as he feels.  He’d understand if Amy was ten because that would mean she had been conceived before Mark and Heidi’s divorce, but...no wait.  He still wouldn’t understand.

 

“In my mother's viewpoint, since we are now getting divorced, Amy is suddenly a child born out of wedlock, ergo, the name calling and outright hostility towards us both.”  

 

Evan hears rustling again, this time as the two women make their way back down the hallway.  “That honestly makes no sense.”

 

“I never claimed that she was a paragon of logic.”

 

“Well I'm perfectly fine with…”

 

Their conversation fades into garble as they descend the stairs, Evan can hear them creaking, and he debates with himself before he follows and picks up the next bit of the conversation in the kitchen.  When he hears his name, he deeply hates his curiosity because he knows he has to stay now to hear whatever it is they’re saying about him and that usually doesn’t end well for the eavesdropper, he knows this.  He’s experienced it.

 

His mom is still the one talking, though he has no way of knowing who brought him up as a conversation topic.  “...I know I shouldn’t have expected it, but just once I needed Mark to step up and help take care of Evan. He is his son, too.”  Something in his stomach drops uncomfortably. Take care of him, like he’s an invalid, like he’s helpless. She sounds resentful, oh so very resentful, and her next words only prove it.  “I needed this summer focus on work and so I could retake that class I ended up failing and I can’t focus on any of that when I have to put all my attention on Evan.”

 

Evan knows exactly what class she’s talking about, too.  It’s the one that took place during his therapy appointments, and she had taken him there instead of going to that class every single week.  He also knows that the professor had refused to work with his mom on allowing her make up time, and as such had failed the first run through.

 

“Heidi you shouldn't be so hard on yourself.”  Bethany is quiet, her tone soft and soothing, and he hates that yet again it isn’t directed at him.  He can’t even pretend that it is, not with what they’re actually talking about. “You have been doing the best you can with the resources you've had, but you have me here to help and you don't have to do this alone.  I won't leave you to help Evan alone.”

 

There’s a deep, heavy, soulful sigh and then she admits, low and soft, “I’m so tired, Beth.”

 

He listens as his mom breaks down sobbing, and he can hear broken phrases about how horrible a mother she is and he feels the first emotion he can put a true name to in weeks:  guilt.

 

Guilt that he can’t be the right son for her.

 

Guilt that he isn’t doing anything about it.  

 

Guilt because he is the source of her panic attacks and tears, he is the cause of her stress and anxiety and depression.  

 

Guilt that both his mom and stepmom have to take time out of their busy schedules to fix a broken son and stepson.

 

There isn’t a full complete thought in his mind when he slips his quiet way towards the front door save for must leave, must get out, must protect them so he does.  

 

He leaves.

 

He walks.

 

~~*~*~~

 

The world is at its most relaxed state for Evan where he’s currently sitting, way up at the top of the tallest tree at Ellison, because the forest is quiet and calm and he can always pull himself back together.  

 

Except that isn’t what is happening right now, not at all.  The bark is rough against his back, even through his shirt, and it’s the only thing keeping him from completely disassociating, but his thoughts are still quickly spiraling out of control.  They’ve grown from sporadic garble into full thought and his already suicidal brain latches on to each and every poisoned barb like it’s a precious treat.

 

He looks down at the ground.

 

It’s taunting him.

 

Do it.

 

Jump.

 

You could be only doing them an enormous favor .

 

The mid morning sun is bright and should feel warm on his face when he looks back up at the cloudless sky and yet he feels nothing except numb and he shivers despite the 85 degrees.  He looks down again and winces a little at the distance. Maybe he’ll land on a branch and break his back so he feels nothing after. He lets out a humorless laugh. No, with his luck, he’ll lay there and bleed out internally for hours, but it’s what he deserves, so he pushes the thought of pain out of his mind because he’s going to jump anyway, so why think about the landing?

 

You are a pathetic loser and everyone knows it.  Even Mom even knows it and that’s why she replaced you.  She has Amelia now. She’s the perfect child, the one every parent dreams of having, why would she need someone as pathetic as you?

 

When there is a cancer or tumor, you remove the growth.  When there is something stressing you, you remove the stressor.  Evan is the problem, him leaving is the solution.

 

She won't miss you.  No one will.

 

The cacophony of voices in his head fades into static and there is only one thing left for him to do.

 

Like a leaf in autumn, he falls.

Chapter Text

~~*~*~~

 

He’s first aware of the ringing in his ears and that alone is disheartening enough to make him cry because he’s still fucking alive .  As soon as the tinnitus and the tears fully register, pain floods his body like ice and he gasps ineffectively, trying not to pass out from the agonizing pain that rushes every nerve and the burning empty of his lungs.

 

He’s not sure what’s worse, not being able to breath or the pain he feels all over.  The wind has been knocked out of him. Obviously. He did just plummet out of what he estimates is a 40 foot tree, he’s shocked he is even still breathing.  And while he's sore and achy all over, there is one part of him that is numb which is his left arm and that isn’t the outcome he had planned on because he hadn't planned on surviving long enough to feel anything.

 

Evan doesn't want to know what the lack of feeling in his arm means.  He only hopes it isn’t missing, he kind of needs his left arm especially since he survived.  He struggles to draw in any sort of breath, and tries to think of just how hard he had fallen to knock every molecule of air out of his lungs.  He kind of hopes the air doesn’t return. It’s a much less pleasant way to go, but the ultimate goal would still be achieved and not the accidental hospital bill his mom is going to receive.

 

Still gasping like an even more pathetic Magikarp, he shifts enough so he’s completely prone, hoping it’ll take the pressure off some of the more painful spots on his body.  It kind of works, and leaves him with enough brainpower to start over-thinking everything about the event. Of course he survived, he’s not sure why he thought anything else would happen.  He tries to make her life easier and only complicates it further. It seems to be his MO: try something intended to make things better only to make it all much worse.

 

What is his mom going to say? Bethany?  Fuck, what is Dr. Sherman going to say? He doesn’t have to tell them why he broke his arm, right?  Just that he fell out of a tree.  There are plenty of excuses, he just needs to think of the right one, the best one to make it an accident and definitely not a failed suicide attempt.  He can do that on his way to the office.

 

I was climbing and I slipped.  I was climbing and I slipped. I was climbing and I slipped.  

 

I was climbing.

 

I slipped.

 

~~*~*~~

 

The sun he couldn't feel in the tree now drives oppressively down on him, weighing on him heavily with the heat.  He probably shouldn’t be walking. His entire back is a little sore and kind of aches in his spine with each step as well as sending painful jolts up his most likely broken and definitely no longer numb arm, but no one had been in the park office to drive him to the emergency room and he sure as shit wasn't calling an ambulance. Those cost a lot of money and he’d rather not have his mom find out he fell from a tree before he can tell her himself.  

 

He is only a few minutes into the five mile walk to the hospital, limping and bruised, when the dark car from the gas station blares past him.  Idly, he wonders what Connor’s car is doing all the way out here without him and tries not to hear it screeching to a stop. He jolts when he hears his last name and turns around to see Connor Murphy standing at the car door and stupidly, belatedly, remembers that if a car is driving obviously the driver is inside.

 

The way the other teen is standing there arms crossed and head tilted towards the passenger door, it’s apparent to Evan that Connor wants Evan to get into his car and he’s not sure why. “I’m sorry, wh-wh-could you rep-I didn’t quite catch…”

 

He’s interrupted immediately and he shrinks away from the loud voice.  “Get in the fucking car before I make you because even I’m not enough of a dick to let you walk what, is it 4 or 5 miles left to the hospital?  What the fuck dude?” Evan can’t answer, Connor doesn’t give him a chance. “Seriously, with a broken arm and whatever else based on your limp, I’m not letting you walk.  Get in the fucking car Hansen.”

 

He does.

 

~~*~*~~

 

“I fucking said, I know you dropped out of the tree on purpose so don’t fucking argue with me Hansen.”

 

They’re standing in the hospital lobby, his arm freshly wrapped in white plaster and aching despite the strong pain meds they had given him, and he’s pretty sure he’s having an existential crisis.  What else could this horrifying feeling crawling over his skin be called after being told it’s obvious he tried to kill himself? And by a classmate who he has observed extensively but never really spoken to before no less.

 

He swallows hard and tries to tamp down on his fear.  Connor isn’t angry, he looks almost resigned and that spurs Evan on to try and continue a conversation.  It’s the least he can do, right? “Oh-um-okay? I’ll um. I will try. Not to? Argue?” He can’t look at Connor any more so he looks down at his worn shoes.  “Um, I guess.” He blinks and tilts his head a little. It takes a bit but he finally looks back at the other boy. “Ss-so?”

 

So ... I’d like to know why.”  

 

He can feel his brain short circuiting.  “Um, wh-why? Why wh-what?” Connor is asking me why?  Why I tried to kill myself?  Why I walked instead of calling an ambulance like a reasonable person?  Why does he care? And why are we having this discussing in the lobby of the hospital?!

 

Thankfully, Connor seems to think along the same lines because he grabs Evan’s right, and more importantly not broken , wrist and drags him through the revolving doors and into the bright sunlight and continues talking as they walk back to Connor’s car.  “Follow along, Hansen. Why’d you drop, because honestly fucking same dude. So, I don’t know, maybe we can be depressed losers together.  You know, be friends, or whatever. If you want.” Connor’s voice drops as he speaks until Evan can barely hear him through the mumbling by the end.

 

The offer doesn’t make any sense to him.  Connor Murphy is actually asking him to be...friends?  Why? He’s certainly not going to spill his soul right now to Connor even if they decide they are friends, especially because he has no clue as to the motivations of the other boy.  What if he’s asking for blackmail material? Or something to use to mock him at some point. It’s what Jared does, so why wouldn’t Connor?

 

Connor’s nervous shuffling is slowly becoming agitated and Evan realizes he’s been standing there staring unblinkingly at him for far longer than socially acceptable.  His breathing goes thready again which makes his reply embarrassingly high pitched. “Are...are you sure?” He tries to ignore Connor’s eyebrows shooting up. He can’t allow Connor to pity him enough to try and be friends, he won’t ruin someone else’s life like that.  “Like, really sure? Because that means?” He closes his eyes so he can’t see Connor deciding that Evan really isn’t worth it after all and pushes through the rest of his words. “People don’t, they don’t really um, like me.”

 

And that’s the truth.  He doesn’t have friends, he doesn’t have anyone who actually enjoys being around him.  He’s a complete and total loner, the worst of the losers, and he will only bring Connor down.  He opens his eyes at the silence from Connor, thinking the other boy had walked away.

 

Instead, Connor looks taken aback and startled.  His mouth opens like he wants to say something, but nothing emerges.  Finally he just nods and this time is successful when he tries to talk from behind his curtain of scraggly hair.  “I kind of figured you wouldn’t want to be seen with me .”  The usual underlying anger is missing, Evan notices, and he has a flash of realization to just how alike they are when Connor glances at him at the end of his sentence.  His blue eyes are dark and empty, and there’s a glimmer that Evan thinks must be hope because it’s what he’s feeling himself right now. Connor is just as alone and miserable as I am.  Maybe...he actually has a shot at this, this friendship business.

 

Maybe he won't fuck this one up.

 

“Don’t be, don-do-don’t be ridiculous.”  Evan manages to make himself laugh though his tight throat, though it’s wet and he realizes belatedly that he’s crying which explains the tightness if he thinks about it at all.  “You’re like, a b-b-b-bill, a bill, a billion times cooler than I’ll ever manage to-to be. Why wouldn't I w-want to be, to be, to be friends?"

 

The grin Connor gives him is crooked and a little hesitant, but it's also genuine and Evan finds himself smiling back.

 

Huh.  Friends.

 

~~*~*~~

 

“Connor, I don’t - I don't - I don't - don't have money.”  Evan protests as Connor yanks the multi colored pack of sharpies out of his hands yet again when Evan tries to put them back on the shelf for the third time.  “I have m-mark-mark-markers at home. You can have one, borrow one, something?" Anything to stop him from spending money on someone as useless as himself.

 

Connor ignores him and clutches the markers tightly to his chest.  “Maybe I want them for me, Hansen, and you just happen to be my first doodle victim with them.”  There’s still a flatness to Connor’s voice but the longer they’re together, the warmer he’s becoming.

 

Even if today is the only day Connor is his friend, it’s been the best day Evan has ever had, suicide attempt not-withstanding.  He reluctantly stops trying to prevent Connor from purchasing the pack and watches as he practically skips his way through the store looking for something only he knows about.  When a pack of m&m’s smacks him in the face, he realizes he’s been staring blankly into space just thinking and god that’s so weird, why is he so weird?

 

“Sorry.”  He mutters and picks up the candy from the floor.

 

Connor shoots him a quizzical look.  “What for? I’m the one who threw them without looking to see if you were even paying attention.”

 

Evan blinks.  Comment does not compute.  Error code 404 : Evan not found.

 

Connor blames... himself?  For Evan not catching the M&M's?  He's thrown for yet another loop as his brain draws some more comparisons between Connor and Jared.  First and most importantly, Connor has yet to actually be dismissive to him. He’s been a little rude, he swears a lot, but he’s apologizing and asking Evan to be his friend , which just happen to be points two and three, as well.

 

He blinks himself back into awareness and realizes they’ve already reached the register and nearly sighs in annoyance at himself.  He thought he had been done with the embarrassing blackout spells in public. He doesn’t try and stop Connor this time as he bags the pack of multi colored sharpies and runs his card through the self-checkout.

 

“Come on, I’ll drop you off at your house.”  Connor hands Evan his unlocked phone with the maps app open.  “Punch it in.”

 

Evan doesn’t move.  He stares at the phone, not daring to look up at Connor.  Point four, Connor apparently trusts him, at least more than Jared ever has.  When the phone wiggles in his view, he slowly reaches out to take it from the outstretched palm, bracing himself for the very likely event that Connor will close his hand around…

 

Oh?

 

Connor...released it?

 

Connor...is allowing Evan to actually use his phone?

 

Swallowing hard, he carefully taps out each number and letter of his street address while Connor busies himself with ripping open the plastic package and Evan marvels at his rare stroke of luck for the day.  He’s never been grateful for being alive before, but if he hadn’t survived his fall, he wouldn't have had this amazing day with someone who actually acts like a friend.

 

Connor doesn’t ask permission, he just reaches out and drags Evan’s arm towards him.  Evan whimpers a little and Connor winces in response. He mumbles an apology under his breath even as he’s carefully drawing out long, looping lines that make up the letters of his name.  Evan wants to protest at just how large he’s writing, but it’s not like anyone else is going to want to sign it, so he’ll just have to live with what will essentially brand him to Connor.

 

Great.  Another way he’s going to ruin Connor’s life.

 

When the black lines are done and Connor’s name lays scrawled over the white plaster, Evan expects Connor to release the arm and allow him to have it back to himself.  Instead, what Connor does makes Evan actually start to cry, startling the other boy at the sudden onslaught of tears. “Dude. It’s just a stupid doodle.”

 

It’s not just a doddle.

 

It’s absolutely not just a doodle .

 

It’s proof that at least for one day, someone didn’t hate him .

 

But Evan doesn’t protest.  He just nods and continues to watch as Connor swirls lines of color all around his name.

 

This will never be just a doodle.  Not to him.

 

His fingers trace the lines absently, even after Connor has left him standing in his driveway.


Friends.  We’ll see how long that lasts.

Chapter Text

~~*~*~~

 

He’s not sure how long he stands out there staring at the spot where Connor had vanished over the horizon but it’s a surprised little sound that turns his head around.  He wishes he hadn’t when he sees his mom standing in the doorway. “Where on earth have you been!? You were in your room and then you weren’t. You were supposed to be watching Amy in the backyard.”  She’s not breathing as she berates him, and he’s taking tiny step after tiny step back from her verbal barrage. Her eyes flick down when he tries to hide his arm and she gasps. “Oh my god , is that a cast?  Evan, what happened?”

 

His eyes widen and he attempts to hide the cast as he fights the urge to bolt while she stalks out of the door and towards him.  “Um, um well. You see, it’s um. It’s kind of a funny story.” He yelps a little when she yanks the arm towards her to examine the cast, eyes narrowing at the name written there, but making no comment about it.  He’s certain that were she not so concerned about what had happened she would be asking about who had signed his cast and he definitely doesn’t want to explain about Connor right now.

 

He wants to keep the memories of today private, his alone.

 

“I’m not sure any story that ends with you requiring a cast can be labeled as funny, Mark Evan.”  Shit she brought out the much hated first name - she really is pissed at him.

 

He tries to hold onto the euphoria of the last couple of hours, but it is slipping away faster than a greased pig.  He watched one of those weird wrestling matches once on TV. He doesn’t understand the appeal of slathering a pig in what is essentially crisco and then trying to wrestle it to the ground.

 

But he’s distracting himself again, because he’d rather think about weird men in overalls wrestling oily pigs than listen to his mom yell at him for breaking his arm.  “Well, I-I-I-I was climbing a tree and-an-and I f-I just...I just slipped.” The look she shoots him is one full of suspicion but when he doesn’t make any other action or motion, she relaxes and so does he.

 

She bought it?  He can’t tell if he is disappointed or relieved.

 

“When I told you you would fall and break something climbing trees, I had thought it would be back when you were ten, not nearly an adult.”  She sounds resigned, and a little irritated, and he’s not sure why she’s mad except for maybe… “I expect to hear all about it tonight when I go into my shift.  Goddamn it Evan. We can’t afford this right now.”

 

He knows.  He hadn’t planned on surviving the fall so he hadn’t planned on a hospital bill being a problem.  He’s very aware that yet again he’s put another financial burden on his mom.

 

Maybe he should try again, just...higher.

 

“Heidi.”

 

Evan really needs to remember his stepmother has apparently the ability to cloak herself with invisibility because he had no idea where she had shown up from or how much she heard.  The last thing he needs is for her to figure out he is lying, especially when his mother believes him and Connor Fucking Murphy already knows the truth. He doesn’t need anyone else finding out, especially one of the three adults who could have him hospitalized; though he seriously doubts Mark would lift a single finger to help Evan.

 

“Evan needs support right now, not scolding.”  Bethany is saying softly and his resolve grows stronger.  He hates that his stepmother is a therapist, that she knows all the signs, and that she lives with him.  There is a good chance she knows what he did, at least enough to know he’s not doing well, and he resolves to avoid her even more now.

 

He has no chance to slip away however, because a gentle hand is placed at the small of his back and he’s being gently guided inside by Bethany, Heidi following closely behind.

 

Amelia is sitting at the table eating a crustless pb&j and she squeals when she sees Evan.  “Evvie! Where were you? I went to see if you could be the alien cowboy voices but you weren’t in the room!”

 

His eyes don’t leave her bright eyes, her huge grin at seeing him, and he tries to give her a smile.  Out of everyone, she probably would have been hurt the worst had he died, so maybe he’s okay with surviving.  For a little bit, at least. He takes his seat and accepts the offered bag of ruffled potato chips from his little sister.  “I need…I needed a walk.”

 

She eyes him suspiciously and then points at his cast with the fork she’s using to eat her sandwich.  Evan will never understand five-year-olds. “Did the sidewalk punch you or something?”

 

He laughs.  It’s a small little chuckle, but it’s genuine amusement because the mental image of the ground rearing back and decking him is rather comical.  “No, I climb-climbed up a tree.”

 

She gapes at him.  “But you’re the best at climbing trees!  You fell ?”  Her tone tells Evan she definitely doesn’t believe him.  Not that he blames her. He’s taken her climbing before and she knows he knows how to be safe in a tree because he’s the one who taught her how to climb safely.  He’s banking on her young age to not draw the lines connecting the facts.

 

He nods.  He’s seriously not about to ever tell her he fell on purpose.  He’d rather her think he’s not infallible, that everyone - even good climbers like Evan, can fall.  She’ll then continue to climb with caution which is what he wants because he doesn’t want her to ever experience the feeling of laying at the base of a tree, gasping for breath and in pain and so very alone.  He adds some chips to his plate and nibbles on one. He has absolutely no appetite, but he also can’t not eat when his sister is at the table because it shows bad habits none of them want her to form.

 

He lets her jabber on, relishing that she doesn’t seem to require any input from him to carry on a conversation.  He's never more thankful to be a passive person, glad he never snapped or yelled at Amy even in his most irritated state of being.  He has a feeling she’s going to be his rock over the next couple of weeks.

 

~~*~*~~

 

The next day, Evan wakes to his ringer going off.  It takes a moment to orient himself, and to identify the actual sound, but once he can see well enough to find his phone, he picks up and frowns at the name on the caller id.  He ignores the call and watches the screen turn black. When it lights up again with Connor’s name, he hesitatingly decides to answer the call. He’s whispering because Amy is still sleeping and he’s surprised she hadn’t stirred at the ring.  “He..hello?”

 

“Open your door.”

 

“What?”

 

“Come and open your fucking door.”  

 

He slips out of his room, careful to not wake Amelia on her other side of the room, and down the hall into the living room with the front door.  He opens it to see Connor standing there with a glower that mixes oddly with what Evan can only imagine Connor thinks is a smile. The effect is kind of creepy, if Evan is completely honest with himself.

 

Instead of commenting on it, Evan just blinks slowly, sleepily, still trying to convince himself that Connor isn't a sleep-induced hallucination.  He hadn’t actually expected the other boy to ever speak to him again, let alone show up at his house the very next day after declaring them to be friends.

 

“So, I was thinking of something to do today.”  Evan shuffles aside as Connor barrels past him into the living room before slowly closing the door and following.  “And I thought, hey, Evan said yesterday that he likes nature and I kind of like nature, so why not find nature together?”

 

Evan blinks and rubs against his legs through his thin pajama pants absently.  He’s not entirely certain he’s heard Connor correctly yet again. He hopes this isn’t indicative of a developing pattern of hearing loss.  “I...I’m sorry? Find natu-where are we...um, what do you mean?”

 

His blue eyes darken and Evan shivers a little.  Yes, Connor had been very nice the day before, but it certainly doesn’t erase the fact that the other boy had issues going back to printers and second grade and he isn’t naive enough to think Connor won’t react at him, too.  Especially if he makes him angry - and Evan is annoying enough, he knows. He hadn’t meant to offend the other boy. “I mean,” Connor huffs and Evan flushes at the irritation, “that we’re going outside. Hiking. Figured you might like that?”  Connor sounds less and less sure of himself as he talks and by the end he’s nearly asking a question.

 

Evan nearly screeches in his haste to assure Connor because the last thing he wants to do is make Connor think Evan is afraid of him, that Evan doesn’t want to be around him, because nothing could be further from the truth.  He’s not afraid of Connor, just of offending him. “No, no no no I love hiking!” He’s gasping and shivering and even his fingers are quivering and fuck he hates his anxiety but he doesn’t want Connor to leave him because Evan is an utter failure at communicating.  He tries not to wince when his words come out in a single breath, but at least he didn't stumble over any of the words. “I always go alone but I hate going alone because my thoughts are always too loud and I can’t stop thinking them but I go anyway because …”

 

His voice trails off before he can finish his sentence, eyebrows knitting together as he thinks.

 

Because I don’t have friends to go with.  It’s not exactly true any more, is it?  Connor keeps saying that they’re friends now, and not even Jared will say that and they’ve known each other since they were in diapers.

 

Because no one wants to be around me.  That definitely isn’t true because why else would Connor show up on his doorstep at 7 am on a Sunday morning?  Honestly, he would have thought Connor to be one to sleep in not be bright eyed and bushy tailed before even Amy is awake.

 

“I don’t like being alone and at least…”   At least there are trees around.  He wants to say, but somehow that just sounds so much more pathetic than any other ending he’s come up with.  “The trees help me...they help me feel less alone.” He finishes rather lamely and swallows, looking down at the ground near Connor’s feet.

 

Connor’s scoff is loud and Evan hates how much his stomach drops at the sound.  “Trees can only be friends if they talk back and if they talk back to you, you should probably stop doing drugs.”

 

Evan can’t quite follow what exactly is going on.  He had honestly been expecting something far different to follow that horrible sound because usually when someone grunts like that at him it’s because they don’t like him and then what comes next usually...hurts.  A lot. Occasionally physical, most of the time emotional, but it always hurts him in some way. Connor on the other hand, follows the sound by making what Evan is assuming is a joke. Not that he’s very good at jokes, so he’s not one hundred percent certain if it is one, but the way Connor is snickering now tells Evan that the scraggly haired scary emo boy thinks he’s a comedian.

 

Hilarious.  But at least it isn’t meant to hurt Evan?  He thinks not, anyway. He just nods and shrugs a little.  “I don't have to...need to? I don't need to smoke drugs to know that if I could understand trees that would be weird but if I could it would mean I was a forest nymph which would be just awesome …”

 

Both of Connor’s eyebrows go up as he rambles and Evan claps a hand over his mouth to stop the rambling verbal vomit.  He hadn’t actually meant to say any of that out loud and now Connor is never going to speak to him again and Evan wouldn’t blame him.  He is rather pathetic, and he just admitted that he wished he were…

 

“You’d be a dryad.”  Connor mumbles shakily, almost nervously if Evan had to put a name to the wavey tone.  

 

Evan startles, hand falling from his mouth slowly as he takes in Connor’s unsure, hunched posture and hopes he doesn’t say the wrong thing.  Connor isn't wrong, but Evan had assumed the other boy wouldn't know or care so he hadn’t bothered to clarify and now he wishes he hadn't assumed.  “Yes, I um, I know.” He whispers and licks his lips. He hates how dry they are right now but he’s going to make himself talk because Connor is an unexpected recipient of his greek mythology knowledge.  “Or, um. Or I’d be an alseid. But only Homer really talked about them, so maybe just...yeah. I would just be a dryad.” Congratulations Evan you just got out a sentence that doesn't make you sound like a complete moron, just a partial one.  He should draw himself a certificate of accomplishment.  Evan Hansen, almost not a moron.

 

There is a long silence again, both boys silently staring at each other, Connor in his black jean jacket over a soft black shirt and faded black denim jeans and boots and Evan in his threadbare green and blue striped pajama pants and grey tee-shirt and bare feet.  “Well I’d want to be a naiad, except then we probably wouldn’t be able to do shit like what we’re about to do today.”

 

He could see Connor being a water nymph.  He doesn’t know how, except that it’s what Connor said he’d want to be, so yeah.  He could see it. Evan isn’t sure how to proceed in the conversation but he makes an attempt anyway.  “Well, you...well you could...why not, not be...you, you could…” He halts, face heating rapidly as he stumbles over his latest attempt at being a human being and failing miserably.  “Sorry.”

 

“Why are you sorry?”

 

The short bite with each word only makes his words even more scrambled.  “Because I...be-be-because, because I can't...it’s so, I'm...I can't...it's annoying...I’m sorry!”

 

Connor, however, barely looks phased.  “Dude, chill it's fine. Just...breathe before you talk.  Helps sometimes.” The other boy plunks himself down on the couch and gestures to the stairs.  A little smirk forms and Evan winces internally at what might follow. It’s never good for Evan when Jared wears that smile and he is still struggling to imagine Connor being any different.  “Get dressed and we’ll wax poetic on all the ways a dryad and a naiad could be friends while we’re hiking.” He gives Evan an up and down and shrugs before looking down and hiding his face behind his hair again.  “Or whatever you’re feeling up to, you’re probably sore and shit.”

 

Except Connor is different and so Evan obeys.  He doesn’t know what else to do.  Because with Connor, smirks and grunts and glares don’t seem to mean anything Evan is used to and he’s too unsettled to do anything but listen to his new friend’s order.

 

It’s barely 7 am on a Sunday morning, and he’s going hiking.  Never mind his back and how it’s still twinging when he steps despite the doctor saying there was no damage to worry about, never mind the bruises and scrapes that still burn every time he moves.  No, he’s going to go hiking because Connor Murphy has done what no one else has done before: sought Evan out.

 

Connor is the one asking Evan to hang out.  

 

Of course he’s going to go.

Chapter Text

~~*~*~~

 

This is the third appointment Connor has taken Evan to and still been sitting in the lobby waiting for him when he came out of Dr. Sherman's office from his 10 am meeting with her, and Evan could hug him.  He doesn't, of course, he just shoots him a little half smile when Connor slaps both hands on torn jean knees and hops to his feet.

 

Three weeks.

 

He's had an actual, real friend now for three weeks.

 

Honestly, he is still waiting for the other shoe to drop but he'll enjoy this as long as it lasts.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to enjoy having said friend there when you’re still hung up on what your therapist said, but Evan is the king of shoving things aside to deal with later.  “Th-thanks for waiting.” He doesn't want to think about therapy right now.

 

“You've said this every week.  You can stop.”

 

“Y-you can’t stop me from being polite.”

 

“Bleh polite .”

 

“Yes, polite.”

 

Connor rolls his eyes and holds the glass door open for Evan to walk through.  “Fine, be polite.”

 

“I will, thank you.”  Evan lifts his nose primly and snickers when Connor shoves at his shoulder.  “Will...erm, could you drop me off at Ellison?  I need to turn in my dirt readings.”

 

Due to the broken arm, Evan has quite a few limitations now at work, but that didn’t stop them from still finding useful things for him to accomplish.  He’s been learning how to test the soil for things like acidity in the areas where new trees are being planted in order to ensure the saplings will be healthy.  He’s actually enjoying it a lot.

 

“Huh, forgot you had a job.”  Connor snorts and slides into the driver’s side.  “Yeah, I can do that. How long do you need there?”

 

Evan shrugs his seatbelt on.  “Only a few minutes. T-today is my last day on the fff-full schedule, though he said I’m welcome to come in and help whenever I want.”  He side eye’s Conor’s shit-eating grin. “What.”

 

Connor waits to say anything until they’re driving along towards the park.  “So, you’re an intern. With the Parks and Rec department in the city.”

 

He squirms in his seat, a little embarrassed at the look Connor is still aiming directly at him.  “We-well well well well when you put it like that…”

 

He’s interrupted.  “Holy shit I never thought you’d be the April Ludgate to the Andy Dwyer of our relationship.”

 

He pokes at the arm closest to him, shaking his head violently in disagreement.  “No wait no, Connor, I am nothing like April. She is a sarcasm goddess .  And no, be-be-bef-fuck me before you say it, I am not Andy either.”  Though he wouldn’t mind being thought of as such, Connor far better suits the role of April.

 

“Spoil-sport.  And Evan Hansen, was that a swear?"

 

"Shut up, Connor."

 

“Never.”

 

~~*~*~~

 

Dropping the paperwork had taken even less time than Evan had suspected and now he’s not so sure about being in an area that they had to cross a fence riddled with ‘no trespassing’ signs, but he’s also with Connor and he’s learned to expect these sorts of things from him.   “What-what’s where are we?” So long as he isn’t arrested for trespassing, he’ll follow along.

 

Connor spins in a slow circle with one arm outstretched.  “Abandoned Orchard. Still grows apples, though I'm not sure how edible they are?”  He flicks at a leaf and ducks around the low branch, Evan following along.

 

He can’t help the little giggle snort that escapes him.  “That’s...that’s how...that’s how apple - that isn’t how apple trees work.  The fruit will be just fine to eat, maybe lumpy, but fine.  It’s when you plant an apple seed to grow a tree that you should worry about the edibility of the fruit.”

 

Connor shrugs.  “We have until September anyway.”  He eyes the low hanging branches and then Evan’s casted arm.  “Wanna sit in one?” Evan shakes his head. The trees look old, 100 years old at least, and the last thing he wants is to break one of the branches by sitting down on it.  He’s immediately dismissed with a casual wave of a hand. “Psh, they're practically touching the ground, you're not actually going to be climbing. We're like sitting.” Connor is edging towards the trees and Evan knows he can’t stop him, not really.

 

“That’s the problem.”  Evan shakes his head again, this time a little more emphatically.  “This is...it’s a very old grove.”

 

Connor releases a long sigh of mild irritation, puffing his cheeks a little as he does so.  “Okay, so no damaging the old trees. Got it. Let’s…” He huffs and looks around before pointing off to the other side.  “There’s a hill over there. We can sit and talk there.”

 

Evan finds himself chasing after a maniacally giggling Connor Murphy as he dashes with thin, flailing limbs across the orchard, a huge grin stretching almost painfully across his face.

 

~~*~*~~

 

“You know Evan, there's nowhere else I'd rather be.”  They’re laying in the grass, hands folded over their stomachs, staring up at the puffy clouds going overhead in silence.  Or, at least it was silent until Connor’s question. Evan turns his head to stare at him while waiting for him to continue because Connor has a little frown on his face, one that says he’s thinking and has more to say, and Evan learned quite quickly to let Connor finish a thought.  Soon enough, he does. “Actually, that's a lie.” Connor’s head flops over and Evan’s heart jumps when blue eyes meet his. “Guess where?”

 

“Um.  Well.”  He tries to think of what Connor would like but comes up short.  “Disneyland?” He throws out and is rewarded with a huge grin.

 

“Oh fuck yeah.  I was gonna say outer space.”  He turns to look back up at the sky. 

 

Evan follows suit.  “Oh, that would be pretty cool.”  He tries to think of another suggestion.  “What-what about the ocean?”

 

Connor gives an exaggerated shudder.  “The ocean is fucking terrifying. We know more about space than the ocean.”

 

He contorts his face into a mask of mock concern.  “Wow.”

 

Connor apparently hears it in his voice because he faces him again, this time with a little scowl and narrowed eyes.  “What, Hansen.”

 

“Never thought you’d be afraid of something, that’s all.”  He’s not sure where the daring came from, to be playful and a bit jabbing, but he’s rewarded with a snort and a shove to the shoulder.

 

“Two can play at that game,”  Connor smirks a bit before growing sober.  “What had you so irritated when you left Doctor Sherman's office?”  Fuck, he knows where to hit hard.

 

Evan lets out the longest, lowest groan he can muster.  “Noooooooo.” The word drags out of him as he covers his face with his hands.  He won’t look at Connor for this. He’s too humiliated by the very suggestion but he also knows Connor won’t stop until Evan tells him so he rips the metaphorical bandaid off.  “She wants me to write letters to myself.”

 

The air is dead silent before…  “Pfff!” Connor sits up with the force of his amusement as he slaps his thigh rapidly as he sputters out hysterical laughter while Evan just glares at him.

 

He fights the urge to cross his arms and pout.  “It’s not...it isn’t funny.”

 

Connor wipes at his eyes.  “You’re right, I’m sorry.”   He says, still gasping for breath.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“It’s fucking hilarious .”

 

“Oh fuck off Connor.” It’s his turn to shove at Connor’s shoulder who uses the force to roll himself in reach of his satchel.

 

He pulls the laptop out as Evan watches, a bit bemused.  “No, no wait I’m sorry really. Here, I’ll even help you.”  After a few moments, Connor looks over at Evan expectantly.

 

Evan stares blankly back at him, still sprawled out on his back in the grass.  “What?”

 

Connor sighs.  “Start your letter dumbass.”

 

“Oh!”  Oh. Nope, not a chance in the world is he going to admit what Doctor Sherman wants him to write, not out loud.  However, instead of a firm no, what escapes is, “I um... I don't really want to say it out loud.” Good job standing up for yourself, Evan.

 

Connor arches an eyebrow at Evan.  “What the actual fuck did she tell you to write dude?”

 

And now Connor thinks Evan has to write some sort of weird thing he just doesn’t want to admit what it really is.  “It's embarrassing!”

 

A little snort escapes Connor.  “Oh. Oh. Oh my God, I’ll bet she has you start with 'dearest me, you're gonna have a lovely day!' or some bull like that.”  His eyes are bright and happy with his amusement and it makes Evan smile despite his embarrassment. “Please tell me that’s what it is.”

 

“You’re close.”  He mumbles, still reluctant to admit it.  He sighs and closes his eyes, desperate to not see Connor’s reaction.  “Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day and here's why.”

 

There is a long moment of silence from his friend before...“Dude that is absolute fucking bullshit.  And yeah, kind of embarrassing.”

 

Evan throws his hands out to the side.  “I know!!”

 

“Okay yeah, I'll help you.  Here.” His fingers fly over the keys as he dictates his own writing.  "Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day and here's why. Today is the last day of Summer break and Connor bought me ice cream.  Sincerely, me." He looks over at Evan with a hopeful look. 

 

Evan frowns a little.  “But you...but we haven't...oh!”  He feels immediately stupid when Connor starts to roll his eyes and snicker.  “I would love to go and get ice cream.”

 

“Now you're catching on.”  He claps his hands and jumps to his feet. “Let's go. There’s a great place nearby that I can never remember the name of.  I just know it’s some super cliched ice cream sounding name.”

 

“Frozen Zone?”  Evan asks, hopeful that he does not mean the overly priced Ala Mode he knows is somewhere in this area.

 

“Their shit is gross and not near here.  I’m not taking you there when I can take you to the best right here .”

 

Yes, Evan agrees that their ice cream is subpar, but it’s also all they can usually afford if he and his mom do venture out to an ice cream shop so that’s where he always goes.

 

Connor snaps his fingers.  “Something Mode.”

 

Evan sighs.  He never gets what he wants.  “Ala Mode?”

 

“YES!”

 

He definitely knows the place; everyone does.  It’s one of those standalone hipster style shops owned by a single owner where the prices are a little extravagant for what he usually spends on any sort of take-out food.  But, he’s not going to complain, not when someone wants to actually hang out with him. He has enough money saved up from the nights of pocketing the 20 instead of ordering the food as well as his job and figures he can spend a little extra just this once.  He’ll just have to get the smallest size they have in a cup instead of a cone. “Where is it?” All he knows is that it’s somewhere near the shopping mall and they had passed it on the way here.

 

“Not far.”  Connor shrugs, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets as they walk.  “Practically next to the orchard, actually.”

 

Oh.  That’s not far at all, provided practically means what he thinks it does.  “That sounds close enough to walk?” He wouldn’t mind no matter how far, but Connor is used to having a car to get around in so Evan won’t be surprised if he’s told that they’ll need to drive.

 

Connor scoffs, and the sound just makes him smile a little now instead of panic.  “Yeah, obviously.” Evan raises a brow at that and Connor rolls his eyes. “Fine, not obviously.  Yes. About a ten minute walk, if you’re okay with that.”

 

“Yeah, obviously.”  Evan snarks back and Connor shoves at his shoulder with a half little grin.

 

~~*~*~~

 

He has two scoops more than he had originally planned, and a very large waffle cone bowl to hold it all in.  “You really didn’t have...to. Um. Pay. For me.”

 

“Sure I did,”  Connor says easily.  “I invited you to an expensive ass place, so I paid for you.”

 

He grins a little into his bowl, still a little amazed and ecstatic that Connor gives a shit about him.  He’s less happy when Connor, of course, brings therapy back up.

 

“Did you tell Doctor Sherman about the tree?”  Connor asks around a mouthful of mint chocolate chip.

 

Evan’s sigh rivals one of his sister’s and he puts the spoonful of salted caramel down into the bowl.  “Yes. And she’ll probably call my mom tonight and then it’ll become a huge thing, and just.” He sighs again and eats a bite of the slowly melting ice cream.  “She doesn’t think I should go back to school yet. Or-or I should at least limit what days I go, so yes, I have to talk to my mom. Tonight. Hopefully, before Doctor Sherman does.”

 

Connor is quiet as he stirs his bowl of mint, staring into the bowl as he absently stirs.  Finally, he smirks up at Evan. “Well, if not, I’ll visit you in prison.”

 

He’s quite used to Connor’s forays into his own mind to find some response to a long-winded spiel of Evan’s.  He wonders what Connor thinks he’d do to get thrown into jail. “Real prison or…”

 

The other boy snorts again and shoves a bite into his mouth.  “Probably your room.” He garbles around the spoon and Evan sighs at his manners.

 

He eats his own bites far more politely.  “Or the psych ward.” Honestly, that’s a more likely scenario, what with a therapist stepmother in his house.

 

Connor wiggles his hands a little, making the ice cream jiggle inside.  “Eh, psych’s not so bad.”

 

Evan shovels two bites in before he answers.  “Yeah, yes. I know.” He admits reluctantly. “Except it...it is, because it’s all group therapy stuff.  And...well, it’s me.” He gestures awkwardly towards his torso and shrugs a bit stiffly.

 

They fall quiet again for a bit, their steps in line as they make their way back through the hole in the fence.  They’re silent until back in their previous spot, and Connor looks over at Evan. “Look, I'll go with you even.”

 

It takes Evan a minute to catch back up to the conversation they had been having.  “Oh, to talk to my mom?” He nudges Connor a little and jokes, “or to the psych ward?”

 

His eye roll is epicly annoyed  “Your mom, doofus.” Evan has to catch himself before the momentum of Connor’s shove sent him down the hill.  “I’ll be there for support, yeah?”

 

“Yeah,”  Evan whispers, fighting back tears from the overwhelming surge of contentment from having someone who, yes is a bit abrasive at times, but is probably the most caring individual he’s ever met.  “Yeah, support.”

Chapter Text

~~*~*~~

 

Even after three weeks, despite seeing each other in person a half dozen times or so, Connor hasn't been inside of his room until now.  The farthest he's ventured into the house is the living room, and that's to wait for Evan to dress to go out for the day. He knows it’s no longer the room it’s always been, most of his science posters are gone or has artwork taped over it.  He does enjoy the very detailed rendition of her adventures with the space cowboys from a few weeks ago, but he also is a little embarrassed that his room looks like a five-year-old’s and he very much suddenly wants Connor to leave and not come inside.

 

He doesn’t say anything however, he just opens the door to his and Amy’s room.  There is now a curtain that can be drawn down the middle of the room, but it’s still far from private - and far from his.  Thankfully, Amy is at summer camp and not there at the moment, so they have the room to themselves.

 

“Sorry, I still have to sh-sh-share a room with Amelia.”  He can hear the shame in his tone, feels it oozing through every pore.  The fact he’s sharing with his baby sister is a screaming bullet point in just how different their social statuses are, how poor Evan is compared to Connor.  Though he knows despite having rich parents, Connor hasn’t had the same support he has when it comes to his mental health so maybe there are pro’s and con’s to both sides.  

 

Connor just lifts his shoulders in a slight shrug.  “Dude, I haven't had a bedroom door since second grade and the fabled printer toss.”  He shakes overly enthusiastic jazz hands to an extremely dull sounding voice at the last bit of the sentence before he shrugs.  “At least your reason for a lack of privacy is adorable and not based on something that happened when you were eight.” Connor hasn’t met Amy yet, but Evan has shared enough of her little anecdotes and Connor keeps saying he can’t wait to actually meet her.  Maybe tonight they’ll get the chance.   

 

His heart grows heavy with sudden sadness for Connor and his apparent lack of a support system outside of Evan.  Even if his mom can grow distant and frazzled when she’s stressed, she’s still always been his biggest support, always been willing to at least talk to him and try .   He wonders if he should ask Connor about when he was fourteen, ask more about how he is at home because he never talks about it, but he doesn’t.  Connor clearly doesn’t want to discuss it right now, if his stiff posture after his admittance is any indication. Maybe if they stay friends, and he desperately hopes they do, then the results of the conversation ahead could potentially become the basis for Connor’s support, too.

 

He motions for Connor to sit on the bed while he takes a seat at his desk.  There are only so many surfaces acceptable for sitting in the room, and he’ll take the more uncomfortable one.  Connor flops on his bed like a starfish, huffing out a long breath as he does so. “Whew.” He picks his head up to fix Evan with a look that he tries not to shrink away from.  “You ready?”

 

No, he absolutely is not ready for any of the looming conversation.  "What... what if she doesn't believe me?" It’s the one thought that’s been bouncing around in his skull since his appointment that morning and he’s terrified of the notion that he opens up and admits the truth and is still pushed aside and told to grow up or dismissed and doubted.

 

Okay, so she has never actually told him any of that explicitly, but the implications were there.

 

A grunt sounds from the bed.  “She’ll believe you.” Connor drops his head back down, long hair fanning out around him like a fluffy crown and shoved his hands under his head.  “And if she doesn't, Beth will. You said she already suspects, right?”

 

Evan still can't grasp his mind around the concept that Connor is so perceptive and kind about Evan’s worries and paranoia; at least compared to Jared.  Sure he’s rough around the edges, he’s abrupt and abrasive and a lot like Jared in a lot of ways except for the one Evan appreciates the most:  Connor actually calls him and acts like he's really Evan's friend. Maybe he should finally stop giving any sort of shits about Jared. He’s never shown him one iota of kindness, at least not since middle school.

 

He draws his knees up to his chest and hugs them tightly, hoping to dispel some of the nerves settling in around him.  It doesn’t work. “Yeah, yeah I’m pretty sure she does.” Between her knowing looks and her gentle steering of various conversations away from focusing on Evan, he's very much certain she suspects yet isn’t comfortable enough to approach him about it.  He’s not sure how he feels about that.

 

Connor tosses his pillow at him and he ducks out of the way instead of unwrapping himself to catch it.  “Then you’ll be fine.” He says firmly, emphatically. "And if not, I believe you, so at least you’ll have me on your side.”

 

~~*~*~~

 

They’re sitting together on the bed watching Parks and Rec on Evan's tiny laptop when they hear the front door open and his anxiety flares violently, sending his hands shaking and his entire body trembling. 

 

“Evan?  Doctor Sherman called me today at work!”  His mom calls out before the door even closes and he squeezes his eyes shut in terror.  Oh god, I didn’t even get a chance to talk to her first.   She must have called Heidi as soon as Evan had left the visit and his stomach knots tighter.

 

Shit.

 

He’s more fucked than initially thought.  Connor gives him a sympathetic look even as they shut the laptop and make their way to the stairs.  

 

“Honey, can you - oh!  I thought I didn’t recognize the car parked on the street.”  She pauses when Evan appears at the top of the stairs. “Hello, you must be Connor?”

 

She asks like Evan has any other friends, like Connor’s name isn't the only one on his cast that isn’t family.  Amy’s rests on there, as well as a drawing of a unicorn with blood on the horn. He doesn’t understand his sister’s mind sometimes.  He also doesn’t understand his mom’s weird levels of enthusiasm anytime Evan manages to do something normal like make a fucking friend.

 

“Oh, um, hi.”  Connor gives an awkward, uncomfortable sort of wave and shoves his hand back in his pocket.  “Yeah, Connor.”  

 

Evan fights an amused snort.  He’s glad he’s not the only one who struggles meeting new people.  “Um, yes. This is friend, my Connor.” He flops his hand in an awkward ‘there he is’ sort of motion and flushes deeply when Heidi giggles a little, realizing what his mixed up sentence had actually said.  He kicks at Connor’s foot when his shoulders start shaking from held back amusement, and he’s mumbling ‘my Connor, mine’ under his breath.

 

“Shut up.”  He hisses and Connor just slings an arm over his shoulders and winks at him before offering the other hand to Heidi.  She takes it eagerly and with a warm smile. Evan wonders just what Doctor Sherman had told his mother to have such a flip in attitude from the last couple of weeks of irritation and shortness.  It can't be anything good. 

 

“It's very nice to meet you, Connor.  Are you staying for dinner?” Both boys glance at each other and shrug and she shakes her head with a little smile.  “I’ll assume yes, for now.” She motions towards the dining table. “Come sit, honey. We need to talk.”

 

He doesn’t want to, desperately doesn’t, but Connor is here and with him just like he promised Evan he’d be so he obeys.  He sits quickly and stiffly, whacking his knee against the table leg as he does so. Biting back a curse, he glares at Connor when his friend starts to snicker at him.  After Connor slowly takes a seat as well, Heidi shoots him a look and then Evan. “You’re okay having this talk with Connor here?”

 

Evan nods quickly.  He’s only okay having this talk with Connor sitting right there.  He has to fight the urge to grab Connor’s hand by shoving his own under his thighs, effectively pinning himself to the chair.  Don't freak him out, Evan.

 

She nods too, only slower.  Her eyebrows are a little furrowed and she’s not fully meeting Evan’s eyes, not that he’s doing anything different.  “Okay. Okay, good.” Evan watches as she plays with her fingers and feels a stab of pity for her even through his own nerves.  She looks nervous, like she doesn’t know how to have the conversation she’s trying to have, and god Evan can very much relate right now.  She huffs in a deep breath and exhales roughly. “First, I'm sorry. I haven’t been very patient with you, or very understanding, and that isn’t okay.”

 

Oh god, she knows.   Why else would she come to him like this, with gentle words and apologies, when the entire rest of the summer has been filled with short and snappy exchanges?  He shrinks back a little in his chair and fixes his gaze on the table top. His mom is quiet for a bit, he can feel her eyes on him but he keeps his own down. “Doctor Sherman called to suggest I keep you home for a few weeks from school and to work something out with your teachers to help ease the stress you’re under.”  He avoids looking at her sad, fathomless eyes when she asks, “Evan, do you want to talk to me about it?”

 

Not really, no .  But he doesn’t really have a choice here, not one that Connor will allow him to use.  Connor told him he’s not allowed to lie for the sake of protecting someone’s feelings anymore, especially at the sake of himself, so even if he knows his mom will not like what he has to say, he has to say it.  (Evan still has words to exchange with Connor about that idea, too. He doesn’t think the conversation about the topic is over.) “Um, she didn’t… she didn’t say anything else?” He really hopes not, he wants to tell her in his own words, if he has to tell her at all.

 

Which, he does.  He knows he does.  Especially since Doctor Sherman had already told her that she needed to talk to Evan about something important.

 

Stupid therapists trying to do what’s best for you.  How dare.

 

She shakes her head and some of the knots release in his relief.  “Just that I needed to talk to you about what you two talked about today.”  Her hand is warm on his and it helps ground him, just a tiny bit.

 

He sighs, deep and shuddery, and Connor gives him a subtle thumbs up of encouragement.  “It’s about…We-we talked about...” He can’t continue, he really can’t. His throat is too tight and his hands are shaking and he just doesn’t want to admit anything at all right now.  He wants to hide in his bed and cry, not tell his mom he tried to commit suicide.

 

He feels pathetic.

 

His mom is quiet except for reaching out and grabbing the hand not inhibited by the cast and it serves to only tighten his throat further.  “Do you want Beth in here, too?”

 

No, he doesn’t, but he also doesn’t want to talk about this more than once.  Plus, she is also a therapist. It couldn’t make anything worse .  If anything, it’ll just get him help faster.  He just desperately wants to avoid inpatient if he can.

 

He nods his affirmation anyway, eyes still fixed on the table surface.  Connor nudges his thigh with a knee and the pressure is warm against his leg.  He can’t even manage to look at Connor. 

 

“Okay, okay.”  She whispers, rubbing a thumb over his knuckles.  He doesn’t know how to feel right now. He hasn’t really gotten this kind of comfort from her in a while.  He whimpers a little involuntarily when she releases his hand and she mumbles soft apologies and assurances she’ll be right back and she moves to the sliding patio door to call out to Bethany who is out working on the yard.

 

Evan faintly hears her call back a happy, “Oh, Heidi!  Welcome home. I’ll be right in.” Her voice grows louder as she comes closer and steps back into the house, kicking off her lime green crocs she uses for garden work and slumping her tired way over to the table.  She perks up at the sight of Connor sitting next to Evan and holds out a hand. “Hello. I’m Bethany, Evan’s stepmom.”

 

“Connor Murphy, Evan’s friend,” Connor says in the most polite tone Evan has ever heard from him reaching out and shaking the offered hand.  He honestly can’t believe it’s only been three weeks, not with how absolutely fantastic Connor is. The shoe he’s been waiting for seems far far away right now.

 

“We’re discussing my phone call from Evan’s therapist today.  Connor is here for support?” Heidi says to briefly catch the other woman up to speed and Connor nods when Bethany glances at him.  Heidi turns to face Evan again and he can see her eyes pleading with him, begging him to just tell her so she can fix it. “Whenever you’re comfortable, honey.”

 

He’s never going to be comfortable, not with this line of conversation.  But he has to tell them, he has to get the words out, because three weeks isn’t enough time to learn not to hate yourself, not enough time to rid himself of those same thoughts that plagued him in the tree, especially when he’s admitted it to no one except his best friend, and he needs his mom.  He needs...he even needs Bethany.

 

The conversation with Doctor Sherman overlaps in his mind with the ones this afternoon with Connor and instead of bringing out the carefully formulated story, the one he rehearsed in the car and before they put Netflix on, he blurts it out before he can stop himself.  “It-it-it wasn’t an accident.”

 

Bethany immediately looks at his cast for a brief heartbeat before back to Evan and when her warm eyes look his face over, he knows she’s only receiving confirmation for something she knew and somehow, he only feels relief that someone already knew other than Connor.

 

Heidi is a lot less reserved.  “What wasn’t an acci...your arm?”  Her eyes widen and her breathing quickens a little and Evan suddenly feels so very guilty at his actions that day.  “Oh, Evan!”

 

When Heidi doesn’t move her hand from where it had pressed against her mouth, Bethany speaks up.  “And I’m assuming you told your doctor today?” She sounds matter-of-fact, composed, and Evan is struck by just how perfect her personality is for therapy.  She exudes the gentle calm he needs to get through this conversation and he’s never loved his stepmother more for being here for him even when he isn’t biologically hers.

 

Evan nods slowly, eyes only going far enough from the table to flick to her chin for a bare moment.  Regardless, he’s not making eye contact because he doesn’t want to descend into hysterical crying. He already knows that he will lose it once the tears he can see in his mom’s eyes actually fall.

 

Connor's warm hand is tugging at his wrist, trying to free his hand and as soon as he realizes what Connor is doing, he snatches the hand with a white-knuckled grip.  Oh thank fuck he initiated it.  His hands are shaking so violently he's surprised Connor can even keep a grip on him because she isn’t responding, she’s just staring at him and oh god she’s going to commit him, isn’t she?

 

“I...I don’t...I don’t want the hospital.  I don’t want psych.” Evan chokes out through the tight emotional band around his throat.  “I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I can’t , Mom, please .”

 

“No, no no no.”  She’s nearly talking over him, shaking her head as she repeats the word over and over and scrambling to move around the table to grab up his hands up along with the one of Connor’s and pull him out of his chair and into her embrace.  “Not if you don’t want to, we can talk about it before we decide anything. I just…” Her voice is cut off by a little choking cry and her hand presses her mouth again just a moment. “Evan, I’m sorry .  I’m so sorry.”

 

He’s shaking his head while refusing still to meet her eyes.  He doesn’t need that right now, he needs to know what his fate is going to be, he needs to know what is going to happen to him now.  The apologies can come after that. “I-I-I-I want to stay, I want to stay at home and do my work.”

 

“Okay.”  

 

“I d-d-don-I don't want inpatient.”

 

“Then we don’t do inpatient.  Doctor Sherman seems against that idea anyway.”  Heidi says immediately, firmly, and Evan feels his entire body relax.  She’s taking control of the situation, removing the reins from Evan’s grasp so to speak, and thus relieving him of the weight of the decision.  It isn’t his to make alone.

 

“I can bring him his homework every day.”  Connor offers quietly and both women give a little startle that Evan very nearly wants to laugh at.  He’s not sure how they forgot he was there, he’s literally latched onto Evan by one hand, to the point that when Heidi had pulled Evan up to hug him, Connor’s arm had been dragged along for the ride.  “Turn in it, too.”

 

“Thank you, Connor.”  Bethany strokes Evan’s hair out of his eyes with a gentle brush of her fingers and he actually finds himself leaning into the touch a bit.  “We’ll work it out tomorrow with the principal, Evan, okay? So don’t you worry about it.”


The relief he feels makes him sag dramatically in his chair and the tears that have been threatening him all day finally break free, cascading down his cheeks in torrential rivers as the sobs are nearly ripped from his chest.  He has been heard and believed and now he’s being comforted in all the ways he’s needed for months.  For the first time in a long time, he feels like things might someday be okay.

Chapter Text

~~*~*~~

 

It’s the morning of the first day of school, and for once, Evan isn’t terrified because of the other students.  No, he has to talk to the principal today and he doesn’t trust how that conversation is going to go down. He sighs and steels himself when he hears the front door close and Connor stomp over to the seat.

 

Right on time.

 

He slips out of his room and halts at the top of the stairs when he hears Amy’s voice, Connor’s side profile in his line of sight.

 

“I thought you’d be taller.”

 

It’s a bit of a random statement, even for Amelia’s standards. Connor isn’t even standing, he’s sitting slouched in the old armchair he always sits in while waiting for Evan to finish getting ready.  Evan wants to laugh, but he also doesn’t want to give away his position from where he has paused in his descent of the stairs just out of view of his friend so he claps a hand over his mouth to keep the giggle silent.

 

“Huh?”  It seems Connor isn’t expecting the small child to appear out of nowhere and speak to him, which isn’t much of a surprise.  In all the weeks they’ve been friends, Connor has managed to miss seeing Amelia for one reason or another, mostly due to summer day group programs such as camp.

 

She repeats herself and Connor's confused expression doesn't change.  She huffs an exasperated sigh and gestures wildly as she explains herself.  "Evan loves tall things. Giraffes, trees, and with how much he talks about you, I thought you… "

 

"Amy, it's your turn to make the toast," Evan calls down from his spot on the stairs, pretending like he is just now on his way down.  He doesn't talk that much about Connor.  Does he? And him loving giraffes is certainly a new concept.  He can't think of where she got that notion from. It’s not like they’ve been to a zoo together, or even discussed Evan’s favorite animal.

 

“I already made it, Evvie.”  She retorts immediately, propping herself on the side of the armchair to peer into Connor’s face, who gives her a half smile and sticks his tongue out at Evan. 

 

“Yeah Evvie , she already made it.  I want to know what you say about me, now shush.”

 

Maybe he should have worried more about Connor hearing the nickname over Jared.  “You’re not calling me that.”

 

“Of course he isn’t,”  Amelia answers for the long-haired teen.  “That’s my name for you He needs his own.”

 

“How about Eevee?”

 

“He’s cool, but not cool enough to be Eevee.”

 

“Or we can just call me Evan, that-that is my name.”   He just sighs at them both when they ignore him and start naming various pokemon to find the one that they feel matches him the best rather than a nickname Connor can call him.  

 

Even my best friend immediately gets along with my little sister.  At least she isn’t telling him... He cringes a little and tries to divert his thoughts.  He probably does talk about Connor every day, because they’re friends and he likes him and he doesn’t want Connor to know that he talks about him so much because he would rightfully be very creeped out by Evan because who does that?  Who talks about their friend as often as he does? He would like to keep his friend, thank you very much. He definitely thinks of Connor as his best friend, though it helps that he had called Evan that first before Evan had even fully accepted that they were friends.  He shivers again.  He still gets little chills whenever he thinks about being friends with Connor.  

 

He grins when she throws a pillow at Connor for suggesting Evan would be Magikarp and he gives her a kiss on the top of her head for defending him before heading into the kitchen for his toast.

 

He has the best little sister and the best friend a guy could ask for.  For once, today doesn’t seem so very daunting.  Of course, knowing he’s not going to be forced into a classroom today is helping immensely.  Hopefully, the principal understands and is willing to work with him. He doesn’t have a very good track record of teachers being patient with him.

 

--

 

He thinks it’s entirely too early to be at the high school right now, before anyone else.

 

“You really fucking lucked out on little sisters.  She’s fucking awesome.”

 

Evan has heard Connor bitch about Zoe enough to know he is definitely not exaggerating about how much he likes Amelia.  He eyes Connor and gives him a little confused look. “She’s so much younger than me, and I’ve only known her for a couple of months now.  You can’t possibly compare her to Zoe.” It kind of isn’t fair, either. Zoe is 16, and Amelia is 5. The age difference is extremely vast.

 

“I can and am.”  Connor snipes back and Evan rolls his eyes.  They’re following Heidi and Bethany as they make their way into the high school.  Amy had tried insisting on waiting in the car because ‘there is air conditioning and Adventure Time.  I’m not leaving’ but Bethany was not having it and so she slumps her way between the two women, thankfully missing all of Connor’s F-bombs he knows she would use if given the chance in her pout.

 

They’re at the school about 45 minutes before the buses arrive.  Heidi had called the afternoon before and scheduled an emergency appointment with Principal McFadden.  He wants to hide. He doesn’t want to be at the school right now, even with no one else really there and Connor walking right next to him.

 

Of course, had Connor had his way, he would have driven Evan as well but Heidi had put her foot down and refused to relinquish control of driving her son on his first day of senior year.  Evan had sat there feeling rather like a damsel being fought over unable to decide if he liked it or not until the final decision had been hashed out.

 

They round the corner and the doors to the office loom in front of them and Evan swallows hard.  He is not looking forward to this conversation. “Hey.”

 

He looks at Connor who is leaning closer than usual as he whispers to him.  Evan raises an eyebrow in response, hoping he asks his question or makes his statement before they are called in.

 

“He’s going to work with you, I promise.”  Connor looks fierce as he talks but Evan only shakes his head a little.

 

“He won’t.  Not for me.”  It's his fear, deep down, that the principal will just decide it's too much of a hassle and not even allow him back to school.

 

“Dude, he worked with me last year.  You’re going to be fine .”

 

~~*~*~~

 

They are a week into the first semester and the only problem Evan has had with either school or his school work is today, and that’s because he knows he should not be seeing Connor walking up his driveway at nine in the morning on a Wednesday.  He pokes his head out the open window and calls out. "Aren't you supposed to be at school?"

 

Connor startles, nearly trips over the crack in the pavement and looks up with a frown.  "Don't scare me like that."

 

"Don't ignore the question."  He shoots back, leaning up on his arms so his torso hangs out the window.  "If you're here, how will I get my homework?" 

 

It's a legitimate question.  It is one of the things that had been decided in the talk with Principal McFadden, that Connor would be the one to bring Evan the file from the office that contains all the paperwork not put on the Google drive, which up until today had not been a worry for Evan.

 

"Relax. I plan on going back just before the bell for homeroom goes off."  Connor is on the porch now, still watching Evan. "Can I come in?"

 

Evan nods, placated for now.  "It's unlocked." He supposes if Connor has a plan, he doesn't have room to worry. He will, of course, still worry, but he won't focus on it.  He listens as the front door slams shut and Connor's heavy booted footsteps thump up the stairs, the hesitation between them telling Evan he is taking them three at a time.  He steps in the hall at the same time Connor reaches the top.

 

"Hey." Connor waves at him from his spot on the carpet.  The motion looks awkward, like always, but the feeling behind it is far from so and Evan feels warm at seeing Connor's lopsided grin aimed at him.

 

"Hi."  Evan is itching to ask why he's skipping, but he doesn't.  He knows that if he waits long enough, Connor will tell him what his plan is for the day or whatever is bothering him.

 

Sure enough, Connor wastes no time.  He's barely walking towards Evan's room before he's launching into the bullshit Mr. Peterson was giving him during morning homeroom.

 

"He's such a dick."  Connor is saying, gesturing wildly as he spins a tale of exchanged curses and insults that has Evan wondering just how much of it is accurate.  "He acts like I'm going to fucking lose my shit just because I'm there . And then Kleinman…"

 

"What did Jared do?!"  Evan interrupts loudly, sitting up as his heart starts pounding over what fucked up thing he said this time.

 

Connor’s reply is low and flat.  "I told you about how he called me a school shooter the first day right?"

 

Evan nods.  It hadn't surprised him in the slightest that Jared would say something that shitty just because Connor had grown his hair out.  Jared’s shitty comment today must relate.

 

"He asked if you were my first victim."

 

Of course he did.   Evan rolls his eyes at both the ridiculous notion and at being correct about Jared.  "He has my number." He mutters. "He can ask me where I am."

 

He jumps a little when Connor snorts loudly, the sound a lot closer than he had been expecting.  "He's an ass and thrives on trouble." He announces decisively before flopping down on Evan's bed.  "You're done with your homework, right." It isn’t a question, and Evan hates that Connor already knows just how of a goddamned nerd he is.

 

"Yes."  He is, too.  He had finished it all late last night because he couldn't sleep, and even if Connor doesn’t end up going back to bring him his homework, it’s all mostly available on the Google Drive provided for students like him.  “Where are we going?”

 

Connor gives a little eyebrow wiggle.  “Apples.”

 

--

 

“You know, it's too bad no one else knows about these.”

 

They had gone to the orchard before meandering to the school to turn his stuff in and fetch the new work.  Now they’re sitting on Connor’s bed, munching on apples they took on their way back from the abandoned orchard.  

 

"What the fuck Evan, no." Connor says emphatically.  “If other people knew about the abandoned orchard, we wouldn't have the apples to ourselves.”

 

He supposes Connor has a point.  But before he can respond, they hear the door slam downstairs and Alana Beck’s voice drifts up to where they are.  Connor closes his eyes briefly and sighs. “Oh good. She brought a friend today.”

 

“Zoe is friends with Alana?”

 

Connor shrugs and turns away from the door pointedly.  Evan opens his mouth to ask him why when he hears Zoe’s voice through the doorless frame.  “Sup loser. Wait, you have someone...no fucking way. You're the one he's been sneaking around to see?”  She sounds surprised, almost hostile, and he finds himself shrinking back a bit.  “Evan, right?”

 

His response is immediate and aimed at the floor.  “Evan. Yes, Evan. That's um, yeah. that's me."

 

“Hmm.”  She stares at him, eyes boring into his skull like a drill and then she snorts derisively.  “I give you another week before you finally grow sick of his shit, too.”

 

Evan can’t quite believe what he’s hearing.  He stares at her with wide eyes while Connor shrinks down under her glare and words.  It’s unfathomable to him that the girl who spoke so kindly to him after the jazz band concert last year could say such things about someone she’s known her whole life.

 

“If it wasn’t for him, I would have already tried a third time.”  The words are out almost before he realizes it but he doesn’t try to take them back because they are true.   

 

Zoe’s smugness slowly turns to horror as the realization comes over her and he can’t even muster a smug smile of his own through the bone-aching weariness that washes over him.  Connor is his best friend, the one person in his life who has treated him as someone worth being around, and there is no one he won’t stand up to for him, even the girl he used to like.

 

“Connor is...he’s protective and wonderful and my absolute best friend and I won’t have you saying things like that about him, I won’t.  He’s human, he makes mistakes, but so do I.” She starts to say something and he takes a quick breath and barrels on over her words, not caring that he’s being rude and interrupting.  “He has such a beautiful soul and I can’t imagine life without him, not anymore. He’s...Connor is amazing and I won’t listen to you say anything different.”

 

He flushes when he’s done and turns away from the pair in the doorway, hiding his face behind his hands.  Oh, god he just laid it all out there for all three of them to hear, and potentially their parents too if either of them happen to be home.  God, Connor is going to run as fast as he can away from Evan now.

 

Zoe gapes at him for a long series of seconds before she storms out of the room, Connor’s own tiny little smirk following her as Alana trails behind and asking questions at such a rapid rate Evan can’t keep up.  “That was fantastic, I loved that.”

 

“Oh god, I can’t believe I said that out loud.” 

 

“No, no it was great.”  Connor says quickly, quietly, and Evan flushes deeply and refuses to look at him.  “No, really. I’ve never had someone say anything like that to or about me before, at least not when I could hear it.”

 

“But it was…”

 

“Evan.”  The firmness of Connor’s voice has him halting and he cautiously looks over at his friend.  “ Thank you .”

 

There is such an intensity in Connor’s gaze that has Evan momentarily speechless.  There’s a knock on the frame to Connor’s room before he can find the words to reply.

 

“Connor, did you want...oh!  Zoe said you had a friend over.  You must be Evan.” A woman with red carefully styled hair is standing in the open door frame and he knows instantly that this is Connor’s mother and his anxiety skyrockets.

 

“Yes!  Yes, Evan.  That’s um, that’s me.”

 

“Are you staying for dinner?”

 

That is not the question he had been expecting.  He’s not sure what overcomes him in that moment.  It’s not certainly not rational or logical or anything of the sort.

 

He flees.

 

He runs straight out of the house and away from the question he cannot possibly answer because he has no idea if Connor even wants him to meet his family yet.  And why would he? Evan isn’t much to bring home to your parent’s. 

 

Connor is never going to talk to him again.  Not after that horrific display of a lack of maturity.  He could have simply said ‘no thank you’ and all three of them would have been able to move on.  Instead, he had to be an idiot and run away like a coward.

 

His phone pings and he opens the messaging app without thought.  Inside contains a series of laughing emojis from Connor in various stages of merriment, and Evan isn’t sure if he should laugh, cry, or scream so he does the next best thing.  Looking around to ensure no small impressionable children are around, he holds up his middle finger and sends a snapshot of it to Connor as a response. It’s a page out of Connor’s repertoire of responses and sends back a photo of his middle finger.

Connor replies with one in kind, though it is also accompanied by his grinning, proud face and Evan is almost certain that Connor found his reaction funny, not offensive, and the text that follows only confirms it.  dude that was fucking hilarious, she’s so confused still.  Told her you don’t like new people and maybe next time.

 

More likely not next time, either, but maybe the time after that.  His chest aches a little at how understanding Connor is being and the warm feeling stays with him until long after he finishes his homework and crawls into bed to sleep.

 

It’s as he’s just drifting off that something dawns on him.  Something that includes why he is so upset about Zoe’s reaction to Evan being Connor’s friend.

 

He likes Connor.

 

Like, like like.

 

Shit.

Chapter Text

It takes him almost 20 minutes to drag himself to a sitting position after he first comes to consciousness.  It’s the ping of his phone that had woken him up, specifically the tone used for Jared’s text messages. When he reads the message, he kind of wishes he could just go back to sleep and forget that the other boy had messaged him at all.  His skin feels too tight now and he rubs at his flannel covered thighs uncomfortably. It's going to be one of those days today .  More accurately, it’s been one of those weeks.  It is the first Saturday in September, a full month into the school year, and he is staring at the first text he’s received from Jared since the end of Junior year.

 

u die r sumthg lulz  

 

He knows he had told Connor if Jared really wanted to know where he was he could text him but now he has and he hates it.  He hates that Jared is texting him now, a month after the semester started, as if saying ‘hey, I know you haven’t been here but I don’t actually care’.

 

Which, he knows this is probably exactly Jared’s intention.  He knows Jared doesn’t care, he’s been reminded enough times about being only family friends enough that it’s fairly well sunk in by now.  It’s why Evan hasn’t texted him in a couple of months, despite the desire to reach out time and time again. It’s this knowledge that helps him decide that he is going to leave him on read, just like Jared did to him all summer.  He’s had weeks to text him instead of harassing Connor nearly every day asking if he had murdered Evan and any sense of obligation he had ever felt for his former friend is gone.

 

Hands shaking, he quickly taps out a message to Connor asking if he’s up yet.  He doesn’t want to deal with this alone. The reply comes sooner than expected, yet not quite as immediate as initially hoped, though he supposes a millisecond is a bit too unrealistic.

 

yah’m awake whats up?

 

Relieved, his thumbs fly over the screen keyboard, voicing the question that’s been burning in his mind since middle school.  What is it about me that makes me so repugnant?   He pushes send before he can rethink anything about the question and then sits back and waits, his stomach tied in a bunch of knots.

 

Connor takes a lot longer this time to respond, long enough that Evan feels the verge of a panic attack coming.  It’s only halted by the ringtone Connor himself had chosen starts to play and Evan breathes out a soft sigh.  “He-hello?

 

The voice is sleep gravely and rough and even though the words are harsh, his tone is amused and oddly comforting to Evan.  “You’re a fucking moron.”

 

“Thanks, that-that’s just what everyone wants to hear from their best-their best friend.”  He leans back onto his pillow and closes his eyes.

 

“Oof stuttering, I fucked up, didn’t I?”  Connor mutters on the other end of the line and Evan feels warm at the concern in the other boy’s voice and finally feels his body relax, even if it’s only a smidge.  

 

“No, just…”  His voice trails off and wonders how to put his feelings into words.  He fails and sighs. “Bad morning already. Jared.”

 

There’s an audible groan and then a thud Evan assumes is Connor physically headdesking something.  Probably the wall or his headboard. “He’s an idiot and I hate him.”

 

“To disagree would be a lie and you-you told me that only morons lie, so…”

 

“Finally, you admit it!”  Connor laughs and laughs and Evan can’t help but giggle a little along with him.

 

He sits up and switches the phone to the other side of his head.  “What, that I am a moron or that I hate Jared?” He’s only finally admitting it to himself.

 

“Both.  You’re a moron because nothing about you is ‘repugnant’.  You’re like, the nicest guy I’ve ever met. If someone doesn’t like you, that’s on them.”  There is a very long pause that has Evan almost asking if Connor is still there. “What did he say?  Or did he fucking do something, I swear to god I’m going to kill the fucking asshole.”

 

There’s no getting around it, he’s going to have to actually tell Connor now what Jared said and it’s not that big of a deal, he just takes every little thing personally on top of having a very off start to his day.

 

“You know what, never mind.”  Evan is about to ask him what he means by that when Connor announces that he’s on his way over in twenty minutes and abruptly hangs up the phone.

 

Well, if Connor kills Jared, he’ll go visit him in prison provided he’s even allowed visitors.

 

A knock sounds at the bedroom door and Bethany’s voice comes through.  “Evan, could you come help with breakfast?” This prompts him to drop his phone onto the bed to pull a hoodie on so he’s not out in the communal areas of the house in just his sleep pants before ducking out around the curtain around his bed.  He’d better tell his stepmother Connor will be there for breakfast so there’s enough.

 

--

 

“Evan, I’ve told you that Connor is welcome whenever he wishes.”  Bethany hands him a carton of eggs so he can start scrambling for french toast and Evan winces a little at the tone in her voice.  She sounds exasperated, and rightfully so.

 

“Yes, I-I know.  I just, I wanted to be respectful.”  He tries to explain and she sighs again.

 

“It’s your house, Evan.”

 

“Yes.”  He nods, almost a little too long.  It is his house, he agrees with that sentiment.  But she is also his stepmother, and therefore one of the adults he must run things by.  He knows his mom wouldn't like it if he invited Connor for a meal without permission because she likes to be prepared.  “I know.”

 

She smiles now, and it’s soft with a hint of excitement.  “Well don’t you worry, there is a plan in place for the first of next year where we will have a new place to live and you’ll have your own space again!”

 

He feels something in him drop at the announcement that they’re leaving in just three months.  Yes, he hates sharing with his sister, but he’s grown accustomed to the pair of them living with him and his mom.  It’s been a lot less lonely on the days he’s home and his mom isn’t, that’s for sure. Not to mention that this seems to be rather sudden.  He hasn’t heard any whisper of any sort of move from his mom, and this seems like something she’d mention, at least once. Though, with her track record on communicating with him, he shouldn’t be so surprised she’s not talked about it with him.

 

Sadness washes over him as he starts to crack eggs into a metal bowl for whisking.  More space will be nice, he supposes. His room will feel gigantic after sharing it with a five-year-old for the last few months and the house will be so very empty again and he isn’t looking forward to that part.  He doesn’t trust that his mom will continue to keep trying so hard if Bethany isn’t there.

 

--

 

“I smell eggs.”

 

Evan looks up from where he’s dumping the freshly scrambled eggs into a bowl to put on the table to see Amelia rubbing at both eyes with her favorite princess blanket wrapped around one arm.  It’s an adorable sight. “Your mom is making pancakes, too.” He assures her and then looks at the stove with the abandoned mix and heating pan. “Well, she was.”

 

There is a tired fist pump followed by a soft “yessss” that has Evan grinning at his sister.  “Where is mom?” She asks as she settles in her booster seat at the table, dragging her blanket up into her lap.

 

He shrugs and covers the bowl before sitting next to his sister.  “Her phone rang, said she wouldn’t long and to wait.”

 

Amy sighs a heavy sigh that is more suited to a bone-weary laborer than a sleepy kindergartner and plunks her blanket on the table.  It’s unwrapped to reveal her current favorite nature book that is all about the ocean habitats and Evan is so tickled she loves the book because he had found it for her in the bookstore on one of his and Connor’s trips out and about.

 

“It isn’t that difficult of a concept, Mark.”  Bethany is heard briefly before a door closes and the conversation dies again.  So apparently the phone call had been his dad, and based on her tone just now, the conversation is a frustrating one, though that is par for the course in conversing with Mark Hansen.

 

This whole morning alone could make a literal novel for his letter today.  Dear Evan Hansen, today is going to be a good day only because Connor is coming over.  Everything else hurts me in some way. Sincerely, Me.

 

Yes, that will go over well with Doctor Sherman.

 

There is a tug on his sleeve and he looks down to see Amy with wide sad eyes locked to his and he desperately doesn’t want to hear whatever it is she’s about to say because he knows it’s going to break his heart.  “Daddy doesn’t like me anymore, does he?”

 

Just another point for the ‘everything hurts today’ list.  He hates Mark even more for putting him in this position, forcing him to answer such a difficult question from a young child.  He sighs and tries to think of the right thing to say but the words difficult to find. “It isn’t your fault.” Evan finally mutters, his own emotions a bit raw just remembering the day Mark had left him .  “Dad doesn’t like anything.”

 

The little girl wipes at her eyes and pokes at the book.  “Not rainbows, or unicorns, or trees or us.” She says with a little pout.  “Me, mommy, you, Mama Heidi. He’s a grumpy fish.”

 

He glances over to see she is pointing to the sheet on the page in her little ocean book open to a page with deep-sea fish.  Evan snorts when he notices she’s pointing to the angler with the scary toothy expression on its face. “Yeah, that seems pretty accurate.”

 

She flips the page and sighs heavily again.  “I hope he’s done being a jerk soon. I’m hungry.”

 

He lets out a genuine giggle at that.  His sister is probably the funniest person he knows and is perfect at defusing his tension.  He hates that he’s going to lose it in three months.

 

--

 

Connor arrives just as they finish eating, and Evan doesn’t even have a chance to ask him if he wants food before he’s being dragged up to his shared room by one arm.  There is a lot he needs to talk to Connor about, such as the move, about how the house is going to be so empty again, and how he’s suddenly and desperately dreading it.  “Connor. My stepmom just told me that…”

 

The door closes behind the two of them as Connor interrupts him with a hand slash while he sits on the bed.  “That’s not important right now! I’m here about Jared, remember? What’d that jackass say?”

 

He had actually forgotten about Jared’s text from that morning, and he’s fairly impressed with himself.  However, Evan raises both eyebrows and steps back a tiny half step because Connor doesn’t usually interrupt him, and never tells Evan something he’s saying isn’t important.  He’s always emphasized the opposite, in fact, and has always been careful to let Evan talk first. His confusion must be written all over his face and be showing as something closer to disgust or disappointment because Connor’s face changes into a dark scowl.  “You know what, fuck off Hansen.”

 

That definitely isn’t said in the usual tone he uses with Evan.  It’s angry and almost hateful in its suspicion and he instinctively shrinks back from the harsh, biting retort and flashing angry eyes that remind him suddenly and far too immediately of Jared and the others who love to bully and pick on him.  He’s not sure how to respond right now and he keeps his eyes firmly fixed on Connor, watching and waiting to see what his next reaction should be.

 

But Connor closes his eyes and clenches his jaw before he talks again, eyes not on Evan’s, but on his forehead, sad and remorseful and full of defeat.  The hopelessness makes Evan want to cry and he nearly takes a step forward when Connor’s words halt him in his tracks. “Sorry. You’re the one person I really try not to...do that to.” 

 

The...one person?  The second-grade printer story is beginning to have a lot more merit and the lack of a bedroom door makes a little more sense.  Evan doesn’t see the same Connor everyone else sees.  Connor has a special side of him he shows only to him and Evan isn’t sure if that makes him feel special or manipulated.  Has this been something Connor’s planned since that day he waved at Evan while pumping gas at the station?  Or is this one of those things Evan is starting to blow way out of proportion?

 

The war must be raging on his face (he should work on how much he wears his emotions) because Connor’s shoulders are drooping further the longer Evan stands there in silence.  “It’s not...I don’t...” Connor breaks off in frustration and yanks at his hair, a few strands ripping out in his grip and Evan finally feels the hold on his voice break at the sight because he knows Connor .  He’s not manipulating Evan into being friends, he’s just so terribly desperate to not lose the one person willing to be around him.  It’s something he definitely relates to. He doesn’t want to lose Connor, either.

 

He reaches out and soothes the white-knuckled fingers back into flat palms, brushing the loose hairs down to the ground.  Connor stares at his hands like he can’t quite comprehend that someone is touching him gently right now and his resolve to be as non-reactive as possible only hardens.  Connor needs support right now, not a lecture on not shoving aside and hiding his problems from Evan when they could be helping each other out on bad days.  

 

That will happen after this is all done and passed by them.

 

“I know.”  He says simply, calmly, because he does.  He knows what Connor is trying to say, what he’s doing right now, and he accepts the unspoken apology.  “I’m just trying…no, I need to understand what you need right now so I can help you.”  It’s like he’s grown horns or sprouted a forest instead of hair and the longer Connor stares without blinking, the more uncomfortable Evan becomes.  “Connor, wha--?”

 

Evan nearly shrieks when he’s pulled without warning into a tight hug, a suddenly weeping Connor burrowing his face into his neck and he stiffens automatically at the sudden touch.

 

Oh!  Oh

 

He softens his posture, bringing his arms up around the crying boy’s shoulders and upper back and pulls him tightly to him.  He doesn’t know if he’s doing this right, he’s not usually the one providing comfort, but all Connor does is clutch him closer which means he must be doing it correctly so he doesn’t let go even a little.  He wonders if anyone has ever tried to understand Connor. Based on the intensity of his weeping, Evan would give a firm no. He only tightens his grip, determined to be the best support for his best friend he can be in this moment.

 

He ignores his brain sing-songing cruuuush because now is not the moment to be thinking on that issue thank you very much.  That is a crisis for another day.

 

“This.”  Connor finally manages to choke out after a bit of attempting to calm the nearly hysterical sobbing.  If that’s by holding him and allowing his neck to be used as a tissue is what will help Connor right now, then that’s what he’ll do. Evan’s hand moves absently up and down in a soothing pattern along his bumpy spine at the utter brokenness of Conor’s voice.  His voice comes again after another long space of noisy silence. “Just do this.”

 

And so he does.

 

Their talk about Jared and the looming move can happen later.

Chapter Text

Evan can’t take his eyes off of Connor.  Even as he takes the corner a bit too quickly for his taste, all he does is grab hold of the ‘oh shit’ handle at the top of the door and presses into the back of his seat and simply stares .  Connor just looks so drastically different from yesterday he can’t help himself.  

 

Gone are the long dark locks, well most of them.  Connor has an undercut now, and the longer hair on top that extends down the back - Connor had informed him earlier that it's called a mohawk even though it isn’t standing like the mohawks he’s seen - has been cut down to about three inches, bleached, dyed a royal blue, and is styled so it lays back perfectly on the top of his head.  He also has very small gauges in his ears and Evan worries a little about them becoming infected but otherwise likes them, not that he’s said anything about either yet.

 

He doesn’t want to mention them because he’s afraid he’s going to make a complete idiot out of himself and do something stupid like tell Connor he thinks he’s beautiful.  Because he definitely is beautiful and if Evan were to say so it would make Connor’s eighteenth birthday very awkward and he wants to avoid that.

 

What he is most concerned about is the dark, almost angry expression on Connor’s face and the white plastic bag of what he’s been told are two to-go containers of ice cream from Ala Mode sitting at Evan’s feet because this is deviating from the previous plan and that always is a matter of concern when it comes to Connor as he lives and thrives on his personal, sometimes illogical, routines.  “So, um, wh-why did you bring the ice cream with us?”

 

“I’m practicing better coping mechanisms.”  There’s still a sharpness to the tone, but by now Evan knows (trusts) it most likely isn’t aimed at him, and he wonders just how much longer it’s going to be until he finally knows what’s bothering Connor because usually Connor just blurts things out succinctly rather than draw it all along in a long sordid tale.  “This morning I woke up wanting to die, and I usually smoke when that happens. I shaved my head and bought ice cream instead.”

 

“Ah.”  It isn’t his favorite of Connor’s habits, smoking, especially since he’s underage - well was, until today, but it isn’t the worst thing Connor could be doing to himself.  Mostly Evan’s protest against it is that he hates the smell of nicotine but until the day Connor smokes around him - which he has carefully avoided doing thus far - he’s keeping his mouth shut on the topic.  “Where are we going instead?”

 

Connor gives him a grateful look that Evan isn’t pressing the issue and waggles his eyebrows.  “It’s a surprise, treeboy.”

 

An interesting fact about today, other than the milestone that is one’s eighteenth birthday, is that Connor is skipping school at Evan’s insistence because after hearing how the Murphy’s had kind of set aside birthday parties after Connor’s second grade year, he had been appalled and told Connor that this next birthday would be the best ever.  Mainly because Connor deserves to have birthdays and birthday parties and Evan hates that his parents decided that he didn’t because of things Connor can’t help that go on in his brain.  However, the original plan had been to go to Ala Mode - Evan still hasn’t been able to convince Connor to try somewhere new - and then hang out at the abandoned orchard and the road they’re on leads in the opposite direction of both locations leaving Evan deeply curious as to where they’re going.

 

“I don’t like surprises.”  He doesn’t. He hates being surprised, actually.  He needs to be prepared for whatever lies ahead, and if he doesn’t know where their destination is, he can’t do so.  “We already had plans, so...please?” He hates changed plans, hates them with a passion, because there is no way for him to prepare himself for the situation.

 

“I promise, you’ll like the surprise.”  Connor sounds reassuring and calm and it does nothing to ease Evan’s nerves.  “There will be people, but you won’t have to interact with any of them if you don’t want to.”  Connor touches on the main fear Evan has and he relaxes a tiny itty smidge. If he doesn’t have to talk to whoever is at their destination and Connor doesn’t leave his side, he can deal with a surprise.

 

He supposes.

 

He leans back against his seat and watches the pine trees fly past.  They ride along in silence for a bit before a thought comes across Evan and before he can talk himself out of it, he looks back to Connor.  “Can I guess?”

 

Connor gives him a look that he ignores.  “You can try.”

 

It comes out without prompting, without any anxiety present, because he knows Connor will see the comment as what it truly is.  “Apple picking.”

 

“Why the fuc-”  Evan can see the moment Conor realizes it’s a joke and feels a shit-eating grin cross his face, one he hasn’t felt in anyone's presence outside of Connor, and feels victorious when the other teen huffs out, “hilarious, Hansen,” and shoves lightly at his shoulder before returning his attention to the road.

 

He allows himself to be pushed so he falls against the door dramatically and grins even wider at the pained expression on Connor’s face.  “I thought it was funny.”

 

“Hilarious.”

 

--

 

“A...a pumpkin patch?”  He tries to keep the waver of excitement out of his voice but he can’t.  He’s never been able to pick and carve one before, even from the grocery store.  It had been very much an unnecessary expense growing up and the abandoned apple orchard doesn’t have pumpkins just growing wild like the apple trees.  Out of all the places Evan was thinking, picking pumpkins wasn’t even close to making the list. It just didn’t seem a Connor Murphy thing to do. 

 

“Yeah, it’s a little early, but I figured...why not?”  Connor shrugs, embarrassed, and Evan is hit with the second urge of the day to embrace Connor and he pushes that idea aside immediately.  He will not make today weird because he cannot control himself.  He will control his impulses.

 

“They’re going to rot before Halloween.”  Evan can’t help but point out logically, though he hopes he’s not ruining his chances for his first pumpkin.

 

Connor shrugs, hands shoved deep into his back pockets now.  “So we come back closer to Halloween and try again.”

 

He supposes Connor is right.  “I guess we can use this one as a practice.  You don’t mind?” 

 

At least Connor seems to be cheering up considerably as they stand there looking over the sea of cornfields and pumpkins and people running amuck.  “Shit no I don’t mind, I love carving pumpkins.” He appears to be genuinely excited as well, and it’s the first real smile Evan has seen today. “Fuck I love fall.”  He sighs happily. Evan feels an answering grin start to spread across his own face and bites his lip to keep it under control. He loves learning new things about his best friend and discovering his favorite season definitely qualifies as a ‘new thing’.  “Come on, let’s go.” Connor says before reaching out and looping an arm over Evan’s shoulders casually to direct him towards the payment booth.   

 

Evan pretends he doesn’t feel like melting into a puddle of goo at the warm weight pressing down on him.  Oh, he smells good.   His idle crush has grown into a monster and he tries to drag his thoughts back to friend-land and not to the very lewd and inappropriate visions involving him and Connor and either one of their beds because he doesn’t want to spend the rest of the day attempting to hide his boner.  He’s long given up on getting rid of the embarrassing thoughts completely, but he can still attempt to ignore them. He’s not about to ruin his only friendship.

 

The arm slides off when Connor steps up to talk to the cashier and while he misses the warmth it gives him a chance to give Connor an up-down casually and without notice.  He can tell how much Connor likes the changing season. He has a scarf draped over his shoulders even though it’s warm and his sweater sleeves are shoved up past his elbows because it is far too warm for a sweater as if hoping the weather will cooperate with his fashion choices and cool down for him.

 

“Hey, when do you get your cast off?”

 

He looks first up, startled at just how quickly Connor had purchased their tickets, and then back down at the tattered, dirty thing still only decorated in two names and a bloody unicorn and shrugs.  “Tomorrow, actually. Mom is taking me in with her for her shift so they can cut it there.” Barely two months seems a short time to him to have the cast, especially for how far he fell and how few other injuries he had gotten, but the doctor was certain at last week’s appointment that the cast could be removed tomorrow and so it is happening whether Evan feels his arm is ready or not.

 

“And...Beth is picking you up?”

 

Evan shrugs again.  He’s not sure, actually.  He has been planning on walking because he isn’t about to bother someone to come pick him up when no one has volunteered.  “I was going to walk.”

 

“Fuck that, I’ll pick you up.”  He sounds decisive and firm and Evan huffs a stressed breath out.

 

Perfect, just what he wants to avoid - Connor missing more school just for Evan.  “No - no you don’t have to.” Even though he wants him to come, even though nothing would make Evan happier, he’s protesting.  What is wrong with him?

 

Now there’s a dark arched brow aimed directly at him and the annoyed expression actually makes him feel warm because it’s Connor’s ‘I give a shit about you so listen to me’ look.  “I know. I’m going to though.”

 

Evan wants to hug Connor.  He’s wanted to hug him for a while now, properly hug, but has refrained from doing so because he doesn’t want to make things weird.  It isn’t until he smells something warm and fresh combined with body sweat that he realizes his body has made the decision for him and he’s...

 

Hugging Connor Murphy.

 

The exact thing he’s been avoiding all fucking day.  Hell, he’s been avoiding it since the first day at the hospital.  He doesn’t count the day Connor grabbed him sobbing because Evan hadn’t been the one to initiate it.  This time, however, isn’t Connor. It’s all Evan and his stupid crush and his stupid impulses. He has not one, but both arms wrapped around Connor and instantly releases his grip when he realizes he’s holding onto Connnor’s shirt.  

 

But before he can step back, before he can jump away and apologize, arms wrap around his back and squeeze tightly.  “Hey, I wouldn’t let you walk, okay? I’ll even go to school first, drop you off, and go back if you want me to.” Connor’s words have Evan slowly closing his fingers once again around the woven back fabric of Connor’s sweater.  He’s warmer than initially thought, and smells even better with his face practically smashed into Connor’s chest. 

 

Then Connor’s words catch up and he wonders if he thought Evan was going to cry.  He isn’t wrong, there’s always a chance Evan will cry, and to be prepared is a good thing.  However, he wasn’t bothered by the idea of walking The tears, if they come at all, will be because of Connor’s thoughtful suggestion.  There’s an extra little squeeze before Evan is released, and he tells himself his own disappointment is projecting because he’s almost certain Connor wears a little frown once they’ve parted.

 

Stop it, Evan. Stop projecting your feelings onto your friend.

 

He needs to stop before everything becomes weird.  Today feels too date-like as it is for his sanity’s sake.

 

--

 

“That is the fattest pumpkin I’ve ever seen.”  Connor snickers and strokes at his own perfectly sized pumpkin whose only flaw are the dirt patches that cover it.  They’re walking back to the car side by side and Connor will not stop talking about the very round gourd Evan had chosen specifically because he wants to make a widespread tree and he needs a wide pumpkin.

 

“And yours is the lumpiest.”  Evan retorts, holding his protectively.  He’s lying, there isn’t a single lump he can see from here on Connor’s pumpkin.  He’s just a little sensitive to his pumpkin being called fat .

 

There’s an amused snort from his side.  “Please, mine is perfection.” He holds it aloft, balanced carefully in his palms, and smirks at Evan.  “Guess what I'm going to carve?”

 

It isn’t hard to guess this one, especially since they share the same English class.  “A skull.” They’re reading Hamlet in class and Connor has been acing every single project, paper, and pop quiz.  It turns out that Connor has an obsession with things that are dark or creepy and in his mind, Evan’s too for that matter, Hamlet fits the bill perfectly.  “You’re also going to go as Hamlet for Halloween.” Evan continues, carefully cradling his own pumpkin so he can mentally trace the lines of the life tree he’s going to chisel out of the orange flesh.  “So really, it isn’t…”

 

“Shut up, Hansen.”  But Connor is laughing when he elbows Evan to make him stop and Evan does but only because he’s laughing now, too.  Since he needs both arms to hold the massive beast, he has to watch as Connor takes the longest time possible to open the car door and he wants to throw the orange monster at his head except that would mean he would need to lift his arms and actually heave the thing and Evan isn’t that strong with his non-dominant, not broken arm.

 

Once both pumpkins are safely wrapped in blankets and shoved in the trunk, Evan finally takes a moment to breathe from carrying what was only a ten-pound gord, but felt like a million by the point they put it in the trunk.  “I’m beat.” He wonders idly if his mom will be home early tonight and buckles himself into the seat. He can’t wait for his cast to be off tomorrow.

 

The car grinds to a start and Evan winces at the squeal the engine makes.  “Oh, hey, so question,” Connor asks as he pulls out of the parking space. “When did you stop wanting them to move out?"

 

It takes a comment for Evan to realize who them means.  Then he has to think about the answer because he can't pinpoint the exact moment his feelings changed.  Maybe it is because his stepmother seems to care more about him than his own mom, maybe it is the way Amy has made it her personal goal to make sure he was happy and comfortable that first day back from the hospital.  “I’m not sure.” He admits finally. “I just did.”

 

Connor doesn’t look satisfied, but thankfully drops the topic and launches into a rant on the classist nature of the arts that lasts until they reach the Hansen’s driveway. 

 

At least it stops him from overthinking everything.

 

--

 

“Imagine with me, if you will, a world where I died.”  Connor sounds like an announcer or a narrator for those old Disney cartoons.

 

Their pumpkins are sitting nicely downstairs on the Hansen’s kitchen counter, washed and waiting for carving.  Connor had been all ready to jump into the process, but Evan had wanted to do a bit more research first to find out if the design he wants will even work so the pair are now on Evan’s bed with the laptop between them, a youtube playlist on autoplay and running mindlessly as background.

 

Evan shivers a little at the too-close-to-home notion of death and shakes his head.  “I’d rather not.” 

 

“No, no, hear me out.”  Connor breathes three slow metered breaths and Evan recognizes his signs for reigning himself in and feels a little guilty at just dismissing him but he thinks enough about his own death, he doesn’t want to think about Connor’s, too.  Regardless, he nods for Connor to continue. “I never saw you walking that day you broke your arm, and we didn’t meet until the first day of school.”

 

He makes sure Connor is done with the thought, that he’s well and done talking before he comments, “I really don’t like this scenario.”  It actually makes his stomach turn to think about it.

 

Connor barks a little laugh, bright and very not suited to the conversation.  “Yeah, me either. Anyway,” It’s comical how nonchalant Connor is about all of this as he continues.  “And I shoved you in the hallway because you’re with Kleinman when he called me Dylan Klebold.”

 

Okay. Connor is reaching now into exaggeration land and Evan makes an attempt to reign it in.  “He-he didn’t call you that, he just asked if you were-”

 

Today, however, Connor is having none of the attempts at control and just talks over Evan.  “And then you write one of your letters in the library-”

 

“Oh good, I’m still forced to do those things in your imagination, great.”  He’s not as annoyed as he could be with the interruptions because he’s doing the same to Connor.

 

There is an eyebrow waggle and Evan groans under his breath at the sight because he just know that it...  

 

“Oh, it gets worse.” 

 

Of course it does.  “Connor James…”

 

“You admitted your huge ass crush on Zoe and I read it in the letter.”

 

He greatly regrets telling Connor he had thought Zoe was cute at the concert last year, with the indigo streaks and the smile she wore playing her guitar.  “You mean the one I haven’t had since the beginning of last year?” He really hasn’t thought much on her since meeting Connor, mainly because Connor is just so vibrant, so captivating, it’s hard to think about much else.

 

His mental voice sounds like a sap.  Correction, he doesn’t just sound like a sap, he is one.

 

Connor scoffs at the correction.  “Well yeah, because since you don’t know me, Zoe is the best Murphy in your eyes.”  At least Connor knows he doesn’t still like Zoe. And at least he doesn’t know that he already thinks Connor is the best Murphy and that won’t ever change, at least not if he can help it.

 

However, the statement does have Evan arching an eyebrow because even before he knew Connor, he wouldn’t have necessarily said she was the best of the Murphy's.  “I don’t see how, but fine. Continue.” He really doesn’t. The few times he’s talked to Zoe recently haven’t left him with a very good impression because regardless of how kind she is to people at school, she treats Connor so horribly and while it might be justified a little, it rankles Evan to no end.  Especially since he knows Connor has been making an effort with her, only to have every bit of it tossed aside or scorned as fake or manipulating her.

 

He hates the look on Connor’s face every time he’s told he’s useless in some fashion because Connor isn’t, he isn’t useless.  He’s amazing and wonderful and kind and he’ll tell Zoe that again and again until she fucking listens to him and looks past the mental illness to see who Connor actually is.

 

Connor lifts his gaze to the ceiling and his hands flail over his head, the motion drawing him out of his thoughts abruptly.  “ Thank-you .  Anyway, you admit your crush, and I react in my typical, unhinged way by...”

 

--

 

“Wait, you see me leading this online, somewhat international support group?”

 

There is a scoff and an eye roll from his friend that does nothing to tamper anything about his hopeless crush down.  “Duh.”

 

“Why not...I don’t know, Justin Gibbs, or Alana Beck.  Not...not me? I’m not leader material.” The very idea in fact makes him incredibly nauseated.

 

“But you are the one who gives a shit about me.”

 

“Not in this story.”  Evan reminds him pedantically and Connor rolls his eyes.

 

“Fine, you're using me for your own gain.”

 

This has him frowning and he’s barely aware of the fact he’s closing in on himself as he thinks out loud.  “Well that doesn’t seem right, either? Like, I don’t think I’d do that - even if I was desperate for attention still.”

 

Connor just huffs an irritated little sigh and flops back on the pillow.  “You know, this is my imagined death scenario, not yours. Make up your own if you want to control it.”

 

“Connor.”  Evan can’t help but snort at Connor’s reaction.  “This is ridiculous.”

 

“Your face is ridiculous.”  Connor contorts his face in an effort not to laugh but ultimately fails, which only makes Evan laugh harder.   “Shut up.” He manages through his own giggles. “You just...be quiet over there.”

 

“Not a chance.”

Chapter Text

“You’re the best, thanks Ev.”  

 

The smug smile on Jared’s face makes Evan want to punch it off and mentally debates briefly if it’s possible for Connor’s temper to rub off on him just by hanging out all the time.  “I didn't say yes. I…I can't. Not this time." It’s bad enough that Jared has forced himself inside Evan’s house and is sitting in what the entire Hansen household has dubbed ‘Connor’s Chair’, now he’s making unreasonable demands on Evan’s time, sanity, and personal safety.  Again.

 

For the fourth year in a row, Jared is trying to wrangle Evan to take his place in the Kleinman Family Annual Bush Bash.  They grow blackberries and even sell jams and preserves and the like from their little two-acre property just outside of the city and apparently today is the harvest and of course, Jared wants to avoid it at all costs.  Evan has witnessed the entire event every year since they were babies and had to participate in the last three and has no intention of doing so again, especially since it always leaves him sore, aching, or physically injured full up and often past his birthday and this year he has plans for his eighteenth that involve him needing his skin unmarked and his body at its top peak physically.

 

His uncharacteristic refusal stops Jared right there and he finds himself under a harsh stare from the person who used to be his only friend.  “What the hell, Evan? You always agree to do this for me!”

 

“Not this time.”  He repeats, just a bit stronger than before.  His resolve is hardening as Jared’s eyes darken because he and Connor have had these plans for weeks now and he’s not about to change them, especially for something like berry picking for a family who he’s pretty sure barely tolerates them by this point.  He’s not sure why his mom considers herself to be friends with them, he really can’t understand it.  They never make the time to see her or Evan, and even when Heidi tries, there is always an excuse and he can't believe it's taken him this long to see it.   But now that he has noticed one red flag, all the others are jumping out at him and he can’t ignore them. Not anymore. “I can’t, I have plans.”

 

Jared blinks at him from behind his glasses, giving him a rather owlish expression that Evan wants to laugh at and barely resists.  “What the fuck, Evan? Plans? You have plans.  What, you have a hot date with a tree?  It can wait, I promise you.”

 

Now Evan is actually angry, and not just because Jared is once again alluding to the idea that Evan is sexually attracted to trees when that could not be further from the truth. In fact, nothing about trees makes Evan aroused in the slightest.  He just knows that trees are vastly important to the survival of the planet and he would like to save them thank you very much. Them along with bees, though thankfully Jared has never heard him say that one. He can only imagine the raunchy, inappropriate Bee Movie memes he would be sent.  

 

He gets enough of those from Connor.

 

He’s angry because Jared is making assumptions about him once again based on nothing that could be considered to be fact.  Jared might not know about his friendship with Connor, and frankly, Evan never wants him to know, but the very idea that Jared assumes Evan will continue to drop everything for him to help him even when Jared is such a goddamned asshole to Evan is so infuriating.  He's also angry that he's now wishing these birthday excursions were dates and he has the courage of a Kleenex tissue so of course they never will be .

 

The words come out before he can stop them, and are much louder than he anticipates.  “You...you can’t just show up and demand my time when...whenever you want!” He’s shouting and it must startle Jared because he actually leans back away from Evan with wide eyes.  He doesn’t blame him, he’d be startled too if someone as passive as himself started shouting.

 

He recovers quickly though and stands to stride forward to shout back into Evan’s face, “What happened to doing nice things for your friends?”

 

But Evan refuses to back down, refuses to be intimidated any longer by the asshole that used to be his friend.  “If that’s...if that’s the...if...if that’s the criteria, doing nice things for each other, then we are not friends.  You’re...you’re never nice to me.” Which is true. Even before fifth grade when everything started going downhill between them, Jared still wasn’t kind to Evan.  He still picked on him, still expected payment of some sort in return for any sort of help, and Evan is finally accepting just how toxic the friendship between them has been for over a decade now.  

 

Jared sounds harsh and angry and absolutely hateful when he spits out, “fuck you, Hansen.  See if I help you ever again you asshole.”

 

The house shakes with the force of the door slam and he hopes his mom wasn’t woken up by the sound.  Bethany has already taken Amelia to school and Heidi just went to bed off of her 19-hour shift at the hospital an hour ago and she needs sleep, Evan fully knows this.  Thankfully, there isn’t a sound of a door so Evan hopes that means she’s still asleep and not just laying silently in bed.

 

He should probably be having a panic attack over Jared’s words, but he’s not.  He’s actually a little amused by the response and how his former friend stormed out like a child.  Like Jared has ever truly been a help to Evan. Any time Evan has gone to him because he had needed something, it’s come at a cost - usually money.  And Evan isn’t lying, he really can’t help Jared today because today is the exact middle day between his and Connor’s birthdays, and they agreed to celebrate the day at the orchard having a picnic to replace all the bad memories of Murphy family picnics gone wrong. 

 

He’s halfway up the stairs when the doorbell rings, one long, followed by one short, and he smiles involuntarily.  Connor is early today, which means he must be just as excited for today as Evan is. He turns and takes the steps back down three at a time while holding the railing, relishing the ability to use both arms, though the left still feels odd without the added weight of plaster.

 

He flings the door open to see Connor with an arched brow and quirked little grin.  The hair is tousled like he had driven with all the windows open and knowing Connor, it’s exactly what he had done.  “You’re early. You nearly caught Jared.”

 

He’s not expecting the bark of laughter as Connor comes in and closes the door after him. “No, I parked down the street until I saw his car leave.”

 

Evan giggles like a goddamn lunatic at that.  Connor smirks from where he’s already plunked himself down onto his chair.  “You ready for today?”

 

Today is their joint birthday party they’ve arranged for themselves at the orchard, complete with a picnic and cake.  It’s the exact middle day between their birthdays, so today is the day Connor has decided they’ll exchange gifts. Evan had adamantly protested the idea of spending money on each other because of the final birthday adventure next week: tattoos on Evan’s birthday.

 

He even knows what tattoo he is going to get.

 

“Of course.”  He replies simply, eagerly.  He’s nearly bouncing on his toes in front of Connor who is very slow to stand again, and the amused look on his face tells Evan it is most definitely on purpose.  Evan hadn’t given him much time to sit, he knows this, but he wants to leave the house already and rid himself of the weird sort of discomfort Jared had left in his wake.  Of course, he also wants to get out and go on the...well. It’s not a date .   He might wish it was, but unfortunately he has yet to figure out how to make his wishes come true without making a complete idiot out of himself.

 

And why would he want to potentially ruin the beautiful friendship they’ve already formed with his unwelcome romantic advances?  Nothing Connor does should be construed in that fashion, Evan can’t risk that, can’t risk losing the one person who understands him so deeply .  

 

“Hey.”

 

It’s the word combined with the little elbow bump from the boy on his mind that jolts him back to his living room.  “Sorry.”

 

“Shut up.”  There’s no heat behind the words, only the fond amusement of someone who has performed the exchange numerous times, and Evan flushes anyway.

 

“I was, I was thinking.”

 

“Duh.” Evan locks the door behind him and follows Connor to the car in the driveway.  “What about?”  He asks as they both snap their seatbelts on and Connor turns the car on.

 

Oh, good.  The one question Evan doesn’t want Connor to ask.  “Um, nothing bad. Just...you’re my best friend, right?”

 

Connor halts the car from its slow roll in reverse to stare at Evan with twisted eyebrows and concerned eyes.  “Yes?” He asks it more like a question, a very blank tone that betrays just how confused he really is. “Of course you are you idiot.”

 

“I know, I know you are.”  Evan jumps to reassure him that no, he’s not doubting that claim, not doubting that Connor cares about him like that.  “That’s just what I was thinking about. I’m very glad we’re friends. I’m glad you’re...here. With me. And best friends.”

 

The relief is palpable and Evan breathes a soft sigh when Connor resumes reversing and turning in the direction of the orchard.  Just as they’re reaching the edge of the city, Connor finally speaks up. “Ev, you’re the best part of my life.” He sounds oddly serious and Evan blinks at him in surprise.  “Of course you’re my best friend.”

 

The best?  He is the best part of Connor’s life?

 

He supposes that makes sense.  Connor didn’t have friends really before Evan, not even someone like Jared.  And while his mom is distant sometimes, he knows deep down she loves him and Connor doesn’t feel like that, at least not with his dad.  Maybe his mom, sometimes, but even less than Evan does with his own mom.

 

“Enough with the mushy talk.”  Yes, that is definitely pink coloring  Connor’s cheeks and Evan feels his own heat and turns away to hide it, even though Connor is looking at the road and not at Evan just as he should be.  “It’s picnic time.”

 

~~*~*~~

 

“I don't want it to hurt.”  It’s a week after their shared birthday picnic and two weeks since Connor gave himself an undercut.  Evan is eighteen today, and the day of reckoning is upon him, leaving his stomach twisting with anxiety and anticipation both.  Or, rather, the tattoo appointment Connor had made for them back when they first made these birthday plans when Evan didn’t want to make the call himself.

 

Of course, Connor sounds more amused than concerned.  “It’s not going to be that bad. Especially not as bad as breaking your arm.”

 

“I hadn’t planned on pain being a problem at the time -”

 

“Dark, nice.”

 

“-but I do this time, so forgive me if I’m a little wary.”  Evan finishes like Connor hadn’t interrupted with a snort and raised fist for a bump, though he doesn’t leave the fist hanging like he had the first four times Connor had tried to fistbump him early in their friendship.  He still feels flashes of residual humiliation at not even knowing what a fistbump was. He had thought Connor was going to punch him each time and that’s only stopped recently. Not even because it was Connor with his bad-boy rep, but because Jared had been the one to punch him each and every time.

 

“Okay fine.”  Connor releases a puff of air that fluffs the hair drooping in his face and shifts his shoulders around.  “Yes, it will hurt. You know it will hurt. Are you okay with that?”

 

Is he?

 

Yes.

 

Because this tattoo has something of meaning to him, a duel meaning in fact.  And he’ll endure the pain for the physical reminder of all he’s lived through as well as what he has to look forward to.  It’s going to be a tree, of course it is, because it’s Evan. The tree of life, as a matter of fact. But it’s also going to form a semicolon with the careful placement of the trunk and roots, and it’s going to be placed on the same arm he had broken after his attempt because if he’s going to get a tattoo with Connor, he’s going to make it matter.  It’s going to mean something to him.

 

Connor has been badgering him to tell him what he’s going to get, but when Evan asks to hear what Connor has planned first, the other teen always clams up and drops the subject.  Which of course means Evan is absolutely dying of curiosity but he also knows that Connor won’t tell him until he tells Connor and he wants it to be a surprise.

 

He just hopes he survives the experience.

 

---

 

Evan hisses a little when the ointment touches the fresh wound, but he completes the careful ritual given to him by the artist just before leaving the shop.  He is not going to get an infection, thank you very much. Also, the better he takes care of it, the faster it will heal, and the sooner he can stop wincing every time he moves any part of his body that shifts around his forearm.  He survived the tattoo procedure, and he’s going to survive the recovery.

 

Connor still wouldn’t let Evan see what he got, even going so far as to clean his in the bathroom, and Evan can’t help but feel a little hurt by it.  He must still be pouting when Connor returns because he sighs at Evan. “Seriously, I’ll show you when it’s healed. I want to make sure it’s perfect.”

 

He sounds nervous.  Evan isn’t sure why, but he shrugs it off as perhaps Connor had designed it himself and is scared of criticism.  Not that Evan would give any of those, not to Connor about something permanent on his body. He can accept that, he understands.  He supposes. He’s about to ask Connor what he wants to do for dinner when there’s a tapping at the door frame.

 

He looks over to see Zoe standing there, oddly relaxed and somewhat embarrassed if the little flush on her cheeks is any indication of her mood.  “Um, hey. I’m um. I’m Zoe.”

 

Evan’s confused, and so is Connor.  Evan obviously already knows who she is, they’ve gone to school together for a while now.  Connor’s eyebrows are drawn together and he’s mouthing the introduction as if in a different language.  “I um, I know,” Evan says in response before looking over again at Connor, who this time catches his eye and shrugs so Evan looks back at Zoe.  Why is she here making pointless introductions?

 

She huffs out a breath, eyes flashing in irritation, and Evan sees a brief glimpse of Connor in the motion and barely hides a smile.  It wouldn’t do to have her think he is smiling at her. “No, I know. I’m just.” She sighs and shrugs a little. “I’m sorry about the other week.  It wasn’t very fair of me and I’m trying to be a bit more open-minded about ...about my brother and his...well his friends.”

 

She moves into the room and holds out her hand to shake and woodenly, Evan finds his own arm extending to shake it.  “Nice to meet you, Zoe?” Of course, he still sounds confused as fuck, but that’s his general state of mind around other people, so he supposes that’s only natural.

 

After dropping his hand she plunks herself on Connor’s bed, nearly unseating Connor as she does so.  “I’m just introducing myself as Connor’s annoying kid sister.”

 

“You’re literally 10 months younger than me, hardly a kid.” He retorts, shoving at her shoulder in an effort to remove her.

 

She barely budges from her spot and pushes back at him.  “Lucky for you they put us in different years.”

 

“Even you weren’t smart enough for Kindergarten at 4, Zoe.”

 

Evan is a bit bewildered, but he’s not had siblings before Amelia so he’s not sure if these types of exchanges are normal when the age between the siblings is a lot less than he has with Amy, but he doesn’t comment because Connor is smiling.  It’s small, barely there, but Evan isn’t about to be the one to remove it with pointless words and questions.

 

He glances down at the now bandage covered tree with it’s hidden message and blinks away the sudden wash of tears.  He’s not alone anymore, he has Connor, even if he wishes he could be more with him he’s going to be satisfied with what he has.  His mom is more attentive than she has been in years, he has a stepmother who loves him more than he ever imagined she could, and his little half-sister follows him around looking at him like he hung the moon, sun, and stars.  

 

Yes, Evan’s life is going decent for right now, and that’s all he can ask for.  He just hopes it keeps going decently for once. My luck, dad pops back into my life demanding I live with him or something equally dumb and dramatic.   He rolls his eyes at himself and forces himself to return to the argument between the siblings.  He’s not going to think about all the what-ifs and what might bes. He’s going to be satisfied with life for once until life gives him another reason to be otherwise. 

Chapter Text

A light tapping has both Evan and Connor looking up from their homework and over at Connor’s still doorless frame.  Cynthia Murphy is standing there with a light smile coloring her cheeks. “Yes, mom?” Connor asks with a huff and her smile only grows.

 

“I was only wondering if Evan was planning on staying for dinner, dear.”  She looks over at Evan with a hopeful gaze and instead of saying no like usual, he actually pauses to give thought to the request.  He has no reason to say no, not really, and quite frankly he thinks it’s probably time to join them for a meal with how often he’s over here.  He gives an affirming hum accompanied by a slight nod and her tiny smile blooms into a large grin and she disappears out of the doorframe once again, leaving Evan feeling like if she had never been there in the first place.

 

“Weird.”  Sure, Connor’s snort is irritated, but his eyes are oddly pleased and Evan wonders if it’s because she seems to be taking more of an interest in his life and not just because he’s a disaster.  Actually, based on previous conversations with Connor, he knows that’s exactly why he’s pleased.  “You sure about staying?”

 

Evan knows why he’s asking.  Every other time, save the very first when he darted away without a response, Evan has declined politely through a soft head shake with Connor repeating the word just in case Cynthia needed the extra hint.

 

“Ye-yeah, I've talked to your mom a couple of times now.  Not your dad, but...but your mom seems alright. I should be okay.”  He really does feel fine to finally meet Larry Murphy, as well as stomaching a meal with virtual strangers.  He’s had a half-dozen or so conversations with Mrs. Murphy, and Zoe he considers a friend now, so really there’s nothing to worry about with the meal.  Except for maybe Larry, but from what Connor says, he’s been half-way decent lately so Evan doesn’t feel too much worry about the Murphy patriarch.

 

---

 

Zoe is at a friends house tonight.  Alana’s, if he had to guess, and Evan is very thankful that she and Alana are there and not here.  He’s not sure how dinner delved into the mess it did, but it had and now he’s going to have to somehow make it through this conversation mentally intact.  Because Cynthia Murphy has just done the impossible, at least in Evan’s mind. She’s just brought up Evan’s depression and anxiety and the fall from the tree as if his personal reflections on all three were public knowledge.  

 

Connor is scowling from the remarks and questions and something about the embarrassed betrayed look in his eyes has Evan experiencing a sinking feeling in his stomach.  He’s never mentioned anything about his suicidal brain out loud, at least not to anyone other than his therapist or Connor and never outside of a session or the orchard or text messaging, which means that…

 

That…

 

He doesn’t dare think it.  He can’t believe that someone would stoop that low, but the proof is there in what she just asked him.  There are only two ways he can think she would find out anything that personal about himself. First being that Connor had talked to his mother about Evan and quite frankly that idea is laughable because he knows Connor would never talk to Cynthia about himself let alone his only friend.

 

Which leaves only one option, and it is not a very pleasant one.  “You, you read my texts?”

 

“No, no, we didn’t read your texts Evan, only Connor’s…” The backpedaling from Cynthia is instant but the damage is already done.  Evan now has proof that can’t trust her and he has to fight the urge to bolt out of the room.  

 

He speaks, instead.  Which is just, very extremely out of character except that he’s been doing it more and more so maybe speaking up for himself and others is becoming part of his character and if that’s the case, he can definitely get behind that.  “But-but-but I’m one of those people who Connor texts which means if you read his then you read mine .”  Which, definitely crosses a boundary of privacy, especially for Evan because he’s never wanted anyone to know anything about his suicide attempt outside of those who absolutely have to know and now two people who don’t know him know.  “You don’t even know me what makes you think you have the right?”

 

Larry speaks up and his voice is deep, and harsh, and the sheer intimidating power behind it makes Evan flinch back hard.  “As you said, we know nothing about you. Trust is earned in this household, and Connor has done nothing to prove we can do so and you do everything in your power to avoid us and so have left us with no choice.”  It is very obvious to Evan that Larry believes he is in the complete and total right, but he doesn’t have the opportunity to react at it because Connor does it first.

 

“Choice?”  He speaks up with a snarl, slamming his hands on the table, and making Cynthia flinch almost out of her chair.  Surprisingly, Larry makes no motion that he saw or heard any of Connor’s movements. “ You had a fucking choice!  You could have chosen not to read them .  You could have chosen to fucking ask me .”

 

“And you made the choice to keep us in the dark about your new friend and do everything in your power to ensure we knew nothing about him.”  Larry replies calmly, retrieving his silverware to continue eating the meal. “You forced your mother’s and my hands in this, Connor.”

 

This is why Evan should have insisted on handwritten letters, or emailing, or using secret phones.  So people like Cynthia and Larry Murphy couldn’t get ahold of personal things about him, and the things that he’s told Connor are definitely not something he wants to be spread around or told to other people.  “You-you-you’re not...you’re not my parent, you have no right to violate my privacy like that.” Evan shivers when Larry looks up and gives him a cold look. While he cannot speak past his now very tight throat, he refuses to look away. 

 

But then.

 

But then Mr. Murphy has to say something about his mom and how she raises him and his blood boils.  “It’s quite obvious your own parents coddle you if you think something as mild as a read text on my son’s phone is a personal violation.”  It’s said so coldly, so nonchalantly, and he can’t let it stand with the bold, and quite frankly wrong , assumption.

 

And he finds that he has absolutely no problem laying into the older man exactly what he thinks, despite every warning single his brain is giving him to shut up and be docile because he’s going to stand up for himself, he’s not going to be walked all over.  And he absolutely won’t allow it to happen to Connor. “My mom respects me. We have conversations when I’m struggling, not interrogations. And she doesn’t break my trust by reading my private things!” At least, they’ve greatly improved in communication and their conversations, mostly because she admitted her faults in their relationship and is working on them.  “And she’d, she’d never read something Connor sent me.”

 

And never once has she read his personal messages.  If she had, she would have spoken to him already about some of the things he’s told Connor because after the tree, after all that, she’s been of course hypervigilant about Evan’s mental state of mind.  She just uses her words with him instead of invading his personal life, something he greatly appreciates.

 

Before Larry can respond to Evan, Connor stands as noisily as he can, and with a quick flash of a glance to Evan, strides out of the room silently.  Evan is actually very impressed with his control when all he does is flip Larry off when he demands Connor to return. “You cannot leave, Connor James Murphy!  We are not done with this conversation.” Sure, he can see Connor’s hands shaking, but the very fact that he didn’t turn around and scream something awful is what Evan would tell Connor is a huge stride forward in his control.

 

Evan shoots back for Connor since the other boy is already out the front door, “with-with all due respect sir, Connor is eighteen and legally an adult.  You can’t stop him.” He’s shaking as he leaves to the sound of Larry muttering expletives about Connor into his lasagna and Cynthia tittering and crying into her napkin, but he’s mostly impressed with himself that he managed most of that conversation without a whole lot of stuttering.  Minimal, one might say.

 

By the time Evan makes it out to the driveway, Connor already has the car idling.  He’s tapping at the steering wheel with anxious fingers, drumming a nonsensical pattern that Evan feels is familiar.  “Fucking Larry.” He says as soon as Evan opens the door and Evan snorts as he sits.

 

He definitely agrees with the sentiment.  “You can stay at my house.” He says in reply when Connor just sits instead of pulling out of the driveway and driving off.  He’s given a grateful look and only then does Connor move the car.  

 

The drive would be quiet if not for the pounding bass that thrums through the car.  Evan can’t identify any sort of tune or melody through the beat but he knows it’s there somewhere.  He tries to ignore how much he hates itl in favor of reminding himself that Connor uses this music to decompress, he uses it as a coping mechanism to keep himself in check, and Evan will never take that away from him.

 

Even if the sounds make his ears want to bleed.

 

---

 

He knew that as soon as his mom or Bethany heard about what had happened at the Murphy’s tonight they would immediately make space for the other teen.  Sure enough, Heidi jumps up from the table as soon as the duo walk into the house, her beaming smile fading at the look both boys are wearing. “What happened?”  She looks over at his friend when Evan makes a little head motion towards him and her eyes widen at the sight of the rather despondent teen. “Connor, are you okay?”

 

The boy in question gives a little jerk at his name, meeting Heidi’s eyes with his own wide and frightened.  But he relaxes when he sees the same concern Evan does and gives a shrug. “I’ve been better.” Evan’s proud of Conor’s honesty with a parental figure, something he knows he rarely wants to do because of his experiences with his own parents.  After tonight, Evan can say he understands just a bit better.

 

That answer seems to solidify something in Heidi’s mind and she gives a decisive nod, almost to herself.  “Amy, honey, can you come here please?”

 

Evan has to hold back his laughter when his mom yes across the house despite Bethany insisting on everyone walking and speaking calmly to each other instead of shouting.  “Okay!” Comes back the exuberant answer and the little girl is soon peering down at them from the banister. “What's up?”

 

Evan feels himself relax further when his mom asks her gently, “can you bring your bedtime stuff into my room?”  Connor is going to stay in his room. Not on the couch, not on the floor, but on the bed. She didn’t even need to hear the reason why, just deduced Connor’s need and is supplying it.

 

“Okay!”  The child sounds delighted at the prospect of a sleepover with both of her moms and the exuberant cheer that echoes down the hall makes Evan smile.

 

Heidi turns back to the two teens and reaches out to clasp Connor’s fist resting on the table.  He startles, and jerks out her hand, and Evan can see her face fall but she doesn’t move her hand from where it’s landed and Connor just stares at it.  “You’ll stay in Evan’s room, if that’s alright. I know it’s not…”

 

“It’s perfect.”  Connor interrupts, voice hoarse and wobbly.  “Thank you. You didn’t...didn’t have to…”

 

“Oh, yes I did, Connor.”  Heidi says warmly and this time when she touches him, he turns his hand to grip at her hand tightly.  “You need a warm place to stay, and I can provide that.” When Connor proves to be too speechless to reply, she continues.  “If you’re hungry, I just put the leftovers in the fridge. Or you can go straight to the room, up to you two.”

 

Evan shakes his head.  He knows Connor has mere moments before he breaks down crying and will definitely want privacy to do so.  “Thanks, mom. We’ll eat later.”

 

She nods and squeezes Connor’s hand again.  “Anything else, dears?” She vanishes into the kitchen when both boys shake their heads no.  

 

As soon as he hears Amelia open the door to their shared room, Evan gently pulls Connor up from his seat and directs him to the stairs.  He doesn’t know what to say or do right now, but Connor’s hand is warm and shaking in his so he stays silent, trying to be Connor’s rock right now even though he feels woefully inadequate for the job.  But when Connor slowly sits on Evan’s bed, still looking shell-shocked, Evan knows he’s about to witness a breakdown.

 

Just what kind remains to be seen.

 

“Connor?”

 

It’s what breaks the dam.  Collapsing in on himself, loud gut-wrenching sobs burst forth from his best friend, the boy he’s decided he’ll probably love in silence all their lives, Connor seems to be choking on every breath.  Startled, Evan realizes Connor’s trying to speak and he immediately shushes him softly, reaching out and stroking the long faded blue hair gently.  “I’ve got you, I’m here.” He’s murmuring, hoping Connor’s listening, but his heart breaks a little when he hears what Connor’s mumbling to himself.

 

“I’m worthless, Ev.  I’m just a waste of space.”

 

“No, Connor.”  Evan wants to scream it, to shout it so loud Connor will never forget it, but loud harshness is not what he needs right now.  “No, you’re worth so much. More than I could ever describe.” He doubts his pathetic words are helping, but they’re all he can find at the moment without giving away his secret.

 

“I should die.”  Connor bites out, crying ceasing as soon as it started, and a bitter soft tone emerges from the aftermath of the tears.  “I should just die. Let everyone forget me.”

 

Evan can’t stop his shout, not this time.  “No!”

 

Connor’s eyes swing to Evan’s and he swallows at the glimmering sadness.  “Why, Ev?”

 

“Because!”  He’s frantic now, desperate to get across to Connor just how much he means to him.  “Because you-you don’t deserve something as horrible as that. You’re-you’re awesome, no you’re amazing . You...you're my best friend and I couldn't bear it if you were...if you…”

 

Thankfully, he’s stopped before he blurts out that he likes Connor by the distinctive ringtone he uses specifically for when Zoe texts him.  He gives Connor a questioning look and he nods, so Evan picks up the phone to read whatever it is Zoe has sent.

 

Hey, got home and Dad said you were out getting wasted.  I’m gonna assume it’s jerk code for staying at Evan’s.

 

Evan giggles a little at her text and reads it out loud to Connor who gives a snort.  “At least she’s trusting me again. You can tell her I’m here, that’s fine.”

 

He does so, making sure he says it’s Evan using Connor’s phone, and tosses the phone back on the bed next to Connor when he’s done.  For as emotionally taxing the evening had been thus far, Connor’s little breakdown was just that - small. “Are you-are you okay?” He asks tentatively.  He’s not sure if the crying is just paused or has finished completely. He wouldn’t blame Connor if he burst into tears again, but he also kind of hopes they can move on to something else.

 

He’s given a tired half-smile in return and gives a half-hearted shrug.  “I’m fine. Just...I dunno, something about finding out my parents were reading the shit you sent me.”

 

“I’m pissed off about it.”  Evan says immediately and Connor chortles at that, sliding off the bed in his hysterics.  Evan giggles, too, because what else could he do in the face of such infectious laughter and soon they’re rolling around on the floor, tears streaming down their faces from the unplanned giggle-fest.  “What-what is so funny?” Evan gasps and Connor just laughs more instead of speaking.

 

Eventually, they actually calm down enough to sit back up on the bed, this time all the way back so they’re leaning against the wall shoulder to shoulder.  The air feels stiff to Evan and he wonders if Connor can feel just how on edge he is when he’s able to feel his arm on fire because of the heat radiating from the other boy.  “Are you really okay?” He asks instead of saying something incredibly stupid like I think I love you.

 

Connor gives an abrupt nod while staring down at his hands.  He opens his mouth as if to speak, but doesn’t. He closes it again and makes another attempt only to no avail.  He screws up his face and gives it another shot, and this time Evan hears him. “I really like you, Evan.” He’s nearly inaudible, but Evan has excellent hearing and no issues understanding him.  “Like, a lot.”

 

Evan can’t breath.  Does he mean… “Like, like like?”  He squeaks out and Connor gives a humorless laugh.  Was all his worrying and hiding and everything...for naught? 

 

“Yeah.”

 

Holy shit.  He stares at Connor unblinking and as Connor’s declaration fully registers, he feels his breath catch.  “Are...are you serious?” He vaguely hears how serious his own tone is but he definitely is aware of Connor looking up and straight into his eyes.  The air is nearly vibrating with tension and energy, and Evan is nearly 100% certain it’s mutual now, his crush, and he just needs one more thing before he can confirm it in his mind.  “Because I like you, too. A lot.”

 

It’s Connor’s turn to stare at Evan for a long moment as if in amazement before giving another abrupt nod.  Wordlessly, Connor very slowly pulls up his sweatshirt sleeve to reveal the mostly healed tattoo he had gotten on Evan’s birthday.  It’s a tree, of course it is. But the branches of the tree form Evan’s name and he can’t believe Connor put him permanently on his body.  “I wasn’t exaggerating when I said you’re the most important thing in my life. I’ve always had your name written down on my arm, but...” His voice trails off and Evan doesn’t expect him to continue.

 

He immediately understands Connor’s trepidation in showing Evan - he’d be nervous too if he had put something that clearly screamed that he was in love with Connor on his body.  Content in his knowledge he’s not going to be rejected, he makes his decision, Taking a quick breath, he lunges at Connor to give him what is certain to be the most awkward, uncomfortable kiss in the history of kisses, but he can’t wait to study up on how to kiss, not when he needs to kiss Connor now .

 

And of course, Connor laughs at him as soon as they part.  But then, Connor gently holds his face and gives him a kiss for real.  And it’s nothing like he had been imagining whenever his mind had drifted to just how soft Connor’s lips might be, or just how his hand would clutch at his neck.  No, it’s so much better.

 

The kiss is short, chaste, and leaves them both red-faced and grinning but it’s still like coming home and he knows he’s going to struggle now with keeping himself under control now he knows just how Connor tastes and the little noises he’s made already makes Evan want to discover what will bring forward the most or the loudest.  But he refrains from diving back in. He’s not going to freak Connor out with too much too fast. He’s barely coming to terms with the fact that Connor likes Evan, too, he can only imagine how overwhelmed Connor must feel.

 

“Holy shit.”  Connor’s very eloquent words bring a bigger smile to his face and he allows Connor to wrap him up in a hug and lay back on the bed, facing each other as they lay out on the bed.  “Like...holy shit.”

 

He takes the words right out of Evan’s mouth.  “Uh-huh.” He adds on intelligently. He has an excuse though.  Connor is tracing delicate circles along Evan’s sides and hip and he’s very much distracted right now by the fingernails sending little shivers of pleasure as they drag across his shirt.  Connor isn’t even touching his skin right now and he’s very thankful because he’s fairly certain he’ll combust as soon as bare skin touches.

 

He thinks Connor might kiss him again, and he does, but only a firm kiss on the forehead and he realizes he’s pouting just as Connor snorts.  “Later.” He yawns, and Evan is hit by just how tired he is, too, and it’s really no wonder with just how emotional the day had been. “Sleep now.  Boyfriend stuff tomorrow.”  He opens an eye to give Evan a look, as if hearing his anxious thoughts before they even form.  "That's what I want, anyway."

 

"Um, yeah.  Yes.  Me too."  He can’t stop his huge, cheek splitting grin and buries his heated face in his pillow.   Boyfriend!  I have a boyfriend .

 

They don’t even bother to remove their clothes, Connor instead pulls Evan’s back flush against his chest, wrapping long limbs around him as if Evan is his source of comfort while Evan tosses the blanket up haphazardly around them.  With hot air exhaling against his neck, Evan finds himself asleep almost before Connor and the blankets finish settling, his dreams filled with Connor and trees that can spell.

Chapter Text

~~*~*~~ 

 

It’s been a week since they first kissed and they are finally finally going on an actual, real date.  As in, Connor had come over the day before and without making eye contact once, asked Evan to go on a date instead of just hanging out.  He wouldn’t tell Evan where , and of course that annoyed him to no end, but now that they’re here he’s very glad he had no idea.

 

Because there is no way he could have kept a straight face had he known they were coming here .  It is, however, the best date he could ever imagine being on because Connor Murphy makes the best facial expressions when terrified.  (He also likes how tightly Connor is holding onto his arm, but he’ll never admit that out loud.)  When yet another knife-wielding clown pops out from around a corner, Connor lets out a high pitched scream that has Evan having to prop himself up on the wall to keep himself standing as he laughs himself sick.

 

When they had pulled up to the entrance to what is supposed to be the scariest haunted house in the state of New York, Evan had given him an appropriate shivering reaction and a shit-eating grin had formed on Connor’s face.  Evan hadn’t fought him on it at all - which Evan thinks should have been a sign to Connor but it isn’t his fault his boyfriend (boyfriend!) is clueless at times.

 

Evan gives the clown a smile and an awkward shrug when he frowns at the obviously unfazed teen.  Another shriek, this time in regards to a burn unit zombie, has him being dragged down the hallway in what Evan assumes must be the exit.  “You don’t want to stay and say hello?”

 

The look he’s given tells him to drop dead and he only grins wider.  Connor makes to talk but only groans and closes his eyes. Evan turns and is a little startled to see a bloody decapitated head looming over him, dangling from the end of a fishing pole.  He traces it up to see a sliver of a moon with an animatronics man sitting on it, cheerfully using his own head as bait. “Okay, but you have to admit that it is very impressive how…”

 

Evan doesn’t get a chance to continue.  Connor quite literally puts both hands on Evan’s shoulders and uses him as a sort of human shield through the rest of the winding rooms of terror and horror.  Well, terror and horror for everyone else. Something in Evan’s brain must be broken because he just finds it all...well...laughable.  

 

I mean, the makeup is very well done and some of the exhibits are phenomenally crafted, but…   He blinks as they step out into the midday sun and wiggles out of Connor’s tight grip.  “Evan. Hansen.”

 

Well, now Connor looks kind of irritated, and Evan can sort of understand why.  After all, he knows Connor brought him here because he thought Evan might be frightened and maybe they’d hold hands or clutch at each other...Evan knows, because he enjoys the fact that Connor had held onto him almost the entire way through.  “I like horror movies and psychological thrillers?” he offers weakly, and Connor just narrows his eyes.  

 

“How did I not know that ?”

 

“Um, it...it never came up?”

 

It really hadn’t.  They usually watch some documentaries or comedy as both of them enjoy being distracted by happier thoughts when feeling depressed or rageful or anxious or whatever.

 

“You know what this means?”  And Evan swallows hard when he sees just how narrow Connor’s gaze is.

 

He looks seriously pissed off, and Evan fears he’s just ruined absolutely everything.  “Um, um...well, um...no?”

 

He feels something akin to whiplash when Connor sudden beams at him brightly.  “We watch cult classics, duh!”

 

~~*~*~~

 

Two B rated slashers later, the two boys are sequestered on Evan’s twin bed, both on their sides so they can face each other.  Evan can’t help but stroke at Connor’s hair, now a very bright red, with gentle fingers. He’s very much enjoying listening to Connor almost purr in contentment at the motion.  

 

But of course, his mind is never quiet, and he asks the question almost before he finishes the extremely random thought.  “Connor, do you think soulmates exist?”  

 

Connor is quiet, eyes still closed, but he’s motionless and Evan knows he’s actually thinking about how to answer and his heart thuds comfortingly just knowing that Connor actually pays attention and listens to him.  His voice is soft, and Evan has to strain to hear him. “If by soulmate you mean the one person who gets you the best, then yes.”

 

It’s Evan’s turn to close his eyes when Connor strokes along his forehead with barely-there, featherlight brushes of the fingertips.  “yes, yes that’s what I mean. Do, um. Do you think you have one?” He curses the arousal now thrumming through him. He hates his stammer and hates that it is coming to play now of all times.

 

Connor scoffs, puffing the hair up out of his face with the motion.  “Duh, of course I do Ev.” He’s just as quiet as he had been before.

 

Evan’s nor sure he understands why his stomach sinks.  “Oh.” Logically, he knows Connor means him, but emotionally he might need some reassurance.

 

Make that a lot of reassurance.  

 

Thankfully, Connor seems to be a master at reading every twitch of his face because he sighs again and pokes his nose with a long pointer finger.  “Dumbass, it's you.”

 

“Oh!”  He hates how relieved he feels because who else would Connor be talking about you idiot, honestly .  “Right.”

 

“Come here dork.”  Contrary to his words, Connor shoves Evan off the bed so he can sit up.  Evan steadies himself in time for his boyfriend to pull him between his legs.  He’s then tugged and turned around until his back his firmly against Connor’s chest and his heart thuds in time with the beats he can feel through his back coming from Connor.  

 

“I can’t believe I was nervous about the date this morning.”  He feels so warm and safe and loved and absolutely ridiculous as they sit there leaning back against the cold wall.  Because he had been nervous.  He couldn’t explain it then, and he sure as hell can’t figure it out still, because nothing about their date felt out of place.  He felt it then and felt it all through the movies and even now he is comfortable and relaxed, just like he always feels around Connor.

 

“Yeah, same.  It felt like every other time we chill only…”

 

Evan finishes the thought when Connor appears to be lost in it. “Only better because I get to kiss you whenever I want to.”

 

He’s rewarded with a brightly beaming smile before Evan leans his head back enough to peck him lightly on the underside of his chin, and the smile turns into a pouting frown.

 

“You missed.”

 

If question marks could dance over his head, he’d have a dozen or so there.  “What?” He’s pretty sure he connected perfectly with Connor’s jaw seeing as his mouth is unreachable from this angle.

 

Connor rolls his eyes and gives Evan a little smirk as his only warning before twisting Evan around in his lap and leaning in to kiss him first lightly in a brief peck, and then twice more before Evan presses his hand against Connor’s neck to hold him in place and properly kiss him.  It’s only been a week, but he’s lost count of the number of times they’ve kissed - tongue is a recent addition - and he feels bold, just for a moment. In a rare moment of bravery, he timidly parts his teeth enough to give Connor’s bottom lip a little nip and he’s rewarded with a gasping, breathy sort of moan and fingers clutching at his hips tight enough that Evan knows he’s probably going to have little fingertip-shaped bruises.

 

There’s something about the idea of bruises combined with the pure want in Connor’s mouth that has him throbbing in his pants and he whimpers uselessly against the images being conjured.  He personally doesn’t think he’s ready for more, not yet, but apparently, his hips have a mind of their own and buck against Connor completely against his will.  They’ve never kissed like this.  Their kisses have all been short, chaste, and more importantly, while standing up .

 

He can barely hear his own gasp over Connor’s whine and any bits of control he was maintaining snap at the sound.  He tilts his head a bit more and presses forward insistently to deepen the kiss and feels a thrill rush through him when Connor whimpers and slides one hand to grab at Evan’s backside to pull him even closer while running his other hand up and down Evan’s spine and he is completely lost in the rolling sensation of being touched like this while aroused.

 

It’s overwhelming just how good he feels and he barely has time to process anything before he realizes he’s done, he’s already finished, and he pulls back from the kiss as he feels the shame rise up quickly because nothing screams untouched virgin like coming in the first thirty seconds of their first true makeout session.  But when he slides off of Connor’s lap, fully intending on making excuses before vanishing to cry in the bathroom, he sees that his boyfriend sports a similar wet patch on his own jeans and his own shamed expression and his heart thuds in solidarity. “Oh.”

 

There’s a long pause before Connor says, “huh, yeah.”  They exchange bashful, blushing grins before Connor allows Evan to step back so they’re only touching hands before using his free hand to adjust his pants around his crotch.  “That was - um. Good. Yeah, that was really...good.” His voice cracks on the last word and Evan has never felt a sound more profoundly in his soul.

 

He nods to the point where he feels like a bobblehead.  Good doesn’t even come close to describing how he feels now or how that moment felt, but he’s too overstimulated right now to think of anything different and suspects Connor is the same.  They’re staring at each other still when Evan finally speaks up. “I wasn’t um, I wasn’t expecting to like...well, it that much.”  He says, fidgeting with his fingers and holding back the desire to curl back up in Connor’s lap.

 

He honestly hadn’t.  He’s thought about sex, of course he has.  Who hasn’t in some way or another, what with it ingrained so deeply into their culture?  However, he’s always viewed sex with indifference, because he’s always been so sure he’ll never experience it himself so why fantasize at all about it?  And until Connor, he had stuck to that.

 

But now that he has Connor, that they’re dating , his fear has changed from sex in general to being disappointing during sex.  Not disappoint ed , he doesn’t think Connor could anything to cause that if he tried, but he just knows that he will mess something up.  What if he’s too into it, or is into something weird , or isn’t into it enough and he makes it so Connor decides that sex with Evan is a bad idea and then not only will Evan lose his boyfriend, he’ll lose his best friend and be back to only having Jared to call a sort-of-but-not-at-all friend.

 

“I can hear you overthinking.”

 

Evan starts.  He had thought Connor had already headed off to the bathroom when in fact he had stayed sitting in front of Evan, carefully scrutinizing him.  Shit. “Sorry, I just...I…”

 

“What are you thinking about?”

 

Evan blinks at him.  No guessing, just flat out asking Evan in the calmest of tones to tell him, and after just a moment of hesitation, he does just that.  He says it slowly, softly, but he says what he’s thinking anyway. “That you’re disappointed in...well, in me , because I...well, you know but you did too so maybe no.  Or maybe that you won’t want this anymore because I’m so bad at it or, or that I didn’t really want to do this, because I did, I do I really really do.”  He’s nearly hyperventilating by the end but he feels so much better getting all that off his chest.

 

Connor’s response is to first tug Evan back over to him and drag him down onto his lap and Evan doesn’t hesitate to curl his legs up and snuggle against Connor like has been wanting, warmth flooding him when a solid hand rests in the middle of his back, supporting him.  He should have sat like this before. He feels so...protected like this. “I didn’t think that. Any of that.” Evan squirms a little under the sharp almost reprimand from Connor that softens immediately.  “I honestly wasn’t expecting to like it that much, either.” Connor shrugs, but Evan can see from how stiffly he holds them at and how he won’t how he won’t meet Evan’s eyes just how uncomfortable he feels admitting this.  “I knew I liked guys but didn’t see myself actually doing anything with anyone.”

 

Even though he knows differently, he can’t help but ask because if he doesn’t he’ll wonder for forever.  “But now?”

 

It’s kind of comical how red Connor turns, and he barely splutters out a response.  “Obviously now I can, Ev. Geez. Its kind of weird having a libido again, honestly. I've jacked it more this month than I have the rest of puberty.”  He gently shoves Evan off his lap and towards the bedroom door and Evan allows it, silently agreeing with the strangeness of having a sex drive after years of depression and anxiety only allowing him brief flashes months apart.  “Let’s take advantage of the empty house and shower. We still have 45 minutes before anyone is home.”


Connor sometimes has the best ideas.