I'll Always Write Back [Connor Murphy x Reader]
Title: I’ll Always Write Back
Pairing: Connor Murphy x Reader
Fandom: Dear Evan Hansen
Requested: by the lovely @the-murphy-family
Summary: Connor and the reader are friends online, but then find out they’re neighbors too. The reader is homeschooled, so she has no way of hearing the rumors about him. They become best buds and hang out with each other everyday and eventually fall in love
A/N: This was waaaayyy longer than I wanted it to be, so my apologizes in advance. Thanks again to @the-murphy-family for such a fantastic prompt, I’m sorry I rushed the exposition so much. I had so much fun writing this! (If you aren’t already following their blog, I highly suggest it).
Warnings: Connor’s potty mouth | First person reader | Fighting Murphy siblings
It was almost bedtime by the time I’d messaged him. I hadn’t planned on it, by any means. We talked after I’d finished my lessons for the day–he’d skipped school, I saw, which I always thought was off considering his mother was home.
I’d changed into my pajamas–just an oversized t-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts–and had begun to tuck myself into bed when I saw him.
He’d left his blind open tonight, and through the window screen I could see him silhouetted perfectly, all the lights in his room blazing. It was nearing 9:30, so I wasn’t too shocked to find he was still awake. The houses were so close together on this side of town and, from the second story window, there was nothing but a four yard distance between our windows–and a drop nearly twice that length.
He was sitting on the edge of his bed, staring straight ahead, giving me a view of his profile, the sharp angle of his jaw, the thin slope of his nose, and the hard jut of his adam’s apple.
What startled me enough to give pause was the fact he was unnervingly still, unblinking, staring at something I couldn’t see. He wasn’t working on homework or painting his nails or playing that silly candy crush game on his phone. He was just staring.
Too far away for me to make out his expression, I instead rolled over onto my bed, clicking the lights back on and pulling out my phone, opening up the Chat app we used on the daily.
What’s up, buttercup?
I wished I could see him–there were certainly nights we sat by the window and messaged back and forth, but starting out that way would mean he knew I saw him lost in whatever pensive state he’d been in, which more often than not would mean he’d be less than willing to talk. In my lap, my phone buzzed to life.
Isn’t past your bedtime or something?
I snorted, starting my own reply before:
Are you having trouble sleeping again?
Swallowing thickly, I immediately replied:
No, I’m fine. Just bored, checking to see if you were too :)
I tried to wait, give Connor a moment to compose whatever turmoil he’d been sitting in before I asked how he felt, otherwise I’d get a swift ‘okay’ and the conversation would take a dive bomb south at ridiculous speeds.
If it’s nudes you’re looking for, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not in the mood tonight, kiddo
I choked, lunging forward in the bed to muffle my embarrassing squawk into my fist. Thank goodness my bed was out of sight of the window, or I’d have to watch Connor chortling at my less than appropriate reaction to his less than appropriate joke.
Connor and I had only been talking for about two months now, after I’d moved out here five months ago. Well, we’d been talking for nearly the entirety of the five months, but I’d only realized it was Connor not all that long ago.
Oh no, whatever will I do without seeing your sculpted, rock-hard abs??? ;)
Shut up, jerk off
I cackled into my fist, careful to not wake my siblings that slept in the next room over. It had taken a large amount of time to get used to Connor’s rather blunt personality, to put it pleasantly. He’d always been candid, of course, ever since the first contact I’d had with him on the Chat app (“You swear you aren’t a pedophile, right? Or my dad? That’d be weird as fuck.”) and it had been thrilling to be with someone so open and ready to talk about things. The way he felt. The things he thought. The fact he was afraid.
We didn’t exchange photos for a long time–and I’d never seen Connor outside the house, other than the on and off times he’d flit across his bedroom window like a haunt, never knew his name–but the second his photo flashed on my screen, I knew. Even in the photo he hadn’t been smiling, the same stoic countenance he always wore.
He’d recognized my photo immediately, and had been less than thrilled. It took convincing–a lot of me showing up at the fence between our yards, very nauseous, promising it hadn’t been a mean joke–but he came around.
You sure you’re good? You’re quiet
I smiled softly at my phone screen. It was a rare night when Connor had enough energy to be so concerned about others–it wasn’t his fault, I knew, he was just in a bad spot right now. The fact he could consider my feelings for more than a few moments felt remarkable, flattering. But, most importantly, it meant he was doing okay.
I’m fine, pls don’t worry :)
Are YOU okay?
I’m fine, chill out
I rolled my eyes, unsurprised. Deflect and distract, his usually strategy.
Can’t see you rn
Come to the window
I sat up quickly, going over to shut out the light to blur my image to him. Combing my messy hair with my fingers, I tugged on my oversized shirt so that it covered my mostly exposed legs before throwing open the window and leaning out.
Connor, across the way, had already thrown his window open and was halfway leaning out, his face scrunched in confusion. He tapped something out on his phone, pausing every so often to tuck back the dark locks falling into his face. His other arm was braced on the window ledge, the sleeve of his hoodie pushed up to expose his bare forearms to moonlight, glowing a soft snow hue in the dark. My phone buzzed as he glanced back up at me with an open expression.
Turn on the light, dumbass, I can barely see you
I smiled up at him, putting my phone aside to shake my head ‘no’. He frowned, slumping down a little more against the window, his chest pressed to the ledge, before holding his arms up in a 'why not?’ and flipping me the bird.
I typed out a quick response to let him know that my parents thought I was asleep. I watched him read the text, watched his eyebrows furrowed over his deep-set slate eyes, saw him frown, heard him swear under his breath. I bit back a chuckle as he carded his hand through his hair in frustration several times.
I vaguely wondered why this made so little sense–most of our conversation up to this point had been centric of me, but Connor was visibly frustrated (not that he wasn’t frequently) and earlier he’d seemed much to absent to not be upset about something. My phone buzzed to life, casting a blue glow across my face, and I saw Connor’s face stretch in recognition, pleased to make out my expression in the dark.
Meet me in the pool house
My heart jackhammered in my chest at the thought of it–sneaking out. He was crazy, he had to be. He knew my parents would murder me for being up this late, let alone sneaking out, and worst of all, meeting a boy.
Not just a boy. Connor.
I felt him watching me from across the divide, at the edge of my vision and could make out where he leaned against the window, propped up on his elbows and head in his hands, hair hanging in his face. Glancing up, meeting his stony gaze, I nodded.
It was immediate, earning a reaction from him. Biting back my chuckle, he scrambled up from where he kneeled against the window ledge, his whole face smiling as he ran from his window without looking back. He was already standing in his backyard, waving wildly before I’d even departed from the window.
I decided against redressing or doing my hair–Connor was waiting and the quicker I got out there the quicker I got back without alerting my parents to my absence. Besides, it was probably too dark in the pool shed for Connor to make out my bare face and frizzy hair anyway, let alone the hair on my legs and the stretch marks on my thighs. As if Connor had the nerve to look to begin with, I snorted.
Sneaking out was surprisingly easy, and Connor had left the gate cracked just enough for me to slip in between. The door to the pool shed–just a small building, hardly smaller than my bedroom, at the edge of the yard–was slightly ajar, and I saw quick movements coming from inside.
Once in the doorway, clicking the door shut behind myself, I heard a sharp intake of breath behind me.
“Connor?” I called, spinning in the dark so that my back rested against the door, ready to exit if necessary. My eyes searched the dark frantically–in vain. There was a small window, vaguely fogged from years of neglect that allowed a slim moon beam to shine in on a small pile of towels and blankets, a little bean bag chair. Connor had told me not too long ago he and Zoe hadn’t played in here for years, which meant it held secrets long forgotten by either of the Murphy children. I felt honored to be inside it.
“Hey,” he breathed, and though I could see him, I recognized his soft voice just to the right side of me, breathy and soft. It’s too dark to make him out, and I noticed he’s careful not to touch me, but I can feel his breath against my ear, warm despite the fact it’s chilly for a June night. I felt goosebumps pimpling along my legs, making the hair stand up on end. I silently thanked the universe for giving me the gift of darkness to veil myself in.
“Feels like it might rain,” I sighed, turning toward the sound of him, the warmth. My bare arms brushed something–maybe cotton, maybe not–but it pulled back immediately away from me, accompanied by a quick intake of breath.
“Christ, don’t talk about the weather,” Connor hissed into the dark, a hard thunk resonating through the shed where he must have leaned his head against the wall, a bit too forcefully. How very Connor of him. “That’s the kind of shit my dad says in the car when he acts like he’s uncomfortable to be near me for more than ten minutes at a time.”
“Sorry,” I muttered, leaning away, and turning to gingerly pick my way across the shed–it was getting late now and I was already beginning to get tired. Connor may be able to stay up until the early morning hours, but I definitely couldn’t be trusted to be awake at eleven.
“Fuck, don’t be sorry, I just meant–shit,” he growled, and I heard another sharp pang against the steel inside of the shed–he’d hit something with his fist, if the metallic clink of what I assumed to be his ring against the sheet metal was any indication.
I stumbled my way to the beanbag chair, collapsing, and letting myself sink into. It smelled a little like chlorine and sun-in hair dye, but it was soft and warm, almost the size of a double bed. I wiggled upright, squinting again to see Connor in the dark now that I took up the only patch of moonlight in the building.
“You aren’t feeling alright, are you?” I asked softly, resting my cheek against the faux suede of the chair, struggling to keep my eyes open. There was a pause.
“That’s not why I asked you over,” he sighed in his tennor, stomping across the room, picking his way, until he flopped down beside me, displacing the insides of the chair and nearly rolling me out of it.
He reached forward with another soft swear, grabbing my shoulder blades to yank me back onto the bean bag bed, rolling me close so that I wouldn’t fall again. I laughed, unsure what was so funny–maybe it was the fact I’d nearly catapulted out of the chair due to all five pounds of Connor “Ribcage” Murphy, or the current situation, my face pressed against the soft cotton of his hoodie, his heartbeat steady and strong against my cheek. I didn’t move away.
To my surprise, Connor didn’t move away either, just kept both arms wrapped around me, hands firmly in place of my scapula as if scared to dip any lower. I felt the dip of his chin against my temple, felt his lips against my scalp.
“Aren’t you freezing?” He whispered, rubbing quick circles between my shoulder blades.
“Quit dodging my question, Con,” I hissed, beginning to pull away before Connor tightened his grip–surprisingly strong for a boy with such lithe wrists.
“But you are cold,” he muttered, slipping one hand down from my shoulder to my bare arms, rubbing in quick patterns there, attempting to make some sort of friction between us.
God, my parents would kill me if they saw me now.
I want to he clear I wasn’t under any pretenses–this wasn’t, er, Connor hadn’t called me out here so that we could, well–
“I’m fine, Connor,” I promised, taking advantage of the moment to fold my arms against him, trapping them between the heat of our bodies, letting my cheek rest idly against his chest. Connor didn’t like me, I knew, but in the dark shed…well, it was easy to pretend.
It was always easy to pretend to be someone else with Connor.
“You wanna talk about what’s going on with you right now?” I said with a false bravado, thumping his chest lightly with my fist. “You can’t hide anything from me, Connor Murphy. I know you too well.”
“You don’t know anything, dumbass,” he grumbled half-heartedly, and I felt him lean forward to press his face into my hair. “You don’t know shit.”
“So you’re lying to me?” I baited with a smile, tapping his chest, feeling his frustrated sigh and rewarding him with a light laugh. “I didn’t think so. I’m here for you, you know.”
“I know,” he growled, sighing heavily, taking one hand off my back to push his hair away, before letting me go entirely to roll onto his back. His thin fingers covered his face, the black fingernails scratching frustratedly against his pale face. “I just–I don’t, I don’t know how to–shit.”
I leaned forward to tap his chest again, letting him know I was here. “Just talk it out. I’m not going anywhere, I promise.”
He shocked me by reaching forward with one hand, knotting his fingers with my own and letting them linger against his chest. I was grateful he couldn’t make out my expression from his position, grateful for the fact he couldn’t feel my face flush. I’d never been this close with a boy in my life, and Connor knew that. He wasn’t being fair, and I was sure he knew that too.
Unless he didn’t. Connor had a bad habit of selling himself short. I bit back the urge to press a kiss to his bony knuckles.
“I know,” he whispered, voice suddenly hoarse. He was worse than I thought. “Um, it’s harder now? I guess. I trust you–I mean, I always trusted you. It’s um, it’s harder because the anonymity is gone, I guess? I’m worried now that you know who I am–what I am–you’re gonna get bored of me?”
I didn’t laugh this time. His voice was thick and rapid as if he couldn’t hold back the word vomit, like he’d been holding it back for a while. My own throat felt thick, and I couldn’t contain the guilty feeling in my stomach. I rolled forward, wrapping my arms around his thin waist, feeling his hip bone press against mine sharply. I was careful not to look at his face–it’d shut him down for sure.
“Connor…I need you just as much as you need me, you know that right?” I whispered, trying too hard not to let him hear the panic in my voice.
“I know,” he rasped shallowly, sounding oddly wet. He was crying, I realized stupidly. My heart constricted in my chest, my stomach dropping. He was in pain and I had barely noticed. This was all my fault.
“And even if I didn’t need to vent, if I didn’t need your support, I’d still talk to you because I like you, Connor. You’re my friend. You’re a good person,” I whispered.
“You are,” I continued. “You’re a great person and you’re always looking after me, even when you’re hurt. I’m so sorry you’re hurting, Connor, I’m so sorry I didn’t notice–”
“I’m not hurting! Shut up!”
“Shhhh,” I hushed, sitting up to remind him to be quiet. “You’re parents are gonna–”
His face was red. His nose and lips were swollen, wet, and his cheeks, flecked with silver freckles glowing lightly in the moonlight beam he laid in, and there were tear tracks running from the corners of his eyes.
“Connor,” I cried softly, reaching up to wipe his cheek. “Please–”
“Shit, I’m sorry,” he sobbed wetly, hands folding up to cover his face. “Just fucking get out, okay? This was a mistake.”
“Hey, hey,” I soothed frantically, reaching up to pet his hair, hoping that it might make him unfold himself. “I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s wrong. I’m gonna help, Connor, whatever you need. I want to help you, please.”
“I’m not your responsibility, kid, okay? You can leave. Stop looking at me, Christ.”
“No,” I sighed. “Look, if you don’t wanna talk, that’s okay. That’s okay. Just, let me stay, okay? I’m not judging you, I’m not gonna leave, I promise. I’m here for you. Let me be your friend.”
He shook underneath me, holding in sharp sobs. I wondered how long it’s been since he let himself fall apart like this, let himself have some kind of catharsis, let himself feel, period.
This relapse was good. It was under control. I was here. I had him.
“Okay,” he whispered finally, reaching up to tangle his hands in my hair. “Christ, just–don’t tell anyone, okay? Don’t laugh.”
“I won’t,” I promised. “I’m not. I’m here, okay? You don’t have to talk.”
I might have imagined it, as I lowered my head back to his chest, might have imagined in between the soft presses of his fingers as they moved in and out of my, might have imagined, just briefly, the feeling of his lips pressed against my hair.
The next morning was awkward. My parents and siblings showed no knowledge of the fact I’d snuck out to see Connor last night–it wasn’t as if they weren’t aware we were friends, to my parents chagrin and the Murphys’ delight, but I didn’t need them to think we were involved in some sort of torrid tryst, especially one we weren’t even having.
I left a few hours after Connor had slowly ceased his wet and much needed lament and his breathing had turned into a soft snore. I untangled myself from his arms, and leaned back for awhile to watch him sleep, tried to ignore how angelic he looked, red faced and weepy with silver freckles glowing mutely in the patch of moonbeam.
I’d sent him a quick text to let him know I wanted to return before my parents woke up, let him know I’d be by the next day. Told him to message me if he wanted to talk again.
Now I was waiting for my mother to finish grading my papers for the day so I could to see Connor, who didn’t have school today thanks to some silly teacher institute, lucky loser. The American school system was a joke, to be quite honest.
“You’re jumpy,” my mother noted, scribbling something in the margins of my paper without looking up at me.
“I was gonna ask if I could go over to the Murphy’s? I haven’t talked to Zoe in a long time,” I asked sheepishly, scratching at my arm.
“And Connor, hmm?” My mother hummed thoughtfully, giving a smirk to my workbook.
“Connor’s cool,” I said honestly, nonetheless feeling a guilty lump rise in my throat.
“He’s a good boy,” she mused. “He always helps me with groceries if he’s outside.”
“Which is never,” muttered one of the younger kids, earning a kick under the table from me. My mom just smiled softly.
“Go ahead, honey. Call if you’re going to be longer than an hour.”
I thanked her, nearly sprinting out the door, my twin braids slapping against my back as I skipped between the yards. Zoe was at the door before I knocked, leading me into the kitchen, announcing me loudly in a way that would’ve earned a talking to at my house.
Cynthia appeared in the doorway, looking radiant, albeit a bit tired. Her face smiled brightly at me.
“Honey! It’s so good to see you, it’s been so long since you’ve stayed for dinner–Larry, tell Connor she’s here!–Zoe’s missed you, you should stay the night, right Zoe?–Larry, call Connor–Would that be alright with your parents? Stay for dinner then stay the night? I can run out and rent some movies and snag a pizza–Larry!”
Zoe just rolled her eyes, yanking me down the steps past her mother and into the basement. Her grip on my arm was vice like, almost painful and definitely excessive. Her pretty red hair blew up in my face, making the already dark room even harder to see through the haze of her auburn locks. She practically shoved me onto the couch, following me by slamming down beside me.
“I saw you last night.”
My pulse hammered in my throat, and I felt all the blood rush swiftly to my face, making me dizzy.
“I saw you. I told Mom. I don’t think Dad–”
“What do you mean?” I gasped, throwing my hands between us. Zoe blinked rapidly.
“You and Connor. In the shed. Last night. Christ, it was only ten, you could’ve been sneaky about it–”
“Zoe, we didn’t do anything,” I pleaded. God, if the Murphys knew, they’d tell my parents–
“You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you?” She sighed, pushing her hair back out of her eyes. “Whatever, okay? You don’t have to tell me, I don’t give a shit as long as you aren’t pregnant. Just–because you’re my friend, I want you to know some things. Are you gonna listen?”
I thought better than to argue with Zoe, so I nodded shyly.
“Look, I know you and Connor are friends. That’s fine, whatever. But you don’t see Connor at school. You don’t see Connor here, not really. Not what he’s like when you aren’t here.”
I felt my heart constrict. She was going to try to convince me to stop talking to Connor.
“He’s mean. You don’t think it’s weird you’re his only friend? He’s a bully. He’s lazy. He’s violent, Christ–he’s my brother, I love him. But you shouldn’t…you shouldn’t take him seriously, okay? One day his temper is gonna flip and you’re gonna be in his way.”
I blinked, stunned that Zoe would say something so slanderous about her own brother.
“I don’t understand,” I said softly, staring across at her. It was no wonder Connor was so upset, why he had to reach out to strangers on the Internet to vent. His own home was a war zone.
Zoe sighed heavily. “You aren’t at school. You don’t hear the rumors. You don’t see the things he does. If you wanna be friends, fine, but…be careful. I wouldn’t let him anywhere near your heart.”
I didn’t argue with Zoe–I thought better of it. So I just nodded.
“Thanks for, um. Thanks for the warning,” I said with a thick voice, struggling to maintain sincerity.
“You’re welcome,” she sighed. “Mom thinks you’re dating. She’s over the moon. It’s disgusting.”
“I thought you thought we were dating,” I pried, raising an eyebrow. Zoe rolled her eyes, hitting me with a deadpan expression.
“As if Connor could ever get someone like you. As if Connor could even feel something remotely close to love–I’m half convinced his chest is an icebox,” she laughed dryly.
“Talking about me, are we?”
We both spun, wide eyed to see Connor on the stairs, arms folded.
“No, go ahead, I’ll wait. I love hearing stories about myself. Tell me again Zoe about how I’m in love with her?” He hissed, making my face burn red in shame. I felt awful for letting Zoe talk about him that way–worse because Connor made it painful clear he didn’t reciprocate any feelings I might’ve had for him.
Wait. I didn’t have feelings. Connor was a friend. A good friend. A friend who needs me and who doesn’t deserve to be taken advantage of, not until he’s okay. Not ever.
“Never said that,” Zoe said with a smirk, rising from the couch gracefully. “But keep digging your grave, it’s fun to watch.”
“Fuck you,” he growled.
“Fuck you,” she grinned. “I’d love to watch your train wreck love admission, Titanic is on, and at least that story has a happy ending.”
Connor kept a white knuckled grip on the banister as she passed, as if holding in an urge to push her. He kept his blazing eyes downcast, and noted his pale cheeks were burning red.
“What’d she tell you?” He whispered once the door slammed.
“Nothing true,” I promised, leaning forward on the couch to make room for him, patting the seat beside me. “Nothing that changed my mind.”
His head snapped up, and I watched his expression go from rage to disbelief to awe before he descended the stairs, shaking. He stopped before the couch, as if scared to come near me, staring down in awe.
“What did my mom say to you?”
I shook my head. “Not much. She asked if I could spend the night. Only if you want me to, though.”
He laughed, but the smile didn’t quite reach his face. “Only if I want you to, Christ, where did I find you?”
“The Internet,” I reminded, earning another laugh.
“Of course I want you to,” he sighed, finally coming to sit beside me. “Of course I want–”
He cut himself off, surprising me, before slinging an arm around my shoulder. I stiffened, but eventually melted against him, reminding myself that it was just Connor.
“You wanna watch a movie? I hear they’re playing Titanic or something.”
It’s two am when I wake up, taking a quick mental assessment of where I am. There’s a soft blue glow burning my eyes, shining over what appears to be a nest of blankets piled roughly on the floor.
The Murphy’s basement, I realized with a jolt, I’m just at the Murphy’s.
I’m in a pair of Connor’s pajamas–Zoe’s clothes don’t quite fit me right–an oversized black shirt and a pair of sweats Cynthia brought down in a laundry hamper. My braids have long since come loose, the desperate curls tangling wildly around my head.
Beside me, Zoe is snoring, almost comically, every so often a nostril whistles in time to the soft sound of Dexter’s Lab playing on the tv.
There’s a hand, dangling just above my head. The pale fingers were curved artistically, the nails too short as if they’ve been bitten recently and the black nail polish chipped hopelessly. It’s attached to an arm, long and thin, almost angular, and up farther is a shoulder, bare, pressed against a red coffee stained couch.
“You’re awake,” he whispered in a conspiratory voice, but when I sat up to make contact, there’s no sly smirk. He’s frowning. “You are having trouble sleeping.”
I shook my head. “Stop worrying about me, Connor.”
“No,” he rasped, sitting up on the couch. I avoided looking too long at his bare chest, but regardless indulged nonetheless.
“You haven’t been sleeping,” I noted, coming to sit by him on the couch. He immediately opened the blanket, giving me room to slide in beside him, before throwing it around both of us so we could settle back against the couch. His bare skin was warm, and I let him take both my hands between his, letting him rub my hands between his in an attempt at some warmth.
“Been thinking too much,” he sighed softly. “Don’t worry about it.”
I swallowed, beginning to feel the effects of sleeplessness and helplessness melt together in a fatal concoction.
“I can’t help if you don’t let me, Connor,” I reminded him, pressing closer. “Let me help. What are you thinking about?”
He leaned away, as if I’d burned him, dropping my hands into his lap and looking away, the thin muscle of his cheeks hollowing as he clenched his jaw. “Can’t say.”
“Connor,” I pleaded. “Please let me help. I want to. I’m begging.”
“No,” he growled. I felt tears beginning to build, to my own horror, behind my eyes.
“Connor, can you just–”
It was an explosion. We both froze, turning in horror to glance at Zoe, waiting to breathe until we heard the soft whistle of her nose again. I turned slowly, terrified back to Connor. His eyes were wide, and if I didn’t have my fingers wrapped around his knee, I swore he might try to run.
“Me?” I asked softly, careful not to wake Zoe. Connor pursed his lips, his jaw twitching nervously.
“Fuck, yes, you, just–shit, I didn’t wanna say that–”
I leaned away, watching Connor’s face contort farther.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered heatedly. “I’m sorry if I did something wrong. You want me to go, right? I’m really sorry, Connor–”
“What?” He nearly yelled. “You think–fuck.”
His head ducked, to my great surprise, against my shoulder, pressing his face into the crook of my neck and, of all things, began to laugh.
“You think–Christ, it’s like you aren’t even real. You think I’m mad at you?”
He pulled away, his face no longer red or swollen, just smiling softly at me, almost awe struck, and staring intently with his slate eyes.
“I…I’m not sure?” I whispered, but not feeling at all nervous when Connor snaked his hands gently up my arms again.
“You’re perfect,” he whispered suddenly, shocking me. “And you have no idea that you’re perfect. Christ.”
I frowned. “Connor. I don’t…I don’t think I understand.”
But he was still looking at me–eyes scanning slowly over my face, landing suddenlyhalf-lidded on my lips, and it suddenly all clicked into place. Why Zoe would warn me. Why Cynthia acted the way she did. Why Connor was so scared in the first place.
I remember Zoe saying how over the moon Mrs. Murphy was at the idea of Connor and I dating–because that meant Connor would have me. It meant Connor would be happy.
It meant I would have Connor.
It was like a sudden dam had broken open inside me, filling me with more revelations as Connor’s hands lifted to cup the back of my head, his eyes soft, scared, and asking as they met mine. I let a quick exhale before I surged forward, slamming out mouths together much too forcefully, and not at all enjoyably.
I laughed–much too loud–but Connor kept back to the task at hand, his eyes closed in concentration, swallowing my outburst and folding me against his (very, very bare) chest and kissing me deeper, slower. It was painfully obvious he didn’t know what he was doing, but so much about the kiss was still tender and important, warming me from my core outward until I was scratching to wind my arms around him, getting him as close to me as I possibly could, kissing back to make sure he knew how much I wanted this. How much I wanted him.
How much I needed him. Anything he needed, I’d give him. Now and forever and–
“If you two are gonna fuck, can you do it in the bathroom or something? I’m trying to sleep.”
Connor and I pulled apart–causing me to stumble backwards against the arm of the couch gracelessly and staring at Zoe as she rolled over with her back to us.
I dared a peek back at Connor, whose lips were pink and wet despite their dry skin splitting with the force of his wide, wide smile. His eyes were glowing brightly, almost burning as he raked them over me. The flannel blanket was pooled behind his back where it had been wrapped around us, and he just simply opened his arms again, inviting me back. His pale chest–pock marked with freckles, clusters on his ribs–was striped with pink lines from where my fingers had raked in a desperate attempt to give him validation.
I crawled forward, pressing my face against his neck in a hazy attempt to bring my breathing back to a normal speed.
“You okay?” I asked, running my fingertips over his shoulders, fighting the urge to word vomit an unholy collection of questions about who and what we were. Connor Murphy, post kiss. Connor Murphy, still life, smiling with wet, swollen, bloody lips. Connor Murphy standing at the edge of happiness, jumps over the ledge.
He nodded against me, fighting with his own dark curls where they made an attempt to cloud my cheeks in an adoring way. Cute, I decided.
“Okay? I’m,” he sighed, laughing and wrapping his arms around me to squeeze tightly. “I’m…you have no idea.”
“Better than nudes?” I teased. He snorted, embarrassed.
“I’m positive. Although–”
I hit him.
“Okay, kidding! Jeez…” he pulled away, cupping my face lightly, pushing the hair back out of my eyes like I was a child. It felt fantastic, he was right, as I searched through the galaxies in his eyes, his pale skin illuminated by the hazy blue glow of the television. It felt so far past amazing, being held like I was the only person he knew how to see. He cleared his throat, and I saw his eyes were brimming with an emotion I couldn’t name.
“You, uh,” he laughed nervously under his breath. “You have to know I love you.”
It was a startling blow, knocking all the air out of me and forced a bubbling laugh to fly out of my lungs. Connor’s smile wavered slightly, so I popped up to press a soft kiss to the cleft of his chin.
“I know,” I sighed, giddy with the realization it was true. “I know. And you know I trust you more than anyone. You know I love you.”
It was like watching him crack open, the way all the uncertainty was cleared from his face, a wave of joy and triumph.
“You love me?” He asked so softly, so awestruck, I felt my heart shake in my chest. I’d barely started to nod before he surged forward to kiss me again, small and chaste pecks across my face and neck, the bridge of my nose, my temples.
He was okay. We were okay. We were going to be just fine.