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and three is a pattern

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There was a cicada crawling along the leg of Evan’s pants. He watched it, unmoving, as it slowly hooked one little foot after another up the soft flannel. When it finally reached his knee, it stopped and shifted its wings. After a very long, very delayed second, Evan slowly lifted his hand and slowly, very slowly, reached out to cup his hand over the bug. It didn’t move. It clung to his pants as he gently tugged at it, but he managed to pull it off and set it in his palm.  

All around him, Evan could hear the other cicadas. The one in his palm was silent, but it started to creep along, towards his thumb, where it eventually stopped. He watched, silent, as the little bug rotated, shifted its little legs, then lifted its abdomen slightly and joined the other cicadas in their loud, harsh singing. Evan held his breath as he listened, but let it out in surprise when the bug’s wings came to life and it went flying away, up into the bright sky. The bug was long gone, but even if he couldn’t see it, he still looked up at the bright sky, completely devoid of clouds.

Eventually, his gaze came back down to earth, down to his socks in the grass. It was thick and green, but only because of the regular watering and the way his stepmom always seemed to be fussing over it. The brick he was sitting on was part of a small wall that held up a flower bed in front of the house. It gave him a clear but boring view of the road. At least everyone was already at work, so only two cars so far had driven by, and Evan had been sitting outside for at least half an hour.

“Just try to have some fun, okay? Denver is a big city! And your father’s house is only an hour and a half bus ride to downtown!”

His mom had no idea just how lonely it would be to sit in an unfamiliar house while his dad was at work, as was his stepmom, and the kids were… He knew the youngest was at daycare, but he had no idea where his other step-siblings - well, half-siblings - were. His best guess was summer camp. Nevertheless, the house was empty, it wasn’t even noon, and Evan still hadn’t taken a shower or changed out of his pajamas.

It was already too warm out for long, flannel pants, his hoodie, and even socks. The back of his t-shirt under the hoodie was sticking to his back in an unpleasant way. But getting up would take so much effort, and Evan was too tired. He’d barely slept the night before. It was only his third night, and summer already felt too long.

So instead of doing something about his sweaty back and boredom, he just propped his head up with an elbow on his knee and his cheek in his hand, and he listened to the cicadas.

 

“You’re gonna get heatstroke in that getup.”

The voice literally scared Evan out of his seat, and he ended up falling backward into the flower bed, crushes a pansy plant under one hand. He looked around frantically, but couldn’t seem to find the source of the voice.

“Can you even get heatstroke here? Who fucking knows.”

Evan whipped around to look in front of him, and, where he swore there was no one before, stood a boy in a hospital gown covered in pale spirals on a violet background and navy blue sweatpants. His hair was messy, all pushed over his forehead and brushing just past his shoulders to his partially bare collarbones. His feet were bare, and his arms were crossed, but Evan could see that his forearms were heavily bandaged.

“Great, you’re just like the rest. Huzzah. Well, fuck this, I curse you for the rest of time, see you never.”

The boy’s voice was harsh, but something about it made Evan want to ask if he was okay. There was a weakness to it, like he’d just had the wind knocked out of him or he just finished crying. Evan finally looked at his face properly, and while he looked pale, he didn’t look like he had been crying.

“Wait, can you actually see me?”

The way his mouth moved made Evan do a double take, the previous harsh curl of the boy’s lip softening and dropping in obvious confusion. His nose was scrunching up, his eyebrows drawing together, and his eyes - oh god, he was looking straight at Evan.

“Are you, what, fucking mute?”

“N-no!” Evan yelped, leaping up and dusting off his hands. “I-sorry, uh-” he gave up and just shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket, then looked back to the strange boy. “Are you-uh, do you live around here?” It didn’t feel like much time had passed, but maybe Evan had drifted off to sleep? But the cicadas sounded the same, and the sun seemed to be in approximately the same position.

“Where even is ‘here,’” was the only answer the boy gave, which was so vague and only confused Evan even more. The boy also wasn’t looking away, which was making Evan shift nervously.

“Um-okay? That’s…” unhelpful, but Evan wasn’t going to say that out loud. He wasn’t good at talking to strangers, especially mysterious boys with no shoes in hospital gowns standing in a yard that Evan didn’t even own. So instead of asking anything else, he held out a shaky hand. “I’m E-ah-Evan. H-Hansen. Evan Hansen.” That’s what people did when they met, right? Introduce themselves and such? Sure, they didn’t usually stutter as much as Evan, but this whole situation was pretty unnerving.

The boy eyed his hand for long enough that Evan eventually pulled it back in embarrassment.

“Sorry-that-uh, you probably don’t-sorry.” Evan stumbled over an apology as he shoved his hand back in his pocket and took half a step back, his heel hitting the short brick wall and almost making him stumble. “I’ll just-I’ll go? Yeah, s-sorry.” Since the boy was in front of him, he had to walk sideways towards the single step leading to the door, trying to look anywhere but the boy.

“Connor.”

Evan had made it all the way to the door, one damp palm already resting on the handle when the boy spoke. “W-what?”

The boy looked away, blowing away a piece of hair that fell in front of his eyes. “My name. It’s Connor.”

“Oh. Um. W-well, it’s nice to meet you, Connor?” Evan tried for a smile, but it didn’t seem to go over well, since the boy - Connor - just huffed and shot him a dark, frustrated glare before turning on his heel and stomping off towards the sidewalk, leaving no footprints in the grass. Evan watched him for a long moment, but he was momentarily distracted by a bird overhead, and when he looked back to the spot on the sidewalk Connor had been last, there was no one.

Had he just completely imagined the entire exchange? Evan shook his head. Maybe the heat was getting to him. A gust of cool air washed over him as he went into the house, tip toeing upstairs to the guest room to get a change of clothes and his towel. He probably just needed a shower and maybe some food, since he hadn’t eaten yet.

Strange boys in hospital gowns weren’t important, he told himself. Strange boys in hospital gowns were just figments of his active imagination.

 

 

“So, Evan, what did you do today? Did you go into the city?”

Evan stared down at his food, unsure how to answer that. He knew his dad was just trying to make small talk, but that was the last thing Evan wanted. He would’ve been content to sit there and watch his step-siblings (half-siblings, he tried to remember) bicker and goof off. But he had to answer the question.

“Um-no. I stayed here? C-called Jared.” That was a lie, but his dad didn’t need to know.

“Yeah? That’s great, kiddo. How’s he doing?” His dad spoke around a mouthful of pasta, which made Evan cringe a little. He watched as Janette, the youngest kid, poked at a meatball, nearly pushing it off over the edge of her plate.

“He’s-I dunno. Normal?” Evan hadn’t actually texted or spoken to Jared at all since school ended a week ago.

His dad tried to smile at him, but it was obviously tense. Michelle, his wife, reached over to help Janette cut up the meatball so she could eat it properly. Evan poked at his own, not in the slightest bit hungry.

“Do you want to watch a movie with us tonight, Evan?” Michelle’s voice was nice enough, but Evan didn’t like the way she said his name. He didn’t like that they all tended to use his name every single time they talked to him. It did nothing but stress him out even more than he already was.

So he shook his head slowly. “I actually-uh, I’m gonna go upstairs if that’s-if that’s okay.”

“Could you just bring your plate to the sink? Thanks, Evan.” His dad gave him another weird smile, which Evan tried (and probably failed) to return. He just nodded, short and quick, and fled the table with his plate. Of the pasta and salad originally on it, he had eaten maybe less than a quarter. Evan felt a little bad, but his stomach was too twisted up. Eating as an entire family was something he hadn’t done since he was in kindergarten, and he didn’t like it.

On his way up the stairs, he paused.

“He’s trying his best, Shell,” his dad was saying, voice hushed.

“It’s like he doesn’t even want to be here, Mark. The least he could do is finish his dinner.”

Evan winced. He knew Michelle had a point, but it still hurt to hear. He was trying. He was. It was just hard, being away from his mom and the possible job at the park he’d passed up to come here, away from his therapist, even if he barely helped, away from a familiar bus system.

No, he couldn’t think about that. So instead of continuing to listen, Evan hurried the rest of the way up the stairs, footsteps muffled by the thick carpet. The door of the guest room closed quietly behind him, and he flopped onto the bed, making a pillow fall off to the side.

There was something incredibly uncomfortable about the stiffness of the sheets and the almost overdone softness of the bed. Evan kind of sunk into it, and it was hard to turn around to lay on his back. The ceiling was bare, whiter than his own room back home, and there weren’t any glow stars taped up. It made Evan close his eyes to block out the unfamiliar view.

“You should really lock your window.”

Evan shot up, looking around frantically for the second time that day. The voice was familiar, and sure enough, the strange boy was standing near his window. His sweatpants were gone, leaving his long legs incredibly bare, and his hair was visibly brushed. It looked soft. But he looked… a lot more exhausted. There were dark shadows under his eyes, and his shoulders were slumped.

“H-how did you get in here?” Evan asked, crossing his legs as he turned to look at the strange boy.  

The boy, Connor, just shrugged. “Just did. Don’t question it. I’m here, tada.” He did a little wave with both hands like he was showing something off.

Evan just stared.

“Are you a-uh. A hal-hallucination?” he asked, tilting his head to the side slowly. His window was closed, so how had Connor climbed in? And wouldn’t Evan have heard him? He wasn’t really expecting Connor to answer, and sure enough, all he got was a shrug.

“Why are you h-here?” he asked instead, but that also went unanswered. Connor just shrugged again and walked around to the other side of the bed, where he fell onto his back, hands on his stomach. His hospital gown was riding up, so Evan reached out to pull it down for the sake of modesty, but Connor flinched away.

“Don’t,” he growled, voice dropping to a deadly tone. “Don’t fucking touch me.”

Evan yanked his hand back and climbed off of his bed to go sit on the weird, overly soft chair in the corner, where he pulled his knees up to his chest. “S-sorry,” he muttered. “I didn’t mean to-to um, to startle you.” He looked down at the floor as he bit the inside of his cheek. But when he didn’t hear a response, he glanced at his bed.

The boy was gone. Again. And there was only a small indent in the covers where Evan had been sitting, no trace of Connor.

He sighed. He was finally slowly losing it, but at least his hallucination was just a sad looking boy in a pale purple hospital gown with hair Evan wanted to touch.

Chapter Text

The buzzing of his alarm was silenced without Evan touching it. He wasn’t even sure why he still had the thing set to blare that awful ringing every morning. It wasn’t even his school alarm, as it was set to 9:15 am. Evan was too tired to think about it, so he rolled over onto his side to face his window and pulled his blanket up further. Only, when he expected the bright sunlight to turn everything behind his eyelids a hazy red, nothing happened. Something was blocking his window, and it definitely wasn’t curtains, for the room had none.

Slowly squinting out of one eye gave Evan all the answers he needed.

“Good morning, sunshine,” said the boy crouching barely a foot away from his face. His hair was framing his pale face, and his mouth was drawn in a thin line.

“Ah-ack! What the h-hell!” Evan yelped, once the situation sunk in. He sat up and scrambled away, the blankets coming with. He misjudged the width of the bed in his scrambling, and in a flash was going tumbling backward, landing on his back with a painful thump on the thin carpet of his room.

Connor appeared standing over him not a second later, arms crossed. Somewhere in his head, Evan registered he was wearing pajama pants with stars on them. “Is this going to be a habit? You falling off of shit whenever I show up?”

“Two t-times isn’t a pattern, it’s a-um, a coincidence,” Evan grumbled as he sat up, rubbing his back and wincing. That would probably bruise. He sat down on the bed gingerly, cross-legged like the night before, while Connor went to flop onto his chair. His long legs hung over one arm, his hair falling towards the floor as his head lolled over the other arm.

The apathetic shrug he got as an answer was starting to really annoy Evan, but he wasn’t about to say that out loud.

“Two can be a pattern if I say it is,” Connor said when Evan remained silent. “It’ll probably happen again, anyway. So far, you’ve fallen off of something over half the times I’ve shown up.”

All Evan could focus on though, was… “Happen again? A-are you-uh, saying you’ll be back?” Despite the fact Connor was, most likely, completely imaginary, Evan couldn’t help but like the idea of an… apathetic hallucination to talk to. Sure it was pathetic, but wasn’t everything he did pathetic? So this wouldn’t be any different.

Again, the shrug. But this time Connor sat up, running a hand through his hair. He ended the movement by tugging at the end, wincing, and dropping his hand to the arm of the plush chair.

“Um-okay, well. I can’t-we shouldn’t-uh. What if my dad’s f-family hears?”

Something in Evan’s words must have caught Connor’s attention, because where previously his gaze had been drifting somewhere near the blank ceiling, it suddenly snapped to Evan.

“Your ‘dads’ family?’” he questioned, narrowing his eyes. “So this isn’t your normal family?”

Evan shook his head, staring down at his lap. “This is-um, This is my d-dad’s house. Mom-she’s my-, I dunno, my real family, I guess? She lives-um. In uh… N-New York? I’m just, you know, visiting.” Visiting for the entire summer instead of doing an internship he’d been thinking about for months. Instead of an entire summer away from people, surrounded by plants and bugs and furry creatures, Evan had to learn how to interact with a family that felt almost alien. He hated it. Why had he agreed, anyway? Oh, right. To give his mom a break, so she didn’t have to deal with him. So she could have a break. Because why would she even want him there when she-

“Uh… Hansen?” Connor was standing in front of him, at the foot of his bed, leaning one hand on the soft fabric. “You good?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, and pulled his knees up to his chest to hug them. “S-sorry, uh. Can I-can you go? I me-mean, you’re just in my head, so can’t I, um-," he waved his hand a little bit like some sort of magic swish. “Can I make you disappear?”

Connor stared. His eyes were sharp, but clouded, like he was looking at Evan through a mist. Evan shifted under the heavy gaze. Connor blinked, then said, “Not my choice.”

Evan’s shoulders dropped. Sure, it was nice to talk to someone, but it wasn’t even ten in the morning, and he was really tired. “I just-um. I need to sh-shower and get dressed? And I-I uh, I don’t mind you being here! But it’s…”

“You want your privacy.”

“Yeah.” He tried not to sigh again as he stared down at his bare toes. Maybe he should start sleeping with socks again so if this weird hallucination showed up, he wouldn’t have to deal with seeing Evan’s toes, because some people cared about that, right? Or maybe that was weird because Connor wasn’t a person with thoughts, he was most likely just Evan’s own subconscious being fed up with his lameness.

As Connor stood up properly and started to pace, Evan noticed he didn’t make a single sound. Even though the strange boy was wearing socks (white with gold toes, a little voice in his head noted), there wasn’t even a quiet shuffle or a single soft thump as Connor almost stomped around. He kind of figured his imagination would’ve added that detail, but apparently not. But as he watched, Connor flinched, as if he heard something incredibly loud.

And then he evaporated. Or faded. Whatever it was, he disappeared right in front of Evan’s eyes.

There was no sign he had been there, nothing but Evan’s memory, and even that was something he wasn’t sure he trusted or believed.

Because why would someone like Connor, someone who he could talk to with no real fear of judgment or things he said getting out, be real?



By the end of the day, Evan had convinced himself that Connor wasn’t real. Maybe he was a dream, maybe he was just crazy, but Evan knew he shouldn’t even begin to hope Connor was more than the creation of another session of overly intense maladaptive daydreaming.

Sundown found Evan sitting in the backyard, staring at a flock of small, black birds diving around and making swift circles. They were probably catching bugs, but Evan just liked watching their patterns in the hazy evening air. The way they swooped and dipped helped keep Evan distracted enough to keep away the buzzing static that was constantly hanging behind his eyes like a lead curtain.

A chime from his phone interrupted his bird watching, and he pulled it out to look quickly. It was just his mom asking if he’d been writing those dumb letters, the assignment Doctor Sherman had given him in place of therapy appointments. Maybe he should try and write one, since the last one he’d written had been right before leaving, and was left in his room back home.

Slowly, he pushed himself up, took one more look at the birds, and trudged upstairs to his room. Dinner would be soon, and he could hear Michelle in the kitchen with Janette and Natasha, laughing along to something the little kids were saying. Evan avoided them, hurrying past Anthony’s closed room door. Once he made it to his room, he pulled out a notebook from his bag, along with a pencil, and lay on his stomach on his bed to write.

 

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today wasn’t a bad day. I don’t think it was a good day either, but neutral days are okay, right?

I think I might go to the park tomorrow. Dad gave me a bus pass and an address, and it might be nice to leave this house. I think they might want me to try babysitting, but I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know how to act around the kids.

Mom said I would have fun here, but so far I’ve kind of just been doing the same thing I do back home, only I’m even more uncomfortable, and I don’t know how to act around Dad.

I don’t know what else to say. I’m trying not to give up.

Sincerely, your kind of lame and kind of lonely best friend,

Me.

 

The letter felt a little depressing, but it was better than nothing. He knew he could’ve just skipped the assignment altogether and just written a bunch of fake ones once the summer was over, but that would’ve taken a lot of time. And who knows, maybe Doctor Sherman wasn’t even going to read the letters. Maybe he was just tricking Evan into writing them.

With that depressing thought, he set the notebook aside and reached for the book on his bedside table. If he couldn’t do anything else, at least he could read.

He managed to get through all of three pages before -

“Do you do anything with your life at all? Or is it all just sitting around pathetically and staring at things.”

When Evan looked up, there was Connor, and his shoulders slumped at the sight of the pale boy. So he was back, Evan was still crazy, and Connor looked really pissed. His hair was a mess, his legs were bare again but he had socks on, and his arms were crossed tightly.

“What the fuck are you looking at?” Connor growled, and Evan hastily looked away, focusing on his book. Maybe if he just ignored the hallucination, he would go away.

“Oh come on, you too? Just fucking look at me!”

Evan flinched away from the harsh voice, squeezing his eyes shut and curling onto his side with his hands over his face. He just wanted a normal summer. A normal summer with no weird hallucinations, no weird mind games, but a normal summer like a normal teenager, please -

“You think I’m a hallucination?!”

Evan froze. Had he said all that out loud? He peaked out at Connor through his fingers. “I-uh, d-did you, did you hear all that…?” The nod of confirmation was all it took for Evan to curl up even more, his breathing turning shallow, his spines tingling, his fingers slowly going numb. Not good.

“-nd I’m not, trust me, I’m not your fucking imagination, and- are you even listening to me?”

Whatever Connor had been saying was completely lost on Evan, the white noise of his voice blending into the sound of his stepmother downstairs and the kids and a bird outside and the occasional car passing by. It was all too much, and Evan wasn’t sure how to handle it. He knew he should be fine, normal teenagers didn’t get overwhelmed so easily, but his blunt nails were digging into his palms and his fists were covering his face and his cheeks were hot and his eyes felt moist and his back was cold and his shoulders were shaking.

“I swear to fuck-what the hell is wrong with you?” A brush of warm air - he probably forgot to close the window - seemed to curl around Evan’s shoulder, but it only made a ragged gasp rip through his chest, like all the air was sucked out of his lungs.

The warm air disappeared, and Evan curled further into himself. Then, the air was back, around both shoulders, a warm, light pressure, and so gentle it made Evan want to lean into it. But it was air, and Evan couldn’t do that, so he just gasped quietly into his fists and shook, ignoring the way hot tears kept dripping down his nose and cheeks, getting on his blanket and his lips.

“Shit, fuck-okay, uh, breathe? No, that’s fucking stupid-," Connor was saying something, but Evan wasn’t really listening, at least not at first. But as his breathing slowly, very slowly, started to regulate itself, he realized Connor was trying to… Calm him down? Even if it wasn’t really helping, it would’ve made Evan smile if he wasn’t so shaky.

Connor kept talking, random things, the usual comforts, while simultaneously cursing and berating the world and himself and Evan. And… it weirdly helped. Maybe it was the fact he knew Connor was at least trying, or it was whatever warm air was still gently brushing against his shoulders and back, but Evan was genuinely calming down. He went from lying curled up in a tense version of the fetal position to relaxing, his hands falling from his face to rest on the bed. His shoulders slumped, his breathing was coming easier, and the tears had stopped.

As he took a deep, ragged breathe in, finally sighing and fully relaxing, the warm air started to disappear. And with it, Connor’s voice melted in into the background, and Evan knew he was gone again.

It wasn’t as dramatic as the other times, and Evan was so tired, so he didn’t do anything. He just kept his eyes closed as he slowly breathed, wondering what on earth Connor actually was, and why he had tried to help Evan calm down.

Chapter Text

Three days went by before Evan saw Connor again. During those three days, Evan got on the bus to go to the park, missed the stop and just went back to his dad’s house, read more of his book, and wrote more letters. His life was… tragically boring, and he realized he kind of missed the peculiar mystery that was Connor. And because he missed Connor, or what Connor signified, he thought a lot about what the mystery boy could be.

If Connor was a hallucination, that would mean Evan was crazy, and he knew he was a little messed up, but he didn’t think he was crazy. Plus, his therapist would hate that wording, but Evan spent a lot of his life trying to ignore or at least deny diagnoses, because they rarely ever helped him, always just somehow managed to make him feel like even more of a problem.

If Connor was some sort of ghost, that would mean he was dead and could ghosts even change clothes? It didn’t make sense. Most ghost stories involved the ghost not being able to interact with physical objects, but Connor could sit in his chair, and walk on his floor. It frustrated Evan to no end.

If Connor was just a dream, that would make sense. But Evan could never remember going to sleep or waking up in the right times for Connor to appear, and Evan was pretty sure he didn’t have the mental creativity to dream up someone like Connor.

So it didn’t make any sense. At all.

But Evan had other things to focus on, like the three-year-old toddler currently staring at him from her little bed, wrapped in a blanket covered in a pattern of watermelon slices, her hair in two tiny braids. Natasha and Anthony were both at friend’s houses for sleepovers, and his dad and Michelle were out to dinner and wouldn’t be back till late, so Evan had been left to babysit.

“Um-do you want to read… or, I mean, I can read to you?”

Janette just blinked at him and moved to set her stuffed lamb under her head as she curled up with the blanket, big, dark brown eyes staring into his. She didn’t talk much around him, which was fine, but it was really hard to know what to do.

“Okay, so-let’s read, y-yeah?” Evan slowly picked a book from the shelf, which happened to be The Little Prince , and slowly began reading. He was terrible at reading out loud, but the book had some pictures Janette could look at, which would give him a small break from talking every few pages. It took four chapters for Janette to stop tapping his arm for him to show her a picture, and another chapter for her to nod off.

“‘If s-someone loves a-uh, a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the mil-millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him, to make him, um, happy just to look at the stars…’” Evan trailed off as he ended the paragraph to look over at Janette, and when he noticed she was sleeping, he quietly stood up, book in hand. He reached to set it back in its place in the shelf, but something stopped him. So instead, he just turned off the lamp, leaving the room illuminated only the soft light of a pineapple shaped nightlight, and quietly tiptoed up to his room, book in hand.

Once he was on his bed, Evan opened the book to the page he was on and continued reading. The little prince was talking about his love for his rose, and it made Evan smile a little sadly. He loved the rose so intensely, despite being so far away from her. All he wanted was for his rose to be protected, even though he was so far away from her.

It was a sweet story, even if it made Evan’s heart twinge. It probably wasn’t easy to love something so far away, to care for someone impossible to reach from where the little prince stood on Earth.

Once he made it through another few chapters, he stopped reading, tore a scrap of paper from his notebook, and bookmarked his place with it. The book was set on his bedside table underneath his other one, and Evan lay back against his pillows. It wasn’t very late, and the sun was still up, so it felt too early to go to bed. But he also couldn’t leave the house and go anywhere since he was technically still babysitting.

What he could do, though, was go to the backyard. There was an old elm tree with a branch just low enough he could pull himself up onto it, and it would probably be a good place to sit. Before he went there, though, he went to the kitchen to grab a snack. After gathering a granola bar and an apple and a juice box, Evan slipped on his sneakers and quietly exited the house to cross the backyard.

The sky was turning golden, the clouds catching the rays of the sun, and it was actually a really lovely evening. The choir of various bugs around combined with the distant noises of the city was good white noise, and Evan was smiling as he hoisted himself up into the tree. He shimmed up one branch, stepped across another, and finally sat down on with his back to a particularly large branch, one foot hanging down, the other resting on the branch he was sitting on. It was nice; a little uncomfortable, but still nice.

It was as he was finishing his apple that Connor appeared again. And luckily, it didn’t scare Evan so badly this time. One second, the grass below him was empty, the next moment Connor was standing there. He wasn’t looking up, so he couldn’t see Evan, and he looked around almost expectantly.

“Um-h-hey? Up here?” Evan called out, voice hushed.

Connor looked up with a glare, but there wasn’t much heat behind it. He looked… exhausted. Even more so than normal. Evan felt guilty, for some reason.

“S-sorry, uh, I didn’t think you were coming back.”

“’S fine. Whatever,” Connor mumbled. He looked away from Evan pretty quickly, scratching at the bandages on his arm. They were a different color, a weird skin tone, with white pads sticking out from under the edges.

Evan debated for a second, then said, “Do you want to, um-do you wanna… come up here?”

He didn’t get a response from Connor, but the other boy did look up at him again with wide, wide eyes. Then he reached one hand up and clambered, very ungracefully, into the tree. He sat a branch below Evan, a little far away, so they could see each other’s faces. Evan noticed he was wearing the original navy blue sweatpants. His hair was flat. Evan decided he spent too much time looking at Connor’s appearance.

“Why are you in a tree?” was what finally broke the silence, and Connor was staring at the ground when he spoke.

Evan shrugged. “I, um-I like trees, I guess.”

Silence stretched between them, and Evan fidgeted with his apple core. He wasn’t sure what to do with it. Could he drop it? But what if Connor commented on it? He could technically eat all of it and spit out the seeds, but that was even weirder. Since all those options were weird, Evan just held onto it and snuck glances at Connor.

The biggest thing he realized was how sick Connor looked. His fingertips looked like they were almost tinged with purple, and his knuckles were red. The shadows under his eyes matched the shadows cast by the leaves across his cheeks, except those shadows were warm from the setting sun’s light, and the shadows under his eyes were like smudged bruises. He was a mess. Evan didn’t know what to think of that, so he didn’t. He focused on the slight breeze, on the clouds, on the stickiness of the apple core in his hand. Those were easier things to focus on.

The sun was significantly lower in the sky by the time either of them spoke again, and, like before, it was Connor who dared to interrupt the quiet.

“I think I’m a ghost,” he muttered. It was so quiet that Evan almost didn’t hear it. “Or-I don’t fucking know. I guess I’m a partial ghost.”

Evan hesitated. He had a couple options here. Either he could just be quiet and leave it at that, or he could ask Connor what that meant. But the silence was starting to get to him, so Evan had to say something.

“Uh-what does that, um-what does that mean?” He asked. His voice was barely above a whisper, and at first, he thought Connor hadn’t heard him. But when he opened his mouth to repeat himself, Connor held up his hand to stop him from speaking.

“I heard you,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out how the fuck to say it.”

Evan nodded, and stayed as quiet and still as he could. His juice box was unopened and hanging heavy in the pocket of his hoodie, with the granola bar in the other. If he moved, it made a tiny crinkling noise, and since he was worried that would annoy Connor, he remained frozen. Luckily, it only took a few moments for Connor to start speaking.

“I’m uh-in a hospital bed somewhere,” he started, gesturing vaguely with the same hand that stopped Evan from speaking. “Sometimes when I fall asleep, I end up… Like this. In this shitty, invisible state. Except apparently, you can see me. So that fucked things up. Because there’s no way I could dream someone like you up so that rules out painkiller induced dreams.”

“Someone like m-me?” Evan pushed his back closer to the tree, picking at his sleeve as he did his best impression of coming off as casual.

“Forget it,” Connor dismissed him and moved on. “So I guess I’m fucking just… Here. Haunting you from the non-grave.”

“But why me?”

Connor shrugged. “I don’t fucking know. Because you live a boring life and a half-ghost would make it more exciting? It’s not like I have a fucking manual or whatever.”

“Sorry,” Evan sighed. “I didn’t uh-I didn’t mean to… Just. Sorry.”

Despite not looking at him, Evan know Connor was glaring at him, he could feel it. But he didn’t look up, because if he saw the glare, he might freak out, and freaking out never lead anywhere good. But he hated the heavy quiet, he hated the way his shoulders were tensing up. So finally, he looked up at say something, and -

Connor was gone.

So Evan just sighed, pulled out his juice box, and took a long sip.

Chapter Text

> jkman @ 9:23pm: dude hows ur dads place

> E.Hansen @ 9:30pm: It’s a nice house.

> jkman @ 9:31pm: y know what i meant

> E.Hansen @ 9:34pm: His family is nice.

> jkman @ 9:36pm: fuck it’s that bad huh?? ?

> E.Hansen @ 9:37pm: It’s fine. It could be worse.

> jkman @ 9:38pm: are u gonna die there & if u do can i have ur shit

> E.Hansen @ 9:42pm: I’m not going to die here!

> jkman @ 9:45pm: if u say so but if u don’t txt me regularly ill check hospitals to see if u died

> E.Hansen @ 9:49pm: Goodnight, Jared.

> jkman @ 9:51pm: im serious

> jkman @ 9:51pm: well kinda

> jkman @ 9:52pm: anyway gnight dude dont die heidi would b sad

 

Evan was sitting on his bed with his laptop in his lap, staring at Jared’s messages. He hadn’t expected Jared to message him, and he definitely hadn’t expected Jared to give him an idea. Connor said he was in a hospital somewhere, right? So what if Evan could find him? Except… Evan didn’t have his last name. Or a location. So his idea was kind of useless. But if Connor came back, maybe he could get information out of him? It would make his summer more exciting, at least. But it also felt like an invasion of privacy.

This dilemma now heavy on his conscious, Evan closed his laptop and sat back in his desk chair. His dad said they would be back around eleven, so he had an hour or so to kill time, and he had no idea what to do. Of course, he could go read more, but he’d done a lot of that. Or maybe he could write another letter or something. Evan’s life was… not very interesting at home. But here it was so dull it was starting to get to him. He hadn’t expected to want a possible hallucination, possible ghost to show up, but he actually kind of did.

But since he couldn’t seem to conjure Connor up himself (he’d tried, a couple times), he had to just wait around. And Evan wasn’t good at waiting, despite when he tried to persuade himself.

“Hey kid, we’re home early!” His dad sticking his head in Evan’s room made him jump, and his laptop fell off his lap.

“D-dad! Hey! Um, I th-thought you guys were, uh-getting back l-later?” He closed his laptop with a quiet snap, hands shaking slightly as his heart refused to calm down.

His dad sighed. “Yeah, well, we had to pick up Natasha from the White’s, since she was really homesick, so now we’re home. Did you eat dinner?”

Evan nodded. “Y-yeah! Yeah, of course.” He hadn’t.

“Good. That’s good.” Mark lingered in the door, and Evan hopes desperately that he would just… leave. It was too weird to be in his house, and he had no idea how to interact. Luckily, it seemed his dad could sense the awkwardness. “Well, Shell and I are gonna head to bed. Have a good night, kid.”

Evan waved, small and one-handed, with a weak smile. “Goodnight, d-dad.” He hated when his dad called him “kid,” but he wasn’t about to say that, just like he wasn’t going to say a lot of things. Evan was used to keeping things close to his chest, after all.

His dad closed the door behind him, and Evan sighed in relief and lay back on his pillows. It was late enough to maybe go to sleep, but he wasn’t very tired. That being said, he would probably fall asleep if he tried, so he got up to set his laptop away and change into pajamas, and kept only his phone as he went to curl back up in bed.

It took him almost an hour, but he was eventually tired enough of scrolling through various social media threads and was able to set his phone to the side and turn over onto his back. The room wasn’t very dark, and the moon outside was enough light for Evan to see even the texture of his ceiling. It was kind of soothing, actually, but also eerie, and Evan wasn’t sure exactly how to feel about it.

On one hand, the moon’s light was soft and unintrusive, but it also was so entirely different from his room back home that it made Evan jittery and unable to relax. But it was late, and he really was tired, so he was able to start to drift off to sleep.

It didn’t last long.

Evan wasn’t sure how long he was asleep, but he was woken up by the sound of something scratching. It sounded kind of like a dog, but quieter, and instead of dealing with it, Evan just pulled the blanket up over his head and tried to go back to sleep. But the silence wouldn’t stop. And after a few minutes of it, Evan grabbed a pillow to bury his face into.

“I know you’re awake, Hansen.”

Evan sat bolt upright, the pillow previously covering his head falling to the floor. When his gaze snapped to his window where it seemed the voice was coming from, he saw no one.

“Down here, genius,” the voice came again, but from below. And when Evan looked down to his floor, there was Connor, laying on the carpet, arms stretched out, hair falling everywhere, staring at Evan’s ceiling. The scratching was his single fingernail scratching against the wall of his room, below his window. For once, he was wearing a shirt as well as pajama pants, and the hospital gown was mysteriously missing.

“Your carpet fucking is uncomfortable,” Connor mumbled. His lips barely moved when he spoke, and Evan could almost not hear his words. “You could always offer me a pillow or something.” He gave Evan a pointed look with those words, and Evan awkwardly reached over to the other side of his bed to grab the fallen pillow and hand it to him. Connor stared at the pillow for an extra second, then carefully accepted it. For half a second, Evan thought their fingers brushed, but it was just a fleeting second of soft warmth.

“Why are you here?” Evan finally asked once Connor was situated with the pillow beneath his head and his hands on his stomach now. “I m-mean, uh, just-“

“It’s better than the alternative.” Connor’s voice was so monotone as he spoke. “So I’m here, even if I don’t think I have control over it.”

Evan could accept that, except it was late, he wasn’t sure how late, and he should probably be asleep. “Okay-um, well. C-could you… D-do I need to stay up? With you?”

Connor didn’t respond. In the pale moonlight, he looked genuinely ghostly, save for the darkness of his hair all spread out around him and the thin curve of his eyebrows and the darkness of his lashes, and -oh, Connor was looking at him with half-lidded eyes.

“S-sorry, I just -um, I’m re-really tired? And I uh, I want to go to bed…” It really was late, and even if Evan didn’t have school in the morning, he didn’t want to sleep in, in case his dad’s family thought that was weird. “So, um… D-do you want company, I guess?”

Pale eyes were still fixed on Evan, but they looked so glazed over that Evan wasn’t even entirely sure Connor was really seeing him.

It took an extra long minute of slightly uncomfortable eye contact for Connor to speak again.

“Do whatever.”

“Oh.” Evan crossed his legs and grabbed a pillow to hug to his chest as he looked down at Connor. “Okay.”

Connor looked away, and they remained in silence, Connor staring at the ceiling, Evan trying to pretend he wasn’t staring at Connor. But it was hard not to since he was the most unfamiliar thing in the room, which made him stand out.

Eventually, Evan laid down on his side and stared at the window, watching as the moon slowly crossed his window. It wasn’t like he could actually see it move, but he lay there for long enough, completely spacing out, for it to start slipping out of sight. Evan was almost asleep by that point, but he was awake enough to hear Connor sigh, small and shaky, and then speak.

“My parents want me to go inpatient.” He didn’t give context or explanation, but Evan understood it. He wasn’t stupid, he knew what the bandages on Connor’s arms meant. Even if he couldn’t see them right now under the sleeves, he knew they were there, and he could guess what happened. Sure, Evan had never done anything like to himself, be he would be lying if he said he’d never thought about it.

“D-do you want to?” he asked, not looking at Connor. “Go, um-inpatient. Do you want to go inpatient?”

“Fuck no, that place won’t do shit.”

“Then what do you um… Want to do?” Evan wanted to look at Connor, but he knew if he did, then the moment would be too intense and he wouldn’t be able to say anything, and he had a suspicion that Connor might also freeze up.

Connor was silent for a moment. “I want to go the fuck back to Markh-uh, home.”

The slip up almost went over Evan’s head, but he still caught it and filed it away for later. But that wasn’t the important part of the moment. “C-can you tell them that…?”

A scoff was all he received as an answer.

“Oh, um-sorry.” Evan didn’t know what Connor’s relationship with his parents was, but that didn’t make it sound like it was good. “I uh-c-can you at least talk to them? Maybe?”

“You don’t know my fucking parents,” he snapped

Evan bit his lip to stop himself from apologizing again because he knew that was annoying, and Connor seemed kind of tense and definitely didn’t need Evan annoying him.

“Fuck, sorry.”

The apology surprised Evan, and he shot a very quick glance to Connor, whose eyes were now closed.

“My parents are… fucking controlling.” It seemed like Connor was going to say more, but he didn’t. He just lay there, mouth twisted downwards, eyes still closed, while Evan watched him. It was probably a little creepy, but Evan was tired, and it was impossible to look away.

But since neither of them said anything, it was the last words spoken that night, as a few moments later, Connor opened his eyes, glanced over at Evan, and started to fade. Their eyes met as Connor disappeared, and for half a second, Evan almost felt like Connor was there in flesh and blood, like he could reach out and touch him.

It was only once Connor had completely vanished that Evan realized he’d stopped thinking of Connor as a hallucination, and more like an actual person, someone with a family and a life, not just a figment of his imagination. And maybe this was all a dream, maybe Evan really was just that lonely, but something about Connor felt so incredibly real. Despite the way he repeatedly disappeared, Evan was beginning to develop a nagging suspicion that Connor really was, in fact, there, showing up and talking to Evan.

If Evan could just keep believing that, things would be less lonely here. Maybe if Connor kept showing up, the summer wouldn’t be so bad. Connor wasn’t exactly the ideal candidate for a friend, but it wasn’t like Evan could be picky.

And what if Connor could understand it? What if he could understand what it was like to feel so uncomfortably isolated on a distant island an infinity away from everyone else in the world, waving helplessly, invisible to all?

And finally, the last thing Evan thought of as he pulled his blanket back up and buried his face in his pillow, so fleeting he would forget it in the morning, was what if Connor appearing in front of him was a gift from the universe?

But Evan was too tired to ponder that thought, and he was fast asleep again before the thought was really fully processed.

Chapter Text

As the days of the summer went on, and as July finally took over, Connor continued to show up. He showed up while Evan was on his bed reading, while he was walking around the neighborhood, while he was sitting in the tree in the backyard. Once, Connor appeared while Evan was eating dinner with everyone, and he nearly choked on a green bean. It made Connor snicker, but no one else reacted, and Evan stuttered out a scolding when Connor followed him upstairs.

His dad thought he spent a lot of time on the phone with Jared when in reality, he just… talked to Connor. It took a little while for them to figure out how to talk to each other, and they were both painfully awkward, but Evan figured out that Connor preferred when Evan would just talk without asking for responses, and if neither of them felt like talking, they could lay on the floor and Evan could play songs on his laptop.

They also discovered Connor could touch inanimate things if he wasn’t thinking too hard about it. But the second he started thinking about it, he would lose the ability to interact with whatever he was touching.

The most notable of these times was when they were sitting on Evan’s bed watching whatever youtube videos they could think of, and Connor tried to adjust his position and fell straight through the bed. It made Evan giggle embarrassingly while Connor reappeared next to the bed a second later, glaring and cursing under his breath.

Evan also noticed how Connor’s clothes changed, since that was the only window to his real life Evan had.

For a while, he rotated between pajamas and the hospital gown, or a combination of both. It was usually the hospital gown in the daytime, sometimes with pajama pants, sometimes without. He also noticed Connor would put his hair up on better days, when his eyes weren’t so glassed over and he spoke more than the days when he just stared at various things, like the wall, a tree, the floor, or sometimes even Evan.

The first day Connor showed up in different clothes, Evan stared for what was a lot longer than was socially acceptable. It was about two weeks since the first time he’d shown up, and he looked… tired. But not tense. But Evan didn’t notice this until after. What he did notice were the black skinny jeans and scuffed boots, the button up, and the hoodie.

“If you keep staring, I’m gonna start charging you,” was what Connor had muttered, but the way his fists were clenching the sleeves of his hoodie portrayed some sort of nervousness.

Evan had squeaked and made up some lame excuse, but he kept staring. It was weird, and Connor looked a lot softer, but it was also a good look, besides the fact it was hot for Evan, and he could barely wear a long sleeve without overheating so seeing Connor in so many layers was incredibly off-putting.

But the summer continued to tick by, and Connor continued to show up, and Evan continued to be confused by the entire thing. There were details that didn’t add up, like the fact that Connor said he appeared here when he was asleep, but he appeared during the day so often. There was the way Connor wouldn’t say anything but the barest of details, and the fact he looked so uncomfortably distant at times. But Evan knew questioning him wouldn’t help, so he bit his tongue and held it all back.

The beginning of July brought along the sounds of fireworks at night, and apparent plans for a neighborhood barbecue. Evan was invited along with the family, but it was at some park, was supposed to include the entire neighborhood, and sounded terrifying. Despite his protests, however, the fourth of July saw Evan being loaded into the back of the minivan with the kids, wishing with every fiber of his being he was upstairs in his room away from people. After a twenty minute drive, they arrived at the top of a sizable hill on the edge of the city, parking in a lot full of other family cars, the park already filled with other families.

It took all of twenty minutes for Evan to flee the grassy field where everyone was congregated, away from the parents drinking beer and shepherding small children around. The park consisted of a large field with a baseball diamond in one corner, a sizable playground alongside, and a small hillside sloping down with a thicket of bushes and a few small trees curving around the hillside, shielding it from sight.

Evan went there, where the noise of everyone was a little quieter. The small hill ended in more forest pretty quickly, but he could see over the tops of the trees, where more houses were spread out, eventually turning into the rest of the city. But best of all, with the way the sun was starting to dip low enough for the sky to turn peachy pink, Evan knew he would have a pretty good view of the sunset. Even with the chorus of small children in the background, it was pretty quiet. Evan was able to sit in the dry grass and lean back on his hands, legs stretched out. The grass was itchy against his bare legs since it was way too hot to wear anything but shorts, but it was still pretty nice. The tiniest of breezes made the heat just bearable.

As he was sitting there, just watching the movement of cars in the city below, Evan spaced off enough so that he didn’t hear a pair of small footsteps coming up behind him. When he saw movement in the corner of his eye, though, he looked over to see a little girl, maybe eight or nine, wearing a bright red dress with a big bow on the back. She plopped down next to him with no questions, crossing her feet so her legs were hidden under her dress.

“Um-are you l-looking for something or, uh, someone?” Evan asked, but the little girl just shook her head.

“I just wanted to see the sunset!” she chirped, pointing to the sky and grinning up at Evan. “And sometimes, ummmm, my friends are too much!”

Evan laughed quietly, giving her a tiny smile in return. “Y-yeah? Um, the sunset won’t be for.. a while? B-but you can sit here, if you want.”

The little girl nodded, and her blonde pigtails bobbed. “My name’s Maddy, what’s yours?”

“E-Evan,” he said.

“Hi, Evan.”

“Hi, Maddy.”

The little girl, Maddy, giggled happily, then tucked her hands under her legs under her dress. They sat there quietly for a few minutes until Maddy finally turned to Evan and looked at him with wide, expectant eyes.

“Are you waiting for someone?”

“Huh?!” Evan wasn’t sure what that meant. Waiting for someone? What? The little girl just blinked and kept talking.

“You just kinda look like you’re… Missing something? Or, umm, ummm um, someone?” She said it all with a bright smile, but the words put Evan into a crisis. It wasn’t like he had been thinking about anything specific, except maybe wanting to be back at his dad’s house and hoping Connor would visit.

“Are you umm, hm, okay?” Maddy was still gazing up at him, but Evan didn’t know what to say. He had no idea children were so observant, and she was… she just looked at him like Evan was an open book. Were all kids like that? His little step (half) siblings weren’t, right?

His overthinking was interrupted by a lady in a floral blouse looking around frantically.

“Maddy! Honey, where have you been!” She rushed forward and pulled Maddy up, dusting off her dress and fussing with her hair.

“I made a friend!” Maddy said, gesturing emphatically towards Evan. “His name is Evan!”

The woman, presumably Maddy’s mom, gave Evan a worried look. “Okay, honey, well, now we have to go, okay? You can’t just talk to strangers.”

“It’s-um, sorry, it’s fine, m-miss…” Evan tried, but he mumbled it and the woman obviously didn’t hear or, more likely, didn’t care. She was hurrying Maddy away before Evan had a chance to apologize or explain anything more, and he was left sitting on the hill, once again alone.

He didn’t want to think about what Maddy said, but it was hard not to. He wasn’t waiting for someone, right? It had only been a few weeks, and that wasn’t enough time to get attached… right? Sure, they hung out - that was a good term, right? - at least an hour a day, usually more, and there was that one time they’d stayed up sitting outside to watch the stars, but that wasn’t weird, right? It wasn’t like Evan was super experienced with friendships, but from what he had seen in movies, this was a pretty stereotypical friendship, minus the fact Connor was, apparently, projecting himself across the country from wherever he was. But nevertheless, Maddy’s words had put a seed of doubt and confusion that was making Evan’s thoughts start to spiral.

“So what’s so special about this hill?”

Of course Connor showed up just then. Of course he did. And of course Evan made a god awful squeaking noise, and he could feel his face heat up.

“It’s a nice view, sure, but why are you here?” Connor was looking at him expectantly, and Evan’s throat was entirely closed off. It was like his words were just ripped from his throat and replaced with a void of silence. He pulled his legs up to hug them to his chest and focus on just breathing.

“You good, Hansen?”

No, he wasn’t “good.” He was trying not to freak out for a stupid reason. Doubting a friendship with someone he still wasn’t entirely 100% sure was real? How stupid was that? But he needed to say something, or give some kind of sign, because Connor was looking slightly concerned. But since words weren’t working, he held up a single finger in a silent request for a minute to gather his thoughts and remember how to breathe properly.

That must have worked to communicate something because suddenly Connor was out of his sightline, which probably meant he probably disappeared and went off back to wherever he really was.

The thought made Evan curl up tighter, hoping and praying that no one would come around to the little hill and see Evan freaking out.

As he was trying to swallow back an overly strong wave of whatever was boiling in his chest, the same gentle warmth from the second day of Connor appearing ran up his back. It was soft and light, spreading up to his shoulders and across his upper back, then back down and repeat, in slow, repetitive, circular motions. It wasn’t like a hand, it was too faint. If he focused on it, it disappeared. But it was definitely there, and like the first time, it almost immediately helped him start to calm down.

He sat there, hoping nobody would see them (or, well, just him), and focusing on the soft warmth on his back. There was something in the back of Evan’s head, some little flag trying to get his attention about this whole situation, but Evan was too distraught to pay attention to it. All he could really handle was breathing and the gentle warmth.

It took a few minutes, but eventually, Evan was able to pull his head up. He hadn’t actually cried, but his face felt overheated and itchy. He kept his eyes closed, though. That helped him not be too overwhelmed.

“You okay, Ev?” Since Evan thought Connor disappeared, he wasn’t expecting Connor’s voice, and he definitely wasn’t expecting Connor to call him Ev.

“I’m-um-” Evan wasn’t okay, but he wasn’t exactly close enough with Connor to know if that was okay. But the closeness of Connor’s voice, and the soft tone… It got to Evan. So while he didn’t verbally say anything, he just squeezed his eyes tighter shut, set his chin on his knees, and shook his head.
“I k-kind of want to go home,” he mumbled, then sighed heavily. “B-but um, I also, uh-having you here is-it’s… n-nice.” Real smooth. Evan was an utter master at words, and he tried not to cringe at how lame it sounded.

But the soft warm was back for half a second, brushing against his shoulder, and then it was gone again.

“You’re not so bad yourself, Hansen.”

Evan wanted to look at Connor. He really did. But what if it was too much? What if it overwhelmed him, or Connor was actually glaring at him? Or even worse, what if he turned his head to where he thought Connor was, and no one was there?

But if Evan was ever going to get better, he had to get over himself, and he had to try. So very slowly, he opened his eyes, and the red of the sunset flooded his vision. After a second of adjustment, he tilted his head to the left, where Connor’s voice had come from.

The sight of Connor looking so… rosy and warm in the glow of the sunset was unexpectedly beautiful. His hair was up, but there were pieces falling down, and he was looking directly at Evan. And as much as eye contact terrified him, it was impossible to look away.

Connor seemed to be thinking the same, as he watched Evan, eyes unblinking. He was sitting cross-legged, hands in his lap, head tilted down. enough that he could make eye contact with Evan. It was a lot. It was definitely a lot. But it was a lot that Evan was okay with, for some reason. Despite how heavy his shoulders felt, how his lungs still felt like they were struggling under a mysterious weight, Evan knew he wouldn’t have been able to look away from Connor in that moment if someone had offered him a hundred million dollars.

A firework interrupted them. It was loud, starting off as a shrill whine, then bursting into faint sparks.

“It’s not even dark yet,” Connor muttered. He turned away to look at the sky where the sparks had just faded. “Can’t people just wait till it’s dark?” His voice was low and dull like it usually was, but Evan could see the faintest hint of a blush, and that alone made Evan smile. He did look away, though, since he didn’t want to make Connor uncomfortable.

“I think they just get, um-over eager?” he said, gesturing vaguely towards the city. “And th-they look better at night, but um, I don’t think there’s anything stopping them…”

“You’ve got that right,” Connor huffed, half a laugh hidden somewhere behind his sullen glare. As he spoke, he reached up and tugged his hair loose, his hands dropping to the grass afterward. “But still, it’s fucking annoying.

Evan mimicked Connor’s quiet, almost half laugh, and then silence stretched between them.

This happened a lot while Connor hung around him. Sometimes there just wasn’t anything to say, and they would sit quietly while Evan read or something. It was a little awkward sometimes, but most of the time it was comfortable. This moment, however, felt ever so slightly charged. It wasn’t awkward per se, but it definitely wasn’t entirely comfortable. Evan felt like he shouldn’t look at Connor, but he desperately wanted to. He wanted to look at the way Connor’s hair fell around his face, but he didn’t have the courage.

Of course, just like usual, Connor disappeared too soon. He disappeared right as the sun dipped below the horizon, and Evan slouched a little lower when he realized he was alone again.

A voice called out his name, probably his dad, so Evan stood up slowly to go join everyone else. But as he stood up, he noticed something in the grass. It was Connor’s hair tie, the kind that looked like a ribbon tied into a loop. Hesitantly, Evan bent down and picked it up. Never before had something on Connor’s being been so physical. He’d never even touched any part of Connor. After a second of staring at the object, Evan slipped it onto his wrist. It was dark blue, stretched enough to fit his wrist. As Evan stared down at it, he couldn’t help but smile.

Even if Connor was gone, he now had a little reminder, a tiny piece of proof that Connor was real.

Chapter Text

Connor was gone for two weeks

Sixteen days, specifically. Sixteen full days of no mysterious boy showing up around Evan.

Evan wanted to tell himself it was okay, but he knew it wasn’t. He hated being worried about Connor, he hated how terribly he wanted to see him. He hated how accurate the kid from the park’s words were.

On that day, after Connor had disappeared in the field, Evan was shepherded to the rest of the families so they could all gather together and eat some of the barbecue and then watch the fireworks. It was nice, and when his dad set Janette in his lap, he didn’t freak out, which was good, but he was distracted.

The way it felt to have Connor’s full gaze staring at him from barely over a foot away was branded into Evan’s memory.

Something Evan noticed was the way he fiddled with Connor’s hair tie when he thought about Connor. It was unfamiliarly soft, unlike most of the other hair ties Evan had seen in his life, not that he’d seen very many. It was also wide, so it didn’t hurt when he snapped it against his wrist. In fact, he could barely feel it. But it was an easy way to fidget, and it helped soothe his nerves.

The days without Connor were slow. They involved more letters, more reading, and even walking around the neighborhood and hopping on the bus to go to the park.

It was called Smiles Grove State Park, and mostly consisted of forest, but had a playground and large field with a small pavilion and picnic tables. It was nice, actually, and Evan spent enough time there to be semi-familiar with the area. There was an especially beautiful oak tree about a half hour walk from the main recreation area, and Evan was dying to climb it. But it was behind a rundown fence and was possibly part of someone’s private property. Despite the fact the fence would be pretty easy to get over or around, Evan hated the possible threat of being caught on possible private land. So he spent a lot of time in the little meadow on the non-oak tree side of the fence, staring wistfully at it.

His letters were the same over and over.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today is going to be a good day because you’re not attached to Connor, even if you kind of miss him. Today is going to be a good day because you’re not going to think about him and you’re going to keep yourself distracted.


He wrote about Connor because he figured he could just tell Doctor Sherman he made a friend with a kid from the neighborhood or something. But each letter was the same, just rephrased and reworded, masquerading as something else, but really, when it came down to it, they were all the same. Evan hated it, but couldn’t stop it.

On the eighth Connor-less day, his mom called.

“How are you doing, sweetie?” Her voice, while a little too sweet, made Evan’s heart do a weird constricting thing in his chest.

“I’m-um, I’m okay,” he mumbled. He was sitting on his bed with his feet on the carpet, staring down at his legs. “H-how are you?”

“I’m okay, too. How’s your father treating you?” That was something his mom always did. She always called him “your father.” Once in a while, she called him by his name, but it was rare. And sure, Evan understood why she did it, but it still made him feel so painfully far away from her.

“He’s… you know. Tr-trying, I guess.” Evan fidgeted with the hair tie around his wrist. “How’s, um, work? I guess?” Talking to his mom in normal everyday life was weird enough, so this was… even weirder.

She laughed quietly, and Evan could practically see her smile. “Work is good, hon. Someone came in today with an entire popsicle stick stuck between their cheeks, which was a little funny to see.” There was a pause, and Evan nervously laughed. It was actually kinda funny, once he thought about it. She kept talking. “Are you going to be okay there till the end of summer?”

“Y-yeah, yeah. Yeah, I will,” Evan said. He had to inhale deeply to calm himself a bit. “Um-I’m h-having a lot of fun, I promise.” He wasn’t having a lot of fun at the moment, and if Connor was gone for good then he wouldn’t know how to spend his days, but for now, things weren’t as bad as he expected. And he knew his mom, he knew how much she worried, and he genuinely didn’t want to worry her. He didn’t want to cause her even more trouble.

“That’s great, sweetie. You sh-what was that?” Her voice faded at the last part like she was talking to someone else. And sure enough, when she came back, she said, “Evan, I have to go… I’m really sorry. They need me.” There was that tone of voice, the reluctant twinge, and the distracted distance. He was used to that voice. He heard it all the time.

Evan nodded. This was expected. “Okay. Um, it w-was nice to talk to you, Mom.”

“Love you,” she said, and before he could say it back, the phone clicked and ended the call, and Evan was left sitting on his bed.

And the days kept going by. And yes, it was only two weeks (sixteen days), but it still felt like forever. Days feel longer when there’s no one to share them with, and Evan was definitely beginning to feel the effect of that.

But Evan couldn’t just let it get to him. He knew that. Logically, he knew that, but it was hard. It was hard to disconnect himself from someone he had latched onto so quickly. Once, for a moment, he thought of the time late at night when Connor had almost revealed where he was. Evan could remember half a word, and maybe that was enough to find him, maybe it wasn’t, but either way, the guilt seeping up and clogging his throat was too much, so he abandoned that idea. He might miss Connor, but he could handle it.

It was only sixteen days. Sixteen long, lonely days. Nearly as long as the entire time Evan knew Connor. But it was fine.

And then Connor showed up, and everything was definitely not fine.

Chapter Text

He appeared on Evan’s bed while Evan was up to get a glass of water.

It was barely three in the morning, and Evan was half asleep and only in his boxers since it was a particularly hot night. Evan was able to get all the way up the stairs without waking anyone up, and he wasn’t looking at his bed as he closed the door, carefully cradling his plastic cup of water. But when he turned around, there was Connor, laying on his messy blankets, head hanging off of the bed.

He barely looked like himself.

The hospital gown was back, familiar light purple with the familiar spirals. There were also a variety of bandages, but they were spread out, from the way his left hand was bandaged, covering his knuckles to his wrist, to the stitches peaking out of a bandage stretching across his forehead. His eyes were bloodshot, the shadows under them almost purple, and there was a gash in his lip as if he’d bitten himself. As Evan’s eyes traveled over Connor’s body, he noticed more and more injuries. His left hand, his head, the bandages wrapped around his shoulder were visible, as were the ones wrapped around his bare knee.

And… his hair. Connor’s hair was… a mess. Where it previously hung past his shoulders, now it was sheered off. It hung down, probably still long enough in the front to cover his eyes, and was visibly shorter in the back.

Evan realized a second later he was just standing in his doorway, and his feet were wet from his cup, which he apparently dropped, not that he remembered. He couldn’t tell if Connor noticed him, as the other boy wasn’t looking at him and hadn’t acknowledged him, so Evan just ducked down to grab his cup and slowly went to set it on his dresser, where he grabbed a towel from a shower earlier and mopped up the water.

He had to go put the now damp towel in the bathroom, taking his cup with him and refilling it with tap water, since he didn’t want to go to the kitchen. By then it had been a few minutes, but Connor was in the same position as when he showed up. Evan wanted to say something, he really did, but he wasn’t sure how to. He also really wanted to go to sleep, but Connor was kind of laying on his bed horizontally, and so there was no room for sleeping. But there the chair in the corner…

Evan glanced at Connor, whose eyes were closed, he noticed, then went to curl up on the chair. It wasn’t very comfortable, but Evan was tired. And he almost made it to sleep, too, but Connor shifted, made a tiny noise of pain, and Evan was suddenly wide awake.

“You’re not seriously going to sleep on the fucking chair, are you?” Connor’s voice was rough and strained like his throat was incredibly hoarse. “Just sleep on the fucking bed.”

Evan was curled up with his knees pulled to his chest, and he was able to kind of hide behind them. “I-no, I don’t w-want to disturb you.” He had to whisper for fear his dad’s family would hear. “So I’ll just-here is good.” He was watching Connor in the dark, so he noticed when the other boy sat up abruptly, swayed slightly, and then stood up to come over and glare down at him. It made Evan flinch backward into the chair. Connor’s glare was terrifying.

“Sleep in the fucking bed, Hansen.”

Evan moved on instinct, driven by nervous fear and exhaustion, and fled to lay in his own bed, curling up with a pillow held in his arms, the blanket pulled up high. It wouldn’t be the first time he went to sleep with Connor still in the room, but this tension felt almost threatening. He stayed there, eyes squeezed shut. For half a second, his shoulder felt warm, but it was gone a second later. They learned a while ago that Connor made no noise unless he spoke, and it was unnerving, not knowing where he was.

A few minutes must have passed like that, and eventually, Evan began to think Connor was gone. Slowly, very slowly, he pulled the blanket down and looked around.

He saw Connor below his window, sitting against the wall with his knees pulled up to his chest. His arms were hugging them, and his head was ducked low, exposing the short hair at his neck, flattened and dirty in appearance. It honestly just looked like someone tied his hair in a tight ponytail and cut it off, then trimmed around the back with dull scissors.

“C-Connor…?” Evan whispered into the darkness and winced when Connor flinched from his voice. “Sorry, oh god-I just-“ Evan was floundering. He had no idea what to say. So sure, Connor sometimes had days when he wasn’t great, but this was… very different. “Can you-um-what should I d-“

“Shut up.”

Evan’s mouth snapped shut.

“Just fucking-shut up!” Connor’s hands found their way to his hair, clutching and clawing as he shook his head back and forth. “You’re fucking-you don’t fucking care! So shut the hell up!”

What was Connor even saying? Evan didn’t understand. Was Connor talking to him? Or were there… voices in his head? Was he hearing something else?

“C-Con-“

“NO!” Connor shouted the word, whipping his head up and spitting it at Evan. But then he opened his eyes, and saw Evan, and he froze. The hands in his hair went very still, his shoulders dropped, and his eyes focused on Evan, and Evan alone.

Try as he might not to, Evan shied away from the intense gaze. He also wasn’t able to look at Connor, no matter how hard he tried to. It was too long apart, Evan wasn’t used to him anymore, and the waves of negative emotions coming off of Connor were almost overwhelming.

“Great, even you can’t fucking look at me,” Connor snarled, but he sounded guarded, less angry. Evan was staring at the space next to him, so he saw when Connor shifted, wrapping his arms around his head and hiding his face. “Why the fuck am I even here if you can’t even fucking look at me.”

Evan didn’t know what to say. He wanted to help, he really did, but this wasn’t something he knew how to cope with. Connor was such a mess, and Evan was too much of a mess himself, how was he supposed to be able to help? All he could do was sit there in dead silence and tug on the hair tie on his wrist and continue to feel like a useless idiot. He didn’t notice when he closed his eyes, so he didn’t notice Connor looking at him, noticing the object of his fiddling.

“You… kept the fucking hair tie?” His voice was so disbelieving, like he was expecting Evan to be harsh in return. “Why the fuck did you do that?”

Evan glanced up accidentally but instantly looked back to his wrist. “Oh-um-do you w-want it back? Sorry, I’m sorry, it was just… there…”

Connor huffed out a humorless laugh. “I don’t have any fucking hair left, Hansen.”

Ice ran through Evan’s veins, embarrassment and shame curling in his stomach. “I’m-god, I’m-that was-I’m so sorry!”

“Whatever.” Connor didn’t seem to be ready to say anything else, and Evan wasn’t about to push it. But after a moment of quiet, he spoke up again. “Uh… but why the hell did you keep it?”

Evan didn’t know how to answer that. But he had to try, for Connor’s sake. “I… um. It r-reminded of, of um-of not being… alone? And-and that day-or, that moment, I g-guess, it was… good. B-but-uh, sorry. I’ll-I’ll um, here-” Evan hated how bad his stuttering and stammering was getting, and he bit his tongue as he tugged the hair tie off and offered it to Connor, his hand shaking terribly. But Connor didn’t take it, and Evan’s hand was left hovering, the tremor noticeable even in the dark.

“Keep the fucking hair tie,” Connor finally mumbled, then went back to hiding his face.

Evan held out his hand for a few more seconds, then dropped it to the bed. “S-sorry,” he whispered. “I’m s-sorry.”

They sat in silence, Evan fidgeting with the blankets, Connor dead quiet and refusing to look up. Eventually, Evan lay down, and eventually, sleep overtook him, but he was restless, and his dreams were tense and unpleasant. But he still slept, hidden against his blankets, hoping and praying that when he woke up, things would be okay again.


As he woke up, Evan had the distinct feeling of it being later than he was used to. But he was exhausted from nightmares throughout the night, so he turned onto his side and tried to find that comfortable groove in bed so he could drift off again.

And then he noticed the boy curled up on his side on the carpet below his window. He looked to be sleeping, eyes shut, mouth a soft line, and his hands were held delicately to his chest. Connor had never slept before; he always simply… disappeared. But here he was, apparently asleep on Evan’s floor.

Since Connor was still asleep, Evan was very careful as he got up. He blushed when he realized he was still only in his boxers, and hurriedly pulled on some sweatpants and a t-shirt. With one glance towards the sleeping ghost (?), Evan left the room quietly to tiptoe down the stairs. His dad’s family were mysteriously gone, but he figured the kids were probably at daycare.

The clock in the kitchen said it was just past eleven, which meant it was definitely late, and Evan had slept in more than usual. But he couldn’t do anything about it, so he just grabbed cereal and a bowl, adding milk and grabbing a spoon. He ate at the table, quietly as he could. It was weird, knowing Connor was upstairs. The hair tie was back on his wrist, but when Evan looked at it, he thought about the mess of anger and sadness on Connor’s face the night before. He stopped looking at it.

Once he was done with his cereal, he rinsed his bowl and headed back upstairs. At his door, he paused. What if Connor was still there? Evan wasn’t sure he would be able to handle Connor right now. He was too tired, and if Connor was angry like last night, Evan knew it would be too much. But he still had to go into his room, so he pushed the door open and went inside cautiously.

Connor wasn’t laying down anymore, he was sitting in Evan’s chair, staring out the window.

For a second, Evan wanted to say something, but he shook his head and just looked down at his feet as he went to his closet to grab some clothes to take with him to the bathroom for a shower. He didn’t look at Connor, but he could feel Connor’s eyes tracking him. It was unsettling, and not at all good for Evan’s nerves. But he ignored it as he grabbed shorts and a new shirt and socks and clean boxers. Despite the fact Connor’s gaze felt like a hot brand, Evan ignored it.

He had one foot out the door when Connor spoke.

“I didn’t think I would see you again.” It was short, to the point, and said in such a monotone, emotionless voice Evan almost thought Connor was just saying it to mess with him. But one second and a head turn was all it took to see the vulnerability on Connor’s face. His eyebrows drawn together, lips turned down, shoulders hunching upwards. He looked small, which was weird, since Connor was such an intense presence.

Evan hesitated. “I missed you, too,” he whispered, then fled the room.

His shower was hot, hot enough to wash away every single thought. Or at least, that’s what he hoped. But as the scalding water dripped down his back and nose and over his eyes, Evan’s thoughts were very much active.

The night before, when Connor had been tossing venomous words at him with a harsh tone, Evan felt scared. But was he scared of Connor? Now that he was thinking about it, he wasn’t sure. Sure, Connor was scary like that, but he wasn’t scared of Connor. Even if Evan had been scared and hiding, it was more from the emotions behind the words, not the angry boy hurling the words around. Evan kept thinking about the way Connor’s body seemed to relax for half a second when he noticed Evan, and the defensive disbelief when he realized Evan kept the hair tie.

Connor was his friend, Evan was pretty sure. He was pretty sure Connor could and would leave if he didn’t want to be around Evan, and the moment in the field was… Well, it was charged. It was important. So even if his hands shook as he washed his hair and thought about the way Connor was so distraught the night before, he couldn’t help the small feeling of warmth in his chest. Even if Connor was gone for two weeks, maybe he was back now, and the selfish part of Evan was jumping for joy at having his friend back.

Eventually, Evan had to get out of the shower, towel himself off, and change. He grabbed the hair tie from where he left it on the counter so it wouldn’t get wet, and went back to his room. He wasn’t as nervous to go inside this time, and when he did, Connor was still sitting in his chair.

“Um-do you… Are you-uh, going to stay?” Evan asked once he’d thrown his dirty clothes and towel in his laundry basket. “Here, I mean. Are you going to stay h-here?” He watched Connor from the corner of his eye and managed not to look away when he turned to look at Evan.

“I don’t know,” he said simply. “I usually go back to… Fucking reality. But I’m still here, so I don’t fucking know. I guess I might’ve finally managed to do it for good.”

Evan hated those words, hated that he understood them. But he refused to believe Connor was… Actually dead. “M-maybe you’re just… Maybe they’re keeping you-um, s-sedated?” Connor was still in a hospital gown, after all, and all beat up. So maybe the painkillers were so strong they were keeping him asleep?

“I guess so. Whatever.” Connor looked away again, back to the window. “Are you, uh-do you have plans or whatever for today?” He didn’t look at Evan as he said it, so Evan didn’t feel bad about letting a tiny smile grace his lips.

“I w-was um, going to go to the park… if you w-want to come?” He hadn’t actually been planning to go to Smiles Grove today, but he figured that maybe getting Connor out and about would be good for him. And sure, there was a tense, dark cloud hanging over their heads, but Evan didn’t know how to deal with that. But he did know how to go to the park.

Connor watched the outside world through the window for a few more minutes. “Is it the same park as the fourth of July?”

Evan shook his head. “No, um-it’s a state park? It’s… It’s about a forty-five-minute journey from here? So-yeah.” His confidence was slipping, but luckily Connor stood up, arms crossed.

“Let’s go, then.”

Chapter Text

Evan hadn’t expected such sudden acceptance, so he was a little lost for a minute before he scrambled to gather his things.

Fifteen or so minutes later, he had his wallet and key to the house, and his phone, as well as his sneakers on. The bus stop was a ten-minute walk away, so they headed out immediately, Connor trailing behind quietly. It wasn’t like he was usually chatty or anything, but he was extra quiet now. Evan didn’t exactly mind since he knew he himself wasn’t very good at speaking, but it was still a little unnerving.

They walked slowly, Evan staring at his feet, Connor a step or two behind him. It felt a little weird with Connor with bare legs and feet and his hospital gown and the bandages, but Evan knew other people couldn’t see him so it was a little less nerve-wracking.

The bus was a few minutes late, but it gave Evan time to have his bus pass ready. He was holding it firmly with one hand when the doors opened, and he gave Connor a quick look before getting on the bus and flashing the pass to the driver. Connor followed closely behind and sat in the seat next to Evan.

The ride was quiet. The bus was kind of swelteringly hot, and Evan could feel a faint sheen of sweat on his forehead and palms. They also had to transfer busses, which was stressful, but they made it just in time. Evan was panting by the time they were on the second bus, after a brief thirty seconds of sprinting to make it to the stop on time, which made Connor actually kind of laugh. Evan reveled in it. But they did eventually make it to the park and were met with a brief gust of air, which was very welcome as Evan was definitely overheating.

There were a few kids playing in the park, and a lady walking her dog, but Evan knew where they were going.

It was a quick little walk around the playground area to the forest path, during which Connor was incredibly quiet. Evan didn’t have anything to say anyway, and he was happy to just look at the trees, but he still wished Connor would be more than a silent presence behind him. But he wouldn’t break the bubble around them, because he really didn’t want to upset Connor. Again.

As they walked along the small forest path, Evan spent the entire time with his face tilted up, admiring the way the sun shone through the boxelder maples and cottonwoods and alders and aspens. The different greens overlapped, creating a beautiful, almost jewel-like effect, and Evan was lost in their hues. The birds and bugs also surrounded them, and he kept getting distracted by a particularly loud finch or scrub jay. Even if the walk was probably about half an hour, it felt short to Evan, even if Connor was there and he was nervous he would trip and make an idiot of himself.

He didn’t make an idiot of himself, and he didn’t trip, and they made it safely to the run down fence. The little meadow was still partially green, but only the edges; the rest was pretty dry.

“Well-um… We’re here?” Evan turned to look at Connor, then back to the little meadow. “We-uh. We can just sit, I guess?” He fidgeted with the edge of his shirt, and Connor just stared at him. “We can’t-uh, that tree over there is nice, but-the fence? So, um, sorry, we have to stay h-here…”

“You are way too fucking tense,” Connor sighed, then went to go lean against a smallish aspen tree, pulling the hospital gown down to cover his legs as he sat down cross-legged.

Evan followed, joining him at the tree and mirroring his position exactly. In the sun, Connor looked… better. Less pale. The injuries and bruises under his eyes still stood out, but he didn’t look so ghostly.

They sat in silence for what felt like a lot longer than six or so minutes, but then it was Connor who broke the peace.

He took a deep breath and started speaking. “I drove my dad’s car into a tree.”

“Y-you- wha-“

“No,” Connor held up a hand, the bandaged one, and Evan noticed it was shaking. “Don’t talk. Just-fucking listen. I just need someone to fucking listen.”

“Okay-um. Sorry.” Evan looked down at his lap, and Connor sighed.

“I drove my dad’s car into a fucking tree and here I am, because I’m fucking-shit, Hansen, I’m a fucking moron.”

Evan wanted to protest, wanted to say he didn’t think Connor was anything of the sort, but the hard twist of Connor’s mouth and the slight tremor in his hands were they folded and unfolded against his thighs silenced any protests Evan had.

“He said some shit about how allowing me to have the hair and the nails was a privilege in itself, and just because I-fuck, I mentioned y-uh, a guy I met while I was in the hospital who wasn’t so bad.” When Connor said that, he looked away, and reached up to tug the longest parts of his hair in front of his face. When Evan took a second look, he realized it was probably an attempt to hide the soft blush spreading across his cheeks. Evan tried not to think too hard about that, or about the tiny drop in his stomach at the mention of a boy at the hospital Connor seemed to like. But Connor was talking, and he needed to listen.

“So I told him if it was some bullshit privilege, I didn’t want it, and I took-fuck, I took scissors and just-“ he waved up at his head. “And then he made some shitty comment about me being a minor and that I should be appreciative of what he gives me, when Jesus Christ! I just got out of the fucking hospital a few weeks ago! So I took his fucking car, and I-“ Connor didn’t finish the sentence, but he didn’t need to. “And now I’m fucking here, back where I was when things were-uh, fucked. Super fucked. The lowest they’ve been, but you fucking help, and then-shit, Hansen, then I thought I hallucinated you because I stopped seeing you.” There was a dangerous waver in Connor’s voice, one that sounded too much like the possibility of tears. But Evan couldn’t reach out to touch him, and he had no words that were good enough to offer comfort. All he could do was inch a little closer to Connor and hope he understood what Evan wanted to say but didn’t know how. Connor didn’t move away, which Evan considered a win. and he even kept talking.

“And I can’t fucking go back to the shitty school they tried putting me in, because that place already fucked me over, I just want to go the fuck back to New York and stop having them control every fucking second of my life!” Connor’s voice rose higher and higher in volume, and as much as Evan wanted to hide from it like the night before, he didn’t dare. He wanted to be here for Connor, even if all of his own nerves were near the breaking point of their tension.

But Connor had stopped talking, and his shoulders heaved slightly from his now heavy breathing. He was staring at the grass in front of him, jaw clenched, eyebrows knitted together tightly. And then he stood up, suddenly, startling Evan.

“I’m going to scale that fucking fence and climb that damn tree.”

Evan just stared at him as Connor stalked across the field. His legs were even paler in the sunlight, but not in an unattractive way. They were just pale, but not as pale as the bandages, and a little thin. There were bruises on his shin, and Evan now noticed his ankle looked a little purple, too. He needed to stop looking at Connor’s legs.

Connor picked up his pace, jogging to the fence. It was so broken all he had to do was place one barefoot on a piece of the wire, watching it carefully, the way he always did when he was interacting with objects on purpose, and then kind of scrabble and climb and hurl himself over.

“Connor!” Evan yelped when he saw Connor tumble down, landing on his back. Surely that had to hurt, right? Connor was so beat up from the apparent car crash and everything in Evan was screaming to go to him. He leaped up and went chasing after Connor, climbing the fence quickly and dropping down. But when he landed next to Connor and looked down, he realized Connor was… smiling. And laughing.

Connor was staring up at him, his bangs falling from his face to show the bandage, the cut on his lip stretching slightly across his smile. It was blinding, actually, to see Connor smile at him in such a way. It made Evan’s chest almost hurt, like someone was reaching in there and squeezing his heart in their warm palm.

“Hey there, Hansen,” he said, still grinning, voice amazingly smooth. “It turns out partial ghosts can be clumsy, even though I can barely fucking touch shit.”

Evan stared at him for a full five seconds, then burst into high pitched, shrill giggles. The absurdity of the situation was too much for him. Connor, this… this half ghost, half very real boy, the person Evan was so attached to in barely a month, was on the grass in a hospital gown and a million injuries, grinning a toothy grin up at him.

There was so much Evan wanted to say, like how he wanted to help Connor, he wanted to learn how to help him deal with nights like the one before. He wanted to be there for Connor, he wanted them to be real, proper friends, friends who could fist bump and fall asleep against each other watching movies. Sure, only a month or so had passed, half of which Connor had been gone, but all his life Evan had been dreaming of finding someone who felt like maybe there were a piece of his life and they weren’t going to just walk by, and for once, someone (Connor), felt like that.

But he didn’t say any of those thoughts or wishes or wants.

“You’re going to get um-you’re gonna get g-get grass in weird places, Connor,” was what he said instead, and as Connor shrugged and stood up, brushing non-existent grass of himself, while Evan tried not to stare at him. All he had under the hospital gown was boxers. Which, logically, Evan knew, but it was a lot to handle.

“Then let’s get out of the grass and climb this damn tree. I wanna see the view from the top.”

Somehow, Evan managed to forget their end goal, and just stood there dumbly as Connor crossed the rest of the distance to the tree.

The three was massive, the kind of oak tree that started with two entirely separate trunks that only join together as the very base, and a few larger limbs branching out from there. Because of this, it was incredibly easy to climb. Connor clambered up, and Evan silently thanked the god of modesty that Connor at least had boxers, so he wasn’t flashing the entire world. But in his moment of distraction, Connor already climbed a good ten feet up and was standing on a particularly thick branch, holding onto the one above him.

“Aren’t you going to climb this thing?” he called out to Evan, and finally, Evan’s feet remembered how to work. He went up to the tree, placed his hands on the trunk, then hefted himself up.

Tree climbing was something he knew how to do; it was familiar, he’d been doing it since he was a kid, he knew how to do this. It took a few minutes of mostly silent clambering, a few curses from Connor and laughs and gentle teasing from both of them, but soon Connor was sitting on one of the highest branches, which was swaying ever so slightly, and Evan was just a bit higher on a much thinner branch, his feet resting on Connor’s branch, looking out at the sky. He was a little sweaty, but up there, about thirty to forty feet off the ground, a breeze wove around them. It didn’t make Connor’s hair move, but Evan thought he looked beautiful even so. They sat there, mostly quietly, occasionally giving each other a look when the branch bounced particularly strongly.

After a few minutes of this comfortable quiet and occasional exchanged look, while Connor was adjusting himself on his branch, Evan turned his face to the sky to inspect the clouds so he didn’t have to look at Connor when he spoke.

“You, um-you mentioned a-a boy? That you met at the.. the hospital?” His curiosity was slowly eating at him from the inside. At least, that’s what he told himself it was, but curiosity had never been so sharp and hungry and hot, like a small but persistent dragon clawing at his rib cage.

Connor gave him a sharp look, whipping his head away as soon as he did, and staring at some distant spot in the sky. “Uh-sure. He was-just a guy. I don’t fucking know. I met him while I was in the hospital, yeah.”

In all their weird little conversations, boyfriends or girlfriends or just romantic partners in general never came up. But now Evan was dying to know. “Um… Were-er, are-or y’know- um, were uh, you two…” he waved one hand around, then quickly grabbed the branch again to steady himself.

Connor didn’t seem to want to answer, but eventually, he shrugged. “I don’t fucking know. There was a moment, I guess, after I got out and shit. But I’m pretty sure I fucked it up.” The way his voice fell, the slight hunch of his shoulders, it was all such forced casualness. Evan hated it.

“So you-uh, you l-liked him?”

Finally, Connor did look at him, a rueful smile quickly being replaced with a raised eyebrow and half of a smirk. “Sure, Hansen, I liked him, because we’re eleven and just getting boy-crazy.”

“You know what I meant!” Evan complained, and the laugh Connor let out in response made everything in Evan feel tingly and warm. He was feeling that a lot today.

But Connor was still kind of snickering at him, and Evan didn’t have it in him to be annoyed. Embarrassed? Maybe. But it was so wonderful to see Connor laugh and giggle, even if it was at Evan’s expense.

“He was kinda cute and shit, I guess.” Connor was back to looking away, down at the ground this time, and there was a faint redness to his cheeks now. “Or-he is kinda cute. He’s not fucking dead.”

“Do you still like him?” Evan didn’t know what came over him to ask that, but it was like something else had taken over his body. All of a sudden, he needed to hear Connor say he didn’t still like this mystery boy or Evan wasn’t sure the warmth in his chest would survive.

Connor didn’t look at him or answer for a very long minute. And when he did look up at Evan, there was such an intensity behind his eyes Evan almost felt overwhelmed.

“Yeah, Ev, I think I still like him.”



A few hours later, while sitting in the emergency room of the hospital, Evan would remember three very specific things:

He would remember the way Connor’s voice sounded saying that little shortening of his name, and he would remember he’d only heard it one other time, on the fourth of July, while they were oh so close and the sunset was oh so warm.

He would remember that some oak trees are not like pines, they do not really have many branches to catch yourself on as you fall.

And he would remember the way his heart seemed to disintegrate, not shatter, into disappointment and resignation he didn’t even knew he was feeling until then. And maybe that was why he was so distracted, and why he didn’t hear the branch he was on break with a horrendous snap, and why he didn’t remember free falling to the dry grass below him, away from those beautiful, intense, green eyes.

But in that moment, all Evan could think was one tiny, stupid sentence. Six stupid little words, knocked from his throat by the dry summer earth before they ever managed to make it to his tongue.


I think I like you, Connor.

Chapter Text

The sun was blinding. The few clouds skirting across the sky did nothing to protect Evan from the glare of the sun above him, bathing every inch of his body in searing heat. Or, except, maybe that wasn’t the sun, because the sun wasn’t strong enough to make his entire left arm feel like it had been torn off at the elbow.

Someone was above him, getting close and closer, but Evan couldn’t really see. His vision wasn’t working very well.

“Hansen- fuck , Evan, I swear to fucking god , you better be fucking FINE-!” The voice was laced with so much worry it made Evan himself a little worried. Whoever that voice was talking to was really lucky to have someone care about them like that.

“Damnit - shit ! I can’t carry you or get help, fuck-!” The voice was still going on about all this. Evan was confused. What was happening?

The sun was still incredibly hot. The sky was too blue, too wide. There was too much of it.

The someone was near him now, hovering over him, wide, grey-green eyes looking far too worried. With his right hand, the one not on fire, Evan reached up, reaching towards the lovely, battered face. But he couldn’t seem to find it. Oh, well.

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” The lovely face was the one talking, Evan realized. His lips were all twisted and his teeth kept pulling at the lower one. Evan was worried it would reopen the cut there.

“You’re not fucking responsive, so I don’t know what the fuck to do. You’ve gotta come back to me, shit, this is NOT good!” The pretty stranger went off, storming around, tearing at his hair. Evan missed the length. He missed Connor with long hair.  

Wait, Connor -

“C-Con-“ he mumbled, but it was like the pain was completely garbling his speech, and he couldn’t breathe properly.

But Connor was there, back in his clear line of sight, falling down so their faces were close together. “You need to get to the hospital.”

Evan shook his head. “I’m-no, I’m f-fine, Connor, it’s-I’m sorry…”

Connor was shaking his head, dismissing Evan pretty quickly. “Shut up, shut UP, just fucking-get up, you need to get back to the park and call a fucking ambulance or some shit.”

“N-no…” Evan tried shaking his head, but it hurt too much. His head felt like a box of painful cotton, and his breathing was becoming rattled. “Can’t afford it…”

Slowly, with a great deal of pain and by squeezing his eyes shut, Evan sat up and managed to stand. Something was incredibly wrong with his left arm, and his head was spinning, but he managed to take a step without falling and dying. Connor hovered behind him, a tense but gentle presence, warmth at the center of Evan’s back. Slowly, painfully slowly, they started to head back to the park.

It took almost three times as long to get back as it did to leave the park, and the walk was punctuated by Evan occasionally stumbling or Connor swearing. It was probably a good hour or more of walking, with Evan’s arm cradled to his chest. Somewhere towards the middle, Connor stopped him and asked if he needed to dry his eyes, when Evan hadn’t even realized he was crying. But they did make it to the park eventually, thankfully.

At the park, things started to get a lot more blurry. A little girl with blonde braids and a green dress came up to him like she knew him, a woman in a brightly patterned blouse asked him if he was okay, and called someone on her phone. Evan just stood there, trying to lean towards the warmth behind him. The little girl was holding onto the hem of his shirt and asking him if he was okay. But Evan didn’t know how to answer.

Somewhere along the way, he was lead to a car, the lady talking about his stepmom, holding the phone to his ear for a second as Michelle blathered on. He was helped into the car while the woman continued to talk and the little girl continued to hold onto his shirt. Evan must have been responding because she seemed to know what to do. But something was missing, and there was panic bubbling up in Evan’s chest because he couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

It was only when they made it to the hospital that Evan realized Connor wasn’t there, they had left him at the park, the warmth at his back was gone, and Evan felt like all the air was being sucked out of his lungs with a vacuum space.



The hospital was cold, sterile, and bright. There was too much white and beige and pale yellow with accents of pale olive green, and Evan wondered who thought that was an okay color combination.

He was sitting in the waiting room, waiting for his dad to pick him up. It was hours later, his arm was in a plain, covered in a white cast now, and now all he could do is sit there and realize what just happened. There were too many emotions to decipher, and all Evan could think about were tiny details. It was such a good day, and Evan had ruined it.

“Jesus, kid, you gave us all a scare!” His dad’s voice made him jump, and he leaped up. He instantly regretted it, of course, because it made his head pound. “Whoa there,” he dad steadied him, a heavy hand on his shoulder. Evan didn’t like it one bit. “Let’s get you home.”

Evan couldn’t really protest or stop him, so he let his dad lead them out to the car, where he got into the passenger seat and sat there in silence. His dad tried to make small talk on the way to his house, but Evan was incredibly unresponsive. He knew he had a lot to think about, but his head was still throbbing, the image of the oak tree above him was still burned into his mind, and he desperately needed to find Connor.

But he couldn’t do that. All he could do was go up to his room and lay down like he was told to, then drink some water and eat a sandwich when it was offered to him. It was evening now, and Evan was tired from being awake the night before.

He lay there, staring at his wall, and wishing he had a time machine. He wished he could go back up to that tree where things were okay, where the sun was a little too warm and the happy bubble they created was protection enough from the awfulness of the outside world.

But he couldn’t do that.

So Evan closed his eyes, tried to ignore the heavy weight of his cast, and tried to fall asleep.



It didn’t work. An hour later he was still laying there, fidgety but frozen. Michelle brought him up a bowl of macaroni and cheese, but it was sitting on his bedside table, uneaten and getting cold. He was tired. He was so tired. But Evan still couldn’t sleep. And Connor wasn’t there, because they left him in the park, and Evan felt incredibly lost without him.

The realization of why he was so attached to Connor was still weighing pretty heavily. Sure, it wasn’t Evan’s first crush, it wasn’t even the first one he’d had on a boy. But Connor was his friend, they’d spent late nights watching stupid videos, gone on walks, climbed a stupid tree. It was so much more different than getting a crush on the pretty girl in his Spanish class in freshman year or the boy whose locker was next to his and always had his green hoodie on his person somewhere.

Having a crush on Connor was because he knew how Connor tugged on his hair sometimes, or the way his mouth quirked up in a half smile.

In two weeks, Evan had learned a lot about Connor. At least, he’d learned tiny things, like that he seemed to always sit cross-legged, or he preferred long sleeves whenever possible, or how he swore a lot whenever an emotion was strong, and not just anger. But he also knew sometimes Connor would get this tiny smile when he didn’t think Evan would notice. Except, Evan did notice because since the second Connor showed up, all Evan did was look at him.

Except Connor had a crush on someone he met in the hospital. So Evan would need to swallow it down and be fine with that. Even if it was hard, Evan needed to be okay with Connor just being a friend. And he was okay with that, even if it hurt a little bit. He was okay with being Connor’s friend.

But that didn’t mean he didn’t eventually fall asleep with a thousand snapshot stills from the memory of Connor laying in the grass and laughing floating behind his eyes in the safe, dark, dizziness emptiness of his own head.

Chapter Text

“Evan? Sweetie?” His mom’s voice was so full of worry, but also exhaustion and something tense and stressed. Evan knew he was a large part of that stress and exhaustion, which was why he wasn’t sure what to say.

“Please, I need you to talk to me… Do you want to stay?” Heidi was pleading with him, and Evan was still silent.

“Okay, can you put me on the phone with your father, at least?” Now that Evan could do. His dad was sitting with him at the dinner table, so he mutely handed the phone over, and stared down at the table in front of him, ignoring the dull throbbing in his left arm.

“It’s just a broken arm! He shouldn’t be like this. I can’t just-no, listen to me, Heidi-I said, I can’t just babysit him, I have three kids of my own-“

Evan tuned his dad out after that. Sometimes he forgot that Mark was actually his dad, and not just some random guy. Evan was his son before he had three more kids, and he managed to forget that too often. And then his dad would say something like that, like he was separate, which he was , but it still hurt to be reminded. It still hurt to be reminded that in his dad’s eyes, he was just the son of the woman he left, and even if he put up a good show, this trip mainly came out of his mom’s pocket, it was his mom who suggested it, one last half-hearted attempt at reconnecting. But when it came down to it, Evan and his mom were the people Mark left behind, and the guy didn’t really think of Evan as his son.

“Your mother wants you to fly home early on Wednesday. That is, this Wednesday, in three days.” Oh, his dad was talking to him now. Evan looked up, then shrugged. Whatever they wanted.

“Evan, you have to have an opinion. Because if you don’t, then I’m going to call the airline now and get your ticket changed.”

Did he want to go home early?

If he did, and if Connor came back, then Connor wouldn’t know how to find him. But Connor hadn’t shown up in over a week, and Evan didn’t know if he could even look at Connor without blushing so badly he would give himself away instantly.  

But if he stayed there, his dad would have to keep dealing with him.

“Okay.”

“Okay? You’ll go home early?” His dad sounded almost relieved, and it only solidified Evan’s decision.

“Uh-yeah. I’ll… Go h-home early.”

“I’m going to call the airline, then. We’ll get you on the soonest possible flight.” His dad disappeared, then, probably off to change the flight.

Evan stood up slowly and made his way to his room. Now it was handy that he hadn’t really fully unpacked. All he had to do now was put away a few clothes, his notebook and reading book, and also his laptop. It was easy, too easy.

A few minutes later, he received a forwarded email from his dad. He was booked on a flight for tomorrow morning at 10:20 am.

Okay then.

He set to packing. It took even less time than he expected, and pretty soon his big bag was ready, his carry on duffle bag was all zipped up, with a change of comfortable clothes laying on top. All he had to do now was put his laptop in his backpack, along with his notebook. But first, he decided to write one final letter.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today might not be a good day, because your arm is broken and you’re going home early, but it was a good summer because you made a friend. And sure, you might’ve fallen for that friend, and he might have disappeared (again), but at least for a little while, it was just you two.

And who knows, maybe you’ll see him again?

You’re going home now, though. You’re going back to your mom, who you actually have really missed, even if you’re worried you’re too much work for her. You’re going back to school in a little over a month, and it’ll be senior year, which is really important to some people. Maybe not to you, but you still have to try.

You’re going home, and you have the memories of a few really good weeks with a boy with pretty eyes and a smile that, while rare, is brighter than anything you’ve ever seen.

So maybe it’s okay to hold onto your stupid crush for a little while. But don’t let it take over. You need to get back up on your feet, you need to stop being all in shock, you need to keep your head up and stop just staring at everyone through a self-locked window.

Sincerely,

Me

It wasn’t a very good letter, and he really didn’t believe half of it, but at least he tried. But right before Evan put away his notebook, he had an idea, a sloppy mess of an idea that would require leaving in nineteen minutes to catch a bus, but he needed to do one thing before he left. Just one more thing. One hopeless wish, a last attempt to do something about his crush.



His alarm clock woke Evan up at 7 am, painfully loud and stressful, and he accidentally tried to use his injured arm to turn it off, which lead to some painful wincing and bitten back curses. But he managed to get his phone’s alarm to shut up, and he sat up slowly. His head still hurt a bit, but nothing like the first few days. He wasn’t planning on showering, so all he had to do was change into the sweatpants and t-shirt and hoodie he’d left out the day before, then shove his dirty clothes into his duffle bag. His laptop was tucked away, two copies of his flight plan were stuck in his back-back and the duffle, and everything was good to go.

Once his dad was up, Evan was given a few minutes to say a quick goodbye to the kids and Michelle, but then he was quickly being shepherded out to the car. He was able to carry his carry own bags, even if the suitcase was a little harder, what with the broken arm. But his dad was able to get that into the trunk. Then he was off.

It was about an hour long drive to the airport, during which Evan mostly dozed off. He listened to some music and read a little more of his book, but mostly just stared at the scenery and cars and buildings passing by. It was a pretty boring drive, and Evan just wanted to get to the airport and go home already. There wasn’t anything left he could do here in Colorado, and he really did miss his mom. He even missed Jared, a little bit.

Thinking of Jared made him pull out his phone to send a very quick text.

> E.Hansen @ 7:58am: I’m coming home early. I’ll be home this afternoon.

He didn’t receive a response, obviously, but at least he reached out to Jared.

They arrived at the airport a little late, so his dad was in a rush to park and get Evan towards the airport doors. They had to check his bag, which involved a lot of uncomfortably long waiting, but pretty soon he was standing in front of security with just his carry on stuff and his ticket held carefully in his good hand while his injured hand rested on his duffle bag.

“Have a safe flight you hear?” His dad placed a hand on his shoulder, and Evan looked up at him. “I’m really sorry you have to fly home early, kiddo. But you’re welcome back any time, got it?”

Evan knew that, but he was pretty sure that wouldn’t be happening. “I know, thank you. Um-yeah. Thanks for… le-letting me stay and stuff? And-um, see you later.” He tried to give his dad a smile, but it was pretty weak. Hopefully, Mark would just write it off as exhaustion, which wouldn’t be a total lie.

“See you later, kid.” His dad gave him a one-armed half hug, and then Evan was stepping up to the line, walking down the divided aisle to the ticket lady, who checked his ticket and waved him on. He put his shoes and hoodie and bags on the conveyor in tubs and waited patiently to go through the full body scanner.

It was all a pretty straightforward process, and he was lucky he was so tired, or he would have been full-body shaking. His hands were definitely shaking, and his stuttering got even worse when one of the TSA agents reminded him to take his laptop out and put it in a separate tub, but he managed to get through security without any tears being shed. He even managed to hold it together when they wiped down his cast with some sort of special detecting wipe.

After he was out, getting everything together was incredibly anxiety-inducing, as his cast kept getting in the way as he tied his sneakers and pulled his hoodie back on. But he made it and was able to then go off hunting for his gate. As he was walking down the hall, for half a second he thought he heard someone shout his name, but it was lost in the hustle and bustle of the airport. He shook it off and instead went to go wait in one of the uncomfortable chairs at his gate. He wasn’t waiting very long, for soon the announcement was being made and he was standing up and joining others in line.

But as he was about to step into the tubelike walkway leading to the plane, he heard his name called again.

“Hansen!”

He whipped around, his heart in his throat. It took a second to find him, but there he was, standing in normal clothes again, a bulky jacket now added to the look, his hair still short and chopped, his cheeks rosy and his eyes wide. He was standing on his tiptoes, hands cupped to his mouth. For half a second, their eyes met, and Evan was forced to choke back a sudden wave of intense happiness.

But then someone bumped into his arm and he winced in extreme pain, and a security guard stepped in front of him, and he was being ushered down the hall, away from the airport, away from his dad, and away from Connor.  

Chapter Text

If Connor was forced to eat another jello cup ever again in this life, it would be way too fucking soon. They were great, at first, for all of one bite. Then the texture grew to be almost slimy, and the flavor became fragmented and bland, and there was nothing left but a weird blob of questionable texture in your mouth.

But apparently, they were the only thing his specific nurse liked to give him. She said it was because jello was “fun” and Connor looked like he “really needed some fun in his life!!” For once, Connor just wanted her to bring him something normal, like pie or ice cream. But no, his nurse, Stacey, she’d said her name was, decided he needed to eat the entire rainbow in fucking jello.

Luckily, he was now officially free of that jello hell. And maybe now he had to suffer through a different culinary hell, but at least he had the freedom to eat food with more than one texture. But still, seeing something the same sickly green as most of the jello from the hospital made his stomach turn, so he took the hideous shirt and shoved it under his bed where the light of day would never see it.

“Did you unpack your last box? Mom’s asking ‘cause she wants to make sure all the cardboard gets put out on the street before tomorrow morning.” Zoe glared halfheartedly, then disappeared from his door after he gave her a thumbs up. His sister looked exhausted, and Connor was well aware that was partly his fault, if not entirely. After all, it was because of him they were even here. Even if yes, technically they were here because Cynthia’s sister lived here, they moved because of Connor and his “antics.”

But he was supposed to be unpacking.

There was only one box left, and it was mostly just some books and art supplies, but when he tore it open, he noticed a folded scrap of paper tucked in the corner. Carefully, he pulled it out. Technically, he didn’t need to read it, since he memorized the whole thing the day he found it. But Connor liked the hurried letters, partially scribbled out and rewritten, so obviously a first draft yet still incredibly thought out. It made something in his chest act up, which he shoved down to a corner of darkness where it would never escape, and focused on the sloppy words.

Dear Connor Murphy,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I disappeared. My dad sent me home, because I guess I can’t handle something as simple as my arm breaking.

If you’re reading this letter, this means you went back to the tree. I didn’t know where else to put it, since my stepmom will probably clean my room when I’m gone, and I really wouldn’t want her to find this. So here’s something for you, and hopefully, you’ll be able to read it. We never really did figure out how the whole “contact with physical objects” thing works, huh? Because I still have your hair tie, it’s still around my wrist, when that really shouldn’t be possible. I guess the universe doesn’t have strict rules for half-ghosts.

This letter is kind of a goodbye, because I doubt I’ll ever see you again.

It’s also kind of a confession, because I’m not good at not saying things, but I’m also not good at NOT saying things. They always come spilling out.

I think I kind of have a crush on you, Connor. I know it’s stupid, because we barely even know each other, and you already like someone else, but since I’ll never see you again, I feel like I have to sat that now. It’s a stupid crush, and I promise I’ll get over it and you don’t have to deal with some weirdo in New York thinking about you. (That’s where I live, by the way. Near Lake Ontario in New York State.) Not that I do. Think about you, I mean. I mean, I do think about you, but you were a large part of my summer, so it’s inevitable!

This is a mess. Sorry.

I hope you went back home and are okay, and didn’t… I don’t know. You disappeared for a couple weeks, surely not seeing you for a week is just… more of the same. But I’m leaving here now, so I won’t see you if you show up again.

What I’m trying to say is goodbye, and I’ll miss you. Very much. If we ever do meet again, I’ll look forward to it. If not, that’s okay. You made this summer… amazing.

Sincerely,

Me

The letter made Connor angry, the first time he read it. How dare Evan fucking Hansen just leave like that? Didn’t he understand that Connor didn’t want to disappear for a week, he just had zero control over when and for how long he appeared near Evan? After a few tries and retries, he realized he had to be at least high as well as asleep to show up, since in the hospital he only found himself with Evan when he was on painkillers or whatever. And the weird almost full day he’d been around Evan, was only because the hospital kept him fully sedated for so long. So of course he wanted to be there with Evan. He liked Evan way too fucking much.

Instead, here he was, in some new city, unpacking his last box.

There was a line in the letter about Evan living near Lake Ontario, which meant that technically, there was a chance Evan was in the same city as him. But it also wasn’t the only city, and Connor didn’t dare get his hopes up.

He needed to finish unpacking and stop thinking about Evan. So he shoved the letter in a drawer, underneath some normal, blue wash jeans he would never wear, and tried to forget about it while he unpacked.



The last month of summer was a whirlwind for the Murphys. After their parents revealed they would be moving, Connor and Zoe were both… not happy, especially Zoe. It would be the second move in five years, and she hated having to uproot everything and move across both a lake and a city border. Sure, it was technically only a four or so hour drive between Markham and Rochester, but it was long enough she wasn’t very likely to see her high school friends. When they moved away from New York, though, there had been a family bet that it would take them less than ten years to be back, and the bet proved accurate.

But the summer was filled with planning and talking and more arguments and hospital bills. Connor was so beyond grounded, but after the crash induced hospital trip, he was much more subdued. His family thought he was facing his actions and beginning to get better, but Connor had other plans. If he was ever going to see Evan again, he would need a car. If it took fucking driving along the entire coastline and asking around in every single town, he would do it. But he really needed a car for that, so he was on his best behavior.

The move took a full two weeks, and was some of the most stressful days of his life. It was hard not to snap on a dime at his father or sister or mother, but he bit his tongue and slapped his headphones on and tried to ignore his entire family. And it worked, most of the time. But there were still days Connor ended up in shouting matches or had to literally lock himself in his room to avoid doing something he would regret.

It was almost September now, and school started in a week. No part of Connor wanted to go to some new, shitty ass high school a fifteen minute drive away, but he didn’t really have a choice. So he knew that soon he would be dealing with a whole new crowd of asshole students. And that was fine, really, it was totally fine. But Connor was still frustrated and pissed off about every detail of the entire ordeal.

What he really wanted to do was get high off his ass and fall asleep, even if he knew it probably wouldn’t work. Ever since that last brief second a month ago, when he’d seen Evan step onto a plane, he hadn’t been able to astral project (or whatever he did when he saw Evan). That was before he’d managed to find the stupid fucking tree, before he read the letter, and before he realized he should’ve said to hell with physics and the rules of nature and tried with everything he was to kiss a stupid boy in a field with over-eager fireworks in the background.

But here in the present, Connor was left only with his own frustration, a new town and school to adjust to, and a crumpled letter in his dresser drawer he told himself he wouldn’t read, even if he knew he would break that promise before the day was over, just like he did every time he made it.  

Chapter Text

“Do you have a sharpie? And your new notebooks? And painkillers just in case?”

“Y-yeah. I have everything, Mom, it’s-um, it’s okay.” Even if he knew no one would sign the cast, there was a two-pack of two brand-new sharpies in his backpack, shoved between his pencil case and a shiny, new, blue folder for his class notes.

Heidi had one foot out the door, but she was still worrying over Evan. “Remember, you have an appointment with Doctor Sherman today! You can take the bus, right?”

He nodded, adding his best smile to it. “I know, Mom.”

“And you’ll ask the other kids to sign your cast? Please?”

“Yeah, of c-course.” He kept nodding, but the smile slipped a little. Talking to people was so hard, how was he supposed to ask them for something? But maybe he could at least try.

“Okay…” She gave him another worried smile, then let go of the door to go and quickly give Evan a kiss on the forehead. “I love you, sweetie, and I’m so proud of you. I’ll see you at dinner. Don’t forget to write a letter for Doctor Sherman today!” She said the last part as she literally ran out the door, her hair nearly getting caught as it closed behind her.

“Bye, Mom…” Evan waved, slowly, to the closed door. “Love you, too.” Then he grabbed his own bag and hunted for his keys so he could leave as well. He had to take the bus to school, so it was pretty important he was on time.

The bus stop wasn’t too far away, and the ride wasn’t too long, but Evan always barely made it to school on time. His leg was bouncing with nerves the entire way there, and he kept fiddling with the sleeves of the hoodie that covered his cast. The public bus was stressful enough on a normal day, and the first day of school just made everything so much worse.

But he did make it to school. Even if his hands were sweaty and shaking, he still made it just in time to see Jared shout something to someone who must have just disappeared into the building.

“Look at you! Alive, not dead, and back from the big city. How was Denver, huh? Meet any hot chicks?”

Evan groaned quietly at Jared’s words, but he still answered. “I g-got back a month ago, Jared…”

“And I’m only seeing you now, so to me it’s like you were always gone.” Jared swung an arm around his shoulders. Which, what with their height differences, was a little hard, and it also jostled his cast and made Evan squeak in pain. “Well, glad to see you again, Evan. Glad you’re back in this hell of a boring town. See you around!” Jared slapped his shoulder, then started to leave.

“W-wait!” Evan called out, reaching out towards him for a half second before pulling his hand back. “Uh-do you-um, wanna sign my c-cast?” As he spoke, he pulled up his sleeve to reveal part of the cast.

Jared just stared at him, then laughed. “Family friends, dude. Remember?” And then he was giving Evan weird finger guns and disappearing through the doors.

Evan had a few seconds to feel disappointment curl in his stomach, but then the bell was ringing and he had to run inside, suddenly remembering he was supposed to be in class. As he was hurrying down the hall, his shoulder knocked into a girl’s, and she turned to glare at him for half a second. Evan was almost blinded by how familiar the glare looked, but her hair was much longer, it was lighter, and her eyes were less green and more blue.

“Oh-um-I’m sorry-I’m so-I’m so s-sorry!” he stumbled out, but the girl just waved him off and hurried away, leaving Evan stranded in the almost empty hall. And now he barely had thirty seconds to make it to class on time.

The day was barely even started and it was already a disappointing and embarrassing mess.



As Evan was sitting in his last class (English, the easiest one for him), just waiting for it to be over, his mind wandered elsewhere. The teacher was droning on about patterns and repetition in stories, and Evan was exhausted. Usually, the first day of class was for syllabi and learning names, not… an actual lesson. But his teacher thought otherwise and had basically leaped right into the academic side of things.

She was saying something about coincidence and patterns and the way things happened for a reason, and Evan wasn’t actually paying any attention at all.

“…And while twice may be coincidence, we can be sure that if something happens a full three times, the third time turns the event into a pattern, something incredibly deliberate, something to be remembered.”

The words were like ice down the back of Evan’s shirt.

“Is this going to be a habit? You falling off of shit whenever I show up?”

All of a sudden, the emotions Evan spent all of August burying and forgetting came welling up, and he had the sudden need to get out of the stuffy classroom and run. But he didn’t just get up and run, he raised his trembling hand instead.

“What do you want, Mr. Hansen…”

“C-can I go to -uh, the um-bathroom? P-please?” He was barely able to keep his voice understandable. There was a month of emotions suddenly bubbling up and choking his throat.

“Yes-fine, just go, it’s almost the end of class anyway.” She waved him off, and Evan frantically grabbed his notebook and backpack, leaving his pencil in his haste to get out of the classroom.

He ran to the empty computer lab on the second floor. He knew very few people used it unless scheduled, and one glance at the sheet on the door told him it was empty. A minute later found Evan hunched over one of the tables, rocking back and forth in his chair, tipping it back until it was almost too far and then bringing it back down. His hoodie was left on the ground, as the sleeves and weight on his shoulders felt too constrictive, and the emotions in his chest were constrictive enough; he couldn’t handle more things holding him down.

During the month of August, Evan hadn’t thought about Connor. Actually, that was a flat out lie. He had thought about Connor every day, but he told himself he didn’t because if he admitted it, Evan was terrified of never getting over the half-ghost boy that felt more like a summer daydream than a reality.

But he really did try not to think about Connor. He knew he was supposed to be over him, he was supposed to be fine. Fine. Connor wasn’t here, he was somewhere else, far away. Or maybe the entire summer had been a lie and Evan really was crazy and really did imagine everything. Maybe he really was finally losing it, and maybe he should just stop trying so hard and go back to thinking there was no one who could possibly want him around.

That thought made Evan stop rocking in his chair. He knew where those thoughts would lead, and it was nowhere good. He needed to stop them. A distraction, he needed a distraction.

Evan yanked out his laptop from his bag and jerked it open, opening up a new document and frantically typing.

Dear Evan Hansen,

It’s not a good day, it’s another horribly lonely day, because why would it be good? Why would I even make new friends? I already made one, and I guess the universe only gave me one attempt.

There was one try, one hope, and I pinned everything on him, but he’s not here, he was in my head and he was far away, and he’s not here so I’ll never be able to talk to him. Maybe if I could have just talked to him when I had the chance, maybe… everything would be different.

Oh, who am I kidding? I could never have talked to him properly, truthfully,  because he was so beautiful and distant but bright , and I wasn’t, AM not, and there’s nothing I can do.

I wish I could have that something back, when I didn’t feel so alone. Because now? Now, would anyone even notice if I disappeared, just like he did?

Sincerely, your only friend,

Me

The print icon on his laptop was hit faster than he knew what he was doing. He collapsed on the table, shoulders shaking, as he leaned back in the chair again. Why would he think that was a good letter? But there was no energy to write a new one, and he would just have to use that one for his stupid therapy appointment. Evan was so tired and distraught he didn’t hear the door click shut as someone entered, and he didn’t hear the little beep of the printer alerting the world of a completed printing job.

He didn’t hear the faltered footsteps of whoever grabbed his piece of paper as they stumbled when they came up to his table.

He didn’t hear the way the other person choked slightly on air.

But he did hear them - him - speak.

“So, what happened to your arm?” the voice behind him said, a tone of forced neutrality masking something else, something more tense and eager.

Evan looked up quickly as he started to lean back in his chair, and the momentum carried further than he meant to. With a painful thud, the chair went too far and collapsed, the cheap metal and plastic dumping Evan onto the floor so he was on his back, arms bent awkwardly, staring up at a face, a beautiful face.

“You know, this really does make it a pattern, now.”

“W-w-wha-“ Word’s wouldn’t work, Evan’s throat was completely closed off. Connor looked down at him, his lip caught between his teeth, like he was holding his smile down.

“You’ve fallen three times when I’ve shown up now,” he explained. “I don’t count the tree. I was already there.”

Evan was gaping like a dying fish, but after a second, air rushed into his lungs and and he flew upright, awkwardly stumbling to stand up and gawk at Connor.

“You-you’re-you’re back? I-uh-you-“ His stammering made his words completely unintelligible, and Evan could feel his cheeks and ears burn with shame and embarrassment, but the fluttering in his chest was definitely not anxiety.

“Actually, I go to this school. Who knew my parents would choose here. Maybe the universe got sick of fucking me over.” The words took a second to process. If Connor said he went here, then was he…

“A-are you-uh-are you… R-really here?” Evan wanted to reach out and try to feel Connor so badly. But his injured arm was throbbing, and his body was still slightly winded, and shock was keeping him frozen in place.

Connor had the audacity to just shrug in response, which was such a Connor thing to do it made all the feelings in Evan’s chest double in size. “Yeah, I guess. Hey-“ he glanced down at Evan’s right hand. “You still have the hair tie? Seriously?”

“Oh-I-um,” Evan lifted his hand to inspect it, tugging on the hair tie self consciously. “I just-um, yes? I… Sorry, it’s weird, uh-did you, um, did you get my letter?”
“I got your letter, yeah. Fucking hell of a way to get me a message, Hansen,” Connor laughed, then took a step closer. “Seriously, who the hell confesses shit like that to a half-ghost in a letter left at a tree you two have been to once ?”

Evan laughed, incredibly nervous. “Um-I-uh, I g-guess I do?” Connor was incredibly close. If Evan reached out, his arm would still be bent when it touched his chest.

“Can I see the hair tie?”

“W-what?” Evan was a little lost. “Um-sure? H-here-“ He started to take the tie off of his wrist, but Connor was shaking his head. His hair was a little longer, Evan noticed. It looked good, the way it swept away from his face.

“Not what I meant, Hansen.” With one swift movement, Connor caught Evan’s wrist in one hand.

The touch was a normal human touch, but it sent a spark Evan would swear was real through his arm. Connor maintained eye contact as he held Evan’s wrist. It was a slightly tight hold, a little uncomfortable, and Evan wanted him to never ever let go.

“Not good enough,” Connor muttered as he inspected the hair tie on Evan’s wrist, then reached into his jacket pocket with his free hand, still not letting go of Evan’s wrist, until he withdrew a slightly battered looking sharpie. Connor uncapped it with his teeth, which made Evan blush even brighter, then let go of Evan’s wrist in favor of gently grabbing his cast. Evan watched in complete silence as Connor scrawled out large, sloppy letters along the entire face of the blank cast.

“There,” he said, once the sharpie’s cap was back on and he’d let go of Evan’s wrist. “Now you’re not alone, or whatever.” Connor was staring at him intently, and Evan was completely lost. He stared down at Connor’s name on his cast, then up at Connor, and back to the cast. What could he possibly say or do? There wasn’t any sort of thanks good enough for Connor being here, alive, able to be… touched.

“You could always try just that.”

“W-what?” Evan looked up at Connor, confused.

“You said most of that out loud,” Connor said, that sneaky, satisfied grin appearing slowly. “So I mean, you could always try the whole ‘touching’ shit.”

Evan’s blush was so strong at this point someone could probably fry an egg on the heat of his cheeks. “Y-you… want me to… um?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake-“ Connor must’ve gotten tired of his stuttering, or of the distance, or of something , because then he was stepping close, closer, closest, his hands reaching out to frame Evan’s face and yank him closer, and then Connor was kissing him . In the computer lab. At his high school.

Connor, his imaginary-half-ghost-hallucination-friend-crush, was kissing him.

And Evan was never happier to have fallen from a flowerbed, a chair, a tree, anything if it meant it got him to right here, in this moment, with Connor’s chest under his hands and the school bell declaring the end of the school day in the background. Even if Connor’s mouth was a little hard against him, and Evan’s hands were still shaking, and his cast was uncomfortable, he wouldn’t have traded the moment for anything.

Connor was here . Finally. And all Evan could do was kiss him back.