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The effects of your life on mine

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First they were children trying to fit into a world too big for them.

*

They met in their tiny dorm room, Alexander with a bag full of books and his loud words. Aaron had wanted nothing more than to shut him up and so he brought him somewhere he was sure Alexander wouldn't make a scene. He was, of course, wrong. Words were Alexander's only weapon, only friend. Words were everything to him.

("Only nineteen but my mind is older," Alexander says and Aaron blinks at him from where he's leaning by the door. Who talks like that at freshman parties? And yet, he’s watching him, trying to memorize everything about him. The alcohol tells him Alexander's words are poetry and he doesn't yet know this is a turning point.)

Alexander had grabbed at everything that connected him with Aaron, and wouldn't let it go for a long while. Aaron learned, later, that he did everything that way. If Aaron was a poet he would describe it as waves. Alexander doesn't sleep for four days, reads everything by Shakespeare he can find, doesn't stop talking about it for two months, quotes his works non stop and then - he stops. Just like that, it's gone. The wave has pulled back.

("No, no, Burr," Alexander says, kicking his shoes off. "No water related metaphors in our home."

Aaron watches his fingers drum a beat on his leg, watches him lean back on the bed, close his eyes. He's supposed to ask why. Alexander's shoes have landed on his side of the room, messy like always. Our home.)

Bastard, orphan, son of a whore. Alexander gets stuck on the word orphan sometimes, repeats it over and over. It used to concern Aaron. He thought, maybe, it was some sort of punishment Alexander inflicted on himself. A reminder of the pain he's faced.

Orphan:
a. A child whose parents are dead.
b. A child who has been deprived of parental care and has not been adopted.

Except to Alexander, being an orphan means losing everything he's ever had, not just his parents. That separates them and yet Aaron never tells him in fear Alexander will stop clinging to everything they share like a life boat. Life boat is a water related metaphor too, he figures. He still hasn't asked Alexander why he hates them.

("And those whom once my song had cheered and gladdened. If still they live, rove through the world now saddened," Alexander mutters, quiet, like a prayer, on the anniversary of his mother's death. He lights candles on their windowsill, dressed completely in black. His hair, too long for him, falling down his neck.

"Alexander," Aaron starts. He wants to reach out and touch him but he doesn't know if he should.

"She would have hated that book," Alexander says, turns away from the candles. He looks pale in the dark of their room. Aaron wants to ask who Alexander is quoting but he feels like he should know and so he doesn't say anything and makes space for Alexander on his bed.)

On Christmas, their friends go home to their families. Alexander and Aaron get drunk in their kitchen and talk about everything that isn't family. Alexander makes him share things he would never say if they weren't stupidly drunk on Christmas with nowhere to go. In exchange, Aaron makes him turn off his phone and his laptop and they share store bought cookies.

When they were freshmen, Alexander sat all of his friends down and told them they were allowed to buy him exactly one present without him getting upset. They had all pitched in to get him a binder. Later that evening, when everyone had left and Alexander was still curled up on his bed crying, Aaron threw a scarf at his head.

("This isn't from me as your friend," Aaron tells him when Alexander looks up at him, surprised. "It's from me as your roommate."

"This is exactly why I hate you, asshole," Alexander answers but wraps the scarf around himself, buries his face in it, and mutters; "Thank you.")

Alexander loved Eliza the way he did everything else. It was intense and strong and all he could talk about for a really long time and then it slowed, hid itself in the background. Alexander went from jumping up whenever she texted him to ignoring her calls for days. Eliza broke up with him with Aaron still in the room.

("It's all summer flings," Alexander tries to explain later. "I love so strongly I tire myself out. It all comes to a climax and stops and-"

Aaron puts his hand on Alexander's shoulder and makes him sit up straight as he tries not to think of the gross relief he feels that Alexander is over Eliza.

"I'm a horrible person, Burr," Alexander says. "I take and I take and I take."

Aaron swallows, and pulls him closer.)

Alexander challenges him, gladly argues with him, grins whenever Aaron loses his cool like it's an accomplishment. Aaron's never been the person to jump to anger, but Alexander knows how to bring it out in him. They argue and yell and push each other right to the limit and then stop.

When Alexander is angry with John or Lafayette or Eliza, he comes to Aaron. When he's angry with Jefferson or Madison or Adams, he goes to John, he goes to bars, he goes to twitter, he picks fights. When he's upset with Angelica or Peggy or Hercules, he lays in his bed and mopes and doesn't want to talk until a lot later. When he's angry with Aaron he reads and reads and reads until Aaron apologizes or until Alexander does it himself, which is rare. His pride will kill them both someday.

("Burr," Alexander says climbing into Aaron's bed, pressing his forehead to Aaron's shoulder. "You're aggravating."

Aaron rests his arm on Alexander's back, hums, and keeps his eyes on the book he's reading. Alexander shifts, moves closer, kicks at his ankle. Aaron reads, and Alexander falls asleep.)

Sometimes he listens. Sometimes Aaron tells him to stop and he does, Aaron tells him it's not worth it and he might quiet down, Aaron tells him it's time to go and maybe Alexander will follow. Sometimes he laughs and tells Aaron he doesn't know shit, sometimes he curses, another time he cries, and sometimes he tells him to fuck off. He always come back. Apologizes in letters and poems and books with folded down page corners, apologizes in hugs and smiles and compliments. He doesn't actually say the word 'sorry'. Aaron finds he doesn't mind.

Alexander seeks out pain the way he seeks out everything else, with no doubt in his mind. When he wants something he wants it fully, wants it with everything he has and he doesn't know how to stop; Alexander never waits for it to come to him. He jokes, once, about the emergency room being his second home. Ugly plastic chairs at midnight and Alexander, his fingers broken, trying to explain. Aaron has stopped listening to his reasons; it never makes sense to him anyway.

("Didn't you say that after midnight I'm only allowed to drink decaf?" Alexander asks, eyeing the plastic cup with coffee Aaron is handing him. The walls are painted an ugly white. Eliza is talking to a nurse, Lafayette is on the phone with John's father.

A fight. Depressed skull fracture. Surgery.

Alexander is the only one still smiling. John and him have a pact, he had told Aaron on their way to the hospital. John cannot die before him. Denial. Coping.

"I'm making an exception," Aaron tells him. Alexander takes the coffee.)

John becomes his new thing, his new everything. John with his freckles and curly hair and the way he laughs loud and beautiful and the way he is not at all Aaron. John comes over and lays on Alexander's bed or takes him out or brings him food or knocks on the door angry, his hands always fists. Sometimes Alexander doesn't come back after he's gone out with John, sometimes Aaron wakes up to find John and Alexander pressed together in a bed too small for them, sometimes John brings Alexander home drunk and bloody. Aaron waits and waits and waits and nothing ever happens between them.

("Me and John?" Alexander asks, amused, a hint of laughter in his voice. "We'd kill each other, Burr; we're both too passionate to ever work.")

Alexander gets people to care about him deeply. Alexander makes friends that will stay their whole life and he drags Aaron into it. Lafayette leaning in the hallway, waiting for them to put on shoes. Peggy on John's couch, braiding Alexander's hair. Hercules with his arm thrown over Aaron's shoulders. Eliza, waltzing into their apartment, offering freshly baked cookies.

("They're family, Burr," Alexander tells him after Aaron complains about his friends spending every night in their home since they moved in.

"They're your family," Aaron huffs, rubs at his eyes, yawns. Angelica fell asleep on his bed and Aaron took the floor. Alexander is looking at him, an amused smile tugging on his lips, when Aaron looks up. "What?"

"Are you really so insistent on distancing yourself from any emotional attachment that you haven't noticed how much they care for you?")

They fall into it somehow, Aaron thinks. He forgets that there are options besides Alexander and always picks him first, before everything else. They end up working for rival companies and when he loses, he’s happy Alexander won. Alexander buys him dinner to comfort him and they don't talk about work.

(Aaron on a chair in their kitchen, only in his underwear, getting his testosterone shot. Alexander standing next to him with his hands on Aaron's shoulders, saying;

"Ducks have a corkscrew shaped penis because duck females have a maze vagina," It comes out easily. "Female hyenas have bigger dicks than males. Snakes have two dicks, oh, and so do sharks! Also snakes have cloacas."

Aaron doesn't know why this is the topic Alexander chooses to distract him with but he focuses on his voice, familiar and soothing, and breathes.)

There's always lemon tea in their cupboards, always watermelon shampoo in the bathroom, always cereal on the counter, always dirty clothes on a chair in Alexander's room, always binders thrown around the place, always hoodies too big for the both of them somewhere within reach. Aaron does his best to ignore how right it all feels.

("My mother would have liked you," Aaron says when he finds Alexander in the dark of their kitchen, bent over his laptop. Alexander doesn't acknowledge him the whole time Aaron spends making hot chocolate. He sits, and replaces Alexander's empty coffee mug. Alexander raises his eyebrow at him.

"Hot chocolate?" he asks, as he wraps his fingers around the ceramic. Aaron watches his hands for a moment too long. Alexander lifts the mug to his lips and takes a sip. Aaron tries not to make a face; he usually waits for his drinks to turn lukewarm before he drinks them.

"It helps when you can't sleep and, well, it's four in the morning," Aaron explains, when he realizes Alexander is looking at him. There's a beat. Alexander puts down his hot chocolate, and goes back to whatever he was typing before Aaron came in.)

It doesn't stop. Alexander making breakfast, Alexander with every mug they have around him dirty with coffee grounds, Alexander with his hair in braids, Alexander at three in the morning, wide awake. Aaron looks at him and hopes and hopes and hopes but it never goes away.

("They think me Macbeth," Alexander says, some kind of cruel joke on his lips that Aaron doesn't get. Sometimes everything he says feels like that. "You, Burr, are Hamlet."

"Hamlet?" Aaron asks, and tries to look for threads to bind them, but they are different plays. Different scripts. Maybe that's what Alexander is trying to tell him.

"The tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind," Alexander quotes, easy, like the words were made for him. Aaron nods, but he has always seen himself in Ophelia, especially now, pressed against Alexander on his bed. Her inability to stay an equilibrium drives her mad in the end.)

They have grown into each other. Roger Williams, buried in an unmarked grave, dug up two hundred years later, a tree root in his coffin. It curved into his head, entered his chest, grew down the spine. Aaron is Roger Williams and Alexander grows like apple tree roots, surrounding him, consuming him. When they look for Aaron, they will not find him the way they left him.

("Have you noticed how he's distanced himself from everyone he knows at one point or another and yet he's never tired of you?" Hercules asks him while they're listening to Alexander move in the other room, waiting for him to get changed.

Aaron pushes away from where he was leaning into Hercules' shoulder and turns to give him a look.

"That's not true," he says. His mouth feels dry.

"Have you noticed how he's the only person you ever open up to?" Hercules continues. Aaron inhales deeply and closes his eyes.)

*

Aaron fell when they were children trying to fit into a world too big for them. That was five years ago.

*

Aaron forgets, sometimes, with how much observing he does, with how much time he spends listening, with how he takes everything in, that Alexander knows him as well as he knows Alexander.

Alexander talks and writes and reads out loud and tells Aaron everything about himself and Aaron welcomes all of it and forgets that Alexander can study him the same way, forgets that to Alexander, he’s the open book.

("What are you waiting for?" Alexander asks, standing on their balcony. He’s barefoot, but there’s a blanket over his shoulders. It's six in the morning, the sun has just started to rise, and the sky is early morning blue.

"Huh?" Aaron lets out, and he finds Alexander looking at him, studying him; expecting him to know what he's talking about. "Alexander?"

"Why won't you just kiss me, Burr?" Alexander asks, and grins when Aaron's lips part in surprise. God, Aaron thinks; he should have realized Alexander knew.

"How," he starts to say, and doesn't get to finish, because Alexander is closing the distance between them, kissing him, quick and impatient and the way Alexander has always been.)