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The Liberty Behind Deliberation

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Alexander Hamilton was scared.

With nowhere to go, what felt like at least three broken ribs, and nothing but a threadbare jacket on a cold January night in Virginia, how could he not be?

This was the third night in this month that this had happened, but was so much colder than the others that Alex realised he had to do something other than lie on the pavement and wait for morning to arrive. With snow settling around him, he knew he needed to get somewhere warm if he wanted to avoid dying from hypothermia at the ripe old age of 17.

Alex considered his options: he knew Laf’s was his best bet- the Washingtons had always been supportive (despite his reluctance to accept any kind of assistance from a parental figure) and his friend would likely let him stay without asking too many questions- but the mansion was so far away that Alex knew he’d probably collapse from either pain or exhaustion (or a fun mixture of the two) before he arrived.

The same could be said for John’s and the Schuylers’- both residences were so far from Alex’s run down, grimy street that they felt like alternate universes. Herc’s was closer, but Alex knew he was bound to ask questions he just couldn’t deal with right now, too weary to satisfy his friend’s protective instincts as the mother hen of the group.

That left him with Burr and Madison- he barely knew either boy, only acquainted through class or extracurriculars in which they rarely spoke, so neither of them would be likely to accommodate him in this state- 

Unless-

He was sure he knew the way. He and John had been before, having stolen alcohol from a bustling party before heading over to the park for an eventful Summer’s night. It couldn’t be that far, probably a 20 minute walk at most (he could manage that, right?). 

Hating every second of it, Alex stumbled out of the alleyway and made his way to Thomas Jefferson’s house.

———

When Thomas Jefferson opened the door at 2am on a Sunday night, he expected to see one of his sisters (probably Lucy, she’d been getting into more trouble recently) just back from a party, or his dad having returned from some office party, or maybe even some deranged political campaigner or religious preacher who couldn’t tell the fucking time (having just been rudely awakened at two in the morning, how could he be expected to think straight?).

The last person he expected to see staring up at him was Alexander Hamilton.

Thomas could do nothing but stare blankly for a few seconds, unable to even comprehend what was happening until Alexander started to speak.

”I-“

”What the hell, Hamilton?” Thomas hissed angrily, all traces of his previous drowsiness banished because Alexander fucking Hamilton was hereshivering on his doorstep in the middle of the night.

Alex looked down and choked on a sigh, unable to meet Thomas’ eyes, before beginning a tentative explanation. ”Look, I know it’s late, and you were probably asleep before I got here, and we kind of hate each other which makes this even worse and oh God, I really messed up by coming here, but please just let me explain-“

”Jesus Christ Hamilton, slow down. What are you-“

And that was when Thomas really looked at Alexander and knew that something was wrong. Time seemed to slow as he took in the smaller boy’s violent shivering, the way he was holding himself as though everything hurt, the fear etched into his face and the utter weariness in his eyes that had nothing to do with lack of sleep. Alexander started to speak again but was silenced by Thomas, who was at a complete loss as to what to do.

”Just let me-“

”Alexander... what? Why are you here? What’s- is something- why are you here?”

”Please, just let me explain,” Alex pleaded wearily. “I know this is a weird situation and I really wouldn’t be here if I had any other option, but I just need somewhere to stay for one night. I promise I’ll be out of here in the morning, I can sleep on the floor or the couch or something and you won’t have to speak to me again, just- please- let me stay here for one night.”

And Thomas could’ve said no. He could’ve turned Hamilton away, made up some excuse about how he already had someone staying round and there was no space, could’ve even been downright rude to the small, shaking boy and just told him to piss off, but something about the way Hamilton had literally begged Thomas to let him stay stopped him. Something about his defeated tone (Hamilton, defeated?), his slumped shoulders and the way his voice cracked on the plea showing just how desperate he truly was had Thomas rooted to the spot. He stared at the Caribbean boy for a moment, and sighed.

”Ok.”

 

Chapter Text

With Hamilton sleeping on the couch in the living room downstairs, Thomas contemplated what he had just seen.  

He thought about seeing his enemy, the boy with whom he fought with practically every other day (whether verbally or physically), broken and beaten and begging on his doorstep.

And while Thomas Jefferson could be abrasive, and combative, and even downright cruel at times, one thing he was absolutely not was oblivious.

Which was why he was lying in bed at 5am on a Sunday, unable to fall asleep, because how the hell was he supposed to reconcile the Hamilton he saw last night- weary, frightened, broken- with Alexander Hamilton, the epitome of stubbornness and wittiness and independence and everything else that made him almost formidable? What could explain what had happened to his enemy besides the one thing Thomas was trying so hard not to think about?

Because it was one thing to suggest that Thomas had needed to practically carry Hamilton into the house, to hear him gasp in pain with every other step, almost cry out when he finally hit the couch, just because of the actions of some random stranger, but another thing entirely to suggest that maybe something was really fucking wrong and he had to get Hamilton out-

But how could he do that?

Thomas supposed he could talk to Hamilton’s friends, let them know what was going on, but could he really break Hamilton’s trust like that (trust? Really Thomas? The boy you’ve been punching and fighting with practically every other day?)? And besides, couldn’t he be endangering the boy just by telling anyone (well you’d sure be endangering him by just leaving him there), couldn’t he be left in a worse situation (what could be worse than this?) than he was already?

Although he was aware that, rationally, he really knew nothing about Hamilton and that in all likelihood this truly was a one time thing (because god knew that Thomas was nothing of not a raging pessimist, prone to planning out the worst possible scenario in any situation), Thomas was unable to get it off his mind.

So Thomas Jefferson tossed and turned, never coming up with an answer, until finally falling asleep.

———

“Get up, we’re leaving for school.” Upon hearing Hamilton’s voice, Thomas almost jumped out of bed, forgetting last night’s events until they came crashing back to him and-

“What the fuck?” Thomas spat, voice rough from sleep but still hopefully conveying how fucking ridiculous it was that Hamilton was even considering school right now.

Hamilton raised an eyebrow at him in the only response Thomas knew he was going to get, and huffed while turning into the corridor to leave.

Thomas followed after him, decidedly ignoring Hamilton’s flinch as he grabbed the smaller boy’s arm to stop him (and when did Hamilton get so thin?). “You can’t possibly think I can let you go into school right now,” Thomas hissed, because what the hell did Hamilton think he was doing?

”Let me?” Hamilton questioned, incredulity soaking his words. “It’s not like I need your permission to-“

Thomas sputtered, cutting him off. “Have you even seen yourself? You have a black eye, you’re limping- I have no idea what the hell happened to you last night but it’s not something you can just brush off! You have to- I don’t know- just, fucking hell- you need to rest, you need to actually eat something, to just- you can’t just go to school!”

Hamilton’s eyes narrowed, his expression becoming defensive before he turned around, effectively bringing the conversation to a close before tying his shoes, readying himself to leave.

Thomas stood in the doorway for a moment before realising what was happening, and making his way over to the other boy.

”Fine. If you don’t want my help or whatever that’s fine, just... let me make you breakfast or something. We don’t need to leave for like half an hour, and you look really thin, and even though I hate you, I can’t just throw you out. Just... I won’t ask questions if you don’t want me to, I swear, and although I hate this I just really need to know you’ve at least eaten.”

And while Hamilton could’ve turned and left right then, or taken the piss out of Jefferson’s protectiveness (Jefferson? Protective? Over him?), he just couldn’t in that moment. Reluctantly, he nodded at the taller boy, and followed him to the kitchen.

———

Jefferson and Hamilton walked to school in silence, Hamilton ignoring Jefferson’s concerned gaze as he winced at every few steps (because last night really had been worse than most) and could barely focus on his surroundings. The tense silence continued throughout the journey, neither boy willing to break it (what the hell could they say anyway?).

Just as they reached the school and Hamilton breathed a sigh of relief (free from both Jefferson’s newfound protectiveness and the pain of walking), Jefferson pulled the other boy aside, ignoring Hamilton’s indignant glare.

”So I know I said I wouldn’t ask questions, but if I don’t ask I’m just gonna be freaked out all day and no offence, the last person I wanna be freaked out over is you-“

Hamilton rolled his eyes, cutting off Jefferson’s rambling. ”Get on with it.”

Thomas threw him an exasperated look before continuing (because of /course/ Hamilton couldn’t let him be concerned without interjecting somehow). ”Ok, Ok, I was just... Look. Are you, like, safe? I mean at home or whatever, are you safe?” Jefferson looked up at Hamilton to see an unreadable expression pass over his face. After a moment of silence, the other boy raised one eyebrow sceptically before scoffing and walking through the school doors.

Thomas sighed, and entered the school a minute later. He hadn’t expected much of an answer anyway.

 

Chapter Text

Sighing, Alexander entered the classroom and, walking with his head down, made a beeline for his desk. Having been a little preoccupied over the weekend, a last minute attempt at his forgotten homework would not only let him get his forgotten work done, but also allow him to remain unnoticed and avoid any uncomfortable questions. 

Unfortunately, his friends had other ideas.

”Alexander!” Laf looked up and saw him, grinning as they practically erupted out of their chair to greet Alex. John and Herc followed, chuckling affectionately at their overenthusiastic friend. “It has been so long! How was your weekend, mon ami?”

Staring down at his shoes, Alex huffed out a half-hearted laugh before replying. “Hey Laf. It’s only been two days, and my weekend was fine.”

Alex looked up to see mild concern on his friends’ faces, not realising why until he though over what he had just said (Alexander non-stop Hamilton ‘didn’t do much’ over the weekend? Way to not attract attention, Alex). When their frowns deepened, though, he realised he’d made a different mistake. 

He’d looked up.

John paused before reaching forward and gently stroking the angry bruise on Alex’s face, the action contrasting with the anger and confusion in his eyes. ”Alex, you... you have a black eye.” Unable to meet his distressed gaze, Alex shrugged and once again stared down at his shoes.

Herc spoke up this time, brow furrowed, his voice cutting through the tension within the group. “Hey, man, where did that come from? You- you know we’re always here for you, right?”

Alex tentatively met their eyes then, hoping they’d drop the concern before long (because he really couldn’t handle too many probing questions after last night). “Yeah, course I know you guys are here for me. It was just a fight, really. You know how I am.” At that he offered what he hoped seemed like a genuine, sheepish smile.

Squirming under their multiple sceptical gazes, Alex heard John begin with what likely would’ve been another interrogation before being interrupted by a familiar voice.

”Ah, my favourite group of weirdos. How’s the revolutionary set doing?” Angelica appeared behind Herc, stopping the conversation in its tracks (saved by the bell, Alex thought sarcastically).

Eliza followed closely behind Angelica, shooting Alex a warm but inquisitive look (stop forgetting about that black eye, Alex), and as the two came and perched on nearby tables he noticed something.

”Hey, where’s Peggy? She ill or something?”

At the collective worried glare he received (and honestly, he’d had enough of those in the last five minutes to last a lifetime), Alex cursed his seeming inability to just pull it together.

“She has gone on an exchange to France,” Laf told him, a phrase that would usually have elicited a smug scoff from them but today barely cause any reaction. “Are you sure you’re alright, mon petit lion? It is unlike you to forget such things.”

Alex was about to reply that he was fine, there was nothing to worry about (which honestly wasn’t that far from the truth anyway, things could be a hell of a lot worse) but was thankfully interrupted by the teacher’s entrance.

The group pulled apart, each member finding separate chairs but unsettled after the sudden change in focus, their gazes flitting between the teacher and each other.

So that went well.

———

Alex’s first class was English. Normally his favourite subject, on any other day he would have been impatient to get to the classroom and begin the lesson. But not today.

Today, the only thing Alex was thinking about was the fact that Thomas Jefferson was in his English class. In the seat right behind him.

From the beginning of the lesson Alex could feel Thomas’ eyes on the back of his head, and wanted nothing more than to turn around and yell at, or curse, or do anything to the other boy to avoid being the subject of yet another questioning stare. He stayed quiet, however, using all of his willpower to keep his gaze fixed down (eyes on your work, Alex) rather than reacting. Until the teacher decided it was time to switch things up.

”Alright class, time for a paired activity. Choose your partners and read the final passage together. Person A reads Lodovico and Cassio, person B reads Othello and Gratiano. Go.”

And at that, Thomas raced to Alexander’s desk and sat down beside him, earning a few confused looks (because weren’t Hamilton and Jefferson enemies?) from both the teacher and multiple students. 

“So. Hamilton. Alexander. Person A or B?”

Alex regarded Jefferson sceptically. “Um, person A I guess? What’re you doing, Jefferson?”

Jefferson continued as though as normal, face blank. “Just doing the activity, Hamilton. Let’s go.”

They read the parts briefly, an awkward tension settling between the two before Thomas, still looking down at the book, asked the question Alex had been dreading.

”So, Hamilton. What was last night about?” His tone was neutral, his eyes on the text and his voice quiet in an attempt not to draw any attention from the teacher, but Alex could hear the fear behind his words.

”Look, Jefferson, I- I appreciate what you did, but not now, ok? Don’t worry. Just-“

Jefferson looked up, anger and concern evident in his expression. “I have the right to be worried after seeing you last night!” He hissed, voice still low. “That’s not something I can just forget. I know you’re not fine, whatever you want to tell your friends-“

”Really, Jefferson? If you were eavesdropping on my conversation, you should’ve heard that it was just a fight. Just an argument outside school over something minor.”

”It didn’t sound convincing when you told them, and it doesn’t now.  Why were you so upset? I’ve never seen you that shaken up when we’ve come to blows, and God knows we do that often enough. Why were you so secretive? You barely even-“

Alex tried to cut him off, picking up the book again, but Thomas ploughed through the interruption.

”You didn’t tell me anything last night. If it was just a fight, what would you have had to hide? And you said you had nowhere to go. What was that about?” Thomas met Alex’s eyes defiantly, daring him to try and evade the questions. 

Alex looked up at him, expression so helpless for a split second that Thomas couldn’t help but feel a little guilty, before settling his face into a neutral mask and speaking.

”O Spartan dog, More fell than anguish, hunger, or the sea, Look on the tragic lodging...,” 

Oh. Othello.

Well that was certainly one way to deflect.

———

After the school day had ended (and God it had felt long), James Madison and Thomas Jefferson sat just outside the main building, talking in hushed tones.

”Thomas,” James started, concern for his friend evident, “I know you well. And I know that you don’t spend that long staring at someone unless you have a crush on them or are worried about them. And I’m pretty fucking sure you don’t have a crush on Hamilton, so what’s going on?”

So he wanted to talk about the English lesson.

Thomas met his friend’s eyes before looking down, unsure of what to say. “I wasn’t going to tell anyone, I mean it’s probably kind of personal stuff, right? But I’ve been worrying all day, and what if I just never do anything and-“

”Ok, I’m gonna need you to slow down. I won’t tell anyone, you know that, I just know something’s been on your mind all day, and I think you need to talk about it.” 

James Madison was a godsend

“Alright- Ok. So last night I was just in bed when at like, 2am, I heard someone at the door. So I got up to see who it was and it was Hamilton-“

James almost choked on a breath in surprise, his eyes wide. “Wait, what?”

”Yeah I know, that was pretty much what I was thinking. Anyway, he looked pretty rough, like worse than he does today, and I obviously asked him why he was there, and he started saying this stuff about how he needed to stay, and he had nowhere else to go (which was weird because like, he does actually have friends), and he was, like, literally pleading with me. It was actually pretty scary.”

“Yeah, I can imagine. If Hamilton was anything other than rude to me I’d be scared too.”

”He was really hurt. Like, badly hurt. So I let him sleep on the couch and we went to school this morning and I asked him if he was safe at home-“

”Wait a second Thomas,” James took a moment to process what his friend had just said. “You’re suggesting that... a guardian did this or something? I thought you said it was just a fight? Are you... sure?”

”He told me it was a fight. Said the same thing to his friends but it doesn’t sound right. He was so upset, he said he had nowhere to go, and he’s impulsive but he isn’t downright stupid.” 

James rushed to calm Thomas. “Look, I know this is frightening and you’re worried. I guess I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t too. But how can you be sure he was lying? Hamilton’s reckless, he gets into fights all the time, and you could just be misreading his responses. He’s a pretty defensive guy, I doubt he’d give anything away to you.”

Thomas considered this, and as much as he wanted to see reason (because of course James was right, this was Hamilton, he was always fine), he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. However, seeing this, James’ voice interrupted his worrying.

“Hey, you’re worried, but Hamilton will be ok. He always is. Now let’s go and finish that Parks and Rec episode at your house.”

And although Thomas knew he shouldn’t have, he agreed and left with James, leaving his thoughts of a small Caribbean boy behind him.

 

 

For a few weeks, all was well.

 

Chapter Text

Weeks passed in which Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton seemed to have reached some sort of stalemate, an agreement that would have them exchanging tight-lipped smiles in the corridors, passing between each other the occasional civil word and, much to the astonishment of pupils and teachers alike, appearing to actively try to avoid conflict with each other (as opposed being at each other’s throats at every opportunity).

And Thomas certainly wasn’t worried. He wasn’t. Because Hamilton hadn’t missed a day of school, hadn’t shown a single sign of injury, hadn’t seemed out of the ordinary (or what was ordinary for him) in any way. So Thomas tried to forget seeing him bloody and shivering on his doorstep, the desperation behind his eyes barely hidden, because Alexander had clearly been telling the truth when he had told Thomas that it was just some fight with a stranger and nothing more.

So why would he worry?

Even so, Thomas had been on edge ever since, checking his phone near constantly whenever not at school (having given his number to an extremely reluctant Hamilton, receiving a glare colder than he’d thought a human being capable of) and always on the lookout for anything unusual within Hamilton’s group of friends.

So when Thomas’ main source of worry (and when the hell did that happen? When did Hamilton go from being his enemy to his primary concern?) was suspiciously missing from class, his friends huddled together and clearly discussing the boy’s absence in hushed voices and with convern evident in their expressions, Thomas became even more sure that this really wasn’t normal; James would’ve blamed it on paranoia, his family would’ve blamed it on his tendency to expect the worst in any situation (and God knew there was certainly some truth in that), but he was sure somehow that this wasn’t as simple a predicament as Hamilton would have them all believe.

Ambling towards the group slowly so as not to seem overly interested in the conversation (Thomas knew that it was not only James who had noticed his growing concern over Hamilton), he took a seat behind them, staring blankly at a textbook to avoid eye contact and thus suspicion. As soon as he sat down, Thomas was able to hear the words exchanged (and the concern heavy in each one, and the anxiety that fuelled them, and God he needed to stop worrying and just listen).

“He’s never ill, never off sick. If it were anyone else I wouldn’t be worried, but it’s Alex, guys, and he hasn’t taken a sick day in, like, forever. You know what he’s like,” Mulligan said nervously, seemingly urging the others to see the severity of the situation.

“I get that you’re worried guys, but it’s one day.” Angelica; Thomas could tell it was her from the note of assertiveness in the voice. Trust her to be the ever-rational and calm member of the group. “Everyone gets sick, even Alex, and doesn’t this seem a little premature to you? One day off doesn’t necessarily-“

“As much as I wish to believe you, I think Hercules is right. Our Alex has not been right recently, and I think you have all noticed it. He was never so wary of anyone before... it seems as though he is afraid, and I do not like nor understand it,” Lafayette interjected, their voice growing more agitated with every word. Thomas knew them well enough to understand the hidden implications of their words, his blood suddenly running cold with fear.

“Yeah, he definitely hasn’t seemed right to me either. I dunno about you guys, but it definitely seems like he’s distancing me or something. We’re not as close as we used to be. All I know is that I’m worried, and I think he might need help.” And Thomas remembered that yes, John Laurens and Alexander Hamilton had been inseparable for years, friends since the day of Alex’s arrival in Virginia, and that there really was a rift between them that he’d failed to notice until now. Hamilton had closed himself off to even his best friend. Thomas shivered.

There was a collective sigh from the group, each wondering what they could do, how they could fix this situation that none of them even understood. After a moment John broke the silence, his voice so soft that Thomas had to crane his neck just to hear the words. “Look... I know we’re all scared. We all care about Alex, and... it doesn’t seem like he’s in a great situation. But I think we should wait it out, let him know that we’re here for him, y’know? If it gets worse we’ll talk to someone, but rushing into things will only scare him. I wish we could do more, but I don’t think we can right now.”

Hamilton’s friends grew silent after that, nodding their heads in assent but looking so defeated and solemn that Thomas turned away, feeling like he was intruding on a funeral. As scared as he was, he knew that acting rashly and prematurely would only scare Hamilton away, and besides, none of them even knew what was wrong (or if anything even was wrong; Hamilton always was an odd one, surely this could simply be apart of that?).

So after deliberating briefly, Thomas decided that in spite of his gut feeling, his best option had to be to simply watch the other boy. Anything more invasive would be counterproductive (and Hamilton would be ok because he always was, right?). Alexander Hamilton was not one to open up easily, and Thomas knew that if he made one wrong step, the other boy would lose all trust in him altogether.

Unease settling in the back of his mind, Thomas left the room and went to class.

It had been a long day, and Thomas wanted nothing more than to curl up into a ball and sleep. Preferably until the next school holiday arrived. Or until James Madison stopped pointedly glaring at him every time he was caught staring at Hamilton’s empty seat in class. Or even until Hamilton himself came out of hiding (on second thought, Thomas began to realise he wouldn’t mind sleeping through that either; the boy had caused enough drama in his absence, and would undoubtedly cause more if he were actually there).

So, Thomas was making his way home with exactly that in mind: a long nap.

However, as seemed to have happened so often in the past few weeks that Thomas would’ve deemed it comical had it not been so damn tiring, he was disrupted by a certain Caribbean boy with a penchant for disrupting the lives of each and every person around him. Particularly, as fate would have it, his once self-proclaimed ‘arch-enemy’ (I mean, really, Hamilton? Who the hell actually has an arch-enemy? Dramatic much?).

Before he could react, Hamilton caught Jefferson’s eye, and the speed at which his expression transformed from one of neutrality to one of unmistakable irritation was so absolutely Hamilton that Thomas wanted to laugh (in relief at some renewed semblance of normality or simply to mock the other boy, he wasn’t sure). Instead, he started to speak, not sure what he was about to say until being swiftly cut off by Hamilton.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

Thomas had expected to hear anger in his tone, but instead was surprised by a completely calm voice. It seemed to be a genuine question, confusing Thomas because Alexander ‘genius’ Hamilton did not forget anything that easily.

“I live around here, Hamilton. I’m pretty sure you knew that when you knocked on my door in the middle of the night a month ago.” Thomas raised an eyebrow to match the expression opposite him, and received only a glare in return.

Then the shock wore off, and he remembered this was the first time he’d seen Hamilton today.

“Wait, what the hell? What are you doing here? You didn’t come into school, you-“

“I work here, Jefferson,” he scoffed, and despite the fact that Thomas knew that Hamilton knew why he was really asking (because he would obviously ignore any part of the question that didn’t suit him), he couldn’t help but admire how seamless the deflection had really been. And if Thomas hadn’t been so preoccupied, maybe he would’ve realised that he’d seen the same thing from Hamilton before, that the other boy seemed used to hiding, to deflecting concern in a split second.

Instead, he came to realise that they were in fact standing in front of a library, and of course Hamilton would have a job at a library of all places, because he was, if nothing else, insufferably academic.

“You... work here.” Thomas repeated slowly, wrapping his head around not only Hamilton’s employment but also the unanticipated composure of the conversation, and noticed the other boy’s uncharacteristic calm and rational answers. His thoughts were interrupted once more, and he felt his irritation growing.

“Yes, that’s what I said. Try to keep up-“

“No, you can’t act like this is normal or something. You were off school, and I don’t know if you were sick or whatever but you can’t just come into work like nothing’s happened! Your friends were worried, I was worried-“

Hamilton scoffed at that. “It was just a sick day Thomas, everyone takes them. I’m fine now, and-“ he checked his watch- “My shift just started, so I’m leaving.”

Before he could walk away, Thomas grabbed Hamilton by the arm, pointedly ignoring the other boy’s flinch. Hamilton started, only now growing angry, but Thomas was faster.

“So you don’t care about me, cool, but what about your friends?” His voice was getting louder, and he was starting to spit out the words. “You can’t just fucking act out for weeks, distance yourself from everyone you know, skip school and not even talk to anyone about it! I was worried, I thought something was up with you, but am really starting to thing that this-“ here Thomas gestured around Hamilton (who at least had the decency to look somewhat chastised), “is just how you are or something. There’s a line between independence and selfishness, Hamilton! And cutting off the people who... who care about you? That seems selfish.”

Thomas was losing steam, his anger fading to a lingering bitterness that he couldn’t keep out of his words.

“I don’t know why I cared. Care. I don’t know a lot of things, not lately. Just-“ And Thomas looked at Alexander. At his eyes. And saw that this wasn’t the Hamilton who every other lesson would get up on a table and shout down anyone with opinions differing from his own. This wasn’t the Hamilton who spoke a million miles a minute, who sparred with Thomas every day after school in debates so heated that it wasn’t rare for either boy to go home with bruised knuckles and black eyes. This was, shockingly, impossibly, the Hamilton who was... defeated.

Thomas wanted to say something (what, he didn’t know), but found the words died in his throat before they could even be formed. After a moment, Hamilton turned to enter the library, and Thomas almost reached for his arm again, was almost ready to comfort the other boy, until the anger and bitterness flared up again and he stopped himself, watching Hamilton’s entrance into the building, anger retreating and morphing into forced indifference.

And at that, they parted ways

Chapter Text

John Laurens wouldn’t consider himself someone who worried excessively. Quite the contrary: described by adults and peers alike as ‘overly reckless’ (most notably in an incident report filed by their chemistry teacher who, following the ‘incident’, had subsequently resigned due to a reported nervous breakdown) and infamous for apparently ‘never bloody thinking before acting’ (as a disgruntled Herc had told him after finding him in the corridor in a fight to the death with Charles Lee), John Laurens was, in all of his boldness, the antithesis of someone prone to succumbing to nerves.

Lately, however, Alexander Hamilton would have him worrying more than he ever had before.

At first, John was just pissed off; his best friend had basically ditched him, distancing himself to such an extent that John barely even saw the other boy at school, let alone afterwards. And being left without a best friend sucked. He’d gone from always having someone to laugh with, someone who would always stick up for him and who would always have his back (especially useful in his notorious corridor fights), a partner in crime- to feeling alone.

But then the anger that had blinded him wore off, and he had realised what in retrospect had been obvious: Alex hadn’t wanted to distance himself, not really. He was scared.

Of what, John didn’t know. Wasn’t even sure if he wanted to know. But scared enough to warrant forced isolation, subtly wistful glances at John and the rest of the group as he sat apart from them, and adamant refusal to talk to any of his friends about something that was clearly troubling him.

So, John decided, he had to do something to get his best friend back.

It was a Friday morning and John Laurens, Hercules Mulligan and Gilbert Lafayette were enjoying their usual pre-class conversation (which, if John was completely honest, mostly consisted of Herc and Laf not-so-subtly flirting across a desk), finding comfort in the familiarity of the ritual.

And John too found himself becoming lost in it, finding refuge from the worry and anxiety that had been pressing on all of their minds for the past couple of days, until he remembered.

“Hey Laf, what do you think about inviting Alex to your place after school today?”

The words were out before he even had time to think about them, the decision making itself. But, despite the lack of thought behind it, John could see how the idea would help. It had been a long time since all four of them had been together in the comfort of one of their homes instead of in the occasional moment between lessons, and he knew that Alex had always like the Washingtons; surely this, if nothing else, would help him to open up to them?

Laf looked bemused for a moment, the question such a jarring non sequitur that it took them a moment to register what was being asked, before their face broke out into a mischievous grin.

“Of course John, I know you’ve been dying to spend some... quality time with our Alexandre.” They suggestively raised an eyebrow and, in spite of Laf’s teasing (John’s legendary, unreciprocated, pretty fucking sad crush on Alexander was not exactly a secret), he couldn’t help but feel that a weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. His friend clearly knew why he was really asking (John wasn’t the only one who had been worried lately) but, as was so characteristically caring of them, chose to defuse what had been a loaded question and spare John from any excess anxiety.

John simply scoffed in response to Laf’s suggestive expression, prompting raucous laughter from Herc (“oh my god, Johnny has it so bad!” “Shut up, Herc!”), before he turned back to Laf, smiling.

“Thanks.”

And they all knew that there was so much left unsaid, the tension and the anger and the fear lying just beneath the surface of the conversation threatening to bubble into their words and expressions. But John’s smile seemed to be enough to convey the true weight of his gratitude towards his friend who somehow managed to make all of that disappear, if even for a moment, because the kindness in Laf’s eyes as they replied was almost staggering.

“You are welcome, mon ami.”

 —

When Alexander walked into the classroom five minutes later, Laf gestured enthusiastically for him to join them at the desk, and Alex laughed like he hadn’t a care in the world while quickening his pace as he walked over to them, a series of events so painfully reminiscent of days in the past that John had to look away in order to keep tears from pricking his eyes (because goddamit, Alexander had once looked like this every day, when life in Virginia was a bright new adventure instead of one filled with pain, and where had the time gone).

“Speak of the devil and he shall appear!” Laf exclaimed, their grin so wide that the worry behind it was almost invisible. “Alexandre, come sit!”

Alex laughed again (and god, John had missed that laugh) and pulled up a chair so that he faced the other three. Smiling, he responded.

“Talking about me again, are we? I should hope it’s not anything good, wouldn’t wanna destroy my bad boy rep. Right, Laurens?”

And he fixed John with a mischievous look, grinning at him so widely that it was almost like the old Alexander was back again, the one who laughed with his friends instead of distancing himself from them, who had a wicked sense of humour and would talk for hours on end about the latest bill passed through congress and the one who maybe, just maybe, cared for John as much as John cared for him.

But then John saw the tightening of his eyes and the slight furrow of his brow and was reminded that that him and Alexander had never been possible, would never be possible.

But still he smiled back, hoping it didn’t look too forced, and continued. “Of course not. Wouldn’t want anyone knowing you’re really a soft old man who loves puppies and works at a library underneath that tough exterior, right?”

Alexander gasped in mock outrage and the other three laughed before the banter continued, too quick for John to follow. John was staring at the floor, clearly lost in thought, but was soon startled by Laf clearing their throat, likely having noticed his distractedness.

“So, Alexander,” they started, a barely detectable underlying note of apprehension in their voice, “Would you care to join us at my house tonight? We could play board game, watch Disney films, eat- you must remember how delightful George’s cooking is, maybe finish work if needed, it is a Friday night, you-“

Alex watched Laf’s speech with a raised eyebrow (they all knew that when Laf rambled, it was often due to nervousness; Alex was likely wondering what made the offer so important that Laf of all people was anxious to ask, thought John) before interrupting them.

“Laf, it’s all good. Yeah, I’ll come...” And John noticed that despite his smile, Alex seemed nervous. “Are you sure I won’t be imposing, though? Washington and Martha haven’t seen me in ages, and...” He trailed off.

Laf immediately interrupted what would likely have just been Alex spiralling. “Of course not, mon ami! We have missed you at the Washington household! What do you want to do? We could...”

John was sure Laf was continuing to plan the afternoon ahead, but had tuned out soon after Alex had agreed. Once again, he sat lost in thought between his friends, but this couldn’t help but smile.

All he wanted was his best friend to be safe. And although this wasn’t much, it was a start.

Lessons were about to start, and Alex took his usual seat in the chemistry lab with a sigh, mulling over his agreement to go to Laf’s after school. He knew it shouldn’t have been such a big deal but, what with the events of the past few weeks, the offer felt... alien somehow. It wasn’t that he wasn’t used to such kindness from his friends (they were some of the kindest people he knew), or even that the normality was jarring, it was just that he had been distancing them deliberately, and he knew it. Jefferson’s words on Wednesday had stung (as much as he had tried not to let them), but he knew that they had been justified. So was he really deserving of his friends’ kindness, even if it was just some sort of ploy, or if Laf had hidden motives, or-

Before he could spiral any further, his thoughts were interrupted by one Eliza Schuyler gracefully dropping down into the seat next to him.

She raised one eyebrow at him, likely sensing his anxiety (she always seemed to be able to do that, tell how everyone around her was feeling just by a quick glance- Mulligan had called it the mom friend sense, and Eliza had laughed and adopted the name quickly) before pulling her books out of her bag, placing them on the table and looking up at the whiteboard, noting down the date and title (formalities that Alex never bothered with).

Still looking at the board, she addressed Alex softly, but with a subtle note of steel behind her voice. “You missed last lesson.” Out of either of his sisters’ mouths, the statement would sound accusatory, but not with Eliza. With her, it was matter of fact, yet gentle somehow, and with a barely distinguishable hint of concern woven between the words. Not knowing how to react, Alex glanced at her before opening his textbook and starting on his intro to thermodynamics notes (unsurprisingly not taking in much information). After a moment, he responded.

“Yeah, off sick. I’m fine now though, and-“

“You’re never off sick.” Again, matter of fact, yet gentle too. Alex didn’t know how to deal with this.

“I know, but everyone gets sick, ‘Liza, I...”

And suddenly, he didn’t know what to say, because lying to the one person who he’d been able to trust since the start, who had been his home since his arrival in Virginia, who had always stuck up for him and never let him get hurt felt so, so wrong, but he couldn’t tell her the truth, because she couldn’t protect him from this.

Her concern for him made him feel sick, his gut twisting in guilt. She was concerned, and he was lying to her. He was used to his other friends’ concern, their anxious gazes following him wherever he went, their urgent whispers that they thought he couldn’t hear, but Eliza was different somehow. Eliza was honest and genuine and kind and, although the others were too, he’d established some kind of unsaid rule with Eliza. One where they were both honest, because it had been them against the world once. She told him stuff, he told her stuff. They smiled and laughed and cried and yelled at each other but beneath all that they had a bond that, as clichéd as it sounded, was unbreakable.

He had her to thank for his life in Virginia: for his group of friends, the people who he’d grown to love, who Eliza had introduced him to. John and Laf and Herc and Angelica and Peggy, people on whom he could rely for anything. The Washington household, his second home. The people who were, in all honestly, his world.

So looking at the girl who had made everything better, had once made Alex’s life alright for the first time in years, hurt. Because she was still trying, but it was Alex’s fault that she couldn’t help this time. And here he was, lying to her.

But now she was saying something, and Alex couldn’t quite hear what over the rush of crushing guilt drowning out the sound.

“Hey Alex, I asked if you wanted me to explain what we did last lesson, are... you alright?”

Alex didn’t need to look up to see the worry in her features. He once again internally cursed himself for never doing anything right when it came to his friends, always worrying them unnecessarily.

“Of course ‘Liza, just tired, sorry. What did you do last lesson?”

She looked sceptical but began to explain the topic, the worry in her expression fading away. And this was what Alex needed, someone who wouldn’t treat him as though he needed to be coddled, someone who wouldn’t meddle and would treat his word as fact, someone he could just be normal with.

“So we were doing Born-Haber cycles, and they’re used to calculate lattice enthalpy...”

He was getting lost in her words.

“So with the data they give you here, you can calculate that, and...”

Christ, he didn’t deserve this.

“And here they want you to calculate electron affinity...”

He didn’t deserve this normality. He didn’t deserve Eliza by his side, teaching him with an exasperated smile on her face. Did he deserve any of his friends? Should he-

“Alex.”

Ah, shit. He’d spiralled again, and Eliza had that terrible look on her face, the concerned one, and it was his fault.

“Sorry, just tired. Really. Thank you for teaching me... that.” And he smiled at her, a genuine smile that he hoped conveyed his thankfulness.

She smiled and rolled her eyes at his absent mindedness, and they continued.



It was only lunch, but Alex was already exhausted. After chemistry with Eliza he’d survived Latin, with Jefferson’s cold and questioning glare following him throughout the entire lesson, history, with John and Laf talking next to him, and French, with Herc asking him questions for the duration of the class- Alex appreciated his enthusiasm for the language, he just didn’t think he had the energy the answer.

So yeah, Alex was tired, and it was lunch. Which wasn’t good news.

For many high schoolers, ‘lunch’ mostly meant a quick meal with one or two friends, a chance to catch up before they ran off to their respective extracurricular activities and didn’t see each other for the rest of the day. That used to be how it was for Alex: a five minute, quiet affair.

That had changed when he’d met this group of friends.

Lunch with them was not quiet. At all. It was loud and long and fun and invigorating, the debates and stories and discussions firing across the table at breakneck speed both engaging and exhilarating. And Alex realised how much he’d missed this, missed them.

Today, it started with a horrified Laf watching an unashamed John pour three whole sachets of mayo on his fries, and promptly making sure that the rest of the group saw how truly outrageous this was (“John, how dare you destroy the sanctity of fries with that god forsaken condiment!” “I like mayo! Fuck you and your mayo hating ways, Gilbert!”), sparking a heated debate about mayo vs ketchup (“Sorry Laurens, it’s obviously ketchup. You’re outnumbered!” “Shut up, Herc!”). This quickly morphed into a shouting match between Angelica and Lafayette (about what, Alex was unsure. He thought he might’ve heard something about the chances of each Disney princess surviving the apocalypse, but had probably just misheard them), which devolved into a food fight between John and Angelica.

Alex simply sat beside them, occasionally chipping in but mostly staying silent, smiling down at his plate at the normality of it all. He and Eliza would exchange warm glances, both happy to listen to their friends’ quick fire conversation and silently laugh at their overenthusiasm.

“You’re very quiet petit lion, it is unlike you! Do your old friends not excite you any more?” Laf’s exclamation broke into his thoughts. Despite their playful tone and amused expression, Alex knew what they were really asking: Are you all right?

He smiled at the others. “Just tired, Laf.”

It wasn’t until Eliza’s eyes snapped up to his, an emotion that could almost have been fear behind them, that he realised he’d been using that excuse a lot lately.



The school day had (finally) ended, and the four friends were on a bus on the way to Laf’s house. Once upon a time, this had been an almost daily routine, all of them excitedly awaiting the bell so that they could rush out of school and spend the remaining hours of the day holed up at the Washington household. Once, this journey would not have filled Alex with dread.

Change, it seemed, was inevitable.

Alex didn’t know what he was dreading, just knew that something was causing his heart to pound and the blood to roar in his ears as he sat opposite his friends on the bus.

Maybe he was worried about his friends or George or Martha prying a little too deep (he knew that everyone had noticed the changes in him and their friendship lately). Maybe he was worried that after so long, he would no longer fit in (logically, he knew this was implausible- they had been the closest of friends for years- but logic couldn’t extinguish his fear). Or maybe, he was simply worried about change and its consequences; it must have been months since he’d last been to the Washington household, and the place had epitomised safety for him for years. Whenever he thought of it, it conjured up a feeling of warmth that was reminiscent purely of home (a feeling he only otherwise got when around Eliza). But, given that everything else around him seemed to be changing so rapidly and mercilessly, what if that had changed, too? What if he was no longer welcome? What if it was all the nostalgia talking, and the feeling was an illusion? What if-

“Mes amis, this is our stop! We will miss it if you sit on your asses for the rest of the afternoon! Mon dieu!” Laf grumbled, lamenting the others’ laziness dramatically.

Alex smiled.

Maybe nothing much had changed after all.

The four friends filed into the corridor, smiling at the familiarity of the the home.

“Welcome to my humble abode.” Laf grinned widely, before their expression morphed into something more sly and their tone gained an accusatory edge. “I think our Alexandre may need a tour, considering it has been so long since he has visited.”

Alex held their gaze for a moment before sighing and studying his hands in an uncharacteristically defeated gesture. “I’m sorry Laf, I’ve been busy with work and stuff, and-“

Laf laughed, causing Alex to look up in surprise. After a moment, they placed their hand on his shoulder comfortingly. “Petit lion, it is alright. We don’t mind, we’ve just missed you! We understand.”

The others nodded in agreement. “Yeah, man, don’t worry about that. You’re good,” Herc reassured him.

John smiled at him, the look saying more than words could (I’ve missed you, I’ve missed you and I was scared but now you’re here and that’s enough). Alex could get lost in that look.

“Alright lovebirds, easy on the lustful stares!” Herc yelled, forcing the two boys to break eye contact and glance towards the living room, where Laf and Herc had somehow moved during John and Alex’s shared look. Laf was muttering heatedly in french while surrounded by numerous disks, and Herc was standing over the pile with an exasperated look on his face. “Get your asses over here! Laf’s choosing a movie, and I literally had to forcibly remove The Hunchback of Notre Dame from their hands, I- (Shut it, Laf, the fact that it’s set in France doesn’t make watching it for the 50th time any more bearable!) I need some backup, guys, because...”

John and Alex broke out into laughter, and they made their way into the living room together.

After a few more minutes of bickering, they all eventually settled on Mulan (“We all know Laf’s only agreeing because they think Li Shang is hot-“ “Excuse you, Hercules! He is courageous, and brave, and-“ “Hot”), and were soon watching the movie, all sprawled across the couch (arguably too small to fit four teenagers, but it wasn’t like they were gonna sit on separate chairs or something) comfortably.

And Alex had to admit that he was enjoying this. The domesticity, the calmness- he really was enjoying it. He had missed his friends, and his friends had missed him, and now they were together in Laf’s living room watching a Disney film together. It was nice.

They continued to watch the movie, the quiet often punctuated by outbursts of laughter or trails of conversation, until they heard the sound of the front door being opened.

“I’m home!”

Washington.

Alex immediately sat up on the couch, uncomfortable with the informality and vulnerability of his previously prone position. Washington strode into the room, shaking off his coat and offering a small wave and a smile to the group. Laf, having run to the door as soon as they heard it open, was quick to greet the teacher.

“Hello! How was the meeting?” They started, not waiting for a reply before continuing. “I brought John, Hercules and Alex back, and we’re watching Mulan!”

Washington chuckled at Laf’s enthusiasm. “I can see that, and I hope you’re all enjoying it. The meeting was fine, but I don’t want to bore you with that.” His eyes scanned the room before landing on Alex, his smile growing wider. “Alexander, good to see you again, son! It feels like forever since you were last here, I know Martha’s been wondering where you’d got to.”

Had everyone noticed? “You know me sir, I’ve been busy. But I hope it’s alright if I stay, I-“

“Of course, of course, don’t worry about that. Martha should be getting back any time soon, she just texted me to say that she’s on her way and I know she’d love to see you. You boys are all welcome to stay for dinner, if you’d like.”

Alex pretended not to be shocked at the reminder of just how giving this family was. He was just about to reply when Washington turned towards the door, before fixing him with a smile.

“And none of that Alexander, really. We’re not at school, please, call me George.”

Alex nodded, a reply not coming.

George’s words came true when Martha came through the front door not 10 minutes later, muttering under her breath about some incompetent assistant and misplaced paperwork while hanging up her coat and scarf and removing her boots. She was greeted by Laf, who upon her arrival quickly brought Martha up to speed with the goings-on at the household.

“George arrived not long ago, and I think he has just started making dinner- pasta, I believe- and says it will not take long. I invited Herc, John and Alex over, because it’s a Friday and we’ve all done our work, I hope that’s ok, and we’re watching Mulan now but we probably only have about half an hour left so-“

“Laf, slow down,” Martha laughed. “That’s all fine, you can go and finish the film now- I’ll come and say hi to the boys in a minute, just let me change out of my work clothes first.”

Laf grinned at her and quickly ran back to the living room, eager to finish the film. Martha simply watched them return to their friends, her exasperated expression not managing to hide her affection.

Half an hour later, almost as soon as the credits for Mulan started rolling, George announced that dinner was ready. They all flocked to the kitchen, the room buzzing with conversation, and sat down after collecting their own cutlery and bowls.

“Dig in, everyone,” Martha encouraged as soon as they were all seated. “I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of how good George’s cooking is.” At that, she turned to her husband, winking at him, and received an almost embarrassed (or was it shocked?) laugh from the man.

“She’s right, Mr. Washington. Food here’s always amazing, way better than the shit- sorry- they give us at school,” Herc said, his statement met with resounding hums and nods of agreement.

Washington laughed again. “You’re right there- as teachers we’re supposed to eat the school food, (shows that we’re all equals or something, I don’t know) but I sneak a packed lunch in every day. The school food certainly needs some work.”

“Damn, Mrs. Washington, your husband’s a badass! Sneaking packed lunches into school- what’s next?” John grinned.

Suddenly Alex remembered that, at first, he’d found this- John and Herc’s rapport with the Washington parents- incredibly odd. The fact that they could talk just like this, like friends would, without even batting an eye. Almost on his first day in Virginia, he’d tagged along nervously with his newfound friends and spent the evening at Laf’s, not knowing what to expect; when they had all sat down for dinner with the whole room welcoming and buzzing with camaraderie, he’d been shocked.

It wasn’t that he’d never got on with adults per se, it was just that he’d never been friends with them. Whether it was because of fear or distrust or simply the rules dictated by social hierarchy, the only adult he could remember actually liking him was his mom. Maybe his employers at the library as well; they were willing to lend him a book or two for free every now and then (did that mean that they liked him? Alex wasn’t sure). Maybe the old woman who lived in the apartment next to him back in New York, too; she had invited him round there a lot.

As silly as it sounded, that made 4. 4 adults who had ever actually liked him. Which was why he’d been shocked years ago to find that these adults, his friend’s parents, had not only seemed to enjoy being in the company of children in general, but had also enjoyed being in his company. People in general, much less adults, just didn’t like Alexander Hamilton. He ran his mouth too much, or he was too sullen, or too passionate, or too reckless, or any number of things that made him pretty damn unlikable. It was still alien to him that these people could actually look past those qualities.

As he ate his pasta and listened to the animated discussion taking place beside him, Alexander marvelled at this- at what he had, and the sheer significance and sincerity of it- and smiled.

After dinner, the four teens relocated to the living room once more, and found themselves half heartedly watching a documentary that was really more background noise to them than a focus of interest, as they talked about school and friends and all manner of things. Just as the conversation seemed to have waned and they all turned towards the screen, John asked the one question Alex had been dreading.

“So, Alexander,” he started, which was how Alex knew this was going to be serious because nobody started with that unless the question was loaded. “You-“ and here Alex glanced at John and saw that he was almost as nervous asking the question as Alex was being asked it. “You’ve been kind of... distant... lately? And I wasn’t gonna bring it up because, y’know, I thought I might’ve just been imagining it or something, but... Look, I just want you to know you can talk to us, I guess. This sounds so sappy and clichéd and god, what am I even saying, but I- we’ve been sort of worried but, we’re here, and-“

Herc placed a hand on John’s arm, grounding him and causing him to trail off. Alex watched all of this with a sense of foreboding.

They were his friends. His friends. But what could he even say? His mouth was too dry to form words for a moment, the letters sitting heavy on his tongue as he watched his friends with a growing feeling of devastation. Because he couldn’t tell them, or Eliza, or the people at the library, or the old lady in New York, or his mom, anything. And that hurt.

He sighed, and steeled himself. “I get it. I know you’re worried, and I get it. Because I have been distant lately. And it’s not anything you guys have done, it’s just... me. I-“ God, this was harder than it should have been. “You don’t have to worry, I promise. I just need some time to figure stuff out. Thanks, though, really. I appreciate it.”

It was unbelievably ambiguous. Alex knew that. It gave his friends no answers and, if nothing else, would likely lead to them worrying even more. But he couldn’t help but feel relief as they turned back to the TV with strained smiles.

“Yeah, man of course. Of course. Anytime,” Herc said softly.

It was almost 9pm, and Alex needed to be back home. Soon. The walk from here to the apartment had to be almost an hour, but he was sure he could take the bus or something. He was just about to announce this to his friends, put his shoes on, and run the the nearest bus stop, when George entered the room.

“So, you are of course all welcome to stay the night, but if you’d rather not, does anyone need a lift home? It’s really no trouble, anyone?” He came to stand by the fireplace, an expectant expression upon his face.

“I’m good, Mr. Washington, my mom’s gonna pick me up pretty soon I think. Got a sports thing in the morning, can’t stay the night- thanks for the offer, though.”

“Anytime, Hercules. John?”

“I’m gonna stay over, if that’s ok.”

“Great,” Washington smiled. “You can sleep in Lafayette’s room or the one next door, either’s fine.” His gaze moved to Alex, and he shifted in his seat. “What about you, Alexander?”

Alex felt guilty refusing Washington’s offer, but he was anxious at the mere thought of a long car journey with the man- not that he could explain why (Yeah, Sorry Mr. Washington, I really would, but I’m so screwed up that the idea of being trapped in a car with an adult man three times my size is probably enough to give me an anxiety attack- the pasta was great though, thanks for having me round!). Washington was still watching him expectantly.

“Uh, thanks, but I’m ok. I’ll probably just walk, or catch the bus, don’t want to inconvenience you, or anything.” It was weak, but he had nothing else to say.

“Nonsense, it’s not a big deal. And you live miles away- driving will be faster. What do you say?”

Shit. He had no way of refusing now. “Ok, Mr. Washington. Thanks. Yeah, that’d be great.”

Washington laughed. “Good man! I’ll see you in five minutes, I’ll just go and get my coat and shoes. And you’re welcome, Alexander.” He turned around and left.

So Alex quickly put his shoes on, said a quick goodbye to his friends, and set out with Washington. Alone. In a small car.

It wasn’t because of Washington himself that Alex was nervous. The man had known and taught him for years, and had always been good and honest and kind- unwaveringly so. It was just Alex’s messed up brain that kept telling him that he wasn’t safe, that this was dangerous and that he wasn’t safe. So Alex was nervous, picking at his cuticles and he glanced between the road ahead of them and his hands.

They sat mostly in silence, the radio playing quietly in the background and Washington occasionally humming along while Alex stared anywhere but the driver’s seat.

They were nearing the apartment before Alex had even realised, and he had the sudden urge to shout, or barrel roll out of the car, or tell Washington everything- because Alex did not want to go home. Because Alex was scared.

And this was really all he could think, his mind numb but teeming with apprehension as Washington pulled up just outside his building. Alex unbuckled his seatbelt, his hands almost shaking, and nearly flinched when he felt Washington’s hand upon his shoulder.

“Son...” He started, before hesitating. “It was so good to see you again. Please know that all of us- Martha, Gilbert and me- all of us- we all care about you. I just wanted to say that- that if you need anything, anything at all, you can tell us. Have a good night, Alexander.”

Washington smiled at him and Alex couldn’t say anything, just nodding silently as he clambered out of the car (a gesture which seemed to convey what he wanted, because Washington was still smiling as Alex shut the car door) and made his way to the complex.

As Washington drove away and Alex approached the doorstep, he felt a weight lifted off of his shoulders. The smallest sliver of hope reentered his heart.

He opened the door, and stepped inside.

Chapter Text

When Thomas had given Alexander his phone number, he wasn’t sure what he’d expected. Maybe radio silence (which, unsurprisingly, what what he had received so far), maybe the occasional dry insult- he didn’t know.

What he certainly had not expected was to receive a text at 12am on a rainy Sunday night, while he and James were watching Parks and Rec and almost falling asleep in the living room (because, somehow, Alexander always managed to visit both at ridiculous times of the day, and when Thomas’ parents were gone), saying that Hamilton would be at his doorstep in approximately half an hour.

The only thing Thomas was certain of in the split second in which he received the text was that he was angry. Because, for all of Thomas’s concern, his going out of the way to try and make sure Alexander was ok, Hamilton had not opened up- at all. If anything, he’d shut himself away even more, so estranged from Thomas that that cold, fearful night weeks ago could have been a dream, had it not been so damn real.

Thomas had told Alexander that he was selfish, that what he was doing to his friends was wrong, that his insistence that he be completely independent was ruining his friendships. Because then, like now, Thomas had been angry that he had ever let himself care, too angry to see that something was still clearly wrong with the other boy.

He would not repeat that mistake. He could, in theory (not that it would have much of an impact), tell Hamilton not to come- say his parents were home, or not reply, or just text Alexander back and simply tell his to piss off. These options seemed tempting at first (Thomas wasn’t cruel, but he’d had enough of stressing over Hamilton, and it was taking its toll), but he paused to think.

Why would Hamilton need to repeatedly come over to Thomas’ for any reason other than the one that was so unspeakable, so horrifying, that Thomas didn’t dare think it? How the hell was he supposed to react to an almost-confirmation that his classmate, that Hamilton, was going through the unimaginable?

Thomas was spiralling, and he knew it. With every passing second, his thoughts grew more frenzied, until James looked over at him and swiftly paused the TV.

“Thomas... are you ok? What’s going on?” Because Thomas’ eyes were glued to his phone screen, and what was he supposed to do?

“Uh, I don’t, I-“ He looked up at James, fear in his eyes. “Hamilton just texted me. He’s coming over, I don’t know why but it’s not like I can stop him, and-“

James looked shellshocked. “Hamilton? As in Alexander Hamilton? Shit, this... you said he came here once before, right? A few weeks ago?” James, it seemed, could almost have forgotten that information, as though it were so much less significant that it really was. Thomas nodded numbly.

“This is... this is weird.” And Thomas knew that in any other situation, one where this could be rationalised or explained, James would be rationalising or explaining it. But the fact that he wasn’t meant that James remembered what Thomas had told him, about how Hamilton had been hurt that night, had had nowhere to go, and Thomas knew they were thinking the same thing.

“He was hurt last time, you said.” Yeah, the realisation of whatever it was was beginning to dawn on James, too.

Thomas nodded again and the room fell into a tense silence, before he voiced both of their thoughts. “What if he’s hurt again?” And Thomas’ voice was soft, so soft that James likely could barely hear it, but their eyes met and behind them was undiluted fear and confusion, and Thomas knew that they really didn’t know how to handle the situation if that was what it came to.

They both looked away. “If he’s hurt again, if he’s-“ James sighed, running his hand along his face and looking entirely lost. “If he’s hurt, we deal with it. And we ask him what happened. And we go from there.” Thomas knew it was the most calm and rational response, but that didn’t extinguish his panic.

“Why does he keep coming here, though? He- we hate each other. Hated each other. Have since he moved here. He said last time he had nowhere else to go, but-“

“Thomas- speculating, jumping to conclusions- that won’t help. You know that. I get it, but we can’t know what happened, what’s happening with Hamilton. I know... what it seems like. But he could’ve just got in a fight nearby like he said he did last time, I’m pretty sure his friends all live on the other side of school so he can’t go to them- just- just wait. And we’ll cross all of these bridges when we come to them.” And despite the undertone of anxiousness in James’ tone, Thomas couldn’t help but be calmed by the words. His friend always seemed to have that effect.

They waited.

Not 20 minutes later, the doorbell rang. And Thomas and James shared a fearful look, both frozen for a split second until they erupted off the couch and attempted to take measured steps to the door. Thomas pulled the door open, and there was Hamilton. Eyes suspiciously glassy, fidgeting anxiously in the cold, but here and here and ok.

But clearly not ok, because if he were ok, he would not be here.

Thomas was just beginning to scan Hamilton up and down, make sure that this wasn’t a repeat of last time or he didn’t have to call an ambulance or something, when he realised that Hamilton was still on the doorstep and James was still right next to him and the two barely knew each other.

“Madison?” Hamilton looked at James, his expression so bewildered that it was almost funny. “What are you doing here?”

James was about to answer but Thomas really wanted to hurry up because he was still really fucking worried. “He’s my friend, in case you forgot. He staying over. If you need to come inside, then come inside.”

Hamilton scoffed, then stepped inside. From what Thomas could tell, he didn’t seem hurt- no trace of a limp, no visible injuries, nothing. Maybe this was just what Hamilton did, sometimes.

“Alright, alright, very welcoming.” But Hamilton came to stand awkwardly in front of them in the corridor, and Thomas remembered that before this him and James had just been watching TV and what were they supposed to do now Hamilton was here, where did they go and what if Hamilton needed help, and what if-

“So, I’ll... sleep on the couch like last time? Or...”

Thomas interrupted Hamilton with a disbelieving gesture and shut his eyes for a second, because who the fuck did Hamilton think he was just waltzing in here completely unharmed and with no reason to interrupt Thomas’ perfectly pleasant evening, and going ahead and sleeping on the couch. “No- wait a second- why are you here? Is this some kind of ploy to antagonise me or something? Some new way to piss me off? I was worried, shit, I was worried and- what the fu-“

Thomas looked again, really looked at Hamilton, and shut up. Because there it was again, just as it had been so many weeks ago- that look in his eyes, the overpowering exhaustion that came from more than just the boy’s frenzied all nighters and insurmountable caffeine intake.

And clearly crisis brought James and Thomas together, made them practically telepathic, because they both noticed this and the way the smaller boy was guarding his abdomen subtly, and how he was stubbornly refusing to look either of them in the eye, at the same time once again.

“You’re hurt, aren’t you, Hamilton.” James said, and how his voice was so calm and matter of fact that Thomas didn’t know.

Thomas had expected to hear a scoff, or a sarcastic remark, or to see Hamilton storming off. Instead, he was silent. Which was all the more unnerving, all the more terrifying because the one thing Alexander Hamilton was not was silent.

Hamilton’s gaze remained fixed on the floor.

He clenched his jaw, looking to the side for a moment until finally looking back up at Thomas and James, his expression so unreadable that what Thomas saw earlier, the exhaustion and near brokenness, could simply have been imagined.

Hamilton shook his head, running a hand through his hair. “I’m not talking about this right now. I’m-“ did Hamilton look almost apologetic? “This was a mistake, I’m gonna-“

“Wait, no, stop.” Thomas stopped Hamilton, who had just started to turn away, reaching out for the other boy. “You can- you can stay here. You said you didn’t have anywhere else to go last time, right? It’s not like we’re just gonna let you sleep on the streets or whatever.”

The glare Thomas received in reply was enough to tell him that sleeping on the streets had, in fact, been what Hamilton had planned as his backup. Fuck.

“You don’t have to sleep on the couch, I just thought it would be best last time because you were-“ Another glare. Clearly, Hamilton did not want the word hurt assigned to him. “Look, we have a couple spare bedrooms. Just... just take the room at the top of the stairs to the right. I can come and give you stuff, or...”

“I’m fine.” Relief and gratitude flashed in Hamilton’s eyes before he turned away, and Thomas knew that was all the thanks he was going to get. He nodded, and Hamilton started off upstairs.

Thomas and James stood in the corridor in shock for a moment before returning to the living room, sitting in shocked silence for a moment before talking.

Jesus Christ,” James muttered, and Thomas got the sense that James hadn’t quite believed him when he’d first told his friend about Hamilton’s mysteriously appearing on his doorstep, damaged and defensive, up until now. “What are we gonna do?”

“What is there to do?” The oddness of James advocating for action and him for idleness suddenly struck Thomas. “He won’t tell us what’s wrong. He won’t tell us if he’s hurt, or what happened- what’s happening- he won’t tell us anything. What can we do?”

“We need to talk to him.”

“Now?”

James sighed. “I don’t know. Now, at school maybe. I just know we have to figure this out because... this could be dangerous.”

Shit. This was overwhelming.

“Ok, I can- I can talk to him, if you want. You’re better at this stuff but-“

“That’s fine, Thomas. I know you’ve been worried. I don’t know what I would say, just... it would probably be weird if we both talked to him, right?” James looked sheepish.

“Yeah, Yeah. Right. Ok, so... you can go upstairs, if you want, or whatever. I’m just gonna... talk to Hamilton, I guess.”

“Yeah, I’ll go upstairs. Night, Thomas.” James got up off the couch wearily. “And good luck.”

 


Thomas was left on the couch, attempting to pluck up the courage to talk to Hamilton. What would he say? How would the other boy react? Eventually, it was fear that motivated him to pour a glass of water, grab a granola bar, and make his way up to Hamilton’s room with the peace offerings.

He knocked on the door.

“Come in.” It sounded defeated, as though Hamilton had expected this conversation all along- which, in all likelihood, he had.

Thomas entered and placed the water and granola bar on the bedside table. “Brought you these- thought you might need them.”

“Thanks.”

Thomas looked at Hamilton. He had taken his coat off, but was still lying face up on the bed in his clothes- shoes and all. Thomas couldn’t see any sign of injury (he breathed a short sigh of relief) but was inexplicably nervous nonetheless.

Thomas sat on the side of the bed.

“Why do you keep turning up here?” It came out more caustic than he had intended, and Thomas winced. That was bound to alienate the other boy further.

But, surprisingly, Hamilton didn’t react. Wasn’t angry, or defensive, or snide- which was more worrying because this wasn’t Alexander.

“You said I could.” Hamilton was completely deadpan.

Thomas sighed. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it. Why?”

That got a more of a reaction; Hamilton grew unsettled, sitting up. “What do you mean, why do I keep turning up? What do you want to know, that-“

And in his gesturing, Hamilton’s shirt rode up. Only by a couple of inches, but enough for Thomas to see his lower abdomen- his abdomen which made the saying ‘black and blue’ more than just a saying.

And fuck. Because he had thought, just for a moment, that Hamilton was actually ok.

Hamilton clearly noticed his mistake because he froze mid word, pulling down the sweater and lying back down, turning ever so slightly away from Thomas.

“What the fuck, Hamilton. Seriously, what the actual fuck? Did you get this in a fight, or...”

“I’m fine, Jefferson. It’s just- I’m fine. This isn’t a big deal, seriously, it doesn’t even hurt-”

Thomas spluttered. “Not a big deal? Of course that’s a big deal! Look at yourself, you-“

“I’m used to it!” Hamilton almost shouted, interrupting Jefferson urgently as though he couldn’t care to listen any longer, then froze again, realising what he had just said.

“What?” Thomas’ voice was almost a whisper.

Hamilton shook his head. “I- I just- forget I said that, Jefferson. I...”

Oh. Oh. Because Hamilton hadn’t said anything outright, had never revealed anything concrete to Thomas, but this, this looked far worse than anything Thomas could have imagined. Hamilton had never actually told him anything but Thomas wasn’t stupid, and he knew that what was happening right in front of him was, just as James had predicted, dangerous.

“You’re used to it, you said. Used to this... Jesus Christ Hamilton, you need to tell someone.”

Hamilton laughed, the sound so dark and dejected that Thomas shivered. “Telling someone never does shit.”

How would he find that out, other than from experience? 

“It would be better than this! This- this has to stop! You’re literally in danger-“

Christ, he’d been hurt before. Hamilton had been hurt before.

“No, Jefferson, it really wouldn’t. I’m surviving, and I age out of foster care pretty soon. I’m figuring stuff out, and telling someone would fuck all of that up.”

“Of course you have to tell someone!” Thomas couldn’t even fathom how just enduring this for however many months, however many years, was an option to Hamilton. “Just letting it happen is not an option, you-“

Hamilton sat up again. “No, I don’t! And you can’t either! This isn’t some bloody negotiation, where you get any say in what I do. This is my decision, my life, and you really don’t have a lot to do with it!”

They sat staring at each other for a split-second, the space between them quiet and electrified with tension.

“Why do you keep coming here, then?” Thomas asked, voice low.

“Where the hell else can I possibly go? I can’t tell my friends, I can’t tell anyone.” Hamilton was nearly red in the face, eyes glassy.

“You told me.”

Hamilton scoffed and looked away. “Yeah, that was because I didn’t think you cared about me. Didn’t think you would tell anyone.”

Thomas was surprised to find himself almost hurt by that, by the fact that Hamilton thought he didn’t care about him. Because he certainly hadn’t liked the smaller boy, but he had cared about him, in a strange way.

“Look, just-“ Hamilton faced him, eyes pleading. “Please don’t tell anyone. Please. Nobody else knows, and it’s staying that way until I can get out. Please.”

Hamilton ran a hand through his hair self consciously, and Thomas realised that, for him, asking for anything (especially from Thomas) was just not the done thing. He was independent to a fault- and he’d always had to be that way in order to survive.

Christ. He had to keep this a secret. “Ok, I won’t tell anyone.”

Hamilton sighed and shut his eyes (and he looked so tired), relief written across his face. “Thank you.”

Thomas got up off the bed and walked towards the door. “Night, Alexander.”

“Night, Thomas.” The door closed behind him.

It was 4am when Thomas woke up, unsettled by thoughts of something until the memory of what had just happened flooded back, and he stared up at the ceiling and sighed. Because he really couldn’t handle this.

Not telling anyone would be, in theory, easy. As long as James was not included in ‘anyone’, Thomas could probably manage that. What he likely would not be able to manage was the guilt, the fear that came with it.

How do you react when someone you know, one of your classmates, is being hurt in their own home?

They’d all had lectures and seminars on this: on how to recognise the signs of abuse, on how to talk to friends about it, on how to help. But nobody in their small, middle-class, quiet Virginian suburb had really listened because child abuse just did not happen here. Parents didn’t hurt their kids and the lectures and seminars were just a formality, hosted by bored teachers who were more preoccupied by the fact that they were missing their free periods than by actually teaching their pupils about something that would never even affect them.

Yet here it was, proof of that sentiment being unequivocally false, staring Thomas in the face.

It all felt detached from reality, he felt detached from reality, somehow. There was no way that Hamilton- strong, sarcastic, larger-than-life Alexander Hamilton, was being abused. He just wasn’t. Couldn’t be.

“Shit,” Thomas lamented to nobody in particular. “Fuck.”

That seemed about right.

Half an hour later, James appeared at his doorway.

“Thomas?”

“Hi.”

James came and laid beside him on top of the duvet, and they sat in silence just staring at the wall opposite them until the silence was broken.

“So,” James started with false composure. “What did Hamilton say?”

Thomas sat up, deliberating. Hamilton had said not to tell anyone, but it had sounded like he really meant anyone who had the power to actually get him out, so James was safe- right?

“He... he didn’t say anything at first. I tried to get him to but... then we were talking and I caught a glimpse of his torso and there were bruises, like, everywhere, and-“

“Shit,” James breathed, his suspicions confirmed.

“Yeah, so he talked some after that. It- it’s not good. I’m sure you knew that. His home life. Not that he said much but, y’know, it was enough. And I really don’t know what to do.” Thomas was near fighting off tears, the helplessness threatening to overwhelm him, but James spoke again.

“We need to tell someone. Soon. Why don’t we just tell a teacher, and then-“

“He said no telling anyone.” Thomas grimaced. “He told me that. Said that it would make things worse, that he’d be ok on his own.”

“Look, Thomas,” James said cautiously, and Thomas hated that, that caution, because he knew what James was about to say was probably right. “I know this is hard, but Hamilton’s in danger. We can’t just ignore it.”

Thomas shut his eyes and took a shaky breath. “I know, I know we can’t but that’s what he told me and he knows better than either of us. If he thought this was bad enough to warrant it, he would’ve told someone- he’s reckless, but he’s not stupid, and I think that this is his call. And I promised.”

“You promised.” Bitterness and fear twisted the words. James sighed, looking down at the duvet. “I don’t like this.”

Neither do I, thought Thomas.

“But... I get where you’re coming from.” James conceded. “Fuck, I’m worried.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“We... he’ll be ok.” It was an empty statement, but they had nothing else to say. “He’ll be ok because he’s here right now.”

That, really, was all they hope for.

In the morning, Thomas and James got up to find Hamilton seated at the island in Thomas’ kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee and typing something up on his phone as though the events of last night were perfectly routine.

They weren’t exactly surprised.

Hamilton turned around upon hearing them, and promptly continued typing whatever it was.

Thomas and James shared a knowing look before James went and sat down and Thomas brought out some bowls and boxes of cereal, placing them on the counter.

He poured his and James’ bowls, before pausing on the third. “Cereal, Hamilton?”

Hamilton looked up from his phone, expression momentarily confused before he saw an expectant Thomas tilting a box of cornflakes over a bowl, and shook his head.

“I’m fine.”

There was the unspoken question of when Hamilton would leave, where he would go when he left, hanging in the air. Thomas poured the cornflakes.

“You’re having some. You can’t skip breakfast.” Hamilton scoffed, eyes already back on his phone, and made no move to take the bowl.

Thomas rolled his eyes at James, who huffed a laugh in reply, before continuing.

“Seriously, Hamilton, take the food. You’ve got to eat.”

Hamilton finally looked up for longer than two seconds, and conceded. “Fine.” Thomas smirked at the victory before his face fell, and he sat down between James and Hamilton.

They ate in silence for a while, ignoring the palpable tension in the room, until Thomas looked to his right and saw Hamilton frozen, staring at the cereal in his bowl but thoughts very obviously miles away. Something was wrong.

“Hamilton?”

The boy jumped, jerking up so that his back was ramrod straight, before slouching when he saw that it was just Thomas who had addressed him.

“Uh, is everything ok?” James questioned tentatively, watching the series of events with concern. “I only ask because after last night it makes sense that you’d be shaken up, and-“

“I’m not shaken up,” Hamilton replied unaffectedly. “I just...” He paused in thought, and sighed. “I’m supposed to be at home. Was supposed to be back before morning. But...” Hamilton trailed off.

“You- you’re not serious, are you?” Thomas asked, because although he had known that this was coming eventually, it seemed so, so wrong in that moment.

Hamilton stayed quiet.

“Thomas,” James placed a placating hand on his arm. “Hamilton... can we do anything?”

Hamilton sighed and shook his head. “No, I... I’m gonna leave. Soon. But I can’t- not right now. Just let me have a little more time, just- I need some time.”

They all returned to their cereal, James and Thomas grimacing at the inevitability of Hamilton’s impending departure. The room was silent once more, with nothing left to be said between the three of them.

It wasn’t much later that Hamilton got up off the couch (he, Thomas and James had gone to the living room soon after breakfast, watching the news in numb silence) wordlessly, heading to his room to collect his coat. Thomas and James could only watch as he walked away, knowing there was nothing they could do.

The smaller boy returned after a minute, making his way straight to the front door. Thomas got up and walked to him.

They faced each other in the corridor.

“Alexander, I-“

Alexander’s fists and jaw clenched, and Thomas would’ve thought he was angry had he not caught sight of the tears in his eyes.

“Please, Thomas, please don’t,” Hamilton said before he could start. It was jarring, seeing Hamilton plead. Unnatural. But Thomas stopped, only able to stare mutely.

He shook off his uncertainty. “I just wanted to say that... you can call me. Text me. Whatever. If you need something, you can ask.”

Clearly, that had not been what Hamilton was expecting, because the boy’s eyes shone with such surprise and gratefulness that Thomas had to redirect his stare to the floor, unable to hold Hamilton’s intense gaze.

“You can go, if- if you need to. I just wanted to- to say that.”

Hamilton opened the door and stepped out onto doorstep still wet with rain.

“Thank you.”

He turned his back, and left.