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the state of my heart (he was my best friend)

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Two days before their Spanish project is due, Evan catches up with Jared in the hall before homeroom.

“Hey,” he says, clearly a little out of breath - was he running after Jared just to come and say hi? Jared melts a little at the mere thought. “Hey. Can I, um - do you have a second?”

Jared rolls his eyes affectionately, trying to disguise the jolt of anxiety he feels at this incredibly vague conversation starter. Is it even possible to break up with someone when you haven’t officially said that you’re dating yet? It’s been almost two weeks since Jared’s near breakdown at Evan’s place, since they kissed properly for the first time and Evan gave him that flower that Jared kept by his bed even after half the petals were browned and drooping. Even though since then they’ve kissed a couple more times, and worked on the project with their arms around each other as if they’d been doing this for years (one evening Evan had ended up sitting on Jared’s lap and Jared had been genuinely concerned that he would pass out and they’d both end up on the floor), neither of them have actually said anything about what this is. If it even is anything. So, like, it’s definitely not too late for Evan to back down. Jared wouldn’t exactly blame him.

“Yeah, I’m all ears,” Jared grins a little too widely.

“It’s just, um, I know we were going to go to your house tonight to work on the project and stuff but-” Fuck. Here it comes. “-but my mom’s working late tonight, so I mean, she won’t be home for ages she said, she’s going straight to class from work I think so if you want to come over we’ll be, we’d have the house to ourselves so that might be, I don’t know, better?”

Jared is so relieved that he can’t help but laugh.

“Jesus Christ , Evan. Pulling the ‘my mom isn’t home, we’ll have the house to ourselves’ trick already ?! I’m positively scandalised.”

Evan goes scarlet.

“No! No, that’s not - I didn’t mean it like that , oh my God Jared stop laughing -” he splutters. “I just meant we’d - it would be quiet and we could probably get more work done and - Jared, stop! ” Evan bats at Jared’s hands, apparently not appreciating the air quotes he’d added around the word “work”.

“Okay, okay,” Jared holds his hands up again, this time in mock surrender. “Works for me. See you in Spanish?”

Evan smiles that tentative smile of his that will probably never stop making Jared’s heart do a somersault, and waves goodbye.

God , Jared loves him.

Evan is quiet as ever in Spanish class, focused intensely on the translation exercise they’ve been given (at one point he appears to poke his tongue out in concentration, and Jared very nearly has to put his hand up and ask permission to go to the nurse’s office to lie down). Towards the end of the class, Mrs Linares reminds them of the upcoming presentations, and Evan looks over at Jared and smiles. Jared remembers how, not so long ago, during the worst week of his fucking life, Evan had frozen in his seat at the mention of the project, and he can’t help but marvel at how he ever managed to resolve that nightmare.

Most of the day goes by in a blur. Evan is retaking some biology test from the other week during lunch (Jared is somewhat confused that Evan would ever have to retake anything bio related, but he knows that Evan probably doesn’t want him to pry about whatever happened there), so Jared spends the hour in the computer lab catching up on homework. Just before the warning bell, Jared’s phone vibrates, and he flips it over to see a text from Evan.

I think the test went well. :) See you after school x

Jared has to clamp one hand over his mouth to stop himself from screaming.

He’s still exuberant by the time he gets to Chemistry, his last class of the day. He even catches himself grinning at Connor fucking Murphy, who looks tense at the best of times but now stares at Jared as if he’s just sprouted a second head, on his way to sit down. Jared wonders briefly, jokingly, if it might be best to stop this thing with Evan before it turns him into a legitimate Disney princess.

Even thinking about that kind of scenario in jest makes Jared have to surreptitiously reread Evan’s text to cheer himself up.

Jared’s practically out of the classroom before the bell has even finished ringing, which turns out to be a stupid decision because now he has to wait for Evan and a small voice at the back of his mind starts wondering if he’ll actually even turn up. Within a few minutes, however, he catches sight of a familiar, hunched figure trying to navigate the crowded hall. Evan looks up at Jared, and it’s as if the anxious voices in both their respective heads were banished at the exact same time, because he straightens up a little and beams as he covers the remaining distance to Jared’s locker.

“Hey, sorry I’m late, we got let out late and then the, you saw how crowded the hall was, I should have texted you or something.”

“Dude, it’s fine, I was early.” Jared hopes there’s no residual traces of worry in his expression. “Cmon, are you good to go?”

Evan nods, clearly wanting nothing more than to get somewhere quiet. Jared gives his hand a subtle, comforting squeeze, and they head out towards the parking lot together in companionable silence.

“So, the test was good?” Jared says, as they get into his car.

“Yeah,” Evan replies. “It was. I wasn’t feeling well, you see, when we did the test for the first time, so I, um. I didn’t… do very well, then.”

“That sucks,” Jared says. “But you’re, like, some kind of freakish biological genius, right? I bet you aced it this time.”

Jared hopes that Evan doesn’t notice that his voice is a little flat. He can’t help but do the mental math - the test was two weeks ago, Evan had said earlier today. Two weeks ago, Evan and Jared weren’t talking, because Jared had been an idiot and kissed him. Two weeks ago, Jared had run into Evan in the hallway outside - shit - the nurse’s office. It’s not totally outside the realm of possibility that Evan wasn’t feeling well, and that Evan failed his bio test the first time - Evan , failing a bio test - because he was that upset about Jared kissing him. Fuck, Jared really does have a gift for ruining everything .

But he didn’t ruin this, he tries to tell himself. Evan kissed him a few days later. They sorted everything out, Evan probably isn’t even mad at Jared about the test. In fact, Evan’s done the test again, and he’s probably done brilliantly, and he texted Jared earlier and put an actual freaking kiss at the end, and he’s sitting in Jared’s car watching the world go by and looking as if he’s never had a care in the world while Jared is busy moping.

Jared decides to distract himself before he actually does fuck anything up.

“Do you want to listen to some music or something?” he asks, fishing his phone out of his pocket and handing it to Evan. “Here, plug it in.”

Evan fumbles with the aux cord for a few seconds before looking back up at Jared uncertainly.

“Do you want to - um. I don’t know, my music taste isn’t that good, you can choose what we listen to.”

“Oh my God ,” says Jared, hoping he’s hitting the right balance of frustrated and affectionate. “Okay, just open up Spotify and hit play on whatever-”

Jared is unable to finish his sentence before the unmistakable strains of “Love Story” by Taylor Swift come blaring through the speakers. Evan’s head snaps up, and Jared grabs at his phone with a shriek, the car swerving into the opposite lane so sharply that Evan starts screaming as well. By the time Jared has managed to revert to driving on the correct side of the road, Evan looks as if he doesn’t know whether to start crying or slap him, and Taylor Swift has been unceremoniously silenced in the course of Jared’s phone’s forceful trajectory to the back seat.

“Um,” Evan says, after a deeply uncomfortable silence. “What was that?”

Jared pauses, unsure whether or not to reveal that Evan just accidentally stumbled upon the deeply embarrassing playlist (titled: “evan <3”) that has made up 99% of his listening history for the past two weeks.

“That was Taylor Swift’s iconic 2008 hit ‘Love Story’, Evan,” he says at last.

Evan still looks somewhat unimpressed.

“For real, sorry about, uh, almost killing us there,” Jared tries. “That would have been a pretty humiliating way to go.”

Evan is silent for a moment, and then finally lets out a small giggle that makes Jared’s heart grow a thousand sizes.

The rest of the ride home is comparatively quiet. Jared is a little concerned that Evan is still upset about the fact that they very much could have died on the way home, so as soon as they’re both out of the car he reaches for Evan’s hand, an unspoken “Do you hate me?"

Evan pauses, and then slowly lets his fingers intertwine with Jared’s.

No, Jared, ” his gesture says. “I will never, ever hate you .”

They walk up to the house hand in hand, only letting go briefly so that Evan can crouch down to take his shoes off once they’re inside.

“Are we going to your room?” Jared says, pulling Evan upright.

“If you want,” Evan responds. “I left my laptop downstairs last night, though, I just like working there sometimes, so.”

There’s something oddly endearing, if a little sad, about the way Evan trails off like that sometimes, his voice fading into nothing as he realises that he’s heading off on a tangent again. At the same time, Jared can’t help but think that he’d willingly listen to Evan talk about everything and nothing for hours on end.

Jared pushes open the door to the living room with his free hand, only to almost pass out from shock when he realises that he and Evan aren’t alone after all.

“Oh, hello, boys!” Heidi cries, her voice at least an octave higher than usual. She flings her mug down on the table with such force that it tips over, sending coffee everywhere. “ Shit - sorry, Jared, excuse my language, I-"

“Mom!” Evan shrieks, tearing his hand away from Jared and appearing to leap two feet horizontally across the room. “You’re home ?!”

“I thought I’d surprise you! I swapped shifts with Erica, I thought we could order pizza, spend some time together, but it’s okay, I can see you and Jared are-”

Heidi stops in her tracks, clearly not sure exactly what Jared and Evan Are. Jared isn’t entirely sure either, to be fair.

“We’re, um, we’re doing some work. On the project?” Evan says, his voice strained.

Oh , of course !” Jared can’t tell if Heidi looks relieved or disappointed. “You know I said weeks ago you’re welcome to come over whenever, Jared.”

Evan shoots a confused look in Jared’s direction. For the past two weeks, Jared has insisted upon them working on the presentation at his place, ostensibly because he has a better computer, as if that really makes any kind of a difference when it comes to making a PowerPoint presentation for Spanish class. In reality, Jared has been avoiding coming over to Evan’s house because he is fully aware that Heidi probably knows, or at least strongly suspects, that he and Evan are some kind of tentative thing . Like, she saw Jared come downstairs from Evan’s room holding a flower , for fuck’s sake. He doesn’t mind that in itself, but from years of experience he also knows that Heidi, to a lesser extent, shares Evan’s tendency to just start talking in any kind of remotely awkward situation, and if Heidi starts talking then Jared will have to talk to Evan about this whole thing, and despite everything there’s still a small part of Jared that is absolutely terrified that it will turn out that this was all too good to be true.

God, he wishes he could stop being so scared for once.

“Well,” Heidi continues. “You two could always order pizza for yourselves? That might be nice. I can find my own dinner, leave you two alone, if you want-”

Evan’s expression graduates from confused to mortified.

“No, no, it’s fine, um, we could have dinner together? All of us? If that’s okay with you, Jared?” he splutters.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s not like, this isn’t a-” Jared forces himself to stop short of saying date , because what the fuck . He’s so flustered that he’s beginning to sound like Evan. “That’s cool with me. Okay. Evan and I should probably get to work. We’re kind of behind and the project’s due on Friday, so, like...”

“Oh, no, of course, no worries,” Heidi says, beaming at the two of them. “Let me know if you need anything!”

“Cool,” Jared can still hardly get the words out. “We’re just gonna. Um. Head upstairs then. See ya.”

He heads out of the room a little too fast, hissing at Evan to come with him right now because he does not need Heidi to stop Evan and interrogate him.

“I’m so sorry,” Evan whispers as they climb the stairs. “I didn’t realise my mom was going to be home, you heard, she said it was a surprise, if I’d known I would have, I don’t know. I don’t know what I would have done. It’s not that I don’t want you to come over, or that I really wanted us to be alone oh my God it’s not like that , or that, that I don’t want her to see us, um… I don’t know. It’s just. I’m sorry.”

“Jesus, Evan,” Jared says, and he stops at the top of the stairs to give Evan what he hopes is a reassuring peck on the cheek. “Don’t worry about it. It’s cool.”

Evan doesn’t say anything, but the tension in his face seems to fade away a little.

They get into Evan’s room and take up position at his desk, and Jared finds himself letting out an involuntary shiver.

Shit , Evan, your room is freezing,” Jared realises only after he’s spoken that that definitely sounded like he was hinting at wanting to cuddle or something equally sappy, and he kind of wants to slap himself right now.

“Sorry. I mean, it’s always been like this so I’ve never really noticed it myself.” Evan stops, looking as if he’s internally debating where to take this conversation. “I, um. I have blankets? Or you could borrow a jacket or something if you want. I don’t know.”

Before Jared can even answer, Evan has grabbed a gray hoodie from the top of his filing cabinet - Jared’s breath catches in his throat when he realises it’s the same hoodie Evan had been wearing the last time they were sitting in this room together.

“Is this okay?” Evan asks.

“Yeah,” Jared says, pulling the hoodie on. It’s softer than he expected, and it smells like Evan and it feels like a never-ending hug from Evan and holy crap, Jared is gay.

The room definitely feels warmer now, but Jared’s not sure how much of that can be attributed to the actual, physical hoodie.

“Okay,” he says, hoping to distract Evan from the fact that he’s definitely blushing right now. “Let’s get to work.”

They make good headway before hitting a lull in their work a couple of hours in, at which point Evan heads downstairs to ask his mom if it’s alright to order the pizza now. In his absence, Jared takes it upon himself to migrate over to the bed, flopping down onto the mattress with Evan’s computer on his lap. When Evan returns, he looks at Jared with what could almost be affection , and sits down next to him.

“Do you want to choose the pizza?” Evan says. “I mean. You’re the guest, and I always get the same thing so that’s sort of boring, so.”

Jared pauses, and realises that he can’t actually remember what Evan always gets. He and Evan probably haven’t ordered pizza together since freshman year, which is extremely fucking sad when Jared thinks about it. He forces himself not to dwell on it, because sure, it sucks that he basically pretended to dislike Evan for years, but they’re here now, and he’ll be damned if he’s not going to make the most of it instead of sitting here being miserable.

“Hey,” he says, desperate to lighten the mood for himself. “Are you acquainted with my all-time greatest culinary masterpiece? It’s a little something I like to call the Vegetarian Hell Pizza.”

Evan looks horrified.

“It’s… what?”

Jared continues as if he’s making a sales pitch. “So picture this - almost every single non-meat topping, on one pizza. I wouldn’t quite call it Michelin star-worthy, but, like, it’s definitely close.”

This description apparently does little to reassure Evan.

“I think… I might just order a regular pizza for my mom…” he says. “And maybe myself.”

“Oh my God , Evan, live a little. There’s an art to the Vegetarian Hell Pizza. You’ve gotta get the ratios right, it’s not like you just throw crap on at random. Watch and learn, kid.”

Evan is totally silent while Jared pulls up the website and works his way through his order, but continues to look skeptical with every ingredient Jared adds. When he’s done, Jared sets the laptop down with a flourish, as if to say “ Voilà! One Vegetarian Hell Pizza coming right up!”, and looks at Evan expectantly.

“Can I add something?” Evan asks, almost inaudibly, and Jared is briefly relieved that he appears to finally be entering into the spirit of things. That is, until he sees where Evan is moving the cursor, and Jared realises that, apparently, he’s fallen in love with a godless heathen.

“Evan, so help me, if you put pineapple on that pizza I’ll dump you,” Jared says.

His brain suddenly catches up with whatever the fuck just came out of his mouth, and Jared inhales so sharply that he chokes violently on his own spit.

Evan, meanwhile, is frozen with his hand hovering over the mouse.

“You mean… uh… but to - to dump me that - that would mean I’m your - that we’re - um-”

It seems that, for once, Evan’s propensity for nervous babbling has completely failed him.

“Um?” Jared says hoarsely, gesturing wildly to encourage Evan to finish his train of thought.

“Like…” Evan pauses for what seems like twenty years. “...Dating? Or whatever? Or, like… boyfriends ?”

Jared feels like his heart has left his body and is currently doing a running jump out of Evan’s bedroom window.

“Yeah,” he says, his voice resembling a frog on helium. “I guess it would mean that.”

“So are we?” Evan is barely speaking above a whisper. “Um… boyfriends?”

Jared’s heart is beating so loudly that he can hardly hear his own reply.

“Do you want to be?”

Evan looks straight at Jared for the first time in this conversation, and nods shyly. Jared just laughs, an overjoyed, surprised thing that releases two weeks’ worth of tension he didn’t even really know was there , takes Evan’s face in his hands, and kisses him.

It’s a joyful, somewhat messy kiss, with both Evan and Jared breaking apart periodically to laugh against each other’s lips. Evan wraps both his arms around Jared, kneeling up on the mattress and pulling Jared up with him (Jared is suddenly reminded that, for all his slouching and curling over, Evan is actually technically taller than him, and he almost fucking swoons there and then). Jared wants this kiss to carry on for forever, just him and Evan and the promise that this is something now, he and Evan are something , and the whole world seems to be made of warmth and light and-

“Evan? Jared?” Heidi calls from downstairs. “How’s the pizza coming along?”

Crap ,” Jared hisses, pulling away sharply as Evan blushes. He raises his voice to reply. “Yeah, it’s all good, we’re almost done ordering!”

Evan stares at Jared, biting his lip as he lowers himself back down to a sitting position. He looks nervous all of a sudden.

“Hey.” Jared rests his hand on Evan’s knee. “What’s up?”

Evan frowns, his eyes wide.

“You won’t actually break up with me if I put pineapple on the pizza, will you?”

It’s all Jared can do not to actually say “aww” out loud.

“Oh my God,” he laughs. “You are just cute as a freaking button, you know that?”

Evan smiles, and buries his head in Jared’s chest.


They get a little more work done sitting on Evan’s bed, leaning against each other, as they wait for the pizza to arrive. Jared does all the typing, with occasional interjections from Evan about grammar or the fact that what Jared thinks are incredibly humorous asides aren’t really appropriate for presenting to the whole class.

“Speaking of presenting,” Jared says after one such protest. “Are you going to be okay with this whole thing? Like, I know Mrs Linares said everyone has to talk, so you can’t just sit there clicking through the slides while I do all the talking, or whatever, and I was just-”

Jared pauses, thinking of how different this is to when he first asked Evan to work with him, when he’d just looked right at Evan and made fun of how scared he always gets about public speaking. He doesn’t really feel the need to resort to those awful, cruel distancing tactics anymore - of course, he won’t stop teasing Evan entirely, because Evan is still Evan, so he still comes out with stupid, adorable crap like “Are you going to break up with me for my choice of pizza toppings?”, but he can at least try not to be a complete asshole.

That said, switching right to the other end of the Good Friend Spectrum - the Good Boyfriend Spectrum - doesn’t quite come naturally, so Jared just trails off instead.

“You were just?” Evan says, prompting him in a way that feels almost like some kind of weird role reversal.

Jared is quieter when he finally responds.

“I was just... worried, I guess.”

He hates that, despite everything, Evan almost looks surprised that Jared cares.

“Thanks,” Evan says, after an agonising pause. “For worrying. I mean, I’m scared about it, I’m probably going to choke, you know me, I always just freak out and things go wrong, but. At least you’ll be up there with me. Maybe it won’t be as bad. Because of that, I mean.”

Jared can’t even begin to think of a response that comes close to expressing how much Evan’s trust, the implication that Jared somehow makes Evan feel safe , means to him.

Thankfully, he doesn’t have to, because at that exact moment the doorbell rings and Heidi calls out that the pizza’s here.

Instead, he just smiles at Evan, and hopes that’s enough.

“Come on,” he says, mentally ushering away the fifteen different emotions he was just feeling. “You’re about to experience the best pizza of your life .”

“Right...”

Jared sighs, and quietly accepts that the Vegetarian Hell Pizza might just be one thing they never agree on.

“Should we… should we tell my mom?” Evan says as they get up. “About… us?”

Jesus , I only asked you out like, half an hour ago,” Jared says. “I mean, do whatever you want, she’s your mom. But bear in mind that she will definitely tell my mom, who will definitely fatally embarrass me, so it really depends on whether or not you want to kill your boyfriend within like 24 hours.”

Jared’s heart leaps when Evan flushes at the word “boyfriend”.

“Oh. Well, I, um. I definitely don’t want that,” Evan says. “But, I don’t know, I think my mom thinks something’s going on, anyway, so, um. I guess we’ll just. See what happens.”

“You’re going to kill me, Evan,” Jared warns jokingly, and they head down the stairs.

Heidi has already artfully arranged the pizza boxes on the coffee table by the time they arrive in the living room.

“Well, bon appetit!” she exclaims, arms outstretched. She smiles broadly at Evan, and then her eyes drift over to Jared, and her smile fades into something totally unreadable.

Great , Jared thinks. What the fuck is going to go wrong now?

“So, the big box is for me and Evan, right?” Jared asks, smiling a little too enthusiastically as he reaches for a way to jumpstart the conversation.

Heidi doesn’t respond. If it wasn’t for the fact that her arms have slowly moved back down to her sides, Jared would think she’d literally just frozen somehow.

Everything is very, very quiet, and Heidi is still staring at Jared as if trying hard to figure something out.

“...Are we going to eat?” Jared adds, fully aware that he probably sounds like a total brat, but this awkward silence is threatening to actually kill him.

Heidi frowns, looking as though she might burst if she doesn’t say what’s on her mind.

“So. Jared.” She says. “That’s Evan’s jacket.”

Holy shit.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Jared, totally speechless for once, can only nod.

There’s a few more moments of painfully awkward silence, before Evan apparently decides that he can take it no longer.

Jared was cold !” he blurts out. “It’s not like a, we’re not, I mean we're kind of-” Jared swiftly administers a small kick to the back of Evan’s ankle. “- Ow! Anyway, he was just cold so I, I lent him my hoodie, that’s all.”

Heidi looks unconvinced.

“You’re kind of…” she repeats, and Jesus Christ she just had to pick up on that one half finished thought of Evan’s. “Listen. Evan, sweetie, I’m not going to pressure you, but is there something you might want to tell me?”

“Um. Well, I. Uh-” Jared kicks Evan again, which this time apparently has the same effect as hitting a faulty television to get it to work properly. “ Jared just asked me out and I wasn’t going to, I mean we weren’t going to say anything, not yet anyway it’s not, it’s not because I wouldn’t tell you but, it was really only just now and I mean, I said yes, so that’s, um, that’s probably. That’s probably a thing.”

Jared would very much like for the ground to swallow him up.

Heidi, meanwhile, has never looked happier.

“Oh, I’m so happy for you!” she leaps up from the couch, pulling Evan into a hug that looks almost suffocating in its enthusiasm. She breaks away after a few seconds to hug Jared next, before stepping back and looking at them both lovingly.

“You know,” she says, suddenly quieter. “I think you two are going to be really good for each other.”

Jared is a little surprised when, in a burst of confidence, Evan takes his hand, leaning his head against Jared’s shoulder.

“I think so too,” Evan says, and Jared can feel him smiling and he’s honestly about to melt because every time he thinks he can’t fall even more in love Evan pulls something like this and Jesus Christ, Jared never wants this to end.

Heidi smiles warmly. “I’m glad.”

And then, suddenly more animated, she adds, “So! Who wants pizza?”


After dinner (Evan’s final review of the Vegetarian Hell Pizza was “never again”, which was definitely his fault for upsetting the fine balance of flavors with the addition of pineapple, but whatever), Jared heads upstairs to grab Evan’s laptop so that they can continue working in the living room. This was Evan’s idea - he felt bad because his mom had swapped shifts at work just to spend time with him, and now instead he was upstairs working with Jared, and he doesn’t really get to spend time with his mom all that often, and maybe this would be a nice compromise, and Jesus Christ, why is Evan the most adorable person on the planet? Jared doesn’t mind at all, because Heidi is lovely and has been so nice about this whole thing, even if she did take it upon herself to spend the entirety of dinner reminding him and Evan about increasingly embarrassing stories from their childhood (Jared had totally repressed the memory of Heidi having to take him home early from a sleepover in the fourth grade because he cried too hard at The Lion King , and he kind of wishes it had stayed that way).

Jared and Evan manage to wrap up the project over the next few hours, and, at Jared’s suggestion, they rehearse the presentation in front of Heidi, who hardly understands a word of Spanish but applauds enthusiastically after every slide anyway. It’s probably not the greatest project in the world, and it’s not going to singlehandedly save Jared’s mediocre Spanish grades, but as he leads Evan in a needlessly flamboyant bow, Jared realises that he’s far too happy to even worry about that right now.

“Well, I should go,” Jared says, checking his phone and inhaling sharply when he realises he’s been at Evan’s a lot longer than he thought. “You’re sure the project’s all good?”

Evan nods. “I guess I’ll say goodbye then?”

“Okay,” Heidi adds, and Evan looks at her with the most pointed expression Jared has ever seen him use.

Heidi sighs in mock exasperation, getting up from the couch.

“Okay, okay, I get it, you don’t want to say goodbye in front of mom, well, I’ll be in the kitchen not embarrassing you.”

The minute the living room door closes, Jared bursts out laughing.

“She is absolutely texting my mom right now.”

“I know.”

“I’m literally going to die.”

“...Probably.”

“Well,” says Jared, scoffing in mock indignation. “I’m appalled that you’re not immediately heartbroken by that prospect, Evan. You should be on the floor, wailing mournfully, for sure. I’m sorely disappointed.”

“Okay, okay, sorry. So, I’ll see you at school tomorrow?” Evan says, reaching for Jared’s hand. “I mean, if you’re not dead.”

“If I am, I expect an overblown dramatic tribute in front of the entire school.” Apparently, even joking about this degree of public speaking is a little much for Evan, who looks at Jared with abject horror. Jared backtracks swiftly. “I’m kidding . I’ll settle for you, like, planting a fucking tree in my memory or something.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” says Evan, and the jovial glint in his eye is so adorable that Jared can’t help but lean in and kiss him.

When they finally break apart, Evan holds Jared’s gaze for a moment before pulling him into a hug. They’re silent for a moment; Jared’s head is pressed into Evan’s shoulder, and he can just about hear Evan’s heartbeat, and he’s suddenly very aware of how real all of this is. He’s here, with Evan, Evan , his boyfriend , and Evan’s hugging him and Evan just kissed him and Evan might even love him and everything is Evan, Evan, Evan .

And then Evan speaks.

“I’m so happy,” he whispers, his voice so soft that it feels like he and Jared are the only two people on earth.

“Yeah,” says Jared, somehow unfazed by the fact that he’s suddenly blinking back tears. “Yeah. Me too.”

They stay that way for what seems like an hour. Suddenly, Jared’s phone buzzes loudly in his pocket, and the rest of the world falls back into place around them.

“Crap,” he mutters, pulling away from Evan and checking his phone to see a text from his mom. “ Crap!

“What is it?” Evan says, suddenly worried. Jared looks at him, totally deadpan, and raises his phone up to Evan’s eye level.

Evan’s eyes widen, and he looks at Jared with a sympathetic grimace.

Jared’s mom, always a firm believer in the idea that brevity is the soul of wit, has sent him a single exclamation point.

He’s in for an interesting conversation when he gets home.