Alexander knows he's screwed by about the time his sandwich arrives.
The first sign is John's laptop, the entire back of which is plastered with stickers from the ACLU, Earthjustice, Lambda Legal (Alexander's heart skips a beat), Sierra Club, the works. At the center, a cartoon turtle sports a #BlackLivesMatter sign on his shell.
John looks up from his screen and grins at Alex, and, well, fuck. That's sign number two. Intellectually, Alex knew John was seriously cute, with his warm eyes (swoon) and curly ponytail (double swoon) and freckles (triple swoon. Maybe Alex just needs more sleep. Ha, that's not happening.) But in their arrangements for today's meeting, Alex had never been on the receiving end of one of John's legit smiles. It's - um. Quite the experience.
John's expression goes concerned, and Alex realizes he must have missed something. He shakes his head. "Sorry, what?"
"I said, do you want to sit down?"
Well that's awkward. Alex drops into the seat across the table, taking a drag from his coffee like he isn't socially incompetent.
John eyes the cup dubiously. "How many ounces is that?"
Alex blinks at it. The table's seats are low, so he's at eye level with the lid. "A lot...?" he hazards.
John snorts and returns his attention to the laptop. "I'm making a group chat for everyone to share their contact information. We've finally convinced Laf not to communicate just in selfies, so that should help."
"Do you guys have a character limit for messages?"
John blinks at him. "That's only for Twitter."
"I know, but like. My last group kicked me out? Said I was spamming them," Alex says, wrinkling his nose. "Apparently it's only appropriate to show interest in modern monetary policy when writing essays, and 'sending us twenty articles at two in the morning'" - he makes sarcastic finger quotes - "is 'unwelcome.'" John chuckles deep in his throat, which Alex immediately decides is a noise he needs to hear all the time, no matter what it takes, holy fucking shit. He can feel his face flushing, so he takes another giant gulp of coffee as an excuse and yanks out his Stone Age laptop, which honest-to-god still creates .doc rather than .docx files. Facebook loads about as fast as his physics teacher grades labs, which is to say, very, very slowly, but eventually he manages to get on their class page. "We still need to pick a research topic."
John bites his lip. Alex resists offering to do that for him. "You know Lee?"
Alex wrinkles his nose. "Unfortunately." The guy sat next to Alex for the first week, but he elected to move after Alex politely explained that some of Lee's behaviors were offensive. Like his rape jokes. And his gay jokes. And his fucking punk-ass face.
"The guy's claims there's no such thing as white privilege - I know," he says when Alex makes a noise of outrage. "So what if we did our presentation on different aspects of white privilege, and whenever we give an example-"
"We use him," Alex says, delighted. Sign number three. Please, God, let John be single. "Washington'll be pissed, though."
"Not if we leave out Lee's name," John points out. "We just say somebody and stare at him."
What the hell, why not live a little. "I could kiss you right now," Alex confesses.
John grins. "I think my girlfriend might object, but thanks."
Alex smirks and waves a casual hand, as though his heart hadn't just been trodden into his spleen. Girlfriend. Right.
"Alex, you okay, man?"
Belatedly, Alex realizes he's still holding his burger with one shaking hand. He drops it onto the pile of fries in the tray and wipes his fingers on his pants. "I'm fine," he tells John over the cafeteria chatter. "It's fine. I just-" He presses his fist to his eyes, the other hand still white-knuckled around his phone. "That motherfucker-"
The dam breaks. "Arnold, that transphobic asshole, took it upon himself to denigrate the entire transgender community, and Lafayette specifically, with his ignorant blathering! He posted one of those motherfucking 'assuming my gender' jokes to the class discussion page for Psych, and when Laf objected, he called Laf a 'special snowflake' and said they were just looking for attention."
"That fucker didn't."
John cussing with that note of righteous fury is maaaaybe Alexander's new favorite thing, but he will focus on that later. Should he start by casting aspersions on Arnold's own dubious manhood, or attacking his intellectual inadequacy, or-
"Oh, man," John laughs suddenly, breaking the tension. "Arnold is so screwed."
"What? What happened?"
John squeezes onto the edge of the bench next to Alex, which almost derails Alex's train of thought. John turns his own phone screen so Alex can see the comment thread of the post they're both viewing. At the bottom, three bouncing dots tell them somebody's typing.
Alex squints at the name. "Eliza Schuyler? Haven't met her. Is she a friend of yours?"
"You could say that."
A block of text appears - a fucking massive block of text, because here is a woman after Alex's own heart, and maybe she's single? here's hoping - at the bottom of the thread. He reads:
Ben, I assume what you’ve written here was based in ignorance rather than cruelty. Certain corners of the internet will do that to you. But since this is a class focusing on expanding our knowledge of human beings, this is a wonderful opportunity to educate everyone! (Also, name-calling was unnecessary, don’t you think? Laf deserves an apology.)
Basically, what I'm hearing is that you think sex and gender equivalent, and that there were only two genders in the past. Let's look into this. The common misconception that nonbinary individuals are a new phenomenon simply isn’t true. People have identified as other genders throughout history. Consider the fact that Native American tribes had two other genders, or Indonesia's waria. A quote from the second article: "The mythologies of premodern Indonesian religions produced a world in which gender ambiguity or gender-switching was acceptable, and even a necessary and significant component of religious rituals."
Maybe your confusion is a misunderstanding of terms: SEX refers to a person’s biological traits, while GENDER refers to how people present themselves. Keep in mind that gender and sex will seem the same to you because, for you, they *are*. You are a cisgender male - your body is male, and your identity is masculine. That's not how it works for some people.
Update: here's a map of other genders in cultures worldwide!
"Yep," John says, grinning at Alex's wide eyes. "She's amazing."
"Who is she?"
"You know all the announcements they've been making about the toy drive?" Alex nods - the posters would be hard to miss, he'd almost stapled one into his Gov paper. "That's all 'Liza. She's also president of AVID."
More links to articles appear on the screen. Arnold makes some dumbass comment about the degeneration of modern masculinity.
"Asshole," John says, fire snapping in his eyes. "Is he even reading what she's saying?"
You know, I'm glad you mentioned that! I wrote a World History paper on gender roles through time. Since you're so interested:
"Can I marry her?" Alex asks.
"You should probably ask her that, but given that she and I are currently dating..."
Alex doesn't believe in Fate, but if he did, he'd say she had a grudge against him. John steals one of his fries.
The robotics team is demonstrating their rover in front of the school, a small group of teens clustered around them. A girl - Maria, he has Drama 2 with her - describes its different functions and fields questions while her male teammates drive the thing. Alex half-listens, mostly lost in reviewing for his physics quiz, when -
"Smart dudes," one of the audience members says loudly, "to choose that chick as team mascot."
Alex's head snaps up. Maria's jaw tightens, but she keeps talking as though she didn't hear. The boys guffaw. Alex balls his fists. He'll be late to English, but it will be worth the satisfaction of eviscerating -
"I don't understand," a clear voice says from the audience. "What's funny?"
The group goes quiet, and somebody whispers, "Oh, shit."
All eyes go to a tall girl, who's directing a puzzled look at the sexist clown. The guy's cocky smile turns uncertain as she stares at him, waiting for a response. He glances around for support as he says, "I mean, like, she's smokin' hot, so the guys have motivation to win."
The girl shakes her head, still looking blank. "She's team leader. Of course she's motivational, she's better than the rest of them."
"Maria," the girl interrupts, spreading her hands in appeal, "you were at the Chevron Design Challenge last month, right? Didn't you get first place?"
"Yes," Maria says, her lips twitching.
"And your prize was?"
"Huh." The girl turns back to the original joker, lips pursed. "Sounds like you should have competed, given how much of an expert you seem to be. Maybe an iPad would let you look up the definition of misogyny."
The joker flushes as everyone - including the guys who'd laughed for him - crack up. He stomps off, his cackling buddies trailing after him. Apparently being burned by a girl does nothing for a guy's street cred.
And such a beautiful burn too. Alex shoves his physics folder in his swollen backpack and goes over to where the girl and Maria talk quietly.
"It's unreasonable that you're expected to handle this level of chauvinism at school," the girl says as Alex walks up. "This is supposed to be a safe space."
Maria snorts. "What school have you been going to? No, I know," she adds quickly when the girl opens her mouth, "I'm just used to it, Eliza. I appreciate your intervention. Thanks."
Wait. The Eliza?
Alex officially needs an OKCupid account.
"Anytime," Eliza says, smiling.
Alex wants to pipe up that they can't leave it there, that they have to attack the misogyny straight on, maybe write to the school paper, but for once in his life he takes a breath first. He's experienced how irritating it is to have allies talk over him. "Hey," he says, putting down his bag which may or may not be bigger than him, "that was cool. I just wanted you guys - girls - to know that I support you, and if you, uh," and here he gets distracted because both women give him the full power of their attention, and fuck, they really are gorgeous, he feels like an asshole to be derailed by that now, "if you ever need or want a hand smashing the patriarchy, I'm here. Alex Hamilton."
Maria raises an eyebrow at him. "Going to monologue the other men into submission?"
Huh, that's an idea. Maybe select scenes from plays exemplifying how fucked up sexism is, or even scenes they wrote themselves. Flash mobs, only with less dancing, though dancing might also work -
"I'd join you," Eliza breaks in, which is how Alex knows he was speaking aloud again. "I know the president of Creators University, and the VP of Girls Learn International is part of the school Bollywood team."
"We'd have to aim for highly populated regions of campus. Maybe the cafeteria at lunch, or the parking lot after school."
"Fewer people might create greater intimacy, though," Eliza points out. "You're the Alex that John keeps talking about, right? I'll make a group chat with his friends and my sisters and some of the other women who might be interested."
Alex is officially in love. He hopes he only said that in his head.
"Count me in," says Maria.
Eliza gives her a heart-stopping grin and leans down to inspect the robot. "In the meantime, can you explain how you built the drive train?"
"She understands that part of him belongs to Antonio. That's the point of demanding the ring."
"Which is why she makes Antonio vouch for Bassanio's loyalty."
"Portia's smarter than that," Eliza argues. "She cares for Bassanio against her better judgement, and she wants him to be happy. Keeping Antonio close will do that, and keeping Antonio close to her means she doesn't have to give any of her husband up."
"Antonio doesn't deserve her," says Alex, frowning. "Bassanio doesn't either. Between the cheating and the anti-Semitism, they're both more vile than Shylock by a long shot."
"Which is half Shakespeare's point."
"You think Portia is supposed to reform them both, like the play is supposed to reform the audience?"
A couple kids run past as they walk down the school hall. Must be another fight. Neither of them pay attention.
"After they exile Lorenzo, Antonio will see the error in his ways."
"And then they all fall in bed together? I don't know-"
"I said give it back," a voice says loudly.
They both freeze. That was John.
Alex and Eliza exchange a look and race in the direction of the coalescing crowd. With liberal use of his elbows, Alex creates a path for him and Eliza to the front. John and that dickwad Wallace are in each other's faces. James Madison hangs awkwardly behind John, tugging on his arm, but John doesn't move.
Eliza groans. "I'm getting Washington."
"Why don't you take it, then?" Wallace sneers at John. He tosses an inhaler from hand to hand. A couple of his goons break the circle to hulk behind him.
John doesn't even look worried. "I will, but I'm giving you a chance first. It's called being a good sport."
"And he's not alone," Alex adds, joining him. John flashes him a smile.
Wallace looks down his abnormally large nose at them. "I'm not afraid of a freak and his bodyguard fa-"
John decks him. The punch is a thing of beauty, straight and fast and apparently Alex has a fighting kink, that's new and exciting.
The goons lunge for John, but Alex throws himself at the knees of one and sends him sprawling. The other punches John in the face before he can dodge. John pivots, ducks under the guy's charge, and flips him hard onto the tile floor.
John grins, one eye swelling, as Washington elbows his way into the circle. "Hello, Mr. Washington. Glad you could join us."
"It wasn't his fault, sir," Alex says. "Wallace stole James's inhaler." Heads bob among the audience.
Washington sighs. "All of you, come with me. That includes you, James, and you, Alex. The rest of you," he adds, surveying the gathered students, "rubbernecking during a fight can get you detention." They disperse quickly.
Eliza fusses over John's black eye as they straggle toward the principal's office. John catches her outstretched hand and kisses her knuckles.
Alex isn't jealous. Of course not. Not of either of them.
Especially when John grabs Alex's hand and starts telling Eliza how Alex took down one of the bullies, and Eliza hugs him in thanks. Then they're all holding hands, and Alex knows it's just friendly, but that's hard to focus on when they're all sandwiched together on the bench outside the office, and John and Eliza kiss over his head.
Alex needs to stop wanting things he can't have.
Adams never had a handsome face, but sneering makes it worse as he demands, "What?"
Alex tries not to gag on the man's bad breath. It's not like Adams will irrevocably disturb the rest of the test-takers if he whispers from more than two inches away from Alex's face. "I need more paper."
"I said I need more-"
"I heard you, don't be smart with me, boy," Adams threatens, shaking a sausage-like finger at Alex's nose.
Alex blinks. "Isn't the point of an AP test to be smart?"
Giggles ripple through nearby tables. Adams glares furiously at them, then rounds on Alex again. "Why do you need more paper?"
"I ran out of space in the booklet." He'd almost thought he could make all his answers fit, but then the test had asked him about how federalism factored into Obergefell v. Hodges. Alex is just glad he has another hour to finish answering.
Adams stomps back to his desk at the front of the room, muttering about extra paperwork. "Stupid bastard," he adds, loud enough for everyone to hear.
Alex stiffens, his cheeks flushing red-hot. He stares at his lap.
A chair rattles like someone's leaping to their feet, but Eliza's voice cuts across the noise as she calls, "Mr. Adams!"
Eliza is one of the kids who always end up being teacher's pet. Adams sounds much friendlier when he says, "Yes, Elizabeth?"
"I need more paper."
Alex looks up. Eliza smiles innocently at Adams, one hand still straight up in the air.
Two rows in front of her, John sinks back into his seat, a smile spreading across his face. "Yeah, Mr. Adams, I need more paper too. There's so much to write about." He tosses a grin at Eliza over his shoulder, which she returns.
God, Alex loves them so much.
"Oui," Laf says, nodding like the lord they keep claiming to be. "I need more papers as well. Perhaps ten will do."
"Hit me up," Herc says from the front row. So he wasn't asleep after all. The staggered levels of the auditorium let Alex watch over his shoulder as he crosses out page after empty page. "My booklet's full."
"The instructions you read us said we could have more scratch paper if we needed it," Eliza adds, staring Adams dead in the eye. Alex has never heard her speak to a teacher like this before.
Adams looks like he's going to blow a gasket. It's the best thing Alex has ever seen.
After the test, they delay going back to class by loitering outside the library. Eliza's trying to talk John into going to the principal with her. "Adams was completely out of line. The system needs accountability."
"You think King's going to touch this with a ten-foot pole?" John asks, snorting. "Seabury's the only one I know actively sucking his dick-"
"But Adams would be nearly impossible to fire. Tenured. King always sides with teachers anyway. Plus, he hates Alex."
Alex makes a face. "Give a man one short essay-"
"It was thirty-eight pages-"
"On how he's failing to support students from underrepresented communities, and suddenly he's up in your face about impertinence and a respectful environment. I'd respect the douchebag if he respected us!"
Eliza giggles. "You honestly sent him a thirty-eight page article?"
"Cut down from fifty-four," John says, "after I edited out the digressions about how much the White House was fucking over minorities everywhere."
Eliza gets a gleam in her eye. "You know, my mom's cousin works for the local news station. They're always looking for new stories on county issues."
"Eliza," Alex says fervently, "you are a queen among women."
"Hey!" John says, faking indignation. "What about me? I was the one who proofread your monstrosity."
"John, that 'monstrosity' was a masterpiece. And trust me," he adds, running his eyes salaciously over John's body. Eliza chokes on a laugh. "You're invited too."
He saunters off, Eliza laughing even harder at John's stammering. Internally, Alex berates himself. Don't joke about that, idiot, they'll figure it out. Bad enough he thinks he'll vibrate out of his skin every time John throws an arm around his shoulder. The butterflies in his stomach when Eliza smiles at him make the entire thing unbearable. He can't drag himself away, but he can't do anything about his feelings either, given that Eliza and John are dating each other.
Fuck his life, seriously.
Let this much be said about Alexander Hamilton: when he loses his temper, he does it spectacularly.
And on national television.
"You want to know what I think about the American education system? Let me tell you - it's shit."
"I'm surprised they didn't stop filming right then," Eliza admits, dropping her head on his shoulder, while Alex tries not to die. Maybe watching the interview on John's flat-screen in his fucking enormous house wasn't such a great idea, if it means he's got Eliza curled up on his left and John leaning into him on his right. On one hand, he could happily spend the rest of his life right here (though he'd need access to a Twitter account.) On the other hand, he's silently freaking out.
For different reasons than he is onscreen.
The reporter makes some surprised comment about how the school system seems to have worked out for Alex, given that he's going to be speaking to the governor in a few minutes about his award-winning essay on the interplay between financial reform and race in politics. Surely he's not being ungrateful -
"I'm not going to kiss DeVos's ass because I lucked out. My foster family bought their house before neighborhood prices skyrocketed, which is the only reason we can afford to live in my school district. My school is one of the best, and our students drown in a sea of homework and unreasonable expectations. More than three-quarters of my classmates have symptoms of depression and anxiety. The cult of insomnia means no one recuperates. It's hard to feel school spirit when people are being hospitalized."
The reporter tries to cut in, but she hasn't got a chance.
"We're taught that our value lies in our standardized test scores, never mind our interpersonal skills or creativity or efficacy as human beings, even though those tests favor rich, male students. SAT prep courses keep springing up around town like gold-plated dandelions. See you social life, hello College Board.
"And that rash of cheating you talk about? Instead of blaming my generation for lazy entitlement, look at what we're being provided. Teachers who hardly bother showing up once they're tenured. Biology textbooks chosen by non-scientists because the photos are pretty. An environment toxic to minority students - classmates throw around racial slurs, staff members throw around racial slurs. And this is at one of the best schools in the state!
"Sure I benefit from the system, but that doesn't mean I'm ignoring the multitudes who don't. American education is fucked up, and I intend to fix it. Tell Secretary DeVos this immigrant is coming for her job."
"Fucking mic drop," John breathes.
Eliza throws her arms around Alex. "You were amazing!"
"It's no big deal," Alex mutters, flushing. It's no more than what she or John would have done.
"You've got three million views on YouTube," says John, "and fifty thousand likes on Facebook. And a meme."
Alex boggles at him over Eliza's shoulder. "A meme?"
John laughs. "You have the best priorities, man." He pulls up a Buzzfeed article on the TV. Tell Secretary DeVos this zoo is coming for her grizzly bear. Tell Lord Voldemort this half-blood is coming for his Horcruxes. Tell Lin-Manuel Miranda this fan is coming to shower him in endless love and devotion. Tell my mental health this WIP is coming for its stability.
Now that's what Alex calls a legacy. "Eliza, I have a meme!"
Her giggle is a beautiful sound. "We're proud of you." She presses a kiss to his cheek, and he could float.
"Hey," John says, sounding aggrieved. "We talked about this. I saw him first."
"And you're taking too long," Eliza retorts.
Alex looks between them, confused. John's cheeks redden under his freckles. Eliza's smile borders on dangerous, which is...hot, actually, thanks for asking.
"I'll just go for it, then," John says.
"Okay. Got it. Right."
"For goodness sake," Eliza says, and shoves Alex into John's chest.
Then John's mouth meets his, and nothing else matters. John cups a hand around the back of his head, and Alex clings to John's shirt, which might be awkward if he wasn't kissing John Laurens, holy fucking shit. He shivers when John's tongue runs along the part of his lips.
John draws back and gently disentangles Alex's hands from his front. He quirks a smile at Alex's wide eyes, looking almost shy. "Good, yeah?"
"I, um, please, what, yes, I-"
"My turn," says Eliza. Alex turns to gape at her, and Eliza presses her lips against his. She tastes like blueberries. Forget floating, Alex could fly.
When she draws back, Alex's cognitive abilities have gone offline, maybe permanently. All of his capacity for thought will be processing those two kisses for the rest of forever, thanks, goodbye.
"I think we broke him," John tells Eliza. He leans in to kiss her, and there go the last of Alex's brain cells. These two hold back in public beyond the occasional greeting peck, but now they're playing tonsil hockey as if he weren't there.
Or possibly because he's there. Alex tries not to whimper.
When they come up for air, Alex clears his throat. "So is this, like, a congratulations on the meme thing, or-"
"Eliza and I want to date you," John says. His face is so close Alex finds it hard to breathe.
"Dinners, picnics, movies, everything," says Eliza. She bites her lip. "If that's what you want?"
"Is there a word more yes-y than yes?" God, is this what he's coming to? Alex thrives on words. He's eloquent, goddammit. "I mean, yes. Yes. This is a yes."
"Good," John says, his grin widening. "Because this couch is too small for the three of us, and my bed's down the hall."
"Just for making out," Eliza adds. "We won't to push you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable."
"You two," says Alex, "are incredible."
John bounds to his feet, offering Alex and Eliza hands up. His eyes sparkle. "Race you."
This - Eliza's giggles when John tickles her for getting ahead, John's growl when Alex valiantly comes to her rescue only to find she's used the distraction to outstrip them both - this is Alex's life now. He chases his amazing girlfriend and boyfriend out of the room, grinning so hard it hurts.