Chapter 1: The Interview
George Washington's assistant takes John Laurens out for coffee after what seems like a failed job interview. There are more awkward ways to begin an extensive post-college modern AU.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
John Laurens is riding the R train for the first time. He’s taken the subway before, obviously, he’s been living in New York for a month now. But today he’s taking the R, and he’s gotta focus on getting off at the right stop. The announcer’s voice is transformed into an incoherent gargle by the speaker system, so John has to peer out the window at each stop to check the name of the station. He knows he looks like a tourist, especially when the station sign is obscured and he has to rise out of his seat to get a better look. Still, it’s not like his fellow passengers’ opinion of him means very much. But it might. If he gets the job, it might. If he has to commute with these people three times a week for the foreseeable fucking future, he might care a tiny bit if they think he’s a sad, awkward, hick transplant.
Okay, he’s being slightly paranoid. Not to mention, it’s pretty unlikely he’ll get the job, especially since he’s dead set on avoiding his father’s name. Though he still isn’t sure if he’ll lie if (when) a direct question about his family is posed.
“Showf Furry–Whuthill Shrit!” a voice blares, punctuated by heavy static.
John leans to look out the window. Oh. South Ferry–Whitehall Street. So they’re in Manhattan. As he sits back in his seat, he catches the eye of a high school student who gives an amused half-smile before returning to the papers on his lap. Looks like last-minute homework. John feels for the kid, even if he clearly thinks John’s some kind of rube. Do people still say rube? Probably not.
The kid’s well-dressed for a student, in olive green chinos and a grey cardigan, but his ratty backpack gives him away. He’s muttering to himself, running one hand through his short black hair and tapping a pencil against his thigh with the other. The woman beside him looks like she wants to take that pencil and snap it in half, and John has to suppress a smile when the kid’s foot starts tapping as well and the woman’s hands tighten into fists. The kid doesn’t notice. He must be late for class. It’s, what, nine-thirty? Almost ten. Jesus.
Rector Street. John springs to his feet, a little overeager, and almost hits the ground when the subway comes to a clattering halt. He catches himself just in time and grabs the pole with both hands, inelegantly scrambling to get his feet back under him. He hears a soft snort, just audible over the sound of the screeching wheels, and glances over in time to make eye contact with the student, who’s gathering his backpack and standing up. John’s sympathy for the kid evaporates in a millisecond.
Just get out of the damn subway. Focus on the interview.He takes the stairs two at a time, and when he emerges from the station, John finds that the weather has taken a turn for the better. The drab brown walls of Trinity Church seems almost cheerful in the dazzling sunlight, each muddy headstone in the graveyard crowned with a stroke of gold. John takes a moment to admire the sight before he’s practically bowled over by the crowd of commuters behind him.
“Move it, asshole,” one woman mutters, her large bag clipping him on the elbow.
Focus on the interview. Focus on the stupid fucking interview.
The elevator bank is impressive. John knows it’s naïve, to be impressed by the elevator bank of all places, but he can’t help himself. The walls are white marble, the ceiling has to be over fifty feet, and each door is flanked by a touch-screen that assigns an elevator to John when he selects his floor. But more than that, the people are impressive. Men and women in very fashionable, very expensive suits and blazers gather on the other end of the hall, patting flyaway hairs back into place and murmuring morning pleasantries to one another. He knows there’s some major magazine publisher headquartered in the building, and that that’s probably where the people in pointed stilettos and suede derbies are headed, but he’s still intimidated. A flock of white-haired men in crisp grey suits brush past him, locked in rapid-fire conversation, and John half-expects them to join the magazine people at the end of the hall. He’s surprised when they settle in beside him to wait for the elevator to the 23rd floor.
“You hear what Washington’s new assistant tried to pull?” one of them hisses.
“With Conway? I did. Unbelievable,” another responds.
“He’s a fucking child, that’s what he is,” a third chimes in.
John’s pretty sure this isn’t the sort of conversation he should be overhearing, or at least not the kind he should be caught overhearing, so he sneaks in a small cough. The men abruptly break out of their huddle. One or two give John a sullen once-over. When the elevator doors finally chime open, they take the ride in silence, each man suddenly glued to his iPhone like he’s never seen such a miraculous device before.
Eager to escape the elevator, John is the first one out. He swipes his guest pass and slips through the glass doors emblazoned with the rather unwieldy acronym, “NYCRA.” His new office. Maybe. Probably not. Half of the cubicles he passes are empty, the other half occupied by exhausted young office workers who seem to be typing with their eyes closed. John rushes past them, clutching his heavy messenger bag by the short handle to keep it from banging against his hip. He catches sight of the time on someone’s screensaver.
Crap. Crap crap crap. He’s late. Not ‘late late,’ but definitely, definitively late.
John whips around and nearly drops his bag when he sees who spoke. The student. The student from the R train. Fuck.
“You’re—but you—what are you—” he splutters hopelessly.
“I thought I recognized you on the subway. You know, from your passport photo,” the student (no, not a student, definitely not a student) says. “But damn, I thought you’d get here sooner!”
“I was…” John struggles to regain his composure. “I was held up at the front desk.”
The kid (guy? man?) strides forward and takes John’s hand in his own. “Right, I should have realized, security’s a little strict. Alexander Hamilton. And you’re John Laurens.”
John smiles. “I am. Uh, nice to meet you.”
Up close, Alexander looks a little less like a high schooler, though not by much. Like most of the employees John had seen, he has bags under his eyes—his might even be more pronounced than his co-workers—and his eyes are…wow. They are big. Big, round, dark brown eyes that are somehow extremely tired and extremely energetic at the same time. And he’s still shaking John’s hand.
“I don’t want to be weird about the subway thing, but I did see you and I know you saw me so I figured I should say something. And I’m just kidding about the late thing, seriously don’t worry about it. Washington isn’t even ready for you, he’s probably nursing a hangover in the men’s room.” Tiny pause. “That was a joke, don’t repeat that.”
John nods and gently extracts his hand. “Are you his—”
“His assistant, yeah. Only started a couple months ago, but honestly, you get the hang of this place pretty fast, it’s not a very difficult job.”
Washington’s new assistant. Fuck.
“That was also a joke. I mean, half a joke.” Alexander lowers his voice. “Mostly not a joke. My job’s pretty fucking easy.”
“Not that that’s what you’ll be doing. You’re applying for—” he glances down at a tablet that seems to appear out of nowhere. “—part-time administrative coordinator. Well, that sounds meaningless. What’s with the part-time? You’ve got somewhere more important to be?”
“No, I…wait, are you joking again?”
Alexander grins, eyes still on the tablet as he swipes through what looks suspiciously like John’s résumé. “Honestly, I have no idea. Probably.”
“Are you going to interview me?”
“What?” Alexander looks up suddenly, confused. “God no! Washington is.”
“But isn’t he, like, the president of the NYCRA?”
The assistant groans. “Oh, please never call it that again. We just say Nycra, okay? Like ‘night crud,’ but without the ending consonants.”
“Sure,” John agrees, beginning to lose patience. “Fine. Isn’t Washington the president of Nycra? Why would he interview me personally?”
President of the NYCRA is an understatement. The guy’s famous, and famously hard to meet. Washington would have made the cover of Forbes two or three times by now if he didn’t refuse every interview offer he got. At least, that’s what John’s dad had said.
“Hmm. Yeah, it’s a little weird. Though I’m guessing it has something to do with you being rela—”
It’s like watching the power in a building shut down. Alexander’s mouth flattens into a line and he turns sharply to face the man who’s called his name. Shit. George Washington. Okay, so first of all, he’s like six foot two. He’s six foot two, he’s wearing a suit that practically sweats money, and he’s balder than Mr. Clean. His dark eyebrows are set close together, and they get closer still when he furrows them to shoot Alexander a “look.” John intuitively knows that this isn’t the first time Alexander’s received said look.
“You didn’t tell me Mr. Laurens had arrived,” Washington says.
“Sorry, sir, I was just about to take him by your office.”
Washington steps forward and shakes John’s hand, his grip tense and brief. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Laurens. George Washington. Hamilton, you can get back to your desk,” he says, addressing Alexander over John’s shoulder. “I’ll let you know when we’re done.”
And before he can catch another glimpse of the assistant, John is being steered into a glass-walled conference room for a one-on-one interview with George fucking Washington.
“How’d it go?”
John briefly debates stopping to answer the question; half of him wants to keep walking and get out of this building as fast as possible. But he does stop, because he can’t be sure he bombed the interview, and if he has to come work here he should probably be friendly with Washington’s assistant, and goddammit the guy is kind of cute.
“As well as you can expect,” he says with a forced smile.
Alexander is poking his head out above his cubicle wall, looking very much like a cat in a box. “That’s a non-answer. Come on,” he grabs the sweater hanging off the back of his chair. “Let’s go get a coffee.”
“That doesn’t sound very…professional.”
They’re already halfway to the elevators. “Yeah, I’m not a professional. Is that not clear? I’m trying really hard to make it clear.”
John laughs and follows Alexander into the elevator. “Seriously though, are you supposed to be talking to me?”
“Washington didn’t say I couldn’t,” Alexander says innocently. “And there’s nothing in the employee handbook. I checked.”
“I checked. While you were in the fishbowl with him. God, that room is terrifying, right?”
“Please. I could see you sweating from my desk.”
John furtively checks the underarms of his shirt, but they’re clean and dry.
“No, relax, it’s an expression,” Alexander says. So maybe he wasn’t that furtive about it. “You’re good, you look good. Really good.”
The coffee shop Alexander chooses is unusually intimate for the financial district; it’s done up in splintered wood, old chalkboards, and threadbare pillows. The only customers seem to be disenchanted writers pecking despondently at their keyboards. One of the visible screens just reads, “Novel #345: I’m fucked.”
“I think I messed up the interview,” John says once they’ve found seats in the corner.
“I doubt it,” Alexander responds confidently. Is it weird to be that confident? It seems kind of weird.
“How could you know that?”
“I’m real good at reading Washington’s face. He seemed happy when you left.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he was happy when I left.”
Alexander groans. “Not like that! Just trust me.”
John drums his fingers on the desk nervously. Should he say something? He really, really wants to. He probably should. But before he can—
“So, your dad’s a senator.”
Oh. John doesn’t really know how to respond. So he doesn’t.
“I’m assuming it came up in the interview,” Alexander elaborates.
“It did.” He tries not to think about how he’d awkwardly tried to steer the conversation back to himself, how Washington had granted a tight smile and moved on, but not before making a small, illegible note on his legal pad.
Alexander seems to notice John’s reluctance, and mercifully changes the subject. “Was Nycra your first choice for a non-profit?”
“Yeah, I only started applying for jobs last week.”
“Shit, was this your first interview?” Alexander grins. He interprets John’s silence correctly. “Oh my God, no wonder you were so nervous. Hey, but don’t be. Straight out of Oxford, back in the states, and now you wanna work at a civil rights watchdog organization, practically volunteering your time. It all sounds very impressive.”
“Well. A lot of things sound impressive when you say them the right way.”
Alexander looks at him oddly, then smiles again. Before he can respond, a barista shouts for their attention.
“Medium hot chocolate with whip and a small latte for Ham!” she calls out.
“Peggy!” Alexander shouts with equal volume as he walks over to the counter. “Hope you didn’t forget the peppermint, babe.”
The woman, Peggy, rolls her eyes and wipes down the steamer wand with a rag. “We don’t get peppermint till November, Ham, you know that.”
“If you keep calling me ‘Ham,’ I’m gonna burn your house down,” he says with a sweet smile.
“Who’s your friend?”
“Oh!” Alexander reaches back and pulls John forward enthusiastically. “This is John Laurens, Washington’s newest hire.”
“Laurens, this is Peggy.”
The woman reaches over the counter to shake his hand delicately. She’s wearing her dark hair in two braids over each shoulder, and she’s got the sort of open, heart-shaped face that people immediately trust. John catches a glimpse of a large color tattoo on her wrist.
“Peggy,” he repeats, “like from Mad Men?”
Alexander and Peggy share a smirk, and she nods. “Exactly like Mad Men. And don’t worry, Ham doesn’t know where I live.”
“Everyone knows where you live, Peg,” Alexander counters, and begins to hum a familiar tune that John can’t quite place.
“Okay!” she claps her hands together. “Your drinks are getting cold. A latte for the grown ass adult, and a hot chocolate for his infant friend.”
“If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go to, why don’t you go—” Alexander sings, taking his hot chocolate and dancing back to his seat.
“Shut the hell up!” Peggy calls after him.
John settles in at the table and eyes Alexander’s drink, which is piled high with whipped cream. “Hot chocolate?”
“Okay, it’s September, that means hot chocolate season has officially begun,” Alexander responds indignantly.
“Yeah, you just struck me as a coffee guy, that’s all.”
“I struck you?” He puts a hand to his chest. “I’m flattered.”
John laughs. “Hey, I spent four years in England, forgive me if I sound a little formal.”
“Good point.” Alexander sips his cocoa. “And I don’t drink coffee.”
Is this guy actually a teenager? They talk for a little while longer (though the conversation doesn’t dip below surface-level chatter after that) until Alexander finishes his drink and starts to check his phone every thirty seconds.
“You gotta go?” John asks politely.
“Uh-huh,” he responds distractedly, “I might’ve stayed a bit longer than I should have.”
“Oh, shit, sorry.”
“No need to apologize.” Alexander gathers his stuff and pauses to smile at John. “Lost track of time.”
The bell above the door rings his exit, and John is left sitting alone in a coffee shop, unable to shake the feeling that he’d just had his real interview.
• Hamilton’s singing “Puttin’ on the Ritz” to Peggy, cause that song mentions Park Avenue and that’s where she lives. It’s also kind of an annoying song, and he may or may not be trying to dance like Fred Astaire.
• NYCRA stands for New York Civil Rights Association, a totally made up non-profit.
• The NYCRA is headquartered in One World Trade Center, because honestly I thought they should be in the financial district and I’m familiar with the offices/lobby there. There is a major magazine publisher in that building, and their employees are intimidating.
Chapter 2: Hard Talks
John makes an unpleasant phone call, and Alexander invites him over for drinks.
I don't know how to do a chapter summary. Hope you enjoy this chapter! As usual, if you have any suggestions for the story let me know. Thanks so much for the wonderful comments on the last chapter! As a rule, I don't respond to comments unless they voice a question, but I do read every one of them three or four times. They're very encouraging.
Content warning for alcohol, though no one really drinks anything in this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Three days later, around 9 AM, John receives an email from the NYCRA letting him know he got the job. Five seconds later, his phone starts buzzing with text messages from an unknown number.
u got the job dude!! congrats
i mean i knew you were gonna get it but i was cc’d on the email so i saw straight away that harrison had sent it
that’s robin harrison in hr i’ll introduce u 2 on mon
anyway i get out of the office at 5 we should grab drinks or smth
u live in brooklyn? u were taking the r uptown i assume u live in brooklyn
i live in brooklyn
John stares at his phone, a spoonful of oatmeal half raised to his mouth, and types a reply with one hand.
Who is this?
whoops sorry!! it’s alexander
How’d you get my number?
it was in ur file. hope that’s not creepy.
It’s a little creepy, but John lets it slide. Something about the texts makes him feel oddly buoyant, like they’ve burnt up the morning fog hanging around his brain. He pauses to change Alexander’s contact info.
You said something about drinks? And yes, I am in Brooklyn atm.
atm?? what’s that mean
I’m moving to Manhattan soon.
noooo i wanted a subway buddy
ok come by my place at 6 i’ll introduce u to my roommate and maybe all 3 of us can go to this neat-o bar around the corner. just ring the bell on the first floor.
He gives his address, and John texts back “Sure!!” with a little smiley face emoji. He finishes his oatmeal in silence, checking his phone at random a couple more times. The apartment he’s been staying in for the past month is just an unlicensed Airbnb, and the sparsely furnished kitchen still feels cold and unfamiliar. He goes to wash his bowl in the sink (no dishwasher, because of course there isn’t) and stares absently out the small window.
For all its sterility, it’s not a bad apartment, and he’s got a decent view of Prospect Park. The leaves haven’t turned yet, and through the gaps in the foliage he can see Brooklynites trying to take advantage of autumn’s last warm days. Young mothers in spandex push jogging strollers, ponytails swinging. An old man throws an oversized stick for his tiny dog, who happily drags it back to him. Semi-professional cyclists cut around the pedestrians, their backs hunched and their elbows pressed to the handlebars.
John’s not sure if he’ll miss the borough when he’s left. He hasn’t been here long enough to form a connection, and a small part of him suspects he wouldn’t even if he stayed. He’d been at Oxford for more than four years, after all, and he doesn't miss it in the slightest. He sighs and runs a soapy hand across his brow. Everyone feels like this when they get to a new city, he reminds himself. Everyone has that part of them that digs in its heels and demands to go back home. John’s not going back home, not anytime soon. God, maybe he should call Marta. If he tells her about the job first, she might pass the info along and he won’t have to talk to his dad.
The phone rings twice before his little sister picks up. “John!”
“Hey, Marta. You free to talk?”
There’s a rush of static as she adjusts the phone—John imagines her sitting up in bed with that worried, angry face she makes when she thinks he’s done something stupid. “Uh, yeah, why?”
“Don’t stress, everything’s fine,” he says. “Better than fine.”
“I haven’t heard from you in three weeks.”
Shit. Has it been that long? John props his phone on his shoulder as he fills a backpack with his art supplies and laptop. “Sorry about that. I’ve been kinda busy.”
"What are you doing now?"
"I was just gonna go to a café for a few hours and, you know, sketch people."
"Anyway, I'm talking to you now, so let's talk."
“It’s not like I’m gonna put Dad on the line every time you call,” she says indignantly.
“I know that,” he sighs, running a hand down his face.
“And it’s not like you ever update your Facebook, so how the hell am I supposed to know if you’re okay? You gotta start texting me or something, John.”
“I know that!”
“It’s boring as fuck here without you. And you know, now Dad’s saying I shouldn’t apply to any colleges off of the east coast, can you believe it? After he let you go to fucking England, too!”
“It was different then, and you know it!” Jesus, why is he shouting at Marta? This was supposed to be a pleasant conversation. John takes a deep breath and tries again. “I wanted to tell you some good news. I’m sorry I didn’t call before, okay?”
The line goes silent for a little while.
“I know it’s different now, but that doesn’t mean Dad’s right,” she finally says.
“It doesn’t mean he’s wrong, either. Will you just try to sit down and have a civil conversation with him?”
Marta laughs harshly, and John knows he’s said the wrong thing. Of course he has. “A civil conversation? You’re lecturing me about having a conversation with Dad, when you haven’t been back home in nearly a year?”
“Should I call you back? I feel like I should call you back.” As he says it, John pulls on his Birkenstocks and makes for the door.
“What, once I’ve ‘calmed down’? Give me a break.” Another burst of static as she inhales deeply. “We’ll Skype later and talk about this. Why don’t you go ahead and give me the good news.”
John hesitates. His good mood, already precarious, has thoroughly soured, and his ‘news’ suddenly seems small and selfish. “I got the part-time job at the NYCRA. With George Washington.”
“Damn, John, that is good news! Mom and Dad are gonna lose their minds.”
At least Marta sounds excited. Her moods have always lifted as quickly as John’s have plummeted.
“Would you tell them for me?” he asks. He’s still got one hand resting on the handle of the front door.
“I’ll tell them if you promise to call back next week and fill them in on the details.”
Well, that’s a relief. Technical, impersonal—he can deal with that. It’s not that he doesn’t want to talk to his parents. He’s just not sure if he can handle any sort of emotional…outpouring. Even the kind that good news engenders. Fuck. He’s fucked up.
“For sure. And I’ll text you later today, yeah?” he says.
“…I’m sorry I’m being such a prick.”
“I’m used to it. I’m sorry I’m being such a whiney brat.”
“I’m used to it,” he says, smiling to himself.
She laughs softly, says goodbye, and hangs up. He wishes he could see her face. He wishes he could sit down with her and really listen for once. It feels like every phone conversation they have just reemphasizes the distance between John and the rest of his family. Marta’s seventeen now, and increasingly combative, meaning the one healthy relationship he had is starting to disintegrate. And as far as John can tell, Ellie and Harry still don’t really understand what happened; they just know that their older brother doesn’t like coming home anymore. Better not to talk to them at all, if it keep them from stressing out. They're still kids, after all. John squeezes the door handle until it starts to rattle, and takes a deep breath. He’s got nearly nine hours to kill, he tells himself, and it won’t do him much good to mope around an empty apartment until six. With great effort, he pulls the door open and steps out.
The address that Alexander gave him is in a pretty nice neighborhood: the main avenue is all restaurants, clothing boutiques, and souped-up bodegas with juice counters and clean awnings. Most of the residential streets seem to be made up of brownstones, and from what little John knows about New York City, those places aren’t cheap. He checks his phone again.
gonna be a little late :( but my roommate is home so ring the bell. he’s a nice guy.
The bottom floor, he’d said. Apparently that meant the weird grate door underneath the stoop, like the entrance to a dungeon. A nice dungeon, though: one for the aristocratic victims of a revolution. He rings the bell, and is greeted immediately by the yips of a small dog, followed about five seconds later by a tall, broad-shouldered man in a beanie. Well, not that tall, just taller than John. He’ll admit that’s a pretty low bar. Still, there’s something about the guy that makes him seem taller. Confidence, maybe. He’s older, too, about thirty.
“John Laurens, right?” the guy says, grinning and holding out a hand.
John shakes it and nods. “Alexander told you I was coming, right?”
“If you mean Hamilton, then yes. My name’s Hercules Mulligan, but if you could just call me Herc I’d appreciate it.” Herc steps aside to let him in.
“Wanna see the apartment? I’ve got—hang on,” he interrupts himself to shush the yapping dog, a Boston Terrier. “Sorry, that’s Bobbin. You’re not allergic, are you?”
It’s a small apartment, smaller than John expected, but clean and cozy. Each room comes one after another, railroad style, starting with a cramped kitchen at the front. The combination living and dining room is windowless, its walls hung with family photos and a motley collection of paintings instead, and the furniture is clearly secondhand: mismatched chairs at the dining table, an overstuffed couch set beside a couple raggedy ottomans, an unpainted plywood bookshelf. Herc brushes past the bathroom (pink bathtub, spotted mirror, shower curtain decorated with cartoon whales), surprisingly eager to show John the two rooms in the back. One is Herc’s, a master bedroom with a view of the backyard and an electric sewing machine set in the corner, and the other is Alexander’s. Herc opens the door to Alexander’s room as though he’s presenting the star attraction of a freak show, and John can kind of see why.
“So. This is where he lives.”
There’s actually very little furniture—a twin-sized bed, a desk, a dresser and bookshelf—about as much as you’d find in the average dorm room. But Alexander seems to have filled every available surface, as well as a few unavailable surfaces, with stacks upon stacks of paper. From what John can see, some of the paper is unlined, covered in lopsided handwriting that slides off the page, while some of it is printed in a neat Times New Roman font about four sizes smaller than any professor would allow. Most of it, however, is loose leaf: dense handwriting fills each page past the margins, and even the piles closest to John are nearly indecipherable. Alexander’s hung three or four bulletin boards on the walls, each one covered in calendars, pay stubs, bills, and newspaper clippings.
“It’s like, have you ever seen that movie Seven? The one with Morgan Freeman? There’s a serial killer in that and this is his room.”
“Wow,” John says again.
“I’ve told him he needs to digitize this shit, or at least get some binders, but he keeps saying that he’s got a system.”
They’re still standing in the bedroom doorway, staring, when Alexander comes in.
“Okay, so Washington left early today if you can believe it, said something about needing to pick his wife up from an appointment, and took off at two! That’s, like, the third time this month,” Alexander calls from the living room as he pulls his boots off, though who he thinks he’s speaking to is unclear. “Then he emails me with some bullshit about how I should be sure to take the weekend off cause he knows I’ve been coming in when I’m not supposed to and he thinks I should ‘rest,' blah blah blah, the usual bullshit like he doesn’t know I know I gotta go in to finish up the work that everyone else forgot about.”
Herc is grinning at John. He forgot you’re here, he mouths.
“I mean, it’s bullshit, you know?” Alexander says, finally staggering over to them. He looks at John in confusion.
“I think you might’ve mentioned it’s bullshit, yeah,” Herc says, still smiling.
“Motherfucker, you’re showing him my room?” Alexander lunges for the door and Herc lets it slam shut. “I told you to make him comfortable, not scare the crap outta him!”
“Man, you didn’t even know the guy was here until three seconds ago.”
“I got distracted!” he whines, his face flushing red.
“Hey, it’s fine,” John interjects. “It was nice of you to invite me over.”
“And I’m glad you’re finally admitting that your room is fucking terrifying, it’s a good first step,” Hercules adds.
Alexander stalks away to the kitchen, muttering to himself, and John and Hercules settle in on the couch where Bobbin is already curled up asleep. Herc seems to be repressing a fit of giggles, which only get worse as the sounds from the kitchen grow louder and angrier.
“What’re you doing in there, Hamilton?” Herc calls out, trying and failing to keep the laughter from his voice.
“I’m making us drinks, you ass.”
“Good idea, we’ll save some money.”
Alexander pops his head back into the living room. “Save money how?”
“Uh, on drinks at the bar?”
He ducks back into the kitchen without saying anything.
“Oh, what, we’re not going to the bar now?” Herc throws his hands up in exasperation. “You can’t invite your new co-worker out to drinks and then not go out!”
“It’s fine,” John says, and means it. “Seriously, I don’t care.”
“I’m tired, Herc, okay?” Alexander says, like he hasn’t heard John.
“Well, your friend says it’s fine, so,” he waves his hands vaguely, “I guess it’s fine.”
“Laurens, you wanna come in here?”
He walks over to the kitchen, and Alexander (Hamilton? It kinda seems like John’s the only one calling him Alexander) hands him a whiskey.
“Give that to Herc so he shuts up.”
“I heard that!”
John laughs and passes the glass to Herc. Before he can sit back down, Alexander calls him into the kitchen again.
“I’m making you a mojito, that okay?” he asks, already chopping a lime into quarters.
“Yeah, that’s cool.”
“Oh!” He drops the lime and points the knife at John. “Do you drink? I forgot to ask.”
He turns back to the counter and pulls some mint from a plastic baggy. “I always forget to ask.”
John stands beside him a little awkwardly as Alexander grabs some rum from the top shelf and a bottle of club soda from the fridge. This close up, he can’t help but agree with Washington: Alexander looks beat. The shadows under his eyes are even worse than they were the other day, and his short hair is standing on end at random, like he’s been running his hands through it. As he works on the drink, he seems to be leaning heavily on the counter, as though his feet will slip out from under him at any second.
“Hey, I have kind of a weird question.”
Alexander doesn’t say anything, just spoons sugar into a glass. John hesitates, but when it’s clear he’s not going to get a response, he goes on.
“Do you go by your last name, or something? Or, you know, do you prefer Alexander?”
There’s a pause, then Alexander slaps the spoon to the counter and laughs, his face lighting up. “That’s your weird question? Jesus, I was expecting something way more personal.”
“What?” John laughs too. “What personal thing could I possibly ask you? I barely know you.”
“I dunno. I can think of a few things. And yeah, most people call me Hamilton. But you can call me Alex.” He smiles at John, and for a split second there's nothing tired about him. “There you go.”
“Your mojito, Mr. Laurens,” he says, pushing the drink into John’s hands.
“You can call me John, by the way.”
“Mm, yeah, I figured. But you know, I’ve never liked that name.”
John sips his drink and thinks that over. “That's pretty rude, Ham.”
“Get the hell out of my kitchen.”
• “Robin Harrison” from HR is based on Robert H. Harrison, another aide-de-camp to Washington. I can’t imagine she’ll ever actually turn up in the story, though.
• Marta Laurens is, of course, Martha Laurens (later Martha Ramsay), John’s younger sister.
• Harry and Ellie Laurens are Henry Laurens Jr. and Mary Eleanor Laurens, other younger siblings of John’s.
• IRL John’s mother died when he was a teenager, but that didn’t happen in this AU because hospitals and modern medicine are a thing and we don’t all drop dead in our thirties anymore.
• Everyone in Brooklyn lives in vaguely defined neighborhoods cause I don’t want to get into the politics/economics of it. The only thing I do know is that Alex and Herc don’t live in Park Slope. Even if it kind of sounds like they do.
Chapter 3: Third Wheel
Drinks, drunkenness, limes, and awkward conversations.
Thanks again for the comments! They make writing this so much easier. I'm glad everyone seemed to think the last chapter was cute, I feel like it gives me license to make this chapter kind of stressful and argumentative.
Content warnings for alcohol, drunkenness, food, and discussions of sex and money. Very brief allusion to someone (John’s dad) possibly being racist and definitely being controlling.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You know how relieved I was when I found out ‘John Laurens’ was a new coworker, ‘stead of a new conquest?” Herc asks. He’s sprawled on the couch with his head hanging off of one of the armrests. Bobbin has moved over to his lap and started snoring loudly.
Alex shoots Herc a skeptical look from his spot on the floor. “Like you care who I’m ‘conquesting.’ I put up with you and Lisa and your weird ass date nights.”
“First of all, me and Lisa—”
“Lisa and I.”
“—Me and Lisa are adorable, and you don’t have to put up with shit. Second of all, I do pay attention to who you’re conquesting.”
John leans in a little and nearly tips his ottoman over. “When you say ‘conquest,’ you mean like dates?”
Herc laughs and sits up. “Yeah, Laurens, like dates. Jesus Christ, kid, where were you raised?”
“Damn. Well, I guess we gotta start from the beginning then. See, when two people love each other very much—”
“Alright!” Alex throws a pillow at Herc full force and flops back onto the floor. “Stop talking!”
Herc dodges the pillow easily and turns to John. “I know he looks like he’s fifteen years old, but this guy is unbelievable with the ladies.” As an afterthought, he adds, “and I guess he’s okay with the men, too.”
“What do you mean ‘okay’? Fuck you, I’m great with men.”
“All I’m saying is, for a weird, runty secretary with a hoarding problem and no cash, you get a lot of action.”
“You’re making it sound like I’m fucking everyone in Brooklyn,” Alex grumbles.
“I didn’t say everyone,” Herc corrects. “I just said everyone between the ages of twenty and thirty attracted to baby-faced Puerto Rican guys. That’s definitely not everyone.”
John is thoroughly enjoying the conversation that’s apparently directed at him but seems to have very little to do with him. It’s like watching a talk show where both the guest and the host are tipsy as hell.
“Don’t listen to him, Laurens, this is all flagrant slander.”
“You should be proud, man. Just in the last month you had more one night-stands than I coulda gotten in a year back when I was single.”
Herc starts counting on his hands with a look of glee. “Molly, Cora, Ben, Katie Livingston, Katie Stirling…”
“Just admit you get around, and I’ll shut up.”
“I don’t even know what that means!” Alex’s face is getting red again. “What does ‘get around’ mean?”
Herc rolls his eyes. “You know what it means, come on.”
“You realize you’re basically calling me a slut, right?” Alex says, his voice rising an octave or two and taking on a heated edge.
Herc doesn’t respond to that, just sips his whiskey and pets Bobbin. John awkwardly picks at the lime wedge from his drink and watches Alex, who’s crossed his arms and started staring at the far wall in stony silence. After a moment, Herc sighs and stands up.
“I’m gonna get another drink.”
Alex glances at John’s empty glass. “Yo, you want a refill?”
“Just a beer, I think,” he says, grateful for the change of subject. “I don’t wanna put you out.”
“It’s not putting me out,” Alex says with a frown. “Let me just—”
“I’ll get you a beer, Laurens,” Herc interrupts. “IPA alright with you?”
John nods and sets his empty glass down on the coffee table. What had they been talking about before the conversation went to shit? “Who’s Lisa?” he asks.
“We’re getting married in the spring,” Herc says, walking back in with three bottles. “She’s visiting her parents on the west coast right now, but most of the time she stays over here.”
“Her place in the Village is nicer than this,” Alex comments.
“Yeah, it’s also outta her price range—the rent is killing us. She already agreed to move in here full-time.” Herc hands a beer to Alex.
“What?” He doesn’t take the beer, just looks at Herc in confusion. “When did you guys decide that?”
Herc glances at John. “Let’s talk about this later, man.”
Alex follows Herc’s gaze, then scowls at the bottle that’s still being held out. “I didn’t ask for another beer.”
“Suit yourself.” Herc puts the bottle on the table and twists his and John’s open. “Laurens, how long you been in the city?”
John takes his beer and thinks about it. “Guess it’ll have been five weeks tomorrow.”
“Five weeks? Damn, that’s like no time at all.”
“I’ve visited before, with my family. But we just…you know, we just went to museums and shit like that.”
“He was in England before that. For school.” Alex is eyeing the bottle on the table.
“Actually, I stayed with my grandparents in San Juan for a few months in between that and coming here.”
Alex sits straight up. “Hold up, you’re from PR?”
John shakes his head. “My mom is. I’d never been before this year.”
“Oh.” He leans back again, looking a little disappointed. “You like it?”
John smiles, flashing back briefly to the first relaxing summer he’d had in God knew how long. “It was fantastic. My dad never really wanted me or my siblings going down there, he was worried we’d be mugged or murdered or something, but, y’know. I’m twenty-three now. There’s only so much shit he can control.”
“Yeah, well.” Alex has crossed his arms again, and he’s staring at the ceiling. “Your dad kinda sounds like a prick.”
Silence again. John doesn’t know how to respond to that. Herc glares at Alex, who resolutely avoids eye-contact, then gives up and throws the beer bottle at him.
“Just drink the damn beer, Alex. You need it.”
Alex opens the bottle without protest and takes a large swig.
“Don’t chug it, you’re gonna make yourself sick.”
“Fuck you, Herc, I don’t ‘chug’ beer, this isn’t college,” Alex says, and proceeds to finish the bottle in about ten seconds.
“Oh, you’re fucked. You know you’re fucked, right?” Herc's smiling again, and John lets himself relax a little. He’s not sure what he said that made Alex so testy, but it seems like the guy was already tightly wound.
“Why is he fucked?” John asks.
“Wanna tell Laurens why you’re fucked?”
“I’m not fucked,” Alex says. He stands up and sways slightly. “See?”
“Hamilton is the biggest lightweight I’ve ever met,” Herc says to John. “Two beers is basically his upper limit.”
Alex makes a dismissive sound and waves his hand. “I’ve got another thirty minutes before it actually takes effect. That’s science.”
Fifteen minutes later, Alex is facedown on the floor with a Boston Terrier sitting on his back.
“Hercules, please,” he whines, drawing the name out. “Don’t go.”
Herc is already pulling his coat on, his expression halfway between amused and annoyed. “You shoulda told me you didn’t eat today. I’m buying you a hamburger.”
“I don’t want a hamburger.”
“What do you want?” Herc sighs.
Alex tries to roll over, then gives up when he realizes Bobbin is still on top of him. “I want an ice cream.”
“You don’t even like ice cream, you idiot.” He turns to John. “Keep an eye on him? I’m sorry he’s being such a shitty host.”
“Hey, I don’t mind. I was just gonna stay in and watch Netflix like usual before he invited me over.”
Herc laughs like John just said something very witty, rather than very sad, and walks out the door. John turns back to Alex, who’s finally gotten the dog off of him and is looking at John with a dopey grin.
“Isn’t Herc the best?”
John sits down on the couch. “He seems like a pretty great roommate.”
“He’s not really my roommate. Oh, put your feet on my back.”
“What? What is he?”
“Put your feet on my back.”
John acquiesces and smiles a little when Alex sighs with relief. “Herc’s not your roommate?”
“That seriously feels so good. Oh my God, I’m so tired.”
“Yeah, I mean, he’s my roommate. Like, we share an apartment. But he insists on paying basically all the rent. It’s bullshit.”
He sounds genuinely pissed off, which baffles John. “Are you complaining? That’s great.”
“Uh, no, it’s bullshit. He won’t let me pay a full 50%.”
“Um. Can you even afford 50%?” John asks. He’s not sure if he’s crossing a line here, but Alex’s the one who brought rent up in the first place. “This…seems like a pretty nice neighborhood.”
“It is.” Alex pauses. “And I can’t.”
“How old is he, anyway?”
“I dunno, thirty? When I asked he just said he was ‘get married and have kids’ age.”
“And you’re what, twenty-two?”
“Okay, so he’s doing you a favor. Like an “older mentor” favor. You just got really lucky, you shouldn’t feel bad about it.”
Alex cranes his neck to look up at John. “I didn’t say I felt bad. I said it was bullshit.”
“Okay,” John sighs. “Whatever.”
Alex rolls over and chews his lip for a moment. “…I’m sorry,” he finally says. “I’m being an asshole.”
“Just a little,” John says with a smile. “But you’re also kinda drunk, so I’m gonna let it slide.”
Alex shakes his head and pushes himself up into a sitting position. “No, I was being an asshole before that, too. I invited you over and then I forgot I did that and then I was too tired to go to the bar and then Herc and I kept talking and leaving you out of the conversation and then I started arguing with him and then I…did I call your dad a prick?”
“Uh, yeah. You did.”
“Oh my God.” Alex hides his face in his hands. “I’m such a dick.”
Is there an appropriate response to that? “You’re not a dick, you were just…acting like one.”
If there is an appropriate response, that probably wasn’t it. But Alex seems to accept it. He smiles at John.
“I’m really, really glad you’re gonna be working at Nycra. Even if it is part-time.”
“Hey, about that.” John slides onto the floor and sits beside Alex. “I just…I was looking over my résumé again today and it’s…it’s shit. It’s a shitty résumé.”
“No, it’s not!”
“It is. I didn’t even put my GPA on it. Don’t try to defend it, that’s not why I’m bringing it up,” he says, cutting Alex off as he opens his mouth to protest some more. “I have a question.”
“There are only two things that could explain why I got hired. One, Washington knows my dad’s a senator. Two, you and I got coffee.”
Alex stays quiet. He seems to know where John is going with this.
“I just wanted to know. Did you meet with Washington after we talked?”
“You’re asking me if I convinced him to hire you.”
John nods. “I wouldn’t be annoyed, it’s better than the alternative. That he hired me cause of my dad.”
Alex picks at the label on his empty beer bottle.
“Seriously, Alex, just tell me.”
“Um. I did. He…wasn’t going to hire you.”
John feels a smile spread across his face, and Alex looks up in surprise when he starts to laugh.
“That doesn’t bother you?”
“You know how much of a relief it is to learn I didn’t get the job cause of my stupid fucking ‘family connections’? No, it doesn’t bother me! Jesus, Alex, what did you even tell him?”
Alex blushes and looks away again. “I didn’t lie, if that’s what you’re thinking. I just…I just said you seemed smarter than your résumé. That you were, I dunno, humble? Nice?” His blush deepens as John continues to laugh. “Shut up, I don’t know!”
John claps a hand on Alex’s shoulder. “You’re definitely not an asshole, Alex.”
“Oh yeah?” He raises his eyebrows. “What am I, then?”
“You’re fantastic,” John beams.
Alex stares at John like he doesn’t quite comprehend what he’d said. “…Oh,” he finally mumbles.
The door squeals open as Herc storms in, waving a greasy paper bag over his head. “Ten minutes, bitches! I am fast food.”
Alex springs to his feet suddenly, nearly knocking John over. “Thanks, Herc!” he says in an oddly strained voice. “Toss it over here.”
“I dunno, you seem a lot steadier now. Maybe you don’t need this burger after all.”
“Ha ha, very funny.”
“Laurens, you hungry?”
“You know what, I kinda am.”
“Seriously, Herc, give me that burger. I’m dying.”
“Aren’t we all,” Herc says, and tosses the bag over to Alex.
“Don’t be cute,” Alex says as he digs the burger out. “I haven’t had anything to eat in over twenty-four hours.”
“Well, who the hell’s fault is that? The fridge is full of food!”
Alex doesn’t seem to hear him; he’s halfway through the burger with a look of sheer bliss on his face.
“He’s lying,” John points out. “I saw him eat one of the extra limes.”
Herc leans over and snaps his fingers in front of Alex’s face. “Yo!”
“You ate a raw lime?”
“You’re weird as hell, man, that’s what.”
• Molly, Cora, Katie Livingston, and Katie Stirling are all named for actual women Hamilton apparently flirted with/possibly slept with. Molly=Polly (last name unknown), Cora=Cornelia Lott, Katie and Katie=Kitty Livingston and Kitty Stirling. “Ben” isn’t based on anyone historical, I just borrowed the first name from Benjamin Walker, AKA Baron von Steuben’s “angel from Heaven.”
• IRL, Hercules Mulligan was married to a woman named Elizabeth Sanders. I’ve shortened that to Lisa here, because I can’t deal with a million “Elizabeths” running around. Lisa lives in Greenwich Village, which means Herc is right and she cannot afford that rent.
• In this AU John Laurens is half Puerto Rican and half Cuban. His dad is ethnically Cuban but he was born in Florida and he’s got a lot in common with Marco Rubio (though not quite as conservative). His mom was born in Puerto Rico.
• In the AU, Hamilton's mother was Puerto Rican, but he was born and raised on Nevis and St. Croix before moving to PR after Rachel died. More backstory stuff will come later but I figured I should clear this bit up now.
Chapter 4: Ambushed
A short conversation ends very badly.
This is a much shorter chapter, partly for pacing purposes and partly because it might be stressful for some people to read and I want it to be easy enough to skip. Content warnings for injury, family, shitty dads, family fighting, emotional manipulation, guilt-tripping, anxiety, and men being violent. I know that sounds like a lot but it’s actually not that bad (like I said, it’s short).
Anyway, enjoy! I'm trying to pace myself a little more, so the next update might not be for another week.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Saturday morning brings with it the first cold weather of the season, and a Snapchat story from Herc that turns out to be ten different photos of Alexander passed out in a nest of loose leaf. John’s still in bed when he checks his phone, tucked under the comforter he’d dragged out of the closet at 3 AM when the temperature had suddenly dropped. He likes leaving the window open while he sleeps, likes hearing the gentle rush of Brooklyn traffic, only occasionally marred by a siren or car horn. His neighbor is singing to herself, has been since she woke up a few hours ago; it’s an unfamiliar tune, meandering and melancholy, punctuated by the clatter of dishes as she gets ready for the day.
John checks his email and a couple news aggregators from inside the shell of the comforter, and is just beginning to debate venturing out of bed when the phone rings. It’s an odd time for anyone to be calling, but he checks the ID—Marta. Shit. He’d meant to text her, set up a time to Skype or something.
“Sorry, Marta, I went out last night and I completely forgot,” he answers hurriedly as he sits up in bed.
He goes cold. It’s not Marta.
“Uh. Dad. Hey. What’re you…you’re calling on Marta’s…is everything okay? Is Marta okay?”
Henry Laurens laughs. “Good to hear your voice, John! Marta’s fine.”
The panic in his gut congeals into a gluey knot of stress and anger. “Then why are you calling me on her cellphone,” he grits out.
“Just a little experiment. I wanted to see if your phone was still working,” Henry says with a chuckle.
John is out of bed now, pacing back and forth in his bedroom with the phone pressed hard to his cheek. “Did Marta tell you I called?”
“She passed on the good news, like you told her to. I know you’re probably sick of hearing it, but your mother and I are just so proud.”
“The job, John, with the NYCRA! Marta told us.”
“Oh. That, yeah. Yeah, I only found out yesterday. I was going to let you know today.”
“Well, we appreciate a call even when you don’t have good news for us. I was getting a little worried there, Jacky.”
He winces at the use of his childhood nickname. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what?” Henry voices it like he’s genuinely curious what his son could possibly be apologizing for, but John knows better. It’s not a rhetorical question.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you sooner.”
“Oh, I appreciate that, John.” But? “But what’s important isn’t the fact that you didn’t call, it’s why you didn’t call.”
Fantastic. So he’s been seeing his therapist. While most people go to therapy to improve themselves, Henry Laurens seems to go to pick up new interrogation techniques.
“I know, Dad.”
“Have you been speaking to Camille?” John’s therapist. A nice enough Swiss woman with a heavy French accent and a poorly concealed penchant for Freud. Up until a few days ago, she’d been one of the only people John knew in New York City.
“Yeah, once a week,” John says. He taps a rapid rhythm on the window pane and stares out at the street. An eddy of dust and dry, broken up leaves spins itself in and out of existence on the empty sidewalk. “You know. The appointments you set up for me. You’re still getting billed for those, aren’t you?”
Henry sighs. “You sound tense.”
“I’m not tense, I’m just…you woke me up.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but I do want to get back to that question of why you haven’t called.”
“It’s complicated, Dad, it’d be hard to get into over the phone.” This is half true. It would be hard to discuss over the phone, but it would be no easier face to face, because John genuinely doesn’t know why he hasn’t called his dad in the last month. He doesn’t know why even this short conversation is setting fire to his nerves and sending a column of ants marching up his spine. He doesn’t know why his free hand is curled into a white-knuckled fist, or why the sound of his father’s voice feels like a stranger’s finger in his ear. He wants to shake it out of his head, and he doesn’t know why.
“No, of course. I don’t want to push you. We can talk about all this in a few months.”
John pauses mid-pace. “What’s in a few months?”
“Christmas, John!” Henry laughs again. “Did you forget?”
He freezes completely and stands stock-still in the middle of the room. “What about Christmas?”
“Well, you’re coming home for the holidays, aren’t you?”
John doesn’t say anything.
“Aren’t you?” Henry presses, the good humor in his voice rapidly evaporating.
“I wasn’t planning on it,” John says in a small, hoarse voice.
Silence on the other end of the line. Then, slowly, stiffly: “We bought you a plane ticket, Jacky. I expect you to be here.”
John struggles to pull together a sentence. Or a word. Another breath would be good, too, he could use one of those. Eventually he manages to stutter, “I—I don’t—” before Henry interrupts.
“I’ll have my assistant email you with the details, and we can talk about this later. After you’ve calmed down a little.”
“Dad, I just—I just—I—”
“You know this isn’t what Jamie would have—”
John hangs up. He presses the end call button once, twice, three times, then drops his phone to the floor. He does consider his next action before he takes it, but the moment of consideration is so fleeting, so infinitesimally short, that when he looks back on it later, he doesn’t remember thinking at all.
John punches the wall behind him hard enough to break his hand.
Footnotes! Not very many today.
• Turns out, people breaking their hands on walls is extremely common! I promise.
• Jamie Laurens is John's younger brother. They'll get into this later, but he's based on James "Jemmy" Laurens, and you can google him if you want spoilers.
• Henry Laurens was not a good father. You can check out what publius-esquire has posted about him here: http://publius-esquire.tumblr.com/search/henry-laurens.
Chapter 5: What Does 'Stupid' Mean for You?
John's pretty sure you don't make friends by asking them to waste their Saturdays escorting you to the ER, but he doesn't really have anyone else to call.
Content warnings for hospitals, hospital phobias, general anxiety, and self-inflicted injuries.
I appreciate any and all comments! Even if it's just a word or two.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Oh, fuck,” John mutters, then giggles a little.
The rush of adrenaline that led him to punch the wall in the first place is keeping the worst of the pain at bay, but one glance at his hand lets him know he’s headed to the ER. His pinky sticks out at a bizarre angle and two of his knuckles are out of alignment—in about five minutes, half of his hand will be swollen and purple, something John knows from experience. Now where did he put the damn phone?
Right. He dropped it on the floor. Keeping his right hand close to his chest, he crouches down and grabs the phone from where it landed a few feet away. The screen is cracked, because of course it is. Shattered, really, but since it’s still technically functional John takes that as a victory. He’s got about three New York contacts in his address book, and he laughs again as he scrolls through them. His therapist Camille (yeah right), a “friend” from high school (the kind that scrawled “KIT!” in his yearbook), and Alexander Hamilton.
“Hullo?” Alex answers with a stifled yawn.
“Hey, Alex, it’s John.”
Alex seems to perk up. “Oh, hey! You get home okay last night?”
“Yeah, I texted Herc. Did I wake you?” When John had left the night before, Alex had been half-asleep on the couch, alternating between drunkenly apologizing for being a shitty host and ranting about the general public’s complete misunderstanding of the First Amendment.
“Nah, I was about to leave for the office. What’s up?”
“Didn’t Washington tell you not to come in on the weekend?”
John glances at his hand again and sighs. “If you’ve got shit to do at the office, I don’t wanna bother you.”
“Seriously, what’s going on?”
“I dunno, man, I think I did something stupid.”
He hears Alex inhale sharply. “Okay…so what does ‘stupid’ mean for you?”
John laughs weakly. “I punched a wall. Like, really hard. I think it’s just brick under the plaster”
“Um, yeah. And, you know, like I said. I don’t wanna bother you,” he trails off. The decision to call, which had seemed so reasonable three minutes ago, now strikes him as staggeringly rude. It’s a quarter to nine in the morning and he’s calling a guy he’s met all of two times, asking him to drop everything and…and what? Escort him to the emergency room? Bring him an ice pack and a blanket?
“You’re not bothering me,” Alex says firmly.
“Look, I don’t know why I called, I wasn’t thinking.”
“I’m coming over. What’s your address?”
For some reason, that’s enough to stop John’s protesting. He gives Alex the address, thanks him again, and hangs up. Almost instantly, he feels a wave of relief: all he has to do now is sit on the floor, holding his right hand steady against his chest, and wait.
The sound of Alex’s heavy leather boots pounding up the stairs comes sooner than John expects. He idly notes that he already recognizes his new friend’s footsteps, and when the knock on the door confirms it, he marks the observation as another tiny victory in an otherwise miserable morning.
“For real? You need to start locking your door.” Alex is apparently incapable of walking into a room silently—just like the night before, he’s started speaking before he’s even crossed the threshold. “I picked up some ice and, uh, Ace bandages? And normal band-aids and this weird kombucha shit from the bodega, the bottle said something about reawakening and rebirthing and rewinding, I dunno, but people say it’s good for you and I saw you were wearing Birkenstocks yesterday so I figured you’re into that kind of bohemian…stuff.”
“I have ice.”
Alex looks up from the plastic bag he’d been digging through. “What?”
“Ice, I have ice in the freezer.” John smiles and stands up. “But that all sounds great.”
“Shit, your hand!” Alex rushes over to look at it, his own hands hovering nervously around John’s.
“It’s not that bad. I know it’s gonna hurt like a bitch in a couple hours, but right now I don’t really feel it.” He takes the plastic bag from Alex and sets it on the table. “Can you check Google for the closest ER?”
Alex freezes, his expression unreadable. “An ER?”
“Yeah,” John nods, pulling out the kombucha. “Aw, my little sister loves this stuff. Thanks.”
“I…I don’t think…you don’t need to go to the hospital for this, right?”
John looks over in surprise. “My hand is broken, of course I need to go to a hospital.”
“How do you know it’s broken?”
“I’ve broken bones before, man, I know what it feels like.”
Alex is shaking his head, his fingers plucking anxiously at his sweater. “I just figured. You know, I just figured. I just figured we could take care of it, it’s not that bad, you know, you said it wasn’t that bad.”
Shit. Okay, he hadn’t counted on Alex having a problem with hospitals. It isn’t a very unusual phobia, really, and he can’t say he’s the biggest fan himself, but Alex’s reaction seems a little extreme.
“Hey, I get it,” he says reassuringly. “You don’t have to come with me, let me just call a car service and you can…you can go to the office. I’ll keep you updated.”
“No!” Alex nearly shouts, then catches himself and looks away. “I just. It’s not about me, I don’t want you going to the hospital. I mean…I wanna go with you, I don’t want you going to the hospital on your own.” He paces nervously back and forth, then gestures to John’s hand and says in a nearly hysterical voice, “You sure you need a hospital for that?”
John’s hand is starting to throb as the adrenaline wears off, but he takes a moment to maneuver Alex into a chair at the table. “Calm down, okay? It’s fine, really, I’ll be in and out. Here.” He hands Alex the bottle of kombucha and resists the urge to ruffle his hair. That would probably rile Alex more than it would relax him. “Drink some of this, I’m going to call the car service. You can decide if you wanna come with me while we wait.”
When John hangs up—“they’ll be here in ten”—Alex is still sitting at the table, tapping his foot rapidly. He looks slightly calmer now, and maybe a little embarrassed, but he hasn’ttouched the kombucha and he won’t look at John. Keeping his eyes locked on the surface of the table, he mutters, “You’re in your pajamas.”
“You’re wearing pajamas. Or. Um. Pajama pants.”
John looks down and laughs: he’s still in the clothing he slept in, meaning a pair of old sweatpants and nothing on top. “Holy shit, I didn’t even notice. Hang on, let me grab a shirt.”
Alex nods silently. He only looks up when John comes back from the bedroom with a T-shirt.
John holds the shirt up. “You mind helping me out?”
Alex nods again and shuffles over to John. Now that he’s not frantically pacing or shouting nonsense, he seems oddly small and silent. John holds out his arms and Alex pulls the shirt over his head without a word. When John pops his head out of the collar, he’s taken aback: Alex is blushing, like hardcore blushing, and averting his eyes again. It takes John a second to put his finger on why this feels so familiar, but when he does, he too is swamped by embarrassment. What had his roommate at Oxford said? “Stop flirting with me,” or “stop being such a fucking tease,” or something like that. Was the favor he’d just asked for too flirtatious? Too intimate? But he had genuinely needed Alex’s help. And besides, who would think he was flirting with a freshly broken hand?
Apparently Alex, if his blush is anything to go by.
An impatient horn sounds from the sidewalk and shakes him from his thoughts. “That’ll be the car service. You coming? I mean, you can always stay here, you know, help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge.”
“What’s in the fridge?”
“Uh, yogurt and…yogurt.”
Alex manages a small smile. “As tempting as that sounds, I think I’ll come with.”
“Yeah, you seem like you need a babysitter right now,” he says with a little more of the confidence John had grown used to.
“We can’t have you tearing your shirt off and running around the city punching things. What would Washington say?”
The ride to Methodist Hospital is blessedly short, and Alex keeps up a running commentary, though John can’t pay attention long enough to pick up on what he’s saying. The pain in his hand is steadily growing stronger, and it’s all he can do to smile tightly when he senses Alex might’ve said something funny. By the time they reach the hospital, his left hand is too preoccupied keeping his right hand steady for him to reach his wallet.
“Hey, Alex, could you just…could you grab my wallet from my pocket?”
Alex seems to have gotten over his initial embarrassment and slipped into full-on nurse mode, pulling the wallet from John’s pocket and paying the driver without hesitation. It’s only after the driver hands the credit card back that he pauses and looks down at it guiltily.
“Okay, I owe you lunch or something, because you should not be paying for your own ride to the hospital.”
John rolls his eyes. “Yeah, and I only needed a ride to the hospital because I was being a fucking idiot. And you brought me all that shit, and you’re spending your Saturday morning taking care of me. You don’t owe me anything.” Alex begins to protest, but John interrupts. “Just…pay me back by getting the door, okay?”
Alex nods and ducks out of the car, skirting around the back to open John’s door. Methodist seems like a nice enough hospital—certainly nicer than the dingy urgent care center John had ended up last time he broke a bone—and he approaches it with some optimism.
“You good?” he remembers to ask Alex before they step inside. He’s no stranger to irrational fears, and he doesn’t want to push Alex too far. It’s a good thing he asked, because when he turns around he sees that Alex is still glued to the curb.
“Yeah, I’m good,” he says, his voice nearly a squeak.
It’s like dragging a cat into a swimming pool. While the cat desperately clings to land and tries to convince him that, no really, it loves water. An admittedly shitty metaphor, but the pain in his hand is keeping John from thinking straight.
“There’s a bookstore across the street, how about I meet you there when I’m done?” he says, then reconsiders. “You know what, I have no idea how long this is gonna take, you should really just go home.”
“No, I’ll wait. In the, uh, in the bookstore,” Alex says.
He looks deeply relieved, and John feels a twinge of guilt for dragging the guy into this in the first place. A guy he’s only known for four days, too. He checks over his shoulder one last time as he walks into the ER—Alex is watching him anxiously, running his hand through his hair, but forces a smile when he catches John’s eye. John smiles back, but his is tinged with bitterness as a wry thought passes through his mind: if Alex really wants to be his friend, he’s going to have to get used to hospitals.
Footnotes! Nothing really historical this chapter.
• Don’t punch walls.
• Hamilton bought Laurens Synergy Kombucha. I’ve never tried it, but their bottles are all printed with “Reawaken, Rebirth, Repurpose, Redefine.”
• Methodist Hospital is real, it’s across the street from a Barnes & Noble, and it’s literally half a block from my house. I swear it’s a coincidence.
• Remember how Laurens is asexual in this AU? Well, Hamilton is definitely not. #aceproblems
Chapter 6: Just an Idiot
Laurens is having some trouble keeping his self-loathing in check and under wraps. Hamilton pretends not to mind.
This is a slightly shorter chapter, and I'm not quite sure when I'll be able to update again, just because classes are starting again and I have a course overload this semester. Still, I'm invested in this and I have no plans to abandon it.
I'm not entirely happy with this chapter, but you get what you pay for, and you guys are reading this for free. Content warnings for a lot of self-hate, and mild references to injuries and alcohol.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Five hours later, John emerges from Methodist with his hand and most of his forearm encased in a bright orange fiberglass cast. There’s a text from Alex that he can just barely make out through the spiderweb of cracks on his phone’s screen.
downstairs in the b&n!
The timestamp is four hours old; there’s a good chance Alex has already left, but John figures he’ll try the Barnes & Noble before he calls. If he calls. Maybe it would be best to just let Alex get on with his day. The bookstore is unusually empty for a Saturday afternoon, and the lower level is practically silent outside of the area reserved for children’s books and toys. He checks the aisles for novels, self-help books, art and film books, memoirs, even comic books, looking for Alex.
He’s about to give up and head out when he reaches the back of the store, by the medical texts. Alex is sitting cross-legged on the floor, flanked on either side by stacks of books on orthopedics and general anatomy. Some of them look like med school textbooks. His brow is knit in concentration and he’s muttering something under his breath—at first, John assumes he’s reading the text aloud, but as he draws closer he can make out a few of the words and he realizes Alex is just voicing his thoughts as they come to him. While he reads. John’s not sure if he’s ever seen someone do that before. He clears his throat to grab Alex’s attention without startling him, but the guy still jumps and slams his book shut in surprise.
He recovers almost immediately, and points the book at John’s arm accusingly. “They give you a sling?”
“Uh, yeah. I’ve got it here.”
“Why aren’t you wearing it?”
John shrugs. “It’s confining.”
“If you’re wearing a cast, you have to wear the sling too. To prevent swelling,” Alex informs him sternly.
“What are you still doing here?” John asks, trying to change the subject.
“I was in there for five hours, why are you still here?”
Alex looks almost offended. “I said I would wait. Honestly, Laurens, you think it’s that hard to kill five hours in a bookstore?”
John pauses for a moment, struggling against his own curiosity. He knows he shouldn’t ask Alex about his reaction to the hospital—they don’t know each other like that.
“Clearly you’ve put your time to use,” John says instead, and sits down beside Alex. He flips to a random page in one of the books. “Don’t tell me you got to all of these.”
“Of course not. I just checked the indexes for shit that was relevant. Let me guess.” Alex rubs his temples like a psychic. “You broke your fourth and fifth metacarpal bones.”
“It’s called a boxer’s fracture.”
“Oh. For a second there I thought you, like, snuck into the hospital and stole my chart.”
He laughs. “Nah. It’s apparently super common.”
“The type of fracture, or idiots punching walls?”
“Both, I guess.”
John holds the cast up sheepishly. “Apparently I fractured my wrist, too. Just a little.”
“Seriously?” Alex groans. He pulls the sling out of John’s messenger bag and throws it back at him. “At least put this stupid thing on.”
John silently complies, letting Alex take over when he struggles to fasten the velcro in the back.
“You managed to break three bones in one punch? You’re stronger than you look, my friend,” Alex says as he secures the sling.
“Nah, the wall was stronger than it looked. I’m just an idiot.”
“Okay, you keep saying that,” Alex sighs. “Why?”
He frowns, like John is being intentionally difficult. “Why do you keep calling yourself an idiot?”
John laughs nervously and gestures to the cast again. “I kinda thought it was obvious.”
“Not to me.”
John had been courteous enough not to bother Alex with probing personal questions, but apparently Alex isn’t going to return the favor. Couldn’t he let it go? It’s just the sort of self-deprecating shit any normal person would say after doing something objectively dumb. But Alex is staring at him with those huge fucking eyes, clearly waiting for some sort of “real” answer. Or maybe for John to admit that he was just joking, that he doesn’t really think he’s an idiot, that he actually thinks very highly of himself. And that’s not going to happen.
John turns away to stare determinedly at the shelf of crappy paperback mysteries across from them. “Look, I lost my temper and punched a wall like a…like a whiney teenager. I broke my own stupid hand because of a stupid tantrum that I threw for the benefit of no one but my own stupid fucking self. That doesn’t sound idiotic to you?”
He pauses, but Alex says nothing.
“And you know what,” he continues, his voice ramping up uncontrollably, “I should’ve known better, I should’ve stopped myself, cause this isn’t even the first time this has happened! So it’s real nice of you to say I’m being hard on myself and all that other shit, but forgive me if I don’t accept the affirmations of a total fucking stranger!”
John tears his eyes away from the bookshelf just in time to catch Alex’s muddled expression—fear, hurt, guilt, something John can’t quite place—before it slips off of his face, leaving only a mild sort of half-smile. John’s stomach knots painfully.
“Jesus, I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m snapping at you,” he tries. “Forget I said anything.”
“Maybe it’s the adrenaline, I don’t know, that was such a…I’m sorry, that was such a dick move. Fuck.”
“I’m blowing this whole thing outta proportion,” he says, horribly conscious of the slight creak in his voice. “It’s nothing, it’s no one’s business but mine, I’m just so…”
John puts his head in his hand, but the gesture is pretty meaningless when the entire right side of his face is left exposed. Unfortunately, that’s also the side that Alex is sitting next to. Fortunately, John isn’t technically crying at this point.
“I’m just an idiot. Or, I’m being an idiot. There. Is that better?” He laughs harshly, the sound slightly muffled by his palm.
Alex doesn’t say anything, but gets to his feet slowly, wincing a little at what John assumes is a serious case of pins and needles. He holds a hand out to John.
“C’mon. Let’s get out of here before someone starts giving me shit for not buying anything.”
They end up walking through the park, a decision that Alex made for both of them when John answered all of his suggestions with a lopsided shrug. It isn’t that he wants to appear standoffish or morose, he just doesn’t trust himself to speak yet. Better to let Alex ramble on and on about bone fractures and blood flow and ice packs and proper limb elevation.
John’s grateful for both the distraction and Alex’s apparent willingness to leave well enough alone, but he can’t shake the sense that his rushed apology had been too readily accepted. In his experience, that sort of quick forgiveness was just the prelude to silent, abiding resentment. Not that Alex didn’t deserve to hold a grudge after the abuse John had heaped on him, but it’d probably be best if they were both open about that sort of thing. After all, even if he’d ruined his chances of friendship with Alex, they’d still have to work together for the foreseeable future. Unless John had fucked that up, too.
Alex clears his throat awkwardly. “Laurens?”
“Hmm?” He’d lost track of what Alex had been saying, caught up in his own selfish thoughts again. Something about the benefits of a fiberglass cast.
“I was just saying, you might want to think of something to tell Washington.”
Alex gestures to the cast, his body language still unusually tense. “Obviously I don’t care, but it’s probably best if he doesn’t know how you actually broke your hand.”
“Oh.” John’s actually already come up with a lie for Washington—fell down some stairs, the same excuse he’d used in high school when he’d broken his fist on his bedroom door—but he doesn’t tell Alex that. “Yeah, I’ll…come up with something.”
Alex nods, and hesitates a moment before adding, “you know I won’t say anything.”
John didn’t know that. “I know.”
That prompts a small smile. “Good.”
“Listen, Alex,” John starts, then stops and tries again, weighing each word carefully. “I don’t know why I said any of that, before. I think I was just…looking to start a fight. And you’re not a stranger. That was stupid, you’re not a stranger. I know we don’t know each other that well yet, but…but it kinda sounded like I was accusing you of prying, and you weren’t.”
“I was, a little.”
“You weren’t. You were just trying to be a good friend.”
Alex promptly trips over his own feet.
“Shit!” John laughs, catching him with his left arm. “You okay?”
Alex mumbles something indiscernible and blushes.
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” Alex hastily replies, and he sounds so sincerely embarrassed that John lets it slide.
After a few more minutes of walking in silence—and John can tell Alex is itching to keep talking, he can hear him inhaling every now and then like he’s about to start a sentence—they reach the edge of the park.
“I can walk you back to your apartment, if you want,” Alex offers with a forced nonchalance that almost sets John laughing again.
“I mean, I’d prefer to walk you back to your apartment. You know, just in case.”
“Just in case what, I break my other hand?” John smiles.
“Don’t you have to get to work?”
Alex shrugs. “I’ll just go in tomorrow instead.”
“Why don’t we grab some beers, then? It’s…” he checks his shattered phone, “…two-thirty. That’s late enough for a drink, right?”
“I have no idea, I’m on insomniac time.”
“Do you want beer?”
“It’s your sick day, what do you want?” Alex asks, like an indulgent babysitter.
John pretends to think about that for a moment. “I want Netflix and beer.”
• Alexander Hamilton apparently talked to himself a lot.
• Hamilton was originally interested in a career in medicine, and had a life-long interest in the field. He was also just a big ol' nerd and read too many books.
• Actually, I think that's it for footnotes. Like I said, it's a short chapter.
Chapter 7: Advanced Friendship
Hamilton and Laurens squabble over movie choices, Laurens wins by virtue of looking incredibly pathetic.
Perspective switch! Because I feel like it, I guess.
Thanks so much again for all your kind comments. I'm sorry that my update schedule is slowing down, I decided to squeeze this chapter in before shit really gets stressful at school. It's the last chapter that takes place on this particular Saturday, so I suppose it's a decent place to pause.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
he asked if i wanted to netflix and chill!!!!!!!
i thought you were at work dude
the cute guy from work. u know, the one who came over yesterday
you didn’t scare him away?
calm the hell down
what should i do??
are you asking me if i think you should fuck your new co-worker, alex? because the answer is obviously no
lisa and i were gonna make a sorta stew thing for dinner, be home by 6 if you wanna eat
ok but what about my situation
if you could pick up a nice baguette on your way back i’d appreciate it
my situation hercules!!!!!!
i gotta go ttyl
i’ve locked myself in the bathroom but i gotta come out at some point
don’t fuck your new co-worker
“Alex, is there anything you wanted to watch?” Laurens calls from the living room.
“Yeah, just one second!” Alex flushes for effect and wipes his dry hands on his jeans as he leaves the bathroom. “Amadeus.”
“I wanna watch Amadeus.”
Laurens stares at him. “Seriously?”
“It’s a good movie!” Alex protests.
“It’s also three hours long. And…sad.”
“Sad how?” Laurens splutters. “It opens with a suicide attempt and closes with a thirty-five year old genius getting dumped into a mass grave!”
“Okay, two things: one, it was a suicide attempt, Salieri survives. And two, thirty-five isn’t even that young.”
Laurens shakes his head and turns back to the TV. “I don’t even know how to respond to that.”
“You know what I mean, for the 18th-century. People died from all sorts of stupid shit back then. Thirty-five was their eighty, if you made it to fifty that just meant you were a boring fuck.”
“That’s not even remotely true.”
“I’m not going to feel bad for Mozart, he’s one of the most successful artists in the history of the Western world,” Alex huffs, and immediately goes to grab the beers from the kitchen so Laurens won’t have time to respond.
The apartment is mostly empty, except for some Ikea furniture and a scattered collection of cardboard boxes. Still, Alex tries not to be too judgmental. After all, Laurens had seen his bedroom the night before. Which, wow, that was something he’d rather not think about. Laurens's place isn’t even that bad, it’s just a little…lonely. And devoid of personality. And incredibly, incredibly boring.
Alex is stopped in his tracks when he catches sight of the minor catastrophe on the kitchen floor.
“Shit,” he mutters.
“What was that?”
“Shit!” he calls back.
Laurens dashes into the room, only to catch himself on the door frame and start laughing. “Oh my God.”
“I forgot!” Alex crouches down by the bag of melted ice that he’d left to leak onto the hardwood floor, but can’t think what he’s meant to do next. “Do you have a vacuum cleaner?”
Laurens just laughs harder, clinging to the door frame for support.
“A…a towel? Dammit, Laurens, help me, these are hardwood floors! And who the fuck puts hardwood floors in a kitchen?”
“Here,” Laurens chuckles and hands him a roll of paper towels. “Don’t worry about it too much, this rental was shady as hell. Guy has, like, twenty Airbnb’s in the city.”
When Alex finishes mopping up the spill, he dumps a few of the surviving ice cubes into a ziplock bag and wraps it in some paper towels. “Put this on your cast, okay? And elevate your arm on some pillows.”
“You know, I’m not completely clueless.”
“Course you aren’t,” Alex says, ducking behind the fridge door. He waits until he hears Laurens sigh in exasperation and walk back into the living room before emerging with the beers, then fumbles for his phone. No new messages, just the judgmental words of Hercules Mulligan burning bright: “don’t fuck your new co-worker.” Easy for him to say. Alex doesn’t like to call grown adults “cute,” but it’s difficult not to apply the word to Laurens. His small, sharp nose, the tiny cleft in his chin, the way his ears stick out—admittedly, Alex wouldn’t want Laurens reading his thoughts right now. The level of detail he's already memorized is, frankly, embarrassing.
Still, Hercules’s concerns are misplaced. Impulses aside, Alex can’t fuck his new co-worker, because his new co-worker turns out to be less “sweet, quiet bunny,” and more “angry, twitchy honey badger,” and probably needs more than a few hours to recover from breaking his fist on the wall of his very sad apartment.
“There you go, Herc,” he mumbles, shoving his phone back into his pocket. “I’m ‘controlling’ myself.”
He takes the two bottles into the living room and throws himself onto the couch beside Laurens, who’s already flipping through “Top Picks for John.”
“Why is Netflix recommending so many bad 80s action films?” Alex asks. “What the hell have you been watching?”
“Bad 80s action films,” Laurens says with a shrug.
“Okay, well, I’m here to save you from yourself. Let’s put something classy on.”
“I don’t think ‘classy’ is a Netflix category.”
“No, but ‘independent dramas’ is.” Alex plucks the remote from Laurens’s hand. “There, look: Fruitvale Station, The Master, Dead Man, Ida. A cornucopia of class.”
Laurens stares at him, aghast. “Don’t you ever watch happy movies?”
“What do you mean?”
“Literally everything you’ve suggested so far is fucked up and sad.”
“Not literally everything. I wouldn’t call Dead Man—”
“Don’t even try.”
“It’s a comedy!” Alex protests. “Or, well, a dark comedy. I think technically it’s an Acid Western, but it’s got funny bits.”
Laurens ignores that and switches over to family films. “I’m tired, and my hand hurts, and we’re watching Lilo & Stitch.”
“No way is that the actual title.”
“Dude, it’s Disney. You’ve never heard of Lilo & Stitch?”
Alex crosses his arms indignantly and leans further back into the couch. “Whatever, man, it’s your sick day. Bring on the kiddy shit.”
Laurens smiles like he’s actually won Alex over, and clicks play without hesitation. As the movie begins to load, a look of inspiration flashes across his face, and he dashes into his bedroom.
“See, now it’s a sick day,” he announces as he drags a massive, pillowy comforter over to the couch and throws it one-handed over Alex. “Get comfy.”
Alex pushes the comforter off of his face and tries his best to look put-upon, but Laurens just laughs. “You know, ‘grumpy under a fluffy blanket’ doesn’t really read.”
“You insulted my taste in movies.”
“I didn’t insult your taste, I just said it was all fucked up and sad.” Laurens gets under the blanket and fiddles with the remote some more before adding, “I don’t have the mental energy for that sort of thing right now, okay?”
He shouldn’t be giving Laurens as much shit as he is, but Alex is beginning to feel a little odd about the whole situation. While they’d been dealing with the broken hand, he could at least focus. Now, his mind has started to wander, and he’s acutely aware of how quickly this friendship is advancing. It’s only been a few days, and they’re already sharing a blanket—that can’t possibly be platonic. Or maybe it could. Maybe Herc’s right and Alex is just stupidly obsessed with sex. God, Laurens is probably straight, anyway. He’s the son of a South Carolina senator, after all, and nothing like that came up when he googled Henry Laurens. Because obviously the best way to find out your friend’s sexual orientation is to google their father. Alex fights the urge to hide his face in his hands.
The movie opens with the sort of shit he’d expected—gross out humor, a cute little alien, laser blasters and explosions, etc.—but he just lets it wash over him, still preoccupied by a few things. A few minor things. Like the heat he can feel radiating off of Laurens underneath the comforter (slightly feverish, Alex should probably get him some ibuprofen), or the way his good hand curls and uncurls around the beer bottle, one thumb occasionally picking at the label. Or else the memory of all that had happened that morning swims into focus, and Alex is racked by embarrassment. As if it hadn’t been bad enough when Laurens had so nonchalantly asked him to help him with his shirt (and Alex had overreacted, of course he had, and Laurens must have noticed, how could he have not), then he went and had a mini meltdown over something as trivial as an ER visit. If they just never, ever, ever talk about it, maybe Laurens will forget about Alex’s near panic attack.
Alex’s attention is drawn back to the movie when the screen suddenly brightens and the music switches over to a cheerful song in some language he’s not familiar with.
“What? What happened to all the…the sci-fi shit, and the alien?”
“They’re in Hawaii,” Laurens says patiently.
“Because that’s where the alien landed.”
“When the hell did that happen? Who’s this kid?”
“Please just watch the movie.”
After that Alex does a slightly better job paying attention, though he still has to nudge Laurens from time to time and whisper a comment or question.
“We’re the only people here, Alex, you don’t have to whisper.”
“Lilo’s mom’s pretty hot, though.”
“That’s her sister.”
It’s not until the social worker shows up that Alex starts to grow uncomfortable. What the hell kind of animated children’s movie has a social worker? The alien and the little girl finally meet, but Alex barely notices, distracted by the weird custody subplot. When the older sister gets fired from her job as a waitress at a touristy restaurant, he doesn’t say anything, just tightens his grip on the beer bottle and sinks a little further into the couch. Laurens looks genuinely relaxed for the first time all day, and Alex really doesn’t want to put an end to that—but by the time the sisters start fighting again and bring up their hokey family motto thing, he’s had enough.
He fakes a yawn and reaches for the remote. “I think beer and low light was a bad idea, I’m starting to fall asleep.”
“Really?” Laurens sits straight up and switches the lights back on. “I mean, yeah, let’s pause it.”
He looks disappointed. Fuck.
“I like the movie, I just don’t want to miss any of it.”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Seriously. Let’s finish it another time.” Alex throws the comforter aside and stretches. “You haven’t eaten yet, right? Let’s order some pizza.”
Laurens perks up a little at the mention of food. “Yeah, definitely. Definitely.”
“I mean, if I haven’t worn out my welcome yet,” Alex adds with a shrug.
“Dude, if you weren’t here I’d just be staring at a wall.”
“Contemplating your next attack?”
“What?” Laurens pauses, then rolls his eyes. “Oh, hilarious.”
• Why is Herc “Alcides” in Hamilton’s contacts? Because Hamilton is an insufferable nerd who took literally one classics course in college and pretends he knows what he’s talking about.
• Hamilton is wrong about Amadeus, okay? I love that movie, it’s wonderful, but it’s not ideal when you’re already feeling lousy. At best, every movie Hamilton suggests is “difficult.” Dead Man and The Master are practically nightmarish.
• If you know Hamilton’s historical background, one detail that’s been changed for the modern AU, and which you might want to keep in mind for this chapter, is that his mother (Raquel) worked at resorts on Nevis and St. Croix.
Chapter 8: The Intern
It's the second day at the office, and it's time Laurens met everyone's favorite intern: Aaron Burr.
As usual, thanks so much for the lovely comments! They're a wonderful boost when I'm bogged down with work. So sorry for the delay! Again, chapters will be coming slower now that I'm back at school (I actually have a senior thesis I'm supposed to be working on...), but I'll try to keep them coming.
No content warnings necessary for this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What happened to your hand?” Washington asks.
John shifts his weight from one foot to the other. He thought he’d done a fairly good job keeping the cast out of sight by draping his jacket over it, but apparently Washington has some sort of sixth sense. He hadn’t even bothered to look up from his paperwork.
“Oh, yeah. I, uh…well, I was carrying my bike up to my apartment on Saturday, and a neighbor pushed past me, bowled me over.”
Washington sets his pen down and looks up at John. “How awful.”
“Well, it was an accident. You know, she apologized, helped me up and all that. But, uh, I fell down the stairs, the handlebars slammed into my wrist…it was a bit of a mess.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Washington says, and though his voice remains measured and almost monotone, he somehow sounds sincere. “We’ll have to find some alternative work for you until you’re able to type again. Has Hamilton shown you around the office yet?”
“He was just about to.”
“Unfortunately, we’ll have to put your orientation off until the end of the week,” Washington says, and turns back to the paperwork. “We have a new hire coming in on Friday, so we’re saving it until then. Any questions you have in the meantime, you can address to Hamilton.”
“Yes, sir, I will. Thank you.”
Washington nods, his brow creased in response to whatever it is he’s reading. “Don’t strain yourself, Laurens.”
Washington flips through a folder and jots something down, and it takes John a moment to realize he’s been dismissed. He backs out of the room awkwardly and fumbles for the door handle, his fingers groping at air once or twice before connecting. Either Washington is uncommonly engrossed in his paperwork, or he’s generous enough to ignore John’s clumsy retreat. John tries not to think about it and crosses over to Alex’s desk, which is piled high with folders, packets of paper, and oddly enough, a few dozen crude children’s drawings of what may or may not be Alex.
“You do those yourself?”
“What?” Alex’s head shoots up from behind the computer he’d been typing at. To John’s mild surprise, he’s wearing a pair of battered, offensively ugly green glasses— they make his dark eyes look even larger than they already are. “Oh, Laurens. How was the meeting?”
“Wasn’t much of a meeting, exactly.” John takes one of the drawings—crayon on construction paper—and holds it up to compare against the real thing. “I gotta say, they really captured your essence.”
Alex quickly opens a desk drawer and slips the rest of the drawings into it. “I gave a talk at an elementary school a few weeks ago, told them what Nycra was about. God knows why, the kids were bored shitless.” He snatches the last drawing from John and stuffs it unceremoniously into the drawer. “Their teacher told them to write an essay about it and draw a picture.”
“Where are the essays?”
“Pinned to their parents’ fridges, I guess,” he says with a shrug. “But apparently the kids desperately needed me to know how big they think my nose is, so. Twenty-nine insulting images, courtesy of P.S. 321.”
“Yeah, fuck those ten-year-olds, right? The nerve.”
Alex waves that aside and straightens the teetering stack of files in the outbox; John notes that the inbox is practically empty. “Washington told me to show you around. You ready?”
“Should I put my stuff away first?”
“Oh, yeah, for sure.” Alex springs up and practically jogs past John, turning sharply onto the next row of cubicles. “The desk you’re at shares my cubicle wall, so if you don’t already know Morse code, you should start studying it.”
John dumps his coat and bag by the desk and peers over the taupe partition. Unlike his rat’s nest of a bedroom, Alex’s desk is neatly organized: the stacks of paper John had noticed before are all carefully labeled and aligned with one another, pens and highlighters are stashed in their cup, and the only thing hanging on the wall is a practical looking calendar, each square filled in with Alex’s cramped handwriting. No knickknacks, no photos. It’s maybe a bit lonely, but John isn’t one to judge, given the current state of his apartment.
“Anyone else work in this row?” John asks.
“Not normally. We’re a little understaffed right now, but I think that new guy is gonna be at the desk next to yours.”
“Right, the new guy. Washington mentioned that, you know anything about him?”
Alex snorts. “I know he’s French, he’s twenty-one, and he’s working part-time. I think I can extrapolate from that.”
“You’re only twenty-two,” John points out. “And what, you think he’s going to be a bad employee cause he’s French?”
“I didn’t say ‘bad employee,’ okay? I just…heavily implied it.”
“I can’t believe you have a thing against French people—you sound like my uncle when he gets drunk at Christmas,” John says with a smile.
“Mais non! I studied their stupid language for three years, didn’t I?” Alex leads John out of the cubicle row and down the hall. “How could I have a thing against them?”
“I dunno, but you've got one. By the way,” John adds teasingly, “I like the glasses.”
“What?” Alex stops dead in his tracks and pats at his face. He snatches the glasses off and stares down at them accusingly. “Damn, no wonder everything looked so blurry.”
“You didn’t notice?”
“I was very busy explaining my position on French people, Laurens, excuse me if I wasn’t paying attention to how fuzzy the world had gotten,” Alex says, feigning outrage. He hangs the glasses off of his collar and motions for them to keep walking. “They’re just for reading. Cause I’m an old man.”
Alex flashes a small, almost juvenile smile. “I know, right? Aren’t they hideous? You know what, I’m kinda glad I’ve got them on me, it’s gonna make Burr so mad.”
“You wanted ugly glasses? I mean, not to say they’re ugly, I’m just—”
“Nah, nah, it’s cool,” he says. “I got ‘em cheap from a Duane Reade a few years ago when my last pair broke, but they’re great for pissing people off. Everyone’s always begging me to get something more professional, make myself more presentable, but technically they adhere to the dress code. The old white guys here think they’re just a big ‘fuck you’ accessory.”
“Which they are.”
“Which they are,” Alex nods.
They reach an open sort of library space, where a handful of employees page through legal texts and type notes one handed. Morning light streams through the wide windows, clean and fluid; it illuminates the dust on every laptop screen and casts long, rangy shadows across the grey carpet. John takes a second to admire the surprising beauty of the scene, incongruous with the somewhat drab office. A moment later, one of the employees grumbles something about the glare and goes to lower the shades.
Alex is oddly eager to lead John in, his face lit up like he can’t imagine anything more exciting than an office library.
“So, this is the library,” he says, somewhat unnecessarily. “You’ll be in here a lot, you pretty much only need to know this, the bathroom, your desk, and Washington’s office.” He seems to be walking towards a very particular occupied desk, and as he does so he puts the reading glasses back on.
“Tour complete, duty fulfilled, achievement unlocked.” At this point Alex has blatantly positioned himself directly behind the man at the desk, who doesn’t seem to have noticed them.
“That’s it?” John asks skeptically. “That’s the tour?”
“Yes, that’s the tour, and now that that’s done, I’ve gotta introduce you to my favorite person on Earth.” Alex makes a so-so gesture and scrunches his face up. “Well, I dunno if you can class an intern as a person, per se, but…”
Finally, the man—young, no older than John, but dressed in a perfectly pressed grey suit and a thin purple tie—leans back from his desk and shoots a dry look at Alex. “Intern jokes again, Alexander? I thought you’d exhausted those.”
Alex grins and jumps over to the man, pulling him up by the elbow. “Burr, I’d like you to meet John Laurens, our latest and greatest acquisition. Laurens, this is Nycra’s most irritable intern, Mr. Aaron Burr. Fair warning, he doesn’t like it when you rhyme his name.”
“Why would I—?”
“Shake hands, you two!” Alex practically pulls Burr’s right arm forward, then stops and slaps it back down when he remembers John’s cast. “Left hand, left hand.”
Burr rolls his eyes and shakes John’s left hand, only a little awkwardly. “Good to meet you, John. I hope Alexander hasn’t told you too much about me.”
“Small mercies,” he says to Alex, who shrugs back.
“You’re an undergrad?” John asks.
“Law student, actually, over at Columbia.”
“My alma mater,” Alex interjects. “Though Burr missed out on the undergrad experience. Where were you again?”
“Princeton,” Burr says with a cordial smile, though John can see a flicker of irritation in the edges of it.
“Right, right, Princeton for undergrad, Columbia for law. We’re so proud of him.”
“We’re the same age, Alexander,” Burr points out. He seems to be doing that thing John’s read about, that thing where you repeat someone’s name a lot so they’ll like you more. Weirdly enough, it seems to be working on Alex, who beams a little more every time Burr says his name.
“Laurens and I were just gonna get coffee, you should come along.”
“We were?” John checks the time on his phone—it’s only 9:30. “Shouldn’t I do some more work before we take a break?”
“You don’t really have any work, I did everything urgent last night. It’s all just file sorting today. C’mon, let’s get coffee. I already texted Peg to let her know we’re coming over.”
“What does texting Peggy in advance actually accomplish?” Burr asks. He’s already putting his coat on, which surprises John a little. He doesn’t seem like the slacker type.
“She chases finance bros away so we can get a table.” Alex snaps his fingers abruptly. “Shit, we gotta go get Laurens’s jacket. No, wait, you two stay here and interact, I'mma go get it.”
He’s off in a flash, and John is left standing with Aaron Burr, suddenly conscious of the irritated looks they’d been garnering from the other employees in the library. Burr seems to have noticed too, and takes them into the hallway by the elevator bank.
“Are you full-time?” he asks John as he puts a tweed scarf on.
“Nah, part-time for now.” John checks to make sure Alex is out of sight before asking, “So you and Alex are friends?”
Burr smiles, and it’s a little cynical, a little bitter, but still somehow more genuine than what he’d offered before. “Sure, we’re friends. Though to be honest, I don’t know him that well.”
“You’re both new to Nycra, right?”
“Yeah.” Burr looks over John’s shoulder in the direction Alex had gone, and pauses before adding, “I don’t think he had many friends before he came here.”
The way Burr says it is so matter-of-fact, so calm and disinterested, like he expects John to simply nod and note it as an interesting bit of trivia. Instead, John bristles and folds his arms defensively.
“That doesn’t seem likely,” he says, keeping his tone even.
Burr raises his eyebrows. “Oh?”
“I mean, I’ve never met anyone as friendly as Alex. He’s…” don’t say charming don’t say charming don’t say charming, “charismatic.”
“You’re probably right,” Burr says in a voice that screams the exact opposite.
“And if he was in the city for college, it doesn’t seem likely that he’d…I mean, like I said, it doesn’t seem likely,” John finishes lamely, and shrugs. “Anyway.”
When Alex comes back with the jacket, he looks slightly dismayed to find John and Burr haven’t become best friends in his absence. John can’t help but find his crestfallen expression a little endearing. “Washington’s going to be tied up in meetings until after lunch, so we’re good to go.”
Burr punches the button for the elevator. “Excellent. Just one thing, Alex.”
“What is it, Burr?” Alex responds politely, struggling to keep a smile in check.
“Could you…please take those glasses off?”
Footnotes! Not many today.
• Hamilton wears reading glasses in his twenties! That’s musical canon! So I’ve included them here. Ham is typically very careful about his appearance, but it seemed only fair to let him have a bit of fun and piss some people off.
• Hamilton’s mother isn’t a French Huguenot in the AU, but I wanted him to be able to speak French, so the canon here is that he studied it in college.
• “Let’s get coffee,” just means “let’s go to a coffee shop,” because in case you’ve forgotten, Ham does not drink coffee.
"Peggy confides in me..."
An unearned coffee break goes south quickly.
It's spring break, which means it's update time! We might not get another one until my thesis is done, so....May? April at the earliest. I'm sorry. Again, your comments keep me going, thanks so much.
There is a general warning for this chapter: it contains discussion of trans identity and a confrontational scene with a transphobic/transmisogynistic and racist individual. I include this as both a trigger warning and as a disclaimer, because I wanna make it clear that this chapter is in no way a guide on how to be a good ally to your trans friends. None of the characters here have communicated with one another on what they're comfortable with. Basically, I'm aiming for unfortunately realistic, not didactic.
This chapter was beta'd by the wonderful ackamarckuss, who's over at ackamarackuss.tumblr.com.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alex is uniquely fast. It’s a very specific talent, because it’s not like John’s ever seen him run anywhere. He just seems to…appear…on the other side of a room, like a cat. He enters Peggy’s coffee shop this way, pushing the door open and bouncing across to the counter in an instant. By the time John and Burr have caught up, he’s already halfway through a conversation with Peggy.
“—so now Laurens is on the other side of my cubicle.”
“Well, no one’s ever stopped you from getting what you want,” Peggy says with a smile. She looks peppier than she had last week, and she’s opted for a short-sleeved shirt that exposes her impressive collection of tattoos.
“Sure they have,” Alex says.
“Oh! Speaking of which…” Peggy rummages under the counter for a moment, and emerges with a large plastic pump bottle. “Peppermint in September.”
Alex gasps dramatically and grabs at the bottle. “Holy shit, you didn’t!”
“I did.” She seems to notice John and Burr for the first time. “Oh, hey you two. If you’re gonna get your drinks to stay, you should grab a table. The brokers usually come in around now.”
“What are you guys having?” Alex asks.
Burr’s already found a table by the window, but he calls out, “just coffee, Pegs,” before ducking his head to browse his phone.
“And a latte for Laurens?” Peggy asks. John’s a little surprised she remembers his drink order.
“Yeah, that’s—” John starts to say, but stops when Alex snaps his fingers like he’s been struck by a truly astounding idea. “What?”
“You should try it with maple, man! We’ve got maple syrup, right, Peg?”
“I’ve got maple syrup, if that’s what you meant to say,” she responds tartly, throwing a tattered dishcloth over her shoulder and turning back to the espresso machine.
“Sure, maple’s good,” John concedes.
“It’s 75 cents extra.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m covering you guys today,” Alex interrupts, flipping the café’s iPad around and tapping in their order. “Hey, Peggy, there’s no button here for hot chocolate.”
“What? Oh my God, Ham, no!” She stomps back over to the counter and spins the iPad away from him. “You are so fucking weird, go sit down.”
“But I still need to pay—”
Alex sits down at the table as heavily as possible and crosses his arms, intermittently shooting sullen looks at Peggy, who does a remarkable job ignoring him. When John joins them, Burr finally puts the phone away.
“So, John,” he says, “where’d you do undergrad?”
“Oxford.” He still feels a little weird saying it.
“Um, people say that, but it’s really not. I mean, I had a lot of help getting there.”
“Suit yourself.” Burr stands up and walks over to the counter for his coffee.
John glances over at Alex, who’s watching their co-worker with an exasperated half-smile. Burr stops to lean over and talk to Peggy, their voices muffled by the sharp hiss of the milk steamer.
“He seems…professional,” John says.
“Yeah, he’s a total straight-laced asshole, it’s really grating,” Alex says nonchalantly. “But I’m grating in my own special way, in case you hadn’t noticed, so we’ve got a bit of an arrangement.”
“I call it ‘friendship,’ he calls it an arrangement, I say tomato, he says ‘please stop coming over to my desk, Alex, I’m trying to work.’”
The two take a moment to watch the interaction at the counter—there’s definitely a degree of flirtation on Burr’s part, but Peggy seems to be putting her back to him as often as possible.
“He tries this every time we come here,” Alex sighs, “and he never changes his technique.”
“What’s his technique?”
“Oh, you know, aggressively correct grammar and very thinly veiled sexual innuendo. It’s never going to work on Peggy, she’s too shy.” As an afterthought, he adds, “and too gay.”
“She doesn’t seem shy to me.”
“She claims that my obnoxiousness emboldens her.”
John picks at a bit of padding poking out from under the cast. “Okay, I have a question, but I don’t know if it’s…uh, kosher.”
Alex turns to give him his full attention and wow, his eyes are really, really dark, and really, really large. John hesitates, because there’s a small part of him that knows Alex can and will judge him for the way he asks the question. He checks over his shoulder to make sure Burr and Peggy are still locked in conversation.
“Is Peggy…um, I mean, is she…she’s trans, right?”
“You should talk to her about that,” Alex says mildly.
John is taken slightly aback. “She wouldn’t mind?”
“I really don’t know, but you definitely shouldn’t be asking me.”
“Shit, I’m sorry.”
“For what?” Alex smiles. “Look, you guys aren’t actually friends yet, though it’d be awesome if you were. So it doesn’t matter, does it?”
John feels his face go red, and nods mechanically. It’s weird, how quickly Alex transitions from totally wired and overenthusiastic to calm and reserved. It’s like watching a little kid morph into a responsible adult in under five seconds.
“John, your latte,” Burr says, holding out the mug as he walks over, his own coffee in the other hand.
“You abandoned my poor hot chocolate, Burr?” Alex pouts.
“It’s on the counter, man, I’ve only got two hands.”
Alex manages an extraordinary amount of grumbling as he marches to the counter, exchanges a few words with Peggy, and storms back to the table.
“What the hell?” he hisses at Burr, setting his mug down a bit too forcefully.
Burr rolls his eyes and takes a sip of coffee. “Don’t be dramatic.”
“Didn’t I say I was covering you guys?”
“You can pay next time.”
Alex glares at Burr a moment longer, then picks up his drink and tries his best to get past the whipped cream while maintaining his irritated expression. It doesn’t work very well. At this point John has narrowed down Alex’s moods to three categories: hyperactive child, levelheaded adult, and petulant teenager.
“So…how do you like Nycra?” John tries.
“Are you asking Burr, or me?”
“Um. Either. Both.”
Burr shrugs. “It’s decent. The cases can be pretty interesting, though neither of us have been put directly on any of them.”
“We look over the amicus briefs and criticize them in our downtime.”
“Sounds like a blast,” John says.
“And Alex is usually in trouble with someone or other, which is probably why Washington’s always trying to chain him to his desk.”
“That’s not true,” Alex insists. “There’s just a lot of PA shit that needs to get done.”
“Really? You’re in trouble right now.”
“What?” He furrows his brow. “No, I’m not.”
“Dude, you pissed off Thomas Conway last week, how could you forget that?”
Alex looks genuinely confused. “Conway’s mad at me?”
Burr takes another long sip of his coffee and says nothing.
“But the cases, they’re more than just interesting, right?” John says. “I mean, the NYCRA is New York’s most prominent civil rights proponent, the cases you guys…I mean, the cases we get, they change lives.”
Burr and Alex exchange a look.
“Sure,” Alex says, and leaves it at that.
“I wouldn’t work for just anyone,” Burr explains, “I mean, doing right in the world is important, but I won’t lie and say interning at Nycra isn’t good for my career.”
“What Burr means to say, I think,” Alex interjects, “is that we care about civil rights. And we care about our résumés.”
John stares at them both. “You’re joking.”
“You can care about both, Laurens. Nothing wrong with that,” Alex says.
“Um, I can think of a few things—” John starts, but the buzz of his cellphone cuts him off. He glances down at it. Marta. Shit. He sends it to voicemail with a twinge of guilt, and fires off a quick ‘at work, call you back later!!’ text. “Sorry, where was I?”
“You know, I actually don’t want to talk about work right now,” Burr says.
“Yeah, let’s talk about something that isn’t super stressful and depressing,” Alex agrees.
“Shouldn’t we get back to the office?” John asks.
“Peggy!” Alex calls over to the put-upon barista. “Take a break, come tell us the latest gossip from the Upper East Side.”
“I’m working, Ham. It’s what normal adults do at 10 AM on a Monday.”
“C’mon, please? Laurens just wants to talk about work and Burr and I don’t have anything to say to each other when there aren’t any finance bros around for us to make fun of and I really want to talk about—” The rest of what Alex says is drowned out as Peggy starts to bang the metal milk pitcher against the counter, maintaining eye contact all the while.
“Hilarious,” Alex shouts.
“Hairy ass?” Peggy calls back.
The sound of the bell over the door prompts Peggy to put the pitcher down, and John glimpses Burr elbow Alex under the table.
“Check it. The first broker of the day,” Burr whispers, and a slow smile creeps across Alex’s face.
The man in question can’t be much older than any of them, mid-twenties at the most, and he’s got the sort of generically handsome face that’s so bland, it threatens to tip into unattractive.
“His suit’s well-tailored, that’s a plus.” Alex leans over to John. “When a young WASP graduates college with an econ degree, his family presents him with his first suit to replace his blazer and khakis. It’s a right of passage.”
The broker saunters up to the counter and taps out a beat. His voice is slightly too loud, and easily carries over to their table. “My friend said they had beautiful baristas here, but I didn’t believe him. Guess I should’ve stopped in earlier.”
“Oh shit, he’s flirting with her,” Alex giggles.
“Badly,” Burr adds.
“You’re one to talk!”
Burr elbows him again, a little harder, and all three stop to listen in some more. If the man were to turn around at that moment he might’ve been slightly taken aback to see three guys staring silently at him, but he’s clearly putting all of his effort into charming Peggy.
“That’s sweet,” she says without a smile. “What would you like?”
The man leans on the counter and peers at her. “I’ll have a double espresso.”
“That’ll be 2.74.”
He wags a finger at Peggy slowly, like he’s trying to place her. “You know, you pass really well.”
John freezes in his seat, and feels Alex tense beside him. When he glances over, he sees that Burr has a loose grip on Alex’s shoulder. Peggy takes the man’s credit card and says nothing, her eyes trained on the iPad in front of her.
“I’ve got an eye for this sort of thing, but I couldn’t tell until you spoke.”
“I need you to sign this for me,” she says stiffly.
“I’m gonna shut that pendejo up,” Alex mutters, and Burr’s grip on his shoulder tightens.
“He’ll get his coffee and go, let Peggy do her job.”
“Are you kidding?” Alex says, his voice rising enough that it catches Peggy’s attention. John watches as she shakes her head a fraction of an inch, but he doubts Alex notices, focused as he is on Burr and the man at the counter.
“It’s your voice, man, it’s just a little too deep,” the broker continues. There’s a small, derisive smile on his face, warping everything he says into an open taunt. “You can probably get it right with practice.”
Peggy turns away from him sharply and starts to work on the espresso. The man opens his mouth to say something else, but Alex is already halfway across the room.
“Hey! Hey! You, guy, asshole at the counter,” he shouts, not even attempting to keep his voice down. There are only two or three other customers around, but they’ve all turned their full attention to Alex, Peggy, and the broker. “You trying to start shit?”
Burr has his head buried in his hands, but when John tries to stand up to join Alex, he mutters “don’t” from between his fingers.
“This isn’t any of your business, hombre, go back to your friends,” the man scoffs.
“You know what?” Alex gets about two inches from the guy’s face, his neck craned slightly to meet his eyes. “Right now you’re talking to one of my friends, so it is my business, and I’m gonna have to ask you to leave.”
“You’re asking me to leave? So this is your coffee shop?”
“You are really dense, my friend,” Alex laughs coldly, “if you think you’re still welcome here.”
“I paid for an espresso, I’m going to wait until I get it.” The man turns to Peggy. “Well?”
Peggy’s hand trembles slightly, whether with nerves or with anger John can’t tell, as she hands the espresso over. Alex watches the interaction with a curl in his lip, and the second it ends he inserts himself between Peggy and the broker, his arms crossed defensively. The man leaves without another word, shooting one last sneer back at Alex and Peggy as he slams the door behind him. Immediately, the other customers return to their phones and coffee. Alex sags slightly against the counter, but straightens up again when he catches sight of Peggy, her face red and her eyes shining.
“I’m so sorry about that guy, Pegs,” he says quietly.
“I can’t believe you did that,” she says flatly, tripping a little on the words as she struggles to keep from crying.
Alex cocks his head in confusion. “Course I did, I’m not just gonna let some guy—”
“Are you serious, Alex?” she hisses, wiping furiously at her eyes. “I’m not thanking you, I didn’t ask you to do that!”
Hearing that, Burr taps John on the back and stands up to go. John hesitates, but grabs his jacket when he hears the argument begin to unfold.
“You really think I’m gonna stand by when I hear someone pulling that kind of shit? With you? Jesus, Peggy, you’re my friend!” Alex says.
“You have no idea, you have no idea what I go through every day!” she says, jumping from a shout to a whisper as she glances around the shop. “You think I don’t know it’s fucked up? Of course I do. But that guy, he’s someone from a firm, he’s probably at Goldman fucking Sachs, you think his friends don’t get their coffee here?”
“…I’m sorry, I didn’t think—”
“I can’t talk about this here, just…let’s just go to the storeroom.”
John pauses at the door, but Burr ushers him along, and the two emerge onto the street in silence. It’s colder now than it was when they’d arrived, the sun behind the clouds. John is struck by a sudden and inexplicable urge to curl up in bed and stare at the wall. A young woman in stilettos trips over the curb and keeps walking.
“Let’s go,” Burr says quietly.
• Hamilton's character in this chapter is mainly based off of a couple fun historical personality traits: his devotion to his friends, his weakness for "damsels in distress," and his obsession with honor. The first two things don't show up as much in the musical, so I thought I'd make a note of it here.
• Burr is referring to Thomas Conway here, of the infamous Conway Cabal.
• @baristas banging the metal pitchers against the counter: I'd rather have subpar milk texture and silence.
I guess I'm leaving you guys on a low point. I'm sorry! I'll try and get to romantic shit ASAP, plus Lafayette and the other Schuyler sisters.
Alex and John wrap up their first official day of work together. John gets embroiled in more family drama.
I know it's been a while, and I'm so sorry. I wasn't updating for a few reasons. I had a senior thesis to complete, then finals, then college graduation. Now I'm done with school, and unemployed! Which means I don't have any more excuses. This chapter isn't quite 2k, meaning it's on the shorter side, and it ends on another downer, but I promise things are gonna get happier again. Then sad, then happy, etc. And I promise that I'll be updating again soon.
Warnings for family conflict and mentions of emotional abuse.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They never actually bring up the coffee shop fight. Fifteen minutes after John and Burr get back to the office, Alex slips back into his cubicle without any of his usual chatter, and immediately sets to work. John’s more than used to glossing over uncomfortable subjects, and opts to leave well enough alone. It’s not really his business, anyway.
While they were out, someone had stopped by his desk and left three Bankers Boxes filled with ancient looking folders, along with a pink Post-It note that just said “to sort.” John isn’t about to ask Washington for more details, partly because he’s terrified of the guy and partly because that would mean admitting he hadn’t been at his desk. He’s reluctant to bother Alex, but the alternative would be to fuck up his first official assignment, and that’s definitely worse. After a moment of hesitation he taps on the cubicle wall—Alex’s head pops up almost immediately.
“Hey…I’m not entirely sure what your guys’ filing system is, or…” he trails off helplessly.
“It’s just chronological.” Alex gestures at the boxes. “That’s a pretty cushy gig you’ve got there.”
“Yeah, well, those who can’t type,” John says, raising his cast.
“Sort files. Yup. Don’t worry, we’ll move you onto the big boy stuff soon enough.”
John chuckles and opens his mouth to respond, but Alex holds up a finger to interrupt him, his eyes focused on something over John’s shoulder.
“What is it?” John says, and turns around without thinking.
Washington is staring at both of them from the end of the hallway, his expression unreadable. After a moment, he walks away again without a word.
“I thought he was in his office,” John whispers.
“Rarely is. Fuck.”
“He’s not mad at us, right? I mean, why should he be?”
Alex shakes his head. “Who the fuck knows. I can’t stand it, seriously, it’s like working with a grizzly bear. ”
“I mean, if it’s that bad why don’t you just quit?” John asks, unable to completely hide the surprise in his voice. Could it be that bad at NYCRA? It doesn’t seem likely.
There’s an uncomfortable pause as Alex looks John dead in the eye with a vaguely frustrated twist in his brow, then he sits down at his desk with a very final sort of thud.
“Let’s get back to work before he makes another round and decides to chew us out for real,” he says, a little stiffly.
The rest of the day passes in almost total silence, except for the occasional string of muttering from Alex’s side of the cubicle wall. John’s work is tedious, but somewhat calming in its repetitive thoughtlessness, and when he gets back from a lonely lunch in the breakroom (apparently Alex doesn’t eat lunch) there are two more Bankers Boxes by his desk. He finishes sorting the last of the folders with fifteen minutes to spare in the work day and finally manages to shoot a few texts to Marta—“I’m still at the office but I’ll try to call you when I get off the subway.” Hopefully that would tide her over. When 6 PM rolls around, he grabs the messenger bag he hadn’t actually needed and walks over to Alex’s side.
Alex has the horrible green glasses on again. The magnification combined with the color of the frames makes the red in his eyes stand out. He takes the glasses off, rubs the bridge of his nose forcefully, and looks over the teetering stack of papers in his outbox with a disappointed kind of frown.
After a moment, Alex nods very slowly. “I guess…”
Before he can change his mind, John pulls Alex up by the elbow and grabs his jacket off the back of the chair.
“Stop looking at your work like it’s gonna miss you while you’re gone, dude,” he mutters.
Alex laughs weakly and the two of them make their way out of the office in silence. In the elevator down, Alex slumps against the wall and sticks his hands in his pockets, and John takes the opportunity to look him over. He seems to be fine, just wiped out by an uninterrupted marathon of work. Probably compensating for the lost time at the café, John thinks. It sucks that on John’s first official day, Alex was swamped with an unusual amount of work. Still, when they step out into the crisp air Alex perks up a little, and by the time they get to the subway he’s talking animatedly about the extremely boring amicus he’d been going over for Washington.
“And then there’re about fifty pages of statistics on voter suppression in rural communities, but I skipped over most of that,” he says, a little guiltily.
“That’s it, I’m telling Washington,” John says as he swipes his MetroCard.
“Okay, you joke, but for real? His last assistant got fired for basically the same thing.”
“You’re gonna have to elaborate, because I seriously doubt—oh, shit, hang on!” He cuts himself off when he sees that the R train is already at the platform, and takes the stairs two at a time, practically jumping into the subway. He presses his hand against the door to stop it from closing, because he’s definitely seen people do that in movies, and Alex is moving so slowly. Finally, Alex joins him on the train and John takes his hand away from the door. To his utter embarrassment the door doesn’t close, but stands open for another thirty seconds.
“Holy shit,” Alex says with his eyebrows raised. “I have never seen a man literally leap into a subway.”
“Shut up,” John mutters, though he can’t fully suppress a sheepish smile.
Alex grins and takes the one available seat, so John has to cling to the overhead handrail and hang over him. “You looked like an action hero when they’re trying to make it under one of those automatic doors, you know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I get it.”
“Indiana Jones and the Subway of Doom.”
“We might’ve missed it.”
“Laurens, protip, it’s okay if you miss your subway when you’ve got nowhere to be,” Alex says patronizingly. “Like, if the cost is your dignity…”
“Okay, so what happened to Washington’s last assistant?” John says quickly, before Alex can pick up steam.
“Right, her. She stopped showing up to work one day.”
John stares at him.
“So they fired her.”
“How the fuck is that the same as what you did?!” John cries.
“What did I do again?”
“You skimmed the data in an amicus brief, you fuckhead.”
Alex grins again. “Are we at fuckhead level friendship already?”
“I’m gonna switch cars, I swear to God.”
They pass the rest of the ride in easy conversation, largely because Alex does most of the talking—by the time they reach John’s stop, he’s fully up to date on all the petty office drama, though mysteriously and rather unbelievably, none of it seems to involve Alex himself.
“You probably won’t see me on the train tomorrow morning,” Alex calls as John gets off, “I’m gonna head in early.”
“At the office, then.”
Alex gives an exaggerated A-OK sign, and turns in his seat to flash it at John through the window as the train pulls away. The sight makes John smile widely, though he can’t say exactly why. Probably because it reminds him of being back in seventh grade, pulling faces at his friends from the school bus. He makes his way out of the station; the second his phone makes contact with its network it lets loose a series of irritated bings as belated texts come streaming in. Of course they’re from Marta, impatient as always.
how long is your subway ride
well fuck you very much i guess
come on it’s half an hour after 6, nyc can’t be that big
And three missed calls. Damn, she must be incredibly bored. Their high school needed to start assigning more homework.
The first thing John says after she picks up the phone (she lets it ring three times, a new record) is, “it is that big, actually.”
“You’re the worst texter to ever text. You make me double text. I don’t double text,” she responds immediately. Fortunately, she sounds more agitated than sullen. John can’t deal with Sullen Marta.
“Well, that’s a lie.” He walks absently along one of the empty residential streets and hopes that he’s remembering his own address correctly.
“You didn’t pick up this morning.”
“I was at work, remember? I started that new job today.” He pauses, then adds, “And can you really blame me if I screen your calls? The fuck happened, Marta?”
The line goes briefly silent, and when Marta speaks again it’s with a note of shame. “He asked me for my phone. I wasn’t…I had to give it to him.”
“Oh yeah, you had to,” John scoffs. “Whatever.”
He sounds petulant, he knows it, but it’s just too difficult maintaining maturity while talking to a sibling. He might as well be twelve years old again.
“Like you don’t do everything he says,” Marta spits back.
“We gonna fight every time we talk on the phone?”
“Not if you call when you say you will.”
John puts the phone down for a second, takes a deep breath, and brings it back up to his ear. “Did you know Dad already bought me a ticket back to Charleston for Christmas?” It’s not a rhetorical question. If Marta knew, and she didn’t say anything, John’s not sure what he’ll do.
“Wait, you’re gonna be here for Christmas?” Marta says, and the excitement in her voice is definitely not what John wanted to hear, though it does seem to confirm that she wasn’t in on the…scheme.
“But you just—”
“I said Dad bought me a ticket. Without asking me.”
“Well, that’s shitty,” Marta agrees.
“Shitty’s right,” John mutters.
“So you’re…not coming?”
John pretends not to hear the disappointment. “It’s doubtful.”
She inhales sharply. “Dad’s gonna be pissed.”
“Probably, though at least we can put that off for a few months.”
“He can find out I’m not coming when I, you know, don’t come.”
“Don’t say anything, it’s not your business,” John says urgently.
“I mean, he’s gonna ask what we talked about. He always knows when we’ve talked.” She sounds apologetic.
“Don’t say anything!” John hisses, pointing furiously at the empty air and wincing when he remembers his broken hand. “Ow, fuck.”
“Stub your toe?” Marta says with some satisfaction.
“Nah, it’s my hand,” he says before he can think to stop himself.
“Your—” She cuts herself off. “Oh, John. Your hand?”
“I said my…ham. Ham string.”
A long pause. “You broke your hand.”
“Don’t say that, don’t say ‘again,’ that makes it sound really…”
“Stupid?” Marta sighs so violently it blasts static into John’s ear. “You can’t keep doing this. Didn’t Dad get you a therapist in New York?”
“Jesus Christ, why do you know everything?”
“Maybe coming home wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”
“You’re my little sister, remember? You’re in fucking high school, stop acting like Dad!”
The pause this time is much longer, and much heavier.
“I guess we are gonna fight every time we talk,” Marta says, and hangs up.
• You know Bankers Boxes? They’re those filing boxes that everyone has in their offices. If someone in a movie gets fired, they usually carry all their crap out in a Bankers Box.
• Washington and Hamilton had a difficult professional relationship during the Revolutionary War. Really difficult.
• Oh, poor, naïve John. He thinks this was an unusually busy day for Alex.
• An amicus brief is a type of amicus curiae, which means “friend of the court.” Basically, it’s information freely offered up by groups/individuals outside of the two competing parties in a court case. In a Supreme Court case on gun rights, for example, you might get an amicus brief in favor of gun restrictions from social scientists explaining the exact statistics of gun violence in a city.
• There isn’t anything particularly embarrassing about rushing for a subway. Don’t listen to Alex, he’s just obsessed with his image.
• Historical John Laurens was actually pretty shitty at writing letters back to people, or at least back to Alexander Hamilton. In the AU, he’s just bad at texting/calling people back.
Finally, the Gay Trio is united! Laurens and Hamilton meet America's favorite fighting Frenchman.
This chapter is hopefully the last one set in the office for a while. I'm sick of writing about hallways and cubicles. I'm sorry for the wait, yet again. I wish I could keep a more consistent schedule with these chapters.
Thanks for all your kind comments! No content warnings necessary for this chapter, I don't think.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You heading out?” John asks on Thursday, his messenger bag already on his shoulder. He knows the answer already—it’s the same answer Alex has given every day that week.
“Nah, not yet,” Alex mutters without looking up, and John could’ve mouthed the words along with him if he wanted to be a dick about it.
“Staying late again?” John says instead.
“I gotta ask, am I supposed to be doing this too?”
Alex takes a second to shake his wrists out, then resumes typing.
“I’m starting to think I’m not pulling my weight.”
But what Alex is doing can’t possibly be the standard for NYCRA. If it were, they wouldn’t shut the lights off at 6:30. If it were, Alex wouldn’t be the last person to leave the office every evening, and the first person to arrive every morning.
“You’re good,” Alex confirms. “This is just…”
“A busy week?”
Alex snorts. “Sure.”
“You know I’m only in Brooklyn until Sunday. If you wanted to ride the train together, this might be your last chance.”
There’s a pained glint in Alex’s eyes when he looks up at John, but it probably has more to do with the glare of his computer screen than any regrets about their commutes not matching up. John wouldn’t flatter himself that much.
“Don’t worry about it,” John says hastily.
“Fuck, I mean…” He glances at the stacks of paper around him, and his shoulders slump slightly. “Uh. Rain check?”
“Yeah, let’s set a date to ride the subway together.” John laughs. “Seriously, don’t worry about it.”
“Hold up!” Alex brightens suddenly. “You’re moving out on Sunday? You booked movers and all that?”
“I rented a U-Haul.”
“A U-Haul? Who gave you that brilliant idea?”
“A lifetime of exposure to U-Haul ads, probably.”
“Okay, but how are you gonna move all your shit with a broken hand? How’re you gonna drive?” Alex sounds both concerned and oddly giddy.
“I’ve got one working hand. I’ll go slow.”
“I bet you will,” Alex says, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.
“Wha—” John groans. “C’mon, man.”
Alex snaps up a pen and points it at John. “Rain check set! I’m gonna help you move your shit on Sunday.”
He wants to reject the favor out of hand. It seems like Alex has done nothing but help John since they’ve met. Still, it’s hard to say no to the offer, especially when John had been looking for opportunities to hang out all week. At least now he knows that Alex genuinely wants to see him outside of work—he’d been pushing away the uncomfortable suspicion that he’d somehow failed the “Trial Friendship” period.
“That’s really not necessary,” John says anyway, because a lifetime of politely turning down favors has pretty much hardwired the words into his brain.
“Yeah, I’ll come over around noon, and we can go to a bar afterwards. We never did make it to one the first time.”
John’s about to tentatively accept when a middle-aged man pushes past him to drop a stack of papers on Alex’s desk. Alex rolls his chair away from John and sits up a little straighter.
“Where did you get these numbers, Hamilton?” the man asks stiffly.
Alex flips through the papers in lieu of making eye contact. “If this is the estimated annual case load I sent you two weeks ago, then the numbers are from our accounting department, Mr. Conway.”
He says it in the same flat, polite tone John’s heard him use with Washington, but buried deep within it is an unfamiliar edge of contempt, so subtle that John almost misses it entirely. Unfortunately, Conway apparently didn’t, because his own tone shifts from stiff to steely.
“I spoke to accounting, and they say you’ve inexplicably added three cases to my slate. I assume this was an error.”
“Yeah, there was an error.” Alex clicks his pen on the desk with thinly veiled agitation and speaks rapidly. “Accounting wasn’t aware of a recent donation—we’re slightly over budget, so I’ve increased the case load for a few of our top lawyers.”
Alex probably thought his sarcasm was the height of subtlety. Thankfully, Conway chooses to ignore the transparent jab.
“I’ll talk to Washington about this tomorrow,” Conway spits, and seems just about to leave when he spots John. “Oh, excuse me. You must be the new hire.”
“John Laurens,” John says and shakes Conway’s hand.
“The senator’s son,” the man smiles back, suddenly quite warm. “Thomas Conway.”
He gives John an approving once over (though he does crane his neck slightly to take in John’s ponytail), then walks away without another word. John doesn’t miss the poisonous glare that Alex shoots at Conway’s retreating back.
“Isn’t that the guy Burr said you’d pissed off?” John asks once they’re alone.
“Yeah, one of our lawyers.”
“I guess Burr was right, then.”
“What?” Alex slips the stack of paper into his wastepaper basket. “About what?”
“Uh, about Conway being pissed at you.”
He shrugs. “No, that’s just how he is.”
“Well,” Alex says with a thin smile, “that’s how he is with me.”
Everything goes right on Friday morning. John’s smoothie comes out how he likes it, the new album he torrented is better than he expected, and the subway is running on time. Plus he’s finally figured out how to get a button-down on over his cast without cutting the sleeve (it’s too late for a couple of the cheaper shirts he’d sacrificed earlier in the week).
Even the lobby of the building is nearly empty when he arrives, something John counts as a plus since the magazine people had been making him feel self-conscious. In fact, there’s only one person in the elevator bank when he arrives: a tall, handsome black man with a neatly trimmed beard and a ponytail to rival John’s. He bounces on the balls of his feet with the sort of eagerness John normally associates with kids on line for a rollercoaster, not grown men waiting for the elevator. There’s something slightly familiar about the man, though it’s probably just that he’s as expensively dressed as the rest of the magazine people—as John watches, he unloops his cashmere scarf and shrugs off a grey wool overcoat to reveal an impeccably tailored suit. The ensemble is close to perfect, marred only by a garish turquoise tie.
The man leans forward to punch the elevator button again (the same elevator John’s taking up, he now notices) and checks his watch. When he looks up, he spots John for the first time and gives a friendly nod. Well, fuck. He’s trying to socialize. John doesn’t consider himself a shy person, not at all, but he’s not the type to start a conversation with a stranger in an elevator. In fairness to himself, no one is. Except, apparently, the man he’s about to ride an elevator with.
“Good morning,” the man says pleasantly. He has an accent, though John can’t place it.
“Morning,” John mumbles, and the two of them step into the elevator.
John presses the button for the twenty-third floor and waits for the other man to select his floor. To his horror, the man just glances at the wall of buttons and nods approvingly. Then it all clicks into place with a resounding “fuck, fuck, fuck.” It’s the guy. Until that moment, John had forgotten about the other new hire. He wracks his brain for whatever information he’d gotten from Washington and Alex, but nothing much comes up. Something about Europe…France? Is he French? Yes? Yes. He’s French.
“You’re French,” John blurts out before he can stop himself.
The man turns to John, his eyebrows raised, and (to John’s enormous relief) grins broadly. “Mais oui.”
“Aw Christ, I’m sorry, I was just—”
“And you’re John Laurens,” the man interrupts before John can dig himself into a deeper hole. He pronounces ‘Laurens’ like a properly French word.
“Oh, so Mr. Washington told you about me.”
The elevator doors open and the man gives John a quizzical look before stepping out. “We were at Oxford together, yes?”
John stops dead in his tracks. “Y-yeah?” he says weakly.
The man throws his head back with a laugh and claps his hand to John’s shoulder. “Do not look so embarrassed, Laurens! We met once, maybe two times.”
And then suddenly John remembers. The memory is all fucked up, oversaturated and warped with alcohol, but there was that same oversized smile—he was clean-shaven then, but that’s no excuse. Hopefully alcohol was involved because they met at a party, and not because John was drunk in the common room. He still can’t think of the guy’s name.
“Right, right, you were…two years below me, right?” John doesn’t remember that tidbit from college, but he’s pretty sure Alex had said this guy was twenty-one.
“Yes. I am very good with faces, though, so you really should not be embarrassed. My name is Gilbert Lafayette,” he adds helpfully when John hesitates. “Though I would prefer if you call me by my surname.”
“Gilbert Lafayette!” a booming voice calls from the other end of the hallway. Washington is walking towards them, Alex just behind him and taking twice as many steps to keep up. It’s the first time John’s heard Washington say anything with that kind of enthusiasm.
“Mr. Washington!” Lafayette responds, and slips right past Washington’s outstretched hand to kiss the man on both cheeks.
“Well,” Washington stutters, and pulls back.
Well, Alex mouths at John. They both grin and wait for whatever the fallout of Lafayette’s faux pas will be.
It takes them a moment to realize that Lafayette and Washington are locked in conversation, already walking away from John and Alex.
“The fuck is this?” Alex whispers to John. “Who’s that guy?”
“Gilbert Lafayette,” John whispers back.
“Nah, I meant the guy next to him. Because that is not Washington.”
“Seems like the ‘grizzly bear’ found a cub,” John says flatly.
“Laurens!” Washington calls back over his shoulder. “You’re having your orientation with Gilbert, remember?”
“Ah, Gilbert,” Lafayette corrects, stressing the French pronunciation.
“It says ‘Gilbert’ in your record.”
“Yes, mais en français it is pronounced Jill-bare, comprenez-vous?”
Washington laughs and apologizes. Their voices fade away as they turn a corner, and John and Alex share an incredulous look.
“No, really, what the fuck was that?” Alex asks, and his shocked chuckle does a poor job disguising the acid in his voice.
“You know Washington better than I do, you tell me.”
“Apparently I don’t.” Alex nods towards the end of the hallway. “You gotta go do your orientation with fucking…Nostradamus.”
“Nostradamus?” John smiles.
“Nostradamus was French,” Alex says defensively.
“Nostradamus is the first famous French person you can think of?”
“The first famous French person I could think of was Pepé Le Pew, okay?” Alex says, waving his hands in the air. “But I have a little more class than that.”
• There’s no real reason to think Alex would make bad “that’s what she said” jokes, except that he’s an immature twenty-something guy who canonically flirts with every person on stage.
• Here I am picking on Thomas Conway again. To explain what they’re discussing in simple English: Hamilton was organizing financial information that let NYCRA know how many pro bono cases they could take on that year, and assigned an estimated number of cases to some of their on staff lawyers. Turns out they had more money than expected, so he upped the number of cases per lawyer.
• Don’t torrent music, kids. It’s wrong.
• Lafayette was the baby of the gay trio, so he's the youngest of the three here.
• Cheek kissing, or “la bise," is actually not something you would do with a new boss. But Lafayette is an awkward person who does things that are maybe not socially advisable. You can go ahead and assume that Lafayette and Washington had some lengthy Skype interviews, so Lafayette feels like they already know one another.
• I know it seems like Alex is being a little asshole, and that’s because he is. But never fear, he and Lafayette are going to be fast friends, they just need to have a proper conversation.
It's moving day for Laurens—time to get the full revolutionary set together. Herc, Laf, Ham, and Laurens, all jammed into a U-Haul van.
I suppose I'm not a very reliable fic writer—I'll try to be better about updates going forward. This thing is usually on my mind, sometimes it's just hard to sit down and write. No content warnings necessary for this update, as far as I can tell.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“So,” Alex says.
“So,” John agrees.
“So you didn’t tell the U-Haul people about your hand.”
“I really didn’t think it would matter.”
A brisk autumn wind skims the smell of garbage and sewage off the Gowanus Canal and washes over the U-Haul parking lot. John shivers and wrinkles his nose. Apparently his hand is enough of an insurance risk that he isn’t permitted a moving van. He probably could’ve gotten away with it if Alex hadn’t insisted he wear the stupid fucking sling, but he isn’t about to say that out loud.
“We just have to go back in there and change the name on the rental,” John suggests. “Then you can drive, at least out of the lot.”
“Hmm,” Alex nods slowly and rubs the toe of his shoe against the asphalt.
“I’d need a driver’s license for that, right?”
“You didn’t bring it?”
“Don’t have one. I don’t…really drive.”
“As in you can’t drive?” John asks, holding back a smile.
“Of course I can!” Alex says indignantly. “Any idiot can drive. You just put your foot on the gas and your hands on the wheel and…wiggle it around. The wheel, I mean.”
“My cousin taught me how to drive his van years ago.”
“How’d that go?”
Alex mumbles something unintelligible.
“What was that?” John cups a hand to his ear.
“Gotcha,” John nods.
They stand in silence for about a minute, then Alex pulls his cellphone out and starts punching in a number.
“Who’re you calling?”
“That guy, Gilbert Lafayette.”
“Uh.” John blinks. “Why?”
“He’s staying in a hotel nearby, we could ask him to drive us,” Alex says.
“I thought you hated him.”
Alex holds up a finger and speaks into his phone. “Hey, Jill-bare. Ça va? Es-tu libre?” After a brief pause, he laughs. “Ouais, bien sûr.”
John had forgotten Alex spoke French. Well, he’d sort of assumed that he didn’t really speak French; no one actually speaks the language they studied in college. Besides that, when did Alex get all buddy-buddy with the tall, handsome French guy he’d been calling “Nostradamus” on Friday? John huddles in on himself as another gust of wind hits them.
“We’re at the U-Haul center by your hotel,” Alex says, switching over to English. “Laurens is moving, yeah. And his hand, you know. They’re not letting him drive. So…yeah? Now? Génial, merci.”
“I thought you hated him,” John repeats when Alex has hung up.
“What? Course I don’t, why’d you think that?”
Alex gives him an amused half smile. “Anyway, Gilbert said he’d help us out, I barely had to ask. Should be here in maybe ten minutes.”
Five minutes later, a very eager Gilbert Lafayette jogs towards them. He’s still as tall and handsome and French as he’d been on Friday, but he’s replaced the neatly tailored suit with (John squints to make sure he isn’t seeing things) a lime green puffy vest and a plaid shirt. And cargo shorts.
“That’s a look,” Alex murmurs, apparently on the same page as John.
“Alexander! Good to see you, my friend,” Gilbert says cheerfully.
“What’s up, Gil,” Alex says. “That was fast.”
He shrugs. “I was not busy. And please, call me Lafayette, yes?” He turns to John as though seeing him for the first time, and his face lights up. “John Laurens!”
“Uh. Lafayette!” Unfortunately, John’s attempt to match Lafayette’s enthusiasm sounds somewhat sarcastic. Alex raises his eyebrows at him, but Lafayette continues unabated.
“We did not speak after orientation, you left so quickly. I am glad you’ve invited me to this…place.” The wind seems to whistle slightly louder through the barren parking lot, rolling some dead leaves across the asphalt for good measure.
“We’re here for a moving van, remember?” Alex says.
“Right, right.” Lafayette claps his hands together. “So! What do you need from me?”
“If we could use your name on the rental agreement, that’d be great. You don’t have to drive the van farther than a couple blocks, and then we’ll call you when we need to return it.”
“Oh, I don’t drive,” Lafayette says cheerfully.
Alex’s eye twitches slightly (John thought that only happened in cartoons), and his lips barely move when he says, “Laf, what do you think I called you over for?”
“I am not sure, but I am happy to help.”
If there were a wall nearby, Laurens would probably have put his other hand through it. Well, he’s not quite that angry—Lafayette is too sincere to get truly angry at. But at the very least he’d bang his head against it a few times.
“Your zeal is noted,” Alex says bitterly as he dials another number on his phone.
An hour later, John, Alex, Lafayette, and Hercules Mulligan are crammed into a U-Haul van, inching their way across the Brooklyn Bridge. To his credit, Herc had only made three or four jokes about their massive fuck up, and seems to be taking to Lafayette. The two of them are up front, discussing the pros and cons of wool jackets. At least, that’s what John had pieced together from the random words making their way to the back of the van, though he has no idea why Herc is so passionate about the subject. Occasionally he takes a hand off the wheel to gesture heatedly. John glances over to Alex, who’s squeezed himself between a couple of the heavier cardboard boxes. “For safety reasons,” he had said when they got into the van.
“This is illegal,” he says, when he catches John looking at him. “Illegal and impractical.”
“This was your idea,” John reminds him.
“My idea was to have Herc drive us off the lot, then you and I could take care of the rest of it. Why are you here again, Herc?” he says loudly, and not for the first time.
“It’s my name on that piece of paper, and it’s my ass that’s gonna pay if you crash this van the way you did your cousin’s,” Herc calls back.
“Motherfucker, I was fourteen, don’t bring that shit up. And Laurens would’ve been the one driving, not me. Also, why is Lafayette still here? And why are you driving so slow, you’re going below the speed limit! And why—”
Herc turns the radio on and cranks it.
“The two of them up there, bonding. Talking about wool jackets like a couple of…Scotsmen,” Alex says with an exaggerated sneer.
“Scotsmen?” John smiles.
“Not all my insults are actual insults, you’re gonna have to get used to that. Sometimes I just kinda…”
“Why are they talking about wool jackets?” John asks.
“I assume because Herc sells them.”
“What? Really?” John calls over to Herc, who graciously turns the radio down. “Do you have an etsy or something like that?”
“A boutique,” Herc says, a note of pride in his voice. “Men’s clothing. Most men don’t like the word ‘boutique,’ but that’s what it is, so they can go fuck themselves.”
“Atta boy, Herc. Assert your masculinity through the reclamation of the French language.”
“I know you’re joking, but that’s what I’m gonna do.”
“I should take you there sometime,” Alex says to John. “His shit is amazing, very nineteenth century in the twenty-first century. In a classy way, not a steampunk way.”
“Thanks for that addendum,” Herc mutters.
“A little too expensive for me, but if we could get you into something besides that T-shirt…” Alex says, looking John up and down in a very pointed way.
“Ouch,” Lafayette laughs.
“You’re one to talk,” John says, and regrets it almost immediately.
“I hope you are not casting, eh, aspersions? On my outfit.” Thankfully, Lafayette sounds like he’s smiling.
Alex backs John up. “Laf, when I close my eyes, I can still see that green vest. It’s burned onto my retinas.”
“Actually, Ham, you’re the reason we were talking about jackets,” Herc interrupts.
“Because that old cardigan of yours isn’t gonna cut it this winter.”
“I have a jacket,” Alex shoots back defensively.
“You have a windbreaker,” Herc snorts. “We’re gonna go down to my boutique next week and pick you out a nice, warm winter jacket.”
“Like hell we are,” Alex says, in a voice low enough that John barely catches it.
They make the rest of the drive in relative silence, the radio turned back up and tuned to a decent enough music station. Every now and then Alex will point at a cardboard box and try to guess its contents, the guesses growing increasingly immature as the drive drags on (“Dildo collection? You can tell me if it is, I won’t judge. C’mon. It’s a dildo collection, isn’t it?”). Finally, Herc backs into a parking spot and comes around to open the door of the van.
“Lucky us, there’s a hydrant outside your building,” he says.
John holds up a hand to block the sudden glare of sunlight. They’re on Thompson Street in SoHo, and the building is a neat, red-brick former tenement, the facade partly obscured by a metal fire escape. It’s the sort of place he used to imagine himself living in after he listened to Rent in middle school, though that’s a fun fact John will be keeping to himself.
“It is a very nice place, John Laurens,” Lafayette says.
“Just John is fine.”
“Actually, we call him Laurens,” Alex interjects.
“No, we don’t.”
“What floor are you on?” Herc asks as he starts to pull some of the boxes from the van.
“Fifth…” John says slowly as he looks the building over. It’s five stories. The other three let out simultaneous groans. “But there’s an elevator, right?”
Alex and Herc exchange a look.
“If you find it, let us know,” Herc says.
Since John doesn’t have any real furniture yet, there are only cardboard boxes to bring up. Still, by the third trip up and down the stairs they’re all sweating and cursing under their intermittent breaths. Even Lafayette seems slightly less cheerful, though he hides it well and his curses are milder.
“Eff, eff, eff,” he says as he brings the last box off and drops it unceremoniously on the floor.
Herc wipes his brow and sits down with his legs splayed out. “And this is why Lafayette and I came along. You two couldn’t have gotten all this shit up on your own.”
“We got half of it up,” Alex points out.
“Sure you did,” Herc says, and rolls his eyes. John has to admit, his cast had kept him from carrying up some of the heavier boxes, and Alex is on the scrawnier side.
“Who’s your roommate?” Alex asks, changing the subject.
“You know, just a friend of a friend of a friend. Some dude named Albert Pawling.”
“Sounds like someone’s grandpa.”
“It’s a pretty sweet place,” Herc says, looking around. “Two bedroom in SoHo? I don’t know how you snagged it.”
“Well, you know,” John shrugs. “I got pretty lucky.”
He’s not about to say that his dad’s assistant had been plumbing the depths of Zillow and Craigslist for weeks on his behalf, or that she had probably secretly taken care of a chunk of the rent. Was that possible? Maybe not, but there weren’t many other explanations for the deal he had gotten.
“Where is this new roommate, anyway? If he isn’t a complete tool maybe we can induct him into our little circle,” Alex says.
“He’s supposed to be here soon, we’re kinda late,” John says, checking his phone. “He…shit. Shit.”
“What, what is it?” Alex asks and rushes to his side, peeking at the phone before John can move it away. “Motherfucker!”
Lafayette fidgets nervously. “Is someone…um, hurt? Dead?”
“Worse,” Alex says darkly. “The roommate’s backed out of his lease.”
• The Gowanus is a filthy, filthy cesspool that everyone should avoid standing next to, or near to.
• Herc can drive a car because he’s a practical person who learns practical skills. That’s how he originally got into designing clothing—he learned how to mend stuff, then figured he’d save money if he made his own clothing and took home ec in high school. However, his driving is incredibly slow because he never practices because he lives in New York City, goddammit.
• Translation of Hamilton’s “I’m showing off for Laurens” French: “How’s it going? You free? Yeah, of course.” Then later, “great, thanks.” Why doesn't Laf speak any French in this chapter? Because why would he, he's hanging out with two people that don't speak the language and he's not an ass.
• Albert Pawling was an aide-de-camp to Washington who accidentally resigned from Washington’s staff in 1779 and wasn’t able to rejoin it. A weird sort of misunderstanding that makes him a decent enough stand in for the no-show roommate. Poor Mr. Pawling. Though our characters will never know it, let’s pretend he had an excellent reason for backing out of the lease.
• Laurens could not afford this apartment under normal circumstances, at least not without making some inadvisable financial decisions. Good move, Senator Laurens, your adult son is now even more indebted to you.
• Your roommate backing out of a lease in New York City is a fate worse than death. Imagine that this chapter ends with a very dramatic dun dun dun.
Chapter 13: Just Letting You Guys Know What's Up
No, not a real update (I'm v sorry), but I've posted some links to the fics I wrote in this same modern AU over the last two months.
EDIT 4/5/18: This is probably obvious by now, but unfortunately this fic (and the other fics in the series) is going to remain incomplete. I really enjoyed writing it, but at a certain point I just didn't have the time/passion for it anymore. I'm so grateful for the feedback I received from all of you.
Basically, I've been busy moving to Portland and starting my first real job. It's been complicated. My job ends up taking a lot of my attention, and my free time is usually spent working on some personal projects that I'm putting a lot of faith into.
In the meantime, I just thought I'd let all of you who are only subscribed to this fic know about some of the other fic I've written in the Excelsior, or Whatever series.
Namesake is a one shot set about a month before this fic, featuring Ham and Peggy.
Coffee is a six-part fic that I'm halfway done with, showing a little of Hamilton's backstory through the lens of his relationship with coffee.
Nine out of Ten is another Ham and Peggy one shot, set about a year after this fic starts.
Ski Bums is a lovingly unfinished, never to be finished vacation fic, featuring Hamilton, Laurens, and the entire Schuyler family.