With the glare of red and blue neon shining dully from wet spots on the pavement came the realization that
is where everything would go to hell. Not earlier today, when Emily told him
we can still be friends
after three long years - not earlier today, when his boss told him
we recognize your outstanding service to the company but with your issues we’ve decided to go another route for the promotion
- not earlier this evening, when he came home to an empty apartment and no one to talk to for the first time in two years.
No. This - the bar - this is where it would all be solidified.
With tears still clinging to his lashes, cold rain lightly dappling his jacket, Evan made the small hike to the doors and resigned himself to numbing the absolute shitshow that was today.
Evan didn’t frequent bars. Didn’t like getting drunk. Didn’t make a habit of it, since you really weren’t supposed to mix Lexapro with alcohol. That gross, lethargic feeling you get from being absolutely trashed - like you can’t even pull yourself to a standing position without teetering - he wasn’t sure before why anyone would find it fun.
But as he swung open the door - with more force than he really intended so that the handle collided with the brick - the music hit him and after a cursory glance, people looked… comfortable. He stepped in and took a look around, wiping his eyes and letting them adjust to the lighting.
There was, of course, the counter: a man with long, dark hair was tending to customers, pouring drinks expertly. There were two pool tables in the center of the room, both occupied by patrons laughing and joking with each other. The air was hazy with cigarette smoke - a cloud stretched thin and turned blue and red and lime - and it smelled of liquor and food, but it wasn’t altogether unpleasant. A small group stood at the far end of the room, throwing darts; many people were scattered throughout at small tables, eating bar food and conversing while wait staff refilled their drinks.
There was a small stage on the wall across from the bar - probably used for karaoke or live music, but it was currently unoccupied. A couple of retro arcade games were situated at the end of the counter; Galaga and Pac-Man. Truly, the only unhappy people there looked to be the ones seated at the bar. Dimly, Evan became aware that the speakers were blaring an unknown Hozier song. He headed to the counter and took a seat at the end, where there were multiple unfilled stools.
Evan placed his head in his hands while he waited and heaved a soft sigh; although people were comfortable here, he felt wildly out of place. His head swam and that familiar uncomfortable flutter of anxiety pumped his insides full of cold air.
“Hey, what’ll it be?”
Evan pulled his head from his hands with a start and a soft yelp, glancing up to the the amused visage of the bartender - his silver eyes were alight, no doubt finding Evan just as hilarious as everyone else did.
“Um, what do you recommend?” Evan mumbled, and the bartender leaned forward inquisitively with a brow raised, dark hair tumbling over one shoulder and shining blue in the neon.
“Come again?” He asked, and the chill in Evan’s lungs expanded.
“What do you recommend?” Evan enunciated.
“Well…” The bartender leaned back on his heels, looking skyward in thought. He was tall - at least six feet and some change. Slim, too, Evan noticed: he was dressed in pleasing shades of grey; a heather grey t-shirt and a dark cardigan left open, sleeves pushed to his elbows. A small silver necklace dangled from his neck. A black leather bracelet wrapped around his thin wrist. “I guess,” He murmured, catching Evan’s attention. “I would have to go with an Aviation. It’s gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and creme de violette. It’s always good, if mixed drinks are your thing.” The ingredients sounded like gibberish.
“I’m not really sure what my thing is,” Evan replied. The bartender raised a brow.
“Don’t drink much, huh?”
Again, the bartender seemed amused, and Evan only felt more out of place with each passing second. The man leaned in with a soft, secret smile. Again, the neon and low light formed a halo around his hair, catching little flyaway strands in the light and turning them azure.
“Can I grab your ID? I’ll make you my recommendation, and if you don’t like it, I’ll dump it and we’ll try something else. How’s that?” The tone of his voice was incredibly pleasing - low, quiet, like campfire smoke. Despite himself, Evan was lulled into feeling slightly more comfortable. He nodded and silently pulled his wallet from his back pocket, showing his ID to the bartender. “Great. Give me just a sec.”
He turned and grabbed a few bottles from the mirrored shelf behind him, then turned back to Evan and began pouring them into a silver cocktail shaker, bringing the bottles high and making a show of it, yet never spilling a drop. He topped it all off with ice, placed the lid on, and shook it with one hand.
“I haven’t seen you around,” He called casually over the music and bent down, opening what looked like a small fridge door and pulling out a martini glass, which was frosted over from the chill of the freezer. “Is this your first time here?” He took the lid off and poured the shaker, a brilliant purple concoction spilling into the glass.
“Yeah,” Evan replied dumbly, watching the spectacle. His eyes flicked to the bartender’s, whose never seemed to lose their amused glint. “I… I don’t really go to bars.”
“I could tell,” The bartender grinned and pulled a toothpick from a glass to his left and stuck it through a cherry, balancing it gently on the rim of the glass afterwards. “You don’t seem like the type.” He pushed the glass forward, offering it to Evan silently. It was very pretty.
Evan was about to tell him so, but the man turned as if to walk away, glancing over his shoulder.
“You try that,” He called with a lopsided smile, “And let me know what you think.” And with that, he walked to the end of the bar to pour another drink for the group seated there, grabbing a rag from the edge of the shelf and swinging it idly in his left hand.
And then there were two, Evan thought to himself, staring down at the pretty violet drink sitting innocently in front of him. He took a few moments to decide - do I really want to do this? Is this what I’m doing tonight, for the next… He glanced up at the clock that hung on the wall above the back shelf of the bar - 11:14pm - four hours or so?
Evan decided, not without bitterness, yes, this is what I’m gonna do, because I fucking deserve it , and reached out to take the drink in his hand and tip it into his mouth, taking three large swallows. Immediately, he tasted the sweetness of the other ingredients but felt the gin sliding down his throat to sit heavily in his stomach. It was unpleasant, and involuntarily, Evan’s face contorted and he gagged.
Jesus, how could people drink more than one of these?
But the mission was to get drunk, and so, Evan downed three more swallows, and with that, the last of the drink. Again, his eyes squeezed shut and his gag reflex kicked itself into gear. But it passed as quickly as it came. The aftertaste comforted him - sweet and sugary and with a tang of citrus - and he realized that maybe this is how people could drink more than one. He slid the glass toward the inner edge of the counter, a silent request for another.
“What did you think?” He heard the bartender ask after about twenty minutes, and when Evan looked up everything seemed like it had been moved slightly to the left. The bartender gave him a little lopsided grin and Evan realized he was waiting on an answer.
“Oh, it was good. Really pretty, too.” Evan replied, returning the bartender’s growing smile with his own.
“Nice,” He nodded, then gave Evan an expectant glance. “Want another?” Evan nodded, leaning over and pushing the glass a bit further toward the man with his fingertips and laughing a little at his own awkwardness. The bartender let out a silent chuckle and poured a bit more from the shaker and coolly pushed it back to Evan - who immediately downed it. The bartender’s brows shot up and his silver eyes widened.
“That good, huh?”
Evan laughed softly and forced down the reflex to gag.
“...Another, please,” He gave an award-winning grin and gently slid the glass to the bartender, who let out a pleasant bark of laughter.
“Jeez, man, you keep going like this and you’re gonna be trashed.” But he poured, emptying the shaker, and leaned against the bar - watching with a fully amused grin as Evan maintained eye contact and gulped the cocktail.
“That’s the plan,” Evan smirked softly as he slammed the glass to the counter, like they do in the movies. The bartender only gave a fond chuckle.
“Alright, gimme a minute. I gotta help other people, too, y’know.”
Another uncounted set of minutes passed, another drink was poured, and again came the saccharine aftertaste. Again came the distinct feeling that everything moved a little further to the left. Everything surrounding Evan grew muffled, as if he were in a box, and everything seemed a little fuzzier than it did before. Like reality was lagging.
“Feelin’ it?” The bartender asked, and Evan sluggishly looked up to him. Was that a question? He asked him a question, right?
“Uh, yeah,” Evan grinned. “ ‘S good.”
“Few more and I’m cutting you off, man,” The bartender gave him a handsome smile, eyes sparkling in the neon. “Okay?”
“Mmkay,” Evan replied, fiddling with three toothpicks that lay on the counter in front of him. They had little ridges cut out of the blunt end, three of them, and Evan ran a nail over each one. “Hey, um… What’s…” He looked up to the bartender then, trying to remember what he was going to ask. The bartender raised a brow. “Um. What’s… Oh, your name! What’s your name?”
The bartender tilted his head, hair falling slightly over his face. It looked soft.
“You wanna know your bartender’s name ?” He asked. Evan nodded enthusiastically, the room spinning as he did so. “It’s Connor,” He replied after a moment. “Connor Murphy.”
“Murphy’s Law!” Evan suddenly exclaimed. “That’s the bar! Oh, that’s… That’s clever. You’re the owner, huh?”
“I am,” Connor gave an amused grin, seemingly filled with pride. “The one and only.”
“But you’re also the, um,” Evan wagged a finger, then snapped twice, trying to think. The word, what was the word for what Connor was doing? “Um…”
“ Bartender! Yeah, you’re also the bartender!”
Again, Connor threw him a humored glance.
“I am. And you’re the customer, with a drink sitting in front of you getting warm.”
Oh! Another. How nice. Evan reached and overshot, tipping the glass on its side.
“Oh, shit,” Evan gasped, dully watching the liquid spread across the polished wood of the counter, then let out a nervous kind of titter. “Butterfingers! I’m sorry.”
Connor chuckled, quickly grabbing a rag from behind him and wiping up the drink with ease.
“No harm done,” He sat the glass under the bar. “No biggie.”
Evan looked down and noticed that now there were six toothpicks, all with those pretty, precise ridges.
"Did I have three more already?" He slurred, but to no one - Connor had zipped off again to help the few customers remaining. Evan looked blearily to the clock on the wall:
Jesus, when had it gotten so late? And when had it gotten so unbelievably blurry and muffled and how was he moving so quickly while sitting down? The room spun and Evan tried to stand as Connor announced last call from the end of the bar.
The next moment, he saw Connor standing over him, brows raised, looking slightly concerned.
“Y’okay?” Evan mumbled, watching Connor’s hair fall from behind his shoulders as he bent down to offer his hand. “You fell…”
“I think you’re the one that fell,” Connor gave a wry smile and took Evan’s hand, pulling him up. Soft laughter from the bar. “I’m cutting you off, okay? Do you have a ride?”
Oh, a car.
“Yeah, have a car,” Evan slurred. “ ‘S outside.”
“No,” Connor laughed, helping him to a booth across the room. He was soft and warm and comforting and smelled nice and, wow, wouldn’t it be nice to just curl right up into him and sleep? “Do you have someone that can take you home? You’re absolutely hammered; you can’t drive.” Connor sat him in the booth and pulled away and Evan instantly felt cooler - lamented the absence of Connor’s arms, holding him up, steady.
“ ‘M not that bad,” Evan pouted, looking down at the table in front of him and wondering dimly where his toothpicks went.
“Uh-huh.” Connor grinned, patting Evan’s back gently. “You just wait there,” He murmured, gently taking Evan’s keys from his hands - which Evan happily relinquished in favor of the soft brushes of Connor’s fingers - and slipped them into his pocket. “I’ll get you a little coffee.”
Evan dumbly watched him go before leaning back against the booth and closing his eyes. Even in darkness, the world swam, and his stomach ached. And the stupid happy he’d been experiencing earlier gave way to an dull sadness; Emily was gone, and the promotion he’d worked so many hours of overtime for had been handed to someone else. All because his dumb head wouldn’t stop with the incessant worry.
Connor returned with a small white mug of coffee, setting it gently on the table in front of him on a saucer, and Evan blinked hot tears from his eyes.
“Thanks,” He murmured, and Connor raised a brow. Evan noticed for the first time that Connor’s left one was pierced; two small black beads above and below his arched eyebrow.
“You okay? Something wrong?” Connor asked, and Evan let out a bitter laugh.
“Only ev’rything,” He slurred in return, taking a small sip of the coffee. Connor glanced over his shoulder at the final group heading out the door.
“Thanks,” He called. “See you next time!” After looking so cordial, it was strange to see Connor’s face immediately fall to sobriety once he looked to Evan. “Let me lock up, okay? You can stay.”
Evan knew he must be sobering, because the thought of keeping this man after closing was absolutely unacceptable and it instantly brought a feeling of dull panic to his stomach.
“O-Oh, no,” He mumbled, watching Connor flick the lock on the doors. “I couldn’t…” He tried to stand, to leave, but the bar swayed and he was forced back into a sitting position. Connor trotted over.
“Hey, don’t try to stand,” He chastised, silver eyes full of professional concern and Evan was immensely moved. Connor pushed the coffee closer to Evan and laid a warm hand on his shoulder. “Just drink some more of this. It’s no trouble to have you here while I close up. Really. Just relax.”
Despite himself, Evan did just that - alcohol did wonders for submitting to the powers of suggestion. He sunk into the booth, unclenching his jaw and slackening his shoulders, trying to focus on the warm comfort of the coffee. The scent had always calmed him. Curious, Evan glanced over to the counter.
Connor had lit himself a cigarette and poured a drink - an amber colored liquid with two ice cubes. Evan guessed it might’ve been whiskey or bourbon. He took a small sip and sat it down, casually grabbing bottles and glasses from the counter whilst taking a practiced drag from his cigarette. He disposed of the bottles in the trash under the bar, a resounding clink resulting, and Evan had never guessed that the sound of bottles colliding with each other could seem so therapeutic. Their eyes met from across the bar - sharp, intense silver and inebriated, soft hazel, and for a moment, all seemed intimate. Like a silent understanding. Evan felt the oxygen slip from his lungs.
Connor’s gaze was searching.
“Y’know,” He called cordially, wiping down the bar. “I can usually tell why someone is drinking when they first walk in.” Again, their eyes met.
“Yeah?” Evan responded, challenging, taking another sip. Connor did the same. “And why am I ?”
“You’re depressed,” Connor replied casually. He sat his glass on the counter and put out his cigarette in a nearby ashtray. “Something happened to you and now you’re looking to numb.” He continued with his closing duties, wiping down the mirrored shelves, rinsing glasses. Music could be heard from the back, along with scattered shouts and laughter from the wait staff. “But it only gets worse. Don’t go down that path. Because the more you drink, the more you lose. Trust me. I’ve seen it so many times.” Again, Evan fell under the spell of Connor’s gaze.
“Don’t tell me what to do,” Evan grinned bitterly, and Connor let out a sharp laugh.
“It’s all you, man. I’m not gonna discourage you from giving me your money. Just be careful about it. I like to take care of my customers.” Connor travelled to the dining room then, spraying down tables. “You feeling any better?”
“A little,” Evan replied truthfully. “The coffee is helping a lot. Thank you. Um, when should I pay my tab?”
“Any time you want. I’m not gonna charge you for the coffee, though. That one’s on me.”
“Oh,” Evan mumbled, staring down at the now empty mug and feeling his face heat. “Thank you, that’s really kind of you.”
“No problem. Actually, would you wanna pay now? I think the registers are gonna shut down soon.” Connor nodded to the bar, setting down his cleaning supplies.
“Sure,” Evan stood carefully, and the room felt okay again. Not completely, but Evan was confident he would be able to drive, at least. He made his way to the counter, where Connor leaned against the wood. “How much?”
“Let’s go with fifteen and call it good.” Connor replied, holding out his hand for Evan’s payment.
“Sounds fair.” Evan handed him the card, and Connor gave him a soft, handsome smile.
“All done,” Connor hummed, handing back Evan’s credit card. “Gonna head out?”
“Yeah, I’d better get to bed. Work tomorrow, and all…” Suddenly feeling flustered, Evan made quick work of getting to the door. He turned, tangling his hands in his polo. “Thank you again.”
“Might need these,” Connor called, and pulled Evan’s keys from his cardigan. He feigned a throw once, as if to let Evan know of his plans, then made a graceful, clean overhand toss across the room. Evan was almost too impressed to catch them.
“Night,” Connor called, turning away and giving a passive wave from over his shoulder. “I’ll lock up once you leave. Careful out there, and thanks for comin’.”
A sudden fondness for this stranger raced through Evan as he unlocked the door, stepping one foot outside.
“Good night, Connor,” He called back, a strange flutter in his chest, and the former turned, giving him a lopsided smile.
“Good night, Evan Hansen.”
Evan stepped out into the early morning chill and realized that Connor had remembered his name - only from a glance at his license.
tw: somewhat detailed descriptions of self-harm scars, mentions of self-harm
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It wasn’t as if Evan was looking to get trashed again. Evan wasn’t really quite sure what he was looking to do, other than to have a few drinks and socialize. He looked himself over in the mirror: jeans, a soft white t-shirt, a classy navy pullover and white keds. Pulling on a small silver watch (an expensive gift from his mother; she figured he would like the sapphire face of it and he very much did), Evan berated himself in his mind.
‘Socialize. Fuck. Who are we kidding here, Evan? You mean talk to the nice bar owner that took pity on you last night. That’s what you mean by ‘socialize’.’
Alright, maybe he was sure of what he was looking to do tonight. Evan reached over and took a dainty silver necklace from his dresser and draped it around his neck; took a small silver band holding a tiny, deeply blue sapphire (a gift to himself this time after saving for two years), and pushed it gently onto his right middle finger.
Evan usually worked the evening shift at the bookstore; mostly around two in the afternoon to ten in the evening, which was closing time. Most would think that a bookstore would be a low-stress job - surrounded by books, readers, coffee. Not the case. Most nights, Evan dragged himself home, exhausted from shelf facing and replacing inventory and dealing with the public. Whenever things got too crowded - such as around the holidays - every day was sure to hold some sort of panic attack in store.
But today, as horrible as yesterday was, didn’t go too badly. Outside of being reminded dozens of times about the promotion he was passed over for, nothing too strenuous really happened.
And so came Murphy’s Law. Not the adage - the bar. Tonight, Evan was in better spirits. Not necessarily happy , but not looking for an opportunity to die, either. And maybe going out last night helped. Evan wasn’t one to search for socialization, but last night was different. Last night, there was Connor Murphy - and for some unknown reason, it felt as if he understood.
Maybe it was only pity; a generous heart and a professional concern for his customers.
‘Then again,’ Evan thought, ‘There were other people there last night that were pretty fucked up.’
Whichever it was - genuine interest or professionalism - Evan decided he would return. Tugging on his jacket sleeves and giving one more glance over himself in the mirror, he tossed his keys in the air and caught them before heading for the door.
Evan hadn’t considered tonight being a Friday night.
The bar was practically filled to the brim and Evan’s lungs felt as if they had been pumped with water. The noise level was ridiculous - raucous laughter, shouting, singing. Not to mention the near continuous clinking of bottles, the loud music, the wait staff yelling orders in the back kitchen.
He looked over to the bar - which was practically full - and noticed that even Connor was having trouble getting a handle on the crowd. Last night, he was cool. Collected. Maybe even suave? But tonight…
Connor’s hair was pulled back into a messy high ponytail and his fringe was plastered to his forehead and the sides of his face due to the overwhelming amount of body heat and activity in the bar. Something red was spilled down the front of his apron and he dashed from one spot to another, hurriedly refilling drinks and giving rushed smiles. He looked positively frazzled.
Finally, he stopped, running a hand through his damp hair and heaving a breath; he turned to a member of the wait staff, shouting something Evan couldn’t hear over the sound of dirty ceramic dinnerware being bussed in the dining room. The waiter nodded with a grin, stepping behind the bar. Connor slipped his apron over his head, fishing a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and making a beeline for the back door of the building.
Without a second thought - which was rare for him - Evan immediately began weaving through the bustling throng of clientele to follow Connor, who slipped through the back door just as Evan reached the middle of the room.
Quietly, Evan opened the door and peeked out. Connor was sitting on a curb a few feet away, his back to Evan. His long legs were stretched in front of him, and he was obviously delighting in the first cigarette he’d had in probably hours. Smoke drifted lazily from the cigarette as he spoke. His voice was hoarse.
“I’ll be back in a few. Was getting a little overwhelmed in there. Sorry.”
“I didn’t come to force you back inside,” Evan grinned, gently kicking a rock across the asphalt in an attempt to soothe his nerves. Connor turned to him with a frown, only for the creases in his forehead to immediately smooth.
“Hey,” He called, voice sounding lighter. He gave a tired, lopsided smile and took a short drag from his cigarette. “Fancy seeing you here, Mr. Hansen.” He took the elastic from his hair and ran a hand through it, trying to smooth the kinks and waves created by the tie. He really did have such nice hair.
“Fancy yourself , Mr. Murphy,” Evan laughed, taking a seat next to Connor, who chuckled.
“Come to get shitfaced again?” He gave a smirk, holding his cigarette away from Evan in consideration. “Or maybe for some more of that stellar coffee, huh?”
“Oh, definitely the coffee,” Evan nudged Connor’s shoulder, enjoying the banter. “It was such a comfort after… everything.” His tone lowered and he felt the familiar wave of shame and/or self pity cloud his mind.
“Glad to hear it,” Connor murmured, sensing the tone. He tucked his hair behind his ear, revealing a dainty hematite double helix and a small black gauge in his earlobe. “You’re, uh… You’re okay, though, right?” He asked tentatively, quietly looking down at the ground in front of him. Almost as if he was trying hard to remain professional; compassionate, though not too familiar. Connor seemed like he was the type to be very aware of boundaries. Evan realized after a moment that this was something he admired.
“I’m…” Evan started, trying to practice the same awareness Connor did, trying to prevent oversharing. He picked at a weed growing between a crack in the asphalt. “I’m just doing my best.” He decided, nodding to himself. Vague, but familiar.
“Aren’t we all,” Connor gave a soft laugh, though it didn’t quite ring true as many of his others had before. Evan glanced over to him from the corner of his eye and noticed his hands - slender fingers adorned with a couple of black rings, wrist still cradling the same leather bracelet as last night. And something peculiar: a few small red marks scattered on the top of his right hand - almost like…
“Did - Did you get burned?” Evan blurted before thinking about it and the surprised glance Connor shot him instantly made his chest flutter. “On.. On your, um. Your hand, right there.” Evan carefully grazed a finger over Connor’s right hand, knowing the gesture was far too personal but unable to stop himself.
Connor was silent for a moment, watching Evan’s fingertip travel over his hand. Gently, slowly, he held his hand a bit closer for Evan to touch. His eyes were soft, hair falling over his shoulder in gentle chocolate waves as he watched Evan trace over the marks, and then met his eyes with a quiet, meaningful gaze. It was terribly intimate, that look, and Evan felt his face heat; felt the oxygen leave his lungs. He looked away.
“...Yeah,” Connor whispered after a moment, his silver eyes dimming and lidding in recollection as he dropped his hand. He cleared his throat. “I did. Few days ago.” The silence of the outdoors, of the exchange, was almost stifling. Somehow, Evan thought that maybe there was some peculiar significance in those burns - but he wasn’t sure what it could be.
“How?” Evan pressed quietly, curious.
“My lighter,” Connor murmured, his tone unreadable. “I left it lit until it was glowing.”
Evan immediately felt as if he had pushed too far. Boundaries. Too personal. Connor stood and brushed himself off after a moment of silence and Evan got the sense that, even though Connor seemed open with others, there was a lot he kept to himself.
“I’m all good, though,” The taller man adopted a false sort of brightness in his tone, along with a tentative grin, immediately returning to cordial customer service Connor. The switch was almost blinding and Evan felt as if he’d gotten a minor case of whiplash just from spectating the whole thing. Connor took one last drag from his cigarette and flicked it into the street. “Gonna come in and let me make you a drink?” He asked.
“Y-Yeah,” Evan mumbled, still bewildered, but he stood nonetheless. Connor held the door for him, the cacophony of the bar spilling out into the silence of the night air.
Evan ducked inside and Connor followed directly after.
The night went on quickly, just as it had the evening before; Connor was largely unavailable for conversation due to the customer volume but seemed to always be able to spare a couple moments for Evan - refilling his drink, giving him a soft smile, throwing in a gentle quip here and there.
Evan was able to pace himself better this evening, mostly because he wanted to be able to actually talk with Connor instead of just stumbling around drunkenly. Still, by the time two o' clock came around, Even was quite tipsy, teetering on the edge of full-blown drunk. One more drink probably would have done it, but Evan held off - he was the perfect balance of confident yet competent right now.
Evan, busy marveling over how pretty his cosmopolitan was, didn't even notice Connor sliding a plate of mozzarella sticks to him.
"Want one?" He asked, grabbing one and dipping it into a cup of marinara sauce on the side of the plate. Connor took a bite and stretched the cheese a little ways before grinning and pulling it apart with his hands.
"Sir, it's unprofessional to eat in front of customers," Evan teased, taking one from the plate. Connor held a hand over his heart in mock offense.
"Don't you know who I am?" He proclaimed haughtily. "I am the owner of this establishment!"
Evan barked a laugh and leaned in over the bar.
"Well," He muttered lowly, and Connor leaned in as well, eyes alight, grin widening. "La-di-fucking-da, mister owner."
Genuine laughter erupted loud and musical from Connor, as well as a few chuckles from patrons sitting nearby. Look at that. I'm funny. Evan downed the rest of his drink with a grin and stared directly at Connor with the confidence of an Olympic medalist. Connor leaned in once more.
"Better show some respect," He flashed a wry smirk, then murmured under his breath: "Or I'll throw your cute little ass right out those doors, Evan Hansen."
Evan's face heated to what felt like three hundred degrees and he could do nothing but let his mouth hang ajar for a moment in shock. A couple of customers sitting near him snickered. Connor only raised a challenging brow and grinned fondly. "Well? Got any more snide remarks for me, or would you like another drink?"
"D-Drink," Evan mumbled dumbly. He looked down at the counter, suddenly finding the wood grain very interesting. “Just soda.”
“Good choice,” Connor chirped, grabbing another mozzarella stick from the plate and chomping it with satisfaction, turning away to make his drink.
Soon enough, it was sat down gingerly in front of Evan, who caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Red-faced, looking sheepish. “And by the way, Hansen…”
Evan looked up from his reflection to Connor, who wore a playful expression, though his eyes were incredibly soft - almost fond - through his hair. “You look nice tonight.”
Finally, customers began trickling out of the bar that weren’t replaced by new ones. It was getting on towards two thirty in the morning now, and Connor had already started cleaning - even before last call. The place was kind of a mess.
“Do you want help?” Evan asked, watching Connor scrub at one of the tables. He gave an incredulous look over his shoulder.
“Nah, that’s fine. You’re a customer - don’t worry about it.” Connor flashed a soft, tired grin before going back to scrubbing the table, which looked to be sticky with dried soda.
For the next thirty minutes, Evan sipped on his soda, watching customers leave and Connor continue to clean.
Finally, the last group left and they were alone.
“Do you want me to head out?” Evan asked and watched as Connor sauntered back to the bar.
“Actually,” He replied, leaning over the counter, making eye contact; something about the silver of his eyes, caught blue in the neon and contrasting with his dark hair, made it hard to look away. “Would you like to have one more drink with me?” Connor’s voice was quiet, friendly.
“Sure,” Evan blinked, biting his lip and glancing back down at the counter. “That, um. Sounds nice.” Connor tapped the counter gently in reply before turning and retrieving two clean glasses.
“What would you like?” He asked, sliding the glass slowly in front of Evan. He noticed Connor’s nails were painted; jet black.
“Um… Rum and Coke?” Evan tilted his head, examining Connor’s hands as they rested on the bar. Multiple little white scars and red burn marks adorned his right hand, while his left was clean. “Are you left-handed?” Evan asked.
“I am,” Connor replied, turning away with the glasses. And again, Evan examined.
Connor’s hair - a deep, uniform shade of chocolate brown - fell to his shoulder blades in gentle waves, almost curls. It looked tangled, but not unkempt. His shoulders were broad, and his arms were toned and slightly muscled; under the right sleeve of his black v-neck, a mid-size geometric tattoo peeked out and spread over his bicep. Evan secretly wondered what the rest of it looked like. He also wondered why he was so curious - so interested in this person. Almost taken with him. Connor turned back with their glasses, handing Evan’s to him over the bar.
“ Á ta santé,” Connor murmured, holding his glass eye level and maintaining eye contact. Evan lifted his glass and met them in the air with a soft clink. “Cheers.” He took a sip and Evan mirrored, resisting the urge to make a face at the taste of the rum.
“Is that French?” Evan asked, and Connor grinned, leaning on the bar and lighting a cigarette.
“Yup,” He mumbled around the cigarette. “ To your health , or something like that.” He blew the smoke downward, behind the bar, out of consideration for Evan.
“You speak French?” Evan asked, intrigued. Connor laughed and shook his head, taking another drink.
"Nah, I just said it to look cool. Did it work?" He grinned.
"Definitely," Evan said with a chuckle. "The coolest."
They drank for a little while together in silence, Connor idly tracing circles around the edge of his glass and Evan watching the smoke rise lazily from his cigarette.
"So, uh," Connor broke the silence, clearing his throat. Evan looked up at him. He seemed tentative. "Are you doing better than you were yesterday?"
Better? Only at night, it seemed. During the day, Evan was alone with his thoughts - of Emily, primarily; of work, of anxiety and of doctor's appointments. But tonight? He supposed so.
"I guess," Evan sighed, nursing the last of his drink. "I'm just kind of… faking it until I make it, I guess."
Connor looked contemplative, eyes lidded in thought as he sipped the last of his drink.
"If I may ask," He swallowed and ventured quietly. "What happened? You just seem… like you kind of ended up here instead of coming here, you know?"
"My girlfriend of three years broke up with me yesterday morning," Evan mumbled. It hit differently when he said it out loud. It felt real. Up until now, he refrained from talking about it. But now, the realization that waking up to her; falling asleep next to her; eating breakfast together, watching movies, seeing her laugh at something dumb - it was all gone. "The end of an era!" Evan laughed, trying to joke, voice cracking, and he hated the hot tears that pooled and blurred his vision as he shakily made an attempt at jazz hands.
"Jeez," Connor sighed, eyebrows tucking together, eyes going softer. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, no, I'm fine," Evan breathed, rising from his stool and beginning to pace. Connor watched him with mounting concern evident on his face. For some unknown reason - maybe it was the alcohol - the depression flared into a sudden dull rage. "If that wasn't enough, she still works at the bookstore. You know, the one where I was passed up for a promotion I'd been doing hours of overtime for - for months."
"Hey," Connor called quietly, slowly rounding the end of the bar. "Maybe you should sit down." His brows were raised and his hands were held in a sort of mock surrender position. Somehow, this only stoked the fire.
"Because of my issues, " Evan hissed, rounding and pacing in the other direction, blood suddenly roaring in his ears. Connor called to him again, sounding urgent, but he ignored that. "My issues. 'Because of your issues , we've decided to go in another direction.' It's not called a fucking issue! It's called -" Evan knocked a glass off a table nearby and it shattered on the floor at his feet. The wind instantly left Evan and the room was silent. "... Anxiety," He whispered, letting out a hoarse sob. "I'm so sorry. I'll pay for it, I-I promise. I'm so, so sorry."
Evan stared, hiccuping, at the shards of glass between his white Keds - until a pair of worn lace-up black boots silently joined them, directly across, almost touching. Tears finally rolled down his cheeks as Evan looked up and was met with Connor's chest. Up further still, his eyes. Soft and yielding and understanding, yet ever piercing.
"Don't worry," Connor murmured quietly, expression gentle. "It's just a glass." Evan remained silent and blinked rapidly to clear the tears from his eyes, breaths coming uneven. He stared at Connor's necklace, a tiny silver triangle.
The air felt thick with expectation. But of what, Evan wasn't sure.
Quietly, Connor raised his right arm to Evan's eye level - and unsnapped the leather bracelet around his wrist, turning it for Evan to see. Dozens of neat, thin white scars - parallel to each other on the inside of his wrist - were crowded just within the width of his bracelet. Not knowing what to say, Evan let out a soft, awed breath and only stared.
"Lots of people have issues," Connor murmured, dropping his arm and stepping closer to Evan - so close that he could smell his cologne and the cigarette smoke clinging to his clothing. Evan suddenly found it very hard to breathe, his eyes pinned under Connor's piercing ones. "But you find your niche. You find your tribe. You just haven't found it yet."
"Where is it?" Evan whispered wetly.
"I can't tell you that," Connor's eyes softened. "It's for you to figure out."
"...I hope I find it soon."
sorry for any formatting issues, i posted this from my phone
Connor noticed Evan's arrival about halfway through he and Zoe's performance due to a gust of cold winter air, and though he tried not to make it obvious, Connor found it difficult not to stare.
A light snowfall had started outside and Evan was dressed smartly - a slimming navy pea coat, deep red scarf, fashionable chestnut boots and dark denim jeans - looking like he could take to a runway. Evan shook the snowflakes from his sandy hair, brushed them from his shoulders, and took a seat at the bar - instantly watching the stage with what looked like awe. Connor noticed his eyes looked green in the light.
Zoe tossed Connor a knowing glance, with eyes sparkling and a wry smile spreading over her lips as she sang - an expression that used to annoy the hell out of him, but now only made his brow twitch in exasperation - and she continued to sing, but quieter this time; Zoe was letting him take the lead for once. It was bait, Connor knew it was (an " I knew you were interested in him!" was probably waiting for him later) but he couldn't resist showing off a little.
And when they hit a beautiful harmony - beautiful even to Connor’s own self-conscious ears - Evan’s eyes lit with admiration and Connor’s heart thudded in his chest. Not many people looked on Connor’s visage with
Boyishly handsome and transfixed, Evan continued to watch the pair until the song was finished and until Connor was sporting an inflamed sense of pride.
Zoe gave a laugh - barely audible over applause from the customers - took her guitar strap from around her neck, and hopped from the stage, making a beeline for the bar (thankfully, not towards Evan, but Connor supposed that would happen before too long).
“Thanks for listening! Karaoke night, let’s hit it!” Connor spoke quickly into the mic with a grin before stepping from the stage and turning on the machine. A few scattered whoops and whistles from bar patrons.
“You were both so... so wonderful ,” Evan called, hazel eyes sparkling, as Connor drew closer. “I didn’t know you could sing like that!”
“Take your coat off and stay a while,” Connor laughed softly, trying to get used to the praise. Evan complied and slipped off his coat and scarf, revealing a flattering cream and navy cable-knit sweater underneath. It was a v-neck, showing off the slightest bit of Evan’s collarbones and a dainty silver necklace. Connor felt the urge to look away, face heating marginally. “And thanks. We’ve been involved in music for a while now.”
“Is she your girlfriend?” Evan blurted, then looked a bit embarrassed at the outburst. He averted his eyes, ducked his head, tucked his coat into his lap. “I-I mean, you guys just seemed to have a lot of chemistry…”
Connor mimicked a dry heave.
“Bro, she’s my sister, ” Connor laughed, giving Evan a soft punch to the shoulder. Evan balked and a flush crept from the base of his neck to his ears.
“Oh, jeez! That’s- That’s so weird, I’m so sorry!”
“ Relax ,” Connor chuckled. “Sounds like you could use a drink.” He slipped behind the bar and couldn't resist leaning over the counter in front of Evan, who grinned and looked up at Connor through his lashes, almost coquettish.
“I guess I could.”
"That's what I like to hear."
The evening passed on quickly; between stifling laughter at trashed customers attempting karaoke with their friends and making drinks for them, Connor had a busy night. Saturdays were just as busy as Fridays, and Connor never quite got used to a customer volume such as this. Often, he found himself craving a cigarette when it got busy - an unhealthy coping mechanism, but a coping mechanism nonetheless.
Of course, there was always a familiar face; regulars, usually, but tonight Evan Hansen was the focus. There was always a slight melancholy about his mannerisms, like sunshine filtering through an anxious thundercloud. Break-ups were hard - Connor understood. But it didn’t make Zoe’s suspicions any less unfounded: from the very first night, Connor Murphy had a
for Evan Hansen.
Hazel eyes, always flecked with gold and looking green in direct light. Long blondeish lashes. Sandy hair that had grown a little choppy but still short; textured, but neat, and with a slight cowlick at the front. Sturdy frame, always dressed stylishly but not as if he were spoiled. His height, only about ⅔ as tall as Connor; Evan stood about to Connor’s neck.
He was absolutely adorable . And the feeling grew with each night. It was hard not to flirt; something in the back of Connor's mind told him that Evan would be receptive, but after a break-up like he'd had, Connor felt as if it might be best to give him some time. It would be one thing if Connor didn't know the situation, but now that he did, he didn't want Evan thinking he was looking to rush him into anything.
So, he'd bide his time, even if it was so damned hard sometimes .
Currently, Evan was nursing a White Russian at the end of the bar, occupying himself with watching various patrons stumble to the stage and belt horrific, comedic renditions of Bohemian Rhapsody or Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Connor moseyed to where he was sitting, enjoying a break in the rush, and plopped next to him in an unoccupied stool.
"You gonna sing?" He asked, gesturing to the stage, currently occupied by a trashed middle-aged woman trying to riff along with Beyoncé. Evan snorted, gently swirling his glass.
"Absolutely not," Evan smiled at him over the rim of his drink. "I'm not drunk enough."
Connor gestured to the bar.
"Easily remedied," He smirked, and Evan sighed in resignation.
"Maybe! Okay? Maybe. But you're- you're gonna have to get me pretty sloshed before that happens."
"It's what I do," Connor leaned closer - so close that he could smell the faint scent of cologne on Evan's clothes - and he couldn't help but notice that Evan didn't lean away. "Get cute guys like you drunk enough to make fools of themselves."
Cut the flirtation, Connor.
But Evan's face took on a shade of pink and he only let out a nervous titter, his eyes darting to his drink. After a moment, a coy, wicked grin slowly spread over his lips and, in a moment of courage, he looked up and made direct eye contact with Connor - almost like a silent dare.
Bedroom eyes, Connor thought dimly. He's got bedroom eyes made of gold.
"Then… Let's see how good you are at your job tonight."
A challenge. A little bit of flirtation.
He is absolutely adorable.
It was on the fifth glass of hard cider and the third mixed drink that Evan loudly proclaimed to Connor from across the bar that he'd won, that he was good at his job and that Evan was in the process of deciding what song to demolish in front of a bar full of people. Connor let out a teasing victory whoop and poured him a celebratory drink.
Zoe, in the meantime, had taken to chatting up Evan as well - every so often she would glance at Connor with that conspiratory expression, wiggling her brows and grinning widely.
"So," Zoe poked Evan in the arm, animated and obviously enjoying the conversation. "You should do something fun. Like, something you can dance to."
"Yeah, I'm gonna dance in front of a hundred people," Evan laughed, and although it could be taken as sarcasm, Connor heard the lilt of sincerity in Evan's voice denoting that maybe he was completely serious.
"Oh my god, please ?" Zoe leaned in, giggling like a gossip. "I know at least one person that would pay to see that." Her eyes darted to Connor and lingered long enough for him to roll his eyes in response.
"Hold my hand," Evan proclaimed mysteriously after a moment, and Zoe gave him a bewildered expression.
But there was no response, and the Murphy siblings watched in piqued interest as Evan hopped from his stool and practically skipped to the stage. The two exchanged a patented Murphy Eyebrow Raise™ and watched as Evan punched a song into the machine, adjusted the microphone, and faced the crowd.
For a moment, he seemed to have lost his nerve. Evan's adam's apple bobbed from a hard swallow - as if he were trying to force his nerves back into his stomach - and he let out a shaky breath with a wide, anxious grin as the opening notes to the song played.
Evan took a deep breath. Closed his eyes. Leaned closer to the mic, rested his hands on it. And sang.
Standing in a crowded room, and I can't see your face
Put your arms around me, tell me everything's okay
In my mind, I'm running 'round a cold and empty space
Just put your arms around me, tell me everything's okay
Another trick of sibling telepathy - Connor and Zoe instantly shot each other a look of complete astonishment.
Wow ! Zoe mouthed, eyebrows raised. She gestured wildly to Evan, who was resting his weight on one leg, tapping his boot heel to the floor in rhythm. Looking like he was having a good time.
Darling, hold my hand
Oh, won't you hold my hand?
'Cause I don't wanna walk on my own anymore
Won't you understand?
'Cause I don't wanna walk alone!
Hitting lower notes with a smoothness and richness that sent heat racing over Connor's cheeks. Hitting high notes with power, truly belting and sounding incredible doing it.
'Wow' is right.
Zoe mouthed to Connor something to the effect of 'he's incredible!' but Connor was finding it hard to focus on anything but Evan, who was progressively getting better at stealing the show.
I'm ready for this, there's no denying
I'm ready for this, you stop me falling
I'm ready for this, I need you all in
I'm ready for this, so darling, won't you hold my hand?
People had begun to take notice, and sooner or later, every eye was on Evan. He seemed oblivious to it, off in his own world, beginning to dance a little and giving little grins into the mic as he sang. Zoe was absolutely over the moon, nearly bouncing in her seat. Connor was just trying not to stare and failing miserably.
Soul is like a melting pot when you're not next to me
Tell me that you've got me and you're never gonna leave
Trying to find a moment where I can find release
Please tell me that you've got me and you're never gonna leave
Evan launched into the pre-chorus and then the chorus once more, and soon people were letting out scattered whoop s and shouts and whistles - which only seemed to egg Evan on further into moving with the music and throwing in little improvisational riffs on the notes. By now, a wide grin had settled on his face, his cheeks rosy with the attention. He laughed into the mic and Connor realized that from that moment on he was absolutely helpless to resist Evan fucking Hansen. Zoe screamed to the stage.
"You got this, Ev!"
At this, Evan shot her a wide smile and another soft laugh into the mic. Connor stepped closer to the bar and shouted ,
"Belt it, Hansen!" with a couple pumps of his fist.
Evan gave an excited little jump and another laugh and Connor's heart swelled.
Darling, hold my hand
Oh, won't you hold my hand?
'Cause I don't wanna walk on my own anymore
Won't you understand?
'Cause I don't wanna walk alone!
With this, Evan slipped the mic from the stand and playfully bent over it mock-rockstar style, eyes alight and excitement bubbling from him in waves.
I'm ready for this, there's no denying
I'm ready for this, you stop me falling
I'm ready for this, I need you all in
I'm ready for this, so darling, won't you hold my hand?
The song ended and Evan straightened, panting softly and letting out an exhilarated
before hopping from the stage. His nerves seemed to return, spurred on by the end of his stage presence. A nervous giggle escaped him and he hid his face in his hands - completely red - as he made his way back over to Connor and Zoe. Scattered applause erupted from around him and Evan only retreated further into himself, seemingly unable to stop giggling.
"I can't believe I did that," He breathed. "That was. That was…"
A list of adjectives came to mind, but Zoe beat Connor to the punch.
" Awesome !" She cried, throwing her arms around Evan. "You were awesome ! I knew you had it in you! You had it going on , Evan!"
The latter let out a nervous titter and awkwardly hugged Zoe back, giving a bashful smile to Connor over her shoulder.
Be nonchalant. Be cool.
Connor gave him a thumbs up and a smile.
"You were fantastic," He laughed quietly. "Great job."
Somehow, this seemed to have more of an effect on Evan than the impromptu show of affection from Zoe. He reddened, averting his eyes. They reflected blue in the neon.
As per usual, Evan stuck around until close, sobering up slowly with cups of coffee. Customers were slow to leave tonight, much to Connor's chagrin.
He motioned to Evan that he was going out for a cigarette at around 2:30, receiving a tired nod and smile in reply.
No sooner than Connor had sat down on the curb, Zoe appeared at his side. Internally, he sighed.
"What's up?" He asked, taking a drag, and she wiggled her brows, plopping down next to him.
"Gonna ask him out tonight?" She asked, playfully elbowing him in the ribs.
"Fuck off, " Connor chuckled. "No way. He just got out of a three year relationship. No way I'm gonna be his rebound."
"Oh, come on!" Zoe whined, flicking his shoulder. "You're totally into him, and he's totally into you! What more do you want?!"
"He's actually into me?" Connor mumbled. Then promptly took authority back. "Wait- no ! No, I'm not asking him out! He'll think I'm a creep."
The words had only just left Connor's mouth before the door swung open and Evan peeked out.
"Connor," He panted, flushed, speaking between rushed breaths. "There's a… fight… pool table…
!" He exclaimed after the sound of a glass breaking echoed from inside. He ducked back into the building. Connor and Zoe exchanged a look and Connor leapt to his feet, flicking the cigarette.
" Stay here ." He pointed at Zoe with as much authority and severity as he could muster. "Do not come inside until I tell you to." She looked for a moment like she was going to argue, until Connor pressed his lips into a line and raised his brows. “ I'm your older brother and you're going to listen to me.”
Zoe nodded in resignation and Connor swung the door open and ducked inside.
Immediately, his eyes fell on Evan, who was currently trying to play mediator, arms spread wide and standing between two very angry men.
“I’m-I’m sure he didn’t mean to, j-just - ah! ” The man on his left chucked a glass to the ground at Evan’s feet and he yelped. “S-Stop it! Stop throwing things! ” Probably the loudest or most intimidating he’d ever been, Evan turned to the man on his left. “ Get out or I’ll call the police! ”
The man on his right took the opportunity to haul Evan by his shirt collar and toss him to the ground nearby, immediately throwing a punch at the other. Evan landed with a yelp and looked up just in time to see one of the men tip the pool table in the center of the room.
It landed on its side with a harsh clap, sending splintered pieces of its corners skittering across the floor and wide splits bolting up the wooden frame of the table. Billiard balls scattered. The silence afterward was deafening.
“Oh, fuck no!” Connor boomed, and every eye in the room turned to stare at him. “You bastards are out ! Right now! Get the fuck out or I’m gonna call the cops!” Connor strode forward, shoulders back, and shoved one of the men. “ Get out! I don’t wanna see you here again.”
Lust for bar carnage sated, the two men continued to push and shove each other as they left the bar, their argument spilling out into the night and promptly silenced by the doors closing.
Everyone else had fled. Some of them hadn’t even paid their tabs. Connor groaned quietly, running a hand through his hair and bending to inspect the pool table still lying on its side. The frame was completely split and the corners of the table had all but shattered when they’d hit the ground. In a fit of pure rage, Connor grabbed a ball lying on the ground and chucked it at the floor with a scream. It, too, splintered and cracked, but it didn’t shatter like Connor hoped it would.
Connor, still catching his breath, turned to face Evan. He was rising from his knees where he’d landed, flung there minutes ago by the fight. A surge of sympathy raced through Connor like ice water and he rushed over to help him up. He trembled. “Are… Are you gonna be okay? I-I’m sorry I couldn’t do m-more…”
“It’s okay,” Connor hushed, looking him over quickly for any traces of injury. “You did what you could. Thank you for coming to get me.” In an attempt to soothe Evan’s quaking form, Connor gently rubbed his shoulders. He watched Evan’s face flush pink; watched his shoulders slacken and relax.
Evan looked up at him with an expression unreadable: eyes slightly widened. Pupils blown.
Connor could only stare back, afraid to break the silence.
Which is exactly what happened when the back door clicked and the pair whipped to face Zoe, who clearly realized she’d walked in on a Moment.
“Uh,” She laughed nervously. “I’m gonna get home, okay? Everything alright here?”
Connor stepped away from Evan, who he could swear looked slightly disappointed.
“Yeah,” He murmured. “Thanks for checkin’ in.”
Zoe crossed the room to grab her purse from behind the bar before giving Evan one last look.
“It was nice to meet you,” She gave him a gentle smile. “You were great at karaoke tonight.”
Evan gave her a nervous grin and mumbled his thanks. Zoe jogged over to Connor, leaning up to kiss his cheek and he felt a laugh bubble from his chest.
“Yeah, yeah,” He chuckled, ruffling her hair. “Missed you, too. See you next time, Zo.”
She gave him a bright smile, an affectionate one, and a soft fondness raced through him as she quickly made her way to the door and exited.
“Y’know,” Connor mumbled, breaking the silence and giving Evan a soft glance. “We weren’t that close until about two years ago. We hated each other.” Evan frowned gently and ventured a little closer, until their shoes were almost touching.
“What changed?” He asked quietly. The air was intimate; Connor gently pressed his shoe against Evan’s, earning a soft laugh.
“I was a shit in high school, but when I moved out, I got medicated and went to therapy. Stuff I couldn’t do ‘cause of my dad. And lo and behold, I wasn’t such a pain to be around anymore.”
Evan leaned slightly so their shoulders were touching, both staring down at the wrecked pool table as they talked.
“I’m glad we met.”
Connor tore his eyes from the table and met Evan’s. Gold-green and full of sincerity. Soft. And oh-so-close. He blinked gently and his lashes pressed to his cheeks for a quarter of a second and Connor’s heart thudded. He’s too fucking beautiful.
The shattered pool table was gone the next time Evan came to the bar; instead, there was only a blank space where it had been and he couldn't help but think that Connor was still probably sore over the whole thing.
In fact, Connor seemed a special brand of protective over the remaining table; before, he had let it slide if customers sat on it or put their drinks there, but now it seemed like even breathing on it was enough to send Connor's hawkish gaze burning into an unlucky patron.
"Hey, you better quit leaning on that," Connor stood next to him sipping a rum and Coke, gently fluffing his own hair and enjoying the slowness of a snowy Monday night. "I'm gonna have to hurt you if you dump it."
Evan, already a bit tipsy, gave him a cocky grin and leaned further over the green. Connor raised a reproachful brow, giving him a mostly insincere glare. "You're a little shit when you're drunk, know that?"
"You're a little shit all the time," Evan laughed, giving Connor a gentle shove. " Know that ?" Connor barked a laugh and swirled his drink, ice clinking against the glass quietly.
"Of course I do. I'm just a bully. A jerk. An asshole."
"A hooligan. A hoodlum. A no-good, dirty creep."
" Stop. "
Connor, seemingly done with the banter, gave Evan a fond glance before jauntily trotting over to the bar, grabbing his phone from under the counter.
"We're the only ones in here," Connor offered, gesturing to the snow. "Between it being Monday and snowing its ass off, I might just close a little early. It's too slow tonight to make any money."
Evan gave him a sympathetic smile.
"Sorry. That sucks."
"No, it doesn't. It's pretty cool. We get to fuck off. Hold on, I'm gonna go and let the wait staff go.” He nodded once to Evan and winked before heading into the back kitchen, joyfully announcing the news as he walked through the swinging door.
Evan busied himself with his cosmopolitan, playing idly with the curls of lemon zest Connor had scattered in the pink liquid.
Maybe he should stop coming here. Evan was pretty sure it wasn't healthy to spend every night at a bar (except for Sunday, but if Murphy's Law had been open, he would have gone). Was it the alcohol? Was he an alcoholic?
Calm down, He thought, scoffing. It’s been three days.
All at once, the wait staff came out in a huddle from the back, all talking excitedly amongst themselves and heading to the doors. A couple of them waved. Evan waved back.
Connor came a few paces behind them, talking animatedly with them and grinning. It seemed he had a close relationship with everyone that worked there and the thought filled Evan with a silent appreciation. Connor patted a member of the staff on the back and with that, they were all gone for the night. Connor locked the door, turned off his sign and turned to Evan, an expectant smile on his face.
“Well?” He asked. “Got any plans for the next few hours? It’s only midnight.”
“We’re gonna hang out in your closed, empty bar?” Evan laughed, leaning gently on the pool table, arms outstretched.
“And what’s wrong with that?” Connor raised a brow, striding to the pool table, rolling his shoulders. “You don’t wanna be alone with me?” He smirked, hair falling over the side of his face as he leaned against the table by Evan’s side. Spurred on by liquid courage, Evan leaned close.
“You know it, babe-” He tried to put on a sultry tone but cracked at the end, exploding into giggles and leaning away. “I-I’m so sorry, I tried-” Connor laughed and threw an arm around his shoulders, pulling him close to his chest and giving him a seductive grin.
“Oh, please , you know you want me,” He purred, touching their noses. Evan snickered, trying desperately to keep it together and failing miserably. Connor reached to gently stroke the back of his neck, giving him glacial bedroom eyes and a cocky smirk, and Evan had to hold his breath to keep from laughing in his face.
Evan had to admit, Connor kept up the act well, even as Evan was practically doubled over with silent laughter and his face burning. He looked up at him, at Connor, who only grinned back down at him, silver eyes sparkling in the neon low light.
“I have a proposition," Connor murmured.
Evan realized with a chill that Connor was still holding him to his chest, still resting his hand on the back of Evan's neck.
"Uh-huh?" Evan mumbled dumbly, intoxicated and tipsy, world spinning and left-leaning, consciously aware of just how warm Connor was, how his breath was warm, too, and laced with the strong, bitter scent of rum, and how his hair was tickling Evan's nose. How his touch on the back of his neck raised goosebumps on his arms.
"We have some more drinks together and play whatever we want over the speakers. Play games. Dance."
The thought was certainly appealing.
"Mmkay," Evan replied drowsily. "But I mean, I'm pretty tipsy already." Understatement.
Connor finally seemed to realize he was holding Evan, because he took a step backwards and sort of ruffled his hair. His cheeks were pink, but from alcohol or embarrassment, Evan didn't know.
"Then I'll have to catch up with you," Connor supplied, sounding all too excited at the idea. He broke away from Evan's side and stepped behind the bar. Evan followed.
"Think I'm gonna…" Connor muttered to himself, grabbing a shot glass and putting a finger to his lips thoughtfully, glancing around at the assorted liquors. "Hmm…"
"Vodka?" Evan offered, taking a seat at the bar.
"Yeah, think so. I've got some infused shit that's real nice."
He pulled a bottle from under the counter, one that was very pretty and frosted, with soft pink strawberries painted on the side.
"I don't do good with shots," Evan pulled a face, thinking of the last time he'd done shots. With Emily. She'd poked fun at him. "They, um. They make me puke."
"Fair enough," Connor replied, pouring the vodka into the shot glass. "Bottoms up." He tilted the glass to Evan and winked, and Evan gave a hesitant wink in return. Connor knocked it back expertly, tilting his head back and letting it drain quickly into his mouth. Evan watched him swallow, watched him straighten and shake it off, pulling a slightly disgusted face.
" Whoo !" Connor breathed, seeming exhilarated. " Straight up having a good time, bro." Evan couldn't help but give a soft laugh.
"What does it taste like?"
"You sure you don't wanna find out?"
Evan chanced a glance at the bottle; at the glass. Already drunk. Should he get drunker? Lose himself in tonight?
"...Fuck it," He grinned, feeling daring. Connor's brows shot up.
"Yeah? Gonna have one?"
"Yeah, let's do it."
Connor pulled another shot glass from under the counter, smiling widely and filling them both, giving one a little less than the other.
He leaned over the bar slightly, as if he were telling a secret.
"I put less in yours," He said. "It'll go down a little easier."
"Trying to cheap out on me, Murphy?"
"Trying to not have to clean up vomit, thank you very much, Hansen."
The shots were passed between the two of them and Connor took his in his slender fingers, giving Evan an excited glance. Evan nervously took his into his hand.
"Oh, hey," Connor suddenly beamed, then sipped a tiny bit of his shot to even them out. "Let's do... this ." He crossed his arm with Evan's, holding his glass to Evan's lips with a grin. Evan tilted his head.
"Just do what I'm doing."
Evan crossed his arm with Connor's, gently pressing his glass to Connor's mouth. He seemed pleased.
"On the count of three, we knock 'em back. Ready?"
"One… Two… Three !"
They both tilted the shots at the same time, into each other's mouths with surprising coordination. The absolutely poisonous taste flooded Evan's senses and he instinctively held it in his mouth, afraid to swallow. Dimly, he became aware of Connor's arm untangling from his. He squeezed his eyes shut.
"Swallow it," Connor urged, hurriedly tapping his arm. " Evan , you gotta swallow it, fast, or you're gonna vomit."
Forcibly, Evan swallowed, shuddering at the feeling. He let out a nauseous breath.
" Ugh… "
" That's why they make you puke ! You hold 'em in your mouth, you goober. You gotta swallow fast, so you don't taste it." Connor laughed, filling his glass once more and knocking it back quickly. "Like that."
Evan could tell Connor was getting a little tipsy as the next hour or so went by; he started to lose his inherent grace and favored stumbling around slightly, bright eyes dimmed and slightly glazed with intoxication.
"What do you say we get some music goin' up in here?" Connor grinned, words only slightly slurred. Evan was pretty sure Connor was still much more sober than he.
"I'm trashed, I don't care what we play," Evan laughed, probably barely coherent and leaning back in a booth, reclining a bit too far and falling onto his back drunkenly in the seat. Connor barked a laugh and fiddled with his phone for a moment before familiar music started to blare through the speakers mounted at the corners of the walls.
He made his way over to Evan, who elected to continue lying on his back in the booth, everything feeling fuzzy and out of focus and entirely too enjoyable. Connor held out his hands.
Evan took them and Connor pulled him to a standing position - the world lagging behind as he rose - leaving him for a moment to push some tables off to the side before returning to him and taking his hands once more. They were chilled against Evan's, whose felt as if they were much too warm, as with all of him. Connor began to sway him gently with a grin, moving to rest one hand on Evan's shoulder and the other on his waist. Evan rested both hands on Connor's shoulders with a nervous laugh; they were sturdy and broad and made soft by his hooded sweatshirt - a pleasing shade of plum. He felt as if he were unable to stop the self-conscious smile from spreading over his face and staying there.
" Do I look lonely," Connor sang, low and dulcet and strong in tone, matching Brendon Urie's deeply saccharine voice. "I see the shadows on my face. People have told me… I don't look the same…"
"Maybe I lost weight," Evan laughed through the lyrics, trying to match the grace of Connor's movements and feeling like he failed miserably. "I'm playing hooky… with the best of the best, put my heart on my chest, so that you can see it, too..."
Connor took his hand from Evan's waist, where it had been sitting quite comfortably, and took his hand; he chanced giving Evan a little twirl, which Evan stumbled through blindly before coming back to center and bracing his hands against Connor's chest. Vaguely, in the back of Evan's intoxicated head, he became aware of how this looked - how this felt . This was a little close for friendship, wasn't it? A little too familiar? Too… flirtatious ?
"I'm taking the lo-ong road," Lilting and giving little variances in pitch, Connor continued with his eyes closed, seeming to thoroughly be enjoying himself, "Watching the sky fall…" The gentle, seductive sway of Connor's hips against Evan's own was too entrancing, too comfortable, their chests pressed together snug and warm and familiar, and the thoughts from before continued to plague him; what was Connor doing? Why was he doing it? Was it just that he was an affectionate friend? What was the playful flirtation earlier at the pool table? Was it genuine? The questions came slowly, dizzily, Evan's thought process slowed by the vodka shots before. Finally, he settled on it feeling too good to be like this with Connor - with someone ; too good to worry too much right now - a problem for future Evan. Irresponsible, but easier than anxiety, easier than cross-examining every move Connor made.
Before he knew it they were both belting as if they actually were Panic! At the Disco, Evan wrapping his arms around Connor's neck without much reservation.
"The lace in your dress, tangles my neck - how do I live…?"
"The dea-ath of a bachelo-or…"
"Letting the water fall; the death of a bachelo-or…"
Evan dissolved into laughter, unable to sing anymore, and Connor took his cue shortly after, favoring putting more concentration into his steps and continuing to sway, leaning his head back and closing his eyes, blissed-out smile spreading over his lips. Gently, he moved a hand to the small of Evan's back, tugging him closer. Apprehension gave him a little jolt but he dismissed it quickly in favor of resting his head at the column of Connor's neck, reveling in the warmth.
"Friends do this, right?" Evan mumbled, mostly to himself, because they did, right? Nothing wrong with it.
"Of course," Connor slurred softly. "Just bros bein' bros."
A laugh bubbled from Evan's throat at the phrasing.
"We're friends, right?"
"Of course. Definitely friends. You're amazing."
"Hell yeah. Absolutely awesome. Wanna spend lots of time with you and hang out and watch movies."
"Yeah. And eat popcorn."
Connor sounded so incredibly intoxicated that Evan couldn't help but laugh again, yet he felt so trashed that he could hardly blame him. The world spun with them, slow and blurry and full of static. Velvet brushed every sense, muffled them, soft and warm and inviting and dizzy.
It all felt too good.
Connor hummed to the song quietly, richly in his ear, holding him close, and Evan was intimately aware of each move Connor's body made: hips swaying dangerously close to his own; legs softly brushing his; his thumb drawing circles into his back; his jawline pressed tenderly to his temple, his other hand resting heavy and warm on his shoulder.
It felt too good. Evan breathed slowly, trying to calm down, wondering in a daze why he needed to try calming down at all, wondering what was happening, wondering what he was doing here, in Connor's arms, reveling in his presence as the alcohol overtook him.
Connor's hand slowly scaled the length of Evan's back, slender fingers and painted black nails coming to rest with a gentle grip of his hip, and Evan suppressed a dull, full-body shiver. Connor laughed quietly, lazily in his ear, continuing to hum softly and sway, innocently, as if he didn't know what he was doing.
"Enjoying yourself?" Connor murmured lowly.
"Too much," Evan whispered, probably incoherent at this point.
"Me too," Connor whispered back, slowly, as if testing the words. Tentatively, he pulled away, and Evan was surprised at the tug of drunken disappointment in his chest as Connor sat clumsily at a booth, reclining backward and putting his face in one of his hands; his dark hair fell in soft waves over his shoulders as he ruminated quietly. Evan stumbled over and sat across from him.
"We're friends," Connor said softly through his fingers.
"Uh-huh?" Evan replied dumbly, inquiring more than confirming in his daze, still trying to adjust to not having Connor's hands on him.
"I'm glad," He slurred softly.
The air was stiff all of a sudden, like there was more that Connor wanted to say but elected not to.
The song ended.
The last thing Evan was aware of himself doing was letting his head dully fall to the table with a thump .
Sorry for the short chapter! I really wanted to get this one out so we could start on the next sort of arc in the story! That and I've been ridiculously sick and not doing so hot so I wanted to take the opportunity to write even if it's only a little.
Shit goes down so hopefully that makes up for it 🧐😏
"You took me home," Evan stated as he claimed a seat at the bar. Connor only raised a quizzical brow through his hair and continued pouring drinks for an inebriated set of newlyweds sitting next to him. "How? And you were drunk, too."
"And everyone knows drunk people stay drunk forever, and that they don't have their addresses printed on their license," Connor snarked, setting down the bottle and giving Evan a cocky smirk. Evan was suddenly reminded of that same expression from the night before, when Connor's hands were warm around his waist. On his neck, on his hips. He averted his eyes.
"Thanks," He mumbled. "I'll just have a beer." There was a pause, so Evan looked up to meet Connor's eyes. He seemed slightly confused, blinking a couple times before realization dawned on his face.
"Oh. Right. Yeah." Connor turned quickly to the fridge under the bar before sliding one over and turning away, trotting off to deal with other customers.
The entire night went like this - a game of who could pay the least attention to who. A game of who could look away faster when caught gazing at the other from across the room.
The whole thing was twisting like a knife in Evan's chest.
He wasn't sure why, but it was.
Connor seemed, for the first time, out of place. His usual grace and streetwise mannerisms were lost in favor of clumsiness and awkward mumbling. Pouring refills for Evan was uncomfortably silent.
Every time Evan chanced a glance up from his slowly filling glass, Connor's eyes were on him before quickly averting.
It hurt. It hurt, Evan realized, because from the get-go, he and Connor had a rapport unlike any Evan was able to keep with anyone. An easy one. Connor was intelligent; understanding and gentle yet rough around the edges, and something in Evan had reacted to that.
Their conversation was easy; their banter, plentiful and almost effortless - which was saying a lot for Evan, who never thought of himself as quick-witted.
A flutter of fabric in his peripherals caught Evan's attention and when he looked up, Connor had just finished taking off his apron and was now pulling a pack of American Spirits from his back pocket, nodding to a waitress and making his way from behind the bar.
Evan watched him retreat out the back door of the bar and looked back down at his drink.
Followed Connor's footsteps and slipped out the door into the winter chill.
And there Connor stood with his back turned, a figure in muted greys and blacks, tall and lean and brooding against the freshly fallen snow. His hair, always in chocolate waves cascading to his shoulders, was reflected red in the neon. The contrast was almost blinding.
Cigarette smoke wafted lazily in the air and Evan took a quiet step forward.
"I can hear you thinking," Connor murmured without turning to face him, and Evan could hear the soft grin in his voice.
"I'm sorry about last night." Evan whispered. "And I'm sorry about tonight." The late-night winter breeze chilled him to the bone; it played with thin strands of Connor's hair; Evan regretted not putting on his coat to come outside.
"Why are you sorry about last night?"
"I…" Evan started, then stopped. "I'm sorry for passing out. I guess."
It was then that Connor flicked his cigarette into the snow, and it was so silent between the two of them that Evan could hear the soft hiss it made when it landed. Connor turned to face him, expression unreadable but open.
"It's okay," He replied softly. "I didn't mind bringing you home."
Connor's words hung in the air but Connor didn't look like he was waiting for a reply - only standing and looking at Evan with a strange expression, almost studying him.
"I can hear you thinking, too," Evan gave a soft smile, and Connor returned it.
"I am," He said. More quiet. He stepped closer.
Somewhere in the distance, the faint whine of a train's horn - haunting in the night.
"I'm thinking ," Connor murmured, stepping closer still. "That I'm not sorry for last night. That I'm glad I got to have that time with you."
Evan's heart leapt to his throat.
"And that I want more of it." Closer still. Evan took a small step backward.
"That I want to dance again."
Evan felt himself start to break out in a cold sweat, Emily's face flashing briefly in his mind. Connor stepped closer, and Evan could smell cigarettes, comforting and rough and Connor and oh, god, what was he doing here -
"That I'd like to be more than friends with you."
Evan was only partly aware of the anxious chill that raced through him, of the tremulous breath that left him in a puff of steam in the cold. His eyes were fixed on the white strings of Connor's hoodie, standing out against the grey. Panic.
Minutes, hours, months, years seemed to pass.
"Evan?" A soft whisper, one that prompted Evan's head to snap up and his eyes be forced to meet the man's in front of him, glacial and icy and frosted and warm . Cautiously hopeful.
Evan opened his mouth but the words wouldn't come. He watched as the glimmer of hope in Connor's eyes dimmed into a glint.
"Did you hear what I said?" He whispered. "I like you."
The words wouldn't come.
"I'm sorry!" Evan blurted. Connor regarded him with soft surprise. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I don't… I can't -"
"Why are you sorry -"
"I can't!" Evan yelped, knowing the panic attack was gulping him down whole but he was still taking three quick steps back when Connor stepped slightly closer. "I can't, I just, I can't."
"Try to breathe," Connor warned, looking concerned now, but Evan couldn't be stopped.
"I'm not ready. I can't. I'm not ready. "
"That's okay, Ev, just breathe -"
"I have to go." Suddenly everything came rushing back with astounding clarity, the world silent and still and it was time to fight or fly. "I have to go, I'm so sorry Connor, I have to go."
"Evan, just slow down -"
Evan turned on his heel, slipping on a patch of ice and nearly hitting the ground but regaining his balance out of pure, unadulterated social self-preservation and Connor shouted after him but he was already sprinting through the bar and slamming a twenty on the counter and running from the front door and slamming his car door and shouting -
Shouting angry into the steering wheel as he pulled from the parking lot. He didn't look in the rear view, for fear he would see Connor there at the door, watching him go. Evan wiped his eyes, pulling onto the main road and realizing he'd left his coat at the bar.
His only coat was at Murphy's Law with the man who'd just told him he liked him, wanted to go out with him, wanted to start up this whole rollercoaster again.
And why did it have to be so fucking cold?
Evan hadn't been to the bar in three days.
At first, Connor reserved hope that maybe, just maybe, he hadn't fucked things up royally. The first night, he watched the doors pretty much the entire evening until close, waiting for Evan to breeze in along with the snow in his scarf, sans coat.
He never came, and Connor stared at the coat he left.
The second night, Connor watched, because maybe he just missed a night or maybe he needed a night to think.
He never came.
The third, Connor seldomly looked up from pouring drinks. At this point, it was an internal battle - don't look up, because he won't be there. It was beginning to hurt, and Connor was beginning to feel incredibly guilty and incredibly worried.
A panic attack. He'd given Evan a panic attack, only by confessing - quite softly, too. In his mind, he'd imagined leaning in and kissing him passionately, telling him you're one of my kind and two of a kind need to stick together but it seemed Connor always treated Evan with more care in reality than in his own fantasies.
He never came.
And now, it was the fourth night. The end of the fourth night. Nearing three in the morning and closing was almost complete.
He hadn't come.
At this point, Connor resigned himself to never seeing Evan again; after all, it was only by chance that he'd ended up here, heartbroken and left dejected by his job. He'd wished he'd asked Evan for his phone number, because the worry was gnawing at him quite physically at this point and he really wanted to check up on him.
Make sure he was okay. Make sure he had everything he needed, that he was taking care of himself.
How had Connor grown so attached? Usually, he avoided thinking on his relationship patterns; serial monogamy wasn't his proudest stretch, and neither were his numerous one-night stands. But it remained that Connor didn't get attached to others.
Found them attractive? Sure. Dated for a while? Sure. Slept with them? Of-fucking-course. Get attached? Think about marriage, long-term, the kit and kaboodle? Absolutely not.
It was a little frightening how quickly he'd opened himself up like a fucking book to Evan Hansen.
And oh, how the mighty fall. Golden-green eyes, long eyelashes and sandy hair. Smattering of freckles. Sturdy frame. Soft voice. Kind. Compassionate. Sassy. Sweet. Always smartly dressed and even smarter spoken.
And now closing was done and Evan wasn't here. He hadn't come, for the fourth night in a row. Three thirty; wait staff was leaving and Connor gave them a gentle wave as he wiped down the glossy cherrywood of the bar. The last of them locked up as they left.
And then it was quiet.
Dejected, Connor gave a huff and pulled a shot glass from under the bar, grabbing the same strawberry-infused vodka he and Evan had knocked back a few nights before.
It slipped down his throat with ease.
Another, and then another.
He pulled his cigarettes from his back pocket and grabbed his keys from the counter.
Might as well hang out for a while; nothing else to do.
Connor locked up behind him and leaned against the doors, basking in the neon and watching his now lit cigarette waft smoke into the cold night sky.
The night was silent. Calm. It was nearing Christmas, only in about a week, and Connor wondered if maybe Evan was going to be home celebrating with his family - wearing a soft sweater, cheeks rosy from the cold, gentle eyes glowing with colors from Christmas lights - with happiness.
The thought kept him warm.
He took another drag from his cigarette.
"Can I have some of that?"
Connor nearly jumped out of his skin, whipping his head to the left and there was Evan. No coat - instead, that navy and cream sweater that looked so nice on him before. Same scarf. Same brown boots. Same beautiful eyes. Looking cold and timid and sorry and asking for a drag. His extremities were rosy while the rest were pale, signalling he'd been in the cold for a while.
Stunned into silence, Connor offered the cigarette.
Evan took it simply between his index and middle fingers, bringing it to his lips, closing his eyes and taking a slow drag.
Connor watched him exhale, spellbound.
Their eyes met: Connor's, widened and surprised; Evan's, soft and apologetic.
"I left my coat," Evan muttered quietly, taking another drag from the cigarette. No coughing, no sputtering. Connor wondered if he'd been a smoker at some point.
"I saw," Connor replied, just as quiet - not really sure what to say. "You look cold."
Evan handed back the cigarette. His fingers were icy.
"Do you wanna, um. Come in?" Connor asked, treading carefully. He took one more drag from the cigarette and flicked it before meeting Evan's eyes.
"Yeah, okay," Evan murmured. "It's really cold."
Evan followed closely behind Connor into the bar and took a seat as Connor locked up.
"I'm sorry," Evan met Connor's eyes after he'd turned for only a moment before glancing back down in shame. "About my reaction, about not being here -"
"You don't have to apologize for any of that," Connor replied softly. It didn't seem to help; Evan looked almost distraught, his fingers tangled in the hem of his sweater.
"I do," Evan pressed, a frown creasing his brows. "It wasn't fair to just... run off without a word."
"You were worked up. I forgive you," Connor murmured, stepping silently behind the bar and taking Evan's coat from one of the shelves, where it had stayed safe and clean this whole time. He held it out to Evan, who took it gratefully - albeit still looking incredibly guilty.
"I'm sorry, too," Connor said. "I knew you were going through all of that shit, but I went for it anyway. I should've given you more time."
"I'm just not sure I'm ready for anything serious," Evan replied after a moment, looking down at his boots. "Emily really… did a number on me, I guess."
"What if I told you it didn't have to be serious?" Connor asked, and Evan's eyes darted to his, going wide. Immediately, Connor felt like burying himself. "Sorry, that's - that wasn't an attempt at pushing you, I just. Wanted to relieve you of some pressure. Forget I said anything, sorry."
"No, it's… it's fine," Evan mumbled, obviously unsure of how to respond.
Connor took a seat beside him.
"Listen," He said, and Evan regarded him shyly. "Let's start over, okay? You don't have to apologize for anything. I made a move even though I shouldn't have. We can be friends and move forward and forget about it - I'd like to. Would you?"
Evan gazed at him with something akin to relief.
"Yes," He whispered after a moment. "I really would. I missed your company." He said this so softly that it made Connor's heart flutter. He gave Evan a soft smile.
"Missed yours, too. Work has been shit without you here to backtalk me." Evan gave a soft laugh and rested his head in his hands on the counter.
"Work has been awful for me, too. And then I've just been going home, and - and ruminating. It's sucked so hard."
"Well, I'm glad you showed up. We can have a drink, if you want?" Connor asked hopefully, raising a brow. Evan gave him a sweet smile in return, eyes sparkling in the neon.
“So, I’m thinking of getting a new job,” Evan murmured over the rim of his glass - he’d chosen red wine tonight instead of hard liquor. “I kinda wanna get out of the apartment I’m in now.”
“Got any ideas of what you’ll go for?” Connor asked, watching Evan sip and wondering how he could look so attractive just by holding a wine glass. Evan looked thoughtful for a moment.
“I was thinking I could get my foot in the door as an office receptionist, then eventually move up to an executive assistant or something.”
“An office job, huh? Wear a suit everyday, ruin your posture?”
Evan laughed, rich into his glass.
“The suit’s a plus, and my posture is ruined, anyway.”
“The suit’s a plus?”
“I actually like dressing up. It makes me feel confident.”
Connor took a moment to really look at Evan, and decided that Evan in a suit would absolutely be Too Much To Handle.
“I guess I could see that. Have you already started looking?”
“Not yet. I guess I’m nervous. I’ve worked at the bookstore for, like, ever.” Evan sipped his wine once more before setting it down and running his hand through his hair. “Change is hard for me.”
“What made you settle on owning a bar, anyway?” Evan asked, idly tracing the rim of his glass with his fingertips. The motion was oddly transfixing. He has really nice hands.
Evan fixed him with a bewildered look and Connor laughed, fluffing his own hair with his hands. A nervous habit. Now that he thought about it, his reasoning sounded kind of… immature.
“Mm-hmm. My Dad used to go on about how I was such a rebellious teen, about how I needed to focus on my studies or I’d end up amounting to nothing. One day, he said, “You’ll probably end up dropping out and working at some bar in the city like a good-for-nothing”. And from that day on, I absolutely wanted to work at some bar like a good-for-nothing.”
Evan cackled and tapped his glass, signalling for more, and Connor poured him another before nursing his gin and tonic.
“Jesus. So you did?”
“I did for a couple years and then decided it wasn’t enough,” Connor grinned. “I wanted to go full on disappointment.”
“Which is where Murphy’s Law comes in.”
“Yup. And the name was specifically to piss off my Dad, too. Said I’d ‘sullied the family name’ by using it for a bar. I felt like that was accomplishment enough, but then I actually started making really good money, because hey - who knew? - I’m actually pretty good at running and maintaining a business.”
“You do seem like you’re doing pretty good for yourself,” Evan nudged him gently and swirled his glass with a smile. “Then again, maybe it’s because you work literally every day.”
“Work hard, play hard, Hansen.”
“I’m glad we talked,” Evan murmured plaintively, staring into his glass. “I missed you.” He glanced sidelong at Connor then, sincere and strangely tender. Connor’s heart thudded and his voice came hoarse.
“Me too. I, um. I missed you, too. I kept waiting for you to come in.” Connor laughed softly, embarrassed at the admission, but felt it needed to be said. Evan looked a bit guilty, so Connor laid a hand on his shoulder. “But, I mean, you did. So, all good. Yeah?” He squeezed gently and Evan smiled, a real smile, a sunbeam in winter.
“Yeah,” He beamed. “I’m glad I did.”
“You’re okay, though, right?” Connor murmured, slipping his hand from Evan’s shoulder with great difficulty. “I was worried about you.”
Evan gave him a look of gentle surprise - soft frown, curious eyes.
“You were worried about me?” His voice was quiet.
“Of course,” Connor replied. “You had a panic attack and then ran off without your coat into single digit temperatures - after drinking. I was worried sick.”
Evan seemed to contemplate this for a minute, his cheeks flushing pink. He took a drink and remained silent. “I just… really hoped you were okay, above all else.” Connor said.
“You weren’t angry?”
“Of course not. Just worried about you. And feeling like I really fucked up -”
“You didn’t fuck up,” Evan interrupted. “I promise. I just freaked out.”
“I fucked up a little bit.”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Like, a microscopic fuck-up?”
“A fuck-up smaller than, like, an electron?”
“I mean, I don’t think so. Nah.”
“I’m just trying to think of something smaller, man.”
Evan stared for a moment before bursting into cackles, letting his head fall to the counter. Connor let out a short burst of laughter, too, before finishing his drink - because wasn’t it all just ridiculous?
This boy getting his heart broken and coming here , of all places, making Connor question every relationship choice he’d made after only a week or so? Evan breathed another laugh before taking a drink, only to snort it and recoil, giving a shout. Connor muffled a screech.
“Did you seriously just snort your wine?!”
“I did, oh - god, my nose!”
“Feels good, right?”
“It fucking hurts!”
“Oh my god, I’m crying.”
tw: existential dread, use of medication, panic attacks
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
After about a week of things going back to the way they had been, there were finer details of Connor that Evan suddenly began to notice.
His hands, as he poured drinks - slender, long fingers working deftly.
The slight little tilt of Connor’s head, always, as he smiled.
A tiny brown speck in his left iris, amidst a sea of blue.
When pulling his hair up, he always closed his eyes.
When Connor stretched, toned arms raised above his head, he always tended to lean back onto the nearest object behind him.
The strange way Connor held his lit cigarettes; blazing cherry held inward toward his palm and the filter resting just so between his pointer and middle finger, thumb pressed gently against the cigarette. When he dragged, he brought it to his lips that way, too. Backwards, almost, yet strangely masculine. Strangely attractive.
It was all of this that Evan pondered as he sipped a gin and tonic, watching Connor prepare for another round of Saturday night karaoke. Watching his hands as he connected this cable and that.
Evan took another drink.
Connor happened to catch eyes with him and gave him a barely-there grin, eyes alight, and again with that little head tilt. Evan's heart thudded. Connor resumed finishing up with the setup and rose from his squatting position on the stage. The neon lit his hair green, like a fiery halo.
"Let's get started," Connor murmured lowly into the mic, and a couple scattered whoops and cheers rose through the bar. He gave a grin and threw his hair over his left shoulder. "Thanks to you all for comin' out tonight, you know I love ya." A few more scattered cheers.
Connor pulled an acoustic guitar from behind one of the speakers, one that Evan recognized as Zoe's from last time. It shone in the low light of the bar, glittering as Connor took a seat on a small stool.
Deftly, he aligned his fingers over the neck and began to play quietly, yet it echoed through the silent bar as if he were connected to an amplifier. Strumming soft, humming even softer, Connor leaned in to the mic.
"I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
'Til the landslide brought me down,"
Evan's heart immediately began to ache. There was something about this song that always caught him in such a profound way, and it only seemed all the more poignant in Connor's gentle tenor.
"Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Connor's eyes were closed. He almost looked as if he were sleeping as he strummed, face relaxed with a deep contentment. If there was anything about the Murphy siblings, it was that both of them were very comfortable onstage.
The way Connor glowed in the neon, it wasn't hard to see why.
Evan gasped and sucked in his drink. Quietly, he choked into his arm, eyes watering and face burning.
"Well, I've been 'fraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too."
But he did look ethereal in the low neon light, hair shining and his fingers dancing over the strings of Zoe's guitar. His soft voice carrying through the bar, everyone else silent.
He gave a swift, gentle gaze to Evan as he played and Evan could have combusted just from those icy blue eyes, those hands, from the realization that oh shit he really is beautiful, isn't he?
He was only just breaking down about not being ready, about Emily, avoiding Connor and Murphy’s Law for as long as he could.
But Connor had told him he was worried about him, that he thought of him while he was away, told him he’d looked for him to show up every night. He’d saved his coat, kept it folded and safe behind the bar until Evan’s return. He’d told him the origin story of his business, how he’d started it out of spite and how Evan thought how fitting, how absolutely like him.
"Well, I've been 'fraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older, too."
And all of that culminated tonight, in deft movements of Connor’s hands over the guitar; in the sound of the pads of his fingers slipping over the grooves in the strings, lending a rough, unplugged sound that made Evan’s heart thud dully in his chest.
Despite the guitar being beautifully calming, Evan's anxiety welled and curled its tendrils around his lungs, his heart, his throat.
So what? He's pretty. That doesn't mean anything. You've seen guys and thought they were pretty before.
Connor gave a quick little riff with the strings and it prompted another thought:
Yeah, but he's talented, too. Really talented. He's good at singing, good at playing guitar, good at bartending. But so what, Evan, so what? Pretty and talented. Whatever. No big.
Connor gave him a grin from across the room and Evan returned it wholeheartedly.
But he's kind. Compassionate. Charming. Considerate. Understanding. All of that - plus pretty, plus talented, plus that whole rebellious, dark look he's got going on… I'm just now realizing all of this? After I ran out on him?
"Ah, take my love, take it down
Oh, climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow covered hills
Well, the landslide will bring it down
Oh, the landslide will bring it down…"
Connor regarded him once more, tranquil eyes glinting in the light with that ever-present sense of amusement, before the song was over and his playing slowed to a gentle stop.
As applause rose around Evan uproariously, one final thought emerged:
I'm in big trouble, I think.
"I got a new beer I really wanna try," Connor said, leaning on his elbows from across the bar and giving Evan a devious grin. "Have one with me after close?"
An uproar from the dartboard; apparently someone hit a direct bullseye on their first shot of the game. Evan wondered if Connor was good at darts; wondered if he threw them as gracefully and as coolly as he did everything else.
"What kind?" Evan asked. Delight glittered handsome in Connor's eyes, through his hair.
"Hazelnut coffee milk stout. It's got a strong flavor, and it's definitely a winter beer."
"What a mouthful," Evan laughed, and Connor echoed it.
"Yeah, long name, but it's delicious. I'm not usually huge on stouts, but I love this one."
"Can't wait," Evan gave Connor a smile, perhaps a bit too dreamily. He hoped his eyes wouldn't give him away, but Connor only continued talking about the beer, chattering on too animatedly to notice.
"It's so good, Ev. Like, seriously. Even though it's winter and it's served cold, it warms you straight through. Super stocky. Love it. Seems like it would go good with something sweet, like a pastry…" Connor trailed off, looking deep in thought about a possible pairing.
A comfortable silence fell, even in the midst of the bar chatter and glassware clinking and karaoke.
Connor gently put his head between his folded arms on the bar, running one hand through his tousled chocolate hair. A hematite ring on his middle finger gleamed in the neon. Evan wondered how it would feel to run his fingers through his hair; Evan wondered what the smoothness of his ring would feel like with Connor's hand folded into his own.
"I'm fucking tired," His voice was muffled in his arms. "I'm fucking tired, Evan."
"What do you want me to do about it?" Evan snickered, taking the opportunity to softly thump Connor on the head, sneaking a feel of his hair.
Very soft. Oh, that's creepy. Stop.
"I don't know, energize me. Do something, I'm dying ." Connor let his voice crack and Evan snorted.
"Because obviously, I'm just here for your entertainment."
Connor lifted his head just above his forearms and gave a wolfish grin.
"Obviously..." He repeated lowly, and warmth spread through Evan's cheeks immediately. Connor's eyes glinted neon green in the low light with an almost predatory amusement. "So entertain me, Hansen."
Okay, two can play.
"What would you like me to do , dance? Fine. Take a seat." Made an attempt at bedroom eyes. Raised a brow. Smirked. Tried to ignore the embarrassment creeping between his shoulder blades.
A rosy flush spread over Connor's neck and lit the tops of his ears, but he was collected in expression and voice, as always… save for a slight, very slight , widening of his grey eyes. Parting of his lips. Almost imperceptibly. It was extremely cute , one of the rare instances the word could be used to describe Connor.
He covered with a teasing grin, lifting a brow. Somehow, it seemed disingenuous.
"During business hours? For shame..." He gave a soft laugh, scratching the back of his neck and laying his head back down in his folded arms. His ears were red, Evan noted. Completely red, along with the back of his neck. He's hiding his blush. Oh my god.
Flustered Connor was something Evan didn't know he needed.
"What," Evan prodded, unable to control the need for more. "All I said is I'd dance. What're you thinking of?"
"You told me to sit," Connor's reply came muffled.
"So you could watch, duh ," Evan snickered and Connor buried his face further, playing it off as exhaustion by stretching his legs behind him - left, then right.
"Of course." Finally, he lifted his head, still rosy but giving a smirk. "I'm not sure why I thought anything else, you blushing bride."
"You know. You're probably saving yourself. Never been fucked."
Words to light Evan on fire like dry grass, prickling from his scalp to the ends of his toes.
"I've... I… I-I-"
"Mhmm, mhmm. Tell me more, absolutely riveting ."
"I've been… That's - that's not true."
"Hard to believe."
"Why? Am I that unattractive?"
Evan couldn't help but let the salt seep into his voice, not wanting to be offended but being slightly so nonetheless. Connor looked alarmed, his brows lifting.
"What? No, no, of course not. I just… I just meant because you're so… I don't know, jeez -"
"I… I wouldn't know about that." Connor was beginning to get rosy again.
"You think I don't know things?" Evan murmured, less worried about his possible unattractive features and more focused on getting a rise out of Connor again.
"I… I have no idea." He was hiding behind his fringe now, looking down at the polished surface of the bar.
"Well, you're wrong," Even ventured.
"Oh?" Connor raised a brow, finally looking Evan dead in the eyes. Evan lost his nerve.
"Y-Yeah. So, I'm no blushing bride . Dick."
Even through the soft dusting of pink on his cheeks, Connor barked a laugh and ran a hand through his hair.
"I stand corrected," He muttered, still chuckling. "I apologize, sex god."
"You better," Evan laughed. "And it's Mister Sex God to you ." Connor, wholly amused, offered him a shot; he downed it in one gulp.
"You're keeping me from my customers, you degenerate. Leave me alone." Connor's tone was light as he strode down to the other end of the bar and Evan wondered how he could've gone without hearing that voice for almost four days.
"It really is a nice stout," Evan nodded, taking another small sip of his fourth bottle. Evan wasn't really big on stouts, either, but Connor's recommendation had proven useful. "It tastes so much like coffee that you almost forget it's beer."
"Exactly," Connor exclaimed, finishing his third off and tossing the bottle in the trash. "Can't get enough."
The music had been turned to a soft volume, the neon the only light in the bar. It was quiet; intimate, dark. Much nicer than the usual bar feeling.
This was comfortable. This was Connor, truly in his element - relaxing in a quiet, low-lit space. It showed on his face; his usually sharp, slightly concentrated features took on a softness and a levity that Evan was having a hard time not relishing in. Connor's eyes were soft; affectionate, even. Calm rolled off of him in waves.
He sat next to Evan at the bar.
"Today was long," Connor began conversationally and ran his hand through his hair. It tumbled and curled around his slender fingers like water. "I'm glad it's done." He lit a cigarette.
"Yeah…" Evan couldn't help but give a little sigh and lean forward on his elbows.
"How's the job hunt?" As Connor spoke, smoke puffed gently from his lips and Evan couldn't remember a time when smoking had been this attractive. He also took surprise in the fact that Connor remembered he was looking for a new job; it was flattering.
"I'm not sure. Something about pop culture made me think there were more office jobs than there actually are," Evan huffed, finishing his bottle. Connor reached across the counter and popped open two more, sliding one to Evan and continuing to listen quietly. "Thank you - it feels like there's nothing around for entry-level office positions."
"No problem. And where are you looking? Law firms, or…?"
"No, but maybe I should give those a try."
"That and banking. I feel like banking could be something you'd be good at. Professional environment and all.""
Connor laughed softly and clinked the mouth of his bottle to Evan's.
"Cheers, I'll drink to that." He did so, and so did Evan.
"Have you had any interviews?" Connor asked.
"Only one, and it didn't really go very well," Evan sighed. "I called so many places asking if they were hiring that I said the wrong company name and manager when I checked in." Connor barked a laugh.
"Ouch," He chuckled, patting Evan on the shoulder before rubbing gently, in small circles, with his thumb. "Chin up. Things'll get better. You can do mostly anything, I think." His voice was quiet.
It was uncharacteristically soft, extremely affectionate - and it set Evan on fire inside and out.
He stifled the shiver that raced over the back of his neck.
Evan could hardly manage a soft hum of affirmation in reply, staring down the neck of his stout. Realizing that probably seemed rude after such a sweet compliment, he amended it with a very tiny thank you.
Connor squeezed his shoulder gently once more before retracting his hand and drawing from his cigarette, which had been collecting ash in the ashtray for the last couple of minutes.
Oblivious to Evan's struggle - which was quite obvious in Evan's eyes - Connor took another drink.
"Beer and cigarettes," Connor mused dreamily. "Almost as good as coffee and cigarettes. Or pot and tacos."
"Wouldn't know about the last one," Evan laughed, leaning his head on his hand. Things were starting to get a little fuzzy. He was a little tipsy at this point, but it felt good.
"You don't smoke?"
"Nah… it makes me anxious."
"Understandable. I start thinking and can't stop. Usually that's good, but sometimes not so much."
"Thinking about what?" Evan asked.
Connor brought a finger to his lips in thought, letting a frown slowly crease his brows.
"Do… do you ever feel like you're just kind of... floating? Made up of these… bits and pieces of adulthood, interests, mental health diagnoses that you're just grabbing onto to add to your gravity? Thinking that maybe, it might pull you closer to the ground… but it never does?"
Evan could only sit, flabbergasted.
Connor was staring at the bar now, lost in thought, his voice stilted and quiet.
"Feels like I'm made up of all of these weighted objects, like I've got a gravity to me that keeps pulling all of them in, but does nothing to get my feet on the ground. So, I'm just made up of all of these tiny objects with no way to see through that ball of junk to the inside.
Like I'm… not really here. That I'm... made up of these objects, and that I... I don't really exist."
A long silence.
Connor was staring at the bar with a far away, almost disturbed intensity. He released a stifled breath, blinking rapidly.
No response, just the soft sound of Connor's breaths beginning to come quickly, shallowly. He closed his widened eyes and leaned over the bar, hiding his face.
Still no response, only a detached move to rake his nails through his hair and shudder violently. Evan placed his hands gently over Connor's shoulders and he jerked, but didn't make a move to leave.
"Breathe," Evan whispered, close to his ear. "Breathe in and hold it, then breathe out." He could feel Connor trying, trying his best but not quite able to get it under control.
"Oh my fucking god," Connor whispered breathlessly, hiccuping quietly with the effort of slowing his breath. He shook.
"Don't talk. Just focus on your breath. Focus on how I'm touching you, the smell of the stout, the neon lights, the feel of the bar."
It wasn't working. It was only escalating - Evan could tell. Connor was mumbling breathless curses, raking both hands through his hair and practically hyperventilating, every muscle tensed to the max. Evan pushed his hand into his own pocket for his keys.
A small cylinder dangled from the ring. He unscrewed it, let a tiny white pill fall into his hand, and pressed it into Connor's trembling one. Connor gave him a frantic, questioning kind of look. Those usually calm silver rivers were staring wide at Evan, were now turbulent and rushing like white water.
"Ativan," Evan whispered, his own heart pounding. "One milligram. It'll help you. Put it under your tongue."
Connor immediately did so and returned his forehead to the bar.
Evan sat with him until it passed.
Finally, Connor leaned back, lashes wet and a couple of stray tears trailing down his cheeks. He breathed deeply.
"Sorry," He muttered, voice hoarse. "Dug too deep."
"It's okay," Evan murmured, only half consciously petting Connor's soft hair. It seemed to make Connor relax, so he began to gently twist and curl the strands around his fingers. "It's okay. You're here and so am I, and there's nothing to worry about."
Connor slumped suddenly, looking exhausted.
"I'm… I'm really tired."
"I know. It's okay." Evan brushed Connor's tears from his cheeks and leaned to look at him. Connor looked more vulnerable than he'd ever looked, face pale and eyes apologetic yet… holding an oddly fond softness.
"Thank you," He murmured. Quiet. Profound. Another unspoken 'I'm sorry '.
"Don't worry," Evan whispered. "I'll stay here. Until you're okay again."
Connor only stared at the shelving at the back of the bar.
"I don't know."
"You can be not okay for a bit. There's nothing wrong with that."
"Yeah, but it's so stupid, I did it to myself."
"Don't we always?"
Connor turned to lock eyes with Evan.
"I guess so."
Evan regarded him as gently as he could.
"So, it's okay. We're two of a kind, right?"
Connor's eyes widened, as if this was a phrase that was, in particular, very important to him.
"Yes," He breathed. "Two of a kind."
Hey, so, not sure if anybody is still interested in this, but please leave a comment if you are! It means a lot to me and encourages me to update faster.
Also, sorry about the formatting. Posted during a power outage with my phone; I'll fix it when I can but until then it's gonna look wonky.