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My Pride and Joy

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It was another hour or so before Alex rose from his slumber. His head was heavy, lead-like and he internally cursed himself for being so small, as it made his body and brain incapable with coping with the amount of alcohol his stomach enjoyed consuming. If he had to be honest, he knew that he was probably still a little drunk…the fact that he stumbled and fell into Lafayette’s not-so-neatly arranged pile of raunchy, French romance novels, landing flat on his face (he did remember to add his blindness into the equation of this collapse) and one hand searching the surrounding area for his glasses, merely proved it. His body slumped with a sigh when he heard a chortle and saw the unmistakably large feet of Hercules before him – his fall obviously having drawn some attention.

“Ah, so you’re alive then?”

“No.”

His voice felt rough, raw even, and then the memories of loud and unabashed singing popped into his head – his cheeks flushing with delayed embarrassment and his insides cringing. Herc laughed again and stooped to offer him a hand. He held Alex’s round specs in the other, and gently popped them on the smaller man’s face once he was stood on two feet. Alex’s hair had fluffed out into a mane, emphasising his lion-like nickname, and he’d grabbed one of his blankets (John’s hoodie) and had pulled it on over his top and boxers. Despite the few inches of height difference between the two men, the hoodie dropped over Alex’s bum, and he held the overly long sleeves between his fingers as the fell beyond his hands. The hoodie dwarfed him further, making him seem more childlike, and if Herc didn’t know Alex well enough already to know that he was an angry fuck in the morning, he would’ve risked snapping a photo. Instead he gave Alex a pat on the shoulder and showed him through to the kitchen.

“What time is it?” Alex asked, rubbing his eyes with a yawn as he sat down. He rested his forehead against the worktop and eased into the coolness of the granite. A sleepy cloud began to descend on him again as his eyes drooped, but his brain (in protest) was beginning to query at the obvious; where were Laf and John?

“A little after half 10.” Hercules replied, starting up the coffee machine so he could save Alex from slumber.

However, just merely knowing the time seemed to fully sober up the immigrant and he shot up straight and nearly fell out of his chair but managed not to reintroduce his face to the floor for the second time that morning.

“What? No! Shit, seriously?”

“Yeah, you’ve been out for ages. Do you ever just have a normal night’s sleep?”

“Shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!”

“Well if you need to drop a deuce, bathrooms that-a-way.”

Herc overlooked the glare that was sent in his direction. Alex ran a hand over his face and groaned, “Carlotta is gonna kill me. I said I’d be home and pick up Pip an hour ago.” He stood and took the mug of coffee from Hercules’ outstretched hand, then lifted it to his lips.

“Wait. Wait, it’s h- JESUS CHRIST ALEX!” Hercules cried out as the small man downed the scalding liquid in one gulp, a few drops escaping into his unkempt, three-day-old beard, “Do you have, like, tonsils of steel or something?” he asked, still in shock, as Alex wiped his chin with the sleeve of John’s hoodie.

“Nah, just a permanently burnt throat. I feel no pain.”

“Ouch.”

“Yeah, it’s a suffering too terrible to name. Anyway,” he cracked his knuckles, “I gotta go get my son and apologise my ass off to my Abuelita.”

“Chill out, Ham-a-lam. John and Laf went out ages ago. Said they were gonna get Mini John.”

Alex froze. John and Laf had gone to get Philip? He wasn’t sure how he felt about it – relieved? Angry? Anxious? Disappointed? He didn’t want his son to think that he’d been forgotten, but he was glad that it was John going to get him.

It was at that point that Alex processed whose hoodie he’d involuntarily put on, and his insides felt the warmth of the coffee. He smiled internally, the faint of smell of John’s cologne mixing with the caffeinated air around him. He was barely listening to what Hercules was saying to him, a fact that the taller man noticed immediately, but he kept talking anyway (relishing in the fact that he could lord this over the Hamilton for a while).

“Yo!” The large marshmallow of a man clicked his fingers in the tanned man’s face. Brown eyes blinked, and Hamilton was back in the room and out of his John-induced fantasy…not that he’d admit that to anyone, or himself. “You still with me, Ham-a-lam?”

“Why do you keep calling me that?”

“What?” Herc replied with a bubbly smirk, knowingly full well what the “that” was, of which Alex was referring to.

Raising an unamused eyebrow, Alex accepted another mug of coffee which he proceeded to sip instead of chug…he’d done enough chugging over the last twelve hours.

“Ham-a-lam?” He inquired slowly, his mug against his lips.

Herc raised his own mug and took a long slurp from it, before replying – his sunny smirk still attached to his face, “You insisted upon it.”

“I would never insist on something as atrocious as ‘Ham-a-lam’ for a nickname.” His voice held some hesitation, and his own fears were confirmed when Herc opened his phone and scrolled through his photos, until he landed upon the video he was looking for. He looped an arm around Alex’s shoulders and grinned, “Behold, my dear Hamilton, the beauty of drunk you!”

He then clicked play.

Past Alex had the camera and was taking the video…

It wasn’t the longest of videos in the world, but for Alexander, it was certainly the most embarrassing second-hand experience he’d ever witnessed…and it was himself he was watching. He could instantly tell the level of his drunken state, by the fact that his eyelids were droopy, his hair had been tied up like a pineapple and he had what suspiciously looked like vomit on a napkin on his shoulder…yeah he’d been a few drinks away from proper blackout-Hamilton…both Laf and John had their arms around him – John was wearing his glasses on the edge of his nose and was muttering away in Alex’s ear, his lips lost behind Alex’s dark curls. Oh yeah, he was talking with a British accent…

“And I say to you again, me ol’ codger!”

And so was I apparently…

“I must insist upon you gents, that you now address me…His Royal Highness and Majesty, the Duke of Nevis, as Ham-a-lam, here and forever more!”

“Oh, mon ami, you do realise that you would never allow us to call you by this name of dogs-”

“Pet name!” Herc shouted from when he had his face pressed into Lafayette’s stomach, before he nuzzled his face further in.

Present Herc momentarily paused the video and looked down at his miniature friend, “Ok, I have to admit I’m not proud of my next act, but it’s worth me hurling on Laf’s suede pumps just to hear your next words!”

Alex looked at him, “O-k…”

The video continued, last night’s Hercules threw up on Laf’s prized suede pumps (much to the hilarity of John and Alex, the form of whom had an arm around Alex’s neck and pulled him close to his chest as he laughed) and then drunk Alex looked back into the camera, yelling to his equally wasted friends.

“I swear on my life, as a Nevisonian…is Nevisonian even a word? Wouldn’t it be a man from Nevis? A Nevisman? Nevish-man? Nevisian? Nevisian that’s it! Ok, where was I?”

“You were swearing as a Nevisonian,” Hercules answered, his face now hidden (in shame) in a bucket as Lafayette glared at him but stroked his curls soothingly all the same as he vomited again…his suede pumps had been discarded in a bin.

Alex passed John the phone and wrapped his free arm around him, “Ah yes, I swear, mi amigos, as a Nevisonian, that I will never – drunk or sober, but mainly sober – dismiss you if you address me by me title! I will only now respond to Ham-a-lam, or I won’t respond at all! Are we agreed?!”

“AYE!”, was the unanimous reply, and then John chucked the phone in the air and it landed in Hercules original pile of vomit, before Laf’s face and hand came into view and the image froze marking the end of the video.

There was a moment of silence between the pair, Alex from utter shame and Herc because he was trying his utmost to contain a large belly laugh, but it was soon broken when Alex turned to his friend.

“Let me be the first to say I really can’t do a British accent!”

_-…-_

Philip had been over the moon when John and Lafayette had come to pick him up from his Abuelita’s apartment that morning. He’d gotten to hold and play with Flash and Gordon for a whole hour, not to mention feed them from his hand, before the trio had set off back. Lafayette was super tall, and when he’d lifted Philip onto his shoulders, the 6-year-old had felt like he was the King of the World, and all those below him were his mere peasants to boss around…although it didn’t really work because neither John nor Lafayette bought him ice-cream…apparently it was “too early”. However, they did listen to his command when he asked politely if they couldn’t go on the subway back to Laf’s home but walk instead through the park. He hoped his Papa was awake now, so when he got there he would buy him ice-cream.

“Wow, you live in a very fancy place, Laffy.”

“Oui, mon Pip, I ‘ave, ‘ow you say, the filled pockets.”

John scoffed and squeezed Philip’s hand, looking at his friend. “Just say that you’re loaded, Laf. And stop pretending you don’t know how to speak English, or Philly and I will just start talking Spanish, so you feel left out, won’t we Philly?”

The curly haired boy grinned, his ponytail matching John’s, and the pair of them wearing different, but similar turtle-related tops. Several people on the way had complimented John and his “son” on their matching outfits, and when the South Carolinian had gotten sick of telling them that Philip wasn’t his, he’d just begun rolling with it.

“Yeah!”

“Mon deu, Pip, you wound my ‘eart!” The flamboyant Frenchman grabbed his chest and gasped, choking on an exaggeratedly fake sob – he also leant against the wall of the staircase and slid onto the floor for dramatic effect.

John crouched down, smirking as his friend lay back – his fake sobs continued – and then whispered into Philip’s ear, “Tickle him in the sides!”

An impish twinkle lit up in Philip’s oh-so-like-Alex’s eyes and he grinned widely, a gap from a lost tooth showing at the front of his mouth. The par of them crept round Lafayette and then pounced on his stomach, tickling his sides and making him squeal and flail to get rid of them. The noise began to amplify, the more the two Spanish-speaking devils tickled the Frenchman, until a door opened, and Alex and Hercules ran out – the latter brandishing his phone and a spatula.

“What’s going on?! We heard a cat being murdered!”

“LAF ARE YOU OK?!”

“Dad!”

Philip ceased his assault on Lafayette and ran to his dad, jumping into his arms and snuggling into him. John too stopped tickling the poor suffering pansexual, who now lay on the floor out of breath, and straightened up. He smiled as Alex peppered Philip’s face with kisses, and the boy laughed, teasing his dad about his unkempt facial hair.

“Pops, you need to shave.”

“Ouch, a hello to you to, Pip.”

“Sorry, hi!” The boy then pointed accusingly at the South Carolinian and the Frenchman, “They wouldn’t get ice-cream for breakfast.”

Alex gasped, “No!”

“Yes!”

“No way!”

“Yes way, Pops!”

As Laf was aided to his feet by his partner, the three other men looked at the father and son, “Wait,” John started, his eyebrows knitting together, “You give him ice-cream for breakfast?”

Alex grinned back at him, popping his son down and letting him run into Laf and Herc’s flat, “Nope, never. Give him porridge with brown sugar, which he thinks is the same as melted ice-cream.”

The group chuckled as they heard a “Wow!” from Philip (who’d just discovered Hercules’ giant Disney DVD collection). They all then went inside and found the small child hunched around a circle of DVDs, his eyes wide with awe and love for the kid’s films. Alex perched on the sofa and scolded his son for rummaging through people’s cupboards without asking permission first, but he was then reprimanded by acting group parents, Hercules and Lafayette.

“Don’t worry about it, Ham-a-lam.”

“Oui, don’t worry, Ham-a-lam.”

“No, Laf, not you too.” Alex looked crestfallen as his friends ganged up on him with his unwanted new nickname.

John laughed, “Ah so he showed you the video.”

“Shut up.”

They ignored him and laughed – Philip, oblivious to the context, laughed also. Hercules then scooted onto the floor and into the inner DVD circle. “So, Pip, what are we thinking?”

“Hmmm,” the little boy stroked his chin thoughtfully. The large man chuckled before whispering, “You know we could just watch them all!”

“All of them?”

“ALL OF THEM! We shall start withhhhh…”

Herc looked to Philip who held up The Lion King. “An excellent choice, Mini John!”

When the older Hamilton tried to argue that he had stuff he wanted to work on, he was immediately hushed by the group and forced to recline back against the cushions, his son crawling onto his lap, Laf and Herc curled up on one armchair (the former was tucked up under a blanket on the latter’s lap) and John sat next to him. It all felt very…normal, homely…peaceful. Wrapping his arms around his boy’s stomach, Alex pulled Philip closer to him and relaxed even further, as the music signalled the start of the movie. It also marked the start of the singing…the loud, out of tune, acting involved, serenading the first to fall asleep (aka Hercules) “…singing”.

It made ears bleed…well ears of those who were actually able to sing, like Broadway stars. It was clear that none of those in the room, bar Philip who was young and still had potential, were meant to be on stage. They could hardly carry a tune, let alone a full musical.

Yeahhh, let’s be thankful they were all good at their jobs and didn’t have to resort to music as a career.

As the Disney binge continued, John and Alex left to go to the local bodega to stock up on snacks, while Laf, Herc and Philip made lunch. Neither had failed to notice (but neither commented) on the fact that Alex was still wearing John’s hoodie, as they stepped out of the shop – armed with unhealthy, sugary goodness. However, when John shivered as an icy wind blew by, Alex began taking the unspoken article off, until he was stopped by the taller of the two.

“Nah, don’t ‘Lex. You don’t wanna catch a cold.”

“But-”

“No buts, except the fine-as buns of an exceptional male specimen,” the pair laughed at this, and Alex shrugged the hoodie back over his shoulders, “besides,” John continued, bumping Alex’s shoulder with his own, “You look like a hobbit in my clothes.”

“Ouch, pride wounded, but a good trilogy to binge.”

“Yeah,” the other agreed, “That’s my Christmas movie binge.”

“Mine too. There’s something about watching fictional characters beheading grotesque creatures and destroying a piece of jewellery that makes me feel so festive.”

“Same though. We totally have to watch it at Christmas!”

“Yes!” Alex agreed, his gut squirming excitedly at the prospect of Christmas plans with John. They talked more about the Tolkien trilogy as they re-entered the flat and joined the group again for their next Disney sing-along, Oliver and Company (Herc’s choice). Everyone resumed their places on the chairs, John a little closer to Alex and Philip, while the couple cuddled on the chair. It was towards the end of Moana (his choice) that Alex felt the weight on his eyes – his hangover coming at him again – and by the time they hit the first song of Beauty and the Beast (Laf’s choice) and Belle was making her way through the poor provincial town, that Alex’s head dropped onto John’s shoulder and he began snoring softly. There was a swift conversation between the three awake adults via eye contact as Philip went to the bathroom, which ended with John sending his “parents” a glare.

When the boy didn’t return immediately after the flush of the loo, John looked round and then carefully (and reluctantly) slid himself free from Alex – who snuggled into a pillow, undisturbed – and went to check on him, thankfully unnoticed by Lafayette ad Hercules. He found Pip sat on the floor of the hallway, picking at a loose thread on his jeans, his toes curled and a thoughtful expression stirring his face. He blinked and smiled at John when the man slid down the wall next to him, crossing his legs and looking at the boy with curious hazel eyes.

“What’s up, Philly? Tired?”

“No.”

The jean-picking resumed.

“You know you can tell me if you don’t want to tell your dad something, right?”

This gained a more animated reaction, as the boy straightened up and looked John dead in the eye.

“John, do you think Pops is happy?”

“Why would you think he wasn’t happy?”

“Dunno. He smiles and stuff, but…he just seems sad.”

“Sometimes, grown ups just are.” He wrapped a reassuring arm around Philip and squeezed his shoulders. The boy hummed quietly, and then looked up with wide brown eyes.

“He smiles more with you.”

“Now I know for a fact that’s only cause you’re there.”

“He likes you.”

This made John blush a little, but he was sure that the boy meant “like” in a friendly manner.

“Well, I like him too.”

Philip smiled at this, his innocent face holding so much hope from John’s answer. John didn’t want to take that away from him, so he continued, “Tell you what, let’s – me and you – do everything we can to make your dad happy, kay?”

“Okiedokes!”