A/N: *returns to writing fanfics six months later with a Starbucks* hey hey hey! I'm really excited to be back writing and uploading, and I hope you are too, because this is something completely new and different from what I've written previously. It's even *gasp* a fandom not related to Lin-Manuel Miranda! Yup, Dear Evan Hansen (I'm that mainstream.)
This story will be a slow burn with eventual treebros but I solemnly swear to approach the relationship respectfully. It also, like the show, will handle some dark themes, and I beg of you, if a story that centres on a (failed) suicide attempt is likely to harm your mental health, please don't read it. This chapter is more an introduction so it's relatively safe, but I'm about to do a chapter trigger warning and literally if there's the smallest chance that it will have a negative impact on you, please just leave, your safety and well-being comes first.
CHAPTER TRIGGERS: A panic attack near the end, a smaller almost-panic-attack just before the line break. Some swearing and self-reproach throughout.
If you still think this story is for you, then enjoy!
These Broken Parts - Chapter 1
It started with a letter. Or, the important part did, anyway.
Really it started six hours earlier, before the letter was even completed, in an ordinary corridor of an ordinary high school, with a boy, Evan Hansen, who would have given anything to be an ordinary teenager.
In that moment, however, he felt far further from clinging on to some semblance of normality than he could remember being for months, namely because he was being stared down by another teenage boy, Connor Murphy: A boy who, though just as alien as Evan, was beyond caring about how people viewed his palpable otherness. Just moments before, something had happened to leave Connor frozen rigid, and Evan wondering whether it was somehow possible to spontaneously combust if he focused on it hard enough; Namely, a thoughtless, offhand remark aimed at Connor by the closest thing Evan had to a friend, before he walked away from the achingly awkward scene he left behind him.
But walking away was nowhere near so easy for either remaining seventeen year olds. Had it not been just the two of them, Evan would have been able to duck into a crowd, rushing away almost seamlessly, fading into the background as easily as a shadow. It would have been quick and almost painless, and Connor would only have to blink to miss it completely - it wasn't like he lacked practice when it came to running away. But it was just the two of them, alone in that hallway, suffocating in the thick air Jared had left behind him when he spoke that scathing accusation, freak.
Jared's insult continued to ricochet around the inside of Evan's overactive mind, batted back and forth by numerous ideas of apologies and excuses he could make, don't listen to Jared, he says dumb things all the time, he never thinks before he speaks, it's not true. Somehow, no option seemed good enough to make amends on behalf of his family-friend. Not when his remark had left Connor rooted to the same spot and glaring venomously ahead. Perhaps he should have forgotten about apologising and followed as soon as Jared made to walk away, but he had hesitated, feeling guilty for the word he hadn't even said. His conscience had trapped him, however, because now he couldn't find the words to say, but it seemed too late to leave under the guise of following Jared, and plain rude to simply take off in the other direction, so Evan turned to the only other method of deflection he knew: nervous laughter.
That much became clear instantly, when Connor suddenly transformed from statue-still to writhing like a flame. He extended his head forwards, his voice dangerously soft as he asked "What the fuck are you laughing at?" He couldn't have expected a reply, since he began to shout before Evan could even open his mouth, "Stop fucking laughing at me! You think I'm a freak?"
"No, I didn't -"
The slam of his boots echoed on the tiled floor as he rapidly approached Evan, and Connor emanated a powerful feeling of disgust as he insisted, "I'm not a freak, you're the fucking freak!"
He was shoving Evan to the ground before he could even think about any of the ridiculous coping methods he'd read about in the numerous leaflets his parents had given him over the years. But luckily for him, he was also too consumed by raging numbness to feel a shred of guilt for lashing out and hurting someone smaller and weaker than himself yet again.
As for Evan, on the ground and all alone (and bitterly deciding he should be used to that by now), he couldn't mirror Connor by storming away; his good arm ached along with his cast-bearing broken one, the oxygen had been knocked out of his chest, and for a solid minute, he struggled to refill his tightening lungs, teetering perilously close to giving into the hysteria hammering within him.
Not now, not a panic attack before school's even started, please not now. Come on, not now, not now... Shaking hands clasped a shaking head as he fought to keep his nerves within his skull rather than letting them spill out and make a mess in the middle of the hallway floor. Breathe, hold, breathe, hold, breathe, hold, not now, not now, not now...
He wouldn't have been able to explain how he prevented himself from losing control completely if anyone had asked, but luckily for him, nobody did. All he knew was that he got up. He walked away, he hid within himself, and he carried on.
That whole day, Evan did his best not to think about the confrontation, or how Zoe of all people had been the first person to speak to him after he pulled himself back from the edge of a bad panic attack to check he was okay, or how terribly he had messed up talking to her, or how he definitely must have looked half-crazed, what with the sweating and barely holding back tears. His sole reprieve was the distraction offered by the cast encasing his broken arm, which turned out to be simultaneously a blessing and a curse:
The plain white plaster was the cruellest of distractions, because while he wasn't obsessing over what he had done wrong that morning, those thoughts were replaced with the equally disappointing and constantly renewed knowledge that no one was interested in signing his cast. And it's that, the fact that nobody even pretended to care, that lead to the writing of the letter that truly started it all.
His therapist had told him it would help, but somehow, as Evan came to revisit the start he had made that morning on typing up his aspirations for the day, the phrase "pep-talk" seemed somewhat inaccurate; dampened by reality's cold, unyielding splash, it was clear on reflection that all he had done was compile a list of things he should have known he couldn't possibly manage to do. He looked back at the opening:
Dear Evan Hansen, Today is going to be an amazing day and here's why, because today, all you have to do is just be yourself.
The addressee and recipient of the letter shook his head, a sound of disgust escaping from his grimacing mouth. It was aimed purely at himself, a small fraction of his internal self-loathing manifesting there as he decided he'd been stupid to be so optimistic. Be myself? Like when I managed to be so annoying in the space of one minute that Jared had to remind me exactly why he lets me talk to him? Like when I tried to explain my broken arm to Alana and ended up reminding her of her dead grandma? Like when I tried to laugh, to be friendly, to Connor, and he shoved me? Or when I tried to speak to Zoe, but couldn't even string two coherent words together?
That one had really stung, even more so than the other knock backs he'd suffered that day. Making people uncomfortable was a common event in his life, but it still didn't help him feel anything but total and complete misery now that his crush of six years had seen just how socially incompetent he was. He shook his head, despising how he became suddenly conscious of the tears welling in his eyes as he did so. He swiped angrily at his eyes, the rough, nibbled edges of his nails leaving thin white lines behind as they snagged on his skin.
Evan slumped deeply into the plastic spin chair, and pinched the bridge of his nose in an attempt to placate the threat of tears. The need to do so became all the more necessary a few seconds later, when his phone vibrated within his pocket. It could only be his mother, and not just because it seemed like she called whenever she had more than a heartbeat to spare.
Sure enough, when he checked, a selfie taken three years ago with his round face squeezed against that of the beaming Heidi Hansen lit up the small screen. Pausing momentarily to ensure he was composed enough to speak aloud without exposing his weakness, Evan answered the phone. "Mom?"
"Hey Honey." She paused before continuing, and already her voice was heavy with regret. Evan awaited her news with dread, until she explained, "Look, I know I told you I'd take you to your therapy appointment tonight, but... I'm stuck at work." Her son exhaled, relieved. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart, it's just that there's a bug going around, three people have called in sick, and what with more budget cuts in the pipeline, I figured it can't hurt to show I'm a team player, you know?"
She sounded desperate, as if afraid he would be angry. It couldn't be further from the truth. "That's okay, I can just take a bus, or walk there or something." I could use half an hour in the fresh air, not doing anything, just trying to... forget?
"Okay sweetheart, if you're sure. And remember, when you get home we have food in the freezer, or maybe you can order something - there's money right where you left it last night. If at first you don't succeed, you know?" She sounded relieved, hopeful, even, but Evan still noted how she hesitated to chuckle. She, like him, was given to using laughter to fill the lull in conversation, and it soon became clear why the lull had occurred: Heidi was cautious as she broached a sensitive subject, but to Evan, her words held too much expectation for his liking as she asked, "Hey, have you written one of those letters yet? You know, those pep-talks, Dr Sherman will be expecting one - 'Dear Evan Hansen, this is going to be a good day and here's why'?"
The teenager's gaze darted to the screen before him. "Yeah, I'm in the computer lab just about to print it off right now."
"Good!" Her happiness was palpable, and it made Evan's skin crawl with guilt: he suspected she wouldn't be nearly so cheerful if she could see how the tears were welling in his eyes once more despite his best efforts. He sniffed, then hurriedly disguised it as a cough. "I hope it was a good day, sweetheart?"
Evan shook his head, bitterly comforted by the fact that his mother had no means of knowing the truth. He forced a lightness into his words as he lied, "Yeah, it was great!"
"Great. I hope..." Evan willed her to keep on talking - he knew he wouldn't be able to reply to her at that moment without a sob causing his voice to crack. She consented to his unspoken wish, with the same desperate optimism with which he had penned his letter that morning: "I hope this is the beginning of a great year. I think we both could use one of those." She sighed contentedly, before her tone shifted completely, "Sorry, Honey, I've gotta run. Love you, bye."
The line had already been cut off when Evan quietly replied, "Bye."
He shoved his mobile back in his pocket, and leaned forwards, rereading his typed letter. It was exactly what his mom had hoped, precisely what the doctor had ordered.
And it was a complete pack of lies that could be torn apart line by line by the sharp shards of broken dreams he'd collected in the duration of the day. He had lost count of the times his therapist had told him that she could only help him if he was completely honest, and it wasn't like he had the best track record, but he tried to steer fairly close to the truth most of the time. What he saw before him was nothing but a fabrication. Dr Sherman will see straight through it, so who are you trying to convince? Yourself? Fake it til you make it? That's not going to work. Evan decided to rewrite the letter from the beginning.
Dear Evan Hansen, Turns out this wasn't an amazing day after all. This isn't gonna be an amazing week or an amazing year, because why would it be? Oh, I know, because there's Zoe, and all my hope is just pinned on Zoe, who I don't even know, and who doesn't know me... But I don't know, maybe if I did, if I could just talk to her, then maybe... maybe nothing would be different at all. I wish everything was different. I wish I was a part of something, I wish that anything I said mattered to anyone. I mean face it, would anyone even notice if I just disappeared tomorrow?
Sincerely, your best and most dearest friend, Me.
He stared at the screen, and the screen stared back. A small part of his mind fretted that handing that letter to his therapist could only cement his doctor's evidently growing concern that his medication ought to be reviewed, that perhaps his current cocktail of drugs wasn't sufficient to combat his depressive thoughts, yet he couldn't bring himself to change one more word. All I have to do is be myself, right? Well, at least this letter is honest.
After sending the letter to print, Evan set about logging off and gathering his things together, a process made frustrating by only having one arm fully at his disposal, becoming so focused on not dropping anything that he didn't even notice the sound of footsteps, significantly softer due to the carpeted floor of the computer lab, as a slender slip of a boy drew nearer.
Though Connor's voice was quiet, the surprise of not being alone caused Evan to jump out of his seat and back away as his soft words shattered the dusty silence: "So -"
Fuck. Evan fought the urge to swear aloud, settling for internally berating himself, You have to go and overreact, make him think you're afraid of him again, no wonder he looks like he wants to finish what he started this morning. What Evan perceived as anger was truly confusion; Connor seemed almost as shocked by Evan's reaction as Evan himself, causing him to hesitate.
His voice faltered, catching awkwardly in his uncomfortably dry throat as he asked, "What... happened to your... arm?"
Just try to take deep breaths, Evan reassured himself. Making a conscious effort not to revert to his usual nervous laughter, he replied, "I fell out of a tree, actually."
"Fell out of a tree?" He phrased it like a question, but the pensive expression on his face suggested he didn't really expect Evan to either confirm nor deny. Evan nodded quickly, and Connor chuckled as he declared, "That is just the saddest fucking thing I've ever heard, oh my God."
"I know -" Evan started to join in with Connor's half-hearted laughter, before quickly stopping himself, remembering only too well how he had reacted earlier. Almost as if he could read Evan's thought process, the light melted away from Connor's face, and all traces of humour were replaced with impenetrable clouds.
Still he pushed on, despite clearly being uncomfortable, reaching for something to say. He saw as Evan began to dig his thumbnail into each of his fingertips in turn, quickly, systematically, while the other hand fiddled with a strand of thread fraying at the edge of his cast. Something clicking inside his brain, Connor blurted, "No one's signed your cast."
Evan had managed to lift his gaze from the ground sufficiently that he was almost making eye contact, but the moment Connor mentioned that, they snapped back to the floor. His mumbled reply was near inaudible as feigned nonchalance, "No, I - I know." I know no one wants to sign it, I'm not even surprised. I just don't want Mom to see, she'll be so disappointed, the one thing she told me to do and -
"I'll sign it."
For the first time, Evan looked at Connor, really looked at him, taking in his long hair, sharp features, blank blue eyes and all. He had no reason to care, and by the look of him, he was exactly as indifferent as he appeared. He's offering out of pity. He doesn't want to, shouldn't feel obligated to, it's not like he owes you a thing. "You don't have to." Evan cracked a weak smile to mask his shame and ease Connor's conscience.
Connor just shrugged. "Do you have a Sharpie?"
So he's signing it, then, Evan realized. His good hand was automatically reaching into his pocket to where he'd placed the pen that morning, ready to pull out at any moment for anyone to sign. He'd hoped it would have been used before that chance encounter. He'd not even considered that it might be used by the school stoner, but in a twist of fate, it turned out that Connor was the first and only person to show some kind of interest. He watched, submissive to the turn his afternoon had taken, as Connor pulled his arm out straight, then scrawled his name in large, obnoxious capitals, choosing to ignore how his hands seemed to shake; he surely wouldn't be telling his Mom how the sole person to sign his cast had been itching for a fix as he had done it. Connor dropped his arm and handed back the pen immediately after finishing, leaving Evan to review the single signature. It was huge, messy and comforting. "Great, thanks."
He didn't notice Connor's bitter half-smile as he replied, "Well, now we can both pretend we have friends."
"Uh... Good point."
He thought that would be the end of it, that Connor would leave and they would go their separate ways, never to interact again, but no; Connor was holding out a sheet of paper, trying to maintain a somewhat amiable smile as he asked, "Is this yours? I found it on the printer, 'Dear Evan Hansen,' that's your name, right?"
"Uh, yes, that's my name but it's not anything important, it's just, uh, it's just -" His stomach twisted with fear, and Evan was immediately nodding and talking and reaching all at once, trying to get his letter before Connor's eyes could stray any further down the page, because he might be intimidating and prone to violence, but Connor was the one person to have shown a shred of interest that day; though this short interaction hadn't made Evan think he had the potential to be anything like a real friend, he was starting to entertain the possibility of maybe smiling at Connor if he happened to pass him in the hall. But if he read that letter, why did you have to be so honest with that stupid letter, he'd have irrevocable confirmation that Evan was exactly the freak Connor had called him that morning, giving him the power to make Evan's life even more difficult. Please stop reading, please don't see, "- it's just this stupid thing that I had to do for some dumb assignment but I really need it so could you please just -"
"Because there's Zoe?" Anger didn't quite capture the expression on the Murphy boy's face. There was a definite air of loathing there, but along with that was something unidentifiable, almost like resignation, mixed with anguish, and a heady dash of spite thrown in.
He felt his throat tighten like it did when he was about to break out into full-on sobs, how could I be so stupid as to write about Zoe, why did I even think anyone needed to know about that, why couldn't I just keep that to myself, what's wrong with me, "No, like I said, it's nothing -"
"This is about my sister." The letter was out of Evan's reach. Connor's building rage, however, was growing closer to engulfing him with every rapid heartbeat; "What the fuck is wrong with you, are you stalking my sister or something?"
"No, no, honestly it's just this stupid -"
Those cold, blank eyes fixed upon Evan, commanding him not to look away however much he squirmed under such close scrutiny. He fell silent as Connor insisted, "You wrote this because you knew that I would find it." He nodded, talking himself through the logic of how the smaller boy had seemingly sought to hurt him, "Yeah, you saw that I was the only other person in the computer lab, so you wrote this and printed it out so that I would find it."
Of course it wasn't true, not least because Evan hadn't even noticed that he wasn't alone, but the conviction with which Connor spoke revealed that there was no point whatsoever in trying to explain that to him; He looked as though he was about to resume the confrontation he'd initiated that morning, and a part of Evan wished he would if it meant he would be done staring at him. But it didn't quite make sense, how Connor was convinced that he had set out to hurt him.
Stammering, he couldn't keep himself from asking, "W-why, uh, why would I do that?"
Connor snapped; his increasing rage burst from him, ripping him at the seams as he tore into Evan, "So I could read some creepy shit you wrote about my sister and freak out, right, and then you can tell everyone that I'm crazy, right?" Connor was screaming now, and close enough to Evan that he could make out the sweat gathering on his forehead. "Jesus Christ, I guess everyone's a fucking asshole. Fuck you!"
Evan expected a punch, maybe even for Connor to pull out a weapon (that was something people joked about, but Evan had never thought it might be true until that moment.). At the very least, he had braced himself for another hefty shove. But it never came, and though he winced in anticipation of the impact, when he tentatively opened his eyes, Connor was gone.
The letter had been scrunched up in his shaking hand the last time Evan had seen it. Now he didn't hold a hope of laying eyes on it again, save for if Connor decided to plaster it all over the internet, exposing him for the broken mess that he truly was. And why wouldn't he? Surely he must be tired of being branded the school freak, it would benefit him for all of those judgemental whispers to be directed onto someone new.
An overwhelming urge to throw up seized Evan, bringing him to his knees, but he managed to resist. Instead, he succumbed to the panic attack that had been lurking inside his chest since that morning, crumbling apart into a heaving, shuddering mess on the computer lab floor.
It was perfectly normal for Evan to have to face his panic attacks alone - no one ever came to find him, to help calm him down. So on that occasion, as always, once the shivering and the tears had mostly subsided into silence, he was left wondering if he had ever made a sound at all.
A/N: and so my adventures in Dear Evan Hansen writing begins.
I think this chapter can be teen-rated, but the rating will likely go up, owing to the heavy themes, you know (but I promise it won't be graphic descriptions of an attempt). If you think that the swears makes this chapter a higher rating, just let me know and I will move it up.
Finally, please give me feedback, this is kind of a new style for me and I'd love to know what you think. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, and I will update soon!