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Jared’s No Good Very Bad Time Loop

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me: im not super into DEH or writing anymore :/

me, at 12:23 am: sees one (1) art of a sad Jared on my dash

me, shaking and furiously typing: I Have Never Been More Passionate About DEH In My Entire Life And I Would Kill For Jared Kleinman

 

so uh. Hey y’all. been a while huh? sorry about the whole. sudden death thing. writing just wasn’t doin it for me anymore. but I’ve been recently gettin back into the swing of things and I’m hoping to keep it goin with this! I ain’t gonna promise regular updates bc frankly my creativity is a slippery bitch so. I’ll update when I update I guess?? This chapter is mostly just an announcement that I’m back and that this is the work I’ll be focusing most on. I might? Touch on slushie buddies again?? but don’t hold me to that.

First chapter will hopefully? Be up soon? Fingers crossed I guess aiduebfidhs

Chapter Text

The Connor Project was a dark stain on Jared’s already horrific reputation. It led to him losing his only friend, dropping all his social media for around half a month out of stress and worry that he’d see thousands of hate messages and death threats, and having two panic attacks (the first after Evan called him out and the second a few days later when the full truth of the Connor Project came out). He was nervous, wondering when the show was finally gonna drop and he’d get in trouble for the emails.

It never came, lucky him. No real consequences ever found their way to him, and he wasn’t sure whether to be relieved and let it go or to be even more cautious and stressed as a result.

After a month, he was finally able to somewhat relax. He was sure that, if he was going to get in trouble, it would’ve happened by now. He hadn’t gotten any death threats, no call outs, not even a message asking why he hadn’t been online for so long (which, admittedly stung but he’d eat glass before admitting that to anyone, not that he had anyone left to admit it to).

Life simply continued, as if nothing had even happened. The Connor Project blew over surprisingly fast and folks moved on to the next big tragedy, as they do. He didn’t talk to Evan anymore, they passed each other in the halls but neither spoke a word. Alana would wave and occasionally said hello but seemed content to ignore him and he respected that. He did kind of risk her entire academic career with the Connor Project, however indirectly. Zoe never had any business to talk to him before and now that she and Evan seemed to be attached at the hip, she had even less of one but he didn’t care about her all that much.

Jared ended senior year alone, his parents stayed briefly to watch him get his diploma before rushing out, having to catch a flight for their next business trip. They offered him some plastic flowers and a quick hug before rushing out the door. He waved at Heidi when she called out to him but didn’t stay to chat, quickly driving himself home to break into his dad’s liquor cabinet.

College applications went smoothly, he was even able to get a scholarship and got in to his second choice school (a bummer kind of but an accomplishment nonetheless). He’d moved out into the dorm quickly, on his own as his parents had left on yet another business trip, not that he cared. He was used to it at this point. His roommate was this tall and intimidating looking guy named Cyrus who turned out to be nice, just awkward with most social interactions. He seemed to like Jared well enough from the short time they interacted which was a plus as he’d be spending quite a bit of time with the guy.

The move in had gone relatively smoothly, he’d only dropped around half of his boxes which was good, for Jared at least. He now lay on his bed, drowning in excess pillows and too many blankets. He scrolled absentmindedly through various apps, not really focusing on any in particular. His first day of classes would be tomorrow, even if it was mostly introductions and reading over the syllabi, he was..excited, in a sense. College was his chance to start fresh, away from the Connor Project, and high school, and Evan. He could try and be less of an asshole, or at least a more likeable one. He could be different.

Jared wasn’t really sure when he fell asleep but he felt almost happy, lighter than he had felt the entire rest of senior year.

 

He woke up to the sound of his alarm blaring directly in his ear.

Groaning and rubbing his eyes, he went to reach for his phone from where it lay somewhere within the sheets. Finally managing to grab it, he shut off the alarm and checked the time.

And his blood froze.

The date on his phone was wrong. It had to be. Because it was the first day of school-high school. A small calendar notification popped up on the lock screen, reading plain as day: ‘first day of senioritis boi’, the same thing he’d set the night before the first day of his senior year. Looking around in confusion, he saw he wasn’t in his dorm room anymore. He was back home, in his own bed, starting at the walls and posters that decorated them.

“What the fuck..”

Was entire past year just…some kind of dream? Was that even possible? It must be right? It’s not like he went back in time or something, that’s not-that kinda shit isn’t possible. However strange and off-putting the situation was, Jared could do nothing but accept that what had happened was a dream. He didn’t really believe that but what else was he supposed to think? He did his best to push the ‘dream’ out of his head, trying to get ready and leave before he’d be late. He grabbed his bag off the desk where he’d left it and rushed out the door to his car.

The drive to school had been surreal on its own but arriving to school was even more so. An almost suffocating sense of deja vu followed him everywhere. He ignores the fact that it’s one hell of a coincidence that the class schedule he had in his dream was the same as his one in real life. He ignores the fact that when he sees Evan, he’s wearing the exact same outfit he did on the first day of school in his dream (the kid was like a cartoon character, he had multiple of the same damn outfit, it wasn’t that weird). He also ignored the cast he wore. He shoved down the feelings of bitterness that lingered from his dream and walked up to the taller anxious wreck, already pointing at the cast.

“Jesus, Hansen, how hard did you have to jerk off to Zoe’s pictures to break your arm like that?”

The other boy blushed a bright red and stammered, trying to respond to defend himself.

“I-I didn’t-! That’s not w-what happened Jared!”

“No, don’t get me wrong, I’m just impressed you were strong enough to do that to yourself, man. Didn’t know you had it in you.”

Evan whined, fidgeting in embarrassment and Jared tried to ignore the faint guilt he felt at making the other so uncomfortable.

“C-come on, Jared, that isn’t.. I mean, that’s not really-“

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Why don’t you tell me your cover story then, Acorn.”

Evan paused, looking confused. “A-acorn..?”

“Not what you should focus on, Ev. Cover story, cast, go.”

Evan hesitated before going into detail about his summer job as a (junior) park ranger, how he’d spent a lot of time in the woods and ended up climbing and falling out of a tree. Jared only half listens, focusing more on shoving down the thought of how disturbing it was that Evan had broken his arm the same way as in his dream. He sighed, rubbing his eyes frustratedly. Damnit this was gonna fucking bug him all day wasn’t it?

“Um.. Jared, were-were you uh, I mean, did you hear me..?”

“Yeah, yeah, no I did Ev. Sorry, I’m just-.. In a weird place today. ..Did it, y’know. Hurt?”

“Hurt?”

“The arm, Evan, what else would I be talking about?”

“Oh! Oh right yeah of course, uh.. Y-yes? But also no? It wasn’t.. I mean yeah it was pretty bad at first but it went numb pretty quickly so uh, y-y’know.”

Jared hissed through his teeth, wincing. “Ouch. I’m..I’m sorry that happened to you man.”

Evan blinked, almost surprised at the vague concern/sympathy Jared was showing him.

“Uh.. Well y’know, it-it happens I guess ahah… Uh, h-how was your-I mean, did you have a good summer?”

Jared hummed and nodded, deciding to not over exaggerate like he did in his dream. “It was fine, I guess. Standard camp bullshit, you know how it is.”

Evan just nodded, quietly following after Jared as they walked through the halls to their home room. About halfway there, Evan stopped nervously calling out to get Jared’s attention.

“H-hey, uh. Do you maybe wanna, I-I mean you don’t have to but like, would you like to-“

“Sign your cast?”

Evan jumped a little, not expecting Jared to stop or respond so quickly, or accurately.

“Uh..yeah.”

“...Fuck it, why not. You got a sharpie or something?”

Jared’s heart hurt a little as he saw how relieved and happy Evan seemed at his reply. He quickly dug out the black sharpie from his pocket and nearly dropped it in his haste to hand it over to Jared. Taking off the cap, Jared scribbled his name in decently sized messy handwriting. Despite his pathetic penmanship, Evan seemed extremely pleased.

“Th-thanks Jared..”

“No problem, Ev, what’re fam-..”, Jared paused, considering his options. If what happened really was just a dream, maybe he didn’t have to wait until college to change. Maybe he could start now and save his relationship with Evan. Not that it needed saving, that was just a dream, of course. “What’re friends for?”

Evan looked at him with blatant shock before it melted into a genuinely happy smile. The kind of smile Jared hadn’t seen on Evan’s face since they were kids, before Evan’s anxiety got so bad. Jared couldn’t help the small smile that grew on his own face and motioned for Evan to follow him and he started walking again.

“C’mon, tell me some random ass tree facts that my dumbass will probably forget in like five minutes.”

Before Evan could even open his mouth, Jared found himself bumping into someone and falling down.

“Ow, fuck. Sorry about that, man, you al..”

Looking up Jared found himself staring at a glaring Connor Murphy, alive and not just a face on a button. His heart stopped as he trailed off, looking at Connor. Of course he was here, he wasn’t actually dead, it was just a stupid fucking dream, Kleinman.

Connor didn’t seem to take too kindly to the staring.

“What the fuck are you staring at?”

Jared shook himself out of his stupor, getting back up off the floor. “Nothing, man. You good? I’m, uh, sorry for bumping into you..?”

Connor looked at him suspiciously before answering. “I’m fine. Watch where the fuck you’re going next time, Kleinman.”

“It was just an accident man, chill.”

Strike two for Kleinman.

Connor glared at him even more and took a threatening step forward. “I. Am. Chill. You’re the idiot who can’t fucking see where he’s going.”

And with that, Connor roughly shoved past him, stalking his way down the hall.

Jared sighed, rubbing his temples. That..probably could’ve gone better. Maybe not, considering how volatile the older Murphy usually was. He heard timid footsteps come up behind him and a gentle hand found its place on his shoulder.

“H-hey, are you-are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m.. I’m fine, Acorn. Let’s just get to class, yeah? I just want this day to be over already.”

 

Later on in the day, Jared found himself sitting in a chair, leaning back as he waited for Evan to finish writing his weird therapy letter. He scrolled through his phone as he listened to Evan quietly mumble out what he typed, a habit he’d had since eighth grade. It used to annoy him but now the sound was calming, something reliably normal compared to the weird and unnerving day he’d had.

Evan has finally finished and was printing the letter out when a new voice suddenly rang out through the near empty computer lab.

“Kleinman.”

They both jumped, whirling around to see Connor Murphy standing behind them, an almost concerningly blank expression on his face. Evan looked panicked, not a big surprised but Jared managed to keep his shocked expression under wraps, at least for the most part.

“Uh.. Yeah? You need something?”

Connor took a deep breath, looking away from Jared and tapping his foot almost nervously. “I.. I wanted to, y’know. Apologize, I guess. For this morning. I was..a dick.”

“Oh.. Uh, yeah no, it’s fine man. We all feel like shit on the first day it’s.. Don’t even worry about it.”

Connor nodded, content to let the conversation die there. He turned around when the noise of the nearby printer pierced through the new awkward silence. A piece of paper fell out of the slot that was filled with forgotten syllabi and random abandoned documents and fluttered slowly to the ground at Connor’s feet. He paused before picking it up and turning back to the two boys, showing it to them revealing it to be Evan’s letter.

“Uh. Is this..either of yours..?” Connor asked, turning the paper around to read the contents.

“U-uh! Y-yeah, actually, that’s-that’s mine, uh, thanks for picking it up I guess but it’s not-! I mean I-I’d appreciate if you didn’t-didn’t-“

“What.. What the hell is this?”

“It-it’s just-! I-it’s this dumb thing I had to write f-for-“

“Oh. Oh, I know what this fucking is. You wrote this to fuck with me, didn’t you?”

Evan when pale, shaking slightly as he stammered to try and find a response.

“Wh-wha..? Why, why would I do-?”

“So you could fucking make fun of me! Make fun of the freak by writing creepy shit about his sister so you can watch him flip his shit! Is this what you fucking wanted, huh?”

It was at this point Jared stepped in, unwilling to watch this anymore.

“Calm the fuck down, Murphy, this isn’t about you. That’s some dumb therapy assignment Evan had to write. I have no clue what he wrote about your sister but-“

“Cut the shit, Kleinman, I don’t wanna hear your fucking excuses!”

Connor turned to leave, the letter gripped tightly in his white knuckles fist. Against his better judgement, Jared lunged forward grabbing the paper and trying to pull it out of the others grip. This lead to the paper tearing, Connor punching Jared in the eye (something that would hurt like a bitch when the adrenaline) wore off, and Evan making various panicked and distressed noises as he worried over Jared as Connor practically ran out of the room.

Jared simply waved him off, claiming he was fine. He handed the form and crumpled paper to Evan, noticing that while some of the blank top half of it was missing, likely still in the furious hands of Connor, the words themselves were still intact. As a bribe to get him to quit his mother-henning, Jared offered Evan a ride home and threw in ordering a pizza for them both to eat while they watched a movie at Evan’s place. Thankfully, the taller boy (reluctantly) accepted and allowed Jared to go free with only minimal worrying.

 

A few days later, when the dream had finally left Jared’s mind and he and Evan’s friendship was finally getting back to what it felt like back when they were kids, Jared was hit by a metaphorical truck.

Connor Murphy was dead.

Suicide, said the principal, a faked sad expression on his face. He’d continued to speak about Connor like he wasn’t a horrifically troublesome student who he hated and stressed the importance of mental health. Jared blanked out through the rest of the assembly, the dream fresh in his mind once again. He knew what came next.

Sure enough, the following few days, Connor themed merchandise flooded the school as people who likely never spoke to Connor outside of calling him a freak pretended to mourn over him as though they were best friends. Jared felt sick, remembering that in his dream he made buttons to piggyback off the sudden Connor boom. He refrained from doing such this time and resorted to quietly nodding in agreement when Evan remarked how horrible this was, to profit off the memory of a dead kid.

The merchandise died out and was forgotten, along with Connor, the following week.

Jared held his breath that week, subconsciously waiting for Evan to message him about being called to the office to speak to the Murphys.

It never came.

There was no letter for the Murphys to find and assume Connor wrote. No reason for them to talk to Evan. No reason for Evan to lie. No reason for the emails or the Connor Project to exist at all. The rest of senior year just..continued on. No Connor Project, no emails, no elaborate lies and friendship ending arguments. It was.. Normal. A boring, normal year.

He and Evan continued to talk, Jared himself started opening up and admitting that calling Evan nothing more than a family friend for so long was a kind of fucked up defense mechanism. Evan, though still understandably upset about what Jared had done, forgave him. Jared ended up learning how to deal with Evan’s panic attacks and became someone he could rely on to help him with his anxiety. They grew closer and he and Evan both got long, proud hugs from Heidi at graduation. She offered to take them out for dinner at a small local place and Jared ended up staying the night at Evan’s place, staying up and watching movies together until early morning.

With no emails to constantly worry about, Jared was able to focus on his grades and ended up getting into his top choice college with a small handful of scholarships. Evan helped him move into his new dorm, making Jared promise to come back and visit whenever he could. A promise Jared happily made. His new roommate was this over dramatic but well intentioned kid named Beau, a chemistry major, who apparently also spoke French, who had clicked with Jared the second he found out how similar their senses of humor were.

Life was good. He and Beau had hung out for a while, joking around and discussing tv shows and movies before they both retreated to their small private rooms for the night. Evan had called and he’d stayed up later than he probably should have talking to him about the classes he’d be taking this semester and about the online courses Evan was currently looking into. At around 1:30, Jared decided to turn in, saying goodnight to Evan and setting his alarm before placing it on the small desk he’d put next to his bed.

He fell asleep, genuinely happy and excited for tomorrow.

And woke up back in his room.

Chapter Text

“What the fuck.”

Jared day ramrod straight in his bed, gripping his phone so tightly he swore the screen would crack. Almost mockingly, the calendar notification popped up on the screen once again: ‘first day of senioritis boi’ as the sound of his alarm was replaced by a faint ringing in his ears. He dropped his phone in his lap, roughly pinching and scratching at his arm to try and wake himself up from whatever kind of messed up dream he was stuck in.

“What the actual fuck.”

This couldn’t be happening. It was literally impossible. He could not be back home on the first day of senior year again. He’d done this already twice, in fact. He’d graduated, gotten into his top college, ended up best friends with Evan and had a cool roommate. He was a college freshman not a high school senior.

And yet here he was, back in bed on what was apparently the first day of school.

Jared sat in his bed for a moment longer, hiding his face in his hands and roughly rubbing at his eyes. One ‘year long’ dream was weird, explainable but still weird. Two of them though was pushing his belief a little farther than he was capable of. But what else could this be? Time travel, as far as he was aware, isn’t real; and even if it was, why would it be out to use sending him back to the first day of senior year? Didn’t time scientists or whoever have better uses for that sort of technology? Like stopping the Titanic from sinking or something?

Taking a shaky breath, Jared slowly maneuvered himself out of his pile of blankets and over to his closet.

Whatever. This was fine. He was fine. He’s just been experiencing the longest and weirdest fucking dream of his life. That was the only explanation. He’d go to school and live through senior year again and everything would be fine. He’d be fine.

Jared ended up being late to school. Having a mini existential crisis over having a ‘two year long’ dream probably wouldn’t cut it as a valid excuse, so he decided to just take the mark against him quietly. So much for the perfect attendance award.

He didn’t see Evan when he got to school, probably because homeroom was taking place and, if his dreams were correct, he and Evan didn’t share that particular class. He felt both smug and sickened when he arrived at his new homeroom class (the same one as in his dream, he didn’t even remember to grab his class schedule this morning and yet he knew where he was supposed to go-) and saw no sign of the taller nervous boy. What, or rather who, he did see quickly killed any and all hopes of having a normal day.

Connor. Fucking. Murphy.

There was something so strange about seeing a dead kid up and walking around. But he wasn’t dead. That was a dream, of course he wouldn’t be dead. The only open seat left was in the back, next to Mr. Not A Dead Guy himself. Jared slowly walked over to the seat, setting his bag and himself down in a daze. He tuned out the teacher’s shrill voice going over some kind of announcements and found himself staring at Connor.

The bags under his eyes were dark and deep, that added to how red his eyes were suggested that he hadn’t slept. His hair was messy and even from his seat Jared could see some knots dotted throughout the dark mane. His skin was pale and greatly contrasted the black hoodie that hung off the taller’s skinny frame. He looked..tired. Exhausted, and not just physically. He had a frustrated and upset look on his face and picked at the skin on his fingers like it had personally offended him.

Jared jumped slightly when he saw those dark eyes turn on him, glaring, cold and already void of that sad tiredness that filled them seconds before.

“What the fuck are you looking at, Kleinman.”

Less of a question, more of an accusation.

Jared gaped, for once speechless. His mind raced with suggestions, sharp quips that’d surely do nothing but set the older Murphy off, cold dismissals that..would likely do the same. He ended up saying-

“How was your summer?”

Both parties blinked, confused and clearly not expecting the words that had just come out of Jared’s mouth.

“...What?”

“Your summer. How-how was it..?”

A beat of silence, filled by the teacher scolding someone at the front of the classroom for acting out already. The two stared at each other and Jared was mentally beating the shit out of his brain for making him ask such a stupid question. He was even more shocked, however, when his unintentional olive branch was accepted, with a healthy serving of suspicion and a sprinkle of hostility.

“..It was fine, not like its any of your fucking business. If this is just some set up to some bullshit joke, I swear to god-“

“It’s not! I just-.. I was just curious. Uh. Did you..do anything fun? You don’t have to answer, I’m just.. I’ll shut up now actually.”

Connor paused at the response, looking over him and glaring suspiciously before his gaze softened the most miniscule amount.

“..Unless you think wandering around town at three in the morning is fun, then no.”

“Oh. Cool, that’s..that’s cool. My summer was, uh, kinda boring. I mean, I went to a summer camp and all but nothing really happened. I did get shoved into the lake and nearly drowned but I mean that’s just what you do at camp I think-“

Oh god, he was rambling. A horrible nervous habit he’d had yet to kick. Not that he’d have to worry about that, he was certain Murphy would manage to find some kind of insult in his mini speech and kick his ass. Despite this, he couldn’t stop himself from going on and on about camp. It was mortifying but once he got started, his proverbial word vomiting would just keep spilling out until someone physically shut him up.

“..and then Jeremy set the beds on fire, I still have no idea where he got the matches but I know it wasn’t an accident, and the raccoons are still attacking our cabin leader and-“

“For fucks sake, do you ever shut up, Kleinman?”

Jared closed his mouth with an audible click, nervously fidgeting with his hands as he looked at the taller boy to search for signs that he should get up and run.

Instead he found..well, annoyance. Definitely annoyance but also..something else. Something that made Connor look less, worn out; almost relaxed-or at least as relaxed as someone like Connor could get anyway. A person with a death wish would even dare to go so far as to call the look in Murphy’s eyes ‘vaguely tolerant’.

And like the genius he was, Jared’s smart response: “No, I’m legally required to talk constantly or my government agent will reach through my phone and shoot me.”

A beat of silence followed by a small but unmistakable huff of laughter from the taller boy.

Jared blinked, doing nothing to hide his surprise that Connor did, in fact, feel emotions other than anger. Not only that, but he’d laughed-laughed, at something he’d said.

Oddly enough, it was comforting to him. This was proof enough that he was just trapped in a lucid dream deep enough to make Inception look like a toddler’s bedtime story. This odd almost banter (could this even be called banter?) was clearly a sign that he was still asleep, as there was no way that he’d ever be able to make Connor goddamn Murphy laugh.

Emboldened by this realization, Jared cleared his throat and tried to continue the conversation before this magical little moment died. However, the teacher decided to turn her screechy voice onto him, demanding his attention and likely damaging his eardrums.

Wincing, he gave a brief glance to Connor, who’d already turned away and pulled up his hood, before turning to the front of the class to zone out until the bell.

During the brief hallway rush between classes, Jared decided to run to the office. Perhaps he was just being paranoid, but he imagined that knowing what class to go to without even having a schedule was bound to be suspicious. On the way, he ran into Evan. He offered the taller boy a smile and quickly scribbled his name onto Evan’s cast before he could even begin to ask. He promised to catch up with him at lunch (they’d have the same period, he already knew) he continued on his way to the office.

The rest of the day passed by uneventfully. Connor popped up in a few of his classes and he was greeted with a nod of acknowledgment on the occasion their eyes met. He calmed Evan down during lunch from a small meltdown over the less than friendly encounter he’d had with Connor in the hallway.

Later on in the afternoon, Jared stood guard next to the printer that Evan’s paper would come out of. He tapped his foot nervously, eyes darting between Evan, hunched over the keyboard and mumbling quietly, and the door. He knew what happened next and he would prefer if things didn’t play out in a fight, again.

And sure enough, Connor eventually came through the door, looking uncomfortable and tense. Jared shifted from his position at the printer, catching the taller boy’s attention and offering a small smile in the hopes of helping the other relax.

Connor paused before he nodded back and Jared saw the tension in his shoulders lessen ever so slightly.

Jared tuned out the apology and awkward, half hearted attempt at conversation the two made, choosing instead to focus on the printer. He jumped slightly with each click and noise the machine made, watching the print tray like a hawk for Evan’s letter.

It barely managed to fully land in the tray before Jared snatched it up, folding it in half to ensure that no accidental sightings could be made.

He relaxed then, stepping closer to Connor and Evan and took the pressure off them by using his ‘incredible charisma’ to take control of the conversation, letting them relax and react instead of having to speak themselves. He joked about some of his teachers, made a few jokes that neither of them would get (does it count as stealing if he starts a meme that doesn’t technically exist yet?), and how horrible the rest of the year was bound to be.

He was rewarded with a small, grateful smile from Evan and another small, almost unnoticeable huff of laughter from Connor.

Jared smiled back, slipping the letter into Evan’s backpack so nothing would happen to it. This felt..good. The atmosphere was light, lighter than one would expect given their three personalities. Connor eventually left, with a halfhearted wave over his shoulder (and a middle finger in Jared’s general direction when he called out a high pitched goodbye after him).

He offered Evan a ride home and stayed over to watch movies, much to Evan’s surprise and Heidi’s delight.

The next few months went by smoothly. His friendship with Evan improved much in the same way it did in his previous dreams, his grades were perfect-going through the same material for two years helped apparently, he even managed to build a shaky, but positive frenemyship with Connor.

Jared didn’t speak much with him outside of school, assuming he didn’t want to deal with their banter anymore then he had to.

Until one week, towards the end of the year, Connor didn’t show up to class for a week.

The following Monday, the school was called into the gym for an assembly.

Connor Murphy was dead.

Jared froze in his seat, staring disbelievingly at the aging principal at the podium. The same speech about mental health was given and Jared didn’t listen but knew every word. His blood froze in his veins and next to him, he could feel Evan placing a hand on his shoulder and heard him calling his name quietly.

He brushed it off, letting his mind drift away from his body for the rest of the assembly, the rest of the day, the rest of the week. The next day, Connor merchandise spread through the school like a plague. Jared faintly recalls pushing over a bowl full of Connor keychains and buttons while the girl selling them had her back turned. He mumbled to Evan during lunch about how horrible this was. Evan agreed, saying it was awful to profit off of someone’s suicide.

It wasn’t what Jared meant but he nodded along anyway.

Exams came and went, followed by college applications and graduation and end of the year parties (and by party, he meant a small but lively dinner between himself, Evan, and Heidi before retreating to Evan’s room for a movie marathon).

He once again moved into a dorm, with Evan’s assistance. He ended up having a new roommate, though he stayed in the same room. The kid was named Krim, he was short (shorter than Jared though they were the same age), had long straight hair and wore an eyepatch-apparently he was recovering from some sort of eye surgery.

He reminded Jared of Evan and they got along fairly well. Jared declined the offer to talk more, saying he was tired and retreated to his room, still filled with unpacked boxes.

He sat on his bed, head in his hands. He took a shaky breath and picked up his phone, staring at the time. It was still somewhat early, too early to consider going to bed but Jared didn’t care. He turned his phone off, setting it down on the small, cheap nightstand to charge.

He stared up at the ceiling for a while, contemplating what was going to happen next.

“Please,” he mumbled, shutting his eyes and forcing himself to relax, “I just want to wake up.”

He eventually drifted off to sleep, managing to distract himself with thoughts of his classes enough to fall under.

He woke up back in his room and screamed.

Chapter Text

Jared sat under the covers for hours once his throat finally gave out from screaming. He was both surprised and a little bit offended that the police hadn’t shown up as a result of him sounding like a prize winning horror movie murder victim (that old hag Mrs. Dornsby next door never did like him though, so maybe she was too busy celebrating at the thought of his murder).

He stared blankly at the wall, curled into a ball under the sheets as he let the obnoxious sounds of his alarm blare out until it finally stopped, leaving him with the sound of panicked, shallow breathing and teary sniffles that totally weren’t coming from him. He was just being haunted by a crying ghost, obviously.

His phone started to buzz a little after second period (Biology with Mr. Lewis, he barely did any studying and yet got perfect grades in it, having already taken the test tended to give an advantage, he supposed). When he’d glanced at the screen, he saw Evan’s name briefly flash across the screen, a message asking where he was, if he was alright.

Jared, in his own defense, tried to respond but his hands shook too much to type a coherent message. He ended up sending a string of emojis that, in his mind, painted a clear picture that he was not alright and probably having a panic attack. In anyone else’s mind, it probably just looked like absolute jack shit, which, fair enough.

He couldn’t do this again.

He just couldn’t.

Whatever sick, twisted dream he was having stopped being fun the first time he woke up back here. He was tired of this, he wanted to wake up, wherever the hell he would wake up. Maybe it would be back in the dorm with one of his roommates (can he even call them that now when technically they’ve never met?) or maybe it would be in a hospital bed after some stupid over dramatic accident cliche; he didn’t care.

He just wanted to wake up.

He’d dug his short, bitten nails into his arms, scratching and pinching for a while in the hopes of waking himself up and the only thing stopping him from screaming again when it didn’t work was the fact that his throat gave out immediately, sending him into a wheezing, painful coughing fit.

He wasn’t sure when he started rocking, a fidget he’d had ever since he was a kid and overstimulated or upset, but he was as he quietly mumbled to himself at a pitch and volume his throat finally allowed.

“This is fine, it’s fine, it’s fine. It was just a dream, just another stupid fucking dream. You’re awake now, Kleinman, it’s fine. You’re gonna get the fuck up, and go to school and not have an absolute meltdown over reliving the same goddamn year again-Jesus fucking Christ-!”

Jared threw the covers off of him, the once comforting warmth and weight becoming suffocating as his breathing quicken again and his vision went blurry with tears.

Maybe it was an overreaction but, quite frankly, he didn’t really give a shit at that point, his mind spiraling into thoughts of being trapped like this forever, never waking up and being doomed to relieve what was arguably the worst year of his life (originally at least, and HA-he could say that and genuinely mean originally and if that didn’t send him deeper into a panic-).

When he finally came back to himself he was dizzy and lightheaded, his throat burned even more and he stumbled as he pulled himself to his feet. He got dressed on autopilot, shrugging on a loose, plain yellow t-shirt, an old hoodie and an pair of jeans, not having the energy or will to wear his usual obnoxiously bright and painful to look at Hawaiian t-shirts. His phone proudly displayed 11:47 when he’d glanced at it in the bathroom, and he rolled his eyes tiredly at the thought of missing out on the perfect attendance award again.

He looked like a mess, face red and splotchy from totally nonexistent crying and the totally even less existent panic attack. He’d splashed some water onto his face in a lame attempt to help and lazily ran a hand through his hair instead of bothering to brush it.

Jared made his way out of that empty house slowly, grabbing his keys and starting his car in a daze, just present enough to not get into a car crash and die. He drove to school because, honestly, he was just desperate for some kind of normalcy right now. And as tempting as it was to stay home sick; which he felt he VERY MUCH deserved after his whole meltdown, he knew that staying home when he was too upset to distract himself would lead to an even worse mental state. He parked haphazardly in the same spot he had the past two dreams (he refused to call them years, that’d make them a little too real for him to handle right now) and nodded along absentmindedly when the office secretary scolded him for being so late, taking the tardy slip and wandering out of the office in the same daze he dressed himself in earlier.

He’d missed the first half of classes by a nautical fucking mile, time wise, but he also felt like going to the cafeteria and even smelling the disgusting excuse for pasta they’d have today (just like the last two first days) would make him vomit.

Jared opted to skip lunch today, not feeling hungry anyway. He did shoot Evan a text, saying he was at school finally, making an excuse of sleeping in and not setting his alarm to explain his lateness, not that the kid would likely have the guts to question him on it seriously anyway.

He wandered the hallways, barely acknowledging the small gaggle of students that duck in and out of classrooms and bathrooms as they waited for their own lunch periods to start. He’d stopped in front of an old art classroom, now currently unused and apparently empty, if the lack of lights inside was to be trusted.

Jared sighed a bit before moving towards the door, not questioning it when it clicked and opened easily despite the fact that it likely should have been locked. He shut the door behind him a bit too quickly, leaning against it and sinking to the floor, exhausted. His earlier...episode had evidently taken it out of him and he’d still not really recovered from it. He curled up slightly, folding his arms and resting them on his knees as he hid his face in his hoodie sleeves, hoping to be able to relax and breathe for just a sec-

“What the fuck are you doing in here, Kleinman.”

Jared jolted in surprise at the voice, slamming his head into the wooden door behind him and hissing at the throbbing pain that followed.

He looked up, freezing a bit as he saw dead-but-not-really-dead Connor goddamn Murphy sitting on the teacher’s desk, glaring down at him suspicious and hostile. The older Murphy hopped off the desk and stalked his way towards where Jared sat, metaphorical hackles raised and ready to fight if need be.

But goddamnit, Jared was just so tired…

“Look Connor. Literally any other time I’d be willing to rattle the fuckin’ bones with you all day long but right now I just can’t. Can we take a raincheck on the whole hating each other thing (Jared winced as he said this, as he’d gotten used to their frenemyship last time and found it pretty nice) for like. A few hours? Please? I’ll insult you when I don’t feel like driving my car into a light pole, ‘kay?”

When Jared received silence in response to his statement, he gathered all his remaining energy to look up at the taller boy, finding a mix of surprise, confusion, and (of course) suspicion on Connor’s face.

“..What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Honestly? That’s such a loaded question right now that if I answered it, I think I’d throw up. And I gotta tell you, Murphy, I don’t look sexy when I vomit.”

Connor rolled his eyes in response but Jared saw him relax ever so slightly from his standard, on-guard and hostile posture. He stuffed his hands into the pocket of his hoodie, looking down at Jared with an expression that wasn’t quite concern but wasn’t really contempt either, so Jared counted it as a win because he really needed any and all wins right now.

“You act like you look sexy ever.”

“Ok, rude, I’m already down man, what do you wanna kick me in the balls next?”

“It’s tempting.”

“I’m being abused. This is assault and you’ll be hearing from my fucking lawyer, Karen (sue him, he thought the Karen memes were funny and he wasn’t gonna wait till the year was almost over to be able to use them goddamnit).”

Connor rolled his eyes again, lips twitching in a way that Jared recognized from last time as a sign he was trying his hardest to stay straight faced in response to his bullshit.

(And wasn’t that a weird thought? That Jared was able to recognize a small quirk like that in someone who used to probably dream of beating the shit out of him. That Jared was falling so easily back into the relationship that they’d had despite it not really existing and the way that fact made something in Jared’s chest hurt.)

Jared found himself loosening slightly from his tightly curled position against the door as well, relaxing into something that would probably still fuck up his back but not as severely. He was smiling, faintly but still and he found he didn’t feel like absolutely shit anymore, happy for the distraction and familiar banter.

Connor looked him up and down briefly, as if assessing him before he sunk to the floor as well, crossing his legs as he leaned against a nearby desk. He raised a dark, thin eyebrow as he reached up to twirl a piece of dark, messy hair absentmindedly.

“So what the fuck are you here for? Because I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t think you were able of feeling emotions that aren’t ‘smug bitch’ and ‘nosy asshole’.”

“I’ll have you know I can also feel ‘mild delight at pictures of small frogs’.”

“...What.”

“Oh come on, Murphy. You can’t fucking tell me you haven’t looked at a picture of a tiny frog on a lily pad and just felt at peace. Like you cannot tell me you haven’t wished you were a tiny frog on a lilypad, just fucking vibing and absolutely fucking stupid.”

“Well you’ve got the stupid part down-“

“Oh fuck off.”

A barely repressed laugh forced its way out of Connor’s mouth, his expression relaxed for just a second before he seemed to remember where he was and who he was talking to. Jared’s smile dimmed as well, seeing how guarded the other’s expression became again.

They sat in silence for a bit, avoiding the other’s gaze like it was the plague before Jared broke the silence.

“So. Why are you here?”

Connor narrowed his eyes, looking at him from the corner of his eye. “You won’t answer that question but you expect me to?”

Jared merely grinned a bit and raised his eyebrows suggestively. “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”

The joke only somewhat landed, causing Connor’s lips to twitch slightly as he rolled his eyes again.

“You’re disgusting.”

“Thanks.”

A beat of silence between them again, with a slightly better atmosphere this time before the silence was broken by the taller boy.

“...People are assholes. Zoe’s a fucking bitch and I needed to get away for a hot second before I threw someone through a fucking window.”

“Getting suspended for defenestration on the first day isn’t very cash money, Murphy.”

“...What?”

“What?”

Connor blinked at him, turning towards him fully with a confused expression on his face. “What the fuck was that word?”

“What, cash money? Connor, please, for the love of god tell me you know what that is-“

“Not that, you dumbass!” He glared at Jared, and it probably would’ve been a lot more intimidating if there was any genuine heat in it. “The fucking… Deferation one.”

“Defenestration?”

“That’s the bitch.”

“Oh. It’s just. Throwing someone out a window.”

“Why the fuck do you know that?”

“Look, finding obscure and extremely specific words is like crack to me and I never get a chance to use them in conversations so I have to take what I can get, ok?”

Connor stared at him silently for a few seconds before the briefest flash of a smile crossed his face before he schooled his expression, shaking his head slightly. “You’re fucking weird, Kleinman.”

“Tell me about it.”

“So?”

“So what?”

“I said why I’m here. Why the fuck are you here.”

“..Would it be enough if I said I’m just having a really...really bad day?”

Silence.

Jared sighed, leaning his head down onto his arms again, trying to mentally prepare himself for the explanation* (*lie) he’d have to make to explain what the fuck is up with him because he didn’t want to burn the bridge he’d just started forming before it was even finished. He should’ve known that wouldn’t fly, it’s such a shitty excuse; why did he think-

“Yeah. Works for me, if it works for you.”

Jared blinked, his brain stopping for a second as he processed the words as he looked up at Connor in disbelief.

“...You’re not gonna question that? Like at all?”

Connor merely raised an eyebrow in response. “Do you want me to force you to talk about it?”

Jared winced at the idea, resting his chin on his arms again at the thought. The action alone seems enough of a response for Connor as he shrugged and turned away.

“‘S what I thought. ..I get not wanting to talk about shit. It’s whatever.”

Jared opened his mouth as if to respond but he let it close almost instantly. He...genuinely wasn’t expecting this kind of response, he was completely expecting to be basically interrogated and having to lie as much as possible to get the other off his case. But the way Connor so easily backed off was..nice.

They sat in relative silence after that, a comfortable one, until the bell rang. They both stood up, looking a bit lost as to what to do next. Jared resorted to fidgeting with the strings of his hoodie as they both listened to the sounds of students rushing to lunch and classes. He felt Connor’s gaze on him and looked up to meet the other’s eyes. They looked at each other quietly, as if reevaluating who they were.

Jared found himself staring in a way that felt. Odd. Different. His attention was caught by the dark green color of Connor’s eyes (he’d never really acknowledged that they were green before), the darkness of the bags under his eyes and how his hair fell naturally in front of his face. How, if he looked close enough, he could see the faintest smattering of freckles across the bridge of Connor’s nose.

“...ound.”

“Huh?” Jared snapped out of his daze, feeling oddly exposed as his attention span finally focused on something important.

Connor raised an eyebrow, hand on the doorknob as he prepared to leave. “I said…” He huffed quietly, looking away to focus instead on the chipped black polish on his nails. “...I’ll see you around.”

And with that, he pushed the door open, wading into the sea of students that lay just outside; leaving Jared alone in the room.

Jared wandered into his classroom (History) just before the late bell rang, causing his teacher (Ms. Heren) to narrow her eyes at him as he made his way to his seat next to Evan, which was, of course, open.

The anxious teen next to him looked him over, concerned as he obviously noticed the off aura around him. He waited until Ms. Heren was distracted before whispering to Jared.

“Jared..? Did you, um, I mean. Are you, y-y’know, ok? I-I mean you never showed up this morning a-and you didn’t respond to my texts until lunch and I just-“

Jared cut the other off, shaking his head slightly. “I’m fine, Evan. Just. Had a really rough night. It’s fine. I’m fine.”

It felt more like he was reassuring himself than Evan.

Evan looked at him as thought he didn’t entirely believe him but let it drop easily enough, switching the subject to asking how Jared’s summer was.

Jared dodged the question, not quite caring to recounting the story of camp again and instead made a point to look at Evan’s cast, responding instead with a request to sign it.

Evan blinked, pleasantly surprised but confused all the same. “..Jared a-are you sure you’re okay?”

“I said I’m fine, Acorn. I just.” Jared took a breath as he focused on what he wanted to say to dispel as much suspicion as possible. “Look I know I’ve been. An asshole. Mostly in general but also to you specifically. I didn’t… I didn’t want us to end this year being family friends again. You’re like. The only friend I have and I haven’t been treating you like that. I’m..I’m sorry, Ev.”

It was a somewhat rehashed version of the apology he’d given to Evan last time, recycled though still genuine. He did like having Evan as a friend and still wanted to repair their relationship (for the third time).

Evan blinked, clearly not expecting such a genuinely emotional response from Jared of all people.

“Jared… I-“

“Are you two quite finished back there or should I postpone the discussion so your conversation can continue?” The sharp, high pitched voice of Ms. Heren cut off Evan before he could go any further, causing him to flush red and stammer as he panicked at having the teacher’s attention on him so suddenly.

“Yeah, I mean, if you could that’d be sick. A real epic gamer move, Ms. H.”

“Mr. Kleinman, I’d hate to send you to the office on the first day. You will address me with respect and you will not talk in my classroom. Is that clear, young man?”

Jared huffed quietly, leaning against his hand as he propped his arm up on the desk, flashing an ok sign with his free hand. “Crystal, ma’am.”

She glared at them before returning to the syllabus, talking louder in order to gain back attention.

Jared didn’t care to focus, having already listened to his lecture three times. Instead his focus was on Evan, still red and clearly upset from being called out. Jared frowned, feeling a little guilty. He discretely pulled out his phone and sent the other a text.

‘piza at ur place after schiol???’

Jared watched as Evan jolted slightly from feeling his phone buzz in his pocket, watching the teacher as he slowly pulled it out and read the message, ignoring the typos that resulted from trying to type without being noticed. His eyes widened a bit as he turned towards Jared, who only smiled at him, eyes flickering down at the phone to reference the question again.

Evan smiled slightly in response, nodding a bit as he turned back to face the front of the classroom with the smile remaining on his face.

School continued as normal, the rest of Jared’s classes passed by in a blur, not caring to focus on anything being said. He caught Connor a few times in the hallway and the two had waved or nodded in acknowledgement before continuing on their way.

Later in the library, Jared repeated his actions from the last loop, guarding the printer and slipping the letter silently into Evan’s bag before taking control of the conversation to save both Connor and Evan from the combined force of awkward apologies and Evan’s...general awkward and anxious nature.

Jared watched as Connor made to leave before calling out, throwing impulse control to the wind as he asked the taller teen a question.

“Wanna hang out with me and Ev? We were gonna get pizza, watch some movies.”

Both Evan and Connor froze, turning to face him with expressions of confusion (Connor) and poorly hidden fear/disbelief (Evan).

“..What?”

“Do you wanna hang? You don’t have to but like yknow. Figured I’d offer.” He said, politely ignoring Evan’s frantic whispers of ‘Jared what are you D O I N G’ behind him as he waited for Connor’s reply.

The taller teen looked him up and down again before slowly shaking his head, mumbling an excuse along the lines of homework and parents. Jared nodded.

“Aw man. Maybe another time then?”

“...Maybe..” And with that, Connor quickly left the library and Jared watched him flee through the glass windows and felt vaguely upset.

“What wAS THAT?!”

Ah. Right. Evan.

Jared gave some half hearted explanation as he attempted to calm the other down, laying a steady hand on Evan’s shoulder.

“I just. Wanted to try something different.”

Wanted to try harder to end this.

“Yknow, make a new friend or. Whatever.”

Do it better, fix whatever was causing this.

“Can’t blame me for trying, right?”

Can’t blame him for trying his best to figure out what was causing this year to repeat.

 

The year continues.

He and Evan grow close again. This time he helps Evan grow closer to Zoe, purely to make Evan happy. He and Zoe get together after a while, the relationship polite but not as. Romance filled as Jared expected. More like close friends than lovers.

They break up halfway through the year and Evan calls him in tears, not over the breakup but because he doesn’t think he’s straight because he felt wrong whenever he and Zoe kissed and wasn’t sure if he ever actually loved her. And Jared laughs internally because, damn, the gays really do travel in packs. He comforts the other over the phone and comes over with shitty movies and a confession that he and Evan are in the same boat to show there’s nothing to fear. They watch movies till 4 am and fall asleep pressed close to each other like when they were kids.

Jared works hard to try and befriend Connor further. They exchange numbers and it becomes a bit between them to change each other’s contact names to something rude or jokingly insulting. He invites him to hang out both just with him and with Evan in tow. He accepts sometimes when it’s just Jared, never when with Evan. He grew pretty distant and almost bitter during the period of time when Evan and Zoe were dating and didn’t really get comfortable around Evan again after that.

The few times they do hang out, it’s casual and surprisingly lighthearted. Their banter is still sharp and quick witted but there’s no venom in their words. Jared gets the privilege and bragging rights that follow from making Connor Murphy laugh more than once (or at all, really).

Connor acts weird as time goes on, getting more distant and angry despite Jared’s best attempts to..help? Comfort him? He wasn’t sure what to really call it.

One day, he’d laid a hand on Connor’s shoulder and quietly asked if he was ok, genuine concern spilling into his voice and expression as he stared into red eyes that clearly hadn’t seen sleep in far too long. Time stands still for a second before Connor’s almost delicate expression morphs into something hurting and angry as he shoves Jared away, knocking him to the floor as he yells about something along the lines of not being a freak and being fine.

He doesn’t give Jared a chance to talk to him again as he runs away. He doesn’t give Jared a chance to talk to him again when he blocks his number after he stops showing up to school.

Doesn’t give Jared a chance to talk to him again after he kills himself.

Jared finds himself being comforted by Evan during the memorial speech, wondering absentmindedly when he started crying. Wondering if his tears are because his friend (friend?) is dead or because he knows what this likely means. He leans towards Evan, soaking up comfort like a sponge when he can’t figure out an answer.

He gets suspended a few days later for yelling at a girl selling Connor merchandise and flipping the fold up plastic table she was sitting at. The sight of the buttons and lanyards making him sick and furious and he has to rush to the bathrooms afterwards to vomit. Evan follows after him, rubbing his back in the stall in an attempt to comfort him.

“It’s not f-fair..they weren’t his fucking friends, they don’t get to just-! Profit off of him like that, it’s fucking sick.” He says, sniffling and gagging from the taste of vomit and from the tears he finds are spilling down his face. He thinks back to the past version of himself who sold buttons and feels angry all over again, the fury being expressed through tears.

Evan doesn’t know what he means when he starts desperately mumbling under his breath about waking up and not wanting to do this again, he just pulls the shorter teen close and hugs him, trying his best to help his friend.

The year passes by slowly but all too fast at the same time. He doesn’t apply for college right away, claiming to be thinking about taking a year and ‘getting some work experience’ when Heidi and Evan ask. In truth, it’s because he doesn’t think there’ll be a college semester to attend.

He gets a summer job at a grocery store after graduation, just a cashier earning minimum wage that he spends on whatever he fancies to buy himself some serotonin. He spends his days working and his nights more and more often at Evan’s house. Heidi gets used to the sight of him and Evan leaning against each other on the couch with Netflix asking if their still watching when she comes home from her late shifts.

Towards the end of summer when college classes would have started, Jared gets nervous. He can feel it. A clock, inside his head, ticking down. He wakes up Evan one night in tears, begging him to turn off the clock in the living room because he can’t take the sound.

He does, because Evan is a sweetheart like that and easily drops the line of questioning when Jared only cries louder in response.

Then the day comes. Jared can feel it.

He calls in sick to work. He spends the day at Evan’s house, watching movies and playing video games and doing anything and everything they can think of. That’s where he finds himself at 11:58, shaking enough that Evan turns away from Jared’s switch where the sounds of Pokémon quietly play from to look at him in concern.

“Jared? ..You okay?”

Jared is silent, staring at the clock as it turns to 11:59 and he feels tears sting at his eyes as he takes a shaky breath. Turning towards his best friend, he lets them fall down his cheek, shaking even more as he feels the seconds ticking down like a second heartbeat, thudding in his chest. His heart constricts in his chest at the sight of Evan’s concerned expression, it hurts to think about how in just a few moments, this will a be gone again.

“Evan?”

“Wh-Jared? What’s going on, are you okay?”

“I just wanna wake up, Ev.”

 

Jared wakes up in his bed at home, to the sounds of his phone’s alarm. He turns it off, quietly taking note of the reminder of ‘first day of senioritis boi’.

He lays in bed, silently staring up at the ceiling.

And Jared cries.