Philip Hamilton was in high school. He had a million cousins, but only two were his age; Theodosia Burr Jr and Catherine “ call me Kitty or I will kill you ” Church. He also went to school with George Eacker, his enemy. Well, Philip insisted he was his enemy, but ask Theo or Kitty and they’d roll their eyes and tell you Philip was half in love with the guy.
Philip would stammer his argument.
Theo and Kitty would ignore him.
Philip’s dad, Alexander, was single after his amicable divorce to Eliza, who is now happily dating.
Alex threw himself at work after the divorce, not because of any heartbreak - their divorce was very much expected, and both Philip’s parents still had their Wednesday lunch dates, now being platonic - but because he just didn’t like dating. He’d only been married for a short while, and yet he felt like he was in a funk.
Philip, at first, thought his dad might just be discovering a new part of his sexuality - like his mom, who’d realized she was bisexual - so he kept “casually” bringing up the subject:
“Um, dad, you know there’s a kid in school who’s aro?”
Alex gave him a noncommittal hum from where he was working.
Philip pushed on. “Yeah, dad. You know what that is?”
“Of course I do, your aunt Peggy is aro.”
“Dammit.” Philip muttered to himself.
And another day:
“Hey, dad, did I tell you I met a girl in my bio class who’s ace?”
“No, you didn’t. I’m happy for her.”
Philip rolled his eyes at his dad’s distracted response.
“Do you know what that is?”
“Philip, you’re aware John is ace, right?
After that, Philip kind of gave up. Mainly because he complained to Theo and Kitty, and the girls had given him such a judging look he’d truly felt like an idiot.
“Just because your dad isn’t out sleeping with people, you think he’s suddenly aro or ace.” Kitty’s tone was highly judgmental.
Philip pouted. “Not just that! He hasn’t been dating at all! Mom is in a serious relationship, and… well, you could say he is too, with his work !”
Theo raised her eyebrows. “Your dad, who is openly bi, conveniently forgot to tell people he was aro? And honestly, everyone knows how much of a slut he is, he is not ace.”
“Okay, ew.” was his elegant response.
Kitty rolled her eyes and went back to her book.
“You’re an idiot. Leave him alone.” Theo said before she, too, went back to her own book.
He had awful cousins. And friends.
The new school year started, and with it a new class opened up. Apparently, a new teacher had been hired and had opened up his own class, a class that was not being taught previously: Discussions, Debates, and The World Around Us.
No one could tell what the class was about, but the little explanation it had under it was:
There are so many interesting topics brought up every day of our lives. In this class, we’ll discuss some of the more fun ideas, debate them, and have fun.
It didn’t have the same long, detailed paragraph each other class had under it, and, frankly, it seemed interesting. So, as expected, everyone wanted to enroll. But the class had a very small, limited number of seats allowed; only twelve.
Being on a completely different schedule to the girls, when he met them for lunch, Philip is greeted by Theo and Kitty smiling smugly.
“What?” he sat down uneasily. “Did you finally kill someone? Fuck, why are you telling me that? I know you’ll kill me before I told on you! Oh my god, I will definitely tell on you, holy fuck I can’t keep my mouth shut, you know that! Why are you doing this to me?”
Kitty graced him with an unimpressed look. “What the fuck is wrong with you.”
Theo adding, “We didn’t kill anyone. Yet.”
“Oh, thank god.” Philip relaxed and took out his lunch. “What then?”
“We got into the new class.” Kitty bragged.
He immediately sat up straight. “What? We got in?”
Looking apologetic, Theo shrugged. “Sorry, but Gwash said because the class was so in demand and there’s only one time slot, anyone who wanted to enroll had to talk to him personally.”
Philip started putting away his untouched lunch. “So, I’m gonna go talk to him!”
Kitty frowned. “I think the class is full now, though…”
He scoffed. “I’m getting in.”
The girls, knowing he had a way of getting what he wanted, shrugged and wished him luck before he ran off.
There was a long line to principal Washington’s office, so Philip went to the secretary instead. Sarah Livingston, a young 22-year-old college graduate who was working there while she finished up an internship with some I.T. company.
“Hey, Sarah, what’s the line about?”
She smiled and shook her head at his informal greeting. “Hey, Hamilton. They’re hoping to get into that new class.”
His eyes widened. “All of them?”
There were about fourteen kids in line. “Shit.”
“Sorry, sorry. Dammit.”
She looked amused. “I take it you’re here for the same reason?”
“Yes.” He pouted and slumped on her desk.
She sent him a fond look, then glanced at the clock before whispering, “You owe me.”
Confused, he went to open his mouth, but he didn’t have time to say anything before the bell rang.
At the sound, Sarah stood up. “Okay, everyone, I’m sure you all have classes to get to.”
The students there shook their heads quickly, looking stubbornly at Washington’s office door.
Sarah straightened. “Molly, you have chemistry. Josh, Susan, and Tom, you have art. Hope and Jimmy, you have English. And Matt, you have physics. The rest of you, I can start looking at schedules if you’d prefer, but if I find out that any of you are lying, trust me when I say I’ll be calling your parents immediately and informing principal Washington.”
The kids glanced around before sighing and leaving, a few sending forlorn looks at Washington’s office.
Sarah turned around and opened her mouth to, presumably, gloat, but the body slamming into hers stopped her. She laughed but wrapped her arms around Philip in a loose hug. “You’re welcome.”
“Oh my god, you’re literally the best ever! Holy shit, that company doesn’t deserve you at all!”
“Language. And thank you.” she pushed him away gently. “Maybe don’t tell Washington I did that, though.” she said with a wink.
He shook his head, then turned around as the door to the office he was waiting for opened, Washington exiting with a frowning student, “I’m sorry, son, but a class being full means you can’t enroll. You’ll have to wait until next semester.”
At that, the kid leaves in a huff.
Washington finally turned to Sarah and Philip. “Mr Hamilton. Don’t you have class right now?”
Philip didn’t answer, just grabbed his bag off the floor and marched into the principal’s office. “I’m glad you brought up classes, sir!”
Sarah shook her head amusedly at Washington’s exasperated look.
The principal sighed before following the kid into his office.
Philip was already sitting down in front of his desk when Washington sat down.
“Is this about the new class?”
“Yes, sir, and--” He was cut off.
“Hamilton, Mr Jefferson specifically said only twelve students, so I can’t just add more.”
“But why twelve, sir? That makes no sense! No other class has that low number of students!”
Washington shrugged. “He said he had plans and needed that number.”
“Okay, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me enrolling!”
“Considering he asked for twelve , I’d say he would…”
“Sir, with all due respect, you know I won’t just take no for an answer.”
They stared at each other in silence for a long moment before Washington rolled his eyes and opened the top drawer, taking out a file and flicking through it quickly before stopping, apparently finding whatever he’d been looking for.
“Sir, what--?” Philip stopped at the hand the principal raised.
He stayed quiet as the man took a sticky note and copied down something on it.
“Make your case to him.”
“Um, what…” Philip looked at the paper and found an email on it. He perked up when he read the name Jefferson. “Is this Mr Jefferson’s email? Seriously?”
Washington sighed - he did that a lot around Philip. “Yes, the class doesn’t start until Wednesday, so you have two days to convince him.”
Philip stuffed the paper in his pocket and stood up, smiling at Washington. “Thank you so much, sir, you’re the best!” he suddenly remembered something, turning bashful. “Um, one more thing…”
Looking annoyed, Washington took out the excuse paper he knew Philip was going to ask for. “Which class are you missing right now?”
The second he got home, Philip ran up the stairs to his bedroom, yelling, “dad, I’m back!”
He could hear faint voices coming from the kitchen, but he knew it was probably the Menacing Trio; his uncles John, Laf, and Herc, so he didn’t bother going to say hello.
He was waiting for his computer to start when his dad walked in.
“Everything okay? You ran up here pretty quick?”
Philip spun in his chair, and smiled at his dad - Alex thought he looked slightly manic but wasn’t going to say that to his son -. “I convinced gwash to give me the teacher’s email and now i’m gonna convince him to let me enroll in his full class!”
Alex blinked a few times in confused. “Don’t call him gwash, and…. Good job?”
Philip nodded decisively and spun back around when his computer signaled its start.
Alex shook his head and went downstairs.
John laughed when he walked in. “What’s with the look?”
“I’m not sure, but I think my kid is more like me than I thought…”
Herc gasped. “No! You don’t say!”
“Shut up, it’s a shock.”
Laf rolled his eyes. “Okay, sure, whatever, can we go back to the cupcakes, please?”
Phil considered what to say for a few minutes, but decided fuck it and went for it without editing it.
His email read:
good afternoon, mr Jefferson.
I got your email from principal gwash who told me to make my case to you, so that’s what i’m doing. I know you clearly said you wanted the limit to be 12 students, which is kinda confusing to me because why would you want so few students unless you really didn’t want too many people? But then, 13 isn’t that much more, and you’d consider letting me enroll. I don’t know much about the class, if i’m being honest, except that it looks really awesome, and my best friends managed to enroll. And you’d have to be heartless to deny me one class with my friends! That’s right, I don’t have any other class with them… I don’t know you, mr Jefferson, but I don’t think you’re heartless! Okay, that might’ve been cheap, but I really want to take this class, and if my desire to fight this hard for your class isn’t enough, I don’t know what is. I have today and tomorrow to appeal to you, so please tell me if you’re still not convinced, because I know I can convince you! I’m much better at talking people into letting me do things, but I didn’t get much sleep last night, and my adhd is acting up, so i’m not at my best. Oh! My name is Philip Hamilton, and i’ll be the best student you’ve ever had!
After writing that, Philip realized just how bad his adhd had gotten. He frowned and thought back to if he’d taken his meds that morning. He was so sure he had… he went to check his pills and remembered Kitty barging into his room, demanding he got up that instance if he wanted to get a ride with her and Theo.
He groaned when he realized he’d left in such a hurry he hadn’t taken his meds. No wonder he felt so overwhelmed… he took a pill and headed downstairs. Might as well eat some of the cupcakes uncle Laf definitely made uncle Herc make.
The following morning, Philip woke up with his first alarm, too anxious to check his email for any response. He knew from experience that he was an ‘acquired taste’; not everyone managed to really understand him, many immediately disliked how hyper he was, how talkative, how he couldn’t sit still for long - honestly, outside his family, Theo and Kitty (his best friends along with being his cousins) might be the only people who truly knew and liked him. And Sarah! But that was about it. His heart hurt a little when he thought that, but he ignored it, like always. His dad was the exact same and he had such a lovely group of friends, a family. So, yes, all that in mind, Philip knew if there was an email waiting, it would be a rejection.
He took a deep breath and swallowed down his fear. He opened his inbox and found the email at the very top.
New email, from: T. Jefferson.
Another deep breath before he clicked on it, spinning around in his chair to take a moment before looking. He counted to ten to calm down, then slowly turned back around.
The email was short, succinct:
Talk to Mr Washington today to finalize your enrollment to my class.
I’m afraid you won’t get the chance to ‘talk me into this’.
Have a good day.
Philip stared at the too-bright screen for a long moment. It was a simple email, and he was known for convincing people to agree with him - sure, they agreed mainly because they were almost always too annoyed to let him keep talking, but…
He swallowed against the lump in his throat and slumped in his chair. He felt so drained, so tired… he was gearing up for a fight, because people never let him have things just because, he always had to fight. This felt too surreal, too… he didn’t know what to do now. What did people do in this situation. He shook his head and laughed at himself, he was being ridiculous; this was a happy thing! He shouldn’t be so depressed. He gave the email one last awed look before turning the computer off and getting up to get ready for the day, remembering to take his pills.
By the time the girls were there to pick him up, he’d stuffed all the negative thoughts into a little box and locked it away. So when he got in the car, he had a smug look on instead of insecure.
Kitty was automatically suspicious. “What are you so smug about?”
Theo glanced back at him in the rear-view mirror from her driver’s seat. “Huh. what’s up, Phil?”
He shrugged innocently. “Oh, nothing, just… nah, nothing.”
Kitty huffed. “Fuck you. What did you do.”
Smirking, Philip met her annoyed eyes. “I’m in.”
“In where?” Theo asked before Kitty could kill him.
Theo rolled her eyes. “Either tell us or don’t, but if you keep this up, I’ll just let Kitty kill you.”
He chuckled. “Okay, calm down.” he leaned forwards in the space between their seats. “I got into Mr Jefferson’s class.”
Eyes wide, Kitty questioned, “But how?”
“I talked him into it.”
Theo smiled fondly. “Of course you did…”
Getting over her shock quickly, Kitty smiled. “So we finally have a class together?”
He nodded excitedly. “Yes!”
Happy, they spend the rest of the ride singing loudly, and badly, to songs on the radio.
And yet... For some strange reason, Philip couldn’t concentrate that day.
The next day, he woke up excited but nervous, which made him angry; this was just a class. Like any other class. Sure, he’d had to talk to the teacher to let him in, but that wasn’t that new for him either. So why was this different? A voice was telling him maybe it was because Jefferson didn’t answer him with the usual disdain people did… but, like his dad did with his own problems, Philip ignored it.
The class was his third period, so Philip had two hours to ‘not’ stress over this. But also, that meant he didn’t really see Theo or Kitty after they got to school, he just hoped they’d at least save him a seat. Though he was smart enough to know that was highly unlikely.
The first two periods passed by uneventfully, except for a dodged incident in second period where Philip wasn’t paying attention and Mr Jay had asked him a question that, thankfully, Philip could stammer out an answer to before the teacher got too pissed.
It was finally third period and Philip was running to the other side of school where the class would take place. He was slightly out of breath when he got there, and like he'd predicted, his friends shrugged in apology at him when he saw the only seat available was at a hastily placed desk and chair in the back of the room - obviously added after he was enrolled in the class.
He saw George look up at his ‘grand’ entrance and roll his eyes, forcing a blush to blossom on Philip’s cheeks. He totally did not have a crush on the boy.
He took his seat in the back and took the time before Jefferson got there to calm his breathing; he should probably stop running to classes.
He was deep in his extravagant doodles when a commanding voice spoke from the front of the class. “Hello everyone. I’m Thomas Jefferson, and I’ll be your teacher this semester.”
The man was both exactly what Philip expected and something completely new. He looked like your typical young teacher; objectively attractive, nice clothes, pathetically optimistic - Sarah had once told Philip it usually took teachers a couple of semesters before they gave up on their jobs -. But he also had a mischievous feel about him, something in his smug smirk, or the shine in his eyes that made Philip feel like the older man knew something he didn’t, which he probably did, given that he was the teacher. From the way he looked, Philip figured he must’ve been around his dad’s age, maybe a year or so older. Philip took a quick cursory glance around the room and saw everyone staring at Jefferson with wide, awe-filled eyes.
“I know you’ve been back to school for a couple of days now, but considering this is the first day for my class, I’m gonna take it easy on you.” he chuckled at the little cheer students gave. “How about you just tell me your name and why you wanted to take this class?”
Jefferson sat on his desk - not on the chair, but the actual desk; he just casually hopped up on it and leaned back a little, waving at the first girl to talk.
And so they went around.
Taking into account their small number, it barely took them ten minutes to get to Philip - the last student.
“Um, hi. I’m Philip. Hamilton. Philip Hamilton.” he felt overwhelmed with George looking at him, and the recognition that flashed in Jefferson’s eyes. “I don’t know… I thought the class looked cool?”
Jefferson smiled. “Fair enough.”
Philip sighed in relief as the attention was diverted away from him.
“So here’s the plan.” Jefferson clapped his hands together. “I won’t give you the usual homework-” he rolled his eyes good naturedly at the roaring applause that got, “yeah yeah, settle down.”
Philip could see the smile Jefferson was trying to hide.
“So, yes, no homework. What i’m going to do is introduce a new topic every two weeks for the first two months, and then we’ll have to do every week after that I’m afraid. But after each topic is covered - which will probably take a a few days, I’ll give you a project. It won’t be your typical research, because I don’t want or need that; all I want is your thoughts on what we discuss. I don’t need you to hand in a perfect essay, in fact, I don’t need an essay at all. All I want is a clear idea of your stance - that is whether you’re with or against or just unsure, and I want your overall thoughts. It’s supposed to be fun, that’s the point of this whole class; the name of it is very much what it is, okay? So, I need you to keep me updated on whether or not you’re having fun, and whether you need help with something.”
He got up and wrote something on the board, Philip could immediately see it was the teacher’s email.
“This is, as you can already tell, my email. I’m not going to embarrass any of you and demand you give me yours right now, but I expect an email from each of you by tomorrow, with your name. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help, okay? This class is about discussions and thoughts, so if you find yourself thinking about something we discussed in class in the middle of the night, email me your thoughts. I might not respond right away, but I will eventually, and I’ll know you’re interested in what we’re studying. I also am sure I don’t need to say this,” he gave a hard look around, “but any inappropriate emails will result in an F in my class.”
A girl near the front hesitantly raised her hand. “Um, sir, do we get marks for sending in emails with, like, our thoughts and stuff?”
Jefferson cocked his head to the side, thinking, “do you guys want that?” as the students were about to answer, he shook his head quickly, “No, you know what, write that in your email to me, alright? While we’re at it, include any issues you might have, for example if any of you have any mental health issues, or specific things you don’t like to do, like presentations? I know I have horrible anxiety, and while I take meds for it now, I didn’t in high school and presentations were really terrible… so things like that, alright?”
Philip looked around and saw everyone was already half in love with the new teacher. Philip could see why; the guy was understanding in a way no other teacher was.
Jefferson looked at the clock, 20 minutes left of class. “Okay, I didn’t have anything else to talk about, any questions?”
Theo raised her hand. “Sir, there wasn’t really a clear syllabus for the course? So I was wondering if there was any required reading?”
Jefferson smiled at her, “Great question, Theodosia?” he hesitated, then smiled in relief at her nod, “there’s no required reading, everything we cover, I’ll have handouts for and will explain in class. You can, of course, google or read up on anything further in your spare time. And, like I said, email me any questions you have.”
A boy sitting in the back asked, “what about quizzes?”
“Well, I don’t really like quizzes, so I was thinking we’d have special projects instead? I know quizzes help with your overall studying, but I also know you’re all not freshman, so you have a lot on your plate already, and I wouldn’t want you to worry about my class on top of all the others. What do you think?”
Philip couldn’t keep his thoughts quiet, “Are you really asking us all of this?”
Jefferson raised an eyebrow at him, “All of this?”
Philip blushed when everyone turned to look at him, but kept going, “Yeah, no other teacher would ask us what we preferred. And you’re asking us if we wanted quizzes or not?”
Narrowing his eyes, Jefferson looked amused, “Are you angry about that?”
Philip shook his head, “No, of course not. It’s just confusing.”
Reluctant heads nodded in agreement.
“Look. I went to high school, too. And then I went to college. High school doesn’t prepare you for college at all. And college is nothing like high school. The last thing I want to do, is teach a class that stresses you out and scares you about further education. Besides, learning something new is supposed to be fun, you can call me idealistic, but that’s what I’m going to try to do here. You guys okay with that?”
Everyone nodded at that.
The bell rang and everyone slowly got up, it was obvious no one wanted to leave the little bubble they had in this room.
“I’ll see you guys on Friday, have a good day.”
Philip wanted to ask Jefferson why he’d agreed to let him enroll but he was a little nervous. He was saved by Kitty dragging him out with them.
“Okay, I’m so happy we took this class!” she was practically jumping with excitement.
“Me too-- oof” Philip knocked into someone, and he just knew it was George, it was just his luck.
He looked up and yup, those were George’s pretty, angry eyes.
“Tell me something, Hamilton, you ever watch where you’re going?”
Philip flashed him a smile,. “Not when I know you’re around, georgie! Who’d bump into you then?”
George took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm down, before saying, “It’s like you want me to get angry” in a low voice.
Philip felt bad but couldn’t let that show, “Sorry, man, but I have to go!” he ran after Theo and Kitty, who’d left with identical eye rolls when he’d bumped into George.
That night, Philip and his dad had dinner alone for once; there was usually someone over.
“So, did you convince that teacher?”
Philip looked up at that and smiled proudly. “Yup! And he’s awesome, dad! He let us pick whether we want quizzes or not and he said he wanted the class to be fun and not stressful, and he sat on his desk - which, who does that? And he said he had anxiety so he knew how stressful high school is, and he wanted us to have a better experience than he had, and I think he really didn’t like his high school experience, and I think something not fun happened to him, but obviously he didn’t say anything, and he didn’t make fun of me when I didn’t speak very clearly, which is a fucking miracle, dad! Like all the other teacher do-- shit I didn’t mean to say that.” he stopped talking, wide eyed at the murderous look on his dad’s face.
“The teachers make fun of you?”
“No-- not make fun exactly… more like they get annoyed when I don’t say something clearly? Like, Mr Jefferson asked what our names were and why we took his class, and I kinda said something about it being cool or whatever, and he was just like ‘fair enough’ which, if I’d said that in Ms Montgomery’s class, she would’ve told me to answer properly and not mumble.”
“I take it you don’t want me to talk to Washington.”
Philip just shook his head. “It’s not that big a deal, pops, honestly. Besides, I never let them get away with it.” he smirked.
Alex shook his head fondly, “don’t tell your mom I said this, but…. Make their lives hell.”
“oooh always do!”
The next couple of weeks pass by uneventfully, aside from Mr Jefferson’s class. He never sat in his chair, which was weird to Philip, and he never seemed like he’s lecturing them, always talked to them not at them, which shocked all thirteen students for days before they got used to it. All you could hear from those lucky 13 was “I just never knew how fun school could be…” or “I don’t know, I don’t ever feel nervous going to class? I actually wake up looking forwards to it” or “I didn’t realize how condescending other teachers were…” the consensus being Mr Jefferson was a godsend.
That Friday marked two weeks of classes and, according to Mr Jefferson, the first project. They’d been discussing Mysteries of The World. They’d talked about Jack the Ripper, Bigfoot, crop circles, and the Bermuda triangle. It had been a surreal experience of unbelievable fun. Even the shier students, the ones who never participated in classes, were talking excitedly during Jefferson’s. Everyone had a theory, and every theory was plausible to Jefferson. He never made anyone feel stupid for coming forth with their own thoughts on each subject, he’d say “these are mysteries for a reason; no one knows the truth, so nothing you say could be wrong, that’s the beauty of theoretical talk.” and slowly but surely, everyone got comfortable, and soon, there was an ongoing email chain going around with everyone’s thoughts and theories, and new conspiracies someone had found. When they started going in depth on aliens, and Jefferson saw how they were all so interested, he promised the next couple of weeks would be about the extraterrestrial.
So, that Friday, everyone was excited to learn the rules for the project.
Jefferson walked in to find like always, for his class alone, everyone in their seats but talking in excited tones among themselves.
He dropped his stuff on the desk and leaned on it. “Had a good week?”
Theo laughed “Not really, sir, we had pop quizzes every day, it’s like all the teachers decided to do them at the same time.”
Jefferson frowned, “You doing alright, though?”
Martha, a shy girl, sitting in the corner spoke up. “Honestly, sir, your class kinda got us all through it, I think…” agreeing mumbles filled the classroom. “I think…. I think we’re all appreciative of how different you are.”
Louder agreement rose at that.
Jefferson finally dropped the frown and smiled. “Well I’m always here to help. How about we talk about the project?”
Everyone quieted down.
“Okay. so we’ve been talking about mysteries, and we’ve talked about a fair few. What I want from you is simple, in any way you like; an essay, a list, a freakin’ painting - just tell me which was your favorite and why.”
Everyone started talking at once.
“Wait!” he put his hand up to silence the class.
“I want you to work in pairs. in fact, you’ll always work in pairs. That’s kind of the reason I wanted an even number here. I always hated group projects, but pairs is definitely easier.”
Everyone seemed to agree, and paired up immediately.
“Okay, do you want to know the catch?” everyone looked scared and some even shook their heads. “You won’t be submitting as a group, so I expect two submissions for each pair. The catch is you won’t write your own thoughts, you’ll write your partner’s. So ask each other questions, and then submit the answers any way you want.”
Contemplating murmurs filled the class. Finally, everyone nodded their assent and split into their pairs to work. Everyone that is except for Philip.
Philip had looked to his friends and found the girls sending him apologetic smiles. Everyone had a partner, even George, and Philip didn’t know what to do.
“Mr Hamilton, come up here, please.” Jefferson called out.
Philip was sure this was going to be it; Jefferson was going to tell him he couldn’t be in this class if he didn’t have a partner.
“Sir?” Philip stood in front of the desk, feeling weird seeing Jefferson actually in the chair for once.
Jefferson surprised him by saying, “the point of these projects is being able to work with others, and to write from a point of view that might not be your own, but since you don’t have a partner, you could work alone, or I’ll be your partner. What do you think?”
Philip wasn’t really sure why Jefferson was even asking; teachers always paired with students who didn’t have groups or partners. And he knew he wasn’t going to work alone, that would be pathetic.
So he smiled and went to grab his notebook and chair, sitting opposite an amused Jefferson. “Okay, sir, where do you think things go in the Bermuda triangle?”
Theo and Kitty apologize profusely to him, and Philip let them, but the truth was he liked working with Mr Jefferson; the man was fun, and cool, and seemed to get Philip in a way no other teacher had. Oh, also, Philip was sure Mr Jefferson and his dad would get along great , he just needed to find a way to get them together. He didn’t tell anyone what he was planning because he was sure the girls would tell him he was an idiot, and his aunts and uncles would try to stop him - well, uncle Aaron and aunt Angelica would; uncles Herc, Laf, and John would laugh and then tell his dad and ruin his plan. Aunt Peggy would… well, she might actually help. He’d keep that in mind in case he needed help. But for now, he was doing this on his own.
As promised, they spend the next two weeks discussing the extraterrestrial in both current media and literature. Philip was sure Mr Monroe, his English lit teacher, would be pissed if he knew this class involved literature, and was teaching it better than he ever could.
By the time the project-Friday rolled around, Philip had a lot of questions ready to ask Mr Jefferson.
Taking his seat at the teacher’s desk at the front of the class, he took out his notebook.
“I tried to limit my questions but I still don’t think I have a clear idea what my point is…”
Jefferson just nodded. “That’s fine, you’ll figure it out once we start talking. What’s your first question?”
It was amazing how Jefferson never made any student feel lost or stupid.
“Well, I guess the first thing would be the easy do you think aliens exist?”
“I think they could , I don’t know if they do, though.”
Philip looked up from his notes. “So do you think all the sightings and abduction stories aren’t true?”
Jefferson frowned in concentration. “Not necessarily, more like I haven’t found the right story, you know? Most of them seem plausible, but not probable? Everyone has that one story that made them believe in aliens, that one story that converted them, if you will. And I just haven’t found mine.”
Philip jotted that down. “But do you think the majority of these sightings and stories are lies?”
“I guess I do, yeah. It’s such an easy way to get attention that I’m sure most of them are just that; calls for attention.”
“So then, you think there are true ones?”
Jefferson shrugged at that, “Maybe? I don’t like to say they’re all lies.”
“Okay, that seems very neutral.”
Jefferson chuckles, “I don’t know, kid, they could exist, but they could also not. Who am I to say?”
“No, I get that, sir, but the universe is so big, it’s kinda egotistical to think we’re the only sign of life there is…” Philip realized what he’d implied, his eyes widening, “I didn’t mean--”
Jefferson just laughed. “Hey, don’t apologize, this class is about you discovering and learning and making your own thoughts. And you’re not wrong. I guess it is kinda vain of me to think we’re the only thing out there.”
Philip still blushed at what he’d said, but moved forward. “Um. well I also wanted to ask why you think most people ‘see’ aliens the same way?”
“You mean the ones claiming they were abducted?”
“hmm, I guess it started with how the media, from literature to movies, portrayed them? And then the first alleged abduction kind of spurred on the rest.”
“I agree with you there.”
Philip looked up from his notes at the amused tone. “Yeah…. Why, shouldn’t I?”
“No, I just feel like you’re always gearing up for a fight. It’s the way you carry yourself. And your tone.”
Philip felt those words hit him straight in the chest, and he almost couldn’t breathe.
But Jefferson kept going, in a quieter voice, “just know that I’m not here to fight you, Philip, okay?”
Philip jerkily nodded.
They were quiet for a little second before Jefferson tapped on the table, “Next question?”
“Right. Um. why- why do you think aliens are portrayed so negatively?”
“That’s easy! In case they were real and out there, our higher-ups want us to be scared of them. I mean, let’s be real, even if aliens were the nicest beings ever, the second we see them, we’re going to start shooting and bombing.”
Philip pouted. “so you don’t think we could get along with them?”
“hey, I would love to get along with aliens! But our governments? Definitely would not be down for that.”
“ugh, I know…. Well, if they did know about us, how much do you think they know?”
“well, let’s say there are millions of other species out there, okay? And there are a million different types of aliens on a million other different planets and galaxies, and whatnot. That means we’re just one of the aliens. So, just as we’re looking for aliens but can’t find them in our own galaxy, maybe the same could be going for them. But also, your question implies there’s one big bad alien race, and if that’s the case then I’m sure they’d know a lot about us. Except we don’t know how advanced they are, they could literally be just like us, maybe even less advanced. And then what about language barriers? Say they could keep surveillance on us, how would they know what we’re saying? Aliens aren’t like Hollywood movies, where everyone speaks English. So, I guess what i’m saying is I don’t know.” he laughed a little at his answer.
“Hey, that answer alone is an awesome essay topic! But last question is, do you think aliens could potentially positively influence human life?”
“as long as we’re all civil with each other, I think for sure we could both help each other, yes.”
Philip got to the last note he’d made the night before and paused, unsure how to go about asking, before mentally shrugging and just going for it, “sir, are you single?”
Jefferson froze, that’s the only way Philip could describe it, the man looked like a statue, deer in headlights look and all.
“Are you dating anyone?”
“Mr Hamilton, I'm your teacher…”
Philip frowned for a second, not sure what that had to do with anything, before getting it and blushing bright red, “oh my god, no! Not for me ! I promise! I was just wondering! Oh my god. I have a boyfriend. Okay I don’t have a boyfriend but I like someone. And also, you might be young but you’re like, way older than me. And oh my god, I promise it’s not like that.” he finished meekly and hid his face in his hands.
It took him a moment before he registered what he was hearing. Laughter. From Mr Jefferson. He peeked through his fingers.
“Sorry, kid, but you could’ve definitely phrased that better.”
On that lovely note, the bell rang and everyone started to leave with goodbyes to Jefferson, who responded in kind and a, “don’t forget to email me your projects before Monday's class!”
Philip slowly stood up, hoping to escape without further embarrassing himself.
He was almost at the door when he heard, “oh, and Philip, I don’t know who you were asking for, but maybe they should talk to me themselves.”
Philip just mumbled his agreement and left, Jefferson’s laughter following him.
The next day, Saturday, Philip had his therapy appointment.
“Dad, we’re gonna be late!”
Philip wasn’t really the most punctual, but between him and his dad? He was the most punctual guy their friends and family had ever seen.
They were currently twenty minutes late to when they were supposed to leave, which meant they were definitely going to be at least ten minutes late to their appointment. Philip wasn’t really worried though, he knew their therapist’s secretary knew they were always late and thus always scheduled them twenty minutes earlier than she told them.
That didn’t mean his dad had to know. “ Dad !”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, let’s go.”
His dad finally closed the file he was looking at and put on his shoes. Two minutes later, they were out the door.
Philip liked his therapist, Dr Adrienne, she wasn’t as strict as his previous doctor, and didn’t make him feel like he had to say the right thing all the time. She always just chatted with him. And she also knew he needed medication to deal with his adhd, unlike his last doctor who ‘didn’t believe in meds’. Dr Adrienne was also the one who taught him that anxiety and depression can often occur with those who suffer from adhd, which was so helpful because he did have a lot of cases of severe anxiety and it finally made sense why.
Dr Adrienne was already in her large arm chair when the secretary walked him in.
“Good morning, Philip.”
“Morning, doc!” he made himself comfortable on the comfy couch opposite her.
“Had a good start of semester, I hope?”
He nodded, feeling a little guilty, “yeah, sorry I had to cancel a few appointments, I was just adjusting to school…”
“that’s okay, as long as you’ve been taking your meds and doing alright.”
He nodded without saying anything, he didn’t really wanna lie anyway.
He bit his lip, “um sometimes I feel like the pills aren’t really working? Like I can’t fully focus?”
she wrote something down, “well, we knew those pills might not be long term for you, do you think you’d want to try a different medication?”
“But how would that work with my current one?”
“We would need to wean you off your current pills, need to make sure they’re completely out of your system before we start your new treatment, but I think I know what would be perfect for you!”
“Does that mean I’d have to go without meds for a while?” he wasn’t sure he liked that idea.
“Not for long, and it shouldn’t really hurt you if you keep meditating and doing the breathing exercises we worked on.” she noted his nervous expression. “Look, Philip, you don’t have to decide right away, you should talk to your parents first and then get back to me, okay?”
He calmed down slightly, “yeah, yeah, okay.”
“Great! So tell me about school!”
A week later and he was officially off his old meds. He just needed to make it through a few days and then… and then he’d have to get used to a new medication… he took a deep breath and thought you can do this. You’ve done it before and you can do it again and ignored all the negative thoughts that were coursing through his brain.
Here’s the thing with adhd. One minute you could be a-okay, and the next you’d be fascinated with the lights, and the next you’d want to climb a kitchen cabinet, and the next you’d want to go swimming. And that all kind of didn’t bother Philip, but sometimes… sometimes the shitty thing happened. Where everything was too loud and bright and suffocating and his head hurt and his eyes hurt and he just felt like crying. He hadn’t had an episode like that in a really long time, but he’s always wary whenever he eyes start aching or his head hurts.
But now… he woke up to his dad shutting his bedroom door across the hall, and Philip had to cover his ears, the sound was painful. And when his alarm rang out, he wanted to cry. He didn’t know what to do. He knew the new medication needed time to take effect, and he didn’t want to scare his dad. But he couldn’t not go to school… he had a bio test and his teacher hated him. He’d definitely get a makeup exam but he knew Mr Jones would make it extra hard just to spite him, and Philip’s grades weren’t the best in that class to start off with.
He took a deep breath, and slowly opened his eyes. The light wasn’t as painful as he’d thought, so he exhaled and calmed down a little; it wasn’t so bad, he could do this. He moved slowly around his room getting ready.
And when he got in Kitty’s car, he had to ask her to “please, can you turn the radio off? My head hurts…” he didn’t see the worried looks Kitty and Theo exchanged but he knew they were there. The girls didn’t say anything, but they did turn the radio off, and kept their talking to low tones. Philip had great friends/cousins.
Throughout his first classes, Philip could feel himself getting worse and worse. And by the time it was Mr Jefferson’s class, he was fighting not to cry. It was a regular class day though, not a project, thankfully, so Philip didn’t really need to talk to anyone. He knew they’d started a Beyond Science discussion the prior week, so he knew the material somewhat.
Jefferson clapped when he walked in, and Philip flinched from his place slumped over his desk, head resting on his folded arms. “Okay!”
Philip wished he could cover his ears without it being rude, but he couldn’t - he didn’t realize how l oud Jefferson was. He was aware of the sudden quiet in the class, but didn’t have the energy to look up.
“I was going to have a normal lecture today,” Jefferson said, in a decidedly quieter voice, “but I think I’ll let you get a head start on your projects. Everyone in favor, raise your hand.” Philip wasn’t sure what was happening. “Great, please work quietly.”
He didn’t want to get up, but he knew Jefferson wouldn’t just let him stay in the back, so he got up with half-opened eyes and made his way to the front of the class.
Jefferson was attempting to look normal, but Philip could see the worry. “You okay, Philip?”
Philip mustered a semblance of a smile, “fine.”
Jefferson frowned deeper, “you sure?”
“Yup, just a little tired. Headache.” Philip struggled to open his notebook, his hands shaking, when Jefferson gently took notebook from his hands.
“You have adhd, right?”
Blinking back tears, Philip nodded.
“You taking your meds?”
Again, he nodded.
He hesitated before nodding.
“I changed my meds and they take time to work.”
“Okay, that’s good that you told me. How bad is it?”
Figuring he should be honest, Philip finally let himself close his eyes and fold his arms on the teacher’s desk, going back to resting his head on them, “really bad.”
“Philip, this is only the third period, you can’t go through the rest of the day, kid.”
Philip just hummed.
“Want me to take you to Washington’s office to call your parents?”
Philip sighed, knowing he had to call his dad because his mom had an important meeting that day, and knowing his dad was going to be so overprotective about this; Philip was probably going to have to miss school the rest of the week.
Sighing again, “I think that’s for the best, yeah. Thank you.”
Before they left, Jefferson said to the class, “I’ll be gone for a few minutes, keep working.”
Philip could see the worried looks in Theo and Kitty’s eyes, those were expected, what surprised him was George’s gaze on him, the concerned frown on his lips.
As expected, Alexander started fussing over Philip the second they got home, albeit very quietly. And he refused to let Philip leave his dark room until the meds started working. That took three more days.
A week later and Philip was feeling much better. The new medication was infinitely better than his old one, and he could definitely tell the difference. What he wasn’t feeling so great about was principal Washington’s disapproving look.
“Mr Hamilton, you can’t keep behaving this way.”
“Sir, I didn’t do anything!”
“So you’re saying Mr Monroe, Mr Jones, and Ms Montgomery were lying? Is that what you’re saying?”
The warning was clear, but the thing is they were lying.
Here’s what happened. Monroe was obviously feeling shit that day, so he’d passed around handouts to be done in class. Philip was quietly working, as hard as that was to believe, when he was stumped by a question. It wasn’t the he didn’t know the answer so much as the question was confusing, so he’d politely raised his hand and Monroe pointedly looked away. Philip got the hint and put his hand down, but after he’d finished the rest of the questions, he knew he needed clarification for the one he still hadn’t answered. He raised his hand again, and kept it up for a solid few minutes, and only got a glare for his effort. So, with only five minutes left on the clock, Philip turned to Martha sitting behind him, and asked her about the question. Before she even had time to answer him, Monroe yelled, very angrily, “Mr Hamilton, were you put on this earth to disrespect me?” and then Philip was being dragged to gwash’s office, and then Mr Jones was somehow there too, and then Ms Montgomery was there, and the three were talking in forced hushed voices to the principal and then they left in an angry huff, and now here he was; in front of an annoyed George Washington.
“Mr Hamilton, I want to believe you, but all your teachers are in agreement that you’re always misbehaving.”
Philip felt trapped, cornered, lost. “I know. I know that, sir, but--” his voice caught on that last word, and Washington’s glare softened.
“Look, son, I’ll talk to your teachers and see if we can’t all calm down, alright?”
Philip nodded. “I’m sorry, sir, I really just wanted him to explain the question. I promise.”
Washington sighed, and nodded, “Sure. Go on to lunch now, and I’ll call you when we’ve got this sorted.”
Philip left feeling like shit.
It was what everyone always warned about; the boy who cried wolf. The problem with that was that Philip never cried wolf, he never did anything, people just…. People just didn’t like him.
He was in Jefferson’s class with only Theo - Kitty home sick - and the class was talking among themselves while they waited for Mr Jefferson. Theo was chatting with Martha about something or another. Philip was doodling around the questions he’d prepared for their next project, when someone sat down next to him.
“Didn’t know you could draw.”
Philip’s hold on the pen slackened and it rolled off the desk.
He slowly looked up at the boy sitting next to him. “Um. yeah. I. I do.” he stammered, confused as to why George Eacker was willingly talking to him.
George rolled his eyes. “people can tell you your drawing is good without have an ulterior motive, okay?”
“Totally. People could, but not you.”
George huffed, “And why the fuck not?”
“Well. I mean. The last time we talked, you told me you were jealous of all the people that haven’t met me.”
George flushed, “Well, you told me my smile was like a black hole.”
Philip wanted to groan and then have a black hole appear right there and suck him away. “Um yeah I meant… nevermind.”
George shook his head, “Oh, you had a point with that? Do tell.”
“Nope. Totally fine. Just a comment. Stupid really.”
“You’re so weird…”
Philip shrugged, “So I've been told.”
Something is his voice must’ve tipped George off to his bad mood, because the boy said, “I’m still not completely sure it’s a bad weird though.”
With that, he got up and went back to his seat, leaving a wide eyed Philip to stare after him.
Theo came over. “What did your future husband want?”
“Don’t call him that. And he complimented my doodles…”
“Yeah… and also….”
She smiled too smugly for his comfort, “You look embarrassed, what did you say?”
He huffed and picked his pen up, “I didn’t say anything. he brought up the black hole thing.”
She burst out laughing.
He rolled his eyes, “no, please, why don’t you laugh harder.”
“Oh my god, did you tell him that you panicked and didn’t finish that stupid pickup line?”
“why not? It might be a stupid line, but it’s a little cute! He would’ve blushed for sure!”
“oh sure, that would go down well…” he mumbled sarcastically.
Theo shrugged, “I think it would.”
“whatever. Where’s Jefferson anyway?”
“Martha says he was called into Washington’s office? I don’t know why though.”
Philip felt his blood run cold. Washington was going to drag his favorite teacher into this and then Jefferson would see how annoying Philip really was.
At Washington’s office, Jefferson was holding back an annoyed sigh.
“Sir, for the last time, Philip is an excellent student. He’s smart, always has insightful comments to share, and delivers some of the best written projects I've ever read. I don’t know how else I can say that.”
“I realize you have a class right now, Jefferson, but this is important, so you’re going to need to calm down. Mr Hamilton’s teachers are demanding he be dealt with, and I need to talk to all his teachers before I can make a decision.”
Jefferson bewildered, asked, “wait, what? Dealt with? What the fuck are you talking about?”
“Mr Jefferson. You are not a child, don’t make me tell you to watch your language.”
“Right. Sir , what are you talking about? ‘Dealt with’? He’s a child, what do they want, to kill him?”
Washington shook his head. “His teachers think he should be suspended, if not more.”
“For what, exactly?” Jefferson was outraged, but managed to keep his anger in check for the moment.
“He constantly misbehaves in class, never pays attention, his work is less that stellar, he talks out of turn, he can’t stay in his seat, to name a few.” Washington lists in a monotone voice.
“Okay, excuse me, but I think those teachers are bullshitting you. The kid is overactive, sure, he has adhd after all. He talks a lot, but always manages to stick to the topic at hand. He fidgets and moves a lot, but again, he has adhd . Never paying attention is nonsense; he always talks to me about his other classes and what they’re doing in them, which tells me he is paying attention.” Jefferson took a deep breath, “Sir, all due respect, but the kid is obviously being treated badly here. He’s always expecting a fight. Always ready to be told he’s wrong. Always ready to be shut down. It took him so long to be comfortable sharing ideas with me in class. What that tells me is that his teachers aren’t letting him be himself. What that tells me is that his teachers have scared him into silence. And frankly, this is pissing me off.”
Washington gave him an appraising look. “I know the kid, and I know he’s not the troublemaker they make him out to be, but they’ve ganged up on me here and I can’t not do anything about this.”
Jefferson took a second to think about it. “Fine. For now, give him detention with me for however long you think acceptable. But he’s a sophomore, so he has two more years here, you need to figure out how to deal with this.”
“I will.” Washington barely smiled, “I’m glad I hired you, Mr Jefferson.”
“I’m glad you hired me, too.”
Philip had been watching the clock since Theo told him Jefferson was at gwash’s. It was now nearing thirty minutes since class started, and he was about to lose his mind.
Suddenly, the door swung open, and Jefferson walked in with a smile on his face, “Missed me?” everyone laughed, some yelling out agreements. “Ooooh that’s what I love to hear! So, ready to talk leaf reading?”
Philip spent the rest of the class on edge; he knew Jefferson had had to talk about him, but he wasn’t sure what was said exactly. Jefferson didn’t seem angry or disappointed, but the man could just be a really good actor.
When the class finally ended, Philip having retained nothing, he was ready to jump out of his skin.
He approached Jefferson as the older man was wiping the board. “Um, sir?”
Jefferson turned around. He didn’t look any different, if only his eyes were worried. “Yes?”
“Did… did you talk to principal Washington?”
Jefferson hummed and started packing his things.
“Did you… what did he want?”
Jefferson shrugged, “My opinion.”
Jefferson finally stopped what he was doing and looked up at Philip, “he wanted my opinion on you.”
His heart sunk, “and what did you say?”
Jefferson’s eyes hardened. “Exactly the truth. That you’re an incredible student, and an incredible kid. And that if anyone was saying differently, they must be out of their goddamn mind.”
Philip suddenly felt like he was flying. “Oh”
“Yeah. I mean, I couldn’t very well lie to my boss, now could i?”
Philip absently shook his head, “I guess not.”
“Glad you understand.” with that, Jefferson guided him to the door, and locked it behind them.
Philip was still in another world when Washington told him he had detention for the next month, with Mr Jefferson.
Still out of it when the principal placed a gentle hand on his shoulder and said, “Son, if you have any complaints, if anyone makes you feel like you’re not safe or happy here, you come to me, alright?”
Philip nodded in a daze, “Even about teachers?”
The hand tightened for a second, “Especially about teachers.”
“I didn’t think I could do that.”
Washington nodded once, “Son, my number one priority here is my students, do you understand? Now, do you need to talk to me about anyone?”
Philip reluctantly shook his head, “I think I just want to go home right now, but maybe some other time?”
“Of course. You head on home. Be sure to come to me with anything, okay?”
“Yeah. Thank you, sir.” Philip felt like he was on a whole other universe. They did discuss parallel universes in Jefferson’s class, and Philip was on the side of believers.
That night, at dinner, it was him, his dad and his mom. His mom being able to join them for once since her girlfriend was off in business, and Eliza had the day off the next day.
“So, Philip, honey, how’s school?” his mom asked.
He frowned, “it’s been weird .”
His dad put his fork down and leaned forward, “Bad weird? Do I need to fight someone?”
“Alex, come on, let the kid explain before you put your army gear on…”
“No, not bad. Good actually… the new teacher, the awesome one, Mr Jefferson? He... I don’t even know where to begin.”
His mom smiled at him, “How about you start from the beginning, sweetheart.”
She knew he tended to get overwhelmed and he loved her so much. So with that, he told them everything that had happened starting from the email to that day. Obviously he didn’t tell them he thought Jefferson and his dad should get married. But that was neither here nor there.
A couple of days later, Philip was ready to leave for school, when his dad said, “Alright, let’s go.”
“Um, go where?”
“School, it is Wednesday, isn’t it?”
Philip wasn’t any less confused. “It is, but you don’t take me to school….”
“I do today.”
“Oh god, why? Did they call you? I didn’t do anything!” Philip hurried to say.
“No, nobody called me, I just wanna talk to this Jefferson guy.”
“Oh…” maybe his plan would work out without him.
He followed his angry dad out of the school.
“Go to your class, Philip.” his dad huffed.
“I will. After you tell me what happened!”
They were at his dad’s car, and his dad started pacing.
“I know you like him, but that man is infuriating!”
Oh no, his plan was failing, “how?”
“Well, it started off just fine! We said hello and then sat down. That’s when everything went downhill. He cuts me off to tell me that if I was there to complain about what he was teaching, I should just get out. So I’m suspicious and ask why I’d complain. And then he goes on a rant on stupid education systems and stupid parents and how he knew his methods were great and helping students. And then I stop him and tell him I wasn’t stupid, and he fucking rolls his eyes and tells me that wasn’t what he meant. So I try to calm down and so I tell him I’m your dad, and he goes on a long speech about how awesome you were, which I appreciated, but then he kind of stops himself and looks flustered which, I’ll admit was cute, but then he demands to know why I haven’t dealt with your situation. And I would have if I’d known ! So we start yelling at each other about something, and then he pauses and says ‘it’s guys like you that cause global warming’ and like what the actual fuck?”
Philip felt for his teacher. “Dad, calm down. Go home, write an essay, call uncle Aaron and argue with him, but calm. down.”
“Fine. Whatever” his dad opened the driver’s door, “Um… don’t tell your mom I cursed in front of you?”
“Wasn’t going to.”
Philip walked into Jefferson’s empty class to find the man with his head in his hands.
“You meant he was hot, right?”
Jefferson looked up. “I know he’s your dad, but yeah..” he looked so pathetic, and Philip could relate.
He pulled a chair close to the man’s desk, and sat down. “I told George Eacker his smile was like a black hole, and then ran off.”
Jefferson blinks, “‘cause nothing can escape its pull?”
“Yup! And one time I asked him if he was made of copper and tellurium….”
Jefferson laughed, “Really? Chemistry pickup lines?”
“ugh, I know… and I never manage to finish the line, so he just either thinks I’m insulting him or that I’m weird. Isn’t it cliche to have a crush on someone who hates you?”
Jefferson raised an eyebrow. “I see how he looks at you, kid, he definitely doesn’t hate you…”
Philip pushed his hair out of his eyes to hide his blush. “Sure. Well, my dad has a temper, but he did call you cute so….”
Jefferson looked happy for a second, before he narrowed his eyes, “I feel like I shouldn’t be talking like this with a student.”
“You wanna date my dad, so I think it’s good if we’re comfortable with each other.”
Jefferson chuckled, “well your dad doesn’t want to date me.”
“Oh he definitely does!”
“Really.” Jefferson said mockingly.
“Yeah! He got super angry! He doesn’t get this angry anymore, that’s a good sign!”
“Him getting angry is a good thing?”
“Yes! It means you woke him up!” Philip nodded, eyes wide.
“I don’t follow.”
“See, him and my mom got divorced a couple of years ago, and they’re good friends and all, but my dad is like me. A lot of people don’t get him and just hate him. So he stopped trying to please people, and stopped dating. Aunt Peggy and I say he’s sleeping. And no one has managed to wake him up enough to actually get him so angry he paces !”
Jefferson looked a little unsure. “People don’t hate you.” he paused, “And, well, if you say so.”
Philip ignored the first part, even though it left him feeling warm. “I do! And I’m gonna get you two together!”
“Yeah, maybe don’t do that…” Jefferson chuckled.
“I mean, I don’t have a choice! He’s gonna talk to uncle John about this, and uncle John’ll see what’s happening and he’ll tell uncle Laf and uncle Herc and they’ll tell aunt Angelica and she’ll tell mom and aunt Peggy and aunt Dolly and uncle Aaron, and he’ll tell aunt Theo, and they’ll stalk you online, and then they’ll interrogate me, and I’ll tell them how awesome you are, and they’ll try to get you two together anyway. So I might as well start this.”
Jefferson was staring at him wide eyed. “Wow. okay. Sure. alright.”
“Glad to have you on board.”
Just like he’d predicted, his aunts and uncles were all gathered in his living room when he got home from detention.
Aunt Angelica was the first to notice him, “Philip! My favorite nephew! Come sit down.”
He rolled his eyes but sat down on the couch between her and uncle Aaron. “So you know about Mr Jefferson.”
“Yes. Is he hot?”
“Aunt Angie…. Seriously?”
She shrugged. “Hey, valid question.”
His mom rolled her eyes. “Not when you’re asking my son about his teacher, it's not.”
“Okay, he’s the new teacher, right? The one Kitty won’t stop raving about?”
“Yup! He’s pretty cool.”
“Theo and I are going for the girls’ parent-teacher thing with their chemistry teacher tomorrow. I’m going to casually bump into him and invite him to dinner.”
Aunt Theo reached over to high five her.
Uncle Herc frowned, “wouldn’t that be like a set up?”
“Nah, I told him about you guys, just mention that you’re Kitty’s mom and he’ll get it.” Philip told them.
“Oh come on!” Angelica cried “You’re ruining all my fun!”
“What, you wanted to see him shocked and maybe scared?”
“Yes.” she nodded earnestly.
“You’re scary sometimes.”
And so it was, that Friday, when Philip sat down to ask Jefferson his questions for the project, Jefferson raised his eyebrows, “Met your aunts yesterday.”
“yeah, I know... “
“They invited me to dinner.”
“uh huh.” Philip said absently, looking for the page with his questions.
“I take it your dad’ll be there?”
“And the rest of your family?”
“And your mom?”
Philip looked up at that. “They’re just friends. They don’t love each other like that.”
“I didn’t say anything…” Jefferson shrugged.
“Sure, but I’m just saying. You have nothing to worry about.”
Philip hid his smile. “Great. Now my questions?”
“Go on.” Jefferson nodded.
“Do you think fortune telling is a real thing?”
Kitty and Theo were lying down on his bed, fully dressed for the dinner that night.
“You have to admit though, it doesn’t feel as weird as it probably should, right?” Kitty mused.
“What, having a teacher join the family?” he asked.
Theo laughed, “Guys, don’t you think you’re jumping the gun a little bit?”
“Nah, he’s totally gonna marry uncle Alex.” Kitty said determinedly.
“Yup.” Philip agreed.
Theo ignored them after that, preferring to text Martha.
“Why isn’t it weird?” Kitty asked.
Philip thought about it. “I think ‘cause he never made us see him like he’s our superior?”
“Yeah…. How lucky are we though? We managed to get into his class.” his cousin smiled.
“Seriously lucky. I’d say we should buy a lottery ticket, but you know how dad feels about those.”
“Kitty, shut up and let Phil get dressed, mom just texted me to come down.” Theo interrupted.
When the three of them got downstairs, the dinner party was in full effect. There’s so many of them that any get together with all of them tended to turn into a party. That was probably the reason they chose to do this on a Saturday.
Mr Jefferson wasn’t anywhere though, so Philip turned to aunt Peggy, “he’s not here, yet?”
“Nope, Angie is getting annoyed, and your dad is so anxious I think he might implode.”
“It’s literally not even six…”
“Kid, this is your family.”
They shook their heads and laughed at the affronted look Laf threw at them.
Half an hour later, the doorbell rang and everyone fell silent. Eliza finally shook herself, “idiots.” and went to open the door with a large smile on her face.
Mr Jefferson apparently brought a friend with him. The two are all bright smiles, and it’s obvious everyone fell in love.
Philip met Theo and Kitty’s eyes from across the room and winked at them. He saw the mischievous look in Theo’s eyes, but was distracted by aunt Dolly mumbling, “shit. tell me the tall one is Jefferson, because his friend is hot.”
Philip coughed. “Um, yeah…”
Dolly smirked and went to, presumably, flirt with Jefferson’s friend.
Everyone was in the middle of greetings and introductions, and laughing at Alex's fluster and Jefferson’s blush, when the doorbell rang again, and Theo yelled out, “Philip, get the door, please?” in an overly sweet voice, and Philip felt the dread creeping in.
He opened the door expecting a bomb to go off, and it might as well have. George and Martha were standing there awkwardly. Martha hugged him quickly and went inside to find Theo, but George just stood there.
“Um hi. Theodosia invited me.”
“Yeah. I figured.”
“Should I come in?”
Philip shook his head to clear his thoughts. “Yeah, sorry, come in!” he mentally promised to kill his meddling cousin.
They stood by the door for a moment.
“Is that Mr Jefferson?”
“Oh, yeah, we’re setting him up with my dad.” Philip answered.
“Ah. Of course.” George chuckled.
“I don’t know, Hamilton, you’re weird so it makes sense.”
That stung. “you keep calling me that.”
“yeah… I don’t think I like it.” Philip admitted in a quiet voice.
“weird isn’t bad. I’m weird. We’re all weird. Anyone who isn’t weird is either dead or boring. And I’m pretty sure you’re neither.”
“thanks. I think.”
George rolled his eyes. “Look. I--” he huffed. “I wanted to apologize.”
Confused, Philip asked, “for what?”
“for whatever I did to make you hate me.”
Even more confused. “what?”
“I don’t know what it was, but you haven’t been able to look at me without looking like you wanted to run away for years now, and I don't know what I did but it must’ve been bad. And I’m sorry.”
“you didn’t do anything.” Philip shook his head, slightly guilty.
“Philip, honey, invite your friend inside, don’t be rude.” his mom called, interrupting the moment, and the two of them walked into the large, loud living room.
Dinner truly was a whole affair. Aunt Dolly and Mr Jefferson’s friend, James Madison, hit it off and were sitting really close, whispering and ignoring their food and the people around them. Uncle Herc and uncle John were messing with uncle Laf’s food when he was talking to Philip’s mom and not looking, and laughing when he frowned at his plate. Uncle Aaron and aunt Theo were chatting with Theo Jr, Kitty and Martha. Aunt Peggy and aunt Angie were sitting near his dad and Jefferson and were blatantly staring, not that the two men noticed. Philip’s dad and Mr Jefferson were sitting at the end of the table, and were alternating between arguing and flirting.
Philip wanted to pay attention and gloat that his plan was working, but George sitting stiffly next to him was distracting. “Wanna get out of here?”
George jumped, “in the middle of dinner?”
“they won’t notice.” Philip promised.
True to word, only Theo and Kitty noticed and they didn’t say anything, just smirked.
Philip lead them outside to the garden, “it can be a little overwhelming with everyone here at once.”
“They seem nice.”
They sat down at the large table.
They were quiet for a long moment, letting the hum of the voices inside wash over them.
“Can we talk about you not hating me?” George suddenly said.
“why’re you so weird around me then?”
“what’s with the chemistry talk and the black holes and the weird smirks and your cousins laughing and you not being able to string a sen-- oh.”
Philip felt his face burn bright red. “Oh.”
George was staring at him. “Seriously?”
“I mean, what are you thinking…?”
“You like me?”
Philip couldn’t get a read on him, and that was driving him insane, “well, I mean it depends on what you think of that.”
“My friends said you were flirting, badly , but still. I just didn’t believe them.”
Philip decided it was best to stay silent.
“And I think, no I know , I was kind of hoping you were flirting?”
“I mean you suck at it, don’t get me wrong, you totally suck at it, but, yeah.”
“I’m good at sucking usually.”
“You didn’t just say that.”
“I did and I regret it.”
They burst out laughing.
Philip was feeling light and happy, but still a little apprehensive. After they quieted down, he bit his lip. “Do you-- what do you-- um.”
George rolled his eyes, and instead of responding in words, went with actions. Which sat extremely well with Philip. George possessively grabbed the back of his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
Look, it’s cliche, and a little embarrassing, but everything went quiet. Everyone talked about fireworks, but as someone with adhd, Philip couldn’t have asked for anything better than quiet. Blissful, happy, calm quiet. His heart was racing, blood pumping, hands were shaking, but everything was quiet. His mind had one single train of thought - not the usual hundred racing ones - and it was such a good thought that Philip would be happy to think it for the rest of his life; George was such a good kisser.
The door slamming open made them separate, though George kept his hold on him. They turned to look at who was there, and froze at the sight that greeted them. Well, George froze, Philip just rolled his eyes. His dad had Mr Jefferson slammed against the wall and the two were furiously kissing. Philip averted his gaze when Mr Jefferson’s hands started wandering to places he didn’t need to see or think about.
“Wanna come up to my room?” he whispered to George, who’d started stroking the back of his neck.
They snuck to the front of the house and then up to his room.
Nothing happened beyond kissing, but George did spend the night. And when they were greeted with a disheveled Jefferson the next morning, they guessed they weren’t the only ones who’d had a little sleepover.