If Ichabod had been offered his choice of Founding Fathers to share lodgings with, he could not with any honesty have named Alexander Hamilton as his first preference. In truth, he would be hard-pressed to call any them tolerable in that regard, and some far worse than Hamilton: Jefferson was slovenly, Washington too fastidious by far; meanwhile, Hancock was grandiose, Madison a hypochondriac, Adams moody, and Franklin — well. Franklin went without saying.
But no one had given Ichabod any say in the matter, and he supposed that John Jay would just as soon prefer to remain in his native time, if Hamilton’s distress at his own resurrection was any measure. That didn’t make him any easier to live with, though.
Ichabod recalled all too keenly the early days of his own arrival in this modern era: his bafflement, his wrenching sense of dislocation, the impatience with which those around him regarded his ignorance of what, to them, were everyday things. He recognized all of that in Hamilton, and the man did not even have the useful distraction of vengeful otherworldly evil, which had been a strange sort of comfort at the time. There was something in the world he still understood, at least; Hamilton did not have even that.
That did not make the man any easier to live with.
That first day, with Hamilton still numb from shock as he trailed into Abbie’s house behind them, Ichabod had done the gentlemanly thing and offered up his bedroom. Abbie had a convertible sofa-bed, more comfortable by far than most of the places Ichabod had slept during the war, or even the whole of the 18th century. He knew it of old, from those occasions that Miss Jenny stayed over. It was no trouble.
He doubted Hamilton actually slept, that first night. He’d excused himself and shut the door, but the light had remained on throughout Ichabod and Abbie’s low-voiced conference about their newest relic.
“I feel like I should have a better sense of how to handle this,” Abbie mused, looking down into her mug of cocoa. “I mean, you’d think the second time traveler would be easier to acclimate than the first, right?”
“On the other hand, you had no reason to anticipate further need,” Ichabod pointed out. He had opted for tea and leftovers, himself. “No more than I did. And his situation is not quite mine; no prophecy demands his presence, or predicted it.”
“Then how’d you get onto the trail of the crypt?” Abbie asked. “There were clues, right? Though I guess they weren’t all that clear.”
Ichabod frowned. Something that had been irritating him became suddenly clear. “One moment,” he said, and fetched the notebook of translations. His error was, now, immediately apparent. “I am very stupid,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Abbie told him. “At least not to your face.”
“Charming, Lieutenant,” he said; she grinned at him. “But I’ve realized my error. There were, indeed, clues to the crypt’s location in a number of places — some concealed in the Masons’ secret chamber in Albany; others pieced together from our archives; a few elsewhere. But I seem to have made a fairly major mistranslation.”
Abbie made a ‘go on’ gesture over the top of her mug. Ichabod found the correct page. “At the time I wondered if this passage had been written by someone with… well, a less-than-fluent grasp of Latin, but I didn’t think it of any great importance, and assumed my translation was correct. I read the line as “the place where the source of a great treasure rests,” but that, I think, was the result of a mistake — both on my part, and that of whoever wrote it down.”
“So you think it was supposed to say…?” Abbie prompted.
“I believe a more accurate reading would be ‘resting place of the founder of the treasury,’” Ichabod said.
Abbie stared at him for a long moment, and then began to laugh. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding,” she said, and covered her mouth in an attempt to muffle her mirth. “That’s ridiculous.”
It was absurd, and funny, from any perspective but Hamilton’s. Ichabod allowed himself a wry chuckle.
“Well, now we have found him,” Ichabod said. “I apologize for saddling you with another bewildered time traveler.”
“Don’t sweat it,” Abbie said. “At least this time I’ll have a translator, right?”
“Indeed,” Ichabod said. “I have already instructed him in the use of the indoor privy, the cellular telephone, and the subway turnstile. He was also most cheered by news of the Thirteenth, Fifteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments.”
“See? We’ll have him Snapchatting by this time next week,” Abbie said.
“And tweeting by the end of the month, no doubt,” Ichabod said. Then he thought about what he’d just said, and frowned. “Upon consideration, perhaps we’d best keep him ignorant of Twitter, for the time being.”
“You’re the expert,” Abbie said. She rose and stretched; she was wearing the thin, soft clothes she wore to sleep. After a moment, Ichabod realized he was staring and looked away.
“Night, Crane,” she said, patting his arm as she passed: a gesture of camaraderie, nothing more.
“Good night, Miss Mills,” he told her. He put out the light, and set about arranging himself on the sofa-bed to its usual chorus of squeaks. The light under his door — Hamilton’s door, for the night — was still on when Ichabod fell asleep.
He rose with the sun, having forgotten to shut the living room curtains the night before. The light was still on under Hamilton’s door; either he’d slept very little, or not at all, or — oh. Ichabod had not showed him how light switches worked, yet; it was not nearly as obvious as everyone seemed to think. Strange, that he could fall into the modern habit of assumed familiarity so easily.
Hamilton emerged just as Ichabod finished preparing a morning repast — one rather more elaborate than he and Abbie typically broke their fast with, in fact. One thing Ichabod recalled vividly was feeling absolutely ravenous, that first morning, and having only a modest portion of unappetizing and unfamiliar food offered to him. Hamilton, at least would be spared that.
Well. He had also been spared a night in the madhouse, unlike Ichabod, which was a mercy.
He seemed perhaps a little less stunned that he had the day before, though not by much. Hamilton was quiet until the dishes had been cleared away, which so far as Ichabod knew was entirely uncharacteristic, at which point he studied the tabletop while Abbie gave Ichabod a look that plainly meant, Say something! Anything!
He was spared by Hamilton, who said abruptly, “Where am I to begin?”
“Good question,” said Abbie. “Crane?”
His own returning glare, at least, remained unseen by anyone but Abbie. “Perhaps technology is a wise place to start? Those items you are most likely to use in the course of an ordinary day, approached in a more systematic fashion than my own haphazard education.”
“I’m making a list,” said Abbie.
Ichabod hoped that learning to operate light switches, kitchen appliances, and the washing machine would fill the day, but he’d forgot how fiendishly quick-witted Hamilton could be. By the time they introduced him to the toaster oven, he’d grasped the basic principles that governed most household appliances and could work out their operation without assistance. He proved his mastery by preparing his own luncheon while Ichabod and Abbie were having a furiously whispered conference in the next room.
“You can’t sleep on the couch forever,” Abbie insisted.
“I’m twenty years younger than him, and I’ve slept on a great deal more bare ground a great deal more recently, by our personal reckonings,” Ichabod pointed out, very reasonably.
“That doesn’t work indefinitely, though,” Abbie said. “Look, unless he wants to sign on for all the Witness-related crap we do, we’re going to have to find something else to occupy him. Hopefully a job, hopefully one that pays, hopefully enough that I don’t have a Founding Father in my guest room until Judgement Day.”
“If I could interrupt,” said Hamilton, startling them both, “while it's certainly my intention to achieve self-sufficiency with all speed, I might suggest that in the meantime there is no need to deprive Crane of his quarters. I am more than happy to share.”
“Oh,” Ichabod said, feeling foolish, “yes, that would serve, and rather better than banishing either of us to the sofa-bed.”
Abbie at first bore a dubious air, and then turned thoughtful. “Okay,” she said, “wait. This is one of those things that's a little weird now but was business as usual back then, right?”
“I’ve shared far worse lodgings,” said Ichabod. “Mulligan kicked like a mule, if I recall.”
“Lord, don’t remind me,” said Hamilton. “Now, would you care to join me in the kitchen? The ‘frozen burritos’ had very clear instructions on the packaging, and I believe I have followed them correctly.”
“... Sure! Absolutely,” Abbie said. “Crane, c’mon.”
“I hope it wasn't rude of me to break into your stores, Miss Mills,” Hamilton told her. “Also, I must admit to some curiosity: what, exactly, is a ‘burrito’?”
The learning curve displayed thereafter was startling. By the end of the day, an offhand mention of the nearby public library had caught Hamilton’s interest; he was impressed and delighted by Ichabod’s description of such a vast collection of books, made free to the public without subscription. He commandeered Ichabod's library card with hardly a by-your-leave. For the next week and more, neither Ichabod nor Abbie saw much of Hamilton at all. If he was not at the library, he was applying himself to mastery of the Information Age via Abbie's computer.
Having learned it was for sale, he demanded a copy of the musical bearing his name, then of the biography from whence it was composed. When she delivered the gifts, Abbie said, "You want to have a listening party later? We can all hear it together, make sure you catch all the new slang." Hamilton cheerily agreed, but didn't suggest a time.
Abbie brought the musical discs into the Archives a few days later. "When I came home I found it queued up in my computer, with the case on top of that massive biography. I guess he listened to it without us."
"Are you sure? I can scarcely believe he’d miss the chance to impress his own legend upon us."
"His loss, I guess." Abbie clicked play. After ten seconds, she paused it again. "Or not."
"I see," Ichabod managed. "I knew he wasn't from good family, but... good Lord."
"That explains where his enthusiasm for a listening party went," Abbie said.
They only made it partway through the first act that day: another inexplicable drowning on dry land called them away. After the next interruption, this time by Abbie's regular FBI duties, she brought the album along in the car, and they made it to the beginning of the second act before pausing to confront a swarm of bees in human form, which, to their surprise, bore them no ill will at all.
An entire drive was squandered on the musical’s shameless slandering of Jefferson, to Ichabod’s dismay and Abbie’s clear delight. She seemed to appreciate the artistry of the thing rather more than Ichabod, too distracted by inaccuracies and too much lacking in knowledge of modern music.
Ichabod, knowing only the rough outline of Hamilton’s later life, counted himself immensely fortunate that Abbie left the album playing when she was called away to the Bureau the next day, leaving him to hear the last chapters of the story in privacy. By the time she returned he had splashed some cold water on his face, and she never suspected a thing. If he caught her looking distinctly melancholy, later, with the finale playing in the background, he was certainly too discreet ever to mention it.
That was also the week that a malicious curse trapped Abbie and Ichabod in a time loop, repeating the same six-hour stretch ad infinitum until they worked out a way to free themselves. As a result they found themselves listening to Hamilton’s recording considerably more than they otherwise might have; even, eventually, the second half of the second act, which had previously been banned from the car by unspoken mutual agreement.
“It’s not that I don’t like it,” Ichabod found himself explaining, somewhere about their eighth time through the loop. “It’s — do you remember when you first took me to that Nepali restaurant in town?”
“As I recall, you said, ‘This is incredible and I have no idea what it’s supposed to taste like,’” Abbie said.
“Exactly so,” Ichabod said. “I can recognize that it represents mastery, but of a genre I’ve no context for. Several genres, I suspect.”
“Well, nothing’s stopping you from getting some context,” Abbie said. “If you wanted, you could try and cram the whole Internet in your brain like Hamilton’s been doing.”
“If I begin to resemble him in any notable respect, you have my permission to shoot me,” Ichabod said, “for it will certainly signify that I have been replaced by an ill-intentioned doppelganger of some sort.”
Between their own preoccupations and his headlong dive into modern knowledge, Ichabod and Abbie often saw Hamilton only in passing. They marked his presence mostly by the trail of empty mugs, untidy heaps of books, and densely written sheaves of paper he tended to leave in his wake.
“Is there a time-travel-related reason he does this?” Abbie asked, frowning at a stack of books, piled too precariously, that had avalanched across the table.
Ichabod stifled a laugh. “I’m afraid not, though I can diagnose the malady. In my youth, my family’s home had a considerable staff, and when I first came to America it was only with difficulty that I learned to shift for myself. Hamilton’s household was substantial, I believe; it will have been some time since he had to tidy up after himself.”
“I’m not making a chore wheel,” Abbie said. “That’s where I’m drawing the line.”
Whenever Hamilton did see them, it was heralded by, "I have some questions." This phrase ought not chill the blood, but Hamilton did not have questions like an ordinary man. Hamilton had pages of questions, noted down throughout his day and deluged upon the unwary as soon as they came into earshot.
What was the best way to improve one's typing speed? Were the beer prices at the local public house considered fair market rate, high, or low? How did one acquire an email address? What was the monthly expense of maintaining a car? Or a mobile phone? Could he have a phone? Why was metal in the microwave dangerous?
Ichabod and Abbie stood on the porch, Ichabod's hand on the door latch. "You run," he said quietly. "I will provide cover."
Abbie nodded. Ichabod threw the door open and walked straight for the dining room.
"Crane!" Hamilton looked up from two open books and a heap of paper. "I hope your day was well. How do they manage to grow turkeys to the size of thirty pounds plucked weight?"
"I don't know, but I can't imagine it's healthy," Ichabod said. Abbie had made it to the stairs.
Hamilton nodded and made a mark on his list. "Is the Godzilla story entirely fictional?"
Ichabod paged through the over-stuffed storerooms of his memory for the name. "That's... the monstrous cinematic lizard, yes? I believe so. Nothing quite so large as that has appeared in my readings."
Abbie's footsteps creaked in her bedroom. They might get back out the door without incident.
"That's reassuring. There's a debate between the Republican presidential hopefuls this evening. I believe I've aligned the television appropriately, and articles announcing the event suggest that it's traditional to bring popcorn, so I bought some at the grocery store this morning, along with a sampling of soups which had names unfamiliar to me. I trust you and Miss Mills will also want to hear the candidates' stances from their own mouths."
Ichabod was suddenly grateful that his evening plans involved mortal peril. "I regret to say that political discourse has grown degenerate since our day."
Hamilton snorted. "That must have been an undertaking."
"And yet, they have managed it. In any case, we must depart again at once —"
"Is Miss Mills with you?" Damn and blast. Hamilton dodged past Ichabod to block Abbie at the foot of the stairs. "Miss Mills, I must ask you about acquiring some less conspicuous clothing for a social engagement in two days' time."
Apparently Hamilton had, without consulting either of them, contacted his own biographer and lured him to Sleepy Hollow with a patently transparent ruse. The bald-faced coxcomb temerity of it was breath-taking.
"You what?" Abbie put a hand on her forehead. "No. You can't. You should have told us what you were planning so we could stop you."
"But then you would have stopped me," Hamilton said, which was difficult to contest. "Which of you would be a more fit chaperone for the meeting? I've had few opportunities to learn the small niceties, and I shall never convince him of my authenticity if he flees my company due to an error of manners."
Abbie glanced over. Ichabod gritted his teeth. "Miss Mills is needed by the FBI. Lieutenant, you may leave it in my hands."
Ichabod could not complain of it, though, when Mr. Chernow proved vastly better at managing Hamilton than any other member of their household. Nor could he resent that Chernow, a native to the era, proved to have a better sense than Ichabod of what information Hamilton needed to conduct himself in the modern world. He even offered paying work, and if it was meant as a sinecure, he gave no outward sign of it; the work he described seemed demanding enough.
And he got the man out of the house even more, often occupying him for the entire day by summoning him to Brooklyn or Manhattan or Albany.
In the days that followed their meeting with Chernow, Ichabod was too much occupied with a puzzling artifact, inscribed with what seemed to be a warning for the prophesied Witnesses, to pay Hamilton a great deal of mind. Thus he experienced the man as a series of startling new developments: it seemed that every time they found time to speak Hamilton had begun tweeting, or mastered the train system connecting Sleepy Hollow to New York City, or incorporated Miss Jessica’s bewildering slang into his vocabulary, or filled the closet Ichabod had only made minimal use of with an extensive modern wardrobe.
“A favor from Miss Jenny,” was how Hamilton explained this last, as he practiced knotting a modern necktie in the mirror. “I feel much more myself, outfitted thus, than I did in Chernow’s castoffs and the boots I was buried in.”
Ichabod kept his mouth shut, despite the implied insult to his own mode of dress. In truth, he still sometimes thought wistfully of the boots he was buried in, which had fit perfectly and been of a make impossible to achieve with modern methods.
Neither did he congratulate Hamilton on his speedy acclimatization: the man bristled at encouragement and refused offers of help whenever possible. Both were often met with withering scorn. “If you may commit the vastness of Masonic lore to memory, Crane, I think I can manage the bus timetables,” he would say, or “Miss Mills, I am a man grown and do not require your aid in managing my affairs.”
It was a wonder Hamilton had survived long enough to be shot. He neglected to eat unless prodded by servants, which he no longer employed, or phone alarms, which he switched off in annoyance. His fondness for coffee was alarming. He was snappish when hungry, and intractable when he hadn't slept, and he never slept.
Hamilton fallen ill was a terror. Ichabod heard rumors in the war, but had escaped a first-hand encounter until now. The warnings proved true, in any case: the more obviously he needed aid, the more viciously he flung it aside. Once they were certain he would not actually drop dead, Abbie and Ichabod found reasons to cede the house to the little lion and the thorn in his paw, going out for drinks instead.
“Legally speaking, is it murder if the victim has, in fact, already been killed once?” he asked Abbie, a little more in his cups than he ought to have been.
“‘Fraid so,” she said, but she looked more wry than disapproving, and after a moment she added “I checked.”
“What a pity,” Ichabod said. “I had rather begun to like your house, without Hamilton in it.”
Abbie smiled at this, which was nearly worth the inconvenience that had caused it. Then she said, “That’s sweet. But seriously, you need to get vaccinated,” and Ichabod groaned and dropped his head to rest on the cool surface of the bar.
In desperation, Ichabod banned books from their room. No matter how Hamilton protested he had shielded his reading light, the scratch of turning pages and scribbled notes was unmistakable, and could occur at any hour of the night unless all reading materials were kept from his reach.
After Chernow gave him a laptop, they negotiated a curfew, after which Hamilton was obliged to retire from the room to clack at the infernal machine. Often it was the last thing Ichabod heard as he fell asleep, and the first thing he heard upon waking.
Hamilton’s attempts to be sociable were nearly as bad as his efforts toward self-sufficiency. Any communal activity turned into either a lecture or an interrogation; sometimes, both. At meals he tried to discuss current events, which was to say politics, which was to say tirades on the subject of the latest injustice to come to his attention. He was shocked if they were less informed and incensed if they had come to different conclusions.
The John Adams television event lasted hardly a quarter of an hour before Abbie turned it off and banned them both from watching any more together. They were likewise forbidden from speaking Jefferson's name in each other's presence, at least if Abbie was in earshot.
The less said about the incident with the stand mixer, the better.
Ichabod had thought it impossible for Hamilton to be more maddening, but he found himself in error when the man managed to drive Abbie to real fury. He’d gone to some historians conference or other with Chernow, and returned all puffed up with indignation over an incident that had transpired there.
“And Chernow took her part, if you can believe it,” Hamilton said, concluding his version of the offense. “Over me!”
Ichabod became aware that Abbie had fallen silent over the course of Hamilton’s litany. When he glanced at her, he realized that this was because she was perhaps as coldly angry as he’d ever seen her.
“You’re damn right he did,” Abbie said, “and if you can’t get it through your thick head how badly you screwed up, then I’ll get it there for you. If you don’t apologize to that woman I’m not having you under my roof.”
“Miss Mills —” Ichabod began. When she turned her gaze upon him he was put in mind of the weather-worker they’d encountered, some months before, in the moments before she called lightning down from the heavens. “I agree with you entirely,” he told her, and she looked infinitesimally less like impending doom incarnate.
“Then you explain it,” she told him. “I haven’t got the patience.” And she got up, and very deliberately did not storm off.
The beseeching look Hamilton turned upon him was infuriating: as though he owed agreement to the man, for having come from the same time and place. “She’s absolutely right,” Ichabod said.
Hamilton had the temerity to look betrayed. “But it’s absurd,” he said. “Why should the study of abolition, two centuries hence and pieced together from mere fragments, take precedence over my first-hand knowledge of the work I did in my lifetime?”
Ichabod sighed. This wasn’t a subject he and Abbie had discussed to any great extent, but there had been some very speaking silences on the matter, on both their parts.
“Because you didn’t do the work, Hamilton,” he said. “I was an abolitionist, too. I wrote the occasional essay and argued the issue in pubs, but I passed no laws and I never secured anyone’s liberty with my own hands or my own purse. There were better men who did, but I wasn’t one of them, and neither were you.”
Hamilton turned a slightly deeper shade of livid. "I was a charter member of the New York Manumission Society! We proposed multiple resolutions —"
"Hamilton." Ichabod sometimes remembered the Hamilton of old, a frantic young man several years his junior, and in these fits of temper it seemed like nothing had changed. "Did you ever personally grant freedom to any man, woman, or child?"
"My household kept no slaves to free!" Hamilton blustered. "And I was in no position to pour my money into the slave markets, nor would it have effected real reform. I spoke with others, I convinced men of standing, my brother-in-law..."
All the air went out of Hamilton at once, as comprehension dawned. It didn't stop the words from spilling out of him, but they took on a confessional tone. "I convinced my brother-in-law, when establishing his new household in New York, to free a woman recently purchased to serve in that household. The sale had been brokered... that is to say... I had purchased her. With his money, but..." He closed his eyes. "And it was only after the Society took note that it even occurred to me to try."
At least he put the pieces together quickly, once they were laid before him. “And today I’ve harangued and derided a woman, a descendent of slavery, who has made her life’s work out of what I neglected,” he said, "just for saying out loud that I was too caught up in building the banks." He wiped his eyes. "Well. I have some crow to eat, I expect.”
“Be gracious about it, and it may go down a little easier,” Ichabod said. “And you’ll damn well apologize to Miss Mills, too.”
“Yes,” Hamilton said, still deflated. After an unusually long and thoughtful pause, he added, “Laurens would have done it. He would have kept us honest — kept me honest. Spat in the face of devil's bargains, every time. If he had lived, it might not have taken another eighty years for our nation to legislate a conscience. Things might have been different."
“What-ifs mean very little, in the face of what was,” Ichabod said. “If you lose yourself in them, it is at the cost of the truth. Believe me. Own up to what you did do, and what you didn’t — then, and now.”
Ichabod didn’t hear the apology Hamilton gave, and the mood in the house was a little chilly for some days after, but he seemed to have made adequate amends. That was one thing you could say in his favor, Ichabod supposed: if you could show him where he’d been in the wrong, he would concede, as graciously as he could.
Even chastened somewhat, he remained a dreadful housemate.
Despite reminders, despite notes above the sink and on the cupboard doors (placed by Ichabod, as Abbie refused to participate), despite attempts to leave anything left astray by Hamilton untouched until he cleared it himself, Hamilton remained constitutionally oblivious to basic chores. He didn't appear to object to them out of principle or pride. His much-vaunted mind, so hungry for all other information, seemed to find them indigestible.
The resolution, such as it was, turned out to rest with Providence, not appeals to decency. The Witnesses were called away for several days to resolve a crisis of apocalyptic proportions. When they at last straggled home, reeking of sulphur, spattered with chicken’s blood and singed about the edges, they found the house... not spotless, but tidied, with clear tables and a clean kitchen.
Hamilton's battalion of books had been arranged in serried ranks on their assigned shelving, and he had acquired a file box for his papers. They found him in the act of placing a lone mug in the dishwasher. Everyone paused, aware they were on tenuous ground.
"It looks nice in here," Abbie said casually.
"Thank you." Hamilton bowed to her. "I try to do my share."
Though Hamilton never admitted to it, Ichabod suspected that it was only after multiple days with no one else in the house that he noticed the full scope of chaos that accumulated around him. Ichabod shuddered to think of the dishes generated in their absence, but at last Hamilton seemed to have learned his lesson.
This state of reform lasted approximately a week before the heaps and trails began to accumulate again. They were more restrained in scope, at least, and rarely consumed more than half a given surface. Progress was progress.
“You know, if someone told me on Halloween that you were on the easy-to-live-with end of the time traveler spectrum, I would have laughed in their face,” Abbie confided to him one night. It was Christmas Eve, and Hamilton was out for the evening; possibly even overnight, if the stars aligned in their favor and not Chernow’s. Ichabod and Abbie were enjoying the blessed peace. He had his heels propped on the coffee-table before him; Abbie, at first curled up in the other half of the couch, was gradually unwinding.
Ichabod would not have admitted, under the direst of tortures, to hoping she would put her feet in his lap.
“If nothing else, Lieutenant,” Ichabod told her, “at least Hamilton’s presence has improved me in your estimation.”
“Well, don’t get ahead of yourself,” Abbie said. “I will say, being stuck inside an evil tree for two months is starting to feel like a vacation.”
“Don’t joke about that,” Ichabod said, sharper than he meant to. “That is to say. It was not a vacation for those of us attempting to free you, and your absence was keenly felt.”
“The way Jenny took off after, I got the sense it wasn’t much fun for anyone,” Abbie said. “You all missed me that much, huh?”
"Well, one grows accustomed to a certain spirit of camaraderie,” Ichabod said. “The collaboration only made possible by long practice. Miss Jenny, skilled though she is, keeps her own counsel and is almost as cooperative as a bramble patch. Mr. Corbin puts himself forward with a will, but he's still green, and too eager by half; he has a tendency to freeze in place when accosted by the undead, rather than filling them with lead. And neither of them can hold a candle to your marksmanship."
She was looking at him with that small twist of a smile in the corner of her mouth, the one he tried not to think on overmuch.
"We did our best, of course. But I... well, I was, and still am, very relieved to have you back."
Abbie smiled wider, her eyes shining in the soft light. “So what you’re saying is, you missed me,” she said. She nudged at his leg with one bare foot.
The front door banged open. Hamilton, upon entering, bypassed any pretense of a polite greeting and instead announced he planned to make a trip to Albany which might encounter supernatural difficulty, and would they be so kind as to accompany him?
Ichabod was lying semiconscious on the sofa, nursing a throbbing head and attempting to sleep off a mild hallucinogen, when he overheard a conversation between Hamilton and Miss Mills in the next room. To begin with, whatever Abbie was cooking set the kitchen to echoing with the chop-chop-chop of vegetables, the beat keeping time with the pounding of his skull. He tried to ignore it, but a second set of chopping sounds joined the first, and conversation with it. The range of Hamilton's voice, even when he was attempting discretion, could fill the house.
“Is Crane well?” he asked. “Only he has a tremendous goose-egg, and his eyes are very black; might he be concussed?”
Abbie laughed a little, though she had not laughed at all when Ichabod acquired the injury in question. “He’s fine. Will be fine. It turns out you can bust up a fairy’s spells by busting up their fairy ring, but you’re not actually supposed to eat the mushroom to keep it away from them.”
There was a pause, or possibly a lapse in consciousness on Ichabod’s part.
“You lead most eventful lives,” Hamilton said.
“We really, really do,” Miss Mills said with a sigh. “I’m just relieved we both got out of there in one piece.”
“I must admit, I suspect most of the credit goes to you,” Hamilton said. “I can’t imagine Crane, alone, would have lasted a fortnight in this century; between his deliberately retrograde behavior and his penchant for seeking out the most malevolent of monsters, without you at his side I cannot like his odds.”
“Hey, he does all right,” Abbie said, a milder rebuke than Ichabod would have liked. “And you, of course, would be doing just fine without him, or me.” Ah, that was better.
"I am... not always gracious when it comes to acknowledging my weaknesses, and I fear I’ve seemed ungrateful. I'm not. Your home is, and has been, a much needed sanctuary in a trying time. Thank you for the chance to acclimate in safety. There is so much to learn: history, medicine, manners…”
“Yeah, manners are tough,” Abbie said, her dry-as-dust tone discernible even from the next room. “They can take a little while to get the hang of.”
“Hmph,” Hamilton said. “The only current rule I can discern is that if someone asks to be called something, one must do so or appear uncouth.”
“Not a bad rule, generally,” Abbie said.
“Oh no, it serves, and it's hardly new, but it does leave one without any sort of structure to fall back on. For instance, Jenny and Joe are emphatic about preferring their Christian names."
"Uh, quick note, you want to say 'first names' there. Or 'given names.'"
"Ah yes, of course. Thank you. Their first names. Chernow signs correspondence with his first but accepts more formality interchangeably. I suspect Miss Jessica indulges in honorifics with me out of novelty. This world is a more casual place than I am accustomed to." Or than Ichabod would accept as inevitable. The fact that Hamilton refused to join him in making a stand for a return to civility was something of a disappointment.
"On the other hand, there is Ms. Harris, who, thanks to your forthright assistance in moving me to make amends, has also spoken more plainly with me, rather than writing me off as an ineducable disaster of etiquette. She considered 'Miss' dismissive, a belittling diminutive unfit for a peer, and advised me to use 'Ms.' with fellow adult women in all cases of doubt."
"Yeah, that's a good guideline." Abbie sounded distracted. There was only so long anyone could listen to this man declaim without beginning to ponder the middle distance.
"And yet," Hamilton sounded uncharacteristically cautious, "you, Miss Mills, have never asked me to change my form of address for you. If I am in error, I hope you will not coddle me."
"Nah, it's fine. I'm used to it."
"Even so, if you've merely come to endure it through long association with Crane, I'm happy to correct myself, and to have a word with Crane on the matter. I hold you in the highest respect."
Ichabod, with his head under a pillow, scowled.
"No," Abbie said, a little sharply. "It's... nice, actually. I kinda like it." The vegetable chopping slowed, then stopped. Ichabod emerged from beneath his pillow, now eavesdropping shamelessly. He could hardly be expected to retreat from earshot, in his state. "You know Jenny and me were brought up in foster care."
"Your blood kin being unavailable, yes."
"We never had much, and everyone knew our mom wasn't right. If anyone called me 'Miss Mills,' it probably meant I was about to get suspended from school." Abbie's voice was hard around the edges. "I think you know what that can be like."
"I do. And yet you find it... nice?"
"Okay, real talk. If I ever heard 'Miss Mills,' the way Crane says it, back then? I’d have felt like the girls with big houses and good families, whose daddies bought them cars and jewelry. I guess in your day, their daddies would have bought them people." There was a pause. If anything was said, it was far below Hamilton’s customary volume. "But what they really had, what I would have done anything for? They got treated like a lady just for walking into the room."
There was quiet, for a moment. “And now?” Hamilton asked, so soft that Ichabod, straining to hear, only just caught it.
She paused and exhaled. Ichabod wished desperately he could see her face. "I've had free ancestors since before the Revolution. My family's done okay for themselves here and there, we've managed respectable. At work, they call me 'Agent,’ because I worked my ass off for it. But until Crane showed up, no woman in my family had ever been mistaken for a lady."
"Then I am most glad," Hamilton said, "to help rectify that glaring slight to the honor of someone I know to be a graceful, well-educated, lovely woman of many talents, blessed with keen intelligence and a generous heart."
Ichabod waited for the laugh. Abbie always laughed when either of them said something so florid. It didn't come.
"Uh, yeah," she said, her voice thick. "Thanks." The chopping started again.
Hamilton was apparently still the Devil's own slick-tongued tomcat. Ichabod did not emit an audible groan, and if he had, it would have been muffled by the sofa cushions anyway.
Things settled down, somewhat, in the new year. There was never any shortage of work to do, for any of them: Abbie with the Bureau, Ichabod in the Archives, Hamilton with the cache of letters he’d uncovered for Chernow and Ms. Harris. It seemed, for a little while, that they hardly saw each other at all, but for those occasions when Ichabod and Abbie had a monster to vanquish, and even those were a little less frequent than usual.
And then Hamilton came home looking nearly as stunned as he had those first few days, with a small box under his arm. “I’ve had the strangest day,” he said, dropping into an armchair. “I cannot credit it.”
“What happened?” Abbie asked, looking up from the paperwork that occupied her. “Hey, did you get new glasses?”
Hamilton adjusted the glasses he was indeed wearing. “No,” he said, “that’s one of the strange things.”
He explained: he and Chernow had gone together to a bank near the university, to open an account under his false identity of Alex Fawcett. “I was on edge, I’ll admit,” Hamilton said. “I wasn’t certain my forged papers would hold up. But when I gave my name, the woman at the desk said I was expected, and reminded me to check my safe deposit box.”
He set the pasteboard box on his lap. “They had an account in my name already,” he said. “Not my real name, but the assumed one. And the code for the deposit box was Eliza’s birthday.
“My glasses were inside — my glasses,” he said, and took the lid off the box. “The ones I wore to duel Burr. And Eliza’s wedding ring, on a chain in a little bag. And a packet of identity documents, far better than my forgeries. And this.”
Hamilton held up a little spiral-bound pad of paper, and tugged a thin chain from his collar; two linked rings dangled there, and caught at the light as they spun. Ichabod was struck speechless by the tale, but Abbie frowned.
“That’s an old stenographer’s pad,” she said. “I mean, not that old. Forties or fifties, maybe?”
“The bank’s been in that location since the late 1960s,” Hamilton said. “I asked. The deposit box was opened in 1976.”
“The bicentennial?” Ichabod asked, having recovered somewhat from his initial surprise. “Though that may not signify. What’s inside?”
“Mathematical formulae, a variety of arcane symbols, some Greek, and some sort of code,” Hamilton said, flipping it open. “And a great many timetables, for some reason. I’ve yet to make any headway.”
“I think it’s shorthand, actually, not code,” Abbie said, leaning in for a closer look. Hamilton offered her the page expectantly, but Abbie shook her head. “I know what shorthand looks like, is all. Doesn’t mean I can read it.”
“Then we shall have to decipher it,” Hamilton said, with an unfamiliar gleam in his eye. “Do you know what this means?”
“I can hardly begin to guess,” said Ichabod. The implications were astonishing, though: where to begin?
“Someone knows I’m here,” Hamilton said. “Someone outside our little circle. Someone has been expecting me to be here, for forty years at least.”
Ichabod realized, quite suddenly, that he had never truly seen Hamilton on a mission. That legendary drive, which carried him through the war, which built America’s monetary system — it had been muted by his arrival in this century, and he had been casting about for surer footing ever since. It occurred to Ichabod that they had not, in fact, yet experienced an Alexander Hamilton in possession of his full powers.
“Someone knows I’m here,” Hamilton said again, with evident relish, “and they have work for me to do.”
Ichabod looked at Abbie, and when she met his eyes he found that they were in perfect accord, the same thought echoing between them:
Oh, no. He’s going to get even worse.