When Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette came to New York City as an exchange student he was nineteen years old and wrote English better than he spoke it. He was officially labeled as “proficient” in the language, a title he would have gotten even without his family’s ridiculous wealth and his prior introductions to various important people in the university he had decided to attend for a year. He could make himself understood with relative ease, but was unfamiliar with American slang and turns of phrase, making it difficult for him to follow along in more informal conversations. That “came to New York City” and “decided to attend,” by the way, put a pin in that. As smart as he was, Lafayette was also a reckless teenager and his choices weren’t always as good as he made them out to be in polite company.
“Yes?” Hold up. No one likes exposition but let’s get this out of the way: John Laurens was a stud. First string on the football team, played all through high school, now in his senior year and with his eye on championships. Tall as his father, a congressman from South Carolina, since hitting puberty, Laurens like Lafayette was the complete package if what you wanted to unwrap was a country boy with killer abs and father issues the size of his family’s estate.
“What is a ‘fuckboy’?” Lafayette—he didn’t bring it up on his own but the name was a title, he actually was descended from the marquis who went to France for more funds and came back with more guns, but don’t pull at that thread too hard unless you actually want him to draw you a genealogy diagram explaining how he descends directly from the more famous Marquis de Lafayette, Daveed Diggs, Voltaire’s Hero of Two Worlds—was sitting cross-legged on his small twin bed, thick black hair pulled back and out of the way, his laptop open next to him. When Laurens made an awkward noise and didn’t answer quickly enough, Lafayette lied, “I need to know for class.”
“It’s like…” Laurens turned around at his desk. “Someone who is very rude and disrespectful, un connard, especially when dating.”
“Ah, I see,” Lafayette said with slight disappointment, leaning back over his laptop and continuing to scroll through the comments on the forum he was browsing. “I thought it was, how you say, a boy you have for fucking.”
Laurens shook his head. “That’s a ‘fuckbuddy.’” This was probably not a conversation the war hero Ramos ever thought one of his descendants would be involved in. Actually, let’s retcon that line too; he wouldn’t have been surprised at all, even if Laurens wasn’t too sure how he got dragged into it.
“What is ‘buddy?’”
“All right,” Lafayette nodded, closing his laptop now that Laurens was providing him the answers he sought, “and that is like ‘friends with benefits.’”
Laurens paused to consider this and then shook his head again. “A ‘fuckbuddy’ is just someone you fuck. It’s not someone with whom you’re friends but also have sex.”
“Vous américains êtes-si compliqués,” Lafayette complained, taking a pen and notebook out of his back pocket and copying down these new pieces of vocab.
“They do say it’s the most versatile word in the English language,” Laurens joked, getting up at the knock to get the door before returning to his desk.
“Hey.” Alexander Hamilton (ball of wiry energy, not actually as short as he looked next to the other two, 4.0 honors student currently in his second year and set to graduate after his third because of course he was, and the man to blame for the third and at this point final extensive narratorial aside), sat on the bed next to Lafayette. “So just FYI what we’re doing right now is I’m acculturating you to the U.S. of A., if the exchange student welcoming committee or whatever asinine thing they’re calling themselves this year contacts you, give me a rating of five out of five. I took time out of my busy schedule to do my bit as your assigned mentor or touch guy or whatever.” He dug in his bag. “Poptart?”
Lafayette took it curiously.
“Real American. Eat shit, the simple carbohydrates and white sugar will get you hooked on the land of the free. I’m pretty sure that’s the actual goal,” he added, breaking off a piece for himself once Lafayette had opened it and talking more towards Laurens than Lafayette now. “Consumer diplomacy. You know about the fight to get Coke imported to France, right?” He turned back to Lafayette. “So post-war—”
Obviously Hamilton had problems shutting up. It was a good thing he didn’t know he was actually related to that guy on the ten or the world would never hear the end of it.
“Stop taking out your issues with the committee on Lafayette.”
“Look,” Hamilton cut himself off, looking back to Laurens. “Technically I’m not ‘on exchange.’” He made air quotes. “I was never ‘on exchange,’ it’s a part of the country and if you’re going to colonize the damn place you might as well remember that you took it. Fuckin’ rude,” he added with his mouth full.
“You didn't have to volunteer to help out this year.”
Hamilton shrugged and turned his attention back to Lafayette. “So what did I interrupt?”
“John was giving me an English lesson.”
“No,” Laurens answered quickly.
“Yes,” Lafayette said with a devious grin. “Listen. ‘Alexander, are you and John friends with benefits?’”
“No,” Laurens said sternly.
Hamilton laughed. “No.”
“That’s too bad. It’s such a good phrase,” Lafayette explained to Laurens. “I wanted to be able to use it in conversation.”
“So how did this come up?” Hamilton asked.
“He was explaining to me all about his friends with benefits.”
Laurens dragged a hand down his face. “Not ‘my,’ Lafayette, you don’t put the pronoun there.”
“My mistake,” Lafayette said lightly and not at all apologetically. “But he was helpful.”
“Right. Actually, I stopped by for another reason. Not that I don’t actually want to spend time with you at some point when I don’t have to clock hours for it, but can I borrow your copy of Barbauld? I finished the rest of the reading through November and the library still hasn't processed the recall I put on the annotated version so Aaron Burr is still sitting on it. I was going to go throw rocks at his window until he handed it over but then I remembered you’re in Dr. Bartow’s other section.”
“You’re caught up through November?” Laurens asked incredulously. “Alexander, it’s only September.”
“Right, and I would be done by now if it wasn't for Burr.”
“The syllabus says not to do the work in advance of discussion classes,” Laurens pointed out.
“Yeah, because the professor doesn’t want to deal with some obnoxious prick who thinks he knows everything just because he read one book on the subject,” Hamilton said, completely missing the irony. “I’m not going to turn anything in until after I make sure the criteria hasn’t changed, don’t worry.” He stood up to get the book off of Lafayette’s desk and started flipping through it. “Excellent, this even has the extended introduction. The library copy is an older edition. That’ll show Burr to hoard books.”
Lafayette greatly doubted that it would, but he let it go in favor of asking a more interesting question.
“Who is this Aaron Burr?”
Hamilton closed the book and tucked it under his arm. “Burr’s that guy who actually brought the professor a basket of mini muffins on the first day of class because he ‘saw them on sale at the market and remembered that she liked them.’”
“What a fuckboy,” Lafayette sighed. Hamilton and Laurens both gave him that amused “you tried” half smile that frustrated Lafayette to no end because it meant that something had gotten lost in translation again. He wasn’t used to having words come out wrong or phrases go over his head in France. “What?” He asked, a little accusatorially. “Laurens, you said that meant someone who was inappropriate in relationships.”
“It’s rougher than that. And I doubt Burr is trying to hit on the professor.”
“Oh my God, can you imagine though?” Hamilton’s eyes lit up with delight. “Burr’s so slimy, I bet he’s smooth like a ken doll down there.”
Lafayette didn’t even pretend to understand what Hamilton was talking about, and changed the subject altogether.
“I have a lunch date with my girlfriend tomorrow,” he said to Laurens pointedly. “So can you—not be here?”
“Sure,” Laurens said. “I’ll just go—”
“You can come with me!” Hamilton cut in. “We can crash that seminar Burr is leading and boo and hiss at him discreetly to throw him off his game.”
“You need new hobbies,” Laurens told him sternly.
A little before five the next morning, Laurens was woken by Lafayette shaking his shoulder roughly. He opened his eyes to find all the lights on in the dorm room and his roommate dressed in a nice shirt and slacks, freshly delivered flowers on his desk. “What are… You’re wearing a tie?”
Lafayette looked down at his outfit. “Well—of course. It’s a date, non?”
Laurens looked at his phone. “It’s—it’s five in the morning.”
“Yes, now get out.”
“You said it was over lunch.”
Lafayette held up a brown paper bag. “Yes, it’s lunchtime in Paris. Please go,” he added as Laurens sat up slowly. “I’ll call you when you can come back.” He waited impatiently while Laurens grabbed his gym bag and headed out the door, the clothes he slept in fortunately more or less what he would have put on that morning anyway.
Laurens yawned and automatically reached for his phone only to realize he had forgotten it inside. “Lunch in France better not take more than two hours,” he muttered as he consoled himself with the thought of having free pick of equipment at the gym.
It wasn’t until the the fifth time this happened that Laurens finally complained to Hamilton over actual EST lunch.
After laughing for several minutes, Hamilton asked, “Why don’t you just come over to my apartment? At least you’ll have somewhere more comfortable to wait until he’s done with his booty call.”
“I don’t even think it is a booty call,” Laurens said, taking a long drink of sweet tea. “Honestly, Alexander, I think they just talk and compare sandwiches.”
“Is that what they’re calling it these days?”
“I’m serious. Everything is always so neat afterwards. The room is just like I left it, and he’s perfectly—Did I tell you that he wears a tie for this? I wouldn’t mind as much if it actually lined up with my schedule. I have to be out of the room before six half the time anyway, you would think the two things could line up.”
Hamilton laughed again. “Speak of the devil,” he said as Lafayette sat down at the dining hall table next to him. “It’s a turn of phrase,” he clarified unnecessarily, pretending to do so for Lafayette’s benefit. “I’m not talking about Burr this time. But, so, about those evaluation forms, I need you to—”
“I need to go shopping for Adrienne. My girlfriend,” Lafayette clarified equally unnecessarily, seeing as how frequently she had come up even in the few times he and Hamilton had talked. “I don’t think she’s forgiven me yet.”
“What does she need to forgive you for?” Laurens asked. “What on earth did you say to her over lunch?”
Lafayette carefully folded his hands on the table and completely avoided eye contact. “Alexander,” he said, diplomatically picking the current lesser of two evils, “come shopping with me and I will personally go to the head of the university himself and tell him how much help you've been.”
“I thought he just needed you to—”
“Done,” Hamilton agreed readily, putting his hand out. “Screw the form, think about that line on the resume, John. See if you can get something in writing,” Hamilton added to Lafayette. “It’s always better in writing."