There had been a lot of questions plaguing John’s mind as he had tried to sleep that night, majority of them revolving around his new neighbours. He hadn’t been able to get Alex to elaborate any more about the smaller Hamilton at his side, earlier, as his phone had rung. At the current moment, John was looking at his own sleepy reflection brushing his teeth, hair resembling a rat’s nest, his freckles annoyingly plastering his face and merging with his tanned skin.
John had been instantly mesmerised by Alex when he’d arrived at the office the day before with Burr. The short man had captivated his attention; intelligent eyes in a hunger-pang frame, peachy-brown hair and stubble, and a personality that John wanted to dive into and drown in. When John had arrived back at his apartment, having been instructed by Abuelita to say hello to his new neighbours (he’d been crashing at Laf and Herc’s apartment along Striver’s Row, as part of his and Burr’s assignment about the effects of immigration in different areas of New York), he had not expected knocking on the once-unopened door and being greeted by Alexander Hamilton.
He spat out the toothpaste and rinsed his brush, thinking back on the events of the night before. The way his new co-worker and neighbour looked all shy introducing his son.
“Philip, this is John. He works with me at the paper with Mr Washington. John, this is my son Philip.”
It had taken a couple of seconds for the words from Alex’s mouth to process in John’s head.
“John, this is my son.”
“This is my son.”
He has a son?!
“Hi, Mr John!”, was the sentence that dragged the South Carolinian from his thoughts, and he lowered his hazel eyes to meet with a pair of brown ones (ones that mimicked the man standing next to him) He grinned and crouched down to the boy’s level, handing him the hibiscus he had been previously offering to Alex.
“Hey, Squirt. John’s just fine, Mister makes me feel old.”
“You and Pops are both old.”
Alex gave his son a shake and gently tugged at Philip’s ponytail, which drew out a giggly-cry from the boy, “Oy! You know I’m not old, hijo.”
Something in John’s gut twisted at the smile Hamilton gave his son. Alex did not appear to be the domestic type, but there was something endearing about the way the duo stood – Philip in his TMNT jammies, and Alex, hair down, a tired smile on his face. John’s eyes met Alex’s and the latter ushered his son back inside.
“Alright, hijo, say thanks to John for the flower, and then go see what I bought you for dessert.”
Philip’s eyes lit up and he offered a kilowatt grin, “Dessert?”
Alex winked, “In the fridge.”
“Yes! Thanks for the flowers, M- John!” The boy called behind him as he raced down the hallway of the Hamilton-home and vanished behind the corner. “No problem!” John called after him with a laugh. This left the two men alone…alone in awkward silence…
Laurens could not stop himself from breaking the silence…he couldn’t stand long silences. “Soo….”
Once again brown eyes met hazel, “So…”
“POPS YOU ARE THE GREATEST! CAN YOU GET ANOTHER ONE TOMORROW?”
The two men laughed at the sound of Philip’s over-excited, sugar-infused voice and Alex glanced back over his shoulder, shouting his reply of “We’ll see!” John smirked and leant against the opposite door-frame, gesturing down the hallway with his head, “One of Laf’s?”
“Yeah, got it on my way out of work.”
“That’s right you left early?”
“Yeah,” To pick up my son from school. The son you just met. The son I didn’t want anyone to know about just yet.
This wasn’t a conversation that Alex had wanted to have so soon, especially not at his doorway with Philip in the next room, and especially not with John Laurens. John Laurens whose eyes seemed to be searching for answers to so many questions…but there was a small part of Alex that wanted to tell him. No time like the present then, Hamilton.
However, the sound of music emitting from John’s pocket distracted the pair of them, broke the spell of silence that was over them. John fished his phone out of his pocket, and Alex saw the corners of his eyes crease and his mouth set in a firm line. He waved the phone in the air.
“It’s my dad…I better take it. You don’t mind?”
“No, not at all,” Yes, “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”
“Yeah, see you.”
And with that Hamilton and Laurens went their separate ways.
Trust my father to interrupt as per usual. John thought bitterly as he stared at his reflection, dark shadows under his eyes from lack of sleep. The conversation between him and his estranged father – Senator Henry Laurens – had been tense and short, much like majority of their conversations since he’d come out. All that had been discussed, and by discussed it was really Henry Laurens ranting at his son about why he couldn’t just stop the gay “act” and “man-up” and find himself a girlfriend, and quit his “stupid” job because photography wasn’t a “real career” and he should put that law degree (the one he’d been forced to do) to use and move back to South Carolina and live up to his father’s name…just the normal stuff that father’s rant about, John wasn’t mad at all.
Shaking himself from his thoughts, John splashed some water on his face and pulled his hair up into a ponytail. A small smile crept onto his face as he saw his terrapins – Flash and Gordon – swimming around their tank. He walked over to the tank and pressed his finger to the glass, watching as the small turtles flocked to his finger and began paddling furiously to reach him.
“Alright boys, I gotta go to work, but I’ll be back later.” He gave them a wave and grabbed his hoodie off the back of his couch, keys in his pocket, and went out into the hallway.
He jumped and turned to see Philip standing in the hallway, rucksack over his shoulders. His curly hair was wild, and John smirked as it resembled his own. “Hey Squirt, off to school?”
“Mhm, Pops’ just forgot his phone.”
“Haha, I’ve done that more than once.”
Philip smiled, leaning against the wall. “What do you do at dad’s work?”
“Oh, I’m a photographer.”
“Cool! Do you like, take pictures of turtles and tortoises? Or is it just really boring things like buildings and people?”
Laurens shrugged, smiling internally at the kid’s enthusiasm for turtles. “If I had my way, Squirt, I’d only ever take pictures of turtles. Turtles are the bomb!”
Another minute passed of John and Philip talking turtles, until a slightly dishevelled Alex appeared at the door, shrugging on his blazer, keys between his teeth.
“Alright hijo, got my phone let’s…oh, hi John.”
John smiled as he took in Alex’s appearance – hair in a messy bun, sleepy shadows framing his face…positively adorable. He smiled and readjusted his rucksack, “Morning, Alex.” There was a beat of silence broken by Philip who looked up at his dad.
“Pop, John likes turtles too!”
“Haha who would’ve guess, hijo?”
“I actually have two terrapins inside.” Laurens said, gesturing back to his door. The smaller of the two freckled faces lit up and Philip began bouncing up-and-down, shaking his father’s arm wildly.
“Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Please, please can I get a turtle?”
Alex chuckled and shook his head, giving John a pointed look, which said, “This is your fault.” John merely raised his hands in surrender, internally sniggering to himself as he watched his new-found friend deny his son a turtle.
“If you want, you can come and see mine after school? And I mean that in a not-at-all creepy way, BT-dub.” Laurens said, grinning when he heard Alex mutter under his breath, “Did you really just say BT-dub out-loud?”
Again, Philip was quick with his answer and was shaking his dad’s arm again, “Really? Can I, Pops?” His brown eyes bore into Alex’s, and the older man looked between the two curly-haired people he was standing between. Instead of replying, Alex ruffled his son’s loose hair and puffed out, “We’ll talk about it later, okay? Now come on, we have to go otherwise you’ll be late for school.”
“I’ll walk with you.”
That statement blew Alex away.
Surprisingly it hadn’t been an awkward walk for Alex. Philip did most of the talking, holding his dad’s hand tightly, occasionally drawing an answer from one of the two adults. Alex knew that John would probably ask him all the questions he never got to ask the night before, but he was feeling more relaxed about answering them. Seeing that Philip was comfortable around John, and that John was being so nice to his son, had eased most of the nerves he had been having all night…his usual insomniac tendencies had been amplified by his worry, and he’d ended up pounding down three espressos throughout the night whilst emailing his finished article to Washington, and trolling celebrity Twitter accounts.
The trio rocked up at the school gates of Columbia Elementary, and Alex bent down and gave Philip a kiss on the forehead. “I’ll pick you up after school, okay?”
Philip nodded and hugged his dad tightly, “Okiedokes! Love you!”
“Love you too, hijo!”
And with that, Philip raced into the playground, waving at a couple of kids his age, before running over to join them. The sick feeling from the day before returned and Alex let out a sigh as he walked back to where John had been standing…awkwardly watching the scene with the same burning feeling from the last night. Laurens shook himself, checking his watch and forcing a smile as Alex drew closer. “Wanna head to Laf’s before work? We still got time.”
Alex nodded, supressing a yawn as the effects of the last espresso started to wear off, “Sure, I need caffeine otherwise I will not function today.”
“Tally-ho then good sir!” John piped with a rubbish fake-British accent, one which caused Alex to snigger as they walked down the street. The smaller of the two individuals pulled out his phone, whilst Laurens pulled out the one headphone he’d had in since the start of the journey, pausing the music he had been listening to.
Silence followed. Until…
“So, you have a kid?”
Hamilton looked over at Laurens. His eyes were fixed ahead of him, focusing on where he was walking. “Yeah, I have a kid. You did just meet him, that wasn’t some random child I’d dragged off the street.”
“Wow, sarcasm? You really do need caffeine, Hamilton.”
“I never joke about caffeine, Laurens.”
“Noted. But, yeah, no offence intended, but how do you have a kid?”
“Do you need me to explain the birds and the bees?”
The freckles on John’s face danced as he laughed, causing Alex to stare at him for a moment, before the former continued, “Seriously though, sarcasm aside…”
Alex sighed, “Philip’s mum and I dated back when I was 15, Philip came not long after. We moved over here when he was 3.”
The man next to him nodded. More silence, as the Yorktown Daily building slowly came into view and they began crossing the street towards Rochambeau.
“What about Philip’s mum?”
Again silence. John cast a glance over his shoulder as he held the door of the café open. Alex had stopped and was biting his lip, his mind elsewhere. The South Carolinian let go of the handle and touched his friend on the shoulder, “Hey, you okay?”
“Yeah, sorry. I just…don’t like talking about Philip’s mum. He was still just a baby when she…you know.”
“Don’t be it was a long time ago.”
“Well I’m still sorry, must’ve been hard raising him on your own. I certainly couldn’t do it.”
“You don’t think it’s sad that a 22-year-old has a kid?”
John scoffed, “I’ve watched ’16 and Pregnant’, there’s nothing wrong with having a kid young if you’ve got the brains for it…and we both know you definitely have the brains for it,” he commented with a wink, “Besides everyone’s got something to add to their package yours just so happens to be an awesome kid with a love for turtles, which I approve ‘cause who doesn’t love turtles?”
He said this as they slid into a booth, where Hercules was sketching an image of Lafayette. “Morning Herc.”
Herc muttered a greeting as John sat next to him before, “You talking about Alex’s kid?”
“The Petit Lion has un enfant?” Lafayette commented as he too slid into the booth next to Alex. John was still frowning at Hercules, who had finally decided to look up from his pad, smiling at his boyfriend who’d brought them all coffees.
“How do you know Alex has a kid?”
Alex’s eyes also asked the same question, and Hercules gave them a shrug, “Was his phone lock-screen, and he said he only has an older brother…I saw it when we exchanged numbers, soooo?”
“And you didn’t think it was weird?” The newbie of the group queried. Lafayette frowned, his eyeliner creasing with his eyes, stroking his chin with black-polished nails.
“Why would it be weird? Just because you ‘ave a kid, doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t want to be friends with you?” Silence seemed to be a common occurrence for Alex that morning, but Lafayette’s enthusiasm to pursue the discussion, like an eager puppy, ended it the second it began, “Can I see a picture, s’il vous plait?”
“Sure?” Alexander wasn’t confident with his answer, but he wiggled his phone out of his pocket and scrolled briefly through his pictures searching for the one he took of Philip before his first day of school. “He’s called Philip, he’s 6.” He handed the phone to the French man next to him, and then regretted his decision as Lafayette attempted to blow his eardrum with his high-pitch squeal. What came next was a stream of French that – to the unobserved eye and ear – made Lafayette sound like a broody woman.
“Oh, mon dieu, il est si mignon comme un mini John! Je pourrais juste le poudrer de cannelle et le transformer en une pâtisserie. Il est magnifique Alex, tu dois être si fier, non?”
“Yeah, he’s a cutie and, he likes turtles!” John spoke up eagerly, his hazel eyes filled with an equal amount of excitement. He was feeling more relaxed now, because he saw that Alex was happy talking about Philip, and he could now share his honest opinion of the kid he’d only met the night before. It made Alex blush to see his friends coo over his son, as Hercules stole his phone and started tearing up. “Laf, sweetie, I want one!”
“Mon amour! Can we? We can get a little girl, and then she and Philip can get married!!”
This sobered up both Hercules and John and drew Alex’s attention back to the conversation at hand. Lafayette blushed and bit his thumb, his tongue piercing catching the light. “Too much?”
“Wee bit, Laf. Wee bit.”
“My apologies, Petit Lion. Please though, tell me more about Philip! Can I babysit him? Oh, mon dieu, we can all have sleepovers at our apartment!”
This earned laughter from the entire group, but Alex elected not to address the second part of the Frenchman’s statement, but rather the first part.
“Um, well…He’s allergic to strawberries, he likes reading. We’re actually reading War and Peace together, his choice not mine.”
“Dude, that’s adorable”, Herc piped up.
The group chatted for a further ten minutes until the majority had to leave Lafayette, with the promise to return for lunch…and with an uncomfortable make-out session (for Alex and John) …not so much for Laf and Herc, and they headed up to work.
“Hamilton. Burr. Laurens.”
Alex looked up from his computer and looked over at the door where an intern stood. Both Laurens and Burr were looking over as well, although John was still fiddling with the lens of his camera. It was Burr who responded to the intern, mainly because he was the only person who seemed to know her name.
“Mr Washington wants to speak with you all in his office.”
“Thank you, Sally.” She received a polite smile from both Alex and John, and a nod from Burr. The latter then looked towards his co-workers and stood up from his desk. “Shall we then?”
Not two minutes later, they were all in Washington’s office, their boss on the phone speaking to someone called Jefferson…Alex had no idea who that was, but from the way Washington was speaking to him, he was another reporter.
“Right, I understand Jefferson, I know that you weren’t meant to cover Franklin’s article, but I need you to do it for me. I know you can have it done and down to Madison for publishing by the end of the day, so please, just do it.”
Their boss then put down the phone and looked at them. Burr immediately piped up with, “All ok at Monticello?”
“Monticello?” Alex muttered to John.
John leant over and whispered, his breath ghosting Alex’s ear, “Monticello News, it’s our sister-newspaper, Washington runs both. Jefferson is their “top reporter”, but he’s pretentious douchebag who’s been in France on assignment for the last few weeks.”
“Ben Franklin, he’s a fucking legend over at Monticello. Bit of an older reporter, not to mention his own photographer…damn I’m still in envy of his pictures.”
“Didn’t he cover the recent presidential elections?”
“Mhm, that he did.”
“Hamilton, Laurens, are you with us?”
Both men nodded, embarrassed blushes creeping across their cheeks, “Sorry sir, was just enlightening Alex about Monticello News.”
Washington looked at Alex with a gentle smile, “And you’re caught up now, son?”
Again with the son? “Yes sir. All on board now.”
Their boss rolled up his sleeves and rested his elbows against the wood of the desk, humming to himself, before getting to the reason he’d called the three men in. “Right, gentlemen, I called you all here because I want to discuss the big Puerto Rico article we want to cover. Now, as you all know there has been a large amount of aid relief sent to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and I want you to write a five-page article on the disaster and why relief should be sent out there. Laurens,” Washington looked at John, who was now bubbling with excitement. What had happened in Puerto Rico had hit very close to home with him, and he’d been raising awareness for a while now, “I want you to do the photographs.”
“Yes, thank you sir! I will not let you down with this!”
Washington smiled, “I know you won’t.”
Burr then interrupted, “Five pages, sir? Isn’t that too many?”
John muttered, “You are the worst, Burr.” A comment which made Alex snigger.
However, Burr wasn’t finished talking, “I have some questions, a couple of suggestions about how we could alter the article and make it more of a two-page spread.”
“Actually Burr, I called you here for a different reason, I actually want Hamilton to cover this article with Laurens.”
Alex looked over at his boss, momentarily taken aback, but Washington merely continued smiling, “You have some foreknowledge on this kind of writing, son, I trust you with it. I don’t want this article until the end of the month, so there is no rush. Burr, I want to elaborate on what is needed for this, do you mind waiting outside?”
Their co-worker was still in stunned silence, but managed to croak out a “Yes, sir.” And headed for the door. “Burr,” Washington said.
“Sir?” Burr turned around, looking back with hope in his eyes.
“Close the door on your way out,” replied their boss, his voice innocent and unintentionally hurtful.