Olivia always answers her phone with an irritated, “What?” so it’s a little bit surprising to hear “Olivia Pope’s phone!” chirped at him when Alex finally gets around to calling her.
“Who is this?” Alex asks suspiciously.
“This is Quinn Perkins,” says the phone-stealer. “Ms. Pope is unavailable at the moment, can I take a message?” In the background, Alex can just barely hear Olivia yelling at somebody about the irresponsible usage of their penis. As much fun as it would be to stick around and try to figure out who she’s yelling at--in his wildest dreams, it’s Jefferson--Eliza is bustling around the living room, setting it up for a family meeting, and he knows better than to delay that.
“Tell her it’s A. Ham,” he says, “and it would be delightful if she got back to me at her earliest convenience.”
“If you even think about sticking your penis into another member of the White House press corp, I will personally ensure that it functions exclusively as a door stop for the rest of your life--” Olivia is yelling as Quinn Perkins hangs up. Alex does a quick little dance of excitement. Fucking Jefferson.
The first time that Philip assaults another student, it’s two PM and Alex is in the Oval, trying desperately to convince Washington that invading France is a bad idea.
“It wouldn’t be an invasion,” says Burr witheringly, glaring at Alex across the back of a sofa. He looks thin and irritable, like always. Alex keeps hoping that he has an ulcer from the gun violence bill debacle last month. “It would be a show of support for the minority party--”
“It would be an invasion,” Alex interrupts. He twists around to look at Washington, who is sitting at his desk with an inscrutable look on his face. Alex learned early to read people’s hearts from their faces and to talk to that part of them--or, like, try, at least--but cold-reading Washington is basically impossible. “Anything more than a statement of support could backfire on us internationally, and even a statement about our prefered prime minister will read like we’re sending over the CIA on a fleet of helicopters to institute a dictatorship--”
“In France?” Burr hisses. “Maybe if this was Venezuela--”
“Oh my god!” Alex turns and shouts at him. “I don’t want to hear about your colonialist fantasies, Aaron!” He pretends to plug his ears.
“Why are you an oversensitive dick, Alexander?” Burr shouts back. “If there’s a cohabitation then the entire French government is going to be stymied for the next five years.”
“I think that’s being a little overdramatic,” Alex says over his shoulder to Washington.
“That’s the only part of this you find overdramatic?” Washington replies. He sighs and run a thumb along his left eyebrow. “Gentlemen, there’s not going to be an easy solution to this problem, but I am certainly not going to send representatives over to Paris to influence the election of an independent country.”
Alex doesn’t even pretend not to be smug, which is when his phone vibrates aggressively in his hand. He has his email open--he’s been thumbing through it when Burr goes off on any particularly long-winded tangents--and he sees in the preview screen that it’s from Eliza. CALL ASAP.
Burr is pontificating about something something France something something loyalty something something friendship something something NATO; the next text from Eliza says PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE @WESTDALE, 2:45PM, NOT A DRILL.
Who even taught him how to punch, Angelica texts him at 1:35AM the next morning.
Not even the whys, just the hows? Alex replies. Eliza is asleep on the couch in his study; he’s still at his desk, nominally looking over a budget report, because his office didn’t stop running itself just because he had to bail his kid out of detention.
The whys were eloquently expressed by my sister, Angelica responds. I want to know HOW. Did you teach him? I thought you exercised most of your savagery via Twitter.
The mightiness of the sword was conveyed by, quoth my son, “Uncle John.”
For twenty or so seconds, Alex watches Eliza’s chest inch up and then down; she sleeps deeply, twisted up in an afghan that probably came from the rich person version of Pottery Barn. He knows it’s very soft, because he falls asleep on that very same couch roughly five nights a week.
Lolllllllllllll, Angelica texts back. This is what you get for choosing your exes as godparents.
Mr. & Dr. Hamilton, the email from Westdale Academy’s principal begins. I am writing to you concerning your son, Philip Hamilton, who this morning received his second (2) disciplinary notice of the year for physical assault. As with the first incident, the other student in question allegedly made comments regarding Mr. Hamilton, Philip’s father. At Westdale Academy, we strongly encourage political awareness in our students with the belief that they are tomorrow’s leaders and require a strong foundation of study. That said, we strongly discourage students from carrying on “vendettas” or “diatribes” against each other based on the political views of their parents.
While the other student involved in the incident is also under disciplinary notice for verbal assault, it would be best for all parties involved for Philip to focus on his own behavior instead of that of others. I’ve attached to this email a few talking points that I think will be helpful for engaging in discourse with Philip about his actions and reactions.
Principal and Acting Director
“George Eacker said that Dad lies on Twitter to hide his moral corruption,” Philip says as soon as the door to the SUV opens.
From the driver’s seat, Eliza says, “Get in the car, Philip.” Philip dutifully clambers in, slinging his backpack onto the seat next to him.
“Who said this?” Alex wants to know, twisting around in the front passenger’s seat. “Who’s George Eacker?”
“The kid I punched,” Philip says, with approximately 0% shame in his expression. “He said that you lied on Twitter, and then on CNN. He called you a big fat liar. And he said it right in my face. I think he did it on purpose.”
Eliza says, “God,” rolling her eyes up towards the ceiling of the SUV, and then she floors it to get them off of the Westdale campus as quickly as possible.
“What have I told you about punching people, Philip?” Alex asks. He tries vaguely to sound like Washington, who’s the most authoritative orator that he knows.
Philip looks at him blankly for a second. “Um?” he says. He’s in the middle of a weird growth spurt at ten; his eyes look enormous, trapped inside a head disproportionate to his body size. He’ll grow into it, probably. Alex did. “Have you--said anything about punching people?”
“Yes,” Alex says, as Eliza muffles something in the shoulder of her coat. “I think I’ve told you not to punch people. I think, in fact, I said it right here in this car about four weeks ago, when we were all gathered here for the same reason.”
“Oh!” Philip says, his face brightening. “Yeah! But you told me not to punch Patsy Jefferson, even if she punches me first. Which she did last time. But you also told me to always defend myself, and Patsy definitely hit me first--Theodosia was there, she told Principal Adams that it wasn’t my fault--”
If Philip wasn’t the fruit of Alex’s own loins, he would think the kid was an idiot. But Alex knows his stuff. “Nice try,” he says. “I would’ve thought at ten that you would be capable of extrapolating out of my insistence that you not punch Patsy Jefferson that I meant all humans.”
Deadpan, Philip says, “Patsy Jefferson isn’t human, Dad.”
“That’s not nice,” Eliza interrupts. She’s looking over her left shoulder, trying to merge onto 237. “Calling someone you disagree with unhuman is an underhanded tactic, Philip. You’re smart enough to do better than that.”
Philip opens his mouth, probably ready to gamely give it a go and think of new ways to insult Patsy Jefferson, but Alex holds up a hand to stop him. “Before we let this get completely off-topic,” he says, “let’s return to the matter at hand. No matter what any of your classmates say about me, you are not to hit them in the face. Got it? Or anywhere. You have an opinion, you tell them. With words.”
Philip closes his mouth, looking at Alex for a long minute. He has a faintly appraising look in his eyes, like he’s calculating how to play this. “Okay,” he finally says. “Can I get a Twitter handle, then?”
“Oh my god,” says Eliza.
“I can say my opinions on Twitter!” Philip insists. “Theodosia has a Twitter account!”
“No Twitter until you’re thirteen,” Eliza says repressively. “House rules, you know that.”
“UGH,” Philip says. He flops back in his seat, his dark head lolling around wildly. “Ugh! This is so unfair! Dad gets to call people idiots on Twitter, why can’t I?”
“Because you’re ten,” Eliza says. She leans over, puts her right hand on Alex’s thigh, and pinches him. Probably it’s because he’s having a hard time keeping a straight face; laughing in the middle of a lecture has proven to be the downfall of many a Hamilton family meeting. “You have the rest of your life to call people idiots, let’s practice diplomacy for now, okay?”
When Alex and Eliza have to last-minute fly to England to prevent Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson from single-handedly invading France and settling off a nuclear bomb in the middle of modern international relations, Laurens comes to stay with the kids for the weekend.
“Hey, man, you know I love them,” he says as Eliza pulls him in for a quick hug. He winks at Alex over her shoulder and then pats Eliza on the back. “Like they’re my own band of tyrannical despots.”
“You should be so lucky,” Alex pretend-sniffs. When he hugs Laurens, he takes a second to whisper in his ear, “Teach any more of my children to fight and I’ll ban you from the house.”
“You are literally the most hypocritical human being on the face of the planet,” Laurens replies, not even bothering to whisper.
He’s old enough news that none of the kids come down to say hello; when Angelica visits, it’s like some kind of Jumanji stampede but Laurens only gets a quick “hey, Uncle John!” from Angie as she sprints past them and through the open door for her field hockey carpool.
“Hi Paul!” Eliza is loudly saying, waving after her at the poor sucker driving the SUV parked out front. Alex remembers at the last second that he’s courting Paul’s husband for the gun violence bill and also waves, trying to look friendly and trustworthy: the kind of person whose pet bill you would want your husband to support.
“This is going to be a blast,” Laurens says. When Alex scrutinizes his face, looking for the tell--he and Laurens were roommates (“roommates”) for four years in undergrad, Alex knows him like the back of his hand--he can’t see any sign of it.
“Do you want to keep one, take it home?” Eliza asks him. She’s grinning at Alex just over Laurens’ shoulder, keeping the smile in the corner of her mouth. Alex married her because he wanted her to keep making that smile at him for the rest of his life. “James is still pretty small, so he doesn’t eat as much as the rest of them.”
“Done,” Laurens says, pretending to scramble to shake her hand. He’s still laughing as he shoos them out of the house and into their cab, which is waiting to take them to Reagan. None of the children come out to say good-bye, although they wave from their various windows as the cab drives off.
“Good to know they love us,” Alex says to Eliza, who just pats his hand.
Alex and Eliza do some old school diplomacy, which means Alex wears a bow-tie and bites his tongue while Eliza swans around in a beautiful dress and says the right things to the right people. Well, Alex sort of bites his tongue.
“What did you think this would accomplish?” he hisses at Burr out of the side of his mouth. They’re semi-hiding behind a pair of marble pillars in Angelica’s ballroom, because Angelica and John live in the kind of ridiculous London manse that has an actual ballroom. For fuck’s sake.
“I realize the extent of your loyalty is the time it takes to press ‘send’ on a text message, but I hold my word to a slightly higher value,” Burr replies. He delivers this entire attempt at a scathing setdown in about two seconds, in a high-pitched whisper.
Alex has to drown his automatic guffaw in his glass of champagne. “Maybe in this magical version of the nineteenth century that you inhabit inside your mind, that’s true,” he tells Burr, “but out here in the real world you just tried to nuke our entire relationship with the EU because you’re a self-righteous asshole.”
Across the ballroom, his wife and her sister are tag-teaming the British PM, probably by saying nice things about his hideous tuxedo jacket. Armani called, he wants his fake ermine lapels back, Alex thinks gleefully.
“This is really funny,” Burr says, sipping his champagne, “this attempt of yours to pretend to care about diplomacy. I’d almost believe it, if I didn’t know you.”
“I care about an independent country whose people have the right to make their own decisions about their own government,” Alex says. “Which makes me--I think, I mean, correct me if I’m wrong here--an American.”
Burr looks like he’s considering throwing his champagne in Alex’s face.
“Alex!” Angelica says suddenly, swooping in behind their pillar and latching onto Alex’s arm. She looks charming and fun, like always, and sharp enough to cut diamond. “I’ve been looking for you! How are you, Secretary Burr?”
“Very well, Mrs. Church,” Burr answers stiffly. “If you’ll excuse me?”
“It’s Ms. Schuyler,” Alex hisses after him.
Angelica waits for Burr to get just out of earshot before she digs her fingernails--painted dark purple and flawless, of course--into the flesh of Alex’s wrist. “Can you please not spill blood on my floors?” she asks him. “Just as a courtesy.”
“He started it,” Alex points out. “By trying to start a war with the European Union.”
“I would tell you to get over it, he didn’t succeed, but you’re just going to get mad at him about something else later on,” Angelica observes, “so instead I’m going to tell you to drink more champagne and go distract Ben before he tries to sleep with George’s wife and MI6 murders him.”
She doesn’t do anything so uncouth as to point, but Alex looks around the ballroom for half a second and can easily enough spot Franklin by the back of his head, covered as it is by long white hair. He has the British PM’s wife laughing next to a Sargent painting and there’s usually only one way that ends.
“For fuck’s sake,” Alex mumbles. “There’s diplomacy by night and then there’s the Dos Equis guy.”
“Go,” Angelica says. She sounds like she’s trying not to laugh. “And don’t worry about your Philip problem, I’ve talked to Eliza about some potential solutions.”
“What does that mean?” Alex asks, and then he sees Franklin take Charlotte Hanover’s hand, turn it over, and kiss the underside of her wrist. “Never mind,” he says, “I gotta--” and makes for the Sargent painting.
Alex is at Harris Teeter, buying Honey Nut Cheerios, a gallon of milk, and a bouquet of roses when Eliza calls.
“Hey,” he answers, “I’m almost done, I’m nearly at the checkout, please tell me none of the kids have revolted.”
“Philip’s received his third disciplinary notice,” Eliza says in a very even voice. The sound quality of the call is strange; it takes Alex a second to realize that it’s because she’s calling him from the car. “I just got a call from the principal’s office. We need to go in to meet with her now.”
Alex dumps the bouquet of roses onto the conveyer belt and makes an apologetic face at the cashier. “Right now?” he says. “It’s seven in the morning.” He’s wearing sweats, because he’d run to Harris Teeter instead of his normal three-mile route around the neighborhood. “What are the kids going to eat?”
“I called John, he’s taking them to IHOP and then to school,” Eliza says. “Come out front and I’ll meet you. I brought some clothes, you can change on the way.”
Sure enough, Alex pays and leaves to find his wife idling by the front of the store. Her face does a funny sort of twitch when she sees the roses. “What are these?” she asks as Alex shoves them at her and dumps the groceries into the backseat next to a folded shirt and a pair of slacks.
“Roses,” Alex says, and when she shoots him a flat look over the top of the bouquet he adds, “for you. Happy Tuesday, you like roses and it was physically painful to leave you in bed this morning.”
“Alexander,” Eliza says, her voice creaky.
“Elizabeth,” he mimics, not very well, and then he takes the roses, jams them into the cup holder next to the emergency brake, and kisses his wife.
“Good morning,” he says when they finally break for air. Thank god it’s seven AM and the Harris Teeter parking lot is deserted. “Let’s go find out what Philip’s done this time.”
It takes about four days for Alex to remember to call Olivia Pope after Eliza tells him to, and another thirteen hours after that for Olivia to get back to him. They’re kind of old friends--Olivia and Angelica had gone to Georgetown Law together, and back when Alex had been an upstart in the trenches of Washington’s senatorial race they’d had to call Olivia in to do damage control that time Martha had called Ann Coulter a sack of shit while mic’d up for an NBC interview--but they aren’t close enough that she knows his kids very well.
Alex swings by the Olivia Pope & Associates office on his way home from the White House. He gets an offer of coffee from the perky co-worker who’d answered Olivia’s phone, which reminds Alex to open with, “So, did Jefferson knock up a White House press corp member?” as he blows through the door to Olivia’s office.
“Good evening, Alex,” Olivia says. “How nice to see you. How is Eliza doing?” She says this in the straight-faced way that Angelica does when she’s reminding Alex that he’s being an asshole.
“Sorry, sorry,” he says. “Power-hungry gossip waits for no manners. How’s it going?” He leans across the desk to kiss Olivia’s cheek. Olivia is the only person Alex knows who never seems to smell faintly of coffee.
“Good,” Olivia says, gesturing for him to take a seat on her leather couch. Jesus, this is nicer than the one in Alex’s office. “It’s nice to see you again, although I hope it’s not because of the First Lady.”
“No, no,” Alex says, waving that away. The perky one knocks on the door and, at nod from Olivia, comes in with a steaming cup of coffee. “Thanks. Ms. Perkins, right?”
“That’s right,” Perkins says, beaming at him. There’s something wholesome about her that says she hasn’t been in the DC metro area for that long. “Do you need anything else?”
“We’re good, Quinn,” Olivia says. As soon as the door closes behind Perkins, Olivia turns her razor-sharp eyes on Alex and says, “Why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”
Alex leans back into the sofa. “My son keeps punching his classmates,” he says. At Olivia’s semi-blank stare, he adds, “He’s ten. And sort of excitable. A few months ago he got in a fistfight with Patsy Jefferson--unfortunately, most bystanders agree that she won that one--and last month it was with somebody named George Eacker.”
Olivia’s eyebrows have climbed halfway up her forehead. “Okay,” she says slowly. “And you want me to--fix, for lack of a better term, your son?”
Alex grimaces. “On Monday, he punched John Burr.”
For all appearances involuntarily, Olivia says, “Oh no.”
Grimly, Alex says, “Oh yeah. I’ve had Secretary Burr halfway up my ass all week, shrieking about medical bills and psychological screenings and blah blah blah, like he’s going to sue my ten-year-old.”
Olivia says, “Well, it’s Aaron Burr.”
“I know,” Alex says. “If he could, we’d already be in court. As it is, he’s petitioning the school to have Philip expelled. Under most circumstances, I’d understand. Philip’s been in a lot of fights lately, we’re working through that with him, and Westdale Academy has their reputation as the snootiest place to put delicate children in the metro area to protect--but there is no way I’m letting Aaron Burr have my kid expelled, especially not when there’s this disturbing pattern of potential bullying I see lying around, waiting for somebody to point it out to the school board.”
Olivia has her hand over her mouth, like she’s scandalized or--more probably--trying not to laugh. Alex takes advantage of the next few seconds to drink half of his coffee. It’s pretty good for office coffee. “You’re going to pay my retainer to keep your kid in Westdale?” she finally says. “I can name off the top of my head half a dozen places you could get him into with the Schuyler pedigree.”
“I’m going to pay your retainer to make Aaron Burr’s life a miserable farce,” Alex says firmly.
“I can’t believe you sicced Olivia Pope on Secretary Burr,” Alex’s assistant says to him the next morning. They’re ostensibly doing their morning social media roundup with his PR liaison but this one has involved significantly less yelling than normal. “Isn’t that a little cruel?”
“It’ll teach him not to punch above his weight,” Alex says. “What’s the We the People response to the gun violence bill looking like?”
“Well, since you called Senator Madison a ‘puppet of the extremist right’ on Rachel Maddow last week, the number of electronic signatures has doubled,” says his PR liaison sourly. “Equally shocking, we’ve gotten a number of calls from Madison’s office demanding a retraction--”
Alex snorts loudly and opens Mail on his desktop. At the top of his inbox is two emails from Eliza, subject: the kids. How does she manage to constantly be on top of everything? Does the art history department at American just exist in a constant state of non-activity?
Angie told me at drop-off this morning that she caught Philip & Theodosia Burr kissing in the treehouse yesterday. She demanded cookies for her silence but Philip wouldn’t pay up. Isn’t ten a little young to be necking in treehouses?
The second one had been sent two minutes later.
Don’t have a heart attack. They’re kids and he valiantly defended her honor/Minecraft skills when her brother maligned them. It’s probably nothing. Can you pick up more milk on the way home?
As his PR liaison continues to list all the ways that Alex is never going to be allowed to guest on Rachel Maddow’s show ever again, Alex painstakingly types out, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, and sends it to his wife. After a few seconds, he adds, Yes, I can pick up milk.