“Alex?” Herc tried a little louder, hoping to ruse the small man from his slumber. When that didn’t work, the Irishman let out a sigh and clapped his hands loudly, “ALEX!”
The Hamilton jumped awake with a yell, “Él es un hombre tan caliente como una tortuga!”, and fell from his seat, hands safely cradling the shrimp-mug of coffee he was holding. He looked up at his friend and narrowed his eyes, their brown iris’ glaring meekly at Hercules through a hazed fog of sleep. The look would’ve been more intimidating, in Herc’s mind, if Alex hadn’t been two shades paler than his natural skin tone, and his nose wasn’t beet-red.
“Herc, what the fuck?!”
There was a noticeable wince on Alex’s face as the piercing noise of his own voice pounded his brain. He groaned and pushed himself up onto his seat, ignoring the concerned look Herc shot him and glancing at the empty desk across from him. He hadn’t seen or spoken to John since their fight; three days he hadn’t heard from his friend…he was on assignment over at Monticello, and Alex longed to talk to him…to apologise for snapping.
“Dude, go home, you’re obviously ill.”
Hercules’ voice was trying to be soothing, he hadn’t pried about the reason John and Alex weren’t talking. All John had told him, and Lafayette was that he’d fucked up, but was going to do everything he could to make it right, but then Washington had placed him on an assignment about gay rights at Monticello the very same day Alex had rocked in looking like death itself. The Nevisian’s condition had only worsened, and Herc knew he hadn’t been sleeping or eating…he was beginning to question how Alex could take so much care for Philip but neglect his own health so poorly. He watched, concern etched all over his face, as Alex took a long swig of his coffee.
“I’m not sick, just under the weather. Unlike you and L-” he muttered the rest of ‘Laurens’, darting his eyes away from Herc’s to the black liquid in his mug, “- my body isn’t accustomed to the cold, despite me being here a few years. I’m Caribbean through and through, sunshine is my only friend.”
“Ouch, I’m wounded.” The dark-skinned man smirked from under his blue beanie but frowned when Alex broke off coughing – his lungs sounded stuffed and clotted. “Seriously though, go home.”
“It’s just a cold Herc, nothing I can’t handle.”
“You poured half a bottle of Dayquil into your coffee and then downed it,” Burr highlighted without looking up from his screen, “I hardly think that constitutes you as ‘handling’ the problem of your illness.”
“Shut up, Burr! Nobody asked for you opinion.” Alex said with a poorly constructed glare. He pulled his hair out, the tension on his scalp was making his eyes burn and pulled open his desk drawer. Inside was a fresh bottle of cough medicine, and he cracked it open – flipping Burr off as he did so, for he felt the man’s look of disapproval.
“Hey!” He cried, when Herc snatched the bottle from him. “I was drinking that.”
“Yes, I noticed!”
“Give it back, Herc.”
“No! Not until you go and tell Washington you want a week off because you’re ill! I don’t want John skinning me alive because you died on my watch.”
Alex quietened at that. He lowered his hand as his face fell and he managed to hide his grimace as his mind (in it’s intoxicated state) wandered to dark places. John wouldn’t care if you did die…neither would Herc or Laf or Burr or even Jefferson…no they’d just get on with their lives, probably look after Philip better than you ever could. Philip would probably be better off without you…why would he want such a broken, little man for a father? He doesn’t. Reynolds was right, you’re weak and you’ll fall and break everything you touch…why can’t you just die? You couldn’t die then, so why don’t you just die now? John wouldn’t care. John wouldn’t care. John.
Alex blinked the bitterness from his eyes as Washington came into focus. He tried to find his voice, so he could question how he’d ended up on the floor with Hercules and Aaron standing in the corner, their faces the epitome of panic. However, all that emitted from his throat was a choke sob – he hadn’t even realised he’d started crying – and he felt Washington rub his hands up and down his back. He swallowed strangled gulps of air and managed to sober himself as Washington spoke again.
“Son…can you hear me?”
A weak smile crossed George’s features, before he patted one of Alex’s shoulders. “Had us worried there for a second. You ok?” His received reply was a quiet nod, before Alex began pushing himself to his feet and brushing off his boss’ securing hold.
“Sorry, m-must’ve had a wobble.” The Nevisian didn’t dare glance at where his friends and co-workers stood, but he heard Herc’s clear “Jesus, fuck Alex, don’t bullshit with Washington”, as well as the audible sigh that came from the General. George braced both of Alex’s shoulders, forcing the smaller man to look at him square in the face, his eyes bloodshot, until he broke off coughing. Washington sighed again. He wanted to pull Alex into a tight hug but knew it would probably just embarrass the man…instead he took a step back and folded his arms, choosing to harden his gaze to make it aware that he wasn’t joking. He wasn’t going to pry into Alex’s business, despite wanting to help, but he wasn’t going to allow the small man to work himself to death whilst he was ill.
“Go home, Alexander.” The fall in Alex’s face pierced his heart, but George just wanted the best for Alex, “That’s an order from you commander.” His tone here was softer, trying to show that he wasn’t trying to be cruel or ignorant to Alex’s feelings.
“But sir,” Alex protested, but he was interrupted by Washington, who held up a hand, “Go home.”
Alex felt his jaw drop and his gut sink. He looked to Hercules and Aaron, but Burr didn’t meet his gaze and Hercules just mouthed “Sorry mate.” He bit his lip and scratched his chin, before quietly whispering, “Fine. I’ll go home.”
As he packed his bag, Washington offered a smile, “Take the week off, son. The lads will keep you updated with everything, and Aaron will cover your current assignment.”
Alex merely nodded, before walking to the door – tears pricking his eyes – and Herc patted his shoulder and whispered, “Get well soon, Al.”, as he left.
As soon as he was out of sight, Washington pointed to Hercules and Aaron, his General persona was assumed, and his voice was firm. “Aaron, can you manage both assignments?”
“Yes, sir.” Burr replied, immediately jumping to action.
“Good, Hercules.” Washington continued, “Can you message Laurens and update him on the situation? I want him to take a couple of days off just to check on Alex, but after he’s finished his current job. Don’t let him know he’s getting time off, because those two have been acting weird around each other.”
Herc grinned, “Already done, sir.”
“Well done, lad. Now,” Washington wiggled his phone out of his pocket, “I’ve just got one more person to get in touch with and then we can get back to work.”
The man stumbled down the stair at the voice. Martha smiled warmly at Alex, walking up to him, her handbag over her shoulder. Alex stared at her, lost for words and wondering why she was there. It wasn’t Wednesday, and school hadn’t finished, so Philip wasn’t home…so why? Why was she outside his home?
The women cupped his cheeks and stroked his face with her thumbs. He relaxed into her touch, it awoke memories of his mother, and Martha’s perfume easing the stresses that swirled in his head.
“George called me. He said something had happened at work.”
“It was nothing, y-you didn’t have t-”
“Alex,” Martha started sternly, “Don’t start saying “Oh you didn’t have to” with me, ok? I wanted to come. Do you really think I’d want to leave you all alone when you’re sick?” He was quiet for a minute, so she continued, “Darling, I just want to make sure you’re settled. George said he’d pick up Philip from school and I’ll make dinner for you both, for the week ok?”
“M-Martha…” Alex trailed off, his heart was swelling with so many emotions. He wanted to tell her that he really didn’t need all of that, but he also wanted to thank her…thank her so much. She cares? The Washingtons care?
“Of course we do, son?”
His brown eyes met her bright blue ones, and Martha let out a quiet sigh, pulling the man into her arms for a tight hug. It was awkward for a moment, before Alex allowed himself to wrap his arms around the woman, squeezing his eyes shut and hiding his face in her shoulder. The honey-blonde woman squeezed him that little bit tighter when she felt him choke out a sob and pressed a kiss onto the side of his head. She stroked his hair, a contained chuckle emitting within her as she felt the light layer of grease that fell upon it. Honestly, Alex really did prioritise everyone else’s health over his own, and it was evident from his appearance.
Martha kissed his cheek again, before speaking softly too him. “Come on, darling. Let’s go inside.” She made a start to move, but Alex squeaked out a quiet “No.” Blue eyes widened and her heart warmed at his next words, “Can we just hug for a bit longer?”
The woman swallowed down her overwhelming happiness and adoration for the young man, and nodded, “Of course, Alex. Take as long as you need.”
“Pops we’re back!”, Philip announced proudly as he held on tightly to George’s hand. George chuckled, but pressed a finger to his lips and crouched to the little boy’s height.
“Shhh, Philip. Remember your dad isn’t feeling too well.”
The curly-haired boy stared for a moment, his brown eyes wide, but he nodded and pressed his finger to George’s lips. “You quiet too, Mr George.” At this point Martha appeared from the kitchen and folded her arms, shaking her head and smiling at the pair. Alex was curled up on the sofa, fast asleep and snoring quietly. The woman had managed to feed him something other than coffee and had made him change into his pyjamas after confiscating his laptop.
George glanced at her briefly, before replying to the 6-year-ol, “Mhm.”
Martha smiled and walked over to the pair, kissing George lightly and stroking Philip’s head, “Hey boys.” She too, crouched down to Pip’s height and tickled the boy’s sides. He giggled, his hands over his mouth and wrapped his small arms around Martha’s neck. Martha, in turn, hugged him back and lightly kissed his hair, “Did you have a good day at school, Pip?”
The two adults led the boy through to the kitchen, the pair of them smiling as Philip detoured to where his father lay asleep and gave him a kiss on the forehead. It took all George had not to squeal when he heard the boy say, “Have a nice nap, Pops.” He then tootled through to the kitchen, where Martha had prepared dinner, and resumed the previous conversation.
“School was really good today. Eacker was off sick. There was a group of people come to teach us about Broadway!”
“Ooh, that’s interesting.” George said grinning as the two boys started their meal, Martha going to wake Alex, so he could have another meal. “What did they do?”
“Well they sung some songs about one of the Finding Fathers of America – which is one of dad’s favourite musicals. And, and some of them talked about dancing and acting, and we got to do some dancing! Theo was really good, but she already does ballet. I liked the singing the most,” the boy rushed through all this as he shovelled food into his mouth.
“Pip, don’t talk with your mouth full, ok hijo?” Alex managed to say roughly as he entered the room. His glasses had slid down his face and he felt awkward as his boss offered him a smile.
“Dad!” Philip slid off his chair and ran over to his father, wrapping his arms around Alex’s middle and giving him a tight squeeze. “Are you feeling better? Wait wait!” As the little boy ran from the room and down the hallway, Alex turned to the Washingtons. He felt his shoulders slump and he gave them a look of genuine appreciation.
“Thank you, for this.”
George smiled, walking up to Alex and giving him a gentle hug, “Any time, son.” The smaller man cringed a little – he’d allowed the Washingtons to be very liberal with the “s” word…but it felt good to be called someone’s son again, even if he wasn’t really…
The pair sat down, Martha’s stern look started Alex eating, and the General was about to comment in the change in Alex’s expression, but was cut off by Philip’s reappearance. Curly-hair bounced as the boy waved a piece of green card at Alexander – the words “Get Well Soon Popz!” were written in gold pencil. There was also a massive glittery star on the card, and Philip pushed the card into Alex’s hands, his eyes filled with excitement as he bounced on his heels.
“Missus Schuyler said I should make you a card after Mr George phoned the school. So, so I made you this!”
Alex’s rosy cheeks flushed even more with love for his son, and he opened his arms. Philip crept into them and hugged his father back tightly. “Muchas gracias, hijo es hermoso, y gracias por comportarse tan bien con los Washingtons.”
He whispered this into Philip’s ear, and he felt his son adjust his hold around his neck. “Eres bienvenido, Papá.”
For the briefest of moments, Alex forgot of his current predicament. He just pulled Philip onto his lap and smiled over at Martha and George as the conversation seemed to flow naturally between them. It felt safe, natural…like family. The feeling of security smacked Alex cruelly in the stomach and he bit his lip. There’s just one thing missing… He couldn’t admit it aloud, even in his thoughts, and the miserable thought of John dragged Alex’s mind (kicking ad screaming) back to reality. He remained quiet throughout the rest of the meal, noticed by the two older adults, or rather the few mouthfuls he managed to eat under Martha’s watchful gaze.
“I think I’m just going to go to the loo.”
“Alex,” but Martha was cut off.
“Don’t worry about doing the dishes or anything. Thanks for bringing Pip home and everything, but I won’t be needing you for the rest of the week,” Alex paused to cough, edging towards the door. Suddenly the familial feeling was too much, he felt sick (and not because he was actually sick, because he wasn’t) “Pip, make sure you get ready for bed, ok?”
He never caught the hurt that glossed over Philip’s face. He just bolted for the bathroom and locked the door behind him, coughing heavily into his hands. His throat was raw by the time he’d finished, and he curled further in on himself when he heard a knock on the door. It was George.
Silence was his reply, and George rested his hand against the door. He glanced back at Martha, who looked just as lost as he was. Philip stood at her hip, his face full of worry. George managed a smile and spoke to the boy, “Ok, shall we get you ready for bed?”
When Herc had phoned him to say Alex was sick, John had felt like throwing up himself. He’d wanted to abandon the photos he’d been working on and run straight over to Yorktown. There was no way Alex would admit he was unwell, John knew how stubborn the Hamilton was…it was one of his most endearing qualities, but Laurens didn’t know if his friend would listen to him, especially after the last time they spoke. If we’re still friends that is…
He swallowed thickly, glancing over at his neighbour’s door. It was approaching early morning, and he’d wanted to text or call Alex…just to make sure he was ok. He hadn’t expected the pictures for the article he was working on to take so long, but he’d passionately been working on the gay rights article for the past few days (sort of to avoid Alex, but mainly because he was passionate about the subject) and it’d hurt when he’d heard that Washington had been asked to sort out Philip, but he knew his boss just wanted to look after Alex. Still…John wanted to be the one Alex turned to.
He sighed, opening his door and plopping his camera down carefully and glancing over at Alex’s door again. The silence was driving him insane, he needed to check on Alex…even if it was 2am. There were butterflies dancing in his belly as he walked over and knocked, and they hesitated in their quickstep when no answer came, but the door creaked ajar. Hesitantly, John stepped across the threshold, feeling like a thief in the night, and crept down the hallway. “Alex?”
His skin nearly jumped off when the bathroom door creaked, and he let out an unmanly squeal of terror when a pasty-white figure emerged. Alex, too, jumped at the figure in his hallway and dropped the unused, dusty loofa he’d been brandishing when he saw who it was. His heart cracked in his chest and he let out a little broken, “John?”
Neither were sure who moved first, but soon Alex had flung himself into John’s arms and was sniffling onto his shirt. John hugged the shaky man tight as he could, and gently took out the rubbish bun Alex had put up. When they finally broke apart, John really took in Alex’s dishevelled appearance…he looked exhausted, and on the verge of collapse.
“John…” Alex began, but his friend quietened him with a shake of the head. John was good at that, making Alex at a loss for words…the good kind of loss though…the Nevisian thought as the dim light from the hallway caught the colour of John’s freckles and waltzed it across his cheeks.
“Go to bed, ‘Lex. I’ll come and check on you tomorrow.”