On the shores of a small island of the West indies lie the few remains of the destroyed lives of Nevis. Scattered in the surf are the bits of cloth and wood that didn't sink into the ocean and among this lies a tiny survivor.
Alexander Hamilton, a five inch boy who rode the hurricane, lies curled within a wooden carving box that had miraculously stayed in one piece. With him are a multitude of papers of different sizes covered end to end in small, frantic writing.
Alex lay starving and bone tired. He'd used all his energy writing and hadn't eaten in the days he'd spent thrashing in the storm. So he lay in the box, thinking to himself that he hoped someone found his story after he died.
For an insane moment, Alex feels the box move and imagines that he's drifting out to sea once more. He panics and screams, using the last of his energy to tense up and beat on the lid.
The box lifts up and up, then stops. He holds his breath and rethinks the situation. Someone must have found him! They'll read his story and know what he went through! But that also means they found him alive. A human, obviously, by how far he felt himself lifted. A human finding him alive was definitely not ideal.
The lid scrapes open, pouring in sunlight and fresh air, both welcome but startling. Alex curls in on himself and whimpers at the onslaught.
“Oh! Are you ok in there?” a woman's voice, no doubt a local picking through the debris. He tries to answer, but can't muster more than another whimper. He's truly spent, unable to do more than cringe away from invading fingers. “Shh” He hears. “It's alright. I'm going to take you home with me.”
Alex's eyes are already squeezed shut, so he's not sure at what point he passes out.
When he wakes up, there's a warm fire and someone cooking. In his delirium, he thinks someone is preparing to eat him. He untangles himself from the nest of blankets and crawls blindly until a large hand wraps around him.
He gives a startled scream that dies in his throat. He still can't fully open his eyes, despite the dim lighting thanks to the hearth, so he thrashed weakly with no idea of where he is or what's going on.
After a few seconds, he's settled against a large chest. A booming heartbeat reverberates through his whole body, which is soothing and odd at the same time. He settles quickly, though he continues to shake his head and whine. Another hand reaches up to pet his hair. Within a few moments, he's back to being drowsy and limp. He's finally able to open his eyes without it hurting and takes the opportunity to look up at his captor.
It's a young woman who smiles when they make eye contact. “There we are. Sweet thing, you must have been so scared. I found your papers. Took the liberty of putting it all together in a dry box.” Alex blinks up at her, shocked that a human was treating him so gently. “Don't go to sleep just yet. I need to get some broth in you.”
Alex finds himself in the little nest once again, sitting up and able to see his surroundings. He was on a table in the middle of the house with a cot against the wall in front of him, a hearth to his right, and a splintery wooden door with a few cracks to his left. The woman found two bowls and filled them at the fire where a large black cauldron sat on a metal grate. She turned back to him and dipped a wooden spoon in, then left the spoonful to cool on the table.
“that'll be yours when it's not so hot.” She explains. “my husband will be back shortly and I'll be sure to have him read your papers. I can't read, unfortunately, but he runs an accounting business at one of the docks. He should be able to look through it.”
The woman sits on a box repurposed to a chair, then leans on the table to look at him. She smiles and reaches out to lightly touch his head. “I've heard of little people, but no one has seen them. You lot keep well hidden, don't you?” He's not sure if she wants an answer and feels no need to respond. “I understand if you want to leave to go find more like yourself. I don't want to keep you here against your will. If you'd like I can take you out to the forest once you're feeling better. If there are any on the island I bet they'd be out there.”
They fall into silence after this. Alex dwells on her words. He almost dares to hope she means it. Humans who found their kind weren't well known for “letting them go”. His mother told him horrible stories to warn him against making contact. But this woman seemed kind. And sincere.
“What's your name?” He asks after a while.
She didn't expect him to speak and startles a little. She quickly recovers. “Victoria.”
Alex holds out a weak hand and waits for Victoria to extend her hand, then leans to kiss a single knuckle and smiles. “It's nice to meet you, Victoria. Thank you for taking care of me.”
Victoria laughs and blushes at the small kiss. “I couldn't just leave you out there.”
He's about to say something in response when suddenly the door bangs open and a loud, bushy-bearded man bellows “Victoria, that stew smells wonderf-” everyone freezes as he takes notice of the tiny bundle on the table. “My dear, what have you found?”
Alex scrambles back from the large man, but ends up backing right into the woman's hands. She cups them around the startled boy and lifts him to her chest once more. “Hugh, this is… ah, well I didn't catch his name, but he was in that horrible storm. He washed ashore this morning and I found him in a box with a whole stack of papers he wrote. I can't read them, as you know, and I was hoping you could read them aloud.” her hands are trembling, which frightens Alexander. What reason does she have to fear her husband? Will he beat her? Kill him? God, he wished he wasn't so fatigued.
The man stares with intense dark eyes, then smiles kindly and reaches out to grasp the tiny. “well, let's see the young lad! Don't hide him away.” Victoria carefully untucks him and holds him out on her flat palm. The large man doesn't try to grab him, but gets very close. “hello, wee one. My, you must have had quite a journey. You're so small!”
Alex blushes and reaches out a hand once more. “h-how do you do?”
Hugh grins. “and you speak!”
Alexander grows a bit more bold at this indignity and uses the last of his strength to shake his hand. “I can write as well. Those papers are a letter to my father about the hurricane.”
Both humans show surprise at this. “your father? Was he not in the storm?”
He shakes his head. “He left our family a few years ago. I've heard a few rumors of where he is working and I was hoping to reach out to him.”
Hugh stares at him intently, scratching his dark beard. “You are a smart little thing. Probably very useful to have.”
Both Alex and Victoria tense at this. “Sir, I'm not-”
“Hugh, I told him I'd-”
“Now now. I am the man of the house, Victoria. And this is a great opportunity.” He holds out his hand, which Victoria hesitates to place the tiny on. Once he has him, Hugh lifts him to eye level. “young man, I run the finances of an export business. I realize you have dreams of getting back with your father, but I think this could be a good chance for you. Would you like to work in my office for food and lodgings here with my family?”
Alex is quaking, unable to get steady with his fear and exhaustion. The man takes pity and sets him down on his nest once more.
“give it some thought, lad. I think you'll see it as a great opportunity.”
Alex lays in a fetal position, hidden in the blankets. Too much was going on. He just wanted to be alone and safe somewhere.
He was so scared and tired he completely forgot about the stew.
He wakes long enough to hear snatches of conversation and be lifted to drink a mouthful of water or stew, then he drifts out again. The next few days are nothing but a haze of these instances, muddled between nightmares of the hurricane.
After a particularly bad dream where his little box began seeping water from all sides, he was woken by a soft hand petting his forehead. He realized with little thought that he'd been mewling pathetically and twisting his sheets, making him feel too hot and trapped. Victoria gently untangles his limbs, then feeds him more stew and he drifts again.
After four days of this, Alex finally awakens.
Victoria and Hugh are still sleeping, which gives him some relief. He probably would take the time to escape, were he not still weak and trapped on a very tall table.
With a huff he sits back down and thinks. He could work for Hugh and have a little lot in life, he could go looking for his father who may or may not be dead, or he could go in search of a better life. Somewhere far away from here.
An hour or so into his thoughts, Hugh awakens and untangles himself from his wife. He pours himself a tin of water and goes to stand at the table. Alex tracks his movements like a cautious rabbit.
“So, wee thing. What say you of my proposal?”
Alex gives him a weak smile. “I've given it much thought, but…” Hugh's face drops into a dangerous glare. Alex hesitates. “I… I think I'd like to get going before I overstay. And I was hopeful to make my mark somewhere.”
The man stares for what feels like forever before smiling and saying “nonsense! You're welcome to stay here forever. And you'll make your mark just fine at my office.”
Alex blanches. “sir, I really would feel better if I could get going as soon as possible. I thank you for your hospitality thus far, but-”
“but nothing, boy. I thought I'd made my case quite clear. I can change tactics if necessary.” He clenched his meaty fist on the table top, letting Alexander see how big it is compared to him. Alex gulps.
“I read your papers. They're incredible.” Hugh says with a hint of affection. Alex continues to stare at the fist in front of him. “I plan to publish them to the paper. It'll get your name out there and maybe your father will see it. I'll also be telling them that you're working for me. And I'd hate to be made a liar.”
The tiny nods numbly.
Hugh huffs a laugh and pats his head with little care. “Good lad. Now, why don't we eat some stew and I'll show you the office today?” He doesn't wait for a response before turning to the cauldron. Alexander releases a shaky breath, calming himself with the thought that Hugh will slip up soon. Then he can escape.
Hugh definitely likes showing him off. They'd made at least seven stops in this tiny village, which leads Alex to believe that he's just popping in to every store. So many large humans staring down at him is setting his nerves alight.
“What a cute little thing!”
“Where did you find it?”
“That's incredible! I want one!”
Alex was sure he had sores on his stomach from how many pokes he'd recieved. These people had no consideration. He already misses Victoria and wishes he were back with her.
After a few more stops and prods, they step into a small shack on the shore of a large dock. Alex is held tightly in Hugh's fist as they make their way to the back room. Inside is a small, expensive looking desk, mountains of paperwork, and a single chair with a poorly sewn cushion on the seat.
“Let's see what you can do, little man.” Hugh says as he releases Alexander above the desk. He lands on a small stack of folded papers.
Alex looks around the room, trying to memorize everything he sees and look for escapes, but there are none that he can reach while he's on the table. He looks up at Hugh, then back to the papers around him. At random he picks up a large sheet and reads it. It was a messy scrawled table of monetary conversions.
“This will be your job, if you prove useful. You will track the exchanges and make sure we aren't being jipped.”
Alex listens with half an ear as he reads through the sheets in his hands. It seems simple enough. As long as they write down the money types being exchanged it'll be easy to calculate. But when he picks up the top paper on a large stack to his left he just sees numbers.
“How can you keep track of conversions when you don't know the value?” Alex asks. Hugh huffs and replies with a calm, unworried voice. “The companies we trade with always use their mother-coin. We just memorize which ones they typically use. And it takes time away from trade when we write down the symbols for everything.”
“well it takes MORE time to look up who uses what. If you want me to work with this, I need them.” The tiny trembles a little, remembering the fist the man had displayed that very morning. “just put it on the top of the page for me.”
Hugh grumbles, but nods and takes his seat and prepares his quill. Alex sat and watches as he carefully dips the point into his pot of ink, then slowly makes each symbol on the top left corners of the pages. It was a snails paced venture, but it was done and Alex's work was going to be much simpler.
Hugh wipes the stylus clean, then stands and clears his throat. “I'm going to go out to the docks and chart today's exports before they ship off. Get started and I'll be back to check on you in about an hour.” Suddenly, he slams a fist onto the table and gives the tiny a toothy grin. “And don't go runnin’ off. There's dangerous things out there for someone your size.”
Hamilton gives him a terrified nod. That seems to be enough. Hugh nods back, uses a single finger to ruffle his hair, then closes and locks Alex in the office.
After a few moments where Alexander gathers his thoughts and sorts through the papers, the boy begins calculating conversions in his head. It's on his second page that he notices an error. After finding the first it's much like a dam opening as more and more inaccurate numbers are circled and set aside. By the time Hugh returns, there are about 15 pages in a stack to the left. Alex is sitting in the center of the desk, looking as innocent as possible.
Hugh looks suitably impressed as he closes and locks the door again. When he picks up the papers Alex decides to make another bargain. “I have a proposition.”
He licks his lips and says “This was about the speed I can work at on a steady pace. If I work like this for the next month and get all your money sorted and get you on track again I… I want you to let me choose whether or not I stay.” At this, Hugh turns his large head and pierces Alex with his fiery gaze. He doesn't know where he finds the strength, but he continues. “I-if you don't, I'll work much slower. I'll be useless and have no will to continue.”
There's a moment of tense quiet before Hugh let's out a chortle and takes a step towards the boy. Suddenly he loses all his vibrato. “What a mouth you got on ‘ya. But’cha didn't really think it through, see. Cus I don't take orders or haggle with tiny things like yourself. If you don't work I'll make you regret it. See, I'm giving you a home and nice, steady meals. And I know you're quite fond of my wife. You two already formed some kind of friendship.” Hugh once again lifts his meaty fist and studies it, like it's a new weapon. “I'd hate for her to get involved should you disappoint me.”
“That's barbaric! She's your wife!” Alex finds himself shouting before he can stop.
“aye.” He agrees. “A wife that can't produce children. Not much use, is she?”
There's so much he wants to say, how she was such a kind human, that she was so much more than he expected when he washed on shore and he would thank God every day that it had been HER who found him. That this troll didn't deserve her. But anything more would sink them both further into this problem.
Hugh nodded to himself. “Besides, I think you like working here. It's good work, a nice window to view the sea-” Alex didn't mention that the sight made him shiver with cold sweat and fear; the memories too fresh. “Plus you'll be making me very happy. Making me happy is a very good thing.”
The little felt numb with fear and anger. Everything was laid out in front of him in a horrible ultimatum. Either he played pet for this ogre of a man or he lived with the guilt of being responsible for Victoria’s beatings. And he couldn't ask or accept help in escaping, lest he get her beaten even worse.
Alex knew he needed to lay low, but what then? Wait for a chance to escape? With Victoria? Would she even go? No, he needed to wait for a chance to convince the lumbering ass to release him. It had to be HIS idea or it wouldn't happen.
And if he thought about protecting Victoria, then it wasn't so bad. Yes, he hated Hugh and wasn't looking forward to working in this musty beachside office, but it would be livable if he kept her in mind.
Alexander was already rethinking his earlier opinion and it had only been two days. Between the threats and open hostility when he “slacked” in his work, the heat in the office became unbearable by midday. Alex had already taken off his shirt, feeling very exposed but too hot to care, and was contemplating taking off his pants when Hugh unlocked the door and came crashing in. Alex scrambles back as far as he dares.
“Tiny Alex. How is your work coming?” He asks in a loud, cheerful voice. The man picks up the papers Alex had been kneeling on, then frowns. “little man, this is not much for the hours you have been in here.”
The tiny scrambles to explain himself before he grows angry. “I’ve just been so hot. And you didn't leave any water for me. And the window is closed and let's in no breeze but traps the sun's heat. I cannot work when I am dizzy with thirst.”
Hugh nods and smiles, as if this were not troubling. “My poor little writer. I didn't take care of you, did I? I'm sorry, little one. I will do better in the future.” He pats Alex's head, unaware of how each comment on his size made the boy more upset. “Don't you worry. I've got a surprise for you.”
He scoops the boy into his large hand, tossing him into the air and catching him to readjust his grip. Alex let's out a startled yelp and clings to the meaty fingers.
Hugh takes them out of the office and onto the dock. Many sailors come and go, unloading boxes and tying ropes, but two men in fancy uniform stand out the most. They are tall with their hair neatly tied back against the nape of their neck. They stand straight backed and proud, chatting amicably with a shorter man in glasses. All three stop and instantly lock their gaze on the tiny boy held tightly in Hugh's fist.
“What on earth is that?” The blond asks in an unfamiliar accent. He speaks english, which was common on Nevis, but the way he speaks is odd and new to Alex.
“Esteemed gentlemen, this is Alexander Hamilton, my writer. He was recently hired to do the money translations for our dock. Smart little thing, you wouldn't think it by lookin’ at him, but he's already become a great addition to the office.”
Alex shyly peeks up at the men and goes absolutely rigid when Hugh opens his hand and dumps him into the strangers waiting grasp.
The blond studies him, gripping his arm and examining his chest, then flipping him around and grabbing a leg. “So tiny.” He comments, then hands him off to his companion with brown hair and gaps in his teeth. “and you say this little thing can write?”
“I can talk too, you ass!” Alex wriggles away from the finger poking his stomach. “I'm a person, just like you.” He gives a heated glare, which makes the brunette chuckle.
“I like him. How much could I pay to take him off your hands?”
Alex whips his head around to look at Hugh, blanching when he sees that he's stroking his beard, thinking it over.
“He's been very helpful with the books, ya see. I think I'd make more money keepin’ him than sellin’ him.”
“Oh come now. Such a little thing, scurrying around your office? I'm sure you'd get better results from a full grown man. Heavens, I'm sure a child could give you good results, as long as they can read. I'll pay you 400 for him.”
“400? My, you do like him, ha ha. Alright, then you've got a deal.” Hugh and the brunette happily shake hands on it, ignoring Alex's protests.
The man turns to the shorter fellow with glasses and says “fetch my coins, will you? And a small bag for my new pet.”
“NO!” Alexander thrashes, uncaring if the man drops him. “I am not a pet! You have no right to buy and sell me! Let me go!”
This time the blonde laughs, giving his friend a pat on the shoulder. “You sure picked a fiery thing. It's very human-like. Wherever did you find it?”
Hugh begins telling the story of how his wife found him half dead on the beach, nursing him back to health, and seeing the letters he wrote. The boy continues fighting against the hand until he has no energy left and he goes limp, panting and red-faced. The man strokes his hair fondly, clucking his tongue at him, then goes back to the conversation. Alex moans and fights back tears once more. This wasn't supposed to happen. He didn't even get to say goodbye to Victoria. This wasn't fair! They couldn't do this!
The man in glasses returns with a small sack made of fine material, which the tiny is dumped into and the top tied securely. Alex let's out a wail at being trapped in a small dark space, sudden flashbacks of his time at sea coming to him. He's jostled when a large hand pats him through the bag, then he's ignored once again.
The men carry on with their conversation, then the two strangers begin walking along the dock. After a few steps he feels them begin an incline up a thinner wooden plank, then sway on the deck of one of the many ships. Alex desperately wishes he could see, that he could know what was going on.
“Begin preparations to set sail, Leroy. I wish to make it home by next month.” his captor says, then walks until they reach a door. Pretty soon Alexander is dumped out onto a nice writing desk.
The tiny scrubs at his red cheeks, trying to get rid of his tears. Suddenly, a hand reaches down and gently tilts his face up to lock eyes with the brunette. The man smiles and tuts at him. “Poor little thing. I know you're probably scared by all this, but I'll take good care of you. I have a man on board who's pretty good at sewing. He can get you a nice little outfit to wear.”
Alex feels more tears spill down his cheeks. “please... I'm not a pet. I'm a person.” He tries to reason, but is quickly shushed.
“it'll be alright, my tiny friend. You'll see. I have a beautiful home in the country with a large garden, many slaves, a beautiful little river. You'll be very happy there. And I just know my wife will dote on you like you were her child. She's a wonderful woman with long golden hair. We had three children, you see, but one died just two months before I left to join this crew.”
Alex just shakes his head miserably and thinks of his own mother, as well as the childless Victoria. He feels so alone and confused now, unsure of his place in the world. He doesn't want to be a pet. He doesn't want to be on this ship. He feels sick.
The man must see this and gives him a pitying look before taking off his ascot to bundle into a nest. “Here, little one. Sleep it off. You'll get your sea legs soon enough.”
The man takes off his boots and begins reading through some papers next to Alex's nest, which leads him to believe that he won't be left alone for a while. The tiny settles and thinks to himself that there's no way he could sleep.