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My heart is stone and still it trembles

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1804

“Wait!” Burr yells, but it’s too late — Hamilton’s shot goes off into the sky, thrown away, and—

—Burr’s fires, and finds its place in Hamilton’s chest.

Why did he say wait — there was no talking out their disagreements, they’ve tried that (a spectacular failure in and of itself, it only made things worseletters passed back and forth, your obedient servant, accusations and overreactions). Burr asks himself if he wouldn’t have followed through if he knew Hamilton would’ve conceded.  Maybe, but then again, probably not — Alexander Hamilton will never stop his mission to personally see to Burr’s downfall.

But as Hamilton falls to the ground, Burr wonders that out of all the words he could have said, why did he have to say that particular one.

 

 

1782

It’s mid-summer and even at night it’s unbearably humid, and the candlelight only makes the room hotter.

Burr and Hamilton are holed away in Hamilton’s disarray of an office, working late on a case they are to defend the next day (or, later that day, as midnight had passed a while ago).  Both have discarded of their coats due to the heat, and they’re running out of time and patience.

It’s going as well as can be imagined.

Hamilton is frustrated — with Burr, with the time constraint, with the words he can’t set free from his mind — and Burr watches him struggle (he admits to himself that it’s satisfying to see Hamilton fumble).  Hamilton runs his hands through his hair that’s half-fallen out of its ribbon, flips through books and tosses them aside when he’s decided they’re of no use to him, scribbles illegible notes in the margins of papers, cannot and will not stand still.

“Alexander,” Burr says, cautiously, curiously. Hamilton ignores him and continues his muttered, one-sided conversation to a page in a book. 

It’s unsurprising, honestly.  At times like these, Hamilton seems to only hear Burr half of the time. Or maybe it’s that he only bothers to pay attention to Burr half of the time.

Burr isn’t fond of either option. 

So, Burr repeats his name, this time sharper, a terse Al-ex-an-der, each syllable a distinct staccato. And lo and behold, Hamilton actually decides to listen — his spiraling bout of frenzy halts, he shuts the book with a snap, and pointedly asks, “What?” coupled with a glare that rivals the intensity of Burr’s.

Burr hadn’t really planned what to say after he got Hamilton’s attention — at the time it had just seemed extremely urgent for him to obtain it. But now he has it, Hamilton pausing from the breakneck speed at which he does everything, and is looking at Burr with such regard as if to say, impress me. Burr doesn’t want to disappoint, he wants Hamilton’s attention to be worth it, but then he realizes that it’s ridiculous to care so much.

The result is the two of them studying each other, with so much to say but not knowing how to say it, or are unwilling do to so.

It feels like a precipice of their give-take relationship.

But the moment passes; Hamilton rips off his cravat and throws it on the table, and tugs at his collar, cursing under his breath, “Goddamn it, Burr, we don’t have time for this.”

Burr tries to not let his eyes wander. He really does. But he can’t help it when Hamilton is making such a commotion in his usual dramatic flair and pulling at his clothes just so the area just below his collarbone is visible and—

Burr sees it. Right there, etched on his skin high on the left side of his chest.  It’s only one word, so Burr reads it fast, a couple times, and he knows that it will be a while before he forgets how the black slanted letters look against the warm, olive glow of Hamilton’s skin, even when they are covered up by layers of clothing.

Silence hangs, and after a tense moment, Hamilton looks down at his appearance and then up to Burr and says, “Sorry,” but he makes no attempt to cover his soul-mark.

Typical. 

Seeing another’s soul-mark feels voyeuristic. Indecent.  A soul-mark is a sacred symbol that displays you for your other, claims you for them, has the last words your soulmate ever says to you imprinted onto your skin. You don’t know who your soulmate is until the end — it would be too easy, otherwise.  It’s a token of faith — the soul-mark doesn’t help find your soulmate, it only confirms if the person you chose to be with was the one.  You carry the words with you your entire life, and hopefully when your time is near, the one you hope says the words to you—

(although sometimes, you might not want to hear the words — Burr remembers men in his command saying, “I’m not going back home alive, she said the words when I left.”)

—and you pray to God that your life wasn’t a mistake.

A soul-mark is a guide for life. The words that make up Burr’s soul-mark were the first words he ever learned how to read, and he has repeated them throughout his life.  They’ve served him well — talk less, smile more — written in an elegant script on his left forearm.

But, Hamilton’s soul-mark is almost laughable. Still, it isn’t any less uncomfortable to look at.  Soul-marks are special, intimate, and most of all — private. Seeing Hamilton’s feels like Burr knows a precious secret of Hamilton’s.  It’s almost embarrassing, Burr is embarrassed for Hamilton, but the man doesn’t seem to mind. 

Maybe where Hamilton comes from, it’s not common etiquette to hide soul-marks, and he isn’t as careful as someone who was raised to keep them concealed, out of sight out of mind, never show anybody your true self.

Burr huffs, but makes no mention of Hamilton’s display of his soul-mark, and sets to put the whole situation out of his mind.

That is, until three days later when the trial is over — they won, of course — and they’re sitting next to each other in armchairs and sharing a bottle of whiskey in celebration (in Burr’s office as there are no surfaces in Hamilton’s that aren’t littered with paper). The alcohol makes them laugh easier, the edge in their usual interaction dissipating.  It’s when Hamilton touches Burr’s knee, laughing at something he said, that Burr realizes in horror that it’s pleasant. But then Burr thinks how it shouldn’t be horrifying — are they not friends, after all?

And then that gets him thinking about why there’s the occasional animosity between them in the first place.  He almost asks Hamilton, but it feels silly.  He’s sure that Hamilton doesn’t even recognize it; Burr is probably overthinking it. Hamilton criticizes him often for that — Stop thinking, Burr, act! Hamilton says, What’s the worst that could happen?

Burr never provides an answer to that question. It isn’t worth the trouble.

Shaking away Hamilton's lingering question in his head, Burr focuses on Hamilton of the present.  Burr is trying really hard not to smile at the spot-on impression of an angry John Adams that Hamilton is stumbling through, but he takes the advice from his soulmate’s future words and smiles, because why not, (what’s the worst that could happen?).

However, he kind of regrets it a moment later because Hamilton absolutely beams. Burr frowns; Hamilton doesn’t need his ego to get any bigger.

Sensing the shift in tone, Hamilton sets his glass on the table and says, “Yes, well,” with a touch of scorn in his voice. Burr wonders if Hamilton feels insulted.

Suddenly the room feels hotter than it did a few minutes ago.

Hamilton must feel it too, because he’s expertly tearing open his collar and like a few nights prior, removes the small piece of white fabric that’s twisted at his neck, and eases back into the plush of the chair. 

From this angle, Burr has a clear view of Hamilton’s soul-mark that’s peeking out from beneath his shirt. It looks exactly as Burr remembers. This time, there’s less unease with seeing Hamilton’s soul-mark, but instead, there's a strange sense of gratification. Hamilton is obviously comfortable with it — the way that Hamilton is sprawled out, it almost seems like he’s showing it on purpose.

Hamilton sees him staring at it, so Burr decides he best say something.

“I see that even at the end, you’re being told to wait,” Burr says, gesturing towards Hamilton and his distasteful display of his soul-mark.

Hamilton hardly reacts (which causes Burr to further believe that Hamilton is showing it off on purpose).  He glances down at his chest where the singular word WAIT is written, and shrugs his shoulders as if it’s old news and says, “It could mean anything.”

“It’s probably a result of you being a reckless idiot,” Burr says, and because they’ve grown to know each other rather well, Hamilton smirks and says, “Probably so.”

Burr can’t stop looking at his soul-mark. Hamilton can’t stop looking at him look at it. One of them should have averted their eyes by now but they haven’t, their interest in the other is too piqued.

It feels like an invitation.

For once, Burr takes.

He leans towards Hamilton and touches him with a forwardness he would not have allowed himself if he were sober. Hamilton sharply inhales when Burr’s fingertips first brush against him, and Burr retracts his hand, fearing he’s gone too far, misread the signs.  But when Burr’s eyes flit up to meet Hamilton’s, Hamilton is biting his bottom lip and nodding his head slightly, as if to say, go on.

When Burr touches him again, he traces the letters with his forefinger in slow delicate movements, sure to catch every bend in the word.  It’s fascinating — but Alexander Hamilton has always been an interesting topic, he can’t lie, he’s beguiled him from the beginning.

Hamilton lets out a soft sigh, breaking Burr’s study of Hamilton’s soul-mark.  Burr looks up at Hamilton and sees that he’s looking at him intently through his inky-black eyelashes. Burr can’t quite make sense of the expression on his face.  He tries to figure it out while he waits for Hamilton to act — because Hamilton will do something, he always does.

What Hamilton does is obscene — he unbuttons and shrugs out of his waistcoat, letting it fall to the floor, then grabs his shirt and pulls it open further while arching his back so he can press closer to Burr. He does not take his eyes off of Burr the entire time; his careful gaze burns.  Burr knows that he should be taken aback, but he isn’t — he lets his fingers curl against Hamilton’s chest, and lets out a slow shaky breath as he leans into him, so close that he can smell the whiskey on his breath.

What happens next is even more obscene. 

Kissing Hamilton is as awful as it is wonderful, with unsure touches of their lips that develop into a messy and fevered exchange. Neither knows who initiated it — maybe it was a shared endeavor, both of them are as equally damned. But Burr can’t bring himself to care as they kiss open-mouthed and grasp at each other, Burr clutching at Hamilton’s shirt like a lifeline, and Hamilton wrapping his hands behind Burr’s neck, his fingers brushing against the short, shaved hair at the nape of his neck.

Hamilton lets out a throaty whine when they part, and tries to catch Burr’s mouth with his again, but Burr backs away before he can.

“Wait, Alexander,” Burr says, then winces because he didn’t mean to say the word that started this whole mess, but it’s too late, it’s already been said and it makes Hamilton beyond pleased.

Hamilton tilts his head, with mock coquettishness, ever the tomcat.  “But I’m impatient, Mr. Burr, sir,” he says, no, growls, with a sensual directness that makes heat pool in Burr’s stomach and his chest clench.

He shouldn’t, every ounce of rational thought he has left tells him not to, but Burr acts on instinct, for once.  He blames it on Hamilton.

Hamilton is willing when Burr grabs his wrist and pulls him towards him, and Hamilton falls into his lap, straddling his legs with ease. Burr isn’t really sure what to do with his hands so he places them on Hamilton’s hips as Hamilton shifts to get the placement he wants.

“Relax,” Hamilton says above him, and then leans down to kiss him again.  Burr returns it, gasping against his mouth when Hamilton rocks his hips against his in a damnable way.

They say to know someone’s soul-mark is to know their soul.  If that’s true, Burr imagines Hamilton’s to be a turbulent sea.

 

 

1790

“Do I ever get to see your mark?”

Burr sighs — this again.  Hamilton is nothing but persistent, insistent.

Hamilton lays on his side next to Burr, unclothed and unashamed, busy with picking at the cuff of Burr’s sleeve. “It’s unfair that mine is an open exhibition while you keep yours hidden away,” Hamilton continues, like he’s laying a case, and Burr doesn’t doubt for a minute that the man could write a fifty-page essay on why he should show Hamilton his soul-mark.

“I’m not forcing you to show yours off,” Burr says.  He doesn’t add that he does nothing to discourage him. Honestly, Hamilton doesn’t have to flash his soul-mark to expose his secrets — he wears his morals and thoughts on the surface, and is always one flame away from a powder keg explosion, so his exposed soul-mark is not much more in the way of revealing his self.

But sometimes, it feels as though Burr doesn’t know Hamilton at all.

Hamilton remains unappeasable, maddening, and keeps his hand circled around Burr’s wrist while he slips his other hand under Burr’s shirt. “Then the gentlemanly thing to do would be to share, hmm?”

Burr feels anything but a gentleman. Here they are, prominent men in the government, married men no less, sharing Hamilton’s bed while his wife and children are away. They don’t talk about it; it just happens.  They’re drawn together for some god-awful reason, whether it be rivalry, boredom, or a strong infatuation with each other’s misery.  They don’t talk about it (much), but Hamilton does not let them forget their transgressions — like now, with Hamilton’s hand finding its way downward past Burr’s waist and touching him in ways he has learned Burr likes.

“No,” Burr says, and shoves away Hamilton’s prying touch — he’ll be damned if Hamilton thinks he can seduce compliance out of him. 

This — whatever it is — needs to stay as it is. When they meet like this, it’s always without lights or Burr wears his shirt during it — just because they’re condemning themselves to this doesn’t mean that Burr has to share everything with Hamilton. He has enough already. This is quick, meaningless, impersonal, a way to sort out their frustrations with each other.

“Never say never,” Hamilton says, and then adds, “but then again, you’d never say never because you are never certain about anything.”

Hamilton knows exactly where to strike, which words to use to draw a reaction from him.  Burr knows he means it as a jibe, or a not so thinly veiled insult — it’s no secret that Hamilton loathes him for what Hamilton calls indecisiveness, but what Burr considers as being prudent.

But they will never agree, and he will not change for Alexander Hamilton.  He cannot change, it’s written onto him, and sewn into his soul.

However—

—perhaps Hamilton is right (as much as Burr hates to admit it).  Maybe Burr should show Hamilton his soul-mark, because maybe then Hamilton would understand.  It feels incredibly important that Hamilton knows why he is the way he is. It feels that if he doesn’t, something terrible will happen — there’s a dread that sits heavy in his chest, a shadow that gets darker every day.

He turns to tell Hamilton this as he tries to construct in his mind how to say it all.  Hamilton’s relaxed demeanor isn’t helping.  He’s propped up on his elbow, lazily spread out beside Burr, and is quite the sight — face still flushed from fucking, skin topped with a sweaty sheen, and his hair a disheveled mess — a look that makes Burr stir hot, and have to look away.

Burr’s gaze trails down to Hamilton’s chest where WAIT is written, the soul-mark as bold and ostentatious as the man himself.  It’s in that moment that Burr realizes that no matter what he says, it won’t matter.  Men like them can never change.

Burr splays his hand against Hamilton’s chest, rubbing his thumb over Hamilton’s soul-mark.  Hamilton makes a content sound, and smiles one of his just-for-Burr smug grins that Burr both hates and loves (depending on the connotation they’re in).

It takes a moment to notice the smile doesn’t reach Hamilton’s eyes.

There are a lot of things to say, things that would ease their uncertainty.  Confessions, an admission of remorse, questions that would reveal more of who Hamilton is instead of what he is. 

But Burr says none of them; instead he retreats. 

He asks, “What are you going to do about your assumption plan?”

Hamilton sighs and flops onto his back — he doesn’t like mixing work and pleasure.  Or maybe he doesn’t like talking about work with Burr, he doesn’t seek him out for counsel as much as he used to. 

Burr can’t figure out of he’s offended, or just plain hurt. 

“I have an idea to get what I want from those vile Democratic-Republicans,” Hamilton finally says, and it’s amazing the way he says the party’s name like it’s an expletive.  Burr waits for Hamilton to continue, but Hamilton doesn’t — he just turns his head presses his face where Burr’s neck and shoulder meet. 

Burr almost asks about Hamilton’s plan for his plan, but he doesn’t.  He doesn’t want to know, and he doesn’t want to be involved with Hamilton’s (probable) mad scheme.

And besides, if Hamilton doesn’t want to share, Burr isn’t going to beg him.

 

 

1794

Theodosia’s last words to him do not match the ones on his arm.  His last words to her do not correspond to the ones that made up her soul-mark — he was well acquainted with the sad phrase that nestled the curve of her hip.

She may not have been his soulmate, but it still hurts. He feels like she was. Is?  Was? 

He tells himself that his time with her wasn’t a waste. Screw what fate says. He’ll make his own destiny. 

Burr finds himself seeking out Hamilton late at night. He isn’t really sure why; maybe it’s because waiting for what should be his is becoming more and more difficult, and Hamilton seems like a really good person to blame for his problems.

As he stands outside, he realizes how reminiscent this is of earlier times, although it was Hamilton pounding on his door in the middle of the night.

When Hamilton answers the door, he looks unsurprised to see Burr on his doorstep.

“Is your family home?” Burr asks, straight to the point.

“No.”  Hamilton waves his hand dismissively.  “They’re…away.” 

Hamilton has a lot of his own problems — all brought upon himself, as usual.

“Good,” Burr says, and pushes past Hamilton and into his home.

“Sure, Burr,” Hamilton mutters. “Come on in.” 

Burr doesn’t respond — he knows that Hamilton won’t turn him away.  He’s always been weak for the heartbroken and helpless. 

He leads Hamilton around his own home, past rooms and portraits and things that don’t belong to him.  Burr isn’t sure what he’s looking for, but Hamilton follows behind silently.  For some reason Hamilton’s silence makes him angry.  Of all times for the insufferable man to become mute, it’s the one time he was counting on him to be loud enough to drown everything else out.

They end up in Hamilton’s cluttered office. It seems as though Hamilton has fully taken up residence in it.  There is parchment on the desk that is still shiny with ink, presumably what Hamilton was working on before Burr interrupted his flurry documentation of words. 

“I’m—,” Hamilton begins, but for once in his life he shuts up, which is just as well because Burr cannot hear one more person say, I’m sorry for your loss.

“Yeah,” Burr says.  “I know.”

It’s been a while, but Hamilton doesn’t pull away when Burr kisses him.  It’s slow and testing, remembering what it feels like to have his lips on his.  During it, Hamilton’s eyes flutter shut and moans against his mouth, relaxing into Burr.

Burr wishes it to continue, but Hamilton pulls away and sets his hands on Burr’s arms.  “I truly am sorry,” Hamilton says, his breath hot against Burr’s face, and damn it why did he have to go and ruin it — why does he have to ruin everything?

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Burr snarls (talk less), and shoves at Hamilton’s shoulders, pushing him until he slams into the wall. Hamilton is startled by his aggressive action, and lets out a surprised gasp when his back meets the wood of the wall. 

“Burr, maybe we should—”

“Shut up,” Burr orders, and he bends his head down and bites at Hamilton’s neck until Hamilton hisses and presses against him, and there’s no denial that Hamilton doesn’t want this, Burr feels the proof pressing against his thigh.  “Everyone knows now that you’re easy.”

“Fuck you, Burr,” Hamilton says, but he is just as eager, just as lonely.

They end up fucking in Hamilton’s office, with their breeches pushed down around their thighs and Hamilton bent over his desk while Burr thrusts into him from behind. 

Afterward, they don’t say much, but Burr manages to find a smile when he sees the imprints of ink smeared on Hamilton’s face.

Hamilton has nothing but his words.

 

 

1804 

He really should have known. 

It makes sense.  In the beginning, they kept meeting — destiny kept them together even though they made efforts to stay apart.  Their lives were too parallel to not eventually intersect.

But words can hurt, literally so. 

The gunshot still rings in his ears as Burr mutters to Van Ness, “I must go and speak to him.”  Van Ness, his dutiful second, tries to drag him away from the scene and speak reasonably to him, but Burr shoves Van Ness away and stumbles forward to Hamilton in a daze, because he doesn’t understand, Hamilton is his—

The walk of a few paces feels like miles. Hamilton is leaning against a rock when Burr reaches him.  The people around him give only a moment of attention and a disgusted sneer to Burr before turning back to Hamilton with the goal to save him.  But Burr knows better — he knows it’s over for the orphan immigrant. Burr said the word of his soul-mark, after all, and he can feel that it was the one meant for Alexander Hamilton.

Burr kneels next to Hamilton, drops to his knees, he can’t believe it came to this, when at one time— 

“I am a dead man,” Hamilton says, and it seems to be more to himself than anyone else.  He’s seemingly unaware of the others around him as they rip open his clothes and hopelessly try to stop the bleeding that’s seeping from his chest. He stares at a far-off point in the distance and Burr isn’t sure if he even knows he’s there, but then Hamilton shifts his gaze to Burr and says, “Since when did you become such a good shot, Burr?” 

Burr wishes that Hamilton had an ounce of contempt. It would make it easier.  He sounds curious more than anything, like he’s trying to figure it all out but can’t link it together.

Burr knows the feeling — he’s at a loss as well.

Burr would try to console Hamilton, tell him that everything will be okay, but nothing will be okay again.  Everyone important to him dies, so naturally Hamilton will, too. 

It’s really hard to look Hamilton in the eye, so he looks away, his gaze falling to Hamilton’s chest — the gruesomeness is easier to bear. There, to the right of the wound Burr gifted him, is his soul-mark, WAIT. Hamilton must see him gaping at it because he looks down, and laughs when there’s the recognition — Burr knows that bright expression of Hamilton’s when something clicks.

“Does this qualify as being a reckless idiot?” Hamilton asks, and when Burr looks up he sees Hamilton watching him. Burr scoffs, because it’s ridiculous — when he finally finds some rash initiative within himself, Hamilton manages to find some caution.

They’ve never been in-sync.

Burr tries to say something but he can’t. How can Hamilton be so blasé about these things, doesn’t he know what this means? 

(Why did you fire into the sky? Burr wants to ask.  Did you have a death wish? Is this another way to ruin me? Have you always known we were two of the same?

He’s sure that Hamilton thought that his soulmate would be a Schuyler — and wishes he had time to talk about it, what it means for it to be them, but that’s not how it works, it’s the last words spoken—

no, he can change it, Burr realizes.  He only has to say something else, anything else, and he starts to do so, but Hamilton reaches forward and covers his mouth with a blood-stained hand.

“Talk less, smile more,” Hamilton says, moving his hand to cradle the side of his face.

Burr had anticipated it, but it still rattles him to the core of his very being nonetheless.  He flinches away from Hamilton’s touch, and starts tearing open the cuff of his sleeve.  Hamilton watches open-mouthed, wheezing slightly, as Burr pushes his sleeve up and shows Hamilton the soul-mark on his forearm, as if saying, look what you’ve done now.

When Hamilton sees the soul-mark, he makes a sad noise, and then reaches forward and traces the phrase talk less, smile more with a trembling touch.  His motions are delicate, as if he inspects it close enough he’ll finally have an understanding of Burr.

It’s too late for that, though.

There is nothing else to say to each other — their soul-marks have established that.

They don’t say goodbye.

As Burr walks away, he feels a twinge of pain in his chest that isn’t his own.

 

 

 

Here’s the thing they don’t tell you about soulmates— 

It’s not how everyone traditionally thinks of them. It’s not sweet declarations of love and romance, not always.  It’s when you’re the counterpart of someone else, whose life depends on the other. A contingency of consequences set out by the other.  That once your soulmate is dead, you die in essence, too. 

Burr thinks of this often.  How cosmic is it, that he and Alexander Hamilton were created to destroy the other — because when he killed Alexander, he effectively killed himself. 

They were fighting a war that neither won. 

 

(If only they knew sooner that they were on the same side.)