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A More Perfect Union

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Aaron isn’t sure if he intended to kill Hamilton or not.

What Aaron does know: he purposely took aim at Hamilton, with vengeance on his mind and anger blazing through his veins and misery heavy in his heart. He intended to shoot Hamilton — that much is true. Aaron wanted to stop him, needed to stop him. Not necessarily kill him, but make him stop. To admit anything else would be an untruth.

However, Hamilton did not intend to kill him, or even fire at him.  His shot goes off into the air, the boom of it overlapping with Aaron’s panicked shout of, “Wait!”

But it’s too late. It had been too late for a long time.

Aaron gets his answer when Hamilton crumbles to the ground. For a moment, Aaron’s entire world stops as he waits, begs for Hamilton to move — and that’s when he knows that it was a mistake. He doesn’t want to Hamilton to die. He doesn't want him to die. Suddenly, the thought of a life without Alexander Hamilton in it is incomprehensible. He wonders how he could have been so blinded not to have realized that, before.

It feels like a lifetime, but Aaron knows it must be only a few seconds — Hamilton curses in pain and he’s sprawled on the ground but he’s alive and Aaron lets out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding.

But his next breath catches in his throat when he sees Hamilton clutch at his body and his hand come away wet with blood.

No no no—

He is only ten paces away, but it might as well be the distance of an ocean — he drops his pistol and goes towards Hamilton, putting one shaky step in front of the other. He’s in a daze, people are shouting, it’s chaos, but he can’t focus on anything except getting to Hamilton. Someone tugs on his arm, but he shoves them away. 

“I must go and speak to him,” Aaron says, desperate. Can’t they see? He has to tell Alexander…he has to tell him…

The person grips his arm tighter, insistent, hisses, “Burr, listen to me!”

Aaron breaks his gaze at Hamilton to turn to look at the person, and he sees Van Ness staring back at him. That’s right — he had almost forgot Van Ness is there, that there is someone other than Hamilton and himself in this nightmare.

Van Ness’ expression is half horror and half shock.  He’s looking at him like he can’t believe that Aaron actually carried it out. Honestly, Aaron is surprised, too.

Aaron jerks his arm away from his grasp, but he stays put. He hears Hamilton cry out in pain. He forces himself not to flinch.

“Burr, we’ve got to leave, now,” Van Ness says, panicked. “They’re coming to arrest you, man,” he adds, urgently, and then gestures out to the Hudson.

Aaron follows his line of sight over to the river. He blinks — the sun is in his eyes, it’s now fully over the horizon and it glints off the water. When his vision clears, sure enough, he sees the distant form of a boat rowing quickly in their direction.

Turning back to Van Ness, Aaron replies, “Perhaps I should let them arrest me.” He still can’t look back at Hamilton. “If I’m not guilty for this, I surely am for something else. Peccant.”

“Good God.” Van Ness sighs as he grabs Aaron’s arm again.  Aaron wishes he would really stop doing that. He prickles, but Van Ness continues, “When I agreed to be your second, I didn’t think I’d actually have to save your melodramatic ass.”

Aaron begins to say something in return but Van Ness catches Aaron off guard and pulls him from where he’s rooted to the ground and drags Aaron away, away from the dueling grounds, away from Hamilton.  Aaron struggles, tries to resist, but he stumbles and lest another embarrassment of falling flat on his face, he lets himself be led away.

When he takes one last look over his shoulder, he can’t even see Hamilton because he’s hidden by the people crowding around him. He wonders if Hamilton is still alive.

As he flees the Weehawken shore, there’s one more thing that Aaron knows: the world will never be the same.

 

* * * 

 

After, Aaron gets a drink. Drinks, multiple. He gets really really drunk, never mind the fact that it’s not even ten in the morning.

“Maybe you shouldn’t be here,” Van Ness says, leaning forward on the table, his voice hardly above a whisper. “If someone saw you here at a tavern after...” His voice trails off, and then bites his lip because he’s unable to say it. After you shot Hamilton. “They may get the wrong idea.”

Aaron scoffs. He doubts it. While the bartender has been eyeing them suspiciously for the last half hour, Aaron attributes it to that fact that he and Van Ness are the only ones in here, and not because he recognizes him as the Vice President of America. He is not prominent in the public’s attention.  Jefferson has made sure of that. It’s difficult to outshine Jefferson, with his bouncy hair and passionate ideologies.  If anyone remembers Aaron after the disastrous election of 1800, they know him as the guy who lost. Aaron’s place in office has not reaped him any rewards, nothing apart from the knowledge and the suffering of the almost.  Aaron has a title, but no claim. Next best means nothing, and if he were honest, he’d rather have nothing at all than the consolation prize to the presidency.

He expects it to be different soon, except that his fame will be that of notoriety. It’s fitting that Hamilton will be the cause for this, too. First, Hamilton slandered Aaron’s name for any chance of furthering his career, and now Hamilton will leave him dishonored despite it is honor that Aaron had been trying to protect.

That’s your own damn fault, Aaron can’t help but think. He shakes it away, as he’s been doing since that morning.

Aaron downs the rest of his glass, and sets it on the table with a clink.

“Tell me, William,” Aaron says, dryly. “What is it that someone could get the wrong idea about?”

Van Ness makes that strained face he gets when he really doesn’t want to tell the truth because it’s something Aaron is not going to want to hear but he’s conflicted because he also wants to tell Aaron because he isn’t going to know otherwise and worries Aaron is going to make a fool out of himself.

“Well,” Van Ness begins, and traces with his forefinger a circular water stain on the table made from a previous drinker’s cup. “From an outsider’s perspective, it could be seen that perhaps, maybe, not that I necessarily think this, but—”

“Out with it,” Aaron presses. He doesn’t have time for this. Not that he has anywhere to go, but.

Van Ness lets out a sigh. “Someone could think that you’re gloating,” he says. “That you’re glad about the events that, uh, transpired. In Weehawken.”

Again with the not talking about what happened. Aaron blinks, and sees Hamilton bleeding into the dirt.

“I am celebrating,” Aaron mumbles.

“You’re what?

Aaron smirks. The utter shock on Van Ness’ face is priceless.

“I’m celebrating the end of my career,” Aaron says. “There’s no reviving it now.”

Van Ness buries his face in his hands. “Oh my God.” He complains so loudly and raggedly that the bartender increases his discreet staring into a full-on glare.

And Van Ness always says that Aaron is the dramatic one.

Aaron points to Van Ness’ untouched whiskey in front of him. “Are you going to have that?”

Even though Van Ness only peeks through his fingers, it’s enough to make Aaron feel shamed.

He drinks the whiskey anyway.

“You’re going to die,” Van Ness says, putting his hands in his lap as he watches Aaron slam the glass on to the table. A beat later he winces. “Shit, sorry. Poor choice of words.”

It takes Aaron a moment to realize why he’s apologizing.

“I’m not the one with a gunshot wound,” Aaron says, harsh, and he pats his chest like he’s proving he’s unscathed. “And Hamilton isn’t dead yet.” And to Aaron, he will remain that way until he hears otherwise.

He motions to the bartender to bring him another drink. Van Ness gives Aaron a disapproving look, but he doesn’t dare comment. The occasion calls for drinking.  Aaron shot his…he can’t quite call Hamilton his enemy, but they haven’t been friends for a long while.  So.

Are you gloating?” Van Ness asks, waiting until the bartender leaves their table. This time, the whole damn bottle is left behind. Van Ness looks over his shoulder to make sure the bartender is not listening, and then turns back to Aaron.  “Are you pleased with the results of your duel?”

Aaron pours until the drink threatens to spill over the edge. His hand is steady as he picks up the glass and brings it to his mouth. The whiskey goes down smooth. At this point, it’s mechanical. Consume enough to prolong the numbness.

“I was the one who requested the challenge,” Aaron says, slurred. “All is fair, according to the code.”

“Fuck the code,” Van Ness says, leaning in with his hands flat on the table. “I know you, Burr. Your aloof manner isn’t going to fly this time.” Tone lowering, more concerned, he asks, “Are you okay?”

Aaron blinks. The forwardness surprises him, and he isn’t really sure what to say — the alcohol and trauma of the morning clouds his mind. 

Van Ness continues.  “I know that at one point, you and Hamilton were—”

“No.”

“—friendly terms…what?”

“No,” Aaron repeats. “I am not okay. I’m pretty fucking miserable, but thanks for asking.” He slouches in his seat. “I shot Hamilton.” It’s the first time he’s said it, and the confession gives him no relief.

“I know, I was there.”

Aaron shoots Van Ness a glare. Van Ness tries to smile, as he runs his hand over his closely shaved head.  “Sorry?”

“It’s okay,” Aaron lies. Nothing is okay.

Aaron thinks of Hamilton.  He thinks of the first time he met him — when Hamilton found him. A naïve, but experienced man — kid, age nineteen, ready to impress the world or die trying, and all he wanted was Aaron’s help.

And look how far they’ve come. How far they’ve fallen.

He must appear troubled because Van Ness offers a more genuine smile and reaches across the table to pat his arm. Van Ness looks as uncomfortable about it as Aaron feels.  Van Ness retreats his hand from him.

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Van Ness assures him. He doesn’t sound completely convinced. He’s never been a good liar.

“I shot him,” Aaron says again in the same hushed tone, and then: "I don't want him to die," but the admission doesn't matter and it doesn’t matter what his intentions were — he has to face the very real possibility that Hamilton may die as a result of their collateral damage, and he himself left branded forever as the man who killed Hamilton.

Van Ness lets his hand fall from Aaron, and then takes Aaron’s glass, drinks the remaining whiskey in it, wipes his mouth with his sleeve, and then returns the glass in front of Aaron.

“I’m gonna go,” Van Ness says, standing and buttoning his coat. “I’ve got to clear up…” He pauses, and waves his hand in Aaron’s general direction. “This. Make a statement. Consult with Hamilton’s man. Whatever.” He walks a couple steps and then turns back to Aaron. “Lay low.”

“I am.”

“Don’t drink yourself to death.”

“Sure,” Aaron says, and pours himself another shot just to be contrary.

“Don’t do something stupid.”

“I’m not.”

“I meant, don’t do something else stupid.”

“Do you really have so little faith in me?”

As Aaron had hoped, his question leaves Van Ness without response — the man throws his hands in the air and departs without another word.

Aaron is alone.

Now, Aaron does what he does best (except for the one time when it mattered most): wait.

 

* * *

 

Aaron keeps his promise to Van Ness, and doesn’t drink himself to death. He’s pretty sure that Van Ness told the bartender to keep an eye on him because around lunchtime he brings Aaron a bowl of soup and some bread, saying, “This is on the house.” Or perhaps he took pity on Aaron’s pathetic, lonesome day drinking and staring out the window and not moving for hours.

He stumbles out of the tavern sometime after three in the afternoon, and in his drunkenness he manages to find a room to rent. It’s shabby, but nondescript, which is what Aaron is going for — he’s trying to lay low, after all — and he’s too exhausted to care about the appearance of his lodgings.

He has enough sense to give a pseudonym when checking in. He’s anxious for a moment that he’ll get called out on it, but the innkeeper is too distracted—

“Did you hear?” the innkeeper asks. “Alexander Hamilton was injured in a duel with Aaron Burr!”

“Huh.” Vague fascination seems like the best approach. Even though it makes Aaron’s skin itch. “You don’t say.”

“Yeah,” the innkeeper continues, and then frowns. “Damn that lowlife Burr.”

Aaron sways a little, holds onto the counter. “Isn’t Burr the Vice President?”

The innkeeper looks thoughtful for a moment, and then says, “I suppose.” He shrugs, and slides the key over to Aaron. “Rest up. I’ll have a paper for you in the morning to read the news.”

Aaron grunts in reply. He can’t trust himself to say anything more. He can’t decide if he’s more offended about the guy insulting him, or that he’s gossiping about private matters between him and Hamilton.

The room matches the run-down atmosphere of the lobby, and most days Aaron probably wouldn’t have let his coat touch the suspicious-looking blanket on the bed, but today he doesn’t give a shit. Caring is difficult. He doesn’t even lock the door behind him; he trudges to bed and collapses onto it, fully clothed.

 

* * *

 

He figures that he must’ve fallen asleep at some point (after hours of wide-awake anxiety of thinking of every mistake he’s ever made — make an itemized list of that — and then rationalizing each with himself), because something bangs against the door and startles him awake from a dreamless sleep.

When he opens the door, there’s nobody there, however there’s a newspaper on the floor, as promised. Aaron’s head spins when he bends to pick it up — one of the worst hangovers he’s ever had — but it’s nothing compared to how his heart pounds in his chest as he unfolds the paper to read the headline.

July 12th — Hamilton Lives Yet Another Day

Aaron almost weeps with relief.

He reads the rest of the article in his room, using the sunlight streaming through the small filthy window as a light source. From the report, it seems that while Hamilton still draws breath, but he isn’t completely out of the woodwork yet; the bullet struck him in the side and he’s lost a lot of blood. Aaron remembers from his time in the war that that is decidedly not good.

After he reads about Hamilton’s condition, he scans the rest for mention of himself. The most insulting thing is the comment, it’s a good thing the Colonel Burr is not a skillful marksman or else Hamilton would be deceased.

Aaron frowns. Did they not consider the possibility that he’s actually a very good shot and intended to hit him where he did on purpose?

Regardless of his intentions (in retrospect, they’ve never been the best, especially when it pertains to Hamilton), this is something Aaron has to contend with. That Hamilton could—

No. He will not consider that. Cannot consider that.

Aaron knows that death doesn’t discriminate, that it takes without asking, but he prays for the first time in a long time — please do not take Hamilton.

Chapter Text

Alexander isn’t sure if Burr intended to kill him or not.

The thought occurs to Alexander during a wave of pain, but he entertains the possibility for only a moment. He highly doubts that Burr wants — wanted — him dead. Burr may be cold but he isn’t unfeeling by any means (in fact, he feels too much, and that’s what Alexander blames for this whole mess — Burr had his goddamn feelings hurt), and Alexander will never forget how quickly Burr’s fury shifted to despair when he realized that he had hurt Alexander. Regret flickered across his face, real genuine horror at the irreparable damage he had brought upon them both.

Alexander really hadn’t believed that Burr had had it in him to carry out the duel, much less shoot him. He figured that Burr would attempt peace once more, because that’s what Burr has always treasured more: compromise, over confrontation. No need to make an unwarranted fuss, and usually, don’t make an objection even when it is warranted. Passive.

But this time, this time Burr didn’t — he came to the dueling grounds with a purpose, and Alexander had to rise to the challenge or risk tarnishing his honor.

Alexander doesn’t understand Burr, even after all this time. But what’s the fun in that, knowing each move the other is going to make? Then Alexander wouldn’t have the chance to be so surprised about this. Alexander would almost be proud of Burr if the result of Burr finally taking a stance didn’t result in the bullet-sized hole in his body.

Because Burr shot him. 

And Alexander threw away his shot.

He keeps forgetting that.

Nevertheless, Burr is unimportant. Alexander is dying.

Nobody has said it in those exact words, but Alexander knows. He knew it as he was quickly rowed back across the Hudson; he knew it as he bleed into the Weehawken dirt; he knew it when Burr shouted, “Wait” as the bullet ripped through him and knocked him down. He is dying — that is a fact.

It’s nothing new. Alexander has been dying since the moment he was born.

And he can’t outrun death anymore. He has nothing left to bargain with.

“Don’t you dare say that.”

The reprimand is sharp in his ear, bringing him out of his thoughts, and when Alexander turns to look there’s his Eliza at his side. Of course; she’s always there when he needs her most. Looking at her, he swears his pain ebbs away.

He didn’t know he had said anything aloud, but judging by Eliza’s affronted expression, he had spoken his confession of death finally catching up to him. He feels bad to have upset her by speaking of the truth in such a macabre manner, but she needs to know. Eliza is strong. Far stronger than himself, he admits. But still.

“I’m sorry,” Alexander says, mournful. His own voice sounds distant, detached. “The worst part is leaving you, my dear.” He tries to grab her hand but he can’t seem to make his arms work. His body is a cage. A pathetic sob catches in his throat. He can’t remember the last time he held her hand. “Betsey.

Eliza does what he cannot do, and calmly takes his hand in her smaller, delicate one. Right now it feels like a lifeline keeping him tethered to this world.

“You’re going to be fine,” Eliza says.

“I don’t think so.” He takes in a deep, wheeze-lined breath. “This is one battle I cannot win.”

She shakes her head, says, “That doesn’t sound like the Alexander I know.”

“I’d like to meet this other Alexander,” he says. He’s hoping for a smile. That’d be nice. Instead, a tear runs down her cheek.

“Stay alive,” Eliza begs. No — demands.

Alexander can’t help but feel guilty when he thinks of how many times she’s asked this of him. Stay alive.

“I don’t know if I can, this time,” Alexander admits. It hurts so badly, and he is so so tired.

“Please, Alexander,” is asked of him, but it’s not Eliza who says it, he knows that voice, and his eyes flit up to see Angelica next to Eliza. He smiles; he’s glad that in the end she is with him as well.

“Yes ma’am,” Alexander says, his grin broadening when she returns his smile, but he flinches in pain and then nobody is smiling anymore. 

It’s then that he becomes aware that there are other people in the room with him other than Eliza and Angelica. At his side, a doctor prods at Alexander’s upper abdomen, curses, and Alexander feels something inside him shift. Alexander goes to look down at his probable mangled body, but Angelica catches his chin with her hand and forces him to keep looking at her and Eliza.

“Don’t look,” Angelica says, which she should know that makes him want to look even more. He tries to tell her this but the words get stuck in his throat, he chokes on them, he can’t breathe, panic claws at his chest and he feels blood soaking into the sheets, the smell of it is overwhelming and he’s dying, oh God, he—

“It’s okay, honey,” Eliza says, “Focus on us. Breathe. Just like that. Good.” She talks him through it, through the pain and through the fear, lets him squeeze her hand with a death grip as there’s another jolt of pain and she doesn’t even flinch. She rubs her thumb over the back of his hand, shushes and coos at him like she’s calming a distressed animal.

It works — he calms, his pulse slows, he refocuses.

There are a lot of things he wants to say, needs to say. He forces the words out by sheer will because he feels time slipping away, quicker now than it ever has, so he talks and talks and talks. He talks over people discussing things like exit wound and infection and his goddamn pride. He thinks that he may doze off a few times, but he keeps talking through it, or perhaps he dreams of speaking, and when he wakes he continues where he left off. He can’t waste one moment. Not even when his precious children visit him (Phil and Lizzie and William and James and John and Alex and Angie — and Philip, he’ll be seeing him soon). Be smart, he tells them. You’re the best part of me. Be good for your mother. I love you.

He’s running out of time.

He asks for last communion, and either the others want to appease him or they can’t deny it any longer, that he is going to die. He has to beg for it, beg for the absolution of his soul.

“Yes,” Alexander says. “I denounce dueling. I made a mistake. I promise not to duel ever again, for as long as I shall live.” Which seems kind of purposeless at this point, but whatever it takes.

“Do you forgive Burr?”

Ah, Burr. So he is the last barrier before free passage into heaven.

“Yes, I forgive Aaron,” Alexander says, without thought. He doesn’t have to think about the answer because it’s true — he doesn’t hold any ill will against him. Burr had been angry. Alexander understands, he had been angry for most of his life (but he isn’t angry now, his heart is the least troubled it’s been since he was a child). 

“Please get word to Burr,” Alexander says. “Tell him…tell him…”

There is so much he wants to say to him, like, remember when we said duels were dumb and immature? What happened to us? Ha! We were naïve then, or maybe we are more naïve now.

Alexander thinks of the last time he saw Burr — Burr struggling to get to Alexander from across the dueling grounds. Pendleton had feared that maybe Burr was trying to finish the job, to make sure he was dead, but Alexander knew better. Burr was trying to tell him something, and Alexander had watched on in interest at Burr’s struggle until he was too busy bleeding to death. He had forgot about that moment until just now, and he supposes he’ll never know what Burr was trying to say.

“Inform Burr of my forgiveness,” Alexander says, “and tell him I know.”

“Just those words?” Eliza asks, her eyebrows furrowed. “What does that mean?”

“He’ll know,” Alexander mumbles.

He and Burr — their lives have been so tragically intertwined, there’s no way that he wouldn’t know.

And if Burr doesn’t — well then, Alexander won’t know any different, and it’ll leave Burr with a lifelong mystery to brood over.

 

* * *

 

The Other Side is close — Alexander slides into it every time he closes his eyes.

It had been frightening at first, but now it’s a comfort. The darkness becomes light, and he doesn’t hurt — not his body or mind or heart. Each time he lingers longer, and each time it’s more difficult to leave and return to the world he is familiar with — the only thing that makes him keep going back is Eliza.

It would be so easy to let go. Let the promise of rest overtake him. Has he done enough?

“Stay alive,” Eliza whispers, from somewhere else.

Alexander has almost given up on trying. He can’t fight the inevitable. He knows that Eliza will understand.

On the Other Side, there’s a ship, not unlike the one that took him on his journey to America. It’s on open water, and the horizon stretches out to some unreachable place. Alexander knows that he’s not in what he supposes he can call his waking life, because being on this ship doesn’t fill him with nervous dread like the open water has for his entire adult life. Fire consumes, ignites; but water consumes, oppresses, fills your lungs and silences. It is destructive — it can wipe away an entire city in a flash of a storm, or erode a cliff over the course of years. Because of this, Alexander has always kept a respectful distance from the element. It took every ounce of courage Alexander had to travel across the vast sea to his new home, and as soon as he stepped foot on American soil he had said never again will he cross the ocean. 

But in this Other Side, he is on the sea — but it’s a different place that he’s leaving. He leans over the rail, wind whipping his hair around, but everything is silent. Silent except for— 

“You’re not supposed to be here.”

Alexander knows that voice. He could never forget, even after a lifetime.

“John?” Alexander whispers, hopeful, and he turns and there’s Laurens — and Alexander’s heart sings. Laurens looks exactly as he remembers, young and fiery and handsome, and he’s dressed in his continental uniform like he’s ready to go off to war.

It’s a welcome sight, and Alexander goes to embrace him, but Laurens shrugs away his touch, as if he’s angry with him.

“Don’t, please,” Alexander begs. “This isn’t easy.”

“You’re not supposed to be here,” Laurens says again, obviously frustrated. “It’s not your time.”

Alexander laughs. “Well, I wish someone would’ve told me that. How embarrassing to show up early.”

Laurens sighs, long and drawn out, like how he used to do when he complained about Alexander being extra difficult or not taking him seriously enough and oh, Alexander has missed that. He offers Laurens a smile, and Laurens just rolls his eyes and stands next to him and looks out into the nothingness. 

“Alexander,” Laurens says, sharp, like a warning. “Is it what you thought? Death?”

“I’ve never thought about it before,” Alexander lies. He doesn’t put in effort in making it sound convincing because he knows that Laurens knows it’s a lie. “Am I dead?”

Laurens shakes his head. “Not quite. This is…” His voice trails off, and then continues, “It’s like a stopping point. Where you either move on, or not. A place between life and death. It’s where you have to make a choice.”

“Oh.” Alexander can’t decide if he’s disappointed or relieved. Perhaps a little of both.

“Your death wish was always mild,” Laurens says, mildly amused. “Your desire to outlive it was greater. So, what changed?”

“I’m tired.” It’s the simplest answer. How can Alexander explain that no matter how much time he has, he’s going to always want more? So it’s best to stop while he’s ahead.

“Bad excuse,” Laurens scoffs. “We won’t let you.”

Alexander is about to ask who he means, but then he feels a presence behind him, warm but intense, thrumming in his chest stronger and stronger until he acknowledges it. He doesn’t want to, because he knows if he sees it will be even more difficult to choose between here where he can have everything he’s lost, and there where there’s everything he hasn’t lost yet, but he has to look, he has to know, he always has.

A sob catches in his throat — Philip is on the Other Side, he’s with his mother on the Other Side, Washington is watching from the Other Side. With every moment Alexander is here, on the Other Side, the surroundings become clearer, and he’s slipping further and further away from what he’s known, and the want to stay alive fades.

Laurens says, “There is more work to be done.”

Philip says, “You can’t leave them.”

His mother says, “I am so proud of you.”

Washington says, “Your story isn’t finished yet, son.”

Alexander’s heart aches, he doesn’t want to disappoint them but he wants to be selfish, he wants to stay. He’s had enough loss and suffering and tribulation in his life. He deserves this. 

“I’m ready,” Alexander says, ready to be dragged under, to let the tide wash over. He’s left a legacy. It doesn’t matter what becomes of it, he isn’t worried anymore — after all, you cannot control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.

“I’m out of time,” he says, more to himself than anyone else.

He closes his eyes to wait for it to come. The end. He is not afraid. He has prepared his whole life for this, to die.

“Not yet,” he hears Washington say, and—

—Alexander feels himself yanked from that place, and he’s gasping for breath and pain floods his body and he hurts everywhere but he’s alive, he’s alive and he knows that the Other Side is out of reach. He had been so so close, he can still feel the welcome embrace of it in his soul, but there’s also the searing pain of it being ripped away too soon.

He opens his eyes. He’s back where he started. The world can’t help but feel smaller, now.

At least Eliza and Angelica are here. They hold his hand, brush back his sweaty hair, kiss him sweetly, tell him that they love him.

“Welcome back,” Angelica says.

“You’re going to be okay,” Eliza says.

Alexander cries.

Chapter Text

Aaron remains off the grid for one week after the duel. It is the longest week in his life. 

It’s around day three that he realizes that he probably should have planned this better. He has only the clothes on his back and his wallet and a quickly dwindling amount of money and his damaged pride and the feeling of gunpowder on his fingers that doesn’t seem to leave no matter how many times his cleans his hands. He limits himself to one meal a day, and he doesn’t indulge drink or other luxuries. He lies low, as Van Ness had so wisely instructed. Aaron is good at being inconspicuous — he’s made a career of it.

On the third day, he writes a coded letter to Theo to tell her of his whereabouts and to let her know that he is okay, alive. He leaves out mention of his disquietude or the squalid living conditions he’s in, but she must’ve read between the lines for the unspoken, because he receives a response on the fifth day of his hide out with the message of, a friend will be there soon to bring you home when it is safe. Things will be sorted, do not worry.

So Aaron waits. The isolation gives him time to think about why he’s in this situation in the first place. He had not thought much about the outcome — Aaron had believed that the only option would be for Hamilton to concede, and that all matters would be sorted between them. That was what Aaron wanted. He himself dying wasn’t an option, and the idea of killing Hamilton was unfathomable.

But Aaron never gets what he wants.

However, he is granted one mercy. Someone must’ve heard his pleas, because Hamilton lives. Aaron had thought that Hamilton might die just to spite him, but then Aaron blocks that awful intrusive thought and prays for a miracle.

Hamilton can’t die, Aaron can’t be responsible for his death.

Aaron has a rush of adrenaline every morning when he reads paper because every time he fears that it’ll be different, that Hamilton will have passed. But the report continues to be the same, although vague — they categorize Hamilton as strictly not dead. Aaron can’t decide if the lack of information is a good or bad thing.

On the fifth day, Aaron has to search through the paper to find a mention of Hamilton’s status. Since the duel, news of Hamilton’s condition has been covered extensively, but today, nothing. He flips through the pages, fearing the worst — although logically he knows that if Hamilton had died it would be front-page news. 

He gets to the end of the paper without finding anything. He frets over the fact that he’ll have to go without updates on Hamilton’s health, because then what will he do with all his free time?

He decides to search through the newspaper again. He licks his thumb, grimaces at the taste of ink, and then scans the pages more thoroughly. He almost gives up but then he catches a glimpse of Hamilton’s name. It’s no wonder he had missed it, it’s only a small paragraph at the bottom of page six that gives the same information as the previous days, Alexander Hamilton continues to recover from injuries that he obtained in his duel with Vice Pres. Aaron Burr which took place on the 11th of July in Weehawken, NJ. He is in stable condition but— and so on.

Aaron supposes that it’s old news, now.

He skips the slightly bigger article that’s on the opposite page that discusses the ethics of dueling, using Aaron as an example of condemnation.

Aaron lives his days around news of Hamilton. The only time he leaves the room is to step into the hall to accept his daily meal, and to pick up the paper that’s left for him. It’s a cycle — he reads about Hamilton, breathes a sigh of relief; eats the mediocre meal; sleeps away the hot part of the day, lying in bed wearing only his shirt; wakes up some time after midnight, alone; stays awake and thinks of how it could have gone differently; then the paper is delivered and it starts all over again. It’s his own Sisyphean task.

It changes on the seventh day.

He’s confused when he wakes up — it’s still daylight, and then he realizes that someone is knocking on his door. He sits up in bed and has a flash of panic that someone is there to arrest him, because really it had only been a matter of time. He contemplates facing the charges, or testing his agility and escaping out the window, but then he hears a familiar voice say, “Damn it, Burr, open the door, or I will break it down!” and then remembers Theo’s promise that someone would come fetch him when the time is right.

Aaron groans, crawls out of bed, pulls on his breeches, and walks barefoot over to the door and opens it to reveal an exasperated and frazzled Van Ness on the other side.

Van Ness sighs and leans against the doorframe. “Thank God. I thought you might have died in there,” he says, and then his eyes widen as he takes in Aaron’s appearance. “Dude, you look awful.”

Aaron runs his hand over week-old stubble, looks down at his wrinkled shirt, and supposes that Van Ness is right, so he turns back into the room without response. Van Ness huffs, follows him and shuts the door behind him, saying, “In your letter to your daughter, you failed to mention which room number you were staying in.”

“I didn’t have the time,” Aaron says, flippant.

There’s an awkward moment where Van Ness stares him down, as if daring Aaron to come up with a better excuse. Aaron’s only defense is a shrug. Van Ness sighs, letting Aaron win this round. 

“Anyway,” Van Ness continues, looking away from Aaron and around the room. He wrinkles his nose at the surroundings. “I asked the innkeeper which room contained the pathetic man who hasn’t came out all week.  He knew exactly who I was talking about.”

“That’s my image,” Aaron says, the self-deprecation easy. “Wretched. Unlikeable. Don’t forget murderous.” And that’s only a sample from what the public has been calling him. He doesn’t make it a habit of taking the opinion of others to heart, he lets insults roll of his back, but these words rattle in his brain and stick to the insides of his ribcage, etch into the fabric of his being. Perhaps because he believes he rightfully earned them.

Van Ness’ expression softens. He blinks, and stammers, “I’m sorry—”

Aaron waves his hand dismissively. “Already forgotten.” He smiles; Van Ness doesn’t return it. Van Ness is one of the few people who his smile more act doesn’t fool, the other being—

“So, what’s the situation in New York?” Aaron asks, desperate to change the subject. “How’s Ha—”

His voice cracks. He clears his throat. He can’t say his name. His chest aches, a phantom bullet lodged inside.

He tries again, “How is he?”

Van Ness has enough sense to leave the change of phrasing be.

“It’s a shit storm,” Van Ness says, and he flops down on the edge of Aaron’s bed and heaves out a guttural exhale, like he’s the one who has the burden of someone’s life on his hands. Aaron glares at him and raises a brow at his self-assumed hospitality, but he says nothing, because at the moment Van Ness is the man with the answers. He leans against the wall with his arms crossed, waiting for him to elaborate.

“Just…a lot has happened.” Van Ness tugs at his collar, takes a deep breath. “Well, as I’m sure you’ve heard, Hamilton is still alive and kicking.” He pauses. “Well, he’s not kicking anything, he doesn’t have the strength for that, but he hasn’t kicked the bucket either, so…that’s good?” The end of the sentence is hitched, like it’s a question, and Van Ness narrows his eyes at Aaron. “Right?”

“Of course that’s a good thing,” Aaron responds, curt. It’s the best thing. His mistake didn’t have too big of a consequential effect.

“Wonderful,” Van Ness says, his face lighting up at the confirmation that his friend isn’t what others have accused him of. “I never doubted you, I knew that you weren’t—”

“William, please.” Aaron gestures to the stack of papers on the nightstand. “I’ve been keeping up, but I was hoping you could tell me more as I’ve kind of been in the dark here.” 

“Yes. Right. Okay.” Van Ness claps his hands together in an enthusiasm that makes Aaron sigh. Van Ness says, “I met with Pendleton, and we both agreed that both you and Hamilton approached the duel as gentlemen, and followed the code.” He bites his lip, his expression falling, and then adds, “We couldn’t come to an agreement on who fired first.”

Aaron nods. It’s a verbatim telling of what was published in the newspaper a couple days ago. Aaron doesn’t say anything because he has nothing to con tribute — he isn’t sure who fired first, either. He had been so wrapped up in his own mind, that he didn’t realize that Hamilton wasn’t aiming at him until after his finger pulled the trigger.

“Hamilton doesn’t know who shot first, either. If that makes you feel better,” Van Ness says.

It doesn’t. It feels like the unknown is going to haunt him for the rest of his life.

“What else?” Aaron prompts.

“I visited him yesterday. You know, Hamilton,” Van Ness says, as though the clarification is needed. “I actually intended to go the day before yesterday, but I got lost on my way uptown and then I didn’t want to call on them too late because I know they have young children and—”

“I swear to God, Van Ness, I may still end up killing a man if you don’t tell me what happened.”

“Okay, okay. Chill. Jesus.” Van Ness holds up his hands in mock defeat, and then places them in his lap. “So like I said, I visited Hamilton. I can assure you with my own two eyes that he is, in fact, alive. He seems to be in good spirits, but it’s the least I’ve ever heard the man say. That could just be because I’m your man, though.” He furrows his brows, obviously just now thinking of that possibility. He mutters unintelligibly but then gasps. “Oh shit, I almost forgot!”

Van Ness abruptly stops and reaches inside his coat, and pulls out an envelope. “He gave me this to give to you.” He holds it out to Aaron and shakes it. “He was really insistent that I made sure you received it.”

Aaron steps forward from his place on the wall to take the envelope from Van Ness. He studies it; it’s light, so it mustn’t be a long message, and the address of A. Burr is not in Hamilton’s handwriting. There were enough of Hamilton’s scribbles on Aaron’s case notes for Aaron to commit Hamilton’s titled script to memory.

He places the letter on top of the stack of a week’s worth of newspaper. He had wished for something more than those printed third-hand accounts of Hamilton, but now that he has something directly from him he can’t bear to find out what he has to say to him. Accusation? A plea for why? Another list of disagreements? His fingers hover the envelope, barely brushing against the fine stationery as he contemplates reading it.

His hand trembles. He clenches his fist to quell it.

Aaron’s hesitation does not go unnoticed.

“If I had to guess the contents of that letter,” Van Ness slowly says, “I would surmise that it ain’t too bad.”

“I don’t fucking care!” Aaron snaps. He hears Van Ness let out a quiet injured sound and mutter, I’m just trying to help.  Aaron feels bad, he knows that Van Ness has done much more then necessary, so he takes a deep breath and says, “It is what it is.”

“Yeah, well, you don’t have to get so touchy.” Van Ness looks down at his lap and fiddles with the cuff of his sleeve. “Because Hamilton told me himself that he forgives you. So.” 

“What?” Aaron asks, because he heard the words but he just can’t believe them — because if it had been the reverse, if Aaron had aimed toward the sky and Hamilton shot him, Aaron doesn’t think he could find it within him to forgive him. After all, he couldn’t even forgive Hamilton for slandering his name. An attempt on his life, no matter how honor-bound — is unforgivable.

“I’m not saying it again,” Van Ness says, stern. “That’s something that you’re going to have to deal with yourself. After I bring you back home, I’m done. You hear me? Done.

Aaron smirks. “No, you aren’t.”

Van Ness sighs, and slumps. “Damn it. You’re right. But still!” he says, pointing accusingly at Aaron, “Sort your shit out.”

Aaron waves him off, like yeah yeah. It’s something he’ll deal with later — for now, he stores it away.

“So is that all of the, ah, shit storm that you mentioned?” he asks.

Van Ness cringes. “Not exactly?” He wrings his hands together. “Promise you won’t shoot the messenger?” he asks, then groans and covers his face with his hands. “Oh, fuck. I did it again, bad phrasing. I’m sorry, I—”

“It’s fine,” Aaron says. “I’m sure whatever you have to say can’t be much worse than what’s already happened.” He regrets it as soon as he says it, because in his experience, things can always always be worse. 

Regaining his composure, Van Ness begins, “Jefferson, man. He’s—” He stops to make a motion with his hands that Aaron assumes to mean crazy, which is no surprise regarding Thomas Jefferson. Van Ness continues, rushed. “He’s on his way up from the Capitol. Word on the street is…”

“What?”

“He wants to ruin you,” Van Ness says.

“What a surprise,” Aaron dryly says. When Van Ness makes a frustrated noise, Aaron adds, “Jefferson has been ruining my reputation since we’ve been in office. This is nothing new. You know this.”

Van Ness shakes his head. “You don’t understand. The first few days, when it seemed that Hamilton was going to die, people wanted you hanged. Luckily, that isn’t the case anymore, but they still want you to stand trial. Hamilton too. Because you guys weren’t being model citizens, or whatever, by stomping out into a field and playing a game of will-he-or-will-he-not shoot me!”

Aaron scoffs. “I never claimed that Alexander and I are model citizens.”

“I concur.”

Aaron doesn’t take it personally — instead, he laughs, for the first time all week. He doesn’t stop.

Van Ness stares. “Um. You okay?” 

“Peachy keen.”

It doesn’t seem to convince Van Ness. Let that be his own problem, Aaron decides, and he grabs his waistcoat to put it on. 

“What are you waiting for?” Aaron asks. “Didn’t you come here to rescue me? Be my knight in shining armor?”

He smiles when Van Ness curses in a fit of pique, distracted from his concern about Aaron. “I come all the way back here in the goddamn middle of summer to save your sorry ass and this is the thanks I get? You had a whole week to prepare better snipes, you could have at least done that, I didn’t—” and so on, Aaron stops listening.

Aaron suspects that Van Ness makes such a fuss because he knows it’ll amuse Aaron. That’s fine with Aaron.

Before they leave, Aaron is sure to pocket the letter from Hamilton.

Later.

 

* * *

 

When Theo embraces him, Aaron believes that everything will be okay.

And he remembers, that yes, this is why he did it. For his only child, so there wouldn’t be the chance that she would have to grow up alone.

Aaron tells her this — he’s always been able to tell her anything, even the things that others conventionally believe that young women shouldn’t be privy to. The world is easier to live in when the entirety of it is available, both the good and the bad. Without knowledge of the bad, it’s more difficult to appreciate the good.

Theo pulls away from him but holds onto his arms. Theo may have his eyes, but she can mimic her mother’s sharp gaze perfectly.

“Or,” Theo says, “You could have not dueled at all.” She makes no effort to disguise it as anything other than scolding.

Aaron accepts it.

“You should have married that Alston guy,” Aaron says, frowning. “Then you could distance yourself from your shameful father.” 

Theo scoffs and rolls her eyes. “Papa, don’t be ridiculous.” She smiles, pats him on his arm, straightens his coat. “Then who would be here to help you?”

“I can help myself.”

“Oh, right,” Theo says, her anger that she’s been holding in now evident. “Except that Mister Hamilton could have killed you—”

“He didn’t.”

“—or you could have killed him—”

“I didn’t,” Aaron says, measured, because that is a truth that he keeps repeating. “But if either of us had been the reason for the other’s death, it would have been fair. I had an issue with him that we could not resolve with simple discussion, so I challenged him as a gentleman, and he responded as such.”

Gentlemen,” Theo scoffs. “Whatever you want to tell yourself.”

Aaron matches her scowl, crosses his arms. “But Hamilton forgave me,” he says. It sounds like a feeble excuse, even to him.

His daughter knows him, she knows that he’s affected — and perhaps he didn’t realize the full extent of it until he talked it through with her. He may be able to put up a front to Van Ness and to the world and to himself, but Theo, he has to answer to her. He has to tell her the truth.

“He sent me a letter,” Aaron softly says. Theo gives him a look like and what of it? and he shakes his head. “I haven’t yet opened it.” He slides his hand into his pocket and runs the pad of his thumb along the edge of the envelope, wondering of it contents — absolution, or condemnation. Aaron isn’t sure if he can handle either. If Hamilton damns him, then well, that’s the end of it, and while it stings the alternative is almost worse. If Hamilton truly forgives him, what then?

Gentle, Theo says, “You will not know peace until you know.”

Aaron knows she’s right. It’s now or never — he has to know his fate.

He unfolds the letter carefully, like it’s something precious. He takes a deep breath before reading the message, reminding himself that the worst that could happen has already happened.

When he first reads it, he is struck by two things: that the letter is not in Hamilton’s own hand, and that it is perhaps the shortest message Hamilton has ever given to him. 

 

 

 

A.B.—

I forgive all that happened.

I know.

—A.H.

 

The first line makes his chest lighter, however the second line sets him back at unease. It doesn’t reveal anything more with repeated readings. Aaron turns the page over to see if there’s something possibly written on the back, a paragraph beginning One more thing— but…nothing.

Aaron hands the letter to Theo, because frankly he wants to see if someone else can garner meaning from it. She reads it once, and then like him, she flips it over as if she’s expecting more. Shrugging, she gives it back to Aaron, who reluctantly takes it.

Theo sits next to him, places her hand over his. “That’s great!” she says. “He has no resentment towards you.”

Aaron scoffs. “It says he forgives me. Forgiveness is one thing, resentment is another.” Let it be known that Alexander Hamilton knows how to hold a grudge.

Theo rolls her eyes, but doesn’t try to argue. Instead, she asks, “What does that mean, though? I know?

“Honestly, I have no idea,” Aaron admits. It could mean so many things. I know that you didn't mean it. I know that you did mean it. I know that I damaged your pride by choosing Jefferson over you, and I know that you know that I know that's why I did it. I know that you miss how it used to be.

Or it could mean nothing at all.

Silence lingers between them as Aaron is lost in his thoughts. Theo sits quietly next to him; the quiet is never uncomfortable with the Burrs. They appreciate the respite that only solitude can bring. 

He doesn’t know how much time has passed when Theo suddenly turns to him.

“Then that only leaves one solution.” She says it seriously, her eyes bright, a smile playing on her lips.

Aaron groans. He doesn’t like the sound of it already. “What, my dear?”

“You need to go see him,” Theo says. “It’s the only way—” 

“Absolutely not.” Aaron stands, and goes to walk out of the study to signify that the conversation is over. Visit Hamilton? As if.

Theo follows. She’s quick and catches his arm before he reaches the door.

“Papa! Don’t be ridiculous.” She tugs on his arm until he stops resisting and turns to look at her. When she’s won that battle, she continues, “You have to clear the air between the two of you. Hamilton may have granted his forgiveness, but there will forever be a tension until you address it. This isn’t something that a brief letter will solve. It’ll eat you up from the inside, and I can’t see that happen to you.”

“Theo…” 

“And can you ask him yourself what he meant by I know. Who knows, it could his hook, an invitation for you to go see him.”

Aaron frowns. “Hamilton isn’t intentionally that thinly veiled.”

Despite Aaron’s misgivings, Theo presses on, determined, “And it’ll give you a chance to say your peace.” She pauses, lowers her voice before apprehensively saying, “You can apologize.” 

Aaron starts to speak, but Theo cuts him off, saying, “You need to. From what I know of your disagreement, you both are in the wrong. Nothing can be settled until you acknowledge that.” 

In Aaron’s hand, he holds Hamilton’s forgiveness, and a few days ago that would have been enough — Hamilton staying alive was the real wish, anything else was bonus — but now he wants more. Hamilton’s letter is concise, just a few words strung together that add up to a phrase that is supposed to mean something, but it leaves Aaron feeling empty, even more at a loss than he felt before. He shot Hamilton, who was his friend at one point and now that Aaron thinks of it he doesn’t know when they stopped being friends, but he shot Hamilton and he doesn’t know understand how he can be okay with that. 

He wants…he doesn’t know what he wants. He can hear Hamilton laughing at him.

There is one question he has to ask himself: is it enough? Is Hamilton’s forgiveness enough — something Aaron would not have needed if Hamilton had heeded, if he had not provoked him — or does he require Hamilton’s apology as well? 

“Go speak to him,” Theo repeats. “You have to.” 

Aaron tilts his head at her. “I thought you were on my side.”

“I am,” Theo says, and takes Aaron’s hands in hers. “And that’s why I’m telling you to do this. And I hate to say it Papa, but you haven’t made good choices so far about this situation.”

“I hate it when you’re right,” Aaron grumbles. 

Theo laughs. “No you don’t.”

And she’s right, again. She usually is.

“Now, why you don’t you get cleaned up, have a good night’s rest, and then go see the Hamiltons in the morning?” Theo takes Aaron’s arm, guides him to his room. “It’ll be okay, you’ll see.” 

He hopes that she’s right in this, too.

 

* * *

 

Aaron has to visit Hamilton, has to. He won’t have peace until he sees him alive.

At first, he would not think of Hamilton as dead until he had proof otherwise, but now he’s beginning to believe the opposite — that Hamilton is only an idea until he confronts him.

Aaron sets off in the morning after breakfast. He chooses to walk, using the time to think of what to say (Hey, I’m sorry I—no. You look well, Alexander—not that either. Well, that happened—no good.), but before he knows it, he’s at Hamilton’s and he still doesn’t know how to start this conversation (and he can’t rely on Hamilton to start it, because Aaron wants to start and finish it). He would turn back, but he knows that Theo would be disappointed in him, and honestly, he would be disappointed in himself too. He’s come this far.

“Here goes nothing,” Aaron says to himself, and he proceeds up the drive.

The Grange is a product of Hamilton funneling his money and time into the construction of his family home. Aaron suspects that the man’s obsession with it was to create something permanent for his family, something to tie them together in a place with a strong foundation. Aaron can respect that. Regardless if it was successful at that, it’s impressive and beautiful — large and yellow, porches lining the sides, a terrace on the upper floor, and a wide set of stairs leading up to the front door.

He stands in the yard in front of the house, and looks up at the many windows, wondering which one Hamilton is on the other side of. He half expects Hamilton to be standing at the window looking out. If he were, Aaron could just shout up at him and have their discussion that way, with him on the ground and Hamilton leaning out of his window like some backwards version of Romeo and Juliet, and not have to worry about the awkwardness of a close proximity meeting. But Hamilton isn’t in sight — all the curtains are tightly drawn, shutting everything out.

Resigned that the meeting is necessary, Aaron takes a deep breath and takes another step towards the house. However, he’s stilled when someone flings the door open and starts a quick descent down the stairs. When Aaron squints, he recognizes the figure as Angelica Church, Hamilton’s sister-in-law.

Shit.

Aaron isn’t really sure what to do as she rushes towards him. She must have seen him approaching, he imagines, and is here to stop him. He didn’t really think about any obstacles on the way to see Hamilton — his own hesitation had been enough of an impediment.

His chest prickles with a fight or flight response, and everything tells him to make a break for it; even though he isn’t as fit as he once was, Angelica is in heels and a dress and wouldn’t be able to out run him. But he thinks that running would make him look guilty, so he stands his ground as she comes up on him.

“Good morning,” Aaron says stupidly as soon as Angelica is in earshot. “I thought that I’d pay a visit, I hope it’s not a bad time—” 

Angelica stops short only a few inches away from Aaron, rocking forward on her toes with the force of wanting to keep going forward. She eyes him up and down, then quirks her brow. “A bad time?” She asks. “Every time is a bad time, when it concerns you.”

“I deserve that,” Aaron says, flat. He tries again, “Look, I want to speak to Hamilton. A few minutes should suffice.”

She scoffs, asks, “Why do you think you’re entitled to anything? Haven’t you—”

Both of them turn when they hear the door slamming open again, and Aaron groans when he sees the next person coming towards them in an almost sprint. There’s Mrs. Hamilton herself, holding up her skirts as she crosses the distance to them.

Damn being steadfast. At least he can say he tried.

“I should go,” Aaron says, but Angelica grabs his arm and says, “Oh no you don’t.”

So Aaron has to remain there as Eliza joins her sister, together as Hamilton’s own defense squad. He manages to pull his arm away from Angelica, cursing under his breath at her tight grip, and then takes a step back and holds his hands out as a show of good nature. It feels like his heart is in his throat as Eliza stares him down; she’s breathless and pink-faced and her eyes are tearing up and fuck Aaron feels awful.

“I’m so sorry,” Aaron says, the words spilling out unbidden, “I didn’t mean for it to—I don’t know, I’m sorry, if I—” 

Eliza makes a move towards Aaron, and Aaron flinches — for a moment he thought that she might slap him. Aaron wishes she would, it would make this easier. Instead, she burns with a blazing intensity. He had thought that Angelica would be the fury, but it’s Eliza — a calculated, direct, honed ferocity that cuts exactly where it hurts most.

“Leave,” Eliza says softly, then louder, “Go, and never return.”

Aaron sputters. “But…I have to see him!” It would be a good time to provide other reasoning, however, all thoughts fail other than the single-minded determination to get to Hamilton.

“I’m not going to hurt him if that’s what concerns you,” Aaron says. “We’re past that, I swear it.”

Angelica hooks her arm in Eliza’s. “So, what? So that you can alleviate your own conscience?” She tilts her head and narrows her eyes. “Or do you want to see the damage you’ve wrought upon this family?”

“No! It’s not like that!” Aaron’s world is spinning, it would have been seven children without a father. He looks up to the house and for a moment he thinks he sees Hamilton standing on the porch, but then he blinks and realizes that it’s not — he’s about thirty years too young, and Aaron concludes that it must be Hamilton’s son, there to keep watch. 

Someone jabs a finger in his chest, and he looks back to the women before him. He isn't sure which one did it; both are justified.

“Well?” Eliza asks, and Angelica follows it with, “Why are you still here?”

Aaron lets out a huff of irritation. “I won’t defend myself, fine,” he says, harsher than he intended, “but I need to know, is Alexander really okay?”

“Burr…” 

“Please. Tell me about Alexander.” He’s ashamed at how pathetic he sounds.

The Schuylers scowl at him, like Aaron shouldn’t speak Hamilton’s name, that he shouldn’t have ever had the chance to know him on such friendly terms. They turn to each other, an unspoken conversation shared in a glance, then return their scrutiny back to Aaron.

“Alexander is recovering,” Eliza says, her mouth tugging up into a smile. “Better than expected, actually.”

Oh, thank God,” and Aaron almost falls to his knees in gratitude, the confirmation from a reliable source. In the sweep of joy, he takes one of Eliza’s hands in both of his, says, “I knew he would pull though.”

A beat of silence, and Aaron lets Eliza’s hand fall, realizing what he’s done. Aaron shifts on his feet, clears his throat. Eliza clutches her hand, brings it to her chest. Angelica’s glare hardens.

“Yeah,” Angelica says, steely. “It’ll take more than the likes of you to take him down.”

“I know,” Aaron agrees. 

He looks back up at the closed windows, knowing that Hamilton is up there, somewhere. He exists. 

After all, you cannot kill an idea with a bullet.

His vision swims — it’s happening again, he’s so close, all he wants to do is speak to Hamilton, and yet he’s being dragged away. A lawn and two sisters separate them now, before that a sandy shore and ten measured paces, and before that misunderstandings and perceived grievances kept them apart. 

There will always be something separating them.

“This was a mistake,” Aaron says, and he backs away. Eliza and Angelica stare at him in question, but he can’t meet their eyes — he supposes he is a coward, because he retreats. 

Aaron rushes through the streets, looking over his shoulder; he suspects everyone as an enemy. His panic grows, more and more, and he doesn’t stop until he’s safely back at home. 

He locks the door behind him, leans against it and takes the first full breath since he left the Grange.

“Papa? Is that you?”

“Yes,” Aaron forces out, wrecked. He pushes away from the door and goes to undo his coat, attempting to appear at ease — he doesn’t wish to worry Theo. 

Theo comes into the foyer, begins, “How did it go?” but Aaron is too transparent for her, and she says, “Oh no,” sad and crestfallen.

“It’s fine,” Aaron replies. He won’t look at her, he focuses on the clasp on his coat but his hands are trembling too much and he lets out a whine of frustration and his vision is starting to blur and even though everything is fine, it’s all wrong. 

“Let me,” Theo says, and she takes over the task of unfastening Aaron’s coat. It comes unfastened easily, and she helps him out of his coat, hangs it up, doesn’t say anything how her father is slowly falling apart in front of her.

“I couldn’t—,” Aaron begins, but his words get caught and turn into a choked-off sob. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.

And that’s all it takes — Theo wraps her arms around him and pulls him into a tight hug, mumbles, “Oh, Papa,” into his chest. She rubs his back comfortingly and promises that it will be okay, like how he used to do with her when their world fell apart after her mother died.  

Aaron isn’t so optimistic. Sure, Aaron did not kill Hamilton, and Hamilton did not kill him. Aaron had been so sure of his actions leading up to it, but now he sees that he was wrong, he was wrong, and now he doubts all. 

By Hamilton granting Aaron forgiveness, Hamilton has killed him, even so.

Chapter Text

Alexander is dying — of boredom.

“Must you be so insufferable?” Angelica asks when he tells her this. “You should be thankful that you’re alive, and yet you’re complaining that you don’t have interesting enough activities to occupy your free time.”

Having been properly scolded, Alexander slumps back into the pillows and says, “Fair enough.”

Angelica is right, Alexander knows this. He’s lucky to be alive — again.

He has almost died so many times that when he actually dies, it’s going to be anticlimactic. Almost dying but surviving is getting old.

But Alexander is alive, left only with the lingering pain of a bullet wound and strict orders for bed rest until further notice. The two of these are counterproductive to each other — he’s well enough now that he’s awake for most of the day and there’s nothing to distract from the discomfort he suffers, and he’s grown tired of staring at the same four walls day in and day out.

At times, he almost wishes to be unconscious from pain and near death again, because then at least it would pass the time — and he would be able to fade back into that Other Side.

Alexander hasn’t spoken of it to anyone, but he cannot stop thinking about it — the serenity it cast over his heart and mind, the people there he had to leave behind…

He tries to tell himself that it was an imagined fantasy created by his dying mind, a comfort to lull him as he fell into nothingness, but deep down he knows it wasn’t. His chest aches with the loss of it, and the brush with death has made his life-long familiarity with it even stronger. It had been the closest yet — when Alexander closes his eyes, he can still feel the tug of it, inviting. The memory of it is strong, the compulsion to fall into it overpowering — and every night he tells Eliza and the children that he loves them, just in case he is to die in his sleep and go back to that place.

However, it — Death, capital D — never overtakes him, and he gets what he’s always wanted: more time.

So, Alexander takes what he’s given.

It would be easier to be grateful if he actually had something to do — everyone worries over him to not overdo it or get too stressed out. He’s sentenced to a prescription of bed rest and once he’s well enough, simple conversation. People sitting around his bedside and having idle discussion while deliberately ignoring the severity of situation gets dull quickly. Everyone acts like nothing happened, as if it’s just a normal sickness that he’s recovering from and not the results of an almost deadly encounter. Frankly, it infuriates Alexander — it happened, he had been challenged and he accepted it knowing full well that he may die, he knew that and he had been okay with it, and that’s not okay.

He wants to write to clear his mind, to jot down the events of Weehawken because he never ever wants to forget that, but more so to write the descriptions of the Other Side. He fears that he’ll forget them (he clings to the memories, ones like how he never realized how much Philip resembled his mother until they were standing side by side) and if he puts it into words, it would exist. But he can’t even do that. 

“You know how you are,” Eliza tells him, even when he begs really nicely. “Once you start you won’t stop, and you aren’t in a condition to get agitated.”

No mention of how keeping it from him makes him more agitated.

There’s a ray of hope when Alexander convinces one of the younger children to bring him his lap-desk and writing utensils. Alexander knows that it’s an underhanded move to take advantage when James sits on the edge of his bed and asks, “How can I make you better, Pops?” but Alexander rationalizes it with himself because it technically would make him feel better, and the child had asked, after all.

Alexander gets only a page written before he gets caught. Angelica takes it away while Eliza scowls at him and says, “You know better,” which, yeah, he does, but the hour of respite and the muting of his busy mind were worth it.

A couple days after the lap-desk incident, determined to prove that his imposed immobility is not necessary and that he’s truly okay, he tries getting up out of bed. It’s been almost two weeks — when he was injured in the war he was only down for a day or two, if that — so he should be fine, now. He’s able to sit up without a problem and there’s only a twinge of pain when he swings his legs to the side of the bed. He can totally do this, he’ll show them.

At least, that’s what he thinks until he falls down one step away from the bed, collapsing onto the floor with an oomph.

For a moment he considers shouting for someone to help him because try as he might, he can’t get up off the floor, but he doesn’t want anyone to make a bigger deal than it warrants. Nothing feels broken and he doesn’t think that he re-opened his wound, and other than his usual aches the only thing that hurts is his pride. So he decides to lie on the floor until someone comes to check on him. He isn’t in a rush for someone to see him in this undignified state — sprawled out on the floor, his nightshirt riding up high on his thighs, and he can’t even be bothered to try and make himself more decent.

At least the floor is a change of scenery.

He isn’t sure how long he’s on the floor, but he’s pretty sure he dozes off at one point because there’s a puddle of drool on the floor when he hears someone coming into the room.

“Alexander, what do — oh my God!”

And of course she overreacts — Eliza rushing to him and kneeling at his side and calling for Angelica, tears in her eyes as she caresses Alexander’s face and says, “What did you do, my love?”

“Taking a nap,” Alexander mumbles. “Why don’t you join me here on the floor? It’s quite comfortable. Although I think I have a splinter in my ass.”

Humor is all he has to distract from his loss of dignity. 

Eliza doesn’t take it well, and neither does Angelica. They reprimand him, about how he could have ripped out his stitches or worse, but they won’t name what worse is.

“I’m not as fragile as you think,” Alexander mutters, indignant, as he’s put back into bed, even though he feels very small when Eliza, Angelica, and Al pick him up. “I’m fine.”

Eliza sighs. “I’ll do anything — within reason,” she adds when she sees Alexander’s face light up, “if you promise to sit still.”

It isn’t so much the promise of something that convinces him, but it’s seeing how his noncompliance causes Eliza such distress that leads him to make an effort to be better and try.

 

* * *

 

People parade in and out, offering their condolences and company. It’s a revolving rotation of friends and foes alike that call on him, because everyone wants to be nice to you when you almost die.

It’s kind of sickening.

Even Jefferson grants them with his presence, all the way from the Capitol. It’s a surprise — the president, Jefferson visiting their house. 

“Do I have to see him?” Alexander whines. “Tell him it’s too late. Tell him I died when I heard that he was in my parlor.”

“Just talk to the man,” Angelica says, stern. Alexander will never understand how she can have even a tentative friendship with the man. He had asked her once, and her excuse was that Jefferson is “intriguing company” and Alexander didn’t want to hear any more of it, or what they did in France many years ago.

In the end, he agrees to see Jefferson (“I’m undergoing this hardship for you, dear sister. Don’t say I never do you any favors.”). If anything, irritating Jefferson will be a good way to lift his spirits. 

Alexander figures that Jefferson comes just to see for himself, to make sure the stories aren’t exaggerating his condition. It wouldn’t be the first time for Jefferson to do that; Alexander recalls when Jefferson once belittled him when he was suffering from yellow fever. Ironic, coming from the man who complains when the sun is too bright and cancels meetings because of headaches.

He sits up in bed and makes himself look presentable — or tries to, anyway. Just now he realizes that he hasn’t shaved in days, and his attempt to smooth his bed-tangled hair is a futile task so he gives up the appearance of being well kept and aims for nonchalance instead.

A few seconds later, he hears footsteps coming down the hall as Angelica says, “Don’t antagonize him, Thomas, please.”

“I’m sure Hamilton is fine,” Jefferson responds as he strides into the room after Angelica, but he stops short in the doorway when he sees Alexander laid up in bed. “Uh.”

Jefferson actually seems concerned Alexander realizes. He’s looking at Alexander with wide eyes like he’s trying to search him out, and that’s coupled with a mild expression of panic, like oh shit! as he realizes that Alexander is actually hurt pretty badly but he doesn’t know what to do with that information, so he’s just standing there looking sorry at Alexander.

Alexander doesn’t want Jefferson to pity him — or anyone else, for that matter.

He lets Jefferson squirm with awkwardness a little bit more before setting the guide, saying, “Hey, asshole.”

Angelica tsks. Alexander shrugs, says, “Can’t help it.”

There’s a beat where Jefferson closes his eyes and sighs, and he does his best to mask it as annoyance, but his relief is obvious, his shoulders relaxing and his swagger returning. It passes quickly, though — he turns to Angelica and says, “Like I said. He’s fine. He’ll be back causing havoc everywhere he goes in no time.”

Alexander grins. Somehow, Jefferson being his usual self makes Alexander feel like he’s probably going to be okay.

“You can leave us, Angelica,” Alexander says, looking over to where she’s standing by the wall, carefully observing, before returning his gaze to Jefferson. “I’m incapacitated, so I can’t cause him harm. Not much, anyway.”

Jefferson matches his glare before turning his attention to Angelica.

“Darlin’, although I much prefer your company to Hamilton’s,” Jefferson says with his most charming smile, taking Angelica’s hand in his and kissing it while keeping his eyes on her. He ignores Alexander’s exaggerated gagging sounds and continues, “but Hamilton and I have some things to discuss.” He presses another kiss to her hand. “I promise you that we’ll be civil.”

Angelica rolls her eyes and tugs her hand away from Jefferson, freeing herself from him. She puts her hands on her hips and looks between the two of them, almost exasperated, like they’re children and she’s worried to leave them without supervision. Alexander wonders whose well being she’s more concerned for — his, or Jefferson’s. 

Probably both.

She’s apprehensive about it, but Angelica leaves them alone, even though her parting words are, “I expect for you to behave like gentlemen, or else.”

“I’m always a gentleman,” Alexander mutters when she shuts the door behind her, comment gone unheard.

Jefferson lets out a disbelieving scoff as he takes the seat next to Alexander’s bedside. Jefferson looks supreme as always — he’s impeccably dressed, cream-colored ruffles made of fine lace spilling out of a navy-blue coat, blue breeches to match, and a flashy smile to top it off. Disgusting.

Alexander is suddenly very aware of his scruffy appearance. Jefferson’s smile grows as Alexander flushes in self-conscious embarrassment — he’s obviously enjoying this. It’s just like Jefferson to waltz into his house, invade his safe space, make him feel weird. 

Jefferson crosses his legs and leans in towards Alexander. “You look like shit.”

“I feel like shit,” Alexander replies, because honestly, he does. He doesn’t see the point in lying to Jefferson because the man knows it already, and pretending otherwise seems to be cowardly. Own up to it. Admit his fault. He’s not well. He’s weak from lying in bed, he can’t move without a jabbing pain in his side, he can’t do much of anything by himself, and it’s hard to breathe sometimes and he has coughing spells. He’s tired, and he’s tired of acting like he’s fine when all he wants to do is bitch about it. Alexander thinks he might have lost his mind because he thinks Jefferson is the most logical person for this — Alexander isn’t concerned about hurting Jefferson’s feelings and he knows that Jefferson won’t be worried sick about him like others would. 

There’s a tense moment, but then Jefferson full-body laughs, ha ha ha, and sits back in the chair and taps his cane on the floor. Alexander stares at him blankly until Jefferson quiets and says, “But you’ve looked worse.” 

“Jerk.”

“What else did you expect?” Jefferson asks. “Would you prefer me to coddle you? Brush your gross hair? Spoon feed you?” 

Alexander laughs, but then winces at the sharp pain in his side. Jefferson is unfazed when he clutches it and groans. “Fuck no,” Alexander says. “I’d rather you shoot me.”

“Wouldn’t that be something? Both the Vice President and the President shooting you.” Jefferson says it smooth, a volley to Alexander, waiting to see how he responds. 

Finally, someone speaking of what happened. Alexander sits back into the pillows and lets out a sigh of relief with the overwhelming feeling of validation. Jefferson is the first person who hasn’t skirted around the issue — denial hasn’t made the fact that someone who Alexander once considered his friend shot him.

“Well?” Jefferson asks.

“Conspiracy.” Alexander waves his hand dismissively. “But at least from you, I’d expect it.”

Jefferson harrumphs.   “I don’t engage in something as idiotic as dueling,” he says like the very idea of it is beneath him — never mind the fact that he’s done much more despicable things for his personal gain. He frowns, picks lint off his sleeve. Not looking at Alexander, he continues, “Which speaking of dueling, you’re facing the legal charges for it. New York can prosecute you for it, you know.”

Alexander shrugs. There had been that risk, even if they did carry it out in New Jersey where the law is not as stringent. “Are you here to collect me and take me to court?” 

“Nah, don’t worry about it,” Jefferson says, relaxed, clear that he’s making a point that Alexander knows that he’s doing him a favor, that he has the power to make criminal charges disappear. 

“Thanks,” Alexander replies, begrudgingly. Being indebted to Thomas Jefferson is a dangerous thing. However, Alexander quickly comes up with a compromise to make the scales equal and not be obligated to him. “Now we’re even for my endorsement in the election. Although that indirectly got me in my current condition.”

Jefferson chuckles. “I suppose. And don’t worry about Burr, either. I’ll handle him.”

“I’m not worried about him.” Burr has already done the worst thing that he can do. Alexander may have forgiven Burr for the outcome of their duel — fair is fair in a defense of honor — but what led up to it, he cannot excuse. He can’t understand how Burr could’ve hated him that much.

“Yeah, well.” Jefferson snorts, amused at his own joke. “He’s an awful Vice President. He’s a nuisance, complains all the time. Why wasn’t I invited to the meeting? Why won’t you let me do anything?” Jefferson says, pitching up his voice to impersonate Burr, although it doesn’t sound like Burr’s smooth tenor at all. “I’ll be glad to be rid of him.”

Under the new amendment, Jefferson is campaigning with one of his loyal Democratic-Republicans for the 1804 election, together — a change from when the runner-up in the election became Vice President. Alexander has to admit that it makes sense; the disaster of the election of 1800 proved that the previous method wasn’t conducive, and now the executive branch will be united instead of trying to outdo the other. Although, Alexander is sure that Jefferson’s intentions of it was mostly a massive fuck you to Burr.

“I’m sure Burr will be more glad to be free of you,” Alexander replies. “Having to be your right hand man? No wonder he became homicidal.”

“Burr is a useless clod,” Jefferson says, and gestures to Alexander. “He can’t even shoot you properly.”

Alexander brings his hand to lay on his abdomen, touching where bandages are wrapped around his middle underneath his shirt.

“I’m thankful for his failures,” Alexander softly says. Or his properly aimed successes, he thinks to himself.

“At least someone is,” Jefferson mutters, and then sighs, loud and drawn out. “Hamilton, listen…” His voice trails off as he runs a hand through his curly hair, sighing as he tries to articulate his words but he stammers, “I…I was going to say…” 

“What?” Alexander asks, intrigued — he knows that whatever it is, it’s got to be good to make Jefferson revert back to a muttering, awkward weirdo. “Please Jefferson, tell me. C’mon, tell me tell me please,” and this what Alexander had needed, he feels better than he has in days, annoying Jefferson is the cure for all his pains.

Jefferson puts a hand to his forehead and sighs again, like Alexander is the greatest irritation in the world, which goal achieved. That is good enough, but then it gets even better, because Jefferson says — vexed, like Alexander dragged the confession out of him — Jefferson says, “I’m glad you aren’t dead.” 

“Oh, Thomas, I never knew you cared so much,” Alexander says, mock coquettish. “Are you going to kiss my hand too?”

Thomas bristles, pulls at his lapels, regains his composure. “Don’t think too much of it. I’d just miss having you around because in comparison, you make me feel good about myself. But I’d get over it in, like, two days.” 

“Aww, shucks. Don’t go get sentimental on me—”

“Shut the fuck up.”

 

* * *

 

The thing is, everyone comes to visit Alexander — everyone except Burr.

Alexander is disappointed. He thought that Burr would come running at the opportunity to grovel at his bedside. Alexander had been patiently waiting for Burr to make the next move — Alexander had made his with that letter. Alexander waits for a response — either with amicability or scorn, anything, at least it would be something. He waits and waits, but he was never the one good at waiting. 

He starts to think of all the possible reasons of what’s keeping Burr away. Maybe he didn’t get the letter, but no, Van Ness assured him that he would and even though he’s a shifty fellow, he’s reliable. Maybe Burr is too embarrassed to show his face. Maybe Burr doesn’t want to mend anything. Maybe he doesn’t even care. Maybe Alexander was wrong about him for all these years.

It can’t be the end of it. He refuses to believe, and every day that Burr doesn’t show up, Alexander’s anger grows.

“It’s no wonder that Burr won’t show his face,” Alexander says, words bitter in his mouth, two and a half weeks after (it needs no explanation of what that means, it will always be an unchangeable point for them). “I always knew he was a coward.”

Eliza looks uneasy, shifts, shares a glance with Angelica next to her. It’s a micro-movement, hardly noticeable, but for Alexander it’s telling — they’re hiding something from him.

“What happened?” Alexander demands. “And don’t even try to say nothing, because I know that look, it’s your secret-sister communication thing that you do when you’re talking about me.”

“Umm.” Eliza falters for a moment, but then smiles and pats his leg. “You’re imagining things, dear.”

And just like that, Angelica follows her lead. “Not everything is about you, Alexander.”

“But it is,” Alexander protests, but then Eliza and Angelica glower at him, and he still has to depend on them for things like food and fetching books to read and he doesn’t want them pissed off at him so he adds, “It’s about me this time, anyway.”

“Alexander, please.” 

“No,” Alexander responds, his voice rising, “as soon as I mentioned Burr, you started acting all weird, which makes sense because he you know, shot me, but still. Can’t we talk about how Burr hasn’t came to see me?”

“I’m glad he hasn’t,” Eliza says at the same time Angelica snaps, “Good riddance,” but they’re interrupted by a smaller, innocent voice piping up from the floor.

“But he did, Pops.”

Alexander looks down to the source of the noise — his child William. He steals a glance to Eliza and Angelica and ha their shared alarmed expression definitely means that they’re hiding something.

“What do you mean, William?” Alexander asks.

William, who doesn’t realize that the three adults in room are staring at him and hanging on to his every word, continues playing with his toys, oblivious. He knocks a block tower over, and then continues, “About mister Burr? Al said—”

“Alexander Jr. was just talking trash about Burr, that’s all,” Angelica says. Eliza nods in agreement. Alexander isn’t convinced. 

William furrows his brows. “But didn’t he come here last week? Al said that you and Mama yelled at him in the front yard.” 

“You did what?” Alexander sits up further in the bed, scoots to make a place next to him. “Come here, my favorite child, and tell me everything you know.”

William goes to him, but then Eliza cuts him off with, “William, don’t.”

William looks nervously between Alexander and Eliza, clearly trapped between which parent to appease. His solution is bolting from the room. Smart kid.

When he’s gone, Alexander turns to Eliza and Angelica and says, “Explain.”

“It’s not what you think,” Eliza begins, feebly. “You still weren’t feeling the best, and Burr came by unannounced—”

“And who does that?” Angelica interjects.

“Yeah, right?” Eliza says, gesturing out to her. “Burr came and was demanding to see you, rambling about how he had to and how he’s sorry and when we confronted him he turned into a nervous wreck. Almost tripped over himself in his rush to escape.” She runs her hands over her lap, smoothing the wrinkle her dress. “We did what we had to do.” 

Alexander shakes his head in disbelief.

“I’ve been distressed over the fact that Burr has been seemingly ignoring me,” Alexander says, frustrated, “but he wasn’t! You just turned him away!” He’s glad for the fact that he had been wrong, but now it’s another missed opportunity — there had been a chance. “Resolution is allowed between gentlemen’s disagreements.”

Eliza scoffs and rolls her eyes, her indication that she’s done with the conversation, so Angelica speaks for her.

“We thought that you’d get over it,” is Angelica’s excuse. “Please don’t be upset. We did what we thought was best.”

“Oh my God.” Alexander rubs at his temples. How could they not get it? How important it is. But when he thinks of it, he doesn’t know why it’s so important. Deep down, he knows that they’re right. He should just forget Burr, forget the whole damn thing.

But he can’t.

He takes a deep breath, calms, and reaches out for Eliza’s hand. An offering of an apology.

She takes it. The rest is easy, appealing to her kind, forgiving nature. 

“My sweet, beautiful, lovely wife,” he begins, cajoling.

Too smart for him, she asks, flat, “What now?”

Regardless, Alexander continues, “You said you’d do anything for me, and—” 

“No,” Eliza and Angelica respond together, and Alexander collapses back on to the bed with a huff.

So it’s going to take more persuasion. Finally, something to do.

 

* * *

 

It takes a lot of sweet talk to both of the ladies and a lot of convincing that he’s all right, but in the end Alexander gets what he wants.

A letter is sent to Burr in the morning asking for his presence, and later the same day it's returned in the affirmative that he’ll stop by the next day no later than ten in the morning.

Only then does Alexander realize he has no idea what he’s going to say to Burr. The conversation in his head goes something like this: Burr will say, You aren’t dead! and Alexander will say, Bitch, you thought! and then…who knows. 

He makes an effort to be more presentable than he did for Jefferson; with Eliza’s help he shaves, brushes his hair, wears a housecoat. He isn’t really sure why he cares — a part of him wants to Burr to see the condition that he’s in because of him, but he also wants Burr to see that he’s resilient. Little ol’ bullet didn’t hurt him none. He’s just taking a midday lounge in bed.

He has to admit he’s nervous about their meeting, because now Burr is unpredictable and that — that unsettles him.

As it gets close to when Burr is scheduled to arrive, Alexander thinks that maybe Burr won’t show up. He doesn’t have enough time to decide if that’s what he wants or not because Burr shows right on time. He’s always punctual.

If he listens carefully, Alexander can hear Eliza greeting Burr at the door, a muffled cordial conversation that he knows is probably a strain for both of them. As they get closer, Alexander can hear more of it and parse out individual phrases, Eliza saying, “You must understand why my sister and I did that,” and Burr replying, “Of course, I don’t blame you at all,” and Alexander’s heart speeds up at the sound of his voice, but it’s not anxiety it’s anticipation, and Alexander doesn’t have to wait anymore, because Burr is there, only several feet ahead of him—

—and it feels like an eternity since he’s seen Burr on the shores of Weehawken, but it’s something that’s ever present on his mind. It’s the point in their story that divides it into a before and after. The decisive moment where everything changed — a revolution that occurred between them.

If it’s a successful one — well, that’s what comes next.

Burr keeps his distance, standing awkwardly across the room and hugging the wall. He looks scared, Alexander realizes, he knows that because he recognizes Burr’s expression — it’s the same one Burr wore as he stared down the barrel of a smoking pistol that was aimed at Alexander.

But then, then Burr smiles (smile more), and that Alexander is familiar with too — it’s reminiscent of when they first met. He’s the same nervous guy with a façade of self-confidence, eager to please, and yet again it’s Alexander who he wants to impress.

Alexander catches his gaze; it shifts; Burr’s shifts with it.

“Leave us be, Eliza,” Alexander says, not looking away from Burr.

“But—” Eliza stammers, and looks to Burr like no offense but then gestures to him. As if she could protect him if Burr tried to hurt him. But then again, his Betsey is fierce, when she wants to be. No — when necessary.

“I’m sure the Vice President won’t try and finish the job he started,” Alexander says, reassuring. He quirks his brow at Burr. “Correct?”

Burr clenches his jaw. “Correct.”

Unconvinced, Eliza gets close enough to Alexander to lean down and whisper in his ear, “Are you sure about this?”

Over Eliza’s shoulder, Alexander sees Burr blink and look away from them, fidgety and uncomfortable with the knowledge that he’s being talked about, a private conference between husband and wife.

Alexander turns his head and whispers back to her, “More than anything.” He presses a kiss to her cheek. “Let me do this. And you’ll be close if I need you, this time.”

When Eliza pulls away her eyes are glassy, but she nods at him, understanding.   She takes a deep breath and curtseys in Burr’s direction, then marches past him, head held high as she exits.

And then there were two. Tension stifles, as tight as a spring on a trigger.

“Aaron Burr, sir,” Alexander says, a cue, and Burr responds, “Alexander Hamilton.” The way Burr says his name always sounds musical, lyrical, him taking the time to explore the sound of each consonant around the vowels.

From the bed, Alexander points to the chair next to him. “So we meet again.”

Burr mumbles a thanks as he takes a seat, says, “I knew you wouldn’t die. You always had to have the last word.” He’s looking at Alexander expectantly, like he’s trying to relearn how be around him. Alexander holds his hands up like, you got me. They both manage a smile.

Alexander pats his side where Burr shot him. “I’m lucky. A few inches to the right, and I’d be paralyzed.” He pauses, waits for regret to overtake Burr’s face, and then continues, just to drive home the point, “Or dead, more likely.”

“Don't say that.” Burr clenches his fist, flexes it open, a repetitive motion. “You’re acting like I purposely wanted to kill you, but I didn’t,” he says, voice in almost a desperate whine, like he has to make Alexander know he means it. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Alexander crosses his arms. “Are you glad because I’m alive, or because you didn’t kill me?”

“Huh.” Burr bites his lip and sits back in the chair, like he’s not thought about the difference between the two until he was asked — that it didn’t matter as long as Alexander is alive, it’s not his problem.

“Both,” Burr says after deliberation.

At least he’s being honest. That’s a start.

Alexander gives Burr the space to speak; it’s what Burr wanted, after all.

However, when Alexander presents Burr with the opportunity, he seems surprised to have it. He furrows his brows and looks mildly alarmed that he has to think of something to carry on the conversation. It’s probably not going as he thought, either. 

“How are you?” Burr asks, landing on casual banter, but then curses under his breath. “Shit, I’m sorry. That’s stupid question. I should know better,” he says, and then makes a face and stares at where he shot Alexander.

Alexander shrugs. “It’s just a flesh wound,” he jokes. 

It isn’t Alexander’s intention to make Burr uncomfortable, but if he can be intimidated by just his presence then, awesome.

“What did you want?” Alexander asks, prompting, because Burr is taking too long to get to the matter, and if he’s being honest, he’s uncomfortable with Burr sitting next to him looking expectant. He doesn’t have anything else to give him. “I heard that you tried to visit me, but my gals stopped you.”

“Yeah.” Burr runs a hand over his head and down the back of his neck, rubbing at the closely shorn hair there. “I wanted to know,” he begins, slow, every word measured. “Your letter. You said you forgave me.”

“Yes,” Alexander says, not confirming nor denying. Burr had said it as a statement, not question. It’s a truth — he does forgive Burr, he had to in order for his soul to be considered pure on risk of death. Swearing to God almighty makes it official, basically. But if that weren’t the case, it’d still be the same. There was no other way it could've gone — Alexander can't blame fate.

“Is that all?” Alexander asks. “Confirmation that I’m not harboring anger towards you?”

Burr swallows. “That’s one thing. But that other part you wrote. What did you mean by it? I know?”

Ah, that.

“Remember when we said that dying was a lot less work?” Alexander asks, changing the subject. He looks to Burr for confirmation of the memory — it was long ago, right before the meeting where he traded away the Capitol for his banks. He had ran into Burr on the street and they spoke casually, joking. It’s a nice memory.

Burr nods. “I remember. Why?”

“Because we were wrong,” Alexander says. “It’s actually very hard to die.”

“Hamilton…”

“I tried to,” Alexander continues, disregarding Burr’s unease. “Die, that is. I was ready, I accepted it. You shot me and it’s partly my fault because I let you, but I was dying. It’s a different kind of near death than during the war. It’s all around you then, but this was special. Just for me. And I think I did die, for a moment. It was…nice.”

Alexander pauses for effect and flits his eyes up and then smirks, because yes, he’s got Burr hooked. Burr is leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, and Alexander can hear his hitched breathing from where he sits a couple feet away.

“And then what happened?” Burr asks, hushed.

Alexander thinks of telling Burr of the Other Side, he thinks Burr would appreciate it, he’s lost people too — but Burr doesn’t deserve it.

“It doesn’t matter,” Alexander says when Burr’s gaze feels too responsible. “It doesn’t matter because I didn’t die, and I could hate you for not making me dead enough to be in the ground.” 

“Jesus fucking Christ, Alexander.”

Alexander figures that Burr’s horror is justified, because he’s barreling towards outright self-destruction. It’s been a while. He hopes that Eliza isn’t listening from the hallway. He knows he should stop, he should just leave Burr in peace but he can’t, Alexander presses further, “You didn’t think of what it would do to me.” That his actions could send him to that place, but not harm him enough to have him stay. “As always, you were always thinking of yourself.”

“It was a mistake,” Burr says, pained, and if Alexander weren’t so riled up he might feel sorry for him. Burr defends himself, “How was I supposed to know you were going to delope? I was so…I was so angry! I thought you hated me.” 

Alexander scoffs, because that’s pretty damn funny because he thought Burr hated him

“Don’t take it so damn personal.” Alexander hates that he’s confined to his bed, because this would be the time that he’d flounce out of the room, ending the conversation. He doesn’t think that Burr would leave if he asked. Perhaps it’s time to call for Eliza to drag him out — he thinks of it, but Burr just won’t let it go, and Alexander won't either.

“Really? I’m the one taking this personally?” Burr asks, and Alexander giving an uninterested shrug doesn’t help his temper, sending him into further ranting. “You’re the one all high and mighty about granting your precious forgiveness when I wouldn’t have had to have it if you just apologized about that shit you said about me, and yet you’re being snippy to me—” 

“See what I mean? It’s all about you.” Alexander makes a finger gun motion and points at Burr. “In case you forgot, you shot me. Because I gave a political opinion. In politics.”

Burr lets out sigh, frustrated. “You can’t judge me by my worst act on my worst day.”

Un-fucking-believable.

“Your worst day?”

“Yeah,” Burr says, direct, unwavering. “I don’t think you’ve thought about how this is for me. That I hurt — that could have killed my…you.” 

Actually, Alexander has thought about it, a lot. Too much. That's why he threw away his shot — he couldn't be the guy who killed his...whatever Burr is. Friend. Enemy. Same thing.

“I’m innocent in this,” Burr insists. “It’s how duels go. You know that. I did everything right, according to the code.” 

“That’s true.” Alexander broke the rules and strayed from common procedure, and Burr conducted himself in a manner that anyone approaching an affair of honor should.

Burr looks up when Alexander agrees with him, looking for an offering of assurance that everything is okay.

But then Alexander lowers his voice and says, “But being innocent doesn’t mean you aren’t guilty.”

Burr buries his face and his hands and Alexander sees his shoulder heaving as he takes deep breaths to calm himself. It’s not the first time Alexander has witnessed Burr on the verge of a meltdown. On one memorable occasion many years ago, back when they shared offices and each other’s company and time, Burr had a fit seemingly out of nowhere, shoving items off his desk and then completely shutting down, sliding down a wall onto the floor. Alexander, having been startled by Burr’s uncharacteristic display of losing his composure, could do little else than coax him to stand, and guided him to lie on the couch as he talked to Burr like he would a spooked animal. A few minutes later, Burr had been fine, and excused it away as the result of exhaustion and outrage due to their case; Alexander still swears to this day that it had little to do with that, but more with the stress of his dying wife, but he never mentioned it.

Now, it’s the same as then — a bout of panic when everything is wrong and there’s nothing he can do about it.

“Burr…” Alexander trails off, hoping Burr will finish it.

He doesn’t.

Alexander sighs; he knows they can find a middle ground, somewhere. He stretches, ignoring the pull of his side, and places his hand on Burr’s knee. “It’s not the end of the world.” 

Burr jolts like he’s been burned, his whole body twitching as he looks down at where Alexander’s hand rests on him. He jumps to his feet, mumbles something sounding like, “I have to go” and Alexander is left adrift as Burr quickly walks away, half-way stumbling.

“Yeah, run away, like you always do,” Alexander mumbles, loud enough so that he knows Burr will hear. It’s a low blow and not necessarily true, but it’s one last attempt, because it feels like if Burr leaves this time he won’t come back.

Burr stops at the door and looks over his shoulder. Alexander expects a scathing remark in return, but Burr just looks tired. As tired as Alexander feels. 

“You never said what you intended in your letter,” Burr says. “What do you know? What am I supposed to know?”

Alexander hears the unspoken, tell me so I know what I did wrong. He frowns. He thought it obvious, this, between them.

“It means,” Alexander says, “that I know I’d see you on the other side, whatever the outcome was.” 

Burr blinks. Hamilton wonders if it's what he expected. Pained, Burr whispers, “What does that mean?”

Alexander thinks briefly of the Other Side, its warm and welcome embrace. He closes his eyes and — it’s almost gone, now.

When Alexander opens his eyes, Burr is there. He’s part of what Alexander has left, here. He’s still looking at Alexander inquisitive, pleading Alexander to let him in on this secret that they share. 

“Aren’t we on the other side?” Alexander smiles. “There’s everything before,” he says, and the timeline stretches out in front of him, before their duel, before the intrinsic difficulties and artificial embarrassments between them, “and there’s everything after. We’re here on the other side.”

“Alexander.” It hits Burr heavily, and Alexander knows how he’s feeling — that hindsight makes everything seem less important, or more important, depending. He takes a deep breath, looks down before back to Alexander. “I’m so sorry.”

Across the room, Alexander gives him a grim smile. “I know.” It doesn’t seem to relieve Burr, any. He asks, “Am I going to see you again?”

Alexander is hoping for a smile, but he doesn’t get one.

“I…don’t know,” Burr admits. He looks to the door, his escape. “I’ve overstayed my welcome. I’ll go.”

If he’s wanting Alexander to beg him to stay, Alexander would, if he asked it. But Burr doesn’t, and Alexander says, “Okay,” and Burr nods and leaves without another word, and then Alexander is left alone again. 

That isn’t the end, either. He and Burr — they keep meeting.

 

* * *

 

He’s wondering if he could have said something different to Burr — which has been happening a lot — when Eliza returns.

“Hey,” she says, leaning against the back of the chair and ah — she’s a welcome sight, and all thoughts of Burr dissipate. 

“Hey, yourself,” Alexander says. He holds out his hand. “Join me?”

“Sure,” Eliza says, and closes the distance between them. They’ve done this a few times since he’s been better; Eliza toes off her shoes as Alexander scoots to the side of the bed and arranges the pillows and kicks back the blankets so she can lie next to him. They fit together perfectly, his front to her back, him curling around her and putting an arm across her middle to hold her close. It’s made both of them feel better, being able to feel each other near, safe.

“Missed you,” Alexander murmurs. She might think that he’s being silly, but it’s true — he always misses her when she not around. 

Eliza makes a humming noise in agreement, or maybe it’s just an automatic response to him saying something; she sounds distracted. Alexander finds her hand and intertwines his fingers with hers. “What’s wrong?” he whispers, only for her.

She squeezes his hand slightly, and Alexander can feel her sigh against him, resigned. Eliza doesn’t say anything and Alexander doesn’t press. He enjoys the moment, them spooning and the summer breeze coming in through the open window. He’s content, and he’s almost asleep when Eliza speaks. 

“Did you mean it?” Eliza asks, facing away from him and her tone even. “That you wish you were dead?”

Alexander has never felt more foul — he hates that Eliza overheard that. He doesn’t know why he said it — the misery of wanting to be dead so he could be there could never outweigh this second (second, third, fourth, fifth) chance he has. As soon as he spoke it to Burr, it didn’t feel right, and with Eliza in his arms he knows it isn’t true. 

“Of course not,” Alexander says. He brushes her dark hair aside, kisses the back of her neck. “I’m not going anywhere.”

He feels Eliza’s body shake as she chokes on a sob. “I found your letter the other day. The one I would have got if you died.”

“No, Eliza—” 

This letter, my very dear Eliza,” she says, her voice cracking on her own name. Alexander knows what she’s going to say, these would-be final words he can never forget. He can’t stop her as she continues, “will not be delivered to you, unless I shall first have terminated my earthly career.” 

“Stop, please.” The reminder that he would have willingly left her alone is too horrible to bear. Of all his faults he's done, that is his worst — that he had tried to rationalize that he wouldn’t deserve her if he didn’t defend his honor, when he knows that she would be loyal to him until the end of time. He had been selfish, and he hasn’t accepted that about himself until now. 

Eliza skips ahead in the letter; she has it committed to memory too, and she repeats, “I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world.”

Alexander closes his eyes, blinks away tears. “I’m sorry, Eliza,” Alexander says. He tugs weakly at her arm. “Please look at me?”

She’s reluctant, but eventually Alexander is able to convince her to turn over so she’s facing him. He rests their foreheads together and he tells her, “I’m okay,” over and over, “I’m okay I’m okay I’m okay,” until she quiets him by placing her lips on his and kissing him, and then gently moves his head so his face rests against her shoulder.

“I know,” Eliza says as she rubs his back. “It’s okay.”

“I’m okay,” he mumbles against her skin, mostly to himself — saying it until he believes it too.

Chapter Text

Jefferson is cheerful. He’s jovial, even. Extra bouncy.

Normally, Aaron would breathe a sigh of relief and not question why Jefferson is in such good spirits, because when Jefferson is like this it usually means that it will be a good day for Aaron as well. Jefferson is only this happy when he’s scheming and about to ruin someone else’s day — or, life — and Aaron takes every opportunity to enjoy someone else being the subject of Jefferson’s charms for a change.

However, Aaron knows that this time Jefferson’s unfiltered glee does not bode well for him. Today, Jefferson will ruin his day. Aaron had been expecting it, if he’s being honest, ever since his…encounter with Hamilton. It’s something that Jefferson can’t ignore — he has to make an example out of Aaron, and he will enjoy doing it. 

Jefferson zeroes in on Aaron as soon as he flounces into the room where Aaron had been ordered to meet him (Aaron had received a letter at home from him, meet me while I’m in New York or else, and Jefferson hadn’t specified what the or else is and Aaron knew better than to test Jefferson’s creativity to come up with a consequence). They meet eyes, and Jefferson looks almost surprised that Aaron showed his face, his mouth agape and his shoulders slumped, but then he straightens up to his full height and smirks as he saunters towards him.

Aaron clears his throat and tries to appear casual, as if this were any other meeting — all meetings with Jefferson end badly, so the feeling of dread pooling in his stomach is nothing new. It’s been a perpetual state of being since he’s been in office; Jefferson was determined to make it so that Aaron won’t be the successor to the presidency (or anything else for that matter) for no other reason than just because. Well, it isn’t that simple, as nothing ever is — there already was a good dose of residual abhorrence between them, and then Jefferson took offense that Aaron didn’t agree with his entire Democratic-Republican ideology. Once inaugurated, Jefferson had wanted nothing to do with Aaron’s service, and in one fell swoop, Aaron became the opposition. Jefferson ignored his recommendations of executive appointments, purposely blocked his allies from gaining office, and he’s sure that Jefferson was the one to fan the flames of Aaron’s apparent disloyalty to the party. Disloyalty is a far stretch, but perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to go to a Federalist get-together and make a toast for the “union of all honest men” — it only brought others’ attention between his and Jefferson’s executive rift, the implication that there were dishonest men, and Jefferson took the opportunity to trash him.

“I thought of Burr as distrustful, I always have,” Jefferson had said to a group of Senators, purposely within earshot of Aaron. “I habitually cautioned Mr. Madison against trusting him too much.” 

They could withdraw if they wanted, detach themselves from the catastrophe that is Aaron’s career, but at least Aaron has the personal knowledge that at one point Jefferson and Madison trusted him — if only it were to use him.

(“Tell us,” Jefferson asks after Madison whispered in his ear, “How can we best use this information to fuck Hamilton’s shit up?”

Aaron eyes the copies of documents that accuse Hamilton of alleged scandal. He wants to tell them, “Hamilton wouldn’t do that, there has to be a mistake,” but he knows that the two other men wouldn’t see it that way.

(Later, he would be relieved that he was right — Hamilton wasn’t guilty of embezzlement, his only crime was an affair.)

“C’mon, Burr,” Jefferson says, smarmy, when Burr doesn’t respond. “You know Hamilton best. You have the power here to really make a difference.” He looks to Madison, who gives him a silent, curt nod. It must communicate something, because Jefferson then he returns his gaze to Aaron, smiling wide. “Your assistance will be deeply appreciated, and if this goes well, it can be very profitable for you.”

And Aaron, consumed by envy and intoxicated on the promise of ascension, tells them everything he knows to strike Hamilton where it would hurt most. How to ruin him. It surprises Aaron that he knows Hamilton that deeply. How funny, that he only realized that when he was betraying him.)

Regardless of their trust or distrust, nothing to came to fruition for Aaron. Aaron had tried to be the best sycophant he could be without demeaning himself to the level of bootlicker, but once Jefferson decided he was done with Aaron, he was done. Jefferson has his plans for the reelection and Aaron has no place in then, which honestly, Aaron is thrilled — he’s ready to get the fuck out. He’s counting down the days that he no longer has a commitment to Jefferson. And Jefferson must be too — now that Aaron lost the governorship in New York, Jefferson sees him as useless (Aaron knows this because he’s told Aaron so, to his face) and has completely shut him out of all dealings.

With Jefferson, it’s either that you’re with him, or against him. Jefferson has made sure that being a friend to Aaron Burr means being an enemy to Thomas Jefferson, and while people necessarily may not want to be on Jefferson’s side, they don’t want not to be. 

Aaron doesn’t blame them. From experience, he knows that it’s a bad place to be.

In the present, Jefferson approaches as though all antagonism is forgotten, smiling wide and saying, “Burr, it’s so good to see you.” He reaches out offering a handshake, and Aaron takes it and returns it.

He isn’t fooled by his show of friendliness. Neither is Aaron.

“Mister President,” Aaron says, withdrawing his hand. Hair prickles on his arm, like prey being alerted of a nearby predator. “I wish I could say the same.”

Jefferson scoffs and puts a hand to his chest like Aaron’s words actually hurt him. “Ouch. You’re a vicious man, Aaron Burr,” Jefferson says, sitting in the chair across from Aaron, sprawled comfortably. “Are you going to have a temper tantrum and shoot me, too?”

Aaron closes his eyes. Breathes in, breathes out. He doesn’t think about how raspy Hamilton sounded when he had tried to do the same.

Someday, it won’t bother him. Someday, he won’t think about how Hamilton was so close to death. Someday, it won’t be a constant loop of I almost killed him I shot him he was my friend he almost died and it’s because of me he was my friend. Someday, he won’t think about what if things went differently, for better or for worse. Someday—

Someday, it won’t bother him.

But he’ll be damned if he lets anyone, lest of all Thomas Jefferson, know that it still bothers him today.

Aaron composes himself, and then adapts the same blank stare that he’s given Jefferson for the better part of the last four years after he realized that his method of smile more would not work with Jefferson. Jefferson knows that tactic, perfected it into a weapon instead of something that appeals. He admittedly does it better than Aaron. But these days, it seems that everyone does it better than Aaron, so.

“Perhaps,” Aaron says, dryly. “But next time, I’ll aim better. The sun was in my eyes.”

“Sure.” Jefferson looks away, already uninterested. He’s clearly not impressed or baited by Aaron’s feeble attempt at humor.

Aaron hates to admit it, but Jefferson is really good at making him feel like he’s a nuisance. However, once Aaron got over the fact that his chances of succession in office were futile, he likes that he’s a bother to Jefferson. It’s fun, seeing Jefferson squirm with the want to be nasty to him but maintain a guise of professionalism.

“What do I owe this pleasure?” Aaron asks. “Surely you didn’t come all the way from the Capitol to discuss my marksmanship.”

Jefferson smiles, teeth flashing, as he tilts his head to the side, making his curly hair toss about. “Cut the bullshit, Burr. You know exactly why I’m here.”

“Humor me.”

Jefferson scoffs. “Okay, so you want to make this difficult,” he says, and he sits forward with his elbows on his knees. He scrunches his face up and waves his hand, like he’s trying to think of what to say, but he settles on a scathing glare and, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Everything, Aaron immediately thinks.

Instead, he shrugs. “Nothing that I can’t handle,” he says.

“Uh huh.” Jefferson sounds unconvinced. “Your life is perfect. Except that you’re incompetent at your job—”

“Because you’ve made me incompetent,” Aaron mutters, but Jefferson cuts him off with a raised hand.

“Don’t fuckin’ interrupt me.” Jefferson’s temper flares for a moment, but then he calms. “Burr. You are the very essence of a hot mess. Like I said, you suck at your job—,” and Jefferson pauses, waiting to see if Aaron interrupts him again. Aaron doesn’t. He knows when to keep his mouth shut, so Jefferson continues, “—you’re swimming in debt, both political parties reject you, you’re hated by the county, you have grounds to be indicted with criminal charges, and your minor disagreement with Ham-man was very nearly a public execution. So tell me, what do you have going for you?”

“My good looks?” Aaron responds, half-joking. He didn’t need a run-down of all his failures. Not often does he think of all of them at once — it’s too overwhelming.

“Let me break it down for you,” Jefferson says, sharp. “You thought I’ve done you bad? I had planned to annihilate you. Make sure you can never rise to power to challenge me again.” His voice trails off. “But you went and ruined your reputation on your own. It’s a shame. I was looking forward to personally seeing to it.”

“Thanks for your honesty,” Aaron mutters. Aaron doesn’t doubt Jefferson’s claim at all. He bets that he’s been plotting it behind closed doors with Madison for months. Years, maybe.

“Don’t mention it.” Jefferson sighs. “In a few months, I’ll be re-elected—”

“Possibly,” Aaron says, but he knows Jefferson is right. The well-received Louisiana Purchase ensured that he would get a second term.

“—and thanks to the amendment, I’ll be running with someone I want, and then we can go our separate ways,” Jefferson says. “As I’m sure you understand, I can’t be attached to someone who is as problematic as you. I can’t align myself with someone who shoots people as a way of solving their disagreements.”

“Fine with me,” Aaron replies. He’s glad to be distanced from Jefferson — the southerner is a whole different kind of problematic. If Aaron is to prosper, it will not be with Thomas Jefferson and all his disagreeable ploys, but by some other method.

“Is that all you came here to tell me?” Aaron asks, hoping that he can be spared from his company.

“What, you don’t like chatting with me?” Jefferson asks, quasi-saccharine coating the venom underlying it. He’s goading Aaron on purpose, Aaron knows this — so he stays silent.

When Aaron stares blankly at him as a response, Jefferson sighs and says, “I have decided to be merciful and pardon your charges of dueling.”

“Wonderful,” Aaron says, deadpan. He hadn’t been very concerned because if someone seriously wanted to carry out the charges, he and Hamilton would be already be sharing a prison cell, and while Aaron doesn’t like to think himself egotistical, he doubts that some New York officer would have the gall to arrest him. Or Hamilton, for that matter.

He must not give the reaction that Jefferson had wanted, or maybe it’s the exact reaction Jefferson wanted, because Jefferson’s face lights up with a wicked, dangerous smile that’s loaded with ammunition. Aaron knows that it makes Jefferson feel more comfortable about himself to make others degraded. He likes seeing people struggle. He likes for them to beg for mercy, and the fact that Aaron won’t makes Jefferson keep trying, one small chip at a time. So far, Aaron hasn’t cracked, but it’s a matter of how long Aaron can endure it.

Jefferson says, “I’ve also excused your attempted murder.”

Aaron clenches his jaw. “Killing Hamilton was not my intention.”

“Oh,” Jefferson counters back, rapid fire, “So you only wanted to hurt him a little bit?”

Aaron doesn’t have an answer for that. He can’t answer it.

“Well, thanks for all your help,” Aaron says, sardonic. Jefferson’s miffed glare from being disregarded lifts Aaron’s mood. It certainly bothers Jefferson when people don’t take him seriously. That’s probably the most valuable thing Aaron has learned in office — because even though Jefferson knows how to attack him, Aaron has learned how best to get back at him.

It makes it almost worth it.

“I feel honored that you’d travel for days just to ridicule me,” Aaron says. “Things must be slow at work.”

“It’s not just about you, you dumb fuck.” Jefferson shifts in his seat. “I came to visit Hamilton and give him my regards.”

Aaron’s mouth tugs up into a grin. “I bet he loved that,” he says, chuckling — he can’t help but laugh. He imagines Jefferson awkwardly sitting next to Hamilton’s bedside while Hamilton hides under a blanket and hurls insults at him.

“I had nothing but well wishes for Hamilton,” Jefferson says. It sounds practiced. Terse. 

“Don’t you hate him?” Aaron asks. Over the last four years, he’s heard Jefferson curse Hamilton’s name at least every three days.

“Me? I despise the damn man,” Jefferson says, like of course. “Don’t you?”

Aaron’s face heats. “I do not.

Jefferson looks at him skeptically, his brows rising and his head tilted to the side. “Really? ‘Cause I’m not the one who shot him. You went and did that.”

“Touché.”

Indeed, Aaron did.

 

* * *

 

Aaron would like to deny it, that there is no way that he would have intentionally caused harm to Hamilton. It was just…a side effect. A means to the end he desired. He had gone to Hamilton with intention, a premeditated action to make Hamilton pay — whatever the cost. His only thought was what it would cost him if he didn’t take action — it wasn’t until after that he realized that the consequences of doing so could be just as detrimental.

He’s not angry, not anymore. He’s just tired.

Theo asks him, “Was it worth it? Would you do it again?”

“That is unanswerable, and it’s senseless to waste my time pondering such a scenario,” Aaron responds, severe and straightaway — he doesn’t have to think of the answer. “I cannot turn back time.”

He doesn’t want to think about the things he can’t change.

But Theo persists. “It is not senseless to acknowledge that you regret it.”

Hamilton’s voice rings in his ears, being innocent doesn’t mean you aren’t guilty.

“Yes,” Aaron says. “It was a mistake.”

An error of both of their judgments of the other.

 

* * *

 

Public scorn follows Aaron. Most of his allies have made themselves scarce because of the criticism that surrounds him — I’m sure you understand, they tell Aaron, the unspoken your company isn’t worth being dragged down the social ladder with you.

Aaron does understand, and he doesn’t blame them. He convinces himself that he doesn’t need them, anyway. 

Van Ness is the only one who risks his image by being seen with him.

“They’ll get over it,” Van Ness assures him. They’re sharing a meal at an outside café; it had taken a lot of convincing on Van Ness’s part to get Aaron to venture into public. When Aaron glares at him from across the table Van Ness adds, “They’ll get over it eventually.”

With perfect timing, a man walks by and upon seeing Aaron, stops and snarls, “You’re that lousy miscreant Burr.”

“The one and only,” Aaron says, dipping his head down as if he were bowing.

The man curses, and then goes on his way.

Van Ness bites his lip and looks to Aaron nervously — a proper reaction for anyone who just got insulted by a grungy looking stranger. But Aaron is hardly fazed. He shrugs, takes a drink of his coffee and says, “You should have heard what the lady called me yesterday at the tailor.”

The other thing — Aaron can’t take a walk in town without someone accosting him and telling him their awful opinion of him. Like he cares what people think. They don’t know the whole story — that’s only between him and Hamilton.

His best method of defense are quips stated so plainly that they could be mistaken for the truth. It’s what people want to hear, and it’s easier than trying to defend himself. Yes, I am the one who shot Alexander Hamilton, nice to meet you and it’s up to you to decide if I missed or not, and then he gets creative, I shot him because I was jealous of his hair and it was a failed suicide pact. Aaron is beginning to realize that he will always be defined by what he did to Hamilton. He and Hamilton are inextricably tied together — bound by what happened that summer morning on the Weehawken shore.

And now, they are on the other side — that’s what Hamilton had said. Aaron had thought that it would be the end, and he was ready to leave it at that. Selfishly take Hamilton’s forgiveness and reconcile with himself that it’s the right thing.

However, he feels it too — an inception, urging him to continuation.

 

* * *

 

He meets Hamilton again, and again, and again.

Going to see Hamilton has to be some kind of self-inflicted torture. Every time he visits, it’s odd to see Hamilton so indisposed but then Aaron remembers

—but he needs to remember. And with it, comes a serene acceptance, and soon the only thing that eases the anxiety that claws in his chest is being with Hamilton. An assurance that they’re still both alive.

Aaron makes the trip to the Grange every few days, for only a little while at a time, but then Hamilton says, “If you’re here, you’re welcome to hang around,” and Aaron takes the invitation and starts staying longer. And then he increases his visits to every other day, and then soon he’s at Hamilton’s every single day. It’s not like he has anything better to do. He gets used to the view of the city out Hamilton’s window, and Eliza brings Aaron tea and a book to read when Hamilton dozes off. He becomes familiar with all the Hamilton offspring. Aaron enjoy Sundays most — he stays with Hamilton for most of the day while most of his family are away at church, and they talk about everything and nothing.

Aaron studies Hamilton for clues of Hamilton treating him any differently. It’s a difficult task, because before the…incident they were speaking only by letters passed back and forth via go-betweens. Hamilton should treat him differently, but his tone is cordial, and if it’s laced with some bite, that’s just typical of Hamilton. Aaron is sure that Hamilton is bored out of his mind and is using Aaron for entertainment, but that’s fine. Aaron is doing the same, if the truth were told.

It’s startlingly easy to talk to Hamilton. They start on common ground — Aaron tells Hamilton about his meeting with Jefferson and Hamilton laughs and says, “Yeah, Jefferson did visit me, and it was a clever move on his part. His show of goodwill towards me would appeal to the Federalists, and therefore possibly earn their support in the election.”

And it goes from there, them talking about whatever their conversation leads them to. The weather, books they’ve read, their children, memories from the war, nostalgia of when they practiced law together. It’s nice. And when Aaron goes to leave, he asks the same question— 

“Are you angry with me?” 

—and every time, Hamilton replies, “No,” and then Aaron nods, and then leaves Hamilton.

It’s the reassurance Aaron requires.

 

* * *

 

Aaron keeps visiting, and Hamilton never tells him to leave, which is a good enough reason to keep coming. He asks Hamilton a new question each time — it gives him reason to bring him back.

“Why the glasses?” Aaron asks one time, and when Hamilton gives him a confused look he clarifies, “If you didn’t intend to fire at me, why did you put on your glasses.”

Hamilton rolls his eyes. “To make sure I didn’t hit you.”

Another time, Aaron asks, “Did you mean it? That you’d rather be dead?”

And Hamilton shakes his head and says, “Not anymore.”

“Good.”

And then late one night, when Eliza hasn’t chased him away yet, Aaron whispers, “Do you think me a murderer?”

“You haven’t killed anyone,” Hamilton whispers back, and then smiles that smile that make his eyes crinkle. “At least not me. If you’ve killed someone else, then that’s another story.”

When Aaron dares to ask the question of, “Why did you really endorse Jefferson over me?” Hamilton sighs, like he had been expecting it.

“You wanted to be President just to be the President,” Hamilton says. “You wanted to have the prestige.”

Aaron frowns. “Of course. Who doesn’t?” There’s more to it than that, but it’s a big component. To be the leader of the free country, to have everyone’s respect, to be revered. He pauses, and then asks, “…Don’t you?”

Hamilton shrugs. “My opportunity is long gone,” he says, forcing the words through a grim smile. He says it easy, obvious that he’s already thought about it and accepted it. “It’s impossible with my, ah,” he waves his hands, “reputation.”

“But if you had the chance, would you?” Aaron counters. He’s never known Hamilton to give up on something he truly desires.

For a brief moment, a glimmer of hope lines Hamilton’s face and the starry-eyed wonderment of it makes Aaron’s heartbeat jump with shared excitement — but then as soon as it appears, it’s gone.

“If there was a chance, perhaps. But there isn’t one,” Hamilton says, the finality of the conversation resonates between them.

The next day, Aaron brings a list that he had stayed up half the night writing — a list of everything he would have done if he had been elected President. Most of it is impractical and they both know that congress would never let something like give women the vote happen, but it feels good to say it, nevertheless.

And the way Hamilton grins at him — like he’s proud — is breathtaking.

 

* * *

 

“Did you know the reason why I was so insulted was because it was you who said those awful things about me?”

Hamilton seems surprised when Aaron asks it. Aaron doesn’t understand why — he had thought that their shared history together is worth something.

“I don’t know why you’re so stuck on that,” Hamilton says. He shifts in the bed, adjusting the pillows behind him so he can sit more upright. “If I had to pick someone to be by my side on the battlefield, or to like, play cards with, there’s no doubt that I would choose you over Jefferson. But for President…nah.” His tone is snappy, as if he’s tired of discussing the matter. “It’s nothing personal. It’s just the facts.”

“You called me a dangerous man and said I was unfit for government,” Aaron says. “Political opposition can never absolve gentlemen from the necessity of a rigid adherence to the laws of honor. So, of course it’s personal.”

“Personal, like getting shot by someone — someone who you considered a friend — because you called them some names personal?” Hamilton’s chest heaves as he speaks, his voice rising to a near shout. “That’s about as personal as it gets!”

“Alexander, please calm down,” Aaron softly says, going to touch Hamilton’s arm to calm him. He’s concerned that Hamilton will over-exert himself and have a coughing fit, or worse — Eliza or Angelica will drag Aaron out and never let him back on the grounds. He doesn’t think too much about what Hamilton had said. It’s taken so long to get to the place where they are now. They can’t slip back into the hostility. Aaron isn’t sure if he could bear it.

Hamilton jerks his arm back. “You just have to get over it, Burr. If you can’t then…I’m not sure if this,” he says, gesturing between them, “can work.”

Aaron swallows. “I just need you to understand that—” 

“What?” Hamilton challenges. “What is it that you just can’t let go? Haven’t you had your say?”

Aaron stalls. No, he wants to say, but he can’t pinpoint exactly what he wishes to say. He supposes he wants to much of Hamilton, but is entitled to nothing of him.

“Never mind,” Aaron says, sharp, and he gets up and slips on his coat. “Forget it.”

He leaves in a rush before Hamilton can say anything else. He doesn’t ask Hamilton if he’s angry with him. He doesn’t need the reassurance. He knows without asking.

They both know what they know.

Aaron lingers in the hallway outside the door to see if Hamilton calls for him to come back. He holds his breath and leans against the wall, listening. Hoping Hamilton will make a move.

“I know you’re there, Burr!” Hamilton shouts, and a few seconds later the water pitcher is thrown from the room into the hallway, it crashing against the wall and its contents spilling onto the ground.

Aaron is gone before anyone can come check on the commotion.

 

* * *

 

After that, Aaron believes that all prospects of mending a relationship with Hamilton are over. He lies in bed for the rest of the night and gives Theo monosyllabic answers when she asks what happened.

“It can’t be that bad, Papa,” Theo says, almost cooing, “I mean, this isn’t the worst that you’ve been through with Mr. Hamilton.”

Aaron shakes his head, and speaks muffled into the pillow, “No.”

His lethargy lasts for three days, brooding over everything and nothing, until Theo comes and holds out a letter for him to take.

“I’m not in the mood for correspondence,” Aaron says, refusing the letter. “If it’s from Van Ness, write back to him and tell him I’m fine and that I wish he’d go bother someone else.”

Theo tosses the letter in his lap and crosses her arms. “It’s from Hamilton.”

Intrigued, he picks it up and it is Hamilton’s writing on the outer envelope. “Oh my god, he gave in first.”

“Not that I think that matters, but perhaps it means he wishes to speak to you,” Theo says. She smiles as Aaron tears into the letter. “Well?”

Aaron huffs, but has to hold back a grin as his eyes scan the carefully written script.

 

 

 

Dear A. Burr,

Your absence has gone noticed within the household. I suppose I am well, as you seemingly have retired your worried vigil by my bedside! Overjoyed at the possibility of Miraculous healing, I tested the theory, but after my experiment, I found that I am still injured. I would describe the nature of my wound to you, but I believe that you are familiar with it.

As you have apparently discovered something else to occupy the better part of your time, I shall give up an update on the happenings you have missed. William lost his first tooth — that was quite the excitement. Angie’s parakeet Leonard is molting — less exciting. I have calculated the exact time that the sun passes behind the line of trees on its journey to the horizon to return the next day. It is all riveting material. I am sure that all of these topics are fascinating to someone who is entertained by the mundane, such as Yourself, but I require much more stimulating passtimes. I’m deteriorating from ennui, Burr. I hate to put those words into existence by ink on this page, as my family is dear to me, but they don’t inspire the same exhilaration that your conversation brings. Or exhaustion — I have been lying awake for hours the last few days because I haven’t been stricken to slumber from your dull comments. Ha! I jest. You’re dull only sometimes.

Without something to keep my mind and body sharp, I fear that I may perish, and because you are the cause for my other recent brush with death, I believe that you “owe me one” as the saying goes, and should continue your habits that I have grown used to over the more recent couple weeks. Eliza accuses me of chasing you away, which...

I request your company at your earliest convenience. Or not at your convenience, because I suspect that you shall create any excuse to delay.

I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant,
A. Hamilton

 

And just like that, Aaron is drawn in once more.

This time, he brings Theo so he has someone on his side, and to soothe his nerves. Her accompaniment is under the guise of her befriending Hamilton’s eldest daughter, but he knows Theo knows the real reason. She pats his arm and says, “Of course, Papa,” when he rambles about the benefits of a lady companion near her same age and upbringing.

Theo charms, as usual, and doesn’t even blink when Angie says, “Thank you, but Philip plays better,” after Theo compliments her skill on the piano.

While the girls chatter, Eliza comes up beside Aaron, touches his arm and says, “Alexander is waiting for you.” She smiles warmly at him, and with that and Hamilton’s request to see him, Aaron has no reason to hold back. However, he feels a tug to leave he feels like a fool that he can be simply summoned by Hamilton through letter, there’s the underlying fear that this isn’t worth it. That no matter how many times they try, that their…friendship will splinter, and leave nothing behind but the damage wrought.

“Go,” Eliza says, encouraging, and then gives him a little shove. Aaron looks over to Theo, who smiles, and then goes back to discussing poetry with Angie.

Maybe, this time will be different, Aaron decides as he goes up the stairs to Hamilton’s room, alone.

Hamilton is waiting for him when he arrives in the doorway; he’s sitting propped up with an abundance of pillows, his hair fluffy and hanging down around his shoulders, his glasses perched on his nose as he reads from a book. Hamilton is engrossed in the text, his mouth slightly parted as he absent-mindedly twirls a lock of hair around his forefinger. Aaron watches Hamilton read for a few minutes, not wanting to disturb him — not just because it is rude to stop someone during a good read, but because Hamilton is always captivating in his actions, even the mundane.

After a few page turns, and when Aaron knows that Hamilton doesn’t realize he’s there, Aaron knocks on the open door.

Hamilton looks up at the sound, and then smiles when he sees Aaron. Aaron isn’t sure if he should approach or not, and Hamilton is being uncharacteristically passive. The result is them staring at each other in silence Hamilton grinning at Aaron like a loon, and Aaron stiffly standing in the doorway.

The moment feels distinct.

“I’m sorry,” Aaron says, rushed, but it’s overlain with Hamilton’s voice saying, “I’m sorry,” at the same time. They laugh it eases the tension, and Hamilton’s laugh is light and airy to Aaron’s ears.

“C’mon, you,” Hamilton says, beckoning Aaron over as he closes his book and takes off his glasses, and then places both on the table next to him. “Have a seat. I’ve been saving it for you.”

Aaron takes his usual seat next to Hamilton, and leans back, casual. “You look good, Alexander. I think you over exaggerated the effect of your ennui on your health,” Aaron wryly says.

“Well, the day is still young,” Hamilton says, and moves to sit straighter, but then he gasps and grabs at his bad side, wincing with clenched teeth and his forehead scrunching in pain.

“Hamilton!” Aaron exclaims, panicked, sitting forward in the chair to be closer to Hamilton. His heartbeat pounds in his ears, it sounds like a beat of your fault. your fault. your fault. “Are you okay? Alexander?”

Hamilton lets out a shuddering exhale, then takes a deep breath and nods. “I’m okay,” Hamilton mutters, but it sounds like it’s more to himself than to Aaron. He takes in a deep breath, Aaron can see him forcing himself to, and then he lets it out slow, and repeats. “I’m okay.”

“You sure about that?”

“Yeah. Just moved a little too quickly. I’m not as young as I used to be,” Hamilton says, meeting Aaron’s gaze at first, but then his eyes travel downward. Aaron follows his line of sight, and sees his hand resting on Hamilton’s shoulder, his thumb brushing against his neck. Aaron hadn’t even realized he had reached out for him, it had been automatic.

He’s still contemplating it, but then he’s brought back to his thoughts when Hamilton brings up his own hand and places it on top of Aaron’s.

Aaron pulls his hand back, it sliding out from under Hamilton’s, and then curls it to his chest before letting it fall into his lap. 

“Sorry,” Aaron says. He isn’t sure what he’s apologizing for — the breach of personal space, or because of the pain he’d caused Hamilton. He decides to expand on the easiest to address, asking, “I’m sorry that you’re…going through this.”

“No worries,” Hamilton says, light, like it’s no big deal that he’s been lain up in bed for weeks, or that Aaron is the one who put him there. It’s worrying to Aaron, but what concerns him the most is the fact that Hamilton has suffered so much, that it is probably commonplace for Hamilton to convulse in pain.

“I’m fine, really,” Hamilton insists. “It’s said that Alexander the Great survived a chest wound, so I’m sure Alexander Hamilton can survive a bullet wound.” 

Aaron scoffs. “No wonder people accuse you of being a monarchist.”

“Well, aren’t I great?” Hamilton asks, his tone attempting serious but his face betrays him — his mouth twitching to fight a smile, a smile that has already lit up his eyes. Aaron appreciates it for a moment while he comes up with a retort, but before he can, Hamilton shakes his head and laughs to himself, coughs, says, “Well, great apart from everything that’s wrong. Which I’ve been told is a lot.” 

“But you’ll be fine, right?” Aaron asks, hopeful. He’s been claiming that he is relinquished of responsibility, but protocol doesn’t ease the guilt that makes him sick to his stomach. 

“I can die yet,” Hamilton says, looking far off, focusing on something beyond Aaron. “We never know when it’s our time to go, and now I am more familiar with that certainty than ever. Life is…unmanageable. It does as it wishes.”

Aaron knows this. He knows the things that he cannot control. Love. Life. Death. He has accepted this long ago, and then again when he tried to change his fate — he will only ever be an accessory to these forces, and it’s both distressing, but comforting that he can never do anything to change it.

Hamilton had asked if he was great. Looking at him now, Aaron sees Hamilton in all his glory — bright, even though he’s been considerably dulled. It has been said that Hamilton isn’t great, not even good — Aaron has said that of him, too. But throughout it all, Hamilton still has that something, that spark that made Aaron turn around and give to a rambling, fresh-off-the-boat Hamilton another chance and then offer him a drink.

Maybe this is another chance to give Hamilton an offering. He won’t let it go. 

“If you live through this, I’ll…” Aaron’s voice trails off, thinking of what to say that would give Hamilton the drive to stay alive, or a promise that is substantial enough that the universe will make sure it happens — a bargaining for his soul. I’ll do anything, he wants to say, but that’s not specific enough, but then he knows, and it comes out rushed and unbidden.

Aaron says, “If you live through this, I’ll help you gain presidency.”

And then he waits.

Hamilton stares at him blankly, and Aaron is sure that he’s going to tell him to leave and never return, but then Hamilton’s mouth tugs into a grin, and there’s a laugh that dissolves into a cough before he speaks.

“Don’t make a promise you can’t keep,” Hamilton says, not even trying to hide his skepticism.

But that’s fine. Hamilton can doubt him. He’ll see.

Aaron smiles. “Just you wait.”

Chapter Text

In the days that follow, Burr does not speak of it again, but it consumes Alexander’s thoughts.

Him — President?

What a joke.

However, a joke is running the country now, and there was another before him — Jefferson and Adams are both idiots in their own way — so perhaps his shot at the job isn’t as impossible as he had believed.

Alexander would be a good president. He doesn’t think that it’s too egotistical to say so, because there’s no doubt about it. He was instrumental in founding their country and helped to make it what it is, and he has the experience — he was the right hand man to the only true president their young country has seen to date. And he has the charisma, the drive to lead — he could do it, if given the chance.

He had a chance, once. He had it, and then he lost it. Squandered. Alexander remembers how it felt as it slipped away and he was unable to do anything other than watch as his reputation was ruined and know that he did it to himself.

You’re never gonna be President now, Jefferson had said, taunting, as he flipped copies of the Reynolds Pamphlet in his face. Thanks for doing the work for me! 

The worst part is, he knew Jefferson was right. So, he stopped thinking of the possibility of it.

Alexander likes his life. It’s quiet — which is something he never thought he could find solitude in because it leaves too much space but he’s found himself to treasure it, how it allows for things he might’ve missed previously. He loves his family and his job, and he’s regained enough respect that he feels confident to say his name amongst public circles. He’s made a place for himself, and if he were to die, his legacy is something that he’d be proud to leave behind. It’s taken him a lifetime, but he’s learned—accepted what he was told long ago: you have no control who tells your story. History will decide your place within it, no matter your actions or wishes.

He had an ending, once. It was an ending, but then it wasn’t — he didn’t die. Not yet, he was told in something that wasn’t quite a dream, you still have more work to do. It felt like another chance, finally. And, well.

Who is he to argue with fate?

Alexander curses Burr for even suggesting the topic. Burr, with his stuffy attitude and peculiar ways, like biting his lip when he disagrees with Alexander or taking his coffee without sugar, disastrous Burr promising him impossible things like it would make things better between them, wanting to help Alexander when he can’t even help himself.

He doesn’t know since when Burr was given to such whimsy — but then again, Burr has been surprising him as of late.

He doesn’t need Burr and his stupid ideas, and he’s ready to tell Burr that the next time he sees him. But Burr doesn’t mention the presidency again, and Alexander doesn’t ask. He saves Burr from the embarrassment, and he doesn’t want to make Burr think that he’s actually interested. And besides, he doesn’t know what terms and conditions that would come along with it; he knows that Burr wouldn’t offer something so substantial without expecting something in return.

Alexander isn’t disappointed. Burr must’ve realized what he already has: it’s futile.

 

* * *

 

Comparable to the condition that he was in previously, Alexander is better. If being able to walk a few steps without collapsing can be called progress.

The prognosis he has been given is good; all the visible evidence that’s left is a red scar on his side, and he’ll be fine as long as he starts to get up so his muscles don’t atrophy. The first time Alexander gets up, there’s searing pain across his abdomen like he’s being ripped open and everything hurts, his vision goes a little fuzzy, and he swears there’s no way that recovery was this bad when he was injured in the war.

 “You were twenty-five years younger then, honey,” Eliza says, pushing Alexander’s hair away from his sweaty forehead when he complains about it. “It’s bound to be more difficult, now at your age.”

Alexander huffs. “I don’t appreciate you calling me old,” he mutters. From the armchair, he looks to his bed. It’s only a few steps away, but it already exhausts him to think that he has to walk back that short distance.

Eliza twirls a lock of Alexander’s hair between her fingers, and says, “Well, I mean…,” introspective. Alexander turns to see her with her head tilted and looking down at the hair in her hands, giving a pointed look at the hints of gray peppered throughout his dark hair.

“I thought you said the gray makes me look distinguished,” Alexander says. “Wise.” 

Eliza drops his hair, leans in to kiss him. “Yes,” she says. “My wise, old husband.”

Wisdom doesn’t make him stop hurting, however.

When Burr visits that day, Alexander isn’t very happy to see him. Burr doesn’t seem to take offense when Alexander snaps at him, says, “Thanks to you, I have the mobility of a toddler.”

Detached, Burr says, “You should have dodged the bullet then, as you think yourself so nimble.” He turns a page in his book. “And it’s more like you have the mobility of an elder.”

Alexander narrows his eyes. “Did Eliza tell you to call me old?”

There’s a hint of a smile that Burr hides behind his book.

Alexander doesn’t put it past both Burr and Eliza working together to encourage him to heal quicker. Devious, but it works — he wakes early in the morning and shuffles back and forth from his bed and chair, stopping to rest on them when he pushes himself beyond when he would usually stop. He doesn’t think that he’s ever been more worn out or discouraged, and it’s not even noon when he passes out in the chair for a nap, only to start again when he’s awake. It’s exhausting but he pushes through the pain, determined.

A few days of this habit (torture, Alexander thinks), and he can tell that he’s improved. The interval at which he has to stop and rest increases, and soon he dares to go down the hall to visit other rooms — he’s almost as surprised as James and John are when he barges into the library.

He hasn’t attempted the task of going downstairs — Eliza won’t let him, and that’s fine because he has this vision of him tumbling down them and cracking his head on the floor, what a shame that would be, death by stairs after all he’s been through — so he keeps to the floor that his sick room is on. It’s not much, but it feels like freedom to Alexander; it’s good to not be restricted to his bed. He’s starting to feel more like himself. Recovering.

But what does not make him feel great is the package delivered from Jefferson on a Tuesday afternoon. Most things from Jefferson are unpleasant, and this isn’t any different. In the letter attached to it, Jefferson calls it a gift, to help you in your troubled time, but Alexander considers it an insult and makes him feel like he hasn’t made any headway towards healing at all. 

“What the fuck,” Alexander mutters, glaring at the open box on the foot of the bed as if it contains Jefferson himself. Within in the box is a cane, made with a rich dark wood and curved at the top for a handle, adorned with silver embellishment. He turns to Eliza. “Why would he send me this?”

“It’s a walking stick, Alexander. It helps you walk,” Eliza says, and Alexander doesn’t like the insinuation that he does actually need it to get around. He does just fine holding on to the wall and furniture for support, and soon he figures he won’t need that.

Eliza picks up the cane and runs her hand down its smooth surface, admiring the intricate carving on the handle. “It’s nice. I’ve seen Jefferson using one similar.”

Alexander snorts. Jefferson carries one as more of a fashion accessory, and Alexander has an inkling that he has other uses for it too that don’t involve supporting his swaggering walk.

“I’m sure he envisioned smacking me with it when he picked it out,” Alexander says, and Eliza gasps, scandalized. Alexander shrugs. “Do you really think Thomas Jefferson wants to help me out of the goodness of his heart?” he asks, using finger quotes around the skeptical phrase. “The longer I’m out of commission, it’s beneficial to him. He sent me this as a…as a humiliation!” 

He feels his face flush, his cheeks hot, surprisingly embarrassed over his impediment being called out. He considers it as shameful as when he was bedridden and unable to do anything for himself, even though that had its share of humbling embarrassments (others washing him off with wet cloths, having his putrid wound changed, needing assistance to be fed because he didn’t have the strength to lift a spoon to his mouth). He can’t help it if he’s a proud man. 

Eliza sighs, tersely, and puts the cane back in the box. “Not everyone is your enemy,” she says. “You’re being difficult.”

Alexander frowns. It sounds a lot like it’s time to get over it.

“I apologize if I’m insufficient, but I wasn’t aware my suffering had an expiration date,” Alexander says, harsh, because he’s tried and he’s beginning to worry that he’ll never been normal again, and nobody seems to be concerned about that even though they’re pushing him to be as he once was.  “I’m alive, what more do you want? Because apparently I’m not enough as I am.”

As soon as he says it, he regrets it. He’s never spoken so cruel to Eliza, and tears well in his eyes as he registers the hurt in hers. He knows that he’s taking out his frustrations on her, but that isn’t an excuse because if anybody is on his side, it’s her — even when he doesn’t deserve it.

“Eliza — Betsy, I’m sorry,” Alexander begins, his voice cracking, and he reaches out to her, but she steps back and shakes her head. She slips away before he can catch her or get in another word, her quick steps echoing in the hall and then down the stairs, going where he can’t follow her. 

Cursing, he closes the lid to the box and knocks it on the floor, kicking it under the bed to hide the cane away. He sits on the bed, winded from the little bit of exertion, but the ache he feels is for a whole different reason.

 

* * *

 

It’s not a surprise when Angelica brings him his lunch instead of Eliza.

“Hey,” Alexander tries, friendly and looking from his seat, but Angelica’s wordless glower tells him that she already knows everything that happened earlier. She ignores him, setting the tray down on the table so it’s just out of his reach and with more force than necessarily, sending the plates and cutlery rattling and spilling his tea out and soaking his bread.

Alexander makes a disgusted face looking at the food, but then he sees Angelica her with arms crossed and an unsympathetic expression like she’s daring him to complain. He knows better to test her, so he forces a smile, says, “Thanks. This will be something uh, new to try.” 

“Sure,” Angelica says, short, and then her gaze softens. “How are you feeling today? Healthy? Headache?”

“I’m fine…,” Alexander says slowly, wrinkling his forehead in confusion as he looks at her. He had thought that she would ask something else — address the tension between them because they both know that he fucked up, and she’s obviously pissed off at him, she’s never more angry when it concerns Eliza, and—

It doesn’t hurt when Angelica slaps him, not really enough to even sting, but it’s effective nonetheless — a quick smack to his cheek that makes him turn away from her and look down, and as soon as she’s touched him she pulls her hand back quick like she’s touched fire.

“I deserved that,” Alexander says, and he’s ready to admit that he really deserves a lot worse. He looks up through his eyelashes at Angelica. She’s got her hand curled to her chest and clenched into a fist, and her eyes look wet, and there’s another stab of guilt that he’s hurt someone else, too. “I suppose you know what I said to Eliza. I didn’t mean it, I was…” 

His voice trails off. He isn’t sure what he intended by it. It isn’t his aim to garner sympathy, he just wants someone to understand.

When Alexander doesn’t supply a reason, Angelica sits next to him and then looks outside, letting out a long sigh, like she’s exhausted. Alexander figures that she probably is. Tired of his bullshit. He doesn’t blame her.

Angelica’s hand falls to her lap, and returns her gaze to Alexander. Even though her anger has faded, it’s difficult to face her — she looks sad, weary, and there’s an air of reproach that strikes Alexander. He can’t decipher if the disappointment is for him, or her. Probably both. 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” she starts, but Alexander waves his hand to stop her.

“It’s fine,” Alexander says. “It’s inexcusable to have said such awful things to Eliza.” He feels like it’s the start of a fine apology until Angelica scoffs. “What did I say wrong now?”

“You don’t get it,” she says, some of the heat from earlier returning. “That wasn’t just for your comments to Eliza today. It’s for all of it. All that you’ve put us—” She stops herself, restarts, “All that you’ve put her through.” She lets out a shuddering breath. “She didn’t send me here, I came of my own volition, because I am hurt, too.”

“Angelica…” He goes to lay his hand on hers, but she jerks it away.

“You were thinking of only yourself, once again,” she says. “You could have died, Alexander. We thought you were going to, and I don’t know what we would’ve done—”

“But I didn’t.” It’s something that he keeps repeating, and he puts his hand on his chest to feel his heartbeat to confirm it. “I’m here.”

This time, Angelica lets Alexander take her hand. He holds it gently, keeping her gaze as he brings it to his chest and places it where his had been, so she can feel his heart thudding steady against her palm. They stay like that for a while, his hand covering hers as she splays hers against him, her leaning forward in her chair towards him with her arm outstretched. Her other hand clutches her skirt, twisting the silky material as they edge closer together, the rustling of it and their breathing the only sounds in the room. They’re close enough now that Alexander can see tears shining in her eyes, and he doesn’t think she’s cried at all — not in weeks, not when he was dying and floating between here and somewhere else, not when he fought through. He studies her, how her kind eyes look back at him, how her lips tremble as she tries to hold back her tears, how shattered she looks, and he knows, he sees within her his mistakes. Angelica has always been able to make him truly see.

He rests his forehead against hers, breathes out in a whisper, “I’m sorry.”

“I know,” Angelica whispers back. Alexander wishes that they could stay like this for a while longer, but the moment passes — she pulls away, kisses Alexander’s forehead, and then slips her hand out from under his. His chest feels too cool, something missing against him.

“I don’t think you realize how hard this has been on Eliza. On all of us,” Angelica softly says. “We’re just trying to help.”

Trying to help. He keeps hearing that phrase from everyone — Eliza, Angelica, Jefferson, people he doesn’t even know, Burr. Everyone seems to have the solution to his problems, telling him what he needs — as if they have any idea what he needs. Trying to help him get better, all of them wanting something from him, wanting him to be something that he doesn’t know he can be, or wants to be. The expectations make him anxious. He’s always met expectations, exceeded them. He doesn’t want to start failing them, can’t fail them, because it feels like another singular failure would start the foundation for others to follow, one by one, until there is a collapse and there’s nothing left that he recognizes of himself to support him.

But — he doesn’t entirely recognize himself, now.

Alexander bites the inside of his cheek. “It doesn’t help me when I feel inferior.”

“That’s a projection on yourself,” Angelica replies, scathing, not accepting his answer.

But Alexander doesn’t accept her answer either. “No, it’s not,” he argues, but he doesn’t put a lot of effort into disputing it. Angelica has known him for too long, and she is too like-minded as him to be fooled. “I cannot help if I feel that way.”

Angelica knits her brows together. “Do you really think that we purposely cause you to feel shame?” She waits until Alexander shakes his head before continuing, “I apologize if your ego is damaged, but you know, you are quite stubborn.” 

Alexander cracks a smile. “Yes, I believe that I’ve been told that before.”

Angelica returns the smile before it falters. Alexander’s disappears with hers. 

“I know this is difficult for you,” Angelica begins, “but someone has to say it, because nobody else is going to.” 

“Oh no,” Alexander says, half-teasing as he attempts to recapture the lighthearted conversation of a few seconds earlier, but half-serious, as Angelica often spoke the hard truth that Alexander didn’t always want to hear.

She remains stern, the apparent bearer of bad news. She says, “Stop wallowing in grief that isn’t justified.”

Alexander blinks, taken aback. “Isn’t justified?”

“Yes,” Angelica says, committing to her belief. “This may be harsh, but accept that you’re alive. Be thankful for that, move on, and stop being petty about the particulars.”

“I’m not petty,” Alexander objects, but then Angelica raises her brows and inclines her head and ah, he has just proved her point. He shrugs and asks, “So what if I am? I was betrayed, shot. Do you recall any of that?”

“It mustn’t concern you too much, as you are on friendly terms with your shooter.”

“Hmm.” Alexander admits that she has a point. Know thy enemy comes to mind, although he doesn’t consider Burr his enemy, not anymore. He knows him — he thinks of Burr sitting by his bedside, taking lunch with him, them sitting next to the window in the library watching as their daughters stroll in the garden. Burr isn’t his enemy, and he’s confident that Burr doesn’t see him that way either — at least, he hopes. 

“It’ll be fine,” Angelica says. “You just have to be patient.”

Alexander isn’t convinced — there is something that has been worried him, something that he hasn’t spoken to anyone, and has hardly let himself consider.

“What if I don’t get any better?” he asks, quiet. “What if this is it?” He gestures down at himself, a broken-down something of what he once was.

Angelica considers him for a moment before answering. “Then you’ve tried your best, and it’s okay.”

Alexander doesn’t want to be just okay.

“However,” Angelica continues, pausing Alexander in his thoughts before they have really begun, “Before anyone else can help you or you can improve, you first have to help yourself.”

Easy, Alexander thinks. That’s what he’s always done — almost everything he has in life is something that he’s obtained on his own (his escape from St. Croix, his education, his commission and rank, his place in government (and his subsequent fall), his family), and his recovery will be no different.

He’ll do it — or die trying.

 

* * *

 

So he tries.

The next day, he makes sure that Eliza sees him using the cane that Jefferson had bestowed upon him, because his actions are better than anything he could say. She acknowledges it, granting him a pleased smile when he hobbles into the library, still trying to figure out the mechanics of using it to aid his step. It’s awkward, putting it ahead of his feet and then using his upper body strength to drag his injured side along, taking an inhale to catch his breath, and then repeat. It’s more complicated than he had thought it’d be, and his arm already hurts, but it’s worth it when Eliza comes to him (thankfully saving him from slowly approaching her when she can get to him much faster) and says, “I’m sorry, dear. I didn’t intend to make you feel bad, I just wanted—”

Alexander quiets her by putting his finger to her lips. “No need to apologize,” he says. “I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

Eliza playfully hits his chest, says, “You’re admitting that you were wrong?” and Alexander goes, “Yeah, yeah,” and all is forgiven.

However, when Eliza is away, he doesn’t use the cane as much. He sets it against the small dresser in the room, and goes back to his original method of slumping against the wall or sturdy items, such as the chair, to get around. He doesn’t need the damned walking stick; it’s a hindrance, and he keeps forgetting it when he gets up and then he has to go back and get it, and that’s more steps, and it makes his already troubled gait clumsier. Admittedly, it does help him — it helps steady his off-kilter balance and he can discreetly lean on it when he needs a moment to rest because his lungs are still weak from the inactivity, but he’ll be damned if he says so.

He struggles through another week, and his stamina and health improves — he sleeps less, freely wanders on the second floor throughout the day doing what he wishes, and doesn’t dread every time he has to lift his ass out of a chair. Even though he is much better, his step is still hitched because it fucking hurts, a pain in his side that makes his leg not cooperate all the time, and something just doesn’t generally feel like it used to. Might’ve nicked your spine, the doctor says, you’re lucky.

Lucky, Alexander thinks of this when he’s bent over at the window, coughing, his breath rasping deep in his chest. Burr is there, Alexander can feel him watching — he does that now, he never takes his eyes off him — he feels his heavy intensity bearing into him.

When his cough subsides, he leans on the windowsill with both hands, his shoulders hunched. He looks up and first sees his own reflection in the window (fatigued, visibly thinner, his sun-kissed glow not as bright, his clothes loose-fitting), but then he sees Burr’s image in the glass; he’s a few steps behind Alexander with his arm extended but his hand clenched into a fist, like he was reaching out to him but then thought better of it but couldn’t fully retreat, and his expression undecipherable, guilt pity worry.

“I’m fine,” Alexander says to Burr’s reflection.

“I know,” Burr responds.

Fine is a relative term, after all.

 

* * *

 

Alexander feels most like himself when he’s working. He takes easy casework that he can do from his home, such as settlements that do not have to go to court or letters to advise on matters that he is qualified to give opinion on. It is a good distraction for his dulled and tempered mind, but to earn some meager income for their dwindling money. He’s uncomfortable of the debt that his family is in — he shudders to think about dying and leaving them burdened with it — and he intends to get them out of it. It shouldn’t be too difficult, as it turns out that having his name brought back into the public conversation has reminded the people that he exists, and has caused them to seek him out for business.

However, there is only so much that he can do out-of-office or traveling, and neither he or Eliza want everyone in New York City trudging through their home.

He needs to get out. It’s been over two months since the incident in Weehawken, and he’s the most self-reliant he’s been in several weeks. He’s restless, antsy with the need to go and rejoin society, it itches at his brain every moment that he stays cooped up. He thinks, people will talk and maybe I can’t, but then he remembers that he’s never cared much about the opinion of others when it concerns something they doubt of him except that it just gives him an opportunity to prove them wrong, and that he’s the only one limiting himself.

Alexander thinks of this while he rests from earlier, where he had paced the hallway twenty-seven times. He scans the newspaper, and what it tells him is this: things are happening without him.

He throws the paper down in annoyance, rises from his chair (groans, that pain isn’t going away anytime soon), goes to the small desk in the library that he’s taken as his temporary workspace, and pens a short letter.

  

 

 

 

Mr. Burr, Sir—

Although I know you are a busy man, mister Vice President, it would be advantageous to me if you made haste with your next visit to my residence. There is business to discuss. 

Your obedient servant,

—A. Hamilton

 

It is enough that will make Burr interested enough to seek him out. It’s been a few days since he’s had his company, and Alexander finds himself surprisingly annoyed about it. It isn’t like Burr has much else to do — New York isn’t quite ready to embrace him with open arms, yet. However, Burr has seemed to be genuinely busy when he’s staved away with that excuse; even though the office of vice president may be as insignificant as Adams once said of it, Jefferson has found reason to keep Burr occupied. Jefferson is meddling, Burr had told him, his moral quandary evident as his eyes glanced around the room as though Jefferson was there hiding behind a bookshelf, and I am left powerless to do anything of it. 

Of course, when Alexander asked him to elaborate, Burr had shook his head and said, I’ve said too much already.

It might’ve been a hook to make himself intriguing to Alexander, but nevertheless. It’s a good place to start, and Burr owes him one, anyway.

There is no reason that Burr shouldn’t return on the same day; it’s only half-past ten, and he is most likely home; Alexander knows that Burr doesn’t like to drag himself out of the house any sooner than he has to, the lazy fool.

“Take this down to Richmond Hill and deliver it to Burr,” Alexander tells Al, handing over the sealed letter. “Have him read it in your presence, and see to it that he does as I request.”

“Okay, Pops,” Al says, looking unsure that he can make Burr do anything. He tucks the letter in the pocket of his jacket and gives a crooked smile and adds, “If anything, I can have a chance to see Theo.”

“Sure,” Alexander says as he turns his attentions back to his desk, but then snaps his head back up to look at Al and oh no. 

His son, his namesake, is blushing over a Burr. 

“Don’t tell me that you fancy her, Al,” Alexander says, but then Al doesn’t answer, just shrugs and gives a sheepish smile. Alexander takes off his glasses and sets them on the desk, finding a way to extend the pause. “My heart can’t take it. A Hamilton. Smitten with a Burr.”

Caught, a deeper flush spreads across Al’s face. “What if I am?” he asks, defensive and his voice rising, and Alexander realizes that he’s probably been preparing for this conversation for a while. “I cannot help it that Theodosia Burr has caught my attentions.” 

By this time, Angie has perked up from her reading nook in the corner and is listening — eavesdropping, honestly — to their conversation, her book closed in her lap because what’s unfolding in front of her is far more entertaining. Alexander looks between his children — Angie with her mild amusement, and Al with his fidgety nervousness — and just shrugs and asks, “Why her?”

Al scoffs and rolls his eyes and Alexander is about to scold him for his attitude, but then Al sighs and a dreamy smile lights up his face and Alexander cannot, because it’s too damn cute that his son is enamored by another. He remembers those days. Al ignores the exaggerated gagging sound that Angie makes, and tells Alexander why.

Everything,” Al says, his voice wistful. “She is a fine lady of well up-bringing, she’s clever, opinionated, beautiful, and self-sufficient too. Did you know that she managed her home while her father was away?”

About her father,” Alexander cuts in, raising a hand to stop Al’s declaration of adoration. “Don’t you see how it could be problematic that you’ll be courting the daughter of the man who had a public disagreement with me?”

Public disagreement has become code for the duel where your father almost died when Alexander and Eliza speak of it in front of the children. The older ones aren’t fooled, nor placated.

“But isn’t Mr. Burr your friend, father?” Angie asks as she strides over and leans against the table. She says it simple, in that satirical voice that means to force people to admit she’s right, which unfortunately for Alexander, she has learned from him. “You spend time with him, so can we not be friends with his daughter? That is the example you’ve set.” 

“It doesn’t matter what Aaron Burr is to me, friend or not,” Alexander says tersely. It’s a topic he isn’t going to discuss, least of all with his children — do as I say, not as I do comes to mind. This is something that he should discuss with Eliza, although he has the suspicion that she will be like-minded on the matter. “It wouldn’t be ideal to be seen associating yourself with a Burr.”

Alexander pretends he doesn’t hear Angie mutter, “Hypocrite,” under her breath.

“Pops,” Al says, regaining control of the conversation, “although Theo’s family name does not inspire the social standing that one would desire to marry into—”

Marry?” Angie hisses, incredulous, and then looks to Alexander like please talk some sense into him! Alexander agrees with her; however, even though Theo Burr is a wonderful young lady, this is all coming out of nowhere and is quite absurd, and he silences her protests with a wave of his hand. Al looks properly embarrassed, but continues.

“…however, I believe that Theo will be independent of anything that could be said of her family. She is…exemplary.”

Al ends, breathless, awaiting what Alexander has to say. Alexander studies him — his face is kind, like his mother’s, and he has the kindness in his soul to match hers; a crooked nose like his own, as well as his compelling brown eyes; a mess of dark springy curls, hair not too unlike his older (dead) brother. He is a young man, newly graduated from the same college that he attended; Alexander still regrets that he was too ill to see him graduate a few weeks ago.

He wonders when Al grew up without him noticing. Probably when the second son became the eldest by circumstance, but can never fully be thought of as the oldest.

“Take the letter,” Alexander says finally, “and if you’re so interested, you can ask Theo’s father for her hand while you’re there. Because Aaron Burr is such an understanding man, especially when it comes to his only daughter.”

Al makes a sound akin to a strangled whine, dropping his shoulders. It is well known that Burr being aggressively overprotective of Theo is an understatement. “Fine,” Al says, defeated, and his hopes for romance are dashed for now. 

Alexander feels a somewhat guilty for being responsible for his son’s unhappiness, but then again, it’s one less thing he has to be concerned with.

“Don’t worry, little brother,” Angie says, coming along side Al and flicking back a stray curl that’s fallen in his face. “We’re just trying to save you the embarrassment, Al. You’re a few years younger than Theo, and besides, she wouldn’t be impressed with the likes of you.” She sneers at Al and her eyes go downward as she takes in the sight of her brother. “For starters, your shoes are scuffed.”

“Angie, please stop—”

“Therefore, it’s imperative that I accompany you to deliver father’s letter,” Angie concludes.

Both of those named Alexander stop and turn to Angie, stunned. Alexander Hamilton the senior reaches out to her, asks, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” Angie says, like it’s no big deal. Like she hasn’t left the house for any reason other than church for months. Like there aren’t days where she talks about someone who isn’t there.

Alexander and Al share a knowing glance before they turn to Angie again. She seems unbeknownst to their bewilderment, and is busy smoothing out the wrinkles of her lavender-colored dress, and then putting her wavy dark-brown hair over her shoulders. Once pleased with her appearance, she smiles and looks up at them. “It’ll be a nice walk. The dreadful heat of the summer has lessened, and besides, I have to return the book that Theo loaned to me.” She then pivots to Al, and her sweet smile turns into a smirk. “And I want to see you make a damn fool out of yourself, if there’s the opportunity.”

“Language,” scolds Alexander, before attending to Al, who had let out the most miserable sounding sigh. “Please don’t anger Burr by hitting on his daughter. Simple conversation is acceptable, but be mannerly. I swore on my deathbed that I would never duel again. We’d have to settle our conflicts by seeing who could knit the nicest blanket.” 

Both of his children roll their eyes at him, evidently unimpressed with his humor. He’s losing his touch. At least the younger ones still find him amusing.

“Well, if you’re accompanying me, let’s go,” Al says, and now that his sorrow that his romance is over before it could even begin, he seems to be glad that Angie is accompanying him. Al offers his arm, a show that he’s forgiven her teasing. Angie grabs the book quickly before linking arms with Al, and then with a nod to Alexander, they leave.

A smile comes to Alexander’s face. He’s happy that Angie has a friend in a Burr, even if he isn’t sure he does himself. He figures that after today, he’ll know.

 

* * *

 

Angie and Al return two hours later, accompanied by the Burrs. Their arrival is announced by the flurry of noise downstairs, the younger children competing for their siblings’ attention, and Eliza greeting the guests, Hello, Aaron, Theo, nice to see you again. He strains his ears to listen, but then there’s the sound of someone rushing up the stairs and running down the hallway, and then Angie blows into the library.

“He chickened out,” Angie says, smug, and carrying two new books under her arm, presumably that she’s borrowed from Theo. Alexander opens his mouth to ask what she means, but then Al follows her inside and judging by the way he’s moping, he didn’t have his intended conversation with Theo. Alexander hopes that Angie didn’t embarrass her brother, at least not too badly.

All of their attentions are drawn to the doorway when they hear footfalls, looking up to see Burr and Theo standing there. Together, father and daughter, they make quite an entrance. Burr comes off as more confident when he’s with Theo, which Alexander guesses it’s because he’s proud — Alexander feels similar when he’s with his children. Theo carries the same assured and poised attitude, but it doesn’t come off as cold as it does with Burr, and is in fact quite charming. She has a complexion more like her mother, from what Alexander remembers of Theodosia Sr., but most everything else of Theo is of Burr: strong slim build, row of straight white teeth, nice cheekbones, rich brown eyes. She wears her curly black hair short, a severe cut that keeps it off her neck, but Alexander supposes that Burr’s would look the same if he had ever let his grow out in the thirty years that he’s known him.

“Mr. Hamilton,” Theo says, smiling broadly at him. Her smiles always feel genuine. “I hope you do not mind that I accompanied my father, but your children insisted that I visit as well.”

“You are always welcome here,” Alexander says. He means it. “Your father is more tolerable when you are near.” He means that, too.

Burr lets out a scoff, but Theo turns to him and says, “Well, he’s not wrong, Papa.”

Alexander catches Burr’s eye, and then Burr nods, acknowledging. Alexander tries to keep his face neutral when he returns it.

 

* * *

 

The Burrs stay for lunch. It is an uneventful affair, as it has occurred many times as of late. When the plates are cleared, Eliza and the children go out back to the garden, leaving Burr alone with Alexander. They sit idle, facing each other in the most comfortable armchairs in the library.

“In your letter, you mentioned business to discuss,” Burr says. “Or was that another ploy to drag me over here for your amusement.”

Alexander checks the time, hums. Only a few minutes more to be sure that the others are occupied. “No, there is business.”

“Oh?”

“Yes,” Alexander says, and then clicks his tongue as he decides how best to go about this. “Did you ever smuggle anyone across enemy lines during the war?”

“No, I did not,” Burr says. He sounds slightly ashamed, like he disappointed the entire Continental Army for not having the chance to do so.

“How about intelligence?” Alexander asks. “A coded letter, perhaps?”

“Yes, many times.” Burr narrows his eyes. “Why do you—?”

“That’ll do,” Alexander says, and clutches the armrest to ease himself into a standing position. Now is his chance. “Let’s go, time is of the essence.”

Burr holds his hands out. “Time for what?”

“Business,” Alexander says, short, as he takes one step forward, then another as he holds onto the back of Burr’s chair, stretches. There are a lot more steps to go. “I might need your help.” Another step. He forgoes his coat, and his cane. Both are trivial.

“Imprecision is not becoming on you,” Burr says, standing and walking Alexander’s slow pace alongside him out of the library and into the hall. “It just makes you more annoying.”

“You’ll find out in due time,” Alexander says. Burr huffs, but says nothing, and a few limped steps later they are at the destination — the top of the stairs.

“Absolutely not,” Burr says, steadfast, turning to Alexander and gesturing at the stairs. “I will not be the one who goes against your family’s wishes and escort you down stairs like a lady going to her first ball.”

Good. At least he understands the purpose why Alexander has brought him there. Alexander cannot be restrained for any longer, not for one more second.

“Please,” Alexander begs. “I’m strong enough now, I know it. You’d only be here to assure that I don’t lose my balance, and to make sure I succeed.” He smiles in such a way that he hopes comes off as complementary. “You said that you have had missions of safely transporting items that were secretive. This will be no different.”

“You are not a letter that I can fold up and put in my pocket!” 

Alexander sighs, exasperated, and slumps against the wall.

“Please,” he repeats. “I know my family has good intentions, but they aim to protect me in a way I don’t need.” Alexander runs a hand through his hair, tugs at the roots, trying to quell the anxiety that’s churning in his stomach. Burr must realize that he is desperate if he’s seeking out his help. His voice cracks, says, “I’m not fragile.”

Burr blinks. “No, you’re not.” He takes a breath, and looks at Alexander with pity (no no no, he hates that), starts, “But—”

“I’ll be fine,” Alexander says. He’s said that to others, but they’ve all rejected his wishes. The difference is that he has leverage over Burr.

“You said that you’d help me do anything.” Alexander places his hand on the banister. “Or was that a deceit, as well?”

“No!”

“Then assist me.”  Alexander pauses, and shrugs. “You know me — when I make my up mind to do something, I will follow through. I’m going down these stairs with, or without you. So what will it be?”

They climb down three steps before Alexander has to give in and cling to Burr’s side for support. It hurts more than he expected, a sharp jab in his side, and it feels as though his leg will go out from under him. His pride hurts more than his body. Almost. On step number two, when there’s a particularly painful moment, Burr reaches for him and says, “Let me help,” but Alexander shoves him away clutches his hurt side, right where Burr shot him and snaps, “You’ve helped enough.” Burr backs off, his face going unreadable. But then on step number three, the pain is so bad that he gasps and automatically grabs Burr’s arm. Burr is gentlemanly enough to say nothing of it, and lets him hold on as they go down step number four, then five, and he holds onto the rail with his free hand to support them as they take the sixth step together.

They have to pause on step seven because Alexander starts coughing. Burr says, patient, “We can go back up. This was a good start. I won’t say anything, and we can try again tomorrow.”

Alexander shakes his head. “We’ve come this far.” Burr looks like he wants to disagree, but he respects Alexander’s wishes, and they continue to the eighth step when Alexander’s cough calms. Maybe Burr wants to see if it’s possible, too.

On step nine, Alexander thinks that Burr might slip and they are going to fall down the rest of the stairs together and Alexander makes a pathetic sound, but Burr regains his balance, wraps an arm tight around Alexander and says, “I’ve got you.” 

Alexander can hardly stand the irony of it. 

Ten, and Alexander grits his teeth to force himself to keep going. Eleven, and he leans more into Burr’s side. Twelve, and he feels Burr breathing hot against his face. Thirteen, and he wonders if he’ll ever make it. But then there’s number fourteen, and that’s it, and he wonders why he ever doubted himself.

They part when they’re at the landing. Alexander plops down in the nearest chair, pushes sweaty hair out of his face and catches his breath. Burr stands next to him and is out of breath as well. Alexander thinks of saying that Burr isn’t as young and spritely as he used to be, but then he remembers Burr hasn’t said that of him, and if he’s honest, he doesn’t want to prove the point by forcing the insult through labored breaths.

Alexander takes the time to examine his surroundings. He realizes that he hasn’t seen this part of the house since before he left that early July morning — when he returned home, he was too out of it to know what was happening. Nothing seems to have changed. It’s comforting.

“So,” Burr says, breaking Alexander out of his thoughts. “We made it. Now what?”

Alexander didn’t have to think, because it had been his ultimate goal. “Outside.”

Burr is quiet for a moment but then laughs, a short ha. “You are truly ridiculous.”

“Yeah, well.” Alexander tries to get up but stalls, and wordlessly holds out his hand for Burr to help him up. Burr glares at him, but he takes Alexander’s hand and hefts him up to a standing position. Alexander proceeds, walking through his house with Burr following closely beside him, until they’re at the front door. He opens it and then—

—there’s outside.

He’s stumbling forward and Burr is telling him to wait and there’s more steps, why did he put so many goddamned steps when building his home, but Burr is quick to get to his side. Burr mumbles encouragement, almost there, you can do it, as he grips Alexander’s arm and bears the most of his weight. He doesn’t ask questions, he just helps Alexander do what he needs to do.

When Alexander’s shoes touch the dirt, he looks up at the sky and squints in the sun. It’s a beautiful day, white fluffy clouds in the blue sky. There’s a breeze that blows his hair. He smiles.

“Are you okay?”

Alexander turns to Burr, the one who helped him obtain this freedom, his unconventional savior, and says, “I’m the best I’ve been in long time.” Not just recent times, but in years — before everything went wrong. He supposes it’s true, when it’s said that you can learn to enjoy the simple things.

They walk slowly up the front path, Alexander allowing himself to lean against Burr after a few steps. He hurts everywhere, muscles aching and side screaming in pain, sweat running down his back, and he’s uncomfortable slouched against Burr, but it’s all worth it — the inner angst that had taken residence in his heart has lessened, soothed. He believes that he’ll be okay.

He’s at such peace, he almost forgets the other reason why he asked Burr over.

“Jefferson wants to get rid of your high Federalists,” Burr says when Alexander inquires to the state of their union. Alexander isn’t surprised — he’s heard the same from trusted sources.

There’s a moment where Burr must be waiting for Alexander to ask a follow-up question, but Alexander is mulling everything over in his mind, and focusing on putting once foot in front of the other and how he’s sweating on Burr’s coat. Burr takes the chance to speak first, asks, “But you didn’t really ask me here for political matters, correct?”

Alexander shrugs. “Maybe a different kind of political matter,” he says, over the rasp in his chest. “One you haven’t mentioned since you proposed it to me.”

Burr comes to an abrupt halt, and Alexander stops with him. Alexander can feel how Burr’s body has gone tense, like a bowstring. He takes a step away from Burr so that he can face him.

“Were you serious?” Alexander asks. “With your offer to help me become President?”

Burr bites his lip, looks off into the distance like he can’t meet Alexander looking at him expectantly. After a long moment, Burr returns his gaze to Alexander and asks, “Do you want it to be serious?”

Alexander has been asking himself the same question ever since Burr brought it into his life. He doesn’t need it to be, he doesn’t need that title for his legacy. He does not need to advance his station. What he has is enough. But does he want it is the question. Perhaps he doesn’t want it to be, so then he doesn’t have reason to desire it, because the more he entertains the notion…

“I don’t know,” Alexander admits.

Burr frowns. “What happened to you?”

It’s the most harsh that Burr has spoken to him in ages. Alexander matches his tone, “Speak what you mean, Burr.”

“You say you don’t know if you would want the presidency, if given the chance,” Burr says, like he doesn’t believe Alexander. “The Alexander I once knew would have—”

“Do you want to know what happened to me? I was publically ruined because of my mistakes, I destroyed my family’s life, my son died—” Alexander’s voice cracks, he won’t cry, he won’t, he says, “—and just when things started to seem like they’re getting better, I got shot, betrayed by someone I had thought of as a friend!” he says, his voice risen to a shout, “And I almost died. Again! That’s what happened to me!”

Their peace could only last so long, Alexander thinks. He hates to have ruined that too, but he couldn’t let it go. His chest heaves, breathing hard as he comes down from his upset, and Burr just stares, accepting. And Alexander, he waits for what comes next. He’ll be ready, he’s always ready for anything.

“Are we friends now?” Burr asks after a long silence between them.

Alexander sighs. I’ve always considered you a friend, Alexander remembers telling Burr. Years later, a stolen Senate seat doesn’t seem as big of a deal. “I don’t fucking know.”

“Then that makes two of us.”

At least we aren’t enemies, Alexander’s mind supplies. Then he laughs. “I suppose that we must stay on friendly terms, because our children are charmed with each other. We can’t disappoint them.” 

Burr nods. “Of course, you’re right,” he says, and they agree on their peace terms.

Unspoken, they begin to walk back to the house.

“I’m sorry,” Alexander says. He seems to be saying I’m sorry a lot these days.

Burr lets out an indifferent meh. “We have to start somewhere,” he says. He looks sideways at Alexander, adds, “And if this is the start of a Hamilton presidency, then—”

Alexander never gets to hear the then, because a panicked yelling interrupts him.

He and Burr look up towards the house at the commotion — on the front porch is Eliza, surrounded by Al, Angie, and Theo. Eliza has her hands on her hips, and yells out his name again.

Alexander cringes, says, “Shit.”

Next to him, Burr replies, “Yeah, basically.”

The two men walk the short distance back, using Alexander’s limp to take their time. Alexander is sure that Burr is more humiliated than he is about being caught in their scheme, based off how Burr keeps his head down and doesn’t say anything as they make their way up the steps. Alexander hardly keeps a straight face, because turns out that going up steps hurts worse — Burr keeps quiet when Alexander digs his fingers into Burr’s arm to keep from yelping in pain.

Alexander knows that he is in trouble by the way Eliza is looking at him. Worry fades from her face seeing that he’s okay, and is replaced with the steely anger that is her own brand. 

“We didn’t know where you were,” Eliza begins, “you could have been hurt, or—”

“I was with Burr. No big deal,” Alexander says. “We just went for a walk.” He looks to Burr for support, but Burr just shrugs. It’s a good thing that he never got into any bar fights when he was younger while Burr was with him. Burr would be the guy to hightail and leave after the first punch is thrown. “It’s not like he kidnapped me or anything.”

The kids snicker, but Eliza isn’t as amused. “Alexander, I was worried about you.”

Alexander diverts her concern. “But — I did it!” he exclaims, and puts his hand out like ta-da! He ignores the fact that he probably looks like a mess.

Eliza smiles, like good job, honey, and says, “I’m so happy you’re better, Alexander. But you should have let me known. I thought that we were supposed to be doing this together?”

There’s a wave of guilt when he realizes that she’s right.

“It’s Burr’s fault,” Alexander says, and beside him Burr lets out an affronted scoff and asks, “And how is this my fault?”

“He encouraged me,” Alexander continues, looking at Eliza, tries to appeal to her. “He let me, enabling me in my scheme to go behind your back and push my limits. If it hadn’t been for Burr, I would still be holed away upstairs as I’ve been for weeks.”

The latter part of his statement is true. He doesn’t mention emotionally conning Burr into it, though.

Burr doesn’t object, he just takes it with a mild apathetic expression and mutters, “Turncoat,” so only Alexander can hear. Theo goes to her father, pats his arm and suggests that they leave, and then thanks them for their hospitality. Eliza promises Burr that she has no ill-will towards him — then glares at Alexander — because she knows who the true mastermind of the great escape was.

As they leave, Burr looks over his shoulder and catches Alexander’s gaze. Alexander feels an odd apprehension coiled tight in his chest, and he finds that he must do something to relieve it.

Thanks, he mouths to Burr.

Burr looks surprised, and tilts his head to the side, as if considering what to say. Alexander wonders what Burr thinks. Burr reveals only enough of himself to keep Alexander guessing.

You’re welcome, Burr mouths back, and then faces away from Alexander, as though he doesn’t want to see how Alexander reacts.

Alexander stands on the porch in a daze — struck with everything that has happened in the afternoon — until Eliza tugs on his arm, pulling him back inside the house. Alexander follows, limping and taking her arm; while she is not as strong as Burr, she is much more pleasant to lean on. She doesn’t scold him for not using his cane, but really, she is all the support he needs.

The children go back upstairs, leaving Alexander and Eliza alone in the drawing room. Eliza guides Alexander to the sofa, and sits next to him after Alexander has managed to seat himself.

“That poor man,” Eliza says. “You tossing him to the wolves like that.”

Alexander laughs. “You mean that poor man who shot me?”

“Aaron Burr needs all the sympathies he can get,” Eliza says. Alexander is prone to agree with her, but most of Burr’s bad luck is brought upon himself.

Eliza tucks a strand of Alexander’s hair behind his ear. “But I don’t want to talk about him,” she says. “I’m sorry if I’ve held you back—”

“You haven’t.”

“But still,” Eliza continues, “I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to apologize for. It’s me who should be sorry. And I am,” Alexander says. “I am a lousy patient, especially when my egotism is injured.”

There’s a hint of a smile tugging at Eliza’s mouth. She mustn’t be too upset, Alexander figures, so he goes in for a kiss — gentle and chaste, feather-light on her lips. Eliza gasps, her mouth parting against his and Alexander slides his tongue in against hers as he cups her face with his hand. Alexander squeezes his eyes shut, enjoying the heat of Eliza pressed against him, and how she holds onto his arm like he might disappear if she lets go.

It’s more than he’s done since he’s been well, and he’s breathless and he needs to stop before he gets too wound up. When he pulls away, Eliza leans in to chase his lips but Alexander instead takes Eliza’s hand and kisses it. She blushes, as she always does when he does this — it’s something he’s done since he was a penniless solider courting her.

“I miss you,” Alexander says, nuzzling against Eliza’s neck. He’s comfortable and content with her, and just now he’s feeling the exhaustion of today catching up on him. Ever observant of his needs, Eliza moves so he can arrange himself so he’s lying down on his back, his legs outstretched and his head in her lap.

She runs her hand over his forehead. He wants to close his eyes, just for a moment, but he can’t stop looking at how lovely she looks. 

“I haven’t gone anywhere,” Eliza says.

“I know,” Alexander responds. He blinks, his eyelids getting heavier. “But, if I’m not too forward, I would like to share your bed again.” 

Oh, Mr. Hamilton.” 

“Not like that, necessarily,” Alexander says, finding himself blushing a little, because that had not been his true meaning of the request, but…that wouldn’t be unwelcome either, when he feels up (ha, his tired mind supplying a laugh) to it. “I miss lying with you, having you next to me, your sweet pillow-talk, how you fit perfectly in my arms, falling asleep with your heartbeat against my chest, waking in the morning with you next to me.” If anything, that will be what heals him most. The warm, intimate company of his beloved.

“Okay,” Eliza says, and Alexander supposes that he must have closed his eyes, because he has to struggle to open them to see Eliza smiling down at him when she says, “I would like that too.”

“Good,” Alexander murmurs, his eyes falling shut again. He’ll just lie there for a moment, he decides as he shifts to get more comfortable, his face against the soft silk of Eliza’s dress. There had been something important he wanted to tell her, something he wanted her opinion on...oh, how would she like to be the First Lady.

Eliza puts a hand on Alexander’s forehead, smooths where his forehead is wrinkled with thought. “Don’t worry about anything,” she says. “It’ll be okay.”

Alexander falls asleep, assured that she is correct.

Chapter Text

It’s said that time heals all wounds, including those that are unseen and remain a private, individual affliction. That somehow, when time and perspective separates from the heartache, it doesn’t hurt as badly as it did upon the onset, and it becomes less, like a scar that’s healed over once the bleeding has long since stopped.

Aaron supposes that there’s some truth to it. He’s well acquainted with the pains that bear no marks upon his body and that only he can feel the suffering of — the loss of his parents and of his Theodosia, all gone from him too soon. Sometimes, he thinks that death must want him to be lonely. But he’s lonely, not alone. While these losses weigh on his soul, they don’t burden him. It’s all part of a culmination that is him. He survives, and not only that, but he comes out stronger through every tragedy — like how scarred skin is tougher, but leaves a reminder so it’s never forgotten.

It is no different with his grief with Hamilton. Aaron wouldn’t go as far to call it heartache, but it’s an ache nonetheless, one centralized somewhere to the left in his chest. But the last of summer turns to autumn, and with it comes a tranquility between Hamilton and him — it was either that, or keep picking at the wound until it festers.

Aaron calls on Hamilton as often as he can without feeling like an imposition. However, Hamilton never turns him away, even on the days when Hamilton is busy at his desk, writing something fast as though the words will disappear if he doesn’t get them to paper quickly enough. This behavior doesn’t deter Aaron away, instead he sits quietly in the room and provides quiet company, and reads a book. Aaron doesn’t get much accomplished, as he often gets distracted by the scratch of Hamilton’s quill on the parchment or the frustrated huffy sounds Hamilton lets out every so often, or by the way Hamilton runs his hand through his hair only for his hair to fall back in his face. It’s all very distracting, and Aaron often has to read the same line a few times because he loses his place when Hamilton drags his attention away.

However…it’s not so bad when Hamilton looks up with his bright wide brown eyes and ask Aaron’s opinion of the wording of something, and then go back and scribble something based upon what Aaron had said. It’s a confirmation that Hamilton remembers that Aaron is there with him. Aaron almost allows himself to reminisce of old times, before there was a divide between them, and they were young lawyers fresh from the war.

It’s something Aaron can’t let go; his time with Hamilton is invaluable, especially when he thinks of how he was almost deprived of it, this after. With Hamilton, there’s quiet moments together in the library, stopping every so often to share with the other what they’ve read. There’s knowing every single one of the Hamilton children, and the knowing their individual personalities. There’s having tea with Eliza when Hamilton isn’t feeling well for company, and they talk about topics that aren’t about Hamilton. There are walks with Hamilton that get longer every time, and there’s Hamilton’s windswept hair in the breeze that makes Aaron’s hands itch to tuck behind his ears. There’s Hamilton’s smile that starts to come easier, less obligatory. There are conversations spoken in what ifswhat if you do become President? what if I didn’t fire in the air? what if I withdrew my challenge? what if we both died in the war? what if I never met you?

(The last one, Hamilton tells him, impossible, I still would have found you.)

Aaron begins to feel a particular attachment to Alexander, and with it, Aaron feels greedy to desire Hamilton’s attentions so. Like he doesn’t deserve it.

There’s only so much that a father can tell his daughter without having her think him as ridiculous, and there’s only so many times a daughter can listen to her father brood before becoming exasperated and threatening to expose his confession herself to the parties in question.

So, on one drunken night, he confesses it all to Van Ness, like it’s a deep dark secret. A secret that he’s…fond of Hamilton. Aaron has a hard time articulating it to Van Ness, and he can’t look at Van Ness when he admits it.

“Duh,” Van Ness says, with a lot less concern than Aaron had expected. “You always have, in some way.”

Aaron scoffs at his lack of response. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Van Ness shrugs, takes a long drink from his glass, as though he’s taking the time to come up with a suitable answer. Aaron thinks that could take all night. But finally, Van Ness sets the glass down, and then steeples his fingers in front of him.

“This isn’t news to me. You’ve always been partial to Hamilton,” Van Ness says. Aaron opens his mouth to respond, but Van Ness continues, “And don’t try to deny it. As long as I’ve known you, you’ve been, like, obsessed with him. And the moment right before the duel, you kept saying things like, he’ll change his mind, he’ll see it isn’t worth it, it’ll be fine, Alexander won’t do this, I know him, our friendship is too good and pure so we will row back the river together singing.

“I didn't say that last part.” Aaron glares at him, objecting. “I am not obsessed.”

“Oh, my mistake.” Van Ness still seems unconvinced. “I mean, the reason why it burned you so much when he talked shit about you is because you cared about his opinion.”

Aaron scowls, but he knows that Van Ness is right. Many people had said many negative and unflattering things about him, but he could ignore that — that’s the nature of politics. But from Hamilton, it was different, it wasn’t just politics, he knew him. Aaron never would have thought that Hamilton could have said such unspeakable things about him, and Aaron never would have believed that he would say just as horrible things back and—

—it didn’t matter, anymore.

“I’ve known Hamilton for a long time,” Aaron says. “Of course I care.” He must, because his behavior is unexplainable otherwise. Defensive, he asks, “Is there a problem with that?”

“Only if you make it a problem,” Van Ness says. He slouches back in his chair and crosses his arms in front of his chest. “So, Hamilton is your new best friend?”

There’s a teasing tone to it, but the liquor causes it to irk Aaron more. “No, damn! We’re just…friendly, I guess. Trying to figure things out.” He isn’t trying to make this anything that it isn’t.

“Oh, I see. You don’t want to put a label on it.” 

“Perhaps I should, as it seems that I should find a new best friend, since mine is being incredibly annoying,” Aaron dryly says. Van Ness puts a hand to his chest, like, gee, thanks! but Aaron just grunts in reply.

Van Ness laughs, good-natured, and leans forward to clap Aaron on the shoulder. “But seriously,” Van Ness says as he pours himself another serving of amber liquor into his glass, “you just rambled for half an hour about how much you enjoy Hamilton’s company, even if it makes you have a moral quandary about it. But. You see him more often than me. That seems like best friend qualifications.” He raises the glass to his mouth, and furrows his brows together. “I can’t believe this. Maybe I should have you shoot me, and then we can be best buds again.”

Aaron glares at him, and doesn’t even dignify him with a response. He knows that if he did, Van Ness would drag it out the teasing for another half hour.

A few seconds later, Van Ness breaks into a laugh. “I’m kidding! But honestly Burr, I think you’re being overdramatic, as always.”

Aaron scoffs, and takes another sip of his drink. There’s no way he’ll admit to Van Ness that Theo said the same exact thing.

 

* * *

 

Word gets around. Jefferson notices.

“I’ve heard you’ve been spending a lot of time with Hamilton,” Jefferson says, his words somehow sounding like an accusation. “I thought that was rather odd, as you haven’t mentioned your rendezvous with Alexander to me.”

Aaron’s pulse quickens. There’s the sensation of being caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to do — his pulse pounds in his ears, anxiety creeps up his neck, his palms going sweaty, his mouth dry. Time slows, and all he can think about is how Hamilton has become his secret.

“Our daughters are friends,” Aaron says when Jefferson’s unspoken demand for an explanation is too suffocating. It seems like it takes him ages to come up with a response, the uneasy silence dragging on, but in actuality it probably was only a few seconds. It isn’t an untruth — Theo has become close friends with the eldest Hamilton daughter, of which Aaron approves. 

It’s just not the whole truth.

Jefferson raises his brows. “Is that all?”

“Yes,” Aaron says, and then adds, “And if it weren’t, it doesn’t concern you.” He’s pretty much admitting to…whatever it is he has with Hamilton. Aaron doesn’t mind — it’s not like Jefferson doesn’t have enough reasons to not trust him already.

Jefferson stares at him, as though surprised by this small show of rebellion, but then he laughs, hard, leaning forward and slapping his leg. Aaron doesn’t join in.

“Damn,” Jefferson says once he’s calmed himself. “I’m gonna miss you.”

You’re going to miss using me at your expense, Aaron thinks. He doesn’t say anything, because he there’s only a few more months that he must endure being connected to Jefferson. The Presidential election is only a few weeks away in November and Aaron has no part in it — Jefferson will be reelected and some other sorry sap will be Vice President, and then Aaron will be a lame duck until inauguration a few months later. It can’t come soon enough, and he can hardly feign disappointment when Jefferson tells him that he’s leaving for the Capitol for the winter months.

“How disappointing,” Aaron says, untempered glee filtering through his voice. “I was hoping we could spend the holiday together.”

Jefferson grimaces, as though the very idea of having to share Christmas dinner with Aaron is revolting to him. Aaron feels similarly. He imagines that Jefferson would probably get drunk on expensive French wine and talk about his weird weather documentation, or his gardening experiments.

After a long sigh, Jefferson says, “You may get your wish after all, Burr. Because you’re coming back to the Capitol, too.” He pinches the bridge of his nose, and with his other hand he gestures out to Aaron. “You’ve gotta preside over the Chase impeachment trial.”

Aaron swallows. He had been expecting it. Justice Chase’s impending trial regarding his impeachment charges is to be brought before the Senate, and as Vice President, it’s Aaron’s job to oversee it. As President of the Senate, he has little power, and the most significant portion of his job is keeping the bickering and snacking on the Senate floor at bay. He isn’t looking forward to presiding over the trial — it’s a power play by Jefferson abusing his overreaching influence, and it’s a showdown of the Democratic-Republicans versus the Federalists where Aaron is going to be cast as the villain by both sides, even though he doesn’t want to be involved in their little war at all. 

However, as luck would have it, Aaron will be placed in the optimal spot to watch it unfold — an impartial supervisor of what could be the start of a change. It might be useful.

And knowing that Jefferson doesn’t want him there makes his role more palpable. Vindication. One last hurrah as the thorn in Jefferson’s side.

Jefferson cannot overtly pressure the trial to be run in his favor, but it’s known that Jefferson wants to see Chase gone from the bench. He encouraged the House of Representatives to impeach the judge, planting the idea in their heads by whispering things like, ought the seditious and official attack on the principles of our Constitution go unpunished? and like sheep they conformed, doing Jefferson’s dirty work for him. It had been easy, with the Democratic-Republicans far outnumbering the Federalists. 

Jefferson is weeding out the Federalists, choking the remaining life out of the party. He doesn’t want to lose his credibility, and he feared that judges serving for life — especially when belonging to an opposing party — would make them too powerful, and throw his executive power in upheaval. Jefferson had had it out for Chase ever since 1800 when Chase encouraged Congress to vote against Jefferson when the vote for President was in the House of Representatives, and Jefferson now is taking his chance to strike.

Perhaps Chase isn’t entirely guiltless. He is very strong in his beliefs and doesn’t mince his words when speaking them, he is known to harass Democratic-Republican lawyers, and openly flaunts his political opinion when judges are thought that they should be impartial. However, Jefferson has taken it upon himself to carry out his sly vendetta through the means of others, he’s brutal, moving in shadows and concealing himself in just enough protocol to protect himself. He’ll do anything to make sure he keeps his power, and Aaron worries to see what lengths he’ll go to so he can maintain it.

“You have to be there when the committee meets to prepare for the proceedings,” Jefferson explains, like Aaron is too stupid to know that. “I need you to be there to take care of it. Makes sure it goes as it should go.”

Need. Ha.

“You can’t get rid of someone just because you don’t like them,” Aaron says.

“Isn’t that what you tried to do?” Jefferson fires back, and Aaron can hear the zing! in the comment. He looks to Aaron, makes sure Aaron knows what he implies, makes sure that Aaron once again has that guilt reaped across his mind.

Aaron doesn’t like that Jefferson knows that it bothers him. He says, “It’s not the same.” The explanation is meaningless, though. Aaron doesn’t imagine that anyone else could understand the relations between and Hamilton and him.

“Yeah, you and your buddy Hammy.” Jefferson smirks. “Y’all deserve each other.” 

Deserve. There’s that word again.

It’s something Aaron is rather comfortable with, knowing that it’s not that if he deserves Hamilton — it’s that reciprocal. Hamilton has his misfortunes, too.

 

* * *

 

Aaron goes to Hamilton on the same day of his meeting with Jefferson. Because that’s what Aaron does now — he takes his problems to the person who used to be his problem.

He doesn’t even invite Theo for the pretense of their children spending time together. Before leaving, Aaron freshens up and changes clothes, deciding to wear his new slate blue suit that’s made with thicker material for the cooler months. He stands in front of the mirror, head and face freshly shaven, struggling with tying his cravat in a new fashionable way he’s seen, but he can’t make his fingers work into the intricate knot so he gives up and ties it the way he usually does. He thinks about asking Hamilton to show him how to tie the knot — it’s where he first saw it worn that way, fancy silk against his throat.

He frowns at himself in the mirror, wondering when he started caring so much about his appearance.

The Grange is uncharacteristically quiet when Aaron arrives at around half-past four. It’s a little later than when he usually comes over but his meeting with Jefferson that morning had delayed him. Typically, he would postpone his visit until the following day if he were this late, but something told him that he had to see Hamilton today. But his instincts were wrong. The housemaid who greets Aaron at the door tells him that Eliza, Angelica, and the majority of the children went into town, and while Hamilton is at home, he is occupied.

“I’ll call on him tomorrow, then.” Aaron ignores the flutter of disappointment in his chest, and turns to leave but he’s told to wait, and the maid disappears and he’s forced to awkwardly loiter in the foyer because it would be rude to leave after he’s caused a ruckus with his presence. 

A few minutes later, the maid comes back and tells him, “Mister Hamilton will see you,” and then gives Aaron directions to a room in the house he’s never entered before. The door is closed, and Aaron knocks three times, says, “It’s me,” and then adds, “It’s me, Burr.”

“Come in,” he hears Hamilton say. Aaron opens the door, and he isn’t quite sure what to make of the sight — Hamilton sitting in a wooden tub with water up to his chest, his hair done up into a high ponytail, focused on scrubbing the place where his neck and left shoulder meet.

“Um,” Aaron says, stalled in the doorway. “I could have waited until you were done.” He takes note of the pink tinge of Hamilton’s tan skin where he’s rubbed it. “I didn’t realize you were bathing.”

“Nonsense. I can multitask,” Hamilton says, rinsing off the scrubbed area with water, and then he looks over to Aaron. “Close the door, you’re letting the heat out.”

Aaron grinds his teeth but shuts the door behind him. He doesn’t understand why Hamilton wouldn’t value privacy, and it kind of makes Aaron uncomfortable that Hamilton is so uncaring of it, so Aaron sets his gaze to wandering around the room. It seems to be a room set aside for bathing; small sized to keep in the heat, a fireplace on one wall — currently lit with a bucket over it, a chair near the tub with a linen thrown over the back, one window. On the floor, Aaron sees a pile of what he assumes are Hamilton’s clothes.

Hamilton’s voice disturbs his observation of the room, “Oh, come on, Burr. It’s nothing you’ve not seen before.”

Aaron looks over to Hamilton to see Hamilton smiling at him, seemingly delighted with testing his boundaries once again. But Hamilton isn’t wrong. During the war it was commonplace for groups of men to strip and wade into the stream together to wash off when the sweat and dirt and blood and other things they didn’t want to think about became too much on their skin. But those instances were always quick because they had been too worried that they’d get ambushed with their asses hanging out — much different than keeping an associate company while he bathes in the comfort of his own home. Aaron is more modest than most men, but he knows that it isn’t too abnormal to see another man bare (except when it is abnormal, and this is not). It’s natural between close friends, and Aaron has to consider that Hamilton is that comfortable with him now. He decides that it’s okay, and it’s only awkward if he makes it so.

(He thinks of an occasion many, many years ago that is probably why Hamilton teases him like this: they had been sharing a room during a trial that took them to New Jersey for a few days, and in his exhausted state Hamilton had stripped down to nothing without regard to Aaron in the room with him. “Alexander, please,” Aaron had said and averting his eyes, and then Hamilton rolled his eyes and went, “Good grief, it’s not like you’re some shy maiden,” but he hurried to pull on his nightshirt for Aaron’s benefit, anyway.) 

“Sit,” Hamilton says, gesturing to the chair next to him. He flicks water onto the floor as he does so. He seems unconcerned.

Refusing might embarrass Hamilton, so Aaron adapts the same unconcerned attitude and takes the seat next the tub, sitting forward slightly so he doesn’t lean against the clean linen. From this angle, he can’t see anything other than Hamilton’s chest and shoulders. Which is fine, until Hamilton sits up from his reclined position, revealing his torso, and Aaron can’t look away from the fresh scar on Hamilton’s side that’s peeking out of the water.

Aaron has a vivid flashback of Hamilton crumbling to the ground after he’d been struck, red running from his body. He blinks to clear the vision.

The sight of the scar takes Aaron by surprise. It’s the first time he’s seen the injury — it looks like other gunshot wounds he’s seen, round with ragged edges, angry red in the middle and pinker as it extends out. It appears to have healed well, thanks to the excellent medical care that Hamilton had received. In time, it’ll fade and become just another part of him. Forever.

With Hamilton’s improved health, Aaron had not thought of the physical remnant that would remain. Aaron wonders if Hamilton looks upon it and relives his pain, relives his hate for him.

Just as Aaron is reliving his guilt.

Hamilton clears his throat, interrupting his spiraling thoughts. Aaron looks up to meet his gaze and he realizes that Hamilton had noticed he had been fixated on his injury. It makes Aaron feel worse, but Hamilton’s expression doesn’t offer any sympathy. They look at each other for a few moments, and then Hamilton crosses his arm across his middle, covering the scar. It does little good — Aaron still knows that it’s there.

He’s lost pondering that thought, and has to ask Hamilton to repeat himself when he speaks. 

“I asked,” Hamilton says, a dose of irritation in his voice which Aaron guesses is dislike from him not paying his undivided attention to him, “What’s on your mind?”

Right. Aaron had come where with a reason. His tête-à-tête with Jefferson seems far off and his problems distant, and not just that morning.

“I met with Jefferson,” Aaron begins, and Hamilton makes a face like gross. Aaron holds back on a chuckle because if anything, they share a disdain for the man in question.

“It gets worse,” Aaron continues, and Hamilton listens as he washes his right leg that he’s sticking out of the water. Aaron gets momentarily distracted at his realization how big Hamilton’s feet are. He says, “He left for the Capitol—” 

“That’s a bad thing? Fuck, let’s throw a party.”

“—and I soon must follow,” Aaron concludes. There’s a flicker of confusion in Hamilton’s face, and Aaron elaborates, “I have to oversee the trial for Justice Chase.”

“Oh.” Hamilton drops his leg back into the water, splashing some droplets onto Aaron. The bath water is lukewarm.

“Yeah.” Aaron stares at the wet specks on his breeches. Darker blue dots. He speaks to them, eyes downcast, “Trust me, it’s only because it’s by necessity. Jefferson doesn’t want me in the Capitol. I think he hardly noticed when I’ve spent months at a time here in New York.”

“Well, I say good riddance,” Hamilton says, seemingly more interested in rinsing out the cloth he’s been using to scrub at his skin with. “Who wants to be wanted by the towering oaf, anyway?”

Aaron doesn’t mention that at one point he did, stupidly, because he thought it was worth it.

“It’s not looking good, Hamilton,” Aaron says. He rubs at the back of his neck, tries to think of a condensed version of events to tell. “Chase is being trialed for his political convictions, convictions that Jefferson is trying to eliminate from the government.” He pauses. “Convictions which you share.”

“Jefferson opposes the Federalists. The sky is blue.” Hamilton gestures out with his hand, disturbing the water. “Water is wet.”

“Besides the obvious,” Aaron says, “You realize that this can lead to further events like this, right? Jefferson already had Pickering removed from office, but he was a drunken fool. If he’s successful at eliminating Chase, that sets a precedent. Next, Chief Justice John Marshall could follow, and after that Jefferson can do whatever he wants, because his people would control all of government as the Federalists dwindle to nothing.” What’s happening isn’t right, his anger incited, and his hands are shaking, he doesn’t understand how Hamilton says that he doesn’t believe in anything. Aaron says, “And if that follows, there’d be no place for—” 

Aaron stops himself before he says it. No place for you. 

Not soon enough, because Hamilton’s mouth hitches into a smile, but the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. Hamilton shouldn’t be as intimidating as he is, naked and sitting in dirty, sudsy water. “Worried about there not being a place for you either, Burr? Do you think you can claw your way back riding my coattails? Am I just another opportunity you see?” he asks, each of the questions sharp and accusing. “Something to get you on the up-and-up again?”

“No!”

“Then what’s your plan, Burr?” Hamilton’s face twists into an awful fury Aaron hasn’t seen in a while. “How can I trust you to campaign for me when I can’t even trust you to not drown me in my bathwater?” 

“Alexander, please don’t do this.”

Don’t do this?” Hamilton doesn’t stop, however — the torrent doesn’t relent, his voice rising. “Why would you be the one to do the impossible? I’m helpless. Think of what they’ll say — a nearly-dead man for a nearly-dead party.” He pauses as if to consider it, laughs to himself. “You can’t make something out of nothing. I don’t need your help.”

Aaron thinks of them walking down the stairs together, Hamilton a strong presence against him, and how it had felt like Hamilton had been supporting him too. 

“We’d need each other. It would be something we can do together,” Aaron says. It has been something he’s been so certain of, but now he feels like an idiot.

Hamilton scoffs. “And at the end, the great Aaron Burr who is my savior, and I’ll forever be indebted to you. You’d be freed of your crimes against me. Your conscience, quieted. Since you feel as though I took a Presidency from you, you feel as though if you give me one, everything will be in balance.”

Something within Aaron snaps — he doesn’t have to listen to this. He doesn’t owe Hamilton anything, no matter what Hamilton says. It’s not true. Aaron doesn’t need to be absolved.

He doesn’t. 

He stands before he can think of why Hamilton’s comments cut so close. Hamilton looks up at him, shocked, as though he didn’t expect him to leave.

Aaron says, “I know when I’m unwelcome, I’ll see myself out.”

He gets to the door before Hamilton stops him. Perhaps he has been walking slow enough to give Hamilton the chance to change his mind.   Had hoped that Hamilton would change his mind.

“Shit, Burr. Don’t go.” Aaron hears Hamilton moving in the water, and then Hamilton says, “Help me with something?”

Aaron looks over his shoulder. “We just had a row because I offered my help, and now you’re willingly asking for it?”

Hamilton smiles, more friendly this time. “This is a request that requires much less effort.” He points across the room to the fireplace. “Can you get that water for me?”

Aaron looks over to where the pail of water is over the flames, and then back to Hamilton and gives him his best you’ve got to be kidding me. Hamilton asks again, “Please,” and Aaron notices then that Hamilton is shivering. The water must have cooled. Aaron rolls his eyes and fetches it. 

“Thank you,” Hamilton says, and Aaron carefully pours in the steaming water into the bath. Hamilton lets out a long, content sigh and sinks further into the water, it brimming to his chin. “Fuck, this is nice.”

Aaron sets the now empty pail next to the tub. He stares at a place above Hamilton’s head on the wall. “Wonderful. Is that all you need?”

Hamilton makes a soft humming noise, but then turns to look at Aaron. “Would you wash my hair?”

Aaron laughs, but then realizes that Hamilton is serious. Washing Hamilton’s hair would definitely go over his self-imposed limit of the conducts of modesty. “Uh, why?” He tries for offbeat humor to ease the tension that’s crawling up his spine. “I’m not in the practice of washing hair, as I have little.”

“It’ll be fine,” Hamilton says. “I would do it myself, but it hurts to reach like I need.” He demonstrates, lifting his arms and putting his hands over his head but when he tries reach back he winces. 

Aaron looks away from his pained face, instead focuses on the dark hair under his armpits and the water running down his arms in trails.

“Never mind,” Hamilton says, letting his arms fall to his sides. “I’ll—” 

“Sure, I’ll do it,” Aaron says, and he goes to take off his coat. Hamilton watches as Aaron slips it off and puts it on the chair and starts to roll up his sleeves.

“Really?” Hamilton asks, surprised, and for a moment Aaron thinks that perhaps Hamilton had been expecting him to refuse and it was just a test. 

It’s too late to back out, though — Aaron has his sleeves to his elbows, and he drags the chair so it’s behind Hamilton, sits down. “What do I do?”

“Uh.” Hamilton pulls the ribbon holding his hair, shakes his head as his thick, dark locks fall to his shoulders. It sticks to Hamilton’s skin where it’s damp. He gestures to the floor, next to the tub. “There’s some soap down there. Get all of my hair wet, and then rub some of the soap in it. Rinse it out, then that’s it.”

Simple enough. Aaron cups his hands and collects water from the bath and pours it over Hamilton’s head, ignoring Hamilton’s complaints when it runs in his face. He repeats the motion until Hamilton’s hair is dripping wet, and then he reaches down to grab the soap that Hamilton had indicated to. Aaron rubs the bar between his hands and it suds up easy; he brings his hands to his face to smell it. It’s a nice scent — mild, clean, and he recognizes it immediately as Hamilton.

He puts the soap down where he got it, and turns to Hamilton with soapy hands, figuring out the best approach to this. He’s never cleaned anyone’s hair besides his own — Theodosia had always taken care of it for Theo, and after her mother died Theo could take care of it on her own with help from a maid.

“The water is getting cold,” Hamilton mutters. “Come on, or I’ll splash you.”

“I’ll dunk you under, since you thought I might drown you in here anyway,” Aaron says, but there’s no heat behind the threat. Hamilton half-suppresses a snicker and says, “I knew it,” joking, and then settles in, leaning back so he’s resting against the tub. Aaron lets out a sigh, and reaches out tentatively for Hamilton’s head.

Hamilton’s hair is admittedly beautiful, it’s substantial and wavy in Aaron’s hands even when it’s damp. The majority of it is still black as ink as it’s always been, but there are flecks of gray throughout, and when Aaron pulls it to the side he sees how the hair around his temples is entirely gray. Hamilton must realize Aaron is inspecting it because he wiggles his head away and makes an annoyed grumbly noise until Aaron continues.

Hamilton has so much hair Aaron doesn’t really know what to do with it. He distributes the soap through his hair as best he can, working from the scalp down to the ends, letting the subtle curl of the hair curve freely in his palm.

Aaron has been intrigued by Hamilton’s hair, wondered what it’d be like to touch. It’s always shiny and well-kept, and looks silky smooth as it hangs down around his shoulders, or in his face when he’s bent over and working. Many times Aaron has been tempted to reach out and tuck a stray strand behind Hamilton’s ear, but it never seems to bother Hamilton, so Aaron lets it be.

It turns out that his hair is as nice as he thought it would be. It’s obvious that Hamilton takes care of it, and Aaron takes his time carding through it, his fingers careful at his scalp. Hamilton shifts, sighs at the touch. And then, on accident maybe, Aaron massages at Hamilton’s scalp. Maybe because it’s what feels natural to do to clean his hair, maybe to draw out another one of those soft sounds from Hamilton.

Hamilton stills for a moment and Aaron feels like he’s gone too far and he’s about to withdraw and run out of the room with wet, guilty hands, but then Hamilton lets out a long exhale and Aaron wouldn’t go anywhere else. He rubs his fingers against Hamilton’s hairline, puts pressure at the base of his neck with his thumbs, and Aaron can visibly see Hamilton’s shoulders relax. Until then, Aaron hadn’t known how tense Hamilton had been. Hamilton is always so tense, like he’s on edge and waiting for something.

“Feels good,” Hamilton murmurs. Aaron isn’t completely sure if he heard him right, and leans in closer. He can hear Hamilton’s deep, steady breaths, and he turns his head to see that Hamilton has his eyes closed and his mouth slightly parted. He’s never seen Hamilton so content, and he’s committing to have this as a memory of him resting instead of the fitful way Hamilton slept while he was injured. At first this had seemed like a peculiar task, but he’s finding that he’s enjoying it as much as Hamilton apparently is — the other man’s parted lips are pulling into a smile, and he’s muttering something that Aaron’s can’t understand.

“What?” Aaron asks.

Hamilton snaps open his eyes, blinking madly as though he’s forgotten that Aaron had been there, and he looks surprised that Aaron had been looking at him. Aaron startles, sharply inhaling and his fingers tangling a little tighter in Hamilton’s hair. Hamilton groans, his hands going to his lap and Aaron trips over his apologies and Hamilton goes it’s fine, it’s fine and both of them seem to agree to not mention anything else about the incident it, for the sake of the other. 

Hamilton clears his throat, asks, “Why’d you stop?”

Aaron didn’t realize that he had stopped running his hands through Hamilton’s hair until Hamilton had said so.

Aaron starts again, one hand taking water to rinse out the soap while the other shields to keep it from splashing onto the floor, or on himself.

“So what do you think about Jefferson and his brigade against the Federalists?” Aaron asks, trying to make conversation.

Hamilton hums, more unconcerned than Aaron had expected him to be about the matter. He figures that either Hamilton isn’t worried, or that he has his own plans brewing. Or maybe at the moment, Hamilton is most concerned about his bath.

So, Aaron doesn’t prod any further, and does as he was asked.

Aaron washes out the rest of the soap. The motions between them are almost mechanical now, Hamilton tilting his chin toward his chest as Aaron rubs at the hair underneath, and Hamilton turns his head to each side for Aaron to rinse and Aaron is sure to cover Hamilton’s ear with a hand so water won't get inside it. Aaron even runs his hand over Hamilton’s shoulders to get rid of some stubborn suds there. It’s…nice, therapeutic in a way to be handing Hamilton like this. It’s like he’s finally able to touch a wild horse that finally trusts him. 

“I don’t understand,” Aaron says, quiet, not wanting to disturb the calm. “Sometimes you’re prickly, but then you’re fine.” He takes another handful of water and slowly lets it trickle on top of Hamilton’s head; Hamilton’s hair is clear of all the soap but Aaron doesn’t want to stop just yet, not when he has Hamilton like this. “I never know where I stand with you.”

“Does that bother you?” Hamilton asks. He looks over his shoulder so he can face Aaron; he’s slightly flushed, pink high in his cheeks, probably from the heat of the water on his face.

“No,” Aaron says, but then shakes his head and instead goes with, “Yes.”

“It bothers me too. Because I don’t know either,” Hamilton responds, and he says it like it upsets him that he’s conflicted over it, that he doesn’t know something. “I like spending time with you, you’re in the same realm of intelligence as me and you’re charming — shut up, or I’ll retract that — but then…”

“But then?” Aaron asks, probing, when Hamilton’s voice trails off.

Hamilton swallows. “And then I remember.” He lays a hand on his side, fingers brushing over the scar. “I remember how it was between us, and I wonder if this is a mistake.”

Aaron’s chest clenches. So Hamilton has finally caught on. “I thought we said that was behind us.”

“Yeah,” Hamilton says, agreeing, but his mouth remains a stern line. “But shouldn’t we keep it present in our minds, so we know where we’ve came from? Isn’t our history important?”

Something inside Aaron rebels against a brick wall.

“I can’t take back what happened.” That is a fact — no matter how many times Aaron has wished it otherwise. “Don’t you think if I had another chance, that I would have made more effort to resolve our disagreement without bloodshed?”

“I know,” Hamilton says, and Aaron recognizes that tone, it’s got an upswing, telltale of when he’s about to propose an idea. “But if we had not had our meeting at Weehawken, we would not be speaking now, as our relations before were frigid at best. We would still be snidely ignoring each other on the street and at social gatherings. The duel between us started a chain of events that lead us here, and now that we’re on the other side, I…” Hamilton hesitates, but Aaron figures it can’t be too bad because Hamilton is grinning and then Hamilton says, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Aaron isn’t sure what to say. Me too, seems trite, but Aaron doesn’t want to talk about how Hamilton almost dying worked to his benefit. 

Instead, Aaron says, “How could I disagree when I have the privilege of washing your hair?” and with one last splash of water he says, “There, all done,” because it is, and their conversation is done, too.

Aaron stands, his hands dripping on the floor until Hamilton nods over to the linen, indicating that he can use it. Aaron dries off his hands and wrists, drapes the linen back on the chair, and starts to put right his clothes. He pulls down his sleeves, fixing the cuffs, finding that they got a little damp. 

Hamilton runs a hand over his head. “Thanks.”

“No problem.” Aaron puts on his coat, fastens it. He then realizes something, asks, “Do you need me to help you out of the bath?” and is already approaching Hamilton to help.

“No!” Hamilton says, sudden, making Aaron take a step back. Hamilton waves a hand, coughs, and sinks down into the tub until all that’s seen of him is his head and his bent knees that are poking out of the water. He looks rather demure, wet hair clinging to his head and his face flushed.

Hamilton starts again, awkward, “I’m fine, thanks. I’m just going to stay here a little while longer. And Eliza should be back soon, and she’ll help me out. I’m…just fine, you can go now.”

Aaron shrugs. Whatever. Let Hamilton freeze his ass off in quickly chilling water.

Hamilton says, “But thanks, though. I’ll return the favor one day,” and he eyes Aaron’s closely shorn hair.

Ridiculous, Aaron thinks, and leaves, but considers growing his hair out enough just to hold Hamilton to it.

 

* * *

 

The next day, Hamilton is dressed and waiting in the foyer for Aaron to show up. 

“You’re late,” Hamilton says as he passes him, hobbling and using his cane. Aaron swears he catches a whiff of the soap from his hair.

“How can I be late when I didn’t say when I was coming?” Aaron asks, but it goes unheard and Hamilton shouts from the porch for him to come help him down the front stairs.

It’s a crisp autumn day, the trees on Hamilton’s property already warm colors of oranges and red, and it’s cool enough that he doesn’t sweat at all. They don’t say much as they walk, Hamilton focused on leading Aaron to the back of the house. 

They stop when they near a pond that Aaron hasn’t seen before. Aaron admires it for a moment, until he realizes that Hamilton is looking at him for the first time since they’ve been outside. 

“It’s a beautiful view,” Aaron says, and Hamilton nods and turns to look out on the pond too.

“I’d hate to leave it. If I were elected,” Hamilton says, muttered. 

The fact that Hamilton is even considering it as a plausibility is a win to Aaron. “It wouldn’t be forever. Four years, maybe eight.”

“That’s a long time.” 

But hardly any at all, Aaron thinks.

Hamilton keeps his sights in the distance.

“Have you told Eliza yet?” Aaron asks.

The question makes Hamilton turn to Aaron. His brow is raised, inquisitive, counters with, “Have you told Theo?”

Aaron lets out a sigh as a reply. He’s been on the verge of telling Theo every night for weeks now, but he loses the nerve every time. He can’t figure out how to explain this barely formed idea, and if he did he knows that she would tell him that it’s a bad idea. But there is some comfort that they both haven’t told their respective confidants — it’s something private for them.

“That’s what I thought,” Hamilton says. He then laughs, says, “What do I say? Hey honey, remember the man who was my political enemy? Well now we’re going to team up to take down the standing government.

It sounds insane when Hamilton says it like that, and Aaron laughs with him. “But you make us sound like we’re plotting a coup d'état,” he says, and Hamilton laughs even more, open-mouthed and his eyes doing that thing where they crinkle on the side.

Aaron has a moment of realization that the list of people who laugh like this with him is short: Theodosia did up until she died; Theo, always; Van Ness, sometimes; and Hamilton. 

Hamilton composes himself. “Whatever it is we’re going to do, even if we do this thing or not, there’s something we have to do first.”

What, Aaron is about to say, but then his eyes widen when Hamilton pulls out a pistol from his coat, and then another with his other hand. Aaron recognizes them immediately — they’re Hamilton’s paired dueling pistols.

Hamilton wordlessly hands one to Aaron. Aaron takes it, in a daze — all the joy from a few moments ago evaporates, making Aaron stagger. It feels too familiar, the weight of it, memory of what it was like with his finger on the trigger, the loud bang, its betrayal firing when he wished more than anything to make it stop, how it slipped out of his hand when he tried to get to Hamilton. 

His hands are shaking. 

“What do you want me to do?” Aaron has this thought that maybe Hamilton wants a second round, that this is the only way to settle their differences — this time they can both fire in the air, or maybe he had misjudged Hamilton again and Hamilton wants to shoot him and leave him for dead. 

Hamilton examines the gun in his own hands. “These have been the source of a lot of problems,” he says, and meets eyes with Aaron. “Your duel with my brother-in-law, which thank God neither of you were harmed.”

Aaron bites his lip. His disagreement with John Church was mild, in comparison. Bullets had whizzed past both of them, and Church apologized for accusing him of accepting bribes for political matters.

“And then,” Hamilton says, and his voice breaks, “My sweet Philip.”

Aaron nods. Hamilton seems stuck, so Aaron speaks. “And then there’s us.”

“And then us,” Hamilton repeats, words hollow. “You know, I wonder why my son died and I didn’t. I’m the one who—”

“You cannot spend your time debating the matters of life and death.”

He looks up from the pistol in his hands and to Aaron. “I want this to be over.”

Aaron does, too. “What do you suggest?”

It happens before Aaron can process it. Hamilton’s sorrow turns into a dazzling burst of resolution — he turns towards the water, pulls his arm back and throws the pistol into the pond. He grunts a little with the effort but the pistol arcs and lands with a plop in the water, making a splash and sending ripples from the central point. Aaron watches as it sinks to the bottom, gone.

“Your turn,” Hamilton says, and Aaron kind of laughs like okay then because he feels rather silly but Hamilton is eager and tugging on his sleeve, so Aaron takes one last look at the pistol in his hand and tosses it into the pond and then it’s gone, too. 

“There,” Hamilton says, “We’ve buried the hatchet.”

As if it’s that easy, Aaron thinks, as if a simple act of symbolism could make things better, but as he watches the water come to a peaceful stillness he feels the same peace within him. Content. It’s probably one of Hamilton’s better ideas.

He turns to Hamilton to tell him so, and Hamilton is already looking at him — Hamilton can hardly contain his smile and it makes Aaron’s chest tighten. Hamilton is impossible, Hamilton is the incendiary of a spark that inspires an agitation in his heart that he is getting used to carrying with him.

“You said that I don’t believe in anything,” Aaron says, the words coming to him, unbidden, “but you’re wrong. I believe in you.”

He always has.

“Oh?” Hamilton says, and Aaron wishes that Hamilton would stop looking at him like that, really. He has to look away, for the heat creeping up his neck might overtake him completely. He hears Hamilton laugh and go, “Oh, Aaron, you fuddy-duddy,” and the rare occurrence of Hamilton using his given name gives him the courage to say the rest of his admission—

“And I believe in me,” Aaron says, “Especially when I’m working with you. We’re a good team.”

Hamilton smiles, remembering. “We were.”

“We can be again.”

“Perhaps.”

“So, please,” Aaron begs, “Give me—give us this chance.”

Aaron waits. He waits, and then—

Hamilton holds out his hand. Aaron takes it in his without a second thought, and they shake hands.

An agreement. 

“Well, mister Burr, sir,” Hamilton says, “What comes next?” 

Aaron smiles. Having Hamilton on his side, he feels like anything is possible.

Chapter Text

As expected, Burr is whisked away to the Capitol a few days after they discussed it. Alexander hasn’t seen Burr since they threw the pistols into the water. He doesn’t even have a proper goodbye — Van Ness delivers a letter from Burr, it saying, As you are a clever man, I expect for you to surmise that I left to travel to our Nation’s Capitol, with a return date of unknown… and no answer is to be found explaining why he had to leave so suddenly. Burr is flighty, so taking off in the dead of night is exactly something that he’d do. When Alexander asks Van Ness if he knows anything about what Burr is doing or his state of mind, Van Ness just shrugs and mutters nonsense until Alexander sends him on his way.

Alexander feels Burr’s absence more prominently every day. For him to be so involved, passing the time with him almost daily, and then…nothing. It leaves a void in his time. Alexander writes to him with the beginnings of an engaging conversation expecting to continue their cordial relationship through letters, and five days later Alexander receives a reply from Burr that measures only a few inches on the page. Puny, compared to Alexander’s page and a half. Burr cites that he’s busy, but Alexander has the suspicion that Burr is ignoring him.

If Alexander didn’t know better, he would think that Burr knew.

But Alexander assures himself that Burr doesn’t know. It’s impossible for Burr to have noticed that when Burr was helping him with his hair in the bath. Burr would have been more awkward than he normally is, and Alexander made sure that he put his arms across his lap to hide his…predicament.

It’s no big deal, Alexander tells himself. It’s totally normal to get a boner while someone washes your hair. Natural, it happens! Even if it happens with your friend-turned-enemy-turned-friend. Alexander rationalizes it with himself — he had been relaxed in the warm water, Burr’s fingers threading through his hair which is something that has always done it for him, getting the knot massaged out of his neck and…it just happened, he can’t control his dick. And honestly, for a moment Alexander had forgot that Burr had even been there and he had to think away the arousal curling in his stomach and quickly conceal his boner, or they would be in a situation more awkward than their gun-wielding interview.

Alexander is easily excitable these days. A good strong breeze in his direction could probably make him hard and straining in his breeches. After he recovered from his affliction, it’s like he’s a young man again, in that respect anyway — when he’s fit enough to engage in such activities, it’s like he can’t stop. He’s developed a new vigor along with his new chance at life, enjoying the indulgent and sensual pleasures as much as he’s able.

Eliza is appreciative of his newfound desires. They’ve always been amorous with each other — they’ve had eight kids, for fuck’s sake — but this is something else. It’s different, Eliza says one night when they’ve both been sated and she’s kissing the taste of herself off Alexander’s lips, I can’t explain it but you’re irresistible, I don’t want to leave this bed. Alexander replies, then let’s not, and he moves his hand to touch her lightly, making her gasp against his mouth, and Alexander drinks it in, smiling.

Responsibilities keep them from lying in bed with each other all day, but they make good on the time they have. Since they’ve been in the same bed again, Alexander often wakes up with his arms wrapped around Eliza, his cock half hard and a want for more. He wakes her up with kisses to her neck, and slowly grinds against her thigh until she mumbles his name that’s around a blissed sigh, and she turns over to kiss him before climbing in his lap and says, “Hi there,” moving his nightshirt so she can wrap her hand around his cock, and he moans but stops her only to pull her shift over her head and god, she’s so beautiful he thinks as he runs his hand over her chest and praises fall out of his mouth and he’s so very thankful to wake up to her in the morning, he’s never been more grateful for living than in these moments.

He’s overwhelmed. Eliza calls him horny.

He can handle the limp in his step as long as his dick isn’t limp, and thankfully that part of him works just fine. Eliza has to ride him mostly, he quickly gets too exhausted if he’s on top, but neither of them mind (lazy, Eliza will tease him, but Alexander will grunt and give a thrust up and they both giggle). Or she sits in his lap while he’s in a chair, or her on her knees with her flirty eyes looking up at him, or her laid out on bed while he lies on his stomach with his face buried between her thighs. It’s all good.

His…urges don’t really lessen in the weeks that follow. Alexander indulges himself on his own when Eliza is busy or isn’t in the mood for a quick romp in the middle of the day, and he locks himself in his office and reclines in his chair and jerks off — it’s a cure for boredom, as well as relief from pain. He takes it slow, stroking himself to hardness, rolls back his foreskin to run his thumb over the head just to tease himself until he can’t stand it any longer and he comes in his hand, and he has to wait until his legs are steady enough to walk on. Eliza always knows when he does this, she notices that extra pep in his step and she gives him bedroom eyes that he understands that later he’ll get some, he has to distract himself because he feels his dick twitch, making an effort to get hard again even though he spent less than an hour before.

So, with his passionate, lustful state, it’s understandable that a pair of strong hands touching his neck and scalp in just the right way would arouse him (unknowingly, Alexander thinks, it’s not like Burr had been trying to arouse him on purpose). It’s just a sensory thing. Strong hands, a warm presence, comfort. It’s fine. 

But it makes his face flush when he thinks about how as soon as he had been alone, he put his hands around himself, trying very hard to not think about how it would feel to have those strong hands on his dick.

 

* * *

 

Burr doesn’t come back to New York, but Alexander stays in contact with him through the exchange of letters. Alexander averages three for every one of Burr’s, but that doesn’t deter Alexander. He writes down what’s happening in his mind, and once it’s on the paper he feels better. It’s some kind of clarity, and the distance between them makes it easier to speak.

 

Dear Burr,  

How go the preparations for the trial? Is Jefferson being an insufferable, mouth-breathing cretin who hangs over your shoulder, or is he too occupied with the election that begins next week? In case you were wondering, I am not endorsing him for this election. Not that it makes a difference — this is one of those times when even I must consign defeat… 

Although Alexander expects it, it doesn’t make him any less infuriated when Jefferson wins the 1804 election. After the month-long process, the votes are in and there’s no tie this time. The opponents didn’t even have a chance. Jefferson is favorable to the public and the government — he’s the incumbent, he’s increased trade, and the Louisiana purchase is his greatest hit. The Federalists were a lost cause for this election too, their representation is poor in Congress, them wildly outnumbered and all of the Democratic-Republicans are so far up Jefferson’s ass they could never consider voting any differently or outside the party.

Nobody asks for Alexander’s comment.

Alexander tosses all the newspapers announcing the election into the fire, and then pens a letter to Burr—

 

Please make his life hell for me,

—and writes into the night all the frustrations brewing inside him.

Six days later, Alexander receives the response along with a wrapped package: 

 

Do not worry, Alexander. I am making the President miserable enough for the both of us. Among other small instances of rebellion, I have taken to purposely miswording his messages, and I’ve acquired a couple bottles of his most expensive wine, one of which I’ve enclosed in the package to you. I hope you and Mrs. Hamilton enjoy it, as I believe it could be considered treason to steal from the President. If you have any other ideas (you always have ideas, I know) how to antagonize him, please send them along. As I am sure that you are going to continue to bombard me with letters, you might as well include some tips, because you are skilled at making others vexed.

Alexander immediately begins the list of suggestions, inspired, and he and Eliza drink the pilfered wine that evening. It is delicious, probably more so knowing that Burr took it and send it to him with him on his mind.

Theo leaves the week before Christmas to go spend the holiday with her father. At least she has the decency to visit and let them know before she leaves; Al and Angie both brood, as well as young Lizzie. Eliza says she hates seeing her go, and Alexander admits that he’ll miss having her visit their home. 

Alexander tells Theo, “It’s good you’re going. Look after your father.”

Theo smiles. “I always do.”

Alexander nods, and makes sure that her coat is wrapped up tight to fight the December snow, like he would for his own children. “Tell him not to forget us.” 

“He won’t,” Theo says, and it looks like she’s about to add something else but she shakes her head and then says, “I’ll see you soon, Mister Hamilton. I will send my father your good wishes.”

And Alexander has nothing but good wishes for Burr. On Christmas, after the children have open their gifts and Eliza and Angelica prepare for dinner, he writes: 

 

Burr,

The chill here is bitter, and it won’t stop snowing. My Eliza does not like for me to go outside because she thinks I’ll lose my footing on some hidden, malicious patch of ice and I’ll bust my ass. If you were here, we could sneak me out of the house again! I suppose that is my way of saying that you should be back here. We have more things to discuss, and I have to admit that I am still cross that you left without bidding me farewell, so expect me to tell you in person about how aggravated I am. Grant me this. However, I will find it in my heart to forgive you for this transgression — it could have been worse. But I have the theory that possibly Jefferson had you abducted and is keeping you captive there in the Capitol. I wouldn’t know any different, as you haven’t spoken much about your well being. I know that you are prone to melancholy, and you are surrounded by people who do not care for you — I apologize if that is harsh, but it is true.

I am concerned about you…

 

* * *

 

The New Year comes without fanfare. It’s kind of odd to see 1805 when he didn’t think he’d make it barely halfway through 1804, but here he is. Alive.

But that ever-present feeling of time running out does not disappear.

Alexander wouldn’t know how to cope without it. He believes that he’d have nothing to encourage him to keep going.

 

* * *

 

Alexander hears less from Burr as weeks gone turn into months. There’s the worry that maybe Burr has become bored with him, but then Alexander abandons that thought because he doesn’t think anyone has ever thought of him as boring. Burr withdrawing from Alexander cannot be because Burr suddenly finds him too intolerable, because Burr has had thirty years to escape if he had wanted to, and by now Burr would stick it out because he won’t admit defeat. Alexander thinks that perhaps Burr no longer feels an obligation to him, but after a fitful night of sleep Alexander disregards this too — three letters ago, Burr had asked, have you told Eliza of our plan? which tells him that Burr is still committed to it, and him (I believe in you, Burr had said). Using deductive reasoning, Alexander wonders if Burr had got a glimpse of his boner, but he doubts it, because Burr had not acted this reclusive the one time Burr ripped his breeches during court, and that was by far a more humiliating experience (Alexander had to lend Burr his coat to put it around his waist to hide the tear in the fabric until they got back to their offices).

The most logical reason suggests that Burr is isolating himself from him because he’s having second thoughts about his promise to Alexander, and he regrets it. Alexander doesn’t blame him. He’s a risk, and Burr is not one for risks. Burr must’ve finally come to his senses and is detaching himself from Alexander before their ties become too strong — they’ve gone from nemeses to friends, and it happened without them really realizing it. I believe in you, Burr had said, anguished, like the confession was compelled from him, and maybe he doesn’t want to believe in Alexander, and that scares him that he does believe. 

 

If you’re going to retreat, then go ahead. This is your chance to be free of me.

 

Alexander feels stupid writing it, like a lady offended that a gentleman has led her on without the intention of proposal. If things hadn’t been odd between them before, then he’s sure that it is now, but then he gets a response:

 

Alexander,

Do not take my lack of response as disinterest or impartiality. In case you have forgotten, I have a job to do here. The trial starts next month, and I am a very busy man. I do not have the time to write you an itinerary of my thoughts and actions every day. May I suggest that you take up a hobby? Perhaps writing fiction? As you apparently have too much time on your hands and have begun to use your active imagination to think of things that do not exist.

Your obedient servant,
A. Burr

P.S. Happy birthday. I am glad that you have made it to another year older. May this be a good year for you, my friend.

 

It’s delivered couple days late, but it’s dated on his birthday. The sentiment makes Alexander smile. With the simple gesture of Burr remembering his birthday, all doubts of Burr’s amity cease.

 

* * *

 

Do you need me to use my connections? I can write under a pseudonym, I can propose an opinion of the trial, I can back your discernments…

Alexander writes this for two reasons. One, because he feels the need to help Burr, because Burr is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Two, because Alexander now has some understanding of being left out when wanting to be involved.

He receives no reply.

 

* * *

 

In February, Alexander starts going to his law office a few days a week. It’s good to get out of the house and have a fuller routine, and it’s fun to see people around town gape in amazement when they see that he’s well (even if they stare too long at his uneven step and his cane when he gets out of the carriage), but his main motivation to be out and about is because he needs to earn money. Philip Schuyler had gave them a sum of money to help with their financial burdens, but they can’t depend on that forever, and Alexander needs to return to his normal life.

Luckily, his name is still drawing business in, more than expected — he has to turn some away — but he has to sort things out that haven’t been touched since July. Al enthusiastically volunteers to assist him, and Alexander agrees, because he likes to encourage his son’s interest in law.

Even though if the majority of the work they’re doing is sorting through papers and dusty books.

“Not as riveting as you thought, huh?” Alexander asks Al a few hours into the work. For the most part, Al has been quiet while Alexander rambles about the cases and writes notes on them before filing them away. That’s unlike Al — he’s usually brimming with curiosity, and impressed easily. Now, he seems distracted, and hardly interested.

Alexander frowns. He’s a little disappointed actually — it’s the first time since his injury that it would be just the two of them. “Hey,” Alexander says, “Is your old man of a father that dull?”

Al runs his finger over the gold lettering of a law theory book, and shakes his head. “No,” Al mutters, and looks up at Alexander with his wide brown eyes. “I’ve just been thinking about something.”

Alexander prays that Al isn’t about to go on again about much he’s pining for Theo Burr, and then asks, “What’s on your mind?”

Al bites his lip, and he looks so troubled that Alexander starts to worry. Al begins, “So I was in town yesterday, and I heard some talk.”

“Okay,” Alexander slowly says, leaning back into his seat. “What about?” 

“Well, I know how you always say not to believe a rumor unless you’ve started it, so I, uh, investigated and I found out that it was true, and it made me happy and I wanted to tell you but then I realized it shouldn’t make me happy but I can’t help it—” 

“Are you going to tell me or not?” Alexander asks. Sometimes, Al has a difficult time getting to the point.

Al sighs, looks to Alexander. “Eacker is dead.”

Al speaks the name of Philip’s murderer with hesitance, as everyone in their family does, but instead of the scowl that usually accompanies it, Al fights a smile. Al ends up covering his mouth with his hand to hide it.

“Are you certain?” Alexander asks, his voice hushed as he leans in towards Al.

Al nods, and twirls one of his curls around his finger. “He died of consumption, last week. He got it when he was putting out a fire in a snowstorm.” He pauses. “I feel awful because when I first heard someone say that he died, my first thought was please God, let it be true.

“Hey.” Alexander reaches across the desk to put his hand on Al’s arm, an attempt to comfort his son. “It’s okay. Thinking that doesn’t make you a bad person,” he says, because it doesn’t, or maybe it does, but Alexander doesn’t care because he’s glad, too. A little bit of closure. “He had it coming.”

Al gives a half-hearted shrug, says, “I suppose you’re right.” 

“Of course I’m right,” Alexander says, and he gets a small smile from Al. “And what do you say if you hear someone trashing me?” 

“Hamiltons only fight with wits?” 

“No,” Alexander says. “You say that I probably deserve every damn word.” He waves his hand. “You can throw in some insults yourself. Like, he sucks at gardening. He killed the cabbages.”

“Pops!”

 

* * *

 

 

You can’t ignore me, now. I’ll write to you every day until you answer. I know you’re spending all day sitting at the head of the Senate, you have plenty of time to write to me while you hear testimony. People will probably just think you’re doodling.

The impeachment trial starts. From the second-hand reports that Alexander hears and reads, he finds out that Burr is doing quite well. He isn’t surprised, Burr is wicked smart. Burr rules with the dignity and impartiality of an angel, but with the rigor of the devil, Alexander reads, and he longs to see this version of Burr in person. 

Alexander writes,

 

I wish I were there.

 

He waits a week and a half to get a response from Burr that amounts to: leave me alone.

Nice try, Alexander thinks as he starts another letter.

 

* * *

 

Eliza wakes Alexander up, murmuring in her sleepy morning voice, “Alexander, I need you,” and her hand on him. Alexander lets out a content sigh, and kisses her senseless, running his hand through her hair and whispering sweet talk against her lips until she pulls away to turn over so her back is to him. He curls against her, on his side with his front to her back, and with an urgency he moves her leg so he can slide in from behind and she’s so wet and ready that they both moan once he’s inside. 

His movements are precise, rolling his hips so he thrusts in deep, the angle is great and Eliza lets out a soft, breathy gasp every time he thrusts in. Alexander loves it like this, loves making love to Eliza, he loves it when it’s so intense that he forgets everything but the feeling of her skin against his, because she is his everything. 

“Love you,” Alexander says, whines, wraps his leg high around Eliza’s waist and speeds up his movements. He’s breathing hard into her ear, kind of ragged, and his side is starting to act up and hurt a little but he doesn’t want to stop.

“Slow down, sweetheart,” Eliza says, her hand going to Alexander’s leg that’s hooked over her. She squeezes his thigh, encouraging him until he does slow and she says, “Just like that, you feel so good,” and Alexander presses his face to her shoulder and keeps his thrusts slow and even as tears prickle at his eyes. He stalls, tired from his earlier frenzied pace, and is slumped and panting against Eliza, but she doesn’t say anything, she just pushes back on his cock until he’s rested enough that he can start again. 

Alexander’s hand roams her front, thumb brushing over her nipples and then trailing down her stomach down down down until his fingers are at her clit and fuck, the choked moan she makes when he rubs her there is a delight. He repeats it, circling her with two fingers, and Eliza leans her head back on his shoulder, tilting so she can look at him. Alexander takes the opportunity to kiss her on the mouth, slow and languid to match their pace.

Eliza comes, clenching around him and moaning his name, and it’s so perfect and lovely that a couple desperate thrusts more and Alexander follows.

After, they rest against each other, spent, and enjoying the early sunlight streaming in through the window. Alexander sighs happily with his head on Eliza’s chest, hearing how her heartbeat gradually returns to normal, and Eliza plays with Alexander’s hair.

“What are you going to do today?” Eliza asks, the casual conversation between spouses post-sex. She moves her hand to rub Alexander’s belly, something that always relaxes Alexander. “I think I’m going to town with Angelica to get some spring clothes for the kids. James has outgrown all of his, and John has declared he hates the color blue, which happens to be the color of his best jacket.”

Alexander chuckles. “He’s a persnickety kid.”

“He takes after you,” Eliza says, and kisses the top of Alexander’s head.

Alexander smiles, and then yawns and stretches. “I think I’ll write to Burr today.” 

“So no different than any other day,” Eliza says, plainly. Alexander feels his face flush and he’s glad that she can’t see his expression. But the way his body goes tense must give him away because she says, softer, “You miss him.”

“No,” Alexander says, but then flops onto his back next to Eliza, and stares at the ceiling. “Maybe? I don’t know.” He turns to look at Eliza, who’s got an amused sly grin. “I don’t wish Burr to be our pillow talk.”

“Of course, dear,” Eliza says, and leans in to kiss the wrinkles next to his eyes where he’s got them scrunched up.

 

* * *

 

The thing is, Alexander does miss Burr. It’s going on five months since he’s seen Burr — longer than the time they spent together after their duel.  Although insignificant to when he’s known him overall, it’s enough time to forget how it was and could be. But something started between them, it simmering at Alexander’s insides, and he knows that Burr must feel it too. He figures that’s one reason why Burr is distancing himself. 

But Alexander thinks that it can’t be that simple, and then he realizes — Burr wants to be condemned.

Burr has always been the martyr type, and loves to self-deprecate. It would be easiest if everyone hated him — Alexander included — because then he doesn’t have to answer the difficult questions. If the public doesn’t know that all is well between them, that they’re friends, then he doesn’t have to explain how he managed to earn his way back into Alexander’s good graces.

Things may be okay between them, but the air must be cleared with everyone else. Alexander won’t wait for it to happen — he makes things happen. 

Alexander decides to write about it. About the disillusionment of their partnership, and how they came to the conclusion they’ve both had some faults. Alexander writes some things he hasn’t said to Burr. He leaves out the stuff about their plans for a future election — it’s not the time to announce that, yet. If ever. 

He doesn’t bother to send the pamphlet to Burr. Burr isn’t answering him anyway, and it’ll get to Burr, eventually. 

Alexander writes it over the course of a couple hours one night. He considers it some of his finest work. He titles it— 

Concerning the Duel with Aaron Burr, and his Sensibilities

Chapter Text

There is a dynamic undercurrent in the Senate.

Two weeks into the testimony of the Justice Chase impeachment trial, and every day is every bit as much of a torment as Aaron had imagined it would be. The Democratic-Republican controlled government trot out circumstantial evidence and draw conclusions to get their obviously biased point across. It’s dreadful and barely remains fair, but the only thing Aaron can do is make sure it doesn’t become too off-base.

Aaron isn’t so excessively conceited to think that the attention of over a hundred men is focused on him, but he swears that the unease is because of him. It is because of him, he knows it. The Federalists are snide to him because of his infraction towards Hamilton, and the Democratic-Republicans maintain a two-faced persona with him because while they don’t want his mess in their corner, they want to cajole him into siding with them (that is to say, with Jefferson) on the trial.

Not that he could. Or would. Aaron does his duty. He doesn’t give any indication one way or another of his opinion. Impartial, he’s called, but that doesn’t bother him, as it’s something he’s been accused of being his whole life. This is, in fact, the perfect place for him because it’s somewhere that he’s required to be impartial. He makes sure that neither side barrels over the other, takes all objections into consideration, intervenes when an interrogator fails to follow a line of questioning, demands clarification when an answer is ambiguous, and allows Chase’s attorney to actually have opportunity to defend him (as is his constitutional right). Nobody can say Aaron is incompetent.

“I forgot how smart you are,” Pickering of Massachusetts tells him. Aaron takes it as a compliment, even if it’s a backhanded one.

Aaron does begin to lose his patience through the arduous process when it’s obvious that nobody respects him, or the sanctity of the law. The senate is an unruly bunch, and they think of Aaron as irrelevant. Senators walk around while witnesses are under examination, don’t wear appropriate attire, talk amongst themselves about non-court related matters, and on more than one occasion, eat at their seats.

“Do you want some?” Bradley of Vermont asks, causing the proceedings to come to a complete halt and offering the plate with his cake. From across the room, Aaron sees crumbs fall onto the floor.

Aaron becomes even more unpopular after he instates the rule banning cake, and other foods, in court. Most people choose to ignore this rule, and continue bringing whatever they please.

This isn’t what Aaron signed up for.

In between the days of the trial, there are other unpleasantries that make Aaron grateful that he has less than a month left as President of the Senate. He has to preside over the joint session of Congress when the electoral votes are counted, and he gets the great privilege of announcing that Jefferson wins the election for a second term as President, and that George Clinton will become the new Vice President. It’s a deep twist of the knife in the wound, to be the reporter of your own defeat, but Aaron bears it with poise. They’re looking for a reaction, so he doesn’t give them one. He clings to the dignity that he has left.

They don’t intend to let him, however. As soon as his replacement is known, they don’t hold back on trying to completely eliminate him from having association within the government. One Congressional meeting is about whether all former Vice Presidents should have the right of franking. Postage-free mail. Aaron listens with mild objectivity while the group discuss him without outright mentioning him — it’s clearly a roomful of politicians, with their ability to talk around a topic. It sets the senators at unease, one saying, “We might hereafter have a Vice President to whom it would be improper to grant the privilege,” and even though nobody names Aaron, they all turn to look at him. Aaron wants to say I’m right here, but really, what good would it do? He isn’t sure what harm they expect he could do with free postage, but in a way he’s flattered that they’re so suspicious of him that it could be a possibility. Good, Aaron thinks. Let them think he could bring down the free world with simply unchecked personal correspondence.

Eventually, John Quincy Adams — a man more good-natured, unflustered, and all around more pleasant than his father — raises the point that it’s a bit indelicate having Aaron be in chair while they discuss the matter.

For the first time in the meeting, everyone takes Aaron into consideration. They regard him as if he’s an inconvenience.

Aaron clears his throat, and then he says, “I am apprehensive that tomorrow I’ll be afflicted with pain in the head and unable to attend these meetings.”

It’s a pretense, an offering of cooperation to defuse the situation, but it backfires when someone — it doesn’t matter who, they’re all the same now, all against him — furrows his brows and asks, “Aren’t you feeling unwell now? Why don’t you go home early?”

They don’t even wait until Aaron closes the door behind him to start talking about him, “Now that Burr is gone…”

Aaron makes himself scarce the next day, and the day after that too, staying cooped up in his modest, rented Georgetown home. He’s sure that he could never go back and nobody would mind; if they happened to notice he was gone, they could throw a party in his absence, and then could eat all the cake they desired just to spite him.

He sleeps in late and lies in bed even later when he can’t quiet his mind enough to sleep, until the sun is heading back towards the horizon and Theo makes him get out bed and do sensible things like eat and wash his face and not wallow into the night too. “Finish strong, Papa,” Theo tells him. When she says it, it’s his encouragement to go on because he wants to do well, wants to be strong for her. Theo doesn’t deserve an aimless father — he’s all she has in this world, as she is all he has.

“What are you doing?” Aaron asks, looking over Theo’s shoulder. She’s smiling down at the letter she’s in the process of writing.

Without removing her eyes from the letter, Theo says, whimsically, “Writing to Hamilton.” When Burr makes a strained sound, Theo adds, “To his child, obviously. What business would I have with the General?”

Burr harrumphs. “I hope you aren’t writing to the junior Alexander. He’s too young for you.” Although, he can see the beginning of Theo’s letter addressed, Dear A. Hamilton.

Theo covers the rest of her writing with her arm.

“Weren’t you younger than Mother?” Theo quizzes. “Much younger than Al is to me?”

Sometimes, Aaron hates that she’s so clever.

 

* * *

 

Aaron admits that he misses Hamilton. His Hamilton, Alexander. Having him there would make things easier, because then he would have someone on his side with everything that’s happening. Aaron cracks a smile when he allows himself to think what would Hamilton do? but then shakes the thought away because whatever Hamilton would do is probably something ill-advised and risky and the very opposite of what he should do.

Hamilton writes to him— 

 

 

I wish I were there.

—and Aaron thinks, me too.

It’s a letter that Aaron rereads often. Even though Hamilton isn’t there, he remains present. Hamilton won’t let himself fade from Aaron’s life — there’s a stack of unanswered letters from Hamilton on Aaron’s desk. Aaron has read them all multiple times, but he can’t bring himself to reply with a substantial response. His day is taken up with business, and when he gets home at night he’s drained and cannot fathom what he means to say to Hamilton. Hamilton demands some kind of deep, soul-searching conversation, wanting more of him, but Aaron doesn’t have anything to offer. He’s unable to discuss such things with Hamilton, he can’t when he can’t think of such things without his mind clouding until he’s so numb he can’t bear to think of anything. Aaron doesn’t know the right thing to say, so he says nothing at all.

However, it seems as though Hamilton is doing well. Like Aaron expected anything different. In his letters, Hamilton tells Aaron that he’s about to reopen his law office for business, and that his health can be considered as fully recovered (or as good as it’s going to be, Hamilton adds, but when faced with the grim alternative, a limp in my step and occasional raspy breath are bearable). Nothing can stop Hamilton from continuing — not scandal, not grief, not malady, not death.

Aaron doesn’t ask it, but Van Ness, for the lack of a better word, spies on Hamilton for him. Aaron realizes that he must give the impression that he cares enough about Hamilton to be invested in his day-to-day life, and he thinks to stop doing whatever makes him appear that way, but Van Ness is excited to be of use, so Aaron goes along with it.

So now, Aaron gets updates on Hamilton’s life in addition to the elaborate ones that Hamilton gives him himself. Van Ness has the habit of writing like he speaks, rambling and taking a while to get to the point, so Aaron often scans the letter until he sees what he’s looking for. Van Ness includes clippings of articles from New York newspapers about Hamilton (and some about Aaron, which Aaron wishes that Van Ness would let him go without but he is a masochist and he can’t bring himself to stop reading them), and confirms that Hamilton is indeed visiting his office again and when he’s not there he’s usually with his family. It alleviates a worry, not known until it’s gone, that Hamilton is doing as he tells Aaron. That Hamilton has nothing to hide.

Aaron feels less transparent. Every time he gets a new piece of Hamilton to hold on to — pages and pages of Hamilton’s neat scrawl filled with just about anything Aaron could want, the feel of his hair wet and silky between his fingers, his smile directed towards Aaron that’s so bright it outshines the sunlight, his body pressed against his as he clings to him for support — every time Hamilton shares more of himself, Aaron hides more of himself away. Hamilton makes him feel vulnerable, having all of this of Hamilton but nothing to keep.

He yearns for more of Hamilton. It’s been months since that last day Aaron saw him, when they threw the matching set of pistols into the pond. It feels like an eternity since then, and the day on the Weehawken shore feels even further away. But that is impossible, because there’s nothing more unreachable than eternity.

Van Ness tells him: 

 

 

 

Hamilton seems to be happy. I gathered this information while he was selecting flowerpots and I was across the street browsing satchels, but I suppose I am not as good a sleuth as I aspire to be because Hamilton spotted me. After calling me over to him, he asked, “Why hasn’t Burr answered my letters?” in a cross and rather hurtful tone. I was embarrassed, as I did not have a suitable excuse, and I was left to feign ignorance. I think my distraction from his interrogation worked; I knocked over a flowerpot and broke it on the floor (which I am expecting you to reimburse me for). However, it remains a good question — why haven’t you responded to Hamilton?

 

Aaron doesn’t think that he’ll be able to ignore Hamilton, and this inextricable tension between them, for much longer.

 

* * *

 

There’s a flutter of disturbance in the halls of Congress.

It’s the most active Aaron has seen it since the election, with members of the government (everyone, Aaron notes, when he sees Jefferson in a corner with Madison) converging together to facetiously discuss something that is definitely not government related. He knows that the hoopla is about him by the way the chatter comes to a complete hush when they notice he’s there — some keep talking until they’re elbowed by another — and then they curse when they see Aaron standing there. Being talked about is nothing new, he’s used to people breaking out in whispers when he enters a room.

“Good morning,” Aaron says, because he is not afraid of anyone, let alone some gossipy congressmen.

Nobody returns his greeting; instead, Aaron is met with snickers as they turn back to each other, rudely continuing their conversation as if he isn’t there. Whatever.

If only the citizens knew how immature those making decisions and running the country were.

Only a few weeks more, Aaron tells himself as he walks through the crowd. Finish strong.

But of course, in Aaron’s experience, anything that can go wrong, will.

Later, Aaron would wish that he did not see the pamphlet that seemingly everyone has a copy of. He should have ignored it, he should have listened to that foreboding apprehension inside himself that he had ignored on another instance that ended badly, he should have waited so that he would have a few more hours of peace before he had to acknowledge its existence.

But, he doesn’t. He asks an open question, “What have I done this time?” Senators exchange glances, as though they’re unsure how to deal with the problem of Aaron Burr. Aaron sighs. He’s at the end of his patience, really, and is this close to telling them all off and resigning with only a few weeks left, but then Jefferson parts from the crowd and saunters towards him.

You cannot judge a man by his worst act on his worst day,” Jefferson reads, holding the pamphlet in front of him, his voice loud and echoing through the halls, his posture strong but still has that mellow laxity that makes him him. Jefferson makes a spectacle of it, as though he wants to make sure that everyone stops talking and watches him. And they do, and this is about the time where Aaron starts to wish he had left it alone. Jefferson pauses, and then looks over the pamphlet to smile at Aaron coldly and maliciously. “Sound familiar?”

Aaron knows those words, those are his words that he said to Hamilton in confidence, a moment of that vulnerability. If they are in that pamphlet then that must mean…

Aaron wishes for a swift death.

He has no such luck, as he never does. His suspicions are confirmed as Jefferson continues reading, “This is a quote put forth by Mr. Burr to me, during private correspondence at my residence, in the weeks following our fateful interview. Mr. Burr is prone to sensationalizing my actions for his self-serving righteousness, and one, myself included, could think that this is his justification, a defense for preserving his innocence and reputation, which has already been subject to damage and public scorn.” Here, Jefferson laughs and adds his own comment, saying, “Ain’t that the truth.”

Hamilton’s writing style is unmistakable, and only Hamilton could say such things about him.

How dare he.

The horror Aaron feels must be evident on his face, because Jefferson’s smile grows impossibly wider, and Jefferson looks back down at the pamphlet to read, and Aaron is so lost that he can only stand there and listen to it.

However, while it is difficult to suggest that events that Mr. Burr experienced on the 11th of July in the year of our Lord 1804 constitutes as the worst day of his life when rivaled to mine, the fact remains that we cannot not know the inner workings and thoughts of another. We cannot fairly judge how one perceives a thing, for it is a private event in our minds and hearts. Although Mr. Burr has been cited to be a distrustful man, insults which, could be cited back to myself, and were the kindling for the path that has lead to our current bearings, I believe his statement to be honest — because upon recollection, he has had sincere moments among his unprincipled. And as it is, it would be unjust for me to spurn this instance of sincerity for my benefit, because then I would be no better, for I have committed acts that have depicted me as a negative character, and I have had a second chance to redeem myself with the public, and my personal relations. Mr. Burr is deserved of another chance as well, as every man has privilege to. In recent times, I discovered that I was mistaken of the integrity of Aaron Burr, he is a man that has been swept up in the vicious tide of government and pressured under threat. Mr. Burr has endeared himself to me, and, I know him more truly now than I have in my long history of knowing him.”

There’s scattered laughter around Aaron, and then Jefferson looks away from Hamilton’s pamphlet, and goes, “Aww, how sweet.”

“Shut up,” Aaron says through gritted teeth, his face hot. The laughter is now background noise to the blood rushing in his ears.

I would rather to think that the day is so devastating to him,” Jefferson says, continuing the inanity, “than for him to be indifferent, as if it were any other day to him. I do not argue that it isn’t his worst act; I do not hold a grudge against him for it, as it was conducted properly as a gentlemen’s interview, but with an examination of all of Mr. Burr’s feats, it qualifies to be one of the worst, my part in it and my hardships notwithstanding—“

“I’ve heard enough,” Aaron says, and snatches the pamphlet from Jefferson’s hands. Everyone oohs, like they’re pleased that they’ve finally got a rise out of Aaron. Jefferson laughs, a short and scoffed ha, one that makes it look like he’s done nothing wrong, but then holds his hands up in surrender and says, “Whatever, man.”

Before Aaron does something else he regrets, he rushes away in the direction of his office, quickly enough to escape the mocking laughter.

He is not too disbelieving to not acknowledge the irony of this. It feels like retribution for when he was delighted to read a pamphlet where Hamilton was the object of humiliation.

Simple karma.

He doesn’t look at the pamphlet until he has refuge in his office, alone. He takes a deep breath, and then another, as he clutches the pamphlet in his hand. He tries to crinkle it, but it’s too thick with pages. He wonders what else Hamilton could have written, and with a shuddering hand he brings the pamphlet to his face.

Concerning the Duel with Aaron Burr, and his Sensibilities, by Alexander Hamilton

Fuck.

Aaron settles down (as best he can, with agitation bristling inside him) at his desk to read the pamphlet in its entirety. Hamilton had shown no restraint, his elegant and verbose writing filling up over forty-five pages with the history of them. It’s a run down of their relations, starting with their modest beginnings when they first met, how Aaron was the first person in America to show him any kindness, how Hamilton admired Aaron, how fate brought together two brilliant orphans who would go on with their lives intertwined. It’s grand, but Aaron is unjustifiably angry because that’s personal — that young version of themselves has been something that Aaron has held on to. He’s often thought of that Hamilton — fanciful with just enough recklessness to be alluring, who wanted Aaron’s guidance before Hamilton decided to find another way to succeed (and Aaron often wondered if he disappointed Hamilton, or if he wasn’t what he was looking for).

Hamilton writes a flattering image of Aaron. Hamilton tells of Aaron’s genius, of course, following it up with comparing it to his own. Hamilton tells of Aaron’s feats in the military — Hamilton recounts the time when Aaron saved Hamilton’s brigade from capture when the British landed in Manhattan, and then acclaimed him for fighting in the hell that was Monmouth. From there, it covers their time working as lawyers together, and angst twists in Aaron’s insides as he reads because he knows that that is when things became poisoned between them. Their political differences, their falling-out when one refused to follow the other, the unpleasant things they said that neither can ever take back — it’s worse, reading it all at once, knowing how it goes. The story reaches the climax, a retelling of that day in Weehawken, and Hamilton had included their exchange of letters that lead up to duel. Now, Aaron feels ashamed reading it — he had been so angry that he couldn’t see sense, and Hamilton had reacted in the same way.

Now, everyone can bear witness to the petty quarrel of two foolish men.

Aaron has renewed relief reading, That could have been the end, however, good fortune blessed both us — yes, both myself and Mr. Burr — and I lived.

The more Aaron reads, the more he comes to the conclusion that Hamilton did this to spite him. No — it isn’t a malicious act, but it’s something targeted, certainly. A plea for attention, because Aaron didn’t made Hamilton his entire focus and respond to his letters. Hamilton hasn’t changed at all; he’s all or nothing.

However…

Even Hamilton’s most harebrained ideas are calculated and serve a purpose. This is Hamilton forcing Aaron to be involved. By writing a treatise on their relations, it associates Aaron with Hamilton, irrevocably — to have a different legacy, something with hope instead of ruin.

And hadn’t that been what Aaron had intended with the promise of an election to Hamilton?

It’s a battle of one ensnaring the other. Hamilton just did it better.

When Aaron gets to the part Jefferson had read aloud, Aaron reads it again. It’s not as bad when not narrated by Jefferson’s pompous rendition, especially when he reads what follows: 

 

 

 

However, I trust Mr. Burr to know his own inner turmoil, as I know my own. It is not unthinkable that a man would consider a day that was, unjustly, constructed to be his downfall, to be his worst day. I, for one, know how it feels to be faced with the repercussions of horrible actions—

 

Aaron rolls his eyes. Of course, Hamilton has to keep bringing himself into this.

 

 

 

—but the true measure of integrity is how a person handles those repercussions. Mr. Burr handled himself as a gentleman should during our interview (even the loathsome ordeal is asinine, and if I may suggest, archaic), and has been honorable afterward, offering the space to discuss differences, understanding, and friendship. Not many have the pleasure to know him as I do, and I feel as though I must dispel any talk of us being rivals. Mr. Burr and I are intelligent men, and it will do no good to pit us against another as ends for entertainment, or benefit. It is a matter of our own.

A matter, which, although it was nearly at great personal loss to my being, I am glad for because we have came through on the other side better men.

 

Aaron begins his reply immediately, writing while the fury of it burns, writes like how he remembers seeing Hamilton do many times, hunched over a desk and smearing ink as his hand moves across the page, writing what comes to mind — we were fine but then you go and do this and ruin it you crazy selfish man do you have any impulse control at all why do you ruin everything I was going to come back to you I am the one worried that you’ll leave you didn’t have to—

But then he stops. He realizes this is exactly what Hamilton wants. Hamilton wants a corresponding, fervent response to prove that this — what they have between them — means something.

Hamilton will not spur Aaron to action by anger, not again.

Aaron crumbles the paper, and then goes as far to start a fire to turn it into ashes.

He can play the long game.

 

* * *

 

It takes only a few days for the buzz of the pamphlet to die down. Congressmen stop quoting it to Aaron in the hallways, or in the Senate itself, because it’s not fun to taunt him when he acts as though it doesn’t bother him. He maintains his blasé affect that he’s kept so well while holding his office.

Another reason why they don’t harass Aaron is because they simply don’t have the time. Everyone in the Capitol is either busy with the impeachment trial that’s nearing the end or the inauguration that’s within a week, or in some cases, both. Aaron is exhausted, working late to review transcripts of the trial, or complete eleventh-hour projects that Jefferson saddles him with. He keeps himself occupied so he doesn’t think about how miserable he is. He’s so distracted in fact, that Hamilton crosses his mind only once in a while.

The end is near, and his mantra is to stay alive until then.

But Hamilton is intrusive, even when he’s not there, and Aaron does think of Hamilton sometimes. Aaron thinks of what Hamilton will say when he sees him again, and how he’ll justify the Aaron Burr pamphlet. He thinks of how Hamilton is damaged, the once energetic soldier is now a man restricted, a man who hates boundaries now has to live by new ones that he can’t do anything about. He thinks about how they both force a knowing (sad) smile at each other, and they don’t mention that it’s Aaron’s doing that Hamilton is this way, and that comes along when he thinks of how Hamilton’s smile flickers when he grits his teeth in pain. Aaron thinks of Hamilton’s smile, his real one — how his teeth part like he’s ready to laugh, his eyes get kind of squinty and the skin next to them crinkling, his laugh lines which have deepened as he’s aged. He thinks of the delicate slope of Hamilton’s neck from years of looking down to read and write, and he thinks of tan skin that’s underneath his clothes, and the splattering of dark freckles on his shoulders. Aaron thinks of why does he think of Hamilton so goddamned much.

So, yes. He thinks of Hamilton, sometimes.

And when he doesn’t, it’s only a matter of time before Hamilton returns. He can push him out of his mind for only so long.

Which is why Aaron doesn’t think much of it on day three of closing arguments when he thinks he sees Hamilton come through the courtroom door. Aaron supposes that he’s been driven to a state of exhaustion. Or possibly, insanity. Yes. It’s definitely the latter. He had attempted to excise himself of Hamilton in all forms — first by correspondence, then by disregarding thoughts of him, too — but now he’s hallucinating him. It’s fitting, that Hamilton would invade his psyche as well. He has no respect for personal space.

This Hamilton is a figment of his imagination, nothing more. Perhaps Hamilton always has been. Some great, impossible thing. Aaron can’t let anyone know that he’s actually, well, crazy. So he averts his eyes, away from the imposing Hamilton.

Except that everyone else in the room has turned around to look at where Hamilton stands in the doorway. Hamilton smiles when he’s acknowledged. The entire is Senate looking right at him, and he’s euphoric, and that smile is real and Aaron knows then that he is real, too.

So—

Good news: Aaron isn’t losing his mind. Hamilton is here.

Bad news: Hamilton is here.

(On second thought, he thinks that maybe those should be reversed.)

It’s completely silent for the first time in hours as Hamilton dramatically flings the door shut behind him, the slam of it echoing in the high-ceilinged room, and then tosses his hair over his shoulder. There’s a fraught silence as he moves with a slow, careful swagger that would have been ridiculous had he not looked so impressive. Aaron really looks at him now that he has to accept that he’s there. Hamilton is dressed in green (which has always looked great on him, Aaron admits), he’s gained some of his weight back since the last time Aaron saw him, his tan glow is back to his skin, and he’s got that presence of self-confidence that is indubitably his.

Hamilton looks like himself again.

Someone could see him now, and never know how bad he had got, never know that anything had ever happened to him — if it weren’t for his awkward step. Hamilton doesn’t let that hold him back, though. He takes his time as he walks down the aisle of the courtroom, a rhythm of step-limp, using the cane that Jefferson had got him. He plays off his unhurried pace as though he’s making sure everyone takes notice of him as he passes — he acknowledges people as he goes by them, giving them a big smile and hard glare like he dares them to say anything. Wisely, they don’t — they just stare agape at Hamilton, and then look up to Aaron, waiting for his reaction.

Aaron doesn’t see the room looking to him, though. He’s too focused on Hamilton as he comes nearer — he can’t look away. Their eyes meet, and it’s as though there’s nobody else in the room except the two of them. Months apart have done nothing to dull the charged tension, with only implicit conversation between them adding to the anticipation of this moment when they would meet again. Because they always will meet again.

Hamilton stops when he's a few feet away from the bench, and he inclines his head up at Aaron like, you can’t ignore me now, huh? It’s telling that Aaron’s first reaction is elation, a warmth fluttering in his chest when he sees Hamilton smiling at him with a look that’s like he has six emotions on his face at once — but then he remembers that he’s supposed to be angry with Hamilton.

Aaron should throw him out, and everyone is looking at him as though they expect him to — they’re ready for a show, the trial forgotten — but Aaron doesn’t want to make it a bigger deal than it is. And besides, Hamilton came all this way.

“Hamilton, sit down,” Aaron says. At least in the Senate, he has authority.

Grinning, Hamilton shrugs, then takes a seat next to Pickering near the front and settles in for the rest of the session. Aaron takes no notice of him and does his job, but he can feel Hamilton’s gaze on him the entire time.

 

* * *

 

Hamilton is surrounded when the session is over for the day, everyone wanting to speak to the guy who can’t seem to die — in actuality, or in the society. They pat him on the back and tell him it’s good to see you, Federalists and Democratic-Republicans alike. Hamilton smiles, thanks them politely, makes a joke that he got lost on the ride there and that’s why he hasn’t been to the Capitol in years. It gets a good laugh.

Beyond the crowd, Hamilton keeps glancing to Aaron. Making sure Aaron is still there, and hasn’t escaped him again.

Aaron hears his name mentioned in the conversation surrounding Hamilton.

“If I could have a moment alone with the guest of honor,” Aaron says, brisk, as he parts through the group who curse at him under their breath. He ignores them, nods at Hamilton, indicating that he should follow him. He doesn’t wait to find out if Hamilton does. He turns and walks out of the Senate, his ears deaf to the remarks that Senators don’t try to quiet. This is his arena, Hamilton be damned if he tries to control him here. If that takes making an example out of Hamilton, so be it.

Hamilton should follow, after how hard he’s campaigned to speak to him. Aaron is tempted to look over his shoulder to see, but he thinks that he could turn into a pillar of salt because he looked back when he shouldn’t. So he keeps going — although, walking slower than normal — until he hears uneven footsteps and the click of a cane on the hard floors behind him.

“Hold the fuck up, Burr,” Hamilton shouts. “You know I can’t go that fast, you—”

Aaron rounds on him, closes the distance between them. “What are you doing here?”

Hamilton blinks, taken aback from Aaron’s demand. Hamilton leans on his cane, huffing. He shoots Aaron a contemptuous look while he catches his breath. Aaron can hear a slight wheeze coming from Hamilton. He feels a little bad that he made Hamilton chase him down when he knows Hamilton isn’t as fit, but he can’t apologize now. He will later, when they aren’t glaring daggers.

“Checking up on you,” Hamilton says, finally. “I thought you might’ve died, since you stopped responding to me.”

It’s Hamilton’s self-satisfied smile that does Aaron in.

“Who do you think you are?” Aaron asks, because honestly, the gall of him.

Hamilton’s eyes light up, as though them arguing excites him. He’s having the time of his life. Aaron can tell.

Hamilton turns away slightly, spreads his arms wide, his cane flinging in the air and almost smacking Aaron.

“Pardon me,” Hamilton says, his voice loud and carrying in the high-ceilinged room of the Capitol building. He puts his arms down, the end of his cane clacking on the floor. “This man doesn’t think I know who I am. Please confirm my identity.”

At this point, Aaron doesn’t know what to expect from him. He knows that he could run away from Hamilton, he could sprint off and hide and Hamilton could never find him.

He doesn’t.

Hamilton’s outburst garners the attention he had wanted — congressmen who apparently had nothing better to do other than not minding their own business take interest in them.

“My God, you’re Alexander Hamilton,” says one, and another adds, “Did you lose your sense even more after Burr shot you?” and then they both laugh. Hamilton joins them. Aaron does not.

“My office, now.” Aaron points in the direction of his office, doesn’t move until Hamilton heaves a sigh of annoyance, surrendering, says, “Okay, okay,” and lets Aaron guide him.

“Be careful,” Aaron hears someone say. “Better do as Burr says, or he’ll try to kill you.”

Aaron looks beside him at Hamilton. He wonders if his face is as inscrutable as Hamilton’s.

“Ignore them,” Aaron says, pushing Hamilton to continue. Hamilton doesn’t fight him.

 

* * *

 

Hamilton makes himself at home when they’re in Aaron’s office. He lays his cane against Aaron’s desk, unbuttons his coat, and then sits down without being told to do so. He settles, leaning back in the comfortable armchair, and looks around the dimly-lit office. “Nice digs.”

Aaron doesn’t mention that it’s customary to remain standing until he’s seated, as he is the second-highest power in the country. At least, for a few more days.

He sits behind his desk to distance himself from Hamilton, and to gain some semblance of authority. Hamilton isn’t fooled. He knows him as just Burr.

“Have something to say?” It sounds like a challenge when Hamilton asks it.

Aaron has a lot to say, but he starts with the most acute matter. He opens his drawer, takes out the pamphlet Concerning the Duel with Aaron Burr, tosses it on the surface of the desk. It’s the same copy that he had taken from Jefferson, worn, the edges tattered from frequent readings. Hamilton leans forward in his seat, inspects it as though he’s never seen it before, and then looks up at Aaron through his eyelashes, says, “Ah,” with only the slightest amount of remorse, and even that sounds faked.

“What were you thinking?” Aaron asks, but then he sighs and rubs his forehead because he isn’t sure he wants to know what lunacy made Hamilton do such a thing. “Given your track record with sensational, tell-all pamphlets, I’d think you’d give it a second thought before publishing it.” Now he’s going to be in the trio of the Hamilton pamphlets — Adams, Reynolds, Burr. Given how it’s gone previously, his reputation is over. Not that he had much, anyway.

Hamilton waves his hand dismissively, and reclines in the chair with elegant ease, crosses one leg over the other. He says, “Oh, it isn’t that bad. It was an opinion piece. The only thing I exposed was the true nature of our interpersonal relations.”

Hamilton’s unconcerned view of the situation does not make Aaron feel better, as Hamilton doesn’t start to worry about problems until it’s too late. This is no different — Hamilton made them both out to be melodramatic idiots. It’s said it’s better to be thought a fool than to remove all doubt, and well, Hamilton removed the doubt from the equation.

“In addition,” Hamilton adds, “I am offended that you think I didn’t carefully deliberate the aspects of the piece. That I didn’t go through countless drafts, that I didn’t weigh the pros and cons of releasing the information to the public.” He crosses his arms, raises one eyebrow in that alluring way that he does. “I thought you knew me better than to think I’d be careless.”

“I never said you were careless. In fact, I think you knew exactly what you were doing.” Aaron leans forward, places his elbows on his desk. “Your stunt worked. You wanted to talk to me, and here you are. But you could have sent it to just me. That would’ve been a significant enough declaration.”

Hamilton scoffs. “So you could ignore it, too?” He shakes his head. “No, I had to make sure you attended to it.”

“Humiliation is not a way to endear yourself to me.”

There’s a crack in Hamilton’s boldness, for the first time since he returned to Aaron. He runs a hand through his hair, using the motion to look away from Aaron for a moment, and then lets out a long sigh. His eyes are sadder when he focuses back on Aaron and quietly says, “I meant well.”

Aaron doesn’t doubt that, but. Still. “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

“Yes, I hope so—”

“Well, it does,” Aaron says. “Thank you for…whatever it is you were trying to do.”

Hamilton’s mouth tugs into a half grin, which would have been more beguiling if Hamilton wasn’t looking at him like he thinks Aaron is an idiot. “Honestly, you don’t know?”

“You wanted to see how far you could push me?”

Aaron had been aiming for a laugh from Hamilton, but instead Hamilton knits his brows together into sad, upward slants. “You weren’t talking about it. About what really happened. So I had to,” Hamilton says. “I couldn’t let you become the villain in my history.”

“That’s my problem to deal with,” Aaron replies. Although, he thinks that he is more significant than to be reduced to his fateful encounter with Hamilton.

“How did you plan to deal with it?” Hamilton asks, quirking his fingers into quotations. “By not dealing with it?”

Aaron frowns, and shuffles some papers on his desk.   He needs to start packing up, he realizes. “You’ve reintroduced the subject. People were bored with it,” Aaron explains. It had been nice when he had been told you almost killed Hamilton only few times a week, compared to every day. Like he could ever not remember. “I worked very hard to be inconsequential,” Aaron says, wryly, but it’s partly true — he’d rather be forgotten than notorious for things he’d like to forget. “But then, you went and stirred up trouble. As you do best.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you,” Hamilton says.

“It wasn’t.”

“Too late.”

It feels as though Hamilton is avoiding the topic, too, but Aaron won’t let him. He stares at Hamilton from across the desk until Hamilton sighs, his lighthearted expression changing into something very, very serious.

“I wasn’t going to let you live in the shadows. You’re…better than that,” Hamilton says. Aaron thinks of Hamilton dragging him down with him, a mutual destruction. But that’s how they’ve been for years.

Hamilton asks, “Do you always want to be known as the man who shot me?”

“I didn’t need your help,” Aaron snaps. Aaron expects Hamilton to respond with just as much heat, but Hamilton’s face softens into something that too sympathetic, and hard to meet.

“I think you do. You’re kind of a disaster,” Hamilton says, and raises his hand to stop Aaron from speaking when he goes to interrupt. “It’s not belittling to accept help—”

“I didn’t accept anything. You did it without asking,” Aaron points out, interrupting anyway. Hamilton may be acting as though this was an entirely selfless act, but Hamilton was clearing his own name, too. “You’ve made us both out to be asses, you saying how honest and pure of heart I am, when you’ve called me the antithesis of that in the past!”

“Burr—”

“So it seems as though we were too imbecilic to figure this out before we went off to shoot at each other!”

Calmly, Hamilton asks, “But isn’t that exactly what happened?”

Aaron huffs. He won’t admit that Hamilton is right, that’d just make the man more insufferable. “Others didn’t need to be involved in our business,” Aaron says. There already was talk of him and Hamilton, but now it’s of a different sort — that they’re warm. It makes Aaron unsettled for a reason he can’t figure out, other than wanting that to be private.

Hamilton shrugs. “They’ll get over this, too,” Hamilton says. Aaron supposes that Hamilton is used to the tides of changing opinion, and this is just another cycle — Hamilton will bounce back like he always does. Hamilton uncrosses his legs, sits forward in the chair so he can put his elbows on Aaron’s desk. “You’re the one making a spectacle out of this, Burr. Have you bothered to see what people have been saying about the pamphlet?”

Aaron had purposely not been looking. Taunts in the hallways had been enough. He didn’t need to read editorials, he doesn’t hate himself that much.

His non-answer tells Hamilton enough. “It’s been well-received,” Hamilton says. “It’s thought of as commendable for me to admit my faults, and people were interested in knowing about you and your motivations.” Hamilton clasps his hands together, rests his chin on top of them, and Aaron really hates that cheeky grin where Hamilton thinks he’s done something fantastic and is waiting to be told good job. “Nobody knows much about you.”

“So you’ve said before,” Aaron mutters. The jury is still out on whether anyone likes either of them. “Everyone is siding positively with us?”

Hamilton shrugs. “Well, not everyone. But there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like what you do. So you know what I say?”

“That you’re going to do it anyway?” Aaron asks, and then he feels the glimmer of Hamilton’s laugh.

Smiling, Hamilton says, “Do what you know is right, and fuck the haters.”

Aaron shakes his head, chuckling at the absurdity that is Hamilton. He says, “You’re a plonk,” and then Hamilton is laughing too, doubling over and holding onto the desk and saying, “What the fuck, Burr?” and everything feels right between them again, like no time or distance has parted them at all.

And it feels right when Hamilton leans in towards Aaron, beckons for Aaron to do the same, him saying, “I wanna tell you something.” Aaron inches forward, leaning in from the opposite side of the desk, close enough so that he can feel Hamilton’s warm exhales against his face.

“I had to, don’t you see?” Hamilton whispers, like someone could be listening to them through the door. “I had to set things right. For our…future.”

“Future?” Aaron whispers back, because it seems right — speaking of things unknown, too precarious even for themselves. Hamilton’s rise to power, and Aaron making it happen.

It could be a horrible mistake.

But it might be the best mistake they’ve ever made.

“Yes,” Hamilton says, “We will be back here, but on our own terms,” and then gestures to the window outside, Aaron guessing he means the Capitol in general.

We? Both of us?” They haven’t discussed Aaron’s role in this plan of theirs regarding Hamilton’s candidacy. Aaron isn’t sure he could handle serving a sentence so close to the government again — but he doesn’t know how close Hamilton wants him, or what to expect.

“Of course,” Hamilton says, still in whispers. “I’m not letting you get away with this, either.”

Then it’s settled. “Okay.”

Hamilton nods, and then slumps back into the chair with an oof. He puts his hand to his side, discomfort strained on his face. Before Aaron can ask, Hamilton says, “I’m fine. It’s been a long day, that’s all. These buildings have, like, a thousand stairs.” Some of his humor returns, “And I had to see Jefferson. That always makes me feel sickly.”

Aaron offers a terse smile. “You look well,” he says. Hamilton does — Aaron can’t stop looking at him. He is breathtaking.

“Thanks.” Hamilton rubs at the back of his neck. “Eliza has made sure I’ve been, uh, taking care of myself.”

Something occurs to Aaron. “Did she come with you? Or any of your children?”

“No, I came alone. I’ve already wrote home to tell them I safely made it,” Hamilton says.

“You shouldn’t have travelled this far by yourself,” Aaron begins. “You could’ve—”

“I’m fine.” Judging by Hamilton’s aggressive defense, it sounds like it’s something he’s had to say a lot. Hamilton runs his hand through his hair, like he’s trying to calm down.

Aaron bites his lip, remembering how Hamilton’s hair felt between his own fingers.

“Listen,” Hamilton says, “I’m healthy. Except for the hitch in my step and occasionally getting out of breath, I’m better than I was before I got shot. So I won’t be any problem at all at your place.”

Aaron blinks. “What?”

“I already dropped off my bag there on my way in.” Hamilton picks up his cane, hardly uses it to stand. “I promised Theo that we’d be home by six.”

There’s no escaping him, it seems.

 

* * *

 

They don’t make it to Aaron’s by six, but only because Hamilton stopped the carriage and insisted on visiting some old friends. Hamilton talks to them through the window of the carriage while Aaron sits on the other side and glowers.

When they start off again, Hamilton says, “You’re that surly, and you wonder why you don’t have friends.”

“I have friends,” Aaron says.

Hamilton lets out a disbelieving scoff. “Who?” he asks, and then adds, “And you can’t say me, Van Ness, or Theo. Or Eliza.”

“You listed one more than I need,” Aaron says. He tilts his head to Hamilton. “I can do with one less.”

Hamilton opens his mouth to speak, but the carriage goes over a bump in the road, and he hits head on the roof. He spends the rest of the short ride sulking and staring at the window, until Aaron tugs on his sleeve and says, “C’mon, I didn’t mean it. Without you, Eliza wouldn’t be my friend either.”

“Fuck you.”

It’s a quarter to seven when they finally get to Aaron’s. Theo is so happy to have the extra company, so she isn’t cross when they’re late. They eat a light dinner, and then share a bottle of wine between the three of them while Hamilton regales them about his journey from New York. Hamilton is thriving, dazzling, his dark eyes bright, and he keeps having to pause because he’s making himself laugh about whatever he’s about to say. Aaron can’t help but be fascinated by him.

The conversation evolves as the night goes on, and Aaron sits back and watches Hamilton and Theo have a rapid-fire exchange in French that honestly, Aaron doesn’t get every word of. Around eleven, Theo retires to bed, but before she leaves Hamilton and Aaron sitting by the fireplace, she tells them, “You two better behave.”

They promise to remain civil, which is easy because all their fight for the day has been used up. They talk of simple things — the weather, deciding who the most gossipy members of the Senate are, how Hamilton’s youngest isn’t so small anymore and is prone to stealing things from pockets. Their conversation gets quieter, until Hamilton stops responding all together, dropping off in the middle of a sentence.

Aaron looks over, and smiles at the sight — Hamilton dozing, his head lolled to the side and face pressed against the high back of the chair. Aaron knows that Hamilton must be exhausted from his trip, but Hamilton is too vain to admit that it was too much exertion for him after he had protested so much that he could do it on his own.

He debates letting Hamilton sleep in the chair for the night, but he ends up gently nudging Hamilton awake, says, “Hey, wake up.”

“Not sleeping. Just resting my eyes,” Hamilton mumbles, like a child who refuses to go to bed.

“Come on, you can sleep in my bed,” Aaron says. “I’ll take the couch.” He’ll be hospitable, even if Hamilton invited himself to stay, unannounced. Theo has the spare room, so he’ll have to make do.

Hamilton has a look of brief confusion on his face, like for a moment he doesn’t remember where he is, but then he blinks up at Aaron, rubs his eyes, yawns. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not kicking you out of your bed,” Hamilton mumbles, as he holds out his hand for Aaron to help him up. Aaron grabs it, pulls Hamilton to a standing position, remains steady as Hamilton leans heavily against him. “We can share your bed.”

“Oh.” It would not be the first time Aaron has shared a bed with Hamilton — they’d often have to sleep in the same bed in a rented room when they had to travel for a trial they were co-counseling.

“Do you still fight your pillow and insist on keeping your bedmates awake too?” Aaron asks. In his experience, Hamilton is a restless, fitful sleeper, and it takes forever for his body and mind to settle down for sleep. Many of their nights on the road consisted of Aaron being kept awake as Hamilton tossed and turned, got up multiple times to pee, and tried to talk to Aaron about whatever topic crossed his mind in the dead of night. And then, on one occasion, Aaron woke up with Hamilton’s hair in his mouth because in the middle of the night Hamilton had scooted close to him for warmth.

They round the corner to Aaron’s room, and Hamilton yawns again, not bothering to cover his mouth. It triggers Aaron to yawn as well, in the odd way yawns seem to be mimicked. The yawn doesn’t clear his mind any — in fact, it makes him realize how tired he really is, and that he really really doesn’t want to be kept all night by Hamilton’s fidgeting.

“What, you didn’t like our late-night pillow talks?” Hamilton asks, lightly laughing when Aaron sharply replies, “No.”

“Well, I’ll have you know that I treasured them,” Hamilton says, the attempt at joking obvious, but it comes out as a sleepy slur. “Anyway,” he continues when they get in Aaron’s room, and they part to take off their daywear, “I’m so tired I think I won’t be much of a bother tonight. There’s no reason why we both shouldn’t be comfortable.”

Aaron is too tired to argue with Hamilton, and he longs for his bed, so he agrees.

They change facing away from each other. Hamilton mumbles, “It’ll be like old times.” Aaron doesn’t want old times, because nothing can be like old times again and he doesn’t think he would want it to be even if it could. It’s too much to think of, he just wants to sleep.

Aaron gets his nightshirt on, and sneaks a look over his shoulder — Hamilton is sitting on the edge of the bed, struggling with his nightshirt where he’s got his hand caught in the sleeve. Hamilton lets out a whine of frustration as he continues to flap the sleeve, the shirt having him seemingly vexed, and Aaron takes pity on him.

Aaron kneels on the bed, touches Hamilton on the shoulder, says, “Here, let me help.” Hamilton tenses for a moment and Aaron thinks that he may push him away, but Hamilton relaxes and holds out his arm for Aaron to free his hand from the confines of his sleeve.

“Thanks,” Hamilton says once it’s done, and then promptly flops down, already taking up too much space. Aaron gives Hamilton a polite shove as he lies down, and then claims his portion of the blanket before Hamilton can steal that too. Hamilton tries — Aaron feels Hamilton tugging at it as he situates himself, but Hamilton finally gives up the tug-of-war.

Aaron blows out the candle on the nightstand, leaving them in darkness except for the moonlight streaming through the window, and turns his back to Hamilton. “Now go to sleep,” he says. “I have work in the morning. Government calls.”

Hamilton makes a sound that can be best described as ugh and Aaron feels him shift again, and then—

“Jesus Christ! Your feet are fucking freezing,” Aaron hisses, edging his calves safely away from Hamilton’s cold feet. “You should’ve kept your stockings on.”

“Not comfortable,” Hamilton says, his voice muffled by the pillow. He moves his feet back, to trying to warm themselves against Aaron’s legs.

“Stop, Alexander!” Aaron resists the urge the push Hamilton out of bed. “Do you put your frigid feet to Eliza, too?”

“We’re able to stay warm just fine.  If you know what I mean.”

Is this still my penance? Burr thinks, and he suddenly feels a lot warmer all over.

“Alexander—”

“Okay, okay. Sleep well, Burr.”

For once, Hamilton falls asleep before Aaron. Eventually, Hamilton’s deep, steady breaths lull him to sleep, too.

 

* * *

 

Aaron wakes up to a warmth and a closeness that he isn’t familiar with — it’s been a long time since he’s shared a bed, or at least with anyone who stayed after he was done with them.

He opens his eyes and oh, yeah, he remembers. Hamilton.

It’s still dark outside but it’s nearly a full moon and there’s enough light that he can make out Hamilton’s features. In the course of the night, they’ve rearranged themselves so they’re facing each other, and…yeah, that’s Hamilton’s arm draped over his middle.

Evidently, in his unconscious sleeping state, Hamilton had reached out to Aaron, thinking that he was his wife. That’s the explanation, surely.

Thankfully Hamilton is still fast asleep, and Aaron is the only one privy to this awkward situation. They’re close enough that their knees are touching, and Hamilton has succeeded in pressing his now warm feet against his. Aaron doesn’t think he can move Hamilton’s arm off of him and scoot away without waking Hamilton, and Aaron definitely doesn’t want that to happen — then they would both have to acknowledge to the other that it happened. One of two things would happen: Hamilton would be embarrassed (and Aaron doesn’t want to do that, he has some goddamn couth), or Hamilton would tease him about it mercilessly (the more likely of the two scenarios).

So Aaron is trapped. Trapped by Hamilton trying to cuddle him.

While Aaron tries to figure out the conundrum that is having his personal space being invaded, the proximity of Hamilton distracts him. He’s wide awake now and he has nothing better to do — so, he studies Hamilton.

Hamilton’s face is relaxed, something that never happens in his waking hours, when he’s always so so expressive. There’s no playful smile or an angry scowl — instead, his mouth is parted and he’s drooling on the pillow. Until now, Aaron never noticed how full Hamilton’s lips are, his bottom one extra pouty. It’s definitely a mouth that worries you, and once you knew him it worried you more. He wants to run his finger over the slight bump in Hamilton’s nose to see how it feels, that shape that’s perfect on Hamilton. Aaron counts the freckles on Hamilton’s face — one on his chin next to his beard, three on his cheek, a few on his forehead, one at the corner of his brow and another above it, one barely visible hidden inside his brow, one on his earlobe, two perfectly placed on his perfectly-shaped nose. When Aaron is done with that, he goes on to appreciate Hamilton’s inky-black eyelashes. He’d count those too, but that would take forever.

Hamilton’s hair is loose and a mess on the pillow, but one stray strand had escaped and is in Hamilton’s face. Without thinking, Aaron gently brushes it away — his hand stilling when he realizes that he hadn’t meant to touch him, only look.

Hamilton doesn’t wake, however. Hamilton sighs deeply, Aaron feeling the warm exhale of it on his face, and then Hamilton wrinkles his nose and licks his lips and he snuggles a fraction closer to Aaron as he mumbles something in his sleep. Then, he settles again.

Aaron can see Hamilton’s eyes moving underneath his eyelids. Hamilton is dreaming.   Aaron wonders what he dreams about. Probably ridiculous things.

How could I ever hate this man? Aaron asks himself as he looks at Hamilton’s soundly sleeping form.

Fondness, or something like it, tugs at his heart.

He goes back to sleep, not questioning the comfort he has with Hamilton next to him.

 

* * *

 

Aaron wakes up to an empty bed.

It’s normal for him, but not this time, when he had woken up expecting to see Hamilton asleep and slobbering on his pillow next to him. But the space next to him is empty, Hamilton having left the blankets tangled and the sheets warm.

It’s too early to tell if Aaron is disappointed.

He washes his face, shaves, starts to dress for the day. Now that he’s more alert, Aaron realizes that Hamilton must have woken up and seen how he was just a little closer than what’s decent, and left the bed before Aaron woke up too, mistakenly thinking that Aaron would never know how clingy he got in his sleep.

If that’s so, Aaron won’t say any different.

“There’s the sleepyhead,” Hamilton says from the small kitchen table when Aaron finally stumbles into the room some thirty minutes later after waking. Theo sits across from Hamilton, and laughs. Hamilton looks too chipper for this early in the morning — dressed in a handsome black outfit, his hair laying perfectly on his shoulders, looking well rested and bright-eyed — but then again, he wasn’t the one kept awake last night, memorizing the features of his face.

Aaron grunts at Hamilton — he won’t look at him, he can’t, not yet — and sits next to Theo, accepts the coffee that she pushes towards him. He holds it with both hands, takes a sip as he meets eyes with Hamilton across the table.

Aaron burns his tongue.

“Did you sleep well?” Aaron asks. It’s innocuous enough.

“Wonderfully,” Hamilton says, “I was warm all night long.”

Aaron swallows his coffee, burns his throat. The intensity of Hamilton’s stare burns hotter.

“And you?” Hamilton asks. “Did I disturb your beauty sleep?”

The thing is, he actually slept quite well, for reasons he can’t admit — to Hamilton, or himself.

“No amount of sleep can help my beauty,” Aaron says, gruff, “but put your icy feet on me again and I’ll push you onto the floor.”

“Ignore him,” Theo says, rolling her eyes. “Papa is grumpy before he’s had breakfast.”

“Well, we can’t have that, Mister Vice President,” Hamilton says, and pushes him his uneaten toast that’s sodden with Aaron’s favorite peach jam.

 

* * *

 

Aaron knows that Hamilton wants to go with him to court, but only on the terms that Aaron asks him. Aaron isn’t playing that game. He’s the patient one. He can wait Hamilton out. And besides — Hamilton shouldn’t even be there, he’s nobody in the government and it’s closed proceedings. He needs some time away from Hamilton. Hamilton will here there in his home, in his bed, when he gets back. It won’t be long enough to miss him.

But his thoughts keep wandering to Hamilton. Hamilton should be there.

At recess, Aaron skips lunch and goes home. He finds Hamilton asleep on the couch with his glasses on and a book in his lap. Hamilton wakes easy with a touch to his shoulder.

“I’m bored. Want to go with me?” Aaron asks.

Hamilton stands up and is putting on his coat before Aaron can finish the question. “I thought you’d never ask.”

 

* * *

 

They start on opposite sides of the bed that night, but Aaron wakes up once again to Hamilton’s arm wrapped around him, and his body nestled close. Closer than he was the night before. Warm.

Hamilton didn’t sleep like this, before when they used to share a bed. It probably has to do with the fact that Hamilton has grown used to sharing a bed with his wife. A habit over many years.

The blanket has slipped off Hamilton’s shoulder. Aaron figures that Hamilton might be chilled, so he pulls it back over him. Tucks him in. Counts his freckles again to make sure they’re still there.

Aaron nods off again, his head resting against Hamilton’s. He’s asleep before he can decide if he should move away or not.

 

* * *

 

Aaron has a letter from Van Ness waiting for him in the morning.

 

 

 

 

I have reason to believe that Hamilton might be traveling to visit you, so be prepared—

Van Ness is a few days too late with this intel. Great help.

 

* * *

 

It’s the final day of the Chase impeachment trial. Hamilton leaves with him in the morning without being invited, but Aaron doesn’t stop him. His only direction is for Hamilton to sit in the back and, “Don’t make a scene, act as though you aren’t even here.” Hamilton rolls his eyes and says, “You think they aren’t going to notice me?” because they get a lot of attention when they walk in together. Hamilton hasn’t spent much time in the capitol since he was ousted out by Adams, and the fact that he’s there with Aaron makes it even more unorthodox. But Hamilton holds his head high with an attitude that he’s rightfully there — he fits in as though he never left.

The chamber is jam-packed; Hamilton isn’t the only one there who technically shouldn’t be. Chase is visibly nervous, and the relations between the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republicans and Federalists are only getting worse. The Jeffersonians are accused of wanting to destroy the Supreme Court by using Chase as a scapegoat, and it is said that the liberty of citizens is in danger if they are to continue. Aaron is almost certain that Hamilton had whispered it to someone to say on the floor. He doesn’t disagree.

Regardless, the tribunal calls for a vote. Aaron announces it, saying loudly enough to carry though the room, “You have heard the evidence and arguments adduced on the trial of Samuel Chase, impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. You will now proceed to pronounce distinctly your judgment on each article of impeachment.” The senators are polled, each one asked if they consider Chase guilty or not guilty, a rather simple process after weeks of debate and arguments.

The room is quiet when Aaron is handed the results. He looks over the tallies, counts them again even though they’re already totaled.

Aaron looks up, finds Hamilton in the crowd. Hamilton gives him a thumbs up.

This is the moment.

“Samuel Chase Esquire,” Aaron says, “stands acquitted of all the articles exhibited by the House of Representatives against him.”

The room goes into chaos. Aaron stands at his seat, unsure what to do — his job is over.

Lost, Aaron looks to Hamilton, and then breathes a sigh of relief. Hamilton is Aaron’s anchor — Hamilton smiles grimly, nods towards the door, and then looks back at him questioningly.

Nobody notices when Aaron rushes past, leaving the room with Hamilton.

They have to stop their rush when they get to the front steps so Hamilton can catch his breath, and admittedly, Aaron need to also — he isn’t as young as he used to be, and the adrenaline is getting to him. His heart pounds in his chest, and Hamilton leans heavily onto his cane and holds onto Aaron’s arm with his other hand.

“That,” Hamilton says between breaths, “was awesome!”

“Suspiciously dashing through the Capitol building?” Aaron asks.

Hamilton laughs. “Well, that too,” he says, but then shakes his head. “What I meant was — do you realize what just happened? What you did in there?”

“I didn’t do anything,” Aaron says. “My job was to keep the peace and then declare the verdict.”

“Burr,” Hamilton says, short. His hand falls from Aaron, and runs a hand through his hair, and then sighs. “But you did do something. You were part of something, and you did it properly. You gave government and liberty a chance. You blocked Jefferson’s attempt to ruin the Court, and stopped his party’s radicalism! You set a precedent that I know will be followed for a very long time. You helped decide what the judiciary is, established judiciary independence, and protected the ideals of the Constitution. You…” He trails off, like he can’t decide where to go with it next, but he ends up saying, “I’m proud of you,” his voice cracking a little, and he’s flushed and he can’t stop smiling.

Aaron never would’ve expected this. He isn’t sure how to take it — he wants to reject it, he doesn’t need Hamilton’s approval, but then…he realizes that it’s residual bitterness. He keeps reminding himself it’s okay.

“Thanks,” Aaron says, and it feels good to mean it. Hamilton is right — finally, a positive in the blight that has become his political career.

It’s short lived, however.

“Jefferson is going to be inaugurated as President again in two days. And then he has four years to keep trying to make things as he wants them,” Aaron says, because while he might have won the battle, Jefferson is winning the war.

Hamilton shrugs. “Diplomacy is a long game. We’ll deal with that later,” Hamilton says, so assured and matter-of-fact that Aaron has to believe him.

“But for now, let’s blow this joint.” Hamilton wraps his arm around Aaron, squeezes him, claps his shoulder, and Aaron can’t help but lean into it and agree when Hamilton continues with, “and tonight, we celebrate.”

 

* * *

 

“Diplomacy is a long game,” Aaron says, repeating Hamilton’s words from earlier in the day. He kept it close, waiting until they were away from the D.C. tavern and in the privacy of his home, where they can talk without the worry of being overheard.

Hamilton sets his drink down and sighs, like he knew it had been coming, that now they have to discuss.

“Yes,” Hamilton says, “I’ve always known this, that’s why I left my home, came to America. But there was another long game between you and me, one we’ve already started years ago, before we even knew about it.”

“When did you become aware of it?”

“Somewhere around the time that I was on your doorstep begging for your help and you said no,” Hamilton says, and there’s a bitterness there that suggests that he’s still resentful about it. Aaron often thinks of that, of how his life would have been different if he had said yes and wrote the Federalist Papers with Hamilton. Maybe they would never have fallen apart. Or maybe, Aaron would have shot him sooner.

“It doesn’t matter, though,” Hamilton says, interrupting Aaron’s thoughts, “We’re on the same side now. We’re stronger together.”

Aaron’s chest is tight. “So your pamphlet about us was another step in this long-term game?”

Hamilton nods. “First, we had to establish our domestic tranquility,” he says, grinning at his own cleverness. “It has to appear plausible that we actually, you know, like each other enough to run a campaign together. I made sure it was far enough in advance so when we do start our other plans, it’ll be natural progression. Get all the pieces in line, so to speak, and make it easier for us.”

Aaron expects that Hamilton has the next four years planned out perfectly.

“Do you know what else could have made it easier for us?” Aaron asks, and then continues before Hamilton can respond, “Me being Governor of New York. Which I would be if you hadn’t prevented me from it.”

“You lost the gubernatorial by an eight thousand vote margin,” Hamilton replies, dryly. “I didn’t have that much influence.”

Aaron sighs. At the time, it had been easier to blame Hamilton for all his failures.

Hamilton reaches forward and pats Aaron’s hand, says, “Hey, don’t fret. It’s better this way. Clean slate, right?”

Aaron looks down at where Hamilton’s hand covers his. Hamilton has a freckle on one of his fingers, he notices.

“I guess so,” Aaron says. What other choice do they have?

“It’s perfect, I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before,” Hamilton says, and too soon he pulls his hand away from Aaron’s. Hamilton gestures between the two of them, says, “With our combined geniuses, my charisma — which is something that the Federalist candidates have been lacking — and your meticulousness, we’re a winning combination.”

Aaron sees a future of him trying to corral Hamilton from destruction. But on the other side, he sees a future of Hamilton encouraging him to do things he’d normally refrain from.

“Do you think it’s possible?” Aaron asks. “For the two of us to overcome the Democratic-Republican reign of the government?”

“We’ve defeated an impossible power once before, and the British far outnumber the Democratic-Republicans.”

“I know it’s been a while, but I don’t think you could forget that we had guns to overturn the British,” Aaron says. Hamilton rolls his eyes, and mumbles something about how Aaron is missing the point, and he could have reasoned it out with the British if Washington had given him the chance.

“Regardless,” Hamilton says, “I know it to be possible. Someone said to me a while back that I could have fornicated with every woman in the city, and I still would be able to regain my good standing in government.”

“There are a lot of women in New York. You wouldn’t have time to do anything else,” Aaron quips, making Hamilton laugh like mad. It’s true, though — Hamilton’s adultery is all but forgotten. Aaron thinks of it sometimes, of Hamilton and that woman. Aaron wonders if Hamilton was gentle and passionate, or if he was rough and quick, taking only pleasure for himself. If Hamilton lingered in bed afterward, and wrapped his arm around her to pull her close to him, if he warmed his feet against her.

Aaron clears his throat, says, “Anyway.” The tone changes back to serious.

“I need to know how far you’ll go,” Hamilton says. “Will you stay to the end, no matter what happens?”

“I promise,” Aaron says, and this time he is the one to put his hand over Hamilton’s. Hamilton doesn’t pull away, but watches Aaron with interest as he speaks. Aaron says the words without thought, as they are true, “Even though we haven’t always agreed, we understand each other. And I realized that if don’t think you can win a battle of ideas, then maybe you need to rethink if you’re on the right side.”

Hamilton’s face is unreadable. “I’m trying to decide why you’re so invested. What do you gain? I become President and you…?”

“A chance to start over,” Aaron says. “It’s a chance for both of us to start over.”

Hamilton makes a humming noise. “So, what? You’d be my Vice President?”

“Fuck, no.” Aaron rubs his temples. “I don’t think I could endure that again,” he says, although he realizes that it would be different than with Jefferson. But it’s just the idea of it that makes him sick.

“No worries. You have time to decide,” Hamilton says, and he pats Aaron’s hand that’s on top of his other hand. For a moment, Hamilton holds Aaron's hand between the two of his. Aaron feels like he should say something like, thank you, or, why are you holding my hand? or, why do you want me? but he’s afraid that’ll lead to one answer, and then another question, and another, and then something else—

“I have to give an address to the Senate tomorrow,” Aaron says, abruptly. He stands, his hand slipping from Hamilton’s. Flexes it, releases, repeats. “I need to sleep.”

Hamilton blinks up at him. “Oh. Okay,” he says. He’s looking at Aaron like he wants to say something, but then he shrugs and hefts himself out of the chair. “C’mon. Let’s make sure you get your beauty sleep for your last day in office.”

Aaron follows Hamilton, listening to the clack of Hamilton’s cane while he goes over the conversation in his head and thinking of what these progressions mean for the two of them, when Theo cracks open her door as they pass her room. Hamilton bows his head to her and then continues on, giving the Burrs privacy.

“Why are you awake?” Aaron asks when it’s just the two of them.

The candle Theo is holding illuminates her smile. “I heard you and mister Hamilton talking.” She opens the door wider, leans against the doorframe. “It was quite an interesting conversation.”

Aaron cringes. “How much did you hear?”

“Enough to know that you and Alexander Hamilton are planning a scheme to make him President,” she says, “and that you’re going to have a place in government, too.”

In a way, it’s a relief that Theo knows. It’s been difficult hiding the secret from her, because he doesn’t have secrets with her. He doesn’t like keeping secrets from her. He probably over shares with her. The only reason why he didn’t tell her this is because he wasn’t sure how she’d react, and he couldn’t handle her disappointment if she thought that he’s probably making another huge mistake. He speaks to the floor, asking, “And what do you think?” and then nervously looks up at her.

“I wish you would’ve told me yourself instead of letting me finding out by accident,” Theo says, scolding, and Aaron nods because yes, she’s right. But then Theo smiles brilliantly, reminiscent of how her mother used to, and says, “But I think it’s a great idea. You should know by now that I’ll always support you, Papa.”

The heaviness in Aaron’s heart lightens. “As long as you support me, that’s all that matters,” he says, and he leans in to kiss Theo on the cheek. He catches Theo rolling her eyes at him, but she’s smiling.

“You have other duties first. Go to bed,” she says, and shoos him away. Aaron wishes to talk to her all night, tell her everything that he and Hamilton have discussed, and see if she has any ideas, but she shuts the door in his face.

When Aaron gets to his bedroom, Hamilton is already in his nightclothes, curled up in bed and facing away from him. Hamilton doesn’t say anything and there’s no way that he’s asleep that fast, but Aaron doesn’t want to provoke him to conversation, lest they both be awake all night. He changes quickly, crawls into bed, tugs his share of the blanket away from Hamilton.

Aaron feels the warmth of Hamilton’s body, hears his deep near-sleep breaths. He’s very aware of Hamilton next to him, and it takes everything within him to not roll closer to Hamilton and wrap his arm around him — because why not? They are going end up together, anyway.

But that wasn’t intentional.

“I can hear you thinking,” Hamilton mumbles. He puts his cold foot against Aaron’s ankle, pulling it back when Aaron curses at him. “Relax. It’ll be fine tomorrow.”

Aaron isn’t worried about it, but he’ll let Hamilton think that’s the reason why he’s so apprehensive. “Goodnight, Alexander.”

“Goodnight, Burr.”

 

* * *

 

Aaron isn’t surprised when he wakes up with Hamilton snuggled close to him. Again. It’s morning — around six, judging by the way the sunlight streams through the window — and Hamilton is still asleep, head more on Aaron’s pillow than his own, and dangerously close to drooling on Aaron’s shoulder.

His bladder kind of wants him to get up, but he can’t remove himself from Hamilton’s hold and he’s actually extremely cozy, so he stays in bed for now.

He sighs, thinking of the dreadful task he has to do today. A farewell address to the Senate. He hasn’t given much thought about what he’s going to say because he’s been too occupied with the trial and Hamilton’s arrival. He’s tempted to go up there and be like, “bye, fuckers,” complete with kicking over his chair before leaving the Senate for the final time. It would be concise, and properly expressive of his feelings for all of them. Everyone will be glad that they no longer have to deal with Aaron anymore. Aaron could abscond from D.C. and not even give the address, and they would not care. But, just for that reason, Aaron will give a speech. He’ll make them listen to him one last time.

Hamilton mumbles something in his sleep, like he’s agreeing with Aaron’s plan. Aaron looks down, and Hamilton definitely got drool on Aaron’s shirtsleeve. Ugh.

But he has the realization that he can’t be too annoyed with Hamilton because, well. Hamilton is cute. Too damned adorable for his own good. It’s not weird to think it because it’s true, and Hamilton knows it too — he always smiles because he knows Aaron likes his smile, ever since they were young, he knows that he can smile and Aaron will let him do whatever it is he wants. If Hamilton had smiled at him at Weehawken instead of scowling at him, Aaron probably would have called the whole thing off. That was their problem, they should have smiled more and talked more — or at least, talked about what mattered.

Goddamn Hamilton, honestly. Aaron is angry with himself for lying there thinking about how cute Hamilton is, because that’s definitely something he shouldn’t be thinking about, but he can’t help it because Hamilton is right there and making him wonder things like if Hamilton’s lips are as soft as they look and—

Hamilton stirs, and Aaron quickly shuts his eyes and feigns sleep. Tries to keep his breathing slow and even to not give himself away.

Aaron feels Hamilton shift next to him as he wakes up, wrapping his arm tighter around Aaron for a moment before he mutters, “dammit,” presumably realizing he crossed the invisible boundaries of the bed. He sighs, blowing in Aaron’s face and then Aaron feels Hamilton pulling away slowly, like he’s being extra careful not to wake Aaron. It’s considerate of him, especially when Aaron recalls when they used to be bedfellows before — Hamilton would either refuse to wake up when Aaron told him to, or Hamilton wouldn’t sleep all night long and would wake Aaron up every couple hours.

Hamilton’s joints pop when he gets up, and Aaron feels immense satisfaction because his do too in the morning. Aaron peeks to see what Hamilton is doing — Hamilton’s back is to him, so he watches as Hamilton strips off his nightshirt, leaving his back completely bare. Aaron’s eyes travel up the long line of Hamilton’s shapely legs up to his ass, and he understands why all the ladies were—are attracted to him, he really does, especially when Hamilton turns slightly and Aaron catches a glimpse of Hamilton’s half-hard dick.

Holy fuck.

Aaron squeezes his eyes shut because he had looked for a moment too long, his gut twinging with what he classifies as guilt or shame, maybe second-hand embarrassment for Hamilton. It’s normal to wake up, uh, stimulated in the morning — for instance, Aaron realizes he feels himself stirring down there — but he saw Hamilton because he was being too voyeuristic and it's his fault that he has the wrong wrong wrong thought so his ego matches his size, so he doesn’t move doesn’t think doesn’t do anything until Hamilton gently closes the door behind him a few minutes later.

“Shit,” Aaron says to the empty room.

 

* * *

 

Aaron jerks off in bed thinking of nothing in particular, then washes up and changes, greets Hamilton at breakfast. Hamilton looks up from his paper, says, “Yo,” and goes back to sipping coffee and reading the finance section. Aaron does not look to see if Hamilton’s breeches are too tight.

Aaron makes breakfast for both of them because apparently Hamilton doesn’t know how. Hamilton mutters a thanks, and wordlessly hands over the sections of the paper he’s finished reading. Hamilton had dog-eared the pages that contain articles he found interesting, and they discuss them and it’s all very pleasant.

It’s only weird if he makes it weird.

 

* * *

 

“You’re going to do fine.”

“No I’m not. I’m going to throw up,” Aaron says. It’s an exaggeration, but he is nervous, which he wasn’t until he and Hamilton were done packing up the things in his office that he’s taking with him, and there were no more excuses to put off the address. He doesn’t think something bad will happen, it’s not like it can get any worse — actually, scratch that, because things can always, always get worse. But what he’s nervous about is that this one act will represent his term. If he can end on a good note, then he won’t be remembered as a total failure.

Hamilton gives him a pointed look, like stop being so dramatic, and doesn’t step away from him. Hamilton fixes Aaron’s clothes, straightening the lapels of his coat and fluffing the ruffles of his shirt.

“Hush. Now, where’s that legendary Aaron Burr equanimity?” Hamilton says, and then he bops Aaron on the nose and says, “There it is.”

Aaron’s words get caught in his throat. Not very debonair at all.

Hamilton smiles brilliantly. “Knock ‘em dead.”

 

* * *

 

“I confess that at times I must’ve wounded the feelings of individual members,” Aaron begins, and he’s started, and that’s always the worst part.

Everyone in the room is looking at him, but the only person whom he focuses on is Hamilton. Hamilton is there, even though he shouldn’t be — it’s a closed-door executive session, but nobody said anything when he took a seat near the front, and nobody is going to tell him to leave.

Hamilton is there, like he always is — Aaron can depend on that.

Once Aaron starts talking, he can’t stop, he explains why he didn’t engage in explanations to defend himself because the Senate isn’t the place to deal with personal matters and it would have tarnished the reputation of his position to have done so, not to mention how it would have further divided bipartisanism. Nothing he could have said would have made it better, he knows this. But it doesn’t matter what he did, or what he didn’t do — it’s about the legacy he leaves behind, in hopes that he helped make the nation a better place, something that he and all his comrades fought and bled and died for.

He says, “I challenge your attention to considerations more momentous than any which regard merely your personal honor and character, or mine — the preservation of law, of liberty, and the constitution.” He looks to Hamilton when he says it, and it’s like he’s saying it to him and him alone. A seduction, of sorts. It’s what he knows Hamilton wants to hear, but the words are for himself, too. He believes in them, and that’s what he wants Hamilton to know, that’s what he’s trying to communicate.

Unspoken, he says, This is what we could do, you and me.

Unspoken, Hamilton says to him, I know.

He says, aloud for all to hear, “The House, I need not remind you, is a sanctuary, a citadel of law, of order, and of liberty. It is here — it is here, in this exalted refuge, here if anywhere, will resistance be made to the storms of political frenzy, and the silent arts of corruption. And if the Constitution be destined ever to perish by the sacrilegious hands of the demagogue or the usurper, its expiring agonies will be witnessed on this very floor.”

He says, “We’re stronger together,” and judging by the pensive way Hamilton looks, Hamilton understands the personal message.

And then — Aaron gives his thanks, and then leaves the floor, leaving behind the once-was promise of his career, and onto the promise of something better.

And Hamilton follows right behind him.

 

* * *

 

“I think I blacked out,” Aaron says, later, when he’s had time to process what transpired. “It just…happened.”

Hamilton smiles at him, elated. “It definitely happened. You supported the Constitution, and then you totally dragged everyone — in that polite, subtle way that you specialize in — for using you as a target for partisan attacks.”

“Oh my God.”

“It was beautiful, Burr,” Hamilton says, as he tops off both of their glasses. Whiskey, neat. Only the best stuff for them. “I think you actually made some people cry, it was so moving.”

“If there was crying, they were tears of joy at seeing me leave,” Aaron grumbles.

Hamilton slams his glass on to the table, jarring it and spilling some of the liquor onto his hand. “You’re wrong. Mitchill was definitely dabbing at his eyes with his handkerchief, and Smith had to lay his head down he was so overcome with emotion. Shit, I almost fell out of my chair hearing you say those things. It really resonated, man. Stuff that our young Republic stands for.”

Just then Hamilton seems to notice the spilt whiskey, and he licks it off his hand with a broad stroke of his tongue before it can stain his cuff. Aaron stares, and he has that funny feeling again.

“You’re an animal,” he says, and Hamilton laughs and replies, “Yeah, so?” and then they’re both laughing for no reason really except that they’re drunk and everything is ridiculous.

“But Burr, seriously. Burr,” Hamilton says, in that tone that drunk people do, like hey listen, and he has to work extra hard to get out each syllable. Aaron focuses on him. Hamilton’s eyes are blown wide and glassy, and he leans in slightly and he holds onto Aaron’s arm, like he’s making sure Aaron is paying attention to him.

Hamilton slurs out, “It was good. Like, let yourself have something good. Good things can happen to you. Be…good.” He keeps saying good, his eloquence on hiatus when inebriated. He shakes his head like he’s clearing it. “You know what I mean?”

Aaron shrugs, and takes away the bottle when Hamilton reaches for it again. “I don’t know what, uh, good it’ll do,” Aaron says. “I don’t know what’s next.” He bites the inside of his cheek. “I kind of gave up everything and burned all my bridges.”

“There’s at least one bridge left,” Hamilton says, and points his finger between the two of them. “As they say, a city always starts with one bridge.”

“You made that up.”

Hamilton looks very serious for a moment, but then his face breaks into uncontainable smile and he actually giggles. “Yeah, I bullshitted that, you got me,” he says, and runs a hand through his hair. “What I’m trying to say is, it’ll be fine, even if it sucks. Trust me. If something was easy, then it wouldn’t matter how it ends.”

Aaron considers it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it actually makes perfect sense.

“But I have a business proposition for you that could solve your problem,” Hamilton says. “Come work with me.”

That does not make sense.

“Me?” Aaron asks, incredulous, but there’s nobody else who Hamilton could have meant. “Why?”

Hamilton hitches his shoulder up, sticks out his pouty lip, he averts his eyes from Aaron’s questioning gaze. “I don’t know?” Hamilton says, and it manages to sound like a question, which doesn’t make Aaron feel too confident. He continues, “I could use some help at my office, and you need a job, so…?” He looks back up at Aaron, giving him a hopeful smile that restores Aaron’s confidence. “We could call it Hamilton and Burr.”

“Shouldn’t my name be first?” Aaron asks. “Alphabetically?”

“The name is non-negotiable. I’m the one taking you on, after all.” Hamilton scoots his chair closer, making a scrape scrape scrape on the floor until he’s on the same side of the table as Aaron. He leans in, close enough that Aaron can smell his whiskey breath, says, “We could be co-counsels again.”

Aaron has risked a lot more for a lot less over Hamilton.

“Okay then, partner,” Aaron says, and picks up his glass and nods to Hamilton’s. Hamilton takes his, clinks it against Aaron’s.

“Cheers.”

 

* * *

 

Hamilton wakes Aaron up the next morning. His whiny voice is worse to wake up to than him drooling on his shirt.

“Burr, c’mon, we’re going to miss the inauguration,” Hamilton says, shaking Aaron’s shoulder.

“We weren’t invited. Nobody wants us there,” Aaron mutters, which he’s perfectly content with, and wraps the blankets tighter around himself as he tries to sleep away the hangover from the previous night. He wants to enjoy the first day of his new, less burdened life. Some other fool has his old job and he’s just about relaxed again when Hamilton yanks the blanket off of him.

“That’s exactly why we have to be there,” Hamilton says. No, he’s shouting. He’s shouting and stomping his foot and trying to drag Aaron about of bed and—

 

* * *

 

That’s how they end up crashing the inauguration party.

It’s kind of disappointing when it isn’t as difficult as Aaron thought it’d be. Nobody notices them standing to the side in the audience at the inaugural speech, because they’re too fixated on Jefferson on the platform in front of them. For as boisterous as Jefferson can be, he’s an awful public speaker — the majority of his ten-minute awkwardly given speech is inaudible.

“Act like you belong,” Hamilton whispers to Aaron as they walk into the hall of the Presidential Mansion for the party. Aaron figures that advice is how Hamilton has got through most of his life. Assert yourself somewhere so firmly that nobody will dare say no.

It works, yet again. Nobody says anything, but they get quite a few disapproving glares. When people notice him and Hamilton, they look away quickly. The shame of the Capitol. Aaron frowns, and starts wondering when is the earliest they can leave without seeming rude or avoidant.

Hamilton nudges him. “Cheer up, buttercup,” Hamilton says, and he doesn’t seem to be bothered at all. In fact, he’s doing what could be classified as strutting — his chest puffed out proudly, his head held high, a sharp grin.

“This is like I’m a jilted groom seeing my bride marry someone else,” Aaron says. He stares across the room as important people talk to other important people.

It isn’t worth it, he reminds himself. Wait for it.

“You need a drink,” Hamilton declares, and then he goes off in search of drinks, muttering melodramatic idiot just loudly enough so that Aaron can hear.

Aaron occupies himself with observing the people in the room. It’s crowded enough that he loses Hamilton in the crowd. The Federalists stand off in the corner, the small number of them sticking together. Democratic-Republicans are everywhere he looks. Martha Washington is absent, which is not a surprise (she despises Jefferson, Hamilton told him when Aaron asked after her, she says when Jefferson visited Mount Vernon was one of the worst days of her life, second only to her husband dying). John Adams is also absent — everyone knows he and Jefferson have their issues, and Adams has all but retired from politics. Madison talks with Clinton, the new Vice President, and Aaron wonders if Clinton getting the same talk that Madison gave him on his first day: do what we say or else. He sees everyone, except the main man himself.

“You just couldn’t get enough of me, Burr?”

He spoke too soon. Jefferson appears next to him, decked out in regal purple coat, his mouth stretched into a wide grin but his eyes in a sneer, it all amounting to the essence of being formidable because he’s too terrible to have his sovereignty questioned. He’s here to boast, one last twist of the knife. Not that Aaron will pander to it, though.

“I didn’t know you’d be here,” Aaron says, casual. He gestures in the vague direction where Hamilton disappeared. “Alexander and I thought this was a birthday party. Imagine our surprise.”

“Uh-huh.” Jefferson crosses his arms. “I’m happy to see that you and Hammy worked out all those pesky differences,” he says, in a tone that suggests he isn’t happy at all.

Aaron is growing tired of Hamilton being the most interesting thing about him. “Jefferson—”

“That’s mister President to you,” Jefferson corrects.

Aaron will not formally address Jefferson. “We don’t have to pretend to like each other anymore,” Aaron says, bluntly. “So did you have anything of purpose to say, or did you come over here to be a shrew?”

Jefferson’s mouth hangs open, taken aback. He recovers quickly, and lets out a long whistle. “Damn, you’re harsh. I was just gonna say remember all the good times, and give you an offer.”

“There were no good times,” Aaron says, “and you can’t give me anything that I’d want.”

Jefferson’s smile gets even more awful, if possible. “Are you so sure about that?” he asks, and then lowers his voice so only Aaron can hear, “If you ever change your mind about your renewed loyalty to Hamilton, maybe you and I can help each other out and ensure that he stays meaningless. You tell me what you know and…things could be good for you, instead of you being the worthless one.”

Aaron backs away from him, stricken. “Are you asking me to betray Hamilton?”

“Hey, you said it,” Jefferson says, holding out his hands, a show of innocence.

“I’d never do that to Alexander.” He’d never, ever hurt him again. No. He wouldn’t?

“I bet you never thought you’d shoot him, either.”

“Alexander is—“

“I’m what?”

Aaron had been so involved in his conversation with Jefferson, he hadn’t heard Hamilton coming back. Hamilton stands there, cane in one hand and holding two champagne flutes between his fingers with his other; one of the glasses is half-empty, Hamilton probably having drank some already. Hamilton has that clueless look that someone has when they know they were being talked about, and Aaron can’t help but smile because Hamilton looks so indignant but so wonderful — Aaron knows for sure that he had been correct, he’d always pick Hamilton.

“Nothing,” Aaron says, reaching for the champagne flute that’s full. “Jefferson was just leaving.”

“I’ll leave when I’m ready,” Jefferson drawls. His eyes flit back and forth between Aaron and Hamilton. “Like I was telling ex-Vice President Burr, you and he are quite the pair. Of losers.”

“That’s your opinion,” Hamilton says, nonchalant, but Aaron knows him well enough to know that he’s irked. Hamilton downs the rest of his drink in one go. Aaron sips his to be doing something.

“Heathens, the pair of you,” Jefferson says. “An embarrassment to this nation.”

Opinion,” Hamilton says, louder this time. He snatches Aaron’s glass, drinks down the rest of the champagne.

Jefferson presses forward, “A pair of low-class cowards who thought that settling their problems with guns instead of words was a good idea. I don’t know what the use was, though. Neither of y’all’s honor is worth protecting.” He lets out a single ha, then, “The only thing I’m glad of is that Washington is dead so he’s spared the shame.”

“Don’t you dare speak his name, you filthy slaver,” Hamilton snarls, his resolve finally snapping. Aaron is impressed that Hamilton contained himself for as long as he did. The insults cut Aaron close too, but he puts a hand on Hamilton’s chest to rein him in, says, “It isn’t worth it, Alexander.”

And to his surprise, Hamilton obeys. He grumbles a few choice swears under his breath, but he relents, takes a step away from Jefferson and says, “Fine, okay. You’re right.”

Jefferson looks to those around him, like are you seeing this shit? Their disturbance has gathered some attention. Madison appears at Jefferson’s side, tries to tell Jefferson something, but Jefferson waves him off and composes himself, tugging at his coat, his usual chill aplomb ruffled.

“Down boy. Be good and listen to Burr,” Jefferson says with a smirk. He turns, and says to Madison, but loud enough for everyone to hear, “See? I told you Burr is a coward.”

Not worth it not worth it not worth it—

“I’m not a coward!”

For a moment, Aaron thinks that Hamilton is the one who shouted, but then he turns to Hamilton and sees how Hamilton is gaping at him with wide-eyed shock and his mouth upturned slightly into a grin, and that’s when Aaron feels his own throat raw from use and wrath burning his insides — he suspects it was roused from the anger that radiates off of Hamilton like an out-of-control fire.

Hamilton, realizing that he has to be the sensible one for once, tugs at Aaron’s arm, says, “Let’s go, Burr,” but Aaron shrugs his touch away because he’ll be damned if he misses this shot — he has nothing left, after all.

“I’ve accounted for all my mistakes, I admit that I’m a fuck up! But at least I know it, while you act as if yours don’t exist,” Aaron says, and it feels fantastic to finally let out this anger that’s been building for years. He has a little understanding of why Hamilton loves verbally thrashing people — there’s a sadistic thrill in tearing someone down in the worst way possible. “Just because you don’t acknowledge your problems doesn't mean they go away, but then I guess that’s what paying people off is for. Convince people to do as you want and you can continue to be everyone’s favorite, get laws passed that you want, get rid of people who don’t agree with you—”

“That’s enough,” Jefferson interjects. There’s a warning explicit in his voice: watch out.

“No! You can’t force me into compliance anymore” Aaron says, and there’s a flicker of realization in Jefferson’s eyes when he realizes that he doesn’t scare Aaron. It’s wonderful, and Aaron could leave it there but he doesn’t—

“Fuck you, you bourgeois llama!”

Next to him, Hamilton laughs and claps him on the back. “Nice.” Hamilton is supposed to be stopping him from this madness. There’s no hope now.

“Pompous Francophile who can’t even speak proper French! You’d ruin this country if you had your way, and nobody stops you because they’re so far up your ass with hero worship. If they only knew...” Aaron takes a deep breath. There’s so much he can say, but it won’t do any good. He’s not creditable. There’s only a few who have any respect for him.

Hamilton puts a hand on his shoulder, softly says his name. Hamilton is one of the few. He believes in him.

Aaron is shaking, he didn’t notice until Hamilton started touching him gently.

“You’re the coward,” Aaron says to Jefferson. “You’re a vile human being, Thomas Jefferson, and you’ll get what’s coming to you.”

Jefferson takes a step closer, asks, “Is that a threat, Burr?”

“I won’t be the one to—”

Burr,” Hamilton says, almost begging, and grabs Aaron’s hand. He leans in to whisper to Aaron, “I admire your sudden bravado, but there are some times that you need to leave an argument. Like right now. Trust me, I’m an expert.”

He doesn’t have to listen to Hamilton, either.

Hamilton drags Aaron away by the hand as fast as he can in his condition, pushing through the crowd, and Aaron has no choice other than be pulled along.

But he’s sure to get the last word.

“Feel free to take any of this personally!” Aaron shouts.

“Goddamn it, Burr,” Hamilton huffs. He struggles to get them out the door, pushes at congressmen who stand in their way. “Don’t be so fucking difficult. This is payback at me, isn’t it?”

One last jibe—

“And your macaroni sucks!”

 

* * *

 

“You’re insane,” Hamilton says once they’ve locked themselves inside Aaron’s office, which Aaron supposes isn’t really his office anymore.

Aaron rests against (not) his desk, runs a hand over his head, lets out a long sigh. He can’t seem to calm his nerves — he’s running too high. “Yeah, I can’t believe I did that.” The previous half hour feels like an out of body experience. Something impossible, something wild.

Something that Hamilton would do.

Hamilton comes up to him, saunters really, until he’s in front of him. “It was perfect,” Hamilton says, admiring. “You’re perfect.”

It’s hard to look at Hamilton when he’s like that — his smile is ecstatic, like he really thinks that: that Aaron is perfect.

“Alexander,” Aaron says, each syllable punctuated on his tongue, saying Hamilton’s name like a prayer. Or a curse. Aaron doesn’t know which. But Hamilton is there with his damnable smile that eases Aaron’s worries and it’s perfect.

“You’re free,” Hamilton says. “What’s next?”

“I thought I’d practice law with some guy.” Aaron smiles. “He’s kind of a big deal. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. His name is Hamilton.”

“Oh yeah?” and Hamilton tilts his head, he sees the game in this. Cute.

“Alexander,” Aaron says again, and Hamilton closes the distance between them, Aaron letting out a sharp exhale when Hamilton lays a hand on his chest.

“This Hamilton person should be careful.” Hamilton licks his lips, looks up at Aaron with heavy-lidded eyes, and god he’s beautiful. “You’re a dangerous man.”

Aaron takes.

Hamilton’s lips are as soft as they look, Aaron discovers.

With a rush of a breath, Aaron leans in and presses his lips to Hamilton’s. Aaron thinks that maybe they were both were going for it, hopes they were because then it wouldn’t be just him — Hamilton gasps against Aaron’s mouth and his body goes tense but he doesn’t pull away — that’s the important part — and then Hamilton relaxes against him and Aaron feels Hamilton’s lips part against his ever so slightly. Hamilton clutches at Aaron’s coat as he kisses him back, and there’s a thousand thoughts running through Aaron’s mind like this is wrong and Alexander is married and Alexander is a man but also this is perfect, perfect like how Aaron has to slightly tilt his head up to make their lips meet because Hamilton has a couple inches on him but they’re close enough to a perfect and equal fit, or how the scrape of Hamilton’s beard against his skin makes him shudder in a good way that sends a shock down his spine, or how Hamilton tastes like the champagne he had been drinking, or how Hamilton kisses with his eyes closed, or how the curve of Hamilton’s hip feels perfect against his hand when he rests it there, or how Hamilton makes a gorgeous whimper when Aaron licks at his bottom lip for more. It’s perfect, and just when he realizes that this is what the months of tension between them has been leading to and that it had been so worth the wait, it’s over.

Hamilton pulls away, breathing hard. His lips were only on Aaron’s long enough to miss them when they’re gone.

“I’m sorry,” Aaron says, soft, and he turns his head away so he won’t be tempted to kiss Hamilton again. He glances around the room as if someone could have seen them, but they’re alone. Only they know.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Hamilton says, just as softly, and he whispers Aaron’s name sweetly until Aaron looks back at him, “Burr.” Hamilton is right there, his face flushed, close enough to kiss. “I’m sorry too,” Hamilton says and yes, he’s just as guilty as Aaron in this, he kissed him back. Aaron won’t forget that.

Hamilton is still clutching Aaron’s jacket, but then he lets it go, smooths out the wrinkles. “I just— I miss Eliza and—”

“Of course.” Aaron clears his throat. “I didn’t mean to…you know,” he says.   I didn’t mean to kiss you, he thinks — just like how he didn’t mean to shoot him. Hamilton makes him do ridiculous things. Hamilton is so — so everything and Aaron craves more, but he can’t have it and that makes him want it more.

Once again, Aaron must reckon with the effects of Hamilton’s life on his. Hamilton will be the end of him, one way or another.

“No worries,” Hamilton says, his eyes crinkled up into a smile. “Let’s, um. Yeah,” and then he steps away to fiddle with books on Aaron’s desk that he’s taking with him back to New York.

Aaron has done the impossible: render Hamilton speechless. Aaron would feel more proud if it weren’t a time he wished Hamilton would say something.

Chapter Text

“Let’s go home,” Alexander says to Burr the next day, after, because this is not their home. It’s not where they belong right now. He recalls something similar, after the war I went back to New York—

“Fine,” Burr says, defeated. “There’s nothing left for me here, anyway.”

And without further ado, they pack up and leave D.C. the next day.

Burr is in an awful mood, but Alexander doesn’t bother him. He lets Burr be…Burr. Alexander is sure that Burr is grumpy because he has to retreat from the embarrassment of his political career, especially after making a fool out of himself in front of everyone. Theo keeps asking if Burr is okay, and Burr replies a snappy passive aggressive, “I’m great,” in a tone that indicates that he’s anything but.

However…there’s more to Burr’s pissy attitude than Burr’s pride being wounded — that’s nothing new for Burr. There’s a new tension between him and Alexander, and Alexander doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out why.

Burr hasn’t said much, since then. Then, when he kissed Alexander and like an idiot, Alexander kissed him back.

It’s one of the top two mistakes that they’ve made. Alexander can’t decide if this, or their duel is worse. At least with this, all he’s left with is the lingering feeling of Burr’s lips on his instead of a hole in his side.

Alexander had resolved to not mention it again, but Burr is making it a problem. It’s a step backwards in their progress, to where Burr outright avoids being alone in the same room with him. Burr didn’t share the bed last night — he had made the excuse of having work to do. Alexander knew it was bullshit but he didn’t want to make a problem of it so he had curled up in Burr’s bed alone for a restless night of sleep, and in the morning he found Burr passed out on the couch, dressed in the clothes he wore the day before.

So, it’s officially a problem (not that it ever wasn’t). They have to talk about it — everything can’t go to hell again because of miscommunication. They’ve came so far, and just when Alexander thought they were getting somewhere…

“Burr,” Alexander pleads when he’s finally able to get Burr alone, somewhere in Middleburg. They stand next to the carriage and stretch their legs while Theo explores a bookstore. Burr doesn’t respond, he just keeps smoking his pipe which Alexander hates because he’s going to be stuck with Burr in close quarters for days and he doesn’t like the smell of smoke that sticks to Burr’s clothes. Burr doesn’t acknowledge Alexander at all even though Alexander knows Burr heard him. The clenching of his jaw gives it away.

Alexander sighs. Burr has to be the most stubborn man he knows.

Burr,” Alexander says again, and he taps his cane against Burr’s leg. “Hey.”

“What?” Burr asks, not hiding his irritation when he looks at Alexander, blankly. He blows out a puff of smoke, the downwind blowing it in Alexander’s direction.

“Can we talk about what happened? When we were in your office?” Alexander clarifies, as if there’s any other urgent matter that he could be speaking of. “Because if you’re worried I’m going to tell someone, I’m not. I don’t kiss and tell,” he says, but then winces when Burr gives him an incredulous look because, yeah, with his track record he’s done the exact opposite of that, except it was fuck and tell everybody.

“But this is different,” Alexander says.

“This is nothing,” Burr says, quickly. He takes a drag from his pipe, lets it out slow. “We were just…excited. We forgot ourselves for a moment.”

He doesn’t look at Alexander as he says it.

“Right,” Alexander says, slowly. “Because friends kiss—”

Nothing, Alexander.”

Nothing. That’s what it has to be. Their heads were fuzzy from champagne and adrenaline and that’s always a dangerous combination. He and Burr are dangerous together without any extra kindling. It was nothing between them, is nothing between them — nothing like how Alexander doesn’t want to kiss the corner of Burr’s frown until he can coax a smile from him, and maybe get a kiss back.

“Nothing,” Alexander repeats.

Burr’s mouth tugs into a grin, and Alexander copies it.

It’s not like he could expect anything from it anyway, so Alexander decides to let it be meaningless.

 

* * *

 

If only it could be meaningless, forgotten.

They talk less, and Burr doesn’t smile at all.

Alexander remembers when the worst thing was that Burr shot him.

He longs for that time, now. It would be less miserable than this.

 

* * *

 

Theo convinces them to stop being stupid and stop traveling before it gets too late. They check into the first unsuspicious inn they see that Burr doesn’t turn his nose up at.  When asked by the innkeeper, “A room for the lady, and one for the gentlemen?” Alexander and Burr exchange a glance.

“Sure, Alexander and I can share,” says Burr, because of course, it would be weird for them not to. It’s not like they have a problem.

Alexander regrets it hours later when his problem is that he can’t get any damn sleep. He lies awake for hours in itchy sheets with his back to Burr, thinking of anything and everything because he doesn’t really want to sleep. Because most likely, if he sleeps he’ll end up unconsciously holding Burr again, and that had been awkward enough without their new…development.

Alexander hopes that Burr never noticed him lying close (too close, arm wrapped around him to bring closer) but he doubts it, and he really hopes Burr didn’t notice his morning wood, but he doubts that too. It’s kind of a difficult thing to miss, if Alexander says so himself. Burr is acting too damn weird about it for him not to have noticed any of it. But, hey, it happens. He’s used to sharing his bed with his wife. Alexander can’t help it if he likes to cuddle — that’s what Eliza says — and likes the closeness of another. He can’t help it if he’s grown comfortable lying with someone, he can’t help it if his body calls for attention in the morning, he can’t help it that he likes to be snug, he can’t help it that he reaches out at night to make sure that he isn’t alone, and he can’t help it that Burr had happened to be the closest warm body.

And he can’t help that Burr is so cozy to be next to. More than the prickly fool should be. He’s inviting enough for Alexander to have sought him out night after night and nestle close to him, to not be alone. Waking up to Burr isn’t the worst thing ever — Alexander had developed a certain fondness for studying Burr’s relaxed sleeping face before slowly untangling himself from him. The thought of Burr almost lulls Alexander to sleep — warm, strong arms, steady breaths, a large hand that rested on his hip once that Burr unconsciously put there while sleeping, how Burr smells. Nice.

Alexander has a good mind to kick Burr. Serves him right for making him miss something he shouldn’t have, and won’t ever have. But Alexander knows that it’s his own damn fault. He finds comfort in the intimacy of others too easily.

It would be easier if Burr had acknowledged Alexander clinging to him and shoved him off the bed like he’d threatened.

Alexander is so fucking tired. He’s ready to roll over and curl up with Burr even if there are adverse consequences as long as there’s the chance he can get some sleep. It’s too the point now that he’s so over-exhausted that his body and mind fights it — his eyes burning and heavy, his thoughts sluggish and fading in and out, random absurd thoughts popping in that he can’t differentiate from dreams or conscious thought.

At some point during his self-imposed wakefulness, it occurs to Alexander that it’s possible that he gave Burr the wrong idea. That maybe he gave Burr reason to think that he was coming on to him, that he wanted him like that, which — fuck. He’s too tired to think of this.

He sighs, and shifts in the bed, trying to get comfortable for what feels like the hundredth time. He tenses when his toes brush against Burr’s ankle, and he knows that Burr is awake too when he hears Burr let out a grunt of surprise.

“Sorry,” Alexander mumbles, and then moves his foot back to his side of the bed.

“S’fine,” Burr replies, sleep slurred. “Nothing to be sorry for.”

Nothing.

 

* * *

 

Alexander realizes yet again he isn’t as young as he used to be. He isn’t able to pull an all-nighter and then travel as used to do back in the day. He figures that Burr didn’t get any sleep either, judging by how Burr takes an extra cup of coffee and is extra curmudgeonly in the morning. He responds to Alexander in short, one word answers when Alexander tries to talk to him.

It’s going to be a joy to be trapped with Burr in a small, enclosed space for an entire day.

Theo sits between them in the carriage because she must pick up on the unease between her father and Alexander. Conversation is sparse and Alexander ends up dozing with his head resting against the window. He isn’t sure how long he sleeps, but it’s long enough to feel rested when a bump in the road jolts him awake.

He looks over to the Burrs — Theo is smirking at him in a way that’s reminiscent of her father, and Burr is conked out with his head resting on Theo’s shoulder. Burr is in such a deep sleep that the rocky movements don’t disturb his slumber.

Alexander sits up from his slouch, stifles a yawn. “How long have we been sleeping?”

“Several hours,” Theo says. She glances to Burr, asleep on her shoulder. “I would like to read, but he’s lying on my arm, and even though it’s quite uncomfortable I cannot bear to wake him.”

Alexander scoffs, causing Theo to give him a cross look, so he adds, “I don’t think any of my children would be so kind to let me nap on their shoulder. The middle boys will hardly allow me to hug them.”

Theo laughs. “Well, I’m all Papa has, so…” Theo’s voice trails off. Her face twists up into a pained expression that Alexander is familiar with.

“I could read to you?” Alexander offers, changing the subject before it becomes too serious. “I’m quite good at it. I can even do different voices.”

“There’s no need for theatrics, but that would be nice, thank you.”

Alexander picks up her book from where it lays on top of her bag, as Theo can’t move without waking Burr, and opens the book to the marker. Theo is more than halfway through the book already, a novel written by a woman author who he’s never heard of before. It’s rather intense, some phrases having him raise his brows, but he makes a mental note to get a copy for Angelica when he gets home.

He ends up finishing the book, and Burr sleeps through the entire thing. They’re well into Pennsylvania, Theo looking out the window and Alexander writing a letter on his lap desk, when Burr stirs awake. Alexander watches as Burr wakes up slowly, letting out an unintelligible mumble as he rubs his eyes, in a way that Alexander hates that he finds so endearing. But then it’s as though Burr remembers where he is because he snaps awake and acts as though he hadn’t just been snoring on his daughter’s shoulder.

“Did you have a good nap, sleepyhead?” Alexander asks, teasing, and Theo laughs but Burr doesn’t. Burr is still in a grumpy mood even after resting, so, fine. Let Burr be miserable about everything. Alexander is done with giving him attention for his poor attitude.

Alexander goes back to writing his letter to Eliza, which is kind of purposeless because it probably won’t get there before he does himself, but he wants to bitch about Burr. I should have left him in Washington D.C. to suffer because now I am the one suffering, Burr blames me for everything, like the rain or overpriced beer or holes in the road, he writes. He doesn’t write about his other problem that he has with Burr, he will never put that down in words. It’s too damnable, and he hasn’t decided how to explain it — or if he’s going to tell Eliza at all.

I’ve missed you so much, Alexander writes, the first thing I am going to do when I see you is kiss you and—

“You’re writing to Eliza.”

Alexander looks up at Burr, who interrupted his one-sided conversation to Eliza. Burr says it matter-of-fact.

“How’d you know?” Alexander asks. He wishes he had lied, because then Burr looks at him with that smug superiority in which he thinks he knows Alexander so well.

“You’ve got that dopey grin that you get when you write to her, or talk about her,” Burr says, amused. “It’s like you can’t contain your happiness.”

Alexander hadn’t been aware that he does that, but it doesn’t surprise him. “Thoughts of my Betsey reveal my heart’s feelings. What you see in my expression is love.”

“That’s sweet,” Theo says. “How long have you been married?”

“It’ll be twenty-five years in December,” Alexander says, and then he figures he must have that love-struck face again because his heart flutters — he can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t wed to Eliza. It’s been a long time, but then not nearly long enough.

“She must mean a lot to you,” Burr says. He somehow makes it sound scathing, like he’s judging him, judging him for cheating on Eliza — but it wasn’t cheating, not this time, and Burr can fuck off because he started it—

—or maybe Alexander is reading too much into it.

“She is my soul mate,” Alexander says, looking down at the letter to Eliza. “The promise of her love kept me from dying when…um.”

He coughs, an uncomfortable silence filling the carriage. Burr looks like he wants to leap out of the carriage, and Theo exasperated.

“Why don’t you tell me again about Jefferson,” Theo suggests, and Alexander is thankful she is there to mediate.

 

* * *

 

Burr doesn’t share a room with Alexander on the second night. Instead, he opts to room with Theo.

“We’re in the middle of nowhere,” Burr says. “I have to watch over her and make sure she’s safe.”

Theo crosses her arms and scoffs, mutters, “I am a grown woman, Papa,” to which Burr says, “Exactly.”

Alexander isn’t fooled with the excuse, but, whatever alleviates his internal crisis.

“But who will protect me from the creepy Pennsylvanians?” Alexander asks, and grabs Burr’s arm. “I didn’t know they were such a threat. We can sleep in shifts. I pick Theo for my team. She’s more intimidating than you.”

Burr shakes off his hold, scowls at Alexander like he’s been doing since they left. “Protect yourself,” Burr says.

 

* * *

Alexander sleeps alone that night, but he doesn’t rest any better. He’s kept awake, wavering between guilt and worry — somewhere around four in the morning he wishes that he had never met Aaron Burr, but then he retracts that immediately. Just. It would be nice if Burr didn’t make his life so damn hard.

Deciding he isn’t going to get any sleep, he gets up and continues writing his letter to Eliza, says, I fucked up. Again.

 

* * *

 

The first thing Alexander does when he gets home is kiss Eliza, just like he planned. Eliza didn’t know his plan because he has the letter stuffed in his pocket, so she’s halfway through her greeting, “Hello, my Alexan—” when Alexander cuts her short by pulling her into a ravenous kiss. He doesn’t even say hello, just kisses her because he can’t wait.

Eliza lets out a squeak of surprise but she melts against him when he holds her around her hip and slips his tongue in against hers, kissing her deeply. He’s vaguely aware that the Burrs are still in the driveway, along with Angelica and the children, but Eliza is all he can focus on. The anxieties of the last few days disappear as Eliza sighs against him and tangles her fingers in his hair — he only wants to be kissing her. Anyone else is a distraction, and not worth it.

“Well, hello,” Eliza says when Alexander finally parts from her. Her face is flushed into a cute bright blush, and she looks away shyly for a moment before she looks back to Alexander. “What was that for?”

“I missed you,” Alexander says, and leans in to kiss her again, this time a chaste peck on the lips, and then nuzzles his scruff against her face until she giggles. “I thought of only you while I was away.”

“Charmer,” Eliza says, and playfully hits Alexander’s chest.

“That’s me,” Alexander says, and then he takes a chance and looks over his shoulder at Burr and gives him an impassive look, like this is who I’m supposed to be kissing, but it kind of backfires because Burr looks so damn uncomfortable that Alexander feels bad about it.

It’s not surprising when Burr says that he and Theo must be going — any confrontation of their…whatever and Burr flees. Al and Angie whine and beg Theo to visit for a while, but she leaves with her father and makes the promise to call on them once they’re settled at home.

Eliza helps Alexander up the stairs, and says, “I’m amazed that you and Burr made it back in one piece. When you said you were going to bring him home, I had doubts of your success.”

Once he steps into his house, Alexander lets out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. “Me too, honestly,” Alexander says.

Eliza shoos the kids away with Angelica, and steers Alexander up to their bedroom. She says, “I’m happy that you and Burr are amicable. It makes things easier.”

A pang shoots though his chest, more powerful than a bullet.

“I suppose,” Alexander says, and forces a smile because nothing is wrong, but it is definitely not easier between him and Burr.

 

* * *

 

“If you’re going to be like this, then I’m never letting you go anywhere again,” Eliza says, voice husky, and then arches her back and lets out a throaty whine when Alexander responds with enthusiasm.

“Fine with me,” Alexander says, muffled from where his face is buried between her thighs, where he’s been for a while. He licks over her clit to feel her quiver against him, kisses the inside of her thigh, nuzzles against the soft skin there because he knows she’s ticklish. She reacts to everything so beautifully. It’s wonderful, and exactly what he needed.

Alexander rests his chin on her knee, says, “You could tie me to the bed. Keep me captive.”

Eliza hums. “Perhaps. But it wouldn’t be captivity, as you’d be a willing subject.” She reaches down to tangle her hand in Alexander’s hair and lightly tugs, just enough to make Alexander moan and grind against the bed even though he’s already spent. “Continue.”

Alexander smiles, and dips his head back down between her legs. He’s already brought her off multiple times — he fucked one orgasm out of her, him pounding into her rough and desperate, and then she asked for more and he said fuck, yes and he crawled down her body, kissing every inch of her as he went, and then spread her open and sucked and licked his own come from her cunt and curled his tongue inside her until she was gasping for air and squeezed her thighs against him so they framed his head and then there was a wetness on his tongue. He had swallowed, said you taste so good, and then eased up some — he wanted to make it last. Alexander loves this, he’s great at giving head — Eliza had quickly appreciated his skills on their wedding night, when he coaxed away her shyness with his mouth on her.

Now, it’s almost lazy, them taking their time with each other. Alexander laps at her folds as he slowly eats her out, and he slides two fingers inside her as his other hand skitters over her body, roaming her stomach and chest with teasing touches. “Please, I need,” Eliza begs, and Alexander can never deny her — he licks around his fingers, thumbs at her clit, finger fucks her until she clenches around his fingers and lets out a shout that she suppresses with her hand covering her mouth. Alexander moans as she shudders against him, takes a moment to pull back and enjoy the sight of her coming undone, and then he dives back in with his tongue flat against her cunt.

“Too much,” Eliza pants, and gently pushes Alexander’s face away from her. “Lay with me.”

Once Alexander moves so he’s lying next to Eliza, she kisses him hard on his red lips that are slick from her. Alexander sighs into the kiss, wraps his arms around her to pull her so she’s cradled against his body. She fits perfectly; she always has.

“I missed you so much. Every day. Not just…this,” Alexander says, gesturing between them, their sweaty bodies pressed against each other. “It was awful without you. I was lonely.”

“Oh, poor baby,” Eliza coos. She pushes a strand of hair behind Alexander’s ear. “Were the mean politicians mean to you?”

“Yes,” Alexander replies, surlier than intended. He presses his face to Eliza’s shoulder and lets out an anguished sigh. Truly, his trip to the Capitol had been better received than he had thought, but there had still been the vibe that he was disregarded as old government. Unimportant, only until someone wanted to use him. An outsider in the place where he once was supreme.

And then there was the matter with Burr.

“Everything sucks,” Alexander whines. It’s a bit of a dramatic declaration, but, whatever. Things aren’t good. He snuggles closer to Eliza, because he can. It helps him feel better, somewhat.

Eliza must notice that he’s shivering from the cool night air, because she sits up for a moment to pull the blanket up and over them, and then snuggles back with Alexander. She rubs his back in small, smoothing circles. “I’m sure it can’t be that bad,” she says, and Alexander hates to ruin a good moment but he groans.

“But it is,” he protests. “Jefferson is president again, the Federalists lost the House again, people are working to dismantle the financial system I made for our country, and tensions are rising internationally.” As well as domestically, Alexander thinks, unsaid.

Eliza lets out a soft sigh, and Alexander knows that it’s more of annoyance than anything. She gets like that — upset when he’s stressed over something that she can’t help solve. But really, most of his problems aren’t solvable by anybody, and he makes them worse half of the time. And by Eliza’s belief, if there’s nothing he can do to fix it, then he might as well forget about it.

“Life will go on,” Eliza says.

So it shall. It has to.

 

* * *

 

Alexander doesn’t hear from Burr the next day, or the next. Coincidentally, Alexander is anxious the next day, and then more anxious the next.

He sends Burr a letter inquiring why he hasn’t called on him, subtly written so Burr won’t think that Alexander is too concerned. Burr replies, writes, for fuck’s sake leave me alone, you messed everything up, I don’t ever want to talk to you again.

No — that’s not what it says, but it’s what Alexander imagines between the lines. Alexander reads his letter again. It actually says:

Alexander. I am readjusting to my home and life. Haven’t you spent enough time with me recently? Regardless, I’ll see you soon.

Alexander doesn’t understand how Burr can act as though nothing happened between them. But, he’s never understood Burr. What’s new?

But maybe nothing did happen. Maybe nothing happened and Alexander is making it into something, hoping that it meant something. That those shared glances that are just a second too long, the way they have a comfortable affinity for the other, or how right his body felt against his would amount to something more. But Alexander is a fool — he can’t have that. It’s not so much he’s a man — it’s a bad decision for so many other reasons.

Alexander won’t make that mistake again.

 

* * *

 

Alexander goes to work, because that’s what he does — when his life is in chaos, he works to have it make sense. It’s a good distraction, because it takes two days to realize he’s alone.

He didn’t expect Burr to come when he summons him, but he does, looking mildly displeased to be in his presence. Alexander tries not to take it personally.

“You can’t be my partner if you don’t show up to work,” Alexander says, looking up from his desk.

Burr shifts, looks around the room as though he’s trying to figure out where he’ll fit in the mess, and subsequently, if he made a big mistake by agreeing to join Alexander’s law practice. It’s then that Alexander realizes that there isn’t a desk for Burr. Burr will have to bring his own because Alexander can’t really afford it at the moment.

“I wasn’t sure if you were serious,” Burr says, slowly. “If you wanted me here.”

Alexander gestures to the piles of never-ending paperwork. “Look at all this shit. I can’t do it alone,” he says, and then to ensure that Burr will agree, he adds, “Help?”

Burr settles for sitting in the chair in front of Alexander’s desk. “You could take a lighter caseload.”

“No. I have to accept all the clients I can because to be honest, I need the money,” Alexander says. That’s another pang of guilt, not being able to support this family. He’s horrified at the thought that he would have left them with insurmountable debt had he died. “I won’t have it so my father-in-law has to help support my family, but I was out of work for so many months and—”

“Sorry.”

Alexander groans, runs his hands through his hair. “Would you stop saying that you’re sorry? I didn’t intend to put you on a guilt trip, goddamn. I was telling the facts.” He sighs. “If you don’t want to work with me, that’s fine, but I was saying—”

“It’s fine, I get it,” Burr says. “I have my financial burdens myself. And I know that I owe you—”

Alexander waves his hand. “That’s nothing,” he says, but Burr still looks ashamed.

They haven’t spoke about that night since it happened, only a few weeks before their duel. Burr had came to Alexander’s house in the dead of night in a panic, saying things about how he was drowning in debt and needed some assistance or else something might happen. Alexander didn’t ask what or else meant. He thought that maybe Burr telling him might make the or else happen. He gave Burr the money he needed and didn’t ask questions, but he was sure to check on Burr the next day. He was fine, as he always seems to be.

“Still,” Burr says.

“You’re the only person I can tolerate to work with me,” Alexander says.

“Well, with an compliment like that,” Burr says. He reaches across the desk and shakes Alexander’s hand. “Okay then, partner.”

 

* * *

 

When Alexander tells Eliza of him and Burr going into business together, he expects her to react with some hesitance.

Instead, she organizes a picnic.

“To celebrate,” she says.

And that’s how Alexander ends up in their backyard sitting on a flannel blanket, with Burr and Eliza sitting on either side of him.

It’s not as bad as he thought it would be. It’s sunny, Spring is crisp in the breeze, and it’s only a little bit awkward to be between his wife and the guy…he doesn’t have a description for it. They’ve gotten good at pretending everything is fine between them. They’ve had practice — this isn’t the first time there’s been something between them.

Today, he will enjoy what he has.

“Ouch,” Alexander hisses, and Burr and Eliza laugh as Alexander attempts to pry his hair from Phil’s tiny grabby hands. He ends up having to blow a raspberry on Phil’s neck and bounce him in his lap to make Phil let go. He quickly pushes his hair away, safe from the toddler’s reach, and then kisses his cheek. Phil’s little baby giggles warm his heart more then the sun.

When he looks to Eliza and Burr, Alexander realizes that they’re looking at him the same way.

Well, fuck.

Anyway.

Burr may be…Burr, but his daughter is a saint. Theo has taken both to Angie and Al, both of whom need the extra attention. Al is more outgoing and himself when he has Theo’s attention, and Angie appears to be almost happy when she’s around. Carefree. Theo has the same charming energy as her father, and Alexander knows how easy it is to fall for it — he was enchanted by Burr when he first met him, charmed by his allure. Burr was enticing to Alexander — genius, astute, and irresistibly handsome.

It hasn’t changed much as they’ve aged. Even if Alexander knows now that Burr can be a helpless mess.

The kids are sitting in the grass, far enough away so that their parents can’t hear their conversation. The three of them took their sandwiches and separated themselves from the adults and younger children, the latter who play tag a few feet away.

Alexander watches the older ones. They’re eating watermelon, giggling as they see who can spit seeds the farthest. Angie spits one a respectable distance, and Alexander wonders who taught her how to spit — and then has the crushing sadness when he realizes it must’ve been Philip. Theo spits a seed, it disappearing into the grass near Angie’s. Al spits one, and it lands on his chin. Al blushes as Theo leans in and wipes it away, and Angie leans against Theo as she laughs loudly enough for Alexander to hear. Alexander smiles.

“I don’t think I’ve seen them this happy since Philip passed,” Eliza says, her voice soft. Alexander reaches for her hand, squeezes. He kisses baby Phil on his cheek. Eliza continues, “Alexander and I are so thankful for the friendship she’s shown our children. You’ve raised her well.”

Burr nods, taking the compliment, but says, “It’s all her, really. She’s a kind soul.” He falters for a second as he looks over to where Theo and the others are gathered close, their heads bent together as though they’re sharing secrets.

“She understands loss,” Burr says. He clears his throat. “Her mother—”

“Yeah,” Alexander finishes for him, because Burr’s expression is too pained. Alexander can’t imagine how Burr must feel. If he lost Eliza…well. He doesn’t know how he’d feel, because he would rather be dead.

“The loss of her brother has been difficult for Angie,” Alexander says. “And I think Al believes that he has to live up to something, now that he’s the eldest son. And I—” He pauses when his eyes sting and his throat feels like it’s going to close up. He holds Phil tightly, face buried in his soft, dark brown hair. He doesn’t want any of his babies to hurt. He thought fatherhood would be easier as he got older. It hasn’t. He doesn’t know how to help his children, they hurt and he doesn’t know how to fix it, and he hates that he’s cursed with death following him because—

Eliza gently kisses his cheek, dragging him away from his spiraling thoughts. “Hey,” she says, cupping his face with her hand, making him look at her. “It’s okay.”

Alexander nods. Eliza is the one who has it together. She’s the one who brought them back together, after Philip died. She’s the one who made sure they were all okay. She’s the strong one.

“I’m sorry,” Burr says, and Alexander had almost forgot he had been there until he puts his hand on his knee. Alexander looks at Burr’s hand. It’s comforting, Eliza and Burr both there. He wonders if it’s selfish to want both when it makes him feel good. It’s not anything indecent. Burr is a good friend. That’s all.

Phil manages to wiggle free from Alexander’s hold, and grabs the ruffle of Burr’s shirt. Burr chuckles, asks, “May I?” and Alexander nods and hands Phil over for Burr to hold. Burr holds Phil with ease, even when Phil gets fussy when he realizes that Burr has no hair to tug like his parents. Alexander leans back against Eliza, and lets out a long sigh. Everything is okay.

 

* * *

 

“It was nice spending time with Burr,” Eliza says, that night when they’re in bed. A candle burns next to them. Alexander is on his back, holding a book he isn’t reading. Eliza rests her head on Alexander’s shoulder, looking at Alexander with her honest, brown eyes. “Did you have a good time?”

“Uh huh.” Alexander isn’t really listening, doesn’t want to listen. He can’t look at Eliza — she always knows when he’s lying.

She notices anyway. Sitting up on her elbow, the blanket falls to her waist. “What’s the matter, Alexander?”

“Nothing,” Alexander says, although, it’s been established that it’s not nothing.

Eliza lets out a sigh. “Fine. Put out the light before wax melts on the table, okay?” she says, and goes to lie back down.

And it’s that simple. He can let guilt keep eating away at him.

“I fucked up,” Alexander says.

“What?” Eliza looks over her shoulder but once she sees Alexander’s horrified expression she sits up again, looking at him confused, but there’s the start of that fire she has inside that rarely surfaces. It’s so primed, it’s obvious she had suspected him of something. “What did you do?”

Alexander sets his book on the table, takes off his glasses and lays them on top — his hands are shaking.

“It wasn’t cheating,” Alexander starts, and he feels sick when Eliza looks at him in that way, like she’s shattered and it’s his fault. He touches her arm, and she pulls away — Alexander chokes on a sob.

“I wasn’t unfaithful, Betsey, I swear to God. I didn’t mean for it to happen but it did and I’ve felt awful about it and I’ve kept trying to tell you but—”

“Who?” Eliza asks, her voice a mere whisper. “Who did you…?” She shakes her head, unable to say the words, and Alexander’s eyes widen when he realizes what she thinks he did.

“It’s nothing like that!” Alexander says, and Eliza shushes him, reminding him to not wake the children. “We both know it was a mistake, it was an accident. Trust me, Betsey.”

“Until you tell me about it, I’m going to assume the worst,” Eliza says, and Alexander realizes how vague it sounds. She says, “I can’t believe you, I knew you’ve been acting strangely, but—”

“I kissed Burr.”

There, he said it.

Eliza blinks at him. “Oh.”

“Or really, he kissed me,” Alexander says, then adds, “And I kind of kissed him back? But I ended it and told him it was wrong.” He takes Eliza’s hand. “That’s it, I promise you. I would never hurt you again.” He kisses her hand, trails kisses up her arm. “Please forgive me.”

“How did it happen?” Eliza asks. Alexander knows that she doesn’t mean how did it happen with another guy? but more why did it happen at all? She knows of Alexander’s proclivities — there were his whispered confessions of what happened in tents during the war, and she and Alexander have often gossiped together in secret about who they thought the most attractive men at a party were. She never called him a deviant, and she loved him as he is. She understands him. She is the best wife that a man like Alexander could ask for.

“It was after the inauguration,” Alexander begins. “Burr and I were so hyped up, it’s like we were energizing each other, you know? And then we were alone in his office, and it was in the moment, one moment I was just talking to him and then he was kissing me and I was so surprised that I kissed him back, because, well, I don’t know. But it was only for a moment and then he apologized and we came to the conclusion that there were no intentions with it. A burst of affection for a friend.” He looks to Eliza, who blankly stares at him, so he keeps talking, “Burr is so goddamn frustrating and now he’s all weird — why are you laughing?”

Because Eliza is definitely laughing. Not yelling or crying or glaring numbly at him, all things that occurred when he messed up, before — this is not what he expected at all, when he thought of telling her this. He supposes that it is funny, when he thinks of it. Him and the man who shot him, kissing.

Eliza hides her mouth behind her hand, says, “Oh my God. You have a crush on Burr.”

“I do not!” Alexander protests, blushing furiously all over. He does not fancy Burr — not his dark eyes, strong muscular arms, flashy smile, witty intellect, how his ass looks great in breeches—

“Besides,” Alexander says. Yes, reflect back to her. “You don’t seem as upset about this as I thought. Or as you were a minute ago.” He thinks that he’d rather have her quiet rage than be accused of having an infatuation with Burr.

Eliza smiles and pats her very confused husband on the cheek, and then leans across Alexander to blow out the candle, leaving them in darkness.

“Lay down with me, it’s getting late,” Eliza says. Alexander had thought for sure that he would be sleeping on the lumpy couch in his office, so he lets Eliza drag him down so he’s lying next to her — him on his back, her resting her head on his chest. Alexander runs his hand up Eliza’s back and leans in to kiss her forehead. She shifts against him, wraps an arm around his middle and clings to him. He still doesn’t understand. He wonders if this is some kind of test.

After a few minutes of silence, Eliza says, “I know that there’s a certain magnetism between you and Burr.”

Alexander scoffs. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“Exactly what you think it means.”

There is an inexplicable attraction between the two — it’s not always a good thing. Sometimes it’s a push, sometimes it’s a pull.

“You’re not upset by this?” Alexander asks, and then hears Eliza let out a deep sigh.

“Nobody likes it when their husband kisses other people, no matter if it was — what did you say? An accident, or not,” Eliza says. Alexander starts to apologize again but Eliza cuts him off, saying, “But I’m not angry, no.”

Alexander lets out a sigh of relief. He thinks that maybe her forgiveness is easier because she didn’t have to read about his indiscretion in the newspapers, or that it’s less involved. “I don’t deserve you,” Alexander says, holding Eliza tighter, and Eliza tells him to hush and don’t speak nonsense.

Alexander still feels like an asshole.

“I understand, though. You’re both handsome men,” Eliza says, and Alexander can hear the smile in her voice. “But tell me, is Burr a good kisser?”

“Eliza!”

“Sorry, I don’t mean to tease.” Eliza shifts against him so she can kiss his cheek. “This explains why Burr has been so weird around you lately,” Eliza mutters.

“Burr is always weird.”

“Well,” Eliza says, not disagreeing. “But it also explains why you’ve been so tense around him.”

“Of course it’s going to be tense between us. There was this thing, where he kind of shot me and—”

“And him kissing you is the other end of the spectrum?”

Alexander groans, curls on his side against Eliza. “I don’t know what to do, Eliza.”

Eliza pats his side. “It’ll get better, like how you solved your differences after your duel. Everything will be okay.”

Alexander wants to say, and will I be getting over this apparent crush on Burr? but that would be acknowledging that it might exist.

“How can you be so sure?” Alexander asks.

“Do you intend to pursue anything else?” Alexander can’t see Eliza, but he’s certain that she has that look on her face — stern, demanding the truth from him.

“Burr would never want it,” Alexander says, and Eliza makes a clicking noise with her tongue, and Alexander quickly adds, “Not that I would if he did! No fooling around. You’re my one.”

There’s a beat, and then Eliza says, “Okay.”

Alexander shouldn’t continue, but he always talks more than he should. He says, “You didn’t have to forgive me. Not now, or…before. If it were reversed and you were the unfaithful one—”

“I know,” Eliza says softly. They both knew that it had been impossible for her to leave him when he had had his affair. A woman doesn’t have a lot options when it comes to that sort of thing. It’s just how things are.

He runs his hand through Eliza’s silky hair, says a prayer of thanks that he has her.

“There’s something else,” Alexander says, because what the hell, he might as well confess everything. He doesn’t like keeping secrets from Eliza, and he’s realizing how insufficient he’s felt keeping them from her. “Burr had this insane idea, and at first I thought was a joke, but the more we’ve discussed it, the more it seems like a possibility.” Alexander pauses, because now that he has to tell it to someone, it seems ridiculous. “But he had this stupid promise that if I lived through my injuries that he’d help me win the Presidency.”

The silence between his confession and Eliza’s response is longer than when he told her that he had kissed Burr. Alexander has to shake her and say her name to get her to speak.

“So that’s what’s had you on edge for months?” Eliza asks. Her tone is straightforward.

“I guess so?” Alexander wonders if Eliza can hear his heart hammering away from where she’s got her head resting against his chest. “It’s been something on my mind.”

“I’d say,” Eliza says, and Alexander can feel how pissed off she is, “I knew you were keeping something from me, and when you said that you and Burr had a lapse of judgment and made out I thought that was what had you in a state, but that happened only a week ago, and you’ve been so fidgety and distracted, more than usual for months. Angelica said I was imagining things and that it was probably some lingering trauma from your injury but—”

“I’m sorry—”

“I mean, it’s kind of a big deal,” Eliza says. Alexander thinks how odd it is to be having this conversation in the dark, with them cuddled up against each other. Married life. Eliza continues, “Presidency? Do you think it’s a good idea, with everything that’s happened?”

“My health is fine,” Alexander says, raising his voice slightly. “I’m perfectly capable of running the country. I could be bleeding out and still do a better job than—”

Eliza kisses him silent, and rubs his chest to calm him. “I know, sweetheart,” she says, reassuring, and why did he ever doubt her support. “I meant — do you want to do it? Or are you doing it to prove something?” Eliza asks.

“I…don’t know,” Alexander admits. It hasn’t really occurred to him that he could turn it down.

“It’s okay. Let’s talk about it tomorrow,” Eliza whispers, when Alexander never gives her an answer. “We’ve had enough discussion for one night.”

Things may not be resolved, but Alexander’s conscience is clear, and he sleeps better than he has in months.

 

* * *

 

“I wouldn’t run for office because I’m unsatisfied with my life,” Alexander says, continuing the conversation where they left off. “You are enough to make me happy.”

Eliza smiles. “I know,” she says. “After all, I know who I married.” She knows that Alexander has that relentless drive for more.

“I suppose that I would be doing it to prove something,” Alexander says. Prove that a penniless bastard immigrant could achieve the highest honors, despite everything life has against him. “But I also want to do it because I think that I could do it well.”  He could represent the office like his General did.

“And I think you could too.” Eliza reaches forward and takes his hands in hers. “I think you should do it.”

Her eyes have a sparkle that he feels in his chest.

“You truly mean it?”

“Yes,” Eliza says. “You deserve it, my wonderful husband.”

Alexander kisses her hard, wrapping his arms around her. When they part, Eliza can’t stop smiling at him.

“It’s a while off, but it’s nice that it’s settled,” Alexander says.

Eliza nods. “And if you lose, you can say that you tried.”

“I don’t lose.”

“Right.” Eliza raises her brows. “So what’s next?”

 

* * *

 

It so happens that Burr visits them that afternoon.

“I have something to tell you,” Alexander says. He looks to Eliza, excitement blazing in his insides.

“Me too,” Burr says, slowly. He gestures out to Alexander and says, “You first.”

Alexander swallows. “I told Eliza,” Alexander says, and then adds, “About our goal for my Presidency,” when Burr looks like he’s going to faint. There were two possibilities that Alexander could have shared with Eliza, and it’s clear that Burr must’ve have thought he meant the more intimate one. Alexander isn’t going to tell Burr that he told Eliza that too — what Burr doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

“Ah.” Burr bites his bottom lip. He turns to Eliza, asks, “And your opinion?”

She laughs. “I think you’re both mad,” she says, looking between the two men. “But I am with you.”

Alexander puts an arm around her and holds her tight. “So I have another supporter. That makes a total of two.”

Burr clears his throat. “I may have told Theo. She had a similar reaction, but she supports this endeavor as well.”

“So I have three supporters! This day is getting even better.” Alexander laughs, Eliza and Burr joining him. It’s nice, having both of them with him.

He shakes the thought away, and then asks, “What did you have to say, Burr?”

Burr’s expression contorts into that wearisome look he gets. “I came to pay a debt,” Burr says, and he reaches into his coat and pulls out a thick envelope that he hands to Alexander.

Alexander opens the envelope and peeks inside, and then snaps his eyes back up to Burr. “What the fuck?”

“I don’t want to owe you anything,” Burr explains, “especially if we’re going into business together.” He pauses, and gestures between them. “I wanted a clean slate.”

“Uh, thanks?” Alexander says. Because what else is someone supposed to say when they hand you a bundle of money that is owed, and desperately needed?

He remembers Burr’s own financial troubles. Alexander asks, “How did you come by this much money?”

“I may have…sold my house,” Burr replies.

“What?”

“It’s fine,” Burr says, as cool and collected as ever. “I am able to pay you back, and all my other debts. I was growing tired of living at the estate, anyway.”

Alexander turns to Eliza, looks at her to make sure she also thinks that Burr has totally lost it.

“Where are you and Theo going to live?” Eliza asks.

Burr shrugs. “We have a week to move out. We can stay with Van Ness, or I’ll rent a small apartment downtown until—”

“That’s not good, Burr,” Alexander says.

“Well, what else can I do?” Burr asks.

Alexander is formulating an idea, but Eliza thinks of one first.

“Move in with us,” Eliza says.

Alex and Burr stare at her, both unsure if they heard correctly.

Eliza continues, “We have the space — you can take the spare room, and Theo can share with Angie. I’m sure that neither of the girls will mind. I don’t like the idea of you two living somewhere uncomfortable.”

Burr sputters. “I— that’s. That’s quite the imposition.”

Alexander shakes his head. “No, it’s a great idea,” he says. “If you’re living here, it’ll be more convenient for work, too.” He wants to convince Burr to stay, even if the thought of having Burr around him all the time makes his chest ache.

Eliza pushes Alexander. “It isn’t an opportunity for the two of you to work into the night.” She turns to Burr, smiles. “I know that you’d do the same for us. You’ve been so helpful.”

Burr looks as though he has some misgivings, but he doesn’t want to say no. “It’ll be temporary,” Burr says. “Until I can afford to be on my own.”

Alexander nods. “Of course.”

Alexander shakes hands with Burr. As Burr’s fingers tighten around his, Alexander realizes that Burr will never stop owing him.

He’s okay with that.

Chapter Text

It was a mistake to move in with Hamilton, because this time Aaron might kill Hamilton for real. He’s tempted. Just a little.

His financial debts are paid, but Aaron regrets selling his house. Or at least, he regrets agreeing to live with the Hamiltons. Alexander in particular. Alexander Hamilton is difficult to have as company, and impossible to live with (although the rest of the family are a bit tiresome to be with under the same roof too — there are so many damn kids). Aaron figures that for Hamilton, this is just another way to mess with him. Hamilton is there all the time. Hamilton is there at the table at breakfast, looking at Aaron over the paper. Hamilton goes to work with Aaron. Hamilton goes home with Aaron. Hamilton wakes Aaron in the morning. Hamilton drags Aaron to the park on the weekends, when they are off from work. Hamilton has nightcaps with Aaron. Hamilton is always there. Aaron never gets a moment of peace.

Not even in his sleep, does he find privacy from Hamilton. He invades Aaron’s unconsciousness, and Aaron dreams of Hamilton dying, bleeding out, crying why did you do this to me? I thought you cared for me! but it’s not right, it’s not like before — when Aaron had left before Hamilton had a chance to speak to him on the Weehawken shore, and in these nightmares, they’re in Hamilton’s library and Aaron stands over Hamilton with blood on his hands.

He can’t tell Hamilton this when Hamilton shakes him awake, saying, “You’re dreaming, Burr.” Aaron blinks awake and Hamilton is right there. Alive. And it makes him afraid, but so thankful that he could…

For a respite, Aaron goes for drinks with Van Ness one evening. Hamilton meets him in the foyer, asks, “Where are you going?”

Aaron thinks of telling him you’re not my keeper I can go where I damn well please but Aaron tells him, “Out with Van Ness,” anyway, because it's easier to go ahead and tell him than being willfully oppositional.

Hamilton goes to grab his coat and says, “Good, I’ve been wanting to talk to him—”

“I am going alone,” Aaron says, cutting off Hamilton’s assumed self-invitation. For a moment, he thinks how nice it would be if Hamilton begged to go and how he might let Hamilton accompany him, as a reward. However, Hamilton’s shoulders fall and he mutters, “Whatever, I didn’t want to go anyway,” then sulks away, without a fight.

Twenty minutes later, Aaron tells Van Ness about it.

“He thinks now that we are under the same roof, we must do everything together! He has no concept of personal space — except when he wants it, that is — and you know me, William, I need my alone time.”

“Uh huh.” Van Ness stares at Aaron with a glazed-over look, but he looks attentive enough, so Aaron continues.

“And Hamilton can be so goddamn moody,” Aaron says. “The other morning he nearly started an inquisition because someone ate his toast. Of course I was the prime suspect.” He finishes his drink, motions for Van Ness to pour him another. Van Ness sighs, and leans across the table to pour him another double of bourbon.

“Did you eat the toast?” Van Ness asks, flat, as though he doesn’t want to encourage Aaron’s melodrama.

Aaron sets the glass on the table, wipes the back of his mouth with his hand. “No! It was Hamilton kid number four. But of course I couldn’t tell on the kid,” Aaron says. John Hamilton had glared at him from across the table, silently pleading not to reveal him as the toast-eating culprit — he’s learning at a young age to be as manipulative as his father. “So we all suffered the consequences.”

“Well, toast is pretty great, I can see why Hamilton was so upset—”

“You’re missing the point,” Aaron says, short. “Alexander is difficult. Tiresome. Arduous.”

Van Ness laughs. “Dude. You’ve only been living with Hamilton for a week.”

Aaron frowns. “It’s been long enough to know how I feel about the matter.” One day had been enough — when Hamilton came into the room and yanked the blanket off of him, and then limped to the window and opened the curtains, demanding that Aaron woke up so they could get an early start on work. “There’s only so much one can take of Hamilton.”

Van Ness runs a hand over his shaved scalp, and then sighs. Aaron feels a little bit of pity, knowing that he always brings Van Ness these problems.

“You could just…leave,” Van Ness says eventually, as though it’s the simplest option in the world. “If being there with him makes you this, uh, distressed.”

Aaron scoffs. As if he could leave Hamilton. Leaving meant there is a problem. Leaving would be admitting defeat. He can’t do that, not again.

“It would be rude to refuse his family’s hospitality,” Aaron says.

“Sure,” Van Ness says, disbelieving.

Aaron goes to take a drink, but the glass is empty. He pours another.

“It’s complicated,” Aaron says, but when Van Ness asks why it’s complicated, Aaron can’t say why. Why does everything with Hamilton have to be complicated?

It’s complicated, because it isn’t as complicated as it should be. They kissed — yes, it happened. Aaron acknowledges it (to himself — he can’t bear to discuss such matters with Hamilton), and he thinks of it often. Too often. He wants more. Hamilton awakened some horrible (wonderful) thing within him. He wants Hamilton. Desires him. Aaron had agreed to stay with Hamilton for selfish reasons, because he loves being with Hamilton as much as he hates it. He couldn’t turn down the offer, in the hopes that it could give him enough of Hamilton. Quell this unorthodox inclination. But instead of appeasing Aaron’s want, it’s only increased. He’s discovered a fondness for Hamilton’s ways, even when Hamilton is being vexing. Especially when he’s being vexing. It’s his fault, really, thinking he could overcome it — the allure of Hamilton. And now he’s held captive to Hamilton’s smiles, his jokes, the curve of his neck, his damn beautiful hair. At times, Aaron contemplates waiting around for when Hamilton bathes again in case he needs help washing his hair again.

Aaron ends up getting so drunk that Van Ness has to deliver him home. Aaron laughs. Home. The designation fits quite comfortably. He likes that it does.

Hamilton is waiting when they arrive, sitting on the porch when everyone else has long been in bed. He stands, using his cane for support, and watches Van Ness help Aaron stumble up the stairs.

“I’m fine,” Aaron insists, but everything spins and he sways, falls forward.

Hamilton catches him. Sturdy. Aaron groans into Hamilton’s shoulder as Hamilton wraps his arm around his middle and says, “I’ve got you.”

While he’s buried into the safety of Hamilton’s coat, he faintly hears Van Ness and Hamilton bickering — something about them blaming the other for his drunken state. Aaron tries to say, the two of you are exactly the reason why I drink, but it comes out as a very non-eloquent, “Nngh.”

Van Ness makes sure there’s a peaceful transfer, and then leaves quickly. He probably fears that he’ll get involved in another hours long conversation if he stays.

“C’mon, you idiot,” Hamilton says, but there’s no bite to it, only gentle amusement. Or maybe that’s what Aaron imagines it as. “Let me drag your ass inside.”

Hamilton pushes at Aaron’s body to get him into a standing position, and it suddenly occurs to him that he’s not sure how this will work, when it’s a struggle for Hamilton to walk on his own at times. He straightens up and takes a step back, but then he loses his balance and he swears he’d fall on his ass if Hamilton doesn’t grab his arm. Aaron worries for a second that he’s going to pull Hamilton down with him. But he doesn’t — Hamilton is strong, he has a tight hold on around his wrist and he has an even stronger glare as he tells Aaron, “Stop being stubborn.”

Aaron lets Hamilton turn him around, drape his arm across Hamilton’s shoulders, and Hamilton wraps his arm around Aaron’s waist. Hamilton leans heavily on his cane as they walk into the house, with Hamilton supporting Aaron’s drunk dead-weight.

“You’re awesome,” Burr slurs.

Hamilton chuckles, and then takes another step, grunting at the effort of Aaron leaning on him as he walks. Hamilton’s arm shakes at the strain, his knuckles white gripped on the cane handle.

“Am I hurting you?” Aaron mumbles into Hamilton’s ear.

He’s close enough to kiss him.

“I’m fine,” Hamilton says. He looks next to him. “Just don’t throw up on me.”

Aaron wonders if Hamilton thinks of kissing him, too.

Hamilton ends up dumping Aaron on the couch in the sitting room because they both know that no matter how much willpower Hamilton has, there’s no way he can carry Aaron up the stairs to the bedrooms. Aaron flops on his back with an oof and Hamilton almost falls on top of him, but he catches himself with the back of the couch, his hand pressed against it as he catches his breath. Aaron reaches up and touches Hamilton’s waist — more touch he than he'd allow if he were sober — and asks, “Are you all right?”

Hamilton looks down at him and gently smiles. “I’m the one who should be asking that question,” he says, and takes Aaron’s hand and lays it on Aaron’s chest. Hamilton stands, takes off Aaron’s shoes and tosses them to the floor. Lays a knitted blanket over Aaron. Fluffs a pillow. Says, “Go to sleep.”

“Thanks,” Aaron says, and he feels half asleep already, exhausted by liquor and stress and life in general.  “Thank you for helping me.”

“That’s what friends are for,” Hamilton says. Hamilton pats Aaron’s shoulder, and there’s a moment where they’re looking at each other, but saying nothing. They don't need to — they're in harmony, perfectly.

Aaron wonders if he’s slipped into a dream.

But Aaron knows that this is reality; his dreams are never this good.

“Do you mind—,” Hamilton begins, and he takes a few steps to the high-backed chair next to the couch and goes to lower himself into the seat. “Do you mind if I take a seat? I’m not, like, trying to make sure you don’t choke on your vomit, I just need to rest for a moment.”

Aaron grumbles, “Sure, it’s your house,” but Hamilton is already sitting and reclining back and making himself comfortable, so, it doesn’t really matter. Aaron closes his eyes and tries to relax thinking that Hamilton is actually making sure he doesn’t die in his sleep. It makes him feel conflicted — he’s pleased that Hamilton cares enough to watch over him, but troubled that Hamilton has advantage over him. And he feels so stupid coming back here, wasted, all because—

—he falls asleep before he can think of it much more.

Hamilton sleeps next to Aaron in the chair all night long. When Eliza wakes them in the morning, Hamilton complains about his back hurting and Aaron has a hell of a hangover, but they are fine.

 

* * *

 

Aaron is sure that Hamilton’s family have as many misgivings about him living in their home as he does. He feels like an intrusion — it’s not that they make him feel unwelcome, but it’s as though he doesn’t belong. That no matter how friendly he and Hamilton are, they still have their grievance that he almost caused Hamilton to die. The children are apprehensive around him, and Angelica has made it known that she isn’t pleased and thinks it’s a bad idea. Aaron wouldn’t expect anything less from Angelica, and he admires her strong-willed personality — he remembers when they were younger, and she backed him down on the street when he came on to her.

“It’s not like he’s going to murder me in my sleep,” Hamilton says when Angelica voices her concerns. “He already had the chance, if he were going to.” He looks over to Aaron, smiling. “Or perhaps you just gave Burr a new idea, dear sister.”

And then Angelica makes a thinly-veiled, but polite, threat on his well-being if he hurts Eliza or Alexander.

Eliza is the only person who treats him without scorn. She is kind and compassionate to Aaron, gives him a second chance that he probably doesn’t deserve. But Aaron can’t help but feel like she pities him, which is almost as bad as the others being slightly rude. He avoids Eliza as much as he can, because he can’t handle her being sorry for him when she should hate him, and because he can’t face her when he harbors feelings for her husband.

Or, whatever the hell it is that he and Hamilton have. It’s unprecedented. Whatever it is, it makes him feel guilty guilty guilty — it’s like he and Hamilton are hiding a dirty secret. He goes to bring it up because it’s getting ridiculous, but he guesses that he is a coward because he never can mention it, and Hamilton is too stubborn to talk about it either, so they’re left to deal with awkward tension between them.

Aaron hopes that Hamilton is suffering as much as he is. The accidental brushes of their hands work Aaron up into state, and the sight of Hamilton’s fine ass as he leans over the desk to jot down a note makes Aaron ache — it’s something that Aaron cannot identify other than pure lust. He wants Hamilton, and now that he accepts it he realizes that he’s wanted him for a long time.

Hamilton is ruining his life. Aaron catches himself indulging in the fantasy of what if — but then stops it. He can never have Hamilton like that, he will never have intimate companionship with him. He ignores it, and is left with blue balls at night when he refuses to touch himself and think about Hamilton.

 

* * *

 

Their law practice does well. Better than well. Aaron and Hamilton successfully win their first case together as reunited co-counsels. Everyone watches in amazement as once-rivals work as a perfectly-fitting set — Hamilton leads the charge, and Aaron wraps it together and executes with a final blow. They’re unstoppable.

Hamilton gives him a high-five as they leave the courthouse. “Nice job, co-counsel.”

Aaron hand tingles where Hamilton had slapped it. “Same to you, co-counsel,” Aaron says. If Aaron can’t have Hamilton in the way he wants, this is good enough.

They celebrate their success that night. The Hamiltons, Theo, and Aaron have a great dinner and truly enjoy each other’s company. They laugh and talk, as though it’s something they do all the time. Aaron and Hamilton regale the children and Eliza with stories of their youth when they were lawyers just starting out after the war. “Remember when I put the candle in the man’s face to prove him as the murder, and it scared him into confessing?” Hamilton asks, but Aaron says, “No, I think I did that,” but it doesn’t matter because it’s a good story, and Hamilton tells it better. The younger children are put to bed, and the elder Hamilton children and Theo have private conversations while Aaron has pleasant conversation with Hamilton and Eliza until they all start yawning. Then, when it’s all done, Hamilton says, “Do it again tomorrow?”

And Aaron says, “You know where to find me,” and then Hamilton claps him on the back before going in the direction of his room.

It’s wonderful, and for a moment everything is okay.

 

* * *

 

News travels fast.

“What the hell is that?”

Aaron looks up to see what Hamilton is talking about. In the doorway of their (theirs, his and Hamilton’s) office, stands Van Ness, awkwardly holding a blue clay flowerpot that has a green plant overflowing from it.

“It’s a flower, obviously,” Van Ness says, lifting it up slightly to show it off. “For the both of you. Congratulatory flower.”

Aaron turns to Hamilton, and almost laughs. Hamilton is looking at the flowerpot like it offends him, scowling, but the effect is ruined because his glasses are askew on his nose. Aaron resists the urge to walk over to his desk to fix them.

“I don’t have anywhere to put it,” Hamilton says, gesturing to his desk, which admittedly, doesn’t have any room to spare; he has the habit of never putting away files and books from cases and projects when he’s done with them. Every time Aaron swears he isn’t going to intervene, but every few days he ends up putting the papers away, lest Hamilton disappears in the mound of paperwork and is never seen again.

Van Ness grumbles something and his faces flushes a little, and Aaron can tell that his feelings are hurt, a little bit. He crosses the room and places the flowerpot on the corner of Aaron’s desk instead. Aaron offers his friend a smile and says, “It’s nice, William. Thank you.” Aaron hears Hamilton let out a huff of annoyance, but Van Ness’s demeanor perks up, so that’s what matters.

He peers at the plant, sees that the soil is damp, freshly watered, but that’s pretty much it besides the big green leaves. “It doesn’t look like much of anything,” Aaron says. “Did you gift Alexander and me a weed that you pulled from the side of the road?”

Van Ness rolls his eyes. “It just hasn’t bloomed yet,” he says. Aaron looks closer, and sure enough, he sees the tiny bulbs in the plant.

“I thought it was a good metaphor,” Van Ness continues. “Blooming flower, growing business.” He shrugs and rubs the back of his neck. “I know it’s stupid but—”

“I think it’s nice,” Hamilton says, interrupting. “Thoughtful.”

“You’re welcome?” and it sounds more like a question when Van Ness says it, unsure what to make of Hamilton. He is familiar with Aaron’s teasing — Hamilton’s, not so much.

“I’ll make sure Burr doesn’t knock it to the floor,” Hamilton says, and he motions for Van Ness to sit down in the chair in front of his desk. “You know how clumsy our Burr is.”

Van Ness laughs, says, “Tell me about it. Have you heard about the time when he put salt in his tea instead of sugar?” and Hamilton says, “Oh my God, that’s happened more than once? Because he once did that with me too,” and then Aaron realizes that nothing good can come of this.

He goes back to his work, ignoring Hamilton and Van Ness as they bond over exchanging embarrassing stories about Aaron. He figures that they’ll run out of things to talk about, eventually. Maybe in a couple days.

He just hopes that Van Ness knows what’s good for him and doesn’t breathe a word about his confessions about Hamilton.

 

* * *

 

Philip Schuyler dies.

It had been expected, the man was old and unwell, but the loss is still felt. He was one of the few remaining figureheads of the Revolution — they’re all dying out, their ideas with them, leaving the nation in the hands of future generations.

The Hamilton house goes into mourning. Aaron thinking of donning black attire out of respect, but then he remembers that he doesn’t belong with the family. He’s only a spectator, a guest.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Aaron tells Hamilton, and Hamilton nods, acknowledging. The next part is more awkward, “It’s probably for the best if I do not attend the funeral services for General Schuyler, given our, uh, history,” because there isn’t a more delicate way for him to say my presence would be a reminder how I publically embarrassed him and he claimed that I stole his seat in government.

“You’re probably right.” Hamilton smiles, something rare the past few days. “I don’t think Eliza ever told him that you were staying with us. He was ailing so, and had a weak heart.”

“If he had known, I’m sure that I would be blamed for his death,” Aaron says, but then bites his lip because that’s insensitive and rude, and an apology is formed on his tongue but Hamilton bursts into laughter.

It’s macabre, but it’s comforting that they can joke about such things. Aaron sees it as a sign that they’re healing.

Hamilton has Aaron sit across from him, says, “I love my family dearly, but I would value some conversation with another,” and, well. Aaron makes himself useful.

Aaron likes Hamilton’s study. It’s everything that he likes about the man himself. A cluttered mess, but orderly; neat around the edges, but scattered. Dark, warm. Familiar.

“Eliza’s father helped me out, and showed me great kindness. He gave me a chance, when he had no reason to even consider me — as an soldier, or as a son-in-law,” Hamilton says. It seems like he’s speaking to clear his mind, so Aaron listens as he continues, “He had no right to grant me permission to be with his daughter, but here I am. Over twenty years and eight children later, all because Philip Schuyler gave me a chance.” He smiles to himself, fondness lighting up his face. “However, I think my Eliza would have insisted, no matter what her father said. She spoke of elopement to me, if my proposal weren’t agreeable to her family.”

It’s difficult to think of the Schuyler-Hamilton wedding as anything but it was — a grand event during the chill of winter, in the heart of the war. Everyone spoke of how wonderful it was — the honor of General Washington standing with Hamilton in place of his family, how enchanting Eliza looked, how handsome Hamilton was, what a good match, something to bring hope. But Aaron didn’t see any of this — he had missed the ceremony. He doesn’t remember the reason why, all these years later. Perhaps because it seemed too joyous to celebrate while death surrounded them. Maybe it was because he longed to marry his own love, but could not. Or maybe, it was the knowledge that Hamilton was moving past him, and didn’t need to have him in his life — he remembers how Hamilton left him with the promise, I’ll see you on the other side.

Hamilton must mistake Aaron’s quiet introspection as surprise, because Hamilton says, “My Betsey knows what she wants, and how to get it.”

That’s an image, her taking him.

“Maybe she wanted to make sure she didn’t lose you,” Aaron says, because if he were a woman, after he met Hamilton for the first time, well. He understands.

“I wasn’t going anywhere,” Hamilton says. “Not only did I love Eliza, but I loved her family, too. And when I married her, I had a family again.”

That makes Aaron sad. He’s reminded that while they’re both orphans, he had it better than Hamilton. When his parents died, he had money and privilege, which made early life significantly easier for him.

“And now, my family is dying again.” Hamilton runs a hand through his hair, sighs. “After my son died,” he begins, “I had to pay for his overdue library book.”

Aaron blinks. He isn’t sure where this is going, but he gives Hamilton the opportunity to share. For once, he needs to talk. But Aaron would be lying if it weren’t because he likes that Hamilton feels as though he can trust him with this.

Hamilton continues, “It was ridiculous. A bill came for him, after he was dead. For a fucking library book. Even though I’m positive it was known he was never going to be able to pay. I was so mad — it was the first emotion I had other than sadness, since… I fixated on finding that book, because it would be one thing I could do for Philip. I looked everywhere but I could never find it. So I gave up, and I paid for the damn thing. His debt settled. Like I should have settled his other debt, about me. I thought about that a lot. And then as things do when you aren’t looking for them, I found the book. Months later. I had almost forgot about it. When I picked it up to look at it, the bookmarker fell out. Philip never finished it.”

Aaron puts his hand over Hamilton’s, rubs his thumb in small circles over the bony part of Hamilton’s wrist. “I’m so sorry,” Aaron whispers, and Hamilton nods and bites his trembling lip, as though he’s staving off tears. They stay like that for a few minutes, Aaron holding Hamilton’s hand, and Hamilton letting him.

Aaron feels kind of shitty doing this, stealing affection from Hamilton when Hamilton is vulnerable, but it feels natural — and too damn nice to let go.

“I’m sorry,” Hamilton says, wipes his face with his sleeve, and Aaron says, “Don’t be, there’s nothing to be sorry for.

Hamilton still holds Aaron’s hand.

“I am acting as though I am the only one who ever lost anyone,” Hamilton says, looks up at Aaron through his eyelashes. “When you — you have your own loss. That’s…” Hamilton shakes his head. “What is it like? I cannot imagine losing Eliza, I—”

“It’s the deepest sorrow. It’s like you lose a part of yourself when your partner is buried in the ground,” Aaron says, and his heart aches because it will always be missing his Theodosia. “I imagine the pain is only second to losing a child.”

Hamilton’s hand twitches in his.

“We’ve experienced a lot of pain, you and I,” Hamilton says. “My fellow orphan.”

Aaron doesn’t know what to say to that, so he holds Hamilton’s hand until Hamilton pulls it away, and makes an excuse to leave.

 

* * *

 

That night, Aaron dreams of Hamilton dying again. Of killing Hamilton.

Why? Hamilton of his dreams asks. Even spread on the ground, bleeding from his gut, lips wet with blood, he is elegant. Beautiful.

Because you make me want you, Aaron tells this Hamilton. He wants him, fiercely. Ardently.

But now you’re going to die, Aaron says, you’ve ruined everything.

Everyone has to die, Hamilton says, and he smiles weakly and looks up to Aaron with that look that Aaron can’t deny. Kiss me and make it better?

Aaron does, he does.

 

* * *

 

Aaron’s life is out of control, in regards to Hamilton. First, he shot Hamilton, and then Aaron kissed Hamilton, and now he’s living with Hamilton — Aaron comes to the realization that it’s the fastest moving relationship he’s ever had.

He’s willing to see where it goes. Press too much and it could end, or spiral into something he can’t handle. He’s hardly managing now. But, it should be interesting, regardless.

But Hamilton accelerates, can never leave well enough alone…

They’re working at their office on the weekend, catching up from an overloaded week. They have assistance working in the side room: Al Hamilton, because he apparently wants to be a lawyer too but wants to help his father even more, and Van Ness because…Aaron isn’t sure why he’s there other than to be nosey.

So it’s just him and Hamilton, sitting next to each other at Aaron’s desk because Hamilton’s is too cluttered, speaking when necessary, shuffling papers between each other, working together to complete a task. The progress is efficient, the company pleasant. He and Hamilton in tandem, as one.

He’s caught unaware when Hamilton’s hand brushes against his. Aaron probably wouldn’t have noticed it if Hamilton’s touch didn’t linger.

“Hamilton,” Aaron says, looking down to where Hamilton’s hand covers his. There’s a paper cut on one of Hamilton’s knuckles. His fingers, ink-stained.

It should be easy to take his hand away, remove himself from this fuse with Hamilton, but he cannot — and once again he’s racked with guilt over something that he cannot help, nor understand.

“We can’t, Alexander,” Aaron says, almost a whisper, something for only Hamilton to hear. Another secret between them.

Hamilton must know that it’s wrong, too. He squeezes Aaron’s hand, then pulls his own away, dragging it against Aaron’s arm slow, fingers trailing up — causing Aaron to shiver — before setting it in his lap. He looks down, his hair falling forward into his face.

“I told Eliza,” Hamilton says. “I told her everything.” He looks up at Aaron, gives him a troubled grin. “I told her that we kissed.”

“No,” Aaron says, but it’s too late — Hamilton said it, and everything changes again.

“Yes.” Hamilton points at Aaron, taps his chest. “And I’ll have you know that she took it rather well. My Eliza is progressive.”

“Progressive doesn’t mean stupid, which your wife is not,” Aaron says roughly, whispered. He glances to the door that leads to where Hamilton’s son and Van Ness are, then lowers his voice even more, says, “And it’s hard to believe she’s okay with you kissing another man.”

Hamilton winces at the harshness of Aaron’s words. “It’s not like she’s going to turn us in and have us hanged if that’s what you’re concerned about.”

“Jesus Christ, Alexander.”

“I’m just saying that. You’d be surprised,” Hamilton says, and well. What does that even mean? Aaron waits for him to expand, tell him what’s so surprising, but he doesn’t. It’s a secret he keeps to himself.

“She knows that it was a one time thing,” Hamilton says. Shrugs. “It was nothing, after all.”

And of course Hamilton has to throw that in his face. Aaron regrets saying that their moment of passion was nothing. He should have said, Yes, it was something and I don’t know what, but I want more.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Hamilton continues. “We’ve had to figure out what we mean to each other. So…that was a misinterpretation of our feelings. Just a digression.”

But Hamilton has never been just anything.

“How can you speak of it like it isn’t affecting you?” Aaron asks, despairing — because he thinks how does it not? do you not think of our bodies pressed against one another every time you see me? because that is what I think of every time I look at you, I am reminded of your lips on mine, and I have begun to think of it when I’m not with you—

“Oh, so now you want to talk about it?” Hamilton asks, his voice rising, his hands waving about. Aaron sputters, doesn’t know what to say because, yes — he did deny it but he can’t any longer but now it’s too late, again—

Hamilton shakes his head, doesn’t wait for Aaron to sort out his sensibilities. “You know what? Fuck this.”

Aaron watches as Hamilton pushes back his chair, grabs his cane, uses it to stand up.

“I’ll see you later,” Hamilton says and he goes to leave, but Aaron stands quick and grabs Hamilton’s wrist and asks—

“Stay?”

There’s an inaudible reverberation between them, but it’s felt — Aaron holds his breath while Hamilton stares at him wide-eyed, it’s almost like he’s surprised, but then Hamilton laughs and if that doesn’t make Aaron feel like shit, he doesn’t know what does.

“No.” Hamilton jerks his hand away from Aaron, freeing himself.

“You can’t just leave,” Aaron says, a step behind Hamilton, pursuing him, “for once in your goddamn life when I want to talk more, you end the conversation. Hey, listen—”

It happens so quickly, Aaron isn’t quite sure how it happens, but he knows that it’s his fault.

Aaron reaches out for Hamilton, and because Hamilton can’t move fast he’s right there. Aaron pulls on Hamilton’s arm, says, “Alexander, please,” but Hamilton demands, “Let me go!” and they struggle and fight against each other — but then Aaron feels the shift in their counterbalance and Hamilton loses his footing, falls forward. Aaron stumbles too, loses his grip on Hamilton and there’s no way he can catch Hamilton — Hamilton looks at Aaron as he starts to go down, like oh shit, and he tries to grab his chair to hold on to but it goes down with Hamilton, it clattering to the floor with a crash next to him, along with his cane.

Aaron is at Hamilton’s side in an instant, kneeling next to where Hamilton is sprawled facedown on the floor.

“Are you okay?” Aaron touches Hamilton’s back, and thank God, Hamilton is moving; he pushes himself up with his hands, manages to get off his front and onto his knees, but he grunts in pain and flops on his ass on the floor.

Aaron is concerned — he forgot how easily Hamilton could be exerted, now.

“Alexander?” he asks. “Please talk to me.”

Hamilton shrugs off Aaron’s concerned touch. “Leave me the fuck alone.” He rubs his thigh, scowls.

Aaron tempers his sigh of relief. Hamilton sounds more embarrassed than injured. “Let me help you up.”

No.”

“Don’t be so fucking stubborn.”

“Make me, I dare you,” Hamilton growls, and then he takes in a deep, sharp breath — he looks like a wild thing, his eyes dark, his hair in his face, he's looking for a challenge.

“You always do what I dare you to do,” Aaron says, and he pushes Hamilton’s hair away so he can see him better, frames Hamilton’s face with his hands, and Hamilton lets out a soft sigh and leans into his touch and Aaron realizes that he rises to every challenge, too.

He doesn’t know if it’s a failure, on either account.

“Are you okay?” Aaron asks, gently.

Hamilton pats his chest, his stomach, his leg, as though to take invoice of his body.

“I’m fine,” Hamilton says, quietly.

“Good.” Aaron rubs the stubble on Hamilton’s chin with his thumb, and Hamilton flinches slightly but he whines so nicely, so Aaron keeps doing it.

He is so tempted.

“What are we doing?” Aaron asks, hushed.

“I don’t know,” Hamilton begins. “But we—”

They are blessedly, damnably interrupted.

Evidently hearing the ruckus of Hamilton’s fall, Al and Van Ness burst into the room. Al runs, gets down at his father’s side while Van Ness hangs back and looks like he swallowed a pinecone.

“Pop! Are you okay? What happened?” Al asks, wrapping his arms around Hamilton. Buries his face into Hamilton’s shoulder. He’s a sweet kid. Aaron understands why Theo might find him nice to talk to.

Hamilton pats Al’s back. “I fell. You know — clumsy me.” He shoots a loaded look to Aaron.

Aaron can’t meet his gaze. It hurts.

He blinks, stands. “He would not allow me to assist him upright.”

Al rolls his eyes, scolds Hamilton, saying, “Do you think you have more dignity stuck on the floor than accepting help?”

Surprisingly, Hamilton takes it, says, “Yes, I know, son,” and Al slides his arm around Hamilton’s back and holds him steady as he lifts him up from the floor and onto his feet. Hamilton lets out a small, disgruntled noise and clings to Al’s coat as he regains his balance, and he’s flushed across his cheeks, but he seems okay.

Aaron wonders if this is a common occurrence, Hamilton’s family having to help him when he’s not completely mobile.

“I’ll give you some time alone,” Aaron says to the Hamiltons, and then turns and quickly walks away. He pushes Van Ness into the side office and closes the door behind him. He leans against the door, exhales.

“What was that about?” Van Ness questions, when they’re alone.

“Nothing,” Aaron says. It’s nothing at the moment, anyway.

 

* * *

 

Fifteen minutes later, there’s a tentative knock on the door, followed by Al opening it just wide enough to come through.

“My Pops will be fine,” Al says. “His only injury is a damaged ego.”

“How much can his ego take,” Van Ness mutters. Aaron kicks him under the desk.

“That’s great. I’m glad he’s well.” Aaron looks around. It’s awfully quiet. “Where is Alexander?”

“He went home early.” A grin tugs at Al’s mouth. “I suppose, to tend to his ego.”

Aaron laughs. “You’re alright, kid.”

“…Thank you, sir?” Al reacts as though he didn’t expect a compliment from Aaron. He furrows his brow, suspicious, but he smiles to offset it. Even though the junior Alexander is more mild-mannered than the senior, all Hamiltons are the same.

Aaron sits back in his chair, steeples his fingers. “Do you have anything else to tell me?” he asks. He looks Al down with a sharp, intrusive glare that’s earned him his cold-hearted status.

Al fidgets. “Um…nice buttons?”

Aaron can’t decide if the boy is being intentionally unruly, or is daft. Either possibility is too annoying to suss out, so he’s blunt and asks, “What are your intentions with my daughter?”

“Theo?” Al asks, dumbstruck, his voice pitching up an octave.

“Do I have another daughter that you’ve been courting?”

Courting?”

Van Ness clears his throat. “Maybe I should leave, or…?” He is ignored, so he slumps into the chair. He probably thinks he needs to stay in for Al’s protection.

“Is that not what you’ve been doing?” Aaron asks. “You go on walks together, talking in private, exchange letters—”

“I haven’t been courting Theo!” Al runs a hand through his messy curls, making his hair even more untidy. “I promise you, mister Burr. My intentions towards your daughter are honorable. I admit, that I had a fondness for her — because who wouldn’t! — but I value her friendship more, and I am content with that. She is clever and witty, and a close friend. A friend, nothing more. You can ask her yourself, if you don’t believe me—”

Aaron holds up his hand for Al to stop.

“You make a compelling case,” Aaron says. He considers Al, and is reminded of the best parts of the young Alexander he knew. “You might make a good lawyer, after all.”

Al’s height grows about three inches; it’s a wonder what a confidence boost can do. “That’s so kind—”

“Don’t mention it.” Aaron waves his hand. “Now go.”

Al almost trips over his feet trying to get from the room.

“These Hamiltons are going to be the death of me,” Aaron says when Al is gone.

Van Ness scoffs. “It seems to me like you like them.”

“I didn’t ask you.”

“I’m just saying—”

“Stop.”

“Whatever.” Van Ness crosses his arms. He doesn’t have to say anything to make his point clear.

Damn him. Aaron should have never let him get friendly with Hamilton.

 

* * *

 

Although Hamilton had appeared to be in good shape after his tumble to the floor, Aaron worries about him, and leaves the office an hour after Hamilton. He intends to check in on him, as a concerned friend, and he composes the conversation in his head as he goes home.

I’m sorry I made you fall and maybe hurt yourself but you wouldn’t listen to me and—

Aaron is sure that Hamilton is in his home office, because that’s where Hamilton retreats to when he wants to sulk. Or when he has nothing better to do. Aaron has often found Hamilton in there at all hours of the day, holed up with a book, writing something that Aaron can’t ever be bothered to ask about, napping on the couch, staring out the window. It’s Hamilton’s haven, but he allows Aaron inside, and he allows him his company, never turns him away, and Aaron feels at ease with him.

That is why Aaron enters without knocking. It’s rude, and Hamilton would reprimand his children if they opened his closed door without asking. But Aaron assumes his familiarity with Hamilton, and he has to speak to him, right then.

“Hamilton, how are—oh my God.”

On Hamilton’s desk sits Eliza with her skirt hiked up, and Hamilton fucking into her fast and hard.

Aaron grips the doorknob, frozen in his spot. Aaron isn’t sure if they heard him —they haven’t slowed at all — and he quickly diverts his eyes, but then he hears a gasp and he doesn’t know which one of them it’s from, and he can’t look away, then.

It turns out that Aaron needn’t worry about Hamilton because he’s apparently in damn good health — he’s got his breeches pushed down to his knees, hips rolling to thrust into Eliza, and he must be nailing her just right because she’s got her eyes closed, legs wrapped around his waist, and hands clutching his arms tight. Aaron can’t see any lewd body parts other than Hamilton’s ass (which, Aaron keeps looking at, how it tenses with each thrust) or up to Eliza’s knees where her skirts don’t cover (and he keeps looking there too, the fine lines of her legs); they’re both fully dressed, as though they didn’t have the time to strip because they were overcome with the sudden urge to fuck on Hamilton’s desk. But it’s still obscene, Aaron hears their slick sex sounds, sees their little bits of exposed skin wet with sweat, and can imagine a lot more with what he sees.

Aaron knows he should go, this is the most vulgar violation — smut, and a privacy of husband and wife. But he can’t, not when Hamilton mouths at Eliza’s neck and Eliza bites her lip but an, “Alexander,” slips out anyway, which spurs Hamilton on — he pushes forward, and Aaron guesses that he’s burying himself all the way inside judging by the way Eliza arches her back and lets out a shuddering breath, and once Hamilton is settled he grinds, circling his hips slow, and he slides one hand down from where it’s holding Eliza’s waist to rub at Eliza underneath her skirt.

Aaron’s dick is hard, there’s no denying it, he’s a disgusting voyeur — he has an urgency to hurry back to his room before he’s caught, but also so he can jerk off. He feels gross about it and he knows that feeling is rightfully so, but it’s also their intimacy that he enjoys — like how Eliza runs her hand through Hamilton’s hair and opens her eyes and smiles at him so sweetly, it’s obvious she loves him, and she focuses on him, until she doesn’t, and glances over to the door, and…sees Aaron.

Shit.

Neither know how to react, they stare at each other silently as Hamilton pounds into Eliza and Aaron stands there a few feet away, but then Eliza takes a deep breath and pats Hamilton’s shoulder and says, “Burr.”

That makes Hamilton’s motions come to a complete halt.

Who did you say?” Hamilton asks, aghast, and Aaron would laugh — Hamilton, thinking his wife uttered Aaron’s name in passion — if it weren’t such an awful situation.

Eliza huffs, tilts her head in Aaron’s direction, and then Hamilton looks over his shoulder and follows Eliza’s line of sight and says, “Oh,” surprised when his eyes meet Aaron’s and Aaron wants to die.

Aaron bolts from the room while Hamilton is still balls deep in his wife, before someone can do something else.

 

* * *

 

Aaron’s hand trembles as he strikes the match against the porch beam. He gets a flame lit, cups his hand around it as he lights his pipe. He inhales, and he instantly feels a little calmer — he closes his eyes, focuses on the prickle in his lungs instead of his rushing mind. He exhales, blowing out smoke slow.

Nope, it doesn’t help. He still thinks of Alexander and Eliza, together.

Aaron takes another drag of his pipe, rolls the taste of tobacco over his tongue as he thinks. It was a mistake, clearly. It’s not like he was seeking out seeing them bang. It was an accident — as so many things are, with him.

But staying, watching — that was with purpose. He has no excuses for that.

He stays on the front porch, leaning on the railing as he smokes. He indulges in the habit less; it’s expensive, and if he wants to smoke he has to go outside because Hamilton complains of the stink.

Not that he’ll have that problem anymore. He’ll stay out here until he knows they are having dinner, and that’s when he’ll quietly pack up and leave. There’s no need to discuss matters that should never be spoken about, ever.

So naturally, Hamilton strolls out the front door, approaches Aaron. It’s been over half an hour since Aaron ran out on them, but Hamilton still has that just had sex look — hair slightly out of place, clothes rumpled, his face flushed pink, he looks absolutely euphoric, and Aaron swears he’s got an extra bounce in his step.

Hamilton comes up to Aaron, wrinkling his nose at the cloud of smoke Aaron just let out, but he rests his hip against the rail and taps his cane on the wood floor. “Are you not going to say anything?”

Aaron puts out the pipe and dumps the ashes into the hedge.

“I’ll move out tonight,” Aaron says. As soon as he can, to spare them all the embarrassment. “If it’s acceptable, Theo can stay. She likes it here, do not blame her for my errors—”

“No,” Hamilton says, and when Aaron looks at him questioningly, continues, “What I mean is that you aren’t going to move out.”

“But— I—”

“It was our oversight,” Hamilton says, shrugging. “We didn’t lock the door.”

“Nevertheless,” Aaron begins, “it would be proper for me to leave.” He could hardly look at Hamilton or Eliza without feeling guilty, and now... It seems that he’s forever to be plagued with shame.

Hamilton lightly laughs. “Burr. We’ve had eight kids. It’s not the first time we’ve been interrupted mid-coitus.”

“Alexander!” They should not be speaking of it.

“Chill.” Hamilton slaps Aaron on the shoulder. “Don’t look so distressed or it will upset Eliza.”

Aaron tries a forced, pained smile. Hamilton arches one brow and makes a face that doesn’t make him feel that confident.

“On second thought, don’t do that,” Hamilton says, putting his hand up. “Just be your normal amount of blah.

Eliza blushes when Aaron enters the dining room, she is quick to smile and turn conversation to something neutral.   As she takes her seat at the head of the table, Aaron notices that she changed clothes from what she was wearing earlier. A simple white dress that flows with her shape, adorned only with sheer decoration on the sleeves and bottom hem — white, innocent, Aaron thinks, and he feels himself flush.

Hamilton smirks at him from across the table. “Doesn’t Eliza look beautiful, Burr?”

Aaron thinks of swallowing the napkin in his lap.

“Alexander,” Eliza says, a firm warning clear in her voice.

“You look very nice, Mrs. Hamilton,” Aaron says, and he manages to meet Eliza’s gaze.

She smiles, gracefully, replies, “Please, you must call me Eliza while we are at home.”

Aaron drinks from his glass in lieu of an answer.

Hamilton says grace, and they are free to eat.

Young William Hamilton speaks up as she helps cut up his food. “You’re always pretty, Mommy.”

“Thank you, sweetie,” she says. “There. Eat your vegetables.” She points with her knife to Hamilton. “You too. Burr eats his, like an adult.”

Hamilton grumbles, but stabs his fork at the green peas. Eliza and Aaron both have to stifle their giggles.

 

* * *

 

James Wilkinson is an unscrupulous man, and arrogant in a way that’s not forgiving. He’s someone who you want on your side — Aaron has made sure to maintain him as a comrade since he met him in the Revolution. During Aaron's time in office, he convinced Jefferson to appoint Wilkinson as the Governor of the Louisiana Territory and commander of the military. Mostly because Aaron thought that some good might come of it, later.

And now it has.

“The opportunity to act is now,” Wilkinson says. He is impressive in his General’s uniform, dreads tied back, posture tall. “Jefferson is ready to send troops led by me into the Territory for protection because of the boarder conflict with the Spanish. You’ve said it yourself that a well-armed and skilled military could snatch Texas, or even Mexico, away from the Spanish.” He pauses. “Perhaps, we could even take part of the Territory.”

Aaron sighs. “And, what? I become crowned Emperor?” Aaron isn’t so sure about this plan anymore as Wilkinson lays it out; its inception was before, in a different time. “I have my doubts of its success. I would not see my name dragged through the dirt again senselessly.”

“We could be victorious. You have the support,” Wilkinson says. “I’ve traveled the West and there are whispers of opposition that are growing louder. Soon, the rebellion against the leadership will be a yell.”

It’s hard for Aaron to believe that he has support when the majority of the nation still calls him a fiend.

“The Louisiana Territory is more than willing to have the protection of the British,” Wilkinson continues. “Contacts in New Orleans are ready to give you fifteen thousand dollars—”

“What!”

“—with the promise of more, if you agree to fortify their cause for succession. Then, the British will send their ships to us, and after that, it will be an easy win.”

The thought of people entrusting in him and following him is wonderful, he feels a flare of that want and he sees long-sought for and deserved success close in his reach, but—

Hamilton is on the other side.

“Don’t you want to fuck Jefferson’s shit up?” Wilkinson asks, when Aaron hesitates.

Aaron bites his lip. Maybe he doesn’t have to choose between this, or Hamilton — and then he has a vision of him and Hamilton, leading a new nation, one they built on their own, together.

“I’ll get back to you,” Aaron says.

 

* * *

 

He does not have time to deliberate over how to ask it of Hamilton, because the opportunity presents itself.

Hamilton and Eliza come to him that evening, saying, “We need to talk.”

At first, Aaron thinks that it’s about him walking in on them having sex but Hamilton waves his hand when Aaron’s face becomes panicked.

“It’s not what you think,” Hamilton says. “It’s time to discuss how we are going to carry out our plan.

They go to Hamilton’s office, sit by the fire. All three of them do not look at Hamilton’s desk.

“It will not be easy,” Hamilton says, and he takes Eliza’s hand. “I do not blame either of you if you wish to back out.”

Aaron respects that Hamilton includes Eliza in the decision. The man has grown some damn sense, apparently.

“I do not know the particulars of politics,” Eliza admits, “but I do know enough that I am aware that it is an apparatus that can be managed.” She looks between Hamilton and Aaron. “I believe that the two of you are capable of this.”

Hamilton brings her hand to his mouth, kisses it, and shares a secret smile with her.

He turns to Aaron. “What do you say, Burr?”

“I should hope that by now, my words and actions have convinced you of my opinion,” Aaron says. This is something that he believes in — he must. “I stand with you.”

Hamilton blinks. “Yes. Good.” It’s as though he's still is not used to Aaron openly committing.

“Explain to me how this happens,” Eliza says. Her expression illuminated by the fire is superb — curious, strong, eager.

“There is an opportunity, in the West,” Aaron says. “I have contacts, who tell me that the new territory is prime for taking, and with an army we could—”

“I’m going to stop you right there.” Hamilton’s voice is low, serious. “For once, I’m begging you to listen to me. That’s a bad idea.”

Aaron knows Hamilton is right.

“I want to be President not for the glory, but for the challenges,” Hamilton says. “I am up for the challenges.”

And Aaron sees Hamilton as a great leader, a power that cannot be contained.

(That could have been you, Aaron thinks. But if it’s his true purpose to make Hamilton rise up, then he will concede to fate.)

It’s then that Aaron realizes — he’s in the room.

“Two dishonored politicians,” Aaron says. “What more do we have to lose?”

“Anything. Everything,” Hamilton answers after a thoughtful pause. “But isn’t it worth it in order to form a more perfect union?”

“Always.” Aaron doesn’t add, with you.

Eliza sighs. “You are both dramatic fools.”

“Only fools would be doing what we’re doing,” Aaron points out.

Hamilton shrugs. “As it’s said, aut viam inveniam aut faciam.

Aaron understands. He translates, “I shall either find a way, or make one.”

It is the consensus in the room.

Chapter Text

It’s almost too easy.

They find their way. They don’t have to make their way, not yet, because their narrative attracts — everyone wants to know about the friends turned enemies turned friends. There’s gossip — whispers of, they’re working together after he nearly killed him, but I heard that Hamilton sabotaged Burr, so how could they ever trust each other? They deserve whatever happens. They’re considered scandalous. Burr is apprehensive, but Alexander is glad; it means that people are attending to them. Watching. Alexander remembers what he was once told, history has its eyes on you and indeed, it does — and history is a stern judge. Every moment is distinct, setting the precedent for the next. It’s unsettling. There’s that sinister hair-raising crawl up the back of his neck every time he goes out in public with Burr. Everyone (everyone, except their families) stare when Alexander and Burr are together. Like they still can’t believe that they are a pair. 

It doesn’t bother Alexander, however. He has nothing to be ashamed of. If they (they, the fickle public who can love you one moment and hate you the next) want a show, Alexander will give them one. He holds his head high and keeps a tight grip on his cane as he walks down the street with Burr, proud. Burr stays with him, his pace slow and leisurely — Alexander knows it’s for his sake, but Burr doesn’t make it feel like a hindrance. When Burr stands next to him, Alexander doesn’t have to wonder if it’s because Burr enjoys his company. He knows Burr does. He knows, like how he knows that Burr is anxious to be the object of scrutiny — to the untrained observer in the ways of Aaron Burr, Burr would appear as aloof and uncaring towards the talk surrounding them. But. Telltale signs reveal the particulars of Burr to Alexander. To him, Burr is an open book — and even though Burr desperately tries to slam the pages shut, Alexander marks the page, reads him, again and again — that tightening of his jaw that Alexander worries that’ll hurt his teeth, the dry witticisms that Alexander knows are self-derogatory, how he leans in closer to Alexander when it gets to be too much.

“Thank you,” Burr says.

“For what?” Alexander isn’t sure what Burr is thankful for. Discretion? Companionship?

“For not looking at me like you’re afraid of me,” Burr replies.

Alexander isn’t afraid of Burr, he never was. Maybe he should be. Maybe Burr should be afraid of him, too. What they could do to each other.

 

* * *

 

Alexander and Burr don’t gain (regain) their popularity on their personal baggage alone — they earn it, because they are good. Things go their way, for once. Their law practice grows. Alexander continues what he was building, and Burr makes it better.

Defenders of peace and justice. Innovative.

They always were the brightest of their age.

Everyone wants to know them. Or, everyone wants to be associated with them (again) now that they are prosperous and have something that could be of benefit. Alexander knows this, but, whatever. He gets to show those idiots who was right. Delayed gratification is fantastic.

He drags a somewhat unwilling Burr to parties. Burr is persnickety, and gives excuses to avoid going (he isn’t feeling well, he’s got a spot on his nose, it might rain) but Alexander ends up winning, as always. A guilt trip is always ready in his arsenal, and Burr is highly susceptible to it — as well as his puppy-dog eyes.

“You have to be friendly,” Alexander whispers to Burr when they enter the gathering — some shindig for Morris. He feels Burr bristle and go frigid beside him when the hall turns to them. There’s an audible murmur through the crowd when they notice Burr.

“Why should I give respect when it is not reciprocated?” Burr whispers back, grim toned, with an even grimmer expression. “They’ve already formed their judgment of me.”

“Then prove them wrong,” Alexander replies. “Don’t you remember how this works?” he asks, and steers Burr into the crowd while he’s still sputtering.

And yes, people do turn their nose up at Burr. They warmly greet Alexander while pretending as though Burr isn’t there. It’s easy for them to do when Burr lets them, lets himself be shoved aside, forgotten, and yields to the belief that it’s better for others to have a neutral opinion of him rather than a negative opinion. Burr probably wishes that Alexander would allow him to fade into obscurity, but goddamn it, they’re supposed to be doing this together. But Burr looks so lost, and Alexander won’t leave him alone — he thinks if he does, Burr will make a run for it and disappear out of his life forever.

“I believe you know Burr?” Alexander says, grabbing Burr’s hand and hauling him in front of the others, presenting him. “My friend.” Because these people may be Alexander’s friends too, but Burr is his companion.

And it’s a reminder to Burr that his place is with him.

The federalists share a glance, then back to Alexander and Burr.

“Friend?” Pickering asks, and the others mumble a consensus. They don’t attempt to hide their skepticism, that they believe Alexander is wrong. Batshit crazy. Alexander is about to lecture them about if you trust me you can trust him, but Burr speaks first.

“Yes. Friend,” Burr says, wryly. He fidgets. “My friend Hamilton, whom I shot.”

Just when Alexander thought that Burr couldn’t get any more eccentric, Burr surpasses his expectations. He cringes, and he’s about to apologize for Burr’s behavior, but the tables turn — Burr considers the dumbstruck crowd and in that same sardonic voice of his, he says, “I thought that we might as well get that out of the way. That I shot Hamilton.” A flicker of a smile. “But haven’t we all wanted to do that, at some point?”

And then Alexander remembers that Aaron Burr is one smooth motherfucker. It makes him question if the human disaster act is a front.

He bites down on laughter brimming up from his gut as the others stare open-mouthed, as if they’re unsure how to react, but after a moment the men laugh, and just like that, Burr is accepted.

“You’re alright, man,” they say. Slap Burr on the back, shake his hand, offer him drinks, say, Thanks for being the one to knock Hamilton’s ego down a few notches. I’ve nearly strangled him many times and By the way, what’s Jefferson’s administration really like?

Suddenly, Burr is interesting and valuable.

“See?” Hamilton asks, smug, when they leave the party. “I told you that it’d be fun.”

Burr scoffs. “About as fun as an interrogation.”

Alexander sighs. “Nothing can please you, can it?”

But it doesn’t go unnoticed that Burr is less grumpy that evening, and the next day too.

 

* * *

 

Alexander discovers Burr’s nightmares by accident — he had been going to wake Burr to ask if they wanted to go to work early, but when he was at Burr’s bedside he realized that Burr was in the thrall of a terror. He almost misses it — his hand already outstretched to shake him awake — but he notices Burr murmuring and slightly trembling.

He figures that it would be crude to not wake Burr, but he watches for a moment before he does. Sees his pure, unfiltered fear on his face, and Alexander longs to kiss the wrinkle away between his brows.

“Burr.”

Burr appears to be grateful when Alexander saves him from an unseen horror. He looks at Alexander as though he’s surprised to see him, sits up and rubs his eyes but doesn’t say anything other than, “What do you want?” — he’s probably too embarrassed to admit that he could be afflicted with something as human as a bad dream.

Alexander never mentions it, not when he wakes him up again and again from the dreams. Most times, he stops them before they get too bad, but once in a while he silently watches as Burr is tormented by his own mind.

 

* * *

 

Burr discreetly changes parties. It’s not a big deal when he does — it doesn’t even get a column in the newspapers. It’s a believable action for Burr. He had all but been kicked out of the Democratic-Republican party, and because of his tendency to straddle party lines he had been suspected of consorting with the Federalists while he was in office. So it’s not suspicious, which is exactly what they wanted.

Alexander tells Burr that he’s lucky he got out just in time because Jefferson is ruining the party.

And Alexander is lucky too, because now Burr is truly pledged to his ideals.

Things are working out wonderfully.

With that, step one in their plan for future executive power is complete. No — make that step two. Step one is for them to not want to kill each other. Or kiss each other. That has been an obstacle, too. Alexander thinks they’re past that, but then Burr will look at him with those dark eyes, look at him in a way that nobody else does and, well.

Back to step one.

Burr has been a problem since he saw Alexander and Eliza together, intimately. Not because Burr makes it a problem, but because Alexander creates it himself. It’s his own damn fault for telling Burr that there was no need to talk about it, because god, he wants to. He wants to see Burr squirm and say I saw you making love to your wife, and he wants to hear how Burr’s voice would choke saying those words, and Alexander wants to be able to ask did you like what you saw?

Sometimes, Alexander kisses Eliza in Burr’s presence, just to see Burr’s reaction. It never disappoints.

It’s a problem, because Alexander could kill Burr over how much he wants to kiss him.

 

* * *

 

Their law practice thrives, and the flower that Van Ness gave them blooms.

 

* * *

 

The habits of their marriage have been established years prior for when they wake up in the middle of the night after their first bout of sleep. Eliza checks on the children while Alexander reads in bed, and when she returns (provided that Alexander doesn’t go to his office stricken with an idea, and writes until morning) they either talk until they quickly doze off again, or they have sex. Since Alexander’s injury, he would often turn over and sleep through the quiet time when he felt Eliza stir next to him, but now he’s practical with his alone time with Eliza.

Alexander curls around Eliza as soon as she’s slipped back into bed, kisses her neck and runs his hands down her front, gropes her breasts. She softly laughs, says, “Frisky,” but parts her legs when he pushes her nightgown out of the way and rests his hand at the apex of her thighs, begging entrance.

“Mmm. This is a wonderful dream,” Alexander mumbles, his fingers parting the thatch of hair around her sex and quickly finding her clit, stroking it with gentle motions. The sounds she makes are beautiful, a breathy gasp followed by an unrestrained groan that echoes his own want — he slides a finger into her and she holds his wrist, whines, “Alexander.”

Alexander wonders how men tire of their wives because he never ever could. He wants Eliza, always.

He keeps his fingers buried in her and his thumb rubbing at her clit, and he’s content to bring her off like that, but he’s hard enough to rut against her thigh. When Eliza feels his hardness she looks over her shoulder and asks, “Do you want to?”

“Yes, please.” Alexander flips onto his back, shoves the blankets aside, pats his hips. “But like this.”

Eliza sits up, laughing softly as she rubs his belly. “My lazy husband.”

Despite her teasing, Eliza crawls on top of Alexander, straddling his hips and taking off her nightgown and tossing it to the floor. He hums, reaching up to cup her breasts, says, “But this gives me such a good view.”

Eliza takes his cock in her hand, strokes it to spread the precome around the head, and down his shaft. “You cannot distract me with compliments.”

Alexander huffs. “I just feel that I may not be able to perform to my full potential, if our positions were reserved.”

“Should I go wake Burr to have him watch?” Eliza quips. “You performed with plenty of vigor with his audience.”

His cock twitches in her hand, for reasons that it should not. “Do not tease me, Betsey,” he grumbles, because that’s unfair, she’s using his secrets against him. She giggles, mocks his voice saying, “Oh, Mr. Burr,” and Alexander groans. There’s a part of him that hopes Burr has overheard their nighttime lovemaking — they aren’t exactly quiet about it. Their children are heavy sleepers and used to it, but Burr…

Ah,” and Eliza is taking him inside her, holding him around the base as she sinks down. He looks up at her as she moves on him, and her blissed-out expression as his cock fills her is something that could inspire him to write poetry — rapture breaks upon my dearest Betsey’s face in unrefined measure, secret revealed when she uses me for her pleasure — thrusts up because he isn’t lazy, but she holds his hips and says, “Let me.” He whines, but permits her, revels in the feeling of her grinding down and that tight warm heat enveloping him, the warmth radiating all over as she says, “You feel so good, I want to feel you—”

He comes, a back-arching toe-curling good orgasm. Eliza rides him through it, leans forward to kiss him, matches his labored pants. She lets out a small cry when his dick slips out of her, but then rubs herself on his leg. She’s so wet, and he’s aware that she hasn’t yet had her own peak — and that won’t do.

“Your turn,” Alexander says, grabs her ass, scoots her forward until she’s nearly sitting on his face. Her legs spread on either side of his head, her cunt open and on display to him. He moans, wrecked, seeing his release leak from her and he has to taste — eating out the taste of himself from Eliza is one of his vices. She shifts, giving him what he wants, and he says, “Thank you,” as he puts his mouth flush against her. He sucks, swallowing down salty slick, then licks and licks until she’s shuddering against him.

He pulls away for a moment, kisses the inside of her thigh. “I love you.”

Eliza rubs her thumb over his damp chin, tugs on his bottom lip. “I love you too, my Alexander.”

Alexander licks her fingers, gives her little love nips. Noses at her cunt, mumbles god I love this against her, clutches her thighs and he can’t resist seeing her spread and wet in front of him — he presses his mouth to her and he is relentless, closes his eyes and licks her clit in broad, sloppy strokes in the way that he knows make her crazy, and it makes him crazy too. He loves having a face-full of her sex, he loves the heady taste of her and he loves how she is unashamed, her hands finding themselves in his hair, tugging and saying, “Right there, oh oh—,” and chokes out pleas and rubs herself on him, and he seals his mouth on her and sucks and she shakes all over, shouting and then there’s a rush of wet on his tongue that he eagerly swallows down.

After, Alexander licks his lips, content. Eliza puts out the candle, bathing the room in darkness, and then lies in the space next to him.

“Is that enough of a performance?” he asks. Turns over, kisses her neck. “Or am I too lazy?”

“Oh, hush,” she scolds, but Alexander can hear her smile. “Goodnight, my Hamilton.”

“Goodnight, my Betsey.”

 

* * *

 

Time passes, and not much changes. Life goes on. Aaron Burr continues to make the Grange his residence. He makes himself at home — so much so that he gets a cat. Not quite a kitten but not fully grown, fluffy, black with white markings on its feet like it stepped in white paint, and a persnickety personality to match its new owner. Burr claims he rescued it from James (and he couldn’t just leave it outside, not when the children are already attached to it, and he swears he’ll take care of it and it won’t be a bother) but Alexander isn’t so sure Burr didn’t pick it up himself.

But Burr is there at his home, and every night they go to their respective rooms saying—

“Good night, mister Burr.”

“Good night, mister Hamilton.”

—and he’s always there, and it takes two months into two months for Alexander to realize that he doesn’t mind it.

 

* * *

 

Burr writes a piece: The continued act for supplying the city of New-York with pure and wholesome water. Within it, he condemns the failure of the Manhattan Company to provide clean water, and even goes as far to cite himself with neglect for his part in the botched plan. It is his written, public testimony to reevaluate the water system and in his own words, fix it.

“I’ve never been more proud,” Alexander says. He is proud — the Manhattan Company has been a sore spot between them ever since Burr tricked him into backing the plan that upstarted the capitol for the bank Burr envisioned, but at the expense of a shoddy water supply.

Burr frowns. “I didn’t do it for your approval.”

“I know,” Alexander says. “You did it because it’s right.”

“I’ve only made a statement. I have no idea how to make it happen, there’s approval for funds and construction and—”

“Nobody expects you to personally lay pipes down overnight. You’ve recognized the issue and admitted fault.” Alexander lightly punches Burr on the shoulder. “That takes a lot of balls. Trust me, I know. I’ve owned up to some fuck-ups in my time.”

Burr glowers. His voice is close to a whine when he says, “But this wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t interfere in the first place—”

“Why can’t you take a compliment?” Alexander asks, interrupting. He takes Burr’s hand, slaps it with his own, closes Burr’s fist.

“There,” he says, shoving Burr’s closed hand to his chest. “The compliment is yours. No take backs.”

Burr smiles at him like he’s the most bizarre person in the world and — and Alexander loves that. He loves letting Burr be right and making him smile as much as he loves proving him wrong. He likes being the one who makes Burr feel these things.

 

* * *

 

However, he isn’t enough to satisfy Burr; he can’t give him everything he wants.

Occasionally, Burr visits prostitutes. He never tells Alexander that’s where he’s going, but it’s painfully obvious. He comes back smelling like cheap perfume and sex, his clothes rumpled, and a little angrier than before.

Alexander isn’t a prude and he doesn’t judge Burr for it. As long as Burr doesn’t bring it into the house, he can do whatever he wants with his money. God knows he needs to bang out those tightly-wound feelings — but Alexander has developed an almost obsessive interest in Burr’s clandestine outings. How much does he spend? Is it the same woman every time? What does he do with them? Does he fuck them hard and without emotion, or is he a gentle lover? Does he cry? What is he like — what would it be like to have his mouth on him? Or the other way around? Would he allow it, if he asked—?

“If it bothers you this much, you should ask him,” suggests Eliza.

Alexander peeks out from where his arm is flung over his eyes.

“Eliza, be sensible,” he says. He’s fussed about Burr endlessly, and he knows that Eliza must be tired of it, but c’mon.

“I cannot outright ask the man, Please tell me about your rendezvous with the neighborhood ladies of the evening, in detail.” He feels his cheeks flush with only the thought of it. “The man is discreet about his, uh, business.”

“Well,” Eliza says, “your crush on him isn’t very discreet.”

Alexander wallows in the bed, groaning into the pillow. Eliza pats his back, saying, “There, there.” As though it were simplistic.

 

* * *

 

It’s fun to frustrate Burr. It’s only fair, because Burr does the same to him, simply by being a temptation which he cannot have.

But it doesn’t hurt to trifle with Burr. He stays up late, talking with Burr and keeping him away from whatever (or whoever) else he wants to do. He gets drunk after dinner and lays his head on Burr’s shoulder, while Eliza shoots him scolding glares across the room. He wears his tightest breeches, cream-colored and tailored to hug his legs, and he bends over when he’s sure Burr is looking and will notice his assets.

He feels guilty about it, having these consuming thoughts about another. He shouldn’t, and he tells Eliza as much, but she finds amusement in his pining. She knows that he wouldn’t hurt her again, and this thing with Burr is meaningless, so this is harmless fun for her, too.

So, Burr becomes his hobby. Tries to win attention while Burr plays hard-to-get.

Until he’s refocused.

“Are you certain?” Alexander asks Eliza, as though they haven’t gone through this many times.

Eliza softly smiles, has him sit next to her, holds his hand like he’s the one who needs the comfort and — that’s been the same, every time.

“I haven’t bled,” she explains, “and I’m queasy in the mornings and I have those headaches that I get in the beginning.” She pauses, smiles at him. “I’m with child.”

Reality strikes Alexander. Life continues on, indeed.

“But…how?” Alexander asks, his mouth dry. Eliza gives him a vexed look and he shakes his head, continues, “I mean, I know how but — but we’ve been careful!”

Eliza winces. “Not really. There’s the middle of the night romps, then the other week when you came home early from work, the day when Angelica and Burr took the children to the fair…all day long,” she says, blushing, and oh yes, Alexander remembers that day too, “the time when we were in the garden and you were, and I quote, overcome with how I was more beautiful than the lavender.” She ticks the occurrences off on her fingers as she lists them. “It’s very possible.”

Alexander takes a deep breath. “Okay. Okay,” he says, accepting it, and once he has, he feels tears welling in his eyes.

“I think you’d cry no matter how many we have,” Eliza says, fondly. She tucks a loose strand of his hair behind his ear, kisses him. He chokes, watery, and nuzzles his face against hers, places his hand on her stomach.

“You make me a rich man,” he says, and he loves her, that is enough.

 

* * *

 

When they announce the news that evening, the older children take it in stride — they’ve given up trying to feign surprise many pregnancies ago. The younger ones are a mix of excitement and pouts, thinking that they’ll have less attention.

Burr is congratulatory.

“Congratulations on fatherhood,” Burr clinks his glass with Alexander’s. “May the newest Hamilton be as spirited as the rest.”

Alexander drinks his shot in one go.

“Thank you,” he says. He pours another drink to calm his nerves; he’s always nervous until the child is born and safe along with Eliza. He worries — Eliza does everything else.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Alexander admits when the next drink is warm in his belly. “I love my family but… Fuck.” He sighs, sinks back into his armchair, realizing. “It’ll be five under the age of fourteen.”

Burr gives him a blank look, then asks, “Don’t you know how to pull out?”

Alexander flips him off.

 

* * *

 

The flower Van Ness had gifted them threatens to overtake Burr’s desk, with purple violets and greenery running over the edge of the flowerpot.

Eliza repots it, taking care to not damage any of the blooms. She places it back on Burr’s desk, says to him, “I think it grows so well because it’s near your sunny disposition.”

Alexander can’t stop laughing until Eliza swats at his shoulder, but then Burr says, deadpan, “I am a delight,” emphasis on the pun, and he laughs even more.

It feels natural, with the both of them.

 

* * *

 

One year after, they return to Weehawken.

They decide to go on a whim. Alexander had been restless, and went to Burr in the middle of the night and found him wide awake too, and when Alexander said, “We should go,” Burr replied, “I was waiting for you to ask.”

Alexander promises Eliza that he’ll come back home, that he’s safe. She cups his face and says, “You need this.” Closure — he understands what she means.

Burr rows while Alexander sits on the other end of the boat, watching the New Jersey shore approach. The July morning is the same as the one the year before, hot and humid, the breeze off the water making it almost bearable.

If someone had told him a year ago on his deathbed, he’d be back here…

“What are you thinking about?”

Alexander turns to Burr. He’s breathing harder, sweat breaking out on his forehead as he works the oars.

“I was thinking,” Alexander begins, “if you had a gun in your pocket and you intend to finish the job.”

Burr laughs. “I was wondering the same about you.”

Alexander splashes him with water.

Burr holds onto Alexander as he gets his footing on the rocky shoreline, his cane getting stuck in the stones. They walk wordlessly to the clearing, too occupied by their own thoughts, their mistakes — Alexander can feel Burr’s unease, and he wonders if Burr can sense his too.

The dueling grounds look the same. There’s the place where Alexander stood, there’s where Burr stood, there’s the tree that Alexander shot into, there’s the boulder that he leaned against as he bled, there’s the place where Burr dropped his pistol and turned and walked away—

Burr kneels in the dirt.

“You were right here,” he says, and he touches the ground as though he could still see the blood, wipe it up, erase it from their past. “I thought that was the last I’d see of you.”

I thought it was the last I’d see of you, Alexander thinks. He thought the last thing he would see was Burr’s back, or the view of the sky as he lay in the boat on his return to the city, or Eliza next to him as he faded out of consciousness. But it wasn’t.

He stands next to Burr, squeezes his shoulder. “Burr…”

Burr looks up at him, eyes wet. “What if that had been the end?”

“But it wasn’t. I’m still here,” Alexander says. “You’d have to do a lot more than shoot me to get rid of me.”

Burr lets out a distressed sound that makes Alexander’s heart ache. He’s still feeling the pain of it when Burr grabs his hand, presses his face to his palm, and closes his eyes. He holds them like that, his lips brushing against Alexander’s skin as he mumbles incoherants.

“What is it?” Alex runs his free hand over Burr’s head, rests it at the nape of his neck. “I’m fine,” he says to soothe Burr, to calm whatever affliction it is he’s going through. No matter how much time separates them from their tragedy, it continues to torment Burr. “I’m fine.”

Burr whispers so softly, like a prayer, “Alex.”

 

* * *

 

His recurring summer sickness strikes him in August.

Every year Alexander believes he can avoid it — beat nature — but the remnant of his boyhood tropical illness manifests in the hottest months. Over his lifetime he’s learned to manage with the illness, but it’s an inevitability that he’ll spend a couple weeks in bed as a fevered mess.

Although it isn’t catching, he won’t have Eliza tend to him due to her condition. She doesn’t need the stress, and he’ll have enough aid with Angelica coming by daily, and a nursemaid when needed.

Oh, and Burr.

“I think you just want to see me suffer,” Alexander says. He pulls the blankets around himself — the chills and muscle cramps have already set in. He has told Burr many times that there’s no obligation to look after him, he’s lived with it for many years and it can get gross. But here Burr is, at his bedside, holding a steaming teacup.

Burr sighs as Alexander suspiciously eyes the cup. “It’s tea. Drink it.” He sets it down on the table next to Alexander with a clink. “Or don’t. I don’t care.”

Then, Burr drops a book in Alexander’s lap, turns on his heel and leaves, shutting the door behind him.

Alexander picks up the teacup and drinks; Burr makes too good of a cup to pass up. He opens the book, settling in to read until he falls asleep.

 

* * *

 

He wakes up sweating, thrashing in the covers as he wakes from a deep sleep. He promptly gets sick into the pail he kept next to his bed, then flops back against the pillows, moaning from the pain that seems to come down on him all at once. In this moment, he regrets ordering Eliza away from his room because he wants someone there — he forgets every year how miserable this is. It’s odd how pain fades in hindsight.

He breathes a sigh of relief when he hears hurried footsteps outside his room, but it’s short-lived — Burr appears in the doorway, wearing his dressing-robe and carrying a lantern aloft.

“No, not you.” Alexander knows he sounds pathetic but he really wants some comfort, and Aaron Burr is about as comforting as a cactus.

“Hush, unless you want to wake the entire house.” Burr sets his lantern next to Alexander’s. The light illuminates his face, and Alexander sees the look of a man who didn’t realize what he was getting himself into. However, Burr quickly recovers, and regains his serious demeanor.

He puts a hand to Alexander’s forehead; it’s cool and feels nice compared to his clammy skin, but then he pulls it away. Alexander whimpers.

“You have a fever,” Burr declares.

“No, duh.”

Burr bites his lip. “Are you going to get sick again?”

Alexander shakes his head, then groans when the room starts spinning. Bad idea.

“No, but I hurt all over,” he says, “My headache is fucking killing me and that’s the least of it — my stomach hurts and I’m burning up, it’s so hot—” he curls into a fetal position as he’s hit with another churning wave of pain. He’s hot, so hot, the sickness will take him this time, he’s burning up, he’s back on the small mattress with his mother and they’re both dying—

“Alexander,” someone says. Alexander blinks open his eyes, and Burr is at his side, but Aaron Burr has never been to Nevis, he’s not real—

“Shh, it’s okay,” Burr says, gentle, and then Alexander feels something wet on his face. A cloth. Burr puts a damp rag to Alexander’s face, cooling him, and that’s enough to startle Alexander into calm. He watches Burr’s face as he runs the rag over his forehead, each cheek, his nose. Burr is serene, those normally hard edges he wears, soft.

“You’re going to be fine,” Burr says, and methodically wipes Alexander’s neck and chest, turns over each wrist to cool them. He pulls the blanket up so Alexander’s feet are exposed to the air. “That’s it, just relax,” he says, “be quiet, breathe.”

Only then Alexander realizes that he must’ve been babbling nonsense in his fever attack. He would have the sense to be embarrassed about it, but he feels too bad and Burr has seen him in worse situations, so. He focuses on slowing his breathing as he focuses on Burr dipping the rag into a bowl of water and ringing it out. He gets a little teary-eyed at the sight, for some reason.

Burr places the cool rag on his forehead, then cups his cheek. He thinks he must be hallucinating that last part. That kind of makes him want to cry too.

“Sleep, Alexander,” comes Burr’s voice, so gentle, that it tricks Alexander into slumber.

 

* * *

 

He wakes to someone shoving medicine down his throat. It’s bitter and makes him feel sicker, but he’s too weak to fight.

He doesn’t ask for Eliza, because he knows she would come if he asked. But there’s one who he calls out for, constantly.

“Burr! Please, Aaron—”

“I’m here, Alexander,” and then there’s a hand slipping into his. “I’m here.”

 

* * *

 

One day, finally, Alexander wakes up and he doesn’t feel like he’s been run over by a herd of horses. Thank god — he’s through the worst of it, and can recover and get back to normal. Until next year.

He turns over in bed, and smiles at what he sees: Burr slumped in an armchair, sleeping, with his cat in his lap.

He stayed.

“Hey,” Alexander says, but Burr doesn’t stir. He grabs his cane, pokes Burr’s knee with it. “Yo, Burr!”

Burr snaps awake in an instant, his eyes finding Alexander. “Are you okay?” he asks, reaching out towards Alexander.

Concern. Huh.

Alexander props his cane against the table. “Yes,” he says, swallowing down lingering nausea — that should pass in a few days. The best treatment now would be a proper conversation, a distraction. He yawns. “How many days has it been?”

Burr sits back in the chair and rubs his face. “Um, three days,” he says, and starts petting the cat. It seems more of an act to calm himself, than the want to please the cat.

He continues, “Everyone has been asking about you. They’ll be glad to hear that you’re better.”

“Of course.” He watches Burr play with the cat, letting it paw at his sleeve. He has to admit, it’s kind of cute. “Do you have a name for that creature?”

“I do not,” Burr says slowly, looking at Alexander strangely. He probably thinks that Alexander’s brain is still addled with fever. “William wanted to name it Mr. Meow, but the cat is a female.”

“Plus, it’s a ridiculous name.”

“That too.”

The cat’s claw gets caught in the fabric. Burr scratches behind the nameless cat’s ear, and the stupidest grin Alexander has ever seen forms on his face.

“How about Cleopatra?” Alexander suggests. “She seems regal, to me.”

Burr’s smile grows when she flicks her tail. Alexander feels stupid, for wishing he’d pay attention to him instead. Maybe if he started writhing in pain again Burr would attend to him.

“Cleo,” Burr says, trying the name out. “I like it.”

If anyone had thought Burr is an unfeeling cold-blooded killer, they should see him now. Acting like an absolute fool, tickled pink by the furry animal nuzzling his hand. He’s actually giggling. It’s as unsettling as it is adorable.

Aaron Burr is the most wonderful man he’s ever known.

“Thanks,” Alexander says. “For—”

“There’s no need.” Burr looks up at him, finally, and — Alexander is indulged.

Burr says, “You’d do the same for me.”

It surprises Alexander when he realizes he would, and more. That he cares for Burr.

 

* * *

 

Burr keeps Alexander occupied when he isn’t resting. He knows that Burr probably does it for his own sake — to not be driven insane by Alexander going stir-crazy — but he appreciates it nonetheless.

(Even if it reminds him of when he was bedridden from the result of their Great Misunderstanding.)

Burr reads aloud from the paper, discusses cases from work, does anything to keep Alexander’s mind off his illness and the fact that he’s secluded from his wife. Eliza talks to him through the door every day (times where Burr makes himself scarce), but he is still lonely despite the kids and Angelica visiting with him, and Burr being there as much as possible.

Burr is more helpful than expected. He does things like bring in wood for the fire, which is a distraction all on its own — bending over to arrange the logs, giving Alexander an unintentional, but fantastic view of his ass. It’s a bit unfair that he can look, but can’t touch. He thinks of making himself appear tantalizing (because he knows Burr wants him, he recognizes that particular want within a man), but he knows that he’s not very attractive at the moment, still a hot mess, so he stays hidden under the blankets, frustrated.

 

* * *

 

“I swear you’ve grown in the two weeks we’ve been apart,” Alexander says, spreading his hand over Eliza’s stomach. There’s a tiny swell there, the beginnings of new life. She still wears her regular clothing — she’s not big enough to make a difference, but Alexander is a cartographer of her body, and notices any change.

“And you’ve thinned,” Eliza says. She runs her hand through his hair, kisses his forehead. “I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“I was miserable without you,” he murmurs, and kisses her neck until she squeals, “Alexander!”

 

* * *

 

Now, Alexander only wakes Burr from his nightmares when he hears him from his bedroom. It’s too difficult for him, especially when he overhears Burr whimpering his name, an anguished, Alexander—

 

* * *

 

November brings an early chill. It had been unexpected, as most things are in Alexander’s life these days — and he grows more anxious the closer one of those surprises nears.

“It’s going to be fine,” Angelica says, with that self-assuredness she has that’s even greater than his own. “You’d think you were the one going to birth the child.”

Alexander huffs. He turns his attention to the plants ruined from the cold, looking for what he can salvage from his garden. He’ll have to reconstruct his plans entirely—

Angelica hooks her arm in his and leads him, so he does not spend too long in one spot, fretting. She lets him lean on her for support — figuratively, and literally.

“I’m always nervous when a baby is due to be born.” He does not say, this time, more so. They are past the point where they lost their unborn one, but still — he worries.

“I’ll be here. For my sister and you.”

She always is.

He leans his head on her shoulder, and heaves a sigh.

“I am an old man,” Alexander says. “A child, at my age! What was I thinking?”

“Don’t you know how babies are made?” Angelica replies, and there’s a glint in her eyes that makes Alexander’s face heat despite the crisp air biting at his skin. He looks down at his feet. Kicks a rotten cabbage. Smiles when she bumps her hip against his.

“The kids keep me young,” he says, after a while, and Angelica replies, “You act plenty young enough already, that’s what got you into this situation.” They laugh, and Alexander loves her; she always knows exactly what to say to him (even when he doesn’t want to hear it).

“What would I do without you?” Alexander asks.

“You wouldn’t be here,” she says, and Alexander thinks of it — without her, he would not be with Eliza, and without Eliza, well. He probably would have died a long time ago in the war, because he would have had nobody to stay alive for.

Angelica stops walking, and Alexander with her.

“I’m leaving after the baby is born,” she says, and Alexander thinks no please don’t leave me. She continues anyway, “We’re going west, to build the village in the land given to my husband.”

“Of course.” She has her own family, her own life — many times he has to remember that the world doesn’t revolve around him. Unfortunately.

“I’ll keep in touch,” Angelica says. Smirks. “And besides, you’ll still have Burr.”

Alexander pretends he doesn’t hear her. “I think these radishes are okay.”

He definitely does not want to speak of Burr with her. She knows him too well, and he fears she’d discover something that he doesn’t even realize.

 

* * *

 

Wilkenson is arrested somewhere in Louisiana, on the suspect of treason.

Alexander has great satisfaction in telling Burr, “I told you so.”

Burr doesn’t agree, but he doesn’t disagree either.

 

* * *

 

“I’ve wanted this,” Burr says, “I’ve wanted you,” and he trails kisses down Alexander’s neck, and he shoves his hand into his breeches and grips him, and Alexander gasps, thrusts into his hand, finally — “Don’t you want me too, Alexander?” he asks and Alexander cries, “Yes, so much,” and—

Of course it’s a dream.

Alexander moans in the pillow, tries to ignore the tightness in his pants.

“It sounds like you were having fun in your sleep.”

He turns to face Eliza, who is smiling at her knitting needles and a half-knitted scarf.

“In a way,” Alexander says. “But unfulfilling, and unrealistic.”

“Oh?”

He scoots closer to her, lays his head against her round belly. She’s on bed rest these last few months, and Alexander spends as much time with her as he can — rubbing her sore feet and ankles, sharing sugary treats with her, reading her favorite novels aloud, going down on her to ease her heightened libido. Occasionally, napping with her in the middle of the day, because he has nothing else to do. He loves this — devoting all his time to her. He regrets not doing this with all her pregnancies.

He feels like shit.

“I have a confession,” Alexander says. “My mind strayed from you.” He touches her bellybutton through the cloth of her garment. “I dreamt that Burr and I—”

“I know.”

How?”

Eliza rolls her eyes, sets down her knitting. “You were saying his name.” A pause. “With enthusiasm.” Another pause. “And you were humping the bed.”

“Well, that’s embarrassing.” His boner is definitely gone, now, along with his dignity. “You know that it doesn’t mean anything.”

“It doesn’t?” Eliza questions, disbelieving.

“I often had dreams where I attended cabinet meetings naked.”

“And that didn’t mean anything? I know for a fact that you would have loved that. Showing off even more.” She laughs to herself. “What is it that men do? Measure lengths?”

Alexander sulks. “I’m serious.

Eliza sighs. “I know that Aaron is—”

“Don’t call him Aaron, it’s weird.”

“…that Burr is an attraction to you and—”

“Oh my god, we are not discussing this.”

“—that’s okay, I think it’ll be good to resolve it than let it continue as is because you’re—”

“What are you telling me to do? Kiss him? Something else?

“If it’s what you want.”

“—I hate his stupid smile and his stupid righteousness and his stupid cat and—”

“Alexander, please.”

He closes his eyes. “I can’t,” he whispers. He can’t, because it’s not right, he shouldn’t desire Burr, for too many reasons to count.

“Okay.” Eliza runs her hand down his back. “It’s okay, sweetheart.”

Truly, she is the best of wives, best of women.

He feels the baby kick where he’s resting his face. He coos at Eliza’s belly, kisses it.

His heart is full.

 

* * *

 

The Burrs celebrate Christmas with them. Alexander loves it — his family surrounding him, and it has grown to include Burr and his daughter. They fit in perfectly. He watches Angie and Theo talk with each other, Al laughing along at whatever they’re saying, and he has a funny feeling in his chest at the sight of Burr holding Lizzie in his lap and letting her play with Cleo.

“You okay?” Eliza asks.

Alexander nods. “I’m wonderful.”

Burr gets each of the kids a present — which is a big hit with them, especially to the ones who were indifferent towards him — and he gives Alexander and Eliza a painting done by someone in town. It’s somber, but beautiful. It reminds Alexander of Burr.

“You didn’t have to,” Burr says when Alexander hands him a package. Eliza gives him an encouraging nod, and he opens it.

“It’s gorgeous,” Burr says, turning over a fob watch in his hand. Runs his thumb over the silver facing, clicks it open. He blinks rapidly, clears his throat. He looks up to them, focuses on Alexander.

Burr looks at him like he wants to say something meaningful, and holds the words in his mouth captive, like it hurts for him to keep them — but he just smiles and says, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Alexander had seen him eyeing it in a shop window, and he wanted to show generosity for helping him when he was ill, and...

He pulls Eliza close. “We wanted to do something nice for you.”

Alexander thinks of the watch as a metaphor — a reminder that they have time.

Or something to measure it as it ticks away.

Chapter Text

1806

The newest Hamilton is born into the world in early February, a few days before Aaron’s birthday. It is the best gift Aaron could have been blessed with.

Theo wakes him at an ungodly hour — right before the sun has risen, the time he likes to sleep most — but nature waits for nothing. She shakes him awake, excitedly half-shouting, “It’s time!” and she does not need to clarify why — the house has been waiting for a week for Eliza to go into labor.

Aaron dresses quickly, not wanting to miss the occasion. He had offered to move out so he wouldn’t be an intrusion on their family with the new baby, but Hamilton told him there was no need and in fact, he better stay. Later, Aaron had realized it was probably because Hamilton will be a wreck and need emotional support. If Hamilton sought that in him, how could he turn that away?

His suspicions are correct — when he joins the others, he finds that Hamilton is already wearing a hole in the floor, pacing back and forth, jabbing his cane against the floor with more force than necessary, making a thud step step thud step step thud step step rhythm. Hamilton doesn’t seem to notice Aaron enter the room, or the flock of his children crowding together and watching him unravel, or anything at all really — he’s clearly preoccupied with what’s happening in the other room.

Aaron doesn’t blame Hamilton for his worries. He recalls when Theo was born, remembering the worry that did not recede until he heard her cries signaling she was alive and okay…but that worry was replaced with a new worry that he still carries with him, the fear that he’ll lose her one day. He believes Hamilton has the same worry with his own children; any good father would. He wonders how Hamilton can think of anything else with all that worry — especially when that fear became a reality for him, and lost a child.

“Burr,” someone says, and then repeats his name. He tears his attention away from Hamilton and breathes a sigh of relief seeing Angelica Church (although, he will always think of her as Schuyler). Thankfully, there’s someone else levelheaded.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Aaron asks of her.

Angelica regards him with a mild sense of disdain, like she’s mad that she has to settle for him. Aaron knows that she still doesn’t really like him, nor trust him — which is why he continues to think that she’s the smartest of them all.

She gestures to Hamilton’s direction, says, “Keep him occupied.”

They both look at Hamilton, knowing that is a more daunting task than it sounds to be.

“Any suggestions?” Occupied how? Aaron wants to ask. He has a few ideas of his own, although they are not very family friendly. For example: taking Hamilton away into another room and kissing him until neither can think of nothing else, and seeing what could follow.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Angelica says, smirking, with that clever look that she always wears. Like she knows something you don’t, or that she could compel you into admitting something.

Maybe it’s because he’s guilty, but Aaron suddenly thinks that maybe she knows too much about him, that she knows about the intimate matter between Hamilton and himself. It’s likely that Eliza would have shared the secret with her sister, and he knows that Hamilton uses Angelica as a confident. He imagines Hamilton telling her, Burr couldn’t keep his hands off me, he kissed me! — another reason for her to be disgusted by him.

He reassures himself that there’s no way she knows. There’s no reason for her to know. It’s too shameful, something neither Hamilton would want others to know.

When he doesn’t respond, Angelica adds, “You can always shoot him if he becomes too annoying.”

Aaron manages a smile to be polite. It’s okay when he does it to himself, but the go-to joke about him and Hamilton is getting rather old and unamusing.

There’s a shout from the other room, and Hamilton lets out a whimper.

Yes. There are more important matters. Aaron postpones his upcoming melancholy until later.

“It’ll be fine,” are Angelica’s last words of confidence before rushing away to be with Eliza. Or possibly, she’s rushing away from Hamilton. Aaron thinks he’d rather be facing the horrors of childbirth than Hamilton.

Aaron approaches Hamilton slow, touches his shoulder delicately, like how he’d handle a spooked animal. He stops Hamilton’s pacing, but it does nothing to temper his mind. He’s on edge, manic in a way that Aaron has never seen.

“Hey,” Aaron says, low. “Come sit down with me.”

Hamilton shakes his head, looks to Aaron — Hamilton is scared, and it’s so very foreign on him. Hamilton is brave, verges on ostentatious at times to hide his anxieties, but Aaron has never seen him afraid. Hamilton has never let him see him this way.

“No,” Hamilton says, “I have to— I have to do this—”

“All you have to do is wait,” Aaron interrupts. The midwife who delivered all the Hamilton children is with Eliza, and they can do nothing but wait.   He smiles. “Although, I know you aren’t very good at that.”

“How can I wait when my Betsey is in there, in pain, bringing our child into the world?”

Across the room, the junior Alexander pipes up. “Pops is always like this, when there’s a baby. He’s…” He makes a frazzled motion with his hands, and James supplies the blank with, “Weird.”

Aaron sighs. “Alexander. Please listen to me.” Rubs his hands down Hamilton’s arms, takes his hands in his. It doesn’t seem to faze Hamilton. “You’re freaking out the kids.”

That does. Hamilton’s eyes flit over to his progeny, and his expression softens. “Right. Sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Aaron coaxes Hamilton in the direction of the couch, and to Aaron’s surprise, Hamilton goes. He is what Hamilton needs. Steady composure. He can do that, for him.

Hamilton sits on the couch, but catches Aaron’s arm and tugs before he goes to step back. His grip on Aaron is desperate, fingers digging into his skin, and his eyes are even more desperate — wide, pleading. It’s a silent action, but it speaks volumes to Aaron, and he can never say no to Hamilton, so he relents and sits next to him. Hamilton settles into his side, paying no mind to personal space — their thighs and shoulders press together, their warmth mixing. If Hamilton weren’t distracted with Eliza, Aaron would think that he’s purposely teasing him. But no — Hamilton seeks comfort, and Aaron is tempted to put his arm around Hamilton and pull him closer, seek some comfort for himself.

He puts his hands together in his lap to quell the compulsion.

The kids scatter around them, cramming as many of themselves on the couch as possible — Theo at Aaron’s side, Angie on Hamilton’s other, little Phil crawling into Hamilton’s lap — and the rest find other seating near them.

Aaron has never had a large family — not even when he made his own — so being surrounded by the Hamiltons is overwhelming, but nice. It allows the delusion that he belongs.

“She’s going to be fine,” Aaron promises, even though he cannot promise such uncontrollable things. Life and death do as they please. However, it seems as though the rules don’t apply to Hamilton. “They’re both going to be fine.”

“I know. My Betsey is strong.” Hamilton runs his hands through Phil’s hair, nuzzles their noses together until Phil giggles. The kid goes to grab Hamilton’s hair but Hamilton leans back in time, so Phil settles for pulling at the cream-colored ruffles of Hamilton’s shirt instead.

“Our children are strong, too,” Hamilton says, prying Phil’s small fingers off his shirt. He struggles with him for a moment, before giving up and letting Phil do as he pleases. “And strong willed.”

“I wonder who they inherit it from.”

“That would be from me and Eliza.” Hamilton turns to Aaron and smiles, and—

—god. It never gets any easier. Having these piecemeal affections, but never enough.

“Did you know that my Eliza wrote to Washington during the war, requesting for me to come home?” Hamilton asks, and then he’s gone, talking, while Aaron listens. Hamilton is so proud of his lady. Aaron thinks of his, long gone, and it doesn’t hurt.

The wait continues for a few hours, Hamilton and Aaron keeping the kids entertained until they get restless. Phil somehow transfers to Aaron’s lap, asks for Mama and Hamilton slowly explains what’s happening — there are tears when Phil realizes he isn’t the baby anymore, and he buries his face in Aaron’s chest and cries.

“He’ll get over it,” James says, not even trying to hide his resentment of being a middle child.

James,” scolds Hamilton. The kid shrugs and mutters under his breath, “I’m just sayin’.”

Aaron rubs small circles on Phil’s back to quiet him. “You poor thing,” Aaron says. “Is your brother being mean to you?”

“Stop that, he’s spoiled enough already,” Hamilton says, but he leans in and blows a raspberry on Phil’s neck anyway. Phil’s sniffles turn to laughs, and he tries to wiggle away from Hamilton, clings to Aaron for safety.

With the commotion, it takes a moment for Aaron to notice Hamilton looking at him.

“You look good like this,” Hamilton says. His gaze is heavy, his smile going to his eyes too, like he’s in awe of Aaron and seeing something for the first time.

Aaron goes to ask Hamilton what he means, but he basks in the moment too long.

“I’m hungry!” wails William. He crawls into Hamilton’s lap even though he’s much too big for it — but Hamilton permits him.

“Hi hungry, I’m dad.”

Everyone groans.

 

* * *

 

“Eliza requested to see you,” Hamilton says, hours later. Aaron declines at first, because it isn’t proper to see a lady after childbirth, except for immediate family — which he is not.

“Oh, I couldn’t,” Aaron says. “I barely know her—”

“Barely know her?” Hamilton barks a laugh. “You’ve seen her mid-coitus, that’s better than a ballroom introduction.”

“Alexander, please.” Aaron has been trying to forget that incident.

“Actually, it’s possible you witnessed this child being conceived, so—”

“Okay, fine,” Aaron says, Hamilton drags Aaron into the room, literally takes his hand and pulls him along behind him like he thinks he’ll escape, even though Aaron assured him he wouldn’t. Aaron doesn’t resist, because it would be rude to refuse a lady after she’s endured such an arduous delivery, and has shown such kindness to him.

Eliza is sitting up in bed in a mountain of pillows, with blankets in her lap to preserve her modesty. Her hair is tangled and loose around her shoulders, her face blotchy and she looks beyond exhausted, but it’s the most beautiful she’s ever been.

“Congratulations on your new child, Eliza.” Aaron tips his head, holds his hands behind his back, stands a respectful distance away from the Hamiltons. “And Alexander.”

“Thank you.” Hamilton sits next to Eliza on the bed, moving gently so he won’t disturb the baby in Eliza’s arms, and then kisses her cheek. “We made it ourselves,” he says, and they laugh with each other, giddy.

Aaron can’t help but feel as though he’s intruding as he looks on at the new parents. Eliza’s smile glows as Hamilton takes the small bundle, impatient, like he can’t stand to be separated from his child for one moment. Fatherhood is natural on Hamilton. He holds the baby cradled in both his hands, one supporting the back and neck, careful, like he’s holding the most important thing in the world. He coos back at the soft baby sounds, smiles even more if possible, leans in and kisses their forehead, whispers something that only they can hear — a secret that they can’t understand now, but maybe will remember in a dream one day. He’s overwhelmed, a thousand emotions formed on his face, he feels everything so deeply — and Aaron feels every single one of them, feels them tug at his heart, he never feels as strongly as when he’s with Hamilton. Impossible, lovely Hamilton. Hamilton is something infinite — how foolish Aaron was to think that everything ended with Hamilton. Aaron tries to justify to himself what it is that he feels for Alexander, but then he notices Eliza looking at Hamilton in the exact same way and… Yes. That’s exactly what it is.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Eliza says, and tilts Hamilton’s chin so she can kiss him. It’s too much — they’re both so beautiful, together and apart. They are definitely soul mates. The affection between them makes Aaron miss something, something he hasn’t had in a long time, something he long ago resolved that he’d never have again.

“I should be going,” he says, goes to leave before anything else can make him want to stay—

“Would you like a turn?” Eliza asks, and Hamilton is offering out the child to hold, and how could Aaron refuse that?

Hamilton — reluctantly — passes the baby to him, says, “Be careful,” and he is, so very careful. He’s forgotten how fragile newborns can be — he hasn’t held one this young since his Theo, but the memory is there. Holds them in the crook of his arm, runs his fingers through the dark feather-soft hair that’s definitely inherited from Alexander.

“You make good babies.” Cute, and they all grow up to be handsome. Without looking up, Aaron asks, “What’s the name?”

“Aaron.”

What?” Aaron looks away from the child to Hamilton, sputters, “You… I… What…?”

“Chill,” Hamilton says. “It’s a girl. We named her after Eliza’s sister. Margarita.”

“Oh. Of course.” His face burns, embarrassed. “It’s a lovely name, and a wonderful tribute.”

In a sense, he’s relieved. He wouldn’t want a child burdened with his name — not that he thinks the Hamiltons would make him a namesake. However, if it were true… It would give him a purpose, to be better.

“Can I have my daughter back?”

Aaron touches her soft cheek, and his breath catches in his throat when she looks up at him with brown eyes that are too soon to say if they are her mother’s or father’s.

“In a moment.”

 

* * *

 

Aaron doesn’t see much of Hamilton the next day, or the day after that. He gives Hamilton the privacy for bonding with his family, and goes on about his schedule. He works — alone — and then takes lunch with Van Ness in the city, stays late at the office to make up for Hamilton being absent, goes home and has a late dinner with Theo as they talk (I remember when you were that small, my darling), catches a glimpse of Hamilton when he goes to his bedroom (he overhears Hamilton softly singing a lullaby, and his voice is so honest). Aaron doesn’t disturb Hamilton — Hamilton hasn’t sought him out, so he won’t either — and he goes to sleep. Ignores the crying of the newborn in the middle of the night and ignores the instinct to make sure she’s okay. It’s not his concern. No matter how close he’s become to Alexander and his family, he isn’t a part of it.

 

* * *

 

What Aaron has learned about Hamilton: he comes to Aaron when it’s convenient.

Like on the evening of the next day, when Hamilton stumbles into Aaron’s room, unannounced. Aaron had been awake, reading by candlelight because he couldn’t put down his book — he’s at the good part — but he sets his book aside when he sees Hamilton.

It’s been quite some time since he’s seen Hamilton this exhausted — bone-weary to the point where even Hamilton’s will cannot rally through, eyes accentuated by dark shadowy circles, and simple things like walking across the room takes a concentrated effort.

“Jesus christ, Hamilton,” Aaron says, and yes, Hamilton is the name he uses because he’s upset with him. It’s been a long, not-so-great day, and he was looking forward to a peaceful sleep where nothing, except dreams, bother him. But that would be too convenient for Aaron. Hamilton shouldn’t do this to himself, he knows better — but then he remembers Hamilton isn’t his responsibility, so, “You look like shit.”

“Hey.” Hamilton sways slightly, leans heavily on his cane. “I’ve missed you, Aaron Burr.”

Aaron bites the inside of his cheek to keep an unexpected smile from forming. I’ve missed you. He clears his throat, looks away for a moment because I’ve missed you too is right there on the tip of his tongue, but if he says that, he might say something else, and then…

“Have you slept at all?” Aaron moves over, pats the space next to him for Hamilton to sit.

Hamilton flops down inelegantly, as though he were only waiting for permission to do so. It jostles Aaron, and makes the bed squeak, eek eek. The noise is an annoyance that he’s used to; he could never do anything… ahem …without giving himself away.

“I’ve rested some,” Hamilton says, like a child who refuses to admit they’re tired even when they’re dozing off. “I’ve caught a few hours here and there in my office.”

“So, hardly any at all.”

“I’ve been kind of busy,” Hamilton retorts, sharper than he probably would’ve if he weren’t so tired. Grumpy. Apparently, taking care of a newborn doesn’t get easier no matter how many trials you’ve had. He sighs, rubs his hand on his forehead — an indicator he’s working himself up to a headache. “I was just asking, you don’t have to if you’re going to be weird about it, so I’ll go if—”

“Ask what?”

Hamilton blinks. “Huh?”

Aaron shakes his head. “You did that thing again. Where you think you said something but actually didn’t say it out loud.”

“Oh. In that case,” Hamilton begins, “do you mind sharing your bed with me?”

“Uh…” Thoughts of the previous instance of them sleeping together come to Aaron’s mind — Hamilton’s cold feet, Hamilton’s scent and warmth pressed against him, Hamilton’s dark specks freckling his skin, Hamilton’s arousal rutting against his hip, Hamilton’s long thick cock—

Hamilton is rambling now, “Angelica is staying with Eliza, and the kids don’t really have room for me or want me bunking with them — I guess I’m not cool enough, or I snore or something, and I thought that since you’re all alone in your bed — sorry, I didn’t mean it like that — but I thought you wouldn’t mind, but that’s okay, I’ll sleep on the couch—”

“It’s fine,” Aaron says, and he’s thankful for his complexion or he’d be as flushed as Hamilton is. “You need to sleep.”

The predicament is understandable, as men do not share the bed with their wives while they recuperate from childbirth, and there isn’t an available spare bed in the Grange — naturally, Hamilton would only seek Aaron’s bed if it were a last resort.

“Thank you,” Hamilton mumbles, and it looks like he’s half asleep already, eyes heavy-lidded. Aaron takes Hamilton’s glasses off for him, stretches over him to put them on top of his forgotten book, lays Hamilton so he’s lying next to him, supine on the bed — in both senses of the word, flat and docile. Hamilton lets Aaron undress him, moves just enough for Aaron to slip off his waistcoat and take off his breeches, tilts his head back to remove his neck cloth. Pulls his shirt down so it covers him, far enough so it preserves both of their modesties.

Aaron pauses at Hamilton’s stockings. They’re extravagant and French-imported, knitted cream with navy blue embroidered clocks on the ankle — he still dresses as someone who has more money than he has. Aaron runs his hand down Hamilton’s right leg, stops at the garter under the knee, curls his fingers around it. Hamilton gives a tiny sigh of assent, and then Aaron tugs at the fabric, unties the neat bow. Hamilton doesn’t stop him. Hamilton looks up at him and says, “Go ahead,” and it’s then that Aaron realizes that he’s stripping Alexander — he doesn’t think of that, he doesn’t think about how soft Hamilton’s thighs are when his fingers brush against Hamilton’s skin, he doesn’t think about how Hamilton’s thighs jump under his touch or how his breath hitches, he doesn’t think about how gorgeous Hamilton’s ankles are and oh his feet are too, and he doesn’t think about how when he’s got one leg bare that he’s got another one to appreciate.

(Lies — he thinks about it all.)

He gets Hamilton down to his shirt, and then covers him quickly so he doesn’t have to see Hamilton lying there like that. Eyes shut, breathing deep, legs lazily spread and…

He extinguishes the candle, turns away and faces the wall. Hamilton must be tired, because he settles down fast and doesn’t say a thing. It’ll be odd to share a bed with Hamilton without his usual nighttime chatter.

“You awake?” Aaron sends the question in the dark.

A groan, and then Hamilton says, “I was trying not to be.”

“Sorry,” but Aaron shouldn’t be sorry, because of the amount of times Hamilton has kept him awake at night, talking. “It’s just that… Never mind, it’s stupid.”

“Let me be the judge of that. It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do.”

Aaron could make something up, simply say, I wanted to say goodnight, but—

“It was my birthday today.”

“Oh.” Hamilton shifts next to him. “Why the hell didn’t you say anything?”

“It’s no big deal,” Aaron says against his pillow, hoping he doesn’t sound offended. “I’ve had fifty birthdays.”

Fifty damn years old.

“Fifty?” Hamilton says, too amused. “You’re an old man, Burr.”

“You’ll be there next year,” Aaron begins, “or are you already? Eliza told me that you’re vague about your age — hey!

Alexander Hamilton is a horrible man, whose best revenge is putting his cold feet against his.

“Asshole,” Aaron mumbles, edging away from Hamilton and his feet as far as possible. Hamilton chuckles, victorious — takes more of the blanket for himself as a spoil of war.

“Happy birthday,” Hamilton mumbles, and his breath evens out into sleep within a minute.

Aaron listens.

 

* * *

 

There’s nobody in Aaron’s bed when he wakes at dawn. There’s nobody drooling on the pillow. Nobody clinging to him.

Aaron would think that it was a dream, Hamilton coming to his bed, letting Aaron strip him down — simply wishful thinking.

However, when Aaron puts his feet on the floor, he steps on something soft (almost slides on it, falls) that confirms it. He picks up the strip of fabric.

It’s one of Hamilton’s garters. Dark blue and finely made, it feels nice when he runs it between his fingers.

It felt even better taking it off Hamilton.

He keeps it in his coat pocket, in case Hamilton asks for it back. Throughout the day, he keeps slipping his hand in his pocket to touch it, and his heart beats a little quicker knowing it had been worn by Hamilton — a filthy secret.

Hamilton doesn’t ask for it to be returned. Maybe he doesn’t know it’s missing. Maybe he forgot it, in a rush to dress when he woke before Aaron could find himself with a strange bedfellow again. Maybe he’s too shy about it, too.

Maybe he wanted for Aaron to find it.

Aaron considers giving it back just so he’ll be rid of the thing, but that would make their precarious relationship even more…something. So he keeps it. Hides it in a blank journal. Out of sight, out of mind.

 

* * *

 

When Aaron goes to bed the next night, Hamilton is already there. He’s in his nightclothes which good because Aaron can’t undress Hamilton again — although that was innocent, of course.

Of course.

He entertains the thought that Hamilton had been waiting for him, but he knows that Hamilton seeks only a warm bed. The possibility of placing him in an awkward position is a bonus for Hamilton, one that Aaron finds himself in too often with Hamilton.

Aaron climbs into bed with him, regardless.

Followed by Cleo, jumping onto the bed. Stands at the foot, meows.

“You’re in her spot,” Aaron says to Hamilton, nodding to where Cleo commonly curls up next to him. He’s quite fond of his pet cat. She never treats him any differently, no matter what he does. No doubt it’s only because she’s blissfully unaware of his failings.

Hamilton scoffs. “My comfort is more important than hers.” He shakes his legs. “Shoo.

Cleo stares at Hamilton with her bright green eyes. Hamilton glares back — he doesn’t like her very much. It makes Aaron like her even more.

“Aww, come here, my poor baby,” Aaron says, saccharine, and he feels Hamilton go tense beside him.

Baby? Is my complaint unjust? Would you have me sleep at your feet — oh.” Hamilton turns to look at Aaron. “You were talking to the cat.”

Cleo — a good girl — steps on Hamilton’s chest as she comes to him. Aaron scratches under her chin. She purrs, and then wedges between them, lies down, flicks her fluffy tail, smacks Hamilton in the face.

Hamilton sneezes on Aaron.

“Disgusting! You did that on purpose!”

“I did not! She did that on purpose—”

Aaron wins the argument; Cleo sleeps between them through the night.

 

* * *

 

Hamilton dotes on Eliza. There’s no denying he is a good and thoughtful husband, but Hamilton can be a bit much when his attention becomes obsessed. Extra, Theo calls it.

Therefore, it’s not a surprise to Aaron when Eliza asks of him, “Please take Alexander away for a while,” a few days into her convalescence.

“Just for the morning. Perhaps the afternoon too.” She sets her cup on the saucer delicately, dabs at her mouth. “I’m sure you understand.”

Aaron understands. As he understands that Eliza had requested this early morning tea alone with him as a ruse. I haven’t spent time with you, Aaron. I’ve missed our conversations, she had said, and he had agreed, because he’s missed them too — Eliza is a breath of fresh air. The awkwardness of him seeing her in an indecent situation a year prior has gone, him only thinking of her like that when he overhears her and Hamilton having noisy sex, and that’s only because he knows what her face looks like when Hamilton fucks her (the incident where he got this knowledge, among other things — such as a good view of Hamilton’s backside — remains a blessing and a curse). She knows that he likes her company, and Aaron realizes that she can be just as manipulative as Hamilton. Clever.

Aaron stirs his tea, adds another sugar cube. “Why don’t you tell your husband you need time to yourself?” He emphasized the possessive title, because who is he to them, besides the odd man who lives in their house?

“It’ll hurt Alexander’s feelings. You know how sensitive he can be about things like this,” she says. “Tell him that you need him for something.”

“And have me be inundated with Alexander instead?”

“I said please. And if I am correct, it’s not like you don’t want to spend time with him—”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t going to.” Aaron smiles. “I’ll gladly occupy Alexander for the day. You deserve a break.”

They clink their cups together to make it official. What are a few more secrets with a Hamilton?

 

* * *

 

Operation Get Hamilton Out of the House is a success. One mention of, “Alexander, there is a matter I need your assistance on,” and Hamilton is ready to go out the door. If Aaron weren’t doing this as a favor for Eliza, he’d regret it. Hamilton chatters as Aaron hooks his horse up to the carriage, only stopping to comment that Aaron isn’t doing it right, but offers no assistance. His advice gone unsolicited, he resumes his previous topic, talking as Aaron helps him step up to his seat, shows no signs of stopping when they start their journey to their office.

Hamilton rambles on, and Aaron half-listens. It’s nice to have the company of Hamilton again, so much so that he realizes that he doesn’t mind the less enjoyable aspects of Alexander Hamilton.

“It is possible you could win as a Representative,” Hamilton says. “Mitchell and Tompkins are resigning their seats, it could be an easy win for the district.”

“It could,” Aaron says, looking sideways to him. “But it won’t.”

Their latest idea: for Aaron to run as a state Representative. Aaron accepted the nomination as the Federalist candidate because — why not? What’s another humiliating loss?

The Presidential election is only two years away — time flies fast — and it would be advantageous to have Aaron in place as a Representative in one of the most influential districts in the country when the election occurs. Thinking ahead for the future.

Aaron returns his vision to the road, away from Hamilton. He holds the reins tighter, and the horse picks up speed.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Burr,” Hamilton says. “You earned some points speaking out about the water supply and the Manhattan Company—”

“Which I don’t even have ties to, anymore.” Aaron lost his position in that a few years ago, when he started losing everything. “The junior Clinton is the more favorable candidate, he has Jefferson’s backing, and he hates me — you know, the old rivalry between me and his father.”

Hamilton waves his hand as if to say, no big deal.

“I believe in you,” Hamilton says, patting Aaron’s knee. He says it like he means it and — remembers when he said that to him, not too long ago.

By the time Aaron turns to him again, Hamilton is looking the other way at the city as it passes by.

 

* * *

 

He can usually control his impulses about Hamilton. It’s been nearly a year since they accidentally found their mouths upon each other. He hasn’t kissed him since, touches him only a little more than necessary, and he looks at him only when he’s in his line of sight. A year is long enough to accept what he has and what it will be.

But it’s long enough to perfect how he pines for Hamilton, and sometimes that is stronger than his resolve to not find him necessary.

Like when they’re in their office and Hamilton leans in behind him, his hand brushing against his when he points to something on a paper and they both jolt at the touch because no matter how much they deny it, there isn’t nothing between them. It’s something very very specific. They acknowledge it silently, separately, and proceed. Hamilton steps away and repeats what he had said before they were distracted (by each other), Aaron disagrees with him, tells him so, and it’s fun — their form of foreplay, one teases the other, frustrates him until they give it back.

Aaron loves telling Hamilton he’s wrong — Hamilton’s expression doesn’t change much, except for his eyebrows furrowing and the flicker of a squint revealing his slight displeasure. There’s a victory in that, for Aaron. Hamilton is someone who isn’t disagreed with often, he’s someone who is used to being told how exceptional and brilliant he is, and he disregards the ones who tell him the opposite. It’s a thrill that Aaron is the one who can get to him. A privilege, one that he may abuse at times. But it’s Hamilton — Alexander — Alex. Whatever Aaron is inspired to call him at the moment, he is his — his responsibility, he can’t let him go, and he can’t shake the feeling that he has to take care of him, make up for an injustice he left him with. He’s branded Hamilton, a scar on his skin, and he thinks, good, because then others know too.

He could hate Hamilton, but then Hamilton looks at him in that irritable way he does that doesn’t fool Aaron at all, and he likes Hamilton, too much.

(It rains, excessively — he knows the meaning, now, with another.)

There is so much about Hamilton that Aaron cannot tolerate, he’s proud and infuriating and too goddamn handsome for his own good. He’s carelessly handsome, with his dark eyes and scruffy face and figure that’s thin but curvy in the right places, and Aaron is infatuated.

“There’s something in your hair,” Aaron says, reaching out compulsively. It could be another excuse to touch him, like their hands brushing when going for the same paper, sure. He picks the fuzz from Hamilton’s hair — wool from his overcoat, most likely — and Hamilton’s hair is so soft, another damnable thing that interests him. He tucks a flyaway behind Hamilton’s ear, fingers caressing the shell of it. Hamilton’s mouth parts, but no words come out; he flushes a shade of pink but his coy gaze doesn’t elude Aaron.

Aaron puts his hands in his pockets. It’s a good thing he didn’t keep Hamilton’s garter there. It’d be too much of a temptation. It’s getting harder (many things are getting harder) with Hamilton.

“Thanks,” Hamilton says. Runs a hand through his hair, mussing up what Aaron just fixed.

Aaron itches to fix it again, but he restrains himself. It isn’t until they’re going home that he realizes that Hamilton might’ve been testing him, to see if he would.

 

* * *

 

Cecilia — at least, that’s the name she’s told Aaron — is a nice girl. Of course, he pays her to be nice (or mean, when he wants her to be), but he likes to think that she’s a good person. Virtuous in her own capacity. Aaron doesn’t think badly of her based on her profession because, hell, someone has got to do it. Someone has to pleasure the lonely, horny men.

Including: Aaron.

He could delude himself that she is nicer to him than she is to others who pay to fuck her because he’s good to her. Doesn’t hit her (he’s seen bruises on her body, threatens who hurt her but she says, no need, my sweet Aaron), goes down on her once in a while (he even pays for the honor, because there’s nothing like pleasuring a woman with his mouth), tries to get her off when he fucks her (takes notice what makes her breath hitch when he moves in her), listens to what she has to say when they’re done (she has a son). She’s beautiful, tan skin and fiery red hair to her waist, nice breasts, an eager body, and she’s good fun for Aaron. Something to lessen his arousal. They’re sexually compatible, and she doesn’t ask questions when he goes silent while he’s inside her.

He’s visited her more since…certain events have make his urges more difficult to control. He usually thinks of her when he fucks her (never Theodosia, never) and she is always so tight and warm on his cock, or sometimes he zones out and thinks of nothing at all, or—

This meeting, Aaron fucks her from behind. Bends her over a table, takes her like how he imagines he would a man. Not that he’s thought too much about the logistics of it. Pushes her chest flush against the table so her ass sticks out, and he slides his cock into her cunt — not where it would go otherwise — and pushes forward, fucking her quick and hard. His hands go to her hips, thinks how Hamilton has shapely hips too and okay — there’s not really any pretense to this anymore.

He doesn’t say Hamilton’s name when he comes but he thinks of him, thinks what it would be like to spill into him, to have his skin sticking to his, to be able to mumble his name into his shoulder and have him moaning underneath him.

He pulls out, catches his breath. The sex has dulled the buzzing in his mind and alleviated the ache in his groin. Well worth the money, but it’s ultimately unfulfilling.

Cecilia is used to his varied moods; him coming to her in a frenzy, and quiet afterward. She sits on the table, spreads her legs, touches herself. Seeing her wet with his release, Aaron goes to his knees.

“Can I?” he asks, running his hands up her thighs. His face between her legs would get his mind off what he doesn’t have.

She smirks at him, hooks her legs over Aaron’s shoulders. God, he can smell her and him mixed together and it makes his spent cock twitch.

“Sure. I’ll let you fuck me again if you make me come,” she says, adding after he looks at her questioningly, “No extra money. I want a good lay. Some dude earlier today just jerked off on my tits and left.”

“Rude,” Aaron murmurs, focusing her attention, licks into her heat.

She lets out a content sigh. “Anybody would be lucky to have you.”

Aaron closes his eyes. If only.

 

* * *

 

Aaron slinks into the house late like the deviant he is, quietly takes off his clothes (again) in the dark of his room, and gets into bed. Thankfully, Hamilton is already asleep — Aaron didn’t want to have a conversation about where he’s been — so he’s careful not to disturb him. He lays facing Hamilton’s back because that’s the most comfortable side for him to sleep on, slowly pulls the blanket over himself, yawns, and closes his eyes.

Their nights have been chaste, each keeping to their side of the bed — it’s bigger than the ones they were forced to share previously on the road, big enough so Hamilton isn’t able to grab ahold of him in his sleep. He’s still a fitful sleeper with his tossing and turning, keeps Aaron awake to chat, and leaves drool marks on the pillowcase, but it’s manageable, and Aaron remembers, temporary.

“You smell like sex.”

Aaron’s eyes snap open. “You were awake.”

The mattress shifts with Hamilton turning over, winding the blanket around himself and tugging it off Aaron in the process. Aaron tugs his allotment back. In the moonlight coming in from the window, he can see a hint of Hamilton’s frown.

“You got laid tonight,” Hamilton says. Whines, really. “You reek of it.”

“So?” Aaron had washed off with a damp cloth before he left, so he knows Hamilton is exaggerating. He figures Hamilton is jealous that he isn’t getting any himself. Which, good. Let him be frustrated. It serves him right for making him so hung up on him.

“Is it a whore you’ve been with?” Hamilton asks, bluntly. It sounds as though he had been preparing the question all night as he was waiting for Aaron to come to bed. It’s not what Aaron had expected; he thought that they would continue their not talking about anything intimate pact.

Aaron’s eyes have adjusted to the dark and he can see Hamilton clearly — blanket tucked up under his chin, bed-tousled hair a mess on the pillow, a hard gaze that demands an answer. Aaron could lie, say that he’s met someone, but that isn’t a less complicated answer, so.

“I don’t know how that’s any of your business,” Aaron responds. There. Make Hamilton feel as though he’s encroached on his privacy. “I don’t know why you’d care if I fuck a whore.”

Hamilton shifts. Uncomfortable.

“Why do you see her?” Hamilton asks, and Aaron laughs, says, “Why? Don’t you know what they do?”

“I know what happens in a whorehouse,” Hamilton says, and if there were more light in the room, Aaron could guarantee that Hamilton would be blushing. “I don’t mind that you hire one, but I was going to ask… I meant, are you going to one because of…”

Hamilton’s voice trails off. Aaron probes, “Because why?”

“Nothing.” Hamilton flips over, faces away from Aaron. “Forget that I brought it up.”

“Sure.” Like they forget about everything else. Aaron doesn’t know what Hamilton was asking, but if it was, are you visiting prostitutes because of me? then the answer would be, I’m not sure.

 

* * *

 

Aaron goes to Hamilton with the intention to apologize, because things cannot become more strained between them. He’s kind of angry, if he’s honest — what right does Hamilton have to judge him? It’s not like Hamilton is the exemplar of moralism, and he has no claim to Aaron or what he does; he’s made it clear that he has no interest in him, and even he did, he couldn’t.

He’s going to tell Hamilton this, tell him, if we can’t settle this I’ll leave and never talk to you again, but he doesn’t really want to say that because he isn’t sure how Hamilton will react, and if Hamilton calls his bluff — it might be for the best to be apart, than have this uncertainty.

His plans are foiled, however.

“Oh, hey,” Hamilton whispers, looking up at Aaron. In his arms he holds his newborn, and Aaron can’t be mad at him. Damn him.

Aaron sits next to Hamilton. Rita — the nickname they’ve given the baby — is asleep, snuggled up against Hamilton’s chest. Aaron can’t decide who looks more adorable: her, or Hamilton who looks at her like she hung the moon.

Aaron ends up apologizing instead. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable last night.”

Hamilton shakes his head. “It’s fine. I was being…” He shrugs, doesn’t finish the thought. “It doesn’t matter.”

It is the proper answer, of course, but not the one Aaron wanted to hear. He wanted to hear, There’s no need to sleep around, what about me?

Ridiculous.

“You look good like this,” Aaron says. Hamilton always looks good, but this is different. It’s another facet for Aaron’s ongoing study of all things Alexander Hamilton. Every element that makes him Alexander gets stored away — every expression, every phrase he utters, every moment. There is so much of Hamilton that he doesn’t want to neglect anything of him. It is so fixated within Aaron that it would be impossible to be without Hamilton without losing a part of himself, too.

The way Hamilton looks at him now — mouth hitched into a grin with his eyes shining, peculiarly, like he’s figuring out something about Aaron too — is added to the secret compendium.

“Would you like to hold her?” Hamilton asks, and before Aaron can respond, he hands Rita off, gently transferring her into Aaron’s arms. She stirs, her little eyelids fluttering and she lets out a fussy noise, but Aaron hums and rocks her softly, and she quiets back down.

It isn’t a disappointment that he and Theodosia didn’t have more children. One was enough. Theo is the greatest blessing in his life, his true legacy, and selfish as it is, he knows that he wouldn’t be able to love another child of his own as much as he loves his daughter. She has priority in his heart.

However, he thinks that all children are wonderful. Especially the youngest Hamilton. He touches her tiny hand, and in her sleep she grasps his finger on reflex.

Aaron melts.

Hamilton puts his arm around Aaron, rests his chin on Aaron’s shoulder, looking on at the scene. Hamilton is naturally an affectionate person, so touchy — hell, the first day Aaron met him, he was hanging on him that evening in a pub — but still, his pulse jumps.

“You look good like this,” Hamilton says, and it feels good, and Aaron could almost pretend that it can stay like this forever.

 

* * *

 

He’s not stupid. He knows it won’t last. It’s difficult to not get attached. He doesn’t realize how attached he is until one afternoon when he and Hamilton are in the garden — giving Eliza some more alone time, not that he minds occupying Hamilton — and the youngest Hamilton boy comes running towards them, crying a wailing, “daddy!” It’s a natural tendency for Aaron to step forward to an upset child, especially one who he knows and cares for.

But it’s not his place, so he stands to the side as Hamilton kneels and holds his arms out to take Phil into a hug. The kid almost knocks Hamilton over, but Hamilton holds him like he won’t ever let him go.

It’s difficult to understand Phil through his tears, but he gets out, “James pushed me,” and he points to his knee. It’s scraped and bleeding a little, but overall harmless.

Hamilton, however, goes overboard in his coddling. He wipes Phil’s face with his sleeve and says, “James was being mean to my little guy, huh?” and Phil nods and clings to Hamilton. It’s a sweet moment between father and son, and it’s probably not so much about his injured knee but the fact that he feels a little neglected with the new baby. It’s probably something Hamilton is used to. He continues to say comforting things and pats Phil’s back until his sobs turn into sniffles. He detaches himself, uses his cane to stand.

“Carry me!” Phil holds his arms up with grabby hands. He’s truly a Hamilton, exploiting opportunities as much as possible.

Aaron doesn’t think he’s seen Hamilton look sadder when he has to tell Phil, “I can’t.” He gestures at himself, says, “You know I can’t and walk that far to the house.”

Phil’s lip quivers. Tears are imminent to return.

“Can you?” Hamilton asks Aaron.

Two Hamiltons look at him, pleading.

“Of course,” Aaron says, and he picks Phil up and settles him on his hip. Phil lays his head on his shoulder and sighs, apparently all cried out. As they walk back to the house, Hamilton reaches up to ruffle Phil’s hair.

“You’re going to be okay,” Aaron says. Phil sniffles, nods.

“Are you my uncle?” he asks. Sniffles again.

“Uh.” It’s an innocent question from a child, but it alarms Aaron — he is not their family, not matter how much he plays the charade. He looks sideways to Hamilton, who gives no indication of what to say.

“No, I’m not,” Aaron says. He feels Phil sigh against him.

“Oh.” Phil sounds sad, disappointed even, letting out a small whine as he holds onto Aaron tighter.

It makes Aaron sad, too.

Later, after they’ve cleaned up Phil’s scrape and Hamilton has tracked James down (hiding behind the piano) and properly scolded him, they share a drink.

Hamilton says, “Thanks for helping, Burr.”

“No problem.” Aaron hesitates, adds, “I like helping your family.”

Careful not to seem too eager.

“You know,” Hamilton says, “you could have told him yes.”

Aaron pretends that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

 

* * *

 

Hamilton is dreaming.   A nightmare — Aaron is familiar with them himself. His pained mutterings had woke Aaron up. Aaron can’t make anything out, just no no no and whines. What does he dream of? Of death, of loss, of Aaron aiming at him with a gun?

In his half-sleep state, Aaron acts on instinct, habit, the best way to calm Hamilton — being close, offering the comfort of his body. They’ve done it before, and he’s sure Hamilton wouldn’t object. He presses against Hamilton’s back, curls around him, so they’re like two spoons in a drawer. He puts his arm over Hamilton’s waist. It feels right.

“It’s okay,” Aaron says, “I’m here,” and Hamilton quiets, his panicked noises turning into soft sleep mumbles. His chest rises and falls. He snores, and Aaron smiles. Hamilton is so warm, so pretty, so inviting, and Aaron is so tempted — for what, he doesn’t understand. These thoughts he has of another man—

Jonathan would know, floats into his mind. Is this what Bellamy spoke of in his correspondence? My thoughts of you changed to something more tender; but I won’t waste paper, Bellamy had wrote him many years ago and, oh, he wishes that Bellamy did waste the paper, he wishes he wrote pages and pages to help navigate this — this heartache! Bellamy was older, wiser to things that Aaron did not know. Did Bellamy have these torrid sensibilities for Aaron, and did he see the beginnings of them within Aaron? Did Bellamy recognize it within him, that he could crave the body of a man, to want him? Because he does, ardently. It’s been a year and Aaron’s attraction to Hamilton haven’t faded — thoughts of Hamilton possess his mind. He likes him when he’s gorgeous in his best outfit and he likes him when he playfully bickers with him, he wants to touch Hamilton with purpose and he wants Hamilton to touch him back. Hamilton has him enthralled—

Is this what Bellamy felt like?  Did Bellamy ache for him, without hope?

Jonathan, his almost only friend — he loved him and he could have loved him more if he had the time — but he died, like everyone else, everyone except—

Hamilton. His almost…

Aaron holds him tighter, and is deprived of a nights sleep, contemplating.

 

* * *

 

Through his contemplations, he realizes his problem: he has not discussed it with Theo.

Aaron gets her away from all the Hamiltons, and tells her all of it. She knows part of it already — that he has a significant fondness for Hamilton — but the rest he’s withheld because he wanted to protect her from the shame of feelings that he should not have.

However, he must have her counsel, he has to tell someone or else he thinks he’ll do something rash and make everything worse. He tells her how his fondness for Hamilton grew into something, something that would possess him to kiss the man, and he tells her of everything after, of how nothing happened after but, in fact, everything has happened. He’d say too much has happened, but he could never have Hamilton too much, in excess — he’d always want more. Fervent glances and restrained touches aren’t enough, and Hamilton’s wavering interest makes Aaron want him all the more. He tells her how he lusts for Hamilton, wants him, in the most untoward way — but it’s Hamilton’s fault with his lovely legs that lead up to his lovely other parts, his dark bright eyes, and that exquisite sinful mouth. He wants him. He tells her that perhaps, he has wanted Hamilton all along, but didn’t know until their kiss awakened something inside of him.

“And I am ruined,” Aaron concludes. “You must think your father a stupid, reprehensible, pathetic man.”

And Theo, his sweet daughter, smiles and takes his hand.

“On the contrary,” she says. “I think you’re a brilliant, honest, wonderful man.”

“Only you think that.” Aaron’s hand twitches against Theo’s. “How can you be so casual about what I’ve told you?”

“It’s not like I’m surprised,” Theo says.

Aaron thought he had been hiding it so well.

Theo rolls her eyes. “I knew you must’ve really really liked mister Hamilton to put up with him as you do—”

“Touché.”

“—and I’m not stupid, I have eyes. I see how you are with him.”

Theo.

“It’s not uncommon to be attracted to someone of your same sex—”

Aaron promptly ends the conversation. Or tries to.

“Do you have anything you’d like to share with me?” Aaron quizzes, hoping to divert the conversation. “About a certain A-dot-Hamilton of your own?”

A rush of magenta floods Theo’s cheeks.

“No—” she pops up from her seat “—nothing to share,” she says in a way that suggests the very opposite of that.

“You know you can tell me anything—”

“You’re deflecting.”

“You’re too smart for me.”

“You’re still deflecting,” she says. She crosses her arms in front of her. “How do you know that he doesn’t feel the same?”

“He doesn’t.” He can’t, Aaron thinks.

“I’m sure he finds your stoicism very charming.”

“It’s one of my best attributes.”

Smirking, Theo says, “I’m sure.” She sighs, exasperated. “He flirts with you, I’m sure you’ve realized.”

He’s noticed. But coy smiles, innuendo, asking to be stripped of his stockings — Hamilton means nothing by it. It’s good fun. It can’t be helped that Aaron wants something more than what he wants to offer.

She straightens his necktie, lectures him. “In my opinion, you could do better than Hamilton.”

That’s debatable — he and Hamilton are an equally matched mistake — but it’s comforting nonetheless. He laughs, and amazingly, he feels better.

 

* * *

 

He feels better, until Hamilton does not come to his bed that night. Angelica leaves, and everything returns to normal, and he is so so lonely.

 

* * *

 

Another month passes, and then Aaron wishes the next month could be skipped all together. The election for state Representative begins in late April, and it’ll be three miserable days until the results are known. It’s long enough to ruminate over the second thoughts he has; he has mixed feelings about associating himself with Hamilton — what if they were to split, again? And he isn’t exactly sure what he’d do if he does win. Overall, he is still thinking that this is a terrible idea. There must be other ways.

His assessments are proven correct. He considers withdrawing his name from the ballot on the very first day the polls are open. Someone accosts him on the street — they pass as Hamilton is busy locking up the office for the night, spits at Aaron’s feet and calls him, “Fink.”

Hamilton laughs, big and dazzling, wonderfully awful but awfully wonderful but Aaron shrugs it off. It’s by far not the first time he’s been verbally harassed on the street. He’s used to others expressing what they think of him. They keep doing it, like it matters — even when he changes, he’s criticized for that too. He knows that it’s more about disliking him for who he is than for what he does. But he welcomes their unwelcome opinion. It’s amusing and, in a way, it’s flattering that there are such strong opinions of him. It means that he leaves an impression. Is formidable.

That’s something Alexander would say, Aaron thinks with a smile, but then realizes with dread, that’s something Alexander would say. He isn’t sure if it was within him all along or if he’s just a poor imitation of Hamilton. Either way, Hamilton has influenced him — harvesting Aaron’s strength because he knew where to find it or spreading his own like wildfire — and Aaron is caught wondering if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

It must be bad to want someone this much, but Aaron feels so good. A sin, and Hamilton causes him to commit the worst of them. He’s proud of what he has with Hamilton and he wants to brag you don’t have him like I do, but he wants more of him, he’s greedy, wants everything of him, he wants his mind and his body, the latter making lust flow through his veins. He takes what he can get, indulges himself, Hamilton is his gluttonous habit. No matter how much he likes him it’s Hamilton, and he infuriates Aaron, nobody makes him angrier — he’s angry of what Hamilton makes him feel and he’s angry because he’s envious that he’ll never have what he has, but most of all, he’s angry because it’s so easy with Hamilton. It’s comfortable and it shouldn’t be, and he is struck with an idleness to let it be because he doesn’t want to think about how bad it is—

—but Hamilton has always made Aaron want what’s not good for him.

“That’s better than being called a murderer, yes?” Hamilton asks, with that awful and wonderful smile. It takes Aaron a moment to understand, because he was lost contemplating Hamilton, but then remembers being insulted by a stranger. Yes, it’s been a while since Aaron has been called a murderer — albeit, for a crime that didn’t happen. Hamilton isn’t dead, he’s right there, breathing and so striking, so close that he could…

Hamilton laughs again, awkwardly, and Aaron knows his deception well enough to know it’s forced. Hamilton pulls his handkerchief from its hiding place inside his pocket and holds it out to Aaron. “Here.”

Aaron stares at the handkerchief. It’s pretty, white silk and monogrammed A.H. in gold at the corner, and it looks as though it’s never been dirtied.

“Do you expect me to cry?” Aaron asks, his voice flat, because Hamilton isn’t funny, not always, but Hamilton sighs and motions to Aaron’s feet. Aaron looks down at where he’s indicating and ugh, there’s spittle on his shoe, gleaming on the buckle.

Aaron bends over, and uses his own handkerchief to wipe his shoe clean. It’s disgusting, and thinks he’ll either toss the cloth when he gets home — in hindsight, it would’ve been less demoralizing to leave the mess than stoop to remove it. He’s sure Hamilton finds this hilarious and he glances up at him, but instead of a trademarked smirk, Hamilton is looking at him with a queer expression. Head tilted, biting his lip, face red — due to the change in weather most likely, it’s been warmer in the last week — and he’s not meeting Aaron’s eyes. Very strange. Aaron stops the circular scrubs on his shoe, fully enthralled in looking at Hamilton look at him.

Hamilton keeps staring and biting his lip but then he must notice that Aaron has noticed him, because he drags his eyes up to Aaron’s, away from his…oh. Aaron feels the heat of Hamilton’s gaze on his body, and he should look away, not acknowledge this, but then Hamilton winks at him and goddamn it all.

Hamilton stuffs his pretty handkerchief back into his coat pocket, forcefully, like he’s annoyed. Why? Because he’s offended Aaron didn’t take his offering? Or is he frustrated for another reason? Aaron squints — the setting sun is in his eyes, but Hamilton tall above him is also a dazzling, blinding sight, and Hamilton is still looking at him in that strange way.

Aaron stands, straightens his coat. Composes himself. Even at his full height and Hamilton’s lean on his cane, Hamilton is a couple inches taller than him. Hamilton carries it well.

Hamilton laughs — that awkward nervous one again — and Aaron hates it. He’s feeling like this day can’t get much worse, he’s in a tetchy mood and Hamilton’s laughter feels hostile instead of friendly like it usually is and why is he so damn short and he got fucking spit on by a stranger who he did nothing to and Hamilton has the audacity to offer his handkerchief to him like he’s some helpless maiden. He knows that Hamilton doesn’t intend to make him feel like shit — hopefully doesn’t — but sometimes, they clash, and the closest person to blame is each other.

“Give it another day,” Aaron says. “I’m sure lots of people want to tell me how contemptible they find me, and you’ll have your amusement at my expense.”

Burr, don’t be like that…” Hamilton pleads, and how dare he, how dare he say his name like a purr, beguiling.

“It’s okay,” Aaron says. “They’ll tire of me like before, and I’ll be forgotten once again. I’ve only angered the masses by reminding them I exist.”

He’s a lost cause. Hamilton doesn’t see it that way. Hamilton has high hopes — impossible aspirations as always — and Aaron understands why he keeps them aloft in the clouds because usually, things work out for Hamilton. The man either has a direct line to above or a barter with the devil. But Aaron isn’t so sure about himself.

“The voice of one objector is not that voice of many,” Hamilton tells him, and Aaron replies, “It depends who the one person is.” The meaning is there, unspoken. One voice, Hamilton’s voice, changed his future before. Aaron doubts that he can again — ruining a man is easier than making him.

Failure is in his future — again — and he’ll fail Hamilton too, and he’ll finally see how he’s made a mistake investing himself in Aaron. It worries Aaron, all the what ifs.

He thinks of the what ifs as he goes home, and he knows he isn’t pleasant company with his grumpy attitude. He snaps at Hamilton when asked if he wants to stop for a quick beer (no, he does not, he’s not a lazy drunkard), and Hamilton mouths okay then and is silent for the rest of the ride. Once they arrive home, Aaron walks ahead of Hamilton and he knows it’s rude because Hamilton can’t go that fast but he needs to be away from him.

“Hey, Papa — oh,” Theo greets him, but then promptly goes the other direction when she sees that he’s in one of those moods. Which is fine, he wants to be left alone anyway, he doesn’t need anyone.

Everyone avoids him, everyone except Eliza. She approaches him slowly, baby in her arms, and smiles at him genuinely, doesn’t mention his sour mood at all, and asks, “Would you like a break?” and actually, that sounds lovely. Her relaxed company is exactly what he needs.

She leads him to the living room, and he lets go a bit — paces the room, keyed up. It’s just Eliza and the baby in the room with him, both people who wouldn't tell anyone. Eliza is considerate and doesn’t do things to embarrass him, and Rita is a baby who doesn’t know of his worries or of the worries of the world. To her, politics is meaningless, and Hamilton is her loving father who sings to her and gives warm cuddles.

Eliza is skilled at calming him down. He guesses it’s learned from being married to Hamilton, and having raised many children with his spirited blood. She doesn’t press him to talk, just sits him down and before he can object, she hands him Rita to hold.

Almost instantly, he calms. How could he be upset when there’s an adorable baby to adore? The prickling panic fades from his chest as he focuses on her. At a couple months old, she still sleeps most of the day. She doesn’t seem to notice that she’s no longer in her mother’s arms, and instead in a stranger’s. But Aaron isn’t a total stranger — he was there the day she was born, and held her just like he is now. He’s an established part in the Hamilton’s lives.

(He wouldn’t go as far to say family, though.)

“Aaron,” Eliza says, and he turns to her. His given name sounds right when she says it — familiar, but not using it against him.

She gently sits next to him and has a small smile on her face. She knew what she was doing. But that’s okay. They have to look out for each other when there’s someone like Hamilton in the forefront of their lives. Aaron likes to think that she does it because she likes him for him, and not because he’s something that’s in addition. Before the set of unfortunate circumstances that led them to now, he didn’t know her well; only second-hand information from what Hamilton had told him. But it’s been a privilege to get to know her himself. He provides what he deems appropriate for their kindred friendship. He watches over the younger children when she needs a moment for herself, he remembers things she says that are important to her and brings it up in later conversations, he buys her trinkets when he sees something that he thinks she’ll like. He likes doing nice things for her, he likes her — apart from Hamilton, as a separate entity. Most days, he thinks that he likes her better. Eliza is beautiful, inside and out.

She’s pretty, Aaron thinks, even though he shouldn’t think that about another man’s wife, and he shouldn’t think it because that’s trivializing to Eliza. But she is beautiful, especially when she’s casual like this, with her hair hanging loose from its usual pinned-back style, and her neckline bare — she must’ve not replaced the lace fichu after nursing, she must be comfortable enough with his presence to be dressed as such, and he can’t help but notice how nice her breasts look, him seeing a slip of skin that’s lighter and he thinks of how it matches the color of her knees—

—which is all true but it would be another type of rudeness to not acknowledge her beauty.

He could never tell her this. Instead, he returns her smile and says, “Thank you. I know I’m a bother.”

“You aren’t a bother,” Eliza says, laying her hand on his, over where he’s holding Rita. He doesn’t know if she’s saying it to be nice, but it’s comforting all the same. To not feel like a burden to someone.

Eliza runs her hand through Rita’s dark mess of hair that’s becoming more like Hamilton’s every day.

“She likes you.”

“I like her,” Aaron says. “I like babies. I had only Theo…”

His words peter out; Eliza picks them up.

“Well, you can spend as much time with her as you’d like,” she says, and how is she okay with that?

He asks her that, and says, “I don’t want your children to be confused about who I am.” They must be confused — the man who almost killed their father now lives in their home and sits next to their father during meals. He thinks of Phil, clinging to him and asking are you my uncle? and the sad noise he made when Aaron told him, I’m not.

“I don’t want to place myself where I don’t belong,” Aaron says, quiet. Better to know now, before getting his hopes up.

“I — we want you here, Aaron,” Eliza says. It sounds sincere, like everything she says. He almost believes her.

Except.

“Speaking of…,” Eliza says, but she doesn’t fill in the word, just continues, “there’s something I’ve been wanting to discuss.”

From his experience, that set up usually precedes a difficult conversation. So there’s a problem, with him, after all.

“It’s about Alexander,” she elaborates, and yes. He creates problems.

“Oh?” Aaron aims for nonchalance, but his voice cracks and he averts his eyes. Looks at Hamilton’s newborn. She has his nose. “Does he have a grievance with me?”

“Quite the opposite, actually,” Eliza says, and then lightly laughs to herself. “Unless you count his frustrations, but those are his fault.” She pauses. “Mostly. You’re both so stubborn.”

“Yes.” Aaron doesn’t disagree.

He feels Eliza lean in closer, and she touches his arm for him to look at her.

“Alexander likes you,” she says.

That makes Aaron’s heart beat faster for some reason. Guilt?

“I suppose that he must, at times,” Aaron says. “We are friends.”

“He likes you more than that. He likes you a lot,” Eliza counters, and that’s impossible, she can’t mean what Aaron thinks she’s implying — but then she says, “And I think you like him, too. Unconventionally.”

Eliza probably planned this. Ambushed him! Wait until he’s comfortable and holding a sleeping baby, and then spring this topic on him when he can’t escape. He’s trapped. Rita is cute and sleeping and kind of drooling on his coat, and he can’t very well move and wake her up…

And it was always going to come to this, eventually.

“Alexander and I have a complicated relationship.” Aaron starts with the basis of the truth. The rest is — more. “However, it’s not what you think.”

“What do you think I think is between you and my husband?”

That’s a good question.

“That Alexander and I…are…” Aaron falters. “That the nature of our relationship is carnal.”

He regrets it when he names it. Eliza blushes and he feels his own face warm, he can’t look at her because he as much as admitted his desire for Hamilton. It isn’t as though infidelity has stopped him from giving way to his desires before — Theodosia had been a married woman when they began their courtship — but he can’t do that to Eliza. He won’t be a home wrecker, and he can’t be with Hamilton for another, more obvious reason…

“Last spring,” he begins, delicately. He isn’t sure how to phrase it; he knows that Eliza knows but talking about it together is another thing. “When Alexander and I…”

“You kissed him.” She seems much more comfortable than he feels. Hamilton called her — what was it? Progressive. But that doesn’t make this secret between the three of them any more acceptable.

“That was an emotionally charged result of our developing, uh, friendship.” Something new. Something else. “I’m sure Alexander has explained.”

“Oh, he’s explained. Many times.” Eliza narrows her eyes. “But explain something to me. Who kisses their friends? Who strips their friend down and lies with them in bed?”

“Alexander told you that?” Of course he did, he would want to brag — all I have to do is lie down and Burr takes off my clothes.

“He tells me everything,” Eliza says. She hesitates, like she wants to say something more; he tells me everything since he cheated, perhaps? It’s better if Hamilton does tell her — he’s just as complicit in this as he is.

And if that’s so, what else has Hamilton told her? Something that Aaron hasn’t even realized himself?

Rita lets out a fussy whine, as if she can sense his unease. He wraps her swaddle tighter, rocks her gently until she quiets.

“If this is true, hypothetically,” he says, “I assure that nothing will come of it. Alexander hasn’t made any advances, and I’ll temper myself. Distance myself, if necessary.”

At that, Eliza grasps Aaron’s arm, puts her other hand on her chest.

“Oh, no. You don’t understand,” she says. “I encourage you to act on it.”

He couldn’t have heard that correctly.

“I can’t tolerate much more of Alexander’s pining for you,” Eliza says. “At first, it was cute, but now it’s gone beyond that.”

“Eliza—”

“Aaron, please let me finish. It’s fine, I promise you. I know you’re both honorable men and wouldn’t do anything to harm me. Or express something to the other that the other does not want.” Eliza lowers her voice. She asks, “Do you want Alexander?”

“I…”

“It’s okay. I am familiar with the proclivities that some men have for other men.” Eliza is flushed, all the way down to her chest, and Aaron wants her to tell him what she knows. He imagines Hamilton telling her filth, about how he feels about men, that he likes their muscular chests and what’s between their legs—

“I can’t stand to see him suffering like this,” she says.

Aaron highly doubts that Hamilton is suffering. He tells Eliza so, and she looks so so sad.

“He cares for you more than you realize,” she says. “And I can tell you’re suffering too.”

“I’m not.”

“You are,” she says, “you’re hurting and Alexander is hurting you.”

“It’s not like that. He isn’t hurting me.”

“Aaron.”

“Yes?” and then Eliza gives him a sharp look, and he says, “Okay.”

“Good.” Eliza fixes his lapels. If she’s taking care of him or keeping herself busy, Aaron does not know.

She says, “You should do whatever makes this better between the two of you. Resolve this…tension.”

Aaron’s mouth goes dry. He licks his lips to wet his mouth.

“What are you saying?” he asks, and he’s still choking on his words. “Are you giving me permission to — what? Be with Alexander?”

“You have my permission.” She says it assured. Like it’s been something she’s planned. “Ongoing.”

Aaron had been incorrect — both Hamiltons will be the end of him.

“How can you be okay with this?” he asks, because if he’s honest, he isn’t okay with any of it.

Eliza sighs. “I know that Alexander’s wants are abundant, they always have been. I know that he has an appetite for attention and an inclination for certain things. I know that he wants it from you. And I know that you’re a good person, despite what you believe.”

“But,” Aaron protests, and he isn’t even going to argue with her about him being a good person because she isn’t to be argued with, “how are you okay with him being with another?” Already, his mind races — having Hamilton’s mouth on his, shoving his hand into Hamilton’s pants, being able to look at Hamilton for as long as he wants—

“I’m okay with it because, putting it lightly, Alexander likes me more,” Eliza says. “I know that what he feels for you doesn’t make him love me any less.”

Aaron doesn’t disagree. He’s always been an afterthought to Hamilton.

“Eliza, I don’t—”

“Oh, there you two are!”

The room feels much smaller when Hamilton enters it; it usually does. Aaron can’t look at him, or Eliza. He doubts that Hamilton knows of the conversation he walked in on — if he knew that his wife was all but telling Aaron to jump into bed with him, he would not be casual. He sits next to Aaron, says something but Aaron doesn’t hear it because Eliza keeps looking between the two of them and Hamilton is leaning in, his leg pressing against his—

“Tend to your family,” Aaron says, and hands Rita to Hamilton, and gets up, leaving an open space between husband and wife.

“What was that about?” he hears Hamilton ask as he walks away. He waits in the hallway, listens.

“Oh, you know Burr,” Eliza replies, and that seems to be enough of an answer for Hamilton because he talks about something other than Aaron, and Aaron doesn’t want to hear that.

 

* * *

 

“Can we — can we just talk?” Aaron asks.

Cecilia gives him a glib smile, like, oh you’re one of those guys now, but she says, “Sure,” and wraps her robe around herself, sits next to him. “Tell me a story.”

He needs to talk to someone that isn’t attached to everything else. Even if he has to pay for them to listen.

He lays his head on her shoulder, tells her a story. The amended story of his life currently. He’s poor, everyone hates him, he likes someone he can’t be with, et cetera.

“Are you okay?” she asks. She actually sounds concerned.

“I will be.”

Cecilia gets behind him, rubs his shoulders. “You’re so tense. Let me help you,” she says, and she gets him half undressed, massages the knots out of his shoulders. He relaxes, something else does not, and he lets her take off the rest of his clothes and she slips out of hers and a good fuck always takes his mind off of things.

 

* * *

 

Aaron loses the Representative spot. Horribly, in fact — the opponent wins with a seventy-two percent margin over him. Aaron is extremely unfavored, and now there’s data to support it. He isn’t surprised, and he has great satisfaction in telling Hamilton, “I told you so.”

“You don’t have to sound so damn smug about it,” Hamilton says, disgruntled. If he’s more upset about the results or the fact that he was wrong, Aaron does not know. He’s on edge, fidgety — which is never a good thing.

Hamilton sits on Aaron’s desk, hoisted himself up there, sitting on Aaron’s workspace, forcing them to talk about this. He’s on Aaron’s important papers, touches the violet that’s still alive somehow, and he puts his hand on a freshly written document and ink gets on his palm, but he shrugs and swings his leg, kicking Aaron’s chair and saying, “Burr,” every time his foot hits. Burr. Burr. Burr. Aaron gives in — he had planned to, he was just waiting the appropriate latency to not seem too cooperative — he leans back in his chair, looks at Hamilton in front of him. Hamilton stills, his legs hanging, and it’s obvious he’s quite pleased with himself. Dammit.

They’re at work — a sanctuary, of sorts. When it’s just the two of them, Aaron can get away with looking only at Hamilton, because there’s nobody else — nobody else to look at, and nobody else to see how Aaron looks at Hamilton.

And then Hamilton looks at only Aaron, too.

“It’s okay,” Hamilton says, encouraging. “You’ll win next time.”

“There isn’t going to be a next time,” Aaron replies. Hamilton is placating and that isn’t like him, which makes Aaron even madder. “I shouldn’t have even tried this time.” It was a terrible idea from the start — too much too fast, and of course he’d fail. It’s his fault; he knows he didn’t try hard enough, and when now that it’s over, he isn’t sure if he wanted the position at all. He thinks of telling Hamilton this, but he knows how that argument would end: badly. First, there’s silent accusation that one isn’t making a good enough attempt to maintain this relationship between them, then the other reacts and makes it worse, and then they remember how they ended up on opposite sides of a dueling ground. But Hamilton always inspires him to do insane things. “I’m sorry your investment in me didn’t work out.”

“It’s not like that and you know it,” Hamilton says, yells, and he is angry. Interesting. They’re so sensitive to each other, a trigger set for the slightest perceived injustice when really, they meant no harm, but they’re so used to hurting each other…

“I don’t know what else I could do or say to convince you that I like you, Burr.” Hamilton’s hands clench, digs his nails into the varnished wood. “I want to make you feel better because you’re so goddamn miserable. I want to make you see that you’re alright. But I don’t think I ever could.”

Aaron’s caught between wanting to tell him there’s nothing wrong with me and you’re why I’m so miserable but he’s right, he could never make him better, not entirely. You haven’t done everything, he thinks but that isn’t the kind of like that Hamilton means. No matter what Eliza had said, he doesn’t believe it. If Hamilton wanted something, he’d take it.

But Hamilton keeps talking, softer now, “Sometimes, I think you are happier. Are you? Or are you pretending for my sake?”

Before Aaron can say, yes, you make me happy except when you don’t but that happens when I’m not with you, Hamilton says—

“I want you to be happy, I want to be the one to make you happy. You drive me fucking crazy, Burr, and I swear you do it on purpose — do know what it does to me to see you get along so well with my family? And for you to stay out all night when I know where you’ve been? I want — I want you…”

Hamilton stops himself, looks away.

Aaron knows what he wants — and he has the blessing of Hamilton’s wife to seek it out — but he won’t, not when Hamilton is an uncertainty. Aaron would get on his hands and knees for Hamilton to give him a sign, and then he’d be willing to stay on his knees to show Hamilton how appreciative he is. Does Hamilton want Aaron, full stop? Does he want him in the same way that Aaron does? But he resists because he thinks he’s the only one with these desires?

He lays his hand on Hamilton’s knee and oh, he could run his hand up those shapely thighs and he expects Hamilton would let him.

“Alex,” Aaron says. “You’re not making this easy.”

I’m not making it easy?” Hamilton shoves Aaron’s hand away from him as to prove a point. “You’re the one who’s insufferable and making this so fucking awkward. I should have given up but you’re too goddamn good and I like you, you’re brilliant and handsome and why can’t we ever get it right? It’s always too late, for us.”

There — Hamilton has said it himself. If it’s too late, why try? There are so many almosts with them, but never enough. Aaron stands and Hamilton is too close, he grabs Aaron’s hand, his grip almost hurts, and says, “You can’t leave, we’re going to talk about this.”

“Oh, now you want to talk?” Aaron looks down where their hands are joined; his is smeared with ink, too, and that’s Hamilton, forever marking him. He goes to pull away, but Hamilton won’t let go, he’s liable to be dragged off the table first. “You aren’t going to, I don’t know, fake an illness to get out of it? You’ve been avoiding this conversation for a year, you selfish idiot, you plonk — I can’t decide if you’re trying to talk me into it or out of it, but I know you’re doing it on purpose! I’ve heard you talk to Eliza about me while you’re with her, how dare you use the both of us like this, you’re the most selfish person in the entire world, and how dare you criticize me for seeing prostitutes when that’s something honest, unlike your relationships. You’re trying to make me act out so you won’t have to feel guilty about what you want—”

Hamilton puts his mouth on his, grabbing his lapels to pull him closer until he’s slotted between his legs, greedy, and Aaron is greedy too because finally is what he thinks when he’s pressed against him. Kissing Hamilton is as good as the first time, better than the first time because Hamilton initiated, and Hamilton kisses like he’s starved, moaning against Aaron’s lips and going for more, kissing him deep and wet. It’s probably partly to shut him up, but Aaron doesn’t care. It’s as though he’s whet an insatiable appetite and he can’t have enough.

Hamilton pulls back, and Aaron is ashamed that he whines because no don’t, but Hamilton kisses him again, a quick peck and asks, “This okay?” He’s breathing hard and his pupils are blown wide as he searches Aaron’s face, waiting — Aaron nods, returns the chaste kiss, and another because he can, and another and another as it gets more familiar, and Hamilton puts his hand to Aaron’s face (the cool of the wedding ring on his cheek not slowing them down) and brushes his thumb over Aaron’s lip that’s tingling from missing his mouth on his.

“Alexander,” Aaron gasps, and he feels his smile meet Hamilton’s. Neither denies what they want so Aaron has the time to study it — how Hamilton’s goatee feels on him and how he tastes like what he thinks a sunset would personify and how he escalates it when he wants more, all mouth and teeth and tongue—

“You are the most selfish person to have ever existed,” Aaron mumbles and Hamilton responds, “I know, I know,” and rests his hands on Aaron’s shoulder and just looks at him.

“God, I’ve dreamed about doing this again,” Hamilton says, his voice a low rumble in Aaron’s ear as he kisses a trail down Aaron’s neck. “I bit your neck, like this—,” and he does, a nip along Aaron’s jawline that makes Aaron ache for him, “and you gripped me, like this—,” and he reaches down and touches himself, gasps and throws his head back before looking back to Aaron, “and I’ve thought about doing the same to you, I want to so badly—”

Of course Hamilton would have thought these things. If Aaron didn’t want to keep kissing him so much, he’d hate him. He kisses Hamilton — using Hamilton’s shutting-up technique against him — and Hamilton is okay with not talking. He wraps his legs around Aaron’s waist, grinding forward, and Aaron feels his interest and he knows that he must feel his too, and fuck, the sound Hamilton makes when their cocks rub against each other through their breeches, a growl almost, and he pushes back saying, “yes, Burr, yes yes,” and Aaron doesn’t intend to respond but he does, but then—

—he comes to his senses, pulls away.

Hamilton looks a little lost, sitting on top of the desk with kiss-bitten lips and his hard dick straining in his breeches.

“What was that about?” Hamilton demands. He hops off the desk, takes a step to close the distance between them again — winces, his limp pronounced without his cane, and that’s a mood killer. “I know you want me, you can deny it all you want but I felt you wanting me, I know, we’ve been pretending it doesn’t matter for a year but look what’s happened, this was inevitable so we might as well accept it.”

Aaron wonders if it’s too late to go back to kissing. That was easier than this — and Hamilton looks cute when he’s angry, fuck fuck fuck.

He doesn’t confirm, he just says, “I know that Eliza gave us permission, but I don’t know if I’m comfortable with it, I don’t know how it’ll go and what if someone else discovers us—”

“Wait, you spoke with Eliza? About us?

Hamilton has a kind of horrified look — like he got found out — and things deescalate quickly. Aaron feels his situation flagging and he quickly goes over the conversation with Eliza; she never explicitly said that she had the same talk with Alexander, but he had assumed — he had acted on the pretense that Alexander knew and that there was nothing preventing them, but it appears as though it was enough of an issue that he had discussed it with Alexander’s wife and everything is out of balance again, what was he thinking—?

Hamilton is silent, waiting for an answer, blindsided confused — which is understandable. Aaron is too. A few moments ago everything had seemed perfect but it never ever will be, with them.

“I need a smoke,” Aaron says, and tears himself away from Hamilton and leaves him there. He needs to get away, but he hopes, wishes that Hamilton will stop him.

He doesn’t.

Chapter Text

He’s kissing Aaron Burr.

Burr had been talking, wouldn’t stop talking — impassioned — and Alexander couldn’t resist him anymore, so he kissed him.

Again. Finally.

Burr kisses him back, and in between breaths he calls Alexander selfish and that makes Alexander want to kiss him even more. Their first time had been rushed — the touch-memory of it fleeting as they unearthed something new between them and there was the miracle that it was happening at all — so he savors it. How Burr’s hand goes to the small of his back like it’s meant to be there. How Burr’s kisses grow more intense, deep and with tongue. How he calls him Alex.

Alexander wonders if he’s the only man Burr has ever kissed. He’s kissed a few in his day — but those were boys, and he had been a boy, too. Shy kisses on his island home in his youth when he didn’t know what it meant to like them but he had enough sense to keep them hidden away, and not-so-shy ones in tents on the edge of a battlefield, still young even though he thought he was as old as he’d ever be.

However, Burr is a man. Strong, heavy scented, and he’s hard — Alexander can feel his erection as he ruts against him. Instinctively, he wraps his legs around Burr’s waist, pulls Burr closer, and Burr moans in his ear when their cocks rub against each other and, oh, it’s been a while since he’s felt that. Mmm, nice. He has a thought of Burr bending him over the desk and taking him right there, and with the way Burr is pressed up against him he thinks that he would be more than willing, but he doesn’t want to stop kissing — they have a lot of time to make up for.

“Yes, Burr, yes yes,” he gasps, and Burr breathes hot against his ear and grinds against him, and—

Burr pulls away. Alexander thinks it’s only a respite and goes in for another kiss but Burr steps back, leaving Alexander sitting on his desk with a boner and his lips tingling from missing his. Burr gives some bullshit excuse to delay, like they haven’t waited a year to pick up where they left off, and then he’s saying something about Eliza, that he talked to her about them and—

—when, when did it get to the point between them that Burr found it necessary to go to Eliza? He could talk to her, but not him?

Reality shifts back into focus. He’s angry, confused — did this between them not matter as much to Burr as he had thought? Did Burr confess to Eliza, thinking him an adulterer? Did he tell her so he’d have the first word — and the last, too?

Alexander asks for him to explain, but he goes outside for a break — a smoke — without another word.

For a moment, Alexander thinks to let him be but then realizes, no, that’s the last thing they need. They need to argue and press their bodies against each other — not necessarily in that order — but when Alexander steps outside to start one or the other, he sees that Burr didn’t go out for a smoke. He’s gone.

Alexander curses. Goddamn Burr.

He curses again when he realizes that Burr took their carriage.

 

* * *

 

Alexander gets home, eventually, after paying a rented carriage extra to hurry. He’s sure to note the cost in his ledger so Burr can reimburse him, because Burr is a goddamn pain and this is all his fault. It’s his fault that they’re fighting again — he guesses that they’re fighting — and it’s his fault that he’s got blue balls from the brief excitement that ended too soon.

He isn’t surprised that Burr is nowhere to be seen. He always runs away from conflict.

But Alexander won’t let him.

He climbs the stairs — a feat much easier when he’s pissed off and focused on something other than the twinge of pain in his side — and as expected, Burr’s door is shut. He tries to open it. Locked.

“I know you’re in there, Burr.” Alexander jiggles the knob. “Let me in.”

No response.

“Burr, you can’t stay in there forever.” He puts his ear to the door to hear if Burr has at least moved and isn’t in one his I’m-going-to-lie-prone-for-hours moods. “You can’t go out the window, it’s too far of a drop.”

Then, there’s a very clear, “Go away.”

“Oh! So I’m not talking to a door after all,” Alexander says. He takes a step back, considers the door as if it were Burr himself. “Although, I’m sure the door would be a better conversationalist. Your wood tells me a lot, though. There’s one morning not too long ago when we were sharing your bed — you were asleep but your dick was awake. I wonder what you were thinking about. Not your whores, I’m sure.”

Alexander flushes when he recalls that particular morning — morning wood is natural, but Burr’s woke him up because it pressed against Alexander’s ass and Burr had been so close so he stayed very very still as he laid awake listening to Burr’s quiet sleep mutterings and moans, waiting to see if a name slipped from him. Two minutes or so of that and Alexander had been too aroused, and he reached down and gripped himself and found his own release while Burr softly rutted against him in his sleep. He knew it was wrong — so wrong — but at least he didn’t act on his first instinct and touch Burr.

There’s no response from Burr. He thought that would have at least got a rise out of him.

“Burr.” Alexander knocks on the door. “You can’t ignore me. I’ll stand out here all night if I have to.”

Silence.

“You obstinate idiot, you’re just making this worse.”

Apparently Burr doesn’t care; he doesn’t speak.

Alexander sighs. He tries a different approach.

“I know you want me,” Alexander says, “or at least, I think you do. Please clarify.” He pounds his fist on the door. “Also, what did you discuss with my wife? What makes you think you could get in my business?”

Nothing.

“Please?”

Not even being polite works.

“Fine!” Alexander shouts. “Lock yourself away. I don’t care if I ever see you again—”

A lie, lie, lie.

“You’re a fool, Aaron Burr, and I’ve spent too long trying to figure you out. You’re helpless. Coward.”

He would take anything, an apology or a punch in the face, but Burr remains unyielding. Alexander yells, bangs on the door, demands that Burr talk to him immediately. Not that it makes a difference. Burr won’t comply. Alexander hates Burr, hates him hates him hates him—

“Come out here and fucking kiss me, you coward—”

“Alexander, what are you doing?”

He turns, sees Eliza standing next to him, looking rather cross. He hadn’t heard her approach.

His hand falls from where it’s rapt on the door. “How much did you hear?”

“Enough,” Eliza says, almost amused. “I heard that last bit loud and clear.”

So, there’s no reason to feign innocence.

“Burr and I had a disagreement,” he explains, feebly.

“I’ve gathered that,” she replies in a tone that’s like, again? “I could’ve figured that out without you pounding on the door, goading Burr into kissing you…” Quieter, she asks, “What happened?

I kissed him. Back at the office,” says Alexander, and then there’s that familiar guilt he’s accustomed to, but that’s not the biggest issue. “But then he said that you gave him permission for us to do…that, but that must be an excuse to alleviate his massive guilt—” Yes, that’s good, put it back on Burr, “—and to get his hands on my massive—”

“I did give Aaron permission.”

Well. That changes things. Alexander would be angry with her too if he weren’t so grateful and interested. The possibilities — his wife, agreeable to the idea of him being with another, a man, and Burr acting on it…

“I don’t know whether to ask what or when or why,” Alexander says, “but you could have let me in on your devious plan.”

Eliza laughs and takes his hand, and places a kiss in his palm.

“My dear husband, would that have changed your mind?” Eliza asks. Alexander goes to speak because he has lots to say about that, but Eliza continues before he has a chance. “I’ve been telling you for months that it’s okay to explore this…thing you have brewing with Aaron. I had to intercede because I’m so tired of the two of you looking at each other like you’ve lost something you’ve never even had.”

“I’ve tried, Eliza—”

“Have you tried talking to him before right now?”

Alexander suddenly remembers that Burr is on the other side of the door, likely hearing their entire conversation.

“No,” Alexander slowly says, “but—”

“At least Burr listens.”

“He does not.” Alexander gestures to the closed door. “He’s not listening to me now. How can I fix this if he won’t come out?”

Eliza sighs. “You’d realize that he does listen, if you’d only listen to him.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Eliza doesn’t answer — she just sighs again, and knocks softly on the door.

“Aaron?” she says. “It’s Eliza.”

Alexander frowns at how easily she uses Burr’s given name; Aaron sticks in his mouth and it never sounds right. He expects Burr to ignore her too, and that will make him really mad because nobody can ignore his wife and get away with it, but thankfully, there’s the sound of footfalls and Burr’s voice.

“Yes?”

“Why don’t you join me and Alexander? Dinner is soon.” Eliza uses her kindest, most persuasive voice, the same one she uses to coax the children into doing things (whereas, Alexander just bribes them).

Alexander grumbles, “He won’t.” Eliza elbows him.

Sure enough, Burr is predictable as summer rain. Through the door, he says, “I think I’ll pass, thank you.”

Eliza and Alexander exchange a look before turning back to the closed door.

“Aaron Burr, if you don’t come out this instant—”

Alexander smiles. As with the children, if coaxing doesn’t work, threats will.

Before Eliza can finish her threat, Burr cracks the door open, steps out. He blankly looks at the pair of them. “What is it?”

Eliza takes a menacing step forward, and Burr shrinks back — apparently not expecting it from her. Alexander grins.

“You’re going to join the family dinner,” Eliza begins, “and you will be pleasant company. After, you and Alexander will discuss your…friction.”

Lack of friction, Alexander thinks.

Eliza glances down at Burr’s appearance — neck cloth undone, waistcoat unbuttoned, breeches wrinkled — and raises her brow. “Also, freshen up. You look awful.”

“A hot mess,” Alexander chimes in, smugly. It’s vindicating to see the usually put-together Burr looking disheveled.

“Like you aren’t a disaster eight days out of the week,” Burr snaps.

“First of all, your use of hyperbole is stupid, and second of all, I—”

Behave. The both of you.” Eliza pats Alexander’s face, and then points at Burr. “I expect to see you soon,” she says, and she leaves muttering to herself about how perhaps she should let them deal with the matter as they’ve done before on a dueling ground.

“Well,” Burr says once she’s gone, “she sure told us.”

“Yes.” They aren’t talking about them, not necessarily — so it’s easier.

“Do you always have her do your dirty work?” Burr asks.

Alexander watches him talk, watches him bite his lip, punctuating the quip. He wants to do that — he thinks of how nice his lip is caught between Burr’s teeth, and he wonders what it’d feel like for Burr to bite his thighs as he works his way up…

“Only when it’s needed.” Alexander touches Burr’s shoulder — a friendly gesture, something that would have been relatively no issue this morning, before — and Burr flinches.

And before Burr can try and say that he’s sorry, Alexander lets his hand fall.

“You better be there,” he says, and leaves it at that.

It’s Burr’s turn to disappoint.

 

* * *

 

Burr goes to dinner, impeccably dressed, changed into a suit of black velvet — just as Eliza had asked. But he might as well not be there because he doesn’t acknowledge Alexander at all. Wasn’t he supposed to be there to cooperate with him?

Burr is being petty, honestly. His presence is a demonstration of how much he doesn’t want to talk to Alexander. He sits at his usual place across the table from him, but he only talks to Eliza and the children. Makes jokes. Laughs. Fills in the pauses in conversation so Alexander cannot interject.

It’s infuriating. How dare Burr come into his home and be friendly with his wife? How dare he act as though he belongs there? And how dare he lead him on? How dare Burr make this his pastime, seeing if he can make Alexander break first? How dare he pretend he has no commitment to this, when his actions say otherwise? He’s a reliability, a cool hand to his forehead when he’s sick, an intellectual equal—

—and how dare his kisses taste like forgiveness, when he’s hardly given anything to be sorry for?

Alexander seethes.

On the other side of the table, he notices that Theo also appears to be in a bad mood. Alexander guesses that she’s annoyed with Burr’s nonsense, too.

He thinks of something Burr has told him on more than one occasion: I tell Theo everything.

Alternatively, he realizes that she’s probably angry with him. But he gets the feeling that she never has liked him much, anyway.

“You’re quiet, Alexander.”

He turns his attention to Eliza. He knows what she’s doing — giving him a chance. A chance to do the right thing. That’s all he can ask for, really, since apparently she’s had this all figured out without him.

He flits his eyes over to Burr. He’s looking at him, too, but in that goddamned superior way he does — like he thinks he’s better because he can be so emotionally detached to what’s happening.

Alexander puts on a smile. “I’m just trying to listen to Burr.”

“Just because you aren’t talking doesn’t mean you’re listening,” Burr says. It’s almost flirtatious, this taunting that he does. He’s clearly enjoying this. He probably gets off on this more than he does with physical contact.

By now, everyone is attentive to their conversation, holding on for his response with bated breath. The kids are staring, waiting for him to make it worse; Eliza is glaring, expecting him not to make it worse.

Is he that predictable?

“Maybe,” Alexander begins, and he can sense the entire table brace themselves because they know that he can never stand down from a fight. “I don’t listen because you don’t have anything interesting to say.” He stabs at his food, eats. “I’ve been around you all day, and god — boring. The most exciting thing was when you sneezed twice in a row.”

(Other than the kissing and grinding — that was quite exciting indeed.)

Burr is angry now, too — his jaw twitches, which is always the first sign of him losing his resolute composure — and he must know what Alexander intends between the lines. He fires back, saying, “You can’t listen because you’re too busy shoveling down a second helping of potatoes, and I saw you eyeing a third.”

“Is that supposed to mean something about my weight?” Alexander finds himself mildly offended — and sitting up straighter, sucking in his stomach. “Because I’d be able to run and be active if a certain incident didn’t leave me unable, hindered from physicality.”

“Oh, please. You haven’t had an exercise regimen since the war.”

“Mom?” asks one of the children, quietly, as though they could sense the impending doom of their argument. Eliza tries to intervene, “Will you two please be mature?”

Her request goes unheard, however, Alexander continuing—

“I may be out of shape, but my knees are okay.” He smiles, licks his lips. “And so is my mouth.”

There’s a tint of red pigmentation showing through Burr’s complexion, and isn’t that the prettiest thing in the world? He’s embarrassed or angry — either is good. Good, Alexander thinks. Burr is thinking of him on his knees for him, with his mouth open and ready—

“You’re changing the topic,” Burr says, and why is he talking? But he keeps on, telling Alexander, “See, you don’t listen, you always make things my fault—”

“It’s not not your fault,” Alexander says. It is his fault that he shot him, and it’s his fault that he kissed him to begin with — both of which that started this whole thing. “And why should I listen to you when you don’t listen to me when I have something to say?”

“Oh my god, we’ve been through this already. If you weren’t so insufferable—”

“Me? You’re the one who’s always cranky. You just want me to say what you want to hear, and be quiet all other times. If you don’t like what I say, perhaps you could occupy my mouth in some other way—”

“Alexander!” Eliza touches his arm, scolding, “That’s quite enough—”

“—and then I’ll take your point in hand.”

“Why ask when you’re begging to do it?” Burr asks. “As usual, you can’t wait to show off—”

“I’m very talented. You’ve only sampled the beginnings of what I have to offer. And I know it’ll make you want more.”

“You make me crazy.”

“I must be an exciting guy.” Alexander leans in, elbows on the table. “Do I excite you, Aaron Burr? Do I get you going?”

“Stop!”

They both turn to Eliza, mutter an apology, having been properly admonished by her. She’s frowning, and Alexander feels bad but not bad enough because it’s Burr and he’s being an idiot. They are being idiots. Both of them. Burr for being so contrary, and Alexander for even wasting his time with him.

And yet.

The conversation slips away from them, Eliza trying to salvage the evening. Burr is sullen, but then his gaze meets Alexander’s and there’s still some fight there and—

“I notice you aren’t eating,” Alexander says, nodding to Burr, who’s picking at his plate. “I know something that might be more to your taste.”

“Hmm?” Burr’s expression only changes mildly — as though he cannot be surprised by anything that Alexander does.

Alexander slips off his shoe, extends his leg under the table in Burr’s direction.

“It’s a type of sausage—”

Alexander.

“…sorry, Eliza.”

He isn’t sorry at all. He isn’t sorry he said it, and he isn’t sorry when he rubs his stockinged foot on Burr’s leg. Softly trailing up Burr’s shin and back down again.

Burr tilts his head — he’s curious — and he uncrosses his legs, setting them flat on the floor. Allowing passage?

Alexander grins.

Burr sets his jaw. His nostrils flare as he exhales. He doesn’t say stop.

Alexander inches his foot a little higher on the next stroke, trailing up his knee. Wiggles his toes. “Would you like some sausage? I could give you some to try.”

Burr remains stoic as he says, “I would rather have some that’s fresh, and hasn’t been sampled by many people.”

He’s getting to him, Alexander knows. Burr is breathing harder, either with anger or lust — or mostly likely, a mixture of both — and really, that makes it better. He scoots forward in his chair so he can rest his foot against Burr’s thigh. Kneads circles into it, and Burr gasps, ever so softly.

“Mine comes with island spices,” Alexander says, wickedly. “I’ve been told it’s rather good. Ask Eliza.”

“Boasting about the quality usually means it’s compensating for something. Perhaps yours isn’t as filling as you’d wish it to be?”

“Don’t encourage him,” Eliza says, cutting in. “Stop this, now—”

She’s angry — which he doesn’t know why, she’s the one who encouraged this — and the kids are mostly confused — bless their naiveté — save for the older ones. Al is sinking down into his seat, mortified; Theo appears to be entertained with the scene; Angie is zoning out; and John has a dawning look of horror as he figures out that they’re speaking in metaphor.

He knows they should stop, but in regards to Burr, he doesn’t often do as he should. It’s gone on for too long to stop.

“It’s good,” Alexander says as he curls his foot against Burr’s inner thigh, inching closer to where he’s most sensitive. Burr captures Alexander’s ankle, runs his hand down, squeezes the arch of his foot and oh that feels good, it sends a shiver up his spine and heat to his groin.

Burr doesn’t look away from him.

“It’s good,” Alexander repeats. “Delicious. Thick and warm. When you’re presented with it, you’ll want it in your mouth.” He squirms forward, to reach— “But be careful, you might choke the first time you have it—”

Abruptly, Burr shoves Alexander’s foot out of his lap to the floor, and keeps a brutal eye contact as he stomps on Alexander’s foot.

Alexander curses, yelps, jerking his leg up and knocking the table, making the dishes clatter and everyone stare at him. It fucking hurts, Burr did that on purpose—

“If I may be excused,” Burr says, directly to Eliza. He doesn’t wait for anyone to say anything — nobody is going to say anything to him — and he calmly stands and pushes in his chair like nothing’s wrong at all.

His foot still throbs slightly but he jams it into his shoe and he stands, throws his napkin on the table with the intent to follow Burr and settle this, once and for all.

However, he catches Eliza’s withering glare, and he knows what that means.

“But, Burr…he…”

We’ll talk about his later, is unsaid, but for now—

“I am not married to Aaron Burr,” Eliza says, firmly, then adds, “And neither are you.”

There’s a tittering of laughter surrounding him — the children are amused that their father got scolded, and at the ridiculousness of the idea of him being married to Burr. The suggestion is absurd — a man — and Eliza is correct, he’s not married to Burr and he never will be.

He doesn’t know why that is more disappointing than it should be.

“Right.” He clears his throat, sits. His face flames with embarrassment, and then shame.

He eats Burr’s unfinished serving of potatoes.

 

* * *

 

Alexander isn’t having a good day. He’s been cockblocked twice and it’s Burr’s fault that Eliza is angry with him.

He climbs the stairs after dinner — he’s going to have this conversation with Burr, or else. What the or else entails, he doesn’t know, but Burr is going to open the door or he’ll make him, and then they’re going to talk, goddamn it, and then…and then…

Burr opens his bedroom door before Alexander can knock on it.

“Oh,” Alexander says, taken aback. “I didn’t think it would be that easy. I thought you’d stay shut in all night and I’d have to convince you.”

Burr sighs. “What do you want?” he asks, as if he doesn’t know that Alexander was going to follow him when he walked out.

There’s no amity with it, so Alexander doesn’t offer any, either — he pushes the door open wider and shoves his way in past Burr. Forces himself, because apparently that’s the only thing Burr understands. Create a situation where he has to respond.

He stands in front of the closed door so Burr can’t escape.

“You said I didn’t listen.” Alexander holds out his arms, open. “Well, here I am. Ready to listen.”

For a moment, it seems as though Burr is going to ignore him — he paces, rubbing his face and cursing under his breath — and Alexander is ready to say I was right, but then Burr rounds on him and now he’s talking.

“What was that at supper?” Burr asks, demands. He takes a step forward and Alexander takes a step back — it’s an odd dance.

“You know exactly what it was.” Alexander doesn’t have a response other than that — they both know what they’re playing at. “And I know you wanted it.”

“I do not.”

“If that’s what you want to tell yourself, Burr.”

“Was stomping on your foot not a clear enough indication that I don’t?”

“Oh, the only thing clear to me was your cock outlined in your breeches as you stomped out of the room—”

“Hamilton—”

“You can’t expect me not to notice you,” Alexander says, and it’s his turn to take a step forward, closing the distance; Burr balks, doesn’t budge — he’s just as stubborn as Alexander, or worse. “You can’t expect me not to want you now that I know what it feels like to have your cock against mine and you moaning for more.”

Burr bites his lip. He must be thinking of it, too — was it only this afternoon when that blessed moment occurred? When the thirst for each other was finally appeased, only to bring a new drought?

“I looked at you, once,” Alexander says. “That morning when you were rubbing against my backside, curiosity got the best of me and I peeked under the blanket and oh.” He closes his eyes and swallows, his mouth gone dry at the memory — his ass covered in Burr’s sticky release and Burr’s cock resting against his leg, his glorious, perfect cock. He focuses back on Burr. “Ever since then, I’ve wanted my hands and mouth on your cock. I want to, and I know you want it too—”

“The only thing I want is for you to stop,” Burr says, strained, somewhere halfway between a plea and a curse. He looks at Alexander like he hates him for existing — hates him because he’s there and cannot deny him, that Alexander is an insurmountable desire for him.

But Alexander won’t let him. He tells Burr, “I know you want me. You like kissing me — and who kisses someone they don’t like?”

“It happens all the time,” Burr says. “And I don’t like you.”

“Of course.” Alexander smiles. “And I don’t like you, either.”

Burr frowns.

“However,” Alexander says, “I think you like me sometimes, and I like you sometimes. We can work with that.”

“Hmm.”

“Don’t lie to me, I know you want me, I felt you wanting me—”

And Burr opens his mouth to speak, says, “It’s noth—”

“Don’t you dare say it’s nothing, Aaron Burr.” Alexander touches Burr with a brazen assurance, running his hand up Burr’s arm to rest against his neck, fingers curling around and he swears he feels the thud of Burr’s pulse. “You’re interested. You’ve said as much to Eliza. I could make you feel good. If you think my kisses are good, wait and see — you’ll like my mouth better somewhere else. I’ve been told I’m quite good at it.” He licks his lips, watches Burr follow the trail of his tongue. “I’ve been thinking about your cock, Burr. I bet it’ll fit nicely in my mouth, and leave an ache in my jaw—”

“Alexander,” Burr says, “please—”

“Yes, I could make you beg. I’ll be so good, you’ll never want for another.” He kisses Burr’s jawline, nips with his teeth. Burr gasps in his ear. He laughs. “I’d let you take me — you know how I mean. I’ve thought about you in me. I’m sure you’re much better than my fingers.”

Burr stares at Alexander open mouthed, his eyes hungry — Alexander hopes that his brilliant mind is conjuring up an image: Alexander with a moment of privacy, naked in his bed with two fingers pressing inside him and his other hand stroking his dick, choking on moans because it feels so good.

“Have you thought of it? How a man fucks a man?” Alexander asks, and Burr doesn’t give anything away. Alexander thinks him ignorant of it. “It’s fantastic — entirely different than it is with a woman. Wonderful. Just thinking about it makes me…” He grips himself through his breeches; he’s half-hard, and with the way Burr is hot against him will make him fully there soon. “You’ll like it — you’re virile. Amorous. You drive me fucking crazy — I want you and I’ll do anything to touch you and have you—”

Burr kisses Alexander hard, putting his hands at the back of Alexander’s neck to draw him in. The pair of them stumble back until Alexander is pressed against the door — slammed against the door, really. It knocks the breath out of Alexander, and Burr drinks it up, taking the opportunity of his open mouth to slide his tongue inside. Alexander returns it, kissing wet and desperate — the kind of kiss that leads to something else — and runs his hands down Burr’s back and down his ass, squeezes. Burr grunts, rolls his hips forward and Alexander feels his hardness at his hip and, oh, he’d love to drop to his knees and suck his cock and prove how good he is — it’s been a while but he knows he can do it — but he doesn’t want to stop kissing him either, maybe…maybe….

He pulls away, and Burr chases him, kisses him again.

“Please,” Alexander whispers, his hand going between them. He nibbles Burr’s bottom lip, kisses. “Touch me? Just try it — just for a bit,” he asks, and Burr puts his hand on him and it’s better than he thought it’d be, “Yes! Touch me, just like that—”

“Why do you want me?”

“What?” Alexander is having a — hard — time figuring out words. Burr has his hand on his cock, rubbing him tortuously slow through his breeches and he’s asking questions.

“You want me,” Burr says. A statement, not a question.

Burr.

“Is this what you were going for at supper?”

He’s stroking the length of Alexander’s erection, base to tip, and yes this is exactly what Alexander wanted. But of course Burr is a goddamn tease about it. Alexander shifts, moans. “I had to get your attention.”

He tries to kiss Burr, but Burr turns his head so his mouth lands on the side of his face instead. Alexander huffs, but Burr keeps working him, so he doesn’t complain.

“It’s all about what you want, isn’t it?” Burr asks, leaning in as he rubs his thumb against the head of Alexander’s cock. Alexander shivers, feeling sticky excitement leak out and wet his breeches as Burr continues, “You parade around, rubbing off and begging for it.”

“At least I’m not a coward,” Alexander says. “Unlike you, hiding your want with your whores.”

“Whoring is honest. There’s no hiding my intention for sex, and nobody gets hurt.” Burr speaks low and even, and Alexander has to concentrate to hear — and the fact Aaron Burr is touching his dick through his pants is quite distracting, too.

Burr asks, “But do you tell Eliza that you think of me when you pound her?”

“I never do that,” Alexander says, contemptible — he’s never thought of Burr when he’s with Eliza — how dare he even suggest that his mind could wander when Eliza’s got her mouth on him and that he imagines how Burr’s mouth would feel…

“You can’t have both, not when Eliza and your children are involved,” Burr says — and he’s saying these things but he’s still got his hand on him — and he keeps talking. “You’re doing what you want without thinking of the consequences, and when they happen you refuse to deal with them. It’s always about what you want, Alexander. You never have the courage of your convictions and that’s why I shot you the first time, and I swear I’d do it again.”

“You wouldn’t,” Alexander says, his breath short as Burr grips him tightly. “You didn’t want to the first time.”

“I did. And so did you,” Burr replies. He looks down at where he’s touching Alexander, his hand cupping perfectly over his bulge. “You never apologized for those awful things you’ve said about me—”

“I was drunk when I said those things! And you’ve talked shit about me too, so—”

“—and you didn’t even read my last letter leading up to our duel. You sent it back unopened — you didn’t want to compromise. You wanted to humiliate me in a spectacle—”

“All that doesn’t matter,” Alexander says, and he kisses Burr, rough and biting, and Burr’s hand tightens on his cock and Alexander tries to touch his in return but Burr pins his hand against the wall. Alexander tugs at Burr’s lip with his teeth when he pulls away, and Burr swears. They glare at each other, panting open-mouthed.

“You want me,” Alexander says. “Admit it.”

Burr drops Alexander’s hand, and holds his face instead. Alexander keens and presses against it, says, “Please.”

“I want you,” Burr says — growls. “I think about you constantly. It’s ruined my sleep because I dream about you, and then when I wake you’re there too — I’m always wanting you. I want you so terribly, and I hate that I do because I shouldn’t. Wanting you is a burden. I dream about shooting you and I wake up in a cold sweat thinking you’re dead and I swear my heart stops because I care too much and—” He chokes. “But you don’t care. I’m a pastime for you. Anyone could be touching you and you’d still respond this way.”

“Burr, you’ve got your hand on my dick, of course I’m going to be…ah.” Alexander thunks his head back as Burr starts stroking him harder. He’ll definitely come in his breeches if he keeps on.

“It has nothing to do with me?” Burr asks. “It doesn’t matter than we’ve known each other for decades? Was there ever a time when you genuinely cared for me without — without some other intent?”

“I, mmm… That’s…” Alexander groans, leans against Burr as Burr focuses his touch near the tip, rubbing damp material against him which feels fucking amazing. Sure — it feels good, but it’s Burr doing it and that’s a turn-on, too.

“And when you accepted my challenge, that didn’t have anything to do with me? You’d refuse to apologize and go to Weehawken over anyone?” Burr kisses him. “Is this still a challenge to you?”

“Stop being a fucking idiot,” Alexander says — and thrusts into Burr’s hand, he can’t stop himself. “I care that it’s you—”

“You’re a fucking liar.”

Burr pushes him away, staggers back. Alexander sees he’s hard and his pupils are wide — wanting.

“Why do you want me?” Burr asks, again.

Alexander opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.

“You’ve waited too long to answer,” Burr says. “There’s nothing here between us.”

“But you want me,” Alexander says, and he wants Burr too — so much. He takes Burr’s hand, kisses his palm. It hurts when Burr jerks away.

“I’ve always wanted you,” Burr says. “But the problem is I can’t stand to be in your company long enough to do anything about it.”

Something pangs deep — not heartbreak, but something similar.

Burr waves his hand at Alexander dismissively, and turns away. “Leave me alone.”

Then, Alexander realizes that with all the blood lost from his brain and gone elsewhere, he had forgotten that Burr is more stubborn than him.

“If that’s what you want, sure,” Alexander says. “I’ll leave you alone.”

He opens the door, adjusts his breeches — winces when fabric rubs against his crotch — and looks back to where Burr broods in the middle of the room. When Burr notices Alexander is looking, his expression becomes cruel.

“Good,” Burr says. “Go fuck your wife.”

“Go fuck your whore.”

“They’re better than you.”

“And now you’ll never know for sure,” Alexander says. “You aren’t worth my effort. You’re just a warm body. I don’t need you.”

Burr visibly recoils, like he’s been shot.

So that’s how it feels. Huh.

Alexander goes to his office and bolts the door.

 

* * *

 

“Burr is the most awful man I have ever known,” Alexander says, concluding the synopsis of his and Burr’s most recent disagreement.

“Is that why you came to bed smelling of your own come?” Eliza asks, accusingly.

Alexander blushes, and turns his face into the pillow. After he left Burr and locked himself in his office, he had fumbled with the fastenings of his breeches, and he couldn’t get his hands on his dick fast enough. It took only a few quick strokes to find his release — the argument with Burr had him nearly there.

Mildly embarrassing.

He peeks at Eliza, who’s still there next to him in bed. The candlelight casts a soft orange glow to the room, but doesn’t hide the severity of her expression. She expects an answer — she won’t let him get out of it that easily.

“You don’t understand, Betsey,” Alexander whines, flopping onto his back. He folds his arms across his chest. “Burr is arrogant, conceited—”

“That sounds like someone else I know.”

He frowns. “He’s mean. I was wrong to think anything different.”

“I’ve never heard you call him kind.

He hasn’t? He was certain that he has. Burr could be kind, but to everyone but him. He’s even nicer to his cat than he is to him.

“Well, I won’t ever call him as such.” He pauses, and then adds, “And he called me fat.” Burr was correct, Alexander has gained a little bit of weight in his recent years — he’s softer around the middle — but that happens when you’re older and are physically limited, and everyone can’t be fit like Aaron-fucking-Burr. He knows he’s still attractive; Eliza has always shown appreciation for his curves, and his other features remain stunning. Burr is just being a petty asshole.

Eliza sighs, sliding her hand under the cover and pats Alexander’s stomach at the softest part. He glares at her because it would be cute any other time, but he’s annoyed and she isn’t helping and—

Eliza breaks into laughter — the kind that sneaks up on her and isn’t a dignified lady’s giggle. A loud, chest-heaving laugh that she quickly stifles in Alexander’s shoulder so she doesn’t wake the rest of the house. Alexander rolls his eyes, sighing. He’d be more upset with her if she weren’t so patient as she listened to his problem.

“My poor Hamilton,” she says once she’s able — there’s still a hint of laughter there. She kisses him on his cheek, as though that can make up for it. “You don’t like being rejected, do you?”

Rejected. He hadn’t even thought of it that way. Now he’s even more angry with Burr. He’s never been rejected by a prospective lover.

“This is your fault, you know,” Alexander grumbles.

Eliza raises her brow. “And just how is this my fault?”

Too much. He backtracks before he gets into two arguments in the same evening. “If you had told me to stop this thing with Burr I would’ve, and I wouldn’t be in this situation now.”

“You needed to be told not to seek pleasure with another? I thought our marriage vows would be enough of a reminder.”

He’s getting mixed signals.

“But you encouraged it! I was going to end it but when I confessed — but you said it was okay, you said I could—”

Eliza shushes him by kissing him.

“I know. But even if I had told you to stop, would you?” she questions. “You’ve done it before, when you knew you shouldn’t have.”

Alexander is sick to his stomach with overwhelming guilt — that never really goes away — and he scoots away from Eliza, distancing himself, concentrates on breathing, his exhale smothered against the sheets, and he thinks about how he bought them a new bed after his affair because he couldn’t stop thinking about what he did, but that didn’t work so he had the room rearranged. “I wouldn’t, not again,” he says, voice wavering, and even though Eliza has said she forgives him she hasn’t forgot, and sometimes he thinks that she really hasn’t forgiven him either…

“Look at me, Alexander,” Eliza whispers, touching his shoulder. She doesn’t listen to his explanation (excuses). “Look at me.”

He opens his eyes — when did he squeeze them shut? — and focuses on Eliza.

She isn’t angry.

“I am tired, Alexander,” she says. “It’s taken an entire year for you to make up your mind about what you want, and you’ve been jerking Aaron around for your amusement. And then you complain to me for help to seduce him, but when I do help, you get mad at me when you mess it up with your stellar people skills. I’m frustrated, and I’m done.”

“But Burr won’t speak to me now,” Alexander says. “He wants to talk to me about my feelings. I don’t know how I feel — I don’t care about his feelings…” His voice trails off. “Why does Burr make everything so hard?”

 

“I thought you wanted some things to be hard with him?”

“Eliza!”

“But don’t you?” she asks. “Don’t you want to do nasty boy things with him?” She’s teasing, slipping her hand under his shirt and trailing her fingers over his soft cock. He squirms away — he doesn’t want that now when they’re talking about this. Mood killer.

“Yes, I want that,” Alexander admits, tactful, because saying I want Burr to come in my mouth is a bit obscene. “But I pressured him to admit his…attraction to me, but then he expects me to, like, bare my heart in return.”

“I don’t think it’s a lot of him to ask if you legitimately like him.”

“It’s not like we’re courting. I just know that he makes me…”

“Horny?”

Alexander blushes.

Burr makes him feel all sorts of ways. Aroused, yes. Heat curls in his stomach when Burr’s body is next to his, and his impulse is to reach out and touch. That’s simple. Hedonistic, pleasure-driven. It could be with anybody.

But sensibilities — like how his chest feels light and airy when Burr smiles at him, or how he finds Burr’s occasional clumsiness charming, or how some of the times he enjoys the most is when they quietly work side by side because their company is enough and they don’t need to speak. Anything other than lust is an attachment, something to further tie him to Burr — and he doesn’t think he can cope with that.

“You’ve been pining over Aaron for a year,” Eliza says, “and you say it’s only about sex?”

Alexander coughs. “That’s all I want from him.”

“If that’s how you truly feel, go tell him.”

“He’ll be upset and pout.”

“He might.”

“I don’t want him to be upset.”

“So you do have feelings?”

“I can’t tell him that either,” Alexander says. “He’d be unbearable. And then he’d probably turn me down because — what was it that he said? He can’t stand to be in my company long enough to do anything about it.

“Oh, so that’s what it is?” Eliza asks, “You don’t want to be the only one with these icky feelings.

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Hmm.” Eliza curls around Alexander, resting her head on his chest. “I remember a certain young fellow writing me multiple letters a week, complaining because my letters didn’t elaborate enough to his liking on the topic of how much I fancied him.”

“He sounds like an egotistical idiot,” Alexander mumbles. What’s wrong with wanting reassurance that your feelings are reciprocated? Spending all his free time in the war obsessing over Eliza’s letters and writing and asking for more — there were never enough, no matter how many she wrote him — probably wasn’t the best use of his time. However, he was young and stupid and in love.

He supposes now he’s old and stupid and…in lust.

He’s screwed. But not in the way he’d like—

“Look,” Eliza says, short. “Go and talk to Aaron and don’t come back to bed until you’re settled it. Tell him you like him, tell him you hate him, lay with him, shoot him. I don’t care anymore. Just be quiet about it and don’t wake me or the children because it’s past one in the morning and I am exhausted.”

That would be the sensible thing to do. It’s probably what Burr expects him to do — come begging at his door.

“…I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Alexander.”

“It’s fine. You’re right,” Alexander says. “We should sleep. Didn’t you just say we should sleep? Sleep is good. A fresh start is a set up for success. Cooler heads will prevail in the morning. It’s fine. Burr and I always fight and make up. It’s our thing. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

“It’s your choice.”

“Yes. I love you.” Alexander kisses her, ending the conversation.

“You’re an idiot,” Eliza says, and she rolls away from him, snuffs out the candle. She falls asleep quickly, and unburdened.

Alexander lies awake, staring at the ceiling.

 

* * *

 

The morning does seem brighter. He wakes naturally to the sunrise filtering through the curtain. He shuts his eyes again to float in the memory of sleep.

The space next to him is empty. That isn’t a surprise — Eliza often wakes before him. He takes advantage and stretches out, lulled into snoozing by the scent of Eliza lingering on the sheets and the warmth of a sunbeam.

His rest is short, however, when it’s interrupted by a persistent meow.

He sighs as he swings his legs to the side of the bed, sets both feet on the floor. He dresses for the day, grumbling to himself about Burr’s goddamn cat and goddamn Burr and Burr’s goddamn feelings and—

—he remembers that he’s supposed to be making up with Burr. So. He’ll figure out the conversation as it goes.

He finds Cleo at Burr’s closed bedroom door, crying, and pawing at the small crack underneath. She looks up at Alexander, and meows.

Alexander chuckles. Typical for Burr to be still sulking in bed.

Meow. She rubs her face against Alexander’s foot, purrs. He thinks she’s saying, let me in.

Meow.

He opens the door for her because he can’t say no. He admits she’s cute — cute fluffy tail and cute white paws and cute whiskers. And Burr needs to get his lazy ass out of bed, anyway.

Cleo trots into the room, jumps gracefully onto the bed, which…is empty.

Huh. Burr must’ve gone downstairs already.

But Burr isn’t at the breakfast table, either. He tries to not think much of it — Burr sometimes doesn’t show up when he’s in one of his moods. It could be any other morning. Eliza is busy fussing with the children to eat. He hears Theo and Angie on the porch outside, coming in from their routine morning walk.

However.

When Alexander inquires after Burr, Eliza points to a note on the table addressed Theo.

“That was there when I came downstairs. He must’ve had a rough night,” Eliza says, implying because of you without saying so. “He probably left for work early.”

To get away from you.

Theo and Angie come in, faces pink-tinged from the wind? Laughter? It’s a nice look on his daughter, and he smiles when she comes over and kisses his cheek and takes the seat next to him.

“Your father left you a note, Theo,” Al says, gesturing to the folded paper with his spoon.

Theo takes the paper, sits down and reads it silently. Alexander watches her read it. Her eyes scan it fast and it must say something horrible about him because her expression turns sour, glances up to him, and then back down to read it again.

“Is something wrong?” Eliza asks when Theo’s distress becomes more apparent — her eyes watering and hands clutching the paper.

“He’s gone,” Theo whispers.

“Yes, he left early this morning.”

“No.” Theo shakes her head. “My father has left home — he went to take passage on a ship.”

Alexander exchanges a glance with Eliza.

“He can’t just leave,” Alexander says.

“Well, he has.” Theo’s voice trembles. Angie takes the letter from her, reads it as Theo continues, “He didn’t even say goodbye to me.”

“Where did he go?” Al asks.

“He wasn’t very clear in his letter but—”

Alexander doesn’t hear the rest of what she says — he doesn’t hear her read tell H he won — because he’s already up and walking out of the house.

Burr can’t get out of this that easy.

Everyone follows him out — Eliza tells John to look after the younger ones and hands Rita to James. She catches up to him, walks in pace with him, saying, “Maybe he’ll come back. He probably got to the port and wasn’t mad anymore.”

“Mad about me?”

“Well,” Eliza says. He knows what he’s thinking — if you only talked to him last night, like I told you.

Theo scoffs.

Of course this is about him. Burr is throwing a fit and running away from his problems like he always does. Coward. Alexander can’t wait to call him that to his face, fuck settling their argument and being nice.

They follow him round back, and to the stable. By this time, they must gather that he’s about to do something drastic — Al keeps saying, “Pop,” in that strained, anxious voice he gets, Eliza harshly tugs on his coat, and Theo and Angie stand a few feet away whispering together as they observe.

Thankfully, his horse is already bridled. He gives her a pat and throws the saddle on — and that’s when everyone’s excitement amps up a few notches.

“You’re going to ride?” Eliza asks.

“Yep.” Alexander buckles the harnesses, tightens the straps.

“Why don’t you take the carriage?”

“Not enough time.”

“But you haven’t rode since…,” Al clears his throat. “It’s been a while.”

Ah, yes. Since Burr wrecked his life with a bullet. Even more reason to go after him.

Alexander holds onto the saddle, puts his foot into the stirrup. He holds his other hand out to Al. “I’m going to get on this horse if you help me, or not.”

Al groans, but he offers his hand for him to brace himself on and — he pushes and swings his leg over — Eliza gasps and Al has to shove him a bit — but he makes it, sitting in the saddle high above them, looking down.

He’s vaguely aware of Theo muttering, “Who would’ve thought the old man had so much blood in him?” but Al shushes her. Alexander laughs — it feels good to shock and awe.

Eliza comes up next to him, touches his leg.

“Alexander, what are you planning to do?”

He pulls on the reins — they step back, out of the way — and he directs his horse to step forward.

“I’m going to bring Burr back before he makes another mistake,” he says, and then nudges the horse with his heel and then he’s off — quickly picking up speed as he goes off his property, and down the road to take him through town to the port.

Al had been correct — it’s been a while since he’s rode horseback, but it’s something he couldn’t forget how to do. Like writing, arguing, or lovemaking. The reins chafing in his ungloved hands, wind in his face, the burn in his thighs, the feeling of urgency to get somewhere quick — it’s freeing.

He arrives at the port out of breath and sweating, and after the rush of the ride, he remembers what he came for. Burr.

Slowing down, he sees several passenger ships at dock. He guides his horse to trot forward, and then dismounts — stumbles, his leg going out under him — but he catches himself and walks through the pain. He steps onto the dock, scanning the busy crowd for Burr — he can’t find him. This is mean — he wants Burr to come back, he’s sorry — he doesn’t know what for exactly but he feels like he should say it, and he’d tell Burr this if he would only let himself be found…

He can’t find Burr.

“Burr!” Alexander shouts. People turn around, but none are who he wants, and his heart beats even faster than it did while he was riding — panicked. “Burr! Where the hell are you?”

“Can I help you?”

Alexander whips around. Not Burr. A weathered dockworker stares him down critically. Alexander realizes how he must appear: a deranged man riding up on a horse — which he left to eat leaves from a nearby tree — with wind-tangled hair and fine clothes flecked with mud, and is causing a disturbance.

“Yes. I’m looking for someone,” Alexander says, frantic. “Aaron Burr? He was supposed to board a ship this morning but I don’t know which. I need him — I need to talk to him.”

The dockworker blinks at him.

“Could you possibly check which boat he’s on?” Alexander asks, quickly — time is of the essence. “Burr. Aaron.”

The man sighs and flips through his roster. Alexander tries to look, craning his head, but he moves the board away. He trails his finger down the page, muttering to himself. Alexander swears, and taps his foot.

“Ah,” the dockworker finally says. “Here’s your guy. The ship he boarded left a few hours ago. Just before daybreak.” He shows Alexander the paper, and there’s Burr’s neat signature, and and…

Alexander’s mouth goes dry. “Where’s the ship headed?” Virginia, most likely, or maybe South Carolina…

The dockworker glances down at the roster again. “England.”

And it’s like a canon has gone off next to him — his bones shaken and he’s weak-legged and his ears ring violently — something catches inside and he wheezes but it’s deep, a rattling in his chest that hurts.

He walks away, unsteady — he realizes he didn’t bring his cane with him. He doesn’t know how he could have forgotten. Each step pains him, and without support the ache inside that never subsides twists and forces him to remember…

Ten paces, turning, and there’s Burr — his friend — across from him, and he wouldn’t, he was so sure, and then—

He gets to the railing, dividing the land and sea. He leans over it, catching his breath.

Looks out into the distance. Squints — he doesn’t have his glasses, so he can’t if the blur is from fog or his poor vision or tears, but it doesn’t matter.

He sees nothing but the wide, blue expanse of the ocean.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

Dear Father,  

I would say your sudden departure surprises me, but it does not, given to how reckless your nature is. Here at home (yes, home), you’ve left us baffled and at a loss, and some I dare say — hurt.

And you have left me alone.

 

* * *

 

Hamilton returns several hours after he went off into town on horseback with the mission to bring her father home. Theo’s heart sinks when she sees that her father isn’t accompanying Hamilton on his slow approach back up the drive. For a brief, hopeful moment, she thought that maybe the men could reconcile their differences and accept each other as they are, so they could be truly happy.

However, it is her father and Hamilton that she is talking about.

Hamilton lets out a pained wheeze as Al helps him off his horse. She thinks he’s going to crumple into the dirt but Al catches him, and he steadies himself with a hand on Al’s shoulder. He looks awful, but mostly ashamed — he won’t look at any of them until Eliza comes to his side and makes him focus on her. She touches his face, pushes back his sweaty hair, and asks, “What happened?”

“Burr is gone. He’s gone to England,” Hamilton says, and then he clings to Eliza and buries his face into her shoulder, stifling what sounds like…a sob? Eliza pats his back, but looks up at Theo. It feels sympathetic.

“He’s gone,” Hamilton repeats.

The words are hollow, foreign sounding in Theo’s ears. She can’t parse them together. Her father, gone. Something similar has been said to her before but it was a different kind of gone. Her father is okay. Alive. Just not here.

Theo’s hand finds Angie’s, squeezes.

Hamilton pulls away from Eliza, and takes a step towards Theo. She leans into Angie, unsure.

“I was just too late,” Hamilton says, slow, and he’s speaking to Theo, directly. “I’m sorry. I did everything I could do.”

“You didn’t,” Theo replies, vicious, harsh enough for Hamilton’s sadness to turn into surprise.

Theo knows it’s rude, but her father isn’t here to reprimand her — he left her — so she runs away. She leaves all the Hamiltons on the lawn as she runs up the stairs and through the house that isn’t hers, up to the room that she shares with Angie. She slams the door, lies on the bed, and cries like she hasn’t done since she was a little girl.

 

* * *

 

 

 

 

 You told me that you’d always be there for me. I could have went with you. We are the same, given to fly.

 

* * *

 

Theo loves her father more dearly than anything in the world. He gave her opportunities other women could never have — an education many men envy, the space to have an opinion, and the respect for herself as an equal. He saw that she never went without, especially after her mother died. She remembers when she was eleven years old and her father told her that her mother has passed away. She already knew when he told her, she wasn’t stupid, but she stayed silent and let him talk.

I know how this feels, he had told her, but I swear you’ll never be alone.

He hasn’t broken that promise, yet.

 

* * * 

 

 

 

 

But what will you do without me, Papa? 

 

* * *

 

Her tears dry and the sun rises higher in the sky. The longcase clock chimes downstairs, indicating two hours have passed since she hid herself away. Not much has happened — other than Hamilton having an imaginary row with her father, shouting and slamming doors and cursing his existence.

Like a lover, scorned.

Theo almost feels bad for him.

She knows Hamilton is the reason why her father found it necessary to leave. The night previous, he took her aside to explain the elevated tension between him and Hamilton — that Hamilton kissed him and wanted more.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” Theo had asked, hushed. Her opinion of Hamilton is well-known to her father — unfavorable — but if he makes her father happy, then so be it.

But judging by her father’s frantic state, she didn’t think that Hamilton made him happy. He shook his head, then nodded, and then shrugged. “It’s complicated,” he said.

“It’s always complicated,” she replied.

She had the feeling that he was keeping something from her, but she had figured that he would tell her when he was ready — secrecy is never spared between them.

And now he’s gone.

Eventually, someone comes into the room. Theo closes her eyes and pretends to sleep. Whoever it is will only try to make her feel better and she doesn’t want to feel better — she wants to yell and kick things and cry.

The mattress dips with the weight of someone sitting on the edge.

“Theo.” It’s Al. Sweet, wonderful Al. “I know you’re awake.”

Theo grumbles. “I’m not.”

Al laughs. “My mistake,” he says. “If you were awake, I had something for you.”

She feels something tickling her arm. Paper. She opens her eyes and sees Al running an envelope against her. Focusing, she sees written on the front: Theo.

She sits up and snatches it from Al, rips it open.

“It was just delivered,” Al says, but Theo doesn’t hear him, because she has her father’s words in her hands—

 

 

 

 

Theo,  

By the time you read this, I will be on my way towards another place for an unknown amount of time. I am sorry for leaving you, my dearest — I would not do so unless I had no other choice. I hope that this letter that I’m posting from town will make up for the meager one you found this morning at breakfast. The things I write you in this letter I could not say in my first, for this I know will only be seen by you.

Forgive your father for his mistakes. I make so many, and will continue to do so.

I’m sure you’ve hazarded a guess why I had to leave; you’re a clever lady. So, let us not speak of him, or the confusion that plagues me. I would not — could not — let things become nonnegotiable between us again. Distance and time apart will reveal how things truly are, without the cloud of…distraction to lead me astray, or muddle my feelings.  

I took the first ship departing. It appears fate wants me in England. I’ve always wanted to see who we revolted against.  

If you send a letter by a cargo ship, it will be waiting for me when I arrive. It will be nice to have something from you after my long journey. I will check the post when I make landfall. Hopefully, I will not be disappointed (and if I am, I will assume that your letter was lost).

I’ll see you soon.

 

She doesn’t realize she’s crying until Al rubs his thumb across her cheek, wiping her tear away.

“I’m fine,” she says, softly. She sounds childish to herself, moody. Defensive, making it clear that she’s not fine, and she won’t blame Al for leaving her alone, too.

But Al smiles — his grin crooked — and hands her his handkerchief. “Sure,” he says. “You’re the boss.”

She wipes her face, grateful for his kindness.

 

* * *

 

How dare you ask so much of me—? Asking me for words of comfort when you deserve admonishment. I know that you didn’t tell me of your plan to abscond because you knew that I would stop you. You would be correct.

 

* * *

 

Theo suspects that Hamilton doesn’t like her. It’s just as well because she doesn’t like him. She wonders if he sees her as a proxy for his anger towards her father — if a Burr is a Burr to him. She has her father’s eyes and his wit and his disposition for quiet when upset.

She decides to ignore Hamilton and his attention-seeking behavior — she knows better than her father, who gives into him too easily. That’s one of her father’s greatest downfalls — begrudgingly lenient of those he’s fond of. But she has no such feelings for Hamilton, so she doesn’t care about Hamilton’s feelings.

She reconsiders it that evening after dinner — wherein Hamilton had been absent — when she goes into the library and finds Hamilton on the floor in a rather undignified fashion — flat on his stomach, and one arm reaching under the sofa.

“Come here, you stupid cat,” Hamilton says as he feels around with his arm, jerking his hand back when there’s the subsequent hiss. “Ow, you scratched me, you fluffy monster.”

“She’s a good cat,” Theo says, laughing, and Hamilton quickly turns to look at her. She covers his mouth to hide her laughter, but she can’t help it — it’s so funny. He scowls at her, and goes back to looking under the sofa.

“This cat is definitely a Burr,” Hamilton mutters. “Bad temperament, and takes delight in the pain of others.”

“Then why do you bother with her?”

“Because,” Hamilton begins, wincing when Cleo scratches his hand again, “because she’s going to starve to death and when your father comes back he will kill me for real and he’ll hate me, but if I could feed his damn cat maybe he’ll like me again.”

It’s nonsense, and Theo gets the feeling that he’s only saying it to her because she’s there, but he looks so broken as he tries to reason with himself some way to bring her father back and fix everything, that she can’t help but feel sorry for him. He’s the person — man — that her father has affection for, and well. There must be something worthwhile to Hamilton.

Theo sighs, walks over, and sits on her knees next to him.

“She’ll be fine,” Theo says. “She’ll come out when she’s ready. I think you’re just scaring her.”

Like you frightened my father into leaving.

Hamilton looks at her, blinks. Then, as though he realizes how ridiculous he must appear, he uses the sofa to push himself up to a standing position. It’s difficult for him — his side causing him pain as he gets off the floor — but Theo doesn’t offer to help. She watches Hamilton as he struggles, getting on one leg and then the next, then standing at his full height.

He brushes off his clothes, clears his throat, and then offers a hand out to Theo. She figures she’s been rude enough so she takes it, and then thanks him when she’s face to face to him. He nods, like no problem, and then silence lingers between them. She feels as though she ought to say something, but that would be just for Hamilton’s benefit, so she does not.

Theo notices how weathered the man is — his eyes red, skin splotchy, hair tangled like he’s been running his hands through it. Miserable.

“I didn’t think he’d leave…” Hamilton’s voice trails off, creaks. “I didn’t know how much his absence would affect me.”

So he does care.

Why he’s admitting it to her, she doesn’t know. Maybe because there’s nobody else who knows the nature of their relationship. Perhaps to make her feel sorry for him and get her on his side. But all it accomplishes is making her angrier. She won’t pander to his sadness when it’s his fault that he forced her father away, and she won’t help mend their problems when she knows that her father is better off without him.

“Perhaps,” Theo says, “you should’ve been nicer to him.”

And then she hurries from the room before Hamilton can say anything in return — she thinks he would either argue or cry, and she wouldn’t be able to handle either.

 

* * * 

 

I almost feel bad for H. He sulks around the house, guilty, verbally attacking anyone who has the nerve to speak to him. Then he retreats to his office making a show of slamming his door, only to come out an hour later and apologize, and whinge until someone tells him that it’ll be okay.

You’ve done a number on him, Papa.  

I have no sympathy for the man. Or you, for that matter.

 

* * *

 

Before Theo goes to bed, she passes the library. The door is ajar, so she peeks inside.

It’s dim, but she can make out Hamilton sitting in a high-backed chair, watching Cleo lap milk from a dish at his feet. He looks more content than he’s been all day.

She leaves without him noticing her.

 

* * * 

 

However, I am mindful to know that my opinion of H is biased. Not everything about him is terrible. He tries to be a good man, and I believe that he thinks that his intentions are sincere. But that is the setback — what he thinks isn’t always true.

 

* * *

 

Angie is already in their shared bed when Theo goes to their room. Angie is awake, reading by candlelight, but when she sees Theo she marks her place in the book and sets it aside. “Hey.”

“Hey, yourself,” Theo says, with a smile — and what a relief Angie Hamilton is. Someone who makes her smile when everything is lost, someone who will always be there for her. Her best friend, her…

Angie watches as Theo changes out of her dress and uncomfortable underthings and into her silky nightgown. Angie lifts the blanket for Theo to join her, and Theo crawls into bed and presses close to her, kisses her cheek.

“My Theo,” Angie whispers, turning her head to kiss her on the mouth. Theo sighs into it, bringing her hand up to cup Angie’s face.

When she pulls away, Angie’s eyes are wet with tears.

“You won’t leave me, will you?” Angie asks, whispered on an exhale — like she’s afraid and—

It breaks Theo’s heart. She thinks that if her father liked Hamilton as she likes Angie, then he wouldn’t have left — because she could not imagine leaving her, ever.

“Never,” Theo promises.

 

* * * 

 

Do not worry about me. I know you wouldn’t have left me in a situation that would be unfavorable. The Hamiltons are kind to me. They welcome me as though I am one of their own — as they have done during our stay at the Grange. I am still an outsider, but Al and Angie make sure that I do not feel neglected or unwanted.

 

* * *

 

“I think your father hates me,” Theo says.

She knows that Hamilton doesn’t truly hate her — his hatred is saved for people like Thomas Jefferson, or for things like a blizzard too late in winter — but she says it so she can be reassured that he doesn’t. She doesn’t know why it bothers her so much, because she doesn’t particularly like the man. She must admit that he has some good qualities — he’s funny, he’s a good father, he’s wicked smart, and he’s generous with pouring wine — but that doesn’t excuse his less favorable traits. Such as: he can be extremely curt when he doesn’t want to speak with you.

He hasn’t spoken to her since the incident in the library. Often, they would go days without exchanging anything more than the customary, “good morning,” but now he’s outright avoiding her.

“He doesn’t hate you,” Al says. “I think…he just doesn’t know what to say to you.” Angie nods in agreement, supporting her brother.

She’s known that. She imagines that Hamilton wishes she weren’t there at all, because then it would be easier to pretend that her father was never there.

“I don’t know what to say to him, either.” Theo bites her lip. “I’m not my father’s keeper. I can’t explain…whatever it is that’s happened.”

The three of them — herself, Al, and Angie — are sitting on the back lawn on a blanket spread on the ground, under the shade of an old oak tree. It’s their hideaway spot, taking advantage of having time away from everyone else so they can speak freely. It’s relaxing. Al sits cross-legged on one side, and Angie on the other, looking radiant in her buttercup-yellow dress that’s falling slightly off one shoulder.

To the best of her knowledge, the Hamilton children do not know about the liaisons between their fathers — just that a vague something has happened, which could be anything. They think nothing of the tension because it’s always been there. Theo doesn’t intend to tell them anything different.

Pollen falls from the tree, lands in Al’s hair. Theo reaches forward and picks it from his springy curls, flicking it away.

“It’ll be fine,” Al says, but even his usual optimism sounds strained. “Your father will come home when he’s had time to think it over. He and my Pop have had worse arguments.”

It’s not all that reassuring. So, it could get worse.

But is bloodshed worse than a broken heart?

Angie must sense her melancholy because she nudges her shoulder with hers playfully.

“Don’t worry,” Angie says. “I’m sure your father will have a lot of fun traveling.” She pauses. “Like Philip is.”

That always hurts. It turns a crisp spring air cold and a conversation quiet. Philip, the dead brother. The truth too terrible for Angie to accept. Theo understands the fantasy. After her mother passed, she often mused what it would be like if she were still alive. If she squeezed her eyes shut, she could feel the warm press of her lips to her forehead, like she used to do before she was too ill to wake her up in the morning, and she’d think of all the things she would do with her mother — but she quickly gave up those fantasies as they upset her father.

Theo can’t imagine what it feels like for Al, for it to be continually brought up like this. He’s blinking rapidly, and his jaw is clenched tight. He doesn’t say anything to contradict the perfect world where his oldest brother is off having adventures, because then at least, he exists.

It’s unfair. Enabling it is just as bad as Angie’s delusion, Theo thinks — but she has no right to say. She’s just her...

Whether or not she knows she’s the reason for the silence, Angie ends it. She says, “Pop must like your father, really. He doesn’t…linger on too many people like he does with him.”

Obsess, more like, Theo thinks.

Al nods. “It’s all about Aaron Burr. He calls him a coward,” he says, giving Theo an apologetic look before continuing, “but then he goes on to gush about how skilled Burr is at this-and-that.”

Theo scoffs. “Does he still think it’s shameful for you to be sweethearts with a coward’s daughter?”

A scarlet blush spreads across Al’s cheeks, accentuating his freckles. “He might have warned me that Burrs — how did he say it? Will leave you the moment their icicle heart feels any compassion.” Al shrugs. “He didn’t say not to date you.”

“But we aren’t,” Theo says.

“Correct,” Al agrees. “Although, he never believes me when I tell him.” He makes revolted face, scrunching his nose. “And then he tries to give me advice on how to—”

“That’s quite enough.”

Al lets out a sigh of relief.

Somehow, both of their families think that Al and she would make a good pair — despite how much their fathers object to the idea of it. There might have been a chance with them if things were different, but things aren’t different…

Al was cute and funny and Theo had been flattered that he was clearly enamored with her. He liked her for her more notable qualities — namely, her wit. She never thought she’d have anything serious with him, especially with someone with the name Alexander Hamilton (“That’s my Pop,” he had told her when they were alone, the first time, “call me Al.”), but then she kissed him and he trembled like a leaf and stammered apologies—

“Do you want to kiss me, Al?” Theo had asked, quietly.

He nodded, then shook his head. “It’s not because you aren’t attractive—”

“I know I’m attractive.”

Al let out a sound akin to a wheeze. “It’s just that…this feels odd. I think you’re wonderful and I really really like spending time with you, but…” And then there was an inaudible muttering, him looking to his lap where he fiddled with the cuff of his sleeve.

“What?” Theo asked.

“It’s not like my brother said it’d feel like,” Al repeated, still not looking at her.

Theo lowered her voice. “Do you want to kiss boys, Al?”

His eyes shot up to hers. “No! I, uh.” He bit his lip, blushed. “I’ve already thought of that, too. I don’t want that either.”

He was gorgeous, but more importantly, honest. Theo was almost sorry that he wasn’t interested in her.

“But I have to do this, don’t I?” Al asked. “With someone?”

Theo shrugged. “Says who?”

He stared at her dumbfounded, as if he couldn’t believe she could question such things. His eyes lit up as he considered the possibility — that he could do what he wanted without the burden of family honor and expectations — but then his expression fell.

“I’m strange,” he said, but Theo took his hand, kissed his knuckles. That, he seemed to be agreeable to — he hummed and inclined his head towards hers.

“I’m strange, too,” Theo said. “We’ll make perfect friends.”

And three weeks later when he walked in on Theo and Angie kissing in the library, he was delighted. He wasn’t alone, and they formed a mutually beneficial triad to cover the truth from their families.

Angie sighs dramatically, bringing Theo back to the present.

“I feel like we’re letting down our families,” Angie says, almost pensive.

Al flinches.

“I think our fathers are the ones letting down our families,” Theo says, wry. The others laugh — they cannot disagree.

“Besides,” Angie says. “Philip will marry soon.”

Al presses his face to Theo’s shoulder, and lets out a shaky exhale.

 

* * * 

  

 

I shall be fine on my own.

 

* * *

 

With only the light of the waxing-crescent moon filtering into their room, Angie shudders with Theo’s head between her legs.

Angie’s hands find themselves in Theo’s hair, fingers curling in short curls, tugging when Theo noses against her warm sex. Theo loves this, having Angie spread before her and licking and rubbing until Angie has to cover her mouth to keep from alerting everyone in the house to what they’re doing.

They came upon this experimentally — a touch here, and touch there, finding out what feels good and what feels great. Theo had read some literature that’s erotic in nature, but that was catered to men and didn’t give many clues on how to pleasure a woman, and she certainly couldn’t ask her father what he did to make his whores happy, so—

Research.

It’s coming along nicely.

Theo slides in a finger, licks around it, and Angie lets out a whimper and her thighs tremble and Theo licks again, at that hidden sensitive spot, and then Angie comes, a cry muffled around where she’s biting her hand and Theo pulls back to kiss her mound as she rubs her clit with her thumb. She keeps the pressure through Angie’s peak, steady, and she gets what she wants — another rush, Angie clenching down wet on her finger and breathes out, “Theo.”

Theo kisses her as she crawls up next to her, kissing her stomach, nipples, throat. “Beautiful,” Theo says, placing kisses all over, and Angie giggles. Theo lies next to her, their sweaty skin sticking to each other. She kisses Angie with damp lips, flushing when Angie parts her mouth to taste herself on her.

“Beautiful,” Theo says again, because Angie is — always is. The best person she’s ever known.

Angie playfully hits Theo, turns on her side so their legs tangle together. She runs a hand up Theo’s body, lazy. They’ve both been brought off many times with hands and mouths but the quiet after is enjoyable too — where they hold each other close and fall asleep talking.

Tonight, Angie is quiet. Theo doesn’t think much of it — it’s been a long day — and she doesn’t pry. She’s just about fallen asleep when Angie shifts next to her.

“Theo?”

“Hmm?”

“You always tell me the truth, right?”

Theo is wide awake, now. “Of course.” She can only make out the silhouette of Angie’s features. “Why?”

Angie hesitates, and then asks, “Did your father leave because of us?” Her breath hitches. “Did he know…that we…?”

Theo finds Angie’s hand and twines her fingers with hers. “He doesn’t know,” Theo says — one thing she has kept from her father, due to Angie’s wishes. “But he wouldn’t think of us any differently, if he did know.”

She doesn’t have to see Angie’s expression to know she isn’t convinced.

“Then why did he leave?” Angie asks. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“You know. You read the letter.”

Angie groans. “You’re keeping something from me, I know it,” she says. She moves closer to Theo, kisses her. “You promised to tell me the truth.”

“Angie…”

Theo.

It’s useless — Angie is a Hamilton, and will argue until her point is won.

“You can’t tell anyone,” Theo says, hushed.

“Not even Al?”

“Not even Al.”

Angie quiets, waiting for Theo to explain. Theo takes a deep breath, thinking how to make it concise and sensible…

“Our fathers,” Theo begins, “they’re like us.”

There. She’s said the damned thing out loud. Frankly, she’s relieved to speak of it with another. She just hopes that she won’t have to be more explicit…

“I don’t understand,” Angie says after a long, quiet moment. “How are they like us?”

Theo sighs.

“Like this,” Theo says, and she slides her hand between their bodies, touches Angie where she’s sensitive. Angie gasps as Theo continues, “They are attracted to each other.” She brings her hand up, touches her shoulder. “Intimately.”

She feels Angie shake her head against her. “That’s ridiculous.”

“Anymore ridiculous than us?”

“But — but my Pop wouldn’t. He wouldn’t cheat on Mother again—”

“He hasn’t,” Theo says. “He and my father aren’t lovers. They just — ache for each other. And from what my father has told me, your mother knows of it.”

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not.”

“Then why wouldn’t my father tell me?” Angie says, and she sounds like she’s near tears. Distressed. “Why wouldn’t he let me know, so I wouldn’t — so I wouldn’t think I was the only one who—?” A sob. “He never talks to me, anymore.”

Theo pulls Angie close, wrapping her arms around her thin body. She comforts her lover, rubbing her back and whispering, I know, because there is nothing else to be said.

 

* * *

 

 

I will look after H, for I know you cannot help but worry over him — even if you don’t say so. However, I cannot promise that I will be able to keep him out of trouble.

 

* * *

 

Theo tries to see the Hamilton as others do — the kind father, the brilliant scholar, the interesting friend — but he remains a disappointment.

Especially when she catches him riffling through the drawer next to her bed.

She’s not surprised. He’s a sneak — her father has admitted to that much. She watches him, amused, as he’s bent over thumbing through papers and belongings as he mutters to himself. He seems to be looking for something specific — she hopes so, because it’s quite unusual for a grown man to be looking through her things just because. She keeps watching him until he says, “Yes,” and holds out a well-worn letter that Theo recognizes immediately, and starts to scan it.

She slams the door, making her presence known.

Hamilton stands bolt upright, tugs on his waistcoat, trying to appear blameless. He cannot, however, with the evidence in his hands. A sheepish grin forms on his face as he sees her flit her eyes down to it.

Theo raises her brow at him. “Really?”

He huffs, as if he were the one having his privacy invaded. He holds out the letter — the one her father sent for her only. “He is talking about me!”

Theo walks across the room, closing the space between them, and snatches the letter from his hand. “Not everything is about you,” she says, putting the letter safely in the drawer, and arranges her things back to their proper place. She turns on her heel to glare at him. “I know that’s difficult for you to understand.”

Hamilton stares at her for a long second before frowning. “You are just like your father.”

“Thank you,” Theo says, knowing he didn’t mean it as a compliment. She crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Is there anything else I can help you with, mister Hamilton?”

Hamilton taps his cane on the floor, purses his lips.

“He left me,” he says, and again Theo wonders why he is talking to her about this. She isn’t his confidant, and he doesn’t even like her. But he continues, repeating, “He left me,” like he’s wanting her to explain it in a way that wouldn’t injure him.

“We had plans,” Hamilton says, his voice becoming more hysterical. “We were to have my campaign for presidency, and—”

“You truly believed that would have succeeded?” Theo asks, skeptical.

Hamilton shrugs. “Stranger things have happened.”

“Is that the only reason why you are sad to see him go? For your own advancement in government?” Theo asks. Hamilton doesn’t immediately answer, and Theo lightly laughs. “Papa was right about you. You’re selfish, only care about yourself—”

“You’re wrong.” Hamilton is neurotic — shifting on his feet, his hands shaking, twitchy. “I like Burr—”

“If you did, you’d know that you hurt him.”

“He hurt me first. Literally.

“You deserved to get shot,” Theo says, then respectfully adding, “Sir.”

“Well!”

“You act as though you’re the only one affected by this.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know what it’s like to feel—”

Theo is angry — she’s tired of everyone’s suffocating feelings and hers getting lost in the mix because she’s tenacious — everyone’s support. “You don’t know anything about me, or how I feel for another—”

Hamilton huffs, looking like he’d rather be anywhere than with her. “I know you are interested in my son, but—”

“Actually, it’s your daughter who I’m in love with.”

It resonates between them — Hamilton’s eyes widening and he’s actually rendered speechless, and Theo — she giggles, brightly. “I love Angie. We’re lovers.”

It’s the first time she’s said it. She loves her. She loves her, and she’s pretty sure she loves her in return. All the poetry Theo has read — now she understands. She loves that Angie is the first thing she sees in the morning and that she goes to sleep at night with her at her side. She loves how Angie thinks of her, doing things like pressing flowers because Theo mentioned in passing she thought they were pretty and Angie wanted a pretty girl to have something pretty forever. She loves Angie’s beauty, her love for ephemera to keep things important to her. She loves listening to Angie teach her parakeets to sing, whistling songs that stay in her head. She loves how Angie takes her hand and says very very seriously you’re the first person who sees me truly and doesn’t look at me like I’m a tragedy.

Theo bites down on a smile, it growing when she sees how faint Hamilton looks. He clears his throat, “Um,” and then sits on the edge of the bed. She worries for him — it looks as though his world has been shaken — and she touches his shoulder and asks, “Are you okay?” He nods.

“When did it start?” he asks when he can speak. Not how or why or an accusatory what — Theo figures that out of anybody who she could tell, he’d understand what it means to like someone who is the same.

“About ten months ago,” Theo says. “After we moved in, Angie and I got close and then conversation over tea turned into more and…” She breaks off, grinning. She can’t stop smiling.

He swears. “How couldn’t I have noticed? I mean, I’m…” He waves his hand around as if to indicate his non-typical sexual preferences.

“You’ve been rather occupied.” She doesn’t mention that they’ve taken extreme caution so nobody else would know. Long walks alone in the garden, making out under the tall oak tree, touching each other under the blankets after everyone else is asleep. Shared glances that wouldn’t mean anything unless you knew.

Hamilton stares, far off. Theo has a flash of panic, that maybe he’s upset and now he’s going to send Angie away, and maybe send her away too since her father isn’t here to save her. She’s about to call Hamilton out on his hypocrisy because if he thinks she’s a miscreant, then he’s one too, but then he looks up and he—

And he looks lost.

“They were right,” Hamilton says. “I do ignore things when it’s not directly about me.”

Theo snorts. That’s the first time he’s realized this? Right now it isn’t about him and he’s having a personal crisis. “You don’t even realize when you’re making things about yourself, do you?” she asks. “Here’s an example, for instance.”

He glares at her. Theo quietly apologizes, “Sorry if I’ve ruined the moment — or whatever.”

Hamilton sighs. “I’m the worst.”

“Oh, you aren’t that bad,” and Theo could kick herself for going back on her word and comforting Hamilton. But — he’s by no means the worst and he does try, at times. She sits next to Hamilton and pats his hand. “I guess you’re alright.”

“I am?”

Theo nods. “And we meant our relationship to be a secret.”

“Of course.” Reassured, Hamilton’s mouth turns up into a smile. “Angie has seemed happier lately. I knew it was because she was spending time with you, but I didn’t know it was because, ah. Well. You know.”

He blushes, his cheeks going pink, just like Al does when embarrassed.

“I’m happier, too,” Theo says, and suddenly Hamilton feels more approachable, now that he knows. He seems genuinely happy for her — his smile is wide and warm.

“Who else knows?” Hamilton asks.

“Just Al. He helps cover for us.” It’s not quite a lie.

“So your father doesn’t know?”

Theo shakes her head. “Please don’t tell him, I want to when we’re ready.”

Hamilton holds his hands out. “How am I going to tell him? He’s on a boat.”

Please.”

“Okay, okay.”

“And don’t tell anybody else, either.”

“I won’t.” Hamilton smirks at her. “You’re alright. I like that you’re bold.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good thing, coming from you,” Theo says. But something eases inside her, knowing that Hamilton doesn’t hate her. Theo believes that he’ll keep his word — he has his own secrets, after all.

Hamilton responds with a short laugh, and then stands, using his cane for support. She thinks the conversation is over until he stops at the door and looks over his shoulder.

“If you write to Burr, tell him…,” Hamilton says, his voice wavering. “Tell him…”

What of all the things Alexander Hamilton has to say, what does he say when it counts most?

…but Hamilton walks away, saying nothing.

 

* * *

 

 

 H says he misses you, and thinks about you everyday.

 

* * *

  

 

I cannot think about how much I miss you, for I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else.

Chapter Text

Aaron wakes up on the floor.

He lies there for a moment, his heartbeat still rapid from a dream forgotten, tangled in his ratty blanket, face pressed against dank wood. His entire world lurches, going unsteady. Perhaps he is still in a dream? It’s almost peaceful, if he shuts his eyes. But no — there are distant shouts and he comes to, blinking awake as he remembers where he is—

Ship. Two weeks out on the Atlantic. Alone.

He groans as he stands, stumbling as the ship pitches over another wave. He reminds himself that it could be worse — things could always always be worse — but not by much, his pessimism interjects. The other passengers are unfriendly to him, the bread is moldy, and he’s tossed from his cot on the regular — he suspects the room is built on a slope.

But he reminds himself that this was his choice. He left.

He gets back into bed and stays awake until the waves calm, thinking of all the ways it could be worse.

 

* * *

 

By some miracle, he’s in his bed and not on the floor in the morning. He takes that as a sign and aims to have a better day than the previous (and the one before that, and the one before that…), but by the time he dresses and goes down to the galley, breakfast is gone except for the moldy bread. So, the day is already horrible.

He seems to always be too late.

He skips the bread and settles for coffee. It’s lukewarm and in a chipped mug, but it’s strong and bitter and just what he needs, waking him up when he had been thinking about going back to his cabin and napping.

Instead of giving into brooding, he tries again to make it a good day. He goes up to the deck, where he spends the majority of his time when not holed away in his room. Everywhere else is too crowded, with too many people asking questions he doesn’t want to answer or doesn’t have the answer to.

(Who are you? Where are you from? Where are you going? Are you traveling alone? Why are you alone? Do you want to be alone?)

The deck is blessedly empty. Aaron doesn’t think he’ll ever tire of the view — all open air and ocean and nothing else except the line where the sky and ocean meet. A change in the shades of blue is the only thing to distinguish one from the other.

That’s what’s out there, and here…

He walks to the railing and leans over, looks down. The water on the surface is crystal clear but underneath it is dark and unknowingly deep. There’s something about it, empty yet consuming at the same time, with a call to come closer. Peaceful.

It would be easy to go overboard — just a push with his feet and hands letting go of the railing — and he’d fall into that nothingness and nobody would know, except for Theo when she’d start to worry when months pass without word from him. But even then she wouldn’t know what he did. He’d be lost.

He steps back and sits on the observation bench that’s a good distance away.

That isn’t the plan…

He watches an indiscriminate point of water slip further and further away until he loses sight of it.

Time and distance are absent on the ocean. There’s nothing but the stars to track the journey — and the sky has always been foreign to him — and time is irrelevant when it isn’t a fixed point. He feels the shift of time as they travel further east, the sunset coming sooner each day. It’s isolating.

Out here, he thinks of his sister. When they were children, he had wished that the two of them could get on a ship like this and escape to…anywhere but where they were. He almost succeeded, once, but his uncle dragged him off and he got a beating for it — but it was worth the try.

Eventually he had escaped to college and Sally escaped, too. She married the first man who showed her any attention and was nice to her and then she moved away, and then died from something she was never forthcoming about. Or maybe she didn’t know. They didn’t really stay in contact when they moved away from home. He turned out okay, so he figured she did, too. Their uncle didn’t hit her as much as he did to him, but there a lot of things she didn’t tell him, as older sisters protect their little brothers, so—

He’s grateful for his solitude. It’s something very different than loneliness. His thoughts roam, then escape, going somewhere out in the sea. Like feathers, blowing away in the breeze, landing in the water and floating away until they get too heavy and drown.

Aaron likes being by himself. He doesn’t care for the company of the strangers on the ship just because they’re there, and he doesn’t want conversation when all he wants is to be left alone. Can’t they see he’s occupied?

However, some time around noon — or so Burr guesses, based on the height of the sun in the sky — a fellow traveller no older than twenty-five with crisp trousers and his jacket slung over his shoulder flops in the seat next to Aaron and asks, “Travelling for business or pleasure?”

“Business,” Aaron growls, “so leave me to it, and find your own.” The guy gets the message and leaves, leaving Aaron alone—

Business, Aaron thinks, because pleasure makes him think of Hamilton and he had been doing a really great job not thinking of him so far — he left and didn’t look back — but now he can’t stop thinking about Hamilton’s dark eyes or clever smile or the curve of his hips or the feeling of his lips against his…

He reaches into his pocket and takes out his pocket watch, checking the time even though he knows it’ll read seven-past-three — he stopped bothering to wind it two days into his journey when time became irrelevant, when he stopped caring. The only reason he continues to carry it around instead of shoving it in his suitcase is because the Hamiltons gave it to him and he likes that reminder every time he feels it heavy in his pocket, because he has been thinking of Alexander — and Eliza, too. He curses his treacherous mind, he doesn’t want to think of them, he doesn’t want to think of what he is missing and how he probably hurt them, and he doesn’t want to think of them together, and…

The time on the watch still reads the same as before. Unmoving. It is measuring them on pause — or when they ended.

 

* * *

 

And that’s how it goes for the rest of the trip. It’s either that or throw himself overboard, but he thinks a worse punishment is to suffer through the burdens of his mistakes. He lets his hair grow out into a short fuzz because he’s too despondent for the upkeep (but shaves his face because a mustache looks terrible on him), and he eats one meal a day. When he’s not on the deck, he stays in his cabin, writing in his journal, smoking, and masturbating to nothing in particular — definitely not to the fantasy of a raven-haired smart-mouthed immigrant — because the only woman on board would rather the company of her husband.

Aaron keeps himself entertained during the voyage, and a few days past a month of travelling at sea, they make landfall just after sunrise. Disembarking is surprisingly simple. He was born within the King’s allegiance and his parents were British subjects, so he’s admitted into the country without resistance.

As he walks away with his papers in his hands, he finds himself a little disappointed there wasn’t an issue, that when he gave his name he wasn’t told you have to go back.

But instead he idly wanders London streets. He doesn’t get far, fatigued by carrying his trunk with him, so he finds a bench and sits, observing the scene around him.

The city is reminiscent of New York but not quite; the buildings are closer together — like they’re running out of space to put them, the weather is dreary but everyone strolls around which indicates it’s normal, and the air feels…grimy.

No wonder England wanted America for themselves.

It’s some time later — he doesn’t know how long, his watch still no more than a souvenir of what was — when a carriage stops in front of him.

“You going somewhere?” the driver asks.

“Yes,” Aaron says. There’s always a destination.

“Where to?”

“I don’t know,” Aaron says, and it’s as though for the first time he realizes he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what he’s doing and he doesn’t know if it was a good decision, but it’s too late for that. He doesn’t have a plan where to stay or who to visit because he didn’t expect to get this far — he knows of a few people in London but he didn’t send word beforehand and he doubts they’d give him lodging, thinking he’d be too much of a liability to have around.

The driver stares at him blankly, like he thinks Aaron is too stupid to live and should rot in the street. Because honestly, who impulsively travels across the ocean on a self-imposed exile?

And he thinks, it sounds like something Hamilton would do. But Hamilton didn’t, Aaron is the one who left — he left Hamilton behind.

The driver clears his throat and the horse shifts, both impatient.

“Could you direct me to an inn that’s affordable for long-term stay and where I’ll be left alone,” Aaron asks, adding, “but is not too ill-repute.”

The driver thinks for a moment. “How about medium-repute?”

“Perfect.” Aaron shoves his trunk onto the carriage, as the driver makes no effort to help, and then he pulls himself up the seat.

The start of an adventure, Aaron thinks.

 

* * *

 

Medium-repute is the best way to describe the inn. The driver leaves (with no more than a good luck) and Aaron takes in the shabby surroundings — faded brick, dirty windows, rusty hinges, vines growing up the wall, trash on the ground — he might have thought it was dilapidated if he passed it by on his own. His intrepidity isn’t as he had believed and he’s ready find somewhere else to stay, but then the name of the inn catches his eye—

The Wayward.

He laughs. He’s definitely staying here.

The interior is slightly better than the exterior. Dark wooden floors, covered with a well-worn rug in the middle of the room. Tables and clusters of chairs by the windows. A small bar. An inviting fireplace. Only a mild smell of mildew. He’s certainly stayed in worse places, but there’s something about the feel of it… Off.

There are a few other wayward patrons in the main room — a weathered old man by the fireplace drinking something out a mug, two young women playing cards at a table, a rotund guy reading the newspaper, a woman near his own age wrapped in a frayed shawl — but they hardly give him more than a glance before going back to their own business. That’s exactly what Aaron had been wanting. Discretion. He wonders what hardships of life led these souls here to this place. He feels their misery resonate with his, a suffering that only those afflicted with it can recognize, and he wonders if they can feel his, too. Perhaps this is some kind of purgatory for those who have outlived their usefulness…

Aaron checks in, giving the surname Edwards, furthering himself from his identity — he came all this way to escape, so Aaron Burr doesn’t exist, not here — and as an anti-homage to his grandfather. He’s given a key and a towel and no questions are asked.

“Supper is included with the daily rate,” the innkeeper says. “Other meals and drink will cost you extra.”

“Sure,” Aaron says.

The innkeeper looks over his thick spectacles. “Don’t expect the food to be appetizing. This isn’t some fancy place.”

“Noted.” Aaron doesn’t want to talk and he doesn’t care about food, he wants to go upstairs and sleep for a week and then maybe a week more. He puts the key in his pocket and his fingers brush against his watch — his pulse gets caught in his throat remembering Alex—

Interrupting, there’s a touch on his arm. Annoyed, he looks and his irritation quickly vanishes because there’s someone he didn’t see before — she couldn’t have been there because he would have noticed her. She’s young and has a voluptuous figure, round breasts spilling out of her dress and a posture that means to show them off. She’s the first beautiful thing he’s seen since he left America, and Aaron tells her so, not subtle at all, leaning on the counter and looking at her breasts, making sure she sees him looking. She doesn’t even blush and that — that is good.

“Let me help you with your things,” she says, picking the towel off the counter. There’s a trace of a French accent, suggesting it’s been a while since she’s lived in France. Maybe, she had escaped from her home, too.

“I’m sure mister Edwards can handle that.” The innkeeper sounds almost bored, as though this isn’t new behavior for her. The woman just smiles, and touches Aaron’s arm again.

“I can handle it,” she says, and she’s talking only to Aaron now. “Don’t you need me to help you in your room?” She traces her fingers up his arm. “It’s my job.”

Aaron is good at this — women, flirting, sex — and he responds in kind, because maybe filling a woman will numb his grief, fatigue, everything. Fuck away the feelings. As long as the woman looks undiseased and is unmarried and willing, he’ll have her.

He tells the innkeeper to have his trunk brought up later and he lets the woman — whore, that’s what she is — lead him to his room, up the stairs, away from the others. When he stops too long to look at the peeling wallpaper and listen to the noises behind closed doors, she gropes him with a confident hand and says, “I can blow you here if you want,” but he pushes her onward and she obliges and all he can think about is how tight his pants are and he wants needs wants.

When they get to his room — at the end of the hall — she takes the key from him because he’s too jittery to fit it in the keyhole — she makes a jibe I hope you can do better sticking other things in and he growls and presses against her and she grinds back against him, fuck — and she unlocks the room for them, dragging him inside and shutting the door behind him. Aaron doesn’t have a chance to be disappointed by his lodgings — the woman throws the excuse-of-going-upstairs towel on the single armchair in the room and immediately goes to her knees, a position she seems comfortable with. Aaron watches her unfasten his breeches and pull them to his knees, and her eyes widen in delight at the sight of his hard cock. She takes it in her hand and oh god yes it’s been too long. She licks the head and strokes his length, working him up to full hardness and then — bliss.

“I knew you wanted this,” she says. She sucks at the head before pulling off. “A man gets needy when he’s all alone.”

“Yes,” Aaron agrees. He’s alone and needs. Wants. He pushes forward, encouraging her to take him in her mouth again. She gives a teasing lick and then stands, tossing her hair over her shoulders, asking, “How do you want me?” and Aaron quickly undresses. Neck cloth, coat, waistcoat, shirt, shoes, breeches, stockings — he closes his eyes and imagines hands other than his own taking them off, clever fingers hot against his skin, stubble rough against his thighs—

He sits on the foot of the bed, nude, and looks up at his amusement. She puts on a show for Aaron, stripping and letting her dress and shift fall into a silky puddle on the floor, revealing her bare legs and the wonderful apex between her thighs where he’s aching to push inside her. She reaches down between her legs, touches there, and then turns around for Aaron to help her with her corset. He unlaces it, and that falls to the floor, too. She’s beautiful, his hands going over her waist where there are indentations from where the stays were pressed tight against her, and further down, lingering on her nice round ass.

“Before any of that,” she says, turning and holding out her hand — waiting for payment.

Courteous to the inn’s most valued employee, Aaron scrounges in his coat for money. He takes a handful and starts putting coins in her outstretched hand, not sure the value of a good lay in this currency. Any amount would be worth it, if he’s honest — he’s so goddamn hard it hurts and he’d pay anything to get that sweet mind-numbing pleasure.

Eventually, she must figure it’s enough to deal with him, saying, “thanks,” and setting the money in her shoe, safe.

“Now, where were we?” she asks, and Aaron can’t wait any longer. He grabs her by the arm, half tosses her down on the bed, and climbs atop her. She laughs good-natured as he positions himself between her legs.

“Eager?” she asks and she has no idea — and she reaches between them to help him go inside her, and she’s wet and warm and makes a lovely sound as he fills her and she’s anything he could want—

He fucks her hard, focused on the feeling of a body tight around him and skin against skin, a whimper in his ear, and for a moment, he forgets.

 

* * *

 

After the excitement has gone and the whore cleans up between her legs with the only towel and dresses and takes her money and Aaron has time to think, the shame sets in.

He doesn’t regret it. There’s nothing like the thrill of having sex with someone whose name he doesn’t know — there’s nothing ulterior about it, no concealed feelings. Just primal basic needs met. It could be anybody. Well, almost anybody, as long as they shut up and didn’t say things and that’s why it could never be Hamilton—

With nothing other than his hand for weeks, finding pleasure with a woman fulfilled that pent-up frustration and craving, but now, sticky and naked in a too-small bed in a foreign land — much less, a country he nearly died to gain independence from — all of his recent decisions weigh on him.

He regrets leaving.

He doesn’t regret leaving.

He regrets leaving because of him.

No. Forget him. Forget Hamilton, he’s — he’s not the cause of his actions. Aaron has his free will. He is in control. He left him. Alexander Hamilton is not a predetermination. They are two separate orbits, passing by each other but never intersecting, kept away by the same magnetism that draws them near.

But even an ocean away, Aaron feels the pull of Hamilton, he’ll never be able to get far enough…

Hamilton is surely doing okay without him. Hamilton probably isn’t even thinking of him. Maybe he was disappointed for a few days — at most — but then went on with his life, because he expected Aaron to leave. Coward, Hamilton had called him. Maybe Aaron is a coward, but it was also cowardly to stay, to stay and not acknowledge what is — what was — between them.

Aaron will be okay, too. Eventually. Life is in flux and there is always going to be a fall before a surge. For now, he’ll make do. He’s been in London for only a few hours and he’s already enjoyed himself by seeing some lovely sights. He can’t wait to write to Theo and tell her the first thing he did after renting a room was—

Oh, no. Theo, how could he forget her, especially after scolding her into writing to him after he abandoned her—?

He dresses quickly into the same clothes, rushes downstairs and outside and circles around the block before he realizes he doesn’t know where he’s going. He asks for directions to the post office and doesn’t stop until he’s there and has Theo’s letter in his hand.

Oh! His wonderful, dutiful daughter sent him a letter after all — not that he had any doubt she would. She knows that nothing puts him in better spirits than her words, and she is more gracious to him, her lousy father, than he deserves. People look at him like he’s a madman, and he supposes he might appear as such, holding the letter to his chest like it’s treasure and talking aloud, but they don’t understand how much he needed this—

He opens it on the street, and reads it as he walks back. He gets lost on unfamiliar streets and is going nowhere, but it doesn’t matter with Theo’s words in his hands.

As he reads he swears at himself. Of course, Theo scolds him with ridicule, which he wouldn’t expect nothing less from her (I would say your sudden departure surprises me, but it does not, given to how reckless your nature is), is reprimanding (You have left me alone), skepticism lined with scorn (But what will you do without me, Papa?), and is wicked smart (I know you didn’t tell me of your plan to abscond because you knew I would stop you). It’s odd, how Theo’s words can give him great joy but also hurt — and he feels awful all over again.

Theo gives an update on the household — she writes of Hamilton being an obstinate pain (believable) and of Hamilton missing him (unbelievable) and thinks about him everyday (impossible). He’d think she’s fooled by Hamilton but taught her better than that. She’s lying to comfort him, and if that isn’t horrible enough, she says—

I cannot think about how much I miss you, for I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else.

What has he done?

 

* * *

 

A few hours later, his wayward self finds its way back to The Wayward.

Again, everyone in the main room disregards him when he enters. They’re probably all too preoccupied with their own worries to care.

Aaron goes to the fireplace — his clothes damp, caught in a storm on the walk back — and sits across from the old man. He hasn’t moved since Aaron arrived this morning, and still has the same cup from before. Aaron looks away, takes off his coat, giving the man the same solitude that the other inhabitants of the place do for him.

Minutes pass, and the chill evaporates from Aaron’s bones. He takes out Theo’s letter from where he hid it away to protect if from the rain, and reads it again, and again, each time the words getting sewn more deeply inside…

“Are you the new fellow?”

Aaron looks up, the croaky voice startling him. The old man is turned his way with a half grin but his eyes don’t meet Aaron’s — they’re directed to the corner, and are a smoky, milky gray. He’s blind.

“I suppose so,” Aaron replies. So he was the subject of discussion when he was out of the room. Cool.

“Sorry,” and it’s a sincere apology from the man. He doesn’t have to explain what it’s for — Aaron understands.

He holds out his mug, offering it to Aaron. Aaron shrugs, then flushes because he realizes the man can’t see him, good going Aaron — and then he takes it from him. Upon closer inspection he sees that the drink is a strong spirit, dark in color and scented strongly enough to make him question drinking it.

He does, anyway — drinks without tasting it, and it burns all the way down.

“It helps,” the man says when Aaron puts the mug back in his outstretched hand.

“Sure.” Aaron coughs, the liquor still burning.

“Drink, and women, eh?” The man laughs. “Michelle told me you were an alright guy. She’s a good lady. Fun. Charitable.”

He means the whore, Aaron realizes.

“Yeah,” Aaron says. “She’s, uh, nice.”

The old man laughs to himself again, and drinks — doesn’t wince at the taste — and settles back into the chair.

“You’ll be fine,” he says.

To Aaron, it sounds like something that he’s used to saying, as though he’s been saying it to himself for a very, very long time.

 

* * *

 

That evening Aaron sleeps like the dead, and wakes in the morning confused as to where he is, but then it comes back to him all at once. He’s thousands of miles from everything he knows, and all alone.

He lies in bed, staring at the suspicious water stain on the ceiling, and then out the small window that reveals another overcast day. He considers turning over and going back to sleep but hunger gnaws at him, so he drags himself out of bed and rummages through his trunk for clothing, dresses, and goes downstairs to the main room.

The old man isn’t there and it’s not like Aaron wanted to talk to him, anyway, but there’s nobody else’s table to join — the woman with a shawl (who he had been hoping to chat-up) has a different colored shawl and is talking to a man who he hadn’t seen yesterday, the two young women are drinking coffee with the large man, and there’s a light-skinned man sitting alone giving the don’t talk to me vibe.

Aaron is about to go back upstairs to fetch his umbrella and find somewhere else to eat, but then he notices the whore — Michelle, the old man had said — sitting at a table in the corner. She sees him, her face lighting up and waving him over, and, well. How can he decline a lady’s invitation?

Before he’s even seated, she says, “If you buy me breakfast, I’ll suck your dick afterward.”

Ah, bargaining.

“Only if I can eat at you, too,” Aaron says, smooth, smiling as he leans back in his chair.

She raises her brow. “You better hold up on that promise.”

He does. After a hearty breakfast of boiled eggs and sausage (Aaron getting slightly flustered, thinking of Hamilton’s dumbass remarks), they go back to his room. Michelle lays on Aaron’s bed fully clothed and lifts her skirts — Aaron dives in, pressing his face against her sex and eats her out until she comes, and then like any proper business transaction, she reciprocates, pulling his cock out of his breeches and blowing him until completion.

Sweaty and uncomfortable afterward, he bathes. He has a tub dragged into his room and heats water on the fire, filling it enough to relax in. He scrubs off the filth of travel and shame, rubs at the short hair he’s unaccustomed to.

After washing off, he stays in the tub, reading old newspapers that he gathered from downstairs. The oldest dates back only a couple of weeks, but he reads them to see what he’s missed in the world. Nothing much — the same animosity between Britain in France remains, President Jefferson (gag) did something insignificant, Lewis and Clark reached the west coast of America, and there was drama at the local baking competition last week. As he finishes them, he sets them on the floor, and soon, the bathwater is chilly and he has nothing else to read.

There’s no news of Hamilton within the pages. He assumes that no news is good news. He doesn’t know what he was looking for — maybe Hamilton started another war or wrote another essay about him…

That evening, he writes to Theo. He tells her he’s safe at his destination, gives the address where to send correspondence, says that he’s well-fed and well-tended to, and—

I do not miss Hamilton, and don’t you dare lie and tell him any differently.

 

* * *

 

The next morning, he receives a repeat offer of food-for-sex from the resident whore, but he’s in a hurry to leave for the day while there’s still the first rays of bright sunshine since he’s been here. He doesn’t want to pass it up, though, so he fingers her under the table while they eat, her talking dirty to him under her breath, and then she goes to her knees in the stairwell and sucks him off with expert efficiency, wipes her mouth and says, “Thanks,” before going back to main room.

It’s a nice day, so he decides to walk. He stops at several places on his way, buying tobacco and a bar of soap (the latter because the inn charges an astronomical amount for their own) and browses a bookstore he wants to come back to later. He only gets lost twice, and he arrives at his destination at half-past eleven. He knocks on the door before he loses his nerve, and almost immediately a tall, excited man answers the door. Aaron hardly is finished introducing himself before the man drags him inside, saying, “I’m Jeremy Bentham, but I suppose you knew that—”

Bentham is a friend of a friend, but Aaron had sent word to him anyway, asking to call on him. He didn’t expect a response but Bentham answered within hours, saying that he’d love to meet him and he’s heard many things about him, good and bad, and that they have lots to talk about. As Bentham guides them to his sitting room, chattering the entire way, Aaron feels at ease with him right off. He’s cordial, but doesn’t abstain from the truth, saying, “Word is you’re a rogue, but I’d like to form my own opinion of you.”

Aaron has an instant, natural affinity with Bentham. Bentham has a tongue-in-cheek humor and is wicked smart. He was admitted to Oxford at age twelve, was somewhat of a prodigy, and he isn’t at all modest about it. Brilliance like that is worthy of flaunting. He’s about ten years older than Aaron but he carries his age well — squared jaw, light brown hair tied back with a ribbon, broad shoulders, eyes lined with slight crinkles like he smiles wide and often. Aaron likes him, a lot.

“Tell me about you,” Bentham says, and what is there to tell? Aaron starts by giving a similarity, that he went to college when he was thirteen but he could have gone at eleven if they’d let him, then there was the war and he walked to Quebec because it seemed like the best thing to do at the time, and then he kneeled in pink snow when he tried to recover the body of his commanding officer but it was too late, and then he finished his education and became a lawyer and worked next door to the most wonderfully infuriating man ever, and then he had a child and then his wife died, and why is he telling him all of these things? But he keeps on — that there were successes and failures and then a particular failure and then something else happened but it’s okay because Hamilton didn’t die and then—

“…and now I’m here,” Aaron says, completing the heavily-abridged story of his life.

“I see.” Bentham doesn’t sound entirely convinced. “So you’re in London because…?”

“It was the destination of the first ship that was available,” Aaron replies. When Bentham laughs, he continues, “It’s true. I didn’t care where I went, I just needed something different.”

He sips the tea that Bentham’s housekeeper had brought in earlier. It’s gone cool. He stabs the lemon slice with his spoon while he waits for Bentham to respond, to ask why he needed to get away, but Bentham just smiles at him. Aaron had been correct in his suspicion — his smile is great.

Aaron continues, “But I am also interested in the political climate.” It’s no secret that America favors England more than the French now that they are many years post war, and vice versa. He thinks that if he could talk to important people here and see what they want, then maybe he could discuss a future candidacy, a comeback in American politics—

“Nobody’s going to talk to you,” Bentham says, and then adds, “Sorry to be blunt, new friend, but most people either don’t want to be associated with you, or don’t know who you are.”

Aaron shrugs. “It’s not much different than at home.”

“Do you deserve it?”

Aaron really likes Bentham. He’s unashamedly honest, charming, brilliant — he reminds him of—

“I have something that might interest you.” Aaron carefully reaches into his inner pocket and takes out two worn books — The Federalist, volumes one and two. He doesn’t know what possessed him to bring the stupid things, he hasn’t read them in years, but when he was packing they found their way in.

“You can borrow these,” Aaron says, handing them over. Bentham laughs, but takes them.

“Is this to convince me?” he asks. Bentham had expressed negativity when the colonies broke away, writing essays against the American ideals and philosophy.

“It’s not treason anymore, Englishman,” Aaron says, teasing. Bentham rolls his eyes but he’s smiling. He opens one volume to a dog-eared page.

“What’s with the marked ones?” Bentham asks. “Your favorites?” He flips through the pages, past more marked sections.

Oh. Aaron had forgotten.

“Not necessarily,” he says. “They’re all by the same author. Hamilton.” When he got the books — given to him by Hamilton himself, which he took as fuck you, you could written these with me — he went through and marked the ones he thought were by Hamilton. Too curious for his own good, he asked Hamilton to confirm or deny if he was correct, and he still remembers how Hamilton had been insulted by him marking some Madison-penned ones as his, and then identified thirty-two additional ones, making fifty-one in total.

‘They’re worth reading,” Aaron says. “Even the ones with faulty ideas are well-written.”

“You have quite a high opinion for someone you shot,” Bentham says, amused. It’s good-natured but also — questioning. Aaron might have left out a few things when speaking — not explaining much past, I shot him and he lived and now we work together.

“I crippled the man,” Aaron says, as if that should explain everything.

“So?” Bentham asks. “What does that have to do with you? Was it not a fair duel?”

“It’s everything to do with me,” Aaron says, and he knows that he’s being argumentative when Bentham is only trying to have conversation, but he doesn’t know what he’s been though, he doesn’t know…he doesn’t know about him and Hamilton, he doesn’t know that they are — they are—

“Hamilton and I—”

Aaron stops mid-sentence, realizing that he’s being incredibly obnoxious and rude — does he do that often? Is this why nobody likes talking to him?

He stands, apologizes, and leaves before Bentham can say anything more. He manages to find his way back to the inn without getting lost — a small miracle — and collapses into one of the tattered chairs in the main room. He lights his pipe with a candle and smokes until his nerves calm.

The lady with the shawl is there — today, she has an emerald green shawl around her shoulders — and quietly sits next to Aaron. They haven’t exchanged any words in the days that he’s been there, and they continue their silence, until she speaks, “When are you going to ask me?”

“What?”

“To go to my room and fuck me.”

He cannot deny such boldness, and he wants her, so he does as she suggests — follows her to her room. It’s just as sad as his own room, even more so because it’s lived in. He thinks of asking her how long she’s been at The Wayward but she’s taking off her clothes, starting with tossing the shawl to the chair. He watches her; she seems detached from the act, methodical, and when she’s bare she sits on the bed, waiting. He strips down, joining her. She looks him up and down, like she’s pleased, and runs her hands down his body, over skin that’s much darker than hers, and then down, touching him.

It’s wordless sex. She’s responsive, pushing back against him, breath shuddering. Aaron knows that she’s using him as much as he’s using her, and that’s okay. She grips his arms tighter when he goes in her deep and her boney hips press against his, but she’s beautiful, silent and grim — and when Aaron is close, she rubs his back and makes shushing sounds, shh shh, calming.

He hides his face against her neck, so he won’t have to see the way she looks at him.

 

* * *

 

That night when he sleeps — when he finally sleeps, kept awake too long by the dreadful thing that is life — he dreams of a friend sometimes forgotten.

Bellamy, dearest Jonathan. They are young, like they used to be — but that’s the only way he knew Bellamy, never having a chance to grow old, his life cut short at twenty-four. Aaron dreams of them in the war, sharing a tent, lying together close. Closer than they should be. Bellamy is half turned away, shadows falling on his face, but he presses against Aaron and sighs happily — is this what he wanted, before? If he had only told Aaron, he would have…

Aaron wants to see his face. It’s been a lifetime. He touches Bellamy’s arm, begs him to turn over, and he does and—

It’s Hamilton, Alexander with his clever, hungry grin coming closer, his mouth dangerously close to his and—

Aaron wakes up aching, in more ways than one. The ache in his chest he can’t do anything about, but the other he takes care of, eyes closed and chasing the image of a dream.

 

* * *

 

He has a standing arrangement with the whore. Michelle. He buys her a good meal and she takes care of him. Enjoyment of a body to distract him from everything else. A few coins in addition will get him more, and he often wants more — and sometimes again in the evening. Sometimes she’s unavailable when he wants to lay with her — she does have other clients — he’ll go down to the lonely woman down the hall and bang her for free, but he feels more depressed than usual when he leaves her. He seeks out the other women in the inn who are willing for a good time; there are a few, and he fucks them all. It’s a challenge, of sorts. A Swede who didn’t speak a language Aaron knows, but they were able to communicate just fine. A woman who he thought was a Puritan but is very much not. The woman whose husband is always gone all day for his salesman job. Aaron is proud of himself when he realizes he’d had them all, except the two young women who play cards in the main room, and a widow who looks too frail for a romp.

A week passes, then another, and his wants do not lessen — if anything, they increase. He won’t admit why — who he wants — no —

Grunting, taking her from behind, he’s breathing hard and it’s sweaty, skin sliding on skin, but it’s good, a body tight around him and sweet sounds and if he closes his eyes—

“Alex.”

He had hoped that maybe the plea was to himself, but no such luck. After, Michelle lies next to him, cooling down, a snug fit with both of them on their backs, and she asks, “Who’s Alex?’

Aaron pretends not to hear her.

How could he have done that — let himself think of Hamilton in that way? Bare and desperate under him? It’s selfish of him to muse about things he can’t have, the impossibility that is Hamilton, but he let his mind slip and Hamilton was there.

She sits up on her elbow, her hair falling forward over her shoulders and covering her breasts. “You were thinking of a man, weren’t you?” and she’s…disgusted? No. Surprised? Intrigued, even?

“It’s nothing,” Aaron says, because it is, it always has been, but then realizes he didn’t deny it.

“I won’t judge,” she says, “I promise. I know lots of men who enjoy being with men.”

“I like women.” He turns to look at her. “Obviously.”

She gives him a small, condescending smile. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy a bit of cock too—”

“Jesus christ, no.” Aaron doesn’t want to think about that, much less discuss it with a whore, she has no idea what she’s talking about, but now he’s thinking of Hamilton’s cock and the glimpses he’s seen of it, and oh no, what if she’s right…

“I want to be alone.” At least he has the right to send her away.

“Okay, okay.” She gets out of bed, starts picking her clothing off the floor. She talks as she dresses. “I’d let both of you with me at the same time. You and this Alex—

“Alexander,” Aaron corrects, because Alex alone doesn’t belong to anyone else, and now he’s thinking of them together with a woman and…yes, that’s a thought. He’d like to see Hamilton with a woman, again.

She smiles, pleased at her astuteness. “It helps some men get comfortable together when there’s a woman involved. I could help get you warmed up and then I could leave while you two—”

“If I pay you extra, will you drop it?”

She agrees. She takes the money from Aaron’s jacket — she knows where to find it after many times together. When she’s fully clothed, she sits next to him on the bed where Aaron is lounging, naked.

“I assure you nobody else will know,” she says, softly. He believes her, for some reason — maybe because it doesn’t really matter because he can always deny it as it would be his word versus hers, the word of a gentleman versus a whore’s. Maybe it’s the sad expression she has that he has never seen her wear. Maybe he just doesn’t care.

And if people do find out how much of a reprehensible sinner he is, then — what? He gets a noose around his neck, followed by a comfortable grave? If that’s how it’s meant to be, then he won’t stop it from happening. Sometimes, that feels almost welcome, because then he wouldn’t be have to think of this or any of the other horrible things anymore, he wouldn’t have to think of anything, and if hell is real, then he imagines it couldn’t be much worse than life, so what does he have to lose?

It could be worse, he thinks. He’s never understood how that’s perceived as optimism because he’s always thought of it as a rather pessimistic statement. It’s a reminder that things could be worse, so you might as well accept the misery you have.

As though she could read his mind, Michelle takes his hands — they’re shaking, he hadn’t noticed, too damn worked up — and smiles. It feels forced, despite her best efforts.   Like she knows she’s about to tell a lie.

“It’ll be okay, honey,” she says, and she leans in and kisses his cheek. “We all have our secrets.”

She repeats, “It’ll be okay.”

He wishes people would stop telling him it’ll be okay.

 

* * *

 

Aaron had thought that he’d want Hamilton less by removing himself from Hamilton — that if he wasn’t there, he couldn’t be tempted by Hamilton. Taking him out of his life completely. Like smothering a flame to extinguish it, obliterating.

But Hamilton is a spark that stays lit within him, always burning.

 

* * *

 

One might say — could say — that Aaron has hit rock bottom, but he’s had so many rock bottoms that it’s become a recurrent pattern. Achieve, and then lose everything.

As always, he waits until it’s clear what to do.

Until then, he lives without regard. He stays awake all night and dozes off right before daybreak. Gets shitfaced drunk with the blind old man. Spends too much money on whores, having the convenient one who lives in the inn and sampling whoever he fancies on the street. Gets blowjobs in alleys in broad daylight. Naps through the afternoon storms. Smokes until his voice is gravelly. Eats suppers that consist only of pastries from the bakery across the street and overpriced fruit. Has sex with any woman who will lay with him. Writes letters that he burns in the fire, sending them nowhere.

He always said that he was the one thing in life he can control — but he’s not sure if he can control himself, anymore.

It could be worse.

 

* * *

 

When he’s recovered from the embarrassment of his behavior with Bentham — which takes three weeks and two days — he goes back for a visit.

And, of course, Bentham isn’t home. He takes that as a sign and goes to leave, but Bentham’s housekeeper invites him in and won’t take no for an answer. She receives him with kindness, providing him with pleasant conversation, which leads to coy glances, which leads to her bending over the sofa and hiking up her dress, which leads to him taking his dick out and rubbing it against her — it would be rude to refuse her — and when he goes inside her the tingling of his nerves quiets to a hum. This act of one body with another feels just as good, no matter who he’s with or how many times he’s done it, how many times he’s fucked — he’s addicted to it.

He enjoys this midday treat, sweating in his clothes as he bangs her. He’s too focused on pleasure to pay much attention to the front door opening, but then there’s the sound of footsteps, and then a pause quickly followed by a chuckle. That he can’t ignore — he looks up and there’s Bentham, standing on the other end of the sofa.

“I was wondering when I’d see you again, but I didn’t know I’d be seeing this much of you,” Bentham says, and there’s a playful amusement to his voice. “I’m glad you made yourself comfortable.”

Under him, the housekeeper laughs. He wonders what kind of relationship Bentham and his housekeeper have for neither one of them to be ashamed at this situation.

“Please, don’t let me stop you,” Bentham says, and Aaron hadn’t any intention of stopping. Bentham seems to get the message — especially after Aaron grunts and speeds up — and he leaves the room, saying, “You better be the gentleman that I believe you to be and let my dear housekeeper finish, too.”

Aaron does, reaching down and touching that place that makes women crazy for it, and they complete nearly together, her clenching down on him and him cursing as he thrusts a few more times to reach his peak.

The deed complete, they pull apart. He arranges himself in his clothes and she fixes her hair that fell out of its tidy bun, leaving without another word to him. She curtseys to Bentham who was waiting by the door before hurrying away.

Aaron expects Bentham to tell him to leave because he’s outstayed his welcome, but he doesn’t; Bentham just shakes his head and laughs. Unsure what to do after he’s seen him like that, Aaron awkwardly stands in the middle of the room, shifting on his feet. Bentham looks pained having to look at him, but he sighs and waves his hand at him, motioning for him to sit down. Aaron sits on the same sofa he just had sex against, watching as Bentham goes over and opens a window.

“If you don’t mind,” Bentham says, “since the room smells of sex. I get jealous when I was not a participant.”

That was a bit of an impulse, even for him, Aaron must admit.

“I apologize for my indiscretion. I did not intend to display myself in that manner. It is all my fault, don’t blame your housekeeper for my inability to—”

“Keep it in your pants?” Bentham collapses into the armchair next to him. “Don’t worry about it. I’m a supporter of fornication.”

Well, that’s wonderful to know. He continues to find that Bentham is a mutual spirit in many ways.

He clears his throat — there’s more he wanted to say—

“And I’m sorry for my behavior during my last visit,” he says. “I was horribly rude, discourteous to your hospitality, and it was ill-mannered to leave so suddenly without an explanation. I—”

“I forgive you.”

“…and I — what?”

“Seriously, my boy,” Bentham says, reaching forward and patting Aaron’s hand — Aaron hasn’t been called boy in decades and it’s strangely affectionate coming from Bentham.

But true affection from anyone is a rarity these days, and Aaron doesn’t realize how much he’s missed it until Bentham touched him and gave him a term of endearment. He turns his hand over, holding it there for a moment before letting it fall out of Bentham’s.

Bentham frowns.

“I know you’re hurting. But doesn’t an injured dog lash out sometimes, even when tamed?”

Yes. Of course. He is hurting, and Bentham sees right through him. Bentham has a poet’s soul, beautiful, just like—

“I’m fine,” Aaron says.

And Bentham is kind enough to not press even though it’s a transparent lie. Instead, he leans back in his chair, changes the mood.

“So, Aaron Burr, Sir,” he says, cheerful, and it’s not his fault that Aaron flinches like he’s been shot. He raises a brow, continues, “What have you been doing, besides sulking?”

For some reason, Aaron feels a trust with him, so he’s honest — mostly — and tells him how he’s passed the time. His whoring, drunken, hedonistic lifestyle. Upon telling it, he’s nonchalant — yes, I fucked a woman in the woods outside of town, and then I got lost wandering the streets on my way back, pissed against the wall of a tavern, and then I went inside and drank until they kicked me out — he’s proud of himself for living like a heathen.

“You’re out of control,” Bentham says when Aaron’s story is done. Shaming him only in jest — grinning, sincere. He pours them each a generous serving of brandy, hands a glass to Aaron who downs it at once, and then holds it out for Bentham to pour him another.

“That’s normal for me,” Aaron says. He drinks, the liquor warming him and uprooting his nerves. “I’m reckless.” Live like chaos when his life is chaos.

Bentham gives him a skeptical look. “Is that only because you make it so?”

Ah, the theory of making yourself miserable because you want to be miserable. Aaron has heard it before — Theodosia during their courtship, his own daughter, and from Hamilton multiple times.

Avoiding, Aaron says, “I’ve been discourteous and spoken only of myself. Let me hear about you.”

Bentham rolls his eyes, knowing what Aaron’s doing, but he humors him anyway. “I’ve read the literature you lent me. I enjoyed it and I have a new appreciation for you Americans. Quite compelling.” A smile. “Especially your Hamilton’s essays.”

Aaron’s pulse quickens. “He is very talented.” He finishes his glass again — when did Bentham refill it? But his friend does again, and he drinks it down, a buzz headed towards a quick, full-on drunk.

“Obviously.” Bentham steeples his fingers together. “My favorite of his was Number seventy-eight. He convinced me on the merits of your judiciary system.”

Aaron recalls that particular essay, and in fact, he remembers Hamilton writing it. Hamilton had left a draft on Aaron’s desk and said it was an accident but really, he knew that Hamilton wanted him to read it and compliment him and tell him he was good, and goddamn it, Hamilton is so good.

Bentham says, “He’s obviously brilliantly witty. He comes across as very likable, even in print while discussing drab politics.”

“He’s even better when unreserved,” Aaron says. Hamilton writes word-perfect, trying to impress, but when he’s emotional he loses that restraint and it’s beautiful and real, how his words become him, personified — loud, revealing so much of what he tries to hide away with his ability. Aaron doesn’t think Hamilton knows there’s a difference, but he’ll never tell, for the fear Hamilton would never show that side of himself anymore.

“But you have the honor of knowing him personally,” Bentham says, curious, and he keeps talking about Hamilton, “What is it that you like about him?”

Aaron licks his lips. There is so much to Hamilton. There are many things he doesn’t like, but there are so so many things he likes. His brilliance, and how his forehead wrinkles when there is something he doesn’t understand — like he’s offended that something confounds him, his love for his family, the shape of his nose, freckles, how he’s sure his hand would feel wonderful against his skin, the dark circles under his eyes that look like smeared ink that won’t wipe away, the taste of his pouty lips—

“A lot,” Aaron says.

Bentham nods, as if he understands Aaron’s drunken answer. But could he understand? Understand the complexity of what is wrought between him and Hamilton? And—

“So you’re lovers,” Bentham says, simple.

No, that’s not it at all. Aaron shakes his head, drinks the rest of what’s in the glass and he feels sick. He and Hamilton, lovers—

(If only.)

“What makes you conclude that?” Aaron asks. What was it that gave him away, that he’s — that way. Strange. He wants to know so he can eradicate it from himself and reveal it again — but that would probably be impossible, he’s been trying to forget but it’s grown more and more—

“So you are,” Bentham says, pleased. Excited. “Was it before or after you shot him?”

“Bentham.”

“Sorry, sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry at all. “But I always say make-up sex is the best—”

Aaron lets out an exasperated sigh. He should have stayed quiet.

“There’s no shame in being with a man,” Bentham says. “Love is love.”

“I don’t love Alexander,” Aaron says, and it’s difficult to say love and Alexander in the same sentence. “Sometimes I don’t even know if I like him.”

Bentham shrugs. “Whatever. You don’t have to be practically fond of each other to lay together. Really, there’s no need to be ashamed of buggery. I’ve done it a few times myself. Men are a fresh experience, aren’t they?”

Aaron is glad his complexion hides his blush because he’d appear aflame now, but his expression betrays him and tells everything.

“We aren’t like that,” Aaron says, and when Bentham tilts his head, he insists, “We aren’t.

“But there’s something.”

“It’s complicated,” Aaron says, and Bentham replies, “Isn’t it always?”

There’s that damnable compulsion to tell Bentham the truth, and Hamilton isn’t here — and then something breaks inside and he can’t stop.

“I wanted him, god I wanted him, and he wanted me too,” Aaron says, and the words come easy because he’s drunk and hopeless and lost. “Hamilton — Alexander, he’s so infuriating. He’s awful, but he gets stuck in your head, like a line of prose or a beautiful melody, and then you can’t stop thinking of him. He’s brilliant and fascinating and…pretty.” He laughs. “He is pretty! Very handsome. When he was younger he had to keep the ladies away with a stick. He’s still good-looking now, though. And he’s got a nice ass.”

“Uh huh.”

“He’s wonderful. I wish he were here.”

“Why isn’t he?” Bentham asks. “I thought you said you wanted each other.”

“Because,” Aaron says, “because I wanted something from him that he didn’t want in return.” Aaron frowns, remembering. “He talks all the fucking time but he wouldn’t talk about us when it was important. He wouldn’t admit that it was something more. He couldn’t admit it because he wanted me to look like a fool, or he really doesn’t care or...” He makes a sweeping motion with his arm. “So I left him.”

Bentham moves, sits next to him and takes his hand and…it feels nice. Bentham cares about him.

“But that didn’t solve anything, did it?” Bentham asks. “You’re still miserable, aren’t you?”

Aaron looks at him for a long moment before answering.

“I was sure of being able to kill him,” Aaron says, steady — like his aim at Weehawken. “I didn’t second guess myself. I thought if Hamilton died that day, I knew that I was confident in my actions. That my pride was more important than his — his life because I thought he deserved it.”

But then he saw Hamilton hit and fall to the ground and he had been wrong, an error in judgment, blinded by spite and resentment, he didn’t want Hamilton to die…

“And now?”

“I could never harm him,” Aaron says, but he has hurt Hamilton, again, hasn’t he? “He’ll never forgive me for leaving.”

“Never is a long time.”

Bentham looks sad — sympathetic. He’s sitting close to Aaron and he’s been receptive, listening, holding his hand. Comfort. Aaron tries to remember what it feels like to be truly wanted. He likes Bentham and he wants Bentham to like him too — he thinks Bentham is interested. Why else would he be acting this way after he’s told him he has the same idiosyncrasy? It could just be his drunkenness misreading the moment but it’s near enough for interest, so he tries to make a move — to prove to himself that it just isn’t Hamilton he could want — and he closes his eyes and leans in.

But when he’s a breath away, Bentham puts a hand on his chest and pushes him back, stopping him. Aaron opens his eyes to see Bentham looking even sadder.

“Why’d you stop me?” Aaron asks. What is so wrong with him—? He looks away, embarrassed, but Bentham catches his chin and makes him look at him. He takes Aaron’s face in his hands, brushing his cheeks with his thumbs.

“Oh, my dear boy,” Bentham says. “I refuse you only because it would hurt you more.”

“Would not,” Aaron murmurs, and it sounds petulant even to him. He doesn’t want to be here any longer, not when he’s been rejected, again, but Bentham holds on to him, won’t let him go.

“You want this Hamilton, not me.”

“Alexander isn’t here,” Aaron says, and he’s a little mad — he knows what he wants and right now he wants this — and he tries again for a kiss, but Bentham stops him. Pulls away and rests his hands on Aaron’s shoulders.

“I’m flattered, really,” Bentham says. “You are lovely and if things were different, then maybe…” His voice trails off. “You should be going. It’s getting late.”

Aaron looks to the window; the sun has gone down while they’ve been talking.

“Are you okay to go by yourself?” Bentham asks, concerned when Aaron sways when he stands. He grabs his arm, but Aaron shakes it away.

“I’m fine.” Aaron goes to check the time on his watch, then realizes he still hasn’t fucking set it. “I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

“Please come back,” Bentham says — and whether he means it or not, it doesn’t matter.

 

* * *

 

He was told as a child that he was horrible, a delinquent, and he supposes that’s true — so he might as well give in to his nature. To thine own self be true.

It’s not about Hamilton and it’s not about Bentham, and Aaron means to prove it. It could be anybody, any man—

He’s familiar with whoring. It didn’t take much time to discover all the local ones. After leaving Bentham’s, he goes to where he’s seen the young men with easy mouths hang out. He’d thought of this before, of being with a man to get it out of his system, but it never seemed urgent enough, but now…

One under the streetlight catches his eye — he’s young and amenable and yes, he will do just fine. He not as pretty as Hamilton, he thinks, and then curses himself, because…because…just because.

The whore understands what Aaron wants, and he indicates with his head and leads him down an alley where they won’t be disturbed. It’s dark and there’s only the moonlight to guide them. The mechanics of a body against his are familiar — touch here, touch there — but he stalls when he realizes the last time he was pressed up against a man he fled the country because his goddamn feelings got hurt.

The whore must detect Aaron’s apprehension because he gently backs Aaron against the wall, and runs his hand down the front of his body, touching with purpose, and kisses him, and oh, it’s nice, and he kisses him back and then he realizes he’s kissing a man (who isn’t Hamilton).

“Is this your first time with a man?” the whore asks, whispered against his lips, reaching down and ah—

“No,” Aaron says, because it’s not. This man who’s half his age isn’t the first man who’s had his mouth on his and he isn’t the first man to be rubbing him through his breeches. The whore laughs, disbelieving, but he does his duty — kissing Aaron hard, letting out a breathy moan that seems to be a whorish act no matter a man or woman. He rubs at Aaron’s cock which traitorously twitches with interest. Aaron tells himself that it’s only a physical response, not because it’s a man or because he’s thinking of someone else doing it—

Alex he admits to himself. He wants Hamilton to be doing this to him. He wishes it were Hamilton undoing the flap of his breeches and reaching in and oh god yes his warm hand around him, stroking him slow, thumb rubbing where it’s most sensitive—

The whore covers Aaron’s mouth with his free hand. “Be quiet, do you want us caught?”

“Don’t care,” Aaron says. Nothing matters because it’s not Hamilton touching him — he’s across the ocean and out of his life, and most likely hates him.

He can’t help but think of Hamilton. Everything reminds him of him, including the whore. One thing that he has in common with Hamilton is that he likes to complain. He sighs, obviously not enjoying Aaron, which makes Aaron decide that should stick to sticking it in women. They at least pretend to enjoy it.

The whore changes the angle of his hand, wincing at a cramping wrist from his efforts to bring him hard. Aaron is overcome with embarrassment and mutters, “This never happens,” but the guy laughs like he’s heard it before. Aaron is distracted, his dick focused on other things (namely, a raven-haired bastard immigrant).

“Would it help if I put my mouth on you?” the whore asks. Licks his lips like he’s ready for it.

“No,” Aaron says, and suddenly he doesn’t want this, and he pushes the whore away.

“Do I get paid?” he asks, annoyed.

“Did I get laid?” Aaron replies, but he gives him a coin anyway so he leaves without another word. He’s probably relieved he didn’t have to get on his knees on the grimy cobblestones for some old man who couldn’t get it up so he could do his job.

Aaron curses Hamilton because it’s his fault that he couldn’t get off, and then he curses himself, and then he curses Hamilton again, and oh, Alex…

Right there in the alleyway he takes himself in his hand, and he’s fully hard now at the thought of Hamilton and his curvy hips and his pretty mouth and his insatiable body — he strokes himself rough because he figures that Hamilton would do the same with him, unforgiving, greedy. He rests one hand against the wall to brace himself, he’s so so so close, he shuts his eyes and thinks of the glimpses he’s seen of Hamilton: him wet in the bath, his morning wood curving up against his stomach, his bare legs free of stockings — and Aaron thinks of touching him, reaching into his breeches and wrapping his hand around his cock and touching as he's doing to himself.

Thinking of that, Aaron comes, gasping. He opens his eyes and sees his mess on the wall and, well, that’s not the worst thing this alley has witnessed.

He fixes himself up and goes back to his lonely room, lies in his empty bed. He gets to thinking of Hamilton again and he jerks off again, letting the fantasy drift…develop…imagining Hamilton dipping his head between his thighs and putting those lovely lips around his cock and…

 

* * *

 

He receives another letter from Theo. In it, there’s no mention of Hamilton. He prefers it that way.

He writes a reply to Theo. He writes two versions of the letter, one in which he’s honest and says, The only things I miss are you, of course, my cat, and that verbose immigrant bastard with the beautiful hair and captivating eyes and, oh Theo, I miss him dreadfully—

He tears that letter into shreds and then burns it, leaving no trace of it. In the other letter, he doesn’t mention Hamilton at all.

 

* * *

 

There’s a knock at his door in the middle of the night.

Aaron is awake, reading. He doesn’t think much of it — it could be old man Robert “checking-in” on him with a bottle of whiskey, or it could be the woman from down the hall wanting a lay — and he puts his book aside and slips on his dressing gown as he goes to the door, opens it and…

…Hamilton is there, on the other side of it.

He must be dreaming, thinking of another time when Hamilton knocked on his door in the middle of the night, but then he blinks and realizes that no, it is Hamilton — no dream could be this good. To be sure, he reaches out to touch Hamilton — and Hamilton is real — holding a suitcase in one hand and his cane in the other, looking thinner and scruffier than the last time he saw him, but he’s here. With him.

“Aaron Burr,” Hamilton says, “I have been looking for you.”

He stands at the threshold, fidgety, like he’s unsure if Aaron is going to invite him in or punch him. He’s got seven different emotions on his face — excitement worry desire anger exhaustion curiosity and hope, please please please—

Aaron grabs him by the arm and drags him inside and locks the door — so neither of them can escape — and he still doesn’t understand how or why or if he even deserves this blessing. Why did Hamilton have to stir things up again when he was just learning that he’d have to accept that he’s changed him irrevocably? Why did Hamilton show his face when he was just starting to wish to forget it?

“Why are you here?” Aaron asks, stunned.

“I could ask you the same thing.” Hamilton sets his suitcase on the floor. “You’re a goddamned fool.”

“Hello to you, too.”

“You insensitive, cowardly, wishy-washy brute.”

“Did you travel across the ocean just to insult me?” Aaron asks. “Because you could have done so in a letter and saved yourself the trip.”

Hamilton is frustrated, visibly — chewing on his bottom lip and eyes flashing and that fervid need to prove himself radiating from his core. He glows in the candlelight, devastatingly handsome, and — Aaron is ruined.

“Could you not be so captious, for once?” Hamilton asks, harsh. “I came here because…because you’re wrong,” Hamilton says, and that’s the most Hamilton-like reason ever, to travel a great distance to tell someone that he thinks they’re wrong.

Aaron lightly laughs, still not believing it. Now that Hamilton has said his piece, will he leave before Aaron can reply? He goes to say that, that Hamilton always has to have the last word, but Hamilton takes a step closer. “You asked me why I wanted you, remember?”

Of course Aaron remembers. He asked Hamilton and the man who always has something to say fell silent.

But he’s talking now.

“You probably would have fled the country even if I said what you wanted to hear. I was furious when you left. I didn’t understand why you did, and I didn’t understand why it made me so angry that you left. But then as the days passed and you weren’t there and I missed you — and that made me furious too, that you left a mark on me — and then I realized that maybe I misjudged you again…and then it might be too late to fix it — us. I thought maybe we only had one time to mend the damage we caused each other and we wasted it on when we shot at each other instead of when we kissed each other.”

This is just like Hamilton — a million pages of conversation and no closer to the point. “You still haven’t answered my question,” Aaron says.

Hamilton looks away for a moment, like he’s considering leaving, but then he turns to Aaron and he doesn’t stop—

“You asked me why and I hated you for asking because you gave it validity. No matter what I said you would’ve had a counteraction. I want you, Burr. But why is intricate. There’s the attraction between us — yes, that — but you’re right, there is something else.” Hamilton blinks, his eyes watering — why must he be so emotional? “Tell me I’m wrong, Burr,” Hamilton says. Pleads. “Is it too late?”

Finally, it’s said. But of course, Hamilton isn’t finished, his speech becoming more and more frantic. “You act as though you’re the only one who could be hurt. You kept grousing about your feelings, but you didn’t consider mine. You didn’t think that I was worried you were trying to outsmart me because you saw this as another challenge between us, or that you’d quit me the first time I disappointed you. And I was right! You did leave!”

“Alexander—”

“You make me fucking crazy and maybe that’s why I want you. I can’t specifically say why — it’s more like why don’t I want you. You’re too important to me to be reduced a list of reasons of why I like you,” he says, and something in Aaron’s chest flutters at I like you. The elation must show on his face because Hamilton smiles, and continues, “All I know is that I care about you. I am very fond of you, Burr. Do you know what I mean?”

“Yes,” Aaron says, nodding, because he does know — something that’s reserved for Hamilton, alone.

“How could I say I didn’t need you? I didn’t mean it, but you hurt me and I wanted to hurt you back. It scares me to want you because when I care about people they…. I was going to apologize but you had already gone and—”

“Alexander.”

“—I didn’t know what to do, I would’ve done anything to talk to you and kiss you, I didn’t care which came first—”

“Do you want to kiss me now?”

Hamilton doesn’t answer with words — he leans in and Aaron meets him halfway, their lips meeting. There are few things as wonderful as kissing Hamilton, and for the first time in a long while, things are in balance. Hamilton kisses him back, pulling back for a moment as though he’s checking if Aaron hasn’t changed his mind, then kissing him rougher, open-mouthed and panting, desperate. Aaron holds Hamilton’s face in his hands, and oh, he likes him so much, his dear, wonderful Alex—

“Alex,” he breathes against Hamilton’s mouth. Hamilton’s cane thuds to the floor, his hands going to Aaron’s hips to pull him close, kissing at Aaron’s collarbone where his gown has fallen open and then slides his hands inside — they’re both touch-starved, wanting, and Aaron doesn’t know if he could stop—

Aaron backs Hamilton against the wall, tugs at his cravat and the white bow spilling at his neck, then dives down and kisses that newly-exposed skin. Hamilton tastes of saltwater and persuasion and the tail of a comet — he wants to kiss every inch of his skin. Days-old stubble scratch at Aaron’s lips as he drags across Hamilton’s neck, and Hamilton lets out a sound like he’s injured — loud, shuddering — but no, that’s the sound of a man enraptured. He’s needy, pulling at the tie of Aaron’s gown, his eyes black as he takes it off, flashing him a look that is nothing innocent at all. He holds the hem of Aaron’s nightshirt, questioning, and if Aaron didn’t know better he’d think Hamilton is shy.

He takes his shirt off himself, and how Hamilton looks at him makes him hot all over, it makes him ache — Hamilton runs his hands down Aaron’s sides, looking at his cock, and that’s unfair, Aaron wants to look at him, too. He kisses Hamilton’s neck as his hands work at unfastening his coat and slipping it off his shoulders, then his waistcoat, both of them falling onto the floor. He stops kissing Hamilton long enough to pull his shirt over his head, and then his mouth is on him again, kissing his chest, and Hamilton has freckles there too, and Aaron kisses each one. Hamilton moans, presses against Aaron, so needy, and it inspires Aaron to be greedy, too — he pushes Hamilton’s breeches down his hips, revealing fine curves and his growing hardness, wanting, always wanting. He toes off his shoes so he can step out of his breeches and then he’s left bare except for his stockings. Aaron pauses at them, remembering before when he stripped Hamilton down in his bed, but Hamilton is whining, needy, so he kneels down and has the honor of removing Hamilton’s stockings again — but this time quicker, eager, and stands and presses his body against his.

“Please,” Hamilton says, gasping, “please—”

And for the first time in Aaron’s life, he doesn’t want to be contrary to Hamilton, but that’s only because he wants the same thing — and Hamilton is making all these wonderful noises and his hand travels down — but he has to ask anyway—

“What of Eliza?” Aaron asks, because he doesn’t want anything to be cause for problem, no matter what was said before, but Hamilton just groans and kisses him silent.

“She told me to tell you that you should behave and be good to me,” he says. “Are you going to be good to me?” He kisses a trail down Aaron’s neck, then back up again. “Please,” he asks again — why won’t he stop talking? But Aaron guesses that Hamilton is tired of waiting because he brushes his hand against Aaron’s cock and—

“Shut up,” Aaron says, and he takes Hamilton and pushes him onto the bed. Hamilton laughs, and Aaron has only a moment to admire the sight of him nude in his bed before he reaches and drags him down next to him, half on top of him they won’t fall off. They fit together close, limbs tangled and skin pressed against skin — they touch each other — not where they desire it most, not yet — just touching in quiet intimacy, because they can. Aaron tucks Hamilton’s hair behind his ear. Hamilton traces the line of the muscles in Aaron’s arm. Aaron squeezes the flesh of Hamilton’s hip. Hamilton curls his hand at the nape of Aaron’s neck, nuzzles his nose against his. Touch-starved.

“Are you really here?” It’s barely a whisper against Hamilton’s neck, like Aaron is afraid that if he questions it, Hamilton will disappear.

“Yes,” Hamilton says, holding on to him — as though he fears to lose him, too — and he kisses Aaron, and everything’s okay.

Chapter Text

In New York, Alexander is alone.

He doesn’t realize it for a while, distracted by the continuing ongoing of his life. Work, family, social obligations. He’s always been good at staying busy and getting things done. His life doesn’t stop for insignificant matters. He does great at work, writes long letters to Angelica where he doesn’t complain at all, loves his wife. He’s doing just fine.

He wants the comfort of something familiar, so he spends time with his children — more than he usually does. It shows that they aren’t used to it, as they’re not quite sure what to do with him. They’re kind to him, not wanting to crush his spirits by telling him they don’t want him around, but it’s forced. William and Lizzie tell him that he’s playing their imaginary game incorrectly, John and James sulk while he helps them with their studies, and Phil asks if he’s being punished when Alexander says he’s spending the day with him.

The older kids aren’t any better. He takes Al out to lunch with some of the best lawyers in town with the purpose to brag on him, saying, “My boy studies law, too. He’s the best in his class. Brilliant, like this father,” but Al looks pained throughout the meal. Al hardly says anything at all, and he’s quiet on the ride back too, except for, “I’m glad you finally found the time to show me off.” Alexander doesn’t catch the disingenuousness of it until hours later, and he wonders when his good-natured son became so spiteful.

Angie, however, doesn’t even try to hide her annoyance when he flops on the couch next to her and Theo. She sighs when he tries to make conversation, but it takes Theo glaring at him for him to realize that he was interrupting their private time that he isn’t supposed to know about. He quickly leaves, apologizing.

So he takes up with the only child who can’t tell him no. Rita rests against his chest making soft baby sounds as he tells her how mean her siblings are to their dear father, and—

“…you’re all growing up so fast and I don’t want to miss anything, and yes, I am not always the best father, but I try. My father wasn’t around, so I’m still not always sure what I’m doing, but I love you all and…”

He doesn’t hold it against her when she falls asleep.

Feeling neglected, he goes to Eliza and follows her around like a lost puppy dog. She seems to like the overabundance of his company and having him near. He sits next to her while she knits, looks over her shoulder as she writes to Angelica, goes with her to the market — but then she quickly grows tired of having him underfoot and it’s all he can do to keep from begging for her to pay attention to him. She draws the line when he makes a mess in the kitchen when he tries to help with the cooking.

“Why don’t you find something else to do, sweetheart,” Eliza suggests gently. She brushes powdered sugar off his shoulder; it’s dusted both of them all over, thanks to Alexander spilling it. “Read the new books you bought? Or write? Surely Jefferson has done something terrible and you can comment on it.”

Alexander takes her hand in his, licks the sugar off each of her fingers. “Alexander,” she says, half scolding and half charmed, but then he kisses her and lets her be, because he takes the hint that she wants to be left alone.

He locks himself in his office, but he doesn’t focus on politics. He doesn’t focus on anything. He paces the floor, his mind unsettled like a storm cloud rolling in over the horizon. On and on.

 

* * *

 

At night he fucks Eliza enthusiastically, having bed frame shaking sex where he has to kiss her to quiet her shouts, and it would be really marvelous if he weren’t so distracted, if he could stop thinking about that goddamn Aaron Burr—

Not that he’s thinking about Aaron Burr.

He doesn’t think about Burr at all, really. Certainly not in the morning, when they used to swap sections of the newspaper and bicker about the contents. He doesn’t think about him in the afternoon, when they’d take a break from work and walk around the block. He doesn’t think of him during the night, when he wakes up from dreams he can’t remember, but he’s shivering and overcome with the feeling that he’s made a terrible mistake—

“This is your fault,” Theo says when Alexander tells her of his troubles.

“It’s not,” Alexander says, but there is something wrong — he is alone, and restless.

He doesn’t want to admit that it’s because of Aaron Burr except that it totally is Aaron Burr’s fault. Burr fucking left because he’s a sanctimonious asshole who was too cowardly to…what? Face Alexander after he admitted that he wanted him? To admit he wanted to touch his dick? To wait for him to respond?

Why do you want me? Burr had asked, and Alexander had said nothing.

He should have said something.

It was just…so unprecedented for Burr to be upfront like that. It was almost like when Burr impresses in court — he is succinct with such an elegancy that Alexander is left bereft of speech and swearing in envy. He doesn’t have to dazzle people with panache and long speeches to make people listen because he has that endearing quality that can’t quite be named — something that’s convincing. It’s what almost won Burr the election without any basis at all, and it’s something that Alexander hates hates hates because he’s had to work tirelessly hard for what he has when it comes naturally to Burr.

He suspects Burr thinks the same of him.

Alexander had misjudged Burr. Again. Who knew that the cold-hearted guy could be so sensitive?

But then he remembers that Burr shot him over something that he may or may not have said, and well — yes, he should have known.

It is Burr’s fault. He didn’t know what Burr wanted from him, but Burr made the choice for him.

And so it goes.

Alexander moves on. He works long hours, doing both his and Burr’s work and some additional work too. He comes home just in time for dinner and then stays up late. A few weeks pass and he settles into a routine. He can get used to any change. Another week passes, and it’s like it was before, when Burr wasn’t involved. Before he knew that he could miss him.

He glances over to Burr’s desk. It’s untouched from how Burr left it, disturbed only by Alexander to take documents for ongoing cases. He’s avoided looking in that direction — his side aches when he does, he can’t imagine why — but he knows it’s there, like a looming shadow in his peripheral vision. But because he hasn’t examined it closely, he hasn’t noticed the candle wax melted on the table, the quill he had been looking for, and — oh.

The flower is dying. Their flower, the one Van Ness had given them as a gift when they won their first trial as business partners. It’s wilting, the greenery brown, its violet petals littering the surface of the desk like they’re passengers on a ship jumping overboard in futile hope of survival.

Burr had meticulously tended to it through the seasons, pruning the leaves and making sure it got enough but not too much sun. Alexander would roll his eyes and say that’s a lot of maintenance for a flower but Burr simply replied I have experience dealing with high-maintenance things, and he must, because soon the flower was overgrown with vivid purple blooms and flourishing beautifully on his desk.   Thriving. Burr was proud of it, but Alexander didn’t think it could be that difficult, but he forgot to water it and he hasn’t put it by the window at all, and…

He thinks to let it die, out of spite, but it isn’t the flower’s fault Burr left it to suffer. He decides it’s okay to do this one thing, and he pushes his chair back and goes to the sad flower. Burr will hate him for this too if he lets it die, and he already hates him too much.

Alexander pours all of his drinking water into the soil, cursing Burr and this stupid flower — they should have took it home and planted it outside when they got it — and then carries it to the window and sets it on the ledge. He drags his chair over and sits, glaring at the flower like he’ll be able to see a difference already.

He slumps in the chair and sighs. He doesn’t have the patience for this.

Perhaps he should sing to it. He’s heard Angie sing to her flowers, and they always grow to be beautiful, decorating the garden. He often goes there with her, compliments her, but then it’s too quiet and — what else is there to say?

A few minutes into a humming a tune, the door opens. He hadn’t been expecting any clients and nobody comes this late in the day unless they’re truly in trouble, but looking up, he sees that it’s just Van Ness.

He doesn’t know why Burr’s friend continues to hang around even after Burr left. Van Ness is half his age, mildly annoying, and the only thing they have in common is that they like to rib at Burr. And yet, he visits every few days. Alexander wonders if Burr told him to spy on him.

“Van Ness! Just who I wanted to see,” Alexander says, because at the moment, anyone will do. Van Ness raises his brow but slowly walks over to the window where he’s sitting.

“I’m sorry to bother you. It looks like you were hard at work,” Van Ness says. His mouth flickers into a grin, amused at his own joke.

Alexander gestures to the flower, as if it were obvious what he’s doing. “I am caring for the flower that you bestowed upon this establishment.”

Van Ness glances to the violet and grimaces. “It doesn’t look like it’s doing too well.”

“Ah, yes. I might have killed it,” Alexander says, and he meant it to have the same off-beat humor of the conversation, but his voice cracks, and then he’s telling Van Ness how he didn’t mean to kill it but he had forgot about it because he was trying to forget everything that involves Burr, and now it’s dead like their relationship, and he’s watered it and gave it light and even sang to it but it’s too late, it’s always too late—

Alexander looks away, eyes stinging and face warm with shame. It always seems to be the little things that break emotional composure. Like rain at the end of a bad day. Or a library book found when its owner died unexpectedly and will never have the chance to finish reading it.

It’s fine that Burr left him — he knew they could never have what they desired, and what they had was too good to last — and he went on with his life, he’s working and getting shit done, he doesn’t need Burr — he can fix things — but how can he if things keep going wrong?

He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. The back of his hand comes away damp. If Van Ness sees, he’s a good man and doesn’t make a big deal out of it.

“I came to get a book I lent to Burr,” Van Ness says, “but I was wondering…how would you like to go get a drink?”

It actually sounds really fantastic.

“What about the flower?” Alexander asks.

“I think it’s had enough to drink,” Van Ness says, and Alexander glances down to see the soil is a bit waterlogged.

He makes a sound of agreement, and Van Ness places the flower back on Burr’s desk and then leads him to the tavern down the street. Alexander claims the table in the corner, and when Van Ness comes a couple minutes later with two pints of beer he wistfully tells him, “This is where Burr and I usually sit.”

“Oh dear.” Van Ness sighs and drinks heavily from his glass.

Alexander does the same.

After their first beer, they have another, and Alexander’s reservation with Van Ness disappears. It’s a little awkward when he thinks that Van Ness isn’t much older than his children, but he’s smart, witty, and is a good listener. He can see why Burr likes him.

“I sang to it, and it still wouldn’t perk up.”

“It probably wanted to die to escape your singing,” Van Ness says, amused. Alexander glares at him, but he laughs and continues, “Plants are sensitive. You can’t apply what you’ve always done in the hopes that is what they need to be well.”

“…this is a metaphor, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Hamilton. Now finish your beer.”

Alexander frowns. “I do the best I can. I am a fixer.

“Control-freak.”

Alexander ignores him. “I am fine on my own, I don’t need Burr—”

“I didn’t say you did.”

Alexander is embarrassed that he would even think that possibility, that he needs Burr.

“Why didn’t you stop him from leaving?” Alexander asks, pitifully, another beer into their conversation. “He listens to you. Kind of.”

Van Ness scoffs.

“Have you ever tried to make Burr do anything? He’s the most stubborn man alive.” Van Ness takes a drink, as though the thought exhausts him. He swallows, and then narrows his eyes at Alexander. “But you should know.”

“Why?”

“Because you two are a lot alike.”

“We are nothing alike.”

Van Ness laughs. When Alexander raises his brow at him, he says, “That’s what Burr would say.”

* * *

Theo receives a slightly rumpled letter from overseas. Alexander knows it must be from Burr — who else? It gets passed down the breakfast table to Theo, and Alexander watches as she carefully opens it with trembling hands. He has the urge to reach across the table and snatch it from her but he forgot that he isn’t supposed to care.

She scans the letter, and then clutches her chest and lets out a sigh of relief.

“My father safely arrived in London,” Theo says, looking up from the page, smiling. “He’s okay.”

Eliza says thank God under her breath, and Alexander thinks it, too. He didn’t realize he had been worried about Burr’s safety, until now. Even after all these years, voyages across the ocean still make him nervy — the ocean is dangerous, and unforgiving.

Theo reads excerpts aloud over breakfast — Burr complains about the weather, says he enjoys having time alone, and wishes everyone well — but most of the letter she keeps to herself, reading silently.

Alexander tries not to seem interested. However, he doesn’t miss when Theo’s smile downturns, or when she reaches for Angie’s hand under the table.

 

* * *

 

“Alexander, please pay attention.”

He opens his eyes and looks down to where Eliza is between his legs, slowly stroking his dick. He meets her dark, sensual expression and…she looks a bit annoyed, too. That can’t be good for him.

“Why’d you stop?” Alexander asks. Eliza smiles, and he knows that smile, when his sweet, dear wife can become savage.

“You aren’t being present.” She grips him harder, and he arches his back and whines, begging, please Betsy please. She lowers her head down, taking him in her mouth for only a moment before pulling off. “You’re thinking of something — someone else?”

She’s right. His thoughts were off, thinking if Burr would like sucking cock, which led him to wonder if Burr would like sucking his. Burr would be inexperienced — he’d gag on it, but he would keep at it because he wouldn’t want to seem inadequate. Burr is a quick study, and he’d become an expert and take Alexander apart and leave him wanting more. Burr would probably string it out, edging Alexander until he’s crying for release, and then finally finally he’d bring him off — with his hand, so he could talk to him as he comes — and then he’d wordlessly shove at Alexander to reciprocate, which he’d do willingly. Alexander’s mouth waters because he wants to taste him so badly. It’d be wonderful, because from what Alexander has heard, Burr is a good lover, and that adds to the fantasy…

“We’ve talked about this,” Eliza says. She’s still got her hand on him. “You can think about him as long as you’re honest about it.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about.”

He feels the cool breath of her laugh on him. He knows he isn’t fooling anyone.

She doesn’t respond and Alexander hopes she won’t. She goes down on him, and he closes his eyes and lets his mind wander — not thinking of Burr, he doesn’t like him, he can’t like him—

“It’s okay to be upset,” Eliza says. She rests her chin on his thigh. “It’s okay to miss him.”

“I don’t,” he says, rough, pulling her up to him and kissing her hard, needy. He turns her onto her back, and when he spreads her legs so he can push into her, he can only think of her.

 

* * *

 

Eliza peacefully slumbers while Alexander lays awake. He wishes he could join her because he’s very tired, but his mind is too cluttered — there’s correspondence to send, he needs to pick up his new suit from the tailor, their budget needs to be balanced, and he forgot to water the flower again, and—

A noise in the night interrupts his thoughts.

At first, he thinks it’s one of the kids but he hears it again, a quiet scratch scratch, and realizes they wouldn’t be so obvious if they were awake at his hour.

He recalls the scary stories his brother used to tell him when he would stay awake reading. The monster is going to get you if you don’t put out the light and go to sleep, he’d say, but Alexander knew Jim was making it up, he was smarter than that, but he would put out the candle and scoot close to his brother, just in case.

There are no such thing as monsters, and even if they were, Nevis is far away, and his brother, gone.

He shuts his eyes. It’s as dark as when they were open.

Scratch.

Sleep isn’t going to happen anytime soon, so he decides to investigate. He gets out of bed — Eliza doesn’t stir, she’s used to him often leaving their bed at all hours of the night — and steps into his slippers. He picks up the candle at his bedside, lights it, and walks without his cane, trying to be as light-footed as possible. He holds up the candle to illuminate the hallway.

It’s empty. There’s no kid up past their bedtime, or scary monsters looming in the darkness — just a small furry angry monster sitting in front of Burr’s bedroom door.

Cleo the cat turns to Alexander. Her left ear twitches, and she meows at him.

“What?” Alexander asks the cat.

She turns away and goes back to scratching at Burr’s door. Scratch scratch scratch. Alexander blames Burr for encouraging this destructive personality.

“Hey, stop that.” Alexander steps closer. “He’s gone. He left you. He doesn’t care.”

She lets out a sad-sounding meow, crying, wanting to be let inside the room. When the door doesn’t open, she looks up at Alexander with her wide green eyes, as though she’s asking for his help.

“I’m sorry,” Alexander says. He can’t believe he’s having a conversation with a cat. He blames his fatigue.

Cleo hasn’t run off like she usually does when Alex is around. Instead, she meows again, and curls around his feet, intertwining between his legs.

To hell with it.

He grunts as he bends over but Cleo willingly allows him to scoop her up in his open arm. She nuzzles against him, resting against his neck, whiskers tickling, and her deep purrs resonate against his chest. For some strange reason he’s compelled to pet her.

“It’s okay. Alexander is here,” he mumbles sleepily into her fur as he walks back to the bedroom. “Aaron Burr is a horrible man to have gone off and left you like this.”

She meows, flicking her tail.

“Yes, he left me too.” He yawns. “You can be my cat now. I’ll name you Aaron Purr.”

She meows again, and noses against Alexander’s face. It’s like she knows the sorrow that he isn’t even sure of himself.

Alexander pauses at the bedroom door, and holds her tighter.

“I miss him, too,” he confesses. “I could hate him for making me like him but I’d never give up liking him, and I could hate him for leaving me but I can’t think that either, not when it’s probably my fault. I miss him so much I can barely stand it. What am I going to do?”

The emotions spill out of him easily, telling them to someone who could not repeat them, nor think less of him. He sniffles into her soft fur, and even though he’ll be sneezing tomorrow it’s worth it because her purrs are comforting.

Alexander carries her to bed. He puts out the candle flame and lies down close to Eliza. She sighs softly in her sleep — she doesn’t even know he was gone. Cleo curls up next to him on his other side, purring contentedly.

For a moment, Alexander thinks of Burr lying with him. He thinks of the nights they shared a bed, and how they started out on opposite sides but during the night they would find each other, ending up with their bodies close together. He thinks how marvelous and right that felt and how good Burr smells, but most of all, he thinks of the comfort of Burr being there with him.

Alexander is lulled to sleep by Cleo’s purrs and the memory of another body against his.

 

* * *

 

The condition of the flower doesn’t improve, so he brings it home for Angie to tend to, and hopefully restore with her talent for horticulture. It’s the last chance for survival before he gives up on it entirely.

Angie is delighted when he asks for her help. He gladly relinquishes the flowerpot over to her; she takes it out of his hands and carries it out to the front porch, where she sits with it on a bench. She hardly notices when Alexander and Theo sit across from her on the swing because she’s too busy fussing at the flower and delicately touching its wilted leaves with her fingertips. She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear, bites her lip — her concentration visualizing in a way reminiscent of Alexander’s, there’s no denying she’s his daughter. She starts singing a melody under her breath and rearranges the leaves, clipping away ones she deems too far gone. With each leaf she removes, instead of crumbling it in her palm, she holds it out and lets it be picked up by the breeze, and then watches it fly away, free.

She is radiant, outshining the morning sun.

Alexander glances sidelong to Theo, because she expressed a certain feeling about Angie and, yes. The only thing that rivals Angie’s brightness is the way Theo is looking at her — of someone totally and utterly in love.

He remembers that feeling, when love is young and new and any little thing the other did is breath taking. He remembers being amazed about every discovery of Eliza. That she was insanely clever once he listened to her. How she blushes, even to this day, when he kisses her in public. The birthmark shaped like a cloud on her right breast. The sound she makes when she’s kissed awake. Her love for strawberry jam. How her kindness shines within all of their children. How she makes him a better person.

They say you are asleep until you fall in love; Eliza woke him up from his life and saved him, over and over.

Theo catches him staring. She scowls in that way that’s too similar to her father, anger hiding embarrassment — Burrs can’t stand to be caught with their emotions out in the open. Alexander lightly laughs and bumps his shoulder against hers, like ease up, but she crosses her arms in a huff.

Angie hears, and looks up at them questioningly.

He can feel Theo telling him: don’t say anything. He doesn’t want to anger the younger Burr.

“It looks better already,” Alexander says. “You’re doing a wonderful job.”

Theo relaxes next to him, reassured that he isn’t going to embarrass her.

Angie makes a sound of disapproval, and mutters, “What did you do to it, Pops?”

“I forgot to take care of it,” Alexander says. “Too bad it can’t tell me when to feed it, like you children do.”

Theo laughs. “You’re a disaster,” she says, and Angie looks between them, alarmed — as though she’s waiting for another disaster — but Alexander joins in on the laughter.

“I suppose I am.”

Angie smiles and goes back to fixing the flower. Alexander treasures these moments when she’s happy. She’s had so few good times in recent years, and things have been so terrible that she had to make a reality where Philip didn’t…

He wishes he knew how to fix her, but he can’t, because he can’t fix himself.

“I’m glad you two are getting along better,” Angie says. She lets a petal float away on the wind. “You can’t blame Theo for what her father does. She’s wonderful, and I greatly enjoy her company.”

Alexander and Theo share a secret glance, but Theo is blushing high in her cheeks and can hardly look at him because he knows what Angie means by company.

“Of course,” Alexander says, and they all sit in uncomfortable silence, and he’s content with that, the quiet. But Theo is jittery, disrupting, and Angie asks her what’s wrong — and Alexander wishes he were elsewhere.

“I told your father about us,” Theo says, and then she gasps and covers her mouth.

To be honest, Alexander is relieved, since he thought he would be the one to accidently tell the secret and ruin everything. However, it’s more awkward than he could have imagined. Theo is obviously embarrassed, stuttering as she tries to cover it up, and Angie looks lost.

“I didn’t mean to,” Theo says, “but we were talking and he was bothering me about Al and I said that it was you that I was with—”

“I can’t believe you did that,” Angie says, sharp. “It was supposed to be between us.”

“I know, dearest, but—”

“There is no excuse! How can I trust you now?”

“You can, Angie. Please listen—”

“Hey,” Alexander says, intervening, because he fears he’s seeing their relationship unravel, “it’s okay.” He reaches out and takes Angie’s hand in his, rubs his thumb over her knuckles. They’re speckled with dirt from the flower. She turns her head away from him.

“I have to admit I was shocked at first, but I think it’s wonderful.” He smiles “I’m glad I know.”

Because you’re like me, he thinks. She’s brazen and passionate, she’s always spoken her mind even if it gets her into trouble, and her heart doesn’t follow who she should like.

Angie jerks her hand away from his, and turns to Theo. “Can you not keep any secret? I suppose you thought it was fair play to tell our secret since you told me the one about our fathers, that they lust for each other.”

“You told her what?” Alexander can’t help his voice rising because he can’t handle how Angie looks at him — betrayed, hurt — and it seems to make Angie even more upset, tears running down her cheeks.

Theo appears to be nearly crying as well. “I am so sorry,” she says, “I just — I thought it would help, if she knew that you—”

“It doesn’t matter because we can never truly be together!” Angie cries, sobbing, and she runs into the house.

Theo looks to Alexander for only a second, but it’s long enough to know that she thinks it’s all his fault for ruining everything.

“You better mend my daughter’s broken heart,” he says. If she were a boy, he’s be threatening with his shotgun.

Theo nods, lip quivering, and follows Angie.

Alexander is left alone with the flower.

 

* * *

 

“The girls are fighting,” Eliza says. She looks over her shoulder to Alexander. “Do you know why?”

“You’re messing me up,” Alexander grumbles, and taps Eliza’s shoulder so she faces forward again. He’s braiding her long hair into her usual nighttime plait she wears so her hair doesn’t get too tangled. It’s something he’s done for her since she taught him how one rainy afternoon early in their marriage when Philip was only a baby and they had nothing else to do, already too worn out from sex. It’s an easy sort of intimacy that he enjoys.

“You’re avoiding my question,” Eliza says, and Alexander can hear her smiling.

Alexander kisses her neck. “All done,” he says, and he lies down and pulls the duvet to his chest, hoping that will deter her from asking further questions. Eliza gives him a dubious look, but she leaves the candle lit and lies next to him, settling on her side with her arm thrown over his waist.

A moment of quiet, and then—

“You know something,” she says, accusing.

She knows him too well.

“They’ve had a disagreement,” Alexander explains. Angie and Theo had dried their tears and moved on to shooting each other malicious looks during dinner, making everyone else uncomfortable. He supposes that Angie got Al on her side, because he was uncharacteristically cold to Theo as well. Theo sat quietly and was visibly upset, and ended up excusing herself from the table halfway through the meal. Alexander almost feels bad for her, if she hadn’t brought it upon herself.

“What?” Eliza asks, unsatisfied with Alexander’s vagueness. Alexander hem-haws, giving noncommittal sounds because he’s determined to keep secrets better than some people, but Eliza hits his chest. “Alexander Hamilton, tell me right now what’s going on.”

He could use her outlook…

“Angie and Theo,” Alexander begins, choosing his words very carefully, quietly, so only Eliza can hear, “are involved. As partners.   Romantically.” He isn’t really sure what he’s saying and he’s hoping Eliza will interject but alas, she does not. He takes his gaze away from the ceiling to her, his hair rustling against the pillow. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Oh, I understand.” Eliza makes a clicking sound with her tongue. “I really don’t know what to say.”

“That it’s wonderful? They’re both happy. Well, not at the moment, but that’s because Angie found out that Theo told me about them — that’s a whole other story — but they’re good for each other. You’ve seen how well they get along, and Theo told me that she loves Angie.”

Alexander couldn’t be more elated, but Eliza is frowning.

“You’re upset,” he says.

“You shouldn’t encourage it,” Eliza says. “You know it won’t last. They may not even make up this time, which…that’s okay.”

Alexander is frowning, now. “Why would you say that? It’s what they want. We should let them be happy. It’s the happiest Angie has been, since…” Since Philip died, unspoken.

“That’s why we shouldn’t allow it,” Eliza says, harsh in his ear, as though she’s struggling to keep the argument quiet. “She shouldn’t be given false hope.”

“It isn’t. Relations with…the same are possible.” He pats his chest. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” He’s proud, in a way, that his daughter is like him.

Eliza scoffs. “Obviously.”

What is that supposed to mean? “I suppose you blame me for that? For what I like?” he asks. It’s something they’ve spoken of in their marriage — Eliza knows that he can find a man just as attractive as a woman, if he looked — but it’s never been a problem.

“It’s different,” Eliza settles on, feebly.

“How so?”

Eliza sighs. “Because eventually Theo will want something else, and she’ll meet a man and go off and get married and leave Angie alone with nothing except a broken heart.” She blinks away tears. “That’s false hope.”

“You don’t know that,” he says. “They might stay together forever.”

“They can’t. It’s not — it’s not right to live that way.”

She doesn’t mean what it sounds like, he tells himself. He breathes through a flare of anger. Eliza doesn’t hate him for who he is. It’s security and safety she’s thinking of, but it feels like an insult.

“But you’re okay with my, uh, inclinations,” he says. “It’s the same thing.”

“It’s not. You’re married to a woman and you…” Eliza sighs. “You like women. Men are just…a weakness for you.”

“Is it a weakness to have affection for another?” How could that bubbly feeling when you like someone be bad? When you feel simultaneously ravenous and bursting at the seams, that can’t-get-them-off-your-mind obsession with everything they do, feeling hot all over and nerves tingling and mouth dry when you look upon their beauty — it’d feel like a madness if it didn’t feel so good. Is it a weakness to love—?

“Please, let them be happy.” Alexander kisses her, but she remains closed-mouthed. “They need this.”

“And you need what you desire to be happy, too?” Her voice is barely above a whisper. “Damn those Burrs.”

“I love you. You and me — that would be enough, remember?”

Eliza loved him first, and has never stopped loving him. She loves him not despite his imperfections, but because of them. She understands him in a way that nobody else has, or ever will.

“I know,” Eliza says. “But you aren’t happy.”

“When did this become about me?”

“Don’t you want everything to be about you?”

Eliza.”

“But it is, isn’t it? You want things your way, but not everything is an absolute,” Eliza says. “You act as though someone must be entirely devoted to you, and since Aaron Burr doesn’t worship the ground you walk on and is apprehensive to jump into bed with you, you’d rather not commit to him, either.”

“That’s not why.”

Eliza laughs in the dismissive way she does when she think he’s said something absurd. “It is. He asked how you felt about him after he revealed how he felt for you, and you repaid him by being callous. He left because of you, because you were too afraid to tell him that you care for him beyond using him.”

Something catches in Alexander’s chest at that. Fault. His fault. He tries to fight it but it finds a place and settles inside.

“He should have known,” he mutters. “He had to have known. He just wanted me to admit it aloud.”

“Would that have been so horrible?” she asks, and continues before he can reply yes, the worst. “Everything doesn’t have to be a power struggle. You thought he might hurt you, so you hit back, like you always do with him. The stupid arguments you had when you were younger. The duel. Writing that damn pamphlet where you told everyone that you forgave him, instead of just telling him yourself.”

So what if he expects people to be worse than they are? And he’s usually correct — they will eventually disappoint you.

“Sometimes,” Eliza says, “you expect that people know how you feel. You don’t even tell me…”

Her voice trails off, and Alexander strains his ears to hear the tiny hitch in her breath.

“Do you want me to stop this, with Burr?” he asks. “I’ll never speak of him again, if that’s what you want.”

“I want you to admit why you want him.”

“I want a lot of things. This isn’t more important than those.”

“Oh, sure,” Eliza says. “Fame, power, wealth, attention — and you’d do anything for it.”

“That’s unfair.” Especially since so many of those things he has are due to a jumpstart by marrying into her family.

“And you have grand ideas. War, creating a government,” she says, “presidency—”

“That one was Burr’s idea,” Alexander argues. “And if I have been distant with him, it’s because he was distant with me first.”

Eliza sighs and pulls away from him. For a moment, Alexander wonders what he said wrong — or what surpassed her limit of tolerance — but she snuffs out the candle and returns to her place next to him.

“You’ve kept yourself from being happy,” she says, in the dark. “The both of you.”

“I’m fine.” He is. He will be. Eventually.

“Okay.” Eliza kisses him and doesn’t argue the matter any further. He knows she won, by how he is awake all night, guilty for so many reasons.

 

* * *

 

It’s up to Alexander to mend things between Theo and his family. Angie won’t speak to him — too embarrassed — and Al pretends not to now what he’s talking about, and Eliza claims she can’t get involved because she isn’t supposed to know, so…it falls to him.

The day after his pillow-talk conversation with Eliza, and after a particularly tense breakfast, Alexander goes to find Theo because honestly, he cannot have any more drama in his life. He has enough of his own.

She’s in the library, secluded in a corner, reading, with her feet tucked under her. She sighs when she sees Alexander approach, but she makes room for him to sit next to her. He flops down, ignoring what Eliza has said about him tearing up the seats if he keeps doing that. Theo scoots over, still not saying anything. Alexander peers over, trying to read from her book, but she snaps it shut and aha, finally looks at him.

“I suppose you hate me, too,” Theo says, scornful. Her mouth is formed into a straight line, eyes blank, expression resigned, like she expects to be loathed — or deserves it. But Alexander has a lifetime of experience with the Burr self-deprecation and sees right through it. She’s upset.

“Of course not,” he says, and there’s a flicker of…relief? Theo’s grim smile is there for only a moment, but it’s something.

He clears his throat. “When Angie was growing up, I often thought about what it would be like when a man asked for her hand,” he says. “She was our only girl for a long time. I tried to treat her the same as my sons. I let her play rough with me like the boys did, climbing all over me and rumpling my clothes. I taught her how to play the piano. I even played dolls with her, spending hours of putting different outfits on them, because she kept asking me to do it again.”

Theo snorts laughter, then waves her hand. “Sorry, it’s just — my father did the same. Play dolls with me.” She bites down on her smile. “Please continue.”

He isn’t really sure where he was going with it. He would ask more about Burr playing with dolls — because that is an amusing thought — but, anyway.

“I did everything I could for her,” Alexander says, “because I feared the day she would leave home. But then Philip died and she — she changed.” He pauses. “Then her prospects changed and even though I wanted her to have her own life, there was a part of me that was glad, because then nobody could hurt her more. Does that make me terrible?”

“Sort of,” she says. “But it’s understandable.”

Alexander shrugs. “But then she was happy — more than I thought she would ever be again. I know it was because of you, and I am so thankful…”

“Mister Hamilton.”

He runs a hand through his hair. “I want her to be happy. I want you to be happy. You two are young and have your whole life ahead of you. Don’t waste it on being miserable.”

They have a chance. Let them learn from the mistakes of the generation before them. There doesn’t always have to be a war.

“Why are you being so nice to me?” Theo asks, quietly. “Haven’t I hurt her? Like you feared?”

“Because I like you, Theo Burr,” he says. “You make Angie happy, which makes me happy, and you’re like part of the family now so—”

Theo throws her arms around him. The hug is quick, nothing more than a squeeze with her face pressed against his shoulder, and Alexander hardly has enough time to process it and hug her back before she pulls away, looking at a loss why she did such a thing.

“Here.” Theo pulls a slip of paper out of her book and hands it to Alexander. “This is where my father is staying in London. He’s going by the surname Edwards.”

The paper is useless, it has the name of an inn and an address thousands of miles away, but it feels extremely valuable in his hands. It’s something that gives him an answer.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” He attempts to be nonchalant, but he holds the paper tight in his hand, as though he’s afraid she’ll change her mind and take it back, or that it could fly out of his hands like a leaf.

“In case you wanted it,” Theo says. “To…I don’t know. Write to him. Fix what you did.”

“He doesn’t want to talk to me.”

But Alexander slips the precious paper into his pocket. Keeping if safe.

“He thinks the same of you,” Theo says, and Alexander can’t argue with that — he wouldn’t think he liked him either, if he were Aaron Burr.

 

* * *

 

He starts a letter to Burr that night, now that he has his address. He means to tell him off, saying—

There are some things I need to say that I could never say in person because you’d get so emotional and I could never finish, but I also cannot put them in a letter — for obvious reasons — however you went away because you do not care, so what different does it make?

—but he burns the letter before the ink dries. He doesn’t want to talk to Burr if Burr doesn’t want to talk to him. He’ll prove he’s the most stubborn of the two of them.

He decides to take a nap instead, and goes to look for Cleo — he likes her next to him while he sleeps — but she’s nowhere to be found. He thinks where would I be if I were a cat, which leads him to Burr’s bedroom door, again. Cleo is there, because she apparently hasn’t given up on Burr. She meows and rubs against the door and Alexander lets her inside because he feels sorry for her, but once he opens the door and looks inside, he is too curious.

Cleo watches from where she’s curled up on the bed while Alexander riffles through Burr’s things. A thin layer of dust covers the things Burr left behind — clothing, trinkets, books. Alexander had thought that it meant that he planned to come back sometime, but now he isn’t so sure. Maybe Burr left with intentions to never return.

A journal falls from a stack of books onto the floor. He bends to pick it up and place it back where it was, but something catches his eye; a piece of fabric sticking out, bookmarking a page.

He looks around the room, as though someone else could be there. But only Burr’s cat is there.

He shouldn’t. He shouldn’t read Burr’s personal journal, but he left it and he won’t know, and…

The bookmarked page is blank. Curious, he flips through the pages and finds that the entire journal is unused. He doesn’t know why Burr would’ve had something to mark it, but then he realizes—

—it’s his garter.

The one he thought he lost months ago, the navy-blue one with a fancy seam, the one he put the match away because he gave up looking for it. The one that Burr removed when he took off his clothes, piece by piece, and Burr’s hands lingered a little too long (but not long enough) on his skin. Burr kept his garter, hidden away like it’s something repulsive or something precious.

Alexander rubs the fabric between his thumb and forefinger. He remembers that night — when he came to Burr’s bed and didn’t even think about it. He could have slept another night on his office sofa or had someone else help with his clothes but no, he went to Burr, because he can depend on Burr when he needs him.

And Burr isn’t here anymore. He is alone.

This — this means something. Burr held onto this souvenir of trust and intimacy and tenderness. He blushes at the thought of Burr keeping it because he wanted something smutty of him, but then thinks that perhaps Burr was too embarrassed to return it. Either way, it is because it means something. If it were only lust between them, they would have resolved that already — they’re both men of indulgence, they would’ve worked out the sexual frustrations — but Alexander would be lying that it was only lust he felt when Burr’s hands were on him that night when he tenderly undressed him.

And he’d be lying if he didn’t go there that night with that on his mind — an experiment to see what could happen.

He wants more proof. He goes through Burr’s possessions, not caring to keep them neat or inconspicuous, he doesn’t care if Burr knows he was looking. He needs to know.

He finds a small box hidden under winter clothing, and in it there are papers. Letters in bundles and scraps of parchment and clippings from newspapers, and upon looking he sees that they all involve him. Articles about his and Burr’s new business, articles from when they worked together after the war, the story about their duel — which looks as if it were ripped out instead of neatly cut like the others. There’s a note that he had wrote to Burr during a trial, when he wanted to say something before Burr gave the closing argument — you’ll do fine, you are brilliant, and I should know because it takes a genius to recognize a genius. A doodle that he drew at work one day. Letters, correspondence between them from when Burr was living at the Capitol, a rare letter from the war, and letters from that horrible time when they were enemies.

He never did read the final letter Burr sent him before they met their fate in Weehawken. He had sent it back, too angry and too prideful, because no matter what Burr had to say, he wasn’t going to change his mind.

And here they are.

The letter is easy to find at the bottom of the stack. The paper has yellowed slightly, but otherwise in good condition. He handles it as though it’s a delicate artifact, as though it’ll crumble into dust if he’s too aggressive. He shouldn’t read it — what if he gets angry all over again? What if Burr said something that he wished to hear and because of his stupidity he lost the opportunity to have it from him?

It’ll kill him if he doesn’t know what’s inside, and nearly two years later, he opens the letter addressed to him with the date June 21, 1804.

He reads it, and then he reads it again.

He’s almost disappointed. He had hoped for something monumental — a confession, or something damning, but Burr’s words are as impassive as ever, with the mercilessness to it that they threw at each other back then. Burr had gave him every option to change his mind, implying you can say you didn’t mean it and I’ll forget it all, because do you really want to do this? He was almost pleading for him to reconsider.

Would it have made a difference if he had read it then? Probably not. Definitely not.

It’s hard to think of a time before what they are now. What they are — he doesn’t know, but it’s something, not the nothing they’ve been excusing it as for too long. All of these mementos which Burr kept about him prove it’s not nothing, and god, how could he be so stupid, letting Burr leave? He had been so focused on himself, he hasn’t thought of Burr. Burr has always been too thorny to make friends easily — but that’s because they don’t understand him, and Alexander understands him a little better than most — and his wife died and he lost the Presidency and there was the humiliation with the duel and his only child is growing up and…Alexander’s heart aches for him.

He can’t let Burr be alone.

 

* * *

 

“I know,” Eliza says when he tells her of his plans to follow Burr to England.

“It’s something I must do,” Alexander says. “I cannot continue without knowing.”

“I know,” she repeats, and, yes. She always knows. She knows how his passions outrun his passions, and she knows his restless soul.

 

* * *

 

They send for Angelica to come from her western New York home to help out at the Grange while Alexander is gone. When Angelica arrives, she tries to talk sense into him — as she always does — but his mind is made up. He’s set to leave the following morning.

“I don’t understand,” Angelica tells him. She’s hurt, worried he’s making a mistake. Maybe he is. But it would be a mistake not to go.

“Trust me.” There was a time in Alexander’s life where he would have never doubted her trust, but he ruined that, too.

He kisses her hand. “Please.” He can’t lose anyone else.

“Don’t give me another reason not to trust you,” she says.

He can’t make any promises.

 

* * *

 

He spends the final night with Eliza. It feels almost as bad when they were newlyweds and he left her to go to war. He promises over and over that he’ll return, fervid whispers into her skin as he moves against her, and she says, “I know, you always come back to me.”

“You’re more than enough,” Alexander says, “You are everything.”

—and he stays awake listening to her sleep, worried that he won’t be able to leave.

 

* * *

 

Al is angry with him for going, William tears up when he realizes how far away England is, and John tries to act tough like he isn’t upset but he ends up hugging him and begging him not to leave. Eliza ushers the children along, making them tell him farewell. He gives them each a kiss on the forehead and tells them to be good for their mother and aunt, and gives Rita extra cuddles in the hopes that she won’t forget him while he’s gone.

To Angie, he whispers in her ear, “Don’t be angry with Theo. She cares for you too much.”

Angie nods. “Okay.” She looks over to Theo and they share a small smile. Good.

After a moment of hesitation, Angie asks, “What if you don’t come back? Like Philip?” and he pulls her into a hug and promises he’ll never disappear.

Theo gives him a letter — sealed — to give to Burr.

“Thanks,” Theo says, and Alexander replies, “The best thanks you can give me is to make my daughter happy.”

Angelica calls him an idiot but cries anyway when he kisses her on the cheek, and he tells Eliza he loves her more than anything, everything, and—

—then he leaves, alone, without looking back. He has never looked back, and he won’t start now.

 

* * *

 

The ocean is worse than he remembers, a violent, destructive force that wants him dead. He thinks he made a mistake, but he can’t go back. His stomach is sick and his heart is sick — he cries alone in his cabin, missing his family.

He thinks of the last time when he was on a ship — he was leaving Nevis forever because he knew in his heart he wasn’t going to ever go back. He was sent off with donated clothes and public money and best wishes, because they knew the best thing they could do for him was to get rid of him. And so, he became a son of the island without a home.

He almost died back then, only nineteen. What if he dies now? He is a fool to test fate. What if death catches up to him and he leaves his family alone, what if they die while he’s gone and he won’t know until it’s too late, it could happen, people die all the time—

It’s too overwhelming to miss them all at once, so he spends each day focusing on them one at a time. Each of his children, and his dear Betsey — and he thinks what he’ll say when he sees them again.

 

* * *

 

Alexander finds Burr.

He finds him despite the distance and the strange land and everything else between them. He tells Burr why he wants him, because he never did before and he had a lot of time on the journey to think about it, but he couldn’t come up with a reason more than I want you so bad I can’t think straight, so bad all my bones shake, so bad I can’t breathe. For once, he can’t articulate why but he cares and Burr is so so important to him, and he’s willing to figure it out, if Burr is willing to as well.

And he is, he is — Burr kisses him, needy and hot and wanting, and Alexander kisses him back, just as desperate. They undress each other, stumble to bed, they can’t stop touching, exploring the other. Burr is stunningly gorgeous — he looks a little tired and his hair is longer, but he’s well-toned, better built than he has any right to be, has the same deep, rich brown color all over, and downward…that’s nice too.

Alexander blushes, lying nude facing Burr but it’s wonderful because Burr is looking at him in the same way, like he’s finally content.

“I want you,” Alexander says between kisses, and Burr echoes it back to him and oh, it sounds so nice to hear. He wants to tell him more, he wants to say I like your annoying habits and I like your elegant speech that makes me mad with jealousy and I like how you’re grumpy in the morning and I like how you think I’m clever and and and

Alexander touches him first, putting his hand on Burr’s cock. It’s hard — for him, he thinks, and his own cock twitches at that. Burr takes in a deep, sharp breath and Alexander sees his muscles tense.

“Is this okay?” Alexander asks, mumbling against Burr’s chest. They’re pressed close, forced together by a too-small bed and their want for each other.

Burr nods. “Yes. It’s — it’s good,” he says and he closes his eyes, like he can’t believe that this is happening to him. Alexander wants to prove it to him, so he won’t ever have to second guess. He kisses that beautiful neck of Burr’s, grips him tighter, dragging his thumb against him and then rolls back foreskin to reveal the head where slick precome is leaking out. Alexander moans softly at that but then he kisses Burr to quiet it, and Burr kisses back, just as urgently and heated — no talking is necessary. Alexander sucks at Burr’s bottom lip, tasting, licking — he tastes so good, and he bets he would taste good in other places too, but this will have to do for now. Kissing — which started it all — and Burr thick and heavy in his hand.

Burr curses softly, and then curses again when Alexander laughs at him. “Tease,” Burr grumbles, but his breath catches in his throat when Alexander strokes him firmly from base to tip. He trembles slightly, and Alexander thinks that he might push him away at any minute because he’ll have enough, but Burr opens his eyes and focuses on Alexander’s. That’s almost too much for Alexander, those sultry brown eyes. He had missed how Burr looks at him.

It looks as though Burr wants to say something. Alexander kisses him before he can.

It’s been a while since he’s handled a cock from this angle, but it’s quickly familiar and he handles it nicely. Soon he’s worked up to a rhythm that’s got Burr making all sorts of sounds that he’s never heard from him before. He finds what Burr likes, how he likes to be touched and what can bring out more of those wonderful sounds. Burr’s breathing quickens, he gasps when his balls are touched and oh that’s nice how they visibly tighten, he licks his lips and he’s so damn kissable, but what’s most delicious is how Burr says his name choked in each syllable — Al-ex-an-der.

Alexander licks his hand, savoring the taste of Burr, and then touches Burr again, with purpose, quicker now that it’s wetter. Burr says something unintelligible, mumbling against Alexander’s lips as his fingers fumble at Alexander’s side, grasping. Wanting.

“You don’t have to,” Alexander says, even though he wants Burr to touch him oh-so-badly — he hadn’t thought too much about his own throbbing need between his legs because he had been so concerned about Burr’s, but when Burr shows an interest, it’s all he can think of. He keeps his hand on Burr but arches, rubbing his cock against Burr’s hip and as a result, he feels Burr’s cock twitch in his hand — there’s no denying that he likes this, with him. Burr’s hand travels down, skimming down his side, pausing for a moment at the place Alexander knows is where the scar of his bullet exists.

He kisses Burr roughly, says, “Please.” Please don’t stop please don’t think of that please don’t. Another kiss for encouragement, and Burr obliges, reaching down further, curving against his hip and then—

It’s worth it if he had to travel across an ocean for this, to be touched by Burr. It’s a little awkward while Burr figures out the mechanics — touching not too hard but not too gentle — but it feels wonderful, Burr’s big strong hand wrapped around his dick, stroking and bringing him closer and closer to the edge. Alexander rewards him when he does something right, nipping at his neck and twisting his wrist just so, which makes Burr curse and buck into his hand. He matches how Alexander touches him, and Alexander can’t help but whimper — he has to bite down on begging for more, but he almost doesn’t care — he has Burr now. Their kisses turn sloppy, one misses and lands on Burr’s chin, but Burr moves his head so he can meet his mouth with his.

“Alex,” Burr says, his voice deep. Alexander can feel it rumble against his chest where they’re pressed against each other, and he grabs Burr’s arm with his free hand to steady himself because everything is making the fire in his veins burn hotter. Burr circles his thumb around the ridge of Alexander’s cock and Alexander does ask for more then, and Burr makes an amused sound but there’s no bite to it. Burr is enjoying this. He likes him. He’s here and making him feel amazing and oh my god, Aaron Burr is jerking him off. Burr smears precome down Alexander’s length, all the way down and rubs at the base — he’s horrible, working him up and then prolonging it — but it feels wonderful, and he wants it to last forever, but then Burr goes back to uneven fast strokes at the tip and he isn’t going to last much longer.

“Burr.” Alexander blinks, and he realizes that they’ve got their hands on each other, this is what he’s wanted, not because it’s the pleasure of a body against a body but because it’s Burr — and he squeezes his eyes shut and he comes, spilling over Burr’s hand and onto their stomachs. The orgasm is fucking incredible — he knows he’s making noise but he doesn’t care because Burr is warm against him and wants him and he’s kissing him as he shudders through it.

Burr lets him go and looks down, like he’s surprised that happened. When Alexander can think clearly he teases him, asking, “What did you expect?” Burr says something and thrusts into Alexander’s hand — Alexander had stopped the motions when he came, too occupied on enjoying it — and Alexander starts again, in time to Burr’s thrust, one, two, and then Burr comes.

Aaron Burr is beautiful when he comes. Visceral — Alexander can feel himself stir just watching him. He shuts his eyes and he lets himself feel it entirely, but Alexander wants him to look at him, he wants him to see him, remind him that he’s there.

He doesn’t forget. He kisses Alexander right after, while he’s still breathing hard. Most of Burr’s release got on Alexander somehow, but Alexander doesn’t mind. In fact, he’s resisting the urge the wipe some up and taste but — too soon.

“Alexander.” Maybe it’s a question, Alexander doesn’t know, but he presses his forehead to Burr’s and exists with him, for the moment, because they won’t have this again — their first time. Burr kisses him, his nose, his mouth, down his neck and to his collarbone, until he starts kissing him back and it becomes a mess.

“Hold on.” Burr gets out of bed, walks a few paces to the table and picks up a rag, dips it in the basin. Alexander sits up on his elbow, admiring the nice view of Burr’s bare backside, but then blushes when Burr turns around and he’s caught looking. But he doesn’t avert his eyes, and Burr doesn’t either. He brings the rag back and cleans them down, wiping the sticky satisfaction off their skin — first cleaning Alexander, then himself, before tossing it to the floor and lying back down with him.

“Are you okay?” Alexander is afraid to ask but he has to know. “Are you happy?”

“Yes,” Burr says without elaboration. He sounds more relaxed than usual but that could just be the orgasm. Alexander wants to ask him again, he wants for Burr to explain, but Burr shoves at Alexander so he’ll turn on his side. Alexander does, his back facing Burr and he’s feeling sad but Burr curls around Alexander and rests his arm across his waist and presses his chest to his back, snuggling, and all Alexander’s worries dissipate. Alexander wiggles to get comfortable, but Burr holds him still and tells him to stop and Alexander goes to protest but doesn’t complain because Burr pulls the duvet over them and he kisses the back of his neck. There isn’t much room to go on the bed, but Alexander would be close to him anyway, by choice. It’s nice, feeling Burr’s warmth mixing with his own, his body against his, their breathing lining up. It feels right, like how it has all those other times when they shared a bed and ended up tangled together in the middle of the night.

This time, they don’t have to pretend it’s an accident.

“Sleep,” Burr says into Alexander’s ear, as though he could tell that Alexander was on the precipice of a question. “We can talk in the morning.”

Alexander nods. They have the time, now. He found Burr, and Burr wanted to be found. It’s going to be okay. It is okay.

He sleeps, and Burr does, too.

 

* * *

 

Before he opens his eyes, he knows he’s somewhere different — not at home or the unforgiving nightmare of the ship. He’s happy, something he hasn’t truly felt in a while. He rubs his eyes and looks out the window where parted curtains reveal an overcast day, and he remembers he’s in London, and then it occurs to him that he didn’t pay much attention to the room before he fell into bed with Burr, and then he remembers Burr and he can’t help the smile and the fluttering feeling in his chest, like he’s a teenager with his first crush. He really is here, and for once they managed honesty — and there was sex and kissing and falling asleep together and—

He realizes he’s much too cold. He looks over his shoulder and the other side of the bed is empty.

He sits up, the blanket falling to his waist. Burr isn’t in the tiny room, either, and panic sets in. Burr left him again. He’s sure of it. Burr left him all alone in a strange country, he got what he wanted, he used him and left — that heartless, terrible man — or maybe Burr didn’t like him as much as he thought he did and he left so he wouldn’t have to tell him, that coward—

Alexander picks his clothes up off the floor and dresses in a rush. He doesn’t bother with a jacket or cravat and goes downstairs, leaning heavily on his cane as he hurriedly takes one step at a time — goddamn stairs, a blight to humanity — and he knows that he’ll never forgive himself if he lets Burr get away again.

But once he’s in the main room and ignores the suspicious-looking characters, he sees Burr hasn’t gone far at all — he’s at a table in the corner, eating breakfast, and oh what a relief, he didn’t leave him! But the feeling is brief because there’s a woman half in Burr’s lap and he’s smiling at her and offering his fork to her and there’s that panicky feeling again.

Alexander stomps over to them. They don’t seem to notice him over the low murmur of the room, but the woman eats from the fork and then leans in and kisses Burr and Alexander can hear the appreciative noise Burr makes. Alexander knows that sound, he discovered it last night when he licked at Burr’s neck, and only he should be making Burr make that sound.

He raps his cane against the table leg. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Burr takes his attention away from the woman, and the way he looks at Alexander makes Alexander want to yell — he looks at him like it’s no big deal that he’s there, that he didn’t brave the ocean for him, that he didn’t make him come hard the night previous. It’s almost evasive, not directly meeting his eyes, and Alexander begins to doubt it all not for the first time. He’s ready to end it before Burr can, but then Burr smiles at him and goddamn, he could really hate him.

“Good morning,” Burr says, and gestures to the seat next to him, which Alexander claims, possessively. Burr gives him an exasperated look, sighs, and turns to the woman. “This is my friend—”

“Alexander,” he says, beating Burr to the introduction. He gives the woman his most charming smile and holds out his hand to shake hers. “It’s nice to meet you, miss…?”

She doesn’t disclose her name, but her face lights up, turning to Burr before looking back to him.

“So you’re Alex,” she says. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“He’s talked about me?” Alexander asks. That means Burr has spent a lot of time with this woman. He’s obviously fucked her. She’s just his type: breathing. He shouldn’t be jealous but he is. He wants Burr to be paying attention to him, he wants Burr to be feeding him breakfast and sitting too close and kissing him and and and—

Burr clears his throat and — why is he looking so uncomfortable?

The woman leans across Burr to talk more directly to Alexander. She asks, “Both of you lads together then?” She winks at Alexander. “It’ll cost double but it’ll be worth it.”

Oh. Oh, now Alexander understands. Of course, she’s a whore. Burr’s favorite pastime. He isn’t sure what to say because he’s kind of flabbergasted at the offer, but Burr laughs — a real one, not those fake laughs to join social normality.

“We’ll have to decline,” Burr says, standing, and he grabs ahold of Alexander’s arm, pulling him to a standing position. “Alexander is very tired. He came late last night.”

“I sure did,” Alexander says, unable to not take the opportunity of the lewd pun. Burr glares at him like he wants to kill him. He beams at Burr in return.

“I see.” The woman smirks at them. “Then you should take him back to your room, so he can rest.”

Burr’s grip on Alexander’s arm tightens.

“I’ll see you later,” Burr tells her, and Alexander doesn’t get a chance to say anything because Burr is dragging him away, back upstairs. Burr is mindful of Alexander needing to take his time on the stairs but he doesn’t talk to him, doesn’t even look at him until they’re back in Burr’s drafty room with the door closed behind them.

“What have you told her about me?” Alexander asks, right off. He’s feeling betrayed, angry, unwanted — and Burr doesn’t seem to care. “What did you say? Did you complain about me to her? Did you tell her you ran away from me because you were freaked out that you wanted to fuck me?”

Burr sighs and sits down at the foot of the bed.

“I didn’t say anything about you,” Burr says. “Other than…I had a friend that I missed. She doesn’t know anything that’s between us.”

“It sounded like she knows a lot.”

“She’s just a whore, Hamilton,” Burr says. “They infer those things, you know.”

“Actually, I don’t know because I don’t make a habit out of spending time with whores.” He frowns. “Did she really need to sit in your lap?”

Burr holds out his hand. “Come here,” he says, and Alexander is still mad at him but he puts his hand in his anyway. He focuses on the feeling of their palms together while Burr coerces him to sit next to him. He feels a little ridiculous making a big deal out of it but it is a big deal, they’ve just resolved their problem and there was Burr, getting cozy with someone that isn’t him.

He looks down to his lap, too embarrassed to face Burr, but Burr nudges him.

“I have something for you.” Burr reaches into his coat and takes out a small paper package. Alexander takes it, and there’s the scent of sweetness and it’s warm in his hands. He salivates as he quickly opens it, unwrapping to see a delicious-looking pastry covered with sugary glaze.

“There’s a bakery across the street,” Burr says. “I remembered you have a propensity for sweet things, and I figured you’d be hungry so…”

Alexander takes a bite. He’s actually starving — he hasn’t had a good meal in weeks and the ones he had on the ship he could barely keep down, so he preferred to be hungry and thin down instead of making himself sicker. And he figured if he died of starvation before he reached England, then, well, he wouldn’t have to confront Burr. He takes another bite, moaning at the taste, and he’s glad he didn’t starve because Burr is patting his back and smiling at him and…it’s nice.

He’s almost scarfed the pastry down when he realizes that Burr had been worrying over him. He swallows, licks his fingers — wonders if Burr would want to clean them for him — and then shoves the rest of it in his mouth.

“Thanks,” Alexander says. Burr makes a sound at him speaking with his mouth full but he must excuse him for being hungry because he smiles and says, “You’re welcome.”

It’s odd, not knowing what to say. Alexander doesn’t know if he should bring up the night before, how much he liked it and how he’s dying to get his hands on him again, or if they’ve reverted back to it being unspeakable.

“You fucked her,” Alexander says, for lack of anything else.

Burr nods. “And other women, too. Is that a problem?”

“Yes.” Alexander pauses. “No. It’s just that I’m here and…you’re always leaving me.”

“It isn’t always about you, Alexander.”

“It is! You didn’t stick around when we were younger—”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.”

“And that time when you left for the Capitol—”

“That was my job.

“And you left the country.”

“I did.”

“And then you left me alone in bed this morning—”

“Can I not be away from you for one moment?” Burr asks. “I washed up and went outside to smoke — because I know you hate it and I didn’t want it to wake you — and then I bought you breakfast.”

Alexander huffs. “And you were canoodling with that whore. You kissed her.” He doesn’t say: I wanted to kiss you.

Burr’s mouth quirks into a grin. “Are you jealous?”

“Of course I’m jealous,” he says, and it surprises himself, even. “I don’t like you being with someone else. With women.”

Burr shrugs. “I like women. I don’t see why I have to stop that when it comes to us.”

Us. What a beautiful word.

“So you want to continue this?” Alexander asks, making sure. “Us?”

“Yes, you plonk.” Burr brushes back Alexander’s bed-tangled hair and kisses his temple. “I’ve finally grown fond of you, after all these years.”

“Good,” Alexander says, but then adds, “But you’re supposed to like just me.

“Just you, huh?”

“Just me.”

Burr doesn’t argue. Instead, he kisses where Alexander’s collar is open.

“Did I tell you I am glad you’re here?” Burr asks, and Alexander shakes his head because they didn’t do much talking last night after they stopped arguing. Burr smiles and kisses another patch of skin. “How are you here, anyway?”

“Theo told me.”

Burr utters a profanity. “She never listens.”

“I’m glad she didn’t.”

Burr keeps kissing him, up his neck and to his face and mouth, sliding in his tongue and leaning into the kiss. Alexander can taste the coffee Burr drank and tobacco and the taste of Burr that he’s never going to tire of.

“You want me,” Alexander softly says. Not asks.

“Yes,” Burr replies, “for some insane reason.”

“You want me,” Alexander repeats, smiling. “You want me, Aaron Burr.”

Burr pulls back, and his eyes are full of wanting. “But what I want most at this moment…”

Alexander’s pulse gets caught in his throat. Breathless. “Yes?”

“I’d like you to take a bath.”

Alexander laughs, leaning against Burr. “Okay,” he says, because he knows he isn’t the best smelling at the moment — he has a month of filth from travel and sticky leftovers from fucking, and a good soak sounds like a delight, but first…

One last kiss, to prove it’s real.

It’s real.

Chapter Text

Hamilton watches Aaron prepare the bath. Aaron drags the metal tub in the room, which makes the small room even smaller, so he has to step around it to start the fire and heat bucketful after bucketful of water.

Hamilton doesn’t offer to help, of course. He just sits on the edge of the bed as Aaron trudges back and forth in the room. Aaron tells himself it’s worth it for Hamilton to not stink, and for Hamilton to take off his clothes.

Clothes — which Hamilton is currently taking off, slowly. He makes sure Aaron is paying attention — and Aaron is paying attention. He can’t not look as Hamilton strips, especially when it occurs to him that Hamilton is stripping for him. Hamilton demands attention with each bit of skin revealed, until he’s naked in front of Aaron. Proud. Confident.

Aaron thinks Hamilton should be proud. Hamilton is attractive in all the best ways, and Aaron is ashamed for thinking so. He likes the handsome features of Hamilton’s face, and he likes Hamilton’s masculinity — he likes where Hamilton is hard instead of soft like a woman, and he’s fascinated by the trail of hair that starts below his belly button and travels down into a dark patch around his cock, and he’s fascinated with how his balls hang lower than his, and he’s fascinated by a lot of other things, too — namely how Hamilton is comfortable with all of this. Aaron isn’t able to think of the night before, when he felt a similar comfort in being bare next to Hamilton, because now it seems like some kind of fever dream that he’s going to wake up from at any moment.

As though his uncertainty is palpable, Hamilton walks over to him — step limp step — and he’s there, smiling too smug, and he leans in and kisses him on the lips, gentle. Reassuring.

He isn’t sure if he could ever be sure of Hamilton. But he might, if Hamilton keeps kissing him like that…

“Go on, before it gets cold,” Aaron mumbles against Hamilton’s mouth. “And you smell bad.”

Hamilton grumbles a complaint but he does as Aaron says. He holds onto Aaron’s shoulder to steady himself as he steps into the tub one leg at a time, and then he bends (Aaron takes his chance to check out Hamilton’s bare ass) and braces himself on the side of the tub. As he sits in the water, he lets out a long sigh that sounds a lot like when his dick is touched, and Aaron feels warm at the memory. But Aaron cannot look away, watching as Hamilton bends his knees so the water rises to his chest, then pulls his hair back and wraps it in a tight knot around itself, tucking the end into the bun. He does it quick, probably having done it many times throughout his life — Aaron has never known Alex without his long hair. Aaron likes Hamilton’s hair, he likes it when it hangs in his face when he’s writing, he likes it when Hamilton tucks a strand behind his ear when he’s talking, he likes it when it’s bed-tangled in the morning, and he likes to think about the noise Hamilton might make when it’s pulled. However, he also likes it when it’s pulled back, so he can see Hamilton’s stunning features better and he can see Hamilton’s neck, making it perfect to kiss him there—

“You’re staring,” Hamilton says.

Yes, he is. Because now he’s allowed to, openly. Hamilton’s skin is already a nice pink color from the warm bathwater, and maybe he’s blushing a bit, too. Hamilton likes to be looked at, and that’s only more reason for Aaron to admire his body. Hamilton sits up and flexes his arms as he stretches over his head, obviously pleased that Burr can’t keep his eyes off of him.

So, there’s no need to pretend — Aaron drags the chair next to the tub to watch.

There is an odd sense of déjà vu as he watches Hamilton bathe. He can’t help but think of before when he watched Hamilton bathe, except he didn’t observe him in such a sensual manner. He probably wanted to back then, but he didn’t understand the impulse. But Hamilton knew. Hamilton knew what he was doing back then. And Hamilton knows what he’s doing now, preening as he rubs soap on his body — chest, shoulders, arms, over all those lovely freckles. Hamilton keeps looking at Aaron, and his gaze is as hot as the steam from the water that’s curling against Aaron’s skin. Aaron feels a heat curling in his stomach, too…

“You’re still staring.” Hamilton lifts his left foot out of the water and rests it on the edge of the tub to scrub at his leg. He flashes Aaron a flirtatious glance, feigning coyness. “Someone would think that you’re interested.”

“Someone would think you’re delinquent.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of that,” Hamilton replies. He puts his leg back in, then props his other leg up. “But you like a bit of delinquency, don’t you?”

Aaron gets a peek of Hamilton’s inner thigh. He knows from experience that it’s soft to the touch (his hand clutching it as he stroked Hamilton off with his other hand). He wonders if Hamilton would let him wash him down, but then he realizes of course Hamilton would, that greedy, horrible man.

A greedy, horrible, wonderful man.

Aaron still thinks it’s too good to be true. He thought that he had lost Hamilton forever, but Hamilton had found a way into his life yet again, and for once, Aaron is thankful. He isn’t in the habit of questioning blessings, but why is Hamilton here? Did he also discover that he didn’t know he had needed something until it was missing?

“May I?” Aaron asks, holding his hand out. Hamilton gives him a curious look but passes the rag to him, and then relaxes in the bath, waiting.

Aaron pushes up his sleeves, then goes behind Hamilton and puts the rag to his back — he notes how Hamilton’s muscles tense when he’s touched — and starts washing in firm circular motions. It’s wonderful for two reasons: he gets to touch Hamilton’s soap-slick skin, and because he won’t have to look at the man as he speaks with him.

“What changed your mind?” Aaron asks. He washes the place between Hamilton’s shoulder blades, where he imagines Hamilton carries a lot of his struggles. “What convinced you to visit London?”

Because he knows that Hamilton would not have taken the risk without the elimination of reasonable doubt (he is a lawyer, after all). It’s something he’s been questioning since Hamilton showed up, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask.

“Couldn’t I have just wanted to see you?” Hamilton says, but then he sighs and there is the crux of something more — Aaron knows him well. Too well.

“I found my garter,” Hamilton says, after a moment. He looks over his shoulder, and his expression is unreadable. “You know the one. You took it off me when I was in your bed, and then you picked it up off the floor and you hid it away.”

Oh, that. Aaron has tried to forget about that, but his pulse quickens when he thinks of Hamilton wanton in his bed and his hands against Hamilton as he took his garter off and slowly slid stockings down his legs, over his ankles, off his feet. How could he not know what Hamilton was speaking of? He thinks of it constantly — it comes to mind when he sees Hamilton’s tight breeches clinging to his thighs, and he remembers it in his dreams and he wakes up imagining how that evening could have ended differently.

“I recall the evening,” Aaron says, nonchalant. He scrubs at something he thinks is dirt, but it turns out to be a freckle. “So?”

“Don’t you think it’s interesting that you held on to it as a memento?”

“No.” Aaron’s hands go lower, dipping down to the curve of Hamilton’s hip. Dangerously low. But Hamilton leans forward, wrapping his arms around his knees and curving his back so Aaron has better access to wash him.

“I also found our letters,” Hamilton says. He’s silent for a moment before continuing, “And I found the letters that we exchanged leading up to our duel.”

No.

Hamilton says, “I read the one I sent back to you, unread.”

How dare he exhume those bones, they’re fragile, liable to re-break under pressure—

Aaron throws the rag into the bath — splashing water on both of them — and then sits in the chair so he can face Hamilton, on his level. Hamilton looks funny, wet and pink-skinned, expression guilty like he knows he’s done something wrong but he couldn’t stop his impulses. Like a child stealing sweets. Or a dog shitting on the rug.

“You were snooping,” Aaron says. He kept those letters out of sight, but close enough to read every so often to remind himself that they’ve made progress, or when he’s feeling particularly horrible about himself. “I had those and your…” He clears his throat. “…garment hidden away in my private belongings.”

“Yes,” Hamilton admits, “but I thought you weren’t coming back.”

“I still might not go back.” He may stay here and live in squalor for the rest of his life. It doesn’t sound too bad. He can drink and whore himself to death.

“Don’t be so difficult,” Hamilton says. “If I hadn’t looked through your belongings, I wouldn’t have known how you feel about me.” He frowns at Aaron. “Since you were never going to say anything.”

“What does your garter have to do with anything?”

Hamilton sighs. “I thought I lost it, but you kept it, and you kept all those other things about me.” He smiles, almost shyly. “You care about me.”

Aaron doesn’t confirm, nor deny. He doesn’t think that a piece of fabric and some years-old letters are anything conclusive of feelings. Hamilton must have needed them as a catalyst for his own feelings — to be brave enough to admit that he cares, too. Hamilton cares. He said so last night over and over in between kisses, and he wants him — he won’t forget that.

Instead of talking, Aaron looks at Hamilton. There’s already a comfortable intimacy between them now that they’ve resolved some of the sexual tension they’ve been choking on for months.

He’s Hamilton’s paramour, and…he kind of likes the sound of that.

Hamilton must feel the same ease, because he leans back in the tub, putting himself on display. Aaron sees his chest that’s decorated with scars, old and new, and he wants to know every inch of his skin. He touches Hamilton’s shoulder, his thumb rubbing over one of the older-looking scars. It’s rough and slightly risen on the skin, like the wound was deep and badly treated. “What happened here?”

Hamilton glances to his shoulder, as though he forgot the scar is there. “It’s when my horse was shot from under me at Monmouth,” he says. “I went down and if that wasn’t bad enough, I was hit by a stray bullet.”

Aaron nods. He has a scar of his own from that battle. Shot in his calf a few inches below his knee — he had dug out the bullet, bandaged it up and went back to fight. Of course, that was before the heatstroke.

“And here?” Aaron asks, running his finger along a thin line on Hamilton’s arm.

Hamilton grins. “I cut myself on chicken wire in the garden.”

“Here?” he asks, a starburst on Hamilton’s chest.

“Shrapnel.”

And then he touches the pinkest, ugliest scar on Hamilton’s body, the one nestled against his ribs.

“Here?” Aaron asks, hardly above a whisper. It’s hard to look at — the mark he left on Hamilton.

“A mistake.”

But it wasn’t a mistake, that’s the point—

Hamilton takes Aaron’s hand and kisses his knuckles, soft. “Burr?”

“Alexander?”

“You can still kiss me.”

Aaron doesn’t have to be told twice. He leans in and presses his lips to Hamilton’s, closing his eyes when he feels Hamilton’s parted to meet his. Ready, waiting, wanting. Hamilton slides his tongue against his and their noses bump when they turn their heads the same way. Hamilton has a bigger nose, but it suits him. Good nose. Good mouth. Good lips, plump and nice to lick.

Hamilton pulls away, blushing. It has to be from the kissing because the bathwater has gone cool.

“Would you wash my hair?” Hamilton asks, and that blush gets a little redder, traveling to his ears.

“Sure,” Aaron says, as though he hasn’t been dying to do this since the first time he helped Hamilton wash his hair. He needs to hide his eagerness — he has to keep something reserved.

“I have oil and soap for it in my bag.”

Aaron gets up and searches through Hamilton’s bag on the floor, finding the items easily. Hamilton lets his hair down, black unspooling from the bun and falling against his neck, sticking to wet skin. He is so effortlessly handsome. It makes Aaron so angry and jealous, that he could drown him.

Aaron moves the chair behind Hamilton and gets to work. He cups water in his hands and pours it on top of Hamilton’s head, ignoring when Hamilton complains that it gets in his face. When Hamilton’s hair is wet, making the color an even darker black, he soaps it up, rubbing the soap into Hamilton’s scalp. He then puts some of the oil in his hands — it smells like mint and something distinctively earthy — and mixes it in with the soap, spreading it down the length of Hamilton’s hair. It’s supposed to make it shiny, or maybe give it volume? Aaron can’t exactly remember what Hamilton had said before, but he remembers what he said after — but what would you know, you don’t have any hair.

Nevertheless, he enjoys doing this as much as he did the first time. Hamilton sighs, relaxed. Hamilton’s shoulders loosen up and he keeps making those nice, affirmative sounds as Aaron’s fingers tangle in his hair. Aaron likes hearing those noises. He likes making Hamilton feel good. He decides to add something extra and massages the nape of Hamilton’s neck, and Aaron knows that sound that comes from Hamilton, a throaty moan and sharp intake of breath—

“Are you getting off on this?” Aaron asks. When Hamilton lets out another moan as a reply, he looks around to Hamilton’s front and he sees that sure enough, Hamilton has a halfway-there erection. Hamilton doesn’t conceal it, either; he just smiles.

“I can’t help it,” Hamilton says. “It feels good.”

“Did this happen when I washed your hair before?”

“…Yes.”

“Oh my god.”

“And after you left, I jerked off in the tub.”

Hamilton.

Aaron is frustrated, because Hamilton is impossibly unremitting, and because he feels himself stiffening and it’s all Hamilton’s fault.

Hamilton puts his hand around himself and strokes slow, bringing himself to full hardness. “Ah, like this,” he says. “I thought of what it’d feel like to have your hands on me, and I came so fucking hard.”

“Then let me,” Aaron says, reaching around from behind and replacing Hamilton’s hand with his own — Hamilton curses under his breath, fucking yes Burr please.

The feeling of Hamilton’s cock in his hand isn’t unfamiliar — having been well acquainted with it last night — but it’s still new. The thickness of it, the slightest of an upward curve, the nice defined ridge, the velvet softness. But what is even better are the sounds Hamilton makes when he’s touched, like the breathy gasp and the plea in his voice when he asks for more.

Aaron wants more, too — he touches Hamilton with more assurance than he had last night. It’s wonderfully wet, stroking Hamilton in the water with a firm grip. It’s working marvelously, already rendering Hamilton’s chattering to a silence except for the ahs he lets out when Aaron strokes downward.

“We could…” Hamilton swallows, and starts again. “We could go to the bed.”

“You’ll just get dirty again,” Aaron says, mouthing hot against Hamilton’s neck. “I think I’ll have you right here.”

Fuck, Burr—”

They’re making a mess, splashing water onto the floor and Aaron’s sleeve is wet and his shirt is soapy where Hamilton rests his head against him. It’s slick and easy, and Aaron thinks Hamilton is close, eyelashes fluttering and clutching the side of the tub and Aaron strokes him at the head, rubbing his thumb over it, until Hamilton can hardly mumble a quick warning before he comes thick and pearly white into the bathwater.

Aaron watches Hamilton’s face when he comes — eyes closed and open-mouthed with a hint of a smile.

After, they both stare where Hamilton’s release floats on top of the water.

“That’s disgusting,” Aaron says.

Hamilton laughs. “You won’t think so when yours joins it,” he says, motioning for Aaron to move his chair next to his. Greedy hands open Aaron’s breeches, and when those hands get on Aaron, he doesn’t have anything to complain about.

 

* * *

 

Aaron finishes washing Hamilton’s hair. He wishes he could take his time and maybe bring out another orgasm, but Hamilton hurries to get out because he’s cold. Or maybe, he realizes it’s gross to soak in dirtied water.

Hamilton dripping wet is a nice sight. Water from his hair runs down his back as he dries off, cursing at the chill in the room.

Aaron could go and stoke the fire but…he’d rather watch Hamilton. And touch Hamilton, too — which he remembers he can do, now. He can’t get used to that yet. He doesn’t know if he ever will.

Aaron discovers Hamilton smells good when he comes up behind him and kisses his neck.

“Am I more acceptable now that I’m spick and span?” Hamilton asks. “Or do I offend your delicate olfactory senses?”

He isn’t sure what compels him to do it — as most things happen with Hamilton — but he pinches Hamilton on his ass. Reaches down and grabs. Hamilton yelps and his eyes go wide with surprise, which quickly changes into a mischievous grin that distracts Aaron so much that Hamilton is able to pinch him in return.

“Smartass,” Aaron says.

“Yes, I am smart and I’m notable for my ass,” Hamilton says, and Aaron tries to grope him again but he shoos him away.

Aaron changes his clothes while Hamilton dresses, his outfit too wet from helping Hamilton in the bath. Aaron wears a simple black and white ensemble, while Hamilton dons an outlandish purple with a black neckcloth. Aaron doesn’t dare say that it reminds him of something Jefferson would wear, but he has to admit that Hamilton is impeccable — nice clothes, beard trimmed, damp hair pulled back and tied into a ponytail with a black ribbon.

The main room is mostly empty when they go down for lunch, except for the old man, the two quiet women who keep to themselves, and the large guy who hoards the newspaper in the morning. They look at Aaron and Hamilton for a little too long for Aaron’s liking before going back to their business.

Aaron leads them to a table in the corner, away from everyone else. Aaron has coffee for lunch while Hamilton eats a hearty English meal, which he complains about. It’s either too salty or not salty enough, Aaron isn’t listening, nor does he mention that Hamilton doesn’t seem to have a problem eating it and asking for more.

Hamilton isn’t his concern.

Aaron is very conscious of people looking at him. They are looking at him. Him and Hamilton. Discreet glances their way just long enough to catch them doing it. They know, Aaron thinks. It must be discernable on his face somehow — that he slept with a man and liked it (he liked it, oh yes, he did), and that he wants to do it again (and again, and again). Or maybe the inn’s whore shared her suspicions with others, because she knows more than she needs to know. Or what if he and Hamilton have been too intimate in public? What if they were overheard? What if—?

“What’s wrong?”

Aaron focuses on Hamilton, and all he can think of is Hamilton naked in his bed, which makes him think of Hamilton rubbing his cock against him, which makes him hot with shame — and he wasn’t ashamed, not until everyone started judging him.

“They know.” Aaron leans in across the table to speak to him. “About us.”

Hamilton furrows his brows together, takes a survey of the room, and then looks back to Aaron. “You’re paranoid.”

“I’m not,” Aaron says through gritted teeth. “We need to be careful, Alexander.”

“If anything, your conspicuousness will get us caught.”

“How can you act as though everything is fine?”

“Because it is fine—”

“Shut up.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said shut up, the innkeeper is coming over to us,” Aaron harshly whispers, and he kicks Hamilton under the table because he will not stop talking, and they bicker until the innkeeper is standing at the table. The innkeeper has a friendly demeanor, but something about it strikes Aaron in the wrong way.

He can’t know, Aaron thinks. Don’t be ridiculous.

“Gentlemen,” the innkeeper says, looking to Aaron, to Hamilton, and to Aaron again. “Mister Edwards, I did not have the pleasure of meeting your friend when he arrived late last night.”

Hamilton opens his mouth but Aaron is quicker. “This is Alexander…Smith,” he says, gesturing out to Hamilton open palmed. “He’s from the States, too.”

Hamilton extends his hand, shakes the innkeeper’s. “Nice to meet you,” Hamilton says, enthusiastically, laying on the Hamilton-like charm.

He starts talking nonsense about the weather and the cobblestone and the war, and Aaron worries that Hamilton will say something wrong, but he doesn’t. Hamilton is perfectly at ease while anxiety eats away at Aaron. Aaron never understands how Hamilton fits into any situation so effortlessly. Hamilton’s silver tongue and adaptability are a couple of his many talents that have got him far in life.

The innkeeper interrupts Hamilton when he realizes that he isn’t going to stop anytime soon. He entices Hamilton with the bookshelf in the corner, telling him to borrow anything he likes. Intrigued with the promise of something new to read, Hamilton goes over to the bookshelf across the room. Aaron watches him go — he pathetically thinks don’t leave me — but then snickers when Hamilton’s cane gets caught in the rug.

And then he realizes that he’s staring at Hamilton like an idiot.

Very inconspicuous indeed.

He hopes that the innkeeper missed the way he was looking at Hamilton, but no such luck. The innkeeper sits in Hamilton’s chair and clicks his tongue. “It’ll cost extra to have the guy here.” He doesn’t elaborate. He just gives Aaron an unblinking stare.

“We’re friends,” Aaron says, although he shouldn’t explain, that only makes it questionable.

The innkeeper shrugs. “I don’t care who he is. You’ve stayed here long enough to know that I don’t mind what goes on in this establishment as long as I don’t know about it,” he says, and then he adds, “and as long as I continue to be paid. Do you understand?”

Aaron bites the inside of his cheek. It’s enough of a proposition to not ask what the innkeeper knows. He wouldn’t be surprised if the innkeeper knows — he’s seen some shit in this place.

“That’s fair,” Aaron says. “Does the expense of an extra body in my room cover for the linens to be regularly changed?”

“A reasonable request.” The innkeeper settles back into the chair and crosses his arms. “You’re an alright guy, Edwards.”

“If you say so.”

Aaron glances over to Hamilton, as though he’s making sure he didn’t escape from him. Something like relief trills in his chest when he sees that Hamilton is still here — currently balancing a load of books in his arms. Hamilton frowns when one of the books falls to the floor, but then he catches Aaron’s gaze and he grins, brilliantly.

Aaron decides that this conversation is something he’ll keep to himself. Maybe Hamilton is right and he is being paranoid.

 

* * *

 

When they’re back in their room with privacy, Hamilton presses Aaron against the door, kissing him ravenously — as though he starved in the few hours he had to keep his hands to himself — until they have to pull apart to cool off. Aaron remains with his back against the door while Hamilton paces for a moment, before reaching into his jacket and handing an envelope to him.

“I intended to give this to you sooner,” Hamilton says, “but I was. Uh. Distracted.”

Hamilton probably wanted to delay it, too. Aaron suspects the letter is from Eliza. It says Aaron on the front and she’s one of the few who call him by his given name, and the neat handwriting seems like her, somehow. He turns the envelope over to see an unbroken seal.

“She wanted to make sure I wouldn’t peek,” Hamilton says. He shifts on his feet, like an anxious child awaiting a gift — or punishment. “Well, aren’t you going to open it?”

Aaron sits as he opens it, and Hamilton stands behind him to peer over his shoulder. He reminds Hamilton that it’s addressed to him, but it goes unheard as Hamilton puts on his glasses.

He figures Hamilton would weasel the contents out of him anyway, so he gives up trying to hide it. The letter is short, only a couple lines long. He feels Hamilton’s anxious breath against his neck as he reads. 

 

 

 

It’s time that you and Alexander submit to your feelings. I am not stupid. I know it’s more than just a desire for each other. Work out those frustrations until it turns into compassion. Do what feels right. It’s okay. I trust both of you. As long as he comes back — and you do, too.

“Best of wives,” Hamilton says. He kisses Aaron’s jawline. “She’s so very understanding of my needs.”

Aaron laughs. He’ll have to thank Eliza later. She’s awfully perceptive of her husband, and as an afterthought, he thinks, and me too.

“We did come to an understanding last night,” Aaron says, then adds, “and this morning.”

“Mmhmm.”

“But I don’t think we’ve worked through all our frustrations yet, have we?”

Hamilton’s smile against his skin is marvelous. “We have a lot of issues to sort through,” Hamilton says, mumbling against Aaron. Kissing again, this time nipping with his teeth. “I think many repetitions are necessary.”

Aaron plans to. Having Hamilton naked in his bed, again and again, and he has permission — encouragement — from Eliza to do so. If possible, it makes it more arousing.

“Although, it would have been nice to have read this before we went to bed together,” Aaron says.

“You would have fucked me anyway.”

Aaron’s face heats at the description of fucked, but yes, that’s what he and Hamilton are doing now. He says, “You’re right.”

Hamilton laughs, and there’s another one of those addicting kisses. “You have no morals when it comes to sex.”

He’d like to exercise that lack of morals now, pulling Hamilton around so he can kiss him properly instead of the teasing that Hamilton has been doing, but Hamilton puts a hand to his chest, stopping him. Hamilton is fidgety again and it worries Aaron — did he do something wrong? When he’s almost brave enough to ask, Hamilton reaches inside his jacket again.

“There’s this too,” Hamilton says, and he gives him another letter. He fidgets more.

Hamilton’s voice wavers slightly when he says it, and Aaron tries to understand why. The letter is unmarked but he immediately knows it’s from Theo — he breaks the seal and thankfully, Hamilton has enough sense to go find something else to occupy himself.

Aaron wonders what Theo could have to say that she couldn’t in one of her previous letters. What could be so urgent that she couldn’t send it in the mail? What is that turned something as joyous as her letters into something of foreboding?

 

 

 

 

I could only send this by reliable carrier to be hand-delivered because I needed the assurance that it wouldn’t exchange hands with another than the intended. Yes, mister Hamilton is reliable, and against my better judgment, I trust him. He has proved himself worthy of a chance — which I hope you will do as well, Papa. But I did not have any other choice, as I could not keep this from you any longer.

I know you do not care for prevarication, so I will be forthright: I am in love with Angelica Hamilton.

Aaron reads it again, thinking he misread it and that it’s the junior Alexander that Theo claims to be in love with, but the name of the eldest Hamilton daughter is there in Theo’s careful handwriting.

(in love)

He reads the rest in a rush, each word compounding on the next — almost a year and captured my heart and we’re lovers and she feels the same about me and I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner but for once, I was afraid of disappointing you.

It’s just like Theo to tell him when he couldn’t have a proper conversation with her. He wishes he could tell her that she could never disappoint him, and he wishes to kiss her forehead, and he wishes to listen to her talk about her first love, because first loves always are the sweetest.

And he wishes he were with her so he could ask her — how? Why? Why is she in love with another woman — she isn’t fucked up like him, not prone to irregularity. She and Angie Hamilton aren’t like their fathers.

Hamilton has been remarkably quiet, flipping through the newly borrowed books and looking out the single window. Aaron supposes that Hamilton knows the contents of the letter, because he isn’t trying to read over his shoulder and because he looked so so serious when he gave it to him. Hamilton purposely withheld it, carrying it around in his pocket until it was too heavy to bear.

So many secrets…

“She’s happy,” Hamilton says from his place at the window.   “Theo, I mean. She told me she was happy, and she seemed to be. Except for her father being a runaway idiot.”

“She discussed her personal matters with you?” It’s difficult to believe that his daughter, a true-bred Burr, would converse about personal matters with Hamilton.

Hamilton nods. “She had nobody else to tell, and she knew that I’d be open-minded since—” He waves between the two of them. “Us.” He clears his throat. “They’re like us.”

“They aren’t like us,” Aaron says. “We fuck women.”

Hamilton lets out an irritated huff. “That’s exactly what Eliza said. Well, she didn’t say fuck, but the sentiment was the same.” He crosses the room, closing the distance between them. Gets close, too close. “You should know more than anyone that you can’t help who you’re attracted to.”

“It’ll pass,” Aaron says. “It’s just a curiosity thing.”

“Do you think this thing with us will pass?” Hamilton asks, quiet, steady, sure. He brushes his lips against Aaron’s, just enough for Aaron to lean into him, but Hamilton pulls back, teasing. “We tried, didn’t we? A year of denying ourselves but we still ended up lying together.”

“Alexander.”

God, I love how you say my name. You still want me, don’t you? I’m not a passing fascination for you—”

Alex.

Burr.

Hamilton says it challenging, brightly smiling like he’s enjoying the argument. That’s typical Hamilton — being difficult because it’s more fun to be contrary. It’s overwhelming, almost, when Hamilton argues. As if he’s afraid someone will dispute his brilliance. So, he overcompensates to protect himself. Like an angry, bitey animal. Hamilton has always been like this, even when they were young…especially when they were young.

Aaron realizes that Hamilton is beautiful like this. Impassioned. Resolute. Vulnerable. Hamilton is as beautiful as the first day Aaron saw him. Or, the first time Hamilton saw him, because Hamilton sought him out. Some would say they were meant to be.

 

* * *

 

They don’t fight. Hamilton spends the afternoon reading weeks-old newspapers, catching up on news he missed while trapped on a ship. Every so often, he curses and mutters to himself, as though he finds it objectionable that the world didn’t completely stop while he was away.

Aaron has to force himself not to watch him. He sits across the table in the chair he dragged upstairs from the main room. He intended to work with Hamilton, but all he’s done is write a little in his journal and smoke. But it’s not like he has anything else to do.

Hamilton coughs and wrinkles his nose, looking up to scowl at him. Aaron smiles around his cigar and blows smoke in Hamilton’s direction.

“Jerk,” Hamilton says around the haze of smoke.

“Asshole,” Aaron replies, because he isn’t feeling any sympathy for Hamilton. Earlier, Hamilton thought it was hilarious when Aaron told him that the scorch mark on the table is from when he accidentally set his shirtsleeve on fire, and then Hamilton laughed until he cried when he told him it happened while trying to light a candle.

Hamilton harrumphs, and holds the paper up to block Aaron from looking at him. He behaves like such a child, sometimes.

Aaron smiles, and goes back to his journal. He has a lot to write about.

A certain Creole visited my room in the middle of the night. Talked too much but went quiet when I had my hands on him. Interesting. Was the same when repeated while he was in the bath this morning. Surprisingly giving in return; came twice, once in the twilight hour and then in the referenced morning. It’s a different kind of enjoyment, and very much worth repeating. The Creole is in agreement, no matter how argumentative he is. His good looks make up for it. Attractive, dark-haired; hair color matches down below.

Aaron tries to keep a straight face while the object of his writing sits across from him. He has been thinking of his entry about Hamilton all morning. It’s a habit to record about his sexual conquests. It’s nice to look back and relive them, and it amuses Theo when he gives her excerpts. Sex is good. He has no shame about it, or how much he has.

And he’s not ashamed about having sex with Hamilton.

Or wanting to have sex with Hamilton.

He isn’t.

He shuts his journal, and very carefully pushes back his chair, walks over to Hamilton. The stubborn Creole still holds the newspaper up, but Aaron pushes it down. Hamilton looks cross for only a moment, but then his expression softens — the lines between his brows vanishing, eyes clearing from stormy dark, mouth tugging into a half-grin — like he can’t bother to be angry with Aaron.

“Hi,” Hamilton says, smiling. Aaron can never tire of this smile, this one that’s all for him. Because of him.

It’s so much better than the scowls he caused Hamilton. He remembers those on Hamilton just as clearly. The one on a New Jersey shore finds its way into his dreams quite often.

But Hamilton smiles at him, now. That’s what matters.

“Hi.” Aaron tugs at the end of the ribbon in Hamilton’s hair, and the neat ponytail falls out. Hamilton shakes his head so his raven-dark hair falls around his shoulders. It’s got a kink from being tied up when wet, but it’s still thick and elegant and beautiful. Aaron runs his hand over Hamilton’s head, smoothing it down the flyaway hairs. Hamilton makes a contented, humming sound.

“Hi,” Hamilton says, again. “May I ask what you’re doing, Aaron Burr?”

Aaron isn’t sure what he’s doing, but he’s afraid that if he questioned it, he’d stop. Impulses are the best thing when dealing with Hamilton. That’s how it’s always been. Impulses got them hurt — Hamilton with a gunshot wound in his torso, and Aaron damaged in a different kind of way — but impulses are also an introduction to a stranger, or a first kiss.

Aaron takes Hamilton’s glasses off, folds the metal legs, and places them on the table. Hamilton blinks, adjusting. Aaron wonders how blurry the world is to Hamilton without his glasses. Aaron was blessed with perfect vision, so it’s hard to imagine when things aren’t etched into clarity.

Would it have made it easier to shoot Hamilton?

Or would it make it easier to kiss him?

Aaron puts his hand under Hamilton’s chin and tilts it up, puts his mouth to his. Easy enough. It’s becoming habitual.

Hamilton has no problem kissing Aaron, but he closes his eyes when he kisses. Aaron keeps his open, and sees how Hamilton’s eyelashes dust against his cheeks and how Hamilton’s lips search for his when he pulls away. If Aaron had trouble seeing, he wouldn’t be able to see just how devastatingly beautiful Hamilton is, and he comes to the conclusion that if he couldn’t see Hamilton perfectly — the good and the bad — then he’d rather not see him at all.

It’s easy to take off Hamilton’s fancy clothes, and it’s easy to let Hamilton take off his practical ones, and it’s easy to take Hamilton to bed. Neither of them speak — Hamilton tries to, but Aaron keeps kissing him and soon he’s too interested in rubbing his dick against Aaron to say anything, his mouth going slack and only letting out the occasional moan when Aaron touches him in responsive places.

They try to find a way to rub their dicks together, but it’s harder than imagined so they end up grinding in a desperate counter-rhythm against each other. The bed squeaks, springs tired. Hamilton’s fingernails dig sharp half-moons into Aaron’s arm and Hamilton’s mouth is hot against Aaron’s clavicle as he tries to move against Aaron in the most satisfying way. Aaron grabs Hamilton’s ass, holding him still as he grinds into the fleshiest part of Hamilton’s hip. His ass feels nice in his hand, and he squeezes at the roundness of it experimentally. Hamilton growls a complaint, not getting any friction other than his cock pressing into Aaron’s stomach, but he pushes his ass back against Aaron’s hand, as though asking for him to do it again.

Aaron is content to finish like this, the two of them rutting against each other to get off, but Hamilton is greedy. Hamilton hooks his leg around Aaron’s waist, rolls over so Aaron is on top of him. The position is different, lying between Hamilton’s spread legs — one still wrapped around him — and Hamilton under him. It’s more sexual than what they’ve done. Everything is exploratory, give and take, and Hamilton is being…careful? But Aaron doesn’t want him to be careful, he wants him to do something about this fire that he’s ignited within him—

He thrusts, his cock sliding on Hamilton’s stomach, but Hamilton closes his eyes and shakes his head. Aaron wonders if this is too much for Hamilton — he’d understand if it is, because it’s almost too much for himself — but then Hamilton reaches down between them and takes both of their cocks in his confident, searching hands. The man does have great ideas sometimes, like federal banks or the best way to make Aaron come undone. Those clever hands do wonderful things — Aaron makes a noise he’ll be ashamed of later, and he has to close his eyes for a moment because he nearly comes at the feeling of Hamilton’s cock hard and thick pressed next to his, but then Hamilton — impatient — strokes them together, firmly from the tip down to the base then back up again. Brilliant man, with wonderful hands and ideas.

When Aaron dares to open his eyes, Hamilton has that ravenous look that makes Aaron want him even more and satisfy that hunger. He thrusts into Hamilton’s hand, matching the rhythm that Hamilton strokes them. Hamilton stops, keeping a tight grip around them as Aaron fucks into his hand, their cocks slick because they’re both so damn turned on. Aaron feels Hamilton’s cock twitch against his, and then his mimics it, traitorous. Wonderful. Slick drips over Hamilton’s hands, but he doesn’t know whose it is. Probably both of theirs mixed together. Hamilton starts working his hand on them again, thumb taking turns to rub at them, pausing only to toss sweaty hair out of his face, then touches them just right and they come right after each other — Hamilton first, then Aaron following — sticky onto Hamilton’s stomach.

The heat evaporates when they can think. Aaron rolls onto his back while Hamilton lies there, lax.   Aaron has discovered that Hamilton gets rather lazy after sex. He feels bad for Eliza, imagining Hamilton pounding out an orgasm, then falling asleep before getting her off (although, he knows that isn’t true because he’s heard them having sex and Eliza can be expressive of her pleasure). But Hamilton sits up, reaches onto the floor to get his handkerchief from his discarded coat, cleans their mess off of himself, and then throws it back to the floor before snuggling up to Aaron, laying his head on his chest.

“Aaron Burr.” Hamilton has no right to be this cute — face glowing post-coitus, playful tone to his voice, whimsically running his fingers against the hair on Aaron’s chest. “Have I told you that I missed you?”

“I think so.” He has told him, but Aaron doesn’t mind hearing it again.

“Hmm. Well — I missed you, Aaron Burr.” Hamilton squirms against him, getting comfortable. “Oh. Did I tell you? I renamed your cat to Aaron Purr.

“That’s a terrible name.”

“Then you shouldn’t have left me,” Hamilton says, but he isn’t upset. He kisses Aaron’s jaw and wraps his arm around Aaron’s middle, drawing him closer and then sighs, like he’s pleased.

This, perhaps, is the most confusing thing to Aaron. Hamilton is clingy, snuggly and affectionate after orgasm. All his edges softened, and he’s the happiest he’s ever been in regards to him. For some reason, it makes Aaron mad — because for thirty years, Hamilton has been argumentative and snobbish and absolutely maddening to deal with, but suddenly he’s the most open he’s ever been to him when his dick gets a little attention?

Aaron could shoot him again.

Instead, he kisses him.

“You like me, Aaron Burr,” Hamilton says, between kisses. Aaron wishes he’d be quiet. “You like me, don’t you? Burr?”

“Mostly,” Aaron mumbles against Hamilton’s cheek. “But it’s amazing how that feeling dissipates.”

Burr.

Aaron could keep on, but he doesn’t really feel like teasing Hamilton. Not now.

“Yes,” he says. “I like you, Alexander Hamilton.”

Hamilton makes a smug sound, like he always knew that Aaron couldn’t resist him.

“It took you long enough,” Hamilton says, sleepily, already half-dozing.

Aaron doesn’t find a reason to argue; instead, he leans his head against Hamilton’s, and rests.

 

* * *

 

They fade in and out of a nap until Hamilton decides they’ve had enough — yes, deciding for both of them — and crawls out of bed, ready to do something else. He puts on his shirt and sits at the desk while Aaron opts for the modesty of breeches and finishes his cigar. Hamilton doesn’t complain about the smoke, but he begs paper and pen and ink from Aaron, who has only a moment of hesitation before he hands them over. Right away, Hamilton begins scribbling — Aaron cringes when he presses too hard with the quill on the paper, he’ll break it — but Aaron decides it’s worth it.

Writing is like air to Hamilton, and Aaron likes to watch him breathe.

Aaron wonders if Hamilton knows that he’s so taken with him.

He hopes that remains a secret. Hamilton would be intolerably insufferable if he knew. He would probably have to kill him.

He re-reads his letter from Theo. It’s very to-the-point, like her (like him), but her sentimentalism shines through when she speaks of Angie Hamilton. He tries to read between the lines to see what’s unwritten, but it’s too secretive, her telling only what she wants him to know. She’s too much like him, in that way.

Aaron puts the letter down, and rubs his forehead, like he could make himself forget how much he misses her, and then looks across the table at his own A-dot-Ham—

—who has been staring at him for quite some time.

Hamilton flushes across his cheeks when their eyes meet, and isn’t that lovely? That he’s just as bashful and shy with this new element to their relationship. But Hamilton is stubborn and doesn’t drop his gaze, and Aaron cannot look away — captured.

Perhaps it is more than just a desire — something born within them and carried in their blood and part of their being. It has to be, because he can’t think of his child’s affections for her lover to be something nasty, so that means that he and Hamilton…

His affection for Hamilton isn’t a surprise. It’s a truth that’s developed for some time in his awareness, now brought to the surface. Like a plant sprouting from its roots, and the only way to rid of it would be to rip it from the dirt so nothing else could grow.

Love isn’t ugly. What he has with Hamilton can’t be bad, but it isn’t the same as what their daughters have. He doesn’t love Hamilton — but it’s not just lust, either. It’s somewhere in the middle, undefined.

 

* * *

 

It takes a few days for Aaron to adjust Hamilton being a part of his London life. He spends all day with Hamilton, and all night, too — there’s nothing else for Hamilton to do, so he insists on being with him. I left home for you, Hamilton tells him, more than once, and Aaron figures that he should make the best of Hamilton’s time and attention.

But the truth is: he’s used to Hamilton. He’s used to reading the paper in the morning with Hamilton, he’s used to Hamilton’s cold feet finding his in bed, he’s used to standing in front of the mirror to shave with him. He’s used to the weight of Hamilton holding onto him for support when they retire upstairs after an evening out. He’s used to waking up in the middle of the night to see Hamilton drooling on his pillow, and he’s used to how Hamilton clings to him in bed when it’s storming and he’s used to how Hamilton pretends he’s fine. There’s something comforting about something he’s used to. Hamilton must feel the same, because he’s also used to the way Hamilton glares at him when he flirts with women, like he’s his only — but these instances usually lead to really great sex, so he doesn’t mind.

Sex with Hamilton is really good. Really really good. Aaron thought his desire would fade, like it had for most of his liaisons. He thought that he’d lose interest, or Hamilton would. But his hands are just as sure the second time, and the third, and the fourth, and so on — and Hamilton doesn’t show any signs of stopping, either. Each time is better, and the more they get to know how their bodies work together, he's reassured that it is what he wants.

Aaron suspects that Hamilton has been intimate with men before, based on how self-assured he is about all of this, but Aaron doesn’t dare ask. He doesn’t care. He has Hamilton in his bed, waking him up with his hand on his cock and his mouth at the pulse at his neck. It’s him who Hamilton chose to cross the Atlantic for.

They haven’t done much other than lie around and fuck. Hamilton is particularly found of morning sex, pressing his hardness against Aaron as a wake-up call, like the first thing he must do in his day is cater to him. Hamilton also sees arguing as foreplay — one rainy afternoon, they were fighting about something and Aaron doesn’t even remember what about, but they argued for hours until Aaron had had enough and he pushed Hamilton to the bed and climbed on top of him and kissed him to shut him up, which somehow led to them jerking each other off. It was fucking unbelievable, and since then, Aaron doesn’t mind riling Hamilton up a bit. Then there was an instance when Hamilton finally convinced Aaron to play with his balls while he brought him off and Hamilton made such a loud noise that Aaron was sure everyone in the inn heard them. And then there was when they got so drunk all they could do was hump each other until they came, and they fell asleep like that, sticky and limbs tangled.

And like now: midday with the window wide open as Hamilton kisses down Aaron’s body, running his hand over Aaron’s length every so often. Hamilton is being agonizingly slow for how eager he was to take Aaron to bed — he interrupted Aaron’s chess game with the sad woman who’s a good lay to whisper in his ear, I want you naked in bed within the next ten minutes — but Aaron knows that Hamilton can’t hold out for too much more. He’s too intemperate, no self-control.

Aaron is fine to wait until Hamilton gives in, and he doesn’t think much of what Hamilton is doing but then Hamilton is down between his legs and kissing Aaron’s hipbones, left then the right, then right below his belly button — dangerously close to something else. Aaron looks down the line of his body to see Hamilton staring at his cock that’s standing straight up in front of his face, but then Hamilton notices Aaron’s looking at him and it’s too late to pretend he wasn’t.

“Um. Could I blow you?” Hamilton asks. He has a pretty blush spreading across his cheeks and he licks his lips, like he’s hungry for it. Aaron feels his warm breath on him and that’s really nice but he’s kind of speechless at the very thought of Hamilton’s mouth on him, let alone Hamilton eager to do it…

Too long passes, and Hamilton actually sounds disappointed when he says, “Never mind,” and starts to move his hand on him, no no no—

“Yes,” Aaron says, and then adds, “Please,” because he has thought of Hamilton sucking him — he’s thought of Hamilton’s lips and his talented tongue, and he’s imagined that since his mouth is good at talking and kissing it’s probably good at other things, too.

And Hamilton definitely is good at other things. Hamilton doesn’t delay when given permission. He wraps his hand around Aaron’s aching cock and licks flat over the head and, goddamn, Hamilton is too good. He hates him. He hates Hamilton so goddamn much that he can’t look away when Hamilton draws his tongue back inside his mouth, moaning at the first taste of him, and he hates how Hamilton licks his length base to tip and asks, “Is this okay?”

“Yes,” Aaron says, because he can’t manage much else at the moment, not with Hamilton grinning wolfishly at him with his lips wet and shiny. He can’t remember the last time he was this hard, and he’s leaking enough for Hamilton to pump him easily with one hand and pull the foreskin back to reveal the slick glands. Hamilton makes a sound like he’s pleased, and those sounds amplify when he licks the precome from the tip.

“Your cock is amazing,” Hamilton murmurs. “You taste as good as I imagined.” He licks Aaron again, swirling his tongue around the ridge. “Mmm. Better than I imagined.”

“You’re talking too much.”

Hamilton laughs, good-natured. He hums like he’s admiring his cock, and then turns his head to kiss it.

“Then I’ll use my mouth in another way,” Hamilton says, and then he takes Aaron into his mouth. He only has the head resting on his tongue but Aaron has to twist the sheets in his hands so he doesn’t blow his load because it’s wet and warm and wonderful. Hamilton is wonderful, especially how he closes his eyes and sucks and slowly lowers his mouth onto his cock, taking his time.

Hamilton is very good at this. He knows what to do with his teeth, and he knows how to keep Aaron on the edge to make it last — once again, Aaron thinks that Hamilton has experience with this, or maybe it’s just that he’s had it done to him a lot. Whatever it is, it seems like he’s enjoying it, too. He wraps his hand around the base, holding it while he pulls off, running his tongue along the underside, and then taking him back inside. His hair falls forward, tickling Aaron’s thighs, and without thinking Aaron reaches down to run his hand through the dark locks. Hamilton lets out a muffled groan that Aaron feels reverberate around his cock, so Aaron does it again, carding through his beautiful hair, massaging at the scalp and wrapping strands around his fingers and giving a gentle tug from the roots.

Hamilton lets his cock fall from his mouth, says, “oh god, fuck, Burr,” his voice raspy, and then goes back down again, concentrating sucking at the head while he quickly strokes what he doesn’t have in his mouth.

It’s horrible that Hamilton is attractive, even like this, with spit running out of the corners of his mouth and down his chin, red-faced, his mouth full. Aaron feels his peak on-coming too soon, but he can’t help it, not with how Hamilton is trying to grind into the mattress and how he takes a bit more of Aaron’s length into his mouth. Hamilton’s lips stretched around his cock is probably the most obscene thing he’s ever seen, and he knows that he’s ruined forever. He cannot pretend it isn’t Hamilton doing this — the scratch of his beard against sensitive bits feels amazing, and only Hamilton’s wicked mouth could do the things it’s doing—

It finishes before he can enjoy it happening — Hamilton rubs his tongue at him and then it’s too good and Aaron shuts his eyes and gives a strangled warning of, “Alex,” but Hamilton keeps his head down and Aaron feels him swallowing around him as he comes in his mouth. Hamilton actually moans, sucking and licking, making all sorts of wet sounds in the too-quiet room, and he covers Aaron’s cock in strokes of his tongue until Aaron has to push him away because he’s too sensitive.

Aaron is a little afraid of what comes next — now that they’ve crossed another line — but Hamilton crawls up to lie next to him like nothing has changed. He kisses Aaron sloppily and gets slick all over Aaron’s chin. He did that on purpose, Aaron thinks, but he kisses him back anyway. It’s not the first time he’s tasted himself on another, and it’s extra nice on Hamilton.

He puts his hand on Hamilton’s hip, feels his cock jut against him, demanding attention.

“You don’t have to.” Hamilton swallows. “You don’t have to do that,” he says, awkwardly, like he very much wants it but is being sincere. Aaron had been basking in the afterglow too much to consider that — putting his mouth on Hamilton — but now he can’t stop thinking of it. He wants to, he thinks he wants to, but he’s afraid of not being as good or that he wouldn’t like it, and he feels disgusting and sticky now that he’s had his need sated and—

“Just touch me,” Hamilton says, quiet, and he guides Aaron’s hand to him. Aaron is comfortable with this, he can do this, he likes this — he wraps one hand around Hamilton’s cock and fists the other in his hair, keeps him close to Hamilton as he whimpers against his neck.

 

* * *

 

Hamilton falters when he gets a letter from home.

He secludes himself in the corner of their small room to read it. Aaron keeps his distance, not sure how to interact — Hamilton has that expression he gets that’s a cross between joyous and weepy. Emotions are still a curious intimacy between them, not knowing how much is too much.

But he can’t leave Hamilton alone, not when he looks so damn sad. He goes over to Hamilton, leans down to kiss his forehead where he’s wearing his worry the most. He puts his hand to Hamilton’s cheek, rubbing his thumb on the rough patch of stubble on his jaw that he missed shaving. Hamilton mumbles, “Burr,” and drops the letter to his lap, and puts his hand on top of Aaron’s while turning his head just enough to kiss Aaron’s palm.

“Are you okay?” Aaron asks. Hamilton doesn’t respond, he just stands and takes pulls Aaron to their (their) bed. He walks slow, unsteady — hindered without his cane and incapacitated with his emotions. He tugs at Aaron’s sleeve, a silent request for him to undress, asks, “Please,” and he doesn’t often ask nicely for anything so Aaron gives him what he needs.

They don’t fuck that evening. Instead they change into their nightshirts and lie together, like spoons — Hamilton’s back to Aaron’s front. Aaron kisses Hamilton’s neck and listens while Hamilton tells him the update from his family. They all miss him terribly, Phil lost his first baby tooth and he didn’t cry at all, Angie and Theo spend even more time together, Al started to study for the bar, Rita is growing every day, Eliza prays that they are getting along—

—and that night, Hamilton dreams.

He often dreams, waking Aaron up with sleep mutterings and twitching, but this is something worse. It’s almost wakeful, clutching at Aaron’s shirt and his eyes are wet with tears as he tries to speak, spilling his worries out.

“How could I leave them, I left my family, what if they think I don’t love them? What if something horrible happens to them and I never see them again? People I love always leave me and die, I’m a curse, oh god, what have I done—”

“It’ll be okay,” Aaron says, even though he can’t promise it. Hamilton’s breath hitches and another sob or two escapes but Aaron kisses him and pets his hair and holds him dear.

“I’m a terrible father,” Hamilton says, “and I’m a bad husband, and you hate me too, don’t you?”

“Never.”

“But you did? How can I know if you hate me now? I can never tell with you.”

“You’ll just have to trust me.” Aaron kisses him, feather-light. “I could never hate my Alex.”

“Your Alex?”

“My Alex.”

Hamilton falls back to sleep, eventually — mostly from panicking himself into exhaustion — but Aaron doesn’t doze off until the sun begins to rise over the horizon, shining through the single filthy window in the room.

The first light of the day falls on Hamilton. He shines brighter than the sun, and Aaron is thoroughly lost for him.

 

* * *

 

He sleeps for only an hour or so, waking up too hot with Hamilton half-laying on him. Hamilton, who looks too peaceful in his sleep, who makes Aaron’s heart do somersaults, who Aaron can’t imagine leaving again.

So, he leaves him. He gets out of bed, leaving Hamilton to seek his warmth that’s no longer there. For a moment, Aaron thinks Hamilton will wake up — he turns over and mutters something — but he settles back into sleep. Aaron leaves him tangled in the blankets.

He goes downstairs and swears he’ll fuck the first woman he sees, and it happens to be the whore of the inn. He throws money on the table and she looks up to him and grins.

“It’s been a while,” Michelle says, because he does know her name, he’s on a first-name basis with all his favorite whores. She takes her time counting the coins as she continues, “I thought that you forgot about me.”

Aaron remains inscrutable, or so he thinks. “I fuck other people, too.”

She stands, and says in his ear, “Like Alex?”

“Don’t talk to me about him,” he says, and they go to her room, because Hamilton occupies the bed in his, and he gets his money’s worth. She doesn’t talk about Hamilton or anything else.

He gets off just fine. He had been concerned, for a moment. He likes sliding into her wetness and he likes her perky breasts, but it isn’t entirely fulfilling. Probably because he keeps thinking about rubbing his cock against Hamilton’s, and Hamilton’s perfect mouth on his.

When he’s done, he stays in her room and smokes because he doesn’t want to go back to his room to face Hamilton just yet. If he’s lucky, Hamilton wouldn’t have moved from bed and Aaron could pretend he stepped out only for a short while. He could go get Hamilton some breakfast to make it more convincing, but he spent all the money he had in his pocket on sex and he’d have to go back to the room anyway to get more.

He watches Michelle brush her hair and get dressed in a low-cut red dress that shows off her tits. She notices him looking, and smiles — that practiced smile, the one she uses to seduce.

“This isn’t for you, Edwards.” She grabs a bottle off her table, dabs something on her lips to color them red to match her dress. “Go back to your pretty man.”

“He isn’t mine,” Aaron says.

It isn’t until after she’s shut the door behind him that he realizes he didn’t deny that Hamilton is pretty.

 

* * *

 

Luck is never on his side — Hamilton is awake when he comes back to their room. Hamilton is sitting in the chair, fully dressed, legs crossed, making the impression that he’s been waiting for a while.

Aaron takes off his coat, puts it in the wardrobe in the small amount of space allotted to him. He frowns when he sees that Hamilton has taken over more than half of it with his clothes. How symbolic.

“Where were you?”

Aaron shuts the wardrobe, and says to it, “I went out for a walk.” He turns to face Hamilton. “So?”

There’s a glint in Hamilton’s eyes that Aaron knows too well — like he knows something he doesn’t.

“Interesting,” Hamilton says. “Because I went downstairs when I woke up to an empty bed. You were nowhere to be found, but Robert told me I’d be able to find you in the whore’s den.”

“Who’s Robert?”

“The old blind man.   You know, he sees everything — shit, that’s kind of insensitive.” Hamilton shakes his head. “Stop distracting from my point.”

“Which is?”

“You can’t even go one night without getting off,” Hamilton says. He waves a hand at Aaron. “Clearly, the only thing you care about is your dick.”

“It’s not like that,” he says, and he’s aware of his voice rising. Hamilton is trying to start this fight — and he’s succeeding.

“It is.” Hamilton uses the arm of the chair to stand. His hand goes to his side as he does; if it’s real pain or an act to make Aaron feel bad, who knows. His voice matches Aaron’s as he continues his take-down. “You’re an uncaring son of a bitch, who left me in bed when you knew I was upset and I needed you.”

“Don’t be such an entitled idiot,” Aaron says, aiming for blasé because he can’t really think of Hamilton’s sadness — it’s suffocating, making him feel guilty even though he knows he shouldn’t.

“Entitled?” Hamilton says, nearly shrieking. Aaron shushes at him to be quiet but Hamilton goes on, “It’s not entitled to want the guy I’m sleeping with to pay attention to me!”

Aaron grabs him by the lapels and kisses him — he has to silence him somehow because Hamilton doesn’t think when he’s angry and he’s shouting their secrets too loud. Hamilton huffs but he kisses him back just as roughly, biting and trying to take control of it — but Aaron reins him in, and pulls back.

“Is this enough attention?” Aaron kisses him, gropes him through his breeches. “This is what you want, isn’t it?”

“Don’t be like this, Burr. I know you care about me, but you can’t be bothered to try and have anything nice. You’d rather be miserable. You want to be treated badly, so that’s why you go to whores—”

“I go to whores because I can pay them not to talk, unlike you.”

“You’d like me to talk less, smile more, huh?”

“That’s what I’ve been telling you for years.”

Hamilton goes to his knees, one at a time, swearing at his body. He runs his hands on the back of Aaron’s thighs and presses his face against Aaron’s crotch, which is getting stiff no matter how much Aaron wills it not to. Hamilton notices — he can probably smell Aaron’s arousal, Aaron doesn’t doubt his talents — and unbuttons the flap of Aaron’s breeches and untucks his shirt, and then takes out his cock.

“Is this what you want from me?” Hamilton asks. He maintains eye contact as he licks the shaft, getting Aaron wet. “You want me to suck your cock and never say anything? Keep me locked away in your room as your catamite?”

Aaron bites down on his lip to keep noises from escaping. Thickly, he says, “If it pleases you.”

He thinks it pleases Hamilton. It must, with the way Hamilton is slobbering on his cock. If people only knew how good of a cocksucker Alexander Hamilton is — how he gets on his knees and asks for it, moaning like his cock is the best thing he’s ever tasted.

Hamilton holds him in the curve of his hand, does something amazing with his tongue that makes Aaron’s legs tremble.

“Why don’t you ask me to be your whore?” Hamilton asks, hostile. “I learned from my mother — isn’t that what you think?”

Hamilton is hurt. He has a habit of lashing out when he’s emotional. He thinks he’s hiding behind his put-on anger, but it’s as transparent as a lake frozen over. He’s always been this way, even when he was young and was overflowing with anger with everything and everyone — the war, the bursar who wouldn’t let him over-enroll in classes, the people who judged his shabby clothes, himself for not being enough.

Aaron tried to make him see that he didn’t need to be angry, but then he just became angry with him, too.

Aaron puts his hand in Hamilton’s hair, tugs a little harder than he’s done before when Hamilton has blown him — Hamilton likes a steady pressure at his head when he’s got cock in his mouth — but Aaron yanks on his gorgeous dark hair. If Hamilton wants to be rough, he’ll play that.

Hamilton lets out a vile string of curses, but then bites Aaron’s thigh, retaliating. Aaron wants to tell Hamilton that it doesn’t have to be this way — he could just apologize — but then he remembers that Hamilton doesn’t apologize. And he’s not even sure if Hamilton has done anything wrong. Perhaps he could say he’s sorry, but he didn’t do anything wrong, either. He could say a lot of things to make this better, but that would require talking, which he doesn’t want to do, since it seems to make things worse.

Instead, he grabs Hamilton’s wrist, hauls him up. Hamilton still looks like he could spit fire and he opens his mouth to speak but Aaron kisses him, catching him by surprise. Hamilton struggles against him for a moment, like he won’t bear to be pacified so easily, but Aaron gently puts his hand at the nape of Hamilton’s neck and kisses him slow and sure, and Hamilton calms under his touch, melting against him.

They stumble to the bed, Hamilton falling on top of him. Aaron undoes Hamilton’s cravat and sucks at the place at his neck that makes him keen as he gets his breeches open and slips his hand inside. Hamilton is already hard when he puts his hand on him — he feels more than hears Hamilton gasp when he touches him. Shuddering like he’s been struck. Hamilton pushes into his hand, his own hand searching down between their bodies and their clothes to wrap his hand around Aaron’s cock.

“Is that all this relationship is to you?” Hamilton asks. “Just getting my hand on your dick?”

He shouldn’t, but Aaron laughs. “Didn’t you come to England with the express need to put your hand on my dick?”

Hamilton isn’t amused; he makes a disgruntled sound and squirms against Aaron, which kind of makes the situation worse because their hips rock against each other, sensitive areas creating a delicious friction. Aaron bucks his hips, seeking more, but Hamilton puts his hands on Aaron’s shoulders, holding him down.

“I didn’t come all the way to London for us to jerk each other off! I have emotions — I know that’s hard for you to understand because your veins run cold with ice,” Hamilton says. “It’s uncomfortable and I need you to fix it.”

“I’m not fixing anything,” Aaron growls, “and you’re a goddamn liar. If it were only emotions, you would have written it all in a thirty-page letter and mailed it to me.”

“You’re only worth a twenty-page letter, at most.”

“Oh, you’re horrible—”

And Hamilton kisses him, and again.

“Horrible,” Aaron says, “voluble, infuriating immigrant—”

“Dreadful, cruel, vicious plonk—”

Hamilton is smiling when he kisses Aaron. He lays on top of Aaron, his hair sweeping over his shoulders and falling forward around Aaron’s face like a curtain, like it’s hiding the two of them away from the world.

“You’re my plonk,” Aaron says, brushing Hamilton’s hair behind his ear, and oh, he likes him so so much. He tries to fight it — falling for him — until he can barely remember anything that isn’t Hamilton’s mouth and hands on him.

 

* * *

 

They readjust their clothes — they attempted to undress but it was a monumental effort so they ended up jerking each other off with their breeches pushed down their thighs — and go downstairs. Hamilton has an extra spring in his step, hardly needing to hold onto the banister. Aaron smiles to himself, amused at what sex can do for the man. Heals his pains, rids him of his worries.

“What are you thinking about?” Hamilton asks. “It must be something nice to inspire a genuine Aaron Burr smile.” He’s slightly out of breath; they’re at the landing, and beyond the corner is the main room where there’s lunchtime chatter and other people, but for now, it’s just them.

Aaron thinks of telling him to fuck off but he remembers they aren’t fighting anymore and that he likes Hamilton, even though he’s difficult and demands things like going to the French-style restaurant a few blocks away because they sculpt the butter to resemble miniature roses.

“I’m thinking of nothing in particular,” Aaron says. He reaches out, smoothing where Hamilton’s hair is sticking up from his just-had-sex look. “Just you.”

Hamilton blushes across his cheeks and honest-to-god stammers.

“Oh, uh, well, then,” Hamilton says, and then he takes a quick glance left and right to make sure they’re alone before kissing Aaron on the mouth.

It’s nothing explicit, just a simple peck, closed-mouth — but it somehow feels more intimate than their make-outs.

Aaron is still numb from it when they enter the main room. Hamilton wanders over to pick a new book from the communal shelf, and Aaron sits next to the blind man. Robert. Whoever. All he can think of is Hamilton becoming inextricable from his life, and he’s okay with it, as long as Hamilton feels the same about him.

Robert turns his head towards him. “Hello, uncaring son of a bitch.”

Aaron tilts his head, confused, but then remembers Hamilton shouting those words to him an hour earlier. Oops.

“I didn’t know we were that loud,” Aaron says.

“The walls are thin. Everyone heard.”

Aaron grimaces. If they heard him and Hamilton arguing, then they probably heard…

“Don’t worry, things quieted down after the two of you stopped yelling,” Robert says. “I suppose you were busy doing something else.”

Aaron thinks of Hamilton on his knees.

“Sure,” Aaron says. “Busy.”

The old man mutters something that sounds like, “I bet,” but it gets covered up by drinking from his glass. He offers his drink to Aaron, who declines. “Your loud friend was asking after you this morning. He seemed rather jealous when I told him you were having some puss for breakfast.”

Jealousy was one thing, but Hamilton was also hurt and upset and needy. “He was jealous he didn’t have any for himself,” Aaron says.

“What else could he be jealous of?”

Aaron bites his lip. He isn’t being careful. Hamilton makes him stupid.

“You know, you don’t look well,” the man says.

Aaron furrows his brows. He doesn’t know what Robert is talking about. He’s fine, a little tired, but he had made sure he was presentable — then he realizes that Robert’s cloudy eyes aren’t pointed in his direction at all, not that he’d be able to see him if they were.

“That’s not funny,” Aaron says, but Robert laughs and throws back the rest of his drink.

“In all seriousness, you seem off. Distracted.”

Aaron glances across the room to Hamilton. He’s still here. Good. He still makes Aaron’s chest feel too too tight. Not good.

“I’m having some trouble sleeping,” Aaron admits. It’s true. The last few nights he has laid awake for hours while a restless Hamilton slept next to him. Hamilton hasn’t had problems sleeping — he faces his dreams like he’s charging into battle. Aaron keeps watch for both of them, and when the sunlight breaks over the horizon he’s too tired to sleep when it’s safe.

“Is it because of the entitled idiot?” Robert asks.

Aaron is really glad the man can’t see how he’s looking at Hamilton.

“There’s nothing specific,” Aaron says, “just…”

Everything. One moment he’s okay but then something catches like a hook inside him and it feels like he’s bleeding out but he can’t see where to stop the flow, and he gives up because he’s too tired to care.

The old man seems to understand, however.

“I have something for you.” Robert reaches in his pocket, hands a glass bottle out for Aaron.

Aaron reads the label. “Laudanum? Isn’t that opium?”

“Which is a great sleep aid,” Robert says. “A few drops and you’ll sleep like a log. You may not be able to get rid of your troubles, but this is the next best thing. It helps you deal with your troubles.”

Aaron isn’t so sure, but Hamilton is coming over to him, so he slips the bottle in his pocket and thanks Robert, and spends the rest of the day with Hamilton.

He actually has fun with Hamilton. He doesn’t have that breathless feeling at all. They have a nice meal at the restaurant Hamilton picked out and he has to admit the butter is really neat, and after that they walk around the park like the two aging men they are, and then they take a break on a bench and debate if the pigeons are more vicious in London or New York.

It’s fine, until they’re settled against each other in their familiar way, body to body. Tonight: Hamilton faces Aaron with his arm thrown over his middle, sharing the same pillow with his face only a few inches away. This, of course, is after the pre-sex bickering, the sex, the after-argument sex, and then the after-sex bickering — when Hamilton is quiet and pleasant and close. Right there. His Alex.

Hamilton moves in his sleep. Mumbles, “Burr,” and nestles closer. Hair falls in his face. On instinct Aaron brushes it away. Another one of those intimacies that have become too easy. Hamilton scrunches his nose and makes a sleepy snuffling sound, but he subsides back to a steady rest.

Aaron will never be able to sleep, and he so desperately wishes to join Hamilton.

So, he very carefully gets out of bed, making sure not to disturb his bedmate, takes the bottle from where he hid it in his coat, drops a dose on his tongue — four drops sounds about right, five for good measure. It’s bitter but he swallows it and chases it with water, and by the time he crawls back under the covers and Hamilton reclaims his hold on him, he feels himself getting drowsy…

 

* * *

 

The sun is well into the sky when Aaron wakes. He opens his eyes to see Hamilton fully dressed, fiddling with his hair in the mirror. He smiles on instinct upon seeing Hamilton, but then he groans because he feels groggy and his mouth is dry and his neck hurts from lying in one position all night long and he really has to pee but he doesn’t want to move just yet.

Hamilton looks over his shoulder when he hears Aaron.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” Hamilton says. He finishes tying the ribbon in his hair with a flourish. He looks good with his hair back. It makes him look boyish, almost, if it weren’t for the twin gray streaks emanating from his temples. He walks the few steps over to the bed, pats Aaron’s shoulder. “You seemed to be resting well, so I let you be.”

“Thanks.” Aaron rubs his face. It’s too soon to tell if he feels more rested, but he didn’t stay awake all night questioning every mistake he’s ever made, so.

Hamilton leans over and kisses him on the forehead.

“C’mon, Burr. Time to start the day,” Hamilton says, and he’s already off, talking and talking, pulling the blanket away. Aaron grumbles, but drags himself out of bed before Hamilton does it himself. Hamilton is saying something about how they need to go to this place that Murphy told him about but Aaron doesn’t even know who in the hell Murphy is, and Hamilton is crowding him and it’s too early for his enthusiasm, and Aaron threatens to piss on his shoes if he doesn’t get out of the way.

Surprisingly, Hamilton does as he asks. Hamilton gives him one of his oh, Burr looks and then throws his head back and laughs — it’s nice to Aaron’s ears and it wakes him up better than a strong cup of coffee.

Maybe one day he’ll be used to the way Hamilton makes him feel; if not tomorrow, perhaps the day after. But he doesn’t know if he wants to be used to it, because it almost feels as new, every time.

Chapter Text

It’s great with Burr, except when it’s not.

Burr is the most pleasant he’s ever been. He’s surprisingly thoughtful of Alexander — he includes him in conversations, makes sure he’s covered with the blanket, lets him stand under his umbrella at the expense of getting rained on, kisses him the instant they are alone. He’s generous with his money, buying luxurious meals and plenty of alcohol and whatever he sees Alexander admiring in shops, like the silly trinket shaped like a glazed ham that they both thought was funny. He talks with Alexander for hours in bed, even when there’s no hope for them having another go that evening, and Burr touches Alexander like he likes him, like he wants him.

Alexander dares to say Burr is different since…since they’ve been together. Others have noticed too — the whore tells Alexander that he’s the only one who could warm Burr’s curmudgeonly heart. Alexander doesn’t think he’s so exclusive. He wishes he were, but he loves how Burr gives in so easily when he begs (like when he asked please Burr please please let’s go see the botanical gardens) or when Burr’s grumbling eventually turns into a content sigh when Alexander snuggles up to him in bed and puts an arm around his waist, pulling him closer and kissing his neck.

Alexander can really believe that Burr does care for him.

Most of the time, anyway.

With the affection, comes callousness. Burr can be really unpleasant to be around sometimes, and Alexander almost regrets coming to England. He makes the mistake of telling Burr this once in the heat of a fight — Burr throws a book in his direction, but luckily they are both drunk, so it goes sailing out the window instead; hours later they make up with their hands on each other and Alexander promises I didn’t mean it, I would cross a thousand oceans to find you.

But — Burr is moody and mean, and Alexander receives the brunt of it. He accuses Alexander of bringing in bedbugs, which Alexander never notices but he thinks Burr just wants a reason to blame him for something. He shoves Alexander away when he tries to sit next to him in the main room, and he’ll ignore him for hours in favor of reading or drinking with another patron of the inn. It doesn’t do any good for Alexander to call him out on it, because then Burr is meaner and will purposely not talk to him in the morning. Even if Alexander offers to suck his dick.

Alexander knows that Burr must’ve been lonely. He had Eliza back at home, but Burr had been alone — even though it was his fault. But Burr doesn’t want to talk about it. When Alexander asks, he says, I had plenty of company, and Alexander replies, not any you didn’t have to pay for, and they argue again until Alexander goes to his knees and Burr forgets what he’s angry about.

“I don’t want you to be lonely,” Alexander says, whispered against Burr’s back.   He thinks Burr didn’t hear him, or is in one of his moods where he’s ignoring him, but then Burr mumbles, “I’m not,” and then turns over and kisses Alexander with a confidence that leaves him breathless.

Alexander hopes that’s true — that Burr isn’t lonely with him.

 

* * *

 

The only time Burr is truly agreeable is when they’re fucking. He has yet to complain about Alexander’s mouth or hands on him, or Alexander’s dick rubbing against him, which he seems to like even though he’s never expressed such.

Burr likes sex, and Alexander likes sex — it’s one of the few things they agree on. Burr is probably the best lay Alexander has ever had. They know what they like and they are glad to satisfy each other, uninhibited and filthy, catching up on years of sexual tension. Alexander learns that the gossip about Burr being a skilled lover is true. He doesn’t do anything other than jerk Alexander off but it’s the way he does it. A lot of what makes Burr good is how much Burr enjoys it. He’s gorgeous when he comes, swearing and toes curling and eyes squeezed shut — there’s a reason the French call it la petite mort. The little death.

Alexander wishes he could lay with Burr all day. Oh, if only they were younger…

But thankfully they’re both blessed with fortitude, and desire.

“You’re attracted to me,” Alexander says. They’re stripped down on top of the blankets, Burr on his back while Alexander teases Burr, running his fingers up his cock, then up his chest where there’s already a sheen of sweat. Burr grumbles a complaint, and Alexander moves his hand back down, saying, “You think I’m sexy.

There are no denying Burr’s lustful gazes at him, or his eagerness to put his hand in his breeches.

Or how his cock twitches in Alexander’s hand while he strokes him. Cock always tells the truth.

“It’s not quite the word I’d use,” Burr says, his breath hitching when Alexander squeezes around the base. “You’re handsome, I suppose. Based on what women have said about you.”

Alexander smiles. He knows women talk about him. A handsome face, good build — it had been better in his youth, but he’s still got it — shapely legs, his exotic background. Women have always been envious of Eliza, and his publication about his sex life didn’t discourage his sensual image, either.

“But what do you think?” Alexander asks. He watches Burr look down his body, down to where his cock is hard against his belly, and when he looks back up he can’t meet his eyes. Burr is embarrassed, and that makes Alexander want him even more.

“Tell me, Burr,” Alexander says, going from casually stroking to touching in a way he knows will get Burr there fast. “Do you think I’m good looking?”

Burr lets out a sound that’s halfway between a growl and a whine. Alexander leans in, lightly bites at Burr’s earlobe, demands, “Tell me.”

“Fine,” Burr says, breaking. He moans and pushes his hips forward into Alexander’s grip. “Yes, I think you’re handsome. You’re the prettiest boy in all of New York, fuck—”

Alexander kisses him hard, their teeth knocking against each other and he feels Burr gasp, but he won’t stop, and a few tugs later Burr comes — he bites Alexander’s lip and Alexander tastes copper when Burr takes him in hand, talking filth in Alexander’s ear as Alexander shudders and spills over his hand no more than a minute later.

After, they lie in bed, sweaty bodies pressed up against each other. Burr is fussy, trying to inch away, but Alexander knows he isn’t going anywhere. He enjoys the afterglow too much.   In these moments, Burr is sweet, attentive. He runs his hand through Alexander’s hair as Alexander trails his fingers over his skin. Alexander shivers at the afternoon breezes coming in through the window, cooling his skin. Burr notices and pulls the blanket over them, and then arranges him so he can rest his head on his shoulder.

If it takes an occasional fight to have this, then it’s worth it.

Alexander is nearly soothed to sleep when Burr speaks.

“Do you really like men?”

Alexander laughs. “I think we’ve established that.”

“No, I mean…” Burr sighs, flustered. “Do you like cock?”

Ah, that.

“Oh, I like cock,” says Alexander airily. He reaches under the blanket and rubs Burr’s aforementioned part; Burr twitches, still too sensitive. “Generally. I’ve often sat in meetings and thought about the shape and size of the gentlemen sitting next to me. Fantasized about the color, the texture…” He licks his fingers, sucks two of them into his mouth, and then draws them out, dragging them against his tongue and smears saliva on his lip. “The taste.”

“You’re obscene.” That’s what Burr says, but he’s too interested in Alexander’s tongue sweeping around his fingers to be disgusted. Alexander settles back against Burr and wraps his arm across his middle.

“Hmm. We had meetings together, you know.” Alexander smirks when Burr realizes his meaning, letting out a soft, oh.

Mmm. Burr had been one of his favorite men to think about — he was well built and confident with his body, so it was reason to believe that he must’ve been well built down below, too. When they were working together, Alexander often thought about going to his knees and taking Burr in his mouth, or offering a different kind of compromise when they had their disagreements.

“And?” Burr asks.

“I wasn’t disappointed.” Not at all. Burr has an excellent cock. Blessed with both a nice girth and length and it tastes good and Burr makes such wonderful sounds when it’s touched. Alexander couldn’t have asked for better.

Burr scoffs. “You really like sucking cock?” he asks, incredulous, like he hasn’t seen Alexander in near ecstasy with his cock in his mouth.

“I love sucking cock,” Alexander replies. He loves giving head, he loves how men fill his mouth and how he has to concentrate, licking and sucking and testing how much he can take without choking. He loves how it makes his jaw ache and he loves how it makes a man weak and he loves salty warmth on his tongue. His mouth waters just thinking about it.

Burr considers that information. “I’m not the first man you’ve been with.”

A statement, not a question.

“Yes.” Alexander assumes Burr has deduced as much. “There have been others.” No, that isn’t true. He corrects himself. “There was one other.”

“Oh.”

“It was a long time ago,” says Alexander, elaborating. “It feels like another life—”

“You don’t have to tell me about it,” says Burr, quiet. Alexander hears Burr’s heart beating faster in his chest despite the calm demeanor of his voice. “Forget I asked—”

“But you want to know, don’t you?” Alexander keeps this part of himself unseen, he doesn’t talk about it, not even with Eliza, not since… It’s better to pretend it didn’t happen because it hurts too much. But Burr somehow forces himself inside and for someone who says he likes him, he hurts him — they somehow keep doing that to each other.

“If it’s important to you,” says Burr, “then yes. I want to know.”

It is important to him. Was. Is.

“It was John Laurens.” A name he hasn’t spoken aloud in years, and thought about even less. There had been a time in his life when Laurens consumed his thoughts, but now he’s only a distant memory. He had mourned when the image of Laurens began to fade from his mind and his heart — he no longer remembered the exact pattern of his freckles or the melody of his laugh and his skin against his became a fantasy — but then he understood it as a blessing, forgetting, so he wouldn’t be haunted by the loss of what he could’ve never had, anyway.

His dearest Laurens. Darling, dearest, dead.

He tilts his head up to look at Burr, who isn’t surprised at all — he wears that same unexpressive face that betrays nothing.

He and Laurens weren’t exactly subtle back then, weren’t they? He smiles, thinking of the near misses where they had to fumble with their clothes when someone was outside their tent, the flirtatious letters they exchanged that he keeps hidden in the secret drawer of his desk, and he thinks of when Laurens rode out to South Carolina with the promise that when he returned they would celebrate because they would be together again—

“After he died, I didn’t take another man as a lover because I was married and I loved him.” Alexander is crying — that’s a surprise, he never cried for him before, he had been too busy — but he’s crying, quick tears falling. “He wanted to die and I hated him for it but for a long time I wanted to follow him, but I didn’t die, and he left me—”

“Alex.”

Burr — he left him, too, but he promised he never would again. Alexander wishes he could believe him.

“I loved him,” Alexander says, “and then he died. That’s all.”

He was my first love, he doesn’t say.

He figures that Burr has something to say about it — embarrassed that Alexander has shown such a display of emotion, uncomfortable that he could love another man, jealous that it wasn’t him.

But Burr doesn’t pursue it further. He probably doesn’t want to know. He looks as though he doesn’t want to know what he knows now, his expression stuck somewhere between pity and rattled — the truth is terrible, isn’t it? That’s fine. It’s something Alexander has carried with him, and will continue to do until he dies. Dies like his Laurens.

“Are you okay?” Burr rubs his thumb against Alexander’s cheek, wiping away tears shed. Kisses his forehead. Burr is gentle. Caring. Alexander never thought he’d have something like this with a man again. With Burr, never.

Alexander forces a smile, and kisses him back. “I’m fine. It’s just…I haven’t thought of him in a while.”

“Of course.” Burr says it in a way that sounds as though he doesn’t believe him, but then Alexander remembers that Burr knows what it feels like to lose your first love…

There’s pain in his eyes, too. Alexander wants to know his pain, but Burr is too damn closed off, and he knows better than to ask. He was stupid to volunteer his own, but he thought that if Burr knew, he would understand what this means to him…

This with Burr, it’s not like it was with Laurens. He doesn’t love Burr — he could, maybe — but Burr is different. He’s different like the rain in London, but Alexander gets more familiar with that every day, and he wishes for the rain to be unending.

 

* * *

 

Burr doesn’t have a problem sleeping anymore. Alexander remembers Burr’s restless nights when they were at home, and Burr stayed awake the first few nights when they were together again, but now he usually passes out before Alexander and sleeps late into the morning, too. It probably has to do with the booze and the sex. And probably the laudanum.

It’s definitely the laudanum.

At first, Burr had tried to hide what he was doing, but Alexander isn’t stupid. Burr lies about it for days until Alexander finds where he keeps the bottle. When confronted, Burr tells him it’s no big deal, saying, “It helps me sleep.” Alexander says if that’s the case, then why did he lie about it, which starts an argument that ends with Burr saying:

“It makes you easier to deal with.”

Which starts another argument where they fight and call each other horrible names and Alexander is determined to stay angry, but Burr gives up and takes some of that medicine that turns him into a vapid lump that cares about nothing and goes to bed.

In a show of good faith that he isn’t a selfish asshole — one of the many things Burr called him — Alexander gets into bed wearing his stockings along with his nightshirt. It’s uncomfortable and he isn’t that cold, but Burr always complains about his frigid feet touching his, so this is one sacrifice Alexander can make.

Even if they’re quarreling they end up pressed against each other because the bed is too small. Burr isn’t asleep yet. He lets out a short sigh when Alexander wiggles next to him as he tries to settle in. Alexander is trying to behave and do better but his foot brushes against Burr’s leg.

“Sorry.”

Burr looks over his shoulder. “Are you wearing stockings?” he asks, slurred — the opium already taking effect.

Alexander wiggles more, accidentally kneeing Burr in th