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Chapter 1

 

"What are you doing up here?" Evan heard a voice ask. "I told you to leave me alone." He looked around to see a figure in a jacket step out from behind a cell tower that protruded from the top of the concert hall.

"I-" he choked out, still rattled by the sudden adrenaline rush that had overtaken him. "I don't-"

"Oh shit, you're not Zoe," the figure said, stepping into the light radiating from the emergency lockdown signal. "But- what are you doing up here?" The guy asked him.

"There's-" Evan managed. "There are people with- with guns and explosives inside the building," he gasped out. The guy's eyes widened in alarm. "I got separated from my mom- and- and I saw the sign that said 'roof access,' and I had this weird moment where I thought, 'It's not like they're going to check up there,' and made a break for it, but I'm sorry for bothering you, but I'm also not sorry because then you might've gone inside and gotten hurt, so I guess there's that at least." Evan cut himself off before he talked the guy to death.

"Hey," the guy snapped, coming closer, and only when he reached out to steady Evan did Evan realized that he was shaking from the shock. Evan clutched at the cast that was hidden by the expensive material of the dress shirt his mom had bought for him for tonight. Everything was happening too quickly for him to keep up.

The guy's voice snapped him back to reality for a second. "Hey. What's your name?"

"Evan. Evan Hansen."

"Evan. Okay. Look at me." The guy's tone sounded like one that was trying to be gentle, but had forgotten how. Evan shook his head, keeping his eyes firmly locked on his arm. "Dammit, look at me," the guy repeated, harsher this time, grip tightening on his shoulder.

Evan's gaze snapped up to meet pale blue eyes filled with impatience and fear and concern. There was a brown spot in the right eye. He recognized those eyes. He couldn't remember from where exactly at the moment. He couldn't really think over how loud his breathing sounded.

"You're having a panic attack," the guy said flatly. Evan desperately fought the urge to say, 'Duh. I know, I get these at least four times a month.' Instead he just nodded. "Breathe with me, okay?"

Evan matched his breathing with the guy's, who was using the same breathing exercise that Dr. Sherman had taught him. He seemed like he knew what he was doing. Evan wondered why this guy was already up here on the roof for, and why he knew breathing exercises for panic attacks.

That's when it clicked where Evan recognized him from.

"What's your name?" Evan didn't know how his mouth had managed to say that correctly.

"Connor. Connor Murphy," the guy replied, using the same introduction Evan had.

Ah. Well. Great.

"I go to school with you," Evan blurted out. "We had the same math class last year? Mr. B?" Connor's eyes flashed with recognition.

"You were the kid who always had a charger in case someone needed it, right?" Connor asked. Evan nodded. "Huh."

They continued with the breathing exercises for a while until Evan was capable of standing on his own two feet with minimal shaking.

The sound of a small explosion startled both of them, rattling the building, making the roof shake beneath their feet.

"Fuck," Connor muttered under his breath, walking back over to the cell tower, and Evan followed, seating himself next to the significantly taller guy because he had nothing else to do, and being the only one standing felt weird.

They sat in somewhat awkward silence for a while. Evan didn't know much about Connor Murphy other than that he's Zoe Murphy's older brother. The rest of what he'd heard were from rumors that Jared mentioned.

However, he did know that Connor did get into fights sometimes, because last year he would occasionally walk into math class late with a black eye and bleeding knuckles. That coupled with some of the rumors he overheard about his explosive episodes, let him know that it would do him best to just stay out of his way.

Well. That plan failed.

Evan heard sirens in the distance and curled in on himself. He fingered his cast mindlessly. This was probably going to be how he died. Murdered on the roof of a concert hall.

"I can't believe this is how it ends," Connor said, voicing Evan's thoughts. "I never thought I'd be murdered."

"I tried to kill myself three weeks ago," Evan blurted out, immediately slapping a hand over his mouth. Shit. Why did he say that?

"Fucking what?" Evan flinched at the tone of Connor's voice. It startled a strangled little laugh out of him. He probably sounded insane.

"I tried to kill myself three weeks ago," Evan said again, clutching at his arm. He pulled back the sleeve to show his cast. "It didn't work. I mean- Obviously it didn't work, otherwise I wouldn't be here right now. But when I let go of the tree, I didn't expect to be murdered three weeks later." He let out a choked laugh.

Connor was staring at him like he had lost his mind. And maybe he had. But he had started this oversharing session, and now he couldn't stop. He hadn't told anyone, hadn't planned on ever telling anyone, but. Circumstance.

"It's not fair," he said, raising his arms and laughing angrily. "I've wanted to kill myself for how long? And now someone else is going to do it for me?! Am I just that pathetic?! It's like, I didn't even think I had thunder left to steal, and now it's being stolen! What the hell?!"

He finished his little rant with a dramatic flop onto his back. He was breathing hard, anxiety flooding through his veins. He had just told his darkest secret to a guy who was practically a stranger. Shit. He had officially lost his mind.

The silence dragged on until Connor broke it. "Damn, Hansen," he muttered. "Never thought you had that in you." He said it conversationally. Evan laughed.

"Yeah. But did anyone ever actually recognize me long enough to think I did?" Evan didn't know why he suddenly felt like he could just say stuff like this. To Connor of all people.

"Touché," Connor admitted. "But yeah, I get it. The whole having your thunder stolen thing."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Connor hesitated for a moment, before continuing. "I was gonna kill myself tomorrow. Now that plan is out the window."

"Really?" Evan asked, sitting back up. Connor nodded, humming. "Why the first day of school?"

"Thought someone might find it kind of funny. You know, first day of school, last day of being alive? That's got some kind of morbid irony right?"

Evan could appreciate the intended humor. He nodded, and this seemed to satisfy the taller boy. "This sucks," Evan sighed.

"Everything sucks," Connor said, almost agreeably.

"Yeah, but being in the middle of a mass shooting really sucks."

"You got me there."

"I hope my mom is alright," Evan whispered. If anyone survived this, he hoped it would be her. She had so much to live for. He was here tonight in the first place because his mom had been invited to this fancy lawyer dinner party that Evan couldn't remember the proper name of. "She doesn't deserve to die."

"I hope my sister makes it out alive. I mean- I hope my entire family makes it out alive, but if only one of them could, I want it to be her."

"Your sister is Zoe, right?" Evan asked as if it wasn't something he already knew quite well. Connor nodded. "I remember her creative writing project from English class last year."

"The one about the knight who was kidnapped by a princess who had escaped the mental ward, so the half dragon character had to come and save him?" Connor asked him, and Evan could detect a hint of pride in Connor's voice when talking about his sister's creative genius.

"That's the one," Evan affirmed. That story had made him actually genuinely laugh out loud. It was a good story. Connor let out a light chuckle.

The sirens were closer now. Evan heard multiple guns firing below them. They were getting closer.

"They're coming up here," Evan said, insides going numb.

"What are you talking about?"

"The guns are getting louder. They're moving up the floors. Why are they moving up? That doesn't make sense. They should be going down. They should be trying to get closer to the ground so that if the building collapses, they can get out quicker. Why are they coming up?" Evan was clutching at his cast covered arm desperately. "I don't understand- I don't-"

"Evan," Connor cut him off. "Get over here." Evan scooted closer to him, and Connor wrapped his arm around his shoulders in a very awkward and forced hug. "I am not good at this whole comforting people shtick. So please, stop hyperventilating, and- and- Just stop hyperventilating. It's making me angry."

"You really are bad at comforting people."

"Shut up."

This was the most sane Evan had ever felt, which worried him. It felt very natural to just sit there and be casual with Connor Murphy. Almost like there weren't people in the building below them that were coming up for some stupid reason. Almost like he wasn't mentally ill. Almost like he was going to survive today.

Evan didn't like it, but he couldn't really control it. He couldn't control anything, apparently. He couldn't even choose how he died.

"We could just jump," Connor said out of nowhere. Or, not really out of nowhere, but unprompted. "We're going to die anyways. Why not just steal our own thunder back? I bet we'd make the front page of a newspaper."

And Evan took a moment to register his words. And then Evan pulled back to look Connor Murphy in the eyes. And then Evan thought that maybe Connor Murphy was just as insane as him. And Evan. Didn't tell him no.

Instead, he went, "Do people even read the newspaper anymore?"

"Screw you, you know what I mean. I just want to have some fucking agency over my own death. Are you in or not?"

And Evan paused. Because this was the first time anyone his age other than Jared had invited him to do something. And it was to jump off a building together. And he was going to die either way.

He could die as Just Another Casualty In A Mass Shooting. He would only be survived by his mother, who would eventually be better off without him. Jared might wonder where he went, but Evan hadn't heard from him since the Fourth of July, when they had been at the annual picnic, so. Jared would be better off. And Dr. Sherman wouldn't have to worry about making sure Evan's brain was functioning anymore.

And those are the only three people who would remember.

But.

Connor was still looking at him.

If he went with Connor, people would remember. They'd definitely make at least one headline. "Two Young Men Commit Suicide To Avoid Death By Mass Shooting," or something like that. If he went with Connor, someone would see something that made a difference. He'd make a sound when he fell.

So he nodded.

"Okay."

And then he and Connor found their way to the edge of the roof. The night would be peaceful if it weren't for the sirens splitting the silence.

"Should we leave a note?" Evan asked. "Just in case someone wants answers?"

Connor pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. Evan didn't ask why he had paper. He could make a guess. He watched with an almost detached curiosity as Connor protruded a pencil from the confines of his jacket.

"What did you want to say?"

"I don't know, really. Maybe someone will actually care to wonder why we chose this option."

"Why did you choose it?"

"Why did you?" Evan had never had this much confidence before. Connor scribbled something down, before handing it to Evan, who gave it an approving nod. "It's good. Perfect, actually."

"It's not too deep, or some shit like that?" Evan shook his head.

"It seems Zoe wasn't the only one who got the writing talent."

Connor seemed pleased with himself. "Here," he said, handing the pencil over to Evan. "Sign it."

Evan wrote his name with a steady hand.

"Do you feel weirdly calm about this?" Evan asked him, handing the pencil back. Connor nodded.

"It's a first actually," Connor said as he folded the paper carefully. "I have anger issues. And depression. In case you couldn't tell." He said the last part with a weird smile, almost as if they were meeting under normal circumstances where they could worry about first impressions.

"Same," Evan said. "The depression, I mean. I have anxiety, too. It's a- kind of a confusing combination to deal with." He was sure his smile matched Connor's.

The roof beneath them shook again. The gunshots were still getting closer. Connor clutched the paper in his hand, squaring his shoulders.

"How do you want to do this?" He asked Evan. "Like, is there a way you want to fall, or, something."

Evan shook his head. "I don't know. I was alone when I attempted. Is there some kind of double suicide etiquette we should be following?" Connor laughed, the sound jarring and young and free, and Evan suddenly felt terribly sad that this would be the last time the world heard that laugh.

"Holy crap, Hansen, the random shit you say," Connor snorted. "I'm sorry I'm the last person who gets to appreciate that."

"To be fair, I'm pretty sure you're the only one who ever has," Evan responded, shrugging. Connor made a wounded noise.

"That was a sad thing to say." Evan knew this.

"I'm a sad person." Connor's face was one of understanding. He knew exactly what Evan meant.

"We should hold hands," Connor stated bluntly.

"I'm sorry, what?" Evan wasn't quite sure he had heard correctly.

"We should hold hands," Connor said, sounding out each syllable with confidence.

"Why?"

"For the symbolism, dude. We jump separately, it's sad, and says that we might not have done it together. We jump holding hands," Connor made an explosion hand gesture and emphasized it with a sound effect. "People eat up tragic symbolism. Spreads like wildfire. The message is more in your face and more of a mystery at the same time."

"Yeah, no that makes sense," Evan said, even though he didn't quite get it. "I meant, why would you want to hold my hand? I'm kind of really sweaty all the time, and I'm just gross. I don't understand why you want to be associated with me?" Why would Connor do any of this with him? The note, the suicide, it was all very thoughtful. It was going to mean something. Evan would have just sat there and gotten murdered.

"Because, Hansen," Connor explained. "I think, if we're both going to die, the last thing I can do is to help you get your thunder back. That's what you want right?"

Evan could only nod dumbly.

Connor's hand was pale and cold, as if he were already dead. He wore two metal rings. His nail polish was chipped. Evan's hand felt strange in his.

"I don't want to see the ground," Evan said. Connor made a confused noise. "That's how I want to do it. I want to see the sky. I want the sky to be all I can see. If that's alright with you."

"I don't mind. You're going along with my hand thing, and that's way weirder. Falling back is good."

"Good."

The air was cold.

The roof shook again.

Evan let out a deep sigh.

"Thank you, Connor."

Connor squeezed his hand.

"Right back at you, Evan."

The roof gave way to air beneath their feet.

Evan could see the stars.

Then everything went black.

Then white.

Is it supposed to do that?

 

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