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home's a place that i have never known

Chapter Text

John's worn sneakers slapped against the ground methodically as he pushed his way through rows of corn. The leaves left thin scratches on his arms but he pushed through, barely feeling the pain through the rush of adrenaline.

"Get back over here!" a voice, high-pitched with rage, barked at him from close by.

Fingers snatched at his backpack as he pressed on, the source of the shouting on his tail as he burst out of the rows of corn to see a red train just starting to gain speed on the track ahead of him. As if expecting him, one of the cars' doors had been slid half-open, revealing a dimly lit compartment with a metal floor.

John made the split-second decision- the kind of decision that barely ends up well for anybody, and made a leap of faith for the open train car. A squawk of surprise could be heard from behind him as his fingers grabbed frantically at the cold metal handle of the door and his feet scrambled to keep a hold on the slim doorway into the car.

"Get back over here!" barked the police officer, voice full of rage.

John turned around to stick his tongue out at the cop, though it was a bit difficult with how much he was grinning.

"Fuck off, Lee!" Lee seethed as he chased feebly after the train, breathing heavily. John rounded a corner and he was out of sight.

As the train began to move faster and faster, John left the police officer behind, panting for breath and holding onto the train for dear life. The wind whipped across his face and back, making him uncomfortably cold despite the black hoodie he had zipped tight against the Autumn air. John slowly edged along the open door and fell inside the compartment, breathing a sigh of relief as he lay on the cool floor.

 

Alexander wasn't expecting a lot of things, but he definitely didn't expect a random person to almost fall on him as he rested his eyes in an empty train cart.

He jumped up in surprise, staring wild-eyed at the man lying spread-eagle on the metal floor in front of him.

His heartbeat hammered against his chest, despite the fact that this man wasn't making any threatening movements. In fact, he wasn't moving at all. Was he okay?

Still pinned against the wall, Alex started to creep forward, his bare knees scraping painfully against the slightly rusted floor. "Uh-" Alex started weakly, before shutting his mouth tightly and clearing his throat quietly. "Are you okay?" he spoke loudly over the rattle of the train.

The man's breathing visibly froze, his muscles stiffening as his breath hitched. Alexander scurried away as the man lifted his head slowly off the ground, his chin and forehead slightly grimy from the dirty floor.

A crown of frizzy dark brown hair framed his freckled face, and his hazel gaze pierced into Alexander's mind, leaving him breathless. After a moment of mutual consideration, Alex realized he was staring and looked down.

"Who are you?" the freckled person mumbled.

"You didn't answer my question," Alex responded, brushing a strand of hair behind his ear as he looked back up at the man, who had slid into a sitting position. His hoodie and sweats were now covered with a thin layer of dirt to match his face.

"Yeah, of course, I'm okay. And now, if you'd like to answer my question..." the man growled, hot-headed.

"Okay, okay, you didn't have to go off on me-" this earned Alexander a glare from the Mystery Train Man. "I'm Alex."

"John." After a couple of awkward seconds, Alex finally spoke.

"Would you care to tell me why you almost fell directly on me while I was trying to sleep?" While his words were a little bit passive aggressive, Alex let out a nervous chuckle that hoped would ease the mood.

"Would you care to tell me why you were asleep in a train car?" John shot back.

"That's fair, I guess," Alex shrugged. "It's free."

"If you don't get caught."

"Anything's free if you don't get caught."

John smirked. "I like your attitude."

"Once again, you haven't answered my question." Alex pointed out. This time, though, John seemed more relaxed about the questioning.

"I was running from the cops." John shrugged nonchalantly, then broke out in a grin at the look on Alex's face. "Chill, chill. I didn't, like, murder anybody. I stop in this town every once in a while, I've got some friends here, and there's this one cop here who's got it in for me. I stole some corn and loitered around a farm or something, and for some reason, he still really wants to arrest me."

Alex laughed incredulously. "Is that all it takes to get arrested in Ohio?"

John grinned. "Yeah, pretty much. Ohio's this kinda gray area, there are some states, like New Jersey, which are kinda," he made a poof gesture with his fingers. "not really there? And then there are states where it's just kinda all-out insane, like Florida, with their alligators or something. Ohio's right there in the middle."

Alex laughed. What could he say? the man's laugh was infectious.

Alex definitely didn't expect to fall in love with the man, but fate works in crazy ways.

Chapter Text

Alex lay down on the dusty floor of the rickety train car, desperately trying to find a comfortable position while simultaneously keeping an eye on John. Though they had seemed to really click earlier, you could never be too careful.


A couple of hours had passed since John had literally fallen into his life, and night had since fallen across the Autumn sky. If you had looked outside, you'd have seen millions of stars covering every inch of the sky like paint splatters, while the full moon illuminated seemingly endless fields of corn. Small patches of forest straddled the rolling hills, and occasionally a small herd of deer would travel leisurely around its borders.


But right now, the door was shut tight to conserve heat and John and Alex were trying to get some sleep. They had held little conversation earlier that day, commenting on the landscape and just how empty Ohio was. Attempts to learn more about the other had been spoiled by the fact that both of the boys seemed tight-lipped about themselves, respectively deeming it too early in their friendships to talk at length about it. John had noticed how scraped up and dirty Alex's knees were a couple hours in and offered to disinfect the injuries for him, which Alex had politely declined.

 

 

"Where are you going, anyway?" John asked, cocking his head curiously.


"New York City. You?" Alex looked up from what he had written on a scrap of paper.


"I dunno. NYC, I guess."


"Why are you following me? You don't even know why I want to go," Alex shot back defensively.


"You're right. Why do you want to go? Also, you seem chill."


Alex scoffed exasperatedly, rolling his eyes. They didn't talk for the rest of the day.

 

 

The previous days' conversation ran through Alex's head. Why did John want to follow him?


"Do you want a blanket?" Alex almost didn't hear John over his thoughts and the furious rattling of the train.


"No thanks," he responded hoarsely.


"Too bad." A muffled thump and he'd been hit on the head with a bunched-up hoodie.


"Thanks," Alex mumbled as he straightened it out and pulled it around his shoulders. It was considerably softer than just the hard metal floor, and Alex had drifted off in the next minute.

 

 

Alex was shaken awake early in the morning, and he opened his eyes to mottled light cascading over his eyes. His head ached from the loud noise and vibrations that came along with sleeping on a moving train. Alex pulled the hoodie over his head in protest, but after a couple seconds, John pulled the hoodie off of his face annoyedly.


"No going back to sleep now, we're nearing a stop and I need to know if you want to get off," John announced.


Reluctantly, Alex shook himself awake and stood up shakily, not used to waking up in a moving train. He stretched luxuriously, groaning a bit as he blinked the sleep out of his eyes. He watched as John tugged open the car door even further. As he looked out the door, he was shocked by the change of scene. Concrete walls littered with graffiti shot past their small port of visibility, a completely different scene as opposed to the plain cornfields-and-sky landscape he had gazed upon before he fell asleep. In the distance, an early-morning rush of traffic could be heard.


"Where are you getting off?" Alex asked, turning to look at John as the other man peered around the doorway.


John opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off by a piercing shriek- Alex covered his ears in confusion and glanced around warily before realizing that the train was stopping.
After the train had come to a complete stop, John steadied himself on a wall and grinned. "Before I was so rudely interrupted," he scowled jokingly at the train, "I was saying I was going to get off here, but if you want to come with me then I'd be fine with that," He turned around to look at Alexander, whose breath hitched at the sight of him.


The sunlight lit up his morning frizz to make a glowing halo of light. The light hit his eyes in a way that made them positively glow, despite the sleep that still traced his face.
"Hello? Are you going to stay on this train, or come with me?" John waved his hand in front of Alexander's eyes, which Alex swatted away.


"Uh-yeah- I'll go with you."


"Alright, then jump out right here, and we'll make our way into town over there," John instructed, pointing outside the train as he leaned down to pick up his backpack.


Alex did as he was instructed, and was soon followed by John, who began to walk with a clipped pace towards a staircase that was built into the wall. They were in a semi-tunnel- tall concrete walls flanked several sets of railroad tracks. There was no roof to block out the elements, leaving the railroad tracks weathered and dusty. Above them, there was an overpass where the sounds of car horns and yelling echoed down towards them.


The two marched across the tracks, the gravel crunching under their sneakers, and started the climb up the set of stairs.


Upon reaching the top of the staircase, Alex looked at his surroundings- this wasn't what he'd expected. To the left were tall skyscrapers, and to the right were brick shops and restaurants. Workers milled around in the windows and on the sidewalk, setting up tables and chairs.


"Whoah," Alex commented, looking at John as he started walking to the right. "This wasn't what I expected."


"This is one of my favorite parts of freight-hopping," John smiled back at Alex, "The places you end up. I've got friends all over the country."


"Do you have friends here?" Alex asked, speeding up so that he and John were walking side-by-side.


"Yup, I was thinking of visiting her, actually."


"Oh, that's cool!"


John pulled back a sweatshirt sleeve to look at a digital watch with a cracked screen.


"C'mon, if we hurry up then we can get to my friend's house before she leaves for work," John said, then grabbed Alex by the wrist, pulling him along the cracked sidewalk.

Chapter Text

John knocked twice on the dark wooden door, waiting patiently for Eliza to open it. Behind him, Alex was tapping his foot against the patio, glancing between John and the ground methodically. John was pretending not to notice when the door was flung open, and he was enveloped in a hug.

"John!" Eliza practically squealed in his ear, squeezing him tightly.

"Hey, 'Liza," John grunted in response, smiling widely.

Eliza pulled back to inspect John from every angle, barely holding back a grin.

"It's been forever since I last saw you! How have you been?"

"Not bad! I'm still freight-hopping, hitchhiking, and taking odd jobs as usual. I'm heading to NYC right now with this guy," John turned around to gesture at Alex, who waved shyly.

"Oh, hello! My name's Eliza Schuyler!" Eliza waved back, equally shy as a pink blush dusted her cheeks.

"The name's Alexander Hamilton," Alex smiled.

"Nice to meet you, Alexander Hamilton, why don't you two come in?" Eliza offered, moving out of the doorway to let them in.

The inside of the house was just as it always was, with white walls with old antique furniture. A glass vase filled with large yellow flowers sat on a bureau, next to a photo of Eliza with two other girls, who had been introduced to him as her two sisters, Angelica and Peggy.

"I need to leave for work soon, but you can help yourself to whatever's in the fridge," Eliza closed the door behind Alex and John as she made her way into the kitchen.

The sound of clinking mugs could be heard in the kitchen, then Eliza poked her head around the corner. "Coffee?" she offered, holding up a mug.

"Yes, please" Alex responded politely.

"I'll pass, but thanks for offering," John said.

"Alright, I'll have that for you in a sec," Eliza responded before glancing into the mug and wrinkling her nose. "I should... probably rinse out this mug."

"You go do that, I'm taking a nap on your couch," John called out, before kicking off his shoes and shuffling into the living room.

John dropped his backpack on the mint green carpet next to the glass coffee table and flung himself onto the couch, sinking into the soft cushions. In the next room over, he heard a muffled conversation as he made himself comfortable. As he lay on the plush couch, John fell asleep to the sound of his two friends' voices and the smell of coffee.


John woke up to the smell of toast. He sat up and stretched, eyes locking with Alex's as he looked up from scribbling something on a piece of paper. Alex quickly stopped writing, a small pink tint to his cheeks.

"Are you hungry? I made toast," he asked.

"Nah, I'm good," John waved his hand dismissively, which was a cue for his stomach to growl loudly.

"Yeah, riiight-" Alex stood up. "I'm going to make you some eggs. Eliza left about an hour ago, but she said that you should shower, and feel free to use her washer."

"Okay, I'll go do that," John grumbled, rooting through his backpack for a change of clothes.

John showered quickly and threw his dirty clothes into the washer, leaving it off.

"I've got some spare clothes you can wear until your clothes are clean if you want to take a shower," John said as he walked into the kitchen.

Alex was standing over the stove as he made scrambled eggs, with only a small amount of smoke as a product.

"Uhh, I think those are done," John pointed out. Alex blushed slightly, stuttering, "Oh-yeah-of course-I mean- yeah," and flicked off the stove, pulling the pan off the burner.

"I made you eggs!" Alex stepped back from the stove and feebly presented the only slightly charred eggs to John.

"Uhh- thanks! You can borrow some of my clothes and take a shower while I eat, the washing machine is down the hall, across from the bathroom."

"Okay, I'll do that-thanks!" Alex said, then scurried off into the hallway.
John, left feeling slightly confused at the awkward interaction, blinked wearily. "Well, that was weird," he mumbled under his breath, then set off t rummage through the cabinets on the search for a plate.

It was noon when the two left the house, with their bellies full and their eyes rested. John had dug through his backpack and pulled out an ancient iPhone, and shot off a quick text to Eliza, thanking her for her generosity.
Alex had been acting weird all day, and it worried John. Even if he had only known him for a day, they had swiftly become friends and John had come to care for him.

Another problem: John knew practically nothing about Alex, and with all the shady characters in the states it was quite honestly a miracle that he wasn't dead by now. It wasn't that he didn't trust Alex, it was just that... okay, he didn't really trust Alex. So, when they were waiting for a train to come, he decided to try and coax some information out of Alex.

"Soo... where are you from?" John asked, staring at the gravel under his feet.

After a moment of hesitation, Alex responded with, "Nevis. You?"

"South Carolina, where's Nevis?" John asked, internally psyched that he'd gotten an answer out of the elusive Alexander.

"The Caribbean."

"Huh. That's cool. Cooler than South Carolina, anyway."

Alex scoffed. "What's so bad about South Carolina?"

"It's basically full of dickheads who want me to go to school in England, become a lawyer, and marry some girl with lots of money. That's my experience, anyway."

"That sucks."

They were met with an awkward silence and were only interrupted when two teenagers came sprinting down the tracks.

One was short with curly black hair down to his jaw, and a small dusting of freckles on his face. The other was tall, with dark skin and a buzz cut.

"C'mon George, our train leaves in like, two minutes!" The short one called out. He was surprisingly fast for his small stature, and he outpaced his counterpart by about ten feet.

"Hey!" John called out, and the short one almost tripped in surprise.

"Uh-ah- we weren't doing anything illegal," he spluttered, face flushed with embarrassment.

"Nah it's cool, we were just wondering where your train is going." John waved his hand dismissively.

"Uhh-" The boy started, and was then cut off by his friend.

"The line ends at Pittsburgh, but it'll make some stops along the way," said the other boy- George.

"Oh, perfect, okay, thanks!" John said, giving them a toothy grin.

The two teenagers continued on their way, and John sat up.

"We should probably take this train, C'mon," he said, walking towards the train.

The train in front of them was mainly made of gondola cars, the metal kind with an open roof that usually carried junk.

'I'm gonna check out this car," John called over his shoulder and quickly climbed the metal rungs on the front of the car. The ladder was shaky and a little bit rusty, but he made it the top and peered into the car, which was about three-quarters full of wood chips. He quickly vaulted over the side and dropped his backpack, before poking his head over the side.

Upon peering over the edge, he saw that Alex was already climbing up the ladder.

"Where are we going, exactly?" Alex asked after he scrambled a little less than gracefully into the car.

"Pittsburgh," John said, doing only slightly sarcastic jazz hands. "It's on the way to New York."

A small voice in the back of his mind told John that he still had no idea why Alex wanted to go to New York City. Pushing the thought to the back of his mind, John decided to just roll with it. It was just a fun trip, and he'd probably never see the other man again once it was over, right?

Chapter Text

The ride to Pittsburgh was extremely uncomfortable. Alex wore basketball shorts and a hoodie- why were clothes so expensive?- and the ragged wood chips dug into his legs, making it nearly impossible for him to find a comfortable position.

John must've somewhat noticed Alexander's discomfort because once the train stopped in a small town on the way to Pittsburgh, the two hopped out of the car to stretch their legs.

Once again they found themselves walking on unfamiliar gravel covered rails. This time, though, tall trees and overgrown shrubs flanked them, shading their trek into the woods. Occasionally the sound of a car running over a pothole echoed through the woods, so John and Alex headed in that direction.

A small path came through the woods (probably the product of people like John and Alex trespassing) peeked through the thin brush, so the two made the squeeze. After about a minute of twigs and other low-hanging branches scraping his shins, Alex followed John into a small residential area.

"Where are we going?" Asked Alex, looking around at the slightly worn-down houses.

"I dunno, I was thinking maybe we could just explore a little bit...?" John responded hesitantly.

"You don't know where the hell we are, do you?" Alex asked, his voice a mix of amusement and concern.

"I- of course, I do!" John responded, quite obviously lying. His face was turning slightly red, and he turned his head away in embarrassment and-
oh.

I've got a crush, haven't I.

It was really quite obvious that he did, and it was astonishing that he only figured it out then.

"Yeah, right," Alex decided to respond to John, in a tone he hoped came across as joking.

"Hey, I'm only doing this because you looked really uncomfortable sitting in a pile of wood chips in basketball shorts! Who the hell even wears basketball shorts in September? It's like, sixty degrees!" John shot back suddenly, his voice holding no humor.

Oh. A pang of guilt and despair shot through Alex- he shouldn't have joked like that, and now John probably hated him. And then he was angry. Why was John mad? He was telling the truth!

"It was a joke, dumbass!" Alex spat, suddenly filled with the urge to fight- one he hadn't felt in years.

"Oh, look who's talking! If it weren't for me then you would be going around in circles, stuck in a boxcar in Ohio, instead of on your way to New York! And I don't even know why you want to go to New York, much less why I'm helping you, so I may as well just leave!"

John's words struck a familiar chord, and Alexander's heart leaped up in rage.

"What, do you want me to tell you?"

"Yeah, that'd be pretty nice!" John shot back after a moment of hesitation. Alex could see that he was starting to calm down, and though he probably didn't want to admit it, Alex could see it in the way his face's features were starting to smooth out and the look he had in his eye.

"I'm looking for my goddamn brother, and if you'd bother to stop being an asshole, then that'd be great!" Alex shouted in one last fit of rage.
For about thirty seconds, nobody said anything and that let the depth of what he'd admitted sink in.

"Oh," John whispered, so quietly that Alex almost didn't hear it. "I-I'm sorry-"

"No, it's okay, I'm sorry I should go-" Alex took a few steps back evasively.

"No!" John exclaimed, making Alex jump. "I mean, no, I'll help you find your brother," he tried feebly.

Relief flooded Alexander, and a small smile ghosted his lips. John didn't hate him.

"That'd be great, actually," Alex responded. John's face lit up, and a warm feeling filled Alex.

 

The trip to Pittsburgh took several hours, and it gave Alex time to think- about his brother, New York, and John.

He wasn't afraid to admit it. He loved John.

He loved how when he concentrated on anything- catching a train, scrolling through an unreasonably laggy Google Maps on his ancient phone- he stuck the tip of his tongue out between his teeth.

He loved how when he was nervous he subconsciously brushed a strand of hair behind his ear.

He loved how when John was passionate about something he'd talk with his hands- making wide gestures with his arms and hands.

And John would (probably) never love him back. At least, not in the way Alex loved him. John left him feeling helpless- in two ways.

When the train stopped, they were in Pittsburgh. They found themselves in a run-down tunnel- the kind you'd think would be abandoned. To the right of them, there were grimy windows coated with dust and dirt that let in barely enough light to see by. Above them, bright fluorescent lights flicked on, and the two clambered out of the car.

A little ways behind them, natural light flooded into the tunnel. John decided to head in that direction, and Alex followed.

They walked in a comfortable silence for about a quarter mile, until they reached the end of the tunnel. However, when they got out of the tunnel, they realized that the tracks they were on were elevated above the ground on a ramp. There was about another length of track of the same distance until it got low enough so that they could jump into the nearly empty street, so they continued walking.

At the end of the ramp, their feet ached slightly from the gravel that littered the trackside. They were in a slightly worn-down neighborhood, with old brick buildings and weeds sticking out from the cracks in the sidewalk. In the distance, tall skyscrapers reflected the light from the setting sun.

"I found a website with information on the schedules of the trains here, and we have about a half an hour to explore," John explained.

They spent the half hour walking around the neighborhood and commenting on the businesses and people around them, occasionally breaking into fits of mirthful laughter.

They were bonding so much, that they completely lost track of the time.
Needless to say, they missed their train.

Chapter Text

John's first thought when he saw the train speeding away was, "Oh well, we can catch another one."

John's first thought when he found out that the next train that was headed for Baltimore arrived in six hours was, "Well, shit."

"We've got five hours to blow, whaddya wanna do?" An hour later, Alex and John sat side-by-side on a dusty curbside, eating mediocre slices of pizza. The pizza was very greasy and slightly burnt, but hey, it was food.

Alex took a small bite of his pizza, swallowed, then responded. "Uhh- maybe check out the downtown area?"

"I'm good with that," John responded and shoved the last of his pizza crust in his mouth.


The downtown area was in the midst of a particularly bad rush hour. When there wasn't incessant honking driving the two insane, there were throngs of businessmen in suits threatening to separate Alex and John. Alex was skinny, with knobbly knees and thin arms, and John had no doubt that if he lost sight of the younger boy, he'd have trouble finding him amongst the towering skyscrapers.

Eventually, after several blocks of walking and noticing how Alex was starting to shrink in on himself, they reached a Giant Eagle.

"Why are we at a grocery store?" Alex said quietly.

"You ever stole before?" John asked, looking at Alex.

"Uh yeah- I mean- not at a place this big before but yeah," Alex answered.
"Alright, well, it's easy, do you want to...?" John said.

After a moment of hesitation, Alex nodded.


About forty minutes and a hell of a lot of joking around later, John and Alex sat on a curbside, taking sips of their own respective cokes. Alex seemed notably less shaky now, laughing loudly and bantering with John. They spent their time asking lighthearted questions about each other, such as 'what's your favorite color?', and 'ever had any pets?" ("Green, and I've never had any pets," was Alex's response.)

"Ever dated anybody?" Alex asked curiously, though his voice was a little bit shaky.

"Nope. I fake-dated my friend for a while though," John responded.
"Why were you fake-dating them?" Alex asked quizzically.

"We were friends, and my dad was pressuring me to get a girlfriend," John simply replied.

"Huh."

"What about you? You ever dated anybody?"

"No, I don't think anybody'd want to date me back on Nevis," Alex said.

"What, why not?" John asked. He wasn't interested in Alex, but he could see people wanting to be with him.

"I didn't really- have a place to live for a while. Still don't."

"Oh."

"Sorry." Alex stared down at his sneakers.

"It's okay," John responded, for lack of the correct words.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, just listening to the sound of the sunset. Birds dove and swooped low to the ground in an aerial dance, with their loud chirps being their music.

"How do you know your brother is in New York?" John asked abruptly.
"What?"

"I mean- you came from Nevis, America's a pretty big place, how do you know he's in New York? Or at least, how'd he get here?" John rephrased.
Alex thought about what he'd say for about a minute before responding.

"I don't really know he's in New York, not for sure, anyway. He had a little bit of a gambling problem, and he ended up winning a ticket to New York City in some raffle. He just left."

"Oh," John said. "That sucks."

"Yup. I don't know if I'm going to be happy to see him or not. If I find him, that is," Alex said bluntly.

"Hey. We're gonna find him," John looked up at Alex as he swirled the remnants of his bottle of coke. Alex smiled gratefully, and John couldn't help but notice how tired he looked. Not just tired- old- like he'd experienced a lot of things that were starting to weigh down on him.

"We should get going." John stood up abruptly and staggered slightly at the rush of vertigo that followed.

Alex wordlessly followed his lead, and the two started walking back to the train station. John had a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach- it was a comfortable, familial feeling.

John and Alex- brothers, just not in blood. Or, at least, that's just how John felt.


The train in front of them was fairly long- around fifty cars, mainly compromised of grainers. John spent about three minutes looking for the best car to hop before he heard footsteps coming in his direction. They were heavy and the gravel crunched heavily under the person's feet- it was unlikely this person wasn't supposed to be there.

"Get out of sight!" John hissed at Alex, who quickly obliged.

Alex ducked behind one of the cars and hoisted himself onto the back platform while John pressed himself flat against the rail, listening silently.
John's heart was pounding so loudly and rapidly against his chest, he was surprised whoever was walking around couldn't hear him. The person was taking their sweet time, walking leisurely along the track towards where the two were hiding. The person paused, and John's breath caught in his throat- he had a feeling in his gut that this person was out to catch them, and he couldn't allow himself to fail Alex. Once he was set on something, he had to do it.

Just as his heart rate was starting to lower a healthy amount, the person stepped around the car.

They were caught.

Or were they?


"John?!" The man exclaimed, eyes wide.

"Hercules?" John responded, still wary and slightly unsure. Hercules broke out into a grin and engulfed John in a bear hug.

"You didn't tell me that this was how you traveled! Man, I haven't seen you in like, months!" Hercules was a big guy, and more often than not was rougher than he intended to be. While in reality, he was actually a big ol' teddy bear, he managed to squish John in his excitement.

"Dude, you almost gave me a heart attack! And you didn't tell me you worked with trains!" John managed to wriggle out from Hercules' iron grip and grinned at him.

"Eh, it's just a part-time thing." Hercules shrugged, then peered around John's shoulder as he finally seemed to notice Alex, who looked like he wanted to disappear.

"Who's your friend?" He asked curiously.

Alex's head shot up, and he stumbled over his response. "Oh-uh-I-I'm Alex-Alexander Hamilton."

Herc smiled and offered his hand to shake, which Alex took. "Nice to meet you, my name's Hercules Mulligan."

"Nice to meet-meet you too, how did you and John meet?" Alex still looked nervous, but he appeared to be slowly becoming more relaxed.

"We talked a bit on the internet- I think it was on some forum or something. Anyway, we became friends there and we eventually met up." John cut in.
Hercules opened his mouth to speak but at that moment train's wheels hissed against the track, which meant it was going to take off within the next thirty seconds or so.

"I better get going, I'm not going to get you arrested, but if you die I'll probably kill you," Hercules said seriously as he took a couple steps back from the tracks. "See you around!"

Alex and John quickly scrambled to get on the train's metal platform, and as the train slowly picked up speed, John waved goodbye to Hercules.

Chapter Text

The thing about grainers is, there's not a lot of protection from wind. With the wind roaring in his ears, along with the train car jostling him and the rain coming down in sheets against his bare knees and face, Alex felt like shit.

The darkness-shrouded landscape flew past, and he didn't see any of it. The rain and wind whipping his hair around his face became the ferocious winds of a funnel cloud. The train's wheels shaking violently against the tracks felt like the house's flimsy roof collapsing in on itself. His breath was quick and shallow.

There was a small part of him that was still present- a part of him that felt the chill seeping into his bones and the hard metal mesh pressed against his legs.

"John." He said quietly, almost unheard over the treacherous din the train was making.

"Hm?" John responded, and out of the corner of his eye Alex saw John turn his head to look at him.

"Uhh-" Alex started weakly, but was cut off by John.

"Are you okay?" His face was etched with concern, and he was looking cautiously over Alex, who was hugging his knees tight to his chest.

Alex shook his head weakly. "I have this thing- rain's... not good."
John looked slightly confused, tilting his head slightly to the side subconsciously.

"What should I d-" John started, but was cut off by Alex scooching towards him. Alex didn't know what part of him made him do it, but somewhere in the mental haze he was lost in, he found himself wrapping his arms around John. He smelled like a forest- like green leaves and earthy brown soil. His hoodie was slightly smelly, but Alex didn't care.

As tears filled his eyes, the water left his lungs.


Alex was shaken awake several hours later to the sudden absence of movement on the train's part. He was laying on something soft, if not slightly smelly.

"Alex, we gotta go, now!" John whispered in a hushed tone, carrying such a vast amount of urgency that Alex's head shot up immediately.

He was on the train, clutching John's hoodie. The bright light burned his eyes, leaving Alex blinking frantically and shading his eyes with the back of his hand as he fought to regain distinct vision. When his sight cleared, he noticed that the train was at a standstill, with another, longer, train rushing past. When he turned to respond to John, he was peering around the corner of the car, his posture in such a position that he could slip from sight quickly if needed.

Something didn't seem right- John seemed nervous. Alex had never seen him nervous before, except for when he thought his friend- Hercules- was going to catch them.

"What's up?" Alex whispered, his voice thick with sleep.

"We gotta go," John spoke in a hushed tone, whipping his head around to face Alex. He was slightly pale, and every aspect of his posture conveyed how tense he was.

"What's going o-" Alex started.

"Get out of the car, please." A voice from behind John spoke in a chipper, if not slightly passive-aggressive, British accent. Alex only got a quick look at the man- blond hair, wearing a loose reflective vest over a tight-fitted white long sleeve- before John yelled: "Run!"

Alex was a fleet-footed runner, despite his outward appearance. He grabbed John's hoodie, vaulted over the other side of the train car and set off running- weaving around train cars and piles of litter, away from the angered shouts behind him. His heart beat loudly against his chest, and at any second it was going to break free from his chest and-

"Let go of me!" Alex heard John scream from behind him, then a gravelly thud as something heavy hit the ground, followed by a sharp yelp from that cop with the British accent. Alex didn't stop to look, didn't slow, just ran faster as his breath became ragged and he left the trains behind him.
His panicked gaze fixed on a single spot ahead of him: a large bush pressed against a slightly rusty chain-link fence.

Twenty feet. Ten Feet. Five feet.

One final leap and he dove into the bush, rolling on his side, and laying sprawled across the slightly muddy ground in a panting heap.

A few seconds later, a shadowy figure tumbled into the bushes after him. Alex jumped in surprise, before freezing in a crouching position. The person moved into a sitting posture before proceeding to shoot Alex a cheeky grin.
"Man, did you see that?" It was just John.

Alex looked down before letting out a deep breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

Alex relaxed back into a sitting position, then looked back up at John. He was sweaty, still panting slightly, and his wet shirt stuck to his skin.

Man, he's really hot. Alex felt his face redden slightly.
"N-no, what happened?" Alex said.

John opened his mouth before doing a double take. "Nothing important- are you okay?"

Alex shook his head, only reddening further. "No, why?" He forced out.
"You're a terrible liar."

"What?" Alex looked up at John who was giving him a concerned look.
"I just- yesterday, when it was raining, you seemed off. You've never been overly touchy before, and it was kind of weird? If you need to talk or something, that's fine," John said quickly, staring at his shoes before squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head flusteredly.

"Ahh, forget it-"

"Uh, no it's okay!" Alex reassured. "Just uh- when I was on Nevis there was this hurricane! And I don't like storms now. That's it- pretty much," Alex said quickly.

John opened his eyes after the rushed explanation and just looked at him disbelievingly. "I'm pretty sure there's more to it, but I'm too tired to argue with you."

Now that he mentioned it, he did look awfully tired. His eyes drooped, and his posture was weighed down with fatigue.

Alex only sighed in response.

They sat in silence for a moment on the damp ground, smelling of mud and petrichor, before muffled, crunching footsteps approached the two from the right.

Alex immediately became alert, and by the looks of it, so did John.

"How are we gonna get over the fence?" Alex hissed, shifting into a crouching position on achy limbs.

"We'll jump it."

After a moment's glance's worth of investigation, Alex noticed the rusty barbed wire sitting atop the fence.

"There's barbed wire."

John gave Alex a quiet hum of acknowledgment before proceeding to brush aside swaths of branches before stopping in front of the fence several feet down.

"Thought so," he commented. "Some people chopped a hole in the fence right here, probably sneaking into the train yard."

He stepped back to show a reasonably sized hole, with jagged edges surprisingly free of rust.

The footsteps stopped in front of the brush where they were sitting.

"Go!" John ushered Alex towards the gap, his expression verging on frantic, as the branches stirred beside the pair's hiding place.

Alex dove through the fence and proceeded to tumble down a steep hill.

Chapter Text

hey guys!! i'm very sorry with how i abandoned this story, first off. i made it on a whim when i got an interesting idea and was very excited to get posting.
second, this is my first actual story on ao3 and i am so thankful for the support i've received! it may not be much, but it was still way more than i was expecting and i am grateful nonetheless!
i'm upset with myself for dropping this idea, because i feel like the finished story would have a few things that you don't see very often- or at all!- on ao3. but it was fun to write while it lasted, i'll give ya that.
i do have an idea for a story, but like this one i've had the idea for a small amount of time and i don't have that much of a plan. this time, i'll try to go more in-depth with my chapter plans than what happened with this story.
if i DO end up finishing a chapter and publishing it, it may not happen for a bit because i somehow manage to procrastinate on things that i enjoy.

thank you once more to everybody who read this fic!