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Two Hours of Sleep and a Whole Lot of Coffee

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Chapter 1: “Tell me if he sleeptalks. We might be able to use it for blackmail.”

Jefferson?

Of all the hundreds of people in Alex’s year at college, he just had to be sharing a room with the one person who annoyed him to infinity and beyond. Alex closed his eyes and opened them, as if Thomas Jefferson’s name on the sheet of paper would magically be replaced with someone else’s. Hopefully John’s. He would also be happy with Lafayette or Hercules, even Aaron Burr.

But not Jefferson.

John bounced up to him with his own dorm assignment. John often bounced. He always seemed to have excess energy bubbling inside him, and that was coming from the man who survived on two hours sleep and a whole lot of caffeine. “We’re not rooming together this year,” Alex pointed out lamely.

John shook his head. “I’ve got Madison,” he said, showing Alex his paper. Alex let John see his in return, and John pulled a face as soon as he read it. “Jefferson?” he exclaimed.

Alex snorted. “Exactly my reaction.”

John frowned at Alex, knowing how Thomas Jefferson often made him nervous. “Want me to come with you to your dorm?” he asked.

“Please,” Alex replied, relieved that John knew him so well.

Jefferson was already in the dormitory when Alex and John arrived, and greeted them both with a civil nod. “Hamilton. Laurens.”

“Jefferson,” Alex replied with a not-quite-as-civil glare as he started to unpack.

John immediately entered Jefferson’s personal space, peering over his shoulder into the suitcase on his bed. “Some interesting clothes you have there,” he said nonchalantly.

“I actually have dress sense, unlike some people here,” Jefferson replied, looking at Alex pointedly. Alex gave him the finger without turning around. He was perfectly happy wearing oversized sweaters that kept him warm during autumn and winter in New York.

John helped Alex unpack his small suitcase (“Is that all you’re bringing?” “That’s all I need.”) and soon they were both lying on Alex’s bed, reading. Jefferson gave them both a look before going out – presumably to meet with Madison – to which Alex replied by sticking his tongue out at him.

“Very mature,” John said when Jefferson had closed the door.

“I pride myself in my maturity.”

John snorted.

---

Thomas kicked James’ door twice, his hands both busy holding takeaway cups of tea – peppermint for him, earl grey for James – and waited for his best friend to let him in. He counted four sneezes before James opened the door with a small smile.

Thomas handed him his tea and waltzed into the dormitory. James followed, sipping his tea gratefully.

“No roommate yet?” Thomas asked as he sprawled out on the vacant bed.

“Nope, John’s not here yet,” James replied between sips.

Thomas sat up. “John? As in John Laurens?” James nodded. “I have Hamilton! Please get him to swap with you.”

“You know they don’t allow switching dormitories,” James said calmly, always the voice of reason.

Thomas sighed and fell back on the bed. “Worth a try,” he muttered. Hamilton was the last person he wanted to share a room with. Thomas had enjoyed provoking him the last couple of years, but he didn’t know that karma would turn around and bite him in the ass that quickly. He was pretty sure – no, he was certain that Hamilton hated him, so this year was definitely going to be fun.

“You could always try making friends with him,” James suggested.

“You really think that would be a success?”

“If you try hard enough, maybe.”

Thomas hummed. “I like my chances to be a little more than just “maybe”.”

---

When Jefferson came back to the dorm room, it was nearly dark. Not that Alex and John had noticed, being busy reading and discussing plot holes in their respective books (John always read books from Alex’s extensive collection, and from time to time Alex would pick up a work of fiction that John had recommended). As soon as Jefferson stepped through the door John started glaring at him, and Alex quickly followed suit. Jefferson didn’t even bother to acknowledge them, instead opting to pick up a book of his own.

After a few minutes of slightly awkward silence, John looked at his watch and closed his – well, Alex’s – book. “I’d better head to my dorm room,” he said, getting up from his position on the bed, resting his head on Alex’s side.

Alex immediately felt guilty for keeping John here so long. John hadn’t even visited his own room yet, let alone unpacked the large suitcase that he’d left at the foot of Alex’s bed. “I’m sorry I lost track of time,” he said. “Do you want me to walk you to your room?”

“Nah, I think I can manage,” John replied, beaming brightly. “Besides, you need to get some sleep.”

Alex chuckled. They both knew that he would be up for several more hours writing god-knows-what.

“Will you be okay?” John asked quietly, joking expression now replaced with a concerned one.

Alex nodded, hoping that Jefferson wouldn’t pick a fight tonight. “I’ll text you updates.”

“Tell me if he sleeptalks. We might be able to use it for blackmail.”

“I’m sitting right here, you two,” Jefferson drawled without looking up from his book.

Alex flipped him off as John carried his suitcase to the door, giving Alex one last beaming smile and a small wave before closing the door.

Jefferson stood up and rummaged around in his chest of drawers for some pyjamas. Alex took his laptop out of his bag and powered it on. “You’re not going to be working on that all night, are you?” Jefferson asked.

“I do what I want,” Alex replied.

Jefferson sighed and went into their en-suite – one of the few perks of being a senior – shutting and locking the door behind him. Alex took out his phone, which he hadn’t used since arriving on campus. There were several messages on the group chat involving him, John, Lafayette and Hercules, and several hundred on the large group chat (but those messages mostly consisted of Peggy spamming the feed with outdated memes), but Alex pulled up his and Laf’s text feed.

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: john told me you’re sharing a room with Thomas

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: is everything ok mon ami?

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: please don’t kill Thomas

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: I told him not to kill you so everything should be ok for the time being

You: im ok

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: …

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: is Thomas ok?

You: yes

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: good

You: who are you rooming with

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: Hercules

You: lucky

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: he snores

You: oh

You: still not as bad as jefferson

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: Thomas isn’t that bad

You: he actually likes you

You: he hates me

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: hate is a very strong word mon cher

You: I have even more strong words for him

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: pls try and make friends with him

You: not gonna happen

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: you’re right

You: what?

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: you’re never going to be able to make peace with Thomas

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: you’re just too stubborn

You: am nOT

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: and childish

You: lets make a bet

You: 20 dollars says I can make friends with jefferson

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: you’re on

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: you have one week

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: also you just got played

You: what

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: …

You: mariE-JOSEPH PAUL YVES ROCH GILBERT DU MOTIER MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: help

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: “I take no responsibility for your death if you catch pneumonia.”

The next week went by surprisingly breezily for Thomas. He had managed to get ahead with his essays and reports over the holiday, so he could relax a little and enjoy the calm before the inevitable storm that he knew was going to be the final year of college. Not that he was worried, of course. He was almost guaranteed to graduate with honours, and his family’s money would be able to buy him any position of employment imaginable (except, maybe, presidency, but then again look at Donald Trump).

Hamilton ignored him most of the week. In fact, the only interaction the two of them had was Thomas’ instructions of “go the fuck to sleep” whenever Hamilton stayed up past midnight writing on his laptop. Thomas wasn’t going to complain about the silence, but in all honesty, he preferred their animated (and occasionally violent) discussions to the awkwardness that had replaced them (although he would never in a million years confess that to anyone except James). Lafayette had tricked him into betting twenty dollars that he could make peace with Hamilton within a week, but he could afford the loss. Laurens still continued to glare at Thomas whenever he was in their dorm – which happened to be most of the time Hamilton was there.

Two days before the end of the first week of college, the first large storm of autumn hit New York. Thomas and James were walking around campus holding large cups of tea (James had finally managed to convince Thomas to try chai lattes and he could not get enough of the stuff) when the rain started to fall, all of a sudden, like a great wall of water. James immediately pulled out an umbrella for them to share (Thomas was often amazed by James’ preparedness for almost anything) and they raced for cover in the doorway of James’ dormitory block.

“I’m convinced that that is not how rain is supposed to work,” Thomas grumbled, brushing water off his sodden jacket. “The laws of science have reversed just to spite me.”

James rolled his eyes and said nothing, knowing better than to interrupt Thomas in the middle of a rant. Thomas’ phone, however, did not seem to get that memo, and decided to blare “Baby Got Back” at full volume.

Thomas stared at it furiously, not recognising the number that was calling him. “James Madison, did you change the ringtone on my phone?” he asked without taking his eyes off the screen.

“I assure you that that was all Lafayette’s doing,” James replied, raising his hands in mock surrender. “I mean, I didn’t stop him from doing it, but I had no part in the action.”

Thomas shook his head resignedly, pressing “accept” on his phone. “Hello?” he said over the rush of raindrops on the ground.

“Jefferson? This is John Laurens.”

“Laurens?” Laurens had never called Thomas before. They had barely made civil conversation before. And Laurens sounded worried, which made Thomas’ heart pick up the pace a little.

“Yeah. Where are you?”

“On campus, outside yours and James’ dormitory block. Why? How did you even get my number?”

“Lafayette gave it to me a few days ago for emergency situations. He’d be calling you right now, but he dropped his phone in a puddle. And this is an emergency situation.”

Thomas rolled his eyes. “I see you’ve picked up some overdramatic tendencies from Hamilton.”

“For Christ’s sake, Jefferson, please stop picking fights for once!” Laurens hissed down the line. “I need you to find him. He’s not picking up his phone.”

“Hamilton? Is he not with you?” Thomas wondered. Outside of their separate classes, Hamilton and Laurens seemed to be joined at the hip.

“I’m out with Lafayette and Hercules,” Laurens replied. “Lafayette wanted to go to Central Park. Alex wanted to stay on campus and work on a presentation. Just… can you please find him for me and stay with him until we get back? We’re in a cab at the moment but the traffic is shit.”

“As one would expect from central Manhattan,” Thomas remarked dryly before switching to something sounding obscenely like concern. “Is... Alexander okay?”

“He doesn’t like thunderstorms,” Laurens said briefly. Thomas wanted a slightly more extensive explanation, but Laurens’ tone suggested that he wasn’t going to get one. "We’ll be there as soon as we can but – and I really hate to say this – you’re our only hope right now. Are you moving yet? You should be moving.”

“I’m going, I’m going,” Thomas replied, still very much standing still next to James.

“He should be in your room. I traced his phone. Please make sure he’s alright.”

Thomas ended the call. He didn’t want to admit it, but the amount of emotion in Laurens’ voice made Thomas ever so slightly worried for Hamilton.

James was looking at him with a raised eyebrow. “Is everything alright?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” Thomas replied before taking off. “I’ll text you later!” he shouted behind him, doubtful of whether James would actually be able to hear him over the ceaseless rainfall.

---

James was more than a little concerned. Thomas Jefferson, a man he knew like the back of his hand, just ran into the rain without a single complaint about his hair or his clothes. He didn’t even ask James for his umbrella.

And this was out of worry for… Alexander Hamilton?

Something was very wrong.

---

Thomas took the stairs two at a time up to his and Hamilton’s second floor room. After the second flight of stairs, he gave himself a mental note to start taking Lafayette’s advice about working out.

The room was dark when Thomas opened the door and he let his eyes adjust before scanning it. Hamilton wasn’t on his bed or at his desk, and Thomas started to panic until he spotted a small figure huddled on the floor. “Hamilton?” he whispered. As his eyes began to focus more in the dark, he could see Hamilton shaking violently. As Thomas made his way over to him, he turned on a lamp that leaked a dim yellow light into the room. He sat down next to Hamilton and wrapped an arm around his narrow shoulders without hesitating, pulling the smaller man towards him. He felt Hamilton tense up. From what Thomas had read about panic attacks – which, admittedly, wasn’t much – he needed to find a way to ground him. Well, Hamilton was always talking about how Thomas loved the sound of his own voice…

“Hamilton… Alexander, focus on my voice,” he started, trying to keep his tone level and devoid of any emotion that might make Hamilton worse. “We are sitting in our room, on the floor, facing your bed. I’m going to ask you a few questions, if you’re up for it. You can just nod or shake your head. Okay?” Thomas felt Hamilton’s head incline against his chest.

“First question: can you hear me?”

Hamilton hesitated for a moment before nodding again.

“Good. Can you feel anything? Not as in emotions, but physically? Can you physically feel what’s happening in your body?”

Another nod. Thomas could feel Hamilton’s breathing gradually slow down as his mind was taken off the storm.

“Can you see what’s in front of you?”

Nod.

“Can you see the ugly colour of the paint on our walls?” Thomas asked, glaring at the yellow-cream wall opposite him as if it had just picked its nose then eaten it.

Hamilton nodded.

“Do you think anyone will mind if we paint over it one day?”

A nod, accompanied by a wet chuckle this time. Thomas leaned back against his bed, letting Hamilton curl into his side. Slowly, his breaths became slower and deeper, and the shaking stopped.

“Sorry,” Hamilton said hoarsely.

“Don’t be.”

“I probably owe you an explanation.”

“You don’t owe me anything,” Thomas replied quickly, trying not to let his natural tone of annoyance enter his voice.

Hamilton cleared his throat before sitting up, looking at Thomas with vulnerable eyes that the taller man had never seen on him before. “Well, you’re most likely wondering why you just found me having a panic attack on the floor of our room,” he said bluntly. Thomas looked down at the floor, afraid to say anything.

Taking the silence as an invitation, Hamilton stared to talk. He told Thomas about his childhood in Nevis, how his father left him, and his mother, the hurricane that destroyed his town and the subsequent outbreak of disease that killed his mother and his few friends and left him bedridden for weeks. He had managed to use his writing abilities to his advantage, impressing the island’s richer inhabitants enough to pay for transportation to New York. After that he had been passed from foster home to foster home, never quite settling down, until he reached adulthood and could fend for himself.

Hamilton was crying by the time he finished, and Thomas picked him up – surprised at how little he weighed – and deposited him on his bed, sitting next to him so that they had their backs against the wall. Hamilton immediately leaned into him again, and Thomas didn’t even complain about his tears ruining his shirt. He took out his phone and shot a text to Laurens.

You: I have Alexander. I think he has come back down to earth now. Don’t worry about rushing back.

Almost immediately after sending the text, Thomas received a reply.

Laurens: thank gOD

Laurens: thank you so much

Laurens: we were so worried

Laurens: we are slightly less worried now

You: No problem.

Laurens: we are still in traffic

Laurens: we have bARELY MOVED

You: I did say “don’t worry about rushing back”.

Laurens: thats it im getting out

You: I take no responsibility for your death if you catch pneumonia.

Laurens: glad to know you care

Laurens: IM RUNNING

You: Please don’t text while running. As much as I dislike your constant presence in my dormitory, I don’t want to be held accountable if you are hit by a car.

Laurens: ITS FINE THE TRAFFICS NOT EVEN MOVING

Laurens: OHM YGOD I NEARLY RAN INTO A C HILD

Laurens: I GOTT A G O

Thomas sighed and put his phone away, letting himself drift into sleep beside Hamilton.

---

Thomas was shaken from a light slumber when he heard the door to his dormitory open. Laurens, out of breath and soaking wet, stepped into the room, but immediately froze at the sight of Hamilton curled up against Thomas.

He turned his head towards Laurens groggily, careful not to disturb Hamilton. This was probably the most amount of sleep he had managed to get since school started. “You look awful,” he whispered.

Laurens rolled his eyes, but there was concern written plainly on his face. “Is he okay?” he asked, tilting his head towards Hamilton.

Thomas nodded. “Do you want to… sit here with him?” he asked quietly. Hamilton would probably freak out less if he woke up next to his best friend instead of his arch-rival.

Laurens shook his head, and Thomas caught sight of a small smile. “I think you’re doing just fine,” he replied. “Night, Jefferson.”

“Goodnight, Laurens.”

---

John couldn’t feel his feet.

Well, he could to some extent – he could feel the freezing cold water that had leaked into his shoes and socks on the run back to campus – but the pounding of his feet against the pavement sent shocks of numbness up his legs. That was probably due to said freezing cold water in his shoes.

Still, the lack of feeling couldn’t stop John from making sure that Alex was okay. True, Jefferson had assured him that he was, but one couldn’t blame John for doubting him – he was Jefferson, after all. And Alex really, really didn’t like thunderstorms. Normally John was right by his side, ready with a pile of blankets and some noise-cancelling headphones, but today the storm came out of nowhere. John kicked himself for not thoroughly checking the weather forecast before he went out with Laf and Herc. How could he have done this to Alex? At least there was someone there for him, even if it was Jefferson.

John was at Alex’s dormitory block now, pausing briefly to wipe his shoes on the doormat – for whatever good that would do him – and to shake the excess moisture out of his hair like a wet dog. Then he was running up the stairs – or at least trying to, considering his feet were still numb which meant he tripped over every other step. Eventually, though, he made it to the third floor, and opened Alex’s door with the spare key that he had given to him on the very first day of the year. He stepped halfway into the room, and froze.

Alex was curled up on his bed, leaning into none other than Thomas Jefferson. The pair of them seemed to be sound asleep, and John smiled when he saw the blank, serene expression on Alex’s face. He looked adorable (although he would kill John for ever calling him that). Jefferson seemed to sense John’s presence, and opened his eyes, slowly tilting his head to frown at John. “You look awful,” he whispered, voice slightly gravelly from sleep.

John rolled his eyes half-heartedly before turning his attention to Alex. “Is he okay?”

Jefferson followed John’s gaze down to the smaller man huddled up against him and nodded. Then he hesitated slightly. “Do you want to…” he started, gesturing to Alex, “sit here with him?”

John shook his head. As much as he enjoys it when Alex cuddles up to him – John runs warm while Alex runs cold, so that happens a lot during the winter – he didn’t want to disturb him, and he thought it was nice that Alex and Jefferson were coming into contact in a way that didn’t result in a trip to the emergency room. He ignored the pin-prick of jealousy in his chest. “I think you’re doing just fine,” he replied before opening the door. “Night, Jefferson.”

“Goodnight, Laurens,” Jefferson replied, and John noticed a quietly ecstatic smile creep onto his face.

Out in the hallway, John pulled out his phone.

You: tell laf that he just lost 40 bucks

He was halfway down the stairs when his phone chimed.

hercules: this is lafayette

hercules: is alexander ok?

John replied with the picture of Alex and Jefferson sleeping. He’d managed to snap it surreptitiously while he and Thomas were talking. Lafayette responded almost immediately.

hercules: aw they’re so cute

John nodded, feeling the jealousy in his chest again, a little more than a pin-prick this time. He pushed it down as he replied.

You: i know

You: i have great photography skills

You: youre welcome

hercules: do you think we can use this for blackmail?

You: idk if theyre friends now it wont matter to them as much

You: speaking of which

You: you lost the bet

You: yet youre not mad

hercules: the assurance that two of my closest friends won’t kill each other is worth more than any money can buy

You: aw

hercules: also I’m a marquis, john. I think I can afford to lose 40 dollars.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: “You know nothing I do is straight, Thomas.”

Alex came to slowly, first noticing the heaviness of his head on his pillow, then feeling the still-damp clothes he was wearing, then seeing the light that penetrated his closed lids. At least that was all vaguely normal. He also felt another warm body pressed against him. Now that was weird. Alex slowly opened his eyes, blinking at the light seeping through the cheap curtains, and his heart skipped a beat.

“Morning, sunshine,” Thomas Jefferson drawled as he scrolled through his phone with one hand, the other one still around Alex’s shoulders. “Welcome back to the land of the living.”

If Alex was less exhausted he would have already been out of bed and as far away from Jefferson as possible, but he didn’t think he could physically move, and Jefferson was very warm, so he decided to stay put for the time being. “What happened last night?” he mumbled into his pillow. He wasn’t hungover so he can’t have drunk, but his exhaustion seemed to have sucked his memories of last night out of his head. Hopefully he didn’t do anything too stupid with Jefferson.

“There was a thunderstorm,” Jefferson replied nonchalantly, “and your friends were out so I stayed with you until you fell asleep.”

The dark weight of anxiety in Alex’s stomach grew. Jefferson had seen him having a panic attack, in his weakest state. There was no way he would let it go. What if he used it for blackmail? What if he told the entire university and they all ridiculed him for the rest of the year? Alex’s views would never be taken seriously again. He was at the mercy of his arch-rival.

Jefferson seemed to notice Alex’s panicked expression and looked almost… afraid for a moment. “Hamilton… are you okay now?”

“I’m fine,” Alex spat back. However, the venomous tone didn’t have the same effect as it usually did as he was currently burying his head in Jefferson’s chest.

Jefferson suddenly sat up, leaving Alex whining in protest at the sudden heat loss. “Hamilton. You had a panic attack last night. You resorted to using me, of all people, as your personal body pillow for the night. Contrary to your opinion, I’m not an idiot. So don’t you dare try to convince me that you’re fine. Look, if you’re worried that I’m going to use this against you, I’m not. Frankly I’m disappointed that you’d think so low of me. I have problems of my own, so I’d be the last one to make fun of you for something like this. Now, if we’re going to be living with each other for the next nine months, we ought to make some kind of effort to be civil with each other. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I propose an alliance.”

Alex, slightly dumbstruck by Jefferson’s outburst, managed to raise an eyebrow. “An alliance?”

Jefferson rolled his eyes. “A friendship, dumbass. What do you say?” He extended his hand towards Hamilton, who pulled a face.

“Well, you just called me a dumbass, so I’m getting a lot of mixed messages…”

“You really frustrate me sometimes, Hamilton.”

“Only sometimes now? I need to step up my game.” Alex shook Jefferson’s outstretched hand, grinning. “I accept your invitation to a friendship, Jefferson.”

“Thomas, please. I think we’re on first name basis now.”

Alex laughed. “One thing at a time, Jefferson. Baby steps.”

---

Alex had invited Jefferson to breakfast with him, John, Laf, Herc, the Schuyler sisters and Maria, and after some persuasion (“I don’t normally eat breakfast; I’m never hungry in the mornings.” “Bullshit. Everyone needs breakfast. Especially when it involves pancakes.”) Jefferson had agreed on the condition that Madison could also come with them. It turned out that John had already invited Madison that morning. Alex didn’t mind Jefferson’s best friend – he was a hard worker and his opinions were… somewhat justifiable, not to mention the fact that they both bonded over getting sick during the winter months – he had just always wondered why Madison decided to hang out with Jefferson, of all people. But Jefferson wasn’t too bad once one actually had a civil conversation with him. As they walked to the on-campus IHOP, Alex listened to Jefferson talk about his family and his home in Virginia. He lived in a grand estate, Monticello, with a mansion overlooking what used to be their family’s 5000-acre plantation. He was the third eldest of ten children, which meant that he had no peace at home. Alex couldn’t help but feel a little jealous about Jefferson’s somewhat lively family life; all of his family had either died or left him, and he had never really become close with any of his foster parents before they got sick of him and passed him on. On the other hand, though, it was nice to see Jefferson passionately talk about something that didn’t involve him insulting Alex.

They were the last ones to arrive at the IHOP, and Alex could hear his friends talking over each other from outside the building. Jefferson turned to him, his nose slightly turned up. “Are they always this loud?”

Alex nodded. “They’re usually pretty full-on.” He loved his friends, but sometimes they were too much even for him.

Hercules saw them first, and started waving at them wildly. “Alex! Jefferson!” he shouted across the restaurant.

Immediately everyone turned to the two of them and somehow became louder than they already were. John’s face seemed to light up like a lantern when he saw them and before he knew it, Alex was bowled over by his best friend as practically jumped into his arms in his excitement. He struggled to keep his balance as he squeezed John back, welcoming the familiar warmth and the coconut scent of John’s hair. He had no idea how much he needed a hug from John until now. They had their arms wrapped tightly around each other for a while longer before Lafayette cleared his throat.

“Are you not going to greet your other best friends?” he said, feigning impatience.

“You owe me twenty bucks,” Alex reminded him, but still drew the Frenchman into a hug, letting the taller man squeeze him until he couldn’t quite breathe.

“Don’t think I haven’t forgotten,” Laf replied, handing him a crisp twenty dollar note.

Alex was ambushed by Hercules next, who actually lifted him up in a hug. “How are you feeling?” he asked quietly.

Alex shrugged. “Okay, I guess. Hungry.”

Hercules grinned. “Good. We’ve ordered so many pancakes that we’ll have to be rolled out of the restaurant.”

After a group hug from all three Schuyler sisters plus Maria (although she had been dating Eliza for so long now that she practically was a Schuyler sister), the group sat down to wait for their breakfasts to arrive. Alex took a seat next to John, who elbowed him affectionately. He saw Jefferson sit down with Madison and Angelica, looking slightly less uncomfortable now that he was with people that he was better acquainted with.

“So why did Lafayette give you twenty dollars?” Peggy asked Alex.

“I bet him that I could make friends with Jefferson within a week, and because he has no faith in my charm, he agreed,” Alex replied with a smirk.

Lafayette rolled his eyes. “Alexander, you are not telling the story right. I… what’s the word… duped both Alex and Thomas into a bet that they could make peace. I stand by my judgement that it was the best forty dollars I have ever spent. And I also saved at least one life in the process. You are all welcome.”

Alex stared at Laf. “Wait… you tricked Jefferson into a bet as well? You little shit.”

“Ah, but I am a smart little shit who most likely just saved your life. And I just gave you twenty dollars.”

“But you’re still a little shit,” Hercules replied, throwing an arm around Laf’s shoulders affectionately and causing Laf to pout at him in mock offence.

The conversations continued as layers over layers of meaningless insults and babble, merging together to form a chaotic symphony of words that, to Alex, always seemed to be on the cusp of crossing from enjoyable over to too much. Right now, everyone was too tired and hungry for the noise to be too much, and anyway, it wasn’t too long before the pancakes arrived and all conversation was immediately replaced with a ravenous silence. John had ordered Alex a large stack of pancakes that were saturated with thick maple syrup and topped with two slabs of butter. Alex began to salivate as soon as the plate was set in front of him. He shouldn’t have been surprised at John knowing him so well, seeing as they had been friends for several years, yet he was always in awe of his best friend knowing even the smallest things about him, like his shoe size or his favourite pancake topping. Alex was sure he didn’t know any of that information about John. It was yet another reason why he didn’t deserve the friendship of the human ball of sunshine that was John Laurens.

---

Thomas was thinking.

Not that he ever stopped thinking, of course (which was sometimes a problem: Thomas tended to overthink things on a regular basis), but this was different. This was a particular matter that had been nudging him from the back of his mind for a while.

They were four weeks into school now, and the stress levels of Thomas’ classes had started to gradually rise as his final year of college entered full swing. Many of the students in his year group were beginning to spend full nights at the library, tap-tapping away on their laptops or poring through expensive-as-hell textbooks.

Both Thomas and Hamilton, of course, were both far ahead in their respective classes. Instead of spending time in the chaos of his family, Thomas had decided to spend his summer in Monticello holed up in his room working on the next three months’ worth of essays. His plan this year was simply to relax, turning in essays weeks early and graduating with honours, probably to go on to an internship in the US government.

Hamilton, on the other hand, had a completely different approach. Despite being as far ahead as spring break on all of his classes except Washington’s (somehow the man knew whenever Hamilton was ridiculously ahead of schedule and immediately gave him a strict talking-to), he still wrote ceaselessly, well into the night, and whenever Thomas would politely ask him to turn off his laptop (“If you don’t stop making a noise on that fucking laptop I swear to God I am going to throw it out the window”), he would simply shut the lid and open up a notebook instead, scribbling in the pages as if his life depended on it, all without breaking eye contact.

Once Thomas asked Hamilton why he never seemed to stop writing. “I need to,” he had mumbled in reply, his eyes never leaving his laptop screen as he tapped away. “If I don’t write stuff down quickly enough, I’ll forget it. And it may be important later.”

Laurens was still a regular visitor to their dormitory; in fact, he was there with Hamilton more often than not, doodling in a small sketchbook that he kept with him at all times, taking inspiration for his art in the same way that Hamilton took inspiration for his writing, from even the most unlikely places. Thomas thought that the two of them would make a very successful author and illustrator team. However, when he mentioned this to Laurens once, he had laughed. “Alex is shit at writing fiction,” he had replied with a fond tone. “It’s the one thing he can’t write, and he absolutely hates it. He draws from his own experiences for his writing, which is why it’s always so passionate. But when it comes to his imagination… let’s just say that’s where his talent stops. He can’t write a decent plot to save a life. And as for me,” he continued sheepishly, “I’m definitely not good enough for professional illustration. Not yet, at least. Maybe if I practise enough.”

Laurens was a fine art major, but he always seemed to be hesitant to show people his work or accept commendation for it. Thomas had never seen any of Laurens’ art, but he had heard so much praise from Lafayette, who often modelled for Laurens, that he was curious. He knew that much of the time Laurens spent in his room was on drawing Hamilton – the glances that he kept stealing of Hamilton while he was working had made that pretty obvious – which brought him back to the matter that Thomas had been thinking about.

He pulled out his phone.

You: Random question.

His phone buzzed in reply half a minute later.

Jemmy: Ask away

Jemmy: I’m afraid…

Thomas rolled his eyes.

You: Do you ever think that Hamilton and Laurens are… somewhat more than friends?

Jemmy: That they’re dating?

Jemmy: Idk

Jemmy: Possibly…?

You: Thank you for that insightful answer, Jemmy. I will be sure to come back to you for words of wisdom.

Jemmy: The sarcasm is strong with this one

You: Please be serious. I need a second opinion on this.

You: Preferably one a little stronger than “Idk possibly”.

Jemmy: They do seem pretty close

Jemmy: Like inseparable

Jemmy: But there’s a fine line between platonic closeness and romantic closeness

Jemmy: Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference

You: That’s still not very helpful.

You: Just answer me straight:

You: Do you think they’re dating or not?

Jemmy: You know nothing I do is straight, Thomas

You: I know you stole that line from Lafayette, Jemmy.

Jemmy: So what if I did???

You: That’s plagiarism.

Jemmy: Why don’t you talk to Lafayette? He’s very close with them

You: Maybe. I might wait for some more evidence to present itself first.

Jemmy: That sounds like a good idea

Jemmy: Or you can just ask alexander himself???

You: That is a terrible idea.

You: Goodbye, James.

Jemmy: *sighs* goodbye Thomas

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: “I take the fact that I am better than you very seriously.”

petit lion: laf

petit lion: lAF

petit lion: LAFAYETTE PICK UP UR GODDAMN PHONE

Lafayette sighed and shut the book he was reading. Knowing Alexander, he would never get any peace unless he paid attention to his friend.

You: bonjour alexander

You: what do you need?

petit lion: IM IN A CRISIS

You: your caps lock is hurting my head

You: please stop shouting

petit lion: NEVER

petit lion: THIS IS AN URGENT SITUATION

You: omg what’s wrong??

petit lion: JEFFERSON FUCKIGN

petit lion: TOOK MY LAPTOP

petit lion: AND HES SITTING ON IT

petit lion: HE WONT GIVE IT BACK

petit lion: HELP

petit lion: laf are you still there

petit lion: laF THIS IS NOT FUNNY

You: sorry I’m back I was just

You: c r y i n g

petit lion: THIS IS NOT A LAUGHING MATTER

petit lion: HELP ME

You: ok

You: what do you want me to do?

petit lion: text him

petit lion: or come over here

petit lion: just hELP

petit lion: IM BEGGING

You: wouldn’t be the first time ;^))))

petit lion: FUCK YOU

petit lion: WAIT

petit lion: DONT YOU D A R E TURN THAT INTO AN INNUENDO

You: ;^))))))))))

petit lion: S T O P

Lafayette sighed again. Why did he always get caught up in his friends’ arguments? He voiced that question aloud to Hercules.

“Because you like being the first to hear all the gossip,” Hercules replied absentmindedly, gaze not leaving his design book. This was probably a conversation that the two of them had had before.

“But is it really worth it?” Lafayette mused.

“Probably not, but you’ll do it anyway to make your friends happy.”

“Have we had this conversation before?”

Hercules looked up then, frowning at Lafayette. “We have. Many times. Are you okay?”

Lafayette put on a charming smile. “Of course, mon ami. Je suis parfait.”

“Fuck you. You know I can’t speak French.”

The Frenchman grinned in reply, not unaware of the blush that was spreading across Hercules’ cheeks, and opened his message feed to Thomas.

You: you do know he will kill you, right?

macaroni man: I assume that Hamilton has told you about… what I’m doing right now.

You: answer my first question

macaroni man: Hamilton will not kill me.

You: he will literally s t r a n g l e you

macaroni man: He can’t reach that high.

You: pls give him his laptop

macaroni man: No. He will work himself to death and I do not want to be held accountable for that.

macaroni man: If he dies, I will be the prime suspect.

You: true

You: but pls

You: for me???

You: *pouts*

macaroni man: Answer me a question first.

You: *sighs* fine

macaroni man: Are Hamilton and Laurens dating?

You: … no

You: why?

macaroni man: They just look like they like each other. I have what some may call a… gut feeling.

You: they’re very close, but as far as I know it’s only platonic

You: it’s like you and James

macaroni man: Exactly…

You: …

You: oh

You: oH

You: you like James???

macaroni man: No…?

You: omg I need details!!!

macaroni man: Goodbye, Lafayette.

You: give alexander his laptop!!

“You look distraught.”

Lafayette looked up at Hercules, who was staring at him intently. “Thomas just accidentally told me that he likes James.”

Hercules nodded thoughtfully. “Jefferson and Madison? An interesting match.”

“I know. But, to be honest, I was already expecting something there. The two of them are… rather close.”

“Like our Alex and John?”

“I guess so? Thomas actually thought that the two of them were dating.”

“That’s not difficult to assume, though,” Hercules reasoned. “Alex and John are very close, and the nature of their relationship may cause some people to think that they do like each other.”

“But they don’t?”

“Not in that way, at least as far as I know.”

Lafayette thought that Hercules sounded slightly doubtful, but he chose not to press the matter.

---

“Jefferson, I swear to God, if you don’t give me back my laptop I will strangle you.”

“You can’t reach that high.”

“You’ve sunk so low that I can reach you.”

Thomas rolled his eyes. If he was going to play nice with Hamilton, he might as well get something out of it. “Fine. You can have your laptop back if you answer my question.”

Hamilton glared at him. “And if I don’t?”

“Then I’m throwing it out the window so that I can finally get some peace at night.”

Hamilton was fuming. Thomas could almost see steam coming out of his ears. Truthfully, it was rather enjoyable to watch. “Fine,” he spat out eventually.

Thomas put on a cocky grin. “Are you and Laurens dating?”

“What?”

He tried not to laugh at Hamilton’s expression of sheer shock. “Are you and Laurens dating?” he repeated, more slowly.

“I heard you the first time, dumbass,” Hamilton replied carefully. “Why would you ask me that?”

“Because it looks like you are and I’m curious. Also, I hate walking in on people having sex. You can never look at them in the same way again. Which would be a real shame, as I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate me bursting into laughter in the middle of a debate.”

“Does that happen to you often? Walking in on people having sex.”

“It’s happened twice. First with Burr and Theodosia when I shared a room with him in freshman year and then with Lafayette and… someone. He was giving them a blowjob.”

“Too much information,” Hamilton interjected, pulling a face.

“You still haven’t answered my question.”

“Are John and I dating? No, we aren’t,” Hamilton said plainly. Thomas nodded slowly, feeling ever-so-slightly disappointed. “Wait, how does it look like we are?”

“I don’t know, you’re just so… close all the time. And the way you look at each other and talk to each other…” Thomas considered the evidence that he had, and realised that it could all be passed off as just best friends being… best friends. Like how James acted around him (which always hurt a little bit, but Thomas wasn’t going to dwell on that). “I’m sorry,” he said. “I was mistaken.”

A smile grew on Hamilton’s lips. “Wait, did I hear correctly?” he asked. “Are you admitting that you were wrong? And apologising? Someone stop the press.”

Thomas glared at him. “Can you really not take anything seriously?” he asked, frustrated.

Hamilton’s smile grew into a full-on smug smirk as he realised that he was winning. “I take my work seriously,” he replied. “I take the fact that I am better than you very seriously.”

“Fuck you.”

Hamilton took the profanity as a sign that Thomas was conceding, and held out his hand for his laptop. Thomas sighed and handed it over before pulling out his phone.

You: My theory has been disproved.

Gilbert: you asked alexander???

Gilbert: wait have you given him his laptop

You: Yes and yes.

Gilbert: why???

You: I was curious.

Gilbert: I guess someone was going to have to ask them at some point

You: To be honest, I’m still suspicious.

Gilbert: why, did alexander sound like he was in denial?

You: No, I’m pretty sure that they’re not dating. But I have a feeling that they like each other.

Gilbert: you’re not the only one

Gilbert: let’s set them up

You: No.

You: Unlike you, I prefer not to meddle in matters that don’t concern me.

Gilbert: I do not regret my choices

You: I know.

Gilbert: now, about your feelings for James…

You: GoodbYE

Gilbert: ;^))))))

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: “Remember the time I tried to draw that fruit bowl… and it looked like a collection of sex toys?”

Alex wasn’t sure what time it was. He had gone to the library at least several hours ago in order to work on his assignment for Washington’s class without being disturbed by Jefferson’s constant “go the fuck to sleep”s and threats to throw his laptop out of their window. Without taking his eyes off his laptop screen, he could tell from the almost vacuum-like silence and stillness in the building that it was either very late or very early.

He was scanning the last few paragraphs he’d written, changing words and rewriting sentences to somehow decrease the word count of his essay (it had been a long time since Alex had actually adhered to the word limits that Washington had set – it wasn’t like the man would tell him off now – but he wanted to be somewhat respectful), when his train of thought was interrupted by his phone buzzing on the table.

turtle man: are you awake

Alex’s phone told him that it was half past one in the morning. John normally went to bed at eleven.

You: yes??

turtle man: yay

turtle man: I need someone to talk to

You: whats wrong

turtle man: nightmare

You: you want to tell me about it

turtle man: not rly

turtle man: can we talk abt something else

You: of course

You: hows your art project coming along

turtle man: ok I guess

You: im so excited

You: when can I see it

turtle man: uh

turtle man: id rather not show it at all tbh

You: why???

turtle man: bc its not v good???

You: dont be ridiculous

You: your art is aMAZING

You: im so jealous

turtle man: u can art???

You: remember the time I tried to draw that fruit bowl

You: and it looked like a collection of sex toys

turtle man: …

You: eXACTLY

You: do you want to come over to the library

turtle man: I might wake up jmads

You: thomas told me he sleeps like a log

turtle man: im on my way

Alex locked his phone and turned back to his laptop, but he couldn’t get back into the rhythm of writing. His mind kept flitting back to John and what Jefferson had said about the two of them. Did any other people think that they were dating? How would they stop that from happening? Would they even make a good couple? Alex pushed that thought out of his head. He couldn’t think that about his best friend. It wasn’t his place. Their relationship was strictly platonic.

Wasn’t it?

“Alex?”

Alex jerked awake at the soft voice and the gentle hand on his shoulder. He wasn’t aware that he’d fallen asleep. “Hey, John.”

“You look exhausted,” John replied, his eyes gleaming with worry. He was wearing some large grey sweatpants and an even larger maroon sweater, and his hair had fallen out of its ponytail and looked like a halo around his head. His spattering of freckles, arranged like the stars on a clear night, stood out more on his paler-than-usual face, and there were dark rings under his eyes. Despite that, Alex still thought he looked adorable.

Wait, did he really just think that?

“So do you,” Alex replied with an even tone, hiding the painful conflict currently being fought in his head. “Let’s go to the couches.”

John nodded and Alex packed up his laptop and books before they crossed the library. Alex sat down on one of the worn leather sofas, letting the old cushions give under his weight, and gestured for John to sit next to him. John curled up against Alex, resting his head on his shoulder. Alex was suddenly very aware of every part of his body that was in contact with John, as if all the nerves were standing up on end. This was a new sensation.

“Do you want to talk about your nightmare?”

“I’d rather not.”

“Okay.”

“You called Jefferson “Thomas” in one of your texts to me tonight.”

“I did?” Jefferson had asked Alex to call him Thomas when they had first made friends, but Alex had politely declined. Now, however, he felt like they had been friends for long enough to not call each other by their last names like they were permanently angry at each other (although until recently they had been). “I think we’re on first name terms now.”

“That’s nice. I don’t like to see you upset because of him.”

“You don’t like to see me upset at all.”

“True. I care about you.” He yawned. Alex knew that John was going to fall asleep pretty quickly. His words were slurring slightly out of tiredness and he didn’t notice Alex shiver involuntarily. Again, the shiver was new.

“Do you want to go up to my room?”

“Will Jeffer- Thomas mind?”

Alex smiled, pleasantly surprised at how John had accepted Alex’s new friendship with Thomas. But now that John had brought it up, this would only serve to make Thomas more suspicious of a potential something more going on between them. Noticing Alex’s hesitation, John suggested going back to his room instead.

“Won’t Madison be a little concerned?”

“He’s not going to wake up until, like, noon tomorrow. You’ll be fine.”

The two of them walked briskly to John’s dorm. Neither of them enjoyed being outside this early in the morning, when the cold air makes you shiver in anticipation of the day ahead and the silence and stillness seems so fragile that it could be shattered with a single tap. They fell asleep pretty quickly as soon as they collapsed quietly onto the bed, Alex spooning John despite being ever-so-slightly shorter (and John lorded that fact over Alex’s head – quite literally – at every opportunity). And if Alex gave John an affectionate squeeze as soon as he felt his breathing slow down, no-one would be able to prove it.

And if James Madison woke up early the next morning to work on his assignment for Washington’s class and saw two people in John’s bed instead of one, and considered texting Thomas before deciding not to (if there’s anything that man doesn’t need, it’s more encouragement), no-one would be able to prove that either.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: “I AM AS FREE AS OUR GREAT NATION OF STATES”

The next month of Alex’s life happened in a series of Events.

The first Event happened three days after Alex had woken up in John’s bed, on the verge of being late for Professor Adams’ class. As much as he didn’t want to listen to that asshat drone on and on for two hours about his frankly ridiculous opinions, Alex knew that he ought to make an effort in his last year of college. He had quickly scribbled a note for John on a pastel green post-it note (“Good morning sunshine. I had to run to class, but we can meet for coffee this afternoon? – Alex”) and grabbed his backpack, sprinting across the campus and making it to class just in time.

Three days after that, Alex received a message from John while in the queue for his morning double espresso.

turtle man: are u free today???

You: I can be what do you need

turtle man: what do u mean “I can be”??? are u? bc if u have other stuff planned I dont want to intrude

You: jOHN

You: I AM AS FREE AS OUR GREAT NATION OF STATES

You: WHAT DO YOU NEED

Alex quickly ordered his drink and paid for it, barely looking up from his phone as he typed (yes, that is very rude, but his best friend needs him).

turtle man: ok dont get freaked out by this bc u dont have to do it if u dont want to

You: im getting nervous john

turtle man: bc this may come as a shock to u bc ive never asked u this before

You: jOHN OMG

turtle man: what???

You: I WOULD LITERALLY DO ANYTHING FOR YOU ARE YOU KIDDING IF YOU TOLD ME TO JUMP OFF A CLIFF I WOULD DO LIKE 50 BACKFLIPS ON THE WAY DOWN IN YOUR HONOUR

turtle man: omg

turtle man: but I would never ask u to jump off a cliff ur like my number one source of good literature what would I do

You: im glad to know im appreciated

You: but still jOHN

You: WHAT?? DO?? YOU?? NEED??

Alex took his coffee and left the café before looking at his phone again.

turtle man: would u like to model for me for one of my art projects???

The double espresso almost slipped from his hand. Almost.

John wanted Alex to model for him? Normally he would use Lafayette as a model, to which the Frenchman always agreed willingly. Why would John ask Alex? He wasn’t half as good-looking as Lafayette, being even shorter than John with barely any muscle on him (blame that on a poverty-stricken childhood). And Lafayette had the hair and the height and the smile

Alex had none of that.

Yet John still wanted him to sit in front of him for several hours while he painted an utter masterpiece on a canvas and end up with something beautiful even though he had a piece of complete trash for inspiration?

Alex looked back at his phone, surprised (and a little worried) to see it flooded with texts, all from John.

turtle man: its perfectly fine if u dont want to btw

turtle man: I think ive said that before tho

turtle man: alex?

turtle man: aLEX???????

turtle man: HOLY SHIT IVE KILLED HIM

turtle man: IM SO SOR R Y

You: john calm down im still here

turtle man: are u ok?

turtle man: I knew this would freak you out im so s o sorry

You: im fine john

You: you just took me by surprise

turtle man: I can ask someone else if ur uncomfortable with it

You: no its fine

You: but

You: I need to ask

turtle man: no u dont have to be naked

You: thats not what I was gonna ask

You: but thanks for that reassurance

turtle man: np

turtle man: wat was ur question??

You: why do you want me specifically? why not just get laf to do it?

turtle man: bc I always get laf to do it??? and my professors starting to wonder if I actually have any other friends??? and I need to prove him otherwise???

You: you could ask thomas? hed probably be happy to model for you seeing as his ego is as big as his hair

turtle man: nah he looks too much like laf

You: he does???

turtle man: do u not see it???

You: no??

turtle man: are u kidding they look e x a c t l y the same except laf normally wears his hair up

turtle man: and jmads looks a lot like Hercules

You: no he doesnt???

turtle man: he dOES I WILL PROVE IT NEXT TIME THEYRE IN THE SAME ROOM

You: but back to the previous matter

You: why do you want me specifically?

turtle man: bc ur my best friend?? and ur v good looking and I feel like u could i n s p i r e me

You: ok fIRST OF ALL

You: I am n o t good looking

turtle man: omg of course u are

turtle man: ur eyes are amazing like u can see ur massive smartness level behind them

turtle man: and ur hair is awesome

turtle man: I wish I had ur hair

You: no you dont your hair is so much better

You: and “smartness level”???

turtle man: as u can see my smartness level is v low

turtle man: and at least ur hair is somewhat obedient

turtle man: but still its fine if u dont want to model for me

You: no ill do it

You: thank you for asking me

turtle man: YAY

turtle man: do u want to come to the art block when ur ready

You: ON MY WAY

turtle man: YAY

Alex pocketed his phone and gulped down his rapidly cooling coffee as he made the walk across campus. It was mid-October and the fallen leaves, made brittle by the overnight frost, crunched underfoot as he walked. He caught sight of his reflection in a large window, which stopped him short.

His face was bright red.

Why? Was it just because it was cold outside? Or was it because of something different? The same thing that was causing the anxious, fuzzy feeling in his stomach?

Alex shoved it down and prayed that John would just attribute the extra colour on his face to the weather.

There was something about the art building that always made Alex relax as soon as he stepped through the door. Maybe it was the way the walls of the main entrance had been painted in giant, swirling brushstrokes of blue melting into green, like a Van Gogh painting. Maybe it was the tranquillity of the soft, ambient piano music that always seemed to be playing from somewhere in the building (Alex was yet to work out where). Maybe it was the comfortable concentration with which the art students worked, some painting languidly, like they had all the time in the world, others filling an entire canvas with wet, carefree strokes of colour within moments, or quickly marking out the lines of a sketch, knowing exactly at what angle to draw the next line before the first was even on the page. Maybe it was the sheer level of imagination that each of them had. The entire building seemed to hum with creativity.

As it was a Sunday morning, the building was mostly empty save for a few other seniors preparing for their final – and most important – assignment. Alex passed Peggy in the hallway, hands and face covered with smears of acrylic paint. She smiled at him. “Hi, Alex!”

“Good morning, Peggy,” Alex replied. “How’s your project coming along?”

“Pretty good, thanks. You want to see it?”

Peggy was only as old as the sophomores, but her artistic talent had shone through from an early age, which – combined with her 4.0 GPA – had earned her a place in John’s class. She led Alex to a room on the first floor where she had set up a canvas that was larger than her. Alex gasped as he saw the scene that she had painted. It was a painting of her friends – Alex, John, Lafayette, Hercules, the other Schuyler sisters, Maria, Thomas and James – hanging out in Laf’s and Herc’s room earlier that month. Alex looked at himself, sitting next to John as usual, and couldn’t help but smile at the way they were grinning at each other, like they were the only two people in the world.

“I’ve been dabbling in pointillism,” Peggy explained, pulling Alex from his thoughts.

Alex looked over the rest of the painting, admiring the thousands of rainbow dots that came together to bathe the scene in a spectrum of warm colour. “It’s really clever,” he said. “It looks nearly done already.”

Peggy made a face. “I still need to do a lot with the details,” she replied. “I haven’t quite got Thomas’ hair or John’s freckles right, see?”

Alex followed Peggy’s gesture to John’s face and noticed that there was, in fact, something slightly off about John’s freckles. Alex couldn’t quite put his finger on it: they looked incredibly accurate, but Alex knew John’s freckles and the ones in the painting were definitely ever-so-slightly wrong.

Alex knew John’s freckles.

That was definitely not something one said about one’s best friend.

“Keep at it,” Alex reassured Peggy. “I’m sure you’ll get it right eventually.”

Peggy nodded, smiling. “I will, trust me. Now get out so I can get to work. John’s where he usually is.”

Alex frowned. “How did you know I was here for John?” he asked.

Peggy laughed. “When are you not? God knows you’ve never come here with the sole purpose of visiting me.”

“We’ll have to fix that someday, then,” Alex replied, grinning guiltily.

Peggy rolled her eyes. “Shoo. Go find John.”

John’s usual room was on the top floor, with walls painted in large swirls of white and pale grey, a high ceiling and huge windows that overlooked the slightly-less-busy end of the campus and let in the light of the overcast sky. He had set up a large canvas on an easel and was squirting acrylic paint onto a magazine page to use as a palette when Alex walked in. He looked up as soon as he heard the door swing open and Alex saw his best friend’s face immediately break out into a beaming smile and his heart started beating twice as fast as John bounded up to him, wrapping him up in a tight hug.

“Alex! Thank you so much for doing this!” he exclaimed happily.

Alex, meanwhile, was concerned as to whether he was going to have a heart attack. “Can’t breathe,” he managed to mumble into John’s shoulder.

John finally released him and held him at arm’s length, with his hands on Alex’s shoulders. “Sorry,” he said, grinning sheepishly. “I’m just so excited!”

Alex couldn’t help but smile back. Some of John’s boundless energy and happiness appeared to be transferring from John into him, waking him up even though it was ten o’clock on a Sunday morning. Or maybe that was just the double espresso.

John was bouncing in his excitement again, and had made his way back around one of the tables to finish preparing his palette. Alex spotted John’s sketchbooks from the last couple of years and started to flick through the one from freshman year. Alex had seen all of John’s old art before, but that didn’t stop him admiring it at every opportunity.

“Don’t look at that sketchbook,” John said, making a face as Alex looked at his old work.

“Why? It’s really good,” Alex replied, not preparing to stop any time soon.

“Are you kidding? When I first arrived here, all I drew were turtles.”

“And they were amazing.”

“Stop it and get over here.”

Alex complied, sitting on a table on the other side of the easel so that John could see him. “Do you want me to pose?”

John thought for a moment. “I’ll be drawing out a sketch first, so that would be good.” Suddenly a thought hit him. “Did you bring a book with you?” he asked.

“Of course.”

“Great! Can I draw you reading it?”

Alex hesitated. “Why?” he asked as he pulled a large, dog-eared novel out of his bag.

“You look cute when you’re reading,” John replied absentmindedly as he searched through his large box of paintbrushes. Alex froze, feeling his face immediately heat up. “Alex? Are you okay?” John asked from behind him, noticing Alex’s shocked stillness.

Alex was glad John couldn’t see his face from where he was standing, and he willed his voice to stay level. “Yeah, I’m fine. I should probably use the bathroom. Seeing as I’m going to be sitting still. For quite a while. That sounds like a good idea.”

John didn’t seem suspicious, or if he was he was hiding it pretty well from what Alex could tell. “That is probably a good idea. You’ll only have to pose for a couple of hours so that I can get the proportions and shading down, but if you’ve just drunk a coffee…”

Alex nodded and quickly made his way to the bathroom to splash some water on his face (and also to go to the bathroom – his double espresso went straight through him). He hadn’t particularly made an effort with his appearance today, but he just looked like… Alex. The dark rings under his eyes were still prominent and his hair was falling out of the loose ponytail he’d tied it up in. He decided to let it down and ran his fingers through it a few times to get rid of any tangles. The blush had mostly cleared from his face, but Alex’s real worry was why it had appeared in the first place.

What the hell was going on?

---

“Do you want me to pose?”

John turned around, carrying his large collection of paintbrushes to his desk. Alex was perched on a desk on the other side of the easel, smiling nervously at him.

“I’ll be drawing out a sketch first, so that would be good,” he replied.

A part of John regretted ever asking Alex to pose for him – he knew Alex like the back of his hand, and that included his anxiety and his insecurities about his appearance – but another was excited to properly paint him, instead of just filling up sketchbooks with small drawings of stolen glances while Alex was occupied with reading or writing. A third, smaller, part of him was terrified that he would never be able to do Alex justice. The thing about Alex was that he was a hurricane: he was almost never still, he was nearly always working or fighting for what he believed in, and his enthusiasm for anything he was passionate about was non-stop. Give him an issue that sparked his interest even a little, and he would talk for hours, accompanied by wild gestures and a slightly manic tone that comes with a daily lifestyle of three hours of sleep and four cups of coffee. That was what John admired most about his best friend, and he knew that no amount of talent would be able to capture that in a still picture.

Suddenly John knew exactly how he wanted Alex to pose.

“Did you bring a book with you?” he asked, although he knew that Alex always kept a book with him.

“Of course,” Alex replied.

“Great!” John exclaimed, trying to force some excitement into his voice. In reality he was very nervous, but he didn’t want Alex to know that. “Can I draw you reading it?”

Alex frowned as he pulled out John’s old copy of Pride and Prejudice, with its worn pages, various coffee stains and John’s notes and annotations scrawled in the margins in his terrible handwriting. John was nervous about lending Alex the book, but as it turned out Alex was just as big a romantic as he was and he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying it. “Why?” Alex asked him.

John was too busy searching for the right paintbrush in his box to think about his answer. “You look cute when you’re reading,” he said absently, the words out of his mouth before he could take them back. He saw Alex freeze in his peripheral vision.

Shit.

Shit.

Neither of them were moving. John wished that Alex didn’t have his back to him so he could see his face. Eventually he dared to straighten up and face his friend. “Alex, are you okay?” he asked, grateful that his voice didn’t betray the panic he was in.

Alex’s reply was slightly off, his tone a little sharper than normal. “Yeah, I’m fine. I should probably use the bathroom, seeing as I’m going to be sitting still… for quite a while. That sounds like a good idea.”

John nodded before deciding to busy himself with finding his paintbrush again. “That is probably a good idea,” he agreed, trying to sound as normal as possible despite alarms going off in all areas of his brain. “You’ll only have to pose for a couple of hours so that I can get the proportions and shading down, but if you’ve just drunk a coffee…”

Alex nodded and quickly left the room. John watched him go. He found his paintbrush eventually and spent the rest of the time that Alex was gone trying to convince himself that nothing was wrong. He needed to behave completely normally if he was going to keep his friendship with Alex. Maybe Alex just really needed the bathroom, and that was why he ran off. It wasn’t because John’s comment affected him in any way. That couldn’t be the case. And Alex was going to return in a couple of minutes and let John paint him, and then they would go and get pizza together. Completely platonic.

Right?

---

The second Event happened on Halloween. The Schuyler sisters were throwing a party at their father’s house uptown – Philip Schuyler was out of town on business and he barely ever kept tabs on his daughters anyway – and all their friends were invited. Costumes were mandatory. Alex, John, Laf and Hercules had argued for hours on what group costume to wear, but settled on dressing as the Avengers.

“I call Captain America!” Alex shouted.

John rolled his eyes, lying on Alex’s bed with his head on his lap. “Of course you do.”

“Herc would make a good Thor,” Alex suggested.

“Obviously,” Hercules replied. “I would definitely be worthy of Myuh-Myuh.”

“You’ll be worthy of the hammer when you can actually pronounce its name,” Laf said. “I’ll go as Tony Stark and rock a suit and tie with an Iron Man mask.”

“But you should have a label or something around your neck saying “You know who I am”,” John said excitedly. Alex knew that he was a massive fanboy of the Marvel comics and films. John dragged him to the cinema whenever a new film came out and then spent the entire night on Tumblr (his blog concerning Marvel and his art – and a few posts on turtles – had quite a following) and reading fanfiction. John would sometimes spam his message feed with fanart and Tumblr posts that he’d found, but Alex let him do it because it was nice to see John so passionate about something.

“Who would John be?” Alex asked.

“He’d be a good Winter Soldier,” Laf suggested.

Alex felt John stiffen. After Civil War came out, Alex had been the recipient of several angry texts at two in the morning from John ranting about the fact that Steve – Captain America – should not have kissed Sharon Carter, and Bucky – the Winter Soldier – should have been the love interest instead. It was cute.

Wait, did he really just think that?

John was nodding thoughtfully. “I suppose I am quite like Bucky – dragging Alex out of fights all the time.”

“Don’t think I haven’t dragged you out of several fights of your own,” Alex retorted. John stuck his tongue out at him, but Alex was right. The pair of them were fairly reckless. It was a wonder they hadn’t been killed yet.

The day of the party arrived, and the four friends took Lafayette’s car to the Schuylers’ house. Alex was slightly nervous about being in a room with so many people (he wasn’t a big party person, and the claustrophobia of a crowded room was part of the reason why), but John stayed a reassuring presence by his side as they entered. The Schuyler sisters knew a lot of people, and the heavy music and loud talking put Alex slightly on edge.

Angelica ran to greet them as soon as they stepped through the door. She was dressed as Jessica Rabbit in a slinky red dress and matching red wig. “You look beautiful!” Alex exclaimed as she hugged him.

“Thanks,” Angelica replied. “I’m glad you could make it. And I love your costumes! There are drinks in the kitchen – all non-alcoholic, I don’t want people throwing up in my house – and candy in the lounge.”

“Candy?” John asked excitedly, perking up at the word like a puppy when it hears “walkies”. He immediately grabbed Alex’s hand and led him into the living room. Alex ignored the leap his heart did at the contact.

The candy table was the length of the living room and filled with bowls piled high with all kinds of candy. John immediately grabbed a smaller orange bowl with a pumpkin face painted on it and started to fill it, grinning like a kid in a toy store. Alex rolled his eyes, knowing that he was going to have to deal with a best friend on a sugar rush for the rest of the night.

“Alexander!” Alex turned to Thomas, who had appeared next to him. “I’m glad to see that you are accepting your fate as the most patriotic person who goes here.” Alex gave him the middle finger before taking a better look at him. He was dressed in a pair of jeans and an oversized grey sweater and wrapped up in a thin plaid blanket. He laughed as he saw Alex staring, shocked, at his unusually casual clothing. “It was James’ idea,” he explained. “We’ve switched clothing styles. Have you seen him yet? I must admit, he looks good in my coat. Although anyone would, considering it’s the height of fashion.”

Alex snorted as he scanned the room from where he was standing. There were an awful lot of people here that he didn’t know, and that should have made him nervous, but the presence of a friend – even if it was Thomas Jefferson – next to him seemed to ground him. He could see Eliza and Maria dressed as Elphaba and Glinda from Wicked, and Peggy was chatting animatedly to them, in leggings, a loose jumper, a pair of Uggs and her hair up in a messy bun, holding a Starbucks coffee cup. Finally, his eyes rested on James and he laughed. Thomas’ fuchsia coat was too big on him but he wore it with the cocky smirk that Alex had seen so often on Thomas. He was also holding Thomas’ vintage cane with the gold handle.

John was back by Alex’s side, and Alex could see that he had already had a lot of candy by the way that he was bouncing even higher than he normally did. “Why is James wearing Thomas’ coat?” he asked, probably unaware of Thomas’ presence on Alex’s other side.

“It was their costume idea. They’ve switched clothes,” Alex replied, keeping his voice low to encourage John to do the same and not to blurt out anything inappropriate.

Unfortunately, John didn’t get the message. “They really need to get their shit together and make out already,” he said, louder than he probably meant to. Alex didn’t want to turn around and see Thomas’ reaction – because he must have heard them – but he suspected that it would look a lot like how he had reacted when Thomas had asked him whether he and John were dating. Alex quickly steered John away before he could say anything more embarrassing.

---

Thomas watched Alexander lead John away from the candy table, still reeling from what John had said and trying to convince himself that none of it was true. James was Thomas’ best friend and they were very close, so of course that could be misinterpreted as a romantic relationship, just as Thomas had misinterpreted Alexander’s relationship with John. James was one of the few people that Thomas properly trusted, and sometimes Thomas wondered how James had the patience to put up with all his shit. But he did, and was at times the only thing keeping Thomas from falling into total insanity. And he was quite good-looking as well, particularly in Thomas’ fuchsia coat…

Shit.

Thomas was in deep.

---

Alex was tired.

He kept up appearances, of course, not wanting to spoil his friends’ fun because he wanted to go home, and he plastered on fake smile after fake smile, even though it was becoming harder each time. Alex just wanted to go back to his room and fall asleep next to John.

Well, that was new.

He dismissed the thought, assuming it was down to tiredness, and scanned the room in search of John. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw him talking excitedly with Peggy, still not down from his sugar high. Alex watched him talk, arms flying everywhere in wild gestures, still bouncing on his feet like his energy levels were at full capacity. He looked beautiful.

That was also new.

Very new.

Alex needed to get some sleep.

“Hey, handsome,” a silky voice said next to him, and Alex whipped around to face a brunette dressed as who he assumed was Peggy Carter. Full red lips pouted at him. “Off defending the free world, I see.” Her British accent was terrible.

“The free world seems to need it more than ever, what with this election coming up,” Alex replied nervously, automatically deflecting the conversation topic to something he knew more about: politics. “It’s crazy how Trump even got this far in the election. People need to wake up and see that he is an awful person who will take this country to shit because he knows nothing about how to run it.”

Peggy Carter’s hand had found its way onto his arm, and Alex was very aware of its presence. And not in a good way, like whenever John touched him.

He’d think about that later. There were more urgent matters to hand, such as the hand that was snaking its way up to his shoulder.

“Yeah, the election really is awful, isn’t it?” Peggy Carter said slowly, drawing the words out in that terrible attempt at a British accent. “But this is a party. You need to be having fun, not worrying about the fate of the country. Live in the moment.”

Alex was now pressed up against the wall, penned in by Peggy Carter, who had moved stealthily closer to him during the conversation. He had nowhere to go. He looked for John amongst the mass of people that had gathered in the room. There seemed to be a lot more than before. Alex was suddenly finding it difficult to breathe. Finally, he found John again and looked to him with pleading eyes, praying for him to turn and look his way. Somehow, the gods had found favour with him, and John glanced over and saw Alex’s caged animal expression.

John was immediately at Alex’s side, grabbing his hand and squeezing it. “Hey, doll,” he spoke quickly, sensing that Alex was going to drop in panic any moment. “I’m John. I see you’ve already met Alex, my boyfriend.” Despite being on the brink of an anxiety attack, Alex’s heart skipped a beat at the word boyfriend rolling out of John’s mouth. “I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation, but we really have to go. I have an early class tomorrow morning and Alex is my ride.”

With that, he led Alex upstairs. Alex was still struggling to breathe normally, and his vision was going dark. All he could focus on was John’s hand gripping his as they went through quieter corridors and arrived at the bathroom. John shut and locked the door before finally dropping Alex’s hand. Without the support, Alex’s knees gave way and John caught him just before he hit the ground, strong arms wrapping around him and not letting go. They were so close, Alex felt as if his body was on fire. Of course, that may have been the fact that he wasn’t breathing properly as John was currently instructing him to.

“Alex? Alex, if you can hear me, I really need you to breathe. Please.” John sounded more worried than Alex had ever heard him. His voice cracked on the “please”, causing Alex to look up at him. His eyes were wide and scared and brimming with tears, and that brought Alex to a fork in the road.

He could make things worse, slip further and further into the panic that was pulling at him like a dark rope around his ankles because he knew that John didn’t deserve this. He was always so bright and happy and radiating positive energy like the sun and it was all Alex’s fault that he was worrying like this.

Or, he could try and pull himself back to reality and away from the panic because he knew that John didn’t deserve this. And he certainly didn’t deserve Alex going full panic mode on him.

He clung to John as an anchor against the current that was pulling him down and breathed. He felt John relax ever so slightly. “Good. We’re getting somewhere. Keep doing that. Breathing is healthy, it’s really good for you.” The slightly breathless words sounded as if they were being called down a hole, distant and isolated, and Alex focused on what John was saying, listening to the slight South Carolinian accent that had leaked out in his worry, as he slowly climbed up out of the hole and into fresh air.

He came to slowly, aware of the fact that he was sitting on the floor practically on John’s lap with his best friend’s arms wrapped tightly around him. He could feel the metal of John’s Winter Soldier arm, cooler in contrast to the warmth and softness of his right arm. Alex wasn’t entirely sure how John had managed to find the arm. He just knew that it looked cool and that watching John put it on was probably a more enjoyable experience than it should have been. Alex was also aware that the front of John’s shirt where Alex had rested his head was almost saturated with Alex’s tears. “M’sorry,” he mumbled hoarsely against John’s chest.

“What?” John replied, sounding groggy as if he had just been roused from sleep. Alex slapped himself internally. He had probably been out for quite a while and John had fallen asleep waiting for him to calm down. “Don’t apologise. Please don’t apologise, my god, I was so scared.”

Alex looked up at his best friend. His eyes were red from crying and the black “war paint” (really it was just eyeliner that John had smudged all over his eyes) had run down his cheeks in little dark rivers. A small voice in Alex’s head told him that this was all his fault. John would still be out there having fun if Alex hadn’t messed everything up. He squashed the voice as he tried to wipe the dark streams from John’s face. “That is why I’m sorry,” he replied. “You shouldn’t have to be scared.”

“But this isn’t about me, this is about you,” John replied, sounding angry although he made no move to stop Alex cleaning up his eyeliner. “You are my best friend, Alex, and I feel honoured for you to have let me in so far that I feel terrified of losing you.”

Alex was exhausted and he wanted to sleep and he definitely didn’t want to think about what those words were doing to him. “Can we go home now?”

John nodded. “I’ll text Laf and Herc.”

---

You added laf, hercules, jefferidiot, jmads, angie, eliiza, marIa, and peggy to a group chat

You: were going to go home now

You: laf can u get the car

laf: um

laf: I’m a little preoccupied

hercules: …

hercules: do we want to know

laf: … give me five minutes

angie: Why the hell are you having sex in my house

angie: Again

eliiza: Are you all okay??

eliiza: Also, again? When was the last time?

angie: Make that plural times

and peggy: omg im too young and innocent for this

laf: ;^)))

hercules: laf please

marIa: where are you, John?

and peggy: and wheres alex why is he not in this conversation

jefferidiot: James and I are here too. Something has to be up.

jmads: I feel so included

and peggy: awe james ur so cute

You: alex had a panic attack and hes better now but he wants to go home

laf: f u c k

laf: give me two minutes I’m coming

laf: in more ways than one

angie: LAFAYETTE THIS IS A SERIOUS CONVERSATION YOU ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED IN MY HOUSE IF YOU ARE JUST GOING TO HAVE SEX EVERYWHERE.

laf: ;^))))))

hercules: ok but is alex alright

You: hes feeling better but hes just tired and i dont know if i can carry him to the car

hercules: do you want me to come and get him

You: pls

hercules: ok im on my way

You: thank

eliiza: Can you keep us updated? I’m sorry this had to happen. I told Peggy not to invite so many people.

and peggy: OK WOW IM SORRY THAT I HAVE FRIENDS

marIa: eliza it’s not nice to place blame on people.

eliiza: I’m sorry, sweetheart.

marIa: <3

You: sure eliza well keep u posted

eliiza: Thank you.

jefferidiot: John, if you want to stay with Alexander tonight (and that might be a good idea), I’ll go back to James’ room and you can take my bed.

You: that might b sensible but only as long as james is ok with it

jmads: I’m fine with it

You: ok then thank u both

jmads: Np

jefferidiot: Not at all. Let us know how Alexander’s doing.

You: I will. I should probably change your contact name from “jefferidiot” at some point

jefferidiot: You what?

You: alex called “jefferasshole” so I went for the next best thing

jmads: Omg dragged

jefferidiot: I am offended.

jefferidiot: I changed your contact name from “Laurens” to “John” as soon as we were on first name terms.

You: someone was eager

jefferidiot: No, I just have a shred of respect for my peers.

You: ok hercules has alex

You: laf are u ready with the car

laf: um

laf: not quite??

jefferidiot: OH MY GOD WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ME?!?

laf: because you never knock???

jefferidiot: AND IN THE LIBRARY OF ALL PLACES.

jefferidiot: YOU HAVE VIOLATED THE SACRED TRUST OF THE BOOKS.

jefferidiot: SHAME ON YOU, GILBERT.

angie: Hang on you’re having seX IN THE LIBRARY???

angie: I forbid you from my house

and peggy: gilbert omg

laf: I hate everything

marIa: how are you still texting while having sex?

laf: I’m done now seeing as s o m e o n e walked in on us and ruined the mood

jefferidiot: YOU KNOW THAT I DON’T DO IT ON PURPOSE, I JUST HAVE INCREDIBLY BAD FORTUNE TO BE IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME.

You have added alex to the conversation.

alex: guys I have been woken from slumber and added to this conversation for the sole purpose of telling lafayette to geT HIS ASS IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW OK

alex: also lafayette please never have sex in a library again thomas is right about the books not needing to see that

alex: they are too pure they do not deserve it

jefferidiot: THANK YOU.

laf: I still hate everything

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: “I recall one time when you said you’d do fifty backflips off a cliff for me.”

The third Event lasted over a couple of days and didn’t happen until about three weeks after Halloween. During that time, Alex had spent most of his days in his room working, although John was often there checking on him and trying to persuade him to go out for some fresh air. Alongside his university courses, Alex wrote articles for the local newspaper about various topics and under various pseudonyms. It earned him a fair amount of money to fund his coffee habits, and it allowed him to talk about important issues relatively freely without anyone trying to interrupt him and shut him down. Alex was pretty sure that Thomas had written some, if not most of the letters directed to him, arguing every point that Alex had made from increasingly ridiculous points of view. He was yet to bring the subject up around Thomas, but his suspicions had been all but confirmed when John texted him the week after Halloween, telling him that Thomas had stormed into his and James’ room, fuming about how the journalists in the newspaper were all “ridiculously pessimistic” and demanded “unrealistic amounts of action from the government” and that Thomas just wanted to “throw whoever wrote this shit out of the goddamn window”. The last one made Alex laugh.

The end of November came sooner than Alex had expected, and soon Lafayette called him and John to his and Hercules’ room to discuss Thanksgiving plans.

“I have to go and stay with my family,” Hercules said.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” John said. He was lying down on Hercules’ bed with his head resting on Hercules’ legs, looking up at the ceiling where Laf had stuck hundreds of glow-in-the-dark stars at the start of the year.

Hercules shrugged. “They’re so loud,” he explained. “I’d much rather stay here with you guys.”

“We’re loud as well,” Lafayette pointed out.

“It’s a different kind of loud. It’s chaotic. You guys have an organised kind of loud.”

“I’m still trying to decide whether to stay here or fly back to France for a few days,” Laf said. “Although we don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving in France, it would be nice to spend a little while in my country.”

Alex knew how homesick Laf was sometimes. As much as he loved the States and his friends in New York, there were times when he had been found by Alex crying softly because he missed home so much. Alex had never fully understood homesickness – it was difficult when he never really had a home to be sick for – but he always tried his best to be there for Laf whenever that happened.

“I’m staying here this year,” John said nonchalantly, which caused Alex to look sharply at him. He was still staring at the ceiling, although an indefinable expression had settled over his face.

“You’re not visiting your family in South Carolina?” Lafayette asked, and Alex detected an implied “why?” in the question.

John shrugged. “I have a lot of work to do,” he explained. Alex knew that was a lie: John was about as far ahead in his art course as Alex was in his classes, and all he currently needed to finish was his painting of Alex. Alex hadn’t seen it since that first day, and John took several pictures of him so that he wouldn’t have to keep going to the trouble of coming to the art building and posing for him (even though he kept insisting that it was fine). But he knew that John would only open up to his friends if, and when, he wanted to.

“I’m staying here too, as always,” Alex said. John looked over to him and smiled faintly, making Alex’s heart flutter.

He needed to see a doctor about that.

“In that case, I think I’ll go back to Paris for Thanksgiving,” Lafayette said with a knowing tone. Alex caught John glaring desperately at him, but Laf’s mind was made up. Alex wondered what had caused him to make his decision.

Lafayette flew out two days before Thanksgiving, and Hercules borrowed his car to drive to his family house upstate the day before Thanksgiving. After he had left, John turned to Alex excitedly. “What do we do now?”

Alex couldn’t help but laugh at John’s anticipation. Normally he would spend the entire holiday working, but there was no way that John would let him do that this year. “What do you want to do?”

John thought for a moment. “Do you want to come to the art building?”

“Sure.”

When they entered John’s art room, John told Alex to sit on the other side of the easel so that he couldn’t see the painting. “I want it to be a surprise,” John replied when Alex asked him why. He was perched precariously on a stool, trying to pull down the canvas from a high shelf where he’d left it. Alex was torn between helping him (or at least catching him if he falls) and admiring the view from where he was sitting. He decided that the latter option was less work. “Also, it looks awful right now, and hopefully it’ll look less awful when I eventually show it to you.”

“Your work never looks awful.”

John retrieved the painting and hopped off the stool. “I’ve never painted you before.”

“You’ve certainly drawn me before. It can’t be that different.”

John froze, looking at him with a guilty expression. Of course Alex had seen John sketching him whenever he thought he wasn’t looking. He put it down to John having to keep his skill flowing through him at all times, like how Alex couldn’t spend a day without writing something down.

“I’m sorry,” John said quietly, fastening the painting onto the easel. “I thought you wouldn’t see, but that was stupid of me.”

“Don’t apologise,” Alex said. John thought he was angry with him? “I like watching you do art. And I’m flattered that you like to use me as inspiration, even if it is just for exercises and studies.”

John squirted some pale blue acrylic onto the magazine page he was using as a palette and mixed it with white and black to create a pale, heathery grey. “I’ll ask you for permission next time,” he said, not meeting Alex’s gaze.

“You really don’t have to.”

John was focused on the painting. “Okay,” he said absentmindedly after a while.

After about half an hour of tense silence (which was weird; things had never been awkward between Alex and John) Alex’s phone buzzed.

jefferasshole: James and I are driving down to Virginia. I would come and say goodbye to you if you were anywhere to be seen…

You: john and I are in the art building and we’re not planning on leaving any time soon. have a good trip

jefferasshole: How rude.

You: can john stay in our room while you’re away?

jefferasshole: I assume he will regardless of the response I give, so there really isn’t much point in me saying anything except a reluctant yes.

You: yay

jefferasshole: James says hello.

You: JMADS!!!!!

jefferasshole: That’s not my name – James

You: it is now

jefferasshole: Thomas is driving and so I have seized control of his phone – James

You: spam his phone with selfies

jefferasshole: I would but I look like shit today so no – James

jefferasshole: Thomas tells me that I don’t but I disagree – James

You: awe

jefferasshole: Why are you aweing I suggest that you stop – James

jefferasshole: OMG THOMAS HAS JUST PUT ON THE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL SOUNDTRACK AND I HAVE A LEGAL OBLIGATION TO SING/SCREAM EVERY WORD GOODBYE – James

You: YESSSSSSS

You: HAVE FUN YOU NERDS

“Who are you texting?” John was frowning at him, and Alex had realised that he had been smiling at his phone for a while. “If you don’t mind me asking of course. That was very nosy of me.”

“James,” Alex replied. “Thomas is driving to Virginia with him and he was texting me on his phone because Thomas initially texted me to say goodbye.”

John nodded thoughtfully before going back to his painting.

“Also, Thomas said that you can stay over at mine while he’s gone.”

That caught John’s attention and his face broke out into an excited grin. “Really? It’ll be just like how it was before!” he exclaimed. “We need to get food, and we can watch Netflix and talk all the way through whatever we watch, I’m so excited!” He was bouncing again.

Alex rolled his eyes fondly. “Do some more of your art.”

---

John hadn’t been looking forward to Thanksgiving.

For him, Thanksgiving normally meant a long and exhausting drive down to South Carolina, but it was worth it because it meant he got to see his siblings. He got to see his father as well, but that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. This year, however, Thanksgiving meant none of that. John was pretty sure that he was going to have to spend the holiday by himself for the first time in his life, and he wasn’t sure whether he was going to be able to do that.

Fortunately for him, he’d forgotten that Alex also didn’t have anywhere to go to for Thanksgiving. He was so relieved that he could spend a couple of days with his best friend that it almost made him forget about his family.

Almost.

Alex and John were both curled up on the couch in Alex’s room watching the end of another crappy disaster film and steadily making their way through the pile of junk food that they had bought. True to John’s prediction, they had talked the entire way through the films, pointing out things that would never happen in a world where science is correct and predicting who would be the next to die. They were right most of the time. By the end of this one, Alex’s head was resting on John’s shoulder, and John’s head was resting on top of his. Neither made an effort to move for a while, and John started to wonder whether Alex had fallen asleep. He definitely needed more of it.

Just as John was considering an attempt to carry Alex to his bed, his best friend stirred. “Next film?” he asked. “I don’t think I can take another shitty film, so I suggest something Disney.”

“Yes!” John cried. He was always a sucker for anything Disney. “I haven’t seen Up in ages.”

“Technically Up is Pixar, but I’ll allow it,” Alex said, finding the film on his laptop.

“Fuck you, they’re practically the same thing.”

Alex simply rolled his eyes and nestled into John’s shoulder again. Alex was warm and soft and John didn’t think he would be able to move from this spot ever again but oh look the movie’s starting so let’s focus on that instead.

When John suggested watching Up, he didn’t take the first ten minutes of the film into consideration.

John tended to cry at films pretty easily, so give him the most emotional animated montage in existence and he’s a wreck. A complete and utter wreck; even more so than usual. What John cried most about in the montage was the fact that he was probably never going to have a life like Carl and Ellie. Sure he wanted one – he really, really wanted to find someone who loved him as much as those two loved each other – but the reality was that he would probably be alone for the rest of his life. Even Alex would find someone someday – it wasn’t particularly difficult for people to be attracted to him, but he hadn’t seemed to click with anyone yet – and leave John by himself. It seemed selfish for him to think about it like that, but he was afraid of growing up and being alone and living a mundane life like Carl after Ellie died.

“John? John, oh my god, come here.”

Alex was sitting up and pulling John towards him, having paused the film on a still of Carl alone at Ellie’s funeral. John wasn’t even aware that he had started to cry, although he wasn’t surprised. He hugged his best friend tight and let the tears stain the shoulder of his t-shirt. He could feel bad about that later.

“It’s not real, okay? It’s completely fictional,” Alex was saying softly into John’s ear. “Carl and Ellie had a wonderful life together and they loved each other very much, even though they didn’t manage to get to Paradise Falls together. And one day you’re going to meet someone absolutely, completely and utterly perfect, and you’re going to be blown away by them, and they’re going to love you just as much as you love them, and you’re going to have an amazing life, even better than those two in the film, okay? It will happen, I can promise you that.”

John nodded mutely into Alex’s shoulder, still gripping him tightly. Eventually he let go and turned back around to face the laptop, this time letting his head rest on Alex’s (now rather damp) shoulder. “Can we watch the rest of the film, please?”

“Of course,” Alex replied, smiling softly. He turned the film back on, but not before squeezing John’s hand lightly. John felt his heart leap and he allowed himself one single thought that would certainly not be allowed in his head under any other circumstances because Alex is his best friend:

Maybe Alex could be that special someone.

---

Alex woke up to his phone ringing and he moaned as he rolled over. “I’m Sexy and I know It” was playing from the small speaker in the phone with a tinny quality, letting Alex know that it was John calling (John’s choice, not Alex’s; he had stolen his phone a while ago and changed the ringtone for his contact. Alex just hadn’t got around to changing it back yet.). “What time is it?” he asked groggily as soon as he pressed “Accept Call”.

“Good morning to you too,” John said happily, his voice coming out higher than usual thanks to the crappy speaker in Alex’s phone. “It’s about half past eleven in the morning.”

“And you didn’t wake me up?” Alex said, jumping out of bed and shivering with the sudden heat loss before pulling on a pair of sweatpants and a large, pastel blue sweater that may or may not have been John’s. Alex prided himself in being both an early bird and a night owl at the same time, as more time awake meant more time writing.

“Let’s be honest, you need more sleep than you’re getting. There is no way I’m ever going to wake you up unless it’s urgent.”

“And I take it that this is urgent? Where are you?” Alex could hear background noise of people talking, so it must have been a busy spot. He was probably off-campus, seeing as most of the students had gone home to family.

“I’m at the supermarket, looking for something for us to eat today because I really don’t want to starve. Do you know whether your dorm building has a microwave?”

“I assume so. Our old dorm building had one.”

“I need you to check that it actually does, because some don’t, such as mine, and I am forever bitter.”

Alex laughed at John’s grumpy tone as he pulled on a pair of slippers and left his room. “You’re really asking me to descend three flights of stairs to check if we have a microwave?”

“I know you’re on your way,” John replied. “The acoustic of the room just changed, so you’re out in the corridor. Also, I recall one time when you said you’d do fifty backflips off a cliff for me.”

“Fuck you,” Alex said as he hopped down the stairs, but he was grinning. He loved having conversations like these with John, where they felt comfortable insulting each other affectionately.

“Are you there yet?”

“Jesus Christ, John, I’ve just woken up,” Alex protested.

“You’re slow,” John retorted. “All of the middle-aged women in here are starting to stare at me disapprovingly because I’m hanging around the same section of the store for an abnormally long time.”

“What a shame,” Alex said sarcastically as he reached the ground floor of the building and found the small kitchen. He had never needed to visit the room before as he got all his food from the cafeteria and all his coffee from the café next door, so he had no idea what to expect when he flicked on the light. The small, windowless room was suddenly filled with a dim orange light and Alex looked around. The countertops were old but clean and he inventoried a fridge-freezer, a kettle, an oven and – most importantly – a microwave. “There’s a microwave in here, and a kettle,” he told John.

“Yay! We can have Cup Noodles.”

Alex wrinkled his nose. “You like Cup Noodles?” he asked.

“They’re not that bad,” John sighed.

“I’m disowning you as a friend.”

John gasped dramatically, sending a wave of static down the line. “You would never,” he hissed. “Anyway,” he continued cheerfully, “I found a turkey ready meal that we can microwave.”

“Turkey ready meal? Now I’m disowning you.”

John laughed, but Alex could sense a tension in his voice even through the phone. He made a mental note to bring it up later. “It’s either this or starve, and I’m pretty certain you don’t want to starve,” John said; the lightness was back in his voice, but it was tight and fake-sounding.

Alex sighed in defeat. “Fine. I’m hungry, bring me back some waffles.”

“What’s the magic word?”

Imperio.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” Alex could practically see John roll his eyes. “I’ll bring you some waffles if you buy me a coffee.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” Alex replied, already making his way to the café. “It’s a good thing I haven’t had my coffee yet either.”

---

“This turkey isn’t half bad.”

“What did I tell you?”

Alex flipped John off as he stuffed a forkful of dinner into his mouth. John was watching him from the other side of the couch with a fondly amused expression on his face. “What?”

John shrugged. “Nothing,” he replied. “Just the way you eat when you’re hungry.”

“Blame that on a childhood below the poverty line,” Alex said. It was supposed to come out as a joke, but John looked down at his food, embarrassed. Alex quickly searched for a change of subject before remembering the conversation he’d had with John that morning. “So you know when we were joking around on the phone this morning?” he asked.

John looked up at him, confused. “Yes…?” he said slowly, carefully.

“You seemed a bit… off once. You were laughing but you weren’t really into it. I wanted to know if you’re alright.” John looked down and Alex was hit with a stroke of realisation. “This… does this have something to do with why you’re not going home for Thanksgiving this year?”

John sighed before setting his empty plate on the coffee table. Alex did the same, his appetite suddenly gone. “I don’t have a lot of work to do,” John admitted.

“I thought so,” Alex said quietly, prompting his best friend to continue.

“The reason I’m not at home right now is my father,” John said. He was still looking at his lap as if he was afraid that if he looked up, Alex might have disappeared. “At the end of last summer, we got into an argument. I don’t exactly remember what it was originally about, but it got… pretty heated. And I, um…” he trailed off and Alex felt the need to jump in.

“You don’t have to tell me this if you don’t want to,” he said lamely.

John shook his head, still not looking up. Inside his head, Alex was screaming at him to look into his eyes and see that Alex was there for him, that he would always be there for him. “I want to,” John replied. “I feel like you’re owed an explanation. I, uh, I accidentally came out to my father.”

“Accidentally?”

John let out a single syllable of breathy, nervous laughter. “Again, I don’t remember how the argument started or how we even got onto that topic, but I ended up saying something like “what if I did like guys?” and my father froze and said “but you don’t so… wait, Jack, do you?” and I couldn’t deny it so he started going on and on about how I could be fixed like there was something wrong with me and I kept arguing with him and getting angrier and more scared and finally he told me to leave for college and not come back, or words to that effect.”

Then, finally, John looked up. And Alex’s heart shattered.

John, his best friend, looked terrified. Was he scared that Alex wouldn’t accept him, just like his father? He must have been. Which broke Alex’s heart even more.

“Come here,” Alex said, pulling John towards him just like he had done the night before. John practically launched himself at Alex, wrapping his arms around him tightly and making him fall backwards onto the couch cushions. John was pretty much on top of him as Alex struggled to pull himself up against the arm of the sofa. Alex squeezed him tight, very aware of John’s warm, toned back under his hands. John seemed to be clinging to him for dear life, afraid to let go, as if Alex would walk away as soon as he did. “John,” Alex said eventually. “John, look at me.” John let go and straightened up so that he could see Alex’s face, but he didn’t get off his lap or take his hands off his shoulders. “John, you are a kind, patient, lively, amazing person, and you’re my best friend and I really don’t deserve you, and your sexual orientation is never going to change any of that. The people who are going to choose to stay in your life are the only people that matter. All of the others are dicks. I apologise if this offends you, but that includes your father.”

John laughed lightly and looked back up at Alex like he was the world. Which of course, combined with the small distance between the two of them, made Alex’s heart go batshit crazy. Nope, now was not the time to think about that. “Thank you,” John said softly, and Alex knew that he meant it.

“How about we watch a film? We still have a lot of food left over from last night.”

“Yeah. Sounds good.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: “Shit.”

The fourth – and final – Event wasn’t even an Event, really. It was more like a single Moment that lasted no longer than three seconds. However, it had the power to completely topple the scales for Alex, so he decided to give it the status of an Event. It happened the morning after Thanksgiving.

Alex woke up slowly, feeling slightly less tired than usual. He wondered when he and John had finally fallen asleep. He was still on the couch, and could feel the leather sticking to his skin. It was going to hurt when he tried to extract himself from it. His eyes focused on John, who was still wrapped around him. Alex thought that he had cheered up a little by the time they had gone to bed (Alex had allowed John to put on Avengers Assemble, which always made him happier), and he looked at ease nestled into Alex’s shoulder. His thick, curly hair had come loose from the ponytail it had been contained in and some had flopped into his face, and Alex gently brushed it away so that he could see John’s face properly. He admired the constellation of dark freckles that peppered his nose and cheeks. He wished that he could count every single one, but he would lose count before he even made a dent in the total.

John’s eyelashes were abnormally long. Not that Alex made a habit of ever looking at other people’s eyelashes, but Peggy often complained about her bitterness towards the length of John’s. John’s eyes were closed right now, but Alex knew the exact shade of dark-chocolate-brown they would be if John was to wake up and look up at him at that moment. John’s lips looked full and soft, and Alex found himself wondering what they tasted like. John was utterly beautiful, and Alex was hit with the overwhelming urge to close the small distance between them and kiss him awake on his lips and his forehead and his nose and run his hands through his hair and never let go of him and wake up every day like this and-

Shit.

Alex thought back to every time he couldn’t explain how he felt during the last couple of months, and the main connection between all of them was John. His heart fluttered every time John looked at him not because Alex was sick. The reason behind his blushing wasn’t the cold weather. The cold also wasn’t the reason why Alex always wanted to be close to John (although John was warmer than him), and the fact that every nerve in his skin seemed to be standing up on end with electricity whenever John touched him wasn’t completely unexplainable.

Alex was in love.

With his best friend.

He had never been worried about his sexuality. He simply assumed that, when the time came, he would find someone who tolerated him enough to settle down with him, regardless of their gender. He never thought that he would fall in love, let alone this hard. The realisation had seemed to hit him around the side of his head like a hundred-dollar textbook. The only problem was-

The only problem was that this could ruin their entire friendship.

Shit.

Shit. This was all wrong.

How could Alex let this happen?

He suddenly felt stifled, as if the air in their corner of the room was running out. He slowly extracted himself from the sofa, wincing as his skin painfully came unstuck from the warm leather, and searched for clean clothes in his chest of drawers. John rolled over and sighed prettily, still asleep, which would have made Alex smile if not for the fact that he was hurting so badly. He didn’t think he could handle telling John and having him reject him in the kindest way he could think of, neither did John deserve Alex avoiding him because he couldn’t face his feelings.

But that was the way it was going to have to be.

---

John woke up cold.

He still had the blanket wrapped around him, and the leather of the sofa was warm and stuck to his bare arms, but he couldn’t feel the heat of another body pressed into him, like he could the morning before. John told himself that it was just because Alex was an early bird and he wanted to start his work early. It wasn’t because of anything else.

Definitely not.

He stood up, the blanket still around his shoulders, and found his phone. He brushed the curly mop of hair out of his eyes, envious of Alex’s hair, which was at least somewhat under control most of the time.

You: where have u gone

He had to wait three minutes for a reply.

alex: I’m at the library

alex: I have to get some work done before herc gets back

You: tru theyre not gonna let us do anything

You: do u want some company???

alex: um I kind of need to be alone for this

alex: some peace and quiet

alex: I hope you understand?

John felt his heart sink. Was Alex avoiding him? Of course not. Alex just needed some alone time. John kicked himself for being so clingy these last two days. Alex was probably sick of him.

You: yeah

You: totally

You: completely understood

alex: thank you

You: np

You: herc comes back at 5 so I guess ill see u then?

alex: yeah

John locked his phone and decided to go to the art building to work on his painting. After all, this wasn’t his room.

Halfway down the stairs, John ran into James. Literally. James fell back into Thomas, who grabbed the banister to support both him and James, who was almost on top of him. James grabbed John’s hand, wide-eyed, and Thomas wrapped his free arm around James’ waist and accidentally knocked the large suitcase that he had been carrying down the stairs. After what seemed like minutes of terror and loud profanities (although it was more like a few seconds of terror and loud profanities), the three of them found their footing.

“Sorry,” John said sheepishly.

James laughed good-naturedly. “No hard feelings,” he replied.

Thomas looked a little more bitter and was mumbling incoherently under his breath as he withdrew his arm from around James. He was completely red in the face, which caused John to smirk at him. Could his feelings for James be any more obvious? Finally, he met John’s amused stare with a glare of his own and cleared his throat. “Isn’t Alexander with you?”

John’s smile dropped as he shook his head. “He’s in the library.” He caught Thomas and James share a confused look.

“How was your Thanksgiving?” James asked politely.

John shrugged, praying that his face showed less emotion than what he was currently feeling. “It was alright, I guess. Pretty quiet.”

“You didn’t go home?”

John shook his head. “How was yours?”

James and Thomas pulled identical grimaces. “It was great,” Thomas replied sarcastically. “Let’s just say that most of my relatives and I share a mutual dislike of each other.”

“And my family is just loud,” James added.

The conversation sank into an awkward silence, and John was considering hurling himself over the banister in embarrassment before James finally cleared his throat. “We ought to go. Thomas still needs to unpack.”

John looked past the other two at the suitcase that was still lying, defeated, at the bottom of the stairs. Thomas pulled a face and retrieved it. “My laptop better not be broken,” he grumbled.

John laughed, feeling slightly guilty. “Sorry,” he repeated.

Thomas shrugged it off. “I’ll see you around, John.”

“See you, Thomas. Bye, James.”

---

John stared at the painting in front of him and hated every brushstroke.

He didn’t understand why he had decided to come to the art building anyway. He had lied about being behind on his work – in fact, he was two months ahead of the rest of his class and set to ace his final project. But Alex was in the library and wanted to be alone, and John didn’t want to be alone in his room, so here he was. Glaring disdainfully at his artwork.

Alex was the last thing John wanted to think about. Why was Alex avoiding him? It couldn’t be because of their conversation last night, could it? His painting wasn’t helping. John could see every single line that was out of proportion, every stroke that was slightly off angle, every colour that he was incapable of mixing correctly. He knew that it was all wrong. He could map out Alex’s face exactly in his head, picture the exact shade of his skin and the waves of his hair. He’d spent too much time staring at Alex to not memorise his concentrated expression when he was working, or the way his smile lit up his face whenever John made him laugh. John loved those moments.

Would he be able to make Alex laugh ever again?

And why couldn’t he get Alex’s painting right?

John sighed in defeat, put the canvas away and went to get a coffee.

---

The next week was the worst week in Alex’s life. Despite his efforts to keep his distance from John, he only ended up falling all the harder every time he saw him.

Which was when things started to really hurt.

Alex knew that the pain would only grow until it consumed him, and he needed to stop that from happening. There were so many things that he hadn’t done yet, and he needed to keep what he tried to convince himself was only a crush from distracting him. But he knew he was kidding himself. This wasn’t just a crush.

He started to throw himself into his work more than ever before (which some would say was impossible, but Alex never failed to amaze people with his productivity) and pulled more all-nighters in the library. Thomas never seemed to complain, but Alex knew that he had probably already caught on and was concerned about him. He ignored it.

He was quieter during class. He stopped arguing with every single point he disagreed with, and while no-one explicitly asked him about it, he caught Washington raise a confused eyebrow at him when he didn’t leap from his seat to counter-argue a particularly derisive point from Samuel Seabury. Alex assumed that most of his classmates were simply relieved that their classes were far more peaceful than before.

He was the most careful around his other friends, particularly Lafayette. To an outsider, Laf always seemed pretty chilled out, but Alex knew that if he ever sensed discomfort among any of the members of his friendship group, he would become the ultimate mother friend and fix the problem with his rather creative ideas. So, even though Alex tried to hide any sign that anything had changed between him and John, he was sure that Laf would be the first to notice a difference.

However, Lafayette wasn’t the first person to notice.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: “What’s the fun in watching you fuck up by yourself? I’d much rather be the sole cause of your downfall.”

The first person to notice Alexander’s strange behaviour – and act upon it – was, in fact, James Madison.

A week and a half after Thanksgiving, James was certain that something was wrong with Alexander. He had had his suspicions before that, but now he was absolutely certain. The breaking point was during their Law class with Charles Lee. Lee was a short, stocky man with a ridiculous sense of style – even more outlandish than Thomas’ – and even more ridiculous opinions. Normally Alexander had a reputation for arguing against every single point that Lee made, but today was different. Alexander’s silence created a vacuum in the room, a gap that was normally filled but today was completely empty. Even Lee seemed to feel it, and he paused after making a particularly ludicrous point, expecting Alexander to leap out of his seat to declare verbal war, to only be met with an awkward silence. James glanced around at Alexander, who had taken his usual seat near the back of the classroom but strangely had his head down as if he was trying not to catch anyone’s eye. James caught sight of Aaron Burr – the only other person he knew who took this class (Lafayette and Thomas were both at a Foreign Relations lecture) – and they shared a questioning look. James assumed that Burr was thinking the same thing as he was.

After class, he pulled out his phone and shot a text to Thomas.

You: Have you noticed something wrong with Alexander???

Thomas replied almost immediately.

Thomas: Why?

You: He was v quiet during Lee’s lecture today

Thomas: Hmm. He’s been spending more nights in the library but that’s all I’ve noticed.

Thomas: Although if he didn’t spend every minute of today’s class arguing against Charles Lee then something must be up.

You: You should keep an eye on him

You: But be subtle

Thomas: You should know by now that nothing I do is ever subtle, Jemmy.

You: Can you at least try though???

Thomas: *sighs* For you.

You: Yay

James pocketed his phone and wandered back to his and John’s room. He wondered if he should ask John if he knew what was wrong with Alex, although he hadn’t seen them together in a while. Since he returned after Thanksgiving, in fact. Had the two of them had a fight? Was that why Alex was behaving so strangely?

James sighed. Why did he have to get dragged into his friends’ problems all the time?

---

“I’m going to the library. I’ll see you later.”

Thomas leapt up from his bed and stood between Alexander and the door. “Nuh-uh. You’re not going anywhere tonight,” he said. “You need to actually get a decent amount of sleep for once. You have a presentation in Adams’ class tomorrow.”

“All the more reason for me to go and prepare,” Alexander retorted, meeting Thomas’ eyes with a determined glare.

Thomas rolled his eyes. “Bullshit. I know that you’ve been prepared for this presentation for three weeks. I hate to say this, but I don’t want you embarrassing yourself up there tomorrow by passing out in front of the whole class. You need to sleep.”

“Careful, Thomas, you’re starting to sound like you care about me.”

“Well, what’s the fun in watching you fuck up by yourself? I’d much rather be the sole cause of your downfall,” Thomas replied, a sly grin on his face. Behind the smirk, however, he was pretty concerned about the number of all-nighters Alexander had pulled over the last few days. James was right, there was something wrong with his roommate.

Alexander finally surrendered, lowering his gaze and opening his laptop on his bed instead. “You’re going to bed at a reasonable time, okay?” Thomas said.

“Yeah, yeah,” Alex replied absentmindedly, already focused on his work.

Thomas eventually climbed into bed at half past midnight. He turned his bedside lamp off and looked over at Alexander, who was still typing away. “You should go to sleep, Alexander,” he said.

“M’busy,” Alexander muttered in reply.

Thomas let out an exasperated sigh and fell face-down onto his pillow. He hoped that Alexander would listen to his advice and turn his laptop off soon, but he knew that that hope was far-fetched. By two in the morning Thomas was still being kept awake by the tap-tapping of Alexander’s fingers on the keyboard and the quiet whirring of his laptop. His patience had finally worn out.

“Hamilton, go the fuck to sleep,” he commanded with a dominance in his voice that he had never heard before. He blamed it on the sleep deprivation that Alexander was causing him. Alexander looked up at Thomas, startled, before finally giving in, closing his laptop and switching off his bedside light. “Thank you,” Thomas breathed in relief as a peaceful silence settled over the room. That is, until it was broken by the faint sound of crying.

Thomas was just about to drift off into sleep before he was pulled back up to the surface of consciousness. He could hear quiet sobs from the bed across the room, and for a moment he hesitated, considering his options. Would Alexander pull up his walls if Thomas reached out to him? Would it still be worth a try? Or should Thomas just leave him to fall asleep?

Fuck it, Thomas thought. “Alexander?” he called softly. The crying stopped. Alexander had probably forgotten that he wasn’t alone in the room. “Alexander, are you okay?” Of course he’s not, Thomas thought to himself. What a stupid question to ask.

“M’fine,” Alexander replied, voice muffled under the covers.

Thomas rolled his eyes – a reflex action he’d adopted over the years for when dealing with Alexander – and sat up. “You’re obviously not. Do you want to come in here?”

Alexander hesitated for a moment before Thomas heard the covers rustling and soon he could see the short, dark silhouette of Alexander standing by the side of his bed. Thomas scooted over to make space for him, and Alexander immediately curled into him. “Sorry,” Alexander muttered.

“Don’t apologise,” Thomas said. “Just go to sleep.” He felt Alexander nod tiredly against his chest. “Look, I know you have other friends who are a lot closer to you than I am, but if you ever want to talk about anything, I’ll listen.”

Alexander sniffed. “So you do care.”

“Of course I care, Alexander,” Thomas replied. Now was not the time to joke around. “I’m your friend.”

Alexander simply hummed, too exhausted to do anything else, and soon Thomas felt his breaths grow even. He slowly reached across to his bedside table and grabbed his phone. He was in way over his head with these sentimental talks – he had barely figured out what was going on inside his own messed-up head yet, let alone was ready to help Alexander with his problems.

You: Gilbert, I need help.

Gilbert: casse-toi, Thomas. it’s half past two

You: This is an emergency.

Gilbert: and I’m up

Gilbert: what do you need

You: What’s up with Alexander?

Gilbert: nothing that I know of…

Gilbert: why???

You: Tonight he was crying himself to sleep and he’s currently sleeping on top of me.

Gilbert: shit

Gilbert: I have no idea what’s wrong with him

You: Could you ask John or Mulligan? Quickly?

Gilbert: I repeat my first statement. it’s half past two, thomas

You: Yet you’re texting me right now.

Gilbert: fine but only because I care about alex

Gilbert: make sure he eats breakfast in the morning

You: I’m not necessarily the best person to have that job, but sure.

Gilbert: make sure you eat as well

You: Fine. If it makes you sleep at night.

Gilbert: are you really saying that now

Gilbert: at fucking two thirty in the morning

You: I see that you have gained Mulligan’s liberal use of colourful language.

Gilbert: I’m tired let me live

You: Also, technically it’s twenty to three now.

Gilbert: goodnight Thomas

You: Or should it be “good morning”?

Gilbert: fuck off

---

Lafayette locked his phone and sat up quietly in bed. He was still pissed that Thomas had woken him up at shit o’clock in the morning, but he was more worried about Alexander. How had he not noticed a change in Alexander’s behaviour? Normally Lafayette found it easy to spot small changes that signalled something wrong, but Alexander had been getting better at hiding those changes from him.

He looked across the room at Hercules, who was emitting cute little snores from under the blankets. Lafayette hated that he had to wake him up, but this was important. “Hercules,” he called softly. The snoring continued, so Lafayette turned to more desperate measures. Stealthily, he crossed the room and jumped on Hercules’ bed, landing on top of him. “Hercules!”

Hercules jolted awake and sat up quickly, which almost caused Lafayette to fall off the bed if he hadn’t grabbed hold of Hercules’ broad shoulders. “Holy fucking shit, Laf, what the fuck?”

Et bonjour à vous aussi,” Lafayette replied cheerily. “We need to talk about Alexander.”

“Can’t that wait until the morning?” Hercules asked, rubbing his eyes. “But if you have a crush on him, I never want to hear about your sex fantasies. What happens in your head stays in your head.”

“I do not have a crush on Alexander,” Lafayette said defensively, wincing at the weariness with which Hercules just spoke. He’d probably heard more than enough about Lafayette’s sex life over the years. “This is about his wellbeing. I just received a text from Thomas.”

“Jefferson? This early in the morning? Was he complaining about Alex’s work ethic again?”

“Alexander was crying this morning so Thomas let him sleep in the same bed as him,” Lafayette clarified.

Hercules’ eyes widened. “Shit. Why was he crying?”

Lafayette grimaced. “That was what I was hoping to find out from you. You haven’t noticed anything… off about him lately?”

Hercules shook his head. “He’s been a bit quiet recently, but I just assumed that was due to tiredness. You ought to ask John.”

Lafayette nodded. “I’ll call him right now.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: “I’m going to run from my feelings until I collapse and die of exhaustion, Pheidippides-style.”

John picked up on the third ring. “Laf? What are you doing up so early?” he asked, voice heavy with sleep.

Lafayette grimaced, feeling guilty for waking John up at three o’clock in the morning. “I need to ask you about Alex,” he replied, getting straight to the point. “Have you noticed him acting up or anything, or do you know why he might do that?”

John hesitated for a moment, and Lafayette wondered whether the connection had been cut before John’s voice returned, shakier than before. “I- he’s been avoiding me for a while, since Thanksgiving, and I don’t… I don’t know why.” Lafayette heard his voice crack.

“John?”

“Still here,” he replied, sniffing. Lafayette was getting more and more worried.

“Do you want to come over?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”

Pas de tout.”

“Thank you. I’ll be right over.”

Lafayette hung up and looked back at Hercules. “John’s on his way here. He’s pretty shaken.”

Hercules stood up. “I’ll give you two some space,” he said. “John will probably want as few people here as possible.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I do,” Hercules replied. “I understand where he’s coming from, unrequited love and all.”

“We don’t know for certain that John’s in love with Alex,” Lafayette reminded him, filing away the unrequited love comment for a later date.

Hercules shrugged. “It seems pretty clear to me.” Lafayette couldn’t help but agree. Hercules pulled on a pair of trainers and a sweatshirt before slinging his backpack over his shoulder. “I’m going to the library,” he said. “There are a few sketches that I still need to work on, so now’s the perfect opportunity.”

Lafayette pulled a face, feeling guilty for the second time this morning. “Thank you,” he said, pressing a light kiss on Hercules’ cheek. It was still dark in their room – neither of them had bothered to turn on a light – so he couldn’t see how Hercules had reacted. He wished he could. Hercules lay a hand on Lafayette’s shoulder for a couple of seconds, the touch causing Lafayette’s skin to feel as if it were on fire, and for a second Lafayette thought that Hercules was leaning in ever so slightly. It wouldn’t have taken much to close the distance between them…

Then, suddenly, Hercules was at the door, and the spell was broken. The crack of light from the hallway allowed Lafayette to see Hercules smile sleepily at him. It didn’t reach his eyes. “I’ll see you later, then,” Hercules said.

Jusque là,” Lafayette replied, plastering on a charming grin.

Hercules rolled his eyes. “I have no idea what that means, so I’m just gonna agree with you,” he replied. Then he was gone and Lafayette was left alone in the dark to ponder how he’d royally screwed everything up with Hercules. He was not alone for long, however, before there was a knock on the door.

John looked terrible. He’d probably reached Alexander-type levels of sleeplessness, with dark rings under bloodshot eyes and wild, curly hair left unwashed for days. Lafayette tried not to pull a face – this was serious, not the time for joking around – and ushered his friend into his room and onto his bed. John immediately curled up against Lafayette’s side as they sat down, and Lafayette put an arm around his narrow shoulders protectively. “Oh hon,” he cooed as he felt John start shaking with soft sobs. “Tout ira bien, trust me.”

Et si ce n’est pas?” John replied, sounding small and terrified, completely different to the loud, excitable John Laurens that Lafayette knew. The Frenchman didn’t want to admit that he was also scared. “I don’t know what I’ve done wrong, Laf, but I don’t want to lose Alex. What do I do?”

Considering that he had a pretty messed-up love life himself, Lafayette wasn’t really able to answer that question. But John was his friend and he was crying while practically sitting in Lafayette’s lap, so Lafayette decided to try his best. “I’m probably not the one to ask, but my suggestion is to wait for the storm to pass over. You and Alex are very close, you’re not going to let this one event stop that from being true.”

“I don’t want to wait for anything,” John mumbled, exhausted due to both tears and lack of sleep. “I’m impatient and I’m a coward and I’m hurting so much already because I don’t think I can live without Alex any longer. I just love him so much.”

Lafayette glanced down sharply at John, who had his eyes closed and was about to pass out from tiredness. John loved Alex? He must have been exhausted to have let that slip. Lafayette couldn’t say that he was surprised by the confession, though. In fact, if John hadn’t just fallen asleep on his lap, he would be doing a victory dance around the room because he knew it. Instead, he smoothed out John’s hair, whispering softly in French until he, too, fell asleep.

---

macaroni man: Good morning. Any news?

You: neither hercules nor john know why alexander is acting oddly, but I managed to obtain some other information from john that might interest you

macaroni man: Do enlighten me.

You: john loves alexander

macaroni man: …

macaroni man: FUCK!! YEAH!! I!! KNEW!! IT!!

You: omg that was my reaction yessss

macaroni man: So, what do we do now?

You: we need to make sure that the feelings are mutual before we proceed with anything. we can’t afford to jump to conclusions

macaroni man: True. But I’m pretty sure that the feelings are mutual.

macaroni man: Maybe that’s why Alexander has been acting so differently?

You: could be. but we’re not doing anything until we’re sure

macaroni man: Okay. Alexander’s still asleep.

You: so’s john

macaroni man: You’ll yell at me for jumping to conclusions again, but I’d say that their mutual pining for each other has completely drained them.

You: speaking of pining…

macaroni man: We’re not talking about this.

You: you and James…

macaroni man: I’m leaving.

You: you can’t run from your feelings forever!!!

macaroni man: But I’m going to run from them until I collapse and die of exhaustion, Pheidippides-style.

You: you need to tell James!!

macaroni man: Goodbye, Gilbert.

You: we really need to talk about this at some point

You: Thomas???

You: this is incredibly rude

You: you know I’m right

---

You: are you okay???

hercules more like hunkules: yeAH IM GREAT I FEEL SO PRODUCTIVE

You: omg

You: how much coffee have you had??

hercules more like hunkules: only one

hercules more like hunkules: with four shots of espresso

hercules more like hunkules: … whoops

You: hercules mulligan you need some sleep

hercules more like hunkules: I would but I don’t think I’d be welcome

You: john is asleep

You: in my bed

You: get back here and go the hell to sleep

hercules more like hunkules: nah I can’t I have a design class in like two hours

hercules more like hunkules: so really it was a good idea for me to finish my designs this morning

You: I thought you’d already done them???

hercules more like hunkules: ahahaha I lied

You: hERCULES MULLIGAN

You: how??!?!??

hercules more like hunkules: idk

hercules more like hunkules: procrastination is fun??

You: you need to take better care of yourself I swear

hercules more like hunkules: okay okay I’m sorry

hercules more like hunkules: anyway are you free tomorrow? we need to talk

You: sure

hercules more like hunkules: awesome thank u

You: np

---

Lafayette’s mind was reeling and a tight knot of anxiety was forming in his stomach. What did Hercules need to talk about? Was he mad about last night? Was he going to try and find the nicest possible way to let Lafayette down, saying that they were better off as friends, that Hercules would never like him in that way? Although it wasn’t like Lafayette didn’t deserve that. He was the one who slept around to satisfy his insatiable longing for a beautiful human being who would never like him back.

John groaned into Lafayette’s chest, bringing the Frenchman back to earth, and slowly opened his eyes. “What time is it?” he mumbled almost incoherently.

“Five past eight,” Lafayette replied.

John grunted and got out of bed, muttering something about taking a shower. However, five seconds after the door to the en-suite closed Lafayette heard a loud “FUCK!” and the door was yanked open again, revealing a wide-eyed, shirtless John. “Remind me what we talked about last night,” he said quickly.

Lafayette stretched out lazily on his bed and let out an amused smile. “Just some stuff about how Alexander was ignoring you and you didn’t know why.”

John frowned. “Anything else?”

Lafayette shrugged, enjoying the power that he had. “Je ne sais pas,” he said. “You may have let slip how you are completely, utterly in love with your best friend.”

John’s eyes widened even further and he raced to stand by Lafayette’s bed, letting out a string of profanities under his breath. “You can’t tell anyone,” he pleaded. “No-one can know. At all. If Alex finds out… that’ll be the end of everything between us. And I can’t have that.”

Lafayette nodded reassuringly, despite the fact that he’d already told Thomas. “It’ll stay between us. ne vous inquiétez pas, mon ami.”

John breathed a sigh of relief. “Merci beaucoup, Laf,” he said, crossing the room to the en suite again.

De rien,” Lafayette replied as John shut the door. He waited for the sound of the shower to begin before pulling out his phone and texting Thomas.

You: don’t tell anyone about john being in love with alex

He didn’t have to wait long for a reply.

macaroni man: I would never.

macaroni man: I may be a fabulous piece of shit sometimes, Gilbert, but I have at least some respect.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: “If Thomas screamed right now he would be heard and most likely yelled at.”

It was one in the morning and Thomas was getting worried.

Thomas didn’t get nervous often – no, actually, that was a lie. Thomas was terrified before every single time where he had to speak in public. He hoped that doing it enough would help him face his stage fright, but so far it hadn’t. The only thing Thomas envied about Alexander was his ability to speak comfortably for hours on end, somehow convincing people of his ridiculously optimistic views and never falling over his words once. Fortunately, the only person who knew about this jealousy was James.

Thomas didn’t get nervous about Alexander often. But it was one in the morning and Thomas hadn’t seen him all day. He wasn’t answering Thomas’ calls or texts either. Alexander had simply vanished that morning. He would have brushed this matter off as just Alexander being Alexander, but with the way he had been acting recently…

He decided to ask Lafayette, but before he could open up the message app on his phone, it buzzed with a new text.

(unknown number): hi is this Thomas Jefferson???

You: Who is this?

(unknown number): Hercules Mulligan

(unknown number): friends with Alex, Laf and John

New Contact > “Mulligan”

You: Ah. How did you get my number?

Mulligan: I found it in laf’s phone. he’s asleep rn

You: What do you need?

Mulligan: I was wondering if you’d seen or heard from Alex today

Mulligan: he’s not answering my calls or texts and I’m starting to get worried

Mulligan: Laf’s passed tf out but if he were conscious I think he’d be worried also

You: I was about to ask Gilbert the same thing.

Mulligan: omg

Mulligan: g i l b e r t

You: That is his name.

Mulligan: ik but sometimes I forget that he’s called something other than Lafayette

Mulligan: but seriously

You: What should we do?

You: You know him better than me, so I’m relying on you here.

Mulligan: oh no I don’t think I can handle this pressure

Mulligan: I think Laf mentioned once that his phone can be tracked

You: On it.

You: Thanks, Mulligan.

Mulligan: np Jefferson

Thomas closed the message app and opened the “Find Friends” app instead. Despite the situation, he snorted. At the start of this school year, he would never have expected to ever refer to Alexander as a friend. But what could he say? Things change quickly.

He tapped on Alexander’s contact and waited a few seconds for his phone to calculate Alexander’s location. He frowned when he saw the result. “Why the hell is Alexander in the art building?” he muttered.

---

The walk across campus was eerie. Thomas never went out this late at night alone (when he did it was always for impromptu philosophical discussions with James, who never seemed to complain) so the quiet was odd to him. It was as if the entire city was holding its breath, waiting for sunrise. It was practically a vacuum, like space. Except if Thomas screamed right now he would be heard and most likely yelled at.

Thomas had rarely been to the art building. Sure, he’d seen it – he passed it en route to Professor Franklin’s Foreign Relations classes – but as someone who couldn’t draw for shit, he’d never had a reason to actually enter it. He stumbled down the corridors, using the light from his phone to guide him, and eventually found himself on the top floor, following the faint sound of crying. More specifically, Alexander’s crying. Alexander was curled up, leaning against one of the great windows on the far wall, shaking with soft sobs. Immediately Thomas approached him, quickly but carefully, not wanting to spook him, and sank down next to him. “Hey,” he said quietly.

Alexander froze, not noticing Thomas’ appearance, but leaned into Thomas’ side as he put an arm around his narrow shoulders. He cried until the tears stopped coming, and then he slowly sat back up. “How did you find me?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

“I tracked your phone,” Thomas replied truthfully.

Alexander flipped him off half-heartedly before turning to look out of the window. It was almost pitch black outside but Thomas could just about make out the silhouettes of trees and the other buildings on the campus and, beyond that, the city skyline in a slightly darker black than the sky. “John likes this room the most,” Alexander said. “It has the best natural light and the best views. And it’s really peaceful at night.”

“I suppose it provides a lot of inspiration,” Thomas replied. Alexander hummed in agreement.

They sat in silence for a while, neither of them wanting to break the ice. Alexander was the first to crack, and blurted out, “How do you cope with being in love with Madison?”

Thomas’ breath caught in his throat, causing him to start coughing. Was he really that obvious? He couldn’t exactly help it: James was utterly perfect. Wait, did James know?

Once he had got his breath back, Thomas cleared his throat. “Why do you ask?” he said coolly. He couldn’t be bothered to deny that he liked James. Maybe it wasn’t love, at least not yet, but it was something close. He needed to be more subtle in the future, though. If James found out… if he already knew

Thomas didn’t want to go into that.

Alexander sighed. “I don’t know if I can handle still being friends with John. I just love him so much and it really, really hurts because he’ll never love me back, at least not like that, but he doesn’t deserve to have someone else leave him. I don’t know what to do. Am I a bad friend?”

Jefferson was hiding a massive grin. He couldn’t wait to text Lafayette and gloat about how right he had been. “No, you’re not a bad friend. I think you ought to tell him.”

Alexander shook his head vigorously. “No. Definitely not. That is a terrible idea. John doesn’t like me like that and if I tell him it’ll ruin what we already have and I’ve messed that up enough and I don’t want to lose him.” His voice cracked and Thomas pulled him closer. Thomas wasn’t going to tell Alexander that John liked him. It wasn’t his place to say that, and besides, the two of them needed to get their shit together and work things out for themselves. Thomas wasn’t going to be there to pick up after them forever. He had his own problems to screw up. However, it still killed him to see Alex as broken as this. Although he would never admit that to anyone.

“You need some sleep. Come back to our room.”

“Okay,” Alexander replied, sounding totally defeated.

As they left the art building, Thomas shot out texts to Mulligan and Lafayette, even though he knew they wouldn’t be seen until the morning.

To: Mulligan, Gilbert

You: I have found Alexander. We’re going back to our dormitory. No need to worry.

To: Gilbert

You: Also, Alexander loves John. I!! Told!! You!!

Gilbert: YASSSSSSS!!!

You: That was my reaction!

You: But aren’t you supposed to be asleep?

You: Also, you’re using capitals?!?

Gilbert: you’re the one texting me

Gilbert: and I’m v excited bc I knew it!!!

Gilbert: does alexander have his phone with him

You: I think he does.

Gilbert: has he checked it?? get him to check it

You: Okay.

“Do you have your phone on you?” Thomas asked.

Alexander nodded. “I think I put in on silent though.”

“You didn’t check it? We were really worried about you.”

Alexander pulled out his phone tiredly and stared, wide-eyed, at the flood of message alerts filling his lock screen. Thomas peered over his shoulder as he scrolled guiltily through the texts.

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: are you okay?

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: please answer your phone

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: ALEXANDER

<missed call from: america’s favourite fighting frenchman>

<2 missed calls from: comma after dearest>

comma after dearest: Alex please answer your phone I can’t find you in the library

miss maria: are you alright, Alexander? eliza and I are pretty worried.

eliiiza: Pretty worried? PRETTY WORRIED??? WE’RE MORE THAN PRETTY WORRIED, MARIA.

miss maria: I’m trying to keep calm about this, eliza

miss maria: you’re not helping.

eliiiza: I’m calling you, Alexander. You had better pick up.

<7 missed calls from: eliiiza>

and peggy: angelica just told me to call u but im in class rn so im just gonna text

and peggy: are u ok

and peggy: answer me goddammit

horsefucker: Alex you’re probably getting spammed with texts but I need to tell you to reply to at least one of us

horsefucker: Laf is crying please Alex

He saw his own messages, unread, on Alex’s phone.

jefferasshole: Alexander, are you coming back to our room tonight?

<2 missed calls from: jefferasshole>

jefferasshole: You had better start heading back here right now or I’ll invade and conquer your side of the room.

jefferasshole: There is no way you’re working yourself to death tonight so stop ignoring everyone.

Then his eyes landed on John’s texts.

<13 missed calls from: turtle man>

turtle man: alex I know were not talking or anything but im really worried about u pls pick up ur phone

turtle man: 13 missed calls may look needy but im worried ok let me live

turtle man: u dont have to text me but pls reply to someone, maybe laf or herc

turtle man: please alex I need to know ur ok

Thomas quickly sent back a text.

You: This is Thomas. I have found Alexander and am taking him back to our room. He’s fine, just a little shaken. No need to worry.

turtle man: THANK G O D

turtle man: THANK YOU SO MUCH THOMAS I WAS SO SCARED

turtle man: shit dont tell alex i said that

You: You’re texting his phone, John.

turtle man: quick delete the messages or I will kill u in ur sleep

You: Oh dear, I feel so threated by this short, angry art student.

Nevertheless, Thomas deleted the messages.

You: Fine, they’re gone.

turtle man: good

You: Go to bed, John.

turtle man: ok. u 2 thomas

turtle man: wait did alex say anything about why he disappeared today???

Thomas hesitated. What was he going to tell John? He couldn’t tell John that Alex loved him. Those two needed to sort out their love lives on their own.

Says the guy who’s gotten himself involved in his friends’ romantic adventures just to avoid his own feelings.

You: No, I’m afraid not.

turtle man: ok dont worry I was just curious

You: No problem. Go to sleep.

turtle man: ok thx again thomas

“Your friends were very worried about you.”

Alexander looked up at him. He was so tired he could barely keep his eyes open. “I really don’t deserve them. I don’t deserve anything,” he mumbled.

Thomas rolled his eyes at Alexander’s melodrama. “Of course you deserve them. If you didn’t, then they would have left you alone a long time ago. They stay with you because you’re a good person, even if your dress sense is terrible and your political opinions are wildly optimistic. You make them happy just as much as they make you happy.”

By this time, they had reached the door to their room. Thomas opened it and led Alexander to his bed, but Alexander stopped. “Can I… can I sleep with you tonight?” he asked timidly.

Thomas nodded, noticing Alexander’s vulnerability. “Of course.”

Despite Thomas wishing that it were James that he was holding, and despite Alexander longing for John, the two of them actually managed to get a pretty decent night’s sleep.

---

John woke up with the uncomfortable realisation that he had an art history quiz the next day.

“Shit,” he muttered as he leapt out of bed and started searching for his notecards.

“John, what are you doing? It’s nine in the morning,” James asked, still half-asleep.

“I have to study for a quiz on post-impressionism,” John replied, still looking for the notes. He was sure he’d left them on his desk or in his bag…

No. He was studying them in Alex’s room during Thanksgiving.

Shit.

“I’m just going to Alex’s dorm to get some notes I’ve left there,” John explained to James, who was still barely awake, and left the room wearing only his pyjamas, his worn sneakers and his coat. He hurried to Alex’s room, not stopping to admire the crispness of the December morning. The ground, covered in white frost, crunched underfoot and John glimpsed a group of freshmen who were already wearing Christmas jumpers.

John still had the spare key that Alex had given to him at the start of the year, even though he hadn’t had much of a reason to use it recently. Assuming that both Alex and Thomas were both already up (Alex was prone to waking up with an idea and jumping out of bed to write it down, as John had learned the hard way, and Thomas seemed like an early bird), he let himself in. He was barely through the doorway when he froze, his breath catching in his throat.

Alex was curled up next to Thomas, who had his arms wrapped around him protectively with one hand in his long, dark hair. John couldn’t see Alex’s face as it was buried deeply in Thomas’ chest. They both looked so peaceful, so different from when they were awake and arguing with each other. John should have liked that.

John hated it.

He was frozen, stuck to the ground, unable to move. He shouldn’t be feeling jealous of Thomas; after all, he and Alex were just friends, nothing more. So why was the pain in his chest greater than it had ever been before?

Thomas stirred, which immediately broke the spell. John raced out of the room, the door slamming after him, and raced down the corridor. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t think without his mind flying back to that image of Alex and Thomas. He was right all along; even the tiny shred of hope in the back of his mind that he had at least a small chance with Alex had been squished.

He would never be more than a friend to Alex.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: “Have I made you thirsty?”

James was sitting on his bed tapping away on his laptop when the peace was suddenly disturbed by the door to his room quickly opening. He looked up to see John race inside and fall to his knees, covering his face with his hands in a loud sob. James jumped up and raced to John’s side, pulling him up and leading him to his bed. He grabbed the takeaway cup of tea on his bedside table, hoping that it was still hot enough, and pressed it into John’s shaking hands. “John, you’re okay. It’s okay. You’re in our bedroom. You’re holding a cup of tea. It’s pretty crappy and I got it half an hour ago so it’s probably cold by now, but you’ll feel better if you drink it.”

John sipped from the cup and grimaced. “This tea is shit,” he said softly.

James snorted. “Are you alright? Do you want to talk?”

“No and not really, but I’ll tell you because I think you ought to know,” John replied, still not looking up from James’ – now his – tea. “I went to Alex’s and Thomas’ room to get some revision notes, and Alex was sleeping with Thomas.”

James frowned at the information. “Do you mean “sleeping with” or “sleeping with”?” he asked dubiously. He was pretty sure that Thomas didn’t like Alex in that way – he told himself that it was not hope telling him that – but John seemed so distraught.

“It wasn’t sex or anything, but they looked so peaceful and comfortable that… they can’t be together, can they? Oh god…” John exclaimed, realisation dawning on his face. “Maybe that’s why Alex has been avoiding me!” He started to shake with sobs again and James wrapped an arm around him. Up until now James had been almost certain that Thomas had feelings for him, and he was still sure that this meant nothing. He just had to convince John of that fact.

“I don’t think Thomas likes Alex in that way. I think he has feelings for… someone else.”

John frowned but didn’t press the matter further.

---

James had left to buy another cup of tea, and John felt vaguely guilty as he finished the one that James had given to him. He checked his phone, wincing at the number of messages that flooded his lock screen.

jefferidiot: I saw you in our bedroom.

jefferidiot: Alex and I are not a thing.

jefferidiot: It meant nothing, Alex was just sad.

jefferidiot: PLEASE REPLY I LIKE JAMES NOT ALEX.

laf: john is thomas harassing you?

laf: do I need to get him a restraining order?

laf: you know that thomas doesn’t like alex, right?

John turned his phone off and went to class.

---

Lafayette was lying with his face buried in a pillow when he heard Hercules enter their room. “Are you okay?” Hercules asked.

Lafayette groaned and rolled onto his back. “I didn’t think things could get much worse between Alex and John. Mon dieu, I was wrong.”

Hercules sat down on his bed, frowning. “What happened?”

“Alex was in bed with Thomas because he was upset last night, but John saw them and uh, how do you say, took it the wrong way?”

“John thinks that Alex and Jefferson are dating?” Hercules clarified. Lafayette nodded. Hercules puffed out air and flopped backwards on the bed. “What do we do now?”

Je ne sais pas,” Lafayette replied simply.

They sat in an uncomfortable silence, both wondering if things would ever be the same between Alex and John. Lafayette hoped so. The two of them were inseparable; it was as if they had been made for each other. But the misunderstandings and dramatic irony had Lafayette thinking that he and his friends were in some kind of rom-com, some kind of modern-day Shakespeare comedy. Except Lafayette wasn’t sure that there would be a happy ending here.

“Laf? Could we… talk, please? I, um, need to tell you something.” Hercules was sitting up again, staring at Lafayette intently.

Lafayette froze in panic, the knot of anxiety in his stomach tied impossibly tightly. This was it. This was where Hercules was going to let him down easily, tell him that he was flattered but he only loved Laf as a friend, nothing more. Not that Laf didn’t deserve it, exactly. The motives for his rather active, if completely messed-up, love life were pretty dishonourable. Hercules probably thought that Lafayette was looking for another one-night stand, or a friends-with-benefits relationship. But Laf wanted more with Hercules. He wanted a stable relationship with him more than anything else in the world. But that hope was about to be snatched away from him.

“Laf? Are you okay? If you don’t want to talk, that’s fine, just let me know,” Hercules said. Lafayette suddenly remembered that he hadn’t actually provided him with an answer.

“Oh, no, we can talk,” he assured Hercules, even though he felt like throwing up at the prospect. “What did you want to tell me?”

Hercules stared at his hands in his lap, somehow looking more uncomfortable than Lafayette felt. “Okay. But please don’t freak out.”

Lafayette frowned. “Why would I freak out?”

“Because you’re my friend, Laf!” Hercules exclaimed, sounding more scared than Lafayette had ever seen him. “And I don’t want to lose you, but you keep saying that John and Alex should confess their feelings so I thought I should follow your advice as well.”

Now Lafayette was confused. “Could you explain a little more, s’il vous plait?”

Hercules visibly took a deep breath. “Laf, I like you.”

He wasn’t expecting that. “Quoi?”

Hercules was still looking down. Lafayette wanted him to meet his eyes, he wanted to know that there was truth in what Hercules was saying. “You heard me,” he said quietly, as if he was ashamed. “I know it’s not reciprocated, but I needed to tell you. If I held it in any longer I think I would have exploded.”

“What makes you think it’s not reciprocated?” Lafayette asked.

Then Hercules looked up, but there was a trace of anger in his eyes. “I don’t know, maybe all of the one night stands you have? The fact that you always seem so eager to pick someone up at a party? The fact that I am right here yet you go and have this elaborate sex life before coming back and telling me all about it? Do you not see how much that hurts me, Laf? I really, really like you, but it appears that everyone else in the visible universe feels the same way, and though I initially thought that I’d be happy waiting and wondering if I’d ever make it onto your radar, my patience is starting to wear thin.”

Then it was Lafayette’s turn to speak. “Hercules, are you not aware of why I have so many one night stands? Why I am never satisfied? It is…” He cleared his throat. “It is because of you, mon cher. I really like you too but I was never sure that you felt the same way. Sex is kind of my… what do you call it… coping strategy? What I like to hide behind? I have never wanted anyone but you, Hercules.”

Hercules’ expression had changed from one of shame to one of shocked disbelief, and before Lafayette could second-guess himself, he was across the room and pulling Hercules to him until their lips collided.

It took a moment for Hercules to respond, and Lafayette was beginning to wonder whether he was going to back out or say that this was a mistake, but then his strong arms were around Lafayette’s waist, large hands tangled in his hair and cupping his cheeks. Lafayette’s hands were around Hercules’ neck as their tongues fought for dominance. The heat and passion of it all was both too much and not enough for Lafayette. He’d never had this with any of his previous lovers.

The kiss lasted only a few seconds, but when they broke apart and Hercules pressed their foreheads together with a shy smile, Lafayette felt like he had been to the moon and back. Neither of them made any move to remove their hands from where they were wrapped around each other, Lafayette’s still around Hercules’ neck and Hercules’ in Lafayette’s hair.

“So… coping strategy, huh?” Hercules said, looking into Lafayette’s eyes, pupils blown wide with arousal.

Lafayette blushed but held his gaze. “Maybe later I can demonstrate for you,” he replied.

Hercules pulled Lafayette into a quick kiss before finally pulling away. “Maybe. But first, I’m in real need of a coffee.”

Lafayette shot him a disarming smirk. “Have I made you thirsty, mon cœur?”

This time it was Hercules’ turn to blush. “Fuck you.”

“That is my plan,” Lafayette replied without hesitation.

Hercules flipped him off before throwing him his sneakers.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: “It’s crushing John and you’ll probably have to face the wrath of Lafayette.”

Alex spent the next week avoiding everyone except Thomas, who was still infuriatingly insistent on remaining in his life. Fortunately, he didn’t ask many questions and seemed fairly understanding when Alex didn’t want to answer the ones that he did ask. Thomas had told him that John had seen them in bed together and thought that they were now dating and Alex had been heartbroken (which Thomas tried not to take the wrong way). Now Alex was afraid to ever show his face in public in case he ran into John. So he stayed in his room for the entire week apart from when he had to go to his classes and for covert expeditions to the nearby coffee shop. The good news was that he had managed to be even more productive than usual, churning out article after article for various local newspapers and getting coffee money in return. The bad news was that he was severely lacking in the sleep department. Whenever he closed his eyes he was plagued by dreams of John kissing him and wrapped around him and under him and on top of him, his freckles like the stars in the sky over Nevis, Alex’s childhood home. The sky was always so much clearer there. Light pollution and air pollution and general bad weather always obscured the stars from view in New York. The constellations were one of the few things that Alex missed about his old home.

Alex hadn’t seen John, Laf or Hercules in the past week. Lafayette had texted him a couple of times just to check on him, but he seemed to realise that Alex needed space. Nevertheless, as he continued to assure Alex, he was always there to listen should Alex need it.

Alex didn’t need it.

At least not yet.

---

This time it took barely a week for James to crack.

Alexander was even quieter during lectures. The hole created by the lack of his constant arguing was huge and seemed to give the class a vacuum-like awkwardness that not even Thomas could fix, even though he now had more time to put across his own points.

After one particularly quiet class involving a debate on Donald Trump’s ridiculous plans for America, one that James was sure would incite Alexander enough to get involved, James received a text from Aaron Burr.

Feel the Burrn: Hi James, do you know what’s going on with Alexander? He’s been really quiet recently.

You: I don’t know how much I can tell you but he’s having a few problems with his friends atm

Feel the Burrn: Right. I was just curious. Thanks for telling me.

You: No problem Aaron

John was even worse. You could almost see the sadness radiating off him. His energy, which used to be endless and seemed to power everyone else in the immediate vicinity, had been completely drained from him. He no longer bounced and instead seemed to be tethered to the ground by an invisible ball and chain around his ankle. Frankly, James had had enough.

One day, while John was in the art building working on his project (and probably crying as well, James suspected), James called Thomas.

He picked up on the first ring. “Hi, Jemmy!” he said brightly.

James decided not to beat around the bush. “Are you in a relationship with Alex?” he asked. “It’s perfectly fine if you are, but just know that it’s crushing John and you’ll probably have to face the wrath of Lafayette.”

What followed was a long string of “no”s from Thomas, each one gaining in volume. “Definitely not! I do not like Alex in that way!”

“Are you sure?” James countered calmly.

“YES I AM SURE JAMES, I’M PRETTY SURE ABOUT MY FEELINGS!” Thomas shouted back.

“You need to talk to John.”

“He’s not answering my calls,” Thomas whined.

James rolled his eyes. “Come to mine this afternoon. He only has a class this morning then he’s free.”

“I don’t wanna,” Thomas moaned.

“Do you want your roommate’s crush to think that you’re dating for the rest of your life?”

A crackle of static travelled down the line which James recognised as a sigh of defeat. “Fine. I’ll be there.”

---

Thomas was stretched out on James’ bed by the time John arrived back from lunch with Lafayette and Hercules. The two of them had got together the week before and although John was happy for them, hanging out with them just made him long for Alex a little more. He felt completely alone in the world, cold and isolated.

Thomas heard the door open and took a deep breath before turning to see John in the doorway, staring at him with an indefinite expression on his face. James stood up from where he had perched on his desk chair and greeted John politely, with Thomas following his lead.

When the small talk was over, James gathered his notes and laptop and headed to the door. “I have a class now, but you two are welcome to stay here. I think you two have a lot to talk about,” he said slyly.

Thomas felt betrayed. He was nervous about this conversation with John as it was, but at least he thought James was going to be there as well. Now he was going to have to face an angry John Laurens by himself. “But… James you need to… Jemmy…”

“Bye Thomas!” James called as the door slammed shut.

The two of them were left in an awkward silence, and the tension of everything that needed to be said rose until it stifled Thomas and he snapped. “Hamilton and I aren’t… a thing,” he said slowly.

“You were sleeping in the same bed,” John replied from his bed, his gaze not rising from the floor.

“James and I…” Thomas trailed off, realising that that probably wasn’t the best example to use. “You and Gilbert do that all the time.”

John pulled a face. “But Laf is… Laf.”

“Fair point.”

The silence returned and Thomas wanted to slap himself. Why couldn’t he be better in social situations? How come he couldn’t hold a simple conversation without it lapsing into an uncomfortable silence? He decided just to let it out, like he would during a debate.

“Look, I don’t like Alex in that way. If you had actually looked at my messages to you in the last week you would know that I like James. But you’re sworn to secrecy on that fact. And even if I did like Alex – which I don’t – I happen to know that he is completely infatuated with someone else…”

Shit.

He wasn’t supposed to say that.

John had been staring at him with that same unidentifiable expression on his face, but that expression had disappeared now, replaced with pure disappointment. “Okay,” he said with a tone that made Thomas’ heart break and he rose to leave.

Thomas leapt up, grabbed his arm quickly and yanked him down again. He needed to fix this. “Alex likes you, okay? He didn’t want me to tell you but you leave me no choice. He told me himself that he’s in love with you and it hurts like crazy because he doesn’t think you like him back and that’s why he’s avoiding you.”

John looked stricken, in total shock, for a moment. Thomas thought he saw something resembling consideration flickering in John’s eyes before the smaller man bolted and made it out of the door before Thomas could stop him again.

Thomas sighed, hoping that John was going to find Alex.

---

John didn’t go and find Alex. Instead he went for a long walk around the campus. Walking seemed to help him think, he had found. The fresh air and the exercise cleared his head and made him focus. Alex had never shared this viewpoint, opting to plant himself in front of his laptop where he could write everything down before he had a chance to forget it.

This time, however, John was struggling to think about anything other than Alex. Was Thomas being honest? Despite the fact that they had become friends weeks ago, John was still slightly wary. He didn’t want to get his hopes up to have them destroyed again. He didn’t think he could survive that.

By the time he returned to his dormitory block, John decided to wait it out a little while longer. Maybe this whole thing would blow over, or maybe John would wake up and it would all be a nightmare and he and Alex could be friends again.

He knew that he was kidding himself.

---

James had returned to his room and Thomas had left by the time James heard the door unlock. John entered and flopped onto his bed wearily, like he was still wearing the invisible ball and chain. James assumed that he had not gone to talk to Alex.

John mumbled incoherently into his pillow.

“What was that?” James asked.

John rolled onto his side, facing James. “Jefferson likes you.”

“I know,” James replied calmly, even though his heart started beating faster at the confirmation. “Did he tell you that?”

“Yeah.” John was frowning, surprised at James’ reaction. “You know? But you’re not making out with him?”

James snorted. “I assumed as much. But I’m waiting for him to tell me himself. Our friendship was formed out of trust and I want our romantic relationship to be formed the same way, if it one day exists. Besides, I’m not that good with words.”

“You’re on the debate team.”

“I’m not as good with words as Thomas, then,” James corrected.

“So, you like him too?” John asked.

“God, yes,” James replied, letting a giddy smile leak onto his face.

“Yet you want me to go and talk to Alex about our own feelings?”

James sat back on his bed, the book on his lap forgotten for the moment. “Your friendship has a different dynamic to ours. I’m guessing that it was created quickly by taking leaps of faith. You’re both people who don’t like to wait for things to happen, you want to go and obtain your goals yourselves. I think that your romantic relationship should be formed in the same way.”

John was frowning. “That’s… really insightful, actually. Thank you.”

James grinned. “Also, you’re both highly annoying when you’re sad and Thomas and I would like you both to stop,” he said.

“Fuck off,” John replied, but there was a joking tone to his voice that made James slightly happier.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14: “We’ll come when we come!”

The next morning, Thomas woke up to the feeling of being crushed. His eyes shot open and he had barely recognised Alexander’s face above him before he started shouting.

“Holy fUCK HAMILTON I SWEAR TO GOD…”

“I need your help. I’m going to ask John out,” Alexander interrupted.

That stopped Thomas in his tracks. “You what?”

“You heard me, Jefferson.”

Thomas grinned smugly. “I did, but I just want to hear you say that you needed my help again.”

Alexander flipped him off before getting up and freeing Thomas from his bed. “I hate to admit it, but it’s going to go so badly unless I get help and I’m already nervous, and you were the closest person I could find and you seem pretty smooth…” – that got a snort from Thomas – “…so can you please help me?”

Thomas put his hands on Alexander’s shoulders to stop him rambling. “Alexander, calm down. You’re going to give me a headache. Of course I’ll help you, but I can’t say I’ll be of much use. Can I call Lafayette?”

“Yes. Please.”

Lafayette picked up on the second ring. “Bonjour Thomas,” he said, his voice sounding breathless and pained through the line. “I don’t want to sound rude, but could you make it quick please? I am currently in the middle of something.”

Thomas rolled his eyes wearily. “Once again, I don’t want to hear any more about what you and Mulligan do at… ten in the morning? Ten in the morning? Really, Gilbert? Alex needs your help. He wants to ask John out.”

Lafayette’s squeal made Thomas wince. “Yes! We’ll be right over!” he cried.

“We’ll come when we come!” Mulligan shouted in the background.

“Hercules!” Lafayette admonished before Thomas ended the call, feeling thoroughly emotionally scarred.

Alexander was staring at him. “Laf and Hercules…?” he started.

Thomas nodded. “It’s been going on for about a week now,” he explained.

Alexander’s face fell. “Oh my god, and I didn’t know about this? I’m such a bad friend.”

“Hey,” Thomas said, one hand back on Alexander’s shoulder to ground him. “You were wrapped up in your own problems. It’s perfectly understandable.”

Alexander groaned in response. Thomas could tell that he wasn’t convinced, but before he could press any further, Alexander’s phone went off. Thomas looked over his shoulder as he read through his text feed.

horsefucker: Laf wants to know what flowers John likes

You: you’re getting him flowers???

horsefucker: correction

horsefucker: youre getting him flowers

horsefucker: Laf also wants to know if Johns allergic

horsefucker: thats probably more important

You: no he’s not allergic and he likes roses and tulips

horsefucker: Laf says thats so pretty

horsefucker: what colour

You: have they got pale pink roses

horsefucker: yes

You: what colour tulips

horsefucker: white pink purple or yellow

You: purple

horsefucker: Lafs also getting some lilac carnations with it omg its so pretty

You: a a a h h

horsefucker: UPDATE LAFS BUYING ME A BOUQUET OF DAISIES OMG OMG

You: OMG

You: BTW CONGRATS ON GETTING TOGETHER

horsefucker: THANK YOU THANK YOU

horsefucker: LAF IS SO CUTE I GOTTA G O

You: OMG

“Question.”

Alexander turned to face Thomas, who was still standing behind him. “Shoot.”

“Why is Mulligan’s contact name “horsefucker”?”

Alexander started laughing. “It’s a long story and I don’t know if I can remember all of it,” he said. “Just know that none of us will ever let him live it down.”

Thomas pulled a face and pulled out his own phone to text James.

You: Alexander wants to ask John out.

Jemmy: About time!!!

Jemmy: How is he doing it

You: We’re not entirely sure. I’m going to help him pick out his outfit and Gilbert and Mulligan are getting flowers.

Jemmy: Flowers??? omg

Jemmy: You can do it here. I’ll leave John alone in the room and Alexander can knock on the door with his flowers and ask him out like that!!

You: Good idea.

You: You’re pretty excited about this, aren’t you?

Jemmy: I can’t help it!! I just love when sexual tension is finally resolved!!

You: *sigh* I can’t believe that I am best friends with such a dork.

You: I’ll keep you posted.

Jemmy: Good good

Thomas turned back to Alexander, who was already laying clothes on his bed. “No,” Thomas exclaimed. “No no no no no definitely not. You are not wearing this…” – he picked up an oversized sweater like someone had just thrown up on it – “to ask John out. You need to look at least somewhat presentable.” He started to rummage through Alexander’s wardrobe, muttering frustrated “no”s at each piece of clothing, while Alexander frowned at him.

“Why can’t I wear my sweater?” he asked.

“Because it’s too casual,” Thomas replied absentmindedly. “You want to let John know that you really want this, so you have to make an effort. Do you even own a suit, Hamilton?”

“It’s on the far right, next to my Cap costume.”

Thomas found it and raised his eyebrows, pleasantly surprised. The suit was a dark green colour in the kind of velvet that changes colour slightly if you look at it from a different angle. “Put it on,” he said, handing it to Alexander. “Have you got a tie?”

“Of course I have, Jefferson.” Alexander replied, rolling his eyes, before retreating into the bathroom with the suit, a shirt, and a black tie. Not long after he reappeared, dressed, Lafayette and Mulligan arrived and knocked on the door. Thomas opened it.

Salut, Thomas!” Lafayette greeted him brightly, arm in arm with Mulligan, who was grinning giddily and holding a bouquet of large white and yellow daisies. Lafayette was holding Alexander’s bouquet of roses, tulips and carnations in soft tones of pale pink and lilac.

“Hello Gilbert, Mulligan,” Thomas said, letting them in. “Alexander’s dressed, but we need to do something with his hair.”

Lafayette squealed when he saw Alexander in his suit and wrapped him in a tight hug. “Alexander! Mon ami! You look fantastique! Why do you not wear this more often?”

Alexander shrugged, embarrassed at the attention. “I don’t really have many opportunities to wear it,” he replied. “I spend most of my time either in here or at class.”

“I think we should have hair down, non? It’ll frame your face and I’m pretty sure John is crazy about your hair,” Lafayette said, pulling Alexander’s hair out of its messy bun and combing through it with his fingers. “What do you think, Thomas?”

Thomas nodded. “I thought that as well.”

Hercules threw an arm around Alexander’s shoulders. “I’m so glad you’re finally doing this,” he said. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m feeling terrified, but I need to do this,” Alexander replied.

Hercules nodded understandingly. “It feels scary, I know, but it’s so worth it, I promise,” he reassured him. Lafayette stopped fiddling with Alexander’s hair to pull Hercules in for a kiss, muttering “tu es très mignon”.

Thomas and Alexander both pulled a face. “Get a room,” they chorused.

---

Alex glared at John’s door, trying to breathe deeply. Why did he think that this was a good idea? He felt uncomfortable and out of place in his dark green suit gripping a bouquet of flowers like it was the only thing tethering him to earth. What if John didn’t feel the same way? What if Alex made a fool of himself and ruined what was left of their friendship forever?

He glanced back down the corridor to where Laf, Hercules, Thomas and James were peeking around the corner with excited grins on their faces. James had left John alone in their room a few minutes before and confessed that he was in on the plan as well, thanks to Thomas. Actually, now that Alex saw them in the same room, James and Hercules did look rather alike…

He flipped all of them off and took one more deep breath before knocking on the door. There was no going back now.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: “Kissing the shit out of his best friend was probably not the best idea.”

John was reading when he heard the door knock. He assumed that James had forgotten his key and dragged a hand through his wild curls wearily as he crossed to the door. He was certainly not expecting what he did see in the corridor.

---

Wow.

John was there at the door. It had been such a long time since Alex had seen him this close and he involuntarily gasped at how beautiful he was. Was it possible for John to get more good-looking in the time they’d been apart?

Focus, Alex.

He was on a mission here, and being rendered speechless by the ray of sunshine that was John Laurens was not part of the plan.

---

Alex was beautiful.

John already knew that, of course, but his thoughts were all but confirmed with Alex standing before him in that green velvet suit with his hair down and holding a bouquet of his favourite flowers…

John could wax poetry about how stunning Alex was. It would be terrible poetry and he would never show it to anyone ever, but he still figured he could write at least something with a terrible rhyme scheme. A limerick, perhaps? John had tried to capture Alex on paper hundreds of times over the years, filled up several sketchbooks with details of the way his hands moved erratically when he was talking, or the focused expression he had when he was writing. Alex’s eyes were dark and intense, ringed with dark circles that signalled how hard he worked, but they made them no less bright. They gleamed with an intelligence and an eagerness that John hadn’t seen anywhere else. Even now, with the rings under his eyes even darker than usual, it took all of John’s willpower to stop him making out with Alex on the spot.

But John was still a little apprehensive and decided that kissing the shit out of his best friend was probably not the best idea, especially since said best friend had been avoiding him these last few weeks.

Alex shot him a small, nervous smile and John’s heart melted as he tried to restrain himself again. Thankfully he got himself under control, and he managed to smile back and greet him, his voice thankfully remaining steady. “Hi, Alex.”

---

“Hi, Alex.”

There was a question in the greeting, and Alex knew that John was curious as to why he was standing at his door dressed as if he was on his way to a wedding. A large part of him wanted nothing more than to run away, back to the safety of his room where he could hide behind his words for the rest of his life, because he knew that he never had a chance with John, and even if he did he would never deserve him. However, Alex decided to listen to the smaller part of him that was crying out to stay put because there was no way he was throwing away his shot. So he took another deep breath and started to talk.

He had written his speech the night before and rehearsed it in his head several times. He had prepared for this moment like he would any speech for a presentation or debate, and since those seemed to be a success with his audience of fellow law students, he had assumed that the same tactic would be successful with John.

Except, as Alex slowly began to realise, this was not a presentation or a debate. This was something completely different. This was John. John was standing there in front of him with an adorably confused expression on his face as Alex attempted to pour his heart out, but it was becoming increasingly difficult to remember his words because he could get lost in John’s eyes and before he knew it he was getting lost, rambling, his vision blurred, his legs weak, he couldn’t breathe, and were those tears rolling down his cheeks?

He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t have a fucking panic attack in front of John. Why did he decide to do this in the first place?

Suddenly there were arms around him, holding him up and leading him to John’s bed. He was vaguely aware of John’s voice, his Southern accent making an appearance through his worry. He collapsed on the bed, John still holding onto him, trying to keep him together. Alex shook with heavy sobs. He was drowning, he was sinking and he couldn’t breathe and the only thing he could do was to focus on John’s arms wrapped around him. He hung on and waited for the panic to finish washing over him.

He didn’t know how long it took for him to resurface. When he opened his eyes, he found that he was lying horizontally on John’s bed. The flowers had somehow made into a jug and were staring at him curiously from John’s desk. Alex was suddenly very acutely aware that his head was in John’s lap and John was gently stroking his hair.

This was not happening how he had planned it.

---

John felt Alex shift, like he had just woken up. He was coming back to earth.

This was John’s chance. He thought he knew what this was about, why Alex had visited him with flowers and dressed in a suit, but the explanation seemed so outlandish, too good to be true, that John couldn’t get his hopes up. So he had to ask.

“Is this what I think it is?”

---

It sounded so tentative coming out of John’s mouth. Alex thought it sounded scared, almost terrified. This was so different to the loud, beautiful John he knew, who would take leaps of faith without second thought. This was a vulnerable John.

That makes two of us, he thought. He had to tell him.

“I’m in love with you, John. I’m sorry.”

---

John’s brain short-circuited. This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a dream.

Alex was in love with him?

Alex was in love with him.

But first, he had to address that second sentence.

---

Alex felt John shift uncomfortably, and the knot of anxiety in his stomach grew. This was a bad idea. A very bad idea.

He sat up, afraid to look at John, but he was given no choice as his chin was very gently lifted so that their eyes met. There was confusion in John’s expression. “Why are you apologising?” he asked.

Alex shrugged as if the answer was obvious. “Because I don’t deserve you,” he replied.

---

“Because I don’t deserve you.”

That made John equal parts devastated and angry. How the hell could Alex think that? How the hell could he have let Alex think that? He had to fix this.

“Of course you deserve me. You deserve the world. You’re smart, caring, god, you’re so, so beautiful and I know you don’t believe that but you are to me and I’ve wanted you in my life since the moment I met you and when you turned up today in that suit I just wanted to kiss you you’re so gorgeous. You’re a hurricane, you’re so extraordinary and I’m so normal and it drives me up the wall how much I love you.”

John realised that he was crying alongside Alex now, and Alex let out a choked sob and pulled John closer. They held each other until they fell asleep.

---

Alex woke up a couple of hours later, smiling giddily as he opened his eyes to see John sleeping next to him, his wild hair falling in his eyes. He would never grow tired of how stunning John was. How did he get this lucky?

He pressed a quick kiss to John’s forehead and quietly extracted himself from the bed. He wanted to spend the whole day lying next to John, but he had a class with Washington. Alex never thought that he would prefer to be somewhere else rather than in Washington’s class, but here he was, reluctantly leaving John’s room.

He passed James in the hallway, who was probably heading back to his and John’s room. “I take it that it was a success?” he asked.

Alex couldn’t help but grin in reply. John loved him. It almost seemed too good to be true, but he knew that John always meant whatever he said. James gave him a little wink. Alex flipped him off.

Lafayette, Hercules and Jefferson were all in his room when Alex returned to change and collect his things. They all looked up at him when he entered, drawing out the suspense as he slowly shut the door. Then, really quietly, as if it were too fragile a truth to be mentioned loudly, he said, “He loves me too.”

Laf screamed. He leapt up and yanked Alex into a tight embrace, shouting animatedly in quick-fire French. Alex didn’t understand most of it, but he thought he could make out something about Laf planning their wedding. He simply laughed and hugged his friend tighter.

Hercules also pulled Alex into a hug. “I told you it was worth it,” he said, looking from Alex to Lafayette.

Thomas simply leaned back smugly on his bed, grinning. “I called it,” he said.

Alex changed out of his suit in the bathroom and emerged wearing one of his oversized sweaters. As he was putting his suit away in his wardrobe, his phone went off on his desk and Lafayette immediately snatched it. “It’s from John!” he exclaimed, followed by ooooohs and wolf-whistles from the three of them.

Alex rolled his eyes and grabbed his phone out of Laf’s hands. “You guys are so immature,” he said as he brought up his and John’s message feed.

turtle man: I NEED TO SEE U

You: getting needy already are we???

turtle man: SHUT UP U MISS ME TOO

You: you’re right

You: I have class right now but we can meet after

turtle man: YOURE MAKING ME WAIT??!?!?

turtle man: THIS IS AN URGENT MATTER IM HAVING ALEX WITHDRAWAL

You: omg “alex withdrawal”

You: I’m sorry but I kind of have to go to class…?

turtle man: ok true

turtle man: can we meet at the cafe outside my dorm building after tho?

You: sure

turtle man: YAY I LOVE YOU

You: omg I love you too

turtle man: !!!

You: !!!

“Are you done sexting Laurens so we can go to class?” Thomas asked.

Alex blushed. “I was not sexting John.”

Lafayette and Hercules started making kissing noises at Alex as he and Thomas left. Alex gave them both the middle finger.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16: “So you’re telling me we got together… because of Jefferson?”

Feel the Burrn: Alexander seems happier today, don’t you think?

You: He does. He’s managed to sort out his friendship problems so it’s all good

Feel the Burrn: Glad to hear it. But if it’s all good, why isn’t he debating?

You: I think he’s distracted

You: I don’t know how much to reveal, but there’s r o m a n c e involved

Feel the Burrn: I see. May I ask who the lucky person is?

You: John Laurens

You: Don’t tell anyone I told you that

Feel the Burrn: And here I was thinking that they were already dating?

You: We all thought that don’t worry

Feel the Burrn: Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one. Thanks for letting me know, James.

You: You’re welcome Aaron

---

Alex couldn’t focus during Washington’s class, his thoughts drifting to John every few moments. He had been quiet during class over the last few weeks, so his classmates didn’t think that he was acting any more strangely than usual, except for a few that noticed that Alex looked a lot happier than before.

After Washington had dismissed them, with a curious expression directed at Alex, Alex raced out of the classroom. He couldn’t see John soon enough.

John was already waiting outside the café, holding two takeaway cups of coffee. His face lit up as soon as he caught sight of Alex running towards him, and Alex felt his heart do a little flip in his ribcage. John was always so happy to see him.

“Cappuccino for me, double espresso with caramel syrup for you,” John said, handing Alex his cup. The two of them knew each other’s coffee preferences like the backs of their hands.

“Thank you,” Alex said as he wrapped his free arm around John’s waist. John leaned into the contact and rested his arm around his shoulders. “Where do you want to go?”

“Our spot under the stairs?”

“Sure.”

Alex, John, Lafayette and Hercules had found a place under the outside stairs at the back of the library during freshman year. No-one else seemed to know or care about it, so it was like a little secret hideout for them. There had been a couple of warm nights in June when Lafayette had brought deckchairs for the four of them to camp out there, eating shedloads of junk food and watching movies until their laptops ran out of charge. Alex remembered that they had nearly been caught by security once when John screamed so loudly during a horror film that people managed to hear him from their dorms. They had escaped back to his and John’s room, still reeling from the rush of adrenaline, and finished their movie night there, although Laf had made a point of not watching any more horror films.

It was a cold afternoon in mid-December and Alex and John retreated under the stairs with their coffee, shivering. They sat back against the wall of the library, cuddling together to save as much body heat as possible.

They sipped their coffee in silence for a while before John spoke up. “How long?”

“How long what?”

“How long have you loved me?”

Alex chuckled, remembering how he had managed to develop feelings for John in the first place. “About a month? A few weeks ago, Jefferson asked me whether we were dating, which got me thinking, and I just… fell hard after that, I guess.”

He looked at John, who was wearing an expression that was equal parts adoration and amusement. “So you’re telling me we got together… because of Jefferson?”

“Yes.”

John sighed, grinning. “We are such idiots.”

“How long have you loved me?”

John’s face lit up like the sun with a genuine, beautiful smile that made Alex melt. “I… I’ve wanted you for almost as long as I’ve known you. You’re just… something else, Alex, you’re so talented and special and everything about you is beautiful, especially your brain, and I didn’t think I’d ever end up under your radar, friendship or otherwise. I thought that I was pushing my luck as your best friend alone, so I never pursued anything more, although god knows I wanted to.”

Alex couldn’t help but mirror John’s adoring smile. “We are such idiots,” he said finally.

John rolled his eyes fondly. “Shut up and kiss me.”

That made Alex freeze. John immediately realised what he’d said and his eyes widened, terrified. “I mean, only if you want to. That wasn’t a command or anything, I was just-”

He was cut off by Alex, who had had enough of John’s panicked rambling and pressed his lips to John’s, which were still moving. John froze as he slowly realised what was happening, then Alex felt him melt into the kiss. John tasted of candyfloss and coffee, and Alex couldn’t get enough of it.

It seemed all too soon when they broke apart for air, and Alex rested his forehead against John’s, grinning.

“That was a really nice way of telling me to shut up,” John said softly. “Maybe I should use it against you sometimes.”

“Please do,” Alex replied, gazing at John. His lips were red and kiss-swollen and his pupils were blown wide. Somehow Alex had managed to take his hair out of his ponytail and it fell in his face. Alex smoothed it back. John pressed a chaste kiss to Alex’s lips before settling back against the wall. Alex curled into him.

“We need to so something about Jefferson and Madison,” John said.

“Like set them up?”

John shrugged. “We do owe them a favour.”

Alex nodded in agreement. “We should ask Laf. He’s a pretty practised matchmaker.”

---

You added turtle man, america’s favourite fighting frenchman, horsefucker, talk less, comma after dearest, eliiiza, miss maria, and peggy to a group chat

You have renamed this chat “JeffMads Shipping Squad!!!”

comma after dearest: JeffMads?

You: we need to get thomas and james together

turtle man: TIME TO CONSPIRE WHOS IN

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: me omg

horsefucker: same omg laf you’re so cute when you’re excited

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: !!!

miss maria: eliza and I are in

eliiiza: Do I not get a say in this?

miss maria: u were going to say yes anyway hon

eliiiza: You’re not wrong.

miss maria: love you <3

eliiiza: <3 <3 <3 <3

and peggy: im in as well romance is awesome

comma after dearest: I have to admit, the sexual tension between the two of them is getting unbearable

turtle man: YASSS ANGELICA

comma after dearest: You seem happier

turtle man: I JUST KISSED ALEX OF COURSE IM HAPPIER

You: omg

turtle man: IM SORRY I JUST LOVE YOU SO MUCHHH

You: omg I love you too

talk less: I’m here.

talk less: Why am I here?

You: idk you’re friends with james???

turtle man: HI AARON

talk less: Hello, John. Congratulations to you and Alexander.

turtle man: THANK

talk less: You’re welcome. I’m in as well, by the way.

turtle man: YAY

turtle man: OK HOW ARE WE DOING THIS

turtle man: LAF

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: thomas and james are both too stubborn to do anything about this by themselves. we’ll need to give them a little

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: prompting

eliiiza: Okay, how do we do that?

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: ideas

horsefucker: we could just tell them the next time they’re together

horsefucker: “Madison. Jefferson. we know you’re head over heels in love with each other from the way you keep eyefucking each other from across the room now just make out already before we lose it”

miss maria: omg

You: but where’s the fun in that???

You: I think we need to mortify them somehow

comma after dearest: I thought you and Thomas were friends now

You: we are but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be salty

comma after dearest: Ok but making them uncomfortable would be fun

You: YES ANGELICA YES

talk less: But how?

turtle man: idk

turtle man: LAF HELP

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: handcuffs???

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: I have no idea I’m sorry

eliiiza: Handcuffs? Where would we get those?

miss maria: I know a guy

eliiiza: Sweetheart.

eliiiza: I love you and everything, but I really don’t want you to get yourself arrested.

miss maria: its legal I promise

eliiiza: No.

miss maria: ugh fine

and peggy: might I suggest the good old closet trope

You: PEGGY

horsefucker: PEGGY

miss maria: OMG PEGGY YES YOURE MY NEW FAV SISTER IN LAW

eliiiza: We’re not even married yet.

miss maria: yet

eliiiza: ANYWAY…

talk less: The closet trope sounds good.

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: yes ok let’s do it after classes tomorrow I’ll get thomas alexander and aaron can get james and we can shove them in the closet outside lee’s classroom

america’s favourite fighting frenchman: remember to keep this quiet

turtle man: OMG IM SO EXCITED

You: omg john I love you

turtle man: A A A A A

turtle man: I LOVE YOU TOO

You: <3 <3 <3

---

James was suspicious.

John seemed to be in an incredibly good mood that morning. James would have passed that off as simply the honeymoon phase in his and Alex’s relationship, but this good mood seemed to be directed at him. John kept flashing sly, conspiring grins at him and practically shoved him out of their room so that James could get to Lee’s class early. So, James was suspicious.

His suspicion only grew when he arrived in class. Alexander seemed to be acting in a very similar way and actually sat down next to James to talk to him excitedly as the rest of the class filtered in, instead of sitting in his usual spot at the back of the room. Aaron was more subtle, choosing to sit in his usual place, but James was certain that he was involved as well, judging from the sneaky glances Aaron shot at him when he thought he wasn’t looking.

Alexander couldn’t seem to sit still during class. He was practically bouncing in his seat, and at one point James reached over and steadied him with firm hands on his shoulders. Alexander muttered a “sorry” and decided to fiddle with the pencil in his hand again. James rolled his eyes and focused on what Lee was droning on about.

---

Thomas was also suspicious.

Alexander was actually bouncing that morning. Thomas knew that he enjoyed most of his classes because he was always ready to debate with the professors – especially now, seeing that he had sorted everything out with Laurens – but this class was with Charles Lee, and from what Thomas had heard from Alexander’s endless infuriated rants, Lee was an idiot with ridiculous, offensive opinions, and Alexander always dreaded that time during the week when he was forced to listen to him for two hours.

So why was Alexander so happy?

It didn’t seem possible, but Lafayette seemed to be even more excited that Alexander. It was more subtle, but Thomas noticed that he couldn’t stop smiling in anticipation for… something. Thomas didn’t know what. Did he have a date with Mulligan? Considering that it was a Wednesday morning, Thomas assumed not. So Thomas was naturally suspicious.

---

Alex made sure to leave class with James after Lee had dismissed them. Deciding to distract him with continuing his argument against Lee’s agreement towards Donald Trump’s wall, he managed to steer James in the direction of the closet down the corridor from Lee’s classroom. Burr followed them, although Alex knew that he was rolling his eyes, willing Alex to shut up for once. Of course, Alex took no notice of that until they reached the cupboard. Hercules was already there, waiting casually by the door. He opened it just as they approached and Alex yanked James into the cupboard, shutting and locking the door before he could react.

“What the hell?” James exclaimed, banging on the door. “Let me out!”

“This is for your own good,” Alex called. “And you’re not going to be alone for much longer, I promise.”

“What? What are you guys up to? And it’s really dark in here.”

“There’s a light switch to the left of the door,” Alex said.

There was a pause as Alex heard James fumble for the switch. “How did you know that?” he asked eventually.

Alex hesitated. He didn’t want to admit that the closet had been his refuge during several panic attacks in public. Hercules looked at him understandingly while Burr looked in confusion. Alex decided to crack a joke. “Kinky sex,” he replied, winking at Burr, who rolled his eyes.

“Ha ha, very funny,” James replied wearily.

Alex caught sight of Thomas walking down the corridor with Lafayette. He could barely contain his excitement. It was showtime.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17: “I swear to God I will throw your laptop out of our window. I’ll throw you out of the window. I’m not kidding this time.”

As it turned out, James was right to be suspicious.

Alex had hung back with him after class to continue his argument against Donald Trump’s plan for a wall along the Mexico border. James was pretty sure he had heard Alexander say all of this before, but he decided to humour him, knowing that he would only stop if and when he was finished. Which, knowing Alexander, wouldn’t be for a while. Besides, James was too polite to interrupt him.

Aaron had also decided to join them as they walked down the corridor, which made James a little more nervous as normally Aaron couldn’t stand Alexander’s endless arguing, and wasn’t his dormitory in the other direction?

“And there’s no way he’s going to get Mexico to pay for it,” Alexander was saying, his hands flying like they usually did when he was really involved in what he was saying. “They’re already in enough debt, and how is he going to convince them to pay for something that’s not going to benefit them in any…”

Suddenly Alexander stopped, and James looked at him curiously. However, he felt two pairs of hands on his back and he was launched through a doorway into darkness. He just about made out Hercules Mulligan grinning at him before he landed on the floor in a heap. The door closed behind him, plunging him into total darkness.

James got up and practically ran into the door. He tried the handle, but it wouldn’t budge. Those assholes had locked it. “What the hell?” he exclaimed, banging on it. “Let me out!”

“This is for your own good. And you’re not going to be alone for much longer.” Alexander called from the other side. James thought that he could detect a hint of humour in his voice and he balled his fists, both angry and scared. This was just like when he would get bullied in high school. James had been sure that that period of his life had ended when he left for college and managed to find some friends.

Evidently not.

“What?” he called weakly. “What are you guys up to? And it’s really dark in here.”

“There’s a light switch to the left of the door,” Alexander said.

James felt along the wall, almost knocking over what he assumed were mops and brooms, but he eventually found the switch and flicked it on. He was standing in a small cleaning cupboard that was now illuminated with orange-yellow light. “How did you know that?” he asked Alexander.

“Kinky sex,” came the reply.

“Ha ha, very funny,” James said, rolling his eyes. There was silence from outside. “Alexander? You still there?” he called.

“Madison, you might want to stand back a bit,” someone else – probably Mulligan – whispered through the door.

“Why?”

In an answer to his question, the door was pulled open and someone else was pushed inside, colliding with James before he could step out of the way. They were both sent tumbling to the floor, with James’ new companion on top of him. The door clicked shut before either of them could get up.

“What the actual fuck do you think you’re doing, Gilbert?” the new addition shouted, banging violently on the door. James recognised that voice. Come to think of it, he recognised that jacket. Who else would be wearing a purple suit on a Wednesday afternoon?

Thomas?”

Thomas spun around, panicked eyes fixing on James. “Jemmy? What are you doing here?”

James shrugged. “Same thing as you,” he said. “Alexander and Aaron pushed me in.”

“Hamilton did this?” Thomas exclaimed, his voice rising even further. “HAMILTON! LET US OUT RIGHT NOW!” he shrieked.

“No can do, Thomas,” James heard Alexander say coolly.

“You can come out when you… come out!” Lafayette added. That made both James and Thomas freeze.

Thomas recovered first, clearing his throat. “Look, you had better let us out or I swear to God I will throw your laptop out of our window. I’ll throw you out of the window. I’m not kidding this time.”

James sensed the panic rising in Thomas’ voice and lightly placed a hand on his shoulder to ground him. “They’ll let us out eventually, Thomas. We just need to wait.”

Thomas shrugged it off as if he had become unaware of James, and started to pace, fear clearly written all over his face. James watched him in shock; he’d never seen Thomas so afraid before, not even before big speeches. Finally, he had had enough and put both hands on Thomas’ shoulders, more firmly this time. This seemed to shock Thomas out of his panicked trance, and he relaxed ever so slightly when his eyes landed on James.

“Thomas, you’re okay. I’m right here. I’m not going to leave you. They’re going to let us out soon enough; we just have to be patient. Everything will be okay,” James reassured him, refusing to break his gaze. He took Thomas’ hand and rested it over his heart. “Can you feel my heartbeat? Just focus on that, okay?”

James, your gay is showing.

Thomas gradually relaxed until he slowly pulled away and sank down the far wall, hands running down his face and through his wild hair. “You’re right,” he muttered. “You’re right. I’m fine. This is fine.” He sounded like he was saying it more to convince himself than to convince James.

James sat down next to him. The space was so narrow that their legs ended up touching, and James felt his nerves stand on end where he was coming into contact with Thomas’ purple-clad thigh. “Thomas, are you… claustrophobic?” he asked gently.

Thomas rested his head back against the wall. “Yeah,” he sighed. “Small spaces are just… suffocating. Trapping.”

James turned his head, looking up at him. “You never told me.”

“I never thought you needed to know,” Thomas replied, shrugging. “You already have to put up with so much from me.”

James frowned. Was that what Thomas believed James thought of him? That James only just tolerated him? How could he let Thomas think that?

They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes as James worked out what to say to Thomas. The reason why Alexander and Lafayette had shoved them into the closet in the first place was blatantly obvious, and seeing as they had turned to such desperate measures to try and get him and Thomas together, James thought that maybe he had waited long enough. Maybe he ought to be the one to take some initiative here.

“Thomas?”

Thomas opened one eye to look at James lazily. “Yes, Jemmy?”

“Um, I wanted to wait until you were ready to discuss this, but seeing as we have apparently run out of time for that to happen, we really need to talk. Can I ask you a question?”

“You just have,” Thomas replied sarcastically. That wasn’t such a good sign.

James cleared his throat. “Why me?”

Thomas turned his head, frowning. “Why you?”

“Why me specifically? You could have anyone in the whole world, but you chose to like me. Why?”

Thomas was still frowning. “Why you?” he repeated. “Why not you? You’re infinitely patient, I mean you must be so done with my shit by now but you never show it; you tolerate me for what crappy personality I have, not just for my brains or my looks or my money like most other people; not to mention the fact that you’re a beautiful human being and an actual ray of sunshine, even when you’re sick, and I’m just a piece of trash who’s supposed to have a heart of stone but you make me so weak and I really don’t deserve you because you’re so amazing so I decided to keep quiet about it.”

James stared at him for a while, speechless, before finding the words to reply. What did Thomas see in him that made him so special? So amazing? James was nothing more than a small, weedy, sick kid, while Thomas was… he was indescribable. Everything about him was just so breath-taking. James could barely think straight around him.

James couldn’t really think straight, full stop.

“Next time, don’t keep quiet about it,” he replied.

Thomas nodded firmly. “Understood.”

“Because you mean everything to me and I love you, okay?” James added.

“Underst- wait, what?” Thomas’ eyes widened in disbelief as what James had said registered in his brain.

James inched closer. “You heard me,” he said, before closing the distance between them.

---

James was kissing him.

James was kissing him.

After a moment, Thomas realised that he was still frozen in shock.

Kiss back, goddammit!

---

Thomas tasted like red wine. Red wine and freshly baked French bread.

They kissed for what seemed like forever, lips moving in perfect synchronisation. James felt Thomas smile into it and he wound his fingers in Thomas’ hair, keeping him there for just a while longer. Thomas wrapped his arms around James’ waist, pulling him onto his lap. Thomas was still grinning when they finally broke apart. The adoring expression he was giving James almost made the shorter man fall apart. James wrapped his arms around Thomas’ neck and leaned forward, resting his head on Thomas’ shoulder.

“You never gave me a chance to say “I love you” back,” Thomas said, tightening his hold around James.

“You don’t need to,” James mumbled into Thomas’ chest.

“Well, I’m gonna anyway, darlin’,” Thomas replied, his Virginian accent shining through the words and making James shiver. “I love you. I have for ages. I’ve wanted this for so long, and normally I make a point of getting what I want, but when it comes to my feelings, I’m… well… a little less assertive.”

“So I’ve seen,” James replied, pulling back to stare at Thomas. God, he was so beautiful.

A knock on the door startled them out of their own little bubble. “It’s gone very quiet in here,” Lafayette said from outside. “That’s either a very good sign or a very bad one.”

“Let us out you asshole,” Thomas replied, sounding angry while still managing to gaze lovingly at James.

“Have you talked about your feelings?” Lafayette asked in a sing-song voice.

“Yes we have and we love each other very much and we’re going to go and have sex in my room as soon as you let us out so LET US OUT.” Thomas replied bluntly.

James stared at him, wide-eyed with surprise. Wow. He had to admit that that really turned him on. Thomas simply grinned slyly at him.

There was giggling outside, and Thomas frowned. “Shut the fuck up, Hamilton, and open the fucking door.”

The door unlocked.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18: “@everyone ily2 but seriously calm tf down”

Message to: JeffMads Shipping Squad!!!

You: so…?

You: did it work???

hercules: they got on like a house on fire

You: YASSSSSS

marIa: YAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

laf: isn’t that dangerous though??

laf: I thought a house on fire was a bad thing

hercules: laf honey it’s a saying

hercules: it means they got on really well

laf: oh ok I’m just stupid my bad

hercules: no you’re not stupid you’re amazing

laf: omg

angie: I’m here I’m here

angie: Good work you guys

eliiza: Go us!

smile more: Jefferson’s face when we shoved him into the cupboard though!

alex: JAMES’ FACE WHEN WE PUSHED THOMAS INTO HIM OMG

hercules: YES OMG

and peggy: im glad to see my idea worked out ur all welcome

marIa: PEGGY

hercules: PEGGY

alex: PEGGY OMG

laf: PEGGY YOU’RE SO AWESOME

You: PEGGY A A A

smile more: PEGGY

angie: PEGGY YOU ARE ONE OF MY FAVOURITE SISTERS

eliiza: SAME HERE

and peggy: I am one of ur only sisters

and peggy: also @everyone ily2 but seriously calm tf down

You: NEVER

alex: omg john

and peggy: ah romance is the best

hercules: WE WILL NOT CALM DOWN WE HAVE TO CELEBRATEEEEE

marIa: ikr!!!

laf: movie night at mine and hercules’ tonight???

hercules: C H R I S T M A S MOVIES

You: omg its nearly Christmas

alex: PANIC

and peggy: ok but I am soooo up for movie night

eliiza: I’m in as well.

marIa: me too!!

smile more: Is that invitation extended to me as well?

hercules: YES OF COURSE BURR

hercules: BRING THEODOSIA

smile more: Cool! And thank you! See you there!

angie: Can we watch Love Actually??

smile more: YES!!!

hercules: YE

angie: GOOD I’M IN

laf: christmas sweaters are mandatory

alex: CAN WE INVITE THOMAS AND JAMES

laf: yes!!

alex: OK I’LL TEXT THEM

You: ADD THEM TO THE CHAT

alex added jefferidiot, jmads to “JeffMads Shipping Squad!!!”

jmads: JeffMads???

laf: …

laf: guys

hercules: FUCK WE FORGOT TO CHANGE THE NAME

You: SHIT

marIa: omg whoops

jefferidiot: Explain yourselves.

alex: ahahahahaha

and peggy: they were using this chat to set you two up

and peggy: I had nothing to do with it

and peggy: I am completely innocent

You: PEGGY

angie: HOW DARE YOU BETRAY YOUR OWN SISTERS

jefferidiot: You are all assholes.

eliiza: But our plan worked and you’re happy with James, right?

jefferidiot: Yes, I’m very happy with James and I love him very much, but you went behind our backs and caused us a lot of stress.

alex: you’re welcome

jefferidiot: Did I thank you?

alex: no but I could detect an implication of a thank you

jmads: You love me???

jefferidiot: you know that I do hon

jmads: <3 <3

laf: ok but movie night tonight at mine and hercules’ oui ou non

jefferidiot: Are we watching Christmas films?

laf: yes

jefferidiot: Then definitely yes.

jmads: Me too

You: YAY

You: CHRISTMAS SWEATERS EVERYONE

jmads: OMG THOMAS WE NEED TO WEAR OUR MATCHING SWEATERS

angie: You have matching sweaters???

jefferidiot: James bought them last Christmas. I have never worn mine.

jmads: But now that we’re dating we can wear them!!!

alex: I would like to see these matching sweaters

jefferidiot: Stay out of this, Hamilton.

jmads: Please Thomas???

jefferidiot: Fine. Only because I love you.

jmads: YAY I LOVE YOU TOO

jefferidiot: !

and peggy: u guys r gross

laf: ok everyone see you all tonight!!

marIa: YES IM SO EXCITED

eliiza: Sweetheart, you’re bouncing.

eliiza: You’re so adorable.

alex: aww

smile more: See you all there!

You: WOO CANT WAIT

---

Alex smirked as he watched Thomas pull out a large red sweater, grimacing. “I can’t believe James is making me wear this,” Thomas whined.

“What are you talking about? It’s cute,” Alex said, laughing at the ugly fairisle pattern.

“At least it’s better than yours,” Thomas retorted as he pulled it over his head. The static made his hair stand up and Alex snorted. Thomas stuck his tongue out at him.

There was a knock at the door and Alex hopped up to open it. Thomas had mentioned that James was coming by to their apartment before they headed to Lafayette’s and Hercules’ while instructing Alex to “not be sitting there like a half-naked ass as you are right now” (Alex had just taken a shower). James stood in the hallway, smiling excitedly and dressed in a green sweater covered in the same pattern as Thomas’. He was carrying a large, heavy plastic bag. Standing next to him was John, who was bouncing in his excitement and wearing a blue sweater with a snowflake pattern that was about three sizes too big for him. He bounded up to hug Alex as soon as he opened the door, wrapping his arms tightly around his neck and kissing his nose, which in turn made Alex weak at the knees. “Foul play,” Alex complained, feigning offence. John simply grinned as Alex led him inside, James following behind and dropping his bag by the door.

Alex watched as James caught sight of Thomas standing uncomfortably in his sweater and promptly burst out laughing. Thomas frowned. “I knew I looked bad, but not laughably bad,” he said.

“No, it’s not that, it’s just that I tried to find the ugliest sweater possible yet you still manage to pull it off!” James replied, still laughing. Thomas rolled his eyes and pulled James in for a kiss.

“Also, we brought food!” John exclaimed.

Alex whipped around to face him, wide-eyed. “Food? What kind of food?”

“Popcorn, chocolate, cake – lots of cake – candy…” John replied, counting on his fingers.

“It’s all in that bag,” James added, pointing to the bag by the door with his one hand that wasn’t being held by Thomas. “And we did get a lot of cake. A lot.”

“Did you get red velvet?” Thomas asked him.

“There’s an entire box of red velvet cupcakes in there for you,” James said, smiling. Thomas promptly enveloped him in a hug.

“We should get going,” Alex said before the two of them got too comfortable.

As they left, with James and Thomas each holding one handle of the plastic bag between them, John hung back with Alex. “Are you going to be okay?” he asked, worry clear on his face.

Alex knew what John was asking about. Was Alex’s anxiety going to catch up with him during movie night, in a room with so many people? He smiled reassuringly. “I’ll be fine. I know everyone who’s going to be there, and you’ll be right there with me, so I have nothing to worry about,” he replied.

John was still frowning at him, unconvinced. “If you don’t want to go, we can stay here,” he offered.

Alex shook his head. “I want to go. I’m looking forward to it, honestly.”

John still looked slightly uncertain, but decided to let it go, pressing a quick kiss to Alex’s lips before they started walking down the corridor, hand in hand. “Okay, if you’re sure,” he said.

“I’m sure.”

And Alex was. Truthfully, being in a room with so many people would normally drain the energy right out of him, but these were his friends, so Alex was a lot more comfortable around them. And John was going to be there. And just holding hands with John made Alex calmer. Alex planned on spending the entire evening glued to John’s side.

John also seemed to have the same plan in mind as he swung their hands forwards and backwards, grinning. Alex smiled at him lovingly. How did he get this lucky?

Chapter Text

Chapter 19: “You have no right to be questioning musical logic. You know all of the words to the songs in the High School Musical trilogy.”

Everyone was already packed into Lafayette’s and Hercules’ room when John, Alex, Thomas and James arrived, and Laf scolded them for being late before spotting the cake and immediately relaxing. He was wearing one of Hercules’ sweatshirts. The Schuyler sisters, Hercules and Burr were arguing about what film they were going to watch first.

“I was promised Love Actually!” Angelica protested to Eliza, who was trying to shove It’s a Wonderful Life into the slot in Lafayette’s television (he had bought it specifically for watching box sets of French soaps on a large screen. Hercules joined him from time to time, even though he could never understand anything that was being said).

“We can watch that later!” Maria replied on behalf of her girlfriend. “Eliza wants to go in chronological order, and I think that that makes sense.”

“But more of us want to watch Love Actually now!” Hercules interjected, attempting to pry Eliza away from the television. “This ought to be a democratic decision.”

“I agree, we should watch Love Actually,” Burr said.

“Someone stop the press!” Alex joked as he entered the room. “The great Aaron Burr has actually made a decision for once. We should watch Love Actually in celebration as it is likely that this event will never occur again.”

“He has a point,” Theodosia said quietly from her spot on Lafayette’s bed.

Burr pulled a face at both of them, but smiled as Eliza relented and let Angelica insert the disc. “Anyway, It’s a Wonderful Life is more of a late-night sobbing film.” John couldn’t help agreeing with him.

As the film started, the eleven of them piled onto the couch and two beds with the popcorn and cake that James and John had brought. The Schuyler sisters and Maria had commandeered the couch, with Peggy stretched out so that her legs and big fluffy slippers were resting on the others’ laps. Thomas and James sat on one end of Lafayette’s bed, James’ head resting on Thomas’ shoulder. Thomas pressed silent kisses to the top of his head, leaving James blushing as he gradually went through his pack of popcorn. Thomas had a box of red velvet cupcakes on his lap, and slapped Burr’s hand away defensively when he tried to grab one from where he was perched on the other end of the bed with Theodosia. Laf and Hercules were cuddled up on Hercules’ bed with one of Laf’s large, fluffy blankets wrapped around them. Next to them John was almost in Alex’s lap, and they were wrapped in another blanket. They had a cheap chocolate tray-baked cake in front of them that they were steadily making their way through, and John had his arm around Alex’s waist and his head on his shoulder. They seemed to fit together like they were made for each other. John loved it.

After Love Actually they watched Elf, and then Eliza forced It’s a Wonderful Life upon the group. They all agreed eventually – some required more persuasion than others – and soon they were all settled and watching the film. It was already dark outside and John felt more tired than usual as he cuddled further into Alex, who tightened his hold on him, knowing that John was going to cry at some point during the film.

However, John fell asleep about halfway through. When he noticed his breath slow down, Alex gently kissed his forehead before turning back to the film.

---

“What do you mean you’ve never seen A Muppet Christmas Carol before?”

James stared incredulously up at Thomas, who shrugged. “I’ve never really been one for puppets,” he replied casually.

“We need to fix this,” Angelica said, slotting the disc into the television.

James shifted excitedly. “I love this film,” he said.

Thomas smiled and intertwined his fingers with James’. “You’re so adorable,” he said. James blushed and pressed a quick kiss to Thomas’ lips just before the movie started.

---

“Is a song really necessary here?”

“It’s a musical film, Thomas.”

“But is it necessary?”

“You have no right to be questioning musical logic. You know all of the words to the songs in the High School Musical trilogy.”

“You say that like you don’t know them too.”

Shh.”

---

“If it’s set in London, why do all of the Muppets have American accents?”

“Because it was made in America?”

“That’s not really an excuse.”

“Shush. Just listen to the song.”

---

“That’s animal cruelty.”

“Thomas, they’re puppets.”

“But still.”

---

Our assets are frozen!

“You seriously find that funny?”

“It is funny, Jemmy!”

“God, you’re adorable.”

---

“Oh look, more singing.”

Thomas.”

---

“Thomas, are you humming along to Marley and Marley?”

No.”

“You were.”

“It’s catchy.”

---

“Don’t you dare mention the scientific impossibility of flight.”

“Actually, I was going to laugh at the awful effects.”

“Okay, that you can do. They really are terrible, aren’t they?”

---

Fozziwig? Oh my god.”

“Shut up, Thomas.”

“Did they get the bear to play Fezziwig just so that they could make use of that pun?”

“They saw the opportunity and they took it. Now please be quiet.”

“Hey, you two lovebirds, either you shut up and let us watch this in peace, or you sleep outside tonight.”

“Sorry, Angelica.”

---

“Michael Caine really can’t sing.”

“No, he can’t.”

“I agree with you both completely, but you need to shut the fuck up.”

“Fuck off, Hamilton.”

“Guys, he’s trying his best.”

“I know he is, Eliza, but he’s still terrible.”

“You’re not wrong.”

---

It was half past three in the morning and, finally, all was quiet.

Burr and Theodosia had won rock-paper-scissors against Thomas and James for Hercules’ bed earlier in the night. Burr was pressed against the wall, legs intertwined with his girlfriend, who was hogging the duvet. He didn’t seem to mind.

Thomas and James, who had been kicked to the floor with a couple of pillows and a blanket, were taking up most of the space in the middle of the floor. Well, Thomas was, at least. He was lying on the floor in a starfish position with more of him uncovered by the blanket than there was underneath it. James was curled up next to him, almost entirely covered by the blanket save for his head and a single arm that was wrapped around Thomas’ waist.

Peggy had somehow managed to kick both of her sisters – and Maria – off the couch, and was quietly snoring into one of the cushions.

Eliza and Maria were on the floor just in front of the couch; Eliza on her back, Maria nestled into her side with her head in the crook of her shoulder. Angelica was using Eliza’s stomach as a pillow.

Lafayette and Hercules were spooning on Lafayette’s bed. The Frenchman was almost completely enveloped by Hercules’ large frame, and Hercules was snoring gently into Lafayette’s thick, curly hair.

Alex liked this time of day. When it was so early in the morning that the world seemed frozen in time. When dawn still appeared to be ages away, but the day before also seemed to have happened years ago. When you were completely isolated with the only option being to live life in the present, looking neither forwards nor backwards.

He was lying on the floor next to Laf’s bed, his face mere inches away from Thomas’ hand. He was half-tempted to go to the bathroom for a bowl of lukewarm water to put his hand in, but staying where he was seemed far more favourable. First off, Laf’s fluffy red blanket was really warm. Secondly, he had John in his arms, who always looked so beautiful in his sleep that Alex was left speechless every time. During the day, so many expressions crossed John’s face that it was sometimes difficult to keep up with his slightly nervous energy, but at night was the only time when he was completely relaxed. Alex smiled as he watched the slow rise and fall of his chest, the steady rhythm finally causing him to drift off himself.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20: “Christmas spirit can fuck off as well.”

“Alex.”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“Alex.”

Alex cracked open one eye, then the other. The spot next to him on the bed was strangely cold. John was dressed in a hideous Christmas sweater and standing at the foot of the bed, smiling down at him. Alex rolled over onto his back and blinked up at him. “What?”

“It’s Christmas Day!” John exclaimed excitedly.

Alex groaned and pulled the covers back over him. “Fuck off.”

John rolled his eyes and poked Alex in the shoulder. “Come on, it’s half past nine already! It’s time for Christmas spirit!”

“Christmas spirit can fuck off as well,” Alex said as he threw a pillow at his boyfriend.

Boyfriend.

How the hell did he get so lucky?

John chuckled and Alex felt the bed dip as John straddled him, leaning down to press light kisses on the back of his neck. “Please?” John asked gently.

That turned Alex on. Very much so.

“Fine,” he groaned, slapping John away blindly. “Get off me.”

John obliged and sat cross-legged on the floor, next to their pile of gifts. “Present time?” he asked hopefully, tilting his head like a puppy.

Alex pulled on a large sweater and a pair of slippers and grabbed two mugs. “I’m going to get some coffee,” he said, adding “then present time,” when he saw John frown. “Any requests? I saw a bottle of fancy gingerbread syrup in the pantry that I’m pretty sure is Jefferson’s. I don’t think he’d mind if we took some of it.”

John nodded. “I’d be up for a gingerbread latte,” he said. “Don’t be long.”

Alex placed a kiss on John’s head before opening the door. “They don’t call it “instant coffee” for nothing, John.”

---

Marquis de la Baguette: are you awake yet

Marquis de la Baguette: are you awake yet

Marquis de la Baguette: I’ve just resorted to checking timezones on the internet and it’s half past nine in upstate new york for god’s sake it’s christmas now wake up I’m getting impatient

You: I’m up I’m up

Marquis de la Baguette: thank god

Marquis de la Baguette: merry christmas!!!!!!!

You: it’s too early for this

Marquis de la Baguette: not for me!

Marquis de la Baguette: I’m alone in my cousin’s apartment and I’ve opened all of my presents except one…

You: omg

Marquis de la Baguette: can I call you?

You: of course

Five seconds later, Hercules’ phone rung and his contact picture for Lafayette – a photo of the Frenchman holding a tiny puppy that they had met in the park a couple of years ago - appeared on the screen, making Hercules smile. He pressed “accept” and held the phone to his ear. “Bonjour,” he said in a terrible accent.

Lafayette laughed. “Bonjour, Hercules, ça va bien?” he asked.

“Uh… oui? Merci?” Hercules said hesitantly. “I’m not entirely sure what you just asked me, but I’m just going to say yes.”

“I asked you how you were,” Lafayette clarified.

“Oh! I’m okay, thanks for asking. You?”

“I’m not too bad, thank you. Your French is coming along rather well.”

Hercules snorted. “I’d hardly say that. I only know a few words.”

“Right, now for this present of yours.” Hercules heard a rustle of paper in the background which he guessed was Lafayette picking up his gift.

“Any guesses as to what it is?”

“Hold on a second, I’m going to put you on speaker,” Lafayette said. Now Hercules could hear more background noises crackling through the speaker. The honk of a car horn here, the faint excited chatter of tourists there. But closer, he heard Lafayette pick up the package again and give it a shake. “It’s soft,” the Frenchman said, “and it doesn’t rattle. And my boyfriend is a tailor-”

“I’m a fashion student,” Hercules corrected. “I’m not a tailor yet.”

“I’m guessing that it’s an item of clothing?”

“Why don’t you open it and find out?” Hercules asked slyly.

He heard Lafayette sigh exasperatedly, and there was more rustling, paired with the sound of paper tearing, then a small gasp. “Oh, Hercules, mon cher…”

“Do you like it?” Hercules asked nervously.

“Like it? I love it! I’m trying it on right now.” There was a pause. “It’s so soft and warm.”

Hercules let out a relieved breath. “I’m glad to hear that. And the colour’s okay?”

“I love the colour. Purple is my favourite.”

“You do look really good in purple.”

“I’ll have you know that I look good in all colours,” Lafayette said indignantly, before switching to a softer, more sincere tone. “Thank you, Hercules,” he said. “For the sweater. Not just for the compliment.”

“You’re very welcome,” Hercules replied.

“Now open my present!” Lafayette cried eagerly. Hercules rolled his eyes and climbed out of bed, shivering at the sudden loss of temperature. “It’s the big box-shaped one, with the blue glittery paper,” Lafayette told him.

Hercules found it easily. It was by far the largest one among the pile of gifts from his friends that he had kept in his closet for safekeeping. He carried it back to his bed. “It’s massive, Laf, you really didn’t have to get me something this big.”

“But of course I did!” Lafayette replied. “I just hope you like it.”

“I’m putting you on speaker. I need two hands for this,” Hercules told Lafayette before pressing the speaker button on his phone and ripping away the wrapping paper. He paused. “Another box,” he said.

“You have to open that as well,” Lafayette said impatiently.

“Okay, okay.” Hercules opened the flaps on the top of the box and pulled out several large sheets of bubblewrap before gasping at what was inside. He lifted out a sewing box that was about a foot long and almost as wide, painted a mint green and hand-decorated with flowers. Inside were compartments for buttons and threads, and a pincushion for needles and pins. “Oh my god,” he breathed.

“You kept saying that you needed a new sewing box, and I thought that this one would be the most useful. John had to help me with the decorations, you know how terrible I am at art,” Lafayette was saying. “Do… do you like it?”

“I love it!” Hercules exclaimed, unable to hide his happiness. “This is amazing! Thank you!”

“Phew,” Lafayette sighed, relieved. “I’m glad about that. You deserve a present as amazing as yourself.”

Hercules gasped, taken aback by the compliment. “I really wish I could kiss you right now.”

“Me too. I wish I could be with you right now. Paris is beautiful and everything, but you’re way more beautiful and I’d much rather have you than the Eiffel Tower.”

Hercules felt tears prick his eyes and he blinked them away. Now was not the time to get emotional. “You prefer me over the Eiffel Tower?” he joked.

Lafayette chuckled. “Well, you are a much better kisser.”

“God, I love you.”

The words were out of Hercules’ mouth before he could think about them. He immediately froze as he realised what he had just said. There was silence on the other side of the line as well, as Hercules suspected that Lafayette was trying to process the words as well. “What?” he heard the Frenchman ask quietly.

“Fuck. Shit. That just kind of, uh, slipped out?” Hercules said. “Shit, what if I do?” he asked himself quietly. “I think I do. Shit.”

“Hercules?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it until I said it just now,” Hercules continued in a panicked ramble, “I just kind of did it absentmindedly and when I thought about it and played the words back over in my head, it seemed to get even more true? But I know it’s still early days in our relationship and it’s probably too soon, and I completely understand that, and I don’t want to pressure you into anything you’re not ready for, okay? This has, honestly, taken me by surprise as well, so we don’t have to do anything about it yet. I’m really sorry-”

Hercules.” Lafayette cut Hercules off firmly. “Please don’t apologise. You do not have any control over who you love. No-one does. And I’m flattered that you love me. To tell you the truth… I don’t know what love feels like. None of my previous relationships have been about romance. I think that was why I was so hesitant to face my feelings for you. You make me feel… something different. Something far beyond the physical lust that has propelled me into numerous one night stands. It’s like I’m feeling everything at once. And if that’s love, then… well, Hercules Mulligan, I think I’ve always been a little bit in love with you.”

Hercules had listened to Lafayette in a slightly stunned silence. When Lafayette finished, he let out a quiet “whoa” under his breath.

Lafayette snorted. “Whoa? Really? I don’t think it was that good. I could do much better in my mother tongue.”

“Too bad I wouldn’t understand any of it,” Hercules replied.

There was silence on the line for a few seconds. Just as it was becoming awkward, Lafayette spoke up. “So… what now?”

“I really wish I could make out with you right now,” Hercules said.

“Only a couple more days.” Hercules could detect a trace of impatience in Lafayette’s voice that made his heart flutter. He knew that his family would burst into his room any moment now, and as much as he dreaded ending the conversation with Lafayette, he knew that he had to. “I should go and see my family,” he said reluctantly.

“And I should return to my cousin. I think she wants to take me out to meet her friends,” Laf added. Hercules laughed at the hint of disgust in his voice. “Keep texting, though.”

“I will.”

“I can’t wait to see you,” Lafayette said.

“Me neither. Talk to you later.”

Jusque là, Hercules. I love you.”

Hercules’ heart soared.  “I love you too.” The words sounded so right directed at Lafayette. The more he said them, the truer they became. “Yeah, I love you.”

---

You: SHIT

You: FUCK

You: THOMAS

Thomas: I’m here, Jemmy. What do you need?

Thomas: And Merry Christmas, by the way!

You: Thanks you too

You: BUT

You: I JUST ACCIDENTALLY CAME OUT TO MY ENTIRE FAMILY

Thomas: Oh.

Thomas: Is everything okay?

You: Yeah everyone seems fairly accepting of it but I’m just a little shaken

Thomas: Oh hon.

Thomas: How did it happen?

Thomas: If you don’t mind me asking.

You: Of course I don’t mind

You: My grandparents have come over for christmas day and my grandmother started asking me about college and my social life and then she asked me if I had a girlfriend

You: And I said “Actually, I have a boyfriend. His name is Thomas.”

You: And the entire table just went s i l e n t

You: Because I’d forgotten that they didn’t know I was gay lmao

Thomas: But you’re okay?

You: Yeah I’m fine my sisters are fussing over me asking about you

Thomas: What are you telling them?

You: Only the good stuff

You: Which is pretty much everything

Thomas: Aw, Jemmy, stop it. You’re making me blush.

You: They’re reading these texts over my shoulder now

Thomas: Okay.

Thomas: Hello, girls. Merry Christmas.

You: They say hi

You: They also say that you have to treat me right or else they’re going to rip your head off

Thomas: That’s very graphic.

Thomas: Although if I didn’t treat you right, I would probably deserve to have my head ripped off.

You: They say that’s a good answer

Thomas: Phew. I can sleep peacefully tonight.

You: So how is your day going??

Thomas: It’s pretty chaotic, to be honest. There are a lot of people here that don’t necessarily like me that much (although I probably deserve their dislike), but it’s busy enough that no one notices me texting you.

You: Are you okay???

Thomas: I’m managing. Believe it or not, I’m rather enjoying being invisible.

You: Wow. Who are you and what have you done with my boyfriend???

Thomas: I’m still here, don’t worry. To prove it, I can tell you exactly why Alexander’s last article in the college paper’s politics section is complete and utter bullshit.

You: No need. I’ll take your word for it.

You: My family’s paying attention to me again now so I’ll talk to you later

Thomas: Okay. I love you.

You: I love you too!

---

John was sketching when he heard the door open. Alex sat down next to him, offering John a mug of sweet-smelling coffee. John took it gratefully, needing the rush of caffeine to keep his festive excitement and energy at a high. He took a sip before coughing, the strong taste of ginger burning his throat as it went down. “How much syrup did you put in this?” he asked.

Alex grimaced guiltily. “Probably too much?” he suggested. “I had no idea how much was going to be enough. I’m just a simple espresso kind of guy. You don’t have to finish it if you don’t want to.”

John shook his head, downing a larger gulp and trying not to wince at the strong, sweet flavour. If Alex had taken the time to make him a drink, he was damn well going to drink it to show his gratitude. “It’s not actually that bad,” he said. “It’s better than not putting enough in. That would have just been anticlimactic.”

Alex hummed into his own mug of black coffee. “Present time?” he asked after a long sip.

John nodded excitedly. “Present time,” he agreed, handing Alex his gift. “Merry Christmas.”

Alex turned the rectangular present over in his hands. John watched nervously as he slowly peeled the sticky tape from the wrapping paper, careful not to tear anything. John was more than a little worried about his choice of gift. What if Alex thought it was too forward? Too early in their relationship? What if Alex hated it?

However, all doubts fled from John’s mind when Alex took out what was inside the paper and gasped. “Your sketchbooks…?” he asked tentatively, like he thought that John would change his mind and take back the three small, well-used sketchbooks in his lap.

“Open one,” John told him.

Alex handled the book carefully, as if it could fall apart in his hands. His eyes widened at the drawings inside as he slowly turned the pages. “You did all of these?” he asked in awe.

John blushed, embarrassed. He had never shown anyone these sketchbooks before. “Yeah,” he said. “Two years of studies and sketches. Most of my first ones are pretty bad.”

“And they’re all…?” Alex trailed off, but John knew what he wanted to ask.

“Of you? Yeah.” John said, avoiding Alex’s eyes. “There’s a note, um, in the first book.” He pointed to the sheet of paper that was sticking out of the oldest sketchbook and Alex took it out, unfolded it and began to read. John watched him, nervously. He had spent hours, days, trying to work out how to properly word what he wanted to say, and he could almost recite his final draft by heart. It certainly wasn’t as poetic as what Alex was capable of writing, but John was a little proud of it. It read:

Alex,

I’m not nearly as good with words as you are. I much prefer expressing my feelings through the lines of a pencil or the strokes of a paintbrush. You can see evidence of that in these books. Two years’ worth of drawings (and a few watercolour paintings) of you.

Call me obsessed if you want. I probably was. I probably still am. There’s something that drew me to you, Alex, and I got hooked on it. It might have been your energy, or your determination, or your passion for justice and for doing what’s right. You have the brain of a genius, yet you’re still so down to earth. You churn out words at all hours of the day, yet you still found the time to befriend me and keep me in your life. I think I’m most grateful to you for that. You could have done so much better and yet I’m still here.

I know you won’t believe me when I say that you’re beautiful. You really are, you know. Not only in the way that you look, although you are, physically, stunning. Your eyes are beautiful. The way that they widen when you talk about something you’re passionate about is beautiful, as is the way your nose scrunches up and your tongue pokes out when you’re really concentrating on something. Your hair is beautiful. It perfectly frames your face when you wear it down. I love the little man-bun you put it in when you work, and I love the way you absentmindedly push stray strands of hair out of your face when they get in the way of your writing. Your smile is beautiful, and I wish you would smile more often. I love how it just lights up your face, and I love how you can’t hide it when you get excited or happy about something. I love it when I’m the cause of your smile, and I love it when you smile just for me to see.

All of these things I can depict – and have tried to depict – in these books, but there is one more thing that is probably the most important, and most beautiful, part of you, that is much more difficult to capture.

Your mind.

Your mind is stunning. It surprises me every day, from the articles I’ve read in the various newspapers you write for that seem to have the strange power of compelling people to adopt your opinions, no questions asked, to something as mundane as the puns you make up which are both terrible and genius. I think I fell in love with your mind before anything else.

And it’s your mind which makes drawing you so difficult. It’s a fundamental part of you, yet you can’t see it. I can copy the way that you look onto these pages, but without your character, my drawings are simply a collection of lines drawn in a such a way that it looks like a person very much like yourself, but nowhere near as incredible. And what I discovered over the months and years of sneaking these sketches of you is that you seem to be an object in motion. Never stopping, never standing still. I could never capture that in a single drawing, no matter how good I am or will ever become. I don’t think that I will ever be able to perfectly depict you, but something about you – I think it’s that energy and passion that you have – keeps drawing me back in. I keep on trying. And here are my efforts.

This Christmas, I wanted to show you how much I love you, and how much I have loved you for… a while. A long while. So, I decided to do that with what I know best: art.

Yours for ever,

John Laurens

“Oh my god,” Alex whispered hoarsely. “Do you really mean all of this?”

John saw the tears in Alex’s eyes, threatening to spill over, and immediately started tearing up himself. “Every word,” he replied.

Alex let out a choked sob and hugged John tightly. John squeezed him back, the tears rolling down his cheeks as well. “I love you so much,” Alex said.

“I love you too.”

They remained in that position for a while, until they both calmed down enough to shakily separate. Alex took a small present from the pile and handed it to John. “You’re probably going to cry at this as well,” he said, grimacing, “but Merry Christmas.”

John laughed as he tore open the wrapping paper and took out a leather notebook with slowly yellowing pages that had been well-thumbed. He opened it to the first page.

Cold in my professions, warm in my friendships, I wish, my dear Laurens, it might be in my power, by action rather than words to convince you that I love you.

John grinned at the slightly flowery language – Alex liked to be overdramatic from time to time, which he found adorable – but blushed as he worked out the meaning of the sentence. He looked up at Alex, who was watching him closely. “Keep reading,” he prompted, gesturing to the book.

John turned to the next page, then flicked forward a few pages. The book was filled with poetry. Poetry about him.

Your face is a sky at night.

The countless stars on your cheeks

form constellations. Orion. Gemini. Leo.

Your eyes bear the light

of a thousand suns that sing

to a universe that we were never around to witness.

Your smile burns bright,

Illuminating, blinding me.

You are made of stardust.

The words flowed together so beautifully, creating such wonderful images in John’s head, that he couldn’t imagine that these could have been written about him. But Alex was sitting in front of him, frowning in anticipation as John read the poems. “You wrote all of these?” John asked.

“Most of them,” Alex said. “Poetry writing is a good warm-up for me before I start working on an article. There is one poem, near the end, which I didn’t write.” He took the book from John and flicked to a page before handing it back. John read the poem on the page.

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it (anywhere

i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear

no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want

no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

“It’s by e.e. cummings,” Alex said. “I think it sums up rather nicely what you mean to me.”

John practically threw himself at Alex, tears clouding his vision. They wrapped their arms around each other once more, and John sobbed into Alex’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said. “I can’t believe you could make something so beautiful for me.”

“Of course I did,” Alex said. “You deserve as much.”

“I love you.”

“I know. You’ve said that before.”

“And I’m saying it again,” John said, sniffling.

Alex chuckled, pulling back to kiss John’s forehead. “I love you too. I always will. Merry Christmas, John.”

John wiped his eyes and settled back down next to Alex, resting his head on Alex’s shoulder.

---

Alex smiled lovingly down at John before grabbing his laptop and pulling up Netflix. John fit perfectly into his side; it was as if they had been destined for each other. Sure, it had taken some time for them to reach where they were now. Their hearts had been broken by each other more than Alex wanted to consider. But, Alex thought as he felt his boyfriend nestle further into his side, that had made their present situation so much more worth it.

Alex didn’t want to think about the future. This was their last year of college, and they were going to graduate and Alex would get a job as a lawyer or something, and John would be an artist. He didn’t know what would happen to their relationship. But he didn’t want to know. For the first time in a while, Alex was content with simply living for the present.

He had said before that he had never had much of a home, at least not one that he settled into. But that had changed. Alex felt so comfortable with John; he had been his best friend, his crush, and now his boyfriend. But John was also something more to Alex. Something that both terrified and comforted him.

John was his home.

Chapter Text

Epilogue: “Will you two stop being so sickly in here? I swear I’m going to get a cavity.”

For the first time in his life, Alex was looking forward to his birthday.

He woke up with a string of text messages from his friends, all wishing him a happy birthday (most of them simply read “BIRTH” in capital letters). Thomas was already awake, tapping away on his laptop.

“Morning,” Thomas said absentmindedly, throwing a package at Alexander without taking his eyes off the screen. “Happy birthday.”

Alex caught it sleepily. “You didn’t have to get me anything.”

Thomas smirked at him. “I know. That’s what makes me so nice.”

Alex rolled his eyes and opened the present. “Holy shit, how much tape did you put on this?”

“Enough to make you suffer.” Thomas was still smirking.

Finally, Alex managed to tear the paper away and picked up a large black travel mug with the words “Espresso Patronum” written across it in the jagged font used in the Harry Potter films. He looked up at Thomas. “Espresso Patronum? That’s so nerdy.”

“Takes one to know one,” Thomas replied.

Alex rolled his eyes before his expression softened into something resembling gratitude. “Thank you, Thomas.”

Thomas smiled at him. A real, genuine smile, not a cocky grin. “You’re welcome, Alexander.”

John and James arrived about half an hour later with waffles. James gave Alex a shy smile before handing him a small box and sitting next to Thomas. John sat down next to Alex as he opened the box to reveal a gold and black ballpoint pen.

Alex gasped and looked up at James. “This is beautiful. You really shouldn’t have.”

James shrugged. “You’re my friend. Of course I did. And I know how much you like writing, so…”

“Thank you so much,” Alex said, grinning.

“You’re welcome,” James replied and they ate breakfast in comfortable silence. When they had finished, James spoke up again, looking pointedly at John. “Now, John, don’t you and Alexander have somewhere to be…?”

Alex looked over at John and caught him glaring at James before quickly shooting an innocent smile at Alex. “Um, for your birthday present from me we kind of have to… go somewhere.”

Alex frowned. “Go somewhere?”

John nodded. “Except I still want it to be a surprise, so you have to wear this blindfold.” He pulled out a long, black band of fabric.

Thomas laughed and clapped his hands gleefully. “Now this is interesting.”

Alex flipped him off before turning back to John and smiling excitedly. “Let’s go,” he said.

John frowned. “Wait, you’re just going to agree? Just like that?”

Alex nodded. “I trust you.”

John’s face immediately lit up with a smile, and he kissed Alex happily. “Thank you. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Thomas rolled his eyes. “Will you two stop being so sickly in here? I swear I’m going to get a cavity.”

---

“Are we nearly there? It’s cold.”

“Calm down, we haven’t been outside for that long.

“Well, you could have told me we were going outside.”

“Of course we were going outside. Where else would I have taken you? The kitchen downstairs?”

Alex shrugged. “Well, the kitchen has food, so I wouldn’t have complained.”

Alex couldn’t see anything, but he knew that John was probably rolling his eyes. He kept walking, a warm hand on the small of his back to guide him. The cold January air sent chills down his body and he wished that he had brought a coat with him. Fortunately, they arrived at their destination before Alex could freeze to death and he felt the blast of warm air hit him as they entered the building.

“We’re in the art building,” Alex stated plainly, recognising the piano music that was playing from the speakers.

John sighed. “You could sound more surprised, you know,” he said. “Up the stairs.”

“You could just carry me.”

That stopped John short. Alex wished he could see his expression, but he expected that it was one of pure, wide-eyed shock. He waited for John to start a flustered ramble, but instead he was surprised with a pair of arms lifting him up bridal-style. Alex giggled and wrapped his arms around John’s neck.

“You really should eat more, you’re light as a feather,” John said.

“Or maybe you’re just strong,” Alex replied.

John snorted. “Did you not see me the other day? I was struggling with your million-dollar PoliSci textbooks.”

“True,” Alex said. “You’re weak as fuck.”

After what seemed like not enough time, John set Alex on his feet. Alex heard him take a deep, shaky breath. “Okay,” John said nervously.

Alex found John’s shoulder in the artificial darkness and rested a hand on it with what he hoped was gentleness. “John, sweetheart, you know I love you with all my heart and nothing is going to change about that so you don’t need to worry about your present, right?”

“Right.” John still sounded unconvinced, so Alex took his other shoulder and pulled John in for a blind, slightly sloppy kiss. Thankfully, John adjusted them so that the kiss was more comfortable before breaking away, taking another breath and pulling off Alex’s blindfold. “Happy birthday!”

Alex blinked in response to the bright light shining through the large windows, but as his eyes adjusted he gasped at the sight before him.

John’s large canvas was set up on his easel in front of them, but Alex hardly recognised it from when he had first seen it, white and completely blank. Now it was awash with colour. Thick brushstrokes in a rainbow of hues depicting… him. Reading. Sitting cross-legged, hunched over a big, well-worn book, dark hair nearly obscuring his face from view. He looked almost completely still, but the wild lines of colour seemed to convey a certain animation, an energy that Alex always had within him.

“It’s beautiful,” he breathed. “I can’t believe that’s of me.”

John grinned shyly. “Of course it’s of you. You’re stunning. The perfect model. Except I will never be able to do you justice.”

Alex pressed his lips to John’s for another, more passionate kiss. “I love you,” he whispered against John’s lips. “You’re so talented, and you never seem to recognise that. You’ve made me look ten times as good as I look in reality.”

John kissed back hungrily, and Alex moaned into his mouth. “I love you too. I have for so long. You’re the best thing to happen to me,” he said when they broke apart for air.

They didn’t notice that anyone else had entered the room before they heard a muttered “holy fuck” from the doorway. Alex and John whipped around to stare at Hercules and Lafayette, who were staring back at them, equally as shocked.

Lafayette was the first to react, laughing nervously. “I see that we have walked in on you at the wrong time,” he said.

Alex cleared his throat. “Nah, this is a public space,” he said, wincing at the way his voice sounded an octave higher than it usually did.

“How did you know we were here?” John asked.

“We went to Alex’s and Thomas’ room first, and Thomas told us that you were here,” Hercules said before breaking out into a sly grin. “I might also mention that Thomas was almost naked and pretty sweaty.”

Alex pulled a face. He didn’t need to know about his roommate’s love life, thank you very much.

“Anyway, we bring gifts!” Lafayette said cheerily, pulling himself onto one of the desks and setting a large gift bag in front of him. Hercules moved to sit behind him and wrap his arms around his shoulders. Laf leaned into the embrace, turning his head to place a kiss on Hercules’ cheek. Alex pretended to gag at his friends before sitting on the other side of the bag and reaching in.

Lafayette had given him a fifty dollar giftcard to the coffee shop next to Alex’s dorm building. When Alex thanked him for it, he laughed. “You’re welcome, mon ami, but I expect it to last more than two weeks!”

Alex smiled guiltily. His caffeine habits were widely known within his friendship group. “I’ll try my best,” he said.

Hercules had knitted him a long, striped scarf. Alex immediately wound it around his neck, loving the softness of the wool. “How do I look?” he asked.

“Like Tom Baker,” John said, grinning as he pressed a quick, sweet kiss to Alex’s lips. “But he’s my favourite doctor, so it’s all good.”

Alex smiled as he nestled into John’s side. This was the best birthday he had ever had, and he had spent it with his friends (some of whom he was quite surprised to refer to as “friends”) and his boyfriend, whom he was still pretty certain he didn’t deserve, but John reminded him that he did every single day, so Alex had begun to accept it.

He’s asked it before, and he will probably ask it again: how the hell did he get this lucky?