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The Fact that You're Alive is a Miracle

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It had been two and a half weeks since the day Alex first arrived at Columbia, and he was already as much of a mess as ever.

He had aged out of foster care in January, and was left completely on his own after that. He was here on scholarships and grants and loans, having barely anything left to his name despite working three jobs, and certainly no family who would support him.

Alex wasn’t really making friends yet, and he knew it was stupid to be disappointed about that. Anyone could’ve seen it coming. He shouldn’t want other people to annoy and impose on with his boring interests and abrasive personality… but he had to admit he still wished he had some friends. Even one would do.

Selfish.

He did love some of his classes, already knowing he intended to double major in economics and political science with a minor in English— and having eagerly planned out four years’ worth of courses. However, he was already struggling to stay on top of the work for some of the core requirements he had to fulfill.

Sometimes it just seemed impossible to motivate himself to do the work— hell, sometimes it was impossible to motivate himself to shower or eat or clean his room. There were more interesting, important things right there and how was he supposed to focus on something that didn’t matter to him instead? Alex did work hard in his favorite classes, Intro to American Government & Politics and Global Economy, but he didn’t know how he was going to graduate if he actually failed these requirements.

Lazy.

Other times, he would forget entirely that he had homework, or even that he had class, until it was too late. He couldn’t understand how important information always slipped his mind— his memory was actually rather impressive at least when it came to his interests, or so he had thought.

Idiot.

And of course, the nightmares had followed him too. He was glad to have a single dorm room so he wouldn’t have to worry about bothering a roommate with them.

Get that shit under control. I have enough on my plate, I don’t need you waking me up every fucking night on top of it.

And the flinching— he was sure he looked stupid reacting to every little thing so dramatically, but his startle response was heightened to a ridiculous degree.

Stop flinching like that. You’re calling attention to yourself, you look ridiculous, you’ll only drive people away… Stop acting so goddamn crazy.

Alex practically lived on coffee, and his sleep schedule— if it could even be called a “schedule” at all— was a disaster.

And who’s fault is it that you didn’t sleep last night? Not mine. It’s morning, get off your lazy ass for once, I need you to run these errands for me now.

He was beginning to wonder if he was stupid for having hoped college would be so much better than the rest of his life had. After all, he might be in a new place with new people, but he was the same. And he knew he was the worst.

 

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About a week later, some things finally began to change.

On the surface, it was nothing— first, a new student switched into his chemistry class and happened to sit next to him, where there had previously been no one. It was one of the classes he could barely focus in.

His name was John, and he seemed pretty interested in the material— and oddly willing to talk to Alex. They were assigned as lab partners by virtue of where they were seated, and actually hit it off. By the end of a few classes, they were talking and laughing together fairly easily, and John even invited Alex to hang out with him and some of his other friends that weekend.

He was looking forward to it.

Second, Professor Washington, who taught American Government & Politics and was also Alex’s academic advisor, had called him over after class to tell him how impressed he was with his contributions in class discussions— and to suggest he join the debate team. Alex had always been told he was too argumentative and needed to learn to shut up, so he was pleasantly surprised by this. He found himself liking the idea of joining the team.

Washington also had access to all his grades, and noted that he seemed too bright to be falling so behind in half his classes. Alex sheepishly admitted that he had trouble motivating himself to do the work for those classes, and that he was very forgetful. Bracing himself for anger that never came, he stared at a spot on the carpet in shame as the professor recommended he check out the academic help center.

Alex said he would consider it, and left feeling the tiniest bit lighter.

Third, a beautiful, confident girl strolled up to him one day in the dining hall— where he had been eating alone while studying for economics— and invited him to come over and sit with her and her sister. It took her a few tries to break through his intense focus, and she looked slightly guilty when he finally looked up. He felt like an idiot, of course.

“Hi. Name’s Angelica. I think we have American Gov together… Uh, my sister and I were wondering if you might want to come sit with us? It’s cool if not, I mean…”

Why was she so desperate to talk to him?

Didn’t matter. He smiled, gladly accepted, and headed over to join them.

A shy, pretty girl with dark eyes smiled up at him from behind long brown hair— he thought he could see her blushing faintly.

“This is Eliza.” Angelica smiled. “My little sister.”

“Nice to meet you,” he said.

“You too!” Eliza said quickly, then fiddled nervously with her hair.

Alex soon wound up having a lively discussion with Angelica, who shared many of his interests. Eliza didn’t say much, but she nodded along and smiled at both of them. Angelica seemed a bit flirty with him, and he didn’t miss Eliza’s annoyance at that.

If they knew the real you, they’d be gone in a second.

He pushed the thought aside with annoyance for the first time in a while. Let me enjoy something for once.

All in all, things were beginning to look up.

Chapter Text

“Alex!” Fingers snapping. Then, more hesitantly, “Alex? You good, man?”

Panic shooting through him, Alex looked up from his phone, where he’d been way too absorbed in an article. “Sorry! I’m sorry!”

He was met with a concerned expression from John. “No, it’s cool. Is everything okay? You kinda…”

“Spaced out?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, sorry.” He forced a laugh. “Just distracted. What’s up?”

“Uh, if we’re done with dinner, wanna go meet up with Gil and Herc now?”

“Yeah, sure, of course.”

“Awesome!” He flashed a brilliant smile, and Alex’s heart nearly skipped a beat. “I can’t wait for you guys to meet each other.” Standing, he grabbed his bag, and Alex followed suit. “We’re gonna meet at the north end of campus and then head out.”

 

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Two guys waved to them as they walked over.

“Bonjour, mon ami!” The taller of the pair greeted them. “Je m’appelle Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier de Lafayette, mais tu peux m’appeler Gil.”

“Bonjour,” Alex replied without thinking. “Je m’appelle Alex. Ça va?”

Gil’s eyes lit up. “Tu parles français!”

“Oui.” Alex smiled at him.

“Great, now there’s two of them.” The other new guy, who was rather muscular and wore a light gray beanie, rolled his eyes affectionately. He stuck out a hand, and Alex shook it with surprising firmness for his skinny frame. “I’m Hercules, but you can call me Herc. Nice to meet you.”

“That’s such a cool name!”

Herc grinned. “Thanks.”

“I’m Alex. Nice to meet you guys.”

“So, wanna head over now?” John interjected, looking slightly nervous.

“Obviously,” Herc said.

“Where are we going?” Alex asked as the four began walking, and Gil began talking excitedly about the club they were going to.

 

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Gil was across the room chatting with a group of girls, Herc was on the dance floor, and John and Alex sat side by side at the bar.

For once it was John, not Alex, who seemed to be off in another world. He had seemed a bit down all night, really, and Alex wished he could see what was going on inside his brain.

John rubbed at his eyes for a moment, then turned back to him as if about to say something. Alex suddenly noticed that something was… off.

John seemed to hesitate, and turned back to his drink.

He had concealer on, Alex could see now. And it had been wiped off partially, revealing a bruised cheek.

He tugged at his friend’s sleeve. “John!” he hissed.

John gave him a quizzical look.

“Come with me.” He led him to the bathroom.

“Dude, what the hell—”

“Your face.”

John froze.
“I’m not going to tell anyone if you don’t want me to,” Alex said hurriedly, hands up in a gesture of surrender. “I’m not gonna make a scene, I’m not gonna call attention to it, promise. Just thought you should know the concealer’s kinda coming off.”

“Well, fuck.” He sighed. “Thanks, I’m just gonna fix it real quick.” Rummaging through his bag, he turned to the mirror to touch up the smudged spot. “You think anyone else noticed?”

“I don’t know. Probably not.”

“Let’s hope.”

“Who did it?” Alex immediately cursed his own bluntness.

John just sighed again, and to Alex’s surprise, gave a straight answer. “My dad was in town this week, and he wanted to see me for some reason… He can be kind of an asshole when he’s drunk, I dunno. It’s not that big a deal or anything, just don’t want everyone asking what happened to my face, you know?”

“I’m sorry. He shouldn’t do that shit to you.”

John shrugged. “Eh, I was kinda asking for it.”

“Doesn’t matter. He shouldn’t hit you, John.”

“It is what it is. Hey, at least we’re not under the same roof all the time anymore.”

“I guess.”

They turned to leave the bathroom.

“Hey, Alex.”

He turned to his friend. “Yeah?”

“Thanks.” John’s small smile sent shockwaves through Alex.

“Anytime.”

 

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When he got back to his room later that night, Alex checked his phone before collapsing into bed and saw a text from Eliza: hey alex!! wanna maybe grab coffee w me tomorrow morning? not too early or anything but maybe 11ish? i know u love it haha, and i know this really sweet little cafe that has the best pastries and stuff! of course u totally don’t have to though, just let me know! hope ur day was nice :)

He smiled at her clear nervousness, feeling his heart warm at her shy affection. She was so damn cute.

Shooting back a quick reply: yeah totally! that sounds great, see you tomorrow!— and then adding a my day was good, hope yours was too :)— he rolled into bed with something else to look forward to, not even remembering to hope he was too tired to dream.

 

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Alex woke up screaming.

It took him a moment to register his surroundings, to remember that he was in his dorm room and not in the aftermath of the hurricane on Nevis— not surrounded by wreckage and bodies and—

He squeezed his eyes shut against the memory, tangling his hands in his hair and pulling hard. The pain grounded him. In search of more, he impulsively banged his head on the wall he was curled against.

And again.

Oh, shit. Bad idea. His vision swirled for a brief moment.

Sighing, he forced himself out of bed. Saturday, no class. Nothing he needed to do today, right? He scanned through his memory, finding nothing but a nagging sense that he was forgetting something… hmm. Probably just some homework.

Time for breakfast, he supposed.

Alex was halfway through his scrambled eggs when he checked his phone to see a text from Eliza: hey u still wanna meet outside my dorm around 10:30 and walk over together?

The time was 11 now. And her text was from forty-five minutes ago.

Shit.

Abandoning the rest of the food, he rushed out and ran over to the location, sending back a hasty i’m so sorry liza, i forgot but i’m heading over now if you still want to go! i understand if you don’t, i’m really sorry with shaking hands.

It was 11:05 by the time he arrived. 11:10 when she came out the door, clearly trying not to look as upset as she was.

His heart dropped.

Pathetic waste of space.

Tears welled up in his eyes as she walked over to him. He tried to blink them away. “Eliza, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to, I just got distracted and I forgot, I know I said I would go and then I pretty much blew you off and I’m really really sorry, I’m an idiot and I never remember anything but I really did want to spend time with you and—”

“Alex!”

He flinched, and her eyes widened in alarm.

“Alex, I’m sorry. You’re not an idiot. Just… chill, okay?” She laughed awkwardly. “It’s no big deal.”

“Do you… still want to go?” he asked, half hopeful, half convinced he didn’t deserve her time.

“Of course.” She smiled. “Would I be here if I didn’t? C’mon, let’s go.” She reached for his hand, and he slipped it into hers with a weak smile. “It’s really fine.”

As they walked, they slowly eased back into casual conversation, putting the mutual stress of that morning behind them as best they could. Alex still felt guilty, but he tried to set it aside. How could he have forgotten?

Are you fucking stupid?

He learned that Eliza was majoring in English and minoring in art. That she and Angelica had a younger sister, Peggy, in high school, and two cats back home— and she also had an iguana in her dorm room. She was more of an early to bed, early to rise type, while he just barely slept at all. Her favorite color was blue— she did wear a lot of it— and her favorite food was pasta with pesto sauce.

Most of all, he learned how sweet and forgiving she was, and how much he liked her.

At the cafe, she got a tea and a croissant; he got a double espresso. They talked about school, about life, about family. Alex deftly avoided the topic of his own background every time the conversation veered toward it, not sure how to tell a girl he’d established by now was wealthy and had a happy family that his mother was dead, his father had left when he was ten, his town had been destroyed by a hurricane, he’d come here with nothing and been shuffled around the foster care system for a year before aging out, and he still had financial concerns about putting himself through college. It wasn’t even that she’d look down on him for it so much as that she’d pity him and worry about him, and he didn’t want that.

But as long as he avoided revealing too much, she was so nice to talk to.

“Is this, like… a date?” he wondered aloud suddenly. Shit. Think before you speak, Hamilton!

Eliza’s cheeks went pink, and she nearly choked on her tea. There was a long silence. Finally, she said quietly, “Do you want it to be?”

“Uh, if you do?”

She frowned. “So… yes?”

“Yes!”

“Oh.” She laughed. “Okay. Wow. Awesome.”

He reached a hand across the table, and she took it. Then she leaned in further, bringing her face closer to his. “Alex… oh, gosh, I don’t even know what to say, but I really…” He closed most of the gap left between them, and after a moment of shocked blinking, she crossed the last bit of distance in a kiss.

Then they pulled apart, realizing they were in the middle of a fairly busy cafe and stretched somewhat awkwardly across the table between them.

But it had been nice. Alex already found himself wanting to kiss her again. “So, is this gonna be, like, a thing now? Because I really like you.”

The blush again. Shy eyes darting toward the ground. “Um, if you want it to be…”

Alex smirked. “So… yes?”

Glancing up at him in surprise, she grinned. “Yes!”

Chapter Text

“Yo, Alex!” John waved at him beside Gil and Herc from across the hall, and he rushed over to join them, followed by Angelica.

“Hey!”

“How was debate team?” Herc asked.

“Pretty good,” Alex said.

Angelica laughed. “He really got into it with Jefferson today. Professor Washington had to send both of them out to cool off.”

Gil raised an eyebrow. “Wow.”

Alex shrugged. “He needs to shut up about stuff he doesn’t understand, instead of trying to explain immigration and poverty to someone who’s lived both. Maybe I could’ve been more polite about it, but why should I have to? I was right and everyone knew it. Plus, Thomas was being a total asshole. Washington didn’t need to kick me out too.”

“Sorry, dude.” John patted his shoulder. “Was Washington really pissed?”

“Yeah, kind of. I guess maybe I got a little out of control. He said he appreciates my passion for this subject and how much I contribute both on the team and in class, but that if I can’t learn to debate more respectfully I’ll get kicked off.”

“That sucks.”

Alex just nodded.

“How about that Burr guy in American Gov today?” Angelica said. “Isn’t he ridiculous?”

Alex laughed. “Yeah— Aaron, right? He’s hilarious.”

The other three looked at them curiously.

“He just goes along with whatever the majority opinion is, every time, if he ever expresses one at all. Seriously, he tries so hard to avoid any controversy that sometimes it’s hard to watch.”

Alex felt slightly bad for making fun of Aaron— the guy might be so concerned about divisiveness as to never stand up for anything, but he had been alright to Alex in class the couple times he’d missed it and needed the notes. (He would’ve just asked Angelica, but Aaron sat next to him and he had offered.) Still, it was pretty frustrating that he couldn’t ever take a stand of any kind— after all, some things were worth getting hate for.

When John lifted a hand to brush a stray hair from his eyes, his sleeve slipped just a bit, and Alex caught a glimpse of something he wasn’t meant to see.

 

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“How long have you been cutting?” Alex asked the moment the two were alone in John’s room.

That frozen, deer-in-headlights look was back. John shook his head as if to clear it. “Jesus, Alex. Can you stop inspecting me for signs of damage?”

“I’m not inspecting you. You aren’t hiding things as well as you think.”

“Well, that makes me feel sooo much better,” he snapped.

“Come on, I just want to help.”

“You can’t.”

“How do you know if you won’t let me try?”

“Alex, I have a lot of shit going on that you can’t fix.”

“Yeah, but I can be here for you if you need me. Anytime— I hardly sleep anyway, so text me anytime you need someone. Okay?”

“Okay, Mom.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “Are you trying to establish yourself as the moody teenager here? Because it’s working.”

“Look, I have fucking depression, okay?! Be glad I haven’t done worse.”

“I’m sorry. I just meant it as a joke, and not about…” he gestured vaguely to John’s arm… “that. I know it’s serious.”

John seemed to deflate. “Sorry for yelling at you.”

“It’s fine. Can I see your arms?”

“Why?”

“So I can make sure you’re taking care of them and shit. Do you have first aid stuff?”

“Not really…”

“Okay, we’re gonna go buy some. I know I can’t stop you from doing this, but I want you to be safer about it.”

John groaned dramatically. “That’s too much work.”

“I’ll do it for you. Anytime.”

John snorted.

“What? What’s funny?”

“You’re just so worried about everyone else, but you never take care of yourself. You never sleep. You barely eat. You’re failing half your classes.”

“Sorry.” Alex felt a rising panic.

“Don’t apologize. Just… take care of you before you worry about me, okay?”

John gave him a stern look, and Alex shot one right back. “… Uh, yeah, come on. We’re buying you a first aid kit right now.”

 

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Maria Reynolds walked into Alex’s life later that week.

He found her hanging out in the common room on their floor when he went in to study around 3:30am. He was slightly taken aback, as there was usually no one in there at this time, but not too bothered.

They only talked briefly since he had a lot to get done, but she was sweet and funny. He instinctively liked her, and when he recognized some of his own flinching in her for a moment, he knew they could both use each other’s company.

So he invited her to lunch with him and his friends the next day. She accepted, and though she was very quiet the whole time, Alex caught a few genuine smiles.

 

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Later that day, he was curled up next to Eliza watching a movie in her room, and noticed how she was worrying her lip nervously between her teeth for the first twenty minutes. Finally, he paused it and asked her, “Is there something you wanna talk about?”

She blushed, and took a second to compose herself. “Oh my god, it’s so dumb but I’m just nervous to ask…”

“Ask away.”

“So we’ve been dating for a little while now…”

“Yeah.” He smiled at her. It had been about three weeks.

“Can I call you my boyfriend now? Are we… there? Sorry, I haven’t dated a lot before and I’m a little clueless, I know—”

“Hey, of course you can.” Her eyes brightened. “My wonderful girlfriend.” He kissed Eliza and pulled her closer, and she practically melted into his arms. “My life has been so much better since we met, Eliza. There’s no one in the world I’d rather be with than you.”

Chapter Text

“I’ll see you in a week. Love you!” Eliza gave Alex a last quick hug and kiss goodbye before hopping into the cab.

“Love you too!”

“Have fun with your family. Text me!”

He forced a smile, chest constricting at the mention of his family. He had lied to everyone, said he would be going home for Thanksgiving break just like they were— why had he done that? “I will. Thanks, Liza.”

The memory of her smile and the soft scent of her shampoo lingered as she was whisked off into the neon night, and Alex wondered, not for the first time, if this was what true love felt like.

Eliza. The most amazing woman in the world.

He headed back to his dorm, noting that campus was mostly deserted by now. No one would see him; no one he knew would be there to catch him in a lie.

 

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Around noon the next day, Alex ran into Maria in the hallway. She looked surprised to see him. “Alex, hey! I thought you were going home for break?”

“Uh… I’m not,” he admitted sheepishly. “I just didn’t want my other friends knowing I had nowhere to go.” She would understand— she was someone he could tell these sorts of things to.

With a soft sympathetic noise, she took his hand. “I get that. Wanna come grab lunch with me?”

“Sure!”

 

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“Been a rough week, huh?” Maria asked through a mouthful of sandwich.

“Yeah. You too?” He sipped his coffee.

She shrugged. “Yeah. Not the greatest.”

“Is your boyfriend being a dick again?”

“Alex… he’s not as bad as I make it sound. I just only tell you about him when I’m complaining, but it’s not always like that. He’s not a bad guy.”

“Ria, he treats you so badly. You need to ditch him.”

She sighed. “I can’t just do something like that.”

“Are you scared of him?”

“No, I just…” She looked down at her plate. “Okay, maybe a little.”

“See, that’s concerning.”

“I know.”

There was a long silence.

“Anything on your mind?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Just sick of pretending everything is fine when it’s not. It’s nice having someone I can be real with.”

“Yeah. Me too.”

“I miss my mom,” he said suddenly.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Uh, maybe later.” He didn’t exactly feel like giving her his tragic backstory in a public place. “We could hang out in my room when we get back to campus?”

He could tell Maria understood. “Sounds good.” She smiled.

 

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They spent a couple of hours lazing around in Alex’s room— watching Netflix on his laptop, eating snacks, talking.

“Can I stay in here tonight?” she asked in a small voice.

“Uh…”

“I don’t want James to know where to find me right now. He knows where my room is.” She looked frightened. How could he tell her no?

“Of course. Here, I can, uh, sleep on the floor.”

“No! I’m not kicking you out of your own bed, jeez. Just maybe give me some extra pillows and I’ll take the floor.”

“I’m used to sleeping on a floor, you can take the bed.”

“What makes you think I’m not?”

There was a pause.

“Shit.”

After another moment, she laughed, and he joined in.

“God, we’re so messed up.”

“Yep. At least we have each other.”

“But seriously: dibs on the floor.”

“Alex!”

“I called dibs, Ria. The floor is mine. End of discussion.”

“Fine.” Climbing into bed, she threw a pillow at him.

 

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Alex woke in the middle of the night, shaking, the image of his cousin’s body hanging from the ceiling fresh in his mind.

He lay there for a while, feeling unable to move, muscles tensed against the memory as if trying to physically fight it.

“Alex?” Maria’s voice. “Alex, what’s wrong?”

His throat was constricting; he couldn’t answer. Had he woken her? “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please—”

“Alex. Breathe. You’re hyperventilating.” She pulled him close to her, inhaling deeply. “In for four. Hold for seven. Out for eight. Follow me.”

The rhythmic rise and fall of her chest against him offered comfort as he tried to steady his own breathing.

She held him close.

They were sick. His father was gone because of him and now he had gotten her sick.

“Mama?” he croaked.

“N-no, Alex. It’s— it’s just me. Maria.”

Suddenly he remembered that his mother was dead, and the world seemed to collapse in on itself. Sobbing, he hugged Maria tighter until he was able to calm down.

“I’m so sorry, Alex.”

“No, I’m sorry.” He sniffled slightly. “I woke you up.”

“That doesn’t matter. We can sleep in tomorrow— and even if we couldn’t, what you’re going through is way worse than a bad night’s sleep.”

“I… Thank you.”

“It’s what friends are for, silly.”

She moved to stand up, and he instinctively clung to her.

“Oh, Alex.” She looked so sad.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, don’t be sorry. Come here.” She pulled him up and into the bed beside her, snuggling in beside him under the blankets and wrapping an arm around him.

He was too tired to bother moving, and not sure he even wanted to. They fell asleep curled up together, and he was dimly aware of Maria pressing a soft kiss to the back of his neck before he drifted off.

The next morning, she hung out in his room for a while longer. They then parted ways for a bit, and Alex went to the dining hall to grab a bite, not feeling up to a longer trek.

He froze when he saw John sitting at a table in the nearly empty room.

John glanced up, and his eyes widened. “Alex? I thought you went home for break.”

“I could say the same to you.” He slid into the seat across from his friend.

“I didn’t wanna see my dad, okay?” He scowled, looking defensive as he stabbed a potato with his fork. “Not that it’s your business.”

“Hey, it’s okay. I don’t have anywhere to go for break either.”

John’s expression softened. “Are your parents…”

“My mother’s dead, my father left when I was ten, and all the other family I’ve had either left me or died too. Foster parents kicked me out as soon as I was eighteen.”

“Oh shit, I’m so sorry.” He looked guilty. “Sorry for complaining to you about my dad and everything… I didn’t realize you have it that much worse than I do.”

“It’s not a competition.”

John snorted. “Alexander Hamilton not being competitive about something? Never thought I’d see the day.” Alex laughed, and after a moment John looked serious again. “Seriously, though. Thanks. Plus, now we can hang out together over breaks, right?”

“Hey, yeah!”

“Cool.” He smiled.

Alex’s stomach flipped.

 

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He and John spent the rest of the afternoon together.

At first, things were casual. The conversation was light. When they wound up talking about girls, John teased Alex about Eliza and Angelica, and Alex tried to pry in return. “You got your eye on anyone?”

He laughed awkwardly. “Uh, they’ve all got their eyes on you anyway.”

“What, you like Ange or something?”

“No!”

“Dude, don’t tell me you’re talking about my girlfriend.”

“I’m not! It was a general statement, I’m not thinking of anyone specific!”

“Okay, okay, chill out. Sorry.” Beat. “But really? No one at all?”

“Fine, fine. Martha from chem is kinda cute.”

“I knew it!”

John rolled his eyes. “Yeah, anyway, that’s never happening, so doesn’t matter.”

“Nonsense. You’ve got the best wingman right here.”

“Alex, do not try to set me up with Martha.”

“Why not? If you like her, you should give it a shot. What’ve you got to lose?”

“Alex… I’m gay, okay?!”

There was a silence.

“Oh. Okay. Why didn’t you just say that?”

“Because I don’t want you to hate me?” John’s eyes were fixed on his shoes now, but Alex could see tears glimmering in them.

“Dude, I don’t care.” He hesitated, then added, “I’m pretty sure I’m bi anyway. It’s really not a big deal.”

“It’s a big deal to some people.”

The pieces clicked together in Alex’s brain. “You mean like your—”

“Yeah, my dad.” John sighed. “He hates me for it. Sent me to conversion therapy when I was younger, and he’s pissed it didn’t really work.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“No it’s not.”

“I know. But it will be.”

“Do Gil and Herc know?”

“No.”

“I know you don’t have to tell them, but I feel like you should. They won’t judge you for it. We’re friends, you don’t have to keep secrets—”

“Like you didn’t keep it a secret that you were staying here for Thanksgiving?”

“You did the same thing!”

“Fine.” John crossed his arms in frustration, turning away.

“Don’t ‘fine’ me, man. You know I’m right.”

“That’s why I said ‘fine.’”

“No, that’s what you say to get someone to shut up.”

“Whatever.”

“Yeah, same idea with that one.”

“Shut uuuuup!” John finally laughed. “God, you’re so annoying.” He sighed. “Look, I’ll think about telling them, okay? But don’t rush me.”

Alex grinned. “Deal.”

 

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That night, Maria came over again. He wasn’t even sure how it all happened, how things got so out of hand, but they wound up making out and then snuggling together again.

Alex felt, more and more, that he loved her.

But Eliza… he loved her too. What was he doing? This couldn’t happen anymore.

Flooded with guilt, he sent Eliza a goodnight text, lying again about the past couple of days with his family. Her response made him feel a million times worse: aw i’m glad ur having fun, even if it’s a little crazy there lol (my family’s been like that too haha). love u sm alex!! can’t wait to see u in a few days!

Shit. What had he done?

Was it technically cheating yet if they hadn’t done more than make out? Could he still save this situation, put tonight behind him and never look at Maria as more than a friend again?

He had to try.

love you too!

Chapter Text

Alex loved the library.

Normally he couldn’t stand the quiet, but a place packed with books had to be an exception— and it was a good place to write, too. He was so absorbed in the words flowing from his brain through his fingertips, dancing over the keyboard with a rapid click-click-click, that he didn’t notice Angelica coming up behind him.

“Hey, Alex!”

He kept typing, oblivious.

“Alexaaander. Pay attention to me.”

Click. Click click click.

A hand on his shoulder nearly sent him jumping out of his seat. “Aah!”

“Sorry.” She looked slightly concerned. “It’s 2am… we’re closing.”

Alex looked at the time in shock. “How…” It had just been 9pm, he could swear it.

“Come on. Time to take a break.”

Sighing, he slid his laptop and books into his bag and slung it over his shoulder, standing. His half-asleep legs gave out, and Angelica caught him before he could fall.

“Thanks.” He clung to her arm longer than he needed to, smiling at her.

Her eyes met his for a moment, and she blushed, looking away. Unusually speechless.

“We have class at 9am,” she managed finally, shaking off the tension. “You need to go to bed.”

“You’re up too.”

She rolled her eyes as they headed for the stairs. “I’m working. What’s your excuse?”

“I had to get something written down.”

“I’ll say. How do you manage to write for, like, five hours straight?”

He shrugged as they stepped out into the cool night air. “I don’t know how it was that long. I wasn’t even looking at the time.”

“Well. Since you write so much already, I think you can shoot me a text when you get back to your room so I can pester you about sleeping.”

“Okay.”

Angelica pulled him in for a hug, burying her face in his shoulder. He ran a gentle hand through her hair, and she hummed affectionately.

Stepping back, she smiled at him. He thought he caught a faint sadness behind it. “Tell me when you go to bed, Alex. And don’t lie— I’ll know.”

 

————————

 

Professor Washington asked him to stay for a minute after class the next morning.

Alex waited for a moment while Aaron Burr finished asking about something.

As soon as Aaron closed the door behind him: “Have I done something wrong, sir?”

“Not at all, Alexander. I’m just… concerned about you.”

“Sir?”

“You seem like you… aren’t sleeping lately. You’re less attentive in class, and you’ve missed debate practice twice this month already.” Shit. Really? He hadn’t noticed. “Is everything alright, son?”

“Don’t call me son,” he mumbled. “I’m fine.”

Washington sighed. “Did you ever check out the academic help center?”

“I’m not stupid, Professor. I just have a lot on my plate right now, but I’m perfectly capable of—”

“Alexander, asking for help doesn’t mean you’re stupid.”

“I don’t need anyone’s help!” It came out louder than he intended.

“Son—”

“I said don’t call me that!”

“Alexander, watch your tone.” Washington rubbed at his temples in frustration. “Look, I didn’t want to have to do this, but I think I’m going to have to remove you from the debate team for at least the rest of the semester.”

“You can’t!” he spluttered. “I’m the best one there and you know it!”

“I’m sorry, Alexander. I hope you figure everything out, and maybe next semester we can look at getting you back on the team.”

Unable to even look Washington in the eye, Alex stormed out of the room.

I failed. I let him down.

I’m never going to get anywhere in life. Why can’t I do anything right? His hands shook as he slumped against the wall, pulling out his phone in a desperate attempt to distract himself from the pain.

Alex checked his email.

Oh, shit. There was an email from his boss at the restaurant. He scanned it quickly, panicking, and what he saw was not good.

He was fired.

It was his fault, and honestly just surprising it had taken as long as it had. He was always late, always distracted, and once or twice had even forgotten entirely about his shift.

Stupid. Stupid. Lazy. Can’t you do anything that’s asked of you? I give you everything, and this is how you repay me?

“Alex? Are you alright?”

Maria’s voice barely registered over the pounding of his heart.

 

————————

 

They were in Alex’s room. His breathing had slowed enough to allow him to focus on reality again, but he still felt a crushing sense of shame. “I’m sorry, Ria. You don’t need to help me, I’m fine. Thank you, but don’t worry about it.”

“Did something happen?”

“Don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Okay, I’ll leave you alone for now.” Wait no I didn’t mean it like that please don’t hate me— “But let me know if there’s anything I can do to help, okay?”

“You don’t have to go! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be a jerk about it, I always say the wrong thing and—”

“Alex, you’re not being a jerk. It’s okay. I get it if you need some time alone.”

“It’s up to you,” he said frantically. “If you want to stay I totally don’t want to kick you out, but I also don’t want to annoy you and you don’t have to—”

“What do you want?”

He stared at her. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes it does. Please just tell me what would be better for you right now.”

He couldn’t force the words out. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted, just that he didn’t want to disappoint her too.

“Okay, I’m going to go now, but see you tomorrow?” She’s leaving because she hates you. Maria hesitated. “… Goodnight kiss?”

Alex was quickly realizing that he didn’t want to let her go any more than he wanted to lose Eliza. As long as he could keep the two apart, as long as Eliza didn’t know and Maria didn’t mind… he could have both of them. What Eliza didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her, right?

He kissed Maria goodnight, and then texted his girlfriend after she had left: night liza! love you!! coffee tomorrow morning? and still on for movie night? <3

This would be fine. No one had to know.

 

————————

 

A couple of days later Gil, Herc, John, and Alex were hanging out in the former two’s room when Alex suddenly asked, “Can I tell you guys something?”

“Bien sûr.”

“Sure.”

“Of course, man.”

Alex had their attention now. He’d been doing some thinking, and… “It’s not, like, a big deal or anything, but just so y’all know, I think I’m bi.”

Ironically, John was the only one who really looked surprised. Alex was actually doing this mostly to encourage him whenever he was ready to come out.

“Cool,” Herc said. “Glad you felt like you could tell us.”

“Yes,” Gil added. “We would never think differently of you for this, mon ami.”

Alex glanced over at John, who looked conflicted. Then both of them suddenly remembered he theoretically didn’t know yet. “Yeah, dude, good for you,” John said quickly.

Alex didn’t miss the thank you in his eyes— or the hint of something more behind it. He looks at me like Angelica does.

Oh shit.

 

————————

 

Alex had effectively shut down in Washington’s class. He couldn’t bring himself to talk anymore, knowing he had already failed and disappointed the professor. Some of the others gave him weird looks, as he was usually one of the students who participated the most, but he tried to ignore it.

He still had jobs at the library and two fast food places, and a paid internship with a law firm, but the loss of one always left him rather shaken (his recent firing was far from the first). The scholarships didn’t cover everything, and he was starting to worry he wasn’t going to be able to put himself through college at this rate. And even if he did, if he couldn’t hold down a job, what was he going to do after college? How would he pay off his student loans?

Alex was starting to seriously consider selling himself the way his mother had had to do to keep them afloat when he was little. He decided that if he lost another job in the next two months, he would go down that road. It was fair, in the end— if she’d had to do that for his sake, he should have to do the same, right?

The next week, he missed his shift at McDonalds and got fired.

He spent the rest of that day huddled in his room staring at a wall, unable to motivate himself to go to class or even out for food.

After a couple hours of wallowing in self-hatred, there was a knock at the door.

He didn’t get up, hoping whoever it was would go away.

“Alex?” Eliza’s voice.

“Alex, open up!” John yelled behind her.

Sighing, he opened the door to reveal Eliza, John, Gil, Herc, Angelica, and Maria.

“Jesus, dude, you look like shit.” Eliza kicked John, but he continued. “What the hell happened?”

“Nothing.”

“Doesn’t look like noth— ow!”

Eliza hugged her boyfriend tightly. “Oh, Alex… I know I probably don’t understand what you’re going through, but I’m sorry you have to deal with it. If I can ever be of help with anything, please let me know.”

“Thanks, Liza,” he said softly, managing a weak smile. Then, louder: “You guys can come in, you know.”

The others shuffled in and closed the door. Eliza and Alex were cuddling next to each other on the bed, and three of the others looked vaguely uncomfortable. Herc and Gil sat down on the other end of the bed, oblivious, while John offered Angelica the room’s single chair and sat down on the floor. After a moment’s hesitation, Maria joined him.

“So,” Herc said. “Tell us everything.”

“Everything you’re comfortable saying,” Angelica amended, and the others nodded.

Alex took a deep breath, and started at the beginning. When he was finished, the group somehow seemed simultaneously more and less worried.

“Why don’t you just do what Washington said?” John asked. “Maybe he’d let you back on the team.”

“I don’t need anyone’s help.”

Glances were exchanged, but Eliza just said, “Even if you don’t, if it means getting back on Washington’s good side, maybe it’s worth it?”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“You know I’m right.”

Alex laughed and kissed her, his heart feeling a bit lighter for the first time in weeks.

He still hadn’t told them about the money situation, though. That was something he had to shoulder on his own.

Having friends was not something Alex was used to. As a child, he had always been rather isolated from his peers and struggled to fit in anywhere. He was naturally awkward in his early years, and the social rejection coupled with everything else he had been through had only closed him off further. Trust was dangerous, and he had to rely on himself alone.

That could be difficult when he couldn’t even rely on his own memory or time management abilities, but he’d made it work so far. After all, he’d written his way out of hell and into Columbia.

Alex knew he was objectively smart, but he had nothing backing it up to fully use that potential— he was a disorganized, scatterbrained mess when it came to daily life, with no money and no family, and until recently, no friends.

At least one of those things was changing. Still, he reminded himself not to get too attached, to be practical about relationships and what they could offer him.

It didn’t work. Already he was attached to Eliza, to John, to Maria and Gil and Herc and Angelica, even to Professor Washington. Having people in his corner for once was a nice feeling, but more than that, he just loved being around all of them. Friendship was something so seemingly accessible and commonplace, yet this was the first time Alex had truly experienced it— and risky as he knew it was, he didn’t want to let that go.

Chapter Text

Alex really did not intend to have sex with Maria Reynolds in the same room where the debate team met. He really didn’t.

But it happened.

At 4am, he was still hard at work on an essay for Washington’s class. He was determined suddenly to excel, to get back in the professor’s good graces, and what better location to motivate him than this room?

So what if he hadn’t had more than three hours of sleep at a time at any point in the past week?

The door opening and a janitor entering did not register in Alex’s brain. Not until said janitor leaned over the desk with a concerned look on her beautiful features.

“Alex, what are you doing?”

“Aah!”

“Hey, it’s just me.”

His attention slipped from his work for the first time in hours. “Maria… you’re beautiful.”

“Are you okay? You seem…” She shook her head. “How’d you even get in this early?”

“Early?”

“It’s four in the morning, Alex.”

“Oh.” That probably should have alarmed him more than it did.

“You never left, did you.”

His silence was answer enough.

“Come on, put that away. You’re a mess.”

There was so much affection in her eyes, and she looked so good, and he knew he said something he shouldn’t have and then she was kissing him, and then—

It was sort of a blur, but an incredible one. Maria looked so embarrassed after— “oh god we shouldn’t have done that holy shiiit we’re dumb”— but kind of giddy too. She tried to drag him out of the room with her after readjusting both their clothes, but he just gave her a last kiss and told her he needed to finish his work.

About forty minutes later, Thomas found him passed out— sleep never seemed like the right word for his brief breaks from consciousness lately— slumped across the desk.

“Hamilton!” A hand slammed onto the table inches from his head, and he screamed, jumping backward and toppling the chair over, collapsing onto the floor.

Jefferson made no move to help Alex up, in fact looking like he was suppressing a laugh at his fright. “What are you doing in here so early?” he hissed.

“I could ask you the same thing.”

“I left some notes in here. What are you here for? Trying to sabotage me now that you’re not Washington’s favorite anymore?”

“What? No. I was studying.”

“Suuure you were. Because this is a normal place to study at 4:43 am on a Wednesday. The building’s not even supposed to be open yet! What’d you do, break in?”

“Again, I could say the same to you.”

“As captain of the debate team, I have a key,” Thomas said smugly.

“What? Since when are you—” Alex glared at him. “Must be nice not having to worry about me then, huh? I was always better than you.”

“Nah, Washington just liked you better.”

Alex just scowled, too sleep-deprived to find any sort of comeback.

“What have you been doing in here for the past, what, six hours?”

The most recent part of the truth slipped from his impulsive, exhausted brain and out of his mouth. It took him a moment to realize he'd said that out loud, and then he instantly regretted it.

“Wow.” Thomas raised an eyebrow. “Okay, so that accounts for about two minutes.”

Alex flipped him off wearily, still seated on the floor.

“Really though, Hamilton? I mean, you I get, but I didn’t take Eliza for the exhibitionist type.”

The mention of Eliza jolted him harshly back to reality. What if Jefferson spread a rumor about them? It would be just like him. Eliza would be so embarrassed, Washington would be angry if he believed it— “It wasn’t Eliza!” he blurted.

Wait. Fuck.

“Oh, it wasn’t?” Jefferson’s shit-eating grin widened.

“Just forget I said anything! Forget you saw me, please—”

“Uh-huh.” Thomas turned on his heel and left the room.

 

————————

 

Jefferson knew. His enemy knew the thing he had been determined to keep a secret, and would undoubtedly use it against him any day now. He would surely spin it in the worst way possible, too. How could he get out of this?

If Alex said it before Thomas did… if he explained… if he showed and told the world everything, they would see his point of view. They would understand, they had to, if he was just honest. And that had to count for something in itself too, right?

What if Thomas called him a liar? People would likely believe the more charismatic, popular Jefferson over him any day. Proof… he needed proof…

As he replied to a text from Maria, something clicked, and Alex furiously began what was in hindsight a very regrettable decision.

 

————————

 

“ALEXANDER HAMILTON!” Angelica stormed into the classroom at 8:55 am.

Alex flinched and turned to look at her guiltily. She was furious.

“You cheated on my sister!” Scattered laughter and oohs— they had everyone’s attention now, if they hadn’t before. “What the fuck, Alex?”

He didn’t know what to say. There was nothing to say.

“And you thought it was cool to have your girlfriend find that out at the same time as everyone else? Hell, you thought it was cool to just tell everyone else? And we really didn’t need screenshots of every text you ever sent her!”

He resisted the urge to correct her, to say it wasn't every text he'd ever sent Maria. “I didn’t mean for it to get this out of hand—”

“You posted it on Insta in ridiculous detail!” she practically shrieked.

He had left almost nothing out (save for the location of the previous night’s incident, as they could get in serious trouble for that).

“Hardly anyone follows me—”

“WELL, THEY FOLLOW THOMAS! Did you really need to @ him? Since when is it any of his damn business?!” She then glanced across the room at the man in question. “Wipe that smirk off your face or I’ll slap it off, Jefferson. And no, Alexander, just because he’s an asshole too doesn’t mean you aren’t. I can’t fucking believe you.”

“I…”

“Just shut up, please. For once in your life.” She slid into her seat, slamming her bag down on the floor angrily.

Then Professor Washington walked in. Picking up on the tension in the room, he asked, “Did I miss something?”

“Angelica’s pissed Alex cheated on her sister and bragged about it!” someone yelled with way too much glee.

“I wasn’t bragging—” he began, at the same time as Angelica said, “Fuck off, Charles, it’s not your business.”

Maybe a common enemy could unite them again? He glanced over at her, but looked back down at his desk quickly when he found her glaring pointedly at him.

Washington sighed deeply, now looking incredibly done with all of them. “Right. Well, you can sort that out after class. Let’s get started…”

Alex didn’t hear a word of the lesson.

How could I do this to Eliza?

 

————————

 

Alex raced to Eliza’s room after class, knocking anxiously on the door.

“Ange? Is that you?” She sounded like she’d been crying. It was heart-wrenching, and he couldn’t believe he’d done this, he’d hurt her like this.

“N-no. It’s— it’s me. Alex.”

“Go away.”

“Please, just let me explain—”

“You explained it to everyone already. Leave me alone.”

“Liza—”

“I said go away!”

There was nothing else to do now but listen to her.

 

————————

 

When Alex got back to his room, he found Maria standing outside in her pajamas carrying her backpack, looking impatient.

“Hey, Ria—”

“Let me in the room. Now.”

“Of course.” He hastily unlocked the door and they both entered. She threw her bag down on the floor and sat beside it, hugging her knees to her chest.

“I’m staying here indefinitely. James is furious.”

Fuck. He had forgotten about Maria’s boyfriend. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t—”

“Save it.” It occurred to him just how angry she was, and he noticed that she looked like she’d been crying.

“Maria—”

“Why would you do that to me? Make me look like a slut in front of everyone and get me in trouble with James? I thought I could trust you.”

“Jefferson already knew! I thought if I revealed it first, I could at least explain my side of things and it might not end as badly.”

She looked surprised, anger fading slightly. “How did Thomas find out? And why should he care?”

“Because he’s an asshole and he hates me and he’ll do anything to ruin my life.”

“And how did he find out?”

“Well, I… kind of… told him—”

“Why the fuck?!”

Long story short, his attempt at explaining did not work.

Maria slept on the floor, no matter how many times he tried to offer her the bed. Alex tried taking another spot on the floor in solidarity, but she angrily kicked him off of it. He got the sense she wanted to make him feel guilty, and supposed it wasn’t exactly undeserved.

 

————————

 

In the first few days since it all went down in flames, Eliza, Maria, and Angelica had become a united front against him. They still hung out with his other friends, but as soon as he was there, none of them would come along. Eliza and Maria refused to speak to him at all, and Angelica would only snap at him when he tried talking to her.

John, Gil, and Herc had been pretty shocked, but didn’t ditch him as a friend over it— though they weren’t taking his side, either; they were staying out of it.

“Shit, man. What did you do?” Herc said when they first saw him afterward.

“The dumbest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do?” John muttered.

“Pretty much.” The guilt was eating Alex alive, and he cursed his inability to ever stop and think things through.

“Wanna go get a drink or something?” Gil asked.

“Wait, you’re not mad at me?”

Herc shrugged. “That was kinda shitty of you, but… you’re still our friend, dude. That doesn’t go away because you made a mistake.” He paused. “Even if it was a very public, very douchey, very stupid one.”

John grinned, but there was something off behind his eyes. “Just because you’re a hoe and a complete dumbass doesn’t mean we stop caring about you.”

“And the girls don’t hate you either, mon ami. They just need time— it was a lot more personal for them.”

“Not saying I condone your actions,” John added. “Eliza’s our friend too, so don’t think we’re taking your side or anything… But I know you, Alex. I know deep down, you’re a good person, and you wouldn’t do this just to hurt them.”

“Now, let’s go get wasted.”

Alex should have felt a sense of relief, but it almost felt worse to be forgiven so easily. Still, he went with them— that didn’t sound like a bad idea right now at all.

Chapter Text

It didn’t take Maria more than a week to tell Alex she forgave him. It appeared genuine, but she still avoided him for the most part— especially one-on-one. He didn’t blame her, but he missed her friendship, and worried about how her boyfriend might be treating her now that she no longer seemed comfortable confiding in him.

Some of his classes were pretty rough now—  he was convinced everyone was staring and whispering— but others weren’t so bad, as only certain circles were really aware of everything that had happened. The worst was Washington’s class, where he could feel Angelica’s anger, Thomas’s annoying smugness, and everyone else’s amusement all the time. He stopped showing up regularly, only coming in when he felt up to dealing with it, which wasn’t often.

Washington tried to talk to him again, but Alex was evasive. He was now failing a third class— the one he’d never expected to have any problem with.

 

————————

 

Thomas cornered him in the hall one day, flanked by his best friend Madison and… Aaron Burr?

“Hey, guys…” Alex said nervously. “I just need to get through, I have class…” he lied, trying in vain to step past them.

“So, you’ll be in the debate room later, right?” Thomas said slyly.

Where is he going with this?

“How much do you charge?” Madison added. Charge? … Oh. Alex rolled his eyes.

“Nah, he offers his services for free, right Hamilton?” Thomas grinned.

“Can you fuck off? I need to get to class.”

“You think he’d suck your dick for free?” Madison mused. Do they know I’m bi? They must, why else would they… And I thought Madison and Burr were cool, what the hell?

“Leave me alone. I know what I did, it’s between me and my girlfriends.” His own words caught him somewhat by surprise— it was the first time he had referred to Maria in that way— but he supposed it wasn’t untrue.

“Aw, don’t leave your boyfriend out.” There it is.

“Excuse me?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

Are they just trying to rile me up, or is it that obvious how I feel about him?

“Fuck off.” He tried to push past them, but they moved to block the way.

“Not free for me, then?” Thomas taunted. “Fine. How much?”

Alex hesitated, then went for it. Lowering his voice almost to a whisper, he said, “If you’re actually serious at all, I’ll do it for a hundred bucks.”

Thomas’s eyes widened in shock, and then all three of them burst into hysterical laughter. “Oh my god, Aaron, tell me you got that!”

What?

Aaron held up his phone and nodded.

“What the fuck?! Delete that!”

“Delete that!” Jefferson mocked.

“Please.”

“So you think you’re worth a hundred, huh? Noted, Hamilton, noted.”

Alex gritted his teeth in frustration. “Aaron, give me the phone. What did I ever do to you?” Burr’s answering silence and carefully neutral expression were infuriating.

Madison gave him a vaguely pitying look. Do I look that pathetic? “Aw, let it go, guys. What does it matter if we have anything on him? He’s already started from the bottom and dug even further all by himself. He doesn’t need our help to make him look bad.”

Alex’s eyes were tearing up at this point. He was conscious of people staring, and felt the familiar self-hatred rise in him.

“True,” Aaron said with an air of relief, as though he’d been waiting for someone to voice his thoughts so he could agree. “I’ll delete it.”

“Aw, you guys are no fun.” Thomas finally turned to walk away, and the others followed. “Whatever. See you around, Hamilton!”

 

————————

 

For the next two and a half weeks, Alex’s every attempt to speak to Eliza, whether in person or by text, was met with radio silence.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she sent him a text one day that said i’m coming over so we can talk. be ready.

Ten minutes later, there was a knock on his door, and he let her in. She took the chair, and he sat down on the floor. A odd flicker of a reaction crossed her face— he knew she had probably expected him to sit on the bed— and he wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. For his part, he didn’t want to sit there without Eliza in her usual spot at his side.

She crossed her arms and fixed him with a glare. “Why did you do that?”

“Which part of it?” he said hesitantly.

“Any of it. All of it. Explain yourself.”

“I… I love you, Liza.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

“I’m not lying, I swear! I love her, but I love you too. I never meant to start anything with Maria, it just got out of control. And I— I didn’t want to lose either of you.”

Eliza was unimpressed. “Then why did you do something almost guaranteed to make us both hate you? You could at least have tried to sort this out in private.”

“Jefferson found out. He would’ve told… I had to do it first, because I knew he’d embellish it to make it seem even worse, and I thought maybe if I was just honest and gave my point of view people would understand.”

She was quiet for a long moment.

“Okay. How did he find out?”

Alex knew it would be easier if he lied, but he’d already come this far— and he couldn’t be dishonest with her again. “So, Maria and I were… we… you know…” He knew she knew, but couldn’t bear to see more hurt on her face.

“Get to the point, Alexander.”

“We… may have had sex in the room where debate club meets.”

She actually snorted, but he did catch a brief flicker of pain in her eyes. “Oh my god. You idiot.”

“Yeah, I know.” He offered a weak smile, the hope that he could fix this moving dimly into view. “It was early morning, I’d forgotten to leave that night and I guess they’d forgotten to kick me out. She came in unexpected, neither of us planned it… A little while after she left, Thomas came in and woke me up— I was working and I guess I fell asleep at some point— and he was like, interrogating me. I was so sleep-deprived I couldn’t really think straight, and I accidentally told him, and he thought I meant with you and I didn’t want him to spread rumors involving you so I said it wasn’t and then I realized that might be worse and… I’m so sorry, Liza.”

“Okay.” She sighed. “Look, it’s not as horrible as it could’ve been. But it’s still shitty that you did all this behind my back.”

“It was just that time—”

“I’m not just counting the sex, because I know it was more than that— and while that might reflect a bit less badly on your character, it also makes me feel even worse.” She had managed to remain very composed for the most part, but her voice broke on the last word. “How long have you and Maria been together?”

“Since Thanksgiving break,” he admitted. “So… about a month and a half…” He and Eliza had been together for nearly two months before that.

Eliza furrowed her brow in confusion, and he realized his mistake.

“Did she go home with you for break?”

“I… didn’t go home.”

“So you were already lying to me then? Was that why?! So you could spend some alone time with her?” She looked at him in disgust. “It’s like I don’t even know who you are.”

“Eliza, it was completely unplanned.” He took a deep breath, steadying himself. “I didn’t go home because I have nowhere to go. My father left when I was ten, my mother died two years later, the cousin I moved in with killed himself when I was sixteen, any living relatives I have think I’m bad luck and want nothing to do with me and they’re probably right, and my foster parents were glad to be rid of me when I turned eighteen. And I guess she didn’t have anywhere to go either, and she wanted to stay in my room because she was scared of her boyfriend, and I had a nightmare and she held me and… we just got closer and closer, and it got out of hand. I started loving her, but I swear I never once stopped loving you, Eliza.”

Her expression had softened. “Alex… I’m sorry.”

“I’m not trying to fish for sympathy. I’m just telling you what happened.”

“I know, Alex. But as angry as I am right now, I don’t hate you. And it frustrates me knowing someone I care about has been through hell and there’s nothing I can do.” A pause. “And frankly, it hurts that you thought you had to lie to me about it. Did you think I was just some stuck-up rich girl?”

“No! You’re wonderful, amazing, I— I lied to everyone. It wasn’t you.”

“You didn’t lie to her.”

He averted his gaze shamefully, knowing she was right.

“I can’t control who you fall for, Alexander. But if I’m not going to be enough for you— if you’re going to be in love with someone else, whether you act on it or not— I can’t do this.” He glanced up, and she looked him dead in the eyes. “It’s not just Maria I’m upset about— I see how you look at Angelica. And John.” His eyes widened. “Yeah, I’m not as naive as you might think. And I know I’ll never be enough for you, so I think it’s for the best that we take a break.”

“Wait, a break? Not permanent?” he said hopefully.

She glared at him. “I don’t know, Alex, there’s a lot I need to think about. But it’s effectively permanent for now, at least. Consider this a breakup. Don’t sit around waiting for me to come back.”

 

————————

 

Things had improved a bit— all of their group was now at least able to be in a room together, although it was still incredibly awkward.

Though Alex didn’t want to show it around Eliza and Maria, he and John had been growing… closer. Well, they had been emotionally close for a while, but their relationship had now become physical as well. They had messed around together a few times— Alex would say it had been short of actual sex, but supposed that depended on how you defined it. Neither had ever been with a guy before, and after that first night when they were drunk and bored and horny in Alex’s room, they couldn’t seem to stop.

“Am I just a rebound?” John had asked teasingly at one point. “Or an experiment?”

“No way,” Alex said honestly. “I’ve had a crush on you for so long, dude, you don’t even know.”

“I think I have some idea,” he said distantly. Then: “You know, to be real, I don’t even care if I am. I’m just glad I get to be with you now, even if you’re gonna run off with another girl next month. I— I love you, Alexander.”

“Love you too.”

A sudden pang of loss struck him. Even as he lay curled against the warmth of John’s body, loving the hand running gently through his hair and the lips pressing softly to his neck and the fact that it was John here with him like this, he couldn’t help but miss Eliza more sharply than ever.

Why could he never be satisfied with what he had?

 

————————

 

Maria was clearly not doing well at all, and Alex was extremely worried. She had fallen back into the quiet, skittish patterns he recognized from when they had first met, and made excuses as to why she couldn’t hang out with the group far more often than usual.

When he noticed bruising on her arm one day, he knew he had to do something. If it was up to him, he would just go beat up her shitty boyfriend himself, but he knew that wouldn’t be a permanent solution and might only make things worse for her.

When he talked to Eliza about it, her response completely blindsided him.

“Yeah, I’m worried about her too. And someone else has mentioned it to me as well.”

“Who?”

“Aaron.”

“Aaron Burr?” She nodded. “That asshole? How do you know him?”

“He’s in one of my English classes." She frowned. "What did he do?”

“Nothing,” Alex mumbled.

“I was thinking we could all get together soon and try to figure out what to do. We can meet alone first and then bring Maria in before we do anything— we want to help her, but we also want to respect her wishes as much as we can.”

“Right.”

Aaron Burr wanted to stand up for something? Wanted to help someone other than himself? Alex was suspicious, but grudgingly agreed to meet that weekend.

 

————————

 

Seeing the text from Eliza mildly startled him. Even if they were on speaking terms again, she hadn’t really texted him in weeks now.

Her short, cryptic message immediately filled him with a creeping sense of dread.

alex we need u to come meet us outside my dorm now. it’s urgent.

Hands trembling, Alex shot back what’s wrong? as he pulled on his jacket and shoes.

idk if it’s a thing to tell someone over text, just come now.

eliza wtf is someone dead??? i’m walking over now but just tell me.

fine. no one’s dead as far as we know but john is in the hospital. get your ass here now we’re all heading over to see what’s happening, no one will tell us anything so we’re going to find out ourselves.

A bolt of terror coursed through Alex like lightning, and he took off running.

Chapter Text

Alex, Gil, and Herc rode in one cab to the hospital, while Eliza, Angelica, and Maria got another. The whole way, Gil couldn’t stop rambling nervously out of panic, while Herc was mostly silent but very tense.

Alex barely noticed either of them. He couldn’t sit still, couldn’t stop fidgeting as he worried about John and tried to mentally will the traffic out of their way.

What could have happened?

They had no idea what kind of condition John was even in— what if he died before they got there?

No no no not you too I can’t lose you too—

 

————————

 

The trio sprinted inside as soon as they’d finished paying, quickly spotting the girls in the lobby and rushing over to them.

“Is he alive?!” Alex didn’t care that he was crying at this point.

“Yes.” Eliza looked like she might cry too.

“Is he awake?” Herc asked.

“N-no. He’s in surgery right now.”

“What happened?”

Eliza opened her mouth and sort of stuttered, then seemed to freeze. Putting an arm around her sister, Angelica said quietly, “John… tried to kill himself. Almost succeeded, too— he hit an artery in his wrist, it’s a miracle he’s not…” she trailed off suddenly, looking pretty shaken herself.

The world seemed to spin around Alex and then melt into distant obscurity, the pounding of his heart and of his rapid footfalls down the hallway the only sounds left. No. No. I need to see him now I need to see him— “I NEED TO SEE HIM!” he was crying hysterically as the others tried to restrain him.

“Alexander, we can’t go in right now—”

“I CAN’T KILL HIM TOO!”

“Alex—”

The last thing he remembered was arms holding him back— his cousin hanging from the ceiling fan— his mother dead beside him— Eliza’s voice breaking through the terrified haze for just a moment— and then everything went black.

 

————————

 

Alex opened his eyes slowly, blinking at the bright lights, momentarily confused by the unfamiliar setting. Then he remembered where he was, and his breathing sped up again.

He was dimly aware of a hospital worker helping him up from the floor and into a chair, saying things that didn’t register in his brain. A cup of water was offered, and he gulped it down quickly as Eliza and Maria tried to explain on his behalf. The other three were confused as to what was going on with him, but understanding quickly dawned as his mother’s and cousin’s deaths were mentioned in hushed voices.

Alex only registered fragments of their conversation. “… PTSD…” floated faintly into his consciousness at one point, and he wasn’t sure who had said it.

“I need to see him. Please.” His voice shook, much weaker now.

“Alex,” Gil said gently, “we can’t see him yet. It should only be a few more hours.”

Only? “I can’t— this is my fault, I can’t kill him too, I can’t lose him—”

Eliza took his hand, kneeling beside him with teary eyes. “Alexander, you haven’t killed anyone. None of what’s happened to you or your family was your fault.”

“You don’t understand. You weren’t there. I— I killed Mama, I killed Peter—” Reality was starting to flicker and fade around him again.

Eliza embraced him for the first time in weeks, rubbing his back soothingly and whispering things he didn’t process while he cried.

Angelica walked off with an air of purpose, then returned what he supposed was a couple of minutes later. “Hey, Alex.”

He looked up at her, blinking tears away as Eliza finally stood up again, leaving a shaky hand on his shoulder.

“John’s vital signs are stable,” Angelica told him. “I asked, I made sure. He’s not going to die at this point, they’re just repairing the artery. He already had a blood transfusion and everything.”

Alex’s shoulders slumped in relief.

“We can’t see him for at least a few more hours, though. There’s no point in waiting here, it’s not going to go any faster— maybe we should at least go get some food and then come back later. Okay?”

He didn’t want to leave, but there was nothing useful he could do right now by staying, and he had to admit it would only stress him out more to wait here. “Okay.”

 

————————

 

It was the most tense meal Alex had ever eaten, and that was saying quite a bit. Gil anxiously tried to fill the silence out of habit, and kept accidentally slipping into French.

It felt strange having Angelica treat him as a friend again, having Eliza willing to hold and comfort him— but he supposed tragedy and panic had a way of bringing people back together, making their fights seem small in the face of life and death.

It wasn’t even close to worth it.

At least John was supposedly sure to make it now… but what if something went wrong unexpectedly? What if he did survive, but with lasting damage? What if he tried again the moment they let him out?

Alex had let John down. Ruined his life. Pushed him to this, just like he had done to his cousin two years ago—

“Alex?” Maria said softly.

“Hm?”

“You need to eat something, okay? I know it’s hard with the stress, but you’re not helping anyone by starving.”

The others gave various gestures and murmurs of agreement, and he suddenly noticed that they had all had their finished plates taken already.

“Sorry! I’m sorry.” He began eating as quickly as he could.

“Slow down, man,” Herc said, and Alex could hear the concern in his voice. “There’s no reason to rush. Don’t make yourself sick.”

“Sorry.”

 

————————

 

That evening, five hours after they’d first arrived at the hospital, John was finally able to see visitors.

Unfortunately, that didn’t mean he wanted to.

“Why can’t we see him?!”

“I’m sorry, but the patient doesn’t want any visitors at this time.”

Of course. Why would he want to see me after—

“Can you ask him when we should come back?” Angelica said, now significantly calmer than earlier but still a little frazzled.

The nurse went to check with John, and returned to say, “He says tomorrow afternoon will be alright.”

Why? Is he buying himself more time to try and finish the job?! I need to be there, I need to make sure he doesn’t try to—

“Thank you,” Angelica said. “We’ll be back tomorrow, then.”

 

————————

 

After three hours of lying awake, Alex managed to steal a couple fitful hours of sleep before the nightmares came.

This time, John joined his mother and cousin in death. He lay in a pool of blood on Alex’s floor— then he was holding Alex and his arms went limp and Alex looked over to see his lifeless body— then he was hanging from the ceiling— then all three of their faces swam into view, alive and loving, then suddenly he knew they were dead. And then, the voice of the brother Alex hadn’t seen in years: “You’re bad luck, Alexander.” The hurricane raged outside. He was going to die. No, he couldn’t ever seem to die. If only he could, it would be better for everyone. His foster parents were angry. Of course they were, he had done everything wrong, he was everything wrong, he was a curse they had been saddled with— and John was dead and there was so much blood he could never wash it away—

Alex awoke with a scream, quickly resigned himself to another virtually sleepless night, and poured himself an espresso.

 

————————

 

When the group arrived outside John’s hospital room the next day, they found someone else already waiting.

“What do you mean I can’t see him?! He’s my son!”

“I’m sorry, but without the patient’s permission I can’t—”

“I’m his father! I know he’d want to see me— he might have brain damage from the blood loss, can’t that happen?”

“Sir, that is possible but it did not happen to your son. We’ve run neurological function testing and—”

“There must be some mistake. Do you know who I am?”

The nurse looked incredibly tired.

Alex stepped forward. “Excuse me, sir.”

John’s father fixed him with an annoyed glare. “Who are you?”

Alex very nearly said John’s boyfriend just to piss him off, but figured that wouldn’t end well for John. “I’m a friend of John’s.” He turned to the nurse. “Is he willing to see Eliza, Angelica, Gil, Herc, Maria, or Alex?”

She slipped into the room to check, and came out with a nod and a smile. “Not for too long, though. He needs rest.” They all filed in, Alex not-so-subtly flipping off John’s indignant father with a smirk as he did so.

John looked like he had just been through a war and hadn’t slept in a week, and his left forearm was heavily bandaged, but other than that and the hospital gown he appeared oddly… normal. Alex wasn’t sure what he’d expected.

“Hey,” John said weakly. “So… that didn’t work.” His laugh was more of a wheeze.

At the sad and worried looks from around the room, he said, “Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood.”

“How are you feeling?” Eliza asked.

“Shitty.”

“Yeah, that’s understandable,” Herc said.

“Yeah.” John sighed. “I’m gonna be stuck in a psych ward for a while now, so that really sucks. Wish they could’ve just let me— shit, sorry, I’ll stop.” He looked so drained. “I just wanna go home. I’m tired.”

“Do you want a hug?” Alex asked, voice uncharacteristically quiet.

John actually smiled, if a little sadly. “Yeah. Come here. Just— careful with the arm.”

Kneeling beside the bed, Alex gently embraced him, cautiously resting his head on his shoulder. John let his own head fall against Alex’s, putting his good arm around him. “Hey. Missed you.” He kissed the top of Alex’s head. Guess we’re not doing the secret thing anymore, then. “Sorry I wasn’t ready to see anyone yesterday.”

“Of course that’s okay,” Angelica said, a little awkwardly.

“Sorry you are stuck in here,” Gil added.

“Me too.” John sighed again. “Is my dad still out there being an asshole?”

“Yeah, he seems determined to get in to see you even though they’ve told him you don’t want to,” Maria said softly.

“Of course he is.” John rolled his eyes. “Entitled ass. Like, I didn’t ask him to fly here from South Carolina overnight, nor did I ask him to treat me like shit until it’s convenient not to, but here we fucking are.”

Suddenly, semi-indistinct yelling sounded from the hallway. Alex and John clung tighter to each other instinctively, while Maria backed farther away from the door with her hands up as if to shield herself. Eliza took her hand, and she appeared to relax marginally.

Alex stood up and headed for the door. “I’ll deal with him.” He glanced back at John, managing a shaky smile. “Love you. Be back tomorrow?”

“The nurse said we aren’t supposed to stay too long,” Angelica added.

“Okay, that’s fair. I’m honestly tired as hell anyway. See y’all tomorrow then, thanks so much for coming.” His smile looked a bit less sad this time. “Love you too, Alex.”

Outside, Alex stormed right up to Henry Laurens, who was still arguing with the nurse. “Mr. Laurens, what the hell are you doing?”

He scowled. “Mind your own business, boy.”

“Fuck off with that, Henry. Listen, John doesn’t want to see you, so get out. What are you going to accomplish by forcing him to interact with you?”

“I suggest you stay out of our family’s personal affairs.”

“And I suggest you leave the premises now— unless you want me to tell the world that Senator Henry Laurens beats his son?”

He looked startled— probably thought John had kept it a secret. Well, he had certainly tried to. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Is that so.”

“You can say whatever you want about me— who would believe you?”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?!”

Angelica stepped up beside Alex, placing a supportive hand on his shoulder. “Alexander doesn’t make empty threats,” she said coldly. “He can and will destroy you. I would advise you to listen to your son.”

“It’s not right that I can’t see my own son after he nearly died.”

“And who do you think drove him to this point? He has every right not to want you around, especially while he’s this vulnerable.”

For the first time, Alex noticed that John’s father did look upset, worried, stressed… were they being too harsh?

He shook the thought off almost immediately. Just because Henry wasn’t a total psychopath didn’t mean he wasn’t an abuser.

“Wait,” John called.

Alex poked his head back into the room. “Yeah?”

“He can come in for a minute.”

“John, you don’t have to—”

“I know.” He lowered his voice almost to a whisper. “Stay right outside, please. Keep an eye on things.”

Alex nodded, and Henry Laurens barged past him the moment he told him John had said yes. Alex left the door open just a crack to watch.

“Hi, Dad!” John said with mock cheerfulness. Alex noted that he had made an effort to fully sit up, rather than leaning against the bed.

“John—”

“Are you happy?”

“W—”

“Congratulations, you almost got rid of me! You raised me to hate myself and it fucking worked, so I hope you’re proud.”

“John,” Henry said sternly, with perhaps a brief flicker of hurt crossing his features, “I was hoping we could talk about this like adults.”

“I almost died. Five minutes’ difference, and you wouldn’t be talking to me at all.”

“I know. But this is a serious situation.”

“No shit! I just tried to kill myself!”

“JOHN!” John flinched backward with a hand blocking his face. “LISTEN TO ME!”

That’s it. Alex and the nurse seemed to come to the same conclusion at the same time as he flung the door open.

“Get out. Now.”

 

Chapter Text

“So you and John, huh?” Eliza said tentatively as the two sat at the cafe alone together for the first time in weeks. “Get over me that quickly?” She forced a laugh.

Alex felt a pang of guilt at her hurt expression. “Eliza, it’s not like that. I’m not even over you, I—”

“So you’re lying to John? I swear, if you break his heart too I will—”

“No!”

“Then don’t lie to me.”

“It’s not— John and I aren’t that serious.”

“Oh, really? Want me to inform him? Because you said you loved each other.”

“I do love him!”

“Then act like it!”

“I love you too, Liza. I miss you so much.”

“I’m right here. And you have a boyfriend.”

“I know, but…” he trailed off. “I wish so badly we could go back to how things were before I screwed everything up with you. But at the same time… I don’t regret being with Maria or John, only lying to you about her. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to choose only one of you.”

Alex looked up to see a tear running down her cheek, a stormy expression on her beautiful face. He couldn’t stand to see her like this.

“Liza, I’m so sorry. Please don’t cry, this is all my fault and you don’t deserve to feel like this—”

“Alexander,” she said sternly. “I’ll cry if I need to cry. You don’t get to beg me not to just so you can avoid seeing it. I believe you’re sorry, but it doesn’t undo what you did.”

“I know.” He reached for her hand, but she moved it away and his heart nearly shattered. “I— I’ll make it up to you any way I can, Liza. Please. Just let me know what I can do. I lo—”

She cut him off with a raised hand. “Just don’t do to John what you did to me.”

 

————————

 

Eliza, Alex, and Aaron met the next weekend, having postponed things slightly due to the unexpected emergency.

“How is John?” Aaron asked with a concerned look.

“Alive,” Alex said flatly.

“He should be out of the psychiatric ward relatively soon, but they aren’t letting him go just yet,” Eliza added. “There was no long-term damage anywhere else, but they aren’t 100% sure about the hand yet. I mean, like, it’s not going to fall off or something, but he may not regain perfect use of it.”

“I’m so sorry,” Aaron said with what Alex deemed a convincing expression of sympathy. “Let me know if there’s ever anything I can do to help.”

Eliza smiled faintly. “I will. Now, about Maria…”

“Eliza doesn’t want me enacting vigilante justice on her shitty boyfriend, so we have to figure something else out,” Alex added half-jokingly.

She rolled her eyes. “I thought you were interested in law. And you want to break it?”

“Okay, fair. I just can’t stand how he treats her— and you know the justice system isn’t exactly fair to everyone in practice.”

“I know. You’re right, and I can’t stand it either. But we need to do this without making things worse for her.”

Alex nodded grudgingly.

“First of all, we need to talk to Maria as soon as possible,” Aaron began. “We need to make sure she’s on board with ending this relationship, even if it takes some convincing, because it’ll be a lot harder to pull her out of this situation if she herself is against us.” Eliza nodded, and he continued. “We need to bring this to the attention of the college if she allows it— it’s a bit of a long shot to get him kicked out, but she’d certainly be safer without him on campus. And if she wants to take legal action, we should try. We could at least get a restraining order, if nothing else— that’s significantly easier than getting him arrested.”

“Sounds good,” Eliza said.

Noting that she appeared somewhat impressed, Alex glared at Aaron. “I could’ve told you all that.”

“Alexander, this isn’t a competition,” Aaron said mildly.

“I know that!”

“Then act like it,” Eliza snapped. Her disappointed look shut him up.

 

————————

 

After a couple of weeks, John was released and returned to campus. Alex wished he could catch him up on what he missed in chemistry, but he’d had even more difficulty than usual paying attention, so John had to get the notes from someone else.

John rolled his eyes affectionately. “You’re gonna fail chem, dude.”

“You could always tutor me,” Alex said slyly. “I bet you could get me to learn.”

“Oh my god. Shut uuup.”

“Nerd.”

“Hoe.”

“But you love me.” Alex flopped over against John behind their shared lab table, hugging him close.

“Mhm.” John kissed him quickly, then pushed him away. “Off. We need to do this titration first.”

Alex was glad John seemed to be somewhat back to his usual self, even if he was still heavily favoring his right arm and missing more class in a week than he had all semester. He still worried, though— John didn’t seem like he was planning another attempt, but then again, the first time had taken all of them by surprise.

He took to having John spend nearly every night in his room, practically moving him in. It wasn’t safe to leave him alone.

 

————————

 

The aftermath had Alex, John, Herc, and Gil spending a lot of time together as well— Alex could tell the other two felt almost as guilty as he did for not having noticed things were so bad.

“John?” Gil said nervously one day while the four were in his and Herc’s room. “If you don’t want to talk about this just say so, but we are… concerned. When you were à l’hôpitalnous avons vudésolé— we saw your other arm, mon ami. This… was not the first time?” He looked so worried.

John seemed to freeze up, curling in on himself and refusing to look at any of them. “It… it was the first time I intended to die. Not the first time I cut, but that’s different.”

“Why do you do it?” Herc asked gently, without a hint of judgment in his tone.

“I deserve it.”

“No, you don’t.”

John shrugged. “Wish I could agree with you. Besides, it also just… helps, I dunno. It’s a coping mechanism.”

“Not a very healthy one.”

“Guess not.” He frantically scrubbed a tear away. “Can we please not talk about it anymore? I’m sorry. I’m trying.”

“I know. We’re not angry with you, John.”

Alex and Gil nodded in agreement, and Alex moved next to John for a hug, wiping another tear from his cheek and kissing him.

John didn’t kiss back, and his jaw felt incredibly tense.

“I’m sorry!” Alex pulled away. “Are you okay?”

He nodded stiffly, still not meeting anyone’s eyes.

Alex leaned in to whisper. “Is it because they’re here? I just thought it was okay since you were open about it at the hospital…”

“I was on a ton of pain meds. I forgot to worry about it.”

“They clearly don’t care.”

“How do you know?” John hissed back, then pulled away.

“They already knew about me anyway!” Alex forgot they were supposed to be whispering. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Alex, can you stop?!” John looked so scared.

“John, for what it’s worth, we don’t care if you’re gay,” Herc said. “Or if you and Alex are like, together. It’s fine.”

“We don’t think of you any differently,” Gil added.

“Yeah. Hell, we’re happy for you.”

John just looked at them suspiciously. Alex’s heart nearly broke seeing the hunched, frightened overcautiousness that had been beaten into him— the instinctive fear and shattered self-esteem he recognized as the product of being first taught self-hatred by someone who was supposed to protect him.

“Do you promise?” John asked finally.

“Of course.” Gil looked a little sad. “Trust us? We care about you, mon ami.”

John sighed. “O-okay.”

“Merveilleux.”

“Great.” Herc smiled. “Now, wanna get pizza and watch a movie or something? Y’all can spend the night.”

John smiled back, if a little weakly. “Yeah, sure. Sounds good to me.”

 

————————

 

Unfortunately, Alex was the first to arrive at Aaron’s room. If he had known Maria and Eliza weren’t inside yet he would’ve waited to knock, but it was too late for that now.

“Aaron,” he said coldly.

The other man fixed him with an odd expression. “Alexander.”

Crossing his arms and all but scowling at the floor, Alex entered the room just enough for Burr to shut the door and remained standing next to it.

“Look, Hamilton, you don’t like me and I don’t like you, but this isn’t about us. This is about Maria.”

“You think I don’t know that?! I care about her more than you ever will! She’s my friend. I’ll put this aside when she or Eliza walks through that door, but until then, there’s no point in playing nice when we both know the truth.”

They stood in awkward silence for what seemed a long moment.

Then Alex’s phone dinged and he fished it out to see a text from Eliza: hey maria isn’t having a great day and she wants to just talk to me for a bit first while she calms down— we’ll be there in about half an hour, sorry for the short notice!! He of course told her that was fine, then turned back to his enemy. “They’re going to be here in half an hour. I’ll be back then too.” He reached for the doorknob.

“Alexander. Wait.”

“What?” he snapped.

“Why can’t you just get over this childish grudge? I haven’t done anything to you.”

Alex scoffed. “Sure. Whatever helps you sleep at night.” Stop acting like a child. Stop expecting me to fix everything you ruin— He dug his nails viciously into the opposite forearm.

“Is this about what happened with Thomas?”

Alex rolled his eyes. “What the hell do you think?”

“I’m sorry. I deleted the video.”

“Great. So only one hallway of people got to laugh at my expense.”

“Alexander… I’ve been meaning to ask you about that.”

“Huh. Well, it was fucking fantastic to be publicly humiliated in the one place I was supposed to get a fresh start— that tell you what you need to know?”

“No. I was going to ask if you were serious, because it seemed like you were. You offered…”

“To blow my worst enemy for money, yeah. Not that it’s your goddamn business.” Thinking of his bank account and swallowing his pride, he added in a nearly inaudible voice, “… Unless you’re interested. Pay enough and I’ll do about anything.”

Aaron ignored that last part. “Is that… something you normally do?”

A thought occurred to him. “If you think you’re getting another recording out of me to make up for the last one, think again.”

“I promise I’m not recording you. I’m just worried about you.”

That earned full-on laughter from Alex. “You sure seemed worried.”

“Look, I didn’t want to get on Jefferson’s or Madison’s bad side. They’re good friends to have.”

“How practical of you,” he sneered. “Grow a spine, Burr.”

Aaron looked slightly hurt, but didn’t retaliate. “Alexander… are you having problems with money?”

“Fuck off.”

“I’m not judging you, I swear.”

“Why should I trust you again? You and Madison both turned on me for Thomas.”

“Tell me what exactly upset you so much. I know you don’t want to trust me, but let me try. I probably understand more than you think.”

Alex tapped his chin with mock pensiveness. “Hmm, let’s see. Probably starts with Thomas pointing out that John and I looked like a couple to everyone when John wasn’t out yet. Then taunting me for supposedly doing the same thing my mother had to do to put food on the table when I was younger, and do you know how people treated her and the things they called her for it and she was such a wonderful person and—” he took a breath, furiously blinking back tears. “And then when I’m actually willing to go there because everyone who’s ever loved me is dead and I have no money and I can’t hold a job because I’m fucking stupid, you record it to humiliate me more, as if this whole conversation isn’t bad enough in public. Throw in Madison’s comment about how I’m going nowhere in life and only dug down further than where I started— like, sorry I don’t come from money like most people here— not to mention how this was supposed to be my chance to get away from being a failure of a son and a freak to my peers and finally fit in somewhere and there goes that idea— and I think I have a reason to hate all of you. Look, call me out for cheating on my girlfriend all you want, everyone has been and I know I deserve most of it, but that was a shitty way of doing it and you know it.”

“Alexander… I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care if you’re sorry. I care what you did.” Is that how Eliza felt when I tried to apologize? He assumed it was— only probably worse, since they had actually been close— and felt terribly guilty.

“I may not understand all of what you’ve been through. But I lost my parents too.”

Alex looked up at Aaron in surprise. “I— I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright. It was a long time ago. I was only two.”

There was a tense, hesitant silence.

“I was twelve,” Alex ventured quietly. “When my mother died. My father ran out on us when I was ten, haven’t seen him in years.”

“My sister and I were taken in by my uncle. He… was not the kindest man. He used to hit us pretty often.”

“Cousin. Killed himself two years ago, I was the one who found his body. Then foster parents who never missed a chance to tell me everything that was wrong with me, and dropped me the second I was eighteen.”

“College was… a chance to start over.”

“Yeah.”

Another pause.

“I’m sorry, Alexander.”

“I’m sorry too. I didn’t know.”

“It’s fine. I shouldn’t have gone along with them. I didn’t know what you’d been through, but it’s still no excuse.”

“I’ll forgive you as long as you don’t do anything like that again.”

“I promise.” Aaron held out a hand. “Truce?”

Alex shook it, one eyebrow arched. “Assuming you keep your promise— truce.”

There was a knock at the door.

 

————————

 

The four of them talked for nearly an hour to get everything sorted out. Maria was willing to attempt reporting to the school, and possibly a restraining order, but “one at a time, okay? And I need a little more time to think about all this first.”

“Of course.”

Eliza checked her phone. “Do you guys want to go get dinner? It’s almost seven.”

They all agreed.

When Eliza and Aaron headed outside, Maria said, “We’ll catch up with you guys in a minute— I just need to talk to Alex real quick.”

“Okay.” Eliza didn’t seem suspicious at all, and it occurred to Alex that it was probably because she trusted Maria now, not him.

The door closed behind them, and their footsteps trailed off down the hallway.

“Alex…” Maria looked a little sad as she turned to him. “I’m not sure our relationship would’ve worked out… I mean, I think we make better friends right now. I honestly don’t know how I feel about being with anybody at the moment, after James. I just wanted someone who made me feel like I was worth something…”

“And I just wanted someone I could be honest with,” he finished.

“Yeah.” She gave him a look. “You know you can be honest with Eliza, right? I know it’s hard, but I feel like you’re creating a problem for yourself that isn’t really there. Eliza’s a total sweetheart, and I know she’d be understanding if you’d just open up to her.”

“Being understanding isn’t the same as understanding what it’s like.”

“I know.” She smiled. “But I’m not gone. I want to stay friends, of course. If you do.”

“Of course!”

“You were good to me, Alex.” With a frown, she amended, “Well, except when you told everyone I cheated on my boyfriend with you— but that was more thoughtless and dumb than deliberately cruel.” She grinned at him. “I can forgive.”

“Thank you.”

“Hug?”

He accepted gladly.

“Now, let’s go down for dinner before they think we’re fucking again, ’kay?”

Alex went red. “Oh my god, that was like the dumbest thing I’ve ever done… Not because of you!” he added quickly. “Just—”

“Calm down.” Maria giggled. “Believe me, I know it was stupid.”

“Hey, I seem to recall you being there too,” he teased.

“Do you? Well, I never said I make good decisions.”

“Guess that makes two of us.”

“Yep.” She smiled, one of the most genuine smiles he’d seen cross her face in weeks. “Now come on. I’m starving.”

 

————————

 

“Alex?” John asked one night while they were cuddling.

“Mm?”

“Do you still love Eliza?”

That jolted him wide awake, and he froze. Before he could say anything, John added, “I won’t be mad at you for however you feel, I promise. But I will be pissed if you lie to me.”

Silence.

“You still have feelings for her, don’t you?”

Alex swallowed nervously, his throat dry. “Yes,” he whispered.

“Okay. How do you feel about me? Again, just be honest. You’re usually good at speaking your mind, so maybe keep that up in your relationships, hm?”

“I love you,” he replied without hesitation.

“Okay.” John sat up.

Oh god he’s leaving shit shit shit I fucked up again—

“C’mon. Sit up.”

Oh. Alex sat up beside John.

“So. Are you polyamorous?”

“Am I what?”

“Polyamorous. Like, I guess it’s the opposite of monogamous— well, not as in cheating, but I guess you do fit that too—” Alex shoved him playfully, and he laughed— “more like you fall in love with multiple people at the same time. Not just that you wanna sleep around or something— although, again— hey! Ow.”

“I— maybe,” Alex said quietly. “Gimme a sec.”

“Sure.”

He pulled out his phone to google it. Oh.

Ohhh.

“Okay, so I guess… yes?”

“Cool. Well, I’m not, but I’m okay with it if you are. But.” He held up a finger. “Ground rules.” Alex nodded. “If you’re into anyone else just be honest with me, and if you want to start dating someone else definitely tell me first. If I feel like you’re pushing my boundaries too much or taking advantage of the arrangement, I’ll talk to you, and if you don’t stop of course I have the right to break up with you— not that I anticipate it’ll come to that, but just saying. Okay?”

“Okay. Thank you— I’m really sorry.”

“Don’t be. C’mere.” Flopping back down on the bed, he pulled Alex with him and held him close.

Just as Alex was about to drift off, John whispered slyly, “Oh, and Alex? Where Eliza is concerned, you have my approval.”

His eyes snapped open.

Holy shit.

 

————————

 

Alex dragged himself to American Government and Politics the next morning for the first time in a while, but still didn’t really participate. As predicted, Professor Washington asked him to stay after class for a minute.

Alex couldn’t bring himself to meet the professor’s eyes. “I’m sorry, sir.”

“Alexander, I didn’t call you here to make you apologize. You were my best student at the beginning of this year, and now you’re clearly struggling. I want to figure out how I can help you succeed in this class.”

“I’m failing. It’s almost the end of the semester— there’s no way I can make this up now, is there.”

“Well, I’m willing to give you some assignments for extra credit, if you promise to start showing up to class regularly again.”

Wait, really? “Deal!”

Washington held up a hand. “That’s not all. I also want you to see a therapist— it’s covered under the school’s insurance plan.”

“I’m not crazy.”

“I never said you were crazy. But I can tell you’re dealing with a lot right now, and it might be easier if you have someone to talk to.”

Just do what he says so you can stay on his good side. If his grade was riding on this, how bad could it be? It wasn’t like he had to talk about anything he didn’t want to— they’d never know the difference if he omitted things or even lied. “Fine.”

Washington smiled. “Great. I can help you set up an appointment now, then.”

They settled on next Wednesday at 4pm. Professor Washington then gave Alex the extra credit assignments, and his eyes lit up— these would be interesting, the sort of thing he could focus on for hours at a time.

“Thanks so much. I can have these finished in a week.”

Washington raised an eyebrow. “Alright, s— Alexander.” As Alex turned to leave, he added, “One more thing.”

“Yeah?”

“Try to participate more in class again, as much as you can. You have a lot of good ideas, and what’s more, you defend them very eloquently. We all miss your insight.”

Alex smiled. “Thank you, sir. I— I’ll do my best.”

 

————————

 

It was one of Eliza’s first texts to him in weeks that wasn’t purely to arrange plans: alex can we talk tonight? there’s something important i need to say.

His heart pounded as he replied okay, with no idea of what to expect.

great. may i come over at 8?

sure!

At precisely 8pm, there was a sharp knock on Alex’s door.

He scrambled to let her in, and to his surprise, she sat beside him on the bed— albeit with a bit more distance between them than in the past. “Hi, Liza. What’s up?”

“I still love you.”

For once, Alexander Hamilton found himself at a loss for words.

“I know you’re with John now. I know I said I couldn’t do this. I know we’ve been fighting, and I’m still pretty angry with you… but I can’t stop thinking about what you said to me last time we were at the cafe together. Because I’m not over you either. I don’t know if I ever will be, or if I want to be.” She took a deep breath. “I needed to step back and give myself a chance to decide. I needed to teach you that I wouldn’t run back into your arms at the first ‘sorry.’ I needed to assure myself that this was for me and not just for you, and that I had other options but this was my favorite. My choice.”

“Eliza…”

“Shh. I know this is pointless now, but I have to at least tell you the truth.” Her eyes shone with a mixture of tears and affection. “For everything you did, at least you were honest eventually. I may as well do the same. I still love you, Alex.”

The first tear spilled over and rolled down his cheek. “I love you too, Liza.”

“Hey! I said no lying to John—”

“John knows.”

“What?” She looked confused. “Did you… break up?”

“No. We talked the other night, and he’s okay with me seeing you as well. But only if you’re okay with that too, of course.”

“Oh.” She considered that for a few seconds, then groaned. “Why are you so complicated?” They both laughed, and his heart felt light for a moment. “You know what, let’s bring John with us to the cafe soon. I think we should all have a talk.”

 

————————

 

In the past few weeks, Alex had thrown himself back into his schoolwork harder than ever, even managing to pull his chem grade up to a D.

That was still terrible, as far as he was concerned. If he was already doing this poorly in his first semester… he could eventually lose some of his financial aid. And he could barely afford this as it was.

To make matters worse, all the focus on school had caused his work to suffer as he forgot everything else amidst the piles of books and essays. The lack of sleep was nothing new, but he lost another job.

Thankfully, he was still clinging to that law internship— his strong interest made it much easier to remember to do his work and show up when he had to. But it wasn’t enough. He could never do enough, never be enough— at a certain number of tasks his brain always seemed to hit overload, and everything became a mess.

Why was he like this?

His mother would probably be so disappointed if she could see him now. And it was his fault she couldn’t.

Selfish lazy idiot useless why can’t you do anything right why don’t you ever listen—

Instinctively Alex tangled his hair in his fists and pulled hard, knowing the familiar sting would relieve some of the emotional pain for a moment.

Not enough. Not enough, need more…

Impulsively, he slammed his head against the wall hard enough to disrupt his vision for a moment. Good. Again. Again and again until he could scarcely remember what was wrong, only that he had to keep going or it would hurt worse. The world was going dark around him, and his head pounded. It hurt. That was the point, though— he didn’t stop.

Didn’t stop until he collapsed to the floor, dizzy, and the final blow of his head striking the ground knocked him out. 

Chapter Text

Alex woke up on the floor with ringing in his ears, tasting blood.

What had happened?

With a rising sense of panic, he fumbled for his phone. His head hurt.

Eliza picked up right away. “Hey, Alex! What’s up?”

“Liza… I think something’s wrong. I don’t know what happened but I woke up on the floor and my head feels weird…”

He heard her swear softly— Eliza almost never cursed. “We’ll be there in a couple minutes, okay, Alex? Hang in there. Love you.” She hung up, and he felt tears pricking his eyes.

Maria was the first to arrive since they lived in the same building, and the others weren’t far behind. Alex could barely remember the rest of the day, but knew that at some point he had gotten to the hospital, and at some point he had been released. He slept a lot. John stayed with him, and kept waking him up every few hours to check something or other.

The next morning, he felt a little better and the fog of confusion was starting to fade— but the question of what had happened remained.

 

————————

 

After a couple of weeks, Alex’s concussion symptoms were mostly gone— he was glad of that, as he certainly didn’t need to be any more forgetful than he already was normally. He still couldn’t quite remember what had happened, but he had slowly pieced together that it was almost certainly self-inflicted and intentional.

One day, he shared that realization with John.

John looked worried. “I mean, I kinda figured, but… that’s really not good, Alex. You need to tell someone what’s going on before you do this kind of thing again.”

“I could say the same to you.”

“There’s a difference. I have scars. You could have permanent brain damage if you keep doing this.”

“You almost died.”

“That was one time!”

Alex just stared at him pointedly until he realized how ridiculous that sounded.

John laughed. “Damn, I guess that’s still pretty bad, huh.”

“No shit.”

“I’m just worried about you.”

“Well, I’m worried about you too.”

“Stop derailing. When are you starting therapy again?”

“This Tuesday, now. Moved it back ’cause I couldn’t think straight.”

“Fair enough.”

Alex was still not looking forward to that at all, but it was easy enough to put aside for now as he settled comfortably into his boyfriend’s arms.

 

————————

 

Tuesday afternoon, Alex’s head was spinning. He had been diagnosed with ADHD Combined Type, apparently meaning he had both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms. When he googled it, everything he read seemed insanely accurate.

Did this mean it wasn’t all his fault?

He pushed the thought away. Of course not. A diagnosis wouldn’t absolve him of his incompetence and laziness.

That wasn’t all— he’d also been diagnosed with PTSD, which he supposed made sense. Apparently he was going to have to keep seeing the therapist. Technically they couldn’t force him, but he was too tired to fight the insistent urging of everyone around him anymore. He just hoped he could get this whole thing over with soon.

 

————————

 

The next time Alex hung out with John, Gil, and Herc, the latter two voiced their concern for him.

“Alex…” Herc began after a lull in their usual conversation. “Look, we’re worried about you, man. What happened?”

“With what?”

“The whole concussion thing.”

“Oh, that. I— I don’t remember.”

“Suuure.”

“I don’t!”

“But you’ve gotta have some idea what happened, right?”

“Let’s not push him,” John interjected.

“No, it’s fine.” Alex sighed. “I mean… I think I did it on purpose. But I don’t think I meant to get a concussion. I just needed my brain to stop for a second, I couldn’t deal with everything.” He might not remember, but he could certainly guess based on previous instances where he had hit his head less forcefully, whether against the wall or with his fists.

“Sometimes things are too much,” John said softly. “But you can’t keep hurting yourself like this.”

“Hypocrite,” he teased.

“Shut up. This is serious. And we’ve discussed this, what you’re doing is much more dangerous.”

“Yeah, we discussed it,” Alex snapped, frustration suddenly rising. “I recall asking if it was more dangerous than suicide.”

“Alexander!” Gil warned. “Arrête ça.”

He looked at the floor in shame. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” John said quietly.

“No, it’s not.” Alex put an arm around him gently, pulling him close for a hug. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I just worry about you. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.” His voice broke on the last few words.

John brushed away a couple of stray tears. “It’s okay. Really.”

“We are worried about you too, mon ami,” Gil said to Alex. “Both you and John. We do not want either of you ending up in the hospital again.”

“If you ever need help with anything, or just someone to talk to, you can always come to us,” Herc added. “We’re here for you anytime.”

“Thank you.” Alex managed a smile. He would never take them up on that, of course, but it was nice of them to offer.

 

————————

 

A couple of days later, John, Alex, and Eliza finally made their way nervously to the cafe for a talk. They didn’t discuss things on the walk over, or until after they had ordered— it seemed like none of them knew where to start.

Finally, after they got their drinks and food, Eliza broke the tension. “So. Polyamory.”

Alex contemplated his coffee, feeling suddenly ashamed. “Um. Yes?”

Much to his relief, John stepped in to help. “Yeah, we had a talk about it a little while back. I decided that I’m okay with it, and more specifically I’m okay with him being with both you and me— but of course, you have to decide how you feel about that too.”

She nodded. “Okay. A-Alex?”

“Yeah?”

“Hey, look at me.” She reached a hand across the table. Eyes widening in surprise, he tentatively placed his hand on hers. “I’m not mad at you for this, Alex. Come on. Look at me.” He forced himself to meet Eliza’s eyes, and she smiled at him— and suddenly it seemed they were on their first date here again, without all the chaos and heartbreak between them yet. “That’s better.”

“Liza… I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry for this.” She rolled her eyes. “If you want things to be sorry for, you already have plenty. This is good— you’re trying to work things out. You’re actually communicating instead of going behind someone’s back.”

Alex winced. “Yeah. Sorry again. I— I really fucked up.”

“I know. I’ve chosen to forgive you by now, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten. But this conversation isn’t about that.”

“Right.”

“Can John and I talk alone for a moment?”

“Of course. Uh, I’ll just go to the bathroom. Text me when I can come back.”

Alex waited nervously in a stall, attempting to play on his phone but not really able to focus on the game. He tried scrolling through the news instead to distract himself— still not working. Anxiety fizzled in his gut.

What if they both leave you? What if you have no one?

Why wouldn’t they leave? You’re nothing more than a burden.

… Stop going on about that stuff, nobody cares. You’re boring everyone. Stop zoning out. Pay attention— you never pay attention— If you bring home one more shitty grade, I swear to god… You’ll never amount to anything at this rate.

With no John and no Eliza and failing classes and losing jobs and never able to juggle everything no matter how hard he tried— how could he do this?

Waste of space. Waste of oxygen.

Wish it had been fatal and not just a concussion, I deserve it…

Why do I do everything wrong? Rolling up his sleeves, Alex half-unconsciously scratched at his arms in frustration.

It felt oddly relieving. Is this why John cuts?

… Should I? Would it help?

If nothing else, I deserve it… and he was right, it’s less dangerous than hitting my head…

His phone dinged: ok u can come back now!! sorry about that.

Hands trembling slightly, Alex rolled down his sleeves and made his way back out to their table.

“Hey,” he said nervously.

“Hey, we were thinking we could walk back now and talk on the way,” John said.

“Oh. Okay.”

His heart pounded as they gathered their things and headed out the door together.

“So,” John began. “We both agreed—” that I’m not worth it— “to give this a shot.”

“Wait, really?!”

“Just the two of us for now, though,” Eliza said. “If you end up falling for someone else we can cross that bridge when we come to it, but you have to tell us.”

“Of course.” Alex was still dumbfounded.

“Promise.”

“I promise.”

“It sorta feels less competitive with a guy and a girl, somehow,” John said. “Like, I don’t know if I’d want you with another guy, but it doesn’t bother me the same way seeing you with Eliza.”

She nodded. “Yeah, similar for me. So if you ever want to expand this further, we might all need to talk again. I don’t know how I feel about it yet.”

“Okay, yeah. Makes sense.”

“Oh, and there’s no expectation of me and John being together too, right? I mean, we’re friends, but… he’s gay and I’m only interested in you.”

“Oh! Nah, yeah, that’s fine. I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Cool. I figured, just checking.”

They walked in silence for a minute or so.

As usual, Alex had to speak. “Holy shit, I can’t believe this is working out.”

John laughed and took his hand. Eliza grabbed the other.

“Hey, how are things at the law firm?” John asked. Alex’s eyes lit up, and they walked together contentedly as he rambled on excitedly. Eliza stepped closer to rest her head on his shoulder for the first time in months, and John slipped an arm around his waist.

 

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Angelica cornered him after American Gov the next morning. “Hey, Alexander. Come with me.”

“Where are we going?”

“To my room. Come on.” She stalked off and he followed anxiously, trying to match her hurried pace.

Alex realized he had never been in Angelica’s room before. Everything was fastidiously neat, and the bookshelf was full of titles that caught his eye. Pictures of her and her sisters adorned one wall.

She sat down on the impeccably made bed, motioning for him to take a chair. Nervously, he sat. “Angelica… wh—”

“We need to talk.”

“… About?”

“I hear my sister has taken you back after that ridiculous stunt.”

“Y-yeah?”

There was a long pause as Angelica glared at him. Finally, she sighed, shoulders sagging slightly, and the anger seemed to melt away. “Okay. I just want you to know if you hurt her again, I will make you regret it. That’s— that’s all, really. I’m glad you’re happy together.” She didn’t look glad at all, just defeated.

“Ange… do you have feelings for me?” he blurted. Truthfully he already knew the answer, just needed to hear her say it.

“Yes.” She didn’t seem surprised by the question. “That obvious, huh?”

“Angelica, I—”

She laughed wryly. “Don’t worry, you’re obvious too.”

“Ange…” Alex stood up, walking over to sit beside her on the bed. “Ange, I—” He reached for her hand, and she nearly took it before catching herself.

Her face became a thundercloud. “Don’t.”

He pulled back, realizing in horror that he had nearly broken his promise to Eliza and John. Fuck. It’s only been what, sixteen hours?

“Alexander. There’s a thing called self-control.”

“We’re friends, Ange. Touching your hand isn’t cheating.” Alex was trying to convince himself more than her.

“It’s the intention that matters. And I am well aware of your intentions.”

“I just… you seem so sad about this. And if we both like each other… it sort of sucks that we can’t be together. I’m sorry.”

“Put Eliza first.” She sighed. “I know she’s okay that John is with you too now, but she didn’t seem too hot on the idea of you with another girl. She’s my sister, Alex. I’m not going to be that girl.”

“Do you think if we asked her—”

“No!” Her vehemence startled him, and he froze. “I’m sorry,” she said softly, putting an arm around him. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to yell.”

“It’s okay.”

After a moment, she moved her arm away and looked stern again. “Alex, how do you think she’d feel about that? Not good, right? Even if Eliza tells you no, she has to live knowing you have a crush on her own sister. How long do you think that’d last? I’m not breaking up a happy couple for me, least of all one involving my little sister.”

“Angelica…”

“Maybe someday, Alex. For now… friends.”

“Friends,” he echoed.

She smiled at him— not without some sadness, but it was a start.

 

————————

 

Alex’s next therapy session did not go well. He wound up having another flashback, and dissociated badly enough to not remember how he had gotten back to campus.

Alex had been determined as always to finish the task at hand as quickly as possible, but actually wound up pushing himself farther than he could handle. He assured his therapist that he had learned his lesson, that he wouldn’t try to rush through it like that again. The next couple of sessions went somewhat better; he was slowly starting to process some things. It annoyed him that having multiple significant traumas meant this would take even longer, but there wasn’t much he could do about it at this point.

He was also recommended medication for his ADHD, but resisted the idea— not because he didn’t think he had it, but because his research had told him it was probably the source of his hyperfocusing as much as his distractedness and impulsivity. Much as it would be nice to be functional for once, he didn’t want to risk losing any of that ability— the capacity to keep his attention locked on one thing for hours and hours on end, as long as it was something that interested him. Alex got so much of his best work done during that time, even if it did make him miss the occasional appointment and leaving that state felt almost like shaking off a dream.

He knew it was going to make his life more difficult, but it was hardly a new obstacle. His brain worked in an atypical way, but it seemed that had its benefits as well as its drawbacks, and he decided to try to make it work with both— as best he could.

After all, Alexander Hamilton was never one to back down from a challenge.