Chapter 1: Dangerous Waters
John Laurens was terrified, but then again, when was he not.
He had been since he was eleven, since the time Elias Harper’s hand had brushed his and the breath had caught in his throat. It had scared him. That wasn’t supposed to happen, his breath was supposed to catch when a pretty girl’s hand brushed his, not another boy’s. Two days later, that Sunday and church, the minister had condemned the act of a boy loving another boy. Henry had prided himself in having a son that cried in church, but what he didn’t know was that his darling Jacky was crying because he was scared.
Jack was nineteen the first time he kissed a boy. Francis Kinloch, in a broom closet in Geneva. They often skipped the Latin class they both hated and hung out in that closet, talking and laughing and eating honey by the spoonful from the jar they had stashed away. It had been a sunny Tuesday in May when he kissed him. At first a peck, but when Francis leaned in again he didn’t hold back. He kissed him until they were both disheveled and breathless, a look Jack loved more than anything.
When his father asked him why he wasn’t looking for a wife, he lied. He said he was wedded to his studies, that he wanted to get a stable career first. His father said he understood without truly understanding, he would never truly understand. How could he? He had loved Eleanor with all his heart, and Eleanor was a woman. A creature with breasts and curves and all those other things that made the fairer sex. All the things that Jack was not attracted to.
Do you know how many nights he didn’t sleep and stayed up berating himself? No, no one could possibly know unless they too had been through it. Sometimes Francis would lie in bed next to him, asleep under the covers. Jack would stay up watching him breathing and wonder how something so beautiful could be condemned in such a way. Of course, there was no answer, other than that religion is a social construct created to hurt people, but Jack didn’t like to think about that.
Religion was something he was raised with, something he could rely on. Even when it told him he was doomed to rot in the fires of hell, it was still there. It never left, never died, never fell ill. He had learned at a young age that he did not handle change well, after his father had a few of the slaves repaint his room and he couldn’t sleep in it for weeks. It has shaken him, as if he had thought his bedroom would always be light blue but then all of a sudden it wasn’t and he just couldn’t handle it.
His favorite coping mechanism was counting. Counting anything and everything, ceiling tiles, pieces of grass, books on the shelf by his bed. It was comforting, the number system never changed no matter what language it was in. One, two, three. Un, deux, trois. Unus, duo, tres. English, French, and Latin, the three languages he knew. He aspired to learn Spanish and Greek, but he knew that probably wouldn’t happen.
He would count the bumps on Francis’ lip while he kissed him, a hobby he very much enjoyed. What teenage boy doesn’t enjoy kissing? But most enjoy kissing girls, an idea that quite frankly repulsed Jack. So he kissed Francis and regretted it later, time and time again. Honestly, there was never a time when he didn’t regret it. He was taking him with him to hell, how could he do that? Maybe it was because Francis said it wasn’t his fault. He said it was God’s, that the man in the sky did this to them. When Jack asked why, he shook his head. He didn’t know anymore that Jack, whether he admitted it or not.
And the he left him, just like that. For a woman by the name of Miss Mildred Stephens, a notorious South Carolinian beauty. He said it was for the best, that he didn’t want to dabble in their sins anymore. He said he never actually loved him, that he was just a boyish phase that he had quickly grown out of.
It hurt like hell. How was he supposed to deal with this? Other than counting, he'd never had good coping mechanisms, if he did he wouldn’t have fallen in love with Francis in the first place. He would have found a nice girl and settled down, coping with his desires on his own and not bedding pretty boys. But he didn’t, and now look where it had gotten him. Alone in his bedroom back in South Carolina, crying himself to sleep.
Martha was just a coping mechanism, nothing was supposed to happen between them. But she fell pregnant and he was obligated to marry her, just his luck. It wasn’t a happy marriage, how could it be? Jack loved boys, and the thought of kissing his wife made his face twist in revulsion. Not that she wasn’t a pretty girl and sweet companion, she just didn’t do anything for him. She didn’t have much of a personality, she was quiet and shy and just all around boring. Jack wanted excitement, adventure, and all those other things that come with loving men. Not that a girl couldn’t be those things, it just wasn’t the same.
It was late January of the next year when he found out he had a daughter. Not only that, but he learned her name. Frances Eleanor, after Martha’s mum. But the name stung deep inside of him. His firstborn shared his ex lover’s name, and she was doomed to carry it for the rest of her life. He knew he wouldn’t get to meet her, as she was all the way across the sea in the country he was at war with. Maybe someday, but not until the war was over and her and Martha could sail safely to the New World.
The war was hard on him. There were battles and blood and death, the three things Jack hated. He was an advocate of peace, and abolitionist. But some wars had to be fought, and this was one of them. The idea of death did not scare him, it was the thought of being badly injured and living, crippled for the rest of his life. It scared him even more so that that was quite likely to happen, especially in his unit. He could die tomorrow and not care, after all, what did he have to live for? A father who blamed him for everything, a wife he didn’t love, and a daughter he hadn’t met. Really, were any of them worth it?
He had been shot once in his shoulder, but it wasn’t deep. It had healed quickly with a few stitches, and then he was back on the battlefield. Being shot hadn’t hurt, so he assumed death wouldn’t either. Though he was probably wrong in believing that, it was comforting. He could die and not feel a thing, something he’d wanted to do since he was thirteen. Everything had been okay when he had Francis, had someone he loved and could live for. But then he left him, left him for a woman. It still stung, though the wound was slowly healing, just like the one in his shoulder had.
One, two, three.
John Laurens liked to count himself to sleep.
Un, deux, trois.
But sometimes he got distracted.
Unus, duo, tres.
And his mind would wander to dangerous waters.
Chapter 2: Carolina Blue
He ran and ran and ran, as fast as his legs could carry him. Into the woods, past the tree stump where he liked to read. Past the eagle’s nest in the oak tree, running until his legs couldn’t run any longer.
Three hundred thirty-one, three hundred thirty-two, three hundred thirty-three…
The line of new soldiers coming in was endless, and Jack felt as if he were losing count.
Three hundred forty-five, three hundred forty-six, three hundred forty-seven…
Why were so many young boys prepared to die for a cause that was almost hopeless? At this point, there was almost no chance of the rebels winning. But yet the flow of men continued, no matter how hard Jack willed them away. He didn’t want anyone else to die.
Four hundred men, ready to die. Less than half would return home to their families, a statistic that didn’t seem to discourage any of them. It was impossible that they were all ready to die, so why did they join this damned suicide mission? Maybe it was because they truly believed in the cause, maybe it was because they were idiots. Probably both, to be honest.
“Hello?” The sound came from behind Jack, a voice smooth like honey. A voice he hadn’t heard before, yet sounded oh so familiar. He turned around to face the speaker and- oh. He was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. It was the only word Jack could think of, let alone form with the mouth that currently wanted to touch unspeakable places.
“Are you okay? Sir?” There it was again. Simple, charming, high but not so high it sounded like a woman’s. Wait, had he said anything? God, what if this stranger thought he was crazy. What if he had noticed he was ogling? Oh dear.
But the mysterious man didn't seem bothered. He held out his hand, as if he wanted Jack to shake it. “I’m Alexander Hamilton, you are...?” Oh, so he did want Jack to shake it. So he did. His- Alexander’s hand was soft and warm, and god, his fingers were long. No, he shouldn’t be having these thoughts, especially not right now.
“Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens, at your service.” He gathered the courage to look this man in the eyes. They were a strange shade of blue, the color of Carolina indigo, contrasting beautifully with his mane of red hair. Oh my god, he was beautiful.
“John Laurens. Quite a charming name, if I do say so myself.”
Not as charming as yours.
His thoughts were running rampant, chasing themselves around and around in his head. He needed something to count, something to distract himself.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” The worried voice brought him back, back to that beautiful, blue gaze. He knew he had to formulate an answer, but it was near impossible with his current mental state. What do say, what to say?
“I’m just a bit nauseous, that’s all.” It wasn’t technically a lie, depending on your definition of nauseous. His head was sore and he felt he was going to hurl. But it wasn’t because he was ill, it was because he had just fallen. Fallen in love, that is.
As a boy, Jack’s mum had always told him stories of princes that rescued princesses. The prince would save the princess, they’d fall in love, get married, start a family. She had said that one day he would find a princess and fall head over heels in love with her. But Jack didn’t want a princess, he wanted a prince. A beautiful, red haired prince with piercing indigo eyes.
He wanted Alexander.
Jack hadn’t believed in love at first sight until this moment, but oh, this was real. It had to be. This was more than lust, he was sure of it. Or was it? He didn’t know, all he knew was that he wanted to be with this man for the rest of his days.
God, he sounded so immature. He sounded like the boy was, like a boy who had only lay with a woman once and a man twice. He didn’t know what love was, but for some reason he believed this was it. Jack knew he hadn’t loved Francis. Cared about him deeply, yes, but he hadn’t loved him. No, he shouldn’t be thinking about this right now. Alexander was standing right there.
“I have to go.” He uttered the words and turned away, at first walking and then running. Running away from Alexander, running away from his feelings, running away from hell. But oh, hell was following him. He just didn’t want to bring Alex with him, to damn them both. He ran and ran and ran, as fast as his legs could carry him. Into the woods, past the tree stump where he liked to read. Past the eagle’s nest in the oak tree, running until his legs couldn’t run any longer.
And then he fell.
He hit the ground hard, but he was too tired to notice. He just closed his eyes and laid there, and when the tears began to fall he didn’t stop them. Here he was, a soldier, a veteran of quite a few battles, a survivor of a gunshot wound, crying on the ground in the middle of a forest because he didn’t know how to talk to pretty boys. It was stupid, he knew that. But the the way those eyes had looked through him, that fiery hair that tumbled down his back, it had been too much. He couldn’t focus on his counting, he couldn’t focus on anything. John Laurens had made a fool of himself in front of the most beautiful man he had ever met.
It was childish, but then again, he was barely more than a child. Twenty-two, the age where most boys were just now settling down with a wife and starting a family. But Jack already had a wife and a daughter, a daughter that shared a name with his ex lover.
That was something he’d never get over. His little girl shared a name with Francis Kinloch. She shared a name with the rat that had broken his heart, with the man that had called him an experiment and left him for a woman. But Frances wouldn’t exist without him, and no matter what, Jack loved his daughter. She was the light of his life, the love he hadn’t met. He would in a few years though, he was sure of it. His father had offered to have her and Martha brought over from England, but he had turned it down. It was too dangerous, and besides, he didn’t want Martha. Only his daughter, the only girl he’d ever love.
And then there was Alexander. Was this love? He didn’t know. He didn’t know what love was, or if it was even real. But what he felt was real, that was true. If anything happened to him Jack would mourn, even if he wasn’t invited to the funeral, which he wouldn’t be, as he had only known him for twenty minutes.
The sound of footsteps behind him dragged him out of his thoughts. He refused to open his eyes. If this stranger wanted to talk to him, he would have to actually try. The feeling of hands on his hips, pulling him into a sitting position. One of those hand brushing dirt off his face, the other untangling his hair. A pair of lips on his, timid at first.
One, two, three.
John Laurens opened his eyes.
Un, deux, trois.
They met another pair, the color of the sky.
Unus, duo, tres.
Carolina blue, his new favorite color.
Chapter 3: Winter Sky
I don’t know how the hell Tallmadge is still a functioning member of society, I heard he tried to put a bullet through his head when he learned of Nathan’s death. I don’t want us to end up like that, but at the same time I know this it’s inevitable because this is a war and even if we both survive it, what would people think?
The name was simple. Four syllables, nine letters, hundreds of meanings. It rolled off his tongue, as if it were meant to be said by him and him alone. He wanted to let people know he loved him, he wanted to scream that beautiful name to the stars. But the only stars he could scream it to were the ones on his face, his blessed, freckled face.
The owner of the name lay in bed next to him, the calmness of slumber radiating off him. He was beautiful, so beautiful. His hair was splayed on his pillow, creating a lovely fan of loose red curls. His chest was bare and covered in freckles, just like every other part of him. He had a leg draped over Jack’s body, but he didn’t mind. It served as a reminder of how close they were.
Jack pressed a kiss to the man’s temple. “Darling, I believe it’s time to rise.”
He grunted and rolled over, attempting to ignore him.
“Alex, it’s not that easy, you know.” He sat up and climbed on top of the slightly smaller man, straddling him. “Come on, darling. Wake up, or Washington will be angry.”
He opened his eyes and looked up at Jack with his indigo eyes. The more he studied them, the more beautiful they became. Shiny gold flecks dotted the irises, like tiny drops of sun among a winter sky.
“Dearest Jacky, I’m sure he would understand.”
“Ha! Are you sure we’re talking about the same Washington?”
“You’ve got a point there, love.”
God, these pet names were getting out of hand.
“Well, we best be going.” Jack stood up and walked over to the basin in the corner of the room, splashing cold water on his face. Alex stood up and pulled his shirt on over his head.
“You know, sometimes I just want to skip these meetings. I don’t see the point behind them. Like, we just meet once a week and talk about the same things and nothing ever changes. We need spies, Washington doesn’t want spies, Tallmadge says we’ve already got spies, but nobody really believes him. It’s pointless.”
Jack nods, tying the cravat around his neck. “I mean, they are necessary. And I for one believe that Tallmadge actually had spies, though they may not be the most reliable.”
“Didn’t he just recruit them? Like a couple weeks ago. And you’re right, the chances of them being actually trustworthy are quite thin.” He tied his hair back, but a single strand fell out of the neat queue and dangled annoyingly by his left ear.
Jack moved forward and tucked it back behind his ear, fingers lingering on his neck for just a few seconds longer than needed. “No spies are trustworthy, hence why they’re called spies.”
“Tallmadge would beg to differ. You’ve heard of Nathan Hale, right?”
“More than heard of him, I met him once or twice before he went off on that damned mission.”
“I believe the two of them…” He motioned between Jack and himself, unable to say it out loud.
“You think they were like us?”
Alex nodded, the strand of hair falling out from behind his ear. “Have you seen the way Tallmadge talks about him?”
“I’ve seen the tears in his eyes, yes.” Benjamin Tallmadge did not handle grief well, from what Jack knew.
“I feel bad for him, you know. I couldn’t imagine losing you, especially like that.”
“You needn’t worry, I don’t plan on going on any secret spy missions anytime soon.” It was the truth, Jack was a soldier, not a spy.
Alexander stood up on his tiptoes and pressed a kiss to Jack’s lips. “Don’t you dare die on me, beloved idiot. Not now, not ever.”
“I can’t promise you anything.” He brushed the back of his hand against the redhead’s face.
Alex looked away and muttered something inaudible.
“Nothing.” He looked back up and smiled. “Let’s get going!” He began to walk away, but Jack put a hand on his shoulder.
“Alex, please tell me.”
He turned around a sighed, obviously reluctant.
At this point, his eyes were glistening with tears. A storm in the winter sky. “I can’t go on without you, John. I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how the hell Tallmadge is still a functioning member of society, I heard he tried to put a bullet through his head when he learned of Nathan’s death. I don’t want us to end up like that, but at the same time I know this it’s inevitable because this is a war and even if we both survive it, what would people think? Of us, I mean. They’d kill us, Jacky. Because we’re unnatural and unlawful.”
He didn’t know how to respond, so he just put his face in his hands.
“I know we had very different childhoods. I was born and raised on an island filled with sodomites, I first slept with a man when I was fifteen. But you, you were raised in a church going family with strict Christian morals. What was I, your second?”
Jack nodded. “Second man, third person.”
“Ah, so there’s a woman in there somewhere?”
“Just a rebound, tried to convince myself I didn’t like men.”
And I got her pregnant, now we’re married.
No, he didn’t have to say that. Alexander needn’t know about Martha and Frances, not until it was absolutely necessary.
Alex laughed, something that surprised Jack. “Didn’t work, did it?”
“Well, I slept wrapped in your arms last night, so what do you think?”
For some reason, the mood had lightened and Alex’s face had softened. Maybe he had just needed to rant, to get all the pent up feelings out of his system. Or maybe he didn’t actually mean any of it, maybe it was just something said in the heat of the moment.
Jack glanced at the clock in the corner of the room. God, they were really late now. “Love, we really must be going.”
“Of course.” Alex turned around and headed for the door, Jack following close behind, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
One, two, three.
John Laurens was a Christian.
Un, deux, trois.
But every Christian had his faults.
Unus, duo, tres.
And John’s just so happened to be this.