The clamor that arose inside the apartment when Peggy knocked on the door made her grin. Philip and Angie's voices as they both tried to be the first one to reach the door, underscored by Junior's excited laughter. Eliza called for the children not to run and the footsteps Peggy could hear slowed dramatically, if only for a few moments before excitement overcame the children again. As the door opened the two children rushed out the door to greet their aunt.
"Auntie Peggy!" Angie and Philip exclaimed.
"Hey you two!" Peggy laughed as she hugged her niece and nephew.
Junior was still toddling his way down the hall to the door, not quite comfortable with running yet.
"Peggy here!" Junior exclaimed, the R coming out as more of a W.
Peggy corralled the older children back inside the apartment, pulling her small suitcase in behind her and shutting the door. She crouched down to the floor and held out her arms. Abandoning all caution, Junior tripped through the last few steps to fall against his aunt.
"Here!" he said again, clumsily patting Peggy's cheek.
"Yes, Junior, here," Philip agreed.
Eliza came up behind them and hugged her sister, "Pegs it's so good to see you."
"Good to see you too," Peggy grinned.
Eliza laughed, "I look like a beached whale."
"A very cute whale," added Peggy.
"A whale about to explode," countered Eliza flatly.
"No splode," Junior commanded, tugging at he hem of Eliza's maternity shirt, "Mama no splode."
Eliza laughed as she ruffled Junior's hair, "Of course not," she turned back to her sister, "come on in, take off your coat and stay for awhile."
Peggy did just that leaving her suitcase in the front hall, "So number four," she sat down on the couch, "I can guarantee you will never be bored."
"You're implying that I have time to be bored now," Eliza joked, "Three kids are enough of a handful without adding Alex to the mix."
"I resent that!" Alex protested, sticking his head out of the kitchen, "Hey Pegs."
"You mean you resemble it," Peggy shot back with a giggle, "Hey yourself."
"So you finally got out of Philly?" Alex asked.
"Just because it's not New York does not mean Philly is the hell hole you are making it out to be."
"I said nothing," Alex replied innocently.
"You didn't have to I knew you were thinking it," Peggy pressed her lips into a thin line.
Alex opened his mouth to reply when the loud ringing of a timer interrupted him.
"Kids! Dinner!" he called.
"You cooked?" asked Peggy incredulously.
"Oh ye of little faith," Alex intoned seriously, "You'll be singing a different tune once you try my enchiladas."
"Whatever you say Chef Hamilton," Peggy smirked.
"Alex has come a long way since he was a danger to himself and everyone else in the kitchen," Eliza spoke up.
"I was never that bad," Alex pouted.
"Don't lie, I knew you back then," Eliza teased, "And Burr told me stories. Such stories."
"I only set the toaster on fire once," protested Alex, "And it wasn't my fault! Laf distracted me."
"Excuses," Peggy muttered under her breath.
"He'll back me up," Alex insisted, "Philip, Angie, come on it's time to eat," he called back towards the bedrooms where the kids had disappeared, "Bring your brother."
"Coming!" Philip called.
"Potty," said Junior urgently.
"In a minute," amended Philip.
Angie skipped into the room and took Peggy's hand.
"Sit next to me, Auntie Peggy."
"What do you say?" prompted Eliza sternly.
"Please, Auntie Peggy, will you sit next to me?"
Peggy have Angie's hand a squeeze, "Of course."
Philip and Junior made it to the kitchen a few minutes later and Alex placed the toddler in his high chair while Peggy assisted Eliza in setting out the food.
"So, how are things going in Philly?" Alex asked.
"Great," Peggy nodded, "I just started a new project, it amazes me how stupid architects can be sometimes, I'm convinced they have no concept of gravity."
"It can't be that bad," Eliza laughed.
"You haven't had the pleasure of reading their blue prints," Peggy pursed her lips.
"Abstract buildings are a big thing now," Alex put in.
"Abstract is one thing, impossible is another," said Peggy.
"And that's why they have you," Alex laughed, "the killer of dreams."
"More like a large dose of reality."
"Reality is boring," Philip piped up, "I like fantasy worlds."
Peggy laughed at her nephew, "Okay who taught him that?"
Alex grinned proudly, "He's reading at about three grade levels above the rest of his class."
"Wow," Peggy blinked, "that's amazing."
Philip grinned and she could clearly see a spot where he must have recently lost a tooth.
"Ms. Smitty says that I'm precocious," Philip stated happily.
"You are too cute," Peggy shook her head and giggled.
"Auntie Peggy?" Angie tugged at her sleeve.
"What's p-p.." Angie was having trouble with the word.
Angie nodded her head in response.
"It means your brother is a smarty pants," laughed Peggy.
Angie rolled her eyes, "I already knew that. He's the smartest person in the whole wide world."
Eliza shook her head and Angie's statement.
"Eliza, if Stephen and I ever have kids I want them to be as cute as yours," Peggy informed her sister.
"You want to just take them home with you now?" Eliza teased.
"Don't I get a say in this?" Alex asked.
"No," the sisters chorused with matching grins.
Alex shook his head.
"Could we go with you?" Philip sat up a little straighter on his chair.
"Not this time," Peggy laughed.
Philip almost appeared a little disappointed when his aunt said that.
Peggy took notice of this, "It doesn't mean you can't ever visit.”
"Maybe when you're a little older you can spend some time with your Aunt Peggy in Philadelphia," Eliza offered, raising an inquisitive eyebrow at Peggy.
"I'd love that," Peggy responded, "I'm sure Stephen won't mind sharing me with you for a few days."
"And Angie," Philip said decisively.
Peggy was slightly startled but recovered easily, "And Angie."
"These two barely spend any time apart," Eliza said with a smile, "Even at school, they always have lunch together."
"And we play at recess," Angie put in happily.
"A real package deal those two," Alex added.
"I think it's sweet," Peggy smiled, "we were always close too."
"Do you remember that gala with the pumpkins?" Eliza asked with a grin.
"Oh, yes," Peggy giggled.
"I'm not sure I want to know," Alex said.
"Liar," Peggy teased, "You're dying to know."
Alex grumbled, "Yeah."
"Pumpkins like Cinderella?" Angie asked.
Peggy and Eliza shared a look.
"Something like that, yes," Peggy said, beginning to laugh again.
Eliza's laughter joined hers, then stopped abruptly.
"Betsey?" Alex asked with concern. Eliza seemed frozen in place. She cleared her throat slightly.
"I don't want to alarm anyone, but I think that my water just broke."
Alex's eyes widened.
"No need for panic, you know how this goes," continued Eliza, "I'll just go change into some sweatpants, Philip if you could grab the go bag from the living room please."
"Go bag?" Peggy asked as Philip rushed out.
"To take to the hospital," Eliza explained, "A few changes of clothes for me, some books, clothes for the baby."
"They used to be mine," Angie put in.
"Liza is there anything I can do?" Peggy asked, this was most definitely not how she expected this trip to go.
"Could you help me change pants?" Eliza asked, still utterly calm.
"Angie, stay with Junior in here," Eliza continued, "Alex? Some tea would be lovely."
"Sure," Alex nodded and went back to the kitchen to get the kettle on the stove.
Peggy followed her sister into her room, she could hardly fathom how Eliza was being so impossibly calm at this moment. But then she remembered that she had been through this three times already.
"What happens next?" Peggy asked as she helped Eliza shed her maternity jeans.
"Usually, your water breaks after you've gone into labor," Eliza said as she began to pull on sweatpants, "but I've had them break right before labor every time."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"No, just really rare."
Peggy laughed as she and Eliza tugged the sweats up all the way, "Trust you to be special."
Eliza grinned, "I try. So, next thing is to go get checked into the hospital. Based on what's happened in the past, I should go into labor within the next day. If not, they'll induce labor."
"Induce," repeated Peggy as they began making their way back to the rest of the family, "Aren't you fancy, using the technical vocabulary."
Despite Eliza's calm nature, Alex was slightly on edge.
"Alex are you alright?" Peggy asked.
"Yeah," Alex muttered, "yup, I'm good."
"You don't look it."
"He gets stressed every time," Eliza said fondly, placing a kiss on Alex's cheek.
"I do not," insisted Alex.
"Of course, dear," agreed Eliza, sending Peggy a wink.
"With Philip it was the worst," Eliza said in a whisper.
"I can imagine," Peggy giggled.
Philip then came over with the overnight bag in his hand, "Mommy?"
"Thank you, sweetheart," Eliza said, "Are you ready to have another younger brother?"
Philip nodded, "I wanna show him my Hot Wheels, like I do for Junior."
Eliza smiled, "I'm sure he'll like it too, but you may need to wait till he's older."
Philip let out a sigh.
"So are the kids coming with us?" Peggy asked.
"Well, Alex isn't about to stay home with them," said Eliza, "They have this playroom in the maternity wing, a place to leave the kids during the actual birth, but they'll be allowed to come and see me right afterwards."
"Last time when Junior was born, Grandpa Phil was with us in the waiting room," Angie chirped.
"Grandpa Phil isn't with us anymore," Peggy reminded the girl.
"I know," Angie said solemnly, "He had a cancer in his pancreas."
Only about half a year after Junior's birth, Philip Schuyler had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, too far along for successful surgery.
Peggy tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and sighed, "So this is it?"
Eliza nodded, "Yup."
"I'll have a hell of a story when I get home," Peggy laughed.
"And Angelica will be very jealous," Eliza added.
"That's what she gets for being so far away," Peggy smiled.
The six of them made their way out of their apartment to get a cab to the hospital. Alex took it upon himself to hail one and they all piled in, Eliza in the front seat, Alex with Angie in his lap, Peggy with Junior and Philip in the middle of them in the back.
Eliza gave the driver the name of their usual hospital and he pulled away from the curb. It was deep into the dinner rush hour, but the cars were at least moving and not stuck bumper to bumper.
"Having a baby, then?" the driver queried in a thick Indian accent.
"Number four," Alex responded from the back seat, reaching forward to clasp Eliza's shoulder briefly.
The cab driver let out a whistle, "Good luck with that."
They settled into silence, the radio playing some top 10 hit softly in the background. It took nearly an hour and a half, but they arrived at the hospital and the driver pulled to a stop. Peggy ran in to get a wheelchair for Eliza despite her protests while Alex paid he cabbie and got all the kids out of the car.
"I still have two perfectly good legs," Eliza sighed as Peggy insisted on helping her into the wheelchair.
"They'd make you get in one once you got inside anyway," Alex pointed out logically, hitching Junior slightly higher in his arms.
When they got inside, Eliza's usual ob/gyn nurse was already there waiting.
"Look what the cat dragged in," the nurse said with a smile, "A gaggle of Hamiltons."
"I hardly think there's enough of us to count as a gaggle, Lydia," said Alex, "Maybe closer to a pack of Hamiltons."
Lydia let out a laugh, before turning to Peggy.
"I'm Peggy Schuyler, Eliza's sister," she introduced herself.
"Nice to meet you, Peggy, I'm Lydia," the nurse replied with a smile, "but you probably got that already. Ob/Gyn nurse and certified Hamilton baby wrangler."
"Philip was the first child Lydia helped deliver after completing her nursing degree," Eliza said happily.
"And I've been on the job ever since," joked Lydia, "I figured we'd be seeing you soon enough, I've got the usual room ready to go."
"Lydia, you're a gem," sighed Eliza.
"Don't I know it."
Lydia grabbed the handles of the wheelchair and began making her way to the elevator, the rest of them following.
"Is that really Philip Hamilton?" Lydia commented catching sight of the eldest Hamilton.
Philip beamed proudly, "Yup!"
"You're so big now!" Lydia exclaimed, "You're growing up so quickly!"
"Just quickly enough," Philip informed her.
Lydia laughed, "Sure. Just quickly enough."
"Am I growing up quickly, too?" Angie asked, rushing forward to be in line with Philip and Lydia, taking her brother's hand.
"You sure are, pumpkin," agreed Lydia.
"Here we are," Lydia announced, "room 522. All of the Hamilton children were born in this room."
The nurse helped Eliza out of the wheelchair and into the bed, settling the blankets over her belly.
"I'll just go let the doctor know you're here and then I'll come back to do a preliminary exam."
Lydia closed the door behind her. Alex settled Junior in the small playpen in the corner of the room with his blocks before taking a seat in one of the chairs. Philip and Angie both clambered into the rocking chair that was used by the new mothers while they nurses. Peggy settled herself to lean against the wall.
"You might as well get comfortable," Eliza laughed, "we're going to be here for awhile."
"There don't appear to be any more chairs," Peggy pointed out.
Eliza fixed Alex with a look.
"What?" he asked.
Eliza raised her eyebrows.
"Oh, alright," grumbled Alex without any real malice, "Take this one, Pegs."
"Thank you Alexander," Peggy replied sweetly taking a seat as Alex then occupied where Peggy had been standing before previously.
"You're a perfect gentleman," she added.
"Don't tell anybody, I've got a reputation to uphold," Alex shot back.
"Alert the press, a lawyer is a decent human being," responded Peggy dryly. "Peggy," Eliza chided.
"Oh he knows I love him, don't you Alex?"
Alex let out a long-suffering sigh, "It's true that I've always had a weakness for Schuyler women."
"Don't remind me," Peggy laughed. Alex had been an insufferable flirt back in university, where they'd all met. Thankfully, once Eliza had claimed him the flirting had at least reduced to a platonic level, although it seemed like Alex couldn't talk with anybody without flirting a little.
Alex flashed Peggy a look clearly trying to show how offended he was by her statement.
Eliza giggled, "Pegs, I still remember you doing the math and figuring out that he'd hooked up with fifteen percent of our friends at one point."
Peggy grinned, "Yeah, that was fun."
"What does 'hooked up with' mean?" Angie asked innocently.
"It's when you walk around with your arms hooked together," Philip responded promptly, then turned to the adults, "Right?"
Peggy and Alex caught each other's gaze and had to struggle to stifle their laughter.
"Not exactly sweetie," Eliza laughed.
"What is it?" Angie asked again.
"We'll explain when you're older," Alex replied.
"Much older," he added in an undertone, "So much older."
Angie looked at her father in confusion wanting to know more, "But-"
She was interrupted by the arrival of the doctor, a short-haired Japanese woman, who was followed by Lydia.
"How're we doing?" the doctor asked, flipping open Eliza's medical chart with a flick of her fingers, "Any signs of labor yet?"
"Nope," Eliza replied, "but that's normal based on my experience, Dr. Sato."
Dr. Sato smiled as she flipped the chart closed again, "Extensive experience and not slowing down."
"Not at the moment," Eliza smiled.
"So the rumors of you starting your own baseball team are true?" Peggy raised her brow.
Alex looked excited at the prospect of that many Hamiltons running around. Eliza looked a mixture of joyful and apprehensive.
"I don't know if we'll get to that many," Eliza bit her lip and Alex look crestfallen.
"Why not?" Alex pouted.
"We're already going to need to start looking for a bigger place as it is," Eliza said patiently.
Alex might get paid pretty well as a lawyer, but they had decided not to live above their means so they hadn't sprung for a huge apartment, especially with prices in the City being what they were.
"Listen to your wife Alexander," Peggy smiled, "and maybe we should let the doctor finish what she came here to do."
Dr. Sato laughed, "There's no rush. I just wanted to come in and say hello. You won't really need me until you're fully dilated," she said to Eliza, with a smile that said she knew Eliza already had this information memorized, "until then, I'll leave you in Lydia's capable hands."
With a brief goodbye, Dr. Sato left the room. Lydia started preparing some supplies.
"We're going to need to do an internal examination, as you know," Lydia mentioned.
"Right," Eliza said, "Alex? Peggy? Why don't you take the kids downstairs for some food. Our dinner was slightly interrupted."
"We'll be back soon," Alex said, scooping Junior from the playpen despite his small whimper of complaint. He placed a kiss on Eliza's forehead as he left, Philip and Angie in his wake.
"See you soon, sis," Peggy said with a wave, following them out the door.
The first contractions came strong and steady at around three in the morning, a new record according to Eliza, and by seven they were preparing to deliver. Peggy returned to the room from dropping the kids off and slipped on the sanitary smock Lydia handed her. Alex was already similarly dressed and sitting at Eliza's bedside.
She was now glad that this had happened this way, that she could be there for her big sister. It had been hard with them each going their separate ways considering how close they had been growing up.
Eliza gave Peggy a small smile when she settled on the other side of the bed. Her forehead was already shining with sweat, so Peggy brushed Eliza's hair out of her face.
"What do you want me to do?" Peggy asked.
"Just hold her other hand," Alex said gently, "Maybe with two of us she won't crush my hand the way she usually does."
"Oh, shut up," Eliza put in. Her face was flushed, a reaction to the epidural Lydia had injected about half an hour earlier.
Peggy took her sisters hand not exactly sure what Alex meant about his hand being crushed. With her thumb she unconsciously rubbed small circles on the back of Eliza's hand much in the way their mother used to when they were scared.
She soon discovered Alex's meaning as another strong contraction hit Eliza and the pressure of her fingers around Peggy's increased immensely.
Peggy let out an involuntary squeak of surprise but just proceeded to inhale deeply until Eliza loosened her grip once again. She looked across at Alex, "I am so sorry."
"I'm entitled," Eliza hissed out.
"No one said you weren't honey," Peggy replied, "and I don't think you need to worry about me having kids anytime soon."
"Glad to be of service," said Eliza with a small laugh.
"Almost time to push," Dr. Sato instructed, her voice slightly muffled by the mask she wore.
Peggy wasn't nearly as scared as she now was excited to be here for the birth of the newest Hamilton. She had the thought that despite what she had said earlier that just maybe she wanted to have kids of her own.
"Here we go," Dr. Sato warned.
Eliza gripped Alex and Peggy's hands in anticipation.
"Eliza you are doing great," Alex smiled.
This time Peggy braced herself for when Eliza squeezed her hand, and it really and truly felt like it was going to break, "You've got this Liza."
Eliza couldn't even form any sort of reply at the moment, Peggy winced at the pain in her hand and saw Alex do the same as the doctor called for Eliza to push.
That was how Peggy Schuyler Rennesslaer got to be lucky enough to be one of the first people to hold James Alexander Hamilton.
"So who is he named after?" Peggy asked.
"He's named after two people, actually," an exhausted Eliza said.
"My father and brother," Alex added, his voice tight. Peggy knew that Alex hadn't had much contact with his family, it had been years into their friendship before Alex had even mentioned his family to Peggy and the others in their friend group.
"That's really sweet," Peggy smiled as she rocked James.
"They weren't exactly my favorite people in the world," Alex said, his voice quiet, "But I still feel that I should honor them. As my family."
There was a slight hitch in Alex's voice, which Peggy and Eliza politely ignored. He cleared his throat slightly.
"I'll go get the other kids," he said, "They'll want to see him."
The two sisters also politely ignored the way he rushed from the room with his head down.
Peggy sighed, "I sometimes forget how lucky we were to have the family we do."
"He know that he has us now," Eliza said, "That he's had all of us for years."
"We should get everyone together," suggested Peggy, "Or at least try to. It's been too long since we've all been in the same room."
Eliza laughed slightly, "Oh yes, it's been far too quiet."
A few minutes Alex returned holding Junior in one arm, Angie clutching his other and Philip walking beside him.
"Mommy!" Angie pulled her hand from Alex's grasp and ran to the bed.
"Hi sweetie," Eliza smiled at her daughter.
"Where is he?" Angie asked excitedly, "I wanna see him! What's his name?"
"I have him here," Peggy said, seating herself in the rocking chair, "Why don't you come meet James?"
She was truly lucky to have this family, Peggy thought to herself as Angie and Philip came over, the latter taking Junior's hand when Alex put him down so that they could all see their younger brother. Alex moved to the bed, sitting in one of the chairs and cradling Eliza's hand between both of his, drawing up for a tender kiss.