John opened the door, laughing at something that Lafayette had said. The two left their bags by the stairs and walked to the kitchen, both stopping when they saw who was sitting at the table with Washington.
“Hercules!” The two shouted at once, going to crush him in a hug, Lafayette pecking him on the cheek as they pulled back.
“What brings you here, Herc?” John asked as he sat in one of the free chairs.
“Laf and I were going to see a movie, and Washingdad was just telling me about-” he was cut off by the doorbell ringing. Washington stood to answer it, leaving the three at the table to crane their necks to see.
There was a brief exchange between the adults, then Washington let the shorter of the two people at the door inside. The person appeared to be a small girl dressed in baggy jeans and an oversized hoodie. She had her arms tightly crossed around her middle, and Washington was carrying her backpack as he told her about the house rules, enrolling in school, and settling in. “So, Mariah, I hope you’ll-”
“My name is not Mariah,” said the girl firmly, anger clear in her eyes. “And I’m not a girl either.”
Washington blinked, then smiled gently and said, “Well, why don’t we sit down and you can tell me about it. The system so often gets things wrong there.”
“Yeah, they thought I was a girl too, no matter how insistently I told them otherwise,” Hercules said from his place at the table.
“And for some reason,” Lafayette said, “They insist that I am a boy, but I simply am so magnificent that the gender binary cannot contain me.” John laughed and pushed their shoulder.
“Come on, you guys are probably intimidating the poor kid.”
Said kid looked around at everyone in the room before precariously seating themself at the table.
“Why don’t we start with your gender? You said that you aren’t a girl, so that is one thing we can rule out,” Washington started.
“I’m a guy,” the new person began. “He/him pronouns and everything. Although, they is okay too.”
“But no she,” John cut in. The boy shook his head. “Alright then. What about name? What’s your name, man?”
“My name is Alexander Hamilton. Or Alex for short.” Alexander grinned before turning serious again. “And if one of you calls me Mariah, I will not hesitate to fight you.”
John kept back a smile as Washington answered, “Noted.”
“But, we do have a friend at school named Maria, so if you hear that name, it is not one of us using the wrong name for you, we promise,” Lafayette told Alex. Alex nodded to them in acknowledgement.
“While we are on the subject of names, what are all of yours?” he asked the table.
“I am John Laurens, at your service,” John said, holding out his hand to shake, and being delighted when Alexander shook it.
“Hercules Mulligan, local tailor- in-training.”
“And I am Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette.”
Alex let out a low whistle. “That is quite a name you’ve got there my friend.”
“Yes, but I do prefer Lafayette, or Gilbert only if we are joking around.” Lafayette fixed Alex with a firm gaze.
“I will be sure to keep that in mind.” He then turned to George. “Sir, may I go put my things away?”
“Of course. Let me show you to your room.” As George led Alexander upstairs, the three at the table heard him talking about how Alex could change the room how he wanted, as long as he didn’t destroy anything. John snickered and turned to Hercules.
“Is Martha here?”
“No, I think Washington said she had a doctor’s appointment. Don’t know when she’ll be back,” Hercules answered.
Lafayette stood and sat back down on Hercules’ lap, grabbing his collar and pulling him in for a kiss. “How was your day, mon chou?”
Hercules smiled gently up at them. “It was good love. And yours?”
“It was wonderful, although I missed you terribly.”
John faked a gagging noise and exclaimed loudly, “Ugh, do you guys have to do that while I’m right here?”
Laf grinned at him, stuck out their tongue, and gave Hercules a quick peck on the cheek.
“Seriously Laf, why do you do this to me? Let’s go get changed so you guys can go on your movie date and be disgustingly cute somewhere else.” John stood and went to the stairs without waiting to see if Laf was following. He picked up his bag on the way up and dropped it onto his bed, loosening his tie so he could take it off.
“I don’t understand why we can’t just wear normal fucking clothes, but no, stupid private school’s gotta ‘keep up its reputation’…” John muttered to himself. He turned around sharply when he heard someone snickering behind him, who turned out to be Alex.
“Jesus Christ,” John said breathlessly.
“No, I don’t quite think so,” Alex joked. “But I did not mean to startle you.”
“It’s fine, you’re good dude. What brings you to my humble quarters?”
“Oh! Right, right, um. I just- I need to- Where’s the bathroom?” Alexander asked, getting redder and quieter as he spoke.
John smiled and walked toward Alex and led him down the hall. “Just remember that it’s right next to the bookshelf and you’ll be good. And hey,” John grabbed Alex’s shoulder before he could disappear into the bathroom. “I’ll be here if you have any other questions, yeah?”
John could see Alexander swallow before he answered. “O-of course.” John smiled as he let him go and headed back to his own room to finish changing. Once he did, he knocked on the door of the previously empty room that he knew was now Alex’s. A second later, the door opened to reveal Alexander, who John only then noticed was nearly a whole head shorter than he was.
“Hey! I know we just saw each other not even like, five minutes ago, but hey. Do you wanna hang out? It’s fine if you don’t, seeing as you just got here and all, but I figured I’d be hospitable and offer,” John said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“You’re lonely aren’t you?” Alex said, more as a statement than a question.
“Well, I wouldn’t say lonely, exactly, but Lafayette and Hercules are the main people I hang out with and they’re on a date and I hate third wheeling with them, they get so mushy. And then I figured that since we’re gonna be living together, I might as well get to know you, so, do you wanna hang out?” Alex had to step back to avoid being hit with John’s hands as he moved them around while he talked.
“Sure. Where at?” Alex stepped out of his room, clearly indicating that that was not an option. John could respect that.
“How about the living room? We could watch TV or I could tell you about school or something,” John offered.
“Why don’t you tell me about your friends? Unless Lafayette and Hercules are the only two you have,” Alex said as the two made their way downstairs.
John put a hand to his chest in mock offense. “I am hurt. Of course I have other friends. There’s the Schuylers and Maria Reynolds, and… I wouldn’t really count Aaron Burr as a friend. An acquaintance, maybe. Then there’s Martha Manning and… that’s about it.” John paused to count it out on his hands. “Five whole friends outside of this house.”
Alex rolled his eyes as they sat on the couch.
“The Schuylers live pretty close to here, actually, so if you want to meet them today, I can ask if we can go over-”
“I would rather wait to meet them, if that’s alright,” Alex interrupted.
“Sure. It’s probably kind of overwhelming being in a new house with a new family and all,” John said.
“It loses much of the intimidation after about three, actually,” Alex said.
“Huh. So you’re a veteran are you?”
“Not really. This is my second home in the system, but I’ve been tossed around from relative to relative since my mom…” Alexander coughed and looked away. “I would rather not talk about it.”
John made a noise of assent. He knew that parents could be a tricky subject, especially when you were in the system. Whether it was dead parents, shitty parents, or just simply missing your parents, it wasn’t always easy to talk about.
“Uh, how old are you?” John asked, changing the subject.
“I am 16. What about you? And the others?”
“15. Laf is almost 16, Hercules is 17, and if you want all of the others, you’ll have to ask.”
Alexander’s face looked thoughtful for a moment. “What about the Schuylers? I’d also like their first names.”
“How do you know Schuyler isn’t their first name, huh? What if they’re three people all with the same first name? Have you never seen Heathers?” John asked.
“I had figured they were siblings,” Alexander explained. “And no, I have not.”
“What? Never? Oh, and they are siblings, I was just fucking with you. But we need to watch it when the lovebirds get back. And as for the names and ages, Peggy is 14, Eliza is 15, and Angelica is 17. They’re all so wonderful, although they’d probably kill you if they thought you deserved it,” John saw the look of horror on Alex’s face and rushed to add, “Don’t worry though, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Well that’s certainly a relief. And Martha and Maria?”
“They are 16 and 17 respectively. Any other questions?” John prompted. Alex bit his lip and looked to the side. John took the opportunity to examine Alex’s face closely. He had a round jaw and a bit of a hooked nose and dark eyes, which were currently screwed up in thought. His eyes had dark bags underneath of them and the left one looked a bit swelled, as if he had a black eye that was just now healing. Overall, he had an attractive face. ‘John, stop it. You are not allowed to be gay with him. Besides the fact that you literally just met, you don’t even know if he likes guys. Pay attention.’
“I’d like to hear more about this Aaron Burr you mentioned.”
“Oh. Him. I mean, he’s okay, he’s not a bad guy, it’s just, you can never get a straight answer out of him. He keeps everything to himself and it’s kinda frustrating. Especially when all you want to know is if you should try the mashed potatoes or not. Short answer; you shouldn’t. You should absolutely not eat the school’s mashed potatoes. It may be a private school, but it has public school potatoes.”
John could tell that Alexander was holding back laughter as he said, “You sure are passionate.”
“Damn right I am! Quick question, what are your views on the gay community?”
“Well, I don’t have a problem with gay people as a whole, especially since I fall under that umbrella term as a bisexual, but it varies. For instance, if a gay person were to insinuate that I should not have rights because I am transgender, fuck that particular person. And of course, we should have rights just like straight people have rights. If I were to wish to marry a man, why should that be denied to me? I am doing no harm, and if gays go to Hell as bigoted Christians would insinuate, then that does not affect them in the slightest.” John listened in agreement.
“Exactly! And the underrepresentation in the media! Not only is it like watching jars of mayonnaise interact whenever I turn on the TV, but everything is overflowing with hetero nonsense! And they promote awful relationships as what everyone should aspire to be! ‘Haha, I don’t want to go home to my bitchy wife’ then why the fuck did you marry her?” John took a deep breath and calmed himself.
“Let’s just play some mind numbing video games before there is yelling,” John suggested.
“Sure. But we have to talk more about this, because I think there is much that we’d agree on,” Alex said.
“Alright. For now though, wanna play Sims?”
That evening found six people crowded around the kitchen table, all talking loudly and laughing over Martha’s lasagna.
Alex and John cleaned up the dishes, despite Martha and George insisting that they would do it. The two boys heard Lafayette’s farewell to Hercules as they cleaned.
“Text me when you get home.”
“I will, Laf.”
“And make sure you take off your binder too. We don’t want a repeat of last May.”
“And I’ll keep my inhaler close by, I will go to bed before midnight, I will not stay up all night working on any miscellaneous projects, I’ll drive safely, and I will lock my doors. Don’t worry so much Laf. I’ll be fine. I love you.”
John looked over to Alex as he handed John a plate to dry and saw that the shorter boy had a small smile on his face.
“What’s so funny?” John asked him.
“Hm? It’s just that they’re so cute. I can see what you meant earlier about them getting all mushy. So are they always like this?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” John said.
“Why does Laf worry so much? Hercules is older than them, he should be able to take care of himself.”
“Yeah, you’d think that, and yet, last May, well, irresponsible binding led Herc to be in the hospital for a bit. He was working on a project for his design class and kind of ignored his own health, so his ribs are now fucked, and he’s got asthma. It doesn’t help that he was using ace bandages when he first came here. And then he goes and acts like we’re the ones who can’t take care of ourselves.” John rolled his eyes as he put up the last plate and set the towel he was using on the edge of the sink.
“While we are on the topic of binding, do you have a binder? And if so, are you using it responsibly?” John asked, looking at Alex.
“Uh, no to the binder, and also to the…” Alex said the last part so quietly that John couldn’t hear, but what he had heard made him stop Alexander in the hallway.
“Is there something you’d like to say?” John said in his best mom voice.
“Not particularly…” Alex avoided John’s eyes.
“Are you binding with ace bandages?” Alex’s gaze remained resolutely on the floor. “Alexander Hamilton, are there currently ace bandages around your chest?” Alex’s silence told John all he needed to know. He sighed. “Come on.”
“You’re taking them off, right now,” John said as firmly as he could. He stopped in the upstairs bathroom and turned on the light. “Shirt off.”
“Jeez John, at least buy me dinner first,” Alex joked.
“Alexander this is no time for jokes. If you don’t take them off, I will, and I think it’d be more comfortable for everyone if you were the one to do that.” John stepped back to give Alex some space. “And I know I’m not in your position, but your wellbeing is more important than this. And if it’s any help, try to remember that you are a man because you say you are, not because of your body.” John stepped the rest of the way out of the bathroom. “Please, just take them off. We can ask Washingdad to get you a binder, but don’t fuck up your ribs like this in the meantime.” He closed the door, not giving Alex room to comment.
John heard a sigh from within the bathroom and the rustling of clothes. After a minute, a hand appeared holding the bandages out. John took them and rolled them up so that they would fit into his pocket. Alex stepped out, arms crossed tightly over his chest.
“Look, it’s the manliest man in the house,” John said, lightly punching Alexander’s shoulder. “Come on, to bed with you.”
Alex groaned as he trudged to his room. “I have only known you for a day and you are already insufferable.”
“It’s one of my many talents. Goodnight Alex. Sleep well.” John waited until he heard Alex’s door close to close his own and flop onto his bed, falling asleep faster than he had in a while.